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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Thessalonians 1

Verse 1

1. Paul Notes Romans 1:1, and Acts 13:9. For the first time this memorable name heads an apostolic epistle to a Church, and omitting his title of apostle. This omission arose from the fact, that no opposition to his claim existed, as at Galatia; for the stronger ever the denial of his claim, the stronger his assertion. And as but a few months ago he had bidden farewell reluctantly to his dear Thessalonians, and had longed to revisit them, so this epistle, his only substitute for that visit, needed not display his official rank. Modesty is the rule where no necessity requires self-assertion. The triad of names, Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy, are here associated because the apostolic trio that bore them had together proclaimed the gospel to the Thessalonians, and were together preaching the gospel now in Corinth. Paul adds their names courteously as being his aids; and their names, like the names of two witnesses signed to a legal document, were a voucher of the authenticity of the epistle. Yet the authorship of the epistle is wholly his; it was in no way the epistle of Sylvanus, but of Paul alone; and his we, which may indicate that they were his penmen, inferentially includes or excludes them, or signifies himself alone, as in 1 Thessalonians 3:1.

Sylvanus Called by Luke Silas, but by both Paul and Peter by the full name. Silas was an abbreviation of Sylvanus (sylvan or, woodland) as Lucas was of Lucanus, so that Luke may have used the briefer form from fellow feeling. See note on Acts 13:1. Silas or Sylvanus appears first as delegate from Jerusalem to Antioch escorting home the delegates from Antioch. There, when, after a sad separation from Barnabas, Paul started upon his second missionary tour, he took Silas as a substitute for John Mark, and comrade with Timothy, as his attendants. Thence passing through Asia Minor over the Hellespont into Europe, Paul had the faithful Silas as his aid. Together they sung at midnight in the jail at Philippi. Together they laboured at Thessalonica, and were driven thence by the mob to Berea. There Paul left them, departed to Athens and thence to Corinth, where Silas and Timothy joined him, and whence they now join him in this epistle to Thessalonica. As elder, and more prominent as yet, (see note Acts 17:10,) Silas is mentioned before Timothy.

Timotheus See introduction to 1 Timothy Church of… Thessalonians. The the is not in the original. Wordsworth ingeniously conjectures that St. Paul does not say the Church in Thessalonica, because Paul, having preached there but three weeks, and not having been able to return, it was not so much an organized Church in that city as a congregation consisting of Thessalonians. But Silas and Timothy remained some time, and there is every appearance that it was a formed and established Church. The Bourbons were kings of France; the Bonapartes were emperors of the French. The difference is a matter of taste.

In God Within whom all things, including the Church, are; the living all-pervading Omnipotence. But the Church is in God as nothing else is, namely, as our Father. It is in the bosom of his parental love.

Grace Note, Ephesians 1:2.

As regards the omission of St. Paul’s apostolic title, Wordsworth says: (1) He begins all his epistles with his own name “Paul,” except the epistle to the Hebrews. See Hebrews 1:1. (2) He adds to his own name the official title of apostle in all his epistles, except the two earliest, and in the epistles to Philemon, the Philippians, and the Hebrews, where it is omitted for special reasons. (3) In his five earliest epistles he addresses himself “to the Church,” etc., but in no others. (4) In his two earliest epistles he addresses himself to the Church of persons in the city, and not “to the Church” in the city, and in no others. (5) In all the other epistles he commences with the salutation “to the saints,” etc. (6) In all his epistles he commences with the salutation, “Grace and peace.” In all his pastoral epistles, “Grace, mercy, and peace.” (7) In his earliest epistles he uses the first person plural, “we;” in his later epistles the first person singular, “I.” (8) As to his usage at the close of his epistles, see on 1 Thessalonians 5:28. (9) All these minute incidents indicate a well-prepared and well-digested plan in the composition of his epistles, even in the details of diction, and much more in the delivery of doctrine.

Verse 2

2. We give thanks to God For whatever conditions man performs in order to salvation, yet the author of that salvation, the bringer of it within our reach, and the empowerer of our souls to accept it, is God. Upon these thanks depend the three co-ordinate participles, making mention, remembering, and knowing. Making mention shows that the thanks for them were done vocally and specifically, in trust that the distinct act of faith in their behalf would bring on them the divine answers.

Always That is, whenever our prayers are offered. Never were his Thessalonians forgotten when he bowed before God.

All Not that each was named; but his comprehensive prayer took in every soul of the church.

Verse 3


RETROSPECTIVE AND HISTORICAL, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 to 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

1. Recollections of their Christian faithfulness, 1 Thessalonians 1:3-10.

3. Remembering The following blessed facts as gifts to be richly thankful for, namely, your rich displays of Christian character.

Without ceasing The fulness of Paul’s ardour for them appears in the fulness of his expressions, always, you all, without ceasing. The objects of this remembering are now mentioned; namely, the three Christian graces upon which he expatiates in 2 Corinthians 13:0.

Faith, love, hope The words work, labour, and patience are in a climax of increasing intensity.

Work of faith That life-work of Christian activity which faith inspires, and to which the profession of faith pledges the man. It was by this life of duty-doing that the pagan Thessalonians were taught what Christianity is.

Labour of love That self-sacrifice to which love alone can prompt a man, and which love alone makes easy.

Patience of hope Hope-inspired patience or endurance. The trials of life and the persecutions from pagans were endured with patience, because of the hope in (Greek of) Christ, and of that mighty advent so vividly described in Paul’s preaching. See notes on Acts 24:25, and 2 Thessalonians 1:6-11.

Verse 4

4. Election of, or by,

God Lunemann says, concisely and peremptorily: “Election signifies the action of God by which he predestines from eternity the individual to faith in Christ.” But we have shown, in the first chapter of Ephesians, that this election must have a definite and conditioned object, namely, the actual believer. God chooses him, however, not only from his faith, but also unto still further faith, to a holy life, and to a blessed eternity. The apostle was knowing this, not from any special revelation or inspiration in the case, but from the evidence they furnish both of having met the condition of faith, and having carried out in life the blessed results of faith. In 1 Thessalonians 1:5, he shows how the gospel came to them in power, offering them that election, and in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 he shows how they accepted it.

Verse 5

5. For Furnishing evidence of their election.

Our gospel Our good news, our blessed announcement of God’s eternal electing love. In word, but not in word only. Salvation is shaped into human syllables, but there are wonders of meaning in those syllables, a power, both in themselves, and in the ideas they present. The very words God, Christ, heaven, hell, have intrinsic power enough to fill a man’s whole soul. Did he see their stupendous import he would be knocked down by the conception, as Saul was by the sight of the risen Jesus. The poorest gospel sermon ever heard, by the drowsiest preacher that ever preached, has import enough in it to smite the congregation from their seats to the floor.

In the Holy Ghost When the divine Spirit establishes the words, then how does the power melt or smite and break the heart! And then, too, is the preacher’s heart filled with assurance and divine authority, so that he carries all before him. Paul is here describing, from vivid memory, the powerful revival which brought the Thessalonian Church into existence.

Manner of men Our conduct and character filled out the programme of our preaching. We lived the gospel as well as spoke it. For your sake and for no success or interest of our own.

Verse 6

6. And ye gave due evidence of your election.

Became followers… received the word The example of the preachers was followed after their message had been accepted. The people took as models those whom they had received as instructors. Happy the Church which has an exemplar in its pastor.

Much affliction The persecution by which Paul and his fellow preachers were expelled from Thessalonica. By this much affliction was the power of that received gospel demonstrated and the reality of their election attested.

Affliction… joy Jason and his fellow Thessalonians rejoiced in their affliction for the gospel’s sake.

Verse 7

7. Ensamples This neither courting persecution nor shrinking from it, but rejoicing in it, was a new thing in Europe. These men who first so did, seemed to have invented a new moral method, and they became models, ensamples to others. When by the Spirit’s power it was once done, then other Christians knew how to do it likewise.

Macedonia Northern Greece, where you live.

Achaia Southern Greece, whence we write. As up to the time of the return of Timothy from Thessalonica to Paul at Corinth, Paul had learned nothing of the state of that Church, the jubilant view of matters in this and the following verse must have been created by Timothy’s report, and by concurrent news from other sources about the same time.

Verse 8

8. Sounded out As the voice of a trumpet.

Word of the Lord The doctrine of the gospel to which you were reported to be converted. Men learned what the gospel is in being informed that you had embraced it.

In every place By Jewish synagogues reporting how Jews had apostatized from their unbelief, and by Christian Churches rejoicing over your conversion.

Spread abroad As remarkable news.

Need not to speak All our boasts of your conversion are anticipated by the statements of others on every hand.

Verse 9

9. They themselves The above anticipators, implied but not expressed.

Manner of entering More fully depicted in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2.

From idols From the fabled Jove to the divine Jehovah.

Living and true In contrast to the idols, which were lifeless and false.

Verse 10

10. Wait Christian life rests not in the present, but looks forward and upward. It expects, hopes, and waits. Forward, for it has an endless future; upward, for its great future event is the coming of Christ through the parting skies. That is the most solemn of all events, for it is the day of retributive doom; and the most glorious of all events, for it is the commencement day of the Christian’s everlasting joy. Paul’s preaching of this great event thrilled the Thessalonians through and through. Christians of this age have, necessarily, through lapse of time, a less sensuous and nervous impression of the “ideal presence” of the judgment throne; but should possess a no less vivid realization of a fact which, in its own time, will be present.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.