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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
1 Thessalonians 4



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Verse 1

Furthermore ( λοιπὸν )

Rev. not so well, finally, although the word is sometimes rightly so rendered. The formula is often used by Paul where he attaches, in a somewhat loose way, even in the midst of an Epistle, a new subject to that which he has been discussing.

Verse 2

Commandments ( παραγγελίας )

Better, charges. Only four times in N.T. olxx. The verb παραγγέλλειν tocommand or charge is frequent, and is often used in Class of military orders. See Xen. Cyr. ii., 4,2; Hdt. iii., 25.

Verse 3


Paul wrote from Corinth, where sensuality in the guise of religion was rife. In Thessalonica, besides the ordinary licentious customs of the Gentiles, immorality was fostered by the Cabeiric worship (see Introduction). About the time of Paul, a political sanction was given to this worship by deifying the Emperor as Cabeirus.

Verse 4

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel, etc. ( εἰδέναι ἕκαστον ὑμῶν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος κτᾶσθαι )

The interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6usually varies between two explanations: 1. making the whole passage refer to fornication and adultery: 2. limiting this reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, and making 1 Thessalonians 4:6refer to honesty in business. Both are wrong. The entire passage exhibits two groups of parallel clauses; the one concerning sexual, and the other business relations. Thus: 1. Abstain from fornication: deal honorably with your wives. 2. Pursue your business as holy men, not with covetous greed as the heathen: do not overreach or defraud. A comma should be placed after σκεῦος vesseland κτᾶσθαι procureor acquire, instead of being made dependent on εἰδέναι knowshould begin a new clause. Render, that every one of you treat his own wife honorably. Εἰδέναι isused Hebraistically in the sense of have a care for, regard, as 1 Thessalonians 5:12, “Know them that labor,” etc.: recognize their claim to respect, and hold them in due regard. Comp. Genesis 39:6: Potiphar οὐκ ᾔδει τῶν καθ ' αὑτὸν οὐδὲν gave himself no concern about anything that he had.” 1 Samuel 2:12: the sons of Eli οὐκ εἰδότες τὸν κύριον paying no respect to the Lord.” Exodus 1:8: Another King arose ὃς οὐκ ᾔδει τὸν Ἱωσήφ who did not recognize or regard Joseph”: did not remember his services and the respect in which he had been held. Σκεῦος is sometimes explained as body, for which there is no evidence in N.T. In 2 Corinthians 4:7the sense is metaphorical. Neither in lxx nor Class. does it mean body. In lxx very often of the sacred vessels of worship: sometimes, as in Class., of the accoutrements of war. In N.T. occasionally, both in singular and plural, in the general sense of appliances, furniture, tackling. See Matthew 12:29; Luke 17:31; Acts 27:17; Hebrews 9:21. For the meaning vessel, see Luke 8:16; John 19:20; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Revelation 2:27. Here, metaphorically, for wife; comp. 1 Peter 3:7. It was used for wife in the coarse and literal sense by Rabbinical writers. The admonition aptly follows the charge to abstain from fornication. On the contrary, let each one treat honorably his own wife. The common interpretation is, “as a safeguard against fornication let every one know how to procure his own wife.” It is quite safe to say that such a sentence could never have proceeded from Paul. He never would have offset a charge to abstain from fornication with a counsel to be well informed in the way of obtaining a wife. When he does touch this subject, as he does in 1 Corinthians 7:2, he says, very simply, “to avoid fornication let every man have ( ἐχέτω ) his own wife”; not, know how to get one. Εἰδέναι knowas usually interpreted, is both superfluous and absurd. Besides, the question was not of procuring a wife, but of living honorably and decently with her, paying her the respect which was her right, and therefore avoiding illicit connections.

That he pursue his gain-getting in sanctification and honor ( κτᾶσθαι ἐν ἁγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ )

As a holy and honorable man. The exhortation now turns to business relations. Κτᾶσθαι cannot mean possess, as A.V. That would require the perfect tense. It means procure, acquire. Often buy, as Acts 17:28; lxx, Genesis 33:19; Genesis 39:1; Genesis 47:19; Genesis 49:30; Joshua 24:33; absolutely, Ezekiel 7:12, Ezekiel 7:13.

Verse 5

Not in the lust of concupiscence ( μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας )

Lit. in passion of desire. Not with avaricious greed. For ἐπιθυμία see on Mark 4:19. Its meaning is by no means limited to sensual lust; see, for instance, Luke 22:15. It is used as including all kinds of worldly desires, as Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:24; 1 John 2:17. In Romans 7:7, especially of covetousness.

Verse 6

That no man go beyond ( τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν )

Lit. the not going beyond. Dependent on this is the will of God, 1 Thessalonians 4:3. The verb N.T. Often in lxx, mostly in the literal sense of overpassing limits. Also of overtaking, passing by, surpassing, as in wickedness or cruelty. It is an expansion of the preceding thought. Pursue your business as holy men: do not overreach or defraud.

It is the overstepping of the line between mine and thine. It is used absolutely, being defined by the succeeding clause. The A.V. is literal, go beyond. Rev. renders transgress. Weizsäcker and Bornemann “ubergreifeoverreach.” So. Rev. margin. This last is the best.

Defraud ( πλεονεκτεῖν )

PoSee on 2 Corinthians 2:11, and see on covetousness, Romans 1:29. It emphasizes gain as the motive of fraud. Three times in lxx, Judges 4:11; Habakkuk 2:9; Ezekiel 22:27. Often in Class.

In any matter ( ἐν τῷ πράγματι )

Rev. correctly, in the matter. Comp. 2 Corinthians 7:11. The sense is the business in hand, whatever it be. The τῷ does not stand for τινι anyFor πράγματι , matter, see on Matthew 18:19. Those who connect this clause with the preceding, explain τῷ as the matter just mentioned - adultery.

Avenger ( ἔκδικος )

PoHere and Romans 13:4. In lxx rarely, and in the same sense as here. In this sense it occurs only in late Greek. For the warning comp. Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; Romans 13:4; Galatians 5:21.

Verse 7

Unto uncleanness ( ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ )

Better, for uncleanness; ἐπὶ denoting aim or intention. The intention is viewed as the basis of the act ( ἐπὶ upon). Comp. Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 2:10.

In sanctification ( ἐν )

Note the change of preposition. Sanctification is the characteristic life-element of the Christian, in which he is to live. Comp. in peace, 1 Corinthians 7:15; in hope, Ephesians 4:4.

Verse 8

Despiseth ( ἀθετῶν )

Better, rejecteth. Setteth aside. Comp. Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:19. Used in N.T. both of persons and things.

His Holy Spirit ( τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον )

Solemn and emphatic: His Spirit, the holy. Similarly, Acts 15:8, Acts 15:28; Acts 19:6; Acts 20:23; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30.

Verse 9

Taught of God ( θεοδίδακτοι )

N.T.oolxx. Not in Class.

Verse 11

Study ( φιλοτιμεῖσθαι )

PoMake it your aim. Comp. Romans 15:20(see note); 2 Corinthians 5:9. Often in Class. Lit. to be fond of honor: hence to strive for honor, to be ambitious.

To be quiet ( ἡσυχάζειν )

Note the paradox, strive to be quiet. For similar instances see Romans 1:20, unseen things clearly seen: Romans 1:22, wise, be fooled (comp. Horace, Od. 1,34, 2, insaniens sapientia ): 2 Corinthians 8:2, poverty abounded unto riches: 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance, not to be repented of. The disturbances rebuked in the second Epistle may have begun to show themselves, so that there is a possible allusion to the idle busybodies of 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

Verse 12

Honestly ( εὐσχημόνως )

PoBetter, seemly. From εὐ welland σχῆμα figureor fashion. The literal sense is suggested by the familiar phrase in good form. The contrast appears in ἀτάκτως disorderly 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Paul has in view the impression to be made by his readers on those outside of the church. See on Romans 13:13, and comp. 1 Corinthians 14:40.

Of nothing ( μηδενὸς )

Either neuter, of nothing, or masculine, of no man. In the latter case it would refer to depending upon others for their support, which some, in view of the immediately expected parousia, were disposed to do, neglecting their own business.

Verse 13

I would not have you to be ignorant ( οὐ θέλομεν ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν )

The Greek is, we would not, etc. A formula often used by Paul to call special attention to what he is about to say. See Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:1, etc. He employs several similar expressions for the same purpose, as θέλω ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι Iwish you to know (1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 2:1): γινωρίζω ὑμῖν Ideclare unto you (1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 1:11): γινώσκειν ὑμᾶς βούλομαι Iwould have you know (Philemon 1:12).

Them which are asleep ( τῶν κοιμωμένων )

Or, who are sleeping. See on Acts 7:60; see on 2 Peter 3:4, and comp. 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 1 Corinthians 15:18, 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:51; John 11:11, etc. The dead members of the Thessalonian church.

Ye sorrow ( λυπῆσθε )

Opinions differ as to the possible ground of this sorrow. According to some, the Thessalonians supposed that eternal life belonged only to such as should be found alive at the parousia, and therefore that those already dead would not share the blessings of the second advent. Others, assuming an interval between the advent and the general resurrection, think that the Thessalonians were anxious lest their brethren who died before the advent would be raised only at the general resurrection, and therefore would not share the blessings of communion with the Lord during the millennial reign. It is impossible to decide the question from Paul's words, since he does not argue, but only consoles. The value of his consolation does not depend upon the answer to the question whether the departed saints shall first be raised up at the general resurrection, or at a previous resurrection of believers only. The Thessalonians were plainly distressed at the thought of separation from their departed brethren, and had partially lost sight of the elements of the Christian hope - reunion with them and fellowship with the Lord. These elements Paul emphasizes in his answer. The resurrection of Jesus involves the resurrection of believers. The living and the dead Christians shall alike be with the Lord.

Others ( οἱ λοιποὶ )

More correctly, the rest. Paul makes a sharp distinction between Christians, and all others.

Who have no hope

Only believers have hope of life after death. The speculations and surmisings of pagan philosophy do not amount to a hope.

Verse 14

Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him ( καὶ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ ).

(1) Which sleep should be, which have been laid asleep or have fallen asleep, giving the force of the passive.

(2) Διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ can by no possibility be rendered in Jesus, which would be ἐν Ἱησοῦ :see 1 Corinthians 15:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. It must mean through or by means of Jesus.

(3) The attempt to construe διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ with τοὺς κοιμηθέντας thosewho have fallen asleep by means of Jesus, gives an awkward and forced interpretation. It has been explained by supposing a reference to martyrs who have died by Jesus; because of their faith in him. In that case we should expect the accusative, διὰ τὸν Ἱησοῦν onaccount of or for the sake of Jesus. Moreover Paul is not accentuating that idea. Κοιμηθέντας would be universally understood by the church as referring to the death of Christians, so that by Jesus would be superfluous.

(4) Διὰ τοῦ Ἱησοῦ should be construed with ἄξει willbring. Rend. the whole: them also that are fallen asleep will God through Jesus bring with him. Jesus is thus represented as the agent of the resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 15:21; John 5:28; John 6:39, John 6:44, John 6:54. Bring ( ἄξει ) is used instead of ἐγειρεῖ shallraise up, because the thought of separation was prominent in the minds of the Thessalonians.

Verse 15

By the word of the Lord ( ἐν λόγῳ κυρίου )

Or in the word. Λόγος of a concrete saying, Romans 9:9; Romans 13:9. We do not say this on our own authority. Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:12, 1 Corinthians 7:25. No recorded saying of the Lord answers to this reference. It may refer to a saying transmitted orally, or to a direct revelation to Paul. Comp. Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Remain ( περιλειπόμενοι )

Poand only in this Epistle. The plural we indicates that Paul himself expected to be alive at the parousia.

Shall not prevent ( οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν )

The A.V. misses the force of the double negative - shall in no wise prevent. Prevent in the older sense of anticipate, be beforehand with. See on Matthew 17:25, and see on 1 Thessalonians 2:16. The living shall not share the blessings of the advent sooner than the dead in Christ.

Verse 16

The word of the Lord

1 Thessalonians 4:15, is apparently not intended to include the specific details which follow. In that word the revelation was to the effect that all believers simultaneously should share the blessings of the advent. The following description of the Lord's descent from heaven is intended to emphasize the fact that the reunion of dead and living believers will be accomplished by the Lord in person ( αὐτὸς ) Ὅτι does not indicate the contents of the word of the Lord (that, as A.V.), but means for or because; and the details are meant to strengthen the more general declaration of 1 Thessalonians 4:15. In the details themselves there are traces of certain O.T. theophanies, as Exodus 19:11-18; Micah 1:3.

Shall descend from heaven

Used nowhere else of Christ's second coming. Frequently in the Fourth Gospel, of Christ's descent to earth as man. See John 3:13; John 6:33, John 6:38, John 6:41, etc. In Ephesians 4:9, of his descent by the Spirit in order to endow the church.

With a shout ( ἐν κελεύσματι )

N.T.oOnce in lxx, Proverbs href="/desk/?q=pr+30:27&sr=1">Proverbs 30:27). From κελεύειν tosummon. Often in Class. Lit. a shout of command, as of a general to his army, an admiral to his oarsmen, or a charioteer to his horses.

Archangel ( ἀρχαγγέλου )

Only here and Judges 1:9. Not in O.T. The Pauline angelology shows traces of Rabbinical teachings in the idea of orders of angels. See Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16; Romans 8:38. The archangels appear in the apocryphal literature. In the Book of Enoch (see on Judges 1:14) four are named, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel. Michael is set over the tree which, at the time of the great judgment, will be given over to the righteous and humble, and from the fruit of which life will be given to the elect. In Revelation href="/desk/?q=re+8:2&sr=1">Revelation 8:2. See also on Judges 1:9, and comp. Daniel 12:1.

With the trump of God ( ἐν σάλπιγγι θεοῦ )

For the trumpet heralding great manifestations of God, see Exodus 19:13, Exodus 19:16; Psalm 47:5; Isaiah 27:13; Zechariah 9:14; Zephaniah 1:16; Joel 2:1; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1. Of God does not indicate the size or loudness of the trumpet, but merely that it is used in God's service. Comp. harps of God, Revelation 15:2; musical instruments of God, 1 Chronicles 16:42. The later Jews believed that God would use a trumpet to raise the dead.

Verse 17

Together with them ( ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς )

Ἅμα , at the same time, referring to the living. We that are alive shall simultaneously or one and all (comp. Romans 3:12) be caught up. Σὺν αὐτοῖς alongwith them, i.e., the dead. Thus ἅμα is to be const. with shall be caught up. The A.V. and Rev. are inaccurate. These are the important words as related to the disquietude of the Thessalonians.

Shall be caught up ( ἁρπαγησόμεθα )

By a swift, resistless, divine energy. Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4; Acts 8:39.

In the air ( εἰς ἀέρα )

Rend. into the air, and const. with shall be caught up. Ἁὴρ theatmosphere with the clouds, as distinguished from αἰθὴρ thepure ether, which does not occur in N.T.

And so

After having met the Lord.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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