Paul’s Frustrated Travel Plans

[You are encouraged to read the original post at Dr Shogren’s blog.]

Before we begin…

Dr Gary Shogren

Note: this post is the ninth in a series that I gave at San Pedro Christian Fellowship, a small congregation of English-speaking believers in Costa Rica. Those who live in the Valle Central are more than welcome to visit us, Sundays at 10:30am. This expository series is based on my volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament; readers might want to acquire that commentary if they wish to see the exegetical work behind these talks – warning: it’s written at a technical level. These posts in 1 Thess are Sermon Notes, not polished messages.

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Exposition

1 Thess 2:17-3:13

17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 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? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

3 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.13 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.

INTRO – frustration at travel plans

2:18 – following hard on the first statement is that “Satan blocked” Paul and Silas (2:18c). Paul introduces this event with a bare “and” (καὶ), which seems to be a deliberate understatement on his part. It is an abrupt, harsh description, without elaboration:Satan just shut us down.

3:6 – but Timothy has just now come

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.

My impression is that Paul knew the Parable of the Sower, and perhaps that is in his mind as he worries about the new disciples.

Matthew 13:18-21 – “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Persecution had come, Satan had held Paul and Silas back: what in the world is happening in Thessalonica?

Matt 13:23 – 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Not only are they surviving, not only thriving, they are going out and winning more people to Christ

 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

Paul is not a pessimist, but he’s also not an optimist. When he gets persecuted, how does he deal with it? Not by saying, They whipped me 39 times, at least it wasn’t 45 times. Not by saying, Well, things will get better (optimist). Not by saying, Well, other people have it worse than I do.

NO – he interprets his experience through the lens of the gospel of Jesus.

A few months before he wrote 1 Thessalonians, these events took place, recorded in Acts 16:22–26 (NIV) –

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

So, did Paul turn to his companion and ask, Silas, how you feeling? It’s not too bad, is it!

No – but they interpreted their experience in God’s way: v. 25, they had their feet in the stocks (couldn’t sit, lie down, move), but they “were praying and singing hymns to God”

Hymn – for example, singing a psalm, for example Psalm 7 (NIV)

Psalm 7

Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.
Awake, my God; decree justice….
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure—
you, the righteous God
who probes minds and hearts.
10 My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart…
17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.

FURTHER Paul says:

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.13 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.

So Paul interprets his experience by the truth of God: Yes, they have travel plans they cannot follow, but…

  • We have joy
  • We pray night and day to see you
  • We pray to “supply what is lacking in your faith” – anything they need to live the Christian life, for example, more information about the Second Coming (ch 4)

11-13 – here Paul not only tells HOW he prays, he ACTUALLY PRAYS

APP – how to teach people to pray, show them how

  • See you, love each other (other Christians), love or everyone else (world, evangelism)
  • Strengthen your hearts – make you a stronger person
  • Blameless and holy – we don’t just wait until Jesus comes to make us perfect, we get on the path now
  • Presence of God… = second coming of Jesus, “when” our Lord comes (holy ones = holy angels

Matthew 24:31 (NIV)

31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

1 Thessalonians 4:15–16 (NIV)

15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Christ will come with the whole army

AGAIN – Paul interprets his experience not only through what he is going through this week, but also in the light of Jesus’ return

In our day to day frustrations, especially with other Christians – we should pray for them, thinking about where we are going to end up – we will spend forever with other believers, so the Spirit can probably help us to put up with them for a few days, months, years on this earth – and others should be able to put up with us as well.

In prayer, we train ourselves to see people as God sees them; seek the best for them, which is what God wills for them; have the loving attitude that he has; ask for the things which we know that he wants for them.

__________________

This expository series is based on my volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament; readers might want to acquire that commentary if they wish to see the exegetical work behind these talks – warning: it’s written at a technical level.

Visit Dr Shogren’s blog to comment on his article.

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/cmc-gary-shogren-sm.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Copyright Gary Shogren.

Gary has a PhD in New Testament Exegesis. He serves as Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica[/author_info] [/author]

Visit Dr. Gary Shogren’s blog!

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