For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
1 Thessalonians 2:1-4
I. In view of what he had already undergone, and in anticipation of renewed suffering, St. Paul was "bold" in declaring in Thessalonica the whole counsel of God, keeping nothing back. He was all this, too, in the midst of "much contention"—that is, much external conflict and danger from his Jewish and Gentile opponents, and also internal struggles. The secret of this boldness was his realising his message as the Gospel of God,—good news from God Himself, a message from God. Hence, even in the presence of this world's potentates, as God's ambassador, "a legate of the skies," he was bold. He relied on his credentials. He was emboldened by the thought of the trust committed to him. Self-reliance is found in relying upon God.
II. "Our exhortation." There is much implied in the choice of this term to represent the apostolic ministry of the word. It means more than simple teaching. It is teaching tinged with emotion. The word thus suggested, as it is, of affectionate comfort and counsel, is specially adapted to the circumstances of the Thessalonian believers. The Apostle in the tenderness of his heart yearns over them in their dangers and trials. His sympathy breathes forth even from the very words he employs.
III. After disclaiming all wrong, corrupt elements in his "exhortation," the Apostle proceeds to describe positively the nature, the manner of his teaching. "But as we were allowed"—i.e., approved—"of God, to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak." He claims for himself in these words a Divine commission. Not that he or any one can ever be chosen of God to salvation and honour because of ability to stand the test of Divine scrutiny. No: that scrutiny, that testing, can reveal nothing but unworthiness. Yet there is a sense in which God does scrutinise His own people, setting aside some and approving others for special work. There are those who, having been proved faithful in little, are exalted to higher posts of service, and also to greater exposure to danger. Thus it was with Paul; first proved, then approved, and so entrusted with the Gospel. The reward of past labour and suffering is simply renewed opportunity for labouring and suffering more.
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 50.
References: 1 Thessalonians 2:4.—R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 33. 1 Thessalonians 2:5.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 193.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-9The Apostle is very careful in describing the relation in which his ministry stood to the Thessalonians, to defend himself against all false charges, all insinuations or suspicions of insincerity or impurity of motive. There was no element of imposture or covetousness or guile in his ministry. Accredited from on high, he pleased not men, but God. It was enough for him, in seeking the good of his fellow-men, to be approved by Him who proveth His servants' hearts.
I. He disdains the use of flattery. His exhortation was rather the word of simple unadulterated truth. Had his designs been self-seeking, he would have made use of flattery as one of the easiest keys for opening the door of the weak human heart. His teaching had for its aim first to wound, that, like Ithuriel's spear, it might afterwards heal.
II. It is a short and natural step for the Apostle's thought to pass from flattery to that which is the essence, the very soul of all flattery, covetousness: that form of self-interest which is sure to show itself in flattering words. He appeals to God, as if he had said, God knows, and what He knows He will at length testify, so that you too may know that with no plausible words, but in words of sincerity and simplicity, I have preached unto you.
III. He passes by with disdain as an element of his exhortation aught of ambition, desire for glory. "Not of men sought we glory." His aim was not the honour of men, but the approval of God. The scroll on the shield of the man of the world is, "I follow fame." On that of Paul it was "Rather use than fame."
IV. But the Apostle's yearning towards his Thessalonian friends showed itself further in self-abnegation, in willingness to impart "also our own souls." That heart of his, which was restless till it rested in Christ, ceaselessly sent forth its love, henceforth sanctified in Christ's love, towards others. He illustrated in himself the truth of the old Italian proverb, "The teacher is like the candle which gives light to others by consuming itself."
J.. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 62.
1 Thessalonians 2:10-12There are two points to be noted here in this comparison instituted by Paul between his conduct and that of a father.
I. He could say, as a wise father suits his dealings, both in training and teaching, to the case, the requirements of each child, so he acted towards his converts, "every one of you." It was no general relation in which he stood to them. He dealt with each individual soul. He adapted his teaching to each case, giving to each a portion in due season. The religion of Jesus Christ takes account of each, tenderly deals with each, and thus advances till the number of His people be gathered in. Its foundation rests on individual conviction. Individualism, not multitudinism, is the word that represents the law of its growth. It makes its appeal to each separate conscience, and it is only in so far as it does so, that it comes to leaven the whole mass of human society.
II. But the other point in the comparison here made is, as a father is eager, intensely earnest, in giving his children right guidance and instruction, so was Paul in his yearning care of his converts. As he had described his general behaviour in three terms, so he describes his ministry in a threefold way. He says—exhorted and comforted and charged. Each one brought under the range of his influence was dealt with in the way most suited to his case; that so all might walk worthy of God, who hath called them unto His own kingdom and glory: one member of the Church needing exhortation, a second comfort, and a third solid charging. But the end aimed at in them all is one and the same, a walking worthy of their calling from on high. Believers walk worthy of their destiny and glory when they lovingly look forward to it, when they are longing of heart,
"Send hope before to grasp it
Till hope be lost in sight."
And we can rightly look forward to it only when we strive in Divine strength to prepare for it.
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 75.
Reference: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 1.
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16I. In this passage the Apostle states the evidence of the effectual working of the word in the Thessalonian converts. The change it had wrought in them was genuine, for it withstood trial. This is the test of a right acceptance of the truth. The Thessalonian Church was one of the earliest in Palestine to testify their faithfulness in the furnace of affection. They were being exercised in what Melanchthon used to say was the best of the three schools in which a Christian must be trained—the school of suffering. Those of prayer and meditation, he said, were good, but that of trial was the most fruitful of them all. It was so in apostolic times. It was so in the times of the Reformation. It is so still. The way of cross-bearing is the way of light. Christ's people need to be taught how noble a thing it is to suffer and be strong.
II. The Apostle now turns aside from his theme. He makes a digression. He "goes off" (Jowett) upon the word "Jews" to describe the evil deeds and the merited doom of his own countrymen. The culminating point in Jewish wickedness is the casting out and murder of their Messiah, the Son of God. With fearful perseverance, "alway," alike before Christ came, when He had come, and after He was gone, they had been filling up the measure of their guilt. The archangel of judgment, with his sword-arm free, was already approaching,—so near indeed, that in anticipation the Apostle could say, "For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." Hardly fourteen years after the date of this epistle, it overtook them with a sudden surprise—it descended in the doom of fire upon the once sacred city, the entire overthrow and extinction of the Jewish state, the dispersion of the race, and the centuries of weary wandering appointed them, which are not yet closed. That was the dies irae for the Jews, and foreshadowing of the wrath to come. They who belong to God's own kingdom and glory, on the other hand, while they see in the fearful judgment which befell the Jews a distinct and manifest type of another and final judgment, wait for Jesus, who is delivering them from the wrath to come.
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 84.
References: 1 Thessalonians 2:14.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p 301. 1 Thessalonians 2:16. Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 225.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20I. The Thessalonian Christians were peculiarly the Apostle's hope, being regarded by him, not simply as a conspicuous part of the reward in glory which was in store for him, but also his hope in connection with his present earthly work. Their conversion, their steadfastness in the faith, was largely that on which he built his hopes, under God, of the further progress of the Gospel in Europe. He hoped that yet increasingly from them would sound out the word of the Lord. They were, further, his joy, inasmuch as in their conversion and consistent Christian conduct he saw the evidence that his own labour had not been in vain in the Lord. They were a credit to him in the sight of God and men. Hence, amid all his sorrows, he felt that in them he could find his joy. They were even more to him. They were his crown of holy boasting, for they would prove at last his wreath of victory, his chaplet of ceaseless rejoicing.
II. In the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming, Paul's crown of a good name in the presence of Christ Jesus was his converts—those who by his instrumentality had been brought to a knowledge of the truth. The same crown is offered to us all, and is in keeping for us all, if we be but faithful. History tells us that when in Philip II's reign a rebel claimed and gained the crown of Granada, he bore at the ceremony of coronation in his right hand a banner bearing the inscription: "More I could not desire, less would not have contented me." These words cease to be presumptuous and become the utterance of truest wisdom only when they are the Christian's, and refer to the crown of heavenly rejoicing, and when they are the legend of the banner under which he fights, in "the sacramental host of God's elect."
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 94.
1 Thessalonians 2:18I. There is a hinderer. Not only are there hindrances, there is a personal hinderer. He is not visible, he is not persuadable, he must be resisted.
II. This hinderer assails the most eminent workers in the Church. He assailed the Saviour Himself. In this case he hindered Paul. We are apt to think that the greatest men in the Church escape temptations which fall to the lot of others. The greater the man, the greater the temptation. (1) Our temptations show our unity as members of a common race. (2) Our temptations should awaken our sympathies as partakers of a common suffering.
III. The hinderer seeks to foil the aggressive intentions of the Christian. In being a hinderer the enemy has a decided advantage. (1) It is easy to hinder, that is, to do mischief, to suggest difficulties, to magnify obstacles, etc. (2) It is easier to hinder than to counteract.
Application: Satan comes to us sometimes through the medium of bad men; (2) sometimes through the gratification of apparently harmless wishes; (3) sometimes through friendly but incapable advisers—men who are so far below our level as utterly to miscalculate and misunderstand us.
Parker, City Temple, vol. ii., p. 23.
References: 1 Thessalonians 2:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 657; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 221; Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 203.
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20I. The text points to the future. Paul loved the Thessalonians; he made mention of them in his prayers. He remembered without ceasing their work of faith, their labour of love, their patience and hope. Instead of indulging in fond regrets, and lamenting the severance of old ties, and giving himself up to the fascination of sentimental reminiscences, he looks onward to the future cheerfully, anticipating renewed fellowship, calculating upon continued usefulness. His view extends to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ—these facts threw majestic shadows over the life path of believers, and were to them fountains of enthusiastic inspiration; but the coming of the Lord Jesus was the bright hope which fixed their eyes and filled their hearts.
II. The text recognises an everlasting bond of union between a Christian pastor and his flock. What is said here implies a mutual recognition at the last day. The true minister toils for eternity. The result of his employment will not appear till time shall end. Many kinds of effort in this life produce immediate results; they can be at once detected and recorded. But not so with what comes of our sacred occupation. The harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels.
III. The text suggests the conditions on which the Apostolic hope may be fulfilled. (1) The conversion of men to Christ through their repentance and faith, through their experience of the change which the Gospel alone describes, which the Gospel alone effects,—that is, the new birth. (2) A second ground on which such felicity rests is the edification, the improvement, the growth in holiness of those so converted. (3) The consolation of the afflicted in this world of trial will add to the crown of rejoicing. The strongest of all ministerial power is sympathy in sorrow.
J. Stoughton, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 792.
References: 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 1 Thessalonians 2:20.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 241; R. Davey, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 282; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 452; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 81.
But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.
But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
For ye are our glory and joy.