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Paul’s Longing to See the Thessalonians April 16, 2013

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Thessalonians that when he was bereaved of them for a short time, his affection for them had actually been inflamed (despite the physical distance between them). He had been steadfast in his efforts to see them again, yet Satan contrived to obstruct him at every turn. Indeed, his happiness – in some sense – is treasured up in them; since he has promoted the kingdom of Christ among them, he will take part in glory and triumph on the last day.

Paul then asserts that he esteemed the Thessalonians above himself, since he chose to be left alone instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. In particular, he deprived himself of Timothy – whom he commended – so that they could be consoled and stimulated in their faith. He reminds them that the persecution he experiences is inseparable from him being a Christian; as they had been forewarned about this, they should battle more valiantly against their persecutions. Paul concludes by telling the Thessalonians that he had been concerned about them – especially if Satan had prevailed in enticing them to evil.

Thoughts: In verse 18 of chapter 2, we see that Satan prevented Paul from visiting the Thessalonians while he was in Athens. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

Luke relates that Paul was in one instance hindered (Acts 20:3), inasmuch as the Jews laid an ambush for him along the route he traveled. The same thing, or something similar, may have occurred frequently. It is not without good reason, however, that Paul ascribes the whole of this to Satan, for as he teaches elsewhere (Ephesians 6:12), we have to wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and spiritual wickedness.

Since many of the events in the life of Paul are not recorded in Scripture, we can only speculate as to how Satan hindered him in this case. Perhaps a believer in Athens became deathly ill just as Paul was about to travel to Thessalonica, forcing him to stay and take care of them. Also, perhaps Paul was about to leave Athens when he was stopped by a Roman official who refused to verify his travel documents (note that I am unsure as to whether the equivalent of a passport was required for travel within the Roman Empire; knowledgeable readers can clarify this point). In addition, perhaps robbers waylaid Paul as he was traveling to Thessalonica. Whatever the case may be, Satan was pleased with the final outcome: Paul could not see his Thessalonian brethren.

In verse 2 of chapter 3, we see that Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica to evaluate the spiritual health of the Thessalonians and make a report to him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

The apostle assigned to Timothy marks of commendation, that he might show more clearly how much he cared about the Thessalonians’ welfare. If he had sent them some common person, that would not have afforded them much assistance. And if Paul would have done this without inconveniencing himself, he would have given no remarkable proof of his fatherly concern about the Thessalonians.

Clearly Paul and Timothy had an extremely close relationship that enabled them to make a positive impact on the lives of many believers in the early church. Their bond was so strong, in fact, that perhaps Paul’s ministry in Athens would have been more successful if Timothy had not traveled to Thessalonica. This has heightened my anticipation of future strolls through the two pastoral epistles that are addressed to Timothy, which will allow me to delve into the nature of Paul’s relationship with his closest disciple. How did Paul make such a deep impression on Timothy and spur him in his Christian walk?

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