1 Thessalonians


1. Introduction, 1:1-10

ii] The conversion of the Thessalonians and their progress in the faith


Paul continues his thanksgiving to God for the Thessalonian church. He began by thanking God for them in v2, and now he continues by thanking God for the wonderful way they responded to the preaching of the gospel.


i] Context: See 1:1-3.


ii] Structure: This passage, The conversion of the Thessalonians and their progress in the faith, presents as follows:

The basis of thanksgiving, v4-10;

Their calling and election, v4;

Their response to the gospel, v5-10:

The evidence of their incorporation, v5-7;

A model evangelistic enterprize, v8;

A widespread witness, v9-10.


iii] Interpretation:

Paul's introductory thanksgiving: As is typical of an introduction in a rhetorical document (the Exordium), the themes covered by the document / letter is touched on prior to their development in the letter proper. Green, referencing Schubert, Pauline Thanksgivings, notes the following themes: "the coming of the gospel to Thessalonica, v5a, 9a, the character of the gospel messengers, v5b, the conversion of the Thessalonians, v6, 9-10, the results of their conversion, v3, 7-8, the sufferings they and the apostles endured, v6, the mission of the church, v8, and their eschatological hope, v10."


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

Text - 1:4

Thanksgiving proper, v4-10: i] Having given thanks for the faith, love and hope of the Thessalonian believers, v3, Paul now affirms the divine source of their calling and election, ie. their incorporation into the chosen people of God, v4. The issue of God's election to salvation of a select group of individuals, is a controversial one indeed. No theologian wants to argue that election is an arbitrary device used by God to select a few for salvation while damning the rest. All want to see it as proceeding out of God's love for broken humanity, cf. 2Thess.2:13. Yet once election is viewed as the salvation of certain individuals, then the state of those who were left unselected does become a rather difficult moral problem. In the Old Testament, election is of the nation Israel, but in the New Testament, Reformed theologians (e.g. Calvin) have tended to follow Augustine and so have argued that it is applied to the individual. It is most likely that when Paul says of the Thessalonians, God "has chosen you", he is doing nothing more than affirming that the Gentiles are now, in God's grace, incorporated into the chosen people of God. All races can now become part of the elect / chosen people of God, ie. the new Israel. This then is the gospel - believe in Jesus and we can all be special in God's eyes.

eidonteV (eidon) perf. part. "for we know" - knowing. Continuing the Gk. sentence which began in v2. The participle is adverbial, possibly modal, expressing the manner by which the action of the verb "we give thanks", v2, is accomplished, although better, as NIV, causal, "for / because we know", providing the second reason for the thanksgiving (the first is v3); "we give thanks ...... because we know your election."

adelfoi (oV) "brothers" - Used 14 times in this epistle of Christians. "Brothers" is inclusive, but PC = "brothers and sisters." Forming an independent nominative construction with "having been loved by God"; "brothers beloved of God, we know his choice of you", Berkeley.

hgaphmenoi (agapaw) perf. pas. part. "loved" - having been loved. The participle is adjectival, limiting "brothers", "brothers who are beloved", while the perfect tense expresses its enduring qualities.

uJpo + gen. "by [God]" - Expressing agency, "by God."

thn eklognh (h) "he has chosen [you]" - the election, choice [of you]. As above, an Old Testament idea expressing inclusion in a family, the family of God, ie. "the language of belonging", Meeks, First Urban Christians.


ii] Paul goes on to evidence the incorporation of the Thessalonian believers into the chosen people of God, an incorporation for which he gives thanks: a) The Thessalonian's inclusion in the people of God is evidenced by the powerful operation of the Spirit experienced by Paul and his mission team during the mission to Thessalonica, v5. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his mission with them, the powerful preaching and conviction of the preachers.

oJti "because" - that. Possibly expressing cause/reason, as NIV, or better, either epexegetical, taking the place of a hina clause, describing how Paul knows that the Thessalonian believers are incorporated into the family of God, or introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul knows concerning the election of the Thessalonians; "because we know, brothers dear to God, that with regard your election, ......"

hJmwn gen. "our [gospel]" - [the gospel] of us. The gospel is often personalized by Paul, and this because of his particular take on the message, one that ultimately had to be verified by the early church at the Jerusalem conference, Acts 15. The context, along with the message, is developed in Galatians. The genitive is adjectival, not possessive, but descriptive; "the gospel which we preached."

ton euaggelion (on) "gospel" - important news. The word is used of an important message conveyed to others. In the NT it specifies the particular message conveyed from God to humanity, first by John the Baptist and then Jesus, and then later contextualized by the apostle Paul. It is often expressed as "good news", but it is "bad news" for those who reject it.

egenhqh (ginomai) aor. pas. "came" - did [not] become = come, arrive, reach. The deliberate choice of this passive verb serves to convey a sense of eventful occurrence, so Malherbe.

eiV "to [you]" - Used here with the same sense as the preposition en + dat. Variant proV exists.

en + dat. "with [words]" - in [words only]. Instrumental, expressing means; the gospel did not come to the Thessalonians "by" words alone - not just words but deeds also.

alla "but" - Strong adversative.

kai "also" - and. "But also in ....."

en + dat. "with" - in. Here again probably instrumental, expressing means, "by", although possibly attendant circumstance, as NIV. The NT often links power with the Holy Spirit, often simply "by the power of the Holy Spirit", Rom.15:19. This may be the sense here; the words came with/by "the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit", Barclay.

dunamei (iV ewV) dat. "power" - power, strength. Possibly a reference to confirming miracles / signs / mighty works.

pneumati (a atoV) dat. "[with the Holy] Spirit" - [in holy] spirit. The lack of the article indicates that the stress is on the manifestation of the Spirit, here his inspiration of the preachers, rather than his person. The preposition en is still probably instrumental, expressing means.

en plhroforia/ (a) dat. "with [deep] conviction" - in [all] assurance. The preposition en "in", is only found in some manuscripts. It is probably not original since "in power and in the Holy Spirit" are to be taken as instrumental, means, "by", whereas the dative "conviction" is probably adverbial, expressing manner / attendant circumstance, "with".

kaqwV "how" - even as, just as [you know what sort of men we were among you for your sake]. This comparative conjunction here is expressing the idea that the lifestyle of Paul and his mission team was in conformity with the gospel they preached. This fact the Thessalonian believers know well; "you know our gospel was fully in conformity with the lives we lived (what kind of men we were) when we lived among you."

oi|oi pro. "we" - such, what kind = what kind of men. The pronoun functions as a substantive.

egenhqhmen (ginomai) aor. pas. "lived" - we have become = we were.

uJmin dat. pro. "among you" - in/with you = among you. The dative is locative, space / sphere = place. Variant en, "in".

di (dia) + acc. "for [your] sake" - Here expressing benefit, "for your sake"; "for the sake of those whom they were evangelizing", Bruce. For the wellbeing of the Thessalonians rather than the benefit of the mission team.


b) The Thessalonians' inclusion in the people of God is powerfully evidenced by their response to the gospel, v6. They followed the lead of the missionaries and accepted the message joyfully.

kai "-" - and. The Gk. sentence which began with "we give thanks", v2, is likely to run through to v7. The second ground for the thanksgiving is stated in v4 as "because we know"; Paul knows, with regard the election of the Thessalonian believes, that their election is confirmed by: a) the powerful action of the gospel in their midst, and now; b) the response of the Thessalonians to the message. This was their evident experience and was witnessed by Paul. So, this clause, introduced by kai, is the second dependent statement controlled by oJti "that", v5, expressing what Paul eidonteV ("knowing", v4) knows concerning thn ekloghn "the election" of the Thessalonians.

uJmeiV pro. "you" - Emphatic by position. Paul, having addressed the actions of the mission team, now addresses the response of the Thessalonians; "and you."

mimhtai (hV ou) "[you became] imitators" - Expressing their manner of conduct in response to the gospel. This imitation of the missioners and the Lord is not defined in terms of ethical behavior, but in their joyfully acceptance of the word of God / the gospel, ie. they responded to God's revealed word in faith, a quality evident in Paul and Jesus.

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[of us and] of the Lord" - The genitive is verbal, objective. Probably a slight correction on Paul's part, emphasizing the prime example, namely Christ.

en "in spite of / in the midst of" - in. Here probably expressing association, "with"; "will all its attendant suffering", Zerwick.

qliyei (iV ewV) "[severe] suffering" - [great] affliction, suffering, trouble. A word used in the LXX "denoting the oppression and affliction of the people of God", Malherbe.

dexamenoi (decomai) aor. part. "you welcomed / for you welcomed" - having received. The word is used of receiving / accepting the gospel. The participle is adverbial, possibly causal, as TNIV, or temporal, "you also became followers of ours and of the Lord, when with joy, derived from the Holy Spirit, you welcomed the message under great affliction", Berkeley, so also CEV.

ton logon (oV) "the message" - the word. Obviously "the gospel."

meta + gen. "with [the joy]" - with [joy]. Expressing association / accompaniment; the distress was accompanied by joy.

pneumatoV aJgiou gen. "given by the Holy Spirit" - of holy spirit. The genitive is obviously ablative, origin / agent / source, as NIV, such that the Holy Spirit is the responsible agent of the joy, a "joy inspired by the Holy Spirit", Moffatt.


c) The Thessalonians' inclusion in the people of God is evidenced by the church at large acknowledging the model status of their evangelistic enterprize, v7.

wJste + inf. "and so [you became]" - so that [you came to be]. This construction forms a consecutive clause expressing result; "with the result that", as NIV.

uJmaV pro. "you" - Emphatic by use and position.

topon (oV) "a model" - example, model, type. Plural tupouV variant exists. Paul and Jesus are models, v6, and now the Thessalonians are models.

pisteuousin (pisteuw) dat. pres. part. "to [all] the believers" - to [all] the ones believing. The participle may be treated as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage, as NIV, or if the adjective pasin, "all / everyone", is taken as a substantive, then the participle would be treated as an attributive adjective limiting "all / everyone", "all who believe." Presumably the Thessalonians are a model to all those who believe through their preaching, cf. v8.

kai en "[in Macedonia] and [Achaia]" - The use of kai with the repeated local en indicates Paul has in mind two separate provinces, although basically he has in mind "everywhere", v8, so "wherever the gospel proclaimed by the Thessalonians has happened to reach."


iii] Paul now defines in what sense the Thessalonians are a model when it cames to their evangelistic enterprize, v8. A new sentence begins here in the Gk., but its construction is awkward, in fact it seems likely that Paul has lost track of his syntax (an anacoluthon). Note the position of alla, "but". Malherbe suggests that the verse be treated as two sentences: a) "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth", with its subject oJ logoV tou kuriou, "the word of the Lord", serving to explain how the Thessalonians are a model; b) "Your faith in God has gone forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but everywhere, so that .....", with its subject hJ pistiV uJmwn, "your faith", serving to intensify the first sentence. Green, on the other hand, suggests that Paul is constructing a chiasmus "where the third element restates the thought of the first element and the fourth element contrasts the thought of the second: "The Lord's message rang out from you / not only in Macedonia and Achia but in every place. / Your faith has gone out; / Therefore we do not need to say anything."

gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal; explaining how it is that the Thessalonians had become a tupon, "a model / type" for the church at large.

tou kuriou gen. "the Lord's [message]" - [the word] of the Lord. The sense of the genitive is again unclear. An objective genitive is often suggested such that the Lord is the content of the message, "the message about the Lord", Fee. Yet, ablative / source, in that the message comes from the Lord, or adjectival / possessive, the message belongs to the Lord, as NIV, seem more likely. Note the common LXX phrase "the word of God", with "Lord" here obviously referring to Jesus.

exhchtai (exhcew) perf. pas. "rang out" - has sounded out, sounded forth, proclaimed.

ef (apo) + gen. "from" - from, by. This preposition sometimes replaces uJpo in the NT, a preposition which expresses agency rather than source. Agency is surely intended which is why Paul didn't use ek, "out of / from."

uJmwn pro. "you" - Emphatic by position; "it was yourselves, men of Thessalonica, who were the cause of God's message sounding forth", Cassirer.

hJ pistiV (iV ewV) "[your] faith" - the faith [of you]. If the second sentence in this verse serves to intensify the first then "faith in God" parallels "the word of the Lord" and so the phrase refers to the gospel which their faith impels them to preach, ie. "the content of what is proclaimed is specified as your faith in God", Green, so also Malherbe. Yet, other commentators argue that it is their exemplary faith that has become known, so Fee, Martin, Morris, Wanamaker.

hJ "[in God]" - the [toward God]. The article here serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase proV ton qeon, "toward God", into an attributive adjective limiting pistiV, "faith" - a "classical construction", Bruce.

exelhluqen (exercomai) perf. "has become known" - has gone out, come out.

alla "-" - but. Adversative; "your faith has gone out, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but everywhere ..."

en panti topw/ "everywhere" - in every place. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, local.

wJste + inf. "therefore" - so that [not to have]. This construction forms a consecutive clause expressing result; "so that we do not need to talk about it", Berkeley.

lalein (lalew) pres. inf. "to say" - The infinitive is epexegetic, specifying the "need", "we have no need to say"; "we don't have to say a thing about it", CEV.

ti "anything about it" - anything. The "anything" is unclear. Does Paul have in mind their exemplary faith, or, as suggested above, is he referring to the evangelistic efficiency of the Thessalonians, ie. Paul doesn't need to evangelize in their area of operation?


iv] The widespread witness of the Thessalonians', reported to Paul, gives testimony to: a) the reception of the Pauline mission and its message; b) the conversion of the Thessalonians; c) and their waiting for the coming Lord, v9-10. It has been suggested that the passage is imported from Jewish sources by Paul, "a pre-Pauline formula", Bruce, but this is very unlikely, see Wanamaker. Paul will often express his ideas using a Jewish turn of phrase, and this because he is a Jew. The "word of the Lord" that exhchtai, "sounded out" from the Thessalonians, their testimony, their witness to the gospel, may be summarized thus: there is a God, living and real, and this is his world; He has reached out to us through Jesus who, although done-in by corrupt authorities, was raised from the dead and now reigns in heaven; Because he lives, we can live also, but if we ignore the risen Lord, then we will have to face the coming wrath alone.

gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul has no "need to say anything."

autoi pres. pro. "they themselves" - they. Best treated as a reflective pronoun, rather than personal. Presumably referring to those in Macedonia and Achaia / everywhere.

apaggellousin (apaggellw) pres. "report" - they tell, announce, report. The present tense is durative; "they / people everywhere are reporting about us / the visit we paid to you." Is Timothy the source of this report?

peri + gen. "-" - Reference, "about, concerning [us]"; "people tell of their own accord about the visit we paid to you", Moffatt.

oJpoian acc. pro. "what kind of" - of what sort, what kind of. Interrogative pronoun used in indirect questions; "Namely, what kind of ..."

eisodon (oV) "reception" - coming, entrance / welcome. "What kind of entrance we had to you" = They tell "the story of the welcome you gave us [and our message]", Barclay.

proV + acc. "[you gave us]" - [we had] to, toward [you]. Here expressing association; "with, in company with"; "how we started the work among you", NJB.

pwV "[they tell] how" - During the NT period pwV was beginning to replace the function of oJti such that rather than expressing manner here the particle my be introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the "report", namely "that you turned to God from idols", cf. MHT IV.

epestreyate (epistrefw) aor. "you turned [to God]" - you turned, returned, turned back [to, toward God]. The phrase expresses the act of conversion.

twn eidwlwn (on) "[from] idols" - Images of pagan deities, false gods.

douleuein (douleuw) pres. inf. + dat. "to serve" - The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose, "in order to." With the dative of persons, as here.

zwnti (zaw) dat. pres. part. "the living [and true God]" - a living [and true, real God]. The lack of articles (an anarthrous construction) does not imply that there are other living and true God's; Yahweh alone is living and true. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "God", dative of direct object after the verb "to serve." The God they turned to is the God of the Old Testament. He is a living God, unlike the gods of the heathen who are dead / nothing, and he is a true God, unlike the gods of the heathen who are false. Idols "have no life and therefore do nothing .... and are not real or genuine", Green. These terms may serve to define God in terms of creator. There is some evidence that when evangelizing Gentiles, having first dealt with personal matters / a testimony, the starting point was God the creator, cf. Acts 17:16-34. Even today, this is a good starting point - "There is a God, ......"


anamenein (anamenw) pres. inf. "[and] to wait for" - The infinitive is adverbial, final, expressing purpose; "you turned to God .... in order to wait ..." Hapax legomenon; Paul normally uses the word apekdecesqai, "wait eagerly."

ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - out of, form [heaven]. The preposition here is usually taken to express source / origin, "out of, from." Given that the Son of Man comes from earth to heaven for his enthronement, not the other way around, the preposition here may serve instead of a partitive genitive; "the Son of the heavenly host." None-the-less, "from" is probably intended, given the two other uses of the preposition in this verse, so encapsulating the idea of the coming Son of Man - the one who enacts judgment, rather than the one who comes to earth. We note in Acts that the proclamation of the coming kingdom sometimes focuses on the good news, and sometimes on the bad news, the news concerning the coming day of judgment, thus the call, "repent and believe the gospel." The gospel preaching of the Thessalonians may well have focused on the day of judgment, that terrible coming day, the day when the risen Christ will enact universal judgment. On the other hand, Paul may just be underlining this element of the gospel because it is one of the subjects he wants to address in his letter.

hgeiren (egeirw) aor. "raised [from the dead]" - It is interesting how Paul's Areopagus sermon, which is a gospel presentation to Gentiles, similarly links judgment with Jesus' resurrection from the dead. It is true that with a Jewish audience, the cross, presented in the terms of a sacrifice for sin, can take a lead role when presenting the gospel, but even then the focus is on the fulfilment of prophecy in realization of the kingdom in Jesus and thus the appropriation of the covenant promises for either blessing or cursing. So, a focus on Jesus' resurrection, rather than his cross, is likely to best represent the apostolic kerygma.

ton rJuomenon (rJuomai) pres. part. "who rescues [us]" - the one who delivers, rescues [us]. The participle may be treated as a substantive, forming a noun clause standing in apposition to "Jesus", or as an attributive adjective limiting Jesus; "Jesus who has delivered us ...." "Jesus will save us from God's anger", CEV.

thV ercomenhV (ercomai) pres. part. "[the] coming [wrath]" - The participle is adjectival, limiting "wrath", as NIV. The "wrath" is the wrath / condemnation of God on the day of judgment. Emphatic by position. "Who rescues us from certain doom", Peterson.


1 Thessalonians Introduction


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