Scripture Reading — 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
We have learned from chapter two, verse fifteen, that the preachers had been “chased out” (margin) of Thessalonica. It is obvious that if the preachers were absent, the enemies were not.
In this passage now being considered, Paul manifests his interest in his converts in a threefold manner: first, he and Silas sent Timothy back to Thessalonica in order to establish the saints; second, he wrote this Epistle to more fully instruct them; third, he prayed for them. These remind one of the ministry to His Church of the Lord Jesus during the period of His absence from her. He sent to her the Comforter, the Holy Spirit; He gave her the inspired letters of the New Testament; and He continually intercedes for her in Heaven.
The Man Sent
“When we could no longer forbear (hold out), we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the Gospel of Christ.” Notice Paul’s description of Timothy; he was “our brother,” in his relationship to the saints; and “minister of God (deacon),” in his relationship to the Lord; and “our fellowlabourer,” in his relationship to Paul and Silas.
It is good to be a labourer although it is a hard word; it is better to be a fellowlabourer for that is team-work; it is best to be a fellowlabourer in the Gospel of Christ for that is doing God’s work. This remarkable commendation given by Paul would surely enhance Timothy in the minds of the Thessalonians.
The Purpose Stipulated
Paul asserts that he had sent Timothy “to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” His purpose was to strengthen them in the present, and to comfort (encourage) them in view of the future, in order that none of them would be moved by the afflictions that had befallen them. The word “moved” means to fawn upon, and embraces also the wagging of the tail of a dog (A good sign when one is approaching a large house with a Gospel tract.), an indication that the dog is inwardly affected. While the Gentiles (the “baser sort,” Acts 17:5, A.S.V.) were afflicting them, the Jews were tempting them, enticing them to abandon their new faith, to accept Judaism as a smoother and better path. Behind this movement was the tempter, Satan himself. Temptation is not sin, but the yielding to temptation is sin. Our Saviour was tempted, but He never yielded. Each temptation has two sides, the inside and the outside. The outside is called the bait and the inside, the bite. We should not be guilty of providing the bait, but alas, sometimes we indulge in the bite. The devil is a wily angler, he never casts a bare hook, and unfortunately, we, God’s people, frequently, bite the bait.
The Thessalonians were not taken unawares; Paul reminds them of some of his earlier statements, “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” (v. 4). He had not hidden from them the cost of discipleship, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (v. 3). The word “appointed” has the idea of the posting of a sentry. His duty is to be alert. Paul was deeply concerned about these young converts, and wondered whether or not they would stand the test. He feared lest the tempter had tempted them, and his work, and that of his associates, been in vain (v. 5).
The Report Surveyed
Timothy returned to Paul at Corinth (probably) bringing a report which Paul called “good tidings.” He was delighted that they had been sustained by the grace and power of God. This was a great encouragement to him so he added, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord” (v. 8).
In his report Timothy commended their faith and love, faith Godward and love manward. They had great affection for the men who had brought to them the Glad Tidings, the Gospel; and they were longing to see Paul and Silas, just as Paul and Silas were to see them.
What a lesson for the preachers of the Gospel! How many promising converts are lost to the assemblies because there is no follow-up ministry. If it is important to preach Christ to sinners, it is equally important to teach new converts (Matt. 28:19-20).
The Prayer Stated
Paul records his prayer that the desire and longing which he expressed (1 Thess. 2:17; 3:16) might be fulfilled. Notice in this connection: when he prayed, “night and day;” how he prayed, exceeding abundantly, struggling for words; and to whom he prayed, “to God Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In this prayer there is a delicate reference to the Deity of our Lord Jesus hidden in the language. He is addressed in a manner equal to that of God Himself. Only One who is divine could hear and answer the prayers of God’s beloved people.
Furthermore, notice for what he prayed: first, for himself; and second, for his converts.
For himself: He requested guidance that the Lord would direct his way back to Thessalonica in order that he might see them again “face to face” (v. 10). We all need guidance in the ways of the Lord. Difficulties had arisen, yet Paul knew the helm of his frail bark to be in divine hands. None have passed over the sea of life before; we are taking our first and final journey through this world. In this journey God guides His own in a threefold manner, by His Word, by His Spirit, and by circumstances. To be sure that God is guiding, all three must agree. The Spirit may guide us contrary to nature, but He never guides us contrary to His Word.
For his converts: “The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you” (v. 3). The Apostle is able through the grace of God to set himself before them as an example in these very matters.
“To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming (the presence of, parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Their holiness, like that of Christ when He was here, will be seen in blamelessness in the presence of our holy Lord.