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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1

Finally (λοιπον). Accusative of general reference of λοιπος, as for the rest. It does not mean actual conclusion, but merely a colloquial expression pointing towards the end (Milligan) as in 2 Corinthians 13:11; 2 Timothy 4:8. So το λοιπον in 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:8.

We beseech (ερωτωμεν). Not "question" as in ancient Greek, but as often in N.T. (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Philippians 4:3) and also in papyri to make urgent request of one.

How ye ought (το πως δε υμας). Literally, explanatory articular indirect question (το πως) after παρελαβητε according to common classic idiom in Luke (Luke 1:62; Luke 22:2; Luke 22:4; Luke 22:23; Luke 22:24) and Paul (Romans 8:26).

That ye abound (ινα περισσευητε). Loose construction of the ινα clause with present subjunctive after two subordinate clauses with καθως (as, even as) to be connected with "beseech and exhort."

More and more (μαλλον). Simply

more , but added to same idea in περισσευητε. See also verse 1 Thessalonians 4:11.

Verse 2

What charge (τινας παραγγελιας). Plural, charges or precepts, command (Acts 16:24), prohibition (Acts 5:28), right living (1 Timothy 1:5). Military term in Xenophon and Polybius.

Verse 3

Your sanctification (ο αγιασμος υμων). Found only in the Greek Bible and ecclesiastical writers from αγιαζω and both to take the place of the old words αγιζω, αγισμος with their technical ideas of consecration to a god or goddess that did not include holiness in life. So Paul makes a sharp and pointed stand here for the Christian idea of sanctification as being "the will of God" (apposition) and as further explained by the epexegetic infinitive

that ye abstain from fornication (απεχεσθα υμας απο της πορνειας). Pagan religion did not demand sexual purity of its devotees, the gods and goddesses being grossly immoral. Priestesses were in the temples for the service of the men who came.

Verse 4

That each one of you know how (ειδενα εκαστον υμων). Further epexegetic infinitive (second perfect active), learn how and so know how (learn the habit of purity).

To possess himself of his own vessel (το εαυτου σκευος κτασθα). Present middle infinitive of κταομα, to acquire, not κεκτησθα, to possess. But what does Paul mean by "his own vessel"? It can only mean his own body or his own wife. Objections are raised against either view, but perhaps he means that the man shall acquire his own wife "in sanctification and honour," words that elevate the wife and make it plain that Paul demands sexual purity on the part of men (married as well as unmarried). There is no double standard here. When the husband comes to the marriage bed, he should come as a chaste man to a chaste wife.

Verse 5

Not in the passion of lust (μη εν παθε επιθυμιας). Plain picture of the wrong way for the husband to come to marriage.

That know not God (τα μη ειδοτα τον θεον). Second perfect participle of οιδα. The heathen knew gods as licentious as they are themselves, but not God. One of the reasons for the revival of paganism in modern life is professedly this very thing that men wish to get rid of the inhibitions against licentiousness by God.

Verse 6

That no man transgress (το μη υπερβαινειν). Old verb to go beyond. Final use of το (accusative of general reference) and the infinitive (negative μη), parallel to απεχεσθα and ειδενα κτασθα above.

And wrong his brother (κα πλεονεκτειν τον αδελφον αυτου). To take more, to overreach, to take advantage of, to defraud.

In the matter (εν τω πραγματ). The delicacy of Paul makes him refrain from plainer terms and the context makes it clear enough as in 2 Corinthians 7:11 (τω πραγματ).

An avenger (εκδικος). Regular term in the papyri for legal avenger. Modern men and women need to remember that God is the avenger for sexual wrongs both in this life and the next.

Verse 7

Not for uncleanness, but in sanctification (επ ακαθαρσια αλλ' εν αγιασμω). Sharp contrast made still sharper by the two prepositions επ (on the basis of) and εν (in the sphere of). God has "called" us all for a decent sex life consonant with his aims and purposes. It was necessary for Paul to place this lofty ideal before the Thessalonian Christians living in a pagan world. It is equally important now.

Verse 8

Therefore (τοιγαρουν). This old triple compound particle (τοι, γαρ, ουν) is in the N.T. only here and Hebrews 12:1. Paul applies the logic of the case.

He that rejecteth (ο αθετων). This late verb (Polybius and LXX) is from α-θετος (α privative and verbal of τιθημ, to proscribe a thing, to annul it.

But God (αλλα τον θεον). Paul sees this clearly and modern atheists see it also. In order to justify their licentiousness they do not hesitate to set aside God.

Verse 9

Concerning love of the brethren (περ της φιλαδελφιας). Late word, love of brothers or sisters. In profane Greek (one papyrus example) and LXX the word means love of those actually kin by blood, but in the N.T. it is the kinship in the love of Christ as here.

Are taught by God (θεοδιδακτο εστε). Only here and ecclesiastical writers. Passive verbal adjective in -τος from διδασκω as if θεο- in ablative case like διδακτο θεου (John 6:45).

To love one another (εις το αγαπαιν αλληλους). Another example of εις το and the infinitive. Only those taught of God keep on loving one another, love neighbours and even enemies as Jesus taught (Matthew 5:44). Note the use of αγαπαω, not φιλεω.

Verse 10

Ye do it (ποιειτε αυτο). The αυτο refers to το αγαπαιν αλληλους (to love one another). Delicate praise.

Verse 11

That ye study to be quiet (φιλοτιμεισθα ησυχαζειν). First infinitive dependent on παρακαλουμεν (verse 1 Thessalonians 4:10, we exhort you), the second on φιλοτιμεισθα (old verb from φιλοτιμος, fond of honour, φιλοσ, τιμη). The notion of ambition appears in each of the three N.T. examples (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 5:20), but it is ambition to do good, not evil. The word ambition is Latin (ambitio from ambo, ire), to go on both sides to accomplish one's aims and often evil). A preacher devoid of ambition lacks power. There was a restless spirit in Thessalonica because of the misapprehension of the second coming. So Paul urges an ambition to be quiet or calm, to lead a quiet life, including silence (Acts 11:18).

To do your own business (πρασσειν τα ιδια). Present infinitive like the others, to have the habit of attending to their own affairs (τα ιδια). This restless meddlesomeness here condemned Paul alludes to again in 2 Thessalonians 3:11 in plainer terms. It is amazing how much wisdom people have about other people's affairs and so little interest in their own.

To work with your own hands (εργαζεσθα ταις χερσιν υμων). Instrumental case (χερσιν). Paul gave a new dignity to manual labour by precept and example. There were "pious" idlers in the church in Thessalonica who were promoting trouble. He had commanded them when with them.

Verse 12

That ye may walk honestly (ινα περιπατητε ευσχημονως). Present subjunctive (linear action). Old adverb from ευσχημων (ευ, σχημα, Latin habitus, graceful figure), becomingly, decently. In N.T. only here and Romans 13:13. This idea includes honest financial transactions, but a good deal more. People outside the churches have a right to watch the conduct of professing Christians in business, domestic life, social life, politics.

Verse 13

We would not have (ου θελομεν). We do not wish.

You ignorant (υμας αγνοειν). Old word, not to know (α privative, γνο-, root of γινωσκω). No advantage in ignorance of itself.

Concerning them that fall asleep (περ των κοιμωμενων). Present passive (or middle) participle (Aleph B) rather than the perfect passive κεκοιμημενων of many later MSS. From old κοιμαω, to put to sleep. Present tense gives idea of repetition, from time to time fall asleep. Greeks and Romans used this figure of sleep for death as Jesus does (John 11:11) and N.T. generally (cf. our word cemetery). Somehow the Thessalonians had a false notion about the dead in relation to the second coming.

Even as the rest which have no hope (καθως ο λοιπο ο μη εχοντες ελπιδα). This picture of the hopelessness of the pagan world about the future life is amply illustrated in ancient writings and particularly by inscriptions on tombs (Milligan). Some few pagans clung to this hope, but most had none.

Verse 14

For if we believe (ε γαρ πιστευομεν). Condition of first class, assuming the death and resurrection of Jesus to be true.

In Jesus (δια του Ιησου). Literally, through or by means of Jesus. It is amphibolous in position and can be taken either with τους κοιμηθεντας (that are fallen asleep in or through Jesus) like ο κοιμηθεντες εν Χριστω in 1 Corinthians 15:18 and probably correct or with αξε (through Jesus with God).

With him (συν αυτω). Together with Jesus. Jesus is the connecting link (δια) for those that sleep (κοιμηθεντας first aorist passive, but with middle sense) and their resurrection.

Verse 15

By the word of the Lord (εν λογω Κυριου). We do not know to what word of the Lord Jesus Paul refers, probably Paul meaning only the point in the teaching of Christ rather than a quotation. He may be claiming a direct revelation on this important matter as about the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Jesus may have spoken on this subject though it has not been preserved to us (cf. Mark 9:1).

Ye that are alive (ημεις ο ζωντες). Paul here includes himself, but this by no means shows that Paul knew that he would be alive at the Parousia of Christ. He was alive, not dead, when he wrote.

Shall in no wise precede (ου μη φθασωμεν). Second aorist active subjunctive of φθανω, to come before, to anticipate. This strong negative with ου μη (double negative) and the subjunctive is the regular idiom (Robertson, Grammar, p. 929). Hence there was no ground for uneasiness about the dead in Christ.

Verse 16

With a shout (εν κελευσματ). Note this so-called instrumental use of εν. Old word, here only in N.T., from κελευω, to order, command (military command). Christ will come as Conqueror.

With the voice of the archangel (εν φωνη αρχαγγελου). Further explanation of κελευσματ (command). The only archangel mentioned in N.T. is Michael in Jude 1:9. But note absence of article with both φωνη and αρχαγγελου. The reference may be thus indefinite.

With the trump of God (εν σαλπιγγ θεου). Trumpet. See same figure in 1 Corinthians 15:52.

The dead in Christ shall rise first (ο νεκρο εν Χριστω αναστησοντα πρωτον).

First here refers plainly to the fact that, so far from the dead in Christ having no share in the Parousia, they will rise before those still alive are changed.

Verse 17

Then (επειτα). The next step, not the identical time (τοτε), but immediately afterwards.

Together with them (αμα συν αυτοις). Note both αμα (at the same time) and συν (together with) with the associative instrumental case αυτοις (the risen saints).

Shall be caught up (αρπαγησομεθα). Second future passive indicative of αρπαζω, old verb to seize, to carry off like Latin rapio.

To meet the Lord in the air (εις απαντησιν του Κυριου εις αερα). This special Greek idiom is common in the LXX like the Hebrew, but Polybius has it also and it occurs in the papyri (Moulton, Proleg., p. 14, n. 3). This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul's argument of consolation.

And so (κα ουτως). This is the outcome, to be forever with the Lord, whether with a return to earth or with an immediate departure for heaven Paul does not say. To be with Christ is the chief hope of Paul's life (1 Thessalonians 5:10; Philippians 1:23; Colossians 3:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8).

Verse 18

With these words (εν τοις λογοις τουτοις). In these words. They were a comfort to the Thessalonians as they still comfort the people of God.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.