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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Thessalonians 1

 

 

Introduction

On the TITLE, see note to Epistle I.


Verse 1

1. This ADDRESS differs from that of Epistle I. (see notes in extenso) only in the addition of ἡμῶν to πατρί: “in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”—Father of us, whom He loves and calls into His own family: cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; Romans 1:7; Romans 8:15; Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5; Luke 12:32, &c. This appropriative ἡμῶν is usual in later epistolary formulæ; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, and notes.


Verses 1-4

§ 1. 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4. SALUTATION AND THANKSGIVING


Verse 2

2. The GREETING is more considerably enlarged. The reference of χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη (see notes to 1 Thessalonians 1:1) to their double source—ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ—unauthentic in the T.R. of Epistle I., is amply attested here, and prevails in subsequent Epistles. “God the Father” is the ultimate spring, “the Lord Jesus Christ” the mediating channel of “grace and peace”; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30, ἐξ αὐτοῦ (i.e. τοῦ θεοῦ) ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 f. The THANKSGIVING, resembling that of Epistle I., has at the same time a stamp of its own. The Apostles dwell (a) on the extraordinary growth of the Thessalonian Church in faith and love, 2 Thessalonians 1:3; (b) on their own boasting over their stedfastness in other Churches; (c) on the token given by this fidelity of God’s righteous judgement as between the persecuted Church and its oppressors, which will take effect, with glorious results for the former, at the approaching παρουσία, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12. On this third, ulterior motive for thankfulness the writers dilate in such a way that it detaches itself from the εὐχαριστία and becomes an integral and prominent topic of the Epistle. We therefore treat it separately in the following section.


Verse 3

3. Εὐχαριστεῖν ὀφείλομεν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, καθὼς ἄξιόν ἐστιν. We ought to give thanks to God always for you, brothers, as it is befitting. For εὐχαριστεῖν, see note on parallel in Ep. I. Ὀφείλομεν is repeated in this connexion in 2 Thessalonians 2:13—nowhere else in St Paul. As 1 Thessalonians 3:6-9; 1 Thessalonians 2:18 f., show, the writers felt themselves under a peculiar debt of gratitude on their readers’ account—hence this turn of expression. For ὀφείλω in matters of affection, see Romans 13:8; Romans 15:1; Romans 15:27; John 13:14; and of debt to God, Matthew 6:12; Matthew 23:16; Matthew 23:18. Καθὼς ἄξιόν ἐστιν, “ut par est” (Erasmus, Beza), adds the human side of this claim; “it is also merited by your conduct” (Lightfoot): cf., for the use of the adjective, Luke 23:41, ἄξια ὦν ἐπράξαμεν, “the due reward of our deeds”; and Philippians 1:7, καθώς ἐστιν δίκαιον κ.τ.λ., for the Pauline sentiment. Ἄξιος recurs twice in the sequel, referring to the Thessalonians, in καταξιόω and ἀξιόω, 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:11. There is nothing pleonastic, and nothing constrained or formal, here; St Paul was under abiding and warmly felt bonds of gratitude for the timely comfort administered by this Church, which had given “life” to his ministry at Corinth; see note on 1 Thessalonians 3:8. Bengel’s question is apposite: “Tuine Christianismi specimina digna sunt, quorum nomine gratias Deo agant, qui te norunt?”

ὅτι ὑπεραυξάνει ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν. The ground and subject-matter of thanksgiving: in that your faith grows mightily (or more and more)—vehementer augescit (Calvin, Beza). Earlier, St Paul had been anxious “about the faith” of his Thessalonian converts (1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:5); he had written the former Letter partly to remedy their ὑστερήματα τῆς πίστεως (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Since that time it has grown in a degree beyond his hopes; this is his first ground of thankfulness. Timothy’s report had been reassuring on this vital point (2 Thessalonians 3:6); subsequent tidings had arrived to the same effect (see Introd. p. xxxvii.). The compound ὑπερ-αυξάνω is hap. leg.; St Paul is fond of the prefix ὑπερ- (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13).

καὶ πλεονάζει ἡ ἀγάπη ἐνὸς ἑκάστου πάντων ὑμῶν εἰς ἀλλήλους, and the love of each single one of you all to one another multiplies. This the First Epistle marked as the shining excellence of the Thessalonian Church (1 Thessalonians 4:9 f.); for its increase the Apostles had prayed (2 Thessalonians 3:12): this prayer is fulfilled, and thanksgiving is therefore due. Πλεονάζω, an active verb in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (see note), is neuter here. Ἐνὸς ἑκάστου (also in 1 Thessalonians 2:11), uniuscujusque (Vulg.), pointedly individualizes the statement, which πάντων ὑμῶν extends to the entire community. To the Thessalonian faith and love hope was added, completing the matter of thanksgiving, in 1 Thessalonians 1:3; hope is implied here by ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑπομονῆς ὑμῶν below.


Verse 4

4. ὥστε αὐτοὺς ἡμᾶς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐνκαυχᾶσθαι ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τοῦ θεοῦ. So that we on our own part are boasting in you in the Churches of God,—scil. in Corinth and the neighbouring Achaian Churches springing up round that city (see 2 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 9:2; Romans 15:26; Romans 16:5); and in other Churches with which the Apostles were in communication at the time (Paul e.g. with Antioch, &c., Silvanus with Jerusalem, Timothy with S. Galatia). 2 Corinthians 8:1-6 affords an example at a later date of St Paul’s boasting over the Macedonians to their neighbours.

The emphatic αὐτούς marks this “boasting” as unusual on the writers’ part—perhaps in view of their known reluctance (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:6 f.) to dwell on anything redounding to their own credit (cf. Galatians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 12:1-6; yet see Romans 15:18 f., 1 Corinthians 15:10, showing how St Paul would sometimes “glory” in his work), despite which they are bound to make God’s grace in this instance, and at this stage, known throughout the Christian brotherhood. From 1 Thessalonians 1:8 f. it appears that up to a certain point the Apostles refrained from speaking publicly of the success of their mission to Thessalonica, which had advertized itself in the best possible way; but now, out of gratitude to God, and from the sense of what is due to their Thessalonian brethren, they can no longer refrain: “while others have been telling about our work, we ourselves are now constrained to glory in it.” Ἐνκαυχάομαι, another N.T. hap. leg.; but this compound is used in the LXX. Ἐνκαυχᾶσθαι ἐν, of the general ground of boast (cf. Romans 2:17; Galatians 6:13, &c.); ὑπέρ, of its specific subject matter (2 Corinthians 12:5), or that in the interest of which one boasts—see παρακαλέσαι ὑπέρ, 1 Thessalonians 3:2; ἐρωτῶμεν ὑπέρ, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 below. But ἐνκαυχᾶσθαι ἐν may be Hebraistic (ἐν= בְּ); see Ps. 51:3, 105:47 (LXX). On “churches of God,” see 1 Thessalonians 2:14.

ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑπομονῆς ὑμῶν καὶ πίστεως, over your endurance and faith. For ὑπομονή, see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Since πίστις follows ὑπομονή here, and under the vinculum of the single article, it might appear to denote the moral virtue of faithfulness to the Christian cause, rather than the religious principle of faith out of which the Christian life springs (2 Thessalonians 1:3); so Bengel, Lünemann, and Bornemann interpret the word. But it is arbitrary to give it, with no mark of distinction, this double sense in two consecutive clauses; indeed it is questionable whether πίστις anywhere in Paul—even in Galatians 5:22 or Romans 3:3—means fidelity in distinction from faith. The prepositional adjunct attached to πίστις gives appropriateness and force to the repetition of this fundamental word: the Apostles “glory,” in the case of the Thessalonians, “over” their “endurance and faith (maintained) in all” their “persecutions and afflictions”; so that πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς διωγμοῖς ὑμῶν κ.τ.λ. is explicative of ὑπομονῆς and forms one idea therewith; cf. Acts 14:22. The maintenance of faith amid affliction was the crucial trial of this Church (see 1 Thessalonians 3:2-5); and the trial was endured unflinchingly. Well might the missionaries be proud of such converts! For the anarthrous prepositional adjunct, cf. ἐν θεῷ, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, ἐν Χριστῷ, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and notes.

Διωγμοῖς (cf. ἐκ-διωξάντων, in connexion with τὰ αὐτὰ ἐπάθετε, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 f.; and the combination in Romans 8:35, &c.) refers to the specific attacks made on the Christians in Thessalonica, commencing with the assault on the Apostles related in Acts 17; θλίψεσιν, comprehensively, to the various injuries and vexations attending the persecution; on the latter word, see note to 1 Thessalonians 1:6.

αἶς ἀνέχεσθε affords a unique example of relative attraction, supposing ἀνέχομαι to govern the genitive, as uniformly in the N.T. (see 2 Corinthians 11:1, &c.); classical rule limits such attraction to the accusative, the case governed by this verb sometimes in older Greek—a regimen conceivably occurring here for once in the N.T. (so Winer-Moulton, p. 204; and Ellicott in loc.). Since, however, the reverse attraction, from dative to genitive, occurs elsewhere, one does not see any objection of principle to the attraction here supposed upon the usual construction of ἀνέχομαι with genitive (so A. Buttmann, N. T. Grammar, and others). Probably vernacular idiom was not over nice in points like these. The grammatical anomaly may have occasioned the variant reading of B, αἶς ἐνέχεσθε (cf. Galatians 5:1), in which you are involved (see Textual Note). But this gives after all a very suitable sense; and the dative would then be regularly governed by ἐν-. The present tense shows the persecution to be going on; it seems to have been continuous from the foundation of this Church.


Verse 5

5. ἔνδειγμα τῆς δικαίας κρίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, a plain token of the righteous judgement of God. Ἔνδειγμα, not exemplum, as in the Vulg.—this renders παράδειγμα; but indicium (Beza), or better still, argumentum et indicium (Estius). The sufferings of the righteous afflicted do not “exemplify” Divine justice; they seem to contradict it. They do not exhibit, but “point to” a future readjustment. In what sense? (a) By way of moral argument, on the principle of Luke 16:25; thus many interpreters, with Calvin, e.g.: “Nam si justus est mundi judex Deus, restitui oportet quæ nunc sunt confusa.” But this cannot be got out of the word ἔνδειγμα, which implies evidence to the point in question lying in the facts stated (2 Thessalonians 1:3 f.), not argument upon them; the affliction taken in itself affords no proof of retributive justice—rather an occasion for it. (b) The true answer is supplied by the parallel in Philippians 1:28 : μὴ πτυρόμενοι ἐν μηδενὶἥτις ἐστὶν αὐτοῖς ἔνδειξις ἀπωλείας, ὑμῶν δὲ σωτηρίας. The heroic faith of the Thessalonians shows that God is on their side, since He manifestly inspires it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:6); so it gives token of His final judgement in their case and is a kind of ἀπαρχή thereof (cf. Romans 8:15-23). This prophetic sign, joyously evident to the Apostles, ought even to impress the persecutors at Thessalonica; perhaps St Paul remembered some misgivings due to the like cause in Saul the persecutor! The joy of St Stephen before the Jewish Council (Acts 6:15), the triumph of Paul and Silas singing in the Philippian prison, the rapture of later Christian martyrs and the impression often made by it, are instances of such ἔνδειξις. Ἔνδειγμα then refers neither to the subject, nor even to the object of the verb ἀνέχεσθε—as though one should render, “which you endure by way of token (in exemplum, Vulg.) of God’s righteous judgement”; but to the main purport of 2 Thessalonians 1:4, viz. the ὑπομονὴ κ. πίστις ἐν τοῖς διωγμοῖς of the readers. The noun may be construed as accusative of apposition to the previous sentence (cf. Romans 12:1 : so Lightfoot; A. Buttmann, p. 153), or, better, as an elliptical nominative, for ὅ ἐστιν ἔνδειγμα, which in full expression would be awkward after αἰς ἀνέχεσθε (cf. Philippians 1:28; Ephesians 3:13 : so Winer-Moulton, p. 669, Schmiedel, Blass, Bornemann). The verb ἐνδείκνυμαι (middle) signifies to point out (something) in oneself, to give ostensible evidence (see Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 8:24). Ἔνδειξις (Philippians 1:28; Romans 3:25) is the evidencing action, ἔνδειγμα the evidence in act. There may be in the term a lingering, to the persecutors an ominous, suggestion of its Attic legal sense of incriminating statement (see Lidd. and Scott, s.v. ἔνδειξις); the constancy of the Christians was, virtually, an indictment of their injurers before the Great Judge.

εἰς τὸ καταξιωθῆναι ὑμᾶς τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, so that you may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God. For εἰς τό with infin., see note to 1 Thessalonians 2:12. Here again the construction is somewhat loose. The adjunct, expressing half purpose and half result, belongs to κρίσεως—God’s “righteous judgement” aiming at the admission to His “kingdom” of its destined heirs (cf. Matthew 25:34), who are now giving “token” of “worthiness” by their faithful “suffering on” its “account.” The construction of ἔνδειγμα above adopted forbids our attaching this clause to ἀνέχεσθε, as though it expressed the aim of the sufferers (which would, moreover, render ὑπὲρ ἧς κ.τ.λ. superfluous). And to make the clause depend on ἔνδειγμα itself is to treat it as synonymous with τῆς δικαίας κρίσεως (“God’s righteous judgement … viz. that you be counted,” &c.), an apposition of which εἰς τό does not admit.

Κατ-αξιόω (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:11; the intensive compound also in Luke 20:35; Acts 5:41) is a judicial term, like the Pauline δικαιόω, specifying a kind of κρίσις, and denotes “to reckon (not to make) worthy”; so in Luke 7:7; 1 Timothy 5:17, &c. There must be apparent a fitness of character in those admitted to God’s heavenly kingdom, if His judgement in their favour is to be recognized as “righteous”; see the opposite case in Matthew 22:8, and the warning of Revelation 22:10-15. God is “calling” the Thessalonians now to “His kingdom and glory”; they are “walking worthily” in the courage and patience of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:12); on such conditions, He cannot fail to “account” them “worthy” at the last. Acting otherwise, He would repudiate His own call (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:24), and would be no longer a righteous God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 6:10). “The kingdom of God” includes the “kingdom and glory” of 1 Thessalonians 2:12; His kingdom, already present in its spiritual principles and hidden operation (Romans 14:17; Luke 17:20 f.), is “coming” to its fulfilment and manifestation (Matthew 6:10; Luke 13:29; 1 Corinthians 15:24 f.).

In ὑπὲρ ἦς καὶ πάσχετεfor which sake indeed you are sufferingπάσχετε resumes τῆς ὑπομονῆς κ.τ.λ. of 2 Thessalonians 1:4, while ὑπὲρ ἦς indicates the motive of the Church’s endurance,—a further reason for the aforesaid κρίσεως: such suffering loyally endured out of faith in God’s kingdom, it is but just that God should approve and crown at last (2 Thessalonians 1:6); cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 2:12; Acts 14:22.


Verses 5-12

§ 2. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12. THE APPROACHING JUDGEMENT

The thought of the recompense awaiting the persecuted Thessalonian Church and its persecutors, respectively, swells the opening thanksgiving of the Epistle, and leads up to its introductory prayer (2 Thessalonians 1:11 f.). The writers enlarge, however, upon this δικαία κρίσις in a sense that exceeds the bounds of the εὐχαριστία, and constitutes this section a distinct item in the teaching of the Epistle, a new and express assurance conveyed to the readers. The doctrine it contains is continuous with that of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, as it describes the issue of Christ’s parousia, the time and circumstances of which were there referred to; in so doing it supplies a starting-point for the further discussion about the parousia arising in the next section. At 2 Thessalonians 1:6, where the Apocalyptic description begins, the composition assumes a Hebraistic style and rises into a kind of chant, as is frequently the case with St Paul’s loftier contemplative passages; at the same point O.T. allusions and snatches of prophecy crowd into the page. So marked is the liturgical rhythm of 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, that Bornemann conjectures this passage to be borrowed from some primitive Christian psalm or hymn: cf. Ephesians 5:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 1:5 ff; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:11, &c., for passages of a similar complexion.

ANALYSIS: The brave endurance of persecution by the readers affords a token (enhancing thankfulness on their behalf) of retribution awaiting them, and in justice awaiting their persecutors on the contrary part, at the advent of the Lord Jesus. In the view presented of this judgement we observe—[1] its essential righteousness, 2 Thessalonians 1:5 f.; [2] its dependence upon Christ’s promised advent, 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:9 f.; [3] that the vindication of Christ’s faithful people forms the proper purpose of the advent—to this the vengeance visiting their oppressors is incidental, 2 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; and [4] that the personal glory of the Redeemer is its supreme and most desired outcome, 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:12.


Verse 6

6. εἴπερ δίκαιόν ἐστιν παρὰ θεῷ, if to be sure it is righteous with God. Εἴπερ is siquidem (Ambrose, &c.), not si tamen (Vulg.); cf. Romans 3:30; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 8:5 : the particle states rhetorically, in the form of hypothesis, a recognized fact; so Theodoret, οὐκ ἐπὶ ἀμφιβολίας τέθεικεν ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ βεβαιώσεως; “veluti verum inferens de quo nefas sit dubitare” (Erasmus). Δίκαιόν κ.τ.λ. repeats the δικαίας κρίσεως of 2 Thessalonians 1:5; justice one certainly expects from God (Romans 3:5 f., Romans 3:26, Romans 9:14): “a token,” I say, “of God’s righteous judgement … for righteous it is with Him to pay back the afflicters with affliction, &c.” Παρὰ θεῷ, apud Deum, in His sight, or estimate, at His tribunal; cf. Romans 2:11; Romans 2:13; Luke 1:30, &c.

ἀνταποδοῦναι τοῖς θλίβουσιν ὑμᾶς θλίψιν, to recompense to those that afflict you affliction. For θλίβω, θλίψις, see notes to 2 Thessalonians 1:4 and 1 Thessalonians 1:6; and for ἀνταποδίδωμι, on 1 Thessalonians 3:9. Τοῖς θλίβουσινθλίψιν follows the jus talionis, an axiom of justice inculcated by the Law of Moses in Leviticus 24:20, and generalized by St Paul in Colossians 3:25 as the principle of God’s future retributions; our Lord pictures its application in the story of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:25); see also Matthew 26:52; Revelation 13:10. Θλίψις is used once besides of the future pains of the wicked, in Romans 2:9 : θλίψις κ. στενοχωρία ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ψυχὴν ἀνθρώπου τοῦ κατεργαζομένου τὸ κακόν; it represents their anguish as a personal infliction, that which God Himself lays upon them.

Ἀνταποδίδωμι (or ἀποδίδωμι), with its derivatives, is found in a series of O.T. sayings relating to God’s vengeance on the enemies of Israel, or upon His enemies within Israel (the idea pervades prophecy): see Isaiah 66:4 ff., Isaiah 66:14 ff., Isaiah 63:4; Isaiah 63:7, Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 59:18; Jeremiah 28. (LXX) 6, 24, 56; Thren. 3:63; Obadiah 1:15; Sirach 32:13; Sirach 32:23 ff. (LXX). The first of the above passages is evidently before the writers’ mind; the context supplies other parallels to it, in the κρἰσεως (κριθήσονται) of the last verse, the ἐν πυρὶ φλογός, ἐκδίκησιν, and τοῖς μὴ ὑπακούουσιν (οὐχ ὑπήκουσαν, τοῖς ἀπειθοῦσιν) of 2 Thessalonians 1:8. The whole Isaianic passage should be read in the LXX, also Psalms 78:6, and Jeremiah 10:25; Jeremiah 25:12 (εἰς ἀφανισμὸν αἰώνιον), along with Isaiah 61:2, in order to realize how St Paul’s conception and imagery of the future judgement are steeped in the O.T. Apocalyptic. Other parallels will appear when we come to 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ff.; cf. Introd. pp. lx. f.


Verse 7

7. καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς θλιβομένοις ἄνεσιν μεθʼ ἡμῶν, and to you that are being afflicted rest with us: the other and principal side of the coming reversal. Ἄνεσις, here opposed to θλίψις (pressura), is commonly the antonym of ἐπίτασις (tension, strain); it signifies relaxation, relief, as of a tightly strung bow, or of the paroxysms of fever; cf. 2 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 8:13. The synonymous ἀνάψυξις (Acts 3:19; 2 Timothy 1:16) is refreshment as from a cooling wind, a breath of fresh air; while ἀνάπαυσις (Matthew 11:29, &c.) is cessation, the stopping of labour or pain. Job 3:17, “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary are at rest,” resembles this text in the Hebrew, but is discrepant in the Greek: that passage relates, as this does not, to rest in death. St Paul says “with us,” for his life was full of harassing fatigue—a sigh on his own account! cf. Galatians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 4:9 ff. In the Apostle’s visions of glory and reward his children in Christ were always present to his mind; cf. “with you,” 2 Corinthians 4:14 : also 2 Corinthians 1:7, 2 Timothy 4:8.

ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ μετʼ ἀγγέλων δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven (attended) with angels of His power. This means more than “at the revelation”; the retribution just spoken of is a part of the Lord’s “revelation,” it belongs to the programme of the ἀποκάλυψις. It suits the O.T. imagery, in which the thought of the Epistle here moves, that the coming of the Lord is styled ἀποκάλυψις, not παρουσία as heretofore (1 Thessalonians 3:13, &c.) and afterwards in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 : see also 1 Corinthians 1:7; Luke 17:30; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:13. Ἐπιφάνεια is its synonym in the Pastoral Epistles (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8). St Paul uses ἀποκάλυψις (-πτω) of the extraordinary manifestation of Jesus Christ to himself at his conversion (Galatians 1:12; Galatians 1:16); this Biblical term implies always a supernatural disclosure, whether inward or outward in its sphere; cf., further, note on 2 Thessalonians 2:6. On ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ, of. 1 Thessalonians 1:10, and note. This “unveiling from heaven” affords a complete contrast to the lowly and obscure first coming of the Redeemer; see His own words in Matthew 26:64.

For the office of the “angels” at the Advent, see note on 1 Thessalonians 4:16. These beings attend the judicial Theophanies of the O.T., as contributors to God’s glory and ministers of His power: see Psalms 68:17; Psalms 103:20; Deuteronomy 33:2. It is significant that “in some cases the very expressions used in the Hebrew prophets of God have been adopted by St Paul in speaking of Christ” (Lightfoot).

Αὐτοῦ, qualifying δυνάμεως, forbids our reading the latter in the abstract, as a mere (Hebraistic) epithet of ἀγγέλων; so the A.V., “mighty angels,” and Beza, “potentibus.” The δύναμις of this sentence and the ἰσχύς of 2 Thessalonians 1:9 form a part of the consolation: now “power” belongs to the wrongdoers (cf. Luke 4:5 f., Luke 22:53; Ephesians 6:12, &c.); with this attribute, on “the day of the Lord,” His “angels” will be clothed.

ἐν πυρὶ φλογός has been wrongly carried over to 2 Thessalonians 1:8; the clause qualifies ἀποκαλύψει (2 Thessalonians 1:7), and completes the foregoing description given in terms of local movement (ἀπό), personal accompaniment (μετά), and material surrounding (ἐν). Fire of flame is Christ’s awful robe: cf. Revelation 1:13-16; Isaiah 66:15. Πῦρ φλογός (or φλὸξ πυρός) was a recognized sign of miraculous, especially judicial, theophanies; it attends angelic mediations, in such a way that the “angel” and the “flame” are more or less identified: see on the latter point, Psalms 104:4 (as read in Hebrews 1:7); Isaiah 6:2; Isaiah 6:4; and, generally, Exodus 3:2-6; Isaiah 4:4 f., Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 30:30, Isaiah 64:1 f.; Daniel 7:9 f.; also reff. under 2 Thessalonians 1:7 (angels). This “fire of flame” surrounding the returning Jesus may have been associated in St Paul’s mind with the “light from heaven surpassing the brightness of the sun,” which flashed on him in the “revelation of Jesus Christ” that brought about his conversion (Acts 26:13); that first appearance to himself unmistakably colours his prediction of the final ἐπιφάνεια in Philippians 3:20 f. “Fire” symbolizes Divine anger and majesty; “flame” is fire in motion, leaping and blazing. In 2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:10, “fire” is the predicted means of destruction for the material world at the Day of the Lord (a conflagratio mundi was anticipated by Stoic philosophy); St Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:13 ff. makes this fire, symbolically, the means of final judgement.


Verse 8

8. διδόντος ἐκδίκησιν τοῖς μὴ εἰδόσι θεόν, rendering vengeance to those that know not God: see the reff. under 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Ἐκ-δίκη-σις, derived from ἔκδικος (1 Thessalonians 4:6; see note) through ἐκδικέω, carries no thought of vindictive passion; it is the inflicting of full justice on the criminal (echoing δικαίας κρίσεως, δίκαιον, 2 Thessalonians 1:5 f.; and echoed by δίκην in 2 Thessalonians 1:9)—nothing more, nothing less: cf. for the noun, frequent in the O.T., Romans 12:19, 2 Corinthians 7:11, Luke 18:3; Luke 18:7; add to the O.T. parallels above, Isaiah 66:15 (ἀποδοῦναιἐκδίκησιν αὐτοῦ), Ezekiel 25:14. Δίδωμι ἐκδίκησιν is Hebraistic (= נָתַן נְקָמָה). Διδόντος transfers to the Lord Jesus the dread prerogative reserved in the O.T. for God alone: “Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32:35, quoted in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30); as Jesus himself declared, “The Father hath committed all judgement unto the Son” (John 5:22); cf. Acts 17:31; Romans 2:16, &c.

The objects of the Divine anger were styled in Jeremiah 10:25 ἔθνη τὰ μὴ εἰδότα σε, and in Psalms 78:6 ἔθνη τὰ μὴ ἐπεγνωκότα σε; but ἐκδίκησις does not occur in that O.T. connexion (only ὀργή, θυμός); and it may be doubted whether Gentiles as such are intended here. If they are (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:5, and note), the co-ordinate clause, καὶ τοῖς μὴ ὑπακούουσιν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ κ.τ.λ., must apply, by contrast, to Jewish rejecters of the Gospel; but the distinction seems out of place, and would be inadequately expressed for its purpose. Moreover disobedience was a form of sin common to Jewish and Gentile persecutors; with this St Paul taxes rejecters of Christ indiscriminately in Romans 10:12-16, and even Gentiles specifically in Romans 11:30 (cf. Acts 14:2; Acts 19:9); the fundamental Isaianic passage—see note above on 2 Thessalonians 1:7—speaks of “the disobedient” without distinction. On the other hand, ignorance of God can be with equal force ascribed to Jewish misbelievers: see John 8:54 f., and passim; Titus 1:16; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. In a Hebraistic strain like this, despite the distinguishing articles, the conjoined, parallel datives may be read as synonymous, the second enhancing upon the first. So conceived, the two form one extended category including, with the Thessalonian oppressors, all who in their estrangement from God (cf. Ephesians 4:18) disobey His message conveyed in the Gospel of Christ, their disobedience being the consequence and full expression of a wilful ignorance. If it be insisted, however, that the double article marks off distinct categories, these must be represented by the Gentile and Jewish elements respectively of the anti-Christian agitation at Thessalonica. Romans 1:18-25 shows how Gentile idolatry sprang from a self-chosen ignorance of God, and brought on itself a “revelation of wrath” in the frightful immorality of contemporary Paganism; in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ff., it was indicated how Jewish resistance to the Gospel, by its spitefulness, was bringing down a great ἐκδίκησις on the nation: this text pursues the penal consequences of those sins to the Last Day. Supposing τὰ μὴ εἰδότα θεόν to designate Gentile idolaters, it is not meant that Divine “vengeance” will fall on the heathen as such and for the mere fact of their “not knowing God” as Christians do; St Paul speaks quite otherwise in Romans 2:14. It is due to men who “do not think God worth having in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28), and who show their hatred toward Him by their hatred of His children (cf. John 15:24; 1 John 3:13). Each will be judged according to his personal responsibility and share in the common offence (see 2 Corinthians 5:10); this we may argue from δικαία κρίσις (2 Thessalonians 1:5). The men denounced at Thessalonica (2 Thessalonians 1:6) definitely refused to know God. For μὴ with participles, see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:15.

“The gospel (good news)” is a “call,” a summons of God as well as a message from God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:12, &c.); therefore faith in it takes the form of obedience, which is faith in exercise; see Romans 1:5; Romans 16:19; Romans 16:26; Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:14, &c. Such obedience had for its testing point the acknowledgement of Jesus as “Lord” (1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:10; Acts 9:5 ff.). In the First Epistle the Apostles spoke repeatedly of “the gospel of God”; here it is “the gospel of our Lord Jesus,” partly to balance the parallel expression referring to “God” (see 2 Thessalonians 1:1, &c.), and partly in keeping with the eschatological context (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7, and note on 1 Thessalonians 3:13). “Of our Lord Jesus” is subjective, while “of God” is objective genitive in this connexion; see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:2, and Romans 1:1 f.


Verse 9

9. οἵτινες δίκην τίσουσιν ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον, who shall pay a just penalty, even eternal destruction. Ὅστις, generic and qualitative, implying a reason in stating the fact—“qui (quum ita sint) poenam pendent.” Δίκη means first right, legality, in the abstract; then a suit for right, an action at law; then the right determined or exacted, penalty, &c. It connotes justice in the penalty, punishment determined by a lawful process; whereas κόλασις (Matthew 25:46; Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:18) denotes chastisement of the wrong-doer, remedial or otherwise; and τιμωρία (Hebrews 10:29), satisfaction demanded by the injury. Punishment is δίκη from the point of view of the dispassionate judge; κόλασις from that of the criminal; τιμωρία from that of the injured party. Acts 28:4 and Judges 1:7 (δίκην πυρὸς αἰωνίου) furnish the only other N.T. examples of a word exceedingly common in Greek. Τίνω is also a judicial term, a N.T. hap. legomenon; ἀπο-τίνω is preferred, with finesse, in Philemon 1:19.

St Paul uses the term ὄλεθρος respecting the σάρξ of a gross sinner in 1 Corinthians 5:5; in 1 Timothy 6:9, along with ἀπώλεια (the commoner word, marked by the intensive ἀπο-), of the “destruction and perdition into” which riches “plunge” those resolved at all costs on having them. Here, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:3, ὄλεθρος signifies the ruin falling on the ungodly at Christ’s coming.

As αἰώνιος, affecting the man for ever, this ὄλεθρος exceeds any πρόσκαιρος, or “temporal ruin,” that might befall in this fleeting visible world (see the antithesis in 2 Corinthians 4:18). The phrase ὄλεθρος αἰώνιος is found in 4 Maccabees 10:15, where the “eternal destruction” inflicted on a heathen tyrant is contrasted with “the happy death” of a martyr. St Paul does not contemplate under ὄλεθρος the annihilation of the reprobate; the sinner of 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 was not to suffer “destruction of the flesh” in such a way that his “saved spirit” would be bodiless in its future state. Nor does αἰώνιος suggest any periodic limitation (age-long destruction); it lifts the ὄλεθρος out of time-conditions; like the κόλασις αἰώνιος of Matthew 25:46, this ὄλεθρος αἰώνιος is the antithesis of ζωὴ αἰώνιος.

ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His strength. Ἀπό is ambiguous in its connexion with ὄλεθρος: (a) If the sense be determined by Isaiah 2:10, &c. (cf. Revelation 6:15 f.), from which this double phrase is manifestly borrowed, then ἀπό is local and pregnant in use, representing the ruin as consisting in “being driven from,” or in “exclusion from, the face of the Lord,” &c. (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2, below, and note); but the verb of Isaiah (LXX), viz. κρύπτεσθε, “hide yourselves,” connotes motion from as ὄλεθρος does not. The preposition loses its contextual force by its severance from the original context; the idea of separation is not obviously relevant here. (b) Others give to ἀπό a temporal sense, “from (the time of) the Lord’s appearance” (cf. Romans 1:20): this is easier grammatically, but does not suit πρόσωπον and is pointless in sense. (c) The preposition is most appropriate in the causal, semi-local significance it bears in 2 Thessalonians 1:2 and so often—“proceeding from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His strength”—thus recalling in a striking figure, and with impressive repetition, the διδόντος ἐκδίκησιν of 2 Thessalonians 1:8; cf. Acts 3:20, καιροὶ ἀναψύξεως ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου. The aptness of τῇς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ is evident on this construction. “The strength” of the Judge, glorious in itself, by supplying executive force to His decisions doubles the terror that His “face” wears for the condemned; cf. John 19:37, Revelation 6:16. To the enemies of Christ, by whom He was “crucified in weakness,” His return as Judge in glorious strength must be inexpressibly dreadful (cf. Matthew 26:64). Ἰσχύς is strength resident in a person; δύναμις, power relevant to its use. For the (hostile)“face of the Lord,” cf. Psalms 34:16; Psalms 76:7 : “Who may stand in Thy sight, when once Thou art angry?” Estius remarks: “Si enim daemones praesentiam Christi versantis in terris non sustinebant, quanto minus praesentiam ejus cum tanta majestate venientis ad judicium impii sustinere poterunt!”

The “affliction” of the persecutors and the “relief” of the persecuted, contrasted in themselves (2 Thessalonians 1:6 f.), are identified in their occasion; for justice will overtake the former—


Verse 10

10. ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐνδοξασθῆναι ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ καὶ θαυμασθῆναι ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύσασιν, when He comes to be glorified in His saints and wondered at in all those who believed. Ενδοξασθῆναι, bare infin. of purpose, common after verbs of coming and the like (Winer-Moulton, pp. 399 f.). Ἐνδοξάζω, to make ἔν-δοξος, a compound only found besides in LXX. Isaiah 49:3, or Ezekiel 28:22, is running in the writer’s mind; perhaps along with Isaiah 4:2 f., which combines δοξάζω (relating to God) and ἅγιοι in one context; cf. also Psalms 88:8 (a Messianic Psalm, of which other traces might be noted in the context), ὁ θεὸς ἐνδοξαζόμενος ἐν βουλῇ ἁγίων. Ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοιςθαυμασθῆναι, with its context, reflects the magnificent close of Psalms 67 (LXX), Psa 67:35 f.: δότε δόξαν τῷ θεῷ· ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ ἡ μεγαλοπρέπεια αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἡ δύναμις αὐτοῦ ἐν ταῖς νεφέλαις· θαυμαστὸς ὁ θεὸς ἐν τοῖς ὁσίοις αὐτοῦ. To this δόξα of the Lord Jesus (see John 17:10) 2 Thessalonians 1:12 reverts (cf. note also on 2 Thessalonians 2:14). For ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ, see note on 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

With the latter phrase ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύσασιν is synonymous; they run in Hebraistic parallels, like the double ἀπό clauses of 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and like the double dative and articular clauses of 2 Thessalonians 1:8 (cf. note on τοῖς μὴ εἰδόσιν κ.τ.λ.). “In all that believed,” not “believe” (as in 1 Thessalonians 2:10, &c.), for we anticipate in imagination “that day”; the beholder, as he views the glory won by the Lord Jesus in His saints, traces it back to the faith which was its source; he wonders at the mighty growth from so small a seed, and gives the praise to Christ (cf. Matthew 13:31 f.; John 5:24; John 7:38, &c.). If the “glory of His strength” is terrible to the persecutors (2 Thessalonians 1:9); in His saints “the glory of His grace” is seen (2 Thessalonians 1:12 : cf. Ephesians 1:3-14; also Romans 8:28-30, marking the steps of its progress). Their character as “saints” redounds to the Redeemer’s honour: see 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 f.; and cf. Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:22; Colossians 1:28 f.; Ephesians 5:27 (ἵνα παραστήσῃἔνδοξον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν); Revelation 1:5 f., Revelation 7:14; Hebrews 2:10; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Titus 2:10, &c. The θαυμάζοντες St Paul would find in the ἀρχαὶ κ. ἐξουσίαι ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις, who are represented in Ephesians 3:10 as learning “now through the Church” lessons of “the manifold wisdom of God,”—lessons which will “on that day” be finished; cf. also 1 Peter 1:12.

The last clause of the verse, ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ, belongs to ἐνδοξασθῆναι καὶ θαυμασθῆναι: for the phrase itself, identically recurring in 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:8, see note on 1 Thessalonians 5:4; and for its emphatic detachment, cf. Romans 2:16. The intervening sentence, ὅτι ἐπιστεύθη κ.τ.λ., is difficult. Some critics would strike it out as a marginal gloss; but there is nothing to allege against it on textual grounds. It can only be read as a parenthesis,—an interjectional outburst of the author occurring as he dictates to his secretary, or possibly a note inserted on re-reading the Letter by way of comment on τοῖς πιστεύσασιν, and thrown in without strict regard to grammatical connexion. The conspicuous success of the Gospel at Thessalonica had, for various reasons (see Introd. pp. xxxiii., lxii.), given extreme satisfaction to St Paul; as he imagines the glory accruing to his Lord “in that day” from the multitude of sanctified believers, the joyous thought rises in his breast, that “our testimony addressed to you” (Thessalonian heathen) contributed to bring about this result! The parenthesis is an echo of 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:19 f.,—τίς ἡμῶνστέφανος καυχήσεωςἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς; Very similarly in Philippians 2:16 St Paul identifies his personal καύχημα with the ἡμέρα and δόξα Χριστοῦ; cf. 1 Peter 5:4, for this association of ideas. We must remember that the whole passage is a thanksgiving, swelled at the outset by a glorying (2 Thessalonians 1:4) on the writers’ part. It is as though they said: “Admired in all that believed: yes, for the testimony we brought to you won your faith; and in your faith, bearing fruit in holiness, we see the pledge of Christ’s glorification.” In 1 Thessalonians 1:8, it is “the faith” of the Thessalonians that has “gone abroad,” and vindicates the Apostles’ mission; such faith inspires the confidence respecting the final outcome, which is explicitly stated in Philippians 1:6, and is tacitly implied here.

τὸ μαρτύριον ἡμῶν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς presents a unique construction: πρός, of address, is usual in such connexion (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:2), or the dative (as in Matthew 8:4; Matthew 24:14, &c.). In Luke 9:5 μαρτύρ. ἐπί is “a witness against,” coming “upon” its hearers by way of accusation (cf. Acts 14:15 ff.): here it signifies a “testimony accosting (assailing, challenging) you”; cf. 1 Timothy 1:18, Ephesians 2:7, Revelation 14:6, where the use of ἐπί is more or less parallel to this; also 1 Thessalonians 2:2, where ἐπαρρησιασάμεθαἐν πολλῷ ἀγῶνι describes the effort and struggle hinted at in μαρτύριον ἐπί. For the non-repetition of the article, see note on πίστεως ἐν, 2 Thessalonians 1:4, and cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16. ΄αρτύριον ἡμῶν, in respect of its medium; but μαρτύριον τοῦ χριστοῦ, 1 Corinthians 1:6, in respect of its contents; μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ, 1 Corinthians 2:1, in respect of its authorship: the synonymous εὐαγγέλιον shows the same variety of usage (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 above).

Hort (in Westcott-Hort’s N.T. in Greek, Appendix, p. 128) finds ἐπιστεύθη in this passage (to which he needlessly attaches ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς) so impracticable, that he proposes the conjectural emendation ἐπιστώθη (see Textual Note above), was confirmed (made good, verified) toward you (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). This verb is synonymous with ἐβεβαιώθη of 1 Corinthians 1:6; and it is found with τὰ μαρτύρια for subject, and a similar context, in Psalms 92:4 f. (LXX); also with ἐπί as complement in 1 Paral. 17:23, 2 Paral. 2 Thessalonians 1:9; but nowhere in N.T. This smooths out the sentence, but loosens its connexion with the foregoing πιστεύσασιν, and makes it a tame observation. Bengel renders ἐπί locally, “ad vos usque, in occidente” (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:14), a construction that strains the preposition and gives an irrelevant sense.


Verse 11

11. Εἰς ὃ καὶ προσευχόμεθα πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν. To which end we are also praying always about you: see notes on 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; and for the contents of the prayer, cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 f., 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and 2 Thessalonians 2:16 f. below. Prayer rises out of thanksgiving (2 Thessalonians 1:3), as in 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 3:11; Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9. The καί indicates that the μαρτύριον is carried on into προσευχή.

Εἰς ὅ (cf. Colossians 1:29; also εἰς τοῦτο in Romans 14:9, 2 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Peter 4:6) points to the Divine end of Christ’s advent (2 Thessalonians 1:10), ἐνδοξασθῆναι κ.τ.λ., which is again recalled in 2 Thessalonians 1:12; but it embraces the whole of 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, looking back through the immediate context to the δικαία κρίσις εἰς τὸ καταξιωθῆναι ὑμᾶς of 2 Thessalonians 1:6. It is only through Christ’s verdict at the Judgement that God’s approval of the readers (ἵνα ὑμᾶς ἀξιώσῃ ὁ θεός) will be made duly manifest: “we pray that God may deem you worthy, so that you may contribute to the glory of the Lord Jesus, when He comes in judgement and finds you amongst God’s approved saints.”

ἵνα ὑμᾶς ἀξιώσῃ ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν τῆς κλήσεως, that our God may count you worthy of (His) calling. For ἵνα after a verb of praying, cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 14:13; Philippians 1:9; Mark 13:18; and see note on 1 Thessalonians 4:1. For the sense of ἀξιόω,—“to reckon,” not to make, “worthy”—see note on καταξιόω, 2 Thessalonians 1:5; and cf. 1 Timothy 5:17; Luke 7:7; Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 10:29. Καλέω, κλητός, κλῆσις, elsewhere (see particularly note on 1 Thessalonians 2:12; also 1 Thessalonians 4:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 7:18-24; Romans 8:28; Romans 11:29; Galatians 1:6; Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9) point not to the Christian “vocation” as a continued state, but to the “call” of God which first makes men Christians, the invitation and summons to enter His kingdom. Of this “high calling” (Philippians 3:14) those who receive it are, to begin with, utterly unworthy (Galatians 1:13-15); henceforth it is the rule of their life to “walk worthily” of it (1 Thessalonians 2:12); their own highest aim, and the best hope of those who pray for them, is that “God may count” them “worthy,” through His grace taking effect in them (see the next clause). To be “reckoned worthy of God’s calling” is in effect to be “reckoned worthy of His kingdom” (2 Thessalonians 1:5), to which He “calls” men from the first (1 Thessalonians 2:12); and this “kingdom and glory of God” are realized in the glorification of the Lord Jesus, the goal now immediately in view: see note on εἰς ὅ above; and cf., in view of the identity assumed, 1 Corinthians 15:24 and Philippians 2:9 ff. The Thessalonian believers have been called to glorify their Saviour on the day of His appearing by the final outcome of their faith; “from the beginning God chose” them to be participators in the glory and honour won by the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:13 f.), and thus to add lustre to His triumph (see 2 Thessalonians 1:12): this is a privilege of which the Apostles pray that “God may count” their disciples “worthy.” This estimate—God’s tacit judgement on the desert of individual men—precedes Christ’s public and official verdict pronounced at His coming (see 1 Thessalonians 2:4 b; and cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5 with 2 Corinthians 5:10 f.).

The emphatic ὑμᾶς at the beginning of the clause explains the added ἡμῶν at the end. The personal relation of writers and readers prompts the prayer: cf. the juxtaposition of ἡμῶν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς in 2 Thessalonians 1:10; and the play on these pronouns in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 f., 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17-17, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; also Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 12:21.

καὶ πληρώσῃ πᾶσαν εὐδοκίαν ἀγαθωσύνης καὶ ἔργον πίστεως ἐν δυνάμει, and may fulfil every good pleasure of goodness and work of faith in power: in other words, “May God mightily accomplish in you all that goodness would desire, all that faith can effect.” This second half of the prayer links together the κλῆσις and the ἀξίωσις of the first. By the ἔργον πίστεως, in which they “walk worthily” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 f.), Christian men carry out the call of God received in the Gospel, so that He counts them worthy of having received it and fit to contribute to the glory of His Son. But this very εὐδοκία and ἔργον of theirs, their consent and effort of obedience, are wrought in them by God—He must “fulfil” it all; see Philippians 2:12 f. For πληρόω with objects of this kind, cf. Philippians 2:2; Matthew 3:15; Acts 13:25. The best commentary on this prayer is the Collect for Easter Week: “That as by Thy special grace preventing us Thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by Thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect.”

The contents of the worth to be approved by God, as above implied, are defined by the parallel terms, πᾶσαν εὐδοκίαν ἀγαθωσύνης καὶ ἔργον πίστεως. Πᾶσαν covers both εὐδοκίαν and ἔργον; the latter interprets the former. Εὐδοκία is not therefore, as in most other places, God’s “good pleasure” (so the older commentators generally), but (as in Romans 10:1; Philippians 1:15) the “good-will” or “delight” of the readers,—of “goodness” itself in them. The parallelism suggests, if it does not require, that ἀγαθωσύνης be read as a subjective genitive (of source, cause)—“every delight of goodness,” rather than “delight in well-doing” (as Lightfoot, e.g., would have it, referring by contrast to Romans 1:32); cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:12 (εὐδοκέω); Ephesians 1:5 : in Sirach 18:31, εὐδοκίαν ἐπιθυμίας, “desire of lust,” supplies an apposite parallel (cf. πάθος ἐπιθυμίας, 1 Thessalonians 4:5 above). The Apostles thankfully recognize the “goodness” of their readers (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3 f.; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:9 f.), and could say of them what St Paul afterwards says to the Romans (Romans 15:14), πέπεισμαιπερὶ ὑμῶν, ὅτιμεστοί ἐστε ἀγαθωσύνης; they pray that every desire which such goodness prompts may by God’s help be realized. See also note on εὐδοκέω, 1 Thessalonians 2:8; εὐδοκία connotes a hearty consent, good will added to good feeling. Ἀγαθωσύνη—used by St Paul besides in Romans 15:14, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9—in each instance denotes a human quality; it is a broad N.T. expression for moral excellence, like the ἀρετή of the philosophers (once in St Paul, Philippians 4:8), but implies specifically an active beneficence; goodness is the expression of love. More narrowly taken, ἀγαθωσύνη, bonitas, is distinguished from χρηστότης, benignitas (cf. Galatians 5:22; see Trench’s Syn. § 63), which denotes the kindly temper of the ἀγαθός. The abstract ἀγαθωσύνη becomes in the concrete πᾶν ἀγαθὸν τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν, τὸ ἀγαθόν σου, of Philemon 1:6; Philemon 1:14.

For ἔργον πίστεως, see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:3. This double parallel repeats the triple parallel of that passage, with the order reversed, “goodness” balancing “faith,” as “love” and “hope” there balance it together. Ἐν δυνάμει belongs to πληρώσῃ, indicating the manner and style of God’s working in this behalf: see 1 Thessalonians 1:5 (and note), 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (ἐνεργεῖται); Colossians 1:29; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 4:20. The prayer is addressed τῷ δυναμένῳποιῆσαι (Ephesians 3:20).


Verse 12

12. ὅπως ἐνδοξάσθῃ τὀ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you: the purpose of the prayer just uttered; ὅπως κ.τ.λ. (avoiding the repetition of ἵνα: cf. 1 Corinthians 1:28 ff.; 2 Corinthians 8:14) expounds the εἰς ὅ of 2 Thessalonians 1:11 (see note). “The glory of our Lord Jesus” was the aim of the Father in the entire dispensation of the Gospel (see Philippians 2:9-11; Philippians 2:14 below), and is therefore the governing object of the Apostle’s prayer and work (Philippians 1:20). For ἐνδοξάζω, see note on 2 Thessalonians 1:10.

To “glorify the name of the Lord Jesus” is to exalt Him to the height of His character and attributes, or, more definitely, to show that “Jesus is Lord,” giving Him τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα (Philippians 2:9 ff.). In the final revelation (2 Thessalonians 1:7), His redeemed people will supply the best reason for calling Jesus “Lord”: cf. 1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 1:5 f., Revelation 5:9 f., &c. The general description of the ground of Christ’s Advent glory in 2 Thessalonians 1:10ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ, ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύσασιν—is now translated into the specific and consoling ἐν ὑμῖν (cf. 1 Peter 1:4 f.). The Thessalonian Church was to supply its missionaries with their δόξα καὶ χαρά (1 Thessalonians 2:20)—nay, it will supply this to the Lord Jesus Himself; all beholders will praise Him, on seeing His completed work “in you”!

καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐν αὐτῷ is added, since the glory accruing to the name of Jesus in the Thessalonians will shine in their own character, now that they are “presented perfect” in Him (see Colossians 1:22; Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 5:26 ff.; Romans 8:29 f., τούτους καὶ ἐδόξασεν), so that His highest glory carries with it theirs. They will be not merely “glorified with Him” (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 2 Timothy 2:11 f.; Romans 8:17), but “in Him” (see note on ἐν Χριστῷ, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; and cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30, Galatians 1:20): this implies the intrinsic union of Christ and His own, set forth by St Paul in his next Epistle under the figure of the body and its members (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)—a union brought to its consummation in the Second Advent (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Colossians 3:1-4; Philippians 3:21), which the Apocalypse represents under the emblem of “the marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7; cf. John 14:3; John 17:24).

Ὅπως ἐνδοξασθῇ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίουἐν ὑμῖν is part of the web of O.T. prophetic sayings woven into this section. The writer of Isaiah 66:5 (as in the LXX cf. the references under 2 Thessalonians 1:8 above, and Introd. pp. lx f.) comforts the persecuted and fearful remnant of Israel with the anticipation, ἵνα τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου δοξασθῇ καὶ ὀφθῇ ἐν τῇ εὐφροσύνῃ αὐτῶν. See, besides, Isaiah 49:3, Ezekiel 28:22; Ezekiel 38:23; Ezekiel 39:21,—in which last passage ἐν ὑμῖν appears, and the verb ἐνδοξάζομαι (with God, the Lord, for subject) in the other three. That the δόξα κυρίου is to be manifested to the whole world in Israel’s redemption from her oppressors, was the grand consolation of exilic prophecy.

The adjunct κατὰ τὴν χάριν κ.τ.λ. belongs to the entire qualified predicate, ἐνδοξασθῇἐν αὐτῷ; it is in accordance with the grace of our God (ours, as thus caring for us) and the Lord Jesus Christ, that the glorification of Christ and Christians in each other should come about. That Christ should find His glory in men, and share His glory with them, is the greatest conceivable favour (χάρις)—a favour on God’s part to begin with, since “He gave up His own Son” (Romans 4:24 f., Romans 8:32; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, &c.) for this end: for ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ in this connexion, see particularly 2 Thessalonians 2:16 below; Romans 3:24 f., Romans 5:15-21; Ephesians 1:6-14; Ephesians 2:4-10; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:11; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 2:9 f.; 1 Peter 1:13. As to ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου, see 2 Corinthians 8:9 : “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that on your account He became poor when He was rich, that you through His poverty might become rich.” In His grace our Lord prayed to the Father’s grace for His disciples, “that they may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory” (John 17:23 f.). To ask this was the highest possible mark of regard that our Lord could pay to His servants.

Grammatically, ἡμῶν and κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ might be parallel complements to τοῦ θεοῦ,—God of us and of the Lord, &c.; but Pauline usage forbids this construction (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:1 f., 1 Thessalonians 1:1, &c.). The grand expression “our Lord Jesus Christ” (in full style and title) heightens the emphasis of χάρις. More plausible, in view of the anarthrous κυρίου and the rule prescribing the reference of two coordinate nouns prefaced by a single article to the same subject (A. Buttmann’s Gram. of N.T. Greek, pp. 97–101), is the rendering (grace) of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, adopted by Hofmann (cf. 2 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:11; Titus 2:13). The Apostle Paul appears to call Jesus Christ explicitly θεός in Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13 (cf. John 20:28), as he does implicitly in Colossians 1:15 ff; Colossians 2:9, Philippians 2:6, &c.; but his habitual discrimination between “the Father” as θεός and “Jesus Christ” as κύριος (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 a, 2 Thessalonians 2:16, &c.; also 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:5; Philippians 2:11) makes the identification improbable in point of usage; the context in no way suggests it. The absence of the article is accounted for by St Paul’s frequent use of κύριος as a proper name of Jesus Christ (Winer-Moulton, p. 154).

For χάρις, see note on 1 Thessalonians 1:1, to which the following observations are added:—[1] The radical sense of χάρις is pleasingness. From the artistic feeling of the Greek nature, this came to be synonymous with loveliness, gracefulness, which was variously personified in the three Χάριτες, divinities idealizing all that is charming in person and in social intercourse. Such was the connexion of the term with religion in classical Greek. [2] Ethically applied, χάρις denoted pleasingness of disposition, favour—both (a) in the active sense of obligingness, graciousness; and (b) in the passive sense of acceptableness: Psalms 44:3 (LXX) illustrates the former use, similarly Colossians 4:6; while (b) is exemplified in the familiar phrase, to “find grace in the eyes of” so and so (cf. Luke 2:52). On [2] (a) is based the specific N.T. signification of χάρις, so conspicuous in St Paul. It denotes, therefore, [3] the favour of God towards mankind revealed in Jesus Christ, which stands in contrast with human ill-desert, and seeks to overcome and displace sin (see Romans 5:20 f., &c.). It proceeds from the fatherly nature of God Himself (2 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:16; John 1:14, &c.); His grace is His redeeming love to sinners. Mercy (not grace) is the nearest O.T. counterpart to the N.T. χάρις: the former expresses God’s pitiful disposition towards man as weak and wretched; the latter, His loving, forgiving disposition toward man as guilty and lost. χάρις acts in the way of forgiveness (cf. the use of χαρίζομαι in Ephesians 4:32, &c.), and makes a free gift of the blessings of salvation (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:17, &c.). Hence it is opposed, in Pauline teaching, not only to sin which it abolishes, but to human merit which it sets aside—to “works of law” regarded as means of salvation, and to everything that would make God’s benefits, conferred in Christ on mankind, matter of “debt” on His part: see Romans 3:19-21; Romans 4:4-15; Galatians 2:15-21; Ephesians 2:1-10. [4] Χάρις may signify a specific act or bestowment of Divine bounty, “grace” in some concrete form (Romans 1:5; Ephesians 3:8, &c.); with this application is connected the use of χάρισμα for a specific endowment, or function, imparted in the order of Divine grace (1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 12:4 ff., &c.). [5] Sometimes, again, χάρις denotes a state of grace in man,—God’s grace realized and operative in the Christian, as in Romans 5:2; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Peter 3:18. [6] Lastly, χάρις bears in the N.T., as in common Greek, the sense of thanks, gratefulness; so in 2 Timothy 1:3.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/2-thessalonians-1.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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