1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13

1 Thessalonians 3 11-13
1 Thessalonians 3 11-13
Explaining the Book
Explaining the Book
1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13
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1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13: No one really likes waiting. Whether it’s waiting in a line or waiting for food when you’re hungry or waiting for the next significant event in your life - waiting isn’t usually comfortable or enjoyable. Sometimes it feels downright unbearable.

And yet, waiting is inevitable - even in the life of a believer.

•           David waited years from the time when Samuel declared him king until he was actually crowned by all Israel.

•           Abraham waited decades between the time of God promising him a son and when Isaac was actually born.

•           Anna and Simeon were waiting their whole lives for the Messiah to come. And finally in their old age they got to actually hold him in their hands.

You can find literature out there as to how to deal with your having to wait. (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/68517/15-scientific-tricks-make-waiting-easier and https://www.wikihow.com/Wait-Patiently, for example.)

A lot of that advice has to do with your focus. You’re advised to listen to music while you wait or to bring a friend to break the boredom. And the list goes on, but much of it has to do with what you’re going to choose to focus on while you’re waiting.

In our passage for today, this seems to be what’s happening. Paul is going to talk about two comings - both his coming to the Thessalonians and ultimately the Lord’s coming to them. And neither of those events were going to happen immediately, as we now know. So, Paul instructs the believers in Thessalonica as to what their focus should be while they wait.

So, let’s explore this theme of Your Focus While You Wait in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 to end this chapter and this first major section of this letter.

We’ll start by reading the text…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | The Text

1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 AV 1873

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

12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you:

13 to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | A Door

Let me just point out something that’s outside of the text that we’ll be considering this evening.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1. How does it begin? In the KJV it starts with the word “Furthermore”.

That word is actually translating a word that has kind of a special function in several of Paul’s letters. That word (λοιπος) serves as kind of a transition in 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians (twice!), and 2 Thessalonians. And it’s used this way here in 1 Thessalonians as well.

If you were to look at the material that Paul covers in chapters 4 and 5 and compared that to what we’ve seen in chapters 1, 2, and 3, you would notice a difference in the nature of the content.

Chapters 1-3 have been so focused on personal matters between Paul and the Thessalonian believers. How many times have we heard how much Paul wants to see the Thessalonians and vice versa? So much material has been devoted thus far to Paul and Silas and Timothy’s history with and feelings toward these believers.

But then if you look at chapters 4 and 5, you’ll see Paul pivot to discuss major lifestyle and theological issues - appropriate relationships, brotherly love, the Lord’s return for believers, and the Day of the Lord - before Paul finishes with some closing remarks at the end of chapter 5.

But you can sense the difference in content between the first section of this letter in chapters 1-3 and the second major unit of the letter in chapters 4 and a good deal of 5.

And in between these two rooms - as it were - is a door (use your imagination) swinging on the hinge of chapter 3, verses 11-13.

So, we’re not in the new room yet. We’re still in the old room. But this evening we’re opening the door and soon enough we’ll walk through it together.

Let’s start walking then with verse 11…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 3:11 AV 1873

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

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with the first three chapters of this letter that Paul and Silas and Timothy end this first major part of their letter to the Thessalonians by expressing yet again their wish to God that they would be able to see the Thessalonians soon. We’ll take the last part of the verse first…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | direct our way unto you

11       direct our way unto you.

11 κατευθύναι [opt.] τὴν ὁδὸν ἡμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς· 

The verb used here - direct - is in the optative mood in Greek. All that means is that Paul isn’t just making a matter-of-fact statement here. Neither is he issuing a command. Nor is he describing a potential reality. He’s expressing a wish or a desire of his.

And he’s doing this to summarize what he’s already said in this letter. In addition, he’s going to use two more optatives in the next verse - verse 12 - in order to preview some of what he’s going to say in the rest of his letter to these believers.

This is why I said this text is like a hinge. Verse 11 points back to what we’ve already seen while verses 12 and 13 point ahead to what we will see later in this letter.

So, Paul’s first of three wishes or desires concerning these believers is that he and Silas and Timothy would be directed or guided back to the Thessalonians in the right timing.

And as I’ve alluded to, this kind of sentiment has already been expressed a number of times in this letter. But what’s new to this particular expression of this desire of Paul’s is the subject of his wish.

The content of his wish is that they would be able to visit the Thessalonians. But who’s the actor that’s going to make that happen?

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

11       God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ

11 Αὐτὸς … ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν καὶ ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς

Well, it’s two actors but one being. It’s God … our Father and our Lord Jesus. They’re being invoked by Paul as he expresses his desire to see the Thessalonian believers once more. Because really, only God could make a pursuit like that work out - especially when you consider all of the obstacles that would have been in the way of that happening.

Now, it appears that Paul was later able to visit these believers. We have that recorded for us in Acts 19-20. In fact, on that third missionary journey of Paul’s it seems that he would have had several opportunities to visit the believers in Thessalonica.

So, Paul’s wish/desire was heard and answered. But who did the hearing and who did the answering? We’ve already noted that it’s God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

Now, it’s easy to overlook the significance of that statement and the inclusion of both the Father and Jesus. But maybe we can see more of the importance of that statement if we were to imagine that Paul said in this verse, “Now God himself and our Father, and our brother Timothy, direct our way unto you.

Or what about this? “Now God himself and our Father, and the city rulers in Thessalonica, direct our way unto you.”

Or what if it was stated, “Now God himself and our Father, and our archangel Michael, direct our way unto you.”

Neither Timothy nor the city rulers of Thessalonica nor even the archangel Michael is able to fulfill Paul’s stated desire of visiting the Thessalonians. Only God can do this.

And yet, we have two persons mentioned and appealed to - God our Father and our Lord Jesus.

This is one piece of a vast array of evidence in the Bible that within the one being that we refer to as God, there exists three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (even though the third person of what we call the Trinity isn’t mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians 3).

There’s one God which consists of three Persons. And in this verse we see that it’s perfectly acceptable and appropriate to address both the Father and the Son in our prayers and while we express our holy desires and wishes.

That’s what Paul did.

So, I think we see in verse 11 that Paul is looking back over all that he’s said so far. And the very simple way that he summarizes it is - I just want God to let us see you again.

Well, then he moves on from there to what we’ll see next in verses 12 and 13 to end chapter 3 where Paul gives a sneak peak into what he’s going to write to them in the rest of this letter.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 3:12 AV 1873

12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you:

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love

We see in verse 12 Paul uttering another desire or wish to God in the form of two optative verbs - increase and abound.

12       And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you:

12 ὑμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος πλεονάσαι [opt.] καὶ περισσεύσαι [opt.] τῇ ἀγάπῃ εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας, καθάπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς, 

But the main idea in focus here is the Thessalonians’ love. As they were waiting, this was to be their focus.

•           It’s this love of theirs that fueled their service to God, to one another, and to others (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           And it’s this love that Timothy was so glad to have seen while he was there in Thessalonica and which he no doubt was greatly encouraged to be able to bring back to Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:6).

So, the point is that the love of these believers there in Thessalonica - for the Lord himself and for his people and even for lost folks - it was present. It was noteworthy. It was encouraging.

And yet, that love had room for growth.

•           Later on in this letter, Paul is going to have to remind those Thessalonian believers that in the area of sexual purity and wholesome interpersonal relationships, they needed to not violate or take advantage of other believers (1 Thessalonians 4:6). That sounds like a potential lack of love.

•           And even when Paul tells the Thessalonians later in chapter 4 that they don’t need anyone to talk to them about brotherly love because they know all about it and even practice it fairly well. Yet, Paul has to urge them on to continue loving one other more and better (1 Thessalonians 4:10).

•           Paul admonishes them in chapter 5 to esteem their spiritual leadership highly in love (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Maybe they weren’t doing that to the extent that they needed to.

•           Paul needed to command them to be at peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13). No matter how much love you think you have, you’re always in need of more interpersonal peace - which is ultimately fueled by love for God and others.

And there are a few more admonitions in the 5th chapter of this letter that have to do with love, but these will suffice.

The idea is plain though. Paul - in pivoting from his previous personal material in this letter (about how much he loves those Thessalonians, wants to see them, is so encouraged about them, etc.) - is now moving forward. And in doing so, he needs to address the love of these Thessalonians - which has room to grow.

And for you and me, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to note that any significant progress in our Christian lives is a direct result of our love abounding and increasing. Loving God and loving his people and those created in his image.

To have extraordinary spiritual gifts apart from exercising those gifts from a heart of love is worthless. Being extremely knowledgeable of the Scriptures - apart from possessing and exercising this genuine love - is vain.

Most people are familiar with “the 10 Commandments”. But fewer are aware of “the 2 Commandments” - to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

This matter of your love is the bottom line. When God condenses all of his rules and regulations, he sums it up in one word - love.

This area is vital then for your Christian life.

Do you want to grow as a Christian? Do you want to draw more people to Christ so that they might be saved? Your love needs to grow.

Pray that God would do just that in your life. That he would grow your love. Pray that he would increase your love and cause it to abound.

That’s what Paul did for these believers in Thessalonica.

Paul wished to God that the love of the Thessalonians would increase.

•           That word is used of God’s abundant grace in the life of a sinner whom he’s saved (Romans 6:1).

•           It’s the opposite of the concept of lack (2 Corinthians 8:15). Paul wished to God that their love would show no lack  - no signs of deficiency.

•           And actually we discover later in Paul’s second letter to these believers that God indeed answered the apostle’s wish for them. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul says there that he gave thanks to God for them because their love towards one another was indeed abounding.

And then this second verb that Paul uses - which the KJV translates as “abound” - is a closely-related concept.

•           It’s like being filled with food and still having some left (John 6:12). That’s the way that Paul wanted the Thessalonians’ love to be - present just as it was - but not stopping there. Overflowing. Super-abounding. Going above and beyond.

•           And again, this concept appears in the 4th chapter of this letter where Paul admonishes the believers there to abound more and more in living life the way they were instructed to do from the Lord - particularly in their love others (1 Thessalonians 4:1,10).

So, this instruction at the end of chapter 3 is kind of a friendly gentle warning shot to them that more is to come along these lines.

But, really, who is sufficient for these things?

You might be sitting there and in your heart you’re thinking - “Yeah! I need to love people more!” You can recognize the need. But how do you actually do it?

And that’s where Paul’s example here is instructive and to be emulated. How did Paul seek to increase the love of his hearers?

Well, in this verse we’ve seen that he utters a wish/prayer in the presence of these people for their love to grow. So, Paul is both praying to God that this would happen - as well as putting this need before the people who need God to work in them. He puts both these folks and God himself on notice - as it were - that this is a need in the lives of the Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | even as we do towards you

And then Paul offers himself and Silas and Timothy yet again as an example to these relatively-new believers.

He’s saying that he and his company have love that increases and abounds toward the Thessalonians. Therefore, those believers themselves ought to have love that’s increasing and abounding toward one another and toward everyone - all men.

And this prayer for the Thessalonians’ love to increase and abound is going somewhere. Paul has an end in mind - which he goes on to describe in verse 13…

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 3:13 AV 1873

13 to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

He says…

13       to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

13 εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι [inf.] ὑμῶν τὰς καρδίας ἀμέμπτους ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ.

So, the intended goal of Paul’s desiring out loud to God that the love of the Thessalonians would increase and abound was that their “hearts” would be “stablished” by God…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | your hearts

The Greek term behind “heart” is the word from which we derive our English word “cardio” as in “cardio-vascular”. But Paul obviously isn’t speaking of their literal blood-pumping heart organ being strengthened as if by some physcal exercise.

One Greek lexicon - or dictionary - defines “heart” in the New Testament as follows:

[It’s] the causative source of a person’s psychological life in its various aspects, but with special emphasis upon thoughts—‘heart, inner self, mind.’

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 26.3 καρδία, ας

the causative source of a person’s psychological life in its various aspects, but with special emphasis upon thoughts—‘heart, inner self, mind.’

Though in English the term ‘heart’ focuses primarily upon the emotive aspects of life, in the Greek NT the emphasis is more upon the result of thought, …

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains

Though in English the term ‘heart’ focuses primarily upon the emotive aspects of life, in the Greek NT the emphasis is more upon the result of thought, particularly in view of the relationship of καρδία to the Hebrew term leb, which, though literally meaning ‘heart,’ refers primarily to the mind.

So, it’s the inner man of the Thessalonians’ that Paul is concerned about - especially their thoughts. Paul knew that an increase in real love in these believers - as they waited to be reunited with both Paul and his company as well as with the Lord himself - would result in something good happening to their inner thought life.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | to the end he may stablish

What was Paul hoping would happen to their thoughts?

That they would be stablished. or you could say, “strengthened”.

[S] Our Lord Jesus’ physical half-brother James gives an illustration for us of what this “strengthening” looks like in James 5:7-8.

James 5:7–8 AV 1873

7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

 This “strengthening” looks a lot like patience.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | Be patient

James admonishes you to be patient until the Lord returns. Just like a farmer is patient as he waits for the harvest, waiting for the rains to come in the right times.

Just like that patient farmer, we need to “stablish” - or be “strengthened” in - our thought-life.

So, how can we do that?…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | the coming of the Lord draweth nigh

We need to recall that the Lord Jesus Christ’s return is near.

How near is it? Well, metaphorically it’s as near as Jesus was to Jerusalem when he was at the Mount of Olives - a mere 3,000 ft (or less than 900 meters) as the crow flies. For context, one of my sons ran 800 meters in about 3 minutes. So, the idea is that it’s near - not here - yet - but near. At any moment - whenever he and the Father please - he could and will return.

How often does this thought cross your mind? That Jesus could return at any moment? That his return is “soon”?

Instead, you tend to have other things on your mind.

•           Obviously this pandemic has been on everyone’s mind for over a year. Many are filled with fear in their minds concerning if they or someone they love could die from it.

•           Maybe you’re more afraid of the government overreach related to the vaccines and out-of-control spending associated with the pandemic.

•           There’s great reason for concern over the wide-scale embracing of gender dysphoria in our culture and what that’s going to mean for Bible-believing Christians.

•           Closer to home, you might be struggling at work with a lack of fulfillment or a sense of constant failure or interpersonal conflicts.

•           If you have kids, maybe you’re burdened for their souls and you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle to see them truly saved and walking with the Lord.

And I could go on. We could ask each of us what’s the most troubling reality in our minds - on our hearts - right now. And I think that we’d be here for quite some time if we were all being honest.

The Bible holds out this hope for you - that Jesus Christ is returning. He’s returning for you - believer! And he’ll make everything right. And this blessed return of his is to be soon…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | draweth nigh

Now, we can all be real honest and recognize that it hasn’t happened for 2,000 years at this point. So you might be tempted to look at that assertion that Jesus’ coming is to be soon with some skepticism. Maybe you even have some level of disappointment and inner pain because at some point in your life you thought it was going to happen right then - and it didn’t.

But Jesus didn’t give us a date for his return. He didn’t promise that it would happen at a certain point. He wants us to continually wait for him - until he returns.

And he wants that reality - of his returning some day at any time - to guide our thoughts.

All those fears and worries and concerns that we considered earlier just melt - when in our hearts we truly believe that Jesus could come at any moment and set everything right.

So - really - what’s eating you up inside - in your mind - in your heart? Look for the soon return of Jesus, by faith.

And if you feel no strength to even do that, pray for help. God will surely answer your request for help from him to really have Jesus’ return in your mind as you face your difficulties.

So, the coming of the Lord indeed “draweth nigh”.

Now, Paul’s going to kind of back up and give us more details on what this strengthening of our hearts looks like. A believer with a strengthened heart will be increasing in holiness…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | in holiness

in holiness

ἐν ἁγιωσύνῃ

Holiness is put in juxtaposition with the concept of anything that defiles the body and spirit, according to 2 Corinthians 7:1. And in that context, Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to not become partners - or be mismatched - with unbelievers. And he goes on to describe unbelievers with words like lawlessness, darkness, worthlessness, idolatry, and uncleanness.

In contrast, holiness is separateness from those things that characterize unbelievers - and which characterized your unbelieving self before you trusted Christ. Paul once more in that context describes holiness with words like righteous, light, Christ, faith, living and walking with God and being his people. And that’s all dependent upon you coming out from among the uncleanness and unholiness that characterized your life before Christ and being separate from all of that.

So, be honest with yourself. What in your life could be characterized as unclean? As lawless? As spiritually dark? As worthless? As tending toward the praising and worshipping of something other than the one true God?

As you come to love God and others more and more, the result will be that your inner thoughts will be characterized more and more by this kind of holiness - this separateness from sin.

And when your thought life can be characterized by this quality of holiness, then - because what is in your heart eventually comes out - your holy inner thoughts will impact your outward actions and life.

And Paul in this passage describes an outward life that’s impacted by holy inner thoughts as unblameable

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | unblameable

unblameable

ἀμέμπτους

God wants to strengthen your heart unblameable - or strengthen your heart to be unblameable. He wants you yourself to be blameless. Because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be sinless. Rather, it means that generally you’ll be living in such a way so that people won’t be able to genuinely find fault with you.

Part of this blamelessness in this life involves your avoiding grumbling and arguing. And this avoidance of these two very common vices comes through clinging to God’s word according to Philippians 2:15.

Now, once again in this letter to the Thessalonians, we see a reference here at the end of chapter 3 to what has come before in this letter and what is still to come in this letter.

•           Back in chapter 2, Paul could give himself and Silas as examples concerning this blameless living (1 Thessalonians 2:10).

•           And then, going forward, Paul is going to end this letter with another prayer/wish to God for these believers to be blameless (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

So, we’ve been saying that the purpose of your love abounding and increasing is that your inner thoughts would be strengthened and holy. And the result of all of that is a blameless life.

But we shouldn’t get the idea that this blameless life ends at our physical death. In fact, the real ultimate fulfillment of this blamelessness in your life won’t be fully realized until you’re with the Lord…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | before God, even our Father

before God, even our Father,

ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν

Now, there’s a sense in which to speak of something happening “before God” is to speak metaphorically, indicating that it’s happening with his acknowledgement.

•           Paul said earlier in the first chapter of this letter that the Thessalonian believers were engaged in various activities in God’s presence. God was aware of them. God approved of what they were doing. They were doing those things in his presence - before him, with his approving knowledge (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           Or when Paul said that he and Silas and Timothy were just so filled with joy because the Thessalonians were still standing strong in the faith. And the apostle and his co-workers were doing their rejoicing “before God” or in his presence or with his full and approving acknowledgement (1 Thessalonians 3:9).

So, there's a way in which to speak of doing something “before God” is to say that he is the main audience. You’re living a certain way for his attention - that he would see and be pleased.

And - no doubt - this is part of what Paul means here that the Thessalonians would be blameless “before God”. Our blameless living is not done with the purpose of impressing others. You’re living your blameless life by God’s grace so that God will see it - because he’s the only audience who ultimately counts.

But I do also want to point out that to do something “before God” is also spoken of in Scripture in more of a literal non-metaphorical way. In other words, to be “before God” is sometimes to literally be in his physical presence.

Jesus identifies this realm of being “before” his “Father” as the final judgement where he will confess to his Father those who confessed him to other humans in this life - and where he will deny to his Father those who denied him to other men (Matthew 10:32-33). He’s going to do this in the presence of - or before - his Father - physically in God’s presence.

And so, your blameless life is to be lived right here and now as God watches silently from a distance. And the ramifications of that blameless life are to continue on into the time when Jesus Christ returns and we’re all literally and physically in God’s presence…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ

We’ve already discussed this coming of Jesus - this parousia - in a previous message. And so, we’re definitely not going to rehash all of that material.

But, I’ll just remind us that this reference to Jesus’s coming seems to be somewhat elastic. It can refer to his first coming where he came and ministered among his disciples (2 Peter 1:16). It also can refer to his coming to judge the world and save his people Israel after what we call the Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:8). This concept can also refer to what I would understand to be what happens after the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth (2 Peter 1:12).

And then there’s this puzzling reality that Jesus describes his parousia in Matthew 24 as both apparent to everyone like lightning is (v 27) and yet a surprise to nearly everyone like in the days of Noah (v 37). And this - and a few other references - are where we get the idea of a rapture of believers that precedes great tribulation followed by Jesus coming to the earth to reign for 1,000 years.

So, whether Paul’s talking about Jesus’ secret parousia for his believers or his later obvious parousia, Paul is aiming his prayers for these Thessalonian believers toward this final goal - Jesus’ coming.

And in particular, Paul is praying that these believers would be ultimately blameless at this point - when Jesus returns.

Perhaps as I’ve been pointing out what Paul says concerning being blameless, there’s been some discouragement in your heart. You might be feeling like it’s an impossible feat that you would be as blameless as you ought to be in this life.

Well, first of all, it’s not impossible to live a life as a Christian where you can’t legitimately be accused of wrongdoing. But even if that’s a seeming impossibility, God will see to it that if you’re a believer, he’s going to keep working in you in such a way that you will be blameless when Jesus returns. God is able. And he’s determined to present you to himself blameless in the end.

And in the end, when you’re presented blameless to God, you won’t be alone. You and I will all be there together “with all his saints”…

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | with all his saints

with all his saints.

μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ.

As you know, this term “saints” isn’t referring to the Roman Catholic system of declaring a certain select group of individuals to be “saints”, while the rest of professing Christians are not.

This word “saint” is the New Testament word to identify anyone who trusts Jesus Christ alone for salvation from his sin.

But the word itself could be literally translated as “holy one”.

And I think this is an interesting note that the apostle Paul includes here. Because he had just expressed his desire that the Thessalonians' love would increase to the point where they are strengthened in their holiness.

And then Paul’s going to go on in this letter and challenge this church about this matter of their holiness. And you might wonder why he’s doing that.

Ultimately, it’s because no one is going to be with Jesus who isn’t one of these holy ones - one of these saints.

Paul had to declare to the church in Corinth that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. And Christians can be deceived on this point. He says - don’t be! And there he gives a list of 10 sins which - if they characterize your life - they indicate that you are not going to be in this group that Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 3. You’re not among the holy ones if your life is dominated and characterized by sin and unholiness.

And you of course remember there in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that Paul ends that by saying “such were some of you”. Some of you used to be characterized by lives of immorality or idolatry or drunkenness. You didn’t love others. You didn’t love God.

But now you've been washed. You've been sanctified - or made holy. And because of that work of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit, you are going to inherit the Kingdom of God. Because you are now a holy one - a saint.

1 Thessalonians 3 Summary of Verses 11-13 | all

Now, Paul says that the coming of our Lord Jesus is going to be accompanied “with all his saints”. Can you think - based on the rest of the letter of 1 Thessalonians - why Paul might be pointing out the fact that when Jesus Christ returns that he’s going to be with all of his saints?

We’re going to see in chapter 4 of this letter that Paul needs to correct some wrong thinking on the part of some of the Thessalonian believers. He’s going to need to assure them that those who are alive when the Lord comes won’t somehow go before those who have trusted Christ and died before his return.

And the context of the Thessalonian’s concern is focused on believers who have passed away - Paul says that in the most important ways, these believers have not really died. They’re just “asleep”. So-complete is Jesus’ victory over death, that those who trust fully in him will never really die. You just sleep until he wakes you up and brings you back with himself to rule and reign with him.

And Jesus isn’t just coming with only saints - believers - who are living at the time of his return. He’s coming with all of us true believers through the centuries - including your loved ones who have passed away believing Jesus and looking for his return.

Your Focus While You Wait

So, what is your focus to be as you wait - for Christ’s return ultimately? Your focus is to be on a growing love within your self directed toward others. This love is to result in inner thoughts that are strengthened in holiness and in a life which is outwardly blameless. And after pursuing that focus for however long the Lord gives you on this earth, you will be with him and all of his people forever.

May the Lord help this to be our focus until he comes.

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