1 Thessalonians 2 Commentary

v.2 “In Philippi, Paul and Silas had been beaten and severely flogged; they had been put in prison with their feet in stocks (Ac 16:22-24) and cruelly mistreated because they had rescued a slave girl in the name of Jesus Christ. They had also been insulted by being arrested unjustly, stripped of their clothes, and treated like dangerous fugitives. Their Roman citizenship had been violated, and for this Paul demanded restitution (Ac 16:37). […] Here in Thessalonica they again encountered “strong opposition” a word that pictures an athlete’s struggle to gain first place in a race or contest. Paul’s conflict came from outward persecutions and dangers originated by his Jewish opponents (cf. Php 1:30). While Luke does not mention such opposition in Thessalonica (Ac 17:1-10), it is clear from this letter that such did come. In spite of it, however, Paul’s inner help from God produced a continuing proclamation of the Gospel.”[1]

v.6 “Behind this concern over means and motives is Paul’s obvious concern for the integrity of the message. He deliberately avoided behavior or actions that might lead people to doubt or suspect the integrity of the message or the sincerity of his preaching.  In fact, so concerned was Paul to avoid any hint of financial self-interest that could compromise the gospel that he took an additional precaution. As an apostle he had a right to be supported in his ministry (1 Cor. 9:3 – 18). But for the sake of the integrity of the message and for the sake of the Thessalonians, he voluntarily gave up that right. This is the point of 2:6b (“As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you”). The phrase translated “be a burden” (NRSV “make demands”) can indicate either financial matters (cf. 2:5, “greed”) or a matter involving authority or recognition (cf. 2:6a, “praise”). Since receiving financial support would imply recognition of one’s apostolic status, it seems likely that Paul has both nuances in mind. His basic point is clear: Although as apostles 11 they could have made demands or imposed their authority, they chose not to do so.”[2]

v.12 “Paul directs his converts’ attention not to a list of commandments or directory of prescribed behaviors, but to the character of God. This reminds us that for Paul, internal motivation, not simply external actions, is of critical importance. Paul does not view any of this activity as having anything to do with earning or generating God’s love or attention. Instead, it is clearly a response to the God who, on his own initiative, “calls” them “into his own kingdom and glory.” The life to which Paul urges the Thessalonians is one of thanksgiving (cf. 1:2), a life that by its character and actions is a means of acknowledging and accepting with gratitude what God through Jesus (cf. 1:1, 4) has already done on one’s behalf.”[4]

v.13 “Paul not only refers to an objective reception of the word of God, but also a subjective acceptance in their hearts. The latter, a wholehearted welcome, indicated their high estimate of God’s word. They had heard the word preached by the missionaries, but ultimately it was the word of God that they heard. Here is indication of Paul’s consciousness of his own divinely imparted authority (cf. 1Co 14:37). His preaching was not the outgrowth of personal philosophical meanderings, but was deeply rooted in a message given by God himself. What had been delivered to him through others (e.g., 1Co 11:23; 15:1, 3) and from the Lord directly (e.g., 1Th 4:15), he passed on to others. […] Once received, this word of God becomes an active power operating continually in the believer’s life. When it is at work in believers, there is a change in behavior and constant fruitfulness.”[5]

v.14 “The word “for” confirms the principal statement of v. 13–their ready acceptance of God’s word. Welcoming the word and enduring sufferings because of it often go together. The stature of the Thessalonians as “imitators” had already been established in the past (cf. 1:6). Deliberate imitation of sufferings for sufferings’ sake is an unworthy Christian objective, but imitation of a Christian lifestyle is legitimate and desirable. Persecution inevitably arises when Christians pattern their lives after the Lord.”[6]

v.16 “The figure of “heap up . . . to the limit” points to a well-defined limit of sin appointed by divine decree. After generations of repeated apostasies and rebellion, Israel had arrived at that point. The climax had come especially with rejection of the Messiah himself, and their already-fixed judgment was biding its time till its direct consequences were released.”[7]

v.19 “The “crown” in 2:19 is likely the laurel wreath, a symbol of victory (cf. the athletic imagery in 1 Cor. 9:24 – 27; Phil. 3:12 – 14).  Its equivalent in 2:20 is “glory,” which to Hellenistic readers will have indicated “reputation” or “renown.” What Paul means by the phrase “in which we will glory” […] is clarified by his statement in Romans 15:17 – 18, “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me …” That is, his boasting is not self-oriented but other-oriented, a taking pride in what others have done or accomplished.”[8]


[1] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CF (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1992)

[2] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 62-63.

[3] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 64-65.

[4] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 67-68.

[5] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CF (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1992)

[6] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CF (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1992)

[7] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CF (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1992)

[8] Michael W. Holmes, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996) 96.

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