Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1119 MP3 Audio File Video File

Standing Fast

(1 Thess. 3:6-10)

Delivered 06/12/22

Good morning, Bereans. We are working our way through 1 Thessalonians. We looked last week at verses 1-5 and saw Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians. At the personal cost of being left alone in Athens and then in Corinth, Paul had sent Timothy back to Thessalonica because he was very concerned for their spiritual stability.

For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.  1 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV

"For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith"Paul could not go himself, so he sent Timothy. We don’t know whether Timothy traveled by land or sea, but whatever his route and means of transport were, the journey was not a short one. The trip from Athens to Thessalonica was approximately 220 miles overland—a journey that would have taken ten to eleven days. If Timothy had remained there for a minimum of a week, the whole trip from Athens to Thessalonica and then to Corinth beyond Athens would have taken approximately a month.

Paul was greatly concerned, praying constantly that the persecution had not caused these new believers to turn from the Lord. Paul told them that his concern for their faith was, "For fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain"the "tempter" here is a reference to Satan.   

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.  1 Corinthians 7:5 ESV

Satan is found in Matthew 4:3 tempting Christ.

Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." Matthew 4:1-3 ESV

This "tempter" is the Devil and Satan. Satan and his demons were real spirit beings who opposed Yahweh and His people. In many texts where Satan is mentioned, it can be talking about the people that Satan is using, but behind those people, is the spiritual power of Satan, the divine being. Although the Thessalonians’ contemporaries were driving the persecution, the power of the tempter was orchestrating this battle. Through the ministry of Christ, they were all defeated and destroyed in A.D. 70 at the return of Christ when judgment took place.

The word translated "tempt" can be neutral in the sense of "test" or negative in the sense of tempting with a view toward destruction. Satan’s intent is obviously to disable the Thessalonians’ faith. The temptation of the tempter was not enacted simply to cause them to commit some general sin or sins but rather it involved the specific sin of apostasy.

Paul was concerned that his "labor would be in vain"—Paul knew the pain of people trying to destroy his ministry. Judaizers came in after him in Galatia with a false gospel (Gal 1:6–10). Some people in Corinth turned on him (2 Cor 12:19–21). A certain group of Christians schemed to make Paul miserable in Rome (Phil 1:15–18).

The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  Philippians 1:17 ESV

Paul knew that because of persecutions and temptations that apostasy was a very real possibility for the young believers in Thessalonica. For those reasons, he anxiously awaited Timothy’s return to bring him news. He most likely waited for over a month.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—1 Thessalonians 3:6 ESV

"But now that Timothy has come to us from you"—"But now"—denotes the contrast between Paul’s anxiety and his present condition of ecstatic joy. This is a drastic change. Thank God for "but nows." Look at this one in Ephesians 2.

remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:12 ESV

This was all of us, "having no hope and without God in the world". Notice the next verse.

But now in Christ Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 ESV

"But now"—this denotes the contrast between their present condition and that prior to conversion. Thank God for the "but now."

Paul’s "but now" in our text is not this dramatic but it’s close, as we’ll see in a minute. Paul was so thrilled with the news that he wrote to them immediately.

"And has brought us the good news"—Paul had feared the worst as we saw in verse 5, but the news was the best. The words "good news" is the translation of the Greek verb euangelizo.  The Greek verb euangelizo means "to bring or announce good news." The noun euangelion, means: "good news." Both words are derived from the noun angelos, which means "messenger." In Classical Greek, a euangelos was one who brought a message of victory or other political or personal news that caused joy. The noun euangelion became a technical term for the message of victory, though it was also used for a political or private message that brought joy.

This is the only use of euangelizo in the New Testament where it does not refer to the Gospel of Christ. Paul takes the term reserved usually for the message of salvation by grace through faith and says it was that kind of good news, thrilling news. The news from Timothy was that they were good ground, they weren't rocky soil, they weren't weedy ground, they didn't get choked out or burned off, they were good ground producing fruit.

"Of your faith and love"—this phrase can have different meanings. It can mean orthodox doctrine and loving care for one another or it could refer to faithfulness and love toward God. Both work here.

Paul often links faith and love. We saw this earlier in this letter.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 ESV

Notice what he says to the Galatians.

For in Christ Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:6 ESV

What I want to remind you of today is that faith works through love. The word "works" is from the Greek word energeo which means "to be operative, be at work, put forth power; show one's self operative." Our faith is to "put forth power" through love.

We just looked at James chapter 2 a few weeks ago, but let me remind you what James has to say about faith and love.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  James 2:17 ESV

James' point is that works are actually the key to the vitality of faith. James' analogy shows he is writing about the necessity of having works if our faith is to stay alive. James is writing to Christians. Unless we act on our faith and live it out, our faith rapidly decays into dead orthodoxy. Good works are the spirit which animates the entire body. Without such works, our faith dies. This does not affect our eternal destiny, but it does affect our temporal life and the preserving of it from judgment.

What are works? I think if we examine the context of the book of James chapter 2, we will see that the works that James is talking about are love.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.  James 2:8 ESV

This is exactly what Paul tells us in Galatians. He says that faith works through love. If your faith doesn't produce love, it is a dead faith and is in danger of temporal judgment. The moral dynamic of faith is love. Since faith is invisible, a persons' possession of faith is dependent upon his verbal testimony alone. Faith is static, but love is always active. Love is obedience to God's revealed will.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  John 14:15 ESV

Love is active, it does something, and without it, faith dies. Verse 17 says that if faith is by itself (without love), it is dead.

J. Hampton Keathley lll writes, "The point is that a stable, growing, and active faith will lead to acts of love. An active faith—one living in the light of the gospel and the person of God and His promises—will be productive in loving ministry for others. A person’s faith can be real, a genuine trust in Christ, but it can become dormant and unfocused and fundamentally unfruitful because of carnality or failure to walk and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ."

When Timothy witnessed the Thessalonians’ faith in God, their mutual love and their love for God, it was evident that they had not yielded to the tempter but had tenaciously held to the Gospel; they were good soil producing fruit. Their faith had endured Satan’s temptations and the Jews’ assaults.

John Calvin calls these two qualities of faith and love "The entire sum of true piety." He adds, "Hence all that aim at this twofold mark during their whole life are beyond all risk of erring: all others, however much they may torture themselves, wander miserably." (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 268)

"And reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you"this is the second aspect of the "good news." The persecution nor the false teachers had embittered this church against Paul. Far from having a bad memory of Paul and his companions or hostility toward them for leaving, they had warm and kindly memories. Their separation from the church was only physical and not emotional.

So, Timothy showed up in Corinth and said: "Paul, they are doing awesome! They are in love with Yahweh, and they also love you. They are standing their ground and their faith is growing and they are bearing fruit.  They love you, Paul, and they long to see you.

for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.  1 Thessalonians 3:7 ESV

"In all our distress and affliction"—Paul had been going through hard times in every city where he preached. He was unjustly beaten, put in the stocks, and thrown into prison in Philippi. He was forced to leave Thessalonica because of persecution. The Jews in Thessalonica followed him to Berea, stirring up the crowds against him, forcing him to leave. He saw some fruit in Athens, but mostly jeers and rejection.

Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, and his coming to that city was marked by difficulty. He said of his coming to Corinth:

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 1 Corinthians 2:3 ESV

Paul's problems in Corinth are stated in Acts 18.

And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."  Acts 18:6 ESV

Paul faced affliction in Corinth along with distress. Both words are used together in Job 15:24 (LXX) of one who is terrified and overpowered. It is no wonder then that the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision at Corinth saying,

"Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." Acts 18:9-10 ESV

In the midst of intense pressure over preaching the Gospel, the good news from Thessalonica comforted Paul and brought great joy.

"We have been comforted about you through your faith"when he heard that they were standing firm in their faith, he was reassured that he had not labored there in vain.

In a passage very similar to this one, Paul speaks about his own afflictions and how the coming of Titus with news from the church brought him encouragement.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 ESV

What Paul says next is pretty amazing.

For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.  1 Thessalonians 3:8 ESV

"For now we live"—I think that Paul is using metaphorical language to express his release from the anxiety because of the good news about this church. When Paul received this word from Timothy, he was in the midst of persecution and in real danger of death at Corinth. Maybe for him and his companions the good news about this church was like a resurrection. This news was life-giving and that is probably why he called it euangelizo.

Commenting on "For now we live" G.K. Beale writes, "The mention of living, however, is probably not figurative but refers to actual salvific life in relationship with God…the successful outcome of their life in Christ is a fruit demonstrating the genuineness of Paul's own life in Christ."

What? So, if they had fallen away from the faith as Paul feared, did that mean that Paul wasn’t saved? How does their fruitfulness demonstrate the genuineness of Paul’s life in Christ?

Are you familiar with the expression, "Get a life?" It is often said to someone who finds pleasure in something that others regard as insignificant. I think that many believers today would say to Paul, "Get a life!" because the real meaning of life for Paul was found in seeing believers become strong and firm in their stand in the Lord. The faith of those God entrusted to him is for Paul the mission of his life. The good news not only has comforted but also refreshed, rejuvenated, and energized Paul. His well-being is deeply bound up with the Thessalonians’ well-being. What an illustration of other-centered living! Quite a contrast to the "me" centered mentality of our day.

What if? It might be interesting to ask what Paul’s response would have been if Timothy had told him that the Thessalonians had forsaken the Lord and did not want to see him again. It may have been like a death for Paul. It certainly would have been a profound disappointment. But I’m sure that if that had happened, Paul would have continued to pray for them and would have been determined to revisit them to see why they had turned their backs on Christ. Paul was not a man to give up without a fight.

"If you are standing fast in the Lord"this is a Greek conditional sentence, combining first-class and third-class conditions that are found infrequently in the New Testament. It adds a contingency to Paul's statement. He assumed that they would stand firm, but that remained for him to see. It poses a type of exhortation—they should stand firm in the Lord. The Berean Study Bible translates it like this.

For now we can go on living, as long as you are standing firm in the Lord.  1 Thessalonians 3:8 BSB

Standing fast"—is from the Greek word steko. This word is found only in the New Testament. It is a late koine Greek word. It is a military term that means to be at a point in a war where it is necessary to stand fast, to be stabilized. It is used of a soldier who will not budge from his post no matter how bad the battle gets. Paul is telling them to remain at their post and not move—there must be no compromise with error or sin, doctrine or conduct.

Over and over Paul told the believers to Stand fast." To the Corinthians he wrote:

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV

To the Galatians he wrote:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1 ESV

To the Philippians he wrote:

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.  Philippians 4:1 ESV

He is calling for loyalty to the Lord. The world is full of Christians on the retreat, Christians living in sin. Well, how are we to stand fast? "In the Lord," is a call for a Christ-centered life, for living in dependence upon the Lord and His strength.

Notice what Paul says in Ephesians 6.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV

The word "stand" here is the Greek word histemi. Our word steko comes from the perfect tense of histemi. Ephesians 6 clarifies what it means by "In the Lord."

We are not fighting Satan, demons, or gods today; but, as believers, we are in a battle. We fight to maintain relationships. We battle with our own fleshly lusts. Life is a struggle. And as Christians, we battle the worldview and regulations of non-believers. But we (twenty-first century believers) are not fighting against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, or against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. That battle was fought and won by our Lord Yeshua two thousand years ago.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Ephesians 6:10 ESV

"Be strong" here is literally "be continually strengthened." In the original text, it's in the present tense. The passive verb suggests that we are not the ones who strengthen ourselves; we continually depend on the Lord to strengthen us.

The prepositional phrase, "in the Lord," denotes the sphere from which the strength comes; namely, in the Lord or in union with the Lord. Paul's command to be strong in the Lord rests on his first two chapters where he makes it clear what it means to be in the Lord. The phrase "in the Lord" refers to Christ, not to God, which is consistent throughout this Epistle.

The strong Christian is one who has come to see more and more of his own weakness and propensity towards sin. That awareness drives him to depend all the more on the Lord's strength for anything and everything.

While he was on the run from Saul, David had allied himself with the Philistine king and was about to go into battle against Saul and the forces of Israel when God intervened. David and his men were sent home from the battle. But they arrived to find their city burned and their wives, children, and possessions taken captive by the Amalekites. At that point, David's men were so embittered that they were talking about stoning him.

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.  1 Samuel 30:6 ESV

David strengthened himself in Yahweh, and Yahweh graciously directed David to pursue the raiders and recover all of their families and goods.

That same strength that David depended upon is available to every Christian. You may be at your lowest point. You may be discouraged. It may seem that God's promises are not true. But no matter how much may seem to be against you, you can "be strong in Yahweh and in the strength of His might."

We can have confidence to face pressure, adverse circumstances, and hostile powers knowing that God has put into our lives a power so strong that it raised Yeshua from the dead. This power is available to every person who is in Christ.

From start to finish, the Bible proclaims the mighty power of Yahweh. When fierce enemies threatened to annihilate His chosen people, time and again Yahweh provided deliverance. In one of the most dramatic instances, Sennacherib's army had Jerusalem surrounded. It looked like Israel was doomed. But in response to Hezekiah's prayer, Yahweh delivered His people.

And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. 2 Kings 19:35-36 ESV

Often throughout Scripture, Yahweh reminds His people of the obvious: nothing is too difficult for Him (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:17, 27; Zech. 8:6; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; Rom. 4:21). Our strength comes from our dependence on our union with Him.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  Ephesians 6:11 ESV

The words "of God" denote a genitive of origin and indicate that God provides the armor. Please keep that in mind. They are to put on the armor so they can stand." Stand" is a key word in this section. Paul uses it in verses 11, 13, and 14. Also, the word "withstand" (6:13) comes from a Greek compound word from the root "to stand," and gives the meaning "to stand against." It's a military term for holding on to a position that is under attack. Believers, we are to hold our position, we are to stand theologically against all attacks. And to stand we have to have on the armor of God.

Do you remember where Paul was when he was writing this letter? Paul was in a prison in Rome as he writes this letter. And we know that he was in chains.

for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.  Ephesians 6:20 ESV

So, he was chained. And he had standing before him and around him a Roman soldier.

So many have suggested that Paul got the idea of putting on the full armor of God from the armor of the Roman soldier. That may be, but it also may be that he was thinking about Isaiah 11:5, which says of the Lord:

Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.  Isaiah 11:5 ESV

Or Isaiah 49:

He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified." Isaiah 49:2-3 ESV

Or, maybe Isaiah 59:

He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.  Isaiah 59:17 ESV

What do these texts from Isaiah have in common? If you're familiar with Isaiah, you will recognize immediately that Isaiah 11 is the great chapter of the Messianic king which depicts how he's going to come and establish his kingdom. Isaiah 49 is one of the great Servant of Yahweh songs. And Isaiah 59 is a Messianic chapter; it has to do with Christ. All three passages, then, are passages that speak of the Lord Yeshua, the Christ as the warrior king of God.

The fact that he draws this description from the Old Covenant Messianic passages suggests that he's really thinking of Yeshua as the warrior, and we are in Him. Therefore, we have His strength, His power, and His authority in the trials of life as we trust in Him.

The armor is just a graphic way of saying what Paul says in Romans 13.

But put on the Lord Yeshua the Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  Romans 13:14 ESV

In other words, Christ Himself is our armor. Let me just look at one of the pieces of this armor. In verse 15 we see what I believe is the key to standing fast.

and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  Ephesians 6:15 ESV

Shoes are important to stability; if you can't stand, you can't do much of anything. An athlete needs the proper shoes and so does the Christian. Shoes give us stability. The "gospel of peace" is the good news of the Gospel. Man was at war with God, man was an enemy of God. But all those who have trusted Christ and in his work on the cross are no longer God's enemies.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, Colossians 1:21-22 ESV

How are we presented before Him? Holy and blameless and above reproach. That is our position. The good news of the Gospel is that through the finished work of Christ, we are at peace with God. God is on our side. We can take everything this fallen world throws at us if we have on the shoes that anchor us in the truth of God's love. I am unmovable, I am stable in the fact that GOD IS ON MY SIDE. And since God is on my side, I can stand fast. Are you anchored in the fact that God is on your side?

Tim Shenton in his commentary on Thessalonians says: "Genuine faith is not destroyed by trials." Really? Then why was Paul so concerned for the Thessalonians to stand fast? Why was he worried that he may have labored in vain.

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 1 Thessalonians 3:9 ESV

"For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you"their thankfulness to God and their overwhelming joy are expressed in the form of a rhetorical question, a literary technique sometimes used to convey vivid emotion The question that is posed is strikingly similar to that of the psalmist, who asked:

What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?  Psalms 116:12 ESV

The word "return" is from the verb antapodounai which means "to repay," in either a positive or a negative sense. It frequently appears in Greek literature in the context of returning thanks for some benefit received.

Seneca said, "Not to return gratitude for benefits is a disgrace, and the whole world counts it as such." Thanksgiving was understood as a debt that one owed to one’s benefactor. This principle was at the heart of Paul’s thanksgiving to God for the Thessalonians. Paul and his coworkers have received a great gift from God—the news that the Thessalonians stood firm in their faith—and now in response to that benefit they seek a way to repay the debt of thanks adequately.

The fact that the Christians in Thessalonica remained steadfast in the faith in spite of their afflictions is not due to just their own merits or Paul' preaching. The credit must go to the grace of God working in their lives. So, Paul thanks God.

"For all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God"—why is Paul joyful? It is because the Thessalonians are standing fast in the Lord. John expressed this same sentiment in.

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:3-4 ESV

So, what brings you joy?

as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and s what is lacking in your faith?  1 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV

"As we pray most earnestly night and day"—"night and day" is the Jewish order of time. This reflects Paul's constant, persistent prayer life.

The adverb "most earnestly" is a very strong, triple compound. It consists of "huper," which means "above or beyond, above or beyond what we can ask or think." Then he joins the word "ek" to it, which intensifies the force of the verb to which it is connected to a level of perfection. So, what he's saying is "huper"—above; "ek"—above, to a level of perfection. The last word is "perissos," which means to exceed to a degree that you go beyond all things that can be. You get it? Huperekperisso literally means "to go beyond all things in an inexhaustible way"! This word is only used one other time in the New Testament.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, Ephesians 3:20 ESV

"Far more abundantly"—is huperekperisso, "to go beyond all things in an inexhaustible way"! Whatever you can imagine, Yahweh can do far above it. He is unlimited in power.

"That we may see you face to face and s what is lacking in your faith"did he eventually see them again? The narrative in Acts and the geographical notes in the Pauline letters give abundant evidence that God truly did grant this request because Paul returned to Macedonia (Acts 19:21–22; 20:1–6; 1 Cor. 16:5; 2 Cor. 1:16; 1 Tim. 1:3). Paul had to keep praying for about five years before God granted him the opportunity to return to Thessalonica.

what is lacking in your faith"& " is the Greek karartizo. It means "to fit together or adjust, restore, repair, equip." It was used of setting bones and repairing fishing nets (Mark 1:19), healing a wounded relationship (Gal 6:1), or s ing a military operation, which is the sense employed here. Spiritually, it has the idea of making something what it ought to be, i.e., equipped for ministry, stable, sound doctrinally, Christ-like in character. It is not difficult to understand that a church which is hardly a year old would be lacking in faith.

The way that would have completed what was lacking in their faith was by teaching them God’s Word. This is similar to his desire for the Roman Christians.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you —Romans 1:11 ESV

He knew they were still babes in Christ and needed further instruction in the things of God in order to reach a more perfect obedience to the principles they had already been taught.

Oh, that we would be more like Paul, that we would find our truest joy in seeing believers stand fast in the Lord. When we fail to stand fast, everybody loses. So, let’s do all we can to help each other stand fast in the Lord.

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