1 Thessalonians


2. Paul's relationship with the Thessalonian church, 2:1-3:13

iv] Timothy's mission to Thessalonica


Having spoken of his desire to return to Thessalonica to minister to those who are his "glory and joy" there, and how this desire was constantly frustrated, Paul goes on to explain how his sending of Timothy, at least in part, meets his desire to return. Paul wants the believers in Thessalonica to know he is well aware of the trials they are going through, trials he warned would come upon them, and how the return of Timothy will not only serve to strengthen and encourage them in their faith, but will also serve to keep Paul abreast of the situation they face.


i] Context: See 2:1-12.


ii] Structure: This passage, Timothy's mission to Thessalonica, presents as follows:

Circumstances for the sending of Timothy, v1;

"when we could stand it no longer."

The first purpose for Timothy's visit, v2-3;

"to strengthen and encourage you in your faith

so that no one would be unsettled by these trials."

Paul's warning to the Thessalonians, v4;

"we kept telling you that we would be persecuted."

The second purpose for Timothy's visit, v5;

"to find out about your faith."


iii] Background:

The details of Paul's movements after leaving Thessalonica are not overly clear. Having escaped from Thessalonica, Paul and Silas meet up with Timothy at Berea (he may well have been with them in Thessalonica), and undertake a gospel ministry in the synagogue there. The situation sours when members of the Thessalonian synagogue visit and again stir up trouble for the mission team. Paul defuses the problem by moving to Athens where he waits for Timothy and Silas to join him. Thessalonians 3:1-2 seems to imply that at least Timothy joins Paul in Athens, but probably both of them (this meeting is not recorded in Acts - Acts 18:5 implies that Silas and Timothy meet up with Paul in Corinth). On meeting up again in Athens, Timothy and Silas are able to relate the ongoing troubles in Thessalonica. This prompts Paul to send Timothy to Thessalonica. Presumably Silas is sent on a mission to Macedonia, possibly Philippi, a church that could easily face the wrath of the Thessalonian Jews. Paul then moves on to Corinth where he again meets up with Timothy who is able to report that the troubles facing the church are not as grave as Paul had thought. This report prompts Paul to write this his first letter to the Thessalonians, which letter is presumably conveyed to the church by Timothy (the reason behind his mention in v2??).


iv] Interpretation:

Paul recounts that his frustrated efforts to again visit the believers in Thessalonica is the direct cause which prompts him to send Timothy to them. In this passage Paul outlines the purpose behind dispatching Timothy, first, as it relates to the Thessalonian believers themselves ("to strengthen and encourage you in your faith so that no one would be unsettled by these trials") and second, as it relates to Paul ("to find out about your faith").

Paul's desire to "strengthen and encourage" the faith of the Thessalonian believers is not prompted by any doubts as to its authenticity, but because he is aware that it is coming under strain from a qliyiV, "a trial", from without - trials and tribulations. This persecution (initiated by members of the Jewish synagogue, but later involving the wider community), of course, comes ultimately from oJ peirazwn, "the tempting one", namely oJ SatanaV, "Satan", 2:18.

It is clear that the Thessalonian believers are unsure why they are enduring persecution, as such doesn't seem to fit with the promised blessings of the kingdom / the outpouring of divine grace in Christ. Paul will relate the problem to the coming Day of the Lord; it is an eschatological reality - mellomen qlibesqai, "we are about to be persecuted" because eiV touto keimeqa, "we are destined for this." The plural "we" has always caused problems: is it we the mission team; I Paul (the royal plural); we the congregation; we all = "we believers"? The last option seems best.

The second purpose, "to learn about your faith" = "to find out how your faith was surviving", Barclay, reflects Paul's personal involvement in the lives of the Thessalonian believers - they are his children in the Lord.

Text - 3:1

Timothy's mission to Thessalonica, v1-5: i] The circumstances for the sending of Timothy, v1. Paul's emotional state (his concern for the new believers in Thessalonica) lies behind the sending of Timothy.

dio "so - Usually inferential, "therefore", as NIV.

stegonteV (stegw) pres. part. "when we could stand it [no] longer" - [no longer] covering = enduring. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV. Note the plural "we". Surely a royal plural (epistolary plural), given the first person singular in v5; "I made up my mind to be left in Athens all alone. I sent Timotheus (surely not "we" = Paul + Silas)", Moffatt.

kataleifqhnai (kataleipw) aor. inf. "[we thought it best] to be left" - [we thought it good = we resolved, determined] to be left. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul was "well pleased = determined" to do, namely, to be left alone in Athens.

en + dat. "in [Athens]" - in [Athens alone]. Local, expressing space.


ii] The first purpose for Timothy's visit, v2-3. "That he might give you strength and bring you encouragement", Cassirer.

ton adelfon (oV) "who is [our] brother" - [and we sent Timothy] the brother [of us]. "Brother", as with "co-worker", stands in apposition to "Timothy", the accusative object of the verb "we sent." This description of Timothy probably serves to commend him to the congregation, given that he is the likely bearer of Paul's letter - it serves as "a way of authenticating the letter by authenticating the bearer", Fee.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "in God's service" - [co-worker] of God. The NIV treats the genitive as verbal, objective, but it could be taken as adjectival, possessive, "God's coworker", ESV. The trouble is the word "fellow worker" would prompt the genitive to be read as "a fellow worker with God", a somewhat presumptuous idea. This has prompted a number of variants where scribes have tried to correct Paul, but in Paul's mind he is probably thinking of Timothy as his "fellow worker", with both belonging to God.

en + dat. "in spreading [the gospel]" - in [the gospel]. Local, expressing space / metaphorical. This prepositional phrase is obviously elliptical, as NIV, Barclay, .... What Timothy is involved in is the ministry of the gospel, ie., making it known, so "he works with us as God's servant and preaches the good news about Christ", CEV.

tou Cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - As CEV above, the genitive may be treated as verbal, objective, "about / concerning Christ", or possibly ablative, source / origin, "from Christ", or even at a stretch, possessive, "belonging to Christ."

eiV to + aor. inf. "to [strengthen and encourage]" - that [to establish you and to encourage]. This construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose, applying to the two infinitives "to establish" and "to encourage"; "in order that he might give you strength and bring you encouragement." By these words Paul clearly states the purpose of Timothy's visit.

uJper + gen. "in [your faith]" - for [the faith of you]. The preposition here may express reference / respect, "with respect / regard to you faith", or possibly advantage, "for the benefit of your faith." "Faith" here is most likely used of dependence / resting on Christ for salvation, rather than "the faith", in the sense of doctrinal belief. The Thessalonian believers have put their faith / trust in Christ, but given the external pressures they face, Paul is concerned that they remain faithful to their faith. So, we could paraphrase "to give you strength and encouragement and so enable you to continue in your faith in Christ."


to .... sainesqai (sainw) pres. mid./pas. inf. "so that [no one] would be unsettled" - that [no one] to be shaken, distressed (possibly "beguiled", cf., Frame, Morris, Lightfoot). The accusative articular infinitive is somewhat irregular, prompting a number of suggestions as to its intended sense. The NIV assumes the presence of eiV, so introducing a purpose clause as in v2, "in order that", so Wanamaker, Malherbe, Moule, IB. Lightfoot assumes that the article stands in for wJste so producing a consecutive clause expressing result; "with the result that no one should be disturbed by these troubles." The construction may serve as an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the exhortation, "to encourage you in your faith, that no one unsettle you by these trials", so Ellicott, also Zerwick, and also Morris who classifies it as appositional, "namely that ...."

en + dat. "by [these trials]" - in [these tribulations, afflictions]. Here the preposition is instrumental, expressing means, as NIV.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Thessalonian believers should not be unsettled by the tribulations they now face, "because" they know very well that "we" = "we believers are destined for this." Given Paul's teaching ministry while at Thessalonica, the believers should be well aware that trials and tribulations accompany the Christian life; "suffering of affliction is actually a proof (evidence???) of divine election and of the imminence of redemption for the people of God", Wanamaker.

oJti "[you know quite well] that" - [you yourselves know] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they know, namely, that troubles are part of the deal. Note the intensive use of the personal pronoun autoi, "[you] yourselves [know]", which the NIV expresses "[you know] quite well."

keimeqa (keimai) pres. "we are destined" - [to this] we lie, recline = we are validated, set for = we are destined.


iii] Paul's warning to the Thessalonians, v4. Paul had warned the Thessalonian believers that persecution is an inevitable part of the tribulations of the last days. This warning has come to fruition, as well they know.

kai gar "in fact" - and for = for even = indeed. The emphatic use of gar with an ascensive kai, "even ...", is well expressed by the NIV; "Indeed, when we were with you we warned you ....", NJB.

oJte "when" - Introducing a temporal clause, as NIV.

proV + acc. "with [you]" - [we were] with [you]. Here the preposition expresses association; "in company with ..."

uJmin dat. pro. "[we kept telling] you" - [we were saying ahead of time] to you. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul said to them, namely, "that we would suffer." As already indicated, the "we" is probably "we believers", or more specifically "the mission team and the Thessalonian believers", so "we all."

qlibesqai (qlibw) pres. mid./pas. inf. "[we would] be persecuted" - [we are about] to be persecuted. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "to be about to." The verb mellw, "to be about to", doesn't necessarily refer to the immediate future, as indicated by the translation offered by the NIV; "we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction", ESV.

kaqwV kai "[and it turned out that way]" - as even [it happened, and you know]. The kai is ascensive, strengthening the comparative adverb kaqwV, here with paraenetic force; "we told you ahead of time that we were going to be persecuted, as indeed has happened, and you know very well it has happened." The second kia, "and [you know]", serves as a connective. What the Thessalonians know has happened is persecution. Paul is probably not saying that the Thessalonians know of his eschatological teaching concerning persecution in the last days, although Paul has obviously instructed them about this reality.


iv] The second purpose for Timothy's visit, v5. Paul's concern that his ministry might be undone because of the persecution experienced by the Thessalonian believers provides the second reason for sending Timothy to minister to the church.

dia touto "for this reason" - because of this. This construction is usually inferential rather than causal, "therefore"; see Runge "Discourse Grammar in the Greek New Testament."

stegwn (stegw) pres. part. "when [I] could stand it [no longer]" - [I also no longer] bearing it. The participle is adverbial, probably best treated as temporal, as NIV.

kagw "I" - I also. Emphatic personal pronoun; "I for my part", Morris. "Therefore, I actually, when I could bear it no longer, sent Timothy", cf., Moule.

eiV to + inf. "to [find out about your faith]" - [I sent Timothy] that [to know the faith of you]. This construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose, "in order to learn about your faith" - probably with inceptive force, so "come to know" = "learn". The accusative thn pistin, "faith", is usually treated as adverbial, reference, "about / concerning your faith."

mh pwV "I was afraid that in some way" - lest somehow, whether perhaps. Following the participle "enduring, bearing", the sense of which the NIV restates with "I was afraid", pwV introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, expressing what Paul is concerned about, namely that "somehow, perhaps" Satan had succeeded undermining the faith of the Thessalonians, so rendering his ministry among them void.

oJ peirazwn (peirazw) pres. part. "the tempter" - the one tempting, testing [tempted / tested you and the labor of us]. The participle serves as a substantive. Paul tends not to reduce human culpability by blaming Satan, but he does identify Satan's hand in the persecution of the Christian church by Jewish extremists; they see themselves as acting for God, but it is Satan who is their master. See Morris p104 on the person and work of Satan.

genhtai (ginomai) aor. subj. "might have been" - may become. The force of the subjunctive here is future referencing, while continuing to convey apprehension, ie., serving to express a doubtful assertion; "all our work may have been for nothing."

eiV kenon "in vain" - into vanity, foolishness. This prepositional phrase, eiV + a substantive adjective, is adverbial, expressing manner, modifying the subjunctive verb, "may become." The preposition eiV expresses end-view here; "all my toil turning out to have been to no purpose"; "for nothing", Barclay. "I hoped that Satan had not tempted you and made all our work useless", CEV.


1 Thessalonians Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]