2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
2. Gratias agimus Deo semper de omnibus vobis, memoriam vestri facientes in precibus nostris,
3. Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
3. Indesinenter memores vestri, propter opus fidei, et laborem caritatis, et patientiam spei Domini nostri Iesu Christi coram Deo et Patre nostro,
4. Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
4. Scientes, fratres dilecti, a Deo esse electionem vestram.
5. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
5. Quia Evangelium nostrum non fuit erga vos in sermone solum, sed in potentia, et in Spiritu sancto, et in certitudine multa: quemadmodum nostis quales fuerimus in vobis propter vos.
2 We give thanks to God. He praises, as he is wont, their faith and other virtues, not so much, however, for the purpose of praising them, as to exhort them to perseverance. For it is no small excitement to eagerness of pursuit, when we reflect that God has adorned us with signal endowments, that he may finish what he has begun, and that we have, under his guidance and direction, advanced in the right course, in order that we may reach the goal. For as a vain confidence in those virtues, which mankind foolishly arrogate to themselves, puffs them up with pride, and makes them careless and indolent for the time to come, so a recognition of the gifts of God humbles pious minds, and stirs them up to anxious concern. Hence, instead of congratulations, he makes use of thanksgivings, that he may put them in mind, that everything in them that he declares to be worthy of praise, is a kindness from God. He also turns immediately to the future, in making mention of his prayers. We thus see for what purpose he commends their previous life.
3 Unceasingly remembering you. While the adverb unceasingly might be taken in connection with what goes before, it suits better to connect it in this manner. What follows might also be rendered in this way: Remembering your work of faith and labor of love, etc. Nor is it any objection to this that there is an article interposed between the pronoun humon and the noun ergou, for this manner of expression is frequently made use of by Paul. I state this, lest any one should charge the old translator with ignorance, from his rendering it in this manner. As, however, it matters little as to the main point which you may choose, I have retained the rendering of Erasmus.
He assigns a reason, however, why he cherishes so strong an affection towards them, and prays diligently in their behalf -- because he perceived in them those gifts of God which should stir him up to cherish towards them love and respect. And, unquestionably, the more that any one excels in piety and other excellences, so much the more ought we to hold him in regard and esteem. For what is more worthy of love than God? Hence there is nothing that should tend more to excite our love to individuals, than when the Lord manifests himself in them by the gifts of his Spirit. This is the highest commendation of all among the pious -- this the most sacred bond of connection, by which they are more especially bound to each other. I have said, accordingly, that it is of little importance, whether you render it mindful of your faith, or mindful of you on account of your faith.
Work of faith I understand as meaning the effect of it. This effect, however, may be explained in two ways -- passively or actively, either as meaning that faith was in itself a signal token of the power and efficacy of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as he has wrought powerfully in the exciting of it, or as meaning that it afterwards produced outwardly its fruits. I reckon the effect to be in the root of faith rather than in its fruits -- |A rare energy of faith has strewn itself powerfully in you.|
He adds labor of love, by which he means that in the cultivation of love they had grudged no trouble or labor. And, assuredly, it is known by experience, how laborious love is. That age, however, more especially afforded to believers a manifold sphere of labor, if they were desirous to discharge the offices of love. The Church was marvelously pressed down by a great multitude of afflictions: many were stripped of their wealth, many were fugitives from their country, many were thrown destitute of counsel, many were tender and weak. The condition of almost all was involved. So many cases of distress did not allow love to be inactive.
To hope he assigns patience, as it is always conjoined with it, for what we hope for, we in patience wait for, (Romans 8:24) and the statement should be explained to mean, that Paul remembers their patience in hoping for the coming of Christ. From this we may gather a brief definition of true Christianity -- that it is a faith that is lively and full of vigor, so that it spares no labor, when assistance is to be given to one's neighbors, but, on the contrary, all the pious employ themselves diligently in offices of love, and lay out their efforts in them, so that, intent upon the hope of the manifestation of Christ, they despise everything else, and, armed with patience, they rise superior to the wearisomeness of length of time, as well as to all the temptations of the world.
The clause, before our God and Father, may be viewed as referring to Paul's remembrance, or to the three things spoken immediately before. I explain it in this way. As he had spoken of his prayers, he declares that as often as he raises his thoughts to the kingdom of God, he, at the same time, recalls to his remembrance the faith, hope, and patience, of the Thessalonians, but as all mere presence must vanish when persons come into the presence of God, this is added, in order that the affirmation may have more weight. Farther, by this declaration of his goodwill towards them he designed to make them more teachable and prepared to listen.
4 Knowing, brethren beloved. The participle knowing may apply to Paul as well as to the Thessalonians. Erasmus refers it to the Thessalonians. I prefer to follow Chrysostom, who understands it of Paul and his colleagues, for it is (as it appears to me) a more ample confirmation of the foregoing statement. For it tended in no small degree to recommend them -- that God himself had testified by many tokens, that they were acceptable and dear to him.
Election of God. I am not altogether dissatisfied with the interpretation given by Chrysostom -- that God had made the Thessalonians illustrious, and had established their excellence. Paul, however, had it in view to express something farther; for he touches upon their calling, and as there had appeared in it no common marks of God's power, he infers from this that they had been specially called with evidences of a sure election. For the reason is immediately added -- that it was not a bare preaching that had been brought to them, but such as was conjoined with the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, that it might obtain entire credit among them.
When he says, in power, and in the Holy Spirit, it is, in my opinion, as if he had said -- in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that the latter term is added as explanatory of the former. Assurance, to which he assigned the third place, was either in the thing itself, or in the disposition of the Thessalonians. I am rather inclined to think that the meaning is, that Paul's gospel had been confirmed by solid proofs, as though God had shewn from heaven that he had ratified their calling. When, however, Paul brings forward the proofs by which he had felt assured that the calling of the Thessalonians was altogether from God, he takes occasion at the same time to recommend his ministry, that they may themselves, also, recognize him and his colleagues as having been raised up by God.
By the term power some understand miracles. I extend it farther, as referring to spiritual energy of doctrine. For, as we had occasion to see in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul places it in contrast with speech -- the voice of God, as it were, living and conjoined with effect, as opposed to an empty and dead eloquence of men. It is to be observed, however, that the election of God, which is in itself hid, is manifested by its marks -- when he gathers to himself the lost sheep and joins them to his flock, and holds out his hand to those that were wandering and estranged from him. Hence a knowledge of our election must be sought from this source. As, however, the secret counsel of God is a labyrinth to those who disregard his calling, so those act perversely who, under pretext of faith and calling, darken this first grace, from which faith itself flows. |By faith,| say they, |we obtain salvation: there is, therefore, no eternal predestination of God that distinguishes between us and reprobates.| It is as though they said -- |Salvation is of faith: there is, therefore, no grace of God that illuminates us in faith.| Nay rather, as gratuitous election must be conjoined with calling, as with its effect, so it must necessarily, in the mean time, hold the first place. It matters little as to the sense, whether you connect hupo with the participle beloved or with the term election
5 As ye know. Paul, as I have said before, has it as his aim, that the Thessalonians, influenced by the same considerations, may entertain no doubt that they were elected by God. For it had been the design of God, in honoring Paul's ministry, that he might manifest to them their adoption. Accordingly, having said that they know what manner of persons they had been, he immediately adds that he was such for their sake, by which he means that all this had been given them, in order that they might be fully persuaded that they were loved by God, and that their election was beyond all controversy.