1 Thessalonians 3
In this chapter the apostle gives further evidence of his love to the
Thessalonians, reminding them of his sending Timothy to them, with the
mention of his design therein and his inducements so to do,
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5.
He acquaints them also with his great satisfaction at the return of
Timothy, with good tidings concerning them,
1 Thessalonians 3:6-10.
And concludes with fervent prayer for them,
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13.
|The Mission of Timothy.
||A. D. 51.|
1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good
to be left at Athens alone;
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our
fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to
comfort you concerning your faith:
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for
yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we
should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to
know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you,
and our labour be in vain.
In these words the apostle gives an account of his sending Timothy to
the Thessalonians. Though he was hindered from going to them himself,
yet his love was such that he could not forbear sending Timothy to
them. Though Timothy was very useful to him, and he could not well
spare him, yet Paul was content, for their good, to be left alone at
Athens. Note, Those ministers do not duly value the establishment
and welfare of their people who cannot deny themselves in many things
for that end. Observe,
I. The character he gives of Timothy
(1 Thessalonians 3:2):
We sent Timotheus, our brother. Elsewhere he calls him his son;
here he calls him brother. Timothy was Paul's junior in age, his
inferior in gifts and graces, and of a lower rank in the ministry: for
Paul was an apostle, and Timothy but an evangelist; yet Paul calls him
brother. This was an instance of the apostle's humility, and showed his
desire to put honour upon Timothy and to recommend him to the esteem of
the churches. He calls him also a minister of God. Note, Ministers of
the gospel of Christ are ministers of God, to promote the kingdom of
God among men. He calls him also his fellow-labourer in the gospel of
Christ. Note, Ministers of the gospel must look upon themselves as
labourers in the Lord's vineyard; they have an honourable office and
hard work, yet a good work. This is a true saying, If any man desire
the office of a bishop, he desires a good work,
1 Timothy 3:1.
And ministers should look upon one another, and strengthen one
another's hands, not strive and contend one with another (which will
hinder their work), but strive together to carry on the great work they
are engaged in, namely, to preach and publish the gospel of Christ, and
to persuade people to embrace and entertain it and live suitably
II. The end and design why Paul sent Timothy: To establish you and
to comfort you concerning your faith,
1 Thessalonians 3:2.
Paul had converted them to the Christian faith, and now he was desirous
that they might be confirmed and comforted, that they might confirmed
in the choice they had made of the Christian religion, and comforted in
the profession and practice of it. Note, The more we are comforted, the
more we shall be confirmed, because, when we find pleasure in the ways
of God, we shall thereby be engaged to continue and persevere therein.
The apostle's design was to establish and comfort the Thessalonians
concerning their faith,--concerning the object of their faith, namely,
the truths of the gospel, and particularly that Jesus Christ was the
Saviour of the world, and so wise and good, so powerful and faithful,
that they might rely upon him,--concerning the recompence of faith,
which was more than sufficient to balance all their losses and reward
all their labours.
III. The motive inducing Paul to send Timothy for this end, namely, a
godly fear or jealousy, lest they should be moved from the faith of
1 Thessalonians 3:3.
He was desirous that no man, no one among them, should be moved or
shaken in mind, that they should not apostatize or waver in the faith.
1. He apprehended there was danger, and feared the consequence.
(1.) There was danger,
[1.] By reason of affliction and persecution for the sake of the
1 Thessalonians 3:3.
These Thessalonians could not but perceive what afflictions the
apostles and preachers of the gospel met with, and this might possibly
stumble them; and also those who made profession of the gospel were
persecuted, and without doubt these Thessalonians themselves were
[2.] By reason of the tempter's subtlety and malice. The apostle was
afraid lest by any means the tempter had tempted them,
1 Thessalonians 3:5.
The devil is a subtle and unwearied tempter, who seeks an opportunity
to beguile and destroy us, and takes all advantages against us, both in
a time of prosperity and adversity; and he has often been successful in
his attacks upon persons under afflictions. He has often prejudiced the
minds of men against religion on account of the sufferings its
professors are exposed to. We have reason therefore to be jealous over
ourselves and others, lest we be ensnared by him.
(2.) The consequence the apostle feared was lest his labour should be
in vain. And thus it would have been, if the tempter had tempted them,
and prevailed against them, to move them from the faith. They would
have lost what they had wrought, and the apostle would have lost what
he laboured for. Note, It is the devil's design to hinder the good
fruit and effect of the preaching of the gospel. If he cannot hinder
ministers from labouring in the word and doctrine, he will, if he be
able, hinder them of the success of their labours. Note also, Faithful
ministers are much concerned about the success of their labours. No one
would willingly labour in vain; and ministers are loth to spend their
strength, and pains, and time, for nought.
2. To prevent this danger, with its bad consequence, the apostle tells
them what care he took in sending Timothy,
(1.) To put them in mind of what he had told them before concerning
(1 Thessalonians 3:4),
(1 Thessalonians 3:3),
We are appointed thereunto, that is, unto afflictions. So is the
will and purpose of God that through many afflictions we must enter
into his kingdom. Their troubles and persecutions did not come by
chance, not merely from the wrath and malice of the enemies of
religion, but by the appointment of God. The event only came to
pass according as God had determined, and they knew he had told them
before it would be; so that they should not think it strange, and,
being fore-warned, they should be fore-armed. Note, The apostles were
so far from flattering people with an expectation of worldly prosperity
in religion that, on the contrary, they told them plainly they must
count upon trouble in the flesh. And herein they followed the example
of their great Master, the author or our faith. Besides, it might prove
a confirmation of their faith, when they perceived that it only
happened to them as was predicted before.
(2.) To know their faith, that so he might inform the apostles whether
they remained stedfast under all their sufferings, whether their faith
failed or not, because, if their faith did not fail, they would be able
to stand their ground against the tempter and all his temptations:
their faith would be a shield, to defend them against all the fiery
darts of the wicked,
|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,
1 Thessalonians 3:6.
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
(1 Thessalonians 3:7,8):
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
1 Thessalonians 3:8.
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
1. How thankful the apostle was,
1 Thessalonians 3:9.
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
(1 Thessalonians 3:10),
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
(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
||A. D. 51.|
11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
direct our way unto you.
12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one
toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in
holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ with all his saints.
In these words we have the earnest prayer of the apostle. He desired to
be instrumental in the further benefit of the Thessalonians; and the
only way to be so while at a distance was by prayer for them, together
with his writing or sending to them. He desired that their faith might
be perfected, which he could not be the proper cause or author of; for
he pretended not to dominion over their faith, nor to have the donation
of it, and he therefore concludes with prayer for them. Observe,
I. Whom he prays to, namely, God and Christ. Prayer is a part of
religious worship, and all religious worship is due unto God only.
Prayer is here made to God, even the Father and our Father; and also to
Christ, even our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus Christ our Lord is
God, even as God our Father is God. Prayer is to be offered to God as
our Father. So Christ taught his disciples to pray; and so the Spirit
of adoption prompts them to pray, to cry, Abba Father. Prayer is
not only to be offered in the name of Christ, but offered up to Christ
himself, as our Lord and our Saviour.
II. What he prays for, with respect to himself and his
fellow-labourers, and on behalf of the Thessalonians.
1. He prays that himself and fellow-labourers might have a prosperous
journey to them by the will of God, that their way might be directed to
1 Thessalonians 3:11.
The taking of a journey to this or that place, one would think, is a
thing depending so much on a man's own will, and lies so much in his
own power, that Paul needed not by prayer to go to God about it. But
the apostle knew that in God we live, and move, and have our
being, that we depend upon God in all our motions and actions, as
well as for the continuance of life and being, that divine Providence
orders all our affairs and that it is owing thereto if we prosper
therein, that God our Father directs and orders his children whither
they shall go and what they shall do, that our Lord Jesus Christ in a
particular manner directs the motions of his faithful ministers, those
stars which he holds in his right hand. Let us acknowledge God in all
our ways, and he will direct our paths.
2. He prays for the prosperity of the Thessalonians. Whether he should
have an opportunity of coming to them or not, yet he earnestly prayed
for the prosperity of their souls. And there are two things he desired
for them, which we should desire for ourselves and friends:--
(1.) That they might increase and abound in love
(1 Thessalonians 3:12),
in love to one another and in love to all men. Note, Mutual love is
required of all Christians, and not only that they love one another,
but that they also have a charitable disposition of mind and due
concern for the welfare of all men. Love is of God, and is the
fulfilling of the gospel as well as of the law. Timothy brought good
tidings of their faith, yet something was lacking therein; and of their
charity, yet the apostle prays that this might increase and abound.
Note, We have reason to desire to grow in every grace, and have need of
the Spirit's influence in order to growth in grace; and the way to
obtain this is by prayer. We are beholden to God not only for the
stock put into our hands at first, but for the improvement of it also.
And to our prayer we must add endeavour. To excite this in the
Thessalonians the apostle again mentions his love, his abounding love,
towards them. The more we are beloved, the more affectionate we should
(2.) That they might be established unblamable in holiness,
1 Thessalonians 3:13.
This spiritual benefit is mentioned as an effect of increasing and
abounding love: To the end that he (the Lord) may establish
your hearts. Note, The more we grow and abound in grace, and
particularly in the grace of love, the more we are established and
confirmed in it. Note also, Holiness is required of all those who would
go to heaven, and therein we must be unblamable; that is, we must act
in every thing so that we may not in the least contradict the
profession we make of holiness. Our desire should be to have our hearts
established in holiness before God, and be preserved safe, to the
coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; and that we may be unblamable before
God, even the Father, now, and be presented blameless before the throne
of his glory, when the Lord Jesus shall come with all his saints. Note,
[1.] The Lord Jesus will certainly come, and come in his glory.
[2.] When he comes, his saints will come with him: They shall appear
with him in glory.
[3.] Then the excellency as well as the necessity of holiness will
appear, because without this no hearts shall be established at that
day, nor shall any one be unblamable, or avoid everlasting