The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Thessalonians

1 2 3 4 5

1 Thessalonians 2

1Th 2:1

Vv 1-12: Paul's defense of his preaching.

Vv 1-4: His visit.

OUR VISIT TO YOU WAS NOT A FAILURE: The word "kere" literally means "empty." It is often used of work or effort that is futile, useless, or ineffectual (1Co 15:10,58; Mark 12:3; Luke 20:10). Paul uses a similar word in 1Th 3:5 and Phi 2:16; in contexts which speak of work. Far from being ineffective or useless, Paul's preaching of the gospel had been "in power" (1Th 1:5), converting many in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4).

1Th 2:2

WE HAD PREVIOUSLY SUFFERED AND BEEN INSULTED IN PHILIPPI: The experiences of Paul and Silas at Philippi, where they were stripped and beaten and imprisoned, would have been well known to the Thessalonian brethren. Paul and Silas had come directly to Thessalonica from Philippi, with their backs still bearing the marks of beating (Acts 16:23). The public degradation the apostles received would have been considered particularly insulting to a Roman citizen such as Paul, who should have been immune from such treatment.

WE DARED TO TELL YOU: The word is especially used of speaking out in boldness and openness. It describes the confidence with which a believer may come into the presence of God (Heb 4:16; 10:19; 1Jo 3:21), and the confidence with which he may openly preach the gospel (Acts 9:27; 18:26; Phi 1:20; Eph 6:19).

HIS GOSPEL: This does not just mean the gospel or good news about God; it points to God as the Author of the gospel (cp vv 8,9; Rom 1:1; 15:16; 2Co 11:7).

IN SPITE OF STRONG OPPOSITION: The confidence Paul derived from his faith in God was very necessary, since contention and conflict dogged his steps. The word "agon" (from which we get the English "agony") is an athletic and a military word. It is not a token opposition, not a "going through the motions", but a very real struggle, a life-or-death battle. It is used, for example, in 1Ti 6:12 and 2Ti 4:7 of fighting the good fight of faith, and that is no half-hearted fight. Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that the opposition he had faced had been intense, and his preaching had not been easy. How, in the face of this evidence, could anyone believe that he had only preached for what he could get out of it personally (vv 3.4)?

1Th 2:3

THE APPEAL WE MAKE DOES NOT SPRING FROM ERROR: The same word is translated "delusion" in 2Th 2:11 and "error" in 1Jo 4:6. Paul's enemies (in this case they must have been Jews) were saying that Paul simply did not know what he was talking about; his interpretations of the Old Testament scriptures were the words of men, not the words of God (1Th 2:13).

IMPURE MOTIVES: "Akatharsis" literally means "unclean" or "impure." This word is often associated with sexual sins (Rom 1:24; 2Co 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5). But it is difficult to imagine this is one of the charges laid against Paul, since nowhere else is such a thing even hinted at. Two other possibilities: (1) "Impure motives" (as NIV translates) -- ie, greed, pride, covetousness; or (2) Ritual impurities -- as in Jewish food laws (cp v 10 -- where Paul speaks of living "holily" and "unblameably").

NOR ARE WE TRYING TO TRICK YOU: Ct the approach of the unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-8). "Dolos", elsewhere translated "subtlety" (Mat 26:4; Acts 13:10; 2Co 4:2). We know that this was a favorite charge against Paul: "I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by guile ('dolos')" (2Co 12:16, RSV). His enemies were fond of telling his followers that Paul was only after their money (1Th 2:5-9).

1Th 2:4

WE WERE NOT TRYING TO PLEASE MEN: Paul consistently shows a total disregard for men's opinions (1Co 4:3; Gal 1:10).

BUT GOD, WHO TESTS OUR HEARTS: A common OT idea (Psa 7:8,9; 139:23; Jer 11:20; 12:3; 17:10).

1Th 2:5

Vv 5-8: His behavior.

FLATTERY: The Greek is, if anything, stronger than the English. We may think of some forms of flattery as being essentially innocent, designed only to encourage the hearer, to make him feel good about himself. But the Greek term ("Kolakeias") has rather the idea of using fair words to deceive the hearer and gain one's own ends; it implies using lies and deceit as instruments of policy to bend others to one's own will. Paul was never guilty of such a vice, but spoke plainly and bluntly (2Co 10:10,11; 12:6).

TO COVER UP: That is, as a "cloak" (cp AV). The Heb "beged" (literally, garment) also means, figuratively, treachery or greed. Here is an example of Paul thinking in Hebrew and writing in Greek. As a loose-fitting cloak may conceal a sword, so a plausible pretext -- though perhaps even true in itself -- may conceal the real, and less worthy, motive for some action.

GREED: Gr "pleonexia" means "the desire to have more." In the NT it is always used in a bad sense, and is connected with materialism (Luke 12:15; 2Pe 2:3), including the desire for money (2Co 9:5), and with sensuality (Eph 4:19; 5:3). It is on Christ's lengthy list of the evils that arise in men's hearts (Mark 7:22). Elsewhere Paul equates this "covetousness" or "greed" with idolatry (Col 3:5), because it exacts self-gratification to the highest position of worship. In 2Co 9:5; 12:17,18 Paul denies the charge of covetousness against himself and the other apostles in reference to the collection of the fund for the poor in Jerusalem.

GOD IS OUR WITNESS: Since only God Himself can search the hearts of men, and since covetousness is essentially a sin of the heart, Paul calls on God as witness that he has no such desires (cp Rom 1:9; 2Co 1:23; Phi 1:8).

The phrase is reminiscent of "Galeed", or "Jegar-sahadutha" ("the heap of witness"), in Gen 31:46-50 -- the solemn place which marked the border between the spiritual Jacob and the worldly Laban. So Paul's renunciation of covetousness is the point of demarcation between those who worship the one true God and those who make idols of their own unworthy desires.

1Th 2:6

WE WERE NOT LOOKING FOR PRAISE FROM MEN: To gain a reputation as successful preachers was not the aim of Paul and his associates. They did not look for praise from men (Rom 2:7; 1Co 4:5). They might well receive it, since they deserved it; but Paul's point is that they did not seek it: their motives were pure.

AS APOSTLES OF CHRIST WE COULD HAVE BEEN A BURDEN TO YOU: But Paul was not burdensome when he was in Thessalonica because of the generosity of the brethren and sisters at Philippi (Phi 4:16). The apostles could have expected, by virtue of their positions, to receive financial support (1Co 9:14; Gal 6:6). But Paul was determined to make no use of his right in this matter.

APOSTLES: "Apostles" ("apostoloi" = messenger -- in a very high sense, as ambassadors or envoys of the King) was the designation of the original twelve disciples of Christ (Luke 6.13). But others besides these came to be properly called apostles (Rom 16:7; cp 1Co 15:5-7, where "the twelve" are distinct from "all the apostles"). Among such were James the Lord's brother (Gal 1:19), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:14), and Silas (cp 1Th 1:1 with 1Th 2:6). Perhaps even the youthful Timothy can be counted among the number (same references), although almost certainly he had never seen the resurrected Lord, which Paul elsewhere seems to consider essential to apostleship (cp 1Co 15:8,9; Gal 1:15-17).

1Th 2:7

WE WERE GENTLE AMONG YOU, LIKE A MOTHER CARING FOR HER LITTLE CHILDREN: The word "nurse" describes any woman feeding a baby at her breast; in this case it is the mother herself, since Paul's phrase is "her own children." And the word "caring" ("thalpo") means to keep warm, as a mother bird covering her young with her feathers (Deu 22:6, LXX); it is also used of the love of Christ the husband for the ecclesia his bride (Eph 5:29).

Thus there is presented the lovely picture of a mother suckling her baby at the warmth of her breast.

How fascinating to think that Paul -- the learned Rabbi, the author of Romans and Ephesians, the wise and eloquent teacher of Mars Hill -- could yet have it in him to think of himself and his converts in this way!

GENTLE: For "gentle" some manuscripts have "babes", but this seems inappropriate, since Paul goes on immediately to speak of himself as "a mother" also! Furthermore, "gentle" is the perfect contrast with "burdensome" (v 6). The two words ("gentle" and "babes") are very similar in Greek ("epios" and "nepios"). Since the preceding word in the Greek text ends with this letter "n" it would have been very easy for a scribe to have carried over and repeated that letter at the beginning of the next word.

1Th 2:8

WE LOVED YOU SO MUCH: This is a very rare word, found only here in the NT; it is used in Job 3:21 (LXX) to mean "longing for." The conjecture of one exposition is that it is a term of endearment from the nursery, thus carrying forward the imagery of v 7: the cooing and whispering intimacies, the "baby-talk" of a mother with her own infant.

WE WERE DELIGHTED TO SHARE WITH YOU NOT ONLY THE GOSPEL OF GOD BUT OUR LIVES AS WELL, BECAUSE YOU HAD BECOME SO DEAR TO US: Still we may follow the imagery of v 7: the mother fondling the baby at her breast, and feeling her own life going out to it in her milk, to nourish it.

This, says Paul, is the only way to convey the gospel message to others: it must be given along with our own hearts and souls. It must be given with passion, with love, with life itself. How else could we attempt to preach the gospel of the God who "spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all" (Rom 8:32)? How else preach the gospel of Christ, "who gave himself for our sins" (Gal 1:4), who "poured out his soul unto death" (Isa 53:12)? In like manner Paul writes of himself: "If I be offered ('poured forth' -- mg, 'as a drink offering') upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all" (Phi 2:17). And also: "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you" (2Co 12:15).

1Th 2:9

Vv 9-12: His example.

OUR TOIL AND HARDSHIP: The two words also occur together in 2Co 11:27 and 2Th 3:8. The first ("kopos") (also in 1Th 1:3) is derived from the verb meaning "to strike", putting emphasis on the ideas of trouble and weariness. The second ("mochthos") conveys the idea of difficulty ("hardship": NIV) and even pain. The combination of the two words stresses that Paul's work was not a mere token performance, done for its impression upon others, but that it involved real effort.

It was the custom and teaching among the Jews that every boy must learn a trade, even those who were destined for scholarly pursuits or those from wealthy families. The rabbis taught that the father who did not teach his son a trade taught him to be a thief. We know from Acts 18:3 that Paul's occupation was that of "tent-maker" (the word may signify, more generally, a leather-worker).

1Th 2:10

YOU ARE WITNESSES: Cp vv 1,5,9,11. Paul was forced to bother about the criticisms of others -- not for himself personally, but so that his work might not be sabotaged.

HOW HOLY: The Greek "hosios" expressed an attitude of reverence towards God which affects a person's conduct.

RIGHTEOUS: The Greek "dikaios" means to give men what is due to them; to perform one's duties in a faultless manner. In different contexts this and related words give a far broader meaning -- that is, to be justified or made righteous, through the sin-covering atonement of Jesus Christ. Here, though, Paul seems to be speaking of the more simple, straightforward virtue.

BLAMELESS: The Greek is "amemptos", and refers to conduct which is free from any reasonable accusation. It occurs also in 1Th 3:13; 5:23.

1Th 2:11

FOR YOU KNOW THAT WE DEALT WITH EACH OF YOU AS A FATHER DEALS WITH HIS OWN CHILDREN: The same apostle who pictured himself as the loving and gentle "mother" (vv 7,8) now sees himself also as the "father" to the Thessalonian believers. Here is outlined, then, the best method for a father to bring up his children: a judicious combination of instruction, comfort, encouragement, consolation, and (not to be neglected!) serious teaching and even stern orders (see v 12 in NIV, v 11 in AV).

"What Paul did at Thessalonica, he did among the brethren everywhere else, of course; and, if he were with us, he would do the same thing here. He would charge us to 'walk worthy of God', and he would do it constantly. He would not be content to lay down our duty clearly at the start, and then go on, taking it for granted; he would 'harp' on the subject constantly. At least, this is what he did at Ephesus. His own testimony is this; 'Ye (Ephesians) know from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons... Therefore, watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears' (Act 20:18-31)" (SC 178).

1Th 2:12

ENCOURAGING: "Parakaleo" means literally to call by one's side, and therefore is sometimes translated by "comfort" and "encourage." In John's Gospel the noun form "Paraklete" ("the comforter") is used of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7), sent by Jesus to comfort and strengthen the apostles in his absence. This is the most general word for instruction given to believers (1Th 3:2,7: 4:1,10,18; 5:11,14).

COMFORTING: This uncommon word ("paramuthion") is similar to the preceding "parakaleo", and can convey the ideas of admonition and encouragement (1Th 5:14) and most especially consolation (John 11:19,31).

URGING: This word has the sense of making a solemn and emphatic affirmation, or even a demand or command.

HIS KINGDOM AND GLORY: Perhaps, better, "his glorious kingdom." The return of Christ and the establishment of God's kingdom are oft-repeated themes in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. Christ's coming is the rationale for every call to duty and every insistence upon holy living. The Kingdom will be the time and place for the manifestation of the visible radiance of God's majesty, through those who have been called out of the nations to be bearers of the Divine Glory (Rom 5:2; 8:18; 2Co 4:17; Col 1:12,13).

1Th 2:13

Vv 13-16: Fellowship in persecution.

WE ALSO THANK GOD... BECAUSE: To what does "because" refer? In other words, is Paul looking backward or forward? It is possible he is thanking God for the successful preaching of the gospel despite all difficulties, as described in vv 1-12. But it seems more likely that he is looking forward, and thanking God -- more to the point -- for the Thessalonians' reception of that preaching as the word of God (vv 13,14). The "also" presents a bit of a problem too. If this is to be understood as a second reason for Paul's giving thanks to God, it is scarcely distinguishable from the first reason (1Th 1:2-4). Perhaps Paul means "we also give thanks as we know you give thanks..."

CONTINUALLY: "Adialeiptos" ("continually": NIV) is unique to Paul in the New Testament, and is always used in connection with prayer and thanksgiving. Paul uses this word to describe the incessant sorrow, or pain of heart, he feels for his unbelieving countrymen (Rom 9:2). (This characteristic attitude of Paul towards his Jewish enemies must be remembered especially when reading such a passage as 1Th 2:13-16, where the apostle seems almost vindictive toward these same Jews. The same man can righteously pray continually for the salvation of his fellow countrymen and rejoice in God's coming judgments against them if they remain unrepentant.) Paul also uses "adialeiptos" in Rom 1:9; 2Ti 1:3; and 1Th 5:17, directly of prayer; and in 1Th 1:3 of his remembrance (in thanksgiving) of the faith and love of these same Thessalonians.

YOU ACCEPTED IT NOT AS THE WORD OF MEN, BUT AS IT ACTUALLY IS, THE WORD OF GOD: 'You didn't just take our word for it; you took it as God's word!' Paul was accustomed (as many preachers of the Word have been since) to having his message dismissed as man-made, merely something devised by himself: "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal 1:11,12). But to the Thessalonians Paul's words came with power and conviction (1Th 1:5,6), and they knew and believed that God was the source.

WHICH IS AT WORK IN YOU WHO BELIEVE: In this case it is precisely the "word" that works, not God. Or, more accurately, God works through His word. This idea of a word or a message having an active power (an "energizing" influence) of its own, is common in both the Old Testament and the NT: consider Isa 49:2; 55:10,11; Jer 23:29; Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12.

This personification of the word of God progressed to the final stage in the advent of Jesus, the word of God made flesh (John 1:14); in the NT the two ideas, of God's energizing word in us and of "Christ in us" (Rom 8:10; Eph 3.17; Col 1:27), become practically interchangeable. It is brought about by the spoken and written word of God, believed and acted upon.

IS AT WORK: The verb "energeo" is used mostly in the NT of the direct or indirect influence of God or His Spirit (1Co 12:6,11; Gal 2:8; 3:5; Eph 1:11,20; 3:20; Phi 2;13; Col 1:29), and also of the word of God (here) and the faith it produces (Gal 5:6). The word describes not so much the labor itself as the energizing power by which the labor is done. The believer does not go on "automatic pilot" when God comes into his life; he must still labor himself. But now he finds a new energy, a new strength, from God and His word to enable him to do things he would previously have considered impossible. Thus Paul can write without contradiction: " out your own salvation... for it is God which worketh in you" (Phi 2:12,13). [The labor ("katergazomoi"), the intensive effort is ours (v 12). But the energizing influence ("energeo"), the motivation and the power, comes from God (v 13). God and man have become "laborers together" (1Co 3:9; cp Eph 2:10).]

1Th 2:14

YOU, BROTHERS, BECAME IMITATORS OF GOD'S CHURCHES IN JUDEA: As in 1Th 1:6. In their endurance of persecution the Thessalonians had become imitators of the Judean ecclesias now being scattered abroad by their enemies (Acts 9:31). This implies more than a passive acceptance of suffering; the believers went forward to meet their sufferings with steadfast faith and courage, and rejoiced in this unique fellowship with their brethren in Israel.

It may be noted, incidentally, how favorably Paul speaks of the ecclesias in and around Jerusalem. This Paul is not the anti-Jewish schismatic that some modern scholars and critics would imply.

YOU SUFFERED FROM YOUR OWN COUNTRYMEN THE SAME THINGS THOSE CHURCHES SUFFERED FROM THE JEWS: "Countrymen" (Greek "symphyletes") means those of the same ethnic group, not the same geographical location. This would imply (as discussed elsewhere) that the Thessalonian church was predominantly Gentile (cp 1Th 1:9,10), and furthermore (despite the evidence of Acts 17:5-9) that their persecutors were likewise predominantly Gentile. It would have been thoroughly in character for Jewish enemies of the Truth to take the initiative in opposition, but then to shrewdly stand aside while certain base Gentile elements carried on what they had begun.

1Th 2:15

WHO KILLED THE LORD JESUS: Thus Paul reserves his most severe denunciations for the Jews, who were the instigators of the death of Jesus also (John 19:16) although Gentile hands were not altogether clean in the matter (Acts 4:25-28). By "Jews" (v 14) Paul would seem to have in mind (as did John generally in his gospel) the chief priests and rulers and other leaders of Israel. But the other men of Israel, wherever they lived, could scarcely escape all responsibility, as Peter makes plain on the day of Pentecost: "Ye men of Israel, ('out of every nation under heaven' -- v 5!)... ye have taken (Jesus), and by wicked hands have crucified and slain (him)" (Acts 2:22,23; cp v 36 also).

AND THE PROPHETS: The killing of Jesus was but the logical conclusion to the killing of those earlier prophets, who by their words and lives had foretold his coming. (So Stephen argued just before his own death -- Acts 7:52.) Such a thought was certainly behind the words of Jesus, who mourned over the city: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee" (Mat 23:37). "For it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem" (Luke 13:33). And he addressed the Jews again: "Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers..." (Luke 11:47,48).

So intent were the religious Jews upon preserving the traditions of their fathers that they fought tooth and nail against anything and anyone in any way different and challenging. This was also what their fathers had done when challenged by the prophets. Such inflexibility of mind renders men incapable of hearing the message of God, of examining themselves, and of repenting. Thus they cling to traditions that have the outward appearance of religion, but never come to grips with the "weightier matters." The same frame of mind that would slavishly revere dead prophets would just as easily kill contemporary prophets.

AND ALSO DROVE US OUT: Perhaps with special reference to the recent expulsion of Paul and his friends from Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-10) and then from Berea (vv 13,14).

THEY DISPLEASE GOD AND ARE HOSTILE TO ALL MEN: An exclamation: "How much they displease God! How contrary they are to all men!" The word "hostile" ("enantios") is commonly applied to the winds (Acts 27:4; Mark 6:48; Matt 14:24). It is used of the Jews as though their hatred of Jesus and his followers was an unreasoning force of nature.

1Th 2:16

IN THIS WAY THEY ALWAYS HEAP UP THEIR SINS TO THE LIMIT: Their cup of guilt (cp AV translation) was already well on the way to being filled, and their present conduct was continually raising the level toward the brim. This vivid figure of speech is found throughout Scripture. In the days of Abraham the promised inheritance of the land was held back for 400 years because "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" (Gen 15:16; cp Dan 8:23). But now, worse by far than those brutal, sensual Canaanites, these Jewish adversaries of their own God and their Lord Jesus are determined to fill up the measures of their iniquity in a tenth of the time: "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers... that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth... Verily I say unto you. All these things shall come upon this generation" (Mat 23:32,35,36).

In Biblical symbolism, the cup of sin when at last full (with the blood of God's people? -- Rev 6:11; 17:6) becomes a cup of punishment, from which the sinner must drink (Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15-28: 51:7; Eze 23: 31-34; Rev 14:10; 16:19; 17:4; 18:6).

THE WRATH OF GOD HAS COME UPON THEM AT LAST: The "wrath" is another allusion to Matthew's Gospel (of which 1Th has many), ie, the words of John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mat 3:7).

If the wrath is yet future when Paul writes (cp 1Th 1:10), why does he speak of it as happening in the past: "the wrath has come upon" (NIV)? There are two other Biblical instances of this same form of this verb ("phano epi" -- has come upon); in both of these (Mat 12.28; Luke 11:20) Jesus speaks of the coming of the Kingdom of God. In one sense, as Jesus expressed it, the "Kingdom" had come: he had brought it near in his person. In another sense, the Kingdom has not come even yet. And so it is equally true of the wrath of God: it is near and certain for those who do not repent, but it has not yet come upon them in actual fact.

Is this whole phrase a quotation of 2Ch 36:16?: "...but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy."

1Th 2:17

1Th 2:17--3:13: Paul's continuing concern.

Vv 17-20: Paul's desire to return.

WHEN WE WERE TORN AWAY FROM YOU: "Aporphanizo" is used only here in the NT. This graphic word (from which comes the English "orphan") combines the two aspects of physical separation and mental anguish. Paul's intense affection for the Thessalonians is manifested in an amazing mixture of metaphors: in this one chapter he is, by turns, "mother" (vv 7,8) and "father" (v 11) and now even an orphaned child!

FOR A SHORT TIME: Paul's concern for his friends was so great that only a very short time elapsed before he was making serious efforts to return to them.

IN PERSON, NOT IN THOUGHT: He hastens to explain that, though absent physically, he was still with them in heart and mind and spirit. As Moffatt puts it, "out of sight, not out of mind."

OUT OF OUR INTENSE LONGING WE MADE EVERY EFFORT TO SEE YOU: Practically every word in this phrase is a superlative. There is nothing of a "token" effort in Paul's love. He does not just "try" -- he struggles earnestly to see them! He does not just "desire" -- he greatly longs to be with them! (The word is "epithumia" -- a fierce passion, commonly translated "lust" and used in an evil sense.)

1Th 2:18

BUT SATAN STOPPED US: The agent that hinders Paul from returning he calls "Satan", the "adversary." One commentator writes of this verse: "It cannot be positively affirmed that Paul here means anything more than a personification of all that is opposed to God -- the hostility of wicked men, etc." And, plainly, that is the Satan/"adversary" that Paul has in mind: the Jewish and Gentile opposition to him in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-10), which had perhaps gone so far as to put a price on his head. It was not so much that Paul was afraid for his own safety -- the man who could write 2Co 11:23-29 was used to taking risks. The concern was predominantly for the Thessalonians themselves (maybe especially Jason?): their trials were severe already; Paul's presence in the city might so intensify their persecutors' anger against them that their lives would become absolutely unbearable. And of this Paul could not bear to think, he loved them so much.

The combination of Jewish-Roman opposition to Christianity, what Paul calls "Satan" in this verse, is alluded to again and described in much greater detail in 2Th 2:3-12 written, (or so it would seem) very shortly after the first letter. It seems evident that Paul had first in mind a system already in existence (2Th 2:7), as Acts 17:1-9 abundantly indicates.

1Th 2:19

THE CROWN IN WHICH WE WILL GLORY: The "crown" is "stephanos", the chaplet or coronal wreath awarded to the victor in the Olympic Games. The only "crown" in which Paul will glory or boast on the Day of Judgement will be the faithful of Thessalonica (and other cities -- cp Phi 4:1), whom he has brought to the gospel and nurtured along the Way. This thought is similar to that expressed by Paul in 1Co 3:14: "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward."

The "stephanos" is used in Scripture as a symbol of victory in the fight or race of life. To obtain that crown requires personal discipline (1Co 9:25), and respect for laws set down (2Ti 2:5). The "stephanos" is a wreath of "evergreens" in the truest sense; unlike the Olympic crown it will never fade away (1Pe 5:4). It relates to the future reward (2Ti 4:8; James 1:12); but it can be snatched away (Rev 3:11).

There is a crown of pride (Isa 28:3), which no one should wear. A crown of thorns (Mat 27:29), which no one can wear. And a crown of life (Jam 1:12), which everyone may wear. Also, an incorruptible crown (1Co 9:25), a crown of rejoicing (1Th 2:19), a crown of glory (1Pe 5:4), and a crown to be kept until Christ's coming (Rev 3:11).

WHEN HE COMES: See Lesson, "Parousia".

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