1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
For yourselves, brothers, know our entrance in to you, that it was not in vain:…
I. WHAT THE THESSALONIANS HAD FOUND THEIR PREACHING TO BE.
1. Not void of power. "For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain." "For" goes back to the first of the two divisions given at the close of the previous chapter. This is indicated by the recurrence of the leading Greek word translated "entering in." It was said, "For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you." There is an advance to a further point. Not only did the people in the various places report, but they themselves had the evidences in their possession. The evidences are regarded as extending down to the time of the Thessalonian letter being received. Taken hold of at that moment, and addressed as brethren, they are asked this question, "What has the entering in of us preachers been found to be?" And, having had ample time to estimate the entering in, they are confidently expected to give this testimony, "It hath not been found vain." The epithet "vain" might mean empty of result; but that thought falls under the second division, which is taken up at ver. 13. It must, therefore, mean empty of all that it ought causally to contain - empty of purpose, and earnestness, in a word, of evangelical power.
2. Characterized by fortitude. "But having suffered before, and been shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much conflict." This is so far confirmed by the Acts of the Apostles, where the narrative of the entering in to Thessalonica is immediately preceded by the narrative of the rough treatment received at Philippi. The feature of the suffering before referred to here is there presented as imprisonment. It was imprisonment with aggravated circumstances. Paul and Silas were dragged into the market-place before the magistrates, by whose orders they were beaten with rods. After many stripes had been laid on them they were cast into the inner prison, and their feet made fast in the stocks. This was shameful treatment, not because they were there in Philippi on an errand of mercy, which heathen magistrates could not appreciate, but because their rights were not respected. It was an irregularity to lay stripes on them at all as Roman citizens. It was a further irregularity to punish so hastily in obedience to clamor, and without an opportunity of defense being granted. All this was known to the Thessalonians. So far the statement here supplements the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles. We read, further, that Timothy accompanied Paul from Lystra, and again that he was left behind at Beraea, but there is nothing said of him in the interval. We learn from this notice that he was co-operating with Paul and Silas both in Philippi and in Thessalonica, although, we may understand, not so prominent an object of attack as the others, who were his seniors both in age and in service. The three were not intimidated by this treatment in Philippi. On the contrary, proceeding to Thessalonica, they waxed bold in their God to speak unto the Thessalonians the gospel of God. It was the gospel of God, inasmuch as it came as a glad message from God. They looked to God as their God, who had commissioned them to deliver his message. As commissioned by God to deliver his message, they did not flee, like Jonah, through fear, but they emboldened themselves in their God, that he would give them his protection and support. It did not fare with them in Thessalonica differently from what it did in Philippi. Their message brought them into conflict with the powers of unbelief. It was a conflict of a formidable nature. But the fact that they were able to stand forth and speak the gospel of God in the face of strong opposition was evidence of the very highest value that their entering in to Thessalonica was not vain.
II. THEIR GENERAL HABIT AS PREACHERS.
1. They were not like the idolatrous priests.
(1) They did not preach out of error. "For our exhortation is not of error." There was not much of what is here called exhortation in the ministrations of the idolatrous priests. They did not lay themselves out to influence men by suasion to what was considered to be the right belief and the right life. The old translation in this place, "deceit," was objectionable. Such men were not impostors to begin with. They believed in their system. It was what they had received by tradition from their fathers. Nevertheless it was a system of error, literally, "wandering." Heathenism was a wandering from God, whether objects of worship were sought in the stony world, in the silence of vegetable life, behind the hieroglyphics of the brute creation, or behind the human form. Out of such error they ministered to man. Paul and his companions, on the other hand, ministered out of truth. They had the true conception of God and of human life. Their exhortation had its inspiring cause in Christianity. As moved themselves by its soul-cheering truth, they sought to move others.
(2) They did not preach out of uncleanness. "Nor of uncleanness." This was the general character of heathen ministrations, but, as denied here, it would seem, from the context, to refer more particularly to the impure love of gain. Those who ministered in heathen temples were in the habit of receiving gifts from the worshippers. And there was the danger, and, in the absence of better influences, the likelihood of gain becoming the end, in which their ministrations had motive power. This was not the end in which the apostle and his companions found motive for their way of exhortation.
(3) They did not resort to unworthy methods in preaching. "Nor in guile." Heathen priests could not but be conscious of much imposture. Conscious of no inflatus, of no extraordinary knowledge possessed by them, they yet professed to tell the future from the position of the stars, from the flight of birds, from the entrails of animals. They had to do with unrealities in many forms, in order to keep up their influence with the worshippers. The apostle and his companions, as their end was the salvation of souls, so they only sought it by the use of means which their conscience could approve.
2. They realized their responsibility. "But even as we have been approved of God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God which proveth our hearts." There are two ideas in a trust. The first is acting for another. He who makes over the trust does not act himself by reason of death, or by reason of infirmity, or by reason of absence (as in the analogy that is made use of in Luke 19:12). The trustee - he to whom the trust is made over - acts in his name and for his interest. The second idea is acting apart by one's self. The trustee may have directions to guide him, and ample resources to draw upon in the management of the trust. But otherwise he acts independently. He is left there alone with the trust; in responsibility it is his and not another's if it is managed well; it is his and not another's if it is mismanaged.
(1) What their trust was. "So we speak." A minister must not be devoid of thoughts, and must also be able to give clear expression to them. He has also to stand up before his fellow-men, and to speak to them face to face with a practical aim. That, with the speaking of which he is entrusted, is the gospel. "The gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust." The gospel is properly the glad tidings of salvation to all people. It begins with the message of pardon to the guilty, of adoption into the family of God of the disowned and disinherited. It is, in its gladsome breadth, the promise of the communication of the Divine life and happiness to our being. It is this which the minister has to speak with a view to its acceptance. It is not meant that he is only to speak this. For he has the whole Bible to open up as he can. He has other important truth to present, even the terrors of the Law in its bearing on the gospel. Neither is he to confine himself in his illustrations to the Bible. For as all roads led to Rome, so all things can legitimately and usefully be made to lead to the gospel. Only nothing is to be dilated upon or brought in which has not the effect of making prominent the gospel proper, or the glad message from God to man.
(2) Their being chosen for the trust. "As we have been approved of God." "It was requisite," it has been said of the Athenian priesthoods, "that all priests should be of legitimate birth, without bodily defect, and of unblamable life and conversation. These particulars were ascertained by a dokimasia." It cannot be said of all who are in the office of the ministry that they have received the Divine approval There must be a certain aptitude in natural gifts for preaching the gospel. There must especially be aptitude in the moral state of the preacher. God has seen fit, by saved men, to save men. He employs, in the preaching of the gospel, those who have sympathy with the gospel. In this light Paul and Silas and Timothy were no pretenders, but had received the Divine stamp - had been pronounced fit, from their gifts and experiences, to be employed in the saving of souls.
(3) The spirit in which they fulfilled their trust. Danger they avoided. This was man-pleasing. There is a certain pleasing of men which is not to be avoided by the preacher of the gospel. He is to seek to interest men by all legitimate methods. But this pleasing cannot be exalted into a law universal. We are not to please men as though we were responsible to them. We are not to please men as though we had to consult their false tastes, their natural dislike to the gospel. On the contrary, all man-pleasing is to be repudiated where it interferes with the main design of the gospel, which is to effect a change upon the heart. Excellence they cultivated. This was God-pleasing. This is a safe rule to follow in every case. For he is infinite excellence, and he who seeks to please him follows no low or variable standard. It is the fit thing to do in the position in which we are placed. He has entrusted us preachers with the gospel; it is therefore simply our duty to please him who has given us so solemn a trust. If we have been approved of God to be entrusted with the gospel, that is so far well. But there is an approval that we have to look forward to at the end of our labors. And shall it then be seen that we have stood the test? Shall we then receive the word of approval, "Well done, good and faithful servant"? Paul and Silas and Timothy claimed that, in accordance with the fact of their having been approved, they spake pleasing God. And this is heightened by the consideration that God is regarded as proving their hearts. They preached as under the eye of the heart-trying God. They preached as if asking God to remove from their hearts all that unfitted them for dealing with the gospel. They preached with some consciousness in the depth of their being that their single aim was to find acceptance for the good message.
III. THEIR HABIT TOWARD THE THESSALONIANS.
1. Denial of selfishness.
(1) In the form of flattery. "For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know." In proof of what was their general habit, an appeal is made to what their habit was particularly toward the Thessalonians. At no time were they found using speech whose contents were flattery. Having denied generally the method of deceit, they now deny, toward the Thessalonians, the method of flattery. It is a method commonly resorted to by deceivers. It may seem removed from selfishness, inasmuch as it is a way of pleasing men. In that respect it is not so odious as a habit of detraction. But the flatterer is essentially selfish. He professes affection he does not feel; he bestows praises beyond what he considers to be deserved. He thus goes against the person he seeks to flatter, who has a right to have presented to him what a man really is, and not what he assumes to be - a true face, and not a mask. And be further goes against him, inasmuch as he would have him think of himself as different from what he really is. Paul and his companions were not slow to let the real affection of their heart be known, and to bestow praises where they were deserved. But they disclaimed flattery, appealing, in support of their truthfulness in doing so, to the experience of the Thessalonians.
(2) In the form of covetousness. "Nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness." The idea of deceit is carried forward in the word "cloak." It is something worn under which, or, to keep nearer to the Greek word, "woven before" ("pretext"), behind which the real design is concealed. Covetousness is doubly degrading in connection with sacred service. It is laid down as one of the qualifications of a minister that he is not to be greedy of filthy lucre. Paul and his companions did not use great profession of godliness, or of affection and esteem for the Thessalonians, as a pretext fur getting their money. They were conscious to their own minds of purity in this matter, and, feeling the vast importance of being thoroughly cleared from such an imputation, they solemnly call God to witness that they were stating the truth. This form of confirmation - "God is witness" approaching to the oath, is only to be used in a matter of great moment, and especially where hidden motive is concerned.
(3) In the form of a desire for honor. "Nor seeking glory of men, neither from you, nor from others, when we might have been burdensome, as apostles of Christ." This is an alternative to covetousness. Following the method of deceit, they might have been seeking, not money, but glory. Christ says, "I receive not glory from men." And he declares this to be an obstacle to believing. "How can ye believe, which receive glory one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not?" Paul and his companions had not sought glory which had its origin in men, neither more immediately from them nor from others. They had not done this when, as the meaning would seem to be, they might have claimed honor as the apostles of Christ. The idea of "burdensomeness" seems out of keeping with the immediate context, the preceding thought being "glory," and the succeeding thought being "gentleness." It seems better, then, to adopt the other meaning which the words equally well bear: "When we might have claimed dignity, assumed consequence." They had an honorable status as apostles of Christ, that designation being taken widely. The honor connected with it came, not from men, but from Christ. It was a great honor to hold a commission from Christ. But they did not put forward their official position; they did not exact a recognition of it from men.
2. On the positive side their motherly unselfishness. "But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children: even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear to us." So far from being mere officials taken up with their dignity, they were gentle in the midst of them. Their whole bearing in the midst of the Thessalonians was like that of a parent in the midst of his children. Nay, that does not suffice to bring out the nature of the gentleness. It is not the father who is taken; but, as expressing greater tenderness, the mother. In another place (Galatians 4:19) Paul also makes use of the motherly: "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you." Here he not only takes the mother, but the mother at the time when she is nursing. As when a nurse cherisheth her own children. It is then that the motherly feeling is most active in her. It is then that she uses the sweetest expressions, holds her child with the greatest fondness and solicitude. But the nursing mother is not only the picture of gentleness; she is also the picture of unselfishness. She does not think of receiving from her child; she thinks only of giving. She gives from herself, and, if that child's life were in danger, she would not hesitate to give her own life. So the motherly was very active in them at Thessalonica. They were affectionately desirous of the Thessalonians. Desire has a certain contrary nature to affection. Desire draws in; affection gives out. It is giving out that is referred to here. It would seem, therefore, better to translate, "Having a fond affection for you." In the working of this affection they gave to the Thessalonians the milk of the Word - here called the gospel of God - what was given them by the great and tender Giver to give to the new-born. And such was the unselfishness of their affection that they had the willingness, if it had been necessary, to give their very lives for the Thessalonians, because, in their craving for the Word, they were felt to be very clear.
3. Striking exemplification of unselfishness. "For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." The apostle and his companions "practically gave up their existence" to the Thessalonians. Those addressed as brethren are called upon to call to mind the labor and travail undergone for them. The second word serves the purpose of intensification. There was giving out of strength in "heralding" the gospel of God. A herald does not spare himself; as gospel heralds they did not spare themselves in soul or body. This work of heralding was by itself labor and travail; but it was added to by the circumstances under which they heralded. They felt themselves under the necessity of working - Paul, no doubt, at the work of tent-making. That also was labor and travail; for it was night and day - as we would say, day and night; not completed with daylight, but extending into the night. There was no reason for his not receiving from the Philippians as he did at Thessalonica. There was reason for his not receiving from the Thessalonians. The reason given is, the desire not to burden any of them. His not feeling free to burden any of them, whatever determined it, raised him now above the suspicion of being covetous among them. He had only been a giver, like a nursing mother.
4. What their behavior generally was toward the Thessalonians. "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe." Their behavior is defined as being toward the Thessalonians as believers. We may think of Paul as speaking for himself and his companions. How did he bear himself toward these believers?
(1) Holily, i.e. with love and reverence toward God in them.
(2) Righteously, i.e. with due consideration for their position. This must be taken to include their position as believers. There was what was suitable for them, as adopted into the family of God through faith.
(3) Unblamably, a strong word which is used not infrequently by the apostle. It is the negative side of the two positions that have been given. Here there is a concentration of the self-praise, as it may seem, that pervades the paragraph. How could he act so holily and righteously toward the Thessalonians as to incur no blame from them or from God? But that is not all: he makes an appeal to them as witnesses, and, the second time in the paragraph, he makes a solemn appeal to God as Witness even of his inward disposition. It cannot be understood that he lays claim to perfection; for it is he who says in another place, "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect." But it must be understood that he claimed to be sincere, and sincere in no ordinary degree, in seeking the good of the Thessalonians. In claiming this he was not really praising himself; but he was making clear what was fitted to influence powerfully the Thessalonians in their fidelity to the gospel. He points to them as believers, because, it may be, they were fitted to appreciate the spirituality of his bearing. He points to them as believers, chiefly as showing that they worthily responded to what his bearing was.
5. Their fatherly dealing. There are frequent allusions to fatherhood in God in Scripture. One of the allusions to motherhood in God is in Isaiah 66:13, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." Both meet in God, forming a complete conception.
"No earthly father loves like thee,
No mother e'er so mild." So they must meet in the servant of God. Paul has already in this paragraph referred to himself as acting the motherly part; he now supplements it by referring to himself as acting the fatherly part.
(1) Individual dealing. "As ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father dealeth with his own children." It is the part of a father to have his children under his eye. He is acquainted with their little histories and peculiar dispositions. And he does not deal with all alike, but studies their various ways, and deals with them accordingly. So it is the part of a minister not only to make a general declaration of the gospel, but also, father-like, to deal with his people individually, according to what he knows of their circumstances and needs.
(2) Three words descriptive of the nature of fatherly dealing. "Exhorting you." It is the part of a father not merely to tell his children their duty, but also to exhort them, to urge them warmly to duty, especially from his own experiences of life. So it is the part of a minister not only to hold up Scripture precept for instruction, but also, father-like, warmly to recommend its observance, especially from his own spiritual experiences. "And encouraging you." It is the part of a father to hold out encouragement to the performance of duty. Nothing can be more fatal to the young than a discouraging tone. So it is the part of a minister not to be harsh, censorious, despondent, but, father-like, to catch a geniality and hopefulness from his message which may be said to have come from the fatherhood of God. "And testifying." The word can bear a stronger meaning - charging, conjuring. There are times when a father addresses his children as with his dying breath, conjures them by all that he counts dear and sacred, by a consideration of their best interests, not to give way to temptation, but to follow in the path of duty. So there are times when it is becoming for a minister to concentrate his earnestness and to address his people as with his dying breath, conjuring them by the authority of God, by the love of the Spirit, by the blood of Christ, by the dreadful issues at stake, by the solemnity of judgment, not to allow themselves to be cheated out of happiness, but to make sure of Christ as their everlasting Portion.
(3) To what the fatherly dealing is to be directed. "To the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into his own kingdom and glory." It is the part of a father to endeavor to hold the children to what is noble. For this purpose he loves to tell them of the good name their family has borne, of the call which that addresses to them to follow out a good career. And so he exhorts, encourages, conjures them. Let them not stain that noble name, let them not stop short of that noble career. So it is the part of a minister, father-like, to tell his people of their high dignity and destiny, of their being called by God into his own kingdom, of their being called in that kingdom to share with God in his glory. And so he exhorts, encourages, conjures them. Let them prove worthy of having place and honor in God's kingdom. Let the royal stamp be on all their conduct. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: