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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
1 Thessalonians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

Outline:

I. Paul"s preaching among the Thessalonians:

A. His pure motives:

B. His unselfishness:

II. The Thessalonians reception of his preaching:

A. They accepted it as the Word of God:

B. They accepted it despite hardship:

III. An explanation of his inability to return:

“The brief mission in Thessalonica had been brought to an ignominious end. The public riot and the legal charges against the missionaries were so serious that they were persuaded to make a humiliating night flight from the city. Paul"s critics took full advantage of his sudden disappearance. In order to undermine his authority and his gospel, they determined to discredit him. So they launched a malicious smear campaign. By studying Paul"s self-defense it is possible for us to reconstruct their slanders. ‘He ran away’, they sneered, ‘and hasn"t been seen or heard of since’. Obviously he"s insincere, impelled by the basest motives. He"s just one more of those many phony teachers who tramp up and down the Egnatian Way. Paul also determined to reply to the charges which were being leveled at him, not out of pique or vanity, but because the truth of the gospel and the future of the church were at stake. First, he defends his conduct when he was in Thessalonica (). Secondly, he explains his involuntary departure from the city, his subsequent inability to go back and his determination to visit them again as soon as he can (2:17-3:13)” (Stott pp. 45-46).

“After Paul left Thessalonica, some people, most likely (unbelieving) Jews, had apparently accused him of being a flatterer, a deceiver, immoral, and money hungry” (Fields p. 51).


Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 2:1 “For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain”

“For yourselves, brethren, know”: Connecting back to . Morris notes, “Now he says that the Thessalonians needed no other to bear witness, for they themselves knew what had happened. This calling of the Thessalonians to witness was a masterly defense. In the first place it showed his confidence in them. In the second place it demonstrated that all the facts required for his vindication were facts of common knowledge. Neither Paul nor the Thessalonians had need to search for material to prove his bona fides” (pp. 67-68). “Our”: Including Silas and Timothy. “Entering into unto you”: That is, when they first came to Thessalonica, which is recorded in Acts 17:1-34. “It hath not been found vain”: “Was not in vain” (NASV). “Did not fail of its purpose” (Wey).

Basically two views exist concerning the meaning of the word "vain" in the above passage: (1) “Empty of results, fruitless, without results”: “The fact that Paul left a flourishing church there was proof that his visit was not in vain” (Fields p. 52). (2) Others feel that the word vain refers to the purpose rather than the result of his mission in Thessalonica, that Paul did not enter in among them without purpose, or empty-handed. “Far from being empty-handed on arrival in Thessalonica, with nothing to say or bring, Paul had the courage to preach the gospel and risk the persecution” (Stott p. 47).

His previous Suffering


Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 2:2 “but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as ye know, at Philippi, we waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much conflict”

“But”: Before reaching Thessalonica, Paul and his companions had already experienced suffering. Stott notes, “This, then, was the second evidence of Paul"s genuineness. People are prepared to suffer only for what they believe in. Thus Paul appeals both to his openness and to his sufferings as tokens of his sincerity” (p. 48). “Shamefully treated”: ‘After the injury and outrage” (NEB). “To treat insolently” (Robertson p. 15). In Philippi he had been arrested illegally, put through a mock trial, beaten (although they were Roman citizens), and imprisoned. Their rights and the law had been completely ignored (Acts 16:19-39). “As ye know, at Philippi”: Paul was a man with real feelings. Things just did not bounce off him with ease. Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), does not mean that one becomes a doormat for the world. Paul did not take revenge, but neither did he allow the authorities to just sweep the unlawful incident under the rug (Acts 16:35-39). News about Paul"s imprisonment in Philippi had reached the Thessalonians. Barclay notes, “There were, no doubt, those in Thessalonica who said that this man had a police record, that he was nothing less than a criminal who was on the run from justice” (p. 219). If that was the case, then Paul answers it with the phrase, “shamefully treated”, as everyone knew, his imprisonment had been unlawful and a violation of justice. Note how the Biblical letters support and endorse each other. The Bible is written in such a way that all the parts are necessary to complete the whole, and if one attacks or questions one portion of the Bible, then the rest is equally under attack. One must either accept all of it or none of it. Not only does the New Testament endorse many of the events recorded in the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1-12; 2 Peter chapters 2 and 3; and the many incidences in which Jesus commented upon Old Testament events, such as Matthew 11:22-24; 12:1-8; and 39-42; but New Testament books also endorse events which are recorded in other New Testament books (2 Peter 3:16; Romans 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1 ff; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-15).

“We waxed bold”: To be frank in utterance, or confident in spirit and demeanor. “Time servers would have been discouraged by such treatment. Not so the little band of preachers. The verb rendered ‘waxed bold’ is full of interest. It comes from two words meaning literally ‘all speech’. It denotes the state of mind when the words flow freely, the attitude of feeling quite at home. This attitude includes both boldness and confidence” (Morris p. 69). “Speak freely, openly, fearlessly, outspokenness, frankness, plainness of speech and so with courage” (Stott p. 47). Such boldness is seen in Acts 17:2-4. From the sheer fact that the New Testament often emphasizes boldness or confidence in preaching (Ephesians 6:19-20; Philippians 1:20; Acts 9:27; Acts 18:26), I must conclude that something is wrong if the Christian is always wondering whether they are right nor not. God does not want us to apologize for the truth, and the Christian can be absolutely confident that they do have the truth. “In our God”: “His defense is no exhibition of vanity and pride” (Erdman p. 39). He is giving God the credit. Without God and His message, Paul would be and he would have nothing to proclaim. Confidence by itself never saved anyone. Robertson notes, “It was not wild fanaticism, but determined courage and confidence in God that spurred Paul to still greater boldness” (p. 16). Paul had to supply the confidence and courage, but it was not a confidence placed in natural ability, or a message of human origin.

“The gospel of our God”: God is the author (; Romans 1:16). “In much conflict”: “In spite of great opposition” (TCNT). “Conflict”: This word can refer to both outward conflict (Philippians 1:30) and inward anxiety (Colossians 2:1). “It denotes not a token opposition, a tepid struggle, but a very real battle” (Morris p. 70). The "conflict" under consideration is recorded in Acts 17:5-10. “The use of the word here reminds the Thessalonians that the opposition which Paul had met was intense, and his preaching had not been easy. How, in the face of this, could it be urged that he had only preached for what he could get out of it?” (Morris p. 70).

“Having considered these two preliminary points, we are ready to follow Paul"s apologia in its two main stages, in which he alludes first to his visit, and secondly to his absence, together with his intended return. He describes his integrity when he was with them, his anxiety while he was separated from them, and his determination to see them again” (Stott p. 48).


Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 2:3 “For our exhortation is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile”

“Exhortation”: (1 Corinthians 14:3). “Persuasive discourse, calling to one"s side, for admonition, encouragement, or comfort” (Robertson p. 16). When Paul calls "preaching" by the title "exhortation", it infers that the gospel is much more than just a message of certain facts, it is a message that demands urgent action (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). “Not of error”: Fraudulence; subjectively, a straying from orthodoxy or piety, thus deceit, to deceive, delusion, or error. “Our appeal to you was not based on a delusion” (TCNT). “We did not make our appeal by advocating false doctrines” (Nor). “Paul had been accused of being completely mistaken in his preaching” (Morris p. 70). ‘It was being said that Paul"s teaching came from nothing else than sheer delusion” (Barclay p. 220). “Nor of uncleanness”: “Unworthy motives” (TCNT). ‘Can refer to impure motives such as ambition, pride and greed” (Marshall p. 65). The word can also refer to sexual impurity (1 Thessalonians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:7). Stott notes, “It is possible that Paul"s detractors were hinting at this (sexual impurity). Were they even insinuating that there was something suspicious about the "not a few prominent women" who had been converted? But probably NIV is right to render the word ‘impure motives’, alluding to such evils as ‘ambition, pride, greed, popularity’” (pp. 49-50). We need to remind ourselves that many traveling philosophers existed in those days, and they used all sorts of dishonest means to gain converts. The unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica were making the attempt to class Paul and his companions as men from the same dishonest mould.

“Nor in guile”: Craft, deceit, guile, and subtlety. “Nor with any intentions of misleading you” (TCNT). “Nor practice any sort of deceit” (Nor). “That is, there was nothing devious about their methods. They made no attempt to induce conversions, for example, either by concealing the cost of discipleship or by offering fraudulent blessings” (Stott p. 50). “The third accusation is that of being trickery” (Morris p. 71). Such a verse should admonish the Christian that when they teach others, everything needs to be up front and in the open. The servant of Christ must not have any secret motives or requirements that he or she plans to spring on potential converts. There can be no room for "private ends" in our teaching. The gospel message does not need any "tricks" to make it more effective in reaching hearts (Romans 1:16). Any method that we adopt to spread the gospel, must be ethical, honest, up front and completely free from dishonesty and deception.


Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 2:4 “but even as we have been approved of God to be intrusted with the gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God who proveth our hearts”

“But”: In contrast to unworthy motives and methods. “Approved of God”: “We have passed God"s scrutiny” (Knox). “Perfect passive, here the tense for completed state means tested and proved and so approved” (Robertson p. 16). “We came and spoke to you as ‘tested’ men” (Vincent p. 23). “His emphasis is on God as the person to whom he was responsible. God had tested Paul and found him fit” (Stott p. 50). “To be intrusted with the gospel”: Paul is quite clear that the gospel is something that was given him (he did not invent it) (1 Corinthians 15:1-5; Galatians 1:11 f), and that he had been chosen to act as a steward or trustee of the very Word of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). “So we speak”: “Simple, yet confident claim of loyalty to God"s call and message” (Robertson p. 16). “Habitually speak (continuous present)” (Morris p. 72). Paul took his apostleship very seriously. Being entrusted with the gospel meant to Paul, that he absolutely refused to add any of his own opinions to it (1 Corinthians 4:6). It was a message that deserved to be preached from the highest motives. Nothing in his personal life could be allowed to detract from the message. Paul"s point seems to be, how could men entrusted with a Divine message, even think about stooping to such unworthy motives? “To put this verse briefly, it says, ‘We did and said only what God approved us to say’” (Fields p. 55).

“Not as pleasing men”: “Not to satisfy men” (Mof) (Galatians 1:10). This was the motive of the false teachers and wandering philosophers (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Robertson notes, “Few temptations assail the preacher more strongly than this one to please men, even if God is not pleased, though with the dim hope that God will after all condone or overlook. Nothing but experience will convince some preachers how fickle is popular favor and how often it is at the cost of failure to please God” (p. 17). Compare with Isaiah 30:9-10. “But God who proveth our hearts”: The aim of the preacher or teacher is to please God (2 Corinthains 5:9). Many in the modern religious world need to realize that one can please people without much effort if one is willing to just water down the message enough. But if God is not pleased, then one has not accomplished anything. “And he is the only one whose approval matters in the end of the day (1 Corinthians 4:5)” (Robertson p. 17). “Proveth”: To discern, examine. “This present continuous tense at the end of the verse, because the divine examination is never final. No secret of Christian ministry (service) is more important than its fundamental God-centeredness. On the one hand, this is a disconcerting fact, because God scrutinizes our hearts and their secrets and His standards are very high. On the other hand, it is marvelously liberating, since God is more knowledgeable, impartial and merciful judge than any human being. To be accountable to Him is to be delivered from the tyranny of human criticism” (Stott pp. 50-51).

“Our hearts”: This expression stands “for the whole of the inner life, comprising thought and will as well as emotions. Here the meaning is that God searches out the whole of our inner life. Nothing is hidden from Him” (Morris p. 73). Here is great motivation to be completely honest with ourselves and really work on our problems, because God is honest with us and already completely knows all our problems (Hebrews 4:12-13). It is pure foolishness to continue to live as if He does not know our secret sins.


Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 2:5 “For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness”

“At any time”: “Never once did we try” (Tay). “Cover the whole period. No room is left for exceptions” (Morris p. 73). “Words of flattery”: “Language of flattery” (TCNT). “Flattery which flatters in order to get something” (Barclay p. 221). “They had not descended to flattery in order to make the gospel acceptable” (Vincent p. 23). Carefully note that Paul believed that the gospel message did not need any improvement. He completely rejected smooth and flattering speech as a method to spread this message (1 Corinthians 2:1-4). Fields notes, “Good-will gained through flattery will not stand the tests that brotherly love produced by conversion will stand (Proverbs 28:23)” (p. 57). “As ye know”: Paul often repeats this expression in this section (2:1,2,9). Stott notes, “Paul"s ministry in Thessalonica had been public. It was exercised in the open before God and human beings, for he had nothing whatever to hide. Happy are those Christian leaders today, who hate hypocrisy and love integrity, who have nothing to conceal or be ashamed of” (Stott p. 47). “Nor a cloak of covetousness”: “Pretext for greed” (Rhm). “Nor to any pretext for self-seeking” (Mof). “Here Paul denies that evangelism had been simply a cover for an underlying covetousness” (Morris pp. 73-74). See Matthew 12:40; 2 Peter 2:3. “The world of the Greeks was full of teachers and philosophers who traveled about lecturing and disputing, seeking to live by their wits. Notice Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:13-20” (Fields pp. 57-58). “Pretending to serve while in reality wishing to be served” (Stott p. 51).

In making this defense, Paul is admitting that other people did behave in such underhanded ways. Paul was not naive, and neither did he have something good to say about everyone. He realized that the world contained many false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Here is motivation for the teacher or preacher. Our lives must be completely free of ulterior motives, because so many impostors do exist (1 John 4:1).

“God is witness”: See 2 Corinthians 1:23; Romans 9:1; Philippians 1:8). This is a solemn oath to his own truthfulness.


Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 2:6 “nor seeking glory of men, neither from you nor from others, when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ”

“Nor seeking glory of men”: The esteem, praise or applaud from men. “In this verse he denies the motive of ambition, as he denied the motive of covetousness in verse five” (Fields p. 58). “Hunger for compliments” (Stott p. 51). This is another temptation that preachers and teachers are faced with (John 5:41; John 12:42-43) “It is the preacher"s, and the teacher"s, constant danger that he should seek to display himself and not the message” (Barclay p. 221) (Luke 6:26).

“When we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ”: “Although as Christ"s envoys we might have made our weight felt” (NEB). “Their aim had never been to seek human fame and this in spite of the fact that they were in a position to make weighty claims with respect to themselves, being Christ"s apostles” (Hendriksen p. 64). Neither Silas nor Timothy were "apostles" even though Paul says "we". “Paul is either using the plural of authority like the royal ‘we’ (saying "we" but meaning "I") or he is using the word ‘apostles’ in its more general sense of ‘messengers’, ‘missionaries’, or ‘envoys’” (Stott p. 51). Although he will later mention it in , the ‘claimed authority’ in this verse could include the demand for financial support, which all three men did have the ‘right’ to receive (1 Corinthians 9:1-27).


Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 2:7 “But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children”

“But”: “Indicates that Paul was charged with being something of a dictator” (Barclay p. 221). “Gentle”: Affable, mild and kind. “Affable, easy to speak to. They were mild, kind in their dealings” (Hendriksen p. 64). “Mild-mannered” (Ber). “A man seeking his own glory would have been domineering and demanding” (Fields p. 59). “In the midst of you”: Paul was right there among them. He did not elevate himself or hold himself aloof. “A nurse cherisheth her own children”: “A nurse in such a position could be relied upon to give the children the most tender care” (Morris p. 78). “It is a strong expression for the extreme lengths to which they went to meet the needs of the hearers” (p. 78). “A mother fondling her children comes down to their level, uses their language, and plays their games” (Stott p. 52). “The real power of a man is seen not in how violent he can get, but in what he can endure with gentleness” (Fields p. 60) (2 Timothy 2:24).


Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 2:8 “even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear to us”

“Even so”: “Having thus a fond affection for you” (NASV).”Being affectionately desirous of you”: “Loved you dearly” (Tay). “Yearning after you” (Rhm). “A term of endearment” (Robertson p. 19). “The figure of the nursing mother is continued. She is not satisfied with nursing the child, but interests herself affectionately in all that concerns it” (Vincent p. 25). “What a powerful combination: here is the true gospel combined with the most affectionate presentation! It is very well possible that there is a bit of irony in this expression, as if Paul wanted to say, ‘Those who slander us are saying that we were out to get you; well, they are right, we were indeed yearning for you, but the purpose was not to take something from you but to share something with you’” (Hendriksen pp. 64-65).

Here we learn why Paul and his companions were so successful in teaching. They took a genuine interest in those they spoke to and converted. If we are going to be successful at reaching people with the gospel, then we must love the people that we preach to, more than loving to preach to people. Evangelism starts with unselfish service and placing the needs of others ahead of our own.

“We were well pleased”: “It was my joy” (Con). “The turn of phrase points us to what was actually done rather than contemplated. The verb is in the imperfect, a continuous sense, and the implication is that this was no passing whim. Throughout their stay at Thessalonica they had been happy continually to be giving to their hearers” (Morris p. 79). Carefully note that Paul really enjoyed sharing the gospel with others. To him it was not drudgery or a mere duty, or something simply to check off the list. “But also our own souls”: (Matthew 20:28; 2 Corinthians 12:15). “Far from using them to minister to himself, he gave himself to minister to them. Some Christian leaders become both self-centered and autocratic. We all need to cultivate more, the gentleness, love and self-sacrifice” (Stott p. 52). “Because ye were become very dear to us”: Something is wrong when we do not have warm affections towards our brethren (1 John 4:20).


Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 2:9 “For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God”

“For ye remember”: Again the Thessalonians could testify to all of this. “The opening ‘for’ shows that the verse gives a further proof of what he has already said about their humble and loving attitude to the Thessalonians, their desire not to impose upon them or to give the impression that they were looking for some return for their work” (Marshall pp. 71-72). “Labor”: Toil, pains, trouble, weariness. “Travail”: “My toilsome labours” (Con). “Fatigue and hardship” (Vincent p. 25). Paul and his companions supported themselves and preached at the same time. Paul did the same thing in Corinth (Acts 18:3-4). “The combination of the two stresses the fact that the work which the preachers had done had not been token work, something in the nature of a public show to demonstrate their willingness” (Morris p. 81). “Working night and day”: “Perhaps beginning before dawn and working after dark” (Robertson p. 19). “That we might not burden any of you”: He and his companions had the right to be supported (1 Corinthians 9:1-27). In fact, during this time they were financially helped by the congregation in Philippi (Philippians 4:15-16), yet it is evident that such support did not cover all their expenses.


Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 2:10 “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblameably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe”

“Holily and righteously”: Piously and justly. “Unblameably”: Faultlessly. They had demonstrated reverence towards God, fairness in their dealings with others, and all the accusations against them were false. “We were pure, and upright, and beyond reproach” (TCNT). “Toward you”: “Whatever other people might think of the apostles, the Thessalonian church had reason for a good opinion of them, there was nothing to complain about in the way he and his companions had conducted themselves” (Morris p. 83). Notice how Paul had confidence in the Thessalonians. He believed that people could be objective, they could be honest and they could believe the truth in contrast to slander.


Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 2:11 “as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying”

“Dealt with each one of you”: Which infers that these three preachers had not merely taught publicly, but also privately (Acts 5:42; Acts 20:20). Can you imagine what a one-on-one Bible class with the Apostle Paul must have been like? This infers that this band of preachers were probably with the Thessalonians more than the three Sabbath days (three weeks) mentioned in Acts 17:2. “As a father with his own children”: This impression denotes the responsibility that these men felt toward those they had brought to Christ. The feeling that Christians, even new Christians need not only tender care (2:7), but also that form of tough, but loving discipline given by a father. “Paul did not have the Thessalonians addressing him as ‘Father Paul’, in the fashion of the Roman Catholic clergy (Matthew 23:9)” (Fields p. 63). “Exhorting”: This and the other two words reveal what Paul said to people both publicly and privately. Some of the brethren needed to be exhorted. Maybe those who found it difficult to live the Christian life, especially in face of the opposition. Paul practiced what he preached (1 Thessalonians 5:14). “Encouraging”: “Testifying”: “Has the sense of making a solemn and emphatic affirmation or demand” (Marshall p. 74). See Acts 20:26; Galatians 5:3. “It may refer to serious words addressed to slackers or the like” (Morris p. 84). 2 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:14; 1 Timothy 5:21.


Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 2:12 “to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory”

“To the end”: All such teaching, warning and encouragement was directed towards the goal of walking worthily of God. "Ye should”: Such is a real possibility.

“Walk”: Conduct ones entire life. “Worthily of God”: To live in such a way that brings honor to God (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10). “If Paul could be tender and considerate, he yet never lost sight of the high demands Christ makes on His followers. Nothing less can be offered to Him who gave His Son for us than all that we have and all that we are” (Morris p. 85). “Worthily”: Fields notes that the word "worthy" means of "equal weight". Hence Paul is saying, “Live your lives in a way that demonstrates that you value and have properly weighed the significance and importance of what God has done for you. To continue to live in sin, demonstrates that one does not don"t value the sacrifice of Christ, that is, such a sacrifice is not given any “weight” (Hebrews 10:26-29).

“Who calleth”: God calls men through the gospel message (2 Thessalonians 2:14; Romans 10:17). “Present active--keeps on calling” (Robertson p. 20). Even after one has obeyed the gospel, God keeps on exhorting us through His word, because God realizes that our conversion is just the beginning and some do give up along the way (2 Timothy 2:11-13; Luke 8:13-14). “Into His own kingdom”: The word "kingdom" is used of both the present body of Christ (Colossians 1:12-14; Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 1:5-6); and the future heavenly kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9). And if one is not in the kingdom here, one will not be in the kingdom later (Ephesians 5:23). “And glory”: What an inspiring thought! God actually wants us to share His glory, to share in His victory, to enjoy the quality of life that He experiences, to dwell in a place surrounded by His eternal splendor and magnificence (Romans 5:2; Romans 8:18)! This glory includes a glorious resurrected body (Philippians 3:20-21). “They have been saved by such a wonderful God. They face a glorious future. Let them so live here and now as to be worthy of such a God!” (Morris p. 86).

In summing up this section, Marshall notes: “It is doubtless that case that false or evil messages can be put over by attractive personalities. A messenger"s pleasant and sincere manner is not necessarily a proof of the truth of his word. But it is equally the case that the Christian gospel will make little or no impression if it cannot be verified in the lives of its messengers. They cannot do too much in putting themselves entirely at the service of the Lord and of the people to whom they bring the message” (pp. 75-76).

The Thessaslonians’ Reception of the Message

This section of Scripture should remind everyone that the teacher or preacher can only do so much. The hearer or listener also has a great obligation, that is, to have a honest and good heart.


Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when ye received from us the word of the message, even the word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also worketh in you that believe”

“We also thank God without ceasing”: (). “The word of the message”: What Paul and his companions preached. “Not as the word of men”: A message invented by men, a human philosophy, or one opinion among many. “It is no human invention, no result of the apostle"s own reasoning and experience” (Erdman p. 42).

“As it is in truth”: “As it truly is. Paul had not a doubt that he was proclaiming God"s message” (Robertson p. 20). “Paul does not rebuke the Thessalonians for regarding his message too highly” (Stott p. 54). What a contrast with certain "professed Christians" today who ridicule the idea that the Bible is the inspired Word of God or that Paul wrote by inspiration. Some people might be confused concerning the Bible"s inspiration, but the early Christians and apostles were not (1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 1:20-21). And if one simply reads the Scriptures they would never come to any other conclusion. The advocates of the New Hermeneutic, who argue that the letters of Paul are not binding upon Christians today, must in essence deny Paul"s claim. Notice also that Paul did not believe in the subjective theory of, “That may be God"s word to you, but it isn"t God"s word to me”. These Christians accepted Paul’s preaching as being the word God, not because of some subjective feeling, but rather because that is what is truly was.

“Which also worketh”: To be active, efficient. “In you that believe”: “Present tense to convey the idea of a continuous process of belief” (Morris p. 88). “The word of God is not some dead philosophy or speculation, but is living and active Hebrews 4:12. It is like good seed which springs up when it is planted Luke 8:11” (Fields p. 66). Yet the word of God can only make process in the heart that believes. Faith is an essential requirement for any change to happen (Romans 1:16; John 8:37). This same message was not doing anything positive for the unbelieving Jews. Now these facts can be very uncomfortable, for they tell us that if we are failing to grow it is our own fault, that is, unbelief still lurks in our hearts (Hebrews 3:12). The gospel message, when embraced by an honest heart, has always borne fruit (Luke 8:15). Thus, if our lives are somewhat barren--it means our heart is not as honest as it should be.


Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 2:14 “For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews”

“For”: The connection between verses 13-14, is that when one really embraces the word of God, then they will hold on to what that message teaches, regardless of the personal cost or what the opposition might be. “Churches of God in which are in Judaea”: Evidently, the sufferings experienced by the congregations in Palestine were widely known in Christian circles (Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4; Hebrews 10:32-34). “The Judean churches may be singled out because they were the first to be persecuted, or perhaps because they had suffered intensely” (Marshall p. 78). A Scriptural name for the church is also the phrase “church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul knew all about this persecution, for he had once been one of the primary persecutors (Galatians 1:13; Acts 9:1; Acts 9:13). “In Christ Jesus”: If one is in Christ, they are automatically in the Lord"s church. Paul does not believe that one can be a Christian and not be in the church, because the church is the body of the saved (Ephesians 5:23), and the Lord immediately adds the saved to this body (Acts 2:47).

“The same things”: Indicating that the persecution endured by the Thessalonians had been intense. “Of your own countrymen”: “There is no more painful hurt than a person can endure than for his own friends and relatives to turn against him because he has received Jesus Christ as his Lord” (Fields p. 67). This verse infers that many Gentiles had joined forces with the unbelieving Jewish element in Thessalonica, and were making life hard for these Christians (Acts 17:5). In like manner, the Jews would try to manipulate the Gentile rulers in Corinth against Paul (Acts 18:12 ff). “Is it not altogether probable that the husbands of those many women who had become Christians (Acts 17:4), these husbands being themselves leading men were they making life hard for their wives?” (Hendriksen p. 71).


Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 2:15 “who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and pleased not God, and are contrary to all men”

“Who”: The Jews in Judea, and Paul had been one of those men who was contrary to all men. “Killed the Lord Jesus”: “All attempts (also modern attempts) to mitigate the guilt of the Jews in killing Jesus (by saying that not they but the Gentiles--particularly Pilate--committed this crime) are crushed by this passage” (Hendriksen pp. 71-72). Compare with Acts 2:23; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:28. “And the prophets”: Probably the Old Testament prophets. “What happened to Jesus should have been no surprise to those who knew what happened to the prophets before him, Matthew 23:29-36; Luke 11:47-51” (Marshall p. 79). “Paul emphasizes the heinousness of this crime, and proceeds to bring out the point that it was no

isolated act” (Morris p. 90). (Acts 7:52). “And drove out us”: “Paul"s vivid description of the scene told in Acts 17:5 ff” (Robertson p. 22). “Banish, to chase out as if a wild beast”. “And please not God”: “A typical understatement” (Hendriksen p. 72). God didn"t give them any credit whatsoever for their misdirected zeal. One cannot atone for their own sins, by being "religiously busy", and there is no salvation, even when is dedicated to religious error. “Contrary to all men”: “Show themselves foes of all men” (Amp). “Are enemies of all mankind” (Con). This expression is further explained in the next verse.


Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 2:16 “forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always: but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost”

“Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved”: “Paul saw this policy as the appalling thing it was” (Stott p. 56) (Matthew 23:13). This is how the unbelieving Jews were contrary to all men, they were trying to prevent the spread of the gospel message. Therefore, anyone who stands opposed to the gospel message is an enemy of the human race. “Forbidding”: “Even had they refused to accept the message of Christ themselves, they might at least have allowed others to listen to it and to accept it” (Barclay p. 223). One cannot be saved without first hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17; Mark 16:16), and people are not saved by accident.

“To fill up their sins always”: “They are always piling up their sins to the limit” (Nor) (Genesis 15:16; Matthew 23:32). Notice where their stubbornness and unbelief were leading them. As if such people were seeing to it that nothing is left out of the catalog of their sins. Carefully note, that many devout, openhearted and faithful individuals of Jewish stock have always existed (Romans 11:5; Hebrews 11:1-40). Paul is speaking of unbelieving Jews, those that closed their minds and became violent against Jesus and His followers. Hence the same truth would apply to anyone today who opposes Christ and seeks to hinder the spread of the gospel. (1) Those in the denominational world who try to convince people that they don"t need to be baptized, or that doctrine isn"t important and that sincerity is enough. Such people are hindering people from being saved!

“But”: They will not get away with such opposition (Galatians 6:7). "”The wrath”: Of God (1:10). “Is come upon them”: Can mean “has drawn near, even to the very point of contact” (Marshall p. 80). “To the uttermost”: “At last” (Robertson p. 22). Jesus spoke of the same thing. He warned His generation, the generation that was still alive when Paul wrote, that God"s wrath was not merely on their heads, but that it was going to express itself in judgment (Matthew 21:43; Matthew 23:32-39; Luke 23:28-31). While God"s wrath rests on the head of every unbeliever (John 3:36); God"s judgment did fall when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans. Such an expression also infers that the physical nation of Israel is no longer to be viewed as God’s people. Even John the Baptist spoke of this same truth (Matthew 3:7-10).

Why he had been unable to return

“It seems probable that one of their (the unbelieving Jews) accusations had been that the Apostle had never intended to revisit Thessalonica. His continued absence was further proof that he had no real regard for his converts” (Morris p. 93).


Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 2:17 “But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence not in heart, endeavored the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire”

“But we”: In contrast to their enemies. “Bereaved”: “Literally, ‘being orphaned from you’” (Robertson p. 23). “The separation was like that between parents and children” (Vincent p. 30). Against the charge that Paul did not care about them, Paul notes that their departure had been forced, they had been ‘torn away’ from the Thessalonians. “It had given Paul no pleasure to leave the city. He had not gone voluntarily” (Stott p. 61). Here we see how much Paul loved these Christians. He departure was forced and painful. He felt like a child orphaned of its parents or a parent who had just lost his or her children. Fields notes, “We love the churches where we have served. But probably most preachers do not have the intensity of love and yearning for them that Paul had” (p. 79).

“For a short season”: It had been a short time between his forced departure and this letter. McGarvey thinks the "short season" was around six months. “In presence not in heart”: “In person, not in spirit” (Wey). Out of sight, but not out of mind. The accusation was probably being made, that Paul had forgotten about them. “Endeavored the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire”: “Endeavored all the more with intense longing to see you face to face” (Wey). “The verb endeavored implies not merely longing to do something but positive attempts to achieve it” (Marshall p. 85). “Must probably also be viewed as a refutation of the slander that the missionaries did not really care for those whom they had ‘duped’; that they would know better than to try to return to them” (Hendriksen p. 75). “It means that Paul did not delay, nor did he put forth a token effort only. Rather, he had used all his might and used it speedily in his endeavor to come to them almost a fierce passion” (Morris p. 94).


Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 2:18 “because we would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us”

“Fain”: “We wanted” (Wey). “I Paul once and again”: “Not implying any less desire on the part of his associates, but emphasizing his own” (Vincent p. 30). “More than once” (Morris p. 95). “And Satan hindered us”: Satan is alive and well (1 Peter 5:8-9). “The word ‘hindered’ is a military term, and indicates the obstruction of an enemy"s progress by breaking up the road, destroying bridges, etc” (Fields p. 80). We do not know exactly what means or circumstances Satan had used to hinder Paul, was this continuing Jewish opposition? Problems in Corinth which demanded his presence? “William Ramsay suggested that this was the legal ban which the plutarchs of Thessalonica had put on Jason. They took security from Jason and the others before letting them go (Acts 17:9), with severe penalties if Paul were to return (Stott p. 62). The Christian needs to remember that Satan can use us (and others) if we or they are manifesting the wrong attitudes (Matthew 16:23).


Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at His coming?”

“What”: Or “who” (NASV). "”Crown of glorying”? “Crown of exultation” (NASV). “When a king or conqueror came on a visit he was given a chaplet of glorying” (Robertson p. 24). “For these missionaries this will be the glory-wreath, the prided victor"s chaplet” (Hendriksen p. 76). “Are not even ye”: Paul is continuing to respond to the accusation that he did not care about them. To the contrary, Paul likened the Thessalonian"s to a victor’s crown. We would say, “You are my pride and joy”. “Before your Lord Jesus at His coming?” “The dear friends are the objects of his highest hopes, the source of his deepest joy, and of them he is more proud than a champion is of his chaplet or a monarch of his crown” (Erdman p. 46).

The Thessalonians are a great source of joy and pride to Paul and his companions. John said the same thing (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4). To see the Thessalonians saved at the end, would mean that Paul"s efforts have been worthwhile, it would be a great victory for the cause of Christ.


Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 2:20 “For ye are our glory and our joy”

This statement should challenge us. For Paul is saying that these Christians brought him more joy and made him prouder than any material object. Are our brethren more important to us, do they give us more happiness and pride than--our cars, homes, jobs, recreational activities, and hobbies? And am I living in such a way that my brethren could be proud of me?

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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