1 Thessalonians 2
Pulpit Commentary
For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
Verse 1. - For yourselves, brethren; in contrast to other persons. Not only do strangers report the power and efficacy of our preaching among you, but you yourselves arc experimentally acquainted with it. Know our entrance in unto you; referring, not merely to the mere preaching of the gospel to the Thessalonians, but to the entrance which the gospel found into their hearts - to its coming, not in word only, but also in power (1 Thessalonians 1:5). That it was not in vain; not empty, useless, to no purpose, - descriptive of the character of the apostolic entrance among them. Our entrance among you was not powerless, unreal; on the contrary, it was mighty, energetic, powerful. The reference is chiefly to the manner or mode in which Paul and his companions preached the gospel, though not entirely excluding the success of the gospel among the Thessalonians (comp. l Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain").
But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
Verse 2. - But even after we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated. As the word here rendered "suffered before" does not in itself imply that the sufferings were unjust, the apostle adds, "and were shamefully entreated." As ye know, at Philippi. We are informed, in the Acts of the Apostles, that Paul and Silas were publicly scourged and cast into prison; and scourging with rods was regarded as an ignominious punishment, and therefore was forbidden to be inflicted on Roman citizens, such as Paul and Silas were. "They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison" (Acts 16:37). We were bold in our God to speak unto you. The word here rendered "bold" denotes boldness or freedom of speech; and hence some render the clause, "We were bold of speech in our God, so as to speak unto you" (Ellicott). Perhaps, however, as the verb "to speak" follows, it is better to render the clause," We were confident in our God to speak;" or "emboldened to speak" (R.V., "we waxed bold"). This boldness or confidence was in our God, that is, on account of our fellowship or union with him. The gospel of God. The genitive of origin, denoting, not merely that God was the Object, but that he was the Author of the gospel. With much contention; or, in much conflict (R.V.), alluding to the peril and danger with which Paul preached the gospel in Thessalonica.
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
Verse 3. - For our exhortation. This word has a twofold signification, denoting both "exhortation" and "consolation;" when it refers to the moral conduct it denotes exhortation, but when it is an address to a sufferer it denotes consolation. In the gospel these two meanings are blended together. Was not of deceit. Not in the sense of guile, which would be tantological, but simply "error," without any direct evil intent; our gospel was not a delusion - we were not ourselves deceived. Nor of uncleanness; a word usually employed to denote sensuality, and in this sense the meaning is - We did not, like the heathen in their worship, give occasion to unclean practices: "We have corrupted no man" (2 Corinthians 7:2). The word, however, may be taken in a more general sense, as denoting impurity of disposition, impure motives: such as the impure desire of applause or of gain, to which the apostle afterwards alludes. Or of guile. As we were not ourselves deceived, so neither did we attempt to deceive others. The apostle did not adapt his religion, an. Mahomet, to suit the prejudices or passions of men; he did not employ any seductive or temporizing arts; but he boldly went in the face of the prevailing religions of the age, both of the Jews and of the Gentiles.
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
Verse 4. - But; in contrast. As; according as. We were allowed. The old English for "approved." Of God. The word rendered "allowed" signifies tried, tested as gold is tested in the fire, and hence also the result of that trial, "approved." As we were esteemed worthy to be put in trust with the gospel; entrusted with its publication. Even so; in this condition of approval and trust. We speak, not as pleasing men, but God, that trieth. The same verb that is rendered "allowed" in the first part of the verse; hence "proverb," or "approveth." Our hearts. Not a general statement, "God who is the Discerner of the heart;" but "our hearts," namely, of us, the publishers of the gospel - Paul and Silas and Timothy; thus appealing to God, as the infallible Judge of their sincerity.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
Verse 5. - For; confirming the statement that the preachers of the gospel did not seek to please men, but God. Neither at any time used we flattering words; endeavoring to gain you by flattery and praise; we did not pander to your feelings; we did not soften the demands of the gospel. As ye know, nor a cloak - or pretext - of covetousness. We did not use the gospel as a pretext to mask our real motive, which was covetousness, pretending to seek your spiritual good, whereas in reality we sought our own advantage. Paul could with perfect confidence appeal to his converts, and say, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel" (Acts 20:33). He was free from all sinister motives. "He did not use words such as flattery uses, or pretexts such as covetousness" (Jowett). God is witness. Paul appeals to the Thessalonians themselves that he had not used flattering words; so now he appeals to God that the motive of his conduct was not covetousness. Men can judge the external conduct, they can hear the flattering words; but God only can know the motive of action - he only can discern the covetousness.
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
Verse 6. - Nor of (or, from) men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome. These words admit of two meanings. The apostle may refer to his refusal to seek maintenance from the Thessalonians, and in this sense become a burden to them. But such a meaning does not suit the context; and besides: this refusal of maintenance is afterwards alluded to by the apostle. The reference here is not to maintenance, but to glory: we did not seek glory from you, when we might have been burdensome, when we might have done so. Hence the word is to be taken in the sense of honor, importance; when we might have claimed honor. As - in virtue of our character as - the apostles of Christ. Paul does not speak of himself alone, but he includes Silas and Timothy, and therefore the word "apostles" is to be taken, not in its restricted, but in its wider meaning.
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
Verse 7. - But. The apostle now describes iris conduct positively. We were gentle; a word used of the amiable conduct of a superior toward an inferior, as of a master toward a servant, a prince toward his subjects, or a father toward his children. "The servant of God must not strive, but be gentle toward all men" (2 Timothy 2:24). Some manuscripts read, "We were babes among you" - the difference being only the addition of another letter. Among you; in our intercourse with you. Even as a nurse; or rather, a nursing mother, for the children arc her own. Cherisheth; the word employed for birds warming and cherishing their young. Her children. A stronger expression of tenderness and love could hardly be made. Even as a nursing mother dedicates her life for her infant; so, says Paul, we are willing to dedicate ourselves for you. Some important manuscripts read the verse thus: "But we were babes among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children;" but this arises from an obvious error of the transcriber.
So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
Verse 8. - So being affectionately desirous of you; a strong expression in the original: "being filled with earnest love for you." We were willing. The word denotes a predetermination of the will: "we esteemed it good." To have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls. An evident climax: not only were we willing to preach the gospel of God to you, but more than this, to sacrifice our own lives for your advantage. The word here rendered "souls" denotes lives; and the meaning is that the apostle was willing to submit to death for the sake of the Thessalonians. The plural "we" still implies Paul and Silas and Timothy. The thought is - As a nursing mother not only nourishes tier children, but is also ready to sacrifice her life for them; so the apostle not only nourished his spiritual children with the pure milk of the gospel, but was ready to sacrifice his own life for their spiritual maintenance; thus expressing in the strongest manner the womanly tenderness of the apostle toward his converts. Because ye were dear unto us.
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Verse 9. - For; a proof or confirmation of this dearness of the Thessalonians to the apostle. Ye remember, brethren; recalling to their recollection his conduct when he was with them. Our labor and travail. These two terms frequently occur together (2 Corinthians 11:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:8), and can hardly be distinguished; "labor," or" toil," is active, denoting exertion; "travail" is passive, denoting weariness or fatigue, the effect of the exertion. For laboring; in its strict meaning chiefly used of manual labor. Paul here refers to his working for his own support as a tent-maker. Night and day. Night precedes according to the Jewish mode of reckoning. It does not denote that the apostle made up by labor at night the loss of time during the day which his higher duties, as a preacher of the gospel, occasioned; that he wrought at his trade at night, and preached during the (lay; but the phrase, "night and day," denotes incessantly, continually. Because we would not be chargeable to any of you. Not a proof of the poverty of the Church of Thessalonica; but the reason of this unselfish conduct of the apostle was that no hindrance should arise on his part to the spread of the gospel; that no imputation of selfishness or covetousness should be laid to his charge. As he had done at Thessalonica so the apostle acted in other places. Thus at the time he was writing this Epistle he was working for his support at Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:12; 2 Corinthians 11:9). And such was also his practice at Ephesus; for in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders he could appeal to them: "Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me" (Acts 20:34). We preached unto you the gospel of God. Thus freely, without charge.
Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
Verse 10. - Ye are witnesses, and God also; ye of the outward conduct, and God of the motives which actuated us. How holily and justly and unblamably; "holily" denoting the apostle's conduct to God, "justly" his conduct to man, and "unblamably" the negative side of both particulars. We behaved ourselves among you that believe. The apostle here refers to his own personal demeanor and to that of Silas and Timothy among them, in order that the Thessalonians might realize the purity of their conduct, and so might continue steadfast in their attachment to the gospel which they taught, He men-lions specially "them that believe," not that He acted otherwise among those that did not believe, but because believers were cognizant of his conduct.
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
Verse 11. - As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children. The translation of this verse is somewhat faulty; it ought to be, as in the R.V., as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying. Paul here changes the image from that of a nursing mother to that of a father; because then he was speaking of his tender care for his converts, whereas here he speaks of the instructions and admonitions which he gave them; as a mother he nourished their spiritual life, and as a father he superintended their spiritual education. "Exhorting and comforting and charging;" representing three modes of the apostle's instructions: "exhorting" denotes also encouraging and consoling; "comforting" denotes supporting and sustaining ("Comfort the feeble minded," 1 Thessalonians 5:14); and "charging" denotes testifying or protesting - a solemn pressing home of the exhortation to the hearers.
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
Verse 12. - That (or, to the end that) ye would walk worthy of God; so as to adorn the gospel of God. So in the Epistle to the Colossians: "That ye would walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Colossians 1:10). Who hath called you; or, as the best attested manuscripts read, who calleth you. To his kingdom and glory. Not to be weakened as if it were a Hebraism for "his glorious kingdom," or "the kingdom of his glory;" but the kingdom and glory are to be viewed as two different objects. "God called you to Ms kingdom," namely, the Messianic kingdom which he has established on earth; and which will be completely realized at the advent. And "God called you to his glory," namely, the glory which is in reserve for all the members of his kingdom.
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Verse 13. - For this cause. Not because God has called you to his kingdom and glory, but, referring to what follows, because of your reception of' the gospel. We thank God. Although the reception of the gospel was in one sense the free and voluntary act on the part of the Thessalonians; yet in another sense it was the act of God who ordained them to accept the gospel; their belief was an operation of God in them. Without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us; literally, because when ye receive, d from us the Word of hearing, which is of God. The gospel is called "the Word of hearing," because it came by hearing; hence "the Word heard," or "the Word of the message" (R.V.). It is further designated "of God" - the Word whose Author is God. Ye received it not as the word of men - as if it were of human origin - but as it is in truth, the Word of God - of Divine origin - which effectually worketh. The pronoun may refer to God, "who effectually worketh," or better to the Word of God, as the principal subject of the sentence. Also in you that believe. The gospel was powerful as respects the preachers, and effectual as respects the hearers.
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Verse 14. - For ye, brethren, became followers; or rather, imitators, namely, in the endurance of suffering for the sake of the gospel, not in intention only, but in reality. Of the Churches Of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus. These Churches arc mentioned as being at this early period the most prominent. The special mention of persecution by the Jews has its origin in the fact that it was by the unbelieving Jews that Paul was persecuted at Thessalonica. For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen. One of the proofs that the Church of Thessalonica was Gentile in its origin; as these countrymen were evidently Gentiles, being here distinguished from the Jews. From this it would seem that, after Paul and his companions had left Thessalonica, the persecution which arose against the Christians continued, and the Gentiles combined with the Jews in opposing the gospel. Even as they - the Churches of God in Judaea - have of the Jews. We learn from the Acts of the Apostles that the Jewish Christians in Judaea were exposed to severe persecution from their unbelieving countrymen: Stephen was put to death, and Paul himself, in his unconverted state, was a chief among the persecutors.
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
Verse 15. - Who both killed the Lord Jesus; emphatic, to point out the greatness of their wickedness. And their own prophets; or, as some manuscripts read, and the prophets. This crime was often laid to the charge of the Jews: thus, by our Lord, "Ye are witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets" (Matthew 23:31); and by the protomartyr Stephen, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" (Acts 7:25.) And have persecuted us; literally, driven us out, as Paul and Silos were expelled from Thessalonica. And they please not God, but are contrary to all men. The hatred and contempt which the Jews bore to other nations is noticed by Tacitus, Juvenal, and other heathen writers. Thus Tacitus writes of them: "They are faithful to obstinacy, and merciful toward themselves, but toward all others are actuated by the most irreconcilable hatred (odium humani generis)." And Juvenal says, "They will not show the road to one who was not of their religion, nor lead the thirsty person if uncircumcised to the common spring." Perhaps, however, the apostle refers here, not to the enmity of the Jews to the human race in general, though perfectly cognizant of their bigotry and intolerance; as this enmity was a perversion of their peculiar distinction as he people of God; but rather to their opposition to his preaching the gospel to the Gentiles - to their extreme reluctance that the Gentiles along with themselves should be admitted into the kingdom of God.
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
Verse 16. - Forbidding us - by contradicting, blaspheming, slandering, laying snares - to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved. Not that the Jews were averse to the proselytism of the Gentiles, provided they were circumcised -rod kept the Law of Moses; on the contrary, Judaism at this period was a proselytizing religion; but their great objection to the preaching of the gospel was that the preachers did not insist on the Gentiles becoming Jews before they became Christians. And, accordingly, we learn from the Acts of the Apostles that the unbelieving Jews were the most violent and implacable enemies of the gospel. Of the numerous persecutions mentioned in the Acts, there were only two, namely, those at Philippi and Ephesus, which were not occasioned by the Jews. To fill up their sins always; so that the measure of their iniquity became full to overflowing. Their forbidding the apostles to preach to the Gentiles was the last drop which caused the cup of their iniquity to overflow (cutup. Genesis 15:16, "The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full"). The remark of Professor Jowett is well worthy of notice: "In the beginning of sin and evil it seems as if men were free agents, and had the power of going on or of retreating. But as the crisis of their fate approaches, they are bound under a curse and the form in which their destiny presents itself to our minds is as though it were certain, and only a question of time how soon it is to be fulfilled." For the wrath; that wrath which was predicted and is merited by them. "Wrath" is here used for punishment, which is the effect of wrath. Is come upon them to the uttermost; literally, to the end. The apostle here refers to the judgments of God, which were impending on Jerusalem and the Jewish people; judgments which were fearfully executed in the awful sufferings they endured in the Jewish war, and in the destruction of their city by the Romans.
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
Verse 17. - Here a new chapter ought to have commenced, passing on to another subject, the apostle's desire to visit the Thessalonians. But we, brethren, being taken from you; literally, being bereaved of you (R.V.). For a short time; literally, for the space of an hour. And yet it was several years before the apostle revisited Thessalonica; but he here speaks of the short period - a space of six months - which had already separated them; not, as some suppose, that his mind was so full of the ideas of eternity that he overlooked all divisions of time. In presence, not in heart. Similar expressions are common in Paul's Epistles, denoting his love for his converts; thus: "Though I be absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit" (Colossians 2:5). Endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire; because our separation has been so short. As has been well observed, "Universal experience testifies that the pain of separation from friends and the desire to return to them are more vivid, the more freshly the remembrance of the departure is on the mind" (Lunemann).
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
Verse 18. - Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul. Paul distinguishes himself, because in all probability his companions, Silas and Timothy, had been at Thessalonica after he had left it. Once and again. Not used indefinitely, but referring to two separate attempts which Paul made to revisit the Thessalonians. But Satan hindered us; denoting, not the enemies of Christianity, but the devil, the author of all the hindrances in the kingdom of God. Paul here recognizes the personality of Satan, as the author of all evil, the great opponent of God and Christ. We are not informed by what instrumentality this hindrance of Satan took place. It may refer to the various persecutions against Paul, which prevented him returning to Thessalonica, and especially to that persecution raised against him in Beraea by the Jews of Thessalonica (Acts 17:13). In one sense, indeed, the hindrances arose in the way of God's providence, for under its direction all the journeys of Paul were placed, and Satan could not have hindered him from preaching the gospel in any quarter, unless by the Divine permission (comp. Acts 16:7; Romans 1:13).
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
Verse 19. - For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? or, glorying. The apostle calls the Thessalonians his "hope," not because he anticipates any reward from their conversion, or because their conversion would counterbalance his former persecution of the Christians, but because he hoped to meet them in glory; he calls them his "joy," because he would rejoice with them in their final salvation; and he calls them his "crown of rejoicing," because he regards them as trophies of the victory of the gospel which he preached. Similarly he calls the Philippians "his joy and crown" (Philippians 4:1). Are not even ye; or rather, are not ye also? - ye as well as other Christians? In the presence of - before - our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming; at the restoration of his Messianic kingdom.
For ye are our glory and joy.
Verse 20. - For ye are our glory and joy. Some refer this verse to the present, and the former verse to the future; not merely at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but even now ye are our glory and joy. But there is no reason for this distinction; the words are merely confirmatory, and added from the fullness of the apostle's emotions.

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