1Th 1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus,…. These are the persons concerned in this epistle, and who send their greetings and salutations to this church; Paul was the inspired writer of it, and who is called by his bare name, without any additional epithet to it, as elsewhere in his other epistles; where he is either styled the servant, or apostle, or prisoner of Christ, but here only Paul: the reason for it is variously conjectured; either because he was well known by this church, having been lately with them; or lest these young converts should be offended and stumble at any pompous title, which they might imagine carried an appearance of arrogance and pride; or because there were as yet no false apostles among them, who had insinuated anything to the disadvantage of Paul, as in other places, which obliged him to assert his character and magnify his office; or rather because this was the first epistle he wrote, and he being conscious to himself of his own meanness, and that he was the least of the apostles, and unworthy to be called one, chose not to use the title. Silvanus is the same with Silas, who was with the apostle at Thessalonica and at Corinth, when he wrote this epistle; he was originally a member of the church at Jerusalem, and was one of the chief of the brethren there, and a prophet; see Act_17:4, Timothy was also with the apostle at the same place, and was sent back by him from Athens to know their state, and returned to Corinth to him with Silas; he stands last, as being the younger, and perhaps was the apostle’s amanuensis, and therefore in modesty writes his name last: the reason of their being mentioned was because, having been with the apostle at this place, they were well known by the church, who would be glad to hear of their welfare; as also to show their continued harmony and consent in the doctrines of the Gospel; they stand in the same order in 2Co_1:19,
unto the church of the Thessalonians: which consisted of several of the inhabitants of Thessalonica, both Jews and Gentiles; See Gill on Act_17:4, who were called under the ministry of the word by the grace of God, out of darkness into marvellous light, and were separated from the rest of the world, and incorporated into a Gospel church state. This was a particular congregated church of Christ. Some have thought it was not as yet organized, or had proper officers in it; since no mention is made of pastors and deacons, but the contrary is evident from 1Th_5:12, where they are exhorted to know, own, and acknowledge them that laboured among them, and were over them in the Lord, and esteem them highly for their works’ sake. This church is said to be
in God the Father; were interested in his love and free favour, as appears by their election of God, 1Th_1:4, and they were in the faith of God the Father, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the profession of it, and so were distinguished from an assembly of Heathens that were in the faith of idols, and not of the one true and living God, and especially as the Father of Christ; they were in fellowship with God the Father, and they were drawn by the efficacy of his grace to himself and to his Son, and were gathered together and embodied in a church state under his direction and influence; he was the author of them as a church, and they were plants of Christ’s heavenly Father’s planting, not to be plucked up; and they were, as the Arabic version renders it, “addicted” to God the Father; they were devoted to his service; they had his word among them, which they had received not as the word of men, but as the word of God; and his ordinances were duly and faithfully administered among them, and attended on by them:
and in the Lord Jesus Christ; they were chosen in him before the foundation of the world; they were chosen in him as their head and representative; they were in him as members of his body, and as branches in the vine; they were openly in him by the effectual calling and conversion, were in the faith of him, and in the observance of his commands, an in communion with him; and so were distinguished from a Jewish synagogue or congregation: all this being true, at least of the far greater part of them, is said of them all, in a judgment of charity, they being under a profession of the Christian religion:
grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the apostle’s usual salutation and wish in all his epistles to the churches; See Gill on Rom_1:7, the words “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” are left out in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions; and the Arabic version omits the last clause, “and the Lord Jesus Christ”; and the Ethiopic version only reads, “peace be unto you and his grace”.
(a) Nat. Hist. l. 4. c. 10. (b) Ptolom. l. 3. c. 13. (c) Strabe, l. 7.
A.T. Robertson 1Th 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 (Act_17:14.). Timothy had joined Paul in Athens (1Th_3:1.), had been sent back to Thessalonica, and with Silas had rejoined Paul in Corinth (1Th_3:5; Act_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 Corinthians-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 Act_19:39, but it came to mean an organization for worship whether assembled or unassembled (cf. Act_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, Mat_1:21) he knew, as the “Jesus of history,” the personal name of the Man of Galilee, whom he had once persecuted (Act_9:5), but whom he at once, after his conversion, proclaimed to be “the Messiah,” (ho Christos, Act_9:22). This position Paul never changed. In the great sermon at Antioch in Pisidia which Luke has preserved (Act_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 Psa_32:1. (quoted by Paul in Rom_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 Rom_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 (Phi_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” (Act_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 (Act_15:23; Act_23:26; Jam_1:1) here gives place to charis, one of the great words of the New Testament (cf. Joh_1:16.) 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 (Phi_4:7). This introduction is brief, but rich and gracious and pitches the letter at once on a high plane.
1Th 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all,…. For all the members of this church, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, greater or lesser believers, officers or private Christians; for their being a church, for the gifts bestowed on them, for the graces hereafter mentioned that were wrought in them and exercised by them; the glory of all which is given to God, and thanks for the same, which shows them to be gifts of his, and not in the least owing to any merits of men: the apostle ascribes nothing to their free will, previous dispositions and qualifications, diligence and industry; nor does he attribute anything to himself and to his companions, who were only ministers by whom these believed; but he refers all to God, to his grace and goodness: and he returned thanks to him for it, and that “always”; whenever he thought of it, made mention of it, or was at the throne of grace, as follows,
making mention of you in our prayers; to God, daily, both in private and in public, at which times thanksgivings to God were made on their account; for thanksgiving is a part of prayer, and requests are always to be made known unto God with thanksgiving. The Ethiopic version renders this clause in the singular number, “and I am mindful of you always in my prayer”; and leaves out the word “all” in the former clause.
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 1Th_1:1. “The plural implies that all three missionaries prayed together” (Moffatt).
Always (pantote). Late word, rare in lxx. So with eucharisteō in 2Th_1:3; 2Th_2:13; 1Co_1:4; Eph_5:20; Phi_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. (Phi_1:3, Phi_1:7).
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).
Without ceasing (ἀδιαλείπτως)
Po. In lxx see 1 Macc. 7:11; 2 Macc. 3:26; 9:4; 8:12; 15:7; 3 Macc. 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 be joyful, hail, welcome, appears in χάρις grace. This 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. Rom_1:9; Eph_1:16; Phm_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 (1Th_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 work, may 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 labor, from κόπτειν to strike or hew; hence, laborious, painful exertion. Ὑπομονὴ patience, patient endurance and faithful persistence in toil and suffering. See on 2Pe_1:6; see on Jam_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 Rom_5:4; Rom_8:25; Rom_15:4; 1Co_8:7; Heb_7:11, Heb_7:12. ὑπομονὴ in lxx, see 1Ch_29:15; Job_14:19; Psa_9:18; Psa_38:7; Jeremiah 1 Jer_4:8. We have here the great triad of Christian graces, corresponding to 1Co_8:1-13. Hope is prominent throughout the two Epistles. The triad appears, 1Th_5:8; Gal_5:5, Gal_5:6; 1Co_8:13; Eph_4:2-5; Col_1:4, Col_1:5; Heb_10:22-24; 1Pe_1:21-22. Comp. 1Th_2:9; 1Th_5:8; 2Th_3:5, 2Th_3:8; 1Co_15:10, 1Co_15:58; 2Co_11:27; Rev_2:2.
In our Lord, etc. (τοῦ κυρίου)
Lit. of our Lord. For a similar use of the genitive, see Joh_5:42; 1Jo_2:5, 1Jo_2:15; Act_9:31; Rom_1:5;Rom_3:18, Rom_3:22, Rom_3:26, etc. Connect with hope only.
Before our God and Father
Const. with remembering, and comp. 1Th_2:19; 1Th_3:9.
1Th 1:3 Remembering without ceasing,…. The phrase “without ceasing”, is, by the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, joined to the last clause of the preceding verse; and the remembrance the apostle speaks of is either a distinct thing from the mention made of them in prayer, and suggests that they bore them on their minds at other times also; or it is the same with it; or rather a reason of their mentioning of them then, because they remembered them, and the following things of theirs:
as your work of faith; by which is meant not the principle of faith, for as such that is God’s work, the product of his grace, and the effect of his almighty power; but the operative virtue and exercise of it under the influence of the grace of God: the Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions render it, “the work of your faith”; and so some copies, and the Syriac version, “the works of your faith”. The Targumist in Hab_1:12 represents God as holy בעובדי הימנותא, “in works of faith”: faith is a working grace, it has a deal of work to do, it has its hands always full, and is employed about many things; it is the grace by which a soul goes to God, as its covenant God, lays hold on him as such, pleads his promises with him, asks favours of him, and is very importunate, and will have no denial; and by which it goes to Christ as at first conversion, afterwards for fresh supplies of grace, out of that fulness of grace that is in him; it receives him and all from him, and through him pardon, righteousness, adoption of children, and an eternal inheritance; and it is that grace which carries back all the glory to God and Christ, and to free grace; it glorifies God, exalts Christ, humbles the creature, and magnifies the grace of God, it has much work to do this way; and it works by love, by acts of love to God, to Christ, and to the saints; and it puts the soul upon a cheerful obedience to every ordinance and command, and hence obedience is styled the obedience of faith; and indeed all good works that are properly so are done in faith, and faith without works is dead; it is greatly engaged against the world and the devil; it is that grace by which Satan is opposed and overcome, and by which the believer gets the victory over the world; so that he is not discouraged by its frowns, and cast down by the trials and afflictions he meets with in it, nor drawn aside by its snares and allurements; something of this kind the apostle had observed and remembered in these believers: he adds,
and labour of love; love is a laborious grace when in lively exercise; love to God and Christ will constrain a believer to engage in, and go through, great hardships, difficulties, toil, and labour, for their sakes; and love to the saints will exert itself, by serving them in things temporal and spiritual, ministering cheerfully and largely to their outward wants, for which reason the same epithet is given to love in Heb_6:10 as here; regarding and assisting them in their spiritual concerns; praying for them and with them; building them up in their most holy faith; communicating their experiences, and speaking comfortable words unto them; reproving them for sin in love, and with tenderness; restoring them when fallen in a spirit of meekness; and stirring them up to love and good works: love has much toil and labour, not only in performing the several duties of religion, both towards God and man; but in bearing all things, the burdens of fellow Christians; the infirmities of weak believers, forbearing them in love, forgiving their offences, and covering their sins:
and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, or “of our Lord Jesus Christ”. These persons had a good hope through grace given unto them, and which was founded in Christ Jesus, in his person, blood, and righteousness, and so was as an anchor sure and steadfast; and it had him for its object, it was an hope of interest in him, of being for ever with him, of his, second coming and glorious appearance, and of eternal life and happiness through him; and this was attended with patience, with a patient bearing of reproaches, afflictions, and persecutions, for the sake of Christ, and a patient waiting for his coming, his kingdom and glory; and this as well as the others were remembered by the apostle, and his fellow ministers, with great pleasure: and that
in the sight of God and our Father; or before God and our Father; which may be read in connection either with the above graces, which were exercised, not only before men, but before God, and in his sight, who sees not as man seeth, and who cannot be deceived and imposed upon; and so shows that these graces were true and genuine, faith was unfeigned, love was without dissimulation, and hope without hypocrisy: or with the word remembering, as it is in the Syriac version, which reads, “remembering before God and our Father”; that is, as often as we appear before God, and lift up our hands and our hearts unto him in prayer, we bear you upon our minds before God; and particularly remember your operative faith, laborious love, and patient hope of Christ.
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 ̣toǔ 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 1Th_2:1, 1Th_2:14, 1Th_2:17; 1Th_3:7; 1Th_4:1, 1Th_4:10), but adds this affectionate phrase nowhere else in the N.T. in this form (cf. Jud_1:3) though in Sirach 45:1 and on the Rosetta Stone. But in 2Th_2:13 he quotes “beloved by the Lord” from Deu_33:12. The use of adelphoi for members of the same brotherhood can be derived from the Jewish custom (Act_2:29, Act_2:37) and the habit of Jesus (Mat_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 (Act_9:15; 1Th_1:4; Rom_9:11; Rom_11:5, Rom_11:7, Rom_11:8; 2Pe_1:10). The divine eklogē was manifested in the Christian qualities of 1Th_1:3 (Moffatt).
Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God – The margin here reads, “beloved of God, your election.” The difference depends merely on the pointing, and that which would require the marginal reading has been adopted by Hahn, Tittman, Bloomfield, and Griesbach. The sense is not materially varied, and the common version may be regarded as giving the true meaning. There is no great difference between “being beloved of God,” and “being chosen of God.” The sense then is, “knowing that you are chosen by God unto salvation;” compare notes on Eph_1:4-5, Eph_1:11. The word “knowing” here refers to Paul himself, and to Silas and Timothy, who united with him in writing the Epistle, and in rendering thanks for the favors shown to the church at Thessalonica. The meaning is, that they had so strong confidence that they had been chosen of God as a church unto salvation, that they might say they knew it.
The way in which they knew it seems not to have been by direct revelation or by inspiration, but by the evidence which they had furnished, and which constituted such a proof of piety as to leave no doubt of the fact. Calvin. What this evidence was, the apostle states in the following verses. I was shown by the manner in which they embraced the gospel, and by the spirit which they had evinced under its influence The meaning here seems to be, not that all the members of the church at Thessalonica were certainly chosen of God to salvation – for, as in other churches, there might have been those there who were false professors – but that the church, as such, had given evidence that it was a true church – that it was founded on Christian principles – and that, as a church, it had furnished evidence of its “election by God.” Nor can it mean, as Clarke and Bloomfield suppose, that God “had chosen and called the Gentiles to the same privileges to which he chose and called the Jews; and that as they (the Jews) had rejected the gospel, God had now elected the Gentiles in their stead;” for a considerable portion of the church was composed of Jews (see Act_17:4-5), and it cannot, therefore, mean that the Gentiles had been selected in the place of the Jews. Besides, the election of the Gentiles, or any portion of the human family, to the privileges of salvation, to the neglect or exclusion of any other part, would be attended with all the difficulties which occur in the doctrine of personal and individual election. Nothing is gained on this subject in removing the difficulties, by supposing that God chooses masses of people instead of individuals. How can the one be more proper than the other? What difficulty in the doctrine of election is removed by the supposition? Why is it not as right to choose an individual as a nation? Why not as proper to reject an individual as a whole people? If this means that the church at Thessalonica had shown that it was a true church of Christ, chosen by God, then we may learn:
(1) That a true church owes what it has to the “election of God.” It is because God has chosen it; has called it out from the world; and has endowed it in such a manner as to he a true church.
(2) A church may give evidence that it is chosen of God, and is a true church. There are things which it may do, which will show that it is undoubtedly such a church as God has chosen, and such as he approves. There are just principles on which a church should be organized, and there is a spirit which may be manifested by a church which will distinguish it from any other association of people.
(3) It is not improper to speak with strong confidence of such a church as undoubtedly chosen of God. There are churches which, by their zeal, self-denial, and deadness to the world, show beyond question their “election of God,” and the world may see that they are founded on other principles and manifest a different spirit from other organizations of people.
(4) Every church should evince such a spirit that there may be no doubt of its “election of God.” It should be so dead to the world; so pure in doctrine and in practice, and so much engaged in spreading the knowledge of salvation, that the world will see that it is governed by higher principles than any worldly association, and that nothing could produce this but the influence of the Holy Spirit of God.
Adam Clarke 1Th 1:4
Knowing your election of God – Being assured, from the doctrine which I have delivered to you, and which God has confirmed by various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, that he has chosen and called the Gentiles to the same privileges to which he chose and called the Jews; and that, as they have rejected the offers of the Gospel, God has now elected the Gentiles in their stead. This is the election which the Thessalonians knew; and of which the apostle treats at large in his Epistle to the Romans, and also in his Epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians. No irrespective, unconditional, eternal, and personal election to everlasting glory, is meant by the apostle. As God had chosen the Jews, whom, because of their obstinate unbelief, he had now rejected; so he had now chosen or elected the Gentiles. And in neither case was there any thing absolute; all was most specifically conditional, as far as their final salvation was concerned; without any merit on their side, they were chosen and called to those blessings which, if rightly used, would lead them to eternal glory. That these blessings could be abused – become finally useless and forfeited, they had an ample proof in the case of the Jews, who, after having been the elect of God for more than 2000 years, were now become reprobates.
1Th 1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. Which intends not an election to an office, for this epistle is written not to the officers of the church only, but to the whole church; nor to the Gospel, the outward means of grace, since this was common to them with others, and might be known without the evidence after given; nor does it design the effectual calling, sometimes so called for this is expressed in the following verse as a fruit, effect, and evidence of the election here spoken of, which is no other than the eternal choice of, them to everlasting life and happiness: this is of God, an act of God the Father, made in Christ Jesus before the world began, and which springs from his sovereign will, and is the effect of his pure love and free favour; and therefore these persons who are the objects of it are said to be “beloved of God”; for so the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions read the words, and which agree with 2Th_2:13 for this choice does not arise from the merits of men, or any conditions in them, or from the foresight of their faith, holiness, and good works, but from the free grace and good pleasure of God; and is the source and spring of all grace, and the blessings of it, and even of good works; and is a sure, immutable, and irreversible act of God, being founded on his own will, and not on the works of men; the knowledge they had of this was not what the Thessalonians themselves had, though they might have, and doubtless had the knowledge of this grace, and which may be concluded with certainty from the effectual calling; and is a privilege which many particular believers may, and do arrive unto the knowledge of, without any extraordinary revelation made unto them: but here it intends the knowledge which the apostle and his companions had of the election of the members of this church; not by inspiration of the Spirit of God, but by the manner of the Gospel’s coming unto them, and the effects it had upon them, as expressed in the following verses; and from their faith, hope, and love, mentioned in the preceding verse; and which was the ground and foundation of their thanksgiving for them; see on Gill 2Th_2:13.
1Th 1:5 For our Gospel came not unto you,…. The apostle calls the Gospel “our Gospel”, not because he and his fellow ministers were the authors of it; for in this respect it is solely of God, being the produce of his wisdom and grace, and by the revelation of Jesus Christ, hence he calls it the Gospel of God in 1Th_2:2 nor because they were the subject of it, for they preached not themselves, but a crucified Christ, and him only, though it was a stumblingblock to some, and foolishness to others; but because it was committed to their trust, and they were the preachers of it, and agreed in the ministration of it; and it is opposed to, and is distinct from, that which was preached by the false teachers; and here intends not barely the Gospel itself, but chiefly their preaching of it: and this came unto them being sent of God, for wherever the Gospel comes, it comes with a mission and commission from God; and being brought unto them by the apostles, who were bringers and publishers of the good tidings of good things, it came unthought of, unsought and unasked for by them; and that not only externally, which to have is a great blessing, but internally, εις υμας, “into you”; it came not barely into their ears vocally, and into their heads notionally; but into their hearts, and worked effectually there; it was mixed with faith, and was profitable; it became the ingrafted word, and dwelt richly in them: for it came to them not
in word only; it did come in word, it could not come without words, there is no interpreting of Scripture, no preaching of the Gospel, nor hearing of it without words, without articulate sounds; but not only with these, nor with wisdom of words, with enticing words of man’s wisdom, with words which man’s wisdom teacheth; as also not in the mere notion and letter of the Gospel, which when it comes in that manner is a dead letter, and the savour of death unto death:
but in power; not merely preached in a powerful way, or attended with miraculous operations, though doubtless both were true; for the apostle was a powerful preacher, and his ministry was confirmed by signs and wonders and mighty deeds; but from neither of these could he conclude the election of these people: but the preaching of the Gospel was accompanied with the powerful efficacy of the grace of God, working by it upon them; so that it became the power of God unto salvation to them; it came to them in the demonstration of the Spirit of God, and of power, quickening them who were dead in trespasses, and sin, enlightening their dark understandings, unstopping their deaf ears, softening their hard hearts, and delivering them from the slavery of sin and Satan; from whence it clearly appeared that they were the chosen of God, and precious:
and in the Holy Ghost; the Gospel was not only preached under the influence, and by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and attended with his extraordinary gifts for the confirmation of it, which it might be, and be no proof of the election of these persons to eternal life; but it came by the power of the Holy Spirit to their souls, working and implanting his graces in them, as faith, hope, and love, and every other; and he himself was received along with it, as a spirit of illumination and conviction, of regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, and of faith and adoption; all which gave full evidence of their election: and in much assurance; not on the preacher’s side, as if the Gospel was preached by him with great assurance, boldness, and confidence; or with great strength of evidence, giving clear and full proof of what was delivered sufficient to ascertain it, and persuade anyone to the belief of it; or with “much fulness”, as some render the words, that is, of the Gospel of Christ, and of the gifts of the Spirit, and to a multitude of persons; all which might be, and yet be no proof of the choice of these persons in Christ to eternal salvation; but the Gospel preached to them was blessed to produce in them much assurance, or a large assurance, if not a full one, of the grace of faith in Christ, and of hope of eternal life by him, and of understanding of the doctrines of the Gospel, and of interest in the blessings of grace held forth in them; and this being a fruit, was an evidence of electing grace:
as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. The apostle appeals to themselves for the truth of what he had said; who must have observed, and could not but remember, with what meanness they appeared, with what fear and trembling, with what plainness and simplicity, without the enticing words of man’s wisdom; what a contemptible figure they made, how they wrought with their own hands, and endured reproach and persecution for their sakes, that they might obtain salvation by Christ with eternal glory; and had nothing to recommend them to them, to win upon them, and engage their attention, and strike their affection; or persuade them to receive their persons, and believe their doctrines; wherefore the effects their ministry had upon them were not owing to the charms of words, the force of language, and power of oratory; or to any external thing in them, or done by them; but must be ascribed to the Spirit of God, and to the power and efficacy of his grace.
And ye became followers of us – “You became imitators – μιμηταὶ mimētai – of us.” This does not mean that they became followers of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, in the sense that they had set themselves up as teachers, or as the head of a sect, but that they imitated their manner of living; see the notes on 1Co_4:16; 1Co_11:1.
And of the Lord – The Lord Jesus. You also learned to imitate him. From this it is evident that the manner in which the Saviour lived was a prominent topic of their preaching, and also that it was one of the means of the conversion of the Thessalonians. It is probable that preaching on the pure and holy life of the Lord Jesus might be made a much more important means of the conversion of sinners than it is. Nothing is better adapted to show them the evil of their own guilty lives than the contrast between their lives and his; and nothing can be conceived better fitted to win them to holy living than the contemplation of his pure and holy deportment.
Having received the word in much affliction – That is, amidst much opposition from others; see Act_17:5-8. It was in the midst of these trials that they had become converted – and they seem to have been all the better Christians for them. In this they were imitators of the Saviour, or shared the same lot with him, and thus became his followers. Their embracing and holding fast the truths of religion amidst all this opposition, showed that they were controlled by the same principles that he was, and that they were truly his friends.
With joy of the Holy Ghost – With happiness produced by the Holy Ghost. Though they were much afflicted and persecuted, yet there was joy. There was joy in their conversion – in the evidence of pardoned sin – in the hope of heaven; see the notes, Act_8:8. However great may be the trials and persecutions experienced in receiving the gospel, or however numerous and long the sufferings of the subsequent life in consequence of having embraced it, there is a joy in religion that more than overbalances all, and that makes religion the richest of all blessings.
1Th 1:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord,…. So far followers of them as they were of Christ, in embracing the Gospel, submitting to the ordinances of it, professing the name of Christ, and suffering for his sake; the Alexandrian copy reads, “of God”, and others, “of Christ”:
having received the word; the Gospel, the word of truth, peace, and righteousness, and of salvation by Christ; which they received not as the word of man, but of God; and that
in much affliction; referring to the uproar made by the baser sort of people, instigated by the unbelieving Jews, and the trouble they gave to Jason and other brethren, mentioned in Act_17:1 and this is a considerable commendation of them, that at a time when others were offended and fell off from hearing the word, and a profession of the Gospel, they should receive it, and that
with much joy of the Holy Ghost; not with a carnal joy, or with a mere flash of natural affection, as in the stony ground hearers, and in the Jews, who rejoiced for a while in John’s ministry, and in Herod, who sometimes heard him gladly; but with a spiritual joy of the Holy Ghost’s producing in them, applying the word with power to them, giving them a spiritual gust of it, and pleasure in it, raising in their souls a joy upon the most solid foundation.
Albert Barnes 1Th 1:7
So that ye were ensamples to all that believe – Examples in reference to the firmness with which you embraced the gospel, the fidelity with which you adhered to it in trials, and the zeal which you showed in spreading it abroad. These things are specified in the previous and subsequent verses as characterizing their piety. The word here rendered “ensamples” – τύπον tupon, singular – is that from which the word type is derived. It properly denotes anything caused or produced by the means of “blows” (from τύπτω tuptō), and hence a mark, print, or impression, made by a stamp or die; and then a resemblance, figure, pattern, exemplar – a model after which anything is made. This is the meaning here. They became, as it were, a model or pattern after which the piety of others should be moulded, or showed what the piety of others ought to be.
In Macedonia – Thessalonica was an important city of Macedonia (see the Intro.; compare notes, Act_16:9), and of course their influence would be felt on the whole of the surrounding region. This is a striking instance of the effect which a church in a city may have on the country. The influence of a city church may be felt, and will usually be felt afar on the other churches of a community – just as, in all other respects, a city has an important influence on the country at large.
And Achaia – Achaia proper was the part of Greece of which Corinth was the capital. The word, however, was sometimes so used as to comprehend the whole of Greece, and in this sense it seems to be employed here, as there is no reason to suppose that their influence would be felt particularly in the province of which Corinth was the center. Koppe observes that Macedonia and Achaia were the two provinces into which all Greece was divided when it was brought under the Roman yoke, the former of which comprehended Macedonia proper, Illyricum, Epirus, and Thessaly, and the other Greece properly so called. The meaning here is, therefore, that their influence was felt on all the parts of Greece; that their piety was spoken of, and the effect of their conversion had been felt in all those places.
Thessalonica was a commercial city, and a sea-port. It had contact with all the other parts of Macedonia, with Greece, and with Asia Minor. It was partly owing to the advantages of its situation that its influence was thus felt. Its own merchants and mariners who went abroad would carry with them the spirit of the religion of the church there, and those who visited it from other ports would see the effect of religion there. This is just an instance, therefore, of the influence which a commercial town and a sea-port may have in religion on other parts of the world. A revival of religion in such a place will extend its influence afar to other places, and appropriate zeal among the friends of the Redeemer there may have an important effect on sea-ports, and towns, and lands far remote. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of such places in regard to the spread of the gospel; and Christians who reside there – be they merchants, mechanics, lawyers, physicians, mariners, or ministers of the gospel, should feel that on them God has placed the responsibility of using a vast influence in sending the gospel to other lands. He that goes forth from a commercial town should be imbued with the spirit of the gospel, and churches located there should be so under the influence of religion, that they who come among them from abroad shall bear to their own lands honorable testimony of the power of religion there.
1Th 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord,…. By which is meant the Gospel, and is so called because it is from the Lord, as the author of it: and it is of the Lord, as the subject of it; and it is by the Lord, as the minister or dispenser of it; and it is owing to the efficacy of his grace that it is useful and successful, and ought to be attended to, received, and obeyed, not as the word of man, but as the word of the Lord. This is said to have “sounded out”, alluding to the blowing of a trumpet, to which the Gospel is sometimes compared, as to the silver trumpet under the law, for the gathering of the people of Israel; or to the trumpet blown in the years of jubilee, which proclaimed liberty, release of debts, and restoration of inheritances, as the Gospel in a spiritual sense does; or to the trumpet used in war to prepare for the battle, and therefore should not give an uncertain sound; or as used musically, the Gospel being a joyful sound; and this sounding of it may denote the clear publication and open declaration, and large spread of it far and near: though, when it is said to sound forth from the Thessalonians, it is not to be understood as if the Gospel first began to be preached among them, and from thence went to other places; it was preached at Philippi before it came to them, and at many other places before it was there; the word of the Lord, according to the prophecy of Isa_2:2 came from Jerusalem; Christ and his apostles first preached there, and from thence their words and sound went to the ends of the earth; but not so much the preaching of the Gospel, as the fame and report of its being preached in this place, is here meant: and so the Latin translation of the Syriac version renders it, “for from you went the report of the word of our Lord”; the fame of its being preached and received at Thessalonica, in the manner it was, spread itself,
not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place; not only at Philippi, Berea, Athens, and Corinth, and other cities and towns in those countries, but also in other parts of the world; and what greatly contributed to it were the uproar that was made at Thessalonica, and continued at Berea upon the first preaching of the Gospel in those parts by the unbelieving Jews; as also the large numbers both of Greeks and Jews, and of devout women of considerable families, that were converted: to which may be added, that Thessalonica was the metropolis of Macedonia, and a city of great trade, and much frequented from all parts both by sea and land; and by this means it came to pass, that not only the fame of the preaching of the word among them went abroad everywhere; but, as the apostle adds,
your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; meaning the grace of faith bestowed on them, by which they received the Gospel in the love of it, assented to it, and professed it, and which has God for its object, and is very valuable, since such public notice is taken of it; and which shows that it was not kept to themselves, and lay hid in their own breasts; but they declared it both by words and by deeds, by making a profession of it, and by walking agreeably to it:
so that we had no need to speak anything; the Syriac version adds, “concerning you”; concerning the preaching of the Gospel among them, their faith in it and profession of it, all being so well known in the several places where they came; for it seems it was usual with the apostles, when they came to any place, to speak of their success in others, and of the faith, and hope, and joy of other Christians, for the encouragement of, and as ensamples to those to whom they minister; but with relation to the Thessalonians this was unnecessary.
1Th 1:9 For they themselves show of us,…. Either the above reports of the preaching of the Gospel to the Thessalonians, and of their faith in God; or rather the persons to whom these reports were brought, openly and publicly, and largely declared concerning
the apostles, what manner of entering in we had unto you; under what difficulties they laboured, what contention they had with the unbelieving Jews, what reproaches were cast upon them, and what persecutions they endured when they first entered their city and synagogue, and preached the Gospel to them; and in what manner they did preach it, with what boldness, sincerity, uprightness and affection, and without flattery, covetousness, and vain glory; and with what power it came to them, and what success attended it, and how readily, cheerfully, and reverently both they and that were received by them:
and how ye turned to God from idols; immediately and at once, upon the preaching of the Gospel to them, being first turned by the powerful and efficacious grace of God; for the first work of conversion is God’s work; then they themselves, under the influence of the same grace, turned to the one God, from their internal idols, their sins and lusts, and from their external idols, their many false and fictitious deities: for the Thessalonians before the Gospel came among them were idolaters; here the “Dii Cabiri”, the great and chief gods of the Gentiles, were worshipped; as Jupiter and Bacchus, Ceres and Proserpina, Pluto and Mercury, Castor and Pollux, and Esculapius; these the Macedonians, and particularly the Thessalonians, worshipped with great devotion and reverence (d): but now they turned from them and forsook them,
to serve the living and true God; who is called the living God, because he has life in and of himself, and is the fountain of life to others; from whom all living creatures have their life, and are supported in it by him; and in opposition to the above idols, which were inanimate things made of wood or metal, and were images of men that had been dead long ago: and the “true” God, because he is truth itself, and cannot lie, who faithfully performs all his promises, and is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth; and in opposition to the nominal and fictitious deities of the Gentiles, which were only in name, not in truth and reality, or by nature gods: now though these Thessalonians had before done service to these idols, they now turned from them to serve the one living and true God; not only externally, by embracing and professing his Gospel, submitting to his ordinances, and walking according to the rules prescribed by him; but also internally, in the exercise of faith, hope, love, and every other grace. (d) Gutherlothus de mysteriis Deor. Cabirorum, c. 15. p. 94, 95. Jul. Firmicus. de errore prof. relig. p. 18.
And to wait for his Son from heaven – It is clear from this and from other parts of these two Epistles, that the return of the Lord Jesus to this world was a prominent subject of the preaching of Paul at Thessalonica. No small part of these Epistles is occupied with stating the true doctrine on this point (1 Th 4:v.), and in correcting the errors which prevailed in regard to it after the departure of Paul. Perhaps we are not to infer, however, that this doctrine was made more prominent there than others, or that it had been inculcated there more frequently than it had been elsewhere, but the apostle adverts to it here particularly because it was a doctrine so well fitted to impart comfort to them in their trials 1Th_4:13-18, and because, in that connection, it was so well calculated to rouse them to vigilance and zeal; 1Th_5:1-11. He makes it prominent in the second Epistle, because material errors prevailed there in reference to it which needed to be corrected.
In the passage before us, he says that the return of the Son of God from heaven was an important point which had been insisted on when he was there, and that their conduct, as borne witness to by all, had shown with what power it had seized upon them, and what a practical influence it had exerted in their lives. They lived as if they were” waiting” for his return. They fully believed in it; they expected it. They were looking out for it, not knowing when it might occur, and as if it might occur at any moment. They were, therefore, dead to the world, and were animated with an earnest desire to do good. This is one of the instances which demonstrate that the doctrine that the Lord Jesus will return to our world, is fitted, when understood in the true sense revealed in the Scriptures, to exert a powerful influence on the souls of people. It is eminently adapted to comfort the hearts of true Christians in the sorrows, bereavements, and sicknesses of life Joh_14:1-3; Act_1:11; 1Th_4:13-18; 2Pe_3:8-9; to lead us to watchfulness and to an earnest inquiry into the question whether we are prepared to meet him Mat_24:37-44; Mat_25:13; to make us dead to the world, and to lead us to act as becomes the children of light (1Th_5:5-9; to awaken and arouse impenitent and carless sinners 1Th_5:2-3; 2Pe_3:3-7, and to excite Christians to self-denying efforts to spread the gospel in distant lands, as was the case at Thessalonica. Every doctrine of the gospel is adapted to produce some happy practical effects on mankind, but there are few that are more full of elevated and holy influences than that which teaches that the Lord Jesus will return to the earth, and which leads the soul to wait for his appearing; compare notes, 1Co_1:7; Phi_3:20.
Whom he raised from the dead – See the Act_2:24-32 notes; 1Co_15:4-9 notes. Paul probably means to intimate here, that this was one of the great truths which they had received, that the Lord Jesus had been raised from the dead. We know it was a prominent doctrine wherever the gospel was preached.
Which delivered us from the wrath to come – Another of the prominent doctrines of Christianity, which was undoubtedly always inculcated by the first preachers of religion. The “wrath to come” is the divine indignation which will come upon the guilty; Mat_3:7. From that Christ delivers us by taking our place, and dying in our stead. It was the great purpose of his coming to save us from this approaching wrath. It follows from this:
(1) That there was wrath which man had to dread – since Jesus came to deliver us from something that was real, and not from what was imaginary; and,
(2) That the same wrath is to be dreaded now by all who are not united to Christ, since in this respect they are now just as all were before he died; that is, they are exposed to fearful punishment, from which He alone can deliver. It may be added, that the existence of this wrath is real, whether people believe it or not, for the fact of its existence is not affected by our belief or unbelief.