1 Thessalonians 2
In this chapter the apostle puts the Thessalonians in mind of the
manner of his preaching among them,
1 Thessalonians 2:1-6.
Then of the manner of his conversation among them,
1 Thessalonians 2:7-12.
Afterwards of the success of his ministry, with the effects both on
himself and on them
(1 Thessalonians 2:13-16),
and then apologizes for his absence,
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20.
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1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that
it was not in vain:
2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were
shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in
our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness,
nor in guile:
4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the
gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which
trieth our hearts.
5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know,
nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness:
6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of
others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of
Here we have an account of Paul's manner of preaching, and his
comfortable reflection upon his entrance in among the Thessalonians. As
he had the testimony of his own conscience witnessing to his integrity,
so he could appeal to the Thessalonians how faithful he, and Silas, and
Timotheus, his helpers in the work of the Lord, had discharged their
office: You yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you.
Note, It is a great comfort to a minister to have his own conscience
and the consciences of others witnessing for him that he set out well,
with good designs and from good principles; and that his preaching
was not in vain, or, as some read it, was not fain. The
apostle here comforts himself either in the success of his ministry,
that it was not fruitless or in vain (according to our translation), or
as others think, reflecting upon the sincerity of his preaching, that
it was not vain and empty, or deceitful and treacherous. The
subject-matter of the apostle's preaching was not vain and idle
speculations about useless niceties and foolish questions, but sound
and solid truth, such as was most likely to profit his hearers. A good
example this is, to be imitated by all the ministers of the gospel.
Much less was the apostle's preaching vain or deceitful. He could say
to these Thessalonians what he told the Corinthians
(2 Corinthians 4:2):
We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in
craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully. He had no
sinister or worldly design in his preaching, which he puts them in mind
to have been,
I. With courage and resolution: We were bold in our God to speak
unto you the gospel of God,
1 Thessalonians 2:2.
The apostle was inspired with a holy boldness, nor was he discouraged
at the afflictions he met with, or the opposition that was made against
him. He had met with ill usage at Philippi, as these Thessalonians
well knew. There it was that he and Silas were shamefully treated,
being put in the stocks; yet no sooner were they set at liberty than
they went to Thessalonica, and preached the gospel with as much
boldness as ever. Note, Suffering in a good cause should rather sharpen
than blunt the edge of holy resolution. The gospel of Christ, at its
first setting out in the world, met with much opposition; and those who
preached it preached it with contention, with great agony, which
denoted either the apostles' striving in their preaching or their
striving against the opposition they met with. This was Paul's comfort;
he was neither daunted in his work, nor driven from it.
II. With great simplicity and godly sincerity: Our exhortation was
not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile,
1 Thessalonians 2:3.
This, no doubt, was matter of the greatest comfort to the apostle--the
consciousness of his own sincerity; and was one reason of his success.
It was the sincere and uncorrupted gospel that he preached and exhorted
them to believe and obey. His design was not to set up a faction, to
draw men over to a party, but to promote pure religion and undefiled
before God and the Father. The gospel he preached was without
deceit, it was true and faithful; it was not fallacious, nor a
cunningly-devised fable. Nor was it of uncleanness. His gospel was pure
and holy, worthy of its holy author, tending to discountenance all
manner of impurity. The word of God is pure. There should be no
corrupt mixtures therewith; and, as the matter of the apostle's
exhortation was thus true and pure, the manner of his speaking was
without guile. He did not pretend one thing and intend another. He
believed, and therefore he spoke. He had no sinister and secular
aims and views, but was in reality what he seemed to be. The apostle
not only asserts his sincerity, but subjoins the reasons and evidences
thereof. The reasons are contained,
1 Thessalonians 2:4.
1. They were stewards, put in trust with the gospel: and it is
required of a steward that he be faithful. The gospel which Paul
preached was not his own, but the gospel of God. Note, Ministers have a
great favour shown them, and honour put upon them, and trust committed
to them. They must not dare to corrupt the word of God: they must
diligently make use of what is entrusted with them, so as God hath
allowed and commanded, knowing they shall be called to an account, when
they must be no longer stewards.
2. Their design was to please God and not men. God is a God of truth,
and requires truth in the inward parts; and, if sincerity be wanting,
all that we do cannot please God. The gospel of Christ is not
accommodated to the fain fancies and lusts of men, to gratify their
appetites and passions; but, on the contrary, it was designed for the
mortifying of their corrupt affections, and delivering them from the
power of fancy, that they might be brought under the power of faith.
If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ,
3. They acted under the consideration of God's omniscience, as in the
sight of him who tries our hearts. This is indeed the great
motive to sincerity, to consider that God not only seeth all that we
do, but knoweth our thoughts afar off, and searcheth the heart. He is
well acquainted with all our aims and designs, as well as our actions.
And it is from this God who trieth our hearts that we must receive our
reward. The evidences of the apostle's sincerity follow; and they are
(1.) He avoided flattery: Neither at any time used we flattering
words, as you know,
1 Thessalonians 2:5.
He and his fellow-labourers preached Christ and him crucified, and did
not aim to gain an interest in men's affections for themselves, by
glorying, and fawning and wheedling them. No, he was far from this;
nor did he flatter men in their sins; nor tell them, if they would be
of his party, they might live as they listed. He did not flatter them
with fain hopes, nor indulge them in any evil work or way, promising
them life, and so daubing with untempered mortar.
(2.) He avoided covetousness. He did not make the ministry a
cloak, or a covering, for covetousness, as God was witness,
1 Thessalonians 2:5.
His design was not to enrich himself by preaching the gospel; so far
from this, he did not stipulate with them for bread. He was not like
the false apostles, who, through covetousness, with feigned words
made merchandise of the people,
2 Peter 2:3.
(3.) He avoided ambition and vain-glory: Nor of men sought we glory,
neither of you nor yet of others,
1 Thessalonians 2:6.
They expected neither people's purses nor their caps, neither to be
enriched by them nor caressed, and adored, and called Rabbi by them.
This apostle exhorts the Galatians
not to be desirous of vain glory; his ambition was to obtain
that honour which comes from God,
He tells them that they might have used greater authority as apostles,
and expected greater esteem, and demanded maintenance, which is meant
by the phrase of being burdensome, because perhaps some would
have thought this too great a burden for them to bear.
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7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her
8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to
have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our
own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for
labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto
any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly
and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every
one of you, as a father doth his children,
12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto
his kingdom and glory.
In these words the apostle reminds the Thessalonians of the manner of
his conversation among them. And,
I. He mentions the gentleness of their behaviour: We were gentle
1 Thessalonians 2:7.
He showed great mildness and tenderness who might have acted with the
authority of an apostle of Christ. Such behaviour greatly recommends
religion, and is most agreeable to God's gracious dealing with sinners,
in and by the gospel. This great apostle, though he abhorred and
avoided flattery, was most condescending to all men. He accommodated
himself to all men's capacities, and became all things to all
men. He showed the kindness and care of a nurse that cherishes her
children. This is the way to win people, rather than to rule with
rigour. The word of God is indeed powerful; and as it comes often with
awful authority upon the minds of men, as it always has enough in it to
convince every impartial judgment, so it comes with the more pleasing
power, when the ministers of the gospel recommend themselves to the
affections of the people. And as a nursing mother bears with
frowardness in a child, and condescends to mean offices for its good,
and draws out her breast, cherishing it in her bosom, so in like manner
should the ministers of Christ behave towards their people. The
servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, and
2 Timothy 2:24.
This gentleness and goodness the apostle expressed several ways.
1. By the most affectionate desire of their welfare: Being
affectionately desirous of you,
1 Thessalonians 2:8.
The apostle had a most affectionate love to their persons, and sought
them, not theirs; themselves, not their goods; and to gain them, not to
be a gainer by them, or to make a merchandise of them: it was their
spiritual and eternal welfare and salvation that he was earnestly
2. By great readiness to do them good, willingly imparting to them,
not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls,
1 Thessalonians 2:8.
See here the manner of Paul's preaching. He spared no pains therein.
He was willing to run hazards, and venture his soul, or life, in
preaching the gospel. He was willing to spend and be spent in the
service of men's souls; and, as those who give bread to the hungry from
a charitable principle are said to impart their souls in what they give
so did the apostles in giving forth the bread of life; so dear were
these Thessalonians in particular to this apostle, and so great was his
love to them.
3. By bodily labour to prevent their charge, or that his ministry might
not be expensive and burdensome to them: You remember our labour and
travail; for, labouring night and day, &c.,
1 Thessalonians 2:9.
He denied himself the liberty he had of taking wages from the churches.
To the labour of the ministry he added that of his calling, as a
tent-maker, that he might get his own bread. We are not to suppose that
the apostle spent the whole night and day in bodily labour, or work, to
supply the necessities of his body; for then he would have had no time
for the work of the ministry. But he spent part of the night, as well
as the day, in this work; and was willing to forego his rest in the
night, that he might have an opportunity to do good to the souls of men
in the day time. A good example is here set before the ministers of the
gospel, to be industrious for the salvation of men's souls, though it
will not follow that they are always obliged to preach freely. There is
no general rule to be drawn from this instance, either that ministers
may at no time work with their hands, for the supply of their outward
necessities, or that they ought always to do so.
4. By the holiness of their conversation, concerning which he appeals
not only to them, but to God also
(1 Thessalonians 2:10):
You are witnesses, and God also. They were observers of their
outward conversation in public before men, and God was witness not only
of their behaviour in secret, but of the inward principles from which
they acted. Their behaviour was holy towards God, just towards all men,
and unblamable, without giving cause of scandal or offence; and they
were careful to give no offence either to those who were without, or to
those who believed, that they might give no ill example; that their
preaching and living might be all of a piece. Herein, said this
apostle, do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of
offence towards God, and towards men,
II. He mentions their faithful discharge of the work and office of the
1 Thessalonians 2:11,12.
Concerning this also he could appeal to them as witnesses. Paul and his
fellow-labourers were not only good Christians, but faithful ministers.
And we should not only be good as to our general calling as Christians,
but in our particular callings and relations. Paul exhorted the
Thessalonians, not only informing them in their duty, but exciting and
quickening them to the performance of it, by proper motives and
arguments. And he comforted them also, endeavouring to cheer and
support their spirits under the difficulties and discouragements they
might meet with. And this he did not only publicly, but privately also,
and from house to house
and charged every one of them by personal addresses: this, some
think, is intended by the similitude of a father's charging his
children. This expression also denotes the affectionate and
compassionate counsels and consolations which this apostle used. He was
their spiritual father; and, as he cherished them like a nursing
mother, so he charged them as a father, with a father's affection
rather than a father's authority. As my beloved sons, I warn
1 Corinthians 4:14.
The manner of this apostle's exhortation ought to be regarded by
ministers in particular for their imitation, and the matter of it is
greatly to be regarded by them and all others; namely, that they
would walk worthy of God, who hath called them to his kingdom and
1 Thessalonians 2:12.
1. What is our great gospel privilege--that God has called us to his
kingdom and glory. The gospel calls us into the kingdom and state of
grace here and unto the kingdom and state of glory hereafter, to heaven
and happiness as our end and to holiness as the way to that end.
2. What is our great gospel duty--that we walk worthy of God, that the
temper of our minds and tenour of our lives be answerable to this call
and suitable to this privilege. We should accommodate ourselves to the
intention and design of the gospel, and live suitably to our profession
and privileges, our hopes and expectations, as becomes those who are
called with such a high and holy calling.
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13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because,
when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye
received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth,
the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that
14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God
which in Judæa are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered
like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the
15 Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and
have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to
16 Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be
saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon
them to the uttermost.
I. The apostle makes mention of the success of his ministry among these
(1 Thessalonians 2:13),
which is expressed,
1. By the manner of their receiving the word of God: When you
received the word of God, which you heard of us, you received it, not
as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God. Where
(1.) The word of the gospel is preached by men like ourselves, men of
like passions and infirmities with others: We have this treasure in
earthen vessels. The word of God, which these Thessalonians
received, they heard from the apostles.
(2.) However, it is in truth the word of God. Such was the word the
apostles preached by divine inspiration, and such is that which is left
upon record, written in the scriptures by divine inspiration; and such
is that word which in our days is preached, being either contained, or
evidently founded on, or deduced from, these sacred oracles.
(3.) Those are greatly to blame who give out their own fancies or
injunctions for the word of God. This is the vilest way of imposing
upon a people, and to deal unfaithfully.
(4.) Those are also to blame who, in hearing the word, look no further
than to the ministry of men, who are only, or chiefly, pleased with the
elegance of the style, or the beauty of the composition, or the voice
and manner in which the word is preached, and expect to receive their
(5.) We should receive the word of God as the word of God, with
affections suitable to the holiness, wisdom, verity, and goodness,
thereof. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and
sometimes false, foolish, and fickle: but God's word is holy, wise,
just, and faithful; and, like its author, lives and abides for ever.
Let us accordingly receive and regard it.
2. By the wonderful operation of this word they received: It
effectually worketh in those that believe,
1 Thessalonians 2:13.
Those who by faith receive the word find it profitable. It does good
to those that walk uprightly, and by its wonderful effects
evidences itself to be the word of God. This converts their souls, and
enlightens their minds, and rejoices their hearts
and such as have this inward testimony of the truth of the scriptures,
the word of God, by the effectual operations thereof on their hearts,
have the best evidence of their divine original to themselves, though
this is not sufficient to convince others who are strangers
II. He mentions the good effects which his successful preaching
1. Upon himself and fellow-labourers. It was a constant cause of
thankfulness: For this cause thank we God without ceasing,
1 Thessalonians 2:13.
The apostle expressed his thankfulness to God so often upon this
account that he seemed to think he never could be sufficiently thankful
that God had counted him faithful, and put him into the ministry, and
made his ministrations successful.
2. Upon them. The word wrought effectually in them, not only to be
examples unto others in faith and good works (which he had mentioned
before), but also in constancy and patience under sufferings and trials
for the sake of the gospel: You became followers of the churches of
God, and have suffered like things as they have done
(1 Thessalonians 2:14),
and with like courage and constancy, with like patience and hope. Note,
The cross is the Christian's mark: if we are called to suffer we are
called only to be followers of the churches of God; so persecuted
they the prophets that were before you,
It is a good effect of the gospel when we are enabled to suffer for its
sake. The apostle mentions the sufferings of the churches of God, which
in Judea were in Christ Jesus. Those in Judea first heard the
gospel, and they first suffered for it: for the Jews were the most
bitter enemies Christianity had, and were especially enraged against
their countrymen who embraced Christianity. Note, Bitter zeal and fiery
persecution will set countrymen at variance, and break through all the
bonds of nature, as well as contradict all the rules of religion. In
every city where the apostles went to preach the gospel the Jews
stirred up the inhabitants against them. They were the ringleaders of
persecution in all places; so in particular it was at Thessalonica:
The Jews that believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain
lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the
city in an uproar. Upon this occasion, the apostle gives a
character of the unbelieving Jews
(1 Thessalonians 2:15),
enough to justify their final rejection and the ruin of their place,
and church, and nation, which was now approaching.
(1.) They killed the Lord Jesus, and impudently and
presumptuously wished that his blood might be on them and their
(2.) They killed their own prophets: so they had done all along;
their fathers had done so: they had been a persecuting generation.
(3.) They hated the apostles, and did them all the mischief they could.
They persecuted them, and drove and chased them from place to place:
and no marvel, if they killed the Lord Jesus, that they persecuted his
(4.) They pleased not God. They had quite lost all sense of
religion, and due care to do their duty to God. It was a most fatal
mistake to think that they did God service by killing God's servants.
Murder and persecution are most hateful to God and cannot be justified
on any pretence; they are so contrary to natural religion that no zeal
for any true or only pretended institution of religion can ever excuse
(5.) They were contrary to all men. Their persecuting spirit was
a perverse spirit; contrary to the light of nature, and contrary to
humanity, contrary to the welfare of all men, and contrary to the
sentiments of all men not under the power of bigotry.
(6.) They had an implacable enmity to the Gentiles, and envied
them the offers of the gospel: Forbidding the apostles to speak to
the Gentiles, that they might be saved. The means of salvation had
long been confined to the Jews. Salvation is of the Jews, says
our Saviour. And they were envious against the Gentiles, and angry that
they should be admitted to share in the means of salvation. Nothing
provoked them more than our Saviour's speaking to them at any time
concerning this matter; this enraged the Jews at Jerusalem, when, in
his defence, Paul told them, he was sent unto the Gentiles,
They heard him patiently till he uttered these words, but then could
endure no longer, but lifted up their voices, and said, Away with
such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should
live. Thus did the Jews fill up their sins; and nothing tends more
to any person or people's filling up the measure of their sins than
opposing the gospel, obstructing the progress of it, and hindering the
salvation of precious souls. For the sake of these things wrath has
come upon them to the uttermost; that is, wrath was determined
against them, and would soon overtake them. It was not many years after
this that Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jewish nation cut off by the
Romans. Note, When the measure of any man's iniquity is full, and he
has sinned to the uttermost, then comes wrath, and that to the
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17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in
presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see
your face with great desire.
18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and
again; but Satan hindered us.
19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are
not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his
20 For ye are our glory and joy.
In these words the apostle apologizes for his absence. Here observe,
1. He tells them they were involuntarily forced from them: We,
brethren, were taken from you,
1 Thessalonians 2:17.
Such was the rage of his persecutors. He was unwillingly sent away by
night to Berea,
2. Though he was absent in body, yet he was present in heart. He had
still a remembrance of them, and great care for them.
3. Even his bodily absence was but for a short time, the time of an
hour. Time is short, all our time on earth is short and uncertain,
whether we are present with our friends or absent from them. This
world is not a place where we are always, or long, to be together. It
is in heaven that holy souls shall meet, and never part more.
4. He earnestly desired and endeavoured to see them again: We
endeavoured more abundantly to see your face with great desire,
1 Thessalonians 2:17.
So that the apostle at least intended his absence should be but for a
short time. His desire and endeavour were to return again very soon to
Thessalonica. But men of business are not masters of their own time.
Paul did his endeavour, and he could do no more,
1 Thessalonians 2:18.
5. He tells them that Satan hindered his return
(1 Thessalonians 2:18),
that is, either some enemy or enemies, or the great enemy of mankind,
who stirred up opposition to Paul, either in his return to
Thessalonica, when he intended to return thither, or stirred up such
contentions or dissensions in those places whether he went as made his
presence necessary. Note, Satan is a constant enemy to the work of God,
and does all he can to obstruct it.
6. He assures them of his affection and high esteem for them, though he
was not able, as yet, to be present with them according to his desire.
They were his hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing; his glory and
joy. These are expressions of great and endeared affection, and
high estimation. And it is happy when ministers and people have such
mutual affection and esteem of each other, and especially if they shall
thus rejoice, if those that sow and those that reap shall rejoice
together, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his
The apostle here puts the Thessalonians in mind that though he could
not come to them as yet, and though he should never be able to come to
them, yet our Lord Jesus Christ will come, nothing shall hinder this.
And further, when he shall come, all must appear in his presence, or
before him. Ministers and people must all appear before him, and
faithful people will be the glory and joy of faithful ministers in that
great and glorious day.