Sermon: The Good News: True Faith Endures 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10

The Good News: True Faith Endures

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10

Truth Taught- Paul is greatly encouraged as he hears Timothy’s report that the Thessalonians’ faith is enduring through persecution.

 

Introduction

The entire purpose of I Thessalonians is to encourage the new Christians to persevere in the faith in light persecution coming at them from all directions. It mostly came from the Jews who were out to destroy what God had begun in the city. It also came from the pagans who were no longer part of the group any more.

The Apostle Paul had no way to tell how these new Christians were getting along because he was banned from returning to the city. Because he could not go, he sent Timothy back to spend some time with them, to encourage them and then to bring Paul back the news whether they were doing well or not. Was their faith genuine; was it a persevering faith or a false faith that would fail at the first sign of trouble?

When Timothy returned to Paul, he brought the best news. Their faith was still intact and it was spreading to others. When Paul heard this good news it brought great encouragement to him.

What was it that Timothy told him specifically that encouraged Paul?

1 Thessalonians 1:2–3 (ESV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In our passage today he speaks very passionately about their faith and love. Then woven throughout the epistle is their hope in Christ’s return. So today, we see that their faith was genuine because it was a persevering faith and it was a faith that produced Christian love for each other and it was a faith that looked to the return of Jesus Christ.

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 3:6–10 (ESV)

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

  1. Good News (3:6)

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—

There were two main parts of Timothy’s report: first, that their faith was still intact. They were persevering through affliction; second, that their love for Paul was as strong as ever. They did not believe the propaganda and false reports about Paul.

Then there are two parts to this verse 6. The first is the encouragement Timothy’s report brought to Paul. It was good news to Paul. His heart was encouraged as he heard Timothy’s report. Then there is another side of the coin, so to speak. The language here translated, as good news is the same word that every other place in Paul’s epistles is translated Gospel or good news in the sense of evangelism.

The verb is euangelizo (has reported good news). In every other case when used by Paul it is translated Preached the Gospel

Scholars are torn on this but it should be translated with some Gospel emphasis here. Paul meant it to more than just, he was happy when he heard the report. There is an aspect of Gospel good news at work here. I think its something like this… Paul’s faith was greatly strengthened by the good news Timothy shared with him. So much was Paul’s faith strengthened that he uses the same word that every other place is preached the Gospel. This was such good news that Paul’s very salvation was brought nearer than it had ever been.

We must remember that salvation is not just justification but also includes sanctification and glorification. We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. When the Apostle heard this report his own sanctification jumped ahead of where it was. So he called this good news, Gospel news or literally evangelism for him. Because their faith was real, Paul’s faith was strengthened and his sanctification jumped forward closer to glorification. His own salvation was affected by their salvation.   Their faith strengthened his faith.

This is a dynamic that was not only true of Paul but it’s true for us as well. We must consider how our faith affects the faith of others. We should ask our self this question or one like it, how does my faith affect those around me? Am I strengthening the faith of others by my faith and commitment to Christ or am I hindering the faith of others? As an adult, how is my faith affecting the children around me? What will the next generation look like if they pattern their faith after my faith?

The next part of the good news that strengthened Paul’s faith was Timothy reported that their love for each other and for Paul was increasing.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—

Genuine Christian affection for one another also strengthens other’s faith. In the case of the Thessalonians, they truly loved Paul and longed to see him as he did them. They did not believe the propaganda being promoted. Their love for him strengthened his own faith. Again, how is your love for others here? Is your love strengthening someone else’s faith or is a lack of love hindering someone else?

  1. Someone Else’s Faith Strengthens My Faith (3:7-8)

for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

Notice that the Apostle was in the midst of persecution and affliction himself. His ministry in Macedonia and Achaia was extremely difficult. They were beaten, jailed and defamed in Philippi…

Acts 16:22–24 (ESV)

22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

They were persecuted and chased out of Thessalonica, chased out of Berea, rejected and scorned in Athens. He wrote about being in fear and in much affliction in Corinth…

1 Corinthians 2:3 (ESV)

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

In the middle of all these afflictions he could write,

for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.

Their endurance in persecution was a great encouragement to Paul as he was also persecuted.

In verse 8 there is an ancient idiom or saying the Apostle uses. We can easily understand it today.

For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

For now we really live or it was for now we are made alive. It’s the idea of pressure and anxiety for the church had sucked the life out of them. Plus, they were being severely afflicted physically. Then this amazing report came and it was like being lifted to the heavens for Paul. His burden was removed because of Timothy’s report.

The report of God’s work in their lives was great news for Paul and his life was enriched by the news.

I remember once when I was working construction. I was the General foreman. I only say that to give the story some context. I was walking around checking on the progress and noticed a laborer who was really having a difficult time chipping some cement by hand. He didn’t work for our company so it was really none of my business but I walked over to him and said that we had some equipment he could use that would make things go easier and faster if he’d like to borrow it for a while? He followed me to the office and I gave it to him.

He was very vile in every way. His language was terrible, his appearance wasn’t any better and you could tell he had taken drugs for a long time. After I gave him the equipment he looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face and said, why would I, as a general foreman for the electricians go out of my way to help him? I said, I am a Christian and because Jesus commands me to treat other with love and kindness that I had to show those things to him.

After that day whenever he was in my vicinity his language was greatly improved. One time on an elevator one of his coworkers was cursing in an extreme manner and JC actually yelled at his to stop because I was there. As the weeks went on, he and I had the opportunity to talk at lunch about the Gospel. I invited him to church and he actually came. Then, he was moved to another job in another state. Often I had thought about JC and wondered if his conversion was genuine or not? Then about 8 years later I saw him again, his appearance was entirely changed, his language was different and we spoke about the real JC. Back in the days when we first began to talk I said hey JC, would you like to hear about the real JC? I found out that JC was a leader in his church. What a blessing it was to discover that all that effort back in those days on the construction site at lunch was real and God saved him in an amazing way.

My faith was strengthened as I saw that his faith was real. In a small way, I experienced a little of what Paul is talking about here. Someone else’s faith is a mechanism to strengthen our own faith.

Someone else’s faith strengthens my faith and there is also a reciprocating truth…

  1. My Faith Strengthens Someone Else’s Faith (3:9-10)

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

Here is Paul’s two-verse rhetorical burst of thanksgiving to God for their faith. He uses this form or literary device when his emotions are more than he can bear…

After the Apostle taught us about divine election and predestination he broke out in praise to God and wove together a string of rhetorical questions.

Romans 8:28–35 (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

The Apostle could not find adequate words to express his joy to God over these young Christians and their faith. He was overwhelmed with gratitude.

After hearing the news from Timothy Paul’s prayers are no doubt different. He prays for their continued faith but now it’s much more worship and praise focused than before. As he prays night and day for them his praying is done with more confidence in God. He heard that their faith was persevering and his confidence in God is also strengthened. As his faith grows now, guess what he wants to do? He desires to return to them to strengthen their faith. Isn’t this an amazing circle of blessing that God has for us as believers?

Beloved, your faith is often what God will use to strengthen someone else’s faith. Is your faith growing? Is your faith an encouragement to others?

Application

I want to encourage you to be a risk taker for Christ. In this local body we need to see faith in action. We need you to step out in faith to do the thing you know God wants you to do and so far you’ve not done it. You’ve had very good logical reasons why now is not the best time. Beloved, we need to see your faith in operation so that our faith will be strengthened. What is it that God wants you to do in the church that would require you to step out in faith?

Speak with me later about it.

You may be wondering where can I get a stronger faith? Pray and ask God for it. Look to the boldness of those in the Scripture and read good Christian biographies and learn about the faith of other Christians just like you.

 

 

 

 

 

*Resources Used:

John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Robert Cara

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G K Beale

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris

1 and 2 Thessalonians by FF Bruce

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G L Green

 

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