2 Thessalonians 2:17
Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
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(17) Comfort your hearts . . .—“Comfort,” in reference to the “unending comfort” of 2Thessalonians 2:16; and “stablish,” in reference to the “good hope in grace.” The “heart” needs comfort as the seat of emotions. “In every good word and work” (it should be, work and word) means in the maintenance of every good doctrine (as opposed to the false teaching which had got abroad about the Advent, and to the lies of the Apostasy), and in the performance of every good practice (as opposed to the lawlessness of the Apostasy, and to the disorderly conduct of which the next chapter treats: for here, as in 1Thessalonians 3:13, the prayer forms an introduction of the next subject). The singular number of the verbs “comfort” and “stablish” (which, of course, does not appear in the English), may perhaps be explained as in 1Thessalonians 3:12, where see Note, though it is not necessary so to understand it, inasmuch as the intervening relative (in the Greek, participial) clauses have turned the whole attention to the Father, who may be considered exclusively as the grammatical subject of the verbs. It would, however, have been painful to orthodox ears; however justifiable doctrinally, to have used a plural verb. It is by these little incidental touches, still more than by express doctrinal statements, that we learn what was the real belief of the Apostles concerning the Divinity of Christ; and we may say the same with regard to many other great doctrines.

2:16,17 We may and should direct our prayers, not only to God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, but also to our Lord Jesus Christ himself. And we should pray in his name unto God, not only as his Father, but as our Father in and through him. The love of God in Christ Jesus, is the spring and fountain of all the good we have or hope for. There is good reason for strong consolations, because the saints have good hope through grace. The free grace and mercy of God are what they hope for, and what their hopes are founded on, and not any worth or merit of their own. The more pleasure we take in the word, and works, and ways of God, the more likely we shall be to persevere therein. But, if we are wavering in faith, and of a doubtful mind, halting and faltering in our duty, no wonder that we are strangers to the joys of religion.Comfort your hearts; - see the notes, 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:14. The Thessalonians were in the midst of trials, and Paul prayed that they might have the full consolations of their religion.

And stablish you - Make you firm and steadfast; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 1 Thessalonians 3:13.

In every good word and work - In every true doctrine, and in the practice of every virtue.

This chapter is very important in reference to the rise of that great anti-Christian power which has exerted, and which still exerts so baleful an influence over the Christian world. Assuming now that it refers to the papacy, in accordance with the exposition which has been given, there are a few important reflections to which it gives rise:

(1) The second advent of the Redeemer is an event which is distinctly predicted in the Scriptures. This is assumed in this chapter; and though Paul corrects some errors into which the Thessalonians had fallen, he does not suggest this as one of them. Their error was in regard to the time of his appearing; not the fact.

(2) the time when he will appear is not made known to mankind. The apostles did not pretend to designate it, noR did the Saviour himself; Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7.

(3) the course of reasoning in 2 Thessalonians 2 would lead to the expectation that a considerable time would elapse before the Saviour would appear. The apostles, therefore, did not believe that the end of the world was very near, and they did not teach false doctrine on the subject, as infidels have often alleged. No one, who attentively and candidly studies 2 Thessalonians 2, it seems to me, can suppose that Paul believed that the second coming of the Saviour would occur within a short time, or during the generation when he lived. He has described a long series of events which were to intervene before the Saviour would appear - events which, if the interpretation which has been given is correct, have been in fact in a process of development from that time to the present, and which, it must have been foreseen, even then, would require a long period before they would be completed. There was to be a great apostasy.

There were at that time subtle causes at work which would lead to it. They were, however, then held in check and restrained by some foreign influence. But the time would come, when that foreign power would be withdrawn. Then these now hidden and restrained corruptions would develop themselves into this great anti-Christian power. That power would sustain itself by a series of pretended miracles and lying wonders - and, after all this, would be the second coming of the Son of man. But this would require time. Such a series of events would not be completed in a day, or in a single generation. They would require a succession - perhaps a long succession - of years, before these developments would be complete. It is clear, therefore, that the apostle did not hold that the Lord Jesus would return in that age, and that he did not mean to be understood as teaching it; and consequently it should not be said that he or his fellow-apostles were mistaken in the statements which they have recorded respecting the second coming of the Lord Jesus and the end of the world.

(4) the apostle Paul was inspired. He has recorded in this chapter a distinct prediction of an important series of events which were to occur at a future, and most of them at quite a remote period. They were such that they could have been foreseen by no natural sagacity, and no human skill. There were, indeed, corruptions existing then in the church, but no mere natural sagacity could have foreseen that they would grow up into that enormous system which would overshadow the Christian world, and live for so many ages.

(5) if these predictions referred to the papacy, we may see how we are to regard that system of religion. The simple inquiry, if this interpretation is correct, is, how did the apostle Paul regard that system to which he referred? Did he consider it to be the true church? Did he regard it as a church at all? The language which he uses will enable us easily to answer these questions. He speaks of it as "the apostasy;" he speaks of the head of that system as "the man of sin," "the son of perdition," "the wicked one," and as "opposing and exalting himself above all that is called God;" he says that his "coming is after the working of Satan, with lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness." Can it be believed then that he regarded this as a true church of Jesus Christ? Are these the characteristics of the church as laid down elsewhere in the Scriptures? Wherever it may lead, it seems clear to me that the apostle did not regard that system of which he spoke as having any of the marks of a true church, and the only question which can be raised on this point is, whether the fair interpretation of the passage demands that it shall be considered as referring to the papacy. Protestants believe that it must be so understood, and papists have not yet disproved the reasons which they allege for their belief.

(6) if this be the "fair interpretation," then we may see what is the value of the pretended "succession" of the ministry through that system. If such a regular "succession" of ministers from the apostles could be made out, what would it be worth? What is the value of a spiritual descent from Pope Alexander VI? How would it increase the proper respect for the ministerial office, if it could be proved to be derived in a right line from those monsters of incest, ambition, covetousness, and blood, who have occupied the papal throne? A Protestant minister should blush and hang his head if it were charged on him that he held his office by no better title than such a derivation. Much less should he make it a matter of glorying and an argument to prove that he only is an authorized minister, that he has received his office through such men.

(7) from this chapter we may see the tendency of human nature to degeneracy. The elements of that great and corrupt apostasy existed even in apostolic times. Those elements grew regularly up into the system of the papacy, and spread blighting and death over the whole Christian world. It is the tendency of human nature to corrupt the best things. The Christian church was put in possession of a pure, and lovely, and glorious system of religion. It was a religion adapted to elevate and save the race. There was not an interest of humanity which it would not have fostered and promoted; there was not a source of human sorrow which it would not have mitigated or relieved; there were none of the race whom it would not have elevated and purified. Its influence, as far as it was seen, was uniformly of the happiest kind. It did no injury anywhere, but produced only good. But how soon was it voluntarily exchanged for the worst form of superstition and error that has ever brooded in darkness over mankind! How soon did the light fade, and how rapidly did it become more obscure, until it almost went out altogether! And with what tenacity did the world adhere to the system that grew up under the great apostasy, maintaining it by learning, and power, and laws, and dungeons, and racks, and faggots! What a comment is this on human nature, thus "loving darkness more than light," and error rather than truth!

(8) the chapter teaches the importance of resisting error at the beginning. These errors had their foundation in the time of the apostles. They were then comparatively small, and perhaps to many they appeared unimportant; and yet the whole papal system was just the development of errors, the germs of which existed in their days, Had these been crushed, as Paul wished to crush them, the church might have been saved from the corruption, and woes, and persecutions produced by the papacy. So error now should always be opposed - no matter how small or unimportant it may appear. We have no right to connive at it; to patronize it; to smile upon it. The beginnings of evil are always to be resisted with firmness; and if that is done, the triumph of truth will be certain.

(9) the church is safe. It has now passed through every conceivable form of trial, and still survives, and is now more vigorous and flourishing than it ever was before. It has passed through fiery times of persecution; survived the attempts of emperors and kings to destroy it, and lived while the system of error described here by the apostle Paul has thrown its baleful shade over almost the whole Christian world. It cannot reasonably be supposed that it will be called to pass through such trials again as it has already endured; but whether it does or not, the past history of the church is a guarantee that it will survive all that it is destined to encounter. None but a religion of divine origin could have continued to live amidst so many corruptions, and so many attempts to destroy it; and in the view of the past history of that church it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that it has been founded by God himself.

17. Comfort your hearts—unsettled as you have been through those who announced the immediate coming of the Lord.

good word and work—The oldest manuscripts invert the order, "work and word." Establishment in these were what the young converts at Thessalonica needed, not fanatical teaching (compare 1Co 15:58).

Next, we have the things prayed for:

Comfort your hearts; though he said before, who hath given us everlasting consolation. The apostle means, either actual possession of what God had given title to, or a continued supply and increase of comfort already received. And he prays for this either in respect of the afflictions they suffered, that they might not faint; or to enable them the better to stand fast in the faith, and not fall away, as others. And so it agrees with the next petition for them.

And stablish you in every good word and work: the word of truth is this good word, Proverbs 4:2, as the gospel is called, 2 Corinthians 6:7. And the doctrines of it are all good, 1 Timothy 4:6; they are good for instruction, for correction, for reproof, for doctrine, 2 Timothy 3:16. All truth is an intellectual good, whether natural or moral; but evangelical truth is by way of eminence good. It is a good word which is a word of salvation, Acts 13:26; and to be established in it, is firmly to believe it, and to hold it fast against seducing opinion, or persecutions; and by every good word he means all Divine truth, especially the greater truths; not to hold some truths and let others go. And to word the apostle adds work, that there may be a harmony between faith and practice. As the doctrines of the gospel are true, so the works they require are good. And good works are manifold, respecting God, our neighbour, and ourselves. A Christian should not only practise them all, but be established in them, which implies constancy, perseverance, and resolution. True religion is not word only, but work; it is not only speculative, but practical. A sound mind ought to be joined with a holy life. And to make a work good, the principle, rule, manner, and end must all be good.

Comfort your hearts,.... That is, apply the comfort given, and cause it to be received, which unbelief is apt to refuse; and increase it, by shedding abroad the love of Christ, and of the Father; by the discoveries of pardoning grace; by the application of Gospel promises; by the word and ordinances, which are breasts of consolation; and by indulging with the gracious presence, and comfortable communion of Father, Son, and Spirit. The Arabic version reads, "comfort your hearts by his grace", joining the last clause of the preceding verse to this. This petition stands opposed to a being troubled and distressed about the sudden coming of Christ, as the following one does to a being shaken in mind on that account, 2 Thessalonians 2:2.

And stablish you in every good word and work; that is, in every good word of God, or truth of the Gospel, which contains good tidings of good things, so as not to waver about them, or stagger in them, or to depart from them; in practice of every duty, so as to be steadfast, and immoveable, and always abounding therein; good words and good works, principles and practices, should go together, and the saints stand in need of stability in both. For though, as to their state and condition, they are established in the love of God, in the covenant of grace, in the arms of Christ, and in him the foundation, so as they can never be removed; yet they are often very unstable, not only in their frames, and in the exercise of grace, but in their attachment and adherence to the Gospel and interest of Christ, and in the discharge of duty.

Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
2 Thessalonians 2:17, in contrast to the disquiet and confusion of 2 Thessalonians 2:2. ἔργῳ as in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:7 f., λόγῳ as 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:8. See the fulsome pagan inscription of Halicarnassus, which after giving thanks for the birth of Augustus, σωτῆρα τοῦ κοινοῦ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένους, declares that men now are full of ἐλπίδων μὲν χρηστῶν πρὸς τὸ μέλλον, εὐθυμίας δὲ εἰς τὸ παρόν. Contrast also the κενὴ ἐλπίς of the impious in Sap. 2 Thessalonians 3:11.

17. comfort your hearts] Comp. ch. 2 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; and the similar expression in Colossians 2:2. The “heart” is the inward man, the seat of our thoughts and emotions (see note, 1 Thessalonians 2:4); there doubt and fear arise, which can be allayed only by Divine comforting. For this verb, comp. note on “consolation” above, and on 1 Thessalonians 3:2.

and stablish you in every good word add work] Rather, establish them, i.e. your hearts, understood from the last clause. This expression was previously used in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, see note. The Apostle does not mean, “May God make you steadfast in saying and doing all that is good,” for the “heart” neither speaks nor works; but rather, “May God give you courage and confidence of heart in all good that you say or do.” He knows that they are busy in doing good (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:10), and he would have them do it with a good and cheerful heart (comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

2 Thessalonians 2:17. Παρακαλέσαι, comfort, console [‘adhortetur,’ liter, give consoling, comforting exhortation]) This is deduced from who hath given (us) παράκλησιν, consolation [2 Thessalonians 2:16].—στηρίξαι, establish) This is deduced from who hath given (us) good hope through grace.—λόγῳ,[23] in word) by παράκλησι, consolation.—ἔργῳ, work) by στήριξιν, establishment, 1 Corinthians 15:58.

[23] The margin of both Ed. and the Germ. Vers. prefer the reading ἔργω καὶ λόγῳ in the inverse order.—E. B.

ABD(Δ)f Vulg. read ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ. Gg and Rec. Text read λόγῳ καὶ ἔργῳ.—ED.


Verse 17. - Comfort your hearts, and stablish you; or, according to the best manuscripts, stablish them. namely, your hearts. These verbs are in the singular, but their nominative is our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, thus implying the unity between these Divine Persons. In every good word and work.

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