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Bible Commentaries

Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

1 Thessalonians 3

Verses 1-4

1-4. Paul at Athens found a hard crowd; i. e., the great philosophers of the earth, so fortified by human learning that he could not move them to repentance. No wonder he reduced his evangelistic force, sending Timothy and Silas back to help the Thessalonians, lest they be shaken by the bitter persecution everywhere confronting them.

Verse 5

5. Here we see Paul feared they would apostatize, and be lost. In that case his labor was in vain.

6,7. Much were they cheered by the favorable report which Timothy and Silas brought to Corinth relative to their faith and love, the essential graces of the Christian, the former the human side, and the latter the Divine.

Verse 8

8. Now we live if you stand in the Lord; et vice versa, we die if you fall; a very delicate hyperbolic expression of the apostle’s exceeding tender love for them.

Verse 9

9. Paul’s gratitude to God on the reception of Timothy’s cheering report knows no bounds.

Verse 10



10. Night and day exceedingly desiring to see your face, and to perfect the deficiencies of your faith. ” This letter sweeps the last possible vestige of the Zinzendorfian heresy forever from the field. Here we have a case of conversion beggaring all possible cavil, clear, demonstrative, giving the joy of the Holy Ghost and the fruits of the Spirit, even making them efficient missionaries and “examples to all the saints in Macedonia and Achaia.” Yet this epistle is written to “perfect the deficiencies of their faith.” Their faith for justification was certainly all right; but they did not have faith for sanctification. This was the deficiency no candid reader can deny that they were truly born from above. They were not sinners. Yet they did not enjoy full salvation. Their faith was not perfect. If so, their salvation

would have been perfect, for Jesus says it is according to your faith. I have heard preachers stoutly contend that regeneration is full salvation. You see they differ from Paul. This, of itself, is an irrefutable argument for the sanctification of the ministry. Wholly sanctified people are gloriously saved from creedism, and even their own opinions. They want nothing but the truth. they are dead to all isms and schisms, sects, creeds, theologies, denominations, and organizations. We have to get there, in order to be taught by the Holy Ghost. God help you and me to be utterly dead to every authority but the Bible! Your creed will not be mentioned in the judgment-day. You must face the great white Throne, and be judged by the Bible alone.

Verses 11-13



11-13. “To establish your hearts blameless in holiness before God even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. Amen.” Paul is no low-standard preacher. He here holds high the banner of entire sanctification, inspired by the coming of the Lord with all his saints. Benjamin Abbott, than whom the world has not seen a more powerful preacher since the apostolic age, was a terrible reprobate, fist-fighter, chicken-fighter, blasphemer, etc., till he had passed his fortieth year. Bishop Asbury’s pioneer circuit-rider produced such a popular sensation in Maryland as to stir the people throughout the whole country, as they had never heard anything but dead preaching. Through sheer curiosity, Abbott rides twelve miles to hear him; finds the house and the yard full of spellbound auditors, the preacher greatly excited, voice roaring, and tears flowing, and the people crying all around him. It was an utter novelty to Mr. Abbott, as he had never before attended a Holy Ghost meeting. Conviction takes hold of him like a nightmare, he thought he was sick, went home, and told his wife that he was going to die. Next morning he goes out to mow his meadow; but his body is so weak he can hardly stand on his feet, much less wield the scythe. Meanwhile a soliloquy in his own breast: “Why am I torturing my body to mow this meadow when I will be dead and in hell before night?” At this he drops his scythe, and makes for the woods, where he wallows in awful agony, thinking he is dying. As the sun is going down, it seems that the bottom of heaven drops out, filling and flooding him with an unearthly rapture. He goes home shouting aloud, and tells his wife God has wonderfully saved his soul. She was a member of the Church, and thought she was a Christian. So she is much encouraged by her husband’s conversion, and the next morning sends him to see her pastor, that he might tell him his experience, and make arrangements to join the Church. The pastor receives him gladly, and, having listened patiently to his recital of his wonderful experience, groans and sighs, and tells him that he is under a powerful delusion of the devil. This, to Mr. Abbott, was like a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky, filling him with gloom bordering on utter despair. As he goes home almost dead with trouble, an inward voice says, “Go out in the woods and ask God about it.” So again, in the lonely forest, he falls prostrate, and turns the vexed problem over to God. Again the heavens open, and a cataract pours on him even greater than that of the preceding day. He goes home shouting aloud, and tells his wife that her preacher has not a bit of religion. When Bishop Asbury’s circuit-rider comes around again, having heard of Mr. Abbott’s wonderful conversion, he visits him at his home, and hears him relate his Pauline experience. Then he says: “Brother, your conversion is all right, blessed and glorious; but God has for you a vastly greater and grander experience entire sanctification.” This astonished Mr. Abbott unutterably, as he thought he had all he could possibly receive. The preacher proceeds to tell him about sanctification, and explain it to him; meanwhile his heart begins to reach out after it. So he says, “Well, I want this, too.” Pursuant to the directions of the circuit-rider, they fall on their knees, and proceed to pray for his sanctification. An hour has flown; their importunate prayers take hold of the Arm that shakes the world. Abbott falls prostrate on the floor, unable to move hand or foot. Satan tells him he is dying. He cries out, “O God, remove thy hand, or I die!” The physical disability passes off, his strength returns, and he gets up. Still the conversation is on sanctification, and he says, “I want it, and must have it.” The preacher says: “You were right at it awhile ago, and would have received it, if you had not asked God to remove his hand. Now, if you want it, you must pray through, letting God have his way.” Then he says, “I will have it, or die.” Again they get on their knees to pray for his sanctification. Erelong the agony supervenes, the power comes, he falls

prostrate, unable to move hand or foot. But profiting by his former mistake, this time he sticks to the track, lying prostrate. After about two hours, he rises and testifies, “that he knows God has sanctified him.” I relate this wonderful experience of this noted pioneer Methodist preacher, as a striking corroboration of the Pauline ministry in the Thessalonian Church. After a conversion sky-blue, glorious, and exceedingly fruitful, not only of spiritual joy, hut efficient evangelistic work, Paul notifies them that their faith is deficient, and that they must be blameless in holiness as a qualification to meet their “coming Lord with all his saints.”

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Godbey, William. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament".