Updated: Sep 7, 2019
Verse 2: (Psalm 1:6; Rev. 2:9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15) I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and (1 John 4:1) thou hast tried them (2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Pet. 2:1) which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars…
[I know thy works] Either, evil works (Pareus): or, κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, par excellence (Gomar), good works (Pareus, Menochius, Gomar), which then He explains item by item (Gomar), that is, what things thou hast been previously doing (Ribera, Menochius). Some men are good, others sufficiently good, as Cicero in his Epistles distinguishes those things. That Bishop was of the latter sort, as what follows indicates. His works are here praised, that is, the majority are κατὰ τὴν ἐπικράτειαν, in accordance with the rule. Just as God observes both the good and the bad, Proverbs 15:3, and is וְתֹכֵ֖ן רוּח֣וֹת, the One weighing spirits, Proverbs 16:2; so also Christ (Grotius). These words are prefixed to all the Epistles (Cluverus), even to those where there is no commendation, as in Revelation 3:15; and hence they do not denote approbation, but simple omniscience (Durham). Now, thus it is spoken, either, 1. so that it might indicate the Divinity of Christ (Durham, similarly Cluverus). Or, 2. so that it might prove that the testimony of His that follows is beyond all exception (Durham). Or, 3. so that it might stir fear and veneration of Him (Cluverus).
I know thy works: these words being in the front of all the seven epistles, cannot be interpreted as signifying a knowledge of approbation, as Psalm 1:6, but of a comprehension in the understanding, and as signifying Christ’s omnisciency; though it be true, that the Lord both understood and approved of some of the works of this church particularly.
[And, etc., τὸν κόπον σου, καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου] Ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, an hendiadys, in the place of τὴν ἐν τῷ κόπῳ ὑπομονήν σου, thy patience in the labor; endurance of labors, even heavy ones, which sort are wont to press upon Bishops. To bear such a burden is heavy (Grotius). And thy (namely, in thine office [Cluverus, similarly Durham]) labor (full of sweat and troubles [Pareus, thus Piscator], as the word signifies in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 1 Timothy 5:17 [Pareus, Durham]), and thy tolerance (Piscator) (or, patience [Beza], perseverance [Vatablus]). In bearing afflictions (Cluverus), from Satan and his instruments (Durham); in expectation of the repentance of the erring, in the bearing of infirmity: which is quite necessary in a Bishop, and to be praised (Cluverus).
And thy labour, and thy patience; their labour in propagating the knowledge of Christ and doctrine of the gospel, and their patient taking up and bearing the cross.