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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Thessalonians 2

 

 


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Verse 1-2

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2. Yourselves, brethren, know, &c. — What was proposed chap. 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6, is now more largely treated of; concerning Paul and his fellow- labourers, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 : concerning the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. Our entrance in unto you — With what demonstration of a divine agency it was attended; that it was not in vain — Or without success, as Dr. Heylin reads; but was attended with most important consequences and effects, which will be everlasting. The original expression, however, ου κενη γεγονεν, is rendered by Dr. Waterland, was not vain; and by Dr. Macknight, was not false, or destitute of truth, judging the apostle’s meaning to be, “that his entrance among the Thessalonians was not the entrance of a deceiver, who, with a view to draw money from his hearers, or to acquire power, or to live in pleasure among them, told them stories which he himself knew to be false. To this interpretation, the reason assigned in the following verse agrees: his sufferings for the gospel being the strongest proof that he himself believed it; whereas, of his not having preached in vain to the Thessalonians his sufferings were no proof. Besides, if the apostle had meant to say that his entrance was not in vain, the expression would have been εις κενον, as in Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 3:5.” But after we had suffered — In several places; and were shamefully entreated at Philippi — Being there stripped and scourged by the common beadle, and thrust into prison, where our feet were made fast in the stocks. Scourging with rods was a punishment so ignominious, that the Portian law, among the Romans, forbade it to be inflicted on any Roman citizen. We were bold — Notwithstanding; in our God — Trusting in his assistance; to speak unto you the gospel — Though we are forced to do it with much contention — Meeting with much opposition, or in the midst of inward and outward conflicts of all kinds.


Verses 3-6

1 Thessalonians 2:3-6. For our exhortation — That is, our preaching, a part being put for the whole; was not of deceit — With a design to seduce or corrupt any one by false doctrine; or, we preach not a lie, but the truth of God; nor of uncleanness — Tending to encourage men in their impure course of life; nor in guile — To procure esteem or any worldly advantage to ourselves, under pretence of aiming at the glory of God. In this verse, and in those that follow to 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “the apostle delineates his own character, and the character of his assistants as teachers, on purpose to make the Thessalonians sensible that they had nothing in common with impostors, who are always found to use the mean, vicious practices, which the Christian teachers in this passage disclaimed.” But as we were allowed δεδοκιμασμεθα, were approved, of God; to be intrusted with the gospel — That most invaluable treasure; even so we speak — That is, preach; not as pleasing men — After the manner of impostors, accommodating our doctrine to their tastes and prejudices; but God, who trieth our hearts — It is our constant endeavour to secure his approbation. And what stronger proof can be given of our not preaching with guile? Neither used we flattering words — To insinuate ourselves into your affections: this ye know; nor a cloak of covetousness — A pretence of piety to promote the schemes of covetousness; of this God is witness. Macknight reads, with a cloak over covetousness; justly observing, that covetousness is never used as a cloak to cover any thing, but needs a cover to conceal itself. The apostle calls men to witness an open fact; God, the secret intentions of the heart: in a point of a mixed nature, (1 Thessalonians 2:10,) he appeals both to God and man. Flattery and covetousness were vices to which the teachers of philosophy, in ancient times, were remarkably addicted. And they are vices which, more or less, enter into the character of all impostors, who, as the apostle observes, (Romans 16:18,) by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Nor — Instead of seeking to acquire power or riches by preaching; of men sought we glory — That is, popularity, honour, and applause; neither of you, nor yet of others — Among whom we laboured and conversed. Nay, we did not seek so much as the respect of a suitable maintenance; when we might have been burdensome — That is, might have claimed support; as the apostles of Christ — Who had authorized us to take from our hearers what was necessary for our subsistence, but we maintained ourselves by the labour of our own hands. He refers to the right they had of being maintained at the charge of those to whom they ministered. See 1 Corinthians 9:6-14; 1 Timothy 5:18. But he was acting now on the same maxims at Corinth, (from whence he wrote this epistle,) by which he had governed himself at Thessalonica. See Acts 18:3.


Verse 7-8

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. But we were gentle — Mild, tender; among εν μεσω υμων, in the midst of, you — Like a hen surrounded with her young; even as a nurse — A mother who suckles her own offspring, as the word τροφος here signifies; cherisheth her children — The offspring of her own womb, warming them in her bosom, and feeding them with her milk. So being affectionately desirous of you ουτως ιμειρομενοι υμων, being tenderly affectionate toward you; or loving you tenderly; a beautiful poetical expression, as Blackwall observes, signifying the most passionate desire: we were willing to have imparted not the gospel only, but our own souls — Or lives, rather. Chandler observes, that “the apostle here considers the Thessalonians as in the infancy of their conversion; himself as the tender mother who nursed them; the gospel as the milk with which he fed them; and his very soul, or life, as what he was willing to part with for their preservation. Could the fondest mother carry her affection for her helpless infant further?” He adds, “Nothing can exceed the elegance, the strength, and the moving affection of this description! A man must have no bowels, who does not find them moved by so fine, so lively, and warm a scene.”


Verses 9-12

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12. Ye remember, brethren, our labour — In the ministerial work; and travail ΄οχθον, toil, in our secular employment; for labouring night and day, &c. — It seems they often took from the rest of the night the hours which during the day they had spent in the exercise of their ministry: because we would not be chargeable — But might be able to maintain ourselves. The apostle often appealed to this proof of his disinterestedness. Indeed, in preaching the gospel, he had no view but to promote the glory of God, and the salvation of mankind. Ye are witnesses — For our conduct was well known to you; and God also — Who observes our most secret actions, desires, and designs; how holily — Toward God, and in the things respecting his worship and service; and justly — With regard to men; and unblameably — In respect of ourselves; we behaved ourselves among you that believe — Who were the constant observers of our behaviour. As ye know how — With what earnestness, and diligence, and importunity; we exhorted, comforted, and charged every one of you — As far as God gave us access to you. By exhorting, we are moved to do a thing willingly; by comforting, to do it joyfully; by charging, to do it carefully. As a father doth his children — The apostle (1 Thessalonians 2:7) compared the gentleness with which he behaved toward the Thessalonian believers to the tenderness of a nursing mother toward her sucking children. Here he compares the affection and earnestness with which he recommended holiness to them, to the affection and earnestness of a pious father, who exhorts his own children. That ye would walk worthy of God — Conduct yourselves in such a manner as becomes those who know God, and profess to believe in, love, and serve him, and in a manner suitable to the relation in which it is your happiness to stand to him; who hath called you — By his gospel and his grace; unto his kingdom here, and glory hereafter.


Verses 13-16

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16. For this cause — Or, on this account also; thank we God without ceasing — See on 1 Thessalonians 1:2; that is, we not only thank him that we have been enabled to conduct ourselves, and to discharge our duty, in the manner above described, but that, when ye received the word of God which ye heard, &c. — Greek, λογον ακοης του θεου, literally, the word of hearing of God; the word which God hath appointed to be heard through our preaching. Accordingly, the same expression, λογον ακοης, (Hebrews 4:2,) is rendered by our translators, the word preached. But Dr. Chandler thinks the clause should be rendered, the word of report concerning God; supposing it to be an allusion to Isaiah 53:1, Who hath. believed, τη ακοη ημων, our report? Ye received it not as the word of men — As a mere human invention, or a doctrine framed by the wisdom of men; but as it is in truth, the word of God himself — Of which there is this further proof, that it worketh effectually in you that believe — Producing such a change in your hearts and lives as abundantly attests its divine original. Wherever the gospel is thus received — where there is a full conviction that it is nothing less than a message from Jehovah himself, a Being of infallible truth, unspotted holiness, unerring wisdom, and overflowing goodness — it is no wonder that it should produce the effect here ascribed to it. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches in Judea — Imitators of their courage and constancy in suffering for the truth, as being influenced by the same Spirit which animated and supported them, though you had not been eye-witnesses of their example: for ye suffered like things of your own countrymen — Ye have been calumniated, imprisoned, and spoiled of your goods; even as they suffered from the Jews — Their countrymen. The same fruit, the same afflictions, and the same experience, at all times, and in all places, are an excellent criterion of evangelical truth. Who both killed the Lord Jesus — Their own Messiah; and — Before him; their own prophets — Who foretold his appearance; and whom God, in many distant ages of their commonwealth, raised up unto them. The expression, their own prophets, is emphatical; and denotes that the Jews acknowledged the prophets whom they killed to be prophets really sent of God. So remarkable were the Jews for persecuting the prophets, that Stephen challenged the council to show so much as one whom their fathers had not persecuted, Acts 7:52. And have persecuted us — Apostles and preachers of the gospel; and they please not God — Though they pretend to be so well acquainted with him and his will, and boast so much of their interest in him; nay, they are not concerned to please him, notwithstanding their fair professions; and are contrary to all men — Are common enemies of all mankind; full of contempt and malignity against all other nations, and behaving toward them in the most perverse and unfriendly manner. The hatred which the Jews bore to all the heathen, without exception, was taken notice of by Tacitus and Juvenal, and even by Josephus. It was directly contrary to the law of Moses, which, in the strongest terms, recommended humanity to strangers; but arose probably from their not understanding rightly the intention of the precepts of their law, which were given to prevent them from having familiar intercourse with idolaters, lest they should be induced to imitate them in their practices. Forbidding us — The apostles and messengers of God; to speak to the Gentiles — That is, to preach the gospel to them, as we are expressly commanded of God to do; that they might be saved — In which respect especially they show themselves to be the enemies of mankind, opposing their present and everlasting salvation; to fill up, &c. — So that, instead of pleasing God, they fill up the measure of their sins always — As they have ever done: but the wrath — The vengeance of God; is come upon them — Is about to overtake them unawares, while they are seeking to destroy others. Or, God has begun to punish them, and will speedily complete their destruction. The word εφθασε, here rendered is come, being in the past time, properly signifies hath come. But, as Macknight observes, the past time is here put for the present, or rather for the future, as is plain from this, that the wrath of God had not yet fallen on the Jewish nation in the full sense here expressed. The apostle only speaks of their punishment as at hand, being taught either by Christ’s prediction, or by a peculiar revelation made to himself. The original expression, εις τελος, rendered here to the uttermost, was understood, by the ancient commentators, as signifying that the wrath of God was coming upon the Jews, not for a few years, but for a long duration, even for many generations: which has accordingly come to pass. To render the expression as our translators have done, to the uttermost, is certainly not quite proper. For, though the calamities brought on the Jews by the Romans were very great, they did not utterly destroy them. According to God’s promise, that he never would make a full end of the Jews, a remnant of them was left; and in the posterity of that remnant, now multiplied to a great number, the promises concerning the conversion and restoration of Israel will be fulfilled. It may not be improper to observe here, that in the dreadful calamities brought on the Jewish nation for killing their Messiah, and opposing his gospel, we have an example and proof of the manner in which all obstinate opposition to the gospel will end.


Verses 17-20

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. But we, brethren, &c. — In this verse we have a remarkable instance, not so much of the transient affections of holy grief, desire, or joy, as of that abiding tenderness, that loving temper, which is so apparent in all St. Paul’s writings toward those he styles his children in the faith. This is the more carefully to be observed, because the passions occasionally exercising themselves, and flowing like a torrent, in the apostle, are observable to every reader; whereas it requires a nicer attention to discern those calm, standing tempers, that fixed posture of his soul, from whence the others only flow out, and which more peculiarly distinguish his character. Being taken from you — Greek, απορφανισθεντες, separated from you. The expression is commonly applied to children who are deprived of their parents: here, as the apostle, under God, was the spiritual father of the believers in Thessalonica, it is used in allusion to parents who are deprived of their children: for a short time προς καιρον ωρας, for an hour’s time; that is, for a very little season. Perhaps the apostle meant, that when he fled from Thessalonica to Berea, he proposed to be absent only a few days, till the rage of the Jews was abated; after which he intended to return. Accordingly he tells them, he the more earnestly, on that account, endeavoured to return, and actually made two attempts for that purpose. But the coming of the Jews from Thessalonica, to stir up the people in Berea against him, frustrated his design, and obliged him to leave Macedonia. We would have come (even I, Paul,) once and again, &c. — This parenthesis, Macknight thinks, shows, that what follows is to be understood of Paul alone, though he continues to use the plural form of expression; and that therefore in other passages, where he uses the plural number, he may be speaking of himself only. But Satan hindered us — By the persecuting Jews. Because the devil employs himself continually in obstructing the good purposes, endeavours, and actions of mankind, and is the chief enemy of God and man, he hath the name of Satan, or adversary, given him by way of eminence. And they who assist him in his malicious attempts are called ministers of Satan, 2 Corinthians 11:15. The persecution raised against the apostle and his fellow-labourers, in Berea, is here ascribed to Satan, to teach us that persecution for conscience’ sake is the genuine work of the devil. For what is our hope — The source of my hope; or joy — That wherein I take comfort; or crown of rejoicing? — The honour of my ministry, and the chief cause of my rejoicing. Are not even ye — As well as our other children; in the presence of our Lord — When I shall behold you, at the last day, owned of him, and made happy by him. “In this passage, the apostle compares the return of Christ to heaven, after the judgment, to the solemnity of a triumph, in which the apostle himself is to appear crowned in token of his victory over the false religions of the world, and over the abetters of those religions,” as well as over the errors and vices of mankind, and all the enemies of God and his people, visible and invisible; “and attended by his converts, who are, in that manner, to honour him as their spiritual father.” And because these converts were the fruits of his preaching, and the evidences of the success of his labours, and therefore one grand “cause of his being thus crowned, they are, by a beautiful figure of speech, called his crown of glorying.” That some peculiar honour or reward will be conferred on them who have been instrumental in the conversion of sinners, is evident from Daniel 12:3. For ye are our glory and joy — The manner in which the apostle here speaks of the Thessalonians, “shows that he expected to know his converts at the day of judgment. If so, we may hope to know our relations and friends then. And as there is no reason to think that in the future life we shall lose those natural and social affections which constitute so great a part of our present enjoyment, may we not expect that these affections, purified from every thing animal and terrestrial, will be a source of our happiness in that life likewise? It must be remembered, however, that in the other world we shall love one another not so much on account of the relation and friendship which formerly subsisted between us, as on account of the knowledge and virtue which we possess. For among rational beings, whose affections will all be suited to the high state of moral and intellectual perfection to which they shall be raised, the most endearing relations and warmest friendships will be those which are formed on excellence of character. What a powerful consideration this to excite us to cultivate, in our relations and friends, the noble and lasting qualities of knowledge and virtue, which will prove such a source of happiness to them and to us through the endless ages of eternity!” — Macknight.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1857.

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Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
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