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?