Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
September 14, 2014
6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also [to see] you:
7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;
10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
1901 ASV Translation:
6 But when Timothy came even now unto us from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also [to see] you;
7 for this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith:
8 for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
9 For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes 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?
- I. But Now...
- A. The previous context is consumed by Paul's "fixated concern" for the Thessalonians in regard to whether they were going to stand fast in the faith.
- B. But now that Timothy has arrived and given his report of the continuing faith and love of the Thessalonians, Paul is seriously relieved of the negative elements of that "fixated concern".
- 1. Luke's record of this "arrival" is recorded in Acts 18:5.
- 2. Paul uses the typical word for "the proclamation of the Gospel" to characterize Timothy's report.
- a. This is an interesting application of that term in that it implies rather strongly that Paul had put what he heard about the Thessalonians pretty high up on his priority list.
- 1) This is reinforced in 3:8 where he actually ties the quality of his "life" to what the Thessalonians were doing.
- 2) Additionally, his praise to God in 3:9-10 clearly indicates that he ultimately attributed the Thessalonians' steadfastness to Him, which has to mean that if they had not remained steadfast, he would have had to deal with that before the God Who did not sponsor such steadfastness.
- a) Paul's thanks to God clearly indicates that he views the "godly" behavior of those who believe to the God Who is "at work in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). This is consistent with both his "grace" theology and his theology of the indwelling Spirit of God Who is the resident producer of both faith and its consequent good behavior (1 Corinthians 15:10).
- b) This does not mean that Paul assigns "blame" to God for what He chooses to do and to refrain from doing -- as far as Paul's theology is concerned, "grace" sits upon the top of the heap so that God does what He does, and does not do what He does not do, always because He is "free" to be gracious, or not.
- c) But it does mean that Paul risks greatly in his commitment to serve God and the people he attempts to persuade. This is exactly like God, Who sent His Son to die in the face of the fact that the vast majority of those who hear of His act will treat it with scorn. True Love always suffers significantly when its objectives are denied, but that is no reason to scale back the love to lesser degrees of intensity so that the one who loves is less "hurt" by the failure.
- b. This "good news" is the root of Paul's claim in 1:4 that he knows of their "election". The "Macedonian Call" has proven to be of God Who has His "elect" among those of Macedonia and Paul has been given the joy of tripping over some of them. This concept is also at the root of what God told Paul about the Corinthians in Acts 18:10. That God has "much people" in Corinth means that His "elect" are among the inhabitants of that city and they need to be "reached" with the Good News.
- 1) This establishes the fact that those who endure tribulations with steadfastness are empowered to such endurance by the God Who decides whether, or not, He will do more than He has already done for those who hear the Gospel.
- 2) This concept is at the root of the doctrine that the "elect" will "inevitably" persevere; not by their strength of love and faith, but by God's strength of commitment to them. Jesus told Peter that He had prayed for him that his faith fail not; He made no such comment to Judas.
- 3) This entire issue is a delicate dance and must not be treated with heavy handedness by those who are "defenders" of the grace of God.
- 3. The areas of concern are, once again, identified as "the faith and the love of you" (what you hold to be true and what you hold to be valuable).
- 4. Paul also adds another characteristic of the "good news": the Thessalonians have only good memories of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus and share the "longing" to see Paul as he longs to see them. This is a plus, but it is also an indication of their "election" (1:4) in that such an attitude toward an apostle necessarily indicates a potent interest in his words as a messenger of God. Thus, with this additional indication that their "faith" has been stabilized, Paul was "free" of his overload of concern to go on about his ministry with renewed enthusiasm as Luke indicates in Acts 18:5.
- II. On This Account We Were Encouraged...
- A. This is parakaleo.
- B. This is not to say that Paul had strayed from the side of God (parakaleo is a "summons to come alongside"), but it is to say that he had the same proclivities that all of us have on occasion to be discouraged and drift from His side simply because our work sometimes seems "to be in vain". When this is accompanied by "affliction and distress", the discouragement is a positive temptation.
- 1. The first term, translated "affliction/distress", is used in this letter to refer to the opposition of the adversaries to the proclamation of the Gospel.
- 2. The second term, translated "affliction/distress" (our translators' work indicates the underlying reality that they were working off of different textual traditions because in those traditions, the words used are reversed in order) refers to the "tribulations" (3:4) that come to all who attempt to live godly in a corrupt setting (2 Timothy 3:12).
- C. Because now we live if you are standing fast in the Lord.
- 1. This is what is at stake: a certain element in the quality of Paul's "Life".
- 2. There are two realms in which a person's "Life" is "qualified".
- a. In our relationship with God, "Life" is qualified by whether, or not, we remain steadfast.
- b. In our relationship with people, "Life" is qualified by whether, or not, we and they are remaining steadfast. Neither we, nor others, remain unaffected emotionally by the attitudes and behavior of others.
- 3. There is a distinction between the degree to which we are affected in terms of our experience of "Life" because God is unlike people. He never fails; they always do sooner or later.