“Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone.
“And sent Timotheus…to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.
“…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” (1 Thes. 3:1,2,5).
According to the Acts record, the Apostle Paul had only recently spent three weeks in Thessalonica, establishing the church there. Why then was he so eager to check back with them? Twice we read that he “could no longer forbear,” and so sent Timothy to encourage and establish them, and to let him know how they were doing. Yet, as far as the record is concerned, no messenger had come to him with alarming news about the Thessalonian church. What had happened to make him so concerned about the state of their faith?
The answer is found in Acts 17:5-10. Paul had just been run out of town—their town! And he was concerned lest this humiliating treatment at the hands of the Thessalonian Jews might have shaken their faith. It is, after all, no small thing when your spiritual leader is thrown out of town!
Not that this had bothered Paul personally. He was accustomed to such violence and was not disturbed by it, as evidenced by the fact that he immediately focused his total attention on the ministry of the gospel at Berea (v. 10-12). Indeed, we have his own testimony in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 about the similar event which had brought him to Thessalonica:
“…even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.”
Yes, Paul fully realized “how great things he must suffer” for the Savior he represented (Acts 9:16),but his beloved Thessalonians could not fully realize this. His ignominious expulsion from their city had doubtless left them shaken, especially with “all the city on an uproar,” and the house of Jason assaulted merely on suspicion of harboring the fugitive apostle and his companions (Acts 17:5-9).
But there was yet another reason for his concern. These same Jews of Thessalonica, when they knew that “the Word of God was preached of Paul at Berea…came thither also, and stirred up the people” (v. 13). Paul was now safely out of their reach in Athens, but he knew they had returned to their own city, and would now doubtless redouble their persecution of the young Thessalonian church.
Little wonder the apostle lost no time in dispatching Timothy, his trusted co-worker, to their side, to assure them that
“…no man should be moved by these afflictions; for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
“For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (1 Thes. 3:3,4).
How well, indeed, they had come to know this! And how they must have welcomed Timothy to their assembly, and rejoiced over the subsequent epistle from their father in the faith, who evidently cared for them so much!
Finally, Paul wanted them to understand that their afflictions came as a result of living in the dispensation of grace, and not as a result of persecution in the Tribulation, which some were affirming. It is true, says the apostle, that we are appointed to afflictions, but
“…God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9).
It is evident from the context that the “wrath” they were not appointed to is the wrath of the Tribulation. Consider: God has not appointed us to wrath, but God has appointed us to “obtain salvation” by our Lord Jesus Christ. Since the Thessalonians were already saved, this can only refer to the completion, the fulfillment of their salvation, i.e., at the rapture of the church. Paul confirms this view by a similar statement in Romans 13:11:
“…for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
Furthermore, verse 8 of 1 Thessalonians 5 describes the finishing touch to our armour as “the hope of salvation.” What else could this phrase refer to but “that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), the completion of our salvation? When we trusted Christ, we were immediately saved from the penalty of sin, and we are today being saved from the power of sin. But some day, at the rapture, we shall be saved from the very presence of sin—and it may be soon!
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.