1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that none render evil for evil to any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) See that.—The exhortation is given to those who have the authority to oversee the Church (Acts 19:28; 1Peter 5:2).

None render evil for evil.—Like the prohibition of fornication, abstinence from revenge is practically a new thought for Greeks, among whom feuds were frequent and undying. (Comp. Romans 1:31; Titus 3:3.)

That which is goodi.e., that which is kind. (See Note on 1Thessalonians 3:6.) This duty is to be “followed,” i.e., made an object to be pursued eagerly, “toward all men.” There is not one standard of morals towards the brethren and another towards the world.

5:12-15 The ministers of the gospel are described by the work of their office, which is to serve and honour the Lord. It is their duty not only to give good counsel, but also to warn the flock of dangers, and reprove for whatever may be amiss. The people should honour and love their ministers, because their business is the welfare of men's souls. And the people should be at peace among themselves, doing all they can to guard against any differences. But love of peace must not make us wink at sin. The fearful and sorrowful spirits, should be encouraged, and a kind word may do much good. We must bear and forbear. We must be long-suffering, and keep down anger, and this to all men. Whatever man do to us, we must do good to others.See that none render evil for evil - See the notes on Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:44. The meaning here is, that we are not to take vengeance; compare notes on Romans 12:17, Romans 12:19. This law is positive, and is universally binding. The moment we feel ourselves acting from a desire to "return evil for evil," that moment we are acting wrong. It may be right to defend our lives and the lives of our friends; to seek the protection of the law for our persons, reputation, or property, against those who would wrong us; to repel the assaults of calumniators and slanderers, but in no case should the motive be to do them wrong for the evil which they have done us.

But ever follow that which is good - Which is benevolent, kind, just, generous; see the notes, Romans 12:20-21.

Both among yourselves, and to all men - The phrase "to all men," seems to have been added to avoid the possibility of misconstruction. Some might possibly suppose that this was a good rule to be observed toward those of their own number, but that a greater latitude in avenging injuries might be allowable toward their enemies out of the church. The apostle, therefore, says that the rule is universal. It relates to the pagan, to infidels, sceptics, and persecutors, as well as to the members of the church. To every man we are to do good as we are able - no matter what they do to us. This is the rule which God himself observes toward the evil and unthankful (notes, Matthew 5:45), and is one of the original and beautiful laws of our holy religion.

15. (Ro 12:17; 1Pe 3:9.)

unto any man—whether unto a Christian, or a heathen, however great the provocation.

follow—as a matter of earnest pursuit.

These words seem directed to the guides of the church, who are called overseers, Acts 20:28, and therefore the apostle requires them to see that none render evil, &c. Or if to the whole church, as before, then it is a solemn charge which they ought to be all circumspect in observing. And the charge is:

1. Negative, not to render evil for evil; which is to revenge themselves; and that is forbidden by the apostle, Romans 12:17,19 1 Peter 3:9; and is the resisting of evil forbidden by our Saviour, Matthew 5:39. But it is to be understood of private revenge rising out of malice, not of public censures, either civil or ecclesiastical, or of seeking reparations for injuries received in courts of justice according to law and equity. This private revenge cannot consist with that patience that he required towards all men in the foregoing verse, nor is it conformable to the example of Christ, 1 Peter 2:23, nor to the Christian calling and profession, 1 Peter 2:21.

2. Positive; good in itself, or that which is good to others, as the word is often taken, Matthew 7:11 Luke 1:53 Galatians 6:6; and so stands opposite here to the rendering of evil. And the word follow signifies an earnest following, which is sometimes taken in a bad sense, for persecution, Matthew 5:11, and sometimes in a good sense, as Hebrews 12:14 1 Peter 3:11; and to follow good imports more than only to do good, 1 Peter 3:11, when the inward bent of the soul and the outward endeavours are towards doing good. And this ought to be ever, or always, that is, in all places, times, occasions, company. Man’s course of life ought in this to be uniform, though his outward condition vary; sometimes to do good to the souls, sometimes to the bodies of men, and that either in a privative or positive good; preventing evil, or bestowing that which is good.

Both among yourselves, and to all men: Do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith, Galatians 6:10. As they say of good, the commoner the better; but the contrary of evil. Christians stand in a special relation to one another, but in a common relation to all, and every relation ought to be filled up with good. As love is a common debt to all men, so the fruit of it, which is doing good. Our doing good should not be confined among Christians only of one way, opinion, or congregation; nor to men only under some limiting circumstances; but it should reach all men as we have ability, opportuniy, and call, even enemies themselves, as our Saviour requires, Matthew 5:44. This is to act like God, and may commend religion to all men, and is not to be looked upon as commended by way of counsel, as the papists say, but commanded by precept. And it is not enough not to do evil, but we must do good: not to save a man’s life when we have power to do it, is to kill him, as Christ argues, Mark 3:4; so not to save a man’s estate when we may, is to steal from him. See that none render evil for evil unto any man,.... Not an ill word for an ill word, railing for railing, nor an ill action for an ill action; no, not to any man whatever, not to an enemy, a persecutor, a profane person, as well as not to a brother, a believer in Christ; and this the saints should not only be careful of, and guard against in themselves, but should watch over one another, and see to it, that no such practice is found in each other.

But ever follow that which is good; honestly, morally, pleasantly, and profitably good; even every good work, which is according to the will of God, is done in faith, from love, and to the glory of God; and particularly acts of beneficence and liberality to the poor; and which are not to be once, or now and then done, but to be followed and pursued after, and that always;

both among yourselves, and to all men; not only to the household of faith, though to them especially, and in the first place, but to all other men, as opportunity offers, even to our enemies, and them that persecute us, and despitefully use us; do good to their bodies, and to their souls, as much as in you lies, by feeding and clothing the one, and by praying for, advising, and instructing the other.

{10} See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

(10) Charity ought not to be overcome by any injuries.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 5:15. Prohibition of revenge. This is easily and fitly added to the command of μακροθυμία.

ὁρᾶτε] take care, take heed. The apostle speaks thus, because man is only too ready to gratify his natural inclination to revenge. Watchfulness, struggle, and self-conquest are necessary to offer resistance to it.

μή τις] sc. ὑμῶν. Erroneously Fromond.: “subditorum vestrorum.” Also incorrectly de Wette: “Since revenge is entirely unworthy of the Christian, so all are not warned against it, but the better disposed are exhorted to watch that no outbreaks of it should occur (among others).” For (1) the prohibition of revenge is peculiarly Christian, corresponding neither to the spirit of heathenism (see Hermann, ad Sophocl. Philoct. 679; Jacobs, ad Delect. Epigr. p. 144) nor to that of Judaism (comp. Matthew 5:38; Matthew 5:43). But de Wette’s reason makes the prohibition appear as if it were something long known, something evident of itself. (2) Also the better disposed are not free from momentary thoughts of revenge; accordingly also upon them was that prohibition to be pressed. (3) The fulfilling of that command appertains to the individual life of every one; whereas to guard against the outbreaks of revenge among others is only rarely possible.

κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ τινι ἀποδοῦναι] to render to any one evil for evil, comp. Romans 12:17; 1 Peter 3:9; Matthew 5:44.

τὸ ἀγαθόν] denotes not the useful or agreeable (Koppe, Flatt, Schott, Olshausen, and others), or “what is good to one” (Hofmann, Möller), nor does it contain an exhortation to benevolence (Piscator, Beza, Calixt, Pelt, Baumgarten-Crusius, and others), but denotes the moral good; see Meyer on Galatians 6:10.

διώκειν τι] to pursue something, to seek to reach it in the race (Php 3:12; Php 3:14), then generally a figurative expression for striving after a thing, comp. Romans 9:30-31; Romans 12:13; Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 14:1.1 Thessalonians 5:15. The special circumstances which called for forbearance (1 Thessalonians 5:14) were likely to develop a disposition to retaliate upon those who displayed an ungenerous and insubordinate spirit (e.g., the ἄτακτοι); but the injunction has a wider range (εἰς πάντας, including their fellow-countrymen, 1 Thessalonians 2:14).15. See that none render evil for evil unto any man] The stress lies not on the personal object, as in the former clause (all, any), but on the quality of the act: better, See that none render unto any one evil in return for evil. The Thessalonian Christians were receiving much evil from the world; possibly some of its members were wronging others: there must be no retaliation. “Blows may fall on you; you must never return them.” This command is linked closely with the last; for while that bids each man restrain his own anger, this requires him to check the resentful spirit wherever it appears. It is a reproach to all, a discredit to the common faith, when a Christian gives back wrong for wrong. Comp. Romans 12:19-21, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good;” also 1 Peter 2:18-25; and especially the teaching of Christ in Matthew 5:38-48. On evil, see note to 1 Thessalonians 5:22.

but ever follow that which is good] This is to “follow” not by way of imitation, as in ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, but by way of aim and pursuit: hence, follow after (R. V.). And “the good” is here “the beneficial.” As much as to say: “Make the good of your fellow-men your constant pursuit, and let no Injury or unworthiness on their part tarn you aside from it.”

This line of conduct is to be pursued both within and without the Church: one toward another, and toward all. Amongst Christians such seeking of the good of others is mutual, and there its best results will appear. But its exercise is to be unlimited. No follower of Christ will do wilful harm to any man. The distinction made “by them of old time. Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy,” Christ, our Lawgiver, has abolished (Matthew 5:43-48).

From social duties the Apostle’s homily now rises to matters of religion, from the claims of Christians on each other to “the will of God” concerning them. See note introductory to 1 Thessalonians 5:12.1 Thessalonians 5:15. Ὁρᾶτε, see) Let every man watch over himself and the other (his neighbour). A person who has received an injury, and is in a passion, sees too much; his neighbours therefore ought to see (for him).Verse 15. - See that none render evil for evil unto any. The prohibition of revenge is peculiarly Christian, neither corresponding to the spirit of heathenism, nor yet clearly revealed in Judaism. A precisely similar prohibition is given in Romans 12:17, "Recompense to no man evil for evil." But ever follow; pursue after. That which is good; the good, the beneficial. Both among yourselves; your fellow-Christians. And to all men. The human race in general; the one being brotherly kindness and the other charity (2 Peter 1:7). That which is good (τὸ ἀγαθὸν)

Not to be limited to profitable, beneficent (as Lightfoot, Lnemann), although ἀγαθός commonly includes a corresponding beneficent relation of its subject to another subject, which is emphasized here by to all men. See on Romans 5:7. It may also include what is absolutely, morally good, as Romans 2:10. So Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 3:11; Romans 7:18.

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