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1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

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.

23. Ipse autem Deus pacis sanctificet vos totos: et integer spiritus vester, et anima et corpus sine reprehensione in adventu Domini nostri Iesu Christi custodiatur:

24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it

24. Fidelis qui vos vocavit, qui et faciet.

25. Brethren, pray for us.

25. Fratres, orate pro nobis.

26. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

26. Salutate fratres omnes in osculo sancto.

27. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

27. Adiuro vos per Dominum, ut legatur epistola omnibus sanctis fratribus.

28. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

28. Gratia Domini nostri Iesu Christi vobiscum. Amen.

The first epistle unto the Thessalonians was written from Athens.

Ad Thessalonicenses prima scripta fuit ex Athenis.

 

23 Now the God of peace himself. Having given various injunctions, he now proceeds to prayer. And unquestionably doctrine is disseminated in vain, 620620     “Que proufitera-on de prescher la doctrine?” — “What profit will be derived from preaching doctrine?” unless God implant it in our minds. From this we see how preposterously those act who measure the strength of men by the precepts of God. Paul, accordingly, knowing that all doctrine is useless until God engraves it, as it were, with his own finger upon our hearts, beseeches God that he would sanctify the Thessalonians. Why he calls him here the God of peace, I do not altogether apprehend, unless you choose to refer it to what goes before, where he makes mention of brotherly agreement, and patience, and equanimity. 621621     “Repos d’esprit;” — “Repose of mind.”

We know, however, that under the term sanctification is included the entire renovation of the man. The Thessalonians, it is true, had been in part renewed, but Paul desires that God would perfect what is remaining. From this we infer, that we must, during our whole life, make progress in the pursuit of holiness. 622622     “En l’estude et exercice de sainctete;” — “In the study and exercise of holiness.” But if it is the part of God to renew the whole man, there is nothing left for free will. For if it had been our part to co-operate with God, Paul would have spoken thus — “May God aid or promote your sanctification.” But when he says, sanctify you wholly, he makes him the sole Author of the entire work.

And your entire spirit. This is added by way of exposition, that we may know what the sanctification of the whole man is, when he is kept entire, or pure, and unpolluted, in spirit, soul, and body, until the day of Christ. As, however, so complete an entireness is never to be met with in this life, it is befitting that some progress be daily made in purity, and something be cleansed away from our pollutions, so long as we live in the world.

We must notice, however, this division of the constituent parts of a man; for in some instances a man is said to consist simply of body and soul, and in that case the term soul denotes the immortal spirit, which resides in the body as in a dwelling. As the soul, however, has two principal faculties — the understanding and the will — the Scripture is accustomed in some cases to mention these two things separately, when designing to express the power and nature of the soul; but in that case the term soul is employed to mean the seat of the affections, so that it is the part that is opposed to the spirit. Hence, when we find mention made here of the term spirit, let us understand it as denoting reason or intelligence, as on the other hand by the term soul, is meant the will and all the affections.

I am aware that many explain Paul’s words otherwise, for they are of opinion that by the term soul is meant vital motion, and by the spirit is meant that part of man which has been renewed; but in that case Paul’s prayer were absurd. Besides, it is in another way, as I have said, that the term is wont to be made use of in Scripture. When Isaiah says,

“My soul hath desired thee in the night,
my spirit hath thought of thee,” (Isaiah 26:9)

no one doubts that he speaks of his understanding and affection, and thus enumerates two departments of the soul. These two terms are conjoined in the Psalms in the same sense. This, also, corresponds better with Paul’s statement. For how is the whole man entire, except when his thoughts are pure and holy, when all his affections are right and properly regulated, when, in fine, the body itself lays out its endeavors and services only in good works? For the faculty of understanding is held by philosophers to be, as it were, a mistress: the affections occupy a middle place for commanding; the body renders obedience. We see now how well everything corresponds. For then is the man pure and entire, when he thinks nothing in his mind, desires nothing in his heart, does nothing with his body, except what is approved by God. As, however, Paul in this manner commits to God the keeping of the whole man, and all its parts, we must infer from this that we are exposed to innumerable dangers, unless we are protected by his guardianship.

24 Faithful is he that hath called you. As he has shewn by his prayer what care he exercised as to the welfare of the Thessalonians, so he now confirms them in an assurance of Divine grace. Observe, however, by what argument he promises them the never-failing aid of God — because he has called them; by which words he means, that when the Lord has once adopted us as his sons, we may expect that his grace will continue to be exercised towards us. For he does not promise to be a Father to us merely for one day, but adopts us with this understanding, that he is to cherish us ever afterwards. Hence our calling ought to be held by us as an evidence of everlasting grace, for he will not leave the work of his hands incomplete. (Psalm 138:8) Paul, however, addresses believers, who had not been merely called by outward preaching, but had been effectually brought by Christ to the Father, that they might be of the number of his sons.

26 Salute all the brethren with an holy kiss. As to the kiss, it was a customary token of salutation, as has been stated elsewhere. 623623     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 2, p. 78. In these words, however, he declares his affection towards all the saints.

27 I adjure you by the Lord. It is not certain whether he feared that, as often happened, spiteful and envious persons would suppress the Epistle, or whether he wished to provide against another danger — lest by a mistaken prudence and caution on the part of some, it should be kept among a few. 624624     “Qu’aucuns par vne prudence indiscrete, la communicassent seulement a quelque petit nombre sans en faire les autres participans;” — “That some by an ill-advised prudence, would communicate it only to some small number without making others participate in it.” For there will always be found some who say that it is of no advantage to publish generally things that otherwise they recognize as very excellent. At least, whatever artifice or pretext Satan may have at that time contrived, in order that the Epistle might not come to the knowledge of all, we may gather from Paul’s words with what earnestness and keenness he sets himself in opposition to it. For it is no light or frivolous thing to adjure by the name of God. We find, therefore, that the Spirit of God would have those things which he had set forth in this Epistle, through the ministry of Paul, to be published throughout the whole Church. Hence it appears, that those are more refractory than even devils themselves, who in the present day prohibit the people of God from reading the writings of Paul, inasmuch as they are no way moved by so strict an adjuration.

END OF THE COMMENTARY ON THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.


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