1 Thessalonians
1-6 The Way the Gospel Got Entrance 7-12 Paul’s Conduct Among Them 13-20 Persecution and Desire
The Way the Gospel Got Entrance

1For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3For our exhortation does not [come] from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. 5For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness– 6nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

V11For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain,. With the words “for you yourselves know” Paul reminds the Thessalonians of what they saw when he and his companions appeared in the city. You may probably remember that also in chapter 1 something is said about the entrance that Paul and his companions found with the Thessalonians (1Thes 1:99For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,). Other people in that place testified of that entrance. Here Paul is testifying of it himself. He reminds them that the entrance was not without result.

It is also hidden in the way he addresses them. He calls them “brethren”, a title which he earlier could not use, because then they did not know the Lord Jesus. In this beautiful title you can sense the warm relationship that Paul has with them and which arose when the gospel found entrance with them.

V22but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.. They were informed about what Paul had to face in the city of Philippi (Acts 16:19-2419But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities,20and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews,21and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”22The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order [them] to be beaten with rods.23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely;24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.). He, as it were, showed them his bloody back when he came to proclaim the gospel to them. The torture and slander that he had to endure at Philippi had not extinguished his burning desire to preach the gospel (cf. Acts 4:2929And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,; Eph 6:19-2019and [pray] on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in [proclaiming] it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.). The entrance that they had was that of wounded laborers. Paul did not encourage them to endure tribulations without him having the courage himself to endure it. He was speaking from experience.

His courage to move on was not from himself. It was not a matter of taking a deep breath and keep on going. He had “boldness in our God”. That is not a natural courage or enthusiasm, but Divine capability. ‘Boldness’ means ‘free in mind’, which is expressed in ‘saying everything you want to’, ‘speaking fearlessly’. When this way of speaking does not happen “in our God”, it is no more than an impertinent and audacious way of using words.

The expression ‘in our God’ means that you are aware of your personal relationship with God, that He surrounds you behind and before. It keeps you from doing your own will and makes you feel safe and supported and also dependent. And how necessary is that, for preaching the gospel always goes hand in hand with a lot of struggles. There is a mighty adversary who does everything in his power to prevent the gospel to be proclaimed.

Speaking about the gospel, like Paul says here, is quite different from making the gospel discussable. The gospel is not one of the many and nice themes that are interesting to once debate about. The gospel is unique according to its origin and content. People who really believe in it, cannot keep it for themselves, but would rather speak about it (2Cor 4:1313But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak,). But just because its content originates from God and Christ, everyone who speaks about it will not want to use words that would harm its uniqueness.

V33For our exhortation does not [come] from error or impurity or by way of deceit;. That may cause inward struggles in situations where the preacher runs the risk to adjust the gospel according to the world, in order to make it more acceptable. It may also be necessary that the battle is fought outwardly. Everyone who in his faithfulness to the gospel wants to talk about the words of the Scripture – for that alone is the power that leads people to conversion – will sense the increase of the pressure from outside not to preach the gospel in such a radical way.

Paul was proclaiming an uncompromising gospel. He was in no way to be deluded by anything or anyone around him. His motives were crystal clear, without any impurity. He has never sought any advantage for his own sake. The gospel was not a way for him to make a living. It has caused him more slander and persecution than honor and prosperity. He summarizes extensively all the things that he is not to be blamed for. These negative things are actually found in all kinds of sects. Money, or the honor of people, plays an important role there.

The exhortation, the call for repentance, was not made by him “from error”. He did not deceive them and lead them to an errant way. The source of his preaching was the pure, unadulterated Word of God. He also shook off the blame of “uncleanness”, as if he was seeking to fulfill his lusts, of himself. His preaching had even less to do with “deceit”, as if he would have had entangled them by baiting them.

V44but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.. How did Paul and his companions escape those dangers? How do we escape them? It is only by doing these things in communion with God. Paul always speaks about God. He brings everything in connection with Him and therefore he could say that he and his companions “have been approved by God”. When they went out together, all three of them had made the necessary experiences in the service of the Lord. Whatever the difference in age, education and experience, they were no novices. These were the men whom God had entrusted the gospel with. He gave it to them as, as it were, a precious gift to deal with faithfully (cf. Mt 25:2121His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’; 1Cor 4:22In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.).

Paul is very aware that it goes together with a great responsibility. That is embedded in the words “so we speak”. How could he dare to deal with something that God had entrusted him with, otherwise than it was fitting to Him by Whom it was given? Any kind of pleasing people was absolutely out of the question here. Who would ever dare to adjust the gospel according to the taste of the world? No, if you care about God that much, you would think of Him all the time and you would only want to speak what He has said. Then you are aware that God is testing your heart, which indicates that you always want to have that fellowship with God. The testing of the heart is continually needed, so that wrong motives may not creep in and take room there.

V55For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–. Neither did Paul use “flattering speech” to win them for the gospel. He says it strongly: he has “never” made use of that. They know that, they have observed it themselves. He who lives in the presence of God, like Paul and his companions do, knows that flattering speech is condemnable in God’s sight. Elihu was fully aware of that (Job 32:21-2221“Let me now be partial to no one,
Nor flatter [any] man.
22“For I do not know how to flatter,
[Else] my Maker would soon take me away.
).

Flattering speech does not bring people into the light of God, but brings them further away from God. Flattering speech pleases man in his selfishness and pride and makes him insensitive to the need because of his sins. Whoever uses flattering speech, only does that to get something done by others for his own advantage. It is winning the other person in order to use him for his own goal. With flattering speech God is fully cast aside and it is all about man.

With regard to flattering speech, Paul refers to the testimony of the Thessalonians; regarding the covetousness he refers to God as Witness. God alone can judge the motives of the heart. A “pretext for greed” implies that the true motive is covered. Covetousness is the motive, but it is presented in a deceiving robe. The love for material things, especially money, makes a person to be inventive in using methods which hides this love in the sight of others, while the desired thing is being sought for. We ourselves have to work, in order to provide for our needs. Do we have to bother other people and ask them money (begging letters) or even allude to it (manipulate)?

V66nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.. Another great risk for everyone who wants to serve the Lord is the seeking of the “glory from men”. Paul neither did that. How easily he could have impressed them by his dignity as an apostle. He was after all a person of great spiritual class. How much honor would that have delivered him if he had presented himself like that. But he was not seeking to establish his own importance. He had no intention of telling them that they had certain obligations towards him.

He was always seeking the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonians and that is still the most important thing to him. He had not been among them as a claimant, but as a mother. In the next section we will go further into that.

Now read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6 again.

Reflection: Which characteristics do Paul and his companions have and which do they not have? What can you apply to yourself?


Paul’s Conduct Among Them

7But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing [mother] tenderly cares for her own children. 8Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 9For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, [how] working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and [so is] God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11just as you know how we [were] exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father [would] his own children, 12so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

It is nice to see how each chapter of the letter seems to describe a phase in the growth of the believer from being a babe until his adulthood:
1. In chapter 1 the child has been born.
2. In chapter 2 it is nurtured and raised in the faith.
3. In chapter 3 you see the child standing in faith.
4. In chapter 4 it receives instructions for walking in faith.
5. In chapter 5 it has matured and the young believer gets down to work.

V77But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing [mother] tenderly cares for her own children.. Here we find ourselves in the stage that the child has been born and has to be nourished. It is clear that with a baby you don’t think of exerting authority over him. With a baby only motherly care is fitting. The tenderness with which the great apostle goes to work is very impressive. He was just as “a nursing [mother]”, a nurse.

That’s what God was for His people in the wilderness, where He had nurtured and nursed them as a nurse (Acts 13:1818For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.). Also with the Lord Jesus we find those feelings when He speaks about His love for Jerusalem and compares it with that of a hen that spreads her wings over her chicks as a shelter to protect them (Mt 23:3737“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.).

Paul had the same motherly feelings for his spiritual children. He reminds them that he was “gentle” or mild, tender, when he was among them. By the way, this character should adorn every servant of the Lord (2Tim 2:2424The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,). You also see this gentleness with the Lord Jesus in Isaiah 40 (Isa 40:1111Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry [them] in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing [ewes].
), don’t you?

With a real mother the interest of the child is the most important thing. Her love for the child causes her to act selflessly; she sacrifices herself for that. You see that with the Lord Jesus. He has always sought for the benefit of the other person. Therefore He did not come to be served, but to serve. Paul was His follower in that view.

V88Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.. He loved them in such a way that he even wanted to share his own life with them. The meaning of that here is not that he was willing to give his life for the sake of the gospel – although that was surely the case – but that he was fully committed with his whole life to the message that he was bringing. He was willing to live for them, serve them with his life. His whole life – all that he possessed and all of his time – was inextricably connected to the gospel. He not only brought a message, he also brought himself with it, though in a way that Christ is seen and not he himself.

V99For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, [how] working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.. The only way the gospel can have the effect desired and worked by God, is when the preacher annuls himself. Parents make great efforts to give their children the right nourishment and education. Thereby their example is of great meaning. The Thessalonians have seen that Paul and his companions were no spongers who wanted to take advantage of their converts. On the contrary.

They gave themselves no rest and they did not even allow themselves a normal sleep, in order to provide for themselves. He wanted to avoid at any cost that he would give the impression for using his ministry for any financial profit in any way (cf. 1Cor 9:1-181Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?2If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.3My defense to those who examine me is this:4Do we not have a right to eat and drink?5Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?6Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?7Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?8I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things?9For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He?10Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [the crops].11If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?12If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.13Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the [food] of the temple, [and] those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar?14So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.15But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one.16For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.17For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.18What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.). He came to Thessalonica to give and to share, not to be a burden or to enrich himself. The gospel of God is not a matter that imposes burdens, but it liberates from the power of sin and takes away the burden of sins.

V1010You are witnesses, and [so is] God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;. Paul refers to his behavior among them. Again he mentions God as a Witness of his behavior. But not only God – they themselves have seen with their own eyes how he had behaved himself among them. Did they see other things than God saw with him? They could not deny what they had observed, no matter how the enemy tried to damage the ministry or motives of the apostle and to bring him into disrepute in the eyes of the Thessalonians.

In the first place they had seen how “devoutly” he had behaved himself. Everything he did was in harmony with God. They also saw that in his dealings with people he had always been “uprightly”. He had never been detrimental to anyone. They finally could not otherwise than testify that he had been “blamelessly”. They could not blame him for anything.

He addresses them as “you believers”. It is important to him that they judge his behavior as believers and therefore not according to worldly measures.

V1111just as you know how we [were] exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father [would] his own children,. Paul firstly used the image of the mother who nurses her child. That proves the tenderness of love of the preacher. Now he uses the image of the father who deals with his children. In that way he complements the image of the mother. The use of these parental relationships you find only in the letters of Paul.

With a father we see more the serious aspects of that same love that the mother has (cf. 1Cor 4:14-2114I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.15For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet [you would] not [have] many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.16Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.17For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.18Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.19But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power.20For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.21What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?; 2Cor 6:1313Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide [to us] also.; Gal 4:1919My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—). Paul was a good father to his children. He not only addressed them as a whole, but he had also personal attention for each of them. This is important to every servant of the Lord who proclaims the Word. It is easier to say things from the pulpit than in a personal conversation. After-care is important for the individual.

Paul exhorts, encourages and implores the Thessalonians from the father-child relationship. Exhortation is sometimes mistakenly related to the raised finger in the sense of: ‘Watch out, otherwise …!’ But an exhortation is a call for a person, who is running the risk to deviate or already has, to come back to the company of believers.

Fathers also encourage their children. They encourage them not to despair in times of hardships, but to persevere.

It is about “his own children”. Fathers are often away from home. They sometimes are also occupied with the problems of other people. The danger is that they forget their own children. But their own family is the very first labor field that is given by the Lord. When that is losing out, it will surely affect the work that is being done for Him.

V1212so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.. Paul not only exhorts and encourages them, but he also implores them. In that way he brings exhortation and encouragement very close. He does not exhort and encourage from a distance as something that would only apply to them and that it is not something he has any part in. To implore indicates that he proclaims the truth to them with conviction.

Imploring has to do with a teaching that has proven its value in the practice of life. Each father must teach his children with conviction in the truth of God. A father ought not to say: ‘I cannot do that.’ He has to charge, to declare, the truth meaning to bind the truth severely to the heart of the child. This teaching will of course only have an impact when the children see in the life of the father that he practices that himself.

The purpose that Paul wants to achieve, is that they would “walk in a manner worthy of God”. ‘Worthy’ means that it is fitting and in agreement with the holiness and features of God in Whom they have put their trust (cf. Rom 16:22that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.; Eph 4:11Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,; Phil 1:2727Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;; Col 1:1010so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;; 3Jn 1:66and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.). It is important that your walk and behavior as a Christian is in accordance with your confession.

I will give an illustration. In the army of Alexander the Great there was a soldier that misbehaved himself. He was brought to Alexander the Great. Alexander asked him for his name. The soldier answered: ‘My name is Alexander.’ Then Alexander the Great responded: ‘Either you change your behavior, or you change your name.’

Consider your high calling. You were first called through the gospel. Now you hear that it has led you to such a high calling, namely God’s own kingdom and glory (cf. Rom 8:2828And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.; Phil 3:1414I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.; 2Tim 1:99who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,; Heb 3:11Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;). Here it is written in such a way that God is continually calling out to you: ‘Your way leads to My own kingdom and glory.’

Wouldn’t it mark your everyday life if you become aware of that? Seek to live such a life. Fix your eye on that. This is how you draw the future to yourself and in that way that great future will determine and radiate your way.

Now read 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 again.

Reflection: Which features of God’s motherly and fatherly features do you see in this portion with Paul?


Persecution and Desire

13For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted [it] not [as] the word of men, but [for] what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 14For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they [did] from the Jews, 15who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost. 17But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. 18For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and [yet] Satan hindered us. 19For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20For you are our glory and joy.

V1313For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted [it] not [as] the word of men, but [for] what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.. After Paul reminded them of his labor, he makes sure that he addresses them on the ground of the word that they had received by his preaching. He puts himself aside and thanks God that they have “received the word of God … not [as] the word of men, but [for] what it really is, the word of God”. Therefore their faith was based on God’s Word, although it came to them by the ministry of a human.

Why do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word? You cannot believe it because others say so. You can only believe it when you have experienced its power. When the Word of God came to you, you acknowledged its truth, because it gave you the right picture of yourself as a sinner. You also have seen through the Word Who God is in His holiness and righteousness and that He therefore has to condemn sin. But in that Word you also saw that God seeks your salvation and has provided for that by the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

The person who has brought the gospel to you (it may have been your parents or a total stranger or someone in between), gives thanks to God that you have received it. He could only preach the Word. When you accepted it, you did not do it because of the person that brought you the Word. If that would be the case, then a person is standing between you and God. No, you are a child of God only because of a personal encounter with God through His Word. The other person was just a messenger.

The Word by which you are saved, is the same Word that is still at work within you. That means, if you are still living from the Word, if you read it daily and receive it as God’s Word, it gives you power to live as a Christian. It is a living Word. Therefore it does its work in everyone who opens up himself for it. It is the only energy (as it is actually written) by which life can grow and fruit can be borne for God.

V1414For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they [did] from the Jews,. When you live as a Christian, when you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, it will deliver you adversity. Persecution is the consequence of believing. When this happens to you, you may consider that this happens to numerous fellow Christians that come out for the Lord Jesus. That may be an encouragement for you (1Pet 5:99But resist him, firm in [your] faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.). Here it regards the suffering of the whole church.

In order to encourage them he first addresses them again with “brethren”, the word that emphasizes his bond with them in a special way. Then he encourages them by pointing them at “the churches of God which are in Judea”. What the Thessalonians had to suffer, due to their countrymen, the believers in Judea had to suffer, due to theirs, from the Jews. Through this suffering the Thessalonians became, without searching for it themselves, followers of the churches of God in Judea.

V1515who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men,. The opposition of the Jews has gone very far and has remained greatly undiminished. How great their hatred was appears clearly from the murdering of the Lord Jesus. The Lord came in kindness and grace to reveal God’s love. But they saw Him as a threat to their position as God’s chosen people, a position in which they boasted. Especially the leaders of the people turned against Him. The Lord Jesus suffered the same fate as God’s prophets did for His sake (Mk 12:1-91And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT, AND DUG A VAT UNDER THE WINE PRESS AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey.2At the [harvest] time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive [some] of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers.3They took him, and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.4Again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully.5And he sent another, and that one they killed; and [so with] many others, beating some and killing others.6He had one more [to send], a beloved son; he sent him last [of all] to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’7But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’8They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.9What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others.). Also the apostles experienced the hatred of the Jews. They were persecuted from town to town and had to flee whenever that happened.

The opposition remained at the present in full intensity (Acts 7:51-5251“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.52Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become;). And while the Jews were raging in such a way, they also thought to be pleasing God in that way (Jn 16:22They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.). How a person can be mistaken when he only seeks his own interest! He cannot please God in this way and instead of seeking the good for people, he is against all people. To make efforts to stop people from hearing the gospel, in order for them to become truly happy, means to be against them. With all diligence they were trying to prevent the people to hear the gospel of their salvation.

V1616hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.. They had rejected Christ and the gospel. Now they were rejecting those who, for the sake of the glorified Lord, were preaching the gospel to the nations. In that way they fill up the measure of their sins. As long as that had not happened yet, God is patient with His wrath (Gen 15:1616Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”; Dan 8:2323“In the latter period of their rule,
When the transgressors have run [their course],
A king will arise,
Insolent and skilled in intrigue.
; Mt 23:3232Fill up, then, the measure [of the guilt] of your fathers.). But now there is no chance of conversion of these Jews anymore. In full intensity the judgment has been poured out over them. The land has been destroyed and the inhabitants have been scattered among the nations. In the end, the end time, there will still be a time of unprecedented distress (Jer 30:77‘Alas! for that day is great,
There is none like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,
But he will be saved from it.
), also called “the great tribulation” (Mt 24:2121For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.). God will then visit judgments upon the faithless Jews for their sins.

V1717But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.. After this elaboration about the Jews, Paul speaks again about his love for the believers in Thessalonica. That has not been cooled down by his absence, but on the contrary has increased. The Jews could indeed rob the Thessalonians from the company and ministry of Paul, but they could in no way rob the Thessalonians out of the heart and thoughts of Paul. He speaks out a great desire for them and that he has made every effort to come to them.

V1818For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and [yet] Satan hindered us.. He has tried twice, but in both situations satan blocked his way. Could it possibly be the case that his desire was not okay? Or did he not consult the Lord about it and was it because he wanted to do it on his own? Or was it something else that was not right with him? No, nothing of that all. His desires were good desires. It is also a good thing trying to meet those desires. Then a hindrance follows, not from the Spirit, but from satan. Paul is clear about that. Nevertheless he does not continue at the cost of everything else, but draws the conclusion that the way has been closed for him. He sees the solution by sending Timothy (1Thes 3:22and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,).

Of course satan has no power to stop God’s work or His worker if God does not allow it. God determines the limit of the adversary (Job 1:1212Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.; 2:66So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”). On another occasion Paul speaks about “a messenger of satan to torment me” (2Cor 12:77Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!). There he learns that the grace of the Lord is sufficient for him (2Cor 12:99And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.). Paul knows better than anyone that all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom 8:2828And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.), even the hindrances by satan.

V1919For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?. That satan hindered him to meet his beloved children in faith, did not make him sad. He looked upon the coming of Christ beyond the disappointment. There he and the Thessalonians would be united and they would together rejoice in all things that the grace and power of the Holy Spirit had worked in them. Then all suffering and hardships will be over.

The coming of the Lord Jesus does not only bring outcome from all suffering, but He will also come with the reward for the work that has been done for His sake (Rev 22:1212“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward [is] with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.). Paul always had that strong awareness and it only increased because of this hindrance. In that way he bent the disappointment of that moment into a joyful view.

The bond that satan was trying to break by hindering the pleasure of it, was enjoyed more intensely in the light of the reunion at the coming of Christ. Then there will be full joy. Then he would see the Thessalonians there as a reward for his labor (cf. Phil 4:11Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long [to see], my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.), a reward in which he is extremely delighted.

It is certainly true that everything we do for the Lord, is worked by Him. Yet He will reward it as if we have done it. What a Lord we have! Therefore we will cast every crown that we may possibly earn (1Cor 9:2525Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then [do it] to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.; 2Tim 4:88in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.; 1Pet 5:44And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.; Jam 1:1212Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which [the Lord] has promised to those who love Him.; Rev 2:1010Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.), before His feet as a tribute to Him (Rev 4:1010the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,).

V2020For you are our glory and joy.. When Paul has talked about the coming unity with the Thessalonians, he concludes this chapter by saying to them what they have already meant to him now. What soon will be enjoyed in its fullness from face to face, he is now already experiencing in the spirit. They are already now all his glory and joy.

Now read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 again.

Reflection: How do you deal with hindrances that you encounter in your life with the Lord?


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