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After leaving Thessalonica (2:17-3:13)
Having reminded the Thessalonians of his work and conduct while among them, Paul now outlines his thoughts and feelings for them since he left. In spite of what his opponents are saying, his failure to return does not mean that he has no interest in them. Several times he has tried to return, but each time something has stopped him (17-18). He wants to have joy, not shame, at Christ’s return, and for this reason he is eager to see his converts grow and develop in the faith (19-20).
Paul was faced with a difficulty. He was not able to return to Thessalonica, yet he was not able to rest if he did not return. He therefore did the next best thing and sent his fellow worker Timothy, even though it meant that Paul had to face alone the difficult task of preaching in Athens (3:1-2; cf. Acts 17:16-34). Timothy’s task was to strengthen the Thessalonians’ faith to withstand persecution. Paul did not want the good work already done among them to be destroyed through people turning away from Christ (3-5).
Timothy has now returned and Paul is overjoyed at the news he has brought. The believers in Thessalonica have progressed in their faith and love, and their longing to see Paul is as great as his longing to see them (6-8). He does not know how to thank God for such good news. He desires more than ever to revisit them, so that he can further help their growing faith (9-10). But he will return only if God wants him to. God is the one who guides their progress, and only he can make them strong. In view of Christ’s return they should increase in love and holiness (11-13).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany