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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE
PAUL and Silas visited Thessalonica after they quitted Philippi; and for some time preached the gospel with great success both among the Jews and Gentiles. Acts xvii. 1-4. The unbelieving Jews at length, not able to resist the truth by argument, had recourse to violence and persecution and they raised such a`disturbance in the city, as obliged the believing brethren to send away Paul and Silas; but they continued stedfast in the doctrines of the gospel. This conduct of the Jews was probably owing to the circumstance that Paul had withdrawn himself from the synagogue, and preached to the Gentiles. The design of the Epistle is to confirm them in the faith which they had received; and while he adverts to their past conduct, as reflecting honour on themselves, he encourages them to perseverance. This is the first of Paul's Epistles; and was most certainly written from Corinth. See Acts xviii. 5, where we are informed that Timothy and Silas came to Paul, and they join him in this epistle. See Introd. Part 1. p. 6.
A. D. 63. Paul states his good opinion of their faith, love, and patience; and then offers various things for their comfort and joy in their afflictions.
PAUL, and Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; Grace and peace be to you, from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
We give thanks to God always for you all, 3 making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and 4 Father; Knowing, brethren, beloved of God,
your election; Because our gospel came 5
CHAP. I. 1. Paul and Silvanus, &c. That Silvanus was a Jew is evident from Acts xv. 22, where he is called by his Hebrew name Silas; and that he was a Roman citizen also, appears from Acts xvi. 37.; and it is probable that Silvanus was his Roman name. He was the fellow-traveller and labourer with Paul in the gospel. See Acts xvii. 4-15. ; xviii. 5.; xxvii. 32-40, and 2 Cor i. 19, and 2 Thess. i. 1, and 1 Pet. v. 12. Silvanus and Timothy had been left at Berea, when Paul went to Atheus; but after some time they joined him there, whence he sent the letter to Thessalonica, to establish the church there, while he and Silvanus went to Corinth. He abode there two full years; and here Timothy returned to him and gave him a good account of the Thessalonian converts; and he wrote to them, joining with himself these two excellent men whom they so well knew. -In God the, &c. The church which professes to believe in, and be subject to, God the Father, &c.
2-4. Work of faith, &c. The fruit of your faith, and the labour which your christian love induces you to sustain, to do good in any manner to your brethren; and the patience you exercise under your persecutions, through the hope of the gospel. Your election. Many confine this to God's election of
the Gentiles to be his people, which indeed is a truth, but I conceive not the whole truth. That God hath chosen men to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, and even these Thessalonians, Paul asserts 2 Thess. ii. 13.; and the apostle was assured of their election of God, from the fact that they were called, and did believe in Christ and serve and obey God. He speaks of them all in the judgment of charity; not that every individual might be what he professed.
5+7. But in power. It was attested by miracles, and it made deep and lasting impressions on your hearts, Acts x. 38.; xvi. 14.—In the Holy, &c. Whose various gifts were conferred upon some of you, such as speaking in other languages, prophecy, &c.Confirmation. And it produced a full and entire couviction in your minds of its truth, importance, and divinity. 2 Tim. iv. 17. Heb. vi. 11.—In much affliction. Attended with much opposi tion and persecution from your unbelieving fellow-citizens; but you were sup. ported by the joy you had through the gifts and gracious influence of the Spirit.
8-10. Sounded forth, &c. Your ready reception of it, and its influence on your conduct, forsaking the idols you had been accustomed to worship, and
I THESSALONIANS II.
of us what kind of admission we had among you, and how ye turned to God from idols, 10 to serve the living and true God; And to And to look for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to come.
Paul's holy conduct.
our hearts. For we did not at any time use 5
A. D. 63. In what manner the gospel was brought to them, and how they being affectionately desirous of you, were
had received it; a reason why he was so desirous to see them.
willing to bestow on you, not the gospel of God only, but our own lives also, because ye had become dear unto us. For ye re- 9 member, brethren, our labour and toil; how working night and day, that we might not be burdensome to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, 10 and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably, in unblameably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how know how we 11 exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
FOR yourselves, brethren, know that our 2 admission among you was not in vain; But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully treated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold through our God to speak to you the gospel of God amidst a 3 great conflict. For our exhortation was not error, nor from uncleanness, nor in 4 guile : But as we were approved of God to be entrusted with the gospel, we so speak not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth
REFLECTIONS UPON CHAPTER I. 1. We see here the saving influence of the gospel, and the nature of genuine conversion. In our sinful state we are devoted to the service of some improper object, some idol or other; but when the gospel enlightens our minds, and reaches our hearts, we forsake such things, and devote ourselves to the service of the living and true God. Being ignorant of the way of pardon and acceptance, we trust to our works as the ground of hope; but when we form just notions of the glories and perfections of God, his holiness, purity, and justice, we see the propriety and feel the necessity, of the mediation of Christ. As delivering us from the wrath to come, by his atonement, he becomes the object of our confidence, and the ground of our hope. Hence the genuine convert lives by faith in him, and is looking for the coming of Jesus from heaven, to raise the dead, judge the world, and for ever establish his own disciples in the glorious, heavenly kingdom prepared for them.
2. We learn in what manner we may be assured of our interest in the love and special favour of God. It is when the gospel has come to us, "not only in word, but in power; even with the Holy Spirit," who by his work in our souls, destroys the strong-holds of sin, breaks our fetters, and imparts to us spiritual liberty. Then will it be manifest that we are beloved and chosen of God; and with pleasure shall we become imitators of Christ, both in his holy conduct and in his sufferings. When ministers have such an admission among a people, and effects so important are produced, then is the word of the Lord sounded forth in all directions, not by the tongues of men only, but by their actions. And how honourable is it when men become examples to others by their works of faith, labours of love, and patience of hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ! May we enjoy this honour, and then grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, will abound towards us.
becoming the servants of the living and true God, believing on his Son as your Saviour, and professing his name, have been sounded forth to very distant regions, but more especially in Macedonia and Achaia.
CHAP. II. 1, 2. Was not in vain. Without influence; but on the contrary had the happiest effects.Shamefully treated, &c. See Acts, xvi. 23. We were bold. Dr. Chandler remarks that the word signifies to speak openly and publicly before others, to speak with full persuasion of the truth of what is said, and that here it includes all these senses. Acts xvii. 10.
3, 4. Not from error, &c. We were not deceived in what we preached to you, nor did we do it from impure motives, nor in any guile; but as we were approved, &c.
5-8. As ye know, &c. No arts to gain your favour, as ye well know; nor did we preach under the guise of sincerity, while we were really coveting other men's goods; and of this God is witness. Nor from men sought we 3 a 2
glory or honour, either from you or others; though we had a right to maintenance as apostles of Christ. 1 Cor. ix. 4.- -Even as a, &c. For this punctuation, see Griesbach, Dr. Chandler, &c. As an affectionate mother cherishes her child, and imparts to it the breast, so we being affectionately desirous of you, were willing, &c.
9-12. How working, &c. This leads us to think that Paul and Silas abode at least some few weeks at Thessalonica, as otherwise they would have had no need to labour for their own support. Ye are witnesses. This appeal to them as to their conduct among them, and the affectionate manner in which they had exhorted and taught them shows that the apostles lived according to the gospel, as well as preached it.——Kingdom and glory. Some consider this as a hendiadis for "glorious kingdom;" but as it may refer to the gospel state here, and to the glory of heaven, 1 retain the common 371
12 That ye
1 THESSALONIANS III. should walk worthy of God, who
A minister's joy.
wrath is overtaking them to utter destruction,
called you to his kingdom and glory. For this cause we thank God also without ceasing, that, when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us, ye embraced it, not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth,) the word of God, which effectually 14 worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Judea, that are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things from your own countrymen, even as they have from 15 the Jews; Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are against A. D. 63. Paul testifies his love to them by sending Timothy to exhort and 16 all men; Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; thus always filling up the measure of their sins, while
REFLECTIONS UPON CHAPTER II. 1. What a lovely example does the apostle exhibit of ministerial zeal, courage, sincerity, and faithfulness! No dangers, no sufferings, appalled him; but when opportunity served he was ready to seize it, and still to plead the cause of his dear Lord. He had suffered much at Philippi, but was no sooner released and enjoyed his liberty, than he went to Thessalonica, and contended with all the enemies of the gospel, with the same boldness and perseverance. And while labouring here, what benevolence and simplicity did he display! With such courage, benevolence, and regard to truth, should every minister preach the gospel; and his exhortation and address should not be from any erroneous principles or immoral tendency; nor should he practise the least guile in the statement of divine truth. Being entrusted with the gospel, he should so speak, not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth the heart, and to whom an account must be rendered.
comfort them, and by praying for them, and desiring to see them, WHEREFORE When we could no longer 1 bear, we thought it good to be left at Athens
that waving his authority as an apostle of Christ, he exercised the meekness and gentleness of Christ towards them. Not even the fund mother could cherish with more tenderness and care the child that sucks at her breast, than he did the spiritual children of his ministry. While abounding in labours, and living holily and justly, it is not surprising that he should be successful. Let all ministers thus preach with love, thus live, and they will not labour in vain.
3. The reality of a divine change among the Thessalonians was proved by their constancy amidst their sufferings and persecutions. They were deeply impressed with the word which they heard, and embraced it by a cordial faith as the word of God; and thus being mixed with faith it wrought effectually in them, producing repentance, and a holy life. They became the followers of Christ, and associated as a church in conformity with believers in Judea. There the wicked Jews had killed the Lord Jesus, as they had the prophets, and were now persecuting the apostles and disciples; and in the same manner were the Thessalonian believers treated by their unconverted heathen brethren; but as the Jews were filling up the measure of their sins, so were heathen persecutors. Let then believers be firm and courageous amidst their trials; for in the end they will triumph. What will be the joy now, or the crown hereafter, to ministers but their converts! O that each may have abundant joy and glory, at the coming of Christ!
2. We see what, under God, contributed to Paul's success, and what may contribute to the success of other labourers in the vineyard. He never used flattering words, but by a plain statement of the gospel, commended himself to every man's conscience; and he so conducted ted so himself as to be above all suspicion of any mercenary design, or of being influenced by the love of applause. Feeling the most tender concern for the welfare of souls, love breathed in his words and actions; so
13. Ye embraced it, &c. Not as a doctrine contrived by men, or resting on the opinion of men, but as it is in truth, the word and doctrine revealed by and sanctioned of God, &c.
14-16. Churches of God, &c. Hence we learn that in spite of all the power of the Jewish priesthood, and of their opposition to Christ and the gospel, numerous christian societies existed in Judea.-Suffered like, &c. Suffered in their reputation, persons, goods.-Killed the Lord Jesus, &c. Paul does not hesitate to charge his countrymen with this murder, and with others, as well as continuing to persecute him and other christians.-Forbidding us, &c. Hindering as much as possible the salvation of Gentiles, and on this account they may be said to bè against all men; but by this conduct
they were filling up the measure of their sins, and the wrath of God was
CHAP. III. I-5. To be left at Athens, &c. See note, Ch. i. 1.—
Afflictions our lot..
Prayer for them. 2 alone; And sent Timothy, our brother, and fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we 9 'fellow-worker of God" in the gospel of Christ, render to God again because of you, for alk to establish you, and to comfort you concern-the joy with which we rejoice for your sakes 3 ing your faith: faith: That no man should be before our God; Night and day praying 10 moved by these our afflictions: for yourselves exceedingly that we might see your face, 4 know that we are appointed thereunto. For and might perfect that which is wanting in when we were with you, we told you before- your faith? Now may our God and Father 11 hand that we should suffer affliction; even himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct 5 as it hath come to pass, and ye know, For For our way unto you. And may the Lord make 12 this cause also, when I could no longer bear, you to increase and abound in love one to I sent to know your faith, fearing lest by wards another, and towards all men, even as some means the tempter should have tempted we do towards you: That he may establish 13 6 you, and our labour should be in vain. But your hearts unblameable in holiness before now when Timothy came from you to us, our God and Father, at the coming of our and brought us glad-tidings of your faith Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. and love, and that ye have a good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see 7 us, as we also do to see you: For this cause, brethren, we were comforted concerning you in all our affliction and distress, even 8 by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand
REFLECTIONS UPON CHAPTER III. 1. Let us ever remember that as christians, we are appointed to various trials and afflictions here, and which, through grace, we may, and ought to improve to the glory of God, and the advancement of genuine holiness. This world is not designed for the home and rest of our souls. We are only sojourners here as all our fathers were. And if our afflictions should be heavy, severe, and even protracted, still they will have an end; and God, whom we serve, has engaged to support and even sanctify them to us. If persecution should be our lot, let us consider that Jesus endured it, and has left us an example of meekness and patience under it, and of the most glorious triumph over it. Animated by such an example, let no believer be moved by these afflictions" from his stedfastness and hope; nor let him give place to the tempter, so as to render fruitless the instructions and doctrines of grace imparted to him.
2. The followers of Jesus should cultivate the most friendly
of the gospel. That no man, &c. As Paul and others wrought miracles, it might be urged against them, that they ought to secure themselves from sufferings and broils; but Paul replies by Timothy, that they were appointed thereto, to prove their sincerity in what they taught, and to give a practical demonstration, that they looked to a future state for their reward. Comp. Matt, x. 17-25. Acts ix. 16. The tempter, &c. The great ememy, by his instruments, persecutors, whose design was to shake their faith, and defeat the labour of the apostles and their ministers.
6-8. Timothy came, &c. Having finished the work for which he had been sent, Timothy returned, and made glad the apostle by informing him of the stedfast faith of these men; and of their regard to him; this was a source of comfort amidst his afflictions. We live, if ye, &c. Now we live a happy
A. D. 63. He exhorteth to persevere in godliness, holiness, love and submission; not to indulge immoderate sorrow for the dead; describes the resurrection and last judgment..
FINALLY then we beseech you, brethren, 1
2. Griesb. Others, servant of God and.
intercourse, and concern for their mutual establishment and welfare; and ministers especially should not only sow the seed of the word among men, but water it with their prayers, and look after its growth and increase. Thus the great apostle and the disciples at Thessalonica acted. They kindly remembered their spiritual father, and were desirous to see and hear him again, as he was to see them, and to impart suitable advice and instruction. To hear that any stand fast in the Lord,' cannot but afford pleasure to a believer, and particularly to a minister, who is set for the defence of the gospel. Under the deepest distress this will give a new relish to life itself; and while it constrains to unfeigned thankfulness, it will excite the spirit of prayer. And what can believers ask for one another, or ministers for their people better, than that "the Lord may make them to increase and abound in love to one another, and towards all; and that he would establish their hearts unblameable in holiness before their God and Father
at the coming of Christ with all his saints."
life, if ye stand fast, &c. We enjoy and have pleasure in life. The word is so used by Latin and Greek writers.
9, 10. What thanks, &c. Your firmness and conduct inspires us with the most lively gratitude to God, and prompts us to fervent prayer that we may be permitted to come to you and to confer on you new and enlarged spiritual gifts.
11-13. Our God and Father, &e. Paul joins here Jesus Christ in a direct prayer with the Father, and in the 12th verse prays directly to the Lord Jesus, to bestow an increase of brotherly love, and to establish their hearts, &c. Such conduct shows that he did not conceive that he dishonoured the Father, by addressing the Son, nor the Son by praying to the Father.
CHAP. IV. 1, 2. By the Lord Jesus. In his name and by his author
God wills our sanctification.
1 THESSALONIANS IV. IV.
and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, ye would abound more and 2 more. For ye know what commandments we 3 gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification; that 4 ye should abstain from fornication; That every one of you should know how to keep 5 his body in sanctification and honour; Not given up to lustful passions, even as the Gen6 tiles who know not God: That no one overreach and defraud his brother in this matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we have formerly also told you and 7 testified. For God hath not called us unto 8 uncleanness, but to sanctification. He there fore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God; who hath also given to us his holy Spirit.
Now as concerning brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves 10 are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do this towards all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we beseech But we beseech you, brethren, that ye abound in love more
REFLECTIONS UPON CHAPTER IV. 1. As christians we should suffer the word of exhortation, and obey with pleasure the commands given us by the authority of our Lord Jesus. It is a peculiar favour to be instructed how we ought to walk and please God; and it should be our aim to abound in such conduct, and make continual improvement. For what is the great design and end of our christian calling? What is the will of God concerning us? It is our
Hope of the dead in Christ.
and more; And that ye earnestly study to 11 be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk in a becom- 12 ing manner towards those that are without, and that ye may have need of nothing.
Now we would not have you ignorant, 13 brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that ye grieve not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, 14 and rose again; even so those who sleep in Jesus, will God bring also with him. For 15 this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord, shall not go up before those who are asleep. For the Lord 16 himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first : Afterwards, we who are 17 alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them into the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and then shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort ye one ano- 18 ther with these words.
sanctification, our coming out and being separate from the world which lieth in wickedness. How wholly unbecoming the followers of Jesus to be addicted to the pollutions and gross sensualities of heathens, who know not God? They ought not only to abstain from such things, but to cultivate that inward purity of mind, which may lead us to preserve our bodies in sanctification and honour, lest we should be guilty of despising the command of God, and he should
believed, but had stated how they should live so as to please God, and adorn the gospel.
3-8. For this is the will, &c. This is his great design in the gospel, to effect your sanctification; and this consists in abstaining from fornication, &c. Keep his body, &c. Greek, his vessel. As sanctification means a separation of any thing from commou use, and a consecration of it to God, so the apostle exhorts them to regard their bodies as those holy vessels which were consecrated and used in the temple. Dr. Chandler refers to Lucretius as terming the body, vas, or a vessel.- -Lustful passions, &c. Greek, "passion of desire;" but it is clearly used here for criminal, sensual lusts, such as the Gentiles indulged, and with which their own historians reproach them. Overreach, &c. Or pass the bounds of justice and chastity, and thus defraud his brother-man of what is his property, by seducing his daughter or his wife; for of all such offences the Lord is the avenger, &c. and the very end of our christian calling is sanctification, and not uncleanness. If any one despise our warning or live in such crimes, he will be found a despiser of God, who speaks to you and all men by the Holy Spirit which is given to us. Comp. Luke x. 16, with Acts v. 3, 4.
9-12. Taught of God, &c. By his word and spirit. Is. liv. 13.——— Study to be quiet, &c. To live peaceably, to provoke and quarrel with no one; but to be industrious, providing things honest in the sight of all; that so ye may have what is needful, and be able to do good to others.
13. Now we would, &c. See Griesbach. As to those of your believing brethren who have died, grieve not as your heathen neighbours do, who have no hope of a future happy state, or of a resurrection.
14. Bring also with him. When he comes to judge all men, then those who sleep in him will be raised and appear with him in his glory. 15.
We who are alive, &c. See 1 Cor. xv. 51, &c. We christians, who may be considered as one body, we who are alive on the earth at the coming of the Lord, shall not go up or be changed and caught up, to meet the Lord, before those who are asleep, or the dead, are raised.
16-18. For the Lord, &c. The apostle explains what he meant in the preceding verse. The dead in Christ will be first raised; and then those alive will be changed, and the whole of Christ's flock will be caught up to meet their Lord, and to remain for ever with him. What comfort should this view of the dead and of the blessed resurrection impart!