insolently treated in Philippi: Paul here refers to the events recorded at Ac 16:12, 16-24. Paul and Silas were dragged into the marketplace, hastily judged by the civil magistrates, stripped of their clothing, beaten with rods, thrown into prison, and put in stocks. Paul aptly characterizes all of that as being “insolently treated.” He uses a strong word that according to one reference work can refer to “treatment which is calculated publicly to insult and openly to humiliate the person who suffers from it.” Such abuse makes the boldness of Paul and Silas that much more remarkable.
we mustered up boldness: Despite the insolent treatment they received in Philippi, Paul and Silas refused to cower, or shrink back. Instead, they “mustered up boldness,” or courage, to continue preaching. (Ac 17:2-10) Paul humbly acknowledges that the boldness came by means of our God rather than as a result of their own inner strength. The psalmist David similarly said to Jehovah: “You made me bold and strong.” (Ps 138:3; see also Ezr 7:28.) The Greek term rendered “mustered up boldness” is used several times regarding Paul’s ministry, and it often carries the thought of “speaking with boldness.”—Ac 13:46; 14:3; 19:8; see study notes on Ac 4:13; 28:31.
in the face of much opposition: It was not long after their arrival in Thessalonica that Paul and Silas faced harsh opposition. (Ac 17:1-14; see study note on 1Th 1:6.) However, because Paul loved the ministry, he endured opposition and boldly continued to preach the good news. (Ro 1:14, 15; 2Ti 4:2) The Greek expression Paul uses might also be rendered “amid much struggling,” which implies that he and Silas resisted the opposition and struggled against it in order to preach boldly. Sometimes the expression was used of athletes in the Olympic Games, who struggled intensely for victory against their opponents.
uncleanness: In its figurative meaning, “uncleanness” (Greek, a·ka·thar·siʹa) encompasses impurity of any kind—in sexual matters, in speech, in action, and in spiritual relationships. (Compare Ro 1:24; 1Co 7:14; 2Co 6:17; Eph 4:19; 1Th 4:7.) In this context, “uncleanness” may refer to bad or impure motives.—See study note on Ga 5:19.
flattering speech: Flattery is false, insincere, or excessive praise—often given with the intent of gaining favor or material advantage. Such hypocritical speech is condemned in the Scriptures. (Ps 5:9; 12:2, 3) One lexicon defines the Greek word ko·la·kiʹa, here rendered “flattering,” as “praise as a means of gratifying someone’s vanity.” This is the only occurrence of this word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Paul says “God is witness!” that he “never used flattering speech” when preaching to the Thessalonians. When Christians shun flattery, they follow the foremost example of Jesus Christ himself. He instantly corrected a Jewish ruler who called him “Good Teacher,” apparently applying that phrase to Jesus as a flattering title.—Mr 10:17 and study note, 18; compare Job 32:21, 22.
false front: In this context, the Greek word rendered “false front” conveys the idea of “pretense; cover-up.” One lexicon defines it as “what is made to appear to others to hide the true state of things.” Paul and his companions never allowed greed to motivate them; nor did they harbor selfish motives that they needed to hide by means of flattering speech or deceptive means.
seeking glory from men: As a humble minister endeavoring to imitate Christ, Paul may here have in mind Jesus’ similar expression: “I do not accept glory from men [or, “humans,” ftn.].” (Joh 5:41; 7:18; 1Co 11:1) Paul is not suggesting that it is wrong to show proper respect, or honor, to those in the congregation. (Compare Ro 12:10; 1Ti 5:17.) However, he refused to seek honor, prestige, fame, or praise from fellow humans.
could be an expensive burden: Paul did not ask for even modest material support from the Thessalonian Christians to help him devote more time to his ministry. While in Corinth, he followed a similar course, although he later explained that he had a Scriptural basis to ask for such assistance. (1Co 9:11-15, 18) According to 1Th 2:9, Paul worked “night and day” in Thessalonica, perhaps at his trade of tentmaking as he did in Corinth. (See study note on Ac 18:3.) He may also have wanted to set an example that would help the Christians in Thessalonica.—2Th 3:7-12.
gentle: Paul and his companions “became gentle” because they loved the Thessalonian brothers and felt concern for their spiritual growth. (1Th 2:8) Some translations, though, read “became little children” or “became infants.” The reason for such different wording is that some Greek manuscripts use a word that means “gentle” (eʹpi·oi), while others use a word that means “infants; young children” (neʹpi·oi). The two Greek words differ by only one letter. Some scholars explain the variation in manuscripts by suggesting that scribes unintentionally duplicated the Greek letter “n” from the preceding word—an error called a dittography. However, the context and the ensuing comparison to a nursing mother favor the word “gentle,” which is used in many modern translations.
a nursing mother: Within a few verses, Paul uses two vivid metaphors based on family relationships, which reflected the warm feelings that he and the Thessalonian Christians had for one another. (1Th 3:6) Here Paul likens the relationship that he and his companions had with the congregation to that of “a nursing mother,” one who loves her children so deeply that she puts their interests ahead of her own. Then, at 1Th 2:11, Paul shifts to a metaphor of a father. (See study note.) The term rendered “nursing mother” occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. However, it is used in the Septuagint at Isa 49:23, where Jehovah says that when he brought his people back from exile, he would provide princesses who would act as “nurses.”
tenderly cares for: Or “cherishes.” The Greek expression used here literally means “to warm; to make warm.” In this context, it may have brought to mind the way a human mother would care for her children by keeping them warm and comfortable. In the Septuagint, this word is used at De 22:6 (for the Hebrew “sitting on”) and at Job 39:14 (“keeps . . . warm”) to describe the way a mother bird warms her fledglings or her eggs.
having tender affection: Paul expresses his feelings toward the Thessalonian Christians by using a Greek verb that according to one lexicon conveys the idea of “experiencing a strong feeling intensified by an inner attachment.” Another lexicon defines it as “to have a strong yearning” or to “long for.”
determined: Paul and his fellow workers had “tender affection” for those in Thessalonica who had accepted the good news. Those feelings moved Paul and his companions to expend themselves fully for those new Christians. The Greek verb here rendered “determined” conveys the idea that they were resolved and delighted (lit., “well-pleased”) to do so. One reference work also states of Paul: “The imperfect tense of the [Greek] verb expresses a continuous determination to give himself to his converts.”
selves: Or “lives”; “souls.”—See Glossary, “Soul.”
not put an expensive burden: See study note on 1Th 2:6.
just as a father does his children: Paul here compares his role among the Thessalonians to that of a father who lovingly exhorts and consoles his children and teaches them vital truths. (Compare De 6:6, 7; Ps 78:5, 6.) This metaphor complements the one at 1Th 2:7, where Paul uses the comparison of a nursing mother. (See study note.) Both word pictures stress that Paul and his companions, though shepherds with God-given authority, sought to promote a loving, supportive, familylike atmosphere in the congregation.—Compare 1Ti 5:1, 2.
you received God’s word: The Thessalonian Christians received God’s word, or message, by means of the preaching of Paul and Silas (Ac 17:1-4) but understood that it was not a human message. It originated with Jehovah God and was based on the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. However, from Jesus’ time on, the term “God’s word” (or “the word of God”) also included the good news about salvation through Jesus. (Eph 1:12, 13; Col 4:3) When the Christian Greek Scriptures were compiled, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was likely the first of his writings to become part of the inspired Word of God. The apostle Peter later classified Paul’s writings as part of “the Scriptures.”—2Pe 3:15, 16; see Glossary, “Canon (Bible canon).”
which is also at work in you believers: A form of the Greek word e·ner·geʹo, here rendered “is . . . at work,” may also be rendered “energizes.” (See study note on Php 2:13.) Because the message that Paul and his coworkers were preaching was no mere “word of men [or, “humans”]” but, rather, “the word of God,” it was powerfully at work in genuine believers. (At Heb 4:12, a related Greek verb is rendered “exerts power.”) During his ministry, Paul saw many who made extraordinary changes in their lives, thanks to the power of God’s word. (1Co 6:9-11; Eph 2:3; Tit 3:3) Paul himself was living proof of the power of “the word of God” to change a man’s personality and way of life.—Ga 1:13, 22, 23; 1Ti 1:12-14.
you suffered at the hands of your own countrymen: See study note on 1Th 1:6.
they are not pleasing God: These words apply to those who try to prevent others from becoming reconciled to God and gaining the hope of salvation and eternal life. (1Th 2:16) Like Paul when he persecuted Christians, such persecutors may imagine that they are actually rendering sacred service to God. (Joh 16:2; Ga 1:13; 1Ti 1:13) In truth, those who persecute Christians have not come to know either Jehovah or his Son.—Joh 16:3.
against the interests of all men: Those who persecute true Christians can be said to act against the interests of all mankind because the preaching work, initiated by Jesus, is Jehovah’s means of reconciling sinful humans to Himself.—See study notes on 2Co 5:18, 19.
they always fill up the measure of their sins: Paul here refers to first-century Jews who “killed the Lord Jesus” and who violently persecuted his followers. (1Th 2:15) Those opposers also tried to prevent Christians “from speaking to people of the nations.” The expression “fill up the measure of their sins” indicates that they sin as much as possible. In saying that they always do so, Paul indicates that the Jewish persecutors were continuing in the course that their forefathers had been following for centuries.—See study note on Mt 23:32.
his wrath: Lit., “the wrath.” The tense of the Greek verb rendered has . . . come highlights that God’s wrath was certain to come upon the Jews. This wrath culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E. by the Romans. Some ancient manuscripts here read “the wrath of God.”
we were separated from you: Or “we were bereaved of you.” Paul here employs a Greek verb (a·por·pha·niʹzo) that is related to the term rendered “orphans” (plural of or·pha·nosʹ) at Jas 1:27 and that could literally be rendered “to be made orphans.” However, it was also used to describe bereavement in general, including that of parents whose children died. In verses 7 and 11 of this chapter, Paul compared himself and his companions to a nursing mother and to a father. Therefore, he may have used this term to indicate that he and his companions felt like parents who had lost their children—so keenly did they feel bereaved of association with their family of fellow believers in Thessalonica. This is another example of how Paul used terms associated with the family to describe his relationship with fellow believers.—See study notes on 1Th 2:7, 11.
for just a short time: Paul uses an idiom that occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It could more literally be rendered “for a season (an appointed time) of an hour.” His point seems to be that even though he had just seen his fellow believers in Thessalonica—perhaps a few months earlier—he longs to see them again. Paul thus assures them that despite this involuntary separation, he made every effort to be reunited with them. To comfort them, he sent Timothy.—1Th 3:1, 2.
Satan cut across our path: The Greek expression rendered “cut across our path” could also be rendered “blocked our way” or “hindered us.” Paul uses the same verb at Ro 15:22. This verb was sometimes used of the practice of breaking up a road to render it impassable and also of the military tactic of breaking through an enemy line. Paul may have had in mind some tactic that opposers in Thessalonica used to keep him from returning there. Whatever the hindrance was, Paul here under inspiration attributes it to Satan, knowing him to be “the god of this system of things.”—See study notes on Joh 12:31; 2Co 4:4.
crown of exultation: Paul calls the Christians in Thessalonica a “crown of exultation.” He may have had in mind a custom in which a visiting dignitary, a distinguished public servant, or an athlete was given a crown or a wreath to wear as a token of honor and accomplishment. The Greek word rendered “exultation” conveys the idea of “rejoicing,” but it could also denote “boasting; taking pride in.” It is here used in the positive sense of a joyous, fitting kind of pride over the privilege of helping to form the Christian congregation in Thessalonica.—2Th 1:4; compare Php 4:1; compare study note on 2Co 10:17.
presence: This is the first of six times that Paul mentions Christ’s presence in his two letters to the Thessalonians. (See Glossary, “Presence”; see also “Introduction to 1 Thessalonians.”) Paul looks forward to the presence of the Lord Jesus, and he delights in the prospect that his dear fellow believers would be rewarded during that time. Later in the letter, he prays that they be found “blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.”—1Th 3:13; see study note on 1Co 15:23.