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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
1 Thessalonians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

We are to consider now that which had great effect in producing the energetic, devoted response to the gospel such as we have seen in the Thessalonians. Certainly it is the Word of God itself that is responsible for this, as insisted on in verse 13. Yet the living effects of that Word in the Lord's servants had such an effect as to attach the hearts of the Thessalonians to that Word as being not the word of men but in truth the Word of God. How precious is such work! If souls are drawn to the Word of God to receive its truth as living and real because they have seen in others some true, unselfish, self-sacrificing character that has no explanation except as the effects of the Word of God, this is valuable beyond words.

God had opened a door in Thessalonica, and the entering in of His servants was not in vain. They had suffered before at Philippi, being beaten and imprisoned and later asked to leave the city. But this did not discourage them nor lessen their boldness in speaking the gospel of God, though in much conflict. Not that they were contentious, but would firmly declare the gospel in the face of the contentions of others. Their own comfort or safety was nothing compared to the precious gospel of the grace of God. Alas, how weak we are today in comparison to these men in their calm, purposeful devotion to God - men to whom Christ was supreme!

Verse 3 contains three negatives. Idolatry was guilty of all three evils mentioned here, and the Thessalonians would certainly discern a difference in the message of these men. Idolatry itself was religious deception; and many today, as then, are most practised in the ability to deceive, being so deceived themselves that they are blinded to the deception of their own ways. Uncleanness too accompanied idolatry, with a profession of being sanctified because it was for a religious purpose. Nor is it any less evident in the religious systems of men today. In fact many things that even natural conscience condemns are calmly justified by many who glory in their par­ticular religion. Guile too is characteristic of the methods us­ed by idolaters to secure followers. They may give very nice, proper things to begin with, and when one is persuaded to ac­cept what appears to be a drink of cold water, then the poison is slipped in. Every false religion uses such methods. Nothing of this, however, was true of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.

Verse 4 speaks now of that which is positive. It is a refreshing spirit of lowly thankfulness seen in the expression "we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel." Having such realization, that the gospel was a sacred trust committed to them by the grace of the eternal God, how could they do otherwise than speak it as directly responsible to God? God's gospel was not for the mere pleasure of men. It is a message of pure truth that the appostle was diligent to speak in the manner that pleased his Master, who tried their hearts. Men could not always decide as to another's motives, but God knew them perfectly. How vitally important then that the soul should be fully opened as before God, to be diligent to honestly please Him.

Verses 5 and 6 again revert to the negative, and doubtless because, as has been remarked, the accustomed evil practices of idolatry required such evil methods as are here refused and avoided by Paul and his companions. "Flattering words" will secure the friendship of those who are not themselves honorable and cautious, and an honest man will not receive flatery that, of course, puts him in a much better light than is really true of him. It was by flattery that Absalom "stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (2 Samuel 15:1-6). But the gospel shows honestly the guilt of mankind and the pure grace of God. "A cloak of covetousness" would, of course, be a nice appearance that covers a covetous character. The Thessalonians knew this was not true of these servants of God, and God was witness.

From men they sought no advantage, whether from the Thessalonians or from any others, though as being sent of Christ they may have been entitled to the support of those who had been spiritually blessed through them.

In these verses (4,5,6) there are again three distinctions: the first connected with faith, the second with love, the third with hope. The following three verses also in a positive way deal similarly.

The bold, energetic zeal of the apostle we may not easily connect with gentleness, but this is a side of his character that the Thessalonians knew well. It was not merely his habit to declare the truth, but to care for souls as a nurse her children.

But beyond this their affection for the Thessalonians was such that they were willing not only to give them the gospel freely, but to pour out their whole soul for them. Not thus could he speak to the Galatians, nor to the Corinthians, for in each case there is some reservation of soul demanded by the fact of their evident reservations as regards the truth itself. How can the Lord's servant be free in his spirit with those who compromise the truth of his Master? But our verse shows the tender pastor's heart of the apostle, and Timothy was likeminded (Philippians 3:19-20), while Silas also is included in the "we".

Verse 9. The character of these servants is also beautifully seen in the fact of the incessant "labor and travail" in which they engaged in order that they would not be dependent on any of the Thessalonians for their support. To do this, and to spend much time in preaching also, was wonderful evidence of the precious effect of the truth of God upon themselves and it wrought effectually upon their hearers. That some of them afterward would desist from working (2 Thessalonians 3:11) is a strange contradiction, but shows that the truth can be accepted while its evident effects may be ignored.

Observe in verse 10 again the solemn appeal (as in verse 5) to their own knowledge and the witness of God. Precious it is that a servant of God can honorably do this, as we see with Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:3-5. Now three features of their behavior are pressed upon us: "holily," which is Godward; "justly," manward; and "unblameably," selfward. Men will commonly ignore the first, which is most important of all, and will justify personal evil by claiming that they harm no one but themselves, so that it leaves only one's relationship with others to be really considered. But the child of God must ignore none of these spheres of responsibility if there is to be wholesome, substantial, dependable behavior.

Verse 11. Exhorting would be the stirring up of faith; comforting, the binding up of love; and charging, the strengthening of hope, as in the charge of the Lord Jesus to His servants, "Occupy till I come." (Luke 19:13) This three­fold ministry was necessary in order that they might "walk worthy of God" - the triune God, who had called them "unto His kingdom and glory." In Ephesians the calling of God is greatly emphasized, and saints exhorted to "walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called" (Ephesians 4:1); that is, heavenly in contrast to Israel's earthly calling. Colossians 1:10 speaks of walking "worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing"; that is, as subject to His authority in a pathway through a world of testing. But here it is God Himself of whom they are to walk worthy. Yet He has called them unto His kingdom and glory." This is, of course, future, the object of their hope, while in Ephesians the calling involves present heavenly blessings and heavenly position.

Verse 13 shows us the vital secret of the fullness of blessing found at Thessalonica. It filled the hearts of the laborers with unceasing thanksgiving to God that these newborn souls received the Word of God as no mere attractive religion of men, but as directly from God. They were therefore no mere followers of men, though affected greatly by the example of their teachers as subject themselves to that Word which laid hold of their hearts. Paul, Silas and Timothy were not required to remain long enough to thoroughly indoctrinate these disciples as is necessary in the case of false religions; but the Word of God effectually working in them would both teach and preserve them, enabling them to stand with firmest decision and energy of faith. What power indeed in that Word!

Verse 14. In the same sense that they had become followers of the apostles, so had they become followers of the assemblies in Judea. For the same blessed cause they had suffered similarly. Those by nature linked with the Thessalonians were their persecutors, just as the Jews persecuted their own brethren who stood for the Lord Jesus. Indeed it was they who killed their own Messiah, as well as many prophets whose true witness of theLord Jesus had been so hated; they had driven out by persecution Paul and others of their own nation. Certainly this was not pleasing God, no matter how zealous for God they professed to be; it was "contrary to all men," or "against all men," for it was against the proper interests of all mankind. Many might agree with them, but it was yet to the actual detriment of them all.

Their intense sectarian hatred too is seen in their forbidding the apostles to speak to Gentiles. We may ask, what did this have to do with them? They had themselves rejected Jesus as an imposter. If the Gentiles, whom they despised, received Him, why did they not gloat over the fact of Gentiles being exposed to what they considered gross deception? Were they afraid, though they hated Christ, that this might not be deception after all, and therefore were really fighting their own badly troubled conscience? But this kind of enmity was the filling up of their sins for which the wrath of God must come upon them, and from that time until now the history of wrath against them has been awesome and emblazoned before the world, soon to culminate in the Great Tribulation.

The apostle does not minimize the enmity, but shows clearly the forces of evil at work - not to discourage saints, but to show that however great the opposition, the grace of God had, and would, enable a true overcoming, strengthening the saints by it in solid, serious, real testimony to the glory of the Lord Jesus. How precious and wonderful the power of God over all the powers of evil!

Verse 17. While the Spirit of God had used Paul's absence for the good of the Thessalonian saints to strengthen them to stand without his help, yet his heart was greatly with them, and he had evidently sought opportunity to return "with great desire." Here was indeed the heart of a true shepherd, concerned for the state of the flock and yet hindered from his yearning desire to come to them again. In verse 18 he says "even I Paul," because as a matter of fact Timothy was able to visit them before this time, as is seen in ch. 3:1,2. But Paul and Silas were hindered by Satan. What form this resistance took we are not told, but Satan's malignancy against the truth wanted no strengthening of an already devoted assembly. Still, we know God overrules Satan and will permit nothing except as He is able to produce good from it.

In verse 19 three precious things are again mentioned which deeply moved the apostle's concern for them, for they themselves (in common no doubt with others who had been converted through the labors of these men) were able to be a crowning joy to them at the coming of the Lord. We may say, is it not the Lord Himself who is to be "our hope, or joy or crown of rejoicing?" No doubt this is true, yet He so delights to identify Himself with His saints that the apostle's heart cannot but expand with joy in the fact of the Lord's joy in having all His own in His presence, and of course the fruits of the labor of the apostle will there be fully displayed. Not that it was his labors that he was thinking of, but of them in whose blessing he delighted. They were his glory and joy. Indeed the heart of his Master is reflected in this - He who shall see of the fruit of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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