1Th 3:1-3 “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; 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: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.”
At the close of chapter two of First Thessalonians, Paul expressed great distress that they had not been able to return to Thessalonica. The Thessalonian Jews that opposed Paul and Silas were so vehement that they pursued them to Berea and stirred up that city against them as well (Acts 17:13). The Berean brethren then escorted Paul to Athens out of concern for his safety. Even with all the personal confrontation that Paul was facing, his heart remained steadfast on the young Christians at Thessalonica.
Paul here expresses a feeling that we have all had at one time or another. He is basically saying “I couldn’t take it anymore!” His concern reached a point where he felt it necessary for him to remain in Athens by himself so that others could be comforted. It was so important to Paul for the church at Thessalonica to have a minister of the gospel with them that he even felt it “good” (pleased, willing) to be left alone at Athens.
Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians, even though he was (as best as we can determine) still young. He may have been able to send Timothy back to Thessalonica because most of the turmoil seemed to center around Paul. It was Paul’s desire that Timothy be well-received among the brethren, so he was careful to express his confidence in God’s calling in Timothy’s life. He first referred to Timothy as “our brother,” indicating to the church that Timothy should be received in the same love that they would have received Paul.
Paul then addresses the weightier matter of Timothy’s authority. Paul did not point to Timothy’s close association with him, but rather called the attention of the brethren to the fact that Timothy was a minister of God. While it is a great blessing to have a faithful mentor in our life of service, that alone does not qualify us to serve. Like Timothy, our ministry must be of God: He and He alone is the source of the call that bids us to minister to His people. Paul closes his commendation of Timothy by pointing out that they have labored together in the gospel, so Paul has seen first-hand the evidence of God’s calling in Timothy’s life.
Finally, Paul addresses why it was important to them for Timothy to return unto them. There was a great desire to know that these young Christians were steadfast in their conviction of relying on Jesus Christ for their salvation. Paul, Silas, and Timothy wanted to give all possible aid to see these brethren strengthened in the things of God. Paul knew it was important for them to be strong and that they should draw comfort from that strength.
It was necessary for them to be comforted because Paul knew they were going to be persecuted. He also knew they were going to be concerned for him and the many threats that he was facing for declaring the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He reminded them that they knew that both he and they bound (appointed) to suffer persecution for Christ’s sake.
They needed to hear again the comfort of the gospel in the face of this adversity. Jesus himself had said “If they hate me, they will hate you (Joh 15:18-27).” He also promised that there was a blessing in persecution (Mat 5:10-12). The gospel of Christ strengthens, comforts, and fixes the heart of the believer in the face of all adversity.
May God ever give us an unquenchable desire for the good of His people that He would use us to both establish and comfort in spite of the afflictions and persecutions that come!