FIRST THESSALONIANS CHAPTER ONE

OBSERVATIONS

The purpose of the observation stage is to maintain focus on the text at hand in accordance with the framework in which it was written: a framework which is defined by the normative rules of language, context and logic - rules which do not impose undue, unintended meanings to the text , and which largely limit the observer to the content offered by Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians and his other writings. In order for any passage from elsewhere to be considered, it must have a relationship with the context at hand, such as a Scriptural quotation or a specific cross reference in the passage at hand by the author. This will serve to avoid going on unnecessary tangents elsewhere; and more importantly, it will provide the framework for a proper and objective comparison with passages located elsewhere in Scripture.

 Remember that something elsewhere may be true, but in the text at hand it may not be in view.

Note that information on manuscript evidence is from "THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXT AND TRANSLATION COMMENTARY," by Philip W. Comfort, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Carol Stream, IL.

I) [1 Thes 1:1-10]:

(1 Thes 1:1 NASB) "Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

(1 Thes 1:2 NASB) We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;

(1 Thes 1:3 NKJV) remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

(1 Thes 1:4 NKJV) [having known], beloved brethren, your election by God.

(1 Thes 1:5 NKJV) For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

(1 Thes 1:6 NASB) You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

(1 Thes 1:7 NKJV) so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.

(1 Thes 1:8 NASB) For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.

(1 Thes 1:9 NASB) For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,

(1 Thes 1:10 NASB) and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come."

A) [1 Thes 1:1]:

(1 Thes 1:1 NASB) "Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace."

1) [(1 Thes 1:1) Manuscript Evidence For 1 Thes 1:1]:

(1 Thes 1:1 NASB) "Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace."

WH, NU, B, F, G, Psi, 0278, 1739, it, cop(sa) have "grace to you and peace"

TR, Sinaiticus, A, (D), I, 33, Maj, syr(h**), cop(bo) have "grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"

Had the phrase "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" originally been in the text, there is no good reason to explain why scribes would delete it. Rather, it is easier to understand why it was added. In the introduction to nearly all of his epistles, Paul gave the blessing of grace and peace as coming from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (see Ro 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; 2 Thes 1:2; 1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Phlm 3). Thus, it would seem very unusual to some scribes for it not to be the same here; consequently, the verse was conformed to Pauline style. But Paul chose not to use the expression "God the Father and Lord Jesus Crist" twice in a row (the first part of the verse reads, "to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ"), so he shortened the blessing to "Grace to you and peace."

2) [(1 Thes 1:1) Commentary On 1 Thes 1:1]:

(1 Thes 1:1 NASB) "Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and .. Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace."

Paul evidently wrote this letter to the Thessalonian believers for Silvanus [Silas] and Timothy as well as for himself. For all three had been ministering together to the Thessalonian believers. The letter was sent "to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and ... Lord Jesus Christ." Note that the phrase rendered, "To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and ... Lord Jesus Christ implies that the Two are One. For absent is the definite article accompanying the words "Lord Jesus Christ," thus combining "God the Father" and "Lord Jesus Christ" as one Person under the one preposition "kai," lit., "that is to say." This indicates Jesus' equality with the Father, consequently His deity.

This is followed by the greeting "Grace to you and peace," where grace means unmerited favor - the opposite of works which are merited . Since Paul's readership is believers in the churches at Thessalonica who already have eternal peace with God, (Ro 5:1 ), then it refers to temporal peace with God in the sense of fellowship with God and temporal peace / lack of enmity with man while in their mortal bodies so that they might be of maximum service to the Lord, which Paul prays the believers may experience in their temporal lives.

a) [(1 Thes 1:1) Compare Expositors' Commentary On 1 Thes 1:1]:

(1 Thes 1:1 NASB) "Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalo nians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace."

"This salutation follows the form Paul used in all his Epistles and is in the same style as that of other letters of his time. It contains three elements: the writer, the recipient, and the greeting or salutation proper.

The first element of this particular salutation contains not one, but three names: Paul, Silas (Silvanus), and Timothy. "Paul" is a Greek name meaning "little." In Acts Luke preserves the Hebrew name "Saul" up to the point of the apostle's encounter with the Roman official Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:9) and also when he reports Paul's calling himself "Saul" when he retold his experience on the Damascus Road (Acts 22:7, 13; 26:14).

Obviously absent is the official title "apostle" Paul used in all his other Epistles to churches except 2 Thessalonians and Philippians. A reasonable explanation of this is that no note of authority was necessary in letters addressed to the Macedonian churches, where his apostolic position never seems to have been questioned as it was elsewhere (e.g., Galatia, Corinth). This is not to say that there was no opposition to Paul in Thessalonica. On the contrary, that there was opposition is evident from his self-vindication (1 Thess 2-3). The opposition, however, never became overt as in other places and never specifically attacked his right to apostleship.

The second name included among the writers is that of Silas. The spelling found in v. 1 is actually "Silvanus," probably the Roman transliteration of the Jewish name given the Greek transliteration "Silas." In Acts, Luke consistently uses "Silas" (Acts 15:22, 27, 32, 34, 40; 16:19, 25, 29; 17:4, 10, 14, 15; 18:5); Paul always uses "Silvanus" (2 Cor 1:19; 2 Thess 1:1). At any rate, this colleague of Paul was most likely a Jew by birth, a gifted prophet, and highly esteemed among the Jerusalem Christians (Acts 15:22, 32). That he inclined toward the Hellenistic wing of Palestinian Christianity is supported on several grounds, such as, his hearty concurrence with the Jerusalem Council's decision concerning Gentile believers (Acts 15:22-32), his Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37), and his being chosen as Paul's fellow worker on the second missionary journey (Acts 15:40-18:6). After the mission in Corinth, we find no further word of Silas's connection with Paul. He probably became associated with Peter, especially in the composition and sending of 1 Peter (1 Peter 5:12).

As an associate in the founding of the Thessalonian church, he endured cruel beatings, imprisonment, and pursuit by an angry mob (Acts 16:23-25, 17:5). Silas was known for his absolute reliability and his faithfulness in risking his life in the service of Christ (Acts 15:25-27).

Paul's other colleague at this time was Timothy. This young man, having helped in Philippi, had apparently remained behind when Paul had left that city (Acts 16:40). His name is not included in the account of the founding of the Thessalonian church (Acts 17:1-10), but he presumably joined Paul and Silas at Thessalonica later. (For further information about Timothy, see the commentaries on 1 Timothy and on 2 Timothy).

The second element in the salutation is the reference to the recipient of the letter—"the church of the Thessalonians who are in God the Father and ... [Note the definite article is NOT in the original text] Lord Jesus Christ." "ekklesia" ("church," "assembly") was the term applied to many types of public gatherings in the ancient Roman world, whether civil or religious. From this general sense, which is found also in LXX, there developed the technical meaning of an assembly of believers in Christ. The development of a technical meaning did not come at once, however. In fact, the earliest occurrence of the word in Acts is in 5:11 ("ekklesia" in TR at Acts 2:47 is not found in more reliable MSS). Some have suggested that by the time this first Epistle was written, the word was still general and needed qualifying ("in God the Father and ... [Note the definite article is NOT in the original text] Lord Jesus Christ") to distinguish it from other assemblies in the city (Frame, pp. 68, 69). They argue in this connection that Paul saw no need to identify "ekklesia" thus in his later salutations (cf. also 1 Thess 2:14). But, contrary to this explanation, James used the word at an earlier date (c. A.D. 47) without qualification (James 5:14).

Some have not admitted this narrower scope of "ekklesia," on the grounds that the NT church is merely a development of the OT church and that they find in Acts 7:38 and Hebrews 2:12 a technical use of "ekklesia" for God's people in the OT (cf. Deut 4:10; 23:2 and elsewhere in LXX where the word depicts Israel as a community). This reasoning, however, does not allow for the special use of the word in the NT in its preponderant reference to people from all races in the body of Christ beginning with Pentecost. This people is always distinguished from Israel and her ongoing purpose in God's plan.

In general usage, "ekklesia" had lost some of its etymological force of "called out." Yet there is good possibility that something of this meaning pertains to the special group composing the Christian church (Acts 15:14; Rom 9:24). They are "called out" from previous relationships so as to constitute a body with special relation to God (cf. 1 Cor 10:32).

Sometimes "ekklesia" designates all Christendom and is a synonym for the body of Christ (Col 1:18, 24). At other times it is a particular assembly in a particular location (Rom 16:5; 1Cor 16:19; Col 4:15). Elsewhere, as here, it denotes all the assemblies in a single city (Rom 16:1; 1Cor 1:2).

"In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" tells of the spiritual quality of the believers. The translation of the phrase by the relative clause "who are in God the Father" gives more particularized information as to which "ekklesia" Paul addresses within the city. It is not a pagan or nonreligious assembly (cf. "God the Father"). It is not a Jewish assembly (cf. "the Lord Jesus Christ"). It is distinctly "in Christ Jesus" (2:14). Being in union with the Father and Christ meant a new sphere of life, on an infinitely higher plane.

It should not be overlooked that the deity of the Son is taught here. Combining "God the Father" and "... [Note the definite article is NOT in the original text] Lord Jesus Christ" under one preposition demonstrates Jesus' equality with the Father and consequently his deity. To deny this fact (Best, p. 63) is to approach v. 1 in an unnatural way, especially in light of kyrio ("Lord"—frequently used in reference to deity) and Christo ("Christ"— the title of Israel's divine Messiah).

"Grace to you and peace" (the Greek word order) recalls the normal Greek and Hebrew greetings. Paul coined a slight variation to connote the deepened Christian meaning. Charis ("grace") goes beyond chairein ("greetings"; cf. Acts 15:23; 23:26; James 1:1) in highlighting unmerited benefits given by God to the believer in Christ. Through grace lost men are saved from their sins in the eyes of a holy God by a transaction completely free of charge. Grace, however, does not cease at the point of salvation. It continually issues in privileges. These the writer wishes for his readers.

One of these benefits is reflected in "peace" (cf. Judg 19:20) but with a deeper meaning than among the ancient Hebrews. Differences separating God from his creatures had for centuries worked against peaceful relationships, but with the entrance of grace in its fullness through the coming of Christ (John 1:17) the ultimate basis for resolving this conflict and establishing harmony between God and man was laid. Because of this harmony man can also enjoy inward wholeness and tranquility.

B) [1 Thes 1:2-4]:

(1 Thes 1:2 NASB) "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;

(1 Thes 1:3 NKJV) remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

(1 Thes 1:4 NKJV) [having known], beloved brethren, your election by God."

1) [(1 Thes 1:2-4) Commentary On 1 Thes 1:2-4]:

(1 Thes 1:2 NASB) "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;

(1 Thes 1:3 NKJV) remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

(1 Thes 1:4 NKJV) [having known], beloved brethren, your election by God."

Paul  writing for himself, Silas and Timothy states in verse 2, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you [the believers in the church at Thessalonica] in our prayers:" indicating that it is God Whom they thanked for the spiritual progress of the believers of the church in Thessalonica - and of all believers. For a believer's spiritual progress is attributed to God through His grace to each believer as they themselves participate at the direction of the Spirit of God within them in accordance with the knowledge each believer has received via studying God's Word.

Then in 1 Thes 1:3-4, Paul completes his thought with, (v. 2):"We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; (vv. 3-4):  remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, [having known], beloved brethren, your election by God." So Paul, Silas and Timothy evidently are in constant remembrance of the believers in Thessalonica with respect to their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, [having known], beloved brethren, [their] election by God." Notice that it is by God's election before Creation that the Thessalonian believers' progress in their work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father came to pass in the first place; albeit they participated in their spiritual growth through the direction of the Holy Spirit in them via their understanding of the doctrines of the faith through their faithfulness in studying God's Word via the grace perception of the words of God through the grace of God the Holy Spirit, their Teacher.

C) [1 Thes 1:5-10)]:

(1 Thes 1:5 NKJV) "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

(1 Thes 1:6 NASB) You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

(1 Thes 1:7 NKJV) so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.

(1 Thes 1:8 NASB) For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.

(1 Thes 1:9 NASB) For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,

(1 Thes 1:10 NASB) and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come."

1) [(1 Thes 1:5) Manuscript Evidence For 1 Thes 1:5]:

(1 Thes 1:5 NKJV) "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake."

Most witnesses affirm the reading rendered "our gospel" an expression that appears only in two other places in Paul's epistles - 2 Cor 4:3; 2 Thes 2:14. Disturbed, perhaps, by Paul calling the gospel "our gospel," one scribe (C) changed it to render "the gospel of God" and another (Sinaiticus*) to render "the gospel of our God"). But Paul also had a habit of calling the gospel "my gospel" or "the gospel I preach" in an effort to affirm the apostolic authority of his gospel message (Ro 2:16; Gal 1:11).

2) [(1 Thes 1:6) Manuscript Evidence For 1 Thes 1:6]:

(1 Thes 1:6 NASB) "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,"

Most manuscripts read that which is rendered "with joy of the Holy Spirit" i.e., "with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit." B and a few Vulgate MSS read "with joy and the Holy Spirit," which produces the translation, "you received the word in much affliction with joy and with the Holy Spirit."

3) [(1 Thes 1:7) Manuscript Evidence For 1 Thes 1:7]:

(1 Thes 1:7 NKJV) so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.

WH, NU, B, D*, 33, 1739, it, syr(p) have "you [plural], became an example."

TR, Sinaiticus, A, C, D(2), F, G, Psi, 0278, Maj, syr(h) have "you [plural], became examples."

The textual evidence for the two readings is evenly divided. The WH, NU reading affirms the truth that the Thessalonians as a corporate body were an example to be emulated by all the believers in Macedonia. The variant reading presents the view that the individual believers in Thessalonica were examples to all the believers in Macedonia.

4) [(1 Thes 1:5-10) Commentary On 1 Thes 1:5-10]:

(1 Thes 1:2 NASB) "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;

(1 Thes 1:3 NKJV) remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

(1 Thes 1:4 NKJV) [having known], beloved brethren, your election by God.

(1 Thes 1:5 NKJV) For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

(1 Thes 1:6 NASB) You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

(1 Thes 1:7 NKJV) so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.

(1 Thes 1:8 NASB) For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.

(1 Thes 1:9 NASB) For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,

(1 Thes 1:10 NASB) and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come."


So keeping in view the context of 1 Thes 1:2-4, especially relative to God's election in verse 4, Who [God] which [His election] resulted in verse 3 in the Thessalonian believers' "work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father;" Paul writes as follows in verses 5-10:

1 Thes 5-6 reports that the believers in Thessalonica became imitators of Paul, Silas and Timothy. Not only did Paul and his traveling companions preach a convincing message that the believers readily received by the grace and election of God, but they also lived lives consistent with that message, emulating the lives of their teachers, Paul, Silas and Timothy. And then the Thessalonian believers became imitators of the Lord Himself. Having received the word, i.e., teachings from God's Word through the three missionaries, they were subjected to much tribulation yet they reacted to it with joy through the working within them of God the Holy Spirit. For it was the Spirit within them Who prompted and enabled them to express godly faith and behavior, Who prompted their joyous reception which accompanied their positive acceptance of God's message and their endeavor to imitate Paul, Silas and Timothy and most importantly endeavoring to imitate the Lord Himself. This is corroborated by 2 Thes 1:3-5 where it is indicated that Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian believers' positive response to Paul's, Silas' and Timothy's teaching, for their faith and faithfulness, their perseverance and joy while under severe tribulation as they shared their faith throughout the region; and their love for one another. So one may conclude that the progress that these remarkable believers made was all by their enablement through the grace of God, albeit through the volition of the believers themselves. 

Then in 1 Thes 1:7 it indicates that as a result of what God by His grace was working within the believers of Thessalonica, Paul stipulated that the Thessalonian believers became examples to all the believers in the rest of Macedonia and Achaia, the neighboring province to the south and "everywhere" in the surrounding regions, even throughout the world through the dissemination of the New Testament Greek Bible.

Whereupon 1 Thes 1:8-10 further elaborates upon the Thessalonian's godly influence around the region as follows:

(v. 8): "For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything,"

[in the sense that the faithfulness of the believers in Thessalonica spoke for itself, not requiring anyone to commend and speak of them as examples to others. For the Thessalonian believers themselves sounded out the gospel to others. They were commendably outspoken in their witness; multiplying the voices presenting the gospel to others everywhere in the surrounding regions. And as they boldly presented to gospel they exemplified to all, that they had experienced salvation through their faithfulness to the gospel in their personal lives; all the while persevering through persecution]:

(v. 9a): "For they themselves [all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia and everywhere else [in the region] report about us [Paul, Silas and Timothy] what kind of a reception we had with you,"

[in the sense that the believers in Macedonia and Achaia and everywhere else have reported about the great response / reception / acceptance of the teachings of Paul, Silas and Timothy]

(v. 9b) "and how [they] turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,"

[in the sense of how the believers in Thessalonica responded to the teaching which they received so remarkably, so that they evidently quickly turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God]

(v. 10) "and to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, Who rescues us from the wrath to come,"

[in the sense of the believers at Thessalonica waiting for God's Son, Jesus Christ, to come from heaven to the clouds above the earth, to rescue the Thessalonian believers [and all believers in Christ throughout the Church Age] catching them up to the clouds and bringing them all back to heaven with Himself - both dead and alive in Christ -  away from the wrath of God just before that wrath will come upon the earth to be directed toward all of unbelieving mankind, (ref. 1 Thes 4:13-18 )]