Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. times--the general and indefinite term for chronological periods.
seasons--the opportune times
Time denotes quantity; season, quality. Seasons
are parts of times.
ye have no need--those who watch do not need to be told when the
hour will come, for they are always ready [BENGEL].
cometh--present: expressing its speedy and awful
2. as a thief in the night--The apostles in this image follow the
parable of their Lord, expressing how the Lord's coming shall take men
"The night is wherever there is quiet unconcern"
[BENGEL]. "At midnight" (perhaps figurative: to
some parts of the earth it will be literal night),
The thief not only gives no notice of his approach but takes all
precaution to prevent the household knowing of it. So the Lord
Signs will precede the coming, to confirm the patient hope of
the watchful believer; but the coming itself shall be sudden at last
Lu 21:25-32, 35).
3. they--the men of the world.
1Th 5:5, 6;
"others," all the rest of the world save Christians.
(Jud 18:7, 9, 27, 28;
then--at the very moment when they least expect it. Compare the
case of Belshazzar,
Da 5:1-5, 6, 9, 26-28;
as travail--"As the labor pang" comes in an instant on the woman
when otherwise engaged
shall not escape--Greek, "shall not at all escape." Another awful
feature of their ruin: there shall be then no possibility of shunning it
however they desire it
(Am 9:2, 3;
Re 6:15, 16).
4. not in darkness--not in darkness of understanding (that is,
spiritual ignorance) or of the moral nature
(that is, a state of sin),
that--Greek, "in order that"; with God results are all
that day--Greek, "THE day"; the
day of the Lord
"the day"), in contrast to "darkness."
as a thief--The two oldest manuscripts read, "as (the daylight
Old manuscripts and Vulgate read as English Version.
5. The oldest manuscripts read, "FOR ye are
all," &c. Ye have no reason for fear, or for being taken by surprise,
by the coming of the day of the Lord: "For ye are all sons (so
the Greek) of light and sons of day"; a Hebrew idiom,
implying that as sons resemble their fathers, so you are in
character light (intellectually and morally illuminated in a
spiritual point of view),
are not of--that is, belong not to night nor darkness. The change
of person from "ye" to "we" implies this: Ye are sons of light
because ye are Christians; and we, Christians, are not of night nor
6. others--Greek, "the rest" of the world: the unconverted
"Sleep" here is worldly apathy to spiritual things
ordinary sleep; in
watch--for Christ's coming; literally, "be wakeful." The same
Greek occurs in
be sober--refraining from carnal indulgence, mental or sensual
7. This verse is to be taken in the literal sense. Night is the
time when sleepers sleep, and drinking men are drunk. To sleep by day
would imply great indolence; to be drunken by day, great shamelessness.
Now, in a spiritual sense, "we Christians profess to be day people, not
night people; therefore our work ought to be day work, not night work;
our conduct such as will bear the eye of day, and such has no need of
the veil of night" [EDMUNDS],
8. Faith, hope, and love, are the three pre-eminent graces
We must not only be awake and sober, but also armed; not only
watchful, but also guarded. The armor here is only defensive; in
also offensive. Here, therefore, the reference is to the
Christian means of being guarded against being surprised by the
day of the Lord as a thief in the night. The helmet and
breastplate defend the two vital parts, the head and the heart
respectively. "With head and heart right, the whole man is right"
[EDMUNDS]. The head needs to be kept from error,
the heart from sin. For "the breastplate of righteousness,"
we have here "the breastplate of faith and love"; for the righteousness
which is imputed to man for justification, is "faith working by love"
(Ro 4:3, 22-24;
"Faith," as the motive within, and "love," exhibited in
outward acts, constitute the perfection of righteousness.
the helmet is "salvation"; here, "the hope of salvation." In one
aspect "salvation" is a present possession
in another, it is a matter of "hope"
(Ro 8:24, 25).
Our Head primarily wore the "breastplate of righteousness" and "helmet
of salvation," that we might, by union with Him, receive both.
9. For--assigning the ground of our "hopes"
appointed us--Translate, "set"
in His everlasting purpose of love
to--that is, unto wrath.
to obtain--Greek, "to the acquisition of salvation";
said, according to BENGEL, Of One saved out of a
general wreck, when all things else have been lost: so of the elect
saved out of the multitude of the lost
(2Th 2:13, 14).
The fact of God's "appointment" of His grace "through Jesus Christ"
takes away the notion of our being able to "acquire" salvation of
ourselves. Christ "acquired (so the Greek for 'purchased')
the Church (and its salvation) with His own blood"
each member is said to be appointed by God to the "acquiring of
salvation." In the primary sense, God does the work; in the secondary
sense, man does it.
10. died for us--Greek, "in our behalf."
whether we wake or sleep--whether we be found at Christ's coming
awake, that is, alive, or asleep, that is, in our graves.
together--all of us together; the living not
preceding the dead in their glorification "with Him" at His coming
11. comfort yourselves--Greek, "one another." Here he
reverts to the same consolatory strain as in
edify one another--rather as Greek, "edify (ye) the one
the other"; "edify," literally, "build up," namely, in faith, hope, and
love, by discoursing together on such edifying topics as the Lord's
coming, and the glory of the saints
12. beseech--"Exhort" is the expression in
here, "we beseech you," as if it were a personal favor (Paul making the
cause of the Thessalonian presbyters, as it were, his own).
know--to have a regard and respect for. Recognize their office, and
treat them accordingly (compare
with reverence and with liberality in supplying their needs
The Thessalonian Church having been newly planted, the ministers were
which may have been in part the cause of the people's treating them
with less respect. Paul's practice seems to have been to ordain elders
in every Church soon after its establishment
them which labour . . . are over . . . admonish
you--not three classes of ministers, but one, as there is but one
article common to the three in the Greek. "Labor" expresses
their laborious life; "are over you," their pre-eminence as presidents
or superintendents ("bishops," that is, overseers,
"them that have rule over you," literally, leaders,
"pastors," literally, shepherds,
"admonish you," one of their leading functions; the Greek is
"put in mind," implying not arbitrary authority, but gentle, though
(2Ti 2:14, 24, 25;
in the Lord--Their presidency over you is in divine things; not
in worldly affairs, but in things appertaining to the Lord.
13. very highly--Greek, "exceeding abundantly."
for their work's sake--The high nature of their work alone, the
furtherance of your salvation and of the kingdom of Christ, should be a
sufficient motive to claim your reverential love. At the same time, the
word "work," teaches ministers that, while claiming the reverence due to
their office, it is not a sinecure, but a "work"; compare "labor"
(even to weariness: so the Greek),
be at peace among yourselves--The "and" is not in the original. Let
there not only be peace between ministers and their flocks, but also no
party rivalries among yourselves, one contending in behalf of some one
favorite minister, another in behalf of another
1Co 1:12; 4:6).
14. brethren--This exhortation to "warm (Greek,
'admonish,' as in
the unruly (those 'disorderly' persons,
2Th 3:6, 11,
who would not work, and yet expected to be maintained, literally, said
of soldiers who will not remain in their ranks, compare
also those insubordinate as to Church discipline, in relation to those
'over' the Church,
comfort the feeble-minded (the faint-hearted, who are ready to
sink 'without hope' in afflictions,
and temptations)," applies to all clergy and laity alike, though
primarily the duty of the clergy (who are meant in
support--literally, "lay fast hold on so as to support."
the weak--spiritually. Paul practiced what he preached
be patient toward all men--There is no believer who needs not the
exercise of patience "toward" him; there is none to whom a believer
ought not to show it; many show it more to strangers than to their own
families, more to the great than to the humble; but we ought to show it
"toward all men" [BENGEL].
Compare "the long-suffering of our Lord"
unto any man--whether unto a Christian, or a heathen, however
great the provocation.
follow--as a matter of earnest pursuit.
16, 17. In order to "rejoice evermore," we must "pray without
He who is wont to thank God for all things as happening for the best,
will have continuous joy [THEOPHYLACT].
Php 4:4, 6,
"Rejoice in the Lord . . . by prayer and supplication
"in the Holy Ghost";
"in being counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's name";
in falling "into divers temptations."
17. The Greek is, "Pray without intermission"; without
allowing prayerless gaps to intervene between the times of prayer.
18. In every thing--even what seems adverse: for nothing is
really so (compare
See Christ's example
(Mt 15:36; 26:27;
this--That ye should "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing,
(and) in every thing give thanks," "is the will of God in Christ Jesus
(as the Mediator and Revealer of that will, observed by those who are
in Christ by faith, compare
concerning you." God's will is the believer's law.
LACHMANN rightly reads commas at the end of the
making "this" refer to all three.
19. Quench not--the Spirit being a holy fire: "where the Spirit
is, He burns" [BENGEL]
Ac 2:3; 7:51).
Do not throw cold water on those who, under extraordinary inspiration
of the Spirit, stand up to speak with tongues, or reveal mysteries, or
pray in the congregation. The enthusiastic exhibitions of some (perhaps
as to the nearness of Christ's coming, exaggerating Paul's statement,
By spirit), led others (probably the presiding ministers, who
had not always been treated with due respect by enthusiastic novices,
from dread of enthusiasm, to discourage the free utterances of those
really inspired, in the Church assembly. On the other hand, the caution
was needed, not to receive "all" pretended revelations as divine,
without "proving" them.
20. prophesyings--whether exercised in inspired teaching, or in
predicting the future. "Despised" by some as beneath "tongues," which
seemed most miraculous; therefore declared by Paul to be a greater gift
than tongues, though the latter were more showy
21, 22. Some of the oldest manuscripts insert "But." You ought indeed
not to "quench" the manifestations of "the Spirit," nor "despise
prophesyings"; "but," at the same time, do not take "all" as genuine
which professes to be so; "prove (test) all" such manifestations. The
means of testing them existed in the Church, in those who had the
"discerning of spirits"
(1Co 12:10; 14:29;
Another sure test, which we also have, is, to try the professed
revelation whether it accords with Scripture, as the noble Bereans did
Ga 1:8, 9).
This precept negatives the Romish priest's assumption of infallibly
laying down the law, without the laity having the right, in the
exercise of private judgment, to test it by Scripture. LOCKE says, Those who are for laying aside reason in
matters of revelation, resemble one who would put out his eyes
in order to use a telescope.
hold fast that which is good--Join this clause with the next clause
not merely with the sentence preceding. As the result of your "proving
all things," and especially all prophesyings, "hold fast
the good, and hold yourselves aloof from every appearance of
evil" ("every evil species" [BENGEL and
WAHL]). Do not accept even a professedly
spirit-inspired communication, if it be at variance with the truth
22. TITTMANN supports English Version, "from every evil
appearance" or "semblance." The context, however, does not refer to
IN OURSELVES which we ought to abstain from, but to
holding ourselves aloof from every evil appearance
IN OTHERS; as for
instance, in the pretenders to spirit-inspired prophesyings. In many
cases the Christian should not abstain from what has the
semblance ("appearance") of evil, though really good. Jesus healed
on the sabbath, and ate with publicans and sinners, acts which wore the
appearance of evil, but which were not to be abstained from on that
account, being really good. I agree with
TITTMANN rather than with
ALFORD follows. The context favors this sense: However
specious be the form or outward appearance of such would-be
prophets and their prophesyings, hold yourselves aloof from every such
form when it is evil, literally, "Hold yourselves aloof from every evil
appearance" or "form."
23. the very God--rather as the Greek, "the God of peace
Himself"; who can do for you by His own power what I cannot do by
all my monitions, nor you by all your efforts
namely, keep you from all evil, and give you all that is good.
sanctify you--for holiness is the necessary condition of "peace"
wholly--Greek, "(so that you should be) perfect in every respect"
and--that is, "and so (omit 'I pray God'; not in the Greek)
may your . . . spirit and soul and body be preserved," &c.
whole--A different Greek word from "wholly." Translate,
"entire"; with none of the integral parts wanting
[TITTMANN]. It refers to man in his normal
integrity, as originally designed; an ideal which shall be attained by
the glorified believer. All three, spirit, soul, and body, each in its
due place, constitute man "entire." The "spirit" links man with the
higher intelligences of heaven, and is that highest part of man which
is receptive of the quickening Holy Spirit
In the unspiritual, the spirit is so sunk under the lower animal
soul (which it ought to keep under) that such are termed
"animal" (English Version. "sensual," having merely the
body of organized matter, and the soul the immaterial
animating essence), having not the Spirit (compare
The unbeliever shall rise with an animal (soul-animated)
body, but not like the believer with a spiritual
(spirit-endued) body like Christ's
blameless unto--rather as Greek, "blamelessly (so as to
be in a blameless state) at the coming of Christ." In Hebrew,
"peace" and "wholly" (perfect in every respect) are kindred terms; so
that the prayer shows what the title "God of peace" implies. BENGEL takes "wholly" as collectively, all the
Thessalonians without exception, so that no one should fail. And "whole
(entire)," individually, each one of them entire, with "spirit,
soul, and body." The mention of the preservation of the body
accords with the subject
TRENCH better regards "wholly" as meaning, "having
perfectly attained the moral end," namely, to be a full-grown
man in Christ. "Whole," complete, with no grace which ought to
be wanting in a Christian.
24. Faithful--to His covenant promises
1Co 1:9; 10:23;
he that calleth you--God, the caller of His people, will cause His
calling not to fall short of its designed end.
do it--preserve and present you blameless at the coming of Christ
You must not look at the foes before and behind, on the right hand and
on the left, but to God's faithfulness to His promises, God's zeal for
His honor, and God's love for those whom He calls.
25. Some oldest manuscripts read, "Pray ye also for
(literally, 'concerning') us"; make us and our work the subject
of your prayers, even as we have been just praying for you
Others omit the "also." The clergy need much the prayers of their
flocks. Paul makes the same request in the Epistles to Romans,
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and in Second
Corinthians; not so in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, whose
intercessions, as his spiritual sons, he was already sure of; nor in
the Epistles, I Corinthians, and Galatians, as these Epistles abound in
26. Hence it appears this Epistle was first handed to the elders, who
communicated it to "the brethren."
holy kiss--pure and chaste. "A kiss of charity"
A token of Christian fellowship in those days (compare
as it is a common mode of salutation in many countries. The custom
hence arose in the early Church of passing the kiss through the
congregation at the holy communion
Apology, 1.65; Apostolic Constitutions, 2.57], the men
kissing the men, and the women the women, in the Lord. So in the Syrian
Church each takes his neighbor's right hand and gives the salutation,
27. I charge--Greek, "I adjure you."
read unto all--namely, publicly in the congregation at a
particular time. The Greek aorist tense implies a single act
done at a particular time. The earnestness of his adjuration implies
how solemnly important he felt this divinely inspired message to be.
Also, as this was the FIRST of the Epistles of the
New Testament, he makes this the occasion of a solemn charge, that so
its being publicly read should be a sample of what should be done in
the case of the others, just as the Pentateuch and the Prophets were
publicly read under the Old Testament, and are still read in the
synagogue. Compare the same injunction as to the public reading of the
Apocalypse, the LAST of the New Testament canon
The "all" includes women and children, and especially those who could
not read it themselves
What Paul commands with an adjuration, Rome forbids under a curse
[BENGEL]. Though these Epistles had difficulties,
the laity were all to hear them read
even the very young,
2Ti 1:5; 3:15).
"Holy" is omitted before "brethren" in most of the oldest manuscripts,
though some of them support it.
28. (See on
Paul ends as he began
with "grace." The oldest manuscripts omit "Amen," which probably was
the response of the Church after the public reading of the Epistle.
The subscription is a comparatively modern addition. The Epistle was
not, as it states, written from Athens, but from Corinth; for it is
written in the names of Silas and Timothy (besides Paul), who did not
join the apostle before he reached the latter city