Thessalonians - Glorification by Faith in Christ

By E. S. (Emanuel Sprankel) Young



III. Lessons on Sanctification and Holiness, 3:1-13

The Apostle, no longer able to repress his longing and anxiety for the Thessalonians, resolved to be left at Athens alone and sent Timothy for the purpose of exhorting them to endurance amid their persecution, and to bring him information concerning their condition.


Ver. 1. Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone.

“Wherefore; on account of my affections toward you and my repeated attempts to see you.” The Apostle was exceedingly anxious about conditions knowing the tremendous opposition — against the Church in that wicked city. “We thought it good. We became reconciled to undergo separation from our associates, even here in Corinth where we have little help and much hindrance in order to get the desired information from you beloved disciples.” Paul had come to Athens alone and waited for Silas and Timothy (Acts. 17:14-15). They are again with him here at Corinth (Acts. 18:5).

Ver. 2. And sent Timothy, our brother and God's minister in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.

Paul is at this time working in a city where many people needed to know the Gospel, and is opposed by Jewish legalism and even driven out of the synagogue. This gives us some idea of what men of conviction had to meet in establishing churches in cities where Jews opposed Christ and the Gospel. Paul calls Timothy his brother and God's minister. They were laborers together with God (1 Cor. 3:9). Timothy had labored with Paul and Silas in publishing the Gospel at Thessalonica and therefore was well acquainted with the members. He was sent for the purpose of comforting and establishing them more firmly in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a testing time and the Apostle is very much concerned that they stand firm for Christ in the midst of this severe persecution.

Converts are to be established through the teaching of the Word of God. The best time to do this is when they accept Christ, to follow up immediately with a course of instruction that will increase their knowledge in the books Christ has given us for this age of grace. Elders, ministers, and Sunday-school teachers, must know the Word as Paul and Timothy knew it in order to establish and strengthen the faith of new converts.

Ver. 3. That no man be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that hereunto we are appointed.

This verse contains the object of the exhortation that not one of these converts at Thessalonica be moved from the position in which they were placed by this affliction. There were great tribulations brought upon these people. Paul says, these Thessalonians knew and it is not necessary for Paul to tell them that Christ, the Head of the Church had to suffer and die, and that those who are His through faith are also appointed to suffering as well as to glory. Whatever may be claimed by the Jews that prosperity is the promise of the Old Testament, the early Church experienced that affliction which was the promise and experience in the New. All who have Christ incarnate have the Christ Spirit in suffering. “Ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). When the Apostle was called and became a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he was told how great things he must suffer (Acts 9:16),

Ver. 4. For verily when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

The Apostle assigns the reason why the Christian should not be moved by the affliction brought upon him. The tribulation and persecution was the result of Divine purpose. These early Christians were appointed by God to meet the persecution of the world. God did something that was unknown unto man; he gave the Spirit of forgiveness of one who is himself righteous and suffers from those who are unrighteous that he may help them into righteousness. The persecution referred to here which was prophesied did come and that very speedily (Acts 17:5).

Ver. 5. For this cause I also, when I could no longer forbear, sent that I might know your faith, lest by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor should be in vain.

The Apostle was anxious to know their Spiritual condition. They were exposed to the tempter and in danger of being led into apostacy. Through fear and endurance of persecution many in that early history as well as now, did not have their standing properly in the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore, were unable to hold out, in times of persecution. This was not so long after the revival and the beginning of this Church.


  • Where was Paul at this time and who was with him?

  • Why is he willing to be left at Athens?

  • What was Timothy's special mission to the Church?

  • Give the principal reasons for Paul's concern about these converts.

  • Who leads his opposing forces against Christians?


Paul said he was willing to undergo sacrifice and even personal danger in order that his companion Timothy might visit the church and be the means of confirming their faith during the severe persecution through which the church was passing. Now Timothy has returned with good news which brings joy to his soul and increases his confidence in the keeping power of God.

Ver. 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.

Timothy and Silas joined Paul at Corinth and brought him information which was good news concerning the condition of the Church at Thessalonica, This brought joy to the Apostle because he recognized the fact that they were true to the faith and love as members of the Body of Christ. The Apostle in writing to the church after receiving these good tidings from Timothy expresses this joy and comfort in the faith he has in them as he continues this church letter. Their faith had not been shaken and their love had not waxed cold under the persecution to which they were exposed and they themselves expressed an earnest desire to see Paul and his associates as founders of the Church. This is encouraging to those who make sacrifice in preaching the Gospel to establish churches when they learn of the condition of the members as to faith and love. The affection between the Church and the founders was mutual.

Ver. 7. For this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction, through your faith.

In the midst of tribulations which had come upon them they were blessedly sustained and this gave confidence and cheer to the Apostle. Paul at this very time had sore afflictions himself. However, the good tidings from the Thessalonians refreshed his Spirit. As one separated unto the Gospel of God, he was so fully identified with those for whom he labored and whom he loved that he could say:

Ver. 8. For now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord.

“We will enjoy life and grow spiritually, notwithstanding our afflictions and distress, if ye stand fast and continue firm in the faith of the Gospel.” The steadfastness of others strengthens our own. In God's gift and work we find life. The Spiritual welfare of the church and the strength and joy of her ministers alike depend upon the Church's faith.

Ver. 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.

The Apostle has been in communion with God in behalf of the members of this church and had thanked God for saving these souls. Now after hearing this good news, he feels that he could not render sufficient thanks to God for them, seeing what God is doing, building them up together in this holy faith. The Apostle gives prominence to the joy received in the spiritual welfare of others. We rejoice in the temporal prosperity of our friends, much more ought we to rejoice in their spiritual prosperity. John says, “I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth.” We ought to imitate the angels in heaven who rejoice at the repentance of the sinner. Great joy ought to come in our hearts when through God's power we rescue souls from hell and Satan.

Ver. 10. Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith.

The Apostle did everything in his power before God for the increase of faith and perfecting of the saints, He was in continued communication with God night and day. What is the prayer that goes up from the Apostle Paul unto God at this time? First, that they might be able to visit and see these disciples face to face which would bring joy and fellowship. Second, that in this way they might be able to perfect their faith and give their standing greater security before God. Faith and love have unbounded limits, when God is the source of both. The Scripture says, “Add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge.” The Apostle is absolutely under the direction of Him whom he serves and is therefore waiting for orders from Him that he might be the means of supplying that which is wanting in their faith, The privilege of personally visiting this Church was not enjoyed by the Apostle until a few years later. He remained for some time at Corinth because the Lord told him he had many people in that place who were in need of one that was separated unto the Gospel of God. After leaving Corinth he went to Jerusalem and returned to Ephesus in Asia Minor where he founded and organized the Ephesian Church, and then made this long cherished visit to the Church to whom he is now writing.


  • Where was Paul when Timotheus returned from his visit to the Thessalonians?

  • What kind of tidings did Timothy bring?

  • Explain the meaning of “Now we live if ye stand fast in the faith.”

  • What are the special things that Paul prayed for, night and day?


The Apostle believes that the next great thing that was to happen was the return of the Lord for His own. This was the blessed hope. that made him willing to let go of material interests and undergo all kinds of persecution that at the coming of the Lord he might hear the favorable words from his master, “Well done good and faithful servant.” That which he hoped to enjoy himself he longs for others to enjoy, and he is praying here that all might be so blessed through increase in fellowship and holiness that they might be watching and waiting for His coming..

Ver. 11. Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you.

The Apostle asks to be directed to this Church by those who called him and whose directions he followed during the three weeks when he reasoned to the Thessalonians out of the Scriptures. Here is a unity between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ by whom he is directed in his religious activities. We have the prayer directed to the Lord Jesus Christ which clearly shows a union of the Christ nature in himself and the Christ to whom he prays. The Apostle wishes to be directed so that he may very soon be present and in fellowship with the members of this Church.

Ver. 12, And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you.

We have learned from the former verse that our journeys are not in our own power. Man may plan his way but God directs his going; for a good man's steps are ordered by the Lord. Our journeyings are not to be undertaken without God's will (James 4:13). In this verse the Apostle prays for the progressive sanctification of the members of the Church and their final perfection at the coming of the Lord. He asks the Lord to give this increase and to strengthen them in the bond of love. This is the way to true holiness. This no doubt is the character of Divine love. There was no doubt in the Apostle's mind that the Lord could do the things for which he asked in this verse. There were defects in their love as there were defects in their faith to be supplied from the inexhaustible source of all love. The objects of their love were, (a) one another—those of the household of faith who were to have the first place in their affections; (b) but all men likewise as children of a common father, for as we have opportunity we must do good unto all men (Gal. 6:10).

Ver. 13. To the end He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

The Apostle puts before the Lord a very definite thing as he communes with Him in prayer. He asks that believers hearts might be unblamable in holiness before God, the Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the third time the Apostle is emphasizing this great doctrine of the Early Church, “the return of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit in giving us this Church Epistle takes us right to the throne, so that saving of souls and coming of the Lord is about all that one thinks about. When the Apostle closed the first chapter he speaks of the true characteristic of the believer to be that of waiting for Christ's return from Heaven. In the second chapter he again closes with the thought of the gathering together of the saints at the coming of the Lord. He speaks of the time of glory and the time of reward. This was the blessed hope of the Early Church. Those who are members of the Body of Christ are so united in holiness and fellowship that they are all the time asking for directions from the Head. How can they help but watch and wait for His return? “Be ye ready, for ye know not the day or the hour in which the Lord doth come.” This was the incentive to purity and holiness in the Early Church, The same is true in every period of Church life. One day after another was looked forward to as the consummation or end and yet this did not in any sense lessen their interest in missionary activities but increased their willingness to sacrifice and serve, that at His coming they might be among the faithful watchers.


  • What special thing did Paul pray for? (Ver. 11).

  • In what were the members of the Church to increase?

  • Why be so established in the heart?

  • For whom was Paul and the Church looking?

  • When Christ returns who will be with Him?