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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
1 Thessalonians 1

 

 

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Verse 1

d The address of the first Epistle is shorter than that of any of the Pauline letters. In the other Epistles Paul either indicates the contents of the letter, or adds details concerning the writer or his correspondents, or amplifies the apostolic greeting. The names of Silvanus and Timothy are added to that of Paul as the senders of the letter. They were with him at Corinth when it was written (Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 1:19). They had assisted him in the foundation of the Thessalonian Church (Acts 16:1-3; Acts 17:4, Acts 17:10, Acts 17:14). Paul's official title; “Apostle” is omitted in the addresses of both Epistles, although in 1 Thessalonians 2:6he uses ἀπόστολοι apostlesincluding Silvanus and Timothy under that title. The title appears in all the other Epistles except Philippians and Philemon. The reason for its omission in every case appears to have been the intimate and affectionate character of his relations with the parties addressed, which rendered an appeal to his apostolic authority unnecessary. Paul does not confine the name of apostle to the twelve.

Silvanus

The Silas of the Acts, where alone the form Σίλας occurs. By Paul always Σιλουανός , of which Σίλας is a contraction, as Λουκᾶς from Λουκανός . Similar contractions occur in Class., as Ἁλεξᾶς for Ἁλέξανδρος for Ἁλέξανδρος , and that for Ἁρτεμίδωρος . Silas first appears in Acts 15:22, as one of the bearers of the letter to the Gentile Christians at Antioch. He accompanied Paul on his second missionary tour, and was left behind with Timothy when Paul departed from Macedonia after his first visit. He was probably a Jewish Christian (see Acts 16:20), and was, like Paul, a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37, Acts 16:38). Hence his Roman name. He cannot with any certainty be identified with the Silvanus of 1 Peter 5:12.

Timothy

Appears in all the Pauline Epistles except Galatians and Ephesians. He was associated with Paul longer than any one of whom we have notice. First mentioned Acts 16:1, Acts 16:2; comp. 2 Timothy 3:10, 2 Timothy 3:11. He accompanied Paul on his second missionary tour (Acts 16:3), and was one of the founders of the churches in Thessalonica and Philippi. He is often styled by Paul “the brother” (2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Philemon 1:1); with Paul himself “a bondservant of Jesus Christ” (Philemon 1:1); comp. 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:2. Paul's confidence in him appears in Philemon 2:19-22, and is implied in his sending him from Athens to the Thessalonian church to establish and comfort its members (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Paul sent him again to Macedonia in company with Erastus (Acts 19:22), and also to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17). To the Corinthians he writes of Timothy as “his beloved and faithful child in the Lord” who shall remind them of his ways in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17), and as one who worketh the work of the Lord as he himself (1 Corinthians 16:10). He joined Paul at Rome, and his name is associated with Paul's in the addresses of the letters to the Colossians and Philemon. In every case where he is mentioned by name with Silvanus, the name of Silvanus precedes.

To the church of the Thessalonians

This form of address appears in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, 2nd Thessalonians. The other letters are addressed to “the saints, “ “the brethren, “ “the saints and faithful brethren.” The use of the genitive of the national name is peculiar. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Philemon 1:1; Colossians 1:2.

The church ( ἐκκλησίᾳ )

From ἐκ outand καλεῖν tocall or summon. Originally with a secular meaning, an assembly of citizens regularly summoned. So Acts 19:39. lxx uses it for the congregation of Israel, either as convened for a definite purpose (1 Kings 8:65; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 18:16), or as a community (2 Chronicles 1:3, 2 Chronicles 1:5; 2 Chronicles 23:3; Nehemiah 8:17). The verbs ἐκκλησιάζειν and ἐξεκκλησιάζειν tosummon formally, which do not occur in N.T., are found in lxx with συναγωγὴν gathering λαόν peopleand πρεσβυτέρους elders Συναγωγὴ is constantly used in lxx of the children of Israel as a body (Exodus 12:6, Exodus 12:19, Exodus 12:47; Leviticus 4:13, etc.), and is the more common word in N.T. for a Jewish as distinguished from a Christian assembly; sometimes with the addition of the Jews (Acts 8:5; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1). It is once used of a Christian assembly (James 2:2). Ἑπισυναγωγὴ gatheringtogether, occurs 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 10:25. The Ebionites retained συναγωγὴ in preference to ἐκκλησία . The lxx translators found two Hebrew words for “assembly” or “congregation,”: עֵדָה and קָהָל, and rendered the former by συναγωγὴ in the great majority of instances. Ἑκκλησία does not appear as the rendering of עֵדָה. They were not as consistent in rendering קָהָל, since they used both συναγωγὴ and ἐκκλησία , though the latter was the more frequent: see Leviticus 4:13; Deuteronomy 5:22, etc. The A.V. renders both words by “congregation” and “assembly” indiscriminately. Ἑκκλησία is only once used in N.T. of a Jewish congregation, Acts 7:38; yet there are cases where there is an apparent attempt to guard its distinctively Christian sense against being confounded with the unconverted Jewish communities. Hence the addition; ἐν Χριστῷ inChrist, Galatians 1:22; ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ και, κυρίῳ Ἱησοῦ Χριστῷ inGod the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:1. In both Hebrew and N.T. usage, ἐκκλησία implies a community based on a special religious idea, and established in a special way. In N.T. it is also used in a narrower sense, of a single church, or of a church confined to a single place. So Romans 16:5, etc.

In God the Father, etc.

Const. with the church, and comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:1. The phrase “the church in God” is peculiar to the Thessalonian Epistles. Elsewhere “of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 15:9, etc.); “of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Lightfoot suggests that the word ἐκκλησία can scarcely have been stamped with so definite a Christian meaning in the minds of these recent and early converts as to render the addition “in God the Father,” etc., superfluous.

Grace to you and peace ( χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη )

In Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, the salutation is, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Colossians omits the last five words of this: 2Thessalonians omits our before Father. On the union of the Greek and Jewish forms of salutation, see on 1 Corinthians 1:3.


Verse 2

We give thanks ( εὐχαριστοῦμεν )

According to Paul's habit, a thanksgiving follows the salutation, commonly with the verb ἐυχαριστεῖν as here; but in 2nd Corinthians and Ephesians, εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεός blessedbe God. The thanksgiving is omitted only in Galatians. The verb εὐχαριστεῖν occurs only in later Greek, and there but rarely. In lxx only in Apocr. See Judith 8:25; 2 Maccabees 1:11; 10:7; 3 Maccabees 7:16. In the N.T. Epistles, PoOriginally to do a good turn; hence, to return a favor. The meaning to give thanks is late. The kindred noun εὐχαριστία givingof thanks, is found often in Paul. As a designation of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist ) it is not found in the N.T. Perhaps the earliest instance of its use in that sense is in Ignatius. See Philad. iv.; Smyrn. iv., viii.; Eph. viii., Comp. Just. Mart. Apol. i., 64,65.

In we give thanks, it is not easy to decide whether Paul uses we as plural, or in the sense of I. Romans 3:9seems to be a clear case of the latter usage. In 1 Thessalonians 3:1, 1 Thessalonians 3:2, ηὐδοκήσαμεν wethought it good, and ἐπέμψαμεν wesent, can, apparently, refer only to Paul; and similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 3:6, πρὸς ἡμᾶς untous, can hardly include Silvanus who came with Timothy (comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:5). But it is significant that, in the Epistles which are written in Paul's name alone (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians), only I is used, unless we except Galatians 1:8, which is doubtful. Paul and Timothy appear jointly as correspondents in Philippians, but the first person predominates throughout the letter. The same is true of 1st Corinthians, where Paul and Sosthenes are associated in the address, but the singular pronoun is used almost throughout. (See 1 Corinthians 4:10-13; 1 Corinthians 9:4, 1 Corinthians 9:5, 1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Corinthians 9:26). In Colossians Paul and Timothy appear in the address. The plural prevails to Colossians 1:23, and alternates with the singular throughout the remainder. The alternations in 2nd Corinthians are very bewildering.

On the whole, I think that occasional instances of the epistolary plural must be granted. It is not, however, Paul's habitual usage. We is often employed as in ordinary correspondence or argument, where the writer or speaker associates himself with his readers or hearers. Abundant illustrations of this may be seen in Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+1:9&sr=1">Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16; Philemon 1:4. Always in connection with prayer. In the sense of remember it appears in lxx, Job 14:13. In Psalm 111:4, to make a memorial. See further, on without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

In my prayers ( ἐπὶ )

When engaged in offering my prayers. Επὶ here blends the local with the temporal sense.

Prayers ( προσευχῶν )

The more general term, and limited to prayer to God; while δέησις petitionaryprayer, supplication, may be addressed to man. Paul alone associates the two words. See Philemon 4:6; Ephesians 6:18. In classical Greek the word does not occur in the sense of prayer. It is found in later Greek, meaning a place for prayer, in which sense it appears in Acts 16:13, Acts 16:16. It signified either a synagogue, or an open praying-place outside of a city.


Verse 3

Without ceasing ( ἀδιαλείπτως )

PoIn lxx see 2 Maccabees 3:26; 9:4; 8:12; 15:7; 3 Maccabees 6:33. Should be construed with making mention, not with remembering, as A.V. and Rev. The salutations of Paul reproduce ordinary conventional forms of greeting. Thus the familiar Greek greeting χαίρειν bejoyful, hail, welcome, appears in χάρις graceThis was perceived by Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428 a.d.), who, in his commentary on Ephesians, says that in the preface to that letter Paul does very much as we do when we say “So and so to So and so, greeting” ( ὁ δεῖνα τῷ δεῖνι χαίρειν ). Deissmann gives some interesting parallels from ancient papyri. For instance, a letter dated 172 b.c., from an Egyptian lady to her brother or husband: “Isias to her brother Hephaestion, greeting ( χαίρειν ). If you are well, and other things happen as you would wish, it would be in accordance with my constant prayer to the gods. I myself am well, and the boy; and all at home make constant remembrance of you. Comp. Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+1:9&sr=1">Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16; Philemon 1:4. Again: “Ammonios to his sister Tachnumi, abundant greeting ( τὰ πλεῖστα χαίρειν ). Before all things, I pray that you may be in health; and each day I make the act of worship for you.” In these specimens the conventional salutations in correspondence include the general greeting ( χαίρειν ) and the statement that prayer is made for the correspondent's welfare; and the words constant and daily are attached to the act of prayer. It is further to be noticed that many passages of Paul's Epistles give evidence of having been shaped by expressions in letters received by him from the parties he is addressing. In his answer he gives them back their own words, as is common in correspondence. Thus, making mention of you and remembering your work, etc., together with the statement that Timothy reports that you have a good remembrance of us (1 Thessalonians 3:6), all together suggest that Paul had before him, when writing to the Thessalonians, a letter which Timothy had brought from them. Other instances will be noted as they occur.

Work - labor - patience ( ἔπργου - κόπου - ὑπομονῆς )

Ἔργον workmay mean either the act, the simple transaction, or the process of dealing with anything, or the result of the dealing, - as a book or a picture is called a work. Κόπος laborfrom κόπτειν tostrike or hew; hence, laborious, painful exertion. Ὑπομονὴ patiencepatient endurance and faithful persistence in toil and suffering. See on 2 Peter 1:6; see on James 5:7. The genitives, of faith, love, hope, mark the generating principles of the work and labor and patience, which set their stamp upon each; thus, work which springs from faith, and is characteristic of faith. The phrase patience of hope is found only here; but see Romans 5:4; Romans 8:25; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 8:7; Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 7:12. ὑπομονὴ in lxx, see 1 Chronicles 29:15; Job 14:19; Psalm 9:18; Psalm 38:7; Jeremiah href="/desk/?q=jer+4:8&sr=1">Jeremiah 4:8. We have here the great triad of Christian graces, corresponding to 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. Hope is prominent throughout the two Epistles. The triad appears, 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Galatians 5:5, Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 8:13; Ephesians 4:2-5; Colossians 1:4, Colossians 1:5; Hebrews 10:22-24; 1 Peter 1:21-22. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 15:10, 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Revelation 2:2.

In our Lord, etc. ( τοῦ κυρίου )

Lit. of our Lord. For a similar use of the genitive, see John 5:42; 1 John 2:5, 1 John 2:15; Acts 9:31; Romans 1:5; Romans 3:18, Romans 3:22, Romans 3:26, etc. Connect with hope only.

Before our God and Father

Const. with remembering, and comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:9.


Verse 4

Election of God

Incorrect. Const. of or by ( ὑπὸ ) God with beloved. Ἑκλογὴ electionin N.T., mostly by Paul. Elsewhere only Acts 9:15, and 2 Peter 1:10. This, and the kindred words, ἐκλέγειν tochoose, and ἐκλεκτὸς chosenor elect, are used of God's selection of men or agencies for special missions or attainments; but neither here nor elsewhere in the N.T. is there any warrant for the revolting doctrine that God has predestined a definite number of mankind to eternal life, and the rest to eternal destruction. The sense in this passage appears to be defined by the succeeding context. The Thessalonians had been chosen to be members of the Christian church, and their conduct had justified the choice. See 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10.


Verse 5

For ( ὅτι )

Incorrect. Rend. how that. It is explanatory of your election. For similar usage see 1 Corinthians 1:26.

Our gospel

The gospel as preached by Paul and his colleagues. Comp. Romans 2:16; Romans 16:25; Galatians 1:11; Galatians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:4. My gospel is sometimes used in connection with an emphasis upon some particular feature of the gospel, as in Romans 2:16, where Paul is speaking of the judgment of the world by Christ; or in Romans 16:25, where he is referring to the extension of the messianic kingdom to the Gentiles.

In word ( ἐν λόγῳ )

The gospel did not appeal to them as mere eloquent and learned discourse.

In power ( ἐν δύναμει )

Power of spiritual persuasion and conviction: not power as displayed in miracles, at least not principally, although miraculous demonstrations may be included. Paul rarely alluded to his power of working miracles.

Assurance ( πληροφορίᾳ )

Assured persuasion of the preacher that the message was divine. The word not in pre-Christian Greek writers, nor in lxx. Only in one other passage in Paul, Colossians 2:2. See Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22.

We were ( ἐγενήθημεν )

More correctly, we shewed or proved ourselves.


Verse 6

Followers ( μιμηταὶ )

More literally and better, imitators. Only once outside of Paul's writings, Hebrews 6:12. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 4:12; Philemon 3:17; Philemon 4:9.

And of the Lord

Guarding against any possible imputation of self-assertion or conceit. Comp. 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Tribulation ( θλίψει )

See on Matthew 13:21. Referring especially to persecutions at the hands of the Jews (Acts 17:5ff.), which probably continued after Paul's departure from Thessalonica.


Verse 7

An ensample ( τύπον )

See on 1 Peter 5:3.

Macedonia and Achaia

Shortly after 146 b.c., all Greece south of Macedonia and Epirus was formed into a Roman province under the name of Achaia, and Macedonia with Epirus into another province called Macedonia.


Verse 8

Hath sounded forth ( ἐξήχηται )

N.T.olxx Joel 3:14; 3 Maccabees 3:2, of a report. It means a loud, unmistakable proclamation.

The word of the Lord ( ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου )

The phrase in Paul only in these Epistles. Comp. 2Thessalonians href="/desk/?q=2th+3:1&sr=1">2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:15. Comparatively frequent in Acts. Paul has λόγος Θεοῦ or τοῦ Θεοῦ wordof God, eight times, and λόγος τοῦ χριστοῦ wordof the Christ, once, Colossians 3:16. The meaning here is the gospel, regarded either as the message proceeding from the Lord, or concerning him. It is the εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ thegospel of God: see 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:8, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; Romans 1:1; Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7. As Professor Sanday remarks on Romans 1:1, “it is probably a mistake in these cases to restrict the force of the genitive to one particular aspect: all aspects are included in which the gospel is in any way related to God and Christ.”

In every place

A rhetorical exaggeration, signifying the whole known world. It is explained by the extensive commercial relations of Thessalonica. Comp. Romans 1:8; Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:23, 2 Corinthians 2:14.

Is spread abroad ( ἐξελήλυθεν )

Lit. and better, has gone forth.


Verse 9

They themselves shew ( αὐτοὶ ἀπαγγέλλουσιν )

They themselves in contrast with we, 1 Thessalonians 1:8. We need not speak of anything: they themselves volunteer testimony to your faith. Shew, more correctly announce or report.

Entering in ( εἴσοδον )

Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:1. The thought of 1 Thessalonians 1:5is resumed. The repetition of the word in 1 Thessalonians 2:1, and of in vain in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, may point to expressions in a letter of the Thessalonians.

Unto you ( πρὸς )

The preposition combines with the sense of direction that of relation and intercourse. Comp. Matthew 13:56; Mark 9:16; John 1:1; Acts 3:25; Colossians 4:5; Hebrews 9:20.

Ye turned unto God ( ἐπεστρέψατε πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν )

Comp. Acts 14:15. The exact phrase only here. The verb is common in lxx, with both κύριον Lordand θεὸν GodIdols

See on 1 Corinthians 8:3. The word would indicate that the majority of the converts were heathen and not Jews.

Living and true ( ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ )

The only instance in N.T. of this collocation. It does not occur in O.T. For ἀληθινὸς genuinesee on John 1:9; see on John 4:37; see on John 7:28. Mostly in the Johannine writings.


Verse 10

To wait for ( ἀναμένειν )

N.T.oSeveral times in lxx, as Job 2:9; Job 7:2; Isaiah 59:11. Paul's usual word is ἀπεκδέχομαι : see Romans 8:19, Romans 8:28, Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philemon 3:20.

From heaven ( ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν )

Lit. from the heavens. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:47; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Paul uses the unclassical plural much oftener than the singular. Although the Hebrew equivalent has no singular, the singular is almost universal in lxx, the plural occurring mostly in the Psalm. Οὐρανός is from a Sanscrit word meaning to cover or encompass. The Hebrew shamayim signifies height, high district, the upper regions. Similarly we have in N.T. ἐν ὑψίστοις inthe highest (places), Matthew 21:9; Luke 2:14: ἐν ὑψηλοῖς inthe high (places), Hebrews 1:3. Paul's usage is evidently colored by the Rabbinical conception of a series of heavens: see 2 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 4:10. Some Jewish teachers held that there were seven heavens, others three. The idea of a series of heavens appears in patristic writings, in Thomas Aquinas's doctrine of the celestial hierarchies, and in Dionysius the Areopagite, Through the scholastic theologians it passed into Dante's Paradiso with its nine heavens. The words to await his Son from heaven strike the keynote of this Epistle.

Jesus which delivered ( Ἱησοῦν τὸν ῥυόμενον )

More correctly, delivereth. See on Matthew 1:21. Ῥύεσθαι todeliver, mostly in Paul. Lit. to draw to one's self. Almost invariably with the specification of some evil or danger or enemy. Σώζειν tosave is often used in a similar sense, of deliverance from disease, from sin, or from divine wrath: see Matthew 1:21; Mark 6:56; Luke 8:36; Acts 2:40; Romans 5:9: but σώζειν is a larger and more comprehensive term, including not only deliverance from sin and death, but investment with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ.

The wrath to come ( τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης )

Lit. the wrath which is coming. The wrath, absolutely, of the wrath of God, as Romans 5:9Romans 7:19; 1 Thessalonians 2:16. Sometimes for the punishment which wrath inflicts, as Romans 12:4; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6. See on John 3:36. The phrase wrath to come is found in Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7. Coming does not necessarily imply the thought of speedy or imminent approach, but the general tone of the Epistle points in that direction.

 


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/1-thessalonians-1.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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