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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 1

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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1 Thessalonians Chapter 1

1 Thessalonians 1:1 The salutation.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 Paul showeth his thankful remembrance of the Thessalonians in his prayers on account of their faith, charity, and patience,

1 Thessalonians 1:5-10 applauding them for their exemplary reception of the gospel, and improvement under it.

Verse 1

Paul and Silvanus: why not Paul the apostle, as in some other Epistles? Because his apostleship was not doubted of by them, they had such an eminent seal of it upon their hearts; and there was no false apostles among them to question or deny it. And he joins Silvanus with him; whom Peter calls a faithful brother, 1 Peter 5:12, and was a minister of the gospel joining with himself in that work among the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1:19, as also among these Thessalonians, as appears, Acts 17:4, though there called by contraction of his name, or by another name, Silas; who is also mentioned, Acts 15:22, as one chief among the brethren, and sent by the church of Jerusalem to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch; and styled a prophet, Acts 15:32; and chosen by Paul to accompany him rather than Mark, Acts 15:40. And being an instrument with himself in converting these Thessalonians, and being also in their love and esteem, he joins his name with his own in the Epistle.

And Timotheus; his name is Greek, for his father was a Greek, but his mother a Jewess, Acts 16:1, whose name was Eunice, 2 Timothy 1:5. He was brought up in the Jewish religion, instructed from a child by his parents in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, but instructed by Paul in the faith of Christ, whom therefore he calls his son in the faith, 1 Timothy 1:2, well reported of by the brethren, Acts 16:2; whom Paul laid hands upon with other elders to separate him to the work of the ministry, and the office of an evangelist, and thereby had a gift of God bestowed upon him, 2 Timothy 1:6; called by Paul his συνεργος, or work-fellow, Romans 16:21, and particularly in the conversion of these Thessalonians, together with Silvanus, as appears, Acts 17:14. He abode with them when Paul was persecuted from them, as there we find; and was sent to them from Athens afterwards by Paul to know their state, and strengthen their faith, 1 Thessalonians 3:1,1 Thessalonians 3:2. And thereupon, that his Epistle might obtain the greater respect, he joins his name also in it; as he doth also in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, in his Epistle to the Philippians, and to the Colossians. He being Paul's companion in his ministry among the Gentiles in their first conversion, and a man of great name in the churches, he therefore so frequently joins his name with his own. And also that he might show their consent in the truth they delivered to the churches, which might the more confirm their faith in theirs.

Unto the church of the Thessalonians; the church inhabiting Thessalonica, which was a chief city in Macedonia, a metropolis, famous for antiquity, largeness, pleasant situation, and commerce. Plin. lib. 1 Thessalonians 4:10. First called Thessalia, and being conquered by king Philip, was called Thessalonica. Philippi was also another great city of Macedonia, where was planted another church, to whom the apostle writes; whereby we may see that God had a great work for Paul here, when he called him in a vision to go to Macedonia.

Which is in God the Father; not as the Son of God is in the Father, to be one substance and essence with him; nor as the human nature is in the Divine nature of Christ, to be one person with the Father; but it imports either their forsaking false gods and joining themselves to the worship of the true God, as in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God; called therefore in a distinction from them:

God the Father: or else their worshipping God according to the revelation made of him in the gospel, where he is called Father. But in a sense differing from what Plato or Homer, and other heathens, understood when they called the chief God, Father; either with respect to their inferior deities, of whom they styled him Father, or the works of creation proceeding from him as his offspring. And their being in him may yet imply more than this; which is their being joined to God in covenant, as their God and Father; and so believing in him, established upon him as their foundation, and as their centre resting in him. It may also further imply their union and communion with God through the Spirit, whereby the saints are said to abide in God, and to dwell in him, and he in them, 1 John 2:27,1 John 2:28, yea, to be in him who is the true God, 1 John 5:20.

And in the Lord Jesus Christ; these two are put together, because there is no access to God the Father, no true worship of him, no union or communion with him, and so no being in him, but through Jesus Christ. And by both they might see the blessed state they were now brought to by the gospel; being before strangers to God the Father and Jesus Christ, but now in them. And though being in God the Father is first mentioned, yet in the order of nature we are first in Christ, and through him in God the Father. And the apostle the rather asserts this of them, because the gospel came to them not in word only, but in power. And hereby he gives them the character of a true church of Christ, what it is, at least what it ought to be; for to be in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ, imports more than literal knowledge, dogmatical faith, or outward profession.

Grace be unto you, and peace; this the apostle calls his salutation with his own hand, which is my token, saith he, in every epistle, so I write, 2 Thessalonians 3:17. Read 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2, &c. And under the Old Testament the Jew's usual salutation was: Peace be to you; under the New it is: Grace and peace. Peace comprehends all blessings; and grace or favour, the spring out of which they flow. The grace of God is now said to have appeared and to shine forth, Titus 2:2, and the church of God to be blest with all spiritual blessings, Ephesians 1:3; so that now the apostle Paul salutes the churches with grace and peace; and the apostle Peter adds: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, 2 Peter 1:2. Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied, Jude 1:2. Or if we take grace for grace inherent in us, as sometimes it is taken; and peace for the inward tranquillity of mind, heart, and conscience; the text may bear it. Yet the former rather meant to you, to you that are in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ: not to infidels out of the church; grace to you, and peace.

From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; wherein are showed grace and peace in their original, from God; and not from God absolutely considered, but as our Father: as a Father he conveys the blessings of grace and peace to his children; but yet not immediately, but through

Jesus Christ, as merited by his blood, and procured by his intercession. The Holy Ghost is not mentioned, though he must be understood; but he is rather considered as the actual conveyer of these blessings, than the original or procurer of them. And the three Persons work in the same order in the work of redemption as of creation, though more distinctly.

Verse 2

We give thanks to God; after his salutation he adds his thanksgiving and prayer for them. He saw in them an eminent seal of his apostleship, and effect of his ministry, and advantage to the gospel in their example, and so gives thanks. And his thanks is to God, because the success of the gospel was more from his blessing than his own ministry.

Always; pantote, that is, in a constant course; or affectu, though not actu, by a grateful sense he had of it continually upon his heart.

For you all; for he had a good report of them all from Timothy, 1 Thessalonians 3:6, and we find not one reproof in this First Epistle to any one, as in the Second.

Making mention of you in our prayers; he adds also his prayer for them, wherein he made mention of them by name, as some understand the words, μνειαν υπων ποιουμενοι. Prayer and thanksgiving ought to go together, especially in the ministers of the gospel, and in the work of their ministry. And thus the apostle practised towards other churches also, as Romans 1:8; Philippians 1:3, &c.

Verse 3

Remembering without ceasing; the occasion of his constant thanksgivings was his constant remembering of that grace of God that did so abound and work powerfully in them, not as if he had always an actual remembrance of it, but he did not forget it, the habitual sense of it was continually in his mind, and was often actually in his thoughts, especially in his approaches to God; and that is all which is meant in the original word, αδιαλειπτωσ. While the apostle was with them he saw this in them, but being now absent he remembered it; and with such a practical remembrance as stirred up his heart to thanksgiving. That is a good memory where is treasured up matter of prayer and thanksgiving.

Your work of faith; or the work of the faith of you, that is, their faith and the work of it; whereby he intimates their faith was true and real; a faith unfeigned, 2 Timothy 1:5; the faith of God’s elect, Titus 1:1; and so distinguished from a dead faith, James 2:26. They received the work in much affection, with joy of the Holy Ghost; they turned from idols to the service of the true God; they waited for the coming of Christ, &c.; here was the work of faith.

And labour of love; a labour to weariness, as the word imports; laborious love. True faith hath its work, but love hath its labour; and when faith worketh by love it will work laboriously. Whereby the apostle declares the reality of their love, as well as their faith; it was unfeigned love, yea, fervent love, the labour of it went forth towards that true God whom they now worshipped, that Jesus Christ on whom they now believed, and to the saints that were now their fellow brethren, 1 Thessalonians 4:10; and particularly to the apostle himself, as in other ways, so particularly in the pains and labour that some of them took to conduct and travel along with him from Thessalonica to Athens, Acts 17:15.

And patience of hope: the apostle had mentioned before their faith and love, and now their hope; which are called the three cardinal or theological graces, all mentioned together by him, 1 Corinthians 13:13; and by which we have all our communion with God on earth. And as their faith had its work, and love its labour, so their hope had its patience as the fruit and product of it. There is a patience with respect to an expected good, and with respect to an incumbent evil; and both produced by hope. The former is more properly called μακροθυμια, or length of mind, consisting in waiting for and expectation of some desired good; the latter is υτομονη, consisting in patient suffering, or abiding under some present evil. Their former patience is mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, they waited for his Son from heaven. The latter in the second chapter, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen: as they (i.e. the churches of Judea) have of the Jews. This latter is here specially meant in the text; and for which he gives God thanks, 2 Thessalonians 1:4. And hope produceth the former patience, as it looks upon the expected good as that which will come at last; and the latter patience, as it looks upon the suffered evil as that which will not always continue. And when with respect to both these the mind of man is kept sedate and quiet, this is the

patience of hope.

In our Lord Jesus Christ; or, of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the efficient and author of this hope, and of their faith and its work, and love and its labour: or,

in our Lord Jesus Christ, as here rendered; and so he is the object of this hope, 1 Corinthians 15:19; 1 Timothy 1:1. And by this the Christian’s hope is distinguished from all other. All hope worketh patience. The husbandman’s hope to receive the former and latter rain, maketh him wait for it with patience, James 5:7; the hope of the merchant, for the return of his adventure; the hope of the heir, for his inheritance; but the Christian’s hope worketh patience as fixed upon Christ: other hope resteth upon the things of this lower visible world, but this is as an anchor sure and stedfast, entering within the veil, where Christ is entered as a forerunner, &c., Hebrews 6:19,Hebrews 6:20. Faith and love both have Christ for their object; but considered as present; but the patience of hope in Christ respecteth something future, some revelation of him, and salvation by him, which is yet to come. If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it, Romans 8:25.

In the sight of God and our Father: these words are not in the Syriac or Arabic version. And they respect either the apostle’s thanksgiving and prayer for them, and his remembering the grace of God in them when he solemnly approached God’s presence; for in all duties of worship we come before God, and present ourselves in his sight, and their graces he before mentioned, he remembered them to God, and presented them to his view: or they respect the omniscience of God, that their work of faith, labour of love, &c. were all in God’s sight, and he was a delighted spectator of them: or, lastly, they may respect the sincerity of their hearts in all the actings of their faith, love, and hope; they did all this in the sight of God. As the apostle asserts his sincerity in his ministry by this: We speak as in the sight of God, 2 Corinthians 2:17. And thus the apostle mentions their graces, not as the heathen orators, who made great encomiums of virtue to the praise of men, but to the honour and praise of God.

Verse 4

Another ground of his thanksgiving for them. By the manner of their receiving the gospel, and the evident operation of the graces of God’s Spirit, the apostle knew their election of God. We cannot know election as in God’s secret decree, but as made manifest in the fruits and effects of it. As there is a knowledge of things a priori, when we argue from the cause to the effect, so a posteriori, when we argue from the effects to the cause. And thus the apostle came to know their election. Not, we hope it, or conjecture it, but we know it; and not by extraordinary revelation, but by evident outward tokens. And if the apostle knew this, why should we think they themselves might not know it also; and the words may be read: Ye knowing your election of God. And election imports the choosing of some out of others; for election cannot comprehend all. Some deny all eternal election of particular persons, and make it a temporal separation of persons to God in their conversion; but is not this separation from a pre-existing decree, God doing all things after the counsel of his own will? Ephesians 1:11. Or, they will yield an eternal election of persons, but only conditional; one condition whereof is perseverance to the end. But the apostle asserts their election at present, before he saw their perseverance.

Verses 5-6

The former part of the verse asserts the reasons on which the apostle built the knowledge of their election, which is the manner of the gospel’s coming to them.

Our gospel because preached by him and others to them; or intrusted with them εγενηθη εις υμας.

Came not unto you in word only, but also in power; confirmed by miracles, and had powerful operation upon your hearts. The power of God went along with our ministry, which did not with the false teachers, 1 Corinthians 4:19; and the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, 1 Corinthians 4:20.

And in the Holy Ghost; either in gifts of the Holy Ghost which ye received, or that power which ye felt from the gospel upon your hearts was through the Holy Ghost: that they might not think it was their ministry, or the word alone, that had this power upon them.

And in much assurance; ye giving full assent to the truth of the gospel, without doubting on your part; or preached to you with much confidence and assurance on our part. The former sense is best. And there is an allusion in the word to a ship riding upon the sea with a full gale, and not turned out of its course by a contrary wind. Your faith triumphed over the waves of all objections, disputes, or hesitations of mind. For doubtings of mind do much hinder the power of the word upon the heart. And this assurance they had from the Holy Ghost.

As ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake; we did not carry ourselves among you like ordinary men, but by our laboriousness and zeal in preaching, our patient suffering for the gospel we preached, by our holy conversation, by our denial of ourselves in labouring with our hands amongst you, and by our great tenderness and affection to you, you might perceive that we were men sent of God, and our ministry was from heaven, and that we sought not yours, but you; whereby you had an advantage to entertain the gospel preached by us with greater assurance. And in all these things we had respect to your salvation. And for the truth of all this, he appeals to their own knowledge, and that mighty presence and assistance of God in their ministry among them; as they could not but perceive it, so it was all for their sake.

And ye became followers of us; as you received our gospel in the power of it into your hearts, so you showed it forth in your conversation, becoming followers or imitators of us in our patient and cheerful sufferings, and our holy and self-denying carriage. The doctrine of the gospel which we taught you, we practised it before your eyes, and you followed us therein; though before you walked according to the course of the world, and were followers of the religion and manners of the heathen. The examples of ministers ought to be teaching as well as their doctrine.

And of the Lord; we have followed the example of Christ, and ye followed us. So that as you believed on Christ as your Saviour, so you followed his commands and examples as your Lord and Master; as he exhorts the Corinthians: Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Having received the word in much affliction: though affliction and persecution attended the word, yet you received, it; and this receiving was not only into your heads by knowledge of it, and into your hearts by all effectual believing it, but into your practice by a walking according to it. For receiving the word, in the Scripture phrase, comprehends all this in it.

With joy of the Holy Ghost; though afflictions attended you, they did not deject your spirits, but you had joy in your hearts by the Holy Ghost; who usually doth give forth his joy most to the saints when under suffering, which is one instance of the gospel’s coming to them not in word only, but in the Holy Ghost, as was said before. The glad tidings of the gospel did more comfort them, than all their sufferings did cast them down.

Verse 7

As ye followed our example, and of the Lord, so ye were examples yourselves, and such great examples that influenced all the believers both of Macedonia and Achaia. Your example reached beyond the confines of Thessalonica, unto the believers of all Macedonia, yea farther, to the believers of all Achaia. And though the Philippians of Macedonia received the gospel before you, as appears in the story, Acts 16:1-40, yet ye exceeded them, and became examples to them in your faith and patience, &c.

Verse 8

How could they be examples to persons so remote, amongst whom they had no converse? The apostle here resolves it. It was by way of report. Things that are eminent, and done in eminent places, such as Thessalonica was, easily spread abroad, either by merchants, travellers, or correspondence by letters. And this report is compared to a sound that is heard afar off, that made an echo, as the word implies. And that which sounded out from you was the word of the Lord. The word is said to sound by the voice of the preacher, 1 Corinthians 14:8,1 Corinthians 14:9; Galatians 6:6, and by the practice of the hearers. The mighty power and efficacy of it was made known abroad, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place; not strictly every where, but here and there, up and down in the world. As it is said of the apostles’ ministry, Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world, Romans 10:18; the report of the gospel went farther than the preachers of it, and their receiving the gospel sounded abroad far and near. And not only the word, but

your faith to God-ward is spread abroad, ezelhluyen. Your faith being so eminent, it was spoken of far and near. That ye believed so soon at our first entrance, as 1 Thessalonians 1:9; and though we had been shamefully treated at Philippi a little before our coming to you, and persecution followed us and the gospel we preached to you, yet ye believed, and your faith was eminent in the fruits and operations of it also, as was mentioned before, and is afterwards in the Epistle. And it was faith God-ward; it rested not upon men, no, nor only the Man Christ Jesus, whom we preached to you, but upon God himself though through Christ ye became worshippers of the true God, and believed on him with an exemplary faith.

So that we need not to speak any thing, either of the manner of our preaching the gospel, or of your manner of receiving it. Where men’s deeds speak and commend men, words may be silent. And the apostle might have thought it needful to have divulged these things abroad for the advantage of the gospel, and the examples of others, if he had not been prevented by the report already spread abroad. The good examples of the people may ease their ministers of some labour in spreading the gospel.

Verse 9

For they themselves show of us, what manner of entering in we had unto you: the believers of Macedonia and Achaia do speak of these things απαγγελλουσιν, openly, whereby it is evident the word of the Lord sounded forth to them from you, and they, without any information from us, declare the great entertainment you gave us and our gospel at our first entrance among you.

And how ye turned to God from idols; particularly your forsaking your former idolatry, when you worshipped idols, that were either the images or shapes of the true God, formed by men; or men whom they deified, and set up as gods, and worshipped them and their images; or inanimate creatures, as sun, moon, and stars, or whatever creature they found beneficial to them, the heathens made idols of them. These ye turned from: though it was by the power of God and the gospel upon your hearts, yet it was an act of your own. And though it was the worship of these idols you had been trained up in, and wits generally practised, yet you turned from it. And as to the manner of it, how ye turned from these idols, as in the text; that is, how readily, how sincerely, how speedily, with a holy indignation of them: or, πως, how, that is, by what means; meaning by our entrance amongst you, and the power of our gospel upon your hearts, according to that prophecy, Isaiah 2:20,Isaiah 2:21, which refers to gospel times.

To serve the living and true God; to serve with religious worship proper to God; though the papists would confine the Greek word δουλευειν to some lower worship they give to saints or angels; or it may signify the whole service of God. And here the apostle speaks of their religion in the positive part, the former being negative. The living God, so called in opposition to idols, which were either images without life, or inanimate creatures, or men that were dead whom they worshipped; or living, because God is so eminently, being life essentially, originally, eternally, immutably, and derivatively to all things that live. As I live, saith the Lord, as if none had life but himself, Isaiah 49:18, &c. And called the true God in opposition to false gods. The heathen gods had no deity but what men gave them by worshipping them. They were not gods by nature, Galatians 4:8, and so not true. And as these things are spoken to show the power of the gospel, so in a way of commendation, that they did not only turn from idols, but did serve the true God; many profess the true God, but serve him not. As also they denote their privilege, that they served a God that could save them, which their idols could not.

Verse 10

And to wait for his Son from heaven: this is added to show the further power of the gospel upon them, they had not only faith to God-ward, as was said before, but to Christ-ward. They did not only turn to the true God, in opposition to the heathen, but to the Son of God as the true Christ, in opposition to the unbelieving Jews. For though he was the Son of David after the flesh, yet he was the Son of God also; and not by creation, as the angels are called the sons of God, nor by adoption, as the saints are, but by eternal generation, though the Man Christ Jesus by his personal union is the Son of God. And their faith respecting the Son of God, was their waiting for him from heaven; not that their faith consisted only in this, but it suited their present state of affliction to wait for Christ’s coming as a deliverer and rewarder, therefore here mentioned by the apostle; and their faith, hope, love, and patience may all be included in it. They believed that he was gone to heaven, and would come again, which are two great articles of the Christian faith. And though there was nothing in sense or reason, or any tradition, to persuade them of it, yet they believed it upon the apostle’s preaching it. And though the time of his coming was unknown to them, yet their faith presently put them upon waiting for it. And the certain time of his coming is kept secret, that the saints in every age may wait for it. Though he will not come till the end of the world, yet the saints ought to be influenced with the expectation of it in all generations that do precede it. It is to their advantage to wait for it, though they live not to see him come. And here the apostle concludes his account of the glorious effects of the gospel upon these Thessalonians; that which follows in the chapter is by way of doctrine concerning the Son of God.

Whom he raised from the dead; he mentions his resurrection from the dead after his sonship; for he was there declared to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1:4. And: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee, applied to Christ’s resurrection, Acts 13:33. Or the apostle mentions it to confirm their hope of his coming again. Had they heard of his death, and not of his rising again, they could not have expected his coming from heaven. It is used as an argument by Paul to the Athenians, that Christ will come again to judge the world by God’s raising him from the dead, Acts 17:31. And these believers also might comfortably expect their own resurrection, seeing that he himself is already risen, at his coming; and so be supported under their present sufferings, though they should reach to the killing of the body.

Even Jesus: he that was before called the Son of God, is here called Jesus, or Saviour; a name that might more endear him to them, than by calling him the Son of God. And he mentions a great act of his salvation in the next words, and therefore here properly called Saviour; and when he comes, he will come to his people’s salvation, Hebrews 9:28.

Which delivered us from the wrath to come: if we read the word as our translation hath it, delivered, it looks to what Christ hath already done and suffered for our deliverance. If in the present tense, as the Greek now hath it, it implies a continued act: he is delivering us from the wrath to come, either by his intercession, or by supplies of his grace delivering us from the power of sin and temptations, and so preserving us in a state of salvation. Or if we read the word in the future tense, who will deliver us, as we often find the present tense both in the Hebrew and Greek to have a future signification, it refers to his last coming; and therefore the saints need not be afraid of the terror of that day, but wait for it; for though the wrath to come is greater than ever yet brake forth in the world, Romans 2:5, yet a drop of it shall not fall upon them. Though they may meet with temporal afflictions and chastisements at present, and may be assaulted by the wrath of men, yet they shall be free from the wrath to come. And this will be done by a powerful rescue of Christ, as the word imports, ρυομενον, notwithstanding all the danger and difficulty that may attend it.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/1-thessalonians-1.html. 1685.
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