1 Thessalonians


3. Exhortations toward Christian living, 4:1-5:22

ii] Brotherly love and respect


Paul has just reminded his readers that when he was with them he instructed them "how to live in order to please God", and now he writes to urge them to do this "more and more", v1-2. Having dealt with sexual immorality, v3-8, Paul now encourages the Thessalonians toward brotherly love, v9-10a, practically expressed in a reflective, respectful and resourceful life, v10b-12.


i] Context: See 4:1-8.


ii] Structure: This passage, Brotherly love and respect, presents as follows:

peri de, "now concerning" = "on the subject of [brotherly love]."

In general terms, v8-10a;

In specific terms, v10b-12.


iii] Interpretation:

This passage consists of one sentence in the Gk. and serves as an encouragement to brotherly love, which love finds practical expression in "social conduct and manual labor that have as their aims self-sufficiency and the favorable opinion of non-Christians", Malherbe. Some translations treat this passage as if it presents two distinct exhortations, v9-10 and v11-12, although if there is a division it is v9-10a and 10b-12. The de of parakaloumen de, "but/and we encourage", may be taken as introducing a new line of thought, although grammatically the de is functioning as a slightly adversative connective. The "we exhort / encourage you" still has in mind the fraternal / brotherly love that Paul desires for the Thessalonian fellowship, a love perisseuein pres. inf., that should abound more and more. This statement is followed by a series of epexegetic infinitives explaining / making more specific the nature of this love in practical terms, v11, and two purpose / end-view / hypothetical result clauses ( iJna + subj., "so that ....") expressing the intended consequence.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:9

Brotherly love and self-sufficiency v9-12. Brotherly love is certainly the mark of the Christian community in the first century. Tertullian, in his apology, put it this way: "behold how these Christians love one another." So, in writing to the Thessalonians Paul encourages them to practice brotherly love. In Greek society brotherly love was primarily sibling love, but in the New Testament the word is always used of love between believers. Paul doesn't need to write to the Thessalonians about this matter because they are a loving Christian community "taught by God to love each other." This teaching has obviously come through their study of the scriptures and so they don't need anyone to teach them about love. Paul is using the word "love" in the sense of self-denying compassion. God's character is defined by such love and the believer in Christ should aim at this God-like character.

peri + gen. "[now] about" - [and] concerning. Transitional. Reference, respect; "about, concerning, with respect to." The use of this phrase may indicate that Paul is referring to an issue raised by his readers, cf. 1Cor.7:1, 25, 8:1... Possibly Timothy has passed on a question concerning the limits of love, particularly as it relates to unbelievers, so Fee, but the phrase, of itself, does not necessarily prove this conclusion. "About the love that should be characteristic of the Christian fellowship", Barclay.

thV filadelfiaV (a) "brotherly love" - love of the brethren. The word was commonly used of loving ties that exist within a family and seems to have been adopted by the early church as the best term to describe the compassion and care that should exist within a Christian fellowship.

ou ... ecete (ecw) pres. "we do not [need]" - you have no [need]. Elliptical clause; "you have no need for us to write to you." Variant ecomen, "we have", exists, but obviously an attempt to smooth the grammar. Paul may have no need to remind the Thessalonians of the need for compassion within the Christian fellowship, but the statement does actually serve this purpose. "Paul writes in this way in order to encourage them to love", Chrysostom. "You don't need any written instructions", Phillips.

grafein (grafw) pres. inf. "to write" - The infinitive is epexegetic, explaining / clarifying the "need".

uJmin dat. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason, introducing a causal clause explaining why the Thessalonians have no need to be instructed on the matter of brotherly love.

qeodidaktoi adj. "[you ... have been] taught by God" - [you ... are] taught by God. The present tense of the verb to-be este, being durative, indicates that this divine teaching is ongoing. It seems more than likely that Paul means something like "you have been taught by God through your study of his Word to love one another", but possibly he is referring to his own teaching ministry among the Thessalonians, or more remotely, direct inspiration. "You have yourselves learnt from God to love one another", NJB.

autoi pers. pro. "yourselves" - Reflective use of the personal pronoun; autoi ... uJmeiV," you yourselves."

eiV to + inf. "to [love each other]" - to [love one another]. This construction, the preposition with the articular infinitive, usually forms a purpose clause, "in order that ...", so here defining the divine objective in the teaching, although sometimes consecutive, expressing result.


Paul notes that the believers in Thessalonica do exhibit love, in fact they have demonstrated this in their compassion toward the other churches in Macedonia. We don't know how many Christian communities existed at this stage in Macedonia. Missionaries like Silvanus, Timothy and Luke had worked in Macedonia and so other churches obviously existed. So, Paul recognizes the compassion of the Thessalonian believers, exhorting them to "do so more and more." He calls on them to abound, to excel, in love.

kai gar "and in fact" - and for. The use of gar here with kia often serves to emphasize the point just made; "indeed"; "and indeed", AV. "You are not only taught the lesson, but you also practice it", Lightfoot.

auto pro. "[you do] love" - [you do] it.

en + dat. "throughout [Macedonia]" - in [all Macedonia]. Local, expressing space / sphere. Probably just a complementary comment, although Malherbe suggests that there may have been a special relationship among the Macedonian churches.

de "yet" - but, and. Adversative / contrastive

parakaloumen (parakalew) pres. "we urge [you]" - we encourage, exhort / ask appeal to [you]. See above. Repeating the sentiment of v1, focused particularly on brotherly love, here its practical outworking.

perisseuein (perisseuw) pres. inf. "to do so [more and more]" - to abound, excel [more]. The infinitive is best classified as introducing an object clause after a verb of saying / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul urges them to do, namely, that they abound more and more in love one toward another. "We urge you brothers to keep advancing in love more and more."


We know that the Thessalonian believers had become overly enthusiastic about the second coming of Jesus and so when Paul encourages them to be reflective, respectful and resourceful, he may be addressing a situation where church members had left their place of employment and were a bit out of control. Creed, in his commentary, says that "the imperatives call up a fine picture of preparedness." Whether or not this was the situation, the exhortations are certainly worth applying. The opening phrase "lead a quiet life" means something like be happy, don't worry. Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to live a life of reflective contemplation rather than be caught up in the busyness of life. The next phrase, "mind your own business", encourages the believers to worry about their own affairs rather than getting caught up in everyone else' affairs. Again simplicity is the aim. Finally he touches on self-sufficiency, the business of earning a living rather than sponging off the generosity of others. It's interesting how Paul makes a note of working with their hands. In Greek society manual labor was normally undertaken by slaves, but the New Testament is not ashamed of manual labor. We do well to remember that Jesus was a carpenter, so working with our hands is worthy and good, Eph.4:28.

kai "-" - and. Here probably epexegetic; "namely / that is."

filotimeisqai (filotimeomai) pres. inf. "make it your ambition" - to aspire, make it one's aim, have as one's ambition. This infinitive stands in apposition to the infinitive perisseuein, "to abound"; "I urge you to abound in love more and more, namely, that you strive ....."

hJsucazein (hJsucazw) pres. inf. "to lead a quiet life" - to be at rest, quiet, silent. This is the first of three epexegetic infinitives explaining the content of abounding / striving more and more toward love: a) aspiring to a quiet live; b) attending to ones own business; c) working with ones own hands. The present tense of these infinitives, being durative, expresses ongoing action, "implying continuity in the church's behavior", Martin. The sense of this and the second infinitive is unclear. It is often assumed that eschatological confusion was rampant in the church and that these exhortations were an attempt to quieten things down. The third infinitive toward work may support this idea, but there is no real evidence that anyone had stopped working to wait for the expected return of Jesus, although it has been suggested that the poverty of the Jerusalem church was prompted by the selling of businesses etc. in expectation of Christ's early return. It is possible that Paul is addressing the issue of good citizenship, of leading a quiet and productive life rather than promoting public controversy. Certainly the hypothetical result clauses of v12 support this approach where such a life issues in the respect of outsiders. Of course, those of a more liberal persuasion, those who view political activism as integral to the realization of the kingdom, may find this approach offensive to say the least. There is much to commend the view that Paul is referring to nothing more than the worth of a contemplative life, of a quietist approach to the busyness of life. This fits well with the exhortation toward mutual love within the fellowship of believers. "To live in tranquility", Zerwick.

prassein (prassw) pres. inf. "to mind [your own business]" - to do, accomplish [the things ones own = one's own affairs]. The second epexegetic infinitive; "mind your own business", Barclay.

ergazesqai (ergazomai) pres. inf. "to work [with your hands]" - to work, practise [the hands of you]. The third epexegetic infinitive; "earning your living", NJB.

kaqwV "as" - Comparative.

parhggeilamen (paraggellw) aor. "we told" - we commanded, instructed, charged.

uJmin dat. "you" - to you. Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb "to command."


Paul now notes the social consequences of loving behavior. Such wins the respect of the world around us. He makes particular note of the value of self-sufficiency. Living off the generosity of others is parasitic in nature, but an independent resourceful life evidences a healthy caring community.

iJna + subj. "so that [your daily life may win]" - that [you may walk]. This construction usually forms a purpose clause, here hypothetical result, "so that ...." The type of "walk" = "life", is unstated, but can be generalized as conducting oneself becomingly. Of course, Paul may intend the second clause to stand in apposition to the first such that the "walk" which wins the respect of outsiders is a walk/life which is not dependent on anyone. With this approach kai, "and", would be epexegetic.

euschmonwV adv. "the respect of" - properly, honestly. Adverb of manner.

proV "-" - to, toward. Spacial

touV ecw adv. "outsiders" - the ones outside. Articular adverb serving as a substantive. "So that you conduct may be such as to win commendation from the world around you", Cassirer.

echte (ecw) pres. subj. "that you will [not] be [dependent on anybody]" - that you may have [need of nothing, no one]. With iJna above. As an act of mutual love Paul encourages the Thessalonians to develop financial independence so that members do not become a burden on other members. As with all the exhortations in this chapter, the exhortation of itself does not necessarily imply that there are members who have decided that making a living is less than holy.... It is likely that Paul is simply restating ethical teaching he has already given to the Thessalonians. "Not laying around sponging off your friends", Peterson.


1 Thessalonians Introduction


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