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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

1 Thessalonians 1

Verses 1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1 . Paul and Silvanus. The latter is so denominated in other passages of scripture, that being the name by which he was known to the gentiles. 2 Corinthians 1:19, 2 Thessalonians 1:1. By another apostle he is honourably distinguished as “a faithful brother.” 1 Peter 5:12. The name of Silvanus appears in the Vulgate bible, but Jerome, when writing against the Pelagians, calls him Silas, his Hebraical name. He probably was equal to Paul in years, being reputed one of the seventy disciples. Silas was at Iconium before the arrival of Paul. Acts 15:34; Acts 15:40.

Timotheus, to whom the Holy Ghost was given by the imposition of Paul’s hands, is also joined with the name of Paul, being both holy men, and divinely inspired. Silas, first named in Acts 15:22, is described as one of the chief men among the brethren in Judea. See also on Acts 16:1-3.

Paul addresses this epistle to the church of the Thessalonians; but he afterwards varies his form, and calls the churches, brethren, and saints, and beloved of God, and sanctified, and the faithful in Christ Jesus. He opens the epistle by effusions of his soul, in grace, and peace from God our Father; by which we understand all the love of God in Christ Jesus, and the whole plenitude of benediction flowing through him as the fountain of life, in ceaseless streams of peace and joy. The soul of Paul, full of grace, bursts at once in all these happy forms of words, to console and edify the flock.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 . We give thanks to God always for you all. None of the churches gave the apostle greater joy than those in Thessalonica and Macedonia. Their number being great, and their work of faith abundant in all the forms of charity; their labour of love, seeking the souls of men, not surpassed even in Jerusalem; and their patience of hope, sustaining the outrages of wicked and unreasonable men, made them lovely even in the sight of God the Father.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 . Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God, by all these full proofs of your regeneration. The jews have now nothing to boast over you, concerning the peculiar grace of Abraham’s covenant, for you were equally included in the promise, that all the gentile nations of the earth should be blessed in Christ, the promised Seed, the Son, the Lord of all. In conformity to all the promises made to the gentiles, you have been called with a high and holy calling.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 . Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power. The arguments were demonstrative, the unction was divine. How should it be otherwise. Hoary idolatry was enrooted in their hearts, a religion which suited their passions, and often by its feasts, urged them to the foulest of crimes. The priests in all their temples roused the people to avenge the insults offered to their gods; and the jews, more inveterate still, persisted in pursuing the apostles with violence and outrage. How should so great a work be wrought by a few strangers, without money and without friends, unless seals and tokens of the divine presence had attended their ministry. The success was without example; the word of the Lord had free course; it ran, and was glorified.

The gospel came to them in the Holy Ghost, who in his divine subsistence or person illuminated the mind, warmed the heart, and perfected the conversion of sinners to God. He came with all the glory and power promised by the prophets.

The gospel also came to them in much assurance; yea, with the full assurance of faith, and full assurance of hope, as is the association of the word in Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 10:22. The gospel, like a torrent obstructed by a bank, broke down all opposition. It opened the ancient scriptures in a luminous manner. It was made the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believed. They at once turned from dumb idols to serve the living and the true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.

1 Thessalonians 1:6 . Ye became followers of us, and [imitators] of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction. This storm of persecution, though nowhere recorded, it would seem, was severe, and commentators generally infer from chap. 1 Thessalonians 4:13, that some of the brethren had been massacred or martyred; yet they had sustained the tempest, and suffered with joy. The piety which allured them to follow the Lamb, enabled them to suffer for his sake.

1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 . So that ye were ensamples, and models, to all from you sounded out the word of the Lord, like the trumpet of jubilee, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. While Paul was at Corinth his expansive soul could not be confined within the walls of a city, he had made excursions into Achaia. In these later times we have not adequate ideas of the glory of the gospel in its early progress. Men by multitudes embraced the faith, and the word ran like fire among the stubble.

1 Thessalonians 1:9 . Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God. The antithesis enlivens the expression, idols made with hands contrasted with the living God. Zanchius, a Swiss divine, here quotes Tacitus, who affirms that the gods, such as the local Jupiters, Neptune and others, could not create and endow the living beings of the earth with life. The learned among the gentiles certainly derived much light, either from the sibyls, or from the holy scriptures, translated by the LXX, and carried everywhere by the jews in their dispersion among all nations.

1 Thessalonians 1:10 . To wait for his Son from heaven. Sweet hope, the aggregate of every other hope. Then the tempests shall roar no more: we shall see him who died and rose again, who will redeem us from death, and deliver us from the wrath to come.


The holy apostles join here in many places with Paul, giving thanks to God for the riches of grace conferred on the saints, in begetting them again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. What grace, what love, what honour is consequent upon conversion! Heaven withholds no joy in the day of our espousals.

The piety of the Thessalonians, and of the younger churches of Macedonia, was distinguished by three characteristics. Their faith, simple, pure, and lively: doubts and fears were to them unknown. They believed the gospel, because they had felt its power, and enjoyed its comfort and support. And being assured of these, they believed every other promise of the Lord, as little children believe their father’s words. They know that a father will neither lie nor deceive them.

The piety of those Grecians was equally distinguished by the labour of love. Being enlightened and happy themselves, they sought to make others happy, to pluck them as brands from the burning, and save them from the darkness of the age. Their labours of love extended to the outward necessities of men, being themselves often opulent, and some of them noble; for love makes all one. Their patience, and all their passive graces in the time of trial, shone with a lustre equal to their active virtues. They wept for the loss of their brethren, but they fainted not when called to drink of their Saviour’s cup. If their sufferings abounded for Christ, their consolations abounded also by Christ.

Seeing the arm of the Lord revealed in the conversion of multitudes, and in defiance of earth and hell, a work incredible, and beyond the stretch of conjecture, tended so much the more to encrease and confirm their faith. What, a crucified Redeemer preached to the gentiles, believed on in the world; temples forsaken, demons despised, and churches rise; a nation born in a day, and almost without human aid! Surely, this must be the finger of God. It must be the developement of God’s electing love, of his purposes and promises from the foundation of the world, to make the gentiles fellow-heirs with the jews of the grace of the gospel. Displays of grace and mercy so divine must be the surest pledge of the promises of the Saviour’s second advent, which shall equally be fulfilled, and with more abundant manifestations of his glory.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.