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How many ministries have you seen where there was a huge disconnect between evangelism and discipleship? Where there was an intense, very focused period of preaching the gospel and plea for conversion but very little follow-up and personal interaction after the fact to encourage growth to maturity. That is why in the Great Commission Christ stressed the need to make disciples … not just converts. That is why Christ trained His key leaders in how to plant churches that would have an ongoing ministry that was well-balanced – not just a para-church ministry that would focus on one aspect of Christianity. If someone is trying to grow as a believer without being plugged into a solid church, they are missing out on what Christ says they really need. College fellowship groups are a great encouragement – but they are not a substitute for the ministry of the local church. Women’s Bible studies can give one a boost during the week; but they are no substitute for fellowship in a solid church.

Apparently Paul was being accused of not having an ongoing concern for the spiritual growth of his converts from Thessalonica. Remember the very difficult circumstances of the church plant there. Remember: Severe opposition and persecution arose immediately and the missionary team was forced to flee. The gospel enemies were trying to persuade these young believers that they had been victimized by some hit-and-run spiritual con artists who had no personal long-term interest in their well-being. Instead, the missionary team blew into town with an elaborate dog and pony show; tried to bilk the people with a false message; and then when the heat was turned up they showed their true colors by taking off … never to be heard from again. They could care less about you poor dupes. Why do you follow their teachings? Why don’t you switch your loyalties over to us? They don’t have any real love for you folks.

Paul has already shown that his care for them when he was present with them was like a tender-hearted mother and like a strong father with vision who nurtures his children to maturity. Now he develops this image of parental concern even further in the context of long-term family fellowship – not just how he cared for them at the planting of the church, but his ongoing concern for them and desire to revisit them despite this period of physical separation.

Stedman: On one occasion when Jesus was informed that his mother and brothers were waiting for him, he said of those he was teaching, “These are my mother and father and brother” {cf, Matt 12:47-49, Mark 3:32-35}, thereby indicating that a spiritual tie is as rich and deep as a physical tie – and oftentimes more so.

I wonder where the idea ever arose that Paul was stern and cold? You cannot read this letter without sensing the warmth of his heart and the depth of his love. At the time he wrote this letter, he was ministering alone in the city of Corinth. He was feeling the loneliness of that moment. Being far away from loved ones is a very unpleasant experience. Forgetting the danger that had driven him from Thessalonica, and the cruelty he had experienced there, he longed to be with them again. He even tried to go to see them again but was prevented by Satanic interference.

New section of the epistle – will take more than 1 week to cover . . .


– FAMILY FELLOWSHIP (cover this today)





Seems almost too basic; that such a concept would not need much explanation or exposition; a local church should function as an extended family – there must be that love and concern for each other; How much you desire to be with someone is a good indicator of how much you care for them; look at how parents long to be with their children during difficult times in their lives;

Simple Outline:

– Desire Expressed (and attempts at reunion made)

– Desire Opposed (by Satan)

– Desire Realized (at the coming of Christ)

A. Desire Expressed — Separation Brings Longing For Family Reunion (:17-18a)

1. (:17a) The Emotional State of Separation — described as being orphaned

“But we, brethren, having been bereft of you for a short while – in person, not in spirit – “

Addresses them as “brethren” – introducing this context of family fellowship right up front – intimate form of address

Had departed reluctantly – forced out; not by their own choosing

“bereft” – where we get our English word for “orphan”

Usually we think of orphans in terms of the children being bereft of their parents; here Paul turns around the analogy – but same emotions involved in this state of separation:

(both sides in this relationship felt orphaned – Which side has it worse? They still have each other; missionary team has to start all over in another city)

– Abandonment – is there something wrong with me; Why me?

Can you imagine parents just abandoning their children; leaving them for someone else to raise; running away with no return address; making no efforts to contact or to see you; all the unanswered questions of what are my parents like? What do they think of me?

Often a traumatized state – circumstances might have been quite tragic

– Loneliness – you look around and everyone else has a Mom and Dad; they have a stable family that supports and loves them and cares for them; no joy in going it alone

– Insecurity – worries about the future; Who will take care of me? What will happen to me?

– Disconnected – nobody to share their fears or their dreams

Many orphans grow up with lingering feelings of not belonging to anyone or to anything; There is a strong desire to be accepted. There is also a sense of separation, of longing – always searching for an identity rather than being labeled an orphan – an outcast.

Paul emphasizes two positive, mitigating circumstances:

a. Only for a short duration – for a limited time

Must always have an eternal perspective

Part of enduring any trial is the recognition of its brevity compared to Eternity

Rom. 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Paul will be talking about this coming glory in vs 20 – when this unpleasant state of separation will be reversed

Hiebert: It is a unique combination of two time designations, “for a season” and “for an hour”, and is apparently stronger than either alone. When they had been separated from them for but a brief period, the feeling of bereavement overcame them. The length of the separation intensified the pain. That the missionaries were unable to be away from them for a single hour without a deep sense of loss proved the strength of their affection for their converts.

b. Only in person, not in spirit – not as regards abiding inward affection

Not out of sight, out of mind …

– Fellowship of the Spirit not limited to physical presence, face-to-face;

but certainly enhanced by that

– Prayer is one way that concern is expressed when you cannot be present; Paul felt daily the burden of all the churches

– Communication is also key – letter writing

2. (:17b) The Efforts directed towards Reunion — haste, earnestness, great zeal involved

“were all the more eager with great desire to see your face”

Hiebert: The noun desire generally has the evil connotation of sinful desire or lust; its use here is one of the few instances in the New Testament where it has a good sense (Lk 22:15; Phil 1:23).

Concept of Reunions – school reunions – whether high school or college;

Look at church reunions to celebrate significant milestone anniversaries;

Karen had opportunity to fly back to San Antonio to her high school fellowship group;

her roots as a young believer; with her sister

– involves planning; setting the date and reserving it

– involves expense and sacrifice

– involves great anticipation to get back together and catch up

– amazing how you can pick back up with those relationships despite so much

time spent apart and you are still very close to one another

Bruce: Cf. Gal. 4:20, where he wishes he could be present right then with his Galatian converts and show them by his tone of voice the intensity of feeling which could not be adequately expressed in written words

Some things cannot be communicated adequately except in person; you can’t read someone’s body language or perceive their intentions in an email

MacArthur: a longing that did not derive simply from the sentiment of friendship and socialization but from his sense of responsibility for their spiritual welfare. Paul exhibited the same trait for which he commended Epaphras, “For I testify for him that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13) . . .

“seeing one’s face” means to come into intimate communication with him or her (cf. Gen. 33:10; 48:11; Ex. 10:29; 1 Thess 3:10; 2 John 12)

3. (:18a) The Emotional Desire to Return to them

“For we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, more than once – “

Specific instances where it sounds like Paul wanted to make plans to come visit –

So maybe Jason had not pledged that Paul would not return??

Paul answers 2 very basic questions:

– How much do I want to see you?

– How hard have I been trying to see you?

Remember the TV show Lassie? When Lassie was separated from Timmy, look at the efforts he made to overcome every obstacle to miraculously return home and be reunited with the one he loved; those reunion scenes were precious

Hiebert: Paul felt constrained to make this personal assertion since he has been the chief object of attack in the insinuations that the missionaries did not wish to come back. Further, it was necessary to distinguish himself from his associates as Timothy, and possibly also Silas, had actually returned since the beginning of the work at Thessalonica.

Zeisler: Time and again in this short section Paul refers to the absolute necessity he feels, the burden he carries, to be with these people; to be able to put his arms around them and to speak to them face to face; to enjoy their company and to serve and show his love for them. This is a much different proposition than saying, ”Let’s be on one another’s prayer list.” That is very important, but it is certainly way short of this inability to endure being separated from his friends that Paul expresses. How important it is to spend time with those people whom God has given us for special relationships.

B. Desire Opposed — Satan Brings Opposition to Family Discipleship and Maturity (:18b)

“yet Satan thwarted us”

Hiebert: The word literally means “to cut into.” It was used as a military term in later Greek to picture an enemy force cutting up (or destroying) a road so as to make it impassable. Also used to denote any hindrance in general and conveys the thought of obstacles preventing the accomplishment of an intended movement.

Paul had good intentions, but he didn’t control the situation; he had to resort to Plan B to assure these believers of his concern for them

4 Insights regarding Satan’s Opposition:

1. Satan actively opposes God’s kingdom program

Other references to Satan opposing the Apostle Paul

Rom. 15:22 – Paul repeatedly hindered in his plans from visiting Rome

Gal. 5:7 – Satan hinders the believers from continuing on in the Christian race

Bruce: Satan is the adversary par excellence; his main activity is putting obstacles in the path of the people of God, to prevent the will of God from being accomplished in and through them. Cf. 3:5

Zeisler: Satan is committed to keeping us from having deep and valuable Christian relationships. There is a war going on, and one effect of that war is to keep Christians from being able to love each other.

MacArthur: [examples of Satan opposing the kingdom of God]

– the devil tempted Christ (Matt. 4:3-10)

– he opposes the gospel (Matt. 13:19; 2 Cor. 4:4)

– he performs counterfeit miracles (Ex. 7:11; Acts 8:9-24; 13:8; cf. 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev. 16:14)

– he seeks to deceive believers (2 Cor. 11:3, 14; Eph. 6:11)

– he perpetrates lies and murders (1 Kings 22:22; John 8:44)

– he attacks individual churches (Acts 5:1-11; Rev. 2:9, 13, 24; 3:9)

– he especially attacks spiritual leaders (Job 1:6 – 2:8; Luke 22:31-32; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; 1 Tim. 3:7)

2. God’s sovereignty extends even to the activities of Satan that oppose the gospel

Look at Satan’s attacks against Job; had to function within the boundaries established by God

1:12 “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”

2:6 “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life”

42:2 “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” – there is our key word!

Stedman: The book of Job says that Satan had to come before God and get permission from him to afflict Job’s body. This man lost everything – his family, home and wealth; and he suffered terribly from boils which covered his whole body. But God had allowed it. The end of the book reveals what was accomplished by that suffering, but it was all hidden for the moment from Job’s eyes. So, too, it is hidden from our eyes. But the Bible reveals there is a malevolent power of evil at work. There are demonic beings, master manipulators, that are able to lead people about, putting thoughts in their minds and planting obstacles in the path of the gospel.

How is Satan’s opposition discerned differently from that of the Holy Spirit restraining and changing the plans of the missionary team??

Acts 16:6-7 where the Holy Spirit did not allow them to go preach the gospel in Asia or Bithynia

3. Satan’s opposition motivates us to pray for open doors for the gospel ministry

May lead us in different directions to accomplish God’s purposes

4. Satan’s opposition never thwarts the purposes of God so we should not be frustrated or discouraged or defeated

– part of God’s program of trials to bring believers to maturity

– cause us to depend on Him; not to act independently and presumptuously – James 4:13-17

– part of God’s guidance strategy to provide direction and open doors elsewhere

Transition: Stedman – opposition underscored for Paul the value of these believers:

Paul considered the spiritual maturing of these believers in Thessalonica and other places his most important work. He is saying, “I have invested my life in you and your growth into mature, whole people. This is the most important thing in the world. When the Lord Jesus comes, I will glow with pride that you have achieved the changes in your life that I so long to see brought about.”

C. Desire Realized — Saved Saints Bring Family Joy and Reward (:19-20) — How important are they?

Zeisler: Somehow the significance with which we view our opportunity to love and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ, and those around us, is going to affect the kind of people we are and the evaluation of us that will be true on the Lord’s day. Do we love and value those people that Christ has given us to be members of his family? Is it supremely important to us that growth, maturity and depth become true of those around us?

1. (:19a) They are Viewed as Valuable

“For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation?”

Theme of awards at point of graduation

Similar references by Apostle Paul to his disciples:

Rom. 1:13 – the fruit of his service

1 Cor. 9:2 — the seal of his apostleship

Phil. 4:1 — his joy and crown

2. (:19b) Their Value will be fully Appreciated at the Return of the Lord Jesus –

When full salvation is realized

“Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming”

“a being alongside of one” – important eschatological term

Time to perform the final evaluation is at the Second Coming; and the only person qualified to make those determinations is the Lord Jesus Himself

1 Cor. 4:5 – do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes

– so Paul did not worry about how others evaluated his service in the present

– in fact he was careful not to even be too introspective himself

– his goal was on being faithful to the master building plan that had been revealed to him

3. (:20) Their Value Reiterated

“For you are our glory and joy.”

doxa = sense of that in which one takes pride (1 Cor. 11:7 – woman is the doxa of the man)


Zeisler: Looking through a high school yearbook is a very amusing way to spend some time. I recommend it to you if you haven’t done it lately. But along with the humor involved I think there is a nostalgia that comes when you check your old yearbook. Yearbooks are part of a large category of things that accomplish that same reflection evaluation purpose in our lives. Diaries, photo albums, scrapbooks, ballads, reunions, dozens of things have been concocted by the human brain to accomplish this purpose of being able to review our lives and check the goals we set for ourselves when we were young.

There is a desire in the heart of man to know whether or not his life has meant something. Whether it has accomplished any worthwhile purpose. That desire is given to us by the Lord, I believe, to reflect on our experience, because there is a day coming when we will go through that process for real and under the most serious conditions. That will happen on the day when the lord returns. All of us who are Christians or are familiar with the Scriptures know that the day of Christ’s return will grant us an opportunity to stand before him and to have him discuss with us what has been important and valuable about our lives. We will have our lives come under his scrutiny and we will receive from him his analysis of the kind of people we have been.

Now let me give you a hint right away. The things that are going to count on the day of the Lord’s return concern people. God made people to last forever, and from eternity’s point of view what matters is what he has been able to use us to accomplish in the lives of people. Those are the clippings that will go in the scrapbook. You may build a thousand widgets in your lifetime, or found a great library, or walk on the moon, but what is going to be measured on the final day is what the Lord has been able to do in your life for the sake of building the character of those who have been created in his image. . .

when the Lord does return the thing that will give us delight is not so much the time we spend in looking at ourselves, but our joy will be when we see what God has done in other lives through us. We will see the way in which our obedience and service to him has produced growth, maturity and beauty in the lives of others around us.



What will be your hope or glory or crown of exultation when the Lord returns??