Summary: How are we doing in our Christian walk? That’s what Paul wanted to know about the Thessalonians. He was desperate to know about their faith.
1 Thes. 2:17-3:13
How are you doing?
Illus. Beer commercial.
“How are you doing?” “Fine, thanks. I just flew in from Texas to see my brother. Had a great flight. Just checked in the hotel…
Several men came in and asked the same questions. They asked, but didn’t care to know.
The phrase has become a standard greeting, not a question. “How are you doing?” “Fine, thanks.” “Good, how are you doing?”
Paul asks the Thessalonians the same question, but with a very different purpose. He had a great concern for them. He really wanted to know how they were doing. He had probably spent countless days and nights worrying about them. Paul asks them and hears from them and it makes his day! Our passage today is perhaps the most personal of Paul’s whole letter to the Thessalonians (turn to 2:17). Paul opens his heart and shares his great concern for this church. Remember, Paul writes this Letter to a church that was suffering for their faith and wondering if it was worth it. Paul writes to them to encourage and strengthen them in their faith by reminding them that Jesus is coming soon to take them all away from this. He wants them to “be ready” when Jesus returns.
By the way, the chapters and verses in our Bibles are not original/inspired. They were added later to help us in our study. All of the chapter breaks in 1 Thes. end with a reference to Jesus’ Second Coming, but the idea that Paul presents in 2:17 continues until 3:13, so we’re going to look at the whole passage to better understand the context.
In this passage, we’re going to see 3 ways in which Paul relates to the Thessalonians. More importantly, this passage is going to force us to take yet another look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “How are we doing”?
I. PAUL IS CONCERNED FOR THEM. 2:17-3:5
A. Because he loves them. (Ch. 2)
17BUT, BROTHERS, WHEN WE WERE TORN AWAY FROM YOU (“made an orphan”, bereaved, separated) FOR A SHORT TIME (IN PERSON, NOT IN THOUGHT),
Note parental language again – made an orphan.
Paul felt like his children had been kidnapped.
B. Because he misses them.
OUT OF OUR INTENSE LONGING WE MADE EVERY EFFORT TO SEE YOU. 18FOR WE WANTED TO COME TO YOU—CERTAINLY I, PAUL, DID, AGAIN AND AGAIN—BUT SATAN STOPPED (hindered) US.
cf. Acts 17:5-9 – Jason posted bail to prevent Paul from returning.
Satan is doing everything in his power to stop the spread of the Gospel. We’re going to look again at Satan’s role in this later on.
C. Because his reward comes from them.
They are his hope and glory.
19FOR WHAT IS OUR HOPE, OUR JOY, OR THE CROWN IN WHICH WE WILL GLORY (lit. “crown of boasting”) IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR LORD JESUS WHEN HE COMES? IS IT NOT YOU?
Crown was symbolic of victory (used in athletic games – cf. Gold Medal). Paul’s reward, his crown of boasting was the people he led to Christ. He’s not bragging here of his own exploits or boasting of the notches in his belt.
Rom. 15:17-18 THEREFORE I GLORY IN CHRIST JESUS IN MY SERVICE TO GOD. 18I WILL NOT VENTURE TO SPEAK OF ANYTHING EXCEPT WHAT CHRIST HAS ACCOMPLISHED THROUGH ME IN LEADING THE GENTILES TO OBEY GOD…
1 Cor. 1:31 THEREFORE, AS IT IS WRITTEN: “LET HIM WHO BOASTS BOAST IN THE LORD.”
Paul is looking for a reward for his efforts, but that reward is found in the people he leads to Christ.
H.A. Ironside – “Every soul we lead to Christ goes to make up our crown of rejoicing” (1 and 2 Thess., p. 30)
How many of us here have led someone to Christ? How big is our crown?
Can you imagine how exciting it will be to stand before God next to all the people you’ve led to Christ?!
Cinder Barry - "Thanks ever so much for all you’ve done for me. Being there when I needed someone to talk to, listen to, laugh with, and cry with. But most of all, thanks for sharing with me your best friend, Jesus.”
20INDEED, YOU ARE OUR GLORY AND JOY.
Paul’s great passion was to bring people to a passionate relationship with Jesus.
Anyone here who has led someone to Christ can relate to Paul here.
In Ch. 3, we see specifically what Paul is concerned about.
II. HE’S CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR FAITH.
3:1SO WHEN WE COULD STAND IT NO LONGER, WE THOUGHT IT BEST TO BE LEFT BY OURSELVES IN ATHENS. 2WE SENT TIMOTHY, WHO IS OUR BROTHER AND GOD’S FELLOW WORKER IN SPREADING THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, TO STRENGTHEN AND ENCOURAGE YOU IN YOUR FAITH,
He couldn’t stand not knowing about them. Notice the one key thing Paul is concerned about: His purpose in sending Timothy was to check on their faith. He repeats this idea in v. 5. FOR THIS REASON, WHEN I COULD STAND IT NO LONGER, I SENT TO FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR FAITH.