…who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 1 Thessalonians 2:15
Paul continues his thought of the previous verse which spoke of the persecution that the Thessalonians faced. They suffered from their own countrymen just as the church in Judea suffered at the hand of the Jews there. Expanding on that now, he says (of the Jews) that it was they “who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets.”
Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, now identified more with the believing Gentiles in Thessalonica than he did with his own countrymen according to the flesh. And this is even more poignant because he was once one of those who “killed the Lord Jesus.” He had rejected Christ, just as did most of his countrymen. Though he didn’t literally kill Jesus, he was a part of the group of people who did. It was they who also killed “their own prophets.”
These words ring back to the words of Jesus Himself when He spoke against the leaders of Israel in Matthew 23 –
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Matthew 23:19-36
After stating that the Jews had killed both Jesus and their own prophets, he then says that they “have persecuted us.” This literally says, “and have driven us out.” As noted in the previous verse, it was the Jews who normally incited the original persecution against Paul and those with him as they spoke to the Gentile believers. They would stir the Gentiles up and speak against the gospel, causing the Gentiles to then take matters into their own hands. It is a repeated pattern in Acts which shows the great enmity between the Jewish people and this newly established faith in Christ Jesus, the One who had fulfilled and thus nullified their law. They could not accept such a thing was possible, and they riled against the very notion of it in every way possible. The Thessalonians were fully aware of the truth of this statement because it happened to Paul there as well. He and Silas were literally driven out of the area by the Jews.
But, in rejecting the message of Christ, which says that the law is fulfilled and annulled in Him, they became a group of people who “do not please God.” It is impossible to be saved through the Law of Moses. It was given as a temporary system to lead all people to an understanding of their need for Christ Jesus. In rejecting Christ, they could not be pleasing to God, because Christ – not the law – is God’s complete and final means of salvation for mankind; Jew and Gentile alike. Thus, they are “contrary to all men.”
They are contrary to believers in Christ because they have not come to accept that Christ is the fulfillment of their law. Instead, they speak against the Christian faith. Any Jew who comes to faith in Christ is shunned, and is often even excommunicated from family and friends. They are contrary to all others because they feel that their law (which is actually annulled in Christ) sets them apart from all others. They feel that because of the Law of Moses, their sign of circumcision, and their adherence to the Sabbath, that they are righteous before God while all others are unrighteous. Thus, they are “contrary to all men.”
Life application: Pray for the eyes of all unbelievers to be opened to the truth of Christ. And pray for the Jewish people, collectively and individually, to see their need for the Messiah and call out to Him for salvation.
Lord God, Your word says there is but one way to be reconciled to You, and that is through the shed blood of the Lamb of God, Your Son and our Lord, Jesus. Help us to be brave in this world, which is contrary to that message, to speak out the truth about it. Help us to never waffle in our convictions, but to stand firm on them. Surely with this, you are pleased. Even in our dying moments, may we never lose faith in what we possess because of Jesus. Amen.