1 Thessalonians 2
The purity of Paul’s conduct among the Thessalonians Verses 1-12
In these first 12 verses lies the secret of Paul’s success as a servant of Christ.
Paul evidently was pursued relentlessly by his enemies everywhere he went. Thessalonica was no exception.
His enemies spread slanderous rumors about Paul’s personal life.
His motives were forever being questioned.
His methods were always suspect to his religious foes.
This would account for Paul devoting so much space in this short epistle to defend his ministry.
v. 1 Paul first of all reminds them that his stay with them was “not in vain.” It was not empty, nor void of power. There were those who were saying that the message he preached was worthless and irrelevant. Paul replies, “You yourselves know that our message was not empty nor void of power.” On the contrary it met your need and proved to be powerful.
v. 2 In this verse Paul exhibits his unselfish love for them and his unquenchable zeal for the gospel. He had just come from Philippi where he had been subjected to physical abuse and grievous insult. Acts 16. Despite this maltreatment in Philippi, he loved the people of Thessalonica so much that he came “boldly”, that is with a supernatural courage and preached the gospel “with much contention.” In his preaching Paul met stiff opposition. The battle for Thessalonica was very real and in the fighting for the gospel he endured “agony”, contention.
v. 3 Other false teachers were guilty of deceiving, living morally impure lives, and employing cunning to ensnare the unwary. Paul says that his message, the gospel of God, was devoid of all intrigue.
v. 4 The word “allowed” means “approved.” In effect, Paul is saying that he has been approved by God to preach the gospel. His proving would include his three years in Arabia; Gal 1:17. His eight years in Tarsus; Acts 9:30, 11:25. God proved him again on his first missionary journey. Because of his approval by God, he preached for God, disregarding the opinions of men.
v. 5-6 In his preaching Paul never used flattering words. Neither did he seek from his converts money nor prestige. (Uncompromising) Neither did he exalt himself, nor show off. (He was God’s man, humble.) Neither was he a burden to them; they were self-supporting, even though as an apostle he could have expected VIP treatment. (Unpretentious)
v. 7 Labor with gentleness. Rather than trying to make gain out of the Thessalonians, Paul and his companions were gentle among them. They treated the people with tenderness, without a trace of superiority. Just as a nursing mother would love her child.
v. 8-9 It is evident that Paul loved the believers at Thessalonica. He was “affectionately desirous” of them, that is, he yearned over them as a mother yearned over her child. It was this unreserved abandonment that was the secret of Paul’s effectiveness. (see Romans 9:3) No holding back of the fullness of the gospel. No holding back of himself. He gave himself unreservedly in labor that was saturated with difficulties. He worked with his hands night and day to support himself so that he would not be a burden to them.
v. 10-12 Note the excellency of Paul’s life. His conduct among them was impeccable. Contrast the false teachers. Paul’s conscience must have been clear as he made the claim that he lived holy, justly, and unblameably among them. He made the claim before them and before God.
v. 11 Because Paul’s life was exemplary he had the authority to exhort, encourage, and to charge. He did this in the same way as a father teaches his children. There was firmness, no compromise, but there was a tender definiteness in all his dealings with them.
v. 12 The purpose of this unblameable life and godly counsel was that they should walk worthy of God. (walk worthy of our vocation, walk circumspectly) This is God’s standard for believers in every age.
v. 13 In this section, which really extends into Ch 3:13, we can see the heart of the shepherd and the care of the father. He does two very definite things on behalf of the church.
1. He sends Timothy to minister to them in his place.
2. He intercedes for them night and day before the throne of God.
Paul was concerned for the young church. He had been forced to leave them before it was firmly established. From Athens he had sent Timothy to ascertain their spiritual state. When Timothy returned with a good report, he was greatly encouraged. He wrote, “I thank God without ceasing.” The subject of his thanksgiving is that they received the Word as from God. It had brought them eternal life at conversion. “Born of incorruptible seed.” 1 Peter 1:23. It had worked effectively in their lives, in that they had turned to God from idols. The Word was a dynamic force in their lives. And although persecuted for their faith in Christ, they were so fortified by the Word that they withstood every effort of their enemies to turn them from the faith. They were steadfast, unmovable, etc. 1 Corinthians 15:58.
Verses 14-20 give us the cause of their suffering. This young church was being persecuted relentlessly by their own countrymen. The Jews in the city stirred up the Gentiles to persecute their fellow Gentiles for their faith in Christ. This was exactly what had happened to the churches in Judea.
v. 15 The Jews there had been so vindictive that they had killed the Lord. In their determination to stamp out the name of Christ, they had killed the prophets. Stephen and James. Paul himself had experienced more than his share of suffering. The Jews had tried to stop him from preaching. At Antioch, Acts 13:45-50, Iconium, Acts 14:1-5, Lystra, Acts 14:19, Berea, Acts 17:13, Corinth, Acts 18:12, then at Thessalonica. Men of this sort do not please God. They are against both God and man.
v.16 Paul’s indignation mounts as he thinks of those men trying to prevent the gospel being preached to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46 “Lo we turn to the Gentiles.” The Macedonian call.) Such preaching was to bring the Gentiles to Christ for salvation. They vehemently protested and violently opposed all efforts to bring the Gentiles into a right relationship with God and on equal level with themselves. The trouble was not caused solely by man. God too had purpose in “To fill up their sins alway.” To the brim. Paul is saying here that God, sometimes, in order to prove the evil nature of man, allows his people to be persecuted. This allows Him to show the righteous character of His judgment as it falls upon them to the uttermost.
v. 17 Perhaps one of the accusations leveled at Paul was that he never intended to revisit Thessalonica. Paul addresses them as brethren. Then he goes on to express his sense of loss at their absence from him and his absence from them. The words “taken from you” really means being bereaved, orphaned. Paul grieved because of their separation. It had only been for a short season. He assures them that the separation was only physical. They were still joined in heart. Then he assures them that he would love to see them.
v. 18 Whatever had kept Paul away from them, it had not been his personal desires. He had made several attempts to reach them, but had been hindered by Satan. Satan can hinder the Lord’s servants as they seek to do the Lord’s work.
v. 19-20 Paul’s enemies had repeatedly accused him of intentionally absenting himself from the new believers. The expressions of esteem in verse 19 give the lie to his enemies who were saying that he had lost interest in his converts. Those spiritual children were his hope, his joy, his crown of rejoicing. Paul’s exultation in the Thessalonians is so intense that his heart overflows, his cup is running over. No doubt the dynamic church was his hope, joy, crown at the time of writing. John wrote “I have no greater JOY than to hear that my children walk in truth.” But Paul is looking on into the future. Thinking of the coming of the Lord, the “presence”= parousia, and no doubt thinking of the judgment seat of Christ. He rejoices that he will be able to rejoice before the Lord on that great occasion.
v. 20 “Ye are our glory and joy.” The Judgment Seat of Christ. We all will give an account of our stewardship to the Lord. For we must all appear before the Lord. Stand before the Judgment Seat to give account of ourselves. Those who stand there will receive according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or bad. See 1 Corinthians 3. The believer’s works being tested by fire. If any man’s works stand the test, he shall receive a reward. Those whose works, when tested, go up in flames, he shall suffer loss. Describe this. Must I go and empty-handed? Must I meet my Savior so? Not one soul with which to greet Him. Must I empty handed go? (“Must I Go and Empty-Handed” by Charles Carroll Luther)
v. 18 Satanic opposition. Satan hindereth us. The first five verses of this chapter graphically portray for us the picture of what every Christian can expect in this life. Then verse 18 introduces the fact that the moment a person becomes a believer, Satan begins to confront him. Some believers never experience Satanic opposition. That must be because they are walking in the same direction. Satan dogs the footsteps of an active believer, he opposes him and does all in his power to destroy him. Satan attacks the believer in his most vulnerable spot. Even mature believers can succumb to the attacks of the devil. Peter’s denial is an example of this. Matthew 26. Acts 5 Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 12:7 “There was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.” Roaring lion, angel of light.
1 Thessalonians 3
The word wherefore would link this chapter with the previous one.
v. 1 The separation of which Paul has been speaking of became unendurable, so he took action and sent Timothy to them. This action, as the language reveals, was a tremendous sacrifice on Paul’s part. As much as he loved the Thessalonians, he hated to see Timothy leave him. “He was left behind at Athens alone.” “Demas hath forsaken me. But the Lord stood by me.” This phrase in the original means that he felt abandoned. This gives us some idea of the depths of the apostle’s feeling as he was left alone in Athens to face the philosophers. Even the servants of God become depressed and feel alone at times.
v. 2 In this verse Paul reveals Timothy’s spiritual character. He is called a brother. A minister or a servant of God. This is the word deacon. A fellow-worker in the gospel of Christ. Timothy’s mission to the church was two-fold.
1. He was to establish them. There were many facets of the truth that had not been explained to this young church. Many questions had arisen. Timothy’s job was to reveal truth, explain the problems, and answer questions. 2 Timothy 4:2
2. He also was to inspire them in their trials and encourage them in the battle that lay ahead. 2 Corinthians 1 “The God of all comfort.”
v. 3-4 The Thessalonians were not supermen. Because of their afflictions some may have been tempted to give up. It was Timothy’s privilege to support and encourage such. Paul says that they were appointed to such things. Suffering by divine appointment. See Acts 9:16, Job
v. 5 Here we have an illustration of the phrase that wherever there is a work of God, there is a counter-work of Satan. He is concerned that Satan having tempted them, they would succumb and go back into the world.
v. 6 When Timothy returned to Paul, he brought with him a good report and good news. The good news being that their faith toward God was steadfast. Their love toward their fellow man was undiminished. Their love for Paul, even in his absence, had not waned. Paul specially appreciated the latter and mentioned that the feeling was reciprocal.
v. 7-8 Paul was comforted and encouraged by their victorious attitude. Especially so as he himself was being crushed by mighty foes. Since setting foot in Europe, he had suffered four successive experiences of apparent defeat. At Philippi he had been in jail and asked to leave the city. At Thessalonica he had been forced to leave the city and there was no guarantee that he would return. At Berea he was pursued by the Jews and compelled to move on. Now in Athens he had little success with the philosophers. He was in affliction and distressed. This report of Timothy regarding their steadfastness in the faith brought him a surge of energy; it was a source of inspiration.
v. 9 Because of this good report, Paul offers his sincere thanks to God. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for His mercy endureth forever.”
v. 10 Paul at prayer. Note the intensity of his prayers, “night and day” Paul prayed without ceasing. Night and day “exceedingly”—this is a very strong word. He prayed that he might see their love. This prayer was not answered until some years later. Acts 20:1-2 He also longed to “perfect that which was lacking in their faith.” This means to render complete, as one may repair a fishing net. This would include the restoration of fallen saints. It would mean a restatement of vital doctrine. It would involve teaching them more perfectly the way of the Lord. Paul did not consider that the great commission was fulfilled when people were saved. The great pastor’s heart shows itself in this verse.
v. 11 After praying that they may be complete in their faith, he continues to pray that he might be brought to them. He envokes the help and in his earnestness, pleads the name of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “direct” means to “make straight.” Paul is pleading the names of God and the Lord Jesus Christ to have the obstacles removed which Satan had put in his way.
v. 12 Paul continues to pray: That the Thessalonians might abound in love toward one another and all men. The purpose of this request is stated in this verse. That God would establish them in holiness. It was Paul’s desire that these young believers should be set apart for God and learn the truth of personal sanctification. Very often when the coming of the Lord is mentioned, it is with the intent of driving us to a life of holiness. In this section Paul has expressed certain concerns for this young church. He also has given some suggestions of how to strengthen the church so that sufferings, Satan, or short-comings will not hinder its work and development.
1. The work of the servants of Christ among them is an important factor. This is seen in the ministries of Paul and Timothy. Ch 2:17-20, 3:2
2. We see the importance of prayer in the life and growth of the church. Ch 3:11-13
3. We see the need for the knowledge of God in order to appraise correctly the events of life. This is exemplified by realizing that suffering is the appointed lot of the believer. Ch 3:3-4.