Summary: The hasty exit from Thessalonica causes Paul to be very concerned for the ongoing ministry in the Thessalonian church. The specific concern is that Satan was using misunderstanding to hinder the Gospel.
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The Hindrance of Misunderstanding
10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away (from Thessalonica) to Berea.
13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. 14 The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. (Acts 17:10, 13-15)
1 After this (preaching in Athens), Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.
4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. (Acts 18:1, 4-5)
When we put all of this together we can picture the events, and people movements, and interactions to gain an understanding of the historical situation as it is unfolding.
But the history is not the main focus.
The main focus here is Paul’s heart for the people.
Paul wants to make sure the church of the Thessalonians does not misunderstand or misinterpret the situation.
Paul wanted to see come back and see the church, but Satan prevented this.
The Thessalonian church could interpret the silence as
… uncaring and unloving.
… Paul leaving them to suffer on their own.
… Paul just giving up on them.
In the face of the persecution they were facing the church of the Thessalonians might even start questing … “Is this new faith worth it”.
The Jews from Thessalonica who rounded up bad characters from the marketplace to form a rioting mob could really use Paul’s absence to their advantage.
Paul gone. He is not coming back you know. He’s a fake and a conman who just wanted to use your homes as free accommodation until something better came along.
Why should you stick with the teaching of Paul? He faces a little trouble and then he runs away. Why don’t you just go back to making things the way they were so our city can be at peace.
We know the church of the Thessalonians is staying firm.
In the face of persecution and pressure they fixed their eyes on Jesus and were living out their faith in such a way that they were becoming a model church for so many other churches.
We know that.
But at the time Paul doesn’t know that.
As Paul goes to Berea, then Athens, then Corinth … there are a whole range of thoughts going around in the head of Paul.
Paul knows his own motives. His interest isn’t about himself and his reputation and what people might say about him – he actually doesn’t really care what people think about him.
His only concern is the church of the Thessalonians.
He has done all he can to get back. He is constantly in prayer. He needs to know what is going on.
So he eventually sends Timothy back to find out the answer to his one spiritual concern – has the tempter worked in such a way that everything that was done was in vain?
Satan – the tempter – has a strategy. In essence it is a strategy with a single focus. To do everything spiritually possible to prevent, and even reverse, the transforming power of the Gospel.
To prevent people from becoming “in Christ”.
To tempt people to step “out of Christ”.
To achieve these ends Satan will use every scheme. He will stop at nothing – nor will he see any boundary – in his attempts to fulfil this goal.
Satan will masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) … convincing people they are following the path of righteousness while in reality they are walking on the road of wickedness.
The Devil sows weeds – those who are the people of the evil one … among the good seed – those who are the people of the kingdom … in order to create confusion and confound the work of the kingdom. (Matthew 13:24-29; 36-43).
The Tempter is a formidable opponent. Jesus has given us access to the full armour of God so that we can be equipped to stand against his schemes (Ephesians 6:11). He is on the prowl constantly on the lookout for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He will keep pushing, and prodding, and niggling, and frustrating, and manoeuvring in order to try and gain some sort of foothold (Ephesians 4:27)