Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 1. - Paul. He does not call himself "an apostle," not because the Thessalonians were newly converted (Chrysostom), or from tenderness to Silvanus who was not an apostle (Estius), or because his apostolic authority was not yet recognized (Jowett), or because he had merely commenced his apostolic labors (Wordsworth); but because his apostleship had never been called in question by the Thessalonians. For the same reason he omits this title in the Epistle to the Philippians; whereas he strongly insists upon it in his Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, because among them there were many opposed to his authority. And Silvanus. The same as the Silas of the Acts. He is mentioned as a chief man among the brethren, and a prophet or inspired teacher (Acts 15:22, 32). His Latin name renders it probable that he was a Hellenistic Jew, and, like Paul, he was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). He was sent with Judas Barsabas from Jerusalem, to convey the apostolic decrees to Antioch; and he accompanied Paul instead of Barnabas on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). He suffered imprisonment with Paul at Philippi; and was engaged with him in preaching the gospel in Thessalonica, Beraea, and Corinth. His ministry at Corinth is honorably mentioned by Paul in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:9). After this there is no more mention of Silvanus in the Acts, and it is doubtful whether he was the Silvanus by whom the First Epistle of Peter was conveyed to the Churches of Asia (1 Peter 5:12). Ancient tradition, erroneously supposing that Silas and Silvanus were different persons, makes Silas the Bishop of Corinth, and Silvanus the Bishop of Thessalonica. And Timotheus. The well-known disciple of Paul. He was a native of Lystra, having a Greek father and a Jewish mother (Acts 16:1). He joined Paul and Silas on their second missionary journey at Lystra, and was with them in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth. He was with Paul on his third missionary journey, and was sent by him on a mission to Macedonia and Corinth (Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 16:10), and accompanied him into Asia on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). He was also with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment, when he wrote the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians (Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1). Afterwards he resided at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3); from which he was recalled to Rome by Paul shortly before his martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:21). The last mention of Timothy is in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you" (Hebrews 13:23). According to ecclesiastical tradition, he became Bishop of Ephesus, and there suffered martyrdom. Silvanus and Timotheus are associated with Paul in his address to the Thessalonians, not to give weight and authority to his Epistle, but because they assisted him in the planting of the Church at Thessalonica, and were now with him at Corinth, when he was writing this Epistle. Silvanus is placed first, because he was the older and had been longer with the apostle, and, as is evident from the Acts, was at this time the more important of the two (Acts 16:19; Acts 17:4). By being included in the address, they are represented as joint authors of the Epistle with Paul, although they were only so in name. It is possible that Paul employed one of them as his amanuensis in writing the Epistle. Unto the Church. The word "Church" denotes a select assembly; here, Christians selected from the world. It does not denote in the New Testament, as with us, a building, but the congregation. In Paul's later Epistles, those addressed are called, not the Church, but saints. Of the Thessalonians. In other Epistles the address is to the city, as Rome, Philippi, Colosse; here it is to the inhabitants. The Church of the Thessalonians was chiefly composed of converted Gentiles, with a small number of converted Jews (see Introduction). Which is; to be omitted, as not being in the original. In God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. The characteristic peculiarity of the Church: they are in God and Christ, that is, in fellowship with them, united to them. "In God the Father" characterizes them as not being heathens; "in the Lord Jesus Christ" characterizes them as not being Jews. Grace be unto you, and peace. The usual apostolic benediction. "Grace" is the Greek and" peace" is the Jewish form of salutation. The Greeks commenced their epistles with wishing grace for those to whom they wrote; and the usual form of salutation among the Jews was Shalom or "peace;" the apostle combines them, thus intimating that both Greeks and Jews are one in Christ Jesus. In the Pastoral Epistles and in the Second Epistle of John the form is "Grace, mercy, and peace" (2 John 1:3.), and in the Epistle of Jude it is "Mercy, peace, and love" (Jude 1:2). From God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. These words are wanting in some important manuscripts, and are omitted in the R.V. The preponderance, however, of external authority is in their favor.
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
Verse 2. - We. Many expositors (Cony-beare, Koch, Jowett) suppose that the plural is here used for the singular; as Paul elsewhere does in other parts of this Epistle. Thus: "Wherefore we would come unto you, even I Paul, once and again" (1 Thessalonians 2:18); "Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone" (1 Thessalonians 3:1). In these verses the pronoun "we" is evidently restricted to Paul. Still, however, Silvanus and Timotheus being mentioned directly before, it is most natural to include them here. Give thanks to God always for you all. All Paul's Epistles, with the solitary exception of the Epistle to the Galatians, commence with an expression of thanksgiving. Making mention of you in our prayers; whilst we are engaged in prayer for you. Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians took the form of thanksgiving.
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
Verse 3. - Remembering without ceasing. Some attach the words, "without ceasing," or "unceasingly," to the previous clause; "making mention of you unceasingly in our prayers" (so Alford). Your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope. These expressions are not to be weakened, as if they were a mere Hebraism for active faith, laborious love, and patient hope. We have here the three cardinal virtues - faith, love, and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). Elsewhere these graces are combined. Thus again in this Epistle: "Putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8); and in the Epistle to the Colossians: "Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven" (Colossians 1:4, 5). By the "work of faith" is not meant faith itself as the work of God (John 6:29), but that faith which is energetic, which is active and living, productive of good works. By the "labor, or toil, of love" is not meant that love which is devoted to God, but that love which manifests itself in acts of kindness toward our fellow-Christians and toward the human race. And by the "patience of hope" is meant that constancy which remains unconquered by trials and persecutions. There is a climax here; faith manifests itself by its works - its active exertion; love by its toils - its works of self-denial; and hope by its patience - its endurance amid trials and discouragements. "Remembering, the apostle would say, your faith, hope, and love: a faith that had its outward effect on your lives; a love that spent itself in the service of others; and a hope that was no mere transient feeling, but was content to wait for the things unseen, when Christ should be revealed" (Jowett). In our Lord Jesus Christ. These words do not refer to all three virtues (Hohnann), but only to the last, specifying its object, namely, that it is hope in the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is hope s highest expectation, because at the advent the kingdom of Christ will come in its glory. In the sight of (or rather, before) God and our Father. These words are to be conjoined with "remembering:" "remembering unceasingly before God and our Father your work of faith," etc. According to the English idiom, the conjunction "and" is dropped - "God our Father."
Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
Verse 4. - Knowing; that is, not the Thessalonians themselves, but we, Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus; knowing, being well assured cf. Brethren beloved, your election of God; or rather, as it is in the margin and in the R.V., Knowing brethren, beloved of God, your election. By election is meant that act of free grace by which God destines individuals to become believers in Christ. Thus the Thessalonian converts were chosen or elected by God from among their heathen countrymen to become Christians. The ultimate reason of their Christianity was their election of God.
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
Verse 5. - For; or rather, how that (R.V.); or, because; assigning the reasons for Paul's confidence in their election; and these reasons were two: first, the powerful entrance which the gospel had among them; and secondly, the joyful reception which was given to it by the Thessalonians. Our gospel; that is, the gospel which was preached by us. Came not unto you in word only. The gospel came in word, for this was a necessary pre-requisite, but "not in word only," that is, it was not a bare publication or communication in human words. But in power. Some restrict the epithets which here follow to the teachers, as denoting the mode in which they preached the gospel; but it is better to refer them both to the teachers and the taught. By "power" is not meant miracles, but, in contrast to "word," the power with which Paul and his companions preached, and the impression which the gospel made on the hearers. And in the Holy Ghost. Here also the reference is, not to miraculous gifts, but to the influences of the Spirit accompanying the preaching of the gospel; such was the efficacy of Paul's preaching that it proved itself to be accompanied by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the conversion of his hearers. There is here an ascent: the gospel came in power, and, what is more, it came in the Holy Ghost. And in much assurance. By "assurance" here is meant the confidence with which Paul and his fellow-workers preached the gospel to the Thessalonians, and the fullness of conviction with which the Thessalonians received it. As ye know. An appeal to their knowledge that what he now states is true. What manner of men we were among you. Alluding to the blamelessness of their behavior when in Thessalonica. For your sake; namely, that we sought not our own profit or advantage, but your spiritual good.
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
Verse 6. - Now follows the second reason assigned by Paul for his confidence in their election. And ye became followers (or, imitators) of us, and of the Lord; of Christ. By becoming imitators of the apostle, they became imitators of Christ. "Be ye followers of me," writes St. Paul to the Corinthians, "even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). The point of imitation did not consist in their cordial reception of the gospel, for that could not apply to Christ; but in their joyful endurance of suffering. Having received the word in much affliction. We learn from the Acts that the unbelieving Jews stirred up the heathen rabble, and raised a persecution against Paul and his associates, in consequence of which they had to depart from Thessalonica (Acts 17:4-10). It would appear that, after the apostle had left the city, the persecution, far from abating, rather increased, and the Gentile inhabitants united with the unbelieving Jews against the Christians; the Thessalonian converts suffered from their own countrymen as well as from the Jews (1 Thessalonians 2:14). With joy of the Holy Ghost; that is, not merely spiritual joy, or joy in the Holy Ghost, but joy which proceeds from the Holy Ghost - joy which is produced by him, of which he is the Author.
So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
Verse 7. - So that ye were ensamples. The word here rendered "ensamples" literally signifies "types." It is used to denote a form or figure (Acts 7:43), a model or likeness (Acts 7:44), a mark or impression (John 20:25). Hence, in a metaphorical sense, it came to signify an example, a pattern for imitation. "Now these things are our examples" (1 Corinthians 10:6). To all that believe - to all believers - in Macedonia and Achaia. These are the two provinces into which ancient Greece was divided by the Romans, each of which was governed by a proconsul Macedonia was the northern portion, including Macedonia proper, Epirus and Illyricum; at first it was divided into four districts, but afterwards united into one province, of which Thessalonica was constituted the capital. Achaia was the southern portion of ancient Greece, including the Peloponnesus, Attica, Boeotia, etc., and, until recently, was nearly of the same dimensions with the modern kingdom of Greece; its capital was Corinth.
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
Verse 8. - For; or, because the proof of tiffs praise conferred on the Thessalonians. From you sounded out. Resounded like the sound of a trumpet. Comp. Romans 10:18, "Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world." The word of the Lord. This does not intimate that the Thessalonians by their missionary activity disseminated the gospel, but that from them locally the-gospel had spread. Not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad. There is a slight difficulty in the construction. The sentence is complete without the addition, "your faith to God-ward is spread abroad," and, therefore, we must consider these words as equivalent to "from you sounded out the word of the Lord." When the apostle says that "the faith of the Thessalonians is spread abroad in every place," the meaning is that the report of their joyful reception of the gospel had excited universal attention. There is here a certain use of the figure hyperbole. The words, "in every place," are not to be taken in their full literal sense, but are merely a strong expression for the wide diffusion of the faith of the Thessalonians. Paul uses similar hyperboles in other places, as when he speaks of the faith of the Romans being spoken of throughout the whole world (Romans 1:5), and of the gospel having come into all the world (Colossians 1:6). This wide diffusion of the Faith of the Thessalonians, notwithstanding the recent date of their conversion, may be accounted for when we consider that Thessalonica and Corinth were two great commercial cities, from and to which there was a constant coming and going, so that reports might easily be transmitted by merchants and strangers. It has also been suggested that Aquila and Priscilla, who had lately come from Rome (Acts 18:2), must in their journey have passed through Thessalonica, and would bring with them to Corinth such a report of the faith of the Thessalonians (Wieseler). So that we need not to speak anything; that is, of your faith, as this is already so well known and applauded.
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
Verse 9. - For they themselves; that is, the reporters, those in Macedonia, Achaia, and every other place. Show of us; or, report concerning us (R.V.) in regard to our preaching or entrance among you. Instead of questions being asked of us by them, as would naturally be expected, they of their own accord give information. What manner of entering in we had among you. "Entering" here evidently refers, not merely to the outward entrance, the mere preaching of the gospel among the Thessalonians; but to the access, the internal entrance, which the gospel found into their hearts; that is, with what power and fullness of the Holy Ghost we preached the gospel unto you, and with what joy and confidence and contempt of danger ye received it. And how ye turned to God from idols. This, as already remarked, is one of the proofs that the Church of Thessalonica was chiefly composed of Gentile converts, though, of course, not to the exclusion of the Jewish element (Acts 17:4). To serve the living and true God. Two epithets there employed in contrast to the idols of the heathen: "living," in opposition to dead idols, which were nothing in the world; "true," not in the sense of veracious, but of real in opposition to the imaginary gods of the heathen.
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
Verse 10. - And to wait. The faith of the Thessalonians took the form of hope or expectation for the coming of the Lord; an element of Christian feeling, perhaps, not so prominent in the present day. For his Son from heaven; referring to the second advent. Christ on his departure from this world went to heaven, where he resides, making intercession for us, but from thence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. In the primitive Church the advent of Christ was not regarded as at a distance, but as an event which might at any moment occur. Whom he raised from the dead; with emphasis placed before "Jesus," because his resurrection from the dead was the open declaration, the public inauguration, of his Divine sonship (Romans 1:4). Even Jesus which delivered us. The participle is present; not past, "who delivered us," namely, by his death; nor future, "who shall deliver us," at the judgment; but present," who delivers us;" the deliverance is going on - it commenced with his death, but will not be completed until his advent. Or the word may be used as a substantive, "Jesus, our Deliverer." From the wrath; or righteous indignation of God; here punishment as the effect of wrath. "The wrath of God is, in its deepest ground, love; love itself becomes a consuming fire to whatever is opposed to the nature of goodness" (Koch). To come; literally, which is coming, the coming wrath, denoting its absolute certainty. This coming wrath will take place at the advent of Christ, when he appears, not only for the salvation of his people, but for the destruction of his enemies.