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Bible Commentaries

Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 4:1 . Ἀρέσκειν , to please, to show yourselves pleasing, acceptable ) to the Lord.

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 4:2 . Παραγγελίας , commandments ) Paul uses this word at this very early time, when writing to the Thessalonians, whose piety took it in the right spirit, as did also the piety of Timothy, to whom he gives his commands with the greatest sternness. The same word occurs, 1Th 4:11 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:4 ; 2Th 3:6 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:12 . In addressing other churches subsequently, when his authority was established, he uses it very seldom.

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 4:3 . Θέλημα , a will ) [a thing which God wills]. So ch. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 , without the article. There are many wills , Acts 13:22 . ὁ ) The mark of the subject. ἁγιασμὸς ὑμῶν , your sanctification ) The word, your [ i.e. present sanctification, as contrasted with the past], recalls to the memory of the Thessalonians their former profane condition. Sanctification especially includes chastity. ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας , from fornication ) Exalted Christians as they were, yet they required to be admonished respecting this sin; for the Gentiles had no scruples as to carnal lewdness.

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 4:4 . Εἰδέναι , should know ) οἴδα , I know , not only denotes knowledge, but power of mind [mental self-control so as to], Philippians 4:12 : comp. [husbands, dwell with your wives] according to knowledge , 1 Peter 3:7 . Both are certainly required for matrimonial chastity. σκεῦος , vessel ) his body, 1 Samuel 21:5 ; 1 Corinthians 6:18 . κτᾶσθαι , to possess , is illustrated from Luke 21:19 . καὶ τιμῇ , and in honour ) The contrary is ἀτιμία , disgrace, Romans 1:26 ; Romans 1:24 [ πᾶθη ἀτιμίας , affections of dishonour, i.e. vile; ἀτιμάζεσθαι σώματα , to dishonour their bodies].

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 4:5 . Μὴ ἐν πάθει ἐπιθυμίας , not in the lust of concupiscence ) As concupiscence gains the mastery, it at length waxes strong, so as to become a wretched passion and disease, 2 Samuel 13:4 . τὰ ἔθνη , the Gentiles ) These are also denoted at 1 Thessalonians 4:12-13 , by different periphrases [“them that are without,” 1 Thessalonians 4:11 : ‘others,’ οἱ λοιποί , 1Th 4:13 ]. τὰ μὴ εἰδότα , who know not ) Ignorance is the origin of unchastity, Romans 1:24 . [ Look at the serenity of heaven, and thou wilt conceive a loathing of impurity . V. g.]

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 4:6 . Τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν καὶ πλεονεκτεῖν ) The article τὸ makes an emphatic addition [Epitasis], which falls upon the verb ὑπερβαίνειν . Eustathius explains ὑπερβῆναι as, τὸ καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἀστοχῆσαι τοῦ δέοντος , to miss the mark as to what is in the highest degree necessary . Therefore Paul does not seem to be speaking here of avarice , which however is joined to sins of impurity in Eph 5:5 and Colossians 3:5 (whence also the article makes an Epitasis or emphatic addition), and which, as being a capital transgression, is called idolatry; but of the deceptions and arts of adulterers, Hebrews 13:4 ; for the Asyndeton [no copula between εἰδέναι , 1 Thessalonians 4:4 , and τὸ μὴ ὑπερβαίνειν , 1Th 4:6 ] indicates that the same subject is continued; and he is speaking of a ‘ matter ’ of such a kind, as that the blame attached to it is greater than that attached to theft, Proverbs 6:30 : and in 1Th 4:7 he returns to the mention of impurity and holiness alone. It is by a Euphemism that the apostle does not call it adultery . ἑν τῷ πράγματι , in the matter or business ) The article points out the particular business in hand at this or that time, 2 Corinthians 7:11 . ἀδελφὸν , brother ) The reason assigned (Ætiology) for avoiding the transgression [ τὸ ὑπερβαίνειν , viz. adultery]. ἔκδικος , avenger ) Hebrews 13:4 , note. ὁ Κύριος , the Lord ) Christ, the Judge.

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 4:7 . Ἐν ἁγιασμῷ , in sanctification ) ἐπὶ , for, on account of , rather expresses the end; ἐν , in , the nature or character of the thing [viz. of our calling].

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 4:8 . Ὁ ἀθετῶν ) he who despiseth this thing. τὸν καὶ δόντα , Who has also given ) The word also intimates that a new importance is here added to what immediately precedes. τὸ Πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον εἰς ὑμᾶς , His Holy Spirit to you ) Ephesians 4:30 . [13]

[13] Ὑμᾶς is the reading of BDG fg : “in vobis” is that of g and Vulg.; but ἡμᾶς of A and Rec. Text. ED.

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 4:9 . Οὐ χρείαν ἔχομεν , we have no need ) Hebrews 8:11 . [14] θεοδίδακτοι , taught of God ) God imbues [not teaches , strictly] us with love by regeneration; therefore the word taught has a Catachresis [an application of a word not in its strictly regular sense], that it may be opposed to the writing [ γράφειν ὑμῖν ]. εἰς τὸ ἀγαπᾷν , with respect to loving ) The force of Divine doctrine flows into (has its confluence in) love.

[14] B ( εἴχομεν ) D corrected, G Vulg., later Syr. fg , support the first person plural. The MS. Amiatinus of Vulg., like B, has the past tense, ‘habuimus.’ Ἔχομεν is Lachmann’s reading. But Tisch., as Rec. Text, ἔχετε , with Syr. and Memph. ED.

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 4:11 . Φιλοτιμεῖσθαι ἡσυχάζειν ) that you study ( be ambitious ) to be quiet ) An Oxymoron. [15] Political ambition is ashamed to be quiet . Its opposite is περιεργάζεσθαι [ to be busybodies , opposed to, with quietness work ], 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 . It is therefore added here, πράσσειν τὰ ἴδια , to do your own business . There is, however, a strict propriety imparted to the word φιλοτιμεῖσθαι from 1 Thessalonians 4:12 , at the end. [16] ἐργάζεσθαι , to labour ) It was necessary to mention this to men who had acquired a taste for heaven. Men immersed in the world labour of their own accord. The admonition increases in force at 2 Thessalonians 3:6-7 .

[15] See App. The figure by which things contrary (as here ambition and quiet ) are acutely and wisely joined together.

[16] i.e . “Having nothing which you need” to solicit ambitiously from others. ED.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 4:12 . Εὐσχημόνως , becomingly ) Lest men should be able to say that Christianity leads to sloth and poverty. The opposite is the disorderly (unruly), 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:6 . μηδενὸς ) of nothing , which you require to solicit from those without. This is the highest degree of εὑπορία , i.e. freedom from entanglement in matters of property, and is to be desired by a Christian, on account of the liberty which it bestows.

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 4:13 . [17] Ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε , that ye sorrow not ) for those who have lately died, being in the faith; for hope in regard to them is well-grounded [is a valid hope]. The efficacy of the Christian religion is even in an especial degree evident from this circumstance, that it does not take away or embitter, but sweetly soothes (modifies), regret for the dead; the finest of the affections, whether their death has taken place recently or in former times. [18]

[17] Περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένων , concerning those who have fallen asleep ) This is consolation offered in a case of recent grief, not for those who have been long dead. Not. Crit .

[18] Ἐλπίδα , hope ) and joy. V. g.

Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 4:14 . Γὰρ , for ) The Scripture, from among so many topics of consolation in regard to death, generally brings forward this one concerning the resurrection, as principal and pre-eminent. ἀπέθανε , died ) This word is usually applied to Christ; whereas to fall asleep is applied to believers, 1 Corinthians 15:3 ; 1Co 15:6 ; 1 Corinthians 15:18 ; 1 Corinthians 15:20 ; 1 Corinthians 15:51 . οὕτω ) in like manner, as Jesus Himself rose, so we believe that we shall be conducted alive by the path of death. διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ , in Jesus ) This is construed with κοιμηθέντας , [19] who have fallen asleep . For the verb, will lead [ bring ], which follows, has accordingly the with Him standing in apposition, and answering to the words, διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ , in Jesus .

[19] Lit. Those lulled to sleep by Jesus . ED.

Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 4:15 . Ὑμῖν ) To you, who are worthy of knowing this. λέγομεν ἐν λόγῳ Κυρίου , we say by the word of the Lord ) The Lord, the Christ, has spoken to us; we have spoken to you: comp. 1 Kings 20:35 , בדבר יהוה , ἐν λόγῳ Κυρίου , by the word of the Lord. Phrases such as these are used in respect of a matter which is now for the first time opened up (disclosed), [Many matters connected with an altogether extraordinary subject, which would be in vain sought for elsewhere, are here discussed. V. g.] ἡμεῖς , we) The saints, by speaking thus in their own age, have greatly added to the obligation resting on those of following ages to look for the Lord. The we is presently explained by the following words, who are alive, and further on, who remain. οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι , who live, who remain [who live, surviving]) So also 1 Thessalonians 4:17 . This is equivalent to an apposition. Who live, is an antithesis to, who sleep. There is at the same time intimated the small number of those who live, compared with the multitude of the dead; likewise the good condition of those who are asleep, so that the living may desire to be gathered to them. Men of all ages conjointly have a lively anticipation of [realize to themselves the immediate fulfilment of] some one thing; [20] and so believers, who are now long waiting, and who regard themselves in the light of persons who are to live at the coming of the Lord, have spoken in accordance with this their character (spake in the manner that became the character they represented, viz. those who shall be alive at the Lord’s coming). Those who live , and those who remain till the coming of the Lord , are the same, and these are denoted by the pronoun we . Each generation, which lives at this or that time, occupies, during that period of their life, the place of those who are to live at the time of the coming of the Lord. [21] So the we is put here, as elsewhere the names Cajus and Titius , [22] and that, too, with the greater propriety, because believers of that age [ i.e. of each successive past age] have not yet been allowed distinctly to know the vast period of time to elapse till the end of the world. The present tense in both participles is in reference to [ i.e. in order to suit] the coming of the Lord itself, as in Acts 10:42 [ παρήγγειλεν κηρῦξαι ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ], and elsewhere frequently. Hence Paul has not hereby asserted that the day of Christ is so near; see 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 . A similar phrase is found at Romans 13:11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:51 ; Jam 5:9 ; 1 Peter 4:5-6 ; Matthew 24:42 , note. ΤΟῦ ΚΥΡΊΟΥ , of the Lord ) Jesus Christ. οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν , we shall not [ prevent ] get before or anticipate ) This assurance sweetly counteracts the fear of the survivors regarding the dead, and reckons the advantage of the former, including himself, not to be greater than that of those who are asleep.

[20] Or ‘repræsentant’ means, Men of different ages aiming conjointly at some one object (for instance, the House of Commons in successive ages seeking civil liberty and good government) are joint representatives of that one idea: and so the men of each particular age might regard themselves as the representatives of it in their particular age. ED.

[21] That is, they are called on to live in daily and hourly expectation of the Lord’s coming in their time, since the time of His coming was left uncertain for that very purpose, Matthew 25:13 . Such ‘watchers’ in each generation are representatives of those who shall actually be found alive when He comes. ED.

[22] Imaginary persons put in law as representatives to exemplify some principle. ED.

Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 4:16 . Αὐτὸς , Himself ) A word of high import. ἐν κελεύσματι , ἐν φωνῇ ἀρχαγγέλου , καὶ ἐν σάλπιγγι Θεοῦ , with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God ) A gradation (ascending climax), comprehending three things. κέλευσμα is applied, when a multitude is ordered to do something, for example, by a herald. It is not used by the LXX. ἀρχαγγέλου , the archangel ) Michael, or some other. The article is not inserted. ἐν σάλπιγγι Θεοῦ , with the trumpet of God ) and therefore great. πρῶτον ) previously . [23]

[23] Previously to the act of the living along with the dead saints being caught up . Not, “the dead in Christ shall rise before the other dead ,” as it is often explained. ED.

Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 4:17 . Ἅμα ) Ammonious, ἅμα μὲν ἐστι χρονικὸν ἐπίῤῥημα · ὁμοῦ δὲ , τοπικόν , “ ἅμα is an adverb of time, ὁμοῦ of place.” You see here the propriety of the apostle’s language. εἰς ἀέρα , in , or rather, [caught up] into the air ) The ungodly will remain on the earth. The godly, having been acquitted, will be made assessors in the judgment. καὶ οὕτω , and so ) When Paul has written what needed to be written for consolation, he treats of [lit. he wraps up] the most important matters in this brief style. πάντοτε , [ever] always ) without any separation. σὺν Κυρίῳ , with the Lord ) not only in the air, but in heaven, whence He came. ἐσόμεθα , we shall be ) both [the living and those raised from the dead].

Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 4:18 . Παρακαλεῖτε ἀλλήλους , comfort one another ) in your grief. Comp. also 1 Thessalonians 4:11 .

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.