Before we begin on 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20, we must revisit 1:5ff and Isaiah 55, see here. God sends forth His word, it is not we who send it out. God’s power, not our persuasiveness or suave speech. The word does not perform because of me and my purpose and my ability in proclamation–but The Word performs its work, the Word in His Power sent out by Him will never be in vain, will never be fruitless.
Vs 13, for this reason we also constantly thank God: that you received the Word as the Word of God which is, as Hebrews puts it–alive and active. Men’s words are not omnipotent–but when God sends out His word it is always full of power, able to perform its work in us.
As mentioned in the first couple weeks–this book is especially important apologetically. The first NT book written! And the testimony given here in this chapter helped guide the early church fathers as they agreed upon which writings were “Scripture” and which were not.
One other test for canonicity was the “dynamic nature of the book.” Was it recognizably changing the lives of hearers? Spend some time writing out and pondering: Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:23 & 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14. These are worthy of memorization!
For you became imitators
That word again! They imitated the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. They endured similar sufferings at the hands of their own countrymen. Remember, Acts 15-18? They learned from the faith and actions of others.
May we do likewise. Read biographies, share struggles, share your story, listen to others’ stories…You are not the only one going through this, whatever the struggle may be.
The countryman causing the suffering, they are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men…if we think broadly, there are two types of people in the world: sheep and goats; those who are pleasing to God and those who are not even able to be… Read and reflect on Romans 8:1-9.
Vs 16 These countryman were also “hindering us from speaking.” Let us understand this and vs 18 at once. Satan hindered Paul traveling back to them; these people hindered Paul. Which is it? Are these separate occasions? Most likely not. How did Satan tempt Adam? And so it is in many cases.
The work of hindering can be attributed to both Satan, and these people who are not pleasing to God. They have filled up the measure of their sins by their own actions. (see Isaiah 30:1 and Genesis 15:16) They continue to do what they naturally want to, no one makes them, they act according to their own evil conscience (see how this is used in Hebrews 9-10) and evil desires.
Vs 17 But we, taken away for a short while but not in spirit. Not in heart. Not in thought. No inwardly. Inwardly, we are united in Christ. We remember, we pray, we love, we think. Our “thoughts and prayers” seem meaningless to the world–but are they? No, beloved; God has ordained to draw us into His kingdom work, ushers us into prayer (helping us by His indwelling Spirit), and works through our prayers. He is powerful, and loves to hear and answer prayers.
Fellowship As It Ought to Be
Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were eager to see them face to face. Their affection and desire was to be with them. Is this not interesting–Paul did not have one town to live in at this point. He traveled a lot, and in each place we see him imparting his life, we see tender affections. What happened when he told the Ephesian church he’d not see them again (he knew what awaited him as he traveled toward Rome)? Yet, he can say honestly that he’d “been taken away from them” and was still with them in heart/mind, and they were his joy and crown, his hope, his glory… cf Phil 4:1
Remember, back to 2:5? no hidden agenda, no pretext for greed or flattering speech? This touches on their motives: you are our joy and our crown, we don’t need the passing treasures of the world, we have you! We have one another, and all the treasure we are storing up in heaven. Our eternal family is our motivation, our desire, our reward. What could earthly greed do for our Spirit-awakened desires?!
Who is our hope? You expect to hear “Jesus!” But “you are our hope.” Or, our hope is shared, and you being in our eternal home is part of our hope. Corporate hope!
“To anticipate with pleasure, expectation, confidence”
You, in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming! His Advent! This book constantly talks about our hope, and His coming again, each chapter. Chapter one says they “wait for His Son from heaven.” Here, we see Paul’s attention fixed on Jesus’ coming back, or coming again. Coming = Advent, the first use of this word in the New Testament.
Who is our crown of exultation? Enthusiasm! Paul is talking here about exulting, much like Romans 5. Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and these Thessalonian believers were genuinely enthusiastic about Christ’s return. This was predominant in their thinking and feeling, daily. And true to form, Paul is not only thinking “me and Jesus!!!” he is thinking “all of us, together, at Christ’s Advent!!!” cf 2 Cor 4
Not only this, Paul was looking forward to the day when he heard “well done, good and faithful servant!” knowing he was reaping a harvest, heaping up treasures in heaven. These brethren were dear to him, and represented all that would join him on judgment day, when he would sit before the judgment seat of Christ.
Paul seems to keep connected Christ’s Advent, His bringing home the saints, and his own receiving of rewards and therefore the judgment seat. We cannot look here for a “timeline” which Western minds are prone to desire. It is not for us to know times and epochs, so do not impose one here or elsewhere.
This will come up later with our conversation about sanctification–the intense desire for Christ’s coming was matched by the intense hatred of ungodliness and worldly desires (cf Titus 2). The goal of salvation was never this-worldly, and so this epistle reminds us constantly of the role of hope–and the true ‘end game’ of our salvation.
According to Geerhardus Vos, it was the depressive power of sin that brought Paul to think often of the glory of eschatalogical deliverance. Our hope means final deliverance from every struggle! So, “Come, Lord Jesus!” should not be a rare cry from our lips. We, corporately, must delight in our true hope!
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