|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-5 The more we find pleasure in the ways of God, the more we shall desire to persevere therein. The apostle's design was to establish and comfort the Thessalonians as to the object of their faith, that Jesus Christ was the Saviour of the world; and as to the recompence of faith, which was more than enough to make up all their losses, and to reward all their labours. But he feared his labours would be in vain. If the devil cannot hinder ministers from labouring in the word and doctrine, he will, if possible, hinder the success of their labours. No one would willingly labour in vain. It is the will and purpose of God, that we enter into his kingdom through many afflictions. And the apostles, far from flattering people with the expectation of worldly prosperity in religion, told them plainly they must count upon trouble in the flesh. Herein they followed the example of their great Master, the Author of our faith. Christians were in danger, and they should be forewarned; they will thus be kept from being improved by any devices of the tempter.
Verse 5. - For this cause, when I could no longer forbear; no longer repress my anxiety, and endure my want of information concerning you. I sent to know your faith; to receive information concerning your spiritual condition. Lest by some means the tempter; a designation of Satan, used also by Matthew 4:3. Have tempted you, and our labor be in vain; that is, useless, without result (see on 1 Thessalonians 2:1; comp. also Galatians 4:11, "I am afraid, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain"). The temptation to which the Thessalonians were exposed was that of apostasy from Christianity, through the fear or endurance of persecution. That the tempter had tempted them is probable - it was almost unavoidable; that he had succeeded in his temptation, and had thus rendered the apostle's labors among them useless, was uncertain - a contingency which might possibly have taken place.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For this cause, when I could no longer forbear,.... Or "bear" the above vehement desire of seeing them, or of hearing from them. Here the apostle speaks in the singular number, and seems to intimate, as if what was said before of the like kind is to be understood singly of him; for these words are a repetition and summary of the foregoing, with some diversity:
I sent to know your faith; how it stood, whether it was staggering through these afflictions, or firm; whether it was weak or strong, what was wanting in it; and whether it grew and increased. The Arabic version adds, "and charity"; for of this, as well as of faith, Timothy brought an account, as appears from the following verse.
Lest by some means the tempter; Satan, so called from his common and constant employ in tempting men to sin; see Matthew 4:3
have tempted you with success, and got an advantage over them, improving these afflictions to such a purpose as to move them from the hope of the Gospel, and relinquish the profession of it; for otherwise there was no question to be made but he had tempted them, or solicited them to it; for none of the saints are free from his temptations; the apostle himself was not, nor indeed our Lord Jesus Christ: but the apostle's fears were, lest he should so have tempted them as to have gained upon them, and have persuaded them to have turned their backs upon the Gospel, and not expose their name and credit, and hazard the toss of worldly substance, and even life itself, for the sake of it.
And our labour be in vain: in preaching the Gospel among them; not with respect to God, to whom the word never returns void and empty; nor with regard to the apostles, whose judgment was with the Lord, and their work with their God, who will of his own grace reward them; but with respect to the Thessalonians, to whom, should Satan gain his point, it would be of no use and service, for which the concern was. The Ethiopic version reads, "and your labour be in vain": in receiving the apostles, embracing and professing the Gospel, and suffering for it; see Galatians 3:4 but the common reading is best, and agrees with what the apostle elsewhere says, Galatians 4:11.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. For this cause—Because I know of your "tribulation" having actually begun (1Th 3:4).
when I—Greek, "when I also (as well as Timothy, who, Paul delicately implies, was equally anxious respecting them, compare "we," 1Th 3:1), could no longer contain myself (endure the suspense)."
I sent—Paul was the actual sender; hence the "I" here: Paul, Silas, and Timothy himself had agreed on the mission already, before Paul went to Athens: hence the "we," (see on 1Th 3:1).
to know—to learn the state of your faith, whether it stood the trial (Col 4:8).
lest … have tempted … and … be—The indicative is used in the former sentence, the subjunctive in the latter. Translate therefore, "To know … whether haply the tempter have tempted you (the indicative implying that he supposed such was the case), and lest (in that case) our labor may prove to be in vain" (compare Ga 4:11). Our labor in preaching would in that case be vain, so far as ye are concerned, but not as concerns us in so far as we have sincerely labored (Isa 49:4; 1Co 3:8).
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