Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
August 24, 2014
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.
1901 ASV Translation:
1 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone;
2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God's minister in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort [you] concerning your faith;
3 that no man be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that hereunto we are appointed.
4 For 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.
5 For 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.
- I. This New Paragraph in its Setting.
- A. There is a large amount of space in this letter given over to Paul's emotional commitment to the Thessalonian church.
- 1. It is clear that Paul is operating out of a potent desire to see the people of this church continue what they began in terms of "work of faith", "labor of love", and "patience of hope".
- 2. It is also clear that he is fearful of a "relapse" on their part caused by the difficulties that they have had to endure from the point of their conversion forward.
- a. Paul is clearly aware of the reality of what Jesus taught in the parable of the soils, especially the element involving the cessation of "faith" caused by the things suffered (Luke 8:13).
- 1) He has suffered the temptation himself.
- 2) He endured, and rejected, Mark's abandonment on the first missionary journey.
- 3) He addressed the Galatians' dismal failure under the pressure of legalism.
- b. He clearly "shared his own soul with these people" so that he had a lot to lose if they turned reprobate (it is impossible to read 2:7-20 and not come to this conclusion).
- 3. The opening words of this new paragraph serve to intensify this reality ("...when we could no longer forebear...").
- B. The most basic implication of this extended revelation of his deepest feelings for them is that the most potent weapon against the temptation to relapse is the actual presence of someone who cares most profoundly.
- 1. Since a potential relapse is his overwhelming concern and the majority of his words are all about how much he cares for them, what else can we conclude?
- 2. Satan can block the fulfillment of some of our desires (2:18), but he has a most difficult time overcoming the activities of someone who is deeply committed.
- a. Paul's care moved him to "pray unceasingly", to "remind" the objects of his love of the facts, and to, in the case of this paragraph, "send" someone to help out.
- b. This diligence gives the adversary a serious case of heartburn because he cannot block the prayers or keep all of the actions taken from having an impact.
- II. Paul's Continued Expression of Concern.
- A. It was not his concern alone (the verb, "we thought it good", is plural).
- 1. Paul's first claim is that "they" could not continue to "forebear".
- a. The word used indicates the presence of a persistent threat that needs to be resisted.
- b. The lexical information indicates the word's original use to be the creation of a picture in which something is heavily exposed to water and is being closely covered so as to keep the water out.
- c. Paul admits to being "worn down" by the effort to keep his own concerns for the Thessalonians at bay so he could continue to pursue his work of ministry.
- 2. This inability is not a "lack of faith". The Bible nowhere guarantees that any given individual will not succumb to the temptation to relapse under pressure. Since God gives no such guarantee, one cannot be faulted for doing all he/she can to keep such a thing from happening.
- B. Being left in Athens "alone". Luke's record in Acts indicates that Paul had to leave Thessalonica, but Silas and Timothy "remained there". He was conducted to Athens and from there went to Corinth where Silas and Timothy caught up with him (Acts 18:5). The wording is different and raises some questions regarding what actually happened. The most likely is that Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus all left Thessalonica but that they then decided that it was not a good thing to leave the believers in Thessalonica to the persecutors, so Timothy and Silvanus returned there because Paul had said that he would meet them in Athens.
- III. Paul's Description of Timothy (and Omission of Silvanus altogether).
- A. Our brother.
- B. The fellow worker of God in the Gospel of the Christ.