by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 February 14, 2016 Humble, Texas
17 Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
1901 ASV Translation:
17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
I. Paul's "Comfort Your Hearts" Theme.
A. Because the "heart" can feel joy and anguish, "comfort" is a likely need in times of stress.
1. However, the "heart" is the core repository of one's value system and, as such, it has a powerful need to "be directed into the love(s) of God" (3:5). Acts 11:23 is the most likely explanation of what is really going on here: he is "exhorting" that "with purpose of heart, they would cleave unto the Lord".
2. The "heart" is most fundamentally engaged in directing the behavior of its possessor; no one does anything that is not "value-driven". This is why, if God wishes to influence our behavior, there absolutely must be a divine involvement in a major overhaul. This task is so critical and so humanly impossible that the essence of the "new" covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-33 and associated passages (32:39-40 by way of example) is God's direct re-direction of the "heart" so that an undivided loyalty to God is the enduring result. These contexts follow Jeremiah 17:9's blunt description of the need for such a divine undertaking.
3. Consequently, it is likely that Paul does not have "comfort" in mind so much as a strong encouragement to be faithful to Truth and loyal to God.
a. The term Paul used is, by now from our studies of his Thessalonian letters, a very old friend (paraklesis).
b. The most direct sense of Paul's use of this term is "to summon to God's side so that He is the most potent and direct influence upon one's entire being". Look again at Acts 11:23.
c. Paul is not seeking God's involvement in "comforting"; he is seeking God's involvement in "re-directing" as he comes right out and says just five verses further into his letter (3:5).
1) The soul may, indeed, need "comfort" once God addresses the values of our hearts because it is the soul that suffers the most when wrenching adjustments to values take place.
2) But, Paul is not so much interested in the emotional repercussions of values-changes as he is in the changes themselves.
B. The prior context is all about being unsettled by false doctrine and clarification of the Truth.
1. This is what is really involved: a disruption of the commitment to the Truth because of the plausibility of lies that contradict divine revelation.
2. The solution to such "plausibility" is Truth and contrast. Thus Paul explains the Truth and then sets before the Thessalonians their long history with God from His point of view in that He "chose them from the beginning".
II. Paul's Second Theme: Establishment.
A. The word translated "stablish/establish" is used to communicate an unyielding determination such as Jesus had when He "set" His face toward Jerusalem to go there to die and be raised from the dead (Luke 9:51). It is used in multiple places to communicate the idea that a thing has been "set in stone"; rigid determination.
B. The phrase is "stablish [you] in every work and word good" and the Greek sounds stilted to us when rendered in exact word order. The grammarians assume the adjective "good" to be linked to both "work" and "word", but the actual order of reality is that "good doctrine" precedes works in such a way that if a "good word" is the foundation of "establishment", the works will follow as they ought and they will be "good".
C. At root is the reality that the Thessalonians are under pressure at both levels: their doctrine (good words) is under attack; and their works (of faith [1 Thessalonians 1:3]) are being attacked by overt persecution.
D. Paul's desire of the Lord, Himself, and God our Father is that they two will do whatever needs to be done to bring the heart to undividedloyalty so that there will be no retreat from good words or works.