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The Second Epistle Of Paul The Apostle
Older Title, To the Thessalonians II
(See note on title of I Epistle.)
Section I. Salutation and Thanksgiving. Ch. 1:1 4
1, 2. This salutation is nearly identical with that of Ep. I., see note. Only the Apostle writes here church of Thessalonians in God our Father (Father of us , whom He loves and calls to he His own: comp. ch. 2:16, Romans 1:7 , Luke 12:32 , &c.), instead of “the Father” (1 Ep.); and the wish of grace and peace is followed by the words from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ , wanting in the true text of the former Epistle, but which became from this time a regular part of St Paul’s epistolary greeting. So these great blessings are traced to their source, twofold yet one: “God the Father” the ultimate spring, “the Lord Jesus Christ” the mediating cause of “grace and peace” to men.
He associates Silas and Timothy with himself, just as before.
The Thanksgivings , vv. 3 ff., while resembling that of the First Epistle, has a special character and fitness of its own. The Apostle dwells (1) on the signal growth of the Thessalonian Church in faith and love , ver. 3; (1) on his own boasting over their faith and patience to other Churches, ver. 4; and (3) on the token he sees in this of God’s righteous judgement as between them and their oppressors, which is to take effect at the approaching advent of Christ, vv. 5 10. This third ground of thanksgiving assumes so much prominence in the Epistle, that it will be convenient to make it the subject of a distinct Section.
3. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren ] The case is put in the same way in ch. 2:13 (“we are bound to give thanks”), and nowhere else in St Paul. The Apostle feels himself under a special debt of gratitude to God for that which His grace had wrought in the Thessalonians. This is explained by 1 Ephesians 3:6-9 (see notes), where it appears that the faithfulness of this Church had cheered and sustained the Apostle in a season of peculiar trial, perhaps even of discouragement to himself; comp. Acts 18:9 , Acts 18:10 ; 1 Corinthians 2:3 : “Now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord!”
even as it is meet ] For this thanksgiving is matter of intrinsic fitness, not due from personal feeling only. “Your growth in grace deserves such acknowledgement to God.” Comp. Philippians 1:7 , “even as it is right for me to think this of you all;” and the pleonasm of the Liturgy, “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty.”
because that your faith groweth exceedingly ] This was the essential point, about which St Paul was anxious when he sent Timothy “to establish you and exhort you about your faith ,” and on which Timothy had brought back reassuring news (see notes on 1 Ephesians 3:2 and 6); subsequent tidings confirmed Timothy’s report, and testified to an extraordinary growth in Thessalonian faith. This was due to two causes: (1) to the practical and energetic character of their faith from the beginning (see note on “work of faith,” 1 Ephesians 1:3 ); and (2) to the persecution they had undergone. Great trials, if they do not destroy faith, strengthen it, as storms make the oak take deeper root.
“So fed by each strife won, each strenuous hour,
The strong soul grows, its patience ends in power.”
We are not surprised that the Apostle adds: and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth (R. V.). This is at once a consequence and cause of growth in faith. Faith and Love are the chief, sister graces of St Paul’s theology; and Hope appears in the next verse, under the guise of “patience,” to complete the trio; comp. notes on 1 Ephesians 1:3 , Ephesians 1:5 :8; also 1 Corinthians 13:13 , and Galatians 5:5 , Galatians 5:6 .
In this fundamental quality of Love the Thessalonian Church excelled; see 1 Ephesians 4:9 , Ephesians 4:10 , where the Apostle, acknowledging their excellence, had exhorted them to “abound yet more in love .” This they are doing, and he is “bound to thank God” for it. He dwells on the universal prevalence of mutual love in this admirable Church “the love of each one of you all!”
4. so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God ] The triumph of the Gospel at Thessalonica had given peculiar gratification of the Apostle (1 Ephesians 1:8 ; Ephesians 3:7-9 ; Ephesians 2:20 , “You are our glory and joy”). For the advantageous position of this Church and its great activity caused its testimony for Christ to spread throughout the neighbouring provinces. He is thinking now, however, of more distant Churches those of Judæa, for example (which he calls “churches of God” in 1 Ephesians 2:14 ), and of Syria, with whom Silas and himself would be in correspondence. To them he had sent this cheering news, expressing his joy over the faith and devotion of the new converts in language of exultation. Similarly in 2 Corinthians 9:2 he speaks of “boasting to the Macedonians” of the liberality of Corinth. He delighted to praise one Church before another.
But why does he write “we ourselves ,” laying stress on the fact that he and his companions were thus boasting? Because, surely, they were slow to boast of anything that redounded to their own credit (see Galatians 6:14 ; 2 Corinthians 12:1-6 , “It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory”), as the Thessalonians well knew (1 Ephesians 2:6 , Ephesians 2:7 ); and yet they could not refrain from “boasting” over them. This unwonted and irrepressible glorying before men shows how deep and fervent was St Paul’s thanksgiving to God .
for your patience and faith ] On “patience” see note to 1 Ephesians 1:3 . There we find endurance of hope , here endurance and faith are linked together. For it was the persistence of the Thessalonians’ faith, the way in which it endured the severest strain, that was so wonderful and made the Apostle point them out with pride to the older Churches.
in all your persecutions and the afflictions which you are enduring : so the last clause of the verse literally reads. “Persecutions” formed the chief element in their sufferings (1 Ephesians 2:14 ; Acts 17:5-9 ); but they had to endure afflictions of many kinds. Comp. Hebrews 10:32 , Hebrews 10:33 , “Ye endured a great conflict of sufferings, being made a gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions, … and partakers with those so used.”
Afflictions : same word as in 1 Ephesians 1:6 ; Ephesians 3:3 , Ephesians 3:4 , Ephesians 3:7 (see notes on the last two vv. ).
Section II. The Approaching Retribution Ch. 1:5 12
These vv. contain further reasons for thanksgiving on the writer’s part, concluding with a prayer that his readers may receive the entire fruition of the blessedness to which their sufferings are designed to lead. At the same time, the thoughts here expressed travel far from those which formed the immediate ground of the Thanksgiving, and present a distinct topic of their own. We therefore treat them under a separate heading.
The Retribution the Apostle foresees is twofold, consisting of rest and glory for Christ’s persecuted saints, vv. 5, 7, 10, 12; and of punishment for their godless persecutors, vv. 6, 8, 9. In the view presented to us of this judgement we must carefully observe (1) its essential righteousness , vv. 5, 6; (2) that it attends on Christ’s advents, vv. 7, 9, 10; (3) that the chief purpose of the Saviour’s coming is the glorification of His people , to which the vengeance falling on their oppressors appears to be incidental, vv. 8, 10.
5. which is a manifest token of the righteous judgement of God ] Better, without the connecting words of the English version, a token of the righteous Judgement of God.
The heroic faith of the Thessalonians showed that God was on their side. By the courage He Inspired in them the Righteous Judge already showed what His judgement was in their case, and gave token of His final recompense. Comp. 1 Ephesians 1:6 ; Philippians 1:27 , Philippians 1:28 , “Stand fast in nothing terrified by your adversaries, which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” So the joy of Stephen, when before the Council his face shone “as it had been the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15 ); so the triumph of Paul and Silas singing psalms in prison; so the rapture of Christian martyrs at the stake, were signs of God’s presence with them and omens of retribution to their enemies.
that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God ] More precisely, to the end that (R. V.): “a token of God’s righteous judgement, given with the purpose that you may be counted worthy of His kingdom.”
God’s judgement in this controversy is already manifest to those who have eyes to see, in the brave endurance and growing faith of the persecuted Christian flock. But this sign looks onward and points to the final award, when “the blessed of My Father,” said Jesus, shall “inherit the kingdom prepared for them” (Matthew 25:34 ). God designs this blessedness for them “chosen from the beginning unto salvation” (ch. 2:13); He “calls them unto His own kingdom and glory” (1 Ephesians 2:13 ). And this “manifestation” of His approval helps to prepare them for it.
That kingdom will be “given to those for whom it has been prepared” (Matthew 20:13 ); but at the same time, only to those who are “counted worthy” (see ver. 11; 1 Ephesians 2:12 , Ephesians 3:13 and notes; also Luke 20:35 ; Matthew 22:8 , “The wedding-feast is ready; but those who were called were not worthy”). There must be manifest in the final judgement a personal fitness of character, corresponding to God’s purpose, in those admitted to His heavenly Kingdom. Read the solemn words of Revelation 22:10-15 .
The sufferings of the Thessalonians were endured for the Kingdom’s sake: for the sake of which yum are also suffering. Their strong hope of the coming of Christ and the triumph of God’s Kingdom sustained them in their distress. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12 ): so sang the early Christians. But yet it was not so much their own share in it, as the prospect of the glory of the Kingdom itself, that made them “exult in tribulations.” Comp. Hebrews 10:34 ; Romans 8:16 , Romans 8:19 ; Philippians 1:20 .
6. seeing it is a righteous thing with God ] Lit., if verily (if, as all will admit) it is righteous with God .
The Apostle has just spoken (ver. 5) of “God’s righteous judgement” as manifest in the unshaken faith and courage of His servants. That visible token points to their future and unrevealed reward on the admitted assumption , on which he now dilates, that the retribution awaiting the persecutors and the persecuted from His hand is in truth a righteous thing .
Now the justice of the award is self-evident; since it is affliction to them that afflict you, and to you the afflicted ease . Once besides St Paul speaks of the future suffering of the wicked as “affliction,” in Romans 2:9 “affliction and distress upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” The term represents this suffering as of the nature of a personal infliction . It indicates the reversal that will take place in the other world between the position of the sufferers and inflicters of wrong; comp. our Lord’s picture of Dives and Lazarus in Hades: “Now he (Lazarus) is comforted, and thou (Dives) art tormented,” Luke 16:25 . Similarly in Colossians 3:25 , “He that doeth wrong shall receive back the wrong that he did.” In Revelation 13:10 , Matthew 26:52 , the same principle of retribution in kind is illustrated. This is “just with God:” He must count it so; for it is a common rule of justice, and of all true justice He is the Fountain.
If this law demands that the inflicters of wrongful suffering shall suffer and smart for it, so it requires that faithful endurance shall win “relief.” The Greek word denotes relaxation, abatement , as of a tightly strung bow, or the paroxysms of fever. So the Apostle designates his own “relief” from anxiety in 2 Corinthians 2:13 , 2 Corinthians 2:7 :5; it is contrasted with “affliction” again in 2 Corinthians 8:13 .
“Sleep after toil, port after stormy seas,
Ease after war, death after life does greatly please.”
Job 3:17 is a striking parallel to the phrase to you the afflicted rest : “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” But the rendering of the LXX in this passage is so different, that it is scarcely likely that these words were in the Apostle’s mind. Nor is he thinking, like Job and Edmund Spenser, of rest in death.
7. rest with us ] St Paul’s was a life full of harassment and fatigue, and the hope of rest was sweet to him (note the outburst of Galatians 6:17 ). Men of an easy untroubled life miss the delight of the thought of Heaven.
But in his visions of future joy his children in Christ always shared. Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:14 , “God will raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you ;” again in 2 Timothy 4:8 , “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge (comp. ver. 5 above), shall give me at that day and not to me only, but also to all who love His appearing .”
when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven ] Lit., in the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven . His advent is His people’s deliverance; it guarantees, and virtually contains in itself the relief for which they sigh.
Note, once again, the prevalence of the title Lord Jesus in these letters the designation of the returning, triumphant Saviour. Compare notes on 1 Ephesians 2:15 , Ephesians 2:19 .
Here and in 1 Corinthians 1:7 (so in 1 Peter 1:7 , 1 Peter 1:13 , 1 Peter 1:4 :13) Christ’s second coming is called His revelation ; for it will exhibit Him in aspects of majesty unknown and inconceivable before. In like manner there will be a “revelation of the sons of God,” and “of the righteous judgement of God” upon the wicked (Romans 8:19 , Romans 2:5 ); those events, along with this, certified beforehand, but in their form and nature beyond our present conception. The “coming” of Antichrist is also foretold as a “revelation” (ch. 2:3, 6, 8, see notes). So this revelation comes
from heaven ] comp. 1 Ephesians 1:10 (see note); 4:16; Philippians 3:20 , “from whence we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ;” and the very definite promise of Acts 1:11 . It will be the unveiling of Christ in His glory ( descending ) from heaven ; whereas His previous coming was in the form of a lowly man on earth.
with his mighty angels ] Lit., with angels of His power : i.e. “attended by angels as signs and instruments of His power.” Comp. 1 Ephesians 4:16 (and note) for the office of the angels in Christ’s advent; and for their relation to Divine Power, Psalms 103:20 , “Ye angels, mighty in strength, that fulfil His word.” Their presence suits the majesty in which He comes as the Judge of mankind, “in his Father’s glory, with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38 ); and they are, perhaps, the agents of those changes in material nature by which it will be accompanied. Comp. Deuteronomy 33:2 , Psalms 68:17 , for older theophanies.
New and severe features are added to the picture of the Advent in the next verse:
8. in flaming fire ] Lit., fire of flame ; or, in other copies, flame of fire . “Fire” is a symbol of Divine anger and majesty, in Scripture; and “flame” is fire in motion, leaping and blazing out. According to 2 Peter 3:7 , 2 Peter 3:10 , fire will be the means of destruction for the visible world at the Day of the Lord; while in Hebrews 1:7 , quoted from Psalms 104:0 , this element is represented as a form of angelic manifestation (see last note). In 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 fire is itself made the means of judgement.
The comma parting this clause from ver. 7 in the A.V. must be struck out. The “flaming fire” is the element “in” which the Lord Jesus is “revealed” not the means by which He “takes vengeance” on the wicked. It is His awful robe of glory. The words which follow show why He must appear hi majesty so dreadful:
taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ] Better, rendering vengeance to them (R. V.). We must dissociate from “vengeance” all notions of vindictiveness and passion; it is the inflicting of full justice on the criminal nothing more, nothing less. In this sense it is written, “Vengeance belongeth unto Me; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Deuteronomy 32:35 ; Romans 12:19 ; Hebrews 10:30 ). The wronged are forbidden to avenge themselves, just because this is God’s prerogative. Now “the Father hath committed all judgement to the Son” (John 5:22 ) this, therefore, with the rest.
The R. V. properly distinguishes the two classes here marked out for retribution. Those who know not God belong to the heathen; on this expression comp. note to 1 Ephesians 4:5 . In Romans 1:18-25 , speaking of the heathenism of his own day and of the course and working of Gentile idolatry, the Apostle declares that this ignorance of God was wilful, that idolatry was the outcome of ungodliness, and that its wickedness was shown by the horrible depravity of morals it produced. It was therefore culpable in the highest degree and merited vengeance, being the ignorance of men who “did not think God worth having in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28 ). Such is the sentence that St Paul pronounces on the Paganism of his time, in view of its general character and fruits. By no means does he suppose that this “vengeance” will fall on all idolaters at the Last Day, and for the mere fact of “not knowing God” as Christians do. He speaks otherwise in Romans 2:14 . Countless millions of heathen have had no such knowledge of God brought to them. Each will be judged according to his personal responsibility and share in the common offence. God “leaves Himself not without witness to any” (Acts 14:17 ; John 1:9 ); and by the measure of light and opportunity vouchsafed to him will the conduct of every man be weighed and estimated. The Apostle is thinking of the Gentile persecutors at Thessalonica (ver. 6), who refused the knowledge of God and showed their hatred to Him by their hatred toward His children (comp. John 15:24 ; 1 John 3:13 ).
Those who obey not the gospel are all, whether Jews or Gentiles, to whose knowledge God’s good news of Christ is brought, and who reject the message. Obedience is practical faith, the submission of heart and life to the demands of Christ. This is what such men refuse; they will not say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3 ; Philippians 2:10 ). And the wilful rejecters of Christ became furious persecutors.
St Paul’s warning echoes that of Christ concerning all who are brought face to face with His Gospel: “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16 ). This condemnation takes effect at once, and operates in the present life; it has the certainty of a moral law: “He that believeth not is condemned already. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:18 , John 3:19 ). This sentence the Lord Jesus pronounces now on those who, with His light shining upon them, refuse Him the obedience of faith. The Judgement of the Last Day will be the consummation of this present, actual judgement.
Read our Lord Jesus , for our Lord Jesus Christ .
9. who shall be punished with everlasting destruction ] Rather, men who will pay the penalty of eternal destruction . In these awful words the Apostle describes the retribution designed for godless men and rejecters of the Gospel. His word for “penalty” ( diké , the root of the words righteous and righteousness in Greek) brings to a climax the idea of justice developed in vv. 5 8; see note on “vengeance.” But the clause while defining, qualifies the foregoing; for “who” is equal to such as, who with all like them . The threatening applies to the impious and malignant opposers who were seeking to crush the infant Church. Their sin corresponded to that which our Lord denounced as the sin against the Holy Spirit, the “eternal sin,” the “blasphemy against the Spirit which shall not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31 , Matthew 12:32 ; Mark 3:28 , Mark 3:29 , R. V.).
“Destruction,” as applied to man and his destiny in the N.T., signifies perdition, ruin , the utter loss of blessedness. It is opposed to “salvation” in Hebrews 10:39 ; 2 Corinthians 2:15 , &c.; and “eternal destruction” is the antithesis of eternal life.” There is no sufficient reason for interpreting the destruction of the reprobate as signifying their annihilation , or extinction of being; they will be lost for ever lost to God and goodness. Nor can we limit the range of the word eternal in its relation to this fearful doom; it removes all limits of time, and is the express opposite of temporary (2 Corinthians 4:18 ). Seventy-two times the Greek original of the adjective is found in the N.T.: forty-four of these examples are repetitions of the phrase “eternal life;” it is arbitrary to suppose that in the opposite combination “eternal” bears a restricted sense. Christ’s judicial words in Matthew 25:46 bar all attempts to minimize the penal effect of the sentence of the Last Day; “eternal punishment,” He says, and “eternal life.” Comp. Philippians 3:19 , “whose end is destruction.”
from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power ] Better, as in R. V., and without the comma, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might . Language borrowed from Isaiah 2:0 , where it occurs thrice repeated, all but identically ( vv. 10, 19, 21), in the prophet’s picture of Jehovah’s coming in judgement: “Enter into the rocks and hide yourselves in the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord and from the glory of His might , when He ariseth to shake the earth.” The words of Revelation 6:15 , Revelation 6:16 are based on the same original: “They say to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne , and from the wrath of the Lamb.” The preposition here seems, however, after the word “destruction,” to signify coming from , rather than shrinking from the face of the Lord. The sight of their Judge and His Almightiness, robed in fire and attended by His host of angels, will drive these wretched men, terror-stricken, into ruin. Their destruction proceeds “from the face of the Lord;” in His look the evildoers read their fate. So we can imagine it will be with the murderers of Jesus, and with malicious persecutors of His people. Comp. Psalms 34:16 , 76:7, “The face of the Lord is against them that do evil:” “Who may stand in Thy sight, when once Thou art angry?”
While the destruction of the persecutors and the deliverance of the persecuted are contrasted in themselves ( vv. 6, 7), they are identified in point of time . For justice will overtake the former
10. when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe ] Better, without the comma: when He hath come to be glorified in His holy ones and wondered at in all those who believed . The last verb, in the true reading, is past in tense. We are transported to the time of the Parousia. With astonishment all beholders look back on the faith of these now perfected saints, and view its glorious outcome; they think of the “mustard seed” which has grown into so mighty “a tree” (Matthew 13:31 , Matthew 13:32 ). And they give the praise of all to Christ. Comp. ver. 12, and note; for holy ones , see note on 1 Ephesians 3:13 .
At His coming “the glory of His might” brings ruin to the wicked (ver. 9). But there is another glory dearer to Him, that “of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6 ), which will be now exhibited in its full splendour, in His holy ones . “I am glorified in them,” said Jesus (John 17:10 ; comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23 ). Himself “the Holy One of God” and “Firstborn among many brethren,” His triumph is realised in the multitude of those who through believing in Him have become holy like Himself. So the Thessalonian believers “in that day” will be Christ’s high glory, as they are already the “glory and joy” of their Apostle (1 Ephesians 2:20 ).
With glory like that rendered to God, a tribute of wonder will then be paid to Christ by the angels surely (see Ephesians 3:10 , and 1 Peter 1:12 , for the interest they take in Christ’s work on earth), and by the saints themselves, wondering at themselves and at each other, and at the undreamed-of results of their faith. It will be said then, in the fullest sense, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalms 118:23 ). The praise that will be rendered to Christ at His advent is anticipated in such words as those of Revelation 1:5 , Revelation 1:6 : “Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed is from our sins in His blood; and He made us His kingdom, made us priests unto His God and Father to Him be the glory and the might for ever and ever.”
because our testimony among you was believed ] Rather, unto you (R. V.) “our testimony addressed to you,” or “in its application to you.” This parenthesis, characteristic of St Paul’s style (see Introd. p. 33), emphasizes the fact of the Thessalonians’ faith , the primary condition in all His holy ones of the glory He will reap from them. “Glorified, I say, in you that believed . Yes, for the testimony we addressed to you won your faith; and in that faith of yours we see the pledge of Christ’s glorification.” Similarly in 1 Ephesians 1:3 , Ephesians 1:4 the Apostle found in the vigorous faith of his readers an evidence of their “election” to eternal life (see note).
in that day ] Added with solemn emphasis to signalize the time of the revelation of Christ, when He will win honour and admiration from His saints, and inflict ruin on their enemies and His. The clause looks beyond the foregoing parenthesis to “the revelation of the Lord Jesus” described in vv. 1 10. Comp. the position and emphasis of the similar adjunct in Romans 2:16 . For “that day,” see notes on 1 Ephesians 5:2 , Ephesians 5:4 .
The Apostle’s Thanksgiving, as in other instances (1 Ephesians 3:9-13 ; Ephesians 1:3-19 ; Philippians 1:3-11 ; &c.), ends in prayer , that the marvellous results which he anticipates from his readers’ faith may he fully realised.
11. Wherefore also we pray always for you ] Rather, To which end also we pray always for you (comp. 1 Ephesians 1:2 ; Ephesians 3:10 ), that our God may count you worthy of His calling . God was “calling” the Thessalonians “to His own kingdom and glory,” and calling them accordingly to the sanctification of their whole nature, such as would enable them to be presented faultless at the coming of Christ. All this we have learnt from the First Epistle (2:12; 4:3 8; 5:23, 24). Now a third aspect of this calling is presented, which combines and completes the other two. The Thessalonian believers in Christ are called by the fruit and effect of their faith to crown their Saviour with glory . For that this is, in St Paul’s mind, the end of their calling is manifest both from vv. 10 and 12. To exhibit in oneself the honour and worth of the Lord Jesus so as to make others think more highly of Him, to add something to the splendour of His heavenly crown, is a privilege of which we may well pray “that God may count us worthy.”
For St Paul’s idea of Christian worthiness , comp. ver. 5; 1 Ephesians 2:12 ; Ephesians 3:13 , and notes; also Luke 20:35 ; Revelation 3:4 , “They shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.”
and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power ] Lit., every good pleasure of goodness and work of faith in power . As much as to say, “May God mightily accomplish in you all that goodness would desire and that faith can effect.”
The “goodness,” like the “faith,” must be in the readers, since the two clauses are parallel not “ His (God’s) goodness,” therefore, as in the A. V. The Apostle afterwards tells the Romans how he is persuaded of them that they are “full of all goodness” (Romans 15:14 ). He thinks quite as highly of the Thessalonians, and believes that their desires are bent in the direction of Christ’s glory. Still he is not thinking of their goodness so much as of what goodness in itself, goodness as being goodness must approve and desire. His prayer resembles the Collect for the days of 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.”
For “work of faith” comp. 1 Ephesians 1:3 (note). Goodness holds to Faith a relation similar to that of Love; it is bonitas and benignitas , an active excellence of disposition. “Goodness,” the first “fruit of the Light” in Ephesians 5:9 (R. V.), accompanies Love, the first “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22 .
“In power” belongs to the verb “fulfil,” denoting the manner and style of God’s working in believing men. See 1 Ephesians 1:5 ; also Colossians 1:29 ; Ephesians 3:20 , for similar expressions.
The verb “fulfil” applies to will ( good pleasure ) and work in not quite the same sense. To fulfil the former is to carry it into practice and effect; to fulfil the latter is to perfect what is already commenced.
12. that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you ] Once more read Lord Jesus (R. V.), not Lord Jesus Christ .
For this end, “to be glorified in His saints,” we were told in ver. 10, Christ is coming; the call by which God summoned the Thessalonians in the Gospel has this in view; with the same purpose, therefore, the Apostle prays for the fulfilment of the work of grace in them. There is nothing he desires in his own case so much as “that Christ may be magnified” (Philippians 1:20 ); nor anything that he covets more eagerly for his friends.
But now it is the Saviour’s name that is to be glorified; for their salvation, when complete, will set forth with astonishing lustre the Divine-human name of our Lord Jesus . This “name” is “glorified,” when its full import is recognized, and the worship which it requires is paid to Him who bears it. So in Philippians 2:9 , Philippians 2:10 , we read how the work and sufferings of Christ will have their consummation when “in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord !”
and ye in him ] This glorification will be mutual. It will be the honour of the Head to have such members, and of the members to have such a Head; of the “Firstborn” to have such and so many younger brethren (Romans 8:29 ), and theirs to have such an Elder Brother. This is the perfection of love, that each should see its own joy and pride in the other. Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:14 , “we are your glorying, as you are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.” For the glorification of the saints in Christ , its nature and conditions, see farther, Romans 8:17-23 , Romans 8:28-30 ; Colossians 3:1-4 ; Philippians 3:20 ; 2 Timothy 2:10-13 .
And this joyous and triumphant issue of the faith of the persecuted Thessalonians is according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus christ . “Our God” is the fountain, “the Lord Jesus Christ” the channel of this grace.
The “grace of God and of Christ” now named from one, now from another of its Divine Bestowers, seldom, as here, from both had from the first this issue of its working in view. And the glorious result is only what we might expect from such grace. It is “the grace of our God,” as it shows Him to be ours and makes Him ours in experience. Our God is a rare expression with St Paul, occurring twice here ( vv. 11, 12), twice in 1 Ep. (2:2; 3:9), and only once elsewhere, 1 Corinthians 6:11 ; more frequent is God our Father , or occasionally our God and Father . It is found often in St John’s Apocalypse.
For the meaning of Grace , and its place in St Paul’s vocabulary, see note on 1 Ephesians 1:1 , adding the following observations. There is no word in the N.T. more original and characteristic than this. Its usage springs from the nature of the Gospel of Christ, as that expresses the character of God and His relationship towards men. (1) The radical sense of Grace ( charis ) in common Greek is pleasingness . From the artistic feeling of the Greek mind, this came to be synonymous with loveliness ( gracefulness ), which was idolized in the three Graces ( Charites ), embodiments of all that is charming in person and in social life. Such was the connection of this word with religion in classical Greek. (2) It further signified pleasingness of disposition, favour both in the active sense ( a ) of obligingness, graciousness ; and in the passive sense (b) of acceptableness . In the Greek of the O.T., Psalms 45:2 , “Grace is poured into thy lips,” supplies an example of ( a ), similarly Colossians 4:6 ; while ( b ) is exemplified in the familiar phrase, to “find grace in the eyes of” so and so (comp. Luke 2:52 ). On 2 a is based the specific N.T. signification of Grace, so conspicuous in St Paul. It denotes, therefore, (3) the favour of God towards mankind, revealed in Jesus Christ . Hence, on the one hand, it stands in contrast with human sin and ill-desert (“where sin multiplied, grace superabounded,” Romans 5:20 ); and is the moving cause of man’s salvation, embodied and acting in Jesus Christ, above all in His death upon the Cross (John 1:17 ; Titus 2:11 ; Galatians 2:21 ; &c.): God’s grace is His redeeming love to sinners. On the other hand, it is the attribute of God’s Fatherhood : “Grace to you … from God the Father” (ver. 2, &c.; comp. ch. 2:16; John 1:14 ). The revelation of the Grace and the Fatherhood of God go together. Grace acts in the way of forgiveness (St Paul’s “forgive” in Ephesians 4:32 ; Colossians 2:13 , Colossians 3:13 , is derived from charis , and signifies to “show grace”), and in the free gift of the blessings of salvation (Romans 3:24 , Romans 3:5 :17, &c.). Hence, in the Apostle’s teaching, Grace is opposed not only to sin which it conquers and destroys, but to human merit which it sets aside to “works of law” regarded as means of our salvation, and to everything that would make God’s benefits conferred on us in Christ matters of “debt” on His part: see Romans 3:19-21 ; Romans 4:4-15 ; Galatians 2:15-21 ; Ephesians 2:1-10 , for the establishment of this leading principle of St Paul’s doctrine. It is the idea of mercy (not grace ) that in the O.T. brings us nearest to this N.T. conception. But while the former expresses God’s pitiful disposition as the Almighty toward man who is weak and wretched, this denotes His loving, forgiving disposition as our Father in Christ toward sinful and lost men. Two further uses of the word, arising out of this principal use, should be noted. Grace signifies (4) sometimes an act , or bestowment of God’s grace this or that manifestation of grace (Romans 1:5 ; Ephesians 3:8 ). (5) Sometimes, again, it denotes a state of grace in man, God’s grace realized and operative in the Christian: “this grace in which we stand,” Romans 5:2 (comp. 2 Timothy 2:1 ; 2 Peter 3:18 ; &c.). (6) Lastly, charis bears in the N.T. and in common Greek the sense of thanks, gratefulness .
The course of the Apostle’s Thanksgiving has carried his readers far away from their present troubles into a region of heavenly rest and triumph; while for a moment, by the way, it lifts the curtain to reveal the judgement hanging over their tormentors. The “vengeance” that awaits the latter, and the “relief” that awaits the former, are in each case a just and inevitable recompense.
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"Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany