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The Apostle’s Conduct at Thessalonica. Ch. 2:1 12
Analysis . The ministry of Paul and his colleagues at Thessalonica had been unmistakably genuine, ver. 1. This appeared (1) by their boldness in the conflict amid which their work began, ver. 2; (2) by their sincerity and freedom from personal ambition, vv. 3 6; (3) by their gentleness and tender affection toward the Thessalonians, vv. 7, 8; (4) by their extreme and self-denying labours , ver. 9; (5) by the purity of their life , ver. 10; and (6) by the fidelity and high spiritual aim of their teaching, vv. 11, 12. Four words resume the whole: courage, purity, love, fidelity . Here is a mirror for ministers of Christ, and an ideal for all His servants. The service of Christ called into exercise in Paul and his companions the highest and finest qualities of mainly character. And this is still the case, especially on missionary fields of labour, where similar dangers are encountered and the same powers of leadership required.
This section is of the nature of a self-defence , called forth (see Introd . pp. 23, 24) by the calumnies of St Paul’s enemies at Thessalonica. But there blends with his self-defence the lofty strain of thanksgiving in which the letter commenced, and which breaks forth again distinctly in ver. 13 and Is pursued to the end of ch. 3; so that this paragraph grows naturally out of the last.
The Apostle continues to identify Silas and Timothy with himself writing in the plural,
1. For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you ] entering in (R.V.), same word as in ch. 1:9; see note. And the “For” of this verse is parallel to the “for” of ch. 1:9: what “ they themselves (other people, strangers in different places) report of us” is confirmed by what “ you yourselves know” of the successful entrance the Gospel had won at Thessalonica. Both these fors , and all that the Apostle has written since ver. 4 of ch. 1, go to sustain his assurance of God’s loving “choice” of the Thessalonian believers. We must not allow the artificial division of chapter and verse to break the thread of the writer’s thoughts.
The appeal made to the recollections and experience of the readers is characteristic of these letters, see vv. 2, 5, 10, 11; ch. 1:5, &c.; and comp. Introd . p. 35.
Concerning the “entrance” of the missionaries amongst them the Thessalonians know better than anyone else, that it hath not been found vain (R. V.). The Greek perfect tense (see note on ch. 1:8) implies a settled result : not merely did the coming of Christ’s servants produce a striking impression at the time; their work has proved thoroughly successful. Its fruit is permanent.
Vain is lit. empty , void of substance and power. So the apostles’ “labour” would “turn out,” if “the Tempter” should destroy the Thessalonians’ faith (ch. 3:5); so his “preaching” and his hearers’ “faith” at Corinth, if Christ’s resurrection were not a fact (1 Corinthians 15:14 ). “Not empty” echoes the “power” and “much fulness” of ch. 1:5.
This verse might be rendered somewhat more freely in English idiom: For you know of yourselves, brethren, that our coming amongst you has not proved vain .
2. but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi ] More exactly, having suffered before , and been shamefully entreated (R. V.), or though we had already suffered and were shamefully treated at Philippi . “Entreated” is older English for treated , as in Matthew 22:6 and Luke 18:32 ( spitefully entreated ). Shamefully treated is one word in the Greek, outraged . It implies insult and injury combined, such as constituted a legal crime. This accords with the protest of Paul and Silas against the Philippian magistrates (Acts 16:37 ): “They have beaten us, publicly, uncondemned, being Romans!” Such indignities the Apostle felt keenly; they added a distinct element to his sufferings.
As to the circumstances of the missionaries’ visit to Philippi and their experience there, read carefully Acts 16:0 , and comp. Introd. Chap. II. “As ye know,” for the Apostle had doubtless told his Thessalonian friends of his treatment at Philippi. Moreover, this town was but three days’ journey east of Thessalonica along the Via Egnatia, and news of all kinds readily passed between them ( Introd. Chap. I.).
Instead of being daunted by the violence they suffered, Paul and Silas at Philippi “sang praises to God at midnight, with their feet fast in the stocks.” And God there signally vindicated His servants and turned their shame to honour. So we are not surprised to read of the holy confidence with which they declared their message at Thessalonica: we waxed bold (R. V.) or, took courage in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God amid much conflict .
The last words of the clause explain the first, on which the emphasis rests. The “conflict” that broke out at Philippi continued under another form at Thessalonica, and the apostles needed all their courage and faith in God to sustain them in entering on their ministry in this new city. Throughout this first European mission it required a hard struggle to win for the Gospel a footing anywhere. There was much conflict .
The Greek verb ( waxed-bold ) implies the undaunted bearing and address of the missionaries, the outspokenness with which they faced their opposers in the delivery of God’s message. This was more than natural courage: “we waxed bold in our God .” God’s presence and the consciousness that His Spirit was with them (ch. 1:5, see note) made them fearless. “It is not ye that speak,” said Jesus, “but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you … Fear them not therefore” (Matthew 10:16-40.10.32 ). Besides, it was “the gospel of God ” which they proclaimed: God had put the message into their lips. This is the secret of St Paul’s heroism. The highest moral courage, such as that of President Lincoln or General Gordon in modern times, springs from faith in God.
The evangelists addressed themselves to their work at Thessalonica with a high degree of confidence, and under the fullest sense of Divine direction. Contrast with this the “weakness and fear and much trembling in” which the Apostle shortly afterwards “was with” the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:3-46.2.5 ). St Paul’s mood as a preacher was not always the same; circumstances depressed or elated him.
3. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile ] Read error for deceit ; and supply the Greek ellipsis by is not (R. V.) rather than was not . The Apostle is setting forth the habit and spirit of his ministry: “We behaved in this fearless way at Thessalonica, for our ministry is free from all that is false and impure.” It is true men that make brave men. In ver. 5 Paul returns to his conduct at Thessalonica; vv. 3, 4 speak of his general policy.
“Exhortation” hardly conveys his fall meaning, our appeal is perhaps better; it is the practical “appeal,” or “address,” which “the gospel of God,” as the missionaries of Christ preach it everywhere, makes to its hearers. Comp. note on “comfort,” ch. 3:2.
This appeal “is not of error” ( deceit A.V., is incorrect) not the product of illusion or deception; for it is “the gospel of God” (ver. 2), “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5 ). This was amongst Paul’s constant and uppermost convictions. The heavenly Form that met him on the road to Damascus, the Voice that said, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles,” these were no phantasy. “I know Him whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12 ).
As the Apostle was sure of the genuineness of his message, so he was conscious of the purity of his motives : “nor of uncleanness.” This epithet commonly denotes bodily defilement, and is a synonym for unchastity , as in ch. 4:7, &c. But there is a “defilement of spirit” as well as “of flesh” (2 Corinthians 7:1 ). Self-seeking (ver. 5) in the witness of truth makes his testimony corrupt. So truth and purity go together; each promotes and guards the other. Comp. 1 Peter 1:22 , “Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth.” On the other hand, the Apostle speaks of the “deceit of unrighteousness” (2 Ephesians 2:10 ), and of “men corrupt in mind and bereft of truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5 ).
So much for his motives: of his method St Paul will only say, “nor in guile;” as he puts it more at large in 2 Corinthians 4:2 , “not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” The servant of truth should use only the weapons of truth. “Guile” was doubtless imputed to St Paul by his slanderers in Thessalonica, as it was subsequently at Corinth: “being crafty (as they say), I caught you with guile” (2 Corinthians 12:16 ).
To sum up the verse: Our doctrine is true; our motives pure; and our conduct straightforward .
4. but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak ] Again the A.V. misses the force of the Greek perfect: better, as we have been approved by God to be entrusted . “Allow” in older English bears the stronger sense of accept, approve (comp. Romans 14:22 ), but even so falls short of the meaning of St Paul. His word is the same that is rendered in the last clause of the verse as trieth (R. V., proveth ); it includes both proving and approving , it is approving on trial , or testing : comp. ch. 5:21 (same Greek verb, “ Prove all things); and 1 Corinthians 3:13 , “The fire will prove each man’s work.” The Apostle had been tested for his work, and tested by it; God had made proof of him as a minister of Christ, and he was shown to be worthy of his trust: tried , then trusted (comp. 1 Timothy 1:12 ). “To be put in trust with the gospel” is the highest conceivable responsibility; the sense of it is enough to exclude every base motive and deceitful practice (ver. 3). On Paul’s trust , read 1 Timothy 1:12-54.1.17 and Acts 9:15 , Acts 9:16 : “He is a chosen vessel unto Me.”
so we speak ] under the sense of this solemn trust, with the sincerity and self-abnegation that our charge demands.
not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts ] R. V., proveth (see previous note): more precisely, pleasing God Him who proves our hearts . This last is an O.T. expression, a standing attribute of God: see Psalms 17:3 , Jeremiah 11:20 , &c.; also Acts 1:24 , “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all.” “Unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid” (Book of Common Prayer).
The “heart,” in the language of the Bible, is not the seat of the feelings alone; it is “the inner man,” the real self, the centre and meeting-point of all our thoughts, feelings, and resolves. It is there that God proves us: “The Lord looketh upon the heart.” No impure motive or crafty expedient, such as might deceive men, escapes Him. The sense of this continual and omniscient scrutiny makes any kind of dishonesty impossible to the Apostle. Read 1 Corinthians 4:1-46.4.5 ; 2 Corinthians 5:9-47.5.12 : “He that judgeth me is the Lord.”
It is God’s gospel that Paul and Silas have to preach; God had trusted them with it, and given them strength and courage to proclaim it (ver. 2); to God’s approval, therefore, they must look, and to that alone. “Men,” such as the magistrates of Philippi and the populace of Thessalonica, would be pleased only if the messengers of Christ were silenced. So the authorities of Jerusalem “charged Peter and John not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus;” but they answered: “If it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, judge ye” (Acts 4:18 , Acts 4:19 ). This sense of the sovereignty of God gives religion its invincible power; it is the conviction that makes martyrs. It is finely expressed in the Antigone of Sophocles (ll. 450 460), where the heroine replies to the tyrant Creon:
“Nor could I think thine edict of such might,
That one who is mortal thus should overrule
The infallible, unwritten laws of heaven.”
St Paul tells us elsewhere, and by way of example, that he “pleased all in all things for their good, unto edification” (1 Corinthians 10:33 ; Romans 15:2 ). To please men in that which displeases God, is to injure them: “If (in such circumstances) I pleased men, I should not be Christ’s slave” (Galatians 1:10 ). That is, to be the slave of public opinion, often an ignorant, sometimes an unprincipled master.
Vv. 3 and 4 are then a general disclaimer of unworthy motives on the part of the missionaries. Their bold testimony at Thessalonica ( vv. 1 and 2) was due to two things their sincerity of heart , and their loyalty to God . Now we resume the account of the Apostle’s relations to the Thessalonians, confirming these professions:
5. For neither at any time used we flattering words ] were we found using words of flattery (R. V.: same verb as in ver. 1, “ found vain”); or, did we fall into the use of flattering speech . “Found” might suggest detection , which is not in the Apostle’s mind. Lit., word of flattery , referring to the tenor and general style of the apostles’ speech. He adds a third time (see note on ver. 1) “as ye know.” St Paul, as his friends well knew, was not one to
“crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,
Where thrift may follow fawning.”
In repudiating the cloak of covetousness he appeals to “God” as “witness” (comp. Romans 1:9 , “God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son;” also 2:15, 9:1), “God, Who proveth our hearts” (ver. 4). The “cloak” signifies the pretext of an affected self-devotion, such as might be used to conceal the “covetousness” of a selfish heart. “God is witness,” he says, “that no secret avarice was hidden behind our zeal for your salvation.”
The Greek word for “covetousness” denotes greed of any kind, oftenest, but not always or necessarily, for money ; it is the spirit of self-aggrandisement , selfishness as a ruling passion. (Comp. the note on “defraud,” ch. 4:6.) Such a motive in the servant of God would constitute the “uncleanness” denied in ver. 3.
This verse gives double evidence of the pure zeal for God professed in vv. 3 and 4 the one outward and of the lips, the other inward and known only to God in the heart. Contrast the opposite description of Psalms 12:2 : “A flattering lip, and a double heart.”
6. nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others ] This clause continues ver. 5, and is so construed in the R. V.: nor (were we found) seeking glory of men, neither from you, nor from others . “ Of men” points to the general source of such “glory,” indicating its character; “ from you,” &c., to the particular quarter whence, conceivably, it might have been sought.
The motive of ambition “that last infirmity of noble minds” rises above the selfishness just disclaimed; but it is just as warmly repudiated, for it is equally inconsistent with the single-mindedness of men devoted to the glory of God. Our Lord finds in superiority to human praise the mark of a sincere faith: “How can ye believe,” He asks, “which receive honour one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?” (John 5:44 ).
when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ ] Lit., as apostles of Christ , without the definite article. St Paul is speaking for himself and Silas and Timothy; and the latter were not of the Apostles, but they were, in common with himself, “ apostles of Christ.”
“Apostle” signifies by derivation emissary , or envoy , one “sent out” by authority with some message or commission. The term was probably in current use amongst the Jews, when Jesus adopted it for His chosen Twelve. Bit it obtained in the early Church a wider application, concurrently with its stricter reference to the Twelve (including Paul, afterwards recognized as being of the same order, 1 Corinthians 9:1 ; Galatians 1:1 , Galatians 1:17 , Galatians 1:2 :7, &c.). Of this we have examples in Barnabas and Paul , Acts 14:4 , Acts 14:14 ; Andronicus and Junias , “amongst the apostles,” Romans 16:7 ; Titus and others , “apostles of the churches,” 2 Corinthians 8:23 ; Judean emissaries , “false apostles,” 2 Corinthians 11:13 ; Epaphroditus , sent from the Philippian Church to Paul in prison at Rome, Philippians 2:25 ; also in Revelation 2:2 ; Hebrews 3:1 (Christ Himself is “the Apostle,” being sent forth from God), John 13:16 . In John 17:18 ; John 20:21 we find the fundamental idea of the word and the basis of its larger application: “As Thou didst send Me forth into the world, even so I have sent forth them.” In this more general use, apostle did not differ much from our word missionary . The title belonged to men who were sent out in Christ’s name by particular Churches either with a specific and limited mission, or with a general commission to preach the gospel as well as to those directly appointed by Jesus Himself and charged with His full authority. But after N.T. times the designation came to be reserved, with slight exceptions, to the Twelve and Paul. See Bishop Lightfoot’s detached note on the Name and Office of an Apostle in his Commentary on Galatians , pp. 92 ff.; and Huxtable’s very valuable Dissertation in the Pulpit Commentary on Galatians , pp. xxiii. 1. St Paul certainly possessed the lower apostleship (see Acts 13:1-44.13.3 ), and there was no need for him in this letter to claim the higher, nor to distinguish himself from his missionary companions. His friend Luke puts the Apostle, in the early stage of his ministry, on a level with Barnabas (Acts 14:4 , Acts 14:14 ). The time came when he was compelled to assume the highest Apostolic powers and to assert his equality with Peter and the Twelve (Galatians 1:1 ; Galatians 2:0 ; 1 Corinthians 9:1 , 1 Corinthians 9:2 , 15:1 Corinthians 9:7-46.9.11 ; 2 Corinthians 12:11-47.12.13 , 2 Corinthians 13:3-47.13.10 ); but it was not yet.
“Burdensome” is lit. in (or in our idiom, of ) weight an ambiguous phrase, whose sense is interpreted by ver. 9: “that we might not burden any of you.” These “apostles of Christ” according to Paul’s maxim, “They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14 ) might have claimed their maintenance from the Thessalonian Church. Had they been “seeking glory of men,” they would certainly have done so; it was both the easier and the more dignified course. “Weight” suggests the secondary sense of honour, glory : R. V. margin, claimed honour (comp. 2 Corinthians 4:17 , “weight of glory”: weight and glory are one word in Hebrew). Not because they were apostles (as though this were a privilege peculiar to the name), but “as Christ’s apostles” sent on His errand, preaching His word: “so hath the Lord ordained” (1 Corinthians 9:14 ; Luke 10:7 ). We find that the Apostle, while in Thessalonica at this time, did receive help twice over from his Philippian friends, and gratefully remembered it (Philippians 4:15 , Philippians 4:16 ). So afterwards, at Corinth, he allowed contributions to be sent him “from Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 11:9 ).
7. But we were gentle among you ] Lit., and more graphically, in the midst of you (R. V.); also, were fount gentle same verb as in ver. 1, and ch. 1:5 ( shewed ourselves toward you , R. V.).
Instead of gentle , babes is the reading of “most of the ancient authorities” (R. V., margin), including the Vulgate ( parvuli ): the difference in the Greek lies only in the repetition or omission of a single letter. The modern editors (with the weighty exception of Westcott and Hort: see the Note in their New Testament in Greek , vol. II., p. 128), decide in favour of the received reading, (1) because “gentle” better suits the context; and (2) because this Greek word occurs only once besides in the N.T. (1 Tim. 2:24), for copyists are prone to change an unfamiliar into any familiar word resembling it that gives a tolerable sense, and “babes” is a favourite expression of St Paul. If babes be the genuine reading and it is difficult to resist the evidence in its favour then it must be explained as it is by Origen and Augustine, endorsed by Westcott: like a nurse amongst her children, talking in baby language to the babes .
The gentleness of these apostles of Christ stands in tacit contrast with the airs of authority and the exactions of selfish and vain-glorious men in like circumstances ( vv. 5, 6). The behaviour of the “false apostles” who appeared at Corinth affords us an example of that which St Paul and his comrades avoided. See 2 Corinthians 11:20 , 2 Corinthians 11:21 , 12:2 Corinthians 11:13-47.11.18 .
We note the union of gentleness and courage (ver. 2) in the missionaries: a mark of the true hero, like Wordsworth’s ‘Happy Warrior,’
“who though endued as with a sense
And faculty for storm and turbulence,
Is yet a soul whose master-bias leans
To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes.”
(We were gentle in the midst of you) as though a nurse were cherishing her own children . The “nurse” is mother at the same time a mother with the babe at her breast, the perfect image of fostering love. Comp. Christ’s picture in Matthew 23:37 .
8. so being affectionately desirous of you ] R. V., even so .
The rare and peculiar Greek verb (one word) rendered “being affectionately desirous” implies the fondness of a mother’s love yearning over you .
With this mother-like affection, he continues, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls (R. V.). The apostles were not merely willing (A.V.) to bestow themselves on the Thessalonians, they actually did so , and with the glad consent of a mother nourishing the babe from her own life. The same verb is rendered “thought-good” in ch. 3:1; and the corresponding noun is “good-pleasure” in 2 Ephesians 1:2 (see note).
For “souls” we might read “lives” ( psyché is never the soul in general, but the individual soul, the personality) our lives, our very selves . The Apostle sacrificed all personal aims and private interests “what things were gains to me” (Philippians 3:7 ) to the cause of the Gospel; his life was put in continual hazard in behalf of the Church; and for such people as the Macedonian Christians he did this with cordial satisfaction. “If I am made a libation over the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17 ). Even to the thankless Corinthians he says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15 ). This is the true way to “impart the gospel of God,” to give our own heart and soul with it. For it is to impart the Gospel in the spirit in which it came from God, “Who spared not His own Son, but gave Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32 ); and in the spirit of Christ, “Who gave Himself up for us” (Galatians 1:4 ; Galatians 2:20 ), Who “poured out His soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12 ).
because ye were dear unto us ] More adequately, ye became very dear (R. V.); lit., beloved , the word so often applied to Christ (in the Gospels) by the Father: “My Beloved,” “My Son, the Beloved” (comp. Ephesians 1:6 , “accepted in the Beloved”). This Church had won upon St Paul’s affections in an especial degree. They were lovable people, dear to God and to the servants of God. Comp. ch. 1:3, 4; 2 Ephesians 2:13 , Ephesians 2:16 ; see also Introd. pp. 34, 35, and notes on vv. 19, 20.
9. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail ] In ch. 1:3 (see note) the Apostle spoke with thankfulness of his readers’ “labour of love;” this laborious spirit they had learnt from himself: comp. 2 Ephesians 3:8 , Ephesians 3:9 , where it appears that to some of them his example was a reproof.
“Travail” is added to “labour,” as in 2 Ephesians 3:8 ; 2 Corinthians 11:27 (the reference being in each case to manual labour), to indicate the difficulty , as labour the toilsomeness of the Apostle’s work.
St Paul was a “tentmaker by trade” (Acts 18:3 ). Jewish fathers, even if wealthy, had their sons taught some mechanical craft as a remedy against poverty or idleness; and Paul had learnt in his youth at Tarsus the business of cutting out and stitching the coarse goats’ hair cloth used in Cilicia for making tents. He found this skill hi his wandering apostleship a great resource. An irksome kind of labour, to be sure, and but ill paid. It was a pathetic sight when the Apostle held up “these hands” to the Ephesian elders, hard and blackened with their rough task (Acts 20:34 ). But he thus earned for himself the necessaries of subsistence, and avoided burdening the infant Churches with his maintenance. In this way he was free to direct his own movements, and raised himself above mean suspicions. At the same time, he did not refuse occasional aid from a Church like the Philippian, in which he had full confidence, and whose affection would have been hurt by refusal. On this subject read 1 Corinthians 9:1-46.9.19 ; 2 Corinthians 11:7-47.11.12 ; Philippians 4:10-50.4.20 ; Acts 20:33-44.20.35 . Silas and Timothy, who are included in this statement, may have had other means of support. But in Acts 20:34 the Apostle speaks of “these hands” as “ministering” also “to the needs of those with me.”
for labouring night and day ] Omit “for,” and read this clause in apposition with the last. Ye remember … our labour ant travail: working night and day … we preached , &c. Busy in teaching and preaching during the daytime, the Apostle often pursued his tentmaking far into the night.
because we would not be chargeable unto any of you ] St Paul puts it in a more delicate way than this: that we might not lay a burden on any of you . It was consideration for his Thessalonian flock, rather than regard to his personal independence, that influenced him. How different was he from the false shepherds who “eat the fat and clothe them with the wool, but feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:3 ). Most of the Thessalonian Christians, doubtless, were poor; while at Philippi there was “Lydia, a seller of purple,” and perhaps others of considerable means, who could afford to “send once and again to” Paul’s “necessity” (Philippians 4:15 , Philippians 4:16 ). Yet Jason of Thessalonica, in whose house the apostles lodged, seems to have been a man of substance (Acts 17:5-44.17.9 ); and there were “of the first women” of the city “not a few” amongst Paul’s adherents in this place.
Thus “making the gospel without expense,” as later at Corinth (1 Corinthians 9:18 ), we preached unto you the gospel of God ) “Preached” is proclaimed , heralded . St Paul refers to the circumstances of his “entrance” (ver. 1) and the manner in which he and his companions then bore themselves. The Herald, or Town Crier, in ancient cities was commonly a salaried official.
A third time the Apostle writes “the gospel of God ” (comp. vv. 2, 4, 8) a phrase occurring only thrice in all the other Epistles. It suggests in ver. 2 the greatness of the charge entrusted to Paul; here, the greatness of the boon gratuitously bestowed on the Thessalonians.
10. Ye are witnesses, and God also] In ver. 5 the witness of man and of God (to the outward and inward respectively) were distinguished; here they are combined: You are witnesses, and so is God .
how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe ] R. V. more correctly, toward you : also righteously instead of justly . Concerning “you that believe,” as a designation of Christians, see note to ch. 1:7.
For holily we might substitute religiously . The Greek adverb does not represent the ordinary N.T. word for “holy” ( hagios , i.e. saint ), but another adjective ( hosios ), which is frequent in the O.T. and in common Greek. The former denotes Holiness as a relationship to God; the latter, as a condition or disposition of the man: they differ as consecrated from religious or pious . For the combination of Holiness (in this latter sense) with Righteousness, see Ephesians 4:24 ; Titus 1:8 ; also Luke 1:75 ; in the O.T., Deuteronomy 32:4 ; Psalms 145:17 (applied to God), &c. The terms are not mutually exclusive, but may apply to the same acts and persons. The “holy” man has regard to the sanctities, the “righteous” man to the duties of life; but duty is sacred, and piety is duty. They cover the whole field of conduct, regarded in turn from the religious and moral standpoint, while “unblameably” affixes the seal of approval both by God and man.
Unblameably reappears in the “blameless” of ch. 3:13 and 5:23.
11. as you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children ] The R. V. recasts the verse, restoring the order and emphasis of the Apostle’s words: how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying , &c. “Dealt with” is not in the Greek, but English idiom requires some such verb to sustain the participles that follow. The writer intended to complete the sentence with some governing verb, but the intervening words carried his thoughts away. See the observations on St Paul’s style in the Introd. Chap. VI.
The Apostle compared himself to a nurse-mother (ver. 7) in his tender, gentle affection; now he is a father in the fidelity and manly strength of his counsels. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:14-46.4.21 , where he gives a different turn to the figure.
“Exhorting” is the general term for animating address: comp. notes on ver. 3, and ch. 3:2. “Encouraging” (as in ch. 5:14, John 11:19 , John 11:31 ; rendered uniformly in A.V., “comforting”) is the calming and consoling side of exhortation, as addressed to the afflicted or the weak. “Testifying” (same word as in Galatians 5:3 ; Ephesians 4:17 ; Acts 26:22 ) supplies its solemn, warning element. The Thessalonian Church was both suffering and tempted, and the Apostle’s ministry to them had been at once consolatory and admonitory . So are his two Epistles.
every one ] Lit., each single one , as in 2 Ephesians 1:3 , indicates St Paul’s discrimination and care for individuals. Comp. the “publicly, and from house to house” of Acts 20:20 .
12. that ye would walk worthy of God ] Better, in order that ye should , and worthily (R. V.) “Walk” is the common Hebrew and O.T. figure for the conduct of life.
It was God’s message the apostles of Christ had brought to the Thessalonians ( vv. 2, 9); “unto God , the living and true,” they had “turned from their idols to serve” Him (ch. 1:9). They must, therefore, now live a life “worthy of God ” worthy of those who have such a God and are His servants and sons. Nowhere, perhaps, does St Pail lay such continued emphasis on the relation of the Christian believer to God as in these Epistles; see Introd. pp. 17, 18.
To “walk worthily of God” is the noblest possible ideal of life; so high that it would appear visionary and impracticable, if it were not for what follows:
(worthy of God) who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory ] According to the truer reading, who calleth for it is a call that continues till its purpose is accomplished (comp. ch. 4:8, “God who giveth His Holy Spirit,” R. V.); and into His own kingdom , &c.
Such is the confidence of “you that believe” (ver. 10); and this conviction gives the believer will and courage to aspire to the loftiest moral attainments: comp. ch. 5:24 (note). God’s summons the Thessalonians had heard; His call could not be purposeless or powerless.
The announcement of the Kingdom of God was a leading feature of St Paul’s preaching at Thessalonica; comp. 2 Ephesians 1:5 , and see Introd. pp. 18 21. It is also designated “the kingdom of the Son,” Colossians 1:13 ; “of Christ and God,” Ephesians 5:5 ; Revelation 11:15 ; “of heaven,” in St Matthew. This kingdom is sometimes spoken of as present, sometimes as future a variation which marks the language of Christ equally with His Apostle. The expression comes in the first place from the Jewish Rabbis, being derived from the predictions of Daniel 2:44 , Daniel 2:45 , Daniel 2:7 :13, Daniel 2:14 ; Micah 4:7 ; and these predictions again had their foundation in the great prophetic declarations respecting the throne and house of David (2 Samuel 7:0 ; Psalms 2:0 and 110). It was the popular designation for that perfect Divine rule which the Jews expected to see established on earth by the Messiah at His coming. It was called “the kingdom of heaven” (or “the heavens”), as having its seat and origin in heaven, and in contrast with the existing “kingdoms of this world and their glory,” of which the Tempter said to Jesus, in harmony with Jewish ideas, “All this hath been delivered unto me ” (Luke 4:6 ). But God calls men “from the dominion of Satan” (Acts 26:18 ) into “ His own kingdom and glory.” The difference is, fundamentally, not one of place or time; it is a moral opposition. John the Baptist, and then Christ, in similar terms announced the new kingdom to be “at hand;” in leaving the world Jesus declared that His “Father’s kingdom” would be revealed on His return (Matthew 13:43 , Matthew 13:26 :29, 64; Luke 19:12 , &c.). At the same time, He taught that the kingdom already existed in His Person and was constituted by His presence; that in its essence it was set up within His disciples, and therefore its future coming would be the manifestation and unfolding of what they already possessed in the spiritual life received from Him: see Luke 17:21 ; John 18:36 , John 18:37 ; Matthew 5:3 , Matthew 5:10 , 13:Matthew 5:31-40.5.33 , Matthew 5:38 , &c. Christ’s doctrine of the kingdom is virtually contained in the two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so also upon earth.” This implies that so far as God’s will is done on earth, His kingdom is here already; earth being ruled from heaven and by heaven’s law. But the more it makes its power felt on earth, the more necessary does its heavenly glory become. St Paul sees the kingdom present and ruling where there is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 ): but what is now possessed of it he regards as only the “ earnest of our inheritance” (Romans 8:23 ; Ephesians 1:14 ); God “is” ever “calling” His servants onward “to His own kingdom and glory.”
The glory is God’s glory the splendour of His future revelation as He will at last, on the return of Christ, be manifested to His saints. In this glory they will share. “The kingdom and glory of God” are one, the latter being the full display and consummation of the former. And in the Apostle’s view, “the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2 ) is bound up with the “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,” which the Thessalonians so earnestly cherished.
Obeying the voice of God that calls them to a place in His glorious kingdom, St Paul’s readers will know how to “walk worthily.” This summons is the ever-renewed incitement of a holy life, and inspires us with the most exalted of those “mighty hopes which make us men.” So “we were saved by hope” (Romans 8:24 ).
This view of the religion of the Thessalonians agrees with what was said of them in ch. 1:9, 10. “Walking worthily of God” corresponds to “serving a living and true God;” and the “call to His kingdom and glory” invites them to “wait for His Son from the heavens.”
Jewish Persecutors of the Church. Ch. 2:13 16
This short paragraph is of peculiar interest. The Apostle was at the time exposed in his Gentile mission to the bitterest persecution from the unbelieving Jews, as we gather from the contemporary narrative of Acts 16 18. And he employs against them in vv. 15, 16 language more severe than is found in any other of his writings. Evidently he regarded the Jews as being now, in the counsels of God, a doomed nation (ver. 16). Accordingly, we find him in Rom. 9 11, a few years later, arguing upon the reprobation of “Israel after the flesh” as a settled thing. We observe, too, his desire (ver. 14) to draw the Jewish and Gentile sections of the Church nearer to each other in sympathy under the stress of persecution. As to the bearing of this passage on the date of the Epistle, see Introd. p. 23, foot-note foot-note It is necessary to observe that the opponents St Paul has in view in 1 Ep. 2 (see esp. vv. 15, 16) are unconverted Jews , altogether hostile to the gospel Paul preached. The Jews of Thessalonica drove him from this city, and following him to Berœa attacked him there; and their compatriots at Corinth imitated their example, though happily not with the same success (Acts 17:5, 13; 18:12 17). Of the Jewish Christians opposed to Paul and his Gentile mission, the “false brethren” who afterwards “troubled” him at Corinth and in Galatia, we find in these Epistles no trace whatever. .
Analysis : The Apostle (1) again thanks God for the reception given to the Gospel by his readers, ver. 13; (2) he sees in their union with the Judean Churches in persecution a proof of its efficacy in them, ver. 14; and (3) this gives him occasion to denounce Jewish violence against the Gospel, whose punishment is now decreed and impending, vv. 15, 16.
13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing ] Revised reading: And for this cause we also , &c. The Apostle has already given thanks for the Christian worth of the Thessalonians (ch. 1:2 ff.); his thanksgiving is renewed when he considers that this is the fruit of his own and his companions’ labour amongst them. Hence we is emphasized here (in the Greek), but not in ch. 1:2.
“For this cause” looks back over the whole of the last section, vv. 1 12. Accordingly he continues:
because, when ye received the word of God , which ye heard of us ] Better, (we give thanks) that (R. V.), or in that : comp. notes on ch. 1:5 and 2 Ephesians 1:3 . The recollections of the last paragraph prompt the writer to the thanksgiving which takes shape in the words that follow:
For ye received the word of God , &c., R. V. renders: ye received from us the word of the message (Greek, word of hearing ), even the word of God . Perhaps the A.V. is nearer to St Paul’s meaning: “from us” in the original immediately follows “hearing,” and appears to be dependent upon it. We therefore translate, somewhat freely, but after the order of the Greek: when you received the word you heard from us God’s word . “Word” is not repeated by the Apostle, nor has it the definite article; English idiom requires both. His joy is that a message heard from his lips, not his own indeed but God’s word (see vv. 2, 8, 9, and note on the last), had been thus received. For the connection of “hearing” and “from us” comp. 2 Timothy 1:13 , 2 Timothy 1:2 :2, “what thou hast heard from me ”; and 2 Corinthians 1:19 , “the Son of God proclaimed through me and Silas and Timothy.” “Faith comes by hearing”; and hearing requires “a preacher” (Romans 10:13-45.10.17 ).
ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God ] R. V., accepted for received : the Greek verb differs from that of the last clause, which might signify the mere outward reception of something “heard”; this term, as in ch. 1:6, denotes a willing, hearty acceptance a welcome given to the “word.” It is the expression used in Galatians 4:14 : “as an angel of God you received me”; again in Philippians 4:18 , where Paul speaks of his welcoming the timely gift from Philippi; and is the common Greek term for receiving a guest.
Literally the clause reads, you accepted not men’s word, but, as it is truly, God’s word . “ Men’s word” the mere word of “Paul and Silas and Timothy.” The Thessalonians accepted God’s word as God’s , with reverence and faith. They recognised in what they heard from Paul and Silas a higher Voice, the message of the living and true God, calling them to life eternal. The success of religious teaching lies in its power to make God’s voice audible through human speech. If the preacher cannot do this, he does nothing. And this accounts for the result, which St Paul next describes:
which effectually worketh also in yom that believe ] which also worketh (R. V.: read worketh with an emphasis), or is operative, effectual .
The “work of faith” which the Apostle admired in the Thessalonian Church (ch. 1:3: see note) is the work of God’s word in them. In their lives that word takes effect; it puts forth its energy, and does its proper work. “The seed” of all such fruit “is the word of God” (Luke 8:11 ).
On “you that believe” see note to ch. 1:7. Here the present tense of the participle makes its force sensible “you that do believe;” continued faith being the condition of this sustained efficacy of the word of God in the Thessalonians. Mighty as it is, that word can do nothing for us unless we believe it (comp. Matthew 13:58 ).
14. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus ] Followers should be imitators (R. V.), just as in ch. 1:6: imitators of the apostles and of their Lord, the Thessalonians were imitating the Judæan Churches, and in the same respect, viz. in the willing endurance of suffering for the word’s sake. Silas, be it remembered, had been an active member of the Church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:22 , Acts 15:32 ), and through him especially the missionary band would be in communication and sympathy at this time with their brethren in Judæa.
More strictly, which are in Judæa in Christ Jesus (R. V.). “In Judæa” is the local, “in Christ Jesus” the spiritual habitat of these Churches. This latter phrase an expression characteristic of St Paul and frequent in subsequent Epistles signifies “in union and communion with Him, incorporated with Him who is the Head” of His Body the Church (Ellicott). It distinguishes the Christian from other Judæan communities which also claimed to be “Churches (assemblies) of God.” Comp. note on “Church … in God the Father,” &c., ch. 1:1.
Observe the order Christ Jesus , a combination almost confined to St Paul, and which he employs when he thinks of Him in His actual Person and official character, as the present Head and Life of His people on earth; whereas Jesus Christ is the historical order, and points to His earthly course and exaltation to Messiahship (see Acts 2:36 ).
“Church of God” is an O.T. expression, found in the Greek rendering of Nehemiah 13:1 ; Deuteronomy 23:1-5.23.3 (church of the Lord: congregation , A.V.); it denotes that the Church belongs to God , while it suggests, according to the derivation of ek-klesia , that its members are called out (of the world) by God (comp. ver. 12). In Galatians 1:22 the Apostle writes, more simply, “the Churches of Judæa which are in Christ.”
This reference to the Home Churches creates a link between far-off Thessalonica and Judæa. The Thessalonians are not alone in their troubles; they are fighting the same battle as the mother Church and the first disciples of the Lord. Comp. Philippians 1:30 , “having the same conflict which ye saw in me.” Their union with Christ’s persecuted flock in Its native land shewed that the Gospel was working in them to purpose (ver. 13), and working everywhere in the same way.
for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews ] St Paul says the same , not like things . And this “for” represents a different word from the previous “for;” it is rather in that , not accounting for the Thessalonians imitating Judean example, but explaining wherein the imitation consisted.
The hostility of their fellow-townsmen formed a bitter ingredient in their afflictions (Acts 17:5-44.17.9 ). The Apostle tells them that it was the same with the primitive Churches in Judæa that, indeed, the murder of the Lord Jesus and of the old prophets, and the expulsion of the apostles, were due to feelings precisely similar to those aroused in their own city against themselves. This was a proof that they were in the true succession. Christ had said, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Such comfort has often to be given to young missionary churches.
But the Apostle has now to add words of awful severity respecting those whom his readers knew to be the prime instigators of persecution, both against themselves and him the Jews :
15. who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets ] Revised reading, simply the prophets .
Christ represented His death as the culmination of the murders of the ancient prophets (Luke 11:47-42.11.52 ; Luke 13:31-42.13.33 ; Luke 20:9-42.20.16 ); St Stephen had said the same thing in Paul’s hearing, with poignant force (Acts 7:52 ). Now the Apostle takes up the accusation.
More exactly, killed the Lord , (even) Jesus ; or, changing the grammatical form but retaining the order of the Greek words, The Lord they slew, Jesus, as well as the prophets . This sets the deed in an appalling light. To have killed the Lord Who bears a title that belongs to God, and “Him whom they were bound to serve” (Jowett); (comp. 1 Corinthians 2:8 : They “crucified the Lord of glory”); that Lord being Jesus their Saviour (comp. Acts 4:12 ), and such an one as Jesus was known to be! The double name, emphasized in each part, brings into striking relief at once the Divine authority and the human character of Christ. Comp. Acts 2:36 (“Him did God make both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified!”); also the parable of Luke 20:9-42.20.18 , Mark 12:1-41.12.11 , “The husbandmen said, This is the heir; come, let us kill him!”
and have persecuted us ] Better, and drave us out (R. V.), words which echo those of Christ in Luke 11:49 : “I will send them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute.” Already Christ, like the prophets, had been killed; and now His apostles were driven out, “fleeing from city to city” (Matthew 23:34 ) to avoid the like fate. Read the account of Paul’s departure from Jerusalem in Acts 9:28-44.9.30 ; and his later experience there, Acts 21 23; also the narrative of James’ death and Peter’s escape from Herod’s prison, in Acts 12:1-44.12.9 . Paul and Silas had now been hunted all the way from Philippi to Corinth by Jewish malignity, and it was only the authority and good sense of the Roman Governor, Gallio, that made it possible for him to remain in the latter city. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:26 : “In perils from mine own countrymen.”
and they please not God ] Omit they , and put a comma only before this clause, for it is immediately continuous with the last: more exactly, and are not pleasing to God . This is an instance of what the grammarians call meiosis or litotes , the studiously restrained and smooth expression covering intense feeling; as where the Apostle says, “I praise yon not,” meaning severe blame (1 Corinthians 11:17 , 1 Corinthians 11:22 ). Their unpleasingness to God was due not to these wicked acts alone, but to their whole conduct. Comp., in the O.T., such sayings as Isaiah 65:5 : “These are a smoke in My nostrils;” and Jeremiah 32:30 . By contrast, the Apostle spoke of himself as “not pleasing men, but God” (ver. 4).
and are contrary to all men ] At war both with God and men! The sense of God’s displeasure often shews itself in sourness and ill-temper towards one’s fellows. Unbelief and cynicism go together. The rancour of the Jews against other nations at this time was notorious. Tacitus, the Roman historian, writing in the next generation, remarks on their “ adversus omnes alios hostile odium ” ( Histor . v. 5). This animosity culminated in the war against Rome (a.d. 66 70), and brought a fearful retribution.
The quarrel between Judaism and the world, alas, still continues, as the Judenhasse of Germany and Russia testifies. Jewish hatred has been more than repaid by Christian persecution. The antipathy is powerfully impersonated in Shakespeare’s Shylock . The Jew says of his debtor, “I hate him, for he is a Christian.” And Antonio in turn:
“You may as well use question with the wolf,
Why he hath made the ewe bleat for the lamb;
You may as well do anything most hard,
As seek to soften that (than which what’s harder?)
His Jewish heart.”
But we may hope that better feelings will prevail in the future on both sides. St Paul is thinking, however, not of the Jewish sentiment in general, but of the opposition of his people to the rest of the world on that one point which concerned him so deeply, viz. the salvation of men through Christ .
16. forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved ] R. V., may be saved . As much as to say: “These Jews, if they had their way, would prevent us speaking a single word to you about the Gospel; they would willingly see all the Gentiles perish!” This stamped them as enemies of the human race. They were furious to think that unclean Gentiles claimed a share in their Messiah! Their murderous hatred against Paul was due to the fact that he preached Christ to the heathen and declared God to be the God of Jews and Gentiles equally, saving both alike through faith in Christ. So when in his defence before the Jewish multitude at the Temple he came to the words, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles ,” they broke out in uncontrollable rage, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live!” (Acts 22:21-44.22.23 ). The Jews of Thessalonica seem to have been especially mean and fanatical (Acts 17:5 , Acts 17:11 , Acts 17:13 ); and the Apostle wishes his readers to see how entirely he is on their side as against his fellow-countrymen.
to fill up their sins alway ] After the death of Christ a space for repentance was allowed them, the “forty years” alluded to in Hebrews 3:9 , Hebrews 3:17 . Had they accepted Christ’s message of reconciliation through the apostles and become His witnesses to the Gentiles, the judgement would have been averted (Acts 3:19 ). The measure allowed to the nation’s sins was not yet full; but this last refusal made their cup overflow slowly filling, as it had been, for many ages. “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers,” Jesus had said to them (Matthew 23:32 ); and this they had done, beyond all question. The phrase fill up their sins , signifying ripeness for judgement, is used in Genesis 15:16 of the Amorites in Abraham’s time an ominous parallel. “Alway:” comp. Stephen’s reproach, “As did your fathers, so do ye” (Acts 7:51 ).
for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost ] but the wrath (R. V.), not for ; as though he said, “But the end comes at last: they have always been sowing this harvest; now it has to be reaped.” Whose wrath this is, goes without saying; so in Romans 5:9 God’s anger is called with impressive emphasis “ the wrath.” It is indeed “the wrath” of ch. 1:10 (see note): there regarded in its final and general manifestation to the world, here in its imminent relation to the people of Israel. There it is “coming;” here it “is come,” or has arrived .
These words are prophetical; but the announcement goes beyond prediction. The Jews as a people had decisively refused the gospel of Jesus Christ, and their fate was sealed. The nation was moving swiftly and visibly down the inclined plane to ruin. And this calamity was to be final . “To the uttermost,” says the Apostle; lit., unto an end . In former threatenings the Lord had said, “Yet will I not make a full end” (Jeremiah 4:27 , and often). He does make a full end this time an end of the Old Covenant and of national Israel as the elect people; still it is not “ the end,” as though God had no further dealings with ancient Israel: see on the contrary Romans 11:0 .
In the year 70 of our Lord Jerusalem fell, after the most dreadful and calamitous siege known in history; and the Jewish people ever since have wandered without a home and without an altar. Tristis exitus , says Bengel: urgebat miseros ira Dei, et εἰς τέλος ( tandem , at length) urbem cum templo delevit .
St Paul’s Present Relations to the Thessalonians. Ch. 2:17 3:13
The Apostle had been drawn aside in the last paragraph, by a sudden and characteristic burst of feeling, from the main purpose of his letter. To this he now returns. Ver. 17 might follow quite naturally upon ver. 12. Having recalled to his readers the circumstances of his arrival at Thessalonica and the manner of his life amongst them, he goes on to speak of the feelings and views which he now entertains in regard to them. And he continues in this vein to the end of ch. 3. He speaks (1) of his great desire to revisit them and the attempts he has made to do so, vv. 17 20; (2) he relates how he sent Tïmothy with messages and enquiries when he found this impossible, ch. 3:1 5; (3) he expresses his satisfaction at the report Timothy has brought back to him, vv. 6 8; and (4) he repeats his thanksgiving and his longing to see them, with prayers both on this account and for their final acceptance in the day of Christ, vv. 9 13.
We may suppose that St Paul’s enemies, while they set down the preaching of the missionaries in the first instance to base motives (see note to ver. 3), went on to insinuate that the Apostle’s continued absence showed his unconcern for his persecuted followers. (Comp. Introd. pp. 23, 24.) Hence the warmth and energy of his protestations.
17. But we, brethren, being taken from you ] bereaved of you (R. V.), or torn away from you ; lit., orphaned a word employed in Greek with some latitude the very strongest expression the Apostle could find, occurring only here in the N.T.
for a short time ] Lit., season of an hour , as we say, “an hour’s time.” St Paul expected, when he left Thessalonica, to be able to return very shortly. Meanwhile the apostles felt themselves to be parted from their friends “in presence (or person) not in heart.” The comfort of their parting was the hope of speedy reunion:
“Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say Good-night, till it be morrow.”
We find from Acts 17:10 that it was “the” Thessalonian “brethren” who “sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berœa,” in order to secure their safety. Unwilling to go, the apostles were eager to return:
we … endeavoured the more abundantly ] exceedingly (R. V.): we were the more earnest in our endeavours (because our hearts were so truly one) to see your face, with great desire .
“Face” is identical in Greek with the “presence” of the former clause: they were parted in sight, not in affection; but true affection longs for sight. This “great desire” excited and sustained the apostles’ endeavours. “We longed for the sight of your dear faces, and did our utmost to get back to you:” so in ch. 3:10, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face .” Such, too, was the love of St John to his friends: “But I hope speedily to see thee; and we will talk mouth to mouth” (2 John 1:12 ; 3 John 1:14 ). “The spiritual interest of the Apostle about his converts is never for a moment separate from his tender human love for them” (Jowett).
18. Wherefore we would have come unto you ] The true reading is because not “wherefore,” due probably to a misunderstanding of the following verb, which is not removed by the rendering of the R. V., “because we would fain have come.” This but repeats the “great desire” just expressed; whereas the Greek verb implies resolution rather than inclination. The Apostle, as we understand him, is giving the explanation of his strenuous endeavours (ver. 17), lying behind them in his determined will because we had resolved to come to you : “we had set our minds upon it.”
even I Paul ] Better, I Paul, for my part . He speaks for himself: Timothy did return after a time (ch. 3:1, 2); and Silas had been left behind in Macedonia (Acts 17:14 ; Acts 18:5 ). Paul had not come at all; but it was not for want of will.
And the Apostle had made up his mind to this more than once both once and twice . Silas had, no doubt, shared in the wish and endeavour to return from Berœa ; the second attempt, likewise frustrated, was made by the Apostle alone, from Athens (ch. 3:1). The expression recurs in Philippians 4:16 . Compare with the whole statement Romans 1:13 : “Many times I purposed to come to you, and have been hindered hitherto.” The Apostle’s prophetic gift did not save him from the discipline of disappointment.
but Satan hindered us ] Properly, and Satan, &c .: “but” would be the regular conjunction here; there is a slight dislocation of structure in the sentence, due to excited feeling. We may paraphrase the sentence thus: We strove eagerly to find means of coming to see you; indeed, for my part, I had made up my mind to do it more than once; and our way was blocked, by Satan ! What form the hindrance took we can only guess. Jewish malice doubtless had much to do with it. But behind this baffling and unforeseen combination of circumstances the Apostle discerned the craft of the Arch-enemy.
Satan ] i.e. “the Adversary,” is the O.T. name of the Leader of evil spirits, the great enemy of God and man called also “the Devil” (Slanderer), “the Evil One” (2 Ephesians 3:3 ), and “the Tempter” (ch. 3:5). Satan is, throughout the New Testament, a real personality, and no figure of speech. See note on 2 Ephesians 2:9 ; and comp. Revelation 12:9 .
To account for his intense longing to see the Thessalonians, St Paul describes his interest in them in the glowing terms that follow:
19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ?] Not rejoicing , but glorying (R. V.), or boasting . “Crown of glorying” is a Hebrew idiom (Isaiah 62:3 ; Proverbs 16:31 , &c.); it is the crown which expresses one’s exultation, not the king’s “diadem” (as in Revelation 19:12 ), but the wreath of the victor in the games (1 Corinthians 9:24 , 1 Corinthians 9:25 ). So he calls the Philippians his “joy and crown a boast to me in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain” (Philippians 2:16 , Philippians 4:1 ). And here: “Who will furnish our crown at Christ’s coming who, indeed, but you ?”
Are not even ye ] This clause is best read, with Westcott and Hort, as a rhetorical parenthesis are not even ye ? then the main question is resumed and completed: “before our Lord Jesus at His coming?”
It is then that the Apostle will wear the crown which the Thessalonians furnish for him. His wealth is in hope. He loves them for what they are, but still more for what they will be in the “unveiling of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19 ), “set faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24 ). Then how proud (in the just sense of that word) will their Apostle be of them! See the prayers of ch. 3:13 and 5:23, 24; also Colossians 1:28 , Colossians 1:29 , where the goal of Paul’s labours is that he “may present every man perfect in Christ.”
our Lord Jesus Christ ] should be our Lord Jesus (R. V.). On a point like this we should always consult a critical text, such as that of the Revisers. Copyists were peculiarly liable to error in the names of Christ.
Observe the return in glory, and as Judge, of the same Lord Jesus Whom the Jews wickedly killed, ver. 15: “I saw in the midst of the throne … a Lamb, as though it had been slain,” Revelation 5:6 . He had said to His judges: “Ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 ). This title identifies the Divine Judge and Conqueror over sin and death with the historical and human Jesus (comp. John 5:27 ; Acts 17:31 ). The combination Lord Jesus is more frequent in these Epistles than anywhere else in the N.T., a circumstance due to their prevailing reference to the Second Coming. For further notes on the title see ch. 1:10 and 2 Ephesians 1:7 .
his coming ] Lit., presence Greek, parousia i.e. “presence” in its active sense (different from the “presence,” or “face,” of ver. 17 and 2 Ephesians 2:9 ) His arrival .
Here is the earliest example of a word, parousia , that has passed into the language of theology, denoting the promised Advent of Christ in glory, when He will come to complete His work of redemption and to judge mankind. His own teaching on the subject is recorded in Matthew 24:0 ; Matthew 25:0 ; Mark 13:0 ; Luke 12:35-42.12.59 ; Luke 17:20-42.17.37 ; Luke 19:11-42.19.27 ; Luke 21:5-42.21.36 ; John 5:27-43.5.29 ; John 14:1-43.14.3 ; John 16:22 , &c. Seven times the Apostle uses this solemn word in these two letters once besides, in 1 Corinthians 15:23 . From the three writings we lean nearly all that he has to teach on this mysterious subject. The parousia is spoken of by Christ, in answer to His disciples, in Matthew 24:0 ; and is referred to also in the Epistles of James, Peter, and John.
20. For ye are our glory and joy ] Or: Yea, verily, you are our glory and joy (Ellicott). Emphasis rests both on “ye” and “are.” This delight was not matter of hope alone (ver. 19), but of present fact . See ch. 1:2 4, and 3:9: “The joy wherewith we rejoice on your account before our God”; and 2 Ephesians 1:4 : “We glory in you in the Churches of God.” Glory is praise and honour from others; joy is one’s own delight.
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the Second Week after Epiphany