“Satan Blocked Our Way” (1 Thess. 2:18b)

 In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Paul wrote that Satan hindered the missionary team from going back to visit the new church plant in Thessalonica: For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way (NIV).  There are a few things we could discuss and note about this verse, but it is important to realize that one of Satan’s evil strategies is to keep Christians apart and prevent Christian teaching from happening.  He hates Christian fellowship and he hates it when Truth is taught and preached. There’s much application here!  Below are three different commentaries that I found helpful in thinking about this verse and topic:

Note, Satan is a constant enemy to the work of God and does all he can to obstruct it.  [Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2340.]

He [Paul] tells the Thessalonians that he tried to return on more than one occasion but that he and the apostolic team could not reach their goal because Satan stopped us. So great was their effort that only Satanic opposition could explain why they did not return! Stopped is a term that comes from the military. In order to stop the advance of enemy armies, soldiers would tear up and destroy the road to hinder their passage. Warfare imagery is embedded in the metaphor, Satan himself being their adversary. The battle was over the souls of the Thessalonian believers whom Satan tempted to commit the sin of apostasy (3:5 and comments; 1 Pet. 5:8). One of his tactics was to bar the way so the apostles could not return to the church. In spite of the opposition, they did manage to send Timothy back (3:1), and the church itself continued on in faith and love (3:5, 6). Sometime later Paul was able to return to Macedonia and Thessalonica (Acts 19:21–22; 20:1–6; 1 Cor. 16:5; 2 Cor. 1:16; 2:13; 7:5; 1 Tim. 1:3). God responded to their fervent prayers (1 Thess. 3:10–11). In this spiritual warfare, Satan is hardly an omnipotent adversary. But he is a real adversary. [Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2002), 152.]

…Would to God that this sentiment were deeply impressed upon the minds of all pious persons: that Satan is continually contriving, by every means, in what way he may hinder or obstruct the edification of the Church! We would assuredly be more careful to resist him; we would take more care to maintain sound doctrine, of which that enemy strives so keenly to deprive us.  [John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 263.]

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015