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This is a short but interesting Chapter. Every Verse is expressive of the Apostle's Love for the Church. Amidst his Sufferings, he finds Comforts in their Soul-prosperity.
(1) ¶ Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; (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:
By Paul's sending Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians, while he himself stood much in need of this young man's services, we plainly discover how little he regarded himself when the welfare of the Church was before him. I have often thought, and prayed for grace to follow it, that the whole life of Christ's ministers ought to be directed in no one pursuit but the Lord's glory, in waiting upon and enquiring into the wants of the Lord's people. If there was less selfishness about my poor heart, I should consider it no interruption, but rather rejoice in the occasion which called me from (otherwise the pleasing employment of) study, to listen to the complaints and enquiries of the humble, and the weak of the Lord's family. And, I believe, that among those faithful ones in Christ's service, who have sought out, without waiting to be sent for, the sorrowful and tempted in the household of faith; they have found their own souls often refreshed, when the Lord hath caused them to minister to the refreshment of others. Paul himself found this to be the case, for he told the Church, that he longed to see them, that he might impart unto them some spiritual gift, to the end they might be established, and himself comforted by the mutual faith both in them and him. Romans 1:11-12 . And very sure I am, that next to the word of God, in the Lord's teaching, sick rooms and dying chambers are the best books, under the Spirits explaining them, from whence a minister, ordained of God the Holy Ghost, may learn subjects for preaching.
(3) That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. (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.
It should seem, that part of the sorrows of the Thessalonians was on the Apostle's account. They knew that he had been driven from them by the storm raised round the house of Jason, from whence the brethren had sent away Paul by night. See Acts 17:1-15 . And as he had been obliged to flee to Athens from Berea, their fears on his account were increased. How sweetly Paul reminds them of what he had continually preached as the true marks of the Apostolic character. No man should be moved by afflictions. It is Jesus which appoints, watches over, regulates, and sanctifies them. How little understood are those things in the present hour? If a faithful minister of Christ was to be sought for, in the present day by this mark of persecution, to what congregation would the enquiry be made? The general feature of the times is, to soften as much as may be, doctrines which are not palatable, for others of a more accommodating spirit. The primitive days of our fathers, after the Lord, in his mercy had caused this land to emerge from popery, were remarkable for holding forth the word of life. The great truths of our holy faith, such as the election of God, redemption wholly by Christ, the regeneration by the Holy Ghost, and the everlasting safety of the Church, in the final perseverance of the Lord's redeemed ones, were never lost sight of in their ministry. But how are these esteemed in the present hour, when, under the delusive pretence of spreading the truths of God, men of the most opposite principles in religion mingle together, concealing their different views of faith, that they may give no offence to each other. What would Paul have said to this smothering spirit, had he lived in these days? His affectionate Epistle to the Thessalonians, in charging them not to be moved by the afflictions of persecution, would have been totally unnecessary.
(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. (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: (7) Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: (8) For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. (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; (10) Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
In the present day of the Gospel, when the spirit of persecution is known only in name, it is hardly possible to conceive, how the minds of the faithful were exercised, when, as Paul here saith, he could no longer forbear to know how they stood in the faith; and how the heart of the Apostle rejoiced, in the tidings he received, of the Church's welfare. It is blessed when the Church centers all in Christ. The least departure from this, is going off the foundation. But when all rests on Christ, and all is built up in Christ; perfect peace, and happiness, will mark the order, and joy of the people. Blessedly Paul calls this life. For now we live (saith he) if ye stand fast in the Lord.
(11) ¶ Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. (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: (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.
Some have thought, that the whole Persons of the Godhead are included in this prayer of the Apostle. God himself the Holy Ghost the great Author of his holy word; and our Father; and our Lord Jesus Christ. But whether so, or not, certainly the whole Godhead is engaged, in those Covenant-acts, as relating to the Church. And in all our removals, from place to place, the Lord's people are under the special, and personal presence, and blessing, of the whole Godhead. See Joh_14:23; Joh_14:26 ; Revelation 1:4-5 . And, it is very precious to a child of God, when he finds a corresponding effect in his own soul, that his access to God, and communion with God, as well as the gracious visits from God; are all bringing testimony with them of those blessings. For this becomes a practical evidence, of living under the constant influence of the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Ghost. 2 Corinthians 13:14 .
Who can behold the affection, manifested by the Apostle to the Church, as set forth in this Chapter, without being struck with the conviction, that there is, there must be, in every faithful minister of Christ ordained, and sent forth, as Paul was, by the Holy Ghost, somewhat of the same love and affection. How is it possible for that man to be earnest in the service of souls, whose own soul is not melted by grace, into an ardent desire, for their everlasting welfare? Coldness, deadness, and an indifferency, argue, yea, prove, an unsuitableness for the ministry. And, whatever gifts and talents of the head a man may possess, in the mere letter-knowledge of the truths of God; he will never enter into the ministry with an earnestness to win souls, except a sense of his own salvation, makes him feel for others. Blessed Paul counts it his life, while the Church lived. The salvation of the people, was his hope, and crown of rejoicing. And hence, he could, and did say: as you have acknowledged, so we trust you shall acknowledge even to the end, that we are your rejoicing, as ye also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus. Reader! it will be your happiness, and mine, to discover our hearts brought into the same oneness of spirit, in Christ. His is the glory, and ours is the happiness. And, while both minister and people, are established by his grace, in him; we shall then be accepted, unblameable in holiness in him, before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany