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1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

13. But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

13. Nolo autem vos ignorare, fratres, de iis qui obdormierunt, ut ne contristemini, sicut et caeteri qui spem non habent.

14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

14. Nam si credimus, quod Iesus mortuus est, et resurrexit, ita et Deus eos, qui dormierunt per Christum, adducet cum eo.

 

13 But I would not have you ignorant. It is not likely that the hope of a resurrection had been torn up among the Thessalonians by profane men, as had taken place at Corinth. For we see how he chastises the Corinthians with severity, but here he speaks of it as a thing that was not doubtful. It is possible, however, that this persuasion was not sufficiently fixed in their minds, and that they accordingly, in bewailing the dead, retained something of the old superstition. For the sum of the whole is this — that we must not bewail the dead beyond due bounds, inasmuch as we are all to be raised up again. For whence comes it, that the mourning of unbelievers has no end or measure, but because they have no hope of a resurrection? It becomes not us, therefore, who have been instructed as to a resurrection, to mourn otherwise than in moderation. He is to discourse afterwards as to the manner of the resurrection; and he is also on this account to say something as to times; but in this passage he meant simply to restrain excessive grief, which would never have had such an influence among them, if they had seriously considered the resurrection, and kept it in remembrance.

He does not, however, forbid us altogether to mourn, but requires moderation in our mourning, for he says, that ye may not sorrow, as others who have no hope. He forbids them to grieve in the manner of unbelievers, who give loose reins to their grief, because they look upon death as final destruction, and imagine that everything that is taken out of the world perishes. As, on the other hand, believers know that they quit the world, that they may be at last gathered into the kingdom of God, they have not the like occasion of grief. Hence the knowledge of a resurrection is the means of moderating grief. He speaks of the dead as asleep, agreeably to the common practice of Scripture — a term by which the bitterness of death is mitigated, for there is a great difference between sleep and destruction 574574     “Entre dormir, et estre du tout reduit a neant;” — “Between sleeping, and being altogether reduced to nothing.” It refers, however, not to the soul, but to the body, for the dead body lies in the tomb, as in a couch, until God raise up the man. Those, therefore, act a foolish part, who infer from this that souls sleep. 575575     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, pp. 21, 22.

We are now in possession of Paul’s meaning — that he lifts up the minds of believers to a consideration of the resurrection, lest they should indulge excessive grief on occasion of the death of their relatives, for it were unseemly that there should be no difference between them and unbelievers, who put no end or measure to their grief for this reason, that in death they recognize nothing but destruction. 576576     “Ruine et destruction;” — “Ruin and destruction.” Those that abuse this testimony, so as to establish among Christians Stoical indifference, that is, an iron hardness, 577577     “Pour introduire et establir entre les Chrestiens ceste façon tant estrange, que les Stoiciens requeroyent en l’homme, ascauoir qu’il ne fust esmeu de douleur quelconque, mais qu’il fust comme de fer et stupide sans rien sentir;” — “For introducing and establishing among Christians that strange manner of acting, which the Stoics required on the part of an individual—that he should not be moved by any grief, but should be as it were of iron, and stupid, so as to be devoid of feeling.” will find nothing of this nature in Paul’s words. As to their objecting that we must not indulge grief on occasion of the death of our relatives, lest we should resist God, this would apply in all adversities; but it is one thing to bridle our grief, that it may be made subject to God, and quite another thing to harden one’s self so as to be like stones, by casting away human feelings. Let, therefore, the grief of the pious be mixed with consolation, which may train them to patience. The hope of a blessed resurrection, which is the mother of patience, will effect this.

14 For if we believe. He assumes this axiom of our faith, that Christ was raised up from the dead, that we might be partakers of the same resurrection: from this he infers, that we shall live with him eternally. This doctrine, however, as has been stated in 1 Corinthians 15:13, depends on another principle — that it was not for himself, but for us that Christ died and rose again. Hence those who have doubts as to the resurrection, do great injury to Christ: nay more, they do in a manner draw him down from heaven, as is said in Romans 10:6

To sleep in Christ, is to retain in death the connection that we have with Christ, for those that are by faith ingrafted into Christ, have death in common with him, that they may be partakers with him of life. It is asked, however, whether unbelievers will not also rise again, for Paul does not affirm that there will be a resurrection, except in the case of Christ’s members. I answer, that Paul does not here touch upon anything but what suited his present design. For he did not design to terrify the wicked, but to correct 578578     “Mais seulement de corriger ou reprimer;” — “But merely to correct or repress.” the immoderate grief of the pious, and to cure it, as he does, by the medicine of consolation.


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