1 Thessalonians 2

1 The Thessalonians were aware of how Paul and his companions had ministered there, but he wants to remind them about it here to underscore the integrity of the missionaries' motives. The Thessalonians could certainly testify that Paul's ministry to them was not without purpose and success.
2 Paul's group of missionaries established a church in Philippi, but they were beaten and run out of town after exorcising a demon from a slave girl. After that the missionaries went to Thessalonica (Acts 16:12-17:1). Despite the problems in Philippi, they preached the Gospel boldly in Thessalonica. Again, they faced opposition, mainly from the Jewish community (Acts 17:2-10).
3 Paul is defending his motives in preaching the Gospel. The opposition in Thessalonica likely spread doubts about Paul's intentions while he was there and after he had left. Paul reminded them of the urgency of which he spoke. He truly believed that his message was vital. He had not hypocritically done anything immoral nor did he lie to anyone.
4 "Approved" here indicates that they had passed the test. God entrusted Paul and his companions to handle the Gospel well. They did not water down the message in order to make it sound easy or like people deserved the eternal life God was offering. God's examination of the heart is difficult, and Paul had already passed that test. His heart was to preach the Good News of Jesus no matter what the cost.
5 Prominent people often did and still use flattery and promises to get money from people. Paul, however, did not do this. God Himself could testify that this was not the case. Paul wanted people to see that they could find eternal life in Christ, not benefit personally in this world. In modern times, television evangelists are notorious for apparently cloaking their greed in the Gospel. Most people find it obvious, however, when the evangelist speaks more about receiving money from people than they do about Jesus. However, evangelists are not the only ones to use flattery and promises to raise money. This is the normal mode of operation for many politicians as well. Paul did not seek financial, political, or personal gain by preaching the Gospel. He was motivated by his love and obedience to God and his love for people.
6 Paul also was not looking for notoriety or honor from men. He and his fellow missionaries sought to please God, not men. In fact, Paul asserts they could have used more authority to push their message. Jesus had charged Paul with preaching the Gospel and gave him the power to do it. However, while Paul would not water down the message, he did not want to beat people up with it. The hurtful part of the Gospel is the revelation that each person has sinned and become unacceptable for heaven. The wonderful part of the Gospel is that God made a way for us to become acceptable again. If Paul had placed too much emphasis on the former, people may have been less likely to hear or understand the latter.
7 Instead of being like a police officer or judge, the missionaries related to the new Christians in Thessalonica as a mother would to her newborn. They were gentle and nurturing -- feeding them the kind of spiritual food that would help them grow.
8 The sharing of the Gospel went beyond duty. The missionaries had a special love and concern for the Thessalonians. They went beyond merely dispensing the Word of God to investing and sharing their own lives in the process. Paul took the growth and well being of the Thessalonians personally.
9 The missionaries went to great lengths to prevent the notion that they would use their position to rob the new believers in any way. Paul and his companions had taken part-time jobs to pay for their own expenses so that no one would feel that they were taking advantage of them. In some cults today, new believers are strongly encouraged to give all their worldly possessions to the leader. Paul had the opposite approach. He worked hard so as not to take earthly possessions from new believers, and he even invested his own life into them so that they might benefit spiritually.
10 No matter what rumors or bad reports were going around, Paul appealed to them as direct eyewitnesses of their behavior. If they remembered things accurately, none of them could honestly accuse the missionaries of any wrongdoing. As for what they could not see, Paul appeals to the witness of God. Paul had undoubtedly taught them that God sees everything and brings (or will bring) even hidden actions and thoughts to light. Paul was confident that if God were to speak in his defense to the Thessalonians that he would be exonerated of any accusation that his enemies had spoken against him. His behavior was part of his witness.
11 Paul had corrected, encouraged, and begged them as a father would to his children about an urgent manner. He wanted to convey the life-and-death importance of trusting in Christ for salvation and then being obedient to God. Certainly, they would not have listened to him if he had not been practicing what he was preaching. He wanted believers to be examples to each other and the world, just as he was to them.
12 His goal was to have the Thessalonian believers behave in a manner worthy of a Christian. They had already been saved by their faith, but now that they were children of God, they needed to be obedient to Him and reflect His characteristics as the Holy Spirit worked in their lives. Christians have been called out of the kingdom of darkness, ignorance, and relativistic morals into God's kingdom of life, wisdom, unselfish love, and obedience to Him.
13 Whenever Paul remembered how the Thessalonians received the Gospel, he thanked God. His ministry there had been successful and people had been saved because they recognized the Good News of Jesus as the Word of God. There are many good principles in the Bible which psychologists and counselors can use to help people, but this dispenses knowledge as the word of men. People can change their values and behaviors to align with those God desires, but this will not make them right with God. People must believe the authority of the content of the Scriptures: that people are separated from God and only through a right relationship with Jesus can they be brought back to Him. The Thessalonian believers were saved, not because they chose "Christianity" as one of many philosophies, but because they recognized it as God's personal invitation to them to establish a loving relationship with Him that would last forever.

The work of God continues in the believer throughout his life. The values, behaviors, and wisdom that the Christian learns from the Holy Spirit are better and longer lasting that any philosophies or programs that worldly people can devise.

14 Paul had seen the parallel occurrence in his homeland of Judea. The first part of the book of Acts describes how Jesus' disciples preached in Jerusalem and many Jews at that time believed the Word of God. However, there eventually arose opposition to the Gospel, and Paul, before his conversion, had taken a prominent lead in persecuting the church. The same thing was happening to the Thessalonians. There was a group of people who accepted the Good News, but there were also those who opposed it. The opposition forced Paul out of town, tried to discredit his message, and apparently continued to torment the believers there in various ways.
15 Paul takes the parallel all the way back to the persecution and execution of Jesus by the Jews. In other words, the Thessalonians were experiencing the same kind of rejection from their own fellow citizens as Jesus had from His. Paul also felt persecution from some of his Jewish countrymen. Those who persecute the believers generally claimed that they were trying to keep their religious practices pure, whether they were Jewish or pagans. However, they did not understand that the defense of these religious traditions did not please God because they opposed the life-giving work of God that was only available through Christ Jesus. There are people even today who feel that Christianity is harmful to societies, but they do not recognize that it is really their opposition to it that is hostile to people because it hinders others from knowing the truth, life, and love of God.
16 Their opposition to the Gospel would come back on their heads, however. They would not only be held responsible for their own sin (i.e., their choice to remain separated from God), but they will also be punished for attempting to hinder others from entering the Kingdom of God. This verse does not concede that the opposition's efforts are successful. God certainly saves all those who will accept the Gospel regardless of the efforts of the opposition, yet God's enemies will still be held responsible because of their desire to keep others separated from Him.
17 The life-threatening persecution the missionaries encountered drove them away from Thessalonica. Clearly, it was against their will to go and they longed to see the Thessalonians again.
18 Timothy obviously had been able to see them since (1 Th 3:6), but Paul had wanted several times to return to them.

We are not given details of how Satan prevented Paul from returning. We are told in acts that Paul's enemies continued to pursue him after he left Thessalonica, driving him further away. God may have allowed this so that Paul's mission would be spread further and the reputation of the Thessalonians would spread the way it did. The persecution the church was enduring probably made it stronger. Paul would eventually return, but at the time this letter was written, it was apparently more important that Paul continue his ministry work elsewhere and then return to Thessalonica when the time was right.

19 If there was any doubt about Paul's attachment to the Thessalonians, he dispels that here. He compares this church to a beautiful crown - it made Paul's ministry look good. He was certain that his work among the Thessalonians was a beautiful thing that God approved of. We should all desire to do those things that will become like a treasure in heaven. Our faithfulness in giving out God's word and helping others to know Him will certainly be rewarded.
20 The Thessalonians gave Paul a satisfaction that went far beyond mere happiness. He had real joy in ministering to the Thessalonians and seeing the good fruit of his labor manifest in them.