1 Thessalonians 1-3 Joy and Crown

1 Thessalonians 1-3 Joy and Crown

TMS Lamentations 3:22-23 Hope in His Hesed
Lam 3:22-23 “21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.

22 Through the LORD's hesed 
we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. 26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Observations: 3:22-23 We all make mistakes; some make more and bigger mistakes than others, with greater consequences. Lamentations tells us how to respond to stupid suffering (consequences from our sin). Even when we've blown it big-time, we can trust in God's revealed character and hesed (loyal covenantal love) to accept us back when we repent (as He promised). God's hesed and faithfulness to His promises are major themes in the Psalms and the rest of the OT as well. Hesed is usually translated as mercy or loving kindness, neither of which does justice to the word. It is His loyalty to us, and our loyalty to Him that constitute an intimate relationship of trust, just like a marriage. Even when we violate our promises/vows, He will keep His to bless and curse as He promised. Jeremiah writes these verses contemplating the fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (see comments on Lamentations 3 for context). The actions of the nation totally deserved total annihilation, but God was loyal to His promises to Abraham and David, thus He preserved the nation from being totally consumed. Knowing God's hesed gave Jeremiah hope that there would be restoration.
For God's purposes in suffering see: What a Friend We Have in Suffering
For understanding undeserved suffering see 1Peter 5: Suffering to Answer the Call to Glory
Application: Each day God graciously offers a fresh start to a better relationship with Him; accept it, on His terms.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for being faithful and loyal to me and all Your promises; thanks that I can trust Your hesed even when I've blown it; help me live loyally with You today. Amen.

1Thessalonians 1-3 Paul planted the church at Colosse on his second missionary journey (Acts 17), amid intense opposition from the Jews. This epistle is thought to be Paul's first, or second (after Galatians), written in response to information from Timothy who had been sent to encourage the believers in the faith (3:2), in the face of persecution. Paul also encouraged them, by reinforcing the truth, and his love for them, and then corrected some misconceptions, particularly about the coming of the Lord, so that they would be perfected and blameless in holiness when Jesus returned. The first two chapters have a roughly chiastic structure centered around 2:8-9, with the last phrase of verse 8 being the middle, “you had become very dear to us.” As such, it reveals Paul's love and ministry toward the young and growing believers, bearing fruit in a hostile environment.

1Thessalonians 1 Faith, Love, and Hope
1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ/Messiah: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ/Messiah.
2 We always give thanks to God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers, 3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ/Messiah. (NIV) 4 We know, brothers loved by God, that you are chosen, 5 and that our Good News came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we showed ourselves to be among you for your sake.
6 You became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction/tribulation, with joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all who believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out; so that we need not to say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the deadJesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Observations: 1:1-5 Silas and Timothy were with Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:22) during which the church at Thessalonica was planted. Paul wishes them the covenantal blessings of grace and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus the Messiah. He thanks God for their visible faith, love, and hope. The NIV does a good job of translating verse 3, bringing out the force of the Genitive cases (which usually means source or possession, and is frequently translated “of”). Paul thanked God for the work “of” or sourced in their faith, their labor sourced in love, and their endurance sourced in their hope in the Messiah. Faith which believes God rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6) does the work for which we are saved/justified (Eph 2:8-10). This has led some to erroneously conclude that if there are no works, there is no salvation. Forgiveness/justification is by faith and free; rewards/glorification require work. Their labor or service (from a word that means “beat up”) was sourced in love (the most likely love is that for each other, as referenced later in the epistle in 3:12 and 4:9). Their hope of future reward that they heard about in the good news of the coming Kingdom produced/inspired an endurance that enabled them to persevere through the difficulties of following Christ.
Revelation 14:13 I heard the voice from heaven saying, "Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them."
Their demonstrable faith, love, and hope were evidence that they were in the elect/chosen group that God had slated for blessing (see comments on Ephesians 1). This is not about being justified, but rather choice saints who would be blessed. Otherwise the false teaching would be that only those who labor and endure are forgiven. The good news came to them not only in mere words, but in a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, and much basis for confidence in the truth of the message.
1:6-10 Knowing that Paul and his companions were sent from God gave the Thessalonians confidence to become imitators of them, and the Lord. They received the truth in the midst of much opposition from the Jews (Acts 17). The Thessalonian Jews not only caused problems in their own city, but followed Paul to Berea to cause him trouble. Yet there was joy produced by the Holy Spirit, despite the circumstances. Word of the Thessalonians' faith spread throughout the regions so Paul didn't even need to preach. Everyone talked about how they turned from idols to serve the one true, and living God. Not only that, they demonstrated works, labor, and endurance as they waited for the return of their Messiah from heaven, to set up His Millennial Kingdom. Believers not only turn from sin, but turn to God to serve Him. Jesus not only saves from the eternal penalty of sin, He delivers faithful believers from the wrath to come (see Isaiah 13:9 and comments on Mt 3:7; Lk 3:7; Rom 1:18; 5:9; Eph 5:6; Col 3:9; Rev 11:18). The coming wrath in the bracketed verses is not about being tossed into the lake of fire, but the righteous judgment of the disobedient who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (see especially comments on Rom 1:18). Most miss this truth because they fail to observe the context regarding who is subject to the wrath. In most cases it is people who had their sins forgiven by participation in the day of atonement, or those who had trusted Christ. Paul warns believers against the wrath that comes upon the sons/children of disobedience in Ephesians and Colossians, as well as in this letter (2:16; 5:9).
Application: If we correctly understand faith and hope, we will love till it hurts, and beyond, knowing God will reward us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thanks for loving me and giving me a future and hope; please guide me in living by faith in Your promises, and loving others as You've loved me. Thanks too, for the future You have planned for me. Amen.

1Thessalonians 2 Joy and Crown
2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, our visit to you wasn’t in vain, 2 but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as you know, at Philippi, we grew bold in our God to tell you the Good News of God in much conflict. 3 For our exhortation is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in deception. 4 But even as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts. 5 For neither were we at any time found using words of flattery, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness (God is witness), 6 nor seeking glory from men (neither from you nor from others), when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ.
7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 Even so, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not the Good News of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail; for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached to you the Good News of God. 10 You are witnesses with God, how holy, righteously, and blamelessly we behaved ourselves toward you who believe. 11 As you know, we exhorted, encouraged, and implored/bore witness to every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 to the end that you should walk worthily of God, who calls you into his own Kingdom and glory.
13 For this cause also we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the assemblies of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus; for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews; 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out, and didn’t please God, and are contrary to all men; 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always, so/de wrath comes on them to the uttermost.
17 But we, brothers, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, tried even harder to see your face with great desire, 18 because we wanted to come to you—indeed, I, Paul, once and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn’t it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 20 For you are our glory and our joy.

Observations: 2:1-6 As in Corinth (and almost everywhere), there were Satan's agents, seeing to discredit Paul and his message of God's truth (times haven't changed). Paul must have heard some of the slander from Timothy, so he spends a little time defending his conduct among them, and sets up his exhortation to those who had perhaps abandoned their jobs to await Christ's return (4:11; also in 2Thess 3:8-10 -slow learners). After his beating and imprisonment in Philippi, Paul was bold to proclaim the truth to the Thessalonians, and it wasn't in vain; it bore fruit. He spoke the truth truthfully to please God, not holding back to please man, because He knew that God tests the hearts of apostles and believers. Paul didn't teach them for his temporal advantage, nor to seek glory from men (as the Judaizers did). Nor did he use his authority as an apostle to receive benefit from them (see comments on 2Cor 11-12).
2:7-12 This section gives a good snapshot of Paul's personal ministry, which is particularly relevant to present day disciple-makers who want to please God and gain eternal glory from their stay on earth. He was both mother and father to his spiritual children. He was gentle (2Tim 2:14) not hostile, and cherished them as someone does their own flesh and blood (Eph 5:29). His affection for them made him willing to not only suffer to share the truth of the gospel (to which the Jews violently objected) but also his own life/soul. He imparted to them all that he was, because they had become dear/precious to him, probably as a result of their willingness to believe and follow his Lord. Paul worked day and night so as not to be a burden to them financially (nor have his motives challenged). His behavior was above reproach. Paul modeled holiness and righteousness in his interactions with those he was helping get established in the faith. He behaved toward them in a blameless (1Thess 5:23) manner. He not only proclaimed the truth, but followed up with exhortation, encouragement and bearing witness (to future realities) so that those who believed would walk in a manner worthy of the reward to which God called/summoned/invited them in the gospel. Specifically Paul says it is to participation in the Messianic Kingdom, and future glory. This is obviously not a reference to forgiveness/justification, nor belief in Jesus dying for their sins, but the inheritance God has planned for those who are faithful to Him. Just like Israel was redeemed from Egypt by God's grace, their entrance into and possession of the Promised Land was dependent upon drawing upon God's grace to obey Him.
2:13-16 Because God has called/invited/summoned believers to the Messiah's Kingdom (as promised in the OT), Paul thanks God that the Thessalonians responded wholeheartedly to the truth, for that would ensure their worthy walk and consequent participation in the Kingdom. He want this for them, not just for their benefit (although he dearly loved them), but also his own, as the end of the chapter indicates. Paul is thankful that they received his messages as the word of God and not men, and that it produced changes in their lives. They became imitators of the faithful assemblies in Judea in following God and experiencing tribulation from their countrymen, as did the believers in Jerusalem and its surrounds. The demonically energized Jews killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets sent to them (like John the Baptist), drove out the apostles with persecution, and obviously didn't please God (which is essential for the righteousness God rewards). Paul describes them as antagonistic to all men, although God's purpose in constituting the Jews as a nation was to bring all men to Himself for blessing (Gen 12). Instead, the Jews who rejected the Messiah, forbid the apostles to speak to the Gentiles so they would not be blessed by God. Remember the Jews wanted the Gentiles to become Jewish before they could be accepted by God and blessed by Him. But the unrevealed mystery of the gospel is that the Gentiles would be full heirs in Christ, as Gentiles, not Jews, for in union with Christ all distinctions are irrelevant. When this point was understood, the Jews usually started riots and throwing stones, because their worth and value was not based upon pleasing God, but on being better than others. The end result of such behavior is that they filled their sin capacity to overflowing and would face the wrath of God on judgment day, and be excluded from the Kingdom, as Jesus taught (see comments on Mt 8:11-12). The Jew rebellion against God's plan and service of the dark side did not annul God's promise to forgive them on the basis of participation in the Day of Atonement, any more than His discipline of them in Babylon made them not His chosen people. They just would be facing cursing rather than blessing as the OT testified repeatedly. Thus this coming wrath is discipline upon the sons of disobedience, depriving them of blessing/dominion, and should not be equated with the fate of those cast into the lake of fire with Satan. See Romans 11, to understand how God still has a place and promises for the Jews when they will repent.
2:17-20 Paul was eager to see the Thessalonians so he could strengthen them so his labor would not be in vain (3:2,5). Multiple times Paul wanted to minister to them again, but Satan hindered him from visiting. The reason Paul wanted to visit them is because they were his hope (of reward), his (eternal) joy, and his crown (reward) in which he anticipated rejoicing. Crown was a symbol of the rulership or dominion (glory) Paul would receive in the Kingdom. Paul would be rewarded by God for labor he invested in them, and the resultant fruit of their Christlikeness. Verse 20 indicates that they are his glory and joy. When Paul stands before the Lord Jesus when He returns, those who responded to his ministry would be the basis of his glory/reward, and joy. He will continue this thought in the next chapter.
Application: The glory and joy we will have in the future is a result of the disciple-making we do in the present, which pleases the Giver of the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I do what is pleasing in Your sight in ministering to others, regardless of how difficult it gets, knowing that You will richly reward me in Your Kingdom, for my service. Amen.

1Thessalonians 3 Blameless in Holiness at His Coming
3:1 Therefore, when we couldn’t stand it any longer, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in the Good News of Christ, to establish you, and to encourage you concerning your faith; 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you know that we are appointed to this task. 4 For most certainly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction, even as it happened, and you know. 5 For this cause I also, when I couldn’t stand it any longersent that I might know your faith, for fear that by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would have been in vain.
6 But when Timothy came just now to us from you, and brought us glad news of your faith and love, and that you have good memories of us always, longing to see us, even as we also long to see you; 7 for this cause, brothers, we were encouraged over you in all our distress and affliction on account of/dia your faith. 8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we render again to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice because/dia of you before our God; 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you; 12 and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you, 13 to the end he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Observations: 3:1-5 Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians would have been overwhelmed by the afflictions from the Jews that they would abandon the faith. This is not belief that Christ died for their sins, but that God would reward those who diligently seek Him according to the revelation about the Messiah. So he sent Timothy to establish (make firm) and encourage (call alongside as he climbed the mountain) them in the faith they already had. If they succumbed to the pressure from the Jews, they would not be unborn again, but would not progress to glory. At the end of the last chapter Paul viewed the Thessalonians as the basis for his glory, crown/reward and in the Kingdom when Christ returned. If they failed to follow the path of faith, the labor he invested in them would have been in vain. Although he had great love and fondness for them (the chiastic center of the last two chapters), he was very conscious of what he was exchanging his life for. It looks like the higher priority was not their loss of glory, but his own (cf Heb 12:2). This understanding best explains all the facts.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
3:6- Timothy brought good news (same word as gospel) of their faith. They were still believing the good news of the Messiah who would reward His faithful servants (Isa 40:10). Therefore Paul was encouraged that all the effort he had expended and distress he had experienced in the development of their faith was worth it. The apostle who died daily in his service to Christ (1Cor 15:31 -another passage in which Paul anticipates reward resulting from “successful” service) is revived (now we live) by the prospect of the Thessalonians being steadfast in their faith. This is conditional, and not a reference to their justification, but rather their progression in the faith, which would result in joy for Paul at the judgment seat of Christ. When Paul stands before Christ (2Cor 5:9-10) to be recompensed for his deeds, he would have joy on account of the sanctification of the Thessalonians, as a result of his ministry. This is why he was praying exceedingly that he would be able to see them and perfect (bring to completion for service -Mt 4:21 mending nets) what was lacking in their faith. To “perfect” is used for restoring someone overtaken in a fault (Gal 6:1), and being prepared for good works (Heb 10:5; 13:21). A fully trained, reproductive disciple is like his/her discipler (Lk 6:40), able to repeat the process with others. The Thessalonians were lacking an understanding of the process of the Christian life which Paul fervently wanted to correct, so they wouldn't go off track under the stress of afflictions. Obviously, they were not deficient in their understanding of Christ's substitutionary atonement, for they were clearly born again. So the lack has to be concerning their progress in the faith (Phil 1:25).
Colossians 1:22...to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight --- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
3:11-13 So Paul prays that God would direct his to see them, and that the Lord would make them increase and abound in love. “Increase” and “abound” are in the optative mood, used to express the strongest possible wish for something to happen. Paul wants their love to abound so they might be blameless in holiness when they stand before the judgment seat. Failure to love as Christ loved is blameworthy. Note the priority of love: one another, fellow believers in the Body, have precedence over others. This is consistent with Jesus' great command for believers in John 13:34-35. The love (agapao – self sacrifice for another's best interest) which Paul modeled for them, in leading them to faith, and guiding them to maturity, is the same love they needed to demonstrate toward others. Only then can their hearts be established blameless and holy before God on the day of judgment (Mt 24:44).
Application: If we abound in our love toward each other, we'll do well when Christ returns.
Prayer: Lord, thanks that following You is worth it, regardless of the cost; help me love others as You have loved me. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God has revealed truth which should change and guide our lives as we believe and obey it. God allows difficulties and Satan to afflict His servants to try and purify their faith (see 1Pt 1 for elaboration), so He can further reward them.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus is returning to set up His kingdom and reward His faithful servants. He saves holy believers from the coming wrath of Judgment Day.

Us in a nutshell: Believers should live so their belief/faith in God's revelation is obvious, as should be their love, and hope. Investing in the lives of other is a good way to follow the example of Jesus and Paul. Those who do so can look forward to future judgment with joy.

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