Friday, June 11, 2010

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Along with my study of Mark, I thought I'd study an epistle as well. 
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.  For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 
(1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)
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Verse 1
Παῦλος καὶ Σιλουανὸς καὶ Τιμόθεος τῇ  ἐκκλησίᾳ Θεσσαλονικέων ἐν Θεῷ πατρὶ καὶ Κυρίω ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστῷ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Κυρίου ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ.  (GNT)

Paul, and Silas, and Timothy, to the assembly of Thessalonians, in God the father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Favor to you, and peace from God our father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (AB)

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (ESV)
In observing the greeting to the Thessalonians, I'm curious about from whom the other letters came:
  • Paul is mentioned alone in the greeting of his letters to the Romans, the first letter to the Corinthians, and to the Ephesians, and his two letters to Timothy. 
  • Paul and Timothy together greet the readers in Philippi and Colossae, as well as the second letter to the Corinthians, and to Philemon. 
  • Paul mentions "all the brothers who are with me" in the greeting of his letter to the Galatians.
But here (and in the 2nd letter) Paul, Silas, and Timothy are mentioned as sending the two letters to the Thessalonians.  Who is the Silas mentioned in these?  I do not know much about Silas (or Silvanus), except that he is mentioned in the second letter to the church at Corinth, and apparently it was through him that Peter delivers the letter that we call "1 Peter".

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Verse 2

Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ Θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν, μνείαν ὑμῶν ποιούμενοι ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν ἡμῶν, (GNT)


We give thanks to God at all times concerning all of you, [2mention 3of you 1making] in our prayers; (AB)


We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, (ESV)

Imagine if we told people how thankful we are for them and that we actually thank God in our prayers for them... constantly!  We read here that the three authors mention that they are thankful for ALL of them, not just a few that maybe they got to know personally.

The take away from this verse is that we are shown example that these men were grateful for all that they had been given by God, especially those that they have had the privilege of shepherding spiritually.

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Verse 3
αδιαλειπτως μνημονευοντες υμων του εργου της πιστεως και του κοπου της αγαπης και της υπομονης της ελπιδος του Κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν, (GNT)

continually remembering your work of the belief, and the toil of the love, and the endurance of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before [2God 3and 4father 1our].
(AB)

remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(ESV)
Right away I notice two things: (1) continually remembering, and (2) these words work, toil, and endurance.  

First, what is meant by "continually"?  Do they remember the believers in Thessalonica at all times?  Are they always in their prayers?  What is meant by this and what was their intention in telling the readers this?  Drawing from the context, that this is a greeting in a letter, and from the remainder of the letter, I think this really just means that Paul and his partners were hearing good things about the church there.  Therefore, they were always being reminded of them in their prayers, giving thanks to God for the witness being spread among the neighboring towns and provinces.


Secondly, these words work, toil, and endurance: what is meant by these? What were the Thessalonians doing that Paul recognized in this way?   
  • Work: Is this the same "work" in Philippians 2:12, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"?  The Greek is different, so what about James', "faith without works", maybe these are the same.  The word in James 2:24 is εργων and the word in 1 Thess. is εργου, but they are derived from the same word, ἔργον.  Strong's gives us this definition: to work; toil (as an effort or occupation); by implication an act: - deed, doing, labor, work.  This would imply the works that are a fruit of faith.
  • Toil: This phrase "toil of love" paints an interesting picture.  The Greek word κοπου is from the word κόπτω and means, "to cut, to lash, to beat, to toil"; this is painful, hard work.  In conjunction with the word αγαπης (love), I just think it really shows the difference between how we perceive "love" today and what God's Word teaches us about real love.  We want to subscribe to an easy definition of "love", one that serves us more than others; and when it no longer serves us and becomes a "toil", then we shed it and go in search of the next "good feeling".  In short, a good picture of αγαπης would be the love a father has for his child.
  • Endurance:  This word, υπομονης, means "to remain under" and ελπιδος is hope, the hope of Jesus' second coming.
Work, Toil, and Endurance - εργου, κοπου, υπομονης:
Interesting note about the occurrence here of these three virtues - the same three appear here in verse three, but also in Revelation 2:2, where Jesus is commending the church in Ephesus for their works:
"'I know your works [εργα], your toil [κοπον] and your patient endurance [υπομονην], and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (Revelation 2:2)
However, it should also be noted that these are works of faith, toil of love, and patient hope.  As John Darby notes, "These principles, faith, hope, and love, form our character as Christians."