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 2:7-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 14, 2017

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of 1 Thess chapter 2, followed by his notes on verses 7-13. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the verses he is commenting on.

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 2:7  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;

1Th 2:9  For you remember, brethren, our labour and toil: working night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you, we preached among you the gospel of God.

(And how far we accommodated ourselves, like a nurse, to your weakness, you yourselves know). For you remember how we laboured and toiled, working day and night to gain sustenance, while at the same time we preached the gospel of God to you; and this labour and toil we underwent to gain a livelihood, lest we should in any way be a burthen to you.

The Apostle toiled at manual labour, for the purpose of procuring the necessaries of life, at the very time he was announcing the gospel to them. Just as St Paul and his companions remembered the work of faith and labor of love of the Thessalonians (1 Th 1:3), so too the Thessalonians remember the labor and toil of the missionaries. This is probably not just a reference to the fact that they worked to support themselves financially, but to the the burden this place on them as they attempted not to burden the Thessalonians (2 Th 3:8-9). For other references to St Paul’s manual labor see Acts 18:1-3, 20:33-35; 1 Cor 4:11-12, 9:3-18. It’s possible that St Paul emphasizes his self-employment because some in Thessalonica were becoming lazy or insinuating themselves into other people’s affairs (1 Th 3:11-12; 2 Th 3:6-12).

1Th 2:10  You are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and without blame we have been to you that have believed:

I call both you and God to bear testimony to the sanctity towards God, the justice towards our neighbour, the irreprehensibility towards all, that marked our conduct amongst you.

“Holily,” may also mean, in doctrine and life; “justly,” without injury of exaction; “without blame,” causing no scandal to the weak.

1Th 2:11  As you know in what manner, entreating and comforting you (as a father doth his children),

You also know how we entreated each of you (with the feelings of a father towards his children) to persevere firmly in the faith.

1Th 2:12  We testified to every one of you that you would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

How we consoled you in your difficulties, and earnestly besought you to lead lives worthy of the God who called you to his kingdom and his glory.

The Vulgate reading of these two verses is rather obscure. “As you know,” i.e., you also know, how we entreated each of you (as a father entreats his children), and comforted each of you, &c. The word “you” is redundant after “comforting,” in the construction adopted in the Paraphrase; a construction which, however, accords best with the Greek. “Who hath called you unto his kingdom;” i.e., his Church, where they received the Holy Ghost as a pledge of glory to come, the hopes of which should encourage them under afflictions and persecution. In the Greek version, “testified” is read in a participial form, testifying.

1Th 2:13  Therefore, we also give thanks to God without ceasing: because, that when you had received of us the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but (as it is indeed) the word of God, who worketh in you that have believed.

Therefore (owing to our success amongst you), we give God thanks without ceasing, that when you received from us the word of God which we preached to you, you received it not as the doctrine of men, but (what it really is) as the doctrine revealed by God, who, by the power of his grace, wrought in you the conviction of faith.

“Therefore,” all this being premised regarding his advent and success amongst them, and the purity of motive with which he preached, the Apostle now returns thanks to God for his success, and shows that his advent was not “in vain;” as he asserted (verse 1). “When you had received of us the word of the hearing of God,” i.e., the word of God which you heard from our preaching it to you. “You received it not as the word of men;” because, under the circumstances of persecution with which it was attended, they would certainly have rejected it, had they regarded it as emanating from man; but they received it as “the word of God,” who, by his grace, worked in them and made them receive his word with a firm faith. “Who worketh,” may, in the Greek construction, ὅς καὶ ενεργειται, be also rendered which works, or is worked in you, &c. There is, however, but little difference of signification between it and our Vulgate.


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