1 Thessalonians 3:1-2
Why when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;…
Paul had been compelled to leave Thessalonica in consequence of the malignant opposition of the Jews. But Timothy might venture where it would be perilous for the apostle to appear. Fearing that his absence might be misconstrued, and anxious to strengthen the faith of the infant Church in the midst of trial, the apostle determines to send a trusted messenger. It is a significant testimony to the sound judgment and prudence of Timothy, that he is selected for this difficult and important mission.
I. THIS MISSON WAS THE SUGGESTION OF AN UNCONTROLLABLE ANXIETY. "Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear." This anxiety sprang from the intensity of the apostle's love. It is a striking feature of genuine Christian love, that while it bears external suffering with uncomplaining patience, it is impatient of delay in doing good. The mother can endure anything but restraint in her desire to promote the best welfare of her child. David was indifferent to exposure and danger, but his soul panted after God.
II. THIS MISSION INVOLVED GREAT PERSONAL INCONVENIENCE. "At Athens alone." True love, in its unselfishness, ever prefers another's good to its own. Timothy had travelled so constantly with Paul, and had been so great a comfort, that his absence was a loss keenly felt. Specially was his sympathy and cooperation needed at Athens. What a sublime historical picture is pourtrayed in the words "at Athens alone." Christianity embodied in a single, lonely man, standing in the midst of the populous metropolis of pagan culture and idolatry. Yet the power enshrined in that solitary man broke up and scattered the huge fabric of heathenism.
III. THIS MISSION WAS ENTRUSTED TO A THOROUGHLY QUALIFIED MESSENGER. The high character of Timothy and his relations with Paul are brought out in the epithets —
1. Brother. Elsewhere Paul calls him his "own son in the faith," his "dearly beloved son"; but in speaking of him to the Churches, he recognizes him on the equal footing of a brother.
2. Minister of God. Solemnly set apart by the voice of prophecy and by the hands of the presbytery, and of Paul himself.
3. Fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, not only as all God's ministers are — i.e., working the work of the same Lord — but also on the ground of that special intimacy of personal intercourse and cooperation to which he was from the first admitted by the apostle. Thus Timothy was thoroughly qualified —
(1) To carry out the apostle's wish concerning the Thessalonians: and(2) to sympathize with the Church's peculiar difficulties and trials. He was more than a mere courier. He was faithful to Paul's instructions, and valuable to the Church in himself.
IV. THIS MISSION WAS CHARGED WITH A WORK OF HIGH IMPORTANCE AND NECESSITY.
1. To establish, to confirm, or set fast their faith, by a fresh authoritative manifestation of the gospel truth and its Divine evidences; and this would be done by private conversation and public ministration.
2. To comfort. The word means also — and especially here — to exhort, though, doubtless, comfort would be mingled with the exhortation. The Thessalonians were exposed to the storm of persecution that was everywhere raging against the gospel and its adherents, and they were exhorted to steadfastness, "that no man should be moved by these afflictions." Paul and Barnabas had a similar mission to the Churches in Lesser Asia (Acts 14:22). There are none so strong in faith but need confirmation; none so courageous but need comfort. Lessons —
1. The establishment of believers is ever a subject of anxiety to the true minister.
2. The desire to promote the highest welfare of the Church should ever be paramount.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;