Studies in 1 Thessalonians
Tom Bentley, Ballymena, N. Ireland
Chapter 2 – The word controlling the servants
VV. 1- 2 The Circumstances of Their Service Their Entrance
The Intimacy of the Saints .................................. 'know' . . . 'ye know'
The Intensity of the Suffering ............................ 'shamefully entreated'
The Intrepid mind of the Servants .................... 'waxed bold in our God'
VV. 3 - 12 The Character of Their Service Their Exhortation
Not out of error ........................................... The Source was Right, v. 3
Nor yet from impurity ................................... The Motive was Right, v. 3
Nor again in guile ........................................ The Method was Right, v. 3
Not pleasing men ........................................ The Aim was Right, v. 4
Neither using flattery ................................... The Speech was Right, v. 5
Nor covetousness ....................................... The Reason was Right, v. 5
Nor seeking glory (money) ........................... The Course was Right, v. 6
The Servant's Tenderness v. 7 'nursing mother care'
The Servant's Treasure v. 8 'imparting gospel and soul'
The Servant's Toil v. 9 'labouring intensely'
The Servant's Transparency v. 10 'living diligently'
The Servant's Teaching v. 11 'instructing with authority'
The Servant's Thirst v. 12 'desiring conformity to God'
VV. 13 - 16 The Consequence of Their ServiceTheir Effectuality
Receiving the Word in Truth
The Word is Objective, Subjective and Productive, v. 13
Imitating the Churches of God in Testimony
The Testimony is Actual, Geographical and Spiritual, v. 14
Following the Son of God in Trial
The Trial is marked by Severity, Similarity and Sufficiency, vv. 15-16a
Escaping the Wrath of God in Tribulation
The Tribulation is Coming, Convulsive and Consummating, v. 16b
VV. 17 - 20 The Compensation of Their ServiceTheir Expectation
The Resolve of the Present 'bereaved, as a child of its parents', v. 17
The Interruption .......'bereaved of you'
The Intent ...............'to see your face'
The Intensity ...........'with great desire'
The Regret of the Past 'our way broken up by Satan’, v. 18
How did he know it was Satan's work?
Why was Timothy permitted to return?
The Reward of the Future 'our joy and crown of rejoicing', vv. 19-20
Hope......Not Deferred Joy............Not Disappointed
Crown.....Not Defeated Glorying.....Not Dismayed
The Gospel of God ‘spoken’, v. 2 The Work of the Evangelist
‘imparted’, v. 8 The Work of the Pastor
‘preached’, v. 9 The Work of the Teacher
Words unique to the Chapter: ‘suffer previously’, v. 2; ’flattery’, v. 5; ‘nurse’, v. 7; ‘devoutly, in a holy manner – holily’, v. 10; ‘blamelessly’, v. 10; ‘fellow-countrymen’, v. 14 ‘made an orphan by separation’, bereaved, v. 17
CHAPTER 2. 1 - 3. 13.
The contents of chapters 2 and 3 can be summarized as below:-
- Chapter 2. 1-16 - The Influence of Paul’s Presence on the Assembly at Thessalonica.
- Chapter 2.17- 3.13 - The Influence of Paul’s Absence on the Assembly at Thessalonica.
Chapter 2. Verses 1 – 2, Their Entrance; verses 3-12, Their Exhortation; verses 13-16, Their Effectuality; verses 17-20, Their Expectations.
A helpful approach to this section which we now enter is to observe that verses 1-12 act as a magnification of 1. 5, while verses 13-16 do the same for 1. 6. One paragraph describes the Approach of the Preachers, the other the Acceptance of the People.
CHAPTER 2. 1-2.
The Circumstances of Their Service… Their Entrance.
Turning from the general knowledge of the outsiders in 1. 9, Paul now identifies the particular ‘knowledge’ of the brethren, whom we shall term, the ‘insiders.’ 'Know' translates the word oidate which refers to know by observation as 1. 4-5, and who would be so intimately acquainted with this entrance as they? They knew the consequence, that it was not ‘vain’ which could mean, either: it was not empty of purpose nor barren of results; but it is probable that the apostle is referring mainly to the sound content of the message they proclaimed in Thessalonica. It was not a message of hollow content. Note particularly the use of the simple word ‘not’ in verse 1, followed by the positive note touched by the word ‘were’ in verse 2. Similarly, in verses 3 -12, the ‘not’ of verse 3 (followed by several negatives), and then the ‘were’ in verse 7.
Verse 2. It costs much to serve the Lord faithfully and fervently. But the rewards are real and eternal. Can you imagine Paul and his companions booking into a five star hotel upon arrival in Thessalonica? Would they then settle in to recuperate after such a strenuous time in Philippi which was followed by the arduous trudge to this independent city? Likely, his first outing was to the market to buy some material with which to pursue means to sustain both himself and his fellow labourers, for did he not work ‘night and day’ to provide for their necessity and his? Did he not at some time let some of the brethren see the marks of his ill-treatment while in Philippi? Else how could he select the word ‘know’ in this connection for the second time in two verses? It has to be noted with feeling that the word used here by Paul appears only here in the New Testament – propathontes, meaning ‘having suffered before’. This is followed by hubristhentes, meaning ‘having been shamefully entreated’, cf. Matt. 22. 6; Luke 18. 32; Acts 14. 5. 'We were bold', comes from eparresiasametha, from parresiazomai, found nine times in the New Testament and of these, eight refer to Paul. This boldness was not man made as he adds, 'in our God', indicating that the boldness of speech was an endowment from God by which God equipped His servants to preach the gospel. 'Our God' occurs again in 3. 9 in the present epistle and twice in the second letter, 2 Thess. 1. 11-12. There are two aspects of this boldness to grasp:
(a) having confidence in God who had hitherto done so much for them in former activities;
(b) having confidence and boldness which God gives to His servants in and for service, cf. 2 Cor. 4.7
'To speak' is lalesai, ‘so as to speak’, which gives additional meaning to the oral nature of the boldness. Two words are used often in our New Testament for speaking, one is lego which refers to the meaning and substance of what is spoken, while laleo, which is before us in this verse, has reference to the sound and pronunciation of the words used. The expression ‘gospel of God’ indicates clearly that the gospel not only belongs to God but also has its origin in Him. It adds weight to the 'assurance' of 1. 5, and to the 'boldness' just mentioned. It is not of man’s discovery or invention, so why must the innovations of men be used to proclaim a message that emanates from the heart and mind of God? What we need today is a fresh infusion of God’s power, not the intrusion of man’s projects, when it comes to the preaching of the gospel. 'With much contention' is a metaphor from sport and renders en pollo agoni, indicating chiefly, if not solely, outward circumstances, as in Philippians 1. 30, and not inner concern, as in Colossians 2. 1. Therefore, the 'arena' in Thessalonica was external. Elsewhere the 'contest' was within, Col. 2. 1; cf. 4. 12. Our beloved brethren of a past day spoke to us about 'wrestling in prayer', which must surely have been derived from this figure.
In summary, 'Their Entrance' was known by its spiritual character . . . 'ye know'; its sound content . . . ‘it was not vain’; its strong confidence . . . ‘we were bold’; its severe conflict . . . ‘with much contention’.
CHAPTER 2. 3-12
The Character of Their Service . . . Our Exhortation.
The construction of these verses is composed of seven negatives, vv. 3-6, and six positives, vv. 7-12.
The word 'exhortation' used here in verse 3 in its sense of 'appeal' indicates that we are looking at the nature of the message denoting it was ‘persuasion with authority’, so it is less than a bare command and more than a mere request. We note a parallel in 'God making his appeal through us', 2 Cor. 5. 20.
Verse 3. 'For our exhortation' translates he gar paraklesis hemon, denoting an explanatory confirmation of the closing words of 2. 2. Paraklesis is a compound word, composed of para, 'alongside' and of kaleo, 'to call'. The word presents the persuasive and appealing nature of the message the servants proclaimed, calculated to create confidence, comfort and consolation in those who believed. The word would have been used to encourage soldiers. Perhaps in these days most preachers miss the practical preaching of the apostle who sought to bring every motive to bear upon his audience; plying them with every argument, and working on them by every kind of appeal. This was only in order to win them over to faith in Him who saves by grace alone. Exhortation then, in this context, not only embraces the message preached but also indicates the manner in which it was presented. What follows is a list of negatives which carry clearly defined positives. These we will list accordingly.
- 'Not of deceit', reads in the RV, 'not of error’, indicating positively that the source was right. Error, planes, is opposed to truth, alethia, either subjectively, 1 John 4. 11; or objectively, Rom. 1. 25-27, cf. Matt. 27. 64; Eph. 4. 14.
- 'Nor of uncleanness', by which Paul affirms that the motive was right. In most occurrences in the New Testament, akatharsias is used to describe sensual impurity, Matthew 23. 27 being an exception. While this may be the emphasis here and Paul is disclaiming any link with the ecstatic initiations so prevalent in the religious institutions around him, the word did come to signify impure motives with the lust for gain. Paul is affirming that his exhortation did not emanate from any greed for gain or grasp for power.
- 'Nor in guile'. The word ‘guile’ stems from dolos, which means 'to catch with bait’, and properly signifies a crafty design for deceiving. Paul is stating categorically that the method was right. The trained eye of the reader will have noticed the perceptible move from ‘out of’, ek, in the first two phrases to ‘in’, en, of the third. The Greek ek denotes origin; but en rather indicates atmosphere. There was nothing manipulative about Paul’s method. It was perfectly straightforward. With so many men in religious positions charged with craft and graft, there is surely a timely need to acquaint ourselves with apostolic measures and methods.
Verses 4-5. The word 'allowed', dedokimasmetha, the perfect, passive form of dokimazo, 'to try', 'to test', 'to test in order to approve', is, by the way, never used of Satan. The thoughtful reader will consider a reason. The Thessalonians having come through God’s testing emerged approved and entrusted with the holy task of divine service in the work of the gospel. Without being unduly technical, the student must note the case used in the phrase, 'of God.' It really reads 'by God' as per the text, hupo tou Theou. The significance of holding to one’s calling in divine service to the elimination of every other service is enforced by the ablative case, for it is the case of separation. God who calls and approves determines, surely, that His servant desists from every other task other than that to which he has been divinely appointed. The words 'put in trust with' derive from the word pistis, 'faith', when understood in the context means, ‘to entrust rather than to trust', hence the RV ’entrusted'. Therefore, says Paul, we continue to 'speak', or we are 'constantly speaking'.
Verses 4. 'Not as pleasing men', by which phrase Paul implies clearly that the aim was right. Here the case of interest is employed indicating that the role of the servant of God is not to seek the sheer personal favour of any man. See Galatians 1. 10, for the same sentiment, which is so characteristic of Paul. The sole object of the serving saint is surely to please God. This is his utmost concern, both night and day, at home or away. Why? Simply because he is constantly under divine vigilance, for, says Paul, right now I am conscious of this as I write to you miles away in Corinth, I am at this point under divine scrutiny. For now, He is trying my heart and the hearts of those who labour with me. Does it matter how far we are from those who know us and expect so much of us, and when we are out of sight and out of physical reach? Can we do what we like in terms of service for God? In the final analysis He is the only One whose approval matters.
Verses 5. 'For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know', shows convincingly that the speech was right. The very words employed by these devoted servants were suitable, sincere and without sycophancy. What an insight to heart examination! Paul details not only the course of the work, but now he is affirming the character of the words employed in the work of the gospel and its ministry. For the third time in the chapter he draws upon the intimate knowledge of the Thessalonians expressed in the now familiar, 'as ye know'. In the second half of the verse, as we shall see, he has the awareness that God is witness.
'Nor a cloke of covetousness', by which expression Paul emphasizes decisively that the reason was right. Even in Paul’s day teachers wore cloaks according to status and scholastic attainments, knowing they would receive not only accorded recognition but also appropriate remuneration. Paul adopted no such garb, as indeed many do today. The word used for cloke is 'pretext,' prophasis, and it occurs seven times in the New Testament, see Acts 27. 30, where the word is translated ‘colour.’ Is it not so, that the colour of the ecclesiastical garb today denotes the status and determines the stipend of the wearer? The student will perhaps read expository material where the interpretation of this phrase is given to be simply figurative. Remember that most expositors today are of denominational persuasion and are clothed with such distinguishing apparel as Paul disowned. Paul at the time of writing is far away from the saints whom he is addressing. How would it go if, in a different clime, he donned the robe he refused in Thessalonica and then sought to help the Corinthians to see the wrong of such practices? He could never adopt something in Corinth he abandoned in Thessalonica and then say, God is witness. Note, he did not say God ‘was’ witness. True He was, but the point is, He still is witness. So Paul maintains his stand not because of changing situations, but because the eye of an unchanging God is upon him wherever he may be. Why are we not consistent in such things, beloved? Or are we? Readers will therefore see the cloke is to be taken as something not as a means to conceal, but to reveal. The genitive of object, in which the word ‘covetousness’ is given, strongly supports this interpretation. We learn from this remark by Paul about God that when it comes to actions he appeals to the saints, but where motives are concerned, he appeals alone to God, and so ought we.
Verse 6. ‘Nor of men sought we glory, nor of you, nor yet of others', provides the seventh negative and proves to all that the course was right. What is the glory of which the apostle speaks? With the previous phrase in mind the answer simply is, stipend, see Gen. 31. 1; 2 Kgs. 12. 15-16. Certainly, while in Thessalonica, he received help from the church in Philippi, but it was not his practice to set up a claim for such. Neither is it conceivable he would sign up with a system that would guarantee support and thus bring himself into bondage. True, he had the privilege to exercise his ‘right’ but, under the prevailing circumstances he recognized in the area of his labour, he chose not to burden the saints in Thessalonica, and so wrought with his hands night and day to supplement the help received from others. These verses offer tremendous guidance for the servant going forth in the service of the Lord today.
Verses 7-12. These present six positives that offer to our minds needed material to ponder as to our disposition and deportment among saints of all classes, callings and countries. I will append a title to each verse.
Verse 7. Their Love . . . Their Tenderness . . . 'We were gentle' uses the form of the verb which denotes ‘we became’. Obviously a work of God within them, bringing the preachers to be what only He could make them to be as suited to the work of His appointment and approval. Only twice in the New Testament is the word ‘gentle,’ eepios, found, here and in 2 Timothy 2. 24. There was nothing ex cathedra about the apostles, nothing sinister nor unkind. They poured the very vital of their life in devoted service into the hearts and lives of the saints, just as would a nursing mother who suckles her own children. What a vivid picture of affection and tenderness is here portrayed in Paul’s disposition. 'Cherisheth', is thalpo, 'to keep warm', see Eph. 5. 29; Deut. 22. 6. LXX, revealing the heart of that tender love which the saints experienced from their mentor. 'Children' is a familiar word and occurs in the text as tekna, meaning ‘little-born ones,’ which we are, according to John 1. 12.
Verse 8. The Liberality . . . Their Treasure . . . I ask myself, in forty-four years of full time service for God, most of which has been spent in a foreign land, what have I willingly imparted to the saints among whom I have laboured? How demonstrative is the love of these men toward God’s own. The word used here means to have strong desire toward, or yearning after. We are somewhat confined with some of these mighty words due to their singular appearance in the New Testament as is this one. However, it was used of parents who having been bereft of a son, maintained what would be naturally, a ‘great longing’ for him. The present tense of the verb shows the perpetual action of the yearning that continued toward all the saints at Thessalonica. Their on-going willingness displayed itself in an act of impartation. If it were a coat, I could understand, see Luke 3. 11, or content, Rom.1. 11, or comfort, Eph. 4. 28, but to impart one’s soul, how could that be done? Is it quite determinable what is involved in imparting the gospel of God? What else would a soul need having believed the gospel? It requires the impartation of my soul for their spiritual increase! Let us ask ourselves what is involved in this act of impartation and have I a soul worth imparting? Clearly, it is soul-history with God, as we shall see.
The demonstrative force of the connecting link 'so' between verses 7 and 8 emphasizes the strength of the love existing in the hearts of the servants for the saints. It casts our minds back to Exodus 3 when the mother of Moses who bore him became the nurse who looked after him and promoted his growth. The love that motivated these exemplary ‘missionaries’ is sadly lacking today in many fields of service. Sure, many are willingly interested to declare the gospel, but how many are willing to impart their souls? For the apostle, this meant more than the giving of his life, because he was not called upon to do that, else there would be no letter to the Thessalonians. Pause and consider the word 'willing', or 'delighted,' which is eudokoumen, from eudokeo, 'to be well pleased'. The tense tells us plainly that it was something they kept doing, it had a continuous expression of action. Some servants of God are encased in the bare and abstract authority of office. Their work is carried out with detached professionalism. Take, for example, an elder who never opens the door of his home to help the saints, or ever uses his table to be a means of doing more than merely sustaining the outer man. What would he really know of imparting his soul? Usually he can give orders and direct operations, but in the most intimate of conversations a barrier is raised and we cannot pass. He will not expose his soul, and so the hidden depths of his spiritual personality are unplumbed. The Thessalonians did not find Paul and his companions men of this ilk or stamp. It is certainly affirmed by many workers, yes, we are one ‘with’ the saints, which is good, but are they one ‘of’ them? Paul lost no sense of authority or liberty in becoming endearingly identified with the saints so as to be able to impart the inner experiences of spiritual development in soul history with God. He writes to Timothy and reveals this very point we are stressing. How did Timothy 'fully know' and thus 'follow' Paul’s teaching, train of thought, trust, temper, tenderness, traits, trials, tests, tours and triumph, had he not imparted his ‘soul’ to him? It becomes us, brethren, to work at this, for there are times when a disclosure of soul history with God will make a situation undergo a significant change, e.g., David, faced with Saul’s armour, can relate soul history with God when he was preserved by divine power from the lion and the bear. Paul himself virtually says, you all know about me being ‘let down’ in a basket, but no one knows till now, that such an one was ‘caught up’.
Verse 9. Their Labour . . . Their Determination . . . Obviously the Thessalonians would have seen the apostle going down to the market to purchase the black Cilician fabric of goats’ hair from which he made tents. So he can invoke their vivid recollections of his continual toil in order to have something to meet the needs of both himself and his companions in labour. Even with this, there was not enough for did he not thank the Philippians for their giving when, as he writes, Phil. 4. 16, they sent ‘unto my need’? Visualize the drudgery, the irksome task, all that is uncongenial, which the words ‘labour’ and ‘travail’ suggest. Here is a strenuous earthly means to a heavenly end. Could it be that even as the devoted apostle laboured in the room of his toil, he taught those who were able to take advantage of the time to be with him? And no collection was taken up after the effort! We have already noticed the three times the expression 'gospel of God' occurs in the chapter, and have observed the distinctive word used on each occasion. Here the word ‘preached’ signifies the ‘proclamation of a herald’. Nothing more royal filled the soul and service of the apostle than to preach the authoritative message of the Sovereign.
Verse 10. Their Living . . . Their Diligence . . . Paul first cites the knowledge of the Thessalonians, vv. 1, 2, 5. Then he comments on their remembrance, v. 9, but in this verse he calls upon their witness. The believers witnessed the outward conduct of the apostle and could therefore testify to the character of the person they so closely inspected. Our lives as servants are open to inspection also. It therefore behoves us to walk carefully and witness clearly so that God may be glorified and the saints edified. There were points, however, lying beyond their cognisance. For these he has to appeal to God who knows the hearts of all. Both to the saints and to God he submits himself unconditionally for judgement, knowing assuredly that, the verdict would be commendable due to the unimpeachable conduct these devoted and diligent servants displayed. The words that Paul uses here are interesting adverbs that relate to the ordering of their lives as lived before men and God. It is important to note that they are not adjectives. The apostle is not bringing out the elements of his own personal character, but is unfolding his deportment before, and dealing towards, the saints of God in Thessaonica. All he knew of the work of justification that placed him before God in this category, he displayed in practical life daily. Hence ‘holily’ and ‘righteously’ are expressive of his conscientiousness and integrity before the people of God. Should anyone have had any misgivings, no charge was sustainable, far less a cause for censure found, which the word ‘unblameably’ conveys. The closing expression of this verse can be rendered literally, 'to you who are believing, we became'. Nothing denotes more clearly the results from total conformity to the standing we have before God than the display of a life that is the powerful outworking of grace alone.
Verse 11. Their Language . . . Their Discipline . . . The observant reader will have already noted how many times the apostle mentions the word ‘know’. We have urged all who read these lines to make note of such repetitions. Here, again, the word expresses a knowledge that is absolute, in that the saints knew intimately the truth of what the writer was saying, for they were the grateful recipients of his ministry. 'Every one of you' is literally 'each one of you separately' and clearly indicates that there was more to the ministry of Paul than public preaching. There was evidently, a determination in Paul’s heart to give individual attention to each believer. That would be a big order for the preachers of our day who, content with swelling audiences, have little or no time for the individual. The great, and late, Mr. William Trew told us years ago that the platform was like fishing in a pond, when you got a ‘bite’ meaning, of course, an interested person, you worked from there. May I say, I proved that in the man as I knew him. In the text, originally, the next words are 'as a father his children', which because of their position textually, contribute emphasis to the subject. Note the change from a ‘nursing mother’ of verse 7 to the figure of a 'teaching father'. The change is appropriate, for it enhances the character of the work of God as the servant alters in his responsibility from one form to another, and performs a corresponding ministry. In verse 7 it is the tenderness of the nursing mother; here it is the teaching of the nurturing father. Both necessary in any household whether literal or spiritual. We recall surely, the words of Proverbs 4. 11, ‘Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding'. Many are more interested in the colour of the teacher’s tie these days, rather than in the character and content of his teaching. In verse 1 Paul uses the word ‘brethren', which denotes association. Then in verse 7 he refers to the ‘nursing mother,' signifying affection, but here in verse 11 the mention of the 'father' affirms authority. Three participles now follow, and all are in the plural, for Paul is not isolating himself from his fellow labourers, neither Silas nor Timothy. 'Exhorting' expresses a ministry that directs the saints to a certain course of action, which conveys a persuasion with authority. 'Comforting' adds the thought of stimulus or encouragement to maintain the course, which indicates a pleading with affection. 'Charging' translated, 'testifying' in Galatians 5. 3, see Acts 20. 26 ; 26. 22; Eph. 4. 17, suggests there is danger ahead which should make them vigilant. It also confirms that it came as a pronouncement with anticipation. One of the most important issues that emerges from this great verse is that Paul treated the saints individually as well as collectively, and according to their particular needs.
Verse 12. Their Longing . . . Their Desire . . . Paul has a goal and in this verse it is clearly defined. 'That ye would walk' is eis to peripatein humas. The opening part of this phrase employs the preposition 'into' which when used in this form denotes 'to the end that', or 'for the purpose of', which when linked with the previous verse, offers a splendid reason for its use. Here is the end in view that the walk of the Thessalonians may be worthy of God. 'Walk' is a familiar word in the Pauline corpus, meaning simply 'to regulate one’s life' or to 'conduct one’s self’. The present tense of the verb indicates perpetual action, which offers us a constant occupation. The next expression presents the standard we are obliged to attain, 'worthy of God'. This means our state must be congruous with our standing. In other usages of this word 'worthy', it is translated 'as becometh', Rom. 16. 2. Place together the following passages and form a clear understanding of the standard the Scriptures set, Eph. 4. 1; Phil. 1. 27: Col. 1. 10. There can scarcely be a more powerful incentive for a holy life than being conscious of the ongoing call of God to His own kingdom and glory. Note the word 'call', kalountos, is a present active participle, showing. He is always calling us efficaciously by His grace 'unto his own kingdom and glory'. The mention of the kingdom here denotes reward, while the glory, signifies reflection. The measure of my devotedness will determine the manner of my reward and my capacity to reflect His glory forever.
Let us collect the main message of the verses we have rather briefly considered from verses 7-12. Reviewing the selfless activity of Paul and his fellow-workers, we have seen: verse 7, their Tenderness; verse 8, their Treasure; verse 9, their Toil; verse 10, their Transparency; verse 11, their Teaching; and verse 12, their Thirst.
After reading these verses and having ministered them to you who will read this article, the writer’s concern for himself would be, how would I conform to this outline of a servant as presented by the Spirit of God? I am forced to ask myself as I look at each verse, what about my Disposition; Dedication; Determination; Diligence; Discipline; and Desire in respect of the multitude of saints that hear me minister and see me moving?’ Hopefully, you will review your life in light of these demanding traits and may we together press on for the crown. This great servant of God wrote just before he laid down his pen for ever, 'yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully', 2 Tim. 2. 5.
CHAPTER 2. 13-16.
The Consequence of Their Service . . . Their Effectuality.
Chapter 2, verses 1-12 is a development of 1. 5, while 2. 13-16 is a development of 1. 6. In one it is the 'assurance of the preachers' that is emphasized, in the other it is the 'acceptance of the people'. Note in each, key words are mutually employed.
The Reception of the Message, 2. 13-16.
The Acceptance and Agency of the Revelation, v.13.
Receiving the Word of God in Truth.
The Reason and Reality of the Imitation, v.14.
Imitating the Churches of God in Testimony.
The History and Hostility of the Opposition, vv. 15-16.
Following the Son of God in Trial.
Verse 13. 'For this cause' refers to the preceding verse where it is stated that 'God calls you’. Seeing that this is so, and they are responding to the call, it produces joy and thanksgiving to God. It indicates the thorough reception the Thessalonians have given to His word. 'Also we thank God' indicates an intensification of the exercise. The verb eucharistoumen, being in the present tense, establishes the constancy of the thanksgiving, cf. its use in 1. 2. 'Without ceasing' is adialeiptos, 'unremittingly', giving further strength to the depth of gratitude being poured out from the hearts of these servants of God, cf. 1. 3. Two words for 'received' are used and they must be considered with care. (1) 'Received' is a 'traditional' word, whereas (2) 'Accepted' is a 'hospitality' word. (1) Received is made up of two words, para 'alongside of', and lambano, 'to take with the hand', therefore the full meaning is 'to take with one’s own self', 'to join to one’s self'. The emphatic nature of the word establishes clearly how the Thessalonians had laid hold of the word of God for themselves which resulted not only in their salvation but also in their continued progress. (2) Accepted, 1. 13, RV, denotes welcome. The word is edexasthe, from dechomai 'to receive', and has some suggestive uses, see Matt. 10. 40-41; Mark 10. 14; Luke 16. 4; John 4. 45; Gal. 4. 14; Col. 4. 10. Though the gospel had to be preached by men, it was not received as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God. They were useful servants no doubt, but God was the ultimate. The next expression unfolds the dynamic power of the word, for Paul uses the word 'worketh', energeo, 'to be operative', to indicate that the Thessalonians were not merely brought to a belief in the true God, but that their belief was showing itself in their earnest and consistent living.
The word 'received' Objectively.
The word 'accepted' Subjectively.
The word 'working' Demonstratively.
Cf. 1. 6, Ye became imitators of us; 1. 7, Ye became an ensample to all that believe; 1. 9, How ye turned to serve; 3. 6, Timothy . . . brought us glad tidings of your faith and love; 4. 9, Concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you; 5. 11, Build each other up, even as also ye do. This collection serves to endorse the ongoing progress of the Thessalonians in spiritual achievements, as well as indicating the intimate knowledge Paul had of the manifest power of God in them through believing.
Verse 14. Paul, with regard to the Thessalonians, uses three times the word 'imitators': 1. 6, 'of himself'; 1. 6, 'of the Lord'; and here ‘of the churches of God in Judea'. 'Imitators', mimetai, from mimeomai 'to imitate', is a much stronger word than 'followers'. The simple yet easily ignored 'became', which comes from ginomai, is used frequently in this epistle and is important for its tense denotes an action in past time. These called-out companies have two recognizable, and yet distinct locations. One is physical, 'in Judea', the other is spiritual, 'in Christ Jesus'. The first represents the sphere in which we live daily, where there is stress and strain of every kind, and the unrelenting struggle for existence, not excluding possible persecution. But the other reminds us of the higher, hidden union we have in and with Him who is the Head of the body, the church. It is from Him our every spiritual need is freely supplied and every activity for Him inspired by the consciousness of all that He is. It is important to include in this expression, 'in Christ Jesus', not only provision, but also possession. The comparison between the Thessalonian and Judean churches is brought out with regard to three points: 1. There was persecution in each case; 2. It was similar in kind; 3. It was at the hand of their fellow-countrymen. The persecution recorded in Acts 17. 5-14 was at the hand of the Jews. The whole point of the comparison would seem to require a gentile persecution. Just as in Judea Jews suffered at the hand of the Jews, so at Thessalonica gentiles suffered at the hands of their own countrymen.
Verse 15. 'Who both killed the Lord Jesus' . . . The word 'killed' is apokteinnanton, from apokteinoo, 'to kill in any way whatever'. It contains as a prefix the preposition apo, giving the idea of killing 'so as to put out of the way.’ This highlights the foul intention of men to get rid of the Lord Jesus, to put Him out of the way. Can we fail to hear the mobbish cry, recorded in Luke 23. 18, 'And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas'? The complicity of priests, scribes, rulers and people may be traced in the gospels, Mark 14. 43, 55, 63-64; 15: 1-3; Luke 23. 10, 13-18. The death of the Lord Jesus is an historical fact, as indeed the tense of the verb denotes, it being an action in past time. The passage before us offers us a strange and passionate outburst against the Jews of which there is nothing comparable in Paul’s epistles. He was himself a Jew, desirous of their blessing and confident that the true Israel still had a glorious future for which to hope, Rom. 9. 11. But here he is considering their active opposition to the spread of the gospel and his language is explicit. Note the position of the word Kurion, 'Lord', as it comes before the participle 'killed', and is followed by Iesous, 'Jesus'. Some translate the phrase, 'who killed Jesus the Lord', cf Acts 2. 36. This unusual word order stresses both 'Lord' and 'Jesus.' The one establishing His eternal deity and glory, the other emphasizing His essential humanity and grace. Emphasis is laid on the Lord, which heightens the enormity of the action and anticipates 1 Corinthians 2. 8. It is very likely Paul had in mind the Lord’s parable of 'the vineyard let out to the unthankful husbandmen'. Their conduct has been clearly outlined and has always been the same:
They killed the Lord Jesus;
They killed the prophets before Him;
They drove out the apostles after Him.
'Have persecuted us', RV, ‘drave out us’. The word ekdioxanton, taken from ekdioko, ‘to drive out’, to banish’, is used with special reference to Acts 17. 5-10, Paul’s vivid description of the story told by Luke, and appears only here in the New Testament. However, the reader will know this was not the only evidence upon which Paul could draw, see Acts 9. 22, Damascus; 9. 29, Jerusalem; 13. 51, Antioch; 14. 5, Iconium. Paul resorts to the present tense as he uses the phrase, theoi me areskonton, which can be read, 'they are not pleasing, at any time’, to God. A verdict then on the historic acts, but not only on the ones in the past. The thought is that, 'they go on habitually displeasing God', their hand being against every man’s hand, would summarize readily the expression that concludes the verse, 'are contrary to all men'. 'Contrary' means, 'over against', 'adverse', establishing the bitter hostility toward anything pertaining to Christ, in relation to His word to men and His work for men.
Verse 16. The Jews listened quietly to Paul relate the story of his conversion, but as soon as he spoke of his special mission to the gentiles, they cried, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth', Acts 22. 21-22. Several times in his epistles Paul refers to his special mission to the gentiles, see Gal. 5. 11; Eph. 3. 1; Col. 1. 24. The present tense of the verb koluonton marks the persistency of the opposition to the apostle’s endeavours in the gospel. It must, however, be observed that the ‘hindering’ was with an end in view; they were 'trying' to hinder,' but with only partial success. Note a similar touch in the life of Saul the persecutor, Acts 26. 9-11. Listen to the successive hammer blows in this passage: 'I did . . . I shut up; I gave my vote . . . and I punished them’; and then the check to his nefarious pursuit, ‘I strove to make them blaspheme’, RV. Even Paul had to admit he could only try to force the saints to blaspheme. 'That they might be saved' renders hina sothosin, 'in order that they might be saved'. Here the apostle expresses the goal of the gospel, the salvation of the lost of all classes, creeds and countries. It is important to notice that the word 'saved' is in the passive mood, indicating that salvation is of God and is outside the power of man altogether. It is God who delivers the believing sinner and frees him from condemnation on the ground of the work of Christ alone.
'To fill up their sins alway' indicates that this was the natural outcome of their actions, which was certainly never the intention nor the expectation of the Jews. Each fresh act of hostility was an additional drop in their cup of guilt which had been steadily filling during the ages. Actually, the Jews of Paul’s day were only carrying on what their fathers had commenced, see Matt. 23. 32. For the second time in the epistle the word 'wrath' appears. It is possible to give the word a double application: (a) God’s judgement on the nation already evident, and (b) severer judgement yet to come. Therefore we look upon this statement as indicating something immediate and imminent.
To be continued