1 Thessalonians (4)
Pray Psalm 26.2, 3.
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.
Read 1 Thessalonians 3.8.
1. In Greek there are two forms for the conjunction, if. One means something like if and it is most likely so that, and the other means if and it’s possible that it might not be so. Which of these do you think Paul uses here? Why?
2. Do you think Paul should make his own condition of feeling fully alive dependent on whether or not others are standing fast in the Lord? Should you do that?
There is unfathomable depth to this one verse. We cannot in this space unpack everything that Paul intends here, but we must consider at least these few matters.
First, note how Paul says “we live” because the Thessalonians stand fast in the Lord. How invested was Paul in the people he served? Gladly, he told the Corinthians, he would “spend and be spent” for their souls (2 Cor. 12.15). How he loved these people, though he barely even knew them! But they had come to Jesus under his ministry, and now they were part of him, embedded in his heart; they were a source of joy and purpose lby believing and standing fast in the Lord.
Do we love people like this? Love them so much that we weep while they remain outside the Lord, or sorrow when they falter in the faith, or rejoice as we see them growing in the Lord? The Lord has made us His people and members of His Body, and we are meant to derive strength and life from one another, and to give these to one another as well. We are vessels through whom the Lord flows His life to others. Pray that God will help you love like Paul!
But there is a note of tenuousness here. Timothy had made a good report, and Paul rejoiced. But standing fast in the Lord is a lifetime commitment, an every day and every moment commitment. Paul says “now we live, if (Greek: ἐὰν, if, and it’s possible that it might not be so) you live” (emphasis added). Just because the Thessalonians had stood fast for the time was no guarantee they would stand fast for the duration. We must always pay attention to our lives and how we spend our time (Eph. 5.15-17). Just when we think we’re standing firm, we can fall precipitously, calamitously, and eternally (1 Cor. 10.12; 2 Tim. 4.9; Heb. 6.4-6). Is Paul suggesting that we can lose our salvation? No, but he is cautioning us against being overly confident on the basis of a few indications of faith in the past. We must be always pressing on, always standing firm, always seeking the Kingdom and glory of God, or we may someday discover, in spite of all our shocked protestations, that the Lord never knew us, because we never truly knew Him (Matt. 7.21-23).
1. How can we grow in love for people so that we are as invested in them as Paul was in the Thessalonians?
2. We can be sure of our salvation (1 Jn. 5.13), but we must work at that assurance continually (Heb. 6.9-12). Are these contradictory ideas? Explain.
3. Should your standing fast in the Lord be a source of encouragement and rejoicing to others? To whom?
The attitude of a teacher should be such as to regard his disciples as everything. “Now we live,” Paul says, “if you stand fast in the Lord.” And again, “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ?”You see Paul’s concern in this matter, his regard for the good of his disciples, not less than for his own. John Chrysostom (344-407 AD),Homilies on Second Timothy 2
Lord, help me to love like Paul. This day help me to love especially…
Pray Psalm 26.
Let the Lord use this psalm to search your soul and prepare your heart to love Him and your neighbors.
Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 26 (Aberystwyth: Jesus, Lover of My Soul)
Vindicate me, Lord on high; I have walked within Your Word.
Never wav’ring, though I sigh, I have trusted You, O Lord!
Prove me, Lord, prove even me! Test my heart and try my mind.
Let Your steadfast mercy be in the path for me to find.
Men of falsehood will not sit in my presence, nor will I
Suffer any hypocrite to find favor in my eye.
All the wicked I abhor; ‘round Your altar let me stand,
Loudly singing evermore of Your gracious, mighty hand.
Lord, I love Your dwelling-place, there where all Your glory shines,
Keep my soul before Your face, lest for sinful ways it pine.
As for me, in righteousness, I shall walk on level ground;
Save me, Lord, renew and bless! Let me with Your Church be found!
T. M. Moore
Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Order our workbook, God’s Covenant, and find out how all Scripture fits within this redemptive framework (click here).
Forward today’s study to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link to the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Paul’s ministry and prepare for your own.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).