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1. Thanksgiving and Prayer

1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; 2Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3We are bound to give thanks to God always to you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith growth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth; 4so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure; 5which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6if so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day. 11To which end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfil every desire of goodness and every work of faith, with power; 12that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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6 To appoint affliction. We have already stated why it is that he makes mention of the vengeance of God against the wicked — that we may learn to rest in the expectation of a judgment to come, because God does not as yet avenge the wicked, while it is, nevertheless, necessary that they should suffer the punishment of their crimes. Believers, however, at the same time, understand by this that there is no reason why they should envy the momentary and evanescent felicity of the wicked, which will ere long be exchanged for a dreadful destruction. What he adds as to the rest of the pious, accords with the statement of Paul, (Acts 3:20,) where he calls the day of the last judgment the day of refreshing

In this declaration, however, as to the good and the bad, he designed to shew more clearly how unjust and confused the government of the world would be, if God did not defer punishments and rewards till another judgment, for in this way the name of God were a thing that was dead. 629629     “Morte et sans vertu;” — “Dead and powerless.” Hence he is deprived of his office and power by all that are not intent on that righteousness of which Paul speaks.

He adds with us, that he may gain credit to his doctrine from his experience of belief in his own mind; for he shews that he does not philosophize as to things unknown, by putting himself into the same condition, and into the same rank with them. We know, however, how much more authority is due to those who have, by long practice, been exercised in those things which they teach, and do not require from others anything but what they are themselves prepared to do. Paul, therefore, does not, while himself in the shade, give instructions to the Thessalonians as to how they should fight in the heat of the sun, but, fighting vigorously, exhorts them to the same warfare. 630630     “S. Paul, donc, enseignant les Thessaloniciens comment ils doyuent combattre au milieu des afflictions, ne parle point comme vn gendarme qui estant en l’ombre et a son aise, accourageroit les autres a faire leur deuoir a la campagne au milieu de la poussiere et a la chaleur du soleil: mais combattant luy—mesme vaillamment, il les exhorte a combattre de mesme;” — “St Paul, therefore, instructing the Thessalonians how they ought to fight in the midst of afflictions, does not speak like a soldier who, while in the shade and at his ease, would encourage others to do their duty in the campaign in the midst of dust, and in the heat of the sun; but, while fighting himself valiantly, he exhorts them to contend in like manner.”

7 When the Lord shall be manifested. Here we have a confirmation of the foregoing statement. For as it is one of the articles of our faith, that Christ will come from heaven, and will not come in vain, faith ought to seek the end of his coming. Now this is — that he may come as a Redeemer to his own people; nay more, that he may judge the whole world. The description which follows has a view to this — that the pious may understand that God is so much the more concerned as to their afflictions in proportion to the dreadfulness of the judgment that awaits his enemies. For the chief occasion of grief and distress is this — that we think that God is but lightly affected with our calamities. We see into what complaints David from time to time breaks forth, while he is consumed by the pride and insolence of his enemies. Hence he has brought forward all this for the consolation of believers, while he represents the tribunal of Christ as full of horror, 631631     “Plein d’horreur et d’espouvantement;” —”Full of horror and terror.” that they may not be disheartened by their present oppressed condition, while they see themselves proudly and disdainfully trampled upon by the wicked.

What is to be the nature of that fire, and of what materials, I leave to the disputations of persons of foolish curiosity. I am contented with holding what Paul had it in view to teach — that Christ will be a most strict avenger of the injuries which the wicked inflict upon us. The metaphor, however, of flame and fire, is abundantly common in Scripture, when the anger of God is treated of.

By the angels of his power, he means those in whom he will exercise his power; for he will bring the angels with him for the purpose of displaying the glory of his kingdom. Hence, too, they are elsewhere called the angels of his majesty

8 Who will inflict vengeance. That he may the better persuade believers that the persecutions which they endure will not go unpunished, he teaches that this also involves the interests of God himself, inasmuch as the same persons that persecute the pious are guilty of rebellion against God. Hence it is necessary that God should inflict vengeance upon them not merely with a view to our salvation, but also for the sake of his own glory. Farther, this expression, who will inflict vengeance, relates to Christ, for Paul intimates that this office is assigned to him by God the Father. It may be asked, however, whether it is lawful for us to desire vengeance, for Paul promises it, as though it could be lawfully desired. I answer, that it is not lawful to desire vengeance upon any one, inasmuch as we are commanded to wish well to all. Besides, although we may in a general way desire vengeance upon the wicked, yet, as we do not as yet discriminate them, we ought to desire the welfare of all. In the mean time, the ruin of the wicked may be lawfully looked forward to with desire, provided there reigns in our hearts a pure and duly regulated zeal for God, and there is no feeling of inordinate desire.

Who know not. He distinguishes unbelievers by these two marks — that they know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ. For if obedience is not rendered to the gospel through faith, as he teaches in the first and in the last chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, [Romans 1:18ff, 16:17-19,] unbelief is the occasion of resistance to it. He charges them at the same time with ignorance of God, for a lively acquaintance with God produces of itself reverence towards him. Hence unbelief is always blind, not as though unbelievers were altogether devoid of light and intelligence, but because they have the understanding darkened in such a manner, that seeing they do not see. (Matthew 13:13.) It is not without good grounds that Christ declares that this is life eternal, to know the true God, etc. (John 17:3.) Accordingly, from the want of this salutary knowledge, there follows contempt of God, and in fine, death. On this point I have treated more fully in commenting on the first chapter of First Corinthians. 632632     See Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, pp. 84-86.

9. Everlasting destruction from the face. He shews, by apposition, what is the nature of the punishment of which he had made mention — destruction without end, and an undying death. The perpetuity of the death is proved from the circumstance, that it has the glory of Christ as its opposite. Now, this is eternal, and has no end. Accordingly, the influence of that death will never cease. From this also the dreadful severity of the punishment may be inferred, inasmuch as it will be great in proportion to the glory and majesty of Christ.

10 When he shall come to be sanctified. As he has hitherto discoursed as to the punishment of the wicked, he now returns to the pious, and says that Christ will come, that he may be glorified in them; that is, that he may irradiate them with his glory, and that they may be partakers of it. “Christ will not have this glory for himself individually; but it will be common to all the saints.” This is the crowning and choice consolation of the pious, that when the Son of God will be manifested in the glory of his kingdom, he will gather them into the same fellowship with himself. 633633     “Il les recueillera en plene conionction, et les fera ses consors;” — “He will gather them in full union, and will make them his partners.” There is, however, an implied contrast between the present condition in which believers labor and groan, and that final restoration. For they are now exposed to the reproaches of the world, and are looked upon as vile and worthless; but then they will be precious, and full of dignity, when Christ will pour forth his glory upon them. The end of this is, that the pious may as it were, with closed eyes, pursue the brief journey of this earthly life, having their minds always intent upon the future manifestation of Christ’s kingdom. For to what purpose does he make mention of His coming in power, but in order that they may in hope leap forward to that blessed resurrection which is as yet hid?

It is also to be observed, that after having made use of the term saints, he adds, by way of explanation — those that believe, by which he intimates that there is no holiness in men without faith, but that all are profane. In the close he again repeats the terms — in that day, for that expression is connected with this sentence. Now, he repeats it with this view, that he may repress the desires of believers, lest they should hasten forward beyond due bounds.

Because credit was given What he had said in a general way as to saints, he now applies to the Thessalonians, that they may not doubt that they are of that number.

“Because,” says he, “my preaching has obtained credit among you, Christ has already enrolled you in the number of his own people, whom he will make partakers of his glory.”

He calls his doctrine a testimony, because the Apostles are Christ’s witnesses. (Acts 1:8.) Let us learn, therefore, that the promises of God are ratified in us, when they gain credit with us.




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