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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

1 Thessalonians 3

Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 3:1 . μηκ ., instead of οὐκ ., to bring out the personal motive. στέγοντες “able to bear” ( cf. Philo, Flacc. , § 9, μηκέτι στέγειν δυνάμενοι τὰς ἐνδείας ), sc. the anxiety of 1 Thessalonians 2:11 f. ἐν Ἀ . μόνοι . Paul shrank from loneliness, especially where there was little or no Christian fellowship; but he would not gratify himself at the expense of the Thessalonians. Their need of Timothy must take precedence of his.

Verses 1-13

1 Thessalonians 2:17 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13 . Paul’s apologia pro absentia suâ .

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 3:3 . Cf. Artemid., Oneirocritica ii. 11, ἀλλότριοι δὲ κύνες σαίνοντες μὲν δόλους καὶ ἐνέδρας ὑπὸ πονηρῶν ἀνδρῶν [ cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:2 ] ἢ γυναικῶν [ cf. Acts 17:4 ] σημαίνουσιν .

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 3:4 . Cf. Acts 17:3 ; Acts 17:6 ; Acts 17:13 f.

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 3:5 . Resuming the thought of 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 a , after the parenthetical digression of 3 b , 4, but adding a fresh reason for the mission of Timothy, viz. , the apostle’s desire to have his personal anxiety about the Thessalonians relieved. It is needless to suppose (with Hofmann and Spitta) that 1 Thessalonians 3:5 refers to a fresh messenger or a letter (Wohl.) despatched by Paul on his own account. As in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 , Paul passes to the singular, to emphasise his personal interest in the matter; the change of number, especially after the generic use of the plural in 3, 4, does not necessarily prove that the plural of 1 Thessalonians 3:1 means Paul alone. The dominating anxiety of Paul was about their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:5-10 ). He was overjoyed to hear that they retained “a kindly remembrance” of himself, and he reciprocates their desire for another meeting; but, while this undoubtedly entered into their general Christian position, it is the former on which unselfishly he dwells ( cf. the transition in 10 a and 10 b ). πίστιν κ . τ . λ . “Initium omnium malarum tentationum inconstantia animi est et parua ad Deum confidentia” ( De Imit. Christi , i. 13, 5). ἐπείρασεν , with success, it is implied.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 3:8 . The news put life and spirit into him. στήκετε , for construction cf. Mark 11:25 and Abbott’s Johan. Gramm. , 2515 (i).

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 3:10 . Another adaptation of ethnic phraseology, cf. Griechische Urkunden , i. 246, 12, νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐντυγχάνω τῷ θεῷ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν (a pagan papyrus from second or third century, A.D.). The connection of δεόμενοι κ . τ . λ . with the foregoing words is loose, but probably may be found in the vivid realisation of the Thessalonians called up before his mind as he praised God for their constancy. Timothy had told him of their loyalty, but had evidently acquainted him also with some less promising tendencies and shortcomings in the church; possibly the Thessalonians had even asked for guidance on certain matters of belief and practice (see below). Hence Paul’s eagerness to be on the spot again, not merely for the sake of happy fellowship (Romans 1:11 ), but to educate and guide his friends, supplying what was defective in their faith. As this was impracticable in the meantime, he proceeds to write down some kindly admonitions. Thus 10 b forms the transition to the second part of the letter; Paul, as usual, is wise enough to convey any correction or remonstrance on the back of hearty commendation. In the prayer which immediately follows, 10 a is echoed in 11, 10 b in 12, 13, for the maturing of the Thessalonian’s faith does not depend on the presence of their apostles. Whatever be the answer to the prayer of 11, the prayer of 12, 13 can be accomplished.

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 3:11 . κατευθύναι (optative), as already (Acts 16:8-10 ; Acts 17:1 ). The singular ( cf. II., 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ) implies that God and Jesus count as one in this connection. The verb is common ( e.g. , Ep. Arist., 18, etc.) in this sense of providence directing human actions.

Verses 12-13

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 . The security and purity of the Christian life are rested upon its brotherly love (so Ep. Arist., 229); all breaches or defects of ἁγιωσύνη , it is implied, are due to failures there ( cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:6 ); even sensuality becomes a form of selfishness, on this view, as much as impatience or resentment. This profound ἀγάπη “is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken;” it fixes the believing man’s life in the very life of God, by deepening its vital powers of growth; no form of ἁγιωσύνη which sits loose to the endless obligations of this ἀγάπη will stand the strain of this life or the scrutiny of God’s tribunal at the end. ὑμᾶς δὲ , what ever becomes of us. ἁγίων , either ( a ) “saints” (as II., 2 Thessalonians 1:10 , De Wette, Hofmann, Zimmer, Schmidt, Everling, Kabisch, Findlay, Wohl.), or ( b ) “angels” (Exodus 1:9 ; Ps. Sol. 17:49, etc., Hühn, Weiss, Schrader, Titius, Schmiedel, Lueken), or ( c ) both ( cf. 4 Esd. 7:28, 14:9; Bengel, Alford, Wohl., Askwith, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Milligan). The reminiscence of Zechariah 14:5 (LXX) is almost decisive for ( b ), though Paul may have put another content into the term; πάντων must not be pressed to support ( c ). In any case, the phrase goes closely with παρουσίᾳ . The ἅγιοι are a retinue.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.