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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

1 Thessalonians 4

Verses 1-8


Ch. 4, 5

Warning against Fornication and Covetousness

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.

1Furthermore, then, we beseech1 you, brethren, and exhort you [Finally then, brethren, we beseech you, and exhort]2 by [in,ἐν] the Lord Jesus, that,3 as ye have received of [according as ye received from]4 us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [even as also ye do walk,]5 so ye would abound more and more [ye would abound yet more].6 2For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, even your sanctification [God’s will, your sanct., θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν]; that ye should abstain 4[ye abstain] from fornication; that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel [every one of you know how to possess himself of his own 5.]7 in sanctification and honor, 5not in the lust of concupiscence [in passion of lust,ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας], even as the [also the, καί τά Gentiles which [who] know not 6God; that no man [one] go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter [in the matter his brother, ἐν τῷ πράγματι τὸν ]: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such [an avenger for all these things, ἔκδικοςπερὶ πάντων τούτων], as [even as, καθώς] we also have forewarned [also told you before]8 and testified [fully testified].9 7For God hath not called [did not call, οὐἐκάλεσρν] us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness [for uncleanness, but in 8sanctification].10 He therefore [Wherefore then he]11 that despiseth, despiseth [rejecteth, rejecteth]12 not man, but God, who hath also given [also gave]13 unto us His Holy Spirit [His Holy Spirit unto you].14


1. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2.) FinallyΛοιπόν (for which the evidence here preponderates, comp. 2 Corinthians 13:10), not materially different from τὸ λοιπόν, 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philippians 4:8 is used either with a temporal meaning: henceforth, now (Matthew 26:45), or in the sense of moreover; but not, as Chrysostom explains it: evermore. In the second signification it introduces the close of the discourse; Grotius: locutio properantis ad finem. That is the case even here; from what is personal Paul turns to the closing exhortation, which indeed is prolonged.15 He advances from wishing to exhorting (Roos). That they may become unblamable (1 Thessalonians 3:13; with which the οὖν forms an immediate connection), he beseeches and exhorts in those particulars, in which there is yet room for improvement in the deficiencies of their faith; thus letting the καταρτίσαι begin meanwhile by letter, first in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 in reference to their walk, then in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 sqq. in reference to their knowledge. In the classics ἐρωτᾶν means only to ask a question, but in the Septuagint it already stands for שָׁאַל (Psalms 122:6), and in the New Testament it often means to beseech (2 Thessalonians 2:1).—And exhort, by virtue of apostolic authority; but the evangelical exhortation is a friendly entreaty, which respects freedom. The entreaty and the exhortation are exercised in the Lord Jesus; the fellowship of His life is the element (2 Corinthians 2:17); the Apostle acts as Christ’s organ: he reckons not himself sufficiently worthy even to beseech or exhort. The object of the exhortation is marked substantively by τό (Luke 22:23-24; Romans 8:26; Winer, § 18. 3). The aim of the walk is to please God (as the Apostle pleases Him, 1 Thessalonians 2:4). [Webster and Wilkinson: “Θεῷ without art., such a being as God is.”—J. L.]—Even as also ye do (actually) walk, recognizes what they already are; and this is implied also in the μᾶλλον: yet more (than you now do) should you become rich and abound (here intransitive)16 therein. But not: You are to do more than is commanded.—For, confirms the exhortation by an appeal to their own knowledge of what commandments (1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:18; the verb at 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:4) they had received (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:1; Galatians 4:13).—By the Lord Jesus, is not quite equivalent to ἐν of 1 Thessalonians 4:1; we might have expected him to say: Jesus gave them by us; but he says on the contrary: We gave them by Him the Mediator of all truth and all authority; not διἐμαυτοῦ did I command; comp. Romans 15:30. Synonymous with ἐν ὀνόματι, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος, 1 Corinthians 1:10.

2. (1 Thessalonians 4:3.) For this is God’s will, &c. (1 Thessalonians 5:18); [Webster and Wilkinson: “The art. with Θεοῦ draws attention to the circumstance that God had just been spoken of as one to whose will it should be our main object to conform, ‘our God,’ the God we serve.”—J. L.] ;with this begins the special detail of the παραγγελίαι. The subject is τοῦτο; the predicate θέλημα (according to the best authorities, without the article). What follows does not embrace the entire will of God on all its sides; multæ sunt voluntates, Acts 13:22; Bengel.17—In apposition to τοῦτο,18 and substantially the subject of the statement, is ὁ ἁγιασμός, which differs from ἁγιωσύνη, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, in that the latter denotes the religious and moral character, but ἁγιασμός the religious and moral process, the work of sanctification. Not materially different is Hofmann’s view, according to which ὁ ἁγ were merely appositional (to θέλημα?), and the proper definition of the τοῦτο would be first given by the following infinitives. In our Epistle Paul has as yet no occasion, as in Romans 3-6, to develop, in polemic opposition to Jewish legality, justification as the basis of sanctification; nor is that the case in the Corinthian Epistles; Paul has no set form; but the soul of his thought and action is this: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Olshausen, like some of the older interpreters, would understand ἁγ. as opposed to the immediately following πορνεία, in the special sense of chastity. But that is ἁγνεία. Not even in Romans 6:19; 1 Timothy 2:15, is the narrower sense found. And ἀκαθαρσία likewise, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, is more comprehensive, including also covetousness, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:5. Though γάρ of 1 Thessalonians 4:7 shows indeed that 1 Thessalonians 4:6 must come under the contrast between uncleanness and sanctification, yet it does not at all follow from that, that the idea of the former is here limited to unchastity (see on 1 Thessalonians 4:6). Rather, abstinence from fornication is merely one (chief) instance of the sanctification which he recommends.

3. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.) That ye abstain, &c.—The (accusative with) infinitive is epexegetical or appositional to ἁγιασμός. On the subduing of fornication, comp. 1 Corinthians 6:7. Chrysostom: When he says, “from all fornication,” he leaves it to those who know, to think of the various kinds of lewdness. With the negative Paul couples the positive in the form of a coördinate accusative with infinitive: that every one of you know, εἰδέναι as scire, understand how to, be able to—(we only properly know, what we can also do)—acquire, get,19 not possess, which must have been expressed by the perfect κεκτῆσθαι; no other tense means to possess, not even Sir 6:1; Sir 51:20. By σκεῦος, however, vessel, utensil, tool, כְּלִי, some (Tertullian, Chrysostom [and the other more eminent Greek commentators, Theodoret, Theophylact, Œcumenius.—J. L.], Calvin, Grotius [Bishops Hall and Wilson, Hammond, Whitby, &c.—J. L.], Bengel, Olshausen, Pelt [Wordsworth, Webster and Wilkinson]20 understand the body; others (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Zwingli, Wetstein, Schott, De Wette, Lünemann, Ewald, Hofmann [Jowett, Alford, Ellicott]),21 the wife. The former say that Scripture in still other places speaks of the body in this sense—does not treat it contemptuously as the prison of the soul—recognizes indeed the trouble that it makes for us as the seat, not the origin, of sin—but requires that it stand in the Lord’s service as a sanctified organ of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:13); comp. 2 Corinthians 4:1 (where, it is true, the epithet ὀστράκινα is not to be overlooked); the Rabbins, moreover, use כּוֹס of the body; Philo says repeatedly: τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ; Barnabas, 7. 1Th 11: σκεῦος τοῦ πνεύματος; but also, 1Th 21, simply: τὸ καλὸν σκεῦος. In our text ἑαυτοῦ might, if necessary, take the place of πνεύματος. But how does κτᾶσθαι, to get, to obtain, suit with this? For to possess is not the meaning of the word, but acquirere—an argument already employed by Wetstein. Accordingly κτᾶσθαι would have to signify to get the mastery over; Chrysostom: Only through sanctification do we gain the body for a σκεῦος; sin, on the contrary, gains it, when we are impure. As this is of itself somewhat artificial, so it is entirely at variance (De Wette, Lünemann [Koch, Alford, Ellicott]) with the fact, that to κτᾶσθαι really belongs also the negative definition (1 Thessalonians 4:5),μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας (the genitive as in 1 Thessalonians 1:3; passion peculiar to lust, concupiscence; ἐπιθ. is the natural element of sin (Romans 7:7), which swells to passion; comp. πάθη , Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26). So then: You are to acquire the σκεῦος in sanctification, not in passionate lust; this does not suit the assumed meaning of σκεῦος; for, in truth, it is only by sanctification that the mastery over the body is gained; by lust comes the opposite, the loss of the mastery. Gain the mastery over the body, not in passion, were to give an absurd turn to the prohibition.22

We are thus driven to the other explanation, for which, it is true, Scripture furnishes as little as for the first any perfectly exact parallel. For passages where man is described generally as a figure of clay (Isaiah 45:9, and often), or expressions as σκεύη ἐλέους Romans 9:23, and such like, are too dissimilar. The one that comes nearest seems to be 1 Peter 3:7; but even there the wife is described as the weaker vessel, to wit of the Divine grace, merely in the relation of contrast, over against the stronger vessel, but not as the vessel or instrument of the man. Among the Rabbins, however, the latter idea is found (with the blunt explanation: cui immittitur semen): vas meum quo ego utor, Megill. Esth. I. 11; and, besides, κτᾶσθαι is used of taking a wife (Ruth 4:10, Septuagint; Sir. 36:29 [Sir 36:24]).

It is objected, 1. that this would be to speak too meanly of the wife, as of a dependent instrument of the man, contrary to the reciprocity of 1 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Corinthians 2:0. that the opposition to πορν. would be taken somewhat too narrowly, especially if we understand the matter thus: You are to contract marriage in sanctification, not in lust; in this way the exhortation would be, not for such as still remain single, or for widowers, and for others, even only in regard to the formation of the marriage tie; 3. (a point made by Olshausen, and also by Calvin before him), that the exhortation would thus not at all apply to the woman. It may be replied (with De Wette and Lünemann), 1. that the wife is not in every respect viewed as the instrument of the man, but only in the special relation suggested by the opposition to πορν. Keep yourselves from vaga libido; procure rather every one his own instrument, to wit, for the instinct in question, not as one in πορν. procures a σκεύος, not his own, in passionate lust. Here, as in 1 Corinthians 7:0, Paul speaks plainly and undisguisedly, but yet briefly and decently. 2. This exhortation is generally applicable; that is to say, those who do not possess the gift of continence (1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:9) are, for the sake of avoiding πορν, to take to themselves every one his own regular wife (if they are still single or widowers), and not use a σκεύος that is not their own; but neither are they to marry in a merely fleshly way, and just so they are not to lead their married life in that spirit. It concerns both the formation of the marriage relation and the subsequent life therein, when it is said: Obtain your σκεύος (at first and ever afterwards) in sanctification and honor. 3. This exhortation Paul directs with perfect propriety to the men as the specially active parties, who readily allow themselves greater liberty in this thing. The inference as regards Christian women was self-evident.

Lünemann thinks that in sanctification and honor is merely an explanation of what is implied in the expression, his own vessel. But the sense is richer, if we thus distinguish: 1. Let every one acquire his own vessel, and that, indeed, 2. in the proper way, as it should be acquired (and then also kept accordingly). It is not enough that one have a wife; it is likewise important, in what way he has got and now holds her. “For a man may be drunk even on his own wines.” The proper mode of the κτᾶσθαι is therefore described: in sanctification inwardly, before God, so that there is an imitation of the love of Christ (Ephesians 5:0) and a mutual furtherance in the service of God and in the rule of the spirit; whence follows in the relation between man and man: and in honor (Colossians 2:23; 1 Peter 3:1); in maintaining one’s own honor, and in the respect or manifestation of honor that is shown to the wife; as opposed to the ἀτιμία of him who sinks himself below the beasts, desecrating and degrading the σκεύος by a sinful abuse through παθ. ἐπιθ. in fornication, or even in carnal excesses within the limits of marriage.

Even as also the Gentiles; καί in comparisons, 1 Thessalonians 4:13; Romans 4:6; ἔθνη, as frequently for ἐθνικοί.

4. (1 Thessalonians 4:6). That no one go beyond, &c., is added by asyndeton, with this variation, that now τό stands with the infinitive. Τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν; cannot depend on εἰδέναι if on account of the article it could not be parallel to ἀπέχεσθαι and εἰδέναι, then neither is it parallel to κτᾶσθαι, which without the article depends on εἰδέναι. Bengel sees in the asyndeton a proof that Paul is proceeding with the same topic, the τό bringing confirmation and climax to what was last said. It is, on the whole, supposed by many (Chrysostom: the subversion of marriage is worse than the robbery of treasures, Jerome, Erasmus [Bishop Wilson], Wetstein, Olshausen, Pelt, Von Gerlach [Jowett, Alford, Ellicott, Vaughan, Wordsworth, Webster and Wilkinson, and most others]), that πλεονεκτεῖν (to overreach, injure) stands here, not in its ordinary meaning, but figuratively of violated marriage, as Proverbs 6:29-32 compares the thief and the adulterer (that, however, is not to describe the adulterer figuratively as a thief); comp. 2 Samuel 12:0 (but that is an express parable), and the tenth commandment (of the Reformed division),23 which embraces both kinds of sins. Paul (they think), having said before that fornication is contrary to sanctification, and therefore to God, now goes on to say that it wounds also brotherly love—is, so to speak, a greedy grasping at conjugal property, an injury to the rights of a brother. The specification, ἐν τῷ πράγματι, would then be used euphemistically: “in the matter” (that mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 7:11). On any other view, it is thought, there would be a quite abrupt introduction by asyndeton of a new subject, whereas even the γάρ of 1 Thessalonians 4:7 shows that 1 Thessalonians 4:6 speaks of the uncleanness of lewdness.

Against the last remark, see Exeg. Note 2 (on 1 Thessalonians 4:3); ἀκαθαρσία is all impurity of the natural man, the dominion of the flesh over against the spirit; covetousness also belongs to it. On the other hand, there is no example (for a parable like that of Nathan is not one) of the asserted figurative use of πλεονεκτεῖν; and even the asyndeton does not prove what these interpreters wish. Indeed, closely viewed, something even false would be the result of this. That is to say, were τὸ μή &c. of 1 Thessalonians 4:6 merely appositional to 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5—if nothing but a new side of πορνεία were to come out of it—then the adulterous πλεονεξία must be a characteristic of all πορνεία; a man, in other words, must thereby invade the rights of his brethren; which yet is not the case, for there is many an instance of πορν. which violates no brother’s right of possession; that is the case only in a single definite relation, and must consequently have been mentioned as something new, not simply as an apposition to what precedes. Even Lünemann is here too punctilious, when on account of the τό he would take μὴ ὑπερβ. as coördinate, not with ἀπέχ, and εἰδέναι, but with ὁ ἁγιασμός: The will of God Isaiah 1:0. your sanctification, abstinence from fornication, and so forth; and 2. the μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν. But in this way there results the awkwardness of understanding ἁγιασμός of 1 Thessalonians 4:3 in the narrower sense of chastity, whereas in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 it is understood by Lünemann himself (who takes 1 Thessalonians 4:6 as an exhortation against covetousness) in the wider sense. We cannot be driven to this by that article.

Even if we had to acknowledge in this a slight ruggedness of style, we should yet say with Hofmann, that the very article shows that something new, and of a different nature, now comes in. The difficulty disappears, as soon as (in reading) we punctuate somewhat more strongly after ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν, and again after μὴ εἰδότα τὸν θεόν. Thus (with Origen, Calvin, Zwingli, Grotius, De Wette, Lünemann, Ewald, Hofmann, and others) we recognize in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 a new exhortation to a second evidence of sanctification (along with chastity as the first) in honesty of dealing, instead of a reckless and covetous overreaching. Many take ὑπερβαίνειν absolutely, without an object, modum excedere; Luther: to grasp too far; II. 9. 501; Plato, Rep. 366. A. But since the one τὸ μή takes the two verbs close together, we shall do better by referring also, with Hofmann, the addition ὲν τῷ πρ. and the object to both verbs; and then ὑπερβ, to go beyond, is the same thing as to take no notice of, recklessly to disregard; in what? even in πλεονεξία, the desire to have more. The verb is transitive also in 2 Corinthians 12:17-18; τῷ enclitic, for τινι, as Grotius explains it, is not according to New Testament use—not even in 1 Corinthians 15:8; ἐν τῷ πρ. means: in the business (Romans 16:2), or even lawsuit (1 Corinthians 6:1), on hand at any particular time.24

His brother—is this to be understood of brother in the widest sense, as equivalent to πλησίον? That, however, is contrary to the usage. Even אָח denotes a member of the people of God. But should the limitation, as in Deuteronomy 23:19 sq., indicate a difference in the treatment of brethren and of strangers? By no means; it does not consist with the context, that those who are not brethren should be otherwise treated (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:12); Paul, looking simply at the intercourse of Christians with one another, requires that the same should be fraternal, and he uses the name of brother as an argument against unbrotherly overreaching; ætiologia fugiendæ transgressionis, Bengel; just as in 1 Corinthians 6:0, where in like manner the transition from fornication (1 Thessalonians 5:0) to covetousness is by asyndeton, hurried and abrupt. In other places also Paul puts close together these two capital vices, Ephesians 4:19; Ephesians 5:3; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5.

Confirmation of the warning: Because that (Romans 1:19; Romans 1:21) the Lord (Bengel: Christus judex) is an avenger (vindex, Romans 13:4) for all these things; the most diverse sins (suits better, if the previous discourse was at least of two kinds of sin, and not merely of two forms of the same sin); comp. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19 sqq.25

Even as we also told you before, not merely before this Epistle; that idea lies simply in the aorist (when we were with yon, even then our oral teaching was to no other effect); but the προ (comp, προλέγω with προεῖπον, Galatians 5:21) contains a reference to the coming of Christ to judgment: “before it happens;” and (by way of corroboration) fully testified (1 Thessalonians 2:12 [11]). Calvin: tanta enim est hominum tarditas, ut nisi acriter perculsi nullo divini judicii sensu tangantur.

5. (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8.) For God did not call, &c.—What prompted the exhortation, a return to the fundamental idea of 1 Thessalonians 4:3. The change from ἐπί to ἐν is not without design. The former might possibly mark the condition: on the ground of. But to specify a ground, even in a negative way, does not accord with the free grace of the call. But, since the purpose of an action is the motive of it, ἐπί may also express for the purpose of, hac lege ut essemus, Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 2:10; Winer, § 48, C. [Webster and Wilkinson: “on the understanding of.”—J. L,]). Ἐν, on the contrary, is internal; it may be understood by breviloquence (in order to be in) as equivalent to εἰς (Winer, § 50, 5; 1 Corinthians 7:15 with Colossians 3:15); but also of the essential nature of the καλεῖν (Bengel, Hofmann): in the offer and operation of sanctification the καλεῖν existed; that was the element in which the καλεῖν moved. The Apostle does not think so specially as we do of sanctification as a gradual subdual of the flesh, but it is for him separation from the world for God, the being made partakers of His Spirit; ἐν as Galatians 1:6; Ephesians 6:4.

Wherefore then he that despiseth [rejecteth];26ἀθετεῖν, to invalidate, treat as null; more rarely with a personal object: to reject (Luke 10:16); in the Septuagint frequently for בָּגַד. Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 24:16. To the participle some supply ἐμέ, others τοῦτο, τἡν ἐν ἁγιασμῷ κλῆσιν, τὰς παραγγελίας (1 Thessalonians 4:2), not incorrectly as regards the sense, but grammatically it is better to take it (with De Wette, Lünemann, Hofmann [Jowett, Alford, Ellicott]) as without an object, substantively: the despiser [rejecter]. In what follows we must not take οὐκ for οὐ μόνον, which weakens the force of the statement, but thus: The man, through whom the commands were conveyed to him, does not even come into view by the side of the despising of God, from whom they spring. In the case of ἄνθρωπον, to think with Œcumenius, Pelt, of the overreached brother, 1 Thessalonians 4:6, or even with Hofmann of the misused woman, and the brother injured through covetousness, is still more out of the way.27

In the addition: who (also,28 together with the calling) giveth (continuously), or gave (once) His Holy Spirit unto you, lies the climax of the exhortation. With the reading, unto us, one might think of the Apostles, who speak from the Spirit (1 Corinthians 7:40), whose word therefore is not to be despised, or again (since this apologetic assurance is here uncalled for) of Christians generally. The better attested ὑμᾶς, however, is for the readers: He giveth (or gave) into you [in euch hinein, for εἰς ὑμᾶς] His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, who incites to sanctification, to dwell in you; and thus (De Wette, Olshausen), along with the commandment, the gift also of discernment, illumination through the prophets among you (1 Thessalonians 5:20), and the spirit of discernment in yourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:21), so that ye are able to judge whether I speak from myself—so that ye are θεοδίδακτοι (1 Thessalonians 4:9); and thus to you, moreover, sanctification is made a possible thing, for surely ye have not in vain received His Holy Spirit (Ewald); ye are, therefore, also the more inexcusable, if ye despise His commandments, grieve the Holy Spirit, and resist His discipline (Ephesians 4:30; Lünemann, Hofmann).


1. (1 Thessalonians 4:1.) There is danger in knowing the way, and not going forward (James 1:22). Standing still tends to backsliding. The point is, to walk continually, step by step, even to the mark. Chrysostom: The earth returns more than is given to it.—But this as fruit, from the living force of the seed; no opera supererogationis. The true περισσεύειν is not any acting over and above the commandments (1 Thessalonians 4:2), but a more and more willing fulfilment of the commandments. Zwingli: No one can here be perfect, and he that standeth, let him take heed lest he fall. Daily we fall and sin; let us also daily arise.—That requires an ever fresh exhortation and admonition in the midst of the frivolity of an age, which heedlessly despises the judgment of God.—Rieger: When one has once received from another something pertaining to instruction in the matter of salvation, this forms a tie between hearts, such that one may hope to effect a still further advance. A word received with love into the heart communicates to us also an impulse to become ever more perfect. [Matthew Henry: The Apostle taught them how to walk, not how to talk.—Adam Clarke: God sets no bounds to the communications of His grace and Spirit to them that are faithful. And as there are no bounds to the graces, so there should be none to the exercise of those graces.—J. L.]

2. (1 Thessalonians 4:2). Bengel remarks, that in the Epistles to the only recently founded church at Thessalonica the Apostle speaks frequently of his commands; but seldom in Epistles to churches of longer standing. Evangelical freedom is no antinomianism. The ordinances of God require the obedience of faith. Absolute autonomy and creaturehood are mutually irreconcilable. The way to true Christian freedom lies through the obedience of faith.

3. (1 Thessalonians 4:3.) Sanctification is separation from the things of the world, purification from the pollution of the flesh, the surrender of ourselves to the service of God, to the dominion of the spirit over the flesh, for a pure offering to God who is holy, that is, who abides like Himself, asserting Himself in His spirituality, and therefore with an absolute superiority, not only to everything impure, but to all that is created. Leviticus 19:2, Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.—Rieger: Under the impulse of His Spirit it pervades the whole man, so that all his powers and members are occupied in the service of righteousness. To this points even the emotion of shame, wherein is proclaimed a consciousness of the fall, and a longing after original innocence.—The same; We must not regard sanctification as such a lofty virtue, that only a very few are required to strive after it (comp. Hebrews 12:14).

4. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6.) We need not be surprised at this warning against gross sins. The gospel does not out off magically at one blow all danger of seduction. Gross sins on one side, great workings of the Spirit on the other—such is the mighty contrast in the primitive churches. Nowadays everything is brought much nearer to a level. Besides, the lust of the flesh and the thirst for gain are the capital vices, not merely of heathenism, but to this very day especially of so many a rich commercial town.

5. (3–5.) Sensuality is a peculiarly powerful lust of the natural man, and strives against sanctification. Heathen laxity accounts it a matter of indifference, unless some right of wedlock is infringed; nay, by a reciprocal influence of error and lusts (Ephesians 4:22), and in consequence of a wicked ignorance of the holy God, heathenism, while deifying the natural instinct, sanctions even a “holy” debauchery, and that even to the most unnatural abominations (comp. my Discourse on the calling of the prophet Hosea, Basel). Even the nobler heathens, e. g. Plato in the Symposium, sometimes commend in the wise man as a sublime continence that without which a Christian were no Christian, while they speak of shameful things without any holy abhorrence. How feeble is their protest even against pederasty! And, sure enough, what a state of things was that of the Roman world at that time! A quite different spirit of earnest opposition was shown already even by the law of the Old Covenant (Leviticus 18:30; Deuteronomy 22:21; Deuteronomy 23:17); and the gospel thoroughly enforces the demand for resistance even to the secrecy of the thoughts (Matthew 5:28). On one occasion the Apostle appeals to the Christian sense of honor: Ye will not, surely, take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot (1 Corinthians 6:15)? and then again as here: Ye will not be willing, I hope, to live as do the heathen? Such admonitions are still needed by us. For the prevailing tendency is to think far too lightly of the fleshly lusts, which yet war against the soul.—Rieger: When a stale Christianity is ever anew reviving all heathenish vanities in operas, plays, novels, shameful pictures and images, it falls again likewise, along with heathenish unbelief, into heathenish fornication.—To subdue it is not an affair of a single resolution, but of continuous practice.—Chrysostom: of an earnest discipline—grounded in a knowledge of one’s own bodily and mental disposition, and showing itself by caution in intercourse, avoidance of all temptations, of all impurity in look, gesture, touch, of all seductive reading, whereby the evil treasure of the heart is enlarged, by laying hold of the Divine help, turning to account past experiences, perseverance in prayer, serious contemplation of the shortness of life and the preciousness of the faculties vouchsafed, by exerting the same with faithful diligence, and, above all, by overcoming in the blood of Jesus (Revelation 12:11).

A principal means, and one of Divine appointment, is the holy and honorable use of marriage; “incontinentiæ medicina et continentia ipsa,” C. Hel 4:29. But it must not be contracted in a way of carnal frivolity, nor carried on in a spirit of carnal license. Paul speaks of these things without any absurd prudery or spurious spirituality; what belongs to nature he mentions without disguise, does not dispute what is due to a natural necessity, but insists on discipline and a hallowed method in the satisfaction of this instinct. We ought to be thankful for this sober teaching, equally remote as it is from a false burdening of the conscience through monkish perverseness (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, in opposition to a merely nominal marriage), and from a privileged explanation of immoderate fleshly lust. Nor are we at liberty to decline even the humiliation implied in the assignment of motive, 1 Corinthians 7:2.

Zwingli: Paul does not altogether forbid the affection—quis enim sine affectu cohabitat uxori suæ?—but whatever in that regard is immoderate and disorderly.—What is essential in holy wedlock is the helping of one another to grow in the rule of the spirit (Rieger: sanctification with reference to God and His service); this Divine aim in connection with what is humanly noble, to be mindful of one’s own honor, and not less of the honor and dignity of the woman in a due regard to her personality. This requires a constant modesty; for the Divinely ordained instinct (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:24) is no longer since the fall to be regarded as uninjured (Genesis 3:7). Whoever abandons himself without reserve to lust, in his case it degenerates for his punishment into a ruling passion, of which he becomes the slave.

6. (1 Thessalonians 4:5.) That the Gentiles know not God (Galatians 4:8; Ephesians 2:12; Ephesians 4:17 sqq.); this statement seems to be contradicted, not merely by so many beautiful expressions of the heathen respecting Divine things, but by the Apostle’s own words, when he pronounces them inexcusable, Romans 1:19 sqq., for the very reason that they know God by His creation. But the principle of reconciliation is found in the last mentioned passage itself. When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, and thus their thoughts became vain and their foolish heart was darkened. They held down29 the truth in unrighteousness. They consequently do not know God as the God before whom we stand, the Holy One with eyes of flame, who is Spirit and not flesh; whom we know only in proportion to our sanctification; for it is only when we are willing to strive after that which is the will of God, that we receive also the witness of the Spirit, and attain to the full knowledge of Him as the Searcher of our life. Even of men, whom we know merely by sight or from hearsay, not from personal intercourse, we do not say that we know them. In this full, living sense, therefore, the heathen know not God (τὸν θεόν, the one, true God). This is a guilty ignorance, of which the general and the individual guilt are in an inverse proportion. But even the better views—how fragmentary are they, and how little do they amount to an undoubting, salutary, popularly pervasive knowledge!

7. (1 Thessalonians 4:6.) Paul frequently brings together the two capital vices, lust and covetousness; comp. also Hebrews 13:4-5. Between these two diverging sins, there is affinity and contrast. Both are characterized by unfaithfulness, unbelief, as if God did not see or avenge—as if He were not a Spirit, nor holy. The man who is unfaithful to God in regard to his body, that nearest of possessions, is easily so likewise in reference to property of every kind, and vice versa. Or perhaps sin develops itself in a one-sided way. Libertines may be loyal and generous in money matters; honest people are frequently covetous, niggardly, bent on their own advantage. Indeed, covetousness is the vice of upright people, and is often joined to a pharisaic religionism; it is also much more rarely confessed than other sins. Binet gives us the statement of a Catholic confessor, that in twenty years innumerable sins had been confessed to him, but not in a single instance covetousness. Then perhaps, in circumstances of special temptation, the mischief breaks out also in the other direction. Not being thoroughly faithful, they have no power of resistance.

8. (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8.) The Divine call, and, along with that, the communication of the Holy Spirit, enhance responsibility (Luke 12:48). And indeed the final measure of all sin is not the injury done to our neighbors, but the contempt put upon God (Exodus 16:7; 1 Samuel 8:7). People are fain to put forward as an excuse their dislike to men.—Zwingli: The parson I will not listen to, the false teacher, the heretic;—such is the talk of those who do not dare openly to reject God.—To what extent may the cause of the teacher be identified with that of God? A wicked, hierarchical abuse is certainly possible, and occurs when the privilege of the teacher’s position is throughout, and without question, asserted as infallible; contrary to Matthew 16:17; Matthew 16:23; Galatians 2:11 sqq.; 1Co 10:15; 2 Corinthians 1:24. Nevertheless, Luke 10:16 remains in force, in so far as the servants of Christ take upon themselves, above all things, the obligation implied in this promise. And all penitential confession is complete only in the direct personal reference to God (B. Leviticus 6:0 [4]); when the sinner begins clearly to perceive, that God’s commandments are no human fancies. The more light a man has received, so much the more heinous is his transgression. To grieve the Holy Spirit, with an ever-increasing constancy to do Him despite, may grow into the sin that is never forgiven. Comp. on this point my Discourse in the apologetische Beiträge von Gess und Riggenbach, Basel, 1863. For this reason the exhortation, which began with beseeching in Christ, becomes at the close a menace pointing to the vengeance of the Judge. The gospel knows nothing of the idea, that the fear of God’s judgment is an inadmissible motive. Its preaching is throughout two-edged.


1 Thessalonians 4:1. To beseech, where one might command, a model for Christ’s ministers (2 Corinthians 5:20).—Heubner: The exhortation proceeds, 1. on the command of Christ, not of men (nor yet arbitrarily); 2. by His love to us; 3. by our love to Him; 4. by His future appearing—Burlenburger Bibel: God beseeches and exhorts, though according to His right and His power he might well threaten and command. Therein appears his kindness and love toward man [Titus 3:4], With so much the greater force should this gracious style of injunction shame and subdue the otherwise hard natural heart.—[See Bishop Beveridge’s Brief Notes on this verse.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:3. Stähelin: First holy, then peaceable; this will of God thou wilt not be able to annul.—Heubner: All commandments have one object, sanctification. The special Christian motives to sanctification: 1. It is an obligation of gratitude; 2. it is the sign of the reconciliation received [Romans 5:11]; 3. Christ is made unto us sanctification [1 Corinthians 1:30]; 4. we owe it to the world; without it, we do the world an injury, and dishonor Christ.—The same: The call of Christianity, a call to sanctification.—Burlenburger Bibel: To this point is the sum and substance of all Holy Writ directed, that the people of God should also live godly. It is not possible that an unholy person should come into fellowship with God, the Holy One.—[ For this is the will of God, your sanctification;—the text of Massillon’s third Sermon pour une profession religieuse.—J. L.]

Heubner: Christ the Guardian of our chastity.—Chrysostom: Men are led to fornication by luxury, wealth, levity, idleness, leisure. These occasions must be cut off. In particular, he gives an impressive warning against adultery, as the consequence of the early practice of fornication. “Bear with me, if I seem to speak what is impure, as if I had laid aside shame and blushing; for it is with reluctance that I submit to this, but for their sakes, who are not ashamed of the deeds, am I compelled to utter the words. You are ashamed to hear of it? It is, however, the deeds that you are ashamed of, not of the words.” He speaks of these things, he says, as a surgeon probes a festering wound. “It is not youth that is responsible for them, otherwise all young men must be licentious; but we fling ourselves into the funeral pile.”—Burlenburger Bibel: A man may restrain himself from all outward eruptions of evil lust, and yet be inwardly full of the stench of the filthiest thoughts and desires.

1 Thessalonians 4:2. Who is allowed to say that he knows God? The man who loves Him, keeps His commandments, stands in sanctification.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6. The similarity and difference of the two capital vices mentioned by the Apostle.—Covetousness itself is an uncleanness.

[1 Thessalonians 4:7. Leighton: It is sacrilege for you to dispose of yourselves after the impure manner of the world, and to apply yourselves to any profane use, whom God hath consecrated to Himself—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:6-8. Dread of the Judge and Avenger is not set aside even by the gospel, 1. Servile fear, indeed (Romans 8:15), hath torment and is not in love (1 John 4:18); but every one who does not fear is not therefore a child of God; better than careless or insolent frivolity, the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom 2. Nay, within the sphere of grace, it is needful to use it with fear and trembling, that it be not turned into lasciviousness (2 Corinthians 5:11;Philippians 2:12 [Judges 4:0]). 3. But the fear of God, the only Judge, is identical with trust in Him, the only Saviour and Protector (Matthew 10:28-31).—[Leighton: Men are ready to find out poor shifts to deceive themselves, when they have some way deceived their brother, and to stop the mouth of their own conscience with some quibble and some slight excuse, and force themselves at length to believe they have done no wrong. Therefore the Apostle, to fright them out of their shifts, sets before them an exacter Judge, who cannot be deceived nor mocked, who shall one day unveil the conscience, and blow away these vain self-excuses as smoke; and that just Lord will punish all injustice.—J. L.]—Berlenburger Bibel: The despising [rejecting] occurs also through a hypocritical faith, when the way of sanctification is refused as savoring of legalism. The flesh makes ever-fresh trials, whether it may be able to regain its old ascendency.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. Stockmeyer (in a series of manuscript Sermons, of which he has most kindly allowed us the use): Exhortation to sanctification: 1. Why is it still a necessity for a church even of true Christians? Their standing is already in sanctification, but they need to become ever more perfect: a. they are still far from having attained to the measure of Christ’s example; it behooves them to strive against the temptation to a self-satisfied stationariness; b. the tendencies to sin are powerful; earlier habits of sin still retain an influence; whereas no department of life is to remain unsanctified, and no toleration is to be given to stubbornness, indolence, excuses, or palliations; otherwise sanctification gradually expires, 2. What are the particular points made prominent by the Apostle according to the special need of his readers? the two capital sins of the heathen world, fleshly lust and greed of gain. a. To offer wanton apologies for the former is to sink back into heathenism, which knows nothing of God. b. The second is a reckless encroaching on one’s neighbor. Against this Paul warns, at the same time that he fully recognizes brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10); for a man may contribute to charitable objects, and yet all the while seek advantages in trade, that are an overreaching of his neighbors. But he who on these points is free from reproach, let him try himself whether there are not others, in which his sanctification is still defective. 3. What is the serious admonition with which the Apostle confirms and strengthens his word of exhortation? The pro-claimer of evangelical grace speaks of punishment from an avenging God. On all ungodliness of men rests God’s wrath; he, therefore, who scorns the way prepared by God’s grace for escaping that wrath, forsakes the way of grace, and must be overtaken by the wrath; yea, he is worthy of a far sorer condemnation than heathens and Jews, just because to him the Spirit was given. Yes, help to achieve the victory is proffered to him in the strength of the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 is the Epistle for the Sunday Reminiscere.


[1]So at least in the text of the American reprint. But, as the Commentary gives the first aorist,—αμεν, this is perhaps one of the too numerous errors in these otherwise comely editions of Ellicott.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1.—[Τὸ λοιπὸν (comp. E. 1 Thessalonians 4:0 :2 Thessalonians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:8, and see Exegetical Notes, 1. In this case nearly all the uncial manuscripts, including Sin., and modern editors omit the τό, as at 2 Corinthians 13:11) οῦ̓ν, ἀδελφοὶ, ἐρωτῶμεν ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1.—B. D.1 and others give ἵνα καθώς, and resume at the end of the verse: ἵνα περισσ. [Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott].—Sin. A. and others omit the first ἵνα.

1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1.—[καθὼς παρελάβετε (when we were with you) παρά.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1.—Καθὼς καὶ περιπατεῖτε is given by a large number of the oldest authorities [Sin. A. B. D. E. F. G., Vulgate, &c.; and so Wells, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott, Am. Bible Union.—J. L.]; it was probably omitted as cumbrous.

1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:1.—[περισσεύητε μᾶλλον. German: noch mehr; Wakefield, Conybeare at 1 Thessalonians 4:10, Ellicott: still more; Sharpe, Alford: yet more.—In 1 Thessalonians 4:2, for ἐδώκαμεν, Sin. reads δεδώκ., with one or two cursives.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:4.—[ἐιδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι. See the Exegetical Notes, 3.—Sin.1 repeats ἐν before τιμῇ.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:6.—[καὶ προείπαμεν—again referring to the time of his personal ministry at Thessalonica.—The form of the second aorist, προειπ ο μεν is given by Griesbach, Scholz, Ellicott* (?).—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:6.—[διεμαρτυράμεθα. The διά is recognized as intensive by many of the commentaries and versions. Beza asseveranter; Benson, Ellicott: solemnly; Macknight, Peile: fully; Alford: constantly; &c.—The ὁ before κύριος in this verse is wanting in Sin.1 A. B. D.,1 and is cancelled by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:7.—[ἐπὶ , ἀλλἐν . See the Exegetical Notes, 5.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.—[So Macknight and Ellicott render τοιγαροῦν ὁ. Comp. the E. V. at Hebrews 12:1—the only other instance of τοιγαροῦν.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.—[In both cases ἀθετέω; for which Erasmus and other Latin versions here change the spernit of the Vulgate into rejicit or repudiat, as many German versions (though not Riggenbach’s) do Luther’s verachtet into verwirft. The E. V. marginal rejecteth is preferred by several English translators, including Alford, in the Commentary, Ellicott, and the Am. Bible Union.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.—The authorities are divided between δόντα [the lect. rec., retained by nearly all the editors, after A. K. L. and διδόιτα [Lachmann, after Sin.1 B. D. E. F. G.], both with or [Lachmann] without καὶ.

1 Thessalonians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:8.—[τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὐμᾶς.] The preponderance of authority is for ὑμᾶς [Sin. B. D. E. F. G. &c. the Syriac and other versions] instead of ἡμᾶς [A., Vulgate, &c.—Almost all the critical editions have ὑμᾶς.—J. L.].

[15][Vaughan: “Literally, As a remaining thing: marking an approach towards the conclusion of the Epistle, hut not necessarily a very near approach.”—Webster and “Wilkinson: τὸ λοιπὸν οῦ̓ν “Now then, what else I have to say is”; λοιπόν, “Let me say further.”—J. L.]

[16][περισσεύητε—contrasted with the transitive περισσεύσαι of 1 Thessalonians 3:12.—J. L.]

[17][Ellicott would explain the absence of the article simply by reference to the substantive verb preceding.—J. L.]

[18][Ellicott [after Alford] says, “to the preceding θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ.” But his previous remark, that one reason why τοῦτο, the subject, is placed somewhat emphatically forward is, that it may “direct the reader’s attention to the noun in apposition that follows,” naturally suggests the other and, I think, better view.—J. L.]

[19][German: erwerben, for κτάσθαι. Jowett and Ellicott: get himself. In the Revision I suggested: possess himself of—a phrase which Vaughan has adopted. Wordsworth: “acquire and hold;” Webster and Wilkinson: secure the possession of.—J. L.]

[20][I should say, a majority of all the commentators.—J. L.]

[21][Ellicott: “and apparently the majority of recent expositors.” Most of the older commentators go the other way.—J. L.]

[22][I must still question whether the above argument, however plausible, is quite as demonstrative, as has been supposed. As I remarked in the Revision: “If the writer really meant to say: ‘Instead of serving divers lusts and pleasures (Titus 3:3, δουλεύοντες ἐπιθυμίαις κτλ.), and thus making the body your tyrant (Romans 16:18; 2 Peter 2:19) and your God (Philippians 3:19), let every one of you seek to get possession and control of it, in a holy and honorable use, not in a vile abuse,’ it does not appear that such a construction would he in any respect more harsh and difficult than what is often met with; e. g. Romans 3:8; 1 John 3:12.” Comp. 1 Corinthians 9:27. Jowett: “The words ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας, though forming an antithesis to ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ, need not necessarily, when applied to the heathen, carry us back to κτᾶσθαι τὸ σκεῦος. In 1 Thessalonians 4:5 these latter words are lost sight of, and some general idea gathered from them, such as ‘living’ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας.”—J. L.]

[23][Luther’s Catechism retains the Roman Catholic arrangement of the decalogue, which divides the tenth commandment into two to make up for the omission of the second.—J. L.]

[24][Per contra, Ellicott: “The clause is not merely parallel to the anarthrous εἰδέναι, but reverts to the preceding ἀγιασμός” (Ellicott on this point agreeing with Lünemann), “of which it presents a specific exemplification more immediately suggested by the second part of 1 Thessalonians 4:4. First, πορνεία is prohibited; then a holy use of its natural remedy affirmatively inculcated; and lastly, the heinous sin of μοιχεὶα, especially as regarded in its social aspects, formally denounced. So rightly Chrys. (ἐνταῦθα περὶ μοιχεὶας φησίν ), and after him Theod., Theophyl., Œcum., and the majority of modern commentators. To regard the verse with Calv., Grot., and recently De Wette, Lünem., Koch, as referring to the fraud and covetousness in the affairs of life, is (a) to infringe on the plain meaning of τῷ πράγματι; (β) to obscure the reference to the key-word of the paragraph, ἀκαθαρσία, 1 Thessalonians 4:7; (γ) to mar the contextual symmetry of the verses; and, lastly, to introduce an exegesis so frigid and unnatural, as to make us wonder that such good names should be associated with an interpretation so seemingly improbable.” So Alford and Jowett. Comp. Notes z and b in the Revision of this verse.—J. L.]

[25][Our Translators, following the Bishops’ Bible, seem to have taken τούτων as masculine, for the transgressors (Wells, Barnes, Sharpe, Conybeare), or for the injured parties. But all the other older English versions have the word things, and nearly all commentators agree in making the pronoun neuter.—Our author’s remark on πάντα ταῦτα—made frequently by those who take his view of to τὸ μὴ ὑπερβ. κ.τ.λ.—is of no weight. Why may not the reference be to the various forms of fleshly uncleanness?—J. L.]

[26][See Critical Note 11.—J. L.]

[27][Ellicott: “a man, any man, with a latent reference to the Apostle.”—J. L.]

[28][The author brackets the καὶ also in the translation. See Critical Note 12.—J. L.]

[29][German: niederhalten, for κατεχόντων.—J. L.]

Verses 9-12

Incitement to growth in brotherly love, and, that lore be not prejudiced, to quiet and sober industry

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.

9But as touching [But concerning, περὶ δέ] brotherly love ye need not that I write [have no need that one write]30 unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another: 10and indeed ye [for ye also, καὶ γάρ] do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia [that are in the whole of M.]:31 but we beseech [exhort]32 you, brethren, that ye increase more and more [to abound yet more],33 11and that ye [and to] study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own34 hands, as [according as, καθώς] we commanded you; 12that ye may walk honestly [becomingly]35 toward them that are without [those without, τοὺς ἔξω], and that ye may [and may] have lack [need]36 of nothing.37


1. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10.) But concerning brotherly love, &c.—The exhortation here turns to a new side of sanctification. Brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 3:12) is love to our fellow-Christians, who have the same Father (1 John 5:1), and is the centre of love to all men (2 Peter 1:7), the Christian loving generally his neighbors on account of the hope, to which he knows and believes them to be called (Colossians 1:4-29). The proof of love which Paul praises in the Thessalonians (ποιεῖτε, 1 Thessalonians 4:10), is perhaps chiefly, yet not exclusively, the rendering of actual help to those in distress.—The reading ἔχετε with γράφειν Lünemann declares to be meaningless. But the two variations, ἔχομεν or γράφεσθαι might still suggest as the more difficult the reading rejected by Lünemann. As the subject of γράφειν we must supply ἡμᾶς, or assume that it is used impersonally: that one write unto you (of the writing to you ye have no need). Regularly it would be in the passive, as at 1 Thessalonians 5:1 (Hebrews 5:12, τοῦ διδάσκειν υμᾶς τινά ̔, is, of course, somewhat different39). On the use of the infinitive active, where the passive might have been expected, comp. Winer, § 44. 8, Note 1. Lünemann, indeed, would allow of the application of this rule only where the infinitive is used simply as a substantive, not where it governs a case.—Olshausen (with the reading ἔχομεν) finds the antithesis: When God teaches you, I may be silent. But ἔχετε likewise gives an antithesis: Ye need not that one write unto you; for ye yourselves are, &c.40 Taught of God, θεοδίδακτο not respecting God, but according to the analogy of such compounds, by God (comp. John 6:45; Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:34; Psalms 16:1); not merely, that is, historically, out of God’s word in the Old Testament, or from Jesus’ commandment of love (John 13:0), or through the prophets amongst you (1 Thessalonians 5:20), but inwardly through the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 4:8).—Εἰς τό, as 1 Thessalonians 3:10 and several times already, marks the end and aim of the teaching.—For ye also do it (the ἀγαπᾶν), and thus show by deeds that ye are taught of God. Toward [all] the brethren that are in the whole of Macedonia, not merely in Thessalonica; which implies a lively intercourse with the Christians in Philippi, Berœa, and perhaps at small scattered stations, offshoots from the central churches. Of this zeal of love he must have been informed by Timothy. The interval since their conversion was long enough for the purpose (against Baur).—But why was it necessary to write to such persons against fornication, and especially against πλεονεξία, according to our view? Was not this excluded beforehand by brotherly love? Well, the very purpose of his warning is, that temptation should not overthrow them. He certainly makes no such reproach as: “There are amongst you many πόρνοι;” nor yet: “many πλεονέκται; “merely this: “You might be threatened with it; temptation is strong; “and even with a good disposition a man, whose integrity is not perfect, may deceive himself in regard to prevailing sins. It is with individuals that the evil begins (a little leaven, &c, 1 Corinthians 5:6); and there are particular sinful tendencies, the criminality of which is less recognized (again: a little leaven). There are, in fact, inward contradictions, imperfect conditions; and so even a tendency to uncleanness, to greediness, where there is yet, on the other hand, a zealous love. Now, the Apostle would strengthen them, while he writes encouragingly: You know truly what brotherly love requires, and act accordingly; only it is still important, that ye become ever more perfect; then too will you be ever less in danger from πλεονεξία. Thus in “Ye have no need that one write unto you” we have no mere figure of speech (transitio; [Chrysostom, Theophylact, Pelt, Lünemann, Ellicott]), no delicate turn of mere urbanitas [Schott], but what was intended as a serious acknowledgment of the actual existence amongst them in power of brotherly love. The figure of speech is real; it appeals to what is already true of them, and then says: Go on, improve (so De Wette). To abound yet more, was the general exhortation of 1 Thessalonians 4:1; it recurs in 1 Thessalonians 4:10 in this particular relation;—in brotherly love, not in a mere outward spending for cases of necessity. (Unnatural is Ewald’s reference of περισσεύειν to what follows: Yet far more and emulously to be quiet).

2. (1 Thessalonians 4:11.) And to place your honor there in [And to study]41.—We are not to supply from what precedes, in brotherly love. Opposed to this is the fact, 1. that φιλοτιμεῖσθαι commonly governs an infinitive, and most naturally, therefore, in the present instance, the immediately following ἡσυχάζειν &c.; for, 2. unless the latter be allowed to depend on φιλοτ., it would stand (awkwardly) attached by asyndeton. The word φιλοτ. has two meanings: to be ambitious, fond of honor; with the infinitive: to place one’s honor in a thing, to emulate, zealously strive (2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 15:20). Here, in what? in something that the world does not highly value. Bengel notices the “Oxymoron: φιλοτιμία politica erubescit ἡσυχάζειν].” It is, therefore, instead of shining and seeking a false renown, to seek honor rather in being quiet; tranquil, calm in God (in contrast with a wordy volubility, Rieger); concerned about the training of the hidden man of the heart (1 Peter 3:4); comp. ἡσυχία, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12; 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; where the opposite is περιεργάζεσθαι, πολυπραγμοσύνη], a loud, ostentatious officiousness—the driving disposition, which with its zeal about incidental matters affects a deceptive substitute for Philippians 2:12. This ἡσυχ, branches out in the sequel on two sides: a. τὰ ἴδια πράσσειν, and b. ἐργάζεσθαι ταῖς χερσίν which is not the same thing. The former—.in the classics, τὰ ἑαυτοῦ or ἑαυτῶν πράσσειν (see Wetstein)—is to attend to one’s own affairs, and so to serve God with fidelity in the calling which every individual has received for himself, instead of that bustling, obtrusive meddling with other men’s matters (1 Peter 4:15), in which spiritual conceit finds occupation. This, consequently, belongs to the spirit of the calling, according to its individual characteristics; and the manifestation of this proper feeling is to work with one’s own hands. The work does not jar with the quietness, but is promotive of it. It is only by a multiplicity of aims that the quietness is disturbed. With the hands, as Paul did (1 Thessalonians 2:9; Acts 20:34).—According as we commanded you. This exhortation, therefore, belonged also to the commandments which he had given from the first (1 Thessalonians 4:2); comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:10. From the beginning he clearly foresaw the possibility of an unwholesome deterioration; nor did this require longer time for its development (against Baur). Most of the Thessalonians, it is probable, were literally handicraftsmen, and hence the expression, from which then follows an application of the principle to every calling. But even spiritual employments were connected with manual labor (Paul). And in Psalms 90:17 the expression, the work of our hands, goes beyond mere handicraft.

3. (1 Thessalonians 4:12.) That ye, &c.—This statement of the purpose is by Ewald made dependent on παρηγγείλαμεν, and so on the parenthetical clause; better by Lünemann, Hofmann and others, on the verb of the principal clause, παρακαλοῦμενφιλοτιμ &c.; it not merely was, but it still is, the object of his exhortation. This object likewise again divides itself into propriety, seemliness of deportment (1 Corinthians 14:40; 1 Corinthians 7:35), and a generous independence; such will be the result of a quiet performance of one’s own business, and of diligence in labor. The first thought was of God; then come the brethren; and finally those without also are not forgotten. This was the title given by the Jews to the Gentiles by the gospel, to those who are outside of the true Church, whether Jews or Gentiles (1 Corinthians 5:12). Toward them also Christendom has an obligation of Love, the Missionary office (comp. Colossians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 10:32).—And may have need of nothing [or, of no one]. As people who earn their own bread. Μηδενός is by Calvin (nulla re), Bengel, Lünemann [Jowett, Alford, &c.], taken as neuter: want for nothing [Revelation 3:17]; Lünem.: “To stand in need of no man is for man an impossibility.” But the limitation of the idea is obvious from the context [so Ellicott]. If Lünemann did not twist the idea into that of indigence, he would have to object to his own explanation, that it is not less impossible for a man to stand in need of nothing. Of course, it cannot absolutely be proved neither, that the word must be taken as masculine. The strongest argument is its proximity to τοὑς ἔξω. To have need of no one—of those without? but to them they could least apply;—of the Christians? for this there is least in the context. We do best to take it (with Schott, De Wette, Hofmann) quite generally and without more precise definition: Through honest labor and quiet trust in God you will be free from the necessity of having recourse to men. Where an exigency arose invincible even by the most faithful diligence, there was then scope for the exercise of brotherly love.

4. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.) But a question still remains as to the connection of the two halves of this section, and particularly of 1 Thessalonians 4:10-11. In the close connection of the two infinitives περισσ. and φιλοτ. by means of καί many, since Chrysostom, Theodoret, &c, have recognized the indication of an inward union; Chrysostom: It is the part of love, not to receive, but to give. Others otherwise. Many, as De Wette: I exhort you to grow ever in brotherly love, still to increase in your readiness to benefit your brethren, and also in your care not to endanger love through indolence, whereby you would become a burden to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and would at last incur the blame of rendering it impossible, that all should any longer love the brethren aright. This would be said especially to the poor: Beware of Abusing this doctrine. Ye too may practise brotherly love, if ye walk orderly; ye too would fall into πλεονεκτεῖν through indolence, particularly that of a seemingly spiritual sort. But Lünemann protests with reason against the division of the church into two classes. Even φιλοτιμ &c. is said to all, and the working with their own hands comes in only secondarily, being preceded by that about being quiet and doing their own business, which concerns all. Lünemann, however, appears to be mistaken in regarding φιλοτιμ. as something new hastily fastened on, and having no reference to what goes before. The connection of the two infinitives by καί binds them together as one exhortation: Still to grow in love, and also in your zeal for being quiet, every one working out his own salvation, and faithfully performing also his external labor—every one emulously inciting his neighbor, and allowing himself to be incited, to fidelity; this too belongs to love (Hebrews 10:24-25). Thus, the new exhortation likewise is added with a view to saving brotherly love from being damaged; and even outwardly among the worldly-minded the opposite course of conduct would create offence, and so in that quarter also would violate the obligation of love (Hofmann compares Ephesians 4:28).

The excitement, against which Paul has to warn the Thessalonians, is not at all of a political (Zwingli), but religious nature. They were adrift in a new world of ideas, and in more than one instance perhaps had thus been deprived of bread. Neander and most assume an eschatological complexion, as if they were absorbed in the kingdom of heaven. De Wette, on the contrary, would confine himself to pious excitement generally, because Paul makes no mention of the eschatological ground, but rather speaks quite freely (1 Thessalonians 5:1 sqq.) of the last things, and indeed in such a way precisely, as might easily through misapprehension occasion an increase of the agitation; which he would hardly have done, had the agitation already been of that character. He therefore confines himself to the supposition of an idle officiousness, proselytism, concern for the salvation of other people’s souls, &c. [Wordsworth also speaks of the spirit of περιεργία, and πολυπραγμοσύνη and ἀλλοτριοεπισκοπία as “characteristic of the Greek population long before the gospel appeared. Comp. Act 17:21; 1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Peter 4:15; and the commentators on Juvenal, 3:61–70.”—J. L.] Still Lünemann is right in holding fast to the idea, that the expectation of the last things, whereby earthly interests were reduced in importance in their eyes, had formed the centre of their excitement. To this, he thinks, we are led by the context, the transition to the eschatological question, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 sqq., being well accounted for by the association of ideas, and the writer then resuming, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 sqq., his practical exhortations (somewhat differently Hofmann, see on 1 Thessalonians 5:13). We only add, that even the section 1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11 results in practical exhortations, against despondency, and to a sober vigilance. In giving heed to the νήφωμεν of 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:8, they would not be cut off from watchfulness and waiting for the Lord, but only from an unsound πολυπραγμοσύνη. The Apostle’s words, therefore, contain really nothing, whereby a spurious excitement, even if it were of an eschatological nature, could be increased.


1. (1 Thessalonians 4:9.) Christian beneficence was a new virtue, altogether unknown to the heathen. “See, how they love one another!” was the saying amongst those, who still looked on from without (comp. John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 1:22; 3 John 1:5-6). But the outward manifestation must not be separated from its inner root, brotherly love. Almsgiving from sympathy with external suffering, doing good generally on principles of humanity, philanthropy, faith in mankind, these things are not to be despised, but must be distinguished from Christian brotherly love. In many philanthropic enterprises there has been exhibited a remarkable persistency that may well put Christians to shame; but frequently also motives of selfishness, calculation, ambition have betrayed a temper at variance with the Christian spirit. The Christian, understanding by his own case the ruin of man, knows that the deep est root of an enduring love, the true strength of an unwearying patience, the assurance of the highest aim over and above the mere outward relief, consists only in his loving his neighbors as sons of the same Father through the One Son of the Father. Wherever this life from God really exists in force, there is found the capacity of a vigorous, unobstructed love. And this is no spirit of particularism—as little so, or even less so than the Old Testament separateness of the people of God. Human perversity, it is possible, may turn it into a matter of narrow sectarian partisanship, and thereby vitiate love itself. The truth is that love to those, who are already brethren in fact, is the hearth at which the flame is fed, that we may further love those also who are still to become so. This brotherhood, however, does not stand in a formula, but in the life from God, of which the first token is a sense for what is holy.

2. To be taught of God is the great end to which all are called. God, who is love, teaches to love; “doctrinæ divinæ vis confluit in amorem” Bengel. With regard to the means: God’s word of the Old and New Testaments, expounded by its living preachers, is not to be refused; but it does not elucidate what is most vital, the immediate relation between God and man, between Spirit and spirit. In the consummation no one will teach his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they will all know Him, and that from their own experience of the forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31:34). This does not exclude, as the way to this highest end, mutual assistance, the edification of one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), the service, especially, of gifted members (1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 12:28); and this is the ordinary way, for the Divine illumination is not one independent of means, or magical, but an introduction to the historical salvation. But even now, in this preparatory stage, with the full use of means through instruction and education, a point is reached, where human help must cease, and those alone are made manifest as true disciples (μαθηταί), on whom the light of the Spirit moving in the word arises inwardly—for whom the lessons received from the word are inwardly interpreted, made illuminating, written on their hearts. Only an evil, hierarchical turn of mind regards with distrust this growth of an independent Christianity;42 to a godly-minded instructor it is the greatest joy, when he detects it in those under his care (comp. John 4:42). It is the Spirit bearing them witness that they have received a life from God, and shedding into their heart the love of God (Romans 5:5; Rom 8:15-16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 2:27; 1 John 5:6). It is a teaching, which is at the same time an influence, such as the law cannot exert. And, moreover, with the testimony that this is a Divine, holy, blessed, eternal life, there is joined an assurance that we have received this life from this source, and from none other. The witness of the Holy Ghost certifies to us that we are the children of God, and certifies us at the same time, that no otherwise do we become, or have we become so, than through being begotten of the incorruptible seed of the Divine word (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). In the last passage likewise there is connected with this an exhortation to brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:9); comp. 1 John 5:1.

3. (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11.) We perceive the Apostle’s deep insight in this, that, after the warning against covetousness, he now also directs his warning to the opposite side, that they who are careless and indifferent in things of earth may not fancy that they are in no danger. Above all, a still inexperienced spiritual character may easily degenerate into a certain vain perverseness. What is true in the matter of mutual exhortation is recognized by Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:11); but it is something different, when a man pragmatically sets up for a guardian of souls, without warrant takes the brethren under his charge, gratuitously troubles himself about others—as if there were no longer need for us to work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling. A singular instance of this perversity is given by the Apostle, 1 Timothy 6:2. There is already a taint of unsoundness, when one connects the Christian character so closely with the outward appearance, that he values, for example, a simple, faithful nursery-maid less highly than he does a deaconess. It is not Christianity that is to be blamed for this, but the heart of man in its abuse of Christianity. True fidelity, again, in the care of other souls can proceed only from the man who looks well to his own.

4. With this fidelity in working out our own salvation the Apostle joins in particular, the faithful industry of humble labor in our earthly calling. He tolerates no neglect of the ordinary duty of labor under a spiritual pretext. A certain officiousness, which under pious pretences abandons itself to sloth, allowing itself to be supported by others, and giving most reasonable offence to worldly-minded persons, shows itself especially in great cities (Von Gerlach). (In the country people know one another more intimately.) Our passage is very important as pointing out the true position of the Christian in regard to the tasks of this earthly life. By example and exhortation Paul cheeks all shame of a false spirituality, all arrogant and sluggish pretension, as if Christians were too good to labor in the sweat of their face. He teaches, us to recognize the worth of industry. True, the Christian should have his treasure and heart in heaven (Matthew 6:19 sqq.); should not be bent on becoming rich (1 Timothy 6:9; comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 sqq.); should have as though he had not (1 Corinthians 7:29 sqq.); and yet he is not to suppose that he must flee out of the world (John 17:15); in the world to be kept from the evil, that is his aim; to seek, not worldly gain, but yet an economical independence; no religiose vivere in the hermit’s sense (Theophylact: Is fasting, or sleeping on the ground, to work with the hands?); no morality without the religious foundation; but at the same time no religiousness without moral authentication. Such is the apostolical order. The moderns, perhaps, were not the first to set this light on the candlestick, but our Reformers restored it to its place (bona opera juxta vocationem). Faithful industry is a test of humility and sincerity, a means of discipline and self-control. The sons of Indian princes must on their conversion stand this test. The objection, that Christianity disqualifies for a life on earth, affects not Christianity itself, but merely its unwholesome corruptions. History shows what a blessed influence the Christian spirit has exerted in all the departments of human activity. This is shown in the largest sphere, and not less in the smallest and most inconspicuous. Indeed it is precisely in this devoted fidelity that a main proof must be given of a sincere Christian feeling.

5. The Apostle is possessed by an earnestly expectant hope in the coming of the Lord, and, even when his business is to calm the emotions, he can not do it by saying to them like the wicked servant (Matthew 24:48): My Lord delayeth His coming. But what is great and admirable is the discretion with which, with all his liveliness of aspiration, he yet avoids all revolutionizing of this αἰών, and notwithstanding that he hopes for the Lord’s coming as nigh at hand, nay, on account of this hope, he only the more insists on daily fidelity in earthly things (1 Corinthians 7:20 sqq.). “O world, thou art for us too small!” This he understands throughout not in any monkish, but in a sound and sober sense. Sobriety consists in never neglecting our daily duty—in being at all times faithful in ordinary, every-day, petty and extraneous concerns, not indeed because the material of our labor, but because the exercise of fidelity on that material is of importance for eternity. Two men working together in one field, two women at one mill—such is the order until the coming of the Lord. The difference, according to which they are taken or rejected, is in their inward spirit at their work.

6. (1 Thessalonians 4:12.) With worldly-minded persons the predominant consideration has respect to their equals. Christians inquire first, as to God, then as to the judgment of their brethren who have some understanding of Divine things, and lastly as to what others say;—lastly; and therefore they are not entirely indifferent to that. This were contrary to humility and wisdom, which are willing to be told a truth even by the malevolent; and it were also a violation of the missionary obligation, and consequently of love. Roos: Give no occasion to those without to say, that faith in Christ makes idlers and beggars. Indeed, Chrysostom already mentions, that the heathen called healthy beggars Χριστεμπόρους. But not begging merely, a lazy enthusiasm also could not but discredit the gospel. This it was important to avoid. That the Church should be respected, that even her enemies should not be able to upbraid her with anything, and that no other reproach than that of Christ should rest on her (1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 2:12), is an advantage towards which every one must be careful to contribute his share, and a condition of a blessed outward efficiency. The gospel does not destroy, but sanctifies, the delicate sense of honor and self-reliance—fostering the independence of a character which has its foundation in God. This is something quite different from a haughty severity, and is quite compatible with the simple acceptance of that which God, in a time of Divine visitation, presents also by the hand of brotherly love.


1 Thessalonians 4:9. Heubner: Brotherly love was to be the most familiar thing for every Christian.—Theophylact: What is extremely important needs not to be taught; it is obvious to all.—Berlenburger Bibel: For what reason may the admonition about brotherly love follow that respecting continence? That we may understand it of no other than a pure love.—Heubner: The Christian is a genuine divine, taught by the Spirit, not formed merely by others’ teaching.—The same: He who does not practise what he knows, has learned nothing yet from God.—(Berlenburger Bibel: He knows it merely after the law and the letter, but not after the Spirit.)—The same: Not until God takes us into His school do we learn anything aright.—His teaching is at the same time a conferring of strength, pleasure, impulse.

1 Thessalonians 4:10. Wisdom unites encouragement with in citement.—Theophylact: Halt not behind expectation under the idea that you are already perfect.—Diedrich: True love never satisfies itself, and would willingly be urged to ever higher performances.—Starke: Thinkest thou that thou art already rich enough in love? Thou errest greatly, and art still weak in thy knowledge.—The debt of love is never fully paid off (Romans 13:8). The further one gets, the greater becomes his task.—Berlenburger Bibel: They who dwell together are neighbors to one another. But true Christians do not confine their love so narrowly, but spread it abroad to all. God is essentially boundless Love; the love of believers is boundless through grace.

1 Thessalonians 4:11. Von Gerlach: The Christian should live more inwardly than outwardly. The inner quietness will then show itself also in a quiet, industrious life, in which each man cares first for himself and those belonging to him, before he will help others.—This is not selfishness, but fidelity in one’s calling.—Starke: The spiritual or inner Sabbath of souls.—The obligation to work exists also for the rich; for women.—Rieger: A man’s mere intentions about some matter give him more trouble than the business itself. The one ensnaring thought of a determination to become rich is more fatal to quietness, than hands full of necessary work.—The same: Occupation and work are not hostile to quietness, but promotive of it,—[Barrow has two Sermons on this verse.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. True honor, not in the first instance from men, but from God, and so at last from men also; כְּבוֹד, is an essential, weighty glory; δόξα, amongst men merely an empty show.—Rieger: Oh what a great thing it would be, if we could only restore to men the true conception of honor, and divert them from much false seeking for honor in what is sheer vanity; so that one should seek his honor in quietness, in the education of the inner man of the heart (1 Peter 3:4). Carefulness to please God supplies a stronger motive to an honorable walk, than ever comes from inculcating ever so largely the desire of honor.

1 Thessalonians 4:12. The value of independence, not merely from a human, but from a Divine point of view. Abraham, Genesis 14:22 sqq.—Berlenburger Bibel: Whoever desires much from the world must be its slave; which is not becoming in the royal priesthood.

Heubner: Two reasons for industry: 1. The honor of Christianity before the world demands it; 2. A noble independence of human bondage exists not without it.—1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 is the Epistle for the Sunday called Reminiscere [2d Sunday in Lent].


1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:9.—[οὐ χρείαν ἕχετε γράφειν. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:1; and 1 Thessalonians 1:8, Critical Note 4.—J. L.] A. D.3 E. K. L. Sin.1, and many read ἔχετε; D.1 F. G. Sin.2 [Vulgate, Chrysostom, Lachmann, &c.], ἔχομεν, which is easier; B., εἴχομεν; 4 minuscules, with ἔχετε, have γράφεσθαι, comp, 1 Thessalonians 5:1. See the Exegesis.

1 Thessalonians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:10.—[τοὺς ἐν ὅλτῇ Μακ.] It is of no importance to the sense, whether we read or omit τούς after ἀδελφούς. Sin.1 is quite alone in reading ἀδ. ὑμῶν ἑν.

1 Thessalonians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:10.—[παρακαλοῦμεν. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:2, Critical Note 2.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:10.—[περισσεύειν μᾶλλον. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Critical Note 5.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:11.—ιδίαις is wanting in B. D.1 F. G. [Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott. The last—probably through inadvertence—retains it in the Translation.—J. L.], but is found in A. D.3 K. L. Sin.1 [Knapp, Hahn, Riggenbach, bracket it.—J. L]

1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:12.—[εὐσχημόνως Revision: “The use of honest as =honorable, comely (see E. V, Romans 12:17 : 2 Corinthians 13:7; Philippians 4:8; &c.) is now obsolete.”—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:12.—[Revision: “The word χρεία occurs 49 times in the N. T., and is nowhere else lack in E. V., which here follows the Bishops’ Bible.”—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:12.—[Or, as in the English margin, of no man;—which Riggenbach, and very many others, including Ellicott (in the Commentary, not the Translation) prefer. See the Exegesis.—J. L.]

[38][A very questionable reference. The love there spoken of is love to the saints; and, besides, the διά of 1 Thessalonians 4:5 is best connected, not with τήν of 1 Thessalonians 4:4, but with ὐχαριστοῦμεν of 1 Thessalonians 4:3.—J. L.]

[39][Besides that the τινά there is often read τινά, and construed with τὰ στοιχεῖα.—J. L.]

[40][Lünemann and Ellicott lay “the principal emphasis on the fact of their being already taught”—θεοδίδακδοι;—Alford, on αὐτοὶ ὑμεῖς.—J. L.]

[41][φιλοτιμεῖσθαι—found also in Romans 15:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:9. Ellicott: “In all, perhaps, some idea of τιμή may be recognized, but in 2 Cor. l. c. and in the present passage that meaning recedes into the background.” In most versions and commentaries, however, it is retained, as by our German: die Ehre darein zu setzen; and Wordsworth: “The love of glory, the moving passion of the Greeks.…The Apostle turns the eager stream of their vainglorious activity, loving ever to be seen, and exulting in the foam and spray of its own restlessness, into a quiet lake of religious life, clear and deep, reflecting in its peaceful mirror the calmness of heaven.” And he quotes Isaiah 30:7.—J. L.]

[42][Of course, this must not be strained so far as to contradict 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Ephesians 4:11-16; &c.—J. L.]

Verses 13-18


1 Thessalonians 4:13 to 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Instruction and Exhortation in regard to the Coming of the Lord

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

1. They who have fallen asleep will rise again, and so at the Lord’s Advent will suffer no loss

13But I would [we would]43 not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep [those who are falling asleep],44 that ye sorrows45 not, even as others [the rest also]46 which [who] have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again [arose],47 even so them also which sleep in Jesus [so also those who fell asleep through Jesus]48 will God bring with Him. 15For this we say unto you by [in, ἐν] the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain [who are living, who are being left over]49 unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep [shall in no wise precede those who fell 16asleep].50 For [Because, ὅτι] the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God [with voice of arch., and with trumpet of G.],51 and the dead in Christ shall rise [arise] first; 17then we which are alive and remain [who are living, who are being left over]52 shall be caught up together with them [shall together with them be caught away].53 in the clouds [in clouds],54 to meet the Lord55 in the air [into the air];56 and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.


1. (1 Thessalonians 4:13.) But we would not have you to be ignorant, &c.—This or some kindred phrase is frequently used by Paul, when he would introduce coma new and important instruction (1 Corinthians 10:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1); Colossians 2:1; Philippians 1:12); occasionally also in communicating something personal, in which he feels a special interest (Romans 1:13). Here in particular he now begins to supply their deficiencies (1 Thessalonians 3:10) in respect of knowledge; in a very kindly spirit, in a way not of rebuke but of encouragement, there being no occasion for him to censure any deliberate perverseness. With a lively transition (as in 1 Corinthians 5:12 and frequently) he leads in medias res. The Thessalonians perhaps had asked a question, or Timothy may have given information respecting their uneasiness about some of their number who had died. Whether these were many or few, or even none at all, so that they were, troubled merely by the imminent peril of death, they had no clearness of view as to their fate. On the connection with what goes before, see on 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 the Exegetical Note 4. Formerly Hofmann likewise so understood the matter; now (since what follows is not instruction generally respecting Christ’s return, but merely a consolatory addition with regard to those asleep) he rather assumes as the connecting thought their brotherly love in its anxiety about the departed. That ye sorrow not, he says; not: that ye be not excited. Ch. 5, however, adds still another admonition to sobriety. In questions of this sort no decision of exclusive validity can be hit upon.—Those who have fallen asleep (perfect), or those who are falling asleep (present; who are continually going to sleep;—as afterwards: the living, who are being left over, continually); so he calls the dead, by a gentle euphemism, 1 Corinthians 11:30 (present); 1 Corinthians 15:20 (perfect). Comp. Soph. El. 509; then the Septuagint Isaiah 43:17 for שָׁכַב; Job 3:13, for יָשֵׁן; Daniel 12:2, Septuagint καθεύδειν. But it is more than merely an expression to veil a terrible reality, nor does it denote merely the refreshment of rest, deliverance from earthly trouble; on the contrary, it is the promise of an awaking, now especially that there is an Awakener (John 11:11). We are not to think of a sleep of the soul, an entire unconsciousness. The figure is taken from the body, a dead man resembling one asleep. Zwingli, Calvin and others oppose with reason the Psychopannychians, whose dogma expressly contradicts other passages—the parable, Luke 16:19 sqq.; the promise, Luke 23:43 (To-day!); the apostolic statements, 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 14:13 (Blessed from henceforth—with the Lord). Even here the circumstance that Paul opposes to their sorrowfulness the resurrection, and only with this connects the being with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17), by no means implies that those asleep in Christ are not yet blessed, or are not with Christ, as Philippians 1:0 expressly teaches. He looks beyond the intermediate state, because he would offer the entire fulness of consolation, and that with reference to the anxieties of the Thessalonians, of which Note 4 will speak.

2. That ye sorrow not, even as the rest (of men, those not Christians) also (in comparisons, see 1 Thessalonians 4:5) &c., λυποῦνται; who have no hope. Here he speaks not exclusively of the heathen, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:5 who know not God. In Ephesians 2:12, indeed, it is specially the heathen whom he describes as strangers to Israel’s promises, having no hope (in the widest sense, with reference to all Messianic promises), and without God in the world. Israel, on the contrary, had promises and therefore also hopes, and if the Sadducees rejected these, there is yet in that place no thought of them. There is indeed, however, still a difference between having the promises and the actual living holding fast of the hope, and it is not merely among the heathen that the latter is wanting. Even supposing that he has them especially in his eye, it is yet not without reason that the expression is kept general. But the Apostle does not require that Christians shall not sorrow at all (Lünemann: because the phrase is not, μἠ τοσοῦτον ὡς57, but simply: their sorrow should not be of the same sort as, etc. (καθώς, as in Ephesians 4:17. Hofmann [Wordsworth, after Augustine; and so most.—J. L.]).

3. (1 Thessalonians 4:14.) For if we believe, &c.—He thus gives the reason why they should not sorrow in a heathenish way; εἰ is not used in the sense of siquidem, but the hypothetical turn just so much the more challenges their assent: if, as we at least have no difficulty in believing (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:13); if we not merely hold it to be true, but build thereon with confidence (the meaning of πιστεύειν), making it the foundation of our life;—from this he then draws the conclusion, from which we in our ready despondency hang back.—That Jesus (he uses the human name) died (here not, fell asleep, but without any disguise he speaks of death). And did not every one believe that? Certainly we are not to assume here (with some Greek interpreters) a caution against a Docetic denial of the bodily death. Christ’s death and resurrection are really to him the two inseparable pillars of the faith: He died (for us, 1 Thessalonians 5:10), and what more? did he remain in death? no! died and arose; as the Firstfruit (1 Corinthians 15:20), He brought to light a victorious life. But he arose out of death, was not glorified without passing through death; not even Christ.—So also those who, &c. Οὕτως is not simply a sign of the apodosis (Olshausen), any more than it is so at 1 Thessalonians 4:17, but: so, as the Crucified arose (Revelation 11:5); or: so, as the consequence of that (Romans 5:12); still better: so, as made like Him in death and resurrection;—God will bring them with Jesus; it is not said: He will awake them.58 The turn which the apodosis takes is concise and forcible, the clause, if we believe, being followed, not by another of the subjective kind: so we believe also, but objectively, by a matter of fact: so God will do thus and thus. If this faith of ours is the truth, if on this truth of God we firmly rely, then it follows, &c. Otherwise Koch and Hofmann; if we believe expresses, they think, a condition: then, in that case, so will God—that is, bring with Jesus those who in this faith have fallen asleep. But this is a harsher incongruity than what Hofmann censures in the other explanation; it must then have been said: So will He, when we fall asleep, awaken us.—It is still disputed, to what διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ belongs. Almost all the moderns (De Wette, Lünemann, Hofmann, and others) refer it to ἄξει, as being unsuited to κοιμηθέντας, which would require ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, as at 1 Thessalonians 4:16 ἐν Χριστῷ, and so 1 Corinthians 15:18; and because to say that ἐν stands for διά [διά for ἐν. So Jowett still.; also Webster and Wilkinson.—J. L.], and both for בְּ, is obsolete. But ἄξει has already its more precise specification in σὺν αὐτῷ, and with κοιμηθέντας it is desirable to find their Christian character, not merely indicated by the context, but expressly declared (opposed to the view of Koch and Hofmann). The meaning, moreover, may well be this: those who fell asleep through Jesus, whose falling asleep is through the mediation of Jesus [Webster and Wilkinson: τοῦ Ἰησοῦ—the article referring emphatically to Jesus as presented in the first member, Jesus who died and rose again.—J. L.]; so Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Hilgenfeld, and others.59 He will bring them with Him (Jesus)—this many take as pregnant for (awaken and) bring. (Through Jesus as Mediator God effects the work of quickening, John 5:6) But it is still simpler, if we understand οὕτως as above explained: so He will bring them, when conformed to Jesus in death and resurrection, along with Him (as the Shepherd, whither He goes)”; Luther: thither, where Jesus abides; Roos: to glory, to rest, to the goal of their hope; Starke; with Him, when He shall come to judgment; Hofmann: when He brings Jesus into the world again (Hebrews 1:6), He will bring them, cause them to come, along with Jesus, will let them share in His heavenly manifestation. How he comes at this ἄγειν, is shown 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

4. (1 Thessalonians 4:15.) For (to explain) this we say unto you, etc.—He thus illustrates what was said in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, first negatively (1 Thessalonians 4:15), then positively (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This (what follows) we say unto you in a word of the Lord; ἐν, as in 1 Corinthians 2:7, marks the medium in which the discourse moves; not in my words do I speak; my statement confines itself within the sphere of a word of the Lord; comp. for the matter 1 Corinthians 7:10; 1Co 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:25, and for the expression 1 Kings 20:35, בִּדְבַר יְהוָֹה, 70. Pelt supposes him to refer to Matthew 24:31; to which Ewald adds Luke 14:14; Hofmann, Matthew 16:27 sq.; Zwingli and others, Matthew 25:1 sqq., John 5:28 sq. Theophylact and Calvin think of a word orally utered by Christ, and so probably a λόγος ἄγραφος, like Acts 20:35. But such a one is in that place introduced differently; and not one of the texts cited makes the special disclosure that here follows, respecting the relation between the dead and those still living. It is therefore more correct to think (with Chrysostom and other Greeks, Bengel, Olshausen, De Wette, Lünemann) of a revelation from the exalted Lord, an ἀποκάλυψις τοῦ μυστηρίου (Chrysostom, it is true, adduces not only 2 Corinthians 13:3 on one side, but also Acts 20:35 on the other). At 1 Corinthians 15:51 also Paul says something similar on a similar occasion; comp. Galatians 1:12; Romans 11:25.—That we who are living (here: in the earthly body), according to the more precise explanation: who remain over (are left over by God) unto the coming (return) of the Lord (that is: who live to see that coming), shall in no wise precede those who fell asleep: οὐ μή in the New Testament indifferently with the aorist subjunctive or the future indicative; Winer, § 56, 3. This coming (1 Corinthians 15:23) is coincident with Matthew 24:31; Revelation 19:11 sqq.; Revelation 20:5 (not Revelation 20:11 sqq.). Here we learn to understand the trouble of the Thessalonians. They sorrowed on the supposition that whoever does not live to see the Advent suffers loss (in the Fourth [in the English Apocrypha, the Second] Book of Esdras, Ezra 6:13, we meet with such ideas; see Wieseler, Chronol. des apost. Zeitalters, p. 250). But how did they conceive of this loss? Evidently Lünemann goes too far, when from the words: Ye are not to sorrow as they who have no hope, he (as Calvin and others before him) draws the inference that they believed in no life at all after death, and supposed that the dying were absolutely excluded from the kingdom. That does not lie in the comparison, any more than 1 Thessalonians 4:5 : “Indulge not in lust, even as the Gentiles who know not God” charges them with not knowing God; rather, Because ye know Him, be not like those who know Him not.” And so here: “Sorrow not as those who have no hope; ye do have a hope.” He then reasons, as in 1 Corinthians 15:0, from the connection between Christ and believers, the Head and His members, as an indissoluble unity: “The Head cannot forsake His members.” He does not in this imply the existence of any deniers of the resurrection, as at Corinth; what we allow is simply that they suffered from dimness of apprehension. To the Greeks generally the resurrection was a difficult topic (Acts 17:0). The Thessalonians, indeed, expected with firm faith the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:10; and in 1 Thessalonians 4:0 also it is presupposed). But the significance and operation of that event they did not duly perceive. They seem with Grecian fancy to have taken up the idea of the outward splendor of the appearance, without considering with sufficient earnestness that the Crucified One, who arose from the dead, will come again; the Conqueror of sin and death. Paul therefore reminds them of this fundamental truth, and thence infers that we shall not precede those fallen asleep, shall not be admitted to the Lord earlier than they. It is only by ingenuity that Lünemann can here hold fast to his idea: Paul, he thinks, is engaged with the figure of a race, where those who are outstripped, and have to lay behind in mid course, do not reach the goal at all. But Paul does not intimate that he has here any thought of this figure; and besides, such a preoccupying of salvation, as would deprive others of it, is not within the compass of truth. This were a one-sided pressing of the figure of a race, that would turn it into an untruth. Rather, in saying: We shall not anticipate the dead, he lets us see that the Thessalonians cherished such an idea; but that this leaves open all the while an undefined prospect at least for the later comers. But what prospect? On this point their view is not clear to us, perhaps was not so even to themselves. Olshausen, De Wette, Hofmann and others suppose that they had no doubt about the resurrection at the final consummation, only they did not distinguish between the first and the second resurrections; that, in fact, they knew nothing of the first resurrection (of the just), of the hailing of the returning Lord by His risen ones, and of their fellowship with Him during the glorious period preceding the general judgment; that their idea was, that in the kingdom just at hand the dead would have no part; that, however, they really believed in the remote, final resurrection after the kingdom of glory, but found in that no living consolation. Still it is by no means clear how they should have mastered and believed in such a precise arrangement of all the stages of the last things (Advent, Kingdom of glory, Last Resurrection) with only the single exception of the First Resurrection at the Advent; nor yet how the Last Resurrection should have been of so little consequence in their estimation. Are we, then, to be driven back on Lünemann? Not that either; but we suppose that Paul had powerfully preached in Thessalonica the coming of Christ to set up His kingdom, but had not had time to enter into all questions of detail. Now the Thessalonians, with a lively impression of this message, had yet a rather dim, worldly understanding of it, from their conceiving of every miraculous occurrence as rather simply an exhibition of power, and not duly considering that the path lies through death to resurrection, through decease to the new life. To be gathered unto the Lord (as even in Matthew 24:31 the resurrection is not expressly named)—for them this desire absorbed everything. Whoever lives not to see that, he suffers loss—such was their thought. They did not, like the Corinthians, deny the resurrection of the dead, for the Apostle certainly does not reprove them as he does those; and quite as little perhaps can it be asserted so positively as Olshausen assumes, that they believed only in the last resurrection; but whether there was anything, and what, still to be expected for the dead, this was to them an obscure matter; their whole hope and aspiration was bent or the one point, to remain exempt from death;—the thing that Paul likewise desired (2 Corinthians 5:4), but not so partially. This anxiety was such as could be felt only in the first period of instruction still imperfectly apprehended. (See the Introduction, p. 12. On we who are living, see Exeg. Note 7.)

5. (1 Thessalonians 4:16.) For He Himself, the Lord60 [Because the Lord Himself], &c. For, not that (Koch);61 he shows how there is no such thing as φθάνειν. De Wette and Hofmann would here, as at 1 Thessalonians 3:11, understand merely: He, the Lord; but here, as there, the Apostle makes an emphatic antithesis both of subjects and predicates; not: “We shall first come to Him,” but: “He Himself will descend,” otherwise no one at all would come to Him. Ἐν signifies in, with, attended by, as 1 Corinthians 4:21; Romans 15:29. Κέλευσμα (another form, κέλευμα) Luther translates Feldgeschrei [war-cry], and understands by it the joyful exclamation of the angelic host, “the Van and guards; “English Bible: with a shout; but more correctly the Vulgate: in jussu; for the word signifies a shout of command, proceeding from the leading huntsman, or from the pilot of a ship, requiring the rowers to keep time, or from a charioteer, or a general; Proverbs 30:27, Sept.; also Thucydides ii. 1Th 92: ἀπὸ ἑνὸς κελεύσματος ἐμβοήσαντες, where κελ. does not denote the battle-cry of the combatants, but the meaning is that at a word of command they shouted. Christ is, therefore, described as a victorious Captain, whose order summons to battle, for the destruction of His enemies and the extermination of the antichristian power (2 Thessalonians 2:0; Revelation 19:11 sqq.). To this is added: with the voice of an archangel, summoning the other angels, the great hosts of heavenly spirits, who sympathize in man’s salvation, cooperating at the giving of the law (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19) and afterwards at the judgment (Matthew 13:41; Matthew 24:31; Matthew 25:31); which last event brings a consummation also for themselves (Ephesians 1:10). In canonical Scripture the archangel Michael appears again only at Judges 9:0; Gabriel is not so called, nor the seven angels before God (Revelation 8:2=Tob 12:15). Yet to the name archangel, prince of angels, corresponds the designation שָׂרִים, ἄρχοντες Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20; and already Joshua 5:14, שָׂר־צְבָא־יְחוָֹה, Sept. ἀρχιστράτηγος δυνάμεως κυρίου. By the archangel Ambrosiaster [Jeremy Taylor] and Olshausen would understand Christ, the Lord of angels; others still more unsuitably, the Holy Spirit; but he must be an angel, the highest amongst the angels, answering to the high priest as compared with the priests. Lastly, with a trumpet of God (the last, 1 Corinthians 15:52); this is not merely a nota superlativi, the very great, though it is indeed the Divine, and not a human, majesty that is antithetically described; but, besides that, we are to understand it thus: which is used by God’s command, in God’s service, which belongs to Him; De Wette compares κιθάρας τοῦ θεοῦ, Revelation 15:2. What should it be? How will it sound? is not to be searched out. The future reality is depicted in images of present reality. It will be heard, as the sign will be seen, Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:30. As to its import, it is the conclusive echo of Sinai, the highest form of all the signals, whereby the people are called together before the Lord, that by which the enemy’s stronghold, mightier than Jericho, falls (Numbers 10:0; Isaiah 27:13; Zechariah 9:14; Revelation 4:8. Seven trumpets). This is not a mere notion of Jewish Rabbis, but the prophetic word receives apostolic sanction. Lünemann and Hofmann would understand the archangel’s voice and the trumpet as in apposition to κέλευσυα,62 but without reason. [Witsius, after Grotius, identifies the archangel’s voice with the trumpet as blown by him.—J. L.] We have rather to recognize three particulars, following each other in rapid succession: the Commander’s call of the King Himself; the voice of the archangel summoning the other angels; the trumpet, which awakes the dead, and collects the believers. [Dr. John Dick: “Three sounds are distinctly mentioned, but I do not pretend to know what they are.”—J. L.]

The descent from heaven presupposes the ascension thither (Acts 1:11). And the dead in Christ shall arise first; ἐν Χριστῷ, though without the article, belongs to οἱ νεκροί (Winer;, §20, 2). He speaks here only of the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14), τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:23), who have died in the Lord (Revelation 14:13), qui in Christi corpore continentur (Calvin); not of all without distinction arising in Christ. The correction in Codd. F. G., οἱ νεκροὶ is not at all necessary. The same Codd. together with D.1 road (instead of πρῶτον) πρῶτοι; Itala and Vulgate, primi, which is altogether unsuitable, for the contrast here is not (as Theophylact and others suppose) between such as rise first and others who do not rise till afterwards; but between what will take place first (the resurrection of those who fell asleep in faith), and what next (ἔπειτα) occurs in the case of the living.

6. (1 Thessalonians 4:17.) Then we &c. shall together with them be snatched away, caught away; hastily, swiftly, irresistibly, by the overpowering might of God; this lies in the expression (also 2 Corinthians 12:2, though in a different application); in (on)63 clouds, as one received the Lord (Acts 1:0); not into the clouds (εἰς), but in the clouds (inwrapped), or on them (throned, as on chariots of God; Chrysostom); comp. Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Revelation 11:12; Revelation 14:14; unto meeting of the Lord, לִקְרַאת; instead of ἀπάντ. τοῦ κυρίου others (weaker authorities) give ὑπάντ. τῷ Χριστῷ. Both words, ἀπάντησις or ὑπάντησις, govern the genitive (Matthew 25:1) or (like the verb) the dative (Acts 28:15). Chrysostom and other Greeks: “to meet Christ, as persons of distinction meet a king to salute him, while others must wait for him, as criminals for the judge.” For the matter, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 is to be compared. It is a description, so to speak, of the Church’s Ascension, in which the Head brings His members to Himself. Possibly the clouds here, as in Acts 1:0, indicate a veiling of the transaction. But at any rate this rapture necessarily presupposes the previous sudden change (1 Corinthians 15:52; 2 Corinthians 5:2 sqq.), which is here only not expressly mentioned, but without which a soaring away into the air were not conceivable. Only by means of the glorified corporeity (Philippians 3:21) can such an event take place. Luther (appealing to Hebrews 9:27) insists that all men must once die, that is, leave this life and enter another. For those left over, therefore [die “Ueberlinge,” as if we should say, the overlings.—J. L.], the change would be their death. These shall not sleep, but in a twinkling will die and live again.—And, so (as those who have been caught away into the air, the risen and changed ones, or, still better: as those who have thus met Him) shall we ever be with the Lord; Hofmann: continually, not meeting with Him merely in transient or occasionally repeated salutation; σύν expresses the intimate union, μετά simply outward companionship. This is the main point of comfort which he had in view: to be with the Lord, inseparably united to Him. Thus we reach the ἄγειν σὺν αὐτͅῷ (1 Thessalonians 4:14), the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9). But it is not in the air that this being over with Christ takes place (as Pelt, Usteri, Weitzel think, with a quite mistaken appeal to Ephesians 2:2 : the air as the region of spirits, but of evil spirits!). Only the meeting takes place in the air, not the abiding. Already Augustine (De Civ. Dei, xx. 20, 2) saw the truth: Venienti ibitur obviam, non manenti. The Lord is come from heaven, but not quite to the earth, so that a rapture into the air leads to His presence. He comes to fetch them (John 14:2-3) into the heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18), which is so called, not merely because it is of a heavenly quality, and even the earth receives a heavenly glory, but because at the coming it really transports the glorified into heaven; they shall be with Him, as Bengel says, non modo in aëre, sed in cælo unde venit. Others think of a coming with Him to the earth to judgment. Hilgenfeld thinks that the meeting is followed by the coming with Him to the glorified earth. But that may even be reserved64 for a later date. In fact, the description is not one that exhausts all particulars; it is carried only so far as is necessary to make it clear, that the dead shall be in no way inferior to those who survive. (See the Doctrinal and Ethical Notes, 5.)

7. (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.) We who are living, who are being left over.—Here Paul evidently reckons himself among those of whom he considers it possible, and a thing to be desired and hoped for, that they may live to witness the Advent; just so 1 Corinthians 15:51 sqq. (according to the correct reading of the text. rec., and also of the Cod. Vat.).65 The strange evasions, by means of which the Fathers and others sought to make out, that Paul nevertheless is not speaking of himself, are justly set aside by Lünemann. (To this class belongs the explanation of Œcumenius, that the dead are the bodies, the living are the souls; &c.) Nor ought it to be imput to him, that he uses ἡμεῖς merely in the way of communicatio (Theophylact: representing in his own person all who shall then be living), though knowing that he will not be present; of this knowledge we see nothing, rather a hope inconsistent with it. But it were just as inconsiderate to say bluntly, that the Apostle’s expectation has been plainly convicted by the event as erroneous; as if thus the whole eschatological prediction collapsed. In that case, indeed, Paul would be a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:20 sqq.), and his appeal to the Lord’s word an untruth. This word of the Lord, as even Lünemann allows, told him only generally in what relation the dead would stand to those surviving, not who belongs to each of the two classes; it was, therefore, not: “Thou, Paul, shalt be of the number;” otherwise he could not again have spoken doubtfully on the point at Philippians 1:21 sqq.; 1Th 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:9, and in still a different tone at 2 Timothy 4:6. Altogether, just as here, in speaking of those who live to the Advent, he says ἡμεῖς by communicatio in the sense of hope (Grotius: putavit fieri posse), he elsewhere says as freely by communicatio on the opposite side: “God will raise us up,” 1 Corinthians 6:14 (this alongside of 1 Corinthians 15:51); 2 Corinthians 4:14; comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:10; Acts 20:29. He expressly reminds us at 1 Thessalonians 5:1 sqq., that we know not the times and the seasons, and were not to know them; as the Lord declares even of Himself in his condition of self-denial (Mark 13:32), and as He represents to his Apostles (Acts 1:7). Had he meant to set it down as certain: I shall not die, that would really have been at least a knowledge of the χρόνοι; and not less so, had he asserted: I shall die before that, it will not happen in my time. Moreover, if ἡμεῖς expressed the definite expectation: I shall yet be there, it must equally follow that to all his readers of that age included with himself in ἡμεῖς he makes the promise, that they shall live till the Advent; which were indeed utterly absurd. Rather, he opposes the two classes to each other; here those asleep, and on the other side the living, those remaining over; he himself, of course, is among the living; but both classes are in a state of constant flux. What did not come to pass in the case of Paul and his cotemporaries, then holds good for those who follow after, and shall actually live till the Advent. Certainly the Apostles do all of them ex press often enough the expectation of the Coming as near; e.g., 1 Peter 4:1; 1 John 2:18; James 5:8; and Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:29 sqq.; Romans 13:11-12; Philippians 4:5; this, however, not as a dogma whereby the ignorance of the χρόνοι would be removed, but merely as a living hope and longing expectation. See Hölemann, Die Stellung St. Pauli zu der Frage um die Zeit der Wiederkunft Christi, Leipzig, 1858; and the Doctrinal and Ethical Notes, 6.

8. (1 Thessalonians 4:18.) Wherefore comfort one another with these words; ὥστε with a following imperative also at Philippians 4:1; and so διό, 1 Thessalonians 5:11. The comfort should check the sorrowing (1 Thessalonians 4:13); with these words, which rest on the word of the Lord, not rationibus, argumentis, but simply the words of the evangelical message.


1. (1 Thessalonians 4:13.) It is not sorrow altogether for the dying that Paul forbids; he rather takes it for granted that they will have to sorrow; only let it not be as the sorrow of the hopeless. Nowhere does Scripture overstrain unnaturally its demand, as if death should cause no pang. It merely rebukes despondency, as if God were not God, and home were not home. But strength of faith is not a thing to be commanded, nor can its triumph be enforced.66 Christ Himself shed tears, and Paul knew what it is to sorrow even for the dying (Philippians 2:27). On the whole (Starke): The believers of the Old Testament and of the New wept and sorrowed, but within such limits as the law already prescribed (Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1), and the light of faith illustrates. The Apostle requires no Stoic insensibility, no icy hardness. Calvin: “aliud est frænare dolorem nostrum, ut subjiciatur Deo, aliud abjecto humano sensu instar lapidum obdurescere.” And for this reason hope is an important element of the Christian life; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Romans 5:2-5; Romans 8:24 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 13:0.

2. The rest, who have no hope, are in the widest sense all who stand not in Christ, the only Source and Guarantee of true life. In the Old Testament is the sound of many lamentations over the life in the shadowy realm, as being no life, but as gloomy as in the Homeric songs (Isaiah 38:18 sq.; Psalms 6:6 [Psalms 6:5]; Psalms 88:11-13 [Psalms 88:10-12]; Psalms 115:17; Job 10:21 [and Job 10:22]; &c.); not because the right conception is still wanting, but because the actual curse of death is not yet broken. The gleams of prophetic hope (Psalms 16:9 sqq.; Psalms 49:16 [Psalms 49:15]; Proverbs 14:32; Proverbs 15:24; Proverbs 23:14; Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:2) are first realized through Christ. But it is especially the heathen, of whom the Apostle’s judgment holds good. It might, indeed, be a question here, as at 1 Thessalonians 4:5, whether he does not assert too much. For do we not find among all nations some hope of immortality? and among the philosophers, as Socrates, Plato, &c, elevated thoughts on that topic, and arguments in its favor? True; but, measured by the full resurrection-life, what a state of death is that which the heathen call the other life! And how isolated is the more cheerful hope, how slender its thread, how feeble its knowledge, for the very reason that it is founded, not on the actings of God, but on disputable, more or less problematical arguments, accessible only to the refined thinker. How weak are the Consolationes of a Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch! nothing but probabilities. Even now observation shows how those who do not rely on the written word, and, inquiring merely about the immortality of the soul, would thus simply recognize a permanent separation of soul and body (though this would be a permanent reign of death),—how these persons with all their arguments never get the better of their doubts; nay, how more and more the most decided amongst them no longer have or allow any hope. It were easy to bring together a number of disconsolate sayings from the classics; for example, Æschylus, Eumen. 638 (648): ἅπαξ θανόντος οὔτις ἔστἀνάστασις. Theocritus, Idyll. 4, 1Th 42: ἐλπίδες ἐν ζωοῖσιν, ἀνέλπιστοι δὲ θανόντες. Catullus, 5, 1 Thessalonians 4:0 : Soles occidere et redire possunt: Nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux, Nox est perpetua una dormienda. Starke: In Plutarch’s time people mocked at the ἐλπιστικούς. It was an affected witticism of the dying Vespasian: væ, puto deus fio. And this is as it should be; it is proper that we should not get to be certain of our personality, until we are sure of our God and Saviour. On this true basis, however, Scripture regards as normal the undivided life, when the spirit and the body are together; being equally remote from materialism, which seeks in matter for the root and strength of all spiritual life, and from idealism, which sees the most perfect spirituality in being released from the body. The glorified body as the perfect organ of the ruling spirit—this is the reëstablishment and consummation of the condition originally designed by God (Philippians 3:21). Luther: We shall again receive enriched and improved that which we lost in Adam; for we should have had it in Paradise (Works, ed. Walch, xii. 2628).

3. Death a sleep; Starke: (1) Because in both the body rests, the soul remains alive; (2) because from both the body also awakes; (3) because both are a desirable release from trouble and toil; (4) because after both we again joyously salute and wish one another good morning.—Still the likeness exists only for faith, not for sight. According to what is visible, the word of triumph: “O death, where is thy sting?” sounds frequently like a scoff. Diedrich: The death of those dear to us still confronts us often as a frightful mystery.—Not only does the Old Testament call him the king of terrors [Job 18:14], his name in the New Testament also is still the last enemy. A natural horror in the presence of death is expressed by the Apostle himself in 2 Corinthians 5:0, and is seen in Gethsemane.67 Corruption wears a different aspect from sleep. So much the greater must the Awakener appear to us.

4. (1 Thessalonians 4:15.) Paul appeals to a word of the Lord, like the old prophets (1 Samuel 3:21; Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 1:2); not as one who steals and deceitfully gives out the Lord’s word (Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:30); not as one who has merely adopted rabbinical opinions. (Whence, indeed, have the Rabbins the substance of their doctrine?) Nor does he speak in heaped-up images of a transcendental vision (when he really had such a one, with what modest reserve does he speak of it! 2 Corinthians 12:0); but his words have a clear and sober import. From the most intimate converse with the Lord he gives forth his explanations respecting the course of the kingdom of God, the crises of Divine providence, and its final issues: Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 3:5 sqq.; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51 sqq.; and here. It is a weighty problem, and, God be praised! it is also a privilege vouchsafed in ever larger measure to our times, to bring one’s self into living communion with the prophetic word. Our very reverence for it should, indeed, restrain us from precipitate conclusions.

5. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.) Our passage furnishes no complete doctrine of the last things. In Scripture generally there remains over for curiosity a multitude of unanswered questions; and even the legitimate desire of knowledge must acquiesce. Whatever is necessary to salvation, and serves to further the process of sanctification, is nowhere wanting. In this spirit should the doctrine of the Christian hope be dealt with (Luthardt, die Lehre von den letzten Dingen, Leipzig, 1861). Our passage says nothing beforehand of the condition that immediately follows death; nothing beyond calling it a sleep. A preliminary judgment, an introductory stage of blessedness, is indicated by the passages cited in Exeg. Note 1. A being with Christ is there promised to such as die in Christ; yet must it be inferior in fulness and power to the life of the resurrection (comp. Revelation 6:9-11), without our being able to define precisely the difference. Paul takes the less notice here of this topic, from his having to correct the anxiety of the Thessalonians in regard to the disadvantage which the dead might be under at the Advent. What is of use to this end he holds up to their view. Nor does he in our passage go further. But it easily admits of being combined with other passages into a general representation. Now what Paul says of the Coming was understood by the Reformers altogether of His Coming at the Last Judgment; as by Calvin, in express opposition to the Chiliasts, though under the supposition, to be sure, that they teach the wild doctrine of a resurrection for only a thousand years. But even in the Apocalypse there is no mention of any such thing. If we take into view the passage in the Revelation 20:1-6, the question is, whether and in what way it may be reconciled with the doctrine of the Apostle Paul. An obvious expedient apparently is to identify the Advent here, 1 Thessalonians 4:15, and 1 Corinthians 15:23, with the return at the setting up of the (millennial) kingdom, and in like manner the first resurrection of the Apocalypse with the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14) or the gathering together of the elect (Matthew 24:31), but positively to distinguish this from the final judgment on the whole world (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 20:11 sqq.);68 this last judgment, including the general resurrection, would then be comprehended in the end of which Paul, after making mention of the resurrection τῶν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, says: εἶτα τὸ τέλος (1 Corinthians 15:24). More closely examined, however, the passages do not quite so readily admit of mutual adjustment. In the first place, at the text last mentioned no one without the Apocalypse would think, that this εἶτα embraces a thousand years.69 And for this reason, accordingly, the Reformers, disregarding the Apocalypse, conceived of the raising of the dead as occurring at one and the same time, and supposed that such passages as John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; 2 Corinthians 5:10 speak of a simultaneous resurrection of the just and the unjust, and that Matthew 24:0 likewise refers to no other coming of Christ than Matthew 25:0. In like manner, and this is the second point, Matthew 25:0 shows us the saved alongside of the lost, and says nothing of a first resurrection which had already, a thousand years before, brought the elect to glory. In our passage, indeed, and just so in 1 Corinthians 15:0, Paul is entirely silent about those who are lost Calvin: The object here is, not to alarm the ungodly, but to heal the immoderate grief of the pious. The resurrection to judgment, therefore, might be thought of as contemporaneous with that of the pious, or on the other hand as following at a later date. Only it is to be noticed that 1 Corinthians 15:0 represents the raising of those who belong to Christ as something done once for all; then follows the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, after He has abolished all hostile rule. This does not sound as if still another host of those belonging to Christ would not share in the salvation till a later and final judgment, as must yet be the case, if Matthew 25:0 speaks of this final judgment. On the whole, as it is important to fulfil the condition on which alone we can be sure of salvation, so it is difficult, if not impossible, to set up unexceptionable tests, according to which some are made partakers of the first resurrection, others only of the second, who are nevertheless saved. After all, the relation might rather be this, that the Pauline statements, as well as the passages which speak briefly of the last day, the last hour (John 6:39-40; 1 John 2:18; comp. 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Peter 3:12), comprehend the coming of the Lord in one view, which the Apocalypse then distributes into various stages. But as the day of the Lord divides itself in the later revelation into a series of steps, so also the resurrection of those belonging to Christ, since the first resurrection by no means merely passes by the raising of the lost to judgment, but shows likewise a later resurrection to life as still possible. To the end belongs the glorification also of the terrestrial world (Romans 8:0; Revelation 21:22); and after that the saved have reigned together with Christ in the kingdom (2 Timothy 2:12), and have co-operated with Him in the judgment (1 Corinthians 6:2-3). That is to say, from their heavenly thrones (Revelation 20:4) the kingdom will pass into its stage of highest fulfilment, when God shall be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). In many places, however, these stages are viewed together indiscriminately. Such a comprehension of details, which are only kept apart by later prediction, meets us also elsewhere in all prophecy.

6. The last remark affords us light also in regard to the hope of the nearness of the Advent (see Exeg. Note 7). From the patriarchs down through the entire line of the prophets every one contemplates the future salvation as one whole, with all its details, without any one being able to say: There is here a want of perspective, an optical illusion. Rather, the living fulness of the future is conjoined with the varying standpoint of the present in one bud. The certainty, that the Lord is coming with His salvation, is so stirring, bright, overpowering, that the man who is full of it says: Quickly! The Assyrian period is Isaiah’s horizon, into which he sees Immanuel enter, bringing salvation (Isaiah 7:0; Isaiah 29:17). And again there was a delay of four hundred years, before the promise in Malachi (1 Thessalonians 3:0) began to be fulfilled. Prophecy is not the knowledge of the history of the future, but a contemplation of the essential steps of development. Instructive is such a passage as Ezekiel 12:22 sqq.; especially even because it is there shown to us, how long-suffering delayed the judgment, and how contempt of the long-suffering accelerates it. Thus there came to pass finally what for so long a time the prophets had promised and threatened, and the scoffers had scoffed at; it came, according to human reckoning, later than had been supposed, yet not too late for any one, rather too soon for many. And as the New Testament time came, so will come the final term promised by Christ and the Apostles. Yea, they declared with truth that it had already arrived. With Christ began the world’s last hour, and there comes none later, to establish another and higher relation between God and humanity. If the period of waiting for the revelation of the Lord has reached much further than the Apostles supposed, and even than the words of Christ gave them reason to expect (Matthew 10:23; Matthew 16:28; Matthew 24:29), it is to be considered, first, that in this very way scope was afforded for the development of the series of stages in His coming; and, secondly, that it behoves us to recognize long-suffering in the fact that, after the first step of the judgment (on Jerusalem), the second was deferred (2 Peter 3:8-9; 2 Peter 3:15). But, while acknowledging His sparing long-suffering, we acknowledge also that His government is so arranged as to admit of modification according to the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of men; that we are wrong, therefore, in taking, much more than we are aware of necessitarian views of prophecy. So much the more short sighted were it to say, that a disappointment respecting the date is proof that such last things are not to be expected at all. A denial of the world’s end would require us also to assert that humanity has never had a beginning; and this would imply that the life of humanity has no aim, and that the establishment of a perfect, holy reign of God is not to be looked for. But he alone is a Christian, who directs his life toward this mark. Of the time and the hour he knows nothing. “The Lord delayeth His coming!”—that he leaves the wicked servant to say; that the Bridegroom may tarry, he is well aware. There are also things that must still precede; not the conversion of the nations, but the preaching of the gospel among all nations (Matthew 24:14); along with this, the universal security of those who believe in no Advent, and by means of their unbelief are witnesses for the truth (1 Thessalonians 5:3; Matthew 24:37 sqq.; Luke 18:8); the apostasy of Christendom from the faith (2 Thessalonians 2:0). All these signs are perceptibly growing. The life of humanity, including the individual life, goes forward on the brink of eternity and to eternity. It is readily conceivable that the experience of a longer duration of the world, according to man’s measurement, has modified in some degree our views of the last things, and turned the eye chiefly toward the death of individuals. But only too frequently does this way of thinking assume such a form, that the longing for the coming of the Lord and the glory of His holy kingdom, as well as sympathy in the fortunes of the Church at large, is too much impaired. At times, on the other hand, and amongst the pious, when the life of faith rules in due force, we again meet likewise with the apostolic hope and aspiration in living freshness. That watching and hoping are so unfamiliar to us, is a defect. The more we become heavenly in our character and thoughts, the more also does the stream of human history appear to us as a hasting towards the coming of the Lord.

7. (1 Thessalonians 4:17.) The being caught away to meet the Lord is in the Irvingite70 interpretation erroneously explained in a manner that seems to bear the dignity of an inviolable dogma. Comp. the work, which otherwise contains many good practical exhortations, by E. L. Geering, Mahnung und Trost der Schrift in Betreff der Wiederkunft Christi, Basel, 1859. It is there taught (p. 55) that, previous to the coming tribulation, the company of disciples, who are witnessing for Jesus and waiting for Him, is brought into a condition of safety. Indeed, the saints will with Him judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2); their deliverance, therefore, through being taken away, precedes the Lord’s return; and on p. 60 mention is made of servants of Christ who are not, it is true, recklessly profane nor yet hypocrites, but still are not looking out for the coming of the Lord, nor striving towards it, and, as their punishment for this, have no part in the rapture of the faithful servants, but must undergo the rule of Antichrist’s reign. They have forfeited their title to be kept from the hour of temptation, of the great tribulation, which comes on all (Revelation 3:10). They might have been preserved and taken away from it.—This whole interpretation has at least no sort of foundation in our text. The German word entrücken (to snatch from) might give the impression that it refers to the taking away from a threatening danger. But Paul speaks of a swift-coming to meet the Lord, without regard to the question whether this is before or after the endurance of tribulation. To the view of Christendom in general he holds up, as prior to the coming of the Lord, the coming of the apostasy, and the tyranny of the Man of Sin (2 Thessalonians 2:0). The keeping which the disciples need is not necessarily a being kept from the experience of this persecution, as if to be kept in the midst of it, to be kept while in the world from the evil—the thing which the Lord seeks in prayer for His disciples (John 17:15)—were a penal condition. There are various ways in which the keeping may rather take place: 1. by a previous death (Isaiah 57:1-2; Revelation 14:13); 2. by endurance of martyrdom without renouncing the faith (Matthew 10:28 sqq.; 2 Thessalonians 2:0; 2 Thessalonians 2:0; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:15; Revelation 20:4); perhaps also, 3. by remaining hidden, in the case especially of the humble class, like the seven thousand in the time of Elias (Romans 11:4). There may be a participation in the judgment by those caught away to the Lord (as assessores judicii, Bengel), without the interpretation which we oppose. Altogether it is possible to love the coming of the Lord Jesus, without adopting the peculiar Irvingite exegesis. To represent the two things as inseparable, and to determine accordingly the reward of being caught away or the penalty of being left—this Isaiah , 1. in itself a wrong, as in every case where a human dogma is set up, and salvation connected with the acceptance of it; 2. it misleads to a groundless confidence, and is a sort of illusory promise, that is not free from an effeminate fear of suffering. Comp. Luthardt, l. c. p. 37 sqq.


1 Thessalonians 4:13. It is a heathenish ignorance of which a Christian must be ashamed, when he knows nothing of hope for the dead.—He who does not believe is ignorant; faith is not opposed to knowledge.—Zwingli: When we fear death, it is a sure sign that we have no love to God.—In so far as there is still selfishness in our love, and for that reason discomposure at the death of our friends, to the same extent are we not yet duly taught of God.

Death a sleep, but only through Christ; and only for faith, which knows the Awakener.—Roos: Death has an entrance, and also an outlet. We must and we desire to go the way that Christ went.

Scripture does not forbid us to mourn, but only to mourn as those without hope.—Rieger: By the examples of others, that nearly concern us, the thoughts of our hearts are revealed to us—our own dying agony.—Luther: Holy Scripture not merely indulges, but commends and praises those who are sorrowful, and lament for the dead (Abraham, Joseph, the people at the death of Aaron and Moses). The Apostle simply distinguishes between the mourning of the heathen and that of Christians.—The same: It is an artificial virtue and fictitious fortitude of heathens and schismatics, when they pretend that we must entirely extract what is creaturely in us, and hold no terms with nature. Such a hard heart has never truly loved, and would fain dissemble before people. He is a Christian, who, while experiencing sorrow, yet so restrains himself therein that the spirit rules over the flesh.—We are allowed to weep for death. It is one thing, when Christ, who wept Himself, dries our tears, and another thing, when men would forbid them to flow. But we have no occasion to weep for the lot of those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. Whoever laments without measure or restraint, acts as a heathen acts.—Bengel: The effect of the Christian faith is neither to abolish nor yet to aggravate grief for the dead, but gently to moderate it.—Diedrich: We need not be in a state of fearful uncertainty about any Christian, whether living or dead.—Heubner: Christianity teaches men to rise superior to natural sorrow, yea, to rejoice therein.—The ancient Christians called the day of the believer’s death his birthday.

[Ignorance of the truth and purposes of God, so far as these have been revealed, injurious to our spiritual comfort and edification. “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren”—a common scriptural formula.—Doddridge: Let us charge it upon our hearts, that we do honor to our holy profession in every circumstance, and particularly in our sorrows as well as our joys.—M. Henry: All grief for the death of friends is far from being unlawful; we may weep at least for ourselves, if we do not weep for them; weep for our own loss, though that may be their gain. Yet we must not be immoderate or excessive in our sorrows.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:14. Luther: Our death Paul calls not a death, but a sleep; Christ’s death he calls a real death, which has swallowed up all other deaths. [So Burkitt: Jesus died, the saints sleep. ... I do not find that Christ’s death is called a sleep; no, His death was death indeed, death with a curse in it.—J. L.]—Luther: If Christ is risen, that must surely not be in vain and without fruit.—[The text of Archbishop Tillotson’s Sermon on “The certainty and the blessedness of the resurrection of true Christians.”—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. Rieger: The two main sources of all comfort, and of all resignation in dying, lie in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 1:18) Whatever is trying and severe in death comes either from attachment to the visible from which we are separated, or from the uncertainty in which we stand in regard to the invisible. The former trouble is relieved by the death of Jesus, the second by his life.—Stähelin: If thou thyself wouldest not, or if thy friends are not to sorrow, see that thou fall asleep through the Lord Jesus.—Hast thou hope? 1. On what is it founded? on the belief that Jesus died and rose again; 2. To what does it impel thee? to a life in Christ, that we through Christ may fall asleep; 3. Of what does it assure thee? that God will bring us with Jesus.—[Bishop Wilson has a Funeral Sermon on these verses.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:15. Luther: God has spoken the word, not Paul out of his own head.—It is with the Apostle a great certainty: The Lord speaks through me. It is a folly that we find it so much harder to trust to the word of the Lord with our whole heart than to that of men, who are yet but dust, and liars to boot. As disciples of these men of God, we should endeavor, in what we say of Divine things, to say it as the word of God in the assurance of faith (2 Corinthians 4:13).—Luther: The voice or word of all teachers, who preach the gospel pure and simple, is not their word or voice, but God’s (Luke 10:16).—Starke: Man’s words have little power, but God’s word penetrates the heart, is strong to comfort, and endures in sorrow and death (Romans 15:4).

The experience, that the coming of the Lord has been delayed longer than the Apostles hoped and desired, is indeed a severe discipline for us while waiting. It is nevertheless a weakness, when watching and longing are relaxed, and drowsiness seizes even the wise virgins.—Rieger: In the unbelieving world the feeling of security is diffused from one generation to another, and comes to its height amongst the last scoffers; and so, on the other hand, in the communion of saints readiness for the coming of Jesus spreads from one generation to another.71Berlenburger Bibel: The word is prophetic, and goes through all times.—Vietor (zwei Osterpredigten, Bremen, 1859, p. 24): In the world there is derision and laughter, when a man would say, that he knows not whether the Lord will not come during his lifetime. The world can conceive of nothing wilder or crazier. Passing on in unbelief, the world says: “The Lord comes not at all.” Passing on with a show of faith and a half-faith, the world says: “My Lord comes not yet for a long time.” Oh, see to it, that thy heart consent not to either speech.

1 Thessalonians 4:16. The Lord comes to take us to Himself; only thus can we come to Him.—Luther: What the trumpet is, I know not; we would not gloss Paul’s words, but let them stand just as they are. In another place: These are merely verba allegorica. He would fain represent the matter, as one must represent it to children and simple people.72

[J. Lillie: No phantom, nor providential sub stitute, nor even the vicarious Spirit; but the Lord Himself—the personal Lord—this same Jesus.—Vaughan: Not a mere amelioration, gradual or sudden, of the condition of the Church or the world; not a mere displacement of evil and triumph of good; not a mere crisis of human affairs issuing in times of universal blessing and happiness: it shall be a personal coming. Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11.—J. L.]

They who are asleep in the Lord are still, even as dead persons, always in Christ (Luke 20:38).—Starke: Whoever is found to the last in the holy life of Jesus, falls asleep through Jesus.—Comp. Psalms 116:15, and Luther’s comment, Werke, ed. Walch, xii. 2652 sqq.

1 Thessalonians 4:17. Starke: If we would one day be caught up to Christ, we must even now follow His gracious guidance, and lift up our heart to Him. If we would be, with body and soul, ever with the Lord, we must with our spirit be with Him even now (Colossians 3:1-2).—The same: All believers shall one day be near and with Christ, because, 1. such is His promise to them (John 14:3); 2. He has asked this for Himself from the Father (John 17:24; Isaiah 53:10-12); 3. He, the Head, and they, His members, are inseparable (Ephesians 1:22-23; Romans 8:38-39).—Rieger: To be forever with the Lord is a brief but comprehensive description of eternal life. When kept as seed-corn in the heart, not stowed away as knowledge in the head; when fruitful in love to Jesus and in patience under suffering, not directed to glorying over others, these truths will evidence their consolatory power, and may also be suitably applied in mutual exhortation. Oh, the preciousness of communion with Jesus, and of that boast of faith: Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s!

[M. Henry: It will be some part of their felicity, that all the saints shall meet together, and remain together forever: but the principal happiness of heaven is this, to he with the Lord, to see Him, live with Him, and enjoy Him forever.—Dr. Donne has a sermon on this verse.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:18.—Zwingli: This is a quite different consolation from: Provide for so many soul-masses; Call in so many priests.—But (Berlenburger Bibel): It is also a false consolation to suppose it to be a settled matter, that every one through death enters heaven.—It is not death that saves us, but Christ through death, and at last from death. They who have died through Him unto sin, and have spiritually risen with Him, may be sure that they shall also live with Him in the body. So likewise the talk about meeting again, when we do not rely on Christ, and are not united in Christ with them that are His, is a very weak and delusive consolation. We should indeed maintain a union in heart with our dead, but in Christ the Lord; as those introduced into connection with the unimpaired Bible order of salvation and the kingdom, in which hope rests on a living faith in Christ, and holds out to every individual member the prospect of the higher stage of blessedness only in union with the entire body.—Comfort one another with these words; with that, which will cause the kindreds of the earth to wail.—Heubner: The gospel is the true book of consolation. Entering this sanctuary, we enter a quite different world. We learn that our own personal concerns are far from equalling in interest the holy concerns of the kingdom of God. We enter a circle of people, who, leaving all personal interests aside, only serve the Lord.—The consolation of the gospel consists in teaching us to save our life by giving it up for the Lord’s sake. In Him we find again also our loved ones, who are become members of Christ. (Concerning those who had no opportunity of learning the knowledge of Christ, comp. Apologetische Beiträge by Gess and Riggenbach, Basel, 1863, p. 168 sqq.; p. 234 sqq.)—Starke: Since in this vale of tears no one is wholly free from affliction, and we have frequent need of comfort and encouragement, every believer, even if not a teacher, should regard it as his Christian obligation to comfort others. One Christian ought to be the priest and comforter of another.—It is not said merely: You teachers or preachers, comfort the common people.

On the whole section: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the Epistle for the 25th Sunday after Trinity. Heubner: The Christian revelation on the future life: 1. It gives us, a. a consolatory hope, which lifts us far above the hopelessness of such as are not Christians, because, b. it rests on the sure foundation of Christ’s death and resurrection, and therefore, c. embraces those who through all time belong to Christ. 2. It gives us, moreover, special disclosures, c. respecting the visible Advent, and revelation of the glory of Christ; c. respecting the manner of our participation therein, and thus opens to us, c. the richest source of consolation.

The same: The ground of the Christian’s comfort in the death of those he loves. Jesus the bond between the living and the dead.—Looking by faith toward the coming of the Lord helps us to look on our brethren with hallowed love.

The passages from Luther are taken from his sermons on this section, delivered by him on occasion of the death of the Electors Frederick and John, 1525 and 1532; see. Werke ed, Walch, xii. p. 2578 sqq.


1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.—All the uncials [and all the recent editors] give θελόμεν instead of the Recepta θέλω.

1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.—A. B. Sin. give the rarer κοιμωμένων; the other majuscules, the more frequent κεκοιμημένων; only one manuscript of a late date has the aorist, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15. [κοιμωμἐνων=are falling asleep from time to time, comp. περιλειπόμενοι of 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:17;—or simply, are sleeping; so Am. Bible Union, Alford, Ellicott. Alford quotes the epitaph: ερὸν ὕπλον κοιμᾶται—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.—The subjunctive λυπῆσθε is given by B. Sin. and others; but λυπεῖσθε by A. and others. On ἵνα with the present indicative, see Winer, p. 259. Formerly all such places were corrected; at present we begin to recognize a carelessness in the later speech, the only question being, whether it shows itself as early as the Apostle’s time, or is chargeable on the copyists.

1 Thessalonians 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.—[καὶ οἱ λοιποί. The καὶ belongs to οἱ λοιποί as one member of the comparison, not, as might be inferred from our Common Version, to καθώς.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14.—[ἀνέστη]. Only in a few instances out of a large number is ἀνίστημι. in our Version “to raise up again” “to rise up again.” Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Romans 14:9; &c.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14.—[οὕτως καὶΘεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. Revision: “The aorist here and at 1 Thessalonians 4:15 implies a backward look from the time of the resurrection, when of each one of the departed it may be said, as of Stephen (Acts 7:60): ἐκοιμήθη. Comp. also E. V. Acts 13:36 and 2 Peter 3:4.—For the connection of διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, see the, Exegetical Notes.—In this verse Sin.1 has ἐ περιλειπόμενοι, but this is corrected in Sin.2—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.—[οὶ ζῶντες οὶ περιλειπόμενοι—comp. the temporal import of κοιμωμἐνων, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, in Note 2 above. Here, in questionable, but convenient, modern English phrase: are being left over, as our brethren in Christ successively depart.—περιλειπ; in the New Testament only here.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.—[οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας. For the double negative, see E. V. Matthew 5:18, and often elsewhere. German: durchaus nicht.—For the force of the aorist participle, see Note 6 above.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.—[These nouns are anarthrous in Greek; and the indefiniteness is just as allowable and as expressive in English.—Worthy of note also is the Greek arrangement of the whole clause: “Because the Lord Himself with a shout, with voice of archangel, and with trumpet of God, shall descend from heaven.”—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—[The same phrase as in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (though Sin. has here περιλιπόμενοι). See there Note 7.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—[ἅμα σὺν αῦ̓τοῖυ . Revision: “The direction is determined, not by the verb, but by εἰς.” Comp. Matthew 13:19; Acts 8:39; &c.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—[ἐν νεφέλαις, as in Mark 13:26.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—[Literally: unto meeting of the Lord; German, zur Begegnung des Herrn.—J. L.]

1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.—[εἰς —connected with ἀρπαγησόμεθα. Riggenbach follows the modern German versions in changing Luther’s in der Luft into in die Luft. And similarly Alford, Ellicott (the Commentary—to which, however, the Translation, as occasionally happens, is not conformed), Vaughan, &c.—J. L.]

[57][Alford, Ellicott, Webster and Wilkinson, agree with Lünemann; of course, without denying the lawfulness of such sorrow as is spoken of in John 11:35, Philippians 2:27, &c. They understand the Apostle to be thinking solely of a sorrow occasioned by the apprehension that death is in some way a calamity to believers, and that sorrow he forbids absolutely.—J. L.]

[58][Alford errs in making the bringing of departed saints—“their being raised when Jesus appears.” Their resurrection is implied in their being brought.—J. L.]

[59][Several, as Musculus, Aretius, Hammond, Tillotson, &c., unduly restrict the reference, as if martyrs only were meant: who fell asleep on account of Jesus, for Jesus1 sake. Others, as Michaelis, Scott, Barnes, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott, Vaughan, &c., make the idea to be that through Jesus the death of Christians is rightly accounted a sleep. Ellicott, however, allows that which of the two connections is the right one “must remain to the last an open question.” It is in favor of that with ἄξει, that both in the Bible, and in profane literature, classical is well as modern, the figure of sleep is used for death in general; and that the other connection would rather have had: τοῦς διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ κοιμηθέντας. See my note in the Revision.—J. L.]

[60][Denn er selbst, der Herr;—so Riggenbach and others after Luther; but erroneously.—J. L.]

[61][Who connects with λέγομεν of 1 Thessalonians 4:15.—J. L.]

[62] [And so Bishop Hall, Olshausen, Jowett, Alford, Ellicott. I do not perceive why this view should be reckoned “more plausible” (Ellicott) than the other. It might much rather be said to be inferior in martial precision and grandeur. See the note of Webster and Wilkinson. In favor of ascribing the κέλευσμα to the Lord Himself, they refer to the parallel of the delivery of the law, where, besides the ministry and voice of angels, the sound of the trumpet, and the fire, we have also the voice of God (Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:18-19; Exodus 20:18-19; Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 4:33; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 5:22-26; &c.); likewise to John 5:28-29; Hebrews 12:19-20; Hebrews 12:25-27; Job 14:12-15; Psalms 1:1-6; Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:41; Matthew 24:31. So Milton:

“The Son gave signal high,
To the bright minister that watch’d; he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps
When God descended; and perhaps once more
To sound at general doom.” Par. L., B. 11—J. L.]

[63][auf—a useless variation, not justified here by the ἐπί, in a similar connection, of other texts.—J. L.]

[64][Of course, this is quite compatible with the previous idea, of a coming with Christ to judgment, and that the latter is a scriptural representation there can be no doubt; comp. Isaiah 32:1; Daniel 7:9-10; Zechariah 14:5; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4; &c. It is also worth noting that, as I remarked in the Lectures, “there are only three other places in the New Testament where the phrase here translated to meet occurs; and in all of them (Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:6; Acts 28:15) the party met continues after the meeting to advance still in the direction in which he was moving previously.”—J. L.]

[65][Whereas Sin. agrees with A. C. F. G. πάντες μὲι κοιμηθησόμεθα, οὐ πάντες δὲ .—J. L.]

[66][Whatever is matter of duty is properly matter of precept; Ephesians 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:16. Faith’s brightest triumph is amidst the tears and struggles of nature; Psalms 23:4.—J. L.]

[67][A statement strangely erroneous in both its members. The Apostle expresses no horror whatever of death. His groans are forced from him, not so much even by the pressure of present suffering, as by the earnestness of his longing for the heavenly state. And still more objectionable is the reference to Gethsemane, in so far as it overlooks the supernatural elements in our Lord’s passion.—J. L.]

[68][It should not be hastily assumed that Matthew 25:31-46 refers, at least exclusively, to the same process of judgment as Revelation 20:11 sqq. See Bickersteth’s Practical Guide to the Prophecies, 17; Brooks’ Essays on the Advent and Kingdom of Christ, Part 2 Essay 4; Wood’s Last Things, 1 Thessalonians 3:0. Prop, 8—J. L.]

[69][And yet there can he no doubt that the ἔπειτα of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 embraces the longer interval between Christ’s resurrection and that of his followers.—J. L.]

[70][The reference is to that in many respects remarkable body of Christians, which chooses to call itself the Catholic Apostolic Church. The other name of Irvingites they expressly disclaim as a misrepresentation at once of the origin and the spirit of the movement.—J. L.]

[71][The parallel would be more complete, if, as has sometimes been inferred from Malachi 4:5-6 and Revelation 19:7-8, as well as from the analogous work of John the Baptist before the first appearing of the Lord, the last generation of the Church is to witness a special work of preparation for the marriage-supper of the Lamb.—J. L.]

[72][This, it must be confessed, is nothing more than a somewhat venturesome gloss. I prefer the caution of the previous remark. See my Lectures on the Thessalonians, pp. 264–265.—J. L.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.