The apostle reminds the Thessalonians of his preaching and behaviour. (1-12) And of their receiving the gospel as the word of God. (13-16) His joy on their account. (17-20)
Verses 1-6 The apostle had no wordly design in his preaching. Suffering in a good cause should sharpen holy resolution. The gospel of Christ at first met with much opposition; and it was preached with contention, with striving in preaching, and against opposition. And as the matter of the apostle's exhortation was true and pure, the manner of his speaking was without guile. The gospel of Christ is designed for mortifying corrupt affections, and that men may be brought under the power of faith. This is the great motive to sincerity, to consider that God not only sees all we do, but knows our thoughts afar off, and searches the heart. And it is from this God who trieth our hearts, that we must receive our reward. The evidences of the apostle's sincerity were, that he avoided flattery and covetousness. He avoided ambition and vain-glory.
Verses 7-12 Mildness and tenderness greatly recommend religion, and are most conformable to God's gracious dealing with sinners, in and by the gospel. This is the way to win people. We should not only be faithful to our calling as Christians, but in our particular callings and relations. Our great gospel privilege is, that God has called us to his kingdom and glory. The great gospel duty is, that we walk worthy of God. We should live as becomes those called with such a high and holy calling. Our great business is to honour, serve, and please God, and to seek to be worthy of him.
Verses 13-16 We should receive the word of God with affections suitable to its holiness, wisdom, truth, and goodness. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and sometimes false, foolish, and fickle; but God's word is holy, wise, just, and faithful. Let us receive and regard it accordingly. The word wrought in them, to make them examples to others in faith and good works, and in patience under sufferings, and in trials for the sake of the gospel. Murder and persecution are hateful to God, and no zeal for any thing in religion can excuse it. Nothing tends more to any person or people's filling up the measure of their sins, than opposing the gospel, and hindering the salvation of souls. The pure gospel of Christ is abhorred by many, and the faithful preaching of it is hindered in many ways. But those who forbid the preaching it to sinners, to men dead in sin, do not by this please God. Those have cruel hearts, and are enemies to the glory of God, and to the salvation of his people, who deny them the Bible.
Verses 17-20 This world is not a place where we are to be always, or long together. In heaven holy souls shall meet, and never part more. And though the apostle could not come to them yet, and thought he might never be able to come, yet our Lord Jesus Christ will come; nothing shall hinder that. May God give faithful ministers to all who serve him with their spirit in the gospel of his Son, and send them to all who are in darkness
1 Thessalonians 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 1 Thessalonians 1:9 . He discusses the manner of his fellow missionaries' preaching among them ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5 , and former part of 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ) at 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ; and the Thessalonians' reception of the word (compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6 1 Thessalonians 1:7 , and latter part of 1 Thessalonians 2:9 ) at 1 Thessalonians 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" ( 1 Thessalonians 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 ( Acts 16:11-40 ): a circumstance which would have deterred mere natural, unspiritual men from further preaching.
shamefully entreated--ignominiously scourged ( Acts 16:22 Acts 16:23 ).
bold--( Acts 4:29 , Ephesians 6:20 ).
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 ( Colossians 1:29 , 2:1 ). But here outward conflict with persecutors, rather than inward and mental, was what the missionaries had to endure ( Acts 17:5 Acts 17:6 , Philippians 1:30 ).
3. For--The ground of his "boldness" ( 1 Thessalonians 2:2 ), his freedom from all "deceit, uncleanness, and guile"; guile, before God, deceit (Greek, "imposture"), towards men (compare 2 Corinthians 1:12 , 2:17 , Ephesians 4:14 ); uncleanness, in relation to one's self (impure motives of carnal self-gratification in gain, 1 Thessalonians 2:5 ), or lust; such as actuated false teachers of the Gentiles ( Philippians 1:16 , 2 Peter 2:10 2 Peter 2:14 , Jude 1:8 , Revelation 2:14 Revelation 2:15 ). 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 1 Thessalonians 2:11 , Isaiah 61:2 Isaiah 61:3 , 2 Corinthians 1:3 2 Corinthians 1:4 ).
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 ( Acts 9:15 , 1 Corinthians 7:25 , 2 Corinthians 3:5 , 1 Timothy 1:11 1 Timothy 1:12 ).
not as pleasing--not as persons who seek to please men; characteristic of false teachers ( Galatians 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, 1 Thessalonians 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], ( John 5:44 ).
we might have been burdensome--that is, by claiming maintenance ( 1 Thessalonians 2:9 , 2 Corinthians 11:9 , 12:16 , 2 Thessalonians 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" ( 1 Thessalonians 2:7 ). On weight being connected with authority, compare Note, are weighty" ( 1 Corinthians 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 1 Thessalonians 2:9 , which uses the same Greek word unequivocally for "chargeable." Twice he received supplies from Philippi while at Thessalonica ( Philippians 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 ( 2 Timothy 2:24 ). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "we became little children" (compare Matthew 18:3 Matthew 18:4 ). Others support the English Version reading, which forms a better antithesis to 1 Thessalonians 2:6 1 Thessalonians 2:7 , 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.
her--Greek, "her own children" (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:11 ). So Galatians 4:19 .
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 ( Acts 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 ( John 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 1 Thessalonians 3:5 ), the latter to manual labor. I would translate, "weariness (so the Greek is translated, 2 Corinthians 11:27 ) and travail" (hard labor, toil).
for--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
labouring--Greek, "working," namely, at tent-making ( Acts 18:3 ).
night and day--The Jews reckoned the day from sunset to sunset, so that "night" is put before "day" (compare Acts 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.
because we would not be chargeable--Greek, "with a view to not burdening any of you" ( 2 Corinthians 11:9 2 Corinthians 11:10 ).
preached unto you--Greek, "unto and among you." Though but "three Sabbaths" are mentioned, Acts 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" ( Acts 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 ( Philippians 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 1 Thessalonians 2:9 refers to their outward occupation in the world; so 1 Thessalonians 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], ( 1 Thessalonians 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ).
charged--"conjured solemnly," literally, "testifying"; appealing solemnly to you before God.
every one of you--in private ( Acts 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" ( Colossians 1:10 ); "worthily of the saints" ( Romans 16:2 , Greek): ". . . of the Gospel" ( Philippians 1:27 ) ". . . of the vocation wherewith ye are called" ( Ephesians 4:1 ). Inconsistency would cause God's name to be "blasphemed among the Gentiles" ( Romans 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.
glory--that ye may share His glory ( John 17:22 , Colossians 3:4 ).
13. For this cause--Seeing ye have had such teachers ( 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 ) [BENGEL], "we also (as well as 'all that believe' in Macedonia and Achaia) thank God without ceasing ('always' . . . 'in our prayers,' 1 Thessalonians 1:2 ), that when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us (literally, 'God's word of hearing from us,' Romans 10:16 Romans 10:17 ), 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 ( John 20:30 John 20:31 , Romans 15:4 , Galatians 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ; compare Galatians 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 ( Acts 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, Acts 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 ( Matthew 10:36 ). It is an undesigned coincidence, that Paul at this time was suffering persecutions of the Jews at Corinth, whence he writes ( Acts 18:5 Acts 18:6 Acts 18:12 ); naturally his letter would the more vividly dwell on Jewish bitterness against Christians.
even as they--( Hebrews 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.
15. the Lord Jesus--rather as Greek, "Jesus THE LORD." This enhances the glaring enormity of their sin, that in killing Jesus they killed the LORD (Compare Acts 3:14 Acts 3:15 ).
their own--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
prophets--( Matthew 21:33-41 , 23:31-37 , Luke 13:33 ).
persecuted us--rather as Greek (see Margin), "By persecution drove us out" ( Luke 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" ( 1 Thessalonians 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, Genesis 15:16 , Daniel 8:23 , Matthew 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 ( 2 Timothy 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 ( Luke 19:43 Luke 19:44 , 21:24 ).
17. But we--resumed from 1 Thessalonians 2:13 ; in contrast to the Jews, 1 Thessalonians 2:15 1 Thessalonians 2:16 .
taken--rather as Greek, "severed (violently, Acts 17:7-10 ) from you," as parents bereft of their children. So "I will not leave you comfortless," Greek, "orphanized" ( John 14:18 ).
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 2 Timothy 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 3:1 ).
Satan hindered us--On a different occasion "the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Jesus" (so the oldest manuscripts read), Acts 16:6 Acts 16:7 , 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 ( Acts 17:13 Acts 17:14 ; compare John 13:27 ), or else by some more direct "messenger of Satan--a thorn in the flesh" ( 2 Corinthians 12:7 ; compare 2 Corinthians 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 ( Acts 17:33 Acts 17:34 , 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 ( 2 Corinthians 1:14 , Philippians 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 ( 1 Thessalonians 3:13 ). Paul's chief "hope" was JESUS CHRIST ( 1 Timothy 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.