Studies in 1 Thessalonians
Tom Bentley, Ballymena, N. Ireland
Suggested sources of help:
Bruce, F. F., 1981, Denney, James, 1910;
Eadie, John, 1877; Ellicott, C. J., 1858;
Garrod, G. W., 1899; Hiebert, D. E., 1971;
Milligan, G., 1908; Hogg & Vine, 1914.
Let us apply our A. B. C and D's:
Paul the apostle offers little difficulty. Every evidence attests his authorship. The epistle was written during his labours in Corinth.
As a result of the preaching of the gospel an assembly was formed which was comprised of Jews and Gentiles including evidently a number of chief women, Acts 17. 4. Paul was in the process of establishing them in the faith when he was rudely and quickly forced to take immediate leave and since had been hindered in returning to perfect that which was lacking in their faith, 1 Thess. 3. 10.
Thessalonians is noted for its strong eschatological content. Each chapter of the epistle contains vital references to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The epistle sustains many approaches in terms of analysis.
1. Chapter 1. The External Activity of the Assembly
2. Chapter 2. 1- 16 Paul's Presence
3. Chapter 2. 17- 3. 13 Paul's Absence
4. Chapter 4. 1- 12 The Individual Piety of the Assembly
5. Chapter 4. 13- 18 The Lord's Presence
6. Chapter 5. 1 -11 The Lord's Absence
7. Chapter 5. 12- 18 The Internal Unity of the Assembly Using the coming as a motif.
1. Chapter 1. The Coming in Relation to the Conversion of Sinners
2. Chapter 2. The Coming in Relation to the Compensation of Servants
3. Chapter 3. The Coming in Relation to the Conformation of Saints
4. Chapter 4. The Coming in Relation to the Consolation of the Sorrowing
5. Chapter 5. The Coming in Relation to the Confirmation of the Sanctified
Another important motif is God Himself. (Trace the occasions He is mentioned in the Epistle)
1. Chapter 1. God Motivating the Assembly. In Activity
2. Chapter 2. God Maintaining the Assembly. In Simplicity
3. Chapter 3. God Maturing the Assembly. In Stability
4. Chapter 4. 1- 12 God Mastering the Assembly. In Sanctity
5. Chapter 4. 13 -18 God Moderating the Assembly. In Sorrow
6. Chapter 5. God Moulding the Assembly. In Unity
1st Thessalonians is likely to have been the earliest of Paul’s Epistles. Some would advance that Galatians is earlier. However, it was written during Paul’s second missionary journey while he was in Corinth, after Timothy had returned from Thessalonica, 3. 6. A.D. 50 - 51 is the most exact area of time affixed to its origin. One of the fixed points of New Testament chronology is Paul’s stay in Corinth which overlapped that of the proconsul of Achaia, Gallio, Acts 18. 11. From the remains of a dated rescript of the Emperor Claudius, it is possible to infer that Gallio took office in the summer of A.D. 51. It is not known how long he had been proconsul when Paul was brought before him. If he had recently arrived, Paul may have been in Corinth for eighteen months. Thus, it is safe then to advance that 1st Thessalonians was written in the years A.D. 50 or 51.
To establish the saints in their faith, chapter 3. Severe persecution brought grievous affliction upon the believers and they were concerned lest their beloved dead would miss the prophetic future. Remember, they were raised in a philosophy that offered no hope, for in the local Necropolis many a tombstone had this inscription: ‘From Death there is no waking and from the Grave there is no rising’. See how Paul answers this so effectively by using these very words in chapter 4. 13-18. Saturated too in uncleanness of every possible kind, Paul urges them to holy living in the midst of such contemporary corruption.
Thessalonica, the modern Salonica or Saloniki, was formerly known as Therma, situated on the arm of the Thermaic Gulf. The Macedonian general Cassander, in honour of his wife’s half-sister, changed its name later to Alexander. Due to its position on the great Egnatian Road from Illyria through Macedonia to Thrace, and at the head of a most commodious harbour, it became a flourishing city with a mixed population of Greeks, Romans and Jews. Its geographical position and maritime importance fitted it to become in Paul’s eyes and in keeping with proper missionary procedure, a strategic centre for the starting-point of the gospel. This surely explains the fact that from this city the word of the Lord sounded forth ‘in every place’, 1. 8. Thessalonica means ‘to win a victory’. Characteristically, Paul would have the Thessalonians, and also ourselves, to win both moral and spiritual victories.
While I could fill in the spaces, may I ask all that receive this communication to read the epistle and fill in the times these themes occur?
God .....times; The Holy Spirit ......times;
Christ ..times;gospel ..................times;
faith .....times; brethren ...............times;
sin .......times; love .....................times;
Lord .....times; Jesus ..................times
In your reading you can list other words that occur and recur, and always remember it is by observing these occurrences that the Word of God is understood and embedded in your mind as renewed by the Spirit of God.
One of the most recognisable features of this great epistle is the manner in which so much is presented in ‘threes’, e.g., ‘Paul, Silvanus and Timotheus’; ‘faith, love, hope’, ‘holily, justly, unblameably’, ‘exhorting, encouraging, testifying’, (RV). Doubtless you will discover more.
1:2 Rendering of Thanksgiving
1:3 Remembering without Ceasing
a. Work of Faith
b. Labour of Love
c. Patience of Hope
1:4 Reassuring the Saints
1:5 Recalling the Beginnings
1:6 Receiving the Word
1:7 Reproducing the Word
1:8 Radiating the Message
1:9 Responding to God
1:10 Realising the Promise
V. 1. THE WRITER AND HIS ASSOCIATES
Paul, Silvanus, (Silas) and Timotheus. (Timothy).
THE LOCATION OF THE ASSEMBLY
a. Geographically – In Thessalonica.
b. Spiritually – In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
a. Grace Possibly denied them by the Gentile community.
b. Peace Possibly denied them by the Jewish community.
VV. 2-3. ELEMENTS IN EVERY CONVERSION
a. Faith Resting on the Past of His Work
b. Love Revealing the Present of His Will
c Hope Realizing the Future of His Word
VV. 4-6. EVIDENCES IN EVERY CONVERSION
a. Objects of Divine Affection, v. 4.
b. Subjects of Divine Election, v. 4.
c. Proclamation by the Preachers, v. 5.
d. Reception by the Hearers, v. 6.
VV. 7-8. ENSAMPLES IN EVERY CONVERSION
a. The Word TO them, v. 5.
b. The Word IN them, v. 6.
c. The Word THROUGH them, v. 7.
d. The Word FROM them, v. 8.
VV. 9-10. EXPERIENCES IN EVERY CONVERSION
a. Turning to God, v. 9.
b. Serving God, v. 10.
c. Waiting for His Son, v. 11.
How God is presented in this chapter:-
The Realm in God v. 1 Assembly
The Resources in God v. 1 Abundance
Return of thanks to God v. 2 Accomplishments
Relationship with God v. 3 Acceptance
Reception by God v. 4 Affection
Reliance upon God v. 8 Ability
Response to God v. 9 Attractiveness
Revelation of God v. 10 Assurance
Climb this Jacob-like ladder which reaches from the ranks of idolatry to the realm of the assembly.
‘sounded forth’, v. 8; ‘wait’, v. 10.
These words occur nowhere else in the New Testament.
CHAPTER 1. 1.
1. 1. Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians, which is in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul means ‘little’, or ‘small’. This was his Gentile name, which he assumed at Paphos, Acts 13. 9. Adopting as he did his Gentile name would accelerate his acceptance with the Gentiles, being as he was the apostle to the Gentiles, Gal. 2. 8. His Hebrew name was ‘Saul’, which means ‘to ask’, or ‘to pray’.
Silvanus was a Roman citizen, a companion of Paul in his missionary journeys and a reliable associate in the work of the gospel. He is undoubtedly the Silas of Acts 16. 29. Timotheous being the extended form of Timothy is composed of timao, ‘to honour’ and Theos, ‘God’, designating him as ‘one who honours God’. Timothy, in fulfilling the exhortation of Paul, 1 Tim. 4. 12, would certainly justify the meaning of his name. Paul never has cause to employ his apostolic authority in any of his Macedonian writings. Obviously the order of these names denote seniority, yet Paul in a pleasing way, associates his helpers with himself. Let us not think however, that the epistle was contributed to by the three, each writing a third of it. Paul is the dominant personality, though not domineering. Note the successive use of ‘we‘ throughout the epistle.
‘Unto the church‘. This prepositional phrase is in the dative, which is always to be understood as the case of personal interest. By this expression Paul expresses warmth in betokening his real personal interest in the church at Thessalonica. The word ‘church‘ in the original text is a compound noun made up of the preposition, ek, (‘out’) and the verb, kaleo (‘to call‘), used e.g. in the Acts twenty four times, twenty of which relate to the local assembly. Notably in the Ephesian Epistle it occurs nine times of the church which is His body. Significantly, too, the word ‘body‘ in this connection is used nine times as is the word ‘saints‘.
‘Of the Thessalonians‘ is a plural noun in the genitive case which is usually known as the case of possession and description.
‘In God‘. Here is another prepositional phrase, which this time is in the locative case denoting position. Later Paul will write to the saints at Corinth and speak of the ‘church of God in Corinth‘, thus denoting its geographical sphere. Here he would emphasise their wondrous spiritual sphere, were it not so, it would reduce the company to a mere club. Due to this, their power, their life, their service was circumscribed and surrounded by God Himself; hence their spiritual existence and energy were secure.
‘Father‘. The name of our God disclosed to Mary on resurrection ground, revealing all He is to us as the One who nourishes His own and in doing so cares and provides for their every need and their spiritual satisfaction.
The word ‘in‘ is italicised in the AV. In the text there is only one ‘in‘ and only one is needed, for Paul is linking the Lord Jesus undeniably as being in equality with God the Father. Such is rightly assumed and obviously already acknowledged by those who receive this letter, so there is no need in the first appearance of epistolary correspondence from Paul to either explain or expound; it is unreservedly understood by the readers.
Here the Lord Jesus is accorded His full administrative title that we do well to note and number throughout the epistle with its variants.
If this church of the Thessalonians is in God the Father, then it was totally apart from the heathen temple or temples that abounded in this Independent City. This company of saints acknowledged one God and one God only. Again it is in the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore it was apart from the synagogue, the adherents of which denied His Deity and disowned His worth. Thus the separateness of the assembly is taught in the very opening verse of this marvellous epistle. Today, can an assembly of such character be linked with anything of this nature? Certainly not!
‘Grace‘. The bounteous favour of God bestowed without merit, along with its resulting ‘peace‘, flowed in unrestricted fullness to saints who were in all likelihood deprived of human favour and secular peace by the Greeks and Jews respectively through their being linked by faith with their God and their Saviour.
Though variant readings omit ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ‘ this phrase is found in 2 Thessalonians 1. 2. What must have touched the hearts of the saints was, if others withheld the normal greetings from them because of their turning to God, neither He, nor the Son withheld Theirs.
Chapter 1. 2–3.
Galatians is the exception in the Pauline corpus that carries no formal note of thanksgiving in the salutation. It is interesting however, to note that before Paul closes his introductory remarks he ends in a doxology to God.
‘We give thanks‘ translates eucharisteo, ‘to be grateful‘; ‘to give thanks’. The tense denotes continuous action, ‘we are constantly giving thanks’ indicating that neither Paul nor his associates were spasmodic in return of thanks to God. It was an habitual exercise, 2 Thess. 2. 13. ‘To God‘ rendered literally is ‘to the God’. How vital and valued this is when those to whom Paul wrote were, for the most part, formerly occupied with many gods. ‘Always for your sake‘ is simply ‘at all times for you all‘. All alike and at all times, the saints without distinction, were the objects of their intercessory ministry. ‘Making mention‘, obviously a present participle, is in the middle voice, plural, taken from the verb, poyeo, (‘to make'), commonly used to denote performance. The significance of the middle voice indicates that the subject is acting in his own interest. The plural form includes Paul and his fellow-helpers. This means that in maintaining such vigilance before the Throne on behalf of the saints, these men were being sustained in themselves by the power of the Spirit. Does this not assure us that all that engage in intercessory ministry will experience a like empowerment from on high? ‘In our prayers‘ renders epi ton proseution hemon, signifies, ‘while engaged in our prayers,’ or ‘in the time of our prayers’ which identifies the import of ‘epi’ very helpfully (cp. Eph. 1. 16). Several words for prayer appear in the New Testament, this one in verse 2 (proseuchon) is clearly the most characteristic for it bespeaks the worshipful attitude in prayer; that spirit of gratitude to God for all He has wrought. How applicable to the atmosphere in Paul’s heart as he thanks God for what He has accomplished in the lives of the Thessalonians.
1. 3. ‘Remembering without ceasing‘ is derived from adialeiptos mnemoneuo. ‘Without ceasing‘ is adialeiptos, meaning ‘without intermission,’ ‘incessantly’ (see 2. 13; 5. 17; Rom. 1. 9). What comfort it must have brought to the Thessalonians who, recognising the position of the word in the text, caught the forcefulness of Paul’s assurance of his incessant remembrance. Remember at the time of writing he was not merely sitting idly reflecting on his former activities, he was at what we would call, full stretch, as he pioneered in Corinth, to whom he would later write about ‘the care of all the churches‘. Surely we all can grasp the habitual action these terms express. ‘Your work of faith’. Paul is referring to that sort of activity in the life of a believer which springs from faith. Clearly that is just the reason why the word ‘faith’ carries the definite article: it is a genuine faith, all so characteristic of a faith that produces works for the glory of God. Their life was proving the reality of their faith, the activity of their love and the tenacity of their hope. The difference between work and labour in this verse is that between result and effort. ‘Labour‘ is kopos, meaning ‘intense labour united with toil to the point of fatigue‘. The verb from which the word is derived refers to laborious, painful exertion, expressing in vivid terms the serving, sacrificial love that Paul fondly remembers as marking the saints at Thessalonica. Being the word used of divine love, Paul infers emphatically that such love impels the one loving to sacrifice himself for the one loved. Again, the word agape in the verse has the definite article, indicating that this love freely bestowed, demonstrates itself outwardly in the intensity of toil for the glory of God (cp. Phil.1. 21).
Throughout his epistles Paul gives ‘patience’ as the right and natural accompaniment of ‘hope’. Here it is born of hope; in Romans 15. 4, hope is born of patience; in 2 Timothy 3. 10, patience takes the place of hope. ‘Patience‘ renders hupomone, from hupo, (‘under’). and memo (‘to remain’); hence ‘to abide under‘. See how the word is used in James 1. 12, where it is translated ‘endureth’; where the spiritual wealth of the individual who constantly abiding under the solicitations of the devil to do evil, but not yielding thereto, is assured of the victor’s crown at the judgement seat of Christ. As with ‘faith’ and ‘love’, so it is with hope, (elpis). It carries the definite article, specifying clearly a particular kind of hope, namely that of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus of which we will learn more as the exposition of this epistle develops. ‘In the sight of God and our Father‘ i.e. of our God and Father. Is this expression to be linked with the opening words of the verse, or the words that follow? Either would suit the text really, however, 'remembering unceasingly, in the sight of our God and Father your work of faith’ makes clear the One before whom the remembering took place.
Chapter 1. 4-5.
V.4. 'Knowing your election' See the AV margin, the R.V. and JND for this reading:– ‘Knowing brethren, beloved of (by) God, your election’, – the ultimate reason for the gratitude which filled the heart of Paul and his brethren for these believers, is the fact that they knew that the Thessalonians were God's chosen ones, open to all the privileges assembly fellowship extends. By now, most will have noticed, the four participles that open this great epistle, namely: ‘giving thanks’, ‘making mention’, ‘remembering’, and now, ‘knowing’. Notice the word eidotes, literally ‘knowing’, is a participle that is a regular formula with Paul. Its frequent use must not be overlooked because it is significant, Rom. 5. 3; 6. 9; 13. 11; 1 Cor. 15. 58; 2 Cor. 4. 14; 5. 6, 11; Eph.6. 8, as is the often used ‘therefore’. These inferential words dispose of any lurking suspicion that a believer may have of ‘reason’, which is often despised, and of ‘knowledge’, which is often disdained. What gave the Apostle this knowledge was surely the compliance of the Thessalonians to the claims the truth of God makes upon every soul that professes to obey it. This confirmed that they were elect of God.
‘Brethren beloved of (by) God’. The heart affectionate expression in the vocative ‘brethren’ (Occurs 18 times in this epistle) is enriched by the additional reference to the love of God. Each writer of the New Testament Epistles uses the word beloved, a perfect participle, of the saints. Its form defines the abiding result of a past act. Notice how often the New Testament uses a past tense for the love of God: John 3. 16; Rom. 8. 37, Eph. 2. 4; 2 Thess. 2. 16, 1 John 4. 10, 11, 19, and cf. Gal. 2. 20; Eph. 5. 2, 25. From this we gather that the impact of the Cross has eternal results – in God and in us.
V.5 How may the elect be recognised?
a.) Subjective reasons relating to the experience of the preachers. ‘Our gospel’ – What they proclaimed had been first made their own. Not, of course the written gospel, but the gospel or 'good tidings' preached by Paul. We know this to be the good news concerning Christ and His atoning work (1 Cor. 15. 3). Here it is ‘our’ gospel. In 2. 2 it is the gospel ‘of God’. In 3. 2 it is the gospel ‘of Christ’ and again in 2. 4 it is simply the gospel. It should constantly be kept in mind that there is only one gospel (NB Gal. 1. 6-7, where it is distinctly affirmed as not another gospel of a different kind). However various aspects of it appear in the terms and titles employed throughout the NT: 1. Rom. 1. 1, ‘the gospel of God’ as to its origin; 2. Rom. 1. 16, ‘the gospel of Christ’ as to its subject; 3. Gal. 2. 7, ‘the gospel of the circumcision and the uncircumcision’ as to its scope; 4. Matt. 24. 14, ‘the Gospel of the Kingdom’ as to its rule and authority; 5. Acts 20. 24, ‘the gospel of the grace of God’ as to its means; 6. 2 Cor. 4. 5, '‘the gospel of the glory of Christ’ (RV), as to its radiance; 7. 1 Tim. 1. 11, ‘the gospel of the glory of the blessed God’ as to its object and purpose.
b.) ‘Came not unto you in word only’ – while indeed, it had to come in word, for it was preached and proclaimed by Paul to the Thessalonians, they, nevertheless, were not captivated by mere eloquence or learned discourse, proving that the effectiveness of the gospel is not dependent upon human learning. ‘But also in power’, – ‘but’ is from ‘alia’ a strong Greek adversative, showing the contrast we have stated above, that the gospel was preached not by mere eloquence, but in power and that of the Holy Spirit. ‘In power’ is en dunamei giving us the location or sphere in which this message was preached. The word ‘dynamic’ is derived from this word, indicating that, if the gospel is to be effective, the message must be preached through the enablement of the Spirit of God, thus imparting to the message spiritual persuasion and conviction. ‘And in the Holy Ghost’ gives again the location or sphere in which the gospel must be proclaimed, for only He can give that result and spiritual triumph that reveals the effectuality of the gospel in soul saving blessing. ‘And much assurance’ – note that the preposition ‘in‘ is not repeated before the word assurance, thus indicating very clearly the close link between the Holy Ghost and the assurance. This word has a limited occurrence in the New Testament (here, and in Col. 2. 2; Heb. 6. 11; 10. 22.) and should be considered carefully for its intent. Here it denotes the assurance experienced by the preachers that as they preached the gospel, God was without doubt working in blessing. Do we possess this assurance each time we proclaim the gospel? Where would you suggest is it to be obtained? If once obtained, would it abide with us forever? Or is it temporal in its presence in the soul? Did Paul always have it? He was writing, what we are considering right now, yet in Corinth, he had need of some necessary confirmation, (See Acts 18. 9-10), which would seem to indicate that the' assurance' of which he speaks here was absent then.
b). Objective reasons relating to the effects of the preaching
- They became imitators 1. 6.
- They became ensamples 1. 7-9.
Chapter 1. 6-8.
Before proceeding to verse 6, allow a reflection on verse 5. The 'assurance' of which the apostle speaks is not referring to the presence of the Lord with the servants, or anything of that nature. Rather it is the personal conviction and unfaltering confidence on the part of the servants, that as they preached God was saving souls. So then verse 5 relates to the servants, whereas verse 6 pertains to the people. Retain this for further reference.
V. 6. ‘And ye became followers‘, mimetes is from mimeomai, ('to imitate') and that from mimos ('mimic' or 'actor‘). These Thessalonians became imitators not of their own volition, for the word 'became' is in the passive, but by an act that was wrought by a power outside of themselves. This reflection of the servants and of the Saviour in the lives of these new converts was accomplished by having received the word of God and by fulfilling the counsels of God revealed therein. The preachers themselves had done this in their own experience, and in the most perfect sense it was seen in the Lord Jesus who received the same word of God without reserve and with full resolve as to its accomplishment. The word 'received' (dexamenoi), is used for the reception of a guest (cf. Luke 10. 8, 10; Heb. 11. 31), hence it conveys the thought of 'extending a welcome‘. But in doing so it involved the saints in severe affliction and tribulation (thlipsei), 'pressure' used in 3. 3, 7. That this may be clearly understood, it is proper to attribute to the expression a concessive concept which interprets the participle aright and indicates then the welcome extended to the word was not merely at their conversion, though that was true, but in their ongoing spiritual development. Paul knew that in their conversion the fires of affliction would be fanned by the enemies of the gospel (see Acts 17. 6.), which he enters into with great feeling in chapter 3. That persecution would also involve alienation, causing division within the family framework, is readily understood. Anyone who has served in a strongly heathen orientated land has found this to be very evident. However, the consolations of God are never small, for they experienced a joy that the Holy Spirit inspired and imparted, thus stimulating their progress in spiritual experience. There was fruit already manifest in their lives which the Holy Spirit had graciously produced.
V. 7. ‘So that ye were ensamples‘. The imitators became imitated and that extensively in 'Macedonia and Achaia'. The plural, 'ye' (humas), embraces all in the assembly at Thessalonica. Note the strong form of the verb 'ginomai', (‘to become’). denoting something decisively and actively accomplished by them. ‘Ensamples‘ is from 'tupon', the singular form of ‘example’, which means 'to strike’, and so the mark of a blow, as in John 20. 25. The figure resulting from this operation image is as in Acts 7. 43, or the mould used in Rom. 6. 17. This is also used of the Apostles, Phil. 3. 17. Timothy and Titus are exhorted respectively to be typical expressions of truth, 1 Tim. 4. 12; Titus 2. 7, and so are elders, 1 Peter 5. 3. Here it is a collective company of saints thus identified, which is truly complimentary. ‘To all that believe‘ translates 'pasin tois pisteuousin’, but note the definite article before the verb in order to form a substantive; so it can be translated, ‘to all believers‘ or ‘to all the believing ones‘. What a range of truth unfolds before our eyes. At the same time, note how specific the apostle is as he appends the qualifying phrases in the locative case. This heightens his understanding of the actual nature of the two provinces, which were separate entities. Later their status would change due to a reforming of their territory.
V. 8. ‘For from you sounded out the word of the Lord‘. To collect the foregoing development of Paul's thought, it would be helpful to summarise it in this way: -
Note v. 5. The word TO them, V.6 The word IN them, V.7 The word THROUGH them, V.8 The word FROM them.
Note specifically the use of the verb 'to be' and its particular form: v. 5, ‘our gospel “became” unto you‘; ‘what manner of men we “became” among you‘; v. 6, ‘And ye “became” followers‘; v. 7, ‘ye “became” ensamples‘
The reverberations encircling these provinces, informing multitudes of the dramatic power of the gospel which had so changed lives of the Thessalonians, is graphically conveyed by the word Paul uses: 'sounded’. This denotes a loud, unmistakable proclamation that is the root of our English word ‘echo‘. Here is a vivid word which, in its present tense, denotes the continuing activity of the reverberating report. The Thessalonians not only became models of the truth, v. 7, but also messengers. And so ought we. ‘The word of the Lord‘ is a most authoritative description of the gospel, denoting not so much the message about Him, though that is included, but affirming that the message came from Him. Cf. 2. 13, for a similar phrase, 'the word of God‘. Thessalonica as a city had many advantages which favoured this rapid spread of the news. Could it be that it had reached even the capital Rome itself? In Acts 18. 2 we read that while in Corinth, from where this epistle was written, Paul received Aquila and Priscilla from Rome. It is probable they also brought word, encouraging the apostle in the good news they had heard while in Rome regarding the Thessalonians' conversion.
Chapter 1. 9–10.
V. 9. This verse with its helpful terms, brings us to the issue which is vital in the chapter, viz. the external impact of the assembly on the outsider. ‘They themselves’ the populace, generally, ‘shew of us’, (the preachers, specifically), ‘what manner of entering in we had unto you’, (the people of God locally). This ongoing announcement has two objects: 1. To disclose the reception given to the preachers and, 2. To define the result of their preaching. ‘What manner of‘ is from ‘hopoian’, (‘of what sort‘ or ‘of what quality‘) see Acts 26. 29; 1 Cor. 3. 13; Gal. 2. 6 and James 1. 24. ‘Entering in‘ is ‘eisodon’, (‘an entrance’), which resumes the thought expressed in verse 5 and prepares us for what will follow in Chapter 2. ‘Unto you‘ denotes it was a face to face encounter, which the expression ‘pros humas’ attests. Paul was certainly encouraged to hear the circulating report of the acceptance given to the servants, knowing that, on the part of so many others, there was a rejection of them and a resistance to their preaching. ‘Ye turned‘ is an active form of the verb ‘epestrepo’ as in 2 Cor. 3. 16, clearly indicating the decisive act of the free will in response to the revelation of God in the gospel, settling conclusively that the sinner has both the capacity and the power to respond to, or retract from, the gospel. ‘Pros ton Theon‘, which means ‘facing God’, endorses the concept that the sinner does not turn from sin to God, but to God from sin. ‘From idols‘ literally rendered is ‘from the idols’ (apo ton eidolon), which signifies a total separation away from the idols and the idolatrous system they represent. As ever the plurality of the word ‘idol’ denotes the variety of the idols worshipped by the Thessalonians and with the definite article it points to the particular false gods they worshipped. Let us not miss the great point of this part of the verse that is intended to emphasise the attractiveness of God. Recall the words of Stephen in Acts 7, ‘The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, while he was in Mesopotamia‘. ‘To serve‘ is ‘douleuein’, ‘to do the work of the purchased slave‘, which, with the present tense, stresses the continuity of the service. ‘The living and true God’ serves to distinguish between God and the idols: (a) The idol was lifeless – ‘They have mouths and speak not; eyes and they see not‘, Psa. 115. 5. (b) The idol was unreal – ‘They . . . called on the name of Baal from morning until noon . . . but there was no voice, nor any that answered‘. 1 Kgs. 18. 26. Note that the word ‘God‘ here is without the definite article, and in such cases the subject is qualified, thus placing the emphasis upon the attributes, living and true. ‘Living‘ defines God as not only the Author of life, but also the Giver, thereby revealing His essence. ‘True’ is one of two words used of God (see e.g. John 3. 33 for one and 17. 3 for the other) which in this case denotes that He is true to His Name.
V. 10. ‘And to wait‘ complies analytically with the other infinitive just employed by Paul, ‘to serve’ in verse 9. One is as compelling as the other is, and neither can be detached the one from the other. Dutifully serving and daily watching is constantly the characteristic employment of the Christian and is the keynote of the entire epistle. ‘His Son‘ – the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son, John 3. 16. He certainly ‘became flesh’ but He never ‘became’ Son, for the bosom of the Father did not begin at Bethlehem. Relativity in the Godhead had no beginning, as neither had the Trinity. ‘From heaven‘ is ek ton ouranon, (‘out from among the heavens‘) where He has been since He passed through the heavens, Heb. 4. 14, and sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high, Heb. 1. 3. ‘Whom He raised from the dead’, comes from ‘hon egeiren ek ton nekron’. ‘Whom‘ is a relative pronoun which has for its antecedent ‘Son‘. It must be clearly recognised that the word Son is in the accusative case, and it being as it is the case of limitation, ‘whom’ is in the accusative also which teaches emphatically that the resurrection spoken of here was limited to the Lord Jesus alone, and that He alone has a glorified body and has become the ‘firstfruit‘ (singular) of the resurrection. Three times in this epistle it pleases the Holy Spirit to use Paul in identifying the Lord Jesus, as ‘Jesus‘ with no titles either proceeding or following. This is distinctly the prerogative of the Spirit of God and not a pattern for you or me to emulate. Moses says, ‘And I made an ark of shittim wood’ Deut. 10. 3. That ark was composed of more than shittim wood, but in this reference the other material is not noted. That is what is here, beloved, and we allow the Spirit of God to present the Saviour in this capacity as He alone pleases. Read Hebrews and other epistles for further references of this nature. ‘Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come‘, is from ‘Iesoun ton hruomenon hemas ek tes orges teserchomenes‘, and rendered literally, reads: ‘Jesus, the one who is delivering us from the wrath, the coming one‘. ‘Wrath‘ appears three times in this epistle and what I wish to aver strongly is that each occurrence refers to what I am identifying as ‘tribulational wrath‘. It is not part of His purpose to have His own of this dispensation pass through the 'Tribulation‘. God never confuses the nature and character of the testimony in any age. How could we teach there is ‘neither Jew nor Gentile’ when such a distinction must of necessity be made during the time appointed for the outpouring of His wrath?
To be Continued.