Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;1 Thessalonians 3:1. When we could no longer forbear — Or bear, rather, namely, our anxiety on your account. The word στεγοντες, here used, literally signifies bearing or carrying, but never forbearing. Some such word as anxiety is necessary to be supplied, because it appears from the following verse, that the apostle was at this time under great concern lest the Thessalonians should have been moved from the faith of the gospel, either by the false arguments of the unbelievers, or by the persecutions which they suffered. We thought it good to be left at Athens alone — Although there we had peculiar need of the support and comfort of having with us an approved companion and friend. Some infer, from this manner of speaking, that Silas was absent from Paul while he was at Athens. And Macknight supposes, that though Timothy and Silas were both ordered to follow him from Berea to Athens, (Acts 17:15,) only Timothy came to him there. See Acts 18:1; Acts 18:5. If this opinion be correct, when Timothy left Athens, the apostle remained in that city alone, which was a very trying circumstance, as he expected great opposition from the Athenian philosophers. Some, however, infer, from the apostle’s speaking in the plural number, We thought, &c., that Silas must have been with him. And sent Timotheus, our fellow-labourer in the gospel — As Timothy is said (Acts 17:14) to have remained with Silas in Berea, after Paul’s departure, it is probable he had been with the apostle at Thessalonica, and had assisted him in his work of preaching the gospel there; to establish you — In the new faith you have embraced; and to comfort you — Under your suffering. That no man — That none of you, who have believed; should be moved — Or shaken, as σαινεσθαι means; should be discouraged, and made to fall off from his adherence to the Christian profession and hope, by these afflictions — Which either you or we are exposed to. For you know that we are appointed thereto — Our Lord expressly forewarned his apostles that they were to be persecuted, and that even to death; and that whoever killed them would think he did God service. Moreover, when he called Paul to the apostleship, he showed him how great things he must suffer for his name’s sake, Acts 9:16. All the apostles, therefore, and Paul more especially, expected to be persecuted. But here it is signified, that not only the apostles, evangelists, and other ministers of the word, were exposed to persecution, but that all who embraced the Christian faith were to expect to meet with the same treatment from the unbelievers, whether heathen or Jews; yea, that, as the original expression, εις τουτο κειμεθα, implies, that they were appointed to it, or rather laid, in every respect, in a fit posture for it, and that by the very design and contrivance of God himself, for the trial and increase of their faith and other graces. For, one principal part of the scheme of God, in establishing the Christian Church, was to raise a society of men who should glorify his name, and illustrate the force of true religion by enduring the greatest extremities in its defence with fortitude and cheerfulness. He gives great riches to the world, but stores up his treasures of wholesome afflictions for his children. For when we were with you — We did not flatter you with any vain hopes of an easy and pleasurable life, but plainly and candidly told you, before you embraced the gospel which we preach, and united yourselves to the Christian community, by submitting to the ordinance of baptism, that we should suffer tribulation — And indeed what else could be expected by any that consider the nature of the religion to which we are endeavouring to make converts, compared with the tempers, prejudices, and interests of mankind. Because the apostle knew that the enemies of the gospel would infer, from his not delivering himself from persecution by miracles, that he did not possess the miraculous powers to which he pretended, he took care to let his disciples know, in every place, that he was ordered by his Master to suffer for the gospel, and that his suffering for it was as necessary a part of the proof of its divine original as his working miracles.
And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
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.
For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.1 Thessalonians 3:5-8. For this cause — The apostle proceeds to explain more fully what he began to speak of 1 Thessalonians 3:1; when I could no longer forbear — Or endure the state of anxious uncertainty I was in with regard to persons so dear to me, in such circumstances; I sent to know your faith — Whether you continued steadfast and constant in your adherence to the truth; lest the tempter — Satan; should have tempted you — That is, should by his temptations have caused you to faint under your trials, and so to depart from the faith. Temptations of different kinds usually accompany persecutions. But now, when Timothy came from you — Immediately after whose return, it seems, St. Paul wrote this epistle, while his joy was fresh, and his tenderness at the height; and brought us good tidings of your faith, &c., and that ye have good remembrance of us — Think of us with affection, and make respectful mention of us upon all occasions. The apostle undoubtedly means their remembering him and his fellow-labourers with respect, as teachers sent from God; and with gratitude, as those who had given them the knowledge of the true God and of eternal life. These things are the best foundations of a respectful, grateful remembrance; for, as Chandler observes, the persons who are converted by the labours of the faithful ministers of Christ owe to their spiritual fathers their own souls; an obligation that ought not to be soon or easily forgotten. Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over, or concerning, you — The faithfulness and constancy of the people of God are a great source of comfort to their teachers. For now we live indeed — Our life is worth having; or, we enjoy life; if, or seeing that, ye stand fast in the Lord — Continue firm in the faith of Christ and of his grace. So great is our affection for you. In like manner, faithful ministers of the gospel, after the apostle’s example, have no higher joy than when they find their wishes, their prayers, and their labours effectual to the conversion of their people, and for their establishment in truth and grace.
But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:
Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. What thanks can we render to God — That is, what sufficient thanks; for you — On account of your perseverance; for all the joy —
That I have thereby such unfeigned cause of rejoicing; so that the apostle’s joy respecting the Thessalonians, arose first from their conversion, and next, from their steady adherence to the faith and profession of the gospel amidst great temptation and persecution; before, or, in the presence of, our God — As εμπροσθεν του Θεου ημων properly signifies. Joy in the presence of God is not a carnal or worldly but a spiritual joy, such as God approves. Night and day praying exceedingly — That is, with great earnestness and importunity: that God would permit us to see your face — Once more in the flesh; and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith — Thus it appears St. Paul did not suppose that they who are once upon the rock no longer need to be taught by man! Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ — Here we have a plain instance of prayer being addressed to Christ as well as to the Father, and even in the same words, and at the same time. A similar instance occurs 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. And doubtless these petitions are addressed to him because he is God, for unless he be present everywhere, how can he hear the prayers which are everywhere put up to him by his disciples? Direct — Clear, or make straight; our way unto you — Namely, by removing those obstructions which at present remain. This prayer is founded on the supposition that the common events on which the apostle’s prosperous journey to the Thessalonians depended, were under the direction of God. The apostle, it appears, was heard in his prayer; for, as we are told (Acts 20:2) that he gave the brethren in Macedonia much exhortation, we have reason to believe he did not pass by the Thessalonians, whom he was so desirous to visit. And the Lord make you to increase and abound — Πλεονασαι και περισσευσα, to abound and overflow; in love — The Lord Jesus seems to be here addressed, because all spiritual blessings which are originally from the Father come to us immediately through and from Christ, to whom belongs the office of bestowing every blessing, whether of nature, of providence, or of grace, upon his followers. The apostle’s example in praying thus fervently and importunately for his converts, well deserves to be imitated by all ministers of the gospel. And toward all men, as we toward you — Chandler’s remark on this passage is worthy of particular attention: “The apostle loved the Thessalonians as a father loves his children, and as a mother the infant at her breast, 1 Thessalonians 2:7. This his great love to them made him solicitous for their perseverance and salvation, so as to be willing to be persecuted, and to live in continual straits, (1 Thessalonians 3:7,) and to lose his life, (1 Thessalonians 2:8,) if it could have contributed to their perseverance in the faith, and to their eternal happiness. Generous apostle! how like the Master he served! Well therefore might he propose his own love to them as a pattern of their love to one another and to all. What an excellent religion is the Christian, which enjoins such a universal benevolence, even toward enemies and persecutors, and which roots out of the mind every tendency to anger, envy, malice, and revenge.” To the end — That by means of your love, which is the root of all piety and virtue; he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness — May make you steadfast in the experience of all Christian graces, and in the practice of all godliness and righteousness; and this before God, even our Father — Whose eyes are always upon you. These are high expressions when applied to fallen creatures, but what cannot the grace of God in Christ effect? Ye shall be perfect, says the Lord Jesus to his disciples, as, or because, your Father in heaven is perfect. And St. Paul informs us, that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, are appointed for the work of the ministry, in order to the perfecting of the saints, till they all come unto the full measure of Christ’s stature, Ephesians 4:11-13; and accordingly that they made it the great end of their preaching to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, Colossians 1:28. At the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints — That you may be found such at the day of final judgment.
Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.