The following is an excerpt from a Study that Stephen Brown and I are writing. It is broken into 4 categories: 1. Translation from the original Greek, 2. Technical Commentary, 3. Variant Reading among various Greek manuscripts, and 4. a devotional segment called "Echoes from the Word".
Feedback is welcome. This is a rough draft.
13 And for this reason, we also give thanks to God continually that you received God’s message that you heard from us. You have not accepted the message from people, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also is at work among you who believe.
Verses 13-16 serve as a transition from what the Apostles were not and were to a new narrative beginning in verse 17. We will separate them and comment on verse 13 separately as it is a thanksgiving.
13 Paul and company renew their thanksgiving which was started in Chapter one. In 1:2-3, the thanksgiving that was giving there was about the faithfulness of the Thessalonians while here, the thanksgiving is about when they first heard God’s word (Fee, NICNT, 85).
Paul starts this passage with Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο (And for this reason). One would assume at first glance that the “reason” for this second thanksgiving comes from the preceded passage, but we will show that the “reason” for the thanksgiving is in this very verse. Some scholars see the preceding phrase from verse 12 as the “reason”, but the end of verse says “God who calls you to his own kingdom and glory”. As discussed above, this phrase sets up the eschatological passage that occurs in Chapter 4. If we go further back to the 1st thanksgiving, Paul and company are thankful to God for the Thessalonians’ faith and how they have been able to endure. In verse 13 though, we see a quite different thanksgiving. This thanksgiving is around the message that the Thessalonians both “heard” and “accepted” as being from God. This is quite different from the rest of the letter before it.
Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ ἀδιαλείπτως (And for this reason we also give thanks to God continually) is formed in such a way as the reader must look forward to the remaining content of the verse in order to find the “reason” for the thanksgiving. As Fee puts it, “It is the renewed aspect of the thanksgiving that explains the double ‘and/also’ with which Paul’s sentence begins -- the ‘and’ serving as the link to verses 9-12, the ‘also’ pointing forward to what he is about to say regarding their reception of the apostolic message” (Fee, NICNT, 86-87).
Connecting two clauses, we find our conjunction friend ὅτι (that/because). As discussed in the commentary of 1:5 and 2:1, ὅτι can be translated causal (because) or explanatory (that). In this case, ὅτι either points to the content of the thanksgiving (that), or points to the cause of the thanksgiving (because). In either case, the first clause points forward rather than backwards.
The clause that follows ὅτι (that/because) is παραλαβόντες λόγον ἀκοῆς παρ᾿ ἡμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ (you received God’s message that you heard from us). The literal translation from the Greek seems a bit perplexing as it would read: “receiving a/the word of hearing from us of God”. The ones who received the “word” are the Thessalonians. The λόγον... τοῦ θεοῦ (a/the word of God) can be best understood in a couple of ways. 1. the “word” is the “message” that the Apostles preached to the Thessalonians. 2. the “word/message” originated from God, not mankind, thus the rendering “God’s message”. παραλαβόντες is considered as a “technical” term for receiving a tradition. In this case, it is Paul who has giving the tradition and its origins are from God. Thus, this tradition handed down to the Thessalonians has a sense of authority (Wanamaker, NIGTC, 110-111).
λόγον ἀκοῆς (the message of hearing) points to the what the Thessalonians actually “heard”. BDAG defines ἀκοή within the context of 1 Thessalonians 2:13 as “that which is heard”. BDAG also offers this translation: “the word of divine proclamation that goes out from us” (BDAG, 36).
Another striking aspect of this phrase is that τοῦ θεοῦ (God) appears at the end. In Greek, the writer would place emphasis on something by placing it at the beginning of the sentence or phrase while placing placing less emphasis on other things by placing them at the end. Wanamaker offers a good reason for the position of God in this phrase as it is probably an afterthought inserted by Paul to show who was the originator of the message (Wanamaker, NIGTC, 213).
Paul goes on to say ἐδέξασθε οὐ λόγον ἀνθρώπων (You have not received/accepted the message/word from people/men). Paul uses a different verb here for “receive” than he did in the last clause. There, he used παραλαμβάνω (to take, to receive as a tradition) and here he uses δέχομαι (to receive, to accept). Within this context, BDAG says the word means “to indicate approval or conviction by accepting” (221). The Thessalonians did not accept the message as coming from mankind, but accepted what the Apostles taught them as coming from God. Paul clarifies this in the very next clause.
Paul uses ἀλλὰ καθώς ἐστιν ἀληθῶς λόγον θεοῦ (but just as it truly is, the message of God) to clarify what the Thessalonians had indeed accepted. The adverb ἀληθῶς (truly) is used here to drive that the message didn’t originate from Paul or mankind, but originated from God. λόγον θεοῦ (word/message of God) should be taken as the message from God and not the message about God as the context is describing who the message originated from. As Fee puts it, “In the phrase λόγον θεοῦ the genitive can only be subjective (= functions as the subject of the verbal idea in the qualified noun), not objective (= ‘the message about God’)” (Fee, NICNT, 88).
The verse ends with ὃς καὶ ἐνεργεῖται ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν (who/which is also at work in you who believe). What is interesting is that ὃς (who/which) is a bit ambiguous. Normally a relative pronoun matches the case of the noun that it is standing for, but both preceding words do not match the case of ὃς which is in the nominative case. λόγον (word/message) appears here in the accusative while θεοῦ (God) appears in the genitive and is modifying λόγον. The key to explaining ὃς and what it stands for is found in how ἐνεργεῖται (is at work) is used throughout the rest of the NT. BDAG states that ἐνεργέω in the middle (as it is here) is always used with impersonal subjects (335). In other words, a person subject such as God can not be used here with the form that ἐνεργέω is in (the middle). Therefore, ὃς must be standing in place of λόγον (word/message).
The very last part of the verse is ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν (in you who believe). The preposition ἐν can mean “in”, “on”, or “among”. Since Paul is writing to a group of people in Thessalonica, then the appropriate translation for ἐν is “among”. The effects of the message that was preached to the Thessalonians is at work among them. Paul then clarifies who the “you” are. It is the “ones who believe”. τοῖς πιστεύουσιν is in the present tense, thus it carries a continual aspect and could be rendered as “the ones who continually believe”. What they believed what not only the “message” that was preached to them, but also that Jesus is the Anointed One.
- 06, 010, 012, 015, 0278, 33, and M omit Καὶ (and) at the beginning of the verse.
Echoes of the Word
One of Paul’s main themes in his writings is that there is one gospel. He even curses to hell anyone who brings a different gospel. Here we see the reason for his adamant proclamation and position. He holds out the very word of God. He has been entrusted to deliver this message directly from God, a trust he serves with a heart both zealous for the truth of God and and humble at being chosen to bring that word
The verse begins with thanksgiving, expressing gratitude for the Spirit working in and through the message of the apostles. The Thessalonians had not only received the gospel message, but had understood and embraced it as the very word of God. The raw, undiluted power of the gospel thus was given full reign in the lives of these believers. There was an undeniable change as the Spirit worked in their lives and the word went out. The word continues to change lives today, unchanging and eternal as its source.
It is God using the word to work his salvation, the breath of God active and life giving, imparting life into creatures once dead, but now reconciled and restored to true life. The trumpets in heaven find voice on earth through the words of man and the song of the overcomers swells in strength and joy with each soul added to the heavenly throng. All praise and glory is given to the King of Kings.
Believing is a verb, and is confirmed by change. Receiving begins an intimate walk with the Spirit. Becoming reflects the regeneration, or genesis of a new creation that will find its culmination when Christ returns. God has begun the work, using the earth found in the clay of humanity and is molding and shaping the bride of Christ, the church, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is not a place constructed by the hands of man, but a joining in one Spirit of hearts made new and built up into the temple of the Lord.