Timotheus, our brother - It appears that Timothy was but a youth when converted to God; he had now however been some years in the work of God; Paul therefore calls him his brother, being one of the same Christian family, a son of God by adoption: elsewhere he calls him his own son, 1 Timothy 1:2; and his dearly beloved son, 2 Timothy 1:2; because he was brought to the knowledge of the true God, and to salvation by Christ, through the apostle's instrumentality. See the preface to the First Epistle to Timothy.
Minister of God - Employed by God to preach the Gospel; this was God's work, and he had appointed Timothy to do it, and to do it at this time in conjunction with St. Paul; and therefore he calls him his fellow laborer. There were no sinecures then; preaching the Gospel was God's work; the primitive preachers were his workmen, and labored in this calling. It is the same still, but who works?
And sent Timotheus - That is, evidently, he sent him from Athens - for this is the fair construction of the passage. But in the history Acts 17:14-15. The history further states, that after Paul had remained some time at Athens, he went to Corinth, where he was joined by Timothy and Silas, who came to him “from Macedonia;” Acts 18:5. But in order to reconcile the account in the Acts with the statement before us in the Epistle, it is necessary to suppose that Timothy had come to Athens. In reconciling these accounts, we may observe, that though the history does not expressly mention the arrival of Timothy at Athens, yet there are circumstances mentioned which render this extremely probable.
First, as soon as Paul reached Athens, he sent a message back to Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, and there is every probability that this request would be obeyed; Acts 17:15. Secondly, his stay at Athens was on purpose that they might join him there. “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred within him;” Acts 17:16. Thirdly, his departure from Athens does not appear to have been in any sort hastened or abrupt. He had an opportunity of seeing the city Acts 17:23; he disputed in the synagogue and in the market “daily” Acts 17:17; he held a controversy with the philosophers Acts 17:18-22; he made converts there Acts 17:24, and “after these things” he calmly went to Corinth. There was no tumult or excitement, and it is not suggested that he was driven away, as in other places, because his life was in danger. There was, therefore, ample time for Timothy to come to him there - for Paul was at liberty to remain as long as he pleased, and as he stayed there for the express purpose of having Timothy and Silas meet him, it is to be presumed that his wish was in this respect accomplished.
Fourthly, the sending back of Timothy to Macedonia, as mentioned in the Epistle, is a circumstance which will account for the fact mentioned in Acts 18:5, that Timothy came to him “at Corinth,” instead of at Athens. He had given directions for him to meet him at Athens Acts 17:15, but the history mentions only that he met him, after a long delay, at Corinth. This delay, and this change of place, when they rejoined each other for the purpose of laboring together, can only be accounted for by the supposition that Timothy had come to him at Athens, and had been immediately sent back to Macedonia, with instructions to join him again at Corinth. This is one of the “undesigned coincidences” between the history in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of Paul, of which Paley (Hor. Paul.) has made so good use in demonstrating the genuineness of both. “The epistle discloses a fact which is not preserved in the history; but which makes what is said in the history more significant, probable, and consistent. The history bears marks of an omission; the epistle furnishes a circumstance which supplies that omission.”
Our brother - See the notes at Colossians 1:1. The mention of his being a “brother” is designed to show his interest in the church there. He did not send one whose absence would be no inconvenience to him, or for whom he had no regard. He sent one who was as dear to him as a brother.
And minister of God - Another circumstance showing his affection for them. He did not send a layman, or one who could not be useful with him or to them, but he sent one fully qualified to preach to them, and to break to them the bread of life. One of the richest tokens of affection which can be shown to any people, is to send to them a faithful minister of God.
And our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ - A third token of affectionate interest in their welfare. The meaning is, “I did not send one whom I did not want, or who could be of no use here, but one who was a fellow-laborer with me, and whose aid would have been of essential service to me. In parting with him, therefore, for your welfare I showed a strong attachment for you. I was willing to endure personal inconvenience, and additional toil, in order to promote your welfare.”
To establish you - To strengthen you; to make you firm - στηρίξαι stērixaiThis was to be done by presenting such considerations as would enable them to maintain their faith steadfastly in their trials.
And to comfort you concerning your faith - It is evident that they were suffering persecution on account of their faith in the Lord Jesus; that is, for their belief in him as a Saviour. The object of sending Timothy was to suggest such topics of consolation as would sustain them in their trials - that is, that he was the Son of God; that the people of God had been persecuted in all ages; that God was able to support them, etc.