1 Thessalonians 2 - Boldness Out of Suffering

INTRODUCTION: Paul reminisces about his brief time with the Thessalonians, and brings out several key points to reinforce the gospel message, and why Paul was determined to deliver that message to them even under the circumstances of open hostility led by the unconverted Jews. He reminds them that they accepted his message as the Word of God, not just the teaching of man. He encourages them to maintain their lifestyle that gave clear evidence of their acceptance of that good news that Jesus is the promised Messiah, who came to provide salvation to eternal life through his name. Those changes have strengthened the bond of mutual love in Christ between Paul and them, which is why he desires very much to see them again in person.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the World English bible (WEB).


A - BOLDNESS OUT OF SUFFERING

1 Thessalonians 2 "1 For you yourselves know, brothers, our visit to you wasn't in vain, 2 but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as you know, at Philippi, we grew bold in our God to tell you the Good News of God in much conflict. 3 For our exhortation is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in deception. 4 But even as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts. 5 For neither were we at any time found using words of flattery, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness (God is witness), 6 nor seeking glory from men (neither from you nor from others), when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ."

COMMENTS: Paul reminded the believers at Thessalonica of those things they knew about the severe mistreatment at Philippi for himself and Silas, before they arrived at Thessalonica and gave the gospel out boldly, in spite of the increasing hostility to them at Thessalonica. Choosing to keep his comments at this point within their shared experiences, he did not review other hardships he endured earlier, beginning at Damascus, then at Jerusalem, and continuing as he had traveled for a number of years establishing churches in Asia.

Paul's encouragement for the Thessalonians believers began with his statement that the gospel message is neither of error, nor of corrupt practice, nor deception. When Paul and his companions were entrusted by God to take the good news about Jesus as the promised Messiah to others, it was not to please men, but to please God who examines the motivation in the heart. He reminds the Thessalonian believers that they did not find them using words of flattery, or devices of covetousness, or trying to win the praise of men, even though they could have claimed authority among believers, as apostles of Christ; that is to say, messengers not on their own authority, but chosen by God. What an interesting mix of boldness with humility is here demonstrated by Paul, and that quality should be one of our goals as believers today.


B - THE GOSPEL DELIVERED IN GENTLENESS FROM THE SOUL

1 Thessalonians 2 "7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 Even so, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not the Good News of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labour and travail; for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached to you the Good News of God. 10 You are witnesses with God, how holy, righteously, and blamelessly we behaved ourselves toward you who believe. 11 As you know, we exhorted, comforted, and implored every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 to the end that you should walk worthily of God, who calls you into his own Kingdom and glory."

COMMENTS: Paul contrasts an attitude of authority that might have been expected from an apostle, with the gentleness that a nursing mother has for her infant child. He goes on to say the latter was the manner evidenced by him and his companions because they had developed a warm affection for the believers at Thessalonica. Therefore their desire was not only to share the gospel, but also to work so as not to be a burden for their own daily needs while there. These things were done to be faithful to God, and they were witnessed by the Thessalonians as an evidence of the holy, righteous, and blameless behavior of Paul and his companions. The encouragement, comfort, and pleading given to the Thessalonians were like that of a loving father to his dear children; and this was to produce a lifestyle worthy of God, their heavenly father, who calls them into his own Kingdom and glory. Paul is emphasizing that though he brought the message, the call was actually from God, and all praise was to be given to the Lord Jesus.


C - WE THANK GOD THAT YOU RECEIVED OUR MESSAGE AS COMING FROM GOD

1 Thessalonians 2 "13 For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the assemblies of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus; for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews; 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out, and didn't please God, and are contrary to all men; 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always. But wrath has come on them to the uttermost."

COMMENTS: Paul returns to the thoughts he expressed as his remembrance in prayer, of the Thessalonians as stated in chapter one and verse three. This seems to bring an overflow of joy in him as he says he cannot stop giving praise to God because he is convinced that the Thessalonian believers fully comprehended that the message brought to them was from God and not just the teaching of men. The evidence Paul cites that the Word of God is at work in the Thessalonians is that they became so much like the believers of the churches of Christ Jesus in Judea.

The believers in Judea had already experienced suffering in the same ways that the Thessalonians now suffer from their own countrymen. The Jews killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove Paul and his companions out from that territory. Paul reassures the Thessalonians that these actions against the gospel didn't please God, as the Jews in Judea were opposed to that salvation message which can benefit all men. They were forbidding the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus to be spoken to the Gentiles that they may be saved, and this was greatly adding to their sin. Paul boldly says that wrath has come on them to the farthest extent because of their actions.

It was widely known that there had been a very controversial teacher named Jesus who had many followers even after his death by crucifixion. Paul also had gained his own reputation over the preceding years as he spread the message about this Jesus, and opposition based on his reputation was demonstrated by the accusations the unbelieving Jews brought against him at Thessalonica. Paul used the Old Testament scripture to prove that Jesus is the Christ, since much of the New Testament was not available in the early stages of the church. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians became part of the inspired writings of the New Testament that bear record down to our day: how all teaching from Christ himself and from the apostles verified that Jesus was in fact the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. As the writings of the apostles of Christ developed to form the New Testament, they gave more convincing proof to those called to be part of the church.

The following verse is an example of how even the Proverbs held warning about distorting the Word of God. Proverbs 30 " 5 Every word of God is flawless. He is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Don't you add to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar." The Lord Jesus made this point that adding to the Word of God can thereby nullify its intended purpose. Mark 7 "13 making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this." And Jesus first stated what Paul had said concerning consequences awaiting religious leaders who hinder the gospel. Luke 11 "52 Woe to you lawyers! For you took away the key of knowledge. You didn't enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in, you hindered."

The Word of God is like seed that is to be spread that some of it may fall onto good heart soil. Luke 8 "11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God." ... "15 That in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it tightly, and bring forth fruit with patience." This characteristic of holding the Word tightly, and bringing forth fruit with patience, is that which Paul cherished within the Thessalonians, where he had been chosen to spread that seed.


D - OUR DESIRE TO SEE YOU WAS HINDERED BY SATAN

1 Thessalonians 2 "17 But we, brothers, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, tried even harder to see your face with great desire, 18 because we wanted to come to you indeed - I, Paul, once and again - but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn't it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 20 For you are our glory and our joy."

COMMENTS: Paul's feeling of loss (or bereavement) was clearly not through concern about losing their mutual bond in Christ, but rather because they were not able to be together in persons. Paul attributes his hindrance of a return visit to Thessalonica to the influence of Satan, not any light obstacle that Paul could easily overcome. Paul goes on to say that the very strong affection he has for the Thessalonian believers that causes him to consider them as his hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing is because he knows they will be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming. This is a joy reserved only for those who are in Christ by faith in him. Paul in a subsequent letter to the Corinthians said it in this way. 1 Corinthians 15 "23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ's, at his coming."

The apostle John encouraged believers to remain in their faith as he said, 1 John 2 "28 Now, little children, remain in him, that when he appears, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." The apostle Peter went so far as to say that we should rejoice in suffering if we are in Christ. 1 Peter 4 "13 But because you are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory you also may rejoice with exceeding joy." Jude closes his brief letter by reminding believers that the Lord will preserve his own until they are presented into the presence of His glory. Jude 1 "24 Now to him who is able to keep them from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory in great joy, 25 to God our Saviour, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I need this reminder from Paul of the foundation and blessing of our faith, and the fact of holding that truth firm in our forethoughts to produce the same fellowship when believers assemble, that gave Paul such a strong desire to have that close personal contact again. For those of us who have the privilege of weekly worship services, we may fall into a somewhat numbed pattern that dilutes and restrains the joy we should have by the great gift we have of fellowship with Christ and other believers. The daily routines we follow between Sundays can distract us to the point where weekly worship becomes a rote formality that may prevent the full effect of renewing our minds through the washing and regeneration of the Word. Help me Lord to be in your Word consistently so each time of fellowship with the local body of believers can be truly refreshing as we bear each others burdens, encourage, comfort, and even plead when change is in order. We then can rejoice together as we are reminded of the sure hope we have at the appearing of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 Thessalonians, Chapter 1 - Good News in Word and Power 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 3 - Paul Sent Timothy 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4 - Abound in Love Toward Sanctification 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5 - Stay Alert for Christ's Return

Published 15 February 2011