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© Rosemary Bardsley 2023


In 1Thessalonians 3:6 – 9 Paul tells the Thessalonians how he felt when Timothy came back from Thessalonica.

Read 3:6 – 9. Answer these questions:
What did Timothy tell Paul about the Thessalonian believers?
Verse 6a:

Verse 6b:

Verse 8:

How did Paul feel about that?
Verse 7:

Verse 8:

Verse 9:

Timothy has assured Paul that the Thessalonians are standing firm in the faith and in the Lord, and that this faith is being demonstrated in love. Paul’s great sense of relief is obvious – now, having this good report from Timothy, he says ‘we really live’. He is filled with great joy because of the Thessalonians, despite of the distress and persecution he is constantly suffering.

In 2:19 & 20 Paul wrote ‘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.’

What similar feelings did Paul express in these letters to other believers?
2Corinthians 2:2 – 4

2Corinthians 7:13, 14

Philippians 1:3 – 8

Paul’s joy is not just the joy of one friend for another, but the joy of one who has been used by God in the salvation of these believers. They are very precious to Paul. The fact that their faith endures is evidence that it is genuine – evidence that he did not labour in vain, evidence that they with him are being kept by God. And this leads us to two significant questions about ourselves and this same kind of joy:

[1] On the one hand: Do we have this kind of connection with those with whom we serve? Are we filled with joy when we see people growing in their faith and love? Does is concern us when we don’t know how they are going?

[2] On the other hand: Does our faith and love bring Paul’s kind of joy to those who minister to us – those who teach us God’s truth? Are we a delight to their hearts?



Paul, Silas and Timothy were people of both action and prayer. In 1:2 &3 Paul wrote ‘We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your ...’ In 2:13 he wrote ‘we also thank God continually’ because the Thessalonians had received the word of God. When he was concerned about them, and prevented from going to them, he sent Timothy to find out how they were. Now having received Timothy’s report, he again mentions his prayers.

Read 3:9 – 13. Answer these questions?
What was Paul thankful for?

How often did he pray about them?

How did he pray?

What did he specifically pray for?

Why did he pray about those things?



By ‘theology’ I mean the set of beliefs about God. What beliefs about God were at the back of his prayers, that both motivated and enabled him to pray as he did?

C.1 God is there
Paul knows that God is there, and that he is a real, personal God – a God who knows, who sees, who hears, who feels, who wills. Some ‘gods’ are created by humans, with no real existence other than the visible, tangible, non-living, physical idol. Some ‘gods’ exist only in the minds of those who believe in them.

But Paul’s God, the God to whom he prays continually is not like those ‘gods’ created by human hands or human minds.

What do these Old Testament verses say about the contrast between Paul’s God and so-called ‘gods’?
Isaiah 41:21 – 24


Isaiah 44:6 – 20


Isaiah 46:1,2,6 – 9


Jeremiah 2:5 – 13, 26 – 28


In the early years of the church, one of the accusations against Christians was that Christians were ‘atheists’ – that they had no god, because they did not have visible, tangible idols like the Greeks and the Romans. When we read Old Testament verses like these we learn that the many ‘gods’ that are created and visible are not real gods, but the God who is invisible and not created is actually the real one. In its description of faith, Hebrews 11:6 says ‘anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists’. And that is what Paul did, he believed that God actually is there, as a living, personal God. And that is what the Thessalonians did: they turned away ‘from idols to serve the living and true God’ (1Thessalonians 1:9). Against all that they had previously believed. Against all that their fellow-Thessalonians believed. Against their culture and their traditions.

That is what biblical repentance is – a radical, counter-cultural, change of mind about who and what ‘god’ is: a turning away from all human ideas or concepts of ‘god’ to the one, real, living God.

C.2 It is God who saves people
We have noted in an earlier study that Paul said ‘God has chosen you’. Paul clearly believed that if a person has understood and believed and acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord, then God has been at work in that person. God has done it – God has brought them to that place of repentance, that change of mind. We see this in the way Paul prayed for the Thessalonians:

1:2 – ‘we always thank God for all of you ...’

3:9 – ‘how can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of God because of you?’ The fact that the Thessalonians truly believed the gospel gave Paul great joy, but he does not praise the Thessalonians for that; rather, he thanks God for that.

What the Bible teaches about the human spiritual condition makes it absolutely necessary for God to take the initiative and do something. We simply do not have the capacity to save ourselves. We are trapped in a situation of alienation from God in which we are disqualified from ever regaining a relationship with him, and in which his wrath constantly threatens.

What do these verses teach about our inability to save ourselves?
Romans 3:10 – 20

Romans 5:6, 8, 10

Romans 8:7, 8

This is Paul’s theology, or rather his anthropology – that, left to ourselves we have neither the desire nor the ability to make a move towards God. Nor do we have the ability to satisfy his justice. God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – together do all that is needed to save a person. So with great joy Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians.

C.3 It is God who keeps Christian believers faithful
Paul knows that it is useless for him to simply keep instructing the Thessalonian believers how to live. He does to that, and he must do that as a faithful servant of Christ. But he knows that if God was not at work in these Christians their apparent faith would prove to not be real faith at all. If indeed it is God who has brought them to faith, then it is also God who will keep them faithful, who will keep their faith alive and active. This confidence in the on-going work of God in believers motivates Paul to faithfully teach them all that Christ has commanded him to teach. He knows that God will use his teaching to strengthen and grow his people.

So Paul, when he thanks God for the Thessalonians in 1:2, adds in verse 3 that he continually remembers before God and Father their work, labour and endurance that is the evident out-working of their faith in Christ. He knows these qualities are there, and evident in their lives, because God is a work in them.

Then, when he prays for them, his prayers affirm his belief in God’s on-going work in them:

That God will make their love for each other increase – 3:12.

That God will strengthen their hearts - 3:13.

C.4 Paul has the end goal in sight
Paul knows that this life is not all there is. In 1:10 Paul affirmed that an aspect of the Thessalonians’ conversion was that they were now waiting ‘for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath’. In this verse we find: the affirmation of Christ’s physical resurrection; Christ’s presence ‘in heaven’; the coming return of Christ; and the future outpouring of the wrath of God.

In 3:13 Paul prays for the Thessalonians with the return of Christ clearly in mind.

Paul’s prayers reflected his understanding of God. Think about your prayers. What would anyone listening to your prayers discover about your beliefs about God?