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1 Thessalonians 5

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.

Times, [ chronoi (G5555)] - the general term for chronological periods in the great cycle of God's scheme of providence and grace.

Seasons, [ kairoi (G2540)] - the opportune times (Daniel 7:12; Acts 1:7). Time denotes quantity; season, quality. Seasons are parts of times. Here, the times and seasons which bring about the grand consummation at the Lord's coming.

Ye have no need - those who watch need not be told when the hour will come, for they are always ready. The Thessalonians 'knew perfectly' [ akriboos (G199), 'accurately'], by Paul's having told them, and by the Spirit's teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:5).

Verse 2

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

As a thief in the night. The apostles follow their Lord's parable, expressing how His coming shall take men by surprise (Matthew 24:43; 2 Peter 3:10). 'The night is wherever there is quiet unconcern' (Bengel). "At midnight" (perhaps figurative: to some parts of the earth it will be literal night), Matthew 25:6: cf. Luke 17:31, "in that day;" Luke 17:34, "in that night." The thief not only gives no notice of his approach, but takes all precautions to prevent the household knowing of it. So the Lord (Revelation 16:15). Signs will precede, to confirm the patient hope of the watchful; but the coming itself shall be sudden at last (Matthew 24:32-36).

Cometh. - present: expressing its speedy, awful certainty.

Verse 3

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

They - the men of the world. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6; Colossians 4:13, "others:" all the rest of the world except Christians.

Peace (Judges 18:7; Judges 18:9; Judges 18:27-28; Jeremiah 6:14; Ezekiel 13:10).

Then - at that very moment, when they least expect it. Compare Belshazzar, Daniel 5:1-6; Daniel 5:9; Daniel 5:26-28; Herod, Acts 12:21-23; Luke 21:25-35.

Cometh upon, [ efistatai (G2186)] - stands at their doors "sudden" (not an epithet, but a secondary predicate of manner).

As travail. 'As the labour pang' comes in an instant on the woman when otherwise engaged (Psalms 48:6; Isaiah 13:8).

Shall not escape, [ ou (G3756) mee (G3361) ekfugoosin (G1628)] - 'shall not at all escape;' another awful feature of their ruin: there shall be then no possibility of shunning it (Amos 9:2-3; Revelation 6:15-16).

Verse 4

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Not in darkness - of understanding (i:e., spiritual ignorance), or of the moral nature (i:e., sin) (Ephesians 4:18; 1 John 2:9).

That, [ hina (G2443)] - 'in order that:' with God results are all purposed.

That day - Greek, 'THE day:' the day of the Lord (Hebrews 10:25), in contrast to "darkness."

Overtake - unexpectedly (cf. John 12:35). As a thief. So 'Aleph (') Delta f g, Vulgate. But A B, kleptas for kleptees (G2812). 'As (the daylight overtakes) thieves' (Job 24:17).

Verse 5

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

'Aleph (') A B Delta G f g, Vulgate, read 'FOR ye are all,' etc. Ye have no reason for fear, or surprise, by the coming of the day of the Lord: 'For ye are all sons [ huioi (G5207)] of light and sons of day:' a Hebrew idiom: as sons resemble their fathers, so you are light (intellectually and morally illuminated in spiritual things) (Luke 16:8; John 12:36).

Are not of - i:e., belong ant to night nor darkness. The change from '"ye" to "we" implies, Ye are sons of light, because ye are Christians; and we, Christians, are not of night nor darkness.

Verse 6

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

Others, [ hoi (G3588) loipoi (G3062)] - 'the rest' of the world (1 Thessalonians 4:13). "Sleep" here is worldly apathy to spiritual things (Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14); in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, ordinary sleep; in 1 Thessalonians 5:10, death.

Watch - for Christ's coming [greegoromen]; 'be wakeful.'

Be sober - refraining from carnal indulgences, mental or sensual (cf. Greek, 1 Corinthians 15:34; 2 Timothy 2:26; 1 Peter 5:8).

Verse 7

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

In the literal sense. Night is the time when sleepers sleep, and drinking men are drunk. To sleep by day would imply great indolence; to be drunk by day great shamelessness. In a spiritual sense, 'we Christians profess to be day people, not night people; therefore our work ought to be day work, not night work; or conduct such as will bear the eye of day, and has no need of the veil of night' (Edmunds) (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

Verse 8

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

Faith, hope, and love, the three pre-eminent graces (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:13). We must not only be awake, but also sober; not only sober, but also armed; not only watchful, but guarded. The armour here is only defensive; in Ephesians 6:13-17 also offensive. Here our means of being guarded against being surprised by the day of the Lord as a thief in the night. The helmet and breastplate defend the two vital parts, the head and the heart respectively. 'With head and heart right, the whole man is right' (Edmunds). The head needs to he kept from error, the heart from sin. For "the breastplate of righteousness" (Ephesians 6:14), we have here "the breastplate of faith and love:" for the righteousness imputed to man for justification is "faith working by love" (Romans 4:3; Romans 4:22-24; Galatians 5:6). Faith, as the motive within, and love, exhibited in outward acts, constitute perfect righteousness. In Ephesians 6:17 the helmet is "salvation;" here, "the hope of salvation." In one aspect "salvation" is present (John 3:36; John 5:24; 1 John 5:13); in another, it is a matter of hope (Romans 8:24-25). Our Head primarily wore the "breastplate of righteousness" and "helmet of salvation," that we might, by union with Him, receive both (Isaiah 59:17). Hope keeps the mind from sinking under present trials.

Verse 9

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

For - the ground of our "hope" (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

Appointed us, [ etheto (G5087)] - 'set' (Acts 13:47), in His everlasting purpose of love (1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Timothy 1:9). Contrast Romans 9:22; Jude 1:4.

To - i:e., unto wrath.

To obtain, [ peripoieesin (G4047) sooteerias (G4991)] - 'to the acquisition of salvation:' said (Bengel) of one saved out of a general wreck, when all things else are lost: so the elect saved out of the multitude lost (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). God's 'gracious appointment through Jesus Christ' (Ephesians 1:5) precludes our being able to 'acquire' salvation of ourselves. Christ 'acquired' [ periepoieesato (G4046), "purchased"] the Church (and its salvation) with His own blood' (Acts 20:28): each member is appointed by God to the 'acquiring of salvation.' Primarily, God does the work; in the secondary sense, man does it.

Verse 10

Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

Dead for us, [ huper (G5228)] - 'in our behalf.' So that we need have no doubt of the certainty of our salvation, since Christ has for us satisfied all the demands of justice against us.

Whether we wake or sleep - whether we be found at Christ's coming alive, or in our graves.

Together with him - rather, 'all of us together should live with Him:' the living not preceding the dead in glorification at His coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13; Romans 14:8).

Verse 11

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

Comfort yourselves, [ alleelous (G240)] - "one another." Here he reverts to consolation, as in 1 Thessalonians 4:18.

One another - Greek, 'edify (ye) one the other;' literally, 'build up' (believers forming the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16); namely, in faith, hope, and love, by discoursing together on such topics as the coming glory of the Lord and His saints (Malachi 3:16).

Verse 12

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

Beseech - "exhort" in 1 Thessalonians 5:14; here, "we beseech," as a personal favour (Paul making the cause of the Thessalonian presbyters his own).

Know - to have respect for their office, and treat them accordingly (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:18) with reverence and liberality in supplying their needs (1 Timothy 5:17). The Thessalonian church being newly planted, the ministers were novices (1 Timothy 3:6), which may account for the people treating them with less respect. Paul's practice was to ordain elders in every church soon after its establishment (Acts 14:23).

Them which labour among you, and are over you ... admonish you. Not three classes, but one, as there is but one article common to the three (Greek). "Labour" expresses their laborious life: "are over you," their pre-eminence as superintendents ("bishops," i:e., overseers, Philippians 1:1; them that have rule over you [ proistamenous (G4291), leaders], Hebrews 13:17; "pastors," Ephesians 4:11): "admonish you," their leading function [ nouthetountas (G3560)]; "put in mind:" not arbitrary authority, but gentle, though faithful, admonition (2 Timothy 2:14; 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 Peter 5:3).

In the Lord. Their presidency over you is not in worldly affairs, but in things appertaining to the Lord.

Verse 13

And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

Very highly, [ huperekperissou (G5240a)] - 'exceeding abundantly.'

For their work's sake - the high nature of it alone, the furtherance of your salvation and of the kingdom of Christ, should be a sufficient motive to claim your reverential love. At the same time the term teaches ministers that, while claiming the reverence due to their office, it is not a sinecure, but a "work" (cf. "labour" ) even to weariness [ kopiontas (G2872)] (1 Thessalonians 5:12).

Be at peace among yourselves - "and" is not in the original. Let there not only be peace between ministers and their flocks, but also no party rivalries among yourselves-one contending in behalf of one favourite minister, another in behalf of another (Mark 9:50; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 13:11).

Verse 14

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

Brethren. This exhortation to "warn" [ noutheteite (G3560); "admonish," as 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ] the unruly (those "disorderly" persons, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:11, who would not work, through fanatical expectations of Christ's coming, yet expected to be maintained [ ataktous (G814)]: said of soldiers not remaining in their ranks, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11; also those insubordinate in discipline, as to those "over" the church, 1 Thessalonians 5:12), comfort the faint-hearted [ oligopsuchous (G3642): ready to sink 'without hope' in bereavements, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, and temptations], etc., applies to all clergy and laity alike, though primarily to the clergy (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Not only are they to be at peace among themselves, but to promote peace among others.

Support, [ antechesthe (G472)] - lay fast hold on to support.

The weak - spiritually. Paul practiced what he preached (1 Corinthians 9:22). Be patient toward all, [ makrothumeite (G3114), the opposite of oxuthumein]. There is no believer who needs not long-suffering (1 Corinthians 13:4) patience to be exercised "toward" him; there is none to whom a believer ought not to show it; many show it more to strangers than to their own families, to the great than to the humble: we ought to show it "toward all men" (Bengel). Compare "the long-suffering of our Lord" (2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Peter 3:15).

Verse 15

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

Christianity first taught this. The British triad defines three classes: the man of the devil returns evil for good; the man of men returns good for good, evil for evil; the man of God returns good for evil (Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 3:9).

Unto any man - whether unto a Christian or a pagan, however great the provocation.

Follow - as a matter of earnest pursuit.

Good - that which is for the good of others.

Verses 16-17

Rejoice evermore.

In order to "rejoice evermore" we must "pray without ceasing." He who thanks God for all things as happening for the best, will have continuous joy (Theophylact). Philippians 4:4; Philippians 4:6, "Rejoice in the Lord;" Romans 14:17, "in the Holy Spirit" (who is, the originating cause, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, as well as the 'sphere of joy:' faith lays hold of and keeps it, Philippians 1:25); Romans 12:12, "in hope;" Acts 5:41, 'in being counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's name;' James 1:2, in falling "into divers temptations." 'Pray [ adialeiptoos (G89)] without intermission:' not allowing prayerless gaps to intervene between the times of prayer. Cherish the spirit of prayer; let devotion be the chief business of life (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2).

Verse 18

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. In everything - even what seems adverse; for nothing is really so (cf. Romans 8:28; Ephesians 5:20.) So Christ (Matthew 15:36; Matthew 26:27; Luke 10:21; John 11:41).

This - that ye should "in every thing give thanks," "is the will of God in Christ Jesus (the Mediator in whom that will is revealed: cf. Philippians 3:14) concerning [toward: eis (G1519)] you." God's will is the believer's law. Put commas after each of the three precepts (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), making "this" refer to all three.

Verse 19

Quench not the Spirit.

Quench not - The Spirit being a holy fire: 'where the Spirit is, He burns' (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3). Contrast 2 Timothy 1:6 [ anazoopurein (G329)], 'rekindle.' Do not throw cold water on those who, under the Spirit's extraordinary inspiration, speak with tongues, reveal mysteries, or pray in the congregation. Enthusiastic statements (perhaps of the nearness of Christ's coming,) exaggerating Paul's statement, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, "by spirit," led some (probably presiding ministers, not always treated with due respect by enthusiasts, 1 Thessalonians 5:12), from dread of fanaticism, to discourage the free utterances of those really inspired in the church assembly. On the other hand, the caution, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, was needed, not to receive "all" professed revelations without 'proving' them.

Verse 20

Despise not prophesyings.

Prophesyings - whether exercised in inspired teaching (as distinguished from [ didachee (G1322)] 'teaching' under the ordinary influences of grace), or in predicting. 'Despised' by some, as fanatics had brought discredit on all extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19, note). At Corinth subsequently prophesyings were despised as beneath tongues, but are shown by Paul to be a greater gift, though tongues be more showy (1 Corinthians 14:5).

Verses 21-22

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

B Delta G f g, Vulgate, insert, 'but.' 'Aleph (') A C omit it. You ought indeed not to "quench the Spirit" nor "despise prophesyings;" 'but,' at the same time, do not take "all" as genuine which professes to be so; 'prove (test) them all.' Means of testing existed in the Church: some had the "discerning of spirits" (1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 4:1). Another test, which we also have, is to try the professed revelation whether it accord with Scripture, as the noble Bereans did (Isaiah 8:20; Acts 17:11; Galatians 1:8-9). This negatives Rome's assumption of infallibly laying down the law: the laity have the right of private judgment, and are bound to exercise it in testing every human teaching by Scripture. Locke, 'Those who are for laying aside reason in matters of revelation resemble one who should put out his eyes to use a telescope.'

Hold fast ... good. Join this with the next clause (1 Thessalonians 5:22), not merely with the preceding. As the result of 'proving all things,' especially prophesyings, 'hold fast (Luke 8:15; 1 Corinthians 11:2; Hebrews 2:1) the good: hold yourselves aloof from every species of evil.' [Ellicott: as the antithesis to "that which is good," and the lexical meaning of eidous, 'form,' favour. But see below]. Accept not even a professedly spirit-inspired communication, if at variance with the truth taught you (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Tittmann supports, 'from every evil appearance.' The context refers not to standing aloof from every evil appearance IN OURSELVES but IN OTHERS; for instance, pretended spirit-inspired prophesyings. The Christian often should not abstain from what has the "appearance" of evil, when really good. Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and ate with publicans-acts which wore the appearance of evil, but which were really good. The context favours this sense: However specious be such pretended prophets and their "prophes yings," stand aloof from every such appearance when it is evil. [Luke 9:29 justifies this sense of eidos (G1491) lexically].

Verse 23

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And - `But' [ de (G1161)].

The very God - rather, 'may the God of peace Himself' do for you by His own power what I cannot do by all my monitions, nor you by all your efforts (Romans 16:20; Hebrews 13:20).

Sanctify you - for holiness is the condition of "peace" (Philippians 4:6-9). As peace is His attribute, so it is His special gift (John 14:27); for which end may He give you holiness.

Wholly, [ holoteleis (G3651)] - (so that you should be) 'perfect in every respect.'

And - i:e., 'and so (omit I pray God: not in the Greek) may your ... spirit and soul and body be preserved whole:' a different word from "wholly:" [ holokleeron (G3648)] 'entire;' with none of the integral parts wanting. [ Teleios (G5046) is what has reached its end, in respect to quality; holokleeros (G3648), 'complete in all its parts,' in respect to quantity, James 1:4.] It refers to man in his normal integrity: all ideal which shall be attained by the glorified believer. All three-spirit, soul, and body-each in its place, constitute man 'entire.' The "spirit" links man with higher intelligences, and is that highest part receptive of the quickening Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:47). The soul [ psuchee (G5590)] is intermediate between body and spirit: it is the sphere of the will and affections. In the unspiritual, the spirit is so sunk under the animal soul (which it ought to keep under), that such are 'animal' ('sensual,' having merely the body of organized matter, and the soul the immaterial animating essence), "having not the Spirit" (Jude 1:19: cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14: notes, 15:44,46-48; 3:6). The unbeliever shall rise with an animal (soul-animated) body, but not, like the believer, with a spiritual (spirit-endued) body like Christ's (Romans 8:11).

Blameless unto, [ amemptoos (G274)] - 'blamelessly (so as to be in a blameless state) at Christ's coming.' In Hebrew [ shalowm (H7965)], "peace" and "wholly" [ holoteleis (G3651)] are kindred terms; so the prayer explains "God of peace." Bengel takes "wholly" as collectively-all the Thessalonians-so that no one should fail; and "whole" individually-each one entire-with "spirit and soul and body." The mention of the body accords with 1 Thessalonians 4:16, end. Trench, better, "wholly" - i:e., 'having perfectly attained the moral end;' namely, to be full-grown in Christ. "Whole," complete, with no grace [also part] which ought to be in a Christian wanting.

Verse 24

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Faithful - to His covenant promises (John 10:27-29; 1 Corinthians 1:9-10; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:13).

He that calleth you. God, the caller of His people, will cause His calling not to fall short of its end.

Do it - preserve and present you blameless at Christ's coming (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 8:30; 1 Peter 5:10). You must not look at the foes before and behind, on the right and the left, but to God's faithfulness to His promises, God's zeal for His honour, and God's love for those whom He calleth.

Verse 25

Brethren, pray for us.

B Delta read 'Pray ye also for [ peri (G4012), concerning] us,' even as we have been just praying for you (1 Thessalonians 5:23). 'Aleph (') A G g, Vulgate, omit 'also.' The clergy need much the prayers of their flocks. Paul makes the same request, Rom., Ephes., Phil., Col., Phile., and 2 Cor. Not Song of Solomon 1:1-17 and 2 Tim., and Titus, whose intercessions, as his spiritual sons, he was already sure of; nor 1 Cor. and Gal., as these letters abound in rebuke.

Verse 26

Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

This letter was first handed to the elders, who communicated it to "the brethren." In Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12, it is, "Greet one another." Not able to greet the brethren in person, he begs the eiders to do it for him.

Holy kiss - pure and chaste. "A kiss of charity" (1 Peter 5:14);-`a kiss of peace' (Tertullian, 'De Orat.' 100: 14); 'a mystic kiss' (Clemens Alexandrinus, 'Paedagogy,' 3: 11); a token of Christian fellowship (cf. Luke 7:45; Acts 20:37): not merely a conventional salutation, as in many countries. In the early church the kiss passed through the congregation at the holy communion (Justin Martyr, 'Apology,' 1: 65; 'Apostolic Constitutions,' 2:

57), the men kissing the men, and the women the women. So in the Syrian church, each takes his neighbours right hand, and says, 'Peace.'

Verse 27

I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

I charge, [ enorkizoo (G1774a)] - 'I adjure you.'

Read unto all - namely, publicly in the congregation. The aorist [ anagnoostheenai (G314)] implies a single act done at a particular time. The earnestness of his adjuration implies how solemnly important he felt this divinely-inspired message. Also, as this was the FIRST of the New Testament letters, he gives a solemn charge that its being publicly read should be a sample of what should be done with the others; just as the Pentateuch and the Prophets were publicly read under the Old Testament, and are still read in the synagogue (Luke 4:16; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15; Colossians 4:16). Cf the same injunction as to the Apocalypse, the LAST of the New Testament canon (Revelation 1:3). The "all" includes women and children, especially those who could not read it themselves (Deuteronomy 31:12; Joshua 8:33-35). What Paul commands with an adjuration, Rome forbids under a curse (Bengel). Though these letters had difficulties, the laity were all to hear them read (1 Peter 4:11; 2 Peter 3:16), even the very young (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15). "Holy" is omitted before "brethren" in 'Aleph (') B Delta G f g. A C, Vulgate, support it.

Verse 28

(Note, 2 Corinthians 13:14, which is the longest benediction; as Colossians 4:18; 2 Timothy 4:22, "Grace be with you," is the shortest) Paul ends as he began (1 Thessalonians 1:1), with "grace." 'Aleph (') A, Vulgate, have, but B Delta G f g omit, "Amen:" probably the liturgical response of the church after the public reading of the letter.

The subscription is comparatively modern. The letter was not, as it states, written from Athens, but from Corinth; for it is in the names of Silas and Timothy (besides Paul), who did not join the apostle before he reached the latter city (Acts 18:5).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-thessalonians-5.html. 1871-8.
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