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Thursday, November 04, 2004

HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON THE FIRST EPISTLE OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS

HOMILY III.

1 THESSALONIANS ii. 9--13.


Ver.9-12. "For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe: as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory."

The teacher ought to do nothing with a feeling of being burdened, that tends to the salvation of his disciples. For if the blessed Jacob was buffeted night and day in keeping his flocks, much more ought he, to whom the care of souls is entrusted, to endure all toils, though the work be laborious and mean, looking only to one thing, the salvation of his disciples, and the glory thence arising to God. See then, Paul, a man that was a Preacher, an Apostle of the world, and raised to so great honor, worked with his hands that he might not be burdensome to his disciples.

"For ye remember," he says, "my brethren, our labor and travail." He had said previously, "we might have been burdensome as the Apostles of Christ," as he also says in the Epistle to the Corinthians, "Know ye not that they which minister about sacred things eat of the things of the Temple? Even so also did Christ ordain that they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel." But I, he says, would not, but I labored; and he did not merely work, but with much diligence. Observe then what he says; "For ye remember," he has not said, the benefits received from me, but, "our labor and travail: for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God." And to the Corinthians he said a different thing, "I robbed other Churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you." And yet even there he worked, but of this he made no mention, but urged what was more striking, as if he had said, I was maintained by others when ministering to you. But here it is not so. But what? "Working night and day." And there indeed he says, "And when I was present with you, and was in want, I was not a burden on any man," and, "I took wages that I might minister unto you." And here he shows that the men were in poverty, but there it was not so.

On this account he frequently addresses them as witnesses. For "ye are witnesses," he says, "and God also"; God was worthy to be believed, but this other was that which most fully assured them. For that indeed was uncertain to those who were ignorant of it; but this was without doubt to all. For do not enquire whether it was Paul who said these things. Much beyond what was necessary he gives them assurance. Wherefore he says, "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe." It was proper to praise them again. On this account he sets these things before them, which were sufficient to persuade them. For he that stood there in want, and did not receive anything, would much more not receive anything now. "How holily," says he, "and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe".

"As ye know how we exhorted and comforted each one of you, as a father doth his own children." Above having spoken of his behavior here he speaks of his love, which was more than what belonged to his rule over them. And what is said marks his freedom from pride. "As a father his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory." When he says, "and testifying," then he makes mention of "fathers"; although we testified, it was not violently, but like fathers. "Each one of you." Strange! in so great a multitude to omit no one, neither small nor great, neither rich nor poor. "Exhorting" you, he says; to bear. "And comforting and testifying." "Exhorting," therefore they did not seek glory; and "testifying," therefore they did not flatter. "That ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own kingdom and glory." Observe again, how, in relating, he both teaches and comforts. For if He hath called them unto His kingdom, if He called them unto glory, they ought to endure all things. We "entreat"you, not that you should grant us any favor, but that you should gain the kingdom of heaven.

Ver. 13. "And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that when ye received from us the word of the message, even the word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also worketh in you that believe."

It cannot be said, he says, that we indeed do all things unblamably, but you on the other hand have done things unworthy of our course of life. For in hearing us, you gave such heed as if not hearing men, but as if God Himself were exhorting you. Whence is this manifest? Because as he shows from his own temptations and their testimony, and the way in which he acted, that he did not preach with flattery or vainglory; so from their trials, he shows also that they rightly received the word. For whence, he says, unless ye had heard as if God were speaking, did ye endure such perils? And observe his dignity.