1 Thessalonians 1:9
For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
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(9) They themselvesi.e., the inhabitants of those countries. “Wherever we go we find our own story told us.”

Shew.—Rather, announce. Both sides of the story are told: (1) of us—what kind of entry we made among you, explained in 1Thessalonians 2:1-12 to mean with “the word of truth, of meekness, and righteousness” (Psalm 45:5); (2) of you—how truly converted you were, as he proceeds to show further in 1Thessalonians 2:13 to 1Thessalonians 3:13.

Living and true God.—In contrast to the lifeless and false idols. The Thessalonians had been Gentiles, Perhaps St. Paul was thinking of his own speech on Mars Hill, which had been recently uttered.

1:6-10 When careless, ignorant, and immoral persons are turned from their carnal pursuits and connexions, to believe in and obey the Lord Jesus, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, the matter speaks for itself. The believers under the Old Testament waited for the coming of the Messiah, and believers now wait for his second coming. He is yet to come. And God had raised him from the dead, which is a full assurance unto all men that he will come to judgment. He came to purchase salvation, and will, when he comes again, bring salvation with him, full and final deliverance from that wrath which is yet to come. Let all, without delay, flee from the wrath to come, and seek refuge in Christ and his salvation.For they themselves - They who have visited you, and they whom you have sent out; all persons testify of your piety. The apostle seems to refer to all whom he had met or had heard of "in all places," who said anything about the Thessalonians They were unanimous in bearing testimony to their fidelity and piety.

Show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you - The testimony which they bear of you is, in fact, testimony of the manner in which we preached the gospel, and demeaned ourselves when we were with you. It shows that we were intent on our Master's work, and that we were not actuated by selfish or sinister motives The argument is, that such effects could not have been produced among them if Paul, Silas, and their fellow laborers had been impostors. Their sound conversion to God; their change from idolatry to the true religion, and the zeal which had been the result of their conversion, was an argument to which Paul and his fellow-laborers might appeal in proof of their sincerity and their being sent from God. Paul often makes a similar appeal; compare notes on 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. It is certain that many of the Jews in Thessalonica, when Paul and his fellow-laborers were there, regarded them as impostors Acts 17:6, Acts 17:8, and there is every reason to suppose that after they left the city, they would endeavor to keep up this impression among the people. To meet this, Paul now says that their own undoubted conversion to a life of holiness and zeal under their ministry, was an unanswerable argument that this was not so. How could impostors and deceivers have been the means of producing such effects?

And how ye turned to God from idols - That is, under our preaching. This proves that the church was to a considerable extent composed of those who were converted from idolatry under the preaching of Paul; compare Intro. 4. The meaning here is, that they who came from them, or they who had visited them, bore abundant testimony to the fact that they had turned from idols to the worship of the true God; compare notes 1 Corinthians 12:2; Galatians 1:8.

To serve the living and true God - He is called the "living God" in opposition to idols - who are represented as dead, dumb, deaf, and blind; compare Psalm 135:15-17; notes, Isaiah 44:10-17; Matthew 16:16; John 5:26; Acts 14:15.

9. Strictly there should follow, "For they themselves show of you," &c.; but, instead, he substitutes that which was the instrumental cause of the Thessalonians' conversion and faith, "for they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you"; compare 1Th 1:5, which corresponds to this former clause, as 1Th 1:6 corresponds to the latter clause. "And how ye turned from idols to serve the living … God," &c. Instead of our having "to speak any thing" to them (in Macedonia and Achaia) in your praise (1Th 1:8), "they themselves (have the start of us in speaking of you, and) announce concerning (so the Greek of 'show of' means) us, what manner of (how effectual an) entrance we had unto you" (1Th 1:5; 2:1).

the living and true God—as opposed to the dead and false gods from which they had "turned." In the English Version reading, Ac 17:4, "of the devout Greeks a great multitude," no mention is made, as here, of the conversion of idolatrous Gentiles at Thessalonica; but the reading of some of the oldest manuscripts and Vulgate singularly coincides with the statement here: "Of the devout AND of Greeks (namely, idolaters) a great multitude"; so in Ac 17:17, "the devout persons," that is, Gentile proselytes to Judaism, form a separate class. Paley and Lachmann, by distinct lines of argument, support the "AND."

For they themselves show of us, what manner of entering in we had unto you: the believers of Macedonia and Achaia do speak of these things apaggellousin, openly, whereby it is evident the word of the Lord sounded forth to them from you, and they, without any information from us, declare the great entertainment you gave us and our gospel at our first entrance among you.

And how ye turned to God from idols; particularly your forsaking your former idolatry, when you worshipped idols, that were either the images or shapes of the true God, formed by men; or men whom they deified, and set up as gods, and worshipped them and their images; or inanimate creatures, as sun, moon, and stars, or whatever creature they found beneficial to them, the heathens made idols of them. These ye turned from: though it was by the power of God and the gospel upon your hearts, yet it was an act of your own. And though it was the worship of these idols you had been trained up in, and wits generally practised, yet you turned from it. And as to the manner of it, how ye turned from these idols, as in the text; that is, how readily, how sincerely, how speedily, with a holy indignation of them: or, pwv, how, that is, by what means; meaning by our entrance amongst you, and the power of our gospel upon your hearts, according to that prophecy, Isaiah 2:20,21, which refers to gospel times.

To serve the living and true God; to serve with religious worship proper to God; though the papists would confine the Greek word douleuein to some lower worship they give to saints or angels; or it may signify the whole service of God. And here the apostle speaks of their religion in the positive part, the former being negative. The living God, so called in opposition to idols, which were either images without life, or inanimate creatures, or men that were dead whom they worshipped; or living, because God is so eminently, being life essentially, originally, eternally, immutably, and derivatively to all things that live. As I live, saith the Lord, as if none had life but himself, Isaiah 49:18, &c. And called the true God in opposition to false gods. The heathen gods had no deity but what men gave them by worshipping them. They were not gods by nature, Galatians 4:8, and so not true. And as these things are spoken to show the power of the gospel, so in a way of commendation, that they did not only turn from idols, but did serve the true God; many profess the true God, but serve him not. As also they denote their privilege, that they served a God that could save them, which their idols could not. 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.

For {d} they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, {5} and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;

(d) All the believers.

(5) It is no true conversion to forsake idols, unless a man in addition worships the true and living God in Christ the only Redeemer.

1 Thessalonians 1:9. Αὐτοί] not: sponte, αὐτομαθῶς, of themselves (Pelt), but emphatically opposed to the preceding ἡμᾶς: not we, nay they themselves, that is, according to the well-known constructio ad sensum (comp. Galatians 2:2): οἱ ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ ἐν τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ καὶ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ. See Bernhardy, Syntax, p. 288; Winer, p. 137 [E. T. 181]. Beza erroneously (though undecidedly) refers αὐτοί to πάντες οἱ πιστεύοντες (1 Thessalonians 1:7).

περὶ ἡμῶν] is not equivalent to ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, in our stead (Koppe), but means: concerning us, de nobis; and, indeed, περὶ ἡμῶν is the general introductory object of ἀπαγγέλλουσιν, which is afterwards more definitely expressed by ὁποίαν κ.τ.λ.

ἡμῶν, however, refers not only to the apostle and his assistants, but also to the Thessalonians, because otherwise καὶ πῶς ἐπεστρέψατε in relation to ἡμῶν would be inappropriate. This twofold nature of the subject may be already contained in ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν (1 Thessalonians 1:8); as, on the one hand, the producing of πίστις by the labours of the apostle is expressed, and, on the other hand, its acceptance on the part of the Thessalonians.

ὁποίαν εἴσοδον ἔσχομεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς] what sort of entrance we had to you, namely, with the preaching of the gospel, i.e. (comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:5) with what power and fulness of the Holy Spirit, with what inward conviction and contempt of external dangers (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact erroneously limit ὁποίαν to danger), we preached the gospel to you. Most understand ὁποίαν εἴσοδον (led astray by the German Eingang) of the friendly reception, which Paul and his companions found among the Thessalonians (indeed, according to Pelt, εἴσοδος in itself without ὁποία denotes facilem aditum); and accordingly some (Schott, Hofmann) think of the eager reception of the gospel, or of its entrance into the hearts of the Thessalonians (Olshausen). The first view is against linguistic usage, as εἴσοδον ἔχειν πρός τινα can only have an active sense, can only denote the coming to one, the entrance (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:1); as also in the classics εἴσοδος is particularly used of the entrance of the chorus into the orchestra (comp. Passow on the word). The latter view is against the context, as in πῶς ἐπεστρέψατε κ.τ.λ. the effect of the apostle’s preaching is first referred to.

πῶς] how, that is, how joyfully and energetically.

ἐπιστρέφειν] to turn from the false way to the true.

πρὸς τὸν Θεόν] to be converted to God: a well-known biblical figure. It can also denote to return to God; for although this is spoken of those who once were Gentiles, yet their idolatry was only an apostasy from God (comp. Romans 1:19 ff.).

δουλεύειν] the infinitive of design. See Winer, p. 298 [E. T. 408].

Θεῷ ζῶντι] the living God (comp. אֱלֹהִים חַי, 2 Kings 19:4; 2 Kings 19:16, and Acts 14:15), in contrast to dead idols (Habakkuk 2:19).

ἀληθινός] true, real (comp. אֱלֹהִים אֶמֶת, 2 Chronicles 15:3; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20), in contrast to idols, which are vain and unreal. The design intended by δουλεύειν Θεῷ ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ contains as yet nothing specifically Christian; it is rather δουλεία consecrated to the living and true God, common to Christians and Jews. The specific Christian mark, that which distinguishes Christians also from Jews, is added in what immediately follows.1 Thessalonians 1:9. The positive and negative aspects of faith: “Videndum est ut ruinam errorum sequatur aedificium fidei” (Calvin).—ἀληθινῷ = “real” as opposed to false in the sense of “counterfeit”.—ζῶντι, as opposed to dead idols (see above, p. 5) impotent to help their worshippers. Elsewhere the phrase (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:12) “implies a contrast with the true God made practically a dead deity by a lifeless and rigid form of religion” (Hort, Christian Ecclesia, 173). Nothing brings home the reality of God (i.e., as Father, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3) to the Christian at first so much as the experience of forgiveness.9. For they themselves shew of us] Rather, report concerning us (R.V.) “They” points to “those in Macedonia and Achaia” and “in every place,”—any whom the Apostle visited, or to whom he had thought of sending the news. “Instead of waiting to be told by us, we find them spreading the joyful news already!” And this self-diffusing report concerned not the Thessalonians alone, but Paul and his colleagues. It published their success at this great city, and helped their further progress: they report … what kind of an entrance we had unto you.

The “manner” of this “entering in” is not to be found in the kind of reception given to the evangelists at Thessalonica, but in the way in which they presented themselves and entered on their ministry here: comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:5, and ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2. The reports that told of the heroic faith of the Thessalonians, told also of the wonderful energy and success with which Paul and Silas had preached to them.

and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God] Lit., from the idols, to be bondmen to a God living and true. This explains the “faith toward God” of 1 Thessalonians 1:8. “How” implies not the fact alone, but the manner of their conversion—“with what decision and gladness” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:6), parallel to “what manner of entrance.” The Thessalonian Christians had been mainly Gentiles and heathen; comp. ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:14,—also Acts 17:4-5, from which it appears, however, that there was a sprinkling of Jews among them, and “a great multitude” of proselytes, already more or less weaned from idolatry.

The “faith toward God” defined in this verse, is the faith of the whole Bible, in which from first to last God asserts Himself as “the Living and True,” against the ten thousand forms of human idolatry. The word idol (Greek eidôlon) means properly an appearance, a mere image, or phantom. Homer, e.g., applies the term to the phantasms of distant persons by which his gods sometimes impose on men (Iliad, v. 449; Odyssey, IV. 796). Comp. Lord Bacon’s idola tribus, specus, fori, theatri, in the Novum Organum. This word is the equivalent in the Septuagint Version of Hebrew designations for heathen gods and their images of like significance—vapours, vanities, nothings. To all these the Name of the God of Israel—Who “is the true God, and the living God” (Jeremiah 10:10)—is the constant, tacit antithesis: “I am Jehovah” (more strictly Jahveh, or Yahweh, commonly “the Lord” in the English O. T.)—the HE IS (see Exodus 3:13-14 for its interpretation; and for its use in argument against idolatry, such passages as Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 45:21-22). Like the Prophets and Psalmists (e.g. in Psalm 115:4-8; Isaiah 44:9-20; Jeremiah 10:1-10), St Paul was powerfully impressed with the illusion and unreality of heathen religions. He defines idolatry in two passages, 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:19-20, as being half lies, half devilry; and in the horrible immorality then existing in the Gentile world he saw its natural consequence and judicial punishment (Romans 1:18-25).

“True” signifies truth of fact, not word: “true God” is the “very God” of the Nicene Creed, the real God: comp. John 17:3,—“that they should know Thee, the only true God;” and 1 John 5:20, “This is the true God, and life eternal.”

The service to this “living and true God” which the Thessalonians had embraced, was that of bondmen, acknowledging themselves His property and at His absolute disposal. St Paul habitually calls himself “Christ’s” (once “God’s,” Titus 1:1) “bondman.” In Galatians 4:8 he speaks of heathenism as bondage to false gods; in Romans 6:15-23 he shows that to become a Christian is to exchange the bondage of sin for bondage to righteousness and to God, bondage under grace. The full conception of the Christian relationship to God is formed by the combination of the idea of sonship (in respect of affection and privilege) with that of bond-service (in respect of duty and submission), to Him “Whose service is perfect freedom.”

On the relation of this passage to St Paul’s general teaching see Introd. pp. 17, 18. So far, in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9, St Paul has related the conversion of the Thessalonians in the language and spirit of the O. T., and as an acceptance of Hebrew faith. In the next verse he advances to that which was distinctively Christian in their new creed:—1 Thessalonians 1:9. Περὶ ἡμῶν, concerning us) both teachers and believers [both us who taught, and you who believed].—δουλεύειν Θεῳ, to serve God) The Thessalonians are thus distinguished from the Gentiles; so also from the Jews, in the following verse.—καὶ ἀληθινῷ and true) This denotes the truth of [His] nature.Verse 9. - For they themselves; that is, the reporters, those in Macedonia, Achaia, and every other place. Show of us; or, report concerning us (R.V.) in regard to our preaching or entrance among you. Instead of questions being asked of us by them, as would naturally be expected, they of their own accord give information. What manner of entering in we had among you. "Entering" here evidently refers, not merely to the outward entrance, the mere preaching of the gospel among the Thessalonians; but to the access, the internal entrance, which the gospel found into their hearts; that is, with what power and fullness of the Holy Ghost we preached the gospel unto you, and with what joy and confidence and contempt of danger ye received it. And how ye turned to God from idols. This, as already remarked, is one of the proofs that the Church of Thessalonica was chiefly composed of Gentile converts, though, of course, not to the exclusion of the Jewish element (Acts 17:4). To serve the living and true God. Two epithets there employed in contrast to the idols of the heathen: "living," in opposition to dead idols, which were nothing in the world; "true," not in the sense of veracious, but of real in opposition to the imaginary gods of the heathen. They themselves shew (αὐτοὶ ἀπαγγέλλουσιν)

They themselves in contrast with we, 1 Thessalonians 1:8. We need not speak of anything: they themselves volunteer testimony to your faith. Shew, more correctly announce or report.

Entering in (εἴσοδον)

Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:1. The thought of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 is resumed. The repetition of the word in 1 Thessalonians 2:1, and of in vain in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, may point to expressions in a letter of the Thessalonians.

Unto you (πρὸς)

The preposition combines with the sense of direction that of relation and intercourse. Comp. Matthew 13:56; Mark 9:16; John 1:1; Acts 3:25; Colossians 4:5; Hebrews 9:20.

Ye turned unto God (ἐπεστρέψατε πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν)

Comp. Acts 14:15. The exact phrase only here. The verb is common in lxx, with both κύριον Lord and θεὸν God.


See on 1 Corinthians 8:3. The word would indicate that the majority of the converts were heathen and not Jews.

Living and true (ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ)

The only instance in N.T. of this collocation. It does not occur in O.T. For ἀληθινὸς genuine, see on John 1:9; see on John 4:37; see on John 7:28. Mostly in the Johannine writings.

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