Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
Thesis: The problem for "new" believers is urgent: there is a period between "belief" and being established in "faith" where persecution can have a disastrous impact.
Introduction: As we begin a new paragraph in Paul's letter, we cannot help but be aware that he is continuing his theme of "powerful" commitment to the Thessalonians. This evening we are going to look into at least one aspect of this commitment: What is the essence of Paul's concern?
August 24, 2014
- I. The Structure of the Paragraph.
- A. Remember that Paul wrote this letter some time after Timothy had returned to Paul and given him a good report (3:6) so that it is a reflection of both his memories and Timothy's report.
- 1. For example, Paul's declaration in 1:4 that he "knew" of their election by God is a post-Timothy-report fact.
- 2. Keeping his memories separate from what he knew as he wrote the letter is key to not getting some of his facts mixed up in our minds.
- B. Both 3:1 and 3:5 surface the issue: I/we could no longer "forbear" or "endure it".
- 1. On one hand, Paul was seriously aware of the impact that "persecution" makes in respect to Jesus' parable of the soils as Luke recorded it in Luke 8:13.
- 2. On the other hand, he was also aware of the activity of Satan (2:18) and that his activity had some serious implications regarding his desire to keep Paul out of the mix (most probably so that he might get his licks in while the Thessalonians were in a "weakened" state [3:5]).
- C. The response in both verses is the same: "I/we sent..."
- D. The problem is repeated: the condition of their "faith".
- II. The Difference Between Luke's record in Acts and Paul's record in this text.
- A. A casual reading of Paul's words leads us to think that Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus had all left Thessalonica and traveled to Athens where they began to have second thoughts about leaving the Thessalonians to their troubles.
- B. A casual reading of Luke's record leads us to think that Paul went to Athens "alone" while Timothy and Sllvanus remained behind in Thessalonica (Acts 17:14) and later joined him in Corinth (Acts 18:5).
- C. Those opposed to the concept of inerrant Scripture would immediately point out this apparent discrepancy in order to discredit; what do those of us who embrace inerrant Scripture do with it?
- 1. Interestingly, the issue is the same: the condition of one's "faith".
- 2. Additionally, the use of language and the records of history are not without difficulties.
- a. The records of all "history" are necessarily abridged and conflated in order to communicate whatever it is that the author wishes his readers to grasp.
- 1) Incidental events are often passed over.
- 2) If Luke had told us that Timothy and Silas "remained" there but the actual details had included a temporary departure from Thessalonica that only lasted a few hours, would we have any problem with his record?
- 3) The fact is that Luke, apparently, was unconcerned with the interval issues and only concerned with telling us that Paul was separated from Timothy and Silas until they showed up in Corinth.
- 4) That there may have been a few hours, or a few days, from Paul's departure to his "aloneness" is of no import.
- b. Luke chose to use a verb that is unique to Acts 17:14 in all of the New Testament to tell us that Timothy and Silas "remained there".
- 1) The word is an emphatic form that indicates a higher level of intensity than the norm.
- 2) The word indicates that there was some "ambiguity" involved in the decision as to whether the two should continue on with Paul or deal with the problems in Thessalonica.
- 3) Those who immediately jump to "discrepancy" have nothing to offer as to why Luke used a unique form of a word to describe what had taken place.
- III. The Issue: What is to Happen to the Thessalonians With or Without Our Help?
- A. There is a very serious issue at stake: the actual meaning of Jesus' teaching on the nature of "soils" that allows "some" to "believe for a while".
- 1. Jesus' prayer for Peter that his "faith fail not" was not sponsored by a minor problem.
- 2. The records of "justification by faith" are all rooted in the Abrahamic "pattern" and he was not "declared righteous" by God until Genesis 15.
- 3. The biblical "pattern" is that a person is "settled" into a setting by God by grace through faith and then is "tested" to expose the reality of that "faith" and, by extension, of the "grace" that has brought the person into the setting.
- a. Adam and Eve in the Garden.
- b. Jesus in the wilderness.
- c. Peter before the Cross.
- d. All believers in every "time".
- e. "Faith" is not "belief with the heart" (Romans 10:10) until it has been "tested" and "proven" by its successful endurance past the "test".
- B. The issue is stated by Paul in terms of "vain labor" (3:5).
- 1. There are those who would attempt to make the meaning something related to Paul's labor to get the Thessalonians to "serve" the living and true God and separate it from Paul's labor to get the Thessalonians "justified" before God.
- 2. Since both issues are involved, both must be taken at face value and a failure of either is a failure of both.