Chapter 3

So, when he could no longer forbear, he thought it good to be left at Athens alone, (cp. Acts 17:16-3416Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. 17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. 18Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. 19And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. 21(For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. 32And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. 33So Paul departed from among them. 34Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:16‑34),) and sent Timothy, his brother and servant of God and fellow-labourer in the Gospel of Christ, to establish them and comfort them concerning their faith, that no man should be moved by afflictions: for they themselves knew that they were appointed to the same. The Apostles had warned them of this indeed when they were with them, and it had come to pass as Paul had said. It was for this cause then that he had sent Timothy; that he might know the steadfastness of their faith, lest by any means the tempter should have tempted them successfully, and the Apostle’s labour should have been in vain.
Afflictions, then, are the portion of the saints, by which the tempter might take advantage, and the servant of God is sent at such a time for the comfort and establishment of the saints of God. (Cp. 2 Cor., where this double thought of ministry is largely set forth).
Timothy, however, came back, and brought the Apostle glad tidings of the young saints’ faith and love, that they remembered their fathers in the faith, desiring earnestly to see them, as they also did them. This greatly comforted the hearts of the Apostles, who were also suffering for Christ’s sake. They lived if the young converts stood fast in the Lord.
These glad tidings that Timothy brought so filled the Apostle’s heart with joy that he burst out, “What thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith.”
Satan had hindered this joy being fulfilled (see ch. 2) and the Apostle is thrown on God and the Father, that He would direct his way to them. Mysterious power to hinder, but only producing increased dependence on the part of the servants of God on the superior power and direction of God and the Father, who would, in His time, bring to naught the devices of the enemy.
We had the coming of the Lord brought before us in the first chapter in connection with our introduction into the Father’s house and our full salvation, in the second, as the joyful meeting place between the labourers and their children in the faith, their hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing. Here in 1 Thess. 3, it is brought in in connection with the walk of the believers, to stir them up to increased love one towards another. The Apostles pray that the Lord would make the dear young converts to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all, even as the Apostles love abounded toward them, to the end He might establish their hearts unblameable in holiness before God and the Father at the coming of the Lord with all His saints.
Here we have the second aspect of the coming of the Lord. He comes for His saints into the air, as we have seen. This part of His coming is connected wholly with grace and privilege. Second, He comes with His saints to judge the world; this is connected with walk and responsibility. Wherever in the Word the coming of the Lord is brought forward in connection with the hope of the children of God and their salvation, it is seen in the first stage. Whenever it is connected with responsibility, it is seen in the last stage. If all Canada were in rebellion against her Majesty the Queen, except a few loyal ones, and she was to send an army under the Prince of Wales to re-conquer the Dominion. Supposing he was to stop at Bermuda on the way, and send for all her loyal subjects in Canada to meet him there, that would be a figure of the first stage of the coming of the Lord. He would then go on to Canada with them, re- conquer the Dominion, and distribute rewards to those who remained loyal to the Queen. This would represent the second stage, of the Lord’s coming. At that day, before the whole world, the saints will be manifested unblameable in holiness, and will receive the rewards of the kingdom. (Cp. ch. 3:12 with 4:9-10.) “Towards all” means all the brethren. This explains the connection with holiness or separation from evil in the next verse.