Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE FIRST EPISTLE to the THESSALONIANS - The Epistles of St. Paul, vol. 1 (Jowett trans.)
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THE FIRST EPISTLE to the THESSALONIANS - Saint Paul, The Epistles of St. Paul, vol. 1 (Jowett trans.) 
The Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians and Romans. Vol. 1 Translation and Commentary by the late Benjamin Jowett, M.A. (3rd edition, edited and condensed by Lewis Campbell) (London: John Murray, 1894).
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THE FIRST EPISTLE to the THESSALONIANS
The greater number of the Epistles of St. Paul may be arranged conveniently in two groups: the first comprehending the Galatians, Corinthians, Romans; the second, the Epistles of the Imprisonment, including under this term the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.
Reading the Epistles in chronological order, many will be tempted to trace in them a gradual development of idea and doctrine. Others, again, will seek to impress upon them the same fixed type of truth held from the beginning, ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’ Could a person lay aside previous conceptions, and resign himself to the letter of the text, he would not find either of these views supported by an examination of the Epistles themselves. There is no system which is presupposed in them; nor can any be constructed out of them without marring their simplicity. They have almost wholly a practical aim, and are fragmentary and occasional. Ordinary letters arise out of the incidents of the day; so these have to do with real events and feelings passing between the Apostle and the churches. There is a growth in the Epistles of St. Paul, it is true; but it is the growth of Christian life, not of intellectual progress,—not of reflection, but of spiritual experience, enlarging as the world widens before the Apostle’s eyes, passing from life to death, or from strife to peace, with the changes in the Apostle’s own life, or the circumstances of his converts. There is a rest also in the Epistles of St. Paul, discernible not in forms of thought or types of doctrine, but in the person of Christ Himself, who is his centre in every Epistle, however various may be his modes of expression, or his treatment of controversial questions.
There is one mode of expression we naturally adopt when near, another at a distance—one in the fullness and vigour of life, another in the near approach of death—one in joy, another in sorrow—one in sympathy with others, another when at variance with them. Change of sphere will often produce a corresponding change in the style and cast of our thoughts. What we have long or often meditated upon, we express differently from what flashes upon us for the first time; what comes to us sealed by the experience of many years, assumes a different character in our minds from what with equal confidence we believed and acted upon in the fervour of first conviction.
These are the kind of differences which separate the first from the second of the two main divisions of the writings of St. Paul.
And before this there is a prior stage, in which he is on the threshold of the conflict, and not wholly (shall we say?) aware of the great thoughts which were hereafter, by the will of God, to spring up within him. Such is the inference which we are led to draw when, from the perusal of the later Epistles, we turn to those which are universally agreed to be first in date,—the Epistles to the Thessalonians,—and read them not as ‘dead words,’ but as witnesses of the Apostle’s mind and life.
It is a comparatively short period of time which can be allowed—not more than four or five years at the utmost— between the date of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, written from Athens or Corinth, and the Epistle to the Galatians, written probably during the Apostle’s stay at Ephesus or in its neighbourhood. More than half the Apostle’s ministry had already elapsed ere he set his hand to this the first of his extant writings,—one among many, as he implies in a passage in the Second Epistle, iii. 17, and therefore not to be looked upon too curiously, as part of a scheme which was to be completed in the series of Epistles. It is a fragment, the earliest we possess, of the Apostle’s life and the History of the Church. Nothing is gained for the interpretation of the Epistle, by attempting to combine it artificially with his later writings. No such connexion could have been present to the mind of the Apostle. The real light which they receive from one another is that of contrast. Two writings of the same author could not be more different than the Epistles to the Thessalonians and that which follows next in order, the Epistle to the Galatians. The latter is fervid and abrupt, full of interrogation and argument, and abounding in allusions to the Old Testament; it has the tone of one speaking with authority; parts of it are written under what may be termed the feeling of persecution (vi. 14-18), the subdued, painful sense that ‘he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ The Epistles to the Thessalonians are perhaps the least impassioned, and most regular in style, of any of St. Paul’s Epistles: they contain no single quotation from the Old Testament, and very few questions; they are not argumentative at all; they advise rather than command; nor are they marked by any of the Apostle’s deepest and most inward feelings.
GENUINENESS OF THE FIRST EPISTLE.
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians is not deficient in external evidence for its genuineness. It is quoted by Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian; is named in the Muratori fragment; and had a place among the ten Pauline Epistles, which were admitted into the Canon of Marcion, by whom it was ranked fifth in the list of St. Paul’s writings. Like all the other books of the New Testament, it is said to have been corrupted by him, or rather, if Epiphanius may be trusted (Haereses, p. 371), he left nothing of the original. The question of the relation of Marcion to the canon of Scripture is obscure, and one which, as we have no means of determining it from the Epistle to the Thessalonians, it would be out of place to discuss here. The fact, however, that he inserted the Epistle in his canon, is a proof that a writing under this name, identified by quotations of Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian, as the one which we possess, must have been received as a genuine work of St. Paul, at least as early as the middle of the second century.
It is not in consequence of any deficiency of external, but, as is supposed, of internal evidence, that doubts have been raised of late years respecting the genuineness of the Epistle. In some respects it has been thought too like, in others too unlike, undoubted writings of the Apostle, for us to maintain that it is from his hand. The critic by whom these difficulties have been chiefly urged, is Dr. Baur, of Tübingen, whose objections may be regarded as a summary of all that can be said on that side of the argument1 . They may be conveniently arranged under the following heads:—
i. Absence of individuality (eigenthümlichkeit) and of doctrinal statements. ‘It is made up of nothing but wishes, instructions, admonitions—contains no doctrinal subject-matter at all, with the single exception of the mention of the coming of Christ, iv. 13-18.’
There is a difficulty in meeting such objections as these, because, whatever real weight they may have, they ultimately resolve themselves into the impression of an individual critic, who, if he be gifted with the faculty of writing clearly, easily masters the judgement of his reader. Sometimes they come to us with overwhelming force; at other times we wonder that we can have been influenced by them at all. How an author ought to have written, is a question in which imagination has a wide range; a meagre induction, gathered from a few short works, is not a sufficient criterion of how he must have written everywhere and at all times. Baur’s objections labour under the fallacy of presenting one side of the question only. Grounds of suspicion are endless; and in answer we can only accumulate the probabilities opposed to them. On the same ground with Baur, it may be argued with great truth, that the very absence of individuality agrees with the incidental character of the Epistles. Why should we expect them all to bear marks of ‘originality?’ Might not the Apostle write as a man writes to his friends, without seeking to impart any new truth? Does not the First Epistle to the Thessalonians arise naturally from a real occasion—the return of Timothy with news respecting the converts—an occasion just similar to that of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians? Is not one doctrine enough in the space of five short chapters? And is the disproportion between the doctrinal and practical sections any greater than in the case of some of the other Epistles?
Slight as these presumptions are, they may be fairly placed in the scale against an argument such as Baur’s. If it were admitted that the absence of doctrinal ideas makes the Epistle unworthy of St. Paul, it makes it also a forgery without an object.
ii. The tone of a later age discernible in chap. ii. 16: ‘For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost;’ which is supposed to be an after-reflection on the destruction of Jerusalem.
To the Apostle, reading the future in the present, the state of Judea at any time during the last thirty years before the destruction of the city, would have been sufficient to justify the expression, ‘wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.’ The fearful looking for of judgement was natural, not only to Christians, but to Jews themselves, to Josephus as well as to St. Paul. The passage must not, however, be strained beyond its natural meaning. The word ὀργή, wrath, in other places (Rom. i. 18; ii. 8) refers at least as much to final impenitence and hardness of heart, ‘the spiritual wrath of God,’ as to temporal judgements. And the connexion in which it occurs here, ‘forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway,’ shows the Apostle to be speaking, not of punishment, but of reprobation1 .
iii. Inconsistencies with the Acts of the Apostles in some points of fact. These are: (1) The statement of the Acts that Silas and Timotheus, being left behind at Berea, came up with the Apostle at Corinth, after he had left them (Acts xviii. 5), compared with the fact recorded in the Epistle that Timothy was sent back from Athens to Thessalonica, 1 Thess. iii. 1; (2) the impression conveyed by the Acts xvii. 1-5, that the Thessalonian Church was of Jewish origin, compared with the impression conveyed by 1 Thess. ii. 14 that it was Gentile; and (3) the statement that the persecution which the Thessalonians endured was of their own countrymen, which is nevertheless recorded in the Acts to have been stirred up by Jews.
What reconciliation of these opposite views is possible need not be considered [in the present connexion]. It is sufficient here to observe, that the discrepancies alluded to are not greater than those between the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Galatians, in the account of the council. If these latter discrepancies have never led any critic to doubt the Epistle to the Galatians, neither is there any reason why similar discrepancies should be assumed as fatal to the Epistle to the Thessalonians.
Another objection is based on the indications afforded by the Epistle, that the Church to which it is addressed had been already long established. Their faith is known in every place, i. 9; they had a regular Church government, v. 12; and some of their members had died since the Apostle’s visit to them, iv. 13, although, according to the narrative of the Acts, but a few weeks, or at the most a few months, could have elapsed. Compare Acts xvii. 1-8, xviii. 1-5.
The answer to this objection is to be sought in the peculiar circumstances of the early Church, in which a year might be said to be like a day, and a whole life to be crowded into the moment of conversion. Men living in expectation of the coming of the Lord lost their measure of time; every hour was fraught to them with feelings and events. Nor must the language of the Apostle himself be too strictly interpreted when speaking of the Church, as seen by the eye of faith and love idealised before him. Compare 1 Cor. i. 9, especially as contrasted with the after tone of the Epistle; Rom. i. 8. Further it may be observed, that some kind of organization was established by St. Paul, immediately on his first declaration of the Gospel everywhere among the new converts, Acts xiv. 23; and that nothing is implied in the word προιστάμενοι but what must have existed in the Jewish Synagogue, and would naturally spring up in the Christian Church. The death of even one or two members of the Church might be sufficient to suggest the inquiry what became of the departed.
iv. Reference to the events recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, indicative of the sources whence the Epistle was compiled.
Baur supposes the forger of the Epistle to have had before him, either the Acts of the Apostles themselves, or earlier documents from which the Acts of the Apostles were compiled. The Epistle appears to him to add nothing to the events narrated there.
Opposite probabilities are: (1) The natural manner in which the events referred to are introduced. To go back to what happened while he was yet with them, is quite in character with the writings of the Apostle. In 1 Thessalonians, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, he recalls his converts to the moment of their first conversion; as in the Corinthians he appeals to the witness of his own life, and awakens their sympathies by the mention of persecutions which he suffered for their sakes. There is scarcely one of his Epistles which has not several allusions of this kind. Hence there is no sort of improbability that many such might occur in the Thessalonians. But, on the other hand, it must be observed, (2) that these resemblances to the Acts relate only to the persecution which the Apostle had endured at Philippi (ii. 2), to the persecution of the Thessalonian Church (ii. 14), and to his own stay at Athens; and (3) that the discrepancies just noticed are of themselves opposite probabilities. For is it likely that a forger, carefully reading the Acts of the Apostles when compiling his Epistle, could have committed so clumsy an error as to send back Timothy and Silas, not from Corinth, but from Athens? or would he have lighted upon so crude an invention as to send back Timothy at all, to satisfy the longing desire of the Apostle about his converts, when Timothy had just come from the place to which he was sent? Or again, is it probable that he would have fallen into the inconsistency of representing that [as] a Gentile which the Acts rather intimates to have been a Jewish Church? Or that persecution as raised by Gentiles, which the Acts informs us originated with Jews? The greatest carelessness must be attributed to him, to account for such oversights. But the greatest ingenuity would have been required to imitate the style and topics of St. Paul, as he must be supposed to have done. It is a refinement not to be thought of, that he purposely differed from the Acts of the Apostles, with the view of concealing the sources from which his information was derived.
v. The next argument of Baur is of a more subtle kind, and can only be justly appreciated by a careful comparison of the passages on which it is based. He thinks that in 1 Thessalonians he can trace a repetition of the same thoughts that occur elsewhere in the writings of St. Paul; or, in other words, he supposes the Epistle to be a sort of cento ingeniously made up from other places.
The instances given by him are as follows:—
That these are striking similarities is not to be doubted. The whole question turns upon the point, Of what nature is the similarity?
There is one kind of resemblance between two passages which indicates that one of them is an imitation or transcript of the other, while another kind proves them only to have been the production of the same mind. Even exact verbal agreements do not necessarily show more than that the same words have been used twice over by the same person. St. Paul, when writing nearly at the same time to the Ephesians and Colossians, might to both Churches repeat the same topics expressed in the same words, without this repetition necessarily shaking the genuineness of either Epistle. On the other hand, the portion of the Second Epistle of St. Peter and of the Epistle of St. Jude which is common to both is such as to demand a different explanation.
Which of these two alternatives we adopt, will depend chiefly on what we know of the author. The recurrence of the same thoughts or topics in two different works, may or may not be a presumption against the genuineness of both or either of them.
(1) Is it the way of an author to repeat himself? If we were able to say no, a strong presumption would be raised against the genuineness of a work which seemed to be but a repetition of his other writings. But if he were in the habit of repeating himself, the repetitions would be no disproof of the genuineness of the work in which they occurred.
They would be a slight presumption in its favour, or even a considerable one if made in a manner which was characteristic of the writer.
(2) The argument from similarity against the genuineness of one of two writings has a very different force when applied to a classical author or to the fluent rhetorician of a later age, and to a writer like St. Paul, whose style is constrained and vocabulary limited. Great masters of language are never at a loss for words; it is otherwise with those who are stammering in a foreign tongue.
(3) Similarities in words and terms only are not a presumption in favour of forgery, but rather the reverse, in the case of two works bearing the name of the same person. The forged book in ancient times was not a tessellated work of phrases and expressions derived from other writings of the supposed author. Whole passages were interpolated with an object, or perhaps without one, as they chanced to be remembered. But nothing would have been gained by stealing words.
Now, it must be observed: (a) That the parallels which we have quoted in no instance extend to whole verses, like that of St. Jude and St. Peter; (b) that they occur in a writer who, in his undoubtedly genuine Epistles, is remarkable for such repetitions. Not to mention the parallelism of the Ephesians and the Colossians, the very passages, which we have already quoted from the two Epistles to the Corinthians, closely resemble similar expressions in the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans. Compare 1 Cor. ii. 4, iv. 3, 4 with Gal. i. 10; or 2 Cor. xii. 7 with Gal. iv. 14; or Rom. xiv with 1 Cor. viii; or the deferred intention in 2 Cor. xiii. 1 with Rom. i. 13; or the unwillingness to enter on another man’s labours in Rom. xv. 18-24 with 2 Cor. x. 14-16; or Gal. iii. 6-12 with Rom. iv. 3-11. Almost every Epistle of St. Paul has a network of thoughts and expressions derived from the rest. And hence we infer that the passages in the Thessalonians quoted by Baur are rather to be regarded as an indication of the genuineness than of the spuriousness of the Epistle; because they are quoted in the manner in which St. Paul repeats himself; and (c) they are not of a kind which a forger could easily have invented.
It might be truly said of the early Ecclesiastical forgeries that nothing could exceed the readiness with which they were received; but, on the other hand, nothing could exceed the clumsiness of their falsification. They made no attempt to imitate the style of the author whose name they bore; they commonly carried on their face the object with which they were written. A forgery so ingenious as the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, containing so many latent resemblances to the genuine writings of the Apostle, would be unique in Ecclesiastical literature.
Paley remarks, that a writer of the second century would never have thought of attributing to St. Paul the expectation of the immediate end of the world, which had already been refuted by the course of events. Put in a slightly different point of view, the argument is perfectly just. He who may be supposed to have written the First Epistle to the Thessalonians in the second century, was probably a believer in the immediate advent of Christ. But whatever may have been his own belief, he would have felt the anachronism of putting into the mouth of one long since dead, words that implied that he would be alive when it took place. And the whole spirit of such a belief would have led him to have supported it by present immediate inspiration rather than by the testimony of an Apostle who had himself fallen asleep.
(4) Lastly: Many positive evidences may be urged in favour of the genuineness of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Among these we reckon the last of Baur’s objections (above, p. 5).
vi. Without laying greater stress on this argument than it deserves, we pass on to enumerate other internal evidences that the Epistle is St. Paul’s. Such are:—
(1) The desire to see the face of his converts, iii. 6, 10, and delayed intention to come to them, ii. 18. Compare Rom. i. 13, xv. 22; 1 Cor. xvi. 1; 2 Cor. i. 16, xiii. 1; Phil. i. 8; Philem. 22.
(2) The lively sympathy with them throughout the Epistle. Such passages as ii. 17, iii. 5, 10, are good instances of this. He is taken from them in presence, not in heart; he lives if they stand fast in the Lord; they desire to see him, even as he them. These expressions show the same sort of reciprocity between the Apostle and his converts as is traceable in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. In both there is the same sensitiveness to every human as well as spiritual consolation, the same loneliness when separated from them, and the same joy at the good news of Titus and Timothy. Compare 1 Thess. ii. 17, iii. 6, with 2 Cor. vii. 5, 7, ii. 12, 13; also Phil. iii. 25, 29; Col. i. 7, 8. Yet great as is the similarity of thought, there is no similarity of language, such as that into which an imitator would naturally have fallen.
(3) The frequent and characteristic mention of himself. As in the Galatians, he perpetually recurs to the time when he was yet with them. It is through himself, in the remembrance of himself, that he would implant in them the image of Christ. And yet that which he especially seeks to recall, is the very absence of any claim or pretension on his part. He did not seek praise when he might have done so; he did not receive the maintenance to which, as an Apostle, he had a right, 2 Cor. xi. 9, xiii. 13, 14. Does not this remind us of him who did glory and did not glory, seeming, as it were, to assert and deny himself at once? And yet the favourite word καυχα̂σθαι nowhere occurs in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
(4) The delicate manner in which reproof and admonition are conveyed, as what they already knew and practised, and had no need that the Apostle should teach them, iv. 9, v. 2.
(5) The germs of thoughts and of precepts which may be traced in a more developed form in later Epistles. Thus the practical exhortations at the end of the Epistle, are more fully worked out in the twelfth chapter of the Romans; the figure in v. 8 is expanded in Eph. vi. 13-17. A slighter example of the same growth is traceable in the expression, ‘Whether we wake or sleep we may live together with him,’ in v. 10, compared with the common phraseology of the Romans, Galatians, and the later Epistles. Another is the reference to the heathen origin of the Thessalonians, in i. 9; compare 1 Cor. xii. 2; Eph. ii. 11; Gal. iv. 8; also the mention made of the relation of the Church to those that are without, iv. 12 (compare Col. iv. 5; Cor. vi. 1), as well as of unity within, v. 13. A similar growth is observable in the allusion to the duty of the Church to support the teachers of the Gospel, when placed side by side with the larger manner in which the same subject is treated in 1 Cor. ix; 2 Cor. xi. 8, 9; xii. 13. In all these instances there is the kind of difference that we should expect to find between a thought or precept often dwelt upon and frequently repeated, and the same thought expressed for the first time in few words by a comparatively unpractised writer.
It has been objected against the genuineness of this Epistle, that it contains only a single statement of doctrine. But liveliness, personality, similar traits of disposition, are far more difficult to invent than statements of doctrine. A later age might have supplied these, but it could hardly have caught the very likeness and portrait of the Apostle. The strength of this argument is considerably increased when it is placed side by side with another of a wholly different kind, derived from mannerisms of style and language. Such are:—
(1) The expansion and association of words traceable in passages, such as i. 2-6, 7, 8; ‘Going off upon a word’ or thought, ii. 18, v. 4; ‘harping back upon one,’ ii. 1; cf. i. 9, iii. 5; cf. 1; elucidation of one expression or one verse by another in apposition with it, as in i. 9, iv. 3, 6; the aggravation and accumulation of language in such passages as i. 2, 3, 5, 8; the apparent unmeaningness of some emphatic expressions, ii. 5, iii. 11, v. 27; the recurrence of the same forms of speech and thought at the commencement of successive verses and paragraphs, i. 9, ii. 1, ii. 3, 5, ii. 7, 11, iii. 1, 5, often traceable at a great distance, as in i. 6, ii. 14; play of words, iv. 9; exaggeration, iv. 10; climax, ii. 8, i. 5, in the latter passage with the favourite οὐ μόνον ἀλλὰ καί; negative and positive statements of the same thought, ii. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; interrogative and positive statements, ii. 19, 20.
(2) Peculiarities of another class, found in the Epistles to the Thessalonians as well as in other writings of St. Paul, are the following:—
The play of words δεδοκιμάσμεθα, δοκιμάζοντι, in ii. 4; the paradox in i. 6 ἐν θλίψει πολλῃ̂ μετὰ χαρα̂ς πνεύματος ἁγίου (compare Col. i. 24; 2 Cor. vii. 10, viii. 1); the mixed metaphor respecting the day of the Lord in v. 5, also in the same passage the double use of κλέπτης, κλέπτας (compare Rom. xiii. 12; 1 Cor. iii. 15; and the inversion of thought in Rom. vii. 1-7); the substitution of the present for the future, in iii. 19 (compare Rom. ii. 16); verbal antithesis of prepositions, i. 5 ἐν ὑμɩ̂ν δι’ ὑμα̂ς, iv. 7 ἐπὶ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ, ἀλλ’ ἐν ἁγιασμῳ̑, ii. 3 οὐκ ἐκ πλάνης οὐδὲ ἐν δόλῳ; pleonasms as in i. 3, ii. 9, v. 23; repetition of γάρ in several successive verses, i. 8—ii. 1; use of γάρ in question, ii. 19, iii. 9; resumption of sentence after a digression with διὰ τονˆτο, iii. 5, iii. 7; the use of the double ἵνα, iv. 1; peculiar uses of words and expressions such as εὐαγγέλιον for the preaching of the Gospel, 1 Thess. i. 5; ἀγών Col. iii. 1; 1 Thess. ii. 2, to express the passionate earnestness of his feelings towards his converts; χαρὰ ἢ στέϕανος 1 Thess. ii. 19; Phil. iv. 1, said also of his converts; ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρωˆ 2 Cor. ii. 5; δυνάμενοι ἐν βάρει εἰ̂ναι 1 Thess. ii. 6, of his burdening the Church with his maintenance. Compare also the following:—
ἀπὼν τῳ̑ σώματι, παρὼν δὲ τῳ̑ πνεύματι 1 Cor. v. 3; ἐν προσώπῳ καὶ μὴ ἐν καρδίᾳ 2 Cor. v. 12; προσώπῳ οὐ καρδίᾳ 1 Thess. ii. 17.
Such intricate similarities of language, such lively traits of character, it is not within the power of any forger to invent, and, least of all, of a forger of the second century.
Thessalonica, called in more ancient times Halia, Emathia, and Therma, now Salonichi, was a populous city, the capital of one of the Roman divisions of Macedonia, situated at the north-east corner of the Thermaic Gulf.
It is not one of the objects of the present work to enter minutely either into the history of the cities to which the Epistles were addressed, or into the local features of the country in which they were situated. To fill the mind with historical pictures or descriptions of scenery, will not in any degree help us to feel as the Apostles felt, or think as they thought, any more than the history of the reign of George the Third, or a description of the scenery of Somersetshire or Cornwall, would enable us to understand the life and character of Wesley or Whitfield. Interesting as such pictures may be, they tend to withdraw us from a higher interest, which is to be found only in the private character of the Gospel narrative itself.
It is not in the first, but in the second century, that the Church comes into contact with the world. The life of Christ and His Apostles stands in no relation to the public history of their time. None of the great events of the world appears to touch them; no edict of the Roman emperors, with the single exception of the command of Claudius that the Jews should depart from Rome, has the least effect on the fortunes of the infant communion. Even in this case, we arrive at no other result than that Aquila and Priscilla met with St. Paul at Corinth, and may conjecture of the possible influence of the dispersion of so many Jews throughout the empire. No name of any Christian convert in the New Testament can be certainly identified with the name of any one known to us from profane history.
Neither are the descriptions of particular cities or countries at all more instructive. The fact, that at Thessalonica there were many thousand Jews, is of very slight importance in connexion with an Epistle addressed to Gentiles; it is not more than a probability, that we can trace in the erring Galatians the spirit of the worshippers of Cybele or of the followers of Montanus. No amount of research into the history of the time, would inform us of the first question respecting all the Epistles, whether they were addressed to Jews or Gentiles.
Such historical or topographical inquiries are of interest to the antiquarian; they are like the relaxation of foreign travel after severe study: but they have no real connexion with the interpretation of Scripture; and they tend to withdraw the mind from the true sources of illustration of the Epistles, and the true nature of the earliest Christianity. They lead us away from the internal relation of all Jewish and heathen thought to the truths of the Gospel, to a relation between the Church and the world which is purely accidental and external. They tend to give a national and historical character to Christianity, ere yet it appeared to the eye of man as a phenomenon of history. It is not the least danger of such inquiries that they fill up the void of materials by innumerable conjectures.
The traveller in Greece or in Asia who has followed in the footsteps of the Apostles, who has beheld with his own eyes the same scenes that were looked upon by St. Paul and St. John, is loth to believe that he can add nothing to our knowledge of the Seven Churches, or of the labours of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Those scenes have a never-dying interest; but it is for themselves alone. Fain would we imagine the sight upon which St. Paul looked, when standing on Mars’ Hill, he beheld ‘the city wholly given to idolatry;’ fain would we see in fancy the desert rocks of the sea-girt isle, on which St. John gazed when he wrote the Apocalypse. But we must not transfer to the ancient world our own impressions of nature or of art. Of that sensibility to the beauties of scenery, or of that romantic recollection of the past, which are such remarkable characteristics of our own day, there is no trace in the writings of the New Testament, nor any reason to suppose that they had a place in the minds of its authors.
Taking the other aspect of the subject, we are far from denying that the birth of Christianity is the most interesting of historical facts; but its interest is also for itself alone: it is not derived from any political influence which the Gospel at first exercised, or from any political causes which may have favoured or given rise to it. In the vastness of the Roman world, it is as a small isolated spot, the light, as it were, of a candle, which must be sought for, not in the court of Caesar, nor amid the factions of Jerusalem, but in the upper chamber in which the disciples met when ‘the number of the names together was about an hundred and twenty, and the doors were shut for fear of the Jews.’ It is one of those minute facts which escape the eye of the contemporary historian, and must not be drawn before its time into the circle of political events. Its first greatness is the very contrast which it presents with the greatness of history. Strange it is to think of the contemporary heathen world, of Tiberius at Capreae, of the Roman senate, of the solid framework of the Roman empire itself. But when this first feeling of surprise has passed away, we become aware that the page of Tacitus, or even of Josephus, adds nothing worth speaking of to our knowledge of the earliest Christianity. The most remarkable fact supplied by them is their unconsciousness of its importance.
SUBJECT OF THE EPISTLE.
It does not detract from the value of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians to say that it is without an object. That is, it has no other object but to confirm their faith and remind them of what they owed to the Apostle, as a motive for their continuance in the lesson which he had taught them. The greater part of it is a simple narrative of ‘his manner of entering into them’ and its results. As though he had said, ‘Remember who it was who showed you these things; who spoke to you disinterested words; who drew you towards him with cords of love, as a nurse among her children, as a father with his sons.’ The burden of the first three chapters is his love to them and theirs to him; his anxiety to hear of them and to see them. But love cannot abstain from exhortation; not that it has new commands to give, or fresh lessons to impart, but the very excess of love pours itself forth in thrice-told admonitions and consolations. Trite precepts are repeated by the Apostle as by a parent, not because his children know them not, but in the hope that this time they may strike home upon them with some peculiar force or influence.
From the personal narrative which, in the first half of the Epistle, he has made the vehicle of his instruction, he passes on to a more general lesson. There is no peculiar appropriateness in the manner in which the topics of the fourth and fifth chapters follow one another. They are, first, purity; secondly, love of the brethren; thirdly, the state of the departed, and the coming of Christ; fourthly, peace and order; these are followed by particular and apparently disjointed precepts. It is not impossible to trace a connexion of the second and fourth with the third in the series; for affection for one another may have led to an inquiry ‘concerning them which are asleep,’ and the belief in the approaching Advent, with which the anxiety about the dead was connected, was probably the source of disorder in the Church. Compare 2 Thess. ii. 2. But however interesting such an association may be, we cannot feel certain that it had any real existence in the Apostle’s mind. More naturally we may suppose that, as in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he writes without connexion, as the several subjects occur to him, or may have been suggested by the news of Timothy, as in the former case by certain of the household of Chloe.
The subject which stands out most prominently in this latter portion of the Epistle, is the state of the departed. The formula with which it is introduced reminds us of the similar formula at the commencement of the tenth chapter of the First of Corinthians, ‘Moreover, brethren, I would not have you ignorant;’ which, in the same way, forms a transition to a fresh topic. It is closely connected with that which is the undercurrent of the whole Epistle, the near approach of the coming of Christ; and probably arises out of some inquiry made of the Apostle by those who were sorrowing for lost friends or kinsmen, who seemed to them not only to have passed, like the Israelites of old, from the presence of God, but from the hope of Messiah’s kingdom.
The ground of consolation (1 Thess. iv. 14, ‘If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will Christ bring with him’) is the same as that of 1 Cor. xv. 21, ‘Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead;’ though the form is different. It is the object of the Apostle to do away with the dreary thought which we infer the Thessalonians to have entertained, that they were for ever separated from the dead. Their heaven was on earth, where they were expecting the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle comforts them with the assurance that, even if they should not go to the dead, the dead should return to them; that in that kingdom they were not to be parted, but together, the living with the dead and both with Christ.
EVILS IN THE CHURCH OF THE APOSTOLICAL AGE.
Were we, with the view of forming a judgement of the moral state of the early Church, to examine the subjects of rebuke most frequently referred to by the Apostle, these would be found to range themselves under four heads:—first, licentiousness; secondly, disorder; thirdly, scruples of conscience; fourthly, strifes about doctrine and teachers. The consideration of these four subjects, the two former falling in with the argument of the Epistle to the Thessalonians, the two latter more closely connected with the Romans and the Galatians, will give what may be termed the darker side of the primitive Church.
1. Licentiousness was the besetting sin of the Roman world. Except by a miracle, it was impossible that the new converts could be at once and wholly freed from it. It lingered in the flesh when the spirit had cast it off. It had interwoven itself in the pagan religions; and, if we may believe the writings of adversaries, was ever reappearing on the confines of the Church in the earliest heresies. It was possible for men ‘to resist unto death, striving against sin,’ yet to fall beneath its power. Even within the pale of the Church, it might assume the form of a mystic Christianity. The very ecstasy of conversion would often lead to a reaction. Nothing is more natural than that in a licentious city, like Corinth or Ephesus, those who were impressed by St. Paul’s teaching should have gone their way, and returned to their former life. In this case it would seldom happen that they apostatized into the ranks of the heathen: the same impulse which led them to the Gospel, would lead them also to bridge the gulf which separated them from its purer morality. Many may have sinned and repented again and again, unable to stand themselves in the general corruption, yet unable to cast aside utterly the image of innocence and goodness which the Apostle had set before them. There were those, again, who consciously sought to lead the double life, and imagined themselves to have found in licentiousness the true freedom of the Gospel.
How the consciences of men were aroused to the sense that sins of the flesh were really sins, may be seen by the manner in which the Apostle speaks of them. His tone respecting them is very different from that of moralists, or of common conversation even among serious men in modern times. He says nothing of the distrust which they infuse into society, or the consequences to the individual himself.
It is a new and hitherto unheard of language in which the Apostle denounces sins of impurity. They are not moral evils, but spiritual. They corrupt the soul; they defile the temple of the Holy Ghost; they cut men off from the body of Christ. Of morality, as distinct from religion, there is hardly a trace in the Epistles of St. Paul. He cannot appeal to public opinion, for public opinion does not exist; the Gospel itself has to make the standard to the level of which it will raise the world. Fornication and uncleanness were mildly, when at all, censured by heathen philosophy. From within, not from without, the nature of sin has to be explained; as it appears in the depths of the human soul, in the awakening conscience of mankind. Even its consequences in another state of being are but slightly touched upon, in comparison with that living death which [sin] itself is. It is not merely a vice or crime, or even an offence against the law of God, to be punished here or hereafter. It is more than this. It is what men feel in themselves, not what they observe in those around them; not what shall be, but what is; a terrible consciousness, a mystery of iniquity, a communion with unseen powers of evil.
But although such is the tone of the Apostle, there is no violence to human nature in his commands respecting it. He knew how easily extremes meet, how hard it is for asceticism to make clean that which is within, how quickly it might itself pass into its opposite. Nothing can be more different from the spirit of early ecclesiastical history on this subject, than the moderation of St. Paul. The remedy for sin is not celibacy, but marriage. Even second marriages are, for the prevention of sin, to be encouraged. In the same spirit is his treatment of the incestuous person. He had committed a sin not even named among the Gentiles, for which he was to be delivered unto Satan, for which all the Church should humble themselves; yet upon his true repentance, no ban is to separate him from the rest of the brethren, no doom of endless penance is recorded against him. Whatever might have been the enormity of his offence, he was to be forgiven, as in heaven, so on earth.
The manner in which the Corinthian Church are described as regarding this offence before the Apostle’s rebuke to them, no less than the lenient sentence of the Apostle himself afterwards, as well as his constant admonitions on the same subject in all his Epistles, must be regarded as indications of the state of morality among the first converts. Above all other things, the Apostle insisted on purity as the first note of the Christian character; and yet the very earnestness and frequency of his warnings show that he is speaking, not of a sin hardly named among saints, but of one the victory over which was the greatest and most difficult triumph of the cross of Christ.
2. It is hard to resist the impression which naturally arises in our minds, that the early Church was without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; as it were, a bride adorned for her husband, the type of Christian purity, the model of Apostolical order. The real image is marred with human frailty; its evils, perhaps, arising more from this cause than any other, that in its commencement it was a kingdom not of this world; in other words, it had no political existence or legal support; hence there is no evil more frequently referred to in the Epistles than disorder.
This spirit of disorder was manifested in various ways. In the Church of Corinth, the communion of the Lord’s Supper was administered so as to be a scandal; ‘one was hungry, and another was drunken.’ There was as yet no rite or custom to which all conformed. In the same Church, the spiritual gifts were manifested without rule or order. It seemed as if God was not the author of peace, but of confusion. All spoke together, men and women, apparently without distinction, singing, praying, teaching, uttering words unintelligible to the rest, with no regular succession or subordination (1 Cor. xiv). The scene in their assemblies was such, that if an unbeliever had come in, he would have said they were mad. There is no other Church into which we have the same particular insight; but it is not likely that more regularity was observed in the Galatian Church, which was distracted between St. Paul and the false teachers, than in the Corinthian, which still, though in disorder, acknowledged his authority. In the Church to which the Epistle of Jude is addressed, the worst heretics are described as joining in the love feasts of its members, ‘feeding without fear.’ The Second Epistle of Peter uses nearly the same words to the Jews of the dispersion. (Jude 12; 2 Pet. ii. 13.)
Evils of this kind in a great measure arose from the absence of Church authority. Even the Apostle himself persuades more often than commands, and often uses language which implies a sort of hesitation whether his rule would be acknowledged or not. The freedom with which the Church of Corinth challenges particulars in his life and conduct (1 Cor. ix) reminds us rather of the license of a modern congregation in censuring a minister of the Gospel, who was under its control, than of the position which we should expect an Apostle to have held in the minds of the first converts. The diverse offices, the figure of the members and the body, do not refer to what was, but to what ought to have been; to an ideal of harmonious life and action, which the Apostle holds up before them, which in practice was far from being realized. The Church was not organized, but was in process of organization. Its only punishment was excommunication, which, as in modern so in primitive times, could not be enforced against the wishes of the majority. In two cases only are members of the Church ‘delivered unto Satan’ (1 Cor. v. 5; 1 Tim. i. 20). It was a moral and spiritual, not a legal control that was exercised. Hence the frequent admonitions given, doubtless, because they were needed: ‘Obey them that have the rule over you.’
A second kind of disorder arose from unsettlement of mind. Of such unsettlement we find traces in the levity and vanity of the Corinthians; in the fickleness with which the Galatians left St. Paul for the false teachers; almost (may we not say?) in the very passion with which the Apostle addresses them; above all, in the case of the Thessalonians. How few, among all the converts, were there capable of truly discerning their relation to the world around! or of supporting themselves alone when the fervour of conversion had passed away and the Apostle was no longer present with them! They had entered into a state so different from that of their fellow-men, that it might well be termed supernatural. The ordinary experience of men was no longer their guide. They left their daily employments. The great change which they felt within, seemed to extend itself without and involve the world in its shadow. So ‘palpable to sense’ was the vision of Christ’s coming again, that their only fear or doubt was how the departed would have a share in it. No religious belief could be more unsettling than this: that to-day, or to-morrow, or the third day, before the sun set or the dawn arose, the sign of the Son of man might appear in the clouds of heaven. It was not possible to take thought for the morrow, to study to be quiet and get their own living, when men hardly expected the morrow. Death comes to individuals now, as nature prepares them for it; but the immediate expectation of Christ’s coming is out of the course of nature. Young and old alike look for it. It is a resurrection of the world itself, and implies a corresponding revolution in the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of men.
A third kind of disorder may have arisen from the same causes, but seems to have assumed another character. As among the Jews, so among the first Christians, there were those who needed to be perpetually reminded, that the powers that be were ordained of God. The heathen converts could not at once lay aside the licentiousness of manners amid which they had been brought up; no more could the Jewish converts give up their aspirations, that at this time ‘the kingdom was to be restored to Israel,’ which had perhaps been in some cases their first attraction to the Gospel. A community springing up in Palestine under the dominion of the Romans, could not be expected exactly to draw the line between the things that were Caesar’s and the things that were God’s, or to understand in what sense ‘the children were free,’ in what sense it was nevertheless their duty to pay tribute. The spirit of those Galileans, ‘who called no man Lord,’ must have sometimes found its way into the early Christian Church. When men are ‘wrestling against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in heavenly places,’ they do not find it easy to reconcile their course of action with the bidding of those ‘who sit in Moses’s seat.’ That one of the chief apprehensions of the Apostle was this tendency to rebellion, is proved by the frequency of the exhortations to obey magistrates, and the energy with which he sets himself against it.
3. The third head of our inquiry related to scruples of conscience, which were chiefly of two kinds; regarding either the observance of days, or the eating with the unclean or unbelievers. Were they, or were they not, to observe the Jewish Sabbath, or new moon, or passover? Such questions as these are not to be considered the fancies or opinions of individuals; but, as mankind are quick enough to discover, involve general principles, and are but the outward signs of some deep and radical difference. In the question of the observance of Jewish feasts, and still more in the question of going in unto men uncircumcised and eating with them, was implied the whole question of the relation of the disciple of Christ to the Jew, just as the question of sitting at meat in the idol’s temple was the question of the relation of the disciple of Christ to the Gentile. Was the Christian to preserve his caste, and remain within the pale of Judaism? Was he in his daily life to carry his religious scruples so far as to exclude himself from the social life of the heathen world? How much prudence and liberty and charity was necessary for the solution of such difficulties!
Freedom is the key-note of the Gospel, as preached by St. Paul. ‘All things are lawful.’ ‘There is no distinction of Jew or Greek, barbarian or Scythian, bond or free.’ ‘Let no man judge you of a new moon or a Sabbath.’ ‘Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.’ And yet, if we go back to its origin, the Christian Church was born into the world marked and diversified with the features of the religions that had preceded it, bound within the curtains of the tabernacle, coloured with Oriental opinions that refused to be washed out of the minds of men. The scruples of individuals are but indications of the elements out of which the Church was composed. There were narrow paths in which men walked, customs which clung to them long after the reason of them had ceased, observances which they were unable to give up, though conscience and reason alike disowned them, which were based on the traditions of half the world, and could not be relinquished, however alien to the spirit of the Gospel. Slowly and gradually, as Christianity itself became more spread, these remnants of Judaism or Orientalism disappeared, and the spirit which had been taught from the beginning made itself felt in the hearts of men and in the institutions of the Church.
4. The heresies of the Apostolical age are a subject too wide for illustration in a note. We shall attempt no more than to bring together the names and heads of opinion which occur in Scripture, with the view of completing the preceding sketch.
There was the party of Peter and of Paul, of the circumcision and of the uncircumcision. There were those who knew ‘Christ according to the flesh;’ those who, like St. Paul, knew Him only as revealed within. There were others who, after casting aside circumcision, were still struggling between the old dispensation and the new. There were those who never went beyond the baptism of John; others, again, to whom the Gospel of Christ clothed itself in Alexandrian language. There were prophets, speakers with tongues, discerners of spirits, interpreters of tongues. There were seekers after ‘knowledge, falsely so called;’ ‘spoilers of others with philosophy and vain deceit,’ ‘worshippers of angels, intruders into things they had not seen.’ There were those who looked daily for the coming of Christ; others who ‘said that the Resurrection was passed already.’ There were some who maintained an Oriental asceticism in their lives, ‘forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from meats.’ There were individuals, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had ‘made shipwreck of their faith;’ like Phygellus and Hermogenes, who had ‘turned away’ from St. Paul; like Diotrephes, the leader in the Church of Ephesus, who refused to ‘receive’ St. John. There were national differences, Jewish Sectarian tendencies, heathen systems of philosophy; stones of another workmanship built into the fabric of the Christian Church. There was the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, the synagogue of Satan, who ‘said that they were Jews, and are not,’ ‘the woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess.’ There were wild heretics, ‘many Antichrists,’ ‘grievous wolves, entering into the fold,’ apostasy of whole churches at once. There were mingled anarchy and licentiousness, ‘filthy dreamers, despising dominion, speaking evil of dignities,’ of whom no language is too strong for St. Paul or St. John to use, though they seem to have been separated by no definite line from the Church itself. There were fainter contrasts, too, of those who agreed in the unity of the same spirit, aspects, and points of view, as we term them, of faith and works, of the Epistle to the Romans and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
How this outline is to be filled up must for ever remain, in a great degree, matter of speculation. Yet there is not a single trait here mentioned which does not reappear in the second century, either within the Church or without it, more or less prominent as favoured by circumstances or the reverse. The beginning of Ebionitism, Sabaism, Gnosticism, Montanism, Alexandrianism, Orientalism, and of the licentiousness which marked the track of some of them, are all discernible in the Apostolical age. They would be more correctly regarded, not as offshoots of Christianity, but as the soil in which it grew up. We are surrounded by them, in the Epistles of St. Paul, as truly as the Israelites were surrounded by their enemies when they first took possession of the Promised Land. They are not errors which arose when men began to speculate on the truths of the Gospel: Gnosticism, in particular, would be more nearly described as the mental atmosphere of the Greek cities of Asia, a conducting medium between heathenism and Christianity, in the magic light of which all religions faded and reappeared. None of them pass away at once; some even acquire a temporary principle of life, and grow up parallel with the Church itself. As opinions and tendencies of the human mind, many linger among us to the present day. Only after the destruction of Jerusalem, with the spread of the Gospel over the world, as the spirit of the East moves towards the West, Judaism dies away, to rise again, as some hold, in the glorified form of a mediaeval Church.
Such is the reverse side of the picture of the Apostolical age; what proportions we should give to each feature it is impossible to determine. We need not infer that all Churches were in the same disorder as Corinth and Galatia; or like Sardis, in which only ‘a few names had not defiled their garments;’ nor can we say how far the more flagrant evils were tamely submitted to by the Church itself. There was much of good that we can never know; much also of evil. The first Christians stood alone in the world: many of them were ready to venture their lives for the faith; most of them had probably suffered persecution — a difference between ourselves and them than which none can be greater. And perhaps the general lesson which we gather from the preceding considerations is, not that the state of the primitive Church was better or worse than our first thoughts would have suggested, but that its state was one in which good and evil exercised a more vital power, were more subtly intermingled with, and more easily passed into, each other. All things were coming to the birth, some in one way, some in another. The supports of custom, of opinion, of tradition, had given way; human nature was thrown upon itself and the guidance of the Spirit of God. There were as many diversities of human character in the world then as now; more strange influences of religion and race than have ever since met in one; a far greater yearning of the human intellect to solve the problems of existence. There was no settled principle of morality independent of and above religious convictions. All these causes are sufficient to account for the diversities of opinion or practice, as well as for the extremes which met in the bosom of the primitive Church.
THE FIRST EPISTLE to the THESSALONIANS
1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; Grace unto you, and peace [from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ].
1.2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making 1.3 mention of you aat// our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope bof// our Lord Jesus Christ, in the 1.4 sight of cour God and// Father; knowing, brethren 1.5 beloved dof God, your election, that// our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your 1.6 sake; and ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy 1.7 of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ean ensample// to 1.8 all that believe in Macedonia and fin// Achaia. For from you ghas been// sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and fin// Achaia, buth-// in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; 1.9 so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to 1.10 serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, which idelivereth// us from the wrath to come.
2 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in 2.2unto you, that it was not in vain: butk-// after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. 2.3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor 2.4of uncleanness, nor in guile; but as we were 1approved// of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God which mproveth//2.5our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God 2.6 is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor of others, when we might have been burdensome, 2.7as the apostles of Christ. But we were nbabes// among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her oown//2.8children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were 2.9 dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: p-// labouring night and day, because we would not be qburdensome// unto any of you, we 2.10preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and rrighteously// and unblameably we behaveds-// among you that 2.11believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his 2.12children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who tcalleth// you unto his kingdom and glory.
2.13And for this cause uwe also thank// 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 2.14 effectually worketh also in you that believe. For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judæa are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as 2.15they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and xthe// prophets, have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: 2.16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway. yBut// the wrath zhas// come upon them to the uttermost.
2.17BUT we, brethren, being abereaved in being// taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, bwere the more abundantly earnest// to see your face 2.18with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan 2.19 hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our 2.20Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our 3glory and joy. Wherefore when we could no longer ccontain,// we thought it good to be left at Athens 3.2alone; and sent Timotheus, 1 our brother, and fellow-worker with God, in the gospel of Christ, to establish 3.3 you, and to comfort you concerning your faith, that no man should be moved by these dtribulations// ; for 3.4yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto, for verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to 3.5pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I also sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our 3.6labour been in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and elove,// and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to 3.7 see you: therefore, brethren, we were comforted fin// you, in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 3.8 for now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For 3.9what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before 3.10our God; night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is 3.11lacking in your faith? Now our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way 3.12unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all 3.13 men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before gour God and Father,// at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
41 FURTHERMORE then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, even as ye do walk, that ye would abound more and more. 4.2For ye know what commandments we gave you by 4.3the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4.4 that every one of you should know how to 4.5hget himself his own// vessel in sanctification and honour: not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which 4.6know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in the matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all these things, as we also forewarned 4.7you and testified. For God called us not unto uncleanness, 4.8but in sanctification. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who giveth unto you his holy Spirit.
4.9But as touching brotherly love1 we need not to write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God 4.10to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, to increase more and more; 4.11and to study to be quiet, and do your own business, and work with your hands, as we commanded you; 4.12that ye may walk honestly towards them that are without, and may have lack of nothing.
4.13 But we would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, 4.14even as the others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 4.15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the 4.16Lord shall not prevent them which sleep; because the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of 4.17God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: 4.18and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
5 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have 5.2no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief 5.3in the night. 1 But when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not 5.4 escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that 5.5that day should overtake you as ithieves// : kfor// ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day. 5.6We are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and 5.7be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and 5.8they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the 5.9hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to lobtaining of// salvation by our Lord 5.10Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake 5.11or sleep, we may live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
5.12And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and 5.13admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. m-// Be at peace among yourselves. 5.14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, 5.15 be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is 5.165.17good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice 5.18evermore; pray without ceasing; in every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ 5.195.20concerning you. Quench not the Spirit; despise not 5.21 prophesyings. nBut// prove all things; hold fast that 5.22 which is good; abstain from oevery kind// of evil. 5.23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord 5.24Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
5.28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.r-//
ON THE BELIEF in the COMING OF CHRIST IN THE APOSTOLICAL AGE