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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

THE DAY OF THE LORD IS UNCERTAIN

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11~Behind the immoderate sorrow of the Thessalonians over their dead lay their false notion of the imminence of the Parousia. The Apostle, therefore, now reminds them of the teaching of the Lord Himself regarding the uncertainty of that august event, the coming of which will be like that of a thief in the night, “as the pains upon her that is with child” (1 Thess 5:1-3). Wherefore, it behooves us all to watch and to be ready to join Christ when He comes (1 Thess 5:4-10). Let the converts, then, comfort one another and edify one another (1 Thess 5:11).

1 Th 5:1. But of the times and moments, brethren, you need not that we should write to you;

The times and moments. These two expressions, taken from familiar Biblical phraseology, are most probably intended to signify the precise time of the Parousia. Cf. Acts 1:7; Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32.

1 Th 5:2. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.

Yourselves know perfectly, etc., i.e., they had been well instructed on these points by St. Paul’s preaching to them.

The day of the Lord, i.e., the time of His Second Coming in glory. The expression is a familiar one in St. Paul’s writings, and also with the Prophets of the Old Testament. The visitation of Christ to judge the world will take place suddenly and unexpectedly, like the coming of a thief in the night, and none will escape (cf. Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39, 40).

1 Th 5:3. For when they say, peace and security; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape.

For when they say, i.e., when the unbelieving, those who are in darkness, say, etc. The punishment will fall when least expected. See Matt 24:36-39; Luke 21:34; Ezek 13:10.

The dixerint, superveniet, and effugient of the Vulgate are all present tense in Greek.

1 Th 5:4. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
1 Th 5:5. For all you are the children of light, and children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

In verses 4-10 the Apostle stresses the need of vigilance on the part of the faithful. In these two verses he tells the saints that they are no longer in moral darkness, as before their Baptism (Eph 5:8), and as are the faithless; and therefore they need not fear the suddenness of the Lord’s Coming or its consequences. Verse 5 but repeats in a positive way what is said negatively in verse 4.

We are not (vs. 5), etc. For a similar change of persons from the second to the first see Gal 3:25-26; Eph 2:2, 3, 13, 14; Eph 5:2, etc.

1 Th 5:6. Therefore, let us not sleep as others do; but let us watch, and be sober.

Therefore introduces with emphasis the conclusion to be drawn from what has just been said.

Watchbe sober refer respectively to the performance of good works and abstention from evil.

1 Th 5:7. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunk, are drunk in the night.

Night is the normal time for sleep, and also for revelry; hence St. Paul’s warning against the excesses of the pagans in either the one or the other.

1 Th 5:8. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, having on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

The breastplate. The Apostle passes from the metaphor of the light to that of the armor of the soldier. For the application of this imagery, see on Eph 6:11-17. Here the Apostle speaks of only two defensive arms of the soldier, namely, the “breastplate” and the “helmet”; and he likens them to the virtues of faith, hope and charity, which are the foundation of the Christian life and of all perfection. Hope is the central thought in this Epistle.

Salvation (σωτηριας) here means eternal salvation of the soul, the enjoyment of God’s eternal kingdom hereafter.

1 Th 5:9. For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but unto the purchasing of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
1 Th 5:10. Who died for us, that whether we watch or sleep, we may live together with him.

The Apostle now gives the reason for the certainty of our hope, namely, because God in calling us to Christianity has not destined us for damnation, but for eternal salvation through the merits of Jesus Christ, “who died for us,” thus acquiring us as His property and making us His possession, so that whether “we watch or sleep” (i.e., whether we live or die), we belong to Him, by grace in this life and in glory hereafter! Therefore, whether we be living or dead at the time of the Parousia, we shall be Christ’s. These last words show that St. Paul had no idea whether he and his companions should be alive or dead when the Parousia would take place; it might come while they were living and it might come after they were dead. Which it was to be, did not matter. The one thing that did matter was that they should be at all times one with Christ. See Knabenbauer, hoc loco.

1 Th 5:11. For which cause comfort one another; and edify one another, as indeed you do.

In view of all that has been said about the Coming of the Lord from 1 Thess 4:13 up to now, the Apostle exhorts his readers to “comfort one another,” i.e., to continue to comfort one another, as they have been doing. He loves to praise his readers when they deserve it.

VARIOUS ADMONITIONS AND A PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24~Following the treatment of the dogmatic question about the Parousia, 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).

1 Th 5:12. 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).

1 Th 5:13. 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.”

1 Th 5:14. 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 Greek word ὀλιγοψύχους (oligopsuchos) is derived from oligos (few, small, little, brief), and psuche (breath, soul, heart, mind). Modern translations prefer to translate as, the fainthearted, the timid, or the discouraged. If a reference to the mind is intended, I would translate it to read, “comfort the ill-instructed,” or, “comfort those who lack understanding.” If this is the intended meaning of the Greek, then it is probably a reference back to St Paul’s admonition in 1 Th 4:13-18, which was directed to those ignorant concerning the status of the faithfully departed (13), and who needed comfort or consoling as a result (18). My own opinion is that the translation, “fainthearted,” is intended. Note that the first part of the epistle ends in 1 Th 3:9-13 with a prayer that God strengthen the hearts of of Thessalonains (13). This prayer not only concludes the first part of the letter, it also, prepares for its remainder, thus, when St Paul here writes that they console (comfort, encourage) the fainthearted, he has in mind all those afflicted by the various problems dealt with in the letter: persecution (1 Th 3:1-5); unchastity (1 Th 4:3-8); physical laziness and the intrusiveness it gave rise to (1 Th 4:9-11); concern for the faithful departed (1 Th 4:13-18); spiritual laziness (1 Th 5:1-11).

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

1 Th 5:15. 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.

1 Th 5:16. Always rejoice.
1 Th 5:17. Pray without ceasing.
1 Th 5:18. 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.

1 Th 5:19. Extinguish not the spirit.
1 Th 5:20. Despise not prophecies.
1 Th 5:21. 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.

1 Th 5:22. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.

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

1 Th 5:23. 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.
1 Th 5:24. 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.

CONCLUSION

A Summary of 1 Thesslonians 5:25-28~In conclusion the Apostle asks the prayers of the faithful for himself and his companions, sends his salutations, directs that this letter be read in public for the benefit of all the Christians, and gives his blessing.

1 Th 5:25. Brethren, pray for us.

Pray for us. Some MSS. add “also,” showing that, as he prayed for them, they in turn should pray for him.

1 Th 5:26. Salute all the brethren with a holy kiss.

With a holy kiss. It is possible that this was a liturgical practice in Judaism before St. Paul’s time. Such it was, at any rate, in the Christian Church a century later (cf, Justin Martyr, Apol, i. 65). See on Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20

1 Th 5:27. I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read to all the brethren.

Paul directs that this letter be read aloud in church, as the Law and the Prophets were read in the synagogue, so that all the faithful may benefit by it. This was the first Apostolic letter to be sent to a whole Church; and since many of the members were troubled about the Parousia, there was a special reason why all should know what their Apostle had to say on so momentous a question.

In the Vulgate the sancti before fratres, though supported by good MSS., seems strange in St. Paul as a designation for Christians used together with the term “brethren,” and so should more probably be omitted.

1 The 5:28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

The Apostle closes with his usual blessing, which varies in length in different letters. The Greeks used to terminate their letters with a wish for good health; but St. Paul is more concerned with the souls of his readers than with their bodies, and hence wishes them “grace.” The “Amen” is probably liturgical.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

This post opens with a brief summary of the remainder of the epistle followed by commentary on chapter 4.

Brief Summary of 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:24~In this second main part of his letter St, Paul first exhorts his readers to flee different kinds of sin and to cultivate various virtues (1 Th 4:1-11). He next treats of the final appearance of Christ (1 Th 4:12-5:11). Finally, he makes certain recommendations, and utters a prayer for the Thessalonians (1 Th 5:12-24). See Introduction to this letter, No. 6, C.

AN EXHORTATION TO CHRISTIAN LIFE

A Summary of 1 Thess 4:1-12~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. 9-12).

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.

1 Th 4:3. For this is the will of God, your sanctification ; that you should abstain from fornication;

This is the will of God, i.e., this is what God wants in you, namely, that you sanctify yourselves. The Greek for “will” is without an article, and so means the will of God in particular, not in general.

Fornication was extremely common in the pagan world, and it was regarded generally with indifference by all classes. Hence the necessity of admonishing the new converts that God wished them to abstain from this vice, to which doubtless many of them had been addicted in their pre-Christian lives.

1 Th 4:4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor:

This verse states the positive side of what was stated negatively in the preceding verse. The Christians must know how to control themselves, so as not to degrade their own bodies by impurity. It is uncertain whether “vessel” here means one’s own body or one’s wife. The former meaning is held by Tertullian, St. John Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, and many other ancients, and by Milligan, Findlay, the Westminster Version of Sacred Scripture and other moderns ; while the second meaning is given by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Estius, Le Camus, Knabenbauer, Voste, and others.

The first opinion would seem to agree better with what is said in the preceding and in the following verse; but in favor of the second view it is maintained that σκευος usually means wife, that so it was used by St. Peter ( 1 Pet 2:7), and that the verb that follows it here (κτασθαι) means to acquire, to procure and not to possess. In 2 Cor 4:7, however, σκευος is used for body. At any rate, St. Paul’s exhortation is general, and has to do with every sort of personal purity, whether in or out of the married state. See on 1 Cor 7:2 in vol. 1 of this work.

1 Th 4:5. Not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles that know not God:

Here St. Paul says the Christian must not be carried away by the unregulated impulses of his lower nature, like the Gentiles, whose ignorance of God led them into all manner of sexual excesses (Rom 1:19 ff., 2:14 ff.). Whether the Apostle is speaking in this verse of conduct in the married or in the unmarried state, depends on the meaning given “vessel” in the preceding verse.

1 Th 4:6a. And that no man overreach, nor circumvent his brother in business.

6a. Overreach. Better, “transgress,” which in the original may be taken either as intransitive (in the sense of going beyond lawful bounds, and therefore of sinning) or as transitive (as governing “brother,” and so of neglecting his rights). The context favors the first meaning in the sense of going beyond the limits of lawful matrimony, of invading the rights of another Christian’s home by the commission of adultery.

Brother means Christian, for whom St. Paul is chiefly concerned, though his teaching does not exclude others.

In business. Better, “in the matter,” i.e., the Christian Is not to offend against his brother “in the matter” of purity, as the context shows. Great authorities, however, ancient and modern, are pretty equally divided in explaining in negotio of the Vulgate as referring to commercial matters—to business—and to matters of purity. The context favors the latter meaning.

1 Th 4:6b.  because the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we have told you before, and have testified
1 Th 4:7. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto sanctification.
1 Th 4:8. Therefore, he that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who also hath given his Holy Spirit unto you.

In these verses the Apostle gives three reasons on the part of God why Christians should avoid sins of impurity, namely, because God is the avenger of them, because He has called us to sanctification, and because He has given us the Holy Ghost, who is offended and outraged by impurity and injustice of every kind: “Know you not that you are the temple of God, etc.” (1 Cor  3:16).

Despiseth these things, i.e., rejects or defies the call of God to “sanctification.”
In nobis (ver. 8) of the Vulgate should be in vos, according to the best Greek MSS., thus referring to all Christians in general, rather than to the Apostles only, as the recipients of the Holy Spirit.

1 Th 4:9. But as touching the charity of brotherhood, we have no need to write to you, for yourselves have learned of God to love one another.
1 Th 4:10a. For indeed you do it towards all the brethren in all Macedonia, 

9-10a.  St. Paul lauds the charity of the Thessalonians who, being taught in this matter by God’s grace, need not his instruction. Indeed, their love for one another has been manifested by deeds of charity throughout all Macedonia.

1 Th 4:10b. But we entreat you, brethren, that you abound more,
1 Th 4:11. And that you use your endeavor to be quiet, and that you do your own business, and work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
1 Th 4:12 and that you walk honestly towards them that are without; and that you want nothing of any man’s.

10b-12. After praising the worthy for their charity, the Apostle turns to another group who were abusing the hospitality of others, living on alms in idleness, in expectation of the imminent coming of the Messiah, going about disturbing others, and giving bad example to outsiders (2 Thess 2:1, 3:11).

Do your own business, etc. This shows that many of the converts were of the working classes.

As we commanded you. When Paul was instructing the Thessalonians, he had said that, if anyone would not work, the same should not eat (2 Thess 3:10).

That you walk honestly, etc., i.e., that you conduct yourselves in an honorable manner before those who are not Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles.

In Greek a new verse begins at “and that you walk honestly, etc.,” thus making 18 verses in this Chapter, instead of 17, as in the Vulgate. So it happens that verse 11 in the Vulgate equals verses 11 and 12 in the Greek.

THE FATE OF THOSE WHO HAVE DIED

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18~Following the moral exhortations of the preceding section (1 Thess 4:1-11), St. Paul now takes up some of the difficulties of the Thessalonians, as reported to him by Timothy. In this present section he discusses the condition of those of the faithful who have passed on before the advent of the Messiah. The converts must not worry about their beloved dead, thinking they will not have part in the glory of the Coming Lord. They will rise as Christ rose, and indeed will meet their Saviour before the living do. After that, the living will join them and be caught up together with Christ, to be forever with Him in glory. Let these thoughts be their comfort.

1 Th 4:13. Now we will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope.

Now we will not have you ignorant, brethren, etc. This is a customary manner with St. Paul of introducing a subject of great importance. The Thessalonians had misunderstood the Apostle’s teaching about the Second Coming of Christ; they thought they were to live to see it in their own time. And since some among them had recently died, they were profoundly grieved, thinking their loved ones would thus never witness or share in the glories of the Parousia, St. Paul bids them not to sorrow, as if they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, as if they were pagans. Of course, he is condemning immoderate sorrow only.

Them that are asleep. This is “a characteristic, but not original Christian designation of the dead” (McCown, in Abingdon Bible, hoc loco).

1 Th 4:14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again; even so them who have slept through Jesus, will God bring with him.

The reason why the Thessalonians should not give way to inordinate sorrow is that the faithful dead are to rise again, and the proof of this is to be found in the Resurrection of Christ.

The sainted dead form one mystical body with Christ, of which He is the head. And since the head is risen, the members must also rise.

If we believe means “since we believe,” as is evident from the context and from St. Paul’s teaching elsewhere, especially in 1 Cor 15. The Apostle is speaking only of the resurrection of the just, because he is consoling the Thessalonians for their dead who have died in Christ, and it is only these that shall have part in the glorious advent of the Saviour and enter into His kingdom of bliss. The unjust shall also rise, but only to be judged and die the second death.

Them who have slept through Jesus, will God bring with him.  The sainted dead form one mystical body with Christ, of which He is the head. And since the head is risen, the members must also rise.

1 Th 4:15. For this we say unto you in the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who have slept.

St. Paul here tells the Thessalonians that, when Christ comes, those who are living at the time shall not enjoy any precedence over those who shall have died, and this he affirms “in the word of the Lord,” i.e., as a doctrine communicated to him directly by Christ Himself.

That we who are alive, etc., i.e., those who survive, who are living at that time. The Apostle is speaking rhetorically in the first person plural, and so he is not to be understood as including himself and his companions among those who were to witness the Parousia. That he had no idea of teaching the imminent advent of Christ is clear from what he says below in 1 Thess 5:2, in 2 Thess 2:1  ff., and from the teaching of the Lord (Matt 13:32 ff.; Acts 1:6 ff.) to which he was always faithful. And this is the explanation given his teaching here by all the Greek and Latin Fathers, and after them by St. Thomas, Estius, and all the leading Catholic commentators. In fact, to imply that St. Paul was in error in this matter would be to destroy the nature of divine inspiration and Biblical inerrancy. See Decision of Biblical Commission on this subject, June 18, 1915.

1 Th 4:16. For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.

For the Lord himself, etc. As the Lord ascended visibly into heaven, so shall He appear at the end of the world (Acts 1:11).

With commandment, etc., as a general issuing orders to his troops. These expressions are to be understood figuratively, as describing the conditions and phenomena that shall accompany the Lord as He descends from heaven to call the dead to life. The Apostle is using eschatological language common among the Jews, and which was also employed by our Lord (Matt 24:30 ff.). Cf. Knabenbauer and Voste, hoc loco.

And the dead who are in Christ, etc., i.e., those who have died in union with Christ shall first rise, so as to be on an equality with those who are living, then will take place the transformation of the living saints, and this will be followed by the rapture of all with Christ, to be with Him evermore in glory (ver. 16). What a consoling doctrine for the bereaved Thessalonians 1 By the word “first” St. Paul does not mean that the resurrection of the just will precede the general resurrection (about which he is not talking), but that the resurrection of the holy dead will be prior to the transformation of the saints who are living at the time.

1 Th 4:17. Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.

Then we who are alive, etc. St. Paul repeats with emphasis the thought of verse 14. He seems to say plainly that those saints who are alive at the time of the Parousia will not die, but will be transformed and taken, together with the righteous dead already raised to life, into glory with Christ. The Greek Fathers and many modern  interpreters so understand the Apostle; and this interpretation agrees with the correct reading and meaning of 1 Cor 15:51, on which see commentary in vol. 1 of this series. To be consistent, we should explain “we who are alive” here as in verse 14, that is, as referring, not to St. Paul and his companions then living when the Apostle was writing nor to others then living with whom he compares those then dead, but to those just who will be living when the Lord comes in glory. Hence follows the conclusion that the righteous who are alive at the Second Coming of Christ to judge the world will pass to glory without dying, and this is what the Apostle was referring to in 2 Cor 5:4. For further argument and a consideration of the opposing opinion on this subject, see vol. 1 of this series, on 1 Cor 15:51. Note: I’ve appended Fr. Callan’s comments on 1 Cor 15:51 to the end of this post.

Shall be taken up together with them, etc. As Jesus ascended into heaven enveloped in a cloud (Acts 1:9), and as He shall come again “in the clouds of heaven” (Matt 24:30), so the just at the end of the world shall be transported by supernatural power beyond the clouds to meet the Lord in His regal majesty, and with Him to enter into glory for evermore.

1 Th 4:18. Wherefore, comfort ye one another with these words.

In view of the consoling words he has just written (ver. 13-16), St. Paul bids his readers to take heart and be comforted in the loss of their dear ones.

 Note: I here reproduce Fr. Callan’s comments on 1 Cor 15:51~Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed.

Coming now to describe the way the dead shall rise at the end of the world, the Apostle first solves a difficulty that might arise out of the preceding verse, namely, if our corruptible bodies cannot inherit incorruptible life, what about the just who will be living when Christ appears on the last day? In reply the Apostle says: I tell you a mystery, i.e., a truth of revelation, which human means could not discover (1 Thess 4:14). What is this mystery? It is that the just who are living at the Second Coming of Christ shall not die, but shall be suddenly changed from their corruptible to an incorruptible and glorious state.
 
 This interpretation is (a) according to the best reading of the second part of this verse; (b) it is in harmony with the context, verses 50 and 52, and with the whole drift of St. Paul’s argument; (c) it agrees with the explanation of the same doctrine given by St. Paul elsewhere (1 Thess 4:15-17; 2 Cor 5:1-9; 2 Tim 4:1), and with the teaching of St. Peter on the subject (1 Peter 4:5); (d) it alone gives to “mystery” the proper and obvious meaning of that term; (e) it finds approval in the words of the Creed, “He shall come to judge the living and the dead”; (f) it has the support of practically all the Greek Fathers, and of all modern exegetes.
 
 There is no “mystery” in St. Paul’s mind about the dead, good or bad, rising again. Neither is there any sense in: We shall not all be changed of this verse, and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” etc., of the following verse. In fact, we shall not be changed here is in direct contradiction with the words, we shall be changed of the next verse.
 
 The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse, which is found in our version, in the Codex Bezae, and in the Vulgate, and which was commonly accepted by all the Latin Fathers and Latin versions from the time of Tertullian, must be rejected as erroneous for the reasons given above. The Council of Trent, in making the Vulgate the official version of the Church, was well aware that it contained some wrong readings; but when these are of minor importance, or can receive a correct interpretation from other parallel passages of Scripture, as in the present instance, there is no difficulty. Moreover, the Council approved of all the parts of the original Vulgate, “as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church”; but the East never read this verse as it is in the Vulgate. “If the Vulgate in the present passage were interpreted to mean that all the just without exception are to rise from the dead at the last day, it would not merely contradict the inspired text and the Creeds, but would be hopelessly at variance with itself” (Lattey, in Westm. Ver.).
 
 
 The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse which is adopted by all modern scholars, Catholic and non-Catholic, and which has the support of the Greek MSS. B E K L P, of practically all cursives, and of most versions, is: “We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.” A rival reading of  א C F G and of the cursive no. 17, if read without punctuation, might have the same meaning, thus:  “we shall all sleep (die) not but we shall all be changed.” Generally, however, this reading is understood to agree with that of the Vulgate, and is given as follows: “We shall all sleep (die), but we shall not all be changed.”

 While it is practically certain that the reading of this verse which we have adopted is the only correct one, it must be admitted that the Vulgate reading, taken by itself, can receive an orthodox explanation. Thus, we shall all indeed rise again may be taken to refer to mankind as a whole, without including the few that will be alive at the end (cf. Titus 1:12, 13; Heb 9:27). In like manner, the words, we shall not all be changed can mean that all the dead shall not be glorified.

 It is objected against the above interpretation (a) that verse 22 of this chapter, Rom 5:12, and Heb 9:27 seem to say that all men must die; (b) that St. Paul seemed to expect to be still alive when Christ would come. Answer: (a) Even though all men do not actually die, still there is in them all the liability to death, but the penalty can be taken away by God (St. Thomas, Summa, 1a 2ae, qu. 81, a. 3, ad 3). (b) St. Paul did not really believe or mean to teach that the end of the world was at hand in his time. Doubtless he had no revelation on this subject. If here he associates himself with those who are to be alive at the last day, he elsewhere (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14) speaks of being among those who are to be raised up from the dead at that time. Hence he seems to have been uncertain about the time of the Lord’s coming.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

ST TIMOTHY’S VISIT TO THESSALONICA AND ITS RESULTS

A Summary of 1 Thesalonians 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 Th 3:1 For which cause, forbearing no longer, we thought it good to remain at Athens alone,

In verses 1-5 St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that because of his great love for them and his anxiety about their spiritual welfare he sent Timothy from Athens to visit them, since he could not go himself.

We thought it good, etc. The Apostle is most probably referring to himself and Silas, though some expositors think he is here using the epistolary plural. It is not likely that St. Paul ordered Timothy to go directly from Berea to Thessalonica before conferring with him, and probably Silas, also, at Athens. See Introduction, No. III.

1 Th 3:2. And we sent Timothy, our brother, and the minister of God in the gospel of Christ, to confirm you and exhort you concerning your faith, 

Minister. This is according to the best Greek reading. Some lesser authorities have “co-worker.”In the gospel of Christ, i.e., in the Gospel that is from Christ.

1 Th 3:3. That no man should be moved in these tribulations: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

That no man, etc. The purpose of the mission of Timothy was to strengthen the converts against their temptations.

In these tribulations, which they were suffering for the Gospel.

That we are appointed thereunto. These words have led some to think St. Paul was referring just above to his own “tribulations,” which he feared would be a scandal to the new converts; but this is a less likely opinion, as appears from the following verse. He simply means that suffering is the lot of all who will follow Christ: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21) ; “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

1 Th 3:4. For even when we were with you, we foretold you that we should suffer tribulations, as also it is come to pass, and you know. 

The knowledge and experience of the Thessalonians verifies St. Paul’s prediction

1 Th 3:5. For this cause also, I, forbearing no longer, sent to know your faith, lest perhaps he that tempteth should have tempted you, and our labor should be made vain.

To show his anxiety about their tribulations, St. Paul here repeats that his personal interest in the Thessalonians caused him to send Timothy to them. He feared for their faith in the midst of sufferings, lest Satan may have prevailed against them, thus rendering his own labors in their behalf of no avail.

He that tempteth, i.e., Satan, who tempts to evil (Matt. 4:3; 1 Cor. 7:5).

Should have tempted you. Better, “had tempted you,” referring to a past fact, of which St. Paul had little doubt.

1 Th 3:6. But now when Timothy came to us from you, and related to us your faith and charity, and that you have a good remembrance of us always, desiring to see us as we also to see you1 Th 3:7. Therefore we were comforted, brethren, in you, in all our necessity and tribulation, by your faith,1 Th 3:8. Because now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

Being alone at Corinth and all uncertain about conditions at Thessalonica, St. Paul was in a state of great anxiety when Timothy joined him there, bringing glad tidings of the faith, charity, and personal affection for Paul of the new converts. This report of their faith was a source of comfort to the Apostle in his own trials and afflictions, and gave him new life to press on in his labors.

Related to us ver. 6. Better, “brought us glad tidings,” as if preaching the Gospel to him.

Now we live ver 8, i.e., he felt his tired and wearied life renewed.

1 Th 3:9. For what thanks can we return to God for you, in all the joy wherewith we rejoice for you before our God,
1 Th 3:10. Night and day more abundantly praying that we may see your face, and may accomplish those things that are wanting to your faith?

St. Paul knows not how to thank God for the report about the Thessalonians, and he says his prayer is unceasing that he may be able to visit them in person and make up what may be wanting in their faith; his stay with them had not been long, and hence there was need on their part of more religious instruction, theoretical and practical. For a similar reason the Apostle at a later date wanted to visit the Church in Rome (Rom. 1:11).

Verses 11-13 (see below) 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 (v. 23-24). Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

1 Th 3:11. Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you,

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.

1 Th 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:

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.

1 Th 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.

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.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2019

THE APOSTLE’S MINISTRY AT THESSALONICA IS DEFENDED

A Summary of 1 Thess 2:1-12~After recalling the abundant spiritual fruit of the Apostles’ preaching at Thessalonica, which was due to the grace of God, St. Paul now turns to a defence of his own and of his companions’ motives and conduct while there. His Jewish opponents, who had driven the missionaries from Thessalonica, had doubtless circulated calumnies and stories about them; and so the Apostle in these verses replies to their charges. He tells how he and his helpers labored there in spite of persecution, how free they were from self- interest, and how tenderly they cared for their converts.

1 Th 2:1. For yourselves know, brethren, that our coming among you was not in vain,
1 Th 2:2. But having suffered many things before and been shamefully treated (as you know) at Philippi, we had courage in our God, to speak unto you the gospel of God in much carefulness.

St. Paul recalls the fearless manner in which he and his companions, Silvanus and Timothy, after having been scourged and imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16:22-40) came and preached the Gospel at Thessalonica.

1 Th 2:3. For our exhortation was not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in deceit;
1 Th 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.
1 Th 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:
1 Th 2:6. Nor sought we glory of men, neither in you, nor of others,
1 Th 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 a nurse cherishing her children:
1 Th 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.

In these verses the Apostles’ preaching at Thessalonica is further explained. Their appeal arose not from “error” or delusion; nor was it prompted by “uncleanness,” i.e., unworthy and sordid motives and purposes, as was often the case with the worship of the heathen (e.g., the worship of Aphrodite at Corinth, where St. Paul was now writing); nor was “deceit” or fraud used to carry and enforce their message. The Apostles discharged their ministry as men “approved by God” and entrusted by Him with the preaching of the Gospel, who sought above all things to please God, the Judge of their hearts. They did not try to gain the favor of men by “flattery,” nor make their ministry the occasion of material gain or of the praise of men, though they had a right to support for their labors and to respect and honor as “apostles of Christ.” Instead of asserting their authority and making demands on the Thessalonians, the Apostles conducted themselves as children among them, and were desirous of communicating to their converts, not only the Gospel, but even their own lives, if that had been necessary. In verse 7 “little ones” (νηπιοι) is according to the best Greek reading, instead of ηπιοι, which means “gentle.” The sense is the same in either case.

1 Th 2:9. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil: working night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you, we preached among you the gospel of God.
1 Th 2:10. You are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and without blame we have been to you that have believed:

Again St. Paul Invokes the testimony of the Thessalonlans themselves to prove the sincerity of purpose with which the Apostles preached the Gospel to them, how, namely, in addition to the fatigue of the ministry, they worked with their own hands for their temporal support, so as not to be a burden to their converts, and how blameless at the same time their conduct was.

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

In verse 7 above St. Paul compared his tender care of the Thessalonians to that of a nurse-mother, lovingly watching over her children; and now he likens the solicitude he had for them to the vigilance of a father, exhorting, encouraging, and adjuring each and all of them to live lives worthy of the God who has called them to membership in His Church here on earth and to a participation of His unveiled glory hereafter in heaven. Such conduct on the part of the Apostles while they were at Thessalonica should convince his readers of the sincerity and purity of their aims in preaching to them.

RENEWED THANKS FOR THE STEADFAST ZEAL OF THE THESSALONIAN  CONVERTS

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16~ Having described the conduct of the Apostles at Thessalonica, St. Paul now thanks God for the manner in which the con verts there received the Gospel message, and the courage and strength with which they endured the persecutions of their own countrymen, as their fellow-Christians in Palestine had stood up under the persecutions of the Jews. Knowing that the Jews were also at the bottom of the troubles at Thessalonica, the Apostle denounces them with a severity unparalleled elsewhere in his Epistles.

1 Th 2:13 Therefore, we also give thanks to God without ceasing: because, when you received from 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, which worketh in you that have believed.

Therefore we also, etc. The Thessalonians were witnesses of the zealous labors of the Apostles, and now the Apostles thanks God for the generous response to their preaching on the part of the converts at Thessalonica. They received the Gospel through the Apostles, but they recognized it as the “word of God” Himself, and this word or divine message produced the fruits of faith in their lives.

The word of the hearing of God, i.e., the Gospel message.

In the Vulgate qui operatur should be quod operatur, to agree with the Greek, where the relative refers to “word” and not to “God.”

1 Th 2:14. For you, brethren, are become followers of the churches of God which are in Judea, in Christ Jesus in that you have suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they have from the Jews, 

The converts, therefore, must not become discouraged at their persecutions, as if the Gospel they had received was not divine, for they are only suffering from their own pagan townsmen what the

Christians in Judea experienced at the hands of the Jews (Acts 6:9 ff., 8:1 ff., 9:11 f.). Paul was aware that the persecutions at Thessalonica were also instigated by the Jews (Acts 17:5, 13).

1 Th 2:15. Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men;
1 Th 2:16. Prohibiting us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath of God has come upon them to the uttermost

The unusual severity of these verses has led some critics to deny their authenticity, but without reason. St. Paul was simply citing facts, and his language is not so harsh as that used by the Lord Himself against the same people (Matt, 23:3-37), and that employed by St. Stephen (Acts 7:51 ff.). The persecutions at Thessalonica, for which the Jews were responsible, moved the Apostle to make this withering review of their principal crimes of the past. They had used the Romans as their instruments to kill “the Lord Jesus”; they had killed “the prophets,” as our Lord had said (Matt, 23:3-37; Acts 7:51 ff.) ; they had “persecuted” Paul and his companions, driving him and them from place to place (Acts 12:50 ff., 14:4 ff., 17:5 ff.) ; they were no longer God’s beloved people, and had become the enemies of all men, trying to keep from them the saving Gospel of Christ, thus filling up the measure of their sins and calling down upon them the wrath of God to their own utter destruction.

To fill up, in a consecutive sense, as a result.

Always, i.e., now as in the past.

Has come, in their exclusion from the Messianic kingdom.

To the uttermost seems to refer to the exclusion from Messianic benefits and to the coming downfall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews as a nation in the year 70 a.d. If this latter event is  referred to here, St. Paul was speaking prophetically, of the future. Of course, Paul teaches in Rom. 11:25-32 that Israel will finally return to the God of her fathers, but that will be just before the end of all things here below and the final judgment of the world.

THE APOSTLES DESIRE TO REVISIT THE THESSALONIANS

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20~In the two preceding verses St, Paul has been led away from the main purpose of this part of his letter to a vigorous denunciation of the Jews who were persecuting the Christians and obstructing his work for the Gospel. Now he returns to the thought of the Thessalonians, and tells them how after his expulsion from their city he had desired to return, but had been variously impeded by Satan. The Thessalonians are his joy and will be his crown in the day of Christ’s coming.

1 Th 2:17. But we, brethren, being taken away from you for a short time, in sight, not in heart, have hastened the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

Being taken away, etc. Better, “being bereaved of you,” as a parent that had lost his children.

Have hastened the more abundantly, etc. The meaning is: (a) the longer we were from you, the more we desired to see you (Lightfoot); or (b) the more we are impeded from seeing you, the more we strove to come to you (Milligan); or (c) the more we thought we should soon see you, the more ardent became our desire to see you (Voste).

1 Th 2:18. For we would have come unto you, I Paul indeed, once and again: but Satan hindered us.

We would I, Paul, etc. It is disputed whether St. Paul is here speaking for himself and his companions, or for himself alone. It seems better to take it that Paul and his companions were eager to visit the Thessalonians, and that Paul personally had made up his mind to do so more than once, but Satan prevented him (Findlay, hoc loco).

Satan, the Evil One, probably stands here for all the forces that resisted the Gospel. The reference in this instance may be to the Jews, or to physical illness, or to both.

1 Th 2:19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Are not you, in the presence of the Lord Jesus at his coming?
1 Th 2:20. For you are our glory and joy
.

From the desire to see his converts St. Paul passes in transport to the great moment when he will render an account for them to the Supreme Judge. They are his hope, and at the coming of his Saviour and Judge they will be his joy and crown—^his proud boast that he has not labored in vain (Phil. 2:16, 4:1). In this verse we have the first explicit mention of the Parousia, or Second Coming of Christ, which is uppermost in this and the next letter.

The Christum of the Vulgate (ver. 19) is not expressed in the Greek.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 29, 2018

ANALYSIS OF 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 5
Scripture links are to the Douay-Rheims translation

After having pointed out in the foregoing chapter, the order and several other circumstances of the Resurrection, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians in this, that there is one circumstance of the General Resurrection, which it is neither necessary nor possible for them to know at present; that circumstance is, the precise time at which it will occur (1 Th 5:1). They know from faith, that it will come unexpectedly, and will bring sudden destruction on the wicked; but it will not surprise, nor will it come unawares upon, the just, so as to find them unprepared, since, as children of light, they are always on the alert, always employed in the works of light, in hopes of the Lord’s coming (1 Th 5:2–8). He exhorts them to correspond with the designs of God in their regard, putting on the breast-plate of faith and charity, and the helmet of hope—to live in the expectation of salvation from the goodness of God, who gave us his Son for Saviour (1 The 5:9-11).

He inculcates, with regard to the people, the necessity of discharging certain duties towards their Pastors; while, to the latter, he points out the duties which they in turn owe their people (1 Th 5:12–15).

He enjoins on all the faithful to cultivate and exhibit spiritual joy—to practise assiduous prayer—to employ the gifts of the Holy Ghost with profit and discernment, and to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Th 5:16–22).

Finally, he beseeches God to grant them the gift of perfect sanctity both of soul and body, and recommends himself to their prayers; he salutes them all, and adjures them to have this Epistle read to all the brethren. He concludes with the usual form of Apostolical benediction.

COMMENTARY ON 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 5
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

1 Th 5:1. But as to the periods of time or precise moments at which this great event shall take place, it is not necessary (nor indeed is it possible) that I should write to you.

The word “times,” denotes longer periods, such as years; “moments,” shorter terms, such as months, days, hours.

“You need not that we should write to you,” as if to say, it was necessary for your consolation, that we should explain to you the order and the other circumstances of the Resurrection referred to already; but the time you need not, nay, you cannot know.

1 Th 5:2. For you know yourselves full well, from the principles of your faith, that the day of the Lord shall come suddenly and unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

He shall come unexpectedly. This is true of the death of each one, when the day of judgment for him shall have virtually arrived; and, although Antichrist will precede it, this, however, shall not be a sign so much of the precise time of Christ’s coming, as of the approaching end of the world; and so far as the signs in the sun and in the moon, &c., are concerned, these may occur, probably on the very day of Judgment.

1 Th 5:3. For when the impious shall say, peace and security, i.e., all things are quite secure; then, shall sudden and unexpected destruction come upon them, as the throes of child-birth come upon a woman with child, from which they will not be able to escape.

“For when they,” the impious, “shall say peace,” &c., because as it happened in the days of Noe, so shall men be eating and drinking, &c., at the coming of the Lord.—(Matthew 24:37).

“For,” is omitted in the Greek. The example of the woman with child is frequent in the SS. Scripture. As she knows that she is to bring forth, but knows not the moment in which she may be suddenly seized with the throes of child-birth, so neither will the wicked know when the final destruction shall come upon them.

1 Th 5:4. But although this day may come unexpectedly, like the approach of the nightly thief, still, it will not surprise you unawares, who are not unprepared for it, having been enlightened by faith, and free from the darkness of infidelity and sin.

“Overtake,” i.e. catch by surprise, so as to be unprepared for it.

1 Th 5:5. For, how could you be in darkness, you, who are the sons of light and the sons of day? For, we Christians, are not the children of night nor of darkness.

“Children of Light,” i.e., called to perform good works, suited to appear in open light, and not followers of the works of darkness. “Light” and “darkness” are frequently used in the SS. Scripture, to signify good and evil. Christians are called “children of light,” in allusion to the light of faith which they received, and because they are called to good works, forsaking the darkness of infidelity and sin.

1 Th 5:6. Let us, therefore correspond with our calling, and not be, like the infidels, engaged in the works of darkness, regardless of the coming of our Lord but, like men who are called to the works of light, let us be on the alert, and let us be sober.

From the metaphors of light and darkness, the Apostle takes occasion to exhort them to good works, to live up to their Christian profession, which will avail them nothing, but rather deepen their damnation, if, like Pagans, they indulge in the works of darkness. “Sleep as others do.” The Vulgate has sicut et ceteri, “even as others do.”

1 Th 5:7. For the time suited for sleep and drunkenness is the night; hence, those who indulge in sleep and those who indulge in drunkenness, do so in the night (we should, therefore, not indulge in sleep or drunkenness, which are unsuited to our vocation, or to the time of our actions, i.e., the day).

We should watch and be sober, in consequence of being children of light, because the opposite characteristics—viz., sleep and drunkenness—are peculiar to the night. On this account it is that men select the night for indulging in sleep and drunkenness. Hence, as these deeds are unsuited to our calling, or to the time of our action, we should wholly abstain from the works signified by them.

1 Th 5:8. Let us, therefore, who belong to the day (abstaining from these deeds which are signified by sleep and drunkenness), be vigilant and sober, putting on faith enlivened by charity, as a breast-plate, and the hope of salvation, for a helmet.

We should, therefore, as children of the day, perform the works represented, or signified, by vigilance and soberness; but, in order to do so, we should be cased in the Christian panoply; for otherwise, although sober and vigilant, we will not be able to make a stand against the powerful enemies with whom we have to contend. “The breast-plate of faith and charity.” In the panoply of the Christian soldier (Ephes. 6). The Apostle calls “justice” the “breast-plate,” but it does not differ from this—for, faith animated by charity is “justice.” “And hope of salvation for helmet;” since hope will raise and elevate our thoughts on high. Three things are necessary for us—vigilance, sobriety, and armour. St. Chrysostom excites to vigilance in the narrow way of salvation, which is beset on all sides with dangers and precipices, by the example of rope-dancers, and of those who walk on the brink of precipices, all whose senses are awake and on the alert; so ought it be with us in the way of salvation. We ought to be sober, free from all vicious affections; and for armour we should have faith, hope, but especially active, operative charity towards our neighbour.

1 Th 5:9. I say, we should put on the helmet of hope. For, God has not destined us for damnation, but for eternal salvation, to be acquired through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

1 Th 5:10. Who died for us, in order that, whether living or dead, we may live with him here a life of grace, and hereafter a life of eternal glory.

“Watch,” in this verse, means to be in this life, and “sleep,” to be dead; hence, they have a signification different from that which they have in the preceding verses.

1 Th 5:11. In consequence, then, of these cheering motives of your hope—viz., the death of Christ to bestow on us eternal life, continue to console one another, to edify one another, by word and deed, as indeed, you are already doing.

“Edify one another;” for the meaning of this word, see 1st Epistle to Cor. 8:1. “As you also do,” he adds these words of well-timed praise with a view of rendering his exhortation more agreeable.

1 Th 5:12. But we implore of you to reverence and respect those who are labouring amongst you in preaching the gospel, and who preside over you in a spiritual capacity, and admonish you of your duties.

He here addresses the people, and inculcates reverence and respect for their prelates and the ministers of the gospel.

1 Th 5:13. And treat them with more abundant honour by administering to their support in consequence of their labours amongst you, and this from a feeling of charity. Be at peace with them.

“Have peace with them,” i.e., have no difference with your pastors. In the Greek it is, have peace among yourselves; a reading which is preferred by some, Estius among the rest.

1 Th 5:14. But, we entreat you, brethren, who preside, to correct the disorderly, who are causing disturbances, to console the faint-hearted under afflictions, to prop up the weak who may be easily scandalized, accommodating yourselves to their weakness, and to be patient towards all.

He now addresses those who preside: “Be patient towards all men,” whether they be “unquiet,” “feeble-minded,” or “weak.”

1 Th 5:15. Take care that no one, in a spirit of vengeance, render evil for evil to any man, but always endeavour to do good to all men whomsoever, whether brethren or unbelievers.

“But ever follow towards all men.” This is perfectly conformable to the precept of our Lord in the gospel, commanding us to love all men, not excepting our very enemies.

1 Th 5:16-17. Under all circumstances spiritually rejoice. Pray without ceasing.

“Pray without ceasing.” This, of course, is to be understood in this sense, that we should frequently and at certain times pray, and that the intervals of labour should be consecrated to God by prayer, and that our actions should be of such a nature as to be referable to his glory.

1 Th 5:18. Give thanks to God in all things (whether in prosperity or adversity), for, this is the will of God, that you should all do so, through Jesus Christ.

“This is the will of God;” is referred by some to the three preceding precepts of spiritual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving; by others, it is confined to the precept of thanksgiving.

1 Th 5:19. Do not extinguish the Holy Ghost in his gifts, by altogether prohibiting the exercise of spiritual gifts.

It appears that many pretended to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, prophecy, miracles, &c., who had them not, and that to prevent altogether, any such practices of imposition, the heads of the Church wished to prohibit the exercise of these gifts, in every instance. Of this the Apostle disapproves. Others interpret the verse, do not expel from you the Holy Ghost; thus, as far as you are concerned, destroying him. The word “extinguish” has reference to the form in which the Holy Ghost is frequently exhibited in SS. Scripture—viz., that of fire.

1 Th 5:20. But especially do not despise the useful gifts of prophecy.

For the meaning of “prophecies,” see chapter 16, 1st Epistle to Corinthians.

1 Th 5:21. But examine all matters proposed to you by those who have the gift of prophecy, and retain what is good.

There is question here of private prophecies, and of doubtful matters, which had not been defined by competent authority,—and the Apostle is addressing the rulers, whom he authorizes to judge of such matters, and reject or retain them, as they may think fit. Hence, this passage contains no argument against the Dogmatic Decrees of Councils; for, in them, there is question of quite a different matter altogether, a matter defined by a competent authority.

1 Th 5:22. Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

No commentary is offered on this verse beyond the paraphrase.

1 Th 5:23. May God, the author of peace, perfectly sanctify you, so that your entire being, your soul, considered both as to its sensitive and rational part, and your body, may be preserved without reproach, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall render to every one, according to his works.

“Your whole spirit and soul.” He considers the human soul under two different respects, and as exercising different faculties. “Spirit,” is the rational soul guided in its judgment by reason, and exercising the higher faculties of intellect and will. “Soul,” the sensitive, concupiscible part, guided by sensation, common to us with the beasts. So that your mind, your will, and all your senses, external and internal, be preserved from the stain of sin.

Fr. MacEvilly offers no no commentary on the final 5 verses beyond the following paraphrase.

1 Th 5:24. God, who called you to sanctity, is faithful, and he will perfect what he has begun, by giving you the grace of perseverance.

1 Th 5:25. Brethren, pray for us.

1 Th 5:26. In my name, salute all the brethren in a holy kiss, the symbol of charity.

1 Th 5:27. I conjure you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to have this Epistle read in a public assembly of all the faithful.

1 Th 5:28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

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Father MacEvilly’s Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2018

Thessalonica—now called Salonica—was the Capital of Macedonia. The history of St. Paul’s arrival at Thessalonica, of the success of his preaching there, is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (chap. 17). After leaving Philippi, the Apostle, accompanied by Silas, came, about the year 50, to Thessalonica, and preached, for three sabbath days, in the Jewish synagogue. The fruit of his preaching was the conversion of some among the Jews, and of a great multitude of the Gentiles, among whom were many women of quality. This excited the envy of the Jews; and in consequence, tumults were excited by them over the whole city; the Apostle was, therefore, forced to fly to Berea. Having preached there for some time with success, he was obliged to depart, owing to the same spirit of jealousy; he then came to Athens. The Thessalonians were, in the meantime, subjected to much persecution, and had to endure many privations for the faith. The Apostle, having been informed of this, began to entertain fears and anxiety for their perseverance; and in consequence, sent Timothy from Athens to console and confirm them in the true doctrine of Christ. Timothy, after discharging the duties of his mission, returned to St. Paul, who was now at Corinth (for he remained but a very short time at Athens), and bore a most consoling and satisfactory testimony regarding the unshaken firmness of their faith.

Hence, the Occasion of this Epistle.—In the three first chapters, the Apostle congratulates the Thessalonians on their unshaken constancy and firmness in the faith; and brings forward the most engaging motives to encourage them to perseverance. In the two remaining chapters, he inculcates certain duties of morality, particularly in regard to chastity and the marriage bed; he also treats of the general resurrection and other subjects, regarding which it would appear, as he had been informed by Timothy and Silas, erroneous notions were entertained at Thessalonica.

Time and Place of.—It is asserted by the subscription of the Greek copies, that this Epistle was written at Athens. But the more common, as well as the more probable, opinion held by Baronius and others is, that it was written at Corinth; for, Timothy had returned before it was written (chap. 3). Now, it was to Corinth, and not to Athens (where St. Paul’s stay had been very short), Timothy had returned from his mission, as is clear from chap. 23 of the Acts of the Apostles; hence, the date of this Epistle is fixed about the year 52. St. Paul preached at Thessalonica about the year 50; and that it was the first written by St. Paul seems clear, as we have no account of any other written at an earlier period.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2018

ANALYSIS OF 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 4
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle encourages the Thessalonians to perseverance (1 Th 4:1); he delivers a precept regarding the practice of purity, and the avoidance of adultery, and he adduces several motives to stimulate them to fidelity in this matter (1 Th 4:3–8). He praises their charity, and encourages the poor to engage in some honest employment, so that by this means they would not abuse the liberality of the rich (1 Th 4:9-11). Finally, he assuages their excessive grief for their departed friends, by propounding the doctrine of the general resurrection, the order and manner of which he describes (1 Th 4:12–17).

This and the following chapters are employed in such subjects of morality, as the Thessalonians, according to the information furnished by Timothy, needed instruction in.

COMMENTARY ON 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 4
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.

1 Th 4:1. For the rest, therefore, brethren, we implore and exhort you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that as you have received precepts from us, by word of mouth when amongst you, regarding the manner of living and of pleasing God, you would so live, as to observe these precepts, and by advancing in perfection, please him more and more.

“For the rest”—a form of transition usual with the Apostle, particularly at the close of his Epistles. The Greek copies want the words “so also you would walk;” according to the Greek, the words, “that you may abound the more,” will signify, that, not contenting themselves with mere precepts, they ought to practise matters of counsel.

1 Th 4:2. I have said, as you have received from us. For, you know what precepts of a holy life we delivered to you, in the name, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
1 Th 4:3. Now, this is a summary of God’s precepts, or the expression of his will, that you should lead a life of sanctity, a life free from all sins, but particularly from sins of impurity, or unlawful sensual pleasures.

Fr. MacEvilly offers no comment on these verses besides the paraphrase.

1 Th 4:4. So that every one of you should be able to master and keep under subjection his own body, in sanctification and honour.

By “vessel” some persons understand, the wife of the married husband. However, as St. Paul refers to the sins of luxury, as well in the unmarried as in the married state, it is better to refer it to the body of each person; of course, not excluding those engaged in marriage; and this meaning of “vessel” is common in SS. Scripture (1 Sam 16:5), and also with profane writers; because, the body is the receptacle of the soul, or the instrument through which the soul acts. “Possess” is frequently used to signify, holding the mastery over, and is here opposed to the dominion which lust, or his lustful body, exercises over the voluptuous man. “Honour” is opposed to those pollutions and defilements by which the Gentile philosophers (Romans, 1) are said to dishonour their bodies.

1 Th 4:5. And not be the slave of the strong, impulsive motions of concupiscence, like the Gentiles that know not God.

He shows, by the contrary, what “honour” is.

1 Th 4:6. And let no one exceed the limits of justice or circumvent his brother in this matter, by indulging in unlawful pleasures in violation of the rights of the father or husband; for, the Lord is the avenger of all these crimes, as we foretold, and solemnly assured you, when present amongst you.

Some Commentators understand this of real property, and of injustice committed in business transactions. The article prefixed to the word “business” shows, however, that he is referring to the matter of chastity, or the exercise of marriage. Besides, “business” has this meaning frequently with profane writers. He assigns a reason why they should exercise justice in such matters, because God will avenge such crimes, “as we have told and testified.” This solemn assurance was required, because the Pagans made light of crimes against chastity.

1 Th 4:7. For in calling us to Christianity, the Lord has called us not to a state, or to the practice of impurity, but to a state, and to the practice of purity and sanctity.

The second motive by which he deters them from the commission of impurities, is the reason upon which the menace on the part of God is grounded, viz., that by calling them to Christianity, he called them to a state of purity and sanctity which they desert, and not to the state of impurity, which they indulge in against his will and ordinances.

1 Th 4:8. Wherefore, whosoever despises these precepts, despises not man who propounds them, but God himself, from whom they emanated, who has given us, Apostles, his holy spirit, authorizing us to announce such precepts.

The third motive is, because such sins of impurity are committed as acts of contempt against God himself. These words, “who also hath given his holy spirit in us,” may also mean, that these impurities committed against God’s precepts, besides the contempt against God, from whom these precepts emanated, also involve a special contempt of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in the bodies of the baptized, as in his temple.

1 Th 4:9. In reference to the subject of fraternal charity, unlike the preceding one, it is unnecessary to say anything regarding it: for, God himself, by the law of Christ, and the internal inspiration of his grace, has instructed you in this love towards one another.

The words, “have learned of God,” are expressed by one word in the Greek, θεοδίδακτοὶ and signify, that special unction of divine grace, inclining their wills to the practice of this precept.—(See 1 John 2:27) “We have no need.” In Greek, ye have no need. The Codex Vaticanus supports the Vulgate reading.

1 Th 4:10. For, you fulfil this precept, by excercising fraternal charity towards all the brethren throughout the entire of Macedonia, but we entreat you to make still greater progress in this brotherly love.

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered on this verse.

1 Th 4:11. And to use your best exertions to be quiet, and not be interfering with the peace of others, also to mind your own business, and engage in manual labour, according to the instructions received from us, when amongst you; also to live in such a way in your intercourse with the Pagans as to be without reproach, and not to covet the property of any one.

The Apostle now cautions them against idleness and curiosity. It would appear that some persons amongst them were going about indulging in idleness and curiosity, searching into the concerns of others, to the total neglect of their own business, and while able to work, contenting themselves with begging, to the great disgust of the Gentiles, and the injury of the faith. Nothing could be so disgusting to the infidels as to see able bodied men going about as mendicants, when they might work, and this they would be apt to attribute to the Christian religion. The Apostle witnessed this irregularity himself, and he was informed by Timothy of its continuance. He treats of the subject more fully in the 3rd chapter of 2nd Epistle. “Use your endeavour,” the Greek word, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι, conveys an allusion to the diligent exertions employed by the ambitious, in pursuit of honours and self-advancement.

1 Th 4;12. In reference to the dead, brethren, I will not that you should be ignorant of their condition, in order that you may cease from indulging in the immoderate excessive grief, in which the Pagans, who have no hope of a future resurrection, are wont to indulge

It appears that the Thessalonians had indulged in immoderate and excessive grief at the death of their near relations, and deplored it as bitterly as they had done when in a state of Paganism, and when they regarded them as lost for ever. The Apostle proposes as a remedy for this abusive practice, the doctrine of the future resurrection of the dead—a doctrine already propounded to them, as appears from his referring to it at the end of the 2nd and 3rd chapters of this Epistle; but they practically forgot it; and hence, he takes occasion here to inculcate it anew and propound it more fully. The Apostle is by no means to be understood as censuring all grief for the dead, as had been done by the Stoic philosophers. Our Redeemer wept for his friend Lazarus, and among the crimes of the Pagans (Romans, 1) the Apostle reckons the want of “affection;” and he himself would have sorrowed for the death of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:27). He only censures that excessive grief which would argue ignorance, at least practical ignorance, of the doctrine of the resurrection. “We will not.” In Greek, I will not. The Codex Vaticanus has “we.”

1 Th 4:13. For, if we believe (as we really do) that Christ has died and risen from the dead, so (ought we likewise believe) that he will resuscitate with him, and evoke from their graves, those who have died in the faith, and bring them to eternal life.

The connexion between the resurrection of Christ, and the general resurrection of all, is clearly pointed out by the Apostle (1 Cor 15). It is worthy of remark, that in speaking of the death of Christ, he says, “Jesus died,” lest there might be any mistake about the reality of his death, as if it were merely apparent; whereas, speaking of our death, he says, “those who have slept,” to console those in sorrow, whose friends were not lost to them for ever, but were merely in the condition of persons asleep, to be again roused and resuscitated; and in SS. Scripture, death is frequently termed “sleep.”—(Daniel 12:2; St. John 11:11). Hence, the usual form among Christians of saying, he slept in the Lord, to express, that a person died, because death is but a mere protracted sleep, as sleep is but a short death. For the same reason, churchyards are termed cemeteries, or sleeping places.

1 Th 4:14. For, this I tell you, on the authority of the word of God, or of divine revelation, that such of us as will be left in life, or shall be alive at the coming of the Lord, will not anticipate in the glory of the resurrection, those who died before us.

“We who live.” He speaks in the person of those who are to be alive at the day of judgment. In this verse, the Apostle meets an error existing in the minds of the Thessalonians regarding the manner of the resurrection; they did not imagine that it would occur “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”—(1 Cor. 15) They thought there would be in it a succession of time, and that those whose bodies were corrupted would be resuscitated more slowly; and hence, that they would see their deceased friends more tardily in glory. He removes this erroneous impression in this verse. He says, “we who are alive,” not but he knew well, that he would not live till the day of judgment; but, he wishes to teach us by his own example, always to keep in view and prepare for this great day, which virtually happens at our death.

1 Th 4:15. For the Lord himself (and not an angel, as on Sinai), after issuing his order to the angels to attend his descent, and after the archangel, in a voice louder than the loudest trumpet, shall have evoked the dead from their tombs, shall descend from heaven; and those who died in the faith shall rise in the first place.

He now describes the glorious coming of the Judge, and mentions some circumstances calculated to give us an exalted idea of the glory and majesty that will attend him. “With commandment.” The Greek word, κελεύσματι, properly signifies the shout of sailors or soldiers rushing in concert to battle, or of labourers encouraging each other to some common exertion. The Greeks retain the idea of command, and say, it refers to the command of God, ordering all the angels to be ready. “The trumpet of God,” by a Hebrew phrase, means the loudest trumpet (v.g.) “The cedars of God,” mean, the tallest cedars. It refers to the same thing with the “voice of the archangel.” Whether the archangel shall use a trumpet or not is disputed. The more probable opinion is, that by the agitation or commotion of the air, he will cause a tremendous sound louder than thunder, like that caused by the loudest trumpet, which shall reach the dead in their graves; this by the power of God, they shall hear. Hence, it is called in the gospel, “the voice of the Son of God.” St. Thomas says it shall have an instrumental efficacy in resuscitating by its very announcement. It is commonly supposed, after St. Jerome, that it shall distinctly sound forth these words: surgite mortui et venite ad judicium. “And the dead who are in Christ will rise first.” All the dead will rise at the same time, but the Apostle omits all mention of the resurrection of the reprobate, as it would not serve to console those who were in mourning. “First” does not mean that there will be any priority of time in the resurrection of the dead among themselves; it only means, as the Greek word, πρῶτον, shows, in the first place. This event of their resuscitation shall take place before that mentioned in the next verse, that is, before they are drawn into the clouds.

1 Th 4:16. And after that, such of us as shall live till then, shall be instantaneously drawn up with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and thus we shall be always with the Lord (and enjoying his glory).

“Then,” i.e., after the resurrection. The order which shall take place in the resurrection, though instantaneous, is conceived in the following way:—The Lord Jesus, accompanied with all his angels, whom he shall command to be ready, will descend from Heaven. He shall issue his command to the archangel, who, with a loud voice, like that of a trumpet, shall sound the signal of the resurrection. At this sound, all the dead shall arise—those who are then alive shall be changed—all the just shall be caught up into the air to meet the Judge, while the reprobate shall be at his left hand on the earth. The other circumstances are more fully recorded in the 1st Epistle to Cor. 15, and by our Redeemer—Mt 24:29, &c.; Mt 25:31, &c. From this verse, some persons infer that the men living at the day of judgment will be changed into a state of immortality, without suffering death. This is the opinion of the Greeks, who understand the words of the Apostles’ creed, to judge the living and the dead, in the same sense. Others say, that their death will take place in raptu, or, while they are being caught up into the clouds. The more common opinion, however, is, that they shall die on the earth, probably, by the agency of the fire of conflagration, and that after death, which shall be only momentary, they shall, in common with those, whose bodies were long before corrupted and for ages mouldering in their graves, and who now have come forth from heaven or purgatory to resume them, be caught up into the air, to meet Christ in the clouds. This he says in order to show that the living will not be glorified in their bodies before the dead, and that this shall occur to all at once, “in the twinkling of an eye.”—(1 Cor. 15) They shall all, in the first place, arise; after that, they shall be taken up into the air to meet the Judge: he says, “they shall be taken up;” for, although they can go there of themselves by the quality of agility, with which they shall be clothed; still, they shall go thither, owing to a kind of draw or moral attraction to meet their Lord.

1 Th 4:17. Wherefore, console each other in your grief for departed friends by this announcement regarding the resurrection.

No commentary beyond the paraphrase is offered for this verse.

 

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 26, 2018

ANALYSIS OF 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 3
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation

In this chapter, the Apostle expresses his affectionate solicitude for the Thessalonians, in consequence of which he sent Timothy to ascertain their steadfastness in the faith after having been tested in the severe ordeal of persecution (1 Th 3:1–5). He expresses the intense joy, which the cheering accounts regarding them brought back by Timothy had caused him (1 Th 3:6–8). He returns thanks to God, the source of these blessings. He prays that it may be granted him to visit them once more, in order to complete the system of religious teaching, which he had commenced amongst them (1 Th 3:9–11). He prays, that God may grant them abundant increase of faith and charity, together with the grace of persevering in sanctity, unto the end (1 Th 3:12-13).

COMMENTARY ON 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 3
Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on

1 Th 3:1. On this account, being no longer able to bear up against the desire with which we eagerly longed to see you, and being prevented from visiting you in person, we thought fit to employ the services of our dearest friends for that purpose, and remain alone, deprived of their society, at Athens.

“For which cause” has reference to the state of bereavement in which he was, and his anxious desire to pay them a visit, from which he was prevented by the wiles of Satan (1 Th 2:18).

“We thought it good.” He employs the plural, “we,” although he is speaking of himself, as appears from 1 Th 3:5.

1 Th 3:2. And we sent Timothy, our brother, (although very necessary for us), being the minister of God, and our co-operator in preaching the gospel of Christ, to confirm you in the faith, and by his consoling exhortations, to animate you to perseverance.

“The minister of God” to which the Greek adds, (and our fellow-labourer), “in the gospel of Christ.” “For your faith.” In Greek, concerning your faith.

1 Th 3:3. Lest any of you should be moved or terrified by those afflictions which have befallen you; for, you know that, by our call to Christianity, we are destined to undergo suffering.

“In these tribulations,” are understood by some of the Apostle’s own sufferings. “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name sake” (Acts 9); by others, more probably, of the sufferings of the Macedonians, as these would be more apt to stagger their faith. “By many tribulations we must all enter the kingdom of God.”—(Acts, 14) “And all who will live piously in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution.”—(2 Tim. 3:12).

“We are appointed.” In Greek, κείμεθα, we lie, which probably conveys a military allusion to sentinels at their posts.

1 Th 3:4. For, when amongst you, we predicted that we would endure the sufferings, which you know have since befallen us.

In this verse, reference is made to the Apostle’s own sufferings also. The greater the glory destined for us, the greater must our sufferings be. Hence, Apostolic men suffer more than others. The momentary and light sufferings of the present life will hereafter work in us an eternal weight of glory.

1 Th 3:5. Wherefore, no longer able to bear up against our ardent desire of seeing you, and of knowing all regarding you, we sent to know, how your faith held out; for, we feared, lest Satan, taking occasion from the sufferings you had to undergo, would tempt you, and that thus our labour amongst you would be rendered fruitless.

“Wherefore I also,” &c. He now employs the singular number, to express the same thing for which he already had employed the plural; 1 Th 3:3-4, being parenthetical, he resumes the subject, of which he had been treating in verses 1 Th 3:1-2.

1 Th 3:6. But now, after the return of Timothy, and the cheering account which he has given us of your faith and charity, and of the kind remembrance which you always make of us, and of your ardent desire of seeing us, which we in turn reciprocate:

“Related.” In Greek, evangelized, conveyed good news.

1 Th 3:7. From these joyous tidings we derived such consolation, in the midst of all the perils and tribulations to which we were subjected, as to forget them all, on account of your steadfastness in the faith.

The effect of the good news conveyed to him by Timothy was, “in all necessity,” i.e., perils and danger, and in “all tribulation,” to forget all his sufferings on account of the abundance of the consolation which their faith afforded him.

1 Th 3:8. For (although we are dying daily), we still are kept alive, and in joy, if you persevere in the faith.

Although the Apostle was daily in the midst of the perils of death (1 Cor. 15); still, he valued these perils as nought, and he felt the joy of a man perfectly secure, as long as his converts persevered. So closely did he connect his own welfare, nay, his life, with their perseverance, that without it, he would not value existence.

1 Th 3:9. For, what thanks can we return to God, for your firmness and stability in the faith, and for the very great joy, which we feel in God’s presence on your account?

“In all the joy,” i.e., the exceeding great joy. The second effect which the good news brought by Timothy had on him was to make him render God thanks for it.

1 Th 3:10. Constantly and most earnestly do we beseech God to enable us to see you, and thus complete the system of Christian faith, by either disclosing new truths, or more fully explaining those you already know; the suddenness of our departure prevented us from doing so.

“And may accomplish those things that are wanting to your faith.” There were a good many points which the Apostle did not, in all probability, propound to them, or, at least, fully explain, in consequence of being obliged to leave suddenly, and or this sudden departure he would make up, by visiting them again. He might refer to the article of the resurrection of the dead, and of the day of judgment, regarding which he afterwards instructs them more fully. The Greek word for “accomplish,” καταρτισα, conveys the idea of filling up the joints, wanting in a human body. Hence, he refers to a body or system of faith.

1 Th 3:11. May God himself, who is our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our journey to you.

It is uncertain whether he went to them or not. It is more probable, however, that he did, as appears from the 20th chapter of the Acts, in which account is given of his second journey to Macedonia.

1 Th 3:12. May the Lord increase the number of the faithful amongst you, and make you advance in mutual charity towards one another, and towards all men, as I abound in charity towards you and all mankind.

“And may the Lord multiply you,” i.e., increase your number, so that a greater number would embrace the faith. In Greek, may the Lord make you to increase and abound in love.

1 Th 3:13. I also pray, that he may confirm your hearts in exterior edification, so as to be blameless before men, and in true interior sanctity in the sight of God and our Father, and that, on the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ will come, with all his saints, to judge the world. Amen.

“Without blame,” irreprehensible and free from all complaint before men, and “in holiness before God and our Father,” i.e., true and real holiness, “at the coming,” &c., and this with constancy and perseverance, to the end. “Amen” is not in the Greek. It is, however, found in several ancient versions, and in some of the chief manuscripts.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 23, 2018

1Thess 3:1-13: ST TIMOTHY’S VISIT TO THESSALONICA AND ITS RESULTS

A Summary of 1 Thesalonians 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 Th 3:1 For which cause, forbearing no longer, we thought it good to remain at Athens alone,

In verses 1-5 St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that because of his great love for them and his anxiety about their spiritual welfare he sent Timothy from Athens to visit them, since he could not go himself.

We thought it good, etc. The Apostle is most probably referring to himself and Silas, though some expositors think he is here using the epistolary plural. It is not likely that St. Paul ordered Timothy to go directly from Berea to Thessalonica before conferring with him, and probably Silas, also, at Athens. See Introduction, No. III.

1 Th 3:2. And we sent Timothy, our brother, and the minister of God in the gospel of Christ, to confirm you and exhort you concerning your faith, 

Minister. This is according to the best Greek reading. Some lesser authorities have “co-worker.”In the gospel of Christ, i.e., in the Gospel that is from Christ.

1 Th 3:3. That no man should be moved in these tribulations: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

That no man, etc. The purpose of the mission of Timothy was to strengthen the converts against their temptations.

In these tribulations, which they were suffering for the Gospel.

That we are appointed thereunto. These words have led some to think St. Paul was referring just above to his own “tribulations,” which he feared would be a scandal to the new converts; but this is a less likely opinion, as appears from the following verse. He simply means that suffering is the lot of all who will follow Christ: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21) ; “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).

1 Th 3:4. For even when we were with you, we foretold you that we should suffer tribulations, as also it is come to pass, and you know. 

The knowledge and experience of the Thessalonians verifies St. Paul’s prediction

1 Th 3:5. For this cause also, I, forbearing no longer, sent to know your faith, lest perhaps he that tempteth should have tempted you, and our labor should be made vain.

To show his anxiety about their tribulations, St. Paul here repeats that his personal interest in the Thessalonians caused him to send Timothy to them. He feared for their faith in the midst of sufferings, lest Satan may have prevailed against them, thus rendering his own labors in their behalf of no avail.

He that tempteth, i.e., Satan, who tempts to evil (Matt. 4:3; 1 Cor. 7:5).

Should have tempted you. Better, “had tempted you,” referring to a past fact, of which St. Paul had little doubt.

1 Th 3:6. But now when Timothy came to us from you, and related to us your faith and charity, and that you have a good remembrance of us always, desiring to see us as we also to see you1 Th 3:7. Therefore we were comforted, brethren, in you, in all our necessity and tribulation, by your faith,1 Th 3:8. Because now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

Being alone at Corinth and all uncertain about conditions at Thessalonica, St. Paul was in a state of great anxiety when Timothy joined him there, bringing glad tidings of the faith, charity, and personal affection for Paul of the new converts. This report of their faith was a source of comfort to the Apostle in his own trials and afflictions, and gave him new life to press on in his labors.

Related to us ver. 6. Better, “brought us glad tidings,” as if preaching the Gospel to him.

Now we live ver 8, i.e., he felt his tired and wearied life renewed.

1 Th 3:9. For what thanks can we return to God for you, in all the joy wherewith we rejoice for you before our God,
1 Th 3:10. Night and day more abundantly praying that we may see your face, and may accomplish those things that are wanting to your faith?

St. Paul knows not how to thank God for the report about the Thessalonians, and he says his prayer is unceasing that he may be able to visit them in person and make up what may be wanting in their faith; his stay with them had not been long, and hence there was need on their part of more religious instruction, theoretical and practical. For a similar reason the Apostle at a later date wanted to visit the Church in Rome (Rom. 1:11).

Verses 11-13 (see below) 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 (v. 23-24). Cf. Voste, hoc loco.

1 Th 3:11. Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you,

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.

1 Th 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:

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.

1 Th 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.

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.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 23, 2018

1 Thess 2:17-20: THE APOSTLES DESIRE TO REVISIT THE THESSALONIANS

A Summary of 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20~In the two preceding verses St, Paul has been led away from the main purpose of this part of his letter to a vigorous denunciation of the Jews who were persecuting the Christians and obstructing his work for the Gospel. Now he returns to the thought of the Thessalonians, and tells them how after his expulsion from their city he had desired to return, but had been variously impeded by Satan. The Thessalonians are his joy and will be his crown in the day of Christ’s coming.

1 Th 2:17. But we, brethren, being taken away from you for a short time, in sight, not in heart, have hastened the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

Being taken away, etc. Better, “being bereaved of you,” as a parent that had lost his children.

Have hastened the more abundantly, etc. The meaning is: (a) the longer we were from you, the more we desired to see you (Lightfoot); or (b) the more we are impeded from seeing you, the more we strove to come to you (Milligan); or (c) the more we thought we should soon see you, the more ardent became our desire to see you (Voste).

1 Th 2:18. For we would have come unto you, I Paul indeed, once and again: but Satan hindered us.

We would I, Paul, etc. It is disputed whether St. Paul is here speaking for himself and his companions, or for himself alone. It seems better to take it that Paul and his companions were eager to visit the Thessalonians, and that Paul personally had made up his mind to do so more than once, but Satan prevented him (Findlay, hoc loco).

Satan, the Evil One, probably stands here for all the forces that resisted the Gospel. The reference in this instance may be to the Jews, or to physical illness, or to both.

1 Th 2:19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Are not you, in the presence of the Lord Jesus at his coming?
1 Th 2:20. For you are our glory and joy
.

From the desire to see his converts St. Paul passes in transport to the great moment when he will render an account for them to the Supreme Judge. They are his hope, and at the coming of his Saviour and Judge they will be his joy and crown—^his proud boast that he has not labored in vain (Phil. 2:16, 4:1). In this verse we have the first explicit mention of the Parousia, or Second Coming of Christ, which is uppermost in this and the next letter.

The Christum of the Vulgate (ver. 19) is not expressed in the Greek.

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