Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, to the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus.—There was no need to add “Apostle” to the name of Paul, in writing to a Church with which his relations were so familiar and so cordial: it is probably omitted for the same reason in the Epistle to the Philippians and in that to Philemon. Some see in the omission a mark of the early date of the letter, before St. Paul had assumed the title; others think he omits it in courtesy to his companions, to whom it could not be given. Both theories are disproved by 1Thessalonians 2:6. Silas takes precedence of Timothy (comp. Acts 17:14-15; Acts 18:5; 2Thessalonians 1:1) as a man of higher standing. (See Acts 15:22, and 1Timothy 4:12.)
In God.—Other Thessalonians were “in the world,” “in darkness,” “in their sins.” The distinctive mark of these was that they were re-united to the Father of all men; and more, re-united in Christ. The words following “peace” should be struck out, not being found in the best text.1 Thessalonians 1:1. Paul, &c. — In this epistle St. Paul neither uses the title of an apostle, nor any other, as writing to pious and simple-hearted men with the utmost familiarity; and Silvanus, (also called Silas,) and Timotheus — St. Paul joins these two faithful fellow-labourers with himself in this epistle, because they had been with him at Thessalonica, and were well known to and much loved by the believers there; to the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father — The one living and true God, in whom they have believed, whose children they are become, and whom they acknowledge and worship as their God and Father, thereby distinguishing themselves from the idolatrous heathen; and in the Lord Jesus Christ — Whom they also believe in, adore, and serve, as the Son of the Father, and their Redeemer and Saviour, thereby distinguishing themselves from Jews. The expression also implies that they had union and communion with God and Christ.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.
The AUTHENTICITY of this Epistle is attested by Irenæus [Against Heresies, 5.6.1], quoting 1Th 5:23; Clement of Alexandria [The Instructor, 1.88], quoting 1Th 2:7; Tertullian [On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 24], quoting 1Th 5:1; Caius in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History [6.20]; Origen [Against Celsus, 3].
The OBJECT OF THE EPISTLE.—Thessalonica was at this time capital of the Roman second district of Macedonia [Livy, Histories, 45.29]. It lay on the bay of Therme, and has always been, and still is, under its modern name Saloniki, a place of considerable commerce. After his imprisonment and scourging at Philippi, Paul (1Th 2:2) passed on to Thessalonica; and in company with Silas (Ac 17:1-9) and Timotheus (Ac 16:3; 17:14, compare with 1Th 1:1; 3:1-6; 2Th 1:1) founded the Church there. The Jews, as a body, rejected the Gospel when preached for three successive sabbaths (Ac 17:2); but some few "believed and consorted with Paul and Silas, and of the devout (that is, proselytes to Judaism) Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." The believers received the word joyfully, notwithstanding trials and persecutions (1Th 1:6; 2:13) from their own countrymen and from the Jews (1Th 2:14-16). His stay at Thessalonica was doubtless not limited to the three weeks in which were the three sabbaths specified in Ac 17:2; for his laboring there with his hands for his support (1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:8), his receiving supplies there more than once from Philippi (Php 4:16), his making many converts from the Gentiles (1Th 1:9; and as two oldest manuscripts read, Ac 17:4, "of the devout and of the Greeks a great multitude," Ac 17:4), and his appointing ministers—all imply a longer residence. Probably as at Pisidian Antioch (Ac 13:46), at Corinth (Ac 18:6, 7), and at Ephesus (Ac 19:8, 9), having preached the Gospel to the Jews, when they rejected it, he turned to the Gentiles. He probably thenceforth held the Christian meetings in the house of Jason (Ac 17:5), perhaps "the kinsman" of Paul mentioned in Ro 16:21. His great subject of teaching to them seems to have been the coming and kingdom of Christ, as we may infer from 1Th 1:10; 2:12, 19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11, 23, 24; and that they should walk worthy of it (1Th 2:12; 4:1). And it is an undesigned coincidence between the two Epistles and Ac 17:5, 9, that the very charge which the assailants of Jason's house brought against him and other brethren was, "These do contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus." As in the case of the Lord Jesus Himself (Joh 18:33-37; 19:12; compare Mt 26:64), they perverted the doctrine of the coming kingdom of Christ into a ground for the charge of treason against Cæsar. The result was, Paul and Silas were obliged to flee under the cover of night to Berea; Timothy had probably preceded him (Ac 17:10, 14). But the Church had been planted, and ministers appointed; nay, more, they virtually became missionaries themselves for which they possessed facilities in the extensive commerce of their city, and both by word and example were extending the Gospel in Macedonia, Achaia, and elsewhere (1Th 1:7, 8). From Berea, also. Paul, after having planted a Scripture-loving Church, was obliged to flee by the Thessalonian Jews who followed him thither. Timothy (who seems to have come to Berea separately from Paul and Silas, compare Ac 17:10, with Ac 17:14) and Silas remained there still, when Paul proceeded by sea to Athens. While there he more than once longed to visit the Thessalonians again, and see personally their spiritual state, and "perfect that which was lacking in their faith" (1Th 3:10); but (probably using the Thessalonian Jews as his instruments, Joh 13:27) "Satan hindered" him (1Th 2:18; compare Ac 17:13). He therefore sent Timotheus, who seems to have followed him to Athens from Berea (Ac 17:15), immediately on his arrival to Thessalonica (1Th 3:1); glad as he would have been of Timothy's help in the midst of the cavils of Athenian opponents, he felt he must forego that help for the sake of the Thessalonian Church. Silas does not seem to have come to Paul at Athens at all, though Paul had desired him and Timothy to "come to him with all speed" (Ac 17:15); but seems with Timothy (who from Thessalonica called for him at Berea) to have joined Paul at Corinth first; compare Ac 18:1, 5, "When Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia." The Epistle makes no mention of Silas at Athens, as it does of Timothy (1Th 3:1).
Timothy's account of the Thessalonian Church was highly favorable. They abounded in faith and charity and reciprocated his desire to see them (1Th 3:6-10). Still, as nothing human on earth is perfect, there were some defects. Some had too exclusively dwelt on the doctrine of Christ's coming kingdom, so as to neglect the sober-minded discharge of present duties (1Th 4:11, 12). Some who had lost relatives by death, needed comfort and instruction in their doubts as to whether they who died before Christ's coming would have a share with those found alive in His kingdom then to be revealed. Moreover, also, there had been committed among them sins against chastity and sobriety (1Th 5:5-7), as also against charity (1Th 4:3-10; 5:13, 15). There were, too, symptoms in some of want of respectful love and subordination to their ministers; others treated slightingly the manifestations of the Spirit in those possessing His gifts (1Th 5:19). To give spiritual admonition on these subjects, and at the same time commend what deserved commendation, and to testify his love to them, was the object of the Epistle.
The PLACE OF WRITING IT was doubtless Corinth, where Timothy and Silas rejoined him (Ac 18:5) soon after he arrived there (compare 1Th 2:17) in the autumn of A.D. 52.
The TIME OF WRITING was evidently immediately after having received from Timothy the tidings of their state (1Th 3:6) in the winter of A.D. 52, or early in 53. For it was written not long after the conversion of the Thessalonians (1Th 1:8, 9), while Paul could speak of himself as only taken from them for a short season (1Th 2:17). Thus this Epistle was first in date of all Paul's extant Epistles. The Epistle is written in the joint names of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, the three founders of the Thessalonian Church. The plural first person "we," is used everywhere, except in 1Th 2:18; 3:5; 5:27. "We" is the true reading, 1Th 4:13. The English Version "I," in 1Th 4:9 1Th 5:1, 23, is not supported by the original [Edmunds].
The STYLE is calm and equable, in accordance with the subject matter, which deals only with Christian duties in general, taking for granted the great doctrinal truths which were not as yet disputed. There was no deadly error as yet to call forth his more vehement bursts of feeling and impassioned argument. The earlier Epistles, as we should expect, are moral and practical. It was not until Judaistic and legalizing errors arose at a later period that he wrote those Epistles (for example, Romans and Galatians) which unfold the cardinal doctrines of grace and justification by faith. Still, later the Epistles from his Roman prison confirm the same truths. And last of all, the Pastoral Epistles are suited to the more developed ecclesiastical constitution of the Church, and give directions as to bishops and deacons, and correct abuses and errors of later growth.
The prevalence of the Gentile element in this Church is shown by the fact that these two Epistles are among the very few of Paul's writings in which no quotation occurs from the Old Testament.
1Th 1:1-10. Address: Salutation: His Prayerful Thanksgiving for Their Faith, Hope, and Love. Their First Reception of the Gospel, and Their Good Influence on All Around.
1. Paul—He does not add "an apostle," because in their case, as in that of the Philippians (see on Php 1:1), his apostolic authority needs not any substantiation. He writes familiarly as to faithful friends, not but that his apostleship was recognized among them (1Th 2:6). On the other hand, in writing to the Galatians, among whom some had called in question his apostleship, he strongly asserts it in the superscription. An undesigned propriety in the Epistles, evincing genuineness.
Silvanus—a "chief man among the brethren" (Ac 15:22), and a "prophet" (Ac 15:32), and one of the deputies who carried the decree of the Jerusalem council to Antioch. His age and position cause him to be placed before "Timothy," then a youth (Ac 16:1; 1Ti 4:12). Silvanus (the Gentile expanded form of "Silas") is called in 1Pe 5:12, "a faithful brother" (compare 2Co 1:19). They both aided in planting the Thessalonian Church, and are therefore included in the address. This, the first of Paul's Epistles, as being written before various evils crept into the churches, is without the censures found in other Epistles. So realizing was their Christian faith, that they were able hourly to look for the Lord Jesus.
unto the church—not merely as in the Epistles to Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, "to the saints," or "the faithful at Thessalonica." Though as yet they do not seem to have had the final Church organization under permanent "bishops" and deacons, which appears in the later Epistles (See on Php 1:1; 1 and 2 Timothy). Yet he designates them by the honorable term "Church," implying their status as not merely isolated believers, but a corporate body with spiritual rulers (1Th 5:12; 2Co 1:1; Ga 1:2).
in—implying vital union.
God the Father—This marks that they were no longer heathen.
the Lord Jesus Christ—This marks that they were not Jews, but Christians.
Grace be unto you, and peace—that ye may have in God that favor and peace which men withhold [Anselm]. This is the salutation in all the Epistles of Paul, except the three pastoral ones, which have "grace, mercy, and peace." Some of the oldest manuscripts support, others omit the clause following, "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." It may have crept in from 1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2.1 Thessalonians Chapter 1
1Th 1:1 The salutation.
1Th 1:2-4 Paul showeth his thankful remembrance of the
Thessalonians in his prayers on account of their
faith, charity, and patience,
1Th 1:5-10 applauding them for their exemplary reception of the
gospel, and improvement under it.
Paul and Silvanus: why not Paul the apostle, as in some other Epistles? Because his apostleship was not doubted of by them, they had such an eminent seal of it upon their hearts; and there was no false apostles among them to question or deny it. And he joins Silvanus with him; whom Peter calls a faithful brother, 1Pe 5:12, and was a minister of the gospel joining with himself in that work among the Corinthians, 2Co 1:19, as also among these Thessalonians, as appears, Act 17:4, though there called by contraction of his name, or by another name, Silas; who is also mentioned, Act 15:22, as one chief among the brethren, and sent by the church of Jerusalem to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch; and styled a prophet, Act 15:32; and chosen by Paul to accompany him rather than Mark, Act 15:40. And being an instrument with himself in converting these Thessalonians, and being also in their love and esteem, he joins his name with his own in the Epistle.
And Timotheus; his name is Greek, for his father was a Greek, but his mother a Jewess, Act 16:1, whose name was Eunice, 2Ti 1:5. He was brought up in the Jewish religion, instructed from a child by his parents in the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, but instructed by Paul in the faith of Christ, whom therefore he calls his Song of Solomon in the faith, 1Ti 1:2, well reported of by the brethren, Act 16:2; whom Paul laid hands upon with other elders to separate him to the work of the ministry, and the office of an evangelist, and thereby had a gift of God bestowed upon him, 2Ti 1:6; called by Paul his sunergov, or work-fellow, Rom 16:21, and particularly in the conversion of these Thessalonians, together with Silvanus, as appears, Act 17:14. He abode with them when Paul was persecuted from them, as there we find; and was sent to them from Athens afterwards by Paul to know their state, and strengthen their faith, 1Th 3:1,2. And thereupon, that his Epistle might obtain the greater respect, he joins his name also in it; as he doth also in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, in his Epistle to the Philippians, and to the Colossians. He being Paul's companion in his ministry among the Gentiles in their first conversion, and a man of great name in the churches, he therefore so frequently joins his name with his own. And also that he might show their consent in the truth they delivered to the churches, which might the more confirm their faith in theirs.
Unto the church of the Thessalonians; the church inhabiting Thessalonica, which was a chief city in Macedonia, a metropolis, famous for antiquity, largeness, pleasant situation, and commerce. Plin. lib. 1Th 4:10. First called Thessalia, and being conquered by king Philip, was called Thessalonica. Philippi was also another great city of Macedonia, where was planted another church, to whom the apostle writes; whereby we may see that God had a great work for Paul here, when he called him in a vision to go to Macedonia.
Which is in God the Father; not as the Son of God is in the Father, to be one substance and essence with him; nor as the human nature is in the Divine nature of Christ, to be one person with the Father; but it imports either their forsaking false gods and joining themselves to the worship of the true God, as in 1Th 1:9, ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God; called therefore in a distinction from them:
God the Father: or else their worshipping God according to the revelation made of him in the gospel, where he is called Father. But in a sense differing from what Plato or Homer, and other heathens, understood when they called the chief God, Father; either with respect to their inferior deities, of whom they styled him Father, or the works of creation proceeding from him as his offspring. And their being in him may yet imply more than this; which is their being joined to God in covenant, as their God and Father; and so believing in him, established upon him as their foundation, and as their centre resting in him. It may also further imply their union and communion with God through the Spirit, whereby the saints are said to abide in God, and to dwell in him, and he in them, 1Jo 2:27,28, yea, to be in him who is the true God, 1Jo 5:20.
And in the Lord Jesus Christ; these two are put together, because there is no access to God the Father, no true worship of him, no union or communion with him, and so no being in him, but through Jesus Christ. And by both they might see the blessed state they were now brought to by the gospel; being before strangers to God the Father and Jesus Christ, but now in them. And though being in God the Father is first mentioned, yet in the order of nature we are first in Christ, and through him in God the Father. And the apostle the rather asserts this of them, because the gospel came to them not in word only, but in power. And hereby he gives them the character of a true church of Christ, what it is, at least what it ought to be; for to be in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ, imports more than literal knowledge, dogmatical faith, or outward profession.
Grace be unto you, and peace; this the apostle calls his salutation with his own hand, which is my token, saith he, in every epistle, so I write, 2Th 3:17. Read 1Co 1:3 2Co 1:2, &c. And under the Old Testament the Jew's usual salutation was: Peace be to you; under the New it is: Grace and peace. Peace comprehends all blessings; and grace or favour, the spring out of which they flow. The grace of God is now said to have appeared and to shine forth, Tit 2:2, and the church of God to be blest with all spiritual blessings, Eph 1:3; so that now the apostle Paul salutes the churches with grace and peace; and the apostle Peter adds: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, 2Pe 1:2. Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied, Jud 1:2. Or if we take grace for grace inherent in us, as sometimes it is taken; and peace for the inward tranquillity of mind, heart, and conscience; the text may bear it. Yet the former rather meant to you, to you that are in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ: not to infidels out of the church; grace to you, and peace.
From God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; wherein are showed grace and peace in their original, from God; and not from God absolutely considered, but as our Father: as a Father he conveys the blessings of grace and peace to his children; but yet not immediately, but through
Jesus Christ, as merited by his blood, and procured by his intercession. The Holy Ghost is not mentioned, though he must be understood; but he is rather considered as the actual conveyer of these blessings, than the original or procurer of them. And the three Persons work in the same order in the work of redemption as of creation, though more distinctly. Acts 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 2 Corinthians 1:19,
unto the church of the Thessalonians: which consisted of several of the inhabitants of Thessalonica, both Jews and Gentiles; See Gill on Acts 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 1 Thessalonians 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, 1 Thessalonians 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 Romans 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".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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 Thessalonians 1:1. It is a mark of the very early composition of the Epistle, and consequently of its authenticity, that Paul does not call himself ἀπόστολος. For it was very natural that Paul, in regard to the first Christian churches to whom he wrote, whom he had recently left, and who had attached themselves with devoted love to him and his preaching, did not feel constrained to indicate himself more definitely by an official title, as the simple mention of his name must have been perfectly sufficient. It was otherwise in his later life. With reference to the Galatians and Corinthians, in consequence of the actual opposition to his apostolic authority in these churches, Paul felt himself constrained to vindicate his full official dignity at the commencement of his Epistles. And so the addition ἀπόστολος, occasioned at first by imperative circumstances, became at a later period a usual designation, especially to those churches which were personally unknown to the apostle (Epistles to Rom. Col. Eph.), among whom, even without any existing opposition, such a designation was necessary in reference to the future. An exception was only natural where, as with the Philippians and with Philemon, the closest and most tried love and attachment united the apostle with the recipients of his Epistles. The supposition of Chrysostom, whom Oecumenius and Theophylact follow, is accordingly to be rejected, that the apostolic title was suppressed διὰ τὸ νεοκατηχήτους εἶναι τοὺς ἄνδρας καὶ μηδέπω αὐτοῦ πεῖραν εἰληφέναι, for then it ought not to be found in the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians. Further, the view of Zwingli, Estius, Pelt, and others is to be rejected, that Paul omitted his apostolic title out of modesty, as the same title could not be assigned to Silvanus (and Timotheus); for, not to mention that this reason is founded on a distorted view of the Pauline character, and that the two companions of the apostle would hardly lay claim to his apostolic rank, such a supposition is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1.
καὶ Σιλουνανὸς καὶ Τιμόθεος] Both are associated with Paul in the address, not to testify their agreement in the contents of the Epistle, and thereby to confer on it so much greater authority (Zanchius, Hunnius, Piscator, Pelt), or to testify that the contents were communicated to the apostle by the Holy Ghost (Macknight), but simply because they had assisted the apostle in preaching the gospel at Thessalonica. The simple mention of their names, without any addition, was sufficient on account of their being personally known. By being included in the address, they are represented as joint-authors of the Epistle, although they were so only in name. It is possible, but not certain, that Paul dictated the Epistle to one of them. (According to Berthold, they translated the letter conceived in Aramaic into Greek, and shared in the work.)
Silvanus (as in 2 Corinthians 1:19) is placed before Timotheus, not perhaps because Timotheus was the amanuensis, and from modesty placed his name last (Zanchius), but because Silvanus was older and had been longer with Paul.
Ἐν Θεῷ πατρὶ … Χριστῷ is to be closely united with τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Θεσσαλονικέων: to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ,—that is, whose being, whose characteristic peculiarity, consists in fellowship with God the Father (by which they are distinguished from heathen ἐκκλησίαι) and with the Lord Jesus Christ (by which they are distinguished from the Jewish ἐκκλησία). Erroneously, Grotius: quae exstitit, id agente Deo Patre et Christo. The article τῇ is neither to be repeated before ἐν Θεῷ, nor is τῇ οὔσῃ to be supplied (Olshausen, de Wette, and Bloomfield erroneously supply οὔσῃ by itself, without the article; this could not be the construction, as it would contain a causal statement), because the words are blended together in the unity of the idea of the Christian church (see Winer’s Grammar, p. 128 [E. T. 170]). Schott arbitrarily refers ἐν Θεῷ κ.τ.λ. to χαίρειν λέγουσιν, to be supplied before χάρις ὑμῖν; for χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρ. takes the place of the usual Greek salutation χαίρειν λέγουσιν. Hofmann’s view (Die h. Schrift neuen Testaments zusammenhängend untersucht, Part I. Nördl. 1862) amounts to the same as Schott’s, when he finds in ἐν Θεῷ κ.τ.λ. “a Christian extension of the usual epistolary address,” importing that it is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ that the writers address themselves by letter to the churches. Still more arbitrarily Ambrosiaster (not Theophylact) and Koppe, who erase the concluding words: ἀπὸ Θεοῦ κ.τ.λ. (see critical note), have placed a point after Θεσσαλονικέων, and united ἐν Θεῷ … Χριστῷ with χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη. For (1) the thought: χάρις ὑμῖν (ἔστω) ἐν Θεῷ κ.τ.λ., instead of ἀπὸ Θεοῦ κ.τ.λ., is entirely un-Pauline; (2) the placing of ἐν Θεῷ κ.τ.λ. first in so calm a writing as the address of the Epistle, and without any special reason, is inconceivable; (3) 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 contradicts the idea.
χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη] See Meyer on Romans 1:7. As a Christian transformation of the heathen form of salutation, the words, grammatically considered, should properly be conjoined with the preceding in a single sentence: Παῦλος καὶ Σ … τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Θ … χάριν καὶ εἰρήνην (sc. λέγουσιν).1 Thessalonians 1:1. Greeting.—As any trouble at Thessalonica had arisen over Paul’s character more than his authority, or rather as his authority had been struck through his character, he does not introduce his own apostolic rank or that of his colleagues (1 Thessalonians 2:6) in the forefront of this letter, which is intimate and unofficial throughout. Silvanus is put before Timothy as an older man and colleague, and also as Paul’s special coadjutor in the local mission. Acts never mentions Timothy in the Macedonian mission till Acts 17:14, where he appears beside Silvanus. This does not mean (Bleek) that Timothy took no part in the work at Thessalonica; his intimate relations with the church forbid this supposition. Probably he is left unnoticed as being a junior subordinate, till the time comes when he can act as an useful agent of his leaders.—ἐκκλ. a pagan term appropriated by Christianity. An implicit contrast lies in the following words (so in 1 Thessalonians 2:14): there were ἐκκλησίαι at Thessalonica and elsewhere (cf. Chrysostom and Orig., Cels. III. xxix.–xxx.) which had not their basis and being ἐν … Χριστῷ. The latter phrase is a suggestive and characteristic periphrasis for “Christian,” and the omission of the ἐν before κυρίῳ, as of τῇ before ἐν, is enough to show that the seven words form a unity instead of a double antithesis to “pagan” and “Jewish” respectively.—κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ, a new κύριος (= dominus) for people like the Thessalonians who were hitherto familiar with the title as applied to Claudius (cf. Wilcken’s Griechische Ostraka, 1899, s.v.) the emperor, or to the God of the Jews (cf. Knowling’s Witness of the Epistles, 260 f.). See the ample discussion in Kattenbusch, das Apost. Symbol, ii. 596 f., with his note (pp. 691 f.) on ἐκκλησία. The hope and help of God implied that Christians must hold together, under their κύριος. “No Christian could have fought his way through the great dark night of idolatry and immorality as an isolated unit; the community was here the necessary condition for all permanent life” (Wernle, Beginnings of Christianity, i. 189).1 Thessalonians 1:1This being the earliest of St Paul’s extant letters, let us note with care the form of his address and introduction, for it is that from which he never departed. But his greetings were enlarged as time went on, and varied with every variation in the circumstances of his readers and in his relations to them.
The ordinary address of an ancient letter ran thus: “X. to Y. greeting.” The greeting was, in Latin, a wish of “Health”; in Greek, of “Joy”; in Hebrew, “Peace to thee!” The Apostle’s salutation, adopted by the Church, combined the Hebrew and Greek (Jewish and Gentile, Eastern and Western) forms of courtesy, transforming the latter by a verbal change (chairein becoming charis)—slight indeed to the ear, but great in its significance—into the devout and Christian “Grace to you!” On grace and peace see note below.
The Address is usually followed by an Act of Thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 1:3 ff.)
1. Paul] Here and in 2Th St Paul introduces himself without the title Apostle, or any personal designation. Similarly in his much later Epistles to the Philippians, and to his friend Philemon. For in these cases he has no need to stand on his dignity. He is “gentle among them, as a nurse with her children” (ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8); and prefers, as in writing to Philemon (1 Thessalonians 1:9), to merge the Apostle in the friend. For a further reason comp. note on Apostles, ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:6.
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus] “Silvanus and Timotheus” had been Paul’s companions at Thessalonica, see Introd. chap. II. The Apostle was accustomed to associate with himself in writing to the Churches any of his helpers present with him and known to his readers. This was courteous, and promoted mutual sympathy.
Silvanus (so in 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:19; 1 Peter 5:12) is the Silas of Acts 15-28; comp. Lucas (Luke) for Lucanus. The name (English, Sylvan: comp. our surname Wood, or Woods) is Latin, like that of Paul himself (Paulus). Both were Roman citizens, as we learn from Acts 16:37. Silas was notwithstanding a Jew—a leading member of the Church at Jerusalem, and an inspired man (a “prophet”: Acts 15:22-23). Silas shared with the Apostle Paul the honour of planting the gospel and first suffering for Christ in Europe; and his name worthily stands at the head of these earliest books of the N. T. The association of St Silas with St Paul terminated with the Second Missionary Journey of the Apostle. But he is probably the “Silvanus” of 1 Peter 5:12, and his name is, along with that of Mark, a link between the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Timotheus (on whom see further ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2) is our familiar Timothy, as the name is uniformly given in the R. V. He shares In the addresses of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians , , 1 and 2 Thessalonians; and St Paul toward the close of his life wrote two inspired letters to this most constant and beloved of his companions, his “dear child Timothy.” He joined the Apostle in the course of this Second Missionary Expedition (Acts 16:1-3), and remained in his service to the end of St Paul’s life. At this time Timothy must have been very young; for he is referred to as a “young man” in 1 Timothy 4:12 and 2 Timothy 2:22, twelve years later. In the narrative of the Acts at this time he stands quite in the background; while Silas took a leading part in the common work, Timothy acted as their youthful attendant and apprentice, just as John Mark was “minister” (or “attendant,” R. V.) to Barnabas and Paul at an earlier period (Acts 13:5).
These three names—paul, Silas, Timothy—are typical of the mixed state of society in Apostolic times, and the varied material of which the Church was at first composed. It was built on a Jewish basis, with a Græco-Roman superstructure. Paul and Silvanus were Jews, with Roman name and citizenship. Timotheus had a Greek name and father, with a Jewish mother (Acts 16:1-3).
So much for the authors of the letter: the readers are designated the Church of Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (R. V.). This remarkable form of address, used in both Epistles, the Apostle does not employ again. We may expand it thus: “To the assembly of Thessalonians, gathered in the twofold Name, confessing God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Observe the two parts of this description: (1) the local qualification, “church of Thessalonians.” Nearest to this is the phrase “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), named however from the district, not the people. In 1 and 2 Corinthians the address runs, “To the church of God that is in Corinth”; afterwards, “To the saints that are in Ephesus, Philippi,” &c. The change from “church of Thessalonians” to “church in Corinth” is significant; it indicates an enlargement during the four years intervening of the conception of the Church, now no longer constituted by the local assembly, but thought of as one and the same Church here or there, in Corinth, Rome, or Jerusalem. Comp. note on ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:14, “churches of God which are in Judæa.”
(2) The spiritual definition: “the assembly … in God the Father,” &c. Church is in the N. T. ecclesia (French église), the common Greek word for “assembly,” or legal meeting of citizens, “called out” by the herald; which in the LXX (the Greek rendering of the O. T.) is applied frequently to the solemn religious assemblies of the people of Israel. The Apostle distinguishes this “assembly of Thessalonians” from both those, gatherings. The Christian ecclesia is “in God the Father,”—therefore a religions assembly marked off from all that is pagan, having “one God, the Father”; also “in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and thus distinguished from everything Jewish and Pagan alike, by its confession of “one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). The creed of the Thessalonian Church is here contained in brief. Its members had been “baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son”; and all that they believed in and lived for as a Church centred in these two names—two, yet one (“in God the Father and the Lord,” not “and in the Lord”). “In God as Father,” they knew and owned themselves His children, “In the Lord,” they discerned their Saviour’s Divine Sonship and glory (1 Thessalonians 1:10); “in Jesus,” His human birth and history (ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, &c.); and “in Christ,” the living Head and Redeemer of His people. This is His full style and title, “The Lord Jesus Christ.”
Grace be unto you, and peace] In this earliest Epistle the salutation has its shortest form. The qualifying words, “from God our Father,” &c. (see R. V.), are not authentic here; they first appear in 2Th The usage of St Paul’s other Epistles naturally led copyists to make the addition here. But the “church” that is “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” needs not to be told from Whom these gifts come.
Grace is the sum of all blessings that God bestows through Christ. Peace is the sum of all spiritual blessing that man receives and experiences; it is Grace in its fruit and realisation, In the wide sense of its Hebrew original (Shalóm), Peace is more than the absence of hostility and disorder; it denotes health and harmony of nature, inward tranquillity and wellbeing. And Grace, which in the first instance is God s love and favour to the undeserving, becomes also the inward possession of those who receive it, manifesting itself as the spirit and habit of their lives. The supreme exhibition of God’s grace is the death of Christ for sinful men, and the great instrument of peace is the sacrifice of the cross: Jesus “by God’s grace tasted death for every man,” “making peace through the blood of His cross” (Hebrews 2:9; Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:14-18; &c.).
St Paul’s whole gospel is in these two words. Grace is his watchword, as Love is that of St John. For his conversion and Apostolic call were, above everything, a revelation of Divine grace: see 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “By the grace of God I am what I am”; comp. Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:2-8; 1 Timothy 1:12-15. See additional note on grace, 2 Thessalonians 1:12.
Section I. The Thanksgiving and the Reasons for it. Ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10In every Epistle, except Galatians, the Apostle’s first words are of thanks and praise to God for the fruits of God’s grace found in his readers, according to his own maxim (ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:18), “In everything give thanks.” And his thanksgiving is expressed here in the fullest and warmest terms. Its special grounds and reasons lie (1) in the earnest Christian life of the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:3; which gave assurance (2) of their Divine election, 1 Thessalonians 1:4; already manifest (3) in the signal character of their conversion, which took place under the most trying circumstances, 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6; and which (4) had greatly furthered the progress of the gospel, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8; for (5) everywhere the story was told of how the Thessalonians had forsaken idolatry in order to serve the true God, and to await from heaven the return of Jesus, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
This long sentence is a good example of St Paul’s manner as a writer. His thought flows on in a single rapid stream, turning now hither, now thither, but always advancing towards its goal. His sentences are not built up in regular and distinct periods; but grow and extend themselves like living things under our eyes, “gaining force in each successive clause by the repetition and expansion of the preceding” (Jowett). See Introd. pp. 32, 33.1 Thessalonians 1:1. Παῦλος, Paul) Paul, in this epistle, which was the first of all that he wrote, uses neither the title of an apostle, nor any other, because he writes most familiarly to the godly Thessalonians, who did not require a preface regarding his apostolic authority, ch. 1 Thessalonians 2:6.
The divisions of the epistle are as follows:—
I. The Inscription, 1 Thessalonians 1:1 II. In the course of the discussion, he celebrates (makes honourable mention of) the grace of God towards the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, et seqq.; adding a notice of the sincerity of himself and his colleagues, 1 Thessalonians 2:1; and of the obedience of the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14 III. He then declares
1. His desire, 1 Thessalonians 2:172. His solicitude, 1 Thessalonians 3:13. His joy, with his prayer, 1Thes 6, 7, 10, 11
IV. He exhorts them to progress,
1. In holiness, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-22. In brotherly love, combined with prudence, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 V. He teaches and exhorts them,
1. Concerning them that are asleep, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-142. Concerning the times, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 VI. He adds miscellaneous exhortations, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15; with prayer and consolation, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 VII. Conclusion, 1 Thessalonians 5:25-28There is a kind of unmingled sweetness in this epistle, which, by a reader not accustomed to the expression of sweet affections, is less relished than the others, that act upon the palate with a certain degree of harshness. The expectation of the coming of Christ among the Thessalonians was unclouded. So exalted was their condition, and so clear of impediments and encumbrances (unencumbered) was the state of Christianity among them, that they were able hourly to look for the Lord Jesus. The epistles to them were written before the others; afterwards various evils crept into the churches.—Θεσσαλονικέων, of the Thessalonians) Jac. Mehrningius says, “In the memory of our fathers, there were two Greeks, first among the Moravian brethren, afterwards in Belgium, who asserted, that even now both of St. Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians are well preserved by them in autograph.”—Hist. baptismi, A. 1647, Germanice edita, p. 739.—ἐν, in) Union with God is indicated.Verse 1. - Paul. He does not call himself "an apostle," not because the Thessalonians were newly converted (Chrysostom), or from tenderness to Silvanus who was not an apostle (Estius), or because his apostolic authority was not yet recognized (Jowett), or because he had merely commenced his apostolic labors (Wordsworth); but because his apostleship had never been called in question by the Thessalonians. For the same reason he omits this title in the Epistle to the Philippians; whereas he strongly insists upon it in his Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians, because among them there were many opposed to his authority. And Silvanus. The same as the Silas of the Acts. He is mentioned as a chief man among the brethren, and a prophet or inspired teacher (Acts 15:22, 32). His Latin name renders it probable that he was a Hellenistic Jew, and, like Paul, he was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). He was sent with Judas Barsabas from Jerusalem, to convey the apostolic decrees to Antioch; and he accompanied Paul instead of Barnabas on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40). He suffered imprisonment with Paul at Philippi; and was engaged with him in preaching the gospel in Thessalonica, Beraea, and Corinth. His ministry at Corinth is honorably mentioned by Paul in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:9). After this there is no more mention of Silvanus in the Acts, and it is doubtful whether he was the Silvanus by whom the First Epistle of Peter was conveyed to the Churches of Asia (1 Peter 5:12). Ancient tradition, erroneously supposing that Silas and Silvanus were different persons, makes Silas the Bishop of Corinth, and Silvanus the Bishop of Thessalonica. And Timotheus. The well-known disciple of Paul. He was a native of Lystra, having a Greek father and a Jewish mother (Acts 16:1). He joined Paul and Silas on their second missionary journey at Lystra, and was with them in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth. He was with Paul on his third missionary journey, and was sent by him on a mission to Macedonia and Corinth (Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 16:10), and accompanied him into Asia on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). He was also with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment, when he wrote the Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians (Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1). Afterwards he resided at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3); from which he was recalled to Rome by Paul shortly before his martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:21). The last mention of Timothy is in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you" (Hebrews 13:23). According to ecclesiastical tradition, he became Bishop of Ephesus, and there suffered martyrdom. Silvanus and Timotheus are associated with Paul in his address to the Thessalonians, not to give weight and authority to his Epistle, but because they assisted him in the planting of the Church at Thessalonica, and were now with him at Corinth, when he was writing this Epistle. Silvanus is placed first, because he was the older and had been longer with the apostle, and, as is evident from the Acts, was at this time the more important of the two (Acts 16:19; Acts 17:4). By being included in the address, they are represented as joint authors of the Epistle with Paul, although they were only so in name. It is possible that Paul employed one of them as his amanuensis in writing the Epistle. Unto the Church. The word "Church" denotes a select assembly; here, Christians selected from the world. It does not denote in the New Testament, as with us, a building, but the congregation. In Paul's later Epistles, those addressed are called, not the Church, but saints. Of the Thessalonians. In other Epistles the address is to the city, as Rome, Philippi, Colosse; here it is to the inhabitants. The Church of the Thessalonians was chiefly composed of converted Gentiles, with a small number of converted Jews (see Introduction). Which is; to be omitted, as not being in the original. In God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. The characteristic peculiarity of the Church: they are in God and Christ, that is, in fellowship with them, united to them. "In God the Father" characterizes them as not being heathens; "in the Lord Jesus Christ" characterizes them as not being Jews. Grace be unto you, and peace. The usual apostolic benediction. "Grace" is the Greek and" peace" is the Jewish form of salutation. The Greeks commenced their epistles with wishing grace for those to whom they wrote; and the usual form of salutation among the Jews was Shalom or "peace;" the apostle combines them, thus intimating that both Greeks and Jews are one in Christ Jesus. In the Pastoral Epistles and in the Second Epistle of John the form is "Grace, mercy, and peace" (2 John 1:3.), and in the Epistle of Jude it is "Mercy, peace, and love" (Jude 1:2). From God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. These words are wanting in some important manuscripts, and are omitted in the R.V. The preponderance, however, of external authority is in their favor. Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 1:19). They had assisted him in the foundation of the Thessalonian Church (Acts 16:1-3; Acts 17:4, Acts 17:10, Acts 17:14). Paul's official title; "Apostle" is omitted in the addresses of both Epistles, although in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 he uses ἀπόστολοι apostles, including Silvanus and Timothy under that title. The title appears in all the other Epistles except Philippians and Philemon. The reason for its omission in every case appears to have been the intimate and affectionate character of his relations with the parties addressed, which rendered an appeal to his apostolic authority unnecessary. Paul does not confine the name of apostle to the twelve.
The Silas of the Acts, where alone the form Σίλας occurs. By Paul always Σιλουανός, of which Σίλας is a contraction, as Λουκᾶς from Λουκανός. Similar contractions occur in Class., as Ἁλεξᾶς for Ἁλέξανδρος for Ἁλέξανδρος, and that for Ἁρτεμίδωρος. Silas first appears in Acts 15:22, as one of the bearers of the letter to the Gentile Christians at Antioch. He accompanied Paul on his second missionary tour, and was left behind with Timothy when Paul departed from Macedonia after his first visit. He was probably a Jewish Christian (see Acts 16:20), and was, like Paul, a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37, Acts 16:38). Hence his Roman name. He cannot with any certainty be identified with the Silvanus of 1 Peter 5:12.
Appears in all the Pauline Epistles except Galatians and Ephesians. He was associated with Paul longer than any one of whom we have notice. First mentioned Acts 16:1, Acts 16:2; comp. 2 Timothy 3:10, 2 Timothy 3:11. He accompanied Paul on his second missionary tour (Acts 16:3), and was one of the founders of the churches in Thessalonica and Philippi. He is often styled by Paul "the brother" (2 Corinthians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; Plm 1:1); with Paul himself "a bondservant of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:1); comp. 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:2. Paul's confidence in him appears in Philippians 2:19-22, and is implied in his sending him from Athens to the Thessalonian church to establish and comfort its members (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Paul sent him again to Macedonia in company with Erastus (Acts 19:22), and also to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17). To the Corinthians he writes of Timothy as "his beloved and faithful child in the Lord" who shall remind them of his ways in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17), and as one who worketh the work of the Lord as he himself (1 Corinthians 16:10). He joined Paul at Rome, and his name is associated with Paul's in the addresses of the letters to the Colossians and Philemon. In every case where he is mentioned by name with Silvanus, the name of Silvanus precedes.
To the church of the Thessalonians
This form of address appears in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, 2nd Thessalonians. The other letters are addressed to "the saints, " "the brethren, " "the saints and faithful brethren." The use of the genitive of the national name is peculiar. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2.
The church (ἐκκλησίᾳ)
From ἐκ out, and καλεῖν to call or summon. Originally with a secular meaning, an assembly of citizens regularly summoned. So Acts 19:39. lxx uses it for the congregation of Israel, either as convened for a definite purpose (1 Kings 8:65; Deuteronomy 4:10; Deuteronomy 18:16), or as a community (2 Chronicles 1:3, 2 Chronicles 1:5; 2 Chronicles 23:3; Nehemiah 8:17). The verbs ἐκκλησιάζειν and ἐξεκκλησιάζειν to summon formally, which do not occur in N.T., are found in lxx with συναγωγὴν gathering, λαόν people, and πρεσβυτέρους elders. Συναγωγὴ is constantly used in lxx of the children of Israel as a body (Exodus 12:6, Exodus 12:19, Exodus 12:47; Leviticus 4:13, etc.), and is the more common word in N.T. for a Jewish as distinguished from a Christian assembly; sometimes with the addition of the Jews (Acts 8:5; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:1). It is once used of a Christian assembly (James 2:2). Ἑπισυναγωγὴ gathering together, occurs 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 10:25. The Ebionites retained συναγωγὴ in preference to ἐκκλησία. The lxx translators found two Hebrew words for "assembly" or "congregation,": עֵדָה and קָהָל, and rendered the former by συναγωγὴ in the great majority of instances. Ἑκκλησία does not appear as the rendering of עֵדָה. They were not as consistent in rendering קָהָל, since they used both συναγωγὴ and ἐκκλησία, though the latter was the more frequent: see Leviticus 4:13; Deuteronomy 5:22, etc. The A.V. renders both words by "congregation" and "assembly" indiscriminately. Ἑκκλησία is only once used in N.T. of a Jewish congregation, Acts 7:38; yet there are cases where there is an apparent attempt to guard its distinctively Christian sense against being confounded with the unconverted Jewish communities. Hence the addition; ἐν Χριστῷ in Christ, Galatians 1:22; ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ και, κυρίῳ Ἱησοῦ Χριστῷ in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:1. In both Hebrew and N.T. usage, ἐκκλησία implies a community based on a special religious idea, and established in a special way. In N.T. it is also used in a narrower sense, of a single church, or of a church confined to a single place. So Romans 16:5, etc.
In God the Father, etc.
Const. with the church, and comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:1. The phrase "the church in God" is peculiar to the Thessalonian Epistles. Elsewhere "of God" (1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 Corinthians 11:16, 1 Corinthians 11:22; 1 Corinthians 15:9, etc.); "of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33). Lightfoot suggests that the word ἐκκλησία can scarcely have been stamped with so definite a Christian meaning in the minds of these recent and early converts as to render the addition "in God the Father," etc., superfluous.
Grace to you and peace (χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη)
In Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, the salutation is, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Colossians omits the last five words of this: 2 Thessalonians mits our before Father. On the union of the Greek and Jewish forms of salutation, see on 1 Corinthians 1:3.
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