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3. Timothy's Encouraging Report
1Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone; 2and sent Timothy, our brother and God's minister in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith; 3that no man be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that hereunto we are appointed. 4For verily, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction; even as it came to pass, and ye know. 5For this cause I also, when I could no longer forbear, sent that I might know your faith, lest by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor should be in vain. 6But when Timothy came even now unto us from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also to see you; 7for this cause, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our distress and affliction through your faith: 8for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we render again unto God for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith? 11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you: 12and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; 13to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The Mission of Timothy. (a. d. 51.)
6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
Here we have Paul's great satisfaction upon the return of Timothy with good tidings from the Thessalonians, in which we may observe,
I. The good report Timothy made concerning them, v. 6. Without question, he was a willing messenger of these good tidings. Concerning their faith, that is, concerning their stedfastness in the faith, that they were not shaken in mind, nor turned aside form the profession of the gospel. Their love also continued; their love to the gospel, and the ministers of the gospel. For they had a good and a kind remembrance of the apostles, and that constantly, or always. The names of the apostles were very dear to them, and the thoughts of them, and what they themselves had received from them, were very precious, insomuch that they desired greatly to see them again, and receive some spiritual gift from them; and there was no love lost, for the apostle was as desirous to see them. It is happy where there is such mutual love between minister and people. This tends to promote religion, and the success of the gospel. The world hates them, and therefore they should love one another.
II. The great comfort and satisfaction the apostle had in this good report concerning them (v. 7, 8): Therefore, brethren, we were comforted in all our affliction and distress. The apostle thought this good news of them was sufficient to balance all the troubles he met with. It was easy to him to bear affliction, or persecution, or fightings from without, when he found the good success of his ministry and the constancy of the converts he had made to Christianity; and his distress of mind on account of his fears within, lest he had laboured in vain, was now in a good measure over, when he understood their faith and the perseverance of it. This put new life and spirit into the apostle and made him vigorous and active in the work of the Lord. Thus he was not only comforted, but greatly rejoiced also: Now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord, v. 8. It would have been a killing thing to the apostles if the professors of religion had been unsteady, or proved apostates; whereas nothing was more encouraging than their constancy.
III. The effects of this were thankfulness and prayer to God on their behalf. Observe, 1. How thankful the apostle was, v. 9. He was full of joy, and full of praise and thanksgiving. When we are most cheerful we should be most thankful. What we rejoice in we should give thanks for. This is to rejoice before our God, to spiritualize our joy. Paul speaks as if he could not tell how to express his thankfulness to God, or his joy and rejoicing for their sakes. But he was careful God should not lose the glory of the comfort he received in the welfare of his friends. His heart was enlarged with love to them and with thanksgiving to God. He was willing to express the one and the other as well as he could. As to thankfulness to God, this especially is very imperfect in the present state; but, when we come to heaven, we shall do this work better than now we can. 2. He prayed for them night and day (v. 10), evening and morning, or very frequently, in the midst of the business of the day or slumber of the night lifting up his heart to God in prayer. Thus we should pray always. And Paul's prayer was fervent prayer. He prayed exceedingly, and was earnest in his supplication. Note, When we are most thankful we should always give ourselves to prayer; and those we give thanks for have yet need to be prayed for. Those whom we most rejoice in, and who are our greatest comforts, must be our constant care, while in this world of temptation and imperfection. There was something still lacking in their faith; Paul desired that this might be perfected, and to see their face in order thereunto. Note, (1.) The best of men have something wanting in their faith, if not as to the matter of it, there being some mysteries or doctrines not sufficiently known or believed by them, yet as to the clearness and certainty of their faith, there being some remaining darkness and doubtings, or at least as to the effects and operations of it, these being not so conspicuous and perfect as they should be. And, (2.) The ministry of the word and ordinances is helpful, and to be desired and used for the perfecting of that which is lacking in our faith.