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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 1



I. Greeting: 1:1

II. Thanksgiving and prayer for them: 1:2-4

III. Their response to the gospel: 1:5-10

A. How the gospel came to them: 1:6

B. How they received it: 1:7

C. How they in turn proclaimed it: 1:8

D. How it changed their lives: 1:9

E. The hope it gave them: 1:10

Verse 1

1Th_1:1 “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace”

“Paul”: Unlike other letters he does not assert his apostleship because that was not being questioned by this congregation ( Gal_1:1 ). Even though Silvanus and Timothy are mentioned with him in the greeting, it is clear that Paul is the author of the letter (2:18; 3:5; 5:27). “Silvanus”: “Silvanus is the Latin form of the name of the man known in Acts as Silas (the Aramic form of Saul)”. [Note: _ The New Century Bible Commentary. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. I. Howard Marshall. p. 48.] The name Silas means “person of the woods” (cf. our adjective 'sylvan', and cf. Pennsylvania: Penn's woods). We first find Silas at the council of Jerusalem ( Act_15:22 ; Act_15:27 ; Act_15:32 ). He then joins Paul on the second journey (15:40); and had helped Paul establish the church in Thessalonica (17:1,10). “Timothy”: Many speculate that he is mentioned last in this greeting, probably because he was the younger of all three men ( 1Ti_4:12 ). He may have been in his late teens or early twenties when this letter was written. He had joined Paul and Silas before they had crossed over into Europe ( Act_16:1-3 ).

When this letter was written from Corinth, all three men were together ( Act_18:5 ). Hendriksen notes, “Associated with him, fully endorsing everything he says, are Silvanus and Timothy” (p. 38). Erdman notes, “He is intending to express feelings and sentiments and beliefs in which he unites with his companions, Silvanus and Timothy” (p. 30). Here we see the "likemindedness" of the early Christians.

1:1 “Unto the church of the Thessalonians”: The church in Thessalonica or the church composed of Thessalonians. “In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”: The church is that body of people who have a favorable relationship with God ( Act_20:28 ; Eph_2:19 ; Eph_5:23 ; 1Ti_3:15 ). Notice carefully the "and" between God the Father "and" the Lord Jesus Christ. They are a package deal. One cannot have a right relationship with the Father and yet reject the Son ( 1Jn_4:15 ; 1Jn_5:10-12 ; Joh_14:6 ). In this verse we learn three things about Jesus: (a) He is Divine. The word "Lord" that is used in connection with His name is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Jehovah". “This is the regular word for Jehovah in the Septuagint” (Morris p. 48). Marshall notes, “Significantly Paul places Jesus Christ alongside God the Father without any sense of doing anything strange. They are placed on the same level” (p. 49). (b) The name Jesus which is derived from the Latin, which in turn is from the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew "Joshua", meaning "Jehovah is our salvation". Hence He is our Savior ( Mat_1:21 ). (c) "Christ" is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah". Thus in Jesus all the Messianic prophecies find their fulfillment ( Luk_24:44-47 ).

1:1 “Grace”: More than kindness or favor, rather God's kindness as expressed to men in the abundant spiritual blessings that He bestows upon Christians ( Eph_1:3 ). “Peace”: “Peace among the Greeks meant much the same as it does with us, namely the absence of war or strife. But among the Hebrews it was a positive concept. When a Hebrew said, ‘Peace be to you,’ he did not mean, ‘I hope you won't get into a fight’, but rather, ‘I pray that you may prosper’. The root is concerned with ‘wholeness’. The man who enjoys peace is thus the one whose life is well rounded. Paul's greeting, then, reminds his friends that all is owed to God” (Morris p. 49).

Verse 2

1Th_1:2 “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers”

“We give thanks to God always for you all”: Paul was very grateful for those who had obeyed the gospel. The only letter which omits such a thanksgiving is the letter to the Galatians. The phrase for you all indicates that Paul is thankful for every Christian, because every child of God is valuable. Paul practices what he will later stress ( 1Th_5:18 ). There was much to be thankful about. Morris notes, “One of the main themes of the letter is Paul's joy at knowing that the members of the Thessalonian church were continuing to live as Christians during his forced absence from them and despite every outward obstacle. The same people who had succeeded in making Paul leave Thessalonica doubtless continued to harass the friends whom he left there; yet despite it all, Paul's fears for their faith had proved groundless” (p. 50). Give thanks is in the present tense, which indicates continuous action” (Fields p. 30). “Always" qualifies "give thanks", and indicates that the thanksgiving is constant, not sporadic” (Morris p. 50).

Verse 3

1Th_1:3 “remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father”

“Remembering”: “Present active” (Robertson p. 7). “We never fail to recall” (TCNT). “Constantly bearing in mind” (NASV). “We cannot forget” (Nor). Notice that memory, thanksgiving and prayer belong together. “For it is when we remember people (their faces, names and needs) that we are prompted both to thank God and to pray for them” (Stott p. 29). This means that an accurate memory, a memory untainted by envy, suspicion, hate or bitterness is a great help in making our prayers meaningful and effective.

“Without ceasing”: Unfortunately, at times we tend to "unceasingly" remember the short-comings or imperfections of our brethren, instead of remembering their achievements. “Work of faith”: “The efforts that have resulted from your faith” (TCNT). “Your energetic faith” (Gspd). “Active faith” (Ber).

“The work which faith accomplishes” (Erdman p. 33). “There is nothing which tells us more about a man than the way in which he works. He may work in fear of the whip; he may work for hope of gain; he may work from a grim sense of duty. His faith is that this is his task given him by God and that he is working in the last analysis, not for men but for God. Someone has said that the sign of true consecration is when a man finds glory in drudgery” (Barclay p. 217). Carefully note that the same writer insists that salvation is not earned or merited ( Eph_2:8-9 ), yet Paul continually exhorts Christians to "work" ( 1Co_15:58 ). The faith that saves, the faith that pleases God is an active faith ( Heb_10:39 ; Jam_1:22 ; Jam_2:24 ; Jam_2:26 ). Seeing that 1 Thessalonians was written before Romans and Galatians, we already know that the "faith" under consideration in both of those books is a faith that works.

“Labor of love”: “Your unwearied love” (Knox). “Toil prompted by your love” (TCNT). “Your loving service”. The word "labor" here means “laborious, painful exertion, fatiguing toil, intense labor united with trouble”. “Love leads us to attempt labor from which we would ordinarily shrink in dismay. Love leads us to do good without having any feeling of superiority because we have done it, or resentment because it has been imposed upon us” (Fields p. 32). “The word expresses the cost of their love, not its result. With or without visible success, love gives itself unstintingly” (Morris p. 51). “A true love for people leads to labor for them; otherwise it degenerates into mere sentimentality” (Stott p. 30). True love will work ( 1Co_13:4-8 ); true love will sacrifice and place the needs of others ahead of its own ( Rom_13:8-11 ; 2Co_12:15 ; 1Jn_3:16 ). This is the type of love that God Himself manifests ( Mat_5:46-48 ). “He begins to see men in a measure as God sees them, and to love them, not for any worthiness that they may have, but despite their unworthiness. He loves them, not for his own advantage, but for theirs” (Morris pp. 52-53).

“Patience of hope”: “Endurance of hope” (Rhm). “Patient endurance sustained by your hope” (TCNT). “Your unwavering expectation” (Gspd). “The endurance that hope inspires” (Erdman p. 33). Patience is not mere passive endurance. It is heroic perseverance and manly constancy” (Erdman p. 34). “What is meant is not a quiet, passive resignation, but an active constancy in the face of difficulties, that hope which is more than pious optimism. It is a solid certainty” (Morris p. 53). “Such hope will enable a person to stand firm in the midst of inducements to give up the struggle; confidence that one is on the winning side enables one to survive apparent setbacks” (Marshall p. 51). This confidence is positive, active, alive and well, in spite of hard circumstances and overwhelming odds ( Rom_5:4 ; Rom_8:18 ; 2Co_4:16-18 ; Heb_6:18-19 ). “Hope in a Christian context always has an air of certainty about it. It is a confident expectation, and not the unfounded optimism which we often mean by the word”. [Note: _ 7th Annual Denton Lectures. 'Studies in 1 &2 Thessalonians, Philemon. Edited by Dub McClish p. 53.]

“In our Lord Jesus Christ”: Our hope is rooted in Jesus Christ ( 1Jn_3:3 ; Php_3:20-21 ; Rom_8:23-24 ). “Before our God and Father”: “In the presence of” (Con). This expression can have reference to being in the presence of God at the last day ( 2Co_5:10 ; 1Th_2:19 ; 1Th_3:13 ); or currently (3:9). Early Christians eagerly awaited the Second Coming of Christ ( Php_3:20-21 ). They did not fear nor dread His return, and neither did they view it as something that would "interrupt" their plans, or pose an inconvenience. If we "dread" the Second Coming probably indicates that we either are not right with God (and we know it), or we are too focused on the things of this temporary life.

Verse 4

1Th_1:4 “knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election”

“Knowing”: An additional reason for thanksgiving (1:2). “Brethren beloved of God”: “Brothers, whom God loves” (TCNT). “They are the objects of His affection and care ( Rom_1:7 ; 2Th_2:13 ; Jud_1:1 ; Deu_33:12 )” (Marshall p. 52). “Your election”: Immediately when some see the word "election" they think of God choosing people before the foundation of the world, regardless of the choices they would make in life, for salvation or damnation. Yet the context and the passage itself does not agree with such a Calvinistic idea of election. First, Paul knew they were elect, yet the true Calvinist would have to concede that even outward actions, such as church membership, is not a guarantee that one is really chosen by God, because Calvinistic election argues that God chooses one regardless of one’s own choices in life. Carefully note that Paul put a lot of stock in their behavior, in how they responded to the gospel (1:6ff). Paul believed in an election that included human choice and human freewill. In this context the "elect" are expected to work (1:3). Paul also knew that the "elect" could lose their salvation (3:1-5).

The election taught in the Bible is God choosing us, because we have chosen Him: People are "called" through the gospel ( 2Th_2:14 ), yet all are called ( Mar_16:15 ). Those who obey the call and choose God, become those that God considers His own ( Mat_22:14 ). Too many other passages contradict a Calvinistic concept of "election": God desires all men to be saved ( 2Pe_3:9 ). God shows no partially ( Rom_2:11 ). Jesus died for all men ( Joh_3:16 ). Christians are commanded to grow and thus make their election “sure” or certain ( 2Pe_1:10 ). The fact that Paul calls these Christians "elect" infers that Christians now compose the true people of God ( 1Pe_2:9-10 ). The language that was associated with the nation of Israel is now deliberately used in reference to the church. The church is the true Israel of God ( Rom_2:28-29 ; Gal_3:28-29 ; Gal_6:16 ).

Fields notes, “God's election (or choosing) is never independent of man's response. In olden times the nation of Israel was chosen, yet it was later cast off for unbelief ( Mat_8:11-12 ; Rom_11:20 )” (p. 34).

The Arrival of the Gospel in Thessalonica

Verse 5

1Th_1:5 “how that our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake”

“Our gospel”: Not in the sense that the gospel message originated in the minds of Paul, Silvanus or Timothy ( Gal_1:11-12 ), rather that they preached it, believed it, and were saved by it themselves ( 2Th_2:14 ; 2Co_4:3 ). Do we embrace the gospel message this closely? Are we so convicted of its truthfulness that we would be willing to 100% identify with it and call it as your own? “ Our gospel directs attention rather to the fact that the preachers had made it their own” (Morris p. 57). It also infers that Paul and his companions needed the gospel message just as much as any other person. “Came not unto you in word only”: “Did not depend on mere argument” (Knox). “It was not just meaningless chatter to you” (Tay).

At this point most Calvinists jump in and say “See, the gospel message is not of itself sufficient to save. What is needed is the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the hearer, just to get them to listen”. Unfortunately, this contradicts Rom_1:16 . “In word only” means: “The gospel did not appeal to them as mere eloquent and learned discourse” (Vincent p. 17). It also infers that the gospel message is much more than just words. It is God's message to mankind ( 1Co_2:1-13 ). The words in the gospel are those chosen by God Himself ( 1Co_2:13 ). Stott notes, “We must not acquiesce in the contemporary disenchantment with words. Words matter. They are the building blocks of sentences by which we communicate with one another. And the gospel has a specific content” (p. 33).

People often forget that the Holy Spirit in the process of conversion, does not work independently of the gospel, rather the gospel message is the tool or medium in which the Holy Spirit uses to convict the sinner ( Joh_16:8 ; Act_2:37 ; Eph_6:17 ; Heb_4:12 ). In addition, remember that we have a record of what Paul did in Thessalonica ( Act_17:1-3 ). He reasoned and argued from the Scriptures.

“But also in power”: This may refer to miracles that accompanied the preaching ( Heb_2:4 ; Rom_15:19 ). Or, Paul might be simply saying, “The gospel is much more than words (like a human philosophy), it is God's words, and hence a very powerful and convicting message ( Rom_1:16 )”.

“And in the Holy Spirit”: Which means that Paul preached by inspiration, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit ( Eph_3:5 ; 1Co_2:10-13 ). “And in much assurance”: Entire confidence. The "assurance" of this verse refers to how the gospel was preached to the Thessalonians, that is, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy preached it boldly and with confidence ( Eph_6:19 ; Act_13:46 ). “Assured persuasion of the preacher that the message was divine” (Vincent p. 17). Paul's preaching was confident in its presentation. “He was sure of his message, of its truth and its relevance, and in consequence was bold in proclaiming it. Yet this confidence and this courage are precisely what many modern preachers seem to lack” (Stott p. 34).

Unfortunately, too many Christians feel that the message we have is a somewhat inferior gospel to that preached in the First Century, yet we forget that the essential miracles performed to produce faith are still recorded in the gospel ( Joh_20:30-31 ). The message is inspired of God, and if I handle it accurately, then the message that I am preaching is the Word of God ( 2Ti_2:15 ). We can be just as confident, because the needs of man have not changed. We have the complete picture. We can look back at the whole plan, and see how everything fits together, as we read both Testaments. Man is still just as spiritually blind without the Word of God ( Jer_10:23 ) (a truth we see demonstrated almost on a daily basis).

“Even as ye know”: They could testify to the following fact. “What manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake”: “For you know the life we lived among you for your good” (TCNT). Apparently, accusations had been made against Paul's motives or character (2:10-11). Morris notes, “While many in modern times will feel hesitant about directing attention to their own lives, it yet remains true that no preacher can expect a hearing for his gospel unless it is bearing fruit in his own life” (p. 58). This was indeed how Paul and his companions had behaved themselves, and the Thessalonians knew it. The phrase “for your sake” should remind all preachers and teachers, that the reason one teaches is not for personal glory, but rather for the salvation of those listening ( 1Ti_4:16 ).

Hendriksen reminds us, “All kinds of traveling philosophers were roving about in the world of that day. They plied their trade for their own sake, in their own interest. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were different” (p. 51).

How the Thessalonians Responded

1Th_1:6 “And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit”

“Imitators”: “They had become imitators, not merely talkers” (Hendriksen p. 52). “Of us”: Paul often urges people to follow his example ( 1Co_4:16 ; 1Co_11:1 ). I believe that this is part of that "confidence" and conviction that Christians are to have. Our assurance of the Divine message should be to such a point that we have applied it to our own lives. We are willing to let our lives be examined and imitated. Notice, that Paul and the early Christians did not have the modern attitude of, “What may be right or truth for me, may not be truth for you.” “And of the Lord”: “Guarding against any possible imputation of self-assertion or conceit. Compare 1Co_11:1” (Vincent p. 17). Carefully note: God is not demanding the impossible. God is not requiring that we become "Divine". Yet God does believe that we adopt the attitudes manifested by His Son ( Mat_5:48 ; Eph_5:1 ). Also note that accepting the gospel message is much more than a mere intellectual acquiesence to the truth of the gospel. To accept the gospel means that one conforms to the godly examples found therein. It is never enough to merely believe that Christ or the apostles said and taught. We must be sold on what they taught, we must apply what they taught, and we must follow in His footsteps ( 1Pe_2:21 ). After all, this is the true meaning of the word "disciple" (not a mere student, but an adherent, a supporter).

“Having received the word in much affliction”: “After receiving the word amid severe affliction” (Wey). “Because you welcomed our message in spite of the painful persecutions it brought you” (Wms). The gospel message does not need "ideal" circumstances to flourish, rather just good and honest hearts ( Luk_8:15 ).

Unfortunately, we often fail to talk to others about the gospel, because we are always looking for that "right" moment. The gospel is good news, but trouble often comes with it. There are always those who resent what it proclaims ( Act_17:5 ). Stott notes, “The authentic gospel always arouses hostility ( not the least because it challenges human pride and self-indulgence )” (p. 35). “Paul's own acceptance of Jesus as Lord had led him into persecution from the Jews, and he now says that the Thessalonians had followed his example by accepting the gospel despite the fact that this plunged them into persecution” (Marshall p. 54).

“Received”: Means to embrace or welcome. Those who "received" the word on the day of Pentecost, were baptized ( Act_2:41 ). “With joy of the Holy Spirit”: This is a joy that is produced by the Spirit ( Gal_5:22-23 ). It is produced in the same way as the other qualities which compose the fruit of the Spirit, that is, through the Spirit's instruction contained in the Word of God. It is dangerous to argue that this joy is just something that "happens", or that just comes from the Spirit apart from our own choice. If that is the case, then one has to concede that "love”, “faith”, and “self-control" are just things that happen as well. Wherever the gospel goes, even in the hardest of circumstances, there is joy ( Luk_15:7 ; Luk_15:10 ; Act_8:8 ; Act_8:39 ; Act_13:52 ; Act_16:34 ). Stott notes, '”This pattern of outward opposition and inward joy has often been repeated in the long history of the church” (p. 35) ( Joh_16:33 ). Paul and Silas knew something of this joy ( Act_16:25 ). “But they did not resign themselves to a life of suffering. The joy which comes from the experience of salvation is of such intensity that a believer is prepared to put up with what are by comparison minor trials; he sees his suffering from a new perspective ( Luk_6:22 ; 1Pe_1:6 ; 1Pe_4:13 ; 2Co_4:16-18 ; Rom_8:18 ; Rom_5:1-5 ; Jam_1:2-4 ).

This phrase should challenge us. Do we rejoice in our salvation? Do we magnify our problems or do we magnify the blessings that we have and still do receive from God? Do we complain or do we rejoice? The Christian that cannot be happy, who finds themselves focused on the negative, has lost sight of what God has done for them. Jesus did not die for us so that we could be miserable!

Verse 7

1Th_1:7 “so that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

“So”: Carefully note: Without joy, one is not being a Christ-like example. “Became an”: The imitators now become the imitated.

“Ensample”: “It was a great compliment for the church in Thessalonica to be already a model for believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (Robertson p. 12). Notice the type of growth and activity this congregation of new converts was capable of achieving! What a wake up call! If these Christians were capable of this type of growth and example, so soon after conversion, then what can we accomplish? We forget how adversity can so quickly be turned into success. Out of any difficult situation--we have the choice. Whether to make a great success out of this, or to be neutralized or destroyed by it ( Jam_1:2-4 ). The unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica zealously tried to stomp out the church in this city, but their efforts only backfired and resulted in Christians being strengthened, and more determined to serve God and spread the gospel. See Act_8:1-4 . “The Thessalonian Christians had joyfully received the message despite the opposition which they faced would thus have been both an incentive to these other Christians and also a pattern for them to follow” (Marshall p. 55). Stott notes, “If the preachers were marked by truth, conviction and power, the converts were marked by joy, courage, and obedience. Let nobody say that the gospel is devoid of wholesome effects!” (p. 36).

“In Macedonia”: Which included Philippi and Berea. “And in Achaia”: (ah KAY yah). Including the Christians in Athens and Corinth. What we know as Greece was at that time divided up into two Roman provinces, the northern being Macedonia and the southern being Achaia. “Probably travelers going in and out of Corinth (where Paul was) from Macedonia reported to Paul how they had heard about the Thessalonian Christians” (Fields p. 38).

Verse 8

1Th_1:8 “For from you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything”

“For”: Besides receiving the word, despite the opposition, and besides turning adversity into victory (1:6), these Christians also proclaimed the word they had received. “Here was a preacher's dream come true! His converts had picked up the work where he had to leave it, and had spread abroad the word of the Lord so effectively that he had no need to say anything more in that area” (Fields p. 39). “Sounded forth”: To echo forth. “You have become a sort of sounding-board” (Phi). “From Thessalonica the word rang out” (NEB). ”To sound out of a trumpet or of thunder, to reverberate like our echo” (Robertson p. 12). “It means a loud, unmistakable proclamation” (Vincent p. 17). Morris notes, “It is a vivid word, and expositors from Chrysostom on have often thought the imagery to have been derived from the sounding out of a trumpet, though some prefer to think of the rolling of thunder. Either way there is nothing apologetic about it! The perfect denotes the continuing activity. The word is pictured as still sounding forth” (p. 61).

“The word of the Lord”: The gospel message they had received. “But in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth”: “That the Thessalonians’ faith was becoming known far beyond Greece, may be west by land to Rome and east by sea to Ephesus” (Stott p. 37). “So that we need not to speak anything”: “No words of ours are needed” (NEB). “Paul naturally was anxious to relate to all who came to him what great things God had accomplished in Thessalonica. But before he could even get started, the visitors were telling him what they had heard! Well, Paul did not mind that at all. He rather enjoyed it” (Hendriksen p. 54). Stott makes a good point when he says, “There is an important lesson to learn here. We are a very media-conscious generation. Nevertheless there is another way, which (if we compare them), is still more effective. It requires no complicated electronic gadgetry; it is very simple. It is neither organized nor computerized; it is spontaneous. And it is not expensive; it costs precisely nothing. It is the excited transmission from mouth to mouth of the impact which the good news is making on people. Something extraordinary is going on in Thessalonica: a new society is coming into being, with new values and standards, characterized by faith, love and hope” (pp. 37-38).

We need to learn the lesson. In this day and age of mass communication and technology we often forget that the most effective way to spread the gospel is the zealous and excited transmission by word of mouth, and this method is financially feasible for any congregation. In the introduction we noted that the city of Thessalonica was situated in a very strategic position in reference to trade and travel. All this congregation had to do, was to make use of the existing opportunity, that is the case for most congregations, even to this day.

Verse 9

1Th_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, to serve a living and true God”

“For”: In the previous verse Paul had simply mentioned the news concerning “their faith”. He now specifies what elements concerning that faith were being emphasized. “They themselves report”: Notice how enthusiasm and excitement spread. “Wherever he went, people of their own accord kept telling (continuous present) him of what had happened there” (Morris p. 61). I like what Morris said, “If men think of the gospel only as another philosophy, as the result of the reflection of certain, admittedly profound, first-century thinkers on religious topics, they will never have the burning zeal which sent the first Christian preachers through the world to proclaim what God had done for man” (p. 61). “What manner of entering we had unto you”: “People tell us of their own accord about the visit we paid to you” (Mof).

There is a hint that false accusations were being spread concerning the integrity of Paul and his companions. Once again, Paul notes that is it now being spread far and wide the accurate details of Paul's stay in Thessalonica. To me there is great hope in this statement, because it should teach us that eventually the truth will be known. False accusations can be successfully overcome ( 1Pe_2:12 ; 1Pe_3:16 ).

“And how ye turned unto God from idols”: “It indicates that conversion involves (1) a decisive break with idols, (2) an active service of God, and (3) a patient waiting for Christ” (Stott p. 38). “Turned”: To convert, turn again. We really need to realize what was involved for these people to turn their back on the former objects of their worship. Morris notes, “In government, religion, business, amusement, labor, and social clubs the pagan world was built on the pattern of polytheism” (p. 63). We fail to remember that such a turning demanded: (a) A rejection of the religion embraced by one's parents, grandparents, and relatives. (b) The rejection of that which was "tradition". (c) The rejection of that which was endorsed and believed by society. (d) The rejection of something that had been "drilled" since youth. (e) The rejection of that which contained immoral practices--which were approved by society. We forget that giving up idolatry to these people, was giving up a whole way of life. It was to virtually make oneself an outsider in one’s own community.

Hendriksen puts it this way, “It is not easy to reject and eject gods which one has worshipped from the days of childhood, and which by one's ancestors, from hoary antiquity, have always been considered very real, so that their names and individual peculiarities have become household words, for it must be borne in mind that Mt. Olympus, whose celebrated summit was considered the home of the gods, was close by, only about fifty miles to the S.W.” (p. 56). Yet despite the opposition and the incentives not to serve God, despite the personal cost, these people did abandon dead idols for a living God! And if they gave their idols up--we can too.

Stott notes, “And the more sophisticated idols (that is, God-substitutes) of modern secular cities are equally powerful. Some people are eaten up with a selfish ambition for money, power or fame. Others are obsessed with their work, or with sport or television, or are infatuated with a person, or addicted to food, alcohol, hard drugs or sex. Both immorality and greed are later pronounced by Paul to be forms of idolatry ( Eph_5:5 ), because they demand an allegiance which is due to God alone” (p. 39).

“To serve”: Everyone "serves" someone or something. The first step to true freedom, is to realize that no one is ever their "own man". It is to accept the fact that one will always be a servant--but that one can choose ones master ( Rom_6:16 ; Mat_6:24 ). Christianity is much more than "don't do this or that”. Christianity has a positive side, one is converted to "serve" ( Eph_2:10 ). “A living and true God”: “Alive and genuine” (Robertson p. 13) ( Act_14:15 ). Stott notes, “The claim to have turned to God is manifestly bogus it if does not result in serving the God to whom we have turned” (p. 41).

Verse 10

1Th_1:10 “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come”

“And to wait for His Son from heaven”: 1Jn_3:1-3 ; Php_3:20-21 ; Tit_2:13 . “Wait”: “Present infinitive--to keep on waiting for” (Robertson p. 14). “His Son: Notice that all three members of the Godhead are found in this chapter (1:1,3,5). “Whom He raised from the dead”: Therefore the guarantee or proof that He is coming again ( Act_17:31 ; Act_1:11 ). “On the one hand, however hard we work and serve, there are limits to what we can accomplish. We can only improve society; we cannot perfect it. We shall never build a utopia on earth. On the other hand, although we must look expectantly for the coming of Christ, we have no liberty to wait in idleness, with arms folded and eyes closed. Thus working and waiting belong together. In combination they will deliver us both from the presumption which thinks we can do everything and from the pessimism which thinks we can do nothing” (Stott p. 42).

“Even Jesus”: The resurrected Jesus is the same as the crucified Jesus. “It is the historic, crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus Christ, God's Son, who delivers from the coming wrath” (Robertson p. 14). “Who delivereth us”: Deliverance is only found in Jesus ( Act_4:12 ; Joh_14:6 ; Eph_5:23 ). “From the wrath to come”: God's day of judgment will clearly come ( Rom_2:5 ; Rom_2:16 ; 2Co_5:10 ; 2Pe_3:10 ). Stott notes, “God's wrath is neither an impersonal process of cause and effect nor a passionate, arbitrary or vindictive outburst of temper, but His holy and uncompromising antagonism to evil, with which He refuses to negotiate” (p. 42).

I like that last comment. God refuses to negotiate with evil . Herein lies a great incentive for repentance ( Act_17:30 ). All sin will be punished, and culture, time, or majority opinion, do not change evil into good ( Eph_5:6 ). God will not compromise with sin--so we had better give it up. “This wrath is not to be conceived as angry resentment but as the divine displeasure with sin which is inseparable from the holiness and love of God” (Erdman p. 37). And when we honestly look at sin-any sin, we can see that God has every right to be disgusted with it.

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.