1 Thessalonians


Introduction, 1:1-10

i] Greeting, thanksgiving and prayer


In typical fashion, Paul opens his first letter to the Thessalonians with a greeting, a thanksgiving and a prayer.


i] Context: Paul begins his letter with an exordium / introduction covering 1:1-10, then in 2:1-3:10 we have a personal narrative section, the narratio, before moving to the body of the letter, the probatio, the proof/theses section, which in this letter is primarily exhortatory, 4:1-5:22. The letter concludes with prayer, a final injunction and a blessing.

The introduction consists of a prescript, v1, with the usual from whom, to whom and a greeting / salutation. Paul then moves to a thanksgiving covering v2-10. The thanksgiving divides into two Greek sentences, v2-5, and v6-10, although they are arranged in these notes as preaching units, v1-3, and v4-10.


ii] Structure: This passage, The greeting and thanksgiving, presents as follows:

Prescript, v1;

Thanksgiving prayer, v2-3.


iii] Interpretation:

It is clear to Paul that the Thessalonians are a chosen people. Paul and his fellow evangelists felt a real sense of God's powerful involvement in the mission to Thessalonica, and were able to see with their own eyes the dramatic effect of the gospel on the lives of the hearers. The Thessalonians were soundly converted - turning away from idols, giving their lives to Jesus, and looking forward to his coming in glory. They become imitators of the apostles and of Jesus, they accepted the word of life even though it brought persecution, and they set about the task of evangelism themselves. On these grounds Paul gives thanks.


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

Text - 1:1

Introduction: i] The greeting, v1. Just as we have formal ways of introducing letters, so in the first Century there was a common letter form. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians follows this accepted form. Paul begins by telling us who it's from and who it's too, and then he greets his readers. Usually the Greeks just wrote the word "greeting", although Paul writes "grace". The word "grace" is derived from the Greek word "greeting", but is used here to sum up the gospel. "Grace" depicts God's total acceptance of a believer apart from their worthiness, or unworthiness, and this as a gift for the asking. The word "peace" is the common Jewish greeting. It means not so much a freedom from trouble, but more a wish for prosperity, of wholeness under God.

PauloV kai SilouanoV kai TimoqeoV "Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy" - Independent nominatives in a salutation. Paul mentions his traveling companions, but this does not mean the letter is a joint composition. Silvanus is a Jew, one of the prophets of the Jerusalem church who has accompanied Paul on this his second missionary journey. Timothy is a young Jewish convert whom Paul is grooming for ministry. Although taught in the Jewish faith, Timothy was not circumcised and so, for the sake of the Jews, he was circumcised prior to the mission - helpful for social acceptance, but not for the journey.

th/ ekklhsia/ (a) dat. "to the church" - Dative of indirect object where the subject, verb and direct object in a letter opening is assumed, eg. "I write this letter to the church of the Thessalonians."

Qessalonikewn (uV) gen. "of the Thessalonians" - of Thessalonians. We might have expected the preposition en + dat., "the church in Thessalonica", so the the genitive is interesting. It is adjectival, not possessive, but likely attributive, limiting "church"; "the Thessalonian church."

en "in [God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ]" - Locative, expressing space / sphere, incorporative union, "in union with the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." That is, the church is bound in an intimate relationship with the creator of the Universe. The term "in" is used quite often by Paul and depicts the union / fellowship a believer has with their Lord. Mystical Union is the theological term used to sum up the concept of the "intimate union" existing between the believer and Jesus. In simple terms, the word "friend" probably makes the point. Paul says that the church is "in" the "Father". Normally, he speaks of us being "in Christ" and only rarely of "in the Father" or "in God", cf., Col.3:3. If we are a friend of Jesus then we are a friend of the Father. Paul goes on to state the truth that we are also "in" "the Lord Jesus Christ." A Trinitarian idea..... We are friends with two people, but only one God. Note, he states the three names of the Son of God: i] "Lord", the name for Jehovah in the Greek Old Testament; ii] "Jesus", His human name - Joshua; iii] "Christ", the Anointed One, Messiah.

caris (iV ewV) "grace" - grace, favour. Used of God's undeserved kindness toward his people, his covenant mercy. A particularly Christian greeting. "I pray that God will be kind to you", CEV.

eirhnh (h) "peace" - The word expresses freedom from war, but for a Jew it carries the sense of harmony within the fellowship of God's people, and between God and his people.


ii] Paul's thanksgiving and prayer for the Thessalonian church, v2-3. Paul tells us that the Thessalonian church is central in his prayers, although he is not saying that each time he prays they are mentioned. In his prayers he brings before the Lord three qualities in the church for which he gives thanks, namely faith, love and hope.

"Your work of faith". Paul gives thanks for their "active / effective faith", for the business side of their faith, the doing of it, the practice of faith.

"Your labor of love." Paul thanks God for their love, a love that labors to the point of weariness. The word he chooses is not often used in Greek writings of the day. The usual word for love referred to the human emotion, or feeling of love - regarding someone or something very highly and with desire. The word for love used in the New Testament takes on its own meaning. It is something that can only be understood by examining the character of God. It is a costly compassion toward another prompted by no worthiness, or future worthiness, in the one so loved. Such love can only be imaged in the death of Jesus on our behalf.

"Your patient hope." Paul thanks God for their "patient hope" - "a spirit which can bear all things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope", Barclay. The Thessalonians have a sure belief in God's ultimate purpose. This "hope" is "in the Lord Jesus Christ", and is an enduring hope that rests on him.

pantote adv. "[we] always [thank]" - [we give thanks] always. Possibly meaning that every time Paul prays he doesn't fail to mention the Thessalonians, or that when he prays for them he doesn't fail to give thanks for them; "we are always thankful as we pray for you all", Phillips.

tw/ qew/ (oV) "God" - to God. Dative of direct object after the verb eucaristew, "to give thanks to."

peri + gen. "for" - Either expressing reference, "about, concerning", or representation, "on behalf of, for", ie., used instead of uJper. Linked to "we give thanks", as NIV, but possibly "mentioning."

adialeiptwV adv. "continually" - Modal adverb, expressing manner.

poioumenoi (poiew) pres. part. "mentioning / mention" - making [mention]. This participle, as with the participles "remembering", v3, and "knowing", v4, are adverbial, modifying the action of "we give thanks". This participle, best classed as modal, expressing the manner by which the verb "we give thanks" is accomplished, combines with its object mneian, "rememberance / mention", to define its verbal sense.

uJmwn gen. pro. "[all] of you" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative.

epi + gen. "in" - at. Here temporal, "at the time of, during."


mnhmoneuonteV (mnhmoneuw) pres. part. "we [continually] remember / we remember" - remembering. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, as above, but probably better taken as causal, expressing the reason why Paul gives thanks, namely, because he remembers their work of faith ...... Paul's thanksgiving is driven by the fact that he remembers the faith, love and hope of the Thessalonians.

adialeiptwV adv. "continually" - without ceasing, unceasingly. Possibly part of the previous sentence, so, "we continually mention you in our prayers." Possibly, "each time we pray we tell God our Father about your faith ..." CEV.

emprosqen prep. "before [our God and Father]" - before, in front of [the God and Father of us]. Spacial. In the Greek text, "before our God and Father" comes at the end of the verse and so may serve to modify hope; "and the hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ means sheer dogged endurance in the life that you live before God, the Father of us all", Phillips. Yet, "before our God and Father" may also modify, not "hope of Jesus", but the participle "remembering", so NIV. The word "before" takes the sense of "in the presence of", Barclay

uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, and probably applies to all three elements, not just "faith". It is emphatic by position.

thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "[work] produced by faith" - [the work] of faith. The genitive "of faith", as with "love" and "hope", is usually treated as verbal, subjective, where the genitive substantive produces the action, but it could also be classified as ablative, separation or source. So, Paul is probably giving thanks for the good works that stem from the Thessalonian's personal trust and reliance on Jesus. On the other hand, the genitive may simply be adjectival such that Paul is giving thanks for the quality of their faith, ie. it is an "active faith", Moffatt, an effectual faith; "faithful work, loving deeds, hopeful endurance", BAGD. Both approaches are valid. Note that the NIV takes the first option, "your work produced by faith", and this is probably Paul's intended sense. Timothy has told Paul of the faith, love and hope evident in the Thessalonian congregation. Such is evident by the works produced by / that have sprung from, their faith and love, and by the steadfastness produced by / that has sprung from their hope. The other two phrases concerning hope and love, may be handled in a similar way. Note that we often treat these three qualities together and say of them that they "remain/abide". It is possible Paul is arguing in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that of these three, only "love abides" (remains) and so is the "greatest". None-the-less, it is hard to see how faith would not eternally "abide". "Your deeds which spring from your faith", Cassirer.

uJpomonhV (h) "endurance" - endurance, staying power, steadfastness. "Fortitude", NEB; "steadfastness", NRSV; "sheer dogged endurance", Phillips. "A spirit which can bear all things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope", Barclay.

tou kiriou ... Ihsou Cristou "in [our] Lord Jesus Christ" - Presumably the genitive "of the Lord Jesus Christ" modifies "hope", but of course it could modify "faith" and "love" as well. The genitive is usually classed as verbal, objective, as NIV, but possibly ablative, source / origin, the hope that finds its origin in Christ and which he provides, or even, adjectival, defining the hope, "a hope that rests on our Lord Jesus Christ", Berkeley.


1 Thessalonians Introduction


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