First Thessalonians: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-Paul Was Left Alone in Athens by Silvanus and Timothy Lesson # 37
1 Thessalonians 3:1 So when we could bear it no longer, we decided to stay on in Athens alone. 3:2 We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, 3:3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 3:4 For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know. 3:5 So when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter somehow tempted you and our toil had proven useless. (NET)
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 not only marks a transition from the statements which appear in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 but also they present in emphatic terms the result of the latter.
In other words, the series of statements in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 are the direct result of the statements presented in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.
By way of review, we noted that 1 Thessalonians 2:17 asserts that when Paul and Silvanus were orphaned from the Thessalonian Christian community for a short period of time (in presence, never in heart), they made every effort with great desire to see each and every one of their faces.
1 Thessalonians 2:18 contains two assertions with the first stating that Paul and Silvanus wanted to enter into the presence of each member of the Thessalonian Christian community, but Satan hindered them from doing so.
The second is an emphatic parenthetical remark, which is embedded into the first assertion and asserts that independently of Silvanus, Paul attempted to visit the Thessalonians in fact on more than one occasion.
This parenthetical remark reveals that the apostle Paul is author of First Thessalonians and not Silvanus and Timothy.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 contains two rhetorical questions with the second providing the answer to the first.
These two rhetorical questions in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 present the reason for the previous assertions in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18.
Paul, Silvanus and Timothy are asking these questions and not just Paul and Silvanus since Timothy also will be rewarded by the Lord at the Bema Seat for serving the Thessalonians as well.
This interpretation is indicated by the fact that 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 asserts that Paul and Silvanus sent Timothy to the Thessalonica to minister to the Thessalonians.
Now, the first rhetorical question asks the Thessalonians, “who is our confident expectation of blessing, joy, crown which produces boasting?”
The second asks the Thessalonians, “Is it in fact each and every one of you in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?”
Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 2:19 asserts that each member of the Thessalonian Christian community was Paul, Silvanus and Timothy’s confident expectation of blessing, joy and crown which produces boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming.
The reason for this assertion is that they would be rewarded at the Bema Seat by the Lord Jesus for faithfully serving Him as a result of faithfully serving the members of His body, namely, the Thessalonian Christian community.
The Thessalonians’ initial positive response in faith to the gospel which resulted in their justification was the direct result of the faithful service of these men.
Also, the Thessalonians’ positive response of faith and obedience to the gospel after their justification was also the direct result of the faithful service of these men.
1 Thessalonians 2:20 emphatically asserts that each and every member of the Thessalonian Christian community was Paul, Silvanus and Timothy’s glory as well as their joy.
This assertion makes explicit what is implied by the two rhetorical questions in verse 19 and consequently, this assertion in verse 20 confirms what it is implied by these two rhetorical questions in verse 19.
Now, in 1 Thessalonians 3:1, Paul asserts that because he could no longer endure not being able to visit the Thessalonians and see how they were doing and to minister to them, he thought it best to be left behind in Athens by Silvanus and Timothy.
1 Thessalonians 3:2 makes clear that Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to strengthen and encourage them in his absence.
Silvanus and Timothy eventually returned to Macedonia to rejoin Paul in Corinth, which was Paul’s next port of call after Athens (cf. Acts 18:1, 5).
1 Thessalonians 3:3 presents another purpose for having Timothy encourage and strengthen them, namely so that they would be not shaken by their persecutions they were experiencing as a result of obeying the gospel.
Verse 3 also presents the reason why they should not be shaken by this persecution, they were destined for this undeserved suffering.
1 Thessalonians 3:4 reminds the Thessalonians that Paul and Silvanus had warned they themselves would suffer persecution which they were witnesses to.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 then picks up the thought from verse 1 and completes it by asserting that when Paul could bear it no longer, he sent Timothy to find out about the faith of the Thessalonians because he feared that Satan had tempted them to be unfaithful to their teaching.
So therefore, a comparison of 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 with 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 indicates that Paul thought it best be left behind in Athens and to send Timothy to the Thessalonians “as a direct result of” two things.
First, he greatly desired to see the Thessalonians again but couldn’t because Satan hindered him from doing so (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18).
Secondly, the Thessalonians were Paul’s confident expectation of receiving rewards for faithful service to the Lord and the Thessalonians.
The Thessalonians were also his joy in the sense that he would experience joy at the Bema Seat as a result of receiving these rewards for faithful service to the Lord and the Thessalonians.