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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

1 Thessalonians 3

Verse 1

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;

Wherefore - because of our earnest love to you (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20), and our having been "hindered"; going to you, we sent Timothy.

Forbear - `endure' the suspense. [ Stegontes (G4722) is said of a water-tight vessel.] When we could no longer restrain our yearning, at least to hear of you.

Left at Athens alone. See 'Introduction.' This implies that he sent Timothy from Athens, where the latter had followed him. The determination to send Timothy was that of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, before Paul's leaving Berea (Alford): it was carried into effect when Paul reached Athens. Thus the "I" 1 Thessalonians 3:5, will express that the act of sending Timothy was Paul's, while the determination that Paul should be left alone at Athens was that of the brethren as well as himself, whence he uses, 1 Thessalonians 3:1, "we." The non-mention of Silas at Athens implies that he did not follow Paul to Athens, as was at first intended; but Timothy did. Thus the history, Acts 17:14-15, accords with the letter. 'Left behind' [kataleiphtheenai] implies, that Timothy had been with him at Athens. It was an act of self-denial for their sakes that Paul deprived himself of Timothy's presence at Athens, being "left" all "alone" in the midst of philosophic cavillers. But 'we thought good to be left alone [ monoi (G3441)]. We sent Timothy' may mean Paul had another, namely, Silas, with him at Athens. If so, Paul probably sent Silas from Athens on some other mission afterward, not recorded in the Acts or this letter; and Silas and Timothy together returned from Macedon to Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:1; Acts 18:5).

Verse 2

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

Minister of God, and our fellow-labourer. 'Aleph (') A, Vulgate, read only "minister of God." Delta G g, and 'fellow-labourer of God' (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1). The English version reading is perhaps compounded of the two other readings. Paul calls Timothy "our brother" here; But in 1 Corinthians 4:17, "my son." He speaks thus highly of one so lately ordained, both to impress the Thessalonians with respect for the delegate sent to them, and to encourage Timothy, who was young and of a weakly constitution (1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 5:23). 'Gospel ministers do the work of God with Him, for Him, and under Him' (Edmunds).

Establish. In 2 Thessalonians 3:3 GOD is said to "stablish." He is the true stablisher: ministers are His "instruments" (Acts 15:32).

Concerning [ huper (G5228)] - 'in behalf of;' i:e., for the furtherance of your faith. [ Parakalesai (G3870)] "Comfort" includes also 'exhort.' The Thessalonians in their trials needed both (1 Thessalonians 3:3: cf. Acts 14:22).

Verse 3

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

Moved - `shaken.' [ Sainesthai (G4525) is said of dogs wagging the tail in fawning on one.] Tittmann explains, 'That no man should, amidst calamities, be allured by the flattering hope of a pleasant life to abandon his duty:' 'that no man be cajolled out of his faith.' In affliction, relatives and opponents combine with the ease-loving heart in flatteries which it needs strong faith to overcome.

Yourselves know - by your own experience, and by our words: we always candidly told you so (1 Thessalonians 3:4). None but a religion from God would have held out such a prospect to those who should embrace it, and yet succeed in winning converts.

We - Christians.

Appointed thereunto - by God's counsel (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Verse 4

For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

That we should suffer - `that we are (sure) to suffer' by the appointment of God (1 Thessalonians 3:3).

Even as - `even (exactly) as it both came to pass, and ye know by experience:' ye know both that it came to pass, and that we foretold it (cf. John 13:19). Prophecy's correspondence to the event confirms faith. 'Forewarned, forearmed' (Edmunds). The repetition of "ye know" is an argument that, being forewarned of coming affliction, they should be less readily "moved" by it.

Verse 5

For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

For this cause - because I know your "tribulation" has actually begun (1 Thessalonians 3:4).

When I, [ kagoo (G2504)] - 'when I also could no longer contain myself.'

I sent. Paul was the actual sender; hence, the "I." Paul, Silas, and Timothy himself had agreed on the mission already, before Paul went to Athens; hence, the "we" (1 Thessalonians 3:1, note).

To know - the state of.

Your faith - whether it stood the trial (Colossians 4:8).

Lest by some means ... have tempted you, and our labour be, [ me (G3165) poos (G4459) epeirasen (G3985) kai (G2532) genetai (G1096)] - the indicative in the former sentence, the subjunctive in the latter. 'To know, whether haply (Ellicott, 'lest haply') the tempter have tempted you (the indicative implying such was the case), and lest, (in that case) our labour may prove in vain' (Greek, Galatians 4:11). The temptation was a fact; Paul's fear was, lest haply, by their yielding to it, his labour should prove vain: "vain," so far as ye are concerned; but not as concerns us, so far as we have sincerely laboured (Isaiah 49:4; 1 Corinthians 3:8).

Verse 6

But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

Join "now" with 'come:' 'But Timotheus having just now come' (Alford) (Acts 18:5). Paul is therefore writing from Corinth.

Your faith and charity (1 Thessalonians 1:3) - their faith subsequently increased still more (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Faith was the solid foundation; charity the cement which held together the superstructure of practice. In that charity was included their "good (kindly) remembrance" of their teachers.

Desiring greatly, [ epipothountes (G1971)] - 'having a yearning desire for.'

We also. The desires of loving friends for one another are reciprocal.

Verse 7

Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:

Over you, [ ef' (G1909) humin (G5213)] - in respect to you. It is a comfort to him who loves to hear that the one beloved knows his love.

In - notwithstanding "all our distress [ anangkee (G318): inevitable trial, 'necessity] and affliction;" namely, external trials at Corinth, whence Paul writes (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:6 with Acts 18:5; Acts 18:10).

Verse 8

For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

Now - as the case is; seeing ye stand fast.

We live - we flourish. It revives us in affliction to hear of your stedfastness (Psalms 22:26; 3 John 1:3-4).

If. The vivid joy which Paul "now" feels will continue, if the Thessalonians continue stedfast. They still needed exhortation (1 Thessalonians 3:10); therefore he subjoins, "if ye," etc. (Philippians 4:1.)

Verse 9

For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

What - what sufficient thanks?

Render to God again - in return for His goodness (Psalms 116:12).

For, [ peri (G4012 ): concerning] you, for (on account of) all the joy. It was "comfort," 1 Thessalonians 3:7, now it is more-namely, joy.

For your sakes - on your account.

Before our God. It is a joy, as in the presence of God, which will bear His searching eye; not self-seeking, but disinterested, sincere, and spiritual (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:20; John 15:11).

Verse 10

Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

Night and day (note, 1 Thessalonians 2:9). Night is the season for the saints' holiest meditations and prayers (2 Timothy 1:3).

Praying. What thanks can we render to God, praying as we do, etc.? [ Deomenoi (G1189), a beseeching request.]

Exceedingly, [ huperekperissou (G5240a)] - 'more than exceeding abundantly' (cf. Ephesians 3:20).

That which is lacking. Even the Thessalonians in some things needed improvement (Luke 17:5). Their doctrinal views as to the nearness of Christ's coming, and the state of those asleep, and their practice in some points needed correction (1 Thessalonians 4:1-9). Paul's method was to begin by commending what was praiseworthy, then to correct what was amiss: a good pattern to all admonishers.

Verse 11

Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

'May God Himself, even our Father (there being but one article, requires, "He who is at once God and our Father") direct,' etc. The "Himself" stands in contrast with "we" (1 Thessalonians 2:18): we desired to come, but could not through Satan's hindrance; but if God Himself direct our way (as we pray), none can hinder Him. The unity of the Father and Son appears here, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; the verb is singular, as the subject, the Father and Son, are but one in essential Being, not in mere unity of will. Almost all the chapters in both letters are sealed, each with its own prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:16) (Bengel). Paul does not think the issue of a journey an unfit subject for prayer (Romans 1:10; Romans 15:32) (Edmunds). His prayer, though deferred, in about five years afterward was fulfilled in his return to Macedonia.

Verse 12

And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

The "you" (Greek) is emphatically put first: 'but' (Greek for "and"), what concerns "YOU," whether we come or not, 'may the Lord make you to,' etc. "Increase" or enlarge [ pleonasai (G4121)] has a comparative force: "abound" [ perisseusai (G4052)] a superlative force 'make you full (supplying) "that which is lacking" (1 Thessalonians 3:10), and even abounding.' "The Lord" may here be the Holy Spirit: so the Three of the Trinity will be appealed to (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13), as in 2 Thessalonians 3:5. So the Holy Spirit is called "The Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:17). "Love" (brotherly, toward Christians first, and philanthropic toward all men) is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22): His office is "to stablish in holiness" (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:2).

Verse 13

To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Your hearts - naturally the spring of unholiness.

Before God, even our Father - rather, 'before Him who is at once God and our Father.' Before not merely men, but Him who is not deceived by the show of holiness - i:e., may your holiness be such as will stand his scrutiny. God will judge by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 17:31).

Coming, [ parousia (G3952)] - 'personal presence.'

With all his saints - including holy angels, and the holy elect of men (1 Thessalonians 4:14; Daniel 7:10; Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 15:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7). The saints are "His" (Acts 4:13). We must have "holiness" if we are to be numbered with His holy one. [ Hagiotees (G41) is holiness in the abstract. Hagiosunee is the state of holiness: hagiasmos (G38), the process of being made holy.] On "unblameable," cf. Revelation 14:5. This verse (cf. with 1 Thessalonians 3:12) shows "love" is the spring of "holiness" (Matthew 5:44-48; Romans 13:10; Colossians 3:14). God really "stablishes;" Timothy and others are but instruments (1 Thessalonians 3:2) in 'stablishing.'

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.