Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Verses 1, 2. - Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus. This Epistle, like the former, is written in their conjoint names, as all three were engaged in the planting of the Church in Thessalonica. Unto the Church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (For the exposition of these two verses, see remarks on 1 Thessalonians 1:1, where the address and salutation are almost entirely the same.)
Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
Verse 3. - We. Not to be restricted to Paul, the plural being used for the singular, as is elsewhere the case (1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:1); but inclusive of Silas and Timothy, inasmuch as they are mentioned directly before (see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:2). Are bound; feel ourselves morally constrained. To thank God always for you, brethren (comp. 1 Thessalonians 1:2). The apostle first praises his converts for what good was in them, before he censures them for their faults, and in this manner he secures their attention. As it is meet; as it is right and proper in the circumstances of the case. The words are not to be considered as a parenthetic clause, far less as a tautological expression (Jowett); but they state that the reason of the apostle's thanksgiving arose from the spiritual condition of the Thessalonians; "with the acknowledgment of personal obligation, Paul joins a recognition of the circumstances of the case" (Hofinann). Because that your faith groweth exceedingly - superabounds - and the charity of every one of you all. The subject of the apostle's thanksgiving was the increase of the faith and love of the Thessalonians: faith here being faith in Christ, and love being love to man. Faith and love contain in themselves the whole of the Christian life; faith is its commencement, its source; love is not only its outcome, its spiritual action, but its completion; the climax of the Christian life is to be made perfect in love. Here, however, love is restricted by the context to love to believers, or brotherly love. Toward each other; that is, toward your fellow Christians in Thessalonica. Love is not a mere general affection, but is to be specially manifested - "toward each believer." Aboundeth; increaseth in intensity.
So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
Verse 4. - So that we ourselves. "We" - Paul and Silas and Timothy, the founders of the Church of Thessalonica. "We ourselves," not merely we of our own accord (Hofmann), but we as well as our informants, who brought us this intelligence of the increase of your faith and love. Glory in you in the Churches of God; that is, in those Churches with which we come in contact; namely, the Church at Corinth and the Churches in Achaia. It would appear from this that several Churches had been founded in Achaia, as, for example, the Church of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). For your patience and faith; not to be weakened as a Hebraism for "your patient faith," or "for the patience of your faith;" nor is faith to be taken in the sense of faithfulness or fidelity (Lunemann); but, as in the previous verse, it denotes "faith in Christ." Patience is steadfast endurance, which, in order to be of any value in the sight of God, must be combined with faith; stoical endurance is not here nor anywhere else inculcated in Scripture. In all your persecutions and tribulations - afflictions - that ye endure; or, are enduring; the persecution which arose when Paul was at Thessalonica being continued. The patience and faith of the Thessalonians shone the more brilliantly amid persecution and affliction, even as the stars shine brightest in the dark night. To be a true Christian in the time of peace is a great matter; but to be a true Christian in the season of persecution is a greater; faith is then tested in the furnace.
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
Verse 5. - Which is a manifest token. A sentence in apposition, so that the words, "which is," printed in italics, ought to be omitted. By "token" is here meant pledge or proof. The reference is not simply to the Thessalonians, but to the whole clause - to the fact of the Thessalonians steadfastly enduring persecutions and affliction; in other words, to their sufferings for the sake of the gospel. Of the righteous - just - judgment of God. Not to be referred to the present state, and particularly to sufferings perfecting the Thessalonians and preparing them for the kingdom of God (Olshausen); but to the future judgment. These words imply that the sufferings of the righteous and the prosperity of their wicked persecutors was a clear proof that there shall be a future state of retribution, when the inequalities of the present state of things will be adjusted, when the apparent violations of justice will be rectified, and when matters will be completely reversed - when the persecutors will be punished and the persecuted rewarded (comp. Philippians 1:28, "And in nothing terrified by your adversaries; which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation and that of God"). That; in order that, indicating the purpose of God's dispensation. Ye may be counted worthy. Paul here finds, in the faith and patience of the Thessalonians amid persecution, an evidence of a state of reward, as well as in the cruelties of their persecutors an evidence of a state of punishment. The idea that man can merit salvation as a reward from God is not contained in this passage. As all men are sinners, salvation can only be obtained through the merits and mediation of Christ. But with this grace of God, justice is not abolished; the righteous will be rewarded for their faith and patience (comp. Hebrews 6:10; also Hebrews 11:6; Luke 6:35; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 John 1:8). Of the kingdom of God; namely, the Messianic kingdom which Christ will establish at the advent: here the heavenly state. For which; for the sake of which. Ye also suffer; or rather, are suffering; the sufferings being continued down to the time when the apostle wrote this Epistle.
Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
Verse 6. - Seeing it is; or rather, if indeed it is; if so be that it is (R.V.). A hypothetical sentence, not, however, introducing an uncertain or conditional fact, but an emphatic assertion - what is felt by all to be true. A righteous thing with God. Not only will the justice of God be displayed in the rewards of the righteous, in counting them worthy of the kingdom of God for which they suffer, but it will also be displayed in the punishments to be inflicted on their persecutors. To recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. We have here an example of one of the most common defects of our English Version in rendering cognate words by different terms, and thus creating needless perplexities and giving rise to erroneous interpretations; the words "tribulation" and "trouble" are cognate, and hence the verse ought to be rendered as in the R.V., "If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you."
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
Verse 7. - And to you who are troubled - afflicted - rest. The word "rest" here is a noun in the accusative, not a verb, as English readers might at the first glance suppose. It literally denotes relaxation, case. The meaning of the passage is that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense rest to you who are afflicted. The recompense of the persecutors - those who afflict, is affliction; the recompense of the persecuted - the afflicted, is rest (comp. Matthew 11:28, 29). The rest or relaxation here mentioned is that which awaits believers, not in this world, but in the next, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest" (Job 3:17). "There remaineth a rest for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9). The happiness of heaven on its negative side, as freedom from earthly affliction and persecution, is here stated. It is rest to the weary, freedom to the enslaved, release from sorrow, suffering, and pain, relaxation from toil, ease from noise and turmoil, the quiet haven of peace after being tossed about in the tempestuous ocean. With us; that is, not with us believers in general, or with us the apostles, the champions of the faith, and still less with us Jews, the saints of israel; but with us, the writers of this Epistle, namely, Paul and Silas and Timothy. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed; or, more literally, at the revelation or apocalypse of the Lord Jesus. The advent of Christ is generally expressed by another word, parousia, denoting "presence;" here the word is apocalypse, bringing before us in a more vivid manner the visible manifestation of Christ. The advent of Christ is the period when he who has hitherto been concealed will be manifested as the supreme Ruler and Judge of the world. From heaven; where now he is concealed from human view, seated at the right hand of God. With his mighty angels; not with his host of angels, but, as it is in the margin of our Bibles, "with the angels of his power" - serving his power and proclaiming his might. It is the uniform declaration of Scripture that Christ will come to judgment attended by his holy angels (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:31; Jude 1:14). And these angels are "the angels of his power," sent forth to execute his commands. By their instrumentality the dead shall be called from their graves, and the wicked separated from among the just (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Matthew 13:49).
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Verse 8. - In flaming fire; not the instrument of punishment - "in flaming fire taking vengeance;" but a further description of the glory of Christ's appearance - "revealed in flaming fire." In the Old Testament God is represented as appearing in flaming fire, as when he manifested himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2; Acts 7:30); and especially his coming to judgment is represented as coming in fire (Psalm 97:3). What is there asserted of God is here referred to Christ (comp. Revelation 19:22). There is also a probable reference to the Shechinah or cloud of glory in which Christ will appear for judgment trey. 1:7). Some also suppose a reference to the fire of the universal conflagration which shall usher in the last day (2 Peter 3:10), and others to the fire which shall consume the ungodly, but it is best to restrict the expression to the glory of Christ's manifestation. Taking vengeance; literally, giving; that is, awarding or allotting vengeance, representing the act, not of a conqueror or of an avenger, but of a righteous Judge. On them that know not God - the unbelieving Gentiles - and that; or rather, on them that; a second class being here denoted. Obey not the gospel of our Lord Jests Christ; namely, the unbelieving Jews. The ignorance of the one and the disobedience of the other were the causes of their punishment.
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
Verse 9. - Who; namely, the unbelieving Gentiles and Jews. Shall be punished; literally, shall pay the penalty; shall suffer punishment (R.V.). With everlasting destruction; or rather, even everlasting destruction; the words being in apposition. "Destruction" here denotes ruin, death; the word is only used in Paul's Epistles (1 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; 1 Timothy 6:9). The Greek word translated "everlasting," from dogmatic reasons, has given rise to much controversy. Here it appears to denote eternal - eternity to come. The eternal punishment of the wicked seems here asserted; a terrible declaration, which the mind shudders to contemplate. The observation of Olshausen is worthy of attention: "This is the only passage in Paul's Epistles in which everlasting damnation is openly declared, whereas not a few occur in which a bringing back of all the lost ones is apparently assumed as possible;" but he adds, "For the supposition that Paul did indeed in the earliest of his Epistles still teach everlasting damnation, but gave it up in later times, there exists no sufficient foundation, because the bringing back again is nowhere freely and openly declared." From the presence (or, face) of the Lord. This clause has received a threefold interpretation. Some (De Wette, Hofmann) take the preposition "from" in a causal sense, denoting the efficient cause of the punishment of the wicked - that they will be as it were blasted by the face of the Lord. Others (Chrysostom, Theophylact) take it in a temporal sense, denoting the swiftness of the punishment of the wicked - that their punishment will rise directly on the appearance of Christ (Lunemann, Alford). And others take it in a local sense, denoting banishment or separation - that the wicked will be expelled from that joy and glory which reign in the presence of Christ; they shall be banished away from the presence of the Lord. This last interpretation seems to be the correct meaning; it gives to the proposition its full force. And from the glory of his power; not a Hebraism for "his mighty glory" (Jowett), but from that glory which has its origin in his power - the wicked will be banished from the manifestation of his power in the glorification of his saints. The punishment of the wicked on its negative side is here stated. As the presence of the glorified Jesus will constitute the happiness of heaven, so banishment from his presence will constitute the misery of hell, because the soul is then cut off from the source of all good and of all holiness.
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Verse 10. - When; defining the period when this judgment of the wicked will occur. He; namely, the Lord Jesus. Shall come to be glorified; the purpose of his coming. In; not "through," or "among," but "in," as the sphere or element of his glory. His saints; not the holy angels who will accompany him to judgment, but holy men whom he has redeemed with his blood. Christ will be glorified in his saints, inasmuch as their glory was the result of his sufferings and death, and their holiness is the reflection of his holiness; "They will reflect as in a mirror the glory of the Lord." And to be admired; wondered at, praised. In all them that believe; or, believed. The work of faith is past; the result of faith, the state of sight and glory, has commenced. The glorification of believers will thus become the glorification of Christ. The glory of Christ does not arise from the punishment of the wicked, but from the glorification of believers. Christ will indeed be glorified in the punishment of the wicked. His justice will be manifested and vindicated; but his glory will be especially seen in the manifestation of his mercy toward believers. Because our testimony; namely, the testimony of Paul and his associates, Silas and Timothy. Among you; or rather, unto you. Was believed; to be considered as a parenthesis. In that day; namely, the day of the Lord's advent, to be connected with the commencement of the verse, "In that day when he shall come to be glorified in his saints." Some, overlooking the parenthesis, render the words either, "because our testimony concerning that day was believed among you;" or, "because our testimony among you shall be believed on that day" - assented to by the whole universe; but the first rendering gives a false meaning to the preposition, and the second a false construction to the verb, as if it were future.
Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:
Verse 11. - Wherefore; with a view to this consummation, in order that Christ may be glorified in you. We pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling; or rather, of your calling (R.V.). The calling was, properly speaking, only the commencement of the Christian life, but as it was the first link in a chain that terminated in glory, it is used to denote the whole Christian life - your vocation as Christians. And fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness. The pronoun "his" is not in the original. The words have been differently rendered: some render them "all God's pleasure in our goodness;" others restrict both words to mean "every desire of goodness" (R.V.). And the work of faith; that faith which is active, living, productive of good works (see exposition on 1 Thessalonians 1:3). With power; or, in power; to be taken adverbially, and to be connected with the verb "fulfil:" "That God would mightily fulfil in you all moral goodness, and a faith which is energetic."
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 12. - That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; or simply, of our Lord Jesus, "Christ" not being in the original. The "name of our Lord Jesus" is not a mere periphrasis for the Lord Jesus himself, but the name denotes his nature and character. The second petition of our Lord's prayer is "Hallowed be thy Name," and this the apostle applies to Christ; he prays that his Name may be hallowed among the Thessalonians - an incidental proof of his divinity. May be glorified in you, and you in him; a twofold glorification: Christ is glorified in believers, when by their holiness they promote his cause and reflect his glory; and believers are glorified in Christ, when they receive out of his infinite fulness. According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Some suppose that the epithet "God" also belongs to Jesus Christ, but the construction hardly bears this meaning.