1 Thessalonians 3 v 6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of y
In 1988, one year before the fall of the iron curtain and the ending of repressive communism in many European countries, along with 5 other men, I visited the countries of Hungary and Romania. We took supplies to needy Christians in Romania – medicines, baby milk, and camping equipment. The tents were for the use of the Romania Baptist churches’ summer camps for children which were evangelistic in nature. The Church in Swindon was moved to purchase this equipment and send it in the Church mini bus with the love and prayers of the members. It was a hazardous mission. The dangers of betraying the Romanian believers to the secret police, the Stasi, who roamed the streets in plain clothes, driving in their plain white Dacia saloon cars, were very real. We had to be suspicious of everyone. There was a sense of darkness while we were in the country – a spiritual oppression that was palpable.
But no matter how careful we were, we longed for some contact with Romanians so that we could tell them about the Lord. This of course was forbidden as was taking Bibles or Christian literature into the country.
On our third and last day in Romania we were having a picnic breakfast in Cluj before beginning our homeward journey. I was approached by a young man in his early twenties who spoke good English. He asked if we were Christians and hesitantly and guardedly I made conversation with him affirming that we were tourists from England. His youth suggested to me that he was a genuine Christian man and not a secret policeman. I accepted an invitation to have a cup of tea and a cake with him in a nearby hotel which was deserted.
He began to ask whether I could supply him with Christian books, in particular Banner of Truth books which he said would be valuable in ministry. I continued to be suspicious thinking that I could do damage to the Christians and the gospel cause if he wanted information about who we had been in contact with. It was forbidden for foreigners to have close contact with the people.
I decided to test him out with some scripture. I asked him to tell me John 3 v 17
(For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.)
– not the familiar verse 16 but verse 17. He got it perfectly right. A few more texts were mentioned – he knew his Bible.
Then he said this to me, “Thank you for coming to help my people. Tell me about your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” I asked him why he wanted to know. He simply replied “Proverbs 25 v 25”. To my shame I did not then know that text by heart. The young man helped me when he noticed my blank expression – and quoted it to me –
25 As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.
There were no repercussions as we left Romania. No border guards stopped us as we left. The man had been a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and I was left wondering what became of him – I still think of him and cannot think of Proverbs 25 v 25 without bringing to mind his earnest face and the soul that desired fellowship, and was glad to meet someone who would bring him good news from a far country.
I relate this incident to you this morning because it so well introduces the next three verses in 1 Thessalonians 3 and our next section of the chapter.
1 Thessalonians 3 v 6 – 8. We have noticed how Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians was expressed by
1. SENDING Timothy back to them – at great personal cost – PROVISION THROUGH SACRIFICE – v 1 - 2
Secondly he believed that he should be WARNING them of afflictions to come
2. PERSECUTION PREDICTED v 3 - 5
They had already suffered great persecution in Thessalonica – when the missionaries were with them. They had continued to suffer after they had gone – Paul was under no illusion that there would be anything else but persecution in the future too. And we noticed that suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ is no indication that we have somehow gone off track, as it were. Rather persecution is a proof that we ARE the true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and are fellow heirs with Him. Paul says in Philippians 1 v 29
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
What a privilege we have.
Thirdly in this chapter then we have Paul’s reaction to Timothy’s return to Corinth – with information. Today this is about
3. PLEASURE WHEN GOOD NEWS COMES. V 6 – 8
6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
From these verses we can firstly see this morning
1. The Good News was DELIVERED.
We are familiar with the fact now that after the missionaries left Thessalonica Timothy was sent back alone after some time, to see how the new church of believers were getting on. Timothy brought wonderful news – good tidings about several aspects of their condition in Thessalonica. Before we look at the content of his report let us notice how Paul describes the report that was delivered – he calls it GOOD TIDINGS.
I wonder if you would be surprised to learn that the word that Paul uses in the original is euaggelizw, euaggelizo, yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo – from which comes our familiar word EVANGELISE. Timothy came back to Corinth EVANGELISING! We are familiar with this word – it is used several times in the New Testament and in the Greek version of the Old Testament we find it used there too, for instance in 1 Samuel 31. King Saul and Jonathan met their death in a battle with the Philistines. The account is this
8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. 9 And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.
The news, good news for Philistines, was published – evangelised in their community that Saul had been slain.
The word evangelise refers to the message carried – any message calculated to have a cheering effect on those who receive it. Paul turns it into a noun in Romans 1 v 1
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
In the Old Testament it refers to any kind of Good News. In the New Testament, apart from this one occurrence in 1 Thessalonians 3, it refers to the joyful good news of the Gospel – the coming Kingdom of God, the salvation to be obtained through the Lord Jesus Christ and everything relating to this salvation.
Here it does NOT refer to the Gospel – but to the results of the Gospel in people’s lives. Timothy brought good news about the precious new Church in Thessalonica.
I don’t really know what to make of the News broadcasts on TV and Radio these days. We seem to get NEWS but not very often is there GOOD NEWS! Information about sinners leading their sinful lives; of this and that one in court charged with grievous crimes; of wars and earthquakes; poverty and abuse of wealth – where is the Good News – where is the glad tidings?
It seems that the only really Good News is the Gospel. It is the Good Tidings that Jesus Christ saves sinners from the penalty of their sins. That even though the law of God has been broken and disobedience is endemic amongst the human race, the Sovereign Lord holds out a hand of mercy and gives us glorious good news – Jesus saves! Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! Believe in His finished work and you will be eternally rescued. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – who are trusting in Him, believing in Him, depending on Him, worshipping Him. Surely this is wonderful News! Has this joyful news reached your heart yet my friend?
So Timothy’s report had fallen on Paul’s ears like the good news of the Gospel.
But what was the substance of the Good News delivered to the Apostle? The Good News was about
1. Their Faith. 2. Their Love 3. Their continued remembrance of the missionaries 4. Their desire to see the missionaries again.
1. Their Faith.
and brought us good tidings of your faith
Timothy was able from his observations and conversations with the church at Thessalonica that they were holding fast to the truth of the Gospel. Their faith was a steadfast faith. It was a faith that had not been shaken; they were clear in their stand for the saviour. They had not turned aside from their profession of the Lord Jesus Christ; and that despite persecution, they had maintained the faith of the Gospel. We can refer back to Chapter 1 and verses 8 – 10
In every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
That was at the beginning of their Christian experience – Timothy reports that they are going on in the faith.
2. Their Love
and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity
Faith was not trust and belief in isolation for these believers – the reality of their faith was expressed practically – it was evident in lives filled with love. It was love first of all directed to the Lord Jesus Christ – the Lord who had saved them from their sin and idolatry.
But it was love expressed towards each other in the fellowship of believers as well.
And as the church was growing it was obviously love to those outside of the church – who were dead in their sins and benighted in their souls – these Thessalonians were concerned for those around them.
John Calvin says that this faith and love is the sum total of Godliness. Such faith and love is mentioned by Paul in another letter – which we read earlier in the service –
Colossians 1 v 3 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,
Faith and love are the essence of Christian life. Through faith, itself a gift of God as Ephesians 2 v 8 clearly states,
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
we come to know God and are brought into the sphere of His empowering grace. And that grace inevitably expresses itself in a life of God-like love.
1 John 4 v 7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Where the two exist together they are a sure sign and proof of the saving power of the Gospel. Someone has said that “true faith is not simply a belief – it is a life! It is not merely an assent of the mind to a grand set of correlated truths, but the impartation to the soul of a spiritual force which starts the soul on a new career – a new era in the history of a soul”(Preachers Homiletical)
Love is a legitimate fruit of a genuine faith both in its inward experience and in its outward manifestation. The first exercise of love is towards God in the Lord Jesus Christ. After this there is an ever intensifying flow towards all, particularly towards believers.
My friends, is there true faith and love in our lives? Are we eager to express our love in works of selfless loving service to our brothers and sisters in the Church?
Do we believe that Christ will save His people here and that he will use us and our testimony of faith and love as instruments? Let us be Thessalonian in our church life – so that visitors – Timothy’s who come to us – may find what Timothy found – a people standing fast in faith and love for the Lord!
More than this the good news was about
3. Their continued remembrance of the missionaries
and that ye have good remembrance of us always,
They loved each other – but they loved Paul and Silas and remembered them – in prayer – often. Paul’s and Silas’s names were very dear to them – their memories were precious. These missionaries were cherished in the thoughts and hearts of the Thessalonians.
As a young boy I remember a minister at our Methodist Church called Mr Wood. He was kind and gentle; he cared and loved the families in the church. My parents were very fond of him and he was well respected and loved by the congregation. I can remember going to worship and other church activities often in the days that Mr Wood was the minister. His words were treasured and his example was firm and loving. There came a day when he had to move on and another minister came who was, I am told liberal in Theology and academic in his thinking. Members began to fall away including my parents with church attendance becoming less frequent. Love did not seem to be part of this man’s makeup – and the church suffered.
Often the words were heard in our house “If only Mr Wood was here!” The memories of this godly man were precious and made an impression on me even though then I was not a believer.
It seems to me that Paul and Silas were regularly prayed for – and the prayer of the Thessalonians was that the missionaries could return.
Because the good news was also
4. About their desire to see the missionaries again.
desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:
Notice the word GREATLY here. It qualifies the word desire – there was an intensity in their desire. Why were they so keen to see them again, apart from their genuine affection for them? Surely it was so that they could learn more from them about the Lord. They desired more ministry. They had an appetite for preaching.
What wonderful news this was for the Apostle. But how could it be otherwise? True Christian ministry is never an impersonal and mechanically tack-orientated. It takes place in the context of loving personal relationships formed through costly self-giving. This should ever be what we look for in those who minister to us in the church.
For Paul, estrangement through distance caused him deep pain. For the Christians at Thessalonica the same distance caused them pain too.
So fresh assurances of affection thrill the heart and awakened longings for face to face contact.
Which is why it appears that, this letter was a direct response to Timothy’s return to Corinth with his report. Paul received the good news, delivered by Timothy – and I think almost immediately sat down to write to the believers with this first letter that has become for us Holy Scripture.
So verse 7 – 8 reflect this and give us our second point –
2. The Good News was DELIGHTED IN.
The word therefore at beginning of verse 7 is a summarising word – it set the scene for a summary of the previous 6 verses –
7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
Timothy’s report had brought several things mentioned in these verses –
1 It had brought COMFORT
2. It brought a CONFIRMATION that his work in Thessalonica had not been wasted.
3. It brought him COURAGE to rise above the hardships and opposition at Corinth
1 It had brought COMFORT
How comforting encouraging news is to any of us. Our hearts beat a little faster when we are excited by good news. We hear of someone converted – and we are thrilled – overjoyed. We hear of a deliverance from danger and we rejoice in God’s goodness. And perhaps we have not heard from Christian friends for a long time – friends who live a long way away – and then good news come of how they are – and it cheers us.
Paul needed such encouragement where he was in Corinth – we will think about this in a moment.
2. It brought a CONFIRMATION that his work in Thessalonica had not been wasted.
Paul was a man who lived to see people changed by the power of the Gospel and brought into a living bond of faith with the Lord. Nothing disheartened him more than to have people make a profession of faith only to see them fall away when enticed by sin or opposed by the world. But nothing inspired him more to know that his children in the faith, converts to the Lord Jesus Christ were holding firm in their faith and making progress in holiness and grace and in the life of love.
3. It brought him COURAGE to rise above the hardships and opposition at Corinth
What do we know about Paul’s time at Corinth? He tells us only a little – but there is enough for us to know that it was a tough city and he was burdened greatly in the work. 2 Corinthians 1 gives us some clues –
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
Are we those who give encouragement to our teachers and those who have shared the faith with us? Children and young people – are you an encouragement to your Bible Class Leader, Sunday School teacher or Seekers and Young People’s leaders? Or do you bring them the burden of discouragement with your failure to grow by listening to them? Do you love those who tell you of Him who loves your souls – the Lord Jesus Christ has given His life for sinners and week by week you hear of Him. Is there any encouragement for your teachers?
Any Bible Teacher is looking for life changes in those whom they serve in the Gospel. And when they see such changes it is one of the greatest encouragements to press on in Gospel work. May we be encouraged in our work as a church – looking always to the One who’s Name we love and who’s Gospel is so powerful – powerful to change lives.
Paul received a new lease of life with this good news from Thessalonica. Will some here be able to provide a new lease of life for the gospel in this place when news of salvation by grace working within comes to our ears?
May it be so for the glory of our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ!