1 Thessalonians 2:1-20

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-01-07 14:58.

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Believers in Thessalonica, “brothers” in Christ, knew that Paul’s coming (along with his companions) to them had not proved to be in vain or without positive results. They had responded in faith and been greatly enriched spiritually. (2:1)

Before arriving in Thessalonica, Paul and Silvanus (Silas) had suffered and been mistreated in a high-handed manner in the city of Philippi. (2:2) After Paul caused a slave girl to lose her predictive ability, which led to a monetary loss for her owners, they led Paul and Silas before the rulers, accusing them of introducing unlawful customs. Paul and Silas were severely beaten with rods upon their bare skin and then imprisoned. The jailer placed them in the inner prison and secured their feet in stocks. (Acts 16:16-24)

Having endured painful mistreatment as disciples of God’s Son, they were in need of courage or boldness to continue proclaiming the glad tidings concerning him. In God or on account of looking to him for strength, they found the courage to speak the evangel of God or the message that had its source in him, doing so in Thessalonica with “much struggle” or in the face of intense hostility. (2:2)

The “exhortation” or appeal to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and the one through whom forgiveness of sin had been made possible did not have its source in error, impurity, or deceit. The message was solidly based on truth, and, when proclaiming it, Paul and Silas maintained a pure motive and remained free from any unworthy aim to derive selfish profit. They revealed themselves to be men whom God had found worthy of being entrusted with the glad tidings. Fully aware that God would be the examiner of their hearts or deep inner selves, they proclaimed the message with the objective of pleasing him, not men. (2:3, 4)

The Thessalonians knew that Paul and his companions had not resorted to flattery to throw them off guard in an effort to gain some advantage and had not secretly coveted anything they possessed. (Compare Acts 20:33, 34.) Paul could write this with a clear conscience, even calling upon God as witness. (2:5) Perhaps Paul’s emphasis on sincerity and purity could be an indication that the hurried departure from Thessalonica under the cover of darkness may have caused some to question his motives and those of Silas. On the other hand, Timothy would never have doubted Paul’s pure motives and, yet, the apostle did use similar language in his first letter to him. (1 Timothy 2:7) So the apostle’s words may, in themselves, be no clear evidence of any negative thoughts among some in Thessalonica.

Paul and Silas did not seek “glory” from men, wanting special honor or an elevated standing among others. They did not desire such glory from the Thessalonian believers nor from anyone else. (2:6)

As one “sent forth” in the service of Christ from Jerusalem to Syrian Antioch and afterward accompanying Paul upon departing from Antioch to declare the evangel elsewhere, Silas (Silvanus) was an apostle, for the Greek term denotes “one sent forth.” (Acts 15:22, 40) As apostles of Christ, Paul and Silas could have made others feel the weight of their authority or made certain demands in keeping with their position, insisting on their dignity. But, according to the oldest Greek manuscripts, they proved to be as “babes” (népioi) among the Thessalonians. This could mean that they were unassuming. Later Greek manuscripts read “gentle” (épioi). Nothing in their attitude or bearing suggested any desire on their part to lord over others. Like a nurse or a mother tenderly cherishes or comforts her own children, Paul and Silas, motivated by affectionate care and concern, were not only delighted to share the evangel of God (the message centering on Jesus Christ and which had his Father as the ultimate source) but also to give of themselves fully (their “souls”). This was because the Thessalonian believers had become the object of their love. (2:7, 8)

The Thessalonians, their brothers in Christ, could recall that Paul and Silas were willing to expend themselves fully for them. They knew about their labor and toil during the day and the night or how Paul and Silas had diligently worked to care for their needs so as not to be a burden to anyone when proclaiming the “evangel of God.” (2:9)

The Thessalonian believers and the Observer of all, the Most High God, could testify that Paul and Silas had conducted themselves in a holy or pure, upright, and blameless manner. Like a father with genuine concern for his children, Paul and Silas exhorted, encouraged, and solemnly charged each one of the Thessalonian believers to “walk” or conduct themselves worthily of God, the one calling them to his kingdom (out of this world and into the realm where his appointed King, Jesus Christ, is Lord) and glory (sharing in the excelling splendor of the relationship with him that his beloved Son enjoys). (2:10-12; compare John 17:20-24.)

Without ceasing, Paul (and his companions) thanked God that the Thessalonians had accepted the message he proclaimed, not as the word of men or as a message originating from a human source, but for what it truly was, the “word of God,” which was at work within them, transforming their lives to come to be progressively more like the Lord Jesus Christ. (2:13)

That the Thessalonians had accepted the message as being from God was clearly evident from what they were willing to endure. They had come to be imitators of the congregations of God in Judea, congregations that were at one with Jesus Christ. Jewish believers had suffered much from unbelieving fellow Jews. The letter to the Hebrews (10:32-34, NRSV), written some years later, relates the following: “Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.” Like those believing Jews, the Thessalonian believers suffered at the hands of their unbelieving compatriots. Regarding the unbelieving Jews who manifested intense hostility, Paul continued, “They killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us, and they are not pleasing God.” (2:14, 15)

In their rabid efforts to prevent Paul and his companions from preaching to non-Jews the message that revealed how an approved relationship with God was possible on the basis of faith in his Son, they demonstrated themselves to be against everyone. (Compare Acts 13:44-50; 14:1-7, 19-22; 17:5-10.) When opposing Christ and his disciples, they filled up the measure of their sins. As the Son of God had said, “The wisdom of God said: ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; some of them they will kill and persecute’ in order that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who died between the altar and the temple building. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!” (Luke 11:49-51, NAB) Evidently because the judgment was sure to come, Paul wrote that God’s “wrath has finally [eis télos, into the end (possibly meaning “completely”)] come upon them.” (2:15, 16)

Upon being forced to depart from Thessalonica, Paul and Silas found themselves as if orphaned from the believers there. But that short bereavement was not a bereavement in their heart or deep inner self; it was only a separation as to “face” or in person. They greatly longed to see them, and Paul tried hard to do so. Twice he found his purpose frustrated, as he expressed it, “Satan blocked us.” (2:17, 18)

To the apostle Paul, the Thessalonian believers were his “hope,” “joy,” or “crown of boasting” before the Lord Jesus Christ at his arrival (parousía, meaning “presence” or “arrival,” the start of the presence) in glory. With confidence, Paul added, “You are our glory and joy.” (2:19, 20) His hope for the Thessalonian believers would have been that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ would find them in an approved state. This would give him reason to be joyful respecting them, as his labor and toil would not have been expended in vain. As loyal disciples of God’s Son, they would be a credit to him or a crown occasioning exultation. Apparently because Paul was confident respecting the genuineness of the faith the Thessalonians manifested, they were a glory or credit to him and a source of joy.

Note: In 2:12, the Greek participle for “calling” is kaloúntos (“is calling”) in fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and numerous other manuscripts, whereas fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus, fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, and many other manuscripts read kalésantos (“has called”).