From prayerful desires for his beloved Thessalonians the apostle turns to ask their intercession on behalf of the testimony of the Lord generally, and especially of himself and his companions in their continual exposure to the adversary.
"For the rest, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as also with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men, for all have not faith. But faithful is the Lord who shall stablish you and keep from evil. And we have trust in [the] Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we charge. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the* patience of the Christ" (verses 1-5).
* The omission of the article in the Received Text has no known MS. to warrant it. Erasmus, the Complutensian, and R. Stephens rightly read it; Beza seems to be the bad guide who misled the Elzevirs after the Authorised Translators, who may or may not have noticed it. It is strange that Bishop Middleton did not observe the fact.
It is beautiful to see how grace binds all believing hearts together through Christ. The apostle was the most gifted and energetic servant whom the Lord ever raised up to spread the knowledge of Himself throughout the world. In him the call of sovereign grace, not only as a saint but as an apostle, found its highest expression: "not of men, nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead." He neither received the gospel of man nor was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. And when it pleased Him Who separated him from his mother's womb, and called him by His grace, to reveal His Son in him that he might preach Him among the nations, "immediately I conferred not," says he, "with flesh and blood." Yet the same man, who was thus formed and led of God manifestly to break the very semblance of a successional chain in official position as well as in the revelation of the truth, earnestly enlists the prayerful interest of the youngest brethren, his own newly-born children in the faith, in world-wide labours, both evangelic and ecclesiastic, encompassed with grave and frequent perils. On the one hand no one, no thing, must intervene between the risen Christ and His servant sent on the mission of His grace, on the other he (most markedly independent of men in his mission, in order that no mist may obscure the call of Christ or the message of His love) is the most dependent of all men on divine guidance and support, and thus the most desirous of the sustaining prayers of the saints.
What gracious wisdom shore was in God's thus ordering must be apparent to any spiritual mind. Was it Paul and his companions who alone reaped the blessing of the saints, however young in the faith, thus praying? Could anything be more strengthening or elevating or purifying to the believers themselves, unless it were direct occupation with Christ Himself, which indeed was promoted in no small degree by this very identification of heart with that which is ever so near His heart? Whatever draws out the affections toward the Lord in that which glorifies Him and His word is so much the purer gain for His treasury and ours, as it is deliverance from self and present things where Satan easily ensnares. And as His word ran and was glorified with the Thessalonians, they could the more really and simply pray that so it should be elsewhere. They were not cast down or distracted by internal and humiliating, complications, which preoccupy the spirit and hinder the outgoing of heart far and wide for the blessing of others to His praise. Paul could freely ask, and they without stint or effort give, their prayers. The word of the Lord might make rapid progress, without a deep result in man, and without glory to Him Who is its source; the apostle would have them pray that it should be glorified even as also among themselves it was, They could therefore the more truly and heartily desire this from God elsewhere.
Besides this, many adversaries fail not, as surely as grace gives an open and effectual door for the testimony of Christ. Never does the apostle, never did a spiritual man, boast of the numbers or the position, of the wealth or the intelligence, of his supporters . no surer sign of the world, nor of Satan's snare among those who take the ground of faith. The apostle does ask their prayers "that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, for all have not faith." The word here translated "unreasonable," ἄτοποι, meant originally "out of place," and hence strange, marvellous, and in a moral sense worthless, as saying and doing what was unsuitable and out of the way. I know not why "the faith" should be preferred to "faith" in the abstract: the Greek will bear either. Nor do these adversaries mean Jews only, though these were prominent and active in bitter unbelief. Faith is natural to no sinner's heart; it is ever of grace.
There is, however, a blessed resource, as they are told by one who well knew how far party hatred and personal detraction can go: - "But the Lord is faithful who shall stablish you and keep from wickedness" (or "evil" verse 3). His faithfulness answers to the faith of His own, be it ever so feeble; His face is against those that do evil, as His eyes are upon the righteous, and His ears unto their cry. Hence the confidence that He would strengthen the Thessalonian saints and guard them from evil. So faith reasons and is ever entitled to reason. Nor can any ground be stronger; for it is from God to man, not from man to God, as men are prone to reason to their disappointment, shame, and sorrow. For as our Lord Himself warned His own, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." They sleep when they should pray, and may flee or even deny where they ought to stand and confess. How different the other side! "But God commendeth His own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom_5:8-10). So here the argument of the Lord's grace is before the apostle, who would have the disciples empowered in Him and in the strength of His might, the secret of victory to faith.
But if the end be thus sure, grace makes the way plain, the yoke easy, and the burden light. The obedience of Christ is the law of liberty. To a single eye His path is alone the question. Therefore the apostle has not a doubt that the saints addressed are as desirous of doing the Lord's will, as he of making it duly known. "And we have trust in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we charge" (verse 4). For there is a distinction between Christ's giving us rest, and our finding rest to our souls. The former is of sovereign grace, however labouring or burdened we might be, and the gift is free and full to sinners according to the glory of His person and the goodness of the errand on which He came and suffered; the other is of divine government, and we as children of God find rest to our souls day by day, not certainly in self-will which is our danger, but in simple-hearted subjection to Him and confidence in Him, even as He Himself always did the things which pleased the Father Who sent Him, and could say that it was His food to finish His work - that He kept His Father's commandments and abode in His love. It is in obeying Him only that the believer finds rest to his soul; and so the apostle counts on the Thessalonians here.
Verse 5 comes in beautifully to complete the paragraph: "And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of the Christ." Could anything more effectually strengthen or keep souls in obedience? We need not follow those who in times ancient or modern contend that the Holy Ghost is here objectively before us: there is no sufficient ground for abandoning the usage of scripture. By "the Lord" is meant as elsewhere Jesus the Son of God! to Whom he wishes to keep them straight; and this, by drawing and fixing their affections in the love of God and in the patience of the Christ. But even here, and in both respects, we have to face the doubts of learned men and their difficulties in submitting to the truth. We are told with sufficient confidence, that the first, from the fact of his wishing that their hearts may be directed into it, must be subjective, the love of man to God. The objective meaning, God's love, is said to be out of the question. This may seem "natural"; but it just destroys the force of the truth. The simple meaning is also the deepest and alone true. The apostle would have our hearts guided into the love of God, the love in which He has His being, forming His counsels, and acting as well as revealing Himself. This too alone secures our love to Him, which is at best tiny indeed, compared with that unfailing source and infinite fulness which Christ personally and in His work has discovered to us, and the Holy Spirit has shed abroad in our hearts. It is, one grants, very natural to think of our love to Him; but the sight of Christ by faith gives the word living power and leads us into God's love as revealed in Christ, Who alone (and not we) could be an adequate object to draw out and unfold the affections of God and His moral glory. And thus it is that we learn ourselves even to be the object of His love in a way and degree which otherwise had been impossible, for He gives His own to know that "as He is, so are they in this world," and that the love wherewith the Father loved the Son is in them, and Himself in them (1Jn_4:17, Joh_17:26).
Such love as this alone delivers from self practically; whilst it produces its like in us without effort or thought about it. Nor is there any other means comparable, for it is His way; especially if our hearts are also directed "into the patience of the Christ," not, I think, the endurance which He showed when here, however true and blessed it may be for us to cultivate that, but His patient waiting for the blissful meeting of His own, thenceforward changed into His glorious image at His coming. For this He waits patiently in heaven, as we now wait for Him on earth. Into the communion of His patience, as well as of God's love, would He lead our hearts.
Toward the beginning of the first epistle the Thessalonians were said to be converted to serve a living and true God, and to await His Son from the heavens. Here toward the end of the second we have in substance the same elements, with the shade of difference proper to each case. The apostle sought the well-being, enjoyment, and progress of the saints; and what can effect these so well as directing their hearts into the love of God and the patience of Christ? The God whose love we know is His Father and our Father, His God and our God; the words the Father gave to Him He has given to us; and He is coming to introduce us into the glory which will make the world know that the Father sent Him and loved us as He was loved. We ought not to wait for any such demonstration of it, but to rest in His perfect love, as we wait patiently for Christ. Rev_3:10 is a clear instance that ὑπομονή has this meaning; and so in 1Th_1:3. Other occurrences in the sense of "endurance" cannot disprove it. We must leave room for the modifications of language by the context in all speech, most of all in a book so surpassingly rich and deep as the Bible One-sidedness, always a hindrance and a danger, is nowhere so injurious as in the exposition of scripture: yet where is it so habitual? May we be warned and watchful.
It remains to direct the saints how to deal, not with wickedness as at Corinth, but with the disorderly ways of any in fellowship. No sin is to be ignored or passed by in God's habitation; and His dwelling there is the measure of judgment for His children. What is offensive to Him, what grieves His Spirit, what dishonours the Lord Who made Him known and embodied His will livingly, cannot be indifferent to those who are called to bear witness to His nature, grace, and glory. But one of the ways in which He exercises the hearts of His children is in representing Him aright when they have to face and judge the delinquencies of one another. On the one hand they are responsible never to wink at evil, now that they have all beheld God's unsparing judgment of it, as well as its demonstrated hatefulness, in the cross. On the other they are not set to legislate, as if they enjoyed continual inspiration by apostolic succession, or that God had not already revealed His mind completely in the scriptures by chosen instruments "from the beginning." The church is here to obey; the Lord directs with a wisdom and righteousness worthy of Himself, as we learn best in the spirit of dependence, and by real exercises of obedience. The Spirit of God works in the assembly, as well as in each individual, to apply the written word with a divinely given intelligence. For there are dangers owing to nature on either side: the easy-going gentleness which shrinks from duly probing and justly estimating evil; the Draconic severity which visits lesser faults with such rigour that there is no sterner dealing left for what is far worse. Scripture meets all by giving us both precept and example, that principle from God and not man may cover all, and direct conscience in each, with an unforced conviction of His will.
"Now we charge you, brethren, in [the] name of our* Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition which they *received from us."
* There is a little good authority (B D L etc.) for omitting "our" Lord Jesus. There is, perhaps, more ground of doubt whether it be "they," "ye," or "he," received; but "they" has unquestionably the best evidence in its favour, "he" of the Revised Text, the least.
As yet there had been in the Thessalonian assembly no such case of scandalous wickedness as 1 Cor. 5 afterwards dealt with. Yet in the first epistle the apostle saw reason under the inspiration of God to warn the saints against personal impurity as well as to caution each not to wrong his brother in the matter. It is an offence which especially affronts the Holy Spirit given to us; and the Lord is the avenger in all these things. And in urging what is wholly different, brotherly love, even as the saints are taught of God to love one another, he had exhorted them earnestly to seek to be quiet, and to mind their own affairs, and work with their own hands.
But, as the bright hope (we have seen) had somewhat waned for their hearts, when he wrote his second epistle, he had to feel also that some had heeded too lightly his call to walk honourably toward those without, so as to have need of nothing or of no one. It was not, in my judgment, too enthusiastic absorption with the Lord's coming which induced any to neglect their daily duty; it may have rather been that excited apprehension of the day of the Lord, as if already set in, which indisposed some to honest labour and gave rise to the gossiping communication of their fears which would naturally flow from such an error, as it has often done singe. Be the motive as it may, the sorrowful fact was then patent, that some in their midst were now walking in the disorderly way already denounced; and the apostle accordingly adopts still more solemn language in directing the saints how to meet the dishonour thus done to the Lord. With that name he binds up his injunction that they should withdraw, or keep themselves, from "every brother" walking so unworthily. The disorderly are not described as wicked persons, but still spoken of as brethren; yet it was a course which even moral men would feel to be disreputable, and this aggravated by their indifference to, if not defiance of, the previous exhortation of the apostle here referred to.
Thus they were inexcusable if the Christian is saved to glorify the Lord. And what were their brethren to do, if that name swayed their hearts supremely? Never was a greater fallacy than to imagine the assembly left to spiritual instinct under the plea of the Lord's authority. Not so: "if any man thinketh himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge (or take knowledge of) the things that I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord." "From the beginning" it was so; and it is assuredly quite as necessary now. The church is called to obey even in the exercise of its most serious functions. There is the most frequent temptation to assume discretionary power; and Christendom has everywhere fallen into the snare. But such an assumption is really a departure from the one invariable duty of obedience, the sole path of honour to the Lord, and of blessing to the saints themselves. It ought not to be irksome for any who love His name, it is certainly safe for those who are not merely incompetent for a task beyond man, but are here simply as witnesses of Him. And it is recorded for our admonition that in the only council of which scripture speaks, on an occasion of the utmost moment for the truth and liberty of the gospel, with all the apostles present, not to speak of other chief men among the brethren, there was much discussion before all in Jerusalem, as there had been previously through Judaisers among the Gentiles, till the decisive judgment agreeably to "the words of the prophets" was given by James, and decrees framed accordingly were sent to be kept among the assemblies. Even they, the apostles and the elders with the whole church, needed, and had, the scripture as the end of controversy.
So here, though the occasion was most ordinary, the apostle enjoins the brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. All are bound to walk according to apostolic teaching.
But smaller offences are no more left out of the scriptures than the great. Nor will a love for Christ allow any stain, be it ever so slight, among those who bear His name. The assembly must never be the shelter of evil: what does not suit Him does not suit those who represent Him on earth. But to put away is not His will for all that is offensive to Him. Even of old He could say He hated putting away in the earthly and natural. In the spiritual domain it is only right when, according to His word, it is imperatively due to His glory. Levity in what is so grave one can understand in a petty sect governed by self-will; it is unworthy of those who know what the church is to Him Who gave Himself for it. But in things great or small it is the Lord Who regulates all by His word, which His servants are responsible to apply truly in the Spirit. Hence have we the apostle here enjoining His will on the disorderly walk of some in Thessalonica. To pass it by would be not merely their loss but His shame. To leave it vague would open the door for the self-importance of man ready enough to define and exact. The apostle was given to treat the offence gravely but with measure This was righteous, and man (as of course he is ever bound) ought to be in the place of obedience
But, even in calling the saints to mark their reproof of disorder, the apostle deigns to plead with the hearts and consciences of all. "For yourselves know (says he) how ye ought to imitate us; because we were not disorderly among you, nor did we eat bread for nought from any one, but in toil and travail, working night and day,* that we might not burden any of you: not because we have not title, but to make ourselves an example to you that ye should imitate us" (verses 7-9). How blessedly he can exhort them to follow, conscious of his own following the Master! an incomparably truer "imitation of Christ" than the monastic one so popular in Christendom. Yet he who could say with a good conscience "we were not disorderly among you" was not behind the very chiefest apostles.
* It does seem strange that Alford, Ellicott, Griesbach, Scholz, and Wordsworth should cleave to the received reading, which exaggerates, contrary to, 1Th_2:9. Lachmann, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort rightly (in my opinion) accept the text of H B F G, etc., against the majority.
Nor did he claim aught from the saints he had left behind, nor from the Thessalonian converts who were learning from him the ways of Christ; but he set a pattern of unselfish grace at great cost to himself. How had some of those begotten by the gospel he preached learnt the lesson? how had Christendom, which would deny the least title in the ministry of Christ to one in this important way following the wake of the great apostle of the Gentiles? Does memory fail, or does not the prohibition of any such toil or travail in a minister of the word figure prominently in the ecclesiastical canon-book? But those who invent tests and rules are not afraid to contradict scripture and in effect to censure the apostle. Their imitation of Christ is more sentimental and pretentious; his was as deep and real as it was very homely and of no account, save indeed to be shunned and despised by the least and lowest of sects, as well as by those who more openly seek the world which their hearts value. The apostle (filled with the love which is of God, and not of the world as Christ is not) sought not theirs but them, and could point to his own daily ways, when among them at the beginning of the gospel, in witness of a self-denial, which of itself rebuked in the strongest yet most gracious way the disorderly brethren, who were working neither day nor night, and were not ashamed to eat the bread of every one who would supply them for nought.
It is to be noticed that this too is not the first time the apostle recalls his labours for his own support while evangelising among them in Thessalonica and teaching the young converts; for he speaks of it in similar terms in the second chapter of his earlier epistle. It was heavenly devotedness, and the mention of it no less single-hearted. He would not be burdensome to any of them. To me, he could say at a later day, to live is Christ. Without doubt this showed itself primarily in dependence on and delight in Christ, in the Spirit's lifting the heart into habitual rest and joy in the Lord above all that attracts and seduces, and consequent victory over the wiles and power of Satan. But the outer life corresponds with the inner, and the power and grace of Christ not only are in the spiritual affections but issue also in love to God by the outward ways which have the divine impress and savour of Christ. If he exhorted his son Timothy in his last epistle to be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, he knew long before what it was to be so strengthened himself; and this cannot but disclose itself in giving a fresh colour to the ordinary things of this life, so that they become in truth the most extraordinary.
Yet the apostle is careful to assert the labourers' title, though he speaks as he worked in a total self-surrender: "not because we have not title, but to make ourselves an example to you that ye should imitate us" (verse 9). It is one thing to assert the right that the Lord confers on His service, quite another where it might be misinterpreted or misapplied. Here, as at Corinth, he foregoes that which he carefully explains to be a divinely given title of much moment to maintain both for the givers and the receivers, to say nothing of His wisdom Who so laid down His will. An overflowing charity which thought only of the blessing of others and above all of Christ's glory filled his spirit and accounts for all, whether it may be maintaining a principle perfectly right in itself and of importance to others, or abandoning at this time his own just claims in honour of Christ and the gospel.
Nor did it cost him nothing. A man of means may preach and teach publicly and privately; but then he escapes necessarily the pressure of manual labour by day or by night. When wearied by his spiritual exertions, he has not to think of filling up with other work every available minute that he can fittingly abstract for the supply of his bodily wants. The apostle, in an energy of devoted love which has never been equalled among the sons of men, tells us in a few words the simple truth of his ordinary life, while enjoining the saints how to mark their sense of the disorder in Thessalonica. And he faithfully lets them know that he was giving them this truly christian zeal as an example for their imitation. How it acted on the Thessalonians in general we know not; but we may be sure that such a gracious abandonment of fleshly ease and of worldly etiquette was eminently suited to inflict the most withering rebuke on the idlers who, liking to talk rather than work, imposed on the kindness of the brethren and dishonoured the Lord. How blessed when the fault of others turns to our learning afresh the grace of Christ as it applies in a world of sin, selfishness, and misery! Still more so, when he who thus teaches walked from first to last in the grace he commends to others; and this, not only as now to the saints generally but to the elders in particular, as we read in his parting address at a later day to the Ephesian overseers at Miletus. "Ye yourselves know that these hands ministered to my wants and to those that were with me. I showed you all things that so labouring ye ought to help the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
What an immeasurable gap between this true-hearted disinterestedness, and the base begging of the mendicant friars, Franciscan or Dominican! For they appealed in a natural way to the feelings of mankind by a show of austerity beyond scripture, and thereby amassed vast wealth in the end, and what men value yet more, incalculable influence and power from the highest to the lowest, save among those who saw through their pretensions to spirituality, or were jealous of a reputation which eclipsed their own. To say with Rabban Gamaliel that one thus working was like a vineyard that is fenced is far beneath the apostle; lowly love was active there. It was to live Christ every day, without the bondage of a vow in a liberty that could accept the offering of his dear and poor children at Philippi. For there is no doubt on the one hand of the right to support, and of the duty on the other hand of the saints to render it ungrudgingly. But grace knows how and when on the labourers' part to dispense with it, if the glory of Christ or a special lesson to souls so calls for it as here. And how real and faithful is the guidance of the Spirit! For who can suppose that, when the apostle thus wrought with his own hands by midnight lamp in the tent-making of his early days and native land, he foresaw the need of reminding the Thessalonian saints of his habitual and incessant labours in this kind during his brief visit to their city? But what believer can doubt that the Spirit of God led the blessed man, both in thus labouring when there, and in now laying it upon the saints to give his exhortation a weight with which nothing else could compare?
It is possible and even probable that these brethren who showed indisposition to work may have taken advantage of the love that flowed to such as were engaged in the ministry of the word. Selfishness could soon find place to look for that love in their own case where no such service was rendered. An eye single to Christ preserves from any snare of this sort or any other, enabling one to detect and deal rightly with the evil where it appears. And the written word, coming from Him Who saw all that was needed from first to last, provides perfectly for every need that could arise, though not without the Holy Spirit, Who alone can guide us according to scripture, and thus manifests our state good or bad. For we are sanctified unto obedience - the obedience of Jesus.
"For even when we were with you, this we charged you, that if any will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear of some walking among you disorderly, doing no business, but busybodies. Now those that are such we charge and exhort in [the] Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, faint not in well-doing. And if any obeyeth not our word by the epistle, mark him to keep no company with him, that he may be ashamed; and count [him] not as an enemy but admonish as a brother" (verses 10-15).
It is a striking characteristic of Christianity that, as in it not one thing is too great or high for the saint, so neither is aught too little or low for God. He concerns Himself even with a duty so simple and small as a man's working day by day and not sponging on his brethren. Union with Christ is the key to all. If by grace I am one with His Son, no wonder that my Father should take pleasure in opening His heart and mind to me. But for the same reason it becomes a question practically not of mere right and wrong, but of pleasing Him as children, of representing not an honest man merely, nor yet Adam unfallen (were this possible), but Christ. And if we are in Christ on high, Christ is in us here below. Our responsibility flows from these exceeding privileges, which they ignorantly destroy who would reduce us to the footing of Jews, under the law as our rule of life, an error which looks the more fair because it claims to guard moral rights but is in fact subversive of the gospel, and of Christ's glory, and so of all we boast.
Who on the other hand could have thought that pious christian men would be so inconsiderate, to say no more, as to live without working, so selfish as to expect support from those who did work or were living on the fruits of industry? Such was the fact at this time, among the saints in Thessalonica, and the apostle had even forewarned them when he was there. It is a danger which might be anywhere and at any time, but at no time or place more likely than where saints are fresh and simple in the life of Christ: the very blessing exposes to the peril. Among decent men of the world such an expectation would be altogether exceptional if not impossible. The common interests of men all but exclude the thought; their selfishness would resent it as intolerable.
Thus the grace of Christ has its perils as well as its joys, perils on the side of exaggeration no less than of short-coming. The only security, the only wisdom, the only happiness, is in looking to Christ, Who assuredly leads not to idleness but to earnest service in a lost world. None who looks to Christ could be a drone: if inclined to it, let him not forget the apostolic charge that whoever does not choose to work, neither let him eat. This would be an effectual cure, if faithfully carried out, and are not the saints bound to do so? It is a just and homely way of dealing, no doubt, but the christian is surely equal to the occasion, not less than a Jew or a Gentile. If anything be contrary to Christ, it is the selfishness that would take advantage of grace; and we are called not to honour but to reprove and repress what is so unworthy of the Christian, because it misrepresents Christ.
This idleness was real disorder of walk. And it is an infectious disease which so much the more demands prompt treatment. "For we hear of some walking among you disorderly, doing no business, but busybodies." Such never was the Master, never is a true servant. For love in a world of misery delights to serve, instead of demanding the service of others, as pride and sloth do. The Son of man came "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." And in this He is surely a pattern to us; and assuredly the great apostle proved his greatness in this as elsewhere. The idlers at Thessalonica had therefore the less excuse for their idleness. And there was danger of worse, for those who do no business are apt to be busybodies, as the apostle pungently warns them. Leisure from work is time for mischief, and occupation with the affairs of others without a duty is itself mischief.
But here, too, faith works by love; the truth builds up instead of destroying or scattering. Chastening has its measure, as the end is restoration. "Now those that are such we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread." The meddlesome effect, as well as its cause, idleness, must be given up. The name of the Lord was incompatible with both; but the apostle beseeches as well as commands. Thus even what nature might teach is bound up with our Lord and Saviour. It is a question of God's kingdom and not of mere morality, as if we were only men, and grace and truth did not exist in Christ.
But the saints generally are exhorted to go onward in the path of all that suits and pleases Christ. They were neither to be indifferent on the one hand, nor to be stumbled on the other. Disgust at those who walk unworthily is neither grace nor righteousness. It was therefore with a caution to others. "But ye, brethren, faint not in well-doing, and if any obeyeth not our word by the epistle, mark him to keep no company with him, that he may be ashamed, and count him not as an enemy, but admonish as a brother." It is easy for excellent people to lose heart in doing what is comely and honourable. The dislike of selfishness in others soon produces reaction and repulsion in themselves. The apostle would not have it so, but rather an even and earnest perseverance in all that is fair in the Master's eyes, whilst dealing plainly with such erring brethren and dishonourable ways. Disobedience was not to be passed by. "Our word by the epistle" was not a word of men, but, as it is in truth, God's word (1Th_2:12) which also works in those that believe, as it leaves those who slight it worse than before. "We" are of God, the apostles could say; "he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth us not." "Ye are of God," say they to the saints; but let the saints see that they continue to overcome by faith, as they have overcome the power of evil that would have kept them slaves of the enemy. The faith which heeds God's word in the greatest thing will not despise it in the least, nor overlook the unbelief of that man who bears the Lord's name but obeys not the word. It will mark him and avoid his company that he may be ashamed of himself. Is he then put out from the saints, as a wicked person? Expressly the contrary: "count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." He was grievously wrong, and his company refused, but brotherly admonition is the word, not excommunication as if he were an enemy and a wicked man.
It would be unnecessary to say, but for the misleading of great names, that neither the word καλοποιοῦντες in itself nor its usage admits of the sense of doing good in acts of beneficence to others. This on the contrary might play into the hands of those the apostle censures. We must not confound τὸ ἀγαθόν with τὸ καλόν. They occur in the proper and distinctive sense of each in the same context of Gal_6:9-10. Honourable and upright practice is the point here.
Further, it might seem incredible beforehand, if one did not know it as a fact, that Luther and Calvin, and men from Grotius down to Winer, though the last hesitatingly and with modification as seeking to heed the article, join in the strange misinterpretation, opposed to ordinary grammar, of taking διὰ τῆς ἐπ. as "by an epistle [to me]!" Bengel with the Aethiopic of the Polyglotts connects the words with σημ in the sense of stigmatizing him by this letter. But this gives a quite unnatural emphasis to these words, which are thereby severed from the true and weighty connection with "our word," and lend an unusual and (I think) undue force to σημ
Again, Professor Jowett is not justified in taking καί here, instead of ἀλλά.Unaccountable it might seem that his nice and ripe scholarship should thus range itself with the older slovenly school which ever imagined that the inspired men use one word for another. But it is mere ignorance; and to treat it as such is the best lesson for the self-exaltation of theologian critics. The copulative is the true expression; the adversative would have been a coarse weakening of the love, on which the apostle counted. They would know how to temper their correction of the evil-doer. Mr. Jowett would have dealt better with the language of a heathen. His rationalism undermined his respect for Paul, and suggested the self-complacent thought that he knew what the apostle intended to say better than the apostle himself.
The conclusion is in perfect and manifest keeping with all that has gone before. "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace constantly in every way. The Lord [be] with you all. The salutation by the hand of me Paul, which is a mark in every epistle; so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all" (verses 16-18).
The saints, through, faith rescued from the wrath to come, are serving a living and true God, and waiting for His Son from heaven - Jesus raised from the dead. Even "that day" shall not overtake them as a thief: as of the day, they are sober, and have on the armour of light; and, triumphing over death, comfort one another with the bright hope of His coming, when we shall ever be with the Lord. The worst deceit and the destructive power of Satan have no real ground of alarm for them, though none know so well the character of both in the latter day: still less has the day of the Lord any terror, though misled and misleading man has striven hard to trouble them by a false apprehension about it. But now, delivered alike from hopeless sorrow by the first epistle, and no less baseless fear by the second, their hearts had been comforted and stablished in every good work and word. And the apostle could and did ask their prayers that the word of the Lord might run and be glorified,and His servants be delivered from unreasonable and evil men; as he had also charged them, unweary themselves in well doing, to deal in brotherly faithfulness with disorderly brethren.
It remained only to commend them suitably to the Lord; and this the apostle does in his closing words. In the first epistle he had said "The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly: and may your entire spirit and soul and body be preserved without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," with the comforting assurance, "Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it." This beautifully fell in with an earlier stage, when these young saints needed to be reminded of God's will, even their sanctification, as none were more exposed to the snares of personal impurity than the Greeks of that day: an evil peculiarly offensive to the Holy Spirit given to the saints, as the Corinthians were told yet more strongly afterwards. His prayer went well according to the freshness and energy of the Thessalonians, where this hope shone brightly before their eyes.
The second epistle gives greater prominence to the Lord; but holy separateness has no longer such a place given to it. "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace constantly in every way." He had looked at disturbing causes both in the world and in the assembly. But greater is He that is in them than he that is in the world, and He that is in the assembly is surely competent to make His gracious and withal mighty presence respected, if looked to, for such as dare to forget it or despair. The Holy Spirit is here to glorify Christ: why then should His own doubt or fear? Why not count on that unspeakable favour of "peace," whatever the natural threats or springs of disquiet?
"The Lord of peace" is a blessed title in which He stands related and revealed to the saints, who might and ought to be assured that He could not fail to act accordingly. For the name of the Lord is the expression of what He is or does; and what is our sense of that which is due to those related to us when they need succour in their difficulties, compared with His unfailing grace?
Nor is this all. "The Lord of peace himself give you peace constantly," or, "at all times." His inspired servant did not wish to raise in their breasts an unwarranted expectation, but had the Spirit of truth directing the desire which, he desired them to feel, was of God. He did even more; not only at all times, but "in every way." Is it possible to conceive a more studied exclusion of every source of alarm at all times, a stronger guarantee of peace from the Lord of peace Himself (and what fountain of peace can match with Him?) for saints of little experience, passing through a world full of trouble at all times, with a predicted period impending of tribulation beyond all precedent?
The apostle directs them to expect it from the Lord "in every way." As they had no time wherein they might not look to Him to give them peace, whatever may be in its destined season for Jews or Gentiles, so He would give them peace, not in some way only, but "in every way." How exactly answering to His own words before to the disciples! "These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." It was the enemy, not the truth, which had alarmed their souls falsely for a while.
There is indeed a singular but easily conceived various reading τόπῳ "place," for τρόπῳ "way," in the first hand of the Alex. and Clermont MSS., as well as in the Augian copy (now in Trin. Coll. Camb.) and in the Boernerian (now in the Dresden Royal Libr.) and in two cursives. The Vulgate and Gothic versions represent it; and so apparently Chrysostom, as Montfaucon (not Field) has edited the word. The great Greek commentator has in fact as unduly narrowed the meaning of "peace" as the word in question; for the apostle does not limit his wish to harmony among themselves, but embraces peace in a far higher sense and in all its force. It is therefore an instance not without its instruction, that critics like Griesbach and Lachmann should have the least hesitation in endorsing the ordinary and best attested text: Griesbach marking τόπῳ as possible; and Lachmann actually adopting it as his text. The apostle prayed that peace might be given them in every way, with no mere outward thought of "place."
This, too, is crowned by "The Lord be with you all:" a wish of small price in eyes which see only a man writing to other men. What is it to those who know by faith God employing a servant under His own unfailing guidance so to communicate His mind and heart to His children while passing through the world? What avail all other helps, if "the Lord" be not with us all? and why should we not have perfect peace, if He is with us, whoever and whatever else be lacking?
There is another notable link of connection with the close of the first epistle, though each perhaps has, as usual, its own distinctive traits. "The salutation by the hand of me Paul, which is a mark in every epistle: so I write." How in keeping with a very early communication of the apostle, called to write not a few thus carefully to authenticate his letters to the Gentile saints! Still more solemnly in the first had he adjured the Thessalonians by the Lord that the letter be read to all the (holy) brethren. The notion that scripture, addressed even to the whole assembly, was not to be read to or by all, was an interference with divine authority as well as divine grace, which could only be conceived in a degenerate and rebellious age, verging to apostacy. That Paul's epistles are, as truly as any other of the holy writings, accredited as scripture, 2Pe_3:16 makes sure and plain. And it was the more necessary that they should have in all the mark of his hand in saluting the saints, as he usually employed an amanuensis. (Compare Rom_16:22, 1Co_16:21, and Col_4:18, with Gal_6:11.)
Also, the concluding words of the two epistles resemble greatly while they differ sensibly. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you," says the first - be "with you all," says the second. Here we find the more decided emphasis, where and when it was most needed; whilst the same farewell of divine love appears substantially in both.