1 Thessalonians 3:6-12
What Sweet Consolation Fellowship Can Be
As best as we can reconstruct the events, Paul was very concerned about the new-born believers in Thessalonica. He was not there long after the church was formed when he was run off; and then, adding insult to injury, the locals began smearing the Apostle before the believers (Acts 17:1-10). He had not had sufficient time to encourage and teach them in the faith as he would have liked. Now that he was absent, how were they getting along? So Paul relates that he sent Timothy to check on their progress, only to discover now upon his return that his fears were completely groundless. And what wonderful news that was to the Apostle!
So now Paul rejoices in the news Timothy reports of the Thessalonians’ well-being. And not only that but “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.” Paul faced affliction on a daily basis, a sample of which he provided in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29, in which list he specifically mentioned his anxiety for all the churches. He didn’t bemoan these afflictions but fully expected them and assured the Thessalonians that they would endure the same (3:4). How did Paul cope with his numerous sufferings? How did he manage under all the stress? No doubt, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was his primary comfort. But here we learn of another which was that the churches were continuing in the faith despite persecution AND longing to see the Apostle again. And it was their welfare and reciprocal desire to see him that made the Apostle’s day.
And the point I wish to emphasize in all of this is that Christian love and fellowship is one of the many bulwarks our Lord gives us against the struggles of this world. Christians need encouragement in their walk. The world, our own sinful natures, and the devil are ever present to trip us up. It is the knowledge that we are loved by our brothers and sisters in Christ, that they long to see us, that they are only a phone call away, or a prayer of intercession away, that oftentimes brings us through our times of trial. In one place, Paul calls the Thessalonians his hope and joy before the Lord at his coming (2:19), and here says he lives if they stand firm in the Lord. We might suggest that these are hyperboles as Paul lives and rejoices because of the Lord, but we get the point: It is sharing in the Holy Spirit and hope of Jesus’ coming that binds believers together, which unbelievers cannot understand. We carry one another and shall one day carry one another across the finish line.