Satan Hindering Paul
1 Thessalonians 2:18
Why we would have come to you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

The word "hinder" is a metaphor taken from military operations — the breaking up of reads, the destroying of bridges, and the interposing of varied obstacles, to cut off the enemies' approach or retreat. Or the figure may be that of the racecourse, the upsetting of a chariot by being brought into violent contact with another. Either way we have a graphic description of the obstructions in the way of the apostle's advance. Just as an angel stood in the evil way of Balaam, the apostate prophet, to intercept him, so is Satan here represented as standing in the good way of Paul. It is worthy of note that the personal spirit of evil is mentioned by his Hebrew name in this, Paul's earliest epistle — an epistle, too, addressed to a Gentile Church, and containing no direct quotation of Scripture. How, then, had these Gentile believers come to know his name and nature? By Paul's oral teaching, and probably also by a written Gospel. Now, of all the Gospels there is none which speaks so clearly concerning the personality and operations of the tempter under the name of Satan than that written by St. Paul's fellow traveller, Luke. Here we have, therefore, another incidental confirmation of the view that that Gospel may have been entrusted to the Church of Thessalonica to disseminate. However, such an allusion to the adversary of souls points very strongly to the doctrine of his personality. But to what form of hindrance does the apostle allude? It was not, we may be sure, to any pressure of labour; Paul would regard this as a burden of honour laid upon him by the Master. It may have been the danger to which he would be ex!nosed, as he had been previously, if he repaired to Thessalonica; but this cannot have bulked very largely in his view at the time; he is so sympathetically alive to the same danger as besetting his much loved friends. It is more likely that the restraint arose from trials befalling believers in the districts where Paul himself was; but this has no support from the context, for it would seem from that to have been one in which Paul preeminently was concerned — "Even I, Paul." He makes something like a severance of himself from his companion in regard to it, and the "once and again" seems to point not to habitual or prolonged hindrance such as arose from dangers besetting the Church, but rather to some sudden, unexpected, and powerful obstacle such as bodily sickness, which, after passing away, had come upon him once more. These considerations seem to point to the "thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him." Like the mysterious agony which now and again seized King Alfred in the midst of intensest activity, this thorn in the flesh was an interruption for the time being to all apostolic plans. This hindrance, however, sent of Satan, as it was declared to be, was yet blessed of God to Paul himself, doubtless for the increase of his patience, the purifying of his desires, the quickening of his zeal, and his growth in grace. It was also blessed of God to others. To the apostle's enforced absence from Thessalonica we owe this Epistle, fraught with its words of warning, comfort, and direction for all time.

(J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

WEB: because we wanted to come to you—indeed, I, Paul, once and again—but Satan hindered us.

Satan as a Hinderer
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