In Christ, believers can stand firm through all adversity.
In spite of having to endure persecution for their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christians of Thessalonica remained faithful to Christ. Their faith in Jesus Christ was steadfast. To be steadfast means to be firmly fixed in place, immoveable, not subject to change. It means to be firm in ones belief, and determined adhere to it in practice. Beause their faith in Christ was firmly fixed, the apostle Paul was confident the Thessalonian Christians would continue growing in Christian love and holiness. This lesson is about the Thessalonian Christians standing firm in their commitment to Christ, even in the face of strong opposition to their faith in Him.
Golden Text- 1 Thessalonians 3:13 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.
FAITHFUL IN ADVERSITY
Models of Perseverance
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 is giving thanks to God because these new converts received his preaching as the literal Word of God. The word of the gospel is preached by men, men of like passions and infirmities with others: We have this treasure in earthen vessels. However, it is in truth the word of God. Such was the word the apostles preached by divine inspiration, and such is that which is left upon record, written in the scriptures by divine inspiration; and such is that word which in our days is preached. Not only did they receive it as the Word of God when it was delivered unto them, but now, it is the word of God that is effectively working in them.
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:
Nothing hurts worse than being put down by the people you counted as friends. The Thessalonian Christians were being oppressed and persecuted by their own people as a result of their faith in Christ as the Messiah. Paul is telling them here, they are not alone in this suffering. The Jews in Judea are facing this same form of ridicule.
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:
Not only are the Christians being put down by their own people, even Jesus was crucified by His own.
Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
While it will never be easy to suffer at the hands of the ones that we consider friends, we must realize that those before us have faced the same oppression and were able to stand firm because they realized what they had was TRUTH.
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.
There is no doubt that those that come against the children of God will experience a much greater persecution. Here Paul rejects the behavior of his own people and speaks of God’s wrath (His justified anger, punishment, and judgement) already being upon them.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND PERSECUTION
Strengthened and Helped
3:1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
After the founding of the church in Thessalonica, a group of unbelieving Jews raised such fierce opposition against Paul and Silas, “the brethren” sent them away to Berea. After some time passed, the Jews who had opposed Paul and Silas in Thessalonica, traveled to Berea. Then, the Bible says, “the brethren” sent Paul away to Athens. Silas and Timothy remained in Berea, until Paul sent word to them to come to him in Athens. From there Paul sent Timothy back to the church at Thessalonica.
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:
While the Christians at Thessalonica did believe in the truth of the word of God, Paul realized that in order to keep moving forward they needed Godly leadership in their lives. This is why it is imperative for us that we are faithful to the house of God. Just as Timothy was sent to Thessalonica, our pastors have been sent to us to help establish us and comfort us.
Dealing With Adversity
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
I love the first part of this verse. Paul does not leave out one person with this statement. He did not send Timothy back to Thessalonica only for the wealthy or those with status, but he sent Timothy back so that NO MAN should be moved by these afflictions. I believe it is the will of God for every one us to be established in Jesus Christ.
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 apostles had taught them, just as Christ taught his disciples, that persecution was going to come.
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
I believe this persecution is part of what Christ meant by us taking up our cross and following after Him. It was Christs’ own people who ultimately put him on the cross and crucified Him. Often, it is no different for us. We feel like the greatest persecution that we face is from those who are closest to us, but we must bear the weight of the cross and continue to follow after Christ.
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.
Paul was afraid lest by any means the tempter had tempted them. The devil is a subtle and unwearied tempter, who seeks an opportunity to beguile and destroy us, and takes all advantages against us, both in a time of prosperity and adversity; and he has often been successful in his attacks upon persons under afflictions. He has often prejudiced the minds of men against religion on account of the sufferings its professors are exposed to.
Paul was concerned that as a result of this possible temptation that his labor would be in vain. While this may seem “selfish” on the surface, I don’t believe that was the case at all. Of course, no one wants the labor to be in vain, but I believe Paul loved these people to the place where he invested everything that he could to see these people succeed. Their conversion and continued relationship with Christ was his only concern, and he wanted to make sure that he continued to do everything he could not to let the relationship fail.
PAUL’S INTENSE INTERCESSION
Comfort In Suffering
7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
While the Christians at Thessalonica were suffering persecution, so was Paul. When Timothy returns to Paul with the good report from Thessalonica, Paul says their continued faith was a comfort to him in all of his affliction and distress. We never know the impact that we are making on others. You may question why that you have to face certain things or endure difficult situations, but it may be that you are in that place to help encourage someone else that they are able to stand no matter what comes their way.
8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
The burden that Paul had for Thessalonica was so great that it would have possibly drove him to death if they had not continued to stand in the faith that they had received while he was with them. What a burden!
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;
In the middle of Paul’s great suffering and persecution he was able to give thanks unto God because of the faithfulness of the Christians in Thessalonica.
10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
We will never get to the place that we do not need more faith. Paul realized that, while they were doing great things, they still needed someone praying for them. His prayerer was that he would be able to see them again, and that whatever was lacking in their faith may be perfected.
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:
We need each other. If we are going to be able to stand in the midst of trials we will have to have one another. I did not see where one person was mentioned as turning their back on faith in Christ through this whole lesson. What a testimony. I do not want to see any of my brothers or sisters turn their back on Christ, and in order for that to happen, we need to know that we can lean on one another.
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.