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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 1

 

FIRST THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 2

 

ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER

The principal subjects embraced in this chapter are the following:—

I. A statement of the conduct of Paul, and his fellow-labourers, when they first preached tile gospel at Thessalonica, 1 Th 2:1-12.

In this statement, the apostle specifies particularly the following things.

(1.) That he and his fellow-labourers had been shamefully treated at Philippi, and had been obliged to encounter much opposition at Thessalonica, 1 Th 2:1,2.

(2.) That in their efforts to convert the Thessalonians they had used no deceit, corruption, or guile, 1 Th 2:3,4.

(3.) That they had not sought the praise of men, and had not used the weight of authority which they might have done as the apostles of Christ, 1 Th 2:6.

(4.) That they had been gentle and mild in all their intercourse with them, 1 Th 2:7,8.

(5.) That, in order not to be burdensome, or to subject themselves to the charge of selfishness, they had supported themselves by labouring night and day, 1 Th 2:9.

(6.) That the Thessalonians themselves were witnesses in what a holy and pure manner they had lived when there, and how they had exhorted them to a holy life, 1 Th 2:10-12.

II. The apostle refers to the manner in which the Thessalonians had received the truth at first, as undoubtedly the word of God, and not as the word of men, 1 Th 2:13.

III. He reminds them of the fact that they had met with the same opposition from the Jews which the churches in Judea had, for that everywhere the Jews had made the same opposition to the messengers of God, killing the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and forbidding the apostles everywhere to speak to the Gentiles, 1 Th 2:14-16.

IV. In the conclusion of the chapter, the apostle expresses the earnest desire which he had to visit them, and the reason why he had not done it. It was because he had been prevented by causes beyond his control; and now his earnest and sincere wish was, that he might be permitted to see them—for they were his hope, and joy, and crown, 1 Th 2:17-20.

It is reasonable to suppose that the statements in this chapter were designed to meet a certain condition of things in the church there, and if so, we may learn something of the difficulties which the Thessalonians had to encounter, and of the objections which were made to Paul and to the gospel. It is often in this way that we can get the best view of the internal condition of a church referred to in the New Testament—not by direct statement respecting difficulties and errors in it, but by the character of the epistle sent to it. Judging by this rule, we should infer that there were those in Thessalonica who utterly denied the Divine origin of the gospel. This general charge, the apostle meets in the first chapter, by showing that the power of the gospel evinced in their conversion, and its effects in their lives, demonstrated it to be of heavenly origin.

In reference to the state of things as referred to in this chapter, we should also infer the following things:

1. That it was represented by some that the apostle, and his fellow-labourers, sought influence and power; that they were dictatorial and authoritative; that they were indisposed to labour, and were, in fact, impostors. This charge Paul refutes abundantly by his appeal to what they knew of him, and what they had seen of him when he was there, 1 Th 2:1-12.

2. That the church at Thessalonica met with severe and violent opposition from the Jews who were there, 1 Th 2:14-17. This appears to have been a formidable opposition. Comp. Ac 17:5, seq. They would not only be likely to use violence, but it is not improbable that they employed the semblance of argument that might perplex the church. They might represent that they were from the same country as Paul and his fellow-labourers; that they, while pretending to great zeal for religion, were, in fact, apostates, and were engaged in overturning the revealed doctrines of God. It would be easy to represent them as men who, from this cause, were worthy of no confidence, and to urge the fact that those who thus acted in opposition to the religion of their own country, and to the sacred rites of the temple at Jerusalem, could be entitled to no regard. These charges, if they were made, the apostle meets, by assuring the Thessalonians that they were suffering precisely the same things which the churches ill Judea did; that the Jews manifested the same spirit there which they did in Thessalonica; that they had killed alike the Lord Jesus and their own undoubted prophets, and that it was a characteristic of them that they were opposed to all other men. Their opposition, therefore, was not to be wondered at; nut was it to be regarded as ally argument that the apostles, though Jews, were unworthy of confidence, 1 Th 2:15,16§.

3. It was very probably represented by the enemies of Paul and his fellow-labourers, that they had fled from Thessalonica on the slightest danger, and had no regard for the church there, or they would have remained there in the time of peril, or, at least, that they would have returned to visit them. Their continued absence was probably urged as a proof that they had no concern for them. The apostle meets this by stating that they had been indeed "taken from them" for a little time, but that their hearts were still with them, and by assuring them that he had often endeavoured to visit them again, but that "Satan had hindered" him, 1 Th 2:17-20. He had, however, given them the highest proof of interest and affection that he could, for when he was unable to go himself, he had, at great self-denial, sent Timothy to establish them in the faith, and to comfort their hearts, 1 Th 2:1-3. His absence, therefore, should not be urged as a proof that he had no regard for them.

1. For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you. See Barnes "1 Th 1:9, Paul appeals to themselves, for proof that they had not come among them as impostors. They had had a full opportunity to see them, and to know what influenced them. Paul frequently appeals to his own life, and to what they, among whom he laboured, knew of it, as a full refutation of the slanderous accusations of his enemies. See Barnes "1 Co 4:10-16; 9:19-27; 2 Co 6:3-10.

Every minister of the gospel ought so to live as to be able, when slanderously attacked, to make such an appeal to his people.

That it was not in vain. kenh. This word means

(1.) empty, vain, fruitless, or without success;

(2.) that in which there is no truth or reality—false, fallacious, Eph 5:6; Col 2:8. Here it seems, from the connexion, 1 Th 2:3-5, to be used in the latter sense, as denoting that they were not deceivers. The object does not appear to be so much to show that their ministry was successful, as to meet a charge of their adversaries that they were impostors. Paul tells them that, from their own observation, they knew that this was not so.

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