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1 Thessalonians 2:1. For yourselves know. What I say of our preaching I do not say without warrant, nor need I rest it on the testimony of others, for yourselves are my witnesses.
That it hath not been vain. This is generally supposed to refer not to the effects but to the essential character of the preaching; as if Paul had said, It was not vapid and unreal and powerless. But the tense of the verb indicates that the word ‘vain’ involves in Paul’s mind something still existing; therefore not a quality attaching to the preaching itself, but to its effects; as it be had said, It has not been useless and inefficacious. Without this reference to the effects of his preaching, it is impossible to give its proper significance to the verb (cp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 15:10).
Paul appeals to the Thessalonians themselves as able to testify to his Boldness, Straightforwardness, and Disinterestedness, while resident among them.
In chap. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul had alluded to two features of his visit to Thessalonica, the power which had characterized his preaching, and the conspicuous effects of it in the mind and life of those who believed: in the present paragraph he expatiates on the former of these, and enlarges on the latter in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. He appeals to the Thessalonians themselves as witnesses of his blameless life, his freedom from avarice and indolence, his affectionate demeanour, and his confidence in the truth and value of the message which he had been commissioned to deliver. Similar self-defensive paragraphs occur elsewhere in his Epistles, especially in the Epistles to the
Corinthians, and throw welcome light on Paul’s character and mode of life. In the instance before us, his aim is not so much to defend himself against the aspersions of those who questioned his authority or disinterestedness, as to confirm the faith of the Thessalonians, which might perhaps not be proof against the insinuations of his unscrupulous enemies.
1 Thessalonians 2:2. But. We should expect that this word would introduce a logically exact opposition to the preceding clause, and that Paul would proceed to narrate the results of his preaching. Instead of doing so, he speaks of his fearlessness in preaching, and permits his readers to infer the results. Such breaks in the consecution of his thoughts are not infrequent in Paul’s writing.
After that we had suffered. Paul appeals to his voluntary and continued endurance of suffering and to his braving of perils, in proof that his cause was a good one, worth suffering for: and that he was disinterested in advocating it, as he expected nothing but danger and hardship in its prosecution. There was much in Thessalonica to alarm and silence him: there was that which produced in his own spirit much commotion and perturbation; but amidst this inward disturbance his wrestling faith triumphed, and by leaning on God he derived courage sufficient for the emergency.
The gospel of God, so called because the message comes from God, and because He also originates the salvation of which it speaks. It is God’s message to the heathen, showing them how to escape from the judgment to come. Elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 3:2; Galatians 1:7) it is called ‘the Gospel of Christ;’ or (Ephesians 1:13) ‘the Gospel of your salvation;’ or (Ephesians 6:15) ‘the Gospel of peace.’
1 Thessalonians 2:3. For. Paul proceeds to show that his manner of preaching was in keeping with the fact that the Gospel he preached was from God. It was not a private idea or invitation of his own, but a message with which God had entrusted him. This they might be sure of, from what he states in the following verses; 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 intimating his ordinary habit, the succeeding verses referring to his practice at Thessalonica.
Not of delusion. Even in these early days, as in our own, there were men who insinuated that the apostles were the victims of a simple-minded credulity, the dupes of ‘cunningly-devised fables.’ Delusion could not have stood the test to which Paul has referred in the preceding verse.
Uncleanness seems here to mean any impure, sordid motives; though the remark of Jowett, that ‘there existed, in the age of the apostles, a connection between the form of spirituality and licentiousness,’ must be kept in mind.
Guile. Paul’s preaching was sincere; he spoke because he believed. He had no ends to serve, for the attainment of which he needed to use deceit (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17 and 2 Corinthians 4:2).
1 Thessalonians 2:4. Approved by God. This expression indicates a selection on the part of God of men suitable for the work which He designed to do. Paul was chosen to be an apostle, because of a natural fitness for the office. But it is not on any natural fitness Paul leans for his authority, but on God who gave him his commission. And he refers to this here, not for the sake of magnifying his own gifts, but for the sake of bringing out his responsibility to God. We speak as men responsible to God, and are thereby preserved from unworthy motives.
Who trieth. God, who at first approved of Paul as fit for the office, continues to prove him throughout the whole course of his discharge of its functions.
1 Thessalonians 2:5. Nor introduces proof that he had not striven to please men; for he who seeks to please men, flatters them, which Paul had not done.
Nor a cloak of covetousness. In Greece some men made handsome incomes by teaching new systems of philosophy; but Paul’s preaching was in no sense a means of making money. Timothy must have smiled or laughed aloud when he reported to Paul: They say you are a strolling sophist, living on the earnings of harder-worked men, and greedy of money.
God is witness. ‘The Greek commentators pertinently remark, that, in what men could judge of, he appeals to his readers; but, in what they could not so distinctly recognise, he appeals to God’ (Ellicott). Somewhat similarly Cromwell declares to his first Parliament: ‘That I lie not in matter of fact, is known to very many; but whether I tell a lie in my heart, as labouring to represent to you what was not upon my hearty I say, the Lord be judge.’
1 Thessalonians 2:6. Nor of men sought we glory. It was natural for persons who could not believe in any motives more disinterested than those which commonly animate men, to refer Paul’s conduct to that which undoubtedly does produce many of the greatest actions viz., love of glory and power, of pre-eminence. His Epistles show that he frequently felt it incumbent on him to clear himself from these misconstructions. He does so here, by reminding the Thessalonians that he had not taken the position he might among them.
We might have been burdensome as the apostles of Christ. We might have stood upon the dignity of our office, and have required those acknowledgments, in respect, submission, and pecuniary aid, which are fairly due to the apostles of Christ. In the other passages in which Paul speaks of not being burdensome to his converts, he means that he did not lay on them the burden of maintaining him; but here he primarily refers to his not having exacted the submission which he might have demanded. This is shown as well by what precedes as by the following verse; but the idea that he did not stand upon his office involves the idea that he did not demand to be supported by his disciples, and accordingly in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 he passes to this thought. He might have allowed respect to be shown him in the form of providing for his daily wants; but he did not seek such or any glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:7. But introduces the positive side of Paul’s account of his demeanour.
Gentle, not severe, distant, official, imperious.
Among you, with some allusion to the familiarity of his con’ verse with them; he made himself their equal.
Nurse, i.e. nursing mother. Paul had aimed only at their good, and not at his own advantage, and had therefore put up with affronts and indignities, had borne with their slowness, had looked for no immediate reward or acknowledgment, had watched and worked for them regardless of results to himself.
1 Thessalonians 2:8. So, i.e. in like manner as the nursing mother.
Not the gospel of God only, but our own souls also. So genuine and cordial was the love of Paul and his companions for the Thessalonians, that they did not merely deliver their message as officials seeking to discharge a responsibility laid upon them, but they were willing to sacrifice their lives for them, if need were. This willingness manifested itself in the self-denying and excessive toil of which Paul proceeds to speak.
1 Thessalonians 2:9. Toil and travail. These words, and the expression ‘night and day,’ are intended to bring out strongly the very hard and exhausting labour in which Paul was involved by his desire to support himself while ministering in the Gospel to the Thessalonians. That Paul did not mean to impose on the ministers of Christ in general a law of self-maintenance, is sufficiently obvious from his treatment of the whole subject in 1 Corinthians 9:0. He saw reason to adopt it as his own usual rule (though he sometimes accepted pecuniary assistance, 2 Corinthians 11:8), but spoke of his own practice as exceptional, not normal, and emphatically asserted the right of the labourer to his hire a notable proof of Paul’s sagacity and freedom from bias in judgment.
1 Thessalonians 2:10. Paul gives a general summary of the character of his demeanour in Thessalonica as a minister of Christ.
Justly, i.e. righteously.
That believe. The reason of this addition is not obvious; probably it is inserted as a general term for the church on the members of which his activity had been mostly spent, and from whom if from any he might have been expected to accept or exact contributions.
1 Thessalonians 2:11. As ye know. An expansion and further confirmation of the preceding verse. He particularizes the carefulness he had shown for individuals.
Exhorted, and comforted, and charged. Using in each case the kind of admonition which seemed most appropriate, exhorting, or kindly encouraging, or solemnly and earnestly adjuring.
Every one of you. This shows that the successes of the apostles were 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 of the Gospel comes to little.
As a father. Paul fitly compares himself now to a father, as, above, the mother was the more suitable comparison. Eadmer says of Anselm: ‘He was to those in health a father, to the sick a mother rather, to healthy and sick, lather and mother in one.’
1 Thessalonians 2:12. That ye would walk worthy of God. This was the object of Paul’s exhortations. He found that men could profess to accept God’s calling and yet live very much as they had done before; that they needed to be told to walk worthy of God. And it is a consideration which helps those who are seeking holiness, 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. This stimulus is imparted by the character in which God appears as calling men to His own kingdom and glory. This exhibits the ungrudging nature of His kindness, the intimacy with Himself to which we are united, and the dignity that is put upon those who respond to His invitations.
1 Thessalonians 2:13. For this cause, referring to what follows. His thankfulness was no doubt intensified by the apparent unlikelihood that the word of a stranger, a Jew, without wealth or influence, without letters of commendation, without even a good command of Greek and a good accent; of a man still limping from the wounds he had received at Philippi, should be received as the word of God. There is no evidence that miracles were wrought at Thessalonica, though prophesying’ soon became common, and certainly Paul had to flee as any unwelcome political agent or detected charlatan might have had to flee; yet his word was accepted as the word of God. Why?
Which effectually worketh also. Paul felt an indescribable joy when he found that his simple scheme of deliverance from evil, his gospel, worked; that it not only looked well on paper, but actually made men holy and courageous. How tame and poor all other modes of spending his life must have seemed when once he had tasted this joy!
Paul appeals to their Endurance of the Persecution in proof of the Genuine efficacy of their Reception of the Word of God.
Paul again gives thanks for the reception which the Thessalonians had accorded to his preaching, and finds evidence at once of the efficacy of the word and of the reality of their acceptance of it, in their manner of enduring the persecution which their change of faith had evoked. They had thus become conformed in experience to the churches in Judaea and to the first followers of Christ, who together with their Master Himself had suffered persecution.
1 Thessalonians 2:14. For introduces evidence of the actual working of God’s word in the believing Thessalonians. This evidence was that they had been persecuted by their own countrymen. This persecution was of itself a testimony to the reality of their Christianity. ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ But Paul has probably also in view the manner in which they bore this persecution, else he would scarcely have used the word ‘imitators.’
Your own countrymen the Greeks of Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 2:15. Who killed both the Lord Jesus. As the unbelieving Thessalonians had persecuted their Christian townsmen, so had the Jews persecuted Jesus, and the prophets and the apostles. They had ‘driven out’ the apostles, and endeavoured to prevent them from preaching salvation to the Gentiles. Various reasons have been assigned to account for this outburst against the Jews: as, that the Jews were the real instigators of the Thessalonian persecution; or, that some persons were seeking to persuade the Thessalonians that the Gospel was wholly a Jewish affair; or, that the converts might be thinking it strange that if this new religion were true, it should be so ill received by the Jews, God’s people. But the slight digressive outburst seems to have been occasioned simply by Paul’s desire to show how the Judæan Christians had suffered at the hands of the Jews.
Contrary to all men jealous that salvation should be for the world and not for themselves only. Comp. Tacitus, Hist. v. 5, ‘adversus omnes alios hostile odium.’
1 Thessalonians 2:16. Hindering us from speaking or, seeing that they hinder us; this clause specifying the chief instance in which the Jews incurred the displeasure of God and showed their narrow hatred of their fellows.
To fill up. It was not the Jews’ intention that this conduct of theirs should fill up the measure of their sins, but it was God’s purpose that thus their probation should come to an end. ‘The Jews were always blind and stubborn; but when they slew their Lord, and drove forth His apostles, they filled up the measure of their iniquities’ (Ellicott). ‘In the beginning of sin and evil it seems as if men were free agents and had the power of going on or retreating. But as the crisis of their late approaches, they are bound under a curse; and the form in which their destiny presents itself to our minds, is as though it were certain, and only a question of time now soon it is to be fulfilled’ (Jowett).
Always. The whole career of the Jews has ever been contributing to this result.
But. The result of their conduct is contrasted with their intention.
The wrath, i.e. the wrath consequent on their entire sinful history.
Is come upon them. Paul sees the punishment as if it had already fallen. To the apostle, reading the future in the present, the state of Judæa at any time during the last thirty years before the destruction of the city, would have been sufficient to justify the expression, ‘wrath is come upon them to the uttermost’ (Jowett).
To the uttermost. The phrase which these words represent may mean at last. Some suppose that it signifies that the wrath had now reached its extreme bound, and would at once pass into inflictive judgments. Probably our own Version conveys the true sense, that the wrath which had been often previously manifested in premonitory calamities, was now to exhaust its whole force upon them.
1 Thessalonians 2:17. But we. The ‘we’ is emphatic, equivalent to ‘so far as concerns us;’ and Paul is induced to speak of his own feelings towards them, apparently for the sake of removing any bitter feeling which the Thessalonians might have harboured regarding his absence during their troubles. If he could not give them the comfort of his presence, he would at least give them the comfort of knowing that he would fain be with them if he could.
Being taken from you; or, having been bereaved by our separation from you.
For a short time. Inserted to show how immediately the longing to see them again supervened upon his departure.
The more abundantly. The comparative form of the adverb does not necessarily imply that there was any definite comparison in the writer’s mind; yet he probably meant that his absence had intensified his affection, and that his longing to see them was ‘more abundant’ than his love had been while he was in Thessalonica.
Paul describes the Feelings he had towards the Thessalonians after he had left them.
This paragraph is remarkable chiefly as a manifestation of the ardent affection which Paul felt for his churches. It was with pain he absented himself from them, with difficulty he was prevented from returning, with delight that he looked forward to the time when he should be permitted to revisit them. And while absent from them, he was dependent for his happiness on the reception of good tidings of their continuance in faith, love, and patience. This tidings he received through Timothy, and in the joy of this good news his own sorrows and hardships were forgotten. He was thrown into an ecstasy of thankfulness and of love, and could find no words strong enough to express either his gratitude to God for their stedfastness or his earnest longing for their further progress, and that he himself might be the means of perfecting as he had been of beginning their faith.
1 Thessalonians 2:18. Even I Paul. In saying ‘ we would have come,’ Paul includes Silas and Timothy, and by this appended clause he means to emphasize his own strong personal longing to revisit his friends. It was not a mere desire to send an official deputation, but the longing of an individual affection.
Once and again. It was not a passing impulse, but a steady, constant yearning.
But Satan hindered us. How Satan did so, whether by stirring up the Jews in Thessalonica so that Paul dared not return, or by causing troubles which required Paul’s presence elsewhere, or by the infliction of sickness, we do not know. But this plain matter-of-fact statement shows us that Satan does what he can to hinder the progress and welfare of the Church, and is therefore well called Satan, the Adversary. ‘Without here entering into controversy, it seems not out of place to remark, that the language of the New Testament, if words mean anything, does ascribe a personality to the tempter so distinct and unmistakeable, that a denial of it can be only compatible with a practical denial of scripture inspiration. To the so-called charge of Manichæism, it is enough to answer that if an inspired apostle scruples not to call this fearful being “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), no sober thinker can feel any difficulty in ascribing to him permissive powers and agencies of a frightful extent and multiplicity’ (Ellicott).
1 Thessalonians 2:19. For. Paul accounts for his earnest desire to revisit Thessalonica. I thus earnestly long to see you, for there is nothing which affords the same prospect, or the same present enjoyment, or the same substantial satisfaction, as my Christian children in your church.
Our hope. The brightest point in our future is your acceptance as true Christians by the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming.
Crown of boasting. As the victor can point to his garland in proof that he has fought a good fight, so the apostle felt thorough satisfaction in the Thessalonians as evidence that his labours had not been in vain. The expression seems to be borrowed from the Septuagint Version of Ezekiel 16:12.
Ye also. Ye, as well as other churches, similar expressions being used to the Philippians and Corinthians.
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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12