The Divine Lamp

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 7, 2011

This post includes Father Callan’s brief summary of verses 12-24 followed by his notes.

VARIOUS ADMONITIONS AND A PRAYER FOR THE TESSALONIANS

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24~Following the treatment of the dogmatic question about the Parousia (see here), St. Paul now comes to various moral exhortations. Similar admonitions were given in Chapter 4:1-11; but there they were for individuals, whereas here they are for the whole community. The first group are social, and have to do (a) with the duties of the faithful toward their ecclesiastical superiors (ver. 12-13), and (b) with the duties incumbent on those superiors as regards their subjects (ver. 14-15). The second class of admonitions is religious, relating (a) to joy, prayer and thanksgiving (ver. 16-18), and (b) to the use of charisms (ver. 19-22). A prayer for the Thessalonians closes this part of the letter (ver. 23-24).

12. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

In this verse the Apostle addresses the faithful of Thessalonica, admonishing them “to know,” i.e., to recognize and appreciate the authority, and to obey the doctrine and instructions given them by their ecclesiastical superiors, who are their servants “in the Lord.” We have here “a clear testimony, from the earliest writing of the New Testament, to the existence in the Church at the beginning of a ministerial order—a clergy (to use the language of a later age) as distinguished from the laity—charged with specific duties and authority” (Findlay).

13. That you esteem them more abundantly in charity, for their work’s sake. Have peace with them.

Not only should the faithful recognize the authority and heed the teaching of their church superiors, but they should also esteem and love them highly on account of their labors in behalf of the faithful.

Have peace with them, i.e., with the clergy. This is according to the reading of the Vulgate and some of the best Greek MSS., but there is another and better Greek reading which has: “Have peace among yourselves.”

14. And we beseech you, brethren, rebuke the unquiet, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient towards all men.

In this and in the following verse St. Paul is addressing the bishops and priests of the Church at Thessalonica, as is evident from the admonitions he gives and as the best ancient and modem expositors admit.

We beseech. Better, “we exhort.”

The unquiet, i.e., those idle and restless ones who, in expectation of the imminence of the Parousia, were going about disturbing others.

The feeble-minded, i.e., those in anxiety about the coming of the Lord and the fate of their dead.

The weak, i.e., the infirm in faith.

15. See that none render evil for evil to any man; but ever follow that
which is good towards each other, and towards all men.

This verse enunciates a cardinal Christian principle often emphasized by our Lord Himself (cf. Matt 5:39 ff., 44 ff.; Luke 6:27). It was especially needful for the Thessalonians, who were persecuted by the Jews and pagans both.

16. Always rejoice.
17. Pray without ceasing.
18. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

In these verses St. Paul gives three religious admonitions pertinent to all Christians, (a) They should always rejoice, even in adversity, because of the reward awaiting them in the hereafter; (b) they should pray continually, not only by the habit of making set prayers at specific times, but also by a spiritual intention and direction that should pervade all their activities; and (c) they should give thanks to God for all things, both good and bad, because all have been ordained for their spiritual welfare, and, if accepted in the right spirit, will redound to their greater good, at least in the life to come. Furthermore, thanksgiving for benefits received is one of the surest means of obtaining more favors.

For this is the will of God. It is uncertain whether these words refer to all three of the foregoing admonitions, or only to the duties of prayer and thanksgiving, or only to that of thanksgiving.

In Christ Jesus, etc. He means to say that such is the will of God in their regard as manifested in or through Christ Jesus; or, according to others, this is what God wishes from those who are in Christ, i.e., who are Christians.

19. Extinguish not the spirit.
20. Despise not prophecies.

21. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

The Thessalonians are not to suppress or despise the charismatic gifts, such as speaking with tongues and prophesying, which the Holy Ghost was wont to pour out on many of the converts in the Early Church; but all of them are to be tested by their fruits. It was easy for some to allege false revelations and visions, especially about the imminence of the Parousia.

The spirit is referred by some to all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, including sanctifying grace; but here the reference is more likely to the charisms spoken of at greater length in 1 Cor 12-14.

Prove all things most likely refers not only to the gifts just spoken of, but to all actions of every kind, good and bad, as would be natural in an exhortation of this kind at the close of a letter.

22. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.

Here the Apostle exhorts his readers to keep themselves from every kind of evil.

23. And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that
your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the
coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24. He is faithful who hath called you, who also will do it.

Again, at the end of this second main part of his letter, as at the end of the first main part (3:11-13), the Apostle prays to God that, by His grace, the Thessalonians may continually advance in holiness, and be found ready when the Lord comes.

God of peace, i.e., God who is the author and source of peace, and who will therefore be able to put at rest the Thessalonians disturbed by fear of the imminence of the Parousia.

Sanctify you in all things, i.e., as to all virtues.

Spirit, soul, body. The “body” is the seat of the senses, whose operations are to be directed in accordance with the law of God. The “soul” (ψυχη) is the principle of physical life and of sensible phenomena, and the seat of the passions. The “spirit” (πνευμα) is the principle of the superior, spiritual life. As through the body we have contact with the material world, so through the spirit do we communicate with the invisible world of spirits and with God.

The Apostle’s prayer for the Thessalonians rests on God who “is faithful” to the work He has begun. It was He who called and admitted them to the faith, and He will provide all that is necessary for their sanctification, so that they may be found worthy in the day of His coming.

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3 Responses to “Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24”

  1. […] on 2 Peter 3:8-14 « Father Callan’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28 Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 […]

  2. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on the Second Epistle Reading (1 Thess 5:14-23). Actually, this post is on verses 12-24. […]

  3. […] Father Callan’s Commentary on the Second Epistle Reading (1 Thess 5:14-23). Actually, this post is on verses 12-24. […]

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