1 Thessalonians 3:2
And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
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(2) Sent.—It may possibly mean that a message was despatched to him at Berœa, ordering him to go, but is far more naturally understood if Timothy were at Athens at the time.

And minister . . .—The text here, according to the judgment of most of the best editors (though Tischendorf in his last edition has modified his opinion), is interpolated, and the verse should run: “our brother, and God’s fellow-worker in the gospel of Christ.” Timothy being a person so well known at Thessalonica, it is difficult to see why he should be thus particularised, unless he was the bearer of the letter, and St. Paul wished to insist upon their paying him due deference in spite of his youth.

To establish, perhaps in the sense of perfecting their organisation.

To comfort is here equivalent to “to encourage.”

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.And sent Timotheus - That is, evidently, he sent him from Athens - for this is the fair construction of the passage. But in the history Acts 17 there is no mention that Timothy came to Athens at all, and it may be asked how this statement is reconcilable with the record in the Acts ? It is mentioned there that "the brethren sent away Paul (from Berea) to go, as it were, to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him to Athens;" Acts 17:14-15. The history further states, that after Paul had remained some time at Athens, he went to Corinth, where he was joined by Timothy and Silas, who came to him "from Macedonia;" Acts 18:5. But in order to reconcile the account in the Acts with the statement before us in the Epistle, it is necessary to suppose that Timothy had come to Athens. In reconciling these accounts, we may observe, that though the history does not expressly mention the arrival of Timothy at Athens, yet there are circumstances mentioned which render this extremely probable.

First, as soon as Paul reached Athens, he sent a message back to Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, and there is every probability that this request would be obeyed; Acts 17:15. Secondly, his stay at Athens was on purpose that they might join him there. "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred within him;" Acts 17:16. Thirdly, his departure from Athens does not appear to have been in any sort hastened or abrupt. He had an opportunity of seeing the city Acts 17:23; he disputed in the synagogue and in the market "daily" Acts 17:17; he held a controversy with the philosophers Acts 17:18-22; he made converts there Acts 17:24, and "after these things" he calmly went to Corinth. There was no tumult or excitement, and it is not suggested that he was driven away, as in other places, because his life was in danger. There was, therefore, ample time for Timothy to come to him there - for Paul was at liberty to remain as long as he pleased, and as he stayed there for the express purpose of having Timothy and Silas meet him, it is to be presumed that his wish was in this respect accomplished.

Fourthly, the sending back of Timothy to Macedonia, as mentioned in the Epistle, is a circumstance which will account for the fact mentioned in Acts 18:5, that Timothy came to him "at Corinth," instead of at Athens. He had given directions for him to meet him at Athens Acts 17:15, but the history mentions only that he met him, after a long delay, at Corinth. This delay, and this change of place, when they rejoined each other for the purpose of laboring together, can only be accounted for by the supposition that Timothy had come to him at Athens, and had been immediately sent back to Macedonia, with instructions to join him again at Corinth. This is one of the "undesigned coincidences" between the history in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of Paul, of which Paley (Hor. Paul.) has made so good use in demonstrating the genuineness of both. "The epistle discloses a fact which is not preserved in the history; but which makes what is said in the history more significant, probable, and consistent. The history bears marks of an omission; the epistle furnishes a circumstance which supplies that omission."

Our brother - See the notes at Colossians 1:1. The mention of his being a "brother" is designed to show his interest in the church there. He did not send one whose absence would be no inconvenience to him, or for whom he had no regard. He sent one who was as dear to him as a brother.

And minister of God - Another circumstance showing his affection for them. He did not send a layman, or one who could not be useful with him or to them, but he sent one fully qualified to preach to them, and to break to them the bread of life. One of the richest tokens of affection which can be shown to any people, is to send to them a faithful minister of God.

And our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ - A third token of affectionate interest in their welfare. The meaning is, "I did not send one whom I did not want, or who could be of no use here, but one who was a fellow-laborer with me, and whose aid would have been of essential service to me. In parting with him, therefore, for your welfare I showed a strong attachment for you. I was willing to endure personal inconvenience, and additional toil, in order to promote your welfare."

To establish you - To strengthen you; to make you firm - στηρίξαι stērixai This was to be done by presenting such considerations as would enable them to maintain their faith steadfastly in their trials.

And to comfort you concerning your faith - It is evident that they were suffering persecution on account of their faith in the Lord Jesus; that is, for their belief in him as a Saviour. The object of sending Timothy was to suggest such topics of consolation as would sustain them in their trials - that is, that he was the Son of God; that the people of God had been persecuted in all ages; that God was able to support them, etc.

2. minister of God and our fellow labourer—Some oldest manuscripts read, "fellow workman with God"; others, "minister of God." The former is probably genuine, as copyists probably altered it to the latter to avoid the bold phrase, which, however, is sanctioned by 1Co 3:9; 2Co 6:1. The English Version reading is not well supported, and is plainly compounded out of the two other readings. Paul calls Timothy "our brother" here; but in 1Co 4:17, "my son." He speaks thus highly of one so lately ordained, both to impress the Thessalonians with a high respect for the delegate sent to them, and to encourage Timothy, who seems to have been of a timid character (1Ti 4:12; 5:23). "Gospel ministers do the work of God with Him, for Him, and under Him" [Edmunds].

establish—Greek, "confirm." In 2Th 3:3, God is said to "stablish": He is the true establisher: ministers are His "instruments."

concerning—Greek, "in behalf of," that is, for the furtherance of your faith. The Greek for "comfort" includes also the idea, "exhort." The Thessalonians in their trials needed both (1Th 3:3; compare Ac 14:22).

(To see numbers 1 and 2: See Poole on "1 Thessalonians 3:1".)

3. By the description he gives of him in the text: a man dear to him, and as his right hand in the service of the gospel. And his care of them is commended the more by sending so eminent a person to them.

4. From his end in sending him; which was to establish them, that through the fear of suffering, or any temptations, they might not forsake the faith they had received; and to comfort them concerning their faith: the word sometimes signifies to exhort, and the sense is good if we so read it; but because the faith they had embraced presented much matter of comfort to them, therefore our translation; well renders the word.

And sent Timotheus our brother,.... In a spiritual relation, having the same heavenly Father, and belonging to the same Jerusalem, which is free, and the mother of us all; of the same household and in the same relation to Christ, the firstborn among many brethren; or their brother in the ministry, who was employed in the same business, and did the same work they did; or he is so called, on account of that strict and intimate friendship which subsisted between them, by virtue of which they stuck as close as brethren, or closer to one another than brethren usually do:

and minister of God; of his making, and not man's; of his calling and sending, and of his blessing and succeeding; and who was a minister of the things of God, of the mysteries of God, of the truths of his Gospel; and who ministered according to the ability God gave him, and was faithful to him:

and our fellow labourer in the Gospel of Christ; he was a labourer, and not a loiterer in the Lord's vineyard; one that laboured in the word and doctrine, that studied to show himself a workman, that gave himself wholly to meditation, reading, exhortation, and doctrine, and preached the word in season and out of season and was a fellow labourer with him who laboured more abundantly than any of the apostles; and not in the law, but in the Gospel, even in the Gospel of Christ, of which he is the sum and substance, author and preacher. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions leave out these words, and so do Beza's ancient copy and the Alexandrian manuscript, "and our fellow labourers", reading the latter part of the clause in connection with the former thus, "a minister of God in the Gospel of Christ", as the former of these versions, "in the doctrine of Christ", as the latter. These characters are given of Timothy, partly to show what honour was done the Thessalonians, in sending such a messenger to them; and partly that they might receive him with the greater respect, and treat him according to his character, office, and dignity; and chiefly to observe to them the apostle's great affection for them, in parting with so dear and useful a minister for their good and advantage, as follows:

to establish you; which though the work of God, it is usually done by the ministry of the word; and then is the end of the Gospel ministration answered to the churches, when they are established by it; for notwithstanding the saints are in a stable condition, as in the arms of love, and in the hands of Christ, and in the covenant of grace, and upon the rock of ages, and in a state of regeneration, justification, and adoption, from whence they can never fall totally and finally; yet they are often very unstable in their hearts and frames, in the exercise of grace, and discharge of duty, and in their adherence to the cause and interest, Gospel and ordinances of Christ, through the prevalence of corruption, the temptations of Satan, and the reproaches and persecutions of men: and these Thessalonians were young converts, and just planted together as a church; and at their first setting out, sustained a considerable shock of afflictions, which made the apostle concerned for their establishment in the faith which they had received:

and to comfort you concerning your faith. This is another end of the Gospel ministry, to comfort afflicted minds, and distressed consciences; it is the will of God that his people should be spoke comfortably to; the doctrines of the Gospel are calculated for that purpose, and the ministers of it should be Barnabases, sons of consolation. These saints might be in some doubt about the grace of faith, whether it was right or not, or about the doctrine of faith they had received; and therefore Timothy is sent to comfort them under their afflictions, which might have created these doubts, and to remove them, by showing them that their faith was like precious faith with the apostles; and that the doctrine of faith they embraced was the faith once delivered to the saints, and was the true faith of Christ: the words will bear to be rendered, "to exhort you concerning your faith", as the Vulgate Latin version renders them; that is, to exhort you to continue in the faith, to stand fast in it, in the exercise of the grace of faith, and in the doctrine of faith, and in the profession of both. The Syriac version renders it, "to ask", or inquire of you concerning your faith, being willing to know how it stood, since they left them, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:5.

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
1 Thessalonians 3:2. Τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν τ. εὐαγγ. τοῦ Χριστοῦ] our brother (Christian brother) and fellow-labourer of God in the gospel of Christ. The συν in συνεργὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ refers not to man, but to God, the chief ruler of the church; comp. Meyer on 1 Corinthians 3:9. In this apposition attached to Τιμόθεον, Theophylact, Musculus, and most critics (comp. already Chrysostom) discover the design, that Paul wished thereby to indicate what a great sacrifice he put himself to for the sake of the Thessalonians, as he surrendered to them at once his faithful assistant, whom he himself so much required, in order that he might minister to their wants.[44] Such a view is remote from the apostle. The epithets which he gives to Timotheus are nothing more than a commendation of his apostolic associate, which the apostle felt himself constrained spontaneously to express, on account of the faithfulness and zeal which he displayed for the sake of the gospel; and we are the less to look for any ulterior design, as it was the constant practice of the apostle, when he had occasion specially to mention his faithful associates, to designate them by some honourable appellation.

ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ] Statement of the sphere in which he was a συνεργός. Comp. Romans 1:9; Php 4:3.

εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμᾶς] not that we (the senders) might (by the instrumentality of Timotheus) strengthen you (Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius), but that he (Timotheus) might strengthen you. But erroneously (comp. already Chrysostom) Oecumenius, whom Theophylact, Estius, Luc. Osiander, Fromond., Nat. Alexander, Macknight, and others follow: ὡς σαλευομένους, ἐφʼ οἷς ἦν ὁ διδάσκαλος ἐν πειρασμοῖς· μέγας γὰρ ὄντως θόρυβος τοῖς μαθηταῖς τὸ εἶναι τὸν διδάσκαλον ἐν πειρασμοῖς.

Grotius and others understand παρακαλέσαι in the sense of to comfort. More correctly (on account of 1 Thessalonians 3:3), it is to be taken in the meaning of to exhort or encourage. Schott erroneously unites both ideas. Also, arbitrarily separating the words, Olshausen refers στηρίξαι to patience in persecution, and παρακαλέσαι to growth in faith.

ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν] not equivalent to περὶ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν (de Wette and others), as if it were a mere statement of the object, but: for the good of your faith, i.e. in order that you might preserve it.[45]

[44] Thus also Hofmann, only he finds the reason of the honourable appellation in this: “that the Christians of Thessalonica who longed for the apostle himself might be tempted to undervalue this mission of a subordinate associate!”

[45] That Calvin here speaks of a fides Pauli ubique adversus Satanam et mundum victrix, is because, in the oldest Greek editions of the N. T., τίστεως ἡμῶν was put in place of πίστεως ὑμῶν.

2. and sent Timotheus] Timothy: see note on this name, ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

The Acts of the Apostles traces St Paul’s footsteps from Thessalonica to Berœa, and on from Berœa to Athens: read Acts 17:10-16; and consult the map in regard to the route. But its account of the movements of his companions appears at first sight inconsistent with what we read here. For in Acts 17:14-16 we find Silas and Timothy both left behind at Berœa, while Paul goes on to Athens, instructing them to follow and rejoin him there as soon as possible. “Paul waited for them at Athens;” but they do not seem to have arrived. The two comrades of the Apostle are not mentioned by St Luke again until he tells us of their return together from Macedonia, when they find him at Corinth (Acts 18:1-5). St Paul interpolates between the time of his leaving the two at Berœa and of their return in company from Macedonia reported by Luke a distinct mission of Timothy by himself to Thessalonica. There is, after all, no conflict between the Apostle and his historian and friend. He relates an incident which St Luke in his general and cursory narrative passed over, either as unimportant for his purpose, or because he was unaware of it. Since we have good reason to believe in the accuracy of both, we must adjust their statements to each other. This may be done In two ways: It is possible that Paul on arriving at Athens and finding that he could not return to Thessalonica from that city, sent directions to Timothy to go back in his place to the Macedonian capital, instead of coming on to Athens, while Silas still remained in Macedonia; and that, after Timothy had made this visit, they both rejoined their leader at Corinth. Or it may be—and this agrees better with the words “left behind”—that Timothy did come to Athens from Berœa, and was immediately despatched again to Thessalonica, so that the Apostle was practically alone from the time he left Berœa until Silas and Timothy rejoined him at Corinth.

The “we” of 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 3:6 appears to refer to the Apostle himself; comp. 2 Corinthians 10, 13 for the interchange of “I” and “we” in St Paul’s manner of referring to himself. He may write we representatively, where others are joined with him in sympathy, though not in act. If Silas was now with Paul at Athens, he also must shortly have returned to Macedonia (see Acts 18:5); but the words “left alone” would seem in that case to be pointless. It was a trial to St Paul at this time to be “left alone.” But his anxiety about the Thessalonians compels him, notwithstanding, to send his young helper to them.

our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ] This description of Timothy is given in varying forms by the ancient MSS. The Revisers prefer to read, our brother and God’s minister, &c.; but they say in the margin, “Some ancient authorities read fellow-worker with God.” Possibly this is what the Apostle wrote: our brother and a fellow-worker with God. The other variations can best be explained by it; and copyists would scarcely have substituted by this bold expression the easy phrase “minister of God,” which occurs in other Epistles, had the latter been the original reading. “God’s fellow-worker” expresses a thoroughly Pauline idea (see 1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1), and would serve to exalt Timothy in the eyes of the Church. It agrees with what the Apostle says of him in 1 Corinthians 16:10 : “Timothy worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do; let no one therefore despise him.” The Received Text, as in many other instances, results from the combination of two earlier and briefer readings of the passage. Codex B, the best of the Greek MSS, reads simply, our brother and fellow-worker in the gospel of Christ.

to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith] Establish is stablish in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 and elsewhere; the same word is rendered “strengthen thy brethren” in Luke 22:32, also Revelation 3:2; it signifies to make stable, fix firmly.

For comfort exhort or encourage is a preferable rendering. St Paul employed another and quite different verb for “comfort,” in express distinction from that here used, in ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:11 (see note). The Greek verb has a wide range of meaning; but all its uses in these two Epp. may be brought, with that of the cognate noun, under the ideas of appeal (ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:12), or encouragement (ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). This latter was indeed an older sense of comfort in English (Latin confortare).

The Apostle sends Timothy to do what he wished to do himself, and continues to do by this letter—what, above all, he prays God to do for them; see 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 : “May He encourage your hearts, and stablish you.” (Comp. Introd. p. 35.) They were afflicted, and needed “encouragement;” they were new to the Christian life, and needed “establishment.”

Concerning is, more strictly, on behalf of (in furtherance of) your faith. In ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 faith, love, and hope; in 1 Thessalonians 3:6 faith and love; here faith alone stands for the whole religion of a Christian.

1 Thessalonians 3:2. Ἐπέμψαμεν, we sent) I and Sylvanus sent.

Verse 2. - And sent Timotheus. This was a great act of self-sacrifice on the part of Paul; because to be without an assistant and fellow-laborer in the gospel in such a city as Athens, the very center and strong hold of heathenism, full of temples and idols, must necessarily have brought upon him many discomforts; and yet his anxiety for the Thessalonians overcame all motives of personal convenience. Our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-laborer. The reading of manuscripts here varies. Some important manuscripts read, "our brother and fellow-worker with God" - a phrase which is elsewhere employed by the apostle: "for we are laborers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9). Retaining, however, the reading of the text, Paul here calls Timothy his brothel expressing his esteem and fraternal affection for him; "a minister of God," expressing Timothy's official position and the honor conferred on him by Christ; and his "fellow-laborer," expressing his laborious work in preaching the gospel, and reminding the Thessalonians of his labors among them. Different reasons have been assigned for this eulogy pronounced by Paul on Timothy. Some suppose that it was to show how eagerly he consulted the welfare of the Thessalonians, by sending to them a person of such importance and of such use to himself as Timothy (Calvin); others think that it was to recommend Timothy to the favorable regard of the Thessalonians in the absence of himself (Chrysostom); but it appears to be the natural outburst of affection for his favorite disciple. In the gospel of Christ. Timothy had labored with Paul and Silas in the publication of the gospel at Thessalonica, and was consequently well known to the Thessalonians, and favorably regarded by them. To establish you, and to comfort you; or rather, to exhort you, as the matter of exhortation follows. Concerning your faith; in order to the continuance and furtherance of your faith. The purpose of the mission of Timothy; namely, to confirm the Thessalonians in the faith, to exhort them to perseverance in Christianity, notwithstanding the persecutions to which they were exposed. 1 Thessalonians 3:2Our brother

Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Plm 1:1; Romans 16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 16:12.

Minister (διάκονον)

See on Matthew 20:26; see on Mark 9:35. Not in the official sense of deacon which occurs only in the Pastorals. Διάκονος minister and διακονία ministry or service are common expressions of service to Christ or to men. Paul habitually uses them in this way. See Acts 1:25; Acts 6:4. Διάκονοι is used of ministers of Satan, 2 Corinthians 11:15, and διάκονος of the civil magistrate, Romans 13:4. See Introduction to the Pastoral Epistles.

Fellow laborer

Omit from text.

To establish (στηρίξαι)

See on Luke 22:32; Introd. to Catholic Epistles, Vol. 1, p. 625; see on 1 Peter 5:10; see on 2 Peter 1:12.

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