1 Thessalonians 2 v 18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again
The new church at Thessalonica was under great pressure! The local Jewish population hostile to the Gospel that had been brought by the 3 missionaries Paul, Silas and Timothy, continued their critical comments. “Paul doesn’t care about you! He has gone away and he won’t be back.”
In 1 Thessalonians Paul seeks to persuade these believers, by this letter, that nothing could be further from the truth!
17 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.
We thought about this last week. The missionaries genuinely desired with every ounce of their desire, to return to the young Church. Paul wanted them to be in no doubt.
But now in the next three verses Paul seeks to explain to them just WHY he had not returned.
18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
So our subject to start with this morning is this –
1. Paul and the missionaries met with RESISTANCE.
Paul on their behalf does not specify exactly what it was that actually stood in their way – but they were certainly blocked every time they attempted to go back.
We could try to guess what it was.
1. We know from Acts 17 that there was a Civic embargo or blocking order placed on Jason.
9 And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go.
We would use the term “bound over.” This means that when a person is warned about certain behaviour but not punished for it, he is bound over not to do it again. Sometimes money has to be deposited with the authorities – a bond that would be lost if a re-offence occurred or returned at the end of a specified time after nor reoccurrence of the offensive behaviour. The pressure that this put Jason and another Christian was such that Paul was very sensitive to the believers there. If he returned, and if the Jews stirred up civil disturbances again when they saw Paul, it would have been Jason and his fellow believer who would be in deep trouble with the law. No wonder Paul was reluctant to return – all for the sake of his dear Christian brothers. This is one possibility – one aspect of resistance.
2. Secondly and linked with this it could have been the continuing real opposition of the Jews in Thessalonica who could have let it be known that Paul and the others were definitely personae non grata. Again it is not known how this would have been communicated, but there could have been severe implications for the new believers, at the hands of spiteful influential Jews if Paul had returned.
3. The resistance could have been in the form of Paul’s own health. He may have been too ill to make the journey from Corinth to Thessalonica. There are several references to Paul’s failing health on occasions. For example 2 Corinthians 12 Paul writes in verse 7
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
We could spend a whole sermon on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”, permitted by the Lord God, what it was and how it affected him. But we will resist and just say that his illness in his flesh was a messenger of Satan – and could well have been the real hindrance that he refers to here in 1 Thessalonians 2.
4. Another suggestion could have been the local circumstances in which Paul found himself at Corinth. There was much going on in that other city which may have detained the Apostle with an urgent need for him to stay there and sort things out over a long period of time. What a dilemma for Paul to have to prioritise which city had the greatest need of his physical presence!
Whatever the cause Paul recognised and stated that Satan himself was behind the blocking of his return to Thessalonica. And we should notice now in verse 18 that Paul reverts to a PERSONAL reference to his inability to return to Thessalonica.
18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
The three co-workers had separated at Berea. Acts 17 tells us that –
14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.
Paul went to Athens first. Then the others followed him later. Timothy had visited Thessalonica again – notice chapter 3 v 6 – 7
But now when Timotheus 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: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:
We do not know if Silas had gone with Timothy or joined him there.
But it was Paul that the Jews most feared and even though he says that Satan hindered US, Paul emphasises that it was Paul himself –
even I Paul, once and again;
would have come – but Satan hindered.
Andrew Young says that “every time Paul tried to return to see the church it was as though he encountered a trench cut across his path – and whatever form that trench took he knew it was masterminded by Satan.”
The Greek word for Hinder is EGKOPTO and is a military term used for the strategy of destroying a road in order to impede an enemy’s progress. How much harder it is to travel on rough stony terrain than a nice smooth highway. How difficult it would be for us to travel to London if the M5 and M4 were dug up and rutted all the way. We would describe ourselves as hindered would we not?
We need to take a few moments to remind ourselves about this hindering person Satan. Whenever we think about him we need the help and instruction of God the Holy Spirit and the knowledge that we are covered by the protection of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as we consider him. Let us pray.
Lord God we thank thee for thy Son Jesus Christ, the victor over Satan. We thank thee for his precious blood that has been shed to wash us from our sins, but also to protect us from the wiles of the devil. And Lord we have come to a passage where he is mentioned, we need the instruction again so that we can be warned about his wiles and his ways, to know about his character so that we may know our enemy and we ask O our heavenly Father that thou wilt watch over us and direct our thoughts this morning and make us to know the power of thy Holy Spirit, not only to understand, but also to beware. To beware of him who is an enemy, even though he is a beaten enemy. As we think of it this morning we thank thee for Jesus our saviour. We lift him up; we exalt him, we are glad to have him as our saviour. We pray that thou wilt be with us and as we consider these things together that our thoughts may be clearly directed, not to dwell on Satan but the fact that he is overcome by our dear saviour Jesus Christ. We ask that we may have sweet thoughts of our saviour at the end of the sermon and rejoice in Him who is the great God. We ask these things in Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.
Satan is a fallen angel. He is the most powerful of those angels that fell and he leads this horde of malignant powers. When we studied Ephesians 6 we identified them in Paul’s description as
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
We have to remember that Satan has the power to exercise an influence over sinful men and the creation in general – and we would have much to fear were it not for this one fact – Satan is under the ultimate control of the Lord God! Even though he is the arch enemy of the God’s people, believers, yet the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome him and his power is even more limited that it was before calvary. Satan is chained, restricted and bound – but he still has some power and influence and will have, until the Lord Jesus Christ comes again and until our blessed saviour finally consigns him to outer darkness never to trouble creation again.
The name Satan is a Hebrew word which means adversary. He is referred to in both Old and New Testaments. But more is learned about Satan from the words of the Lord Jesus Christ than from any other source.
He is called The Devil or Diabolos which describes the accusing or slandering nature of his being an enemy. Matthew 4 has the account of the saviour’s temptations by the devil whom Jesus directly addresses as Satan in verse 10
“Get thee hence Satan.”
He is called Beelzebub which means lord of flies or lord of dung. Satan was the spiritual inspiration for this god of Ekron mentioned in 2 Kings 2 v 1 and it is the same name that the Jewish leaders used to accuse Jesus of casting out demons by this ancient pagan deity.
Mark 3 v 22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23 And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
In Revelation 12 Satan is called the great dragon and the Old Serpent. Elsewhere he is given the name tempter, Evil One, Enemy, ruler of this world and the authorities of the air, the god of this age and Belial – which means worthlessness.
We need to be sure of this one thing. Satan is NOT REPRESENTED IN SCRIPTURE AS A RIVAL DEITY to the Lord God. Satan is not coequal with God nor is he even a little inferior to God. Some people would like to represent Satan as such. Literature and storytelling down the centuries have often made this mistake. Such tales make good triumph over evil – and rightly so – but they elevate the forces of evil to a much higher position than they deserve.
Satan is a creature. He is therefore subordinate to God, and can only hold any authority that he has from God Himself – and that even then he uses such authority in defiance of God. Satan was originally the most powerful of all God’s created angels – but he fell through pride. Paul tells Timothy that Satan’s condemnation was because of his pride –
1 Timothy 3 v 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
Nevertheless Satan still retains, in a limited sense, the rule of the kingdoms of the world. Jesus said in John 14 v 30
Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
What will happen to Satan, this enemy who causes so much problem in God’s world, by God’s permissive will?
Revelation v 20 v 1 – 10.
1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. 7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
This passage confirms that the Lord Jesus Christ confines the devil for the Gospel age between His death and resurrection and His second coming – Satan is bound and restricted – but he still can hinder!
Satan is not omnipresent like the Lord Jesus is by His spirit. But he does have the power to distress the people of God and to hinder their efforts for the Gospel and their own pursuit after holiness. This hindering can take several forms.
1. He hindered Paul from returning to Thessalonica to care for the believers there – as we have in our passage.
2. He can raise up false teachers amongst believers in their Churches. He did so in New Testament history.
2 Corinthians 11 v 13 – 15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
And we should be warned that Satan is capable of doing the same in our day. Indeed the false teachings so prevalent amongst the church and the false teaching pushed by the cults are satanically inspired – and must be challenged at every opportunity. Some of you have had personal experience of false teachers – and the Lord has rescued you from them, and their inspiring master Satan.
3. Satan can turn believers aside from the right ways of the Lord – and my friends this is so very grievous when we have to think about it. As well as the reference that we have just read from 2 Corinthians 11 notice Acts 5 v 1 – 5.
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
What a tragic account that is – and how Satan knocked out the witness of two church members at a stroke – the Lord God took them away to be with Himself rather than they continue to live a life of lies. Even in that event, God was sovereign and in control. May we ever be aware that if we surrender to Satan God always has His ways of dealing with the situation.
4. Satan is sometimes allowed to afflict the bodies of Christians. Straightaway we make it plain that illness is not necessarily the result of Satan’s activity – illness and disease as we know is the result of the fall, it is allowed by God sometimes for our improvement and trust in Him, but is also allowed as a battle between the saint and the devil in which the Lord God strengthens the humble believer to have victory over the evil one. A Biblical example of suffering allowed by God and inflicted by Satan is that of Job –
Job 2 v 7 So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
Luke records in his gospel the time when the Lord Jesus Christ healed a woman who had been ill for 18 years. He remarked like this about her in Luke 13 v 16
And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
5. A fifth thing that Satan is allowed to do is this – he can rouse men’s feelings against the people of God. Peter tells us this in 1 Peter 5 v 8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
In Pergamos the church went through specific persecution – inspired by those who hated the Lord and were pawns in Satan’s hand. John says in Revelation 2 v 13 – 15
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Satan has the capacity to ensnare believers as Paul tells Timothy –
2 Timothy 2 v 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
All of these things that Satan can do, and does do, are all only subject to the will of our Saviour – and more than this He promises us, His children, a final triumph over this foe –
Romans 16 v 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
So then despite the evil one seeking to hinder us, to block our road, to dig up our heavenward pathway and to disrupt our journey – he can never finally prevent any of us, God’s children, from arriving finally in heaven in His glorious presence! How wonderful that is and what a prospect we have. Surely this is one of the most wonderful things about heaven next to the fact that we shall see the Lord face to face – we will NOT see Satan!
He will NOT be there!
He will be in the lake of fire with all those who willingly followed him. With all those who helped him to hinder the saints. With all those false teachers and cult leaders who listened to his suggestions. And with all those who foolishly ignored the preaching of the gospel of redemption and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ alone!
The Church is upon the offensive against Satan! Jesus promised Peter that as Jesus built His church the gates of Hades, that is Satan’s kingdom, shall not prevail against it. We need to understand this.
We need to understand that though Satan is a mighty foe, since Calvary, where Jesus beat Him and Pentecost, when Jesus sent His Holy Spirit into the world to empower His Church, Satan has been on the DEFENSIVE! He is beaten – but he still fights. He believes that the best method of defence is attack. So he attacks believers – and the Lord God permits him to do so – with the full knowledge that nothing can harm the saint – the Christian – who is safe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Satan wants to hinder the church’s progress – and he has a measure of success – but he will not win!
Satan tries to impede and hinder your progress in holiness, and sanctification – but he will not stand or prevail against the church.
How precious are such scriptures as 1 Corinthians 10 v 12 – 14!
12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
And we always have this assurance that Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world! Our Father the creator is greater than the created being Satan. Let us not forget this brothers and sisters!
But as we close consider how sad that it is my friends – that there are those people alive today who refuse to listen to the thing that is good for their souls. What is it that is good for the soul? The Good news about the Lord Jesus Christ – how He came to die for sinners enslaved by Satan. How He gave His life in order to overcome Satan. Satan has no answer for the cross of Jesus Christ my friends! He was beaten there – vanquished – conquered! And all who know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation are on Christ’s side today. They have defected from Satan’s side. They are more than conquerors through Him who loved them! Are you one of those this morning, my friend?
Has the Lord Jesus Christ died for you and ensured that you will be forever with Him? And has He revealed it to you?
It will not be revealed to you until you are ready and willing to repent of all your sins and law breaking – God’s law that is.
Perhaps there is something hindering you from turning to God through the Lord Jesus Christ? What is it my friends? Is it your friends or neighbours who would mock you if you came to Christ?
Is it your school friends who would think you were weird if you became a Christian?
Is it your family who have threatened to banish you or throw you out of the family circle if you come to love and trust the Lord Jesus Christ? This happens to some people.
Are you hindered by your life style – your habits – your likes and dislikes – your attraction to certain entertainment and leisure?
My friends, make no mistake – Satan is still at his hindering business even today. He will not be pleased if you are converted and he will then throw all he can at you to discourage you!