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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
1 Thessalonians 2

 

 

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Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 2:1. Was not in vain:—This may be rendered, was not vain. Dr. Heylin translates it, was not without success.


Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 2:2. With much contention,— Because of the opposition exerted against us by the perverse and unbelieving Jews. Acts 17:1-9. Dr. Heylin reads, even under great difficulties.


Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 2:3. For our exhortation was not of deceit, For our doctrine was not erroneous, nor impure, nor such as could seduce you.


Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 2:4. But, as we were allowed, &c.— But as we have been approved of God to be intrusted, &c.


Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 2:6. When we might have been burdensome, The Apostle particularly refers to the right he had of being maintained at their charge. See 1 Thessalonians 2:9. 2 Corinthians 11:9. 1 Timothy 5:18, and 1 Corinthians 9. Vitringa, however, would render it, when we could have taken much [authority] upon us.


Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 2:7. But we were gentle, &c.— "We not only gave up our own just rights, but considered you as our children, and cherished you in your infant state as a hen cherisheth her brood under her wings, or as a tender and affectionate mother nurseth her own helpless infant." Dr. Heylin renders the verse, We treated you with the tenderness and condescension of the nursing mother cherishing her children.


Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 2:9. For, labouring night and day, &c.— What an instance of goodness and benevolence to mankind! to labour for bread with his own hands, while he spent his time in teaching all who would learn truths of the greatest importance,—how to live holily, die cheerfully, and be happy for ever!


Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 2:12. That ye would walk worthy of God, How much does the Apostle insist upon holiness of heart and life in all professed Christians! He urged the converted heathens to piety, purity, and virtue, from the example of the true God, in whom they now believed, Colossians 1:10 and by the great favour which was shewn them in their being received into the Christian church, Ephesians 4:1 by that purity which the gospel in general requires, Romans 8:1; Romans 8:39 and, more particularly, by the life and example of our Lord and Saviour; by his death and resurrection, by his ascension and authority, and by the prospect of his coming to judgment at the last day, as well as of their enjoying an endless life of holiness and happiness in his glorious kingdom. See 1 Corinthians 11:1. Hebrews 12:2-3.


Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 2:13. But as it is in truth, the word of God, That the doctrine was from God, and the apostles only as heralds, messengers, and ambassadors from God, to publish it among men, appears from comparing ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 and 1 Thessalonians 4:8. Matthew 10:40. Galatians 4:14. 2 Peter 3:2. Where-ever it is thus esteemed, the gospel must necessarily have a great influence; where there is a thorough and full conviction that the apostles of our Lord and Saviour were employed by heaven, and that the doctrine itself is nothingless than a message from the God of strict truth, unspotted holiness, unerring wisdom, and overflowing goodness; no wonder that it should, when accompanied by divine grace, influence such as considered it in this view, readily to renounce their false religions, to lay aside their prejudices and prepossessions, to embrace it, and live upon its principles, and to forego all temporal things whatever, on the faith of so well attested a religion, and so glorious a prospect.


Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 2:14.— Having before commended them for their ready and cheerful reception of the gospel, and hinted at their resolution in suffering for the cause, he goes on to commend them for their patience and fortitude, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and then again expresses his great affection for the Thessalonians, and his earnest desire to make them another visit; which he assures them he had more than once attempted; but Satan had always hindered him: by which vehement expression he again obliquely reflects on the unbelieving Jews, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20. St. Paul probably calls the Christian churches in Judea, churches in Christ Jesus, to distinguish them from the Jewish churches, or the synagoguesin Judea, as well as to intimate that all the members of Christ's true church are one in him. As to the patience and fortitude of the Christian churches there, see Acts 12 and Hebrews 10:32-34. How these Thessalonians imitated them, see ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:6. Acts 17:5. &c. The Jews of Jerusalem had desired Pilate, a Gentile, to crucify our Lord; the Jews of Thessalonica had exasperated the Gentiles, and even the governors of that city, to persecute his apostle and disciples. From the representation both of the history of the Acts, and the Apostolic Epistles, as well as from other ancient writings, it appears, that most of the primitive persecutions proceeded from the malice and opposition of the unbelieving Jews.


Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 2:15. Who both killed, &c.— Who have both killed the Lord Jesus, and the, or his prophets. Mill, and Wetstein. Not only heathen authors have given the Jews the character of being an obstinate, prejudiced people, contrary to all men; but even their own prophet, Ezekiel, (ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:4-9, 1 Thessalonians 5:6.) and Josephus, their own historia


Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 2:16. Forbidding us to speak Or, hindering us from speaking. Their filling up the measure of their sins, was by murdering our Lord Jesus Christ, and persecuting his disciples. This most grievous sin was, in a manner, uniting all the guilt of mankind in one act of disobedience; and therefore it was to be punished with a most grievous and exemplary punishment; as if all the temporary punishments of sinners had been deferred till then, and were to have been collected, in order to fall upon their heads with the greater vengeance. The next clause might be rendered, more properly, For perfect wrath, or complete and durable vengeance, is coming upon them. It is true, a judicial blindness had seized them; but the remarkable destruction was approaching, prophesied of, Daniel 9:27. Matthew 24. They returned from their former captivities; but extreme vengeance, a lasting divine judgment, has befallen them, since their crucifixion of the Lord of Life. Above 1700 years have they been dispersed among the nations, and Jerusalem is still trodden under foot of the Gentiles; and shall be so, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. The destruction here referred to, was drawing nigh when the Apostle wrote this Epistle, and actually happened within twenty years after; and it may be observed, that, in consequence of this destruction, the Jews suffered the divine vengeance in various other partsof the earth; particularly under Trajan, 460,000 of them were destroyed in Egypt and Cyprus; and under Adrian 580,000.


Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 2:17. Being taken from you The original word is very emphatical;— απορφανισθεντες . It is an allusion to that grief, anxiety, and reluctance of heart with which dying parents take farewell of their children, when they are just going to leave them helpless orphans, exposed to the injuries of the world; or that sorrow of heart with whichpoor destitute orphans close the eyes of their dying parents. The Apostle, by this metaphor, in a very lively and tender manner, expresses the concern and reluctance wherewith he had parted from his young converts at Thessalonica; being violently driven away from them by the unbelieving Jews; compelled to leave these his spiritual children amid the most restless and malicious enemies, without the guidance, defence, and support of their father in the gospel. Acts 17:5; Acts 17:10. The original, rendered, for a short time, signifies literally, for an hour's time; which is a figurative expression. It was several years before the Apostle returned to them; but his mind was full of the ideas of eternity, which annihilated, as it were, any period of mortal life.


Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 2:18. But Satan hindered us. When the Hebrews would express any thing remarkably great, they add the name of God to it; so they call great mountains, the mountains of God,—and the like: and thus, when they describe the most wicked men, they call them the ministers, servants, and children of Satan, and sometimes Satan himself; because they imitate and comply with the temptations of that wicked spirit who is at the head of all apostacy from God, and the most remarkable enemy in the universe to truth and goodness. The unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica, as the instruments of Satan, were the persons intended; and indeed the sense of their extreme malice seems to have dwelt strongly on the Apostle's mind during the writing of this whole Epistle.


Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 2:20. For ye are our glory and joy. The Apostle expected to know the Thessalonians again at the day of judgment, and in the other world; and rejoiced in the hope of meeting them among the holy and glorified in that day, especially as he had been so instrumental toward their conversion. Hence we may expect to know our friends in another world; but then, all temporal consanguinity and relation shall cease, and we shall rejoice in each other there in proportion to the degrees of grace and glory, and as we have here mutually contributed to promote each other's knowledge and divine love, piety and virtue. When this animal nature, and those affections and qualities suited to this animal state and terrestrial life, shall be put off, and we shall have qualities and affections fit only for an intellectual state, we shall then see things in a different light, and our relish will be wholly spiritual; for whererational enjoyments are in their higher perfection, rational beings, who have the true taste, will value each other in an exact proportion to their purity and perfection, knowledge, love, and holiness. What a glorious motive ought this to be to us, as it was here to St. Paul, to cultivate in ourselves, and to promote in all our friends and acquaintance divine knowledge, holiness, and virtue, goodness, and heavenly love! This will leave lasting and happy effects, when all earthly relations will be over; and be a pleasurable reflection to us and them many thousand ages hence.

Inferences.—Surely it is not possible to conceive, from any thing but the example of the great Shepherd of the sheep, a more amiable idea of the character of a gospel minister, than that which is here exhibited. With what a frankness and openness of soul does the Apostle appeal to their consciences, as to the integrity and benevolence of his behaviour among them, while, unterrified by all the indignities and inhumanities that he had met with at Philippi, he immediately renewed the same combat at Thessalonica, and contended boldly with all the enemies of the gospel, not esteeming his liberty, or his life, on an occasion of so great importance.

With such courage let the ministers of Christ face all danger and oppositions: with such simplicity of heart let them deliver their important message; not with deceit, uncleanness, or guile, but as those who remember that they have been put in trust with the gospel by God himself, and therefore must be solicitous not to please men, but God, who trieth the heart. And may they ever be superior to those views of avarice, ambition, or popular applause, which would lead them to sacrifice truth to the affection or favour of men, or even to the fear of being thought to do it. And let them, with all this intrepidity and firmness of soul, put on a gentleness and sweetness of disposition—a gentleness like that with which a nurse cherishes her children. While their people, like new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:2.), let ministers draw forth that precious nourishment to them, as imparting even their own souls unto them, and willing to wear out, or, if such should be the will of God, to sacrifice their lives in such a service.

Let them particularly endeavour, by all prudent care, suitable to the circumstances in which God has fixed them, not to make themselves burthensome to the people in temporal things, nor, under the pretence of a Divine mission, to tyrannize over their consciences; but behave with such integrity and such sanctity, that they may be able cheerfully to appeal to God as a witness of it, and may also have a testimony in the breast of each of their flock. And O that the entrance of such ministers among their people, and their labours with them, may not be in vain; but that the blessed consequence of all the charges, entreaties, and consolations which they are addressing to them, may be this—that they may walk worthy of God, worthy of that kingdom and glory, to the views and blessings of which he has condescended to call them! Then will all the fatigues of their office sit lightly upon them, while they see the blessed purposes of it answered. Then will they finish their course with joy, and bless God with their dying breath, that he ever called them to so great, so important a work.

Again. May Divine grace teach our souls ever to distinguish between the authority of the word of men and the word of God; that we may always set them at a due distance from each other, and may feel the peculiar energy of the Divine Word, with which it operates in all them that believe! May we experience this, whatever be the consequences, yea, though we should be exposed to sufferings, severe as those which Jews or Heathens at first inflicted on the professors, or even on the preachers of the gospel! Adored be that power of Divine Grace which went along with it, so that when the envious disciples of Moses, after having slain the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as their own prophets, forbad his messengers to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, these faithful ambassadors of health and life feared none of their threatenings, or cruelties, but courageously declared the matter as it was, testifying, both to Jews and Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ! Acts 20:21.

The Jews, in the mean time, filled up the measure of their sins, till wrath came upon them to the uttermost: and so will all the opposition which is made to the gospel end to those who are implacable and obstinate in it. They who believe not that Christ is He, shall die in their sins. Whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder. (John 8:24. Matthew 21:44.)

Therefore, let the ministers of Christ, however Satan may attempt to hinder them, go on faithfully and courageously in their work, and watch over the souls which they have instrumentally converted. When absent from them in body, let them not be absent in heart; but let them be thinking of their state, and often caring and praying for them: for what will be their hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord?—even those faithful saints, who are converted to God by the instrumentality of their labours, or are trained up by them in the ways of holiness, and prove faithful unto death. May all those ministers, who serve God with their spirit in the gospel of his Son, have many such spiritual children: and, in the views of their increasing piety, may they daily anticipate the glory and the joy with which they hope at last to deliver them to their Divine Master!

REFLECTIONS.—1st. The Apostle reminds the Thessalonians,

1. Of his manner of preaching among them. For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain, with great swelling words of vanity, or empty ineffectual harangues, but with the power of the gospel, and the mighty word of truth. But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, undismayed at the persecutions which we had endured, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention, as in an agony labouring after your conversion, amidst all the opposition that we had to encounter. For our exhortation was not of deceit, we broached no false doctrine, nor had any intention to deceive; nor of uncleanness, but tending to discourage all manner of impurity; nor in guile, for we spoke the truth from the heart; but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, and had this honour conferred upon us to be appointed his ambassadors, even so we speak, under a sense of the weighty charge committed to us; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts, to whom we study, to approve ourselves in simplicity and godly sincerity: for neither at any time used we flattering words, in order to insinuate and ingratiate ourselves into your confidence, or to encourage you with the least imagination of impunity in your sins, as ye know; nor did we put on a cloak of religion, to conceal designs of covetousness, in order to make an advantage of you; God is witness to the uprightness of our hearts respecting you. Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, desiring human applause, or esteem, when we might have been burdensome, and demanded our maintenance of you, as the apostles of Christ.

2. Of his conduct and conversation among them. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children, with the greatest tenderness: so being affectionately desirous of you, of your happiness and salvation, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, ready to spend and be spent in the service of your faith, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, with our own hands, to earn our maintenance, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God freely. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe, conscientiously discharging every duty of religion towards God, and of righteousness towards men: as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, with the affection and authority of the kindest parent, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory, to the blessings of his grace in time, and of his glory in eternity; and will bestow them upon you, if you perseveringly cleave to the Son of his Love. Note; (1.) They can speak boldly who can appeal to their own conduct for the example of what they teach. (2.) The more love and tenderness accompanies our exhortations, the more effectual are they likely to prove.

2nd, The Apostle proceeds,

1. To thank God for their ready reception of the gospel word. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, which may be fallacious, or at best of uncertain authority, but as it is, in truth, the word of God, and, as such, deserving the deepest reverence and obedience; which effectually worketh also in you that believe, producing the most blessed consequences, and carrying with it the evidence of its divine original. Note; (1.) Though the treasure of God's word is committed to earthen vessels, its excellence is not therefore the less: and we must remember not so much who dispenses it, as whose word it is, that with reverence and godly fear we may hear and obey. (2.) Wherever the gospel is received into the heart, it works effectually to the present salvation of the soul, casting the whole man into its blessed mould.

2. They were honoured with the cross, and bore it most exemplarily. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God, which in Judea are in Christ Jesus; for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews, and sustained the shock of persecution with the same unshaken fortitude and unwearied patience.

3. He mentions with horror the dreadful guilt and rooted enmity of the Jewish zealots, his and their chief opponents, who both killed the Lord Jesus, with the most atrocious wickedness imbruing their hands in his sacred blood, and murdered their own prophets, and have with the utmost violence persecuted us his apostles; and they please not God, though they flatter themselves that they are his only favourites; they act in direct opposition to his will, and are contrary to all men, abhorring both Gentiles and Christians, and filled with implacable malice against those who use any means for the conversion of the Heathen to Christ; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles the gospel of God's grace, that they might be saved, to fill up the measure of their sins alway, and to hasten the full vials of God's vengeance upon their devoted heads: for the wrath is come upon them, and hath begun to seize them in their rejection of God, and will be poured out to the uttermost, or to the end, in the entire destruction of their city, nation, and temple, and in the eternal perdition of the impenitent. Note; When the sinner's iniquities are at the full, then wrath cometh to the uttermost.

3rdly, The Apostle,

1. Excuses his absence, which was not voluntary, but through unavoidable hindrances. But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time, in presence, not in heart, and obliged reluctantly to leave you as helpless orphans, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire, longing to converse with you, and build up your souls on the true foundation. Wherefore we would have come unto you, (even I Paul,) once and again, and made efforts for that purpose; but Satan hindered us, sowing such dissentions and raising such difficulties as made our abode in these parts, where we now are, absolutely necessary. Note; We have a busy enemy, who is ever seeking to lay obstacles in our way. We need therefore to watch against his devices, and to resist his wiles.

2. He assures them of his high affection and regard for them. For what is our hope in our labours, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? what revives, animates, and comforts our souls under all our work and sufferings? are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? Yes, verily, For ye are our glory and joy; while, looking forward to the great day of Christ's appearing, we confidently hope to present you before him as the happy fruits of our labour, to your eternal blessedness, and to our own immortal honour.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1801-1803.

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
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