1 Thessalonians 1:2-6
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;…
I. ITS CHARACTER.
1. It is shared with his companions. "We give thanks." The three friends prayed and gave thanks together. It is true that the plural number is characteristic of these Epistles to the Thessalonians; the singular is avoided, it seems, from motives of modesty. But here, immediately after the mention of the three names, it is natural to regard the thanksgiving as proceeding from all. It is a true Christian feeling that draws friends together for religious exercises. The faith, the love, of the one kindles, strengthens, the like graces in the other. The tide of prayer and praise from many hearts flows in deeper, fuller volume towards the throne. And we know that where two or three are gathered together in his Name, there is he in the midst of them.
2. It is constant. "We give thanks to God always. Thanksgiving is the joy of the redeemed in heaven; it is the outpouring of the Christian heart upon earth. The nearer we can approach to perpetual thanksgiving, the nearer we draw to heaven. Sursum corda!" - "Lift up your hearts!" is an exhortation which we daily need. May God give us grace to answer daily, hourly, "We lift them up unto the Lord."
3. It is for all. The true shepherd knows his sheep; he loves them all, he prays for all. He does not divide them into parties. The closer his own walk with God, the more he is enabled to keep himself apart from and above party divisions. But the infant Thessalonian Church seems to have enjoyed the blessing of unity. It was not, like Corinth, distracted by strife and party feeling.
4. It accompanied prayer. Thanksgiving and prayer ever go together. The man who prays earnestly must give thanks, for prayer brings him into the sense of God's most gracious presence; and with that presence cometh joy - joy in the Lord. True prayer must involve intercession, for in answer to prayer the Holy Spirit is given; and the first, the chief of the fruits of the Spirit is love. St. Paul is a remarkable example of perseverance in intercessory prayer.
II. ITS GROUNDS.
1. His remembrance of their spiritual state. He was working hard at Corinth; in the midst of his labor, with all its new interests, he remembered without ceasing the Christians of Thessalonica. The care of all the Churches was already beginning to press upon him. He was unwearied in his labors, in his supplications, in his constant thoughtfulness for all the Churches which he had founded, for all the converts whom he had brought to Christ. Mark the extent, the comprehensiveness of his love for souls.
2. His description of that state. The Thessalonian Christians already exhibited the three chief Christian graces.
(1) Faith, and that not a dead faith, but a faith that was ever working through love. St. Paul remembered their work of faith. Faith is itself a work, the work of God. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." It is itself a work, and it must work in the soul, for it is an active principle. It cannot exist without working. Its working may not always express itself in outward action; it will do so when possible; but it will be always working in the inner sphere of the heart, producing self-purification, self-consecration, spiritual self-sacrifice. Each step towards holiness is a work of faith, hidden, it may be, from the eyes of men, but seen by him who searcheth the heart. The Thessalonians had shown their faith by their works.
(2) Love, the greatest of the three, manifests itself in labor. The word is a strong one; "toil," perhaps, is a better rendering. Toil is not painful when it is prompted by love. True Christian love must lead the believer to toil for the gospel's sake, for the souls and bodies of those whom Jesus loved. The abundance of the Christian's labors is the measure of his love. "I labored more abundantly than they all" (says St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:10): "yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
(3) Hope. The object of the Christian's hope is the Savior - our "Lord Jesus Christ, which is our Hope." We hope for him - for his gracious presence revealed in fuller measure now, for the blissful vision of his glorious beauty hereafter. That hope is patient. The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth; the Christian waits patiently for Christ. It works patience in the soul. He can endure the troubles of life who is blessed with the lively hope of the inheritance reserved in heaven. The Thessalonians showed in their lives the presence of this lively hope. All this the apostle remembered without ceasing before God in his prayers and meditations.
3. His confidence in God's election; Himself "a vessel of election" (Acts 9:15), he felt sure that the same gracious choice had rested on the Thessalonian Christians. God had "chosen them to salvation," he tells them in the Second Epistle. St. Paul loves to dwell on the great truth of God's election.
4. The evidence of that election. St. Paul finds it:
(1) In the lives of the Thessalonians. Archbishop Leighton beautifully says, "If men can read the characters of God's image in their own souls, these are the counterpart of the golden characters of his love in which their names are written in the book of life. He that loves God may be sure that he was first loved of God; and he that chooses God for his delight and portion may conclude confidently that God hath chosen him to be one of those that shall enjoy him and be happy in him for ever; for that our love of him is but the return and repercussion of the beams of his love shining upon us." The Thessalonians received the Word; they showed the martyr spirit; they were content to suffer as Christians for the gospel's sake. They had joy amid tears - that holy joy which the presence of the blessed Spirit can give even in the midst of afflictions. They were learning in their own experience the meaning of that seeming contradiction, "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." They imitated the holy life of St. Paul, the holiest life of the Lord Jesus Christ. By this patient continuance in well-doing they were making their calling and election sure.
(2) In the energy and success of his own preaching among them. He had brought them the gospel, the glad tidings of great joy. He had delivered his message with power, with the strength of deep conviction. The Holy Ghost was with him, teaching him what to speak, filling him with a Divine fervor and enthusiasm. His words were more than mere sounds; they were a message full of intense meaning - a message from God. The Thessalonians had felt the power of his preaching; they were his witnesses. This energy was not his own; it came from God; it proved that God was with him; it was a sure evidence that God was blessing the apostle's work; it was given for the sake of the Thessalonians; it surely meant that God had chosen them to be his own. Learn:
1. To take delight in the spiritual progress, in the, faith, hope, love of our fellow-Christians.
2. To thank God for it.
3. To refer all that seems good in us to God's electing grace.
4. To look for the evidence of that election in holiness of life. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;