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The Apostle closeth his Epistle in this Chapter. He describes the striking Difference of the Lord's coming, as he will appear to his church, and to the Ungodly. He again exhorts the Church to be comforted: and closeth the Epistle with his Apostolic Blessing.
(1) ¶ But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. (2) For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (3) For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
The Apostle in the close of the former Chapter, having so blessedly spoken to the Church, concerning the great day of God; begins this, with showing the dreadful effects, the Lord's coming would have on the minds of the ungodly. He makes use of two very striking similitudes, to represent the horrible distress, with which the graceless, and unawakened, will be overtaken in that day. First, that of a thief, coming at the dark hour of midnight into a man's house, when all are asleep, in apparent quiet, and safety; to surprise, and murder the unconscious inhabitants. And, secondly, that of a woman in travail, whose agonies, for the time, are supposed to be the sharpest our nature is capable of feeling; and are therefore called (dolores tergiversantes) thundering pains. And this latter is rendered still more striking in resemblance, because the pains of child-bearing, are the fruits of our first mother's transgression, and entailed upon all her daughters, passing through the hour of nature's extremity. Genesis 3:16 . And the sinner's day of wrath, is the fruit also, of our own transgression. Oh! who shall conceive, or imagine, the horrors of that day, to every Christless son, and daughter of Adam? Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? What paleness, and convulsion of soul, will that sentence induce; depart ye cursed! Matthew 25:41 .
(4) But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. (5) Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (6) ¶ Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (7) For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. (8) But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. (9) For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (11) ¶ Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
How very gracious was it in the Lord the Spirit, while describing the awful events of this great day of God, as they will overtake the wicked; to comfort the Lord's people, with the assurance of their safety, when surrounded with such tremendous judgments, in their view, before them? And, I beg the Reader to be careful with me to observe, from whence, and in what, their safety is found. Not in themselves, or their own attainments. For wherein do they differ from others? and what have they which they did not receive? Not from birth, or descendants in nature. For all are alike born in the same Adam-stock, of whom Scripture bears testimony, there is none good, no not one. Romans 3:12 . Not in works of righteousness which they have done; for they were by nature children of wrath, even as others. Ephesians 2:3 . But Paul blessedly shows the cause; because by the water of regeneration, and a renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed upon them abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Titus 3:3-7 , And here again, the Apostle sums up all in one, the sole cause, of their safety, and their everlasting blessedness in Christ Jesus; because God (saith he) hath not appointed them to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. And hence, the Apostle adds, He died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Song of Solomon 5:2 ; Matthew 25:5 . Here is the sole cause of mercy. This the glorious security of the Church. Hence no day can overtake them, no surprise of the midnight hour alarm. Sleeping, or waking, they are the LORD'S.
I cannot suffer myself, neither the Reader, to pass away from these most blessed, and precious assurances, of God the Spirit, without first desiring to pause over them, and ponder well their deep importance, on that great subject contained in them. And I desire to do this the rather, because they come in with a strength of argument, at once perfectly irresistible, and unanswerable, to silence the presumptuous reasoning of men untaught by the Holy Ghost, who venture, in direct defiance to all the glorious promises of God, to call the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, unscriptural, and highly dangerous. These men are so full in their apprehensions, of human worth, and human works, that they cannot ascribe the whole salvation to the finished redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ; but will make the purposes of God's grace, still to be depending upon the will of man. Alas! what is not the unhumbled pride of our fallen nature capable of bringing forth, where men are not taught of God, and remain unacquainted with the plague a their own heart? I very earnestly beg the Reader, to ponder well this precious scripture, looking up to God the Holy Ghost to be his Teacher; and then, to his cool, and serious judgment, under the Lord I will leave the subject.
If, as God the Holy Ghost by Paul, here taught the Church, that God hath not appointed the Church to wrath, but hath appointed them to obtain salvation, by Our Lord Jesus Christ; can God's appointments be frustrated of their end? And if not, can that be unscriptural, or dangerous which inculcates, under divine teaching, such blessed truths? If God, who appoints these blessed things, to save from wrath, and to obtain salvation, hath in confirmation also, secured the means for the accomplishment of his purposes; is it possible to suppose, that any peradventure shall arise, which God did not foresee; and for which God made no provision? If, as a blessed security to the Church, God the Father, who hath not appointed to wrath, but hath appointed unto salvation; hath made the whole everlastingly secure; having chosen the Church in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that it should be holy, and without blame before him in love; and hath predestinated the Church unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself; accepting the Church in the Beloved: if; on the part of God the Father, in the high Covenant offices of his everlasting love, he hath mercifully made such ample provisions of security, for the sure accomplishment of his purposes; can either men, or devils, frustrate his designs? Moreover, the Holy Ghost hath added in this very scripture, another blessed cause of assurance. He that appointed us to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, hath confirmed it in Christ; for, we are here told, Christ died for us, that whether we wake, or sleep, we should live together with him. Hence, here is also, the Pillar, and ground of the truth. Neither doth the subject stop here. For God the Spirit hath engaged, to regenerate those, whom God hath chosen, and for whom Christ died; and, in confirmation that he hath done it, in this very chapter, the Lord declares, that they are not in darkness, as are the ungodly, whom the day of God will overtake as a thief in the night; but that they are children of the light, and the children of the day. Now then, in the face of these, and numberless other scriptures to the same purport, shall we be told, that God's purposes are doubtful? That the final perseverance of the elect, is unscriptural, and dangerous? Are such men indeed so desperately blind, as to suppose, God hath appointed the means, but is uncertain of the end? Oh what a leanness, and poverty of soul, must there he in congregations under such teaching? Surely it may be said of all such men, as Job did to his Pharisaical instructors: miserable comforters are ye all, physicians of no value?
Reader! I pray you for the Lord's glory, and your own personal happiness, look up to God for his instruction on this momentous point. Hear what the Lord saith to confirm his word unto his people. Wherein God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Hebrews 6:17-18 . Here observe the several gracious expressions. God's immutable purpose, formed wholly in himself, without any regard to the mutability of his chosen people. That purpose confirmed by two immutable things, God's word, and God's oath. And confirmed with this express design, that the heirs of promise, (mark the expression, heirs of promise, not workers of the law, see Galatians 3:15 to the end,) might have a strong consolation. And all this because God was willing that those heirs of promise should have his gracious purpose more abundantly shown unto them, to confirm all his promises; yea, and Amen in CHRIST JESUS. Now then put the whole together. Here is the immutable purpose, will, and Pleasure of Him, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. James 1:17-18 . And, hence, Christ in allusion to it, saith, that in order for the sure accomplishment of it, the Lord will cut short the times of persecution in his Church. For speaking of those exercises, Jesus saith, that except the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved. But for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. And the Lord further confirms the everlasting safety of his people, in that he shows the impossibility of deceiving the elect, Mark 13:19-22 . So that God's purpose is founded in himself, and established in the covenant, ordered in all things and sure. 2 Samuel 23:5 . It is confirmed in the blood and righteousness of Christ. Ephesians 1:7 . And the people which are the heirs of promise, are made willing, by the regenerating work of God the Spirit, according to covenant engagements in the day of his power. Psalms 110:3 . And what crowns the whole, as this immutability of God's will was not founded in any expectation from man, or liable to change from the mutability of man, neither depended upon anything good or bad in the objects of this distinguishing mercy , so the ultimate blessings given to those heirs of promise, were not given them for their merit, or to be kept back for their undeservings. Among the very first clauses in the charter of grace, we find the merciful design expressed in these words: For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said the elder shall serve the younger. Romans 9:11 . And, hence, the Almighty Founder, which in his own immutability formed the counsel of his will, formed, no less, all suitable provision to make the heirs of promise everlastingly blessed, and happy in their heritage. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and, whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 . And what shall we then say to these things? Not, surely, as those say who call the consolations arising from those doctrines wrong, yea, and the doctrines themselves unscriptural and dangerous, but rather to hear what the Lord Jesus himself said, in comforting his people, with the full assurance of faith. Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom! Luke 12:32 .
(12) And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; (13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (14) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (15) See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. (16) ¶ Rejoice evermore. (17) Pray without ceasing. (18) In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (19) Quench not the Spirit. (20) Despise not prophesyings. (21) Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (22) Abstain from all appearance of evil. (23) ¶ And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have much subject for the most interesting meditation and improvement, contained within these verses. But the several heads of discourse dwelt upon, are too plain to need a Comment. The love and affection to be shown to faithful ministers, in an esteem for their persons, and yet more for their doctrines; the rebuke to be manifested to the unruly; the forbearance of returning evil for evil; and the earnestness of following everything that is in conformity to the Gospel of Christ: these are so blessedly set forth by the Apostle, as to supersede the necessity of adding any further observations in this Poor Man's Commentary. Unless, indeed, it be, to beg of God for grace, both to the Writer and Reader, that we may be eminent in the exercise of such things.
And I beg the Reader to notice with me, how earnestly the Apostle follows up his several exhortations, in recommending that holy joy of the Spirit, which a truly regenerated child, conscious of his personal interest in the Covenant of grace is justly entitled to. And those who feel the sweet teachings of God the Holy Ghost, will most earnestly desire both to rejoice and to pray, and never quench those motions of God the Spirit, but to abound in hope, and joy, and peace, in believing, that both his prophecies, and his blessings may have an abiding influence in their hearts.
I detain the Reader over that verse in which Paul considers our nature as compounded of spirit, soul, and body. It is well known, that we are generally supposed to be composed but of two principles, namely, soul and body. But, certainly, the Apostle is correct, for there are three. By the spirit is meant that immortal part, which, in consequence of the Adam-nature fall, is dead in trespasses and sins, but by the Holy Ghost, in every child of God, is quickened to a new and spiritual life. And being part of Christ, can die no more, but is holy and without blame in Christ forever. The soul, as it is called here by the Apostle, is that thinking faculty which man hath in common with some other animals of the inferior creation, concerning which the Psalmist speaks, that in that very day when the breath of man goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, and his thoughts perish. Psalms 146:4 . And the body, it is hardly necessary to observe, is the mere mass of flesh and bones. Hence, by this view of our nature, the great doctrines of grace are seen in the clearest manner. The spirit, which in a state of unrenewed nature, like all the mass of Adam's race, is dead in trespasses and sins; when, (as in the instance of every child of God,) it is regenerated and born again, is made a partaker of the divine nature; the Holy Ghost, by that sovereign act, hath, according to his divine power, given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3-4 . So that this new-born babe in Christ is born perfect in all his parts; and in respect to the spiritual life imparted, is as holy as it ever can be in heaven. Grow it will in grace, as a new-born child grows in nature. But like a child in nature, it will have no other nature, but the same forever in which it is new-born. It is born again, (saith an Apostle,) not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. 1 Peter 1:23 . But the thinking faculty, which Paul here calls the soul, and the body which is nothing but flesh and bones, these are never renewed during the whole time-state of the Church below; but, as Paul himself found in his own experience, and groaned under the daily burden thereof, they form a body of sin and death. Romans 7:18 to the end. Yet, notwithstanding the unrenewed state of the thinking faculty and the body, the whole man being in the Covenant of grace, spirit, soul, and body are included in the great purposes of redemption. And, hence, Paul prays that the whole spirit, soul, and body of God's children, be preserved blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(24) Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. (25) Brethren, pray for us. (26) Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. (27) I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. (28) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
It is hardly necessary to make any observations upon those sweet verses, they are in themselves so plain, but they are also so beautiful and affectionate, that I hardly know how to pass them by unnoticed. I shall only, however, just remark how blessedly the Apostle assures the Church of God's faithfulness. God's call is a most decided proof of his faithfulness. For whom he did predestinate, them he also called. And his call looks as sure forward to justify and glorify, as it looks back to his eternal purpose, will, and pleasure in predestinating. Hence, Peter admonisheth the Church to prove their election by their call. Compare Romans 8:29-30 with 2 Peter 1:10 .
I pray the Reader not to overlook the Apostle's desiring an interest in the prayers of the faithful. It is a sweet thought when the whole Church of God be considered as mutually helping each other in prayer. There should be no schism in the body, but the members should have the same care one for another. 1 Corinthians 12:25 . And if so great an Apostle thus sought a remembrance by the people before the Lord, how earnest may it be supposed ought all who now minister in holy things, to say continually to the Church, Brethren, pray for us!
And let not the Reader overlook the Apostle's command, that all the brethren should be greeted, the humblest, the poorest, the least. For, as in the human body there is not a part so inconsiderable but what the whole is concerned for, and cannot but take interest in, both in its pain or pleasure; so, in the mystical body of Christ, all are equally concerned in what belongs to each member, and all, yea, the glorious Head himself Christ Jesus, cannot, (indeed, He would not,) say to the feet, I have no need of you. 1 Corinthians 12:21 . Oh! what an argument ariseth therefrom, to all that Christian love and affection, which ought to distinguish the members of Christ's body! 1 Corinthians 12:27 .
One word more. An holy kiss for holy brethren, is a sacred and sanctified description of character for distinguishing the Lord's brethren. Hebrews 3:1 ; 1 Peter 2:9 . Holiness unto the Lord, was to be upon the bells of the horses in the Gospel day. Zechariah 14:20 . Jesus wills this holiness in and from himself to his people. Compare Leviticus 11:44 with 1 Peter 1:15-16 . And how needful must it be, that all the holy family should have the Scriptures of our God, which are not of any private interpretation, read to them for their instruction, exhortation, and comfort. 2 Peter 1:20-21 . And how blessedly Paul closeth all with his Apostolical benediction, and which is his mark of their being his. 2 Thessalonians 3:17 .
READER! here is a Chapter highly calculated, under God, to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: While the ungodly are scoffing at the threatened judgment of the Lord's coming, behold with what awful and alarming account it is said that day will be known. As a thief in the night, so sudden, so unexpected. And, while the graceless will be thus surprised, both with the greatness and unlooked for horrors of that day; the prospect, like the Cloud in the camp of Israel, while dark with the blackness of despair to the enemies of our God and his Christ, will be bright and shining to all the Lord's people, who are the children of the light, and of the day. Oh! the blessedness of that assurance, God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but unto salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Blessed be God the Holy Ghost for commanding his Scriptures to be read unto all the holy brethren. A plain proof of the sin and folly of that class of men, who would shut up the word of God from the common people. God be blessed for his mercy to this land, in that we have the Scriptures open to us, which are able to make us wise unto salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. And blessed be the Lord for the ministry of his faithful servant Paul; in this very sweet Epistle, and for all the inspired writings which God the Spirit taught him to send to the Churches! Ere long, the Church will meet with him, and all the faithful servants of the Lord, in every age of the Church, which have ministered in the name of the Lord. In the mean time, may God the Spirit cause his unction to enlighten all his people in the reading of them. And while the grace of God is directing the Church upon earth, may both the Church in earth and heaven be continually ascribing glory to the united source of all mercy, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now, and forevermore. Amen
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent