The accusation had been leveled by some dissenters in Thessalonica that Paul had abandoned them and would never return. The people who considered Paul an enemy tried to convince the believers that Paul was just another greedy charlatan. Their evidence as it seemed was that after he had shown up and preached his divisive message he had simply departed into the dark of night, never to be seen again.
If these scorners could not undo Paul’s message, they would seek to impugn his character. Perhaps it was because Paul didn’t meet their personal standards, or maybe because Paul did not do things exactly as they did, whatever the reason, their hatred for Paul was executed on the young believers. Hearing this news from Timothy broke Paul’s heart for his children in the faith.
In his letter to these struggling believers, Paul explained his own frustrations and his described his thwarted attempts to return to Thessalonica. In v. 18, he says “we would have come unto you…but Satan hindered us.” The word translated as “hindered” here literally has the idea of “tearing up the road.” Paul wanted to come to them, but Satan completely tore up the road and dug a ditch to prevent Paul from visiting the believers. Satan’s purposes were obvious. He wanted to undo the truth-believing Christians in Thessalonica, and one of Satan’s greatest tools in church demolition is disunity by way of misperception. While he hindered Paul from visiting, he sent his workers of iniquity into the church to explain Paul’s absence in the most horrible of terms.
He truly is a master deceiver, and it is no wonder that Paul points his evil work out here. Paul knew that when disunity arose in the church, it was not just because of sinful men. He knew that a “roaring lion” was prowling, hungrily searching for the one who was disgruntled enough to be devoured. Paul may not have been able to arrive in person, but he did the next best thing – he would write a letter of encouragement. It must have been refreshing to the Thessalonians to see Paul’s heart in his letter. All the lies were not true. Paul loved them. Paul had been seeking their best interest from the beginning. Dissenters and scorners were just the pawns of a dis-unifying Satan. True believers would encourage each other and overcome any frustrations through a long-suffering love for one another.
Food For Thought: Read Philippians 2:1-4. What admonition does Paul give there regarding unity in the body of Christ?