The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3:11-4:2

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 24, 2012

This post includes Father Callan’s summaries of 1 Thess 3:1-13 and 1 Thess 4:1-11 to help provide context.


A Summary of 1 Thess 3:1-13~This whole Chapter really belongs, by connection of thought and matter, to the last section of the preceding Chapter. In his anxiety St. Paul did send Timothy to visit and encourage the new converts at Thessalonica. When the Apostle was with them, he had foretold the trials to which they should be subjected, and he was fearing what effects these troubles may have had on their faith. But Timothy on his return gave a most comforting report, for which the Apostle thanks God from the bottom of his heart. Night and day he prays that he himself may be able to visit them, to make up what is wanting to their faith. May God grant him this favor, and may the Thessalonians meanwhile increase and abound in brotherly love towards all, so as to make ever greater progress in holiness, in preparation for the coming of the Lord!

1 Thess 3:11. Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you,
1 Thess 3:12. And may the Lord multiply you, and make you abound in charity towards one another, and towards all men, as we do also towards you:
1 Thess 3:13. To confirm your hearts without blame in holiness, before God and our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints. Amen.

Verses 11 -13 conclude the first main part of the Epistle. In these verses St. Paul prays to God, first for the Apostles, that they may be enabled to visit the Thessalonians (ver. 11); and secondly, for the converts, that they may increase in charity (ver. 12), and may be found blameless in the day of Christ’s coming (ver. 13). The second main part of the letter likewise closes with a prayer to God (1 Thess 5:23-24). Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

(verse 11) God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus. The Christus of the Vulgate is not in the Greek. Unity of action is here attributed to the Father and our Lord in directing the free actions of men for a supernatural purpose, and therefore their equality in divine nature is implied. See 2 Thess 2:16-17, where the same doctrine is even more explicitly stated. How clear this doctrine was to the mind of St. Paul in these the first of his letters, and therefore in the earliest of New Testament writings!

Direct our way, etc. Better, “make straight our way,” by removing all impediments.

(Ver. 12) May the Lord multiply ,  etc. Better, “may the Lord make you to increase, etc.” Here again divine action is attributed to our Lord. As the Apostles are animated with charity towards the Thessalonians, so may the latter be towards “one another, and towards all men,” for Christ died for all!

The in vobis of the Vulgate should be in vos, as in the Greek.

(Ver. 13) To confirm your hearts, etc. The reference is to the action and grace of the Lord spoken of in the preceding verse. The Apostle prays for the internal, as well as the external perfection of his readers.

Before God, etc., i.e., in the sight of God the Father.

At the coming, etc., i.e., when our Lord, accompanied by His holy angels, comes to judge the world. The Apostle wishes his converts to be arrayed with all the virtues of sanctity when the Lord comes in judgment.

With all his saints. What is the meaning of “saints” here? Some authorities, like Ambrosiaster, Flatt and Hofmann, referring the phrase back to “without blame in holiness,” think all the faithful, living or dead, are meant; Findlay and others say only the holy dead are in question; Lightfoot and Milligan hold that we should understand both angels and the blessed dead; Knabenbauer, Voste, and most modern commentators teach that only angels are to be understood in this passage.

The reasons for this last opinion are that in all the eschatological passages of the Old and New Testaments and in the apocryphal books only angels are mentioned as accompanying the coming Messiah, Moreover, the dead who have died in the Lord seem to be excluded from a part in the glorious coming of the Messiah, according to 1 Thess 4:15. It is true that certain New Testament passages speak of “the saints” as having part in the judgment of the world; but we must not confuse the judgment with the glorious advent of the Christ, which is to precede the judgment. See Voste, hoc loco.


A Summary of 1 Thess 4:1-11~In his prayer for the Thessalonians at the close of the preceding Chapter St. Paul had prayed that his converts might abound in charity and lead a blameless life (1 Thess 3:12-13). Now, after calling attention to teachings he gave when founding their Church, he comes to particulars, first admonishing them to avoid impurity in all its forms (ver. 1-8), and then urging them to brotherly conduct, to industry, and to the need of giving good example to non-Christians (ver. 9-11).

1 Thess 4:1. For the rest therefore, brethren, we pray and beseech you in the Lord Jesus that, as you have received from us how you ought to walk to please God, as indeed you do walk, that you may abound the more.

For the rest is a formula of transition often used by St. Paul, directing attention to something else that is to follow.

We pray and beseech you, etc. The Apostle exhorts his readers to continue to live according to the teachings he gave them when he first evangelized them, and to strive for ever greater progress.

The Vulgate, sic et ambuletis, should read sicut et ambulatis, to agree with the best Greek ; in the ordinary Greek the phrase is omitted.

1 Thess 4:2. For you know what precepts I have given to you by the Lord Jesus.

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that the norms of life and conduct which he gave them had as their ultimate authority and sanction the “Lord Jesus,” the divine Master of us all.

In verses 3-8 the Apostle exhorts the converts to chastity of life.


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