who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out as well. They are displeasing to God and hostile to all men,
I. IT IS A HIGH HONOR AS WELL AS PRIVILEGE FOR CHURCHES TO BE SELECTED AS PATTERNS OF PATIENCE TO OTHER CHURCHES. "For ye, brethren, became followers of the Churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus." We are first to be imitators of Christ, then of all who follow in his steps, who keep on "looking to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2). There were many Churches in Judaea, for Christianity was founded by Jews; its first converts were Jews; its first martyrs were Jews; and the Churches among them rejoiced in the fellowship of Christ, as the Source of their life and comfort.
II. THE PATH OF THE THESSALONIANS WAS ONE OF SEVERE TRIAL AND CONTINUOUS PERSECUTION. "For ye also have suffered like things from your own countrymen, even as they from the Jews."
1. They had received the Word "in much affliction." (1 Thessalonians 1:6.) The first outbreak of violence against them occurred after their conversion (Acts 17:5). They belonged to one of those Churches of Macedonia of which the apostle long afterwards wrote to the Corinthians as "enduring a great trial of affliction." It came from their heathen countrymen.
2. Their trials attested the genuineness of their conversion. The heathen would have had no quarrel with a dead faith. The Thessalonians did not "sleep as did others." They discovered by sharp experience that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).
3. Their trials involved the precious experience of a "fellowship in Christ's sufferings." (Philippians 3:10.)
4. Their trials manifested at once the strength of their faith and their Christian constancy.
III. IT WAS SOME COMFORT TO THE THESSALONIANS TO KNOW THAT THEY WERE NOT THE ONLY SUFFERERS FROM THE FURY OF PERSECUTORS. "Even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and drave us out." This terrible invective against the Jews illustrates the saying that the apostle often "goes off at a word." It recalls the language of Stephen before his murderers (Acts 7:52). The malignity of the Jews against their believing countrymen was extreme.
1. The Jews were murderers of Jesus and the prophets. Though the Savior was executed by the Romans, the responsibility of the terrible deed rests on the Jews, who "fur envy" delivered him up, and "killed the Prince of life." They likewise killed their own prophets, whose very sepulchers they afterwards built and garnished. What wonder, then, that the Thessalonian converts should escape!
2. The Jews, though zealous for God, did not please him. "They pleased not God," but rather provoked him to anger by their unbelief and their wickedness.
3. They were at cross-purposes with all mankind. They were "contrary to all men." They were anti-social, exclusive, and bitter, so that the heathen Tacitus could describe them as "holding an attitude of hostility and hatred to the human race." But it was specially manifest in their resistance to the calling of the Gentiles - "forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved. The Acts of the Apostles supply abundant evidence of this fact.
4. The end to which all this wickedness toward God and man was tending. "To fill up their sins at all times."
(1) God often allows nations to complete the sum of their wickedness before bringing upon them final retribution. "The iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full" (Genesis 15:16).
(2) The judgment upon the Jews was at hand - "but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." "There is now nothing between it and them." The destruction of Jerusalem was still future, but "the days of vengeance were already come." The fire was already burning, which would never be quenched till the vengeance was complete. The apostle seems to regard the moment of the rejection of the Messiah as marking the outpouring of the Divine wrath. The history of the Jews from that moment is a significant commentary on the passage. - T.C.
WHO BOTH KILLED THE LORD JESUS AND THEIR OWN PROPHETS
I. THE EXPLANATION OF THE INDICTMENT. Various views have been offered.
1. That as the persecution of believers in Thessalonica, though from the heathen, was yet directly instigated by the Jews, it was natural that Paul should turn aside to speak of them and their wickedness.
2. That the apostle, at the very time of writing, was himself suffering at their hands (Acts 18:5, 6, 12). His mind, therefore, we can well conceive, was full of thoughts regarding these Jewish misdeeds, and hence he bursts forth into utterances of sorrowful indignation.
3. That the Thessalonians were converts from Polytheism to a monotheistic religion which was a growth out of Judaism, They could, consequently, hardly fail to stumble by seeing Jews everywhere its most violent opponents. Paul may have striven to meet this state of mind, by showing that the opposition of the Jews was in keeping with their whole character and conduct.
II. ITS SUBJECT MATTER.
1. The culminating point in Jewish wickedness is the casting out and murder of their Messiah. In ignorance they did it, it is true. Yet that ignorance was no justification, for the prophets, whose testimony was to Christ, the Jews had also slain. This is the indictment of the Old Testament, and also of Christ (Matthew 23:29-39). Paul's words are but an echo of his Master's.
2. Seeing, then, that such was their past conduct, Paul adds, as naturally following, "and have persecuted us." What had been meted out to God's servants in the past it was to be expected would be extended to the apostles and believers. Under new conditions the Jewish character would again assert itself.
3. Hence he declares "They please not God and are contrary to all men." The more he came in contact with Gentile life, the more he must have observed the intense dislike with which the Jews were everywhere regarded. Despising other nations, they were themselves only loathed by these nations in return; and now that Paul's feelings had broadened into the love of all mankind, he could not but recognize them as showing what Tacitus called "adversus omnes alios hostile odium." The mark of God's anger had been set upon them, and the Divine judgment had been ratified by men. "When God loathes aught, men presently loathe it too."
4. But here it is not the dislike felt by others towards the Jews as the animosity of the Jews towards all others. "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles," etc. Like their own Pharisees they would neither enter in themselves nor allow others to enter.
5. In thus standing in the way of the Gentiles' salvation they were acting so as "to fill up their own sins alway" with fearful perseverance; alike before Christ had come, when He came, and now that He had gone, they had been filling up the measure of their guilt.
6. And now retribution was approaching. Wrath had already fallen, and was falling upon them; but in a short fourteen years it came upon them to the utmost in the destruction of their city and the dispersion of their race.
(J. Hutchison, D. D.)
I. THE FURY OF THE JEWS IN THEIR INHUMAN TREATMENT OF THE GREAT LEADERS OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT.
1. They plotted against the life of the world's Redeemer; and, in spite of insufficient evidence to convict, and the endeavours of the Roman Procurator to release, they clamoured for His crucifixion, exclaiming, "His blood be on us and on our children" — a self-invoked imprecation that fell on them with terrible and desolating vengeance!
2. The sin of murder already darkly stained their race — the best and noblest of their prophets being the unoffending victims. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah met with violent deaths. The charge of Stephen was unanswerable (Acts 7:52).
3. The apostles were subjected to similar treatment — "Have chased and driven us out." They drove them out of Thessalonica, afterwards out of Berea, and were at that moment engaged in instigating an insurrection to drive the apostle out of Corinth. The spirit of persecution is unchanged. Wherever the attempt is made to raise the Church, it is met with a jealous, angry opposition. And yet what a wretched, short-sighted policy does persecution reveal! It is the idolized weapon of the tyrant and the coward, the sport of the brutal, the sanguinary carnival of devils.
II. THE FURY OF THE JEWS WAS DISPLEASING TO GOD. They fondly imagined that they were the favourites of heaven, and that all others were excluded from the Divine complacency. They could quote the words of their law, such as Deuteronomy 14:2, with the utmost facility, to support their assumption of superiority and exclusiveness, wilfully shutting their eyes to the difference between the holy intention of Jehovah, and their miserable failure to realize that intention. In all their opposition to Christianity they thought they were doing God service. How fatally blinding is sin — goading the soul to the commission of the most horrible crimes under the guise of virtue.
III. THE FURY OF THE JEWS WAS HOSTILE TO MAN.
1. Their hostility was directed against the world of mankind. "Are contrary to all men." The Jews of that period were the adversaries and despisers of all. Tacitus brands them as "the enemies of all men:" and Apion, the Egyptian, calls them "Atheists and misanthropes, in fact, the most witless and dullest of barbarians."
2. Their hostility was embittered by a despicable religious jealousy. "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles," etc. Here the fury of the old religion against the new reached its climax. It is the perfection of bigotry and cruelty to deny to our fellow men the only means of salvation! Into what monsters of barbarity will persecution convert men! Pharaoh persisted to such a degree of unreasonableness as to chastise the Hebrews for not accomplishing impossibilities! Julian the Apostate, carried his vengeful spirit to his deathbed.
IV. THE FURY OF THE JEWS HURRIED THEM INTO IRRETRIEVABLE RUIN.
1. Their wickedness was wilfully persistent. "To fill up their sins alway" — at all times, now as much as ever. So much so, the time is now come when the cup of their iniquity is filled to the brim, and nothing can prevent the consequent punishment. The desire to sin grows with its commission. St. Gregory says, "Sinners would live forever that they might sin forever" — a powerful argument for the endlessness of future punishment — the desire to sin is endless!
2. Their punishment was inevitable and complete. "For the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" — is even now upon them. The process has begun. Their fury to destroy others will accelerate their own destruction. Punishment descended upon the wicked, unbelieving, and resisting Jews; and utter destruction upon their national status and religious supremacy.Lessons: —
1. There is a fearful possibility of sinking into a lifeless formality, and a blind, infatuate opposition to the good.
2. The rage of man against the truth defeats its own ends and recoils in vengeance on himself.
(Dr. J. Buchanan.)
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