25 August 2011

"And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you." (v. 12)


Paul preached the message of Jesus in Thessalonica, a thriving seaport in northern Greece, about 200 miles north of Athens. This was shortly after his trip to Philippi, further east, where he was beaten and imprisoned (see Acts, chapters 16-17). Most of the Thessalonians who believed Paul's message were non-Jews and they were persecuted for their new found faith (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16).

Paul wrote this letter with two companions, Silvanus ('Silas' in the Acts of the Apostles) and Timothy. He wanted to know how the new Christians were getting on so he sent Timothy to find out. In today's passage we discover that Timothy has returned with good news: the Christians of Thessalonica have held onto their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:1-6).

Timothy's report led Paul to thank God for all God was doing and would continue to do in Thessalonica. He also prayed that he would be able to see the Thessalonian church again soon, and that he would be equipped to build up their faith. He knew that faith must be nurtured if it is to continue to grow and to withstand difficulties.

Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians is brief but powerful. It affirms God as father and Jesus as Lord. This means prayers can be said with confidence because they are to the God whose power and love was revealed in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This Jesus will come again, says Paul in verse 13 - a quotation from one of the Old Testament prophets (Zechariah 14:5). In the meantime the Christians of Thessalonica are to love one another and those outside the church, and they are to pursue holiness.

To Ponder

How can you support people who are being persecuted for their beliefs?

Imagine writing a letter to a church you know. What would you give thanks for and what would your prayer be?

Bible notes author: The Revd Caroline Ainger

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