After the introduction
(1 Thessalonians 1:1)
the apostle begins with a thanksgiving to God for the saving benefits
bestowed on them,
1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.
And then mentions the sure evidences of the good success of the gospel
among them, which was notorious and famous in several other places,
1 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
Inscription and Apostolical Salutation.
A. D. 51.
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the
Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord
Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our
Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this introduction we have,
I. The inscription, where we have,
1. The persons from whom this epistle came, or by whom it was written.
Paul was the inspired apostle and writer of this epistle, though he
makes no mention of his apostleship, which was not doubted of by the
Thessalonians, nor opposed by any false apostle among them. He joins
Silvanus (or Silas) and Timotheus with himself (who had now come to him
with an account of the prosperity of the churches in Macedonia), which
shows this great apostle's humility, and how desirous he was to put
honour upon the ministers of Christ who were of an inferior rank and
standing. A good example this is to such ministers as are of greater
abilities and reputation in the church than some others.
2. The persons to whom this epistle is written, namely, the church of
the Thessalonians, the converted Jews and Gentiles in Thessalonica; and
it is observable that this church is said to be in God the Father
and in the Lord Jesus Christ; they had fellowship with the Father,
and his Son Jesus Christ,
1 John 1:3.
They were a Christian church, because they believed in God the Father
and in the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed the principles both of
natural and revealed religion. The Gentiles among them were turned to
God from idols, and the Jews among them believed Jesus to be the
promised Messias. All of them were devoted and dedicated to God the
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: to God as their chief good and
highest end, to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Mediator between God and
man. God the Father is the original centre of all natural religion; and
Jesus Christ is the author and centre of all revealed religion. You
believe in God, says our Saviour, believe also in me.
II. The salutation or apostolical benediction: Grace be with you,
and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is
the same for substance as in the other epistles. Grace and peace are
well joined together; for the free grace or favour of God is the spring
or fountain of all the peace and prosperity we do or can enjoy; and
where there are gracious dispositions in us we may hope for peaceful
thoughts in our own breasts; both grace and peace, and all spiritual
blessings, come to us from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;
from God the original of all good, and from the Lord Jesus the
purchaser of all good for us; from God in Christ, and so our Father in
covenant, because he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Note, As all good comes from God, so no good can be hoped for by
sinners but from God in Christ. And the best good may be expected from
God as our Father for the sake of Christ.
Thanksgiving to God.
A. D. 51.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of
you in our prayers;
3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of
love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight
of God and our Father;
4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in
power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know
what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
I. The apostle begins with thanksgiving to God. Being about to mention
the things that were matter of joy to him, and highly praiseworthy in
them, and greatly for their advantage, he chooses to do this by way of
thanksgiving to God, who is the author of all that good that comes to
us, or is done by us, at any time. God is the object of all religious
worship, of prayer and praise. And thanksgiving to God is a great duty,
to be performed always or constantly; even when we do not actually give
thanks to God by our words, we should have a grateful sense of God's
goodness upon our minds. Thanksgiving should be often repeated; and not
only should we be thankful for the favours we ourselves receive, but
for the benefits bestowed on others also, upon our fellow-creatures and
fellow-christians. The apostle gave thanks not only for those who were
his most intimate friends, or most eminently favoured of God, but for
II. He joined prayer with his praise or thanksgiving. When we in every
thing by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God, we
should join thanksgiving therewith,
So when we give thanks for any benefit we receive we should join
prayer. We should pray always and without ceasing, and should pray not
only for ourselves, but for others also, for our friends, and should
make mention of them in our prayers. We may sometimes mention their
names, and should make mention of their case and condition; at least,
we should have their persons and circumstances in our minds,
remembering them without ceasing. Note, As there is much that we ought
to be thankful for on the behalf of ourselves and our friends, so there
is much occasion of constant prayer for further supplies of good.
III. He mentions the particulars for which he was so thankful to God;
1. The saving benefits bestowed on them. These were the grounds and
reasons of his thanksgiving.
(1.) Their faith and their work of faith. Their faith he tells them
(1 Thessalonians 1:8)
was very famous, and spread abroad. This is the radical grace; and
their faith was a true and living faith, because a working faith.
Note, Wherever there is a true faith, it will work: it will have an
influence upon heart and life; it will put us upon working for God and
for our own salvation. We have comfort in our own faith and the faith
of others when we perceive the work of faith. Show me thy faith by
(2.) Their love and labour of love. Love is one of the cardinal graces;
it is of great use to us in this life and will remain and be perfected
in the life to come. Faith works by love; it shows itself in the
exercise of love to God and love to our neighbour; as love will show
itself by labour, it will put us upon taking pains in religion.
(3.) Their hope and the patience of hope. We are saved by hope.
This grace is compared to the soldier's helmet and sailor's anchor, and
is of great use in times of danger. Wherever there is a well-grounded
hope of eternal life, it will appear by the exercise of patience; in a
patient bearing of the calamities of the present time and a patient
waiting for the glory to be revealed. For, if we hope for that we
see not, then do we with patience wait for it,
2. The apostle not only mentions these three cardinal graces, faith,
hope and love, but also takes notice,
(1.) Of the object and efficient cause of these graces, namely, our
Lord Jesus Christ.
(2.) Of the sincerity of them: being in the sight of God even our
Father. The great motive to sincerity is the apprehension of God's
eye as always upon us; and it is a sign of sincerity when in all we do
we endeavour to approve ourselves to God, and that is right which is so
in the sight of God. Then is the work of faith, or labour of love, or
patience of hope, sincere, when it is done under the eye of God.
(3.) He mentions the fountain whence these graces flow, namely, God's
electing love: Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God,
1 Thessalonians 1:4.
Thus he runs up these streams to the fountain, and that was God's
eternal election. Some by their election of God would understand only
the temporary separation of the Thessalonians from the unbelieving Jews
and Gentiles in their conversion; but this was according to the
eternal purpose of him who worketh all things according to the
counsel of his own will,
Speaking of their election, he calls them, brethren beloved; for
the original of the brotherhood that is between Christians and the
relation wherein they stand one to another is election. And it is a
good reason why we should love one another, because we are all
beloved of God, and were beloved of him in his counsels when there was
not any thing in us to merit his love. The election of these
Thessalonians was known to the apostles, and therefore might be known
to themselves, and that by the fruits and effects thereof--their
sincere faith, and hope, and love, by the successful preaching of the
gospel among them. Observe,
[1.] All those who in the fulness of time are effectually called and
sanctified were from eternity elected and chosen to salvation.
[2.] The election of God is of his own good pleasure and mere grace,
not for the sake of any merit in those who are chosen.
[3.] The election of God may be known by the fruits thereof.
[4.] Whenever we are giving thanks to God for his grace either to
ourselves or others, we should run up the streams to the fountain, and
give thanks to God for his electing love, by which we are made to
3. Another ground or reason of the apostle's thanksgiving is the
success of his ministry among them. He was thankful on his own account
as well as theirs, that he had not laboured in vain. He had the seal
and evidence of his apostleship hereby, and great encouragement in his
labours and sufferings. Their ready acceptance and entertainment of the
gospel he preached to them were an evidence of their being elected and
beloved of God. It was in this way that he knew their election. It is
true he had been in the third heavens; but he had not searched the
records of eternity, and found their election there, but knew this by
the success of the gospel among them
(1 Thessalonians 1:5),
and he takes notice with thankfulness,
(1.) That the gospel came to them also not in word only, but in power;
they not only heard the sound of it, but submitted to the power of it.
It did not merely tickle the ear and please the fancy, not merely fill
their heads with notions and amuse their minds for awhile, but it
affected their hearts: a divine power went along with it for convincing
their consciences and amending their lives. Note, By this we may know
our election, if we not only speak of the things of God by rote as
parrots, but feel the influence of these things in our hearts,
mortifying our lusts, weaning us from the world, and raising us up to
(2.) It came in the Holy Ghost, that is, with the powerful energy of
the divine Spirit. Note, Wherever the gospel comes in power, it is to
be attributed to the operation of the Holy Ghost; and unless the Spirit
of God accompany the word of God, to render it effectual by his power,
it will be to us but as a dead letter; and the letter killeth, it is
the Spirit that giveth life.
(3.) The gospel came to them in much assurance. Thus did they entertain
it by the power of the Holy Ghost. They were fully convinced of the
truth of it, so as not to be easily shaken in mind by objections and
doubts; they were willing to leave all for Christ, and to venture their
souls and everlasting condition upon the verity of the gospel
revelation. The word was not to them, like the sentiments of some
philosophers about matters of opinion and doubtful speculation, but the
object of their faith and assurance. Their faith was the evidence
of things not seen; and the Thessalonians thus knew what manner of
men the apostle and his fellow-labourers were among them, and what they
did for their sake, and with what good success.
Evidence of the Apostle's Success.
A. D. 51.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having
received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia
8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in
Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to
God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any
9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we
had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the
living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the
dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
In these words we have the evidence of the apostle's success among the
Thessalonians, which was notorious and famous in several places.
I. They were careful in their holy conversation to imitate the good
examples of the apostles and ministers of Christ,
1 Thessalonians 1:6.
As the apostle took care to demean himself well, not only for his own
credit's sake, but for the benefit of others, by a conversation
suitable to his doctrine, that he might not pull down with one hand
what he built up with the other, so the Thessalonians, who observed
what manner of men they were among them, how their preaching and living
were all of a piece, showed a conscientious care to be followers of
them, or to imitate their good example. Herein they became also
followers of the Lord, who is the perfect example we must strive to
imitate; and we should be followers of others no further than they are
followers of Christ,
1 Corinthians 11:1.
The Thessalonians acted thus, notwithstanding their affliction, that
much affliction which the apostles and themselves also were exposed to.
They were willing to share in the sufferings that attended the
embracing and professing of Christianity. They entertained the gospel,
notwithstanding the troubles and hardships which attended the preachers
and professors of it too. Perhaps this made the word more precious,
being dear--bought; and the examples of the apostles shone very bright
under their afflictions; so that the Thessalonians embraced the word
cheerfully, and followed the example of the suffering apostles
joyfully, with joy in the Holy Ghost--such solid and spiritual
and lasting joy as the Holy Ghost is the author of, who, when our
afflictions abound, makes our consolations much more to abound.
II. Their zeal prevailed to such a degree that they were themselves
examples to all about them,
1 Thessalonians 1:7,8.
1. Their example was very effectual to make good impressions upon many
others. They were typoi--stamps, or instruments to
make impression with. They had themselves received good impressions
from the preaching and conversation of the apostles, and they made good
impressions, and their conversation had an influence upon others. Note,
Christians should be so good as by their example to influence
2. It was very extensive, and reached beyond the confines of
Thessalonica, even to the believers of all Macedonia, and further, in
Achaia; the Philippians, and others who received the gospel before the
Thessalonians, were edified by their example. Note, Some who were last
hired into the vineyard may sometimes outstrip those who come in before
them, and become examples to them.
3. It was very famous. The word of the Lord, or its wonderful effects
upon the Thessalonians, sounded, or was famous and well known, in the
regions round about that city, and in every place; not strictly
every where, but here and there, up and down in the world: so that,
from the good success of the gospel among them, many others were
encouraged to entertain it, and to be willing, when called, to suffer
for it. Their faith was spread abroad.
(1.) The readiness of their faith was famed abroad. These
Thessalonians embraced the gospel as soon as it was preached to them;
so that every body took notice what manner of entering in among them
the apostles had, that there were no such delays as at Philippi, where
it was a great while before much good was done.
(2.) The effects of their faith were famous.
[1.] They quitted their idolatry; they turned from their idols, and
abandoned all the false worship they had been educated in.
[2.] They gave themselves up to God, to the living and true God, and
devoted themselves to his service.
[3.] They set themselves to wait for the Son of God from heaven,
1 Thessalonians 1:10.
And this is one of the peculiarities of our holy religion, to wait for
Christ's second coming, as those who believe he will come and hope he
will come to our joy. The believers under the Old Testament waited for
the coming of the Messiah, and believers now wait for his second
coming; he is yet to come. And there is good reason to believe he will
come, because God has raised him from the dead, which is full assurance
unto all men that he will come to judgment,
And there is good reason to hope and wait for his coming, because he
has delivered us from the wrath to come. He came to purchase salvation,
and will, when he comes again, bring salvation with him, full and final
deliverance from sin, and death, and hell, from that wrath which is yet
to come upon unbelievers, and which, when it has once come, will be yet
to come, because it is everlasting fire prepared for the devil
and his angels,
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '1 Thessalonians' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".