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

Analysis

The Apostle had been informed that, notwithstanding his instructions, when at Thessalonica, and his injunctions conveyed in his former Epistle, some able-bodied men among the Thessalonians continued to go about, begging, when they might procure means of support by manual labour; indulging in idle curiosity, prying into the concerns of others and neglecting their own, to the great disedification and estrangement of the unbelievers. Hence, in this chapter, after recommending himself to their prayers (1, 2); and promising them the aid of the Almighty (3); and praying to God in turn for them (4, 5); he repeats his former injunctions on this important subject, and conjures these disorderly men, in the most solemn manner, to devote themselves to a life of labour.

He quotes himself as an example in this matter, and refers to the laborious life which he led amongst them; but should any person, after this admonition, continue refractory, he enjoins on the rulers of the Church to separate such a one from the society of the faithful. He tells them that severity should, however, be blended with tenderness and brotherly compassion (6–15). He concludes, by wishing them the abundance of peace and grace.

Paraphrase

1. For the rest, brethren, pray for us (ministers of the Gospel), that the word of God, the true doctrine of Christ, may be successfully propagated by our ministry, and may be received with reverence and honour elsewhere, as it has been with you.

2. Pray, therefore, that we may be delivered from the annoyance caused us by importunate and wicked men, who everywhere oppose us, and resist the progress of the Gospel; and no wonder, for all men to whom the Gospel is preached, do not believe; or, all who profess the faith, do not in reality believe.

3. (Still, notwithstanding the many domestic and foreign enemies whom the faith has to encounter, you should not be afraid), for God is faithful to his engagements, and will confirm you in the faith, and deliver you from the power of the wicked adversary (Satan).

4. But we have the greatest hopes regarding you, and we trust, that aided by God’s grace and succour, you fulfil, and will continue to fulfil, the precepts which we have given you.

5. But may the Lord direct your hearts unto the love of God, and the patient expectation of Christ’s coming.

6. But we command you, in virtue of the authority given us by our Lord Jesus Christ, to shun familiar intercourse with every brother, who follows a disorderly and turbulent life, and lives not according to the instructions which we inculcated both by word and example.

7. For you yourselves know what example we gave you, and how deserving we were of imitation: for we did not lead a disorderly life amongst you; we were neither idle nor turbulent;

8. Nor did we receive the necessaries of life from any of you without paying for them, but in labour and toil, we exerted ourselves unceasingly for that end; lest we might be a burden to any of you.

9. Not that we had not a strict right to support from you, but, we had foregone that right, in order, by working hard, to exhibit ourselves to you as a model for imitation.

10. (We are inculcating nothing new at present), for when we were amongst you, we enjoined the duty of labouring contained in the adage: the man who does not wish to work, is not deserving of the food he eats.

11. For we have heard, that some amongst you are still leading a disorderly life, doing nothing, wholly engaged in curiosity, and in prying into the affairs and concerns of others.

12. But we command such persons, and we also entreat and conjure them by the Lord Jesus Christ, to lead a quiet, unobtrusive life, to engage in manual labour, and thus provide themselves with the means of subsistence, and not be depending on the charity of others.

13. But you, brethren, (although others are undeserving of support), be not, however, weary of performing acts of charity and beneficence.

14. But if any person refuses to obey this our precept signified to him in this Epistle, mark that man, and hold no intercourse with him; that thus he may feel shame, and return to his duty.

15. Do not, however, regard him as an enemy, nor treat him harshly, but correct and admonish him kindly, as a brother.

16. But may the Lord, the author of peace, grant you unceasing peace, at all times and in all places. May the Lord, by his grace, be with you all.

17. The salutation which I, Paul, subscribe with my own hand, and which, written with my own hand, is a sign that the Epistle to which it is attached is mine is to the following effect:

18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Commentary

1. “For the rest.” A form of transition from one subject to another, usual with the Apostle.

2. “Importunate.” The Greek word, τῶν ἀτοπων, unsteady; remaining in no one place. He probably alludes to the Jews, his chief adversaries, who persecuted him from place to place, and everywhere excited commotions against him. Others understand him to refer to the Judaizantes and false Christians, by whom the name of Christ was brought into disrepute.

“For all men have not faith.” If we understand the word “importunate,” of the obstinate and unbelieving Jews; then, these words mean, all to whom the Gospel is preached, do not believe: if, of bad Christians, then, they mean, all who profess the faith externally, have not faith in reality.—(Vide Paraphrase).

3. “God is faithful.” In Greeks, the Lord is faithful. God will perfect what he began in those whom he has elected to salvation: hence, as each one should hope, that God has predestined him, so ought he trust that God will strengthen him in faith, guard him from the wiles, and protect him from the power of Satan, the evil one, by nature.

4. But, nevertheless, all does not rest with God, human co-operation is required; hence, we should not grow idle or apathetic, in reference to our salvation. “You do,” shows that their co-operation is required; and “will do,” shows that they must co-operate perseveringly, to the end of life. “In the Lord,” i.e., by the aid of God’s grace and succour, “we command.” In Greek, command you.

5. He again recurs to God, the source of all justice and the author of our salvation; and he prays him to grant them, to arrive straightway at salvation, by observing God’s precepts, which is the test of the “love of God,” and by patiently enduring the evils of this life, after the example of Christ. “Patience of Christ,” probably means the patient expectation of Christ’s coming to remunerate us. In this, however, patient suffering of evils is implied; so that the meaning is the same, whether we make it the patience of Christ in enduring suffering, or the patient expectation, &c. (as in Paraphrase), “in the charity of God.” In Greek, unto the charity, &c.

6. “In the name,” &c., i.e., by the authority, “of our Lord,” &c. The Apostle instructed the superiors of the Church at Thessalonica to correct the disorderly, who neglecting all the rules of Christian propriety, were following their own whims and humours. He now, on finding that the practices he then prohibited were persevered in, and that some of the able-bodied went about begging, indulging in an undue spirit of curiosity, prying into the affairs of others, and neglecting their own, calls upon the faithful to shun the company and society of such persons. This is a sort of minor excommunication, whereby civil intercourse is prohibited. It is not, however, that dreadful punishment of major excommunication, by which the delinquent “is handed over to Satan.”—(1 Cor. 5:5). Nor is it, strictly speaking, what is now termed minor excommunication, which only excludes from intercourse with the faithful in the reception of the sacraments. “They received.” In Greek, he received. The Vulgate is supported by the chief manuscripts.

7. He gave them an example for imitation.

8. “Neither did we eat.” In some Greek copies, neither did we receive; which differs little in signification from ours; for it was to be eaten that it was received. “For nothing,” i.e., without paying for it. “But in labour and toil.” He laboured at the trade of a cabinet-maker, in order to procure the means of subsistence, and that assiduously. “Day and night,” means continually. What an example of Apostolic independence is here furnished by the Apostle! The minister of the Gospel, who is anxious for the gifts of his people, and is the slave of avarice, can never enjoy that freedom and bold independence of mind, so necessary for the impartial discharge of his duties. The Apostle, also, by his example, teaches us to devote all our time to some useful occupation. What a picture! the teacher of the entire world labouring, as a mechanic, to procure a livelihood!

9. He had a right to support.—1 Cor. 9:14, &c.

10. He announced to the Thessalonians, prone to idleness, the precept of labouring, which he confirmed by many examples and adages; among the rest by this: “the man who does not wish to labour, should not eat.” He says, “will not work;” wishes not to work (ού θελει), because, some are not able to do so; but all should be disposed to do so.

11. His reason for dwelling on this subject arose from his having heard that some among them were living in a disorderly manner, since it is against the ordination of God for men to lead a life of idleness, of indolence, and ease. For idleness begets curiosity; curiosity begets turbulence and inquietude, which destroys discipline and causes disorder. The idle and the curious go about intermeddling in the concerns of others, and thus disturb peace and social order.

12. “By the Lord Jesus Christ.” In Greek, by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Vulgate is supported by the chief manuscripts. He joins earnest entreaty, lest the repetition of the command might savour of harshness or undue severity. “Working with silence.” He opposes “silence” to curiosity, to going about and creating disorder by prying into the concerns of others; and “working” he opposes to idleness.

13. But though the idle beggars be unworthy of support, still, that is no reason why the others should cease from deeds of charity; charity relieves good and bad, after the example of the Father of charity, who “makes his sun rise on the good and the bad, and rains on the just and the unjust.”

14. This penalty of noting the contumacious and refractory, which the Apostle directs the heads of the Church to inflict, is a sort of excommunication. The threat or admonition (“note him,”) should precede the infliction of punishment.

15. He wishes them to temper the severity of inflicting punishment with tenderness and brotherly compassion, for the delinquent party.

16. “In every place.” The present Greek reading is, ἐν παντι τρόπω, by all means. The reading adopted by the Vulgate is supported by MSS. and Fathers. He prays for that measure of peace at all times and places, which can be enjoyed in this life, as perfect peace can be found only in heaven.

17. His subscribing, with his own hand, the salutation contained in verse 18, is the mark given by the Apostle that the Epistle is genuine. This was necessary, because many epistles were represented as coming from St. Paul, which were spurious and supposititious.—Chapter 2:2.

18. This is the salutation written with his own hand; the rest of the Epistle was written, at his dictation, by an amanuensis. He commenced this Epistle with wishing them the abundance of grace, the greatest of all blessings; he concludes with the same.

The Greek subscription has the following:—“The Second to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.” It is supposed, however, to have been written from Corinth.—(See Introduction).








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