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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle, after the usual form of Apostolical salutation (verse 1), informs the Thessalonians that he never omits praying for them, whenever he addresses his petitions to God, to whom he returns thanks for the abundant gifts of grace bestowed upon them, as manifested in their faith, their patience, and operative charity. From these gifts, as well as from those displayed in their conversion to the faith, the Apostle infers their election to grace and their segregation from this wicked world; and for this he renders thanks to God (2–6). He commends their constancy in the faith; in this respect, serving as a model not only to Macedonia, but to the entire province of Achaia (7). For, the edifying account of their faith has been spread abroad, both in these places, and in every other place, with which they were in communication (8). He exhorts them to persevere in the same firmness and edifying constancy, in the expectation of the coming of Jesus Christ to judge the world.

Paraphrase

1. Paul and Sylvanus (or Silas) and Timothy (salute) the assembly of the faithful at Thessalonica, called to grace here and glory hereafter, by the mercy of God the Father, and through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for the favours bestowed on you all: and we also, in our prayers, petition him for their increase and continuance.

3. Always mindful before God our Father of the works of your lively and operative faith, and of the labours which your charity prompted you to undergo, and of your patient endurance of afflictions and persecutions, under which you were supported by your hopes in the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. We give thanks to God, knowing your election by God to grace and to his Church here, and to glory hereafter, should you persevere.

5. Because our preaching of the gospel among you was not confined to mere words, but was sanctioned by miracles, by the plentiful and abundant diffusion of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and by a multitude of other motives, calculated to convince you of the truth of the doctrine preached, as you yourselves know what manner of men we have been among you, having in view your conversion to the faith.

6. (Nor was this exhibition of zeal on our part without success); for, you became faithful imitators of me and of the Lord. You received the gospel, though attended with much suffering and persecution to you, with the joy of the Holy Ghost.

7. So that you have become a model, in this respect, to all the faithful, not only of Macedonia, but also of Achaia.

8. For, from you the word of the Lord has been proclaimed, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place with which you are in communication, has the rumour of your faith in God been spread, so that it is unnecessary for me to say anything regarding it.

9. For all to whom we converse regarding you, anticipate us in speaking of our advent amongst you, and of the success that attended us, and of your conversion from worshipping inanimate and senseless idols to serve and adore the living and true God.

10. And to expect from heaven his Son Jesus (whom he raised from the dead), and by whom we have been delivered from the wrath to come.

Commentary

1. “Sylvanu,” a Latinized form for Silas. The same who was chosen by St. Paul to be the companion of his travels, after the departure of Barnabas (Acts, 15:40).

The Apostle unites him and Timothy with himself in this salutation, because, as sharers in his Apostolical labours at Thessalonica, they were beloved by the Thessalonians.

2. “Grace to you and peace;” to which are added in the Greek, “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” These words are not found, however, in the Vatican Manuscript, nor in the ancient versions. “Without ceasing,” is commonly connected with the next verse; because “always” affects both parts of this verse.

3. “Labour and charity.” “And” is not in the Greek. The words mean, the labour of your charity; charity must therefore be operative, and must brave all difficulties. Reference is probably made to their labours, in rescuing himself in the tumult excited against him at Thessalonica. “Before God,” is by some connected with the words “faith, labour,” &c.; and then it would express the characters of their faith, &c., and mean the sincere workings of their faith, &c. The connexion in the Paraphrase is more probable.

4. The reason why he gives God thanks is, because he knows, from what he says (verse 5), that they are predestined by God; and as this decree, predestining them, together with the spiritual graces bestowed on them in consequence, whereby they were enabled to perform good works (verse 3), were all gratuitous gifts of God, He should, therefore, be thanked for them, and the glory of them referred to Him.

5. The reasons from which their election was inferred by the Apostle are these, viz., the miracles (“but in power also”); the gifts of the Holy Ghost (“and in the Holy Ghost”); such as tongues, prophecy, &c., which accompanied the preaching of the gospel among them, as well as the multitude of other motives, calculated to produce conviction in their minds, “and in much fulness.” This “fulness,” which may refer either to the strong interior conviction of the truth of the gospel; or, as we have understood it, to the additional motives for producing this conviction, may have been founded on the Apostle’s own conduct, his disinterestedness, his heroism in exposing himself to danger without any hope of temporal compensation, &c. All this, joined to the sanction lent by God himself, was calculated to produce the most firm conviction of the truth of the gospel preached. This conjecture is rendered very probable by the following words—“as you know what manner of men,” &c., which show, that, in the preceding, he was referring to his own conduct among them.

6. They were imitators of our blessed Lord and of St. Paul, because our Lord preached his gospel, and submitted to insults and persecutions with joy and gladness, for the salvation of his people; and so did the Apostle.

7. They were a model to their own countrymen; and to those of Achaia, where St. Paul then was.

8. The words “spread abroad,” not only mean that the fame of their faith was rumoured abroad, but also that it sounded forth in such a way as to serve as an example for imitation with all men, both believers and unbelievers. For, though he preached at Philippi before he preached at Thessalonica; still his preaching in the latter place was more noted and more successful. “In every place,” must be understood of those places only with which Thessalonica was in communication, owing to its extensive relations of commerce.

9. “To serve the living God:” unlike the inanimate blocks you heretofore adored, and “true God,” unlike the false gods of the Pagans, either men ranked among the gods, or demons. Omnes dii gentium dæmonia.—(Ps. 95:5).

10. “Whom he raised from the dead.” This being an act of power, is, by appropriation, ascribed to God the Father. The Apostle refers here to their faith in the second coming of God to judge the world. And although the dead who have long since slept in the Lord will accompany him from heaven; still, they may be said to be expecting him on earth, as their bodies are there. “Who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.” From this the Apostle wishes them to infer, that those thus favoured beyond the unbelievers, who remain subject to eternal death, should persevere in this state of security, to which God has gratuitously called them.








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