Esprit de Church

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis, January 15, 2023

The Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

 General Theme: Living Righteously While Waiting Patiently for Jesus to Return

Sermon Title: Esprit de Church

Sermon Text: First Thessalonians 2:17-20

Subject: Camaraderie in the church

Complement: When camaraderie flourishes within the church, there awaits a victorious crown from the Lord, for the saints who finish well.

Dominating Idea: Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

Overview & Review

I.          Spiritual leaders prove their concern for the church. (1:1a)

II.        Spiritual leaders provide care for the church. 1:1bc)

III.       Spiritual leaders pray for the church. (1:2-10)

IV.       Spiritual leaders pattern a life of loving service. (2:1- 3:13)

            A.         By evangelizing lost sinners with the saving gospel (2:1-16)      

            B.         By edifying separated saints with loving concern (2:17 – 3:5)

  • Significant relationships are necessary for camaraderie in the church. (2:17-20)
  • Satanic opposition strives to weaken the faith in the local church. (3:1-5)

            C.        By encouraging spiritual saints with hope and prayer (3:6-13)


The sermon title, Esprit de Church,is a “spin” from the Marine Corps phrase, Esprit de Corps, [pronounced es-pree deh core].  It is a French term describing a group spirit, united in its purpose, with a positive morale while remaining committed to one another – no matter the costs.

I believe to possess and maintain a desire to be part of any group, military unit, organization, a local church, and any variety of other social clubs, its members must…

  • share a common cause,
  • possess a sense of belonging, and are
  • committed to one another, according to the purpose of the organization. 

This type of commitment is most visible in military units, as well as with first responders.

However, if we were to examine more closely our church family, how would we answer these four questions?

1.   What is our purpose for coming together? 
2.   What do we have in common with one another? 
3.   Do we sense a strong bond with others in our fellowship? 
4.   And what about our commitment to one another – are we willing to go out of our way to know one another, help one another, and share in their sufferings with one another OR to tear others down to advance personal  agendas?

I believe another synonym for Esprit de Church is camaraderie!  Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

Moreover, I believe that our church family and many other evangelical churches in our state / nation desire to experience the presence and power of God.  How do we experience a greater awareness of God’s presence and experience His power flowing through our lives? 

I believe our church family needs a renewed spirit of camaraderie from the Holy Spirit.  I say this with a loving heart.  If you have never experienced camaraderie, then let me help you understand and cultivate camaraderie within our church family.   

Drawing from the text (1st Thessalonians 2:17-20), camaraderie is built upon these four principles: 

  1. Camaraderie is built on trust in one another. [trust]
  2. Camaraderie is built around respect for one another.  [respect]
  3. Camaraderie is built with afflictions shared with one another. [afflictions]
  4. Camaraderie is built through committed relationships with one another. [relationships]

Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

Background for the birth of the Thessalonian church

Read Acts 17:1-10. 

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.  And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.  But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.  And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus. And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.  And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.  The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue.”

Luke writes that Paul was “sent away” ekpempō (Strong’s #1599) (10); however, from Paul’s perspective, when he wrote his letter to the Thessalonian church from the city of Corinth, Paul described his feelings for the Thessalonian Christians as having been “torn away” aporphanizomai (Strong’s #642) from those with whom he possessed a godly relationship.  Listen to Paul’s words:

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, again and again – but Satan hindered us.  For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming?  Is it not you?  For you are our glory and joy.”  (1st Thessalonians 2:17-20)

Transitional Thoughts

Referring to last week’s passage (2:13-16), you may recall that this pulpit revealed three outstanding responses when sinners hear the gospel:

I.          There is a positive response to the gospel (2:13).

II.        There is a willingness to suffer affliction for the gospel (2:14).

III.       There is deadly opposition against the messengers of the gospel (2:15-16).

Well, the passage before you this morning (1st Thessalonians 2:17-20) describes an emotional, moving account of Paul’s soul, longing for his flock and the Satanic opposition he encountered.  This pericope (passage) lays bare the soul of the apostle Paul because his life was so woven tightly with the Thessalonian church, that there was no way they could be separated.  Paul had their backs and the church had Paul’s back.

In the introduction, I offered four principles that are necessary if comradery is to exist in any organization, especially the church.  Yet, how do we know if comradery is present within our fellowship?  I believe Paul’s descriptive love for the Thessalonian believers reveals four characteristics of camaraderie:  

Those with whom a camaraderie exists

I.         …are not forgotten, no matter the length of time.

II.        …are intensely “longed for,” no matter the reason for their separation.

III.      …are diligently sought after, whatever the price.

IV.       …are the direct result of personal ministry.

Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

I.         Those with whom a camaraderie exist
are not forgotten, no matter the length of time.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time,
in person not in heart…”
(1st Thessalonians 2:17a)

Camaraderie begins with a sense of brotherhood.  Paul calls them brothers – as in “band of brothers.”  Brothers, adelphos (Strong’s #80) literally means, “from the same womb.”  These are individuals who are united in Christ because they have been regenerated by God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

While Luke reports the fact that Paul was “sent away,” Paul describes his painful separation as being “torn awayaporphanizomai (Strong’s #642).  Paul’s deliberate use of this word means to be completely bereaved due to a separation.  This word is closely related to and comes from orphanas (Strong’s #3737), where we get our word, “orphan.”

In other words, Paul was bereaving as a parent whose children were taken away.  Today, some parents feel the same bereavement when they experience the removal of their children from their home by Department of Human Services, kidnapping, even death.  Let’s not forget that Paul was a spiritual parent to the Thessalonian believers and acted as such (2:7, 11).

And these Thessalonian believers were as orphans whose parents have been sent away.  Can you imagine the hopelessness that children of war, experience?  I remember watching a documentary describing the pain that the Bosnia/Serb conflict created.  Many children expressed grief and hopelessness.  They believed they would never see their parents again.  The same could also be said for today’s caravan of immigrants from Central America.

This is what Paul and the Thessalonian believers experienced together as they were forcibly separated.  This separation between them hurt because they were spiritually intimate with one another.  Deep affection for one another existed.  Therefore, those individuals with whom we possess a special relationship and those with whom we love are not forgotten.

Illustration:  Veterans do not forget their fallen comrades, especially those who are labeled, prisoners of war [POW] or missing in action [MIA].  Their motto is, You are not forgotten.  While there was a physical separation between Paul and the Thessalonian church, there was no separation within their hearts for one another.  They were one in heart. 

ApplicationHere’s a challenge.  This week, identify one or two people or families with who you have not been in contact for over a month, call or visit them.  If visiting doesn’t work for you, invite them over to your home.  Share a dinner together and start cultivating your relationship with one another.

Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

II.        Those with whom a camaraderie exists
are intensely “longed for,” no matter the reason for their separation.

“…we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,
because we wanted to come to you…”
(1st Thessalonians 2:17b – 18a)

The separation Paul and Thessalonian believers experienced had further heightened Paul’s much passionate “desire” (or deep emotion) pollei epithumai (Strong’s #1939) for them.  The word, “desire” is used to describe the negative and positive side of passion and feelings. 

For example, on the negative side, this word is often translated “lust,” “desire,” and “covet.”

  • “…live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16).
  • “Flee youthful lusts (2nd Timothy 2:22).

But on the positive side, this word is used to express a holy desire.  Describing His desire to be with His disciples during the “last supper,” Jesus said,

  • “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).

Gospel:  Why did Jesus have to suffer?  God the Father ordained His Son to be sacrificed on the cross for our sins.  But why?  Everyone has broken God’s commandments.  We have rebelled against His Word and will.  Therefore, God by His nature cannot give a sinner a “wink,” “nod,” and a “pass.”   But why?  God’s righteous and holy nature demands justice.  Therefore, sinners must die for their sins. 

However, other glorious attributes of God also appeared – His love, grace and mercy for sinners.  You see, for sinners to escape divine everlasting condemnation against them, God offered up His Son to become the Lamb of God Who would take away our sins.  And so, as Jesus was dying on the cross, the Bible says, “for our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2nd Corinthians 5:21). 

And the great exchange took place.  Earling C. Olsen describes the Savior’s redemptive work in this way: 

            Our Lord suffered as no man suffered…As he hung upon the cross it seemed as if He were suspended between heaven and earth.  Earth rejected Him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us…Thus, if you please, our Lord was unfit for earth.  But, as the waves of rebellion of man rose up to overwhelm Him, He met from above the increasing temp of God’s wrath and indignation, for He was the sin-offering, so that He literally became unfit for heaven.  The Father vented His wrath against sin by smiting His Son.  All this was done in order that we might never know what it is to face death, eternal death, which is separation from God.

Jesus Christ took our unrighteousness upon Himself by shedding His blood and dying on the cross.  He paid our penalty.  And at the same time, Jesus imputed [to charge to one’s account – like a credit card] His righteousness to account. 

It was the Father’s desire to save sinners, a desire so strong that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to pay our sin debt.

And so, when sinners receive Christ by faith into their lives, the Spirit of God also instills divine desires in our hearts.  Question:  How intense is our desire for God and for other believers?  I believe that people are attracted to Christ when they see Christians loving one another and serving and supporting one another.  The world is watching us.

Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

III.      Those with whom a camaraderie exists
are diligently sought after, whatever the price.

“I, Paul, again and again – but Satan hindered us.”
(1st Thessalonians 2:18b)

Paul’s remembrance of the Thessalonian saints and his longing for them moved Paul to action.  He writes describing his “abundant” perissoteros (Strong’s #4056) “efforts” spoudazō (Strong’s #4704).  In other words, Paul was zealous – he was no slacker when it came to his relationships with people.  The same effort that Paul exercised to cultivate his relationship with others was the same effort he exercised in these three areas:

  • keeping the unity without compromising biblical doctrine (Ephesians 4:3)
  • studying the Scriptures to show himself approved by God (2nd Timothy 2:15)
  • giving diligence to make sure his calling and your calling are sure (2nd Peter 1:10)

Therefore, I believe Paul’s use of this word, “efforts” spoudazō, teaches us to press on and give diligence to seek after one another and strengthen our relationship.  Why?  When difficult times and afflictions God’s people, they would be stable and able to stand firm with the Lord.

However, like Paul, we too may pay a price when we attempt to strengthen our relationships with one another.    What was the price?  The answer is Satan’s hindrances.  Listen again to Paul words:  “…because we wanted to come to you – I, Paul, again and again – but Satan hindered us” (1st Thessalonians 2:18).

This is proof that Paul possessed a significant relationship with the Thessalonian saints.  Paul did not forget them but longed for them.  I believe a strong camaraderie between Paul and the Thessalonian saints.

Describing Satan’s “hindrances” is the word, enkoptō (Strong’s #1465) which means “to cut in,” to hinder. 

Illustration:  Picture driving down one of the streets in Gray, only to discover that a water line has broken.  The pavement has fallen away.  Water is everywhere.  Moreover, the road is covered in ice because of the freezing weather.  Thus, the road is impassable.  That is a picture of Satan hindering our attempts to cultivate relationships with one another.  Consequently, Satan employed anything and everything to prevent Paul from reaching the Thessalonian saints.

Satan goals are the same for us today.  He seeks to destroy our relationships with one another and our relationship with God. If Satan can reduce our church to where there are no significant relationships, where no camaraderie exists, then he has won the battle.  He can chalk up another victory; another church has died.

How does Satan hinder the development of relationships, which I believe to be an essential element for church growth?  I submit to you the following schemes Satan employs:

  • Storms:  Satan employed a storm to kill Job’s family (Job 1:18-19); to prevent Jesus from reaching the country of Gadarenes where a demon possessed man was eventually set free (Luke 8:22), and to prevent Paul reaching Rome (Acts 27-28).  The point is that storms have a way of preventing Christians from coming together to worship God and/or develop their relationships with one another.
  • Schedules:  Whose agenda do we follow when it comes to planning our day?  Do we seek to know and obey God’s schedule, or do we simply begin our day with the plans in our hearts?  Consider just a few verses:  Proverbs 3:5-6; 20:24; 16:3.
  • Self-interests:  Related to schedules, self-interests apart from God’s leading will hinder our need to cultivate significant relationships; our priorities are often misplaced.  Consider Matthew 6:33.
  • Shortages:  Shortages can bring discouragement.  Often, Satan cultivates shortages among God’s people.  For example, the two greatest shortages in most church families are manpower and mammon.  When these shortages continue, discouragement can take root; and sometimes, people relocate to other churches.  Moving away from such a setting may not always be God’s plan but it certainly plays into Satan’s plan; relationships do not mature and eventually cease to grow.  And what of comradery?  It no longer exists.
  • Sickness:  Sickness is another way that Satan hinders our relationships.  One only has to look back to 2020 when COVID shut down our culture, even many churches.  . 

The longer the impairment, the risk of losing the comradery and the closeness of significant relationships increases.  My wife knows this reality all too well. 

  • Strife:  This is probably Satan’s greatest tool in his arsenal to keep Christians from developing significant relationship with one another.  Quarreling, lying, the power of the tongue, slander and gossip, hot tempers and lost patience, jealousy, envy, greed, lack of self-control, pride, and other sins of the flesh create dissension.  Solomon said, “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (Proverbs 18:19).

Whenever strive exists, there is the loss of comradery and desire to strengthen relationships with others.  Strife is Satan’s sure way to destroy any church or family.  Satan succeeds when we do not try to get around his attempts to make the road impassable.

Illustrate:  One of the greatest illustrations I have discovered in a book entitled, Vietnam, by Stanley Karnow.  Karnow describes how the Ho Chi Minh Trail was created.  He writes:

            As early as October 1957, on instruction from Hanoi, the Communists in the south organized thirty-seven-armed companies, most of them in the impenetrable forests and marshes of the western fringe of the Mekong delta.  In May of 1959, the North Vietnamese leadership created a unit called Group 559; its task to begin enlarging the traditional      communists’ infiltration route, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, into the south.

            The trail, which threaded through southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia highlands of South Vietnam, was not a single track, but a complex web of jungle paths…They traveled by foot, sweating as they plodded through damp forests and shivering as they forded icy mountain streams. They were plagued by mosquitoes and leeches and other insects that they could not even identify, and some came down with malaria.

            In reference to the further development of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Colonel Dong Si Nyuyen spared no expense as he began construction of the trail with engineer battalions.  As the war escalated, American air strikes increased and were directed against the Ho Chi Minh Trail where Communist forces and convoys were deployed to the South.

            Though the bombing of the Trial grew in intensity, American intelligence experts estimated that the annual infiltration rate soared from 35,000 in 1965 to 150,000 by late 1967. And most of the North Vietnamese who died while making the march were victims of dysentery, malaria and other diseases rather than U.S. bombs.

The point I am illustrating is despite the many obstacles to make the roads impassable, the North Vietnamese were still able to accomplish their mission, to unite both the North and South Vietnam and to drive out the enemy.

This is the kind of tenacity the church needs today.  We need to overcome Satan’s obstacles which are designed to construct “impassable roads” in the lives of Christians.

Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”

IV.       Those with whom a camaraderie exists
are the direct result of personal ministry.

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming? 
Is it not you?  For you are our glory and joy.”
(1st Thessalonians (2:19-20)

Paul’s desire for the Thessalonian saints is directly linked to the Lord’s “coming” parausia (the rapture where Jesus meets His church in the clouds).  Paul does not boast of what he has accomplished but of what God has done.  Paul was simply obedient to God’s leading.  Because of his obedience, Paul will experience ecstatic rejoicing as these Thessalonian believers are paraded before God and Paul.  Yes, to the glory of God.

Just as there is divine camaraderie in the Trinity, so also must camaraderie exist in the body of Christ.

I want to hear my Savior say to me and to our church family, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  I also expect that every one of us will receive thanks from others as we say “Thank you” to the many other saints who have helped each of grow in our walk with Jesus.       

Camaraderie in the church says, “I’ve got your back, now and forever.”


Are we one another’s pride and joy?  Are we proud of our church or ashamed of our church?  Do we surrender our efforts to cultivate our relationships with one another when Satan makes the pathway to one another’s lives, impassable?  Will we work around Satan’s efforts to hinder us for the sake of strengthening our relationships with one another?

Esprit de Church speaks of teamwork and camaraderie within the local church family.  As we walk with God, which of these characteristics is God calling each of us to address in our lives and what will each of us do about it today?

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