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Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
9 You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. 14For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, 15who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone 16by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.
Paul’s Desire to Visit the Thessalonians Again
17 As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. 18For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20Yes, you are our glory and joy!
1Th 2:1-20. His Manner of Preaching, and Theirs of Receiving, the Gospel; His Desire to Have Revisited Them Frustrated by Satan.
1. For—confirming 1Th 1:9. He discusses the manner of his fellow missionaries' preaching among them (1Th 1:5, and former part of 1Th 2:9) at 1Th 2:1-12; and the Thessalonians' reception of the word (compare 1Th 1:6, 7, and latter part of 1Th 2:9) at 1Th 2:13-16.
yourselves—Not only do strangers report it, but you know it to be true [Alford] "yourselves."
not in vain—Greek, "not vain," that is, it was full of "power" (1Th 1:5). The Greek for "was," expresses rather "hath been and is," implying the permanent and continuing character of his preaching.
2. even after that we had suffered before—at Philippi (Ac 16:11-40): a circumstance which would have deterred mere natural, unspiritual men from further preaching.
in our God—The ground of our boldness in speaking was the realization of God as "OUR God."
with much contention—that is, literally, as of competitors in a contest: striving earnestness (Col 1:29; 2:1). But here outward conflict with persecutors, rather than inward and mental, was what the missionaries had to endure (Ac 17:5, 6; Php 1:30).
3. For—The ground of his "boldness" (1Th 2:2), his freedom from all "deceit, uncleanness, and guile"; guile, before God, deceit (Greek, "imposture"), towards men (compare 2Co 1:12; 2:17; Eph 4:14); uncleanness, in relation to one's self (impure motives of carnal self-gratification in gain, 1Th 2:5), or lust; such as actuated false teachers of the Gentiles (Php 1:16; 2Pe 2:10, 14; Jude 8; Re 2:14, 15). So Simon Magus and Cerinthus taught [Estius].
exhortation—The Greek means "consolation" as well as "exhortation." The same Gospel which exhorts comforts. Its first lesson to each is that of peace in believing amidst outward and inward sorrows. It comforts them that mourn (compare 1Th 2:11; Isa 61:2, 3; 2Co 1:3, 4).
of—springing from—having its source in—deceit, &c.
4. as—according as; even as.
allowed—Greek, "We have been approved on trial," "deemed fit." This word corresponds to "God which trieth our hearts" below. This approval as to sincerity depends solely on the grace and mercy of God (Ac 9:15; 1Co 7:25; 2Co 3:5; 1Ti 1:11, 12).
not as pleasing—not as persons who seek to please men; characteristic of false teachers (Ga 1:10).
5. used we flattering words—literally, "become (that is, have we been found) in (the use of) language of flattery"; the resource of those who try to "please men."
as ye know—"Ye know" as to whether I flattered you; as to "covetousness," God, the Judge of the heart, alone can be "my witness."
cloak of—that is, any specious guise under which I might cloak "covetousness."
6. Literally, "Nor of men (have we been found, 1Th 2:5) seeking glory." The "of" here represents a different Greek word from "of" in the clause "of you … of others." Alford makes the former (Greek, "ex") express the abstract ground of the glory; the latter (apo) the concrete object from which it was to come. The former means "originating from"; the latter means "on the part of." Many teach heretical novelties, though not for fain, yet for "glory." Paul and his associates were free even from this motive [Grotius], (Joh 5:44).
we might have been burdensome—that is, by claiming maintenance (1Th 2:9; 2Co 11:9; 12:16; 2Th 3:8). As, however, "glory" precedes, as well as "covetousness," the reference cannot be restricted to the latter, though I think it is not excluded. Translate, "when we might have borne heavily upon you," by pressing you with the weight of self-glorifying authority, and with the burden of our sustenance. Thus the antithesis is appropriate in the words following, "But we were gentle (the opposite of pressing weightily) among you" (1Th 2:7). On weight being connected with authority, compare Note, see on 2Co 10:10, "His letters are weighty" (1Co 4:21). Alford's translation, which excludes reference to his right of claiming maintenance ("when we might have stood on our dignity"), seems to me disproved by 1Th 2:9, which uses the same Greek word unequivocally for "chargeable." Twice he received supplies from Philippi while at Thessalonica (Php 4:16).
as the apostles—that is, as being apostles.
7. we were—Greek, "we were made" by God's grace.
gentle—Greek, "mild in bearing with the faults of others" [Tittmann]; one, too, who is gentle (though firm) in reproving the erroneous opinions of others (2Ti 2:24). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "we became little children" (compare Mt 18:3, 4). Others support the English Version reading, which forms a better antithesis to 1Th 2:6, 7, and harmonizes better with what follows; for he would hardly, in the same sentence, compare himself both to the "infants" or "little children," and to "a nurse," or rather, "suckling mother." Gentleness is the fitting characteristic of a nurse.
among you—Greek, "in the midst of you," that is, in our intercourse with you being as one of yourselves.
nurse—a suckling mother.
8. So—to be joined to "we were willing"; "As a nurse cherisheth … so we were willing," &c. [Alford]. But Bengel, "So," that is, seeing that we have such affection for you.
being affectionately desirous—The oldest reading in the Greek implies, literally, to connect one's self with another; to be closely attached to another.
willing—The Greek is stronger, "we were well content"; "we would gladly have imparted," &c. "even our own lives" (so the Greek for "souls" ought to be translated); as we showed in the sufferings we endured in giving you the Gospel (Ac 17:1-34). As a nursing mother is ready to impart not only her milk to them, but her life for them, so we not only imparted gladly the spiritual milk of the word to you, but risked our own lives for your spiritual nourishment, imitating Him who laid down His life for His friends, the greatest proof of love (Joh 15:13).
ye were—Greek, "ye were become," as having become our spiritual children.
dear—Greek, "dearly beloved."
9. labour and travail—The Greek for "labor" means hardship in bearing; that for "travail," hardship in doing; the former, toil with the utmost solicitude; the latter, the being wearied with fatigue [Grotius]. Zanchius refers the former to spiritual (see 1Th 3:5), the latter to manual labor. I would translate, "weariness (so the Greek is translated, 2Co 11:27) and travail" (hard labor, toil).
for—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
labouring—Greek, "working," namely, at tent-making (Ac 18:3).
night and day—The Jews reckoned the day from sunset to sunset, so that "night" is put before "day" (compare Ac 20:31). Their labors with their hands for a scanty livelihood had to be engaged in not only by day, but by night also, in the intervals between spiritual labors.
preached unto you—Greek, "unto and among you." Though but "three Sabbaths" are mentioned, Ac 17:2, these refer merely to the time of his preaching to the Jews in the synagogue. When rejected by them as a body, after having converted a few Jews, he turned to the Gentiles; of these (whom he preached to in a place distinct from the synagogue) "a great multitude believed" (Ac 17:4, where the oldest manuscripts read, "of the devout [proselytes] and Greeks a great multitude"); then after he had, by labors continued among the Gentiles for some time, gathered in many converts, the Jews, provoked by his success, assaulted Jason's house, and drove him away. His receiving "once and again" supplies from Philippi, implies a longer stay at Thessalonica than three weeks (Php 4:16).
10. Ye are witnesses—as to our outward conduct.
God—as to our inner motives.
unblamably—in relation to ourselves.
behaved ourselves—Greek, "were made to be," namely, by God.
among you that believe—rather, "before (that is, in the eyes of) you that believe"; whatever we may have seemed in the eyes of the unbelieving. As 1Th 2:9 refers to their outward occupation in the world; so 1Th 2:10, to their character among believers.
11. exhorted and comforted—Exhortation leads one to do a thing willingly; consolation, to do it joyfully [Bengel], (1Th 5:14). Even in the former term, "exhorted," the Greek includes the additional idea of comforting and advocating one's cause: "encouragingly exhorted." Appropriate in this case, as the Thessalonians were in sorrow, both through persecutions, and also through deaths of friends (1Th 4:13).
charged—"conjured solemnly," literally, "testifying"; appealing solemnly to you before God.
every one of you—in private (Ac 20:20), as well as publicly. The minister, if he would be useful, must not deal merely in generalities, but must individualize and particularize.
as a father—with mild gravity. The Greek is, "his own children."
12. worthy of God—"worthy of the Lord" (Col 1:10); "worthily of the saints" (Ro 16:2, Greek): "… of the Gospel" (Php 1:27) "… of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Eph 4:1). Inconsistency would cause God's name to be "blasphemed among the Gentiles" (Ro 2:24). The Greek article is emphatical, "Worthy of THE God who is calling you."
hath called—So one of the oldest manuscripts and Vulgate. Other oldest manuscripts, "Who calleth us."
his kingdom—to be set up at the Lord's coming.
13. For this cause—Seeing ye have had such teachers (1Th 2:10-12) [Bengel], "we also (as well as 'all that believe' in Macedonia and Achaia) thank God without ceasing ('always' … 'in our prayers,' 1Th 1:2), that when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us (literally, 'God's word of hearing from us,' Ro 10:16, 17), ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, even as it is truly, the word of God." Alford omits the "as" of English Version. But the "as" is required by the clause, "even as it is truly." "Ye accepted it, not (as) the word of men (which it might have been supposed to be), but (as) the word of God, even as it really is." The Greek for the first "received," implies simply the hearing of it; the Greek of the second is "accepted," or "welcomed" it. The proper object of faith, it hence appears, is the word of God, at first oral, then for security against error, written (Joh 20:30, 31; Ro 15:4; Ga 4:30). Also, that faith is the work of divine grace, is implied by Paul's thanksgiving.
effectually worketh also in you that believe—"Also," besides your accepting it with your hearts, it evidences itself in your lives. It shows its energy in its practical effects on you; for instance, working in you patient endurance in trial (1Th 2:14; compare Ga 3:5; 5:6).
14. followers—Greek, "imitators." Divine working is most of all seen and felt in affliction.
in Judea—The churches of Judea were naturally the patterns to other churches, as having been the first founded, and that on the very scene of Christ's own ministry. Reference to them is specially appropriate here, as the Thessalonians, with Paul and Silas, had experienced from Jews in their city persecutions (Ac 17:5-9) similar to those which "the churches in Judea" experienced from Jews in that country.
in Christ Jesus—not merely "in God"; for the synagogues of the Jews (one of which the Thessalonians were familiar with, Ac 17:1) were also in God. But the Christian churches alone were not only in God, as the Jews in contrast to the Thessalonian idolaters were, but also in Christ, which the Jews were not.
of your own countrymen—including primarily the Jews settled at Thessalonica, from whom the persecution originated, and also the Gentiles there, instigated by the Jews; thus, "fellow countrymen" (the Greek term, according to Herodian, implies, not the enduring relation of fellow citizenship, but sameness of country for the time being), including naturalized Jews and native Thessalonians, stand in contrast to the pure "Jews" in Judea (Mt 10:36). It is an undesigned coincidence, that Paul at this time was suffering persecutions of the Jews at Corinth, whence he writes (Ac 18:5, 6, 12); naturally his letter would the more vividly dwell on Jewish bitterness against Christians.
even as they—(Heb 10:32-34). There was a likeness in respect to the nation from which both suffered, namely, Jews, and those their own countrymen; in the cause for which, and in the evils which, they suffered, and also in the steadfast manner in which they suffered them. Such sameness of fruits, afflictions, and experimental characteristics of believers, in all places and at all times, is a subsidiary evidence of the truth of the Gospel.
their own—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
persecuted us—rather as Greek (see Margin), "By persecution drove us out" (Lu 11:49).
please not God—that is, they do not make it their aim to please God. He implies that with all their boast of being God's peculiar people, they all the while are "no pleasers of God," as certainly as, by the universal voice of the world, which even they themselves cannot contradict, they are declared to be perversely "contrary to all men." Josephus [Against Apion, 2.14], represents one calling them "Atheists and Misanthropes, the dullest of barbarians"; and Tacitus [Histories, 5.5], "They have a hostile hatred of all other men." However, the contrariety to all men here meant is, in that they "forbid us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved" (1Th 2:16).
16. Forbidding—Greek, "Hindering us from speaking," &c.
to fill up their sins alway—Tending thus "to the filling up (the full measure of, Ge 15:16; Da 8:23; Mt 23:32) their sins at all times," that is, now as at all former times. Their hindrance of the Gospel preaching to the Gentiles was the last measure added to their continually accumulating iniquity, which made them fully ripe for vengeance.
for—Greek, "but." "But," they shall proceed no further, for (2Ti 3:8) "the" divine "wrath has (so the Greek) come upon (overtaken unexpectedly; the past tense expressing the speedy certainty of the divinely destined stroke) them to the uttermost"; not merely partial wrath, but wrath to its full extent, "even to the finishing stroke" [Edmunds]. The past tense implies that the fullest visitation of wrath was already begun. Already in A.D. 48, a tumult had occurred at the Passover in Jerusalem, when about thirty thousand (according to some) were slain; a foretaste of the whole vengeance which speedily followed (Lu 19:43, 44; 21:24).
for a short time—literally, "for the space of an hour." "When we had been severed from you but a very short time (perhaps alluding to the suddenness of his unexpected departure), we the more abundantly (the shorter was our separation; for the desire of meeting again is the more vivid, the more recent has been the parting) endeavored," &c. (Compare 2Ti 1:4). He does not hereby, as many explain, anticipate a short separation from them, which would be a false anticipation; for he did not soon revisit them. The Greek past participle also forbids their view.
18. Wherefore—The oldest manuscripts read, "Because," or "Inasmuch as."
we would—Greek, "we wished to come"; we intended to come.
even I Paul—My fellow missionaries as well as myself wished to come; I can answer for myself that I intended it more than once. His slightly distinguishing himself here from his fellow missionaries, whom throughout this Epistle he associates with himself in the plural, accords with the fact that Silvanus and Timothy stayed at Berea when Paul went on to Athens; where subsequently Timothy joined him, and was thence sent by Paul alone to Thessalonica (1Th 3:1).
Satan hindered us—On a different occasion "the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Jesus" (so the oldest manuscripts read), Ac 16:6, 7, forbad or hindered them in a missionary design; here it is Satan, acting perhaps by wicked men, some of whom had already driven him out of Thessalonica (Ac 17:13, 14; compare Joh 13:27), or else by some more direct "messenger of Satan—a thorn in the flesh" (2Co 12:7; compare 2Co 11:14). In any event, the Holy Ghost and the providence of God overruled Satan's opposition to further His own purpose. We cannot, in each case, define whence hindrances in good undertakings arise; Paul in this case, by inspiration, was enabled to say; the hindrance was from Satan. Grotius thinks Satan's mode of hindering Paul's journey to Thessalonica was by instigating the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers to cavil, which entailed on Paul the necessity of replying, and so detained him; but he seems to have left Athens leisurely (Ac 17:33, 34; 18:1). The Greek for "hindered" is literally, "to cut a trench between one's self and an advancing foe, to prevent his progress"; so Satan opposing the progress of the missionaries.
19. For—giving the reason for his earnest desire to see them.
Are not even ye in the presence of … Christ—"Christ" is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Are not even ye (namely, among others; the "even" or "also," implies that not they alone will be his crown) our hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing before Jesus, when He shall come (2Co 1:14; Php 2:16; 4:1)? The "hope" here meant is his hope (in a lower sense), that these his converts might be found in Christ at His advent (1Th 3:13). Paul's chief "hope" was Jesus Christ (1Ti 1:1).
20. Emphatical repetition with increased force. Who but ye and our other converts are our hope, &c., hereafter, at Christ's coming? For it is ye who ARE now our glory and joy.