1 Thes 2:1-20. ‘You know very well, brothers, that our visit to you was not a waste of time and energy. We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help and grace of God we courageously and boldly taught you the same message, even though we were surrounded with enemies. God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this message, free from false motives, evil purposes or hidden agendas.
We are no people pleasers, but seeks God’s approval only. It is God who knows and tests our hearts. You know – and God is our witness – that we’ve never once tried to win you with flattery. Neither did we pretend to be your friends as a smoke screen so that you would give us money! We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else, although, as apostles of Christ we certainly have a right to make demands.
But we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you dearly – so dearly that we gave you not only the glorious gospel message, but our own lives also. Surely you remember, brothers, how hard we have worked when we were among you. Day and night we laboured to earn enough to live on so that our expenses would not be a burden to anyone there as we preached the word among you.
God, as well as you, are witnesses of how separated, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. Do you remember how we dealt with each one of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and disciplining you to live lives that will not embarrass God, but give him joy who calls you into his kingdom to share his glory. And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but what it in reality is – the word of God – that changed your lives when you believed it.
Friends, do you realize that you followed in the exact footsteps of the churches of God in Judea, those who were the first to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ? You suffered the same persecution from your own people as they did from theirs, who killed both the Lord Jesus as well as his prophets, and have brutally persecuted us and driven us out of town. They make themselves offensive to God - fighting against Him - and everyone else by trying to stop us as we minister the gospel to them who have never heard how to be saved.
They’ve made a career of opposing God - sinning against him - and have grown thoroughly rotten doing it. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last - judgement is at the door for them.
Do you have any idea how very homesick we became for you, dear brothers? Even though it hadn’t been that long and it was only our bodies that were not with you, not our hearts and thoughts, we tried our very best to get back to see you again. You can’t imagine how much we have missed you! I, Paul, tried over and over to visit you, but Satan frustrated the whole thing time and again. For your spiritual well being is what we live for. It gives us hope and joy now and will be our reward and crown when we one day stand before the Lord Jesus at his return. You are indeed our honour and joy.’
1 Thes 3:1-13. ‘So when we couldn’t stand being separated from you any longer and could find no way to visit you ourselves, we stayed in Athens and sent Timothy to you, our true brother, and God’s fellow worker and servant, preaching Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one should be disturbed and led astray by these troubles and tribulations you are going through.
You’ve always known that we’re in for this kind of thing. It’s part of our calling. Even while we were still with you we warned you ahead of time that suffering would soon come - and it did. That is why, when I could not endure it any more, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still vibrant. I didn’t want the Tempter to succeed in tearing down everything we had built up together. I feared that you were in jeopardy for not finishing strong.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and crushing troubles we were encouraged about you because of your faithfulness. We can bear anything so long as we know that you stand strong in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you and for the joy and delight you have given us in our praying for you? For night and day we pray non stop for you, asking God to let us see you again, so that we may mend and complete anything that may be lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus send us back to you again. And may the Lord make your love to grow and overflow for each other as well as people outside the church, just as our love towards you is an example. Then your hearts will be strong, pure and holy in the presence of our God and Father when the Lord Jesus returns with both angels and believers at his side.
1 Thes 4:1-18. ‘Furthermore, brothers, you already know how to live to please God because you are doers of the word of the Lord. Now we beg and command you in the name of Jesus to live more and more up to that standard. This is how you ought to walk and this is the will of God: Your sanctification. Therefore abstain from and avoid sexual immorality that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in fleshly lust like people do who are ignorant of God and his ways, not knowing Him.
In this context it also means that you are neither allowed to cheat a brother by taking his wife, nor to defraud your brother in business. Remember, we have warned you that the Lord himself will take vengeance and deal with it if you violate these truths. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a separated and devoted life. Therefore, he who rejects this teaching does not reject people but God, whose very Spirit whom he gives to you is holy.
Now about loving the brotherhood we can testify that you have been taught by God how to love one another, therefore there is no need for further written instruction! Well, although it is a fact that you are already walking in a loving brotherhood with all the brothers in Macedonia, we encourage you to increase your commitment to this divine relationships even further and never stop growing in that grace. Make it your aim to live a quiet and uncomplicated life, and to focus and be busy with your own interests and to work with your own hands, just as we have taught you. As a result your daily conduct will win the respect and trust of unbelievers, and there will be no need to constantly depend on others for enough money to pay your bills.
The process of sanctification is imperative to the Christian life, for it is God’s will that every believer should be holy. Paul is aware of two areas where the Thessalonians are struggling. The first of these is their conduct and relations to women. The Greek culture in which they were living had a permissive and promiscuous lifestyle, rather like the gods they worshipped.
Wives could be changed regularly and mistresses were common. A man called Demosthenes said this about the Greek way of life: ‘We keep prostitutes for pleasure, we keep mistresses for the day to day needs of our body and we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes.’
Seneca, a Greek philosopher said: ‘Women are married to be divorced and divorced to be married.’ Chastity was almost unheard of. This perverse spirit that polluted the sanctity of marriage and sexuality were rampant also in the church.
So against this backdrop, Paul told the men in the Thessalonian church that they had to give up their prostitutes and mistresses, and shun the promiscuous attitudes that prevailed. They were to honour their marriages by keeping the marriage bed pure. Paul teaches them that their unacceptable behaviour can actually change for the better as they live out God’s blueprint in marriage where one husband is faithful and committed to one wife for life.
Some of the Thessalonians had abandoned regular employment and were idly awaiting the return of the Lord. They were influenced by and then adopted the way of their surrounding culture. The Greeks as a whole lived for leisure. They believed that work, especially manual work, was evil and degrading, and so wherever possible they used slaves to do the work for them. But Hebrew thinking, even from Old Testament times saw work as part of worship. There was no distinction between working with one’s hands and any other form of labour. All work has equal dignity before God and should be used to please and serve him.