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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

1 Thessalonians 5

Verse 1

But concerning the times and the seasons (περ δε των χρονων κα των καιρων). See both words used also in Titus 1:2. Χρονος is rather an extended period and καιρος a definite space of time.

Verse 2

Know perfectly (ακριβως οιδατε). Accurately know, not "the times and the seasons," but their own ignorance.

As a thief in the night (ως κλεπτης εν νυκτ). As a thief at night, suddenly and unexpectedly. Reminiscence of the word of Jesus (Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39), used also in 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15.

Cometh (ερχετα). Prophetic or futuristic present tense.

Verse 3

When they are saying (οταν λεγωσιν). Present active subjunctive picturing these false prophets of

peace and safety like Ezekiel 13:10 (Peace, and there is no peace). Ασφαλεια only in N.T. in Luke 1:4 (which see); Acts 5:23 and here.

Sudden destruction (αιφνιδιος ολεθρος). Ολεθρος old word from ολλυμ, to destroy. See also 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Αιφνιδιος, old adjective akin to αφνω and in N.T. only here and Luke 21:34 where Westcott and Hort spell it εφνιδιος.

Cometh upon them (αυτοις επιστατα). Unaspirated form instead of the usual εφιστατα (present middle indicative) from εφιστημ perhaps due to confusion with επισταμα.

As travail upon a woman with child (ωσπερ η ωδιν τη εν γαστρ εχουση). Earlier form ωδις for birth-pang used also by Jesus (Mark 13:8; Matthew 24:8). Technical phrase for pregnancy,

to the one who has it in belly (cf. Matthew 1:18 of Mary).

They shall in no wise escape (ου μη εκφυγωσιν). Strong negative like that in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ου μη (double negative) and the second aorist active subjunctive.

Verse 4

As a thief (ως κλεπτης). As in verse 1 Thessalonians 5:2, but A B Bohairic have κλεπτας (thieves), turning the metaphor round.

Verse 5

Sons of light (υιο φωτος),

sons of day (υιο ημερας). Chiefly a translation Hebraism (Deissmann, Bible Studies, pp. 161ff.). Cf. words of Jesus in Luke 16:8 and Paul in Ephesians 5:9. He repeats the same idea in turning from "ye" to "we" and using νυκτος (night) and σκοτους (darkness), predicate genitives.

Verse 6

So then (αρα ουν). Two inferential particles, accordingly therefore, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and only in Paul in N.T.

Let us not sleep (μη καθευδωμεν). Present active subjunctive (volitive), let us not go on sleeping.

Let us watch (γρηγορωμεν). Present active subj. (volitive) again, let us keep awake (late verb γρηγορεω from perfect εγρηγορα).

Be sober (νηφωμεν). Present active subjunctive (volitive). Old verb not to be drunk. In N.T. only in figurative sense, to be calm, sober-minded. Also in verse 1 Thessalonians 5:8 with the metaphor of drunkenness in contrast.

Verse 7

They that be drunken are drunken in the night (ο μεθυσκομενο νυκτος μεθυουσιν). No need of "be" here, they that are drunken. No real difference in meaning between μεθυσκω and μεθυω, to be drunk, except that μεθυσκω (inceptive verb in -σκω) means to get drunk.

Night (νυκτος, genitive by night) is the favourite time for drunken revelries.

Verse 8

Putting on the breastplate of faith and love (ενδυσαμενο θωρακα πιστεως κα αγαπης). First aorist (ingressive) middle participle of ενδυω. The same figure of breastplate in Ephesians 6:14, only there "of righteousness." The idea of watchfulness brings the figure of a sentry on guard and armed to Paul's mind as in Romans 13:12 "the weapons of light." The word θωραξ (breastplate) is common in the LXX.

For a helmet, the hope of salvation (περικεφαλαιαν ελπιδα σωτηριας). Same figure in Ephesians 6:17 and both like Isaiah 59:17. Late word meaning around (περ) the head (κεφαλη) and in Polybius, LXX, and in the papyri. Σωτηριας is objective genitive.

Verse 9

But unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (αλλα εις περιποιησιν σωτηριας δια του Κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου). The difficult word here is περιποιησιν which may be passive, God's possession as in 1 Peter 2:9, or active, obtaining, as in 2 Thessalonians 2:14. The latter is probably the idea here. We are to keep awake so as to fulfil God's purpose (εθετο, appointed, second aorist middle indicative of τιθημ) in calling us. That is our hope of final victory (salvation in this sense).

Verse 10

For us (περ ημων).

Around us . So Westcott and Hort, but υπερ (over, in behalf of) as in many MSS. These prepositions often interchanged in N.T. MSS.

Whether we wake or sleep (ειτε γρηγορωμεν ειτε καθευδωμεν). Alternative condition of third class with present subjunctive, though εαντε--εαντε more usual conjunction (Robertson, Grammar, P. 1017). Used here of life and death, not as metaphor.

That we should live together with him (ινα αμα συν αυτω ζησωμεν). First aorist active subjunctive constative aorist covering all life (now and hereafter) together with (αμα συν as in 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Jesus.

Verse 11

Build each other up (οικοδομειτε εις τον ενα). Literally, build ye, one the one (εις nominative in partitive apposition with unexpressed υμεις subject of οικοδομειτε. Then τον ενα the accusative in partitive apposition with the unexpressed εαυτους or αλληλους. See the same idiom in 1 Corinthians 4:6 one in behalf of the one , εις υπερ του ενος. Build is a favourite Pauline metaphor.

Verse 12

Them that labour among you (τους κοπιωντας εν υμιν). Old word for toil even if weary.

And are over you in the Lord (κα προισταμενους υμων εν Κυριω). Same article with this participle. Literally, those who stand in front of you, your leaders in the Lord, the presbyters or bishops and deacons. Get acquainted with them and follow them.

And admonish you (κα νουθετουντας υμας). Old verb from νουθετης and this from νους (mind) and τιθημ, to put. Putting sense into the heads of people. A thankless, but a necessary, task. The same article connects all three participles, different functions of the same leaders in the church.

Verse 13

And to esteem them (κα ηγεισθα). Get acquainted with them and esteem the leaders. The idlers in Thessalonica had evidently refused to follow their leaders in church activities. We need wise leadership today, but still more wise following. An army of captains and colonels never won a battle.

Verse 14

Admonish the disorderly (νουθετειτε τους ατακτους). Put sense into the unruly mob who break ranks (α privative and τακτος, verbal adjective of τασσω, to keep military order). Recall the idlers from the market-place used against Paul (Acts 17:5). This is a challenging task for any leader.

Encourage the fainthearted (παραμυθεισθε τους ολιγοψυχους). Old verb to encourage or console as in John 11:31, though not so common in N.T. as παρακαλεω, the compound adjective (ολιγος, little or small, ψυχη, soul), small-souled, little-souled, late word in LXX. The verb ολιγοψυχεω occurs in the papyri. Local conditions often cause some to lose heart and wish to drop out, be quitters. These must be held in line.

Support the weak (αντεχεσθε των ασθενων). Middle voice with genitive of αντεχω, old verb, in N.T. only in middle, to cling to, to hold on to (with genitive). The weak are those tempted to sin (immorality, for instance).

Be long-suffering toward all (μακροθυμειτε προς παντας). These disorderly elements try the patience of the leaders. Hold out with them. What a wonderful ideal Paul here holds up for church leaders!

Verse 15

See to it that no one render unto any one evil for evil (ορατε μη τις κακον αντ κακου αποδω). Note μη with the aorist subjunctive (negative purpose) αποδω from αποδιδωμ, to give back. Retaliation, condemned by Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42) and by Paul in Romans 12:17, usually takes the form of "evil for evil," rather than "good for good" (καλον αντ καλου). Note idea of exchange in αντ.

Follow after (διωκετε). Keep up the chase (διωκω) after the good.

Verse 18

In everything give thanks (εν παντ ευχαριστειτε). There is a silver lining to every cloud. God is with us whatever befalls us. It is God's will that we find joy in prayer in Christ Jesus in every condition of life.

Verse 19

Quench not the spirit (το πνευμα μη σβεννυτε). Μη with the present imperative means to stop doing it or not to have the habit of doing it. It is a bold figure. Some of them were trying to put out the fire of the Holy Spirit, probably the special gifts of the Holy Spirit as verse 1 Thessalonians 5:20 means. But even so the exercise of these special gifts (1 Thessalonians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Romans 12:6-9) was to be decently (ευσχημονως, 1 Thessalonians 4:12) and in order (κατα ταξιν, 1 Corinthians 14:40) and for edification (προς οικοδομην, 1 Corinthians 14:26). Today, as then, there are two extremes about spiritual gifts (cold indifference or wild excess). It is not hard to put out the fire of spiritual fervor and power.

Verse 20

Despise not prophesyings (προφητειας μη εξουθενειτε). Same construction, stop counting as nothing (εξουθενεω, ουθεν ουδεν), late form in LXX. Plutarch has εξουδενιζω. Plural form προφητειας (accusative). Word means

forth-telling (προ φημ) rather than

fore-telling and is the chief of the spiritual gifts (1 Thessalonians 5:1) and evidently depreciated in Thessalonica as in Corinth later.

Verse 21

Prove all things (παντα [δε] δοκιμαζετε). Probably δε (but) is genuine. Even the gift of prophecy has to be tested (1 Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 14:29) to avoid error. Paul shows fine balance here.

Hold fast that which is good (το καλον κατεχετε). Keep on holding down the beautiful (noble, morally beautiful). Present imperative κατ εχω (perfective use of κατα- here).

Verse 22

Abstain from every form of evil (απο παντος ειδους πονηρου απεχεσθε). Present middle (direct) imperative of απ εχω (contrast with κατ εχω) and preposition απο repeated with ablative as in 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Note use of πονηρου here for evil without the article, common enough idiom. Ειδος (from ειδον) naturally means look or appearance as in Luke 3:23; Luke 9:29; John 5:37; 2 Corinthians 5:7. But, if so taken, it is not semblance as opposed to reality (Milligan). The papyri give several examples of ειδος in the sense of class or kind and that idea suits best here. Evil had a way of showing itself even in the spiritual gifts including prophecy.

Verse 23

The God of peace (ο θεος της ειρηνης). The God characterized by peace in his nature, who gladly bestows it also. Common phrase (Milligan) at close of Paul's Epistles (2 Corinthians 13:11; Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:9) and

the Lord of peace in 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

Sanctify you (αγιασα υμας). First aorist active optative in a wish for the future. New verb in LXX and N.T. for the old αγιζω, to render or to declare holy (αγιος), to consecrate, to separate from things profane.

Wholly (ολοτελεις). Predicate adjective in plural (ολος, whole, τελος, end), not adverb ολοτελως. Late word in Plutarch, Hexapla, and in inscription A.D. 67 (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary). Here alone in N.T. Here it means the whole of each of you, every part of each of you, "through and through" (Luther), qualitatively rather than quantitatively.

Your spirit and soul and body (υμων το πνευμα κα η ψυχη κα το σωμα). Not necessarily trichotomy as opposed to dichotomy as elsewhere in Paul's Epistles. Both believers and unbelievers have an inner man (soul ψυχη, mind νους, heart καρδια, the inward man ο εσω ανθρωπος) and the outer man (σωμα, ο εξω ανθρωπος). But the believer has the Holy Spirit of God, the renewed spirit of man (1 Corinthians 2:11; Romans 8:9-11).

Be preserved entire (ολοκληρον τηρηθειη). First aorist passive optative in wish for the future. Note singular verb and singular adjective (neuter) showing that Paul conceives of the man as "an undivided whole" (Frame), prayer for the consecration of both body and soul (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1). The adjective ολοκληρον is in predicate and is an old form and means complete in all its parts (ολος, whole, κληρος, lot or part). There is to be no deficiency in any part. Τελειος (from τελος, end) means final perfection.

Without blame (αμεμπτως). Old adverb (α privative, μεμπτος, verbal of μεμφομα, to blame) only in I Thess. in N.T. (1 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). Milligan notes it in certain sepulchral inscriptions discovered in Thessalonica.

At the coming (εν τη παρουσια). The Second Coming which was a sustaining hope to Paul as it should be to us and mentioned often in this Epistle (see on 1 Thessalonians 2:19).

Verse 24

Faithful (πιστος). God, he means, who calls and will carry through (Philippians 1:6).

Verse 25

Pray for us (προσευχεσθε [και] περ ημων). He has made his prayer for them. He adds this "human touch" (Frame) and pleads for the prayers of his converts (2 Thessalonians 3:1; Colossians 4:2). Probably κα also is genuine (B D).

Verse 26

With a holy kiss (εν φιληματ αγιω). With a kiss that is holy (Milligan) a token of friendship and brotherly love (1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; Romans 16:16). In 1 Peter 5:14 it is "with a kiss of love." This was the customary salutation for rabbis.

Verse 27

I adjure you by the Lord (ενορκιζω υμας τον Κυριον). Late compound for old ορκιζω (Mark 5:7), to put one on oath, with two accusatives (Robertson, Grammar, pp. 483f.). Occurs in inscriptions.

That this epistle be read unto all the brethren (αναγνωσθηνα την επιστολην πασιν τοις αδελφοις). First aorist passive infinitive of αναγινωσκω with accusative of general reference in an indirect command. Clearly Paul wrote for the church as a whole and wished the epistles read aloud at a public meeting. In this first epistle we see the importance that he attaches to his epistles.

Verse 28

The grace (η χαρις). Paul prefers this noble word to the customary ερρωσθε (Farewell, Be strong). See 2 Thessalonians 3:18 for identical close save added παντων (all). A bit shorter form in 1 Corinthians 16:23; Romans 16:20 and still shorter in Colossians 4:18; 1 Timothy 6:21; Titus 3:15; 2 Timothy 4:22. The full Trinitarian benediction we find in 2 Corinthians 13:13.

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 5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.