Today we begin a study on the books of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Both are relatively short and treating them together serves to give us greater continuity. Both were clearly written by the Apostle Paul, 1st Thessalonians being the very first of the Pauline Epistles; based on details given in the letter it can be dated to around 51 AD, probably the first written book of the New Testament.
These are uplifting book, inspiring books. They involves a church which labored under great hardship, yet achieved great things for God. This was a church with a pure Gospel; you will find that in his message Paul need only enlighten but not correct. If we were to title this study we might call it “Letters to a Model Church”. I hope you find this study as uplifting and inspiring as I have.
The city of Thessaliniki is the second largest city in Greece, after Athens. It is located in what we might describe as the northeastern panhandle and lies along the beautiful Aegean coast to the Mediterranean Sea. To get a sense of the geography, Athens, the largest city, lies toward the central part of the country and Corinth is the largest city in the south. While Thessalonica existed earlier, it came into prominence in 315 BC, shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. Without a clear successor, his great empire was divided among four of Alexander’s leading generals. One of these, Cassander, who had married Alexander’s half sister, was named king of that portion of the Empire which included all of Greece. He located his capital in Thessaloniki, a port city which gave him ready access to the rest of his kingdom. This empire was short lived, soon falling under Roman control, but the city remained a regional center of administration.
Christianity was introduced when the Apostle Paul brought the Gospel to Macedonia during his second missionary journey. We may recall that, during his first missionary journey, Paul had traveled to the island of Cyprus and then into south-central Turkey. The entire story is relayed to us in the book of Acts and I think it may be of benefit to go through portions of this book as background to what we are to read in Paul’s subsequent letter to the church.
Recall that Paul and Barnabas had begun the first missionary journey accompanied by Barnabas’ young cousin, John Mark. To Paul’s great disappointment the youthful Mark, perhaps unaccustomed to the rigors of travel during that day, quit and returned home. As Paul and Barnabas planned their second missionary journey, Barnabas again wanted to take Mark, but Paul strongly objected. In the end they chose to go their separate ways with Barnabas and Mark departing again for Cyprus.
Paul, needing a new partner, chose Silas to accompany him. Attention was first drawn to Silas in Acts 15 where he is introduced as one of the leading brethren of the Jerusalem church. After Paul and Barnabas had returned to Jerusalem at the end of the First Missionary Journey, the church, hearing that the Gospel had been widely received by the Gentiles, met to establish a clear set of policies relating to admission of non-Jews. Silas was chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas as they traveled to Antioch to relay these decisions. Whether this was the first meeting of the two we do not know, perhaps they had met before the first missionary journey. What seems clear is that Silas was recognized by Paul as someone in whom he could have confidence.
Rather than departing toward Cyprus where Barnabas and Mark had traveled, they went overland through Syria to arrive at Derbe and Lystra in southern Turkey. Here they arrived at a place where Paul and Barnabas had witnessed during the first missionary journey. No doubt, they were anxious to visit friends, to see how the work had progressed and to gain support for their future work. It was here that they came upon the young man, Timothy:
Acts 16:1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him;
Iconium refers to that region of Turkey in which Greek colonist had settled. While not part of Greece politically, it retained much of the Greek culture and continued in a close association.
From what is said we may gather that only Timothy’s mother was saved; it is tragic that she had married outside her faith, yet she had raised Timothy to be a Godly young man. Beyond this it is difficult to say what drew Timothy to Paul so that he decided to bring him along. Whatever it was, we will come to see God’s provision in this choice:
Acts 16:6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
All of these are regions located in what is now central or western Turkey. This is new territory, not visited during the earlier missionary travel, so that Paul is continuing to plant new churches. The seven churches recorded in the book of Revelation are all situated in this region. While it appears that Paul did not found each of these churches personally, it would seem that they grew as a result of his efforts either as they traveled westward travel across the region or during his later eastward return.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
Macedonia is, of course, the northern region of modern Greece and is situated to the west, across the Aegean Sea, from Turkey where they had been working. We read that, at the time that Paul decided to take Timothy along, he had no intention to go into Greece; yet, when the Spirit directed them there, it must have been a great help to have the assistance of the young man familiar Greek culture and custom.
Arriving in Macedonia they landed at Neapolis, in the north east, and traveled to nearby Philippi. Here they met the woman Lydia, a seller of purple, and baptized her. She was the one who housed and fed them as they sought to establish their first church in Greece. We read that, as they ministered throughout the city, they were followed by a slave girl, one possessed with a spirit of divination, who continued to call out after them. Perhaps because he took pity on her, Paul performed a miracle, casting out the spirit. Her masters, distraught over the loss income, then responded with anger and formed a mob to drive them from the city; the result was that Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. Timothy is not mentioned in these passages; perhaps Paul had sensed danger and had made provisions to spare the youth; perhaps it was the Holy Spirit, I cannot say. It was here that God opened the jail door and that the Philippian jailer, together with all his household, were saved.
Forced by the authorities to leave Philippi after this incident, they traveled on to Thessalonica. We read the account of this in Acts 17:
Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.
4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.
6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
We read that the three passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, apparently because there was no Synagogue in these cities. We might stop and question the reason for this. One cannot read Paul’s writings without realizing that he had a special place in his heart for his own people. But I suggest that the reasons probably went beyond this in that, among the Jews He found a people well versed in Old Testament Prophesy. Here was an audience among which he might find people ready to hear of the Messiah, where he might quickly find new converts and soon develop a base of support and of workers on which he could then build.
We also read that Paul remained in the Synagogue for three Sabbaths; it is generally thought that this represents the entire time spent in Thessalonica; It seems likely that the opposition didn’t wait long to begin stirring up trouble. If this was the case, they would have probably remained in Thessalonica less than a month. It is an amazingly short time in which to establish a church but we see in this the influence of the Holy Spirit working. A few of the Jews believed and consorted with Paul and Silas and, no doubt, were able to help in spreading the Gospel message.
Timothy is not mentioned here and we might wonder what had happened. We read the unbelieving Jews took lewd fellows of a baser sort and created an uproar against the two older men. Our pastor is always amused by this verse; not just lewd men, but well beyond that to the baser sort of lewd men – if you will hoodlums and thugs. Perhaps Paul was looking out for Timothy, keeping him out of harms way. But I suggest that, once again, we see the Holy Spirit at work in this. We will read later that, after Paul and Silas departed, Timothy remained in the city to continue the ministry. Given all that had happened we can hardly consider this as being protective. Keeping him away from the conflict, the Spirit had made provisions for a continuation of the ministry after Paul and Silas were forced to leave.
In any case, after departing from Thessalonica, they traveled on to Berea where the people received the Word with all readiness. Apparently all was going well at Berea, the Holy Spirit moved among both Jews and Gentiles, until Jews came from Thessalonica to again stir up the crowds.
Given the apparent hostility of these unbelieving Jews, we might also speculate on the situation for the converts who lived in Thessalonica after Paul and Silas had left. If the unbelieving Jews were so hostile that they might travel to Berea to stir up unrest there, what might they have done in their own city? Further, in carrying their charges to the city leaders, they had created a antagonistic situation with law enforcement. Finally, those Gentiles who were closely associated with the Pagan worship, making and selling idols or sacrifices would also have reason for animosity. It certainly must have been a difficult place to work and continue in the spreading of the Gospel message. Yet, facing physical danger and open hostility, church at Thessalonica was able to carry on and prosper. These are a people from which we all can draw inspiration.
We have, at this point, the basic background provided us in Scripture to the letter to the Thessalonians. Hopefully, with this we should have a fairly clear idea of what to find in the letter: Based on what we know we see several real difficulties for this church: (1) Paul was able to give them only a few weeks of preparation (2) they were left under the leadership of Timothy, a dedicated believer but with limited experience (3) they faced a hostile city (4) they had no New Testament Scriptures for guidance, This letter is written to believers, a people with, perhaps, a firm background in Old Testament Prophesy but but in need of further instruction and training. It is to be read with the idea that it will clarify our own understanding of what God would have us to know and how God would have us to behave. With this background we may begin our study.
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
While Paul is generally considered to be the primary author of the letter, the greeting suggests that Silas and Timothy may well have taken some part. I point this out because there are always those who would point to some stylistic variations and use these to cast doubts. The authorship is stated clearly here and has been generally accepted since Paul’s very day. To imagine that a contemporary writer might, as some have tried to do, use such vague reasoning to cast new light on this matter after so long a time is absurd on the surface.
As noted earlier, this is generally considered to be the earliest of Paul’s epistles, written while Paul was still in Corinth, before he had departed from Greece. It is addressed to the church at Thessalonica, which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. We understand from this that this is a believing Church, one established in the basic tenets of the Christian Faith and faithful in it’s doctrine.
The greeting is similar to that given throughout the Pauline epistles, that we receive the grace and peace of God. Grace is the unmerited favor of God and refers to our salvation. Peace is what comes from a right standing with God and refers to a state in which we walk within God’s will. It requires that there is no unconfessed sin in our lives or other impairment which might limit our communion.
II. Praise and Encouragement
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
As noted previously, Timothy seems to have avoided the ire of the mobs and was able to remain in the city after Paul’s departure. We shouldn’t ignore Timothy’s bravery in this; surely it took a great deal of courage to remain, risking the mobs alone. Yet, he did remain and preserver. As he rejoined Paul and Silas he was able to relate to Paul much of what had happened during this interval so that Paul was kept well informed to all that had developed since his earlier departure.
What had the report been? (1) That their works testified to their Faith. You see, their lives had been changed. (2) That they demonstrated a love of our Lord Jesus Christ. (3) That they had not fallen by the wayside in the face of trouble or opposition, but had held steadfast; they had endured. These are the marks of a Christian and on this basis Paul could write “knowing, brethren beloved, your election”.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
“As ye know what manner of men we were among you” – what a testimony these three must have had to have produced such an impact on the city. I must confess that my life has never had such an impact. Oh that I, that we all, might be able to live so that others would come to know Jesus Christ. It is an even more powerful statement reading that those at Thessalonica received the Word while in much affliction.
Apparently those lewd men, those men of a baser sort, sought to attack not only Paul and Silas, but believers throughout the city. Yet, it did not dissuade men and women from turning to Jesus Christ. It is sometimes said that the Gospel has it’s greatest power in times of persecution. This certainly seems to be the case here. What an example each of these lives must have been! Rather than running from danger, rather than hiding their light under a basket, they proclaimed the Gospel with boldness and courage . As we read on we find that they spread the Gospel message across the entire country of Greece!
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
Macedonia is the region of northern Greece, Achaia is the region of southern Greece. The entire nation had heard the Gospel message based on the witness of this one church! What an impact they have had for Christ! What an encouragement this must have been to those workers to hear these words of praise from the Apostle Paul. Certainly Paul intended this as praise as we find that Paul often begins his letters in this manner. But, lest you imagine that Paul is being somewhat overly generous, contrast these words to what he has written to others. The book of Acts leads us to believe that there are only 5 cities in which Paul worked while in Greece: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. We have letters written to three of these so that we compare to what was written to Philippi and Corinth.
To Philippi he wrote:
Phil 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
This is certainly encouraging but it really doesn’t give us a sense of flattery or high praise. It is certainly not so lavish as what he has written to the church at Thessonica. Now consider what was written to the church at Corinth:
1 Cor. 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
While Paul is gracious in both letters the first is somewhat noncommittal; the second is a clear recognition of problems needing correction. He simply assures the Corinthians of their Salvation and of God’s power to continue their transformation so that they might be blameless in the Day of Judgment. Paul was a man who could be gracious but would never resort to false praise or undue flattery. I don’t know that this was necessarily a mega church but it certainly was a super church. Recall the testimony of the mob that rose up to oppose the work in Thessalonica: “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also”. Here was a church with power and witness; Here the Holy Spirit dwelt and bore testimony to all around. Imagine, having visited these five cities in all of Greece, Paul was able to depart knowing that the Gospel message was firmly planted throughout the land. Before writing this epistle, Paul had left Athens and had traveled to Corinth, all the way in the south of Greece, if you will, on the extreme opposite side of the country. Yet, read what he had to say of their testimony:
9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Wherever the three missionaries traveled in the nation of Greece, the influence of the Thessalonian Church was seen. They had turned from idols, had embraced the living God and now awaited the return of Jesus Christ to deliver them from the wrath to come. We live in a land which is full of idols, not the kinds which are carved from wood or stone but, nevertheless, idols. This land needs a church like that of Thessalonica, one which would spread it’s influence across the entire land, one that would turn this world upside down.
We haven’t gotten very far into this study today, but I feel that we have laid a foundation from which we can begin this study with both hope and anticipation. Our church has it’s own trials and tribulations but none of us face hostile mobs. We see here that God has been kind to us in that He has spared us the dangers that this church faced. We serve a gracious and powerful God; May God grant that we set about our work with the courage and determination that the church at Thessalonica has shown. May our light shine as theirs did shine!
(End of Lesson 1)
In the previous lesson we had read of the Thessalonian church, and of the great testimony which this young church had. It’s influence had spread across the entire land of Greece and served to win the nation to Jesus Christ. All of this had come about in spite of the strong opposition which the church faced. The unbelievers among the Jews bitterly oppose them, the political leaders viewed them as troublemakers and the pagans viewed them as a threat.
We need to remember that these believers, all new converts, were human; like us they would have had difficulty in dealing with all the adversity they faced; they are in clear need of encouragement. Paul realizes that this is the case and, in his writing, he chooses to simply remind them of what they have seen, how the Spirit has moved and seeks to bring them once again to the heights which they had once known.
III. Paul’s Ministry at Thessalonica
A. The Courage of Conviction
Paul will encourage them by asking that they remember the power of the Holy Spirit as they heard the Gospel message. He encourages them to get above the current problems and remember the reasons for their commitment, for their determination to start afresh and begin their new lives as Believers. .
1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
It is a rather simple statement; it lacks flourish and detail. You and I must try to read between the lines but to the people of Thessalonica this simple statement brought back strong memories. I imagine this as being like a man telling his wife of many years, “do you remember the day we got married”. It is intended to bring back memories of feelings and to renew these precious days. How might you and I know the depth of what is being said here but to think back to the day of our own Salvation? How marvelous it was to know that we had been delivered from our sin, had a right standing with God and that we too had a place in Heaven! That we were now a member of God’s family!
2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
Opposition should not have been unexpected; had they not known what Paul had endured and the circumstances under which he had left Philippi? Should they imagine that they would be received differently? Yet, it is Paul who has set the example here, not by words but by deeds. He had ignored the threats, the harsh treatment, even the beatings and had come unto them to boldly proclaim the Gospel message! How then, should they of Thessalonica behave? How then should we behave when we face opposition, even the strong opposition that Paul had faced?
Some may ask why does God allow His people to be treated so? It is not a question which can be easily answered, God need not explain Himself to man. Scripture tells us that trials may come to strengthen our own faith, sometimes they are given to serve the Cause of Christ. Perhaps, hearing of the commotion caused by the message in Philippi, it stirred interest in Thessalonica, bringing out the crowds to hear him speak. Seeing firsthand Paul’s steadfastness and conviction, men knew that he did not speak idly. They recognized that his words were true and believed the message. We have seen this in our own land; it was the fire hoses, the police dogs and the jails which gave Martin Luther King his power. These methods were just as powerful in Paul’s day.
B. The Purity of the Message
3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
The ministry has always attracted those who would attempt to use it for their own ends. Generally they seek to gain power or influence, have a life filled with sexual immorality or seek great wealth. In contrast, Paul came solely to deliver the message that God had given to him. The message was not one which pleased men, made them think well of themselves, but one which, as seen in verse 16 below, brought conviction to their hearts, leading them to a true, heartfelt repentance and hope of eternal life.
Let us return to the matter of why God allows His servants to suffer. The Bible speaks of works being tried by fire: had Paul been a charlatan, had his message been a subterfuge to enrich himself, he surely would have quit when he saw that his plan had failed. But Paul did not quit; he truly was dedicated to the Gospel message. Purging had brought out the truth, giving credence to the message. If you will, what happened at Philippi laid the foundation for the miracle at Thessalonica.
5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
In verses 3 & 4 Paul speaks generally of his approach but offers greater detail here. The purpose is to contrast his actions with those of the religious fakes, to offer further proof of the truth of the message.
Earlier he had said that they had not spoken to please men; now he tells us of his avoidance of flattering words. People didn’t walk away from Paul’s sermons thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. I have sometimes thought that Paul chuckled to himself when he wrote the words, “as ye know, we didn’t at any time use flattering words”. No doubt this was a gross understatement. I believe that tears were shed as hearts were moved and men and women stood convicted of their sins, There was no need to say more to the readers at Thessalonica; they remembered!
Paul adds that they did not seek glory; he did not use his honored position as an Apostle to receive special treatment. Normally, when we receive a dignitary we would seek to provide them with special accommodations, see that they had special meals, arranged for their transport; given Paul’s positions an Apostle of Jesus Christ, this would all have been appropriate but Paul didn’t seek this kind of treatment. He was considerate of his hosts and never wanted to be burdensome in any way. Is this the behavior of someone who was seeking self aggrandizement? No, clearly Paul was not one of these. If anything, it was the other way around; Paul sought to provide for their needs, acting more like a nursemaid, giving of himself rather than receiving.
8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
Paul’s ministry was not only a work of Faith and duty, but also one of love. We are commanded to love our brethren but also our enemies. Here we are given an example of such love so that Paul was willing to suffer and, if needs be, to die so that they might be saved.
John 5:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Paul had patterned himself after Christ; in this he is a pattern for every believer.
9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
In the book of Acts we learn that while in Corinth, rather than ask for support from the Gentiles, Paul supported himself by tent making. While not stated directly here, it seems that Paul worked in Thessalonica as well, supporting himself so that he would not be chargeable to those to whom he preached. Here again Paul is reminding the Believers that he did not come as a charlatan, seeking to enrich himself through trickery. By this they should know that his only motivation was service to God and love for them.
10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
Here we read a summary of the verses which went before; he had not deceived them, seeking neither glory nor power nor money. This they knew and by this they could be assured of the purity of his message. Looking back they should see that all that Paul preached was to exhort them to believe, to comfort them with assurance and to lead them toward Salvation.
C. The Reception of the Gospel
13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Paul has been careful to outline all of the motivations of false prophets and to show that, through his behavior, he is not one. If Paul didn’t seek power, glory or wealth, what did he get out of his ministry; why did he endure all that he experienced: so that they might receive the Word of God; this is the basis of his joy.
The message given in purity has been received in purity. Christ would have us all live a blameless life so that our witness may be received. Not that it is our words or deeds which save souls but if we quench the Holy Spirit working in us then we will not have the power to work through us..
D. Persecution of the Gospel Message
14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
Christ was hated because He spoke the Truth, the Church in Judea was persecuted for preaching the Gospel message; why should we be surprised by opposition to our witness? Do we not know of the riches laid up in Heaven for those who suffer for the Cause of Christ? Rather we should rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for the cause of Christ.
E. Desire for Fellowship
The New Testament is filled with admonitions to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. It seems to me that Paul was exemplary in this, always displaying a love, ready to give his life, for those in the Church. As we read the next few verses, look to see what is in his heart.
17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
20 For ye are our glory and joy.
Paul and Silas had been forced to flee the city but, even then, hoped that he might be able to return and see them again. We had noted that, at the start of this second missionary journey, Paul had started by returning to the places where he had previously established a congregation, renewing relationships and checking on the development and progress of these churches. No doubt he was concerned lest there be some deviation or outside influence which might undo his earlier work. But also Paul had established true friendships, deep bonds of affection so that these believers were regarded as true brothers and sisters. Just as we all long to be with and to remember what has been between us in past days, Paul wishes to renew these former times as they were truly special to him.
Even though it was Paul’s desire to return, the Holy Spirit had more important work for him and Paul never returned. We may view this as sad; probably all of us have loved ones which have gone on and we will never see again this side of Heaven. But we live with the hope that we will see them one day; how marvelous that all will be!
F. Desire for Continued Growth
1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
When the unbelieving Jews from Philippi began to stir up trouble in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas were forced to leave, departing by night. It is unclear when Timothy left but, reading here of his return, we might assume that he departed about this time and joined Paul. From there they traveled southward to Berea where Paul again spoke in the Synagogue. We read in the account from the book of Acts that the Jews there were more open to the Scripture and the three seem to have been well received.
Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
The “these” being spoken of are the Jews of the Synagogue. Berea stands out as the one place to which Paul traveled where he was well received in the Synagogue. That alone has established it forever in the New Testament. We don’t know how great the church established there might have been nor how great an influence it may have had but here the Jews opened their minds and hearts to the Scriptures to read what had been said. Here Paul’s preaching in the Synagogue was able to sway hearts and minds so that souls were converted.
From Berea they traveled to Athens. It was the largest, most powerful city in all of Greece and here there were multitudes to which they might witness. There was more than enough work for all three, but Paul had not forgotten those whom he had left in Thessalonica and Philippi. When he could no longer forbear wondering about them, were they being persecuted, had they fallen under the influence of charlatans, had they remained true, what else might they need to know? Paul loved them and worried about them. When he could no longer forbear, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica and Silas back to Philippi to check and to minister further.
I can’t imagine that this was an easy decision. They had been forced to flee both cities and one can well imagine that Timothy was at risk in returning. Why could Paul not return, himself, or send Silas there? Perhaps it is related to the conditions under which they had left. The officials of the city had required a bond from Jason, the man who had housed them. We aren’t given the conditions of this bond but surely it would have been forfeit had additional problems arisen regarding these two. Philippi appeared to be the more dangerous place and we might imagine that this was a primary motive in sending the more senior man, Silas, there. Yet it seems certain that Timothy had good cause for fearing his safety in Thessalonica. During the first missionary journey, the young Mark had turned back; he had good cause for fear. We see here the courage of these men, something men of the church might emulate today.
But most of all, we need to recognize the deep love and concern that Paul felt. It was a love that could face danger and hardship. He could not simply walk away and forget what might happen to these people. He had developed a true love for them, a true concern, and this required that he do whatever was in his power. It is a testimony as to his faith and to the power of the Gospel message he was sent to deliver.
G. Steadfastness at Thessalinica
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
The problems and dangers which Paul, Silas and Timothy faced were simply part of what they were doing. While we should not seek danger neither should we flee when we are doing God’s work. Paul had known this from the beginning and had warned the congregation at Thessalonica that it would come.
5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
Here, once again, we see into the heart of Paul. He could not return, at least for the foreseeable future, he could not expect to receive anything of them, yet his heart would not rest until he knew of their condition.
We can well believe that he had good cause for concern; in his letter to the church in Galatia he wrote “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel”. Perversion of the Gospel message has been a great problem for the Church since its very foundation. At Thessalonica Paul had left a young church, not yet well established in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was certainly vulnerable to the influences of others. How had they fared?
6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:
7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
After 2000 years we can still feel the joy in Paul’s heart when he received word that they stood fast in the Faith and we can share that joy! Thank God that his labor had not been in vain, that the Holy Spirit had preserved and kept this young church within the True Faith.
9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;
10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
Here is a church that, I imagine, every believer would yearn to visit, to be among them, even for a short while. Surely there was a spirit present here that would enrich our hearts and souls. We can understand why Paul would wish to be among them again, to see their faces. I’m sure that there are many things which Paul wished to say, things which would enrich them spiritually, would help to strengthen their stand and would encourage them to even greater things for the glory of God.
11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
There are three parts to this benediction, each of such import as to stand alone.
When we get to Heaven the dearest thing will be to see Jesus. And there will be loved ones, people we have missed and long to see again. There are also people with whom we have not had great personal contact, but have had great influences on our lives; for this reason we have loved them. I very much want to see Paul, to speak with him and to know him. And this church as Thessalonica – I want to be there when they assemble again, to feel their power, to know the feelings of their hearts.
For the present we have our own little assembly. Oh that we might grow in love and grace toward one another. And that we might grow in grace and love toward all men, that we might have a greater impact on this world around us! May God grant us power!
Finally, and we will close with this, one day we will stand before our Lord Jesus. As we live through eternity, literally through thousands of years, the single most important thing that will ever matter is the question of what we did for Jesus during this short life. This is what will last! May we each search our hearts, look past the temporal matters which plague us and they plagued the people at Thessalonica, so that we, as they, turn our world upside down for Jesus!
(End of Lesson2)
As we progress through this letter we recall that Paul had sought to encourage this young church at Thessalonica, reminding them of the purity of the massage that Paul had delivered and the power with which the Holy Spirit had worked in those first few weeks. They were reminded of the boldness with which Paul had spoken, even in a time of great personal persecution. All of this was given as proof of the sincerity and truth of the message. Now, knowing this, he has the credibility to ask believers to continue along the path they have started and to live their lives befitting one who walks with Christ.
The Holy Spirit had shown great power there and the Word of this church was spread all across Macedonia. Yet the church was not perfect and there is a need to correct the errors and abuses which have crept in.
IV. Sin Within the Church.
The Holy Spirit had shown great power there and the word of this church and its testimony had spread all across Macedonia preparing the way for the Gospel message. Yet the church was not perfect. No doubt Timothy, upon his return to that city, had heard or seen attitudes and deeds that ought not have been. These had been reported to Paul and now Paul has the responsibility to set these right.
A. Reminder to Walk Pleasing to God
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
Paul begins by reminding them that he speaks with the authority given him personally by our Lord Jesus Christ. He spoke an Apostle, personally called by our while on the road to Damascus. What Paul is doing here is to invoke this authority for what he is about to say. He further reminds them that this is for their own good, that they might grow in Faith and to become more like Christ in their walk. All of this is a part of the process of Sanctification, to prepare the and us for the work that God has for us, both in this life and that to come.
2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
We all intuitively understand what is meant here because we have within us the knowledge of good and evil. The people of Thessaloniki were not so different. They had heard Paul instruct them toward right living and knew the truth of the words because of what was in their hearts. Paul seeks only to reinforce these commands.
B. Commandment for Sexual Purity
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
The very first reprimand correction that Paul must give relates to sexual purity. Perhaps this is because the believers at Thessalonica were surrounded by false religions which included vile sexual rituals in their perverted worship ceremonies. Certainly there must have been many temptations surrounding them every day. It must have been very much like modern America. Our temptations are not guised in terms of religious rituals but are, nevertheless, quite pervasive.
Many sins are largely a matter of taking what God has given us for our good and perverting it through misuse or excessive use. The food which is given to nurture our bodies, when misused, leads to obesity, heart problems, diabetes and a range of other maladies. Drugs, virtually all derived and synthesized from God given plants, can heal many diseases, relieve disorders and cover pain. But, misused for recreation, can lead to loss of judgment, dissipation and even death.
We should give special attention to the direction that we should possess our vessel. Alcohol, drugs, sexual titillation can each cause us to lose judgment, and control of our minds and bodies. These are among the things that can lead to sin and regret, hurting ourselves and those around us. How much better place the world would be if everyone were to heed God’s command to keep their minds and bodies under control
5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
Concupiscence is not a word which we use very often and for most of us will need a little clarification. At creation God gave us a nature to do good; at the fall man took on the nature to do evil. It is not unlike the cartoon presentation in which man, facing temptation, has an angel whispering in one ear and a demon advising in the other. We might think of concupiscence as the human love of what is evil, the small voice within which encourages us toward wrong; it can be very evident in those who know not God but that voice continues to speak to us as well.
C. Commandment for Love of Brethren
6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
We have read of the witness of the Christians at Thessalonica, how they had changed the world because of the love that they has shown. Was this a perfect love, practiced continually by every Believer? I doubt it. But failure in this area would seem to threaten this very witness which had made this church so powerful! Our first duty is toward God’s work and we need to never forget this.
The natural man will normally think of himself first. As Christians we are commanded to love, not only our brethren, but even the stranger. Was it not this love which had brought Paul, Silas and Timothy to Macedonia? This is not a love which comes automatically; it it not part of normal human behavior but must be nurtured and developed. Perhaps this is the reason that we are given this command immediately after we are told to keep our vessel under submission.
John gives much the same message in the book of 1st John:
1 John 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Clearly any man who would defraud his brother has broken this command and we are promised that God will avenge this wrong. Why does God place such importance on this sin? Because it threatens the very witness and effectiveness of His Church!
7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
What a powerful verse. This is one from which a whole sermon could be preached. Why did God call us? Was it not so that He might have a people unto Himself, a holy people with whom He might commune. In this sense this applies to every sin of concupiscence that the heart of man might ever devise. Yet, as used here, Paul is speaking specifically of defrauding our brother. How often we are told to love one another, not to esteem ourselves above others. This is what God has called us to.
8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
Should someone mistreat our child, have we not been attacked? What then should someone despise a child of God? Should a man abuse any vessel in which the Spirit of God dwells, have they not themselves despised the Spirit within? This is not a small thing!
We live in a culture in which men regularly take God’s name in vain and imagine that this is nothing. Yet we take great offense when our own dignity is denied, when we have been personally affronted. Do you imagine that this is the way that God judges such things? How do you imagine that He will judge such matters when we stand before Him? I tell you that when every knee shall bow before Him, when every man shall see Him as He is, then they shall all understand the fearfulness of what they have done!
9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
Looking back over the years, I’ve attended churches, both very large and very small. I’ve most enjoyed the smaller ones, places where everyone knows everyone else. Some have told me that they prefer the larger churches, where they can listen but be left alone, where no one will notice if they happen to miss a week or so. Reading this verse I find it hard to accept such arguments as proper. Is this how we should want our families to be? Should we go to a reunion and be left to ourselves, for no one to speak to us? Should no one notice if we miss a few of these? I think we would be hurt!
None of this is to criticize large churches because many do a great work for Christ. But what I would say is that we need to work harder in a large church, making a special effort to know one another and to be known. To be what God would have us to be, we need to be much more outgoing in the larger church than in the small. Its really a question of motive; if we choose a large church because it affords us additional opportunities for service, wonderful, but if we attend there to shirk our God-given duties, then this is wrong. God would have us to truly love one another.
10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;
Let me try to paraphrase what Paul is saying: the love that you show toward others has become known throughout all of Macedonia. Now, don’t stand on you laurels but go out and do more! There is a world to win and you’ve only just started!
D. Commands for Meekness, Discretion, Self-Sufficiency and Honesty
11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.
Those who live in apartment buildings with noisy neighbors, neighbors who like to have loud parties lasting well into the morning, can quickly understand what is being said here. A Christian is to live in such a way that they make good neighbors, quiet, attending their own business. But it really goes beyond this; we are to avoid the life style which this type of person typifies. Live quietly and modestly,
deal honestly with others, provide for our own needs. I won’t say that such people are never in need, but generally they they don’t seem to have the problems of their less constrained neighbors. For many of us this verse tell us plainly what is wrong in America today, too many people have ignored this verse. We could go on about this, but I think we can quickly grasp what is being said here to God’s people.
V. Promise of Eternity with Christ
There is a natural break in subject here and some introductory thoughts would seem to be in order. Again, we need to remember that these early Christians were without any of the New Testament Scriptures. It should be clear that these believers had only what Paul, Silas and Timothy had already taught them. No doubt they were told of the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Kingdom He would establish. Yet, when a few of their number died, it seems that some had not understood what their destiny might be. Here Paul explains what happens after the death of the believer:
A. Those that Sleep
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
We know that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; why does Paul reiterate this fact here? I suggest that it is to emphasize the truth of what is being said.
The death of someone close is never an easy thing. When my mother passed away I, too, grieved, yet it was a great comfort that the sorrow was only for those of us who remain; her soul was rejoicing to be with Jesus; when He returns she will be with Him. What can we say to someone about a loved one who never had a place for God? I know that there are those who would say that we all go to Heaven; the Bible doesn’t teach that and I can’t say it no matter how comforting it might be. At best, I can offer a hug and let them know that I sorrow with them. How much easier it is to say goodbye to a loved one when we know that they are truly in a much better place and we will see them once again.
B. The Rapture
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
This is not the second coming but rather the Rapture of the Church; Christ does not actually come to Earth at this time but, together with the resurrected saints, will meet us in the air. The Church will be taken out of this world in two steps: first, those who are dead in Christ will then arise bodily, that is their bodies will be raised incorruptible to be reunited with their souls; only then will those who remain be taken so that we all live forever with the Lord.
C. The Second Coming
1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
We may recognize the season when Christ returns, we are given certain clues as to when Christ will soon appear, but no man knows the date precisely. From time to time we hear those who try to predict the time of His coming. Frankly, as I read what is clearly stated here, I can’t believe that any preacher or religious leader who makes such a claim could have been truly called of God. All of us may have difficulty with certain ideas but this one is simply too clearly stated to be a matter of difference of opinion. Frequently such claims are spread by the press so that, as they inevitably prove false, serve only to hamper the Cause of Christ. For this reason I believe that they can only be Satan inspired.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Here are the clues as to the season: In that day people won’t have a sense of impending danger, they will have no thought of Christ’s sudden return and of a day of reckoning for their sins. They will think themselves secure from the wrath of God, safe and secure in their sins.
If we simply look around us, it is clear that the world is becoming ever more complacent in regard to Christ’s return. Church membership is continuing to decline as the message becomes ever more worldly. Many churches have shifted away from the Gospel to speak more about making the best of this present world. Some have shifted to a social gospel: civil rights, income equality, world peace, and the like. A few years ago I read of a presidential primary candidate who had left his “church” in a disagreement over building a bike path! Some of this may be fine to a degree but not if it takes our eyes away from our real mission, that of winning souls.
Our duty here is to warn souls that we know not the day nor the hour; none of know whether we have tomorrow. This is the time to come to Christ and be saved! Will men listen? I think it has become a more difficult time than any I have ever known but what the world cannot see is that this is a warning sign; Jesus told us that “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be”. Noah preached for 120 years and never reached a soul outside of his own family. He will come when men least expect Him!
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
We live in a time of darkness, a time when sin prevails in this world, a time when men sleep, scoffing at the warnings of Christ’s sudden return. They proceed without care, as if they will never need to answer for the lives that they have led, for the sins they have committed. But we are not to live so; we are to live ever watchful of his imminent return.
Paul uses the metaphor of drunkenness to represent both sinful living and a condition in when men lack the facility of clear understanding. We are to live contrasting lives, sober in that we avoid sin and remain clearly aware of what is happening in this world, both in regard to the increasing sinfulness and it’s implications in regard to what God has promised.
8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
We are not of this world, this dark and sinful world, but have our citizenship in the brightness of Heaven. There all is righteousness and light, lit by His very presence. In the interval, as we continue to battle in this sinful land we are in need of protection. Faith and love are the breastplate to protect our hearts; the hope of Salvation is the helmet to protect our minds and thoughts, to keep them sober and pure.
C. Preparation for His Kingdom
9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
I want to stop here, mid sentence, because here we have one of the great promises of Scripture: we who believe are not appointed unto wrath; we will never face the Great White Throne Judgment! Our sins are all forgiven and, though our sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow. When the book of our lives is opened, what will the ledgers show. I’m not sure whether the sin side of the ledger will be whited out or simply marked “paid in full”. Either way, we can stand before God and claim the Righteousness of Jesus Christ!
10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
Christ died for us; we simply can’t pass over this thought. It is difficult for any of us to fully understand the horrific death that He faced, scourged and beaten so that He could hardly be recognized, spikes hammered into His hands and feet, flesh tearing as He was cruelly lifted up and jolted into position and, finally, left there to hang in agony and the life ebbed from His body. How could someone love us so that he might face what Christ has faced? He did this all for us.
More than this, He died for us whether we wake or sleep. We are promised that those who have died in Christ will walk again, will see Him face to face and will spend eternity with Him. It is a glorious thought; that we will be with Him who has loved us so.
Some have commented that Scripture doesn’t tell us much about Heaven. Oh, we know about the streets of gold, the pearly gates, the mansion that is prepared for us but we don’t know much other than that. I believe that there is a reason for all of this, that Heaven simply can’t be described; man has no background to prepare him to understand even if we were told. But we are told the most important thing, the most glorious thing, that we will be with Him! This is the important part.
While we do not know when all of these promises will come about, we have every reason to believe that it could be very soon. I sometimes think that the reason God has never told us much about Heaven is that He doesn’t want His Church dwelling on the wonders that we shall see there. Instead, there is very pressing work for us to complete here and now. I imagine that each of us have some friends and relatives who are without Christ so that, if He were to come today, they would be left behind. The fields are white unto harvest and the workers are so very few. We each need to be considering what remains for us as individuals to do and get these things done in the time we have.
End of Lesson 3
In the previous lesson, we were told of God’s promises to His Believers: One day we will see justice done, those who have done evil will be held to account and punished. Those who sleep in Christ will be raised and caught up into Heaven to be with Him. All Believers will be rewarded for their service.
That being said, we need to consider the present; how should we conduct ourselves as we await His return? Paul will address this matter in today’s lesson.
VI. Instructions for Christian Living
A. Honor Those Who Labor With Us
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
When the Angel visited Mary to call her to serve God he told her “blessed art thou among women”. When any man is call to full time Christian service he, too, is blessed among men. What higher calling might we aspire to than to do God’s work? Whom God has honored, has set aside for His holy work, we too should honor! Should you happen to entertain a member of Britain’s Royal Family would you not treat them with with a certain deference? Now, suppose that you were to entertain a member of God’s family, should they not receive even greater deference? They serve not the king but the King of Kings!
B. Christian Duties
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
Be ready to help others but particularly those within the Church who are in need. Some may need admonition, others moral support or material assistance. Depending on their circumstances, their needs may differ but we need to act appropriately to help others get on track. This was the work that Jesus undertook while He was among us; it is the work that we carry on in His name.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
As a young boy Jesus told His parents “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” He was sent here for a purpose: He never took His eye off of that mission:
John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
If someone is called before a criminal judge, what role does his attorney play? Certainly the attorney is not there to condemn the accused, nor to determine sentence. When Jesus came to Earth His role was to save the world. When He returns He will have a different role; then He will act as judge. His justice will be truly just, not soft as some would have us believe, but truly weighted against the enormity of the sin. It seems to me that Jesus had no difficulty in separating these two distinct roles and, frankly, neither should we. For the present our role is to work toward the salvation of the world. We are not here to seek justice for wrong doing; that is for another time. For now, let us not render evil for evil but seek to help every man to find forgiveness for his sins and the Salvation of his soul.
C. The Spirit Filled Life
The church at Thessalonica was a great church, an effective church, yet Paul desired that they might abound even more! How might they do this? What can Paul say, what guidance might he give, that could lead them to even greater heights, to greater glory? Here, in the next few verses Paul will outline a set of seven goals which can lead every born again believer to accomplish even greater things for God.
Many believe that in Scripture numbers are often used to carry a significance of their own. If so, then the number seven is usually given to indicate completeness or perfection. The pattern fits here because these seven goals will lead a believer toward God’s perfection as a Christian.
16 Rejoice evermore.
This is a short command, repeated throughout the New Testament. First of all, we have been saved from the destruction which is to come. Secondly, we have been Redeemed so that we might serve the Cause of Christ; what an honor is bestowed upon us to be called as Ambassadors for the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Everlasting Prince of Peace! Recognize what has been given us, the position we now hold and the position which awaits us at the end of our trials! Each believer has a home in Glory where they will live and reign with our Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever! In light of this, if we believe, how should we ever be discouraged?
Christ paid a horrible price for our Redemption; do we not need to feel gratitude! Imagine that we were to sacrifice to give a great present unto a child and that they simply took this as their due and fretted over things that they did not have; do we not see that this is wrong? Is this proper behavior for the children of God? God forbid! We need to be mindful of all that God has done for us.
17 Pray without ceasing.
God would have us bring every problem to Him, bring every decision to Him, and to seek His will in all that we do. While we can’t continuously talk with Him, we can, at some level, have His will and His commands guiding us in every step we make. We need to keep a kind of continuous communion with Him so that His guidance never leaves us and so that we remain on the straight and narrow path at all times.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Here we see a theme which is often repeated in Scripture: God would have us show gratitude for what He does for us. After He freed the Hebrew people from Egypt, parted the Red Sea , gave them water in the desert and rained manna from Heaven, they built a golden calf and worshipped it. We are not to be like that! Nor, like them, are we to despise His gifts, disdaining His manna and yearning for the meats, the onions and garlic of Egypt. God has truly given us a land of plenty; let us acknowledge His gifts and have gratitude in our hearts.
Later we find that Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, wrote two letters to Timothy at Ephesus. In his second letter Paul warns him of dangers of which he should beware:
2 Tim: 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Notice that in the middle of all of these sins, one that stands out is the sin of unthankfulness. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul places this sin in the same category as traitors; he tells us that such people have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Thankfulness in all things is not a small matter and it behooves us to strive toward that goal.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
We understand that when the Spirit convicts the heart of a lost soul, and that man or woman hardens their heart and quenches that Spirit, that they risk their immortal soul. In so doing they have rejected the transformation that only the Spirit can bring about and their place as a child of God.
Believers may also quench the Spirit, refusing to heed His guidance and direction; in so doing they do not risk their souls but, by quenching the Spirit, they refuse the blessings He would bestow upon them, the treasures that they have in Heaven and many of the blessings that they might receive here in this life. None of us knows what this day may bring; how foolish to reject the guidance of one who knows all things, who knows what lies ahead and what is best, both for us as individuals and for those we love.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
In the Old Testament we read of men who wrote of events yet to come, often not understanding the meaning of the message themselves. Some wrote of a coming Messiah, others foretold of events which would occur in the days ahead. These men foretold the future. But this is not the kind of prophesying that is spoken of here; God’s Word is now complete and we have read that no man is to add to these.
Here Paul is speaking of the act of exhortation based on the Word of God. We need to make a clear distinction between teaching, helping to understand the Word of God, and preaching, which is exhort us to put God’s Word into action in our lives. Teaching is directed toward giving us understanding, it speaks to the mind; preaching speaks to the heart.
I has spoken earlier about how these commands all seem to work together, not unlike the facets of a diamond. Preaching is to speak to the heart; we must avoid quenching of the Spirit, so that the words penetrate to our heart. Let the Spirit move you, encourage you and inspire you.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand this word “prove” is to consider the person buying gasoline from a gas pump. If we look carefully that pump should have a stamp to certify or prove that this pump has been tested and verified to deliver a gallon which is the same as the legal gallon from the National Bureau of Standards. This is important because normally we have no way of seeing what we have bought, of verifying ourselves that we actually received what we paid for.
As Christians we have our own legal standard by which we are to prove all things, whether they be good or evil, the Word of God. It is a golden standard in that it never ages nor tarnishes but shines forever to give light and brilliance to all that see it. Every act and deed, all that we think and believe is to be compared and verified by God’s Word. The world is filled with human philosophies, with things which, on the surface, might appear to be valid or true, but have they been verified against the standard? Only if they prove good and true by that standard should we accept or trust them.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
As Christians we understand that we are to abstain from evil. The problem is that new situations arise and we may have trouble deciding whether it is truly wrong. All of this is compounded by what we understand as our fleshly nature, the continence of the old nature. When we are truly tempted the old nature is very effective to convincing us that any act is truly proper, perhaps even good. When Eve saw the fruit on the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil did she not find that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes and desirable to make one wise? She convinced herself that eating of the fruit was good even though she had been taught that it was evil.
I think that at least part of what Paul is trying to teach us here is that we need to go to great lengths to avoid sin. Not only should we avoid what is clearly sin but also anything which is in doubt, anything which might be sinful. Now you might well think that this would be pretty restrictive and it is. But this also keeps us from falling into traps when the old nature seeks to deceive; it is advice which will keep us from harm and on the straight and narrow path.
Actually, as we consider these seven directives of Paul, rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, be thankful in all things, quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesying, prove all things by the Word of God, and abstain from even the appearance of evil, he has outlined a standard which is near perfection. Could someone do all of this I’m still not sure that they would have attained perfection but they would be near. It is, perhaps, a goal that we may not be able to reach but surely it is a goal that we should strive toward.
Paul began this Epistle with the message that, seeing the great things that this church had done for God, that he wished to see this work abound even more. Here, in these seven directives, Paul had laid out a plan for this to happen. Cleanse and open your heart to the Spirit and He will do great things through you. It is a plan for us as well. If we truly love God, if we truly wish to be effective for Him, then we see here what we need to do. God, give us the Faith and commitment that we can embrace this fully and make ourselves truly useable for Your Service.
We’ve come to the end of this study and here we have his closing benediction. The words are, of themselves, quite beautiful and clear so that I shan’t spoil their effect with further thoughts or comments:
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
25 Brethren, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.
27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
This is the end of Paul’s first Epistle to the Thessalonians and, as instructed, it has now be read to the brethren in our little assembly. My hope is that you have found it both instructional and inspirational. May God allow that we take it to our hearts and use it for His greater glory.
Paul wrote a second letter to the church at Thessalonica only a few months after sending the first. Generally it is thought to have been written while Paul was still working in Corinth but, perhaps, is could have been shortly after departing Greece for Ephesus on coast of Turkey.
In the first letter we had found an outstanding church, one which had spread the Gospel message across the entire land. Yet Paul had written so that they would not stand on their laurels, but would work toward greater spirituality, greater faithfulness and even greater accomplishments for Christ.
Apparently Satan had responded strongly, attacking them cruelly. They had undergone a persecution so severe that some had begun to imagine that the Rapture had left them behind and that they had entered into the Great Tribulation. In this short letter Paul seeks to reassure them, comfort them and encourage them to continue steadfast through all trials and tribulations. .
I. Preliminary Statements
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In these two verses we understand that Paul, Silas and Timothy are once again working together. We are reassured that Thessalonica is, indeed, true and steadfast in God. The blessing which they received is that normally given by Paul, that of God’s continued grace, that is His unmerited favor, and Peace, that comes from a close walk with His Spirit.
B. Commendation to the Church
Often we will find that these epistles will, immediately after the introduction, include a message of commendation. This is not only true of Paul’s letter but we find this same structure throughout much of the New Testament. I would draw your attention to the letters to the Seven Churches in the book of Revelation. Some of the churches are praised, others admonished, but each starts with a commendation for what they have done well. God is always fair and just in His judgments; what is done for Christ is always remembered.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
Paul always sought to be honest in his commendations, never exaggerating or giving false praise. In the first epistle he had given great praise to the church at Thessalonica for it’s testimony of faith and love; here we read that this same faith and love had grown exceedingly. They had truly opened themselves to be a vessel through with the Holy Spirit could work. Again, they are recognized as an extraordinary, a truly Spirit led church.
Consider the praise which Paul had offered. First that their Faith had grown exceedingly. This, in and of itself, is perhaps the highest commendation that Paul, or anyone else, might offer. Not only did they demonstrate their Faith but they stood out from among others for their Faith. Secondly, Paul wrote of the love that they had shown one for another. They truly loved and cared for one another as true brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, they had endured persecutions with Patience and Faith. In all of this they had stood as models for all to emulate. The story of Job comes to mind as we read this.
Job 1:8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
Like Job, here were a people which God could use for His Glory and His Majesty. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” This was a people counted worthy for the Kingdom of God.
It surely must seem strange to the world that, here we have a Godly, Faithful church, one which is doing His work, carrying the Gospel message across the land. As they strive to “abound exceedingly” in all their work, what happens? How are they rewarded, how are they blessed? God allows them to be persecuted! No wonder that the world sees us as mad!
But consider for a moment that God has found them worthy to be an example for all of us. He has found them worthy! And from them we see a lesson that we all need to take to heart.
1 Cor. 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
Their work has been tested with fire and has be proven to endure. There is a lesson for all of us as we face our trials I life. When we face trials, do we draw closer to Him? We may pray “lead us not into temptation” but we need to follow this with “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done”. May the Lord help and preserve us all.
(End of Lesson 4)
In the last lesson we had concluded our study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians and begun with the second letter. In the first we had read of a young, faithful, witnessing church, an exemplary church. Paul had commended them on all that they had done and encouraged them to abound to even greater Faith. In the interval, it seems that Satan had taken notice and began to persecute this church, clearly seeking to deter their witness. Now Paul writes again to encourage and strengthen them to stand fast in their time of trial.
II. Christian Doctrine
It seems that the church at Thessalonica had undergone such severe persecution that some began to imagine that they might be living in the time of the Great Tribulation. While this was not true, their response was not unlike that of Saints of that later time:
Rev. 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
I find it hard to talk about vengeance from a Biblical perspective, not because of any doubts or unbelief, but because we live in a time when a longsuffering God has offered man a chance of Repentance and Forgiveness. We serve a God of peace and mercy but also a God of truth and justice. Human nature is such that, when we are wronged. we all too soon forget the peace and mercy part and begin to cry for justice.
Rom. 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Vengeance is reserved to the Lord; just as our human justice system does not allow us to take such matters into our own hands, but reserves that right for our courts, so God reserves this right for His Judgment Seat. Yet, as we have read here, God’s people have a right to call for justice to be done.
A. Vengeance Against Persecutors
Paul needs to reassure these people of two things: first, that the Rapture has not occurred; they have not been left behind and, secondly, that God will deal with the unjust.
6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
We know that God will recompense all the evil that sinful man has done. We can rest assured that those who persecute God’s people will, in the end, be justly dealt with for their transgressions. We will be avenged. We will have justice.
Now, what of us in the meantime? We know that will find rest and comfort with Him when he returns to take control of this world. We will be rewarded for our steadfastness and our service. With that in mind, we are to hold on in our struggle to bring Christ to a lost world.
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
We read here of two stages of punishment against those who wrong God’s children but, perhaps, we might add a third. The first is, of course, the Great Tribulation which will fall upon the world. As we read of this in the book of Revelation, we understand that this is truly a most dreadful event, beyond anything that the world has ever known. Those who know not God and are living when He returns will face the most horrific time the world has ever seen. But after all of that there is still The Final Judgment; all who have disregard or abused the Gospel message, the open path to Redemption from all sin, will face an everlasting punishment, forever separated from the presence of God. They go to spend eternity in the place prepared for the Devil and his Angels.
I think it is not inappropriate to add that those who reject the Gospel message are also punished in the present in that they do not know the peace of God in their hearts. How many people, those with money and position, have no peace. If we were to search we could easily fill a page with names of people who seemed to have everything, riches, power, fame, yet either killed themselves or died of alcohol or drug overdoses. The unsaved, both rich and poor, will never know God’s peace; nothing of this world can assuage this loss. We can never know what demons people wrestle with in their hearts.
Whatever trials we, who believe, may face today we have the comfort of knowing that, at the end of the day, He has been with us. And, at the end of our days, we will be with Him forever. Never again will we know of sickness nor death, heartache nor sorrow. We look forward to a day when Justice will reign over all this world, when the curse of sin is taken away and all is once again as God has made it. In that day, all those who were saved will look upon those who labored to witness unto them, who led the way by the testimony of their lives; on that day we will glory together with God in the radiance of their admiration!
B. Walk Worthy of This Calling
11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we consider the laurels which await us, the earnest praise of those whom we might help to bring to Christ, we need to walk worthy of this calling. We are the vessels through with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is known through this world. Oh that the power of the Holy Spirit work within us as we labor in the Work of Faith that we might bring glory to the Name of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Chapter 1 of this letter, Paul has given an overview of what He would say to us in these difficult times. So that we may understand more fully, he now proceeds to give us greater details, greater understanding of what is to come in these final days.
III. The Day of the Lord
A. Assurance of the Church
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
I believe that the Scriptures teach of a pretribulation Rapture of the Church. Just as Noah was sealed into the Ark before the rains began to fall, so God will take us and seal us before the fire and brimstone begin to fall from the skies. As such we have no reason to imagine that we should ever face that terrible day.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
Paul gives us two signs to identify the beginning of this period: the first is that there will be a great falling away from God. It would seem that those in Thessalonica had not experienced this, their witness had continued to grow, but is something that we here and elsewhere have seen already: Virtually all of Europe can be described as post-Christian and it is becoming increasing true here in America. We have seen the Bible taken out of our schools, prayer disappear from our public meetings and have watched as abortion became the law of the land. Recently our President declared that this is not a Christian nation; where was the outcry, who stood up to contradict? It is not hard to imagine that the day spoken of here may be at hand.
The second forecast is the appearance of the Son of Perdition, the Anti-Christ. As we read the book of Revelation this will occur after the Church has been taken out of this world, shortly before Jesus returns with His Saints to claim what is truly His. Since the Church will be gone, it follows that we can only look toward the great falling away as a sign. The point being that, no matter how severe their present circumstances, the people at Thessaliniki were not in the Great Tribulation, they had not been left behind.
6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.
As we read John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ, we find a series of events. The falling away and the Rapture are immediately followed by the Man of Sin to whom is given the power to rule the entire world. Only after this will the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming occur. What keeps the man of perdition from ruling the world today? Many of the Commentaries have speculated as to what it is that has prevented his rule but I suggest that this simply refers back to verses 3-4. He has been held back because the Church has not been taken. This could happen at any time; we need to be ready.
7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
Notice the term “mystery of iniquity”. In Scripture the word mystery refers to something which cannot be understood until revealed by God. There are elements of sin that, on the surface, seem impossible to comprehend. I really can’t understand these mass murders in which the perpetrator ends by killing himself? What does he gain? Now let us thing in broader term about our society. We live in a society where the family, the foundation of any society, is in danger. We read of unsustainable government policies, of going off of the cliff; how can we understand a people who will not swerve away, who will not stop? I can only think of it as the mystery of iniquity One day God will show us the answer.
But, even though the exact cause might be a mystery we can see evil growing in the world around us. We could once board planes without security guards, schools operated without lock downs, a car could drive right past the White House; all of this has changed. Sin has been constrained, perhaps by the Spirit, perhaps by the presence of the Church. But we can see that this is changing: the widespread use of drugs, fornication, sodomy, illegitimate births, abortion, all of these have been known but have never been so common, so openly displayed and accepted. The constraint seems to be weakening and opening the door for the coming of the Anti-Christ.
B. The Antichrist
8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
It might seem that every generation and every culture has known inordinately evil men. In the last century we all remember Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot; there are others, perhaps even more evil in their hearts, but who never achieved quite so much power. What we understand is that God has restrained these men so that none have achieved total domination. One is coming who will not be restrained, who will achieve world domination; then the world will witness the full extent evil of which man is capable.
How will such a person rise to power? Hitler was elected, Stalin was selected by the people’s representatives, Pol Pot rose when men flocked to his army. The common thread in all of these leaders is that they rise because people choose them. Perhaps we have all seen the films of crowds overcome with emotion as Hitler drove past. Perhaps you have seen the films of old women weeping as they walked by Stalin’s open casket. What of this country? Do you imagine men here are somehow different? Are people everywhere not basically the same? I suggest that the real difference here has been that, knowing the nature of man, our founding fathers restricted their power through our Constitution, carefully dividing power between state and federal governments and between the various branches of government. Will such limitations of individual power stand? We really don’t know; certainly the federal government has assumed greater power over the states, individual freedoms have diminished and the Executive branch has greatly expanded it’s authority. We may yet see the day when such things happen here.
How are people so easily deceived? I’m not sure that there is a single answer but let me suggest one: The story of Sampson and Delilah is among the best known in the Bible, When hearing it told, even young children understand that Sampson is being deceived and betrayed by the evil Delilah. We can only marvel at his foolishness when he fails to heed the warnings of repeated betrayals. But was he truly so naive? I think not! Rather, submitting to his own lusts and desires, he ignored the reality clearly before him. He so desired her beauty and charm that he simply refused to see the truth; he deceived himself. Perhaps, if we consider carefully, we have also done something we also should have known was foolish but, like Sampson, our own desires led us astray.
In an earlier study I had told the story of Albert Speer, the German Minister of Production during WWII. He had written that we in the English speaking countries had failed to understand the lesson of Adolph Hitler. In our films he has always been portrayed as a raving maniac; we conclude that it is a mistake to follow raving maniacs. In fact, Speer said, Hitler was a charming man, one who understood the aspirations and desires of the German people. He spoke to their deepest hopes and dreams so that men ignored the danger and gave him total power. Is not the same story as Sampson and Delilah? When the Anti-Christ appears he will be charming and he, too, will speak to men’s hearts. Satan will give him power to perform wonders and miracles. All of this will be enough that men will ignore the clear warnings of his evil intentions and will give him full power.
11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
We are promised that, when Christ returns, He will destroy Satan and those who followed him. Some may ask “why” given that they were deceived. Understand that they believed Satan’s lies because their evil hearts wanted to believe. Their accepted Satan because he spoke to their desires and their evil lusts. Their belief is simply the outward revelation of what is truly in their hearts.
IV. Reassurance to the Faithful
Now, having assured the church that Christ had not yet returned to receive His own unto Himself, then have not been left behind, Paul goes on to reassure them of the truth of the Gospel message which they have received and of their own Salvation.
13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How can a person know that they are saved? In the beginning God established His plan, His path to
Salvation. It involves two parts, (1) Sanctification of the Spirit and (2) Belief of the Truth. Sanctification of the Spirit is carried out by the Spirit of God, but we also have a part: we must allow Him to Transform us, we must yield to His work within us. Our most important contribution is to believe. If we believe God’s Word, then yielding to His influence would seem to arise naturally from this belief. It is not to say that it is always easy to do what He would have us do, but if we trust His Word, if we believe His promises, then we are given the Faith to follow His leading.
15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Because the Gospel message which has been given, to them through OT Scriptures, Paul’s teachings and this epistle, to us through our Bible, we are to hold fast to what we have been given. We are never to be swayed by the shifting winds of this world nor by the words of those who would lead us elsewhere.
16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
This is the summary of what Paul has said: Stand assured that, following the teachings which they had received, they are assured of their approval before God. Take comfort in this knowledge and continue in the work which you have begun.
V. A Message from the Missionary Journey
There is a clear break in the topic here so that we need to take a moment to understand the new context of what Paul is writing. While Scripture does not give us this context, I think that we may be able to discern what is happening from what we know of Paul’s journey. It is generally thought that Paul wrote this letter from Corinth; some have suggested that it might have been Ephesus although Paul remained there only a very short time.
From Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth we can understand that this was a very different church from that at Thessalonica – it had a lot of problems and in 1st and 2nd Corinthians we find Paul continuing to work to get this church on the right path. It seems that, in this final chapter, Paul is writing about the problems that he faced at the moment from his current work.
A. Request for Prayer
3 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
We noted earlier that Paul had been in Thessalonica perhaps less than a month; in that time he organized a church so that, after he had departed, this church continued to function and to spread the Gospel message across the entire land. Paul remained in Corinth a year and a half and, in his two epistles to that church was still trying to get them straightened out. It would seem that, when Paul ask that they pray that he might be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men that he is speaking directly of certain individuals in Corinth. Apparently Paul is struggling with this church and would have us pray that the Spirit move there as it had in Thessalonica.
B. Commendation for Thessalonica
3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.
4 And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you.
5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
No matter how difficult the struggle in Corinth, Paul expresses his confidence that his work in Thessalonica has not be in vain. Here at least, he believes, the people will remain on the straight and narrow path, that their love of God will continue unabated. If only all people would respond as this people has.
C. The Need for Church Discipline
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
Suddenly, it seems, Paul has shown a change in attitude and had decided to exert his authority over the church. Why? What has changed? I suggest it is because he has bee thinking of Corinth at this moment and it has reminded him of something which needs to be corrected at Thessalonica . What was the problem? It would seem that some had resisted certain aspects of the teachings, Paul uses the word traditions, which they had received. Paul would have none of it. He commanded that such individuals be shunned by the church!
8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you:
9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
A second problem seems to be that some would take advantage of the church, abusing the love and charity which Paul had taught so that they could spend their time idly Our love and charity are not to be unrestricted. We need always to be there for those who cannot help themselves but not for those who will not help themselves. Some would argue that we cannot let such men starve; Paul not only tells us, but commands us, not to help. Psychiatrists speak of those who enable such behavior; we should not abet their shirking of responsibilities.
11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
Here is the first criticism of the church at Thessalonica – they have been too tolerant! While the problems had not abounded in Thessalonica as they had in Corinth, they existed there as well. This problem needed to be dealt with before it got out of hand.
The world would have us accept all sorts of sinful behavior, even in the church; I would remind you that Jesus took a whip to drive the moneychangers out of the Temple. There is a time to be stern; this is especially true of those who would pervert the purpose of the Church and of God’s commands to satisfy their own desires.
13 But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
We need to stand for what is right! When charity called for we are to be ready to give unselfishly of ourselves and of what we possess. But we are also to be ready to take a firm stand against what is evil; even this may cost us but that is never the point. In both cases we are instructed to do what is right!
14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
But in all circumstances, be it in charity or in discipline, let it come from a heart of love. If we admonish a brother, if we shun a brother, let it not be from a heart of anger or vengeance but from an earnest desire for true Repentance and a restoration to a right standing with God.
We have come to the end of our study and it is my hope that it has been a blessing for you as it has been for me. As we close, the words written by the Apostle Paul seem quite sufficient and I will let him speak for me as well:
16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.
17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
(End of Study)
 The Gospels of Mathew and Mark, also early texts, are dated less precisely, but scholars place these between 50 and 70 AD.
 Thessaloniki is the accepted spelling; Thessalonica is used throughout the King James Version.
 Acts 17:11
 Acts 18:1-4
 Matthew 5:10-11
 Galatians 1:6
 2 Timothy 3:16
 Matthew 28:19-20
 Matthew 24:37
 Isiah 1:18
 Luke 2:49
 Genesis 3:6
 Job 13:15
 There are a number of Protestant denominations which do not hold to a pretribulation Rapture of the Church. It is not my purpose to get into a disagreement on doctrine but would simply say that what Paul has written here is consistent with and one of the arguments for a pretribulation Rapture of the Church.
 Acts 18:11