World English Bible translation
3:1Therefore, when we couldn't stand it any longer, we thought it good to be left behind at Athens alone, 3:2 and sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith; 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you know that we are appointed to this task. 3:4 For most assuredly, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we are to suffer affliction, even as it happened, and you know. 3:5 For this cause I also, when I couldn't stand it any longer, sent that I might know your faith, for fear that by any means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor would have been in vain.
Here is a passage where Paul is dictating in the first person. The apostles split up for a time. Silvanus stays on at Berea. Paul and Timothy go to Athens. Paul sends Timothy back to Thessalonica to see to the converts there. Paul goes ahead to Corinth. At Corinth, Silvanus and Timothy come to greet him with news from Berea and Thessalonica.
In today's scripture, Paul tells of that time before Silas and Timothy come to him in Corinth. He is anxious to hear whether their time has been wasted in Macedonia and Greece. Only a few people had even bothered to listen in Athens and the work was just beginning in Corinth. Would the hardship and trials they had faced so far translate to any permanent gains?
The apostles' goal was not the quick conversion of a few God-fearing Greeks. Paul's desire was for the long-term growth of the Church in this part of the world. Paul's vision was always on the horizon. God had placed in Paul's mind a vision of the Church that spanned the world. The goal of his life was to bring the gospel to parts of the world where it had never gone.
But, it was not enough to preach and then leave. He says he sent Timothy back to them "... to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith..." The continuing maturation and growth of those whom he had brought to Christ was a concern throughout Paul's life. So, Paul trained others to shepherd the flocks that he had founded.
The first of these trainees was Timothy. Later, Titus and Epaphras would each learn from Paul and take over his ministry in different cities. True men of God realize that the Church is God's Church, not theirs. They prepare for the time when they are no longer capable of leading.
Paul knows that there will be setbacks and reversals. He has told his young converts that they would face trails. Would they be up to the challenges before them? Would their faith endure?
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