Thessalonians - Glorification by Faith in Christ

By E. S. (Emanuel Sprankel) Young



II. Apostolic Service and Reward, 2:1-20


Paul turns from the reports of others to the experience of the readers. They themselves knew that his entrance was not powerless, for although maltreated in Philippi he was emboldened to preach the Gospel at Thessalonica. His preaching did not proceed either from delusion on his part, or from a desire to delude others. He felt approved of God, and was actuated by no improper motive. He here enlarges upon the brief statement in the previous chapter, “Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”

Ver. 1. For yourselves, brethren, know our entering in unto you, that it hath not been found vain.

His conduct and character as well as that of his fellow-laborers corresponded fully with the holy character of the truth they preached. They walked worthy of the Gospel and the Lord whom they represented. The disciples at Thessalonica knew experimentally of the influence and power of the preaching of the Gospel. They not only heard Paul and his associates declare the Gospel of God but had felt the influence and power upon their own lives. This shows that the Apostle had something worth while when he entered into this great and wicked city and commenced to tell the story of Jesus among the prejudiced Jews and idolatrous: Gentiles. The entrance was mighty, energetic and powerful. No wonder the Apostle could say, “And if Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is also in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14).

The Apostle had a Heavenly call to do work for the Lord in Macedonia. He immediately responded to the call and established a Church at Philippi and because of seeing and knowing His Lord, continued his missionary efforts against all opposition, establishing this model Thessalonian Church. If ministers, Sunday-school teachers and missionaries had as rich an experience with the personal Christ as the early disciples had, modernism would not have its influence upon the Christian Church as is seen today. We learn here what suffering, persecution, imprisonment and even martyrdom had to be met in that early Church period to organize and establish religious centers. If the Christian Church today would take her orders from Christ, the builder of the Church, and depend upon the Holy Spirit to execute said orders, there would be the same difference between the Church and the world as there was in Paul's day.

Ver. 2. But having suffered before, and been shamefully treated, as ye know, at Philippi, we waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God in much conflict (contention).

The Apostle makes mention of the suffering he and Silas endured at Philippi where they had been shamefully treated, stripped and scourged, with a rod, and cast into prison with their feet made fast in the stocks. It no doubt took a long time until they were entirely free of bodily pain, because of this persecution. This, however, did not hinder them in continuing their missionary efforts. With confidence in God they preached the Gospel at Thessalonica where they also had much conflict. Think of the disadvantages these early missionaries had immediately after experiencing this severe persecution, traveling a distance of a hundred miles or more to begin work for the Lord where they were exposed to continuous danger. This shows what men will do and endure who are acquainted with God and His Word. These were not ring leaders and flatterers of the people nor ambitious persons who sought their own advantage. Their suffering was God-given and they were fully conscious of the fact. It is a wonderful thing to be entrusted with the Gospel of God. Those who are entrusted with the Gospel and given Heavenly credentials need not employ man-made schemes to be successful. They have full confidence in God and have only God-made messages to deliver to sinful man.

They did not use flattery as a cloak of covetousness nor use all kinds of methods used in these modern times to secure means to carry forward the work of the Church. They believed themselves to be Christ's messengers and witnesses and they could truthfully say, “God is our witness.” They had sought nothing of man, neither money nor glory. These religious leaders were beaten openly, uncondemned, as Roman citizens, and cast into prison. This was done on account of the boldness and freedom of speech. All this happened because of their confidence in God. They were in fellowship and union with Him. This verse informs us that in the opening of this missionary enterprise in Thessalonica these leaders met with strenuous opposition. There was much contention or conflict with the Jews who believed in the works of the law and opposed the suffering of the Messiah.

Ver. 3. For our exhortation is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile.

The origin and source from which it came was not deception or impurity. Paul had to defend himself against those who brought false accusations against all those who preached the Gospel. Paul means that they do not do like the heathen in their worship, give occasion to unclean practice. “We have corrupted no man” (2 Cor. 7:2). “We were not deceived ourselves, so we do not attempt to deceive others.” A man who receives the Gospel as Paul did can have but one aim which is to be honest with the persons to whom he presents it. He was the first missionary who had come to Europe to present Christ crucified to these heathen cities. The mass of men whether Jews or heathen, could not understand his noble character which was high above them. They judged him by themselves. They were incapable of such self denial for the sake of others. It angered them. They could not bear to think of its contrast with their own life, so they believed or forced themselves to believe that it was not genuine.

Ver. 4. But even as we have been approved (allowed) of God to be intrusted with the Gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God who proveth our hearts.

They were tested of God as gold is tested in the fire; therefore, having been proven, they are estimated worthy to be entrusted with the Gospel of God. That is, they were entrusted with the publication of it. “Even so we speak.” That is, “we speak not for the purpose of pleasing men but for the purpose of pleasing God. God's authority and power is with His Word and this we know by experience.

God's Word is inspired, “For the Word of God is quick (living), and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and is a discerner of the thought and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Paul here appeals to God as the infallible judge of their sincerity. Paul, as a messenger of God was conscious of the wonderful privilege granted him by God in being entrusted with the Gospel. This gave him boldness to speak for God and made him fearless in declaring the messages He had for sinful man. Ministers who realize that they have been entrusted with the Gospel of God cannot use man-made messages to please men, but Christ's messages to convict and regenerate them. God is now proving and testing all those who are entrusted with the Gospel of God. He is the searcher of hearts and knows all motives of work and service. They did not speak the praise of the men at Thessalonica. They worked for that which God could approve and clothed men with the righteousness of Christ.

What their preaching was: (1) Their character is one of childlike simplicity, (2) They were actuated by the strong love for souls, (3) They were not burdensome to their new converts, (4) They set a high example, (5) They taught their converts individually, (6) They walked worthy of the high calling.


  • How often does Paul speak about entering in, in Thessalonians?

  • In what sense is it not in vain?

  • Tell where the first church was founded in Europe.

  • What was the experience of those who founded this church?

  • What made these preachers so bold in preaching the Gospel?

  • What is meant by being put in trust of the Gospel?

  • Tell what it means not to please men but to please God?


The Apostle sets this forth under two aspects,—Negatively 5-6, Positively 7-8.

Ver. 5. For neither at any time were we found using words of flattery, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness. God is witness.

This is to confirm the statement made in the preceding verses that the preachers of the Gospel did not preach to please men but God. They in no sense used flattering words to work upon the feelings of the people in order that they might draw praise unto themselves. They did not try to present the Gospel in a smooth perverted way. They believed just what God said in His Word and wanted others to believe it in the same way. If they had preached a perverted Gospel using words of flattery, they might have had an increase in numbers at their revivals, but not conversions. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, to regenerate, to transform men, not to add numbers without change of character.

“As ye know.” The Church established under the preaching and power of the Word of God knows the difference between the men who flatter the people with a perverted Gospel and those who preach the Word with power under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Paul could with perfect confidence appeal to his converts to have coveted no man's silver, gold nor apparel. Paul here appeals to the Thessalonians that he had not used flattering words nor a cloak of covetousness and to confirm what he has to say he calls upon God as his witness. Men can judge the external conduct, but God can know the motive of action.,

Ver. 6. Nor seeking glory of men neither from you, nor from others, when we might have been burdensome, as apostles of Christ.

The Apostle emphasizes the fact that men who seek glory from men can enjoy such but for a season. Men perish and their glory perishes with them, but those who seek the glory of God come in possession of that which abides forever. We might have claimed honor by being burdensome (which was our privilege), and received glory as apostles of Christ. The word “apostles” is to be taken in its wider meaning as Paul includes himself and his associates. These ambassadors of God were appointed and anointed by Christ and were looking beyond man for glory and reward. The disciples” actions are the very spirit of the Good Shepherd. The servants of the Lord must not provoke but be gentle with all men, apt to teach—in meekness, instructing those who oppose them (2 Tim. 2:24).

Ver. 7. But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children.

Here the Apostle described their conduct positively. We were gentle, It is that of a superior to an inferior. It is that of a master toward his servant. He that is greatest (Christ) is the servant (Matt. 20:27-28). The unkind, impatient spirit was completely absent in these ambassadors for Christ. Paul adduces the most touching type of human tenderness—the nursing mother cherishing her own children, warming them in her bosom. “Such had been his gentleness among his children after the faith. He had sought to win them by gentle words. He had set before them the attractive picture of the Saviour's tender love.

Ver. 8. Even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear to us.

Their yearning was manifest by imparting the Gospel to them. The persons addressed here are members of the Body of Christ. Such relationship is of the highest order and compels supreme love. “The Word of God had so wrought with us that we estimated it a great privilege to do these positive things we declare here. We were not only willing to preach the Gospel unto you but also to sacrifice our own lives for your spiritual welfare.” These Spiritual parents are willing to submit to death if need be in order that the Christian Church might be established at Thessalonica. They verily carried their lives in their hands. These disciples of Christ at Thessalonica are fruits of labor bestowed by the Apostles in forming this church. Members of the Body of Christ are very dear and precious to one another and willing to suffer and even die for one another that God's name, who is the Head of the Body, might be honored and glorified.


State what the Apostles did not do to win men.

  1. Did not attempt to win their way by flattery.

  2. Did not use their position as a cloak of covetousness.

  3. They were not fond of glory.

What methods did they use to win their way?

  1. They were gentle and unassuming with their converts.

  2. They were most affectionate with their converts.

  3. They would have paid the price of their own lives to win them.


In these verses he recalls the circumstances of his ardent and laborious ministry among them. He could say here what he had said to the Corinthians, that he had approved himself as the minister of God in his labors.

Ver. 9. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God.

This proves the very close fellowship that existed between Paul and this church. He reminds them of his conduct while with them. The expression in this connection denotes the most strenuous bodily labor. He was doing this missionary work and at the same time supporting himself as a soul winner. The Apostle was at this place just a little over three weeks and when he speaks about his labor he says, “working night and day.” To have the word “night” occur first is in harmony with the Jewish mode of reckoning. He was a tentmaker. This does not mean that he worked at night and preached in the day time, but night and day denotes that he was at it incessantly and continually. The Apostle here emphasizes the fact that he did not add to the burdens of these people by asking for his support. He did not want the Thessalonian church nor any other, to get the idea that he was doing this missionary work there for any material gain, no matter what it would be. He did not even seek the necessities of life from them that he might be known among them as giving and not receiving. When writing this Epistle to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle was supporting himself by tent-making at Corinth (1 Cor. 4:12). The same is true when he established the church at Ephesus and calls attention to this fact in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, “You yourselves know that these hands have ministered unto my necessity and to them that were with me.”

Ver. 10. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously (justly) and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe.

The Apostle needs no greater testimony concerning his preaching and of not being burdensome by support than that of the Thessalonians and of God. He has refuted the reproaches cast upon him as shown in Ver. 3, and shows that such charges are false, that he has not labored for any selfish motive or covetousness, but for the Gospel of God, for which he has God and the Thessalonians as his witnesses. He speaks of his conduct before God and these believers. He realized that he was justified and the believers were justified before God and that they had a relationship to God not appreciated by his accusers, The testimony of these saints could always be relied upon, and their witnessing would be in harmony with the witnessing of God.

Ver. 11. As ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you and testifying.

Paul here changes his image from that of a nursing mother to that of a father. He was before speaking of his tender care for his converts, now he speaks of the instructions and admonitions which he gave them; as a mother he nourished their spiritual life, and as a father he superintended their spiritual exhortation. Here we have three modes of the Apostle's instruction: Exhorting, denotes also encouraging and testifying; encouraging (comforting), denotes supporting and sustaining, “Comfort the feeble minded” (5:14); testifying, denotes pressing home exhortations upon the hearers, There are times when a father addresses his children as with his dying breath, not to give way to temptations but to follow in the path of duty; so there are times when it is becoming of the minister of the Gospel to address his people as with his dying breath, (because of the dreadful issues at stake) not to allow themselves to be cheated out of happiness, but to make sure of Christ as their everlasting portion.

Ver. 12. To the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory.

The Apostle is addressing those who are born of God, saying that they should walk as children worthy of Him. Paul is talking to those who know and have experienced that they are saved. We should aim at the highest attainment though as yet we are far from it. We may truly honor God by our character and deeds. We can walk on this lowly earth and yet be worthy of God. When we keep obeying and doing the things of God, then we are walking worthily. The Christian needs constant exercise in telling the story of the cross, in speaking to lost souls and bringing them out of darkness into the marvelous light. This was the object of Paul's preaching and it must be the object of the preacher in every period of the age of grace. God has called us, made us worthy by our position in Christ the Head as members in His Body to sit with Him in the Heavenlies, knowing that Christ is now in His glorified body and we are to be like Him through resurrection in glory.


  • What did the Apostle do in order not to be burdensome to the young converts?

  • How does this differ from the present methods of establishing churches and preaching the Gospel?

  • Who are the witnesses as to Paul's work in Thessalonica?

  • What must one do to walk worthy of God?


The Apostle shows in these verses how the Thessalonian brethren received the Gospel. They believed that it came from God. Here we have an evidence of the teaching that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

Ver. 13. And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing that when ye received from us the Word of the message, even the Word of God, ye accepted 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 has reason to thank God and to do so continually on account of what God did through His Word in choosing and electing these Thessalonians as members of the Body of Christ. These Thessalonians received the Gospel of God. This was in a way the free and voluntary act on their part; yet in another sense, it was the act of God who ordained them to accept the Gospel. Their belief was an operation of God in them. It is the Word of hearing which is of God.” It was God's Word which they heard.” This is the way that faith comes and is made strong. It is the Word whose authority is God. Paul had no other method to give to these Thessalonians but the method of God as the Holy Spirit tells us (Rom. 1:1), that he was separated unto the Gospel of God. When the Gospel of God is preached the preacher and hearer know and experience that it is living and powerful. These messages from the Gospel of God have influence upon the heart different from man-made messages,

We learn from this and the former verses what a man can do when he knows the Word of God and his own life has been transformed through its power. The modern preacher must be transformed and have the experience that he has come out of darkness into the light and thus know the Word and its power in order to present the messages for the saving of souls. There is much perverting of the Gospel and thus no increase — of faith and the saving of the lost. Every minister of the Gospel who stands before the world as a mouth piece of God is occupying the highest position to which men can be called and therefore must continually aim to please God, and must know and be loyal to the Word of Truth. These disciples did not receive the Gospel as of human origin but of Divine. They believed it to be supernatural. The Holy Spirit was active among them showing to them the Word of life. The believer is sanctified through a right use of the Word of God (John 717).

Ver. 14. For ye, brethren, became imitators (followers) of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus: for ye also suffered the same things of your own countrymen, even as they did of the Jews.

The apostles were followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and they had the same influence upon the Thessalonians. Men who are faithful and loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ bring others into the same faith and loyalty to Christ. Christ and the apostles suffered much in establishing the Gospel of God. The bearers of Divine Truth are always expelled by the natural community to which they belong (Matt. 10:35-37). The Thessalonian Christians are also experiencing bitter opposition from Gentiles and Jews because of their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, similar to that experienced by the prophets and Christ in the city of Jerusalem when Christ, who is the Head of the Church, had to die at the hands of wicked men. That which is really Divine is hated by the world and always strongly opposed by those who belong to the world (John 7:7, ' 15:18). The power to endure this enmity from fellow countrymen likewise rests in God's operation in the believer. This strong opposition by Judaizing brethren and unrighteous Gentiles does not weaken the faith of the members of the model Church. The majority of them that were of the Church at Thessalonica were Gentiles so the persecution was undoubtedly mainly from the unconverted Jew. After Paul and his companions had left Thessalonica the persecution which arose against the Christians continued as Gentiles combined with Jews in opposing the Gospel. We learn from the Acts of the Apostles that the Jewish Christians in Judea were exposed to severe persecution from their unbelieving countrymen. It was by these that Stephen was put to death and Paul was associated with them before his conversion.

Ver. 15. Who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and are contrary to all men.

The Apostle is emphasizing here: the degree of their wickedness. If they killed the Lord (1 Cor. 2:8) is it to be wondered if they persecute his servants (John 15:20)? Jesus said, “Ye are witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets” (Matt. 23:31). Stephen, the martyr, said, “Which of the prophets have not your fratherts persecuted?”

“And persecuted us.” Literally, driven us out. Paul and his associates were driven out and knew by experience what it was to meet the opposers of the Gospel of God. Paul brings a very solemn charge against his countrymen, the Jews. They had killed the Lord and the prophets and now were persecuting the apostles. They were not entirely satisfied with this but did their best to keep the Gospel that they hated from reaching the Gentiles, so that they might not be saved. They were a class that were more interested in pleasing men than God. They were faithful to obstinancy and merciful to themselves, and to all others actuated by the most unmerciful hatred. The * Apostle especially emphasizes their opposition to his preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. They did not believe that the, Gentiles ought to be admitted upon the same terms into fellowship and communion. The Apostle of the Gentiles, led by the Holy Spirit, goes forward in his commission to the Gentiles and in this first letter pronounces judgment against his own nation. This nation has been set aside for a period of time « which will not end until the fulness of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25-26). He who neglects his own salvation does not want others to enjoy what he does not enjoy. Those who shed Christ's blood persecuted the apostles, and the followers of Christ in every age are known as the capital enemies of all mankind.

Ver. 16. Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved:to fill up their sins always; but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

Paul found it difficult to present the truth to the Gentiles because of this contradiction, blasphemy, and false accusation from the Jews. The Jews were not against proselytizing providing they were circumcised and kept the law of Moses. Paul in preaching the Gospel emphasized faith as a means of salvation, and not works. Paul emphasized in the teaching to the Ephesians, (3:3) that when the Gentiles and Jews believed in the Lord Jesus Christ they became one new man. Jews did not become Gentiles, nor Gentiles become Jews, but they became one in Christ Jesus.

“To fill up their sins alway.” They were by this method filling up their cup of iniquity by forbidding the Apostle to preach to the Gentiles. The cup of iniquity was already full and overflowing. Men are enlisted either under the captain, Satan, who leads on from one iniquity to another until the cup is full and overflowing, or under the Captain, Christ Jesus, who leads on from victory to victory and glory to glory. We learn here that the wrath of God is come upon them unto the uttermost. This means, to their very end. The Apostle refers here to the judgments of God which were impending upon the Jewish people, judgments which were fearfully executed in awful suffering during the Jewish war and in the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem.


  • Why did Paul thank God without ceasing?

  • What was the difference between receiving the Gospel as the word of men and the Word of God?

  • Is there any difference between a sermon known as the word of men and a sermon known as the Word of God?

  • What crime does Paul mention against his own country-men?

  • Explain the meaning of, “To fill up their own sins.” 4


The Apostle, having learned about the condition of the converts of Thessalonica, and having himself preached and established his church has a longing desire to return from Corinth and be with them. He is considerable distance away and yet he is with them in the hour of prayer, remembering them in his thanksgiving.

Ver. 17. But we, brethren, being bereaved of (taken from) you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, endeavored, the more exceedingly to see your face with great desire.

The Apostle was really driven away from these Christians to whom he is writing. “Being taken from you for a short time.” It is, however, several years before the Apostle visits this church again. It is about six months or more since he has been separated from them. The Christians were like orphans when the founders were driven out. They were separated, but not in heart, “Though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the Spirit” (Col. 2:5).

Ver. 18. Because we would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us.

The Apostle means to say to these Christians that there is no fault on his part that he has not visited them. “Even I Paul.” Paul distinguishes himself because Silas and Timotheus no doubt had been in the meanwhile with the Church at Thessalonica. “Once and again.” Paul had made at least two separate attempts to revisit the Thessalonian Church and was hindered by Satan, the personal agent who is evil and influences man. “We willed to come unto you but Satan hindered us,” He is the person who acts through wicked men, even when his name is not mentioned. The Devil is the author of all hindrances to Christianity; the great opponent to Christ and God. We are not informed just the different methods Satan has in hindering man in doing the things for God. Daniel prayed for ”˜three weeks and the evil forces were so mighty that it took that length of time for the angel to reach him and answer his prayers. There are unseen evil forces; therefore, we need on the whole armor of God and the sword of the Spirit, that we may be able to stand in this evil day.

Ver. 19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying (rejoicing)? Are not even ye before our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

The Apostle does not mean in any way to counterbalance his former presentation to the Christians by anticipating any reward from their conversion but because he hopes to meet all these redeemed ones in glory. He calls them his joy, because he would rejoice with them in their final salvation, or final glorified redemption. He calls them the crown of glorying or rejoicing, because he regarded them as trophies of the victory of the Gospel which he preached (Phil. 4:1).

Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord? Are not ye, as well as other Christians present with Christ? We hope then on your account to have some great experience at the return of the Lord. We shall then be able to rejoice over you at His coming. We will then be able to parade with you as one parades with the crowned ones in the contest of games. We must keep the coming of the Lord at all times before our eyes if we are to be like-minded with the Apostles. In the Gospel the Lord's coming shines in upon us so near that it already affords us much light for our feet at every step.

Ver. 20. For ye are our glory and our joy.

This verse gives us a very practical lesson, not only about the coming of the Lord, but what our aim should be to get ready for His coming. The Apostle emphasizes the fact that these members of the church whom he has gained will be joy and glory to him at His coming. Christian parents and Christian ministers ought to be in a position to say, when He comes, “Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me.” This implies that Paul would know his converts at Christ's coming. Our constant prayer and labor should be that all who are dear unto us shall appear in that happy company at last, that not one shall be wanting. The Apostle puts the Thessalonians in mind that while he has been hindered, and may continue to be hindered, yet we all believe in the coming of the Lord and nothing will be able to hinder his coming. This is the second time in this Epistle that the Apostle emphasizes the return of the Lord as an incentive to greater service and loyalty to the Word of Truth.


  • How long had Paul been absent from the Thessalonian Church?

  • What was he doing at Corinth while writing this letter?

  • Who gave Paul word concerning the condition of the Church?

  • How did Satan hinder Paul?

  • In what way were these Thessalonians the hope of the Apostle?

  • In what sense did the Thessalonians believe in the coming of the Lord?