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Bible Commentaries

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected Books

1 Thessalonians 1

Verse 1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. [In this salutation Silas and Timothy are united with Paul because they had aided Paul in founding the church at Thessalonica. The account of the founding of this church will be found in Acts 17. Silas is mentioned before Timothy because he is older, both in years and in service. Compare Acts 15:22; Acts 15:32; Acts 15:40 with Acts 16:1-3 . Silvanus is the full name, and Silas the abbreviation. The name is Roman, and Silas was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37). Silas was now at Corinth with Paul, and Paul mentions his services there (2 Corinthians 1:19). Much of the opening part of this letter embraces Silas and Timothy in its thought, but in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Paul distinguishes himself from them, and from that time on the letter is wholly his. Neither in this Epistle nor in that to the Philippians does Paul speak of himself as an apostle. In other Epistles he affirms his apostleship because, in the case of the Epistle to the Romans, he wrote to strangers, and in other cases his apostleship had been challenged. As to Thessalonica, see the Introduction. The church is spoken of as being in God and in Christ because in this respect it differs from all other organizations. It is its privilege to dwell in fellowship with God, so that it may be, as it were, ensphered and encircled by him. Grace was the Greek and peace the Hebrew salutation; Paul here combines them. Grace indicates the favor of God and all the gifts which flow from it, while peace represents tranquility and prosperity, either inward or outward.]

Verse 2

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

Verse 3

remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father [Paul thanked God for the church at Thessalonica for its evidences of Christian life mentioned in the remainder of this section. In the words before us he sets forth their relations to the three cardinal Christian graces, or faith, hope and love (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 13:13). Their faith was not formal, barren and dead (James 2:20; James 2:26); but it actively worked, bringing their wills into obedience to the will of God (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26); their love was not idle, but caused them to employ themselves in heartfelt toil for the welfare of others; and their hope in Christ sustained their souls, so that they endured all trials and persecutions, and were unyielding in their conflict with temptation and doubt. Thus, each in its own way, the three graces manifested themselves, and in such a way that it was evident that these graces were centered in, inspired by, and renewed of Christ, and viewed with approval by the Father];

Verse 4

knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election,

Verse 5

how that our gospel [ours not by right of authorship, but of proclamation] came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; even as ye know what manner of men we showed ourselves toward you for your sake.

Verse 6

And ye became imitators of us [1 Corinthians 11:1], and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction [Acts 17:4-10], with joy of the Holy Spirit;

Verse 7

so that ye became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia. [Continuing, Paul gives thanks that he has so much evidence of the election of the Thessalonians that it amounts to a practical knowledge of that election. This evidence is threefold: 1. The power with which he and his companions had felt endued when they preached the gospel in Thessalonica, for they had come not as vain "babblers" of empty words (Acts 17:18; Acts 17:32), but as messengers of God speaking truth powerful in itself, and additionally supplemented by the power of the Spirit. 2. The undaunted way in which the Thessalonians had received the gospel, despite the swiftness with which, they had fallen a prey to persecution. 3. The prompt manner in which the gospel had brought forth fruit in their lives. But what does Paul mean by election? Not that rigid, arbitrary choice of God first promulgated by Augustine, and afterwards emphasized by Calvin, for such doctrine was not then known. Such an absolute, unchangeable thing as Calvinistic election could only have been fittingly made known to an apostle by direct revelation, but Paul knew the election here spoken of by mere sensuous evidence. To elect means to choose, and the choosings of God do not annul the free will or agency of man. Thus Israel is chosen (Deuteronomy 7:6); yet afterwards cast off because of unbelief (Matthew 8:11-12). Election is not made absolute by God; on the contrary, the choosing of God requires that we ourselves make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10); it does not make our salvation sure, for as supplemental to it we ourselves must still work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We may make shipwreck of the faith to which we have been called or chosen (1 Timothy 1:19), and Paul’s exhortations suggest that some of these elect in Thessalonica were in danger of doing this-- 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8]

Verse 8

For from you hath sounded forth [as the sonorous, soul-stirring blast of a trumpet] the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia [after its subjection by the Romans, all Greece was divided into two parts, of which. Macedonia was the northern, and Achaia the southern], but in every place your faith to God-ward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything. [Thessalonica, being a seaport, had intercourse with all Greece, and with much of the then known world. News of the church in that place, and of the peculiar virtues that characterized it, soon spread through all Greece, and was borne by believers, and those interested in carrying such news, to the more remote parts of the earth. Though Paul had not been beyond the confines of Greece since his departure from Thessalonica, yet his experience in Greece leads him to speak by way of anticipation of parts as yet unvisited, and to represent the good news of the faith, etc., of the Thessalonians to have preceded him so that he had no need to say anything about it.]

Verse 9

For they themselves [those to whom Paul came] report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God,

Verse 10

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come. [Paul had gone from Thessalonica to Athens, and from Athens to Corinth. He may have done considerable missionary work in the smaller villages about Corinth. Now, as he went about through Corinth and through these villages he found that instead of being permitted to tell of the good work which he had done at Corinth, he himself had to become a listener while strangers told him how he had preached the gospel there, and how those who had been for generations worshipers of dead idols had turned unto the living God, and those whose fathers had for centuries worshiped the imaginary gods of that Mount Olympus under whose shadow they dwelt, had suddenly become worshipers of the true God as revealed in Christ: thus becoming disciples of a religion which taught that Jesus was the Son of God, that he had been raised from the dead, that he had ascended to heaven, from whence he had promised to return to his waiting disciples, whom he keeps in a constant state of justification, so that they are delivered from every manifestation of the wrath of God, either now present or to be revealed at the last judgment.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
First published online at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/1-thessalonians-1.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.