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1 Thessalonians

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©Michael Player

Chapter 2:17-3:5 (ESV)

Posted on April 26, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:17-3:5 (ESV) - But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Question to consider: Why does God allow Satan to hinder His saints in this world?

Paul’s description of being torn from the new church at Thessalonica pointed to the dire circumstances with which they left. He, Silas, and Timothy had plans to stay there to help them joyfully endure their persecution and continue to help them grow in their faith. While it is possible that there were some Jews who left the synagogue and joined their church, I’d imagine it would have been mostly up to Paul to catechize them on the scriptures so they could understand what had been fulfilled in Christ.

After escaping to Berea, these same Jews who stirred up the crowds against Paul in Thessalonica followed him in an effort to kill him so he ended up going all the way to Athens to escape them. It was always his intent to go back to Thessalonica just as he had gone back to Lystra and Derbe after the Jews from Iconium left who thought they successfully killed him. However, Paul wrote that Satan hindered them. The only one who was able to go back there was Timothy, and Paul wrote now after receiving an update from Timothy at Corinth.

While it is true that Satan hindered Paul from going back to Thessalonica, Satan cannot act outside of the providence of God. Satan’s desire is to hinder the Gospel wherever and whenever he can. Even so, God always makes sure that His word does the work for which He intends it whether it be to exhort or encourage, judge or bring mercy. God knows precisely what each Christian needs to hear and to experience in order to grow up in the faith. As Paul wrote of the work of God, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30) Every step of our justification, sanctification and glorification is brought about by God, and this should give us tremendous peace in the midst of our afflictions.

The Thessalonians were made to understand from Paul that in Christ we are destined for afflictions. We become steadfast in the midst of suffering as we know Christ more and more through His word, sacraments, prayer, and through the fellowship of other believers. We can support one another by serving our brothers and sisters in Christ with the abilities and gifts God has given us.

Once you experience this level of fellowship with other believers, you become invested in their spiritual growth. Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica because he could not bear the thought of what Satan was putting them through. Imagine the relief Paul experienced when he realized that God was able to build up their faith without his help.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving us brothers and sisters in Christ who care about our spiritual growth and pray for us even when we can’t be together. Help us to love our neighbor in this same manner and yet rest in the knowledge that You are continuing to work in their lives even when we are not present. Amen.