Paul’s first section of this very personal and warm letter comes to a close with a pastoral prayer for the young church. Chapter 3 brought us some insight into the passionate longings of Paul’s heart for the Christians in Thessalonica. Paul was a man gripped by the concerns and needs of the people to whom he ministered. He was also supremely aware of the One who ultimately supplied their needs. What Paul longed for, he then prayed for and asked God to “work in and work out” in their lives. Now at the end of chapter three, we see Paul so tuned into God and his dependence upon His grace, he leads right into a pastoral prayer for the church!
The emphasis of verses 11 -13 aims to amplify verse 10, “…that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith.” Paul was praying that he could return to Thessalonica and provide more instruction and growth in the midst of their trials. The Thessalonians were like young plants with tender roots that held firm against the persecution. While the church was responding well, they still had much room for growth and maturity in the faith. The immaturity or lack of knowledge in specific areas (Sexual purity, laziness, future hope, etc) will be addressed and ministered to directly as we shall see in chapters 4 and 5.
In verse 12, Paul prays that the Thessalonians would abound in love with the result that they will be blamelessly holy at Jesus’ second coming (verse 13). Lord willing, our time will be spent focused on verses 11-13 with particular emphasis on the connection of increasing and abounding LOVE with HOLINESS (12-13).
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Looking back to 3:10 and forward to 3:11, why did Paul pray for God to direct his way back to Thessalonica?
- Based on 3:12, what is an essential mark of any group of Christians? (Also see John 13:34-35)
- What did Paul mean in 3:12 when he writes that the church should abound in love “for all”? Should our love for the church be the same for the those outside the church or even our enemies?
- According to 3:13, in what condition did Paul want the church to be when Jesus comes? (Peek ahead and compare to 4:3-8).
- What two ideas are linked by the “so that” in 3:13?
- How does love for one another (3:12) cause a Christian to be established in holiness (3:13)? (Compare Romans 13:8-10)
- What can we learn about Jesus’ coming from 3:13? (Peek ahead to 4:14)
- Based on Paul’s pastoral prayer as a model in 3:11-13, how should we pray for our church?