1 Thessalonians 3:5
For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) For this cause.—“Because I knew that temptation was sure to overtake you, I sent to see whether our work still lived, and was likely to live, in spite of it.”

To know your faith.—“To ascertain whether you still believed:” only the form courteously implies that the faith was certainly there, and St. Paul only sent to “make assurance doubly sure.”

The tempter.—See Matthew 4:3. The word and the tense in the Greek imply, not only that it is his character to tempt, but that it is his constant occupation.

Have tempted you . . . .—The original implies no doubt on the writer’s part that the Thessalonians had been tempted; the only doubt was, how they had borne it. The striking out of the comma after “tempted you,” and reading the clauses quickly together, will give a fair notion of the purport. It might be paraphrased, “Lest, in consequence of the temptations which the tempter brought against you, our toil should prove in vain.” The “temptations” were those of persecution, and the time at which they befell, the same as in 1Thessalonians 3:4, “it came to pass.”

1 Thessalonians 3:5-8. For this cause — The apostle proceeds to explain more fully what he began to speak of 1 Thessalonians 3:1; when I could no longer forbear — Or endure the state of anxious uncertainty I was in with regard to persons so dear to me, in such circumstances; I sent to know your faith — Whether you continued steadfast and constant in your adherence to the truth; lest the tempter — Satan; should have tempted you — That is, should by his temptations have caused you to faint under your trials, and so to depart from the faith. Temptations of different kinds usually accompany persecutions. But now, when Timothy came from you — Immediately after whose return, it seems, St. Paul wrote this epistle, while his joy was fresh, and his tenderness at the height; and brought us good tidings of your faith, &c., and that ye have good remembrance of us — Think of us with affection, and make respectful mention of us upon all occasions. The apostle undoubtedly means their remembering him and his fellow-labourers with respect, as teachers sent from God; and with gratitude, as those who had given them the knowledge of the true God and of eternal life. These things are the best foundations of a respectful, grateful remembrance; for, as Chandler observes, the persons who are converted by the labours of the faithful ministers of Christ owe to their spiritual fathers their own souls; an obligation that ought not to be soon or easily forgotten. Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over, or concerning, you — The faithfulness and constancy of the people of God are a great source of comfort to their teachers. For now we live indeed — Our life is worth having; or, we enjoy life; if, or seeing that, ye stand fast in the Lord — Continue firm in the faith of Christ and of his grace. So great is our affection for you. In like manner, faithful ministers of the gospel, after the apostle’s example, have no higher joy than when they find their wishes, their prayers, and their labours effectual to the conversion of their people, and for their establishment in truth and grace.

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.For this cause - Since I knew that you were so liable to be persecuted, and since I feared that some might be turned from the truth by this opposition.

When I could no longer forbear - See the notes at 1 Thessalonians 3:1.

I sent to know your faith - That is, your fidelity. or your steadfastness in the gospel.

Lest by some means - Either by allurements to apostasy, set before you by your former pagan friends; or by the arts of false teachers; or by the severity of suffering. Satan has many methods of seducing people from the truth, and Paul was fearful that by some of his arts he might be successful there.

The tempter - Satan; for though the Jews were the immediate actors in those transactions, yet the apostle regarded them as being under the direction of Satan, and as accomplishing his purposes. He was, therefore, the real author of the persecutions which had been excited. He is here called the "Tempter," as he is often (compare Matt. iv.), and the truths taught are:

(1) that Satan is the great author of persecution; and,

(2) that in a time of persecution - or of trial of any kind - he endeavors to tempt people to swerve from the truth, and to abandon their religion. In persecution, people are tempted to apostatize from God, in order to avoid suffering. In afflictions of other kinds, Satan often tempts the sufferer to murmur and complain; to charge God with harshness, partiality, and severity, and to give vent to expressions that will show that religion has none of its boasted power to support the soul in the day of trial; compare Job 1:9-11. In all times of affliction, as well as in prosperity, we may be sure that "the Tempter" is not far off, and should be on our guard against his wiles.

And our labour be in vain - By your being turned from the faith; notes, Galatians 4:11.

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 [2445]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).

The apostle here gives a further account of the reason why he sent Timothy to them, which was to know their faith, whether it continued stedfast under all their sufferings and temptations. He feared Satan, whom he calls

the tempter, might have some way or other tempted them, either by false teachers to seduce them, or by sufferings to affright them. He was more concerned about the inward state of their souls, than their outward condition; and commonly temptations go along with persecutions. And the apostle, having bestowed great labour upon them, feared lest it might

be in vain, that the tempter had prevailed. Satan’s first work is to keep men from believing, his next is to destroy their faith: young converts are commonly most assaulted. Paul’s heart was therefore very solicitous for them, so that (as he said before) he could not any longer forbear sending to know how it was with them.

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.

For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 3:5. Διὰ τοῦτο] on this account, i.e. on account of the actual commencement of trouble. But, incorrectly, Fromond.: ne tribulationibus meis turbaremini.

The καί in κἀγώ does not belong to the whole sentence: “therefore also, no longer forbearing, I sent” (de Wette, Koch, Bisping), for then διὰ καὶ τοῦτο would have been written (the passages adduced by de Wette to the contrary do not prove what is designed); rather καί impressively gives prominence to the person of the ἐγώ: therefore I also. Thus a relation must be contained in it to other persons. Schott, whom Olshausen follows, supposes these others the Thessalonians, finding the thought expressed: “as ye, in consequence of the troubles which befell me, were anxious for me, so I also could no longer bear to be without information concerning you.” But, according to the connection (καὶ ἐγένετο καὶ οἴδατε, 1 Thessalonians 3:4), a relation must be contained in κἀγώ to others, of whom, as of Paul, a μηκέτι στέγειν in respect of the Thessalonians is asserted.[47] These others are the Christian circle with the apostle in Athens (Acts 17:34), including Timotheus sent from it to Thessalonica. Events such as befell the Thessalonians must have awakened lively sympathy in every Christian who heard of them. Entirely perverted is the view of Hofmann, who takes the singular, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, as a contrast to the plural, 1 Thessalonians 3:1. In 1 Thessalonians 3:5 only Paul is spoken of, whereas in 1 Thessalonians 3:1 Paul and Silvanus are referred to. He accordingly infers, that besides Timotheus, sent by Paul and Silvanus jointly to Thessalonica, there was another sent specially by Paul. After Timotheus was on his journey to strengthen the Thessalonian Church against the persecution which had broken out upon them, Paul, at a time when Silvanus was also absent, sent a second, this time for his own sake; his own troubled condition making the want of news from Thessalonica insupportable, lest perhaps the fruit of his labours among them might be entirely lost. Yet before the return of this unknown messenger Silvanus and also Timotheus had rejoined the apostle!

εἰς τὸ γνῶναι] in order to learn, belongs to the subject of the verb ἔπεμψα; thus: “in order that I, the sender, might learn;” not: in order that he (Timotheus) might learn (Pelt, Olshausen, and others).

τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν] your faith, i.e. how it is with it, how it stands.

μήπως] depends on γνῶναι, not on ἔπεμψα, and is the introductory particle of an indirect question: whether perhaps the tempter has tempted you. So Wahl, Schott, and de Wette; also Bouman, Chartae theolog. I. p. 80. Without reason, Beza, Grotius, Turretin, Benson, Koppe, Flatt, Pelt, Winer, p. 448 [E. T. 633 f.], supply φοβούμενος before μήπως: “filled with anxiety lest the tempter should have tempted you.”

ὁ πειράζων] another expression for ὁ σατανᾶς, 1 Thessalonians 2:18. Comp. Matthew 4:3.

εἰς κενόν] see Meyer on Galatians 2:2.

ἐπείρασενγένηται] correctly, Schott: ut cognoscerem, quomodo se haberet persuasio vestra, num forte tentator vos tentaverit, adeo ut (quod deus avertat!) labor meus irritus fieri possit. The aorist indicative refers to a fact which possibly may have already happened; but the conjunctive γένηται refers to a fact which belongs to the future, and is conceived as a consequence of the first fact. Fritzsche (Opusc. Fritzschiorum, p. 176), to whom de Wette and Koch adhere, explains it: ut … cognoscerem, an forte Satanas vos tentasset et ne forte labores mei irriti essent. He thus takes μήπως in the first clause as an interrogative particle, and in the second clause as an expression of fear; an explanation which Winer rightly designates as harsh.

Moreover, incorrectly, Whitby, Macknight, Baumgarten-Crusius: in ἐπείρασεν is implied “tempted with success,” “seduced.” The idea of seduction exists only by the addition of εἰς κενὸν γένηται.

[47] It might otherwise be assumed that Paul here anticipates what he first, in ver. 6, observes of the Thessalonians, namely, that they also had a longing for him; and thus κἀγώ, which belongs to μηκέτι στέγων, not to ἔπεμψα, is explained. But this is an expedient which is artificial, and is to be rejected because μηκέτι στέγειν, ver. 5, and ἐπιποθεῖν, ver. 6, are not co-extensive ideas.

1 Thessalonians 3:5. Resuming the thought of 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 a, after the parenthetical digression of 3b, 4, but adding a fresh reason for the mission of Timothy, viz., the apostle’s desire to have his personal anxiety about the Thessalonians relieved. It is needless to suppose (with Hofmann and Spitta) that 1 Thessalonians 3:5 refers to a fresh messenger or a letter (Wohl.) despatched by Paul on his own account. As in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Paul passes to the singular, to emphasise his personal interest in the matter; the change of number, especially after the generic use of the plural in 3, 4, does not necessarily prove that the plural of 1 Thessalonians 3:1 means Paul alone. The dominating anxiety of Paul was about their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:5-10). He was overjoyed to hear that they retained “a kindly remembrance” of himself, and he reciprocates their desire for another meeting; but, while this undoubtedly entered into their general Christian position, it is the former on which unselfishly he dwells (cf. the transition in 10a and 10b).—πίστιν κ.τ.λ. “Initium omnium malarum tentationum inconstantia animi est et parua ad Deum confidentia” (De Imit. Christi, i. 13, 5).—ἐπείρασεν, with success, it is implied.

5. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith] Rather, I also, no longer enduring it, sent, &c. St Paul repeats what he said in 1 Thessalonians 3:1, but in a different manner, there stating the facts themselves, here indicating his own share in the trouble of his readers: “You were in affliction, and your faith endangered; and I too felt for you an unendurable anxiety.” He has just spoken of Timothy as sent to comfort them, but he was sent at the same time to comfort him (the Apostle), to relieve his distressing fears about them (see 1 Thessalonians 3:5 b and 6). His own troubles and despondency at Corinth helped to make him apprehensive for the Thessalonian Church (see 1 Thessalonians 3:7, and comp. Acts 18:5; Acts 18:9-10 and 1 Corinthians 2:3).

The Greek verb for “know” in this clause is different from that employed in the last; it means to ascertain, get to knowthat I might ascertain your faith—“might learn its condition, and know whether or not you were still standing fast in the Lord.”

lest by some means the tempter have tempted you] “Have” is here the English subjunctive perfect, modern “should have”; but the Greek verb is indicative, and implies a positive expectation: lest by any means the tempter had tempted you (R. V.)—a fact of which there was little doubt; the apprehension is revealed in the next clause (Greek subjunctive),—and our labour should prove in vain. This was the dark thought which crossed the Apostle’s mind, that he could “no longer bear.”

This “labour” (or “toil,” same word as in ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:3, see note, and ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:9) is that which St Paul described pathetically in ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, beginning with the “entrance” that certainly “was not vain.” To think that all this labour might be lost, and a success at first so glorious end in blank failure!—The sentence might be rendered quite as grammatically, and more vividly, in the interrogative, expressing the apprehension as it actually arose in the Apostle’s mind: I sent that I might know about your faith: had the Tempter haply tempted you, and would our labour prove in vain?

“The Tempter” is so styled once besides, in the account of Christ’s Temptation, Matthew 4:3. Comp. note on Satan, ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:18. While “hindering” Paul from coming to their help, Satan would be “tempting” the Thessalonians to forsake their faith. This fear wrung the Apostle’s heart.

In passing from 1 Thessalonians 3:5-6 there is a striking change from painful suspense to relief and joy—

1 Thessalonians 3:5. Ὁ πειράζων, the tempter) i.e. Satan, ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:18. The expression contains an Euphemism. Often this enemy is near [lurks underneath] when one would not think that he is. Comp. at Matthew 4:3.

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. 1 Thessalonians 3:5The tempter (ὁ πειράζων)

Only here and Matthew 4:3. lxx. See on Matthew 6:13.

In vain (εἰς κενον)

The phrase only in Paul. See 2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16. The force of the preposition is fairly represented by to in the phrase to no purpose. lxx has εἰς κενὸν, εἰς τὸ κενὸν, and εἰς κενὰ.

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