Matthew Poole's Commentary
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 The apostle proceedeth to show that Christ’s coming
will be sudden, exhorting Christians to watch and be
sober, so as not to be taken by surprise.
1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 He beseecheth them to respect their spiritual guides,
1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 and giveth, divers other precepts,
1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 concluding with a prayer and salutations.
But when shall these things be? Might some say, as the disciples asked Christ, Matthew 24:3,36 Ac 1:6. He tells them:
It is not for you to know the times or the seasons; not that they knew them in particular already, but there was no need they should know them. It may be some among them were too curious to inquire. He doth not say they could not be known, as being put into God’s own power, as Acts 1:7; but,
ye have no need that I write of them. The apostle, as in his preaching, so in his writing, had respect to what was most needful and profitable for the people: as when the disciples asked: Are there few that be saved? Christ answered them in that which was most needful to them, Luke 13:24: and so doth the apostle here; instead of acquainting them with the times and seasons, he puts them upon watchfulness, that they might not be surprised, as in the following verses; and to improve the knowledge they had already, which was this, that Christ’s coming would be sudden.
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.By times and seasons then, before mentioned, he meant the time: of the Lord’s coming, or he applies what he spoke in general to this particular, which he here calls
the day of the Lord. And though they knew not the particular time, yet they did know this, it would be sudden and unexpected, coming
as a thief in the night, Revelation 16:15: the comparison is to be restrained only to the suddenness of it; for his coming will be welcome, and so not as a thief, to all that believe. And it is called
the day of the Lord here and elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 3:13 Philippians 1:6,10, and that day, 2 Timothy 1:18, not to be taken for a natural day, but a certain period of time. Any eminent manifestation of God, either in works of mercy or judgment, is called his day in Scripture, Isaiah 2:12 Jeremiah 46:10. And so because Christ will be more eminently manifested now than ever before, therefore his coming is called his day; and that it would be sudden they did not only know, but
know perfectly, or accurately; Ephesians 5:15, circumspectly: there could be only conjectures about the particular time: the influence hereof was powerful upon their hearts, and so they may be said to know it perfectly. In religion, knowledge is not perfect which is not operative.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.For when they shall say, Peace and safety: by these words the apostle proves that the day of the Lord will come unexpected, by the security that will be then found in the world. They say it in their hearts and practice, if not with their tongues. And he useth two words the better to express the greatness of this security, present peace, and no danger of sliding, as the words import. And as the effect of Christ’s coming will be
destruction to such, which will be salvation to others, Hebrews 9:28; so through their security it will be
sudden destruction, which he describes under the similitude of travail upon a woman with child, which doth for the most part come of a sudden, and is the most exquisite pains in nature, and is often made use of in Scripture to set forth extremity of misery, Isaiah 13:8 Jeremiah 13:21. And these pains come upon her unavoidably; so saith the apostle of these men’s destruction,
and they shall not escape, or in no wise escape, expressed in the Greek by two negatives, which do strongly affirm.
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.Lest these believing Thessalonians should be terrified in their minds by this discourse, he adds this by way of comfort to them, that they shall not be surprised as others; though they did not know the particular time of Christ’s coming, yet it would not find them unprepared for it as the world would be; and the reason he gives is, because they are not in darkness.
Darkness is to be taken metaphorically; and so in Scripture it is taken either for sin, ignorance, or misery. The two former are here meant, especially ignorance. These Thessalonians were brought into the light of the gospel; they had the knowledge of Christ, and the way of salvation by him; particularly they knew of his coming, and the manner and ends of his coming, which the infidel world did not; and though Christ’s coming would be to others as a thief in the night, yet not to them.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.And because the night is the time of darkness, and the day of light, he therefore hereby describes their present state:
1. Positively: Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; which is a Hebraism: Ye are partakers of a spiritual light, and this light is not the darker light of nature, or the light of prophecy, which the Jews had, compared to a lamp, 2 Peter 1:19; but ye are children of the day, as the time of the gospel is called day, Romans 13:12 2 Corinthians 6:2.
2. Negatively: We are not of the night, nor of darkness; your state is exceedingly different from other Gentiles, and from what it once was, as the light is from darkness, and day from night: not as if there was no ignorance remaining in them, for the best men see but through a glass, darkly, 1 Corinthians 13:12; but the apostle compares them with their former estate when they were Gentiles, and with the Jews under the law; and with respect to their state in Christ, they were not children of the night, or, as to their state, of the night, but children of light, and of the day.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.The apostle draws this inference from the foregoing verses in a twofold duty:
1. Negative; Let us not sleep, as do others; sleep is not proper for the children of the day, but of the night. And as the night and darkness are to be taken metaphorically, so the sleep. And though it hath several acceptations in Scripture, yet it is here taken for security. As the natural sleep binds up the senses, and men are not aware of approaching danger, so doth the sleep of the soul: it darkens the mind, stupifies the spiritual sense, that men prepare not for the coming of Christ, nor to avoid the destruction that will then come suddenly upon them. Romans 13:11,12, is a place parallel to this: It is high time to awake out of sleep, & c. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. &c.
2. Positive; Let us watch: watching stands contrary to sleep; the senses are then in exercise, which were bound up by sleep. When the soul is watching, the faculties are in a spiritual exercise to apprehend both our interest and our duty, to take hold of that which is good, and to avoid the evil, the evil of sin and the evil of suffering. But watching here in the text especially refers to the coming of Christ, to prepare for it, that we may not be surprised as others will, and to be in a readiness to be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless, 2 Peter 3:14.
And be sober: sobriety is reckoned to be one branch of temperance, and one of the frnits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:23, and one link of the chain of grace, 2 Peter 1:6. It hath its name in the Greek, signifying either soundness of mind, or continency of mind; a mind kept or held within its due bounds. It is usually taken for moderation in meats and drinks, setting bounds to the appetite; but it extends to all earthly things, as honour, riches, pleasures, to have our affections to them, our cares about them, our endeavours after them, kept within due bounds; and all this upon the account of Christ’s coming, as a necessary preparation for it: see 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 1 Peter 4:7. Sobriety and watching are here joined together, and so 1 Peter 4:7 5:8. For as intemperance in meats and drinks makes the body dull and sleepy, so without temperance and sobriety the soul will be disenabled to watch.
For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.The apostle enforceth the former duties of watchfulness and sobriety from the consideration of their present state. They that sleep choose the night to sleep in, and they that would be drunk choose the night for it: drunkenness being so shameful a vice, especially in the apostles’ time, that men were ashamed to be seen drunk in the day-time; see Acts 2:15 Ephesians 5:12,13: and in ancient times they had their feasts in the night. Ye therefore that are not in the night of your former ignorance, ought neither to be found in the sleep of security nor in the sin of drunkenness, whereby may be meant also any kind of intemperance; for a man may be drunk, and not with wine, Isaiah 29:9; drunk with pleasure, with cares, with sensual love and desires, with passion, and by spiritual judgments upon the soul, Isaiah 29:10.
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.The apostle here commands two spiritual duties, and the former is sobriety; which he mentioned before, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, as a preparation for Christ’s coming; but here, as that which was suitable to their present state, and as standing opposite to that drunkenness in the foregoing verse. It is not sufficient to abstain from vice, without practising the contrary virtue. The other duty is, putting on their spiritual armour. The former was to secure them against the good things of the world, the latter against the evil of it, that they be not overcome of either. The armour he mentions is spiritual. Soldiers have their breastplate and helmet for their bodies, so hath the Christian these for his soul. As the breastplate and helmet secure the principal seats of the natural life, the head and the heart, so doth the Christian’s armour secure the life of the soul, and therefore these two pieces are only mentioned, as being most necessary. His breastplate is faith and love.
First, faith; in Ephesians 6:16, it is called a shield; here, a breastplate. Great things are ascribed to faith in Scripture; it is that whereby we are justified, adopted, united to Christ, have our hearts purified, &c.; but here it is to be considered as a defensive grace; and it doth defend as it assents to the doctrine of the gospel as true, particularly the doctrine of the resurrection, and the coming of Christ, with the effects and attendants thereof, before mentioned. And as it doth depend upon God’s faithfulness and all-sufficiency to perform his promises, and applying them to ourselves for our support and comfort, so faith is a breastplate or defence; and as it is a defence against temptations, so particularly against that sudden destruction that will come upon the secure world, before mentioned.
Secondly, love; and love is joined with faith to show it to be a true and lively faith, when it worketh by love, Galatians 5:6; and love, when it worketh, produceth many blessed effects, and particularly, as faith it will be a breastplate of defence. It will defend against the persecutions and afflictions of the world: Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it, Song of Solomon 8:7. Slavish fear will overcome us if we want love to defend against it, when true religion is under disgrace and persecuted in the world: love will defend against apostacy, and so help us to persevere to the coming of Christ, which the apostle had been speaking of; and love being seated in the heart, is well compared to a breastplate that encompasseth the heart.
Thirdly, the other piece of armour is the helmet, so called in the Greek from encompassing the head; and this helmet is here said to be the hope of salvation. In Ephesians 6:17, we read of the helmet of salvation, but the hope of it is there to be understood, for salvation is no grace of the Spirit, and so, of itself, no part of a Christian’s armour. Hope of salvation is of great use to a Christian many ways: it is a cordial to comfort him, a spur to quicken him, a staff to support him, a bridle to restrain him, and so also a helmet to defend him: and therefore no wonder that the apostle calls true hope a lively hope, 1 Peter 1:3. And as itself is lively, so it is a defence to the life of the soul, as a helmet is to the life of the body.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, saith Solomon; but if quite disappointed and lost, the heart sinks and dies. Let afflictions and distresses break in like a flood, yet hope will keep the head above water; and if Satan assault the soul to drive it into despair, this hope of salvation will be a defence to it. So that the Christian’s armour mentioned in this verse are faith, love, and hope, which divines call the three theological graces, and placed together by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 13:13. And these the saints, who are children of the day, are to put on, whereby they shall be armed for the coming of Christ with this armour of light, Romans 13:12, and against the destruction which will then surprise the children of the night.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation: some expositors make these words an argument to all the duties of holiness mentioned both in this and the foregoing chapters; and it is true, that the knowledge of our being elected, or appointed to salvation, doth not in the elect encourage to sin or sloth, as some affirm, but engage to all holiness: but I had rather restrain the words, and that either to the hope of salvation, mentioned immediately before, and then the sense to be this, we may well hope for salvation seeing God hath appointed us to it; or, to his whole discourse about the coming of Christ, and so they may give the reason why the dead in Christ must rise, and must, with the living saints, meet the Lord in the air, and be for ever with him; yea, and why they need not fear the destruction that will come upon others at that day, and why they should be watchful for its coming, because, saith the apostle: God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation, & c. Having spoken of two sorts of persons, the children of the day, and children of the night, and the sudden destruction of the one and salvation of the other at the coming of Christ, he here ascends to the first original of both, which is God’s appointment, which is an act of God’s sovereign will, determining men’s final estates; which seems to be more than mere prescience or foreknowledge, an act of God’s mind, as appears by Romans 8:29 1 Peter 1:2, or more than appointing of the means and way of salvation; but not of persons to be saved, or of persons only materially, as to the number how many, but not formally, or individually, who they are that shall be saved; whereas the apostle writes of some whose names are in the book of life, Philippians 4:3, and that from the foundation of the world, Revelation 17:8, and chosen before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4: otherwise, every man’s salvation would depend more upon the uncertainty of man’s will, than the eternal and immutable will of God; whereas whatever God works in man’s salvation, is according to the counsel of his will, Ephesians 1:11; and God’s counsel is certain, immutable, and eternal, extending not only to actions and means, but persons, Romans 8:29,30. Neither is this appointment of God grounded upon the foresight of man’s faith; for if faith be the gift of God, this gift proceeds from God’s counsel and fore-appointment; else men may say: That I may be saved I must thank God, but that I am saved I must thank myself: and hence there is a possibility for no man to be saved, and all the counsels of God in Christ to be made frustrate. But this is no place for controversy; only where God appoints to salvation, he appoints also to means, and without the means there is no attainment of the end, Ephesians 1:4 1 Peter 1:2. And the apostle here makes salvation stand opposite to wrath; what before he called destruction, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, he here calleth wrath, because God’s wrath produceth it, and is manifested in it. And those that are saved are delivered from it; and the supreme reason is, because they were not appointed to it, but to salvation, and none that are appointed to the one are appointed to the other. The vessels of wrath and of mercy are set in an opposite distinction, Romans 9:22,23, and so in the text, to illustrate the mercy of God the more in them that are saved. And whereas the apostle calls it the obtaining of salvation, it implies man’s endeavours for it, though he be appointed of God to it; and speaking positively, not only of himself, but these believing Thessalonians also, he hath appointed us to obtain salvation, doth not this also imply that some good assurance of salvation may be obtained in this world.
By our Lord Jesus Christ; the decrees of salvation are executed in him, and by him; and there is no salvation in any other, Acts 4:12. And he saveth not only by his doctrine and example, as some have affirmed, but by his blood as the meritorious, and his Spirit as the efficient, cause of salvation. Whether the infinite wisdom of God could have found out another way I shall not inquire, but this it hath pitched upon, wherein mercy and justice are admirably glorified together, and the highest engagement imaginable laid upon men to love, serve, and honour their Creator. And as the freeness of God’s grace is manifested in his appointing men to salvation, so the exceeding riches of it, in saving them by Jesus Christ. And whereas two things are necessary to it, the reconciling us unto God, and restoring his image in us, the former we have by the merit of his blood, and the latter by the operation of his Spirit; so that we have no ground for that fond opinion, that if men walk honestly and uprightly, they may be saved in any religion.
Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.Some refer these words to the latter end of the foregoing chapter, where the apostle had spoken of the saints’ death and resurrection, which is their sleeping and waking, as they are here called. And their being for ever with the Lord, is here called their living together with him. And lest it might be thought that none should be with Christ until they awaked at the resurrection, he therefore speaks of living with Christ even when we sleep. He had spoken of sleep in another sense, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, as meant of security; but here meant of death, as it is taken 1 Thessalonians 4:14. And as watching is set opposite to the former sleep, so here waking to the latter, which is a resurrection from death. And we hence gather that the soul doth not sleep with the body, but lives with the Lord when that sleeps in the grave; as the apostle expected to be with the Lord upon the dissolution of his body, Philippians 1:23, and he mentions it as the privilege of other saints as well as his own, 2 Corinthians 5:1. When we sleep we are with him only in our souls; when we wake we shall be with him both in body and soul. And both these we have from Christ’s death. If he had not died, heaven had been shut against our souls, for our entrance into the holiest of all is by his blood, and the veil of his flesh rent for us, Hebrews 10:19,20; and the grave would have shut up our bodies, and there would have been no resurrection; so that our living with Christ, both when we sleep and when we wake, springs out of his death. Others carry these words no further than the foregoing verse, showing how we are saved by Christ; saith the apostle, he died for us. As God appointed persons to be saved, and Christ to be the person to be saved by, so also to be saved by his death; with respect to his Father he is said to be put to death, 1 Peter 3:18; with respect to his own freedom and willingness, he is said here to die for us. And his dying for us implieth the greatness of our guilt, and expresseth the greatness of his own love, John 15:13. He loved us, and thereupon would have us live with him; and he died that we and he may live together. And so he may be said to die for our salvation, the substance whereof consisteth in our living with him. To live with so glorious a Person, and a Person that is full of love to us, and shall then be perfectly beloved of us, and that stands in many near relations to us, and whose presence will have such a blessed influence upon us, and in such a place as heaven is, and that for ever, surely carries the substance of our salvation in it. And if this was the end of his death, surely it was more than to be an example of faith, patience, and submission to God, or to confirm to us the doctrine he preached; it was to satisfy Divine justice, and obtain the pardon of our sin, and merit for us the privilege of living with him.
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.These words are an exhortation to the whole church of Thessalonica, to comfort and edify one another. Though the ministry is appointed to this by especial office, yet private Christians are to practise it to one another; the former doth it in way of authority, the latter in a way of charity.
Comfort yourselves together: the apostle had laid before them many comfortable truths, which they were to comfort one another by; and if we read the words, exhort one another, it refers to the necessary duties of religion he had mentioned in this and the foregoing chapter.
And edify one another; and this follows from both the former, as alluding to a house that is built up by degrees: and so is every church the house of God; and consisting of living stones, every part is to seek the building up of the whole; and by mutual exhortation and comfort the whole may be edified. Christians, then, are to be blamed that only seek to edify themselves, and much more they who pull down, and divide, and destroy, instead of building up.
Even as also ye do: and what the apostle exhorted them to, they were already in the practice of; for which he here again commends them, as he had done upon several accounts before, not to flatter, but to encourage them to proceed, and to set before other churches their example for imitation.
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;Ver. 12,13. The apostle spake before of their private duties as Christians to one another, now of their duties to their pastors and teachers, lest by what he had said they might think the ministry needless. It seems this church was settled under officers, which is called an organical church. And though the apostle himself was driven from them by persecution, yet they were not without ministers and teachers; and they owed a great duty to them, to which he doth lovingly exhort them. And he describes them not by the name of their office, as pastors, elders, or ministers, but by the work of it.
Them which labour among you; the word imports diligent labour, causing weariness, as 1 Timothy 5:17, who labour in the word and doctrine; which shows both the nature of the work of the ministry, it is laborious; and the duty of ministers therein, not to seek the honour and profit of the office, and refuse the labour of it; they have the work of teaching, and of oversight or government, and admonition, and all require labour.
And are over you in the Lord: the same word is used 1 Timothy 5:17, and translated rule; it signifies that superintendency and precedency, which the elders or ministers have over their respective flocks; and it is said to be in the Lord, either to distinguish them from civil officers, or to show both the original, rule, and end of their office; it is from the Lord by institution, and to be managed according to his laws, and directed to his service and glory as its end.
And admonish you: the word is often used in the New Testament, Acts 20:31 Romans 15:14 Colossians 1:28 3:16; and signifies either the putting into the mind by way of instruction, or upon the mind by way of counsel, threatening, or reproof; and that either publicly or privately. Now the duty they owed to them is:
1. To know them, as in the former words; that is, to own them in their office, to have regard to their teaching, and to submit to their government, and to reward their labours; as knowing is often taken in Scripture to express the acts of the will and affection, and the actions also of the outward man, as well as of the mind; as Psalm 1:6 101:4.
2. To esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake; uperekperissou see Romans 5:20 2 Corinthians 7:4. The words in the Greek carry such an emphasis as cannot well be expressed in English, importing esteem and love to an hyperbole; their love was to be joined with esteem, and esteem with love, and both these to abound and superabound towards them. We read of a double honour, 1 Timothy 5:17, which contains the whole duty of people to their ministers.
For their work’s sake; whether of teaching, ruling, or admonition. Their work is in itself honourable, and work that tends to your salvation, and though their persons be meant, yet to esteem and love them for their work; or if upon any other account they deserve it of you, yet their work is to be the chief reason thereof; especially considering that their work more immediately respected them of this church rather than any others; and their labour was amongst them; or, as some read it, in you, to instruct, edify, and comfort your inward man.
And be at peace among yourselves; some copies read it, with them, autoiv for eautoiv, by a little alteration of the Greek word; and then it still refers to their teachers, they should be at peace, or live in peace, with them; for oftentimes dissensions arise between ministers and people, whereby their edification is hindered. But I rather follow our own translation; and so it is a new duty of the people towards one another, to preserve mutual peace among themselves, and yet these words may respect the former. For if the people give honour and respect to their ministers, it may be a means to preserve peace among themselves: among the Corinthians, the applauding of some of their teachers, and the contempt of others, made great schisms and divisions amongst them. Our Saviour useth these very words to his disciples, Mark 9:50, from whence the apostle might take them. And the duty of peace he often presseth in his Epistles, Romans 14:19 1 Corinthians 7:15 2 Corinthians 13:11 Colossians 3:15 Hebrews 12:14; which was to prevent schism, which breaks the bonds of peace, and may make the labours of their teachers less successful.
And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.See Poole on "1 Thessalonians 5:12"
Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.Now we exhort you, brethren: some think the apostle now turns his speech to their teachers, whom he here calls brethren in a more peculiar sense, and because the duties here enjoined do more properly belong to the ministry. But others more truly judge he continues his discourse to the whole church, and the several members of it. The same duties are to be performed by both, though under a different obligation: as in the civil state all are to seek the good of the commonwealth, though the magistrates and the governors are more specially obliged by office.
Warn them that are unruly; or admonish, as the same word is rendered in the former verse, here meant of brotherly, there of ministerial, admonition; wherein great prudence is to be used, as to time, place, persons, manner: and the unruly are such as keep not their place, alluding to soldiers that keep not their rank and station, and they are called in the margin disorderly, and that:
1. In civil respects, when men live without a calling, or, being in it, neglect it, or intrude into other men’s business, and perform not the duties of their civil relations.
2. In natural respects, when men follow not the light of nature, and fulfil not the law of natural relations.
3. In spiritual respects, when men neglect or transgress the rules and order of their walking in their church state, either with respect to their teachers or one another. Admonition belongs to such, and is the first step of church censure when regularly performed.
Comfort the feeble-minded; oligofucouv, or the pusillanimous, men of little souls, as the word imports, such as dare not venture upon hazardous duties, or faint under the fears or feeling of afflictions, or are dejected under the sense of sin, and their own unworthiness, or fears of God’s wrath, and assaulted by temptations which endanger their falling.
Support the weak; antecesye an allusion to such as lift at one end of the burden, to help to bear it, answering to the word sunantilambanetai, Romans 8:26: The Spirit helpeth our infirmities: and the weak are either the weak in knowledge, weak in faith, that understand not their own liberty in the gospel, Romans 14:1 1 Corinthians 8:9; and hereupon cannot practise as others do; their conscience is weak, 1 Corinthians 8:12; and so were in bondage to some ceremonial rites, when those that were strong stood fast in their liberty. These are to be supported, dealt tenderly with, and not to be despised, or rigorously used. Or, weak in grace, new converts, babes in Christ, tender plants, not well rooted in the gospel.
Be patient toward all men: this duty is universal; the former concerned only the saints. The word signifies longanimity, or long-suffering, and is often attributed to God, Exodus 34:6 Romans 9:22. It consisteth in the deferring or moderating of anger, to wait without anger when men delay us, and to suffer without undue anger when they deal injuriously with us, whether they be good men or evil, believers or infidels, the strong or the weak, ministers or people.
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.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.
Rejoice evermore.Here the apostle adds more Christian duties, briefly expressed, and set close one to another; and they seem to have a mutual connection, but not so relative to others as those before mentioned, but personal to themselves. He begins with the duty of rejoicing. Joy is an affection of the soul springing from the hope or possession of some suitable good. And it is either natural, which is common to men with beasts, arising from that good that is suitable to their several natures; or spiritual, which is joy wrought by the Spirit, and exercised upon spiritual objects. And this the apostle here means, and is called rejoicing in the Lord, Philippians 4:4, and joy in the Holy Ghost, Romans 14:17; arising either from what spiritual good we already possess, or hope to possess, exhibita et promissa, Bernard; which is thereupon called a rejoicing in hope, Romans 5:2 12:12. The apostle speaks here of the duty indefinitely, only requires it to be evermore; so Philippians 4:4. Though God sometimes calls to mourning, yet it is no where said: Mourn evermore, because rejoicing ought to be in a more constant practice, and all spiritual mourning tends to it, and will end in it; and he commends it as seasonable to these Thessalonians, to support them under their present sufferings. The grounds of a Christian’s joy always abide, and he is not only to retain it in the habit, but to mix it with all his sorrows and sufferings, as 1 Peter 1:6: Ye greatly rejoice, though for a season, in heaviness: whereas carnal mirth is mixed with sadness, Proverbs 14:13. So that a Christian ought to rejoice in every condition, not only in prosperity but adversity, and especially when called to suffer for righteousness sake; as Matthew 5:12 1 Peter 4:13. It is not only allowed but commanded. This joy is one great part of God’s kingdom even in this world, Romans 14:17; much more in the world to come. And therefore the apostle speaks of rejoicing evermore, whereas mourning is but for a time, and ends to the saints in this life.
Pray without ceasing.This is a means to maintain our rejoicing, and therefore next mentioned. Prayer is a making known our requests to God, Philippians 4:6. And it is either mental, in the heart only, as Hannah’s was; or vocal, expressed with the voice; or, as some add, vital: so good works have a voice to bring down blessings, as men’s sins cry for vengeance.
Without ceasing; not as the Euchites and Messalians of old, who hence thought no other duties were required, but always praying; but by the word in the text, is either meant a praying without fainting, as in the parable, Luke 18:1, and which the apostle calls a perseverance in prayer, Ephesians 6:18 Colossians 4:2; proskartereite, or praying with strength, as the Greek word there imports, and so not to faint; so Romans 12:12. Or a praying in every thing, as Philippians 4:6: In every thing let your requests be made known, & c. Or, in every season, as Ephesians 6:18; to take hold of the seasons of prayer. Or, in all seasons and times, whether good or bad, yet still to pray. And all this is meant by the word in the text, which is also used 1 Thessalonians 1:3 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Romans 1:9; and implies in general no more but a constant course of prayer, so Colossians 4:2, to watch unto prayer, as that the course of it be not interrupted by any diversions. As also to preserve a heart disposed to pray at all times, and to mingle ejaculatory prayers with the several actions of our lives: our wants are continual, and God will be acknowledged in all our supplies, and therefore we ought to pray continually.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.In every thing give thanks: when we have obtained mercy by prayer, then we are to give thanks, and whatever we may pray for, that we ought to give thanks for. And so by that understand and limit the general expression in the text. We are not to give thanks when we fall into sin, for that we ought not to pray for; yet if we have the pardon of it, or get any good by it, we should then give thanks: and so may be said concerning affliction; we are to give thanks in every condition, either of prosperity or adversity. And with all our supplications, we are to join thanksgivings, Philippians 4:6 Colossians 4:2; and thanksgiving properly refers to some mercy received, whether privative or positive, temporal or spiritual, private or public, and we are in all these to give thanks. Though praising God may reach further, which is to adore the excellencies of his being as they are glorious in themselves, or the excellencies of his works as they are in themselves praiseworthy. And thanksgiving for mercy received is:
1. A taking notice of it as coming from God.
2. Setting a due value upon it.
3. A sense of God’s goodness and our own unworthiness.
4. Praising him for it.
For this is the will of God: some carry this as a motive to all the preceding duties; but rather to this last mentioned: as if this was in special the will of God, being a duty so much to his own glory and our good; and by will we must by a metonymy understand the thing willed, Ephesians 6:6 Colossians 4:12. It is required by the law of nature not written, which is part of God’s will. The heathen are reproved for not being thankful, Romans 1:21; and they made laws to punish it, and accounted it the greatest reproach, ingratum si dixeris omnia dixeris. And it is required by the law of God that is written. The moral law requires it; and the ceremonial law required offerings by way of thanksgiving, which we call gratulatory. And the gospel requires it, it being one of the gospel sacrifices, Hebrews 13:15, and pleaseth the Lord better than the greatest of the legal sacrifices, Psalm 69:30,31: and it being said to be the will of God in the text, it must needs be pleasing to him.
In Christ Jesus; either meant as this will of his is signified to us by him, not only by the law of nature, of Moses, but by Christ Jesus; and so it may be of greater force upon Christians, and hereby it is to be looked upon as one of the commandments of Christ also. Or we may understand it, upon the attempt of Christ, and the great love of God in him. Though thanksgiving is due for the least mercy, yet God’s will especially requires it with respect to Christ. And so especially of Christians who partake of Christ, and the love of God in him; as the apostle here adds, eiv umav.
Concerning you; or towards you in special: the heathens were obliged to thankfulness for rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, these common blessings; much more are Christians for the special blessings they receive by Christ Jesus.
Quench not the Spirit.That ye may be enabled to pray and give thanks, as before:
Quench not the Spirit. And, by the figure meiosis, he means, cherish the Spirit. The Spirit is compared to fire, Matthew 3:11; and he came down upon the apostles in the similitude, of tongues of fire, Acts 2:3; but the Spirit himself cannot be quenched; he means it therefore of his gifts and operations; which are either ordinary or extraordinary. Many had extraordinary gifts in the primitive times, of healing, tongues, government, prophecy, &c.; those that had them, without question, should have taken care not, by any fault of their own, to lose them. Especially that of prophecy, which the apostle prefers before all others, 1 Corinthians 14:1, and mentions here in the following verse; and which the apostle exhorted Timothy to stir up in himself, 2 Timothy 1:6, as we stir up the fire to quicken it, so the word anazwpurein imports. The like is required of ministers with respect to their miniserial gifts which are now given. But there are ordinary gifts and operations of the Spirit common to all Christians, as enlightening, quickening, sanctifying, comforting the soul: men by sloth, security, earthy encumbrances, inordinate affections, &c., may abate these operations of the Spirit, which the apostle calls the quenching it: the fire upon the altar was kept always burning by the care of the priests. Fire will go out either by neglecting it, or casting water upon it. By not exercising grace in the duties of religion, or by allowing sin in ourselves, we may quench the Spirit; as appears in David, Psalm 51:10-12. Not that the habits of grace may be totally extinguished in the truly regenerate, yet they may be abated as to degree and lively exercise. Yet those common illuminations and convictions of the Spirit which persons unregenerate, especially such that live under the gospel, do often find, may be totally lost, Hebrews 6:4-6; and we read of God’s Spirit ceasing to strive with the old world, Genesis 6:3, and the scribes and Pharisees resisting the Holy Ghost, Acts 7:51, which were not persons regenerate. He may sometimes strive with men, but not overcome them. And there is a quenching of the Spirit in others its well as ourselves; people may quench it in their ministers by discouraging them, and in one another by bad examples, or reproaching the zeal and forwardness that they see in them.
Despise not prophesyings.Thereby we may quench the Spirit, which usually works upon men’s minds and hearts by it. By prophecy is sometimes meant foretelling of things to come, and speaking by extraordinary revelation, 1 Corinthians 14:29,30; sometimes the Scriptures are so called, especially the Old Testament, 2 Peter 1:21; and sometimes the interpretation and applying of Scripture, which is the same that we now call preaching, 1 Corinthians 14:3. And the duty with respect to it, is not to despise it, to set it at nought as a thing of no worth. The word is often used in the New Testament, Luke 18:9 Acts 4:11 Romans 14:3,10. But the apostle useth again the figure meiosis before mentioned, and means, prize, value, and highly esteem it, attend upon it, have great regard to it; it being an ordinance of God for instruction and edification, yea, and for conversion also, 1 Corinthians 14:24,25. Some despise it because of the outward meanness of the persons which prophesy; some, through a proud conceit of their own knowledge; some, by a contempt of religion itself. These Thessalonians had been commended for their great proficiency, and yet were still to attend upon prophesying in the church; which he calls prophesyings, in the plural number, referring either to the several prophets that prophesied, or to the several parts of their prophecy, or the times they prophesied. And the prophets were either such as prophesied only by an extraordinary gift, and immediate revelation, which some private members of the church had in those times, 1 Corinthians 14:29,30; or such as prophesied not only by gift, but office also, Ephesians 4:11.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.Prove all things; this duty relates to the former; as they were to attend upon prophesyings, so to exercise a discerning judgment about what was prophesied; for all things is not to be taken here universally, but for doctrines and opinions in religion which were delivered by the prophets. The same which the apostle John requires:
Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, & c.; dokimazete and it is the same word there which in this text we read prove; alluding to gold or other metals, which are tried in the fire, or by a touchstone, as some think. And though there was a peculiar gift of discerning of spirits, 1 Corinthians 12:10, yet it is the duty of every Christian to try men’s spirits and doctrines whether from God or no. The apostle speaks here to the saints in general, and so doth the apostle John, 1Jo 4:1. And men’s doctrines are to be judged by the Scriptures as the standard of truth, as the Bereans were commended for searching the Scrictures about the apostle’s doctrine, Acts 17:11; and the apostle prays for the Philippians, that they might discern things that differ, Philippians 1:10; and if they had not yet attained it as they ought, yet he prays that they might and not be always babes, but such as the apostle speaks of, who have their senses exercised in the discerning of good and evil, Hebrews 5:13,14: the people are to look upon them as their guides and leaders, as they they are called, Hebrews 13:7,17, and such as are to go before them in the searching and dispensing of truth; yet, because the best are but infallible, they ought to try their doctrine by the rule of truth. Which is that judgment of discretion which protestants allow to the people in their disputes with the papists against their doctrine of infallibility and implicit faith, which grounds the people’s faith upon the authority of men, which ought to rest upon the authority of God. As we ought not easily to reject the authority and faith of the church, so not to believe with a blind faith, or obey with a blind obedience.
Holdfast to that which is good: the good here meant is truth, which is an intellectual good; the contrary to which is error, which is a mental evil. When we have proved men’s doctrines and opinions, what we find agreeable to the Scriptures of truth we ought to hold fast. And though all truth hath a goodness in it, yet especially Divine truth, and the doctrine of the gospel, which the apostle calls, that good thing committed to Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:14. It is good with respect to the soul, and so better than any bodily good; and good that refers to eternity, and so better than any temporal good. Now this good we are to hold fast; to hold it fast against adversaries and all opposition, as some understand the word; to hold it as with both hands, against seducing doctrine, Satan’s temptations, and the world’s persecution. The same word is used concerning the good ground that held fast the seed of the word, Luke 8:15. So 1 Corinthians 11:2, we are to retain the truth, but not detain it, as the heathen are said to do, Romans 1:18, where we find also the same word as in the text. It is a duty much pressed by the apostles in their Epistles to the saints and churches that had received the gospel, that they would hold it fast, 2 Timothy 1:13 Titus 1:9 Hebrews 4:14 Revelation 2:13,25 3:3. And there is holding fast the truth as well in practice as opinion, and which may be the ground of the name given to such as opposed the errors of antichrist before the word protestant was known, called fast-men.
Abstain from all appearance of evil.To make this verse have its connection with the former, some expositors understand it of doctrines and opinions only; to take heed of opinions that seem erroneous, and not rashly to receive them without due examination. Though this sense is not to be excluded, yet the verse need not be confined to it, but to extend to practice also; as in worship to abstain from the show of idolatry; as to eat meat in an idol’s temple was not always gross idolatry, but had some appearance of it, and therefore the apostle forbids it, 1 Corinthians 10:14. And so in civil conversation, not only to abstain from vice, but the appearance of it; as of pride, covetousness, drunkenness, whoredom, &c.; and that both with respect to ourselves, lest by venturing upon that which hath some show of evil, we step into the evil itself; and with respect to others, that we may not occasion the taking offence though not justly given, or do that which may any way encourage a real evil in them by that appearance of it which they see in ourselves; yet we ought not upon this account to forbear the discharge of any necessary duty. Some read the words: Abstain from all kind of evil, ’ Apo pantov iedouv ponhrou, and the Greek word is so used by logicians: but here to insist on particulars is infinite. And thus the apostle concludes all these positive duties with a general precept which he leaves with them at the close of his Epistle; having dehorted them from many evils, now he exhorts them to abstain from the appearance of them.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.The apostle here concludes all with prayer, as knowing all his exhortations and admonitions before given would not be effectual without God; and he prays for their sanctification and preservation. Though they were sanctified already, yet but in part, so that he prays for further progress in it to perfection, which he means by
wholly; a word no where used by the apostle but in this place, and variously rendered; some render it throughout, some, perfectly, some, in every part, some, in all things, some, fully, and the French, entirely. It may refer to all the parts of holiness, and the degrees of holiness, and to the whole man in the several faculties of soul and body, expressed in the next words by
spirit, soul, and body, that their whole man may be entirely separated and consecrated to God, offered up to him as a sacrifice, Romans 12:1; and hence we serve that not only the beginning, but progress in grace is from God. The apostle therefore prays for it to God, (whom he calls the God of peace, to enforce his exhortation to peace, 1 Thessalonians 5:3), which confutes the Pelagians, who thought objective grace sufficient to sanctify, or that man’s nature needs only at first to be excited by God, and then can go forward of itself, being only maimed, not totally corrupted by the fall. It is true, our faculties co-operate with God, but not of themselves, but as acted by his inherent grace and indwelling Spirit.
And what the apostle prays for:
1. That Christians should endeavour after, which is a progress in sanctification to perfection. We may also note, that true sanctification reacheth to the whole man, spirit, soul, and body.
2. Preservation, which we call perseverance, expressed here both by the subject and term of it. The subject is the whole man, branched into three parts, spirit, soul, and body, figured, at least resembled, by the three parts of the temple.
Consider man naturally; and then by spirit we mean his superior faculties, as the mind, conscience, rational will.
By soul, his sensitive appetite, with the affections and passions.
By body, the outward man, the tabernacle and instrument of the soul.
The Jewish rabbins and others think all these are expressed in the creation of man, Genesis 2:7; God formed man of the dust of the ground, there is his body; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, or lives, Nishmath Chaiim, Nephesh Chaijah, that is, the faculties of the rational soul; and man became a living soul, that is, the animal and sensitive life. Neither is properly meant here the Spirit of God, for he saith, your spirit; nor the sanctified part of the soul, for he prays for the preserving of their persons. Only observe, when he speaks of their spirit, he calls it their whole spirit. And by the figure zeugma, the word whole is to be carried also to soul and body; so that as he prayed their whole man might be sanctified, so their whole spirit, their whole soul, their whole body might be preserved; and the same word we find Jam 1:4, where it is rendered perfect, alludiug to the perfect possessing of all inheritance or lot that belongs to a man. And by preserving, he means not so much the substance of the spirit, soul, and body, to preserve them in being, as to preserve them in holiness. And they are preserved, partly by being delivered from the sinful distempers that are naturally in them, as ignorance, vanity, impotency, and enmity in the mind, reluctancy and obstinacy in the will, inordinacy and irregularity in the affections, disobedience to the law of God and the regular commands of the soul in the body. If these prevail, they will bring destruction; as diseases prevailing destroy the natural life. And partly also by being supplied with that grace whereby they act regularly towards God, and are serviceable to the end of man’s being, as supply of oil preserveth the lamp burning. And hereby we may understand, that not only the inferior faculties are corrupted in man’s fall, but the superior and the supreme of all, else the apostle need not have prayed for the spirit to be sanctified and preserved, as well as the soul and body. And elsewhere he prays for a renewing in the spirit of the mind, Ephesians 4:23. Next we may consider this preservation with respect to the term of it,
preserved blameless unto the coming of Christ: the same which the apostle means by being preserved to God’s heavenly kingdom, 2 Timothy 4:18 2 Peter 3:14. And those that are preserved to that day, are preserved to the end, and will be found blameless; and their whole man, spirit, soul, and body, being first sanctified, and then preserved, shall be saved and glorified. And the apostle insinuates in the word amemptwv, blameless, that strict discovery that will be made of persons at that day, wherein some will be blamed, and others be found without blame. And herein the apostle may have respect both to the teachers and ministers in this church, and the private members of it, that with respect to their several duties belonging to them they may be found blameless; and though, according to the strictness of the law of God, none can be without blame, yet, those that have been sincere, and have their sin pardoned, and their persons accepted in Christ, may be found blameless in the day of Christ: however, it is that which we should strive after.
Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.We had in the former verse the apostle’s prayer, here his faith; and he speaks it by way of consolation to them, that what he had prayed for God would effect. What need he then have prayed? Because God’s decrees and promises, though immutable and infallible, yet are to be accomplished in a way of prayer. Prayer is our duty, and God’s decrees and promises are no dispensation from our duty: besides, duties are more known to us than God’s decrees; and God decree the means as well as the end. But what is it he saith God will do? It is not here expressed, and the word it is not in the original, but only God will do, God will effect. He had prayed God would sanctify them wholly, and preserve them blameless, &c.; and this he would do or effect. And he grounds his confidence partly upon God’s calling them. For the apostle knew that God’s gifts and calling are without repentance; and whom he called, them he justified, and glorified, Romans 8:30 11:29. And this the apostle saw in these Thessalonians, by that efficacy of the gospel upon their hearts, that they were effectually called and chosen, as 1 Thessalonians 1:4; whence he concluded they should be at last wholly sanctified and finally preserved, which is a strong argument against final apostacy from a state of grace; though many that are outwardly called are never sanctified, much less wholly. But of this call the apostle speaks not here, at least not only. And partly also upon God’s faithfulness, who had called them. He doth not say, God is able to do it, though that is true, but he is
faithful, and will do it. Those that are effectually called are brought into God’s covenant, where perfection and perseverance are promised, and God’s faithfulness obligeth him to make good his covenant. It is an act of grace and mercy to call men; but when called, God’s faithfulness is engaged to preserve them, and perfect the work begun: as, 1 Corinthians 1:8, the apostle tells the Corinthians, God will confirm them, to the end they might be blameless in the day of Christ; and his argument is, for God is faithful, by whom ye were called, & c., 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
Brethren, pray for us.The apostle a little before had prayed for them, now he begs prayers of them, as he doth of other churches, Romans 15:30 Colossians 4:3. Ministers and people need each others’ prayers, and it is a mutual duty they owe to one another. Ministers are obliged by special office, people by common duty, with respect to the success of the gospel in general, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, and their own edification by their labours. The apostle, as he did not think it below him to call these Thessalonians brethren, so neither to beg their prayers. Those that stand highest in the church may stand in need of the meanest and lowest; the head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee. Those that preach not the gospel, may yet promote it by their prayers; yet this gives no warrant to beg the prayers of saints departed, for which we have no precept, promise, or example, as we have for the other; and what is without faith is sin. It is at the best doubtful whether they know our state below, or can hear us when we pray; and certainly God never required us to pray upon such uncertainties, and it cannot be in faith.
Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.The apostle concludes several of his Epistles with greeting, or salutations, as men usually do at this day; sometimes with salutations from himself alone, sometimes from others, either particular persons, or churches which he sometimes names, as Romans 16:6, &c.; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and sometimes commends to the saints their saluting one another, as Romans 16:16 1 Corinthians 16:20; so here in the text. The persons to be saluted are
all the brethren, that is, all believers incorporated into the gospel church, under one common Head and common Father; more particularly, those of this particular church. We call men brethren, sometimes upon a natural, sometimes a civil account; and why not much more upon a spiritual account? And as their love should reach to the brotherhood, 1 Peter 2:17, so their salutation should reach all the brethren, poor and rich, high and low, bond and free.
With an holy kiss; en filhmati agiw. The rite or ceremony of men kissing each other was much used among the Jews, and in the Eastern countries, in their salutations, Genesis 27:26 Proverbs 24:26 Luke 7:45; and thence it came to be practised in the churches of Christ as an outward symbol and token of love and friendship; which is not now practised with us amongst men, but is of the same signification with joining of hands; the uniting of lips or hands together denoting the inward conjunction of the heart. The word in the Greek signifies love or friendship, and is called a kiss of charity, 1 Peter 5:14. And though the ceremony is ceased, yet that which it signified is to be preserved in all churches, places, and ages. It was practised in the time of Justin Martyr, Just. Mar. Apolog. 2., and Tertullian, Tertul. de Oratione; and called oscutum pacis, a kiss of peace; and used especially at their meeting together at the Lord’s supper, their love feasts, and other solemn assemblies. It is called a holy kiss, to distinguish it from the treacherous kiss of Judas, or the lustful kiss of the harlot, Proverbs 7:13. And why it is not used among us now, we need say only, as concerning washing of feet also: We have no such custom, nor the churches of Christ; or, as the apostle speaks, Philippians 4:8: Whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report, & c.
I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.The apostle having now finished the Epistle, lays a solemn charge upon them all, especially their elders and teachers, to have this Epistle published. He now being himself hindered from preaching to them, he sends this Epistle to them to be read to all. He wrote it for public use, and therefore would have none ignorant of it, whereby they might all understand what he had written about his great love and care of them, and the commendations he had given of them, and the instructions, admonitions, exhortations, and comforts that were contained therein, of great use to them all. And his charge herein is in a way of adjuration, Orkizw umav ton Kurion, imposing it on them as by an oath; as Abraham did upon his servant in the case of providing a wife for Isaac, Genesis 24:3. And so the high priest said to Christ: I adjure thee by the living God, & c., Matthew 26:63; answering to the Hebrew word Hishbagnti, I adjure you; Song of Solomon 5:8: I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, & c. It imports the requiring of a thing in the name and authority of God, with a denunciation of vengeance if it be not done. And all this charge is about the reading of this Epistle; as he commands the Epistle to the Colossians to be read in the church of the Laodiceans, and that from Laodicea to be read to them, Colossians 4:16, but not with that solemn charge as this is. Hence we may gather the duty of reading the Scriptures in the church assemblies, as the law of Moses was read in the synagogues. And, very early in the Christian churches there were some appointed to be readers. Julian the Apostate was a reader in the church at Nicomedia. And if this was the first Epistle written by the apostle, as some suppose it, he lays this solemn charge first for the reading of this, to show the duty of the several churches to the rest of the Scriptures, as they should come to their hand. The word of God should dwell richly and plentifully in the people, and therefore reading it is necessary, together with expounding and applying it. And we hence also may prove against the papists, it ought to be made known to the people, even all the holy brethren, and not confined to the clergy; and to be read in their own tongue, for so, without question, was this Epistle read in a language which the people understood. The apostle was not for confining of knowledge, and keeping the people in ignorance, as those are who make it the mother of devotion.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.Having exhorted them to salute one another, he now sends them his own salutation; not in a lip compliment, as the mode now is, but in a serious expression of the desire of his soul: and this, or words to the same purpose, are his salutation in every Epistle, which he makes to be his token, 2 Thessalonians 3:17. And by grace here he means favour and good will, rather than inherent grace: and all blessings which spring from grace, as sometimes all are comprehended under the word peace. Yet grace and peace are sometimes in his salutations both joined together. And though here Christ is only mentioned, yet in many other places God the Father is mentioned with him, 2 Thessalonians 1:2 2 Peter 1:2; yea, and God the Holy Ghost also, 2 Corinthians 13:14; and where they are not mentioned, yet are all to be understood, for in all works ad extra they co-operate. And because grace is so eminently manifested in the whole work of our salvation, therefore the apostle doth still mention it in all his salutations. And with this he concludes this Epistle, and with this St. John concludes the whole Bible, Revelation 22:21. And the seal added, not to shut up, but confirm the whole is: Amen; and is added as the voice of the whole church upon reading the Epistle, as some think, and not by the apostle himself.
The first (epistle) unto the Thessalonians was written from Athens. These postscripts to the apostle’s Epistles are judged to be added by some scribes that copied them out, and not by the apostle himself, as might be made evident; and they are not found in any Epistles but in St. Paul’s alone. But as it is usual to date letters from the places where they are written, so is this dated from Athens. Hither he was conducted by some brethren after his persecution at Thessalonica and Berea, Acts 17:15, and here we read he stayed for some time; but that from thence he wrote this Epistle, either then, or any time after, is but conjecture; it is more probable he wrote it from Corinth, because he sends it from Timotheus and Silvanus, as well as from himself, and they came to him from Macedonia when he was at Corinth, as Acts 18:5.