Paul continues his discussion of the circumstances in which he initially engaged with the Thessalonican church. They came from Philippi where they indeed were treated rough (brought in front of the town leaders, jailed, etc.) but they also had great success with the conversion of the jailer, the casting of the demon out of the little girl, and hanging out with the ladies of Philippi (all documented in Acts 16.) Even so, despite the risk of landing in more trouble when they arrived, Paul and the bros still spread the true good news to the Thess. church. Paul and the bros work for God, their job is to spread good news even knowing men can and will react poorly to it at times. In that perspective, it certainly wasn’t to their benefit, they were doing so, in fact at a personal risk, yet they continued. And even though they carried with them important work and could have asked for special treatment, they did not, but instead were freely giving of their time and wisdom and service.
Paul also reasserts the context of their behavior among the Thess. church, being blameless, righteous, holy, etc. and how they encouraged them to “…walk in a manner worthy of God”. Again, actions set the context for the words. Tighten up on your job, homey.
And Paul is excited that the Thess. church received all of this so well and saw it for what it was, not just a competing claim among men, but good news from the true God. That said, not everyone reacted that same way, as just in Judea, the Jews did not take kindly to this Christian movement and caused trouble for those bringing that good news in. Details in Acts 17, but basically Paul and the bros hung out in Thess. for 3 weeks, Gentiles, Greeks and ladies were brought to Jesus, Jews got upset and accused them of proclaiming a king other than Caesar. Ultimately, they paid off the town leaders and were let go. (Holy bribery? Indeed.)
Paul doesn’t mince words here, the Jews (keep in context, these are God’s people) are responsible for killing Jesus and the prophets, chucked Jesus’ followers, displeased God and have attempted to hinder that which is to the benefit of all mankind – that’s quite a laundry list of poor behavior. In response, Paul says God’s wrath has come upon them at last. Given when this was written, this could be referring to a relatively recent famine in Jerusalem or other poor treatment of them by the Romans. However, it’s also written in such a way where this could be something that is yet to happen but is so certain it can be spoken of in the present tense.
Then the discussion shifts as Paul tries to describe why he has not yet returned to them even though he wanted to. Paul does reveal himself as the author of the letter in this section. Even though they wanted to come back it seems that Satan hindered them (not exactly sure what the deal was or why this was attributed to Satan as opposed to sinful humans, manhandling Jews, sickness, or whatever else he has expressed issues with in other letters.)
Don’t miss the last sentence here, which points out that what they expect to show Jesus at his return, the thing that will show that they have been faithful, is the faith of others through their work. Whatever our aims in life as Christians, if it doesn’t include this understanding of what Jesus values, it will fall short of fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives.
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