1 Thessalonians 2:17
But we, brothers, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart…
St. Paul had a very profound belief in the reality and activity of the evil one (Ephesians 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
Parallel VersesKJV: But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.