1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
But we, brothers, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart…
With this another chapter might fitly have commenced.
I. THEIR DESIRE WAS ALL THE GREATER THAT THEY WERE ORPHANED OF THE THESSALONIANS. "But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire." Very different were Paul and his associates from the Jewish persecutors. They had the most tender feelings toward the Thessalonians, whom they acknowledge as brethren. The principal statement is that they were orphaned. It is a word which is usually applied to children who are bereaved of their parents. It is here adopted as a strong word to express the great pain which those apostolic men felt in being separated from their loved converts. They have already called themselves father and mother to the Thessalonians. Now it is rather the Thessalonians who are father and mother to them, of whom they have been bereaved, by whom they have been left desolate. Two mitigating circumstances are added. It was separation for a short season, literally, "the season of an hour." It is the language of emotion. It was but the season of an hour, compared with the time they would be together in the better world. Then it was separation in presence, not in heart. Still, with these mitigating circumstances, they were in an orphaned state. All the more exceedingly, then, were they zealous to see their face with great desire. This reference to the effect of absence is a touch of nature which the Thessalonians could well appreciate.
II. PAUL WAS HINDERED IN HAVING HIS DESIRE TO SEE THEM GRATIFIED. "Because we would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us." They would fain have come unto them. Having said this, Paul (correctively so far) refers to two definite occasions on which his plans were to proceed to Thessalonica. The statement did not pertain to Silas and Timothy, as they were probably not with him. By necessity of fact he therefore detaches himself from the others: "I Paul once and. again." And once and twice Satan hindered him. There is distinct testimony here to Paul's belief in a personal tempter. Satan appears here in his real character as adversary of God's people. Repeatedly he actually succeeded in hindering Paul in his good intentions. Though only a secondary agent, he has a wide range in the use of means. We are to think of the means here not as sickness (which was allowed in the case of Job), nor as other work needing to be done elsewhere, but as difficulties caused by the working of evil in the minds of persecuting enemies or unfaithful friends. The language is, "Satan hindered us;" for there was not only a hindering of Paul, but of Silas and Timothy as well, who were interested in the advancement of the cause in Thessalonica.
III. ESTEEM WAS THE REASON FOR DESIRING TO SEE THE THESSALONIANS. "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? For ye are our glory and our joy." The use of the plural, which begins with the preceding word, illustrates the humility and generosity of the apostle. As in the next statement of fact he has to slide again into the singular, he might naturally have preserved the singular in this intermediate burst of feeling. But he will not exclude Silas and Timothy when it is possible to include them. These apostolic men had their hope. Without hope it is not possible to endure existence. And if the future is not really bright, it is made to appear bright with false colors. They had not only their hope, but their joy; i.e. they were joyful in view of what they hoped for, which again was a crown of glorying. As Christian athletes they looked forward to their wreath of victory. This is thought of as the Thessalonian converts, they among others. These conquerors were not to appear alone before our Lord Jesus at his coming. But their converts in the various places were to be as a wreath of victory around their heads. It is faith that brings us into a fundamentally right relation to Christ; but within that relation there is room for greater or less activity. The teaching here is that we are to aim at not appearing before Christ alone at his coming. Christian parents and Christian ministers ought to be in a position to say then, "Behold I, and the children whom the Lord hath given me." There is incidentally a comforting thought in the language used. It is implied that Paul would know his converts at Christ's coming. We may, therefore, feel certain that Christian friends will know each other in the future state. And what a stimulus is this to be unremitting in our prayers and labors, so that all who are dear to us shall appear in that happy company at last, not one wanting! It is added, "For ye are our glory and our joy." As woman is said to be the glory of the man, so converts are here said to be the glory of ministers. The Thessalonian converts were a halo around the heads of their teachers. They were also their joy, a source of deep satisfaction, as theft wreath of victory at the looked-for coming. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.