1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

13 Quapropter nos quoque indesinenter gratias agimus Deo, quod, quum sermonem Dei praedicatum a nobis percepistis, amplexi estis, non ut sermonem hominum, sed quemadmodum revera est, sermonem Dei: qui etiam efficaciter agit in vobis credentibus.

14. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews;

14. Vos enim imitatores facti estis, fratres, Ecclesiarum Dei, quae sunt in Iudaea in Christo Iesu: quia eadem passi estis et vos a propriis tribulibus, quemadmodum et ipsi a Iudaeis.

15. Who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men;

15. Qui Dominum Iesum occiderunt, et proprios Prophetas, et nos persequuti sunt, et Deo non placent, et cunctis hominibus adversi sunt:

16. Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

16. Qui obsistunt ne Gentibus loquamur, ut salvae fiant, ut compleantur eorum peccata semper: pervenit enim in eos ira usque in finem.


13. Wherefore we give thanks. Having spoken of his ministry, he returns again to address the Thessalonians, that he may always commend that mutual harmony of which he has previously made mention. 1 He says, therefore, that he gives thanks to God, because they had embraced the word of God which they heard from his mouth, as the word of God, as it truly was. Now, by these expressions he means, that it has been received by them reverently, and with the obedience with which it ought. For so soon as this persuasion has gained a footing, it is impossible but that a feeling of obligation to obey takes possession of our minds. 2 For who would not shudder at the thought of resisting God? who would not regard contempt of God with detestation? The circumstance, therefore, that the word of God is regarded by many with such contempt, that it is scarcely held in any estimation--that many are not at all actuated by fear, arises from this, that they do not consider that they have to do with God.

Hence we learn from this passage what credit ought to be given to the gospel--such as does not depend on the authority of men, but, resting on the sure and ascertained truth of God, raises itself above the world; and, in fine, is as far above mere opinion, as heaven is above earth: 3 and, secondly, such as produces of itself reverence, fear, and obedience, inasmuch as men, touched with a feeling of Divine majesty, will never allow themselves to sport with it. Teachers 4 are, in their turn, admonished to beware of bringing forward anything but the pure word of God, for if this was not allowable for Paul, it will not be so for any one in the present day. He proves, however, from the effect produced, that it was the word of God that he had delivered, inasmuch as it had produced that fruit of heavenly doctrine which the Prophets celebrate, (Isaiah 55:11,13; Jeremiah 23:29) in renewing their life, 5 for the doctrine of men could accomplish no such thing. The relative pronoun may be taken as referring either to God or to his word, but whichever way you choose, the meaning will come all to one, for as the Thessalonians felt in themselves a Divine energy, which proceeded from faith, they might rest assured that what they had heard was not a mere sound of the human voice vanishing into air, but the living and efficacious doctrine of God.

As to the expression, the word of the preaching of God, it means simply, as I have rendered it, the word of God preached by man. For Paul meant to state expressly that they had not looked upon the doctrine as contemptible, although it had proceeded from the mouth of a mortal man, inasmuch as they recognized God as the author of it. He accordingly praises the Thessalonians, because they did not rest in mere regard for the minister. but lifted up their eyes to God, that they might receive his word. Accordingly, I have not hesitated to insert the particle ut, (that,) which served to make the meaning more clear. There is a mistake on the part of Erasmus in rendering it, "the word of the hearing of God," as if Paul meant that God had been manifested. He afterwards changed it thus, "the word by which you learned God," for he did not advert to the Hebrew idiom. 6

14. For ye became imitators. If you are inclined to restrict this to the clause in immediate connection with it, the meaning will be, that the power of God, or of his word, shews itself in their patient endurance, while they sustain persecutions with magnanimity and undaunted courage. I prefer, however, to view it as extending to the whole of the foregoing statement, for he confirms what he has stated, that the Thessalonians had in good earnest embraced the gospel, as being presented to them by God, inasmuch as they courageously endured the assaults which Satan made upon them, and did not refuse to suffer anything rather than leave off obedience to it. And, unquestionably, this is no slight test of faith when Satan, by all his machinations, has no success in moving us away from the fear of God.

In the mean time, he prudently provides against a dangerous temptation which might prostrate or harass them; for they endured grievous troubles from that nation which was the only one in the world that gloried in the name of God.

This, I say, might occur to their minds: "If this is the true religion, why do the Jews, who are the sacred people of God, oppose it with such inveterate hostility?" With the view of removing this occasion of offense, 7 he, in the first place, shews them that they have this in common with the first Churches that were in Judea : afterwards, he says that the Jews are determined enemies of God and of all sound doctrine. For although, when he says that they suffered from their own countrymen, this may be explained as referring to others rather than to the Jews, or at least ought not to be restricted to the Jews exclusively, yet as he insists farther in describing their obstinacy and impiety, it is manifest that these same persons are adverted to by him from the beginning. It is probable, that at Thessalonica some from that nation were converted to Christ. It appears, however, from the narrative furnished in the Acts, that there, no less than in Judea, the Jews were persecutors of the gospel. I accordingly take this as being said indiscriminately of Jews as well as of Gentiles, inasmuch as both endured great conflicts and fierce attacks from their own countrymen.

15. Who killed the Lord Jesus. As that people had been distinguished by so many benefits from God, in consequence of the glory of the ancient fathers, the very name 8 was of great authority among many. Lest this disguise should dazzle the eyes of any one, he strips the Jews of all honor, so as to leave them nothing but odium and the utmost infamy.

"Behold," says he, "the virtues for which they deserve praise among the good and pious!--they killed their own prophets and at last the Son of God, they have persecuted me his servant, they wage war with God, they are detested by the whole world, they are hostile to the salvation of the Gentiles; in fine, they are destined to everlasting destruction."

It is asked, why he says that Christ and the prophets were killed by the same persons? I answer, that this refers to the entire body, 9 for Paul means that there is nothing new or unusual in their resisting God, but that, on the contrary, they are, in this manner, filling up the measure of their fathers, as Christ speaks. (Matthew 23:32)

16. Who hinder us from speaking to the Gentiles. It is not without good reason that, as has been observed, he enters so much into detail in exposing the malice of the Jews. 10 For as they furiously opposed the Gospel everywhere, there arose from this a great stumblingblock, more especially as they exclaimed that the gospel was profaned by Paul, when he published it among the Gentiles. By this calumny they made divisions in the Churches, they took away from the Gentiles the hope of salvation, and they obstructed the progress of the gospel. Paul, accordingly, charges them with this crime--that they regard the salvation of the Gentiles with envy, but adds, that matters are so, in order that their sins may be filled up, that he may take away from them all reputation for piety; just as in saying previously, that they pleased not God, (1 Thessalonians 2:15) he meant, that they were unworthy to be reckoned among the worshippers of God. The manner of expression, however, must be observed, implying that those who persevere in an evil course fill up by this means the measure of their judgment, 11 until they come to make it a heap. This is the reason why the punishment of the wicked is often delayed--because their impieties, so to speak, are not yet ripe. By this we are warned that we must carefully take heed lest, in the event of our adding from time to time 12 sin to sin, as is wont to happen generally, the heap at last reaches as high as heaven.

For wrath has come. He means that they are in an utterly hopeless state, inasmuch as they are vessels of the Lord's wrath. "The just vengeance of God presses upon them and pursues them, and will not leave them until they perish--as is the case with all the reprobate, who rush on headlong to death, to which they are destined." The Apostle, however, makes this declaration as to the entire body of the people, in such a manner as not to deprive the elect of hope. For as the greater proportion resisted Christ, he speaks, it is true, of the whole nation generally, but we must keep in view the exception which he himself makes in Romans 11:5,--that the Lord will always have some seed remaining. We must always keep in view Paul's design--that believers must carefully avoid the society of those whom the just vengeance of God pursues, until they perish in their blind obstinacy. Wrath, without any additional term, means the judgment of God, as in Romans 4:15,--the law worketh wrath; also in Romans 12:19,--neither give place unto wrath.

1 Calvin refers here to the harmony which happily subsisted between the preaching of Paul and the faith of the Thessalonians.--Ed.

2 "Il ne se pent faire que nous ne venions quant et quant a auoir vne saincte affection d'obeir;"--"It cannot but be that we come at the same time to have a holy disposition to obey."

3 "Aussi lois d'vne opinion, ou d'vn cuider;"--"As far above opinion, or imagination."

4 "Les Docteurs, c'est a dire ceux qui ont la charge d'enseigner;"--"Teachers, that is to say, those that have the task of instructing."

5 "En renouelant et reformant la vie des Thessaloniciens;"--"In renewing and reforming the life of the Thessalonians."

6 "Car il n'a pas prins garde que c'estoit yci vne façon de parler prinse de la langue Hebraique;"--"For he did not take notice that it was a manner of expression taken from the Hebrew language."

7 "Aux Thessaloniciens;"--"To the Thessalonians."

8 "De Juif;"--"Of Jew."

9 "A tout le corps du peuple;"--"To the whole body of the people."

10 "Il insiste si longuement a deschiffrer et toucher au vif la malice des Juifs;"--"He insists to so great a length in distinctly unfolding and touching to the quick the malice of the Jews."

11 "Et condemnation;"--"And condemnation."

12 "Chacun iour;"--"Every day."