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…
St. Paul has just referred to the external hindrance to his journeying that Satan was able to throw across his path (1 Thessalonians 2:18). He now writes of a much more serious Satanic opposition in the temptation of his converts to unfaithfulness. He is anxious lest during his absence the fierce enmity of the Jews, either by some more violent attack on the Church or by the harassing of incessant petty persecution, may at length have broken down the fidelity of the Christians at Thessalonica. And he shows his anxiety by sending to inquire of the state of the Thessalonian Church. The danger in which these Greek Christians lay besets the people of God in all ages, though the form in which it presents itself varies considerably.
I. THE TEMPTER RAISES UP TEMPTATIONS IN ORDER TO FRUSTRATE THE WORK OF THE GOSPEL.
1. The tempter furnishes temptations. A temptation implies two things:
(1) a latent appetite or desire in the mind of the tempted, which appetite or desire may be natural or acquired, innocent or corrupt, such as the innate instinct of self-preservation or the artificial craving for strong drink; and
(2) external circumstances that tend to rouse the internal longing. Now, the tempter may work through either of these two elements of temptation. He may sway the mind towards certain thoughts and impulses, or he may present to the mind occasions of sin by bringing about an arrangement of circumstances which shall appeal to the internal desire in such a way that indulgence would be unlawful. Thus dangers appeal to the instinct of self-preservations and forbidden delights to the love of pleasure.
2. These temptations tend to frustrate the work of the gospel. All is undone if the Church proves unfaithful. High knowledge may be acquired, elaborate organization may be perfected, busy work may be accomplished, and yet, if the purity of the spiritual life is invaded, or the faithfulness that should mark the soldier of Christ corrupted, the labor that led to the happiest results is all in vain.
II. THE TEMPTER CAN ONLY FRUSTRATE THE WORK OF THE GOSPEL WHEN THE TEMPTED YIELD TO TEMPTATION.
1. The power of the tempter is limited to temptation. He can persuade; he cannot compel. He may use threats, or he may use cajolery. But he cannot use force. For the violence that is done to the body of the martyr is no violence to his soul, but only a powerful persuasive influence. Satan goes about like a roaring lion. He has a deep throat, but blunt fangs.
2. We are free to resist temptation. Temptation cannot destroy free-will. The tempter simply tries to induce us to choose the evil. If we do not choose it, he is powerless. And the decision lies entirely with ourselves.
3. The grace of God will help us to resist temptation effectually. We are not left alone to battle with the tempter. If Satan is against us, God is for us. Stronger and greater influences for good are provided for counteracting the evil influences. But these are equally outside our liberty of choice - good persuasion as against bad persuasion. It is for us to lend ourselves to the helpful grace of God in Christ if we are to be strong to resist temptation and to prevent the work of the gospel from being frustrated in us. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.