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Bible Commentaries

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 4:1

III. Paul’s Exhortation - chapters 4 & 5

How Every Church Should Walk

1. In Holiness - 4:1-8, v.7

2. In Harmony - 4:9-10

3. In Honesty - 4:11-12

4. In Hope - 4:13 - 5:11

5. In Helpfulness - 5:12-28

Furthermore -- finally (not a conclusion, but getting around to the matter of their Christian walk, or manner of living.)

Brethren -- an affectionate word

Beseech and exhort -- A two-fold injunction, practically synonymous, but the second is stronger.

By the Lord -- this teaching is from the Lord

As ye have received -- Paul had taught them this when with them

Abound -- excel

1. Walk in Holiness -- 4:1-8 (v.7)

1) to please God - v.1

2) to obey God - v.2-3

3) to glorify God - v.4 & 5

5) to escape judgment - v.6-8

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 4:2

1. Walk in Holiness -- 2) to obey God - v.2-3

Ye know -- again a reference that Paul had taught them this already in his ministry there.

Paul appeals to the knowledge of the readers: for it is well known to you, you will therefore be the more willing to ...

By the Lord Jesus -- This speaks of the authority by which Paul preached.

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 4:3

1. Walk in Holiness -- 2) to obey God - v.2-3

Will of God -- God’s plan for you (is your sanctification)

Sanctification -- "set apart", holiness, v. 3, v.4, see v.7. Set apart for God and separated by life and conduction from the unbelieving world about them. As Paul continues, he describe this “sanctified” life.

Fornication -- The word specificly means of sexual intercourse between unmarried persons, but seems to be used generally here of sexual immorality, “illicit sexual acts” (No indication Paul had in mind a specific problem such as he dealt with in the church at Corinth.)

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 4:4

1. Walk in Holiness -- 3) to glorify God - v.4-5

Every one -- each.

Vessel -- his own vessel

Vessel -- a container; The Gk, Roman, Biblical concept is that the soul (spirit) of man resides in the body as in a vessel.

1) The term is used by Peter to refer to a wife 1 Peter 3:7. Some translations take it that way in this passage. Verse 6 then would mean, don’t defraud a brother by stealing his wife. The Romans didn’t consider fornication a sin unless it involved a "high ranking" wife of another Roman.

2) The term is used to refer to the body. Translating "possess" as referring to a man "controlling" his own passions and desires. cf body as a vessel 2 Corinthians 4:7.

How best to translate this word? Vessel. Translate the word, it is not the position of the translator to give an interpretation. To translate it either “body” or “wife” is to give an interpretation, not a translation. Let the Bible student study for himself and see what the possible meaning could be.

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 4:5

Lust of concupisence -- lustful passion. The Gentiles did not hold to the same high moral code that the O.T. scriptures demanded.

Which -- who

Know not God -- the Gentiles knew gods, but not the GOD!

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 4:6

1. Walk in Holiness -- 4) to escape Judgment. (cf 1 Thessalonians 4:1)

Beyond -- transgress

Defraud his brother -- probably means by stealing the love of his brother’s wife.

Matter -- Lenski says this is a business term, and Paul dealing with commercial matters; saying Christians must live pure moral live, sexually and ethically. The word is well translated “matter” and the context is to indicate what kind of “matter, dealing, business” is under consideration.

As -- "just as"

Forewarned -- told you before.

Testified -- solemnly warned you. Solemn testimony before God. [To what did Paul testify?]

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 4:7

Called -- called by the preaching of the gospel 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

Uncleanness -- i.e. for purposes of impurity

Holiness -- but unto sanctification, (reference back to how we should "walk" v.1, in sanctification, same word as in v.3.)

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 4:8

“He that disregards this ..”

Despiseth -- rejects, disregards,

Not man, but God -- This instruction is not from a human source, but from God, by inspiration through Paul.

Gives -- gave (MT) V-2AAP-ASM, “who hath also given” ; NA26 = Present participle, which indicates continuous giving.

Given -- holy Spirit -- Paul could perform miracles, and give powerful testimony by inspiration.

Us -- A smaller number of Gk MSS reads “you” here.

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 4:9

New Paragraph

2. Walk in Harmony - v.9-10

Four Greek words for love.

"eros" = physical love, "erotic"

"philo" = affection, friendship, marriage

"storge" = family love, family relations

"agape" = noble, good will, benevolent (God for us)

Love is said to be like the circulatory system of the body, and exercise makes the blood flow faster.

But touching -- Concerning, is this in response to a question? The wording corresponds to 1Cor where a letter with questions had been directed to Paul.

Brotherly love -- philadelphia in v. 9, and agapa in later part of v.9. Brotherly love = love within a brotherhood of believers.

Taught of God to love -- agapa

Taught of -- taught by

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 4:10

And -- For

Which -- who

Macedonia -- Philippi, Berea, and if churches at Amphipolis and Apollonia, (Acts 17:1) etc.

Beseech -- urge

Increase -- excel still more

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 4:11

3. Walk in Honesty -- v. 11-12

Study -- φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, (not the same Gk word as in 2 Timothy 2:15, but the idea is he same. "aim, endeavor, give diligent attention to" "to strive to bring something to love" "to be ambitious, to make it one’s aim" "strive earnestly") Note that this word has "philo" in it, and a play on "brother love" in v.9. Romans 15:20, Paul "aim" in Gospel pioneering. In 2 Corinthians 5:9 used of the "aim" of believers to be well-pleasing unto the Lord; and here in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 of the "aim" of believers to be quiet, do their own business and work with their own hands. "Make it one’s aim" would be a good translation in all of these passages.

Work with your own hands -- The Greeks despised manual labor and had slaves.

Three reasons to work:

1) to provide for one’s own family, 1 Timothy 5:8, and here v.12b.

2) to be able to give to those who have not, Ephesians 4:28.

3) work is a blessing from God Genesis 2:15, (toil and sweat belongs to the curse, Genesis 3:17 ff. And "work" is here commanded by inspiration.

A Jewish proverb, "He who doesn’t teach his son a trade, teaches him to steal." Paul’s trade was tent-making.

As we commanded you -- Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 4:12

Walk honestly -- (Greek adverb) behave properly, becomingly, decently, in a seemly manner, ευσχημονως "Decently" in 1 Corinthians 14:40, "let all things be done ... In this context is stands in contrast to that which would result in a bad testimony to unbelievers.

Them that are without -- outsiders, non-Christians

Lack -- need (1 Thessalonians 2:6,

Verse 13

New Paragraph

4. Walk in Hope -- 4:13-5:11

Revelation -- 4:13, 15 we have God’s Truth

Return -- 4:14-15 Christ is risen and will return

Resurrection -- 4:15-16

Reunion -- 4:17-18

Retribution -- 5:1-3

Readiness -- 5:4-11

Ignorant -- uninformed. One of Paul’s favorite ways of introducing a new and important subject. Cf. Romans 1:13, Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 10:1, 1 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 1:8.

brethren -- (used in references above), a term conveying tenderness and affection.

Asleep -- a metaphor frequently used by Jesus, Mark 5:39 of Jairus’ daughter, in John 11:11 of Lazarus. The term cemetery is from the word that means "a place to sleep." What is the picture gained from "sleep": after sleep, there is an awaking, therefore death is not an annialation, and after sleep there is a refreshing.

Sorrow -- grieve

Which have no hope -- Our “Hope” is what this section is all about!


John 5:28-29 resurrection of the good and bad

1 Corinthians 15:1 ff great entire chapter

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 the living will be changed

1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 18 words of comfort to righteous

Some Various Comings of Christ

*1 Emmanuel, Matthew 1:23; John 1:14; John 6:38; Galatians 4:4 This was the coming of the Lord in the flesh, his birth at Bethlehem.

2 Pentecost, Matthew 16:28 (Mark 9:1) Mark 14:62, Matthew 26:64 In some significant way it could be said that Christ also came on Pentecost representatively when he sent his promise of the Holy Spirit.

3 To Paul at His Conversion __ Acts 26:16, Acts 22:7-9 ; 1 Corinthians 15:8 The Lord came to Paul so he could see him alive after his crucifixion and thus qualify him to be an apostle.

4 In Visions -- To Paul at Jerusalem, Acts 22:17-18 (after conversion); At Corinth, Acts 18:9; again at Jerusalem, Acts 23:11

5 AD 70, His coming in judgment upon the Jews for their rejection. Matthew 24:27, Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 24:39; Mark 13:26-30; Luke 21:20-27; Hebrews 10:37; James 5:8

This brought an end to their nation, the temple, the physical priesthood coming from Levi, the end of animal sacrifices, etc. ("Last days"[of the Jewish dispensation] plural)

*6 The Resurrection Day (His Second Coming, -- Cf. "Last Day" singular) 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ff to 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 ff; John 14:1-3;

John 5:28; John 11:24; John 6:39; John 6:40; John 6:44;

Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 4:14

For if we believe -- “For since we believe ..”

Jesus -- rose again -- the core, foundation, of our HOPE! (cf. 1Cor. 15)

Sleep in Jesus -- sleep is used as a picture of death, as the body appears asleep.

In Jesus -- The important difference! “Asleep in Jesus” is better than just R.I.P.

God bring with him -- the spirits of dead saints will come with Jesus when he return, 1 Thessalonians 3:13. Ecclesiastes 12:7.

Paul don’t introduce he doctrine of the resurrection as anything new, but as something they already knew and believed in.

Where are the dead? cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Philippians 1:23

[Before Christ’s victory over the grave, we have the picture of the hadean work in Luke 16:19-31, and Luke 23:42-43.]

Here we see the HOPE we have, and the WHY that we must walk in holiness!

Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 4:15

4. Walk in HOPE

1) Revelation - 4:14-15 We have God’s Truth

Word of the Lord -- Paul had this from the Lord (by revelation. cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, Galatians 1:12; Jesus taught on this subject, John 5:28-29. Not all of Jesus’ words had been recorded.

We -- An editorial "we", Paul didn’t mean to teach that he personally would be alive when Jesus returned. On other occasions he identified himself with those who would rise from the dead, 1 Corinthians 6:14, 2 Corinthians 4:14.

Prevent -- proceed, go before (1 Thessalonians 3:13, Ecclesiastes 12:7)

Asleep -- dead

Coming -- the 2) RETURN of the Lord - 4:14-15

Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 4:16

Walk in Hope See note on 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

2) Return - 4:14-15

Lord himself --

Shall descend -- A sudden manifestation. This should not be understood in a spatial sense at all. This manifestation will be upon the whole world, not just a part of it. No words can adequately convey to our finite minds a full understanding of how the Lord’s return can be pictured.

Shout -- Voice -- trump -- Three unique sounds to accompany Jesus’ return. John 11:43. Whether these sounds are literal, or figurative to indicate an “awesome” event, either way, it is a very awesome event! 1 Corinthians 15:52 “last trump”. cf. voice of the archangel, Michael at the judgment, Judges 1:9, and Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21, Revelation 12:7.

Shout = a commanding shout.

Dead -- rise -- the spirits’ dead bodies will be resurrected (before we ascend, v. 17 “caught up”) so there is a “reunion” of the dead spirits with a new resurrected body. (For a description of that resurrected body see 1 Corinthians 15:42-50.)

First -- Those dead will enjoy their new resurrected body before those living experience their new changed spiritual body, v.17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.

Walk in Hope See note on 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

2) Return - 4:14-15

3) Resurrection - 4:15-16

Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 4:17

Walk in Hope - 4:13 - 5:11

3) Resurrection - 4:15-16

4) Reunion - 4:17-18

Reunion of the spirit with a new body.

Reunion of those alive with those who have departed. (Another indication that we will know each other in/after the resurrection and in heaven.)

Reunion with our Lord, a glorious meeting as with a royal person.

We who -- those still alive at our Lord’s return.

Caught up -- from the Latin come the term “rapture.”

Clouds -- His coming is pictured with the "clouds" of heaven, cf. Acts 1:9-11, a picture often used by Jesus himself, with the metaphor being changed to a "flaming fire" in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, another picture that is often associated with the Lord’s coming in judgment.

Meet in the air -- Not to dwell with him "in the air" but then to accompany him to the saint’s new home in the place prepared for them, John 14:1-3.

So -- thus.

Ever with the Lord -- Three important points:

1) with the Lord, a “glorious meeting” παρουσιαν parousia (v.15) as a royal person.

2) an everlasting meeting;

3) ”together” with friends and family.

Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 4:18

Wherefore -- because of the truth that we now know about the matter of “sleeping” saints

Comfort -- The Christian’s HOPE is to share in this resurrection. Not only did the words of this passage comfort the weeping and the bereaved in Thessalonica, but they are still doing so after some 20 centuries have rolled away. They are just as appropriate now in comforting the hearts of the bereaved as in ancient Thessalonica.

These words -- God’s word is comforting, the Scriptures are the proper place to go to to be comforted of God, cf. Luke 24:17; Luke 24:27, Luke 24:32.

The truth about our Lord’s return (the Second Coming) gives strength in time of sorrow (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

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Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. 2021.