Online Bible Commentary
1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. (NKJV)
The undisputed writer of this letter is Paul. Paul and Silas planted a church in Thessalonica in early 50 A.D. on Paul’s second missionary journey. Thessalonica, now known as Thessaloniki or Salonika, is the second largest city in Greece and the capitol of Greek Macedonia. It was a hub of commerce, located on a major trade route. As such it was a prime city for the spread of the gospel.
Paul visited the synagogue “for three Sabbaths” and “reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). He reasoned the Gospel, explaining how Christ had to die, was buried, and was resurrected to fulfill prophecy (Acts 17:3). Through Paul’s teaching many of “the devout Greeks” and more than a few of “the leading women” of the city converted to Christianity (Acts 17:4).
After leaving Thessalonica because of persecution Paul and Silas spent eighteen months (Acts 18:11) in Corinth, Greece. When Timothy joined them he gave a good report (1 Th. 3:6) on the new church in Thessalonica, which prompted the writing of this letter in late 50 or early 51 AD. Timothy delivered the letter to the church shortly thereafter. This was Paul’s second letter, after his letter to the Galatians.
Prior to Timothy’s good report Paul had concerns for the new believers in Thessalonica. Remembering the persecution that drove Silas and him out of the region, Paul was concerned that continuing persecution by the Jews may be affecting the faith of the new believers. It is easy to lose our faith during times of persecution. Of course, Timothy’s good report put to rest Paul’s fears. They were remaining strong.
In this passage, Paul begins by informing the Thessalonian believers as to why Timothy is ministering among them instead of Silas and himself. He writes that he and Silas “could no longer endure” the persecution in Thessalonica, which is why they fled to Athens, and then Corinth (v. 1). They fled for the time being in order to save their lives and fight another day. God, as always, used the persecution for good as Paul and Silas spread the gospel in other areas.
So they had sent Timothy to “establish you and encourage you concerning your faith” (v. 2). Timothy could minister to them without bringing attention to himself, like the higher profiled Paul and Silas would.
Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers that they should not “be shaken” by persecution because Christians will always be persecuted (v. 3a). They should expect persecution. Just as Christ was persecuted Christians also “are appointed” to be persecuted (v. 3b).
He reminds them that while there he told them that “we would suffer tribulation”, and “it happened”, as they well “know” (v. 4). Because of this persecution, Paul “sent” Timothy “to know your faith”, since Paul could not go himself (v. 5a). He had been concerned that “the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (v. 5b).
“The tempter” is always around seeking to destroy our faith. Satan is “the tempter”. Christ tests us, but never tempts us. “The tempter” uses people to attempt to destroy our faith. The people he influences are always in our midst.
As Christians, we should be aware of the tempter’s ongoing presence. We should guard who we allow to enter our lives and influence us. We should be aware that these kinds of people exist and we should avoid them.
The tempter’s people are everywhere. They are in our circle of influence. They are in our workplace, schools and universities. Some are disguised as teachers and professors. Some are disguised as friends. But they are not our friends.
We must always be on guard and be ready to defend our faith against those who attempt to destroy our faith. If necessary, we must be prepared to move on from the tempter’s people, as did Paul and Silas.