1 Thessalonians 3:11
The apostle had hitherto been hindered by Satan from carrying out his intention. "But may God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you."

I. THE APOSTLE RECOGNIZED A DIVINE HAND IN ALL THAT CONCERNED HIS PERSONAL LIFE. His way to Thessalonica seemed hitherto blocked up, but he felt that, it depended, not upon Satan, nor upon his wicked instruments, but upon the will of God himself, whether he should ever take that way. This implies:

1. Our journeys are not in our own power. Man may plan his own ways, but God directs his goings; for "a good man's steps are ordered by the Lord."

2. Our journeys are not to be undertaken without God's will. (James 4:13, 14; Romans 1:10.) It is for him to order us where and when to go.

3. It is in his power only to remove the obstacles to our journeys.

II. THE APOSTLE RECOGNIZED THIS PROVIDENTIAL GUIDANCE AS EQUALLY EXERCISED BY THE FATHER AND THE SON.

1. He prays here to both Father and Son. The same prayer is addressed to both without distinction, for the verb is in the singular number. Must not Jesus, therefore, be a Divine Person?

2. Father and Son are here regarded as possessing one indivisible will, as exercising a joint agency in the guidance of men, and as possessing an equality of power to this end. Athanasius saw this fact clearly in the grammatical peculiarity of the passage.

3. The apostle exercises an appropriating faith in both Father and Son, for he speaks of "our God and Father," and our Lord Jesus Christ. He was, therefore, all the more disposed to trust submissively to the directing hand of God. - T.C.







Now God Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you
I. THIS PRAYER RECOGNIZES THE ESSENTIAL ONENESS OF THE FATHER AND THE SON.

1. Christ is invoked equally with the Father. The word "Himself stands foremost in the sentence and refers to both persons, as if the writer said, May our God and Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself direct our way unto you." It should be also noted that the verb "direct," belonging to both persons, is in the singular number. This fact was urged as an important point by in the great Arian controversy. As the Son partakes equally with the Father in the honour of invocation, so also in excellency of nature. Divine properties are also ascribed to the Son in overruling by His providence the affairs of men. "What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."

2. It is the privilege of the believer to realize a personal interest in the Father and in the Son. By an act of appropriating faith we can say, God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Similar phrases occur no less than twenty-six times in these two Epistles. Blessed confidence! What a wealth of tenderness, satisfying assurance, and joyous triumph is involved in my God! my Saviour!

II. THIS IS A PRAYER FOR PROVIDENTIAL GUIDANCE IN SECURING A MUCH DESIRED INTERVIEW. "Direct our way unto you." Hitherto the way had been blocked up. The brethren there were as eager to welcome Paul as he was to be present; but Satan had hindered. Nevertheless, let God give the signal and all impediments would vanish. God should be recognized in the simplest affairs of life. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps;" and only those journeys are prosperous wherein God is pilot. There are crises in life when everything depends on being guided in the right way — e.g., in selecting a school or college, entering on the religious life, commencing business, contemplating marriage, or in change of residence. In these and all other matters acknowledge God, and He shall direct thy paths. Our prayer for guidance must ever be in submission to the Divine will. The apostle's prayer was not answered immediately; five years elapsed before he again visited Macedonia. That path is safest and best in which God's finger points. Let His call be our loadstar: His hand the cloud, to move or pause as He directs.

III. THIS IS A PRAYER FOR THE BESTOWAL OF AN INCREASED MEASURE OF THE HIGHEST CHRISTIAN AFFECTION.

1. Christian love is progressive and mutual. "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another." Love is the badge of the genuine Christian. He cannot have too much of it — the more the better. It grows with all other graces, and causes them to grow. There is no limit to its expansion but our finiteness. But love must be mutual "one toward another." "For this is the message," says St. John, "that ye heard from the beginning, that ye should love one another;" and, "Seeing ye have purified your souls see that ye love one another," urges St. Peter.

2. Christian love is unselfish. "And toward all men." The old law declared "Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself." And the New Testament reiterates the truth, that charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned is the fulfilling of the royal law.

3. Here we have Christian love practically exemplified. "Even as we do towards you." Paul and his co-labourers had given unmistakable evidence of their love (1 Thessalonians 2:8, 9, 13; 1 Thessalonians 3:3-5). Love is the soul of self-sacrifice. Ministers should exemplify in their own lives what they prescribe to others.

IV. THIS IS A PRAYER FOR CONFIRMATION IN A STATE OF UNBLAMABLE PERSONAL PURITY.

1. There is no stability in Christian graces apart from love. "To the end he may stablish your hearts." If it were possible to possess every other grace but love, it would be like a varied summer landscape, beautiful but transient. Above all other graces we are exhorted to "put on charity which is the bond of perfectness" — a girdle which adorns and binds together all the rest. Love is the fulfilling of the law, the infallible test and evidence of stability.

2. An unblamable holiness is the legitimate and necessary outcome of love. "To the end He may stablish," etc. Paul prays for an increase of love in order to the attainment of a higher personal purity. All defects in obedience issue from a defect in love. Our love of God makes us solicitous to know and obey Him, and fearful to offend Him. Our love of man makes us careful to preserve his honour, life and possessions, and in no way to impair his happiness. The whole law is love. There is no duty to which it does not incline; no sin from which it does not restrain.

3. Holiness screens the soul from Divine censure at the second advent (ver. 10). He who remains steadfast shall be blameless then. That holiness alone is genuine which will bear the scrutiny of Omniscience.Lessons:

1. Recognize God in every event of life.

2. To attain purity pray for love.

3. Act in all things so as to secure the Divine approval.

(G. Barlow.)

We have here an instance of a marked characteristic of Paul's Epistles — the tendency which the course of the argument ever has to break forth into prayer. In this respect they bear a striking resemblance to David's Psalms.

I. TO WHOM THIS PRAYER IS ADDRESSED.

1. It is quite evident that the apostle regarded Christ as standing in the same relation to prayer as God the Father. The prayer is addressed to both, implying equality of power and unity of will, which imply a still higher unity — even unity of essence. While, then, our Lord is distinguished from the Father in personality, He is one with Him in Godhead, and therefore is He rightly addressed in the language of prayer.

2. "Himself" is emphatic, suggesting a contrast. Human agency had been frustrated. Satan had (1 Thessalonians 2:18) so far prevailed. But now Paul turns to God with the confidence of filial reverence and love, and prays that He may remove obstacles and prosper his desire. His prayer was in the spirit of Jeremiah 10:23, and Romans 1:9, 10.

II. WHAT HE PRAYED FOR.

1. That they might increase, and by so increasing abound in love. To have this is to abound in true wealth which no outward reverses can lessen, which increases the more it is expended, which is always useful and can never be exhausted. It has prominence assigned it here, for it is the essence of Christian life, the bond of perfectness, the soul of the graces. As all beauty is cold and lifeless unless there be a soul speaking and breathing through it, so all the elements of moral beauty are worthless without love.(1) This love is a Christian grace, for it turns first of all to Christ. It lives only in fellowship with Him, and He makes His people to increase in it.(2) This love in its inner circle is "one toward another." It is far in advance of friendship, which was so admired by the ancient heathen. The calumny that Christianity is inimical to friendship, and is a selfish care for the individual soul is refuted here. It broadened and transfigured friendship into "love of the brethren."(3) This love was toward all men. Christianity has broken down the barriers of race and creed, and struck "barbarian" out of the dictionary of mankind, substituting "brother." It tells them of a Divine philanthropy (Titus 3:4), and bids them imitate it.(4) This love was exemplified by Paul "as we do toward you."

2. Love may be regarded as the end of Christian striving, for it brings men nearest heaven; but it is represented here as a means (ver. 13).(1) Christian love going out towards others in blessing comes back laden with new blessings to the soul. The "hearts" of Christ's people become in this way established. Where there is mutual and universal love there is of necessity a steady purpose and aim imparted to the whole life. The heart in this way becomes united (Psalm 86:11). All its impulses go forth in the one direction of holiness unblamable before God, and is thus recompensed with the assurance of Divine love.(2) Even amidst the imperfections and limitations of earth and time the believer has something of this. But the more advanced he is in the Divine life the more does he mourn over his unholiness in the sight of God. Hence the apostle carries our thoughts forward to the second coming (1 Corinthians 1:7, 8). This is the pivot on which the whole Epistle turns. Very naturally and tenderly does Paul refer to this in order to draw away the thoughts of his friends from the trials, sorrows, and sins of their present lot. He would have them think of the lot of their future inheritance that they may be faithful unto the end.

(J. Hutchison, D. D.)

In these profoundly interesting words we have one of the most unfeigned and earnest prayers of the apostle. He desired to be directly instrumental in the farther spiritual benefit of the Thessalonians; and the only way to do so while at a distance was by prayer for them, together with his writing or sending to them.

I. THE HEARERS OF PRAYER. Prayer is made to God, even the Father and our Father, and also to Christ, even our Lord Jesus Christ; therefore Jesus Christ our Lord is God, even as God our Father is God. Prayer is to be offered to God as our Father (Matthew 6:9): so Jesus taught His disciples, and so the Spirit prompts them to pray (Romans 8:15). And prayer is not only to be offered up to Christ as our Lord and Saviour, but in the name of Christ as the Lord our Righteousness.

II. THE THINGS PRAYED FOR. He prays that he might have a prosperous journey to them, by the will of God. The taking of a journey to this or that place, one would think, is a matter depending so much upon a man's own will, and lies so much in his own power, that Paul needed not by prayer to go to God about it; but the apostle knew that we depend upon God in all our motions and actions as well as for the continuance of life and being — that Divine Providence orders all our affairs, and that it is owing thereto if we prosper therein — that God our Father doth direct and order His children whither they shall go, and what they shall do — that our Lord Jesus Christ in a particular manner directs the motions of His faithful ministers, "those stars which He holdeth in His right hand." He prayeth, too, for the prosperity of the Thessalonians, whether he should see them or not; and there are two things he desired for them, which we should desire for ourselves and our friends, namely — that they might "increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men;" and that they might be established unblamable in holiness. This last-mentioned spiritual benefit is the effect of increasing and abounding love. Our desire should therefore be — to have our hearts established in holiness; for then we shall be found blameless at the last advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will surely come, and come in His glory; and when He cometh, His saints will come with Him. And then the excellency, as well as the necessity of pure and perfect holiness, will appear, because without such a state no hearts shall be established at that day, nor shall any one be unblamable, or avoid everlasting condemnation.

(R. Fergusson.)

At the very moment of his conversion Saul of Tarsus surrendered himself by a prayer to Christ as the lawful Lord of his being. "Lord," he cried, "what wilt Thou have me to do?" And when afterwards in the Temple our Lord bade St. Paul "Make haste and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem," we find the apostle unfolding to Jesus his secret thoughts, fears, regrets, confessions; laying them out before Him, and waiting for an answer from Him (Acts 22:19, 20). Indeed, St. Paul constantly uses language which shows that he habitually thought of Jesus as of Divine Providence in a human form, watching over, befriending, consoling, guiding with infinite foresight and power, but also with the tenderness of human sympathy. In this sense Jesus is placed on a level with the Father in these, St. Paul's two earliest Epistles (text and 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17), in one instance as directing the movements of the apostle's life, in the other as building up the inward life of Christians. In other devotional expressions the name of Jesus stands alone (Philippians 2:19; 1 Timothy 1:12). Is not this the natural language of a soul which is constantly engaged in communion with Jesus, whether it be the communion of praise or the communion of prayer? Jesus is to Paul, not a deceased teacher or philanthropist, who has simply done his great work and then has left it as a legacy to the world; He is God, ever living and ever present, the Giver of temporal and spiritual blessings, the Guide and Friend of man in his outward and inward life.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. PAUL'S GREAT PERSONAL DESIRE.

1. It was evidently more than a natural transcient longing such as would arise in any mind on the remembrance of dear friends who had been left, it was a fixed strong desire. "We are away from you for a time, in presence, not in heart. I endeavoured to see your face with great desire, but Satan hindered. I therefore sent Timothy — my dearest and best fellow labourer, and the tidings he has brought has comforted me. But this is not enough. May God direct my way unto you." The inferences from this are —(1) They must have been a very lovable people. For in this desire we can see more than apostolic function, or simple discharge of duty. Clearly here is that unpurchaseable thing — the whole heart's love on both sides.(2) This is one of the marvels and triumphs of Christianity that it can thus mutually unite, refine, endear people to each other in any circumstances. What were the circumstances? They had scarcely a day's peace in their connection. And yet how they hold on to each other. Is there any other department of life that can be likened to this? Say, that some merchant goes into a distant city, opens a large business, and supplies smaller traders. But unfortunate times comes on. Those who have bought cannot pay, and the merchant sees his capital sunk as in the sea. Would it be wonderful if he closed his stores and departed? Now see the contrast. Paul comes on his great business to Thessalonica — the city is in an uproar, and his friends are glad to get him away with life. And yet the strain "Taken from you in presence, not in heart, I shall be back again soon." The religion of Christ is a plant which storms cannot break, which will grow fresh and green above the very snows, and in the dark, damp air of prisons, and will bear some of its best fruits when all other trees are barren.

2. The religious rule he puts it under; the subordination of it to the will of God. He seems to say, "There is nothing more that I can do: Satan seems to hold the keys of the city, and he will not let me in if he can help it. People would advise me to give it up. But no, I hold a strange key, that has opened many a door for me, and perhaps it may fit the lock of that city gate. It is called the key of prayer, and it never rusts with me, for it never rests. I use it by night as well as day. Even while I thus write, I use it. Now God direct my way." The teaching is, have your human desire, hold it against all hostility and disappointment; but have it in subjection to the higher Will which knows all the circumstances of which we can only know a part. Says an old writer, "Let God be our Pilot if we mean to make a good voyage of it." Let our hand be on the stern, our eye on the star. Let our course as the mariners' be guided by the heavens.

II. PAUL'S GREAT DESIRE FOR THE CHURCH.

1. This desire is not dependent on the fulfilment of the other. He was aware that unless he had an express Divine assurance that the former was not to be calculated upon with certainty. If he is permitted to see them he will supply, by God's help, what is lacking in their faith, and out of that will spring a fuller love. But if he is not allowed to see them, the Lord could do without his agency.

2. The love here mentioned is discriminated, but it is one thing. Love to God is one thing, with differentiations suited to the character of the individuals. Love in us —(1) Has its fullest expression when its object is God.(2) Next to that in excellence is love of God's own children — our brethren. Very beautiful is this affection when founded on mutual knowledge and esteem, when each sees in the other the Master's image, and are all kindly affectioned one to another. "Behold how good and peasant, etc.(3) It has been said that this mutual love is apt to deteriorate in the very exercise of it, and to become exclusiveness. This is possible. Churches have so attended to the form of this great privilege and duty that they have allowed the spirit of it to evaporate. They have ceased to feel for the miseries about them. Well, we cannot say that the Scriptures have led us astray. For see how inseparably the two things are here joined. "And toward all men." There is only that word between them, and that unites and never disjoins. It is God's strong bridge over the river; God's marriage service over the two affections, never to be severed more. "And what God hath joined together," etc. Let no one say he loves the brotherhood if he despises one human creature. But on the other hand let no man say that he loves the race while he sees nothing to love in his fellow Christians.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

A merchant, though he owns the ship, and hath stored it with goods, yet, because he hath no skill in the art of navigation, he suffereth the pilot to guide it. Certainly we shall shipwreck ourselves unless we give ourselves up to be guided by the Spirit of God according to His will.

(T. Manton, D. D.)Just as if a master, who had given his scholar charge to follow wheresoever he might lead, when he sees him forestalling, and desiring to learn all things of himself, should permit him to go utterly astray; and when he had proved him incompetent to acquire the knowledge, should thereupon at length introduce to him what he himself has to teach: so God also commanded man in the beginning to trace Him by the idea which the creation gives; but since they would not, He, after showing by the experiment that they are not sufficient for themselves, conducts them again unto Him by another way.

( Chrysostom.)

The Israelites usually asked council of God by the Ephod, the Greeks by their Oracles, the Persians by their Magi, the Egyptians by the Hierophante, the Indians by their Gymnosophistae, the ancient Gauls and Britains by their Druids, the Romans by their Augurs or Soothsayers. It was not lawful to propose any matter of moment in the Senate before their wizards had made observations from the sky. That which they did impiously and superstitiously, we ought to do in another sense — religiously, conscionably, i.e., not to embark ourselves into any action of great importance before we have observed from heaven, not the flight of birds, not the houses of planets, or their aspects or conjunctions, but the countenance of God, whether it shineth on our enterprises or not, whether He approves of our designs or not.

(J. Spencer.)

I believe that wherever guidance is honestly and simply sought it is certainly given. As to our discernment of it I believe it depends upon the measure in which we are walking in the light. One indulged sin may so cloud the sky that it spreads a mist, so that to see what God is doing is impossible. But neither the casting of lots, the opening of the Bible at a venture, nor the sudden impression of a text, nor freedom in prayer over a matter, nor a dream, furnishes any reliable direction. The Lord rather opens and shuts, throws down the walls of difficulty, or hedges the way with thorns, for those who confidingly seek His guidance by prayer. They know that their concerns are in His hands, and fear to run before He sends, or to delay when He directs an advance.

(J. Newton.)

There is nothing so small but that we may honour God by asking His guidance of it, or insult Him by taking it into our own hands.

(J. Ruskin.)

As the sails of a ship carry it into the harbour, so prayer carries us to the throne and bosom of God. But as the sails cannot of themselves speed the progress of the vessel, unless filled with the favourable breeze, so the Holy Spirit must breathe upon our hearts, or our prayers will be motionless and lifeless.

(A. Toplady, M. A.)

Do you feel that you have lost your way in life? Then God Himself will show you your way. Are you utterly helpless, worn out, body and soul? Then God's eternal love is ready and willing to help and revive you. Are you wearied with doubts and terrors? Then God's eternal light is ready to show you your way, and God's eternal peace to give you peace. Do you feel yourself full of sins and faults? Then take heart; for God's unchangeable will is to take away those sins and purge you from those faults.

(G. Kingsley, M. A.)

In the daily events of our life we mistake the Divine for the human. You may cross a street, and not know the reason why, and in that very crossing you may be unconsciously obeying a Divine suggestion. You may hold over the letter box a letter, and suddenly you may say, "I'll not send it by this post," and your not sending it may occasion you a blessing that you never thought of. You cannot account for these things. You say, "I thought just at the last moment I would not do so;" but that is a fool's explanation of life. I rather believe that God's angels are overhead, or just by our side, and that we do things by Divine impulse without always knowing what we are really doing. You say, "Yes, but don't let us be superstitious." I answer, I am more afraid of people losing veneration than I am afraid of their becoming superstitious; and it is a poor life that does not begin in veneration and continue in worship to the end.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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