The apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the new believers at Thessalonica after hearing Timothy’s report concerning them. He was working in Athens when he felt compelled to send Timothy back to check on them. When Timothy returned to him with his great report of their continued faith in the Lord and their longing to see Paul again, he was overjoyed. He thanked God for them to such degree that he questioned how he might be even more thankful for them. Perhaps his thankfulness could be better expressed if he could only see them face to face and continue to “perfect” (“bring to completion”) their discipleship, he reasoned.
Paul was a firm believer in life on life discipleship. He always wanted to be face to face with those he was mentoring that he might “perfect” their discipleship, training them up to maturity in Christ. As he mentioned earlier in his letter, his discipleship included not only giving them the gospel, but also giving them himself because of his love for them (1 Thess. 2:8). This is the combination of spiritual and relational power that life on life discipleship brings to bear.