Wenstrom Bible Ministries; Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom; Sunday, November 25, 2018; www.wenstrom.org
1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, about our coming to you—it has not proven to be purposeless. 2:2 But although we suffered earlier and were mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of much opposition. (NET)
1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves in contrast to those who oppose us, possess the conviction brothers and sisters that our reception which was among all of you is absolutely not characterized as being without results. 2 But in fact, although we previously suffered, yes, we were verbally and physically abused in Philippi as each one of you are well aware of, for our benefit we courageously communicated the one and only gospel originating from the one and only God (the Father) in the presence of each of you by means of our God’s (the Spirit) power in the face of great opposition. (My translation)
In our study of 1 Thessalonians 2:1, we noted that this verse states that the Thessalonian Christian community possessed the conviction that their reception of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy was by no means characterized as being without results.
It is not saying that the work of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy was in vain or without results but rather the Thessalonians’ positive response to the gospel message communicated to them by these three men was not in vain or without results.
It was not in vain because the message they believed was from God as evidence by the godly conduct of these three men and their transformed lives.
The godly behavior of these three men which is the subject of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16 demonstrated that the Thessalonians’ positive response to the gospel was not in vain or without results since it demonstrated that the message they received by faith was indeed from God and not from the devil.
Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 2:2 presents an emphatic addition and contrast with the assertions in 1 Thessalonians 2:1.
The former asserts that although Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy suffered undeservedly and specifically were physical and verbally abused in Philippi prior to arriving in Thessalonica, they also courageously communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians in the face of great opposition.
Verse 2 is expressing in emphatic terms that in addition to the Thessalonians’ positive response to the gospel message communicated to them by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy not being without results, these three men also communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians courageously in the midst of great opposition even though they had already suffered and specifically, were verbally and physically abused doing the same thing in Philippi.
Therefore, the emphatic contrast is between the positive results of the Thessalonians receiving by faith the gospel message communicated to them by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, and the undeserved suffering and specifically, the verbal and physical abuse these three men experienced while communicating the gospel in Philippi and Thessalonica.
“Philippi” refers to an important Roman city and colony in the province of Macedonia and was located about nine miles from the Aegean coast and the local port of Neapolis and approximately 80 miles northeast of Thessalonica.
Wanamaker writes “According to Acts 16:19–24, 35–39 they were publicly humiliated by being beaten with rods despite their being Roman citizens and were then thrown into jail by the magistrates at Philippi.”
“The one and only gospel” is translating the articular form of the noun euangelion, which is expressing a monadic idea that indicates that this gospel is one of a kind or unique in the sense that this gospel is unique to God.
The Roman Emperor proclaimed his gospel in the first century A.D. but the articular form of this word is indicating that the gospel proclaimed by Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy is the only true gospel.
This word is used with reference to the content of teaching which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicated to the Thessalonians when they were unregenerate.
It asserts that Christ died and rose from the dead for them and that through faith in Him they could receive the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.
Secondly, it also refers to these three men communicating the gospel or the good news to the Thessalonians after their conversion or justification that they were identified with Christ in His death and resurrection.
This good news also means that by the Thessalonians appropriating this identification with Christ they can experience victory over sin and Satan.
Lastly, the reference to the gospel also speaks of the good news that the Thessalonians will receive rewards from the Lord Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat for faithful service (cf. Col. 1:5, 23).
This reference to Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy being verbally and physically abused in Philippi speaks of these men evangelizing this city during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22).
The church in Philippi was established by these men just prior to establishing the church in Thessalonica.
Philippi was the first church established in Europe.
Acts 16 records the account of these men evangelizing the city.
Now, 1 Thessalonians 2:2 is a concessive clause that makes two assertions.
The first states that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy suffered undeservedly prior to their visit to Thessalonica, and specifically, were verbally and physically abused, which the Thessalonians were well aware of.
The second states that these men courageously communicated the gospel originating from God in the presence of the Thessalonians by means of God’s power in the face of great opposition.
The idea behind this concessive clause is that it was true that these men proclaimed the gospel courageously to the Thessalonians despite the fact that they suffered and were even verbally and physically abused for proclaiming the gospel in Philippi prior to their visit to the Thessalonica.
The prepositional phrase en tō theō hēmōn (ἐν τῷθ εῷἡμῶν), which the ESV translates “in our God,” should instead be translated “by means of God’s power” and the reference to God is speaking of the Spirit and not the Father.
This interpretation of this prepositional phrase is indicated by the verb parrēsiazomai in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 and the content of 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
The former refers to Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy proclaiming the gospel courageously to the Thessalonians.
The latter asserts that these three men possessed the conviction that their proclamation of the gospel was by no means manifested by the act of speaking only but on the contrary by means of power as well and specifically the Holy Spirit’s power as well as with deep conviction.
Therefore, since 1 Thessalonians 1:5 asserts that these three men communicated the gospel by means of the Holy Spirit’s power and 1 Thessalonians 2:2 is also speaking of these men communicating the gospel, the prepositional phrase en tōtheō hēmōn (ἐν τῷθεῷ ἡμῶν) in the latter should be interpreted as Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicating the gospel by the power of the Spirit.
Thus, the reference to God in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 refers to the Holy Spirit.
Also, the word contains the figure of metonymy which means that God the Holy Spirit is put for His power, which was the means by which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians.
Therefore, this prepositional phrase is teaching that these three men communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians courageously “by means of” the Spirit’s power.
When 1 Thessalonians 2:2 speaks of these men experiencing suffering, verbal and physical abuse, and great opposition, they are a reference to the persecution that they experienced while communicating the gospel to the Thessalonians, which was undeserved suffering.
Notice, this author translates the participle form of the verb parresiazomai, “for our benefit we courageously” and in particular the phrase “for our benefit,” which is this author’s interpretation of the middle voice of this verb, which is an indirect middle.
This means that the subject acts by himself or herself or in his or her own interest.
The subject shows a special interest in the action of the verb.
Therefore, this is expressing the idea that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy acted for their own benefit by communicating boldly and fearlessly the gospel originating from God to the Thessalonians by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It would benefit them because they would receive rewards at the Bema Seat for doing so (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
One of the major themes of First Thessalonians is persecution since 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 and 2:1-16 reveal that both Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy as well as the Thessalonian Christian community experienced persecution.
Now, when 1 Thessalonians 2:2 mentions that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy experienced “great opposition,” it is speaking of the opposition Paul, Silvanus and Timothy experienced at the hands of hostile unregenerate Jews in Thessalonica for proclaiming the gospel to both Jew and Gentile in this city. This is indicated clearly by the contents of Acts 17:1-9 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.
1 Wanamaker, C. A. (1990). The Epistles to the Thessalonians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 92). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.