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Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V.

Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
1

B Be ei in ng g T Th ha an nk kf fu ul l f fo or r O Ot th he er rs s R Re ec ce ei iv vi in ng g t th he e G Go os sp pe el l a an nd d
E En nd du ur ri in ng g P Pe er rs se ec cu ut ti io on n
First Thessalonians 2:13-16
Expository Sermon Notes by Pastor Doug V. Heck


Introduction

1. The Vindication of Paul's Genuine Concern.
Evidently, the Apostle's enemies began to slander his
ministry, claiming that the missionary team of Paul,
Silas and Timothy didn't really care about the
Thessalonian believers.
1
In order to vindicate his
genuine concern for the Thessalonians, Paul reminded
them: first, how his concern was shown while they
were present at Thessalonica (vss. 1-12); and secondly,
how his concern was shown while they were absent
from Thessalonica (vss. 13-3:13). Whether absent or
present, Paul cared for them!

2. The Missionaries Concern Shown While Present
at Thessalonica. Paul vindicates of his genuine
concern as manifested while the missionaries
ministered at Thessalonica in three primary ways: the
first way he proved his concern, was by ministering
like a faithful steward, boldly sharing the whole truth of
the Gospel without compromise regardless of the
danger it would entail (vss. 1-4); the second way he
proved his concern, was by ministering like a
compassionate nurse, giving not only the Gospel but his
own soul, because of their compassion for them (vss.
5-8); and the third was he proved his concern, was by

1
Expository Sermon Notes are provided free of
charge to visitors for those interested in digging deeper into
the messages preached from the Grace Community Church
pulpit, picked up in the church foyer. These notes are
produced by Pastor Doug Heck, with documentation of
commentary sources. The translation is from the New King
James Version, with the Greek text being the Nestle-Aland,
27
th
Version. These notes can also be downloaded from the
church website. Greek front style might not load onto your
computer.
ministering like an ideal father, who worked to the
point of fatigue and endured suffering to get them the
Gospel, living upright lives among them, in order to
motivate them to walk worthy of God (vss. 9-12).

3. The Missionaries Concern Shown While Absent
from Thessalonica. The Apostle now goes on to
explain his actions while away from them.
2
His
genuine concern is seen first, because of his ongoing
thankfulness to God for them (vss. 13-16) and secondly,
because of his actions when he could not return to
them (vss. 14-3:13). The Apostle was thankful for their
acceptance of the Word of God (vs. 13) and for their
endurance under persecution (vss. 14-16).

Thanksgiving for Acceptance of the
Word of God

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing,
because, when ye received the word of God which
ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men,
but as it is in truth, the word of God, which
effectually worketh also in you that believe. (cf. 1
Thess. 2:13)

Kat eta eue sat .t, .u,atceu.i . ..
aeta.t:.,, e t :aaae i., e,ei ase, :a`
.i eu .eu .e.ac. eu e,ei ai.:.i aa


2
Implicit within 1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13 is the claim
of Paul's enemies that he didn't really care for them, because
when he was forced to leave town, he never came back. It is
probable that Paul planned a return visit (cf. 1 Thess. 2:18),
which didn't materialize. And this would give cause for
slanderous charges of his credibility.
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
2
sa. , .cti a., e,ei .eu, e , sat .i.,.tat
.i uti et, :tc.ueucti.

The Apostle returns (cf. 1 Thess. 1:4-6) to the theme
concerning the Thessalonians' reception of the Word
of God, not as a proof of their election (cf. 1:4) but to
explain a further reason for his thanksgiving for
them.
3
The cause of the thanksgiving Paul had just
mentioned (vss. 3-10), so now the Apostle gives the
content of the thanksgiving, i.e., because they received
the gospel as the Word of God. The transition from
verse 12 to this section is pointed out by Henry
Alford:

Seeing that He [God] is thus calling you, your
thorough reception of His word is to us a cause of
thanksgiving to Him.
4


The Apostle is not so much thanking God in prayer,
but expressing his constant feeling of gratitude to God
for their reception of the Word of God.
5
Both the
missionaries (i.e., Paul, Silvanus and Timothy) and the
Thessalonians themselves, have this feeling of
thankfulness for the reception of the Word of God.
6

The Thessalonians not only received (Greek,
paralabontes) the Word of God, which speaks of their
objective reception, but they "received" or welcomed
(Greek, edexasthe) the Word of God, which speaks of
their subjective acceptance.
7
The former verb speaks


3
Similar to the missionaries thanksgiving mentioned in
1:2, the present tense verb speaks of continuation, i.e., "we
are constantly thanking God." Paul adds emphasis with the
word translated "unceasingly" (Greek, adialeiptos).

4
cf. Henry Alford, The Greek Testament: First
Thessalonians (Moody Press, 1958), p. 258.

5
Some have suggested that 2:13 actually begins
another epistle, with an extended thanksgiving section and
continuing to 4:1. cf. W. Schmithals, Paul and the Gnostics. Tr.
J. E. Steely (Abingdon, 1972). However, there is nothing
demanding such a conjecture, nor is there manuscript
authority for the theory.

6
Notice kai twice. We [the missionaries] as well as you
[believers at Thessalonica] are grateful for the way the
gospel was received in Thessalonica. cf. A. T. Robertson,
Word Pictures in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians
(Broadman Press, 1931), p. 13.
7
Both the NASV and the NIV help the English
reader by translating the verbs differently, where the KJV
unfortunately translates them both received. The NASV
reads, For this reason we also constantly thank God that
of their hearing the message and the latter verb speaks
of their reception into their minds, i.e., their
understanding and acceptance of its contents. This
gave the missionaries cause to thank God. The process
of salvation is through human agency, i.e., a person
proclaims the Gospel, resulting in its reception and
them calling out to the Lord in faith.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord
shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in
whom they have not believed? and how shall they
believe in him of whom they have not heard? and
how shall they hear without a preacher? And how
shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is
written, How beautiful are the feet of them that
preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of
good things! (cf. Rom. 10:13-15)

But although human agency is involved, implied in 1
Thess. 2:13 is the fact that reception of the gospel is by
God's grace. He is the one that ultimately
providentially provides the gospel witness,
regenerates the heart, gives the spiritual
understanding of the facts of the gospel message,
turns the heart toward repentance of sin and bends
the will toward submission to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Salvation is of the Lord! Hence, God is to be thanked
as we recognize someone coming to saving faith.
8


when you received the word of God which you heard from
us, you accepted {it} not {as} the word of men, but {for} what
it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work
in you who believe.

8
Much debate centers on the ordo salutis (lit., the order
of salvation; 1737 by Jacob Carpov), dealing with the order
in the application of the blessings of salvation. Basically, in
God's providence: 1.) He provides a gospel witness for
those He has elected before the foundation of the world, so
that they will enjoy contact with the message of the Gospel.
2.) He regenerates the heart, giving new life to consider
spiritual things, while removing the heart of stone. 3.) He
enlightens the mind or gives understanding concerning sin,
judgment, the Savior and man's responsibility to respond to
the Gospel. 4.) He gives faith, which is repentance of sin,
rejection of self and surrendering of the will to the Lord. 5.)
He justifies the sinner by faith, removing both guilt and
condemnation, along with imparting to them the imputed
righteousness of Christ. 6.) He sanctifies the believer in
time, to be progressively conformed to the image of Christ,
in fulfillment to the New Covenant promise. And 7.) He
glorifies His elect, to confirm that person in a righteous state
and standing for all eternity. The ordo salutis is an
implication from theology, but the essential element that
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
3
And the Apostle Paul knew where that grace sprang
from and thanked God for it!
Question: how does Paul's gratitude for the
Thessalonians' reception of the Word of God here,
compare with Luke's summary that the Thessalonians
didn't receive the Word of God?

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and
Silas by night unto Berea, who, coming there, went
into the synagogue of the Jews. These [at Berea]
were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that
they received the word with all readiness of mind,
and searched the scriptures daily, whether those
things were so.
9


Evidently, although the Thessalonians didnt receive
the Gospel message immediately, upon their first
hearing of it, the fruit manifested in their lives since
then, validated that they did receive the Word of God.
This passage is one of the central NT passages
claiming inspiration for the gospel of Jesus Christ, that
Paul preached. (compare with 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Thess.
5:27; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Peter 3:15-16) The Apostle knew his
preaching was authoritative revelation, inspired by
God. John R. W. Stott comments:

This is an unambiguous assertion by Paul that the
gospel he preached was the word of God. We are
familiar with the claims of the Old Testament
prophets that they were bearers of the word of God,
for they introduced their oracles with formulas like
the word of the Lord came to me, listen to the

"salvation is of the Lord," is the stress of both the OT and
NT. This is why the Apostle Paul thanked God for the
Thessalonians election and reception of the Word of God, as
it wasnt due to their capacity but the grace of God.

9
cf. Acts 17:10-11. Suggestions to this difficulty
include: 1.) the Thessalonians reception of the Word of God
was not as thorough as the Bereans reception of the Word of
God. However, Paul's commendation of the Thessalonians
reception of the gospel in 1 Thess. 2:13 suggests a complete
understanding and agreement. 2.) the historian Luke
recorded events in journal form, without editing after the
fact. This way, he would compare the Bereans initial
reception of the Word of God as greater than the
Thessalonians initial reception of the Word of God. But
Paul, having received the encouraging report from Timothy
some months following Luke's evaluation, would write
from the perspective of the Thessalonians finally coming to
a full reception of the Word of God. This seems the best
choice for this difficult problem.
word of the Lord, and thus says the Lord. But
here in verse 13 is a comparable claim by a New
Testament apostle.
10


Because Paul knew he was writing Scripture he
commanded this epistle be required reading in the
Thessalonian assembly. He concludes his letter
commanding, "I charge you by the Lord that this
epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." cf. 1 Thess.
5:27.
This accepted gospel or word (Greek, logos)
effectually worketh in the believers at Thessalonica.
The emphasis is placed on the "word" which is heard,
received, welcomed and is a continually active power
operating in the believers lives!
11
Lewis S. Chafer
translates this verb "energizes." The accepted Word of
God, energizes believers!
12
The Apostle has moved


10
cf. John R. W. Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time:
The Message of 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1991), p. 54. As Stott summarizes the
issue, "The message came from God through the apostle to
the Thessalonians and was changing them." Leon Morris
helps summarize the issue: "Fundamental to Paul's
preaching was the conviction that what he spoke was not
his own message but God's (see on 2:9)...His drive and
forcefulness came not from some thought that he was
abreast of contemporary trends in philosophy or religion or
science, but the deep-seated conviction that he was simply
God's mouthpiece, and that what he spoke was the veritable
word of God." cf. Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles
to the Thessalonians. The New International Commentary on
the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1959), pp. 86,7. Morris quotes Denny, that Paul
"was conscious that...[his theology] rested at bottom on the
truth of God; and when he preached it..he did not submit it
to men as a theme for discussion. He put it above
discussion. He pronounced a solemn and reiterated
anathema on either man or angel, who should put anything
else in its stead. He published it, not for criticism, as though
it had been his own device; but, as the word of God, for the
obedience of faith." p. 87.

11
Energeitai (English, "effectually worketh") is in the
middle voice, demanding that "the word," not "God," is the
antecedent of its subject hos (English, "which"). cf. Robert L.
Thomas, First Thessalonians. The Expositor's Bible
Commentary, Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publications, 1978), p. 257.

12
cf. Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology. Vol. 1
(Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), p. 122. Chafer
concludes his development of the animation of the
Scripture, with an important implication: "In the light of this
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
4
from the reliability of the missionaries (i.e., himself,
Silvanus and Timothy; vss. 1-12) to the reliability of the
Word of God. Lenski helps by giving a summary
statement of Paul's argument:

The Thessalonians have full assurance about the kind
of men who brought this Word to them (this is the
burden of 1:5-2:12), and they are still the same men
(in their thankfulness to God); the Thessalonians
have the still greater assurance about the Word itself
which these men brought to them. Let the
Thessalonians look at this Word itself, at what it truly
is! The two, of course, go together: this Word would
be brought by such men; such men would bring a
Word like this. But now the entire stress is on this
Word and on its Author.
13


Hence, Paul proved his genuine concern for the
Thessalonians by his continual thankfulness for their
acceptance of the Word of God. And secondly, he
proved his genuine concern for them, by his

body of truth which so definitely predicates of the Word of
God that it is a living, vital agency with supernatural
power, the preacher has little excuse for the presentation of
anything else...God uses His Word. It is efficacious in the
hand of the Holy Spirit in accomplishing supernatural
results. For this reason, the Apostle, with that wisdom given
him of God, directed his young student, Timothy to preach
the word." pp. 122-3 Other passages on the doctrine of the
Scriptures animation in the believers life: 1 Pet. 2:1-2; Acts
20:32; Eph. 5:26; Psalms 37:31; 119:11 and John 17:17-19.
Passages on the doctrine of the animation of the Scriptures
toward the unbeliever: Rom. 1:16; Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:15;
Psalm 19:7; 1 Peter 1:23 with John 3:5; Titus 3:5. The central
passage of Hebrews 4:12 refers to the working of the Word
in the life of an unbeliever, i.e., one hesitating with
accepting Christ fully but tempted to go back to Jewish
legalism.

13
cf. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's
Epistles to the Thessalonians (Minneapolis: Augsburg
Publishing Company, 1946), p. 258. "The opponents in
Thessalonica would turn the Thessalonians from the Word
of God by attacking the character of the men who brought
that Word. The Thessalonians have the double answer: they
know the true character of these men, know it from their
most intimate contact with them, from their inside view of
the absolute unselfishness and devotion of these men; they
know the nature of the Word these men have brought them,
what this Word is in truth and thus has effectively wrought
in them. This double assurance fortifies the Thessalonians
against all attacks from no matter what opponents." pp. 258-
9.
thanksgiving for their endurance of persecution
because of their acceptance of the Word of God...

Thanksgiving for Endurance of
Physical Persecution

For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches
of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye
also have suffered like things of your own
countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who
both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets,
and have persecuted us; and they please not God,
and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak
to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up
their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to
the uttermost. (cf. 1 Thess. 2:14-16)

u.t, ,a tat .,.i., ae.|et, .i
.ssct. i eu .eu .i euc. i .i `Ieueata .i
Xtc. `Iceu, e t a aua .:a.. sat u.t, u:e
.i tet.i cu|u..i sa. , sat auet u:e .i
`Ieueat.i,
15
.i sat ei sutei a:es.tiai.i
`Iceui sat eu, :e|a, sat a, .set.ai.i sat
.. a.cse i.i sat :acti ai.:et, .iait.i,
16
s.ue i.i a, et, .i.cti acat tia
c..cti, .t, e aia:. cat au.i a, aata,
:aie.. .|ac.i e. .:` aueu, e , .t, .e,.

Question: How did Paul know that the Thessalonians
heard and received the Word of God? How did he
know that it was in the process of working in them?
The Apostle is giving a reason (Greek, gar; English,
for) how he knew that the Word of God was
effectually working in the Thessalonian believers
lives, i.e., because they were faithfully enduring
under serious persecution! Specifically, because they
were imitating the Judean churches, who were also
suffering because of their stand for the gospel.
These persecuted churches of God which in
Judea are in Christ Jesus
14
refer to the church of
Jerusalem, which had already scattered as a result of
the persecution following Stephen's death (cf. Acts
8:1ff.) and the various other Judean fellowships. cf.
Acts 9:31; Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:9. It is interesting to
notice that although the initial persecutors of the
missionaries were Jews (cf. Acts 17:5), the persecution


14
Because the term ekklasia, translated "church", could
be confused with other groups, the Apostle distinguishes
the assembly from pagan assemblies (i.e., churches of God)
and distinguishes the assembly from Jewish assemblies (i.e.,
in Christ Jesus)cf. 1 Thess. 1:1 notes.
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
5
of the Thessalonian believers was chiefly orchestrated
by other Thessalonian citizens, i.e., your own
countrymen. The Thessalonian believers were now
experiencing persecution from Thessalonian citizens,
just like the Judean believers had experienced
persecution from Jewish citizens! With this mention of
the Jews persecutions, Paul launches into significant
complaint about ongoing Jewish resistence to the
Gospel.

The intensity of this outburst is without parallel in
his writings. Neil calls is a polemic which is so
virtriolic, and so unlike his general attitude to his
countrymen, that some commentators have
regarded it as an interpolationMoffatt says,
This curt and sharp verdict on the Jews sprang
from Pauls irritation at the moment. The apostle
was in no mood to be conciliatory. But surely
Pauls words are not merely an understandable,
although unjustified, outburst of momentary
exasperation. Paul spoke from long and bitter
experience. In his missionary labors he had been
hounded from place to place by the unrelenting
hostority and cunning opposition of the Jews.
Perhaps at no other time during his missionary
career did he suffer more from the hostility of the
Jews than during the period when this letter was
written. Pauls sharp denunciation of the vicious
activities of the Jewish persecutions is a justified
condemnation of their crimes against the work of
God. They were guilty of fierce resistance to the
gospel and of persistent, cruel persecution of the
churches of God. The fact that these activities
were persisted in far beyond the land indicates
that it was a policy to which his unbelieving
countrymen as a whole had deliverately
committed themselves. (Hiebert, pp. 118-119)

But specifically when did the Judean churches
experience this persecution? Evidently, the Apostle
Paul does not have specific reference to the
persecutions that arose following Stephen's death (cf.
Acts 8:1ff.), because he doesn't mention himself at
all!
15
Also, it is unlikely that he is speaking of the
persecution initiated under Herod Agrippa (cf. Acts


15
According to Galatians 1:22-23 and Acts 8:1-4, Paul
himself was the primary instigator of these Jewish
persecutions. Paul's use of the third person plural (English,
"they") instead of the first person plural (English, "we")
suggests that he had reference in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 to a
different persecution.
12:1ff.), because this seemed to be limited to the
apostles only. This seems to be a more recent
persecution, and probably refers to the persecution
that arose because of the increase of Zealot activity in
Judea in A.D. 48.
16

These three verses are some of the most
controversial of Paul's writings.
17
Sounding anti-
Semitic they actually are anti-Judaistic in tone.
18

Remembering Paul's persecution of the Jews at
Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:5-9), and Berea (cf. Acts
17:10-14), along with the Jewish rejection of his
message at Corinth (cf. Acts 18:4-6), it is easy to
understand the Apostle's perspective of the Jewish
opposition to the gospel. D. Edmond Hiebert
summarizes



16
cf. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. 20.105-136. also,
cf. F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Word Biblical
Commentary (Waco: Word Publications, 1982), p. 46. cf. R.
Jewett, The Agitators and the Galatian Congregation. NTS 17
(1970-71) 198-212.

17
Stott states, "These two verses, sometimes called 'the
Pauline polemic against the Jews', have been described as
violent, vehement, vindictive, passionate, intemperate, bitter and
harsh. So incongruous do some commentators feel them to
be in one of Paul's letters, that they attribute them to an anti-
Jewish interpolator. But there is no manuscript evidence
that they were added by a later hand." cf. John R. W. Stott,
The Gospel and the End of Time: The Message of 1 and 2
Thessalonians (InterVarsity Press, 1991), p. 55.

18
Stott helps summarize some of the anti-Semitic
attitudes in church history: "The worst example among the
Fathers was Chrysostom, who in AD 386-88 in Antioch
preached eight virulent sermons against the Jews. He
likened them to animals, and made wild accusations against
them, ranging from gluttony, drunkenness and immorality
to infanticide and even cannibalism. In the Middle Ages
four repressive regulations of the Fourth Lateran Council
(1215) obliged Jews to live in ghettos and wear distinctive
dress, while during the Crusades the church failed to
restrain the popular fanaticism which led to pogrom and
pillage in Jewish communities. More embarrassing still is
Luther's intemperate treatise On the Jews and Their Lies
(1543)...his call to set fire to their synagogues, destroy their
homes, confiscate their Talmudic books and silence their
Rabbis." p. 58. Such anti-Semitic views have no warrant in
the New Testament but we must accept the fact that the
Jews are held primarily responsible for the death of Christ
and have persecuted the prophets and Apostles, along with
the believers throughout history.
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
6
Pauls charges against the persecuting Jews are set
forth by means of five participles standing in close
apposition to the Jews at the end of v. 14. The
first two are aorists and picture the past violent
manifestations of their opposition (v. 15a); the
remaining three participles are in the present
tense and provide a sad evaluation of their
opposition (vv. 15b-16a). The concluding sentence
states the fateful outcome of the opposition (v.
16b). (Hiebert, p. 119)

In Paul's indictment of the Jews in verse 15, he accuses
them of five transgressions:

A. The Jews Killed the Lord Jesus. In a special way,
the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus
Christ. cf. Matt. 27:25. Here, Paul agrees with the
historian Luke (cf. Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-17; 7:52; 13:27-28)
and the Apostle John (cf. John 18) giving special
responsibility to the Jews for the crucifixion of
Christ.
19
Although joint responsibility of the death of
Christ must be shared by Gentiles (cf. Acts 4:27), the
primary cause was Jewish opposition. Lenski boldly
centers the blame primarily with the Jews:

All modern Jewish efforts to cast the blame upon the
Gentile Pilate are futile. As the Jews forced the
Gentile Pilate to act as their tool, so the Jews in
Thessalonica made the Gentile rabble of
Thessalonica their tools and stirred up the
Thessalonian Gentile authorities (Acts. 17:5-9).
20


B. The Jews Killed the Prophets. The Lord Jesus also
accused the Jewish leaders of this same transgression.
(cf. Matt. 23:29-31; Lk. 13:34). It is of interest that the
OT does not document the deaths of the prophets.


19
This passage is the only place in Paul's writings
where he accuses the Jews of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Actually, by separating "the Lord" from "Christ Jesus" in the
Greek text, Paul emphasizes that it was the Lord who was
the historical Jesus, whom they crucified. cf. James Everett
Frame, The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. The
International Critical Commentary (T. & T. Clark, 1979), p.
111. In 1 Cor. 2:8 he further mentions "the rulers of this age,"
as being responsible, which no doubt includes both Jewish
and Roman leadership.

20
cf. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's
Epistles to the Thessalonians (Augsburg Publishing House,
1937), p. 265. Notice that Stephen also mentions that the
Jews killed Jesus and the prophets, but reverses the order.
(cf. Acts 7:52)
Jewish tradition, which evidently Jesus accepted here
as accurate, related how Isaiah was sawn in two under
Manasseh and Jeremiah was stoned to death by Jews
who compelled him to go with them to Egypt. In the
Lord's parables He mentioned that the killing of some
of the servants (i.e., prophets) would precede the
killing of the son of the Lord of the vineyard. cf. Matt.
21:35-39; Mk. 12:5-8.

C. The Jews Persecuted the Apostles. It is interesting
that Paul is here placing himself in the company of the
OT prophets, as if to say, i.e., We NT apostles suffered
Jewish transgression, just like the OT prophets.
Although this would not exclude Paul's earlier trials,
this would primarily refer to their expulsion from
Thessalonica and Berea, which the Thessalonian
believers would recall.
21


D. The Jews Displease God. Because of the above
three transgressions (Greek, aorist tenses of the first
three), Paul summarizes that they displease God.
(present tense, speaking of the continuing condition)
This is the negative of Paul's previous statement of the
great essential purpose to which he motivated the
Thessalonians, i.e., to walk worthy of God. To walk
unworthy of God is to displease God; to walk worthy
of God is to please God. cf. 1 Thess. 4:1. The Jews
transgressed by killing Jesus Christ, by killing the
prophets and by persecuting the Apostle Paul and his
missionary friends, and hence displeased God!

E. The Jews are Hostile to All Men. Finally, the Jews
should a special hostility to all men, as they seek to
oppose the propagation of the gospel. F. F. Bruce
helps to summarize world opinion during NT times
concerning the Jews, as reflected in this fifth
transgression...

This sounds like an echo of slanders current in the
Greco-Roman world. Tacitus, for example, says of
the Jews, aduersus omnes alios hostile odium,
"toward all others (i.e., not of their own race) they
cherish hatred of a kind normally reserved for


21
The Apostle was early chased out of Damascus (cf.
Acts 9:23-25), Jerusalem (cf. Acts 9:29-30), Pisidian Antioch
(cf. Acts 13:45-50), and Iconium (cf. Acts 14:2-6), all because
of Jewish opposition. In Lystra they instigated the crowds to
have Paul stoned and left for dead (cf. Acts 14:19). Besides
the Jewish persecutions mentioned in Macedonia and his
rejection in Corinth, Paul records further, "Of the Jews five
times received I forty stripes, save one." (2 Cor. 11:24)
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
7
enemies" (Hist. 5.5.2). Earlier than Tacitus, and
indeed contemporary with Paul, was the Egyptian
Apion, who went so far as to say that the Jews swear
by the Creator to show no good will to any alien,
least of all to Greeks (Josephus, C. Ap. 2:121).
22


Because of these five transgressions that are filling up
their sins, always, God's wrath is come upon them to
the uttermost. (vs. 16) Paul views these fivefold
Jewish transgressions as the completion of their sins,
as if to suggest God's mercy is coming to an end. cf.
Acts 7:52. The verb contains a prefixed preposition
(Greek, ana) which intensifies it, i.e., their cup of guilt
was already on its way to being filled, with these five
transgressions filling it up to the brim! But when
specifically is this "wrath is come"?
The phrase reads, for the wrath is come
(Greek, aorist tense) upon them. Looking from the
perspective of the NT theology of God's coming
wrath, this would refer to the destruction of Jerusalem
in A.D. 70. cf. Luke 21:20-24. This was F. C. Baurs
view, which gave him cause to question the early
writing of this epistle and the authenticity of Paul.
However, this event was two decades yet future,
when Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians 2:16, which he
seems to suggest has already taken place!
A better solution views this wrath (i.e., a
historical aorist tense), as in the process in a number of
Jewish disasters: 1.) in A.D. 49 there was a massacre in
the temple courts at the Passover.
23
2.) in A.D. 49 the


22
cf. F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Word Biblical
Commentary (Word Publishers, 1982), p. 47. Lenski points
out the transgression: The enormity of this crime against all
men is touched upon in the purpose clause 'in order that
they be saved,' this is, of course, the purpose of the
speakers, 'us.' By preventing the speaking these Jews were
set on frustrating the purpose of the speaker, were
determined to rob the whole Gentile world of the heavenly
salvation which they, the Jews themselves, scorned. The
worst feature of unbelief is not its own damnation but its
effort to frustrate the salvation of others." cf. R. C. H. Lenski,
The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Thessalonians
(Augsburg Publishing Company, 1937), p. 267.

23
Josephus explains how on the fourth day of the
Passover festival a Roman soldier caused a Jewish riot,
when he exposed his privates to the Jewish crowds. Some of
the Jews claimed the Roman provincial governor Cumanus
arranged this, forcing his hand to send troops to the fortress
of Antonia, overlooking the temple. A disaster took place,
as the Jews fled down the narrow streets of the city in a
Roman emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome,
because of a growing militaristic messianic
expectation.
24
And 3.) this edict by Claudius would
stimulate empire wide Jewish persecution. When
considering that Paul perhaps kept in mind the Jews
were presently a scattered people, with their nation
under Roman bondage in fulfillment of Deuteronomy
28:15ff., his statement concerning wrath having
already come would be evident to any unprejudiced
observer.
25


panic, crushing to death some 20,000 Jewish worshipers. cf.
Antiquities of the Jews, 20.5.3.

24
Dio Cassius, a second century historian, suggested
that emperor Claudius did not expel the Jews from Rome,
but forbid them to assemble. (cf. Dio Cassius, History. lx. 6)
This would contradict Luke's statement in Acts 18:2.
However, it is probable that Dio Cassius had reference to an
earlier policy, which when found inadequate to deal with
the problem, Claudius took the more drastic measure of
expulsion. Ancient historian Suetonius suggested it was
"because the Jews of Rome were indulging in constant riots
at the instigation of Chrestus (impulsore Chresto) he expelled
them from the city." cf. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars:
Claudius (Cambridge, 1961), p. 30. The common slave name
Chrestus, pronounced much like Christus (English, "Christ")
perhaps was confused by Seutonius as being in Rome at this
time. Seutonius wrote The Twelve Caesars about A.D. 120. If
the Claudius edict took place in A.D. 49, the Jewish charge
of Acts 17:6-7 would provide a politically hot issue: "These
that have turned the world upside down are come here also
[i.e., to Thessalonica]...these all do contrary to the decrees of
Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus."
25
The question about the character of this wrath is
admittedly a difficult one. Hiebert summarizes some of the
debate: But the significance of the aorist is differently
understood. Lenski insists that it is simply an historic aorist;
the Jews were filling up their cup of sin and thus the divine
wrath came upon them. He holds that the wrath had
already arrived long centuries before Paul wrote,
manifesting itself in the various judgments of God upon
Israel. But clearly Paul is not thinking here of a series of
judgments in the past. All that the aorist really says is that
the wrath has come. It states the historic fact without any
further specification. Vincent says that Pauls meaning is
that the divine wrath has reached the point where it
passed into judgment. Morris thinks that the aorist tense
simply refers to the certainty of the coming judgment, while
Swete holds that the aorist is a prophetic past, looking
upon the future as already settled and completed in the
counsels of God. The wrath of God has already fallen, and
all that remains is the coming of inevitable judgment. That
the judgment has already fallen is not said. The actual woes
are still to come. But the Jews with their persistent
Grace Community Church The Quest of the New Testament Radio Ministry Doug V. Heck, Pastor
Expository Sermon Notes First Thessalonians 2:13-16 Copyright, 2001
8
Richard Mayhew summarizes four general
interpretations of the nature of this wrath, but offers
another sense:

What kind of wrath is this? (See notes on 1:10; 5:9)
It has been understood in four possible ways.
First, it could refer historically to the Babylonian
captivity (sixth century BC). However, that seems
too far removed from Pauls day. Second, it could
refer prophetically to Jerusalems destruction in
AD 70, although it is difficult to see how this
would refer to Jews outside of Judea. Third, it
could be speaking of Christs coming in
escatoligical judgment, but that would be limited
only to the Jews alive at the time. A fourth
alternative seems more likely, i.e., Paul speaks in
soteriological terms of Gods eternal wrath in
exactly the same way as the Apostle John (John
3:18, 36). The outcome is so certain, it is spoken of
as a present reality (has come). Context strongly
favors this view. (Mayhue, p. 85)

Conclusion

The missionary team of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy
proved their genuine concern for the Thessalonian
believers, even while absent from them, because of
their thankfulness for their reception of the Word of
God and their endurance of persecution because of the
Word of God. These Thessalonian believers were
experiencing persecution from citizens of
Thessalonica, similar to the persecution experienced
by the Judean churches from the Jews. And these
Jewish persecutors have filled up the cup of God's
wrath by five transgressions, which is why they are
suffering such difficulties at the present time.
Reception of the Word of God results in
persecution. But only as we receive the gospel as the
very message of God, will we be able to endure the
pressure of persecution. Albert Barnes helps points
out the imperative need for receiving the Word of God
as revelation:


opposition to the gospel following their rejection of the
Messiah, have filled their cup. Gods patience with them has
been exhausted. His wrath has come upon them at last
(eis telos) literally, to an end. It may have an intensive
meaning, completely, entirely, to the uttermost, or a
temporal meaning, finally, at last. Under either view the
meaning is essentially the same: Gods wrath has now
reached its extreme limits. Judgment cannot be averted. (p.
124)
It is only when the gospel is embraced in this way
that religion will show itself sufficient to abide the
fiery trials to which Christians may be exposed. He
who is convinced by mere human reasoning may
have his faith shaken by opposite artful reasoning;
he who is won by the mere arts of popular
eloquence will have no faith which will be proof
against similar arts in the cause of error; he who
embraces religion from mere respect for a pastor,
parent, or friend, or because others do, may
abandon it when the popular current shall set in a
different direction, or when his friends shall
embrace different views; but he who embraces
religion as the truth of God, and from the love of the
truth, will have a faith, like that of the
Thessalonians, which will abide every trial.
26





26
cf. Albert Barnes, The First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Barnes Notes on the New Testament (Baker Book House,
1937), p. 25. F. F. Bruce points out: "Persecution, according
to the NT, is a natural concomitant of Christian faith, and
for the believers in Thessalonica to undergo suffering for
Christ's sake proves that they are fellow-members of the
same body as the Judean churches." cf. 1 and 2 Thessalonians,
Word Biblical Commentary (Word, 1982), p. 45.
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