The Suddenness of Christ's Coming a Motive for
Watchfulness; Various Precepts:
Prayer for Their Being Found Blameless,
Body, Soul, and
Spirit, at Christ's Coming: Conclusion.
1. times—the general and indefinite term
for chronological periods.
seasons—the opportune times
7:12; Ac 1:7). Time
denotes quantity; season, quality. Seasons are parts of
ye have no need—those who watch do not
need to be told when the hour will come, for they are always
cometh—present: expressing its
speedy and awful certainty.
2. as a thief in the night—The apostles
in this image follow the parable of their Lord, expressing how the
Lord's coming shall take men by surprise (Mt 24:43; 2Pe
3:10). "The night is
wherever there is quiet unconcern" [Bengel]. "At midnight" (perhaps figurative: to some
parts of the earth it will be literal night), Mt 25:6. The thief not only gives no notice of
his approach but takes all precaution to prevent the household knowing
of it. So the Lord (Re 16:15).
Signs will precede the coming, to confirm the patient hope of
the watchful believer; but the coming itself shall be sudden at last
(Mt 24:32-36; Lu 21:25-32, 35).
3. they—the men of the world. 1Th
5:5, 6; 1Th 4:13, "others,"
all the rest of the world save Christians.
Peace—(Jud 18:7, 9,
27, 28; Jer 6:14; Eze 13:10).
then—at the very moment when
they least expect it. Compare the case of Belshazzar, Da 5:1-5, 6,
9, 26-28; Herod, Ac 12:21-23.
sudden—"unawares" (Lu 21:34).
as travail—"As the labor pang"
comes in an instant on the woman when otherwise engaged (Ps 48:6; Isa
shall not escape—Greek, "shall
not at all escape." Another awful feature of their ruin: there shall be
then no possibility of shunning it however they desire it (Am 9:2, 3;
Re 6:15, 16).
4. not in darkness—not in darkness of
understanding (that is, spiritual ignorance) or of the moral nature
(that is, a state of sin), Eph 4:18.
that—Greek, "in order that";
with God results are all purposed.
that day—Greek, "THE day"; the day of the Lord (Heb 10:25, "the day"), in contrast to
overtake—unexpectedly (compare Joh 12:35).
as a thief—The two oldest manuscripts
read, "as (the daylight overtakes) thieves" (Job 24:17). Old manuscripts and Vulgate
read as English Version.
5. The oldest manuscripts read, "FOR ye are all," &c. Ye have no reason for fear,
or for being taken by surprise, by the coming of the day of the Lord:
"For ye are all sons (so the Greek) of light and sons of
day"; a Hebrew idiom, implying that as sons resemble
their fathers, so you are in character light (intellectually and
morally illuminated in a spiritual point of view), Lu 16:8; Joh
are not of—that is, belong not
to night nor darkness. The change of person from "ye" to "we"
implies this: Ye are sons of light because ye are Christians;
and we, Christians, are not of night nor darkness.
6. others—Greek, "the rest" of
the world: the unconverted (1Th 4:13).
"Sleep" here is worldly apathy to spiritual things (Ro 13:11; Eph
5:14); in 1Th 5:7, ordinary sleep; in 1Th 5:10, death.
watch—for Christ's coming; literally,
"be wakeful." The same Greek occurs in 1Co 15:34;
be sober—refraining from carnal
indulgence, mental or sensual (1Pe 5:8).
7. This verse is to be taken in the literal
sense. Night is the time when sleepers sleep, and drinking men are
drunk. To sleep by day would imply great indolence; to be drunken by
day, great shamelessness. Now, in a spiritual sense, "we Christians
profess to be day people, not night people; therefore our work ought to
be day work, not night work; our conduct such as will bear the eye of
day, and such has no need of the veil of night" [Edmunds], (1Th 5:8).
8. Faith, hope, and love, are
the three pre-eminent graces (1Th 1:3; 1Co 13:13). We must not only be awake and sober,
but also armed; not only watchful, but also guarded. The armor
here is only defensive; in Eph 6:13-17, also offensive. Here, therefore,
the reference is to the Christian means of being guarded against
being surprised by the day of the Lord as a thief in the night. The
helmet and breastplate defend the two vital parts, the
head and the heart respectively. "With head and heart right, the whole
man is right" [Edmunds]. The head needs
to be kept from error, the heart from sin. For "the breastplate of
righteousness," Eph 6:14, we
have here "the breastplate of faith and love"; for the righteousness
which is imputed to man for justification, is "faith working by love"
(Ro 4:3, 22-24; Ga 5:6). "Faith," as the motive within,
and "love," exhibited in outward acts, constitute the perfection
of righteousness. In Eph 6:17 the
helmet is "salvation"; here, "the hope of salvation." In one
aspect "salvation" is a present possession (Joh 3:36;
5:24; 1Jo 5:13); in another,
it is a matter of "hope" (Ro 8:24, 25). Our Head primarily wore the
"breastplate of righteousness" and "helmet of salvation," that we
might, by union with Him, receive both.
9. For—assigning the ground of our
appointed us—Translate, "set" (Ac 13:47), in His everlasting purpose of
love (1Th 3:3; 2Ti 1:9). Contrast Ro 9:22; Jude
to—that is, unto wrath.
to obtain—Greek, "to the
acquisition of salvation"; said, according to Bengel, Of One saved out of a general wreck, when
all things else have been lost: so of the elect saved out of the
multitude of the lost (2Th 2:13, 14). The fact of God's "appointment" of His
grace "through Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:5), takes away the notion of our being
able to "acquire" salvation of ourselves. Christ "acquired (so
the Greek for 'purchased') the Church (and its salvation) with
His own blood" (Ac 20:28);
each member is said to be appointed by God to the "acquiring of
salvation." In the primary sense, God does the work; in the secondary
sense, man does it.
10. died for us—Greek, "in our
whether we wake or sleep—whether we be
found at Christ's coming awake, that is, alive, or asleep, that is, in
together—all of us
together; the living not preceding the dead in their
glorification "with Him" at His coming (1Th 4:13).
11. comfort yourselves—Greek,
"one another." Here he reverts to the same consolatory strain as in
edify one another—rather as
Greek, "edify (ye) the one the other"; "edify," literally,
"build up," namely, in faith, hope, and love, by discoursing together
on such edifying topics as the Lord's coming, and the glory of the
12. beseech—"Exhort" is the expression
5:14; here, "we beseech you,"
as if it were a personal favor (Paul making the cause of the
Thessalonian presbyters, as it were, his own).
know—to have a regard and respect for.
Recognize their office, and treat them accordingly (compare 1Co 16:18) with reverence and with
liberality in supplying their needs (1Ti 5:17). The Thessalonian Church having been
newly planted, the ministers were necessarily novices (1Ti 3:6), which may have been in part the cause
of the people's treating them with less respect. Paul's practice seems
to have been to ordain elders in every Church soon after its
establishment (Ac 14:23).
them which labour … are over …
admonish you—not three classes of ministers, but one, as
there is but one article common to the three in the Greek.
"Labor" expresses their laborious life; "are over you," their
pre-eminence as presidents or superintendents ("bishops," that is,
overseers, Php 1:1, "them
that have rule over you," literally, leaders, Heb 13:17; "pastors," literally, shepherds,
4:11); "admonish you," one of
their leading functions; the Greek is "put in mind," implying
not arbitrary authority, but gentle, though faithful, admonition (2Ti
2:14, 24, 25; 1Pe 5:3).
in the Lord—Their presidency over you
is in divine things; not in worldly affairs, but in things
appertaining to the Lord.
13. very highly—Greek, "exceeding
for their work's sake—The high nature
of their work alone, the furtherance of your salvation and of the
kingdom of Christ, should be a sufficient motive to claim your
reverential love. At the same time, the word "work," teaches ministers
that, while claiming the reverence due to their office, it is not a
sinecure, but a "work"; compare "labor" (even to
weariness: so the Greek), 1Th 5:12.
be at peace among yourselves—The "and"
is not in the original. Let there not only be peace between ministers
and their flocks, but also no party rivalries among yourselves, one
contending in behalf of some one favorite minister, another in behalf
of another (Mr 9:50; 1Co 1:12; 4:6).
14. brethren—This exhortation to "warm
(Greek, 'admonish,' as in 1Th 5:12) the unruly (those 'disorderly' persons,
11, who would not work, and
yet expected to be maintained, literally, said of soldiers who will
not remain in their ranks, compare 1Th 4:11; also those insubordinate as to Church
discipline, in relation to those 'over' the Church, 1Th 5:12), comfort the feeble-minded (the
faint-hearted, who are ready to sink 'without hope' in
afflictions, 1Th 4:13, and
temptations)," applies to all clergy and laity alike, though primarily
the duty of the clergy (who are meant in 1Th 5:12)."
support—literally, "lay fast hold on
so as to support."
the weak—spiritually. Paul practiced
what he preached (1Co 9:22).
be patient toward all men—There is no
believer who needs not the exercise of patience "toward" him; there is
none to whom a believer ought not to show it; many show it more to
strangers than to their own families, more to the great than to the
humble; but we ought to show it "toward all men" [Bengel]. Compare "the long-suffering of our Lord"
(2Co 10:1; 2Pe 3:15).
15. (Ro 12:17; 1Pe 3:9.)
unto any man—whether unto a
Christian, or a heathen, however great the provocation.
follow—as a matter of earnest
16, 17. In order to "rejoice evermore," we
must "pray without ceasing" (1Th 5:17). He who is wont to thank God for all
things as happening for the best, will have continuous joy [Theophylact]. Eph 6:18; Php 4:4, 6, "Rejoice in the Lord … by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving"; Ro 14:17, "in the Holy Ghost"; Ro 12:12, "in hope"; Ac 5:41, "in being counted worthy to suffer
shame for Christ's name"; Jas 1:2, in falling "into divers
17. The Greek is, "Pray without
intermission"; without allowing prayerless gaps to intervene
between the times of prayer.
18. In every thing—even what
seems adverse: for nothing is really so (compare Ro 8:28;
Eph 5:20). See Christ's
example (Mt 15:36; 26:27; Lu 10:21; Joh 11:41).
this—That ye should "rejoice evermore,
pray without ceasing, (and) in every thing give thanks," "is the will
of God in Christ Jesus (as the Mediator and Revealer of that will,
observed by those who are in Christ by faith, compare Php 3:14) concerning you." God's
will is the believer's law. Lachmann
rightly reads commas at the end of the three precepts (1Th 5:16-18), making "this" refer to all
19. Quench not—the Spirit being a holy
fire: "where the Spirit is, He burns" [Bengel] (Mt 3:11; Ac 2:3; 7:51). Do not throw cold water on those who,
under extraordinary inspiration of the Spirit, stand up to speak with
tongues, or reveal mysteries, or pray in the congregation. The
enthusiastic exhibitions of some (perhaps as to the nearness of
Christ's coming, exaggerating Paul's statement, 2Th 2:2, By spirit), led others (probably
the presiding ministers, who had not always been treated with due
respect by enthusiastic novices, 1Th 5:12), from dread of enthusiasm, to
discourage the free utterances of those really inspired, in the Church
assembly. On the other hand, the caution (1Th 5:21) was needed, not to receive "all"
pretended revelations as divine, without "proving" them.
20. prophesyings—whether exercised in
inspired teaching, or in predicting the future. "Despised" by some as
beneath "tongues," which seemed most miraculous; therefore declared by
Paul to be a greater gift than tongues, though the latter were more
21, 22. Some of the oldest manuscripts insert
"But." You ought indeed not to "quench" the manifestations of "the
Spirit," nor "despise prophesyings"; "but," at the same time, do not
take "all" as genuine which professes to be so; "prove (test) all" such
manifestations. The means of testing them existed in the Church, in
those who had the "discerning of spirits" (1Co
12:10; 14:29; 1Jo 4:1).
Another sure test, which we also have, is, to try the professed
revelation whether it accords with Scripture, as the noble Bereans did
(Isa 8:20; Ac 17:11; Ga 1:8, 9). This precept negatives the Romish
priest's assumption of infallibly laying down the law, without the
laity having the right, in the exercise of private judgment, to test it
by Scripture. Locke says, Those who are
for laying aside reason in matters of revelation, resemble one who
would put out his eyes in order to use a telescope.
hold fast that which is good—Join this
clause with the next clause (1Th 5:22), not merely with the sentence
preceding. As the result of your "proving all things," and especially
all prophesyings, "hold fast (Lu
8:15; 1Co 11:2; Heb 2:1) the
good, and hold yourselves aloof from every appearance of evil"
("every evil species" [Bengel and
Wahl]). Do not accept even a professedly
spirit-inspired communication, if it be at variance with the truth
taught you (2Th 2:2).
supports English Version, "from every evil appearance" or
"semblance." The context, however, does not refer to evil
appearances IN OURSELVES which we
ought to abstain from, but to holding ourselves aloof from every
evil appearance IN OTHERS; as for
instance, in the pretenders to spirit-inspired prophesyings. In many
cases the Christian should not abstain from what has the
semblance ("appearance") of evil, though really good. Jesus
healed on the sabbath, and ate with publicans and sinners, acts which
wore the appearance of evil, but which were not to be abstained
from on that account, being really good. I agree with Tittmann rather than with Bengel, whom Alford
follows. The context favors this sense: However specious be the
form or outward appearance of such would-be prophets and
their prophesyings, hold yourselves aloof from every such form when it
is evil, literally, "Hold yourselves aloof from every evil appearance"
23. the very God—rather as the
Greek, "the God of peace Himself"; who can do for you by
His own power what I cannot do by all my monitions, nor
you by all your efforts (Ro 16:20; Heb 13:20), namely, keep you from all evil, and
give you all that is good.
sanctify you—for holiness is
the necessary condition of "peace" (Php 4:6-9).
wholly—Greek, "(so that you
should be) perfect in every respect" [Tittmann].
and—that is, "and so (omit 'I
pray God'; not in the Greek) may your … spirit and soul
and body be preserved," &c.
whole—A different Greek word
from "wholly." Translate, "entire"; with none of the integral parts
wanting [Tittmann]. It refers to man in
his normal integrity, as originally designed; an ideal which shall be
attained by the glorified believer. All three, spirit, soul, and body,
each in its due place, constitute man "entire." The "spirit" links man
with the higher intelligences of heaven, and is that highest part of
man which is receptive of the quickening Holy Spirit (1Co 15:47). In the unspiritual, the spirit is so
sunk under the lower animal soul (which it ought to keep under)
that such are termed "animal" (English Version. "sensual,"
having merely the body of organized matter, and the soul
the immaterial animating essence), having not the Spirit
(compare 1Co 2:14; see
on 1Co 15:44; 1Cor
15:46-48; Joh 3:6). The
unbeliever shall rise with an animal (soul-animated)
body, but not like the believer with a spiritual
(spirit-endued) body like Christ's (Ro 8:11).
blameless unto—rather as Greek,
"blamelessly (so as to be in a blameless state) at the coming of
Christ." In Hebrew, "peace" and "wholly" (perfect in every
respect) are kindred terms; so that the prayer shows what the title
"God of peace" implies. Bengel takes
"wholly" as collectively, all the Thessalonians without
exception, so that no one should fail. And "whole (entire),"
individually, each one of them entire, with "spirit, soul, and
body." The mention of the preservation of the body accords with
the subject (1Th 4:16).
Trench better regards "wholly" as
meaning, "having perfectly attained the moral end," namely, to
be a full-grown man in Christ. "Whole," complete, with no grace
which ought to be wanting in a Christian.
24. Faithful—to His covenant promises
(Joh 10:27-29; 1Co 1:9; 10:23; Php 1:6).
he that calleth you—God, the caller of
His people, will cause His calling not to fall short of its designed
do it—preserve and present you
blameless at the coming of Christ (1Th 5:23; Ro 8:30; 1Pe
5:10). You must not look at
the foes before and behind, on the right hand and on the left, but to
God's faithfulness to His promises, God's zeal for His honor, and God's
love for those whom He calls.
25. Some oldest manuscripts read, "Pray ye
also for (literally, 'concerning') us"; make us and our
work the subject of your prayers, even as we have been just
praying for you (1Th 5:23).
Others omit the "also." The clergy need much the prayers of their
flocks. Paul makes the same request in the Epistles to Romans,
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and in Second
Corinthians; not so in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, whose
intercessions, as his spiritual sons, he was already sure of; nor in
the Epistles, I Corinthians, and Galatians, as these Epistles abound in
26. Hence it appears this Epistle was first
handed to the elders, who communicated it to "the brethren."
holy kiss—pure and chaste. "A kiss of
charity" (1Pe 5:14). A
token of Christian fellowship in those days (compare Lu 7:45; Ac
20:37), as it is a common
mode of salutation in many countries. The custom hence arose in the
early Church of passing the kiss through the congregation at the holy
communion [Justin Martyr,
Apology, 1.65; Apostolic Constitutions, 2.57], the men
kissing the men, and the women the women, in the Lord. So in the Syrian
Church each takes his neighbor's right hand and gives the salutation,
27. I charge—Greek, "I adjure
read unto all—namely, publicly in the
congregation at a particular time. The Greek aorist tense
implies a single act done at a particular time. The earnestness of his
adjuration implies how solemnly important he felt this divinely
inspired message to be. Also, as this was the FIRST of the Epistles of the New Testament, he makes
this the occasion of a solemn charge, that so its being publicly read
should be a sample of what should be done in the case of the others,
just as the Pentateuch and the Prophets were publicly read under the
Old Testament, and are still read in the synagogue. Compare the same
injunction as to the public reading of the Apocalypse, the LAST of the New Testament canon (Re 1:3). The "all" includes women and children,
and especially those who could not read it themselves (De 31:12;
Jos 8:33-35). What Paul
commands with an adjuration, Rome forbids under a curse [Bengel]. Though these Epistles had difficulties, the
laity were all to hear them read (1Pe 4:11; 2Pe 3:10; even the very young, 2Ti 1:5; 3:15). "Holy" is omitted before
"brethren" in most of the oldest manuscripts, though some of them
28. (See on 2Co
13:14.) Paul ends as he began (1Th 1:1), with "grace." The oldest manuscripts
omit "Amen," which probably was the response of the Church after the
public reading of the Epistle.
The subscription is a comparatively modern addition.
The Epistle was not, as it states, written from Athens, but from
Corinth; for it is written in the names of Silas and Timothy (besides
Paul), who did not join the apostle before he reached the latter city