The Search for God’s People—Part 3

Suffering “Great Things” for Jesus’ Name

AFTER Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch, about A.D. 48, having successfully completed their first missionary journey, they found that there were now a good number of Gentile brethren in the church, although the majority still were Israelites. A large concentration of Jewish brethren who lived in Judea, were continuing to observe certain features of the Mosaic Law, and some of these went to Antioch and began teaching the Gentile brethren that if they were not circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they could not be saved.

Paul and Barnabas, elders in the class at Antioch, disagreed with this doctrine, and strong contention resulted. The Judean brethren felt sure they were right, and that they had the support of the apostles living in Judea. But Paul and Barnabas held firm to their conviction. Finally, the church at Antioch decided the only way to settle this controversy was through a conference in Jerusalem with the apostles and the elders, to which they sent Paul and Barnabas as representatives of their view of the matter. Titus, who was also in Antioch at that time, went with them to the conference. (Gal. 3:1,2) He would be useful, no doubt, as an example of the great faith they had found among the Gentiles.

On this trip Paul and Barnabas traveled through Phenice and Samaria en route to Jerusalem, telling the brethren there, who were mostly Jewish, about the large number of Gentiles who had come into the body of Christ. This news was of great interest, and it seems all who heard about their work rejoiced in the success it was having.

At Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas reported these same events to the congregation and the apostles. However, here the news met with a different reaction. Some of the brethren who had come from the sect of the Pharisees insisted that it was mandatory for these new brethren to be circumcised, and to keep the Law of Moses. This began a lengthy and rather intense debate, since Paul and Barnabas did not agree with this viewpoint. Ultimately the Apostle Peter stood up, agreeing with Paul, and reminding the brethren that Paul had been selected by God several years ago to open the way for the Gentiles. Peter looked upon the demand of circumcision as nothing short of ‘tempting’, or trying, God, saying, “Now therefore, why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”—Acts 15:10

When Paul and Barnabas had an opportunity to speak, they endeavored to convince the gathering that the Gentiles were truly brethren as evidenced by signs from God—they were being blessed by God with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle James apparently served as chairman for the assembly. He summarized the meeting, quoting significant prophecies which foretold how God would turn to the Gentiles to find a people for his name. He offered a compromise which suggested that the Gentile brethren be asked to observe four items from the Law and nothing else: “that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:20) Since this was agreeable to those assembled, they decided to send Judas and Silas back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, to deliver a letter from the apostles, elders, and all assembled at Jerusalem, reiterating the conclusions of the conference.

Paul told about this conference in a letter he wrote to the Galatians: “Within fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. Now I went up according to a revelation, and submitted to them the glad tidings which I publish among the nations; but privately to those in high repute, lest perhaps for a vain thing I may run, or might have run. But not even Titus, my associate, though a Greek, was under a necessity to be circumcised, on account even of the false brethren secretly introduced; (who crept in to spy out our freedom which we possess in the anointed Jesus, so that they might enslave us;) to whom not even for an hour did we yield by submission; in order that the truth of the glad tidings might remain with you. But from those of reputation, whatever they were formerly is of no consequence to me; (God does not accept a man for personal appearance;) for to me, those of reputation communicated nothing. But on the contrary, James and Cephas and John,—those seeming to be pillars,—perceiving that I was entrusted with the glad tidings for the uncircumcision, even as Peter was for the circumcision; (for He who operated in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcision, operated in me also for the Gentiles;) and acknowledging that commission given to me, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, in order that we should be for the Gentiles, and they for the circumcision; only urging that we should be mindful of the poor,—which very thing I was even ardently hastening to perform.”—Gal. 2:1-10, Diaglott

In the above account Paul explains that an agreement was reached. The apostles at Jerusalem felt their main task would continue to be with those brethren who came from natural Israel, the “circumcision,” whereas Paul and Barnabas would work more with the Gentiles and mixed congregations of Jews and Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas were accompanied back to Antioch by Silas and Judas, and when they arrived they assembled the brethren and delivered the letter. These two brethren were gifted speakers and they stayed with the class at Antioch for quite some time, perhaps several months, exhorting and teaching. Judas eventually returned to Jerusalem while Silas continued with Paul and Barnabas.

Although it might appear that the matter was settled, some who had come from the sect of the Pharisees continued to press the matter in the following years. These were unwilling to give up their inheritance in the Mosaic Law. Later, Paul told how even Peter, for a time, was affected by their strong feelings. A short time after the conference in Jerusalem Peter went to Antioch for a visit. There he fellowshipped freely with Jew and Gentile brethren alike, until certain brethren, former Pharisees, arrived from Judea. Peter, knowing their adamant position on the Law, withdrew from the hometown Gentile brethren for fear of damaging his standing with the visiting Jewish brethren. This made Paul angry, and he withstood Peter to his face.

Paul, in his letter, describes the incident in these words: “When Cephas [the Apostle Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him face to face, because he was blamable. For before certain persons came from James, he ate together with the Gentiles; but when they came he withdrew and separated himself, being afraid of those belonging to the circumcision. And the other Jews also dissembled with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

“But when I saw that they walked not straight with respect to the Truth of the glad tidings, I said to Cephas in the presence of all: ‘If thou, being a Jew, livest like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that thou dolt compel the Gentiles to Judaize? We are Jews by natural birth, and not sinners of the Gentiles; and knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, except on account of faith of Christ Jesus, even we have believed into Jesus Christ, so that we may be justified by faith of Christ, and not by works of Law; because by works of Law will no flesh be justified.”—Gal. 2:11-16, Diaglott

We cannot determine with accuracy the chronology of these events, but it appears reasonable that Paul was converted in A.D. 35, and that it was about three years later (Gal. 1:18) or about A.D. 38, that he made the first trip from Antioch to Jerusalem. Sometime later, “within fourteen years” (Gal. 2:1), he attended the conference in Jerusalem. After about two years had elapsed since returning from their first missionary journey, Paul became concerned about the Gentile brethren in the various classes they had established.

He feared they might have been visited by misguided brethren from Judea who would insist they be circumcised and so he suggested to Barnabas that they visit these brethren again and take with them the letter drawn up at the conference by the apostles. It took many years for some of the brethren in Jerusalem to understand Paul’s position. As much as ten years later the apostles were encouraging Paul to demonstrate to these brethren that he had not forsaken certain customs which came from the Law of Moses.

Barnabas thought well of the plan to retrace the steps of their first journey, starting at Cyprus and then heading up toward Paul’s home city. Their first journey had been sponsored by the church at Antioch. This second pilgrimage was a suggestion by Paul and so he did not request any financing.

In planning this expedition, Barnabas suggested that his nephew, John Mark, go with them again, as he had on their first journey. But Paul remembered the fact that Mark had left them after going only part of the way on the former trip, and did not want to take him this time. There was such a sharp difference of opinion over the matter that they decided to separate—Barnabas taking his nephew and sailing for his native land, Cyprus, and Paul taking Silas by land northward into Syria and Cilicia.

Before proceeding with the account further, it is important to clarify this matter. We are not to think of the contention between Paul and Barnabas as making a rift between them which existed for the remainder of their lives. On the contrary, Paul loved Barnabas and wrote of him in his letters to various congregations as an example of faithful devotion to the Lord.

One mention of this is in Galatians 2:13, where, several years later, Paul tells of Peter’s concern for the opinions and reactions of his Jewish brethren in Judea, and how he withdrew from the Gentiles of the Antioch church. Next to Paul, Barnabas had the clearest understanding of the position of the Gentiles in the church. Thus, to emphasize how greatly the Jewish brethren were swayed by Peter’s actions, he said, “The other Jews also dissembled with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”—Gal. 2:13, Diaglott

Paul made mention of Barnabas again, about six years after their difference of opinion. In a letter Paul told the brethren in Corinth that as apostles they had certain rights and privileges, “or,” he asks, “is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?” (I Cor. 9:6, RSV) His inclusion of Barnabas indicates that he was still faithfully serving the Lord, and Paul had loving respect for his service.

According to tradition, Barnabas continued to live on the island of Cyprus until opposing Jews brought his ministry to an end by stoning him to death.

The Bible is careful to record, also, that in after years Paul leaned heavily on John Mark for his help in the ministry. While Paul was a prisoner in Rome he wrote to the brethren at Colosse, concluding his letter by saying, “Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;). And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.”—Col. 4:10,11

Often when a problem or difference arises between brethren, those who hear of the difficulty tend to take sides, making matters worse. It is possible that many who sided with Paul in the original controversy may have retained negative feelings about John Mark. But Paul stressed his warm sentiments toward Mark and instructed the brethren that if he should visit them, they should receive him. Perhaps just a little earlier than this, Paul had written to Timothy saying, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (II Tim. 4:11) Apparently Timothy did so, contacting John Mark, who went to Paul and was very helpful and comforting to him in the last days of his ministry.

Returning to the account of Paul’s journey: after visiting the churches in the area of Syria and Cilicia, and delivering to them the letter from the apostles, Paul continued by land over the mountains into the province of Lyconia, to Derbe where Timothy lived. Arriving at the home of Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother, Paul found that young Timothy had matured and was very active in the congregations of Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. The brethren of these congregations commended Timothy highly and Paul decided to have Timothy join them in their travels.

Before inviting him to accompany them, he had Timothy circumcised. His mother was a believing Jewess, but his father was a Greek. This action might appear strange in view of the recent events in Jerusalem where the general agreement had been reached that Gentiles need not to be circumcised. But we must keep in mind that Paul always went first to the synagogues to present the Gospel message, and if Timothy were not circumcised, he would be hindered in dealing freely with Jews.

So Timothy joined Paul and Silas. as they continued on their journey to deliver the letter of the apostles to the churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia. The various congregations they met with benefited a great deal from the news they brought and from their ministry. “So were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.”—Acts 16:5

The exclusive nature of the work of selecting a people for God’s name is emphasized in the events that followed. Paul sought to reach other prospective brethren in Asia Minor, called Asia in the Scriptures, in the regions of Galatia and Phrygia, but in some manner God indicated by his Holy Spirit that he should not do so. The simple statement of the Scriptures is: “They had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” (Acts 16:6) Likewise, when they considered going into a region to the north called Bithynia they were instructed by the Holy Spirit not to go. This is stated in Acts 16:7: “After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia but the Spirit suffered them not.”

It is important to recognize from these simple accounts that the Gospel message was not to be preached indiscriminately everywhere to find converts, but rather we observe that the work was being carefully directed by God and our Lord Jesus. Though unknown to Paul at this time, there was an urgency for him to go to Macedonia. This was revealed to him only when they reached the western side of Asia Minor, arriving at the port city, Troas. There Paul was given a vision where he saw a man of Macedonia entreating him to come there to help them.

We should not conclude that there were none of God’s people to be found in the other areas of Galatia, Phrygia, and Bithynia, and hence God bypassed them. Later Paul went to these places. But on this particular journey it was necessary for him to help those who were then being prepared by God to receive the invitation to become members of the body of Christ.

The Book of Acts, as it was written by the physician, Luke, one of the many Greek Gentiles called by God at Antioch, up to this point has described the events in the second and third person. The preceding verses of Acts 16:10, tell how “they,” this party of three brethren—Paul, Silas, and Timothy—traveled through the land. After Paul received the vision he responded immediately, sailing from Troas to Macedonia. Luke now switches to the first person in relating subsequent events. “After he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the Gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from hence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.” (Acts 16:10-12) It appears that Luke had come from Antioch to join them. It most likely had been prearranged, because from this point in time, Luke became a very active member of their missionary activities.

When they arrived they found there was no synagogue; instead there was an open place by a river which had the natural shape of an amphitheater. Religious Israelites used this as a meeting place for prayer. It was not unusual for Jews to use such places for devotional services. A similar place was used for prayer by Jesus in Galilee, and is mentioned in Luke 6:12. At Philippi, Paul went to this riverside gathering-place on the Sabbath and found women of Israel assembled for worship. “A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”—Acts 16:14

What depths of meaning these words express: Lydia’s heart was opened by God! God is the one who opens the heart to understand and appreciate his Word. Lydia was one being sought by the Lord; she as well as her family were immersed and formed the nucleus of the church in Philippi. Being “much given to hospitality,” and no doubt yearning to learn more about the truth, she entreated Paul and his companions to lodge in her house. Paul was hesitant, not wanting to impose upon her, but she entreated them, and her home became their home.

Paul continued to go to the oratory, the amphitheater by the river, to speak with others, over a period of time which might have been weeks, or months. Others were found for the body of Christ, but we do not know how many, or their names.

One day, as Paul walked through town, he had a most peculiar experience. A female servant, who had powers to foretell events because of being possessed by a familiar spirit, began following Paul and those with him. Her masters profited a great deal from her powers, and because of this she was considered a valuable property. As she followed Paul’s party she cried out, “These men are the servants of the Most High God who are proclaiming to us the way of salvation.” (Phil. 16:17, Diaglott) This continued to occur for several days, each time Paul would be seen by her in the town.

Finally Paul, being upset by her behavior, commanded the evil spirit to come out of the woman. It obeyed him, thereby making this maidservant of little use to her owners, since she had lost her peculiar powers. The masters of the slave were so incensed they seized Paul and Silas and took them before the magistrates of the city, accusing them of disturbing the city and of preaching customs unlawful for Romans to observe. The large crowd that had assembled to observe the proceedings agreed with the accusations. Therefore, the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped to the waist, beaten with rods, and then brought to the prison where they fastened their feet in stocks.

These two faithful servants of God, not able to sleep from the pain of their wounds, began to pray and to sing hymns, and to witness to the other prisoners about God’s plan. Suddenly, at midnight, a severe earthquake shook the prison to its very foundations, broke open the prison doors, and loosened the chains that bound the prisoners. The jailor, awakened by all this commotion, saw the open prison doors and assumed that all the prisoners had escaped. Fearful of the consequences, he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul cried in a loud voice that he should not harm himself, because all the prisoners were there. This was due, no doubt, to the leadership of Paul and Silas, who had convinced them to stay.

The jailor asked for lights; and then in gratitude fell down before Paul and Silas, subsequently leading them out of the prison into his home, which probably was next to the prison. He asked what he must do to be saved. Paul told him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy family.” This scripture is often quoted by Christians as the simple answer to salvation. However, the jailor must have overheard an earlier discussion between Paul and the prisoners on the matter of being saved, or he would not have asked the question in the way he did.

A detailed study of the Scriptures, with an explanation by Paul of God’s plan for salvation, convinced the entire family to accept the provisions of the call and be immersed that very same night. After they had dressed the flogging wounds of Paul and Silas, they all assembled in the house for fellowship. The occasion was a joyous one as they ate together, and spoke of God’s wonderful plan until the coming of dawn.

In the morning, the magistrates sent word to the jailor to release Paul and Silas. But Paul refused to leave, contending that he was a Roman citizen who had been beaten and imprisoned unlawfully, not having been condemned by a court trial. There was great fear on the part of the magistrates when they heard this, and they went to entreat Paul and Silas to go. The two eventually complied, but not before they finished their business in that city.

The jailor and his family were now new members of the congregation, along with other brethren who are mentioned by Luke, but not named. Later we hear of Epaphroditus, a Greek brother from Philippi who journeyed to Rome with a gift for Paul. We learn a little more of these brethren through the letter which Paul later wrote, addressed to all the saints at Philippi, their elders, and deacons.

Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke had spent many weeks in Philippi. A congregation had been started, and the brethren were learning much about God’s Word. Even so they needed further help; therefore, Luke was left with this church to assist them. We know this to be the case, since Luke once again returns to the use of the third person in his writing. Paul, Silas, and Timothy once again went on their way, their destination, Thessalonica. In that city Paul knew someone whom he referred to as a kinsman, named Jason, who opened his home to the travelers. Paul mentions Jason later, saying, “Timotheus, my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.”—Rom. 16:21

At Thessalonica they found a synagogue, which they went to on the Sabbaths. There Paul reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures, for about three weeks. Paul’s preaching was fruitful in convincing several men and women, both Jews and Greeks, of his doctrine. Soon they began meeting together as an ecclesia in Jason’s home. Paul’s success, however, was resented by the other Jews, and as time went on they enlisted the aid of rogues in the town to harm Paul, forcing Paul and Silas to flee. Going to the home of Jason to lay hands on Paul, and finding him gone, they took Jason and several other brethren captive and brought them before the magistrates. They accused them of disturbing the empire, threatening the sovereignty of Caesar by claiming no other king than Jesus. Although Jason and the brethren were released, it was quite evident that it would be unwise for Paul to remain. So he, Silas, and Timothy went under cover of night to the neighboring town of Berea.

There they found the Jews in the synagogue much more responsive to the message. Apparently their leaders had taught them to study and prove their beliefs by the Scriptures, which prepared them to consider Paul’s teaching with a sincere desire to learn. The Bible record commends them with these words: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.”—Acts 17:11,12

We often find brethren using the term, Berean Bible Students, a name derived from the noble Jews of Berea who searched the Scriptures daily to determine whether or not that which was being taught was so. We should do likewise. The Lord rewarded them by bringing many of their members into the body of Christ. These formed the nucleus of another congregation of the Lord’s people, to which the Lord added Gentiles as well.

Soon, however, the Jews of Thessalonica who had previously threatened the lives of these disciples, heard of the success of Paul, Silas and Timothy, and went to incite the people of Berea against them. Again Paul, who was the main target of their attack, was compelled by the brethren to leave. They were so concerned about Paul’s welfare that they advised him to leave Macedonia and to set sail for Athens in the province of Achaia. Paul was loath to leave these two new congregations of Macedonia, as they needed to be further strengthened and established in the faith. But events made it almost impossible for him to be of further help and so it seemed expedient that he himself leave Macedonia for the sake of the safety of these new Christians. However, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (I Thess. 3:1,2) and left Silas in Berea. Altogether, he had spent only about two or three months with these brethren, and he realized that they, being very new in the truth, still needed much assistance.

The remarkable way in which the Lord’s Holy Spirit guided the lives of these newly-found brethren becomes evident when we read Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. He wrote his first letter to them soon after leaving and traveling to Corinth, another city in Greece. Reading that letter gives us insight into the fine character of these brethren. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.” (I Thess. 1:2-4) We note Paul’s reference to their ‘election’ of God, telling us that theirs was not an indiscriminate selection.

Later, in verse ten, he speaks of how they had turned away from idols to worship the true and living God. This lets us know that the ecclesia was composed mainly of Gentiles, since Jews were not idol worshipers. Also, most of the Jews of Thessalonica had not been receptive to Paul’s teachings. Paul’s words about them were: “Our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. For from you sounded out the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and one God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”—I Thess. 1:5-10

The zeal demonstrated by these brethren is amazing. They had learned of God’s plan in only a matter of months and yet in a very short time were preaching to others throughout their province and in other places as well. They were doing Paul’s work for him! But then this was God’s way of spreading the message. Others, too, were joining Paul in the search for God’s people.

These brethren were very dear to Paul and as we continue to read his letter, we see how he stresses the motive and spirit of his work among them as an example for their activities also. “Yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

“For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”—I Thess. 2:1-8

In this letter there is another confirmation of the fact that Paul’s trip was not being financed by other brethren. He worked to provide for his own needs: “Ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached God unto you the Gospel of God. Ye are my witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged everyone of you, as a father doth his children.

“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (I Thess. 2:9-13) When Paul spoke of working ‘night and day’, it meant that during the day he worked to provide for his needs; after which, he devoted his time in the interest of the brethren.

Paul desired so very much to see these brethren again, but he could not do so. He recognized that this situation was caused by the Adversary, as he says in I Thessalonians 2:18: “We would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again, but Satan hindered us.” The evil circumstances in Thessalonica did not abate. With Paul gone, the brethren there received the brunt of the persecution. It was as bad for them in Thessalonica as it was in Jerusalem for the brethren residing there.

This situation is made clear in Paul’s letter, when he wrote: “Ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”—I Thess. 2:14-16

Because of this, these brethren were all the more dear to Paul. He further wrote: “We, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. … For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.—I Thess. 2:17-20

Again, “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; and sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-laborer in the Gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith. … Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith.”—I Thess. 3:1-7

At that time it was not possible for Paul to see these brethren, among whom were Aristarchur and Secundus, who later journeyed to meet Paul and assist him in his labors. It was not until many years later that Paul was able to visit this congregation of the Lord’s people again. Although little is written of that visit, his third missionary trip, we feel confident that he found them progressing well in the service of the Lord and in their development in the body of Christ.

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