Greeting, And Thanksgiving For The State Of The Church At Thessalonica, 1:1-10
1-10. With the briefest salutation found in all his Epistles St Paul, in company with Silvanus and Timothy, greets the Thessalonians Church according to his usual manner. He then stresses his continued interest in them, recalling their faith and love, the circumstances of their conversion, their exemplary conduct, and their well known and widespread reputation as outstanding Christians.
1. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians, in God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The form of address which St Paul adapted in this, the earliest of his letters, was afterwards observed in all his Epistles, though he later enlarged and varied it according to conditions and circumstances.
Paul. In the two Epistles to the Thessalonians, as in the letters to the Philippians and Philemon, St Paul omits his title of ‘apostle,’ because there was no reason to assert his authority in messages so friendly and personal. He also omits here ‘servant of Jesus Christ,’ out of reverence for Silas or Silvanus who after the Council of Jerusalem, was called one of the chief brthren.
Silvanus, always so called by St Paul, but spoken of in Acts as ‘Silas’ (Acts 15-18). He joined St Paul at Antioch (Acts 15:22-23), accompanied him on his second missionary journey, and helped in the foundation fo the Church at Thessalonica (Acts 15:22 ff., 16:19, 29 ff., 17:1-10)
Timothy. See Introduction to 1 Tim., No. I. Of St Paul’s many faithful disciples Timothy seems to have been the one dearest to his heart and most according to his own mind. He wrote of him to the Philippians as follows: “I have noe man so of the same mind, who with sincere affection is solicitous for you. For all seek the things that are their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s (Phil 2:20-21). Timothy was born Lystra in Lycaonia of a Greek father and a Jewish mother, named Unice (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim 1:5). It seems that his father died young, and the child was reared and carefully trained in the Old Testament Scriptures by his devout mother and grandmother. It would appear also that these three embraced Christianity when St Paul preached at Lystra on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6 ff.). Timothy was about sixteen or seventeen years old at this time, and, when Paul revisited Lystra on his second journey, he chose the youthful and devoted convert as a special companion and helper in the work of the Gospel, having first circumcised him to facilitate his work among the Jews, and ordained him by the laying on of hands (Acts 16: 1-3; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7). Thereafter, from the frequent mention of his name in the Acts and in the Epistles, we see that he was almost constantly with the Apostle. Whether or not he was with his master during the latter’s imprisonment at Caesarea and one the voyage thence to Rome, we do not know; but it is certain that he was in the Eternal City while St Paul was imprisoned there the first time, becuase his name appears in the opening verses of the Captivity Epistles-Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was also with the Apostle during the interval between the two Roman imprisonments; for it was at this time that St Paul appointed him Bishop of Ephesus (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., III, iv, 6; Apost. Constit., vii, 46), and left him in charge of that important see. When the Apostle was nearing his end during his second captivity in Rome, he wrote to Timothy to make haste to come to him before winter (2 Tim 1:4; 4:8, 21). After this we know no more about him, save from tradition, according to which he was martyred at Ephesus in his old age for interferring with the celebration of a licentious heathen feast. St Jerome tells us that his body was brought to Constantinople and buried there. His feast, as that of a Martyred Bishop, is celebrated in the Latin Church on January 24. He has been declared a Saint also by the Greek, Armenian, Coptic, and Maronite Churches.
we may get an idea of St Timothy’s character from what is said of him in the Acts and especially in the Epistles, from the duties entrusted to him and the labors performed by him, and from the great love St Paul bore him. He was intelligent, innocent, gentle, timid, and yet sufficiently strong, courageous, and fearless when virtue and religion were at stake. He could not so well brave the rough world and wicked opponents as did St Paul, and yet by the grace of God, thought trembling and naturally fearful, he could go when necessary into the thick of the battle. Paul could always depend upon him to do his best, in spite of his shrinking disposition and delicate health. He was ever the Apostle’s ‘beloved son,’ tried and true, full of faith and hope and love. He had found the more excellent way, and by the grace of God he walked in it throughout his days.
The Church of the Thessalonians. Concerning the city of Thessalonica see here.
In God the Father, etc. The single preposition ‘in’ here shows that to Paul’s mind there was perfect equality in divine nature between the Father and our Lord.
2. Grace be to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for you all; making a remembrance of you in our prayers without ceasing.
Grace…peace. This is Paul’s usual salutation. Grace, God’s special help and favor, is the root and source of our supernatural union with Him and with Christ, and peace is the blessed fruit of that same union.
We give thanks, etc. This is a frequent phrase with St Paul, especially at the beginning of his Epistles, and Egyptian papyri show that similar phrases were used in epistolary greetings in pre-Christian times; with St Paul, however, such words have a spiritual meaning. The Apostle continually thanks God for the spiritual benefits conferred on the saints, and he prays that these blessings may be continued and extended.
Without ceasing, i.e., continually. Some connect this phrase with the following, but it makes better sense to join it to what goes before, as in our version.
3. Being mindful of the work of your faith, and labor, and charity, and of the enduring of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ before God and our Father:
The Apostle now tells why he ‘gives thanks to God’ for the Thessalonians, namely, because of the practical manifestations of their faith, love, and hope-the three theological virtues which constitute the essence of the Christian life (cf. 1 Cor 13:13). Here in his first Epistle St Paul teaches what he teaches always elsewhere, that faith must be conjoined with works, it must be active: “Faith without good works is dead” (James 2:17). The faith of the Thessalonians was manifested in labors of love and in endurance of temporal losses in view of eternal rewards for which they hoped.
4. Knowing, brethren, beloved of God, your election:
The call of the Thessalonians to the faith and to membership in the Church of Christ is another reason why St Paul gives thanks to God. These great spiritual benefits are a sure proof that they are ‘beloved of God,’ i.e., specially favored by God in being selected from among others for faith in Christ. With St Paul call or vocation and election really mean the same thing, namely, admission to the faith and privileges of the Gospel, but call regards rather the terminus ad quem, and election the terminus a quo; the faithful were elected by God to be called to the faith. In St Paul, therefore, both terms have reference to a supernatural gift of God; and in the present text the word ‘election’ has to do with membership in the Church. The question of final salvation is, then, only indirectly touched upon in this place, inasmuch as one who is elected and called is on the way to final salvation.
5. For our gospel hath not been unto you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, as you know what manner of men we have been among you for your sakes.
St Paul here gives a reason for his conviction that the Thessalonians have been admitted to the privilege of faith and grace in the Church of Christ, recalling the circumstances of their conversion; for he and his companions preached the Gospel to them with a ‘power’ and efficacy which only the Holy Ghost could supply, and with an ‘assurance’ that was characteristic of the Apostolic preaching everywhere. This his readers know.
6. And you became followers of us, and of the Lord; receiving the word in much tribulation, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
The election of the Thessalonians was also made manifest in the generous way they received the preaching of the Apostles, in the persecutions they steadfastly endured for the Gospel, and in the holy joy they exhibited amid their trials.
7. So that you were made a pattern to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia.
The result of the whole-hearted response of the Thessalonians to the preaching of the Gospel was that they became an example and a model in faith to all the other Greeks.
Macedonia and Achaia were the two provinces into which the Romans had divided Greece.
8. For from you was spread abroad the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia, and in Achaia, but also in every place your faith which is towards God is gone forth, so that we need not to speak anything.
For from you, etc., i.e., from you city. The international character of Thessalonica made it easy for the faith of the Christians there to become widely known; and this is what Paul means by the somewhat hyperbolical expressions, ‘in every place’ and ‘so that we need not to speak anything.’
9. For they themselves relate to us, what manner of entering in we had unto you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.
For they themselves, etc., i.e., those Christians from ‘every place’ are full of the report of the preaching of Paul and his companions among the Thessalonians, and of the consequent success of the preaching.
How you turned, etc., from the service of pagan gods to that of the true God.
10. And to wait for his Son from heaven (whom he raised up from the dead), Jesus, who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.
The purpose of the conversion of the Thessalonians, like that of all others, was that they might be in readiness for the coming of Christ, our Redeemer and Judge, whether at the hour of death or at the end of the world.
Who hat delivered. Better, ‘who delivereth.’ The present tense indicates that the work of salvation is continuous.
The wrath to come, i.e., God’s chastisement for sin.