Paul had a tendency toward extra-long sentences.
Second Thessalonians 1:3-10 is a single sentence focusing primarily on events surrounding the second coming of Jesus. The central core of the sentence, however, is not focused on the Second Coming (2 Thess 1:3, author’s translation): “We are obligated at all times to give thanks to God concerning you.” Paul’s comments regarding the return of Jesus (2 Thess. 1:6-10) are part of the reason he thanks God concerning them, the Thessalonians themselves.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 4. What important spiritual principle do we find in these verses in regard to the question of faith? What happens to faith if it does not grow?
“We are bound,” or “we ought,” to give thanks to God is the main verb of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10. Paul feels obligated to thank God for the Thessalonians because their faith is getting stronger and stronger. Meanwhile, their love for one another is also increasing, and both verbs are in the present tense in the original. This means that their growth in faith and love was consistent and ongoing. This kind of growth is basic to any healthy church. Like a plant, if a church does not grow spiritually, it will die.
Paul will go on to offer significant criticism of the church in the second and third chapters of this epistle. But he knows that people need a lot of affirmation before they can handle criticism constructively. He provides that kind of affirmation in the first chapter.
One of the reasons for Paul’s affirmations is that the church in Thessalonica is continuing to suffer persecution. He particularly commends their “patience” in affliction. Instead of faith, hope, and love, Paul talks about their faith, love, and patience. Because “patience” here is a substitute for “hope,” it leads Paul into his exposition of the Second Coming later on in the chapter.
The result of their increase in faith and love is that their fortitude in the face of affliction has become a source of boasting for the apostles among all the churches they visit. The Thessalonians have become a model of Christian commitment under fire.
How can trials and affliction increase our faith? At the same time, who hasn’t struggled to maintain faith preciselybecause of trials?