St Paul informs them how, being hindered himself from visiting them, he had sent Timothy to comfort them, of whom he gives a high character, 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:2. Shows that trials and difficulties are unavoidable in the present state, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, 1 Thessalonians 3:4. Mentions the joy he had on hearing by Timothy of their steadiness in the faith, for which he returns thanks to God; and prays earnestly for their increase, 1 Thessalonians 3:5-10. Prays also that God may afford him an opportunity of seeing them, 1 Thessalonians 3:11. And that they may abound in love to God and one another, and be unblamable in holiness at the coming of Christ, 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 3:13.
Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;Wherefore, when we could no longer, etc. - The apostle was anxious to hear of their state, and as he could obtain no information without sending a messenger express, he therefore sent Timothy from Athens; choosing rather to be left alone, than to continue any longer in uncertainty relative to their state.
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:Timotheus, our brother - It appears that Timothy was but a youth when converted to God; he had now however been some years in the work of God; Paul therefore calls him his brother, being one of the same Christian family, a son of God by adoption: elsewhere he calls him his own son, 1 Timothy 1:2; and his dearly beloved son, 2 Timothy 1:2; because he was brought to the knowledge of the true God, and to salvation by Christ, through the apostle's instrumentality. See the preface to the First Epistle to Timothy.
Minister of God - Employed by God to preach the Gospel; this was God's work, and he had appointed Timothy to do it, and to do it at this time in conjunction with St. Paul; and therefore he calls him his fellow laborer. There were no sinecures then; preaching the Gospel was God's work; the primitive preachers were his workmen, and labored in this calling. It is the same still, but who works?
That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.That no man should be moved - That is, caused to apostatize from Christianity.
We are appointed thereunto - Εις τουτο κειμεθα· We are exposed to this, we lie open to such, they are unavoidable in the present state of things; as the Latins say, sic est sors nostra, "this is our lot." God appoints nothing of this kind, but he permits it: for he has made man a free agent.
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.That we should suffer tribulation - I prepared you for it, because I knew that it was according to their nature for wicked men to persecute the followers of God.
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.For this cause - Knowing that you would be persecuted, and knowing that your apostasy was possible, I sent to know your faith - whether you continued steadfast in the truth, lest you might have been tempted by Satan to consult your present ease, and abandon the Gospel, for which you suffered persecution.
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:When Timotheus came - We have already seen that he and Silas stayed behind at Thessalonica, when Paul was obliged to leave it; for the persecution seems to have been principally directed against him. When Paul came to Athens, he sent pressingly to him and Silas to come to him with all speed to that city. We are not informed that they did come, but it is most likely that they did, and that Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to comfort and build up these new converts. After Paul had sent away Timothy, it is likely he went himself straight to Corinth, and there Timothy soon after met him, with the good news of the steadiness of the Thessalonian Church.
Your faith and charity - The good tidings which Timothy brought from Thessalonica consisted of three particulars:
1. Their faith; they continued steadfast in their belief of the Gospel.
2. Their charity; they loved one another, and lived in unity and harmony.
3. They were affectionately attached to the apostle; they had good remembrance of him, and desired earnestly to see him.
Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:Therefore - we were comforted - My afflictions and persecutions seemed trifles when I heard of your perseverance in the faith.
For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.For now we live - Your steadfastness in the faith gives me new life and comfort; I now feel that I live to some purpose, as my labor in the Lord is not in vain.
For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;What thanks can we render to God - The high satisfaction and uncommon joy which the apostle felt are strongly depicted in the language he uses. How near his heart did the success of his ministry lie! It was not enough for him that he preached so often, labored so hard, suffered so much; what were all these if souls were not converted? And what were all conversions, if those who embraced the Gospel did not walk steadily in the way to heaven, and persevere?
Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?Night and day praying exceedingly - Supplicating God at all times; mingling this with all my prayers; ὑπερεκπερισσου δεομενοι, abounding and superabounding in my entreaties to God to permit me to revisit you. How strong was his affection for this Church!
Might perfect that which is lacking - That I might have the opportunity of giving you the fullest instructions in the doctrine of Christ, that ye might have every thing in the most ample detail; so that the great outlines of truth which you already know may be filled up, that ye may be perfectly fitted to every good word and work.
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.Now God himself and our Father - That is: God who is our Father, who has adopted us into the heavenly family, and called us his sons and daughters.
Direct our way - As he was employed in God's work he dared not consult his own inclinations, he looked for continual directions from God, where, when, and how to do his Master's work.
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:Make you to increase and abound in love - They had already love to each other, so as to unite them in one Christian body; and he prays that they may have an increase and an abundance of it; that they might feel the same love to each other which he felt for them all.
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.To the end he may establish your hearts - Without love to God and man, there can be no establishment in the religion of Christ. It is love that produces both solidity and continuance. And, as love is the fulfilling of the law, he who is filled with love is unblamable in holiness: for he who has the love of God in him is a partaker of the Divine nature, for God is love.
At the coming of our Lord - God is coming to judge the world; every hour that passes on in the general lapse of time is advancing his approach; whatsoever he does is in reference to this great event: and whatsoever we do should be in reference to the same. But who in that great day shall give up his accounts with joy? That person only whose heart is established in holiness before God; i.e., so as to bear the eye and strict scrutiny of his Judge. Reader, lay this to heart, for thou knowest not what a moment may bring forth. When thy soul departs from thy body it will be the coming of the Lord to thee.