Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV)
For half of 1 Thessalonians, Paul praised the believers for, among other things, standing firm in the Lord (3:8) and giving him joy (3:9). Encouraged by Timothy’s on-site report, a longing was stirred in Paul to visit them and “supply what was lacking in their faith.”
As churches go, the Thessalonians ranked high on the list. They were god-fearing people and generous givers. Even so, Paul knew that something was amiss.
There are many good churches, large and small. It would be wrong, however, to assume that because a church is doing well, they should not be doing better. Often as fellowships grow, they become immune to criticism. A church may be theologically sound, but still be less than 100% on matters of faith.
As great a teacher as Paul was, he understood that a hole in the foundation was a calamity in the making. So what did the Thessalonians lack that Paul needed to fill? It was the same as is lacking in most churches today. What was vital then, as it is now, is an accurate knowledge of prophecy. We have Paul’s Thessalonian epistles as evidence that false prophets had spread deceit (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). In the dark days ahead, a failure to fill up what is lacking will result in the house’s collapse (cf. Matthew 7:26-27).
So you love your church? That’s great, but are they teaching the truth about the Bible’s prophecy? The Bereans, a fellowship right down the road, critically analyzed what they heard by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Luke, the historian of The Book of Acts, offered this assessment: When it came to displaying a critical ear, the Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians (Acts 17:11).
In Thessalonica and Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:1, 3-5), prophetic truth was lacking. When this is the case, our foundation in Christ–on which we build–is in big trouble. These were good churches with sincere believers. Paul wanted to supply what was lacking, not tear them down.
To support my point, read 1 Thessalonians 3:10 in its context, include Chapters 4 and 5. After he provided instructions on holy living, plus an admonishment on love, Paul wanted to eliminate an infection in the fellowship. That is what false prophecy does; it corrupts and sickens.
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Did Paul make this teaching up? Take note: He passed on what he received from the Lord himself (4:15). That’s what accurate prophecy provides; it offers clear teaching from the Lord himself. Does your church believe in a literal interpretation of 4:13-18, the classic rapture passage? Why wouldn’t Christians believe that it means what it says? Remember, these words came from Christ.
If we were talking patient-to-doctor, I might offer a cure, “Here is where you are lacking! You lack the knowledge of your faith.”
Nearly every ill facing God’s people would disappear if we grasped prophetic truth. Allow Paul and other prophets to speak into your spirit. Be the eager student you should be (cf. 2 Peter 1:10).
Filling up where we lack is an easy fix; time alone each day studying God’s prophets. Determine your need, then prescribe your own dose of prophetic truth. jf