1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-01-14 10:04.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

Out of deep concern and love for the Thessalonians, Paul was willing to be without the help of a companion while in Athens. So great was his concern for them that he could not bear it any longer not to know just how they were faring. Therefore, he sent Timothy, his brother and theirs, a fellow worker of God in the evangel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage or console them in their faith. As God’s fellow worker, Timothy followed divine direction in advancing the glad tidings that focused on Jesus Christ and what he accomplished through his sacrificial death. Paul desired that Timothy’s visit would help the Thessalonians to hold firmly to their faith in God’s Son, not being shaken by the tribulations or distress the opposition of unbelievers had brought upon them. (3:1-3)

Paul reminded them that they were appointed for “tribulations.” He could say this because Jesus Christ had told his disciples, “In the world, you have tribulation.” (John 16:33) They would not be shielded from becoming objects of hostility among unbelievers, and Paul had prepared the Thessalonians for this while he was with them. Based on their own experience, they knew that his advance warning about tribulations had proved to be true. Aware of the strain the opposition of unbelievers could have on the Thessalonians, Paul had experienced anxious care for them, wanting to know about their faith (apparently meaning whether they continued to adhere to their faith in Christ) and hoping that the tempter (Satan) had not succeeded in his efforts to tempt them to abandon their faith and nullify Paul’s labor. If they had lost their faith, all the efforts of the apostle in advancing the cause of Christ would have proved to be in vain or useless. (3:3-5)

Upon his return from Thessalonica, Timothy brought Paul a good report about the believers in the city. Their faith and love had remained intact, and their memory of Paul continued to be a favorable one. They longed to see him as he yearned to see them. Because his Thessalonian brothers in Christ had continued in the faith, Paul, while himself having experienced need and distress or hardship, was comforted or consoled. The good report refreshed him as if he had been infused with new life. As he said, “Now we live if you are standing in the Lord.” Firm in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they were “standing.” (3:6-8)

The apostle’s rhetorical question revealed the depth of his joy. “How can we thank God for you in repayment for all the joy with which we are rejoicing before our God because of you, as night and day we, in superabundant measure, pray to see your faces and to remedy whatever may be lacking in your faith?” (3:9, 10) Paul simply could not thank God enough for the joy the good report about the Thessalonians has brought him. During the day and periods of wakefulness at night, he earnestly prayed that he would be able to see them personally, providing him with the opportunity to assist them in making up for any lack in their faith.

Paul ardently desired that God, the heavenly Father, and the Lord Jesus would open the way for him to visit the Thessalonians. His prayer for them was that the Lord Jesus Christ would cause their love for one another and for all (fellow humans generally) to grow and abound or thrive, as was the case with Paul’s love for them. At Christ’s arrival in glory with all his holy ones or his “mighty angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7), the apostle wanted the Thessalonians to be found with firmly fixed hearts or deep inner selves devotedly attached to God’s Son in a state of unblemished holiness or purity before the Father. Paul looked to the Lord Jesus Christ to aid the Thessalonian believers to be approved. (3:11-13)


In verses 1 and 5, Paul uses the same expression about not being able to bear not knowing just how the Thessalonians had been affected by tribulations. In its basic sense, the Greek word stégo means “cover,” often to prevent something undesirable from reaching the covered object. In this context, however, stégo denotes “bear,” “endure,” or “stand.” The apostle could no longer stand not knowing how the Thessalonians were faring.

In verse 3, the term for “shaken” is saíno. In ancient Greek writings, this term is used to mean “wag the tail” (as applying to dogs) and, by extension, would denote “to flatter” or “to try to win favor.” Therefore, some have concluded that Paul may have meant that he was concerned that the persecuted Thessalonians might be “deceived” by those who would show kindness to them in an effort to turn them away from the faith. In the Vulgate, a form of the word moveo (“move”) is used, and ancient interpreters likewise understood the term in Thessalonians to signify “move,” “disturb,” or “agitate.”

In verse 13, the Greek term parousía evidently refers to the “arrival,” the start of the presence.