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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 2

Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament BooksLipscomb's Commentary on Selected NT Books

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Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 2:1

For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you,—Paul’s purpose in these words was to stir up their minds with stirring memories of their conversion. Not only did strangers report the power and efficacy of their preaching among them, but they themselves were experimentally ac­quainted with its effects on their own hearts and lives.

that it hath not been found vain:—It was not fruitless or without permanent results. [On the contrary, it was mighty, energetic, and powerful.]

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 2:2

but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as ye know, at Philippi,—They came to Thessalonica from Philippi, where Paul and Silas had been publicly scourged with rods and cast into prison and their feet made fast in stocks. (Acts 16:22-24.) Their treatment had been unlawful and brutal.

we waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much conflict.—But notwithstanding the injury and violence they had suffered, they were bold in the strength and power to preach unto them. [Disregarding the sufferings they had had to endure after preaching at Philippi, God had given them courage to resume his work at Thessalonica.]

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 2:3

For our exhortation—His exhortation to turn to God was not a desire to lead them into error for selfish purposes. [The word exhortation has a twofold signification, denoting both ex­hortation and consolation; when it refers to moral conduct, it denotes exhortation; but when it is an address to a sufferer, it denotes consolation. In the gospel these two meanings are blended together.]

is not of error,—Without any direct evil intent to lead them into error for selfish ends.

nor of uncleanness,—Not from a desire to gratify lusts, as was so often the case with idol worshipers. [This also refers to false teachers, which are described thus: “For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is over­come, of the same is he also brought into bondage.” (2 Peter 2:18-19.) Both in Corinth and in Thessalonica gross vice was consecrated to religion.]

nor in guile:—[The preceding words deny a wrong motive; this denies a wrong method. Not only were their motives sincere and pure, but their manner of dealing was straight­forward, with no ends to serve for the attainment of which they needed to use deceit, for as Paul says: “For we are not as the many, corrupting the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17), and “but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Corinthians 4:2). This verse treats Paul's min­istry negatively as to its truthfulness, its motives, and its methods.]

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 2:4

but even as we have been approved of God to be intrusted with the gospel, so we speak;—Of his preparation for this mo­mentous work it is said that after his baptism “he was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus. And straight­way in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:19-20.) After this it was ten years before Barnabas came to him in Tarsus to find a fellow worker and to introduce him into a wider sphere of service. (Acts 11:25-26.)

[Up to this time he had visited Arabia, returned to Da­mascus, and thence after three years went to Jerusalem, where he was with the disciples “going in and going out. . . preaching boldly in the name of the Lord: and he spake and disputed against the Grecian Jews; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.” (Acts 9:28-30.) Of his residence in Tarsus nothing is revealed, but he had commended himself and had become so widely known that Barnabas sought his assistance at a critical stage of the im­portant work at Antioch. (Acts 11:25.) This was a period of testing, but his days of probation were not yet fulfilled. Three years more of new and varied experiences had to pass before he was definitely called by the Holy Spirit and sepa­rated by his brethren to the work among the Gentiles, for which God had set him apart, and concerning which the Lord Jesus had spoken to him on the Damascus road some fourteen years before, saying: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:15-18.)]

not as pleasing men,—He had been faithful to preach the gospel, but not to please and make himself popular with men. [The desire to be pleasing to men is to use them for one’s own exaltation, to make them the stepping-stones on which he seeks to rise to eminence. To put oneself in that relation to others is an ungodly thing. Such men give ground to slander, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ. True devotion to God is love, the nature of which is not to take, but to give.]

but God—His purpose was to please God who had entrusted him with the gospel of his Son, which is to save all men from sin and suffering.

who proveth our hearts.—God proves and tests the heart. He accepts no service save as it comes from the heart. He contrasts the service which comes from the heart with that which is to gratify the flesh. The fleshly heart is the center and active force in stirring and using all the faculties of the fleshly body. Without the activity of the heart, the eyes could not see, nor the ears hear, nor the brain think. The eye is not the body or the fleshly heart, yet it is a faculty of both, so are all the senses and organs of the body. Within the fleshly body dwells the spiritual body. That body has faculties, members, and organs; only they are spiritual facul­ties and organs. The mind, the emotions, the volitions are all members or organs of the spiritual body, but no one of them is the body. The spiritual heart is the center and the life of this spiritual body and directs and uses these faculties. The heart is frequently used to represent the whole inner or spiritual man. It thinks through the mind: loves or hates through its emotions; sees, wills, and purposes through the volition; and believes and trusts, decides and acts, through the harmonious action of all its faculties. Common experience ought to show that the mind alone is not the heart. Many things are memorized and retained in the mind, of which the heart does not take hold at all; they do not arouse the emo­tions or volitions, consequently do not affect the heart. The mind perceives, discriminates, and decides what is true or false; carries this decision to the heart; and the heart believes or disbelieves. The Bible nowhere says the mind believes; the heart believes; and the scriptures require that the gospel shall be believed with the whole heart. The intellect ap­proves, the emotions lay hold of the truth, and the volition, or the will, acts on it. [God, who at first approved of Paul as fit for the work among the Gentiles, continued to approve him throughout the whole of his discharge of its functions.]

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 2:5

For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know,—He did not flatter his hearers and did not seek popularity of them. Jesus said: “How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?” (John 5:44.) Paul was always true to that truth, and never sought honor of men.

nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness;—Neither did he make his preaching a cloak to make gain. He appealed to them because his course had been so decided in that respect that they could not mistake it. [This passage exhibits to us, in the charges brought against Paul, those vices which even bad men can see to be wholly inconsistent with the Christian character. No matter how we cloak it—and we always cloak it in one way or anotherit is incurably unchristian.]

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 2:6

nor seeking glory of men,—He did not seek a high and honorable position in the midst of these nor yet of others. So guarded was he in this matter that he did not even use the power he might have to be supported as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Jesus, in sending out his apostles, told them to carry nothing with them, that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” (Luke 10:7.)

neither from you nor from others, when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ.—He did not use this right to live of the gospel lest he should be burdensome to them as an apostle of Christ.

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 2:7

But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children:—He nourished and cared for them instead of allowing them to support him. [Paul felt for them the affectionate solicitude which a mother does for a child at her breast.]

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.—He was moved by a sincere love for them instead of making gain of them; he was willing not only to impart unto them the gospel of Christ, but his own soul. This is a similar expression to what he said of his own Jewish people: “I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethrens sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3.) These are strong expressions, showing the intense desire he had for their salvation. [Such labor as Paul’s in and for the church was really an impartation of his life. Health and energy and life were given out constantly in his preaching and sufferings from persecution, along with ex­hausting manual labor night and day.]

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,—These words are intended to bring out strongly the very hard and exhausting labor in which Paul was involved by his desire to support himself while ministering the gospel to them. This he did lest they should suspect him of selfish motives so that the gospel would be hindered. He would not have re­fused to receive their help after their conversion to help him preach the gospel to others.

we preached unto you the gospel of God.—It was the gospel of God inasmuch as it came as a glad message from God. They looked to God as their God, who had commissioned them to deliver his message.

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 2:10

Ye are witnesses, and God also,—They were the wit­nesses of his outward conduct, and God of the motives which actuated him in the service he rendered.

how holily—This denotes his pious disposition and conduct toward God.

and righteously—This denotes his conduct toward his fellow men. How just and fair in all his dealings with them.

and unblamably—This expresses the negative side of both particulars. He was cautious and extremely careful to give no cause or ground of blame to anyone. [That no charge could be maintained, whatever charges might be made.]

we behaved ourselves toward you that believe:—His life was holy, consecrated to God, just and fair to all men. [We should ever remember that utmost fidelity in word and deed is due to believers, as well as to unbelievers. Our example is potent for good or evil in the church as well as out of it.]

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 2:11

as ye know how we dealt with each one of you,—He particularizes the carefulness he had shown for individuals. He dealt with each one, exhorting them to follow the better way, comforting them in their trials and troubles. [This shows that the success of the apostles was not easily won, that converts were not made in masses, but by the slow, toilsome affectionate application of the gospel to individuals, one by one. Without this personal and individual dealing, the public preaching is not so effective.]

as a father with his own children,—When they failed he encouraged them to try again, and warned them of the danger of turning aside as a father does his own children.

exhorting you,—[The father should not merely tell his chil­dren their duty but also to exhort them warmly to duty, especially from his own experiences in life. So it is the part of the minister of the word of truth not only to hold up scripture teaching, but also, fatherly, warmly to urge its observance.]

and encouraging you,—It is also the part of a father to hold out encouragement to the performance of duty. Nothing can be more fatal to the young than a discouraging tone. [It is the part of a worker in the Lord’s vineyard not to be harsh, censorious, despondent, but fatherlike to catch a geniality and hopefulness from his message, and may be said to have come from the Fatherhood of God.]

and testifying,—[There are times when a father addresses his children as with a dying breath, conjures them by all that he holds dear and sacred by a consideration of their best interests, not to give way to temptation, but to follow in the path of duty. There are times when it becomes necessary for the Lord’s servant to concentrate his earnestness, and to address his brethren as with a dying breath, conjuring them by the authority of God, by the blood of Christ, by the dreadful issues at stake, by the solemnity of the judgment not to allow themselves to be cheated out of eternal life in the presence of God and the redeemed. ]

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 2:12

to the end that ye should walk worthily of God,—[This was the object of the exhortations. Men can profess to accept God’s calling and yet live very much as they had done before; hence, they needed to be told to walk worthily of God. And it is a consideration which helps those who are seeking god­liness that God has associated them with himself. As men are helped by their position to live up to it, and as children naturally strive to be worthy of their parents, so those who know God and are connected with him are stimulated to higher efforts.]

who calleth you into his own kingdom and glory.—God had called them out of the world, freed them from sin, and trans­lated them into his own kingdom that through fidelity to him in that kingdom they should come to partake of his glory.

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 2:13

And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing,—Here Paul falls back into the thankful strain with which he began the Epistle. The very words, “we give thanks to God always for you all” (1:2), is caught up. Having given out his strength in preaching them, he had unceasing cause of thanksgiving to God in the result.

that, when ye received from us the word of the message,—In setting forth the result, the word is described from the point of view of the Thessalonians in relation to the message which he delivered to them.

even the word of God,—They did not receive his teaching as that of a man without authority, but they received it, as it was in truth, the word of the living God.

ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God,—A truth accepted as the word of God has much more power than the same thing would have if believed to be only as the word of men; but they had accepted it, appropriating it to the life, not as originating with man, but with God. The word of God works effectually in all that believe; that is, it brings those who believe it truly into obedience to the word of God. It is an evil heart of unbelief that causes men to turn from God’s law and to substitute the ways of men for the appointments of God. Keeping the ap­pointments of God and obeying his law is the test of faith in God. Only faith that works benefits. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything; nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6.) “Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself.” “Was not Abra­ham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect.” (James 2:17; James 2:21-22.) Faith working in the heart produces love. “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever.” (John 14:15-16.)

which also—This marks the contrast between those who merely heard the gospel and those who hearing believed. Many had received the gospel with the ear, some had accepted it in the heart; in these its claim to be from God was vin­dicated by its active power in their lives. (Hebrews 4:12.)

worketh in you that believe.—The word of God is described as “living and active”; by it the new birth is effected (1 Peter 1:23); the soul saved (James 1:21), sanctified (John 17:17; 1 Timothy 4:5), and edified (Acts 20:32). It bears fruit and increases throughout the world and grows and prevails might­ily. (Acts 19:20.) Like the seed (Mark 4:26-27), the word of God bears its life power within itself, hence its manifold activities and its boundless increase. It is compared with fire against that which is false and with a hammer against that which is strong (Jeremiah 23:29); it is light in the midst of dark­ness (Psalms 119:105); and it is the sole weapon in the Chris­tian’s warfare (Ephesians 6:17).

Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 2:14

For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus:—I do not under­stand that they tried to fashion after the example of the Jewish churches; but following the same law, meeting the same difficulties, they had developed into the same likeness: became imitators of them by following the same laws. This was said for the encouragement and strengthening of the Thessalonians, for as unbelieving Jews persecuted the Chris­tians in Judea so they had done here to them. The unbe­lieving Jews stirred up the persecution at Thessalonica, but it was prosecuted by unbelieving Gentiles.

for ye also suffered the same things of your own country­men,—It was always the Jewish policy to persecute by means of others. By making a wily appeal to political passion the Jews had aroused the Gentiles to attack Paul; thence followed the persecution of the church at Thessalonica, which had not at the time of writing subsided. [We do not know to what extremity the enemies of the gospel had gone in Thessalonica: but the distress of the Christians must have been great when Paul could make this comparison. He had already told them (1:6) that much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, is the badge of God’s children; and here he combines the same stern necessity with the operation of the word of truth in their hearts. The effect of receiving the gospel is in the first in­stance a new character, a character not only distinct from that of the unconverted, but antagonistic to it, and more directly and inevitably antagonistic, the more thoroughly it is wrought out, so that in proportion as Gods word is operative in us, we come in collision with the world which rejects it. To suffer, therefore, is to Paul the seal of faith. It is not a sign that God has forgotten his people, but a sign that he is with them: and that they are being brought by him into fellowship with the apostles and prophets, and with the Son of God himself. It is a subject for gratitude that they have been counted worthy to suffer for his name.]

even as they did of the Jews;—In Palestine there were no others but Jews who could be excited against Christians, and they were obliged to appear as the persecutors themselves.

Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 2:15

who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets,—Here is a fearful picture of the results of the wicked course of the Jews. They instigated and led to the death of Jesus. Christ told how they had killed the prophets. (Matthew 23:31­37.) [This was a terrible indictment against the Jews, the purpose of which was to show the deep sympathy of Paul with the persecuted Thessalonians, and his indignation against the persecutors, and to make them see more deeply the value of their faith by the effort to keep it from them.]

and drove out us,—This refers to Paul and his companions, the record of which was given by Luke. (Acts 17:5-9.)

and please not God,—They had shown by their history that they could not meet with the divine approval. They made great pretensions of being the peculiar people of God, and it was important to show that their conduct demonstrated that they had so such claims. Their opposition to the Thessa­lonians, therefore, was no proof that God was opposed to them, and they should not allow themselves to be troubled about such opposition.

and are contrary to all men;—They worked evil to all men, both Jews and Gentiles. Their spirit and policy may be seen from our Lord’s great denunciatory discourse against the scribes and Pharisees, and his arraignment of their leaders for their impiety and inhumanity when he said: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the king­dom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter.” (Matthew 23:13.)

Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 2:16

forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved;—They did not object to the Gentiles becoming Jews by circumcision and adoption into the Jewish commonwealth; but their chief persecution of Paul arose on account of his preaching to the Gentiles and teaching both Jews and Gentiles that the Gentiles were equal with the Jews in the grace of God while uncircumcised. [When the Jewish nation set itself relentlessly to prohibit the extension of the gospel to the Gen­tiles—when the word passed round to the synagogues from headquarters that this renegade Paul, who was summoning the pagans to become the people of God, was to be thwarted by fraud or violenceGods patience was exhausted.]

to fill up their sins always:—In thus rejecting God, and fighting against man, they heaped up the measure of their iniquity. God permits men to go far in wickedness because he is long-suffering and gives time for repentance as in the days of Noah. (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4.) On the other hand, God permits the evil things he sees in man to grow and develop until they become manifest to eyes other than his own that his righteous judgment may be put beyond dispute. (Psalms 89:2; Psalms 89:14.) So he dealt with the Amorites. (Genesis 15:16.) So with the Jews. (Matthew 23:32.)

but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.—Their sins are full, their iniquities are complete in the rejec­tion of Christ and the persecution of his servants. So the final ruin and dispersion of the nation was at hand. [The wrath which had been often previously manifested in peremptory calamities was now to exhaust its whole force upon them.]

Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 2:17

But we, brethren, being bereaved of you for a short season,—This he says lest they should think he had deserted them while so great an emergency demanded his presence. If he could not give them the comfort of his presence, he gave them the comfort of knowing that he would have been with them had it been possible.

in presence not in heart,—His heart was still with them. This is an elegant and touching expression used to denote affection for absent friends. Paul’s absence from them gave him a greater yearning for their presence.

endeavored the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire:—[His affection for them was so far from being di­minished by his leaving them that it had been the more in­flamed.]

Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 2:18

because we would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again;—[This was not a sudden impulse that quickly subsided by his leaving them, as we see sometimes happen, but that he had been steadfast in this purpose, inasmuch as he sought various opportunities to visit them.]

and Satan hindered us.—How and when Satan hindered his visiting them is not revealed, though some adversity, some imprisonment, or hindrance was thrown in his way. [When­ever the wicked molest us, they fight under Satan’s banner, and are his agents for harassing us. When our endeavors are directed to the work of the Lord, it is certain that everything that hinders proceeds from Satan.]

Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 2:19

For—[This word introduces his reason for so ardently desiring to be with them again; this is conveyed in the form of a question to express his deep feeling more effectively than a mere statement would have done. This accounts for his ear­nest desire to visit them. He thus longed to see them for there was nothing that afforded him its same immediate en­joyment, or the same substantial satisfaction as his spiritual children in Thessalonica.]

what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying?—The highest point in his future was their acceptance as true and faithful Christians by the Lord Jesus at his coming.

Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at his coming?—They would be at the day of Jesus Christ as the fruits of his labors, the hope of his glorying in that day. Paul frequently calls his converts his crown of glory. “We are your glorying, even as ye also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 1:14.) “Holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:16.)

Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 2:20

For ye are our glory and our joy.—They were the fruit of his life and labors. As an apostle of Jesus Christ, and as such he gloried and rejoiced in them. In his mind he saw them grow daily out of the taint of heathenism into the purity and love of Christ. He saw them, as the discipline of God’s instruction had its perfect work in them grow from babes in Christ, and grow in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord, to the measure of the stature of perfect men. He saw them presented faultless in the presence of the Lord in the great day. To witness that spiritual transformation which he had inaugurated carried on to completion gave the future a greatness and a worth which made Paul's heart leap for joy.

Bibliographical Information
Lipscomb, David. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dlc/1-thessalonians-2.html.
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