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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

1 Thessalonians 4

Verse 1

Furthermore [λοιπον] . Rev. not so well, finally, although the word is sometimes rightly so rendered. The formula is often used by Paul where he attaches, in a somewhat loose way, even in the midst of an Epistle, a new subject to that which he has been discussing.

Verse 2

Commandments [παραγγελιας] . Better, charges. Only four times in N. T. o LXX The verb paraggellein to command or charge is frequent, and is often used in Class of military orders. See Xen. Cyr 2:4, 2; Hdt 3:25.

Verse 3

Fornication. Paul wrote from Corinth, where sensuality in the guise of religion was rife. In Thessalonica, besides the ordinary licentious customs of the Gentiles, immorality was fostered by the Cabeiric worship (see Introduction). About the time of Paul, a political sanction was given to this worship by deifying the Emperor as Cabeirus.

Verse 4

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel, etc. [ειδεναι εκαστον υμων το εαυτου σκευος κτασθαι] . The interpretation of vv. 3 - 6 usually varies between two explanations :

1. making the whole passage refer to fornication and adultery :

2. limiting this reference to vv. 3 - 5, and making ver. 6 refer to honesty in business.

Both are wrong. The entire passage exhibits two groups of parallel clauses; the one concerning sexual, and the other business relations. Thus :

1. Abstain from fornication : deal honorably with your wives.

2. Pursue your business as holy men, not with covetous greed as the heathen : do not overreach or defraud.

A comma should be placed after skeuov vessel, and ktasqai procure or acquire, instead of being made dependent on eiJudenai know, should begin a new clause. Render, that every one of you treat his own wife honorably. EiJudenai is used Hebraistically in the sense of have a care for, regard, as ch. 5 12, "Know them that labor," etc. : recognize their claim to respect, and hold them in due regard. Comp. Genesis 39:6 : Potiphar oujk hdei twn kaq' auJton ouJuden "gave himself no concern about anything that he had." 1 Samuel 2:12 : the sons of Eli oujk eijdotev ton kurion "paying no respect to the Lord." Exodus 1:8 : Another King arose ov oujk hdei ton Iwshf "who did not recognize or regard Joseph" : did not remember his services and the respect in which he had been held. Skeuov is sometimes explained as body, for which there is no evidence in N. T. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 the sense is metaphorical. Neither in LXX nor Class. does it mean body. In LXX very often of the sacred vessels of worship : sometimes, as in Class., of the accoutrements of war. In N. T. occasionally, both in singular and plural, in the general sense of appliances, furniture, tackling. See Matthew 12:29; Luke 17:31; Acts 27:17; Hebrews 9:21. For the meaning vessel, see Luke 8:16; John 19:20; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Revelation 2:27. Here, metaphorically, for wife; comp. 1 Peter 3:7. It was used for wife in the coarse and literal sense by Rabbinical writers. The admonition aptly follows the charge to abstain from fornication. On the contrary, let each one treat honorably his own wife. The common interpretation is, "as a safeguard against fornication let every one know how to procure his own wife." It is quite safe to say that such a sentence could never have proceeded from Paul. He never would have offset a charge to abstain from fornication with a counsel to be well informed in the way of obtaining a wife. When he does touch this subject, as he does in 1 Corinthians 7:2, he says, very simply, " to avoid fornication let every man have [εχετω] his own wife "; not, know how to get one. EiJudenai know, as usually interpreted, is both superfluous and absurd. Besides, the question was not of procuring a wife, but of living honorably and decently with her, paying her the respect which was her right, and therefore avoiding illicit connections.

That he pursue his gain - getting in sanctification and honor [κτασθαι εν αγιασμω και τιμη] . As a holy and honorable man. The exhortation now turns to business relations. Ktasqai cannot mean possess, as A. V. That would require the perfect tense. It means procure, acquire. Often buy, as Acts 17:28; LXX, Genesis 33:19; Genesis 39:1; Genesis 47:19; Genesis 49:30; Joshua 24:33; absolutely, Ezekiel 7:12, Ezekiel 7:13.

Verse 5

Not in the lust of concupiscence [μη εν παθει επιθυμιας] . Lit. in passion of desire. Not with avaricious greed. For ejpiqumia see on Mark 4:19. Its meaning is by no means limited to sensual lust; see, for instance, Luke 22:15. It is used as including all kinds of worldly desires, as Galatians 5:16, Galatians 5:24; 1 John 2:17. In Romans 7:7, especially of covetousness.

Verse 6

That no man go beyond [το μη υπερβαινειν] . Lit. the not going beyond. Dependent on this is the will of Glod, ver. 3. The verb N. T.. Often in LXX, mostly in the literal sense of overpassing limits. Also of overtaking, passing by, surpassing, as in wickedness or cruelty. It is an expansion of the preceding thought. Pursue your business as holy men : do not overreach or defraud.

It is the overstepping of the line between mine and thine. It is used absolutely, being defined by the succeeding clause. The A. V. is literal, go beyond. Rev. renders tranegress. Weizsacker and Bornemann "ubergreife overreach." So. Rev. margin. This last is the best.

Defraud [πλεονεκτειν] . P o. See on 2 Corinthians 2:11, and covetousness, Romans 1:29. It emphasises gain as the motive of fraud. Three times in LXX, Jude 1:4:11; Habakkuk 2:9; Ezekiel 22:27. Often in Class.

In any matter [εν τω πραγματι] . Rev. correctly, in the matter. Comp. 2 Corinthians 7:11. The sense is the business in hand, whatever it be. The tw does not stand for tini any. For pragmati, matter, see on Matthew 18:19. Those who connect this clause with the preceding, explain tw as the matter just mentioned - adultery.

Avenger [εκδικος] . P o. Here and Romans 13:4. In LXX rarely, and in the same sense as here. In this sense it occurs only in late Greek. For the warning comp. Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; Romans 13:4; Galatians 5:21.

Verse 7

Unto uncleanness [επι ακαθαρσια] . Better, for uncleanness; ejpi denoting aim or intention. The intention is viewed as the basis of the act [επι υπον] . Comp. Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 2:10.

In sanctification [εν] . Note the change of preposition. Sanctification is the characteristic life - element of the Christian, in which he is to live. Comp. in peace, 1 Corinthians 7:15; in hope, Ephesians 4:4.

Verse 8

Despiseth [αθετων] . Better, rejecteth. Setteth aside. Comp. Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:19. Used in N. T. both of persons and things. His Holy Spirit [το πνευμα αυτου το αγιον] . Solemn and emphatic : His Spirit, the holy. Similarly, Acts 14:8, Acts 14:28; Acts 19:6; Acts 20:23; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30.

Verse 9

Taught of God [θεοδιδακτοι] . N. T. o. o LXX Not in Class.

Verse 11

Study [φιλοτιμεισθαι] . P o. Make it your aim. Comp. Romans 14:20 (see note); 2 Corinthians 5:9. Often in Class. Lit. to be fond of honor : hence to strive for honor, to be ambitious.

To be quiet [ησυχαζειν] . Note the paradox, strive to be quiet. For similar instances see Romans 1:20, unseen things clearly seen : Romans 1:22, wise, be fooled (comp. Horace, Obadiah 1:34, Obadiah 1:2, insaniens sapientia) : 2 Corinthians 8:2, poverty abounded unto riches : 2 Corinthians 7:10, repentance, not to be repented of. The disturbances rebuked in the second Epistle may have begun to show themselves, so that there is a possible allusion to the idle busybodies of 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

Verse 12

Honestly [ευσχημονως] . P o. Better, seemly. From euj well and schma figure or fashion. The literal sense is suggested by the familiar phrase in good form. The contrast appears in ajtaktwv disorderly, 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Paul has in view the impression to be made by his readers on those outside of the church. See on Romans 13:13, and comp. 1 Corinthians 14:40.

Of nothing [μηδενος] . Either neuter, of nothing, or masculine, of no man. In the latter case it would refer to depending upon others for their support, which some, in view of the immediately expected parousia, were disposed to do, neglecting their own business.

Verse 13

I would not have you to be ignorant [ου θελομεν υμας αγνοειν] . The Greek is, we would not, etc. A formula often used by Paul to call special attention to what he is about to say. See Romans 1:13; Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 2:1, etc. He employs several similar expressions for the same purpose, as qelw uJmav eiJudenai I wish you to know (1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 2:1) : ginwrizw uJmin I declare unto you (1 Corinthians 14:1; 2 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 1:11) : ginwskein uJmav boulomai I would have you know (Philippians 1:12).

Them which are asleep [των κοιμωμενων] . Or, who are sleeping. See on Acts 7:60; 2 Peter 3:4, and comp. 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 14:6, 1 Corinthians 14:18, 1 Corinthians 14:20, 1 Corinthians 14:51; John 11:11, etc. The dead members of the Thessalonian church. Ye sorrow [λυπησθε] . Opinions differ as to the possible ground of this sorrow. According to some, the Thessalonians supposed that eternal life belonged only to such as should be found alive at the parousia, and therefore that those already dead would not share the blessings of the second advent. Others, assuming an interval between the advent and the general resurrection, think that the Thessalonians were anxious lest their brethren who died before the advent would be raised only at the general resurrection, and therefore would not share the blessings of communion with the Lord during the millennial reign. It is impossible to decide the question from Paul 's words, since he does not argue, but only consoles. The value of his consolation does not depend upon the answer to the question whether the departed saints shall first be raised up at the general resurrection, or at a previons resurrection of believers only. The Thessalonians were plainly distressed at the thought of separation from their departed brethren, and had partially lost sight of the elements of the Christian hope - reunion with them and fellowship with the Lord. These elements Paul emphasises in his answer. The resurrection of Jesus involves the resurrection of believers. The living and the dead Christians shall alike be with the Lord.

Others [οι λοιποι] . More correctly, the rest. Paul makes a sharp distinction between Christians, and all others.

Who have no hope. Only believers have hope of life after death. The speculations and surmisings of pagan philosophy do not amount to a hope.

Verse 14

Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him [και ο θεος τους κοιμηθεντας δια του ιησου αξει συν αυτω] .

(1) Which sleep should be, which have been laid asleep or have fallen asleep, giving the force of the passive.

(2) Dia tou Ihsou can by no possibility be rendered in Jesus, which would be ejn Ihsou : see 1 Corinthians 14:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. It must mean through or by means of Jesus.

(3) The attempt to construe dia tou Ihsou with touv koimhqentav those who have fallen asleep by means of Jesus, gives an awkward and forced interpretation. It has been explained by supposing a reference to martyrs who have died by Jesus; because of their faith in him. In that case we should expect the accusative, dia ton Ihsoun on account of or for the sake of Jesus. Moreover Paul is not accentuating that idea. Koimhqentav would be universally understood by the church as referring to the death of Christians, so that by Jesus would be superfluous.

(4) Dia tou Ihsou should be construed with axei will bring. Rend. the whole : them also that are fallen asleep will God through Jesus bring with him. Jesus is thus represented as the agent of the resurrection. See 1 Corinthians 14:21; John 5:28; John 6:39, John 6:44, John 6:54. Bring [αξει] is used instead of ejgeirei shall raise up, because the thought of separation was prominent in the minds of the Thessalonians.

Verse 15

By the word of the Lord [εν λογω κυριου] . Or in the word. Logov of a concrete saying, Romans 9:9; Romans 13:9. We do not say this on our own authority. Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:12, 1 Corinthians 7:25. No recorded saying of the Lord answers to this reference. It may refer to a saying transmitted orally, or to a direct revelation to Paul. Comp. Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:1, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Remain [περιλειπομενοι] . P o. and only in this Epistle. The plural we indicates that Paul himself expected to be alive at the parousia. 26 Shall not prevent [ου μη φθασωμεν] . The A. V. misses the force of the double negative - shall in no wise prevent. Prevent in the older sense of anticipate, be beforehand with. See on Matthew 17:25, and 1 Thessalonians 2:16. The living shall not share the blessings of the advent sooner than the dead in Christ.

Verse 16

The word of the Lord, ver. 15, is apparently not intended to include the specific details which follow. In that word the revelation was to the effect that all believers simultaneously should share the blessings of the advent. The following description of the Lord 's descent from heaven is intended to emphasise the fact that the reunion of dead and living believers will be accomplished by the Lord in person [αυτος] . %Oti does not indicate the contents of the word of the Lord (that, as A. V.), but means for or because; and the details are meant to strengthen the more general declaration of ver. 15. In the details themselves there are traces of certain O. T. theophanies, as Exodus 19:11-18; Micah 1:3. Micah 1:2 Micah 1:7 Shall descend from heaven. Used nowhere else of Christ 's second coming. Frequently in the Fourth Gospel, of Christ 's descent to earth as man. See 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1Th 6:33, 38, 41, etc. In Ephesians 4:9, of his descent by the Spirit in order to endow the church.

With a shout [εν κελευσματι] . N. T. o. Once in LXX, Proverbs 24:6 Proverbs 24:2 (English Bib 30:27). From keleuein to summon. Often in Class. Lit. a shout of command, as of a general to his army, an admiral to his oarsmen, or a charioteer to his horses.

Archangel [αρχαγγελου] . Only here and Jude 1:9. Not in O. T. The Pauline angelology shows traces of Rabbinical teachings in the idea of orders of angels. See Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16; Romans 8:38. The archangels appear in the apocryphal literature. In the Book of Enoch (see on Jude 1:14) four are named, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel. Michael is set over the tree which, at the time of the great judgment, will be given over to the righteous and humble, and from the fruit of which life will be given to the elect. In Tob. 12 15, Raphael appears as one of the seven holy angels. Comp. Revelation 8:2. See also on Jude 1:9, and comp. Daniel 12:1. Daniel 12:28

With the trump of God [εν σαλπιγγι θεου] . For the trumpet heralding great manifestations of God, see Exodus 19:13, Exodus 19:16; Psalms 47:5; Isaiah 27:13; Zechariah 9:14; Zephaniah 1:16; Joel 2:1; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 14:52; Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1. Of God does not indicate the size or loudness of the trumpet, but merely that it is used in God 's service. Comp. harps of God, Revelation 14:2; musical instruments of God, 1 Chronicles 16:42. The later Jews believed that God would use a trumpet to raise the dead.

Verse 17

Together with them [αμα συν αυτοις] . %Ama, at the same time, referring to the living. We that are alive shall simultaneously or one and all (comp. Romans 3:12) be caught up. Sun aujtoiv along with them, i e., the dead. Thus ama is to be const. with shall be caught up. The A. V. and Rev. are inaccurate. 29 These are the important words as related to the disquietude of the Thessalonians.

Shall be caught up [αρπαγησομεθα] . By a swift, resistless, divine energy. Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4; Acts 8:39.

In the air [εις αερα] . Rend. into the air, and const. with shall be caught up. Ahr the atmosphere with the clouds, as distinguished from aijqhr the pure ether, which does not occur in N. T.

And so. After having met the Lord

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Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.