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He now, leaving out of view the testimony of other Churches, reminds the Thessalonians of what they had themselves experienced, (520) and explains at large in what way he, and in like manner the two others, his associates, had conducted themselves among them, inasmuch as this was of the greatest importance for confirming their faith. For it is with this view that he declares his integrity — that the Thessalonians may perceive that they had been called to the faith, not so much by a mortal man, as by God himself. He says, therefore, that his entering in unto them had not been vain, as ambitious persons manifest much show, while they have nothing of solidity; for he employs the word vain here as contrasted with efficacious
He proves this by two arguments. The first is, that he had suffered persecution and ignominy at Philippi; the second is, that there was a great conflict prepared at Thessalonica. We know that the minds of men are weakened, nay, are altogether broken down by means of ignominy and persecutions. It was therefore an evidence of a Divine work that Paul, after having been subjected to evils of various kinds and to ignominy, did, as if in a perfectly sound state, shew no hesitation in making an attempt upon a large and opulent city, with the view of subjecting the inhabitants of it to Christ. In this entering in, nothing is seen that savors of vain ostentation. In the second department the same Divine power is beheld, for he does not discharge his duty with applause and favor, but required to maintain a keen conflict. In the mean time he stood firm and undaunted, from which it appears that he was held up (521) by the hand of God; for this is what he means when he says that he was emboldened. And, unquestionably, if all these circumstances are carefully considered, it cannot be denied that God there magnificently displayed his power. As to the history, it is to be found in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the Acts. [Acts 16:12.]
3For our exhortation. He confirms, by another argument, the Thessalonians in the faith which they had embraced — inasmuch as they had been faithfully and purely instructed in the word of the Lord, for he maintains that his doctrine was free from all deception and uncleanness. And with the view of placing this matter beyond all doubt, he calls their conscience to witness. The three terms which he makes use of may, it would seem, be distinguished in this manner: imposture may refer to the substance of doctrine, uncleanness to the affections of the heart, guile to the manner of acting. In the first place, therefore, he says that they had not been deluded or imposed upon by fallacies, when they embraced the kind of doctrine that had been delivered to them by him. Secondly, he declares his integrity, inasmuch as he had not come to them under the influence of any impure desire, but actuated solely by upright disposition. Thirdly, he says that he had done nothing fraudulently or maliciously, but had, on the contrary, manifested a simplicity befitting a minister of Christ. As these things were well known to the Thessalonians, they had a sufficiently firm foundation for their faith.
4As we have been approved. He goes even a step higher, for he appeals to God as the Author of his apostleship, and he reasons in this manner: “God, when he assigned me this office, bore witness to me as a faithful servant; there is no reason, therefore, why men should have doubts as to my fidelity, which they know to have been approved of by God. Paul, however, does not glory in having been approved of, as though he were such of himself; for he does not dispute here as to what he had by nature, nor does he place his own power in collision with the grace of God, but simply says that the Gospel had been committed to him as a faithful and approved servant. Now, God approves of those whom he has formed for himself according to his own pleasure.
Not as pleasing men. What is meant by pleasing men has been explained in the Epistle to the Galatians, (Galatians 1:10) and this passage, also, shews it admirably. For Paul contrasts pleasing men, and pleasing God, as things that are opposed to each other. Farther, when he says — God, who trieth our hearts, he intimates, that those who endeavor to obtain the favor of men, are not influenced by an upright conscience, and do nothing from the heart. Let us know, therefore, that true ministers of the gospel ought to make it their aim to devote to God their endeavors, and to do it from the heart, not from any outward regard to the world, but because conscience tells them that it is right and proper. Thus it will be secured that they will not make it their aim to please men, that is, that they will not act under the influence of ambition, with a view to the favor of men.
5For neither have we ever. It is not without good reason that he repeats it so frequently, that the Thessalonians knew that what he states is true. For there is not a surer attestation, than the experience of those with whom we speak. And this was of the greatest importance to them, because Paul relates with what integrity he had conducted himself, with no other intention, than that his doctrine may have the greater respect, for the building up of their faith. It is, however, a confirmation of the foregoing statement, for he that is desirous to please men, must of necessity stoop shamefully to flattery, while he that is intent upon duty with an earnest and upright disposition, will keep at a distance from all appearance of flattery.
When he adds, nor for an occasion of covetousness, he means that he had not, in teaching among them, been in quest of anything in the way of personal gain.
6] When we might have exercised authority. Some interpret it—when we might have been burdensome, that is, might have loaded you with expense, but the connection requires that
What we have rendered mild, the old translator renders
As if a nurse. In this comparison he takes in two points that he had touched upon — that he had sought neither glory nor gain among the Thessalonians. For a mother in nursing her infant shews nothing of power or dignity. Paul says that he was such, inasmuch as he voluntarily refrained from claiming the honor that was due to him, and with calmness and modesty stooped to every kind of office. Secondly, a mother in nursing her children manifests a certain rare and wonderful affection, inasmuch as she spares no labor and trouble, shuns no anxiety, is wearied out by no assiduity, and even with cheerfulness of spirit gives her own blood to be sucked. In the same way, Paul declares that he was so disposed towards the Thessalonians, that he was prepared to lay out his life for their benefit. This, assuredly, was not the conduct of a man that was sordid or avaricious, but of one that exercised a disinterested affection, and he expresses this in the close — because ye were dear unto us In the mean time, we must bear in mind, that all that would be ranked among true pastors must exercise this disposition of Paul—to have more regard to the welfare of the Church than to their own life, and not be impelled to duty by a regard to their own advantage, but by a sincere love to those to whom they know that they are conjoined, and laid under obligation. (527)
(525) The rendering of Wicliff (1380) is, as usual, in accordance with the Vulgate— “we weren made litil.” —Ed.
(526) “Abaissement et humilite;” — “Abasement and humility.”
(527) “Pour vne vraye amour et non feinte qu’ils portent a ceux, ausquels ils scauent que Dieu les a conionts et liez ou obligez;” — “From a true and unfeigned love which they bear to those, to whom they know that God has conjoined, and tied, or bound them.”
9For ye remember. These things tend to confirm what he had stated previously — that to spare them he did not spare himself. He must assuredly have burned with a wonderful and more than human zeal, inasmuch as, along with the labor of teaching, he labors with his hand as an operative, with the view of earning a livelihood, and in this respect, also, refrained from exercising his right. For it is the law of Christ, as he also teaches elsewhere, (1 Corinthians 9:14) that every church furnish its ministers with food and other necessaries. Paul, therefore, in laying no burden upon the Thessalonians, does something more than could, from the requirements of his office, have been required from him. In addition to this, he does not merely refrain from incurring public expense, but avoids burdening any one individually. Farther, there can be no doubt, that he was influenced by some good and special consideration in thus refraining from exercising his right, (528) for in other churches he exercised, equally with others, the liberty allowed him. (529) He received nothing from the Corinthians, lest he should give the false apostles a handle for glorying as to this matter. In the mean time, he did not hesitate to ask (530) from other churches, what was needed by him, for he writes that, while he bestowed labor upon the Corinthians, free of charge, he robbed the Churches that he did not serve. (2 Corinthians 11:8) (531) Hence, although the reason is not expressed here, we may, nevertheless, conjecture that the ground on which Paul was unwilling that his necessities should be ministered to, was — lest such a thing should put any hindrance in the way of the gospel. For this, also, ought to be matter of concern to good pastors — that they may not merely run with alacrity in their ministry, but may, so far as is in their power, remove all hindrances in the way of their course.
(528) “Entre les Thessaloniciens;” — “Among the Thessalonians.”
(529) “La liberte que Dieu donne;” — “The liberty that God gives.”
(530) “Il n’a point fait de conscience de prendre lors des autres Eglises;” — “He made no scruple to take at that time from other Churches.”
(531) See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 347.
10Ye are witnesses. He again calls God and them to witness, with the view of affirming his integrity, and cites, on the one hand, God as a witness of his conscience, and them, (532) on the other hand, as witnesses of what they had known by experience. How holily, says he, and justly, that is, with how sincere a fear of God, and with what fidelity and blamelessness towards men; and thirdly, unreproachably, by which he means that he had given no occasion of complaint or obloquy. For the servants of Christ cannot avoid calumnies, and unfavorable reports; for being hated by the world, they must of necessity be evil-spoken of among the wicked. Hence he restricts this to believers, who judge uprightly and sincerely, and do not revile malignantly and groundlessly.
11Every one as a father. He insists more especially on those things which belong to his office. He has compared himself to a nurse: he now compares himself to a father. What he means is this — that he was concerned in regard to them, just as a father is wont to be as to his sons, and that he had exercised a truly paternal care in instructing and admonishing them. And, unquestionably, no one will ever be a good pastor, unless he shews himself to be a father to the Church that is committed to him. Nor does he merely declare himself to be such to the entire body, (533) but even to the individual members. For it is not enough that a pastor in the pulpit teach all in common, if he does not add also particular instruction, according as necessity requires, or occasion offers. Hence Paul himself, in Acts 20:26, declares himself to be free from the blood of all men, because he did not cease to admonish all publicly, and also individually in private in their own houses. For instruction given in common is sometimes of little service, and some cannot be corrected or cured without particular medicine.
12Exhorted. He shews with what earnestness he devoted himself to their welfare, for he relates that in preaching to them respecting piety towards God and the duties of the Christian life, it had not been merely in a perfunctory way, (534) but he says that he had made use of exhortations and adjurations. It is a lively preaching of the gospel, when persons are not merely told what is right, but are pricked (Acts 2:37) by exhortations, and are called to the judgment-seat of God, that they may not fall asleep in their vices, for this is what is properly meant by adjuring. But if pious men, whose promptitude Paul so highly commends, stood in absolute need of being stimulated by stirring exhortations, nay, adjurations, what must be done with us, in whom sluggishness (535) of the flesh does more reign? In the mean time, as to the wicked, whose obstinacy is incurable, it is necessary to denounce upon them the horrible vengeance of God, not so much from hope of success, as in order that they may be rendered inexcusable.
Some render the participle
That ye might walk. He presents in a few words the sum and substance of his exhortations, that, in magnifying the mercy of God, he admonished them not to fail as to their calling. His commendation of the grace of God is contained in the expression, who hath called us into his kingdom. For as our salvation is founded upon God’s gracious adoption, every blessing that Christ has brought us is comprehended in this one term. It now remains that we answer God’s call, that is, that we shew ourselves to be such children to him as he is a Father to us. For he who lives otherwise than as becomes a child of God, deserves to be cut off from God’s household.
13Wherefore we give thanks. Having spoken of his ministry, he returns again to address the Thessalonians, that he may always commend that mutual harmony of which he has previously made mention. (537) He says, therefore, that he gives thanks to God, because they had embraced the word of God which they heard from his mouth, as the word of God, as it truly was. Now, by these expressions he means, that it has been received by them reverently, and with the obedience with which it ought. For so soon as this persuasion has gained a footing, it is impossible but that a feeling of obligation to obey takes possession of our minds. (538) For who would not shudder at the thought of resisting God? Who would not regard contempt of God with detestation? The circumstance, therefore, that the word of God is regarded by many with such contempt, that it is scarcely held in any estimation — that many are not at all actuated by fear, arises from this, that they do not consider that they have to do with God.
Hence we learn from this passage what credit ought to be given to the gospel — such as does not depend on the authority of men, but, resting on the sure and ascertained truth of God, raises itself above the world; and, in fine, is as far above mere opinion, as heaven is above earth: (539) and, secondly, such as produces of itself reverence, fear, and obedience, inasmuch as men, touched with a feeling of Divine majesty, will never allow themselves to sport with it. Teachers (540) are, in their turn, admonished to beware of bringing forward anything but the pure word of God, for if this was not allowable for Paul, it will not be so for any one in the present day. He proves, however, from the effect produced, that it was the word of God that he had delivered, inasmuch as it had produced that fruit of heavenly doctrine which the Prophets celebrate, (Isaiah 55:11; Jeremiah 23:29) in renewing their life, (541) for the doctrine of men could accomplish no such thing. The relative pronoun may be taken as referring either to God or to his word, but whichever way you choose, the meaning will come all to one, for as the Thessalonians felt in themselves a Divine energy, which proceeded from faith, they might rest assured that what they had heard was not a mere sound of the human voice vanishing into air, but the living and efficacious doctrine of God.
As to the expression, the word of the preaching of God, it means simply, as I have rendered it, the word of God preached by man. For Paul meant to state expressly that they had not looked upon the doctrine as contemptible, although it had proceeded from the mouth of a mortal man, inasmuch as they recognized God as the author of it. He accordingly praises the Thessalonians, because they did not rest in mere regard for the minister. but lifted up their eyes to God, that they might receive his word. Accordingly, I have not hesitated to insert the particle
(537) Calvin refers here to the harmony which happily subsisted between the preaching of Paul and the faith of the Thessalonians.—Ed.
14For ye became imitators. If you are inclined to restrict this to the clause in immediate connection with it, the meaning will be, that the power of God, or of his word, shews itself in their patient endurance, while they sustain persecutions with magnanimity and undaunted courage. I prefer, however, to view it as extending to the whole of the foregoing statement, for he confirms what he has stated, that the Thessalonians had in good earnest embraced the gospel, as being presented to them by God, inasmuch as they courageously endured the assaults which Satan made upon them, and did not refuse to suffer anything rather than leave off obedience to it. And, unquestionably, this is no slight test of faith when Satan, by all his machinations, has no success in moving us away from the fear of God.
In the mean time, he prudently provides against a dangerous temptation which might prostrate or harass them; for they endured grievous troubles from that nation which was the only one in the world that gloried in the name of God.
This, I say, might occur to their minds: “If this is the true religion, why do the Jews, who are the sacred people of God, oppose it with such inveterate hostility?” With the view of removing this occasion of offense, (543) he, in the first place, shews them that they have this in common with the first Churches that were in Judea: afterwards, he says that the Jews are determined enemies of God and of all sound doctrine. For although, when he says that they suffered from their own countrymen, this may be explained as referring to others rather than to the Jews, or at least ought not to be restricted to the Jews exclusively, yet as he insists farther in describing their obstinacy and impiety, it is manifest that these same persons are adverted to by him from the beginning. It is probable, that at Thessalonica some from that nation were converted to Christ. It appears, however, from the narrative furnished in the Acts, that there, no less than in Judea, the Jews were persecutors of the gospel. I accordingly take this as being said indiscriminately of Jews as well as of Gentiles, inasmuch as both endured great conflicts and fierce attacks from their own countrymen
15Who killed the Lord Jesus. As that people had been distinguished by so many benefits from God, in consequence of the glory of the ancient fathers, the very name (544) was of great authority among many. Lest this disguise should dazzle the eyes of any one, he strips the Jews of all honor, so as to leave them nothing but odium and the utmost infamy.
“Behold,” says he, “the virtues for which they deserve praise among the good and pious! — they killed their own prophets and at last the Son of God, they have persecuted me his servant, they wage war with God, they are detested by the whole world, they are hostile to the salvation of the Gentiles; in fine, they are destined to everlasting destruction.”
It is asked, why he says that Christ and the prophets were killed by the same persons? I answer, that this refers to the entire body, (545) for Paul means that there is nothing new or unusual in their resisting God, but that, on the contrary, they are, in this manner, filling up the measure of their fathers, as Christ speaks. (Matthew 23:32)
16Who hinder us from speaking to the Gentiles. It is not without good reason that, as has been observed, he enters so much into detail in exposing the malice of the Jews. (546) For as they furiously opposed the Gospel everywhere, there arose from this a great stumblingblock, more especially as they exclaimed that the gospel was profaned by Paul, when he published it among the Gentiles. By this calumny they made divisions in the Churches, they took away from the Gentiles the hope of salvation, and they obstructed the progress of the gospel. Paul, accordingly, charges them with this crime — that they regard the salvation of the Gentiles with envy, but adds, that matters are so, in order that their sins may be filled up, that he may take away from them all reputation for piety; just as in saying previously, that they pleased not God, (1 Thessalonians 2:15) he meant, that they were unworthy to be reckoned among the worshippers of God. The manner of expression, however, must be observed, implying that those who persevere in an evil course fill up by this means the measure of their judgment, (547) until they come to make it a heap. This is the reason why the punishment of the wicked is often delayed — because their impieties, so to speak, are not yet ripe. By this we are warned that we must carefully take heed lest, in the event of our adding from time to time (548) sin to sin, as is wont to happen generally, the heap at last reaches as high as heaven.
For wrath has come. He means that they are in an utterly hopeless state, inasmuch as they are vessels of the Lord’s wrath. “The just vengeance of God presses upon them and pursues them, and will not leave them until they perish — as is the case with all the reprobate, who rush on headlong to death, to which they are destined.” The Apostle, however, makes this declaration as to the entire body of the people, in such a manner as not to deprive the elect of hope. For as the greater proportion resisted Christ, he speaks, it is true, of the whole nation generally, but we must keep in view the exception which he himself makes in Romans 11:5, — that the Lord will always have some seed remaining. We must always keep in view Paul’s design — that believers must carefully avoid the society of those whom the just vengeance of God pursues, until they perish in their blind obstinacy. Wrath, without any additional term, means the judgment of God, as in Romans 4:15, — the law worketh wrath; also in Romans 12:19, — neither give place unto wrath
17But we, brethren, bereaved of you. This excuse has been appropriately added, lest the Thessalonians should think that Paul had deserted them while so great an emergency demanded his presence. He has spoken of the persecutions which they endured from their own people: he, in the mean time, whose duty it was above all others to assist them, was absent. He has formerly called himself a father; now, it is not the part of a father to desert his children in the midst of such distresses. He, accordingly, obviates all suspicion of contempt and negligence, by saying, that it was from no want of inclination, but because he had not opportunity. Nor does he say simply, “I was desirous to come to you, but my way was obstructed;” but by the peculiar terms that he employs he expresses the intensity of his affection: “When,” says he, “I was bereaved of you.” (550) By the word bereaved, he declares how sad and distressing a thing it was to him to be absent from them. (551) This is followed by a fuller expression of his feeling of desire — that it was with difficulty that he could endure their absence for a short time. It is not to be wondered, if length of time should occasion weariness or sadness; but we must have a strong feeling of attachment when we find it difficult to wait even a single hour. Now, by the space of an hour, he means — a small space of time.
This is followed by a correction — that he had been separated from them in appearance, not in heart, that they may know that distance of place does not by any means lessen his attachment. At the same time, this might not less appropriately be applied to the Thessalonians, as meaning that they, on their part, had felt united in mind while absent in body; for it was of no small importance for the point in hand that he should state how fully assured he was of their affection towards him in return. He shews, however, more fully his affection, when he says that he endeavored the more abundantly; for he means that his affection was so far from being diminished by his leaving them, that it had been the more inflamed. When he says, we would once and again, he declares that it was not a sudden heat, that quickly cooled, (as we see sometimes happen,) but that he had been steadfast in this purpose, (552) inasmuch as he sought various opportunities.
(550) “The original word is here very emphatical. It is an allusion to that grief, anxiety, and reluctance of heart, with which dying, affectionate parents take leave of their own children, when they are just going to leave them helpless orphans, exposed to the injuries of a merciless and wicked world, or that sorrow of heart with which poor destitute orphans close the eyes of their dying parents.” —Benson. —Ed.
18Satan hindered us. Luke relates that Paul was in one instance hindered, (Acts 20:3) inasmuch as the Jews laid an ambush for him in the way. The same thing, or something similar, may have occurred frequently. It is not without good reason, however, that Paul ascribes the whole of this to Satan, for, as he teaches elsewhere, (Ephesians 6:12) we have to
wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities of the air, and spiritual wickednesses, etc.
For, whenever the wicked molest us, they fight under Satan’s banner, and are his instruments for harassing us. More especially, when our endeavors are directed to the work of the Lord, it is certain that everything that hinders proceeds from Satan; and would to God that this sentiment were deeply impressed upon the minds of all pious persons — that Satan is continually contriving, by every means, in what way he may hinder or obstruct the edification of the Church! We would assuredly be more careful to resist him; we would take more care to maintain sound doctrine, of which that enemy strives so keenly to deprive us. We would also, whenever the course of the gospel is retarded, know whence the hindrance proceeds. He says elsewhere, (Romans 1:13) that God had not permitted him, but both are true: for although Satan does his part, yet God retains supreme authority, so as to open up a way for us, as often as he sees good, against Satan’s will, and in spite of his opposition. Paul accordingly says truly that God does not permit, although the hindrance comes from Satan.
19For what is our hope. He confirms that ardor of desire, of which he had made mention, inasmuch as he has his happiness in a manner treasured up in them. “Unless I forget myself, I must necessarily desire your presence, for ye are our glory and joy. ” Farther, when he calls them his hope and the crown of his glory, we must not understand this as meaning that he gloried in any one but God alone, but because we are allowed to glory in all God’s favors, in their own place, in such a manner that he is always our object of aim, as I have explained more at large in the first Epistle to the Corinthians. (553) We must, however, infer from this, that Christ’s ministers will, on the last day, according as they have individually promoted his kingdom, be partakers of glory and triumph. Let them therefore now learn to rejoice and glory in nothing but the prosperous issue of their labors, when they see that the glory of Christ is promoted by their instrumentality. The consequence will be, that they will be actuated by that spirit of affection to the Church with which they ought. The particle also denotes that the Thessalonians were not the only persons in whom Paul triumphed, but that they held a place among many. The causal particle
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27