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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 2

2. Retrospect of the apostle’s first incoming to Thessalonica, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

Having already alluded (1 Thessalonians 1:9) to his first entering, Paul now, in bold appeal to their own memories, retraces the style of that memorable entrance. He describes the pure heroic apostolic spirit in which they knew he came. Commentators here discover allusions to, and defences against, slanders of opponents. But we rather understand, first, that the picture is intended to contrast the ideal of Christianity with the grossness of paganism; but, second, Paul does refute by the way the heathen imputations upon the Christian cause.

Verse 1

1. For Reverting back to the entering in of 1 Thessalonians 1:9, of which this section 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is a real unfolding.

Yourselves No empty boast of his own is this description, but a statement which their memories attest.

Entrance When he came, wounded and forlorn, from the jail and stripes of Philippi into the synagogue of Thessalonica to preach the come Messiah to the Jews, the devout Greeks, and the eminent ladies, not a few, there.

In vain Rather, empty, or inconsequential in its intrinsic character. It was an entrance of a momentous nature.

Verse 2

2. But… bold In spite of our wounds and dishonours, brought from Philippi, we displayed a courage worthy of our cause.

Our God Not a mere Jupiter, sitting on Olympus, but the Infinite, filling the universe.

Contention As of an athlete in severe combat. Alluding, no doubt, to his battles for Christianity with pagans, but more especially with (Acts 17:5) hostile Jews and their mobocrats.

Verse 3

3. How pure, as yourselves remember, was our exhortation; that is, the cheer and consolation of our blessed gospel, or glad announcement.

Of Or rather, from deceit, as our motive. Our preaching flowed forth from some pagan myth, or some Eastern mysticism, or some modern religions fabrication.

Of From uncleanness; from the sexual rites and abominations which are part of the very religion of heathens. In Attended with.

Guile Crafty purpose to deceive, and make gain by you. He was thus, as they knew, pure from fable, lust, and guile.

Verse 4

4. God… gospel His announcement was traceable to no mythology, but to God himself. And as in trust from the absolutely pure, we were pure above all mere human purity.

Verse 5

5. Flattering words This solemn responsibility to God alone is attested by our words. Cloak, or pretext, covering a real covetousness, or purpose to make money by you.

God is witness And the sincerity of this appeal to God you know as well as we.

Verse 6

6. Might have been burdensome Says Renan, in his “Life of Paul:” “Ten times he returns with pride to the detail, apparently childish, that he cost nothing to any one; that he has not eaten any one’s bread gratis; that he works night and day, like an artisan, although he might have done like other apostles, and lived from the altar.” But these ten repetitions were not to the same audience. They were statements of the same rule applied to various cases, the importance of which to his mission Paul knew better than Renan.

Verse 7

7. A nurse An image of tenderness, superior knowledge, and care. “Paul,” says Renan, “was an admirable missionary.… Never was the problem of human education grasped in a livelier and more intimate manner. Do not imagine that his ascendency was won by flattery, by gentleness.(?) No; Paul was churlish, ugly, at times passionate.… He commands; he blames severely: he speaks of himself with assurance, and proposes himself as a model without hesitation.” (But see our notes on Acts 20:17-38.) “But what loftiness! What purity! What disinterestedness!” The word nurse means nourisher, one who suckles, and includes the mother here, as indicated by the word her own children. It means a being who imparts physiological life from her own interior life. And this thought is intensely carried out in the following verse.

Verse 8

8. Desirous of you Eager to get, not yours, but you.

Not the gospel only As the mother imparts her milk.

Our own souls As in the milk the mother imparts her own life to her infant, sometimes at the expense of life.

Verse 9

9. Ye remember Paul is solicitous still to ground his statements in their consciousness. All this picture is daguerreotyped on the tablets of their memory, and he does but retrace it.

Labour and travail Two Greek words similarly coupled in 2 Corinthians 11:27, (translated “weariness and painfulness,”) and 2 Thessalonians 3:8; the latter word last, climactically as the stronger term. Wordsworth derives the former, in Greek, from a word signifying to hew, and the latter from two words signifying to carry the logs. If this be a true etymology the words form a proverbial phrase, hewing and lugging, borrowed from the dialect of the primitive fellers of forests. Very applicable, for Paul is here an aboriginal feller of moral forests.

Night and day By night, that he might preach and visit by day; but also by day, that he might make sure of his three sabbath days of synagogue service, Acts 17:2. His labouring was probably at his trade of tent-making, on which see note, Acts 18:3. From Philippians 4:15-16, it appears that Paul did have Philippian aid in his travelling expenses, and also support at Thessalonica. He was aided by the Macedonians at Corinth. Paul was a large taxer of the full formed and powerful Churches; but mainly on other objects than himself.

Night and day It is a striking proof how deeply the Genesis history was enshrined in the Hebrew mind of all ages, that night was always imaged as predecessor of day. And this is philosophical, for darkness, as a mere absence, must exist until light, as the positive entity, comes into being. But, though philosophical, it is not the popularly natural impression; for the obvious daily thought is, that night is the closing appendix to the day, and each new morning is the fresh beginning. Hence, though the Greek cosmogony, borrowing from the primitive, held chaos and night to precede day, yet that order was lost in popular phrase, which was day and night; as is the case, in spite of biblical history, with us of modern Christian Europe and America.

Wordsworth suggestively notes the varied New Testament usage. St. Paul always puts night before day, 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:3. St. Luke, puts day first, Acts 9:24; except where he gives, in Paul’s two speeches, the reverse order, Acts 20:31, and (by the true reading) Acts 26:7. This is a wonderful occult proof, first, that Luke was a Gentile; and, second, that his record is a true verbal report of St.

Paul’s language. Luke 2:37 is probably in a Hebrew document. In Luke 18:7, he probably gives his own order.

St. John gives, in the Apocalypse, the phrase day and night five times, Revelation 4:8; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 14:11, ( day nor night,) Revelation 20:10. This has an important bearing on the question whether John means the Hebrew hours in John 19:14.

Verse 10

10. Holily As in God’s presence.

Justly With strict integrity toward men.

Unblamably Avoiding evil constructions by others.

You that believe And who had opportunity to judge us most truly.

Verse 11

11. Exhorted By presenting earnest motives; comforted, in view of persecutions and trials, by presenting heavenly consolations; charged, or adjured, as in the presence of an all-seeing God, our witness and judge.

Verse 12

12. Called you In consequence of your faith in Christ.

Kingdom After the judgment-day.

And glory The resplendence that eternally fills that kingdom.

So closes St. Paul’s description of his entrance, labouring, and gospel in Thessalonica, for which Thessalonica is his witness. How they received he will now be their witness.

Verse 13

13. Thank we God From whom the power of accepting comes.

Received By the ear.

Received Different Greek word from the former received, signifying acceptance by will.

Word of God It was preached as gospel of God, and was correspondently accepted as word of God.

Effectually But not resistlessly, worketh. Yet conviction is often resistless, though conversion be free and voluntary. And if powerful conversion be ever resistless, perseverance is not. St. Paul declares that their acceptance was by divine inworking spirit and grace, just as the preaching was in our God. There was a double correspondent divine work in the offer and in the acceptance, which in neither case excluded the freedom of man, but in both cases called for thanks to God, 1Th 1:2 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Verses 13-16

3. Thessalonica’s reception and faithful retention of St. Paul’s gospel, 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16.

As the last paragraph, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, is an expansion of 1 Thessalonians 1:5, which gives the powerful preaching of the gospel as proof of the divine election (1 Thessalonians 2:4) of the Thessalonians, so this paragraph (1 Thessalonians 2:13-16) is an expansion of 1 Thessalonians 1:6, giving their acceptance of the gospel as the complete proof of their divine election. For such election implies a true offer of the gospel and a true acceptance.

Verse 14

14. Churches… in Judea Paul’s memory now runs from his European experience back to his Palestinean experience. The conversion of his Thessalonians, and their perseverance against persecution, reminds him of the earlier conversion of Churches in Judea, and the terrible contest they suffered from their Jewish kindred. And he now ranks his young Church here on the same footing with those suffering saints of the early day, whose work had already become historical. These young converts were true followers, imitators of the true primitive models.

Have suffered Your sufferings for Christ are the true badge of your identity with the earlier sufferers.

Own countrymen Kindred Gentiles.

They… of the Jews Gentiles were persecuted by Gentiles, as Jews by Jews. Generally, the earliest persecutions were by Jews. More slowly did the Romans pass edicts against Christianity.

Verse 15

15. Who After having mentioned Jews, Paul’s mind runs up the line of Hebrew history and traces the persecutions which the good and holy have received at Hebrew hands. They killed Jesus, their own prophets, and finally Paul includes us in the line of virtual martyrs. And so even his Thessalonians are also in the sacred line of holy sufferers. Thence his thought runs down the line of Jewish sin.

Please not God Though hereditary monotheists, worshipping with a divinely appointed ritual in the Holy Land, and resorted to by devout pagans, they nevertheless please not God, because they receive not his Messiah.

Contrary to all men Almost repeating the words of Tacitus, the Roman historian, adversus omnes alios hostile odium, “a hatred against all others.” The exclusiveness of their monotheism alone would not justify, though it probably occasioned, this charge. But to that the Jews added a fanatical contempt of others instead of a benevolence. It was this fanaticism that not only prevented their accepting Christ, but inspired them to persecute Paul for presenting Christ to either Jews or Gentiles.

Verse 16

16. Forbidding… speak… Gentiles See note on Acts 21:40.

Saved Through faith in Christ. All this they do to this sad result, namely, to fill, etc.

Always Persistently.

The wrath Which belongs to them as a race fallen by apostasy.

The uttermost Literally, the end, the finality, the ultimate downfall inflicted by the wrath, in consequence of their apostasy. Romans 9:21-22. The most conspicuous manifestation of this end was the destruction of Jerusalem.

St. Paul here speaks severely but judicially, and worthily of the prophetic spirit. No mere human love for his people ever surpassed his. Romans 9:1-5. Yet from his first conversion Judaism pursued him with reckless hate, just because his great heart opened wide for the conversion of mankind. He was held false to Judaism, because he was true to humanity. The Jews arrested him in their temple, arraigned him before Lysias, before Felix, before Festus, and finally before. Nero, and the only reason why they did not execute him was, because no pagan court would sanction their hate.

Verse 17

4. St. Paul’s anxiety to revisit the Thessalonians, but failure hitherto, 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.

17. In the whole of this and the following paragraph, St. Paul’s we refers to himself, without including Silas and Timothy. Yet it is not quite correct to translate it, with Conybeare, by I; for the apostle has a right to call himself we in English if he prefers, as well as in Greek. Note, 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

A short time Literally, the period of an hour. The first hour I left your presence I longed to see you.

Your face The images of their features, fresh in memory, heightened his interest for their welfare.

Verse 18

18. Come unto you He was driven from Thessalonica to Berea. He would have gone back again from Berea to Thessalonica, but Satan inspired the Thessalonian Jews to track him to Berea, and he was driven from Berea seaward to Athens. 1 Thessalonians 3:1.

I Paul An intimation that his we in this connexion means I, and that the language represents his own personal feeling.

Satan The personal devil, (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5,) in whose existence, therefore, Paul not merely believes, but refers to his agency even such comparatively trifling and external matters, because therein there lies prepared a hinderance to the kingdom of God, (compare Ephesians 6:12; otherwise Romans 1:13; Romans 15:22; Acts 16:6, sq.) The apostle, then, does not everywhere, and as a matter of course, speak of Satan, but he knows how, with testing insight, to distinguish. In what this Satanic hinderance consisted we know not; but it must have been something of evil, either on the side of the Thessalonians, or on that of Paul. In the first case, we should have to think of the enemies of the gospel at Thessalonica, whose hatred had been a source of danger to the apostle on his arrival at Thessalonica. In the other case, perhaps of trials in the Churches, where Paul had since been, which rendered a removal from them impossible for him. Or, perhaps, of some sickness of the apostle. And in connexion with this we might think of Satan’s messenger, (2 Corinthians 12:7,) a topic, it is true, on which we know nothing certain. (Comp. also 1 Thessalonians 3:7.) It is even very possible that both kinds of reasons concurred: that the first time, for example, (and this would best agree with 1 Thessalonians 2:17,) Paul desired to turn back again to Thessalonica from Berea, but was hindered in that by the Thessalonian Jews. Acts 17:13.

Wordsworth notes that the Hebrew name Satan is remarkable in this first of St. Paul’s epistles.

Verse 19

19. For Momentous reason for this intense anxiety. His young converted Church was his all; his hope, joy, crown of rejoicing. He asserts this more vividly by question than could be done by affirmation. For his question is again an appeal to them, (note 1 Thessalonians 2:1,) and he expects and inwardly hears their joyful answer.

Presence… Christ… coming The presence of that coming is present to his and their thought. If they are saved in that glorious presence, it will be his crown to have instrumentally saved them. They will stand as glorious witnesses of his faithfulness to the divine Master, as he can testify how they turned from dumb idols to his glorious service. Such is the apostle’s joy and interest in his converts; type of the interest and joy of every minister of Jesus over his work. Trials and privations that minister may suffer now; too great, indeed, for endurance, but that he may count his results as his crown in the day of Christ’s presence and coming.

Verse 20

20. For In the response which his questions are assumed by his heart to have drawn from them, St. Paul joins with a hearty affirmation.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-thessalonians-2.html. 1874-1909.