Paul's longing for the church

Paul’s longing for the church

In this epistle, Paul brought to mind again the first time he preached the gospel in Philippi and Thessalonica: “after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated (referring to the imprisonment at Philippi), as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention (「在大爭戰中」)(referring to the uproar of the city of Thessalonica).” (2:2)

After Paul left Thessalonica and came to Athens for some time on his journey, he desired very much to return to Thessalonica to see them again. “But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again (「有一兩次要去」); but Satan hindered us.” (2:17-18) Paul continued, “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” (3:1-2)

Timothy returned from Thessalonica and brought good news of the church of Thessalonica to Paul and Paul was greatly comforted by their faith and love: “But now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you. Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith.” (3:6-7)

Paul wanted to see them again so as to strengthen their faith: “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith. Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” (3:10-11) Since Satan time and again hindered Paul from returning to Thessalonica (2:18), Paul prayed earnestly for God’s direction to lead him back to Thessalonica.