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Chapter 1

1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy [Paulos kai Silouanos kai Timotheos]. Nominative absolute as customary in letters. Paul associates with himself Silvanus (Silas of Acts, spelled [Silbanos] in D and the papyri), a Jew and Roman citizen, and Timothy, son of Jewish mother and Greek father, one of Paul’s converts at Lystra on the first tour. They had both been with Paul at Thessalonica, though Timothy is not mentioned by Luke in Acts in Macedonia till Beroea (Ac 17:14f.). Timothy had joined Paul in Athens (1Th 3:1f.), had been sent back to Thessalonica, and with Silas had rejoined Paul in Corinth (1Th 3:5; Ac 18:5, 2Co 1:19). Silas is the elder and is mentioned first, but neither is in any sense the author of the Epistle any more than Sosthenes is co-author of I Corinthians or Timothy of II Corinthians, though Paul may sometimes have them in mind when he uses “we” in the Epistle. Paul does not here call himself “apostle” as in the later Epistles, perhaps because his position has not been so vigorously attacked as it was later. Ellicott sees in the absence of the word here a mark of the affectionate relations existing between Paul and the Thessalonians. Unto the church of the Thessalonians [tēi ekklēsiāi Thessalonikeōn]. The dative case in address. Note absence of the article with [Thessalonikeōn] because a proper name and so definite without it. This is the common use of [ekklēsia] for a local body (church). The word originally meant “assembly” as in Ac 19:39, but it came to mean an organization for worship whether assembled or unassembled (cf. Ac 8:3). The only superscription in the oldest Greek manuscripts (Aleph B A) is [Pros Thessalonikeis A] (To the Thessalonians First). But probably Paul wrote no superscription and certainly he would not write A to it before he had written II Thessalonians (B). His signature at the close was the proof of genuineness (2Th 3:17) against all spurious claimants (2Th 2:2). Unfortunately the brittle papyrus on which he wrote easily perished outside of the sand heaps and tombs of Egypt or the lava covered ruins of Herculaneum. What a treasure that autograph would be! In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ [en theōi patri kai kuriōi Jēsou Christōi]. This church is grounded in [en], with the locative case) and exists in the sphere and power of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. No article in the Greek, for both [theōi patri] and [kuriōi Jēsou Christōi] are treated as proper names. In the very beginning of this first Epistle of Paul we meet his Christology. He at once uses the full title, “Lord Jesus Christ,” with all the theological content of each word. The name “Jesus” (Saviour, Mt 1:21) he knew, as the “Jesus of history,” the personal name of the Man of Galilee, whom he had once persecuted (Ac 9:5), but whom he at once, after his conversion, proclaimed to be “the Messiah,” [ho Christos], Ac 9:22). This position Paul never changed. In the great sermon at Antioch in Pisidia which Luke has preserved (Ac 13:23) Paul proved that God fulfilled his promise to Israel by raising up “Jesus as Saviour” [sōtēra Iēsoun]. Now Paul follows the Christian custom by adding [Christos] (verbal from [chriō], to anoint) as a proper name to Jesus (Jesus Christ) as later he will often say “Christ Jesus” (Col 1:1). And he dares also to apply [kurios] (Lord) to “Jesus Christ,” the word appropriated by Claudius (Dominus, [Kurios] and other emperors in the emperor-worship, and also common in the Septuagint for God as in Ps 32:1f. (quoted by Paul in Ro 4:8). Paul uses [Kurios] of God (1Co 3:5) or of Jesus Christ as here. In fact, he more frequently applies it to Christ when not quoting the Old Testament as in Ro 4:8. And here he places “the Lord Jesus Christ” in the same category and on the same plane with “God the father.” There will be growth in Paul’s Christology and he will never attain all the knowledge of Christ for which he longs (Php 3:10-12), but it is patent that here in his first Epistle there is no “reduced Christ” for Paul. He took Jesus as “Lord” when he surrendered to Jesus on the Damascus Road: “And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me” (Ac 22:10). It is impossible to understand Paul without seeing clearly this first and final stand for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not get this view of Jesus from current views of Mithra or of Isis or any other alien faith. The Risen Christ became at once for Paul the Lord of his life. Grace to you and peace [charis humin kai eirēnē]. These words, common in Paul’s Epistles, bear “the stamp of Paul’s experience” (Milligan). They are not commonplace salutations, but the old words “deepened and spiritualised” (Frame). The infinitive [chairein] so common in the papyri letters and seen in the New Testament also (Ac 15:23; 23:26; Jas 1:1) here gives place to [charis], one of the great words of the New Testament (cf. Joh 1:16f.) and particularly of the Pauline Epistles. Perhaps no one word carries more meaning for Paul’s messages than this word [charis] (from [chairō], rejoice) from which [charizomai] comes. Peace [eirēnē] is more than the Hebrew shalōm so common in salutations. One recalls the “peace” that Christ leaves to us (Joh 14:27) and the peace of God that passes all understanding (Php 4:7). This introduction is brief, but rich and gracious and pitches the letter at once on a high plane.

1:2 We give thanks [eucharistoumen]. Late denominative verb [eucharisteō] from [eucharistos] (grateful) and that from [eu], well and [charizomai], to show oneself kind. See [charis] in verse 1. “The plural implies that all three missionaries prayed together” (Moffatt). Always [pantote]. Late word, rare in LXX. So with [eucharisteō] in 2Th 1:3; 2:13; 1Co 1:4; Eph 5:20; Php 1:3. Moffatt takes it to mean “whenever Paul was at his prayers.” Of course, he did not make audible prayer always, but he was always in the spirit of prayer, “a constant attitude” (Milligan), “in tune with the Infinite.” For you all [peri pantōn humōn]. Paul “encircled [peri], around) them all,” including every one of them and the church as a whole. Distance lends enchantment to the memory of slight drawbacks. Paul is fond of this phrase “you all,” particularly in Phil. (Php 1:3,7). Making mention [mneian poioumenoi]. Paul uses this very idiom in Rom 1:9; Eph 1:16; Phm 1:4. Milligan cites a papyrus example of [mneian poioumenoi] in prayer (B. Y. U. 652, 5). Did Paul have a prayer list of the Thessalonian disciples which he read over with Silas and Timothy? In here is [epi] = “in the time of our prayers.” “Each time that they are engaged in prayers the writers mention the names of the converts” (Frame).

1:3 Remembering [mnēmoneuontes]. Present active participle of old verb from adjective [mnēmōn] (mindful) and so to call to mind, to be mindful of, used either with the accusative as in 1Th 2:9 or the genitive as here. Without ceasing [adialeiptōs]. Double compound adverb of the Koinē (Polybius, Diodorus, Strabo, papyri) from the verbal adjective [a-dia-leiptos] [a] privative and [dia-leipō], to leave off). In the N.T. alone by Paul and always connected with prayer. Milligan prefers to connect this adverb (amphibolous in position) with the preceding participle [poioumenoi] rather than with [mnēmoneuontes] as Revised Version and Westcott and Hort rightly do. Your work of faith [humōn tou ergou tēs pisteōs]. Note article with both [ergou] and [pisteōs] (correlation of the article, both abstract substantives). [Ergou] is genitive case the object of [mnēmoneuontes] as is common with verbs of emotion (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 508f.), though the accusative [kopon] occurs in 1Th 2:9 according to common Greek idiom allowing either case. [Ergou] is the general term for work or business, employment, task. Note two genitives with [ergou]. [Humōn] is the usual possessive genitive, your work, while [tēs pisteōs] is the descriptive genitive, marked by, characterized by, faith, “the activity that faith inspires” (Frame). It is interesting to note this sharp conjunction of these two words by Paul. We are justified by faith, but faith produces works (Ro 6-8) as the Baptist taught and as Jesus taught and as James does in Jas 2. Labour of love [tou kopou tēs agapēs]. Note article with both substantives. Here again [tou kopou] is the genitive the object of [mnēmoneuontes] while [tēs agapēs] is the descriptive genitive characterizing the “labour” or “toil” more exactly. [Kopos] is from [koptō], to cut, to lash, to beat the bread, to toil. In Re 14:13 the distinction is drawn between [kopou] (toil) from which the saints rest and [erga] (works, activities) which follow with them into heaven. So here it is the labour that love prompts, assuming gladly the toil. [Agapē] is one of the great words of the N.T. (Milligan) and no certain example has yet been found in the early papyri or the inscriptions. It occurs in the Septuagint in the higher sense as with the sensuous associations. The Epistle of Aristeas calls love [agapē] God’s gift and Philo uses [agapē] in describing love for God. “When Christianity first began to think and speak in Greek, it took up [agapē] and its group of terms more freely, investing them with the new glow with which the N.T. writings make us familiar, a content which is invariably religious” (Moffatt, Love in the New Testament, p. 40). The New Testament never uses the word [erōs] (lust). Patience of hope [tēs hupomonēs tēs elpidos]. Note the two articles again and the descriptive genitive [tēs elpidos]. It is patience marked by hope, “the endurance inspired by hope” (Frame), yes, and sustained by hope in spite of delays and set-backs. [Hupomonē] is an old word [hupo, menō], to remain under), but it “has come like [agapē] to be closely associated with a distinctively Christian virtue” (Milligan). The same order as here [ergou, kopos, hupomonē] appears in Re 2:2 and Lightfoot considers it” an ascending scale as practical proofs of self-sacrifice.” The church in Thessalonica was not old, but already they were called upon to exercise the sanctifying grace of hope (Denney). In our Lord Jesus Christ [tou Kuriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou]. The objective genitive with [elpidos] (hope) and so translated by “in” here (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 499f.). Jesus is the object of this hope, the hope of his second coming which is still open to us. Note “Lord Jesus Christ” as in verse 1. Before our God and Father [emprosthen tou theou kai patros hēmōn]. The one article with both substantives precisely as in Ga 1:4, not “before God and our Father,” both article and possessive genitive going with both substantives as in 2Pe 1:1, 11; Tit 2:13 (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 785f.). The phrase is probably connected with [elpidos]. [Emprosthen] in the N.T. occurs only of place, but it is common in the papyri of time. The picture here is the day of judgment when all shall appear before God.

1:4 Knowing [eidotes]. Second perfect active participle of [oida] [eidon], a so-called causal participle = since we know, the third participle with the principal verb [eucharistoumen], the Greek being fond of the circumstantial participle and lengthening sentences thereby (Robertson, Grammar, P. 1128). Beloved by God [ēgapēmenoi hupo [tou] theou]. Perfect passive participle of [agapaō], the verb so common in the N.T. for the highest kind of love. Paul is not content with the use of [adelphoi] here (often in this Epistle as 2:1, 14, 17; 3:7; 4:1, 10), but adds this affectionate phrase nowhere else in the N.T. in this form (cf. Jude 1:3) though in Sirach 45:1 and on the Rosetta Stone. But in 2Th 2:13 he quotes “beloved by the Lord” from De 33:12. The use of [adelphoi] for members of the same brotherhood can be derived from the Jewish custom (Ac 2:29,37) and the habit of Jesus (Mt 12:48) and is amply illustrated in the papyri for burial clubs and other orders and guilds (Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary). Your election [tēn eklogēn humōn]. That is the election of you by God. It is an old word from [eklegomai] used by Jesus of his choice of the twelve disciples (Joh 15:16) and by Paul of God’s eternal selection (Eph 1:4). The word [eklogē] is not in the LXX and only seven times in the N.T. and always of God’s choice of men (Ac 9:15; 1Th 1:4; Ro 9:11; 11:5, 7, 58; 2Pe 1:10). The divine [eklogē] was manifested in the Christian qualities of verse 3 (Moffatt).

1:5 How that [hoti]. It is not certain whether [hoti] here means “because” [quia] as in 2Th 3:7; 1Co 2:14; Ro 8:27 or declarative [hoti] “how that,” knowing the circumstances of your election (Lightfoot) or explanatory, as in Ac 16:3; 1Th 2:1; 1Co 16:15; 2Co 12:3f.; Ro 13:11. Our gospel [to euaggelion hēmōn]. The gospel (see on Mt 4:23; Mr 1:1, 15 for [euaggelion] which we preach, Paul’s phrase also in 2Th 2:14; 2Co 4:3; Ro 2:16; 16:25; 2Ti 2:8. Paul had a definite, clear-cut message of grace that he preached everywhere including Thessalonica. This message is to be interpreted in the light of Paul’s own sermons in Acts and Epistles, not by reading backward into them the later perversions of Gnostics and sacramentarians. This very word was later applied to the books about Jesus, but Paul is not so using the term here or anywhere else. In its origin Paul’s gospel is of God (1Th 2:2,8,9), in its substance it is Christ’s (3:2; 2Th 1:8), and Paul is only the bearer of it (1Th 2:4,9; 2Th 2:14) as Milligan points out. Paul and his associates have been entrusted with this gospel (1Th 2:4) and preach it (Ga 2:2). Elsewhere Paul calls it God’s gospel (2Co 11:7; Ro 1:1; 15:16) or Christs (1Co 9:12; 2Co 2:12; 9:13; 10:14; Ga 1:7; Ro 15:19; Php 1:27). In both instances it is the subjective genitive. Came unto you [egenēthē eis humās]. First aorist passive indicative of [ginomai] in practically same sense as [egeneto] (second aorist middle indicative as in the late Greek generally). So also [eis humās] like the Koinē is little more than the dative [humin] (Robertson, Grammar, p. 594). Not only—but also [ouk—monon, alla kai]. Sharp contrast, negatively and positively. The contrast between [logos] (word) and [dunamis] (power) is seen also in 1Co 2:4; 4:20. Paul does not refer to miracles by [dunamis]. In the Holy Spirit and much assurance [en pneumati hagiōi kai plērophoriāi pollēi]. Preposition [en] repeated with [logōi, dunamei], but only once here thus uniting closely Holy Spirit and much assurance. No article with either word. The word [plērophoriāi] is not found in ancient Greek or the LXX. It appears once in Clement of Rome and one broken papyrus example. For the verb [plērophoreō] see on Lu 1:1. The substantive in the N.T. only here and Col 2:2; Heb 6:11; 10:22. It means the full confidence which comes from the Holy Spirit. Even as ye know [kathōs oidate]. Paul appeals to the Thessalonians themselves as witnesses to the character of his preaching and life among them. What manner of men we showed ourselves toward you [hoioi egenēthēmen humin]. Literally, What sort of men we became to you. Qualitative relative [hoioi] and dative [humin] and first aorist passive indicative [egenēthēmen], (not [ēmetha], we were). An epexegetical comment with for your sake [di’ humās] added. It was all in their interest and for their advantage, however it may have seemed otherwise at the time.

1:6 Imitators of us and of the Lord [mimētai hēmōn kai tou kuriou]. [Mimētēs] [-tēs] expresses the agent) is from [mimeomai], to imitate and that from [mimos] [mimic], actor). Old word, more than “followers,” in the N.T. only six times (1Th 1:6; 2:14; 1Co 4:16; 11:1; Eph 5:1; Heb 6:12). Again Paul uses [ginomai], to become, not [eimi], to be. It is a daring thing to expect people to “imitate” the preacher, but Paul adds “and of the Lord,” for he only expected or desired “imitation” as he himself imitated the Lord Jesus, as he expressly says in 1Co 11:1. The peril of it all is that people so easily and so readily imitate the preacher when he does not imitate the Lord. The fact of the “election” of the Thessalonians was shown by the character of the message given them and by this sincere acceptance of it (Lightfoot). Having received the word [dexamenoi ton logon]. First aorist middle participle of [dechomai], probably simultaneous action (receiving), not antecedent. In much affliction [en thlipsei pollēi]. Late word, pressure. Tribulation (Latin tribulum) from [thlibō], to press hard on. Christianity has glorified this word. It occurs in some Christian papyrus letters in this same sense. Runs all through the N.T. (2Th 1:4; Ro 5:3). Paul had his share of them (Col 1:24; 2Co 2:4) and so he understands how to sympathize with the Thessalonians (1Th 3:3f.). They suffered after Paul left Thessalonica (1Th 2:14). With joy of the Holy Spirit [meta charas pneumatos hagiou]. The Holy Spirit gives the joy in the midst of the tribulations as Paul learned (Ro 5:3). “This paradox of experience” (Moffatt) shines along the pathway of martyrs and saints of Christ.

1:7 So that ye became [hōste genesthai humas]. Definite result expressed by [hōste] and the infinitive [genesthai] (second aorist middle of [ginomai] as is common in the Koinē. An ensample [tupon]. So B D, but Aleph A C have [tupous] (plural). The singular looks at the church as a whole, the plural as individuals like [humās]. [Tupos] is an old word from [tuptō], to strike, and so the mark of a blow, print as in John 20:25. Then the figure formed by the blow, image as in Ac 7:43. Then the mould or form (Ro 6:17; Ac 23:25). Then an example or pattern as in Ac 7:44, to be imitated as here, Php 3:17, etc. It was a great compliment for the church in Thessalonica to be already a model for believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Our word type for printers is this same word with one of its meanings. Note separate article with both Macedonia [tēi Makedoniāi] and Achaia [tēi Achaiāi] treated as separate provinces as they were.

1:8 From you hath sounded forth [aph’ humōn exēchētai]. Perfect passive indicative of [exēcheō], late compound verb [ex, ēchos, ēchō, ēchē], our echo) to sound out of a trumpet or of thunder, to reverberate like our echo. Nowhere else in the N.T. So “from you” as a sounding board or radio transmitting station (to use a modern figure). It marks forcibly “both the clear and the persuasive nature of the [logos tou Kuriou]” (Ellicott). This phrase, the word of the Lord, may be subjective with the Lord as its author or objective with the Lord as the object. It is both. It is a graphic picture with a pardonable touch of hyperbole (Moffatt) for Thessalonica was a great commercial and political centre for disseminating the news of salvation (on the Egnation Way). But in every place [all’ en panti topōi]. In contrast to Macedonia and Achaia. The sentence would naturally stop here, but Paul is dictating rapidly and earnestly and goes on. Your faith to God-ward [hē pistis humōn hē pros ton theon]. Literally, the faith of you that toward the God. The repeated article makes clear that their faith is now directed toward the true God and not toward the idols from which they had turned (verse 10). Is gone forth [exelēluthen]. Second perfect active indicative of old verb [exerchomai], to go out, state of completion like [exēchētai] above. So that we need not to speak anything [hōste mē chreian echein hēmās lalein ti]. [Hōste] with the infinitive for actual result as in verse 7. No vital distinction between [lalein] (originally to chatter as of birds) and [legein], both being used in the Koinē for speaking and preaching (in the N.T.).

1:9 They themselves [autoi]. The men of Macedonia, voluntarily. Report [apaggellousin]. Linear present active indicative, keep on reporting. What manner of entering in [hopoian eisodon]. What sort of entrance, qualitative relative in an indirect question. We had [eschomen]. Second aorist active (ingressive) indicative of the common verb [echō]. And how [kai pōs]. Here the interrogative adverb [pōs] in this part of the indirect question. This part about “them” (you) as the first part about Paul. The verb [epistrephō] is an old verb for turning and is common in the Acts for Gentiles turning to God, as here from idols, though not by Paul again in this sense. In Ga 4:9 Paul uses it for turning to the weak and beggarly elements of Judaism. From idols [apo tōn eidolōn]. Old word from [eidos] (figure) for image or likeness and then for the image of a heathen god (our idol). Common in the LXX in this sense. In Ac 14:15 Paul at Lystra urged the people to turn from these vain things to the living God [apo toutōn tōn mataiōn epistrephein epi theon zōnta], using the same verb [epistrephein]. Here also Paul has a like idea, to serve a living and true God [douleuein theōi zōnti kai alēthinōi]. No article, it is true, but should be translated “the living and true God” (cf. Ac 14:15). Not “dead” like the idols from which they turned, but alive and genuine [alēthinos], not [alēthēs].

1:10 To wait for his Son from heaven [anamenein ton huion autou ek tōn ouranōn]. Present infinitive, like [douleuein], and so linear, to keep on waiting for. The hope of the second coming of Christ was real and powerful with Paul as it should be with us. It was subject to abuse then as now as Paul will have to show in this very letter. He alludes to this hope at the close of each chapter in this Epistle. Whom he raised from the dead [hon ēgeiren ek [tōn] nekrōn]. Paul gloried in the fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead of which fact he was himself a personal witness. This fact is the foundation stone for all his theology and it comes out in this first chapter. Jesus which delivereth us from the wrath to come [Iēsoun ton ruomenon hēmās ek tēs orgēs tēs erchomenēs]. It is the historic, crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who delivers from the coming wrath. He is our Saviour (Mt 1:21) true to his name Jesus. He is our Rescuer (Ro 11:26, [ho ruomenos], from Isa 59:20). It is eschatological language, this coming wrath of God for sin (1Th 2:16; Ro 3:5; 5:9; 9:22; 13:5). It was Paul’s allusion to the day of judgment with Jesus as Judge whom God had raised from the dead that made the Athenians mock and leave him (Ac 17:31f.). But Paul did not change his belief or his preaching because of the conduct of the Athenians. He is certain that God’s wrath in due time will punish sin. Surely this is a needed lesson for our day. It was coming then and it is coming now.

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