Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;1TH 3:1–5
2. Being unable to come himself, Paul sent Timothy
1Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear [endure, στέγοντες], we thought it good [thought good, εὐδοκήσαμεν; sin., as B.: ηὐδοκήσαμεν] to be left at [left behind 2in, καταλειφθῆςαι ἐν] Athens alone, and sent Timothy our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer [our brother and fellow-labourer with God]1 in 3the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you [exhort]2 concerning [in behalf of]3 your faith, that4 no man [no one, μηδένα] should be moved by [in, ἐν] these afflictions; for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto 4[unto this we are appointed, εἰς τοῦτο κείμεθα]. For verily [For even, καὶ γάρ] when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation [are to be afflicted, μέλλομεν θλίβεσθαι]; even as [as also, καθὼς καί] it came to pass, and ye know. 5For this cause, when I [I also, κἀγώ] could no longer forbear [endure, στέγων], I sent to know your faith, lest by some means [lest haply, μήπως] the tempter have [had] tempted you, and our labour [toil, κόπος] be [should prove, γένηται] in vain.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. (1Th 3:1.) Wherefore (because ye are thus our joy, 1Th 2:20; my crown of glory, which I hope to bring before the Lord, 1Th 2:19),5 when we, &c.; more exactly:6 as those who could not longer endure it. Στέγω, in old Greek, to cover, then (of a vessel), to contain, and then (Philo and Paul), to endure; so 1 Cor. 9:12; 13:7. This suits our place; but not, to conceal. No longer endure, namely, to be separated from you, and hindered from coming to you (1Th 2:18).7 There is tenderness in the fact, that his anxiety is scarcely hinted at, is at most intimated in the expression στέγοντες, and is not more distinctly announced till 1Th 3:5.
2. We thought good, were pleased (1Th 2:8; the imperfect, continuously); here the aorist (on one occasion); CALVIN: promtam animi inclinationem designat.8 The plural, according to the restriction already introduced by the explanation in 1Th 2:18, of Paul alone; for 1Th 3:1 sqq. is closely connected with what precedes; equivalent, therefore, to the singular in 1Th 3:5. Otherwise GROTIUS, BENGEL, ROOS, HOFMANN, who, because the singular first comes at 1Th 3:5, think that the plural here does not denote Paul alone (and so Roos and HOFMANN at 1Th 3:6 also). But all three (1Th 1:1) cannot be meant; Timothy, being sent forth, is not one of those left alone. We should thus have to understand by the plural two out of the three; but that is more arbitrary than to explain it (after 1Th 2:18) of Paul alone, [as is done by SCHOTT, DE WETTE, LÜNEMANN, ALFORD.—J. L.] Generally, indeed, it is he who decides. With this too Acts 18:5 is at least more readily reconciled.
3. (1Th 3:2.) In Athens, &c., and sent, &c.; therefore from Athens. According to Acts 17:15 Paul sends a message from Athens to Berœa, that Silas and Timothy should come to him with all speed; according to Acts 18:5 they both came to him at Corinth from Macedonia. With this agrees 1 Thess. 3:6: Timothy comes from Thessalonica (Macedonia) to Paul, with whom Silvanus also is present during the writing of the letter. The narrative in the Acts has in the interval a gap, that can only be filled up conjecturally. Either (1 a.) both had come to Athens, and from that place had again been sent to the north, Timothy to Thessalonica, Silas perhaps to Philippi (also in Macedonia). (If ἐπέμψαμεν included also Silvanus, this would be a necessary supposition.) Or (1 b.) only Timothy had come to Athens, and been sent to Thessalonica,9 Silas being still detained in Berœa (likewise in Macedonia). Or lastly (2) both did not come to Paul, so long as he lingered in Athens, but the latter (moved, it may be, by accounts of persecutions in Thessalonica) sent after the first order (for them to come) a second in like manner from Athens to Berœa; that Timothy, instead of coming to him directly, should rather go in his stead to Thessalonica, and only after that follow in his route (so HUG; WIESELER, Chronol. des apostolischen Zeitalters, 249). He would thus have countermanded Timothy’s expected arrival in Athens. This would accord well with ἐπέμψ. (without ἐκεῖθεν); less naturally with καταλειφθ., which, strictly taken, signifies not merely left alone, but left behind alone. Difficulty there is none, only a gap, which cannot be filled up incontestably in only one way.
4. Our brother, &c.—The Cod. B. gives, our brother and fellow-laborer; A. and Sin., our brother and God’s servant; others, and God’s servant and fellow-laborer; the Recepta (not altogether after late authorities only), our brother and God’s servant and our fellow-laborer, where the arrangement is wanting in solidity; we should have to justify it perhaps thus: as God’s servant he is our fellow-laborer. But the reading which first lies at the basis of all the variations is that followed above (D. Ambrosiaster); διάκονος θεοῦ is common, sometimes in a comprehensive (2 Cor. 6:4), sometimes in a narrower sense (Acts 6; 1 Tim. 3:8). My fellow-laborer, says Paul, Rom. 16:21; God’s fellow-laborers, 1 Cor. 3:9. In the glad tidings of Christ; in the act, that is, of preaching the same.—It can scarcely be said that Paul gives Timothy these several titles of honor involuntarily, and on account merely of the latter being his faithful helper (LÜNEMANN); he probably means also to show the Thessalonians what a helper he has deprived himself of for their sake (CHRYSOSTOM); quo melius ostenderet quam bene illis consultum voluerit (CALVIN); and at the same time to certify his own perfect agreement with Timothy, and confirm whatever he has done (VON GERLACH). Somewhat too refined perhaps is HOFMANN’S conjecture, that they were not, because Paul had not come himself, to think too highly of the coming of Timothy, and that he desires to guard aginst this.
5. To establish you (in the persecutions; that Timothy was to do) and to exhort, literally, to call to, which is to be understood, according to the context, either of exhortation or of comfort (Acts 15:32; 2 Thess. 2:17). But Paul expresses no distrust of their standing as believers. That the oldest authorities omit ὑμᾶς after παρακ. makes no difference in the sense; nor yet that they read ὑπέρ instead of περί. For the former likewise means on account of, in consideration of, as in Rom. 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:8; 2 Thess. 2:1; at least, it is not necessary, with LÜNEMANN [JOWETT, ALFORD, ELLICOTT], to press the signification in favor of, for the benefit of (in order to support your faith).
6. (1Th 3:3.) That no one should be moved, &c.—Σαίνω (from σέω, σείω), in the New Testament only here, means to move to and fro; of dogs, to wag the tail; hence to flatter, deceive through flattery (so in many places in Wetstein). Thus BENGEL that no one be deceived (by enemies, relations, his own heart); similarly RÜCKERT: blanditiis corrump [a sense suggested also by WORDSWORTH, after THEOPHYLACT; likewise JOWETT: “not simply moved, but rather moved to softness.”—J. L.] On the other hand, the Greek interpreters (familiar with the language), and so the moderns generally, including LÜNEMANN, understand by it, to be moved, shaken, like σαλευθῆναι of 2 Thess. 2:2. HOFMANN disputes this explanation, reduces even Lünemann’s examples from the classics to the sense of deluding, and understands thus: in (in the midst of, not by means of) the persecutions seeming well-wishers might delude you with suggestions.—Τῷ could not mean because that (as in 2 Cor. 2:12 ), but must be equivalent to εἰς τό, for the end that, like the Hebrew לְ. But this were without example, and, besides, the accusative τό is attested by almost all the uncials. The latter LÜNEMANN [ALFORD] understands as in apposition to εἰς τὸ στηρ. &c.: that is to say that; which is as much as to say that;—not good. Others [SCHOTT, KOCH]: in reference to, as in Phil. 4:10 (where, however, another view is possible); best (EWALD, HOFMANN [WINER, DE WETTE, ELLICOTT, WEBSTER and WILKINSON]): it marks the purport of the charge, of the παρακαλέσαι; comp. 1Th 4:1, 6.
7. In these afflictions; which after Paul’s departure befell the Thessalonians as well as him (1Th 2:14). From 1Th 3:4 it is inferred that they immediately subsided. That they might return any day, and did actually break forth again, is shown by 2 Thess. 1:4. CHRYSOSTOM and others err in supposing that he speaks of his own afflictions, by which the Thessalonians were rendered anxious, as soldiers are by the wounding of the general.
8. For yourselves know, without any repeated admonition of ours; know then also, that I am right in requiring, μηδένα σαίνεσθαι.—That unto this we (Christians generally) are appointed; κείμεθα like τιθέμεθα (Luke 2:34; Phil. 1:16). Improperly KOCH: are prostrate (in misfortune and suffering); Phil. 1 might perhaps be so understood, but not Luke 2. Rather: by God ordained, thereunto appointed; εἰς τοῦτο, to afflictions, as the way into the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:10–12; 10:21, 22, 34 sqq.; John 15:18 sqq.; 16:2; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12).
9. (1Th 3:4.) Καὶ γάρ, for even, for indeed.—You should therefore know it, from our telling you before.—That we are to be afflicted, μέλλομεν θλίβ. (again, Christians generally), that there awaits us; not simply equivalent to the future, but: according to God’s purpose; because darkness is opposed to light, the flesh strives against the spirit. Notwithstanding such undisguised forewarning, the gospel wins believers. An example of how far the Apostle’s word was from flattering speech (1Th 2:5).—As also it came to pass (with you, as with us), and ye know; not: that it must come to pass, that were tautological with 1Th 3:3; but: that according to our forewarning it has come to pass. By this remembrance there accrued from an outward event an inward experience. As the subject of κείμεθα (1Th 3:3) and μέλλομεν (1Th 3:4), therefore, we understand Christians generally. HOFMANN, on the contrary: the same as in the case of ἦμεν and προελέγομεν, and so only the Apostles. No doubt, in the clause, “when we were with you,” the we can only mean the Apostles. But in the case of κείμεθα there is nothing before to suggest this limitation; and opposed to it is the fact, that thereby the most natural connection with what precedes is disturbed. To comfort the Thessalonians in their afflictions, he reminds them of the rule that affects all Christians. But, if we understood him to say “that we Apostles are appointed thereunto,” it is only in an ingenious, roundabout way that we could get at the point of the confirmation and exhortation: Admit no such insinuation, as that we misled you into misery, while we secured ourselves.
10. (1Th 3:5.) For this cause (on account of these afflictions; unnaturally HOFMANN: because we εἰς τοῦτο κείμεθα), when I also, &c. OLSHAUSEN interpolates: as you in your care for me;—LÜNEMANN: as the others, Timothy and the Christians in Athens;10 but there is nothing said of their having no longer endured;—HOFMANN even: as we two, Silvanus and I, sent Timothy, so now also I alone (the singular) sent some one unnamed! On the other hand, DE WETTE would refer the καί in κἀγώ to the whole sentence; without proof. Just as here after διὰ τοῦτο, so it stands at Eph. 1:15; comp. Col. 1:9 [both texts cited by De Wette.—J. L.]. And, just as there, it opposes to what was said of the Thessalonians (ye have had experience of suffering)11 what he too now had done.—Sent, &c. is a resumption of 1Th 3:2. He says nothing any more about whom he sent; he merely adds, for what purpose. Nor is it any longer here, as at 1Th 3:2, what Timothy was to do, but what he thereby sought for himself. At no time mere tautological repetition. For PELT and OLSHAUSEN erroneously refer γνῶναι to Timothy, though indeed not named, as the subject; it belongs rather to the subject of the principal verb (LÜNEMANN).
11. Your faith, whether [lest],12 &c.—Everything concentrates in this, whether they stand in the faith. Without our supplying φοβούμενος, μήπως expresses solicitude, and first indeed, with the indicative preterite, in reference to what was past: whether perhaps it has already occurred; there exists oppression from without; now he is anxious to know, whether haply this had wrought inwardly so as to become a temptation for the Thessalonians, that is, to the disturbance of faith;—then, moreover, with the subjunctive, in reference to what was impending, which in this case might possibly occur; for, even though the πειρασμός should have already occurred, this would still be by no means decided; the temptation might, indeed, still be resisted, and the entire frustration of the work still be warded off. Similarly Gal. 2:2; comp. WINER, 6 ed., 56, 2.† The tempter is Satan (1Th 2:18); the substantival participle marks his settled characteristic (Matt. 4:3); that is what he is always after. That the subject and the predicate are from the same stem gives emphasis to the expression. For εἰς κενόν, to come to nothing, to be frustrated, comp. Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16; Hebr. לְאַכְזָב ,לַשָּׁיְא ,לָרִיק, Is. 65:23; Jer. 6:29; Mic. 1:14.—Our toil; you surely do not mean to make me so poor? he thus speaks to their heart. It would be to their own hurt, if they fell away. But he in his love for them would reckon it a sensible loss for himself (RIEGER). Now at last and in such an affectionate manner, after he has already strengthened them, does he mention the danger by name.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. (1Th 3:1.) It was a sacrifice, to remain in so difficult a position without the outward and inward support of faithful helpers; rather to dispense with something himself, than allow the Thessalonians to want for anything. Love gives others the precedence (comp. Phil. 2:19 sqq.). CALVIN: Desiderii illius sui fidem facit, se majorem illorum quam sui rationem habuisse ostendit. It is at the same time an instance of that so frequent change in his plans, which was misinterpreted to his disadvantage at Corinth (2 Cor. 1:17). What was said of another servant of God is to its full extent true of him: “The singleness of his eye kept him steadfast to his purpose under all the varied and trying circumstances of his life. He changed his plans according as he observed a change in the intimations of Providence, but his purpose remained fundamentally the same—the furtherance of the gospel by all means.” Berlenburger Bibel: A servant of the Church must accommodate himself to the circumstances of the Church, and yet in such a manner that, while doing one thing, he do not neglect another.
2. (1Th 3:2.) The mission to Thessalonica was no small task for the youthful Timothy (1 Cor. 16:10, 11; according to 1 Tim. 4:12 he needed encouragement in the presence of older men). In the Acts the presence of Timothy at the founding of the church there is not once mentioned; plainly because he was less conspicuous, and for the same reason the persecution did not affect him. Paul, however, would not have entrusted a stranger to the church with such an important commission. The Apostle understood the wisdom of selecting a gentle manager, who yet was no skulk, but in a spirit of self-sacrifice sought, as few others, the things that were Christ’s (Phil. 2:20–22). The difference of gifts is of service for different tasks. It is not every one that can root out stumps and stones, nor is this always in order. There is a time also for easy going—careful watering, and ministers with gifts adapted to that work. Even in war different enterprises are promoted by different sorts of weapons.
3. (1Th 3:2.) Timothy, the brother. Care is to be taken that the name of brother do not become trite, nor yet be so claimed for a particular circle, as if it belonged to that especially, and to every member of it officially and as a matter of course. Rather it is due to all living Christians, to whom Christ addresses it (Matt. 12:49, 50). Only on this basis is official brotherhood a truth. Elsewhere Paul calls Timothy his beloved, faithful, genuine child (1 Cor. 4:17; 1 Tim. 1:2 [and 18]). The child, dependent on his father, grows up to be an independent brother. In the spiritual life it is possible for the degrees of kindred to become variable without damage, since through hallowed, tender love they coexist, yet without confusion. Even the common human relations show images of this. A son when grown up may find his friend in his father.
4. That we are called God’s fellow-laborers, is for us a high dignity. God will not drive everything through alone (RIEGER), but will act also by means of our agency, weak as it may be, yet strengthened and continually sustained by Him alone. For He it is, indeed, that worketh in us to will and to do, and then gives the increase (Phil. 2:13; 1 Cor. 3:6, 10); nevertheless he requires of us faithfulness (1 Cor. 4:2)—that we lay hold of what He proffers.
5. (1Th 3:3.) Confirmation and exhortation are needed even by believers, to arm them against threatening and temptation. A comfortable support is communion in prayer. CALVIN: The communion of saints includes this, that the faith of one member should be a comfort to others. But to fasten on to men as men would be unsound and unprofitable, unless we allowed ourselves to be aroused to the recollection of what lies in our own consciousness of faith (ye yourselves know)—unless, animated by the example, we made use for ourselves of the open way of access to the Lord.
6. CHRYSOSTOM: Who has ears to hear, let him hear: The Christian is appointed to suffer affliction. It is, therefore, just when we are appointed to a time of refreshing, that a strange thing happens to us (1 Pet. 4:12). According to the world’s sentiment (and that of our natural sense), it is to our discredit when things go troublesome and hard with us; we almost suspect that everything is wrong with us. According to the word of God, that is rather a badge of Christians, a badge of honor; hac lege sumus Christians, CALVIN. The Lord, indeed, must even again show Himself as the Breaker13 (2 Cor. 6:8–10; Rom. 8:37). Besides, affliction that befalls us as Christians on account of our faith is still something different from such natural trouble or temptation of one’s own flesh, as all men must meet with. But Christians, after all, are really nothing but men on whom the Divine training takes effect; and all suffering sent by God, not merely persecution proper, can and should be turned into a cross, and as a cross be taken up and borne—as a crossing of our self-will. To be sure, our scriptural knowledge, and, on the other hand, our lively recognition of facts and ready acceptance of whatever is plainly laid on us, very often do not keep pace with each other. Hatred for Christ’s name’s sake is not to be provoked by us (Phil. 4:5);14 provided only we do not escape the trouble by reason of our excessive worldliness, our compliances, denials, and quenching of the pursuit of holiness. But the question always concerns only what God lays upon us, not a studied self-torture. When external persecutions fail, there may come upon us inward assaults from flesh and blood, refined and enhanced by the spirits that rule in the air—daily piercings of a needle, more irksome than the blows of a club.
7. (1Th 3:4.) The forewarning obviates much vexation (John 13:19; 14:29; 16:1). Hardship, instead of frightening, is then an actual confirmation of the prediction; hostility itself must redound to the glory of the Lord. CHRYSOSTOM compares to the physician, who foresees the course of the disease, and thereby quiets his patient. God, however, beholds beforehand not merely what will happen, as if it happened without Him, but what, even of that which is wicked and hurtful, He will work as Judge, according to the relation between the seed and the harvest (Gal. 6:7, 8); and so the Divinely opened vision discerns this working of God even in the wickedness of men.
8. What must the gospel be as a divine power, that, with prospects so little flattering to the flesh, it yet wins believers! It is true that to a certain degree even an equivocal cause may gain by persecution. To make martyrs of men is to call forth and strengthen the spirit of contradiction. That is a noble impulse (of an independent character) caricatured (resistance to essential truth). But only in the element of truth is there a steadfast and lasting perseverance. Berlenburger Bibel: But is it wise management, to talk of the cross to young Christians? True wisdom conducts into a school, where we learn to be blessed. The lost blessedness is to be regained in no other way than the strait and narrow one. Tribulation, however, is laid on us, not as a legal burden, but as an evangelical condition. And this very distress must serve to purify us.
9. (1Th 3:5.) Affliction from without becomes temptation within, insinuates itself as a trial of faith, urges to the experiment, whether we might not have less of the cross. The same word πειρασμός LUTHER translates sometimes by Versuchung [temptation], sometimes by Anfechtung [trial].15 This corresponds to the two sides of the idea. The design of Satan, who against his will must serve the purpose of God, is the wicked one of overthrowing by temptation; thus it is said: God tempts no man; and even Satan finds scope for his temptations only in man’s own lust (James 1:13 sqq.); and yet we are not to think it strange, we should rather count it joy, when we fall into divers temptations [LUTHER: Anfechtungen] (1 Pet. 4:12; James 1:2 sqq.), as Abraham was tempted (Gen. 22), or Israel (Gen. 15:25; 16:4). This is temptation with the Divine purpose of trial and proof, and to this end, therefore, should the prayer: “Lead us not into temptation,” be directed; not: Avert from us all trial, but: Restrain it within such bounds, and give to it such an issue (1 Cor. 10:13), that it become not to us an overpowering temptation. Thus Satan himself must serve the Lord in the salvation of men. From this wonderful complication of motives, Divine, devilish, human, is explained, even alongside of the word: “We are appointed to the suffering of affliction;” that other word again: “I endured it no longer.” This is neither impatience nor a faint-hearted anxiety, but the faithfulness of love in doing its own part and neglecting nothing. He has no thought of setting aside or deprecating all Divine πειρασμός; but he would assist those under trial, so that no Satanic πειρασμός should overpower, alarm, or deceive them; for both fierce foes and seeming well wishers (Matt. 16:23) can work to his mind. Paul is withal a wise instructor even in this, that he just as tenderly avoids agitating them beforehand with images of terror, as he again openly announces the danger.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1Th 3:1. What diligence in watering is shown by Paul! In the case of young plants this is especially necessary. But the tender and encouraging treatment has no other aim, than to lead them on to a Christian self-dependence. Thus Paul not merely passed through among them as a proclaimer of the word, but he was their father, and continued to be their pastor.—A true Apostle is intimately knit to the souls of his children, and can never forsake them. Such a spirit of love and truth forms the true apostolic succession.
1Th 3:2. STARKE: He incites others to do what he cannot (Eph. 6:22).—THE SAME: A few faithful laborers can accomplish more than many unfaithful ones (1 Cor. 15:10).16—Towards laborers worthy of the name, therefore, must the prayer of Matt. 9:38 be directed, and also the attention of church-rulers. It is well for an assistant, whom an approved principal can commend, as Paul did Timothy.—STARKE: No man can be a true servant of God and helper in the gospel, unless he be a child of God, and on this account also a brother in Christ.
[1Th 3:1, 2. MATTHEW HENRY: Those ministers do not duly value the establishment and welfare of their people, who cannot deny themselves in many things for that end.—J. L.]
1Th 3:3. HEUBNER: The Christian’s honorable calling; Christianity’s first welcome; The position of a Christian, a position, under the cross.—STÄHELIN: The best ground of comfort, to save us from fainting in tribulation, is to consider well and firmly believe, that God in His goodness and wisdom has appointed to every one what in his station, and according to the measure of the powers granted to him, he is to suffer. Comfort and tribulation are by turns our heavenly companions; God be praised for both!—HEUBNER: We must have a hard heart toward the temptations of sin, but a soft one toward the sufferings of our brethren.—RIEGER: It is better to be appointed to suffering in time than to wrath (1Th 5:9); to you it is given to suffer—as great a gift as: to you it is given to believe (Phil. 1:29).—DIEDRICH: We must have tribulation, for we contend with the whole world, and a mighty prince.—[ BURKITT: Seeing then that afflictions are appointed to us, and we appointed to them; seeing there is a decree of God concerning them, a decree as to the matter of them, as to the manner of them, as to the measure of them, as to the time of them, when they shall commence, how far they shall advance, how long they shall continue, seeing everything in affliction is under an appointment, how meek and humble, how patient and submissive, ought the Christian’s spirit to be under them, and with what steadiness of expectation may and ought he to look up to heaven for a sanctified use and improvement of them!—J. L.]
STARKE: The word of the Apostle is confirmed by all the history of the Church. Here open enemies, there false brethren. But contending Christians have the surest hope of victory over their enemies, because they contend under One as their Leader, who has overcome the world and the prince of the world.—THE SAME: Before a man rightly understands the mystery of the cross, he is offended thereby, and supposes that, if a person acts properly, outward things must also at the same time go well with him; and therefore beginners in the Christian profession should be guarded betimes by good instruction against this offence.—To others applies the word of CHRYSOSTOM: Of you also it holds true, that ye have not yet resisted sin unto blood; and well is it, if only that is true, and not rather this: Ye have not yet even despised riches, &c. So much has Christ suffered for us enemies; and we for Him? nothing for Him, but only from Him innumerable benefits.
1Th 3:4. To find one’s bearings by the word of prophecy—this was a great consolation for the Lord Jesus in His career of suffering (Luke 18:31; John 17:12; Matt. 26:54); to say nothing, then, of ourselves. For us, when in tribulation, it is indispensable that we know, that so it must be—it was told us before.
1Th 3:5. HEUBNER: The Apostles, like Jesus, did not deceive by empty promises.—Partnership helps to carry the burden. Am I to be my brother’s keeper? Not in the sense of a faint-hearted carefulness, as if we could guard him, as if he were not in a far better Hand; but, just because we believe this, ought we to be intent in faithful love, as God’s fellow-laborers, not to neglect our ministry; to look diligently after our brethren, not to pore in curious speculation; to encourage them by examples and intercession; to hold forth to them the prophetic word; to arouse the remembrance of their own experience of the truth of God; to point them to the gospel of Christ, who, stronger than the strong one [Luke 11:21 sq.], knows well how to keep faith firm.—HEUBNER: These were church-visitations, where the inquiry was as to the state of the heart.—Even the loving consideration, that, to please their spiritual fathers, they should contend stoutly, may be made available for the strengthening of zeal; there is a sense of honor in the spiritual family.
[Observe the apostolic style of address to individuals and churches, as liable to fall away from their Christian standing and profession.—Faith, the Christian’s defence against Satan’s devices; comp. Eph. 6:16; 1 John 5:4.—BURKITT: Though the labor of faithful ministers shall not be in vain with respect to themselves—their reward is with the Lord (the careful nurse shall be paid, though the child dies at the breast)—yet with respect to their people they may be in vain, yea worse, for a testimony against them; Mark 6:11.—MATTHEW HENRY: Faithful ministers are much concerned about the success of their labors.—J. L.]
1Th 3:2.—Among the many variations is that one which first lies at the basis of the different readings, and presents a suitable advance: τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Cor. 3:9). [This reading is followed by Griesbach and nearly all the later editors, as well as by our text. Cod. Sin. thus: τὸν ἀδ. ἡμῶν καὶ διάκονον θεοῦ.—J. L.]
1Th 3:2.—[παρακαλέσαι, as in 1Th 4:1; 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:12; &c.; here closely connected with its object in 1Th 3:3.—The Second ὑμᾶς is rejected by Schott, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott, Wordsworth (after Sin A. B. D.1 F. G &c.), and by our text.—J. L.]
1Th 3:2.—[eures Glaubens halber. This represents the reading, adopted by Griesbach and later editors generally, of ὑπέρ (Sin. A. B. D. &c.), instead of περί.—J. L.]
1Th 3:3.—The Recepta τῷ is supported only by minuscules; the best manuscripts [including Sin.] give τό (see Winer; 6th edit. § 44, 5. 3).
[So LÜNEMANN; but better, with ALFORD and ELLICOTT after THEODORET and CALVIN: Because of our affection, and unavailing desire to see you.—J. L.]
[As better representing the subjective μηκέτι with the participle.—J. L.]
[This is not expressed by our Common Version, which ELLICOTT follows, though his paraphrase also is: “no longer able to control my longing, &c.”—J. L.]
[Rather, a conclusion, determination of the judgment and will, as ALFORD, ELLICOTT, &c.—J. L.]
[So MACKNIGHT, PALEY (see his Horæ Paulinæ. 1Th 9, No. 4, with JOWETT’S unsatisfactory criticism), ELLICOTT and others. Comp. CONYBEARE and HOWSON’S Life and Epistles of St. Paul, London ed., vol. I. p. 409, and the Note at the end of 1Th 11—J. L.]
[ALFORD: “A delicate hint that Timotheus also was anxious respecting them; or it may have the same reference as καὶ ἡμε͂ις, 1Th 2:13—viz. to the other Christians who had heard of their tribulation.”—REVISION: “I no more than my companions.”—WEBSTER and WILKINSON: “I in my sympathy with you.”—J. L.]
[Better at least than ELLICOTT: “As they had felt for the Apostle (more fully so in 1Th 3:6), so he &c.”—J. L.]
[RIGGENBACH translates μήπως, ob nicht; and in this he follows very many of the best interpreters, whose names are given in my REVISION of the verse, Note 3. But, as is there remarked, “I do not find that either the simple μή, which occurs so often, or μήπως, which occurs other 11 times (and, excepting Acts 27:29, always in Paul’s Epistles), is ever thus used”—that is, as an indirect interrogative—“in the New Testament.”—J. L.]
[Durchbrecher—LUTHER’S word at Mic. 2:13.—J. L.]
[τό ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν, your “forbearance.”—J. L.]
[A similar variation marks the Common English rendering of πειρασμός and its cognate verb. Generally, indeed, our Translators use the word temptation, but sometimes with the other shade of meaning predominant.—J. L.]
[This reference is scarcely to the point, since Paul there compares what Divine grace enabled him to do with what was done by the other Apostles.—J. L.]
But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:1TH 3:6–13
3. Timothy having brought good tidings, Paul is full of joy and thankfulness to God, to whom he at the same time says without ceasing, that he may be enabled to come unto them, and supply the deficiencies of their faith.
6But now, when Timotheus came [But Timothy having just now come, ἄρτι δέ ἐλθόντος Τιμοθέου] from you unto us [to us from, you, πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀφʼ ὑμῶν], and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity [love, ἀγάπην],17 and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly [longing]18 to see us, as 7[even as]19 we also to see you; therefore, brethren, we were comforted [for this cause we were comforted, brethren,]20 over you in all our affliction and distress 8[distress and affliction]21 by your faith: for now we live, if ye stand fast22 in the Lord. 9For what thanks can we render to God again [render to God, τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι] for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10night and day praying exceedingly [very exceedingly]23 that we might see [that we may see, εἰς τὸ ἰδεῖν] your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith [and make up the deficiencies of your faith].24 11Now God Himself and our Father [But may He Himself, our God and Father]25 and our Lord Jesus Christ,26 direct our way unto you: 12and the Lord make you [but you, may the Lord make]27 to increase and abound in love one toward another [toward one another, εἰς ἀλλήλους], and toward all men [all], even as we [we also, καὶ ἡμεῖς] do toward you; 13to the end He may stablish [establish] your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father [our God and Father],28 at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ29 with all His saints [holy ones].30
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. (1Th 3:6) But, Timothy having just now, &c.—Casual, resumed afterwards in διὰ τοῦτο.—Ἄρτι, just, at present (Matt. 9:18; 1 Cor. 16:7), is best referred, with GROTIUS, BENGEL, PELT, EWALD, HOFMANN, [ALFORD, WORDSWORTH, WEBSTER and WILKINSON, ELLICOTT in the Commentary; his Translation follows the Common Version.—J. L.] to the participle; the Epistle was written immediately after Timothy’s return, and hence the fresh joy and gushing love. DE WETTE and LÜNEMANN [JOWETT] would connect ἄρτι with (the somewhat remote) παρεκλήθημεν, 5:7, thus making the main thought to consist in the prominence given to the consolation in opposition to the sending of Timothy. But we should then be compelled unnecessarily to find an anacoluthon in διὰ τοῦτο. To us, that is, Paul; possibly even, Paul and Silas, if the latter had already arrived before Timothy.
2. And brought us good tidings, &c.—εὐαγγ., Hebr. בִּשֵּׂר (1 Sam. 31:9, Septuagint); here in its original signification, as at Luke 1:19 of the birth of the Baptist; elsewhere, throughout the New Testament, of the good tidings κατʼ ἐξοχήν, the tidings of redemption. The birth of John, moreover, is a part of these tidings of salvation. And here too there is something peculiarly earnest, an expression of his great joy, in the fact that Paul uses this word. It is to him a sort of gospel, a fruit of the gospel in the specific sense, the announcement of a Divine work, when he hears a good account of their faith (the root, without which love were merely a work of nature), and of their love (the fruit, the evidence of the living existence of faith; comprehensive love, as 1 Cor. 13; comp. 2 Thess. 1:3). CHRYSOSTOM: So great a good does he consider their confirmation to be. And thus he, the bringer of glad tidings, himself receives the glad tidings of the Divine work, the fruit of his gospel.
3. And that ye have (retain) a good (a truly loving, thankful, prayerful) remembrance of us; that they had thus not even been misled in regard to their teachers (HOFMANN). Not: ye make honorable mention of us (GROTIUS; that were frigid, and would require ποιεῖσθε, LÜNEMANN). This personal interest is connected with the main topic. If they continue in faith and love, the natural result of that is attachment to the Apostle. The πάντοτε, always, and so immovably, we most naturally refer to the preceding ἔχετε μνείαν (not, as HOFMANN, to what follows); the further explanation, as to how the remembrance shows itself, is given by ἐπιποθοῦντες: in that ye earnestly long, or, if the word is equivalent to the simple verb (KOCH, 252, after FRITZSCHE):31 for this ye long, to see us. BENGEL: A sign of their good conscience.
4. (1Th 3:7.) For this cause—embracing the contents of the participial construction in 1Th 3:6; as the Greeks sometimes elsewhere use οὕτως for resumption; we were comforted over you, on your account,32 not superfluous even with διὰ τοῦτο; the persons are named in whom he finds comfort; then special mention is made of that quality of theirs, that is comforting to him: by your faith (the medium of the comfort); it was their faith about which he had been anxious. Between the two is a second ἐπί, denoting the situation in which he found himself: in33 (2 Cor. 7:4) all, our whole; the distress, taken together as a totality; not: every, which would have required πάσῃ without the article. Ἀνάγκη denotes the distress from without, the evil condition; θλῖψις, its inward operation, affliction, anguish.34 It would be improper to ascribe to the former any special reference to pecuniary need.35 Altogether to be rejected is the idea of anxiety about the Thessalonians; for this would now certainly have been removed; whereas the ἐπί shows that he intends a distress that still continues, but in which he was comforted by the faith of the Thessalonians (LÜNEMANN).
5. (1Th 3:8.) For now we live, &c.; comp. Ps. 22:27 [26. WEBSTER and WILKINSON refer to Gen. 44:30; 1 Sam. 18:1; Gal. 4:19]. He thus explains his having been comforted. Life in the full sense, opposed to distress and anguish, which is a death, a dying daily (1 Cor. 15:31). CALVIN: Here we see, how Paul almost forgot himself for the sake of the Thessalonians. Rom. 7:9, where he speaks of a death by sin, goes yet deeper. Seldom does Paul use ζῆν of the mere bodily life. If ye (emphatic) stand fast, remain steadfast; στήκειν, a later verbal form, derived from ἕστηκα, frequently employed by Paul: Rom. 14:4; Phil 4:1; in the Lord, as your life-element, most intimately united to Him, rooted and sheltered in Him. He again employs ἐάν for the future as wanting confirmation; not, however, as doubting them, but merely as a stimulus: It depends on you, to help in preparing for me death or life. Calvin: Hæc gratulatio vim exhortationis habet. He thereby precludes all rising of vanity in himself and the Thessalonians; but especially by means of the thanksgiving that follows.—HOFMANN, it is true, finds it impossible that the Apostle should make his present life depend on a condition, the occurrence of which only the future could show. He would therefore refer the words διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν πίστεως to what follows, so that we should have to assume an inversion at ὅτι;—unnecessary, for even in the strongly emphatic νῦν there lies a sufficient expression of the present condition for present life: “now (just because ye believe);”36 and if the words, in Hofmann’s construction of them, support the addition, as to the sense, of: and shall continue to live, if ye continue to believe, then so they do also in the ordinary construction. On the whole, Hofmann’s division of the clauses in 1Th 3:7–10 is extremely artificial and cumbersome.
6. (1Th 3:9.) For what thanks, &c.—Thereby Paul confirms the weighty ζῶμεν [ALFORD: “accounts for, and specifies the action of, the ζωή just mentioned.”—J. L.]: What greater blessing could we have, for which to give thanks? The ἀνταποδοῦναι (שִׁלַּם, Joel 4 [3, in the English arrangement.—J. L.] 4, Septuagint) marks the thanksgiving as a return, requited for what was received; in 2 Thess. 1:6 it is used of primitive retribution. In the sphere of free, spiritual love it is thanksgiving, Ps. 116:12. For the third time, and this time most emphatically, he expresses his thanks (1Th 1:2; 3:13); this time also for the ascertained stability of the Thessalonians.—Περί, on your account; ἐπί, on occasion of all the joy (the article marks the joy as a whole), wherewith we joy. [WEBSTER and WILKINSON: he has two subjects of thankfulness, their fidelity, and his own satisfaction therein.—J. L.]; ἧ by attraction for ἥν, since the accusative should have stood (Matt. 2:10; WINER, § 32. 2). The dative, indeed, occurs also without attraction, John 3:29; comp. Luke 22:15; WINER, § 54. 3. But in these places the dative of a substantive cognate to the verb goes to strengthen the verbal idea, like the Hebrew infinitive absolute. We might, therefore, rather compare such texts as Acts 2:30; 16:28, where the dative is to be understood instrumentally.—Δἰ ὑμᾶς belongs to χαίρομεν, not to what follows, which is already sufficiently defined; likewise ἔμπροσθεν &c. (before our God, who is ours and we His) still belongs to what precedes; for, referred to what follows, it would make the sentence drag, whereas, connected with χαίρομεν, it is by no means superfluous (EWALD, HOFMANN); rather is the import already given quite correctly by CALVIN: vere et absque simulatione ulla; LÜNEMANN: with a pure joy, therefore, to which nothing earthly adheres (ALFORD: one which will bear, and does bear, the searching eye of God, and is His joy (John 15:11).—J. L.]
7. (1Th 3:10.) Night and day, &c.—Comp. 1Th 2:9; as according to that place his manual labor, so according to the present his fervent supplications also (2 Tim. 1:3) are prolonged into the night; very exceedingly, above measure exceedingly; a lively Pauline climax (1Th 5:13 (var.); Eph. 3:20 (var.); comp. Mark 6:51).—According to LÜNEMANN [ALFORD: praying as we do, ELLICOTT, &c.] the participle δεόμενοι should depend on δυνάμεθα, 5:9. Not only, however, does that lie too far off, but, as regards the sense also, it is little suitable, since that δυνάμ, has an interrogative force, and presupposes the answer: We cannot indeed say what thanks would suffice. LUTHER and VON GERLACH take 5:10 as the answer to 5:9: What thanks? in that we pray; the thanks, that is, that we pray;—a fair sense, but too artificial. We do better, therefore, to take δεόμ. as in apposition to χαίρομεν (DE WETTE): wherewith we joy, while we (at the same time) unceasingly pray.
8. That we may see, &c.—The object of the prayer is expressed in the form of a purpose: We pray, in order to see; as 1Th 2:12; 2 Thess. 2:2.—Your face, as 1Th 2:17. Not merely, however, to luxuriate in sensibilities, but with the holy aim of redressing, supplying, completing; καταρτίζειν, from ἄρτιος, integer, to mend, restore what has been damaged; the nets, Matt. 4:21; spiritually, 1 Cor. 1:10; Gal. 6:1; but also to complete what has not been damaged; the creation, Heb. 10:5; 11:3. Nor in this case is it meant to convey a reproach of degeneracy; synonymous with προσαναπληροῦν, 2 Cor. 9:12.—Τὰ ὑστερήματα, the deficiencies, that wherein one is behindhand; of poverty in external things, 2 Cor. 9:12; what is still outstanding of sufferings, Col. 1:24. We may distinguish, but not separate, deficiencies in the insight of faith from deficiencies in the power of faith in the life. They need instruction, exhortation, intercession. The ἐάν of 1Th 3:8 had already reminded them that no one, so long as he lives in the flesh, must imagine that he stands and cannot fall; 1Th 4 shows, that Paul exhorts the Thessalonians in matters of practice, as well as instructs them in those of theory (LÜNEMANN, against OLSHAUSEN).
9. (1Th 3:11.) But37 may He Himself, &c.—LÜNEMANN: But may God Himself, our Father—refers ἡμῶν without reason to πατήρ only [and so ALFORD, ELLICOTT, &c.]. We understand (against DE WETTE) that there is here a contrast with the Apostle, who prays that God Himself would do His work, and that in a twofold respect: 1. when he directs, smooths, expressly guides, our way to you (Luke 1:79, the feet; 2 Thess. 3:5, hearts; comp. Rom. 1:10 [Sept. Ps. 5:8]), only so do we escape from empty places of our own, which Satan thwarts (1Th 2:18); 2. but you (1Th 3:12), whether we come or not (BENGEL), the Lord alone can duly confirm; we are, indeed, merely instruments for the καπαρτίσαι, which proceeds from God.
10. Our God and Father arid our Lord Jesus Christ: God gives only through Jesus; Christ also is invoked with the Father, comp. 2 Thess. 2:16 sqq.; 1 Cor. 1:2; the verb in the singular shows, that the two are yet not two, but one Divine essence.38
11. (1Th 3:12.) But you, may the Lord make, &c.—Πλεονάσαι and περισσεύσαι, as previously κατευθύναι, are three singulars of the optative aorist active, not infinitives (that would require the accent περισσεῦσαι, and could only be understood as an arbitrary ellipsis); πλεονάζειν occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only as an intransitive, here transitive (like the hiphil), and so in the Septuagint (of things, not persons), Num. 26:54; Ps. 71:21; περισσεύειν, generally intransitive, but also transitive: of things, 2 Cor. 9:8; and the passive (Matt. 13:12) implies a transitive active. So then: May He make you perfect39 (not: through increase of numbers, but, as no doubt connected with that,) in love (dative, as in 1Th 2:17), and richly to abound; toward one another, therefore in brotherly love (1Th 4:9), and toward all (who are not yet brethren); not merely: toward all other Christians, so that the first member should mean only; toward you Thessalonians one with another; still less is the second member merely epexegetical: and that indeed all (Thessalonians). A groundless narrowing of the comprehensive sense.—Even as we also do toward you. Since the word is ἡμεῖς, not ἡμᾶς, we cannot supply an optative, but only περισσεύομεν (intransitive) τῇ ἀγάπῃ. (GROTIUS: ἐσμέν.) We are in fact your model, as was said already, 1Th 1:6; 2:10; and that (HOFMANN) in love even to those who are not yet brethren; otherwise, indeed, we should not have come to you. Had we not loved you, before you were Christians, you would never have become such.
12. (1Th 3:13.) To the end He, &c.—The final aim and effect of being perfected in love is the establishment of the heart; to become unblamable is the result of the στηρίζειν; on the day, not to the day, because the end is regarded as attained; breviloquence, for εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἀμέμπτους, 1 Cor. 1:8, and often. WINER, § 66. 3. The negative (ἀμ.) stands in the positive: in holiness (belongs to ἀμέμπτους). That should be the issue with the Thessalonians, as with the Apostle (1Th 2:10). Holiness, the result of sanctification (1Th 4:3), comprehends the whole life in and from the Spirit. The unblamableness in holiness has place before God’s scrutinizing glance at the coming of the Lord Jesus. Μετά &c. leans closely on παρουσίᾳ; it does not belong to the more remote ἀμέμπτους. Therefore: when He comes (πάρεστι) with all His holy ones; His, Acts 9:13, that is, Christ’s (not, as LÜNEMANN would have it, contrary to the arrangement of the words, God’s). In that lies the stimulus: see to it, that ye come along with them.—But who are the ἅγιοι? The angels, His angels, are Christ’s attendants at the judgment (Matt. 25:31; 13:41; 16:27; 2 Thess. 1:7); they are called in the Old Testament קְדשִׁים, Septuagint simply ἅγιοι, Ps. 89:6  (?); Dan. 4:10 ; 8:13; at Zech. 14:5 it might be doubted whether angels only are meant. In the New Testament, on the contrary, ἅγιοι without any addition never elsewhere denotes the angels, always Christians, Col. 3:12, and how often! At Col. 1:26 one might possibly (comp. Eph. 3:10) think of holy men and angels together. But do holy men come with the Lord? Rather, to Him, to meet Him (1Th 4:16, 17), says PELT. In the meanwhile, however, they are with Him immediately after death (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8), and He will bring them with Himself (1Th 4:14); rising before the living [before the rapture of the living.—J. L.], they may be described as coming with Him [caught up to meet the Lord in the air, they then do come with Him.—J. L.]; and with this must be compared 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; 15:23, 52; 2 Thess. 1:10. Thus, in favor of the reference to the angels (DE WETTE, LÜNEMANN, and others) is what is said of them elsewhere, and the Old Testament phraseology; against it is that of the New Testament (on which account VON GERLACH, HOFMANN and others, understand by the word the sleeping believers). We should then perhaps have to suppose, that the style of Daniel prevails in our Epistle, as likewise in 2 Thess. 2—BENGEL and STARKE [ALFORD, ELLICOTT, WEBSTER and WILKINSON, &c.] understand by ἁγίων angels and glorified men together, and in favor of this very view reference might be made to Daniel, where besides angels men also, members of the people of God, who take the kingdom, are called קַדִּישִׁין (1Th 7:18, 22). Moreover, Heb. 12:22, 23 puts the angels in company with the Church of the perfected first-born, who indeed have become ἰσάγγελο, (Luke 20:36). The Lord is Head of the Church, as of principalities and powers (Eph., Col.).—Ἀμήν, which is added by A. D.1 E. Sin. It. Vulg., suits the devotional strain, but for that very reason may have been of liturgical origin, or added by the copyist.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. (1Th 3:6.) Faithfulness to the gospel is naturally connected with thankful love to those who publish it. Roos: It is well, when after some time matters stand thus between teachers and their former hearers, whose spiritual fathers they are. Backsliders cannot think kindly of their former spiritual fathers, and have no longing desire to see them again, since shame and fear, or even a malignant bitterness, do preclude this.—The Apostle is far from fostering a false dependence, that leans on men rather than on the Lord Himself (1 Cor. 1:13 sqq.; 3:4 sqq.). When a separation is necessary to a proper independence, the Lord brings it about for the upright in due time.
[BURKITT: Christian love doth earnestly long to evidence itself in Christian fellowship, and passionately desire the communion of saints, for the mutual comfort and spiritual advantage of each other.—J. L.]
2. (1Th 3:7.) A man of faith, like Paul, needs comfort, and says so without disguise (Rom. 1:10); he takes no such high stand, as if he had no need of it. We scarcely form to ourselves an adequate idea of the agony of his soul for all his churches, and easily mistake in thinking generally of highly endowed and advanced Christians, forgetting that in the conflict they are most exposed and harassed.
3. In 1Th 3:7 Paul speaks only of the faith of the Thessalonians, the root; whereas at 5:12, the root being firm, his desire is turned simply to their increase in love, that expression of faith in the life, whose growth then again reacts to the strengthening of faith. Happy he, to whom the faith of others is a comfort, that enables him to disregard, yea, to vanquish, his own troubles. Only then, indeed, is there life (1Th 3:8) full, blessed, worthy of the name, when such love finds its occasions of thankfulness.
4. (1Th 3:10.) What we could not allow grammatically, that the prayer is the answer to the question, What thanks can we render? is yet perfectly true in reality. Prayer is the chief part of thanksgiving (Heidelberg Catechism, Qu. 116), according to the riches, that is, of God’s goodness, which we honor by receiving out of its fulness grace for grace. Supplication is thus thanksgiving, and leads to thankfulness for what has been already received, as on the other hand thanksgiving is supplication for the continuance of the blessing, and impels to further and unceasing supplication.
5. Paul has to touch on the deficiencies of the Thessalonians; and how affectionately does he do so; with as much fatherly frankness as tenderness, and in a manner remote from all pedantry; not until he has testified his greatest joy. And they certainly agree with him—are in this also sensible of his pure love—say not: Have we any deficiencies?—STÄHELIN: A true faith is still always defective. Frequently there is wanting a really convincing knowledge, whence doubts afterwards arise; frequently an assurance of the truth and sincerity of faith, and this arouses a struggle of self-denial; frequently growth in the same, when for many reasons a man is compelled for a long time to exercise himself in expedients alone; frequently the strength to do all things duly in faith. Through the word and prayer these deficiencies are supplied.—BERLENBURGER BIBEL: Faith is a thing that can (and should) grow. We are not to stand still and become careless, as if we thought: Now the Church is planted. For the Church has enemies, and those planted are still novices.
6. (1Th 3:11.) That, even when the matter on hand concerns the promotion of outward arrangements, as of a missionary journey, Jesus also is invoked, though not so prominently, almost exclusively, as the Saviour is among the Moravians,—this shows how the Apostles understand Matt. 23:: all power in heaven and in earth. Not merely, therefore, in the heart, by means of the truth; that were to be a Prophet without being King. But this can be nothing else but the return of the glory, which He had before the world was (John 17:5). The Socinian theory, favored also by later writers, of the glorification, deification, of a man, who was not God from the beginning, is irreconcilable therewith. GESS: If for God to become man is something miraculous, for a man to become God is something monstrous. To make a creature Mediator between God and the creatures is to change the Mediator into a partition wall. If New Testament believers are not to be put in a lower position than those of the Old Testament, who depended on Jehovah Himself,40 then must Jesus not be a mere man.
7. The Apostle’s desire and prayer was first granted years after (Acts 20). How much higher, then, truly are God’s thoughts than even an Apostle’s thoughts, and His ways higher than an Apostle’s ways! His object, the confirmation of the Thessalonians, was attained through other means, especially even by means of his letters.
8. (1Th 3:12.) Brotherly love and universal love are concentric circles—the centre, Christ. The narrower circle is not an occasion of bigoted exclusiveness, but a focus of, refreshment for the wider one (2 Pet. 1:7). All, indeed, are called to be brethren. Between such as are so already, and such as have yet to become so, there exists before God an essential difference; before the eyes of men the transition is often imperceptible; no guild; no see here, see there. Where God really fills the heart, there also does love. But God only can give proficiency in this fulfilling of the law, as well as a beginning in it. He requires from us what exceeds our powers, that we may learn to obtain from Him by prayer the power to perform it (CALVIN). To become perfect in love imparts to the heart a steadfastness in willing nothing that is contrary to the will of God, Rom. 13:8, 10 (HOFMANN).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1Th 3:6. CHRYSOSTOM: Who is like Paul, who regards the salvation of his neighbors as his own, feeling toward all as the body toward its members?—RIEGER: What love to the sheep, that good news of them could so vivify him!—DIEDRICH: So does the shepherd’s love identify him with the flock. This is the difference between the shepherd and the hireling.—Jacob revives on hearing that Joseph is alive; still more blessed is his joy, who has a faculty for hearing good in the highest sense of another (3 John 4; Luke 15:7).
CHRYSOSTOM: Hear, how scholars are admired, who have a good remembrance of their teachers; how they are esteemed happy!—RIEGER: The Apostle regards the remembrance of him and the longing after him as in themselves good impulses, and as a proof of the value which they put on the gospel, and so likewise on strenuous laborers therein.
1Th 3:7, 8. HEUBNER: The steadfastness of others strengthens ourselves.—In God’s gift and work we find life. Without that, it deserves not the name.—SENECA: Etiam in longissima vita minimum est, quod vivitur.—[The spiritual welfare of the Church, and the strength and joy of her ministers, alike depend on the Church’s faith.—J. L.]
1Th 3:9. We cannot sufficiently give thanks! It were often more true to say: We do not sufficiently give thanks, even as we might. God’s kindnesses, however, are in any case greater than that we should be able to repay them.—[MATTHEW HENRY: When We are most cheerful, we should be most thankful. What we rejoice in, we should give thanks for.—ADAM CLARKE: How near his heart did the success of his ministry lie!—J. L.]
1Th 3:10. The calm collecting of holy thoughts in the night season—intercessory prayer in times of sleeplessness—is a good imitation of the Apostle.
HEUBNER: The more prosperous the beginning, with so much the greater zeal prosecute the work.—Along with joy over a good condition, two things are always needed to save us from falling into conceit, ostentation, presumption, self-sufficiency, and vain glorying in men: that the honor be given to God, and that we do not lose the recollection of actual deficiencies.—CALVIN: Even those, who are far ahead of others, are still far from having reached the goal.—No standing still; faith would be, not merely once established, but ever newly cherished and promoted.—[MATTHEW HENRY: When we are most thankful, we should also give ourselves to prayer; and those we give thanks for, yet have need to be prayed for.—J. L.]
1Th 3:11. The Apostle’s fervent spirit overflows in prayer, not merely in his chamber, but in the Epistle itself.
HEUBNER: All our steps and ways are in God’s hand; to everything He must give His consent (Gen. 24:40; Jer. 10:23; James 4:13–15).—[To commit our way unto the Lord, the grand secret of a safe, contented, happy, and truly prosperous life.—J. L.]
1Th 3:12.—HEUBNER: Love should not be scanty, poor, but rich, exuberant.—CHRYSOSTOM: Love after God’s kind embraces all. If thou lovest this man, and that man not at all, this is nothing but a friendship after a human sort.—[MATTHEW HENRY: We are beholden to God not only for the stock put into our hands at first, but for the improvement of it also.—The more we are beloved, the more loving we should be.—J. L.]
1Th 3:13. ROOS: Establishment of the heart comes through growth in holiness, and this consists especially in love.—CHRYSOSTOM: By it the heart becomes unblamable, from which otherwise proceed evil thoughts, that cannot be there without outward act. There is no sin that is not consumed by the power of love, as by fire.—Love, feeding on the hope of heaven (Col. 1:4, 5), can only confirm, not prejudice, the salvation of souls.—[BENSON: Before God—it is a small matter to be accounted holy among men.—J. L.]
[Sin., as B., has ὐμῶν before πίστιν as well as after ἀγάπην.—J. L.]
1Th 3:6.—[ἐπιποθοῦντες. Comp. Rom. 1:11; 2 Cor. 9:14; Phil. 1:8; 2:26; and the Exegetical Notes, 3.—J. L.]
1Th 3:6.—[καθάπερ, as in 1Th 2:11. The English Version retains the emphasis, as above, at 1Th 3:12; 4:5; Rom. 4:6; 2 Cor. 1:14; 3:18.—J. L.]
1Th 3:7.—[διὰ τοῦτο—as in 1Th 3:5—παρεκλήθημεν, ἀδελφοί. Here, as in the preceding verse, and so often elsewhere, the Greek order is quite needlessly changed by our Translators.—J. L.]
1Th 3:7.—Ἀνάγκῃ καὶ θλίψει is given by the oldest authorities [including Sin.], instead of the inverse order. [And so many of the modern editors, including Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth (though he lays stress on the fact that Tertullian, in quoting this Epistle, has Christi here, as well as Christo at 1Th 2:19), Ellicott.—J. L.]
1Th 3:8.—On the reading στήκετε after ἐάν, comp. Winer, ed. 6, p. 264. The Sinaiticus, however, reads στήκητε [a prima manu; for there is a correction of it into στήκετε, with A. F. G. &c.—In 1Th 3:9, for θεῷ, Sin.1 reads κυρίῳ with D.1 F. G., and, for θεοῦ, it has κυρίου.—J. L.]
1Th 3:10.—[ὐπερεκπερισσοῦ=more than superabundantly; Webster and Wilkinson: with more than excess. Comp. 1Th 5:13; Eph. 3:20.—J. L.]
1Th 3:10.—[καί καταρτίσαι τὰ ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν. See Exegetical Notes, 8.—J. L.]
1Th 3:11.—[Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν. For the double reference of ἡμῶν, see p. 49, Note †; and, for the various constructions of αὐτός, see my Revision of this verse, Note a. The above translation corresponds to that of our author: Er selbst aber, unser Gott und Vater. Strictly speaking, however, I prefer to regard αὐτός as merely emphasizing ὁ θεὸ;—Ιησοῦς(χριστός), and to make these latter words themselves the immediate compound subject of the verbs.—J. L].
1Th 3:11.—[Χριστός is wanting in the oldest authorities including Sin. It is bracketed by Schott and Riggenbach, and cancelled by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Ellicott.—J. L.]
1Th 3:12.—[ὐμᾶς δὲ ὁ κύριος. Revision: “Such is our prayer for ourselves; but you, whether we come or not (Bengel sive nos veniemus, sive minus) &c.”—J. L.] Only a few scattered authorities here omit κύριος, or add ̓Ιησοῦς, or change it into θεός.
1Th 3:13.—[As in 1Th 3:11.—J. L.]
1Th 3:13.—Here Χριστοῦ is wanting in still more authorities [including Sin., and is rejected by Riggenbach, as well as by Schott, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Wordsworth, Ellicott.—J. L.]; at the end of the verse some (few; also the Sinaiticus [a prima manu.—J. L.]) have ἀμήν.
1Th 3:13.—[ἀγίων. See the Exegetical Notes, 12.—J. L.]
[ And so likewise ALFORD and ELLICOTT make the ἐπί directive, not intensive.—J. L.]
[ἐφ̓ ὑμῖν—the basis of the παράκλησις. SCHOTT, ELLICOTT.—J. L.]
[German: bei. ELLICOTT describes this ἐπί as having what he calls a semilocal force, and as carrying the idea of “ethical contact.” WEBSTER and WILKINSON: “with all. The ideas of succession and coexistence are involved in ἐπί thus used, principally the latter: comfort came after sorrow, but while the sorrow was still felt—came as a remedy or alleviation. Comp. 2 Cor. 1:4, and the exactly parallel circumstances and expressions in 2 Cor. 7:4–7.”—J. L.]
[An altogether untenable distinction. DE WETTE refers both words to the Apostle’s inward anxieties; LÜNEMANN (followed by ALFORD and ELLICOTT), to his outward troubles.—J. L.]
[A suggestion of MACKNIGHT, and allowed by SCHOTT.—J. L.]
[ALFORD: νῦν—“implying the fulfilment of the condition (ἐάν) which follows;”—ELLICOTT: “logical and argumentative, approaching in meaning to in hoc rerum statu, rebus sic se habentibus”—J. L.]
[δέ—not simply μεταβατικόν (ELLICOTT: Now), but with its proper adversative force: But—in spite of all Satan’s hindrances, and notwithstanding the failure hithertc of our own repeated attempts and ceaseless longings.—J. L.]
[ATHANASIUS, Orat. contra Arianos III. 11.: τὴν ἑνότητα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ ἐφύλαξεν.—J. L.]
[German: er mache euch vollkommen;—a needless departure from the strict meaning of πλεονάσαι, and one no4 justified by the parenthesis.—J. L.]
[But not without the blood of sacrifice, and priestly intercession, and both as types of Him who was to come.—J. L.]
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.