Proof of His Desire after Them in His Having
Sent Timothy: His Joy at the Tidings
Brought Back Concerning Their Faith and Charity: Prayers for Them.
1. Wherefore—because of our earnest love
to you (1Th 2:17-20).
forbear—"endure" the suspense. The
Greek is literally applied to a watertight vessel. When we could
no longer contain ourselves in our yearning desire for you.
left at Athens alone—See my Introduction. This implies that he sent
Timothy from Athens, whither the latter had followed him.
However, the "we" favors Alford's view
that the determination to send Timothy was formed during the hasty
consultation of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, previous to his departure
from Berea, and that then he with them "resolved" to be "left
alone" at Athens, when he should arrive there: Timothy and Silas not
accompanying him, but remaining at Berea. Thus the "I," 1Th 3:5, will express that the act of
sending Timothy, when he arrived at Athens, was Paul's, while
the determination that Paul should be left alone at Athens, was that of
the brethren as well as himself, at Berea, whence he uses, 1Th 3:1, "we." The non-mention of Silas at
Athens implies that he did not follow Paul to Athens as was at first
intended; but Timothy did. Thus the history, Ac 17:14, 15, accords with the Epistle. The
word "left behind" (Greek) implies that Timothy had been with
him at Athens. It was an act of self-denial for their sakes that
Paul deprived himself of the presence of Timothy at Athens, which would
have been so cheering to him in the midst of philosophic cavillers; but
from love to the Thessalonians, he is well content to be left all
"alone" in the great city.
2. minister of God and our fellow
labourer—Some oldest manuscripts read, "fellow workman with
God"; others, "minister of God." The former is probably genuine, as
copyists probably altered it to the latter to avoid the bold phrase,
which, however, is sanctioned by 1Co 3:9; 2Co 6:1. The English Version reading is
not well supported, and is plainly compounded out of the two other
readings. Paul calls Timothy "our brother" here; but in 1Co 4:17, "my son." He speaks thus
highly of one so lately ordained, both to impress the Thessalonians
with a high respect for the delegate sent to them, and to encourage
Timothy, who seems to have been of a timid character (1Ti 4:12;
5:23). "Gospel ministers do
the work of God with Him, for Him, and under Him"
establish—Greek, "confirm." In
2Th 3:3, God is said to "stablish": He is the true
establisher: ministers are His "instruments."
concerning—Greek, "in behalf
of," that is, for the furtherance of your faith. The
Greek for "comfort" includes also the idea, "exhort." The
Thessalonians in their trials needed both (1Th 3:3; compare Ac 14:22).
3. moved—"shaken," "disturbed." The
Greek is literally said of dogs wagging the tail in
fawning on one. Therefore Tittmann
explains it, "That no man should, amidst his calamities, be
allured by the flattering hope of a more pleasant life to
abandon his duty." So Elsner and Bengel, "cajoled out of his faith." In
afflictions, relatives and opponents combine with the ease-loving heart
itself in flatteries, which it needs strong faith to overcome.
yourselves know—We always candidly
told you so (1Th 3:4; Ac 14:22). None but a religion from God would
have held out such a trying prospect to those who should embrace it,
and yet succeed in winning converts.
appointed thereunto—by God's counsel
4. that we should suffer—Greek,
"that we are about (we are sure) to suffer" according to the
appointment of God (1Th 3:3).
even as—"even (exactly) as it
both came to pass and ye know"; ye know both that
it came to pass, and that we foretold it (compare Joh 13:19). The correspondence of the event to the
prediction powerfully confirms faith: "Forewarned, forearmed" [Edmunds]. The repetition of "ye know," so
frequently, is designed as an argument, that being forewarned of coming
affliction, they should be less readily "moved" by it.
5. For this cause—Because I know of your
"tribulation" having actually begun (1Th 3:4).
when I—Greek, "when I
also (as well as Timothy, who, Paul delicately implies, was
equally anxious respecting them, compare "we," 1Th 3:1), could no longer contain myself
(endure the suspense)."
I sent—Paul was the actual sender;
hence the "I" here: Paul, Silas, and Timothy himself had agreed on the
mission already, before Paul went to Athens: hence the "we," (see on 1Th 3:1).
to know—to learn the state of your
faith, whether it stood the trial (Col 4:8).
lest … have tempted … and …
be—The indicative is used in the former sentence, the
subjunctive in the latter. Translate therefore, "To know …
whether haply the tempter have tempted you (the
indicative implying that he supposed such was the case), and
lest (in that case) our labor may prove to be in vain"
4:11). Our labor in preaching
would in that case be vain, so far as ye are concerned, but not
as concerns us in so far as we have sincerely labored
(Isa 49:4; 1Co 3:8).
6. Join "now" with "come"; "But Timotheus
having just now come from you unto us" [Alford]. Thus it appears (compare Ac 18:5) Paul is writing from Corinth.
your faith and charity—(1Th 1:3; compare 2Th 1:3, whence it seems their faith
subsequently increased still more). Faith was the solid
foundation: charity the cement which held together the
superstructure of their practice on that foundation. In that
charity was included their "good (kindly) remembrance" of their
desiring greatly—Greek, "having
a yearning desire for."
we also—The desires of loving friends
for one another's presence are reciprocal.
7. over you—in respect to you.
in—in the midst of: notwithstanding
"all our distress (Greek, 'necessity') and affliction," namely,
external trials at Corinth, whence Paul writes (compare 1Th 3:6, with
8. now—as the case is; seeing ye stand
we live—we flourish. It revives
us in our affliction to hear of your steadfastness (Ps 22:26; 2Jo
if—implying that the vivid joy which
the missionaries "now" feel, will continue if the Thessalonians
continue steadfast. They still needed exhortation, 1Th 3:10; therefore he subjoins the conditional
clause, "if ye," &c. (Php 4:1).
9. For what thanks—what
render … again—in return for His
goodness (Ps 116:12).
for you—"concerning you."
for all the joy—on account of all the
joy. It was "comfort," 1Th 3:7, now
it is more, namely, joy.
for your sakes—on your account.
before our God—It is a joy which will
bear God's searching eye: a joy as in the presence of God, not
self-seeking, but disinterested, sincere, and spiritual (compare 1Th
2:20; Joh 15:11).
10. Night and day—(See on 1Th 2:9). Night is the season for the saint's holiest
meditations and prayers (2Ti 1:3).
praying—connected with, "we joy"; we
joy while we pray; or else as Alford,
What thanks can we render to God while we pray? The Greek
implies a beseeching request.
exceedingly—literally, "more than
exceeding abundantly" (compare Eph 3:20).
that which is lacking—Even the
Thessalonians had points in which they needed improvement [Bengel], (Lu 17:5).
Their doctrinal views as to the nearness of Christ's coming, and as to
the state of those who had fallen asleep, and their practice in some
points, needed correction (1Th 4:1-9).
Paul's method was to begin by commending what was praiseworthy, and
then to correct what was amiss; a good pattern to all admonishers of
11. Translate, "May God Himself,
even our Father (there being but one article in the
Greek, requires this translation, 'He who is at once God and our
Father'), direct," &c. The "Himself" stands in contrast with "we"
2:18); we desired to
come but could not through Satan's hindrance; but if God Himself
direct our way (as we pray), none can hinder Him (2Th 2:16, 17). It is a remarkable proof of
the unity of the Father and Son, that in the Greek here,
and in 2Th 2:16, 17, the verb is singular, implying
that the subject, the Father and Son, are but one in essential
Being, not in mere unity of will. Almost all the chapters in both
Epistles to the Thessalonians are sealed, each with its own prayer
(1Th 5:23; 2Th 1:11; 2:16; 3:5, 16) [Bengel]. Paul does not think the prosperous issue of
a journey an unfit subject for prayer (Ro 1:10; 15:32) [Edmunds]. His prayer, though the answer was
deferred, in about five years afterwards was fulfilled in his return to
12. The "you" in the Greek is
emphatically put first; "But" (so the Greek for "and")
what concerns "YOU," whether we come or
not, "may the Lord make you to increase and abound in love," &c.
The Greek for "increase" has a more positive force; that
for "abound" a more comparative force, "make you full
(supplying 'that which is lacking,' 1Th 3:10) and even abound." "The Lord" may here
be the Holy Spirit; so the Three Persons of the Trinity will be
appealed to (compare 1Th 3:13), as
3:5. So the Holy Ghost is
called "the Lord" (2Co 3:17).
"Love" is the fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5:22), and His office is "to stablish in
holiness" (1Th 3:13; 1Pe 1:2).
13. your hearts—which are naturally the
spring and seat of unholiness.
before God, even our Father—rather,
"before Him who is at once God and our Father." Before not merely men,
but Him who will not be deceived by the mere show of holiness, that is,
may your holiness be such as will stand His searching scrutiny.
coming—Greek, "presence," or
with all his saints—including both the
holy angels and the holy elect of men (1Th
4:14; Da 7:10; Zec 14:5; Mt 25:31; 2Th 1:7). The saints are "His" (Ac 9:13). We must have "holiness" if we are to
be numbered with His holy ones or "saints." On "unblameable," compare
Re 14:5. This verse (compare 1Th 3:12) shows that "love" is the spring of true
"holiness" (Mt 5:44-48; Ro 13:10; Col 3:14). God is He who really "stablishes";
Timothy and other ministers are but instruments (1Th 3:2) in "stablishing."