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1 Thessalonians 3:11-13: A Pastor’s Prayer for the Church

We have seen Paul’s heart in these first 3 chapters, now in we hear a pastor’s prayer.

“I take it that a minister is always praying. He is not always in the act of prayer, but he lives in the spirit of it…If you are a genuine minister of God, you will stand as a priest before the Lord, spiritually wearing the ephod and the breastplate whereon you bear the names of your children, pleading for them within the veil." –Spurgeon

John MacArthur writes: “Certainly Paul was a model of that because even though the act of prayer itself does not occur until verses 11 to 13, it is obvious that he was in the spirit of it and this is sort of the spirit of prayer bursting out in a formal petition…The true pastor and the true elder and the true shepherd prays for his people. The question is, when the pastor prays, what is the nature of his prayer? For what does Paul pray? For what do I pray when I pray for you?”

Verse 11a: “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ…”

These three verses are a prayer to Christ as co-equal with the Father. Paul’s Christology is not something which developed, but was implicit and explicit in all that he wrote. Here we have a prayer directed to Christ, implying his divine nature. Here Paul prays to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This shows that God the Father and Jesus the Son act together as one. The Lord Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). The writers believed and taught that Jesus is God.

“Thus to address the Lord Jesus as the object of their prayer, equally with the Father, is to ascribe full deity to Him. To make Christ one with the Father in the prerogative of hearing and answering prayer is to bracket Him with the Father as equal in power and glory. For a strong monotheist like Paul this would have been unthinkable if he had regarded Christ Jesus as a mere man, however exalted…Here we see implicit in Paul's earliest letter the Lordship of Jesus Christ which is made explicit in the epistle to the Colossians.”–Hiebert

“In the beginning was the Word, (Logos, Living Word) and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The deity of Christ is one of the deepest truths of God’s Word. Christ was not only with God, He is God! Many in the religious world have tried to deny this truth, but it is impossible to refute, because of what the Word of God says. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:29).

When all is said and done, it is God to Whom we must look for the success of the church. Ephesians 3:20,21,“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Only God’s power can transform the church into what He wants it to be! John 6:33, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

Verse 11b: “…direct our way to you.”

It is in a simple passage like this that Paul's mind-set is best seen. For him everything was of God. He prays to God to open a way for him that he may return to Thessalonica. It was to God to Whom he turned for guidance in the day to day problems of life. One of the great mistakes of life is to turn to God only in the overpowering emergencies and the shattering crises.

“Direct” in Greek is kateuthuno it gives a picture of opening up the way by removal of obstacles so that the desired goal may be reached. Paul recognizes the uselessness of personal efforts toward a revisit unless God "clears the way" and removes the obstacles that Satan had previously placed in his path of return which made that path impassable. Paul had learned the secret of Proverbs 3:6 that it is God Who will “direct your paths.” God alone is powerful enough to remove all hindrances that Satan places in our path.

He appeals his case to God, asking that he may be allowed to visit them once more. He was allowed to do this (Acts 20:1-6), but it was three or four years later.

Verse 12: “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you…”

This was not a loveless church, but they still had room to grown in love, because love is an essential mark of the Christian faith.

“Increase and abound” these two words signify an increasing and overflowing abundance.

“Increase,” pleonazo in Greek means superabound, overflow, maximum capacity, to increase, multiply. It suggests an abundance, an increase in number. It means to have or cause to have much, or more than enough, to have a surplus. means to cause to overflow.

“Abound” in Greek is perisseuo, meaning abundance, overflowing, surpassing, to exceed the ordinary.

“And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you” (MSG).

“And may the Lord make you to increase and excel and overflow in love for one another and for all people, just as we also do for you” (AMP).

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love (agape’) for one another” (John 13:34,35).

Paul writes, “And this I pray, that your love (agape’) may abound (overflow) still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9,10).

“Love,” Agape does not depend on the world’s criteria for love, such as attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality. Agape’ is an unconditional, sacrificial love and a love that God is “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:8,9). “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him’ (1 John 4:16).

Believers can easily fall into the trap of blindly following the world’s demand that the one who loves is to feel positive toward the beloved. This is not agape love, but is a love based on impulse. Impulsive love characterizes the spouse who announces to the other spouse that they are planning to divorce their mate. Why? They reason “I can’t help it. I fell in love with another person!” Christians must understand that this type of impulsive love is completely contrary to God’s decisive love, which is decisive because He is in control and has a purpose in mind.

Verse 13a: “…so that He may establish your hearts…”

“Establish” in Greek is sterizo: stand firm, to make firm or stable, to set fast, to fix firmly in a place, to establish, to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, to strengthen.

2 Thessalonians 2:16,17, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen (sterizo) your hearts in every good work and word.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen (sterizo) and protect you from the evil one.”

Romans 1:11, “For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established” (sterizo).

So although it is the God Himself Who ultimately strengthens and stabilizes us, God uses the encouragement and prayers of the saints, the certainty of Christ's return and the truth of His Word and the gospel to supernaturally exert a stabilizing effect on our faith.

“Hearts” does not refer to the physical organ but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. No outward obedience is of the slightest value unless the heart turns to God.

“While we often relate heart to the emotions (e.g., “He has a broken heart”), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” (Matthew 15:19). That’s why you must “watch over your heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23). In a secondary way, however, heart relates to the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions…In most modern cultures, the heart is thought of as the seat of emotions and feelings. But most ancients—Hebrews, Greeks, and many others—considered the heart to be the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom. The New Testament also uses it in that way. The heart was considered to be the seat of the mind and will, and it could be taught what the brain could never know. Emotions and feelings were associated with the intestines, or bowels.” –John MacArthur

Verse 13b: “…blameless in holiness before our God and Father…”

“Blameless” in Greek is amemptos and it means irreproachable, faultless, without defect or blemish and describes not being able to find fault in someone or something. It signifies that whatever charges might be made, no charge could be maintained. It points to the high standard God sets for His children (cf. 1 John 2:1). It must ever be their aspiration and aim to so live that no fault may be found in them, that nothing in their conduct can be censured as evil. This adjective was often used to characterize someone who is flawless in the sight of other people.

The related Greek adverb amemptos is the very word archeologists have found on Christian tombs from ancient Thessalonica. When people wanted to identify a deceased friend or loved one as a Christian, they inscribed "amemptos" or "blameless" on his or her grave, such behavioral blamelessness (not just the imputed and forensic) is the Lord’s desire for His church.

“Holiness” in Greek is hagiosune from hagios, which means holy, it basically refers to separation from what is common or unclean, and consecration to God. Separation from the world involves more than keeping our distance from sinners but also means staying close to God.

Hagios means to be set apart for a specific use or purpose. Includes the idea of taking something filthy, dirty and washing it and setting it apart as something brand new and useful for a different purpose—salvation.

Verse 13c: “…at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

Every chapter in this epistle ends with a reference to the return of Jesus Christ, and as in this section this great truth is applied to motivate expectant daily living. The imminent return of Jesus.

“Coming” is parousia in Greek. “Parousia refers to more than just coming; it includes the idea of presence. Perhaps the best English translation would be arrival. The church’s great hope is the arrival of Jesus Christ when He comes to bless His people with His presence. That glorious truth appears in more than 500 verses throughout the Bible.” –John MacArthur

In another secular Greek writing we find parousia used to refer to the coming of a king or other noted official. The visit of the ruler was accompanied by magnificent ceremonies, delicacies to eat, gifts of money, street improvements, new buildings, addressing of complaints and requests! Sounds like the coming of the King to take His throne in the 1000 year Millennial or Messianic Kingdom!

I’m looking up! Jesus is coming soon!

There are nearly five-hundred prophecies in God’s Word about the second coming of Jesus Christ. One in every thirty verses in the New Testament describe Jesus’ Second Coming (Three-hundred-nineteen references in the two-hundred sixteen chapters of the New Testament). Paul writes about Jesus’ coming fifty times. More than one half of the Old Testament references to Christ refer to His second coming.

So I have the confirmation of God’s Word that Jesus is coming to earth again! If we only had one passage to prove His coming, we would still have to believe. That one passage is John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Jesus also said:

Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

When Jesus was here on earth He was never treated as He should have been.

John 1:10, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”

John 7:5, “For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”

John 7:7, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”

He owned no real estate, “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).

Luke 23:50-53, He was buried in a borrowed tomb

Matthew 27:35, He had only one garment.

He was betrayed by a disciple who swore he would never do that, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them” (Mark 14:10).

Where were His disciples when He was going through His trauma? There was a cloud of dust on the road leading out of Jerusalem as they ran frightened, fearing the same thing would happen to them! Only John stood by Him.

The world mocked Him, spit on Him, scourged Him, jammed a crown of thorns down upon His head, plucked out His beard, beat Him mercilessly, and finally crucified Him. Our word “excruciating” means “out of the cross.” He suffered tremendous pain, indignation and humiliation!

Oh, listen…next time it’s going to be different!

Philippines 2:9-11, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Isaiah 9:6,7, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”

Isaiah 11:1-5, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.”

Luke 1:31-33, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Revelation 11:15, “And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

Now see Him in all His majesty and power:

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God (John 1:1,2). And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp[ sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” -That’s my Jesus and He is coming soon!

The Bible is God’s Word, it is absolute truth! I stand on the inspired (God breathed), infallible, inerrant, and absolutely true Word of God. “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5-NLT).

So when Jesus says, “I will come again” you can take to the bank! It will happen! Even though time has spread over 2000 years between our time and His first coming, it is absolutely true, he will come again. And by the looks of our present world conditions, it won’t be long.

The time is short, we are coming to a new age on earth. We are looking for the glorious return of Jesus Christ to earth, a second Christmas, but this time there will be no lowly stable, no swaddling clothes, no poor parents, no babe in a manger, this time it’s going to be different:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have die, will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.”

It won't be long till we'll be leavin' here

It won't be long we'll be goin' home

Count the years as months, count the months as weeks

Count the weeks as days, any day now, we'll be goin' home

–Andrae Crouch–

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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