1 Thessalonians – Chapter Three

by Ed Urzi


“Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

Although 1 Thessalonians chapter three is only thirteen verses long, it reveals an intensely personal side of Paul the Apostle. Within this chapter, Paul will express his deep concern for the Thessalonian church along with the comfort he experienced upon learning that the church had persevered in Christ despite their afflictions.

You may recall that Paul arrived in Thessalonica shortly after being shamefully treated in the town of Philippi. He then went on to teach in the local synagogue at Thessalonica for three consecutive Sabbath days. Unfortunately, Paul’s evangelistic outreach was cut short by those who rounded up some local troublemakers in an effort to run him out of town. Legal charges soon followed and Paul had little choice but to leave Thessalonica for the sake of the newly-formed Christian community there.

After leaving Thessalonica, Paul found his way to the town of Berea and then moved on to the city of Athens. With the fate of the Thessalonian Christians still weighing heavily upon his mind. Paul decided to send a young associate named Timothy back to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage their faith.

While this served to benefit the members of the Thessalonian church, it also left Paul alone in an unfamiliar area among a city full of strangers. So by making this sacrificial decision to remain alone in Athens for the benefit of the Thessalonians, Paul thus lived out his message to another first-century church: “Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others” (Philippians 2:8 GW).

We should also note the continual reappearance of the word “faith” throughout 1 Thessalonians chapter three. This critical component of a God-honoring life has led one source to make the following application…

“The words your faith occur five times in chapter 3 (vv. 2, 5, 6, 7, 10) and are a key to understanding the passage. The Thessalonians were passing through severe persecution, and Paul was anxious to know how their faith was standing up to the test. Thus the chapter is a lesson on the importance of follow-up work. It is not enough to lead sinners to the Savior. They must be helped to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord.” (1)

Featured Image: Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

(1) William Macdonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (p.2032) Edited by Arthur Farstad Thomas Nelson Publishers


“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 NIV).

Since Paul the Apostle had been hindered in his attempt to return to the city of Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18), he chose the next best option in seeking to assist the young church there. That option involved sending one of his trusted associates back to Thessalonica. That person was a man named Timothy.

The “Timothy” referenced here within 1 Thessalonians chapter three is perhaps best known for the two New Testament books that bear his name. Timothy was someone who had been well-acquainted with the Scriptures from his youth (2 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 3:15). Even though Timothy held a leadership role within the church at Ephesus at one point in his ministry, it appears that he acted as a kind of problem-solver or emissary for Paul on several occasions.

For instance, Paul dispatched Timothy to work with the church in Corinth with the following endorsement: “…I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17 NET). Paul also sent Timothy to minister to the churches in the region of Macedonia (Acts 19:22) and may have sent him to work with the Philippian church as well (Philippians 2:19).

In this instance, Timothy’s mission involved strengthening or establishing the Thessalonians in their faith. A look at the original language of this passage defines his specific responsibility as “to render mentally steadfast.(1) Thus we can say that Timothy was assigned with the task of stabilizing and building up the faith the Thessalonians already possessed.

We can follow a similar path of edification in two important ways: reading the Scriptures daily and regularly attending a church that teaches through the individual books of the Bible. For instance, a person who prayerfully reads the Scriptures each day is someone who has direct, unfiltered access to the wisdom and direction contained within God’s Word. In addition, a church that features regular expository teaching from the pulpit (as opposed to a weekly topical sermon) is one that generally offers the best opportunity to establish, build, and strengthen the faith of those who attend.

(1) G4741 sterizo Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/sterizo


“that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4).

As we face the trials and difficulties we encounter, it may seem natural to ask why God would permit such things to occur. There are few easy answers to such questions for there may be a single reason, multiple reasons, or no discernible reason to explain some of the painful things we experience in life. Yet even though it may not be possible to determine God’s purpose behind our afflictions, that does not mean a purpose doesn’t exist.

As mentioned earlier, God may sometimes allow trials to enter our lives to refine us, strengthen our faith, or discipline us. In other instances, God may use affliction to develop character or perseverance. Or perhaps God might permit such things to serve as example to others in demonstrating the right way to handle adversity.

Its also possible that God may allow us to endure various trials for the purpose of helping others who will endure similar experiences. For example, who is better equipped to help someone with a problem than a person with experience in that area? As we’re told in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Our conduct in the midst of a trial can also reveal much about our relationship with God. Consider the following excerpt from Jesus’ parable of the sower: “A sower went out to sow his seed… Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture” (Luke 8:5-6). This word-picture serves to illustrate those who endure the challenges of a God-honoring life for a while but eventually fall away when put to the test. Such a person is aptly described for us in Proverbs 24:10: “If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.”

Knowing these things can help us respond to the trials of life in a Christ-like manner. As one source unequivocally comments…

“All who would live godly in this world will suffer persecution (2Ti_3:12). In fact, anyone not being disciplined or strengthened by affliction should question their relationship with Christ (see Heb_12:5-11).” (1)

(1) Paul T. Butler The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In Second Corinthians (College Press) [p. 16] Copyright © 1985 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/FirstCorinthians/131Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt


“so that no one will be shaken by these persecutions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, when we were with you, we told you previously that we were going to suffer persecution, and as you know, it happened” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 HCSB).

This portion of Scripture offers an opportunity to address a potentially difficult question: “Am I somehow responsible for causing the trials I experience in life?”

To answer that question, we can first say that a causal relationship often exists between our actions and the consequences that follow. The New Testament book of Galatians verifies that relationship for us when it says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Therefore, we cannot discount the role of personal responsibility and its effect upon the events we experience in life for good or bad.

Nevertheless, it’s also natural to wonder if the trials we experience in life may be the result of God’s displeasure with us. For those who are contemplating that possibility, 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 may serve as a source of comfort. If we know in advance that trials, challenges, problems, difficulties, and persecutions are “part of the package” that comes with genuine Christianity, we should be better equipped to accurately discern their source.

As one commentator observes, “Often new believers, and even older believers, interpret difficulty as a sign that they need to change something. Timothy reminded them that persecution is a normal experience for the Christian (cf. Matt. 5:11-12; 10:16-28; 20:22-23; 24:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:12; et al.), just as Paul had previously instructed them.” (1)

When the trials of life seem too difficult to bear, we can also find reassurance in the following portions of Scripture…

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

(1) Constable, Thomas. DD. “Notes on 1 Thessalonians 2019 Edition” “Timothy’s visit 3:1-5” [3:3-5] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1thessalonians/1thessalonians.htm


“that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 ESV).

We’ll conclude our look at this important portion of Scripture with a few final observations. The first comes from a commentator who offers a perceptive insight…

“Paul did not promise the followers of Jesus a life of ease or public approval, nor did Jesus (Mark 8:34; John 15:18–21). Rather, Paul’s consistent message of encouragement to newly planted churches was that ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).” (1)

Obviously, this does not represent a popular message. But contrary to what some may teach or believe, genuine Christianity does not guarantee a one-way ticket to material prosperity, success, or affluence. Because of this, we shouldn’t be surprised if we experience trials, difficulties, or persecutions as we seek to live a life that honors Jesus. Instead, that decision is certain to put us in conflict with many of those who have no interest in following Christ.

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that God has our best interests in mind whenever we’re in the midst of a trial. Remember that God will provide for us in the midst of our circumstances if we seek to put Him first. Consider the following passage from Matthew 6:33-34…

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV).

We can also gain some valuable spiritual insight by asking some important questions whenever we’re in the midst of a trial or difficulty…

  • What is God teaching me through this circumstance?
  • What does the way I’m handling this situation tell me about myself?
  • What can I apply from this experience in the future?

Finally, we can take comfort in the encouraging reminder that’s given to us in the New Testament epistle of James…

“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything” (James 1:2-4 NLT).

(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2136). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


“For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

When it comes to the existence of a demonic realm, there seem to be two general viewpoints among the world at large. The first is held by those who dismiss the idea of a Satanic domain as the laughable product of an overactive imagination. The other embraces the existence of a dark spiritual realm through various forms of entertainment or practices associated with the occult.

The Bible endorses neither view. Unlike those who dismiss the concept of a demonic realm, the Scriptures do not represent the Devil as a myth, fable, or the cartoon equivalent of a pitchfork-carrying villain in red pajamas. Nor do the Scriptures view demonic-related themes or occultic activity as something to take part in, emulate, support, or encourage.

Instead, “the tempter” referenced here is positively identified as a literal being known as the Devil in Matthew 4:1-3. While Satan is no equal for God in terms of authority, power, or ability, he is certainly recognized as a formidable adversary who possesses desires (Luke 22:31), plans (Ephesians 6:11), and the ability to carry out his intentions (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

In fact, it was the tempter’s ability to carry out his malevolent intent that troubled Paul the Apostle. For instance, Paul was so concerned with the fate of the young Christian community at Thessalonica that he dispatched Timothy to “…find out about your faith. I wanted to see whether the tempter had in some way tempted you, making our work meaningless” (GW).

We can limit the tempter’s ability to impact our lives in a similar manner by reading and internalizing the Scriptures daily. In addition, we should prayerfully seek to adopt the following attitudes for help in dealing with our spiritual adversary…

Be forgiving: “A further reason for forgiveness is to keep from being outsmarted by Satan, for we know what he is trying to do” (2 Corinthians 2:11 TLB).

Be humble: “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NLT).

Be vigilant: “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8 CSB).

Be self-controlled: “If you get angry, do not sin; do not allow the sun to go down on your anger and do not give an opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27 Mounce).


“For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV).

While there are some who seem to be preoccupied with the Devil and the activities of the demonic realm, it is usually best to “…keep our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2) and complete the work He has called us to do. Nevertheless, we would do well to adopt the balanced mindset suggested by the following paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 2:11: “…we don’t want to be naïve and then fall prey to (Satan’s) schemes” (Voice).

For instance, consider a group of predatory animals stalking a herd of prey. In most instances, the predators quietly seek to approach a group of unsuspecting animals and wait for an opportunity to attack and devour the vulnerable. In a similar manner, The New Testament epistle of 1 Peter reminds us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Another commentary makes a similar observation…

“Paul likely considered the Thessalonians to be especially vulnerable to temptation because they had converted to faith in Christ only recently. The NT frequently describes Satan’s attempts to take advantage of people who are either young in the faith or in a weakened state (e.g., 1 Cor 7:5; 1 Tim 3:6–7)” (1)

You see, one definition of the word “tempted” is “to try whether a thing can be done.” (2) Therefore, we can associate temptation with a solicitation to evil and the attempt to see if someone can be made to respond in an ungodly manner. One source expands on this idea by observing…

“Paul’s reference to the tempter is mindful of Satan’s activity in the Garden of Eden (Gen_3:1-24) and in the Judean wilderness (Mat_4:1-25). Paul saw Satan as using the persecution the Thessalonians were undergoing in order to lure them away from what they knew to be God’s will, namely, perseverance in the midst of trials. He was concerned that Satan might snatch away the seed Paul had sown before it had a chance to put down stabilizing, fructifying roots.” (3)

If the enemy had been successful in neutralizing the growth and development of the church in Thessalonica, then Paul’s efforts might have been in vain. That, in part, prompted him to assign Timothy with the task of stabilizing and edifying their faith.

(1) Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Th 3:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

(2) G3985 peirazo Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g3985

(3) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary [1 Thessalonians 3:4]


“But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you–therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 3:6-8).

As mentioned earlier, the concept of faith appears frequently in 1 Thessalonians chapter three and twice within the short passage quoted above. But while faith is a critical component of our relationship with God, some may struggle to accurately define it.

For instance, some believe faith involves “belief without evidence.” We might define this approach as “blind faith” or the type of faith that has no basis in reality. On the other hand, genuine Biblical faith represents “a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.” (1) That confident assurance is based in part upon the evidential nature of Jesus’ ministry.

For instance, consider how Jesus referenced the tangible evidence He offered concerning Himself…

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11 NIV).

“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38)

“But I have greater evidence on my side than that of John. The works which the father has given me to complete – these works, which I’m doing, will provide evidence about me, evidence that the father has sent me” (John 5:36 NTE)

Jesus also sought to communicate those evidences to modern-day audiences through the testimony of His first-century followers (and later Biblical authors)…

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).

We should never mistake genuine faith for something that has no basis in reality. Real Biblical faith involves a belief in a God who has already proven Himself through the Scriptures and in the lives of those who sincerely follow Christ. This was the type of faith displayed by the young Thessalonian church, much to Paul the Apostle’s relief and satisfaction.


“For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10).

Just as Paul the Apostle worked night and day on behalf of the Thessalonians, this portion of Scripture tells us that he prayed night and day for them as well. That commitment to prayer offers an opportunity to examine this important subject in greater detail.

The most basic definition of prayer is communication with God. It involves those words or thoughts that are specifically designed to interact with our Creator. Paul expanded on this idea in the New Testament epistle of 1 Timothy…

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 NIV).

Paul essentially began this passage by saying, “Let’s start with first things first” (i.e. “first of all”). This reminds us that communication with God in prayer is a primary responsibility. He then went on to identify some different types of communication with God. The first was requests, a word that refers to an appeal, petition, or plea that generally arises from a specific need.

Next is prayers. This is a more general term that describes our daily fellowship and communication with God. This is followed by intercession, a reference to the act of approaching God on behalf of someone else. We then have thanksgiving, or the expression of gratitude and appreciation to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us.

Finally, Paul ended this section with an encouragement to pray for everyone and our political leaders in particular. We should also notice that we are directed to pray on behalf of “all those in authority,” the good and bad alike. This type of prayer not only pleases God but also benefits us as well (“…that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”).

As one commentator reminds us…

Prayer has real results. God has ordained His relationship to the world in such a way that He will respond to our prayers. Even Paul needed and sought the prayers of others, and he anticipated that God would act on his behalf in answer to the saints’ prayers (Rom. 15:30–32; Eph. 6:19, 20; Phil. 1:19, 20).” (1)

(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2051). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


“We pray earnestly night and day to see you in person and make up what may be lacking in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10).

Paul the Apostle’s commitment to prayer in support of the church at Thessalonica provides us with a good example to follow. Just as Paul prayed regularly for the church at Thessalonica, the Scriptures provide us with a variety of subjects that should occupy the focus of our prayers. For instance…

Pray that God would be honored: “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

Pray for persecutors: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Pray that we would not fall into temptation: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Pray that God would provide wisdom, revelation, and knowledge regarding Himself: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:15-17 ESV).

Pray that God would provide us with the knowledge of His will: “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

Pray for others: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV).

Pray for those who are headed for trouble: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that” (1 John 5:16). (1)

Pray that God would send more people to represent Him and bring others unto Him. “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38).

(1) See here for more on “…sin leading to death.”


“Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

What does it mean to “increase and abound in love to one another” as we read in the passage quoted above? We can begin with a closer look at the word “love” as it appears here in 1 Thessalonians 3:12. In the original language of this passage, this word (agape) incorporates the idea of affection, good will, and benevolence (1) as well as generosity, kindly concern, and devotedness. (2)

In a larger sense, we can say that this type of love is not rooted in a transient feeling or emotion. Instead, agape love is characterized by a willful desire to love. As one commentary observes…

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom_15:2, and works no ill to any, Rom_13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ Gal_6:10.” (3)

In addition, many sources associate this word with the “love feasts” that were a feature of many first-century church services. One source explains further…

“The ancient world was in many ways a much more social world than ours. It was the regular custom for groups of people to meet together for common meals. There was, in particular, a certain kind of feast called an eranos in Greek language, to which each participant brought his own share of the food, and in which all the contributions were pooled to make a common feast.

The early church had such a custom; they had a feast called the Agape or Love Feast. To it all the Christians came, bringing what they could, and when the resources of all were pooled, they sat down to a common meal… It was a way of producing and nourishing real Christian fellowship (Gr. koinonia, sharing, participating). It offered the well-to-do a regular opportunity to share their material blessings with the poor.” (4)

We’ll continue our consideration of this important topic next.

(1) G26 agape  https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g26

(2) G26 agape https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/agape

(3) W.E Vine, Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words Volume 2, Rev Terry Kulakowski, Editor [pg. 79]

(4) Paul T. Butler, Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In First Corinthians College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri [pg.210] https://archive.org/stream/FirstCorinthians/131Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt


“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

This passage of Scripture merits close attention as we seek to “…increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” We can begin by recognizing that the type of love referenced here in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 is not necessarily synonymous with an external display of emotional affection. Instead, it is the kind of love that originates in the will.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that we should maintain a cold, impersonal commitment to love. For example, consider Paul the Apostle’s deep emotional attachment towards those who are mentioned in the following New Testament passages…

“Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:4 NIV).

“And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him” (Acts 20:37 ESV).

“Do I say this because I don’t love you? God knows I love you!” (2 Corinthians 11:11 GNT).

We should also note Jesus’ emotional response to the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11) and the depth of His love for His disciples (John 15:12-15). These passages remind us that there is a legitimate place for the genuine display of emotional affection.

Nevertheless, we must recognize that genuine love always seeks another person’s highest good from a Biblical perspective. That may sometimes involve allowing others to experience the negative consequences of their decisions (1 Timothy 1:19-20). It might also involve correction and/or discipline (Revelation 3:19, Hebrews 12:5-11). It may even involve limiting our external displays of affection for the benefit of others for a wise person knows “There is a time to embrace someone. And there’s a time not to embrace” (Ecclesiastes 3:5 NIRV).

In light of these things, it is important to maintain a balanced definition of love that incorporates more than just an external display of affection or an outward expression of our feelings. An accurate, mature perspective regarding the nature of genuine love can help us “…walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Ephesians 4:1-3 HCSB).

For more on this general topic, see discussion beginning here


“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

As we’ve already noted in our look at this epistle to the Thessalonians, there are references to Jesus’ second advent at the close of every chapter of this book. For instance, the opening chapter of this letter ended with an exhortation to “…wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

The following chapter concluded with these questions: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). So having now arrived at the conclusion of 1 Thessalonians chapter three, we finish with the next reference to the subject of Jesus’ future return.

In the final verse of 1 Thessalonians chapter three, Paul the Apostle refers to “…the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Unlike the modern-day association of the word “saint” with a long-suffering individual or a person of exceptional religious merit, the Biblical use of this word identifies anyone who is set apart to God in Christ.

Many commentators believe it is possible that this reference to “holy ones” (NIV) involves angelic beings who will accompany Jesus in the course of this great event. However, one source explains why it is preferable to identify these individuals with the people of God who have preceded us in death (or perhaps a combination of the two)…

“‘Saints’ (lit. ‘holy ones’) are either (1) angels who will accompany Jesus (cf. Deut. 33:2-3; Zech. 14:5; Matt. 16:27; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 19:4); or (2) His people, saints (cf. 1 Thess. 4:14-16). Paul never called angels ‘saints’ or ‘holy ones,’ possibly solving the interpretive issue. Probably both angels and saints will return with Him on the clouds of heaven.” (1)

Paul will return once again to the subject of Christ’s return in verse thirteen of the following chapter. That will allow us to examine this important topic in greater depth when we reach that portion of Scripture.

(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, 1 Thessaloninan 3:13 Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL07/VOL07B_03.html