After Timothy returned from his mission to Thessalonica to build up the Christians in that city, he brought a good report of the Thessalonian believers’ spiritual condition. So, Paul commended them for their faithfulness and thanked God for the Thessalonian Christians in his first letter to them (1 Thess. 1:3). Some time intervened between the writing of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, but as we see in today’s passage, the Thessalonian believers did not suffer any spiritual regression in the meantime.
Echoing 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3, Paul tells his audience in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 that he and his companions “ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right.” Notice that the Apostle speaks of offering thanksgiving for the Thessalonians as an obligation. Some commentators suggest that he does this because the Thessalonians felt uneasy with the abundance of praise Paul heaped on them in the earlier letter. If so, he wanted to reassure them that his good words for them were deserved and that his commendation was nothing more than his duty before God. Regardless of whether the Thessalonians had been embarrassed by Paul’s praise, he did have an obligation to render thanks to the Lord, for all people are duty-bound to thank our Creator. Failure to give thanks, after all, is one of the fundamental sins of fallen humanity (Rom. 1:21).
Paul commended the Thessalonian Christians for their faith, love, and hope in his first epistle to them (1 Thess. 1:2–3), and he does the same thing in his second epistle (2 Thess. 1:3–4). Of course, Paul does not use the word hope in today’s passage, but he does speak of the Thessalonian Christians’ “steadfastness” (v. 4), using the same Greek word found in the expression “steadfastness of hope” in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Paul clearly understands that the Thessalonians’ steadfastness amid persecution is grounded in their hope, so we should see Paul thanking God for the faith, hope, and love of the Thessalonians in his second letter to them. As faith, hope, and love are the three cardinal Christian virtues (1 Cor. 13:13), may it be that others can thank God for their presence in our lives as well.
Finally, in today’s passage the Apostle says that he boasted about the Thessalonians for their virtues. This was not unseemly, for the presence of any virtues is possible only by the work of God. By boasting in the Thessalonians, Paul boasts in what the Lord had done in them (1 Thess. 2:13; James 1:18).