10 million Ukrainians without power because of Russia. Help us purchase electrical generators for churches.
Consider helping today!

Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 3


I. Paul's defense continued: 3:1-10

A. His sacrifice in sending Timothy: 3:1-5

B. The news of their faithfulness and love and his feelings: 3:6-9

C. Paul still longs to visit them personally: 3:10

II. His prayer and fervent wish: 3:11-13

“The transition between defense and expression of joy is very gradual. In fact, the information which Paul supplies with respect to the decision to send Timothy is, in a sense, a part of the defense, for it shows that far from being indifferent to the needs of the Thessalonians (as the enemies charged), the apostle was willing to make a real sacrifice in their interest” (Hendriksen p. 81). “Paul's dealings with the Thessalonians after he left Thessalonica show the feelings of a true man of God toward his converts after he has departed from them. They never cease to be upon his heart. He will do anything possible to help them remain true to the Lord, and he has no greater joy than to hear news of their continued faithfulness and spiritual growth. Christians should realize that it is a great grief to a minister whom they may love, if they do not remain true to Christ when he has gone away from them” (Fields p. 79).

Verse 1

1Th_3:1 “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone”

“Wherefore”: Connecting this section back to the previous verses. “The sense of verse 1 is: In view of the fact that our immediate attempt to return to you was frustrated by Satan, and that, nevertheless, we could not stand or endure the separation any longer” (Hendriksen p. 82).

“We”: Quite a bit of discussion centers around this simple word. The question being, does Paul include Silas in this "we"? After leaving Thessalonica, Paul, Silas and eventually Timothy are found in Berea ( Act_17:10 ; Act_17:14 ). Silas and Timothy remain in Berea, while Paul is sent to Athens (17:15). From the Thessalonian letter we learn that at least Timothy was able to reach Paul in Athens ( Act_17:15 ), but was soon sent back to Thessalonica ( 1Th_3:1 ). From Act_18:1-28 we also learn that both Timothy and Silas eventually met up with Paul in Corinth (18:5). Now the "we" in 3:1 may include Silas, but if it does Silas quickly left after Timothy, for both Silas and Timothy met up with Paul in Corinth ( Act_18:5 ). And 1Th_3:5 seems to indicate that the "we" of 3:1 is an editorial "we", for Paul says, "when I could endure it no longer, I also sent ". “The best solution may be to assume that the thought is expressed loosely and that Paul means ‘We’ (all three of us, or Timothy and myself) resolved that I should be left at Athens alone and that Timothy should be sent to you” (Marshall p. 90).

“No longer forbear”: “Endure it no longer” (Wey). “Paul's repeated efforts to revisit Thessalonica were made more frustrating by the lack of news about the church there. So the suspense grew until we could stand it no longer. Something simply had to be done to relieve the tension” (Stott p. 64). “His longing for some personal communication from the Thessalonians became intolerable” (Vincent p. 32). “We thought it good”: Compare with 3:5 “I also sent”. “I determined willingly” (Con). This is in contrast to the accusation that Paul did not care about them. He was intensely worried about their welfare, and he believed that they could use the valuable assistance and fellowship of Timothy, rather than himself. “Left behind in Athens alone”: Which was not an easy situation for Paul. In a city surrounded with idolatry and skeptics, Paul found himself alone, yet he would rather be in that situation, than worrying about the church in Thessalonica. “He could bear another bout of loneliness better than a further period of suspense over the Thessalonians” (Stott p. 64). Which means that Paul would rather be alone than worry about the Thessalonians being alone and without spiritual support. Morris notes, “We must not think that it was easy for him to stay and preach in Athens. Many of its inhabitants were cultured people. Not a few were cynical and ready to mock at such a gospel as Paul preached. Paul was not insensitive, and he did not relish the prospect of working alone in such a place. For the good of the work he realized that it was necessary for Timothy to go, but this verse gives us a glimpse of what it cost him” (p. 99).

We need to realize that Christianity is a religion that will cost us something. We cannot have the religion of Jesus Christ, without forming close attachments to our brethren ( Rom_12:15 ) The person who becomes a Christian must be willing to be hurt, willing to have anxiety for the souls of others, willing to become emotionally involved. Paul placed the needs of the body of Christ, ahead of his own ( 2Co_12:15 ).

Verse 2

1Th_3:2 “and sent Timothy, our brother and God's minister in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith”

“Our brother”: The brother of the Thessalonians and Paul, and a very valuable brother at that ( Php_2:19-23 ). “God’s minister”: The Christian actually does serve God! This simple expression demands a number of logical conclusions. Man can understand what God wants done, that is, the Bible is understandable. A man can serve God in a way that pleases God, which means that God's standards are not impossible nor are they unreasonable. “Preachers of the gospel should revel in the way Paul speaks of his fellow-workers. Paul had no jealousy. Whenever anyone did anything for Christ, Paul was glad” (Fields p. 84). This description of Timothy reveals, “Paul's loving appreciation of the worth of this young companion and the deep significance of his work” (Erdman p. 47). If we are working with God ( 1Co_3:9 ), then should not we do the best job we possibly can for Him? “So we sent Timothy, whose fellowship would have meant much to Paul. Perhaps Paul gave Timothy this exalted description because he wanted to show that in sending him he had sent a gifted and qualified representative” (Stott p. 64). The Thessalonians should be impressed, that in sending Timothy, and thus being alone in Athens, Paul is making a tremendous personal sacrifice for them. The various accusations to the contrary are completely false, because Paul is still making sacrifices for this congregation. Notice Paul's attitude towards people. Barclay notes, “It will always remain true that we can never affect or win people at all unless we begin, quite simply, by liking them. The man who begins by despising men or by looking down on them or by disliking them can never go on to save men” (p. 226).

Anxiety, concern and worry are the natural by-products of putting your best into something. “When a man has put the best of himself into anything he is anxious until he knows how the work of his hands and of his brain will weather the storms” (Barclay pp. 226-227). When you put your soul into God's cause then you will understand why others do pursue the Christian in sin ( Jam_5:19-20 ); why others oppose error ( Gal_2:5 ); why others worry about the future of the church ( 2Co_11:28 ); and why others endeavor to maintain unity in the body of Christ ( Eph_4:1-3 ).

“To establish you”: “Was an almost technical term for the consolidation and building up of new converts ( Act_14:22 ; Act_15:32 ; Rom_1:11 ; Rom_16:25 ; 2Th_2:17 )” (Stott pp. 64-65). “The idea of putting in a buttress, a support” (Morris p. 100).

Paul knew that new converts needed to be strengthened. The Christian needs teaching that will enable them to become stable in their convictions and unmoved by trials, tempting offers or false doctrine ( Col_1:23 ). Yet this expression infers that new converts are expected to take time out of their lives to receive and benefit from such teaching.

“Comfort”: Encouragement that leads to a strengthening of one's faith. “Timothy, then, must tell these recent converts to the Christian faith, ‘You're doing fine. Continue to do so. But do so more and more’” (Hendriksen p. 84). “Concerning your faith”: Note that all these efforts are towards the goal of strengthening and encouraging these Christians to remain convicted and firm in reference to their faith. Unfortunately, some seem to offer a form of encouragement that encourages the unfaithful Christian to remain in their unfaithfulness, that is, an encouragement that buys the excuses of the unfaithful or agrees with their justifications for why they have not been serving God faithfully.

Verse 3

1Th_3:3 “that no man be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that here unto we are appointed”

“That”: The hoped for end result of Timothy's mission. “No man”: God is concerned about the salvation of just one soul ( Luk_15:7 ; 2Pe_3:9 ). “Be moved”: The word translated "moved" (“disturbed” NASV), means: “Was used at first of dogs wagging their tail, and so came to mean to ‘flatter, fawn upon, and therefore deceive’” (Stott p. 65). “Here Paul seems to have in mind the possibility that, while the Thessalonians were in the midst of their troubles, some of their enemies, by fair words, should turn them out of the right way. There had appeared to be an easy way out of their troubles” (Morris p. 101). Hendriksen notes that the unbelieving Gentiles may have been saying something like, “We can fully understand how it was that you were led astray by these enthusiastic foreigners. You were led to believe that they had your interest at heart. But their sudden departure and failure to return clearly proves that they are not concerned about you at all. Moreover, the things that have happened to you since their coming shows that the gods are not pleased with you (1:9). Why exchange that which is tried and tested for something novel? Rejoin our ranks, the ranks of those who have always admired and respected you, and we'll promise you that we'll never mention the subject again” (pp. 84-85). We must not forget that error can be very persuasive ( Rom_16:18 ). We also need to be aware that suffering, trials and tribulations can "soften" us up to believing something that is not true. When we are suffering, we tend to be willing to listen to presentations that flatter us, such as “Look at all your going through, you deserve some latitude in serving God”. We seem to start thinking that suffering gives us the right to engage in sin, disobey God, modify the rules, or that suffering releases us from accountability, that is, “God didn't come through for me, therefore I don't owe Him anything”.

One writer noted, “When things do not go well, especially for an extended time, when our heart is filled with more pain than joy, the temptation to let our desire for relief become a demand is strongest People desperate for relief eagerly grab onto strategies for relief they might recognize as foolish in moments of more sober reflection. Unremitting struggle tends to blur our lines of moral distinctions. Things that are clearly wrong become less offensive to our conscience when they provide our only hope for relief. When we demand relief for our thirst now, we're in danger of slipping from a biblical ethic into a morality of pragmatism: whatever eases our pain is justified”. [Note: _ Inside Out. Larry Crabb. pp. 138,139, 142,143.]

“For yourselves know”: Many of our problems could be solved, if we just applied what we already know. “That hereunto we are appointed”: Carefully note that "appointed" is not in the sense that precise sufferings are predestined, rather that Christianity and trials often go together, because the world hates the message God has brought ( Joh_3:19-21 ; Joh_16:33 ; Joh_15:18 ). Sufferings should not take Christian's by surprise, because the message in the Bible is clear, the faithful Christian will face opposition ( Act_14:22 ; 2Ti_3:12 ). “It is very interesting to learn that a regular topic of Paul's instruction to converts was the inevitability of suffering” (Stott p. 65). “If a person knows that something unpleasant is part of his destiny, something that is inevitable, then he will brace himself to meet it and will not think that it is a sign that he is on the wrong track or be taken by surprise by it” (Marshall p. 92). See Mat_5:11 ; Mat_10:17-23 ; 1Pe_1:6 ; 1Pe_3:13-17 ; 1Pe_4:12 ; Rev_2:10 . Part of the preachers’ task is to jog the memory of his listeners ( Gal_5:19-21 ; 2Pe_1:12-13 ).

Verse 4

1Th_3:4 “For verily, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction; even as it came to pass, and ye know”

“Verily”: “Indeed” (NASV). “When we were with you”: “The tense of the verb indicates that Paul had repeated the lesson several times, which would not be surprising in view of the constant attacks made during his visit” (Marshall p. 92). “We told you beforehand”: The importance of preventative teaching is often stressed in Scripture ( Gal_5:19-21 ). “Suffer affliction”: Carefully note that the affliction in this passage is not such things as disease, illness, car problems, natural disaster, or death, because everyone, Christian or non-Christian suffers such things. The affliction under consideration is affliction that comes because one is a Christian. Today we often think that we are really suffering and or enduring, when we just suffer the things that everyone else suffers, yet when was the last time we suffered because of our faith?

The fact that Paul had repeatedly forewarned them is proof that he had not deceived them. Paul had not promised them a life of ease, neither had he covered the true costs of being a Christian, rather, when he preached, everything was up front and out in the open. When these people became Christians, they had counted the cost, for the cost had been clearly proclaimed ( Luk_14:26 ff).

Verse 5

1Th_3:5 “For this cause I also, when I could no longer forbear, sent that I might know your faith, lest by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor should be in vain”

“For this cause I also”: “There is a good deal of repetition in these verses. He was anxious to leave his correspondents in no doubt as to his essential meaning. He is very emphatic as to his personal feeling and action” (Morris p. 103). “For this cause” repeats the "wherefore" of 3:1. “When I could no longer forbear”: That is, endure not knowing what was happening in Thessalonica. Here we see another purpose in Timothy's mission. It was also to inform Paul concerning whether the Thessalonians were still true to God. “So Timothy had been sent on both a nurturing and a fact-finding mission” (Stott p. 65). “Sent that I might know your faith”: “The condition of your faith” (Wey). Christians have the moral right to be concerned about each other. When one becomes a member of the body of Christ they inherently give other Christians the right to admonish, exhort and encourage them ( 1Th_5:14 ). The one thing that Paul is most concerned about is their faith, and not their comfort, or even their physical survival. That should really put things in perspective. The important thing right now is my trust in God, the conviction that God is good and always right, not my health, not my level of financial security, and so on. Because if I lose my faith, success in all other areas of life will be meaningless ( Heb_11:6 ).

“Lest by any means the tempter had tempted you”: “His meanness consists especially in this, that he first tempts a man into sin and then accuses him of it! Indeed, for Paul the devil was real, an actually existing, very powerful and very terrible opponent! Those who deny the real and personal existence of Satan should be honest enough to admit that they do not believe in the Bible!” (Hendriksen p. 86). Satan is relentless ( 1Pe_5:8 ), always waiting for a moment of weakness or slackness in our lives to exploit ( Eph_4:27 ; 1Co_7:5 ). Remember, he is always opposed to God and man's best interest ( Mat_13:39 ; 2Co_4:4 ; 1Th_2:18 ; 2Co_2:11 ). Satan is most successful, when he convinces people that God is at fault for allowing their loved ones to die outside of Jesus Christ. Yet God did not cause that ( 2Pe_3:9 ). It was the devil who had continually worked towards that end ( Mat_13:39 ). It is high time that even many people wake up and realize "who" the real enemy is.

“And our labor should be in vain”: “To no purpose” (Vincent p. 33). “Our labor had been thrown away” (Mof). This is a clear inference that the Christian can lose their salvation, because how could Paul's labor ever be in vain, if these Christians could never forfeit eternal life? In fact, why even be concerned about the efforts of the tempter, if the tempter can never touch the "predestined"? “Many of our brethren today would do well to learn that the devil still rages about, opposing Truth and causing conflict as he has always done. He will not go away simply because he is ignored!” (Denton Lectures p. 100). Paul often expressed the concern that his work could be in vain ( Gal_2:2 ; 1Co_3:15 ; Php_2:16 ). The eternal destinies of mankind are not written in stone. Notice the language that God uses, “lest”, and “should”. It had not been predestined that these Christians would fail or succeed in reference to this temptation. That depended upon their own free-willed choice.

Timothy’s Arrival

Verse 6

1Th_3:6 “But when Timothy came even now unto us from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also to see you”

“But”: This section (3:6-10), describes Paul's reaction to and the news that Timothy just had brought from Thessalonica. In contrast to all the former anxiety, the news from Thessalonica is good. “Even now”: “Just now” (Robertson p. 26). Indicating that this letter may have been written almost immediately after Paul had heard the good news from Timothy. “A hint for all those who tend to postpone answering important letters!” (Hendriksen p. 87). “Brought glad tidings of your faith and love”: Again, note what God considers really important. Whole-hearted trust and love for Him and an unselfish love for others is more important than physical health or financial security ( Mat_22:37-40 ; Mat_7:12 ). We should be reminded that one cannot separate faith from love, without corrupting and destroying them both ( Gal_5:6 ; 1Co_13:1-4 ). Love without faith becomes merely sentimental and often worldly. Faith without love becomes cold, insensitive, and can result in a religion by rote. “And that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us”: “You are still holding me in affectionate remembrance” (Mon). “Even as we also to see you”: “And want to see us just as much as we want to see you” (Tay). At times the best shot in the arm that one can give another Christian, is one’s own good example of faithfulness and mutual appreciation ( Pro_25:25 ). The Thessalonians love Paul just as much as he loves them. Both of them equally love God and His truth. Now that is a Biblical definition of fellowship. “In view of their desire to have the missionary revisit them, there could be no question of their having turned away from his message” (Marshall p. 95).

“The Thessalonians had not allowed hostile propaganda to distort their recollections of the visit of the great Apostle. They still looked back on it with joy. They did more. They looked forward with eager longing to a reunion, and were just as anxious to see Paul again as he was to see them” (Morris p. 106).

Verse 7

1Th_3:7 “for this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith”

“For this cause”: The great news found in the previous verse. “We were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith”: “In all our crushing troubles and sufferings here” (Tay). “The combination denotes that the Apostle was carrying on his work under grave difficulties and against much opposition” (Morris p. 107). This reminds us that when Paul was worrying about the Thessalonians, he was also enduring his own set of troubling circumstances. We forget that Paul had many irons in the fire during this time, such concern for Timothy's safety, the work in Corinth, which had its own big problems, the hostile environment that he had encountered in Athens, “And the physical strain due to the double load: on the one hand, carrying on an important and time-consuming gospel-ministry and on the other hand, making good tents!” (Hendriksen p. 88). In view of this, it must be clear that God is not impressed by people who claim they are too busy to serve Him. As if they are busier than the Apostle Paul! Paul often had two full-time jobs, was being physically persecuted, hounded by enemies and false brethren, and yet he still found time to meet with Christians and serve God faithfully. “Through your faith”: “The people of a church are so close to a minister (preacher) that they have power to make his life happy or supremely miserable, 3Jn_1:4” (Fields p. 89).

Verse 8

1Th_3:8 “for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord”

“For now we live”: “Now I am really living” (Mon). “It brings to us renewed life” (Nor). “He had reached Corinth alone without friends or funds. Around him had been a black night of pagan corruption. Against him had been launched the most vicious attacks by the Jews. He had been, at least figuratively, in the shadow of death. However, the good news brought by Timothy gave him new life” (Erdman pp. 48-49). Paul feels a tremendous sense of relief and fresh air. Stott notes, “Why should your faith encourage us, do you ask? Because our life is bound up in yours” (p. 66). Morris notes, “The service of Christ was for Paul no halfhearted thing, but that which mattered most in life. This service did not mean an idle contemplation of the excellencies of the Savior. It was an active, fruitful work of preaching Him ( 1Co_9:22 )” (pp. 107-108). Paul and his co-workers felt the impact of congregational faithfulness and unfaithfulness ( 2Co_11:28-29 ).

“If”: Salvation is conditional. “Stand fast in the Lord”: “The idea of a firmness, a steadfastness in the stand taken up” (Morris p. 108). And this is something that all of us are capable of doing. Everyone has "stood fast" in something, even something that was wrong in the past. People can be incredibly hard-headed when they want to. Many people stand firm in their unbelief and their refusal to back down before God and His truth ( Act_7:51 ). The only resolve that counts is a resolve to stand fast "in the Lord". This includes the refusal to move away from His teachings ( Eph_6:11 ; Eph_6:13 ; Eph_6:15 ; 1Co_15:1 ; 2Th_2:15 ; 1Co_16:13 ; Gal_5:1 ; Php_1:27 ). This congregation had succeeded against a great set of trials, yet that did not mean that the future would be a breeze. Paul reminded these Christians that they still needed to stand fast. God would not force them to stand fast or remove all the responsibility for such a stand. Every time God exhorts us to stand fast or firm, this infers a firm position can be taken up by the Christian, the word of God is very understandable, and gives every Christian strong reasons for holding on to Christ, Christianity is easily defended, and God gives the Christian a very large arsenal of both defensive and offensive weaponry.

Verse 9

1Th_3:9 “For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God”

“For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you”: “How can we thank God enough” (TCNT). “This report of their faith has given him not only new life but unbounded joy. Words fail him to express his gratitude to God” (Erdman p. 49). “Paul means ‘I am tremendously grateful to God--and yet I realize that am incapable of giving Him the gratitude which He deserves’” (Marshall p. 97). “For all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God”: “For all the happiness that you are giving us in the sight of our God” (TCNT). “How great the joy with which we are glad because of your faith before our God” (Bas). Do our brethren give us joy? Do we thank God for other Christians? Are we thankful that we do not have to live the Christian life alone? Are we doing everything we can to make sure than others derive happiness from our example and faithfulness? Are we determined to be a source of encouragement?

Verse 10

1Th_3:10 “night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith?”

“Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face”: “Night and day making very abundant entreaties” (Rhm). The expression “ Night and day does not denote prayer at two set times, but rather continued prayer. And if it is continual it is also fervent. There is nothing perfunctory or merely formal about Paul's prayers. His prayer springs from a sense of deprivation. He feels that he needs them and prays accordingly” (Morris p. 109).

Prayer is a great answer to Satan's hindrances (2:18). Stott notes, “Perhaps his activities overlapped on another, so that he found he could pray even while he was engaged in his tent-making. What he says he prayed for was that now, in defiance of Satan's hindrances, he might be able to visit them” (p. 66). “Despite sending Timothy and receiving good news from him Paul's heart still aches to actually be with the Thessalonians” (Marshall p. 98). “And may perfect”: “Meaning to restore, equip, or complete. It was used in various contexts, for example of a fisherman repairing his nets, a surgeon setting bones, and a politician reconciling factions” (Stott p. 66). “To adjust, fit together; so mend” (Vincent p. 33). “That which is lacking in your faith”: ‘What is yet wanting” (Con). “What needs advancement” (Ber). Success against a temptation does not mean that one does not need any more help or instruction. One success does not make you a complete, whole and mature Christian. These were new converts and they needed additional instruction ( Heb_5:12-14 ). Morris notes, “Yet in this joy at the faith that they undoubtedly possessed he was not oblivious to the sterner realities of the situation. His desire to be with them was accompanied by the desire to be useful by remedying the defects there were in that faith” (p. 109). The Thessalonians are a good accurate gauge to measure our own growth by. They were faithful in spite of serious opposition, they had turned from idolatry, they loved each other and Paul, yet God still said that they had gaps in their faith.

Paul’s prayer and fervent desire

Verse 11

1Th_3:11 “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you”

“May”: Notice that Paul does not shout orders at the Creator. In view of his desire to see them, their love for him and their need of spiritual growth, Paul feels that this is a very reasonable request. “Our God and Father”: Emphasizing the truth that Paul and the Thessalonians are brethren, adopted children of the same Father. “Himself”: God is a personal being, and not a force or mere influence. “And our Lord Jesus”: “The close collocation of God and Jesus in the prayer indicates that for Paul they are thought of as working together in unity” (Marshall p. 100). Notice how Paul places Jesus on equal footing with the Father. The verse infers that Jesus also answers our prayers and also governs and can manipulate the providential happenings in our world. This verse also emphasizes the truth that God still rules ( Dan_5:21 ). Carefully note that Paul does not act as if God is in subjection to him. Modern religious groups often tell people to pray and it will happen. Paul was not caught up in such arrogance. Paul always realized that God was God and he was not. He prayed with faith, but he also prayed with humility, letting God know that he would serve God regardless of the outcome of his prayers.

“Direct”: To guide from a word that means to “straighten fully”: “There follows a wish in the form of a prayer, that God will ‘make straight’ or level the way which Satan has cut up, or remove the obstacles with which he has strewn it (2:18)” (Stott p. 67). Paul refused to be intimidated by Satan. When it came to evil, he was defiant. He would not cave in or give up. He realized that the prayer of a righteous man were a tremendous weapon against whatever hindrances the Devil might place in the progress of the gospel. Barclay notes, “It is to God that Paul turned for guidance in the ordinary day to day problems of life. One of the great and grave mistakes of life is to turn to God only in the great moments and the overpowering emergencies and the shattering crises. We use God to try to achieve a God-rescued life; Paul companied with God to achieve a God-directed life” (pp. 228-229). About five years from when this letter is written, this request will be fully answered when Paul is able to visit Macedonia twice towards the end of his third journey ( Act_20:1-3 ).

Verse 12

1Th_3:12 “and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you”

“The Lord”: The Lord Jesus (3:12). “Make you to increase and abound”: Jesus has enabled us to love one another: He Himself demonstrated what such love looks like ( Joh_15:13 ; 1Jn_3:16 ). He has given us countless incentives to practice such love ( Joh_13:34-35 ), and He has even given us a very detailed description of true biblical love ( 1Co_13:4-8 ). “In love one toward another”: Note that this congregation was already practicing such love (4:9-10), yet Paul requested that such love would increase and abound. “And toward all men”: All other Christians and even unbelievers, including their enemies ( Mat_5:44-48 ). “Even as we also do toward you”: Paul did not have a level of love that other Christians could never attain. Paul believed that the converts in Thessalonica could manifest a love, a degree and level of love, that was practiced by himself, an apostle ( 1Co_11:1 ). Since brotherly love, and love for one's fellow man is so often stressed to Christians. It seems that God is saying that this quality, this virtue or mind-set is greatly needed if we are going to succeed in serving Christ, and that this virtue is needed in whole congregations if those congregations are going to overcome the various external and internal temptations that all congregations face. Love is so greatly needed because it places God's will ahead of our own opinions ( Joh_14:15 ). It refuses to gossip or write people off, without really getting the facts or without talking to them ( Mat_18:15 ). It forbears, goes the extra mile, is hopeful, seeks the repentance of the fallen, and also views itself on a mission of salvation, deliverance, rather than a mere faultfinding mission. And true love will always move us into action, to do something about the problem, to teach the sinner, or to restore the fallen ( Gal_6:1-2 ; 1Jn_3:17 ). Love also refuses to use the worldly tactics that are so often found in human organizations ( 1Jn_3:10 ).

Verse 13

1Th_3:13 “to the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints:

“To the end”: “So that”. This verse infers that the biblical quality known as love (defined in 1Co_13:4-8 ), will enable our hearts to be strengthened, and is the key to personal purity and holiness. In other words, real biblical love for God and our fellowman is the means by which a person can stand in a right relationship with God at the last day. “Establish your hearts”: “Your hearts may be strong and faultlessly pure” (Gspd). “Means to ‘set fast, place firmly, fix, make firm, render constant’. Holiness is not to be a Sunday style, but is to be the well-established pattern of our whole lives “ (Fields p. 94) ( 1Pe_1:15 ). “The heart stands for the whole of the inner life. It is easy enough for men to become a prey to fears and alarms, to take up every new doctrine, to accept the unreasoning hope that leads inevitably to irresolution, disillusionment and disaster. Paul longs to see his converts delivered from all such instability. He prays that they may have such a sure basis in love that they will be delivered from all this sort of thing” (Morris p. 113). “Unblamable in holiness”: Paul is not praying for perfection, rather the Christian can stand before God in this pure condition, because he or she has met God's terms for forgiveness. Unfortunately, many people do not see any value in purity. “People in the world are proud of, and distinguished by, how wicked they can be. Whoever can curse the most violently, drink the most liquor, have the most wives or women” (Fields p. 94). Again, note how love and moral purity are placed side by side. The man or woman who really allows themselves to be impressed by God's grace, mercy and unselfish character will realize how wonderful and attractive such qualities are, and will begin to practice them in reference to others. Purity happens when I start treating others in the way that God has treated me.

“At the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints”: Premillennialists argue that this verse implies a coming of Jesus in which Christians are accompanying Him back to the earth, that is, a coming that is seven years after the supposed secret rapture of all Christians from the earth. Yet the word translated "saints" can equally refer to angels ( Zec_14:5 ), the term simply means “holy ones”. And the Bible clearly teaches that angels will accompany the Lord when He comes ( Jud_1:14 ; 2Th_1:7 ; Mat_13:27 ; Mat_13:41 ; Mat_25:31 ). The Bible only speaks of a second coming ( Heb_9:28 ), and not a third. This same writer, in the very next chapter places the coming of Jesus for Christians and the destruction of the wicked, as happening at the same time ( 1Th_4:13-18 ; 1Th_5:1-3 ). So did Jesus ( Joh_5:28-29 ). Also see 2Th_1:7-10 and 2Pe_3:10 . Thus a false distinction is being made, when people argue that in the Bible we have a coming of Christ "for" the saints and another "with" the saints.

In addition, such a construction does not make any sense in 3:13. Because if these Thessalonian Christians and all other Christians were already with God (for seven years-tucked away in heaven) before the coming of 3:13, then they would be already approved of God. Let me put that another way, walk through this verse with me: If "all" Christians have been removed from the earth seven years prior to the coming of 1Th_3:13 (note the language, "with ALL His saints"), then absolutely no Christians are left on earth when the coming of 3:13 happens. So who is there to be unblameable when He comes? According to this theory--all the unblameable ones were found in such a condition seven years before the events of 1Th_3:13 take place! By contrast, this verse is teaching that there will be Christians, here on earth, who are unblameable when Jesus comes again. There are two groups in this verse, "all the saints" (holy ones) and those who are "unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.