7. Challenges to Believers in View of the Day of the Lord (2 Thes. 2:13-17)
In strong contrast to the future of the perishing as just described in verses 10-12, Paul and his team give thanks for the drastically different and glorious future of the Thessalonian believers now described in verses 13-14. Here the believer’s future is described both from the standpoint of God’s sovereign activity and man’s personal responsibility. In these verses we see a beautiful balance that is so often missed as theologians discuss the issues of God’s sovereign election in salvation versus man’s responsibility. In these two verses the apostle shows us the necessity and fact of both in man’s salvation. The unfortunate tendency is man’s bent to swing the pendulum from one extreme to the other so that the whole of God’s truth is not only missed, but one side is blown out of proportion into such a grotesque caricature that the other side is completely overshadowed. Scripture teaches both truths and this passage among others is one of the proofs of that fact.
Can we understand it? Not really, for the more profound a truth is, the greater the difficulty finite man has in understanding it. What is needed is the humility to face this as a part of our own finiteness. For what is the Bible? It is the divine and special revelation of the mind of an infinite God, which means the human reader is often brought beyond the limits of his own intelligence, beyond his capacity of comprehension. Unless we come to recognize that our own wisdom and intelligence are not enough, we will continue to distort what Scripture teaches on such difficult issues. We must be ready to listen to God’s greater wisdom. Jesus alluded to this when He prayed to God, “you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21). Too often men take the position of the wise and seek to use or apply their own human logic to these difficult concepts of Scripture like divine sovereignty and human volition, the trinity, and the divine/human natures of Christ united in one person. As a result, they end up either rejecting, or misinterpreting, or distorting the plain teaching of the Bible on these truths. They become as gods and act as though they have become God’s instructors. But may we be reminded of the words of Isaiah.
Isaiah 40:13-14. Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? (NIV)
Consequently, having assured these believers that they were not then in the Day of the Lord and having contrasted their glorious future with that of the unbelieving world, the apostle returns to matters at hand in verses 14-17, namely the present danger of failing to hold to what they had been taught so that they might find their comfort and strength in that truth for fruitful living in this present world. In this we see the necessary balance between prophecy and practical Christian living.
Paul was a balanced Christian who had a balanced ministry; and we see evidence of this as he brought his letter to a close. He moved from prophecy to practical Christian living. He turned from the negative (Satan’s lies) to the positive (God’s truth), and from warning to thanksgiving and prayer …
Paul’s emphasis was on the truth of God’s Word in contrast to Satan’s great lie which Paul discussed in the previous section …79
The Believer’s Position and Deliverance
2:13 But we ought to give thanks for you always, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2:14 He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Thanksgiving of Paul and His Associates (2:13a)
“But we ought to give thanks for you always.” In characteristic fashion of a man who understood the grace perspective of life, the apostle again gives thanks to God for the Thessalonians (see 1 Thes. 1:2, 2:13; 3:9; 2 Thes. 1:3) whose very salvation was, of course, the result of the love of God. But as in 1:3, the apostle expresses this as a constant moral obligation that arises out of the nature of God’s saving grace. As in 1:3, he again combines the present continuous tense of opheilo, “to owe, be indebted,” with the adverb pantote, “at all times,” to stress the point of our obligation to recognize the gracious and loving work of God in the salvation of men.
The apostle then describes them literally as “brethren, beloved by the Lord.” To do this he used the perfect passive participle of agapao, “to love.” The participle is appositional (an explanatory equivalent) to “brethren.” As brethren, they are “beloved by the Lord.” Contextually, this is what we would call an intensive perfect because it stresses being loved as an abiding state resulting from past action. As believers in Christ, having been loved by God in the past, we are the constant recipients of God’s love in the present (see Rom. 8:39). Whatever has been done for us in Christ springs from the eternal love of God, but as God’s children we continue to remain recipients of that love. It was at the cross that God proved His love for sinners (Rom. 5:8).
With the word “because” (hoti, used here as a causal conjunction, “because, since”), Paul described the stages of salvation as the outworking of His love.
God’s Sovereign Activity in Salvation (2:13b, 14a)
(1) He chose them from the beginning for salvation (2:13b). In this statement, as it springs from God’s eternal love, we see the ultimate cause and source of our salvation in Christ—divine selection. “Chose” is from the verb aireo, “to pick, take,” but in the middle voice it means “to choose.” The form of the verb (an aorist indicative middle of past action) plus the words, “from the beginning,”80 point to the pre-temporal choice of God which the apostle usually places alongside their historical call (vs. 14). This choice was not on the basis of their love for God (1 John 4:10) or any merit on their part, but because of God’s love for them. The middle voice (an intensive middle, “he chose for or by Himself) stresses this truth. The next clause, however, will expand on this. The words, “for salvation,” express the purpose or goal. What is stated here is said in contrast to those who are perishing because they have no love for the truth (vs. 12). Thus, Paul states that the goal is salvation for those chosen by the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth, the gospel. “Salvation” is soteria, “deliverance, salvation.” But again, the New Testament teaches us that our salvation in Christ has three phases or aspects. The past, saved from the penalty of sin, the present, being delivered from the reign and power of sin, and the future, being in the presence of God throughout eternity. This salvation is a matter of present confidence, enjoyment, and future anticipation in contrast to those who will go through the Day of the Lord.
(2) He sanctified them (set them apart) by the Spirit (2:13c). Exactly how God chose them for or by Himself is now amplified. First, it was “through the sanctification by the Spirit.” “Sanctification” is the Greek hagiasmos from hagiazo, “to consecrate, set apart, sanctify.” It carries the idea of a “setting apart” from the secular to that which is holy or reserved for God’s special purposes. In this there is the present, progressive sanctifying work of the Spirit designed to bring believers to spiritual maturity and conform them into the character of Christ. But in the context here, Paul refers to the preliminary work of the Spirit to illuminate, convict, and lead a person to faith in Christ (cf. John 16:8f; Acts 1:8; 16:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). This reminds us of the principle that we may (and should) sow and water the seed of the Word, but ultimately, it is God who brings the increase or enables the seed to germinate and sprout up in the heart of those to whom we witness.
The second means God uses is “faith in the truth.” This will be covered below under “Man’s Responsibility in Salvation.”
(3) He called them to this salvation through the Gospel (2:14a). Literally, the Greek text reads, “unto which (referring to salvation, the main idea of verse 13) He called you through our gospel.” “Our gospel” naturally refers to the message about the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is also “the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1:8). In verse 13 Paul spoke of God’s pre-temporal choosing of the Thessalonians for salvation. Here he speaks of the actual work of bringing them to Himself by calling them through the message of the gospel. “Call” is aorist of the verb kaleo, “call, invite.” The aorist tense looks back to the time when the missionaries visited Thessalonica and they heard the gospel in what the missionaries preached.
(4) He gave them the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2:14b). “So that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus” points us to the ultimate goal—sharing in the glory of eternity with the Lord Jesus. Here we see what began in His past eternal councils finds its ultimate fulfillment in eternity future. However, as seen in 1:10, sharing in the glory of Christ will begin with His parousia when He comes with the church to be glorified in His saints (see also 1 Thes. 5:9).
… What begins with grace always leads to glory. This is quite a contrast to the future assigned to the lost (2 Thes. 1:8-10). Believers already possess God’s glory within (John 17:22; not the past tense in Rom. 8:30— “glorified”). We are awaiting Christ’s return, and then the glory shall be revealed (2 Thes. 1:10; Rom. 8:17-19).
When sinners believe God’s truth, God saves them. When they believe Satan’s lie, and reject the love of the truth, they cannot be saved (2 Thes. 2:10-12). Being neutral about God’s truth is a dangerous thing. It has tragic eternal consequences.81
Man’s Responsibility in Salvation (2:13d)
As pointed to above, this is brought out in the words, “… and faith in the truth.” As the God who ordained the end and chose us for salvation and the possession of the glory of Christ, so likewise He has ordained the means as it pertains to man’s responsibility. This responsibility is linked, of course, to the sanctifying work of the Spirit. That responsibility is faith in the truth as it is found in the gospel message of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Repeatedly, the apostle has referred to the personal faith of the Thessalonians (see 1 Thes. 1:3 with 1:9; 2:13; 2 Thes. 1:10). God’s election in no way bypasses the need of personal faith in Christ. These two must be held in balance.
It is dangerous to engage in idle speculation about divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Both are taught in the Bible. We know that “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), and that lost sinners can never save themselves. We must admit that there are mysteries to our salvation; but we can rejoice that there are certainties on which we can rest. We must not use the doctrine of election to divide the church or disturb the weak, but to glorify the Lord.82
The Believer’s Practice and Responsibility
Hold Firmly to the Truth (2:15)
2:15 Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions that we taught you, whether by speech or by letter.
Paul now turns to a practical responsibility that flows out of all that has been said in verses 1-14. They are called on to stand firm (1) because of the glorious deliverance that awaited them at the coming of the Lord (2:1), (2) because of the false teaching that had disturbed them (2:2-3), and (3) because of Satan’s working of error and the tragic future of those who had not believed the truth (2:9-10).
“Therefore” is ara oun. Ara is a coordinating or inferential conjunction, “so then, consequently,” but here it is strengthened with oun, another conjunction (inferential and transitional) meaning “therefore, then.” Ara points to the inference drawn from the preceding context and oun to the transitional focus or exhortation that should result.83
Even though they were not in the Day of the Lord and could never be because they had not been appointed to wrath, but to deliverance (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9), still they, as all believers in the church age, are living in a time when the mystery of lawlessness is always at work. In this regard there is a present danger of deception and a growing apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1f; 2 Tim. 3:1f). Thus, believers must stand firm and hold on with a strong grip to the truth Paul and his associates had taught them. With the words “stand firm” we have the call for stability in contrast to being shaken or disturbed (2:2). With the words “hold on to the traditions …” we have the means to maintain the needed stability.
Both “stand firm” and “hold on” are in the continuous present tense and the imperative mood, the mood of command. In this context, where some had been shaken from their composure (2:2), it carries the force of “begin and continue to stand firm and hold on.” The verb “stand firm” is steko, “to stand,” but it is used figuratively in the sense of “standing firm” or “being steadfast.” It calls for believers to become spiritually stable because of the many and strong winds of false doctrine that always blow across the landscape of human history (see Eph. 4:14). The means for stability is found in the command to “hold on.” “Hold on” is the verb krateo, which first means, “to be strong, mighty,” hence, “to rule, be master, prevail.” From this it came to mean “to hold on to something strongly or tightly so that it cannot be lost or taken away.” The focus, of course, is on the object to be held tightly, “the traditions that we taught you” because this provides the source of stability like a sailor clinging to the mast of a ship in rough seas.
“Traditions” is paradosis, which is literally, “a handing down” or “passing on.” The verb form, paradidomi, “to hand over,” and its noun cognate, paradosis, should not be taken lightly. They do not mean tradition as it is often understood in modern English in the sense of mere human customs that one can simply accept or reject. It refers here to “a tradition of teaching, that which is passed on to others,” but the nature and value of the tradition depends on the context.
Negatively, paradosis is used in the New Testament of the teaching of the Jewish Rabbis (Matt. 15:2-6; Mark 7:5, 9, 13; see also Gal. 1:14). In Matthew 15 and Mark 7, the Lord rebuked the Pharisees because they had raised their religious traditions above Scripture so that they had nullified the authority of the Word of God itself. Paul uses it in Colossians 2:8 to describe the Colossian heresy, of human traditions, of that which had its source in man’s ideas.
Positively, however, paradosis and paradidomi are often theologically rich and in essence refer to the God-breathed teachings of God’s Word through the apostolic traditions received from the Lord Himself (see John 16:12-16; 1 Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:3). Thus, here and in 3:6, it is used of the teachings handed down by the apostle and his missionary team which in turn had been handed down to them by the Lord (1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3). The important point here is that Paul’s use of this word points to its divine authority in contrast to the mere human traditions as in the Colossian heresy (Col. 2:8) or to any other teaching contrary to what they had received from Paul. Paul’s teaching and that of his associates did not originate from man, but had its source in God Himself, “through revelation from Jesus Christ” (see 1 Thes. 2:13; Gal. 1:12). Thus, whether through Paul or through the other Apostles, these traditions had their source in God Himself by divine revelation and constituted “the faith … once for all delivered (paradidomi) unto the saints” (see Jude 3).
It is these traditions of divine revelation that he had passed on to the Thessalonians, “whether by speech or by letter.” Thus, they were to cling to these as the source and means for standing firm against not only all forms of false teaching but against the various storms of life, regardless of their source.
Practice the Truth (2:16-17)
2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 2:17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good thing you do or say.
Before moving on to other practical matters, Paul concludes his exhortation with a short but powerful prayer as part of their appeal for practical compliance and as an expression of the desire or wish of the apostolic team. The reason for the prayer is threefold: First, believing and holding on to the truth should lead to its practice. Second, Paul and his team knew that only the Lord Himself could effectively bring about the needed encouragement and stability, the kind that would lead to the practice of the truth in word and deed in the midst of a pagan environment. And third, such a wishful prayer is appropriate and possible because of what God the Son and the Father have done for us by grace in the person of His Son. Verse 16, then, becomes the basis for the specific request in verse 17.
This prayer also reveals a great deal about Paul’s theology, especially his Christology and Trinitarian perspective of God or the Godhead.
… Addressing his prayer to the first two persons of the Trinity, Paul names the Son before the Father (contra 1 Thess 3:11), probably in line with the Son’s worthiness of equal honor with the Father and his special prominence in the chapter’s emphasis on future salvation and glory. Yet the two persons are one God as shown by several structural features in vv. 16, 17: (1) The pronoun autos (“himself,” v. 16) is singular and probably should be understood as emphasizing both persons— “our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father himself” (cf. 1 Thess 3:11). (2) “Loved us and ... gave us” (v. 16) represents two singular participles whose actions are applicable to both the Son and the Father. The singular number is explained by Paul’s conception of the two persons as one God. (3) “Encourage and strengthen” (v. 17) are likewise singular in number though they express the action of a compound subject. This grammatical feature is attributable to the oneness of essence among the persons of the Godhead (cf. John 10:30). Paul conceived of Jesus Christ as God in the same full sense as he conceived of God the Father. No other explanation of this unusual combination of grammatical features is satisfying.84
The statement, “who loved us,” points in general to the work of God the Father and the Son and forms the basis or foundation for the eternal comfort and good hope that God (Father and Son) are able to give. Compare the following verses of Scripture.
The love of God the Father is seen in this, that He sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, I John 4.10, and in that He quickened us with Him, and raised us up with Him and made us to sit in the heavens in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2.4-6. The love of the Son is seen in this, that He laid down His life for us, I John 3.16.85
Having loved us, God also give us two wonderful gifts:
(1) Eternal Comfort. “Eternal comfort” puts the future of the Thessalonian believers (and all believers) in strong contrast with those previously described as perishing (2:10-12). “Comfort” is the Greek paraklesis, which means in this context “comfort, consolation, encouragement.” This comfort is, of course, not simply for the future but something which we may know now through the Scripture (Rom. 15:4f; 2 Cor. 1:3-7). But that this comfort is called “eternal” reminds us that all our present affliction is temporary while our recompense and future glory is permanent (see 2 Cor. 4:16-18). Whatever we may face in this life will pass, but our comfort is here to stay. Of course, our present enjoyment of that comfort can only occur as we hold tightly to the promises of God’s Word (Rom. 15:4).
(2) Good Hope. In our modern setting, people often think of hope as a kind of unsure optimism. The modern idea for hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without much certainty, to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.” But such is not the New Testament concept of “hope.” The Greek term used here is elpis, which refers to a confident expectation and generally has a future focus. Hope may refer to the activity of hoping, or to the object hoped for, the content of one’s hope. By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things one cannot see or hasn’t received or both (cf. Rom. 8:24-25).
Biblically, from the standpoint of the object hoped for, hope is somewhat synonymous with salvation and its many blessings as promised in Scripture—past, present, and future. This is true, it would seem, even with what we have already received as believers because such blessings come under the category of what we cannot see with our physical eyesight. We may see some of the results, but it still requires faith and hope.
As an illustration, we do not see the justifying work of God, the imputation of righteousness to our account. We did not see the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we were saved or the baptizing work of the Spirit which joined us into union with Christ. We believe this to be a reality, but this is still a matter of faith and hope—the confident expectation in its reality. We believe in the testimony of God in the Word like Romans 6 and hope for the results in our lives—victory over the flesh.
Hope is the confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the Word is true, that it either has occurred or will occur in accordance with the sure promises of His Word. Such a hope, then, naturally flows out of the eternal comfort and is also a present possession of those who rest in the sure promises of the Word. The focus in the word “hope” is generally, as in this context of 2 Thessalonians 1 and 2, on the future glory and rest already mentioned (1:7; 2:14). For a similar thrust and connection of “comfort” and “hope” see Romans 15:4f.
Finally, we should note that this hope is described as “good.” This is the adjective agathos. Agathos refers to what is morally and practically good because it is beneficial. The implication is that there are other kinds of hope—those that are evil because they will not come to pass or are based on that which is futile, like the hope mankind will have in the promises of the lawless one or in man’s ideas of a great society or the hopes men have in false religious systems. I can remember when there was the hope that the atomic bomb would bring an end to war because of the military dominance it would give this nation, but that was a false hope.
Finally, following the word order of the original Greek text, the apostle concludes with the words, “by grace.” All that we have—being the objects of God’s love and the recipients of comfort and hope—is by grace and never by what we deserve, no matter how faithful we might be. It’s all a matter of God’s amazing grace.
With the preceding as the basis for Paul’s prayer and desire, he moved to the specific requests in verse 17 for encouragement and strength, “… encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good thing you do or say.” The Thessalonians needed comfort and encouragement (the verb “encourage” [parakalesai] suggests both “comfort” and “encourage”; sometimes it means “urge” as in 1 Thes. 4:1, 10; 2 Thes. 3:12) in view of their recent anxiety created by false information concerning the day of the Lord. “Strengthen” is the verb sterizo, “set up, fix firmly, establish, support.” From this it came to be used figuratively in the sense of “confirm, establish, strengthen” (it was used in 1 Thes. 3:2, 13). It carries with it the idea of stability.
But certainly the concluding words, “by grace,” are significant for the need of encouragement and strength. Nothing can encourage the heart and bring stability like a firm grasp on God’s grace. It is grace that saved us, it is grace that keeps us, and it is grace that will enter us into God’s presence. In keeping with the words of verse 17, I am reminded of the exhortation of Hebrews which reads: “Do not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings. For it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not ritual meals, which have never benefited those who participated in them (Hebrews 13:9, emphasis mine)
Strange teachings, those not based on the Word and the amazing grace of God and His finished work in Jesus Christ, must of necessity lead to a false or evil hope. Not only can they not truly comfort, but they cannot strengthen the heart or give true biblical stability in the face of all that life may bring.
Verse 17 records Paul’s desire and prayer for the Thessalonians and stands as a model of concern for all of us. He wanted God to encourage their hearts and strengthen them in their spiritual lives in every good thing they might say and do (i.e., in word and work or in talk and walk). Again we see the practical pastoral heart of the apostle and his team seeking to encourage and strengthen them as a father does his children (1 Thes. 2:11). Thus, encouragement and strengthening (or establishment) are two themes repeated in the Thessalonians epistles.
When Paul was with them, he encouraged them individually as a father does his children (1 Thes. 2:11). He sent Timothy to encourage them (3:2), and Paul himself was greatly encouraged with Timothy’s report of their faithfulness (3:7).
Paul encouraged them to walk to please God (4:1), and to grow in their love for others (4:10). He taught them about the rapture of the church in order that they might encourage each other (4:18). To calm their fears, he explained the Day of the Lord to them (5:11). In addition to his teaching, he urged them to minister to each other (5:18).
Establishment in the Lord is also an important theme. Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica that he might establish them in their faith (1 Thes. 3:2); and Paul prayed that God might establish them (3:13). The child must be taught to stand before he can learn to walk or run.
It is God who establishes, but He uses people to accomplish His work. A great need in our churches is for Christians who will take time to establish the younger believer. Group Bible studies are very valuable, as are the public meetings of the church; but individual discipling is also important. Paul encouraged the Thessalonican believers on a one-to-one basis, and we should follow his example.86
But let’s not forget the aim of these two themes which is expressed in the clause, “in every good thing you do and say.” This focuses on two aspects of the believer’s life, his or her words and walk. Both of these should manifest the character of the Lord Jesus and be consistent with one another. But for that to be so, the believer must think with the truth of God’s Word as one who holds firmly to the “traditions,” the teachings of the Word. The aim here is expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (NASB). Of course, we are never saved by works (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:4-5), but part of the aim of our salvation is unto good works and ministry in a world in need of the Savior.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
Titus 2:11–3:7 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 2:12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 2:13 as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2:14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good. 2:15 So communicate these things with the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority.
3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. 3:2 They must not slander anyone, but be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people. 3:3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. 3:4 But “when the kindness of God our Savior appeared and his love for mankind, 3:5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 3:6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 3:7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”
Life is certainly filled with tests or trials of every sort and size and this includes being confronted with false doctrine as were the Thessalonians and the unsettling effects this can cause when we are not anchored solidly in the Word. These tests, however, can be a source of growth and a means to experience God’s strength for spiritual stability, or they can cause us to become uneasy and shaken in our composure. The difference depends on how well we know and are holding firmly to God’s truth and resting in His matchless grace.
Anyone who has lived or worked in a skyscraper knows tall buildings sway in the wind. There’s no danger; the engineers know it will happen, but the sway is uncomfortable for people inside. When engineers and architects designed Citicorp Center in New York, they decided to do something about it.
At the top of the fifty-nine story building, they installed a machine called a tuned mass damper. The machine, writes Joe Morgenstern in New Yorker magazine, “was essentially a four-hundred-and-ten-ton block of concrete, attached to huge springs and floating on a film of oil. When the building swayed, the block’s inertia worked to damp the movement and calm tenants’ queasy stomachs.”87
When the winds of life gust all around us, we too have a source of stability in the sure promises and truth of the Bible which can calm our spiritual queasiness.
80 There is some debate over whether the text should read aparchen, “first fruits,” or ap’ arches, “from the beginning.” “Some manuscripts (B F G 33 1739 al) read “as a first-fruit” (i.e., as the first converts), but this is more likely to be a change by scribes who thought of the early churches in this way. Paul would not be likely to call the Thessalonians “the first-fruits” among his converts. The reading in the text is supported by ? D Y Byz.” (Textual critical note from the NET Bible, The Biblical Studies Press).
83 Walter Bauer, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Fredrick W. Danker, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979, electronic media.