by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 September 14, 2014 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(073)Thesis:Paul's commitment to the Thessalonians put a significant part of his "Life" at risk because he tied his "soul" to their decisions about "faith and love".
Introduction:As we have worked our way through Paul's lengthy description of his concerns regarding the Thessalonians and their reactions to the "tempter" and his "temptation" of them to jettison the faith, we have noted that he had made a rather amazing commitment to them at the level of his "soul". His words are, "we imparted not only the Gospel, but also our own souls (2:8)." For Paul, this was not just "relationship building talk". According to 3:8, he actually tied the emotional condition of his "soul" to the rather "iffy" issue of what kind of decisions someone else was making. This sounds almost idolatrous because, according to Paul's own Gospel, "Life" is supposed to be "expected" from God alone. What is Paul saying in this paragraph before us?
My take on his words is that he is expressing a most fundamental reality of the "soul": at least part of its emotional state is determined by the health of the relationships to which he commits himself. There is something very valuable here and we are going to look into it this evening.
I. The Description of the Decisions Made by the Thessalonians.
A. Paul uses the typical word for "proclaiming the Gospel" to describe Timothy's "report".
1. Though the word occasionally refers to "good news" that is not directly "Gospel" related, it is significant that Paul chose to use it in light of the fact that the typical meaning of it is "God's promise of Life through faith".
2. This is further enhanced in 3:8 where he actually ties the emotional condition of his "soul" to the rather "iffy" issue of the choices of others regarding "faith and love".
3. Additionally, he used the term "parakaleo" in 3:7 to describe what happened to him when Timothy made his report.
a. This is significant because in this letter Paul tied "parakaleo" to "the Gospel of God" in 2:2-3.
b. This means that he is describing a reaction in himself to Timothy's report that was a mirror of what happens to a person who "believes" the Gospel.
4. Thus, Paul is almost equating Timothy's "report" with God's "Gospel".
B. Paul's focus is upon what Timothy told him about "the faith and the love" of the Thessalonians.
1. The gist of what Timothy told Paul was that the Thessalonians had "settled" into the Truth so that they were "standing fast in the Lord" (3:8).
a. The issue of "standing fast" is the issue of facing the "tempter" and his "temptation" and firmly rejecting his arguments (3:5).
b. Paul's description of Timothy's objectives in returning to Thessalonica center upon the twin issues of "establishment" regarding "the faith" and "maintaining the concept" of the on-going "summons" in regard to "faith".
2. The central issues are two: what the Thessalonians had "decided" was "valuable" and what they had "decided" was true in light of the problematical issue of being subjected to the "tribulations" of "loving and believing" in an adversarial setting.
a. This means that one issue of "standing fast" is the basic issue of "love".
1) The question we face is this: is he talking about whether a person "loves" God, or is he talking about whether a person settles the question about whether God "loves" that person?
2) It absolutely must begin with the issue of God's love for the person.
a) Genesis 3 reveals that the "tempter" goes about his approach by challenging this reality (revealing that temptation has no power without doubt in this area).
b) The main problem with "tribulations" is the issue of how a loving God would permit His "beloved" to be subjected to such.
c) Thus, at least the beginning of the issue is settling this issue: God can, and does, "love" by subjecting His "beloved" to the tempter.
i. The greatest "good" that anyone can experience is the "good" of being compelled to "choose" to rest in the love of God because everything else leads to death.
ii. "Tribulations" do not lead to death (even physical violence that kills the body does not lead to death); but deciding to reject the reality of God's love for us immediately leads to death.
3) But, there is the necessary corollary: anyone who "believes" in God's love for him/her will reciprocate that love and put himself/herself on the firing line for God.
b. This also means that the other issue of "standing fast" is the issue of "faith".
1) "Love" is fundamentally a "faith" issue: no one can divorce God's "love" for them from their "belief" that God loves them.
2) In this sense, "faith" is the most critical aspect of "standing fast": one continues to "believe" something very critical.
a) This means that "believing for a while" begins with "believing" in God's love and then deciding that His love for us is not real.
b) Thus, the impact of the Gospel stands or falls upon one issue: faith in the love of God for us.
C. But Paul is also reestablished in "Life" by another reality: the Thessalonians have the same attitude toward Paul that he has toward them.
1. This is the final "proof" of the Thessalonians' steadfastness: loving God leads to loving God's messengers.
2. It is typical of those who "believe for a while" that they also only "love for a while" because "loving" is a reciprocation to "being loved" and once that "faith" is jettisoned, so also is the "love" for the messengers of that faith.
II. Paul's Description of His Own Attitude.
A. He declares that at least a portion of his own "Life" is tied to the decisions of the Thessalonians.
B. This is not "idolatry" for one reason: there are two strands in "soul" life.
1. There is the "absolute" strand of "Life" from God in relationship to us that survives and over-compensates for the disintegration of the other strand.
2. And there is the "relative" strand of "Life" that is the outworking of the attitude others take toward us in light of the attitude we have taken toward them.
a. If someone we love decides to hate us, there is Pain (death) in the experience.
b. But if someone we love returns that love, there is Joy (life) in that experience.
C. The secondary strand is real, but it is not the "bottom line".