Expositor's Greek Testament
Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;1 Thessalonians 3:1. μηκ., instead of οὐκ., to bring out the personal motive.—στέγοντες “able to bear” (cf. Philo, Flacc., § 9, μηκέτι στέγειν δυνάμενοι τὰς ἐνδείας), sc. the anxiety of 1 Thessalonians 2:11 f.—ἐν Ἀ. μόνοι. Paul shrank from loneliness, especially where there was little or no Christian fellowship; but he would not gratify himself at the expense of the Thessalonians. Their need of Timothy must take precedence of his.
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.1 Thessalonians 3:3. Cf. Artemid., Oneirocritica ii. 11, ἀλλότριοι δὲ κύνες σαίνοντες μὲν δόλους καὶ ἐνέδρας ὑπὸ πονηρῶν ἀνδρῶν [cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:2] ἢ γυναικῶν [cf. Acts 17:4] σημαίνουσιν.
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.1 Thessalonians 3:4. Cf. Acts 17:3; Acts 17:6; Acts 17:13 f.
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. Resuming the thought of 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 a, after the parenthetical digression of 3b, 4, but adding a fresh reason for the mission of Timothy, viz., the apostle’s desire to have his personal anxiety about the Thessalonians relieved. It is needless to suppose (with Hofmann and Spitta) that 1 Thessalonians 3:5 refers to a fresh messenger or a letter (Wohl.) despatched by Paul on his own account. As in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul passes to the singular, to emphasise his personal interest in the matter; the change of number, especially after the generic use of the plural in 3, 4, does not necessarily prove that the plural of 1 Thessalonians 3:1 means Paul alone. The dominating anxiety of Paul was about their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:5-10). He was overjoyed to hear that they retained “a kindly remembrance” of himself, and he reciprocates their desire for another meeting; but, while this undoubtedly entered into their general Christian position, it is the former on which unselfishly he dwells (cf. the transition in 10a and 10b).—πίστιν κ.τ.λ. “Initium omnium malarum tentationum inconstantia animi est et parua ad Deum confidentia” (De Imit. Christi, i. 13, 5).—ἐπείρασεν, with success, it is implied.
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.1 Thessalonians 3:8. The news put life and spirit into him.—στήκετε, for construction cf. Mark 11:25 and Abbott’s Johan. Gramm., 2515 (i).
For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;
Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?1 Thessalonians 3:10. Another adaptation of ethnic phraseology, cf. Griechische Urkunden, i. 246, 12, νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐντυγχάνω τῷ θεῷ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν (a pagan papyrus from second or third century, A.D.). The connection of δεόμενοι κ.τ.λ. with the foregoing words is loose, but probably may be found in the vivid realisation of the Thessalonians called up before his mind as he praised God for their constancy. Timothy had told him of their loyalty, but had evidently acquainted him also with some less promising tendencies and shortcomings in the church; possibly the Thessalonians had even asked for guidance on certain matters of belief and practice (see below). Hence Paul’s eagerness to be on the spot again, not merely for the sake of happy fellowship (Romans 1:11), but to educate and guide his friends, supplying what was defective in their faith. As this was impracticable in the meantime, he proceeds to write down some kindly admonitions. Thus 10b forms the transition to the second part of the letter; Paul, as usual, is wise enough to convey any correction or remonstrance on the back of hearty commendation. In the prayer which immediately follows, 10a is echoed in 11, 10b in 12, 13, for the maturing of the Thessalonian’s faith does not depend on the presence of their apostles. Whatever be the answer to the prayer of 11, the prayer of 12, 13 can be accomplished.
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.1 Thessalonians 3:11. κατευθύναι (optative), as already (Acts 16:8-10; Acts 17:1). The singular (cf. II., 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17) implies that God and Jesus count as one in this connection. The verb is common (e.g., Ep. Arist., 18, etc.) in this sense of providence directing human actions.
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:1 Thessalonians 3:12-13. The security and purity of the Christian life are rested upon its brotherly love (so Ep. Arist., 229); all breaches or defects of ἁγιωσύνη, it is implied, are due to failures there (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:6); even sensuality becomes a form of selfishness, on this view, as much as impatience or resentment. This profound ἀγάπη “is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken;” it fixes the believing man’s life in the very life of God, by deepening its vital powers of growth; no form of ἁγιωσύνη which sits loose to the endless obligations of this ἀγάπη will stand the strain of this life or the scrutiny of God’s tribunal at the end.—ὑμᾶς δὲ, what ever becomes of us.—ἁγίων, either (a) “saints” (as II., 2 Thessalonians 1:10, De Wette, Hofmann, Zimmer, Schmidt, Everling, Kabisch, Findlay, Wohl.), or (b) “angels” (Exodus 1:9; Ps. Sol. 17:49, etc., Hühn, Weiss, Schrader, Titius, Schmiedel, Lueken), or (c) both (cf. 4 Esd. 7:28, 14:9; Bengel, Alford, Wohl., Askwith, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Milligan). The reminiscence of Zechariah 14:5 (LXX) is almost decisive for (b), though Paul may have put another content into the term; πάντων must not be pressed to support (c). In any case, the phrase goes closely with παρουσίᾳ. The ἅγιοι are a retinue.
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.