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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

1 Thessalonians 5



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Verse 1

Times - seasons ( χρόνων - καιρῶν )

See on Acts 1:7. With special reference to the Lord's coming. The plural is used because Paul is thinking of a number of incidents attending the preparation and accomplishment of the second advent, and occurring at different times. The collocation times and seasons only here and Acts 1:7. Καιρός is the suitable time, χρόνος the time measured by duration. Hence καιρός ajuncture, an occasion, as Matthew 16:3. The distinction is so well marked that have the phrases χρόνου καιρός theright moment of the time, and εὔκαιρος χρόνος theopportune moment. See Soph. Elec. 1292.

Verse 2

Perfectly ( ἀκριβῶς )

See on Luke 1:3.

The day of the Lord ( ἡμέρα κυρίου )

The day of Christ's second coming. In Paul's Epistles this is expressed by ἡ ἡμέρα theday, absolutely, 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Romans 13:12: ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη thatday, 2 Thessalonians 1:10: ἡμέρα χριστοῦ theday of Christ, Philemon 1:10; Philemon 2:16: ἡμέρα κυρίου or τοῦ κυρίου dayof the Lord, 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2: ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἱησοῦ ( Χριστοῦ ), 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14. These expressions refer to a definite time when the Lord is expected to appear, and Paul expects this appearance soon. Attempts to evade this by referring such expressions to the day of death, or to the advance toward perfection after death until the final judgment, are forced, and are shaped by dogmatic conceptions of the nature of Biblical inspiration. In the O.T. the phrase day of the Lord denotes a time in which God will conspicuously manifest his power and goodness or his penal justice. See Isaiah 2:12; Ezekiel 13:5; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:11; and comp. Romans 2:5. The whole class of phrases is rare in N.T. outside of Paul's Epistles.

As a thief ( ὡς κλέπτης )

Comp. Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15, and see on Revelation 3:3.

In the night ( ἐν νυκιτί )

The ancient church held that the advent was to be expected at night, on an Easter eve. This gave rise to the custom of vigils. Jerome, on Matthew 25:6, says: “It is a tradition of the Jews that Messiah will come at midnight, after the likeness of that season in Egypt when the Passover was celebrated, and the Destroyer came, and the Lord passed over the dwellings. I think that this idea was perpetuated in the apostolic custom, that, on the day of vigils, at the Pascha, it was not allowed to dismiss the people before midnight, since they expected the advent of Christ.” It is noteworthy how many of the gospel lessons on watchfulness are associated with the night and a visit by night. See Matthew 24:43; Matthew 25:1-13; Mark 13:35; Luke 12:35, Luke 12:38; Luke 17:34; Luke 12:20.

Verse 3

When they shall say

The prediction is thrown into dramatic form.

Cometh upon ( ἐπίσταται )

See Luke 21:34, Luke 21:36. Often in N.T. of a person coming suddenly upon another; as Luke 2:9; Luke 24:4; Acts 4:1; Acts 12:7.

Travail ( ὠδὶν )

Birth-throe. Only here in its literal sense. Elsewhere as a strong figure of sorrow or pain. See Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8; Acts 2:24. For the figure in O.T. see Isaiah 13:6-8; Isaiah 37:3; Micah 4:9; Hosea 13:3; Jeremiah 13:21.

Shall not escape ( οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν )

A.V. misses the force of the double negative. They shall in no wise escape.

Verse 4

Overtake ( καταλάβῃ )

See on comprehended, John 1:5.

A thief ( κλέπτης )

Tischendorf, Weiss, and Rev. T. retain this reading. Westcott and Hort read κλέπτας thievesbut with κλέπτης in margin. The weight of textual evidence is in favor of the singular.

Verse 5

Ye are all

In the text γὰρ for should be inserted after πάντες allYe are not in darkness for ye are sons of light.

Children of light ( υἱοὶ φωτός )

More correctly, sons of light. See on Mark 3:17, and comp. Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:12. The Christian condition is habitually associated in N.T. with light: see Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16; John 3:21; John 8:12; Acts 26:18; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:7. The contrary condition with darkness: see John 3:19, John 3:20; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 4:16; Matthew 6:23, etc.

Of the night - of darkness ( νυκτὸς - σκότους )

The genitive marks an advance of thought from ἐν σκότει indarkness, 1 Thessalonians 5:4. Ἑν indicates the element in which one is. The genitive, of darkness, points to nature and origin. To belong to darkness is more than to be in darkness.

Verse 6

Others ( οἱ λοιποί )

The rest, as 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Let us watch ( γρηγορῶμεν )

See on Mark 13:35, and comp. Ephesians 5:14.

Be sober ( νήφωμεν )

Primarily in a physical sense, as opposed to excess in drink, but passing into the ethical sense of calm, collected, circumspect. Alert wakefulness and calm assurance will prevent their being surprised and confused by the Lord's coming, as by a thief in the night.

Verse 7

Be drunken ( μεθυσκόμενοι )

Lit. who are made drunk or get drunk. See on John 2:10. In N.T. always of intoxication. In lxx, the Hebrews shekar strong drink is several times rendered by μέθυσμα ; Judges 13:4, Judges 13:7; 1 Samuel 1:11, 1 Samuel 1:15.

Verse 8

Putting on ( ἐνδυσάμενοι )

The son of day clothes himself for the day's work or battle. The same association of ideas as in 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:8, is found in Romans 13:12-14; Revelation 16:15; 1 Peter 1:13. Comp. lxx, Ephesians href="/desk/?q=eph+6:14&sr=1">Ephesians 6:14. The figures are not original with Paul. See Isaiah 59:17; Wisd. 5:18,19. Notice that only defensive armor is mentioned, in accordance with the darkness and uncertainty of the last time; and that the fundamental elements of Christian character, faith, hope, and love, are brought forward again as in 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 13:13. For the figure of the armed soldier, comp. also Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4.

Verse 9

For ( ὅτι )

Special emphasis is laid on the hope of salvation. The exhortation to put it on is enforced by the fact that God's appointment is to salvation and not to wrath.

To obtain ( εἰς περιποίησιν )

More literally, unto the obtaining. See on Ephesians 1:14. In three out of five instances in N.T. the word clearly means acquiring or obtaining. In Ephesians 1:14and 1 Peter 2:9, it is sometimes rendered possession (so Rev.). But in Ephesians the meaning is redemption or acquisition, or redemption which will give possession; and in 1st Peter a people for acquisition. The meaning here is that we might obtain. Comp. lxx, Malachi 3:17.

Verse 10

Who died

Frequently the resurrection is coupled with the death of Christ by Paul, as 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Philemon 3:10; Colossians 2:12; Colossians 3:1-4. Not so here; but the thought of resurrection is supplied in live together with him.

Wake or sleep

Whether we are alive or dead at Christ's appearing. Comp. Romans 14:9. Καθεύδειν in N.T. always literally of sleep, except here, and possibly Ephesians 5:14. In Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52, it is contrasted with death. In lxx in the sense of death, Psalm 87:5; Daniel 12:2; 2 Samuel 7:12.

Verse 11

Comfort ( παρακαλεῖτε )

Rev. renders exhort; but comfort suits better the general drift of the passage, and corresponds with 1 Thessalonians 4:18. There is some force in Bornemann's suggestion that the two meanings may be combined. Exhort each other to be of good heart.

Edify ( οἰκοδομεῖτε )

Lit. build up. See on Acts 20:32. The metaphorical sense habitually in Paul. See 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 14:4; Ephesians 2:20. In O.T. mostly in the literal sense. See however lxx, Rth 4:11 ; 88:2; Jeremiah href="/desk/?q=jer+31:4&sr=1">Jeremiah 31:4.

Verse 12

Know ( εἰδέναι )

See on 1 Thessalonians 4:4. Recognize them for what they are, and as entitled to respect because of their office. Comp. ἐπιγινώσκετε acknowledge 1 Corinthians 16:18; and ἐγνώσθης takestknowledge, lxx, Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+12:8&sr=1">Romans 12:8. Used of superintendents of households, 1 Timothy 3:4, 1 Timothy 3:5, 1 Timothy 3:12: of the ruling of elders of the church, 1 Timothy 5:17. It does not indicate a particular ecclesiastical office, but is used functionally. The ecclesiastical nomenclature of the Pauline Epistles is unsettled, corresponding with the fact that the primitive church was not a homogeneous body throughout christendom. The primitive Pauline church consisted of a number of separate fraternities which were self-governing. The recognition of those who ministered to the congregations depended on the free choice of their members. See for instance 1 Corinthians 16:15, 1 Corinthians 16:16. The congregation exercised discipline and gave judgment: 1 Corinthians 5:3-5; 2 Corinthians 2:6, 2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Corinthians 7:12; Galatians 6:1.

Admonish ( νουθετοῦντας )

Only in Acts and Paul. See on Acts 20:31, and comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28.

Verse 13

Esteem ( ἡγεῖσθαι )

Primarily to lead, which is the only sense in the Gospels and Acts, except Acts 26:2, in a speech of Paul. To lead the mind through a reasoning process to a conclusion, and so to think, to estimate. Only in this sense by Paul, Peter, and James. See 2 Corinthians 9:5; Philemon 2:3; James 1:2; 2 Peter 3:9. In both senses in Hebrews. See Hebrews 10:29; Hebrews 13:7.

Very highly in love

Const. very highly with esteem. In love qualifies both words.

For their work's sake ( διὰ τὸ ἔργον αὐτῶν )

Their esteem for their superintendents is not to rest only on personal attachment or respect for their position, but on intelligent and sympathetic appreciation of their work. It is a good and much-needed lesson for the modern congregation no less than for the Thessalonian church.

Verse 14

Them that are unruly ( τοὺς ἀτάκτους )

N.T.oThe A.V. is more vigorous and less stilted than Rev. disorderly. From ἀ notand τάσσειν draw up or arrange. Those who are out of line. Comp. the adverb ἀγαθός disorderly, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:11. Probably referring to the idlers and busybodies described there.

Feeble-minded ( ὀλιγοψύχους )

N.T.oBetter fainthearted. Ὁλίγος littleand ψυχὴ soulThose of little heart. oClass. In lxx see Proverbs 14:29; Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 57:15. Ὁλιγοψυχία faint-heartedness, oN.T. lxx, Exodus 6:9; Song of Solomon 16:11.

Support ( ἀντέχεσθε )

Comp. Matthew href="/desk/?q=mt+6:24&sr=1">Matthew 6:24; Titus 1:9. Ἁντὶ againstand ἔχεσθαι tohold one's self. The primary sense is, keeping one's self directly opposite to another so as to sustain him.

Verse 15

That which is good ( τὸ ἀγαθὸν )

Not to be limited to profitable, beneficent (as Lightfoot, Lünemann), although ἀγαθός commonly includes a corresponding beneficent relation of its subject to another subject, which is emphasized here by to all men. See on Romans 5:7. It may also include what is absolutely, morally good, as Romans 2:10. So Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 3:11; Romans 7:18.

Verse 17

Without ceasing ( ἀδιαλείπτως )

Comp. Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+12:12&sr=1">Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2.

Verse 18

Will ( θέλημα )

In the sense of requirement. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Verse 19

Quench not the Spirit

Since he is the inspirer of prayer, and the bestower of all gifts of grace on the Church. Comp. Ephesians 4:30. The operation of the Spirit is set forth under the image of fire in Matthew 3:11; Luke 12:49; Acts 2:3, Acts 2:4. The reference here is to the work of the Spirit generally, and not specially to his inspiration of prayer or prophecy.

Verse 20

Prophesyings ( προφητείας )

The emphasis on prophesyings corresponds with that in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, 1 Corinthians 14:22ff. Prophecy in the apostolic church was directly inspired instruction, exhortation, or warning. The prophet received the truth into his own spirit which was withdrawn from earthly things and concentrated upon the spiritual world. His higher, spiritual part ( πνεῦμα ), and his moral intelligence ( νοῦς ), and his speech ( λόγος ) worked in harmony. His spirit received a spiritual truth in symbol: his understanding interpreted it in its application to actual events, and his speech uttered the interpretation. He was not ecstatically rapt out of the sphere of human intelligence, although his understanding was intensified and clarified by the phenomenal action of the Spirit upon it. This double action imparted a peculiarly elevated character to his speech. The prophetic influence was thus distinguished from the mystical ecstasy, the ecstasy of Paul when rapt into the third heaven, which affected the subject alone and was incommunicable (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). The gift of tongues carried the subject out of the prophetic condition in which spirit, understanding, and speech operated in concert, and into a condition in which the understanding was overpowered by the communication to the spirit, so that the spirit could not find its natural expression in rational speech, or speech begotten of the understanding, and found supernatural expression in a tongue created by the Spirit. Paul attached great value to prophecy. He places prophets next after apostles in the list of those whom God has set in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:28). He associates apostles and prophets as the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). He assigns to prophecy the precedence among spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1-5), and urges his readers to desire the gift (1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Corinthians 14:39). Hence his exhortation here.

Verse 21

Prove all things ( πάντα δοκιμάζετε )

A general exhortation, not confined to prophesyings; but Paul elsewhere insists that a test be applied to phenomena which claim to be supernatural. See on discerning of spirits, 1 Corinthians 12:10; see on 1 Corinthians 14:29, and comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2, and 1 John 4:1-3. For δοκιμάζετε prove, see on 1 Peter 1:7. In lxx, Proverbs 27:21; Psalm 11:6, δοκίμιον is a crucible or furnace.

Hold fast that which is good ( τὸ καλὸν κατέχετ )

These words are associated in early Christian writers with an apocryphal saying ascribed to Jesus, and very frequently quoted, γίνεσθε δὲ δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται showyourselves approved money-changers. By some ancient writers the two are cited together as Paul's; by others they are distinguished, as by Origen, who cites the saying as an injunction ( ἐντολὴν ) of Jesus, and adds, “and also (observing) the teaching of Paul, who says, 'prove all things, hold fast the good, abstain from every form of evil.'” The saying about the money-changers is probably a genuine logion of the Lord. Some have thought that the words added by Clement of Alexandria, “rejecting some things but holding fast the good,” formed part of the Lord's saying, and that, accordingly, Paul's words here depend on an original utterance of Jesus. If this could be proved, εἶδος form 1 Thessalonians 5:22, might be explained as a figure of exchangers distinguishing between genuine and false coins.

Verse 22

Appearance ( εἴδους )

As commonly explained, abstain from everything that even looks like evil. But the word signifies form or kind. Comp. Luke 3:22; John 5:37, and see nearly the same phrase in Joseph. Ant. 10:3,1. It never has the sense of semblance. Moreover, it is impossible to abstain from everything that looks like evil.

Of evil ( πονηροῦ )

To be taken as a noun; not as an adjective agreeing with εἴδους form(from every evil form). The meaning of πονηρός in N.T. cannot be limited to active evil, mischief, though it often has that sense. The same is true in lxx, where it sometimes means grudging or niggardly. See Sirach 14:4,5; 34:23.

Verse 23

The very God of peace ( αὐτὸς ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης )

Better, the God of peace himself. God's work is contrasted with human efforts to carry out the preceding injunctions. The phrase God of peace only in Paul and Hebrews. See Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; Philemon 4:9; Hebrews 13:20. The meaning is, God who is the source and giver of peace. Peace, in the Pauline sense, is not mere calm or tranquillity. It is always conceived as based upon reconciliation with God. God is the God of peace only to those who have ceased to be at war with him, and are at one with him. God's peace is not sentimental but moral. Hence the God of peace is the sanctifier. “Peace” is habitually used, both in the Old and New Testaments, in connection with the messianic salvation. The Messiah himself will be Peace (Micah 5:5). Peace is associated with righteousness as a messianic blessing (Psalm 72:7; Psalm 85:10). Peace, founded in reconciliation with God, is the theme of the gospel (Acts 10:36). The gospel is the gospel of peace (Ephesians 2:17; Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15). Christ is the giver of peace (John 14:27; John 16:33).

Sanctify ( ἁγιάσαι )

See on John 10:36; see on John 17:17. The primary idea of the word is separation. Hence ἅγιος , the standard word for holy in lxx is, primarily, set apart. Ἁγιάζειν is 1. to separate from things profane and to consecrate to God; 2. to cleanse or purify as one set apart to holy uses.

Wholly ( ὁλοτελεῖς )

N.T.oSo that nothing shall escape the sanctifying power. Ὅλος completeand τέλος endor consummation.

Spirit, soul, body ( πνεῦμα, ψυχὴ σῶμα )

It is useless to attempt to draw from these words a technical, psychological statement of a threefold division of the human personality. If Paul recognized any such technical division, it was more probably twofold; the body or material part, and the immaterial part with its higher and lower sides - πνεῦμα and ψυχὴ . See on Romans 6:6; see on Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23; see on Romans 8:4; see on Romans 11:3and footnote.

Be preserved entire ( ὁλόκληρον - τηρηθείη )

This is the rendering of Rev. and is correct. A.V. joins ὁλόκληρον with πνεῦμα , and renders your whole spirit. Ὁλόκληρον is predicative, not attributive. It does not mean whole, but is derived from ὅλος wholeand κλῆρος allotmentand signifies having the entire allotment; complete in all parts. It occurs only here and James 1:4, where it is associated with τέλειοι perfectIt appears in lxx, as Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9; Deuteronomy 27:6. Joseph. Ant. 3:12,2, uses it of an unblemished victim for sacrifice. As distinguished from ὁλοτελεῖς wholly 1 Thessalonians 5:23, it is qualitative, while ὁλοτελεῖς is quantitative. The kindred ὁλοκληρία perfectsoundness, only in Acts 3:16. For preserved see on 1 Peter 1:4.

Verse 24

Faithful ( πιστὸς )

Comp. 2 Timothy 2:13, and see on 1 John 1:9; see on Revelation 1:5; see on Revelation 3:14.

That calleth ( ὁ καλῶν )

= the caller. The emphasis is on the person rather than on the act. Comp. Romans 9:11; Galatians 1:6, Galatians 1:15; Galatians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Peter 5:10; James 1:5.

Verse 26


See on 2 Corinthians 13:12. Comp. Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Peter 5:14.

Verse 27

I charge ( ἐνορκίζω )

N.T.oRev. stronger and more literal, I adjure. oClass. This strong appeal may perhaps be explained by a suspicion on Paul's part that a wrong use might be made of his name and authority (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2), so that it was important that his views should be made known to all. Lightfoot refers to 2 Thessalonians 3:17, as showing a similar feeling in his anxiety to authenticate his letter.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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