Studies In 1 Thessalonians
Tom Bentley, Ballymena, N. Ireland
CHAPTER 2. 17-20
Chapter 2 verses 1-16 deals, as we have already indicated, with Paul’s presence in Thessalonica and the results therefrom. Now, Chapter 2. 17 – 3. 13 deals with his absence from Thessalonica. Yet it is from both of these contrasting paragraphs we discern the effect he exercised on the assembly for its spiritual enrichment. Paul’s concern for the saints is displayed clearly in his:
a. Longing to see them . . . 2. 17 - 20
b. Sending of Timothy . . . 3. 1 - 2
c. Writing of the epistle . . . 3. 3 - 10
d. Praying for them . . . 3. 11 - 13
Verse 17. The Parental Anxiety of the Servants. ‘But we’, as distinct from the Jews who persecuted them, Paul and his fellow-workers sensed deeply the unfortunate separation their hasty withdrawal incurred. Once again Paul displays the inseparable union they enjoy with the saints, as brethren. Doubtless, those who read these lines are listing the many times Paul employs this form of approach in using the word ‘brethren’ to endorse this oneness, with those united to the Lord Jesus and gathered to His name alone. ‘Being taken’ is aporphanisthentes, from aporphaniso, ‘to bereave of a parent’. The exactness of his language is efficiently expressive of his inward feelings. However, we need to make sure this concept is understood and grasped clearly. The apostle is not suggesting the Thessalonians were ‘made orphans’ by his being taken from them. It is the very opposite. That is the message, he with his co-labourers were sensing the loss as orphaned children would feel on losing their parents. In the previous paragraph, we noted the ‘mother’ and ‘father’ role the apostle suitably applied to his care for them. Now it is changed and he views both himself and his brethren in the service of the Lord, as bereaved children on having lost their parents. This is a powerful message for our attitude and behaviour among the saints today, especially those who claim to labour amongst them as servants of the Lord. The reader is advised to refer to James 1. 27 and observe how the word is used there. Again, note John 14. 18, where the root word appears with reference to those bereft of a teacher, guide or guardian. The word ‘time’ is kairon, from kairos, which means ‘a measure of time’. Horas denotes ‘an hour of time’. Put the whole expression together and literally it reads, ‘for the season of an hour’, by which Paul stresses the shortness of the time that elapsed between the deep sense of bereavement and the longing to return. ‘In presence, not in heart’ translates prosopo ou kardia, ‘in face, not in heart’. The links of affection were strong, even though the look in their eyes was unseen.
In the next expression, ‘endeavoured the more abundantly’, a most interesting word appears, espoudasamen, from spoudazo, ‘to hasten’, ‘to endeavour’, ‘to give diligence’. A related word is found in Luke 19. 5-6, ‘to hasten’ being the word used in command by the Saviour to Zacchaeus. These dedicated preachers were not listless, they could not brook delay, nor did they treat the issue as of little importance (note 2 Tim. 4. 9, 12 for speed; Gal. 2. 10 for eagerness; Eph. 4. 3 for seriousness). There is a word in the next phrase ‘to see your face with great desire’, that is not usually used in a good sense. It is epithumia, meaning ‘strong passion’, and is here translated ‘desire’. It surely completes the intensity of the apostle’s longing for the saints from whom he has been so sadly separated.
The whole verse illustrates the affectionate relationship between the apostle and the Thessalonians, see also 2. 8; 2. 20; 3. 6; 3. 9; 3. 10; 3. 12.
Verse 18. The Preventative Activity of Satan. ‘Even I Paul, once and again’. Here the apostle speaks most emphatically of his own feelings, and so uses the singular. The plural has come naturally, but sincerely and deliberately, and not as some would suggest, as an ‘editorial’ plural. Paul is deeply conscious of his absence from the saints whom he loved. Obviously, on more than one occasion, he had attempted to return, but found Satan blocked the way. Here we learn that Satan is not merely a principle, but a person, an active agent, using his powers in the endeavour to frustrate the work of God. The list of his nefarious efforts is long, but here are a few of his noted activities: Ascending the Throne, Isa. 14. 13; Slandering the Priest, Zech. 3; Tempting the Saviour, Matt. 4; Blinding the Sinner, 2 Cor. 4; Beguiling the Helpmeet, 2 Cor. 11; Afflicting the Servant, 2 Cor. 12; Devouring the Pilgrim, 1 Pet. 5; Assaulting the Woman, Rev.12; and here, Hindering the Preacher.
Luke discerns that the servants were, ‘forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach in Asia’, and again, ‘the Spirit suffered them not’, Acts 16. 6, 7. This raises a wholesome question, ‘How would I be able to discern whether I was being “hindered by Satan” or being “forbidden by the Holy Ghost”?’ In other words, what did Luke understand when he wrote in Acts regarding the function of the Spirit and what did Paul discern when he wrote about the function of Satan?
Verses 19-20. The Prospective Award of the Saviour. The apostle advances his strong desire to see the Thessalonian believers because of the high regard he had for them. If, however, this is not granted, he looks on to the moment when he shall see them as they stand before the Lord Jesus at His coming. Of course his concern lies in the earnest expectation that they will so conform to the teaching and develop accordingly, that they will indeed be his ‘crown of rejoicing’. Is it merely because he was the means of their coming to Christ, his joy is fulfilled? Or is it not in their conformity to the ministry that will bring him the joy in that day? I prefer the latter in view of the fact that what is really before us is what we may term the Judgement Seat of Christ. Being ‘before’ the Lord Jesus at His coming, is surely this.
The word parousia, ‘coming’, sounds the keynote of 1 Thessalonians. Paul uses ‘hope’ to denote that there will be NO DEFERMENT. We recall the words of Solomon, ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, Prov. 13. 12. In using the familiar word ‘joy’ he is indicating there will be NO DISAPPOINTMENT. Gladness will fill his heart as he sees the object of his affections receive the gladsome reward in that day. The ‘crown’ of course is the victor’s crown, which signifies there will be NO DEFEAT. Then it is a ‘crown of rejoicing’ which assures us there will be NO DISMAY. His rejoicing will indicate not only an outward expression of joy, but also an inward realization of it, when he sees the saints before the Lord Jesus at His coming.
Verse 20. ‘For’ is gar, ‘truly therefore’, ‘verily’, as it acts as an explanatory conjunction. There is further intensification in the use of the personal pronoun with the phrase ‘ye are’. Nor will either of the servants who thus engaged in the service be omitted, as is indicated by the plural ‘our’. I often ask, ‘What is really my joy?’ Is it to be acknowledged, praised, or honoured? When dwelling upon this as a servant of God, I recall Proverbs 27. 21 (RV), ‘As the fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; And a man is tried by his praise’, or ‘by that which he boasteth’. Is it the size of the audience that causes me to boast or the result of what I have said and its effect in that future day?
CHAPTER 3. THE WORD CONSOLIDATING THE SAINT
3. 1-10 The Scope of Paul’s Interests
3. 11-13 The Strength of Paul’s Intercessions
Verses 1-2a. Paul’s Fellow-worker . . . Timothy.
The Consolation of Timothy, v. 1.
The Commendation of Timothy, v. 2a.
i. As a Brother in the fellowship
ii. As a Minister in the service of God
iii. As a Fellow-labourer in the field
The Commission of Timothy, v. 2b.
i. To ‘establish’ i.e. ‘to make firm’
ii. To ‘comfort’ i.e. ‘to strengthen by way of exhortation
Verse 3. Paul’s Focus
i The Object of Concern
ii His Thought for The Taught
Verse 4. Paul’s Faithfulness
i The Subject of Care
ii His Proof of The Prophecy
Verse 5. Paul’s Fears
i The Aspect of Compassion
ii His Fear for The Fruit
Verses 6-8. Paul’s Felicity
i The Effect of Comfort
ii His Comfort through the Comforted
Verses 9-10. Paul’s Fervour
i The Respect of Consideration
ii His Passion for the Perfection
Verse 11. For Physical Direction
Verses 12-13.For Spiritual Development
The Source of the Prayer.
i. God our Father
ii. The Lord Jesus Christ
The Subject of the Prayer.
Saints in Thessalonica
The Scope of the Prayer,
i. Abounding in Love
ii. Appearing in Holiness
The Strength of the Prayer.
‘From now, right up to the coming of the Lord Jesus’
SELECTED THEME. ‘FAITH’
V. 2 Faith’s Confirmation
It is capable of being established
V. 5 Faith’s Condition
Its condition can be discerned and known
V. 6 Faith’s Constancy
It ought to be healthy and promote joy
V. 7 Faith’s Consolation
Its healthy state comforts others
V.10 Faith’s Consolidation
It is in constant need for stimulation
The following word is unique to this chapter. v. 3, saino, ‘to move’, or ‘to draw aside’, ‘to disturb’.
CHAPTER 3. 1-13.
3. 1-10 Paul’s Interests
3. 11-13 Paul’s Intercessions
Verse 1. The opening verse of this chapter reveals the intense love and longing that pulsated in the heart of Paul for the Thessalonian believers. His desire for some assuring communication from the Thessalonians became intolerable. Seeing he himself was obstructed in returning he does the next best thing and sends one of his most trusted partners in the work of the Lord. What strikes us as strange and prompts a question is, 'Why did Satan permit Timothy to return and yet withstand Paul’s return?’ Then it is probable that both Timothy and Silas had rejoined the apostle according to the instructions, Acts 17. 15. Likely, upon his return, Timothy was dispatched with haste to Thessalonica. Again, it is likely that shortly after Silas was sent to Macedonia. Ultimately, the two messengers finally returned to Paul at Corinth, Acts 18. 5. The words ‘when we could no longer forbear’ translate meketi stegontes. Meketi means ‘no more’, ‘no longer’. Stegontes, from stego, ‘to cover with silence’, or ‘to endure’, is used also in 1 Corinthians 9. 12; 13. 7, denoting ever so dramatically the intense feeling the apostle had for the saints from whom he was reluctantly separated. It is not often in the course of the Acts record that we see Paul alone. 'Paul and his company' is a great expression, see Acts 13. 13. The word Paul uses here describes in strong terms how he felt about the whole matter. ‘To be left’, is kataleiphthenai, a compound word composed of kata ‘down’, and leipo, ‘to leave’. Paul felt abandoned. Yet, he was prepared to face this experience for the sake of those he loved and longed for in the Lord. Only the grace of God could kindle such love in the heart of the apostle who had more than a passing concern for the welfare of the saints beloved in Christ Jesus.
Verse 2. Four thoughts emerge from these opening verses relative to Timothy: (1) His Consolation, v. 1. Reluctantly Paul was prepared to forego his company for the sake of others. (2) His Commission, v. 2, ‘and sent Timothy’. Two words are used for ‘sent’ in the New Testament, here it is from the word pempo, ‘to send someone to do something’. John uses the other word, apostello, frequently. In John 17. 18 it is used of the Father sending the Son and the Son sending the apostles. It includes the idea of equipment, suggesting official or authoritative commission. (3) His Commendation. Paul affords no scant language to enrich the ministry of Timothy and to establish what man God is using. He is designated ‘our brother’, emphasizing his place in the fellowship. Then Paul adds ‘God’s minister’ (RV), endorsing his privilege in stewardship. ‘Minister’ comes from diakonos. It is the term used to describe 'one who serves' and especially denotes ‘one who executes the commands of another’. The AV adds, ‘and fellow-worker’, expressing his willing participation in accomplished workmanship. (4) His commitment is twofold: (1) ‘to establish you’; (2) ‘to comfort you concerning your faith’. ‘To establish’ means ‘to strengthen’, ‘to fix firmly’, see Luke 22. 32; Rom. 1. 11; 16. 25; Rev. 3. 2. Conformity of mind to the truth of God and in the truth of God is implicit in the ministry of the New Testament. This is something every young believer must learn early and eagerly in life. A disproportionate balance and behaviour in life will ensue if this is not embraced as vitally essential. ‘To comfort’, sounds as though Paul is urging Timothy to administer some measure of gentle soothing to the Thessalonians, which will compose them in their troubles. It is really a much stronger word, which infers ‘a fitting for battle’. The first expression fixes its thrust on the mind, now this one fosters the readiness of the heart for greater determination to achieve victories. The reader will be fully aware that the meaning of the term ‘Thessalonians’ is ‘those who win victories’.
At this point it is proper that the student of the Scriptures attends to the next expression with great care. ‘Your faith’, literally reads, tes pistos humon, which is, ‘the faith yours’, and appears as such in verses, 5, 6, 7 and 10. In all, five times in this paragraph. Paul had no doubt but that initial faith had been the real and rich experience of the saints. He has already identified their work of faith as being a cause for thanksgiving to God. He is not concerned in these verses about what we may term their salvation, see also 1. 9-10. Rather, he is anxious about how much the revelation about God to their hearts is affecting their present dilemma as they endure intense afflictions and continue to suffer incalculable loss. Are they continuing in the undisturbed acknowledgement of the revelation of God that will produce a self-surrender to the will of God? Are they still unconcerned of the loss incurred in adherence to the word of God? This is what the term ‘the faith yours’ implies. It is ‘the faith’ practically and personally accepted as to become part of myself. Paul directs Timothy to four locations of service, namely: Corinth, 1 Cor. 4; Philippi, Phil. 2; Ephesus, 1 Tim. 1, and here to Thessalonica. Can we ask ourselves, ‘What potential does God see in me to carry out His will in any location of testimony?’ Though Timothy did not reach Corinth, yet Paul recognized in him the capacity to meet the need there and in the other assemblies to which Paul sent him.
Verse 3. We looked at Paul’s fellow-worker in verses 1-2. Now we consider Paul’s faithfulness, seen in two aspects: (1) Paul’s Thought for the Taught, v. 3; (2) Paul’s Teaching for the Untaught, v. 4. Obviously, Timothy has reported to him something of the pressures upon the saints at Thessalonica. They were being agitated, disturbed and disquieted by the gentiles and the Jews who refused to believe in the word of the gospel. Paul uses a word which is taken from another which means, ‘to flatter’, ‘to beguile’. The word denotes the act of ‘a dog wagging its tail’, and so comes to signify ‘to fawn upon’, therefore ‘to flatter’. These saints of God were being induced to accept an easier way through life by either rejecting the gospel as did the gentiles, or by adopting Judaism as did the Jews. Many dear believers have been cajoled with smooth talk and sadly opted for a quieter, less rugged way home. Observe the point Paul is stressing when he uses the expression ‘in these afflictions’, denoting that the Thessalonians were circumscribed by affliction. Paul does not say ‘by’, but ‘in’ afflictions, which confirms the above observation that it is the pressure brought upon them by the unconverted, and not merely by the afflictions.
Yet another item in their folder of knowledge is credited to the Thessalonians as Paul says, ‘For yourselves know’. This stresses that they know positively, as oidate refers to absolute knowledge. To this the apostle adds, ‘we are appointed thereunto’. Note the use of this strong verb ‘appointed’, keimetha, e.g., in Philippians 1. 17, ‘set for the defence of the gospel’. Our afflictions then are no mere accident in life, but a very necessary part of Christian experience, John 16. 33; Acts 14. 22; 2 Tim. 3. 12. There are some for whom it can be more specific, as for the apostle himself, Acts 9. 16; Col. 1. 24. The believer knows that his afflictions are of divine choosing, within the domain of the Lord’s permissive will.
Verse 4. Proof of the preceding assertion can be discerned in the two simple words ‘for verily’, from kai gar. Gar introducing the reason, and kai placing strong emphasis upon it. At times it is possible to miss the simple words, often because we are so familiar with them. Let us not miss the sweet but most informative word ‘with’, pros, meaning ‘face to face’. Is this my relationship with the saints in any period of my ministry, i.e., 'near them’? On reading this, the hearts of the Thessalonians would surely be touched as they would reflect on the time when they had Paul so close to hand. Proelegomen is a particular form of prolego, ‘to speak beforehand’. Examining the full sense of this word makes clear that Paul did not just make a passing reference to the subject matter of affliction, but spoke repeatedly of expected persecution. Thus, he not only forewarned, but forearmed the saints, so that their stand against this weight of tribulation would be determined and decisive. ‘That we should suffer tribulation’ translates hoti mellomen thlibesthai. Note specifically the word ‘should’, mellomen, which is taken from the verb mello, meaning ‘to be about to do anything’. The word affirms the certainty of the prediction. Then the word ‘suffer’, being passive, denotes clearly that an outside agent would trouble the believers. Note our comments on verse 3. The word ‘know’, which closes this remarkably informative verse, is the word that is used for knowledge grounded in personal experience. The Thessalonian believers could testify that Paul’s word to them on this subject had been fulfilled.
Verse 5. Because of the certainty of the continuance of the tribulation which began even while the apostle was with them, and of the accompanying temptation to yield under such trying circumstances, the servant of the Lord had every cause for concern. A state of continual anxiety prevailed in the heart of Paul, lest their faith should fail to stand the strain. The AV has ‘when I’, but it should read, ‘also I’. Here once again Paul resorts to the singular, not as excluding Silas, but as speaking the more freely of his own personal feelings. The word used here for ‘forbear’, or ‘endure’, is stego, see v. 1. It indicates, Paul could not ‘cover with silence’ the situation any longer. His motive in sending Timothy was not so much to relieve his own anxiety but, as he adds, ‘that I might know your faith’. The tense of the word ‘know’ implies ‘to get to know’, ‘to find out’.
At this stage of the exposition it is proper to consider the expression to which we have now come to for the second time in this paragraph. It will occur three more times, see verses 6, 7 and 10. Literally it reads ‘the faith yours’, so it is necessary to ask, to what is Paul referring? He knows that they surely have trusted Christ, so that is not his concern here. In chapter 1. 3 he has spoken of their ‘work of faith’, and again in verse 8 he adds, ‘in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad’. So, in these verses before us in chapter 3, their initial faith is not in question. Look again at the literal rendering, it reads ‘the faith yours’, so it must be what God has imparted in His truth which the apostle terms, ‘the faith’. Then he adds ‘yours’. This indicates Paul is concerned about the measure in which the truth of God is having sway in their lives in the midst of this intense suffering. This is the real issue in all of our lives, is it not? The effectual working of the revealed word or truth of God in our daily living must be our utmost exercise continually. This is the concern of Paul. Now examine the inference of the five mentions of the expression as follows:
V. 2 Faith’s Comprehension. It is capable of being established.
V. 5 Faith’s Condition. Its state can be assessed.
V. 6 Faith’s Constancy. Its healthy state brings joy.
V. 8 Faith’s Consolation. Its health causes encouragement.
V. 10 Faith’s Consolidation. It always requires stimulation.
Paul is conscious of the devil’s attempt to ensnare the saints through temptation. The present tense as expressed by the phrase ‘is tempting’ reveals the persistency of the enemy to achieve his goal. Yet note carefully that by fully understanding the next phrase, ‘be in vain’, eis kenon genetai, we recognize, through the use of the subjunctive, that Paul doubted the believers had been overcome by the tempter. Let us read the phrase as ‘should be in vain’. Nor must we miss the word ‘labour’ which emphasizes the thought of ‘wearisome toil’. Can we measure this tremendous degree of devotion that marked the apostle in his work for God? Does this word in any way describe my work for the Master?
Verse 6. Timothy’s heartening report is described by Paul in language that is wholly reserved for the gospel. He terms it ‘good tidings’, euangelisamenou, from the verb euagelizomai,’ to bring good news’. It is in fact a daring use of the verb, figuratively. It does, however, indicate the momentous character of the news that brought such relief to the apostle’s deep sense of concern. The news confirms to the servant that his ministry is wondrously operative. The saints are allowing the word of God to establish them in spite of trials which the devil is using to detract them from obedience to the word received. Their love is strong Godward and man-ward, is how the sense must be understood. This is manifest in that even though the apostle’s ministry brought them into such unspeakable pain and suffering through the increasing tribulation they would still want him back again. This shows that a full acceptance of the truth of God, whatever the cost, rises above every other consideration. Paul is welcome any time in Thessalonica. This was like gospel to his heart. He greatly desires to see them, and the desire is mutual, manifestly so by the phrase ‘desiring greatly’, epipothountes, from the verb epipotheo, ‘to long for’, ‘to desire’. The prefixed preposition, epi, gives temperature to the feeling. It denotes intensity.
Verse 7. Once again the Paul addresses the assembly as ‘brethren.’ By now, you will have established how many times Paul does this in the epistle. While it suggests affection, it also implies affinity. Closeness amongst the saints is welcome. This word means, ‘from the same womb’. It seems strange but it is true, we are looking at the wondrous impact of affliction on affliction. Timothy has come from an afflicted company of saints with good news for afflicted men. Nothing comforts the servant more than to know that the word of God is being realized in the heart and life of the saints to whom he has ministered. Usually when we meet saints our first and possibly only question is, 'How are you?' The level of this inquiry goes no higher in mind or in matter, than physical health. In these days, we are satisfied with an agreeable reply. Has any reader of these lines ever asked a believer, 'How is your faith?' Does it ever come within the concern of an elder or whoever, to make such an inquiry? Having sent to know the state of their faith, he is encouraged by its healthy condition.
Verse 8. ‘We live’, zomen, is contrasted with the affliction and distress comparable to death, v. 7. That everything was as he could have wished, was for the apostle, life indeed, cf. 3 John 4. ‘To stand’ is the opposite of collapse. ‘If’ is usually subjunctive, but here it has the indicative mood, which brings a sense of certainty. ‘Stand fast’ is steko, meaning ‘to stand firm’, which indicates continuity in faithfulness is constantly required. The word is used in the imperative by Paul in five passages: 1 Cor. 16. 13; Gal. 5. 1; Phil. 1. 27; 4. 1; 2 Thess. 2. 15. To stand in the Lord is to be conscious that He alone is the true source and stay of life, and the sphere of its practical manifestation.
Verse 9. God answers prayer, but how powerless we are at times in offering adequate gratitude to Him. Paul senses the enormity of the task of returning a corresponding thanks to God for what He has done for the saints. He now uses an interesting word because in its construction there are two little words prefixed to it, that denote the idea of 'return,' and infer that of 'the debt incurred.' It occurs seven times in the New Testament: Luke 14. 14; Rom. 11. 35; 12. 19; 2 Thess. 1. 6; Heb. 10. 30. Paul’s joy is twofold: (1) for their spiritual progress and promise; (2) for his own joy of heart which the knowledge of that progress has caused.
Verse 10. The praying went on night and day, as did the work, 2. 9. This indicates the persevering attitude of the apostle in his longing to see once again the saints in Thessalonica. Is not this kind of prayer really an intensity of feeling, a frequency of practice, a seriousness of purpose and a concentration, which only those who agonize in it know? Withal a sense of realism prevailed in Paul’s heart. He knew there was still more to give that they may be the stronger in exercising reliance upon God. What else can perfect faith but the ministry of the word of God? The word ‘supply’ is used of mending fishing nets, Matt. 4. 21; Mark 1. 19. His greatest interest lay in leading the saints into the unexplored territories of truth. Though he knew an immediate visit to do so would not necessarily materialize, he proceeded at once with instructions that would address the need in this order: (1) body; (2) soul; and, (3) spirit. His closing prayer, 5. 23 reverses this order, as we shall see later.
Verses 11-13. Five times Paul is given to prayer for the Thessalonians: 3. 11-13; 5. 23-24; 2 Thess. 1. 11-12; 2. 16- 17; 3. 16. Nothing reveals spirituality more than prayer for the saints. It requires spiritual perception to assess the need and then to draw upon spiritual resources to meet that need. These are manifest so clearly in each of Paul’s recorded prayers in the epistles.
(1) Two Persons Addressed: (1) God; and, (2) the Lord Jesus. The construction here, as in 1. 1, affirms the deity of the Lord Jesus and His absolute equality with God inherently. The verb ‘direct’ is in the singular denoting clearly the oneness of the purpose but not of the Persons addressed. Being as they are eternally distinct, but essentially one in purpose, they are addressed in prayer indicating that Paul’s concern will be heard and answered by them both in one blessed harmony. It is vital to remember that the word ‘one’ in John 10. 30, is neuter, not masculine, confirming that the oneness is in purpose and not in person. The word ‘direct’, kateuthunai, means ‘to make straight’, ‘to guide aright’. Actually there is intensification implemented by the prefixed preposition, ‘kata’, which gives the added emphasis ‘to make straight completely’. The apostle is conscious of the divine ability to superintend hostile forces, however strongly they oppose the work of God and thus hinder the progress of the gospel and those who proclaim it. Paul’s prayer is indicating his confidence that the obstacles Satan has put in his path can be removed by divine authority and sovereignty.
(2) Two Subjects Advanced: (1) Love; and (2) Holiness. God is love and God is holy, so the subjects are reflective of God’s nature and essence. Let us direct our attention to ‘Love’s Might’. ‘The Lord’ is a translation of ho Kurios. Kurios is a title denoting honour and is expressive of respect and reverence, unfolding as it does the unlimited resources resident in Him as Lord. Next is ‘Love’s Measure’. The Lord Jesus alone is able to promote the prayer exercise of the apostle who is anxious to see their love ever growing. This is not only in quality but also in intensity, as well as to abound in opportunity and in quantity. The word ‘increase’ relates to spiritual enlargement while ‘abound’ denotes spiritual abundance. Then there is ‘Love’s Manifestation’. The objects of this love will be the brethren beloved, ‘one toward another’. Next it will be ‘toward all men’, denoting the more extensive range of their love, reaching out to all mankind. Only the Lord Himself can promote this love, which is divine in its origin, to reach out to its objects, from those empowered by God alone. Finally we note ‘Love’s Model’. The one who exhorts is himself, with his fellowworkers, emblematic of the course he urges. It is necessary that if we exhort, we be the first to practice the virtues urged upon others.
The second subject of Paul’s intercession is holiness. It follows, if I know experimentally the love of God shed abroad in my heart, the outcome must be a life in keeping with the very nature of the God of love, and that is holiness. The Scope of Holiness is here expressed in the phrase, ‘from now right up unto the end’, In the terms of this verse, this must be the coming of the Lord Jesus. In other words, it becomes characteristic of my life continually. There follows the Stability of Holiness. The infinitive form of the expression stresses very simply, purpose. ‘Stablish’ is from sterizoo, ‘to make stable’, suggesting something that is placed firmly into position and cannot be moved. How allembracing the word ‘heart’ is. It must be understood in view of the fact that it is not merely the emotional aspect of our nature that is addressed, but, being a most comprehensive word, it is inclusive of our thought, feeling and will. This we will term, The Sphere of Holiness. Holiness will touch every facet of my heart and hence the whole fabric of my being. What is the State of Holiness? Here it is ‘unblameable in holiness’. The word unblameable in the text is amemptous which simply means ‘blameless’, ‘deserving no censure’, see Luke 1. 16; Phil. 2. 15; 3. 6. Paul is speaking here of the state of sanctity that should exist constantly in the believer’s life, not the process of becoming holy. Ponder the word the Spirit of God uses here which is hagiosune, not hagiasmos. What makes this more implicit is, it is the word used only for God in the LXX (the Septuagint Version of the Greek Old Testament). Every believer has the responsibility to display this in its fullest measure as aided by the indwelling Holy Spirit and in view of the redemptive work of Christ that has made it possible.
The Sight of Holiness brings us to ‘before God even our Father’, which indicates that one day we shall stand before the searching eye of God and then will be made manifest the depth of His work in us. When? ‘At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’, brings us to the rapture, surely. Then it will not be so much what I did for Him, but what He has done in me. By many it is taught that what is here stated by the apostle is the manifestation, or revelation of Christ, linking the expression ‘with all his saints’ to the word ‘coming’. If it is understood to relate to the Thessalonians in the presence of the Lord Jesus with all His saints, then that dispenses with such an interpretation conclusively. Others take the word ‘saints’ as referring to angels, but they will not partake in the rapture. As we shall later learn it is ‘the Lord Himself who shall descend from heaven’. We are not in Matthew chapter 24 or 25, but in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, in spite of what post-tribulation rapturists would vainly advance.