Paul takes this opportunity to express his love for the church as he laments his absence; he misses them. He has wanted to return to them, but Satan has prevented it. Oh how I wish he would have mentioned the how and why of this, but since he didn’t, I guess we’ll never know exactly what Satan did to prevent his return to Thessalonica. It is interesting however to note that Paul clearly attributes his inability to return there to the work of Satan. Think about it: Paul left the city and persecution came upon the church, and now Paul cannot return. I can only assume that Paul had done a mighty work there, mighty enough that Satan was making a major effort to destroy it; thus goes the spiritual battle that still rages today.
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
The church in Thessalonica is Paul’s “glory” for in starting that body of faithful believers, he has indeed done the Lord’s work to build the Kingdom and give glory to God, so much so in fact, that Satan has found it necessary to become involved personally.
We should pay close attention to Paul’s words in 3:1-5, for in these verses he reveals something very interesting. It was driving him crazy that he couldn’t get back to Thessalonica, and when he could stand it no longer, he sent Timothy there to find out about their faith! If I had started a new church somewhere and then heard that it was under persecution, I would worry about their health, if anyone had been hurt or killed, but Paul was worried about their faith; would they falter and return to the old ways? Paul’s priorities were not the same as mine! Doesn’t that mean that I need to rethink my priorities?
Next Paul tells them of the occasion of his writing: Timothy has just returned to him with the news that their faith is secure. Notice that he doesn’t say anything about the physical effects of the persecution; was anyone hurt or killed… just that their faith is firm. Paul expresses quite intimately how thankful he is that their faith is secure, about his joy at the news, and how he prays that he may return to them so that he might provide for their spiritual needs.
I can’t recall the last time I heard anyone talk like that in my lifetime, can you?
So what do we have so far? In 2:1-16 we have Paul talking about putting the message of the gospel into the way we live our lives, and in this passage we have Paul placing spiritual truth above physical distress in an act of love. Then he offers a prayer both for himself and for his readers:
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
He prays that he will be able to return to Thessalonica in v. 11. He prays that their love would increase and overflow in v. 12. He prays that God will strengthen them so they will be “blameless” when Jesus returns in v. 13.
Is there anything missing in this prayer, something we would pray for that Paul didn’t?
Hint: Did Paul mention anything about their persecution?