1 Thessalonians 5:11--14
11. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
11. Quare exhortamini (vel, consolamini) vos invicem, et aedificate singuli singulos, sicut et facitis.
12. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
12. Rogamus autem vos, fratres, ut agnoscatis eos, qui laborant in vobis, et praesunt vobis in Domino, et admonent vos:
13. And to esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
13. Ut eos habeatis in summo pretio cum caritate propter opus ipsorum: pacem habete cum ipsis, (vel, inter vos.)
14. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble--minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
14. Hortamur autem vos, fratres, monete inordinatos, consolamini pusillanimos, suscipite infirmos, patientes estote erga omnes.
11. Exhort. It is the same word that we had in the close of the preceding chapter, and which we rendered comfort, because the context required it, and the same would not suit ill with this passage also. For what he has treated of previously furnishes matter of both--of consolation as well as of exhortation. He bids them, therefore, communicate to one another what has been given them by the Lord. He adds, that they may edify one another--that is, may confirm each other in that doctrine. Lest, however, it might seem as if he reproved them for carelessness, he says at the same time that they of their own accord did what he enjoins. But, as we are slow to what is good, those that are the most favourably inclined of all, have always, nevertheless, need to be stimulated.
12. And we beseech you. Here we have an admonition that is very necessary. For as the kingdom of God is lightly esteemed, or at least is not esteemed suitably to its dignity, there follows also from this, contempt of pious teachers. Now, the most of them, offended with this ingratitude, not so much because they see themselves despised, as because they infer from this, that honor is not rendered to their Lord, are rendered thereby more indifferent, and God also, on just grounds, inflicts vengeance upon the world, inasmuch as he deprives it of good ministers, 1 to whom it is ungrateful. Hence, it is not so much for the advantage of ministers as of the whole Church, that those who faithfully preside over it should be held in esteem. And it is for this reason that Paul is so careful to recommend them. To acknowledge means here to have regard or respect; but Paul intimates that the reason why less honor is shewn to teachers themselves than is befitting, is because their labor is not ordinarily taken into consideration.
We must observe, however, with what titles of distinction he honors pastors. In the first place, he says that they labor. From this it follows, that all idle bellies are excluded from the number of pastors. Farther, he expresses the kind of labor when he adds, those that admonish, or instruct, you. It is to no purpose, therefore, that any, that do not discharge the office of an instructor, glory in the name of pastors. The Pope, it is true, readily admits such persons into his catalogue, but the Spirit of God expunges them from his. As, however, they are held in contempt in the world, as has been said, he honors them at the same time, with the distinction of presidency.
Paul would have such as devote themselves to teaching, and preside with no other end in view than that of serving the Church, be held in no ordinary esteem. For he says literally--let them be more than abundantly honored, and not without good ground, for we must observe the reason that he adds immediately afterwards--on account of their work. Now, this work is the edification of the Church, the everlasting salvation of souls, the restoration of the world, and, in fine, the kingdom of God and Christ. The excellence and dignity of this work are inestimable: hence those whom God makes ministers in connection with so great a matter, ought to be held by us in great esteem. We may, however, infer from Paul's words, that judgment is committed to the Church, that it may distinguish true pastors. 2 For to no purpose were these marks pointed out, if he did not mean that they should be taken notice of by believers. And while he commands that honor be given to those that labor, and to those that by teaching 3 govern properly and faithfully, he assuredly does not bestow any honor upon those that are idle and wicked, nor does he mark them out as deserving of it.
Preside in the Lord. This seems to be added to denote spiritual government. For although kings and magistrates also preside by the appointment of God, yet as the Lord would have the government of the Church to be specially recognized as his, those that govern the Church in the name and by the commandment of Christ, are for this reason spoken of particularly as presiding in the Lord. We may, however, infer from this, how very remote those are from the rank of pastors and prelates who exercise a tyranny altogether opposed to Christ. Unquestionably, in order that any one may be ranked among lawful pastors, it is necessary that he should shew that he presides in the Lord, and has nothing apart from him. And what else is this, but that by pure doctrine he puts Christ in his own seat, that he may be the only Lord and Master?
13. With love. Others render it by love; for Paul says in love, which, according to the Hebrew idiom, is equivalent to by or with. I prefer, however, to explain it thus--as meaning that he exhorts them not merely to respect them, 4 but also love them. For as the doctrine of the gospel is lovely, so it is befitting that the ministers of it should be loved. It were, however, rather stiff to speak of having in esteem by love, while the connecting together of love with honor suits well.
Be at peace. While this passage has various readings, even among the Greeks, I approve rather of the rendering which has been given by the old translator, and is followed by Erasmus--Pacem habete cum eis, vel colite--(Have or cultivate peace with them.) 5 For Paul, in my opinion, had in view to oppose the artifices of Satan, who ceases not to use every endeavor to stir up either quarrels, or disagreements, or enmities, between people and pastor. Hence we see daily how pastors are hated by their Churches for some trivial reason, or for no reason whatever, because this desire for the cultivation of peace, which Paul recommends so strongly, is not exercised as it ought.
14. Admonish the unruly. It is a common doctrine--that the welfare of our brethren should be the object of our concern. This is done by teaching, admonishing, correcting, and arousing; but, as the dispositions of men are various, it is not without good reason that the Apostle commands that believers accommodate themselves to this variety. He commands, therefore, that the unruly 6 be admonished, that is, those who live dissolutely. The term admonition, also, is employed to mean sharp reproof, such as may bring them back into the right way, for they are deserving of greater severity, and they cannot be brought to repentance by any other remedy.
Towards the faint-hearted another system of conduct must be pursued, for they have need of consolation. The weak must also be assisted. By faint-hearted, however, he means those that are of a broken and afflicted spirit. He accordingly favors them, and the weak, in such a way as to desire that the unruly should be restrained with some degree of sternness. On the other hand, he commands that the unruly should be admonished sharply, in order that the weak may be treated with kindness and humanity, and that the faint-hearted may receive consolation. It is therefore to no purpose that those that are obstinate and intractable demand that they be soothingly caressed, inasmuch as remedies must be adapted to diseases.
He recommends, however, patience towards all, for severity must be tempered with some degree of lenity, even in dealing with the unruly. This patience, however, is, properly speaking, contrasted with a feeling of irksomeness, 7 for nothing are we more prone to than to feel wearied out when we set ourselves to cure the diseases of our brethren. The man who has once and again comforted a person who is faint-hearted, if he is called to do the same thing a third time, will feel I know not what vexation, nay, even indignation, that will not permit him to persevere in discharging his duty. Thus, if by admonishing or reproving, we do not immediately do the good that is to be desired, we lose all hope of future success. Paul had in view to bridle impatience of this nature, by recommending to us moderation towards all.