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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Thessalonians 3

Verse 2


‘To establish you … concerning your faith.’

1 Thessalonians 3:2

All the Epistles are addressed to Christian people. This fact should be borne in mind when we consider the contents of any of them.

I. The Christian is to be established.—Consider what this means:—

( a) Progress. The foundation is laid; now the superstructure must be built upon it.

( b) Fixity. The progress is not that of a flowing river, but that of a building in course of erection.

( c) Strength. The building is to be no mere bower of branches, no tent of the wilderness, no shed for temporary occupation, but a permanent, solid house in the eternal city of God. It will have to stand the stress of wind and weather.

( d) Order. That which is established is not heaped together in a rude, confused formation. The true building follows its designer’s plan. The Christian life must be built on the pattern of its great Architect. There should be thought and purpose in it.

( e) Elevation. The house is built up. We begin at the ground and raise the structure, tier above tier. In the noblest architecture the upward progress introduces the finest features. So in the Christian life we should rise as we grow.

( f) Room for contents. The house has its inhabitants and furniture. The established Christian should have room for Divine stores of truth and holy thought, and for thief- and fire-proof safes which can keep his treasures in security. The complete building is not to be a solid pyramid for the sole purpose of hiding the mummy of its owner, but a glorious temple in which God may dwell.

II. The Christian is to be established by God.—Men tried to raise the tower of Babel up to heaven, but they failed in their pride and self-will. We cannot build up our own characters. God is the great Builder, and He is raising the structure of Christian life by all the discipline of daily experience.

III. The establishment of the Christian is assured by the faithfulness of God.—It is not yet accomplished. It took forty years to build Herod’s temple. It takes well-nigh twice forty years to establish the characters of some of God’s children. Nay, who shall say that the process is completed with the ending of this brief earthly life?


‘The whole sweep and tenor of the gospel imply that God will not abandon the good work He has commenced; He has invited us to Himself, He has offered us perfect redemption in Christ. Because He is true and constant He will never leave His people till He has given all that His gospel sets forth, i.e. till He has completed the building of His Church.’

Verse 9


‘The joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God.’

1 Thessalonians 3:9

St. Paul in this chapter is writing to the Thessalonians of the love and care he has for them, and of the happiness he has in learning of the steadfastness of their faith. He wrote in time of much personal affliction and distress ( 1 Thessalonians 3:7), yet the knowledge that they were standing firm in the faith made his heart rejoice.

No one can read St. Paul’s writings without seeing that Christian joy filled the larger part of his life. Outward circumstances might seem against him, yet even when the prison fetters were upon him he could write, ‘Rejoice in the Lord alway’—what, when you are in prison? Yes; for he goes on to add, ‘and again I say, Rejoice.’

I. Religion a thing of joy.—Whenever we look at religion it is a thing of joy. It is a libel on religion to say or think that it is gloomy. I do not say there never will be sadness with religion, but I say there is no sadness in religion. Life is sad. But life without religion is ten thousand times more sad. If we look back at the very beginning of all things, we find that God intended His service to be a service of joy. It was sin that intervened, and that brought in sorrow and death.

II. Joy more effective than gloom.—The same thing is true of life everywhere as well as in religion. Joy is a better instrument for the work of our life than fear and care and anxiety. A cheerful workman is worth a shilling a day more than a workman who is always grumbling over his work. One hopeful heart in any good cause is worth a thousand despondent ones. And if a man desires to be able to say, ‘Let me die the happy death of a Christian,’ he must first learn as the Apostles learned to live the happy life of a Christian. Does any man in his senses believe that this life—and we have all had our share of experience of it—can ever be a happy life without religion? What is your experience? What has been the experience of men and women who have tried to take this world and this life as their portion? Look at the disappointment that marks all the utterances of those who have had nothing better than this life. Take any ten men in your memory that have been about the most successful men that you have known, but without religion. Did you ever know any of them happy? Not one. They have been driven here and there until they had to leave all their fortune and all their wealth.

III. Joy in this present life.—How shall we describe the joy of religion? ‘The kingdom of God is joy,’ says the Apostle. There is no life that is glad and happy but the Christian life. Where he has one thorn he has a garland of roses; where he has one dirge he has ten doxologies; where he has one cloudy day here he has years of golden sunshine from God. If we only knew the joy of religion! We are only just learning it. If we only knew what it was to go to our work to-morrow, and could take with us the joy of pardon on the soul, the sweet assurance of the forgiveness of our sins for Christ’s sake, what a joy it would be! That sets everything right in reference to the past of a man’s life, and it sets everything right in reference to the future of a man’s life. It makes a man glad while he lives, and happy when he dies.

IV. The joy of the life beyond.—But if the present life in the service of God is a thing of joy, what will its future be? We are told something about that future in the Apocalypse, and we get a wonderful glimpse of the joy of that other life. ‘They shall hunger no more … and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ Peace is there written on every brow, joy singing in every heart, and Hosannahs rolling from every lip. ‘The Kingdom of God is joy’; and if it is joy now, what will it be then? Joy here, joy there; joy now, and joy for ever.

—Rev. Canon Fleming.


‘When you find God calling to Himself a people, the Israelites, there you find that the religious services of the Jews were joyful. All their great national festivals were joyful. The joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off. And when you pass from the Old Testament into the New Testament, instead of this being lessened or done away with, it was increased. St. Paul did not advise men to rejoice in money, for wealth is a shifting sandbank; he did not advise people to rejoice in their health, though that is one of God’s greatest blessings to us, because health is a very precarious thing; he did not advise them to rejoice even in the closest bonds of affection and friendship, because they may be severed by death at a moment. But He says, if you would rejoice in that which is immovable, unchangeable, and eternal, “Rejoice in the Lord.” St. Peter says, “Ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” and notwithstanding all the sadness and all the sorrows, all the tribulation, all the persecutions of the early Christians, it is remarkable that they were not only cross-bearers, but joy-wearers.’

Verse 12


‘The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.’

1 Thessalonians 3:12

St. Paul was verily a man of prayer. He began, continued, and ended his Christian life with it. Hence this prayer for the Thessalonians, that they may increase and abound in saintly excellences, especially in one which is the crown of all.

I. The special grace.—But what is love? It is the diamond among the jewels of our breastplate. ‘Now abideth faith, hope, love; and the greatest of these is love.’ Hence love is the believer’s highest and deepest happiness.

II. The Giver of this grace.—Which of the Triune is He? Dean Alford thinks God the Father; others think God the Spirit; but the generality of theologians believe that Jesus Christ is alone referred to, as ‘the Lord’ is the name by which He is specially designated all through the New Testament. If this be so, then the Apostle petitions the Lord Jesus as the fount of all grace and goodness. And He is this. ‘In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily’: not for Himself only, but for His redeemed also.

III. The enlargement and extensiveness of love.—Love is never at a standstill. Like the tide, it will either flow or ebb; but its nature, when duly fostered, is to increase and abound. If all Christians excelled in holy love, the world would speedily be brought to the feet of Jesus.


‘The Thessalonians were not deficient in love when St. Paul uttered this prayer on their behalf. They were in this respect already a pattern Church. He is not slow to acknowledge the fact: “Concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another; for indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia.” But love is a good thing of which we can never have too much. Outside the Church of Christ is the great world with all its bitterness and wrath, its envy and slander, its misrepresentation and suspicion, its malice and uncharitableness. Inside the joys of holy love should flourish. Outside may reign the darkness of hatred, but inside let there be the golden light of love. And so the Apostle has no sooner acknowledged the existing love of the Thessalonian Christians than he adds, “But we exhort you, brethren, that ye abound more and more.” ’



Love is precious because it comes from the real man. It wells from the very depths of his nature. It is not always so with other graces which are capable of being counterfeited. Many a gift which another possesses may dazzle us with its brilliancy and almost excite our envy, but may after all be exercised from the most worthless.

I. Christian love is the parent of other graces.

( a) It begets confidence.

( b) It inspires patience.

( c) It stimulates courage.

II. The limitlessness of Christian love.—It ‘beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth.’

( a) Love ‘ beareth all things,’ or rather ‘covereth all things,’ for such is the meaning of the original word. With the cloak of love we hide the sins of our fellow-men.

( b) And love ‘ believeth all things.’ We are prone to believe too readily the worst of our fellow-men. Charges are brought against one, and we give them credit for being true. Rumours reach our ears, and we believe them without investigation. We pass them on to one another as if they were the truth, instead of suspecting them to be the base currency of falsehood. This is not the act of love, to believe the worst of our fellow-Christians. Love believes the best of another, rather than the worst.

( c) Love ‘ hopeth all things’ too. When it can no longer believe, it hopes—hopes that new facts will come to light which will explain matters—hopes that after all one may have been misinformed—hopes that a man’s motives were the best even when his errors were the worst; and when there is room for no other hope, love hopes at least that the offender will one day see his fault and retrace his steps.

( d) And love ‘ endureth all things.’ It possesses wonderful strength, endurance, and vitality. Controversy cannot kill it, for it enables men to ‘speak the truth in love.’


(1) ‘The helpless bird that flutters with bristling feathers over her nest, and pecks fiercely at the hand that would rob her of her brood, tells us of love converted into courage. It is recorded that wherever Napoleon appeared he inspired his troops with intense devotion. At the battle of Waterloo one French soldier in the ranks, whose arm had been shattered by a cannon-ball, was seen to wrench it off with the other hand and to throw it into the air, crying, “Long live the Emperor!” Love once more had inspired courage.’

(2) ‘Gilmour, of Mongolia, had been engaged in hot controversy with missionaries, and yet he was able to look back upon them with a happy smile as he left the room, and say, “My brothers, I love you all the same.” Personal injuries cannot kill love. It is far easier to forgive the one who has injured us than to forgive the one whom we have injured. It was said of Archbishop Cranmer, “If you want to make that man your friend, go and do him an injury.” How noble a copy of the love which cried, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do’! That love above all other was able to “endure all things.” ’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.