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Bible Commentaries
1 Thessalonians 1

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1


1 Thessalonians 1:1. The omission of the official title Apostle can scarcely be accounted for by supposing that Paul had not yet assumed it, but is due to the affection subsisting between him and his Thessalonian converts, which did not require that he should urge his apostolic authority; comp. also Philippians 1:1.

Silvanus is the Silas of Acts 15-18, the companion of Paul on his second missionary journey, during which the church of Thessalonica was founded. Timothy had also accompanied the apostle on that journey, though, owing to his extreme youth, his name does not so conspicuously appear in the narrative.

In God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. At this early period the ‘Church’ needed some such distinguishing appellation. The former predicate ‘in God the Father,’ distinguishes it from the Gentile assemblies; the latter, ‘in the Lord Jesus Christ,’ from the Jewish congregation. In indicates living union and fellowship.

Grace unto you, and peace. A Christian adaptation and blending of the ordinary Greek and Hebrew salutation. Paul wishes them a participation in God’s undeserved favour, the grace that has brought salvation to men (Titus 2:11; John 1:17); and in that peace which the Lord bequeathed to His followers, the restored harmony with God and conscience, the equanimity and confidence of God’s children, the ‘convalescence and healthfulness of the new life.’ ‘Grace the source; peace, the end of all good’ (Aquinas).

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 1:2. We. This probably refers, as in 1Th 2:18 , 1 Thessalonians 3:1, to Paul himself.

Give thanks to God. So Paul begins most of his Epistles, but here the causes of thankfulness are more fully enlarged upon. He welcomes the tidings brought him by Timothy, and subjects him to no cynical cross examination. It is always a pleasure to him to praise, to recognise merit, to fan the smoking flax.

Always for all of you. ‘Forgetting none; such is our never-failing habit’ (Jowett).

Verses 2-10

Paul thankfully acknowledges the Genuineness and Striking Characteristics of the Conversion of the Thessalonians

It is merely for convenience’ sake the first three chapters are divided. They really form one paragraph or section. Throughout them Paul is seeking to give utterance to the same general idea and the same sentiments. He wishes to express to the Thessalonians his continued and strong affection for them, and to make them aware of the joy he derives from hearing of their stedfastness in the faith; and he also seeks to encourage them, both by these expressions of thankfulness and affection, and also by reminding them of their initial confidence that his preaching was really the word of God, and of his manner of life among them, well fitted as it had been to deepen their conviction that he was God’s messenger. He opens the Epistle with a burst of affectionate acknowledgment, owning that he ceaselessly thanked God for the proofs they gave that his preaching had not been in vain.

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 1:3. Work of faith, i.e. that which faith does or effects; its fruit or product. Every living thing, plant or animal, has its specific product or work, its thing to do. That which faith does is to make us ‘walk worthy of God who hath called us unto His kingdom and glory’ (chap. 1 Thessalonians 2:12); as the faith Paul refers to was their belief in this call.

Labour of love, i.e. the fatiguing and devoted toil in the service of others, which was dictated by the love they had for one another, to which Paul again alludes (1 Thessalonians 4:9) in terms of strong admiration and praise. Opportunities of sympathy and service could not be wanting in Thessalonica. Jewish employers would pay off Christian workmen; wives who had shown attachment to the new faith might be divorced. Possibly, however, the labour alluded to is that which Paul specifies in chap. 1 Thessalonians 5:12.

Patience [endurance] of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. The Thessalonians were distinguished by the vivid expectation they cherished of the second coming of the Lord, and this expectation enabled them to display an unwavering constancy in persecution. Their hope that the Lord would speedily appear raised them above both the desires and fears of this transitory present. The three graces, faith, love, hope, are commonly grouped together by Paul, comp. 1Th 5:8 , 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13; 1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:4-5. Faith maintains us in our right relation to God; love maintains us in our right relation to men; hope steadies, directs, and elevates our own life. Faith is employed about the past, the historical manifestation of God and His will in Christ; love finds its opportunity in the present; hope is the light of faith turned upon the future.

In the sight of our God and Father. These words may be construed with remembering,’ as in chap. 1 Thessalonians 3:9; or they may be intended to express that, in the exercise of the graces mentioned, the Thessalonians regarded God’s presence and judgment, comp. chap. 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

Verses 4-5

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5. Knowing your election, a further reason for his thanksgiving. Paul knew that God had chosen as well as called those to whom he writes. He knows this by the following sign: that our gospel came not unto you in word only, etc.; his call seemed to carry with it power to move them, and enable them to obey it, the Holy Ghost entered with it into them, and much assurance or a full conviction of its truth was wrought in them. [It should be mentioned that many interpreters understand these three terms as descriptive not of the effects in the hearers, but of the characteristics of the apostle’s preaching. But comp. chap. 1 Thessalonians 2:13.]

As ye know what manner of men we were among you. Paul had concluded from the manifest effects of the word upon them that they were God’s elect, even as they had concluded, from his zeal in preaching it, that he believed it to be the word of God. The know of this clause has a reference to the knowing of 1 Thessalonians 1:4.

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 1:6. And ye became followers [imitators] of us. They had seen in Paul proof that the word was God’s word, and they themselves became imitators of Paul, so giving proof that the word of God worked effectually in them also. The point of resemblance between himself and them which had chiefly struck Paul, was the joyful spirit in which they endured the affliction consequent on their reception of the Gospel. But as in all else, so in this it was Jesus who was the captain of salvation, the leader in faith and joyful endurance (Hebrews 12:1-4); and therefore, in imitating Paul, it was the Lord they really imitated and were conformed to.

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 1:7. Ye became an ensample. The whole congregation is regarded as a unit; the word being in the singular, according to the Vatican MS. ‘The true followers became themselves in turn patterns for others.’

All that believe, i.e. all the believers, whether their conversion preceded or followed that of the Thessalonians.

In Macedonia and Achaia. These two provinces at this time included the whole of Greece, the former being the northern, and the latter the southern portion of it.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 1:8. For. Paul proceeds to confirm and amplify the assertion of 1 Thessalonians 1:7.

Hath sounded out the word of the Lord. The word rendered sounded out is used in Sir 40:13 , with the added definition ‘Like a great thunder.’ The word of the Lord, or the Gospel, was received by the Thessalonians with a faith so eager and genuine, and manifested its power by result’s so striking, that the attention and inquiry of the whole population of Greece were awakened, and all thus became more or less acquainted with the Gospel; comp. Introduction to this Epistle.

In every place. Not strictly speaking, but from all places with which Paul had communication (and the communication between Corinth and all parts of the Roman world was constant); perhaps even from Rome, through Aquila and Priscilla, he was hearing of the interest occasioned by the remarkable faith of the Thessalonians. Paul himself had not yet been out of Greece since leaving Thessalonica; but wherever be did go he found himself anticipated by the tidings regarding the Thessalonian believers, so that he ‘needed not to speak anything.’

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 1:9. For they themselves, i.e. the inhabitants of the various places he visited, and who might have been expected to be unacquainted with Paul and his mission and past career; these persons to whom he intended to introduce himself, themselves related to him his ministry and mode of life in Thessalonica, and its success.

What manner of entering in. The circumstances in which the Gospel had been preached to them, the character of the preaching, and the reception given to it.

How ye turned to God from idols. They were acquainted not only with the fact that Paul had preached in Thessalonica, but also with the results of his preaching. The effect had been greater among the Gentile than among the Jewish population (Acts 17:4). To ‘turn to God’ from whatever has kept as from Him, to turn because we believe in Him and love Him, and mean to listen to, study, and obey Him, this is conversion. Conversion implies repentance, i.e. turning away from sin; and faith, i.e. turning to God in Christ. The intention, more or less conscious, with which the Thessalonians turned to God, is described in the following words, in which the two grand features of their Christian life are signalized: ‘to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.’ ‘To serve God’ is a comprehensive expression including the various acts, thoughts, and feelings, whereby a godly person seeks to please God.

Living and true, in contrast to the idols which are ‘nothing in the world’ (1 Corinthians 8:4), and ‘are by nature no gods’ (Galatians 4:8).

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 1:10. To wait for his Son from heaven. The second coming of our Lord was one of the most important and familiar topics, both in His own teaching and in that of His apostles. The expectation of this coming was inculcated as the proper attitude for a Christian; the hope of it enabled them to endure suffering and loss, and prompted them to diligence and unworldliness. The time of the second coming was left uncertain, that it might be considered possible any day, and that thus each generation might live in the apprehension of its close proximity, and feel its chastening and stimulating influence. ‘ Latet ultimus dies, ut observetur omnis dies ’ (Augustine). The Christian who profoundly loves his Lord cannot but say daily, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’

Whom he raised from the dead. This is inserted either as proof of the Sonship of Jesus, or to show that His coming from heaven was rendered possible by His resurrection.

Who delivereth u s, i.e. our Deliverer.

The coming wrath. The terrible judgments which were predicted as coming on the world, and through which the wrath, i.e. the punitive justice, of God should be felt (see 1 Thessalonians 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/1-thessalonians-1.html. 1879-90.
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