1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians 3:1

Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone,

(a) We could endure it no longer. Paul had good reasons to be anxious about the Thessalonian church. When he was forced to leave Thessalonica, the church was only a few weeks old (see entry for 1 Th. 1:1). Yet the new Christians were experiencing intense opposition from the religious Jews. Had they survived? Paul had to find out.

(b) Athens. From Acts 17 we learn that Paul visited Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens in quick succession. He did not linger in any of these cities but moved on to Corinth where he stayed for eighteen months (Acts 18:1, 11). While he was in Athens, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica, and Timothy met up with Paul again in Corinth. It was in that city that Paul wrote both of his epistles to the Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 3:2

and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,

(a) Timothy was known to the Thessalonians because the young disciple had been with Paul and Silas when they visited Thessalonica. Timothy was not yet the highly-regarded leader he was to become, but he was a trusted colleague of Paul’s. It may have been in the Thessalonian church that Timothy first cut his teeth as a preacher.

(b) The gospel of Christ is synonymous with the gospel of God and the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for what Paul referred to as “my gospel” or the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

1 Thessalonians 3:5

For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.

(a) For this reason is one of Paul’s favorite sayings. See entry for Eph. 1:15.

(b) The tempter. God will never tempt you to evil (Jas. 1:13), so those who would tempt you to sin are essentially doing the work of the tempter (i.e., the devil; see entry for Matt. 4:3).

1 Thessalonians 3:13

so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

(a) Coming. The original word (parousia) comes from an oriental word used to describe the royal visit of a king, or emperor. See entry for Matt. 24:37.

(b) With all His saints. Jesus will return with myriads of angels (Jude 1:14).

A literal translation of this phrase is “with all his holy ones.” Although the saints are holy and will meet the Lord as he comes (see entry for 1 Th. 4:17), the angelic imagery comes straight out of the Old Testament (Deu. 33:2, Dan. 7:10, Zec. 14:5). When the Son of Man comes in glory, he will be accompanied by a heavenly host of incalculable number (Matt. 25:31, Jude 1:14).

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