13. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
13. Nos autem debemus gratias agere Deo semper de vobis, fratres dilecti a Domino, quia elegit vos Deus ab initio in salutem, in sanctificatione Spiritus, et fide veritatis:
14. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
14. Quo vocavit vos per evangelium nostrum, in possessionem gloriae (vel, gloriosam) Domini nostri Iesu Christi.
13 But we are bound to give thanks. He now separates more openly the Thessalonians from the reprobate, that their faith may not waver from fear of the revolt that was to take place. At the same time, he had it in view to consult, not their welfare only, but also that of posterity. And he does not merely confirm them that they may not fall over the same precipice with the world, but by this comparison he extols the more the grace of God towards them, in that, while they see almost the whole world hurried forward to death at the same time, as if by a violent tempest, they are, by the hand of God, maintained in a quiet and secure condition of life. Thus we must contemplate the Judgments of God upon the reprobate in such a way that they may be, as it were, mirrors to us for considering his mercy towards us. For we must draw this conclusion, that it is owing solely to the singular grace of God that we do not miserably perish with them.
He calls them beloved of the Lord, for this reason, that they may the better consider that the sole reason why they are exempted from the almost universal overthrow of the world, was because God exercised towards them unmerited love. Thus Moses admonished the Jews --
|God did not elevate you so magnificently because ye were more powerful than others, or were numerous, but because he loved your fathers.| (Deuteronomy 7:7-8.)
For, when we hear the term love, that statement of John must immediately occur to our mind -- Not that we first loved him. (1 John 4:19.) In short, Paul here does two things; for he confirms faith, lest the pious should give way from being overcome with fear, and he exhorts them to gratitude, that they may value so much the higher the mercy of God towards them.
Hath chosen you. He states the reason why all are not involved and swallowed up in the same ruin -- because Satan has no power over any that God has chosen, so as to prevent them from being saved, though heaven and earth were to be confounded. This passage is read in various ways.
The old interpreter has rendered it first-fruits, as being in the Greek aparchen; but as almost all the Greek manuscripts have ap' archos, I have in preference followed this reading. Should any one prefer first-fruits, the meaning will be, that believers have been, as it were, set aside for a sacred offering, by a metaphor taken from the ancient custom of the law. Let us, however, hold by what is more generally received, that he says that the Thessalonians were chosen from the beginning
Some understand the meaning to be, that they had been called among the first; but this is foreign to Paul's meaning, and does not accord with the connection of the passage. For he does not merely exempt from fear a few individuals, who had been led to Christ immediately on the commencement of the gospel, but this consolation belongs to all the elect of God, without exception. When, therefore, he says from the beginning, he means that there is no danger lest their salvation, which is founded on God's eternal election, should be overthrown, whatever tumultuous changes may occur. |However Satan may mix and confound all things in the world, your salvation, notwithstanding, has been placed on a footing of safety, prior to the creation of the world.| Here, therefore, is the true port of safety, that God, who elected us of old, will deliver us from all the evils that threaten us. For we are elected to salvation; we shall, therefore, be safe from destruction. But as it is not for us to penetrate into God's secret counsel, to seek there assurance of our salvation, he specifies signs or tokens of election, which should suffice us for the assurance of it.
In sanctification of the spirit, says he, and belief of the truth. This may be explained in two ways, with sanctification, or by sanctification. It is not of much importance which of the two you select, as it is certain that Paul meant simply to introduce, in connection with election, those nearer tokens which manifest to us what is in its own nature incomprehensible, and are conjoined with it by an indissoluble tie. Hence, in order that we may know that we are elected by God, there is no occasion to inquire as to what he decreed before the creation of the world, but we find in ourselves a satisfactory proof if he has sanctified us by his Spirit, -- if he has enlightened us in the faith of his gospel. For the gospel is an evidence to us of our adoption, and the Spirit seals it, and those that are led by the Spirit are the sons of God, (Romans 8:14,) and he who by faith possesses Christ has everlasting life. (1 John 5:12.) These things must be carefully observed, lest, overlooking the revelation of God's will, with which he bids us rest satisfied, we should plunge into a profound labyrinth from a desire to take it from his secret counsel, from the investigation of which he draws us aside. Hence it becomes us to rest satisfied with the faith of the gospel, and that grace of the Spirit by which we have been regenerated. And by this means is refuted the wickedness of those who make the election of God a pretext for every kind of iniquity, while Paul connects it with faith and regeneration in such a manner, that he would not have it judged of by us on any other grounds.
14 To which he called us. He repeats the same thing, though in somewhat different terms. For the sons of God are not called otherwise than to the belief of the truth. Paul, however, meant to shew here how competent a witness he is for confirming that thing of which he was a minister. He accordingly puts himself forward as a surety, that the Thessalonians may not doubt that the gospel, in which they had been instructed by him, is the safety-bringing voice of God, by which they are aroused from death, and are delivered from the tyranny of Satan. He calls it his gospel, not as though it had originated with him, but inasmuch as the preaching of it had been committed to him.
What he adds, to the acquisition or possession of the glory of Christ, may be taken either in an active or in a passive signification -- either as meaning, that they are called in order that they may one day possess a glory in common with Christ, or that Christ acquired them with a view to his glory. And thus it will be a second means of confirmation that he will defend them, as being nothing less than his own inheritance, and, in maintaining their salvation, will stand forward in defense of his own glory; which latter meaning, in my opinion, suits better.