Matthew Poole's Commentary
For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Paul setteth forth in what manner he had preached the
gospel to the Thessalonians,
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 and they had received and suffered for it.
1 Thessalonians 2:17,18 He showeth his desire of coming to them, and the
cause which had hitherto prevented him,
1 Thessalonians 2:19,20 testifying his joy and satisfaction in them.
For yourselves; autoi, which some read, they themselves, &c.; and then the words refer to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, mentioned before, 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10. Or, if we read, ye yourselves, he appeals to their own experience and knowledge.
Know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain; kenh, was not vain, or empty, without fruit; our very first preaching had great success. Though the gospel is always either the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death, yet if no good fruit spring from a man’s ministry, it may be said to be vain; as the prophet complains: I have laboured in vain, Isaiah 49:4. Or, as some, our preaching was not about things vain and unprofitable.
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.Here the apostle begins a new discourse, giving an account more particularly of himself, and of his carriage among them, which he mentions as a subordinate reason why his ministry was so successful; for the evil example of ministers often spoils the success of their ministry. And what he speaks would savour of vain-glory, but that he had therein a holy end; as he excuseth his boasting to the Corinthians and other churches upon the same account. And he first mentions his carriage in the discharge of his ministry among them. A little before his coming to them he had suffered, and was shamefully entreated, at Philippi, where he and Silas were beaten, thrust into an inner prison, and set in the stocks as a couple of villains, Acts 16:23,24; yet this did not damp their spirits, nor discourage their coming and preaching to them.
We were bold; eparrhsiasameya, we used great confidence and liberty of speech, we were not afraid to speak the gospel freely, notwithstanding our sufferings. The same he asserts, 2 Corinthians 3:12. And this becomes the gospel, and will be to the advantage of it, and is most commendable in a time of persecution.
In our God; depending upon his protection and help, who is our God, and who sent and called us to the work of the gospel, and particularly in Macedonia: and to show he was not bold beyond his call and duty, or the rules of truth and sobriety.
To speak unto you the gospel of God; the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ; which gospel, though we have called it ours because preached by us, yet it is the gospel of God, as being the original author and ordainer of it.
With much contention; with much agony: which is either to be taken actively, for their great earnestness and zeal in speaking, as Luke 13:24; or passively, for the perils they encountered therein, Philippians 1:30: by both which the Thessalonians might be induced, though not enabled, to believe. As he elsewhere calls the ministry a warfare, 1 Timothy 1:18, and a fight, 2 Timothy 4:7, (the very word used in the text), with respect to the difficulties and dangers attending it, or the opposition of false teachers; they contending for the faith, Judges 1:3.
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:Our exhortation; whereby he means either the whole gospel he preached, by a synecdoche, or particularly that which is hortatory; what was first taught doctrinally was followed with exhortations to faith and practice. The decrees of the council at Jerusalem are called an exhortation, Acts 15:31; when Paul, and others with him, were desired to preach in the synagogue, the rulers said: If ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on, Acts 13:15; but taken more strictly, Romans 12:8, in a distinction from prophecy and teaching.
Was not of deceit; this refers either to the doctrine taught by them; it was true, not fallacious, not a devised fable, and did not issue out of any error of judgment; and so the apostle gives a reason why they were so bold in preaching it, because they knew it was all truth. Or to their sincerity in preaching; We did not use any impostures, we designed not to seduce men, as the false apostles did, but we really sought your conversion and salvation.
Nor of uncleanness; ez akayarsiav. If this refers to the doctrine preached, it denotes the purity of it, which did not tend to gratify the flesh, as that of the Nicolaitanes and Libertines, &c. If we refer it to the manner of their preaching, it denotes the purity of their hearts; they were not acted by any impure lusts in their preaching, as covetousness, pride, or vain-glory. Nor in guile; this seems to be mentioned before, and therefore some expositors refer the two former expressions to the matter that they taught, and this only to the manner, which is most probable. They had no cunning designs upon them, to make merchandise of them, as the false apostles did; but approve their hearts to God, and make themselves manifest to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And the apostle allegeth all this as a further reason of his boldness in preaching, for sincerity breeds boldness; or as some cause also of his great success, for uprightness is usually attended with a blessing; or as an argument to these Thessalonians to continue their affection to him, and to abide in the doctrine preached to them, for suspicion of insincerity in the preacher hinders the efficacy of the word upon the people.
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.But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel: this verse gives the reasons of what the apostle spake in the former about his sincerity. The one is taken from his trust; God intrusted him with the gospel, to preserve it from corruption by error, therefore his exhortation or doctrine was not of error or deceit, but he preached the gospel in simplicity and purity; he did not, he durst not, adulterate or corrupt it, for it was committed to his trust; as he calls the gospel his trust, 1 Timothy 1:11. And the sense of this great trust kept him also from uncleanness and guile in the discharge of his ministry. And he had this trust by God’s appointment or approbation, God approved of him for this trust, and that upon knowledge and judgment, as the word signifies, dedokimasmeya, and as he speaks, 1 Timothy 1:12, he judged me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Not so before his conversion, being a persecutor, blasphemer, & c.; but God fitted him by extraordinary revelations, gifts, graces, and made him faithful, and then put him into the ministry, and intrusted him with the gospel. And because he speaks in the plural number,
we were allowed of God, & c., therefore Silvanus and Timotheus, yea, and other apostles and ministers, are to be understood as comprehended with him in this trust.
Even so we speak; that is, as men thus approved of by God, and intrusted with the gospel, that we may faithfully discharge our trust, and be able to give a good account of it, as stewards of their trust, 1 Corinthians 4:1,2.
Not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts: this is another reason of their faithfulness and integrity, mentioned in the foregoing verse, which was the sense of God’s omniscience, knowing and trying their hearts. Trying imports more than mere knowing, it is a knowledge upon search and proof, as gold and silver are known by the touchstone. And though God trieth the hearts of all men, yet especially such as are intrusted with the gospel. Or these last words may have a more immediate reference to the foregoing; we speak not as pleasing men, because we know God trieth our hearts. And this confirms what he said before concerning his exhortation, that it was not of deceit, uncleanness, or guile. If it had, he would have so preached as to please men; the opinions, the lusts, the practices of men. In some cases the apostle did seek to please men, 1 Corinthians 10:33, even as I please all men in all things. But he pleased not men when it stood in competition with his pleasing God; we speak, not as pleasing men, but God. Otherwise the rule takes place with all, Romans 15:2: Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. Ministers of the gospel are Christ’s servants by office, and, as servants, they are to please their own Master. If I pleased men, saith Paul, I should not be the servant of Christ, Galatians 1:10. And this made the apostle have regard not only to his doctrine and outward conversation, but the inward aim and intentions of his heart, as knowing God tried his heart. And expecting the reward of his labours more from God than men, he therefore sought to please God rather than men, and approve his heart unto him. And herein he reflects upon those false apostles that sought to please men, preached up the law of Moses to please the Jews; or others, that preached and abused the doctrine of the gospel to gratify the lusts of men.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:In the former verses the apostle had asserted his integrity more generally; here, and in the next verse, he instanceth in particulars. He vindicates his ministry from the guilt of three vices which too often attend it; flattery, covetousness, and vain-glory.
For neither at any time used we flattering words: first, flattery, en logw kolakeiav; or, we were not, i.e. conversant, in a word of flattery, as in the Greek; our word was not a word of flattery, as if we sought to please men. When we ascribe to men good things that they have not, or above what they have, or when we applaud or extenuate the evil that is in them, we flatter them. This is reproved often in the false prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah 30:10 Ezekiel 13:10,18; and in the false teachers in the New. The flattery of ministers is, their preaching of smooth things, rather to please than profit; when they avoid just reproofs, and searching truths, and close applications, that they may not displease; and affect wisdom of words, and rhetorical discourses, that they may please: when they either conceal some part of truth, or pervert it, that people may think their doings better than they are, or their state better than it is.
As ye know: their words in preaching being an overt act, they themselves could judge of, and therefore the apostle doth appeal to their own knowledge in that.
Nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness: in what they could not know, which was their inward aims and designs, he appeals to God, which is a form of swearing; and in all oaths men solemnly do concern God therein; the same in effect that is called protesting, 1 Corinthians 15:31. And that wherein he thus appeals is, that he had no covetous design in his ministry, which he calls a cloak of covetousness; which lies either in undue withholding what we have, or inordinate desire of more. The latter is here meant, as the Greek word imports. And the word cloak is a metaphor as the word is translated here, and John 15:22: as that covers the inner garments, so when bad designs are covered with specious pretexts, this we call a cloak. The word in the text, en proyasei pleoneziav, is often used, Matthew 23:14 Mark 12:40 Luke 20:47, and sometimes rendered occasion, but for the most part pretence, and so to be understood here; and in heathen authors sometimes used for accusation. And this is contrary to what is said of false prophets, 2 Peter 2:3: Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.Nor of men sought we glory: this is the third vice he vindicates his ministry from. The word glory first signifies some excellency in any subject; secondly, this excellency as displaying and manifesting itself; thirdly, the opinion and esteem thereof in the minds of men, as the Greek word imports, and so taken in the text: we did not seek men’s honour, high esteem, or applause; we sought them not in the inward bent of our thoughts, or the studies of our mind, nor in the outward course of our ministry and conversation, to form them so as to gain glory from men. Though honour and esteem was their due from men, yet they did not seek it. Honour is to follow men, men not to follow it. This Christ reproved in the scribes and Pharisees, that in their prayers, alms. fasting, affected habits, and titles, they sought the praise of men, Matthew 6:1-34. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? John 5:44. Every man ought, with reference to actions honourable and praiseworthy, and a good name is a blessing; but to seek honour, that is the evil. And as the apostle did not seek it himself, so he forbids it to others, Galatians 5:26: Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, & c.; and notes some false teachers as guilty of it, 2 Corinthians 10:12. It is a vice directly opposite to humility, unbecoming a man as man, and highly dishonourable to God, and contrary to the gospel. The heathens cherished it as the spur to great achievements, it is one of Tully’s rules for the institution of princes; but the Christian religion, that gives all glory to God, condemns it. And yet we may seek the vindication of our name, when thereby we may provide for the honour of the name of God, as the apostle Paul often did.
Neither of you, nor yet of others; he adds this to show that this was their general practice among others as well as these Thessalonians; they were not guilty of flattery, covetous designs, or seeking the glory of men among any churches, or in any place; their practice in their ministry was uniform, and in all places upright and sincere.
When we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ; or, we were able to be in, or for, a burden, a Hebraism. By burden some understand authority: q.d. We might have used our ministerial authority more than we did, whereby to get greater honour and respect to our persons among you. And indeed all authority and honour have their weight and burden. Others by burden understand maintenance. And then he means, we might have been chargeable to you, according to the power given by Christ to his apostles to reap carnal things from them to whom they sowed spiritual things. And at the first sending them forth in Judea, it was so ordained by Christ, that they should be maintained at the people’s charge: see 1 Corinthians 9:1-27. But they were so far from covetousness, that they took not all that was their due, and what they might of their outward substance, and from seeking their own honour, that they did not use what authority they might to procure it among them; for they laboured with their hands night and day, that they might not be chargeable, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; though they might have challenged not only maintenance, but honourable maintenance, 1 Timothy 5:17.
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:But we were gentle among you: he next gives account of their carriage more positively: and first he speaks of their gentleness among them; hpioi, the Latin takes it for nhpioi, infants, we were as infants to you, as nurses are as infants with their infants, and children with children. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22; it stands opposite to moroseness, austerity, and roughness of temper, and is commendable in all, especially in ministers, 2 Timothy 2:24; and was eminent in Christ, as was prophesied of him, Isaiah 40:11 42:3; and the contrary he reproveth in James and John, Luke 9:54,55. It springs from humility, meekness, and patience; as the contraries are pride, passion, and frowardness. In some cases sharpness and severity may be needful; prudence is to direct, therefore, our carriage. The apostle had now to do with young converts, and under the trial of persecution; and not apostates and obstinate sinners, against whom we find he was sometimes severe and sharp, as Jude required, Judges 1:22,23.
Even as a nurse cherisheth her children; and he represents this gentleness by that of a nurse to her children; not of a hired nurse, but a mother nurse, Numbers 11:12, who useth all tenderness towards them, beareth with their frowardness, condescends to the meanest offices and employments, and draws out her breasts to them, and lays them in her bosom, and all this to cherish them. And she doth this not out of hope of gain, but out of motherly affection. Thus, saith the apostle, were we gentle among you. As he converted them to Christ, he was their spiritual father, but his gentleness was like that of a mother, nursing her own children. He considered their weakness in their first believing, and bore with it; their many infirmities, temptations, afflictions that were upon them, had compassion over them, and supported them under them, and cherished them with the sincere milk of gospel truths; and he did all this not for gain, but out of sincere affection and a willing mind. Some extend the word we render nurse to the brute creatures themselves, especially birds, that hatch, and then cherish their young with the warmth of their own body, and care in feeding them: trofov, the word signifies a feeder, and so may have a more general signification: see Job 39:14.
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.A further account of their behaviour among them. The former verse showed their great gentleness, this their great love; expressed, first: In their affectionate desire of them; as the Latin phrase, cupidissimus fui, imports love to the person. And it was the desire of their salvation, first in their believing, and then perseverance and progress in faith. It was themselves, not their goods, they desired; as Paul elsewhere saith: We seek not yours, but you. Secondly, In the effect of it, which was imparting the gospel to them, whereby they might be saved; which is amplified by two things:
1. That they did this willingly, not out of mere necessity, with a backward mind; the word is eudokoumen, we were well pleased to preach, and with complacence of mind.
2. That they were willing to impart their souls to them; that is, to hazard their lives for them in preaching to them, as Acts 16:1-40; the same word signifying both the soul and life, and he that dies for another gives his life to them. Or, it may refer to their labours and hardships, whereby they endangered their lives for them, labouring night and day, 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Others understand the words only as an expression of their great affection to them; a man imparts his soul to the person whom he entirely loves, as Isaiah 58:10; when a man gives relief to a person in want out of love and compassion, he imparts his soul in what he gives. So did they in the gospel thus preached. And the word imparting is used to express relief to the wants of the body, Romans 12:8; and the gospel is the bread of life to give relief to the soul, and used in this sense also, Romans 1:11. The apostle may here futher allude to mothers that are nurses, who impart not only other food, but their milk, which is their blood, to cherish their children.
Ye were dear unto us; or, ye have been beloved of us; wherein the apostle more plainly declares their love to them as the ground of all their labours and perils in preaching to them; yea, it may reach to all that he had said before concerning their carriage among them, all was from love.
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.To make good what he had asserted before about their integrity in preaching the gospel, that it was without covetousness, and vain-glory, &c., and about their great affection to them therein, he appeals to their own memory.
Our labour and travail: labour, in what we suffered, attended with care and solicitude of mind, as the word imports; and travail, in what we did, attended with weariness, as some distinguish of the words.
For labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you; this refers to some bodily labour they used, which I find not mentioned in the story while they were at Thessalonica, though Paul did practise it at Corinth, Acts 18:3. To prevent scandal and misconstruction that may arise from receiving maintenance, and in case of the church’s poverty, the apostle would refuse it; but without respect to these he pleaded it at his due, 1 Corinthians 9:1, &c. And his refusing was no work of supererogation, as the papists plead hence; for in such cases it was a duty with respect to the honour of his ministry; so that it ought not to pass into a rule, either that ministers in no case may labour with their hands to get their bread, or that they ought so to do always, as some would conclude hence, and preach freely. However, he commends them that they forgot not the labour and travail they underwent for their sake, and that both night and day, which implies assiduity and diligence, as 1 Thessalonians 3:10 Psalm 1:2 Luke 2:37; and so to be taken here. Though it may signify their spending part of the night as well as the day in some bodily labour, (the same we read 2 Thessalonians 3:8), yet not to be understood as if they spent the whole night and day therein; for how then could they have preached the gospel to them, as he here addeth; and they would take nothing of maintenance from any of them, or be chargeable or burdensome to them; not from the poor, to whom it might really be a burden, nor from the rich, who yet might be backward, and account it a burden.
Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:The former verses gave account of their carriage in the ministry, this here of their Christian conversation; holily, with respect to God; justly, with respect to duties commanded towards men; and unblamably, in denying themselves in lawful liberty to avoid all occasion of blame from any of them. And for the truth of this he appeals to themselves; yea, to God himself. There is the witness of men, and the witness of conscience greater than of men, and the witness of God greatest of all, 1Jo 3:20. He appeals to them as witnesses about their external actions, and to God about the integrity of their hearts; and he doth this not in a way of boasting, but to be an example to them, and as a further reason of the great success of his ministry. The conversation of ministers hath great influence upon the success of their labours.
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,Besides his public ministry, he dealt more privately with them, as Acts 20:20; and that in a way of exhortation and comfort; by exhortation to quicken them, and by comfort to support them under troubles both outward and inward. And he did this as a father to his children, with much earnestness, compassion, and love, yea, and authority also. He was before represented as a mother, 1 Thessalonians 2:7; and here as a father, whose work and duty is to exhort, counsel, and comfort his children privately at home; so did he as well as publicly, for he was their spiritual father, as he begat them to Christ by the gospel, as he tells the Corinthians also, 1 Corinthians 4:15. As before he represented his gentleness, so here his fatherly care. Or, at their first conversion he carried it with gentleness as a mother, but afterwards used his fatherly authority. And in this he appeals to their own knowledge also, calling their own consciences to bear witness to what he speaks, that it might leave the greater impression upon them.
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.In the Greek text the word charged, mentioned in the former verse, begins this verse; marturomenoi, it signifies testifying: some read it, we obtested, which is as much as beseeching; others, contested, which is a severe charge, containing a threatening, as Exodus 19:21: Charge the people, saith God to Moses; in the margin: Contest the people, or wish the people. It is a charge here which the apostle gives solemnly in the name of God to them, calling in the witness of God to it.
That ye would walk worthy of God; that is, suitably to the nature of that God who is the true and living God. That you may walk like a people who belong to such a God, and express the virtues of this God in your conversation, 1 Peter 2:9; or, suitably to the great mercy and glorious privileges you have received from him, which he mentions in the following words.
Who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory; or, who is calling you; then by God’s kingdom and glory we must understand the future state of heaven: though they were not yet possessed of it, yet by the gospel God had called them to it, as Philippians 3:14 1 Peter 5:10. Or, who hath called you, as we read it; then he means their present state since they believed and obeyed the call of the gospel, they were brought thereby into God’s kingdom and glory; or, his glorious kingdom, wherein the glory of God, especially the glory of his grace, mercy, love, and wisdom, eminently shine forth. Hereupon a Christian’s calling is termed a high calling, Philippians 3:14; a heavenly calling, Hebrews 3:1. And they being called by God out of Satan’s kingdom into this glorious kingdom, the apostle chargeth them to walk worthy of God and this calling, by having a conversation suitable thereunto, Ephesians 4:1 Colossians 1:10; to walk according to the laws of this glorious kingdom they were already brought into, and suitably to the glory of heaven that they were called to the hope of.
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 believe.The apostle having given the reasons on his part and his fellow ministers’, why the gospel had such effect upon them, he next proceeds to show the reason on their part, for which he giveth God thanks. And that is, from their manner of receiving it; though this, as well as the former, are but subordinate reasons.
1. They heard it; some will not do that; and therefore the apostle here calls it a word of hearing, a Hebraism, as Romans 10:17: Faith cometh by hearing.
2. They received it: the word importeth a receiving with affection, as Joseph the virgin Mary to his wife, Matthew 1:20.
3. They received it not as the word of men, which we receive sometimes doubting, sometimes disputing it; or believing it only with a human faith, upon grounds of reason, as the dictates of philosophy, or on the reports of men, and without the impression of the authority of God upon our minds; or when we receive the word of God because of the eloquence or learning of the preacher, and the affection we bear to him, or admiration of his person; or, as the papists, we believe it because the church believeth it.
But as it is in truth, the word of God; with a divine faith, ready subjection of our souls to it, and with reverent attention, as a word that is from heaven; which the apostle positively asserts in way of parenthesis.
As it is in truth, or truly, they believed, so he dispersed the word to them, and so they received it. And for this cause he gave thanks to God. Having mentioned before the subordinate reasons of the efficacy of the word, he now mentions the principal, which is God himself. That any receive the word as the word of God, it is not from the preachers so much as from God. And it is a great cause of thanksgiving to God, when ministers find a people receive the word with a Divine faith, which is not done without Divine grace: then they see the fruit of their ministry, for which they ought to give thanks. Which effectually worketh also in you that believe: the powerful working of God is usually expressed by this word, Ephesians 1:19 Philippians 2:13; and the working of Satan also, Ephesians 2:2. Men possessed with the devil are called energumeni. And where the word is believed and received as the word of God, there it hath this energy, or worketh effectually, so as to promote love, repentance, self-denial, mortification, comfort, and peace, &c. The apostle had mentioned before their work of faith, labour of love, patience of hope, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; and all from hence, their receiving the word as the word of God, and so retaining it.
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:This proves the assertion of the foregoing verse, as the illative for doth show. They were
followers of the churches in Judea, which showed the word wrought in them effectually. Though the greatest part of the Jews believed not, yet many did, and hereupon we read of churches in Judea. Though there was before but one national church, yet now in gospel times the churches were many. And believing in Christ they are called churches in him, gathered together in his name, into his institutions, and by his Spirit; and these Thessalonians became followers or imitators of them, or in the same circumstances with them. The churches among the Jews were the first planted, and the Gentile churches followed them, conforming to the faith, worship, and order that was first in them, yea, and imitating their faith and patience in suffering.
For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen; the Jews that believed suffered from the unbelieving Jews of their own country; so did these Thessalonians. But whether the apostle means only the Gentiles of Thessalonica, or the Jews that dwelt there and were born among them, is uncertain; for the persecution mentioned Acts 17:1-34, was chiefly from the Jewish synagogue, though the Gentiles might also join with them therein.
Even as they have of the Jews: they suffered as the churches of Judea, namely, in the same kind, as Hebrews 10:32-34; and in the same cause, and with the same joy, constancy, and courage. And here Christ’s words are fulfilled, that a man’s enemies shall be those of his own house, Matthew 10:36.
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:Who both killed the Lord Jesus; no wonder then though they have persecuted you, and the believing Jews their countrymen. They killed the Lord Jesus by the hands of Pilate, crying: Crucify him, crucify him. Though it was by God’s determinate counsel, and the Roman power, yet by the Jews’ malice they killed him; Matthew 21:38: This is the heir; let us kill him.
And their own prophets; of their own nation, and directed and sent particularly to them of God; so that it was no new thing in them thus to do. Not that these individual Jews who persecuted Paul killed the prophets, but they were of the same nation, the same blood, and of the same spirit with them, and were the children of them, that killed the prophets, as our Saviour charged them, Matthew 23:31. The spirit of persecution was natural to them, it descended from one generation to another; their kings were guilty of it, their priests, their false prophets, and the common people. And though better things might be expected of the Jews than any other people, yet thus they did. And it was not only because of the new doctrine or worship that the apostle preached, for they killed their own prophets before them; but it was their love to their lusts, hatred of reproof, enmity to holiness, &c., that was the cause. And Christ himself chargeth them with the same things, Matthew 23:37: O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, & c.; and foretells it as that which they would yet practise, Matthew 23:34.
And they please not God; by the figure called meiosis; it is meant they highly displeased God, and were haters of God, and hated, and now rejected, of him. Though they had the advantages and reasons to please God above all other people, having had the law and ordinances of his worship among them, yet they pleased not God, and particularly in their persecutions of the gospel and the apostles, though they might think that therein they did God good service, as John 16:2.
And are contrary to all men; contrary in their worship, laws, and customs. Or rather, contrary to all men, in hindering the course of the gospel appointed for men’s salvation. And despising all other nations in comparison of themselves, they were apt to be seditious, and raise tumults every where, and to disdain familiarity and common friendship with the Gentiles.
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.Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved: their contrariety to all men is expressed particularly in this instance; they forbade the apostles to preach to the Gentiles, which were the greater number of men; though they opposed also their preaching to the Jewish nation: for the Jews could not endure to hear that the Gentiles should be received into the church, or into special favour with God; as appears by Christ’s sermon in the synagogue, Luke 4:28, and in the apostle’s apology for himself at Jerusalem, Acts 22:21,22. And their forbidding them implies, not an act of authority, for they had it not, but their hindering them what they could, and stirring up the people and rulers against them, as Acts 17:6.
To fill up their sins alway; to cause it to rise up to such a measure and degree as will at last bring destruction. Though this was not their intention, yet through the just judgment of God it was the event. They killed the prophets; but killing Christ, and persecuting the apostles, and hindering the salvation of mankind thereby, this filled up their sin. The expression alludes to what is said of the Amorites, Genesis 15:16, and foretold by Daniel, Daniel 9:27, called the consummation. As here is a perfecting of holiness, and filling up of grace, so also of sin. And sin against the gospel ripens sin more than against the law. And because they made a constant progress in sin, they are said to fill it up; Fill ye up the measure of your fathers, Matthew 23:32.
For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost: first they filled up their sin, and then comes this wrath, or that wrath foretold by Daniel, Daniel 9:27; and by our Saviour, Matthew 23:38. It was their last destruction by the Romans. God’s wrath broke forth upon them several times before, but not to the utmost till now. Or, to the end, as in the Greek. In former punishments God removed his wrath and restored them again, but this continues to the end. Or, some, by the end, understand only the perfection and consummation of this wrath. And its coming may be read in the Greek, it hath prevented them; as bringing them to judgment beforehand in this world; as the destruction of the old world, Sodom, and Jerusalem, were figures and forerunners of the last judgment. And yet this doth not contradict what the apostle speaks, Romans 11:1-36, and many of the prophets, concerning their calling into the faith and church of Christ before the end of the world. Also we must understand it with an exception of the remnant of God’s election that was amongst them.
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.The apostle here makes his apology, for his so soon departing from them, and his continued absence. They were under great sufferings for receiving the gospel he had preached, and for him therefore to leave them so soon as he did, (as appears in the story, Acts 17:1-34), and not presently to return, might discourage their hearts and make them question his love.
1. For his leaving them, he tells them it was not voluntary, but forced by the persecution of the Jews, he being sent away in the night by the brethren to Berea, Acts 17:10; and therefore he calls it a taking away, rather than a going away from them. And (as the Greek word imports) it was:
2. A thing grievous to him, as children that are bereft of father and mother, and left orphans, are greatly troubled. And he was afflicted as a father bereft of children; so were these Thessalonians to him, having begotten them to Christ by the gospel.
3. It was but
for a short time, for the time of an hour; when he left them, he intended but a short stay from them, only to avoid the present storm: others think he means by the words his sudden leaving them before he took solemn leave of them.
4. He left them in presence, quoad faciem, as to outward sight, not in heart: the proper genius of true lovers, who are present with each other in soul when separated in body.
5. He tells them of his endeavours to see their face; and that the more abundantly, because he came away so suddenly from them. And lastly, he did this with great desire, his endeavours herein were acted with great affection.
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.This he adds further to satisfy them of his real affection to them, that he attempted to come to them
once and again, that is, often, as Nehemiah 13:20 Philippians 4:16. And that they might be assured it was not his fellow ministers’ desire only to come, therefore he expresseth his own name particularly in a parenthesis (even I Paul). Or by his saying, even I Paul, he assures them concerning his own desire to come to them; at least I Paul, though others did not so; as the French Bible reads it. And he had come to them had not
Satan hindered him, either by raising up disputes against the gospel at Athens by the philosophers there, which he was concerned to stay and answer, Acts 17:18; or else by stirring up wicked men to lie in wait for him in the way: or by raising tumults, as the Jews did at Berea, whereby he was constrained to go as it were to the sea, Acts 17:14; or by sowing dissensions in other churches, which detained him to end them. Or by what way it was, is somewhat uncertain; but being thus hindered it made his desire the more fervent by the opposition. And hereby we see Satan’s enmity to the gospel, especially to churches newly planted, that they might not take rooting.
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 coming?Here the apostle gives the reason of his desire to see them. He first calls them his hope; that is, the master of his hope, that among others they should be saved in the day of Christ. Secondly, his joy: he at present rejoiced in their ready and sincere receiving the gospel preached by him. Thirdly, his crown of rejoicing, which signifies the triumph and height of joy: and seeing he mentions the presence and coming of Jesus Christ, he looks to the crown that he should receive at that day, which he speaks of, 1 Corinthians 9:25; and these Thessalonians, among others, would help to make up this crown of rejoicing to him. And in the words we may observe an eminent gradation, as also that the crown of ministers will arise not only from Christ, but from their people also.
For ye are our glory and joy.He redoubles the expression, to show his great affection, and complacency of heart in them; or to show that they more than others were this occasion of rejoicing to him. And he mentions glory as well as joy, for the great success of his ministry among them would redound to his glory in the day of Christ; as Daniel 12:3: They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. Or, they were his glory at present, a glory to his ministry, and a seal to his apostleship.