1 Thessalonians 3:1

(1) We could no longer forbear.--The Greek word contains the metaphor of a vessel over-full and bursting with its contents. "We" must be understood here by the limitation of 1Thessalonians 2:18, and by the direct singular of 1Thessalonians 3:5, to mean St. Paul alone, not him and Silas.

To be left at Athens alone.--The difficulty of interpreting this passage so as to agree with Acts 17:15-16; Acts 18:5, is not a light one. From those passages it would appear that immediately upon reaching Athens, St. Paul sent word back to Macedonia, by the friends who had escorted him, that St. Silas and St. Timothy should join him at once; but that some delay took place, and that St. Paul had arrived at Corinth before his companions reached him; that they consequently never were with him at Athens. In that case, "to be left alone" must mean, "We resolved not to keep with us the brethren who escorted us;" and the "sent" of 1Thessalonians 3:2 will mean that he gave them a message to Timothy that he should go back to Thessalonica (presumably from Ber?a), before joining St. Paul at Athens; for the tense of the Greek verb "to be left" absolutely necessitates an act of parting with some one: it cannot mean, "We were willing to endure loneliness a little longer." But such an interpretation suits ill with Acts 17:15; it is hard to identify an urgent message to "come with all speed" with a command to make such a detour. It seems, therefore, most reasonable to suppose that Silas and Timothy joined St. Paul forthwith at Athens, and were almost as soon sent back into Macedonia,--Silas to Ber?a or Philippi, and Timothy to Thessalonica. This would explain St. Paul's being left alone, an expression which would hardly have been used had Silas remained with him at Athens, as some (misled by the word "we") have supposed; and also it explains how in Acts 18:5 both Timothy and Silas come from Macedonia to Corinth. The despatching of Silas from Athens is not mentioned here, simply because it had no particular interest for the Thessalonians. If the two men did not reach St. Paul at all during the time he was at Athens, after receiving so imperative a message, they must have been very slow, for a week would have allowed ample time for their journey from Ber?a, and Acts 17:17; Acts 18:1 certainly imply a much longer period of residence there. "To be left alone" was a great trial to St. Paul's affectionate nature: such a sacrifice may well impress the Thessalonians with the strength of his love for them.

Verse 1. - This verse is closely connected with the concluding verses of the last chapter, from which it should not be separated. Wherefore; on account of my affection toward you and my repeated vain attempts to see you. When we. Some refer the plural to Paul, Silas, and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1); others to Paul and Silas, as Timothy had been sent to Thessalonica; but it is to be restricted to Paul, as is evident from 1 Thessalonians 2:38 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5, and inasmuch as Paul was left alone at Athens; the plural being here used for the singular. Could no longer forbear; could no longer restrain our longing and anxiety to know your condition. We thought it good; a happy translation of the original, expressing both "we were pleased and resolved." To be left at Athens alone; an expression of solitude. Alone in Athens, in the very metropolis of idolatry. Compare with this the common saying, "Alone in London." In the Acts of the Apostles we are informed that Paul came to Athens alone, and that there he waited for Silas and Timothy (Acts 17:14, ]5), and that these fellow-workers rejoined him at Corinth (Acts 18:5). Many expositors, however, from this and the next verse, infer that Timothy at least joined Paul at Athens, but was sent back by him to Thessalonica, to inquire into the condition of his converts in that city. Such is the opinion of Olshausen, Neander, De Wette, Lunemann, Hofmann, Koch, and Schott; and, among English expositors, of Macknight, Paley, Eadie, Jowett, Ellicott, and Wordsworth. There is no contradiction between this view and the narrative of the Acts. Luke merely omits to mention Timothy's short visit to Athens and departure from it, and relates only the final reunion of these three fellow-workers at Corinth. Indeed, Paley gives this coming of Timothy to Athens as one of the undesigned coincidences between this Epistle and the Acts of the Apostles. Still, however, we are not necessitated to suppose that Timothy joined the apostle at Athens. The words admit of the opinion that he was sent by Paul direct from Beraea, and not from Athens; and that he and Silas did not join Paul until they came from Macedonia to Corinth. Such is the opinion of Hug, Wieseler, Koppe, Alford, and Vaughan.

3:1-5 The more we find pleasure in the ways of God, the more we shall desire to persevere therein. The apostle's design was to establish and comfort the Thessalonians as to the object of their faith, that Jesus Christ was the Saviour of the world; and as to the recompence of faith, which was more than enough to make up all their losses, and to reward all their labours. But he feared his labours would be in vain. If the devil cannot hinder ministers from labouring in the word and doctrine, he will, if possible, hinder the success of their labours. No one would willingly labour in vain. It is the will and purpose of God, that we enter into his kingdom through many afflictions. And the apostles, far from flattering people with the expectation of worldly prosperity in religion, told them plainly they must count upon trouble in the flesh. Herein they followed the example of their great Master, the Author of our faith. Christians were in danger, and they should be forewarned; they will thus be kept from being improved by any devices of the tempter.Wherefore when we could no longer forbear,.... Or "bear", as the word properly signifies; or "bear that", as the Ethiopic version reads; that is, "that desire", as the Arabic version renders it; that ardent and longing desire of seeing them again, expressed in the latter part of the preceding chapter; which was as fire in their bones, and was retained with great pain and uneasiness; but now they could hold it no longer, and like Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:9 were weary with forbearing, and could not stay; or it was like a burden, which they stood up under as long as they could, even Paul, Silas, and Timothy, but now it became insupportable:

we thought it good to be left at Athens alone: that is, Paul and Silas, or Paul only, speaking of himself in the plural number; for he seems to have been alone at Athens, at least at last; he considering everything, thought it most fit and advisable when at Athens, where he waited for Silas and Timothy, having ordered them to come thither to him from Berea, Acts 17:14 either to send orders to Berea for Timothy to go from thence to Thessalonica, to know the state of affairs there, and Silas elsewhere; or if they came to him to Athens, of which Luke gives no account, he immediately dispatched Timothy to Thessalonica, and Silas to some other part of Macedonia, for from thence they came to him at Corinth, Acts 18:5 such was his desire of knowing how things were at Thessalonica, that he chose rather to be left alone at Athens, disputing with the unbelieving Jews, and Heathen philosophers of the Epicurean and Stoic sects, sustaining all their scoffs and jeers alone; and was content to be without his useful companions, Silas and Timothy, who might have been assisting to him at Athens, in hope of hearing of his dear friends at Thessalonica.

1 Thessalonians 2:20
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