Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus - On the reasons why Paul associated other names with his in his epistles, see the 1 Corinthians 1:1 note, and 2 Corinthians 2:1 note. Silvanus, or Silas, and Timothy were properly united with him on this occasion, because they had been with him when the church was founded there, Acts 17, and because Timothy had been sent by the apostle to visit them after he had himself been driven away; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2. Silas is first mentioned in the New Testament as one who was sent by the church at Jerusalem with Paul to Antioch (notes, Acts 15:22); and he afterward became his traveling companion.
Which is in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ - Who are united to the true God and to the Redeemer; or who sustain an intimate relation to the Father and the Lord Jesus. This is strong language, denoting, that they were a true church; compare 1 John 5:20. "Grace be unto you," etc.; see the notes, Romans 1:7.
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
We give thanks to God always for you all - see the notes, Romans 1:9.
Making mention of you in our prayers - See the notes at Ephesians 1:16. It may be observed here:
(1) that the apostle was in the habit of constant prayer.
(2) that he was accustomed to extemporary prayer, and not to written prayer. It is not credible that "forms" of prayer had been framed for the churches at Thessalonica and Ephesus, and the other churches for which Paul says he prayed, nor would it have been possible to have adapted such forms to the varying circumstances attending the organization of new churches.
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
Remembering without ceasing - Remembering your faith and love whenever we pray. This is not to be understood literally, but it is language such as we use respecting anything that interests us much. It is constantly in our mind. Such an interest the apostle had in the churches which he had established.
Your work of faith - That is, your showing or evincing faith. The reference is probably to acts of duty, holiness, and benevolence, which proved that they exercised faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Works of faith are those to which faith prompts, and which show that there is faith in the heart. This does not mean, therefore, a work of their own producing faith, but a work which showed that they had faith.
And labour of love - Labour produced by love, or showing that you are actuated by love. Such would be all their kindness toward the poor, the oppressed, and the afflicted; and all their acts which showed that they loved the souls of people.
And patience of hope - Patience in your trials, showing that you have such a hope of future blessedness as to sustain you in your afflictions. It was the hope of heaven through the Lord Jesus that gave them patience; see the notes on Romans 8:24. "The phrases here are Hebraisims, meaning active faith, and laborious love, and patient hope, and might have been so translated." Doddridge.
In our Lord Jesus Christ - That is, your hope is founded only on him. The only hope that we have of heaven is through the Redeemer.
In the sight of God and our Father - Before God, even our Father. It is a hope which we have through the merits of the Redeemer, and which we are permitted to cherish before God; that is, in his very presence. When we think of God; when we reflect that we must soon stand before him, we are permitted to cherish this hope. It is a hope which will be found to be genuine even in the presence of a holy and heart-searching God. This does not mean that it had been merely professed before God, but that it was a hope which they might dare to entertain even in the presence of God, and which would bear the scrutiny of his eye.
Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
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 Ephesians 1:4-5, Ephesians 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 Acts 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.
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
For our gospel came not unto you - When first preached; Acts 17:1-3. Paul speaks of it as "our gospel," because it was the gospel preached by him and Silas and Timothy; comp 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Timothy 2:8. He did not mean to say that the gospel had been originated by him, but only that he had delivered the good news of salvation to them. He is here stating the evidence which had been given that they were a church "chosen by God." He refers, first, to the manner in which the gospel was received by them 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7, and, secondly, to the spirit which they themselves manifested in sending it abroad; yet.1 Thessalonians 1:8.
In word only - Was not merely spoken; or was not merely heard. It produced a powerful effect on the heart and life. It was not a mere empty sound that produced no other effect than to entertain or amuse; compare Ezekiel 33:32.
But also in power - That is, in such power as to convert the soul. The apostle evidently refers not to any miracles that were performed there, but to the effect of the gospel on those who heard it. It is possible that there were miracles performed there, as there were in other places, but there is no mention of such a fact, and it is not necessary to suppose it, in order to see the full meaning of this language. There was great power manifested in the gospel in its leading them to break off from their sins, to abandon their idols, and to give their hearts to God; see this more fully explained in the notes on 1 Corinthians 2:4.
And in the Holy Ghost - Compare the notes on 1 Corinthians 2:4. It is there called the "demonstration of the Spirit."
And in much assurance - That is, with firm conviction, or full persuasion of its truth. It was not embraced as a doubtful thing, and it did not produce the effect on the mind which is caused by anything that is uncertain in its character. Many seem to embrace the gospel as if they only half believed it, or as if it were a matter of very doubtful truth and importance; but this was not the case with the Thessalonians. There was the firmest conviction of its truth, and they embraced it "heart and soul;" compare Colossians 2:2; Hebrews 6:11. From all that is said in this verse, it is evident that the power of God was remarkably manifested in the conversion of the Thessalonians, and that they embraced the gospel with an uncommonly strong conviction of its truth and value. This fact will account for the subsequent zeal which the apostle so much commends in them - for it is usually true that the character of piety in a church, as it is in an individual, is determined by the views with which the gospel is first embraced, and the purposes which are formed at the beginning of the Christian life.
As ye know what manner of men, ... - Paul often appeals to those among whom he had labored as competent witnesses with respect to his own conduct and character; see 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Acts 20:33-35. He means here that he and his fellow-laborers had set them an example, or had shown what Christianity was by their manner of living, and that the Thessalonians had become convinced that the religion which they taught was real. The holy life of a preacher goes far to confirm the truth of the religion which he preaches, and is among the most efficacious means of inducing them to embrace the gospel.
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
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 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 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 Acts 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, Acts 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.
So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
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, Acts 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.
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord - The truths of religion were thus spread abroad. The word rendered "sounded out" - ἐξήχηται exēchētai - refers to the sounding of a trumpet (Bloomfield), and the idea is, that the gospel was proclaimed like the sonorous voice of a trumpet echoing from place to place; compare Isaiah 58:1; Revelation 1:10. Their influence had an effect in diffusing the gospel in other places, as if the sound of a trumpet echoed and reechoed among the hills and along the vales of the classic land of Greece. This seems to have been done:
(1) involuntarily; that is, the necessary result of their conversion, even without any direct purpose of the kind of their own, would be to produce this effect. Their central and advantageous commercial position; the fact that many of them were in the habit of visiting other places; and the fact that they were visited by strangers from abroad, would naturally contribute to this result. But.
(2) this does not appear to be all that is intended. The apostle commends them in such a way as to make it certain that they were voluntary in the spread of the gospel; that they made decided efforts to take advantage of their position to send the knowledge of the truth abroad. If so, this is an interesting instance of one of the first efforts made by a church to diffuse the gospel, and to send it to those who were destitute of it. There is no improbability in the supposition that they sent out members of their church - messengers of salvation - to other parts of Macedonia and Greece that they might communicate the same gospel to others. See Doddridge.
But also in every place - Thessalonica was connected not only with Macedonia and Greece proper, in its commercial relations, but also with the ports of Asia Minor, and not improbably with still more remote regions. The meaning is, that in all the places with which they trafficked the effect of their faith was seen and spoken of.
Faith to God-ward - Fidelity toward God. They showed that they had a true belief in God and in the truth which he had revealed.
So that we need not to speak anything - That is, wherever we go, we need say nothing of the fact that you have been turned to the Lord, or of the character of your piety. These things are sufficiently made known by those who come from you, by those who visit you, and by your zeal in spreading the true religion.
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
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.
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
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 Thessalonians 4:), 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 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and because, in that connection, it was so well calculated to rouse them to vigilance and zeal; 1 Thessalonians 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 John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Peter 3:8-9; to lead us to watchfulness and to an earnest inquiry into the question whether we are prepared to meet him Matthew 24:37-44; Matthew 25:13; to make us dead to the world, and to lead us to act as becomes the children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5-9; to awaken and arouse impenitent and carless sinners 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; 2 Peter 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, 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20.
Whom he raised from the dead - See the Acts 2:24-32 notes; 1 Corinthians 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; Matthew 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.
Remarks On 1 Thessalonians 1
This chapter teaches:
(1) That it is right to commend these who do well; 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Paul was never afraid of injuring any one by commending him when he deserved it: nor was he ever afraid to rebuke when censure was due.
(2) Christians are chosen to salvation; 1 Thessalonians 1:4. Their hope of heaven depends on the "election of God."
(3) it is possible for a people to know that they are chosen of God, and to give such evidence of it that others shall know it also; 1 Thessalonians 1:4. It is possible for a church to evince such a spirit of piety, self-denial, love, and holiness, and such a desire to spread the gospel, as to show that they are "chosen of God," or that they are a true church. This question is not to be determined by their adherence to certain rites and forms; by their holding to the sentiments of an orthodox creed: or by their zeal in defense of the "apostolic succession," but by their bringing forth "the fruits of good living." In determining that the church at Thessalonica was "chosen of God," Paul does not refer to its external organization, or to the fact that it was founded by apostolic hands, or that it had a true ministry and valid ordinances, but to the fact that it evinced the true spirit of Christian piety; and particularly that they had been zealous in sending the gospel to others. There were three things to which he referred:
1. that the gospel had power over themselves, inducing them to abandon their sins;
2. that it had such influence on their lives that others recognized in them the evidence of true religion; and,
3. that it made them benevolent, and excited them to make efforts to diffuse its blessings abroad.