1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
But we, brothers, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart…
I. HIS LONGING DESIRE TO SEE THEM.
1. His efforts to return to Thessalonica. He had not been long away. He was at Corinth now. Perhaps the jealousies, the dissensions, the sin which encompassed him there made him long all the more for the simple faith and love of his Macedonian friends. He was with them even now in heart, thinking of them in the hour of prayer, remembering them in his thankgivings. But there was a feeling of bereavement, almost of desolation, when he thought of their absence. So very dear they had become to him during the short time which he spent at Thessalonica. We feel, as we read these words, the depth of St. Paul's affection; we feel the power of Christian love.
2. What hindered him from coming. It was Satan, Satan the adversary - that awful being whose presence in God's world is so great a mystery, but whose personality is so clearly taught in Holy Scripture, whose power and malice we have all so often felt. Twice the apostle purposed to revisit Thessalonica; twice the hindrance came. The visit would have given him great comfort. Satan envied him that comfort, that sweet communion with his Christian friends. Satan hinders us, we may be sure. He tries to rob us of the consolations of religion, of the sweetness of Christian sympathy. His agency is more widespread than we think. He is the accuser of the brethren, their adversary in the religious life. But God sitteth on high. He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. He will make all things, even the temptations of the evil one, work together for our good if we abide in his love.
II. HIS EXPRESSIONS OF AFFECTION.
1. They are his glory and his joy. They are so now. He had few joys in this world, few earthly comforts. His life was spent in hard labor amid dangers and privations. It was relieved by very few pleasures. The natural beauty, the historical associations of the places which he visited in his travels, seem to have given him no enjoyment. His one joy was to save souls; his one pleasure was the loving sympathy of his converts. He sought no earthly glory; fame was nothing to him. The souls won to Christ by his preaching were his glory.
2. They would be his crown at the last. Not they only, others saved by his preaching at Damascus, at Antioch, in Cyprus, in Asia Minor, were his hope and joy; but none were more tenderly loved than the Christians of Macedonia, none are addressed with more endearing words. He. ever looked forward to the coming of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; the great day was always in his thoughts. What joy would it be to present these happy souls to Christ, as a chaste virgin to the heavenly bridegroom! This was his hope; this would be his crown - the crown of glory that fadeth not away, which the chief Shepherd shall give in that day to those faithful presbyters who have fed the flock of God willingly and of a ready mind, being themselves ensamples to the flock. LESSONS.
1. True Christians will delight in the society of those like-minded with themselves.
2. We must remember the restless energy of Satan. We must trust in God. He is stronger than the strong man armed.
3. We must pray for grace to love the saints of God as St. Paul loved them. - B.C.C.
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.