1 Thessalonians 3

But if Paul had been hindered from coming personally – very likely
by the violence of the persecution raised against him by Satan – he had
sent Timothy to comfort and encourage them. Here again, in opening
chapter 3, we see in Paul the marks of a true father in Christ. He was
at Athens, a peculiarly hard and difficult city, a place where more
urgently than in most he felt the need of the support and encouragement
afforded by like­-minded fellow-labourers, yet would he sacrifice
himself and be left alone in order that Timothy might shepherd the
souls of these young believers, and establish them just when Satan was
aiming at their overthrow by means of afflictions. The trial of their
faith had not come as a surprise for he had forewarned them about it,
even though his stay amongst them had been so short.

From this let us learn that it is not right nor wise to hide from
the youngest convert that tribulation from the world is the normal lot
of the Christian while on earth. There are abundant joys in
Christianity, but not of a worldly order. In the world we are to have
tribulation, so let us not misrepresent the case, thinking thereby to
get more converts. Let the truth be faced and we shall thereby not lose
one true convert, though plenty of make-believe ones may be
checked – to their own good and our good also. As to tribulation, we
all of us have to say in our turn, “it came to pass, and ye know.”

In raising persecution against believers Satan is always aiming at
their faith. He would weaken it and destroy it if possible. Notice how,
as a consequence, faith is emphasized by Paul in this passage. He sent
Timothy to comfort “concerning your faith .” He sent to “know your faith .” Timothy returned and brought “good tidings of your faith,” and as a consequence he was comforted “by your faith .”
Faith is the eye of the soul. It gives spiritual vision. Paul knew
that, as long as the unseen things of faith were real to them, the
persecution would only produce spiritual enrichment and invigoration,
just as a cold douche which would be hurtful to an invalid is
invigorating to a man in full health. Faith is a vital link between the
soul and God and if it be weakened, everything about the believer is
weakened. Satan knows this right well.

When faith is maintained in the hearts of believers they “stand fast
in the Lord,” and this was a great joy to the apostle. It comforted him
in all his afflictions. So deeply did he feel about the Thessalonians,
exposed as they were to such trials so soon after their conversion,
that until he knew how they had been sustained in them he was like a
man at the point of death. The good news he got through Timothy brought
him back to life. This is the figure he uses when he says, “Now we
live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

Though faith was so brightly maintained in these Christians, yet
there was need that it be perfected, as verse 10 shows. Something was
lacking as to it in this sense – that as yet they were unacquainted
with the whole circle of truth that had been revealed. What they did
see by faith, they saw very clearly; but they did not as yet see all
there was to see. The apostle earnestly longed to meet them again and
bring before them those parts of God's truth which as yet they knew
not. In this Epistle he reveals to them some­thing of which as yet they
were in ignorance, as we shall see when con­sidering chapter 4.

While as yet he was hindered, his desire was that they should
increase and abound in love one toward another. God alone is the Object
of faith. He is also the Object of love, but love to Him can best be
practically expressed by love to those born of Him, as we are reminded
in John's Epistle. Moreover the Christian should be an overflowing
fountain of love toward all men. The Thessalonians were this, and it
explains how they became such effectual advertisements of the gospel,
as we saw when considering chapter 1. Only they were to increase more
and more.

Thus would they be established unblameable in holiness in view of
the coming of the Lord. Holiness and love are evidently closely
connected. As love is operative in our hearts towards God and his
people, so we hate what He hates and are preserved unblameable before
Him. The grand goal before us is the coming of the Lord Jesus with all
His saints. Mark that preposition “with.” When He comes in His glory we
are to be with Him. How we reach His presence above, so as to come
forth from heaven in His company when He appears, is not yet plainly
indicated in the Epistle; but this verse alone should have assured the
Thessalonians, and should assure us, that when He comes not one will be
missing. It will be with ALL His saints.