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Barnes' New Testament Notes
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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 3 - Verse 1

 

CHAPTER III.

 

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.

THIS chapter is a continuation of the course of thought pursued in the previous chapter, and seems designed to meet the same state of feeling existing in Thessalonica, and the same objections which some there urged against the apostle. The objection seems to have been, that he had really no attachment for them, and no regard for their welfare; that he had fled from them on the slightest danger, and that when the danger was passed, he had not returned, but had left them to bear their afflictions alone. It appears to have been inferred from his long absence, that he had no solicitude for their welfare, and had brought them into difficulties, to escape from which, or to bear which, he was now indisposed to render any assistance. It was important, therefore, for him to remind them of what he had actually done, and to state his real feelings towards them. He refers them, therefore, to the following things as proof of his interest in them, and his affection for them:—

(1.) He had sent Timothy to them at great personal inconvenience, when he could not go himself, 1 Th 3:1-5.

(2.) He had been greatly comforted by the report which Timothy had brought of their steadfastness in the faith, 1 Th 3:6-8. Every expression of their attachment to him had gone to his heart, and their faith and charity had been to him in his trials the source of unspeakable consolation. His very life depended, as it were, on their fidelity; and he says he should live and be happy if they stood fast in the Lord, 1 Th 3:8.

(3.) He expresses again the earnest desire which he had to see them; says that it had been to him the subject of unceasing prayer night and day, and beseeches God again now that he would be pleased to direct his way to them, 1 Th 3:9-11.

(4.) As a proof of affection, the chapter is closed with a fervent prayer that God would cause them to abound more and more in love, and would establish their hearts unblameable before him, 1 Th 3:12,13. The Thessalonians well knew the apostle Paul. They had had abundant proof of his love when he was with them; and if his enemies there had succeeded in ally degree in causing their affection towards him to become cool, or to excite suspicions that he was not sincere, their love must have been rekindled, and their suspicions must have been entirely allayed by the expressions of attachment in this chapter. Language of warmer love, or of deeper interest in the welfare of others, it would not be possible to find anywhere.

Verse 1. Wherefore. 1 Th 2:18. This particle (dio) is designed here to refer to another proof of his affection for them. One evidence had been referred to in his strong desire to visit them, which he had been unable to accomplish, (1 Th 2:18;) and he here refers to another—to wit, the fact that he had sent Timothy to them.

We could no longer forbear. That is, when I could not, (1 Th 3:5,) for there is every evidence that Paul refers to himself only, though he uses the plural form of the word. There was no one with him at Athens after he had sent Timothy away, (Ac 17:15; 18:5;) and this shows that when, in 1 Th 2:6, he uses the term apostles in the plural number, he refers to himself only, and does not mean to give the name to Timothy and Silas. If this be so, Timothy and Silas are nowhere called "apostles" in the New Testament. The word rendered here could forbear, (stegontev,) means, properly, to cover, to conceal; and then to hide or conceal anger, impatience, weariness, etc.,; that is, to hold out as to anything, to bear with, to endure. It is rendered suffer in 1 Co 9:12; beareth, 1 Th 3:1,5. It is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. It means that he could no longer bear up under, hide, or suppress his impatience in regard to them, his painful emotions, his wish to know of their state; and he therefore sent Timothy to them.

We thought it good. I was willing to suffer the inconvenience of parting with him in order to show my concern for you.

To be left at Athens alone. Paul had been conducted to Athens from Berea, where he remained until Silas and Timothy could come to him, Ac 17:15. It appears from the statement here, that Timothy had joined him there, but such was his solicitude for the church at Thessalonica, that he very soon after sent him there, and chose to remain himself alone at Athens. Why he did not himself return to Thessalonica, is not stated. It is evidently implied here that it was a great personal inconvenience for him thus to part with Timothy, and to remain alone at Athens, and that he evinced the strong love which he had for the church at Thessalonica by being willing to submit to it. What that inconvenience consisted in, he has not stated, but it is not difficult to understand.

(1.)He was among total strangers, and, when Timothy was gone, without an acquaintance or friend.

(2.) The aid of Timothy was needed in order to prosecute the work which he contemplated. He had requested that Timothy should join him as soon as possible when he left Berea, (Ac 17:15;) and he evidently felt it desirable that in preaching the gospel in that city he should have all the assistance he could obtain. Yet he was willing to forego those comforts and advantages in order to promote the edification of the church at Thessalonica.

{*} "forbear" "bear"

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