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Various Proofs of Paul's Love for the Thessalonians
He sent Timothy to them as his representative:
v. 1. Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
v. 2. and sent Timotheus, our brother and minister of God and our fellow-laborer in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you and to comfort you concerning your faith,
v. 3. that no man should be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that we are appointed there unto.
v. 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.
Paul had protested his love for the Thessalonian Christians in the strongest terms, stating also that he had tried time and again to visit them, but had been prevented from carrying out his intention. So he had done the next best thing: Wherefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought best to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and servant of God in the Gospel of Christ, to give you strength and consolation in behalf of your faith. The longer Paul had been separated from the Thessalonian congregation, the more unendurable this separation became to him. He felt that he must get into communication with them in some way. Although he shrank from loneliness, therefore, especially where there was little or no Christian fellowship, he disregarded his own comfort and peace of mind. No sooner had Timothy (and Silas) joined him at Athens, where he had waited for them, Acts 17:15, than he commissioned Timothy to return to Thessalonica. Or Paul may have countermanded the order sent to Timothy by the Berean Christians and sent him word to proceed to Thessalonica first, before joining him in Achaia, Acts 18:5. He preferred to bear a certain amount of personal inconvenience to the continuation of the anxiety in behalf of his beloved pupils. As usual, Paul cannot refrain from adding a few commendatory words regarding Timothy, designating him as his brother in Christ and as a servant of God in the Gospel of Christ. These were no mere titles of honor, but were intended to show the Thessalonians how much the apostle thought of them in being willing to be deprived of the company of such a highly esteemed and unusually able helper. At the same time, Timothy, having such qualifications, was able also to strengthen the Thessalonian Christians, to confirm them, to offer them the necessary encouragement and comfort with reference to their faith. It was not that he expresses any distrust of them with regard to the soundness of their faith, but he is aware of the many dangers that surround the Christians at all times,
Of these dangers he says: That no one should be disturbed in these troubles; for yourselves know that we are destined to that end; for also when I was with you, I spoke of this to you in advance, that we must endure afflictions, just as it happened and you know, Even after the departure of Paul the Thessalonian Christians had been harassed by their own countrymen, chap. 2:14. Lest, therefore, they be disturbed in their faith on account of these troubles, lest anyone should apostatize from Christianity, Timothy had been commissioned to dispense strength and cheer to their hearts. As for the Thessalonians themselves, Paul reminds them that troubles of this kind are the fate of the Christians; it is what they must expect by reason of their calling; it is a part of the cross which their Lord expects them to bear, Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 10:21; John 15:18; Acts 14:22. Paul reminds them also of the fact that he, indeed, had during his stay with them told them of this in advance that it is a part of God's purpose with regard to His children that they must suffer affliction. The fact, then, that this prediction was being fulfilled should cause them no surprise. It happened so to them, and it happened so to him, and the Christian should be satisfied with his lot, with the cross which he must bear according to God's will. All this is a part of Christian knowledge, the Gospel winning believers in spite of this undisguised forewarning. Note: The Christians of the present time are inclined somewhat to shirk the bearing of tribulations by equivocating when they should really make a clear confession of their faith in word and deed. It is to be feared that many cases of denial of the Lord grow out of such behavior.
The effect upon the apostle of Timothy's encouraging report:
v. 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 labor be in vain.
v. 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,
v. 7. therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith;
v. 8. for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
The apostle here resumes the thought of 1 Thessalonians 3:1, referring again to his constant anxiety in their behalf: On this account I also, when I could no longer bear it, sent to find out about your faith, whether perhaps the Tempter had tempted you and our toil had been thrown away. The apostle's personal interest in the matter is here brought out by his changing from the plural to the singular. The Thessalonians had experienced suffering; he, on his part, had done what he could to keep them firm in the faith. His anxiety for them having reached the point when he could no longer endure the suspense, Timothy had been dispatched as his representative to get information concerning their stand in the faith. For, as Paul tells his readers, there was always danger that the devil might have succeeded in trapping them and thus rendering all his hard labor in their city useless and frustrating all his toil in their behalf. The same danger threatens the Christians of our day. The devil either leads them to a false security and thus creates an attitude of indifference, or he brings persecutions upon them, causing them to deny their faith.
Now, however, the apostle's anxiety had been quieted: Now, however, Timothy having come to us from you and having brought us the good news of your faith and love, and that you have a good remembrance of us always, eagerly desiring to see us, just as also we are to see you, for that reason we were comforted, brethren, concerning you, in all our own distress and trouble, through your faith, because now we live if you stand firm in the Lord. Timothy had now joined the apostle at Corinth, and it was his report that had urged the apostle to pen these lines at once. Good news he had brought, an excellent account of their faith and love. The Gospel had not been preached in their midst in vain. It had not only worked faith in the hearts of the Thessalonians, but it had kept them in the faith, and it had brought forth the fruit of faith in their lives, love toward God and their fellow-men. Their attachment to the apostle was also as warm as ever; they still remembered him kindly, they were filled with anxious longing to see him, their eagerness in this respect equaling his own. All these factors combined in giving Paul the greatest comfort and cheer. Amidst all his own troubles and afflictions he was at least fully satisfied about them. Their perseverance in faith was such a source of consolation to him that all considerations of his own state dwindled into insignificance. He felt refreshed, revived, he was full of the true joy of living. If they would but remain firm in the Lord, in faith, he would consider that he had not lived and was not living in vain. It was an appeal which was intended to stimulate the Thessalonians to their highest efforts in their Christian life.
The apostle prays for their further establishment in faith and love:
v. 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,
v. 10. night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
v. 11. Now God Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
v. 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,
v. 13. to the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
Paul here rises to an enthusiasm bordering on ecstasy. The high satisfaction and peculiar joy which he felt are strongly shown in the language which he uses: What sufficient thanks can I render to God, in return, concerning you for all the joy with which we rejoice on your account before our God, night and day praying most fervently that we may see your face, and might perfect the deficiencies of your faith? The apostle has received definite information of the stability of the Thessalonians in faith. This wonderful condition he attributes entirely to God, whose power has been manifested through the Gospel. He is anxious to make some return of appropriate thanksgiving to the Lord of grace; he is casting about for ways and means which would adequately express the gratitude which is overflowing from his heart. His reason for thanksgiving he has in the joy which is now striving for utterance, in his exultant rejoicing on their account. Without ceasing, night and day, his fervent supplications are rising to the Throne of Grace that God would grant him the boon of seeing his pupils at Thessalonica face to face. For that would give him an opportunity of perfecting any deficiencies which their faith still had, it would give him the chance to rectify certain matters of belief and practice. The Thessalonians were still in need of instruction, of exhortation, of intercession; for no Christians attain to complete perfection in this life. The fundamental outlines of the truth were in their possession, but it was necessary to fill out these outlines, to supply the details, to make them perfectly fitted to every good word and work.
The prayer of the apostle now rises to still greater heights of fervor: But God Himself and our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way to you; you, however, may the Lord cause to increase and to excel in love toward one another and toward all, just as we stand toward you, in order that He may establish your hearts irreproachable in holiness before God and our Father at the coming (the royal visit) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. Amen. The first petition of the apostle concerns himself, namely, that God would so arrange it, would so guide and direct matters, that it would be possible for him to visit Thessalonica as soon as possible, Note that his prayer is directed to both God the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ, these two persons of the Godhead being equal in deity. Mark also that every prayer is heard by God through Jesus Christ, by whom we have access to the Father, in whom the Father gives all His gifts to His children on earth. Should there be any delay in his coming, however, or, no matter what would happen, he has another petition, namely, that the Lord, the Giver of all good gifts, would cause the Thessalonian Christians to become filled with, to increase in, love, and thus to excel, to superabound in love toward one another, in the midst of their own congregation and toward all men. In this respect Paul was their example and model, in the love which he bore them. The result of this work of the Lord would be that the hearts of all the believers in the congregation would be established as being without reproach in holiness. This includes the whole life in and from the Spirit. The purity and the soundness of a Christian's holiness is based upon the disinterestedness of his love toward his fellow-Christians and toward all men. Thus would the Thessalonian Christians be prepared to stand before God the Father on the great day when our Lord Jesus Christ will pay His promised royal visit to the earth in visible form, accompanied by all His holy angels and the saints from heaven, Hebrews 12:22-23; Luke 20:26. Mark: The apostle never fails to call attention to the end and aim of the Christian life, the perfection of heaven, the reward of grace to those that remain steadfast in faith and love, in holiness of life, to the end.
The apostle gives further proof of his love for the Thessalonians in that he had sent Timothy to strengthen them, whose excellent report concerning their firmness had comforted him greatly; he includes a prayer for their further establishment in faith and love unto the end.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26