1 Thessalonians 3

But if Paul had been hindered from coming personally – very likely by the violence of the persecution raised against him by Satan – he had sent Timothy to comfort and encourage them. Here again, in opening chapter 3, we see in Paul the marks of a true father in Christ. He was at Athens, a peculiarly hard and difficult city, a place where more urgently than in most he felt the need of the support and encouragement afforded by like­-minded fellow-labourers, yet would he sacrifice himself and be left alone in order that Timothy might shepherd the souls of these young believers, and establish them just when Satan was aiming at their overthrow by means of afflictions. The trial of their faith had not come as a surprise for he had forewarned them about it, even though his stay amongst them had been so short.

From this let us learn that it is not right nor wise to hide from the youngest convert that tribulation from the world is the normal lot of the Christian while on earth. There are abundant joys in Christianity, but not of a worldly order. In the world we are to have tribulation, so let us not misrepresent the case, thinking thereby to get more converts. Let the truth be faced and we shall thereby not lose one true convert, though plenty of make-believe ones may be checked – to their own good and our good also. As to tribulation, we all of us have to say in our turn, “it came to pass, and ye know.”

In raising persecution against believers Satan is always aiming at their faith. He would weaken it and destroy it if possible. Notice how, as a consequence, faith is emphasized by Paul in this passage. He sent Timothy to comfort “concerning your faith .” He sent to “know your faith .” Timothy returned and brought “good tidings of your faith,” and as a consequence he was comforted “by your faith .” Faith is the eye of the soul. It gives spiritual vision. Paul knew that, as long as the unseen things of faith were real to them, the persecution would only produce spiritual enrichment and invigoration, just as a cold douche which would be hurtful to an invalid is invigorating to a man in full health. Faith is a vital link between the soul and God and if it be weakened, everything about the believer is weakened. Satan knows this right well.

When faith is maintained in the hearts of believers they “stand fast in the Lord,” and this was a great joy to the apostle. It comforted him in all his afflictions. So deeply did he feel about the Thessalonians, exposed as they were to such trials so soon after their conversion, that until he knew how they had been sustained in them he was like a man at the point of death. The good news he got through Timothy brought him back to life. This is the figure he uses when he says, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

Though faith was so brightly maintained in these Christians, yet there was need that it be perfected, as verse 10 shows. Something was lacking as to it in this sense – that as yet they were unacquainted with the whole circle of truth that had been revealed. What they did see by faith, they saw very clearly; but they did not as yet see all there was to see. The apostle earnestly longed to meet them again and bring before them those parts of God's truth which as yet they knew not. In this Epistle he reveals to them some­thing of which as yet they were in ignorance, as we shall see when con­sidering chapter 4.

While as yet he was hindered, his desire was that they should increase and abound in love one toward another. God alone is the Object of faith. He is also the Object of love, but love to Him can best be practically expressed by love to those born of Him, as we are reminded in John's Epistle. Moreover the Christian should be an overflowing fountain of love toward all men. The Thessalonians were this, and it explains how they became such effectual advertisements of the gospel, as we saw when considering chapter 1. Only they were to increase more and more.

Thus would they be established unblameable in holiness in view of the coming of the Lord. Holiness and love are evidently closely connected. As love is operative in our hearts towards God and his people, so we hate what He hates and are preserved unblameable before Him. The grand goal before us is the coming of the Lord Jesus with all His saints. Mark that preposition “with.” When He comes in His glory we are to be with Him. How we reach His presence above, so as to come forth from heaven in His company when He appears, is not yet plainly indicated in the Epistle; but this verse alone should have assured the Thessalonians, and should assure us, that when He comes not one will be missing. It will be with ALL His saints.