1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.…
I. PAUL'S GREAT PERSONAL DESIRE.
1. It was evidently more than a natural transcient longing such as would arise in any mind on the remembrance of dear friends who had been left, it was a fixed strong desire. "We are away from you for a time, in presence, not in heart. I endeavoured to see your face with great desire, but Satan hindered. I therefore sent Timothy — my dearest and best fellow labourer, and the tidings he has brought has comforted me. But this is not enough. May God direct my way unto you." The inferences from this are —
(1) They must have been a very lovable people. For in this desire we can see more than apostolic function, or simple discharge of duty. Clearly here is that unpurchaseable thing — the whole heart's love on both sides.
(2) This is one of the marvels and triumphs of Christianity that it can thus mutually unite, refine, endear people to each other in any circumstances. What were the circumstances? They had scarcely a day's peace in their connection. And yet how they hold on to each other. Is there any other department of life that can be likened to this? Say, that some merchant goes into a distant city, opens a large business, and supplies smaller traders. But unfortunate times comes on. Those who have bought cannot pay, and the merchant sees his capital sunk as in the sea. Would it be wonderful if he closed his stores and departed? Now see the contrast. Paul comes on his great business to Thessalonica — the city is in an uproar, and his friends are glad to get him away with life. And yet the strain "Taken from you in presence, not in heart, I shall be back again soon." The religion of Christ is a plant which storms cannot break, which will grow fresh and green above the very snows, and in the dark, damp air of prisons, and will bear some of its best fruits when all other trees are barren.
2. The religious rule he puts it under; the subordination of it to the will of God. He seems to say, "There is nothing more that I can do: Satan seems to hold the keys of the city, and he will not let me in if he can help it. People would advise me to give it up. But no, I hold a strange key, that has opened many a door for me, and perhaps it may fit the lock of that city gate. It is called the key of prayer, and it never rusts with me, for it never rests. I use it by night as well as day. Even while I thus write, I use it. Now God direct my way." The teaching is, have your human desire, hold it against all hostility and disappointment; but have it in subjection to the higher Will which knows all the circumstances of which we can only know a part. Says an old writer, "Let God be our Pilot if we mean to make a good voyage of it." Let our hand be on the stern, our eye on the star. Let our course as the mariners' be guided by the heavens.
II. PAUL'S GREAT DESIRE FOR THE CHURCH.
1. This desire is not dependent on the fulfilment of the other. He was aware that unless he had an express Divine assurance that the former was not to be calculated upon with certainty. If he is permitted to see them he will supply, by God's help, what is lacking in their faith, and out of that will spring a fuller love. But if he is not allowed to see them, the Lord could do without his agency.
2. The love here mentioned is discriminated, but it is one thing. Love to God is one thing, with differentiations suited to the character of the individuals. Love in us —
(1) Has its fullest expression when its object is God.
(2) Next to that in excellence is love of God's own children — our brethren. Very beautiful is this affection when founded on mutual knowledge and esteem, when each sees in the other the Master's image, and are all kindly affectioned one to another. "Behold how good and peasant, etc.
(3) It has been said that this mutual love is apt to deteriorate in the very exercise of it, and to become exclusiveness. This is possible. Churches have so attended to the form of this great privilege and duty that they have allowed the spirit of it to evaporate. They have ceased to feel for the miseries about them. Well, we cannot say that the Scriptures have led us astray. For see how inseparably the two things are here joined. "And toward all men." There is only that word between them, and that unites and never disjoins. It is God's strong bridge over the river; God's marriage service over the two affections, never to be severed more. "And what God hath joined together," etc. Let no one say he loves the brotherhood if he despises one human creature. But on the other hand let no man say that he loves the race while he sees nothing to love in his fellow Christians.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.