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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 23, 2013

This post includes Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, followed by his notes on verses 1-8. Text in purple represent his paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on. text in red (if any) are my additions.

In this chapter, the Apostle adduces a variety of motives for consoling the Thessalonians, and confirming them in the faith—viz., the success of his preaching in the midst of persecutions—the nature of the doctrine preached (1 Th 2:1–3)—the purity and disinterestedness of motive which actuated him (1 Th 2:4–9)—and the sanctity of his life and conduct among them (1 Th 2:10, 11). He praises them for the zeal with which they received the word of God, and the constancy with which they persevere therein (1 Th 2:13). Finally, he expresses his great affection for them.

1Th 2:1  For yourselves know, brethren, our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
But I need not refer to my advent amongst you to preach the gospel, and the success which attended it, as a motive to confirm you in the faith; you yourselves are aware that it was not without fruit.

“In vain.” By which some understand—without tribulation; because, it is of his tribulation that the Apostle is treating in the entire chapter. However, the interpretation in the Paraphrase is the more probable: this being the usual signification of the word in the writings of St. Paul (1. Cor., 15), and in this Epistle (1 Th 3:5). Moreover, in the preceding chapter, with which this verse is clearly to be connected, the Apostle is treating of his success in the preaching of the gospel among them.

1Th 2:2  But having suffered many things before and been shamefully treated, (as you know) at Philippi, we had confidence in our God, to speak unto you the gospel of God in much carefulness.
You are aware of the difficult and trying circumstances under which we went to you. Although we suffered much persecution and were ignominiously scourged at Philippi, still we assumed courage, relying on the grace and power of the Lord, to announce to you the Gospel of God, with great personal fear and uneasiness.

After referring to the fruit which God accorded to his labours, he refers to the trying circumstances under which he went to them “in much carefulness.” The Greek is εν πολλῷ ἀγῶνι, “in much struggle,” referring to the struggle he had with his enemies, or to his uneasiness of mind.

1Th 2:3  For our exhortation was not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in deceit.
(And not without cause have we trusted in the Lord, being fully conscious) that the doctrine we preached was not false or deceitful, neither did it announce obscene or impure things, nor was it in connexion with deceit or hypocrisy of any kind.

According to the Vulgate reading, the Apostle refers to the subject matter of his preaching as opposed to that preached by the philosophers: his doctrine was not false, calculated to lead himself or others into error, nor was it “in deceit,” i.e., a doctrine deluding others; such was the maxim of the philosophers: that the people should be led astray in matters of religion. According to the Greek reading, ἐκ πλάνης, from error, &c., the Apostle refers in this verse rather to the motives of his preaching. He did not preach with a view of leading them into error, nor with the impure motive of self-interest, nor of circumventing or deceiving them.

1Th 2:4  But as we were approved by God that the gospel should be committed to us: even so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who proveth our hearts.
But like men whom God reputed worthy of the high commission of preaching the gospel, and, rendered fit for such a commission, we announced it with all sincerity and truth, not caring to please men but God, who searches the heart.

The Apostle reached the Gospel in a manner becoming men whom God judged and rendered fit for so high a commission—in its pure, unadulterated truthfulness; wishing to please God only, the Searcher of hearts.

1Th 2:5  For neither have we used at any time the speech of flattery, as you know: nor taken an occasion of covetousness (God is witness):
Nor did we at any time adopt the language of adulation, as you yourselves know. And God is the witness that we did not make the gospel the occasion of gratifying avarice.
1Th 2:6  Nor sought we glory of men, neither of you, nor of others.  
Nor did we preach it with a view of gaining or seeking glory or esteem from you, or from any man living.
He was wholly exempt from the vices of all those teachers, who, by adulation, please men and wish to make the gospel the means of accumulating wealth and promoting their own glory. The nature, then, of the doctrine preached, or rather the disinterested purity of his motives in preaching it, under such circumstances (1 Th 2:2-3), together with the total absence of any impure or sinister motive on his part (1 Th 2:4-6), should be a strong argument of its truth, and a strong motive to induce them to persevere.

1Th 2:7  Whereas we might have been burdensome to you, as the apostles of Christ: but we became little ones in the midst of you, as if a nurse should cherish her children:
(And that we had no motives of avarice or ambition, is clear from the fact), that while we might, like the other Apostles of Christ, be a burthen to you for our support, or by exercising authority over you, we became like children amongst you, mild, unassuming, unconscious of our rights, like a mother nursing her own children, accommodating ourselves, to your temper and habits.

“Burdensome to you,” refers to his right to receive maintenance from them; or, according to others, to the right of exercising authority over them. This latter interpretation is followed by the Greeks; the former is, however, the more probable. “Little ones,” in the present Greek version is νήπιοι, mild, gentle—but the meaning is still the same. “As if a nurse should cherish her children”—in the Greek, τὰ ἐαυτῆς her own children. The Apostle opposes humility to the pride of false teachers. He employs a twofold metaphor, to express the feelings displayed by him in preaching the gospel to the Thessalonians. Some Expositors, in order to avoid a confusion of metaphor, connect the latter part of this with the following verse.

1Th 2:8  So desirous of you, we would gladly impart unto you not only the gospel of God but also our own souls: because you were become most dear unto us.
Thus having feelings of the liveliest affection towards you (as the mother has towards her offspring), we eagerly longed to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our very souls, if necessary, from no other motive except that of the purest love and affection for you.

“So desirous of you;” i.e., as desirous of you, as the nurse is of her children. He opposes charity to cupidity. What a lively picture is given here of the true Pastor of souls—at one time, clothing himself, through a spirit of accommodation to the weakness of his people, with the simplicity, humility, and meekness of children, apparently claiming no authority; at another, displaying the lively affection of a tender mother, dispensing the milk of holy doctrine in such a way, as to be prepared to give his life, and that from no motive of lucre, but purely from love and charity, co-operating with Christ in the salvation of those souls for whom our blessed Lord gave up his life;


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