1Thessalonians: Chapter 2
As one reviews the letter from Paul to the Thessalonians, it is important to remember Paul's tremendous affection toward the believers in this church. He gave testimony of their great conversion from idolatry to a saving belief in the one and true living God, and in following after Him. He attested to the power of God's word that was received by the Thessalonians, and how they responded in a manner that served as an example to others throughout the local region of Macedonia and Achaia, and many other places who have heard of this wondrous work of the Lord. 1Thessalonians 1 ended with the note from Paul to the Thessalonians to wait for the return of the Lord from heaven, who was raised from the dead, and so delivered us from the wrath to come. As Paul continues, he encourages the young church through different layers of relationships that exist, which nurtures, exhorts, and identifies himself with them as brother in the midst of persecution.
In 1Thessalonians 2:1-3, Paul is presenting himself, with Timothy and Silas as examples in preaching and teaching, which resulted in much fruit among the Thessalonians. The experience that they suffered in the city of Philippi, Acts 16:12-40, only served to embolden them to spread the gospel, 1Corinthians 15:1-4, and John 10:14-18. With the power of the Holy Spirit working through Paul and his fellow ministers, they entered into Thessalonica to build a new church. There, people responded to the gospel and turned from their idolatrous practices toward believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and living righteous lives, John 16:7-11. They did not approach the Thessalonians teaching erroneous doctrine, or in uncleanliness, or deceit. Rather, their witness was in the full truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1Thessalonians 2:4-6, Paul acknowledges the special privilege given to him by the Lord, who entrusted to gospel to him. Paul was not a people pleaser, but was a Father pleaser, and was found to be true to the Lord through many trials. In addition, Paul wrote that God was his witness in his fidelity to the spreading of the gospel. Paul, Timothy, and Silas never sought their own glory, nor the glory of others. Consistent with the opening of this book, they never imposed themselves upon the Thessalonians, asking for fees or subsistence while present among them, which would have been customary for the position that they held. Rather, all the glory went to God, and much spiritual fruit was realized from the exposing of the gospel to that region.
In 1Thessalonians 2:7-10, Paul begins to correlate his deepening relationship with the believers at Thessalonica with the different relationships that exist within a family. First, he equates his nurturing care for them to that of a mother's relationship to her child. Paul is not imparting vacant words, but is emotional about his affection for them, to the impartation of the gospel of God, as well as making personal sacrifices for their benefit without renumeration. Their sacrifices were not tied to singular events, but they were continuous, through the night and day. They did not want anything to distract from the delivery of the gospel to the emerging church. It was also not an event of bragging by Paul, but a sincere expression of Paul's, Timothy's, and Silas's behavior toward this church that was open, just, holy, and without blame. There is a time of great rejoicing for the work of the Lord that has been done, which will be experienced by all the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ during our appearance before the Lord, 1Thessalonians 2:19-20.
In the following verses in 1Thessalonians 2:11-13, Paul next compares his relationship to the believers in Thessalonica with that of a father toward his child. He actively exhorts the believers within the new church to walk worthy of God, It is the Lord who called the believers there into His kingdom and glory, Daniel 7:27, John 6:61-71. Again, Paul breaks out in great praise to the Lord and joy for how the word of God was received by the Thessalonians, who heard and believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and were obedient to His word. In 1Thessalonians 2:13, Paul makes it quite clear that the truth, the word of God, is an effectual working agent in the lives of the believers. It does not have an effect upon those who failed to hear the word and either failed or refused to believe the word of Life.
Finally, in 1Thessalonians 2:14-16, Paul expresses his relationship to the local church body as a brother. In these three verses, Paul identifies with the believing Thessalonians suffering at the hands of others for their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here also, Paul draws this close fellowship among the local believers, to those in the original church in Judah. As Paul wrote in a later epistle to the Galatians, there is no respect of persons within the body of Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, free or slave, male or female, we are all one in Christ Jesus, Galatians 3:26-29. Here Paul continues to write and show that the Jews both killed the Lord and their prophets, and now were actively persecuting the church at large. Their hatred toward the gospel and preaching of the truth was manifest in bizarre ways, even to the point of gnashing their teeth at Stephen after he showed Christ through the scriptures to all assembled in judgment over him, Acts 7:52-60. See also Revelation 2:9-11 for a related passage concerning the persecution of the church, Revelation chapter 2.
The remaining verses in 1Thessalonians 2:17-20, demonstrate how much Paul desired to return to the believers at Thessalonica, but was hindered by Satan, Daniel 10:1-2, Daniel 10:12-14. However, Satan was unable to stop the spread of the gospel of God, Matthew 16:13-19. In fact, this chapter ends in a very high note. Paul demonstrates what great joy and rejoicing there will be when he is standing in the presence of the Lord with the believers at Thessalonica, when the Lord descends to establish His millennial kingdom, Revelation 19:7-21, Daniel 7:18. The believers at Thessalonica were indeed Paul's glory and joy!
As seen at the end of the previous chapter, the body of Christ is to be delivered from the wrath to come, 1Thessalonians 1:10. 1Thessalonians 4 elaborates how we are to be delivered, by the Rapture of the body of Christ. But what then? 1Thessalonians 2:19-20 shows that there will be a time of rewards and joy; this is the time that believers in Jesus appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
Having received the Lord Jesus Christ and have begun our walk in Christ, Paul urges us to be rooted in Him, built up in Him, and abound in Him with thanksgiving, Colossians 2:6-7. After receiving the gift of God, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the “day of redemption,” Ephesians 4:30, which is the rapture of the church. The rapture is when at the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: the trumpet shall sound and the dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed and put on incorruption, 1Corinthians 15:51-53. Then we will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord, 1Thessalonians 4:15-17. Afterwards, we will appear before the Judgement seat of Christ, 1Corinthians 3:10-15, 2Corinthians 3:5-10. This is when all our works in this life will be judged, not for salvation but for rewards. We have already been justified in Christ before God the Father, Romans 5:1, and saved from the coming wrath through Christ, Romans 5:9.
Our works in this life will be judged according to Paul’s gospel, Romans 2:16, at the judgment seat of Christ. In fact, Paul writes that he is the wise master builder and that he has laid down the foundation, which is Jesus Christ; that no other foundation can be laid, 1Corinthians 3:10-11. What Paul has presented to the Gentiles is what was revealed to him by the Lord, which is the mystery of Christ in us, the hope of glory, so that we may be presented perfect before Him, Colossians 1:25-28. All our works are tested on this foundation by fire. If any of the works remain, that person will receive a reward, but if not, that person will suffer loss, but that person will be saved, but with the smell of fire, 1Corinthians 3:13-15.
It cannot be over emphasized, that all believers in Jesus Christ will appear before the judgement seat of Christ to receive the things done in this life whether good or bad, 2Corinthians 5:10. We will not be judged before then; this is a singular event when all the body of Christ will be present. It is then that all things we have done will come to light as well as our hidden thoughts, then every person will have the praise of God, 1Corinthians 4:5. What greater joy for Paul than to see the church he labored hard and suffered for appear before the Lord. What greater glory for him to witness the many gifts and rewards given to the believers in Christ for the things each did in this life. This was all a result of Paul’s faithful following the call of the Lord to be the apostle to the Gentiles, Romans 11:13. As an apostle, he taught the church the mysteries revealed only to him through his epistles from Romans through Philemon. Believers in Christ are taught through Paul’s epistles to be renewed in the spirit of our mind; to put on the new man, which is created by God in righteousness and true holiness, Ephesians 4:23-24. Also, similar to John the Baptist being the friend of the bridegroom, John 3:29-30, Paul has the special position to espouse the church a chaste virgin to Christ, 2Corinthians 11:2.