We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers
I. THE GROUND OF THANKSGIVING. "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." We consider here:
1. The graces of the Christian life. We have here, in the first Epistle ever written by the apostle, his favorite trilogy of Christian principles.
(1) The three graces are fundamental. As the three principal colors of the rainbow - red, yellow, and blue, representing respectively heat, light, and purifying power - supply in their combination all the other colors, so, by a sort of moral analysis, it can be shown that faith, hope, and love lie at the foundation, or enter into the composition, of all other Christian graces whatever.
(2) They are three inseparable graces. Faith always works by love, and love is inseparable from hope, for "hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost" (Romans 5:5). Faith is the necessary root, as hope and love are its unfailing fruits. As faith works by love, it is also the substance of things hoped for.
(3) They are at once the defense and the adornment of Christian life. "Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation" (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
(4) They are the abiding principles of Christian life: "Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three" (1 Corinthians 13:13). They do not die with death; for in eternity the Church will 'be made perfect in love, as it will ever continue to trust in the Lord, and hope for new developments of truth and new disclosures of blessedness.
2. The practical aspect of these graces as forces in the life of the Church. There is a climax in the exhibition of the three graces. The apostle does not say, "the work of faith, the work of love, the work of hope," but ascends from work to labor, and from labor to endurance. There is a work that is a refreshing exercise of our energies, but it involves no exhaustion or fatigue; but when work has deepened into labor we become conscious of the limitation of our strength, and then we have to call in the new principle of endurance, or "patience," if we are to carry it to a triumphant result.
(1) The work of faith points to a work springing out of faith; for faith is the most active of all the principles which influence human conduct. Their faith was, therefore, a fruitful faith.
(2) The labor of love suggests the sacrifices which we are ready to make for the objects of our love. It was not "love in word or in tongue," but "in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
(3) The patience of hope suggests the severity of present afflictions, which are borne with constancy and perseverance because the sufferers arc cheered by hope. But it is "hope in our Lord Jesus Christ;" that is, hope of his second advent; for the Thessalonians had a constant and overwhelming sense of the nearness of his coming, which in some cases broke in upon the continuity of their daily duties.
II. THE OCCASION, CIRCUMSTANCES, AND FREQUENCY OF THE APOSTLE'S THANKSGIVING. "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers."
1. It was in his prayers for them that he expressed his thanksgiving. "Even in the sight of God and our Father." The care of all the Churches was upon him daily (2 Corinthians 11:28), and under such a burden he "bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is happy for Christians to be remembered in the prayers of saints, to be borne upon their hearts, to be borne up before God in intercessory prayer (Romans 1:9; Ephesians 1:16). His thanksgivings were as constant as his prayers.
2. Tile thanksgivings were addressed to God because the spiritual prosperity at Thessalonica was due neither to the converts themselves nor to the preachers of the gospel. We must ever speak of the grace of God, and exalt it in our praises.
3. The thanksgiving was all the more hearty and full because it had regard to the prosperity of the entire community. "All of you," because they were an eminent seal Of his apostleship, a blessed effect of his ministry among them. - T.C.
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayersI. IS EXPANSIVE IN ITS CHARACTER. It is our duty to be grateful for personal benefits, but it displays a nobler generosity to be thankful for the good of others. Paul thanked God —
1. Because of their work of faith.(1) Faith itself is a work; it is the laying hold of Christ for salvation. In its exercise man meets with opposition, and it becomes a fight.(2) It is the cause of work — the propelling and sustaining motive in all Christian toil. "Faith without works is dead."
2. Because of their labour of love. Labour tests the strength of love. We show our love to Christ by what we do for Him. Love makes even drudgery an enjoyment. It leads us to attempt what we would once have shrunk from in dismay.
3. Because of their patient hope. It was severely tried, but not quenched. It is hard to hope in the midst of discouragement. It was so with Joseph in prison, with David in the mountains of Judah, with the Jews in Babylon. But the grace of patience gives constancy to hope.
4. Because of their election, not as individuals, this could not he, but as a people. St. Paul here means that from what he saw of the operations of Christian grace in them he knew they were God's elect. As Bengel says, "Election is the judgment of Divine grace, exempting in Christ, from the common destruction of men, those who accept their calling by faith. Every one who is called, is elected from the first moment of his faith; and so long as he continues in his calling and faith, he continues to be elected; if at any time he loses calling and faith, he ceases to be elected." Observe the constancy of this thanksgiving spirit — "We give thanks always for you all." As they remembered without ceasing the genuine evidences of conversion so did they assiduously thank God.
II. EVOKES A SPIRIT OF PRACTICAL DEVOTION. "Making mention of you in our prayers." The interest of the successful worker in his converts is keenly aroused; he is especially anxious the work should be permanent, and resorts to prayer as the effectual means. Prayer for others benefits the suppliant. When the Church prayed, not only was Peter liberated from prison, but the faith of the members was emboldened.
III. IS RENDERED TO THE GREAT GIVER OF ALL GOOD. "We give thanks to God." God is the author of true success. In vain we labour where His blessing is withheld.
(H. W. Beecher.)
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