1 Thessalonians 2
I remember you well
We love you like family1Dear family, it wasn’t a waste of our time to visit you. You know that. 2You also know we got shamefully mistreated in Philippi. Still, with God’s help, we worked up the courage to come to you. We did this so we could tell you the Good News from God, in spite of the strong opposition we faced.
3The message we delivered wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t self-serving. It wasn’t some kind of trick we were pulling on you. 4This message is the Good News that God trusted us to deliver. He gave us his approval to do that. So when we talk, we’re not worried about keeping people happy. We want to keep God happy with us. He sees what’s in our heart. 5We didn’t sweet talk you with flattery. You know that, too. We didn’t come with the hidden agenda of making money off of you. God knows that.
6We weren’t fishing for compliments from you or from anyone else. 7We could have given you some orders to follow. After all, we are the Messiah’s apostles. But we treated you gently, like a mother taking tender care of her children.
We loved you this much8Let me tell you how much we loved you. We cared so much for you that we didn’t stop with sharing God’s Good News. We gave you ourselves as well.
9Dear family, you remember how hard we worked. We worked day and night so we could cover our own costs. We didn’t want you to pay our bills for delivering God’s Good News to you. 10You know and God knows that we treated all of you believers with nothing but honesty and goodness. No one has a right to blame us for treating you badly. 11We treated each one of you as a father treats his own children.
12We taught you. We encouraged you. And we challenged you to behave like God’s people, worthy of the invitation he gave you to share in his kingdom and his glory. 13We constantly thank God for the way you embraced the message you heard from us. You didn’t treat it like it’s a windbag full of words dreamed up by humans. You saw the message for what it is: God’s word. That word is at work in those of you who believe.
14You, dear family, are a lot like God’s people in the churches of Judea. You were mistreated by your own citizens in the same way they were mistreated by the Jews 15who killed the Lord Jesus, killed the prophets, and chased us out of the country. They hurt the human race and they displease God. 162:16. These are the people who blocked us from telling non-Jews how they could be saved. They live as though their goal is to commit as many sins as possible. God’s judgment has finally caught up with them.
You bring us joy17Dear family, I want you to know that when we left you, it was only in person—not in spirit. After just a short time away from you we were missing you and desperately wanting to be with you again. 18We wanted to come and see you. I, Paul, tried over and over to find a way to get there. But every time, Satan put up some kind of a roadblock.
19Let me ask you something. What do you think brings us hope and happiness? What do you think will make us break out in celebration when our leader Jesus comes back? Don’t you know that it’s you? 20You’re our pride and joy.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and to Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
Paul seemed to work as a bi-vocational pastor during at least part of his ministry. It seems he paid his own way by making tents (Acts 18:3). Many rabbis in ancient times had a job aside from teaching their Bible (Old Testament) to Jews. Some Bible experts say Paul was probably making his tents out of leather. Others say he may have been working with goat hair.
Some Bible experts speculate that what Paul meant is that these Jewish leaders are doomed because they have reached the point of no return.
Paul writes that before he arrived in Thessalonica, “we got shamefully mistreated in Philippi” (2:2). The backstory shows up in Acts 16:16-40. Take a look at that story. Paul and Silas were arrested, stripped of their clothes and beaten, and then thrown in jail overnight. The next day, when city officials realized the two were Roman citizens, they released them. It was apparently illegal to treat citizens that way without a trial. When the officials asked the men to leave town quietly, Paul refused: “If they want us to leave, they’re going to have to personally escort us out of here” (Acts 16:37). The officials did just that. What happened in Philippi that you think Paul might have considered most shameful of all?
Paul said he and his mission team came to Thessalonica “so we could tell you the Good News from God, in spite of the strong opposition we faced” (2:3.) Do you think that makes a difference to people hearing the message, the fact that the person is speaking out in the face of violent opposition?
Paul said he and his team paid their own way while they were in town. But he adds “We could have given you some orders to follow. After all, we are the Messiah’s apostles” (2:7). What’s the point of that? Why would Paul add something like that, as in, “We could have ordered you to pay us for our ministry work, but we decided not to this time”?
Paul complimented the people of Thessalonica for accepting his message “for what it is: God’s word” (2:13). Christians typically reserve the Bible for that tag: God’s Word. Many preachers, however, describe their sermons as God’s word, much like Paul did. When is a message God’s word, compared to a script written by a preacher or some other well-intended Christian?
When Paul talked about the Jews in what is now Israel driving him out of the country, he said, “They live as though their goal is to commit as many sins as possible. God’s judgment has finally caught up with them” (2:16). The footnote says, “Some Bible experts speculate that what Paul meant is that these Jewish leaders are doomed because they have reached the point of no return.” What are some other ways Paul might have meant that, and which do you think is most likely?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Paul describes what he and his team were not—self-serving, liars, frauds, and people-manipulators (2:3-6)—he may have been describing some tricks of the trade among false teachers who lived in town or who traveled through. Where do you think we can we see those tricks of the trade at work today?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul calls the people of Thessalonica “our pride and joy” (2:20). What a kind thing to say about someone Paul had spent just three weeks visiting. Perhaps this is a fine occasion to take a moment and think about who in our life qualifies as our pride and joy. Who’s on your list?