1 Thessalonians 2:5
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) At any time.—Not only during the stay at Thessalonica, but neither at Thessalonica nor elsewhere, as the next verse shows. But as the Thessalonians can only be appealed to as evidence for their own experience, the writers therefore call God Himself to witness. At the same time, the absence of flattering words was a thing of which human witnesses could judge; the freedom from covetous designs was known to God alone.

Cloke of covetousnessi.e., some specious pretext, under cover of which we might gain a worldly advantage; so (though the Greek word is different) 1Peter 2:16, “a cloke of maliciousness.”

2:1-6 The apostle had no wordly design in his preaching. Suffering in a good cause should sharpen holy resolution. The gospel of Christ at first met with much opposition; and it was preached with contention, with striving in preaching, and against opposition. And as the matter of the apostle's exhortation was true and pure, the manner of his speaking was without guile. The gospel of Christ is designed for mortifying corrupt affections, and that men may be brought under the power of faith. This is the great motive to sincerity, to consider that God not only sees all we do, but knows our thoughts afar off, and searches the heart. And it is from this God who trieth our hearts, that we must receive our reward. The evidences of the apostle's sincerity were, that he avoided flattery and covetousness. He avoided ambition and vain-glory.For neither at any time used we flattering words - see the Job 31:21-22 notes; and on 2 Corinthians 2:17 note. The word here rendered "flattering" - κολακείας kolakeias - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The meaning is, that the apostle did not deal in the language of adulation; he did not praise them for their beauty, wealth, talent, or accomplishments, and conceal from them the painful truths about their guilt and danger. He stated simple truth - not refusing to commend people if truth would admit of it, and never hesitating to declare his honest convictions about their guilt and danger. One of the principal arts of the deceiver on all subjects is flattery; and Paul says, that when preaching to the Thessalonians he had carefully avoided it. He now appeals to that fact as a proof of his own integrity. They knew that he had been faithful to their souls.

Nor a cloke of covetousness - The word rendered "cloke" here - πρόφασει prophasei - means, properly, "what is shown or appears before any one;" i. e., "show, pretence, pretext," put forth in order to cover one's real intent; Matthew 22:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47. The meaning here is, that he did not put on a pretence or appearance of piety for the sake of promoting the schemes of covetousness. The evidence of that was not only what they observed of the general spirit of the apostle, but also the fact that when with them he had actually labored with his own hands for a support; 1 Thessalonians 2:9. It is obvious that there were those there, as sometimes there are now, who, under the pretence of great zeal for religion, were really seeking wealth, and it is possible that it may have been alleged against Paul and his fellow-laborers that they were such persons.

God is witness - This is a solemn appeal to God for the truth of what he had said. He refers not only to their own observation, but he calls God himself to witness his sincerity. God knew the truth in the case. There could have been no imposing on him; and the appeal, therefore, is to one who was intimately acquainted with the truth. Learn hence:

(1) That it is right, on important occasions, to appeal to God for the truth of what we say.

(2) we should always so live that we can properly make such an appeal to him.

5. used we flattering words—literally, "become (that is, have we been found) in (the use of) language of flattery"; the resource of those who try to "please men."

as ye know—"Ye know" as to whether I flattered you; as to "covetousness," God, the Judge of the heart, alone can be "my witness."

cloak of—that is, any specious guise under which I might cloak "covetousness."

In the former verses the apostle had asserted his integrity more generally; here, and in the next verse, he instanceth in particulars. He vindicates his ministry from the guilt of three vices which too often attend it; flattery, covetousness, and vain-glory.

For neither at any time used we flattering words: first, flattery, en logw kolakeiav; or, we were not, i.e. conversant, in a word of flattery, as in the Greek; our word was not a word of flattery, as if we sought to please men. When we ascribe to men good things that they have not, or above what they have, or when we applaud or extenuate the evil that is in them, we flatter them. This is reproved often in the false prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah 30:10 Ezekiel 13:10,18; and in the false teachers in the New. The flattery of ministers is, their preaching of smooth things, rather to please than profit; when they avoid just reproofs, and searching truths, and close applications, that they may not displease; and affect wisdom of words, and rhetorical discourses, that they may please: when they either conceal some part of truth, or pervert it, that people may think their doings better than they are, or their state better than it is.

As ye know: their words in preaching being an overt act, they themselves could judge of, and therefore the apostle doth appeal to their own knowledge in that.

Nor a cloak of covetousness, God is witness: in what they could not know, which was their inward aims and designs, he appeals to God, which is a form of swearing; and in all oaths men solemnly do concern God therein; the same in effect that is called protesting, 1 Corinthians 15:31. And that wherein he thus appeals is, that he had no covetous design in his ministry, which he calls a cloak of covetousness; which lies either in undue withholding what we have, or inordinate desire of more. The latter is here meant, as the Greek word imports. And the word cloak is a metaphor as the word is translated here, and John 15:22: as that covers the inner garments, so when bad designs are covered with specious pretexts, this we call a cloak. The word in the text, en proyasei pleoneziav, is often used, Matthew 23:14 Mark 12:40 Luke 20:47, and sometimes rendered occasion, but for the most part pretence, and so to be understood here; and in heathen authors sometimes used for accusation. And this is contrary to what is said of false prophets, 2 Peter 2:3: Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you. For neither at any time used we flattering words,.... To introduce them into the affections, and gain the esteem and good will of men; they did not in their ministry deliver such things as flattered men with a good opinion of themselves: they did not preach up the purity of human nature, but on the contrary the doctrine of original sin, the imputation of Adam's transgression to his posterity, and the corruption of all human nature; they asserted the universal pollution of it, of all men, and of all the powers and faculties of their souls, that they are all under the power and dominion of sin, are involved in the guilt of it, and are all guilty before God, and liable to everlasting wrath and punishment; and that unless they repented of their sins and believed in Christ, they would perish eternally; thus they dealt roundly and freely with men's consciences, and plainly, openly, and faithfully told them their case as it was: nor did they cry up the power of man's free will, which would have been grateful to Jews and Gentiles; but they declared the reverse, they asserted the weakness and impotency of man, to anything that is spiritually good; and represented him as a weak and strengthless creature, and unable to do anything, even to think a good thought of himself; and ascribed all that a man is, or has, or does, that is good, to the grace and power of God, who works in him both to will and to do: nor did they plead for the sufficiency of man's righteousness to justify him before God, a doctrine very pleasing to human nature; but, on the contrary, they gave out that there was none righteous, no, not one of the sons of Adam, in and of themselves, or by virtue of any righteousness of their own; so far from it that they were full of all unrighteousness, and were not capable of working out a righteousness, or of attaining to the righteousness of the law; that what they did pretend to was not a justifying righteousness, and would give no right and title to eternal glory; and that the righteousness of Christ was the only righteousness, by which a man could be justified from all things, and in which he could be found safe. They did not blend and mix their doctrine to suit with the tastes of different men, but with all sincerity and plainness preached the truth, as it is in Jesus; they did not connive at the sins of men, cry Peace, Peace, when there was none, or sow pillows under their armholes, or promise them life, though they should not return from their wicked way; but they with great freedom inveighed against the sins of men, and exhorted them to repentance and reformation, as well as to faith in Christ for pardon and righteousness; nor did they wink at the sins of professors, or of one another, the Apostle Paul withstood Peter to the face because he was to be blamed; and when they praised men for their gifts and graces, and the exercise of them, they took care to ascribe them to the grace of God, and give him the glory, and prevent men from boasting in themselves; in short, they acted the reverse of the false teachers, who had men's persons in admiration because of advantage, and by good words and fair speeches deceived the hearts of the simple; but so did not the apostles of Christ, no, never, not "at any time": when they first came to Thessalonica during their stay there, either in public or in private: and though this was true of any other time and place, yet here must be confined to this, since the apostle appeals to this church for the truth of what he said,

as ye know; for flattering words may be discerned; a flatterer is known by his words; though in general such is the weakness of human nature, that men love to be flattered, though they know they are:

nor a cloak of covetousness; or "an occasion of" it, they did not take the opportunity or advantage by the ministry of the word, to indulge a covetous disposition, or to amass wealth and riches to themselves; or an "excuse" for covetousness, which covetous men are never at a loss to make, always pretending one thing or another to hide and cover their evil; but the apostles made no excuses, nor used any cloak, nor needed any to cover their covetousness, because they had not the thing; they did not pretend one thing and mean another; they did not, as the false apostles did, pretend to serve Christ, preach his Gospel, seek the glory of God and the good of souls, and mean themselves, and design their own worldly advantage; they did not make these a "pretence" for covetousness, they sincerely served Christ, faithfully preached his Gospel, truly sought the glory of God, and were heartily concerned for the good of souls without any mercenary and selfish views; for the truth of which they could appeal to the heart searching and rein-trying God, as the apostle here does, saying,

God is witness; which is properly an oath, a solemn appeal to God; for since covetousness is an internal and secret sin, and may be so coloured and disguised as not easily to be discerned, as flattering words may, the apostle therefore calls God to witness the truth of what he had said.

For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 2:5. Proof of the habitual character of the gospel preaching by an appeal to the character which it specially had in Thessalonica.

γάρ] refers to οὐχ ὡς ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκοντες ἀλλὰ τῷ Θεῷ.

ἐγενήθημεν ἐν] we proved ourselves in, or we appeared as of such a character. The passive form ἐγενήθημεν (see on 1 Thessalonians 1:5) denotes here also that the mode of appearance mentioned lay in the plan of God, was something appointed by Him.

κολακεία] comp. Theophrast. charact. c. 1 Thessalonians 2 : Τὴν δὲ κολακείαν ὑπολάβοι ἄν τις ὁμιλίαν αἰσχρὰν εἶναι, συμφέρουσαν δὲ τῷ κολακεύοντι. The word is not again found in the N. T. ἐν λόγῳ κολακείας cannot denote in a rumour (report) of flattery, according to which the sense would be: for never has one blamed us of flattery (so Heinsius, Hammond, Clericus, Michaelis). Against this is the context, for the point here is not what others said of the apostle’s conduct, but what it was in reality. Also it is inadmissible to take ἐν λόγῳ κολακείας, according to the analogy of the Hebrew דָּבָר with the following substantive, as a circumlocution for ἐν κολακείᾳ (so Pelt, who, however, when he renders the clause: in assentationis crimen incurri, involuntarily falls into the afore-mentioned explanation). For—(1) the Hebrew use of דָּבָר is foreign to the N. T.; (2) it is overlooked that λόγος κολακείας finds in the context its full import and reference, inasmuch as the apostle, in complete conformity to the contents of the preceding verses (comp. λαλῆσαι 1 Thessalonians 2:2; παράκλησις, 1 Thessalonians 2:3; λαλοῦμεν, 1 Thessalonians 2:4), in the beginning of 1 Thessalonians 2:5 still speaks of a quality of his discourse, and only in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 passes to describe his conduct in Thessalonica in general. Accordingly, the apostle denies that he appeared in Thessalonica with a mode of speech whose nature or contents was flattery (Schott falsely takes κολακείας as the genitive of origin), or that he showed himself infected with it. In Thessalonica, for this limitation of οὐποτέ is demanded by the accessory appeal to the actual knowledge of the readers

καθὼς οἴδατε, as ye know.

οὔτε ἐν προφάσει πλεονεξίας] sc. ἐγενήθημεν. πρόφασις, from προφαίνω (not from πρόφημι), denotes that which one puts on for appearance, and with the definite design to colour or to cloak something else It therefore denotes pretext, the outward show, and has its contrast (comp. Php 1:18) in ἀλήθεια. See proofs in Raphel, Polyb. p. 354. The meaning accordingly is: we appeared not in a pretext for covetousness, i.e. our gospel preaching was not of this nature, that it was only a pretext or cloak to conceal our proper design, namely, covetousness. Without linguistic reason, and against the context, Heinsius and Hammond understand πρόφασις as accusatio; Pelt, weakening the idea, and not exhausting the fundamental import of πρόφασις (see below), nunquam ostendi avaritiam; Wolf also unsatisfactorily considers πρόφασις as equivalent to species; similarly Ewald, “even in an appearance of covetousness;” for the emphatic even (by which that interpretation is at all suitable, and by means of which there would be a reference to a supplementary clause, “to say nothing of its being really covetousness”) is interpolated, and the question at issue is not whether Paul and his associates avoided the appearance of πλεονεξία, but whether they actually kept themselves at a distance from πλεονεξία. Lastly, erroneously Clericus (so also the Vulg.): in occasione avaritiae, ita ut velit apostolus se nullam unquam occasionem praebuisse, ob quam posset insimulari avaritiae.

Θεὸς μάρτυς] comp. Romans 1:9; Php 1:8. Paul having just now appealed to the testimony of his readers that he was removed from κολακεία, now takes God for witness that the motive of his behaviour was not πλεονεξία. Naturally and rightly; for man can only judge of the character of an action when externally manifested, but God only knows the internal motives of acting.1 Thessalonians 2:5. “Never did we resort to words of flattery” (in order to gain some private end); cf. Arist., Eth. Nik., iv. 6. As self-interest is more subtle than the desire to please people (which may be one form of self-interest), the appeal is changed significantly from κ. ο. to θεὸς μάρτυς (Romans 1:9): “auaritia aut ambitio, duo sunt isti fontes ex quibus manat totius ministerii corruptio” (Calvin). Cf. Introduction, § 1—on θεός and ὁ θεός, cf. Kattenbusch, das Apost. Symbol, ii. 515 f.5. For neither at any time used we flattering words] were we found using words of flattery (R. V.: same verb as in 1 Thessalonians 2:1, “found vain”); or, did we fall into the use of flattering speech. “Found” might suggest detection, which is not in the Apostle’s mind. Lit., word of flattery, referring to the tenor and general style of the apostles’ speech. He adds a third time (see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:1) “as ye know.” St Paul, as his friends well knew, was not one to

“crook the pregnant hinges of the knee,

Where thrift may follow fawning.”

In repudiating the cloak of covetousness he appeals to “God” as “witness” (comp. Romans 1:9, “God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son;” also Romans 2:15, Romans 9:1),—“God, Who proveth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). The “cloak” signifies the pretext of an affected self-devotion, such as might be used to conceal the “covetousness” of a selfish heart. “God is witness,” he says, “that no secret avarice was hidden behind our zeal for your salvation.”

The Greek word for “covetousness” denotes greed of any kind,—oftenest, but not always or necessarily, for money; it is the spirit of self-aggrandisement, selfishness as a ruling passion. (Comp. the note on “defraud,” ch. 1 Thessalonians 4:6.) Such a motive in the servant of God would constitute the “uncleanness” denied in 1 Thessalonians 2:3.

This verse gives double evidence of the pure zeal for God professed in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4—the one outward and of the lips, the other inward and known only to God in the heart. Contrast the opposite description of Psalm 12:2 : “A flattering lip, and a double heart.”1 Thessalonians 2:5. Ἐν λόγῳ κολακείας, in flattering words) The antithesis is in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8; even as a cloke of covetousness has its antithesis in 1 Thessalonians 2:9; and the word glory, 1 Thessalonians 2:6, has its antithesis in 1 Thessalonians 2:10.—κολακείας, of flattery) which they chiefly use who are anxious to please men.—καθὼς οἴδατεΘεὸς μάρτυς, even as ye know—God is witness) These two clauses [neither—ye know; nor—witness] correspond to each other, just as the double confirmation of the third member of the sentence [nor of men sought we glory], which is placed in the next verse, follows in the same 1 Thessalonians 2:10. He appeals to men, as the witnesses of a matter generally known; to God, as the witness of a matter which is concealed in the heart; to men and God, as the witnesses of a matter in part generally known, and partly concealed.—προφάσει) with the specious pretext (cloke), under which we might cover avarice.Verse 5. - For; confirming the statement that the preachers of the gospel did not seek to please men, but God. Neither at any time used we flattering words; endeavoring to gain you by flattery and praise; we did not pander to your feelings; we did not soften the demands of the gospel. As ye know, nor a cloak - or pretext - of covetousness. We did not use the gospel as a pretext to mask our real motive, which was covetousness, pretending to seek your spiritual good, whereas in reality we sought our own advantage. Paul could with perfect confidence appeal to his converts, and say, "I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel" (Acts 20:33). He was free from all sinister motives. "He did not use words such as flattery uses, or pretexts such as covetousness" (Jowett). God is witness. Paul appeals to the Thessalonians themselves that he had not used flattering words; so now he appeals to God that the motive of his conduct was not covetousness. Men can judge the external conduct, they can hear the flattering words; but God only can know the motive of action - he only can discern the covetousness. Used we flattering words (ἐν λόγῳ κολακίας ἐγενηθήμεν)

Better, were we found using flattering discourse. Very literally and baldly it is, we came to pass in discourse of flattery. It means more than the mere fact that they were not flatterers: rather, they did not prove to be such in the course of their work. Similar periphrases with ἐν are found, Luke 22:44; Acts 22:17; 2 Corinthians 3:7; Philippians 2:7; with εἰς, Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:5. Κολακία flattery, N.T.o. olxx. Rare in Class. Λόγῳ is explained by some as report or rumor. Common report did not charge us with being flatterers. This meaning is admissible, but the other is simpler. Paul says that they had not descended to flattery in order to make the gospel acceptable. They had not flattered men's self-complacency so as to blind them to their need of the radical work which the gospel demands.

Cloke of covetousness (προφάσει πλεονεξίας)

For πρόφασις see on John 15:22. Properly pretext: πρό before, φάσις a word or saying. Others, less probably, from προφαίνειν to cause to shine forth or before. Paul means that he had not used his apostolic office to disguise or conceal avaricious designs.

God is witness (θεὸς μάρτυς)

Comp. Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Philippians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:10. God or the Lord is witness is a common O.T. formula: see Genesis 31:44, Genesis 31:50; 1 Samuel 12:5, 1 Samuel 12:6; 1 Samuel 20:23, 1 Samuel 20:42; Wisd. 1:6. For testimony to his conduct, he appeals to the Thessalonians (as ye know): for testimony to his motives, he appeals to God. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:10, where there is the double appeal.

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