1:1 From Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you!
Paul, Silas and Timothy – Fee tells us that it was unusual for the author of a letter to include the names of his present companions in the salutation. As noted in the introduction, we should regard Paul as the principal author: the two Thessalonian letters contain several 1st-person singulars, and so the 1st-person plurals should probably be regarded as ‘editorial plurals’.
Aside from any hand that Silas and Timothy may have had in the composition of this letter, we may assume that they are mentioned by name not only because they were with Paul at the time of writing, but also because they had been with him when he was in Thessalonica.
Silas was a Roman citizen and a member of the Jerusalem church. He had replaced Barnabas as Paul’s companion on the second missionary journey (Acts 15:40).
Timothy had joined Paul at Lystra, Acts 16:1.
To the church of the Thessalonians – as 1 Thess 5:27, Paul wants his letter to be read out to ‘all the brothers’.
As for the word translated ‘church’ – ekklesia – it was widely used for various kinds of gathering or assembly. It is a mistake to press its ‘literal’ meaning and claim that it defines the church as ‘the called-out ones’.
In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – See how naturally Paul links these two members of the Godhead together. ‘Already within twenty years of the death and resurrection of Jesus the coupling of the Father and the Son as equal is the universal faith of the church. (Stott).
These two divine persons (as later theology would express it) are similarly linked together in 1 Thess 3:11; 2 Thess 2:16; 3:5; 3:16.
Paul often writes of believers being ‘in Christ’. But what is the meaning of them being ‘in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’? Stott notes, and rejects, various attempts to clarify: ‘It is certainly not spatial, as if the church were somehow ‘inside’ God. Nor does it seem to mean that the church is ‘founded on’ God (JBP) or that its members ‘belong to’ God (REB) or simply that they ‘have God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord’, true as all these statements are. Nor does it seem natural to take ‘in’ as instrumental and translate the phrase ‘brought into being by’ God.’ Stott suggests that ‘we should paraphrase the preposition “in” as meaning “living in”, “rooted in” or “drawing its life from”.’
For the church to be ‘in’ God and Christ means that it participates in the life of God and receives its life from God. ‘The church of the Thessalonians finds its unique identity in its union or relationship with God the Father and the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Green)
Grace and peace – LIt. ‘grace to you – and peace’. Fee thinks that there is probably significance in this word order: ‘Grace’ is what we receive from God, and ‘peace’ is what we experience as a result.
‘Peace’ (reflecting ‘shalom’ in Hebrew) is not so much a wish for inner calmness as that they might enter yet more fully into the saving benefits of the gospel of God (described as ‘peace with God’ in Rom 5:1). ‘God’s ‘peace’ is not just the absence of conflict, but the fullness of health and harmony through reconciliation with him and with each other.’ (Stott)
‘Far from being a mere formality, in Paul’s hands the common letter greeting becomes a blessing that embraces the totality of the divine benefits he and his associates desire for the Christians in Thessalonica.’ (Green)
Fee comments that Paul has a habit of turning everything he writes into gospel. ‘The traditional greeting in the Hellenistic world was chairein—the infinitive of the verb “to rejoice,” but in salutations meaning simply “Greetings!” (see Acts 15:23; Jas 1:1). In Paul’s hands this now becomes charis (“grace”), to which he adds the traditional Jewish greeting shalom (“peace,” in the sense of “wholeness” or “well-being”).’
‘Grace is the love of God, spontaneous, beautiful, unearned, at work in Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinful men; peace is the effect and fruit in man of the reception of grace.’ (Denney)
Thanksgiving for Response to the Gospel
1:2 We thank God always for all of you as we mention you constantly in our prayers, 1:3 because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
‘It sounds,’ writes John Stott, ‘as if he had some kind of list. It is, without doubt, the regular mentioning of people’s names in prayer which – more surely and quickly than by any other means – fixes them in our mind and memory. To forget someone’s name is, as likely as not, a token of our pastoral prayerlessness’. (The Contemporary Christians, p282)
‘Undoubtedly Paul and his companions could remember both the faces and the names of the members of this church whom they had to abandon just a short time previously (1 Thess 2:17).’ (Green)
As Stott remarks, the Thessalonian church was only a few months old, and was experiencing severe persecution. We would expect it to show marks of immaturity and insecurity. But Paul expresses nothing but thankfulness to God for what they are.
We thank God always for all of you – ‘The apostle begins with thanksgiving to God. Being about to mention the things that were matter of joy to him, and praiseworthy in them, and greatly for their advantage, he chooses to do this by way of thanksgiving to God, who is the author of all that good that comes to us, or is done by us, at any time. God is the object of all religious worship, of prayer and praise. And thanksgiving to God is a great duty, to be performed always or constantly; even when we do not actually give thanks to God by our words, we should have a grateful sense of God’s goodness upon our minds. Thanksgiving should be often repeated; and not only should we be thankful for the favors we ourselves receive, but for the benefits bestowed on others also, upon our fellow creatures and fellow Christians. The apostle gave thanks not only for those who were his most intimate friends, or most eminently favored of God, but for them all.’ (MHC)
We continually remember before our God and Father – ‘The adverb “continually” expresses the thought that they were persistent in their prayers, as Jesus taught in Luke 18:1 when he told his disciples that “they should always pray and not give up” (cf. 1 Thess. 5:17).’ (Green)
Your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope – or, possibly, ‘your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have’. (NLT)
Faith…love…hope – This trinity of graces occurs also in 1 Thess 5:8; Rom. 5:1–5; 1 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 5:5–6; Col. 1:4–5; 1 Pet. 1:21–22; Heb. 10:22–24.
Your work produced by faith – Such work might include ministry activities, as in 1 Cor 3:13; 15:58), and doing good to others (Gal 6:9–10; Col 1:10; Eph 2:10).
While Paul will not allow works to usurp the place of faith as a means of salvation (Gal 2:16), nevertheless he insists that works can and must issue from true faith (Gal 5:6).
Your labour prompted by love – While most interpreters assume that this refers to ‘labouring for the gospel’, Fee (in the light of 1 Thess 2:9ff; 4:9-12; 2 Thess 3:6-15) thinks that Paul is referring to manual work. The apostle is thankful that many of his readers are engaged in loving labour, even though later he will need to urge others to follow suit.
Green: ‘The love of the Thessalonian believers expressed itself in hard, strenuous, and exhausting labor. Far from being simply an emotion, love sought the best for the other and labored for the other’s benefit (cf. Eph. 4:16; Heb. 6:10).’
Endurance inspired by hope – This ‘endurance’ is not a mere gritting of the teeth. It is ‘not the resignation of the passive sufferer, so much as the fortitude of the stout-hearted soldier’ (Findlay). Nor does this hope consist in a vague wish that ‘everything will turn out all right in the end’. No: it entails eagerly waiting for God’s Son from heaven (v10). Hope, in the NT is not wishful thinking, but rather eager expectation (cf. Phil 1:20). Or, as Green puts it: ‘The hope they held was not some vague expectation about a better future but rather solid confidence rooted in the expectation of Christ’s coming.’
As Green remarks, ‘In spite of the disadvantages of being a young and persecuted congregation, these believers gave clear evidence of possessing genuine and recognizable Christian character.’
Wiersbe observes that the seed-thoughts of this verse will be developed in v9-10:-
your work of faith – you turned to God from idols
your labor of love – to serve the living and true God
and patience of hope – to wait for His Son from Heaven
1:4 We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 1:5 in that our gospel did not come to you merely in words, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (surely you recall the character we displayed when we came among you to help you).
We know – lit. ‘knowing’.
Brothers and sisters – Lit. ‘brothers’. It is a mark of Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonians that he calls them ‘brothers and sisters’ over twenty times in the two letters.
‘This familial metaphor for the believing community can be traced back biblically to Exodus 2:11, where Moses goes out to visit his own “brothers” (= fellow Israelites) and sees an Egyptian beating one of his “brothers”—a usage that then carries throughout the Old Testament. Usage by early Christians, and especially the inclusion of Gentiles, can be traced back directly to Jesus himself, where in a strictly family-oriented context he deliberately throws the net wide to include all in God’s family who do God’s will (Mark 3:34–35 // Matt 12:49–50 // Luke 8:20).’ (Fee)
Loved by God – This is in the perfect tense, ‘signifying a love existing in the past and realised in the present’ (Findlay)
He has chosen you – While it is possible that Paul simply means that they were chosen by God to uplift the name of Jesus in the city of Thessalonica, most interpreters take this as a reference to election to eternal life. This latter view is supported both by the immediate context and by the broader teaching of Scripture.
Fee says that in the present context it should be thought of as an election of the whole body of believers, not of individuals. ‘Moreover, for Paul “election” is always a referent to believers, and thus reflects a reality after the fact, not before.’
Looking more widely at Paul’s teaching, we find that it is ‘an eternal election (Eph 1:4; cf. 2 Thess 2:13) to final salvation (Eph 1:11), of a people whom he gave to Christ before times eternal (2 Tim 1:9; Jn 6:38f; 17:2-12), without respect to their foreseen faith (Rom 9:11), the grand purpose of which is to redound to the glory of his grace (Eph 1:6). (Wilson)
Many of Scriptures speak of God’s love as the cause of his election: Deut. 4:37; 7:7–8; 10:15; Pss. 47:4; 78:68; Isa. 42:1; Matt. 12:18; Rom. 11:28; Eph. 1:4; Col. 3:12. Paul probably has in mind here the ‘foundational text’ of Deut 7:7f (Fee).
As Fee observes, Paul introduces in verse 5 the two main concerns that he will develop forthwith: (a) how our gospel came to you (elaborated in vv6-10); (b) you know how we lived (expanded in 1 Thess 2:1-12).
‘In verses 5–10 the apostle outlines in three clear stages the progress of the gospel in Thessalonica. First, ‘our gospel came to you’ (5). Secondly, ‘you welcomed the message’ (6). Thirdly, ‘the Lord’s message rang out from you’ (8). Thus it came to you, you received it, and you passed it on. This sequence is God’s continuing purpose throughout the world.’ (Stott)
Because our gospel came to you…with power – We cannot enquire into the deep counsels of God to discover if we belong to the company of his elect: we make that discovery by receiving the gospel with power.
Morris quotes Nygren on Rom 1:16 – ‘The gospel is not the presentation of an idea, but the operation of a power.’
Green understands this ‘power’ as the ability to perform miracles. Fee thinks that it probably includes accompanying signs and wonders. Noting the singular, however, Wilson maintains that ‘charismatic manifestations are not in view’ here. He thinks, rather that Paul’s thought is of ‘the clothing of the preacher’s words with that vital force which had brought salvation to the Thessalonians (cf. Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 2:4).
Stott agrees that Paul is probably not referring to miracles here, but ‘to the internal operation of the Holy Spirit’. He adds: ‘It is only by his power that the Word can penetrate people’s mind, heart, conscience and will. Paul wrote the same thing to the Corinthian church, and it is from Corinth that he is writing to the Thessalonians. We must never divorce what God has married, namely his Word and his Spirit. The Word of God is the Spirit’s sword. The Spirit without the Word is weaponless; the Word without the Spirit is powerless.’
Not simply with words – ‘His preaching was in fact a matter of “word,” an oral communication of the truth of the gospel; his point is that it was not that only, since their conversion would then have been a matter of assent or persuasion alone’ (Fee). Paul will develop this thought in chapter 2.
‘I heard two persons on the Wengen Alp talking by the hour together of the names of ferns; not a word about their characteristics, uses, or habits, but a medley of crack-jaw titles, and nothing more. They evidently felt that they were ventilating their botany, and kept each other in countenance by alternate volleys of nonsense. Well, they were about as sensible as those doctrinalists who forever talk over the technicalities of religion, but know nothing by experience of its spirit and power. Are we not all too apt to amuse ourselves after the same fashion? He who knows mere Linnaean names, but has never seen a flower, is as reliable in botany, as he is in theology who can descant upon supralapsarianism, but has never known the love of Christ in his heart. “True religion’s more than doctrine, Something must be known and felt.”‘ (C. H. Spurgeon.)
With the Holy Spirit – who is the source of the believer’s power (cf. 1 Cor 2:4). ‘The truth of the Word, the conviction with which we speak it, and the power of its impact on others all come from the Holy Spirit. It is he who illumines our minds, so that we formulate our message with integrity and clarity. It is he whose inward witness assures us of its truth, so that we preach it with conviction. And it is he who carries it home with power, so that the hearers respond to it in penitence, faith and obedience.’ (Stott)
Deep conviction – the result of the Spirit’s powerful operation. But is Paul thinking of the ‘deep conviction’ of the preachers, or of their hearers? Morris understands this verse to teach that the Holy Spirit was powerfully active both in the apostles and their converts. Green agrees that either may be the case. But he notes that the underlying word – plērophoria – can also mean ‘complete fullness’ (i.e. the complete fullness of the divine work), and he thinks that is the meaning here.
Wilson thinks that the ‘deep conviction’ is that of Paul and his fellow-evangelists: ‘These preachers were so conscious of the assistance of the Holy Spirit in their ministry that they were fully convinced that God’s word would accomplish the work for which he sent it forth (cf. Isa 55:11)’
Stott is of the same view: ‘Paul’s preaching was not only powerful in its effect but confident in its presentation. He was sure of his message, of its truth and its relevance, and in consequence was bold in proclaiming it. Yet this confidence and this courage are precisely what many modern preachers seem to lack.’
You know how we lived among you for your sake – From the response of the recipients Paul turns to the character of the messengers. He will treat this theme more fully in 1 Thess 2:1-12.
And all this was not at all for the personal gain of Paul and his companions but ‘for your sake’.
1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the message with joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, despite great affliction.
Imitators of us and of the Lord – cf. 1 Cor 11:1.
Green notes that ‘the ancients deeply appreciated the value of imitating model lives as a means of moral education, whether those models were parents, heroes, or teachers…In the NT we find repeated exhortations to imitate the leaders of the church (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Gal. 4:12; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9; 1 Tim. 4:12; Titus 2:7; 1 Pet. 5:3), other members of the community of faith (Phil. 3:17; Heb. 6:12; 11; 13:7), and “what is good” (3 John 11), as well as God and Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:1; 1 Cor. 11:1).’
Severe suffering – This resulted from the intense opposition they faced from the Thessalonian populace (1 Thess 2:14; 3:3, 7; 2 Thess. 1:4, 6).
‘For Paul, suffering was an expected concomitant of discipleship (see 1 Thess 3:2–3); indeed, it is something believers “glory in” (Rom 5:3), not because they love to suffer, but because for Paul it is the mark of genuine discipleship.’ (Fee)
Suffering…joy – As Morris says, ‘just as it is true that the Christian will find trouble in the world, so it is true that he will have a joy that the world never gave and can never take away (John 16:22), a joy brought by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22).’
‘Joy was one of the chief outcomes of people’s conversion to Christ, and the strength of this joy was such that the adversity they faced could not destroy it. What determined these Christians’ attitude in their persecutions was not their circumstances but rather their experience of the Holy Spirit.’ (Green)
‘It was never Paul’s practice to promise an easy road to heaven, for he knew that all who become imitators of the Lord are called to share in his rejection by an unbelieving world (Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22; Phil 1:29; 1 Thess 3:4; 2 Tim 1:8). But if the early Christians not only expected persecution as the inevitable accompaniment of genuine discipleship, they also received it as a badge of honour with Spirit-inspired joy (Acts 5:41).’ (Wilson)
You welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit – Paul has already, in v5, spoken of the Godward side, saying that that it came with the Holy Spirit’s power. Now he emphasises the human side: ‘You welcomed…you turned…’. Both aspects are vital if we are to have a rounded scriptural understanding of the Gospel and its proclamation.
1:7 As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
A model – ‘tupos‘, pattern. Paul’s readers had first followed the pattern of the apostles and the Lord, and then had themselves become patterns for others to follow. High praise indeed.
Macedonia was in the north, and Thessalonica itself was within this province.
Achaia was in the south, several weeks’ journey away by land or sea. As Shogren remarks, Paul had left Thessalonica a matter of months earlier, and yet the reputation of the church there had already reached places such as Athens and Corinth.
Macedonia and Achaia - the two provinces making up the whole of Greece.
Your faith in God has become known everywhere - The underlying expression might refer to the gospel itself has having been made known (Green inclines to this interpretation). Most interpreters, however, think that Paul is referring to the Thessalonians' response to the gospel.
Stott remarks that in our own day we have many tools for disseminating a message far and near. But there is a way of communicating which is, anything, even more effective, and which requires no modern gadgetry: and that is word of mouth. The transmission of an exciting and life-changing method can effectively be achieved simply by one person talking to another person, and that person to another, and so on.
Therefore we do not need to say anything about it - If we follow Green (above), then Paul would be saying that he did not need to preach the gospel in certain places because the Thessalonians had already done this effectively. Most, however, think that Paul's meaning is that he does not need to say anything about their faith because the results of their faith are apparent for all to see.
Think about your own local church. For what is it best known, and how widely?
1:9 For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.
They themselves report what kind of reception you gave us - The word translated 'reception' can mean 'entrance', and Green thinks that Paul is referring not, not to the Thessalonians' reception of the apostles, but of how the apostles entered the city (as in 1 Thess 2:1). Their entrance was not with the pomp and self-importance with which a noted philosopher might enter a city, but with quiet effectiveness (v5b).
'What follows gives the substance of these reports in words that are evidently intended to remind them of the preaching through which they had been delivered from the power of darkness (Cf. 1 Cor 10:19f).' (Wilson)
Now follow three results of receiving the gospel: (a) they turned from idols; (b) they turned to God; (c) they look forward to the coming of Christ. Because the wording is not typical of Paul, some scholars think they have found in this triad traces of an early Christian creed. But, as Fee has pointed out, by making this statement at the end of the present section of his letter, it has been made Pauline by the apostle himself.
You turned to God from idols - Paul would probably not have said this of Jewish converts, but rather of the 'large number of God-fearing Greeks' (Acts 17:4). We may conclude, therefore, that the Thessalonian church was mainly Gentile.
Note the negative - 'you turned...from idols', and the positive - 'to serve the living and true God'. The description of God as 'the living and true' stands in contrast to the idols, who are lifeless and false.
Green notes that there would have been very few people in Paul's day who did not follow some god or gods. Such idolatry was part of the social and political climate, and so abandonment of these gods would have occasioned much of the persecution that was targeted at the new believers.
Green adds: 'The first movement of this conversion was to God, and as a result they turned from idols. There was no syncretism between their new faith and old religious loyalties. Nor did they take half a step by adopting God into their pantheon, placing him alongside their other religious loyalties. They took the radical step of abandoning those gods that were part of the worship of their family and their community.'
Green again: 'The church resoundingly condemned the worship of idols and pointed people to the true God who created all things (Rom. 1:22–25; 1 Cor. 5:11; 6:9; 10:14–22; Gal. 5:20–21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5; 1 John 5:21; Rev. 21:8; 22:15). Conversion meant not only abandoning the idol cult but also forsaking the immoral practices associated with it (1 Pet. 4:3).'
Stott remarks on the idolatry that is present in the world today in the form of animism (or 'traditional religion'): 'A tribe’s traditional idols have a tremendous hold over the people’s minds, hearts and lives. For centuries they have lived in superstitious dread of them and in obsequious submission to them. The very thought of breaking away from them fills them with alarm, as they fear the spirits’ revenge.'
But, adds Stott, the modern city has its own set of idols (or God-substitutes): 'Some people are eaten up with a selfish ambition for money, power or fame. Others are obsessed with their work, or with sport or television, or are infatuated with a person, or addicted to food, alcohol, hard drugs or sex. Both immorality and greed are later pronounced by Paul to be forms of idolatry, because they demand an allegiance which is due to God alone. So every idolater is a prisoner, held in humiliating bondage.'
This breaking free from idolatry is sometimes referred to as a 'power encounter', 'for it is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in which the spell of the idol is broken and the superior power of the living and true God is demonstrated.' (Stott)
They had turned to the one God (implied by use of the definite article) from the many idols.
We might ask what contemporary idols we have turned from.
To serve the true and living God - As the prophets of the OT insist, idols are dead, false things; but God is living and true. ('True' here means 'genuine', in contrast to the falseness of idols). The entire passage is suffused with Jewish monotheism, making the exalted Christology (especially for such an early letter) yet more striking. Jesus is not only spoken of in the same breath as 'the living and true God', but he is the One whom we wait for, whom God has raised from the dead, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
To wait for his Son from heaven - lit. 'the heavens'. The idea is of waiting patiently and expectantly. However, it is not a passive waiting: it is linked to their moral life (1 Thess 3:13; 5:6–8, 23) and to their behaviour in the face of persecution (cf. 1 Thess 1:3; 3:8).
Much is implied in this statement. Jesus is God's Son (cf. Rom. 5:10; 8:3, 29, 32; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:19; Gal. 1:16; 4:4, 6). His coming from heaven confirms his previous ascension to heaven (Acts 1:11; 2:34; Eph. 1:20; 2:6; Heb. 4:14; 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:22). His coming from heaven is elsewhere referred to as his parousia, his royal coming (parousia; 1 Thess 2:19; 3:13; 4:15).
Whom he raised from the dead - Fee observes that this is the first known reference to the resurrection of Jesus in Christian literature. He adds that Paul's statement - like every other statement about the resurrection in the NT - is mentioned in an 'absolutely presuppositional' way. 'This primary Christian assumption thus especially lies behind several items that follow: the prayer directed to him in 1 Thess 3:12–13; the mention of his Parousia in 1 Thess 3:13; and the whole argument about the resurrection of believers in 1 Thess 4:13–18 (esp. v. 16).'
It was by this very act that God declared Jesus to be his Son, Acts 17:31; Rom 1:3f.
Obviously, this implies Jesus' death on the cross, which was also central in apostolic proclamation (1 Thess 2:15; 4:14; 5:9f).
Morris: 'It is a mark of the centrality of this event that even when Paul is thinking of the second coming he refers to Christ as the One whom he raised from the dead. The New Testament writers, of course, habitually ascribe the work of the resurrection to the Father. It is the mark of his vindication and approval of the atoning work of the Son.'
Who rescues us - Stott thinks that this is 'surely' a play on the name 'Jesus', which means 'saviour', Mt 1:21. See also 1 Thess 5:9; Rom 5:9.
Stott remarks that v10 refers to ‘Jesus’, ‘God’s Son’, and 'Saviour'. Vv 1 and 3 refer to 'the Christ'. 'Putting these four epithets together, we have ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour’ or (in the Greek acrostic) ICHTHUS, the word for fish which the early Christians chose as their secret symbol.'
The coming wrath - As with salvation itself, the NT teaches an 'inaugurated eschatology' concerning the wrath of God. It is a 'coming wrath' (this verse, and also 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:6–10; Rom. 5:9). But it has already begun (1 Thess. 2:16; Rom. 1:18).
This wrath 'is something from which people must be “saved” (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9), it is “unexpected destruction” (1 Thess 5:3), “tribulation,” “blazing fire,” “retaliation,” “eternal destruction,” “separated from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess 1:6–9), and “perishing” (2 Thess 2:10).' (Shogron)
Fee emphasises that the NT distinguishes sharply between 'wrath' (referring to final judgement on the wicked) and suffering (the present lot of believers). Paul will turn later to the future that is promised for God's people; 'the focus here is not on the Thessalonian believers’ final glory, but on their opponents’ final destruction.'
C.H. Dodd famously depersonalised the concept of 'wrath', considering it to be the inevitable outcome of sin, rather than an attitude of God himself. 'But,' (asks Leon Morris) 'can it be seriously argued that Paul is thinking here of a wrath that is not God’s? In any case wrath is explicitly linked with God in a number of passages (e.g. John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 9:22; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; Rev. 11:18; 14:10, 19; 19:15), and the idea is often present when the word ‘wrath’ is not used (e.g. 2 Thess. 1:7–9). Further, the New Testament writers always regard the universe as God’s universe. If retribution follows upon sin, then it seems impossible to hold that this takes place independently of God. If we were to maintain this, we would be building up a picture of a God who is personally indifferent to sin. The concept of the wrath of God is a healthy corrective to such unmoral views of the Deity, and it stands as a striking reminder that God is totally opposed to every form of evil.'
'People sometimes ask how a loving God can also be angry. Looking back at the inhumane and brutal twentieth century, one has to say that a good and loving God must be angry when faced with such wickedness.' (Wright)
Stott summarises: 'God’s wrath is neither an impersonal process of cause and effect (as some scholars have tried to argue), nor a passionate, arbitrary or vindictive outburst of temper, but his holy and uncompromising antagonism to evil, with which he refuses to negotiate. One day his judgment will fall. It is from this terrible event that Jesus is our deliverer.'