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Antonyms, or Clarity by Contrasts
No.7. A Study in I Thessalonians.
The Word of God, and of man.
pp. 16 - 20
When we pass from the epistle to the Galatians to the first epistle to the Thessalonians,
we pass from an atmosphere of conflict to one of comparative calm. We shall therefore
expect to find a great difference in the method adopted by the Apostle. We should not
expect such a challenging opening to Thessalonians as we found in Galatians, for the
Thessalonians had not challenged either the validity of Paul's apostleship or of his
gospel. Paul's antonyms will be in harmony with the purpose they are to subserve, and in
the calmer atmosphere of this model church, his contrasts will be run in a gentler mode.
We have listed eleven however, with which we must be acquainted if we would gain that
`clarity' which `contrast' gives, although we shall not find these contrasts ramifying
through the epistle as we did those found in Galatians.
Let us first of all set out the contrasts which Paul has employed in this epistle, and
then examine them a little more in detail in order to appreciate their force and application.
We discover upon investigation that these contrasts fall into three groups:
(1) The Gospel.
Not "Word" only but "power" (1: 5; 2: 13).
(2) The Apostle.
Not pleasing men, but God (2: 4).
Not burdensome but gentle (2: 5-7).
In presence not in heart (2: 17).
Paul and Satan (2: 18).
Comfort and affliction (3: 7).
(3) The Coming of the Lord.
The dead and the living (4: 16, 17).
Peace and destruction (5: 3).
Darkness and light (5: 4, 5).
Wrath and salvation (5: 9).
Watchful and drowsy (5: 10).
Let us confine our attention to the contrast made by the Apostle in connection with the
Gospel; and before we do, let us observe that in chapter 1: of this epistle, by an easy
transition, he passes from `Gospel' (1: 5), to `what manner of men' and `what manner of
entering in' he and his fellow servants had, and so to the coming of the Lord `to wait for
His Son from heaven', as though he anticipated in the opening chapter the line of
argument he was to develop in the remainder of the epistle.
Once again, as in Galatians, we cannot attempt an exposition of these passages, for to
do so without the context of the epistle as a whole is not and never will be our method.