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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament
1 Thessalonians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Observe here, how our apostle did and durst appeal to the Thessalonians themselves, as touching the sincerity and success of his public ministry among them:

Ye yourselves know. It is not sufficient to a minister's comfort, that he be well reported of amongst strangers, for his zeal and diligence, for his sincerity and faithfulness, unless he can and dare appeal to the consciences of his own people, and call them to vouch and bear witness to his integrity: Ye yourselves know that our entrance in unto you, was not in vain.

Our entrance in unto you; that is, our first preaching amongst you, was not in vain; that is, say some, it was not in vain in the matter, we did not preach about vain, useless and unprofitable niceties and speculations; but our preaching was substantial, sound and solid: It was not vain in the manner, say others; it was not undertaken rashly, and without a call, nor managed in a slight and vain manner; but the word in vain here, seems to point at these two things;

1. That it did not want power and energy, but had the demonstration of divine assistance to confirm them in the faith that heard it, and also those that preached it, in expectation of success.

2. It was not in vain; that is, it did not want fruit, it was not without a great and gracious success: For the word vain, when it is applied to the message which the ministers of God bring, signifies the not accomplishing the great ends for which it was designed. The word that goeth out of my mouth, shall not return unto me in vain Isaiah 55:11, but prosper, &c.

Hence learn, that where a minister is regularly called to, and faihfully discharges his duty amongst a people, both by public preaching and private instruction, his labours seldom if ever, want fruit, in some degree or measure, either sooner or later, either manifest or secret, either for conversion or edification.

We have the promise of Christ's presence with us, Matthew 28:20. And if the fault be not ours, we shall certainly experience it; both the presence of his power to strengthen us, and the presence of his gracious Spirit to succeed us. Possibly we do not see any visible success at present; but this may comfort us, there is more good done by the ministry of the word, than we are aware of; and if we reap not the fruit of the seed we sow, they who come after us may; but if neither they nor we reap fruit, our ministry shall not be in vain, with reference to ourselves; yet shall we be glorious, though Israel be not gathered.

But, O! that our people might share in that glory with us, and also shine as the stars, for ever and ever! God grant we may never be called forth by Christ to give a judicial testimony against any of them at the bar of God, for not believing our report.

Observe here, how our apostle did and durst appeal to the Thessalonians themselves, as touching the sincerity and success of his public ministry among them: Ye yourselves know. It is not sufficient to a minister's comfort, that he be well reported of amongst strangers, for his zeal and diligence, for his sincerity and faithfulness, unless he can and dare appeal to the consciences of his own people, and call them to vouch and bear witness to his integrity: Ye yourselves know that our entrance in unto you, was not in vain. Our entrance in unto you; that is, our first preaching amongst you, was not in vain; that is, say some, it was not in vain in the matter, we did not preach about vain, useless and unprofitable niceties and speculations; but our preaching was substantial, sound and solid: It was not vain in the manner, say others; it was not undertaken rashly, and without a call, nor managed in a slight and vain manner; but the word in vain here, seems to point at these two things; 1. That it did not want power and energy, but had the demonstration of divine assistance to confirm them in the faith that heard it, and also those that preached it, in expectation of success. 2. It was not in vain; that is, it did not want fruit, it was not without a great and gracious success: For the word vain, when it is applied to the message which the ministers of God bring, signifies the not accomplishing the great ends for which it was designed. Isaiah 55:11. The word that goeth out of my mouth, shall not return unto me in vain, but prosper, &c. Hence learn, that where a minister is regularly called to, and faihfully discharges his duty amongst a people, both by public preaching and private instruction, his labours seldom if ever, want fruit, in some degree or measure, either sooner or later, either manifest or secret, either for conversion or edification. We have the promise of Christ's presence with us, Matthew 28:20. And if the fault be not ours, we shall certainly experience it; both the presence of his power to strengthen us, and the presence of his gracious Spirit to succeed us. Possibly we do not see any visible success at present; but this may comfort us, there is more good done by the ministry of the word, than we are aware of; and if we reap not the fruit of the seed we sow, they who come after us may; but if neither they nor we reap fruit, our ministry shall not be in vain, with reference to ourselves; yet shall we be glorious, though Israel be not gathered. But, O! that our people might share in that glory with us, and also shine as the stars, for ever and ever! God grant we may never be called forth by Christ to give a judicial testimony against any of them at the bar of God, for not believing our report.


Verse 2

Here St. Paul discovers to the Thessalonians the great difficulties and dangers which he broke through at his first entrance amongst them to preach the gospel; he acquaints them with the reproach and disgrace he underwent at their neighbouring city, Philippi, and the sufferings there endured for the gospel, which are recorded, Acts 16:23. But nothing of that nature could discourage him, but that he rather waxed more bold in spirit, resolving to preach the gospel of God, though with much contention and opposition from the unbelieving Jews.

Where mark, that the apostle calls his boldness, a boldness in God, because a boldness for God, and from God. It was not barely the fruit of a natural courage, but it was a zealous boldness in the cause of God, and proved a convincing, as well as a courageous boldness; it is one necessary requisite and qualification in the ministers of God, in order to the rendering their ministry fruitful and successful, that a wise, humble, zealous and convincing boldness be found with them in their delivering the truths of God unto their people: We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God.

Observe here, 1. One special ground and reason assigned, why the apostle's heart was thus extraordinarily carried out in praise and thanksgivings unto God, on the Thessalonians' behalf, and that was the knowledge of their election, knowing your election of God; that is, knowing cerainly and infallibly, by your proficiency in the forementioned Christian graces of faith, love, and hope, that God had certainly chosen you out of the Gentile world, to be a church and people to himself, and that it was the good pleasure of God to gather a Christian church at Thessalonica; and also he did know and believe, with a judgement of charity, that Almighty God had chosen them to eternal life also, to be a part of his church truimphant in heaven, as well as of his church militant upon earth; the preaching of the gospel having met with such visible success amongst them. It is our unquestionable duty, and we learn it from St. Paul's example, in charity to number them amongst God's chosen, in whom we see, as much as man may see, the fruits and signs of God's election.

Observe, 2. The ground which St. Paul had to build his confidence upon, that the Thessalonians were a people chosen of God, and that was rational evidence, knowing your election of God; for our gospel came to you not in word only, but in power. Where note, the piety and prudence of St. Paul's charity, it was not weakly grounded or credulous, but guided by reasonable evidence; Charity hopeth all things, that is, all things that it hath good ground to hope, but nothing more than what problable evidence may induce it to hope. St. Paul, when he say the apostasy of Hymenaeus and Alexander into error and vice, without censoriousness and uncharitableness, pronounces that they had made shipwreck of the faith, 1 Timothy 1:2 . For he had sufficient reason to believe, there could be no faith where there was no holiness. There are a generation of men amongst us, who brand the ministers of God with censoriousness, and rash judging the present state of men, though they judge by their lives and actions; they would have us hope well concerning them, against hope, and judge quite contrary to rational evidence; we must believe them to have faith, when they have no knowledge; that they are right penitents, and sorrowful for their sins, when they make a sport of sin; that their hearts are chaste, when their mouths foam out nothing but filthiness; but let them know, we dare not bring a curse upon ourselves, by calling good evil, and evil good; our charity though not causlessly susupicious, yet neither is it foolishly blind.

Observe, 3. The particular and special evidence which the apostle had of the Thessalonians election, and that was the great and gracious success of this ministry amongst them. Our gospel came - But how our gospel? Not as if he were the author of it, but the dispenser only; not our gospel by original revelation, but by ministerial despensation only. But how did the gospel come amongst the Thessalonians? Not in word only, sounding in the ear, or to gaze upon; but in power, that is, accompanied then with the power of miracles, now with a convincing, terrifying, humbling, renewing, and reforming power. It follows, and in the Holy Ghost; that is, the preaching of the word was at that time attended, as with a mighty power of miracles, so with an extraordinary effusion and pouring out the Holy Ghost upon them that heard it, prevailing upon them to embrace it, and to submit themselves unto it. With this miraculous power of the Holy Ghost was the preaching of the word accompanied then, with an enlightening, quickening, regenerating, and sanctifying power now; the ministry of the word is the great instrument in the hand of the Spirit, for the conversion of sinners, for the edification of saints, and for the salvation of both. Again, the apostle's ministration came unto them in much assurance, that is, with a full conviction of the truth of his doctrine; and to him, it was a full persuasion, yea, a firm assurance, that God had chosen them to be a church and special people to himself. And lastly, as to his own conduct and conversation amongst them, he appeals to them, and to their own knowledge, whether it was not answerable to the doctrine delivered by him; Ye know what manner of men we were amongst you for your sake. Happy is it when the pious and prudent conversation of a minister amongst his people, is, and has been such, that upon a fit occasion, he can and dare appeal to God and them as witnesses and observers of it; Ye know what we were among you: ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you, chapter 1 Thessalonians 2:10. An heterodox conversation will carry an orthodox preacher to hell; there is a preaching life, as well as a preaching doctrine; if religion be taught by the first, and irreligion by the latter, we sadly disappoint the end of what is spoken; though, like a cracked bell, we may be instrumental to ring others to heaven, yet for ourselves there is no remedy, but to the fire we must go, either for our refining, or for our condemnation. the throne and the pulpit, above all places, call for holiness; the prince and the preacher, above all persons, are most accountable to God for their example; Ye know what manner of men we were among you.

Here St. Paul discovers to the Thessalonians the great difficulties and dangers which he broke through at his first entrance amongst them to preach the gospel; he acquaints them with the reproach and disgrace he underwent at their neighbouring city, Philippi, and the sufferings there endured for the gospel, which are recorded, Acts 16:23. But nothing of that nature could discourage him, but that he rather waxed more bold in spirit, resolving to preach the gospel of God, though with much contention and opposition from the unbelieving Jews. Where mark, that the apostle calls his boldness, a boldness in God, because a boldness for God, and from God. It was not barely the fruit of a natural courage, but it was a zealous boldness in the cause of God, and proved a convincing, as well as a courageous boldness; it is one necessary requisite and qualification in the ministers of God, in order to the rendering their ministry fruitful and successful, that a wise, humble, zealous and convincing boldness be found with them in their delivering the truths of God unto their people: We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God.


Verse 3

Here our apostle assigns a subordinate reason why his preaching was so successful amongst the Thessalonians, namely, because it was very sincere. There was both sincerity in the doctrine preached, and also in the preacher of that doctrine.

Where note, 1. St. Paul calls his preaching an exhortation; doubtless because a great part of his preaching was, as ours ought to be, applicatory and exhortatory, earnestly and affectionately exciting the hearers to cleave unto the truths, whether doctrinal or practical, delivered to them.

Note, 2. How St. Paul removes from himself the opposites of sincerity, some of which point at the sincerity of the doctrine preached by him; it was not of deceit or of ensnaring and seducing error, not suited to the corrupt opinions and wicked inclinations of men; nor of uncleanness, nothing that he either preached or practiced did countenance and encourage men in their filthy lusts, as did the false preaching of the false apostles, and the Gnostics: Nor in guile; this points at the sincerity of his own heart in preaching his exhortation was not in guile; that is, he did not seek himself, under a pretence of acting for God and his glory, nor propound his own worldly advantage as his ultimate end.

Learn hence, it is the duty of Christ's ministers, not only to preach the pure word of God, but to preach it purely, in simplicity of heart, and with a single eye at God's glory, without looking at, or having any regard unto base, sinister ends, or by-respects.

Note, 3. That St. Paul having vindicated his ministry from all suspicion of insincerity, next assures them of his great uprightness in all his ministerial performances, making it his chief design to approve himself unto God, and to be approved of him, not in the least regarding to please men, but only in subordination to God.

Note, 4. The arguments or motives inclining him thus, in much sincerity, to approve himslf to God in all his ministerial services;

namely, 1. The consideration of that high favour and honourable trust which he had received from God; We were allowed of God, to be put in trust with the gospel; God did fit him for this trust, and then entrusted him with it, and he looked upon both as a favour and honour from God.

2. The consideration of God's omnisciency and all-seeing eye, who trieth our hearts. The apostle well knew, that Almighty God was both a witness of his doctrine and conversation, and also privy to his intentions and purposes, his aim and end, as being a God that searcheth the heart; therefore he so preached, not as pleasing men, but God.

Learn from both, that nothing doth more effectually constrain the ministers of Christ to the faithful discharge of their whole duty, than the consideration of the honour and weight of that trust which God hath conferred on them, and the remembrance that the eye of an all-seeing and heart-searching God is both upon and within them also; We so speak, being put in trust with the gospel by God, who trieth our hearts.

Here our apostle assigns a subordinate reason why his preaching was so successful amongst the Thessalonians, namely, because it was very sincere. There was both sincerity in the doctrine preached, and also in the preacher of that doctrine. Where note, 1. St. Paul calls his preaching an exhortation; doubtless because a great part of his preaching was, as ours ought to be, applicatory and exhortatory, earnestly and affectionately exciting the hearers to cleave unto the truths, whether doctrinal or practical, delivered to them. Note, 2. How St. Paul removes from himself the opposites of sincerity, some of which point at the sincerity of the doctrine preached by him; it was not of deceit or of ensnaring and seducing error, not suited to the corrupt opinions and wicked inclinations of men; nor of uncleanness, nothing that he either preached or practiced did countenance and encourage men in their filthy lusts, as did the false preaching of the false apostles, and the Gnostics: Nor in guile; this points at the sincerity of his own heart in preaching his exhortation was not in guile; that is, he did not seek himself, under a pretence of acting for God and his glory, nor propound his own worldly advantage as his ultimate end. Learn hence, it is the duty of Christ's ministers, not only to preach the pure word of God, but to preach it purely, in simplicitty of heart, and with a single eye at God's glory, without looking at, or having any regard unto base, sinister ends, or by-respects. Note, 3. That St. Paul having vindicated his ministry from all suspicion of insincerity, next assures them of his great uprightness in all his ministerial performances, making it his chief design to approve himself unto God, and to be approved of him, not in the least regarding to please men, but only in subordination to God. Note, 4. The arguments or motives inclining him thus, in much sincerity, to approve himslf to God in all his ministerial services; namely, 1. The consideration of that high favour and honourable trust which he had received from God; We were allowed of God, to be put in trust with the gospel; God did fit him for this trust, and then entrusted him with it, and he looked upon both as a favour and honour from God. 2. The consideration of God's omnisciency and all-seeing eye, who trieth our hearts. The apostle well knew, that Almighty God was both a witness of his doctrine and conversation, and also privy to his intentions and purposes, his aim and end, as being a God that searcheth the heart; therefore he so preached, not as pleasing men, but God. Learn from both, that nothing doth more effectually constrain the ministers of Christ to the faithful discharge of their whole duty, than the consideration of the honour and weight of that trust which God hath conferred on them, and the remembrance that the eye of an all-seeing and heart-searching God is both upon and within them also; We so speak, being put in trust with the gospel by God, who trieth our hearts.


Verse 5

Still our apostle sees fit to proceed in avouching his own sincerity in preaching the gospel, and disowning all flattery, covetousness, and vain-glory, to have any influence upon him in the discharge of his ministerial trust.

First, he used not flattering words, that is, speeches fitted to gratify the lusts and humours of men, or for gaining their favour, or courting their good opinion. Flattery in any is odious, in a minister it is monstrous; both because spiritual men ought to be most plain-hearted, and also because flattery about spiritual things is most fatal and pernicious, both to the giver and receiver.

Secondly, he used not a cloak of covetousness, that is, he had no covetous design in his ministry; his great end, in that administration, was not worldly or outward advantage to himself; and because a covetous design is secret, and man cannot judge of it, he appeals solemnly to God, that searcheth the heart, as a witness of his freedom from that design; I used no flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness:

God is witness: as if he had said, "Had I used flattering words, you might witness it: but I could have worn a cloak of covetousness so closely, that you could not have seen it, but God could; he can judge through the darkest cloud, and see him, whether I have put on such a cloak, or no." An oath then is lawful to a Christian; he may solemnly appeal to God, and call him to witness the truth of what he speaks, in and upon a just and great occasion; thus St. Paul here by oath, purges himself from covetousness of spirit.

Thirdly, he purges himself from all ostentation and vain-glory; he tells them plainly, he did not hunt after applause from others, nor sought so much as due respect in a fitting maintenance from themselves, though herein he assures them he did remit of his right; seeing, as an apostle of Christ, he might have been burdensome, that is, chargeable to them, by exacting maintenance from them.

Learn, 1. Though every man may (much more a minister) have a due respect to his own honour and just reputation, yet to hunt after respect and esteem, and to seek it with the full bent of our desires, doth savour of vanity and vain-glory.

Learn, 2. Though the ministers of the gospel have an undoubted right to an honourable maintenance, yet it may be a pious prudence in them, at a particular time, to remit their right: and when they do so, with an eye at the glory of God and the advantage of the gospel, God will recompense it to them.


Verse 7

St. Paul having cleared himself and his ministry, in the foregoing verses, from the charge and imputation of those foul vices of flattery, fraud, and covetouseness, which the false teachers were guilty of; he next gives and account of his holy and humble, meek and gentle, courteous and affable behaviour amongst them, performing all duties towards them from a principle of tender love, even such as is found in a nurse to her babe, which makes her stoop to the meanest offices for it; We are gentle among you as a nurse, not a hired nurse, but a mother-nurse, who takes nothing for nursing, who bestows all her time and pains in nursing, who draws forth her breasts, and gives down her milk with pleasure to her nursling, lodging it in her bosom, carrying it in her arms, with all possible demonstrations of a tender affection towards it, especially bearing with it in its frowardness and manifold infirmities; intimating to us, with what tenderness of affection a minister should be devoted to his people, bearing with them, and forbearing of them, and exercising all that indulgence towards them, which may mutually endear them to each other.

Observe, farther, our apostle having resembled himself in general, to a nurse cherishing her children, next instances, in particular, wherein he stood ready to express, like a nurse, his indulgent care over them.

Thus, 1. As the nursing mother, if she be but a short time absent from her children, doth most vehemently long to see them, and draws forth her breast towards them with the utmost desire and delight; in like manner, was our now absent apostle most affectionately desirous of seeing and enjoying his beloved Thessalonians.

2. As the nursing mother, when she gets to the child, with unspeakable delight, feeds it with her own blood, concocted and turned into milk; so was the apostle desirous to impart, not the gospel only, but his own soul, that is, his life; implying, how ready he was to seal the gospel with his blood, and to confirm the Thessalonians in the faith of Christ.

3. As the moving, impelling, and impulsive cause of the nurse's indulgent care and indefatigable pains, is pure love, motherly affection, and no hope of gain; so was likewise the case of St. Paul here towards these Thessalonians: We were willing to impart unto you our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

Learn hence, that there is no stronger love, nor more endeared affection between any relations upon earth, than between those ministers of Christ, and their beloved people, whom they have been instrumental to convert to God.

St. Paul having cleared himself and his ministry, in the foregoing verses, from the charge and imputation of those foul vices of flattery, fraud, and covetouseness, which the false teachers were guilty of; he next gives and account of his holy and humble, meek and gentle, courteous and affable behaviour amongst them, performing all duties towards them from a principle of tender love, even such as is found in a nurse to her babe, which makes her stoop to the meanest offices for it; We are gentle among you as a nurse, not a hired nurse, but a mother-nurse, who takes nothing for nursing, who bestows all her time and pains in nursing, who draws forth her breasts, and gives down her milk with pleasure to her nursling, lodging it in her bosom, carrying it in her arms, with all possible demonstrations of a tender affection towards it, especially bearing with it in its frowardness and manifold infirmities; intimating to us, with what tenderness of affection a minister should be devoted to his people, bearing with them, and forbearing of them, and exercising all that indulgence towards them, which may mutually endear them to each other. Observe, farther, our apostle having resembled himself in general, to a nurse cherishing her children, next instances, in particular, wherein he stood ready to express, like a nurse, his indulgent care over them. Thus, 1. As the nursing mother, if she be but a short time absent from her children, doth most vehemently long to see them, and draws forth her breast towards them with the utmost desire and delight; in like manner, was our now absent apostle most affectionately desirous of seeing and enjoying his beloved Thessalonians. 2. As the nursing mother, when she gets to the child, with unspeakable delight, feeds it with her own blood, concocted and turned into milk; so was the apostle desirous to impart, not the gospel only, but his own soul, that is, his life; implying, how ready he was to seal the gospel with his blood, and to confirm the Thessalonians in the faith of Christ. 3. As the moving, impelling, and impulsive cause of the nurse's indulgent care and indefatigable pains, is pure love, motherly affection, and no hope of gain; so was likewise the case of St. Paul here towards these Thessalonians: We were willing to impart unto you our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. Learn hence, that there is no stronger love, nor more endeared affection between any relations upon earth, than between those ministers of Christ, and their beloved people, whom they have been instrumental to convert to God.

St. Paul having cleared himself and his ministry, in the foregoing verses, from the charge and imputation of those foul vices of flattery, fraud, and covetouseness, which the false teachers were guilty of; he next gives and account of his holy and humble, meek and gentle, courteous and affable behaviour amongst them, performing all duties towards them from a principle of tender love, even such as is found in a nurse to her babe, which makes her stoop to the meanest offices for it; We are gentle among you as a nurse, not a hired nurse, but a mother-nurse, who takes nothing for nursing, who bestows all her time and pains in nursing, who draws forth her breasts, and gives down her milk with pleasure to her nursling, lodging it in her bosom, carrying it in her arms, with all possible demonstrations of a tender affection towards it, especially bearing with it in its frowardness and manifold infirmities; intimating to us, with what tenderness of affection a minister should be devoted to his people, bearing with them, and forbearing of them, and exercising all that indulgence towards them, which may mutually endear them to each other. Observe, farther, our apostle having resembled himself in general, to a nurse cherishing her children, next instances, in particular, wherein he stood ready to express, like a nurse, his indulgent care over them. Thus, 1. As the nursing mother, if she be but a short time absent from her children, doth most vehemently long to see them, and draws forth her breast towards them with the utmost desire and delight; in like manner, was our now absent apostle most affectionately desirous of seeing and enjoying his beloved Thessalonians. 2. As the nursing mother, when she gets to the child, with unspeakable delight, feeds it with her own blood, concocted and turned into milk; so was the apostle desirous to impart, not the gospel only, but his own soul, that is, his life; implying, how ready he was to seal the gospel with his blood, and to confirm the Thessalonians in the faith of Christ. 3. As the moving, impelling, and impulsive cause of the nurse's indulgent care and indefatigable pains, is pure love, motherly affection, and no hope of gain; so was likewise the case of St. Paul here towards these Thessalonians: We were willing to impart unto you our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. Learn hence, that there is no stronger love, nor more endeared affection between any relations upon earth, than between those ministers of Christ, and their beloved people, whom they have been instrumental to convert to God.

St. Paul having cleared himself and his ministry, in the foregoing verses, from the charge and imputation of those foul vices of flattery, fraud, and covetouseness, which the false teachers were guilty of; he next gives and account of his holy and humble, meek and gentle, courteous and affable behaviour amongst them, performing all duties towards them from a principle of tender love, even such as is found in a nurse to her babe, which makes her stoop to the meanest offices for it; We are gentle among you as a nurse, not a hired nurse, but a mother-nurse, who takes nothing for nursing, who bestows all her time and pains in nursing, who draws forth her breasts, and gives down her milk with pleasure to her nursling, lodging it in her bosom, carrying it in her arms, with all possible demonstrations of a tender affection towards it, especially bearing with it in its frowardness and manifold infirmities; intimating to us, with what tenderness of affection a minister should be devoted to his people, bearing with them, and forbearing of them, and exercising all that indulgence towards them, which may mutually endear them to each other. Observe, farther, our apostle having resembled himself in general, to a nurse cherishing her children, next instances, in particular, wherein he stood ready to express, like a nurse, his indulgent care over them. Thus, 1. As the nursing mother, if she be but a short time absent from her children, doth most vehemently long to see them, and draws forth her breast towards them with the utmost desire and delight; in like manner, was our now absent apostle most affectionately desirous of seeing and enjoying his beloved Thessalonians. 2. As the nursing mother, when she gets to the child, with unspeakable delight, feeds it with her own blood, concocted and turned into milk; so was the apostle desirous to impart, not the gospel only, but his own soul, that is, his life; implying, how ready he was to seal the gospel with his blood, and to confirm the Thessalonians in the faith of Christ. 3. As the moving, impelling, and impulsive cause of the nurse's indulgent care and indefatigable pains, is pure love, motherly affection, and no hope of gain; so was likewise the case of St. Paul here towards these Thessalonians: We were willing to impart unto you our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. Learn hence, that there is no stronger love, nor more endeared affection between any relations upon earth, than between those ministers of Christ, and their beloved people, whom they have been instrumental to convert to God.


Verse 9

Notwithstanding our apostle was free, wholly free, from all shadow and appearance of covetousness in the whole course of his ministry, yet it may seem as if some persons (probably the false apostles) did, though with the highest injustice, charge him with it; accordingly, to clear himself from that imputation, here he tells the Thessalonians, he laboured night and day in the business of his calling; making tents to maintain himself, that so he might not be chargeable or burdensome to any of them; or any ways retard or hinder the success of the gospel amongst them; labouring night and day, that we might not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God freely.

Yet observe, this was only a case of necessity; for at other times, and in other places, we find our apostle asserting his own right, and God's appointment, that every one that preacheth the gospel should live of the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

Next our apostle calls upon them to remember his labour and travail, that is his pains and diligence in preaching the gospel; the words signify labour unto weariness, and labour after weariness, his painfulness, both in his preaching, and in his secular calling; and from his calling upon the Thessalonians to remember this, he learns us this lesson of instruction, namely, that it is the standing duty of a people to keep in their constant remembrance the great labour and pains which the faithful ministers of Christ do take amongst them, that so they may be duly thankful, both to God and them, and put a just value upon that spiritual good, which, at any time, that have experienced and received from them; Remember, brethren, our labour and travail.

Observe again, having asserted his laboriousness in preaching to them, he next puts them in remembrance of his exemplariness in conversation amongst them, how holily, justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves amongst you; that is, performing his duty with great integrity and uprightness towards God and man, so that none justly could blame him for neglect amongst them; and for the truth of this, he appeals to God as a judge, and to themselves as witnesses; Ye are witnesses and God also.

Learn hence, that it is a great happiness, and unspeakable consolation, both to ministers and people, when the duties of religion, relating to both tables, are performed with such exactness, that they can and dare appeal to one another, as to their holy and unblameable conversation, and to God himself, as to the purity of their aim and sincerity of intention.


Verse 11

Observe, that still our apostle appeals to their own consciences for his good behaviour amongst them: Ye know: Happy minister, that has a throne in the consciences of his people, unto which he can and dare, at all times, appeal, for the clearing of his innocency and integrity, in and before the face of the whole world!

Observe next, that having compared himself to a nurse before, he resembles himself to a father now, we exhorted you as a father doth his children. As it is the office of a father to direct and instruct, to counsel and exhort his children, so the apostle did exhort, comfort, and charge the Thessalonians, that they be strictly conscientious in the faithful discharge of their whole duty, both to God and man, and patient under all, and all manner of trials and afflictions whatsoever, which they did, or might meet with, in the way of well doing.

Where note, that a mixture of meekness and gentleness, accompanied with authority and gravity is an excellent compostion in the ministers of the gospel: St. Paul having shewn, that, for gentleness, he was a nursing mother, declareth here, that for authority and gravity, he was an instructing father.

Observe lastly, the great duty which he did direct them in, and exhort them to, namely, to walk worthy of God, who had called them unto his kingdom and glory.

Note here, 1. The duty exhorted to, namely, to walk worthy of God: How so? Not with a worthiness of merit, but with a worthiness of meekness, to walk as becomes them who profess the name of God, who bear the image of God, answerable to the high and holy privileges received from God.

Note, 2. The reason or argument inforcing the duty, he hath called you to his kingdom and glory that is, to grace; and by grace here, to glory hereafter; such as are called to the one, are called to both; grace is a certain pledge and earnest of glory, a low degree of glory, and glory the highest degree of grace; such as walk worthy of God now, shall live with him, ere long, to eternal ages.


Verse 13

Our apostle's great design, in this chapter, being to set forth the wonderful success which the preaching of the gospel had among the Thessalonians, and also to assign the causes of that success, he having, in the former verses, given the reason of this on his own part, namely, his sincerity in preaching it, and his pious conversation in all things suitable to it; now he comes to shew the reason on their part, with all thankfulness to Almighty God for the same:

first, they heard it;

secondly, they received it;

thirdly, they examined it, and found it no fable, but the word of God, and, as such, entertained it with a divine faith;

fourthly, the word thus received did work with a mighty power and efficacy in them that believed, that is, was accompanied with miracles, and miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit, then to confirm them in the faith of what they did believe;

and the word has also now an efficacious energy and divine efficacy accompanying it in the hearts of believers, working upon the will, not in a way of compulsion, but in a way congruous to the nature and liberty of the will, by a divine influx, Tollendo resistentiam, non voluntatis libertatem, (as the great St. Austin speaks).

Observe next, St. Paul farther proves the efficacious success which the word had amongst the Thessalonians, from their constancy and patience under the sharpest sufferings for the word's sake; Ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen:

As if he had said, "You of the Christian church in Thessalonica, have shewn yourselves like to the Christian churches in Judea, in patient suffering persecution from your friends and kinsfolks, from your countrymen and fellow citizens as they did from the unbelieving Jews."

Note thence, that where the word is efficaciously received, it makes the embracer of it endure the hardest trials and sufferings rather than renounce it.

Note, 2. That there neither is, nor can be, any better evidence that the word of God is effectually received, than when it enables Christians to bear afflictions, and undergo persecutions with Christian courage and holy resolution; Ye have suffered like things:

But of whom?

Of your own countrymen at Thessalonica, as the churches in Judea did of the Jews.

Learn thence, that such is the fury of a persecuting spirit, that when men are judicially given up of God unto it, they will break all bonds, both natural, civil, and religious, and turn barbarous and savage, like wolves and tigers, towards those of their own flesh, who dare not deny the truth, which they persecute and oppose. Here the churches in Judea and Thessalonica were persecuted alike by their own countrymen, Ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.


Verse 15

Our apostle's design being to encourage the Thessalonians to patience and constancy under their persecutions for Christianity, he acquaints them, that they did not walk alone in this thorny path, but that Jesus Christ, the prophets and apostles, went before them, and every step they took in it, was up to the knees in blood; They killed the Lord Jesus, &c.

Where observe, the bitter and bloody persecution which the Jews were guilty of,

they killed the Lord Jesus, and before him their own prophets, called their own, because of their own nation, and sent with a peculiar message to them; and now they persecuted, banished, and drove away St. Paul, and the rest of the apostles;

they pleased not God, that is, they highly displeased him, dreadfully provoked him, they were haters of God, hateful to him, now hated of him, and, lastly,

rejected by him; contrary to all men, that is, to the common interest of all men, by endeavouring to obstruct the preaching of the gospel, which bringeth salvation to all men;

forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that is, to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and consequently obstructing, what in them lay, the salvation almost of all the world;

filling up the measure of their sins, till at last the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost, in their judicial obduration, and the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; after which the Jews have been no more a people, but scattered abroad through the face of the earth.

From the whole, learn 1. That it is a singular support to suffering saints to consider, that Christ and his apostles suffered before them; and by his sufferings, has sanctified a state of affliction and persecution to them.

Learn, 2. That a spirit of persecution seems oft-times to run in the blood, and passes from parent to child, through many generations. Persecution became, as it were, hereditary, and, in a sort, transient from one generation to another among the Jews; they killed Christ, stoned the prophets, and persecuted the apostles.

Note 3. How St. Paul ranks and reckons them that are enemies to the preaching of the gospel, with the obstinate shedders of Christ's blood, they are enrolled amongst the capital enemies of mankind; They killed the Lord of life, forbidding us to preach to the Gentiles; such as are enemies to preaching are enemies to the souls of men.

Object. But what need so much preaching amongst us, who are converted from heathenism to Christianity?

Ans. It is one thing to be converted from heathenism to Christianity, and another thing to be converted from sin to God.

Object. But we have the Bible for that end, and can make use of that.

Ans. Observe it, and you will find that such as are no friends to the pulpit, are usually none of the best friends to the Bible; follow them to their families, how doth the Bible lie by as a neglected book amongst them; and it must be a large charity, that can judge it is conscientiously used in the closet, when it is carelessly neglected in the family.


Verse 17

Observe here, that St. Paul having all along, in the chapter before us, compared himself to a tender father, and a nursing mother, for his affectionate love unto, and his solicitous concern for, these Christian converts; he doth in the words before us, declare, that this constrained absence from them, occasioned him no less grief than that of a tender father, when bereft of his beloved children; or that of an indulgent mother, when the child she loves as her own soul is taken violently from her.

We, brethren, being taken from you; the words intimate such a separation as death makes between a father and a child, which rends the parent's heart in sunder, and is like cutting off a limb or member from his body, exquisitely painful; intimating, that the enforced absence of a pastor from his beloved people, though but for a short season, is very afflictive. Ah! how heart-rending then is a total and final separation from each other, occasioned either by natural or civil death!

Observe, 2. St. Paul tells them, that though persecutors had deprived them of his bodily presence, yet not of his heart, for though not in body, yet in mind he was present with them; minister and people, like true lovers, are present with each other in soul, when separated in body. It is a singular comfort to Christians under persecution, that their enemies can neither deprive them of the presence of God, nor the prayers of their faithful ministers; their prayers may meet, when their persons are distant, and they may be present in spirit, in heart, and affection, when at the ends of the earth.

Observe, 3. How he expresses his desire and endeavour, his fervent purpose, and fixed resolution to come unto them, to see their face, to refresh them, and be refreshed by them; I endeavoured abundantly to see your face, but Satan hindered; that is, his instruments, persecutors, lay in wait for him, on the one hand, and caused some dissentions in other churches, which detained him from coming to them; on the other hand, Satan hindered.

Learn thence, that such as obstruct the preaching and propagating of the gospel, and persecute the promoters of it, are Satan's instruments and ministers.

2. That such as do Satan's work, it is fit they should bear this name.

3. Thus The devil shall cast some of you into prison Revelation 2:13, that is, his servants: It is fit that master and servant should have both one name.


Verse 19

Here, in the close of the chapter, St. Paul acquaints the Thessalonians with the true reason why he had such an endearing affection for them, and such a fervent desire to be present with them. They were his hope, his joy, his crown of rejoicing; that is, they were then the cause of his hope, no the ground and foundation of his hope; that Christ alone was; but their conversion by his ministry was, in concurence with other things, a good ground of hope concerning his own salvation; ye are now my hope, my joy, and crown of rejoicing.

Where note, a very remarkable gradation in the words; he calls them his hope, his joy, and his crown of rejoicing. His hope, that is, the matter of his hope, that they shall be saved; his joy, that is the occasion of his joy, in their conversion by his ministry; and his crown of rejoicing in Christ's presence at his coming, that is, the fruit and success of his ministry amongst them, would add to his crown, and redound to his glory in the day of Christ.

Learn hence, 1. That there are degrees of glory in heaven, probably according to the measures and degrees of service we have done for God on earth; there is, no doubt, an equality of glory there, as to the essentials, but not with respect to the accidentals; besides the joy and satisfaction which the ministers of Christ are partakers of, in heaven, in common with other glorified saints, they have an additional joy and glory from the success of their pious and painful labours, which God has crowned with the conversion and edification of many souls.

Lord! Who would not study, spend, and be spent in the service of such a master? Is it not worth all our labour and sufferings, to appear in the presence of Christ, accompanied with all those souls whom we have instrumentally either brought home, or built up in the most holy faith, either converted, comforted, or confirmed in the way to heaven? To hear one spiritual child say, "Lord, this is the instrument by whom I believed;" another, "This is the minister by whom I was established;" a third, "This is he that quickened me by his example, and provoked me to love, and to good works: O blessed be God, that I ever saw his face, and heard his voice!"

But, Lord, what will it be to hear thy blessed voice saying to us, "Well done good and faithful servants, enter into the joy of me your Lord; I have kept an exact account of all your fervent prayers for your people, of all your instructive and persuasive sermons, of all your sighs and groans poured forth before me, on behalf of those whom ye would have persuaded to be happy, but could not! Every tear from your eye, and drop of sweat from your face, shall now meet with an eternal recompence; you shall now find me, according to my promise, not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love."

O what a master do the ministers of Christ serve! Who would not sacrifice all that is dear for him, who has the assurance of such an exceeding and eternal weight of glory from him?

Learn, 2. That the saints of God in heaven will know one another there: Why else doth St. Paul here comfort himself, that these Thessalonians, whom he converted to Christ, would be his crown of rejoicing in the day of Christ? Surely, this must needs suppose and imply his distinct knowledge of them in that day; if he did not know them, how could he rejoice in them? Doubtless we may allow, in that state, all that knowlege which is accumulative and perfective, whatever may heighten our felicity, and increase our satisfaction, as this must needs be allowed to do.

Lord, make us faithful to the death, faithful to thee, faithful to our own souls, faithful to our people; and then, as they are now our hope and joy, so will they be our crown of rejoicing in the presence of the Lord Jesus at his coming. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1700-1703.

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