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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 1

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy (Παυλος κα Σιλουανος κα Τιμοθεος). Nominative absolute as customary in letters. Paul associates with himself Silvanus (Silas of Acts, spelled Σιλβανος in D and the papyri), a Jew and Roman citizen, and Timothy, son of Jewish mother and Greek father, one of Paul's converts at Lystra on the first tour. They had both been with Paul at Thessalonica, though Timothy is not mentioned by Luke in Acts in Macedonia till Beroea (Acts 17:14). Timothy had joined Paul in Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1), had been sent back to Thessalonica, and with Silas had rejoined Paul in Corinth (1 Thessalonians 3:5; Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 1:19). Silas is the elder and is mentioned first, but neither is in any sense the author of the Epistle any more than Sosthenes is co-author of I Corinthians or Timothy of II Corinthians, though Paul may sometimes have them in mind when he uses "we" in the Epistle. Paul does not here call himself "apostle" as in the later Epistles, perhaps because his position has not been so vigorously attacked as it was later. Ellicott sees in the absence of the word here a mark of the affectionate relations existing between Paul and the Thessalonians.

Unto the church of the Thessalonians (τη εκκλησια Θεσσαλονικεων). The dative case in address. Note absence of the article with Θεσσαλονικεων because a proper name and so definite without it. This is the common use of εκκλησια for a local body (church). The word originally meant "assembly" as in Acts 19:39, but it came to mean an organization for worship whether assembled or unassembled (cf. Acts 8:3). The only superscription in the oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph B A) is Προς Θεσσαλονικεις Α ( To the Thessalonians First ). But probably Paul wrote no superscription and certainly he would not write A to it before he had written II Thessalonians (B). His signature at the close was the proof of genuineness (2 Thessalonians 3:17) against all spurious claimants (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Unfortunately the brittle papyrus on which he wrote easily perished outside of the sand heaps and tombs of Egypt or the lava covered ruins of Herculaneum. What a treasure that autograph would be!

In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (εν θεω πατρ κα κυριω Jησου Χριστω). This church is grounded in (εν, with the locative case) and exists in the sphere and power of

God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ . No article in the Greek, for both θεω πατρ and κυριω Jησου Χριστω are treated as proper names. In the very beginning of this first Epistle of Paul we meet his Christology. He at once uses the full title, "Lord Jesus Christ," with all the theological content of each word. The name "Jesus" (Saviour, Matthew 1:21) he knew, as the "Jesus of history," the personal name of the Man of Galilee, whom he had once persecuted (Acts 9:5), but whom he at once, after his conversion, proclaimed to be "the Messiah," (ο Χριστος, Acts 9:22). This position Paul never changed. In the great sermon at Antioch in Pisidia which Luke has preserved (Acts 13:23) Paul proved that God fulfilled his promise to Israel by raising up "Jesus as Saviour" (σωτηρα Ιησουν). Now Paul follows the Christian custom by adding Χριστος (verbal from χριω, to anoint) as a proper name to Jesus (Jesus Christ) as later he will often say "Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:1). And he dares also to apply κυριος (Lord) to "Jesus Christ," the word appropriated by Claudius (Dominus, Κυριος) and other emperors in the emperor-worship, and also common in the Septuagint for God as in Psalms 32:1 (quoted by Paul in Romans 4:8). Paul uses Κυριος of God (1 Corinthians 3:5) or of Jesus Christ as here. In fact, he more frequently applies it to Christ when not quoting the Old Testament as in Romans 4:8. And here he places "the Lord Jesus Christ" in the same category and on the same plane with "God the father." There will be growth in Paul's Christology and he will never attain all the knowledge of Christ for which he longs (Philippians 3:10-12), but it is patent that here in his first Epistle there is no "reduced Christ" for Paul. He took Jesus as "Lord" when he surrendered to Jesus on the Damascus Road: "And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me" (Acts 22:10). It is impossible to understand Paul without seeing clearly this first and final stand for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not get this view of Jesus from current views of Mithra or of Isis or any other alien faith. The Risen Christ became at once for Paul the Lord of his life.

Grace to you and peace (χαρις υμιν κα ειρηνη). These words, common in Paul's Epistles, bear "the stamp of Paul's experience" (Milligan). They are not commonplace salutations, but the old words "deepened and spiritualised" (Frame). The infinitive (χαιρειν) so common in the papyri letters and seen in the New Testament also (Acts 15:23; Acts 23:26; James 1:1) here gives place to χαρις, one of the great words of the New Testament (cf. John 1:16) and particularly of the Pauline Epistles. Perhaps no one word carries more meaning for Paul's messages than this word χαρις (from χαιρω, rejoice) from which χαριζομα comes.

Peace (ειρηνη) is more than the Hebrew shalom so common in salutations. One recalls the "peace" that Christ leaves to us (John 14:27) and the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). This introduction is brief, but rich and gracious and pitches the letter at once on a high plane.

Verse 2

We give thanks (ευχαριστουμεν). Late denominative verb ευχαριστεω from ευχαριστος (grateful) and that from ευ, well and χαριζομα, to show oneself kind. See χαρις in verse 1 Thessalonians 1:1. "The plural implies that all three missionaries prayed together" (Moffatt).

Always (παντοτε). Late word, rare in LXX. So with ευχαριστεω in 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 1:3. Moffatt takes it to mean "whenever Paul was at his prayers." Of course, he did not make audible prayer always, but he was always in the spirit of prayer, "a constant attitude" (Milligan), "in tune with the Infinite."

For you all (περ παντων υμων). Paul "encircled (περ, around) them all," including every one of them and the church as a whole. Distance lends enchantment to the memory of slight drawbacks. Paul is fond of this phrase "you all," particularly in Phil. (Philippians 1:3; Philippians 1:7).

Making mention (μνειαν ποιουμενο). Paul uses this very idiom in Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16; Philemon 1:4. Milligan cites a papyrus example of μνειαν ποιουμενο in prayer (B. Y. U. 652, 5). Did Paul have a prayer list of the Thessalonian disciples which he read over with Silas and Timothy?

In here is επι="in the time of our prayers." "Each time that they are engaged in prayers the writers mention the names of the converts" (Frame).

Verse 3

Remembering (μνημονευοντες). Present active participle of old verb from adjective μνημων (mindful) and so to call to mind, to be mindful of, used either with the accusative as in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 or the genitive as here.

Without ceasing (αδιαλειπτως). Double compound adverb of the Koine (Polybius, Diodorus, Strabo, papyri) from the verbal adjective α-δια-λειπτος (α privative and δια-λειπω, to leave off). In the N.T. alone by Paul and always connected with prayer. Milligan prefers to connect this adverb (amphibolous in position) with the preceding participle ποιουμενο rather than with μνημονευοντες as Revised Version and Westcott and Hort rightly do.

Your work of faith (υμων του εργου της πιστεως). Note article with both εργου and πιστεως (correlation of the article, both abstract substantives). Εργου is genitive case the object of μνημονευοντες as is common with verbs of emotion (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 508f.), though the accusative κοπον occurs in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 according to common Greek idiom allowing either case. Εργου is the general term for work or business, employment, task. Note two genitives with εργου. Hυμων is the usual possessive genitive,

your work , while της πιστεως is the descriptive genitive, marked by, characterized by, faith, "the activity that faith inspires" (Frame). It is interesting to note this sharp conjunction of these two words by Paul. We are justified by faith, but faith produces works (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8) as the Baptist taught and as Jesus taught and as James does in 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

Labour of love (του κοπου της αγαπης). Note article with both substantives. Here again του κοπου is the genitive the object of μνημονευοντες while της αγαπης is the descriptive genitive characterizing the "labour" or "toil" more exactly. Κοπος is from κοπτω, to cut, to lash, to beat the bread, to toil. In Revelation 14:13 the distinction is drawn between κοπου (toil) from which the saints rest and εργα (works, activities) which follow with them into heaven. So here it is the labour that love prompts, assuming gladly the toil. Αγαπη is one of the great words of the N.T. (Milligan) and no certain example has yet been found in the early papyri or the inscriptions. It occurs in the Septuagint in the higher sense as with the sensuous associations. The Epistle of Aristeas calls love (αγαπη) God's gift and Philo uses αγαπη in describing love for God. "When Christianity first began to think and speak in Greek, it took up αγαπη and its group of terms more freely, investing them with the new glow with which the N.T. writings make us familiar, a content which is invariably religious" (Moffatt, Love in the New Testament, p. 40). The New Testament never uses the word ερως (lust).

Patience of hope (της υπομονης της ελπιδος). Note the two articles again and the descriptive genitive της ελπιδος. It is patience marked by hope, "the endurance inspired by hope" (Frame), yes, and sustained by hope in spite of delays and set-backs. Hυπομονη is an old word (υπο, μενω, to remain under), but it "has come like αγαπη to be closely associated with a distinctively Christian virtue" (Milligan). The same order as here (εργου, κοποσ, υπομονη) appears in Revelation 2:2 and Lightfoot considers it" an ascending scale as practical proofs of self-sacrifice." The church in Thessalonica was not old, but already they were called upon to exercise the sanctifying grace of hope (Denney).

In our Lord Jesus Christ (του Κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου). The objective genitive with ελπιδος (hope) and so translated by "in" here (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 499f.). Jesus is the object of this hope, the hope of his second coming which is still open to us. Note "Lord Jesus Christ" as in verse 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Before our God and Father (εμπροσθεν του θεου κα πατρος ημων). The one article with both substantives precisely as in Galatians 1:4, not "before God and our Father," both article and possessive genitive going with both substantives as in 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:11; Titus 2:13 (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 785f.). The phrase is probably connected with ελπιδος. Εμπροσθεν in the N.T. occurs only of place, but it is common in the papyri of time. The picture here is the day of judgment when all shall appear before God.

Verse 4

Knowing (ειδοτες). Second perfect active participle of οιδα (ειδον), a so-called causal participle=since we know, the third participle with the principal verb ευχαριστουμεν, the Greek being fond of the circumstantial participle and lengthening sentences thereby (Robertson, Grammar, P. 1128).

Beloved by God (ηγαπημενο υπο [του] θεου). Perfect passive participle of αγαπαω, the verb so common in the N.T. for the highest kind of love. Paul is not content with the use of αδελφο here (often in this Epistle as 1 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:10), but adds this affectionate phrase nowhere else in the N.T. in this form (cf. Jude 1:3) though in Sirach 45:1 and on the Rosetta Stone. But in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 he quotes "beloved by the Lord" from Deuteronomy 33:12. The use of αδελφο for members of the same brotherhood can be derived from the Jewish custom (Acts 2:29; Acts 2:37) and the habit of Jesus (Matthew 12:48) and is amply illustrated in the papyri for burial clubs and other orders and guilds (Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary).

Your election (την εκλογην υμων). That is the election of you by God. It is an old word from εκλεγομα used by Jesus of his choice of the twelve disciples (John 15:16) and by Paul of God's eternal selection (Ephesians 1:4). The word εκλογη is not in the LXX and only seven times in the N.T. and always of God's choice of men (Acts 9:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Romans 9:11; Romans 11:5; Romans 11:7; Romans 11:58; 2 Peter 1:10). The divine εκλογη was manifested in the Christian qualities of verse 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (Moffatt).

Verse 5

How that (οτ). It is not certain whether οτ here means "because" (θυια) as in 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:27 or declarative οτ "how that," knowing the circumstances of your election (Lightfoot) or explanatory, as in Acts 16:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 16:15; 2 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 13:11.

Our gospel (το ευαγγελιον ημων). The gospel (see on Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:1; Mark 1:15 for ευαγγελιον) which we preach, Paul's phrase also in 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3; Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8. Paul had a definite, clear-cut message of grace that he preached everywhere including Thessalonica. This message is to be interpreted in the light of Paul's own sermons in Acts and Epistles, not by reading backward into them the later perversions of Gnostics and sacramentarians. This very word was later applied to the books about Jesus, but Paul is not so using the term here or anywhere else. In its origin Paul's gospel is of God (1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:9), in its substance it is Christ's (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:8), and Paul is only the bearer of it (1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14) as Milligan points out. Paul and his associates have been entrusted with this gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4) and preach it (Galatians 2:2). Elsewhere Paul calls it God's gospel (2 Corinthians 11:7; Romans 1:1; Romans 15:16) or Christs (1 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 10:14; Galatians 1:7; Romans 15:19; Philippians 1:27). In both instances it is the subjective genitive.

Came unto you (εγενηθη εις υμας). First aorist passive indicative of γινομα in practically same sense as εγενετο (second aorist middle indicative as in the late Greek generally). So also εις υμας like the Koine is little more than the dative υμιν (Robertson, Grammar, p. 594).

Not only--but also (ουκ--μονον, αλλα κα). Sharp contrast, negatively and positively. The contrast between λογος (word) and δυναμις (power) is seen also in 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 4:20. Paul does not refer to miracles by δυναμις.

In the Holy Spirit and much assurance (εν πνευματ αγιω κα πληροφορια πολλη). Preposition εν repeated with λογωι, δυναμε, but only once here thus uniting closely

Holy Spirit and

much assurance . No article with either word. The word πληροφορια is not found in ancient Greek or the LXX. It appears once in Clement of Rome and one broken papyrus example. For the verb πληροφορεω see on Luke 1:1. The substantive in the N.T. only here and Colossians 2:2; Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22. It means the full confidence which comes from the Holy Spirit.

Even as ye know (καθως οιδατε). Paul appeals to the Thessalonians themselves as witnesses to the character of his preaching and life among them.

What manner of men we showed ourselves toward you (οιο εγενηθημεν υμιν). Literally,

What sort of men we became to you . Qualitative relative οιο and dative υμιν and first aorist passive indicative εγενηθημεν, (not ημεθα, we were). An epexegetical comment with

for your sake (δι' υμας) added. It was all in their interest and for their advantage, however it may have seemed otherwise at the time.

Verse 6

Imitators of us and of the Lord (μιμητα ημων κα του κυριου). Μιμητης (-της expresses the agent) is from μιμεομα, to imitate and that from μιμος (μιμιχ, actor). Old word, more than "followers," in the N.T. only six times (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Hebrews 6:12). Again Paul uses γινομα, to become, not ειμ, to be. It is a daring thing to expect people to "imitate" the preacher, but Paul adds "and of the Lord," for he only expected or desired "imitation" as he himself imitated the Lord Jesus, as he expressly says in 1 Corinthians 11:1. The peril of it all is that people so easily and so readily imitate the preacher when he does not imitate the Lord. The fact of the "election" of the Thessalonians was shown by the character of the message given them and by this sincere acceptance of it (Lightfoot).

Having received the word (δεξαμενο τον λογον). First aorist middle participle of δεχομα, probably simultaneous action (receiving), not antecedent.

In much affliction (εν θλιψε πολλη). Late word, pressure. Tribulation (Latin tribulum) from θλιβω, to press hard on. Christianity has glorified this word. It occurs in some Christian papyrus letters in this same sense. Runs all through the N.T. (2 Thessalonians 1:4; Romans 5:3). Paul had his share of them (Colossians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 2:4) and so he understands how to sympathize with the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 3:3). They suffered after Paul left Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

With joy of the Holy Spirit (μετα χαρας πνευματος αγιου). The Holy Spirit gives the joy in the midst of the tribulations as Paul learned (Romans 5:3). "This paradox of experience" (Moffatt) shines along the pathway of martyrs and saints of Christ.

Verse 7

So that ye became (ωστε γενεσθα υμας). Definite result expressed by ωστε and the infinitive γενεσθα (second aorist middle of γινομα) as is common in the Koine.

An ensample (τυπον). So B D, but Aleph A C have τυπους (plural). The singular looks at the church as a whole, the plural as individuals like υμας. Τυπος is an old word from τυπτω, to strike, and so the mark of a blow, print as in John 1 Thessalonians 20:25. Then the figure formed by the blow, image as in Acts 7:43. Then the mould or form (Romans 6:17; Acts 23:25). Then an example or pattern as in Acts 7:44, to be imitated as here, Philippians 3:17, etc. It was a great compliment for the church in Thessalonica to be already a model for believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Our word type for printers is this same word with one of its meanings. Note separate article with both Macedonia (τη Μακεδονια) and Achaia (τη Αχαια) treated as separate provinces as they were.

Verse 8

From you hath sounded forth (αφ' υμων εξηχητα). Perfect passive indicative of εξηχεω, late compound verb (εξ, ηχοσ, ηχω, ηχη, our echo) to sound out of a trumpet or of thunder, to reverberate like our echo. Nowhere else in the N.T. So "from you" as a sounding board or radio transmitting station (to use a modern figure). It marks forcibly "both the clear and the persuasive nature of the λογος του Κυριου" (Ellicott). This phrase, the word of the Lord, may be subjective with the Lord as its author or objective with the Lord as the object. It is both. It is a graphic picture with a pardonable touch of hyperbole (Moffatt) for Thessalonica was a great commercial and political centre for disseminating the news of salvation (on the Egnation Way).

But in every place (αλλ' εν παντ τοπω). In contrast to Macedonia and Achaia. The sentence would naturally stop here, but Paul is dictating rapidly and earnestly and goes on.

Your faith to God-ward (η πιστις υμων η προς τον θεον). Literally,

the faith of you that toward the God . The repeated article makes clear that their faith is now directed toward the true God and not toward the idols from which they had turned (verse 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Is gone forth (εξεληλυθεν). Second perfect active indicative of old verb εξερχομα, to go out, state of completion like εξηχητα above.

So that we need not to speak anything (ωστε μη χρειαν εχειν ημας λαλειν τ). Hωστε with the infinitive for actual result as in verse 1 Thessalonians 1:7. No vital distinction between λαλειν (originally to chatter as of birds) and λεγειν, both being used in the Koine for speaking and preaching (in the N.T.).

Verse 9

They themselves (αυτο). The men of Macedonia, voluntarily.

Report (απαγγελλουσιν). Linear present active indicative, keep on reporting.

What manner of entering in (οποιαν εισοδον). What sort of entrance, qualitative relative in an indirect question.

We had (εσχομεν). Second aorist active (ingressive) indicative of the common verb εχω.

And how (κα πως). Here the interrogative adverb πως in this part of the indirect question. This part about "them" (you) as the first part about Paul. The verb επιστρεφω is an old verb for turning and is common in the Acts for Gentiles turning to God, as here from idols, though not by Paul again in this sense. In Galatians 4:9 Paul uses it for turning to the weak and beggarly elements of Judaism.

From idols (απο των ειδολων). Old word from ειδος (figure) for image or likeness and then for the image of a heathen god (our idol). Common in the LXX in this sense. In Acts 14:15 Paul at Lystra urged the people

to turn from these vain things to the living God (απο τουτων των ματαιων επιστρεφειν επ θεον ζωντα), using the same verb επιστρεφειν. Here also Paul has a like idea,

to serve a living and true God (δουλευειν θεω ζωντ κα αληθινω). No article, it is true, but should be translated "the living and true God" (cf. Acts 14:15). Not "dead" like the idols from which they turned, but alive and genuine (αληθινος, not αληθης).

Verse 10

To wait for his Son from heaven (αναμενειν τον υιον αυτου εκ των ουρανων). Present infinitive, like δουλευειν, and so linear, to keep on waiting for. The hope of the second coming of Christ was real and powerful with Paul as it should be with us. It was subject to abuse then as now as Paul will have to show in this very letter. He alludes to this hope at the close of each chapter in this Epistle.

Whom he raised from the dead (ον ηγειρεν εκ [των] νεκρων). Paul gloried in the fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead of which fact he was himself a personal witness. This fact is the foundation stone for all his theology and it comes out in this first chapter.

Jesus which delivereth us from the wrath to come (Ιησουν τον ρυομενον ημας εκ της οργης της ερχομενης). It is the historic, crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus Christ, God's Son, who delivers from the coming wrath. He is our Saviour (Matthew 1:21) true to his name Jesus. He is our Rescuer (Romans 11:26, ο ρυομενος, from Isaiah 59:20). It is eschatological language, this coming wrath of God for sin (1 Thessalonians 2:16; Romans 3:5; Romans 5:9; Romans 9:22; Romans 13:5). It was Paul's allusion to the day of judgment with Jesus as Judge whom God had raised from the dead that made the Athenians mock and leave him (Acts 17:31). But Paul did not change his belief or his preaching because of the conduct of the Athenians. He is certain that God's wrath in due time will punish sin. Surely this is a needed lesson for our day. It was coming then and it is coming now.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/1-thessalonians-1.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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