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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

1 Thessalonians 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. Περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν, ἀδελφοί. But about the times and the seasons, brothers.

Χρόνος signifies time as duration, καιρός as a specific point, occasion: asking περὶ τῶν χρόνων, one wants to know the length of the periods that may elapse before the Advent; asking περὶ τῶν καιρῶν, the number and nature of the critical events that must intervene and lead up to it; de temporibus et momentis (Vulg.). Ὁ μὲν καιρὸς δηλοῖ ποιότητα, χρόνος δὲ ποσότητα (Ammonius). For the association of these terms, cf. Titus 1:2 f.; Acts 1:7; Acts 3:20 f.; also Daniel 2:21; Daniel 7:12; Ecclesiastes 3:1; Wisdom of Solomon 8:8 : for καιρός further, 1 Thessalonians 2:17 above; 2 Thessalonians 2:6; Romans 3:26; Galatians 6:9 f.; Luke 21:8, &c. Ἀδελφοί is repeated in 1 Thessalonians 5:4, as though the Apostles instinctively drew their friends near to themselves under the shadow of the solemn future; cf. ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς, 2 Thessalonians 2:1. Chrysostom attributes the inquisitiveness περὶ τῶν χρόνων κ.τ.λ. to an idle, restless disposition (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:11): πολλὰ ἐπείγεται μανθάνειν ἥδη καὶ καταλαμβάνειν ἡμῶν ἡ διάνοια ὡς περίεργος καὶ λίχνος πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀφανῶν καὶ κεκαλυμμένων μάθησιν· τοῦτο δὲ σημαίνει ἀπὸ τοῦ θρύπτεσθαι καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ μηδὲν ἔχειν ποιεῖν.

On οὐ χρείαν κ.τ.λ., see note to 1 Thessalonians 4:9.


Verses 1-11

§ 9. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. The Coming of the Day

The second misgiving of the Thessalonians respecting the παρουσία (see Introd. to § 8, and general Introd. p. xxxvi.) was closely connected with the first (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff.). If only “the living, οἱ περιλειπόμενοι,” might count on witnessing the παρουσία, then any uncertainty about its date throws a cloud upon the prospects of all believers; if the season was delayed, any of those living might be cut off before the time and no one could count on seeing the wished-for day! This apprehension made the desire of the Church to know περὶ τῶν χρόνων κ.τ.λ. painfully keen; no mere curiosity prompted the question, but a practical motive, a natural fear arising from the very loyalty of the Thessalonians to Christ and the “love” of “His appearing” which the Gospel awakened in them. The Epistle has allayed the main cause of disquiet by showing that there will be no essential difference in the lot of those found “sleeping” and those “waking” at the Lord’s return (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:10 below); it goes on to remind the readers of what they had been taught already, viz., that “the day of the Lord” is to come by way of surprise to the wicked, for which reason its date must be hidden (1 Thessalonians 5:2 f.). The “sons of light and of day” will be ready for “the day” whenever it dawns (1 Thessalonians 5:4 f.). Their duty and safety is to be wakeful and sober, arming themselves with faith and hope (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8)—a hope grounded on God’s purpose of salvation revealed in the Gospel, which assures to them through Christ’s death a life of union with Him remaining unchanged in life and death (1 Thessalonians 5:9 f.), and secure whether His coming be earlier or later.


Verse 2

2. αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε. For of yourselves you know precisely. On αὐτοὶ οἴδατε, see 1 Thessalonians 2:1; and cf. again 1 Thessalonians 4:9. The readers “know,” because they have been already told (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:5); their question was needless, if they reflected on what they had previously learned respecting “the day of the Lord.” The allusions in the sequel to our Lord’s discourse on the Judgement imply that the Apostles had quoted His sayings on this mysterious theme. While in regard to the matter of § 8 a new revelation was required (1 Thessalonians 4:15), on this question the Lord’s own well-remembered words were sufficient.

The word ἀκριβῶς is puzzling here: “perfectly” (A.V., R.V.) is not a strict equivalent; in Matthew 2:8 it is rendered “carefully,” in Luke 1:3 “accurately,” and so on; the Vulg. turns it into diligenter; Erasmus and Estius, better, exacte. The adverb seems out of place, until one remembers that the Apostles are replying to enquiries from their readers, and that in such correspondence St Paul is fond of retorting words addressed to him (see J. Rendel Harris in the Expositor, V. viii. 161–180; also W. Lock in Expositor, V. vi. 65 ff.). Probably the Thessalonians in sending their query had used this very word: “We should like to know more precisely about the times and seasons, and when the day of the Lord will be.” The Apostle replies, with a touch of irony (cf. note on 1 Thessalonians 4:11): “You already know precisely that nothing precise on the subject can be known—the Great Day will steal on the world like a thief in the night!” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 shows that even after this caution the Church continued to entertain speculations about the details of the Advent.

ὅτι ἡμέρα Κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται, that the day of the Lord, as a thief in the night, so is coming. Ἡμέρα Κυρίου—anarthrous (cf. Philippians 1:6; Philippians 1:10; Philippians 2:16), as a sort of proper noun—the well-known prophetic “Day of the Lord” (יוֹם יהיה ). It “is coming,”—is on the way (cf. notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:16; also Ephesians 5:6; Romans 1:18; 2 Peter 2:3, &c.). Even in the act of departing Jesus said repeatedly, “I come,” “I am coming to you” (John 14:3; John 14:18; John 14:28, &c.). Lightfoot, Winer-Moulton (pp. 331 f.), and others, read this as a prophetic present: “cometh” = “will surely come.” The event is certain and in preparation; when it will arrive none can tell.

The figure of the κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί points (1 Thessalonians 5:3) to the unhappy surprise that “the day” brings to the wicked. This simile of Jesus (cf. Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39 f.; see note above, on αὐτοὶ οἴδατε) recurs in 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15. It gave rise to the tradition that the Advent would take place on the night before the Passover, through which therefore vigil was wont to be kept (see Jerome on Matthew 25:6; Lactantius Instit. vii. 19). The metaphor possibly implies, beside the unexpectedness, the bereaving effect of the Coming: that Day will rob the wicked of ease and wealth (cf. Luke 12:20; Luke 12:33). There is a certain incongruity in the representation of a “day coming” (breaking in upon evildoers) “as a thief in the night”; but it is the Lord Himself who “comes” on this great day of His (2 Thessalonians 1:7 ff.; cf. Revelation 3:3, &c.).

The doctrine of “the day of Jehovah” may be traced through the O.T., in Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1 ff., &c., Joel 3:14; Amos 5:18 ff.; Isaiah 2:11 ff; Isaiah 13:6, &c., Isaiah 19:16-25, Isaiah 26:1, Isaiah 27:1 ff.; Zephaniah 1:7 ff., &c.; Jeremiah 31:31 ff; Jeremiah 46:10; Ezekiel 13:5; Ezekiel 39:8, &c.; Malachi 3:2, &c. It denotes the great epoch of judgement impending over Israel and the surrounding nations, which dominated the prophetic horizon; it had a further outlook, however, of blessing and restoration for God’s people (see Zechariah 14:7 ff.). The judicial aspect of the Day of the Lord in the O.T. was carried over into the New, mutatis mutandis. The Judgement now assumes a more spiritual and supernatural character; it is individualized, bearing no longer on nations and their destiny, but on men universally—on personal character and relations to God; it follows upon the resurrection of the dead; and, above all, Jesus Christ is disclosed as the Judge of “that Day”: see, amongst many other passages, Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:21-29; John 6:39 f.; Luke 17:24; Luke 17:26; Luke 17:30; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:3 ff.; 2 Corinthians 5:10, &c. Hence this Day of the Lord is called by the Apostle “the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, &c.); sometimes “that day” (2 Timothy 1:12, &c.), since it is the finale to which all Christianity points. St Paul loves to regard it on its brighter side, as the time when Christ’s glory will be revealed in His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Philippians 2:16; Romans 8:19, &c.). Now the world has its day; “this is your hour,” said Jesus to the Jewish officers, “and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53): then comes the Lord’s day, when He will be vindicated both in salvation and in judgement, when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). At a later period the weekly day of Christ’s resurrection received this name (see Revelation 1:10; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:2)—this is also a day of Divine vindication, and thus a pledge and anticipation of the great Day; cf. the connexion between the resurrection of Jesus and the Last Judgement indicated in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Acts 17:31.


Verse 3

3. ὄταν λέγωσιν Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια. When they are saying, (There is) peace and safety (security). This verse stands in abrupt (asyndetic) explanatory relation to ὅτιἔρχεται (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Once more the prophetic language of the O.T. is drawn upon: see Micah 3:5 f.; Jeremiah 6:14 f., Jeremiah 8:11; Ezekiel 13:10—where the false assurances of lying prophets are denounced. “It seems not unlikely that this sentence,” continuing as it does 1 Thessalonians 5:2 without a break, “is a direct quotation from our Lord’s words” unrecorded elsewhere (Lightfoot): cf. notes above on αὐτοὶοἴδατε and ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτί; also note below on τότε αἰφνίδιος κ.τ.λ. The subject of λέγωσιν is given by the context, viz., the men “of night” and “of darkness.” Εἰρήνη κ.τ.λ. forms an elliptical clause—the utterance of those cherishing a false security. At the very moment when men of the world are wrapped in ease and are assuring each other that all is well, the ruin breaks upon them,—e.g. in the case of the πλούσιος ἄφρων of Luke 12:16 ff. Periods of self-complacent prosperity are pregnant with calamity, and prelude some awful “Day of the Lord.”

τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐπίσταται ὄλεθρος: then suddenly over them stands destruction. Tunc repentinus eis superveniet interitus (Vulg.), imminet excidium (Beza)—not seen approaching, but first visible as it presses close upon the doomed transgressors and is on the point of overwhelming them. The words of Jesus reported in Luke 21:34 are distinctly echoed, not in thought only but in phraseology: προσέχετε ἑαυτοῖς μή ποτε βαρηθῶσιν αἱ καρδίαι ὑμῶν ἐν κραιπάλῃ καὶ μέθῃ (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:7 below) καὶ μερίμναις βιωτικαῖς, καὶ ἐπιστῇ ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς αἰφνίδιος (in these two places only in N.T.) ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη ὡς παγίς; cf., besides Matthew 24:38 ff., Luke 17:26 ff. “One out of several special points of coincidence between St Paul’s Epistles and the Third Gospel, where it diverges from the others” (Lightfoot); cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians 15:5, 1 Timothy 5:18. Αἰφνίδιος bears emphasis by its place at the beginning, and ὄλεθρος at the end of the sentence; being a secondary adjectival predicate, the former is best rendered by the English adverb. For ὄλεθρος, see note to 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

Ἐπίσταται stands for ἐφίσταται in the best mss. (see Textual Note above). The earlier Greek Codices show considerable variation and uncertainty in regard to the aspirate: “the spiritus asper tended gradually to disappear” (Winer-Schmiedel, Grammatik, p. 38). Here the form of the cognate verb ἐπίσταμαι probably reacted on the middle voice of ἐφίστημι; “aspiration is” almost “universal in the other 14 examples of compounds of ἴστημι with a preposition capable of showing aspiration” (WH). The same double spelling appears in the mss. of Wisdom of Solomon 6:8 [9]; and D makes the opposite confusion, ἐφ- (for ἐπ-)ίστασθε, in Acts 10:28.

ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, as the birth-pang (comes on) her that is with child: another O.T. simile (Isaiah 13:6-8; Isaiah 37:3; Hosea 13:13; Micah 4:9 f.; thrice in Jeremiah); used by Jesus, on the happier side of its application, in John 16:21; also in Galatians 4:19. Ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχειν, or φέρειν, is an established Greek locution for pregnancy. There lie in this comparison the three points of inevitable certainty, suddenness, and intense pain. Hence the added clause, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν, and they shall in no wise escape: a further reminiscence of the warning of Luke 21—ἵνα κατισχύσητε ἐκφυγεῖν ταῦτα πάντα (Luke 21:36); for ἐκφεύγειν in similar threatenings, cf. Romans 2:3; Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 12:25.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 contrast the outlook of the readers, in view of the dread “day”—so certain in itself, so uncertain in its date—with that of the careless world around them.


Verse 4

4. ὑμεῖς δὲ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει, ἵνα ἡ ἡμέρα κ.τ.λ. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you as thieves (or as a thief). With the opening ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ cf. Ephesians 4:20; and for ἐν σκότει, see 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:12 f. In the last of the above passages also “darkness” and “light” are conceived as two opposite regions or realms, dividing men between them; cf. John 3:19 ff.; 1 John 1:5 ff. “In darkness” one may be “surprised”—one is sure to be so if asleep, or ἐν μέθῃ (1 Thessalonians 5:7)—by the breaking in of “the day.” Ἡ ἡμέρα is “the day” whose coming was described in 1 Thessalonians 5:2; for this emphatic breviloquence, cf. Romans 13:12, 1 Corinthians 3:13, Hebrews 10:25; similarly “the wrath” in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 above.

We have preferred in the Textual Note the Received reading κλέπτης to κλέπτας, which is adopted by WH and Lightfoot. The inversion involved in κλέπτας, transforming the “thief” from the cause of the surprise (1 Thessalonians 5:2) into its object, abrupt as it is, one might admit as possible in St Paul; but it seems incongruous here, and such incongruity is un-Pauline: the subsequent context describes the “sons of night” as sleeping or drunken, quite otherwise than as thieves, who are alert and careful. Moreover, καταλάβῃ bears a stress which should have fallen upon ὡς κλέπτας in the ordo verborum, if the metaphor had been turned about and a new bearing unexpectedly given to it. It is a thief-like surprise that “the day” brings with it; not such a surprise as falls upon thieves at their night’s work. For καταλαμβάνω in this hostile sense, cf. John 12:35, Mark 9:18; in its good sense, Philippians 3:12. With the reading ὡς κλέπτας, the verb would have a shade of detection in it; cf. [Jo.] John 8:3.

The strict telic force of ἵνα might be maintained by conceiving the clause as a statement of God’s purpose “in His merciful dispensation implied in οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει” (Ellicott); or better, according to Bornemann, as the purpose of God for the opposite class of men who are ἐν σκότει, as though the Apostle meant, “You are not in darkness,—not so placed that the day may surprise you.” “But the word is better taken here as simply expressing the result or consequence [of being in darkness], a meaning which, in the decline of the Greek language, gradually displaced the original signification of ἵνα” (Lightfoot); cf. Galatians 5:17. This conjunction in the κοινή was slipping down from the final (telic), through the eventual (ecbatic), sense into the use assigned to it in Byzantine and Modern Greek, where, in the form νά, it serves as a bare infinitive particle. See Winer-Moulton, pp. 572 ff.; A. Buttmann, pp. 235 ff. The ἵνα after παρακαλοῦμεν (1 Thessalonians 4:1) is somewhat different (see note).


Verse 5

5. πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας: for you are all sons of light and sons of day. More than a denial of ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει: the “son of light” is not merely “in the light,” he is “of the light,” possessed by it and of its nature; he “is light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8 : cf. Ephesians 2:2 f.; Romans 13:11 ff.; Luke 16:8; John 12:36; 1 Peter 1:14; 2 Peter 1:19). In Hebrew idiom, one is “a son” of anything that determines or distinguishes his character; cf. “sons of Belial,” “sons of the resurrection,” &c. “Light” is the pervading element of the Christian’s life; “day” is the sphere in which the light-possessed men move; it culminates in “the day of the Lord.” This figure is even more familiar with St John than with St Paul. Christ applies it to His own person as well as His doctrine (John 8:12; John 9:5; cf. Psalms 36:9). The metaphor signifies [1] moral purity (see 1 Thessalonians 5:7 f.), [2] saving effect (see Psalms 27:1; Isaiah 60:1 ff.; John 8:12; John 11:9; 2 Corinthians 4:6, &c.), [3] mental enlightenment (Ephesians 1:17 f. &c.).

Πάντεςὑμεῖς (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:27): the Apostles know of no exception; there are weak and faulty individuals in this Church (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14), but all are claimed as true Christians and counted upon for the maintenance of the watchful hope which becomes the sons of light and day. Note the sustained emphasis on ὑμεῖς, ὑμᾶς, ὑμεῖς in 1 Thessalonians 5:4 f., by contrast to αὐτοῖς in 1 Thessalonians 5:3.

Οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους. We are not of night nor of darkness. This sentence forms the negative counterpart of the last, and translates its Hebrew idiom (“sons of light,” &c.) into the Greek genitive of characteristic. At the same time it looks forward, and belongs strictly to 1 Thessalonians 5:6 instead of 1 Thessalonians 5:5. It exchanges the 2nd person of the previous context for the 1st, in which the exhortation continues through 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10. This transition is a feature of St Paul’s hortatory manner: he identifies his readers with himself as he proceeds, drawing them along with him into the trials and hopes common to the Christian life (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:14). The same silent and almost unconscious change of grammatical person is observed in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 f., 1 Thessalonians 3:2 f., 1 Thessalonians 4:6 f., 13 f.

Night, in contrast with day, is the period, and the state, of ignorance and estrangement from God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:5; Romans 13:12 f.); while “darkness” is the element or empire of “night,” the evil condition in which “the rest” (1 Thessalonians 5:6) live and act, and find their doom (cf. Ephesians 4:18; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:35; Matthew 25:30).


Verse 6

6. ἄρα οὖν μὴ καθεύδωμεν ὡς οἱ λοιποί, ἀλλὰ γρηγορῶμεν καὶ νήφωμεν: accordingly then let us not sleep on like the rest, but let us be wakeful and sober. This consequential clause should be separated from the last (1 Thessalonians 5:5 b) by a colon only, while the full-stop is placed in the middle of 1 Thessalonians 5:5 : “We are not of night, &c.…; so then let us not sleep” (see the last note). “Ἄρα in classical usage never commences an independent sentence. But in later Greek it assumes a more strictly argumentative sense than in the earlier language, and so frequently occupies the first place” (Lightfoot). The combination ἄρα οὖν is peculiar to St Paul (the interrogative ἆρα οὖν …; occasionally in classical authors), occurring eight times in Romans, and once each in Galatians, Ephesians , 1 and 2 Thessalonians (also in Ignatius ad Trall. x.); it brings in the conclusion with a full and round emphasis, as though enforcing what reason and duty both demand. Ἄρα connotes a logical inference, a conformity of thought: οὖν draws the practical consequence, and is as freely used in exhortations as in statements; cf. τοιγαροῦν in 1 Thessalonians 4:8.

“Sleep” is natural to those who are “of the night” (cf. Ephesians 5:11 ff.); it symbolizes the moral insensibility and helpless exposure to peril resulting from sin: cf. Romans 13:11 f., “The night is far spent … it is high time to awake out of sleep,” &c.; also Psalms 13:3. For καθεύδω in this ethical sense, cf. Ephesians 5:14, Mark 13:36; distinguish the verb from κοιμάομαι, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, &c. (see note above). On οἱ λοιποί, see 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Γρηγορέω, the antithesis of καθεύδω, is a verb of later Greek, a new present formed from ἐγρήγορα, the perf. of ἐγείρω. The word occurs many times in the warnings of Jesus—Matthew 24-26, Mark 13. f., and Luke 12.; in Acts 20:31; thrice in Revelation; twice besides in Paul; and once in Peter (1 Thessalonians 5:8) coupled, as here, with νήφω. It enjoins the continued wakeful activity of a mind given to Christ’s service and occupied with the thought of His coming. The Lord’s return is the chief object of this “watching” (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Peter 3:12; Luke 12:37); prayer is specified as its accompaniment in Colossians 4:2, Mark 14:38, &c. Watching protects against the “thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:2 f.; Luke 12:39): thus Chrysostom, Ἐπὶ γὰρ τῶν ἐγρηγορότων καὶ ἐν φωτὶ ὄντων, κἂν γένηταί τις εἴσοδος λῃστοῦ, οὐδὲν λυμανεῖσθαι δυνήσεται.

Νήφωμεν prescribes the moral, as γρηγορῶμεν the mental, side of the attitude and temper befitting the “sons of day.” In νήφειν the literal and ethical senses are combined; the word excludes, with actual drunkenness (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:7; Luke 12:45 f., Luke 21:34; Romans 13:12, &c.), all immoderation and self-indulgence (cf. 1 Peter 4:7, σωφρονήσατε καὶ νήψατε εἰς προσευχάς; νηφάλιος, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 2:2, &c.). In this connexion, the term deprecates excitability and credulity about the Parousia (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff.) Καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ, ἂν γρηγορῇ μέν τις μὴ νήφῃ δέ, μυρίοις περιπεσεῖται δεινοῖς, ὥστε ἐγρηγόρσεως ἐπίτασις ἡ νῆψίς ἐστιν (Chrysostom).


Verse 7

7. The υἱοὶ ἡμέρας must be γρηγοροῦντες and νήφοντες, for the opposite conditions belong to the σκότος and are proper to its children: οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες νυκτὸς καθεύδουσιν, καὶ οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν, for those that sleep, sleep by night, and those who get drunk are drunken by night,—day is no time for such indulgences. To be drunk by day was a monstrous, unheard-of thing (Acts 2:15). “΄εθύσκομαι notat actum, μεθύω statum vel habitum” (Bengel); for the former—“to make oneself drunk,” sich betrinken—cf. Luke 12:45, Ephesians 5:18; for the latter, Acts 2:15, Revelation 17:6. The genitive of time is partitive, signifying a whole within which something happens or is done: νυκτός, by night; but νυκτί, at night; νύκτα, through the night, all night (Luke 21:37; Acts 26:7). The verse is an adage, adduced in its literal sense.


Verse 8

8. ἡμεῖς δὲ ἡμέρας ὄντες νήφωμεν: but let us, since we are of the day (not qui diei sumus, Vulg., &c., as if οἱὄντες; but quum diei simus), be sober. The νήφω of 1 Thessalonians 5:6 is resumed, with the added force gathered from 1 Thessalonians 5:7, and to be supported by the participial clauses that follow. “As the metaphor of sleep is applied to the careless and indifferent, so that of drunkenness to the reckless and profligate. The one is to the other as positive to negative sin” (Lightfoot): νήφωμεν forbids everything wild or unbridled (cf. ἐκνήψατε in 1 Corinthians 15:34). The simile of the sequel identifies the Christian’s “soberness” with that of the soldier under arms and on guard, in whom drunkenness, or sleep, would be a crime. The same association of thought appears in Romans 13:12, and again in 1 Peter 1:13,—ἀναζωσάμενοινήφοντες τελείως ἐλπίσατε κ.τ.λ.

ἐνδυσάμενοι θώρακα πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης, καὶ περικεφαλαίαν ἐλπίδα σωτηρίας: putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and (by way of) helmet the hope of salvation. The aorist partic. attached to the cohortative present specifies an act that forms a part of the exhortation: νήφωμεν enjoins a state; ἐνδυσάμενοι an act belonging to the state, and that goes to determine and characterize it. The daylight rouses the soldier: if he has slept, with the dawn he is awake and alert; if he has spent the night in carousals, he is instantly sobered; at the bugle-call he dons his armour, and steps out to his post vigilant and steady. In Romans 13:12 f. the same figure is still more graphically applied. Cf., for the military style of the passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and notes. The θώραξ κ.τ.λ. form the day-dress of the Christian warrior. Πίστεως καὶ ἀγάπης, genitives of apposition. “Veluti ad arma conclamat, ut ostendat non esse dormiendi tempus. Belli quidem nomen subticet; verum dum nos armat thorace et galea, proeliandum esse admonet” (Calvin). The armour-simile (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4 ff; Romans 6:13; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 6:11 ff.) is not original in St Paul, but only its application and working out. Its use is based, doubtless, on Isaiah 59:17 (LXX): ἐνεδύσατο δικαιοσύνην ὡς θώρακα, καὶ περιέθετο περικεφαλαίαν σωτηρίου ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς; cf. also Wisdom of Solomon 5:19; Baruch 5:2. In Isaiah God is the warrior, girding Himself to fight for the salvation of His people.

St Paul developes the above image with greater completeness, and somewhat differently, in a much later passage, Ephesians 6:13-17. He thinks here only of defensive weapons—breastplate and helmet—since the soldier is guarding himself against surprise. “The breastplate of faith and love” protects the heart, the centre of life and spring of the vital forces; to this quarter Faith and Love are assigned. These virtues are divided in Ephesians between “shield” and “breastplate.” The “helmet” is alike in both passages—there styled “salvation,” here the “hope of salvation,” Hope being a key-note of this Epistle. For this last defence the next two verses supply the ground. The correspondence of “hope” with the “helmet” lies in the place of the helmet as the crown of the soldier’s armour, its brightest and most conspicuous piece, covering the head which invites attack; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:19, where ἐλπίς is associated with στέφανος καυχήσεως; also Romans 5:2; Hebrews 3:6. Hope is held high, and shines out.

Σωτηρία (cf. σώζω, 1 Thessalonians 2:16) embraces, in St Paul and the N.T., the entire well-being that the Gospel brings (2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.; Ephesians 1:13), both to the individual man and to the world. It is identified specifically with its two essential elements or moments—of ἄφεσις ἁμαρτιῶν (Luke 1:77, &c.), and of deliverance from the grave and from the condemnation of the Last Day (Philippians 1:19; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 1:5, &c.): in the synonymous ἀπολύτρωσις this double reference is conspicuous; see Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:14. Σωτηρία here stands opposed to ὀργή, as in Romans 1:16-18; Romans 5:9, since the present salvation from sin effected in believers by God’s “grace,” and realized in “forgiveness” (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 3:1-8), gives assurance of eventual salvation from sin’s future penalties and fatal consequences in another world (Romans 5:9 f., Romans 6:22 f., &c.).

Faith, love, hope—the Apostle’s triad of graces; see notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:3. “Faith” is directed especially toward God and Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 John 5:4 f., &c.), “love” toward one’s neighbour (1 Thessalonians 4:9 f.; 2 Thessalonians 1:3, &c.); “hope” concerns oneself. Ἐλπίς seems here to be the μείζων τούτων (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13).


Verse 9

9. ὅτι οὐκ ἔθετο ἡμᾶς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ εἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας κ.τ.λ., because God did not appoint us unto wrath, but to (the) securing of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Ὄτι is read by Hofmann as explicative not causative, as stating the content of ἐλπὶς σωτηρίας (1 Thessalonians 5:8) rather than the reason for it—“a hope that God did not appoint us,” &c.; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:11, where ἐλπίζομεν is complemented by a perfect infinitive. But the common interpretation is more natural. Ἔθετο εἰς has “a partially Hebraistic tinge” (Ellicott); the idiom is parallel to שׂוּם לְ, שִׁית לְ, נָתַן לְ ; but this is not incorrect Greek: see 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:11; Acts 13:47; 1 Peter 2:8—the last the only precise parallel; and cf. Jeremiah 2:7; Jeremiah 25:12, &c. (LXX). Cf. with εἰς ὀργὴν θέσθαι, Romans 9:22, σκεύη ὀργῆς κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν: in the (hypothetical) event of “appointing unto wrath” the Divine foreordination supposes foresight, and takes into account all the moral conditions of the case; see Romans 8:29, for the opposite case of predestination to life. That God cherishes no angry purpose toward the Thessalonians, that there is no θησαυρὸς ὀργῆς (Romans 2:5) laid up for them in His plans, but an opposite destiny (1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.), of this the writers are assured by all that they know of them (see 1 Thessalonians 1:5 ff., &c.). On this ground (ὅτι κ.τ.λ.) the readers may with a joyful confidence “put on” the “helmet of ἐλπὶς σωτηρίας”: cf. Romans 5:2-11; 2 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 1:21 f., 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ff., &c. Romans 8:31-39 is a virtual commentary on this passage. Ἔθετοεἰς περιποίησιν σωτηρίας reminds us of ἐκλογή (1 Thessalonians 1:4); the verb implies the authority with which God “called” the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and His gracious intentions towards them: cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:3; also 1 Timothy 1:12, θέμενος εἰς διακονίαν.

Περιποίησις (from περιποιέομαι, to make (to remain) over for oneself) signifies in its primary active sense obtaining permanently, making secure some desired object (in the O. T. frequently, preserving alive)—so here “in acquisitionem salutis” (Vulg.), “ad salutem obtinendam” (Beza); see 2 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 10:39; Hebrews 2 Paral. 14:13; for the verb, 1 Timothy 3:13; Luke 17:33; Acts 20:28; Isaiah 43:21; 1 Maccabees 6:44 : this usage is also classical. The noun acquired a further passive meaning, and represents in Malachi 3:17 (LXX) סְגֻלָּה, peculium, a treasure, prizeἔσονταί μοιεἰς περιποίησιν; hence λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, in 1 Peter 2:9 (=λαόν μου ὃν περιεποιησάμην, Isaiah 43:21); the like signification is found in Ephesians 1:14, εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως (see J. A. Robinson’s Commentary) Lightfoot regards the περιποίησις as God’s act, and so renders, after the Old Latin, “for the adoption of (consisting in) salvation,” thus making περιποίησις synonymous with ἐκλογή (1 Thessalonians 1:4); as though the Apostle’s thought were that God has destined the Thessalonians not to be objects of His anger but of His appropriative and saving grace. The parallel passage in Ep. II. does not seem, however, to admit of this interpretation of περιποίησις, and it is far from obvious here; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 incite the readers to a wakeful, soldierlike activity, such as will be crowned by the “winning of salvation,” the glorious end for which “God destined” them when He first “called them to His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12),—the soldier’s prize; cf. 1 Timothy 6:12, ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶναἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς. This final attainment of salvation, like its beginning (Romans 5:2; cf. Romans 5:9-11), comes through Christ: see 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ff.; 2 Timothy 4:18; 1 Corinthians 15:57. For “the Lord Jesus Christ” is the Mediator of salvation, from the first step to the last. The whole basis of redemption, the ground of the believer’s hope of its accomplishment, is laid down in the next verse:—


Verse 10

10. τοῦ ἀποθανόντος περὶ ἡμῶν, ἵναἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν, who died for us, that … together with Him we might live. Περὶ ἡμῶν specifies “us” as the objects of the Saviour’s death, those “about” whom He was concerned in dying; the reading ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, as those “for the good of” whom He died—but “this distinction is growing dull” in the κοινή (J. H. Moulton); ἀντί would have been required to signalize the vicarious nature of the death, as in 1 Timothy 2:6, Matthew 20:28.

The main point is that His death secures our life; thus it gives a sure warrant for the cherished ἐλπὶς σωτηρίας (1 Thessalonians 5:8) Further, the “life” which Christ’s death secures for those resolved to “win” it (1 Thessalonians 5:9), is a life associated, indeed identified, with His (ἄμα σὺν αὐτῷ: cf. for the phrase, 1 Thessalonians 4:17); He died for the very and that we might partake of His deathless life: cf. John 6:51; John 10:10 f., 18; also Romans 5:10; Romans 6:4 ff.; 2 Corinthians 4:10 ff; 2 Corinthians 5:14 ff.; Revelation 1:5 f., 18, &c. In His “dying that we might live along with Him,” Christ’s own resurrection is taken for granted (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:14). The principle which connects the Saviour’s death with the life, present and ultimate, of His people is assumed, but not drawn out, in this passage; it was present to the mind of the readers, or these words would have been meaningless. The propitiatory atonement which Christ made upon the cross for the sins of mankind, constitutes the indispensable link; this clause involves the teaching about redemption by the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is distinctive of the second group of the Pauline Epp.: see Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:25 to Romans 5:11; Romans 6:1-11, Romans 8:1-4; Galatians 2:10-21; Galatians 3:9-14; 2 Corinthians 5:14 to 2 Corinthians 6:2. The whole theology of the Cross is latent here. In writing to the Corinthians and referring to his preaching at the very time when the Thessalonian letters were penned, St Paul calls his doctrine simply “the word of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:17 f., 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1Co_2:2); cf., for an earlier period, Acts 13:38 f., Galatians 3:1; Galatians 6:14. “In his earliest writings this doctrine was present to St Paul’s mind, though he has busied himself generally in these Epistles with other matters. It was not, therefore, as has been maintained, an aftergrowth of his maturer reflexions” (Lightfoot). See further the Introd. pp. xxv. ff.

In ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ lies St Paul’s other fundamental doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ in His heavenly life, which is the complement of his doctrine of union with Christ in His sacrificial death for sin: see, on this correspondence, 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 6:5-11; Galatians 2:19 f.; Romans 14:8 f. Risen from the grave, our Saviour “lives” evermore “to God”; “death no longer lords it over Him.” And those who are Christ’s, being “cemented to the Lord in one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17), share the life which flows from the Head through all His earthly members. This “life hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), is, in St Paul’s view, “life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:19); ζήσωμεν is emphatic: “that … together with Him we might live,”—not dying even though we “sleep”; cf. John 6:50 f., John 11:25 f.

The parenthetical clause, εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθευδωμεν, takes up into this sentence the comfort the Apostles had given their readers in § 8. The life of union with Christ which He died to procure for men, is untouched by mortality: He “died for us, in order that, whether we be waking or sleeping, together with Him we should live.” Just as our natural life holds its course unbroken through waking or sleeping hours, so our spiritual life in Christ continues whether we are awake to this world or the body lies asleep in the grave (cf. Matthew 22:32); the Christian dead are οἱ νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and return to us σὺν αὐτῷ, when “God shall bring” Jesus back to the world He left (1 Thessalonians 4:14; see notes). Hence we gather that “the sleeping” are living somewhere with and in Christ; their “sleep” makes no vital difference: cf. Romans 8:38 f.; John 14:19 b.

The verbs γρηγορέω and καθεύδω, understood ethically in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 f., by a change of metaphor become synonyms for natural life and death; see note on κοιμάομαι, 1 Thessalonians 4:13. This figurative use of καθεύὁω (= κοιμάομαι) is a Biblical hap. legomenon (cf. καλὸς νέκυς, οἶα καθεύδων, Bion i. 71); it is suggested by the context (1 Thessalonians 5:6 ff.), and γρηγορέω matches it in meaning. See Romans 14:7 ff., where Christ’s lordship over His people is declared to extend to the world beyond death: ἐάν τε ζῶμεν ἐάν τε ἀποθνήσκωμεν, τοῦ κυρίου ἐσμέν· εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἀνέστη, ἵνα καὶ νεκρῶν καὶ ζώντων κυριεύσῃ; cf., in this light, Ephesians 4:9 f. and Revelation 1:18 with the passage before us.

The subjunctive after εἴτε, in place of indic., occurs also in 1 Corinthians 14:5, Philippians 3:11, and might be justified by later Greek usage; but here it appears to be due to the influence of ἵνα just preceding, the subordinate conditional clause being let into the final clause; see Winer-Moulton, p. 368. The aorist ζήσωμεν is antithetical to ἀποθανόντος, denoting the “life” which “Christ died” to procure “for us,” not as a continued state but as a single fact, a definite attainment won for us by Christ’s death and holding good alike in our “waking” or “sleeping.” For the aorist of ζάω, cf. Luke 15:24; Romans 7:9 (contrast ἔζων with ἀνέζησεν), Romans 14:9; Galatians 2:19; Titus 2:12; 1 John 4:9; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 20:4 f.: the present, on the other hand, in 1 Thessalonians 3:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 above; Romans 14:8; 2 Corinthians 5:15, &c.


Verse 11

11. Διὸ παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους, a repetition of 1 Thessalonians 4:18, showing that the matter of this section is closely bound up with that of the last; their misgiving about the lot of Christians dying prematurely before the Lord’s return, and their uncertainty about the precise time of the return, were troubling the Thessalonian believers in the same way. Διό however (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:1) replaces ὥστε: the former throws the reader back upon the ground of encouragement just given (1 Thessalonians 5:9 f.); the latter particle carried him onward to the encouragement to be gathered from the previous words.

καὶ οἰκοδομεῖτε εἶς τὸν ἕνα, and edify each the other—lit. “one the one.” Εἶς τὸν ἕνα (= ἀλλήλους) is “a rather late, though not unclassical expression”: so Lightfoot, who finds the idiom in Theocritus xxii:65, εἶς ἑνὶ χεῖρας ἄειρον; 1 Corinthians 4:6 affords the only N.T. parallel, where, however, the addition of κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου makes the phrase εἶς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνός run more smoothly. In later Epp. ἑαυτούς serves as the variant for ἀλλήλους: see Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:31 f.; Philippians 2:3; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 below. There is no occasion to refer the repetition of the numeral to Syriac (Aramaic) idiom; still less to turn εἶς into εἰς τὸν ἕνα, making the prepositional phrase equal to ἕως ἑνός, Romans 3:12 (“to the last man”—a harsh and unsuitable expression here), or rendering, as in Ephesians 2:15, “into the one” (the new Christian man, in whom all differences are reconciled)—which again is incongruous and far-fetched.

This is the first appearance of the Christian figure οἰκοδομέω (οἰκοδομή), which plays so large a part in St Paul’s writings (cf. however Matthew 7:24 ff.), and contains implicitly his great conception of the Church as the οῖκος or ναὸς θεοῦ: see 1 Corinthians 3:9-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20 ff.; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:19 ff.

καθὼς καὶ ποιεῖτε. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:9 f., and notes; also 2 Thessalonians 3:4; and similar expressions in Romans 15:14, 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Peter 1:12.


Verse 12

12. Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, εἰδέναι τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν κ.τ.λ. But we ask you, brothers, to know those that toil among you, &c. For the ἐρωτᾶν of request, and its difference from παρακαλεῖν (1 Thessalonians 5:14), see note on 1 Thessalonians 4:1. The note of personal urgency in this word indicates some difficulty existing at Thessalonica on the point in question; certain members of the Church lightly regarded the προϊστάμενοι,—scil. “the disorderly” (1 Thessalonians 5:14; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 f.; 2 Thessalonians 3:11 ff.), men disposed to resent admonition.

Εἰδέναι bears a pregnant force in this connexion—“to know those that toil, &c., as such, to know them for what they are” (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:15); or, more generally, “to know them properly, to know what you possess in them,” much as in 1 Corinthians 2:2; 1 Corinthians 2:12, John 7:28 f., John 8:19; John 8:55. There is no need to import the looser Hebraistic use of οῖδα, and its synonyms, from the LXX rendering of יָדַע .

(τοὺς κοπιῶντας ἐν ὑμῖν) καὶ προϊσταμένους ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ καὶ νουθετοῦντας ὑμᾶς, (those that toil amongst you) and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you. The three participles, bound by the vinculum of the single article, describe one and the same set of persons,—probably the πρεσβύτεροι who figure in the earliest Church organization carried over from the Judæan to the Pauline Christian communities: see Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 5:1, &c.; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1. These are included in the ἡγούμενοι of Hebrews 13:7; Hebrews 13:17; Hebrews 13:24. Approved “elders” are described in 1 Timothy 5:17 as οἱ καλῶς προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι (amongst whom “those who labour in word, &c.” are “especially” distinguished), their function being compared to that of a good father “presiding well over his own house” (1 Timothy 3:4 f., 12). Like ἡγούμενος, however, προϊστάμενος is not a technical term of office implying stated presidency in Church meetings; it is “a word usually applied to informal leaderships and managements of all kinds” (Hort), as in Romans 12:8; Romans 16:2 (προστάτις; cf. Titus 3:8; Titus 3:14). The existence at Thessalonica, so early, of distinct Church-officers may be probably, but not certainly, inferred from this passage; these προϊστάμενοι, like the family of Stephanas in Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:15 ff.), may have “presided” only in the sense that they took spontaneously a leading part in Church business and discipline (but see note on ἐν κυρίῳ below): this appeal is parallel to 1 Corinthians 16:15 f., and has the words εἰδέναι and κοπιᾶν in common with that passage. St Paul emphasizes the service done to the community by these leaders—οἱ κοπιῶντεςδιὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν—not their authority. For κοπιᾶν, see note to κόπος, 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Ἐν ὑμῖν might signify “on,” rather than “among you” (so Winer-Moulton, p. 483), as denoting the matter, substratum, of the labour, but less suitably here; the toil exercised amongst the Thessalonians (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5, 1 Thessalonians 2:7) should be “known” to them. For ἐν κυρίῳ, see note, 1 Thessalonians 4:1 : this adjunct attaches to the position of the προϊστάμενοι a more weighty and solemn character; it appears to connote authority upon their part, since it bases their relation to the Church upon the connexion of both parties with “the Lord”: His Lordship underlies their leadership.

In the third place, the Church-leaders are commended to esteem as νουθετοῦντες ὑμᾶς. Νουθεσία is the primary duty enjoined upon them in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (supposing these to be specifically addressed there); it comes last here, being that in which the offence of their service lay. So Theodore paraphrases εἰδέναιτοὺς νουθ. κ.τ.λ., “non resultantes illis, quando vos corripere volunt.” Νουθετέω (= ἐν τῷ νῷ τίθημι) means “to put one in mind of” (ans Herz legen) that one has forgotten or might forget; it bears an ethical, sometimes a disciplinary, sense (cf. νουθετεῖν πληγαῖς, in Aristophanes); hence its application to “the unruly” in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and 2 Thessalonians 3:15 (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:14); it implies kindly, hopeful “admonition.” The word is confined to St Paul (including Acts 20:31) in the N. T. Νουθετεῖν is distinguished from διδάσκειν in Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16, the latter appealing to the understanding, the former to the conscience and will; it is the function of the ποιμήν as distinguished from the διδάσκαλος of Ephesians 4:11.


Verses 12-15

§ 10. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15. The Church’s Internal Discipline

The specific ὑστερήματα of this Church’s faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10) are now made good, in ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:1 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11, so far as they can be by Apostolic admonition and comfort. On the basis of the instruction thus given, the readers were urged to “encourage” and to “edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:11). But (δέ, 1 Thessalonians 5:12) the office of exhortation, while devolving on any Christian brother who can speak a word of comfort to the sorrowing or of help to the feeble and timid, falls chiefly on the leaders of the community (οἱ προϊστάμενοι, 1 Thessalonians 5:12). Thus the writers, in drawing their Letter to a close, find occasion to speak of these, (a) bidding the Church recognize their position and lovingly appreciate their work (1 Thessalonians 5:12 f.). Having commended to the goodwill of the Church its officers, the Apostles (b) turn to the latter and charge them, on their side, to be faithful, helpful, and patient toward the more troublesome or weak members of Christ’s flock, to prevent the retaliation of evil and to promote every kind of well-doing, both within and without the Christian fellowship (1 Thessalonians 5:14 f.). The distinction just drawn between (a) and (b), which is insisted on by the Greek interpreters and recognized by the paragraph-division of WH, is indeed doubtful; but the varied expression, ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς and παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, of 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is best explained by supposing that the writers appeal, with conversational freedom, first to the Church at large respecting its προϊστάμενοι, and then to the latter respecting the difficult part of their duties to the former. This tacit distinction between the ὑμᾶς of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and that of 1 Thessalonians 5:12 accounts for the formal repetition of phrase with which the two short sections are introduced; the νουθετεῖν, moreover, required in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, should, in consistency, be expected from the νουθετοῦντες of 1 Thessalonians 5:12. The four hortatory offices prescribed in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 would, in the nature of the case, devolve chiefly, through not exclusively, on the προϊστάμενοι. In 1 Thessalonians 5:15 the exhortation reverts without formal transition to the body of the Church addressed throughout the Letter. At the same time, the whole of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 f. might be addressed suitably to “the brethren” at large; in favour of this construction the repeated, and unqualified, ἀδελφοί of 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14 seems to speak. Upon this view of the connexion—preferred by recent interpreters—1 Thessalonians 5:14 resumes, after the introductory reference to the Church-officers in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 f., and particularizes the παρακαλεῖτε κ. οἰκοδομεῖτε of 1 Thessalonians 5:11, as though the Apostles wrote: “Now while we bid you respect your Church leaders, &c., we urge you on your own part to admonish the disorderly and console the sad, &c., amongst yourselves”; but would not αὐτοί, or the like, have been attached to νουθετεῖτε (by way of distinction from νουθετοῦντας, 1 Thessalonians 5:13) in this case? See the discussion of Bornemann on the connexion of thought, in pp. 228–231 of Meyer’s Kommentar6. On this section see Hort’s Christian Ecclesia, pp. 125 ff.


Verse 13

13. καὶ ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτοὺς ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ἐν ἀγάπῃ διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν, and to regard them in love in the most supereminent degree because of their work. The words ἡγεῖσθαιἐν ἀγάπῃ (put last for emphasis) may be read as one complete expression—so Chrysostom and Theodore, the Vulgate (habeatis … in charitate), Beza (charos ducatis), Hofmann, Ellicott, Lünemann, Schmiedel; most other interpreters, with the Eng. Ver., treat ἐν ἀγάπῃ as a detached adjunct to ἡγεῖσθαι. The verb by itself hardly bears the sense of “esteem” (Lightfoot thinks that the adverb ὑπερεκπ. supplies this connotation); it can be read in malam or in bonam partem according to the definition: hence ὡς ἐχθρὸν ἡγεῖσθαι in 2 Thessalonians 3:15; cf. Philippians 2:6; Philippians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:12, Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 11:11, &c.

For ἡγεῖσθεἐν ἀγάπῃ, cf. John 15:9 f.; Judges 1:21 : the construction of Philippians 2:29, ἐντίμους (= ἐν τιμῇ) ἔχετε, and Philemon 1:17, resembles that here employed; so Romans 1:28 (ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει); and Thuc. ii. 18. 3, 21. 3, &c. (ἔχειν ἐν ὀργῇ, &c.). Schmiedel supplies the parallels ποιεῖσθαι ἐν ὀλιγωρίᾳ from Thuc. iv. 5, vii. 3. 2; λαμβάνειν ἐν πόθῳ, from Sophocles Oed. Col. 1679; see also Liddell and Scott on ποιεῖσθαι ἐν (s.v. ποιεῖσθαι, A.V.), the classical equivalent of ἡγεῖσθαι ἐν. Ἐν ἀγάπῃ = the predicate ἠγαπημένους (cf. Romans 9:25), and something more: the προϊστάμενοι are to be “held dear” in that sphere and upon that ground of love wherein the Church has its being: cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Corinthians 16:14.

Ἡγεῖσθαιἐν ἀγάπῃ is qualified by the triple Pauline intensive ὑπερ-εκ-περισσῶς, “beyond-exceeding-abundantly” (cf. note on ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ, 1 Thessalonians 3:10—this precise form is hap. leg.; also περισσοτέρως, 1 Thessalonians 2:17); and by διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν, stating the special reason for the extraordinary regard of love due to the Thessalonian leaders, in accordance with the character given to them as κοπιῶντες in 1 Thessalonians 5:12. In “work” this Church excelled, and work it knew how to appreciate; see note on τοῦ ἔργου κ.τ.λ., 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

This clause has given occasion to some caustic observations, such as that of Erasmus ad loc.: “Hunc locum oportet annotare diligenter episcopos … Paulus jubet eos haberi in honore propter opus, non propter inanem titulum”; and Calvin, still more sharply, “Unde sequitur e numero Pastorum excludi omnes otiosos ventres.” Wyclif inferred from the text that tithes might be refused to idle or incompetent priests,—an inference which the Roman Catholic Estius earnestly contests.

εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς, be at peace amongst yourselves; cf. Mark 9:50. Supposing ἑαυτοῖς (or αὑτοῖς) to be genuine (see Textual Note), then the general “peace” is to be kept through affectionate loyalty to the approved leaders; it was disturbed by the ἄτακτοι, whom the Church-officers had to “admonish” (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). A sense not dissimilar is given by the harder reading ἐν αὐτοῖς, if this be understood, with Bornemann (who cites 1 Corinthians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 14:21, Matthew 9:34, in illustration), as signifying “through them,”—on the basis of their leadership—“find your peace in them”; on this application of ἐν, see Winer-Moulton, pp. 485 f. The common rendering of ἐν αὐτοῖς by cum eis (Vulg.)—as though equivalent to μετʼ αὐτῶν (see Romans 12:18)—or in eos (toward them), is ungrammatical and inappropriate; the “ministry” exists to bind together the whole body of Christ, πρὸς τὸν καταρτισμὸν τῶν ἁγίων (Ephesians 4:12; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16). The present imperative enjoins not the making of peace, like the aorist in 1 Maccabees 6:60, but the maintaining of it.


Verse 14

14. Παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί. But we exhort you, brothers. Upon the analysis suggested at the head of the section, ὑμᾶς is distinctive: the writers now speak to those spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 f., viz. the Church-officers; ἐνταῦθα πρὸς τοὺς ἄρχοντας διαλέγεται (Chrysostom). They need to be “encouraged” (see notes on παρακαλέω, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, and παράκλησις, 1 Thessalonians 2:3) to the duties imposed on them, while the Church is “asked” (see note, 1 Thessalonians 5:12) to pay them deference. Παρακαλέω is not often complemented by a sentence in direct narration; 1 Corinthians 4:16 and Acts 9:38 give instances of this.

Three classes needing special pastoral care at Thessalonica—or, on the other view of the connexion, a specially interested attention on the part of the Church—are οἱ ἄτακτοι, οἱ ὀλιγόψυχοι, and οἱ ἀσθενεῖςthe unruly, the pusillanimous, and the weak. The first category the brethren are to admonish, the second to comfort, the third to hold to or help.

The attitude and disposition of the ἄτακτοι in this Church come to light in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 ff.—on which passage see the notes; see also Introd. pp. xxxi., xxxviii.; ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 f. already gave some hint of trouble of this sort. For νουθετεῖτε, see note to 1 Thessalonians 5:12 : the recurrence of this verb suggests that οἱ νουθετοῦντες of the former verse are the persons addressed in this; the disorder described in Ep. II. is of such a kind that those directing the business of the Church were bound to come into conflict with it. Ὀλιγόψυχος is a LXX word, used to render several Hebrew phrases denoting “broken in spirit” and the like (Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 57:15, &c.). St Paul’s ὀλιγόψυχος is not therefore the μικρόψυχος of Aristotle (Nic. Eth. iv.7–9), the opposite of the latter’s μεγαλόψυχος—“the magnanimous, high-spirited man” so much commended by the philosophers; not generosity nor self-respect, but courage, confidence are wanting to him; ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff. illustrate this condition, and again 2 Thessalonians 2:2. On παραμυθέομαι, see note to 1 Thessalonians 2:11 above. Ἀντέχεσθαι uniformly means elsewhere “to hold by,” “cleave to” a person or thing (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; Titus 1:9), and bears this sense here: “the feeble” are apt to be neglected, or even cast off, through contempt and impatience of the trouble they give; attaching oneself to them is the way to help them and give them strength; cf. the synon. ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι, e.g. in Acts 20:35, ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι in Hebrews 2:16. These ἀσθενεῖς are men “weak in faith” (Romans 14:1), not “the sick” (as in 1 Corinthians 11:30) or “weak” in worldly resources (Acts 20:35).

The ὀλιγόψυχοι and ἀσθενεῖς stand contrasted with the ἄτακτοι. The latter are overbold, and need to be checked; the former are despondent, and need stimulus and help. “Fainthearted” men think themselves “weak” when they are not so; encouragement may make them bold.

If the instructions of this verse apply to the προϊστάμενοι (see note on Παρακαλοῦμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς above), μακροθυμεῖτε πρὸς πάντας refers consequently to the body of the Church, in contrast with the three faulty classes already noticed; whereas εἰς πάντας in the next verse, contrasted with εἰς ἀλλήλους, looks to the world outside. The duties of Church office require in him who exercises them good temper and patience all round (πρὸς πάντας), even where infirmity or disorder is not in question. The μακρόθυμος, longanimis, is the opposite of the ὀξύθυμος (short-tempered): μακροθυμία implies personal relationship—patience (on the part of God or man) toward the troubles and provocations arising in human intercourse; whereas ὑπομονή (1 Thessalonians 1:3, &c.) is a brave endurance of the ills of life generally, of trying things; see Trench’s Syn. § 53.


Verse 15

15. ὁρᾶτε μή τις κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινὶ ἀποδῷ. See (to it) that none pay back evil in return for evil to any one. This further direction seems to be addressed, in keeping with the last, to the προϊστάμενοι: it is their duty to check and prevent every act of retaliation; they are responsible for the conduct of their brethren. On the other hand, the wide bearing of the antithetical (ἀλλά) clause which follows suggests the same comprehensive reference here. Had the writers, however, intended to warn individual members of the Church about their own conduct, they would, presumably, have used the 2nd person, ὁρᾶτε μὴ ἀποδῶτε (cf. Matthew 8:4; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 24:6; Matthew 9:30 resembles this passage), or written τις ὑμῶν instead of the bare τις. For κακόν, see note on πονηρόν, 1 Thessalonians 5:22. The same command, in general terms, is given in Romans 12:17 and 1 Peter 3:9; it echoes the teaching of our Lord in Matthew 5:43 ff.

ἀλλὰ πάντοτε τὸ ἀγαθὸν διώκετε [καὶ] εἰς ἀλλήλους καὶ εἰς πάντας, but always pursue that which is good, [both] toward one another and toward all men. This last injunction is not, by its nature, specific to Church-officers: if the five previous imperatives have been addressed to these, we must suppose the writers to turn here by a kind of mental gesture, dispensing with any particle of transition, to their readers at large, who were virtually (if not directly) admonished in μή τις κακὸνἀποδῷ. For διώκειν in the sense of practising, pursuing a line of conduct, cf. Romans 12:13; Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:1; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22 : it implies persistence in good—not only in the way of reciprocity (by antithesis to κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ), but in all other respects and contingencies. Τὸ ἀγαθόν is “the beneficial”; while denoting the morally good in chief, the term is not limited to this: cf. Romans 2:10; Romans 13:3 f.; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:28; Philemon 1:14; Luke 6:35, ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανίζετε. For εἰς ἀλλήλους κ.τ.λ., see 1 Thessalonians 3:12 and note; also note on πρὸς πάντας, 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

Πάντοτε—occurring six times in this Letter, oftener than anywhere else in St Paul—means “on every occasion” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:2); while ἀεί means “perpetually” (2 Corinthians 6:10): ἀδιαλείπτως in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, &c., is the negative equivalent of either.


Verses 16-18

16–18. Πάντοτε χαίρετε, ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε, ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε. Always rejoice; unceasingly pray; in everything give thanks. The adverbs, emphatically prefixed to the three imperatives, continue the strain of 1 Thessalonians 5:15 in its wide inclusiveness; see the note there on πάντοτε. The command to “rejoice always” is notable in a Letter addressed to a suffering people (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4); it must have struck the readers as a paradox. St Paul had learnt the secret, which he thus virtually teaches—as he does expressly in Romans 5:3-5—that sorrow endured for Christ’s sake opens a new spring of joy: cf. 2 Corinthians 12:10; Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 4:12-14; also the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:10-12. St Paul’s subsequent Letter, dated from prison, to the neighbouring Philippian Church (see Philippians 4:4 f., also Philippians 1:29) is a descant on this theme.

The Christian’s constant joy puts him in the mood to “pray without ceasing.” Twice the Apostles have used the adverb ἀδιαλείπτως concerning their own grateful remembrance of their readers before God (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 2:13): a crowd of other objects occupied their minds through the hours of each day; they could not be continuously thinking of this one Church, nor presenting it distinctly to God in every act of devotion; but they felt that it was never out of remembrance; thankfulness on its account mingled with and coloured all their thoughts at this time. In like manner Prayer is the accompaniment of the whole life of Christians—a stream always flowing, whether sensibly or in the background of consciousness; it forms the undercurrent of thought, which imparts its direction and tone to everything upon the surface. This unbroken course of prayer belongs to the “life hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).


Verses 16-24

§ 11. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. Directions for Holy Living

In § 7 (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12) the saintship of the Thessalonians supplied the basis and the nerve of the Apostles’ charge. The virtues of chastity, brotherly affection, and diligence in labour were enforced on the readers under the sense of their consecration to God; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit supplied the most powerful motive for the leading of a pure life (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:7 f.). The closing exhortations of the Epistle rest on the same principle. The appeal to “quench not the Spirit” forms their centre; and this leads up to an impressive prayer for the complete sanctification of those addressed (1 Thessalonians 5:23 f.).

The last section was occupied with social and comparatively external duties; this deals with personal obligations and exercises of internal piety, which may be distinguished, [1] as they are of a general religious character (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and [2] as they arise specifically from the new endowments of the Spirit enjoyed by the Church (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). In Romans 8:6-21 there is found a similar but much longer train of hortatory epigrams.


Verse 18

18. ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε contains the same paradox, for the Thessalonians, as πάντοτε χαίρετε (see note above). “In everything,”—even in persecution and shame; cf. again Philippians 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:9 f., &c. This too St Paul taught by example: see 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 3:9 f.; Acts 16:25. Ἐν παντί differs from περὶ παντός (1 Thessalonians 1:2, &c.) as denoting the circumstances, not the object, nor the occasion (ἐπί), of thanksgiving. For the phrase ἐν παντί (not to be limited by καιρῷ), cf. 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 7:16; Philippians 4:6; Philippians 4:12. On εὐχαριστέω, see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:2. Chrysostom’s comment, τὸ ἀεὶ δηλονότι εὐχαριστεῖν, τοῦτο φιλοσόφου ψυχῆς, is very characteristic; to the Greek Christian, an intelligent piety was the true φιλοσοφία.

Prayer and Thanksgiving are companions in the language of Scripture and counterparts, as the two wings of the soul by which it rises toward God. The latter, however, may be tacitly included in προσεύχομαι,—a comprehensive term for devout address to God: see Philippians 4:6, “In everything by prayer and by supplication, along with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God,” where δέησις (cf. δέομαι, 1 Thessalonians 3:10 above) is distinguished from προσευχή as the “petition” for some specific boon, while “thanksgiving” for past blessings and for promised good accompanies both.

τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus with regard to you. The three foregoing precepts are thus linked together; they constitute one habit and temper, the spirit of a true devotion to God, so that τοῦτο includes them collectively. Τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα κ.τ.λ. adduces not so much a reason for obedience to Divine commands, as an assurance of their practicability; the argument is not, “You must do it, for God so wills,” but “Knowing that it is God’s will, you can do it”: cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 below; also 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (see note), of which this sentence is a repetition; and Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 3:5, &c. As though the Apostles said: “You Thessalonian believers, so greatly afflicted and tempted to murmuring and despondence, are the objects of a special and gracious purpose on God’s part. God intends your life to be one of constant prayer, constant joy and thanksgiving; and this is made possible for you in Christ.” In Christ Jesus (the living, reigning Saviour: cf. note on this locution in 1 Thessalonians 2:14) the basis is laid and the sphere is found of all saving purpose and action on God’s side (see e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30), and of all experience and attainment of Divine grace on man’s side (Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 2:13, &c.). This θέλημα is not a mere “resolve of God” made known through Christ, but a “volition” operative and effective “in” Him, like “all the promises of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Εἰς ὑμᾶς, “(going out) unto you,” “(directed) towards you”: for εἰς denoting the direction of mind or moral activity, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 2 Thessalonians 1:11, Philippians 1:23, Acts 26:6, &c.; and see Winer-Moulton, p. 495.


Verse 19

19. ζβεννυτε: so spelt in B*D*G. See WH Appendix, p. 148.


Verse 19-20

19, 20. τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε, προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε. The Spirit do not quench; prophesyings do not despise. From joy, prayer, and thanksgiving it is a natural transition to the Spirit and prophesying (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; also Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Judges 1:20). “Praying” and “prophesying” are kindred exercises (1 Corinthians 11:4). The R.V. reduces the stop between these injunctions to a semi-colon: they are parallel, the second explaining the first. Possibly, as Lightfoot says, “there was the same tendency amongst the Thessalonians to underrate prophecy in comparison with other more striking gifts of the Spirit, which St Paul condemns in writing to the Corinthians”; see 1 Corinthians 14:1, ζηλοῦτε τὰ πνευματικά, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε, and the discussion which follows. But the warning against quenching the Spirit is directed, surely, against rationalism rather than fanaticism, against the chill distrust of the more fervid spiritual manifestations which was excited in sober minds at Thessalonica by the extravagance, or insincerity, of such πνευματικοί as e.g. the “prophets” who are virtually censured in the warning of 2 Thessalonians 2:2, μήτε διὰ πνεύματος. The agitation and morbid anxiety respecting the Parousia, which both Epistles seek to allay, was fed by “prophesyings” upon this subject; in such prophesyings Millenarianism has at all times abounded. The scepticism thus awakened tended to discredit prophecy generally in this Church, and with it the whole supernatural agency of the Spirit. That this counsel has in view the reflective and critical part of the Church, is strongly suggested by the δοκιμάζετε of the next exhortation. But this caution is one which St Paul’s general observation of the Greek temper might suggest, without any local occasion.

For προφητεία, cf. Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 14:6 : it comes by ἀποκάλυψις, as διδαχή by γνῶσις. Prediction is only one branch of “prophecy,” which means etymologically the forth-speaking of that which was hidden in the mind of God and which comes to the προφήτης, for communication to others, through the specific inspiration of His Spirit; see Lightfoot’s note ad loc., and Cremer’s Lexicon s.v. προφήτης. As to the dependence of προφητεία on τὸ πνεῦμα, see further Joel 2:28 f. (1 Thessalonians 3:1 f., in Hebrew text); Acts 2:17; Acts 19:6; Acts 28:25; Luke 1:67; Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:10, &c. Σβέννυτε is a N.T. hap. legomenon: since the Holy Spirit is a “fire” (Acts 2:3; cf. Romans 12:11; Acts 18:25; Luke 12:49), the arrest of His action is described as a “quenching.” As “resisting the Holy Spirit,” in Acts 7:51 (Isaiah 63:10), describes a perverse unbelief, so “quenching the Holy Spirit” describes a cold scepticism. Prophecy exhibited His working in its vehemence and ardour.

Ἐξουθεν-έω (also in the forms ἐξουδενέω, -όω), a word of the κοινή, “to make utterly nothing of,” “reduce to nought,” is frequent in St Paul (see 1 Corinthians 1:28, 2 Corinthians 10:10, &c.). This verb denotes contempt objectively, as it bears on the person or thing despised; while καταφρονέω (1 Corinthians 11:22) describes contempt subjectively, as it is in the mind of the despiser.


Verse 21

21. πάντα [δὲ] δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε: [but] everything put to proof; the good hold fast,—pres. imperative of settled rule and practice. Mark off this verse, again, from the foregoing by a colon or semi-colon: while “prophesyings” are not to be “despised,” neither are they to be accepted wholesale and because of their pretensions. The chaff must be sifted out from the wheat. Prophecy is brought under a universal Christian rule laid down in πάντα δοκιμάζετε, which vindicates “private judgement” in religion, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 having warned us beforehand against its sceptical or prejudiced use. For the purpose of discriminating true and false inspiration, the faculty of διάκρισις πνευμάτων (1 Corinthians 12:10) had been given by “the one and self-same Spirit,” side by side with προφητεία. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 St Paul supplies a criterion for exercising this διάκρισις or δοκιμασία; 1 Corinthians 14:29 exhibits this very faculty in exercise,—προφῆται δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν, καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν. Similarly St John bids his readers μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύειν ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζειν τὰ πνεύματα in his First Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, furnishing his test of “the spirits” in the context. Claims to inspiration, supernatural phenomena, are therefore chiefly, though not exclusively, aimed at in πάντα δοκιμάζετε. For the meaning of δοκιμάζειν, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:4. For the reading πάντα δέ—on the whole the more likely—see Textual Note.

Cyril of Alexandria quotes this passage several times, combining with it the famous apophthegm, γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται, “Be ye approved money-changers” (testers of current coin), credited by other Fathers to our Lord, which is now generally ascribed to Him as a traditional ἄγραφον. Possibly, this saying of Jesus was in the writers’ mind; if so, the allusion helps to elucidate the next clause (see note following). See Lightfoot’s note ad loc.

Τὸ καλόν signifies what is good or fine in quality, and is so contrasted with τὸ κακόν, the base, in Romans 7:21; Hebrews 5:14 (see also 2 Corinthians 13:7; Galatians 6:9), while ἀγαθός (see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:15) is opposed to πονηρός, and to φαῦλος besides. For κατέχω in its other (adverse) sense, see 2 Thessalonians 2:6; in this sense, 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Corinthians 15:2.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 completes negatively the exhortation of 1 Thessalonians 5:21 : testing results in holding fast or abstaining from (κατέχειν or ἀπέχεσθαι ἀπό) the good or evil offered for choice. From the antithesis thus presented, in view of the application of δοκιμάζειν to the testing of coin (see note to 1 Thessalonians 2:4, and foregoing note on 1 Thessalonians 5:21), it has been argued that ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ signifies “from all bad coinage,” as though εἶδος were synonymous with νόμισμα (cf. specie, from Latin species),—prevalent doctrines or moral practices being thus represented, it is supposed, under the figure of currency. But lexical evidence is wanting for such a use of εἶδος. This word denotes (a) visible form, appearance (as in Luke 3:22; Luke 9:29, &c.); or (b) sight, appearance in the abstract, as contrasted with faith (2 Corinthians 5:7); or (c) show, appearance, in contrast with reality (like εἴδωλον, 1 Thessalonians 1:9, e.g.)—the rendering of the A.V., which, beside its lack of parallels, gives a sense intrinsically weak, as it would recommend the studying of appearances (see, against this, Matthew 23:5); (d) kind, sort, the most obvious rendering—a sense perfectly familiar in the κοινή though hap. leg. in Biblical Greek, and derived originally from philosophical usage. Our choice lies between (a) and (d). The former appears to be intended in the ab omni specie mala of the Vulgate, as though the Apostles meant: “Keep away from every evil sight,” or “show,” from all that is evil in the aspect of things about you, from the fleeting shows of the world. A better turn is given to the species mala by understanding it to mean that which appears evil in the eyes of others and would cause needless offence (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 10:32 f.). The common rendering (as in R.V.), on which we must fall back, failing (a)—from every kind of evil—is open to the objection that πονηροῦ, thus rendered as a neuter (abstract) substantive, requires the article (like τὸ καλόν; cf. Romans 12:9). But this is not an invariable rule; “in Plato the anarthrous neuter singular for abstract ideas frequently occurs” (Kühner’s Grammatik2, ii. § 462 l): see e.g. εἶδος ἀγαθοῦ in Plato Repub. 357 c. Thus πονηρόν stands for “evil” collectively, evil quâ evil: cf. πρὸς διάκρισιν καλοῦ τε καὶ κακοῦ in Hebrews 5:14; also, for the use of εἶδος, Josephus Ant. vii. 4. 2, x. 3. 1, εἶδος μέλους, πονηρίας.

Τὸ καλόν is opposed by πονηρόν, as κακόν in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 by τὸ ἀγαθόν. The phrasing was perhaps suggested by Job 1:1; Job 1:8; Job 2:10,—ἀπεχόμενος ἀπὸ παντὸς πονηροῦ (κακοῦ) πράγματος; widening the prohibition to include the manifold πονηρά enticing their readers, the Apostles insert εἴδους into their sentence. For ἀπέχομαι ἀπό, see note on 1 Thessalonians 4:3,—a passage perhaps intentionally recalled in this dehortation; certainly πορνεία was one εἶδος πονηροῦ to be shunned at Thessalonica. The notion of πονηρός is that of “irredeemable badness,” “intrinsic absolute badness” (see F.H. Chase: Essay on The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church, pp. 89 ff.); while κακός (1 Thessalonians 5:15) signifies base, malicious, cowardly (bad in quality and disposition).


Verse 23

23. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης—. But may the God of peace Himself …: cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:11 (see note), and 2 Thessalonians 2:16, where a like contrast seems to be implied, under Αὐτὸς δέ, between human wish or effort and Divine power. Philippians 2:12 f. (“Work out your own salvation, for God it is that worketh in you”) illustrates the connexion between 1 Thessalonians 5:22-23 : “Keep yourselves from … evil. But may God … sanctify you.” Ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, a favourite designation with St Paul in pious wishes (see 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Romans 16:20, &c.), found also in Hebrews 13:20. For εἰρήνη, see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:1 : God’s distinguishing gift in the Gospel, that by which he signalizes His grace in the hearts of men; as the Christian God is ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης, so the Christian peace is ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ (Philippians 4:7). The epithet recalls 1 Thessalonians 5:13, εἰρηνεύετε ἐν ἐαυτοῖς; the directions of the previous context, from 1 Thessalonians 5:12 onwards, are τὰ τῆς εἰρήνης κ. τὰ τῆς οἰκοδομῆς (Romans 14:19); when the Church is at peace, the work of sanctification goes on. As from this gift of Peace, so God is specifically named from other of His χαρίσματα in Romans 15:5; Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 13:11, 1 Peter 5:10; in each place suitably to the wish expressed. The prayer for Sanctification in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 above had love for its basis; this prayer rests on the thought of peace.

ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς, sanctify you to full completeness,—peromnia (Vulg.), ganz und gar (de Wette), nach eurer ganzen Person (Schmiedel). Ὁλοτελής, hap. leg. in N.T., is a coinage of late Greek, found occasionally in Plutarch, and in Aquila’s rendering of Deuteronomy 13:17 (for כָּלִיל ). It does not appear to be qualitative, as though denoting the completeness of sanctification by way of degree, but quantitative as signifying its range and unlimited comprehension; ὁλοτελεῖς is expounded by ὁλόκληροντὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ κ.τ.λ. in the sequel; thus Œcumenius, ὁλοτελεῖς· τοῦτʼ ἔστι σώματι κ. ψυχῇ· Ὁλοτελής and ὁλόκληρος are closely synonymous, both insisting on the wholeness of the process: the former is collective, the latter distributive—the one implying a totality from which no part is excluded, the other an integrity in which each part has its due place and proportion (vollständig and vollkommen respectively, Hofmann); for ὁλόκληρος, see Trench’s Syn. § 22, and cf. James 1:4, Acts 3:16. In the LXX and in Philo, ὁλόκληρος (rendering the Hebrew שָׁלֵם ) is regularly used of the sacrificial victims, which were required to be sound and perfect in every part, ὁλόκληρος κ. τέλειος or παντελής. The doubling of ὁλο- sustains the rhetorical effect of the seven times repeated παν- of 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22.

For ἁγιάζω, cf. notes on ἁγιωσύνη, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, and ἁγιασμός, 1 Thessalonians 4:3. The readers are already, by their calling and relations to God as believers in Christ, ἅγιοι, ἡγιασμένοι; what the Apostles ask in this closing prayer, up to which all the exhortations and warnings of the Epistle, and especially those of the last eleven verses, lead, is a sanctity impressed on the readers by God Himself, of such thoroughness moreover that it shall embrace and gather up into the integrity of a complete manhood every element and function of their nature, in which, that is to say, the soul and body shall participate no less than the spirit.

So the parallel clause, carrying forward the sanctification into preservation (note the reverse order in the prayer of John 17:11-19), runs καὶ ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶματηρηθείη, and in full integrity may your spirit and your soul and your body … be preserved! Ὑμῶν, standing in the Greek at the head of the triple subject and belonging to each member of it, we represent by the repeated “your,” in order to bring out the distinctness, marked by the tripled article, with which the three several subjects are stated. The verb at the end is singular, in consonance with ὁλόκληρον at the beginning; there is one “keeping,” embracing the totality of the man, but a keeping in which each of the three constituents has its place and share.

Over this passage the Trichotomists and Dichotomists wage war, who maintain respectively that Scripture distributes man’s nature into three or two elements—spirit, soul, and body, or spirit and flesh (body). For the former theory, see Heard’s Tripartite Nature of Man; Ellicott’s The Destiny of the Creature, &c., and the note in his Commentary on this passage; or Delitzsch’s Biblical Psychology: for the latter, Laidlaw’s Bible Doctrine of Man, or Beck’s Biblical Psychology; also the art. Psychology in Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, and Cremer’s Biblico-Theological Lexicon s. vv. The nature of this passage forbids our finding a logical analysis in the three terms; they serve to make the wish exhaustive in its completeness.

The Apostles begin with the inmost—τὸ πνεῦμα, nearest to God who “is spirit” (John 4:24); for with man’s spirit the Holy Spirit directly associates Himself (Romans 8:16, &c.), and it is the primary object of Divine salvation (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13; also 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 15:45). They end with “the body,” the vessel and envelope of the spirit (see 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1, &c.; if not 1 Thessalonians 4:4 above), the man’s outer part, through which he belongs to the κόσμος and communicates with it. “The soul,” poised between these two, is the individual self, the living personality in which flesh and spirit, common to each man with his fellows, meet and are actualized in him. When St Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:1 bids his readers “cleanse” themselves “from all defilement of flesh and spirit,” that phrase covers the same ground as this, but contrasts the man’s inner and outer relations; while the expression of 1 Peter 1:22, “having purified your souls,” fastens upon the individual man and his personality in its distinctive impulses and habits; here the entire man is surveyed, with his whole nature in its manifold aspects and functions, as the subject of sanctifying grace. The πνεῦμα is “kept,” when no evil reaches the inner depths of our nature or disturbs our relations to God and eternity; the ψυχή, when the world of self is guarded and every personal motive and activity is holy; and the σῶμα, when our outward life and participation in the material world are sacred. The connexion between sanctity and safety lies in the fact that what is sanctified is given over to God, to be “kept” by Him for His own uses. The thought that Christ’s disciples, οἱ ἐν Χριστῷ as St Paul would say, belong to God the Father and are therefore cast upon His almighty protection, is at the basis of our Lord’s parting prayer in John 17. (see also John 6:37-45; John 10:26-30); it comes out in the πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν of the next verse: cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Ephesians 1:18 b; 2 Timothy 1:12, also Psalms 121; Isaiah 27:3; “He will keep the feet of His saints,” 1 Samuel 2:9.

Between subject (τὸ πνεῦμα κ.τ.λ.) and verb (τηρηθείη) comes in the adverbial adjunct, ἀμέμπτως ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ: (may your spirit, &c., be preserved) without blame in the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ qualifies ἀμέμπτως: the blamelessness (“in holiness,” 1 Thessalonians 3:13; see ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς above) is to be manifest “in,” certified at, “the παρουσία” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13, also 1 Thessalonians 2:19 and parallels); “the day will disclose it,” 1 Corinthians 3:13. For παρουσία, see notes on 1 Thessalonians 2:19, &c.; and for τοῦ κυρ. . Χ., 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, &c. The grammatical attachment of ἀμέμπτως is not so obvious. The Apostles do not write ἄμεμπτον, which would give the “preserved blameless” of the A.V., as though they were defining the state in which the readers should be kept “unto the coming” (a gross misrendering of ἐν), but ἀμέμπτως, “blamelessly,” using the adverb of manner. Now this qualification can hardly apply to τηρηθείη by itself (for the writers could not think of blame as attaching, conceivably, to God’s keeping of His saints); it defines the foregoing ὁλόκληρον, which is grammatically dependent on τηρηθείη as its secondary predicate, but logically dominates the sentence. The interjected adverbial adjunct indicates the manner in which the desired integrity of sanctification, for whose maintenance prayer is made, is to be realized at last. We may render the whole sentence thus: “In full integrity may your spirit and your soul and your body be preserved,—found blamelessly so at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” From 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 it might be inferred, as 1 Corinthians 15 abundantly shows, that in St Paul’s teaching the body, along with the spirit, of the saints participates in the glory of the Parousia; see Philippians 3:20 f.


Verse 24

24. πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, δς καὶ ποιήσει. Faithful is He that calls you, who also will do (it). The Thessalonians are conscious that God is calling them to a life of consecration to Himself, to be crowned by heavenly glory (see 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and notes); He speaks in the Gospel as ὁ καλῶν: the “call” proves the possibility of the complete sanctification prayed for, since it pledges God’s all-sufficing aid to this effect. See 1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 1:6; Romans 11:29; 2 Timothy 2:13; Psalms 57:2; Psalms 138:8, for similar assumptions and tacit arguments. Elsewhere the Apostle points to the σφραγίς, or the ἀῤῥαβών, or the ἀπαρχή, “of the Spirit” as warranting the same certainty: see 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13 f., Ephesians 4:30; Romans 8:14-17; Romans 8:23. Under the formula πιστὸς ὁ θεός (or κύριος) St Paul appeals to God’s fidelity, in various ways: see 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:13; cf. Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7, &c. For the timeless present, ὁ καλῶν, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:12 : it implies God’s abiding character.

Ποιήσει is elliptical and without expressed object: the verbs are apposed in their bare idea—“Your Caller will do”; God will put His summons into execution, He will not let it remain futile nor leave its fulfilment to man’s weakness. “Hath He said, and shall He not do?” Numbers 23:19; cf. Psalms 22:31; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 55:11; Luke 1:37, &c.


Verse 25

25. Ἀδελφοί, προσεύχεσθε [καὶ] περὶ ἡμῶν. Brothers, pray [also] for us. The καί of the R.V. margin (see Textual Note) is appropriate; since the Apostles have just prayed for their readers (1 Thessalonians 5:23), their prayers for the writers are due in turn; for similar reciprocity indicated by καί, see 1 Thessalonians 3:6 b above, and Colossians 1:8. The absence of καί in the parallel 2 Thessalonians 3:1 and Hebrews 13:18 (where it is not required) might occasion its omission by copyists here. For the general wish, beside 2 Thessalonians 3:1 f. where it is expanded, cf. Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3 f.; Philippians 1:19; Romans 15:30—“that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” St Paul, in all the strength of his gifts and office, felt his dependence on the prayers of the Church, and realized through this means his fellowship with distant brethren in Christ.


Verses 25-28

§ 12. 1 Thessalonians 5:25-28. The Conclusion

The conclusion of the Epistle is very brief. It makes no reference to the autograph signature, which the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:17, and in subsequent letters, is careful to notify. The request “that the Epistle be read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27), is its notable feature.


Verse 26

26. Ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. Salute the brothers all in a holy kiss. In 1 Peter 5:14 the kiss is defined, by its quality, φίλημα ἀγάπης: love and holiness were identified in the prayer of 1 Thessalonians 3:12 f. above (see notes); the injunction of the φίλημα is followed by words upon love, and of love, in 1 Corinthians 16:20-24; cf. also 2 Corinthians 13:11-13. Such love was implied in the fellowship of prayer expressed in the verses just preceding. The “kiss” is ἅγιον as the token of love amongst the ἅγιοι (1 Thessalonians 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 4:7 f.); it is called in the Apost. Constitt., ii.57, τὸ ἐν Κυρίῳ φίλημα, and by Tertullian, for the Latin Church, osculum pacis, by St Augustine osculum sanctum. The Apostles wish the φίλημα to be given in conveying their “greeting,” and by way of signifying their love to “all” the Thessalonian believers; its communication in this form pre-supposes, and simultaneously expresses, the mutual love reigning in the Church (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). The direction is presumably given, as Lightfoot and Bornemann point out, to the primary receivers of the Letter—probably the προιστάμενοι, scil. Elders, spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 above and addressed in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 f. (see notes); these are to give the kiss in the name of the writers to the Church at large. Such a salutation they were probably accustomed to bestow at Church gatherings; on the occasion of reading this Letter, it is to be given and received as from Paul and his companions.

The kiss, as the natural sign of affection amongst kindred and near friends in meeting or parting, was common in the primitive Christian assemblies, with their strong sense of fraternity. It is still a usage of the Greek and Oriental Churches at Holy Communion; but the ceremony died out in the West during the Middle Ages, being less suitable to the colder manners of the Germanic races. The custom fell into suspicion as the simplicity of Christian feeling declined; it was the subject of numerous regulations in early Councils. See the article Kiss in the Dict. of Christian Antiquitics, and φίλημα in Suicer’s Thesaurus.


Verse 27

27. Ἐνορκίζω ὑμᾶς τὸν κύριον ἀναγνωσθῆναι τὴν ἐπιστολήν, κ.τ.λ. I adjure you by the Lord that the letter be read to all the brothers. Observe the 1st person singular, previously occurring only in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5, which gives to the wish, on St Paul’s part, an emphatic personal note; cf. the concluding note on 1 Thessalonians 5:28. This appeal unmistakably implies, as probably does the direction of 1 Thessalonians 5:26 (see note above), certain responsible persons to whose address the Epistle was sent and who had it in charge for the Church. That the request should take the form of a solemn adjuration, is surprising. The tenor of the Epistle (see Introd. pp. xxxiii., lxii.) indicates no contention or jealousy that might occasion the withholding of the Letter from one party by another. It must be remembered [1] that this is the earliest Apostolic Letter extant, and that the custom of reading such Epistles had yet to be established. The appeal gives expression to the authority of the communication, and the importance attaching to it in the writers’ minds (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:15). [2] The desire felt for St Paul’s presence, and the disappointment of the Church at his failure to return (1 Thessalonians 3:6), to which he addresses himself in chaps. 2 and 3, might lead some to say, “O, it is only a letter from him! we do not want that!” [3] Further, amongst the bereaved members of the Church whom the writers are wishful to console (1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff.), some in consequence of their recent and deep sorrow might be absent when the Epistle was read; the Apostles will make sure that these shall not lose its benefit. Lightfoot suggests [4] that St Paul had “a sort of presentiment or suspicion that a wrong use might be made of his name and authority” in some quarters in regard to the matters agitated touching the Parousia—as appears, from the subsequent allusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:2, to have proved the case; and that he therefore takes care that no one shall misunderstand his meaning from merely hearing it at second-hand and by report. Or, finally, [5] the ἄτακτοι (1 Thessalonians 5:14) might escape hearing the Letter, unless they were sought out and had it brought to their knowledge. A somewhat similar injunction is found in Colossians 4:16.

ἐνορκίζω—“probably stronger than ὁρκίζω, I bind you by an oath” (Lightfoot)—appears to be found otherwise only on one or two Inscriptions, and probably (by emendation) in Josephus Antiq. viii. 15. 4; ὁρκίζω in Mark 5:7; Acts 19:13. Like verbs of its class, it takes two accusatives. Ὁρκόω is the correct Attic form. Τὴν ἐπιστολήν refers to the Letter now complete. The benediction μακάριος ὁ ἀναγινώσκων κ. οἱ ἀκούοντες, of Revelation 1:3, says much the same thing as this verse in another way. Bengel remarks, in regard to the reading of Scripture on the part of the laity: “Quod Paulus cum adjuratione jubet, id Roma sub anathemate prohibet.”


Verse 28

28. Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μεθʼ ὑμῶν. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (be) with you. St Paul’s customary form of final benediction, which he expands later into the full Trinitarian blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:13, or shortens into the brief ἡ χάρις μεθʼ ὑμῶν of Colossians 4:18; Colossians cf.1 and 2 Tim. and Titus besides. It contains all good that Christians can wish each other; see notes on χάρις, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, and 2 Thessalonians 1:12. “Grace” is “with” us, when it constantly attends us, when it forms the atmosphere we breathe, the guiding and sustaining influence of life.

From 2 Thessalonians 3:17 f. we learn that the Apostle Paul, using an amanuensis, was accustomed to write the benediction with his own hand as a characteristic token—perhaps in this case the whole postscript (1 Thessalonians 5:26-28 : the sing. ἐνορκίζω—see note above—speaks for this inclusion); cf. Galatians 6:11-18. This formula “was adopted after him by those especially who were his companions or disciples, as by the inspired writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:25), and by Clement in his Epistle to the Romans. Compare likewise the conclusion of the Epistle of Barnabas, ὁ κύριος τῆς δόξης καὶ πάσης χάριτος μετὰ τοῦ πνεύματος ὑμῶν. Afterwards it became the common salutation or benediction of the Church in her liturgies” (Lightfoot).

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/1-thessalonians-5.html. 1896.


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Friday, August 18th, 2017
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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