1 Thessalonians 3:1-3a

In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3a Paul explains why he sent Timothy to the Thessalonians. Paul explained in the previous chapter how much he wanted to come see them himself, but was unable so he did the next best thing and sent Timothy who was his trusted companion and fellow minister of the Gospel. “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…..” It meant that he had to be left behind and alone in Athens, but he cared for the Thessalonians that much.

In some versions ‘coworker’ is translated minister. Hiebert explains  “Minister is not an official title and does not connote an ordained minister in the modern sense of the term. The word rather designates one who renders a service of some kind to another. It speaks of the servant in relationship to his work, stressing his activity of serving.” And Morris explains further “Originally the word denoted the service of a table waiter, and from that it came to signify lowly service of any kind. It was often used by the early Christians to give expression to the service that they habitually were to render to both God and to man. Where a word like ‘slave,’ which is often used of Christians, puts the emphasis on the personal relation, this word draws attention to the act of service being rendered.”

So why did Paul send Timothy to Thessalonica? “….. to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.” The missions was twofold:

  1. To establish
  2. To exhort or encourage

Guzik explains “Both are necessary, but establishing comes first. Encouragement can really only come after we are established in the right direction; otherwise, we are only encouraged in the wrong course.” And Barclay further says “When Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica it was not nearly so much to inspect the Church there as it was to help it.”

Beyond establishing and encouraging the church there, he also wanted to be sure they would not be moved or shaken by the hardships they were facing. He didn’t want them moved from their faith because times were tough. If we don’t have good understanding of the truth concerning the place of suffering in the life of the believer, we are in great danger of being shaken in our faith. Some believe that Christians shouldn’t suffer at all and that God wants to teach us only by the study and application of His Word, and not through trial or suffering. It is true that a great deal of suffering could be eliminated by simply obeying God’s Word, and God wants to spare us that suffering. But God does teach that as believers we learn perseverance, obedience, how to comfort others, and deeper fellowship with Jesus as we go through trials. Paul wants the Thessalonians to hear that truth directly from Timothy.

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