The Latter Epistles – 1 Thessalonians 2

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results.  We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.  We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.  Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.  Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.  Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.  For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.  They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.  In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit.  The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.  For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.  For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

1 Thessalonians 2:2 ‘treated outrageously in Philippi’: “Paul and Silas had been brutalized in Philippi before coming to Thessalonica (cf. Acts 16:19-24, 37).  They suffered physically when beaten (Acts 16:22, 23) and incarcerated (Acts 16:24).  They were arrogantly mistreated with false accusations (Acts 16:20, 21) and illegally punished in spite of their Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37).  Like their treatment in Philippi, Paul’s team was falsely accused of civil treason in Thessalonica (Acts 17:7) and suffered physical intimidation (Acts 17:5, 6).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 ‘Integrity of motives’: “Paul calls their preaching of the gospel an ‘appeal’ (2:3).  This may suggest, among other things, the spirit in which the missionaries proclaimed the good news.  It was not simply a recital of theological truths, but an urgent summons to receive the message preached.  Paul now defends himself and his companions against the charge that they were wrongly motivated.  Their mission efforts did not spring from error.  They themselves were neither deceived nor did they deceive the Thessalonians by proclaiming falsehoods. …
“Paul … denies that they came with a bag of tricks.  The Greek word dolos (guile, cunning) originally meant bait or trap, and then took on the meaning of craft and trickery.  Roving magicians, rhetoricians, and charlatans of all sorts were frequent spectacles in Pail’s day, and the apostle refuses to be identified with that kind of people.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 ‘as a nursing mother’: “Paul may have had in mind Moses’ portrayal of himself as a nursing mother to Israel (cf. Num. 11:12).  He used the same tender picture with the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor. 12:14, 15) and the Galatians (cf. Gal. 4:19).  Paul’s affection for the Thessalonians was like that felt by a mother willing to sacrifice her life for her child as was Christ who was willing to give up His own life for those who would be born-again into the family of God (cf. Matt. 20:28).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

1 Thessalonians 2:9-15 ‘the labor of love’: “In chapter 2, Paul gives us a wonderful description of the labor of love.  This is not only the labor of the Thessalonians, but Paul’s labor as well. …
“[1 Thess. 2:9-12] was Paul’s labor of love.  And the Thessalonians evidently did what Paul exhorted them to do.
“[1 Thess. 2:14-15] is the service, the labor of love of the Thessalonians.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

1 Thessalonians 2:13 ‘we thank God’: “This thankfulness of theirs followed upon sore travail.  It is of no use for you to say. ‘I shall not thank God for a harvest,’ if you neither plow nor sow.  You will have no harvest without labor and patience.  Neither is anything worked by merely tucking up your sleeves and making a brave show.  We may plot and we may plan, we may propose and we may expect, but expectations and proposals will fall to the ground unless we stir ourselves up in the name of God and throw all the strength we have into the work of faith and labor of love.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 ‘The Coming Wrath’: “Here, Paul mentions how the Gentile believers in the Thessalonian church are suffering hateful persecution ‘at the hands of your own countrymen,’ even as believing Jews suffered at the hands of unbelieving Jews (1 Thessalonians 2:14).  Paul is probably referring here to the persecution that began in Jerusalem with the death of the first martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:14-8:4).  This persecution brought about a scattering ‘throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria’ (8:1).  Fortunately, those who were scattered continued to preach the Word (verse 4).
“The Jews who killed Christ and many of the New Testament prophets pursued Paul, and as he said, were ‘hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved’ (1 Thessalonians 2:16).  Those who were hostile to the gospel were filling up to the fullest measure their sins.  Milligan writes. ‘In acting as they were doing the present Jews were but carrying forward to its completion the work which their fathers had begun … and which had now brought down upon them God’s judicial wrath’ (Milligan, Epistles to the Thessalonians, p. 31).  Because of their sins, ‘wrath has come upon them in the utmost’ (verse 16).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy from Genesis to Revelation

1 Thessalonians 2:18 ‘Satan hindered’: “Satan is sure to hinder Christians when they are earnest in prayer.  Have we not frequently found that when we have been most earnest in supplication, something or other will start across our minds to make us cease from praying?  If Satan possibly can, he will come upon God’s people in those times when they are full of thought and ardor and ready for Christian effort, that he may murder their infant plans and cast their suggestions of the Holy Spirit out of their minds.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

1 Thessalonians 2 ‘challenge’: “I am afraid of the pastor that is another man when he enters the pulpit from what he was before.  Reverend, you should never think a thought or do a deed or be caught in any situation that you couldn’t carry into the pulpit with you without embarrassment.  You should never have to be a different man or get a new voice and a new sense of solemnity when you enter the pulpit.  You should be able to enter the pulpit with the same spirit and the same sense of reverence that you had just before when you were talking to someone about the common affairs of life.”

  • A. W. Tozer, Worship, the Missing Jewel

My Thoughts

The Apostle Paul starts this chapter with a reminder of the persecution that he and his team suffered.  Since the Thessalonians are spreading the gospel, they are starting to see some of the same suffering.  Paul is not discouraging the spreading of the gospel, but he is preparing those that do to the troubles and trials that they might face.

The second paragraph could be a “business” model for churches, but the pastor may not like it.  Paul dedicated his life to spreading the gospel, but Paul worked while doing so, a tent maker.  The people did not have to pay him, feed him, etc.  He earned his way through hard work.

My brother was an ordained minister, but almost his entire career was with small churches that could not pay him a salary.  He worked a regular shift all week long, visiting the sick when he was not working and then preparing a sermon and preaching in his “off” hours.  There were only a handful of years where he only preached and performed pastoral duties.  If the pastors had to work fulltime and preach fulltime, many would probably leave the profession.

I know of one who went into preaching for an easy job, only working one day each week, and he was true to that goal, and his sermons were horrible.  People who cut corners throughout their lives are doing themselves and the people that they serve a disservice.

The next paragraph talks about how the Thessalonians readily accepted the Word.  The Thessalonians recognized objective truth in Jesus Christ.  But Paul warns those who would try to block the spreading of the Gospel.  They will be judged harshly.

Then Paul ends the chapter by expressing his desire to be with the congregation of believers.  After all, our crown in Heaven will be those whom we have helped along the path to Glory.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. List all the characteristics of a faithful Christian worker given in this passage.  Of these, which do you possess?  Which do you want to develop?
“2. Who has been a positive influence on you for godly living?  How so?  How can you be more like that person for someone else this week?
“3. What really turns you off about the way some people present the gospel?  How are you attempting to avoid these mistakes, and yet still maintain a strong witness?
“4. What opposition to your faith are you facing?  What encourages you to persevere?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

Again, some of these questions ask us to be a judge of ourselves regarding our spiritual gifts.  It could be easier for others to determine, but in the areas of weakness, that might get sticky in a group discussion.

For question 4, there are varying degrees of opposition.  While some people in the world face incarceration as did Paul and Silas, Peter and John, etc., others could be facing death.  But that should not diminish those who are fighting for their voice to be heard.  Once we lose those freedoms, the more serious and lethal persecution will follow in time.  Thus, anything is fair game in that discussion.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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