1Th 2:17-20 “But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.”
Paul’s love and concern for the brethren at Thessalonica is clearly seen in these verses of scripture. He was forced to depart from them after only a few weeks of teaching and fellowship (Acts 17:2-5). According to Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, the phrase “being taken from you” carries the idea of being orphaned as when a parent is taken from his children. Paul certainly expressed a father’s concern for the church (v. 11) and obviously felt a deep sadness at being separated from these brethren after so short a time.
It is important to note that although they were separated physically, there was still a joining of the heart. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should all have these tender feelings of love and concern for each other. Over the years we may find ourselves separated by time and distance from many precious children of God. We should rejoice greatly that the circumstances that necessitated that separation have not dimmed our love for them or our ability to pray for them.
Like Paul, we may make great effort to see the faces of those we love and have served in the past. We may attempt to do so time and time again, only to be hindered by one cause or another. Paul states here that they were hindered by Satan, which name is defined by Strong’s as meaning “the accuser.” In the case of Paul and Silas, they were most certainly hindered by those who falsely accused them of insurrection and stirred the city up against them (Act 17:5-9).
Regardless of the force that hinders us, we should have the same affection towards all of God’s faithful children we have been blessed to serve as Paul had for the Thessalonians. Paul continued to be excited and optimistic about their faithfulness in Christ Jesus. He spoke of his confidence and rejoicing, and the reason for it. Is there any greater rejoicing in our hearts than to hear of the faithfulness of the church to her Lord and Savior?
Even though we may have been separated from a group of saints for a long time, we still have great joy when we hear about the Lord visiting them and enlarging their borders. Our hearts are gladdened and we are greatly encouraged when we hear of their continued devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is great rejoicing and encouragement in our hearts. This rejoicing is not as though we did something we might boast of in ourselves, but rather that we are strengthened in the continued evidence of God’s faithfulness to His people.
May God grant to us always the same loving affection for His church that was evidenced by Paul, and may we be encouraged by their faithfulness to Him!