Monday, September 21, 2015

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

You can read the text here.

We continue with Paul's narrative about the nature of his ministry and visit to Thessalonica. It was a ministry filled with courage. That's what enabled Paul to continue on with his preaching of the gospel. Preaching that was fruitful as evidenced by the Thessalonian faithful. His ministry met with opposition while he was at Thessalonica, and probably did after he left.[1]

He wasn't a charlatan like some peddlers of philosophy of his day. What gave Paul courage to preach was not a desire for gain or glory but the status of the one whom he served as messenger. It was God whom Paul sought to please. Paul's status as appointed messenger of the divine king gave him rights to money, but Paul disavowed this right because he wanted to distance himself from the likes of those to whom he was being compared after he left.

Paul's motives were simple and innocent like a baby[2] and he was full of motherly concern and love. This drove Paul not only to share the gospel of King Jesus but also to do so sacrificially, making himself vulnerable to further their best interests. Paul (and possibly his coworkers) worked while they were in Thessalonica so that they would not need to receive money from the Thessalonians. And further, like a good father,[3] Paul taught the Thessalonians good philosophy,[4] a life appropriate for citizenship in the kingdom of God.

Paul mentions a second time how grateful he is for the way the Thessalonians responded to his message. They recognized his God given authority and treated his words as if they had come from God himself, which, of course, they had since Paul was his authorized representative.

Of course the Thessalonians weren't alone in following Jesus as their king, and it had repercussions. The churches in Judea were experiencing persecution at the hands of some of their own countrymen[5] just like the Thessalonians had. It was part of a pattern in Judea. These opponents of the Jesus followers had opposed Jesus and other Christian leaders[6] before persecuting Paul among others. Their day of judgment was upon them, presumably as it would be on those who were hindering the Thessalonians.[7] The implication, presumably, was that the Thessalonians had nothing to fear but just needed to rely on their king to defend them.[8]

[1] I agree with Fee that there was continued opposition to Paul and slander levied against him after he left Thessalonica.

[2] Fee has made a definitive case for infant over gentle in 7a.

[3] The choice of father over parent or mother isn't necessarily patriarchal in my opinion. A father should fulfill this role in his family, just as a mother should too.

[4] Against Fee a bit here. Paul isn't casting himself as a philosopher as Malherbe notes, but Paul's aims were still the aims of a typical philosopher and the utilization of philosophical language throughout this section is more than just a vehicle for the message.

[5] As noted in all three commentaries, the comma at the end of verse 14 is incorrect, devastatingly so.

[6] Again I think Fee makes a strong case for understanding prophets as Christian prophets based on the grammar of the sentence.

[7] Malherbe believes the opposition was ostracization, which seems plausible.

[8] See Gaventa for a helpful discussion of anti-Semetism and how this passage can be taught in today's church.