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1Pray for us. Though the Lord powerfully aided him, and though he surpassed all others in earnestness of prayer, he nevertheless does not despise the prayers of believers, by which the Lord would have us aided. It becomes us, after his example, eagerly to desire this aid, and to stir up our brethren to pray for us.
When, however, he adds — that the word of God may have its course, he shows that he has not so much concern and regard for himself personally, as for the entire Church. For why does he desire to be recommended to the prayers of the Thessalonians? That the doctrine of the gospel may have its course. He does not desire, therefore, so much that regard should be had to himself individually, as to the glory of God and the common welfare of the Church. Course means here dissemination; (692) glory means something farther, — that his preaching may have its power and efficacy for renewing men after the image of God. Hence, holiness of life and uprightness on the part of Christians is the glory of the gospel; as, on the other hand, those defame the gospel who make profession of it with the mouth, while in the meantime they live in wickedness and baseness. He says — as among you; for this should be a stimulus to the pious, to see all others like them. Hence those that have already entered into the kingdom of God are exhorted to pray daily that it may come. (Matthew 6:10.)
2That we may be delivered. The old interpreter has rendered it, not unhappily, in my opinion — unreasonable (693) Now, by this term, as also by that which immediately follows, (
All have not faith. This might be explained to mean, “Faith is not in all.” This expression, however, were both ambiguous and more obscure. Let us therefore retain Paul’s words, by which he intimates that faith is a gift of God that is too rare to be found in all. God, therefore, calls many who do not come to him by faith. Many pretend to come to him, who have their heart at the farthest distance from him. Farther, he does not speak of all indiscriminately, but merely animadverts upon those that belong to the Church: for the Thessalonians saw that very many held faith in abhorrence; (695) nay, they saw how small was the number of believers. Hence it would have been unnecessary to say this as to strangers; but Paul simply says that all that make a profession of faith are not such in reality. Should you take in all Jews, they appeared to have nearness to Christ, for they ought to have recognized him by means of the law and the prophets. Paul, there can be no question specially marks out those with whom he would have to do. Now, it is probable that they were those who, while they had the appearance and honorary title of piety, were nevertheless very far from the reality. From this came the conflict.
With the view of shewing, therefore, that it was not groundlessly, or without good reason, that he dreaded contests with wicked and perverse men, he says that faith is not common to all, because the wicked and reprobate are always mixed with the good, as tares are with the good wheat. (Matthew 13:25.) And this ought to be remembered by us whenever we have annoyance given us by wicked persons, who nevertheless desire to be reckoned as belonging to the society of Christians — that all men have not faith. Nay more, when we hear in some instances that the Church is disturbed by base factions, let this be a shield to us against offenses of this nature; for we shall not merely inflict injury upon pious teachers, if we have doubts as to their fidelity, whenever domestic enemies do them harm, but our faith will from time to time waver, unless we keep in mind that among those who boast of the name of Christians there are many that are treacherous. (696)
3But God is faithful. As it was possible that their minds, influenced by unfavorable reports, might come to entertain some doubts as to Paul’s ministry, having taught them that faith is not always found in men, he now calls them back to God, and says that he is faithful, so as to confirm them against all contrivances of men, by which they will endeavor to shake them. “They, indeed, are treacherous, but there is in God a support that is abundantly secure, so as to keep you from giving way.” He calls the Lord faithful, inasmuch as he adheres to his purpose to the end in maintaining the salvation of his people, seasonably aids them, and never forsakes them in dangers, as in 1 Corinthians 10:13,
God is faithful, who will not suffer
you to be tried above that ye are able to bear.
These words, however, themselves shew that Paul was more anxious as to others than as to himself. Malicious men directed against him the stings of their malignity; the whole violence (697) of it fell upon him. In the mean time, he directs all his anxieties towards the Thessalonians, lest this temptation should do them any injury.
The term evil may refer as well to the thing, that is, malice, as to the persons of the wicked. I prefer, however, to interpret it of Satan, the head of all the wicked. For it were a small thing to be delivered from the cunning or violence of men, if the Lord did not protect us from all spiritual injury.
4We have confidence. By this preface he prepares the way for proceeding to give the instruction, which we shall find him immediately afterwards subjoining. For the confidence which he says he has respecting them, made them much more ready to obey than if he had required obedience from them in a way of doubt or distrust. He says, however, that this hope, which he cherished in reference to them, was founded upon the Lord, inasmuch as it is his to bind their hearts to obedience, and to keep them in it; or by this expression, (as appears to me more probable,) he meant to testify, that it is not his intention to enjoin anything but by the commandment of the Lord. Here, accordingly, he marks out limits for himself as to enjoining, and for them as to obeying — that it should be only in the Lord. (698) All, therefore, that do not observe this limitation, do to no purpose resort to Paul’s example, with the view of binding the Church and subjecting it to their laws. Perhaps he had this also in view, that the respect which was due to his Apostleship might remain unimpaired among the Thessalonians, however the wicked might attempt to deprive him of the honor that belonged to him; for the prayer which he immediately subjoins tends towards this object. For provided men’s hearts continue to be directed towards love to God, and patient waiting for Christ, other things will be in a desirable state, and Paul declares that he desires nothing else. From this it is manifest, how very far he is from seeking dominion for himself peculiarly. For he is satisfied provided they persevere in love to God, and in the hope of Christ’s coming. In following up with prayer his expression of confidence, (699) he admonishes us that we must not relax in eagerness of prayer on the ground that we cherish good hope.
As, however, he states here in a summary manner the things that he knew to be most necessary for Christians, let every one make it his endeavor to make proficiency in these two things, in so far as he desires to make progress towards perfection. And, unquestionably, the love of God cannot reign in us unless brotherly love is also exercised. Waiting for Christ, on the other hand, teaches us to exercise contempt of the world, mortification of the flesh, and endurance of the cross. At the same time the expression might be explained as meaning, the patience of Christ — that which Christ’s doctrine begets in us; but I prefer to understand it as referring to the hope of ultimate redemption. For this is the only thing that sustains us in the warfare of the present life, that we wait for the Redeemer; and farther, this waiting requires patient endurance amidst the continual exercises of the cross.
He now proceeds to the correcting of a particular fault. As there were some indolent, and at the same time curious and prattling persons, who, in order that they might scrape together a living at the expense of others, wandered about from house to house, he forbids that their indolence should be encouraged by indulgence, (700) and teaches that those live holily who procure for themselves the necessaries of life by honorable and useful labor. And in the first place, he applies the appellation of disorderly persons, not to those that are of a dissolute life, or to those whose characters are stained by flagrant crimes, but to indolent and worthless persons, who employ themselves in no honorable and useful occupation. For this truly is
6Now we command you in the name. Erasmus renders it — “by the name,” as if it were an adjuration. While I do not altogether reject this rendering, I, at the same time, am rather of opinion that the particle in is redundant, as in very many other passages, and that in accordance with the Hebrew idiom. Thus the meaning will be, that this commandment ought to be received with reverence, not as from a mortal man, but as from Christ himself; and Chrysostom explains it in this manner. This withdrawment, (702) however of which he speaks, relates — not to public excommunication but to private intercourse. For he simply forbids believers to have any familiar intercourse with drones of this sort, who have no honorable means of life, in which they may exercise themselves. He says, however, expressly — from every brother, because if they profess themselves to be Christians they are above all others intolerable, inasmuch as they are, in a manner, the pests and stains of religion.
Not according to the injunction — namely, that which we shall find him shortly afterwards adding — that food should not be given to the man that refuses to labor. Before coming to this, however, he states what example he has given them in his own person. For doctrine obtains much more of credit and authority, when we impose upon others no other burden than we take upon ourselves. Now he mentions that he himself was engaged in working with his hands night and day, that he might not burden any one with expense. He had, also, touched somewhat on this point in the preceding Epistle — to which my readers must have recourse (703) for a fuller explanation of this point.
As to his saying, that he had not eaten any one’s bread for naught, he assuredly would not have done this, though he had not labored with his hands. For that which is due in the way of right, is not a thing that is gratuitous, and the price of the labor which teachers (704) lay out in behalf of the Church, is much greater than the food which they receive from it. But Paul had here in his eye inconsiderate persons, for all have not so much equity and judgment as to consider what remuneration is due to the ministers of the word. Nay more, such is the niggardliness of some, that, though they contribute nothing of their own, they, envy them their living, as if they were idle men. (705) He, also, immediately afterwards declares that he waived his right, when he refrained from taking any remuneration, by which he intimates, that it is much less to be endured, that those, who do nothing, shall live on what belongs to others. (706) When he says, that they know how they ought to imitate, he does not simply mean that his example should be regarded by them as a law, but the meaning is, that they knew what they had seen in him that was worthy of imitation, nay more, that the very thing of which he is at present speaking, has been set before them for imitation.
9Not because we have not. As Paul wished by his laboring to set an example, that idle persons might not like drones (707) eat the bread of others, so he was not willing that this very thing (708) should do injury to the ministers of the word, so that the Churches should defraud them of their proper livelihood. In this we may see his singular moderation and humanity, and how far removed he was from the ambition of those who abuse their powers, so as to infringe upon the rights of their brethren. There was a danger, lest the Thessalonians, having had from the beginning the preaching of the gospel from Paul’s mouth gratuitously,(709) should lay it down as a law for the future as to other ministers; the disposition of mankind being so niggardly. Paul, accordingly, anticipates this danger, and teaches that he had a right to more than he had made use of, that others may retain their liberty unimpaired. He designed by this means to inflict the greater disgrace, as I have already noticed above, on those that do nothing, for it is an argument from, the greater to the less.
10He that will not labor. From its being written in Psalms 128:2 —
Thou art blessed, eating of the labor of thy hands,
also in Proverbs 10:4,
The blessing of the Lord is upon the hands of him that laboreth,
it is certain that indolence and idleness are accursed of God. Besides, we know that man was created with this view, that he might do something. Not only does Scripture testify this to us, but nature itself taught it to the heathen. Hence it is reasonable, that those, who wish to exempt themselves from the common law, (710) should also be deprived of food, the reward of labor. When, however, the Apostle commanded that such persons should not eat, he does not mean that he gave commandment to those persons, but forbade that the Thessalonians should encourage their indolence by supplying them with food.
It is also to be observed, that there are different ways of laboring. For whoever aids (711) the society of men by his industry, either by ruling his family, or by administering public or private affairs, or by counseling, or by teaching, (712) or in any other way, is not to be reckoned among the idle. For Paul censures those lazy drones who lived by the sweat of others, while they contribute no service in common for aiding the human race. Of this sort are our monks and priests who are largely pampered by doing nothing, excepting that they chant in the temples, for the sake of preventing weariness. This truly is, (as Plautus speaks,) (713) to “live musically.” (714)
(713) The passage alluded to is as follows: “
11We hear that there are some among you. It is probable that this kind of drones were, as it were, the seed of idle monkhood. For, from the very beginning, there were some who, under pretext of religion, either made free with the tables of others, or craftily drew to themselves the substance of the simple. They had also, even in the time of Augustine, come to prevail so much, that he was constrained to write a book expressly against idle monks, where he complains with good reason of their pride, because, despising the admonition of the Apostle, they not only excuse themselves on the ground of infirmity, but they wish to appear holier than all others, on the ground that they are exempt from labors. He inveighs, with good reason, against this unseemliness, that, while the senators are laborious, the workman, or person in humble life, does not merely live in idleness, (716) but would fain have his indolence pass for sanctity. Such are his views. (717) In the mean time, however, the evil has increased to such an extent, that idle bellies occupy nearly the tenth part of the world, whose only religion is to be well stuffed, and to have exemption from all annoyance (718) of labor. And this manner of life they dignify, sometimes with the name of the Order, sometimes with that of the Rule, of this or that personage. (719)
But what does the Spirit say, on the other hand, by the mouth of Paul? He pronounces them all to be irregular and disorderly, by whatever name of distinction they may be dignified. It is not necessary to relate here how much the idle life of monks has invariably displeased persons of sounder judgment. That is a memorable saying of an old monk, which is recorded by Socrates in the Eighth Book of the Tripartite History — that he who does not labor with his hands is like a plunderer. (720) I do not mention other instances, nor is it necessary. Let this statement of the Apostle suffice us, in which he declares that they are dissolute, and in a manner lawless.
Doing nothing. In the Greek participles there is, an elegant (
12Now we command such. He corrects both of the faults of which he had made mention — a blustering restlessness, and retirement from useful employment. He accordingly exhorts them, in the first place, to cultivate repose — that is, to keep themselves quietly within the limits of their calling, or, as we commonly say, “
Drink water, says Solomon, from thine own fountains, and let the streams flow down to neighbors. (Proverbs 5:15.)
This is the first law of equity, that no one make use of what belongs to another, but only use what he can properly call his own. The second is, that no one swallow up, like some abyss, what belongs to him, but that he be beneficent to neighbors, and that he may relieve their indigence by his abundance. (723) In the same manner, the Apostle exhorts those who had been formerly idle to labor, not merely that they may gain for themselves a livelihood, but that they may also be helpful to the necessities of their brethren, as he also teaches elsewhere. (Ephesians 4:28.)
(723) See Calvin on the Corinthians; vol. 2, p. 286.
13And you, brethren. Ambrose is of opinion that this is added lest the rich should, in a niggardly spirit, refuse to lend their aid to the poor, because he had exhorted them to eat every one his own bread. And, unquestionably, we see how many are unbefittingly ingenious in catching at a pretext for inhumanity. (724) Chrysostom explains it thus — that indolent persons, however justly they may be condemned, must nevertheless be assisted when in want. I am simply of opinion, that Paul had it in view to provide against an occasion of offense, which might arise from the indolence of a few. For it usually happens, that those that are otherwise particularly ready and on the alert for beneficence, become cool on seeing that they have thrown away their favors by misdirecting them. Hence Paul admonishes us, that, although there are many that are undeserving, (725) while others abuse our liberality, we must not on this account leave off helping those that need our aid. Here we have a statement worthy of being observed — that however ingratitude, moroseness, pride, arrogance, and other unseemly dispositions on the part of the poor, may have a tendency to annoy us, or to dispirit us, from a feeling of weariness, we must strive, nevertheless, never to leave off aiming at doing good.
14If any one obeys not. He has already declared previously, that he commands nothing but from the Lord. Hence the man, that would not obey, would not be contumacious against a mere man, but would be rebellious against God himself; (727) and accordingly he teaches that such persons ought to be severely chastised. And, in the first place, he desires that they be reported to him, that he may repress them by his authority; and, secondly, he orders them to be excommunicated, that, being touched with shame, they may repent. From this we infer, that we must not spare the reputation of those who cannot be arrested otherwise than by their faults being exposed; but we must take care to make known their distempers to the physician, that he may make it his endeavor to cure them.
Keep no company. I have no doubt that he refers to excommunication; for, besides that the (
That he may be ashamed. There are, it is true, other ends to be served by excommunication — that contagion may spread no farther, that the personal wickedness of one individual may not tend to the common disgrace of the Church, and that the example of severity may induce others to fear, (1 Timothy 5:20;) but Paul touches upon this one merely — that those who have sinned may by shame be constrained to repentance. For those that please themselves in their vices become more and more obstinate: thus sin is nourished by indulgence and dissimulation. This, therefore, is the best remedy — when a feeling of shame is awakened in the mind of the offender, so that he begins to be displeased with himself. It would, indeed, be a small point gained to have individuals made ashamed; but Paul had an eye to farther progress — when the offender, confounded by a discovery of his own baseness, is led in this way to a full amendment: for shame, like sorrow, is a useful preparation for hatred of sin. Hence all that become wanton (729) must, as I have said, be restrained by this bridle, lest their audacity should be increased in consequence of impunity.
15Regard him not as an enemy. He immediately adds a softening of his rigor; for, as he elsewhere commands, we must take care that the offender be not swallowed up with sorrow, (2 Corinthians 2:7,) which would take place if severity were excessive. Hence we see that the use of discipline ought to be in such a way as to consult the welfare of those on whom the Church inflicts punishment. Now, it cannot but be that severity will fret, (730) when it goes beyond due bounds. Hence, if we wish to do good, gentleness and mildness are necessary, that those that are reproved may know that they are nevertheless loved. In short, excommunication does not tend to drive men from the Lord’s flock, but rather to bring them back when wandering and going astray.
We must observe, however, by what sign he would have brotherly love shewn — not by allurements or flattery, but by admonitions; for in this way it will be, that all that will not be incurable will feel that concern is felt for their welfare. In the mean time, excommunication is distinguished from anathema: for as to those that the Church marks out by the severity of its censure, Paul admonishes that they should not be utterly cast away, as if they were cut off from all hope of salvation; but endeavors must be used, that they may be brought back to a sound mind.
16Now the Lord of peace. This prayer seems to be connected with the preceding sentence, with the view of recommending endeavors after concord and mildness. He had forbidden them to treat even the contumacious (731) as enemies, but rather with a view to their being brought back to a sound mind (732) by brotherly admonitions. He could appropriately, after this, subjoin an injunction as to the cultivation of peace; but as this is a work that is truly Divine, he betakes himself to prayer, which, nevertheless, has also the force of a precept. At the same time, he may also have another thing in view — that God may restrain unruly persons, (733) that they may not disturb the peace of the Church.
17The salutation, with my own hand. Here again he provides against the danger, of which he had previously made mention — lest epistles falsely ascribed to him should find their way into the Churches. For this was an old artifice of Satan — to put forward spurious writings, that he might detract from the credit of those that are genuine; and farther, under pretended designations of the Apostles, to disseminate wicked errors with the view of corrupting sound doctrine. By a singular kindness on the part of God, it has been brought about that, his frauds being defeated, the doctrine of Christ has come down to us sound and entire through the ministry of Paul and others. The concluding prayer explains in what manner God aids his believing people — by the presence of Christ’s grace.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany