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God’s plan for evangelism through the local church: 

1Thessalonians opens a window on to newly planted church in the middle of the 1st century AD. It tells us how it came into being, what the apostle taught it, what were its strengths and weaknesses, its theological and moral problems, and how it was spreading the gospel. What is of particular interest, because it applies to Christian communities in every age and place, is the interaction which the apostle portrays between the church and the gospel.

  • He shows how the gospel creates the Church [1:1-4].
  • He shows how the Church spreads the gospel [1:5-10].
  • He shows how the gospel shapes the Church [ ], as the Church seeks to live a life that is worthy of the Gospel.

According to John Stott, the above theme gives the following analysis of the letter:

  1. Christian evangelism, or how the Church spreads the gospel [1:1-10].
  2. Christian ministry, or how pastors serve both the gospel and the church [2:1-3:13].
  3. Christian behaviour, or how the Church must live according to the gospel [4:1-12].
  4. Christian hope, or how the gospel should inspire the Church [4:13-5:11].
  5. Christian community, or how to be a gospel Church [5:12-28].

Paul’s brief mission to Thessalonica had been brought to an ignominious end. The pubic riot and the legal charges against the missionaries were so serious that they were persuaded to make a humiliating night flight from the city [Acts 17]. Paul’s critics took full advantage of his sudden disappearance. In order to undermine his authority and his gospel, they determined to discredit him. So they launched a malicious smear campaign. By studying Paul’s self-defence it is possible fro us to reconstruct their slanders:

  • ‘He ran away’, they sneered, ‘and has not been seen since’.
  • Obviously he is insincere, impelled by basest motives.
  • He is just one more of these phoney teachers who tramp up and down the Egnatian way.
  • When opposition arose, and he found himself in personal danger, he took to his heels and ran!
  • He does not care about you Thessalonian disciples of his; he has abandoned you. He is much more concerned about his own skin than your welfare.

Paul determined to reply to the charges which were levelled at him, not out of pique or vanity, but because the truth of the gospel and the future of the church were at stake.


1.       Transparency

a.       Knowledge

The Thessalonians saw what Paul was like: “yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you…” [2:1].

  • οἴδατε - “know” [2:1], perfect indicative active, ‘to have seen and perceived and hence know’.
  • οὐ κενὴ - “not in vain” [2:1], ‘empty’; ‘without anything’; ‘wanting in purpose and earnestness’;
  • The same verb is repeated later: “you know we never used…” [2:5].

b.       Remember

The Thessalonians remember Paul’s work: “you remember, brethren, our labour…” [2:9].

  • Μνημονεύετε – “remember” [2:9], ‘to exercise memory’; ‘to call to mind’;

c.        Witnesses

The Thessalonians were witnesses of Paul’s behaviour: “you are witnesses…” [2:10].

  • πιστεύουσιν - “witnesses” [2:10], ‘one who has first-hand information and knowledge about something’;
    1. Readiness to Suffer

Paul and his fellow-missionaries were prepared to suffer for the gospel: “after we had suffered before…” [2:2].

  • προπαθόντες - “suffered” [2:2], from pró, ‘before’, and páschō, ‘to suffer’; * ὑβρισθέντες - “shamefully entreated” [2:2], ‘to maltreat, mistreat’; ‘to run riot, to outrage, insult’;
  • ἐπαρρησιασάμεθα - “bold” [2:2], ‘denotes a state of  mind when the words flow freely, the attitude of feeling quite at home with no sense of stress or strain, and attitude that includes both boldness and confidence’.
  • ἐν τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν - “in our God” [2:2], ‘confidence and strength in God’;
  • ἀγῶνι - “contention” [2:2], ‘conflict, opposition, fight’;


People are prepared to suffer only for what they believe in.

As Paul recalls his visit to Thessalonica he seems to depict it by four metaphors.

B.      THE STEWARD [2:3-4]

    1. The God-centred Stewardship

a.       God-given Stewardship

The implied stewardship: “we were allowed of God to be put in trust…” [2:4].

  • δεδοκιμάσμεθα - “allowed” [2:4], the stem word is δοκή, ‘watching’; ‘to accept as proved’; ‘an object which is tested, genuine, and valuable’ as in coins and people;   * The perfect tense signifies not only a past approval but one that continues into the present.
  • πιστευθῆναι - “put in trust” [2:4], aorist passive infinitive, ‘to believe, trust’; ‘to put something into the care of another’;
  • εὐαγγέλιον - “gospel” [2:4], from eu, ‘well’, and aggelw, ‘good news’;

b.       God-glorifying Stewardship

The motive of the missionaries: “even so we speak; not as pleasing men…” [2:4].

  • λαλοῦμεν - “speak” [2:4], ‘to talk’ with the semantic focus on telling’;
  • ἀρέσκοντες - “pleasing” [2:4], present active participle, ‘to make one inclined to’; ‘to soften one’s heart towards another’;
  • δοκιμάζοντι - “tries” [2:4], present active participle, the stem word is δοκή, ‘watching’; ‘to accept as proved’; ‘an object which is tested, genuine, and valuable’ as in coins and people;
  • καρδίας - “hearts” [2:4], ‘centre of being’; ‘mind, will, affections’;
    1. The Faithful Stewardship

a.       The Message

The message of the missionaries: “for our exhortation was not in deceit…” [2:3].

  • παράκλησις - “exhortation” [2:3], from para, ‘to beside’, and kalew, ‘to call’; ‘a call to one’s aid’; ‘encouragement’;                                                                                                          i.            The Truth

Paul’s message was biblical: “not in deceit…” [2:3].

  • ἐκ πλάνης - “deceit” [2:3], ‘wandering out of the right way’; ‘deceptive belief’; ‘delusion’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Pure Motive

Paul’s motive was pure: “nor in uncleanness…” [2:3].

  • ἐξ ἀκαθαρσίας - “uncleanness” [2:3], ‘impurity’; ‘unclean things’; ‘sexual immorality’;
  • An allusion to such evils as ‘ambition, pride, greed, popularity’;

                                                                                                     iii.            The Methods

Paul’s methods were above board: “nor in guile…” [2:3].

  • ἐν δόλῳ - “guile” [2:3], ‘to catch fish by means of a bait’; metaphorically and generally ‘fraud, guile, deceit’;
  • There was no attempt to induce discipleship by ‘tricking them’; for example, by concealing the cost of discipleship or by offering fraudulent blessings.


The “stewards” of the gospel are primarily responsible neither to the church, nor to its synods or leaders, but to God himself.

  • To be accountable to God as a merciful, impartial judge is marvellously liberating;
  • To be accountable to Him is to be delivered from the tyranny of human criticism.

C.      A MOTHER

1.       The Denial of False Methods

a.       The Flattery

Paul denies that he ever used flattery: “for neither at any time…” [2:5].

  • ἐγενήθημεν - “used” [2:5], aorist passive indicative, ‘come to exist, happen’;
  • ἐν λόγῳ κολακείας - “flattering words” [2:5], ‘flattery, adulation’; ‘the tortuous methods by which one man seeks to gain influence over another, generally for selfish ends’;
  • The Greek term has the idea of ‘using fair words as a means of gaining one’s own ends’.  

b.       The Mask

Paul denies that he ever covered up what he was doing: “nor a cloak of covetousness…” [2:5].

  • προφάσει - “cloak” [2:5], ‘pretence, show, cover’; from prophaínō ,’ to appear before, be apparent’; which is from pró, ‘before’, and phaínō , ‘to appear, to shine before’;
  • ‘an outward show or appearance, a pretense or pretext put forth in order to cover one’s real intent’;

                                                                                                         i.            Pride

Paul did not preach with a cloak to cover his pride: “cloak of covetousness…” [2:5].

  • πλεονεξίας - “covetousness” [2:5], denotes more than ‘love of money’; ‘greediness’; ‘exploitation’; ‘striving for material possessions’;
  • The concept exalts self to the highest position; it regards self with the veneration that amounts to worship: “covetousness, which is idolatry” [Col.3:5].


There can be no mistaking that the depth of his conviction that the methods and motives of the preachers would bear the closest scrutiny.

  • In the first part of this verse5 Paul denies using flattery and calls the Thessalonians to witness that what he says is true.
  • In the second part of the verse5 he avows purity of his motives and invokes God as witness.

    1. The Denial of Self-Glory

a.       The Hunger for Adulation

Paul denies that he sought any kind of public acclaim: “nor of men sought we glory, neither of you…” [2:6].

  • ζητοῦντες - “sought” [2:6], present active participle, ‘to desire’; ‘to try and find location of’; * δόξαν - “glory” [2:6], ‘splendour, radiance, praise’; this word has in all non-biblical Greek a basic meaning which reflects its link with δοκέω, namely, ‘what one thinks’, ‘opinion’;

b.       The Apostolic Authority  

Paul denies that he came in order to place them under a burden: “when we might have been a burden…” [2:6].

  • δυνάμενοι - “have been” [2:6],  present middle or passive participle, ‘to be able’; ‘to have power’;
  • ἐν βάρει – “burdensome” [2:6], ‘weight’; ‘burden’; ‘the right to maintenance’;
  • By standing on his dignity and issuing orders to them: “we were gentle among you” [2:7].
  • Or by insisting on being paid: “we would not be chargeable to any of you” [2:9].


Paul and his fellows did not seek for themselves; they did not look for commendation.

  • They deserved it but they did not seek it; their motives were pure.

    1. The Mother

a.       The Gentleness

The gentleness of Paul: “but we were gentle among you…” [2:7].

  • ἐγενήθημεν – “were” [2:7], aorist passive indicative, ‘to come to exist’; ‘to happen’; * νήπιοι - “gentle” [2:7], ‘infant’; ‘simpleminded or immature person’; ‘one who cannot speak, hence, an infant, child, baby without any definite limitation of age’;
  • Example: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” [Mat.11:25].

                                                                                                         i.            The Greek Text

A textual problem: the word translated “gentle” is actually h,pioi in the Greek.  The manuscript evidence clearly favours the reading “infants” as the UBS text shows.

§  But Paul never compares himself elsewhere to being an infant. How then should we understand the thought? 

§  Paul appears to be saying that they did not come as those who threw their weight around. On the other hand, they were like “babes” among them.

§  As Leon Morris states, ‘the meaning is that when they preached in Thessalonica the apostles spoke as simply as possible, as simply as babies’.

§  Qualifications for a servant: “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle - h;pion- unto all men, apt to teach, patient” [2Tim.2:24].

                                                                                                       ii.            The Interpretation

Paul has a habit of mixing his metaphors:

  • Paul uses the bold image of seeing himself as ‘babies like a mother’.
  • A mother holding her children comes down to their level, uses their language, and plays their games.
  • The mother ‘becomes childlike with her children’.

b.       The Nursing Gentleness 

                                                                                                         i.            The Wet-Nurse

The gentleness with which the apostles came: “as a nurse cherishes her children…” [2:7].

  • τροφὸς - “nurse” [2:7], from tréphō, ‘to nourish’; ‘a wet-nurse’; ‘nursing foster mother’;
  • The wet-nurse was ‘a woman who was contracted to suckle and care for the child of another person’. 
  • She was in charge of feeding the child, but her job also included caring for and even educating the infant.
  • She became a person in whom the child has great confidence throughout his or her lifetime.
  • Paul’s declaration was not that they were like a hired wet-nurse: “cherishes her own children” [2:7].

                                                                                                       ii.            The Concept in Practice  

The idea is that of ‘to keep warm and thus cherish and comfort’: “cherishes her own…” [2:7].

  • θάλπῃ - “cherishes” [2:7], ‘to take care of with the implication of cherishing and comforting’;
  • τέκνα - “children” [2:7], ‘child of either sex’;
  • Christ and the church:  “no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church” [Eph.5:29].
  • The instinctive affection of the mother bird with her young: “the mother sitting (imparting warmth) upon her young” [Dt.22:6].

c.        The Affection

The metaphoric affirmation about their care and love for the church is now explained in plain language: “so being affectionately desirous towards you…” [2:8].

  • ὁμειρόμενοι - “affectionately desirous” [2:8], present middle or passive participle, ‘to have great affection for’; ‘to have a yearning love for’;
  • The word was used in such contexts as funerary inscriptions that tell how the parents long for their deceased son.

                                                                                                         i.            The Sacrificial Giving

The sacrificial affection: “we were willing to have imparted…” [2:8].

  • εὐδοκοῦμεν – “willing” [2:8], imperfect indicative active, ‘to be pleased with’; ‘to take pleasure in’;
  • μεταδοῦναι - “imparted to you” [2:8], aorist active infinitive, ‘to impart by contributing to needs’;
  • τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ - “gospel of God” [2:8], ‘good news of God’;
  • ἑαυτῶν ψυχάς - “our own souls” [2:8], ‘inner self, life, person’;

                                                                                                       ii.            The Preciousness

The preciousness: “because you were dear unto us” [2:8].

  • ἐγενήθητε - “you were” [2:8], aorist passive indicative, ‘to come into being’; ‘to exist’;
  • ἀγαπητοὶ - “dear to us” [2:8], ‘to love’; ‘love in the OT is basically a spontaneous feeling which impels to self-giving or, in relation to things, to the seizure of the object which awakens the feeling, or to the performance of the action in which pleasure is taken. Love is an inexplicable power of soul given in the inward person’;

d.       The Love of God

The motherly characteristic of the love of God: “the Lord’s tender mercies are over all his works…” [Psa.145:9].

  • wym'x]r - “tender mercies” [145:9], derived from rehem, womb’;  
  • It carries the picture of the tender care bestowed on an infant when it is most vulnerable: “can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb” [Isa.49:15].
  • It is the picture of emotion and love, sometimes love and compassion that goes beyond what ought to be given: “How can I let you go? My heart is turned within me; all my compassion is aroused” [Hos.11:8].


There is a “sharing” and an integration of the apostles’ lives with the lives of the people of Thessalonica.

§  The city’s aristocracy intended the cult to be the unifying force in the life of Thessalonica, giving sense of common identity to all its citizens. To attack the cult and its deity was tantamount to an attack on the community itself and could result in mob violence [Acts 17:6].

§  Apostles’ purpose was to re-form a community around the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. The evangelism of Thessalonica was not for the purpose of forming another ‘community’ alongside that already existing, but rather to create a community that would overtake and replace the existing pagan community: “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” [1:9].

D.      THE FATHER [2:9-12]

    1. The Example   

Paul begins again with a denial as he reverts to the facts already mentioned at verse 6.

a.       The Labour

The hard work undertaken: “you remember our labour and travail…” [2:9].

  • κόπον ἡμῶν - “labour” [2:9], ‘toil’; in secular Greek κόπος means a) ‘beating’; ‘weariness as though one had been beaten’;  and b) the ‘exertion’ or ‘trouble’ which causes this state of weariness. * μόχθον - “travail” [2:9], more than κόπον; ‘it is toil, travail, afflicting and wearisome labour’;

b.       The Burden

The determination not to be a burden: “labouring night and day…” [2:9].

  • ἐργαζόμενοι - “labouring” [2:9], ‘to work’; ‘labour expending effort’; 
  • νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας - “night and day” [2:9], ‘continuously’;
  • ἐπιβαρῆσαί - “chargeable” [2:9], aorist active infinitive, from epí, ‘upon’, or an intensive, and baréō, ‘to burden’; ‘to excessively weigh down’;
  • ἐκηρύξαμεν - “preached” [2:9], to be a herald’; ‘to announce in an official capacity’;

                                                                                                         i.            The Preaching Location

During this time Paul worked “night and day…” [2:9].  

  • Paul’s trade: “because he was of the same trade, he abode with them, and worked; for by their occupation they were tentmakers” [Acts 18:3].
  • The main venue for this preaching was the workplace where Paul made and sold tents.
  • For Paul, manual and gospel labour were integrated.

c.        The Behaviour

The behaviour: “you are witnesses how holily and justly…” [2:10].

  • ὁσίως - “holily” [2:10], ‘sacred, lawful’; ‘according to duty’; speaks of the way in which people were conformed to what was ordained or permitted by the deity.
  • δικαίως - “justly” [2:10], ‘upright, innocent’; ‘measured according to a standard and meeting its requirements’; ‘refers to dealings with our neighbours’;
  • ἀμέμπτως - “unblameable” [2:10], ‘without blame’; ‘without fault’; ‘refers to our public reputation’;
  • ἐγενήθημεν - “behaved” [2:10], aorist passive indicative, ‘to come into being, to exist’;


    1. The Father   

Paul seems to be thinking especially of the educational role of the father.

a.       The Father

Paul has been like a father: “as a father does his children…” [2:11].

  • πατὴρ - “father” [2:11], ‘male parent’; spiritual leader; * Paul uses the concept to speak of his relationship with the church at Corinth: “though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” [1Cor.4:15].
  • τέκνα ἑαυτοῦ - “his children” [2:11], ‘one’s own offspring, male or female’;

b.       The Role of Father

                                                                                                         i.            The Ancient World

The father in the ancient world was normally responsible for the moral instruction and behaviour of his children.

  • The father took the leading role in socialising his children into the socio-economic and cultural way of life into which they were born.
  • The father’s responsibility was not simply to give them knowledge of certain subjects but also to instruct them ‘on the most essential questions of what to choose and avoid, namely, choosing virtues and avoiding vices and the activities to which they lead.
  • Paul and the church at Corinth: “but as my beloved sons I warn you…” [1Cor.4:14].

                                                                                                       ii.            Paul’s Role 

Paul’s role in Thessalonica: “we exhorted and comforted…” [2:11].

  • παρακαλοῦντες - “exhorted” [2:11], present active participle, from para, ‘to beside’, and kalew, ‘to call’; ‘to call to, exhort, encourage’;
  • παραμυθούμενοι - “comforted” [2:11], present middle or passive participle, from pará, ‘to’, and muthéomai, ‘to speak’, which is from múthos, ‘a tale, myth, speech’; ‘to speak kindly, soothingly, to comfort or pacify’;
  • ‘to encourage with the accusative of person expressed or implied; ‘to console, comfort, with the accusative of person stated’;
  • μαρτυρόμενοι - “charged” [2:11], present middle or passive participle, ‘to bear witness, testify’; ‘to insist on, urge’;
  • The strongest participle of the three, since it suggests the idea of insisting or requiring that a certain course of action be adopted, as to making an emphatic demand: ‘to implore’, ‘to urge’: “charging you…” [2:11].

c.        The Goal of the Father

                                                                                                         i.            A Present Life Devoted to God

The goal of Paul’s fatherly role: “that you should walk worthy of God…” [2:11].

  • περιπατεῖν - “walk” [2:12], present active infinitive, from perí, ‘about’, and patéō, ‘to walk’; ‘to tread or walk about, generally to walk’;
  • ἀξίως - “worthy” [2:12], ‘in a worthy way or manner’; ‘honouring’; ‘well-pleasing’;

                                                                                                       ii.            a Focus on the Coming Kingdom

The life of the kingdom of God: “who has called you unto his kingdom…” [2:12].

  • καλοῦντος - “called you” [2:12], present active participle, ‘to call, summon’; ‘to call to a task’;
  • εἰς - “unto” [2:12], motion towards and into’;
  • βασιλείαν - “kingdom” [2:12], ‘area ruled by a king’;
  • δόξαν - “glory” [2:12], ‘opinion’; ‘praise, honour, radiance’;
  • τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν -

d.       The Love Of God

The fatherly characteristics of the love of God:

  • The church is has God as its Father: “the church which is in God the Father…” [1:1].
  • The believers know God as their Father: “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” [Gal.4:6].
  • The Father chastens through teaching, wondrous works, and the rod: “If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?” [Heb.12:7].


The three participles together summarise the exhortation, persuasion, and insistence with which the apostolic team delivered the moral instruction to each one of the members of this church.

  • The goal is to adopt the Christian way of life which he described and exhibited to them.

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