Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Thessalonians 2
The apostle sets forth how the Gospel was brought and preached to the Thessalonians, in consequence of his being persecuted at Philippi, 1 Thessalonians 2:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:2. The manner in which the apostles preached, the matter of their doctrine, and the tenor of their lives, 1 Thessalonians 2:3-11. He exhorts them to walk worthy of God, 1 Thessalonians 2:12. And commends them for the manner in which they received the Gospel, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. How they suffered from their own countrymen, as the first believers did from the Jews, who endeavored to prevent the apostles from preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16. St. Paul‘s apology for his absence from them; and his earnest desire to see them, founded on his great affection for them, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.
Our entrance in unto you - His first coming to preach the Gospel was particularly owned of the Lord, many of them having been converted under his ministry. This consideration gave him a right to deliver all the following exhortations.
Shamefully entreated - at Philippi - There Paul and Silas had been beaten with many stripes, shut up in the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks. See Acts 16:23, etc.; and the notes there.
With much contention - The words εν πολλῳ αγωνι not only signify, with intense labor and earnestness, but may here mean, exposed to the greatest danger; at the peril of our lives. The Greek phrase quoted by Rosenmuller is to the point, αγων προφασιν ουκ αναμενει , in danger we must not delay - activity and despatch are then indispensably necessary.
Our exhortation - The word παρακλησις has a very extensive meaning; it signifies not only exhortation and teaching in general, but also encouragement, consolation, and the like. When the apostles exhorted or admonished men, it was that they should turn from evil to good, from misery to happiness, from Satan to God, and from hell to heaven. Their exhortations having this object, every word was consolatory; and as the truth which they delivered was unquestionable, therefore their ministry was a subject of the highest encouragement and joy.
Not of deceit - We did not endeavor to allure you with false pretences; we did not deceive you, nor were we deceived ourselves.
Nor of uncleanness - Such as the teachings of the Gentile philosophers were; their supreme gods were celebrated for their adulteries, fornications, uncleannesses, thefts, barbarities, and profligacies of the most odious kind. Our Gospel was pure; came from the pure and holy God; was accompanied with the influences of the Holy Spirit, and produced purity both in the hearts and lives of all that received it.
Nor in guile - We had no false pretences, and were influenced by no sinister motives.
But as we were allowed of God - Καθως δεδοκιμασμεθα· As we were accounted worthy to be put in trust - as God put confidence in us, and sent us on his most especial message to mankind, even so we speak, keeping the dignity of our high calling continually in view; and, acting as in the sight of God, we speak not to please or flatter men, though our doctrine is the most consolatory that can be conceived, but to please that God who searcheth the heart, and before whom all our motives are constantly without a veil.
Flattering words - Though we proclaimed the Gospel or glad tidings, yet we showed that without holiness none should see the Lord.
Ye know - That while we preached the whole Gospel we never gave any countenance to sin.
For a cloak of covetousness - We did not seek temporal emolument; nor did we preach the Gospel for a cloak to our covetousness: God is witness that we did not; we sought you, not yours. Hear this, ye that preach the Gospel! Can ye call God to witness that in preaching it ye have no end in view by your ministry but his glory in the salvation of souls? Or do ye enter into the priesthood for a morsel of bread, or for what is ominously and impiously called a living, a benefice? In better days your place and office were called a cure of souls; what care have you for the souls of them by whose labors you are in general more than sufficiently supported? Is it your study, your earnest labor, to bring sinners to God; to preach among your heathen parishioners the unsearchable riches of Christ?
Nor of men sought we glory - As we preached not for worldly gain, so we preached not for popular applause; we had what we sought for-the approbation of God, and the testimony of a good conscience.
When we might have been burdensome - They had a right to their maintenance while they devoted themselves wholly to the work of the Gospel for the sake of the people‘s souls. Others understand the words εν βαρει ειναι , to be honorable; we sought no glory of you nor of others, though we were honorable as the apostles of Christ. כבוד (cabod), in Hebrew, to which the Greek βαρος answers, signifies not only weight but glory; and in both these senses the apostle uses it, 2 Corinthians 4:17.
But we were gentle among you - Far from assuming the authority which we had, we acted towards you as a tender nurse or parent does to a delicate child. We fed, counselled, cherished, and bore with you; we taught you to walk, preserved you from stumbling, and led you in a right path.
Being affectionately desirous of you - We had such intense love for you that we were not only willing and forward to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to you, but also to give our own lives for your sake, because ye were dear, διοτι αγαπητοι ἡμιν , because ye were beloved by us. The words used here by the apostle are expressive of the strongest affection and attachment.
Ye remember - our labor and travail - From this it appears that St. Paul spent much more time at Thessalonica than is generally supposed; for the expressions in this verse denote a long continuance of a constantly exercised ministry, interrupted only by manual labor for their own support; labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to you. Probably Paul and his companions worked with their hands by day, and spent a considerable part of the night, or evenings, in preaching Christ to the people.
Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily - i.e., in reference to God; how justly in reference to men; and unblamably in reference to our spirit and conduct, as ministers of Christ, we behaved ourselves among you. What a consciousness of his own integrity must St. Paul have had to use the expressions that are here! No hypocrite, and none who did the work of the Lord carelessly, could make such an appeal both to God and man.
How we exhorted - What pastoral care is marked here! They exhorted - were continually teaching and instructing, the objects of their charge; this was their general work.
And comforted - They found many under trials and temptations, and those they encouraged.
And charged - Μαρτυρουμενοι· Continued witness to the people that all the threatenings and promises of God were true; that he required faith, love, and obedience; that he could not behold sin with allowance; that Jesus died to save them from their sins; and that, without holiness, none should see God. And all these things they did, not in a general way only, but they spoke to every man; none was left unnoticed, unadmonished, uncomforted. The spirit in which they performed all these branches of the pastoral care was that which was most likely to insure success; as a father treats his children, so they treated every member of the Church.
That ye would walk worthy of God - That they should, in every respect, act up to their high calling, that it would not be a reproach to the God of holiness to acknowledge them as his sons and daughters. See the notes on Ephesians 4:1; Philemon 1:27 (note); and Colossians 1:10 (note).
His Kingdom and glory - His Church here, for that is the kingdom of God among men; and his glory hereafter, for that is the state to which the dispensations of grace in his Church lead. The words, how ever, may be a hendiadys, and signify his glorious kingdom.
Ye received the word of God - Ye received the doctrine of God, not as any thing fabricated by man, but as coming immediately from God himself, we being only his messengers to declare what he had previously revealed to us. And ye have had the fullest proof that ye have not believed in vain; for that doctrine, under the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, has worked most powerfully in you, filling you with light, life, and holiness.
Ye - became followers of the Churches of God - There is not a word here of the Church of Rome being the model after which the other Churches were to be formed; it had no such pre-eminence: this honor belonged to the Churches of Judea; it was according to them, not the Church at Rome, that the Asiatic Churches were modelled. The purest of all the apostolic Churches was that of the Thessalonians, and this was formed after the Christian Churches in Judea.
Ye also have suffered - of your own countrymen - It is worthy of remark that, in almost every case, the Jews were the leaders of all persecutions against the apostles and the infant Church. And what they could not do themselves, they instigated others to do; and, by gathering together lewd fellows of the baser sort from among the Gentiles, they made frequent uproars, and especially at Thessalonica, where the opposition to the Gospel was very high, and the persecution of the Christians very hot.
Who hath killed the Lord Jesus, etc. - What a finished but just character is this of the Jews!
1.They slew the Lord Jesus, through the most unprincipled and fell malice.
2.They killed their own prophets; there was no time in which the seed of the serpent did not hate and oppose spiritual things, they slew even their own prophets who declared to them the will of God.
7.They filled up their sins always; they had no mere purposes or outlines of iniquity, all were filled up; every evil purpose was followed, as far as possible, with a wicked act! Is it any wonder, therefore, that wrath should come upon them to the uttermost? It is to be reckoned among the highest mercies of God that the whole nation was not pursued by the Divine justice to utter and final extinction.
Being taken from you for a short time - Through the persecution raised by the Jews, see Acts 17, he was obliged to leave Thessalonica, and yield to a storm that it would have been useless for him to have withstood.
Being taken from you - in presence, not in heart - The apostle had compared himself to a parent or nurse, 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:11; and the people he considered as his most beloved children; here he represents himself as feeling what an affectionate father must feel when torn from his children; for this is the import of the word απορφανισθεντες , bereft of children, which we tamely translate being taken from you.
Endeavoured the more abundantly - His separation from them did not destroy his parental feelings, and the manner in which he was obliged to leave them increased his desire to visit them as soon as possible.
Even I Paul - He had already sent Timothy and Silas to them; but he himself was anxious to see them, and had purposed this once and again, but Satan hindered; i.e., some adversary, as the word means, whether the devil himself, or some of his children. There was, however, such a storm of persecution raised up against him, that his friends did not think it prudent to permit him to go till the storm had been somewhat allayed.
For what is our hope - I can have no prospects from earth; I have forsaken all for the Gospel; and esteem every thing it can afford as dross and dung, that I may gain Christ. Why then should I continually labor at the risk of my life, preaching the Gospel? Is it not to get your souls saved, that ye may be my crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ? For this I labor; and, having planted the Gospel among you, I wish to take every opportunity of watering it, that it may grow up unto eternal life.
For ye are our glory and joy - Ye are the seal of our apostleship; your conversion and steadiness are a full proof that God hath sent us. Converts to Christ are our ornaments; persevering believers, our joy in the day of judgment.
1.In the preceding chapter we have the character and marks of a genuine pastor laid down in such a manner as not to be misunderstood. Every man who preaches the Gospel should carefully read this chapter and examine himself by it. Most preachers, on reading it conscientiously, will either give up their place to others, or purpose to do the work of the Lord more fervently for the future. He who expects nothing but the approbation of Christ, will labor for Christ; and he, who has the glory of his Master only in view, will ever have his Master‘s presence and blessing. Those who enter into this work for human applause or secular emolument, may have their reward; but in that, one smile of approbation from Christ is not included.
2.God, for reasons best known to himself, often permits the most pious and benevolent purposes of his servants to be frustrated for a time. It is well that the good purpose was in the heart; but God knows the fittest time and place to bring it to effect. Satan is ever opposing all that is pure, good, and benevolent and he appears frequently to succeed; but this is not really the case: if at any time he prevents the followers of God from bringing a pious purpose into effect, that was the time in which it could not have been done to secure its full effect. Let the purpose be retained, and the best time and place will be duly provided. As Satan constantly endeavors to oppose every good work, no wonder he is found opposing a good purpose, even at the very time that God sees it improper to bring it to the intended effect. Man proposes, but God disposes.
3.The apostle speaks of the wrath coming upon the Jews: it was about twenty years after this that their city was destroyed, their temple burnt, more than a million of them destroyed, their civil polity utterly subverted, and what remained of this wretched nation scattered to all the winds of heaven; and in this state, without a nation, without a temple, without worship, and apparently without any religion, they continue, to this day, a monument of God‘s displeasure, and a proof of the Divine inspiration both of the prophets and apostles, who, in the most explicit manner, had predicted all the evils which have since befallen them. Their crimes were great; to these their punishment is proportioned. For what end God has preserved them distinct from all the people of the earth among whom they sojourn, we cannot pretend to say; but it must unquestionably be for an object of the very highest importance. In the meantime, let the Christian world treat them with humanity and mercy.
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