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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 3

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 3:1. Wherefore. Because of our vehement but thwarted desire to see you.

When we could no longer forbear. When the longing to see or at least to hear of you became uncontrollable.

To be left behind at Athena alone. The natural interpretation of these and the following words is that Timothy was sent from Athens. In the narrative given in the 17th and 18th chapters of Acts, however, no mention is made of Timothy’s arrival at Athens, and it might be inferred from chap. Acts 18:5 that he first overtook Paul at Corinth. But that narrative does inform us that Paul gave directions that Timothy should come to him with all steed, and also that Paul waited for him at Athens, The obvious inference is that Timothy did overtake Paul while yet in Athens, and was immediately sent back to Thessalonica, the apostle’s desire to hear of his friends there being stronger even than his desire for Timothy’s company. Silas apparently was also despatched on some similar mission, and the two overtook Paul a second time at Corinth, as related in Acts 18:5 and 1 Thessalonians 3:6. It is just possible that Paul may have countermanded his first order that Silas and Timothy should follow him with all convenient speed, and may thus have turned them back to Macedonia before they reached Athens. But this supposition does not so well agree with the words ‘left behind’ and ‘sent;’ and the other arrangement, proposed above, seems unobjectionable.

Verses 1-13

Paul describes the Feelings he had towards the Thessalonians after he had left them.

This paragraph is remarkable chiefly as a manifestation of the ardent affection which Paul felt for his churches. It was with pain he absented himself from them, with difficulty he was prevented from returning, with delight that he looked forward to the time when he should be permitted to revisit them. And while absent from them, he was dependent for his happiness on the reception of good tidings of their continuance in faith, love, and patience. This tidings he received through Timothy, and in the joy of this good news his own sorrows and hardships were forgotten. He was thrown into an ecstasy of thankfulness and of love, and could find no words strong enough to express either his gratitude to God for their stedfastness or his earnest longing for their further progress, and that he himself might be the means of perfecting as he had been of beginning their faith.

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 3:2. Our brother and fellow-labourer with God. This reading is doubtful, but is preferred by the most discriminating editors. The reading followed by the English version is more natural and presents less difficulty. But the expression ‘fellow-labourer with God is supported by 1 Corinthians 3:9. Paul bestows these commendatory titles on Timothy partly from his affection for his young assistant, partly to illustrate still further his love for the Thessalonians, which enabled him to part with so dear and valuable a companion. It has been justly observed, that the fact of Paul’s sending Timothy on this mission sufficiently refutes the charge of timidity and weakness which has sometimes been brought against this young disciple. See also Philippians 2:19-22.

Exhort you concerning your faith. Paul’s fear was that the faith of the recent converts might fail under the persecution to which they were exposed. Timothy was sent in the interest of their faith, to explain to them that the troubles in which they were involved were no proof that their faith was foolish, and to encourage them to maintain it.

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 3:3. For yourselves know. Expected tribulations can be no trial to faith, however they may try our sincerity and integrity. From the first God declares to His people that they may count upon trial; and therefore when trial comes they cannot be inclined to suppose that God is forgetful of them. ‘Seeing that afflictions are appointed to us, and we appointed to them; seeing there is a decree of God concerning them, a decree as to the matter of them, as to the manner of them, as to the measure of them, as to the time of them, when they shall commence, how far they shall advance, how long they shall continue; seeing everything in affliction is under an appointment, how meek and humble, how patient and submissive, ought the Christian’s spirit to be under them, and with what steadiness of expectation may and ought he to look up to heaven for a sanctified use and improvement of them!’ (Burkitt).

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 3:4. We told you before. Paul had not sought to win adherents to the faith by veiling the hardships of the Christian life. It is better that beginners should count the cost and deliberately enter the Christian course, than that they should find themselves involved in difficulties they did not contemplate. As a kindly physician sometimes judges it prudent not only to promise to his patient ultimate restoration, but also to tell him the phases his disease will pass through previous to its removal, so that when he sees new symptoms arising, or feels his strength failing be may not be alarmed, but may recognise this as all foreseen as leading on towards health: thus Paul had dealt with the Thessalonians.

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 3:5. For this cause, i.e. on account of these afflictions which had fallen upon you.

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 3:6. But Timothy having just now come. That this letter was written immediately after Timothy’s return with the good news he brought regarding the Thessalonian Christians, might be gathered from the warmth of its tone.

Good remembrance, a remembrance which was hearty and spoke well for their spiritual condition; for had they not continued to relish the teaching inaugurated by Paul, they would not have thought frequently about him nor have longed to see mm again.

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 3:7. We were comforted. The tidings which Paul received of the stedfastness of his Thessalonians under trial, enabled him to endure his own troubles with greater equanimity. Their continued faith showed him that his former labours and trials had not been in vain, their affection and sympathy cheered him, and their uncomplaining endurance was a fresh stimulus to his own patience.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 3:8. For now. Now refers to the change of feeling occasioned by the arrival of Timothy’ (Jowett). It is equivalent to in these circumstances, in this condition of things, that is to say, if ye stand fast in the Lord, we live.

We live, i.e. we have the full strength and enjoyment of life: this is enough for us; we no longer feel cramped and depressed by our own troubles.

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 3:9. For. Paul goes on to explain the intensity of feeling and life produced in him by the news he had heard. It was ‘joy’ that flooded his soul with fresh life: a joy so abundant that no thanksgiving could adequately express it.

Before our God. His was a joy which naturally carried him into the presence of God; his exultation over the Thessalonians was all suffused with gratitude to God, who had wrought in them this triumphant increasing faith.

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 3:10. The good tidings which Paul had received did not quench but rather intensified his desire to see them. From this intense longing we get a glimpse into the joys of the apostolic life; and see with what gladness and refreshment the first preachers must have turned to those with whom their efforts had been certainly successful, and in whom they saw promise of the new faith becoming triumphant

And might perfect that which is lacking in your faith. They had made advances, but had not yet attained perfection. So long as Christians are in this life, there is room for growth, and those who have made greatest proficiency are precisely those who may most hopefully be stimulated to further attainment. The deficiencies in the faith of the Thessalonians were probably such as could be removed by instruction. Already their faith was genuine, rightly based, and masculine, but it needed that enlightened knowledge of duty and of the truths of Christianity which tends to a mature and fullorbed character.

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 3:11. May God himself. Himself is added to give emphasis to the appeal to God; may He whose power cannot be baffled by Satan as my efforts have been, may He whose purposes stand fast and who overrules all human affairs, bring me to you.

And our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is conjoined with God as the object of prayer and as the disposer of persons and events. Divine rank and Divine power are thus ascribed to Him. The circumstance that a verb in the singular follows these two nominatives (God and our Lord Jesus Christ) is certainly worthy of remark, and has commonly been considered as proof that in the apostle’s mind the Father and Jesus Christ were looked upon as one God. It exhibits them as one source of energy.

Direct our way unto you. Three or four years elapsed before this prayer was answered.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 3:12. But you may the Lord make to increase. Whatever becomes of us and of our prayer, whether we are allowed to come to you or not, may you be tended by the Lord. As the beginnings, so the increase of love is from the Lord. ‘Love is of God.’ And because it is the ‘bond of perfectness’ and ‘the fulfilling of the law,’ Paul prays that they may abound in love. It is the soil out of which all Christian grace can grow, it contains in itself the germ of all other grace, it is greater than even faith or hope: ‘God is love,’ and the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of love; and therefore Paul, desiring that his converts be established unblameable in holiness, prays that they may abound in love.

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 3:13. The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Paul looks forward to as the time when those who are holy shall be acknowledged and manifested as such; and beyond which there is no fear of falling away. His prayers for them reach to that point but not beyond.

With all his saints. Christ is to appear with all His holy angels (Matthew 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7), and at His appearing His saints are at once to join Him (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Probably both angels and men are included in the present expression.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/1-thessalonians-3.html. 1879-90.
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