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THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 4

Verse 4. Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. The margin here reads, "beloved of God, your election." The difference depends merely on the pointing, and that which would require the marginal reading has been adopted by Hahn, Tittman, Bloomfield, and Griesbach. The sense is not materially varied, and the common version may be regarded as giving the true meaning. There is no great difference between "being beloved of God," and "being chosen of God." The sense then is, "knowing that you are chosen by God unto salvation." Comp. See Barnes "Eph 1:4"; See Barnes "Eph 1:5"; See Barnes "Eph 1:11".

The word "knowing," here refers to Paul himself, and to Silas and Timothy, who united with him in writing the epistle, and in rendering thanks for the favours shown to the church at Thessalonica. The meaning is, that they had so strong confidence that they had been chosen of God as a church unto salvation, that they might say they knew it. The way in which they knew it seems not to have been by direct revelation, or by inspiration, but by the evidence which they had furnished, and which constituted such a proof of piety as to leave no doubt of the fact. Calvin. What this evidence was, the apostle states in the following verses. It was shown by the man- ner in which they embraced the gospel, and by the spirit which they had evinced under its influence. The meaning here seems to be, not that all the members of the church at Thessalonica were certainly chosen of God to salvation—for, as in other churches, there might have been those there who were false professors; but that the church, as such, had given evidence that it was a true church—that it was founded on Christian principles—and that, as a church, it had furnished evidence of its "election by God." Nor can it mean, as Clarke and Bloomfield suppose, that God "had chosen and called the Gentiles to the same privileges to which he chose and called the Jews; and that as they (the Jews) had rejected the gospel, God had now elected the Gentiles in their stead;" for a considerable portion of the church was composed of Jews, Ac 17:4,6; and it cannot, therefore, mean that the Gentiles had been selected in the place of the Jews. Besides, the election of the Gentiles, or any portion of the human family, to the privileges of salvation, to the neglect or exclusion of any other part, would be attended with all the difficulties which occur in the doctrine of personal and individual election. Nothing is gained on this subject in removing the difficulties, by supposing that God chooses masses of men instead of individuals. How can the one be more proper than the other? What difficulty in the doctrine of election is removed by the supposition? Why is it not as right to choose an individual as a nation? Why not as proper to reject an individual as a whole people? If this means that the church at Thessalonica had shown that it was a true church of Christ, chosen by God, then we may learn

(1.) that a true church owes what it has to the "election of God." It is because God has chosen it; has called it out from the world; and has endowed it in such a manner as to be a true church.

(2.) A church may give evidence that it is chosen of God, and is a true church. There are things which it may do, which will show that it is undoubtedly such a church as God has chosen, and such as he approves. There are just principles on which a church should be organized; and there is a spirit which may be manifested by a church which will distinguish it from any other association of men.

(3.) It is not improper to speak with strong confidence of such a church as undoubtedly chosen of God. There are churches which, by their zeal, self-denial, and deadness to the world, show beyond question their "election of God;" and the world may see that they are founded on other principles, and manifest a different spirit, from other organizations of men.

(4.) Every church should evince such a spirit, that there may be no doubt of its "election of God." It should be so dead to the world; so pure in doctrine and in practice, and so much engaged in spreading the knowledge of salvation, that the world will see that it is governed by higher principles than any worldly association, and that nothing could produce this but the influence of the Holy Spirit of God.

{1} "beloved" "beloved of God, your election"

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