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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
1 Thessalonians 3

 

 

Verses 1-13

Paul had been driven by persecution from Thessalonica, then from Berea to Athens. Alone at Athens for a time (Acts 17:1-34), he sent word for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed (17:15). Evidently Timothy at least had done so. As to Silas, it does not seem clear. But Paul sent Timothy then from Athens to Thessalonica, though unable to go himself and no doubt loathe to be without the help of Timothy. Later both Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:5), but as to the movements of Silas in the meanwhile it seems Scripture gives no indication.

As to verse 2 it appears that a more correct translation is "Timotheus, our brother, and fellow-worker under God in the gospel of Christ." Paul manifestly had confidence in the faithfulness of Timothy in caring for the state of their souls and was specially concerned that the persecutions endured by the saints at Thessalonica should not tend to discourage them. His work was first to establish them, that is, of course, to pro­vide the ministry of the Word that is a basis for firm solid stability in standing for God, then to comfort or encourage them. Establishing is, of course, more connected with teaching, while encouraging is rather shepherding, or pastoral work. How good if both are seen together.

If we should be too distressed or shaken by afflictions, is it not well to remember "that we are appointed thereunto?" Itseems this reminder is constantly needed by saints of God, and the apostle reminds them that when with them they had made it clear beforehand that they would suffer tribulation. So it turned out, as they were witnesses themselves. Yet we can too easily forget the preciousness of the privilege of suffering for the Lord's sake. Human nature will look for an escape from this, so that Paul's sending Timothy so soon after their visit is easily understandable.

Paul was not ignorant of Satan's devices, and his great concern for the preservation of the Thessalonians could be satisfied with nothing less than knowing their state. Satan has many means of turning young souls aside with temptations that make a strong appeal, and the apostle was most concerned that his labors should not prove in vain so far as the Thessalonians were concerned. But the return of Timothy brought the good news of their continued faith and love, as well as longing for the sight of the Lord's servants. Notice again this triplet of blessing: faith, love and hope. This news to the apostle was a great reward of comfort in view of his continued affliction and distress, a testimony of its being worthwhile. But it is by their faith he is comforted, that sweet principle that looks above and beyond all present things to the living God. For the apostle life was worth living when his converts stood fast in the Lord. How trying indeed to the soul of the servant if it is otherwise! The apostle knew something of this too, especially in his later years when all in Asia forsook him (2 Timothy 1:15), and in fact as regards the Galatians, of whom he stood in serious doubt, after having bestowed much labor upon them (Galatians 4:19-20). We may, of course, hope that in the latter case his epistle was used for their recovery.

Verses 9-10. The profound thanksgiving on the part of the Lord's servants for the sake of the Thessalonians is surely a lesson of great value to us. Nor was it only thanksgiving, but a precious joy as before God that filled their hearts to such an extent that they prayed "exceedingly" for the privilege of again seeing the faces of these beloved converts, coupled with the desire to minister that which would supply anything that might be lacking in their faith. They sought no less than fullness of blessing for these precious souls.

Verse I1 is more correctly translated, "But our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you" (Numerical Bible). There is no reason for the official title "Christ" to be added in an affectionate desire such as this. Yet this hope is evidently deferred for over four years, for we do not read of Paul's return to Macedonia until in Acts 19:21 he purposed to pass through there, a desire accomplished in Acts 20:1-2. This is considered to be the spring of 57 A.D. So that their prayers were answered, but no doubt not as soon as they had hoped for. These are very real considerations for our own souls.

But we may well echo on our own behalf the prayer of verse 12, for the increasing and abounding of love toward the saints of God and toward all men. How easily we lose sight of this most vital and primary character of Christianity, so that love wanes rather than increases. If growth in knowledge decreases love, there is something badly lacking in such knowledge. If it is truly the knowledge of the Lord Jesus it will increase love. Paul and his companions were a living example of this in their abundant love toward the Thessalonians.

But this prayer had in view the end that their hearts might be established unblamable in holiness at the coming of the Lord Jesus. The end of all mere social gospels is more comfortable circumstances on earth, but the apostle looks for holiness completely without blame at the coming of the Lord. The believer's present character, therefore, is to be formed by this pure anticipation. However, let us observe here that it is His coming "with all His saints," that is, when manifested in glory at the end of the tribulation period. Certainly the Church will have been taken to heaven before this, or they could not come with Him. But it is not the rapture of which he speaks here. Rather, it is the day when all creation shall be witness to the unblamable holiness of saints who have on earth "suffered with Christ," despised, blamed, rejected. What a difference then! But such training now is in view of so incomparable an end.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-thessalonians-3.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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