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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 1

Verses 1-10

Only in the two epistles to the Thessalonians does Paul include the names of his two co-workers, Silas and Timothy, in his addressing them. Also only in these does he refrain from designating himself in any way: as "an apostle," or "a servant," or "a prisoner." Therefore he is not here giving an authoritative communication of the mind of God (as an apos-tle), nor is he presented as a pattern of Christianity (as a ser-vant; cf. Philippians), nor is he appealing to godly feelings and sympathies (as a prisoner; cf. Philemon), but as one on the same level with them, he takes delight in their faith, love, and hope, and encourages them in this. It is most salutary that just as three men are associated in writing, so the epistle contains many groups of three characteristics, three being the number of substantiality (as three dimensions form a solid), the number of the eternal Trinity. How precious then is the character of substantial, solid, enduring truth here presented. Consistently with this character of divine energy is the mean-ing of the name Thessalonica - "victory over falsity" - for intellect or education does not accomplish this, but the power of God in the soul.

Another expression used only in these two epistles is that of his addressing the assembly: "the assembly of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Does it not show tender affection for a company of newly converted children of God the Father, united to His beloved Son? Thus the apostle nourishes and nurtures that new life, though not simply as individuals, but as an assembly in proper local character. Of course this does not set aside the unity of the assembly world-wide which is so clearly taught in Corinthians and Ephesians, but the emphasis here is on local aspects of testimony and order. The salutation is as in other epistles, "Grace to you and peace,from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ": grace the active favor of God in abundance of supply; peace the tranquility begotten by submission to and communion with Himself.

In verse 2 let us mark well the apostle's habit of expressing his thankfulness for all saints in the writing of his epistles. We may remember to pray for the saints, yet may easily neglect this wholesome practice of thanking God for them, which to the apostle was of first importance. Thanksgiving first with prayer following is the wise and godly order.

In verse 3 is a basic, threefold character of Christianity, exemplified beautifully in this newly converted company. Though often referred to, it is worthy of repetition that the address to the Ephesian assembly inRevelation 2:2; Revelation 2:2 commends their works, labor, and patience, but that they are not there coupled with faith, love, and hope. Work may go on even after faith has begun to wax feeble; that is, the work may not be the living product of faith but of habit, or of a sense of responsibility. Labor may continue while love is not its real power. Patience may become more or less habitual, not continuing as the fresh, sweet result of the expectant hope of the coming of the Lord. Let us constantly cultivate not only the outward fruits of faith, love, and hope, but rather these blessed motives themselves.

Faith both sees God and sees myself as manifested before God. It is no mere dormant acknowledgment of His truth, but a living, active power that "works." But love is more powerful still. It "labors." It may bear long and forbear, continuing to serve even when rebuffed, refused, despised. The apostle would continue to "spend and be spent" even though, as he said, "the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved" (2 Corinthians 12:15).

This is labor energized by unfeigned love, love begotten by the pure love of God received and known in the soul. Hope centered in the Person of Christ, assured that His coming is near and that He alone will answer all the problems of every circumstance, is that which gives calm, joyful endurance and constancy in everything. All of these things will maintain a sweet, refreshing fullness when the proper motives are active. But they are "in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." The Lord Himself is the Living Object of these things, and the sense of all being opened and naked in the sight of God the Father is another matter of deepest encouragement.

"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." There was no shadow of doubt as to the reality of the work of God in the Thessalonians. The fruits they bore were proof to the apostle that they were elect of God.

Verse 5. Words by themselves may be empty and vain if not backed up by that which bears evidence of reality. But here again we find three dimensions of substantial, real value: "in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." The power here is the "dynamite" of the gospel, an energy that produced decisive results. Moreover the Spirit of God was the living source of that power: supreme, divine, holy. "Much assurance" was the inevitable accompaniment of this. No doubtfulness, fears, apprehensions could remain in such anatmosphere. The apostle left no such impression with souls that one could be actually saved by God and then lost again. His gospel was one of certainty and "much assurance," and such was its effect upon the Thessalonians.

The character and conduct of these three servants of the Lord was also such as to beget such results. Their words were backed up by such action as to show that the truth they preached had effect in their own lives.

Verse 6. Being "followers of us" was no mere sectarian following of men, but rather their conduct followed that of the godly example of these men who were themselves so formed by following the Lord. It is the practical effect upon their ways of which he is speaking, not the acknowledgment of leadership. They had received the Word from those who suffered for it, and they themselves found the same affliction, but sweetened by "joy of the Holy Ghost." It was no mere servile adherence to popular leaders, but pure joy in suffering along with those who had suffered for the Lord's sake. In this simple, godly way they became a model of true testimony to all Macedonia and Achaia, though young indeed in the faith.

Macedonia and Achaia were two provinces in Greece, and in these the news of the faith and witness of the Thessalonians had soon become well known. But it was not confined here, for "also in every place" (no doubt wherever Christianity had come) this refreshing knowledge had spread, speaking with good effect to believers everywhere, so that the apostle and his co-workers had no need to tell of the results of their work in Thessalonica.

In every direction was reported the amazing change in these souls, their turning to God from idols - idols so many and so firmly entrenched in the life of the populace that there could be no mere natural explanation for such a change. But it was "to God" they had turned, not to another religion. Living faith produced positive action. The negative turning from idols certainly accompanied this, but it was secondary. And the initial turning is followed by "serving the living and true God," a good, solid effect in consistent life. Moreover, it awakened proper thoughts and feelings as to the future and expectant waiting for the Son of God from heaven. Observe how these three grand characteristics are the working of faith, love and hope, in that order. If wrath is coming He is our Deliverer. Rather than in condemning He has put all His power (as well as grace) into our deliverance.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-thessalonians-1.html. 1897-1910.