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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
1 Thessalonians 4



Verse 1

Finally (λοιπονloipon). Accusative of general reference of λοιποςloipos as for the rest. It does not mean actual conclusion, but merely a colloquial expression pointing towards the end (Milligan) as in 2 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Timothy 4:8. So το λοιπονto loipon in 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philemon 3:1; Philemon 4:8.

We beseech (ερωτωμενerōtōmen). Not “question” as in ancient Greek, but as often in N.T. (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Philemon 4:3) and also in papyri to make urgent request of one.

How ye ought (το πως δει υμαςto pōs dei humās). Literally, explanatory articular indirect question (το πωςto pōs) after παρελαβητεparelabēte according to common classic idiom in Luke (Luke 1:62; Luke 22:2, Luke 22:4, Luke 22:23, Luke 22:24) and Paul (Romans 8:26).

That ye abound (ινα περισσευητεhina perisseuēte). Loose construction of the ιναhina clause with present subjunctive after two subordinate clauses with κατωςkathōs (as, even as) to be connected with “beseech and exhort.”

More and more (μαλλονmallon). Simply more, but added to same idea in περισσευητεperisseuēte See also 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

Verse 2

What charge (τινας παραγγελιαςtinas paraggelias). Plural, charges or precepts, command (Acts 16:24), prohibition (Acts 5:28), right living (1 Timothy 1:5). Military term in Xenophon and Polybius.

Verse 3

Your sanctification (ο αγιασμος υμωνho hagiasmos humōn). Found only in the Greek Bible and ecclesiastical writers from αγιαζωhagiazō and both to take the place of the old words αγιζω αγισμοςhagizōαπεχεσται υμας απο της πορνειαςhagismos with their technical ideas of consecration to a god or goddess that did not include holiness in life. So Paul makes a sharp and pointed stand here for the Christian idea of sanctification as being “the will of God” (apposition) and as further explained by the epexegetic infinitive that ye abstain from fornication (apechesthai humas apo tēs porneias). Pagan religion did not demand sexual purity of its devotees, the gods and goddesses being grossly immoral. Priestesses were in the temples for the service of the men who came.

Verse 4

That each one of you know how (ειδεναι εκαστον υμωνeidenai hekaston humōn). Further epexegetic infinitive (second perfect active), learn how and so know how (learn the habit of purity).

To possess himself of his own vessel (το εαυτου σκευος κτασταιto heautou skeuos ktasthai). Present middle infinitive of κταομαιktaomai to acquire, not κεκτησταιkektēsthai to possess. But what does Paul mean by “his own vessel”? It can only mean his own body or his own wife. Objections are raised against either view, but perhaps he means that the man shall acquire his own wife “in sanctification and honour,” words that elevate the wife and make it plain that Paul demands sexual purity on the part of men (married as well as unmarried). There is no double standard here. When the husband comes to the marriage bed, he should come as a chaste man to a chaste wife.

Verse 5

Not in the passion of lust (μη εν πατει επιτυμιαςmē en pathei epithumias). Plain picture of the wrong way for the husband to come to marriage.

That know not God (τα μη ειδοτα τον τεονta mē eidota ton theon). Second perfect participle of οιδαoida The heathen knew gods as licentious as they are themselves, but not God. One of the reasons for the revival of paganism in modern life is professedly this very thing that men wish to get rid of the inhibitions against licentiousness by God.

Verse 6

That no man transgress (το μη υπερβαινεινto mē huperbainein). Old verb to go beyond. Final use of τοto (accusative of general reference) and the infinitive (negative μηmē), parallel to απεχεσταιapechesthai and ειδεναι κτασταιeidenai ktasthai above.

And wrong his brother (και πλεονεκτειν τον αδελπον αυτουkai pleonektein ton adelphon autou). To take more, to overreach, to take advantage of, to defraud.

In the matter (εν τωι πραγματιen tōi pragmati). The delicacy of Paul makes him refrain from plainer terms and the context makes it clear enough as in 2 Corinthians 7:11 (τωι πραγματιtōi pragmati).

An avenger (εκδικοςekdikos). Regular term in the papyri for legal avenger. Modern men and women need to remember that God is the avenger for sexual wrongs both in this life and the next.

Verse 7

Not for uncleanness, but in sanctification (επι ακαταρσιαι αλλ εν αγιασμωιepi akatharsiāi all' en hagiasmōi). Sharp contrast made still sharper by the two prepositions επιepi (on the basis of) and ενen (in the sphere of). God has “called” us all for a decent sex life consonant with his aims and purposes. It was necessary for Paul to place this lofty ideal before the Thessalonian Christians living in a pagan world. It is equally important now.

Verse 8

Therefore (τοιγαρουνtoigaroun). This old triple compound particle (τοι γαρ ουνtoiο ατετωνgarατετοςoun) is in the N.T. only here and Hebrews 12:1. Paul applies the logic of the case.

He that rejecteth (αho athetōn). This late verb (Polybius and lxx) is from τιτημιȧthetos (αλλα τον τεονa privative and verbal of tithēmi to proscribe a thing, to annul it.

But God (alla ton theon). Paul sees this clearly and modern atheists see it also. In order to justify their licentiousness they do not hesitate to set aside God.

Verse 9

Concerning love of the brethren (περι της πιλαδελπιαςperi tēs philadelphias). Late word, love of brothers or sisters. In profane Greek (one papyrus example) and lxx the word means love of those actually kin by blood, but in the N.T. it is the kinship in the love of Christ as here.

Are taught by God (τεοδιδακτοι εστεtheodidaktoi este). Only here and ecclesiastical writers. Passive verbal adjective in τος̇tos from διδασκωdidaskō as if τεοtheȯ in ablative case like διδακτοι τεουdidaktoi theou (John 6:45).

To love one another (εις το αγαπαιν αλληλουςeis to agapāin allēlous). Another example of εις τοeis to and the infinitive. Only those taught of God keep on loving one another, love neighbours and even enemies as Jesus taught (Matthew 5:44). Note the use of αγαπαωagapaō not πιλεωphileō f0).

Verse 10

Ye do it (ποιειτε αυτοpoieite auto). The αυτοauto refers to το αγαπαιν αλληλουςto agapāin allēlous (to love one another). Delicate praise.

Verse 11

That ye study to be quiet (πιλοτιμεισται ησυχαζεινphilotimeisthai hēsuchazein). First infinitive dependent on παρακαλουμενparakaloumen (1 Thessalonians 4:10, we exhort you), the second on πιλοτιμεισταιphilotimeisthai (old verb from πιλοτιμοςphilotimos fond of honour, πιλοσ τιμηphilosπρασσειν τα ιδιαtimē). The notion of ambition appears in each of the three N.T. examples (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 5:20), but it is ambition to do good, not evil. The word ambition is Latin (ambitio from ambo, ire), to go on both sides to accomplish one‘s aims and often evil). A preacher devoid of ambition lacks power. There was a restless spirit in Thessalonica because of the misapprehension of the second coming. So Paul urges an ambition to be quiet or calm, to lead a quiet life, including silence (Acts 11:18).

To do your own business (τα ιδιαprassein ta idia). Present infinitive like the others, to have the habit of attending to their own affairs (εργαζεσται ταις χερσιν υμωνta idia). This restless meddlesomeness here condemned Paul alludes to again in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 in plainer terms. It is amazing how much wisdom people have about other people‘s affairs and so little interest in their own.

To work with your own hands (χερσινergazesthai tais chersin humōn). Instrumental case (chersin). Paul gave a new dignity to manual labour by precept and example. There were “pious” idlers in the church in Thessalonica who were promoting trouble. He had commanded them when with them.

Verse 12

That ye may walk honestly (ινα περιπατητε ευσχημονωςhina peripatēte euschēmonōs). Present subjunctive (linear action). Old adverb from ευσχημωνeuschēmōn (ευ σχημαeuschēma Latin habitus, graceful figure), becomingly, decently. In N.T. only here and Romans 13:13. This idea includes honest financial transactions, but a good deal more. People outside the churches have a right to watch the conduct of professing Christians in business, domestic life, social life, politics.

Verse 13

We would not have (ου τελομενou thelomen). We do not wish.

You ignorant (υμας αγνοεινhumas agnoein). Old word, not to know (αa privative, γνοgnȯ root of γινωσκωginōskō). No advantage in ignorance of itself.

Concerning them that fall asleep (περι των κοιμωμενωνperi tōn koimōmenōn). Present passive (or middle) participle (Aleph B) rather than the perfect passive κεκοιμημενωνkekoimēmenōn of many later MSS. From old κοιμαωkoimaō to put to sleep. Present tense gives idea of repetition, from time to time fall asleep. Greeks and Romans used this figure of sleep for death as Jesus does (John 11:11) and N.T. generally (cf. our word cemetery). Somehow the Thessalonians had a false notion about the dead in relation to the second coming.

Even as the rest which have no hope (κατως οι λοιποι οι μη εχοντες ελπιδαkathōs hoi loipoi hoi mē echontes elpida). This picture of the hopelessness of the pagan world about the future life is amply illustrated in ancient writings and particularly by inscriptions on tombs (Milligan). Some few pagans clung to this hope, but most had none.

Verse 14

For if we believe (ει γαρ πιστευομενei gar pisteuomen). Condition of first class, assuming the death and resurrection of Jesus to be true.

In Jesus (δια του Ιησουdia tou Iēsou). Literally, through or by means of Jesus. It is amphibolous in position and can be taken either with τους κοιμητενταςtous koimēthentas (that are fallen asleep in or through Jesus) like οι κοιμητεντες εν Χριστωιhoi koimēthentes en Christōi in 1 Corinthians 15:18 and probably correct or with αχειaxei (through Jesus with God).

With him (συν αυτωιsun autōi). Together with Jesus. Jesus is the connecting link (διαdia) for those that sleep (κοιμητενταςkoimēthentas first aorist passive, but with middle sense) and their resurrection.

Verse 15

By the word of the Lord (εν λογωι Κυριουen logōi Kuriou). We do not know to what word of the Lord Jesus Paul refers, probably Paul meaning only the point in the teaching of Christ rather than a quotation. He may be claiming a direct revelation on this important matter as about the Lord‘s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Jesus may have spoken on this subject though it has not been preserved to us (cf. Mark 9:1).

Ye that are alive (ημεις οι ζωντεςhēmeis hoi zōntes). Paul here includes himself, but this by no means shows that Paul knew that he would be alive at the Parousia of Christ. He was alive, not dead, when he wrote.

Shall in no wise precede (ου μη πτασωμενou mē phthasōmen). Second aorist active subjunctive of πτανωphthanō to come before, to anticipate. This strong negative with ου μηou mē (double negative) and the subjunctive is the regular idiom (Robertson, Grammar, p. 929). Hence there was no ground for uneasiness about the dead in Christ.

Verse 16

With a shout (εν κελευσματιen keleusmati). Note this so-called instrumental use of ενen Old word, here only in N.T., from κελευωkeleuō to order, command (military command). Christ will come as Conqueror.

With the voice of the archangel (εν πωνηι αρχαγγελουen phōnēi archaggelou). Further explanation of κελευσματιkeleusmati (command). The only archangel mentioned in N.T. is Michael in Judges 1:9. But note absence of article with both πωνηιphōnēi and αρχαγγελουarchaggelou The reference may be thus indefinite.

With the trump of God (εν σαλπιγγι τεουen salpiggi theou). Trumpet. See same figure in 1 Corinthians 15:52.

The dead in Christ shall rise first (οι νεκροι εν Χριστωι αναστησονται πρωτονhoi nekroi en Christōi anastēsontai prōton).

First here refers plainly to the fact that, so far from the dead in Christ having no share in the Parousia, they will rise before those still alive are changed.

Verse 17

Then (επειταepeita). The next step, not the identical time (τοτεtote), but immediately afterwards.

Together with them (αμα συν αυτοιςhama sun autois). Note both αμαhama (at the same time) and συνsun (together with) with the associative instrumental case αυτοιςautois (the risen saints).

Shall be caught up (αρπαγησομεταharpagēsometha). Second future passive indicative of αρπαζωharpazō old verb to seize, to carry off like Latin rapio.

To meet the Lord in the air (εις απαντησιν του Κυριου εις αεραeis apantēsin tou Kuriou eis aera). This special Greek idiom is common in the lxx like the Hebrew, but Polybius has it also and it occurs in the papyri (Moulton, Proleg., p. 14, n. 3). This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul‘s argument of consolation.

And so (και ουτωςkai houtōs). This is the outcome, to be forever with the Lord, whether with a return to earth or with an immediate departure for heaven Paul does not say. To be with Christ is the chief hope of Paul‘s life (1 Thessalonians 5:10; Philemon 1:23; Colossians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

Verse 18

With these words (εν τοις λογοις τουτοιςen tois logois toutois). In these words. They were a comfort to the Thessalonians as they still comfort the people of God.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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