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1 Thessalonians 1

Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament BooksLipscomb's Commentary on Selected NT Books

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Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 1:1

Paul,—There was no need to add “apostle” to the name of Paul in writing to a church with which his relations were so familiar and cordial.

and Silvanus,—Silvanus is the Silas of Acts of Apostles. Paul first met him when he went to Jerusalem from Antioch to seek a settlement of the question of circumcising the Gen­tile Christians. He was sent with Paul to communicate the decision of the apostles and elders. (Acts 15:19; Acts 15:25; Acts 15:29.) When Paul declined to take John Mark with him on his second missionary journey, and parted with Barnabas, he chose Silas as his companion, and the two were beaten and imprisoned together at Philippi. (Acts 16:19-29.) He was with Paul during the riot at Thessalonica (Acts 17:4), and was sent away with him to Berea, remaining there after Paul had been obliged to depart, and joined him again in Corinth (Acts 18:5). In that city he was an esteemed coworker with Paul. (2 Corinthians 1:19.)

and Timothy,—Timothy was the well-known companion and assistant of Paul. The terms which he applies to him—“my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:17), “my true child in faith” (1 Timothy 1:2)—indicate not only Pauls love for him, but also that he had been the means of his conversion. At any rate, it is clear that, when on his first missionary journey, Paul visited Lystra, and Timothys mother and grandmother were led to Christ, and that Tim­othy was then old enough to be instructed in the way of the Lord. He became a disciple of Christ and a companion of Paul. He was gifted of the Spirit. (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6.) When these and other teachers were with Paul, he usually associated them with himself in writing to the churches. They were both with him when the work of the Lord was begun in Thessalonica.

unto the church of the Thessalonians—This is the local description. The only New Testament parallel is “the church of the Laodiceans.” (Colossians 4:16.)

in—[This word is frequently used by Paul to express in­timacy of union, and is not readily explained by any simpler term. Here it introduces the spiritual relation and may be paraphrased thus: in relationship with God as Father and with Jesus Christ as Lord.] They were baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Hence, were in these divine persons.

God the Father—[God’s everlasting power and divinity is manifest in creation (Romans 1:20); his Fatherhood is subject of revelation (Matthew 11:27; John 17:25); it is not universal (Matthew 13:38; John 8:23-44); but is asserted only in relation to those who have been born anew (John 1:12-13; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 5:1). Being our Father God looks to his children for honor (Malachi 1:6) and confidence (Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:34), while he deals with them in pity (Psalms 103:13-14) and in love (John 16:27).]

and the Lord—[Christ himself assumed this title. (Matthew 7:21-22; Matthew 9:38.) His purpose did not become clear to the disciples until after his resurrection from the dead, and the revelation of his deity consequent therein. Thomas, when he realized the significance of the presence of a mortal wound in the body of a living man, immediately joined with it the absolute title of Deity, saying: “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28.) In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost he said, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36); and in the house of Cornelius he said, “He is Lord of all” (10:36). And Jude speaks of some “denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ,” and in the next verse applies the term Lord to God. (Judges 1:4-5.) The title Lord as given to the Savior in its full significance rests upon the resurrection (Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9; Romans 14:9), and is realized only “in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). While he is still rejected alike by Jew and Gentile, angels (Matthew 28:6) and saints (Romans 10:9) ac­knowledge him in it, but in the day of his manifested glory every tongue in the universe shall “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). Those who acknowledge him as Lord now are his servants (Ephesians 6:6-7), and to them he looks for obedience (Luke 6:46; Romans 6:16), and on that condition graciously admits them to his friendship (John 15:14-15).]

Jesus—[This name was given to the Son of God while he dwelt on earth in the flesh as his personal name in obedience to the command of the angel to Joseph, the husband of his mother, Mary, shortly before he was born. (Matthew 1:21.) By this name he was generally known throughout the gospel narrative. While he was on earth in the flesh, no one of his disciples is recorded as having addressed him by his personal name; but it is plain that the custom was common among believers in the apostolic age that they confessed with the “mouth Jesus as Lord” (Romans 10:9), and it is, therefore, the pattern for Christians till time shall cease.]

Christ:—[In the Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude, men who had companied with the Lord in the days of his flesh, Jesus Christ is the invariable form of the name and title, for this was the order of their experience; as Jesus they knew him first, that he was the Messiah they learned finally in his resurrection. But Paul came to know him first in the glory of heaven (Acts 9:1-6), and his experience being thus the reverse of theirs, the reverse order, Christ Jesus. In Paul’s Epistles the order is in harmony with the context. Thus Christ Jesus describes the exalted one who emptied himself (Philippians 2:5-7) and testifies of his pre-existence; Jesus Christ describes the despised and rejected one who was afterwards glorified (Philippians 2:11) and testifies to his resurrection. Christ Jesus suggests his grace; Jesus Christ his glory."]

Grace to you and peace.—Paul’s usual salutation is extended to them. Grace properly means favor and includes those blessings that are applicable to Christians in common, de­noting an ardent prayer that all the mercies and favors of God for time and eternity might be conferred upon them.

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 1:2

We give thanks to God always—Paul knew the facts con­cerning their conversion and the trials which they endured under the fierce persecutions through which they passed.

for you all,—There was not one of them that he knew for whom he did not give thanks. The whole church was what it should be.

making mention of you in our prayers;—He made special mention of them in asking God’s help and blessing to rest upon them. The number of persons and churches Paul men­tions in his prayers is remarkable. It shows how much Paul regarded special and direct prayers for persons.

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 1:3

remembering without ceasing your work of faith—He had seen its manifestation when among them and remembered it. The work of faith was the work and consecration to which faith led them in their work of service to the Lord under the fierce persecutions to which they had been subjected. [Faith is the response of the soul to the life-giving word of God (Romans 10:8-17), producing a change of life and a cheerful courage under trial.]

and labor of love—The labor and fatiguing toil to which they were led by their love to God and to their brethren. This love had been manifested by the untiring and devoted toils which they had undergone to help their brethren in distress. Love makes us willing to labor and suffer for those we love. [Love to God is expressed in obedience (John 14:15; John 14:21; John 14:23); to man in considering the interest of others rather than our own (Philippians 2:4).]

and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,—Hope of future blessings and joy led them to bear with patience the ills brought upon them. [The word patience is frequently used by Paul. It is fortitude in suffering, endurance in toil or trial. Rightly to suffer is harder than rightly to work. The persecutions to which the Thessalonian Christians had been and were still exposed gave large room for the exercise of steadfastness.]

before our God and Father;—God looks upon us and will reward and bless us for our endurance for his sake. [It was a hope which they had through the merits of the Redeemer and which they were permitted to cherish before God; that is, as in his very presence. When they thought of God, when they remembered that they were soon to stand before him, they were permitted to cherish this hope. It was a hope which would be found to be genuine even in the presence of a holy and heart-searching God.]

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 1:4

knowing, brethren beloved of God,—They knew that God had accepted them—the Gentilesin Christ so could fully realize that they were under his care and supervision.

your election,—All who believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ are the elected of God. This applies especially to the Gentiles who believed in him. The Jews had been the elect or chosen of God. Now the Gentiles who believed in Christ were elect. They knew that God had accepted them in Christ so could fully realize that they were under his care and super­vision. Their election was their acceptance in Jesus when they believed and obeyed him.

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 1:5

how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power,—Paul calls it “our gospel” because it was the gospel which they preached. He did not mean that the gospel had been originated by them, but only that they delivered the good news of salvation unto them. [It did not come to them in word only, for it was conveyed in human speech, even though not in enticing words of man’s wisdom, but it passed beyond the word. It did not merely sound in the ear or touch the understanding, but it came in power on the part of the preachers with an overwhelming force and per­suasiveness so that their “faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5.)]

and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance;—The pres­ence of the Holy Spirit gave them much assurance, and they preached with a conscious conviction of the truth of their message. This conviction of its truth on their part added to the momentum with which it penetrated the hearts of their hearers and wrought in them a full assurance of its truth.

even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.—Neither Paul nor his associates sought any selfish end or purpose, but conducted themselves in the most unselfish manner, following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, so far as practical, that they might set before them the true example to be followed.

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 1:6

And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord,—By becoming imitators of Paul and of his fellow laborers, they became imitators of the Lord. Paul said: “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1.) The point of imitation did not consist in their cordial reception of the gospel, for that could not apply to Christ; but in their joyful endurance of suffering. The force of the word is that what they became at conversion must be diligently continued thereafter.

having received the word in much affliction,—Luke tells us that when they first heard the gospel Paul and his fellow workers went into the synagogue, “and for three sabbath days reasoned with them from the scriptures, opening and alleging that it behooved the Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom, said he, I proclaim unto you, is the Christ. And some of them were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. Bat the Jews, being moved with jealousy, took unto them certain vile fellows of the rabble, and gathering a crowd, set the city on an uproar; and assaulting the house of Jason, they sought to bring them forth to the people. And when they found them not, they dragged Jason and certain brethren before the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also. . . . And they troubled the multi­tude and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.” (Acts 17:2-8.) It was under affliction like this that the Thes­salonians received the gospel.

with joy of the Holy Spirit;—The preaching was the result of the Holy Spirit directing and guiding in the work. The Spirit dwells in the word of God as the principle of life dwells in the seed. Jesus said: “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.” (John 6:63.) “The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11.) Paul says: “The Spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6.) The Spirit gives life through the word. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit in the apostles spoke to the people and gave them life. The Spirit is the representa­tive of the Godhead who imparts life. The Spirit appeared miraculously in the beginning of the human race and im­parted life to the body of Adam; he then gave laws to per­petuate this life to Adam’s descendants as much as he gave life to Adam in the beginning. Just so the Holy Spirit gave life miraculously on the day of Pentecost, and since has im­parted life through the word of God which is the seed of the kingdom. This is the very point of likeness between the natural and spiritual laws according to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Peter said: “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38.) The Spirit is in the seed, the word. He goes with the word into the heart, but develops into the distinct and active life only at birth. The same process that brings a man into Christ fits him to enjoy the blessings that dwell in Christ. [So the consolations which they received, in consequence of hearing and obeying the word of God, delivered unto them through Paul, more than counterbalanced all the afflictions which they suffered from their persecutors.]

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 1:7

so that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Mace­donia and in Achaia.—The Thessalonians followed these teachings with such faithfulness that they became an ensample to others. At the time this Epistle was written Greece was divided into the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. Thes­salonica was the capital of Macedonia and Corinth of Achaia.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 1:8

For from you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia,—It was sounded by living men and women in their daily conduct. It seems that Paul had in mind the influence of their heroic endurance of the per­secutions and spiritual prosperity, and of the missionary labors of evangelists sent out by them.

but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth;—This strikingly describes the report that spread far and wide from Thessalonica, and the story of what had taken place among them prepared the way for the reception of the gospel in other places. The loudest, clearest, most eloquent, and most unanswerable proclamation of the gospel is the uncon­scious testimony of Christian living. It may be sounded forth in great power in the midst of the severest afflictions—and often is. The troubles they endured for the name of Christ tested and revealed their faith, and so led to the fuller proc­lamation of the gospel.

[The lesson that we should learn from the zeal of the early Christians is that success in the service of the Lord is to be accomplished only through the spirit of self-denying labor and devotion. At the present time the great need is men of zeal—self-denying zeal and earnestnesswho are willing to sur­render all worldly honor, wealth, and fame to work for God and the salvation of lost and ruined men , not simply to revive religion, but to restore in its divine simplicity and power the true faith and works of the church of God as he himself ordained them. God intends his message to be conveyed to men only through those Christ-like enough to deny self to carry it to their dying fellow men. God demands these sacrifices, not of the preacher alone, but of everyone who would serve him.]

so that we need not to speak anything.—Their faith cer­tainly had the solid stamp of reality, for otherwise it would never have produced such a widespread notoriety. [By the going of the report of their faith great service was done. In preaching the gospel in new places it was Paul’s custom to hold up what it had done for other places. With regard to Thessalonica, he was placed in an exceptional position. In Berea, in Athens, in Corinth, or wherever he went, he needed not to labor to create an impression of what the gospel had done for Thessalonica. He needed not to say anything, for the work was already done for him.]

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 1:9

For they themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols,—The facts concerning the conversion of the Thes­salonians were well known throughout the regions in which he traveled. They were acquainted not only with the fact that Paul had preached in Thessalonica, but also with the results of his preaching. The results had been greater among the Gentiles than among the Jewish population. Luke says: "Some of them were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” (Acts 17:4.) They were to turn to God from whatever kept them from him, to turn because they believed in him and loved him, and meant to listen, study, and obey him in conversion. Conversion implies faith in God through Christ, and repentance is turning away from sin. The intention with which they turned to God is described, in which the two grand features of the Christian life are sig­nalized.

to serve—To serve God is a comprehensive expression in­cluding the various thoughts, feelings, and acts whereby a godly person seeks to please God.

a living and true God,—The God to whom they had now turned is living and real. Jesus said: “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3.) True means real, genuine, as opposed to that which is pretended, which has no real existence.

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 1:10

and to wait for his Son from heaven,—The second com­ing of the Lord Jesus Christ was an element in Paul’s teaching which made a very deep impression on the Thessalonian be­lievers; it was to them a great object of Christian hope. They not only believed he would come again; they were eager for his coming. They, in their suffering and distress, like the apostle John, were ever ready to say: “Amen: come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20.) It is a matter of fact that hope in this sense does not hold its ancient place in the hearts of many professed Christians of today. So far from being a power of God in the soul, a victorious grace, it is a sure token that God is absent. Instead of inspiring, it discourages; it leads to numberless self-deceptions; men hope their lives are right with God when they ought to search them and see. This, when our relations to God are concerned, is a degradation of the very word. The Christian hope is laid up in heaven. The object is the Lord Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:1.) It is not precarious, but certain; it is not ineffective, but a great and energetic power. Anything else is not hope at all. The operation of true hope is manifold. It is a sanctifying grace, for “every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3.)

whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus,—The apostle connects the raising of Jesus from the dead with the deliver­ance of the Christian from the wrath to come. A destruction awaits all sinners before God. [This is the fact, which, when they came to understand it, brought Peter and the other dis­ciples into a new life of hope, for he says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrec­tion of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3.) This fact, when he came to know it, changed the life of Saul the perse­cutor into the bond servant of Jesus Christ. (Acts 9:1-9; 1 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:16.) That the historic fact—“Jesus Christ risen from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8)—is the complete vindica­tion of the truth of the gospel is declared by the Lord himself: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and. that repentance and remis­sion of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47.) ]

who delivereth us from the wrath to come.—Jesus came to save his people from their sins, that they might be delivered from the wrath of God against all sin and ungodliness. This freeing from sins and the consequent deliverance from the wrath by Jesus Christ is the good news that was sounded out from Thessalonica to all places around.

Bibliographical Information
Lipscomb, David. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dlc/1-thessalonians-1.html.
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