The Singular We

A minor exegetical note that I’m sure I’m not the first to notice but did just now: Do you sometimes get the sense that Paul is using something like the “royal we” (“Unhand our royal person!”), that when he says “we” he means “me”? Here’s some evidence that you were right.

When we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith (1 Thess 3:1-2).

“We were willing to be left…alone.” If there’s a we, what does Paul mean by saying he’s alone? I think he’s alone alone. I think “we” here means just Paul.

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at Paul’s example of thanksgiving, hope, joy, and love, and I can say that he did deeply love his converts. He was alert to evidences of God’s grace in their lives (including especially their faith and love), and he took great joy when they through the Spirit displayed those graces. Paul is a divine example for us, and my wife and I have been thanking God for His grace in the lives of those we love. We’ve had the privilege to see it first-hand in the lives of her parents while they have graciously housed us for several weeks as I work on my dissertation. Praise God for His glorious grace!

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. Don Johnson on January 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Shouldn’t that be “while we work on our dissertation”???

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

Leave a Reply