1 Thessalonians 2:7b-13


Evidently this text was chosen for one of the closing Sundays in the Pentecost season because of the words: "Kingdom and Glory" in verse 12. The text tells us that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy (see 1:1) worked tirelessly and affectionately among the Thessalonians for one purpose only: to lead them to everlasting life.

The preacher might well examine his own ministry here. Paul looked for no earthly gain from his parishioners. He gave his very self so that they might walk worthily of God and thus attain to everlasting life. The reading suggests that we begin at verse 8. Our notes begin in the middle of verse 7 because there we have the beginning of a sentence.

1 Thessalonians 2:7 (but we were gentle among you,) like a mother caring for her little children.

"But we (Paul, Silvanus, Timothy) were gentle in your midst as when a nurse cherishes her very own children."  If one reads according to Greek text found in Nestle 25 it means:  "But we were gentle in your midst as when a nurse cherishes her very own children."  But if we read according to Nestle 26 it means:  "But we were children (lowly) in your midst"  etc. In any case the point is clear. If a mother (or wet nurse) plays her part correctly there is a tender and gentle relationship toward the children. We have a subjunctive construction here (as whenever) because we are dealing with a general truth, applicable to all ages.

1 Thessalonians 2:8 We loved you so much that 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.

It means  "to have a kindly feeling, to long for someone."  Therefore we understand it like this:  "thus in our longing for you we were well-pleased." 

Paul, Silvanus and Timothy threw their very selves into their work for the Thessalonians.  "Because . . . you were beloved to us." 

Lenski: Here we have the true missionary, pastoral, and Christian spirit: voluntary and happy desire to bestow the divine Gospel and all the love in our souls upon others.
Morris: Much of our service is of that tepid sort which keeps our innermost self to ourself. It is still true that vital Christian service is costly.

But if a pastor gently nourishes his parishioners as a mother or wet nurse nourishes her children, he is doing what God wants him to do, despite the fact that none of us is sinless. True parishioners do not expect you to be sinless. In fact they appreciate very much a penitent pastor such as was Paul. See 1 Timothy 1: 12-17.

1 Thessalonians 2:9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

"Surely" is explanatory or epexegetical. "For you recall."  "Brothers" is one of Paul's favorite terms of address. It covers both men and women. That's why in a former generation we translated this with "brethren," including both men and women. The object of the verb is  "our toil and hard labor."  The two words are practically synonyms but Paul uses two words for emphasis.

The punctuation after "hardship" is the semi-colon. The semi-colon is used when two coordinate clauses are very closely connected in thought. Note that the second clause is explanatory of the first.

Look at 1 Corinthians 4:12; Acts 18:3 and Acts 20:34. We know that Paul was a tent maker by trade. The commentators tells us that this means he worked in leather. Why were they (Paul, Silvanus, Timothy) working?  "So as not to burden any of you."  But the main work was the preaching.

"Preached" means to announce, to herald. It was not Paul's message. He was only the bearer of God's message. In those early days of Christianity the heralds had to qualify the word as "the Gospel of God", the good news.

Paul is not denying that "the laborer is worthy of his wages."  But there were many heathen charlatans and false philosophers who went about lecturing for high fees. Read the first six verses of this chapter.

1 Thessalonians 2:10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.

Note emphatic "you Christians at Thessalonica." Not only they but even God was Paul's, Silvanus' and Timothy's witnesses. They could attest to the character of these missionaries. God and the Thessalonians could attest to what is now mentioned.

We have three adverbs.  "Holy" denotes their separation from and dominion over sin.  "Righteous" denotes their righteous living.  "Blameless" stresses their life which was without offense and reproach.

1 Thessalonians 2:11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,

"For you know" equates verse 10 with verses 11 and 12. Or, we might say, verses 11 and 12 would not have been possible without the essence of verse 10. They did what they did because of what they were.

We give our own translation:  "Just as you know that, as a father (toward) his children, (we were) exhorting, encouraging and charging each one of you so that you lived worthy of God Who calls you into His very own Kingdom and Glory."  In verse 7 we had the tenderness of a (motherly) wet nurse. In that spirit they received the Gospel and the intense love of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. In verse 11 we have the figure of a father who exhorts, encourages and orders his children so that they live a life which is worthy of the father. Paul was concerned about the individual. Cf. 5:11. Here, in 2:11, we have the concern of the Apostles for the life of Christians.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

"To live lives" is sometimes translated "to walk."  "Worthy" literally means "of equal weight."  The living should be "of equal weight" to the will of God.

For the next verb, if we read the present tense the meaning is "who converted you and preserves you in the faith."  If we read the aorist it means "who converted you." 

The final words of this verse mean: "for (or 'into') His very own Kingdom and Glory."  "Kingdom" here means the same as in "Thy Kingdom come."  It is the active reality of believers already in this life. But that Kingdom is eternal. It will enter God's very own Glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

Paul puts this writer to shame when it comes to thankfulness.  "When you received the heard Word from us, of which Word God is the Author, you welcomed not the Word of (mere) men, but, just as it truly is, the Word of God."  Paul, Silvanus and Timothy were constantly thankful for several reasons:

  1. The Thessalonians received the Word. They did not argue or rationalize;

  2. They welcomed the Word. They were not skeptical;

  3. They recognized it as the Word of God, not that of men;

  4.  "which (Word) works mightily in you who are believers." 

Lutherans insist that God's Word is truly a means of grace. That is unmistakably clear here. Law and Gospel work mightily in the believer. Believers have no doubt that the Bible is inspired of God and is truly beneficial, 2 Timothy 3:16.

There are many (learned) scholars today who cannot subscribe to this verse There are many nominal Christians (?) who feed on the husks of these great (?) scholars. Paul and his helpers are model pastors for us. And the Thessalonian Christians are model laymen for us.

Today is the third last Sunday in the church year. We ask ourselves: "Does this text describe our congregation and its people? Are we leading our people into the eternal Kingdom, verse 12?" 


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1984, pp. 94-96. Used with permission.

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