13Wherefore we give thanks. Having spoken of his ministry, he returns again to address the Thessalonians, that he may always commend that mutual harmony of which he has previously made mention. (537) He says, therefore, that he gives thanks to God, because they had embraced the word of God which they heard from his mouth, as the word of God, as it truly was. Now, by these expressions he means, that it has been received by them reverently, and with the obedience with which it ought. For so soon as this persuasion has gained a footing, it is impossible but that a feeling of obligation to obey takes possession of our minds. (538) For who would not shudder at the thought of resisting God? Who would not regard contempt of God with detestation? The circumstance, therefore, that the word of God is regarded by many with such contempt, that it is scarcely held in any estimation — that many are not at all actuated by fear, arises from this, that they do not consider that they have to do with God.
Hence we learn from this passage what credit ought to be given to the gospel — such as does not depend on the authority of men, but, resting on the sure and ascertained truth of God, raises itself above the world; and, in fine, is as far above mere opinion, as heaven is above earth: (539) and, secondly, such as produces of itself reverence, fear, and obedience, inasmuch as men, touched with a feeling of Divine majesty, will never allow themselves to sport with it. Teachers (540) are, in their turn, admonished to beware of bringing forward anything but the pure word of God, for if this was not allowable for Paul, it will not be so for any one in the present day. He proves, however, from the effect produced, that it was the word of God that he had delivered, inasmuch as it had produced that fruit of heavenly doctrine which the Prophets celebrate, (Isaiah 55:11; Jeremiah 23:29) in renewing their life, (541) for the doctrine of men could accomplish no such thing. The relative pronoun may be taken as referring either to God or to his word, but whichever way you choose, the meaning will come all to one, for as the Thessalonians felt in themselves a Divine energy, which proceeded from faith, they might rest assured that what they had heard was not a mere sound of the human voice vanishing into air, but the living and efficacious doctrine of God.
As to the expression, the word of the preaching of God, it means simply, as I have rendered it, the word of God preached by man. For Paul meant to state expressly that they had not looked upon the doctrine as contemptible, although it had proceeded from the mouth of a mortal man, inasmuch as they recognized God as the author of it. He accordingly praises the Thessalonians, because they did not rest in mere regard for the minister. but lifted up their eyes to God, that they might receive his word. Accordingly, I have not hesitated to insert the particle ut , (that,) which served to make the meaning more clear. There is a mistake on the part of Erasmus in rendering it, “the word of the hearing of God,” as if Paul meant that God had been manifested. He afterwards changed it thus, “the word by which you learned God,” for he did not advert to the Hebrew idiom. (542)