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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 Apostolic salutation, returns thanks to God for the exalted virtues of faith and charity which his grace enabled the Thessalonians to display in the midst of sufferings and persecution (1–5). He consoles them, in the next place, by pointing to the rich rewards in store for them—to attain which, however, suffering is necessary—and to the heavy anger reserved, as is meet, for their persecutors, on the day of judgment, when Christ will come in majesty to judge the world (5–8). He describes the coming of the Judge for the twofold purpose of punishing his enemies, and rewarding his faithful servants, in whose exaltation, after suffering persecutions and humiliations, he shall be glorified, and his power and goodness rendered conspicuous—(8–10). Lastly, he prays God to grant the Thessalonians perseverance, and the grace to perform good works worthy of their vocation.

Paraphrase

1. Paul, and Silas, and Timothy (salute) the Church or congregation of the faithful at Thessalonica, established by the power of God our Father, and by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. We are bound always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is meet and just, because your faith is greatly augmented and confirmed, and the charity of each of you towards his neighbour, more and more enlarged and intensified.

4. So that we ourselves make you the subject of our boasting with the other churches of God, on account of your faith, and of your patience, under persecutions and tribulations.

5. Which you endure, and which God permits to befall you, to serve as a demonstrative proof beforehand, that he will one day exercise just judgment upon your enemies; and that you may be rendered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you suffer (and which no man shall ever enter, according to the decrees of God, without suffering).

6. I said, (as a proof that he will one day exercise just judgment on your enemies), since it is just before God, that those who unjustly afflict you should, in turn, be visited with affliction themselves.

7. And it is also just, that rest and respite should be given to you who are thus unjustly troubled, with us, Apostles, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall appear glorious, on his coming to judgment, and shall descend from heaven, accompanied by the angels, the ministers of his power:

8. In the midst of a flaming fire, to take vengeance on those who have not known God, and on those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9. Who shall suffer punishment, eternal destruction, in that dying life, or living death, which shall never end; this sentence the mouth of the Lord, while his countenance shall be resplendent with majesty, shall announce, and his glorious and terrible omnipotence shall execute.

10. When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to show himself worthy of admiration for the superior excellence with which all his faithful and obedient believers shall be clothed, and you, among the rest, since you have believed the gospel preached by us amongst you, as the testimony of God, regarding that day, or, in hopes of remuneration, to be received by you on that day.

11. Wherefore, we always pray for you, that our God may render you worthy of his call (to this glory) by giving you perseverance to the end of your life, and so may fulfil the benevolent designs of his will (in electing you), and perfect by his all-powerful grace the work of your faith (by consummating it in glory).

12. And that our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you may in turn be glorified, and this owing to the gratuitous goodness of our God, and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary

1. “In God our Father.” This shows the dignity of our vocation, which renders us the adopted sons of God, and brethren of Christ, his Son by nature.

2. The usual form of Apostolical salutation. The opening of this is the same as that of the first Epistle, except in the words, “our Father” (verse 1), which in the first Epistle is, “the Father.”

3. “As it is fitting,” i.e., meet and due, as an obligation of justice, “your faith groweth,” both in fervour and intensity, as was proved by their constancy in enduring persecution on account of it. And “their charity abounded,” as their kindness to one another had shown. In the first Epistle, the Apostle recommended the Thessalonians for their faith and charity. In this, he commends them for the increase of both, “of every one of you.” In Greek, of every one of you all.

4. Instead of regretting and bewailing the tribulations of the Thessalonians, he thanks God for them, and makes these tribulations the subject of his boasting with the other Churches, to whom he proposes the Thessalonians, as models for imitation in this respect. He joins “faith” to “patience,” because nothing so strongly animates us to endure the evils of this life with patience, as the faith of Christ, and the hope of future goods. “And in all our persecutions,” &c. “And” is wanting in the Greek.

5. “For an example of the just judgment of God.” “For” is wanting in the Greek, which runs thus: an example of the just, &c. There is a diversity of opinion regarding the meaning of the word “example.” If we look to the meaning of the Greek word, Ενδειγμα, it means a demonstration or proof beforehand, as if the Apostle meant to convey that the sufferings referred to were permitted by God for a twofold end: first, that these sufferings, or the men themselves thus afflicted, might serve as a convincing demonstration or proof even beforehand, that God would, one day, exercise a just judgment on their persecutors. For, “if such things are done in the green wood, what shall be done in the dry?” And if judgment has been thus severely dealt out on the house of God—1 Peter, 4—what shall be the rigours of the punishment which awaits the impious?—and secondly, that by their suffering, they might render themselves worthy of the kingdom of God, since, according to the decrees of Providence, in the present order of things, no one can enter glory but as Christ did, i.e., by suffering. This is the interpretation which best accords with the following verses “worthy of the kingdom of God.” The Vulgate is, “worthy in the kingdom of God.”

6. He shows how far the first object of God would be secured by permitting their suffering and persecutions; because if natural equity and justice demands, even with men, that those who persecute and afflict others unjustly, should themselves be punished, and that those who are punished unjustly should obtain rest and peace, how much more so is it required with a just God?

7. He shows how the second end is accomplished, since it is just that those who are unjustly persecuted should obtain rest. Hence, eternal life is given as a reward, due as a matter of justice—a justice, however, ultimately founded on God’s liberal and gratuitous promise. Who, therefore, would not patiently receive all injuries and sufferings from the hand of God, knowing that he permits them in order to give us a title to eternal life?

8. “In a flame of fire.” The Greek of which is, Εν πυρι φλογος, in a fire of flame, i.e., a fire which will burn and cause torture by its very light. There are two classes of men on whom the Lord will, on that day, wreak his vengeance, viz., those who know not God, and those who, knowing him, have failed to serve him, offending him by their evil deeds, and by disobeying his gospel.

9. “Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction.” In the Greek, who shall suffer punishment, eternal destruction, or the punishment of eternal death: they shall suffer the agonies of death for ever, and yet shall never cease to exist—shall never obtain a respite from the excruciating tortures. O God, we deserved those tortures, as often as we committed mortal sin. May not our sins equal in number the hairs of our head; and still, in thy goodness, thou hast stretched forth thy hand and rescued us from the jaws of the abyss. Nisi Deus adjuvit me, paulo minus habitasset in inferno anima mea. Be thou blessed for ever for thy infinite charity! “From the face of the Lord,” i.e., a sentence which shall be uttered by the mouth of the Lord, while his face shall be resplendent with glory, the very sight of which shall torture the reprobate; hence, they shall call on the mountains to fall upon them, and upon the hills to cover them from it.

10. In the two preceding verses, the Apostle shows how the judgment of their persecutors, of which he has beforehand given us a proof (verse 5), shall take place. In this and the following verses, he refers to the glory, of which their suffering will render them worthy (verse 5). God shall then be glorified in his saints, and rendered worthy of admiration for the exalted glory to which he shall have raised those who, in this life, were wretched and despised—hi sunt quos habuimus in derisum, … ecce nunc computati sunt inter filios Dei, et inter sanctos sors illorum est.—(Sap. 5).

11. “Wherefore,” i.e., in order that you may arrive at this exalted glory. We pray him so to perfect in you the work of faith, &c. “Of his vocation.” In Greek, of the vocation, referred to.

12. “Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.” The final end of his prayer is, that Christ would be glorified in them; and the secondary end is, that they would be glorified in Christ, as the glory and dignity of the master tends to render the servant exalted and glorious.

“According to the grace of our God,” &c., lest they might attribute anything to themselves, the Apostle refers all the praise of these blessings and favours to the gratuitous bounty of God.








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