When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.
1. Christian workers patiently and conscientiously proceeding with their mission (vers. 1, 2).
2. Christian advocates employing the weapon which was prepared for their use (ver. 3).
3. Christian laborers reaping a blessed spiritual harvest (ver. 4).
4. Faithful followers of the Lord partaking of his sufferings (vers. 5-9). But we rather find here -
I. A GREAT PROPHECY FULFILLLED. "Alleging that Christ must needs have suffered," etc. (ver. 3); i.e. must needs have so done in order that the Scriptures (ver. 2) might be fulfilled (see Luke 24:26, 46). The death of the Messiah was the realization of
(1) the predictions contained in the Jewish sacrifices (the sin offerings and trespass offerings, and notably the offering of the goat on the great Day of Atonement; the Passover lamb, etc.); and of
(2) such predictions in word as those contained in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. The Law must have remained fatally incomplete and prophecy unfulfilled if the Christ had not suffered as Jesus of Nazareth did suffer, if he had not died the death which he underwent. In the crucified Nazarene the greatest of all prophecies had been fulfilled.
II. AN UNCONSCIOUS PROPHECY TO BE FULFILLED. The language of the complainants (ver. 6) was unintentionally prophetic. They indeed stated, hyperbolically, as something already accomplished, that which the ambassadors of Christ are engaged in doing. But they indicated, truly and graphically, what the gospel of his grace is doing - it is turning the world upside down. We may put the facts thus to our minds:
1. When Christ came evil was everywhere uppermost. The reigning forces of the world at the time of the Incarnation were "not of the Father, but of the world." Within the one favored and enlightened nation were hypocrisy, superficiality, bigotry and unbrotherliness, spiritual delusion; without that circle were superstition, ignorance, atheism, vice, cruelty - all the abominations into which a corrupt heathenism had sunk. Language will not tell the enormity of the world's condition. Nothing would be of any avail but a radical revolution, the overturning of all existing thoughts, habits, methods, institutions - turning the world upside down, bringing to the dust of humiliation everything that was on the throne of honor.
2. The gospel of Jesus Christ is destined to overturn it.
(1) It has adequate means for so doing - Divine truth, the aid of the Divine Spirit, a Divine institution (the Christian Church).
(2) It has the true method, a spiritual one; its weapons of warfare are not carnal, but spiritual, and therefore mighty to pull down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). It wins by teaching, persuading, leavening, renewing; acting upon the life through the mind, the heart, the will - through the whole spiritual nature. This is the one conquering course, the one method which really and permanently subdues.
(3) It has the assurance of success; both in the promise of a Divine Lord, and in the history of its own triumphs. It is turning the world upside down. In many districts "the idols are utterly abolished;" many "islands are waiting for his Law;" hoary systems of idolatry and iniquity are pierced through and through with the shafts of truth, and promise to fall prone as Dagon before the ark of God; the vices of civilized lands are being successfully assailed; the kingdom of error and of evil is disappearing, and the kingdom of Christ is coming. The triumphs of this last missionary century are a distinct assurance that iniquity shall be cast down and righteousness be exalted. - C.
And when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia.1 Thessalonians 1:8), but for centuries afterwards, the Word of God sounded forth among the neighbouring tribes. Here was guilty of that cruel massacre for which , with heroic faithfulness, kept him for eight months from the cathedral of Milan. Here its good and learned Bishop Eustathius wrote those scolia on Homer which place him in the front rank of ancient commentators. It received the title of "the orthodox city," because it was for centuries a bulwark of Christendom; but it was taken by Amurath II in 1430. Saloniki is still a great commercial port of seventy thousand inhabitants, of whom nearly one-third are Jews. At this city, blighted now by the curse of Islam, but still beautiful on the slopes of its vine-clad hills, with Pelia and Olympus full in view, the missionaries rested; for here was the one Jewish synagogue which sufficed for the entire district.
I. WAS EVANGELIC.
1. His grand theme was Christ.(1) He showed the necessity of His suffering and His resurrection. He exhibited the Cross of Christ in all its high aspects.(2) He showed that He was Messiah. "Is Christ."
2. His grand authority was the Scriptures. He did not attempt to derive his arguments and illustrations from general literature or philosophy. He would, perhaps, quote the old prophecies (Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 40:1-10; Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:24-27; Micah 5:6, etc.), and show that in the life of Jesus those wonderful prophecies were fulfilled. Reasoning with the Jews, his authority was Scripture, and with the Gentiles, Nature, as at Athens.
3. His grand method was reasoning. He "reasoned with them." "Opening" means to explain, to unfold. "Alleging" means laying down the proposition. He laid down his propositions, and he argued their truth from the Scriptures. This is model preaching. Let ministers give to men now the Christ of the Scriptures, not the Christ of their theology.
II. WON CONVERTS (ver. 4). The "devout Greeks" were those who had become proselytes to the Jewish religion, "proselytes of the gate." The "chief women" were members of families of high rank. The converts were —
1. Numerous. "A great multitude."
2. Influential. "Chief women." Some of the leading women of the city.
3. Thoroughly united. They "consorted with Paul and Silas." Common beliefs awaken common sympathies. Christ gathers men of different types of character and grades of life together.
III. AWOKE OPPOSITION (ver. 5). In this we see —
1. The force of envy, This malignant passion of evil natures had been excited in the Jews by the moral conquest which the apostles had won in their synagogue. This passion has always been the inspiration of all persecutions. It shows itself now in a thousand forms.
2. The servility of mobs. These Jews took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, unprincipled idlers that are found lounging about places of public resort, the lazy rabble that fill workhouses with paupers and jails with prisoners, who are always ready instruments to the hands of evil men in power. The demagogue can cajole them, and the rich can purchase their services with cash.
3. The revolutionising power of the gospel (ver. 6). These men spoke a truth, though unintentionally. The gospel does turn the world upside down, for the moral world is in the wrong position.
4. The falsehood of wickedness (ver. 4). The charge they brought against them was that of sedition and rebellion against the Roman emperor, high treason against the crown. These men covered their envy under the garb of patriotism.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Sermons by the Monday Club.I. THE MANNER OF A PRIMITIVE PREACHER (ver. 2). What was the matter? On Sabbath days he entered the synagogue. In his last letter to these Thessalonians, he reminds them that he did not make himself chargeable to them (2 Thessalonians 2:9). So on weekdays he was earning his living — improving, no doubt, every opportunity for conversation with such as came in his way; but the Sabbath brought him leisure, and gave him an audience. How did he use these Sabbath opportunities? He "reasoned" with the people. The Christian's faith should not be blind. It has its true home in both the intellect and the heart. The Church of today, and of all days, needs the help of thinking men, ready to give to every man that asketh a reason for the hope that is in them. Whence did Paul draw his arguments? "Out of the Scriptures"; because most of those he addressed were either Jews or proselytes, and accepted the Old Testament. It does not follow that in every case we should start just where he did. At Lystra and Athens he came in contact with heathen, who neither knew nor cared for the Jewish Scriptures. With them Paul himself began with the book of nature. Thus we learn how necessary it is to find some common ground on which we and those we would convince can stand together.
II. A GOOD SIGN OF TRUE FAITH IN A CHRISTIAN CONVERT (ver. 4). Nothing could be more natural nor wise. Loving the same objects, cherishing the same hopes, why should they not delight in each other's company? Those who are of one heart and aim need no precept to bring them together. Each is to the other as a magnet and a support. A common religious faith may be expected to lift above minor differences, and draw men into a common fold. In many things the educated and unlearned, the rich and poor, greatly differ in their tastes. But when Christ enters the heart, you see them forgetting differences and becoming a single spiritual family. Michael Faraday came to be honoured as "a prince in the aristocracy of intellect." And yet he never lost his interest in a little group of obscure Christians. These believers at Thessalonica consorted with Paul and Silas also for spiritual support and safety. For both these reasons we expect to see modern converts seeking membership in the Church. This is a good sign, and a good rule.
III. THE TOO COMMON SPIRIT AND ARTS OF OPPOSERS OF THE GOSPEL. The Jews saw that Paul's teaching and influence were undermining theirs. Whether the teaching was true and the influence good they did not consider. Very few keep in mind how malignant envy can be. It was for envy that the Jews delivered Jesus to be crucified, and that Joseph was sold into bondage. Then note the arts of these opposers of the apostle. They took to themselves "vile fellows of the rabble" — loungers, boys and men without occupation or sense of responsibility — and set them on. There are always ready tools of unscrupulous leaders. Just here is the greatest peril which now menaces society. Against them all good citizens should provide a safeguard, by pushing forward Christian work. In self-defence, if for no higher reason, we need to carry it to the homes and haunts and hearts of the lowest and worst.
IV. A MARKED EFFECT ALWAYS TO BE EXPECTED FROM SUCCESSFUL GOSPEL WORK (ver. 6). The words were meant in a bad sense. But unwittingly they tittered a great truth; paid the very highest possible compliment to the gospel. The faithful utterance of the gospel does produce strife, and our Saviour predicted that it would; for the simple reason that men are neither willing to submit to its claims nor to suffer others to do it. The gospel was meant to turn the world upside down; for in the world there is much that needs to be overturned. It is to the praise of the gospel that it tends to effect this. Before it vice slinks away; virtue lifts up its head; joy supplants sorrow; society is purer and safer; heaven begins here and now. Old things pass away; more and more all things become new.
(Sermons by the Monday Club.)1. Luke was evidently left at Philippi, where he might have a good deal of doctor's work to do. Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus moved on. We wonder whether Paul will fight any more, or whether he will spend the remainder of his days in pious reflections; for a period is occupied in passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, where nothing was attempted. The fight seems to be over, and the smitten warriors are going home to anoint their wounds and wash their stripes in secret. But they came to Thessalonica, and, in the synagogue, Paul saw a battlefield, and instantly he stripped to the fight! We see now what he was looking for at the other places, and why he did not pause there.
2. "And Paul, as his manner was, went in." Paul was not an occasional attendant. Jesus Christ did not go now and then to the synagogue. It was a dull time to the early Christian when the Church was closed. Paul is here, as everywhere, the very model of a true Christian preacher. "He reasoned with them out of the Scriptures." He did not talk something which he had invented; he had a Book, an authority, and he believed that every word he said was written for him by the pen and ink of Heaven. Once let that thought go, and preaching becomes vain. A sermon is great only as it begins, continues, and ends in the Scriptures. Then he crowns his ministry by enforcing a distinct personal appeal. "This Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ." This was a sword with a point, a sermon with an accent. The preacher must have an object in view. Whatever Paul did was contributory to this great end. The difficulty with the Christian preacher is that nobody wants to hear his doctrine, but his particular way of putting it. I sat with reverence before the foremost judge of his day. His voice was feeble and indistinct; at times I had great difficulty in hearing him; but, oh, the anxiety not to miss one word! It was dry, it was argumentative, there was not a single flower of speech in the whole. Every one was there to hear what the judge would say, not how he said it. When a mumbling speaker reads a will, does anyone say anything about his manner? Each wants to know what he in particular is to get. Oh, could I persuade my hearers that I am reading the will of God, and that men were wise, that they understood these things!
3. Note the opposition which Christianity awakens. You may form a tolerable judgment as to the merits of a controversy by observing the way in which it is conducted. However quiet the town when the apostles entered it, they left it in a serious uproar. They came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword. Look at the opposition. It was —(1) Little-minded. Where is the noble challenge to discuss a great question upon equal terms? How is Paul moved? By love. How is the opposition moved? By envy.(2) Unscrupulous. Any stick will do to beat a dog with. The Jews, who would not have spoken to those "lewd fellows," made use of them to put down this religion of the Cross. If they had not been "lewd fellows," etc., they would have seen that they were being made use of. How Envy can stoop to take up polluted weapons, and search in the mud for stones to throw at Goodness! There is nothing too despicable for it to use to express itself in denunciation and contempt and penalty.(3) Lawless. Never mind the dignity of the city, or the politarchs who reign over it. magistrates cannot stand against an uprising city; they will either dismiss the case, or take bail, or do something to get out of it. So the opposition prosecutes its mission to the end. This is true of all opposition to the Christian cause. There may be an honest opposition to some special ways of representing it; but to its purity, its self-sacrifice, its nobleness, its purpose, there can be no honest opposition. Yet how the Lord makes the wrath of man to praise Him! What said the enemy? "These that have turned the world upside down." There! that is a tribute to their power. Even the Jews did not dare to call it "a flash in the pan," "a nine days' wonder." They saw in it a world-exciting force, and we who are Christians become fearful just in proportion as we lose our conception of the grandeur of the cause which we have to handle. Then they become themselves again, "saying that there is another king." That is a lie! The apostles never said so, in the sense now put upon that word by their accusers, You can use the right words with a wrong meaning. We must not only speak the words of the gospel, we must speak them in gospel tones. Then the accusers proceeded to say, "one Jesus." There they were right. The apostles, then, had left no false or vague impression. Amid all the tumult, and uproar, and opposition, they had got this word well into the public memory — "Jesus."
4. Is this the end? It is hardly the beginning. The very first letter that Paul wrote was 1 Thessalonians What does he say to them? "For our gospel came not unto you in word only," etc. Paul spent at least three weeks in Thessalonica; how did he live during that time? He had no money; how did he live? How we ought to live — by working! How are you to live — by writing begging letters? This is how Paul lived (1 Thessalonians 2:9). These were not the men to be put down: they did not live on patronage. We now live on "subscribers," and therefore we do not live at all, and we breed a small race of men. Paul, Silvanus, Timotheus, fell to working, not eight hours a days and eight shillings for pay, but, according to the time bill, "night and day." "Two hours longer, Silvanus," said Paul, "and this tent will be done. If we sit up till three o'clock tomorrow morning, we shall just get bread enough to keep us going until the synagogue is open again." These were not the men to be put down!
5. When they said good-bye to Thessalonica, was it a final adieu? Read 1 Thessalonians 2:17. They wanted to go back to the old battlefield. When anything occurs nowadays, we become suddenly "not very well, and must go down to the seaside over Sunday." We think it better to be out of the way. How did Paul view the people whom he had won there? Said he, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye," etc. These are the relations which Christianity would establish amongst us if we would allow it. Christianity would make a compact society of us — not living under formal rules, but under gracious inspiration.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. WHO REJECT TRUTHS BECAUSE THEY ARE NOVEL AND UNPALATABLE. The propositions that Paul laid down (ver. 2) were novel and unpalatable, and therefore the Jews rejected them. How many today consider it a sufficient reason for rejecting a doctrine (whether of religion, politics, science, etc.) because they have never heard of it before! How many reject truths because they do not like to believe them! But we cannot by unbelief make a truth vanish, any more than we can put out the sun by winking.
II. WHO ENDEAVOUR TO SILENCE OPPONENTS BY FORCE. The Jews could not confute Paul by argument, and therefore they stirred up a riot against him. This is still a popular method, though the force employed may be the more refined method of ostracism. A brickbat is not the only method that will break a head.
III. WHO STOOP TO BASE ALLIANCES TO ENSURE THEIR TRIUMPH. The Jews did not storm Jason's house, but "market loungers," whom they would not, on ordinary occasions, have touched with a stick, were enlisted. Not the only occasion on which professed defenders of religion have condescended to use dirty tools.
IV. WHO ENDEAVOUR TO OVERTHROW OPPONENTS BY MISREPRESENTATION (vers. 6, 7). How clever was this misrepresentation, because there was so much truth in it.
V. WHO PURSUE A CONTROVERSY WITH EMBITTERED MALIGNITY.
(R. A. Bertram.)I. REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES. From the change in the personal pronouns, and from 1 Thessalonians 3:6, it is evident that Luke and Timothy remained at Philippi to comfort and strengthen the new converts in the faith. Let us look at —
1. Paul's journey (ver. 1). Their road lay through a region rich in historic associations. The birthplace of Aristotle and the tomb of Euripides were close to their route. At one point, Xerxes had offered to the river Strymon a sacrifice of white horses, and had buried alive nine youths and maidens. At another they had in view the peaks of Ossa and Pelion, often pointed to with trembling superstition as the home of the gods. But the Christian heroism of Paul has done more to make the land live in the memory than all of its connection with famous classical names.
2. Paul's custom (ver. 2). At Thessalonica he acted as though at Philippi he had received no treatment except that which was kind and encouraging. Paul counted his converts more than he did his stripes. All the effect was to make him "wax bold" in his God. "This one thing I do," was Paul's motto.
3. Paul's reasoning (ver. 3). After the crucifixion, the Saviour showed from the Scriptures that His sufferings and death were just what had been foretold. How did Paul show that it behoved Christ to suffer? Some of the passages must have been Psalm 22 and 69 and Isaiah 53. Possibly he may have used the argument to be found in Hebrews 8-10. To a candid mind, the argument is convincing.
4. Paul's success.(1) With the Jews. Some became convinced that their conception of the Messiah has been wrong. They gave up their notion of a splendid temporal king to accept the lowly one of Nazareth and of Calvary. When anyone becomes a follower of the Saviour, he immediately begins to "consort" with those who are of the same faith. He will be found with them in all Christian efforts.(2) With the Greeks. Those who had become worshippers of the true God were far more ready than the Jews. They did not have to give up the wrong conception of centuries.
II. REJECTING THE SCRIPTURES.
1. The assault (ver. 5).(1) The cause. The Jews were jealous when they saw women of rank joining the new way. They saw their own influence being undermined.(2) The attack. Envy is a base passion, and does not hesitate to use base means. It was the same sort of crowd that now in a city can easily be gathered to smash in the windows of a mission church and maltreat its minister.(3) The arrest (ver. 6). If they could not have the principals, they would have their abettors.(4) The complaint. What a testimony they incidentally bore to the work of Paul and Silas! The world had been wrong side up since sin had entered the garden of Eden, and now they were engaged in turning it once more right side up.(5) The result (ver. 9). Shadowy as was the support for the complaint, the accusers succeeded in troubling the multitude and the rulers. But, as at Philippi, the action came too late to be of any avail. The Church already was planted, and the Epistles to the Thessalonians show how deeply it had taken root.
III. SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES. At first it seems hard that the missionaries so soon should have been driven away. But that was God's way for the wider and more expeditious spreading of the gospel.
1. Preaching the Word (ver. 10). Scourged in Philippi, and nearly mobbed in Thessalonica, but just as ready to preach the Word in Beroea.
2. Searching the Word (ver. 11). At Beroea the missionaries had a glimpse of sunshine. Here they found the Jews ready to receive the truth, but not without investigation. They took hold of the matter with zeal and thoroughness. The result was that many of them believed, not only Jews, but Greeks of rank and position.
3. Persecuted for the Word (ver. 13). We see in this illustrations of —(1) The intensity of the hatred of those who oppose the gospel.(2) The way in which God continually is using His enemies. They thought that they were stamping out the gospel, whereas they only were spreading it.
(M. C. Hazard.)
I. THE CITY THAT WAS UPSET. Philip of Macedon won a magnificent victory in Thessaly on the day he heard of the birth of his daughter, and instantly sent word that the child was to be called "Thessalonica." By and by she was married to Cassandra, who rebuilt the old town Therma, and then named it after his bride.
1. (ver. 1). A new opportunity creates a fresh duty. Right through Amphipolis and Apollonia went these preachers, and not a sermon did they try to preach. Why? Because there was no synagogue; the synagogue of that region was at Thessalonica. When Paul reached so influential a centre, he seemed again to rouse himself to combat like an old soldier.
2. (ver. 2). Every man can do good best after his own "manner." What a fine thing it is to have a habit of teaching Christ so as to have a "manner." How foolish it is to reproduce the method of others.
3. (ver. 3). "Christ and His Cross is all our theme." Paul invariably showed that the Messiah must be born at a particular time, of the line of Judah, at a place predicted beforehand; that He must die and be buried, and must rise again from the dead. Then he set out to prove that Jesus had met all these requirements, and therefore must necessarily be the true Hope of the nation, and the only-begotten Son of God. This was his "manner" (2 Corinthians 2:1-5).
4. (ver. 4). Success in preaching must be estimated not by applause, but by conversions. On that day was founded the Church to which afterwards the two Epistles to the Thessalonians were written. Meantime Paul supported himself by working at his trade of tent making, preaching days, toiling nights (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
5. (ver. 5). The wrath of man is often forced to praise God. Opposition intensified the friendship of adherents. It was easy to get up the nosiest crowd; but they only advertised them and strengthened their friends.
6. (ver. 6). A wicked man's lie frequently contains the Christian man's motto. When infidels exclaimed, "Yours is only a book religion," the brave Chillingworth answered, "The Bible is the religion of Protestants — the Bible only!" Thessalonica was upset from turret to foundation stone that day.
II. THE CITY THAT WAS SET UP. Notice —
1. (ver. 10). The indefatigable zeal of the early Christians.
2. (ver. 11). The promising character of the fresh friends Paul and Silas made.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 3. (ver. 12). The excellent results of persistent study of the Scriptures. The word "therefore" is intensive; they were ennobled by their conversion, and they were converted because they studied and believed (John 5:39). 4. (ver. 13). Satan betrays the secret of his special hate. His friends journeyed all this tiresome distance merely because they knew the Word of God was going to be preached by those indefatigable apostles. The devil hates nothing so much in this world as the pure word of Divine truth in the Bible. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(2) (3) (4) 3. (ver. 12). The excellent results of persistent study of the Scriptures. The word "therefore" is intensive; they were ennobled by their conversion, and they were converted because they studied and believed (John 5:39). 4. (ver. 13). Satan betrays the secret of his special hate. His friends journeyed all this tiresome distance merely because they knew the Word of God was going to be preached by those indefatigable apostles. The devil hates nothing so much in this world as the pure word of Divine truth in the Bible. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(3) (4) 3. (ver. 12). The excellent results of persistent study of the Scriptures. The word "therefore" is intensive; they were ennobled by their conversion, and they were converted because they studied and believed (John 5:39). 4. (ver. 13). Satan betrays the secret of his special hate. His friends journeyed all this tiresome distance merely because they knew the Word of God was going to be preached by those indefatigable apostles. The devil hates nothing so much in this world as the pure word of Divine truth in the Bible. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)