Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Analysis Of The Chapter
The principal subjects embraced in this chapter are the following:
I. A statement of the conduct of Paul and his fellow-laborers when they first preached the gospel at Thessalonica; Th1 2:1-12. In this statement, the apostle specifies particularly the following things:
(1) That he and his fellow-laborers had been shamefully treated at Philippi, and had been obliged to encounter much opposition at Thessalonica; Th1 2:1-2.
(2) that in their efforts to convert the Thessalonians they had used no deceit, corruption, or grille; Th1 2:3-4.
(3) that they had not sought the praise of people, and had not used the weight of authority which they might have done as the apostles of Christ; Th1 2:6.
(4) that they had been gentle and mild in all their conversation with them; Th1 2:7-8.
(5) that, in order not to be burdensome, or to subject themselves to the charge of selfishness, they had supported themselves by laboring night and day; Th1 2:9.
(6) that the Thessalonians themselves were witnesses in what a holy and pure manner they had lived when there, and how they had exhorted them to a holy life; Th1 2:10-12.
II. The apostle refers to the manner in which the Thessalonians had received the truth at first, as undoubtedly the word of God, and not as the word of people; Th1 2:13.
III. He reminds them of the fact that they had met with the same opposition from the Jews which the churches in Judea had, for that everywhere the Jews had made the same opposition to the messengers of God, killing the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and forbidding the apostles everywhere to speak to the Gentiles; Th1 2:14-16.
IV. In the conclusion of the chapter, the apostle expresses the earnest desire which he had to visit them, and the reason why he had not done it. It was because he had been prevented by causes beyond his control, and now his earnest and sincere wish was that he might be permitted to see them - for they were his hope, and joy, and crown; Th1 2:17-20.
It is reasonable to suppose that the statements in this chapter were designed to meet a certain condition of things in the church there, and if so, we may learn something of the difficulties which the Thessalonians had to encounter, and of the objections which were made to Paul and to the gospel. It is often in this way that we can get the best view of the internal condition of a church referred to in the New Testament - not by direct statement respecting difficulties and errors in it, but by the character of the Epistle sent to it. Judging by this rule, we should infer that there were those in Thessalonica who utterly denied the divine origin of the gospel. This general charge, the apostle meets in the first chapter, by showing that the power of the gospel evinced in their conversion, and its effects in their lives, demonstrated it to be of heavenly origin.
In reference to the state of things as referred to in this chapter, we should also infer the following things:
1. That it was represented by some that the apostle and his fellow-laborers sought influence and power; that they were dictatorial and authoritative; that they were indisposed to labor; and were, in fact, impostors. This charge Paul refutes abundantly by his appeal to what they knew of him, and what they had seen of him when he was there: Th1 2:1-12.
2. That the church at Thessalonica met with severe and violent opposition from the Jews who were there; Th1 2:14-17. This appears to have been a formidable opposition; compare Act 17:5 ff. They would not only be likely to use violence, but it is not improbable that they employed the semblance of argument that might perplex the church. They might represent that they were from the same country as Paul and his fellow-laborers; that they, while pretending to great zeal for religion, were, in fact, apostates, and were engaged in overturning the revealed doctrines of God. It would be easy to represent them as people who, from this cause, were worthy of no confidence, and to urge the fact that those who thus acted in opposition to the religion of their own country, and to the sacred rites of the temple at Jerusalem, could be entitled to no regard. These charges, if they were made, the apostle meets, by assuring the Thessalonians that they were suffering precisely the same things which the churches in Judea did; that the Jews manifested the same spirit there which they did in Thessalonica; that they had killed alike the Lord Jesus and their own undoubted prophets, and that it was a characteristic of them that they were opposed to all other people. Their opposition, therefore, was not to be wondered at, nor was it to be regarded as any argument that the apostles, though Jews, were unworthy of confidence; Th1 2:15-16.
3. It was very probably represented by the enemies of Paul and his fellow-laborers, that they had fled from Thessalonica on the slightest danger, and had no regard for the church there, or they would have remained there in the time of peril, or, at least, that they would have returned to visit them. Their continued absence was probably urged as a proof that they had no concern for them. The apostle meets this by stating that they had been indeed "taken from them" for a little time, but that their hearts were still with them, and by assuring them that he had often endeavored to visit them again, but that "Satan had hindered" him; Th1 2:17-20. He had, however, given them the highest proof of interest and affection that he could, for when he was unable to go himself, he had, at great self-denial, sent Timothy to establish them in the faith, and to comfort their hearts; Th1 3:1-3. His absence, therefore, should not be urged as a proof that he had no regard for them.
1 Thessalonians 2:1
For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you - notes, Th1 1:9. Paul appeals to themselves for proof that they had not come among them as impostors. They had had a full opportunity to see them, and to know what influenced them. Paul frequently appeals to his own life, and to what they, among whom he labored, knew of it, as a full refutation of the slanderous accusations of his enemies; compare notes, Co1 4:10-16; Co1 9:19-27; Co2 6:3-10. Every minister of the gospel ought so to live as to be able, when slanderously attacked, to make such an appeal to his people.
That it was not in vain - κενὴ kenē This word means:
(1) "empty, vain, fruitless," or without success;
(2) that in which there is no truth or reality - "false, fallacious;" Eph 5:6; Col 2:8.
Here it seems, from the connection Th1 2:3-5, to be used in the latter sense, as denoting that they were not deceivers. The object does not appear to be so much to show that their ministry was successful, as to meet a charge of their adversaries that they were impostors. Paul tells them that from their own observation they knew that this was not so.
1 Thessalonians 2:2
But even after that we had suffered before - Before we came among you.
And were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi - Act 16:19 ff. By being beaten and cast into prison. The shame of the treatment consisted in the fact that it was wholly undeserved; that it was contrary to the laws; and that it was accompanied with circumstances designed to make their punishment as ignominious as possible. The Thessalonians knew of this, and Paul was not disposed to palliate the conduct of the Philippians. What was "shameful treatment" he speaks of as such without hesitation. It is not wrong to call things by their right names, and when we have been abused, it is not necessary that we should attempt to smooth the matter over by saying that it was not so.
We were bold in our God - By humble dependence on the support of our God. It was only his powerful aid that could have enabled them to persevere with ardor and zeal in such a work after such treatment The meaning here is, that they were not deterred from preaching the gospel by the treatment which they had received, but at the very next important town, and on the first opportunity, they proclaimed the same truth, though there was no security that they might not meet with the same persecution there. Paul evidently appeals to this in order to show them that they were not impostors, and that they were not influenced by the hope of ease or of selfish gains. People who were not sincere and earnest in their purposes would have been deterred by such treatment as they had received at Philippi.
With much contention - Amidst much opposition, and where great effort was necessary. The Greek word here used is ἀγώνι agōni (agony), a word referring usually to the Grecian games; notes, Col 2:1. It means the course, or place of contest; and then the contest itself, the strife, the combat, the effort for victory; and the apostle here means, that owing to the opposition there, there was need of an effort on his part like the desperate struggles of those who contended for the mastery at the Grecian games; compare notes on Co1 9:24-27. The triumph of the gospel there was secured only by an effort of the highest kind, and by overcoming the most formidable opposition.
1 Thessalonians 2:3
For our exhortation - That is, the exhortation to embrace the gospel. The word seems to be used here so as to include preaching in general. The sense is, that the means which they used to induce them to become Christians were not such as to delude them.
Was not of deceit - Was not founded on sophistry. The apostle means to say, that the Thessalonians knew that his manner of preaching was not such as was adopted by the advocates of error.
Nor of uncleanness - Not such as to lead to an impure life. It was such as to lead to holiness and purity. The apostle appeals to what they knew to be the tendency of his doctrine as an evidence that it was true. Most of the teaching of the pagan philosophers led to a life of licentiousness and corruption. The tendency of the gospel was just the reverse.Nor in guile - Not by the arts of deceit. There was no craftiness or trick, such as could not bear a severe scrutiny. No point was carried by art, cunning, or stratagem. Everything was done on the most honorable and fair principles. It is much when a man can say that he has never endeavored to accomplish anything by mere trick, craft, or cunning. Sagacity and shrewdness are always allowable in ministers as well as others; trick and cunning never. Yet stratagem often takes the place of sagacity, and trick is often miscalled shrewdness. Guile, craft, cunning. imply deception, and can never be reconciled with that entire honesty which a minister of the gospel, and all other Christians, ought to possess; see notes on Co2 12:16; compare Psa 32:2; Psa 34:13; Joh 1:47; Pe1 2:1, Pe1 2:22; Rev 14:5.
1 Thessalonians 2:4
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel - Compare Ti1 1:11-12. Since there had been committed to us an office so high and holy, and so much demanding sincerity, fidelity, and honesty, we endeavored to act in all respects in conformity to the trust reposed in us. The gospel is a system of truth and sincerity, and we evinced the same. The gospel is concerned with great realities, and we did not resort to trick and illusion. The office of the ministry is most responsible, and we acted in view of the great account which we must render. The meaning is, that Paul had such a sense of the truth, reality, and importance of the gospel, and of his responsibility, as effectually to keep him from anything like craft or cunning in preaching it. An effectual restrainer from mere management and trick will always be found in a deep conviction of the truth and importance of religion. Artifice and cunning are the usual accompaniments of a bad cause - and, when adopted by a minister of the gospel, will usually, when detected, leave the impression that he feels that he is engaged in such a cause. If an object cannot be secured by sincerity and straight-forward dealing, it is not desirable that it should be secured at all.
Even so we speak - In accordance with the nature of the gospel; with the truth and sincerity which such a cause demands.
Not as pleasing men - Not in the manner of impostors, who make it their object to please people. The meaning of the apostle is, that he did not aim to teach such doctrines as would flatter people; as would win their applause; or as would gratify their passions or their fancy. We are not to suppose that he desired to offend people; or that he regarded their esteem as of no value; or that he was indifferent whether they were pleased or displeased; but that it was not the direct object of his preaching to please them. It was to declare the truth, and to obtain the approbation of God whatever people might think of it; see the notes on Gal 1:10.
Which trieth our hearts - It is often said to be an attribute of God that he tries or searches the hearts of people; Ch1 28:9; Ch1 29:17; Jer 11:20; Jer 17:10; Psa 11:4; Rom 8:27. The meaning here is, that the apostle had a deep conviction of the truth that God knew all his motives, and that all would be revealed in the last day.
1 Thessalonians 2:5
For neither at any time used we flattering words - see the Job 31:21-22 notes; and on Co2 2:17 note. The word here rendered "flattering" - κολακείας kolakeias - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The meaning is, that the apostle did not deal in the language of adulation; he did not praise them for their beauty, wealth, talent, or accomplishments, and conceal from them the painful truths about their guilt and danger. He stated simple truth - not refusing to commend people if truth would admit of it, and never hesitating to declare his honest convictions about their guilt and danger. One of the principal arts of the deceiver on all subjects is flattery; and Paul says, that when preaching to the Thessalonians he had carefully avoided it. He now appeals to that fact as a proof of his own integrity. They knew that he had been faithful to their souls.
Nor a cloke of covetousness - The word rendered "cloke" here - πρόφασει prophasei - means, properly, "what is shown or appears before any one;" i. e., "show, pretence, pretext," put forth in order to cover one's real intent; Mat 22:14; Mar 12:40; Luk 20:47. The meaning here is, that he did not put on a pretence or appearance of piety for the sake of promoting the schemes of covetousness. The evidence of that was not only what they observed of the general spirit of the apostle, but also the fact that when with them he had actually labored with his own hands for a support; Th1 2:9. It is obvious that there were those there, as sometimes there are now, who, under the pretence of great zeal for religion, were really seeking wealth, and it is possible that it may have been alleged against Paul and his fellow-laborers that they were such persons.
God is witness - This is a solemn appeal to God for the truth of what he had said. He refers not only to their own observation, but he calls God himself to witness his sincerity. God knew the truth in the case. There could have been no imposing on him; and the appeal, therefore, is to one who was intimately acquainted with the truth. Learn hence:
(1) That it is right, on important occasions, to appeal to God for the truth of what we say.
(2) we should always so live that we can properly make such an appeal to him.
1 Thessalonians 2:6
Nor of men sought we glory - Or praise. The love of applause was not that which influenced them; see the notes on Col 1:10.
Neither of you, nor yet of others - Nowhere has this been our object The love of fame is not that which has influenced us. The particular idea in this verse seems to be that though they had uncommon advantages, as the apostles of Christ, for setting up a dominion or securing an ascendancy over others, yet they had not availed themselves of it. As an apostle of Christ; as appointed by him to found churches; as endowed with the power of working miracles, Paul had every advantage for securing authority over others, and turning it to the purposes of ambition or gain.
When we might have been burdensome - Margin, "or, used authority." Some understand this as meaning that they might have demanded a support in virtue of their being apostles; others, as Calvin, and as it is in the margin, that they might have used authority, and have governed them wholly in that manner, exacting unqualified obedience. The Greek properly refers to that which is "weighty" - ἐν βαρέι en barei - "heavy, burdensome." Anything that weighs down or oppresses - as a burden, sorrow, or authority, would meet the sense of the Greek. It seems probable, from the context, that the apostle did not refer either to authority or to support exclusively, but may have included both. In their circumstances it might have been somewhat burden some for them to have maintained him and his fellowlaborers, though as an apostle he might have required it; compare Co1 9:8-15. Rather than be oppressive in this respect, he had chosen to forego his right, and to maintain himself by his own labor. As an apostle also he might have exerted his authority, and might have made use of his great office for the purpose of placing himself at the head of churches, and giving them laws. But he chose to do nothing that would be a burden: he treated them with the gentleness with which a nurse cherishes her children (Th1 2:7), or a father his sons (Th1 2:11). and employed only the arts of persuasion; compare notes on Co2 12:13-16.
As the apostles of Christ - Though the writer uses the word apostles here in the plural number, it is not certain that he means to apply it to Silas and Timothy. He often uses the plural number where he refers to himself only; and though Silas and Timothy are joined with him in this Epistle Th1 1:1, yet it is evident that he writes the letter as if he were alone and that they had no part in the composition or the instructions. Timothy and Silas are associated with him for the mere purpose of salutation or kind remembrance. That this is so, is apparent from Th1 3:1-13. In Th1 3:1, Paul uses the plural term also. "When we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; compare Th1 3:5. "For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith." Neither Silas nor Timothy were apostles in the strict and proper sense, and there is no evidence that they had the "authority" which Paul here says might have been exerted by an apostle of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 2:7
But we were gentle among you - Instead of using authority, we used only the most kind and gentle methods to win you and to promote your peace and order. The word here rendered "nurse," may mean any one who nurses a child, whether a mother or another person. It seems here to refer to a mother (compare Th1 2:11), and the idea is, that the apostle felt for them the affectionate solicitude which a mother does for the child at her breast.
1 Thessalonians 2:8
So, being affectionately desirous of you - The word here rendered "being affectionately desirous" - ὁμειρομενοι homeiromenoi - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means to "long after, to have a strong affection for." The sense here is, that Paul was so strongly attached to them that he would have been willing to lay down his life for them.
We were willing to have imparted unto you - To have given or communicated; Rom 1:11.
Not the gospel of God only - To be willing to communicate the knowledge of the gospel was in itself a strong proof of love, even if it were attended with no self-denial or hazard in doing it. We evince a decided love for a man when we tell him of the way of salvation, and urge him to accept of it. We show strong interest for one who is in danger, when we tell him of a way of escape, or for one who is sick, when we tell him of a medicine that will restore him; but we manifest a much higher love when we tell a lost and ruined sinner of the way in which he may be saved. There is no method in which we can show so strong an interest in our fellow-men, and so much true benevolence for them, as to go to them and tell them of the way by which they may be rescued from everlasting ruin.
But also our own souls - Or rather "lives" - ψυχὰς psuchas; Mat 6:25; Mat 20:28; Luk 12:22, Luk 12:13; Mar 3:4. This does not mean that the apostle was willing to be damned, or to lose his soul in order to save them, but that if it had been necessary he would have been ready to lay down his life; see Jo1 3:16. "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren;" compare notes, Joh 15:13. His object seems to be to assure them that he did not leave them from any want of love to them, or from the fear of being put to death. It was done from the strong conviction of duty. He appears to have left them because he could not longer remain without exposing others to danger, and without the certainty that there would be continued disturbances; see Act 17:9-10.
1 Thessalonians 2:9
Ye remember, brethren, our labour - Doubtless in the occupation of a tent-maker; Act 20:34 note; Co1 4:12 note.
And travail - see the notes on Co2 11:27. The word means "wearisome labor."
For labouring night and day - That is, when he was not engaged in preaching the gospel. He appears to have labored through the week and to have preached on the Sabbath; or if engaged in preaching in the day time during the week, he made it up by night labor.
We preached unto you the gospel of God - That is, I supported myself when I preached among you. No one, therefore, could say that I was disposed to live in idleness; no one that I sought to make myself rich at the expense of others.
1 Thessalonians 2:10
Ye are witnesses - They had a full opportunity of knowing his manner of life.
And God also - See the notes on ver 5.
How holily - Piously - observing all the duties of religion.
And justly - In our contact with people. I did them no wrong.
And unblameably - This seems to refer to his duties both to God and man. In reference to all those duties no one could bring a charge against him. Every duty was faithfully performed. This is not a claim to absolute perfection, but it is a claim to consistency of character, and to faithfulness in duty, which every Christian should be enabled to make. Every man professing religion should so live as to be able to appeal to all who have had an opportunity of knowing him, as witnesses that he was consistent and faithful, and that there was nothing which could be laid to his charge.
1 Thessalonians 2:11
How we exhorted - That is, to a holy life.
And comforted - In the times of affliction.
And charged - Greek, "testified." The word testify is used here in the sense of protesting, or making an earnest and solemn appeal. They came as witnesses from God of the truth of religion, and of the importance of living in a holy manner They did not originate the gospel themselves, or teach its duties and doctrines as their own, but they came in the capacity of those who bore witness of what God had revealed and required, and they did this in the earnest and solemn manner which became such an office.
As a father doth his children - With an interest in your welfare, such as a father feels for his children, and with such a method as a father would use. It was not done in a harsh, dictatorial, and arbitrary manner, but in tenderness and love.
1 Thessalonians 2:12
That ye would walk worthy of God ... - That you would live in such a manner as would honor God, who has chosen you to be his friends; notes, Eph 4:1. A child "walks worthy of a parent" when he lives in such way as to reflect honor on that parent for the method in which he has trained him; when he so lives as to bring no disgrace on him, so as not to pain his heart by misconduct, or so as to give no occasion to any to speak reproachfully of him. This he does, when:
(1) he keeps all his commands;
(2) when he leads a life of purity and virtue;
(3) when he carries out the principles of the family into his own life;
(4) when he honors a father by evincing a profound respect for his opinions; and,
(5) when he endeavors to provide for his comfort and to promote his welfare.
In a manner similar to this, a true Christian honors God. He lives so as not to bring a reproach upon him or his cause, and so as to teach the world to honor him who has bestowed such grace upon him.
Who hath called you - See the notes at Co1 1:9.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this cause also thank we God - In addition to the reasons for thankfulness already suggested, the apostle here refers to the fact that they received the truth, when it was preached, in such a way as to show that they fully believed it to be the word of God.
Not as the word of men - Not of human origin, but as a divine revelation. You were not led to embrace it by human reasoning, or the mere arts of persuasion, or from personal respect for others, but by your conviction that it was a revelation from God. It is only when the gospel is embraced in this way that religion will show itself sufficient to abide the fiery trials to which Christians may be exposed. He who is convinced by mere human reasoning may have his faith shaken by opposite artful reasoning; he who is won by the mere arts of popular eloquence will have no faith which will be proof against similar arts in the cause of error; he who embraces religion from mere respect for a pastor, parent, or friend, or because others do, may abandon it when the popular current shall set in a different direction, or when his friends shall embrace different views; but he who embraces religion as the truth of God, and from the love of the truth, will have a faith, like that of the Thessalonians, which will abide every trial.
Which effectually worketh also in you that believe - The word rendered "which" here - ὅς hos - may be referred either to "truth" or to "God." The grammatical construction will admit of either, but it is not material which is adopted. Either of them expresses a sense undeniably true, and of great importance. The meaning is, that the truth was made efficacious in the minds of all who became true Christians. It induced them to abandon their sins, to devote themselves to God, to lead pure and holy lives, and enabled them to abide the trials and temptations of life; compare notes on Phi 2:12-13; Heb 13:21. The particular illustration here is, that when they embraced the gospel it had such an efficacy on their hearts as to prepare them to meet all the terrors of bitter persecution without shrinking.
1 Thessalonians 2:14
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus - Which are united to the Lord Jesus, or which are founded on his truth: that is, which are true churches. Of those churches they became "imitators" - μιμηταὶ mimētai - to wit, in their sufferings. This does not mean that they were founded on the same model; or that they professed to be the followers of those churches, but that they had been treated in the same way, and thus were like them. They had been persecuted in the same manner, and by the same people - the Jews; and they had borne their persecutions with the same spirit. The object of this is to comfort and encourage them, by showing them that others had been treated in the same manner, and that it was to be expected that a true church would be persecuted by the Jews. They ought not, therefore, to consider it as any evidence that they were not a true church that they had been persecuted by those who claimed to be the people of God, and who made extraordinary pretensions to piety.
For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen - Literally, "of those who are of your fellow-tribe, or fellowclansmen " - συμφυλέτων sumphuletōn. The Greek word means "one of the same tribe," and then a fellow-citizen, or fellowcountryman. It is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. The particular reference here seems not to be to the pagan who were the agents or actors in the scenes of tumult and persecutions, but to the Jews by whom they were led on, or who were the prime movers in the persecutions which they had endured. It is necessary to suppose that they were principally Jews who were the cause of the persecution which had been excited against them, in order to make the parallelism between the church there and the churches in Palestine exact. At the same time there was a propriety in saying that, though the parallelism was exact, it was by the "hands of their own countrymen" that it was done; that is, they were the visible agents or actors by whom it was done - the instruments in the hands of others.
In Palestine. the Jews persecuted the churches directly; out of Palestine, they did it by means of others. They were the real authors of it, as they were in Judea, but they usually accomplished it by producing an excitement among the pagan, and by the plea that the apostles were making war on civil institutions. This was the case in Thessalonica. "The Jews which believed not, moved with envy, set all the city on an uproar." "They drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, 'Those that have turned the world up side down have come hither also;'" Act 17:5-6. The same thing occurred a short time after at Berea. "When the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also and stirred up the people;" Act 17:13; compare Act 14:2. "The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil-affected against the brethren." "The Epistle, therefore, represents the case accurately as the history states it. It was the Jews always who set on foot the persecutions against the apostles and their followers;" Paley, Hor. Paul. in loc. It was, therefore, strictly true, as the apostle here states it:
(1) that they were subjected to the same treatment from the Jews as the churches in Judea were, since they were the authors of the excitement against them; and,
(2) that it was carried on, as the apostle states, "by their own countrymen;" that is, that they were the agents or instruments by which it was done. This kind of undesigned coincidence between the Epistle and the history in the Acts of the Apostles, is one of the arguments from which Paley (Hor. Paul.) infers the genuineness of both.
As they have of the Jews - Directly. In Palestine there were no others but Jews who could be excited against Christians, and they were obliged to appear as the persecutors themselves.
1 Thessalonians 2:15
Who both killed the Lord Jesus - see the notes on Act 2:23. The meaning here is, that it was characteristic of the Jews to be engaged in the work of persecution, and that they should not regard it as strange that they who had put their own Messiah to death, and slain the prophets, should now be found persecuting the true children of God.
And their own prophets - see the Mat 21:33-40; 23:29-37 notes; Act 7:52 note.
And have persecuted us - As at Iconium Act 14:1, Derbe, and Lystra Act 14:6, and at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. The meaning is, that it was characteristic of them to persecute, and they spared no one. If they had persecuted the apostles themselves, who were their own countrymen, it should not be considered strange that they should persecute those who were Gentiles.
And they please not God - Their conduct is not such as to please God, but such as to expose them to his wrath; Th1 2:16. The meaning is not that they did not aim to please God - whatever may have been the truth about that - but that they had shown by all their history that their conduct could not meet with the divine approbation. They made extraordinary pretensions to being the special people of God, and it was important for the apostle to show that their conduct demonstrated that they had no such claims. Their opposition to the Thessalonians, therefore, was no proof that God was opposed to them, and they should not allow themselves to be troubled by such opposition. It was rather proof that they were the friends of God - since those who now persecuted them had been engaged in persecuting the most holy people that had lived.
And are contrary to all men - They do not merely differ from other people in customs and opinions - which might be harmless - but they keep up an active opposition to all other people. It was not opposition to one nation only, but to all; it was not to one form of religion only, but to all - even including God's last revelation to mankind; it was not opposition evinced in their own country, but they carried it with them wherever they went. The truth of this statement is confirmed, not only by authority of the apostle and the uniform record in the New Testament, but by the testimony borne of them in the classic writers. This was universally regarded as their national characteristic, for they had so demeaned themselves as to leave this impression on the minds of those with whom they had contact. Thus Tacitus describes them as "cherishing hatred against all others" - adversus omnes alios hostile odium; Hist. v. 5. So Juvenal (Sat. xiv. 103, 104), describes them.
Non monstrare vias eadem nisi sacra colenti,
Quaesitum a.d. fontem solos deducere verpos.
"They would not even point out the way to any one except of the same religion, nor, being asked, guide any to a fountain except the circumcised." So they are called by Appollonius "atheists and misanthropes, and the most uncultivated barbarians" - ἀθεοι καὶ μισανθρώποι καὶ ἀφεῦστατοι τῶν βάρβαρῶν atheoi kai misanthrōpoi kai apheustatoi tōn barbarōn; Josephus, Contra Apion ii. 14. So Diodorus Siculus (34:p. 524), describes them as "those alone among all the nations who were unwilling to have any contact (or intermingling - επιμιξιας) epimixias with any other nation, and who regarded all others as enemies" καὶ πολεμίους ὑπολαμβάνειν πάντας kai polemious hupolambanein pantas. Their history had given abundant occasion for these charges.
1 Thessalonians 2:16
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles - see Act 17:5, Act 17:13. No particular instance is mentioned in the life of Paul previous to this, when they had formally commanded him not to preach to the pagan, but no one can doubt that this was one of the leading points of difference between him and them. Paul maintained that the Jews and Gentiles were now on a level with regard to salvation; that the wall of partition was broken down; that the Jew had no advantages over the rest of mankind in this respect, and that the pagan might be saved without becoming Jews, or being circumcised; Rom 2:25-29; Rom 3:22-31; notes, Col 1:24. The Jews did not hold it unlawful "to speak to the Gentiles," and even to offer to them eternal life Mat 23:15, but it was only on condition that they should become proselytes to their religion, and should observe the institutions of Moses. If saved, they held that it would be as Jews - either originally such, or such by becoming proselytes. Paul maintained just the opposite opinion, that pagans might be saved without becoming proselytes to the Jewish system, and that, in fact, salvation was as freely offered to them as to the children of Abraham. Though there are no express instances in which they prohibited Paul from speaking to the Gentiles recorded before the date of this Epistle, yet events occurred afterward which showed what were their feelings, and such as to make it in the highest degree probable that they had attempted to restrain him; see Act 22:21-22, "And he (Christ) said unto me (Paul), Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And they (the Jews) gave him audience unto this word, and then lift up their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live."
That they might be saved - That is, as freely as others, and on the same terms, not by conversion to Judaism, but by repentance and faith.
To fill up their sins alway - At all times - πάντοτε pantote - in every generation. That is, to do now as they have always done, by resisting God and exposing themselves to His wrath. The idea is, that it had been a characteristic of the nation, at all times, to oppose God, and that they did it now in this manner in conformity with their fixed character; compare Act 7:51-53, and notes on Mat 23:32, on the expression, "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers."
For the wrath is come upon them - This cannot mean that the wrath of God had been then actually poured out upon them in the extreme degree referred to, or that they had experienced the full expressions of the divine displeasure, for this Epistle was written before the destruction of their city and temple (see the Introduction); but that the cup of their iniquity was full; that they were in fact abandoned by God; that they were the objects even then of his displeasure, and that their destruction was so certain that it might be spoken of as an indubitable fact. The "wrath of God" may be said to have come upon a man when he abandons him, even though there may not be as yet any external expressions of his indignation. It is not punishment that constitutes the wrath of God. That is the mere outward expression of the divine indignation, and the wrath of God may in fact have come upon a man when as yet there are no external tokens of it. The overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple, were but the outward expressions of the divine displeasure at their conduct. Paul, inspired to speak of the feelings of God, describes that wrath as already existing in the divine mind; compare Rom 4:17.
To the uttermost - Greek - εἰς τέλος eis telos - "to the end;" that is, until wrath shall be "complete" or "exhausted;" or wrath in the extremest degree. It does not mean "to the end of their race or history;" nor necessarily to the remotest periods of time, but to that which constitutes completion, so that there should be nothing lacking of that which would make indignation perfect: "εἰς τέλος eis telos - gantz und gar" - thoroughly, entirely, through and through." Passow. Some have understood this as meaning "at the last," or "at length," as Macknight, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and Wetstein; others as referring to duration, meaning that it would follow them everywhere; but the more correct interpretation seems to be to refer it to that extremity of calamity and woe which was about to come upon the nation. For an account of this, see the notes on Mat 24:21.
1 Thessalonians 2:17
But we, brethren, being taken from you - There is more implied in the Greek word here rendered, "being taken from you " - ἀπορφανισθέντες aporphanisthentes - than appears from our translation. It properly has relation to the condition of an orphan (compare notes on Joh 14:18), or one who is bereaved of parents, or one who is bereaved of parents}}. Then it is used in a more general sense, denoting to be bereaved of; and in this place it does not mean merely that he was "taken from them," but there is included the idea that it was like a painful bereavement. It was such a state as that of one who had lost a parent. No word, perhaps, could have expressed stranger attachment for them.
For a short time - Greek, "For the time of an hour;" that is, for a brief period. The meaning is, that when he left them he supposed it would be only for a short time. The fact seems to have been Act 17:10, that it was supposed, when Paul was sent to Berea, that things would soon be in such a state that he could safely return to Thessalonica. He was "sent" there by those who thought it was necessary for the safety of some of his friends at Thessalonica, and he evidently purposed to return as soon as it could properly be done. It had, in fact, however, turned out to be a long and painful absence.
In presence, not in heart - My heart was still with you. This is an elegant and touching expression, which we still use to denote affection for an absent friend.
Endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face - Made every endeavor possible. It was from no want of affection that I have not done it, but from causes beyond my control.
With great desire - Compare the notes at Luk 22:15.
1 Thessalonians 2:18
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul - The phrase "even I Paul," seems to be used by way of emphasis. He had a special desire to go himself. He had sent Timothy to them Th1 3:2, Th1 3:5, and perhaps, some might have been disposed to allege that Paul was afraid to go himself, or that he did not feel interest enough in them to go, though he was willing to send one to visit them. Paul, therefore, is at much pains to assure them that his long separation from them was unavoidable.
But Satan hindered us - Compare the notes on Co2 12:7. In what way this was done is unknown, and conjecture would be useless. The apostle recognized the hand of Satan in frustrating his attempt to do good, and preventing the accomplishment of his strong desire to see his Christian friends. In the obstacles, therefore, to the performance of our duty, and in the hindrances of our enjoyment, it is not improper to trace the hand of the great enemy of good. The agency of Satan may, for aught we can tell, often be employed in the embarrassments that we meet with in life. The hindrances which we meet with in our efforts to do good, when the providence of God seems to favor us, and his word and Spirit seem to call us to a particular duty, often look very much like the work of Satan. They are just such obstructions as a very wicked being would be glad to throw in our way.
1 Thessalonians 2:19
For what is our hope - That is, "I had a strong desire to see you; to assist you; to enjoy your friendship; for you are my hope and joy, and my absence does not arise from a want of affection." The meaning, when he says that they were his "hope," is, that their conversion and salvation was one of the grounds of his hope of future blessedness. It was an evidence that he was a faithful servant of God, and that he would be rewarded in heaven.
Or joy - The source of joy here and in heaven.
Or crown of rejoicing - Margin, as in Greek, "glorying;" that is, boasting, or exulting. The allusion is, probably, to the victors at the Grecian games; and the sense is, that he rejoiced in their conversion as the victor there did in the garland which he had won; notes, Co1 9:24-27.
Are not even ye - Or, will not you be?
In the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming - "When the Lord Jesus appears at the end of the world, then our highest source of happiness and honor will be your conversion and salvation." Then their salvation would be a proof of his fidelity. It would fill his soul with the highest happiness, that he had been the means of saving them from ruin.
1 Thessalonians 2:20
For ye are our glory and joy - The meaning is, that the source of happiness to a minister of the gospel in the day of judgment will be the conversion and salvation of souls. The object of the apostle in dwelling on this in a manner so tender and affectionate is, to show them that his leaving them, and his long absence from them, were not caused by any want of affection for them.
Remarks On 1 Thessalonians 2
(1) Ministers of the gospel should be entirely sincere, and without guile. They should attempt to carry no measure - not even the conversion of sinners - by trick or management; Th1 2:3-5.
(2) they should not make it a point to please people; Th1 2:4, they do please men; or if their ministry is acceptable to people, they should not regard it, indeed, as proof that they are unfaithful, for they "should have a good report of them that are without;" nor should they make it a point to displease people, or consider it a proof that because people are offended, therefore they are faithful; but it should not be their leading aim or purpose to gratify people. They should preach the truth; and if they do this, God will take care of their reputation, and give them just as much as they ought to have. The same principle should operate with all Christians. They should do right, and leave their reputation with God.
(3) ministers of the gospel should be gentle, tender, and affectionate. They should be kind in feeling, and courteous in manner - like a father or a mother; Th1 2:7, Th1 2:11. Nothing is ever gained by a sour, harsh, crabby, dissatisfied manner. Sinners are never scolded either into duty or into heaven. "Flies are not caught with vinegar." No man is a better or more faithful preacher because he is rough in manner, coarse or harsh in his expressions, or sour in his contact with mankind. Not thus was the Master or Paul. There is no crime in being polite and courteous; none in observing the rules of good breeding, and paying respect to the sensibilities of others; and there is no piety in outraging all the laws which society has found necessary to adopt to promote happy conversation. What is wrong we should indeed oppose - but it should be in the kindest manner toward the persons of those who do wrong; what is true, and right we should maintain and defend - and we shall always do it more effectually if we do it kindly.
(4) ministers should be willing to labor in any proper calling, if it is necessary for their own support or to do good; Th1 2:9. It is, indeed, the duty of a people to support the gospel, but there may be situations where they are not able to do it, and a minister should be able to earn something, in some other way, and should be willing to do it. Paul made tents; and if he was willing to do that, a minister should not feel himself degraded if he is obliged to make shoes, or to hoe corn, or to plow, or to keep cattle. He had better not do it, if he can avoid it well - for he needs his time for his more important work; but he should feel it no dishonor if he is obliged to do it - and should feel that it is a privilege to preach the gospel even if he is obliged to support himself by making either tents or shoes. It is no dishonor for a minister to work hard; and it is not well for a man to enter the ministry wholly unacquainted with every other way of procuring an honest living.
(5) every minister should be able to appeal to the people among whom he has labored in proof that he is an honest man, and lives consistently with his profession; Th1 2:1, Th1 2:9-11. The same remark applies to all other Christians. They should so live that they may at once refer to their neighbors in proof of the uprightness of their lives, and their consistent walk, But to be enabled to do this, a man should live as he ought - for the world generally forms a very correct estimate of character.
(6) the joy of a minister in the day of judgment will be measured by the amount of good which he has done, and the number of souls which he has been the means of converting and saving; Th1 2:19. It will not be the honor which he has received from people; the titles which they have conferred on him; the commendation which he has received for eloquence or talent, or the learning which he has acquired, but it will be found in the number of those who have been converted from the error of their ways, and in the evidence of the good which he did on the earth. And will not the same thing be substantily true of all others who bear the Christian name? Will it then be a source of joy to them that they were richer than their neighbors; or that they were advanced to higher honors; or that they had a more splendid mansion, or were able to fare more "sumptuously?" The good that we do will be remembered certainly with pleasure in the day of judgment: of how many other things which now interest us so much can the same thing be said?
(7). Paul expected evidently to recognize the Thessalonian Christians at the day of judgment, for he said that they would be then his "joy and crown of rejoicin;" Th1 2:19. But this could not be, unless he should be able to know those who had been converted by his instrumentality. If he expected then to recognize them, and to rejoice with them, then we also may hope to know our pious friends in that happy world. Nothing in the Bible forbids this hope, and we can hardly believe that God has created the strong ties which bind us to each other, to endure for the present life only. If Paul hoped to meet those who had been converted by his instrumentality, and to rejoice with them there, then the parent may hope to meet the child over whose loss he mourned; the husband and wife will meet again; the pious children of a family will be re-assembled; and the pastor and his flock will be permitted to rejoice together before the Lord. This hope, which nothing in the Bible forbids us to entertain, should do much to alleviate the sorrow of the parting pang, and may be an important and powerful inducement to draw our own thoughts to a brighter and a better world. Of many of the living it is true that the best and dearest friends which they have are already in heaven - and how should their own hearts pant that they may meet them there!