Brothers, although we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in heart), our desire to see you face to face was even more intense.
I. HIS GRIEF AT THE SEVERANCE OF PERSONAL INTERCOURSE WITH THEM. "But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season in presence, not in heart." The term is expressive of the orphan-feeling felt by children deprived of their parents, or of parents bereaved of their children. He seems to say like Jacob, "If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved."
1. His grief was a proof of his deep affection for them. Grace intensifies all right human affections.
2. Absence, instead of weakening, rather strengthened his desire to see them again face to face. Neither time nor distance could diminish his interest in them.
II. THE SEPARATION WAS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED BY SEVERAL ATTEMPTS TO REVISIT THEM. "We endeavored the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire." The difficulties were great, but he tried once and again to get back to Thessalonica, probably in the period when Silas and Timothy were temporarily gone from him.
III. THE OBSTACLES TO HIS RETURN. "But Satan hindered us."
1. The apostle believed in the existence of a personal evil spirit as well as in his steadfast resistance to the kingdom of God in all its interests. He was "not ignorant of Satan's devices."
2. The obstacles may have arisen through Satan inciting evil men to raise conflicts and tribulations round the apostle, so as to allow of no leisure for the projected visit.
IV. THE GROUND OF HIS ANXIETY TO REVISIT THEM. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye before our Lord Jesus at his coming?" He did not desire to have his labor in vain.
1. They were closely identified with his own future honor and happiness, by the hope that they would not be "ashamed at Christ's coming," but would be "his joy and crown of rejoicing." He would then "rejoice in the day of Christ that he had not run in vain, neither labored in vain" (Philippians 2:15, 16). Therefore he longed to be near to them that "he might impart to them some spiritual gift," and watch over the walk of his spiritual children.
2. It's wish implies
(1) that there will be degrees of glory in heaven according to the measures of a minister's usefulness;
(2) that he will be able to identify his converts in heaven. - T.C.
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short timeEphesians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Acts 26:18; 1 Timothy 5:15; Ephesians 4:27; 2 Corinthians 12:7). The powers of Satan —
I. FORCING AN UNWILLING SEPARATION.
1. The separation was painful but temporary — "Being taken from you" literally, "being orphaned of you." Their grief was like that of a father bereaved of his children, or children of their parents. They hoped speedily to return, and after a lapse of five years, that hope was realized. Satan acted by means of wicked men (Acts 17:5-8, 13).
2. The separation did not lessen their spiritual attachment. "In presence, not in heart." Satan may deprive of the opportunity of social intercourse, but not of reciprocal Christian love. , referring to different kinds of friendship, shows the preeminence of the spiritual, when the link is grace and the Spirit of God. "Natural affections, want of presence diminisheth; mundane friendship, where profit makes the union, want of profit unlooseth; but spiritual amity nothing dissolves, no, not that which dissolves all others, lack of society."
II. HINDERING AN EARNESTLY DESIRED VISIT.
1. Opposition intensified their desire to see their converts. "Endeavoured the more abundantly," etc. As lime is inflamed by water, as a stream grows more furious by the obstacles set against it, so genuine affection is increased by that which opposes it.
2. The opposition succeeded in baffling repeated attempts to carry out that desire. "Once and again, but Satan hindered us." The apostle halted at Berea on his way to Athens, and probably attempted then to return to Thessalonica, but was thwarted in his design. Though no express reference is made in the history to the agency of Satan, Paul had unmistakeable evidence of its operation in many wars. Satan hindered us — perhaps by sickness, imprisonment, tempests at sea, or by keeping him so fully occupied with incessant conflicts and ever new tribulations of his own, as to leave him no leisure for carrying out his plan. The verb signifies to cut a trench in the way of a pursuing enemy, so as to hinder his progress.
III. UNABLE TO ROB THE CHRISTIAN WORKER OF THE JOY AND REWARD OF SUCCESS. Great as is the power of Satan, it is not omnipotent. The Christian warrior can successfully withstand it (Ephesians 6:11-13; Romans 16:20).
1. Success in soul saving is productive of joy. "For what is our hope," etc. The merchant rejoices over his gains, the warrior ever his victories, the artist over the achievements of genius; but there is no joy so sweet as that of the successful winner of souls.
2. The joy of success in soul saving will be among the highest rewards of the future. "In the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" etc. The return of Christ to heaven, after the judgment, is here compared to the solemnity of a triumph, in which the apostle is to appear crowned in token of victory over the false religions of the world, attended by his converts, and because they are the cause of his being thus crowned, they are, by a beautiful figure of speech, called his crown of rejoicing. Special honour is promised to the successful worker (Daniel 12:3).(1) Joy enhanced by the recognitions in the future life. If Paul knows his converts in the heavenly world, shall not we know our loved ones who have gone before?(2) By the presence and approbation of the Lord Jesus for whom we have laboured. "In Thy presence is fulness of joy," etc.Lessons:
1. The power of Satan works through many agencies; therefore we have need of watchfulness.
2. The power of Satan is limited; therefore we need not be discouraged
I. HE WAS RUDELY FORCED AWAY FROM THEM, such was the rage of his persecutors, who, by certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, stirred all the city of Thessalonica into an uproar, and would have taken summary vengeance upon him and Silas; but their brethren interposed, and ere long they sent them away by night to Berea. The body of Paul was at Berea, but the heart of Paul was at Thessalonica. He could not forget the Thessalonians. Sooner might the stars forget their courses at night time, or the sun forget to shine at noon day.
II. EVEN HIS BODILY ABSENCE WAS BUT FOR A BRIEF SPACE — the time of an hour, as it were. All time on earth is brief and uncertain, whether we are present with our friends or absent from them. This world is not a place where we are long together. It is in heaven holy souls shall meet and never part more.
III. HE EARNESTLY ENDEAVOURED TO SEE THEM AGAIN. How strong and beautiful his words, "We endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire!" Who could doubt his affection for his converts after this? He knew they esteemed him very highly in love for his works' sake, and was therefore attracted to them by the force of the same holy passion. Love alway begets love, and hearts thereby influenced would never be separated. But even apostles are not masters of their own time. Paul did his best, and angels could do no more.
IV. BUT SATAN HINDERED HIS RETURN TO THEM. The great enemy of mankind is especially opposed to those who would destroy his kingdom of lies by declaring the truth of another kingdom. The child of God can no sooner enterprise that which is really good, but he meets with some impediment; so, whoever be the means or instruments for impeding us in the way of duty, the devil himself, through God's permission, is the prime author of that woeful work, and all others do but fight under his banner; for, though other means were doubtless accessory to Paul's stay at Berea, yet Satan hindered him from returning at once to Thessalonica.
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