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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

2 Thessalonians 1

Verses 1-2

Salutation This passage of Scripture in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 is called the salutation and is found in all thirteen of Paul’s New Testament epistles and is used as an introduction to his letters. Paul wrote his salutations as a signature of authenticity (2 Thessalonians 3:17) just like we place our signature today at the end of a document. He may have written entire epistles as indicated in Philemon 1:19. However, there are indications in six of his epistles that Paul used an amanuensis to write most of his letters (see Romans 16:22, 1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Philemon 1:19).

2 Thessalonians 3:17, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”

In 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 Paul greets the believers in Thessalonica by presenting himself along with his two co-workers, Silas and Timothy, who played a key role in founding this church.

2 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Thessalonians 1:1 “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus” Comments (1) - Silvanus ( Σιλουανο ́ ς ) (G4610) was the Roman name of one of Paul’s close traveling companions. Although Paul and Peter use this Roman name when referring to him in their epistles, we also know him in the book of Acts by his Jewish name Silas. His first appearance in Scriptures takes place in Acts 15:0 during the Jerusalem council where he is identified as a leader (Acts 15:22) in the Jerusalem church, and a prophet (Acts 15:32). He was chosen along with Judas Barsabas to accompany Paul and Barnabas back to the church in Antioch in order to place into effect some guidelines for Gentile Christians. He moved about with Paul during his second missionary journey and is last identified with Paul in Acts 18:5 where he and Timothy meet Paul in Corinth. Paul will refer to him in his two epistles to the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1) and in his second epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:19). We also find his name mentioned as “faithful brother” and bearer of Peter’s first epistle (1 Peter 5:12).

Comments (2) - Why would Paul list his two co-workers in the opening of this epistle and not in other epistles? Because it was Paul and Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy who first came to Thessalonica as a missionary team and planted a church there. The theme of this epistle is an exhortation to work together until Jesus Christ comes back. Paul had taken Silas (Acts 15:40) with him on his second missionary journey and they had picked up Timothy in Derbe and Lystra just before entering into Macedonia (Acts 16:1-3). Most scholars believe that Luke had joined them at Troas and stayed behind at Philippi when these three departed form Thessalonica. Silas is probably mentioned first because of his seniority in the ministry and because of his age; for Silas had joined Paul as a seasoned leader in the church of Antioch (Acts 15:22).

The fact that this letter opens with three co-workers serves as a personal testimony that supported Paul’s commands to these believers to labour together. It stands in contrast to Paul’s opening in his epistle to the Galatians where he speaks only of himself and of his divine calling and authority as an apostle to the Gentiles. In his letter to the churches in Galatia, it was necessary for Paul to defend his authority in Christ as being above the teachings of the Judaizers.

Comments - The fact that Paul uses the first person plural often in 2 Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2Th 2:1 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2Th 3:1-2 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) indicates that Paul intended his two co-workers to participate in his correspondence to the church at Thessalonica. But when Paul uses the first person singular (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2Th 3:1-2 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-11) we must conclude the he is the principal author carrying the weight of authority among the three. The fact that Paul writes the salutation with his own hand means that he used an amanuensis to write most of his epistles. The person who wrote this epistle for Paul is not indicated, but it is very likely to be Silvanus or Timotheus; for we find that Silvanus did write for Peter (1 Peter 5:12).

2 Thessalonians 1:1 Comments - To those churches and individuals in which Paul displayed his apostleship over them in order to give correction and doctrine, he introduces himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ” ( Rom 1:1 , 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1 and Titus 1:1). To the Philippians Paul describes himself as a “servant.” This is because within the context of this epistle Paul will give examples of himself (Philippians 1:12-20), of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:1-11), of Timothy (Philippians 2:19-24) and of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30) as servants who laid aside their own wills and in order that to fulfill the will of those in authority over them. For this is the message and theme of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. To Philemon Paul declares himself as a “prisoner of Jesus Christ,” because his message to Philemon was about a slave, or prisoner, who was serving Philemon. In his two letters to the church of Thessalonica Paul defers the use of a title in order to equate himself as co-workers with Silas and Timothy. He will refer to his apostleship in 1 Thessalonians 2:6, but he will be mindful to use it in the plural form as a co-worker with Silas and Timothy. This is because he emphasizes their need to labour together until Jesus returns.

2 Thessalonians 1:2 Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:2 Comments (The Pauline Greeting) - Scholars discuss the meaning of Paul’s epistolary greetings from two different angles, either an historical approach or a theological approach.

(1) The Historical Approach The historical approach evaluates the history behind the use of the words “grace” and “peace” in traditional greetings, with this duet of words limited in antiquity to New Testament literature. J. Vernon McGee says the word “grace” in Paul’s greetings was a formal greeting used in Greek letters of his day, while the word “peace” was the customary Jewish greeting. [34] More specifically, John Grassmick says the Greek word χαίρειν was a common greeting in classical Greek epistles (note this use in Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26, James 1:1), so that χάρις was a “word play” Paul used in conjunction with the Hebrew greeting “peace.” [35] Thus, Paul would be respectfully addressing both Greeks and Jews in the early Church. However, Paul uses these same two words in his epistles to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, which weakens the idea that Paul intended to make such a distinction between two ethnic groups when using “grace” and “peace.” Perhaps this greeting became customary for Paul and lost its distinctive elements.

[34] J. Vernon McGee, The Epistle to the Romans, in Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1998), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), comments on Romans 1:1.

[35] John D. Grassmick, “Epistolary Genre,” in Interpreting the New Testament Text, eds. Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2006), 232.

(2) The Theological Approach - Another view is proposed by James Denny, who explains the relationship of these two words as a cause and effect. He says that grace is God’s unmerited favor upon mankind, and the peace is the result of receiving His grace and forgiveness of sins. [36] In a similar statement, Charles Simeon says the phrase “‘grace and peace’ comprehended all the blessings of the Gospel.” [37]

[36] James Denney, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, in The Expositor’s Bible, eds. William R. Nicoll and Oscar L. Joseph (New York: Hodder and Stoughton, n.d.), 15-16.

[37] Charles Simeon, 2 Peter, in Horae Homileticae, vol. 20: James to Jude (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), 285.

Comments (The Pauline Blessing) - In a similar way that the early apostles were instructed by Jesus to let their peace come upon the home of their host (Matthew 10:13), so did Paul the apostle open every one of his thirteen New Testament epistles with a blessing of God’s peace and grace upon his readers. Matthew 10:13 shows that you can bless a house by speaking God's peace upon it.

Matthew 10:13, “And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.”

This practice of speaking blessings upon God’s children may have its roots in the Priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22-27, where God instructed Moses to have the priests speak a blessing upon the children of Israel. We see in Ruth 2:4 that this blessing became a part of the Jewish culture when greeting people. Boaz blessed his workers in the field and his reapers replied with a blessing.

Ruth 2:4, “And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you. And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.”

We also see this practiced by the king in 2 Samuel 15:20 where David says, “mercy and truth be with thee.”

2 Samuel 15:20, “Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.”

So, this word of blessing was a part of the Hebrew and Jewish culture. This provides us the background as to why Paul was speaking a blessing upon the church at Thessalonica, especially that God would grant them more of His grace and abiding peace that they would have otherwise not known. In faith, we too, can receive this same blessing into our lives. Paul actually pronounces and invokes a blessing of divine grace and peace upon his readers with these words, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I do not believe this blessing is unconditional, but rather conditional. In other words, it is based upon the response of his hearers. The more they obey these divine truths laid forth in this epistle, the more God’s grace and peace is multiplied in their lives. We recall how the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, with six tribes standing upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people and six tribes upon Mount Ebal to curse the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27:11-26). Thus, the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28:1-68 were placed upon the land. All who obeyed the Law received these blessings, and all who disobeyed received this list of curses. In the same way, Paul invokes a blessing into the body of Christ for all who will hearken unto the divine truths of this epistle.

We see this obligation of the recipients in the translation by Beck of 2 Peter 1:2, “As you know God and our Lord Jesus, may you enjoy more and more of His love and peace.

Verses 3-12

God the Father’s Role in Preparing the Church for the Second Coming: Paul’s Encouragement to Endure Under Persecutions The theme of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 is the God the Father’s role in preparing us for the Second Coming, and its opening verse refers to God the Father. In this passage of Scripture Paul encourages the believers by commending them on their spiritual growth and endurance under persecutions (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). He then explains that such persecutions are a sign of the pending judgment that will take place at Christ’s Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9). They were to rest in these words of hope (2 Thessalonians 1:7) since they would be glorified when He returns (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Paul then prays for them to be found worthy of this calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11) and that the name of Jesus Christ would be glorified (2 Thessalonians 1:12). Thus, Paul has told them that God the Father will uses these persecutions to refine them in order to make them ready to receive their future glory, and these persecutions also seal the doom of their adversaries.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 Comments - Prayer of Thanksgiving - Paul begins many of his epistles with a prayer, a feature typical of ancient Greco-Roman epistles as well, [38] with each prayer reflecting the respective themes of these epistles. For example, Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving to the church at Rome (Romans 1:8-12) reflects the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in redeeming mankind. Paul’s prayer of thanks for the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:4-8) reflects the theme of the sanctification of believers so that the gifts of the Spirit can operate through them as mature believers walking in love. Paul’s prayer to the Corinthians of blessing to God for comforting them in their tribulations (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) reflects the theme of higher level of sanctification so that believers will bear the sufferings of Christ and partake of His consolation. Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:15-22) reflects the theme of the believer’s participation in God the Father’s great plan of redemption, as they come to the revelation this divine plan in their lives. Paul’s prayer to the Philippians (Philippians 1:3-11) reflects the theme of the believer’s role of participating with those whom God the Father has called to minister redemption for mankind. Paul’s prayer to the Colossians (Colossians 1:9-16) reflects the theme of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the life of every believer, as they walk worthy of Him in pleasing Him. Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4) reflects the theme of the role of the Holy Spirit in our complete sanctification, spirit, soul, and body. Paul’s second prayer of thanksgiving to the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4) reflects the theme of maturity in the believer’s sanctification.

[38] John Grassmick says many ancient Greek and Roman epistles open with a “health wish” and a prayer to their god in behalf of the recipient. See John D. Grassmick, “Epistolary Genre,” in Interpreting the New Testament Text, eds. Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2006), 232.

2 Thessalonians 1:5 Comments - God will have a tried and tested people.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 Comments - God is judging two kinds of people:

1. Those who know not God (Romans 1:28). Those who have never know the Gospel of Jesus, lost sinners.

Romans 1:28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”

2. Those who do know God, but obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who know the truth, but refuse to obey, backsliders.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.