Wenstrom Bible Ministries; Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom; Sunday, December 2, 2018; www.wenstrom.org
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 by no means 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. 3 For our appeal was absolutely never from error, nor motivated by impurity nor by means of deception. (My translation)
1 Thessalonians 2:3 presents the reason for the previous assertions in 1 Thessalonians 2:2.
The latter states that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy courageously communicated the one and only gospel originating from the one and only God in the presence of the Thessalonians by means of God’s power in the face of great opposition.
Now, 1 Thessalonians 2:3 reveals that the appeal made by these three men never originated from error nor was it motivated by moral impurity nor was it by means of deception.
Therefore, these two verses teach that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy courageously communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians by means of God’s power in the face of great opposition because their appeal never originated from error, nor was it motivated by moral impurity nor by means of deception.
“Our appeal” is a reference to the act of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicating the gospel to the Thessalonians in the sense that they urged or were appealing to them to respond by faith to the gospel.
This appeal is used with reference to the content of teaching which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicated to the Thessalonians when they were unregenerate. T
his teaching asserts that Christ died and rose from the dead for them and that through faith in Him they could receive the gift of salvation, 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.
This teaching asserts 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 by faith they can experience victory over or deliverance from 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).
“Error” (planē) does not mean “deception, deceit” referring to an assertion or assertions known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive emphasizing the manner in which Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians.
But rather, the word means “error” referring to the content of the message they communicated to the Thessalonians in the sense that the doctrine they taught the Thessalonians was not false but rather the truth.
“Impurity” (akatharsia) refers to impure motivation since the word pertains to the state of moral impurity is related to greed and approbation from people.
It does not refer to moral impurity as related to sexual sins such as pre-marital sex (Gen. 1:18-24; 1 Cor. 7:2), adultery (1 Sam. 21:5), rape (Gen. 34:5), homosexuality (Lev. 18:20), and other sexual deviations (Lev. 18:6-30).
But rather, it refers to moral impurity is related to money and glory.
This is indicated by the statements which appear in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-6.
Verse 5 asserts Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy did not use words to flatter nor were they motivated by greed while verse 6 states that they did not seek glory or approbation from people.
“Deception” (dolos) literally is a “bait” for fish and from that, it means, “to deceive by using trickery and falsehood” referring to any form of “treachery” or “deception.”
It describes a person’s deliberate attempt to mislead, trick, or “bait” or “entrap” people with lies and is a desire to gain an advantage or preserve a position by deceiving others.
So, therefore, 1 Thessalonians 2:3 contains a three-fold description of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy courageously communicating the gospel in the presence of the Thessalonians.
This act is described in this verse as their appeal.
The first asserts that they absolutely never communicated the gospel to them from an error which means they spoke truth rather than falsehood.
The second asserts that they absolutely never communicated the gospel motivated by moral impurity in the sense they absolutely never did so out of greed or a desire to gain the approbation from people.
The third description asserts that Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy absolutely never communicated the gospel by means of deception in the sense that they never deliberately attempted to mislead or trick them with lies from a desire to gain an advantage over them.
Thus, we can see that the first description is describing the content of their message to the Thessalonians.
The second is describing their motivation for communicating the gospel to them.
Lastly, the third is describing their method or the means by which they communicated the gospel to the Thessalonians.
Some commentators like Wanamaker and Witherington believe that Paul is contrasting his conduct with that of the popular rhetors and philosophers of his day.
Ben Witherington writes “The social background here is that Paul is contrasting his behavior with that of the ‘many wandering charlatans [who] made their way about the Greek world, peddling their religious or philosophical nostrums and living at the expense of their devotees (like Lucian’s false prophet Alexander).’ As Wanamaker rightly stresses, these verses do not indicate specific ‘opponents’ or Christian competitors in Thessalonike but rather have a rhetorical function. Paul is simply contrasting his own motives and practice with that of popular rhetors and philosophers and hucksters of that era and realm (cf. Dio Chrysostom, Oratio32:7–10; Lucian, De morte Peregrini 13).[2,3]
However, I am of the conviction that Paul is not contrasting his conduct with that of the popular hucksters or philosophers of his day but rather that he is responding to the slanderous attacks waged against him and Silvanus by the unregenerate Jews in Thessalonica.
This is indicated by the contents of Acts 17:1-11 and 1 Thessalonians.
Notice that in both, Paul asserts that he was persecuted by the unregenerate Jews in Thessalonica.
Thus, it is more likely that in 1 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul is responding to slanderous verbal attacks made against him, Silvanus, and Timothy by these unregenerate Jews in Thessalonica.
They were also responding to slanderous made against them by non-believing Gentiles in Thessalonica since the Thessalonian Christian communities were Gentiles and their conversion to Christianity was considered a threat to society by non-believing Gentiles.
1 Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, p. 26. See also A. Malherbe, “Gentle as a Nurse: The Cynic Background to 1 Thess. 2,” NovT (1970): 203–17. The important thing to note is that Paul is contrasting himself with such people, not comparing himself with them in a positive way.
2 Wanamaker, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, pp. 93–94.
3 Witherington, B., III. (2006). 1 and 2 Thessalonians: a socio-rhetorical commentary (p. 78). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing