Paraphrase Project - Pastoring from a Distance
1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:8
Paul's intense care for the Thessalonians reflects God's Immense care for us.
Published August 1st, 2021
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Paul's Care/God's Care
Main point summary
General Observations
Next steps
Paul's Care/God's Care
Paul: I care about you even though you are too far away for me to see you face to face. Here's what I did: I desired to see you, so I also strove in many practical ways to make it happen. I kept remembering how much you would be our pride and joy on that day of the Lord's return. I could not bear any longer holding back anything that would encourage you in your faith, so I sent Timothy. It was a great sacrifice to me because Timothy offers me incredible help. The state of your welfare in your trial weighed heavy on my mind. I know Satan's schemes and the temptations you are under, and I was greatly concerned that your faith would be moved. I could not bear not knowing the state of your faith. Even at a distance I had to watch over you for your good. I was so pleased by your faith that it didn't just make my day, it seemed to make my entire life. God: The Lord cares about us, He desires us, he remembers us with joy, He will not hold back anything that might help us in our faith, our trials weigh heavy on His mind, He knows our temptations and works to help us, He watches over us for our good, and is personally pleased when we exercise faith in Him.
Main point summary
We became concerned for you when we were hindered in our attempts to see you, so we sent Timothy to encourage your faith. But since he has returned with a good report we are greatly comforted about you.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:8
But since we were torn away from you, brothers,
But, brothers, we were unwillingly ripped away from you guys, being forced out of town by persecution.
for a short time,
Now you need to understand two truths from our perspective: we believe our separation will only be brief
x in person
and you need to know that our separation is only geographical,
not in heart,
and that our hearts are still with you there in Thessalonica.
we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire y to see you face to face,
But it's because it was not our will to leave you that we strove with great yearning to be physically present with you again.
because we wanted to come to you —I, Paul, again and again—
In fact we were continually moved with the desire to come back, over and over,
but Satan z hindered us.
but every time we tried to, we were blocked by Satan's schemes--he used all sorts of practical means to keep us from doing it.
For what is our hope or a joy or crown of boasting b before our Lord Jesus at his c coming?
But we continue to try because we keep imagining the day that the Lord comes back. And on that day when we stand with you before Him, we have great hope that you will be our pride and joy as we present you to him.
Is it not you?
For you are our glory and joy.
Because you are our pride and joy already.
Therefore when we could bear it no longer
So, when we reached a tipping point in our concern for you
we were willing d to be left behind at Athens alone,
we decided that no matter what, even if Silas and I had to be short one man in philosophy saturated Athens, it was worth it
and we e sent Timothy , f our brother and God’s coworker 1 in the gospel of Christ,
to send you Timothy. He is a beloved brother who has personally owned the mission, as we have, to spread and establish this good news of Christ.
to establish and exhort you in your faith,
He was needed more by you in order to help keep your faith from being shaken and to push you forward all the more in your walks with Christ,
that no one be moved by these afflictions.
so that none of you would become a casualty to these very difficult trials that permeate your lives.
For you yourselves know that g we are destined for this.
Because you know that these trials are part of God's destiny for us.
For when we were with you,
You remember that when we were with you those short but fateful few weeks
we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction,
we repeated this warning over and over, attempting to quickly prepare you for the distress to come,
h just as it has come to pass,
which is now occurring,
and just as you know.
as you well know through personal experience.
For this reason, i when I could bear it no longer,
Because I knew you were in the midst of this very great spiritual war, when I could not stand it any longer
i I sent to learn about your faith,
I just had to hear some news of how your faith was fairing in the midst of it.
j for fear that somehow k the tempter had tempted you and l our labor would be in vain.
I was truly concerned that the trial might also become an overwhelming temptation for you to compromise the hardline you'd taken in Christ (for you know that the Satan the tempter always takes advantage of trials in this way) and that our work among you would end up being for nothing.
But m now that Timothy has come to us from you,
But praise the Lord, now that Timothy came back
and has brought us the good news of n your faith and love
and has told us such sweet news about, not only the strength of your faith, but also your steadfast love for one another (and even toward your enemies),
and reported o that you always remember us kindly and p long to see us,
and also that you miss us
as we long to see you—
as we miss you,
for this reason , brothers, 1 in all our distress and affliction q we have been comforted about you
this good news was the key to the comfort that we had been seeking in all our distress and anxiety while in Athens.
through your faith.
Your faith was the means by which our comfort came
For now we live,
because our personal lives are so tightly bound to your faith that we can only keep living in fullness
if you r are standing fast in the Lord.
if you are walking strongly with the the Lord.
Key Main Point Implied Command Means Motivations Anchors
Motivator - A strong faith motivates you not to be moved by afflictions.
Motivator - Every Pastor ought to do what he can to establish and exhort their sheep in their faith despite geographical distance. A pastor ought to be concerned not just to teach, but with extra urgency to motivate God's people...ESPECIALLY when it comes to enduring trial.
Implied Command - Pastors ought to desire and strive to be with those whom God has given them as sheep. (Something ain't right if their out of sight out of mind)
A good brother/co-pastor, who shares one's heart for the sheep, and who can be flexible, is a great means of help for a pastor trying to care for his sheep from a distance.
A good teacher with foresight and a caring heart, who will take advantage of the time he has to teach truth to his children in the Lord, is one of the means by which people's faith is established.
The faith of a pastor's children in the Lord is a great means of comfort for a pastor as they distress and are afflicted over their sheep.
A pastors own desire to see his children in the flock is a great mean's to spurring him onto action to take steps to see them. Sometimes we just need to let the good desire that God has placed in us lead and spur us to action. The desire becomes the means by which the God pleasing action is taken.
The circumstances surrounding their departure, and their hope that its only for a short time and their heart to stay and see the growth of the Thessalonians, these are all motivators for what he did "endeavoring to see them" in 17e.
An implied command: That pastors ought to be always warning before hand that we must suffer affliction. It is part of the package and full of good purpose (Romans 5:3-5). There is a certain kind of awe, that is accompanied by a sense of terror, when people come under great affliction, especially worldwide affliction like last year. When people start seeing the governments true agendas behind their false appeals, or that there are men who are social constructionists out there who are playing the world like a chess game. And there is great suffering as a result. The things of conspiracies and world catastrophes. Now a lot of these things are true, I'm wouldn't say that they are not. But something happens when our sense of awe hones in on these great afflictions. Something is stolen from the Lord. Last year when Covid hit and conspiracies abounded I saw Christians walking around with their eyes wide in an awe-filled terror. And it seemed that they were responding to the circumstance in a way that they ought to have responded to the Lord. In Isaiah 8 God tells Isaiah, "do not call conspiracy what they call conspiracy and do not fear what they fear, but let the Lord be your fear and the Lord be your dread." When we are told beforehand about the trouble to come, it is so that we are not surprised, not put into a place of wonder at it, because that awe filled wonder or terror at the circumstance takes away from our awe of the Lord. The big lie concerning the great afflictions of life is not that they will happen, but that they are "great." The Lord Himself is great. He must have all of our awe. The afflictions of life and the great movements of history must always be interpreted as little things in the light of the greatness of the Lord. Do not be in wonder, don't be surprised, don't be shocked when the government reveals its hand that it is trying to control you or persecute you. But rather know it is coming, keep telling people it is coming, and fear the Lord.
Implied Command: Be willing to let your helpers go help others even if it costs you (1b). As a head Pastor, to be open handed with staff is a is a difficult thing to do, but there comes a time it must be done, and the Lord often blesses the sacrifice.
Anchor: The truth that it is Satan that is behind their geographical distancing anchors them in the trial giving them the reality of which is the true enemy. (The Thessalonians could be upset with Paul or with the persecutors, but neither are the real enemy). This gives them an anchor in understanding how to fight and who to fight in their circumstance.
A Motivator: That every pastor's joy and crown before God will be the people that he has had the privilege of pouring into and seeing grow. His sheep, his flock. When we consider our influence it's too easy to think in terms of worldly success and not in terms of what will be our boast and crown "before our Lord Jesus at his coming." May that day be our motivator long before we are moved by any crowd or perceived worldly attention.
An anchor for our hearts: the maturity of the people we serve is our glory and joy. Is the maturity of our sheep our aim and our joy? Or is more our perceived reputation? I could preach a good sermon and walk away fairly happy, only to discover that the people in my church are failing and faltering. My initial self-evaluation can't be my joy, it must be their actual maturity. No selfish patting myself on the back, but rather a true concern for my sheep--this is the goal. "No greater joy than to see my children walking in truth."
What a motivation for action. We were so worried about our children in the faith that we could not bear any longer not acting. May that same burden of love drive us all in our pursuit of people.
An anchor - The knowledge that trials are coming ought to be served to prepare our hearts for it. Especially when we know its coming and then see it come and experience it in 4c-d. Trials in this way will anchor us all the more in Christ because in the middle of the trial you now that Christ foresaw it. The world's way of dealing with trials is is simply not an anchor in the same way. The world either responds with gloomy resolve that keeps them from enjoying the good things that happen. Or positive thinking that keeps them from knowing how to respond in a trial. But God gives us confidence in him on both fronts. His foresight and sovereignty and good intentions in trial keep us from despair, but they also keep us from superficial positive thinking about the future. His foresight keeps us from being "moved by these afflictions." So when covid hit...were we moved because we had falsely put our hope on better outcomes, or did we remember Jesus' anticipation of trial and trust Him all the more since He was the one who told us? Many teachers these days win large crowds just because they teach the power of positivity and the resulting positive outcomes. But that's not Jesus' message, nor is it Paul's. And it will backfire. We need to keep telling people that we must suffer affliction.
Motivator: Not only could he not bear to not teach them, but he also couldn't bear to not learn of their faith. He had to find out what was going on in their hearts. Do we care enough to go the extra mile and find out where people are at, even if distance has made us unable to be around each other.
This fear that the devil is prowling around coming after our sheep in the Lord is a motivator to act. We do want to act on this kind of impulse because we are not ignorant of the devil's devices. A little twig sticking out on the path can cause a great stumble. The devil knows how to place stumbling blocks in our way, and can make the work turn out in vain if people trip and fall and don't get up. We have a responsibility in this that we can't cast off to other people or neglect. We must go after them.
The main conclusion - the great expression of comfort he has in the spiritual wellbeing of his sheep. Throughout this portion of the letter Paul's expression of his heart for his sheep has been the message he wants to communicate. He wants them to know he cares, and that includes both how distressed he is when he doesn't know their state, and how comforted he is when he finds out they are ok. It is said that the greatest expression of hatred is not anger or even direct antagonism, but neglect or indifference. When you care enough to even be angry, at least there is a form of care present. When you don't care enough to respond at all (when your life is no different whether the other person is alive or dead) then they mean nothing to you. One of Paul's main points in communicating the whole emotional journey through this time period is to show that he cares. He went through it on their behalf, he suffers concern and is greatly comforted by their faith. He cares! Is the Lord communicating to us through this that he cares in the same way? Does he personally go through intense emotions as he watches his children suffer and stumble, and is he greatly comforted by our victory and success? Can he really feel these things and care this way despite being the all sovereign and knowing one that transcends humanity by an infinite degree? Somehow the Word reveals that he does experience the kind of response that Paul is experiencing (with qualification of course, He is still God. There isn't a sense in which he doesn't "know" how somebody is doing, and then finds out and is comforted). But the point is that God cares more than even Paul cares here. God does express emotion despite what medieval theologians might try to say about his passionless character. If he cares this much about my faith, can't I also trust him to direct my way, taking his counsel and his instruction to heart as from a God who cares? And if he cares so much so as go through the journey with me, weeping when I weep and rejoicing when I rejoice, can't I open my heart in sympathy to others, to go through their pains and the joys with them? It's a very trying thing to actually care, you never know where it will take you, what you might find yourself doing, the kind of sacrifices it might bring to your life, or how it might affect and even hinder your way. Paul is in Athens, without Timothy, trying to figure out what to do, his heart and mind in Thessalonica, and yet called to preach on Mars Hill, being provoked by the idolatry. It seems nothing in this situation is ideal, but he's in this situation simply because he cares.
I know my life is not as dependent on my sheep standing fast in the Lord as Paul's is according to his expression in this verse. Lord how do I move this way as a Pastor? How is this even true? This is an incredible statement. There has got to always be a sheep not standing fast in the Lord somewhere? Do we never live again? It definitely makes the point that he cares.
That people remember them "kindly and long to see" them is a great indicator of the Thessalonians walk with the Lord. The devil often tries to put deep wedges between people, but especially between pastor and sheep. We can be more critical of our pastors than of any other person. So it is a victory and a relief and a motivator of great comfort in the Lord that a pastor's sheep remember him kindly.
General Observations
Author: The author had obviously been greatly affected by the forced separation between him and the Thessalonians He regrets being "torn away." It seems that the division was against his will and he attributes it to Satan hindering them. He longs to be with them and senses he is connected to them in heart. He is both concerned for their faith and burdened to continue exhort them in their faith. He is worried all the more that they might be faltering in their faith due to the trial of persecution. He is even willing to be a left alone (it seems it was a great sacrifice) to send Timothy. Recipients Paul expresses at the beginning that he doesn't know how they are doing, but the degree of persecution seems to be enough that he is very worried. However, he expresses confidence that he rightly prepared them for the persecution. A number of aspects of the Timothy's report indicate that they have not faltered in their faith during persecution - 1) They continue in faith and love, 2) They remember with affection the preachers, 3) They express a desire to see the preachers. Occasion The work of Satan has cut short what Paul senses was the amount of necessary for the Thessalonians faith to flourish. "torn away." A) Sometimes the work of Satan is the occasion for the work of God. On top of that there is now current persecution (they didn't have enough time to obtain an established faith even without persecution. How much harder with it?) According to Acts Paul is chased from Thessalonica to Athens by these persecutors and, being greatly concerned but completely unable to help them in their faith, he sends Timothy with both exhortations and the mission to bring back a report. Interesting to note that in the interim of waiting for Timothy to arrive, he preaches the sermon of Acts 17. God's open door for him still doesn't close, there is still the next step even with concerns for what is happening in other churches. Themes Forced geographical division Desiring to see/be with the sheep Persecution's effect on faith Satan's temptations in trials Pastoring from a distance The sheep's effect on the pastor. Purpose Paul's purpose in this section of scripture seems to be centered on caring for his sheep from a distance. In recounting the story to them he is expressing what sheep truly mean to a true pastor. In various ways throughout the passage his strives to communicate that they matter to him. Tone Affectionate Desperate (at the beginning), Relieved/comforted (at the end) Detailed (full of story telling details) Intimate glimpses into Paul's heart
Next steps
I am currently working my way through the Biblearc courses and so will be moving on to the phrasing course. I am actually using everything I have learned in my paraphrase class to currently teach an IBS class to my church on Wednesday nights. After the IBS class we will be getting into 1 John where I will be using every tool at my disposal through the Paraphrase class to teach it. I have already gone through and arced quite a bit of it, but I kind of did things backwards. I am seeing that without that support from the paraphrase, sometimes the arcing is just an intellectual exercise. The paraphrase class really establishes the ground level goals which is to fully understand the text in implication and application. I think if I am seeing the full picture, the arc supports the paraphrase, main point, and take aways that are the ultimate goal in understanding a passage. So I will go back through 1 John and adjust my paraphrases and main point summaries and fill in a lot more key observation questions along with some more take aways.
Brent Karding
I was also encouraged to hear about your work through 1 John at your church that's coming up. I agree that Paraphrase and Arcing are great tools to be used together; they complement each other perfectly.
Brent Karding
Outstanding work, Matthew, just like before! Your paraphrase is both accurate and appropriate, as well as being creative. You've meditated deeply on the passage and seen many anchors and means and motivations and commands.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.