THE ONCE AND FUTURE SALVATION
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
The Apostle Paul had at last heard a longed-for report of the Thessalonians’ faith, and love, and devotion (1 Thessalonians 3:6). Timothy’s good news (the word is - literally - “evangel” = gospel) was of such moment that it was a source of great comfort and solace to the beleaguered Apostle (1 Thessalonians 3:7). Paul went so far as to say that it gave him a new lease of life (1 Thessalonians 3:8).
1 Thessalonians 3:9. “How can we thank God enough?” was the exclamation. This is a question upon which we may positively and profitably reflect in all the changes and challenges of our earthly pilgrimage. Implicit in the question was the joy which Paul was enjoying, which could only be expressed through rejoicing in the Lord for what God had accomplished, and was yet to accomplish, in their lives (see 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
1 Thessalonians 3:10. Paul had been praying earnestly, night and busy day (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9), that he might pay the Thessalonians a return visit. This longing to know how they were all getting on is a recurring theme in the preceding verses (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 3:6), and the Apostle desired to “perfect that which was lacking in their faith.” Paul had left Thessalonica in a hurry - while they were still young in the faith (Acts 17:1; Acts 17:4-5; Acts 17:10) - so the reunion, when it came, would surely be sweet.
1 Thessalonians 3:11. “Now” hinges the past (1 Thessalonians 1-3) to the future (1 Thessalonians 4-5); the proclamation of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:5) to the return of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14). We worship the God who “is” (now), as well as “was” and “is to come.”
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. In this benediction, the “Father” and the “Son” are coupled together (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1). Here they even share a singular verb.
1 Thessalonians 3:11. The first petition of the prayer is that God might open up a way for Paul to visit the Thessalonians. This is in opposition to Satan’s hindering (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
1 Thessalonians 3:12. The second petition concerns their reciprocation of love toward one another and toward all men - just as Paul’s love is toward them. This prayer was later answered, as is evident in 2 Thessalonians 1:3.
1 Thessalonians 3:13. The third petition is that the Lord will “establish (strengthen)” - the same word as in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 - “their hearts in holiness.” Here is a vision of the return of Jesus - which includes a reunion with dead loved ones (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13. Advent is a time to “increase and abound in love” as we await the return of the Lord. This is part of the “perfecting” of 1 Thessalonians 3:10.
As Jesus said to the church in Sardis, ‘Strengthen the things which remain’ (Revelation 3:2).