RPM, Volume 18, Number 44, October 23 to October 29, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 77

By Albert Barnes



THIS chapter, properly, comprises two parts:—first, various practical exhortations, 1 Th 4:1-12; and, secondly, suggestions designed to console those who had been bereaved, 1 Th 4:13-18.

The first part embraces the following topics:—

(1.) an exhortation to increase and abound in the Christian virtues which they had already manifested, 1 Th 4:1,2.

(2.) A particular exhortation on the subject of sanctification, 1 Th 4:3-8, in which two points are specified, probably as illustrations of the general subject, and embracing those in regard to which they were exposed to special danger. The first was fornication; the other was fraud.

(3.) An exhortation to brotherly love, 1 Th 4:9,10.

(4.) An exhortation to quiet industry, and to honesty in their dealings, particularly with those who were Christians, 1 Th 4:11,12. The second part is designed to comfort the Thessalonians who had been bereaved, 1 Th 4:13-18. Some of their number had died. They appear to have been beloved members of the church, and dear blends of those to whom the apostle wrote. To console them he brings into view the doctrine of the second coming of the Saviour, and the truth that they would be raised up to live with him for ever. He reminds them that those who had died were "asleep" —reposing in a gentle slumber, as if they were to be awakened again, 1 Th 4:13; that they should not sorrow as they did who have no hope, 1 Th 4:13; that if they believed that Jesus died and rose again, they ought to believe that God would raise up all those who sleep in Jesus, 1 Th 4:14; that in the last day they would rise before the ]lying should be changed, and that the living would not be taken up to heaven and leave their departed friends in their graves, 1 Th 4:15,16; and that both the living and the dead would be raised up to heaven, and would be for ever with the Lord, 1 Th 4:17. With this prospect, they had every ground of comfort which they could desire, and they should sustain each other in their trials by bright hope, 1 Th 4:18.

Verse 1. Furthermore then. to loipon. "As to what remains." That is, all that remains is to offer these exhortations. See Barnes "2 Co 12:11" See Barnes "Gal 6:17" See Barnes "Eph 6:10" See Barnes "Php 4:8".

The phrase is a formula appropriate to the end of an argument or discourse.

We beseech you. Marg., request. The Greek is, "we ask you"— erwtwmen. It is not as strong a word as that which follows.

And exhort you. Marg., beseech. This is the word which is commonly used to denote earnest exhortation. The use of these words here implies that Paul regarded the subject as of great importance. He might have commanded them—but kind exhortation usually accomplishes more than a command.

By the Lord Jesus. In his name, and by his authority.

That as ye have received of us. You were taught by us. Paul doubtless had given them repeated instructions as to their duty as Christians.

How ye ought to walk. How ye ought to live. Life is often represented as a journey, Ro 6:4; 8:1; 2 Co 5:7; Gal 6:16; Eph 4:1.

So ye would abound more and more. "That is, follow the directions they had received more and more fully." Abbott.

{*} "Furthermore" "Finally"

{1} "beseech" "request"

{2} "exhort" "beseech"

{a} "walk" Col 1:10

{b} "abound" 1 Co 6:15,18


Verse 2. For ye know what commandments. It was but a short time Paul was with them, and they could not but recollect the rules of living which he had laid down.

By the Lord Jesus. By the authority of the Lord Jesus. Some of those rules, or commandments, the apostle refers to, probably, in the following verses.


Verse 3. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification. It is the will or command of God that you should be holy. This does not refer to the purpose or decree of God, and does not mean that he intended to make them holy; but it means that it was his command that they should be holy. It was also true that it was agreeable to the Divine will or purpose that they should be holy, and that he meant to use such an influence as to secure this; but this is not the truth taught here. This text, therefore, should not be brought as a proof that God intends to make his people holy, or that they are sanctified. It is a proof only that he requires holiness. The word here rendered sanctification agiasmov is not used in the Greek classics, but is several times found in the New Testament. It is rendered holiness, Ro 6:19,22; 1 Th 4:7; 1 Ti 2:15; Heb 12:14; and sanctification, 1 Co 1:30; 1 Th 4:3,4; 2 Th 2:13; 1 Pe 1:2. See Barnes "Ro 6:19" : See Barnes "1 Co 1:30".

It means here purity of life, and particularly abstinence from those vices which debase and degrade the soul. Sanctification consists in two things,

(1.) in "ceasing to do evil;" and

(2.) in "learning to do well." Or in other words, the first work of sanctification is in overcoming the propensities to evil in our nature, and checking and subduing the unholy habits which we had formed before we became Christians; the second part of the work consists in cultivating the positive principles of holiness in the soul.

That ye should abstain from fornication. A vice which was freely indulged among the heathen, and to which, from that fact, and from their own former habits, they were particularly exposed. On the fact that they were thus exposed, and on the reasons for these solemn commands on the subject, See Barnes "Ac 15:20" See Barnes "1 Co 6:18".

{c} "ye should abstain" 1 Co 6:15,18


Verse 4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel. The word vessel here (skeuov) probably refers to the body. When it is so used, it is either because the body is frail and feeble, like an earthen vessel, easily broken 2 Co 4:7, or because it is that which contains the soul, or in which the soul is lodged. Lucret. Lib. iii. 441. The word vessel also, (Heb. HEBREW Gr. skeuov,) was used by the later Hebrews to denote a wife, as the vessel of her husband Schcoettg. Hor. Heb. p. 827. Comp. Wetstein in loc. Many, as Augustine, Wetstein, Scheettgen, Koppe, Robinson (Lex.), and others, have supposed that this is the reference here. Comp. 1 Pe 3:7. The word body, however, accords more naturally with the usual signification of the word, and as the apostle was giving directions to the whole church, embracing both sexes, it is hardly probable that he confined his direction to those who had wives. It was the duty of females; and of the unmarried among the males, as well as of married men, to observe this command. The injunction then is, that we should preserve the body pure. See Barnes "1 Co 6:18-20".

In sanctification and honour. Should not debase or pollute it; that is, that we should honour it as a noble work of God to be employed for pure purposes. See Barnes "1 Co 6:19".


Verse 5. Not in the lust of concupiscence. In gross gratifications.

Even as the Gentiles. This was, and is, a common vice among the heathen. See Barnes "Ac 15:20" See Barnes "Ro 1:29" See Barnes "Eph 4:17, See Barnes "Eph 4:19" and the reports of missionaries everywhere.

Which know not God. See Barnes "Ro 1:21, See Barnes "Ro 1:28" See Barnes "Eph 2:12".

{*} "concupiscence" "not given up to lustful passions"

{a} "Gentiles" Eph 4:17,18


Verse 6. That no man go beyond. Uperbainein. This word means, to make to go over, as, e.g., a wall or mountain; then, to overpass, to wit, certain limits, to transgress; and then, to go too far, i.e., to go beyond right—hence to cheat or defraud. It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. The idea of overreaching is that which is implied in its use here.

And defraud pleonektein. Marg., oppress or overreach. This word properly means, to have more than another; then to have an advantage; and then to take advantage of any one, to circumvent, defraud, cheat. It is rendered got an advantage, 2 Co 2:11; defraud, 2 Co 7:2; 1 Th 4:6; a gain, 2 Co 12:17,18. Comp. for the use of the adjective, 1 Co 5:10,11; 6:10; Eph 5:5; and the noun, Mr 7:22; Lu 12:15; Ro 1:29; 2 Co 9:5; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Th 2:5; 2 Pe 2:3,14.

It is the word commonly used to denote covetousness. Taking advantage of, is the idea which it conveys here.

In any matter. Marg., or "the." According to the reading in the margin, this would refer to the particular matter under discussion 1 Th 4:3-5 to wit, concupiscence, and the meaning then would be, that no one should be guilty of illicit intercourse with the wife of another. —as Hammond, Whitby, Macknight, Rosenmuller, suppose that this is a prohibition of adultery, and there can be no doubt that it does include this. But there is no reason why it should be confined to it. The Greek is so general that it may prohibit all kinds of fraud, overreaching, or covetousness, and may refer to any attempts to deprive another of his rights, whether it be the right which he has in his property, or his rights as a husband, or his rights in any other respect. It is a general command not to defraud; in way to take advantage of another; in no way to deprive him of his rights.

Because that the Lord is the avenger of all such. Of all such as are guilty of fraud; that is, he will punish them. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 12:19" See Barnes "Eph 6:9".

As we have also forewarned. Doubtless, when he was with them.

{1} "defraud" "oppress" or "overreach"

{2} "any matter" "the"


Verse 7. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness. When he called us to be his followers, it was not that we should lead lives of impurity, but of holiness. We should, therefore, fulfil the purposes for which we were called into his kingdom. The word uncleanness, (akayarsia) means, properly, impurity, filth; and then, in a moral sense, pollution, lewdness, as opposed to chastity, Ro 1:24; 6:19; 2 Co 12:21; Ga 5:19; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5.

{b} "unto holiness" Le 11:44; Heb 12:14; 1 Pe 1:14-16


Verse 8. He therefore that despiseth. Marg., rejected. That is, he who disregards such commands as these, which call him to a holy life, is really rejecting and disobeying God. Some might be disposed to say that these were merely the precepts of man, and that therefore it was not important whether they were obeyed or not. The apostle assures them, in the most solemn manner, that though communicated to them by man, yet they were really the commands of God.

Who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. This is a claim to inspiration. Paul did not give these commands as his own, but as taught by the Spirit of God. Comp. See Barnes "1 Co 7:40".

{3} "despiseth" "rejecteth"


Verse 9. But as touching brotherly love. The "peculiar charity and affection which one Christian owes to another." Doddridge. See Barnes "Joh 13:34".

Ye need not that I write unto you. That is, "as I have done on the other points." They were so taught of God in regard to this duty, that they did not need any special instruction.

For ye yourselves are taught of God. The word here rendered "taught of God" yeodidaktoi occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is correctly translated, and must refer here to some direct teaching of God on their own hearts, for Paul speaks of their being so taught by him as to need no special precepts in the case. He probably refers to that influence exerted on them when they became Christians, by which they were led to love all who bear the Divine image. He calls this being "taught of God," not because it was of the nature of revelation or inspiration, but because it was, in fact, the teaching of God in this case, though it was secret and silent. God has many ways of teaching men. The lessons which we learn from his Providence are a part of his instructions. The same is true of the decisions of our own consciences, and of the secret and silent influence of his Spirit on our hearts, disposing us to love what is lovely, and to do what ought to be done. In this manner all true Christians are taught to love those who bear the image of their Saviour. They feel that they are brethren; and such is their strong attachment to them, from the very nature of religion, that they do not need any express command of God to teach them to love them. It is one of the first—the elementary effects of religion on the soul, to lead us to love "the brethren;" and to do this is one of the evidences of piety about which there need be no danger of deceptions. Comp. 1 Jo 3:14.

{c} "taught of God" Joh 15:12,17


Verse 10. And indeed ye do it. See Barnes "1 Th 1:7".

But we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more. See Barnes "1 Th 3:12".

Here, as elsewhere, the apostle makes the fact that they deserved commendation for what they had done, a stimulant to arouse them to still higher attainments. Bloomfield.


Verse 11. And that ye study to be quiet. Orderly, peaceful; living in the practice of the calm virtues of life. The duty to which he would exhort them was that of being subordinate to the laws; of avoiding all tumult and disorder; of calmly pursuing their regular avocations, and of keeping themselves from all the assemblages of the idle, the restless, and the dissatisfied. No Christian should be engaged in a mob; none should be identified with the popular excitements which lead to disorder and to the disregard of the laws. The word rendered "ye study" (filotimeomai,) means, properly, to love honour, to be ambitious; and here means the same as when we say, "to make it a point of honour to do so and so." Robinson, Lex. It is to be regarded as a sacred duty; a thing in which our honour is concerned. Every man should regard himself as disgraced who is concerned in a mob.

And to do your own business. To attend to their own concerns, without interfering with the affairs of others. See Barnes "Php 2:4" Comp. 2 Th 3:11; 1 Ti 5:13; 1 Pe 4:15.

The injunction here is one of the beautiful precepts of Christianity so well adapted to promote the good order and the happiness of society. It would prevent the impertinent and unauthorized prying into the affairs of others, to which many are so prone, and produce that careful attention to what properly belongs to our calling in life, which leads to thrift, order, and competence. Religion teaches no man to neglect his business. It requires no one to give up an honest calling, and to be idle. It asks no one to forsake a useful occupation unless he can exchange it for one more useful. It demands, indeed, that we shall be willing so far to suspend our ordinary labours as to observe the sabbath; to maintain habits of devotion; to improve our minds and hearts by the study of truth; to cultivate the social affections, and to do good to others as we have an opportunity; but it makes no one idle, and it countenances idleness in no one. A man who is habitually idle can have very slender pretensions to piety. There is enough in this world for every one to do, and the Saviour set such an example of untiring industry in his vocation, as to give each one occasion to doubt whether he be his true follower if he be not disposed to be employed.

And to work with your own hands, as we commanded you. This command is not referred to in the history, (Ac 17) but it is probable that the apostle saw that many of those residing in Thessalonica were disposed to spend their time in indolence, and hence insisted strongly on the necessity of being engaged in some useful occupation. Comp. Ac 17:21. Idleness is one of the great evils of the heathen world in almost every country, and the parent of no small part of their vices. The effect of religion everywhere is to make men industrious; and every man, who is able, should feel himself under sacred obligation to be employed. God made man to work, (Comp. Ge 2:15; 3:19,) and there is no more benevolent arrangement of his government than this. No one who has already enough for himself and family, but who can make money to do good to others, has a right to retire from business and to live in idleness, (Comp. Ac 20:34; Eph 4:28;) no one has a right to live in such a relation as to be wholly dependent on others, if he can support himself; and no one has a right to compel others to labour for him, and to exact their unrequited toil, in order that he may be supported in indolence and ease. The application of this rule to all mankind would speedily put an end to slavery, and would convert multitudes, even in the church, from useless to useful men. If a man has no necessity to labour for himself and family, he should regard it as an inestimable privilege to be permitted to aid those who cannot work—the sick, the aged, the infirm. If a man has no need to add to what he has for his own temporal comfort, what a privilege it is for him to toil in promoting public improvements; in founding colleges, libraries, hospitals, and asylums; and in sending the gospel to those who are sunk in wretchedness and want! No man understands fully the blessings which God has bestowed on him, if he has hands to work and will not work.

{d} "to do your own business" 1 Pe 4:15


Verse 12. That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without. Out of the church. Comp. See Barnes "Col 4:5".

The word rendered honestly, means becomingly, decorously, in a proper manner. Ro 13:13; 1 Co 14:40. It does not refer here to mere honesty in the transaction of business, but to their general treatment of those who were not professing Christians. They were to conduct themselves towards them in all respects in a becoming manner—to be honest with them; to be faithful to their engagements; to be kind and courteous in their intercourse; to show respect where it was due; and to endeavour, in every way, to do them good. There are few precepts of religion more important than those which enjoin upon Christians the duty of a proper treatment of those who are not connected with the church.

And that ye may have lack of nothing. Marg., no man. The Greek will bear either construction, but the translation in the text is probably the correct one. The phrase is to be taken in connection not merely with that which immediately precedes it—as if their walking honestly towards those who were without, would preserve them from want— but as meaning that their industrious and quiet habits; their patient attention to their own business, and upright dealing with every man would do it. They would, in this way, have a competence, and would not be beholden to others. Learn hence, that it is the duty of a Christian so to live as not to be dependent on others, unless he is made so by events of divine Providence which he cannot foresee or control. No man should be dependent on others as the result of idle habits; of extravagance and improvidence; of the neglect of his own business, and of intermeddling with that of others. If by age, losses, infirmities, sickness, he be made dependent, he cannot be blamed, and he should not repine at his lot. One of the ways in which a Christian may always do good in society, and honour his religion, is by quiet and patient industry, and by showing that religion prompts to those habits of economy on which the happiness of society so much depends.

{*} "honestly" "in a becoming manner"

{a} "honestly" Ro 13:13

{1} "lack of nothing" "no man"


Verse 13. But I would not have you to be ignorant. I would have you fully informed on the important subject which is here referred to. It is quite probable from this, that some erroneous views prevailed among them in reference to the condition of those who were dead, which tended to prevent their enjoying the full consolation which they might otherwise have done. Of the prevalence of these views, it is probable the apostle had been informed by Timothy on his return from Thessalonica, 1 Th 3:6. What they were we are not distinctly informed, and can only gather from the allusions which Paul makes to them, or from the opposite doctrines which he states, and which are evidently designed to correct those which prevailed among them. From these statements, it would appear that they supposed that those who had died, though they were true Christians, would be deprived of some important advantages which those would possess who should survive to the coming of the Lord. There seems some reason to suppose, as Koppe conjectures, (comp. also Saurin, Serra. vol. vi. 1,) that the cause of their grief was two-fold: one that some among them doubted whether there would be any resurrection, (comp. 1 Cor. 15:12, ) and that they supposed that they who had died were thus cut off from the hope of eternal happiness, so as to leave their surviving friends to sorrow "as those who had no hope;" the other, that some of them believed that, though those who were dead would indeed rise again, yet it would be long after those who were living when the Lord Jesus would return had been taken to glory, and would always be in a condition inferior to them. See Koppe, in loc. The effect of such opinions as these can be readily imagined. It would be to deprive them of the consolation which they might have had, and should have had, in the loss of their pious friends. They would either mourn over them as wholly cut off from hope, or would sorrow that they were to be deprived of the highest privileges which could result from redemption. It is not to be regarded as wonderful that such views should have prevailed in Thessalonica. There were those even at Corinth who wholly denied the doctrine of the resurrection, (1 Co 15:12;) and we are to remember that those to whom the apostle now wrote, had been recently converted from heathenism; that they had enjoyed his preaching but a short time; that they had few or no books on the subject of religion; and that they were surrounded by those who had no faith in the doctrine of the resurrection at all, and who were doubtless able—as skeptical philosophers often are now—to urge their objections to the doctrines in such a way as greatly to perplex Christians. The apostle, therefore, felt the importance of stating the exact truth on the subject, that they might not have unnecessary sorrow, and that their unavoidable grief for their departed friends might not be aggravated by painful apprehensions about their future condition.

Concerning them which are asleep. It is evident from this that they had been recently called to part with some dear and valued members of their church. The word sleep is frequently applied in the New Testament to the death of saints. For the reasons why it is, See Barnes "Joh 11:11" See Barnes "1 Co 11:30"

See Barnes "1 Co 15:51".

That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. That is, evidently, as the heathen who had no hope of future life. Comp. See Barnes "Eph 2:12".

Their sorrow was caused not only by the fact that their friends were removed from them by death, but from the fact that they had no evidence that their souls were immortal; or that, if they still lived, that they were happy; or that their bodies would rise again. Hence, when they buried them, they buried their hopes in the grave; and so far as they had any evidence, they were never to see them again. Their grief at parting was not mitigated by the belief that the soul was now happy, or by the prospect of again being with them in a better world. It was on this account, in part, that the heathens indulged in expressions of such excessive grief. When their friends died, they hired men to play in a mournful manner on a pipe or trumpet, or women to howl and lament in a dismal manner. They beat their breasts; uttered loud shrieks; rent their garments; tore off their hair; cast dust on their heads, or sat down in ashes. It is not improbable that some among the Thessalonians, on the death of their pious friends, kept up these expressions of excessive sorrow. To prevent this, and to mitigate their sorrow, the apostle refers them to the bright hopes which Christianity had revealed, and points them to the future glorious re-union with the departed pious dead. Learn hence,

(1.) that the world without religion is destitute of hope. It is just as true of the heathen world now as it was of the ancient pagans, that they have no hope of a future state. They have no evidence that there is any such future state of blessedness; and without such evidence there can be no hope. Comp. See Barnes "Eph 2:12".

(2.) That the excessive sorrow of the children of this world, when they lose a friend is not to be wondered at. They bury their bones in the grave. They part, for all that they know or believe, with such a friend for ever. The wife, the son, the daughter, they consign to silence—to decay —to dust, not expecting to meet them again. They look forward to no glorious resurrection, when that body shall rise, and when they shall be re-united to part no more. It is no wonder that they weep—for who would not weep when he believes that he parts with his friends for ever?

(3.) It is only the hope of future blessedness that can mitigate this sorrow. Religion reveals a brighter world —a world where all the pious shall be reunited; where the bonds of love shall be made stronger than they were here; where they shall never be severed again. It is only this hope that can soothe the pains of grief at parting; only when we can look forward to a better world, and feel that we shall see them again— love them again —love them for ever, that our tears are made dry.

(4.) The Christian, therefore, when he loses a Christian friend, should not sorrow as others do. He will feel, indeed, as keenly as they do, the loss of their society; the absence of their well known faces; the want of the sweet voice of friendship and love; for religion does not blunt the sensibility of the soul, or make the heart unfeeling. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus; and religion does not prevent the warm gushing expressions of sorrow when God comes into a family and removes a friend. But this sorrow should not be like that of the world. It should not be

(a.) such as arises from the feeling that there is to be no future union;

(b.) it should not be accompanied with repining or complaining;

(c.) it should not be excessive, or beyond that which God designs that we should feel. It should be calm, submissive, patient; it should be that which is connected with steady confidence in God; and it should be mitigated by the hope of a future glorious union in heaven. The eye of the weeper should look up through his tears to God. The heart of the sufferer should acquiesce in him, even in the unsearchable mysteries of his dealings, and feel that all is right.

(5.) It is a sad thing to die without hope—so to die as to have no hope for ourselves, and to leave none to our surviving friends that we are happy. Such is the condition of the whole heathen world; and such the state of those who die in Christian lands, who have no evidence that their peace is made with God. As I love my friends, my father, my mother, my wife, my children, I would not have them go forth and weep over my grave as those who have no hope in my death. I would have their sorrow for my departure alleviated by the belief that my soul is happy with my God, even when they commit my cold clay to the dust; and were there no other reason for being a Christian, this would be worth all the effort which it requires to become one. It would demonstrate the unspeakable value of religion, that my living friends may go forth to my grave, and be comforted in their sorrows with the assurance that my soul is already in glory, and that my body will rise again! No eulogium for talents, accomplishments, or learning; no paens of praise for eloquence, beauty, or martial deeds; no remembrances of wealth and worldly greatness, would then so meet the desires which my heart cherishes, as to have them enabled, when standing around my open grave, to sing the song which only Christians can sing:—

Unveil thy bosom, faithful tomb,
Take this new treasure to thy trust;
And give these sacred relics room
To seek a slumber in the dust.

Nor pain, nor grief, nor anxious fear
Invade thy bounds. No mortal woes
Can reach the peaceful sleeper here,
While angels watch the soft repose.

So Jesus slept: God's dying Son
Pass'd thro' the grave, and bless'd the bed
Rest here, bless saint, till from his throne;
The morning break, and pierce the shade.

Break from his throne, illustrious morn:
Attend, O Earth, his sovereign word;
Restore thy trust—a glorious form—
Call'd to ascend, and meet the Lord.


Verse 14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again. That is, if we believe this, we ought also to believe that those who have died in the faith of Jesus will be raised from the dead. The meaning is not that the fact of the resurrection depends on our believing that Jesus rose, but that the death and resurrection of the Saviour were connected with the resurrection of the saints: that the one followed from the other, and that the one was as certain as the other. The doctrine of the resurrection of the saints so certainly follows from that of the resurrection of Christ, that, if the one is believed, the other ought to be also. See Barnes "1 Co 15:12-14".

Which sleep in Jesus. A most beautiful expression. It is not merely that they have calm repose—like a gentle slumber—in the hope of awaking again, but that this is "in Jesus"—or "through" (dia) him; that is, his death and resurrection are the cause of their quiet and calm repose. They do not "sleep" in heathenism, or in infidelity, or in the gloom of atheism—but in the blessed hope which Jesus has imparted. They lie, as he did, in the tomb—free from pain and sorrow, and with the certainty of being raised up again.

They sleep in Jesus and are bless'd,
How kind their slumbers are;
From sufferings and from sin released,
And freed from every snare.

When, therefore; we think of the death of saints, let us think of what Jesus was in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Such is the sleep of our pious friends now in the grave; such will be our own when we die.

Will God bring with him. This does not mean that God will bring them with him from heaven when the Saviour comes—though it will be true that their spirits will descend with the Saviour; but it means that he will bring them from their graves, and will conduct them with him to glory, to be with him. Comp. See Barnes "Joh 14:3".

The declaration, as it seems to me, is designed to teach the general truth, that the redeemed are so united with Christ, that they shall share the same destiny as he does. As the head was raised, so will all the members be. As God brought Christ from the grave, so will he bring them; that is, his resurrection made it certain that they would rise. It is a great and universal truth that God will bring all from their graves who "sleep in Jesus;" or that they shall all rise. The apostle does not, therefore, refer so much to the time when this would occur—meaning that it would happen when the Lord Jesus should return—as to the fact that there was an established connection between him and his people, which made it certain that if they died united with him by faith, they would be as certainly brought from the grave as he was. If, however, it means, as Prof. Bush (Anastasis, pp. 266, 267) supposes, that they will be brought with him from heaven, or will accompany him down, it does not prove that there must have been a previous resurrection, for the full force of the language would be met by the supposition that their spirits had ascended to heaven. and would be brought with him to be united to their bodies when raised. If this be the correct interpretation, then there is probably an allusion to such passages as the following, representing the coming of the Lord accompanied by his saints. "The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee," Zec 14:6. "And Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousand of his saints," Jude 1:14. "Who," says Pres. Dwight, (Serra. 164,) "are those whom God will bring with him at this time? Certainly not the bodies of his saints .... The only answer is, he will bring with him "the spirits of just men made perfect."

{a} "even so" 1 Co 15:20


Verse 15. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord. By the command, or inspired teaching of the Lord. Prof. Bush (Anastasis, p. 265) supposes that the apostle here alludes to what the Saviour says in Mt 24:30,31. "And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven." etc. It is possible that Paul may have designed a general allusion to all that the Lord had said about his coming, but there cannot have been an exclusive reference to that passage, for in what he says here there are several circumstances mentioned to which the Saviour in Matthew does not allude. The probability, therefore, is, that Paul means that the Lord Jesus had made a special communication to him on the subject.

That we which are alive. See this fully explained See Barnes "1 Co 15:51".

From this expression, it would seem, that some of the Thessalonians supposed that Paul meant to teach that he himself, and many of the living, would survive until the coming of the Lord Jesus, and, of course, that that event was near at hand. That this was not his meaning, however, he is at special pains to show in 2 Th 2:1-10.

And remain unto the coming of the Lord. Those Christians who shall then be alive.

Shall not prevent them which are asleep. Shall not precede; anticipate; go before. The word prevent with us is now commonly used in the sense of hinder, but this is never its meaning in the Scriptures. The word, in the time of the translators of the Bible, was used in its primitive and proper sense (proevenio,) meaning to precede, or anticipate. Job 3:12, "Why did the knees prevent me?" That is, why did they anticipate me, so that I did not perish. Ps 79:8, "Let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us;" that is, go before us in danger. Ps 119:147, "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried;" that is, I anticipated it, or I prayed before the morning dawned. Mt 17:26, "Jesus prevented him, saying;" that is, Jesus anticipated him; he commenced speaking before Peter had told him what he had said. Comp. Ps 17:13; 59:10 Ps 88:13; 95:2; 2 Sa 22:6,19; Job 30:27; 41:11.

The meaning here is, that they who would be alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus, would not be 'changed' and received up into glory before those who were in there graves were raised up. The object seems to be to correct an opinion which prevailed among the Thessalonians that they who should survive to the coming of the Lord Jesus would have great advantages over those who had died. What they supposed those advantages would be—whether the privilege of seeing him come, or that they would be raised to higher honours in heaven, or that they who had died would not rise at all, does not appear, nor is the origin of this sentiment known. It is clear, however, that it was producing an increase of their sorrow on the death of their pious friends, and hence it was very important to correct the error. The apostle, therefore, states that no such disadvantage could follow, for the matter of fact was, that the dead would rise first.

{*} "asleep" "go up before them which are asleep"


Verse 16. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven. See Barnes "Ac 1:11".

With a shout. The word here used (keleusma) does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means a cry of excitement, or of urging on; an outcry, clamour, or shout, as of sailors at the oar, Luc. Catapl. 19; of soldiers rushing to battle, Thuc. iii. 14; of a multitude of people, Diod. Sic. iii. 15; of a huntsman to his aogs, Xen. Ven. vi. 20. It does not mean here, that the Lord would himself make such a shout, but that he would be attended with it; that is, with a multitude who would lift up the voice, like that of an army rushing to the conflict.

With the voice of the archangel. The word archangel occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Jude 1:9, where it is applied to Michael. It properly means a chief angel; one who is first, or who is over others arcwn. The word is not found in the Septuagint; and the only archangel, therefore, which is named in the Scriptures, is Michael, Jude 1:9 Comp. Re 12:7. Seven angels, however, are referred to in the Scriptures as having an eminence above others, and these are commonly regarded as archangels, Re 8:2. "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God." One of these is supposed to be referred to in the Book of Tobit, xii. 15, "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One." The names of three only of the seven are mentioned in the Jewish writings: Michael, the patron of the Jewish nation, Da 10:13,21; 12:1.

Gabriel, Da 8:16; 9:21 comp. Lu 1:19,26. Raphael, Tobit 3:17; v. 4; viii. 2; ix. 1, 5; xii. 15. The Book of Enoch adds that of Uriel, pp. 187, 190, 191, 193. Michael is mentioned as one "of the chief princes," Da 10:13; and as "the great prince," Da 12:1. Comp. See Barnes "Eph 1:21, and see an article by Prof. Stuart in the Bibliotheca Sacra, No. x on Angelology. It seems evident from the Scriptures, that there is one or more among the angels to whom the name archangel properly belongs. This view is in accordance with the doctrine in the Scriptures that the heavenly beings are divided into ranks and orders, for if so, it is not unreasonable to suppose that there should be one or more to whom the most exalted rank appertains. Comp. Re 12:7. Whether there is more than one to whom this name appropriately belongs, it is impossible now to determine, and is not material. The word here (in Greek) is without the article, and the phrase might be rendered, "with the voice of an archangel." The Syriac renders it, "with the voice of the prince of the angels." On an occasion so august and momentous as that of the coming of the final Judge of all mankind, the resurrection of the dead, and the solemn transactions before the tribunal of the Son of God, deciding the destiny of countless millions for ever, it will not be inappropriate that the highest among the heavenly hosts should be present, and take an important part in the solemnities of the day. It is not quite certain what is meant here by the "the voice of the archangel," or for what purpose that voice will be heard. It cannot be that it will be to raise the dead—for that will be by the "voice of the Son of God," (Joh 5:28,29;) and it seems most probable that the meaning is, that this will be a part of the loud shout or cry which will be made by the descending hosts ore,yen; or perhaps it may be for the purpose of summoning the world to the bar of judgment. Comp. Mt 24:31.

And with the trump of God. The trump which God appoints to be sounded on that solemn occasion. It does not mean that it will be sounded by God himself. See Barnes "Mt 24:31".

And the dead in Christ. Christians.

Shall rise first. That is, before the living shall be changed. A doctrine similar to this was held by the Jews. "Resch Lachisch said, Those who die in the land of Israel, shall rise first in the days of the Messiah." See Wetstein, in loc. It is implied in all this description, that the interval between their resurrection and the change which will occur to the living, will be brief, or that the one will rapidly succeed the other. See Barnes "1 Co 15:23,51,52.

{a} "the Lord himself" Mt 24:30,31

{b} "first" Re 20:5,6


Verse 17. Then we which are alive. Those who shall then be alive. See 1 Th 4:16. The word here rendered then, (epeita) does not necessarily mean that this would occur immediately. It properly marks succession in time, and means afterwards, next, next in the order of events, Lu 16:7; Ga 1:21; Jas 4:14.

There may be a considerable interval between the resurrection of the pious and the time when the living shall be caught up to meet the Lord, for the change is to take place in them which will fit them to ascend with those who have been raised. The meaning is, that after the dead are raised, or the next thing in order, they and the living will ascend to meet the Lord. The proper meaning of the word, however, denotes a succession so close as to exclude the idea of a long interval in which other important transactions would occur, such an interval, for example, as would be involved in a long personal reign of the Redeemer on earth. The word demands this interpretation—that the next thing in order, after the resurrection of the righteous, will be their being caught up with the living, with an appropriate change, into the air—though, as has been remarked, it will admit of the supposition of such a brief, momentary interval (en atomw, en riph ofyalmou, 1 Co 15:51,52) as shall be necessary to prepare for it.

Shall be caught up. The word here used implies that there will be the application of external force or power by which this will be done. It will not be by any power of ascending which they will themselves have; or by any tendency of their raised or changed bodies to ascend of their own accord, or even by any effort of their own will, but by a power applied to them which will cause them to rise. Compare the use of the word arpazw in Mt 11:12, "the violent take it by force;" Mt 13:19, "then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away;" Joh 6:15, "that they would come and take him by force;" Joh 10:12, "the wolf catcheth them;" Ac 8:39, "the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip;" 2 Co 12:2, "such an one caught up to the third heaven." Also, Joh 10:28,29; Ac 23:10; Jude 1:23; Re 12:5.

The verb does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. In all these instances there is the idea of either foreign force or violence, effecting that which is done. What force or power is to be applied in causing the living and the dead to ascend, is not expressed. Whether it is to be by the ministry of angels, or by the direct power of the Son of God, is not intimated, though the latter seems to be most probable. The word should not be construed, however, as implying that there will be any reluctance on the part of the saints to appear before the Saviour, but merely with reference to the physical fact that power will be necessary to elevate them to meet him in the air. Will their bodies then be such that they will have the power of locomotion at will from place to place?

In the clouds. Gr., "in clouds" en nefelaiv—without the article. This may mean "in clouds;" that is, in such numbers, and in such grouping as to resemble clouds. So it is rendered by Macknight, Koppe, Rosenmuller, Bush (Anastasis, 266,) and others. The absence of the article here would rather seem to demand this interpretation. Still, however, the other interpretation may be true, that it means that they will be caught up into the region of the clouds, or to the clouds which shall accompany the Lord Jesus on his return to our world, Mt 24:30; 26:64; Mr 13:26; 14:62; Re 1:7.

Comp. Da 7:13. In whichever sense it is understood, the expression is one of great sublimity, and the scene will be immensely grand. Some doctrine of this kind was held by the ancient Jews. Thus Rabbi Nathan (Midras Tillin, xlviii. 13) says, "What has been done before will be done again, As he led the Israelites from Egypt in the clouds of heaven, so will he do to them in the future time."

To meet the Lord in the air. In the regions of the atmosphere -above the earth. It would seem from this, that the Lord Jesus, in his coming, would not descend to the earth, but would remain at a distance from it in the air, where the great transactions of the judgment will occur. It is, indeed, nowhere said that the trans- actions of the judgment will occur upon the earth. The world would not be spacious enough to contain all the assembled living and dead, and hence the throne of judgment will be fixed in the ample space above it.

And so shall we ever be with the Lord. This does not mean that they will always remain with him in the air—for their final home will be heaven—and after the trial they will accompany him to the realms of glory. Mt 25:34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom," etc. The time during which they will remain with him "in the air," is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. It will be as long as will be necessary for the purposes of judging a world, and deciding the eternal doom of every individual "according to the deeds done in the body." There is no reason to suppose that this will be accomplished in a single day of twenty-four hours; but it is impossible to form any conjecture of the period which will be occupied.

{c} "in the clouds" Rev 11:12

{d} "ever be" Joh 14:3


Verse 18. Wherefore comfort one another. Marg., exhort. The word comfort probably best expresses the meaning. They were to bring these glorious truths and these bright prospects before their minds, in order to alleviate the sorrows of bereavement. The topics of consolation are these: first, that those who had died in the faith would not always lie in the grave; second, that when they rose they would not occupy an inferior condition because they were cut off before the coming of the Lord; and third, that all Christians, living and dead, would be received to heaven and dwell for ever with the Lord.

With these words. That is, with these truths.

{1} "comfort" "exhort"


1. This passage (1 Th 4:13-18) contains a truth which is to be found in no heathen classic writer, and nowhere else, except in the teachings of the New Testament. For the elevated and glorious view which it gives of future scenes pertaining to our world, and for all its inestimable consolations, we are wholly indebted to the Christian religion, Reason unassisted by revelation, never dared to conjecture that such scenes would occur; if it had, it would have had no arguments on which the conjecture could be supported.

2. The death of the Christian is a calm and gentle slumber, 1 Th 4:13. It is not annihilation; it is not the extinction of hope. It is like gentle repose when we lie down at night, and when we hope to awake again in the morning; it is like the quiet, sweet slumber of the infant: Why, then, should the Christian be afraid to die? Is he afraid to close his eyes in slumber? Why dread the night— the stillness of death? Is he afraid of the darkness, the silence, the chilliness of the midnight hour, when his senses are locked int repose? Why should death to him appear so terrible? Is the slumbering of an infant an object of terror?

3. There are magnificent scenes before us. There is no description anywhere which is more sublime than that in the close of this chapter. Great events are brought together here, any one of which is more grand than all the pomp of courts, and all the sublimity of battle, and all the grandeur of a triumphal civic procession. The glory of the descending Judge of all mankind; the attending retinue of angels, and of the spirits of the dead; the loud shout of the descending host; the clangour of the archangel's trumpet; the bursting of graves and the coming forth of the millions there entombed; the rapid, sudden, glorious change on the millions of living men; the consternation of the wicked; the ascent of the innumerable host to the regions of the air; and the solemn process of the judgment there—what has ever occurred like these events in this world? And how strange it is that the thoughts of men are not turned away from the trifles—the show—the shadow—the glitter—the empty pageantry here—to these bright and glorious realities!

4. In those scenes we shall all be personally interested. If we do not survive till they occur, yet we shall have an important part to act in them. We shall hear the archangel's trump; we shall be summoned before the descending Judge. In these scenes we shall mingle not as careless spectators, but as those whose eternal doom, is there to be determined, and with all the intensity of emotion derived from the fact that the Son of God will descend to judge us, and to pronounce our final doom! Can we be too much concerned to be prepared for the solemnities of that day?

5. We have, in the passage before us, an interesting view of the order in which these great events will occur. There will be

(1.) the descent of the Judge with the attending hosts of heaven;

(2.) the raising up of the righteous dead;

(3.) the change which the living will undergo, 1 Co 15:52;

(4.) the ascent to meet the Lord in the air; and

(5.) the return with him to glory. What place in this series of wonders will be assigned for the resurrection of the wicked, is not mentioned here. The object of the apostle did not lead him to advert to that, since his propose was to comfort the afflicted by the assurance that their pious friends would rise again, and would suffer no disadvantage by the fact that they had died before the coming of the Redeemer. From Joh 5:28,29: however, it seems most probable that they will be raised at the same time with the righteous, and will ascend with them to the place of judgment in the air.

{Typist's note: Barnes assumes a GENERAL judgment. Others believe that the Christian, whose eternal destination has already been determined, will be judged at THE BEMA seat with regard to REWARDS. The WICKED will not be raised until the end of the Millenial Reign and will be judged at THE GREAT WHITE THRONE judgment.}

6. There is no intimation here of a "personal reign" of Christ upon the earth. Indeed, there is no evidence that he will return to the earth at all. All that appears is, that he will descend "from heaven" to the regions of "the air," and there will summon the living and the dead to his bar. But there is no intimation that he will set up a visible kingdom then on earth, to continue a thousand: or more years; that the Jews will be re-collected in their own land that a magnificent city or temple will be built there; or that saints will hover in the air, or reign personally with the Lord Jesus over the nations. There are two considerations in view of this passage, which, to my mind, are conclusive proof that all this is romance—splendid and magnificent indeed as an Arabian but wholly unknown to the apostle Paul. The one is, that if this were to occur, it is inconceivable that there should have been no allusion to it here. It would have been such a magnificent conception of the design of the Second Advent, that it could not have failed to have been adverted to in a description like this. The other consideration is, that such a view would have been exactly in point to meet the object of the apostle here. What could have been more appropriate in comforting the Thessalonian Christians respecting those who had died in the faith, than to describe the gorgeous scenes of the "personal reign" of Christ, and the important part which the risen saints were to play in that great drama! How can it be accounted for that the apostle did not advert to it? Would a believer in the "personal reign" now be likely to omit so material a point, in a description of the scenes which are to occur at the Second Advent?"

7. The saints will be for ever with the Lord. They will dwell with him in his own eternal home, Joh 14:3. This expression comprises the sum of all their anticipated felicity and glory. To be with Christ will be, in itself, the perfection of bliss; for it will be a security that they will sin no more, that they will suffer no more, and that they will be shielded from danger and death. They will have realized the object of their long, fond desire—-that of seeing their Saviour; they will have suffered the last pang, encountered the last temptation, and escaped for ever from the dominion of death. What a glorious prospect is this! Assuredly we should be willing to endure pain, privation, and contempt here for the brief period of our earthly pilgrimage, if we may come at last to a world of eternal rest. What trifles are all earthly sorrows compared with the glories of an endless life with our God and Saviour!

8. It is possible that even the prospect of the judgment-day should be a source of consolation, 1 Th 4:18. To most men it is justly an object of dread—for all that they have to fear is concentrated on the issues of that day. But why should a Christian fear it? In the descending Judge he will hail his Redeemer and Friend; and just in proportion as he has true religion here, will be the certainty of his acquittal there. Nay, his feelings in anticipation of the judgment may be more than the mere absence of fear and alarm. it may be to him the source of positive joy. It will be the day of his deliverance from death and the grave. It will confirm to him all his long-cherished hopes. It will put the seal of approbation on his life spent in endeavouring to do the will of God. It will reunite him to his dear friends who have died in the Lord. It will admit him to a full and glorious view of that Saviour whom "having not seen he has loved;" and it will make him the companion of angels and of God. If there be anything, therefore, which ought to cheer and sustain our hearts in the sorrows and bereavements of this life, it is the anticipation of the glorious scenes connected with the Second Advent of our Lord, and the prospect of standing before him clothed in the robes of salvation, surrounded by all those whom we have loved who have died in the faith, and with the innumerable company of the redeemed of all ages and lands.



THIS chapter consists of two parts.

I. The continuation of the subject of the coming of the Lord, 1 Th 5:1-11; and,

II. Various practical exhortations.

In the first part, the apostle states

(1.)that it was well understood by the Thessalonians that the coming of the Lord would be sudden, and at an unexpected moment, 1 Th 5:1,2;

(2.) he refers to the effect of his coming on the wicked and the righteous, and says that it would be attended with the sudden and inevitable destruction of the former, 1 Th 5:3; but that the result of his coming would be far different on the righteous, 1 Th 5:4-11. The prospect of his coming was fitted to make them watchful and sober, 1 Th 5:6-8; and his advent would be attended with their certain salvation, 1 Th 5:9-11.

In the second part of the chapter, he exhorts them to show proper respect for their spiritual teachers and rulers, 1 Th 5:12,13; to endeavour to restrain the unruly, to support the feeble, and to evince towards all the spirit of patience and forbearance, 1 Th 5:14; to manifest a meek and benevolent manner of life, 1 Th 5:18; to rejoice always, 1 Th 5:16; to pray constantly, 1 Th 5:17; to render thanks to God in every situation, 1 Th 5:18; to cherish the influences of the Holy Ghost on their souls, 1 Th 5:19; to show respect for all the divine prophetic communications, 1 Th 5:20; to consider and examine carefully everything submitted to them for belief; to adhere steadfastly to all that was good and true, 1 Th 5:21; and to avoid the appearance of evil, 1 Th 5:22. The epistle closes with a fervent prayer that God would sanctify them entirely; with an earnest entreaty that they would pray for him; with a command that the epistle should be read to all the churches, and with the benediction, 1 Th 5:23-28.

Verse 1. But of the times and the seasons. See Barnes "Ac 1:7".

The reference here is to the coming of the Lord Jesus, and to the events connected with his advent. See the close of 1 Th 4.

Ye have no need that I write unto you. That is, they had received all the information on the particular point to which he refers, which it was necessary they should have. He seems to refer to the suddenness of his coming. It is evident from this, as well as from other parts of this epistle, that this had been, from some cause, a prominent topic which he had dwelt on when he was with them. See Barnes "1 Th 1:10".


Verse 2. For yourselves know perfectly. That is, they had been taught this. There could be no doubt in their minds respecting it.

The day of the Lord so cometh. Of the Lord Jesus—for so the word "Lord" in the New Testament commonly means. See Barnes "Ac 1:24".

The "day of the Lord" means that day in which he will be manifested, or in which he will be the prominent object in view of the assembled universe.

As a thief in the night. Suddenly and unexpectedly, as a robber breaks into a dwelling. A thief comes without giving any warning, or any indications of his approach. He not only gives none, but he is careful that none shall be given. It is a point with him, that, it possible, the man whose house he is about to rob shall have no means of ascertaining his approach until he comes suddenly upon him. Comp. See Barnes "Mt 24:37" and Mt 24:38-43, See Barnes "Lu 12:39, See Barnes "Lu 12:40".

In this way the Lord Jesus will return to judgment; and this proves that all the attempts to determine the day, the year, or the century when he will come, must be fallacious. He intends that his coming to this world shall be sudden and unexpected, "like that of a thief in the night;" that there shall be no such indications of his approach that it shall not be sudden and unexpected; and that no warning of it shall be not the point of the comparison in expressions like this, what is it? Is there anything else in which his coming will resemble that of a thief? And if this be the true point of comparison, how can it be true that men can ascertain when that is to occur? Assuredly, if they can, his coming will not be like that of a thief. Comp. See Barnes "Ac 1:7".

{a} "cometh as a thief" Lu 12:39,40; 2 Pe 3:10; Re 16:15


Verse 3. For when they shall say, Peace and safety. That is, when the wicked shall say this, for the apostle here refers only to those on whom "sudden destruction" will come. Compare See Barnes "Mt 24:36" and following; See Barnes "2 Pe 3:3,4.

It is clear from this,

(1.) that when the Lord Jesus shall come, the world will not all be converted. There will be some to be "destroyed." How large this proportion will be, it is impossible now to ascertain. This supposition, however, is not inconsistent with the belief that there will be a general prevalence of the gospel before that period.

(2.) The impenitent and wicked world will be sunk in carnal security when he comes. They will regard themselves as safe. They will see no danger. They will give no heed to warning. They will be unprepared for his advent. So it has always been. It seems to be an universal truth in regard to all the visitations of God to wicked men for punishment, that he comes upon them at a time when they are not expecting him, and that they have no faith in the predictions of his advent. So it was in the time of the flood; in the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Jerusalem; in the overthrow of Babylon; so it is when the sinner dies, and so it will be when the Lord Jesus shall return to judge the world. One of the most remarkable facts about the history of man is, that he takes no warning from his Maker: he never changes his plans, or feels any emotion, because his Creator "thunders damnation along his path," and threatens to destroy him in hell.

Sudden destruction. Destruction that was unforeseen (aifnidiov) or unexpected. The word here rendered sudden, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in Lu 21:34, "Lest that day come upon you unawares." The word rendered destruction oleyrov —occurs in the New Testament only here and in 1 Co 5:5; 2 Th 1:9; 1 Ti 6:9, in all of which places it is correctly translated destruction,/i>. The word destruction is familiar to us. It means, properly, demolition; pulling down; the annihilation of the form of any thing, or that form of parts which constitutes it what it is; as the destruction of grass by eating; of a forest by cutting down the trees; of life by murder; of the soul by consigning it to misery. It does not necessarily mean annihilation—for a house or city is not annihilated which is pulled down or burned; a forest is not annihilated which is cut down; and a man is not annihilated whose character and happiness are destroyed. In regard to the destruction here referred to, we may remark,

(1.) it will be after the return of the Lord Jesus to judgment; and hence it is not true that the wicked experience all the punishment which they ever will in the present life;

(2.) that it seems fairly implied that the destruction which they will then suffer will not be annihilation, but will be connected with conscious existence; and

(3.) that they will then be cut off from life, and hope, and salvation. How can the solemn affirmation that they will be "destroyed suddenly," be consistent with the belief that all men will be saved? Is it the same thing to be destroyed and to be saved? Does the Lord Jesus, when he speaks of the salvation of his people, say that he comes to destroy them?

As travail upon a woman with child. This expression is sometimes used to denote great consternation, as in Ps 48:6; Jer 6:24 Mic 4:9,10; great pain, as Isa 53:11; Jer 4:31; Joh 16:21; or the suddenness with which anything occurs, Jer 13:21. It seems here to be used to denote two things: first, that the coming of the Lord to a wicked world will be sudden; and, secondly, that it will be an event of the most distressing and overwhelming nature.

And they shall not escape. That is, the destruction, or punishment. They calculated on impunity, but now the time will have come when none of these refuges will avail them, and no rocks will cover them from the "wrath to come."

{b} "travail" Jer 13:21


Verse 4. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. The allusion here is to the manner in which a thief or robber accomplishes his purpose, He comes in the night, when men are asleep. So, says the apostle, the Lord will come to the wicked. They are like those who are asleep when the thief comes upon them. But it is not so with Christians. They are, in relation to the coming of the day of the Lord, as men are who are awake when the robber comes. They could see his approach, and could prepare for it, so that it would not take them by surprise.

{c} "brethren" Eph 5:8; 1 Jo 2:8


Verse 5. Ye are all the children of light. All who are Christians. The phrase &# of light" is a Hebraism, meaning that they were the enlightened children of God.

And the children of the day. Who live as if light always shone round about them. The meaning is, that in reference to the coming of the Lord, they are as men would be in reference to the coming of a thief, if there were no night, and no necessity of slumber. They would always be wakeful and active, and it would be impossible to come upon them by surprise. Christians are always to be wakeful and vigilant; they are so to expect the coming of the Redeemer, that he will not find them off their guard, and will not come upon them by surprise.


Verse 6. Therefore let us not sleep as do others. As the wicked world does. Comp. Mt 25:6.

But let us watch. That is, for the coming of the Lord. Let us regard it as an event which is certainly to occur, and which may occur at any moment. See Barnes "Mt 25:13".

And be sober. The word here used (nhfw) is rendered sober in 1 Th 5:6,8; 1 Pe 1:13; 5:8; and watch in 2 Ti 4:5; 1 Pe 4:7. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means, to be temperate or abstinent, especially in respect to wine. Joseph. Jewish Wars, 5. 5. 7. Xenophon, Cyr.. 7. 5. 20; and then it is used in a more general sense, as meaning to be sober-minded, watchful, circumspect. In this passage, there is an allusion to the fact that persons not only sleep in the night, but that they are frequently drunken in the night also. The idea is, that the Lord Jesus, when he comes, will find the wicked sunk not only in carnal security, but in sinful indulgences; and that those who are Christians ought not only to be awake and to watch as in the daytime, but to be temperate. They ought to be like persons engaged in the sober, honest, and appropriate employments of the day, and not like those who waste their days in sleep, and their nights in revelry. A man who expects soon to see the Son of God coming to judgment, ought to be a sober man. No one would wish to be summoned from a scene of dissipation to his bar. And who would wish to be called there from the ball-room; from the theatre; from the scene of brilliant worldly amusement? The most gay votary of the world; the most accomplished, and flattered, and joyous patron of the ball-room; the most richly-dressed and admired daughter of vanity, would tremble at the thought of being summoned from those brilliant halls, where pleasure is now found, to the judgment-bar. They would wish to have at least a little time that they might prepare for so solemn a scene. But if so, as this event may at any moment occur, why should they not be habitually sober-minded? Why should they not aim to be always in that state of mind which they know would be appropriate to meet him? Especially should Christians live with such vigilance and soberness as to be always prepared to meet the Son of God. What Christian can think it appropriate for him to go up to meet his Saviour from the theatre, the ballroom, or the brilliant worldly party? A Christian ought always so to live, that the coming of the Son of God in the clouds of heaven would not excite the least alarm.

{a} "let us not sleep" Mt 25:5; Ro 13:12,13

{b} "sober" 1 Pe 2:8


Verse 7. For they that sleep, sleep in the night. Night is the time for sleep. The day is the time for action, and in the light of day men should be employed. Night and sleep are made for each other, and so are the day and active employment. The meaning here is, that it is in accordance with the character of those who are of the night, that is, sinners, to be sunk in stupidity and carnal security, as if they were asleep; but for the children of the day, that is, for Christians, it is no more appropriate to be inactive than it is for men to sleep in the day-time. "It is not to be wondered at that wicked men are negligent, and are given to vice, for they are ignorant of the will of God. Negligence in doing right, and corrupt morals, usually accompany ignorance." Rosenmuller.

And they that be drunken, are drunken in the night. The night is devoted by them to revelry and dissipation. It is in accordance with the usual custom in all lands and times, that the night is the usual season for riot and revelry. The leisure, the darkness, the security from observation, and the freedom from the usual toils and cares of life, have caused those hours usually to be selected for indulgence in intemperate eating and drinking. This was probably more particularly the case among the ancients than with us; and much as drunkenness abounded, it was much more rare to see a man intoxicated in the day-time than it is now. To be drunk then in the day-time was regarded as the greatest disgrace. See Polyb. Exc. Leg. 8, and Apul. viii., as quoted by Wetstein. Comp. See Barnes "Ac 2:15" See Barnes "Isa 5:11".

The object of the apostle here is, to exhort Christians to be sober and temperate; and the meaning is, that it is as disgraceful for them to indulge in habits of revelry, as for a man to be drunk in the day-time. The propriety of this exhortation, addressed to Christians, is based on the fact that intoxication was hardly regarded as a crime; and, surrounded as they were with those who freely indulged in drinking to excess, they were then, as they are now, exposed to the danger of disgracing their religion. The actions of Christians ought always to be such that they may be performed in open day, and in the view. of all the world. Other men seek the cover of the night to perform their deeds; the Christian should do nothing which may not be done under the full blaze of day.


Verse 8. But let us who are of the day, be sober. Temperate, as men usually are in the day-time.

Putting on the breast-plate of faith and love. This is a favourite comparison of the apostle Paul. See it explained at length See Barnes "Eph 6:14".

And for an helmet, the hope of salvation. See Barnes "Eph 6:17".

{c} "breast-plate of faith" Isa 59:17

Verse 9. For God hath not appointed us to wrath. This is designed as an encouragement to effort to secure our salvation. The wish of God is to save us, and therefore we should watch and be sober; we should take to ourselves the whole of the Christian armour, and strive for victory. If he had appointed us to wrath, effort would have been in vain, for we could do nothing but yield to our inevitable destiny. The hope of a final triumph should animate us in our efforts, and cheer us in our struggles with our foes. How much does the hope of victory animate the soldier in battle! When morally certain of success, how his arm is nerved! When everything conspires to favour him, and when he seems to feel that God fights for him, and intends to give him the victory, how his heart exults, and how strong is he in battle! Hence, it was a great point among the ancients, when about entering into battle, to secure evidence that the gods favoured them, and meant to give them the victory. For this purpose they offered sacrifices, and consulted the flight of birds and the entrails of animals; and for this armies were accompanied by soothsayers and priests, that they might interpret any signs which might occur that would be favourable, or to propitiate the favour of the gods by sacrifice. See Homer, passim; Arrian's Expedition of Alexander, and the classic writers generally. The apostle alludes to something of this kind here. He would excite us to maintain the Christian warfare manfully, by the assurance that God intends that we shall be triumphant. This we are to learn by no conjectures of soothsayers; by no observation of the flight of birds; by no sacrifice which we can make to propitiate his favour; but by the unerring assurance of his holy word. If we are Christians, we know that he intends our salvation, and that victory will be ours; if we are willing to become Christians, we know that the almighty Arm will be stretched out to aid us, and that the "gates of hell" cannot prevent it.

{d} "appointed us to wrath" Ro 9:8,9; 2 Co 5:15


Verse 10. Who died for us. That is, to redeem us. He designed by his death that we should ultimately live with him; and this effect of his death could be secured only as it was an atoning sacrifice.

Whether we wake or sleep. Whether we are found among the living or the dead when he comes. The object here is to show that the cone class would have no advantage over the other. This was designed to calm their minds in their trials, and to correct an error which seems to have prevailed in the belief that those who were found alive when he should return, would have some priority over those who were dead. See Barnes "1 Th 4:13"

and following. The word rendered "together", ama is not to be regarded as connected with the phrase "with him" — as meaning that he and they would be "together" but it refers to those who "wake and those who sleep"— those who are alive and those who are dead—meaning that they would be together, or would be with the Lord at the same time; there would be no priority or precedence. Rosenmuller.

{d} "whether we wake or sleep" Ro 14:8,9; 2 Co 5:15


Verse 11. Wherefore comfort yourselves. See Barnes "1 Th 4:18".

And edify one another. Strive to build up each other, or to stablish each other in the faith by these truths. See Barnes "Ro 14:19".

Even as also ye do. Continue to do it. Let nothing intervene to disturb the harmony and consolation which you have been accustomed to derive from these high and holy doctrines.

{1} "comfort" "exhort"


Verse 12. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you. Who they were is not mentioned. It is evident, however: that the church was not left without appointed persons to minister to it when its founders should be away. We know that there were presbyters ordained over the church at Ephesus, and over the churches in Crete, Ac 20:17; Tit 1:5; and that there were bishops and deacons at Philippi, Php 1:1; and there is every reason to believe that similar officers would be appointed in every newly organized church. The word "know" seems to mean that they were not to make themselves strangers to them—to be cold and distant towards them—to be ignorant of their wants, or to be indifferent to them. While a people are not obtrusively to intermeddle with the business of a minister, any more than they are with that of any other man, yet there are things in regard to him with which they should be acquainted. They should seek to be personally acquainted with him, and make him their confidant and counsellor in their spiritual troubles. They should seek his friendship, and endeavour to maintain all proper intercourse with him. They should not regard him as a distant man, or as a stranger among them. They should so far understand his circumstances as to know what is requisite to make him comfortable, and should be on such terms that they may readily and cheerfully furnish what he needs. And they are to "know" or regard him as their spiritual teacher and ruler; not to be strangers to the place where he preaches the word of life, and not to listen to his admonitions and reproofs as those of a stranger, but as those of a pastor and friend.

Which labour among you. There is no reason to suppose, as many have done, that the apostle here refers to different classes of ministers, he rather refers to different parts of the work which the same ministers perform. The first is, that they "labour"—that is, evidently, in preaching the gospel. For the use of the word, see Joh 4:3, where it occurs twice; 1 Co 15:10; 16:16. The word is one which properly expresses wearisome toil, and implies that the office of preaching is one that demands constant industry.

And are over you in the Lord. That is, by the appointment of the Lord, or under his direction. They are not absolute sovereigns, but are themselves subject to one who is over them—the Lord Jesus. On the word here rendered "are over you," (proistamenouv) See Barnes "Ro 12:8, where it is translated ruleth.

And admonish you. The word here used (nouyetew) is rendered admonish, and admonished, in Rom 15:14; Col 3:16; 1 Th 5:12; 2 Th 3:15. And warn, and warning, 1 Co 4:14; Col 1:28 1 Th 5:14. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means, to put in mind; and then to warn, entreat, exhort. It is a part of the duty of a minister to put his people in mind of the truth; to warn them of danger; to exhort them to perform their duty; to admonish them if they go astray.

{a} "know them" Heb 13:7,17


Verse 13. And to esteem them very highly in love. To cherish for them an affectionate regard. The office of a minister of religion demands respect. They who are faithful in that office have a claim on the kind regards of their fellow-men. The very nature of the office requires them to do good to others, and there is no benefactor who should be treated with more affectionate regard than he who endeavours to save us from ruin; to impart to us the consolations of the gospel in affliction; and to bring us and our families to heaven.

For their work's sake. Not primarily as a personal matter, or on their own account, but on account of the work in which they are engaged. It is a work whose only tendency, when rightly performed, is to do good. It injures no man, but contributes to the happiness of all. It promotes intelligence industry, order, neatness, economy, temperance, chastity, charity, and kindness in this world, and leads to eternal blessedness in the world to come. A man who sincerely devotes himself to such a work has a claim on the kind regards of his fellow-men.

And be at peace among yourselves. See Barnes "Mr 9:50" See Barnes "Ro 12:18" See Barnes "Ro 14:19".

{b} "be at peace" Mr 9:50


Verse 14. Now we exhort you, brethren. Marg., beseech. This earnest entreaty is evidently addressed to the whole church, and not to the ministers of the gospel only. The duties here enjoined are such as appertain to all Christians in their appropriate spheres, and should not be left to be performed by ministers only.

Warn them. The same word which in 1 Th 5:12 is rendered admonish. It is the duty of every church member, as well as of the ministers of the gospel, affectionately to admonish those whom they know to be living contrary to the requirements of the gospel. One reason why there is so little piety in the church, and why so many professors of religion go astray, is, that the great mass of church members feel no responsibility on this subject. They suppose that it is the duty only of the officers of the church to admonish an erring brother, and hence many become careless and cold and worldly, and no one utters a kind word to them to recall them to a holy walk with God.

That are unruly. Marg., disorderly. The word here used (ataktov) is one which properly means not keeping the ranks, as of soldiers; and then irregular, confused, neglectful of duty, disorderly. The reference here is to the members of the church who were irregular in their Christian walk. It is not difficult, in an army, when soldiers get out of the line, or leave their places in the ranks, or are thrown into confusion, to see that little can be accomplished in such a state of irregularity and confusion. As little difficult is it, when the members of a church are out of their places, to see that little can be accomplished in such a state. Many a church is like an army where half the soldiers are out of the line; where there is entire insubordination in the ranks, and where not half of them could be depended on for efficient service in a campaign. Indeed, an army would accomplish little, if as large a proportion of it were irregular, idle, remiss, or pursuing their own aims to the neglect of the public interest, as there are members of the church who can never be depended on in accomplishing the great purpose for which it was organized.

Comfort the feeble-minded. The dispirited; the disheartened; the downcast. To do this is also the duty of each church member. There are almost always those who are in this condition, and it is not easy to appreciate the value of a kind word to one in that state, Christians are assailed by temptation; in making efforts to do good they are opposed and become disheartened; in their contests with their spiritual foes they are almost overcome; they walk through shades of spiritual night, and find no comfort. In such circumstances, how consoling is the voice of a friend! How comforting is it to feel that they are not alone! How supporting to be addressed by one who has had the same conflicts, and has triumphed! Every Christian—especially every one who has been long in the service of his Master—has a fund of experience which is the property of the church, and which may be of incalculable value to those who are struggling now amidst many embarrassments along the Christian way. He who has that experience should help a weak and sinking brother; he should make his own experience of the efficacy of religion in his trials and conflicts, the means of sustaining others in their struggles. There is no one who would not reach out his hand to save a child borne down a rapid stream; yet how often do experienced and strong men in the Christian faith pass by those who are struggling in the "deep waters, where the proud waves have come over their souls!"

Support the weak. See Barnes "Ro 15:1".

Be patient toward all men. See the Greek word here used, explained See Barnes "1 Co 13:4".

Comp. See Barnes "Eph 4:2" Ga 5:22; Col 3:12.

{2} "exhort" "beseech"

{3} "unruly" "disorderly"

{d} "weak" Ro 15:1

{e} "patient toward all men" Eph 4:2


Verse 15. See that none render evil for evil. See Barnes "Mt 5:39,44".

The meaning here is, that we are not to take vengeance. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 12:17, See Barnes "Ro 12:19".

This law is positive, and is universally binding. The moment we feel ourselves acting from a desire to "return evil for evil," that moment we are acting wrong. It may be right to defend our lives, and the lives of our friends; to seek the protection of the law for our persons, reputation, or property, against those who would wrong us; to repel the assaults of calumniators and slanderers; but in no case should the motive be to do them wrong for the evil which they have done us.

But ever follow that which is good. Which is benevolent, kind, just, generous. See Barnes "Ro 12:20, See Barnes "Ro 12:21".

Both among yourselves, and to all men. The phrase "to all men," seems to have been added to avoid the possibility of misconstruction. Some might possibly suppose that this was a good rule to be observed towards those of their own number, but that a greater latitude in avenging injuries might be allowable towards their enemies out of the church. The apostle, therefore, says that the rule is universal. It relates to the heathen, to infidels, sceptics, and persecutors, as well as to the members of the church. To every man we are to do good as we are able—no matter what they do to us. This is the rule which God himself observes toward the evil and unthankful, (See Barnes "Mt 5:45,) and is one of the original and beautiful laws of our holy religion.

{a} "render evil" Pr 20:22,24,29; Mt 5:39,44; 1 Pe 3:9


Verse 16. Rejoice evermore. See Barnes "Php 3:1" See Barnes "Php 4:4".


Verse 17. Pray without ceasing. See Barnes "Ro 12:12".

The direction here may be fairly construed as meaning

(1.) that we are to be regular and constant in the observance of the stated seasons of prayer. We are to observe the duty of prayer in the closet, in the family, and in the assembly convened to call on the name of the Lord. We are not to allow this duty to be interrupted or intermitted by any trifling cause. We are so to act that it may be said we pray regularly in the closet, in the family, and at the usual seasons when the church prays to which we belong.

(2.) We are to maintain an uninterrupted and constant spirit of prayer. We are to be in such a frame of mind as to be ready to pray publicly if requested; and when alone, to improve any moment of leisure which we may have when we feel ourselves strongly inclined to pray. That Christian is in a bad state of mind who has suffered himself, by attention to worldly cares, or by light conversation, or by gayety and vanity, or by reading an improper book, or by eating or drinking too much, or by late hours at night among the thoughtless and the vain, to be brought into such a condition that he cannot engage in prayer with proper feelings. There has been evil done to the soul if it be not prepared for communion with God at all times, and if it would not find pleasure in approaching his holy throne.

{d} "Pray" Ga 6:10


Verse 18. In everything give thanks. See Barnes "Eph 5:20" See Barnes "Php 4:6".

We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning. Chrysostom, once the archbishop of Constantinople, and then driven into exile, persecuted, and despised, died far away from all the splendours of the capital, and all the comforts and honours which he had enjoyed, uttering his favourite motto doxa tw yew pantwn eneken glory to God for all things. Bibliotheca Sacra, i. 700. So we may praise God for everything that happens to us under his government. A man owes a debt of obligation to him for anything which will recall him from his wanderings, and which will prepare him for heaven. Are there any dealings of God towards men which do not contemplate such an end? Is a man ever made to drink the cup of affliction when no drop of mercy is intermingled? Is he ever visited with calamity which does not in some way contemplate his own temporal or eternal good? Could we see all, we should see that we are never placed in circumstances in which there is not much for which we should thank God. And when, in his dealings, a cloud seems to cover his face, let us remember the good things without number which we have received, and especially remember that we are in the world of redeeming love, and we shall find enough for which to be thankful.

For this is the will of God. That is, that you should be grateful. This is what God is pleased to require you to perform in the name of the Lord Jesus. In the gift of that Saviour he has laid the foundation for that claim, and he requires that you should not be unmindful of the obligation. See Barnes "Heb 13:15".


Verse 19. Quench not the Spirit. This language is taken from the way of putting out a fire; and the sense is, we are not to extinguish the influences of the Holy Spirit in our hearts; Possibly there may be an allusion here to fire on an altar, which was to be kept constantly burning. This fire may have been regarded as emblematic of devotion, and as denoting that that devotion was never to become extinct. The Holy Spirit is the source of true devotion, and hence the enkindlings of piety in the heart, by the Spirit, are never to be quenched. Fire may be put out by pouring on water; or by covering it with any incombustible substance; or by neglecting to supply fuel. If it is to be made to burn, it must be nourished with proper care and attention. The Holy Spirit, in his influences on the soul, is here compared with fire that might be made to burn more intensely, or that might be extinguished. In a similar manner the apostle gives this direction to Timothy, "I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up (anazwpurein, kindle up, cause to burn) the gift of God,"2 Ti 1:6. Anything that will tend to damp the ardour of piety in the soul; to chill our feelings; to render us cold and lifeless in the service of God, may be regarded as "quenching the Spirit." Neglect of cultivating the Christian graces, or of prayer, of the Bible, of the sanctuary, of a careful watchfulness over the heart, will do it. Worldliness, vanity, levity, ambition, pride, the love of dress, or indulgence in an improper train of thought, will do it. It is a great rule in religion that all the piety which there is in the soul is the fair result of culture. A man has no more religion than he intends to have; he has no graces of the Spirit which he does not seek; he has no deadness to the world which is not the object of his sincere desire, and which he does not aim to have. Any one, if he will, may make elevated attainments in the divine life; or he may make his religion merely a religion of form, and know little of its power and its consolations.

{f} "Quench" Eph 4:30


Verse 20. Despise not prophesyings. On the subject of prophesyings in the early Christian church, See Barnes "1 Co 14:1, seq. The reference here seems to be to preaching. They were not to undervalue it in comparison with other things. It is possible that in Thessalonica, as appears to have been the case subsequently in Corinth, (comp. 1 Co 14:19, there were those who regarded the power of working miracles, or of speaking in unknown tongues, as a much more eminent endowment than that of stating the truths of religion in language easily understood. It would not be unnatural that comparisons should be made between these two classes of endowments, much to the disadvantage of the latter; and hence may have arisen this solemn caution not to disregard or despise the ability to make known divine truth in intelligible language. A similar counsel may not be inapplicable to us now. The office of setting forth the truth of God is to be the permanent office in the church; that of speaking foreign languages by miraculous endowment, was to be temporary. But the office of addressing mankind on the great duties of religion, and of publishing salvation, is to be God's great ordinance for converting the world. It should not be despised,

(1.) it is God's appointment—the means which he has designated for saving men.

(2.) It has too much to entitle it to respect to make it proper to despise or contemn it. There is nothing else that has so much power over mankind as the preaching of the gospel: there is no other institution of heaven or earth, among men, that is destined to exert so wide and permanent an influence as the Christian ministry.

(3.) It is an influence which is wholly good. No man is made the poorer, or the less respectable, or more miserable in life or in death, by following the counsels of a minister of Christ when he makes known the gospel.

(4.) He who despises it contemns that which is designed to promote his own welfare, and which is indispensable for his salvation. It remains yet to be shown that any man has promoted his own happiness, or the welfare of his family, by affecting to treat with contempt the instructions of the Christian ministry.

{g} "no prophesying" 1 Co 14:1,39


Verse 21. Prove all things. Subject everything submitted to you to be believed to the proper test. The word here used (dokimazete,) is one that is properly applicable to metals, referring to the art of the assayer by which the true nature and value of the metal is tested. See Barnes "1 Co 3:13".

This trial was usually made by fire. The meaning here is, that they were carefully to examine everything proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence, zeal, or plausibility. In the various opinions and doctrines which were submitted to them for adoption, they were to apply the appropriate tests from reason and the word of God; and what they found to be true they were to embrace; what was false they were to reject. Christianity does not require men to disregard their reason, or to be credulous. It does not expect them to believe anything because others say it is so. It does not make it a duty to receive as undoubted truth all that synods and councils have decreed; or all that is advanced by the ministers of religion. It is, more than any other form of religion, the friend of free inquiry, and would lead men everywhere to understand the reason of the opinions which they entertain. Comp. Ac 17:11,12; 1 Pe 3:15.

Hold fast that which is good. Which is in accordance with reason and the word of God; which is adapted to promote the salvation of the soul and the welfare of society. This is just as much a duty as it is to "prove all things." A man who has applied the proper tests, and has found out what is truth, is bound to embrace it and to hold it fast. He is not at liberty to throw it away, as if it were valueless; or to treat truth and falsehood alike. It is a duty which he owes to himself and to God, to adhere to it firmly, and to suffer the loss of all things rather than to abandon it. There are few more important rules in the New Testament than the one in this passage. It shows what is the true nature of Christianity, and it is a rule whose practical value cannot but be felt constantly in our lives. Other religions require their votaries to receive everything upon trust; Christianity asks us to examine everything. Error, superstition, bigotry, and fanaticism attempt to repress free discussion, by saying that there are certain things which are too sacred in their nature, or which have been too long held, or which are sanctioned by too many great and holy names, to permit their being subjected to the scrutiny of common eyes, or to be handled by common hands. In opposition to all this, Christianity requires us to examine everything—no matter by whom held; by what councils ordained; by what venerableness of antiquity sustained; or by what sacredness it may be invested. We are to receive no opinion: until we are convinced that it is true; we are to be subjected to no pains or penalties for not believing what we do not perceive to be true; we are to be prohibited from examining no opinion which our fellow-men regard as true, and which they seek to make others believe. No popular current in favour of any doctrine; no influence which name and rank and learning can give it, is to commend it to us as certainly worthy of our belief. By whomsoever held, we are to examine it freely before we embrace it; but when we are convinced that it is true, it is to be held, no matter what current or popular opinion or prejudice may be against it; no matter what ridicule may be poured upon it; and no matter though the belief of it may require us to die a martyr's death.

{h} "Prove" 1 Jo 4:1

{i} "hold fast" Php 4:8


Verse 22. Abstain from all appearance of evil. Not only from evil itself, but from that which seems to be wrong. There are many things which are known to be wrong. They are positively forbidden by the laws of heaven, and the world concurs in the sentiment that they are wicked. But there are also many things about which there may be some reasonable doubt. It is not quite easy to determine in the case what is right or wrong. The subject has not been fully examined, or the question of its morality may be so difficult to settle, that the mind may be nearly or quite balanced in regard to it There are many things which, in themselves, may not appear to us to be positively wrong, but winch are so considered by large and respectable portions of the community; and for us to do them would be regarded as inconsistent and improper. There are many things, also, in respect to which there is great variety of sentiment among mankind—where one portion would regard them as proper, and another as improper. There are things, also, where, whatever may be our motive, we may be certain that our conduct will be regarded as improper. A great variety of subjects, such as those pertaining to dress, amusements, the opera, the ball-room, games of chance and hazard, and various practices in the transaction of business, come under this general class; which, though on the supposition that they cannot be proved to be in themselves positively wrong or forbidden, have much the "appearance" of evil, and will be so interpreted by others. The safe and proper rule is to lean always to the side of virtue. In these instances, it may be certain that there will be no sin committed by abstaining; there may be by indulgence. No command of God, or of propriety, will be violated if we decline complying with these customs; but, on the other hand, we may wound the cause of religion by yielding to what possibly is a mere temptation. No one ever does injury or wrong by abstaining from the pleasures of the ball-room, the theatre, or a glass of wine; who can indulge in them, without, in the view of large and respectable portions of the community, doing that which has the "appearance" at least "of evil ?"

{a} "abstain" Isa 33:15


Verse 23. And the very God of peace. The God who gives peace or happiness. Comp. See Barnes "Ro 1:7.

Sanctify you. See Barnes "Joh 17:17".

Wholly. Oloteleiv In every part; completely. It is always proper to pray that God would make his people entirely holy. A prayer for perfect sanctification, however, should not be adduced as a proof that it is in fact attained in the present life.

Your whole spirit and soul and body. There is an allusion here, doubtless, to the popular opinion in regard to what constitutes man. We have a body; we have animal life and instincts in common with the inferior creation; and we have also a rational and immortal soul. This distinction is one that appears to the mass of men to be true, and the apostle speaks of it in the language commonly employed by mankind. At the same time, no one can demonstrate that it is not founded in truth. The body we see, and there can be no difference of opinion in regard to its existence. The soul (h quch psyche) the vital principle, the animal life, or the seat of the senses, desires, affections, appetites, we have in common with other animals. It appertains to the nature of the animal creation, though more perfect in some animals than in others, but is in all distinct from the soul as the seat of conscience, and as capable of moral agency. See the use of the word in Mt 22:37; Mr 12:30; Lu 10:27; 12:20; Ac 20:10; Heb 4:12; Re 8:9, et al. In the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy this was distinguished from the higher rational nature, (o nouv, to pneuma,) as this last belonged to man alone. This psyche (Greek) "soul," or life, it is commonly supposed, becomes extinct at death. It is so connected with the bodily organization, that when the tissues of the animal frame cease their functions, this ceases also. This was not, however, the opinion of the ancient Greeks. Homer uses the term to denote that which leaves the body with the breath, as escaping from the erkov odontwn— the fence or sept of the teeth—and as also passing out through a wound. This quch— psyche—continued to exist in Hades, and was supposed to have a definite form there, but could not be seized by the hands. Ody. ii. 207. See Passow, 2. Comp. Prof. Bush, Anastasis, pp. 72, 73. Though this word, however, denotes the vital principle, or the animal life, in man it may be connected with morals—just as the body may be—for it is a part of himself in his present organization, and whatever may be true in regard to the inferior creation, it is his duty to bring his whole nature under law, or so to control it that it may not be an occasion of sin. Hence the apostle prays that the "whole body and soul"—or animal nature—may be made holy. This distinction between the animal life and the mind of man (the anima and animus, the quch and the pneuma,) was often made by the ancient philosophers. See Plato, Timse. p. 1048, A. Nemesius, de Nat. Hom. i Cit. Glyca, p. 70. Lucretius, iii. 94. 116. 131. Juvenal, xv. 146. Cicer,), de Divinat. 129, as quoted by Wetstein in loc. A similar view prevailed also among the Jews. Rabbi Isaac (Zohar in Lev. tbl. 29. 2,) says, "Worthy are the righteous in this world and the world to come, for lo, they are all holy; their body is holy, their soul is holy, their spirit, and their breath is holy." Whether the apostle meant to sanction this view, or merely to speak in common and popular language, may indeed be questioned; but there seems to be a foundation for the language in the nature of man. The word here rendered spirit (pneuma) refers to the intellectual or higher nature of man; that which is the seat of reason, of conscience, and of responsibility. This is immortal. It has no necessary connection with the body, as animal life or the psyche (quch) has, and consequently will be unaffected by death. It is this which distinguishes man from the brute creation; this which allies him with higher intelligences around the throne of God.

Be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle does not intimate here that either the body or the vital principle will be admitted to heaven, or will be found in a future state of being, whatever may be the truth on that subject. The prayer is, that they might be entirely holy, and be kept from transgression, until the Lord Jesus should come; that is, until he should come either to remove them by death, or to wind up the affairs of this lower world. See Barnes "1 Th 1:10".

By his praying that the "body and the soul"—meaning here the animal nature, the seat of the affections and passions—might be kept holy, there is reference to the fact that, connected as they are with a rational and accountable soul, they may be the occasion of sin. The same natural propensities; the same excitability of passion; the same affection, which in a brute would involve no responsibility, and have nothing moral in their character, may be a very different thing in man, who is placed under a moral law, and who is bound to restrain and given all his passions by a reference to that law, and to his higher nature. For a cur to snarl and growl; for a lion to roar and rage; for a hyena to be fierce and untameable; for a serpent to hiss and bite; and for the ostrich to leave her eggs without concern, (Job 39:14,) involves no blame, no guilt for them, for they are not accountable; but for man to evince the same temper, and the same want of affection, does involve guilt, for he has a higher nature, and it these things should be subject to the law which God has imposed on him as a moral and accountable being. As these things may, therefore, in man be the occasion of sin, and ought to be subdued, there was a fitness in praying that they might be "preserved blameless" to the coming of the Saviour. Comp. See Barnes "1 Co 9:27".

{b} "blameless" 1 Co 1:8,9


Verse 24. Faithful is he that calleth you. That is, your sanctification after all depends on him, and as he has begun a work of grace in your hearts, you may depend on his faithfulness to complete it. See Barnes "1 Th 4:3" See Barnes "Php 1:6" See Barnes "1 Co 1:9".


Verse 25. Brethren pray for us. A request which the apostle often makes. See Barnes "Heb 13:18".

He was a man of like passions as others; liable to the same temptations; engaged in an arduous work; often called to meet with opposition, and exposed to peril and want, and he peculiarly needed the prayers of the people of God. A minister, surrounded as he is by temptations, is in great danger if he has not the prayers of his people. Without those prayers, he will be likely to accomplish little in the cause of his Master. His own devotions in the sanctuary will be formal and frigid, and the word which he preaches will be likely to come from a cold and heavy heart, and to fall also on cold and heavy hearts. There is no way in which a people can better advance the cause of piety in their own hearts, than by praying much for their minister.


Verse 26. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. See Barnes "Ro 16:16".

{*} "Greet" "Salute"


Verse 27. I charge you by the Lord. Marg., adjure. Gr., "I put you under oath by the Lord" orkizw umav ton kurion. It is equivalent to binding persons by an oath. See Barnes "Mt 26:63".

Comp. Ge 21:23,24; Ge 24:3,37; 1:25.

That this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. To all the church. Comp. See Barnes "Col 4:16".

The meaning is, that the epistle was to be read to the whole church on some occasion on which it was assembled together. It was not merely designed for the individual or individual into whose hands it might happen to fall; but as it contained of common interest, and was designed for the whole body of believers at Thessalonica, the apostle gives a solemn charge that it should not be suppressed or kept from them. Injunctions of this kind, occurring in the epistles, look as if the apostles regarded themselves as under the influence of inspiration, and as having authority to give infallible instructions to the churches.

{1} "charge" "adjure"


Verse 28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, etc. See Barnes "Ro 16:20".

In regard to the subscription at the close of the epistle, purporting that it was written from Athens, see the Intro. paragraph 3. These subscriptions are of no authority; and the one here, like several others, is probably wrong.

From the solemn charge in 1 Th 5:27, of this chapter, that "this epistle should be read to all the holy brethren," that is, to the church at large, we may infer that it is in accordance with the will of God that all Christians should have free access to the Holy Scriptures. What was the particular reason for this injunction in Thessalonica, is not known; but it is possible that an opinion had begun to prevail, even then, that the Scriptures were designed to be kept in the hands of the ministers of religion, and that their common perusal was to be prohibited. At all events, whether this opinion prevailed then or not, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Holy Spirit, by whom this epistle was dictated, foresaw that the time would come when this doctrine would be defended by cardinals, and popes, and councils; and that it would be one of the means by which the monstrous fabric of the Papacy would be sustained and perpetuated. It is worthy of remark, also, that the apostle Paul, in his epistles to the Thessalonians, has dwelt more fully on the fact that the great apostasy would occur under the Papacy, and on the characteristics of that grand usurpation over the rights of men, than he has anywhere else in his epistles. See 2 Th 2:11. It is no improbable supposition that with reference to that, and to counteract one of its leading dogmas, his mind was supernaturally directed to give this solemn injunction, that the contents of the epistle which he had written should be communicated without reserve to all the Christian brethren in Thessalonica. In view of this injunction, therefore, at the close of this epistle, we may remark,

(1.) that it is a subject of express Divine command that the people should have access to the Holy Scriptures. So important was this considered, that it was deemed necessary to enjoin those who should receive the word of God, under the solemnities of an oath, and by all the force of apostolic authority, to communicate what they had received to others.—

(2.) This injunction had reference to all the members of the church, for they were all to be made acquainted with the word of God. The command is, indeed, that it be "read" to them, but by parity of reasoning it would follow that it was to be in their hands; that it was to be accessible to them; that it was in no manner to be withheld from them. Probably many of them could not read, but in some way the contents of revelation were to be made known to them; and not by preaching only, but by reading the words of inspiration. No part was to be kept back: nor were they to be denied such access that they could fully understand it; nor was it to be insisted on that there should be an authorized expounder of it. It was presumed that all the members of the church were qualified to understand what had been written to them, and to profit by it. It follows, therefore,

(3.) that there is great iniquity in all those decisions and laws which are designed to keep the Scriptures from the common people. This is true

(a.) in reference to the Papal communion, and to all the ordinances there which prohibit the free circulation of the sacred volume among the people;

(b.) it is true of all those laws in slave-holding communities which prohibit slaves from being taught to read the Scriptures; and

(c.) it is true of all the opinions and dogmas which prevail in any community where the right of "private judgment" is denied, and where free access to the volume of inspiration is forbidden. The richest blessing of heaven to mankind is the Bible; and there is no book ever written so admirably adapted to the common mind, and so fitted to elevate the sunken, the ignorant, and the degraded. There is no more decided enemy of the progress of the human race in intelligence, purity, and freedom, than he who prevents the free circulation of this holy volume; and there is no sincerer friend of the species, than he who "causes it to be read by all," and who contribute to make it accessible to all the families and all the inhabitants of the world.

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