1 Thessalonians 1:7-10
So that you were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.…
I. THEY BECAME AN EXAMPLE TO OTHERS.
1. True piety tends to propagate itself. The Thessalonians had not long embraced Christianity. But they had learned much; they had given their hearts to God. The Macedonian Churches gave St. Paul, from the first, deep and unmingled satisfaction. Thessalonica was the metropolis of Macedonia, the seat of government, and of trade. It became a center of spiritual life. All believers throughout Macedonia and Achaia looked to the Thessalonians. St. Paul was now at Corinth, the chief city of Achaia. The Lord had much people in that city; but there were grave evils at Corinth, many causes for anxiety and distress. St. Paul must have told the Corinthians often of the simple faith and obedience of the Macedonians. So the Thessalonians became an example to the converts whose lot was cast among the sensual temptations anti the intellectual restlessness of the famous Peloponnesian town. The lives of good men are very precious; they are a living proof of the power of God's grace; they arc facts which can be seen and tested; facts from which the reality of the forces which are working in the unseen sphere of God's spiritual agency can be inferred with as much certainty as the laws of nature from the facts of observation and experiment.
2. The Word of God is living and powerful. The Thessalonians had received it; it was in their hearts and on their lips. As the starry heavens with their silent witness declare the glory of God, so it is with the stars that are in the right hand of the Son of God (Revelation 1:20); their sound goeth forth into all the earth. That heavenly melody was issuing now from Thessalonica. "It hath sounded forth," St. Paul says, like a clear, thrilling trumpet-strain. It hath sounded, and still it sounds, reaching far and wide with its penetrating tones. The conversion of the Thessalonians was known not only in the neighboring regions of Greece. The glad news had brought joy wherever the gospel had reached. It was not necessary for the apostle to praise the faith of the Thessalonians; men knew it., talked of it among themselves, reported it to the great missionary himself.
II. THE TESTIMONY THAT WAS BORNE TO THE FAITH OF THE THESSALONIANS. Christians talked:
1. Of the wonderful success of St. Paul's preaching. Those three weeks (he may have remained there somewhat longer) had been a time of marvelous fruitfulness. It was but an entrance, the time was so short; but what an entrance! - so full of power, so manifestly under the Divine guidance. The three men - Silas, of whom we know so little; Timotheus, shy and timid; Paul, of whom it was said in Corinth that his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible, - they had done wonders in Thessalonica. God was with them plainly; there could be no other explanation of such strange unexampled energy.
2. Of the change wrought in the Thessalonians. They turned from idol-worship. The Thessalonian Church was mainly Gentile; there were a few Jews among them, but the Jews as a body bitterly persecuted the infant Church. The gospel was glad tidings indeed to thoughtful Gentiles. The Jews had great and precious truths, though their teachers had well-nigh hidden them under a mass of traditions and idle forms. But what was there in the heathenism of the day on which a thinking man could rest his soul? There were temples everywhere, but what man who felt the yearnings of the human soul for righteousness and God could in his heart reverence the deities who were worshipped there? So the Thessalonians turned from their idols:
(1) To serve the living and true God. The Gentiles did not serve their gods. It could not be. They admired the temples and the statues as works of art; they regarded their religion as of some political importance, a part of statecraft. But now the converts were ready to serve God, for they began to know him. Their idols were dead things; the God whom Paul preached was living, loving, and powerful; they felt his power in their hearts, nay, he was the Life; all life (they knew now) came from him, and was his gift. Their idols were false gods, there was no truth in them; they were images of that which was not; for an idol, as St. Paul taught them, was "nothing in the world." The Thessalonians could see the snowy top of Olympus; the stories of the gods who dwelt there were but idle tales. St. Paul had taught them of the great Creator who is very God, living and true; nay, the one only Source of real life and being, He is the very God, the self-existing One, I AM THAT I AM. There is none other.
(2) To wait for his Son from heaven. Hope is the key-note of this Epistle, as joy and faith are of the Epistles to the Philippians and the Romans. St. Paul had taught his converts not only to believe in God the Father who made us, but also in God the Son who redeemed us. He taught them the great truths of the Resurrection and Ascension, the blessed doctrine of the atonement. Some of the Thessalonians, perhaps, had tried to grapple with the dark mysteries of life, sin and misery. St. Paul pointed them to Jesus. "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world." There is wrath coming in its awfulness; but there is a Deliverer - One who is delivering us now, who is daily delivering us from the power of sin, as we draw nearer and nearer to him; who will deliver us from the punishment of sin, if by the gracious help of the blessed Spirit we abide in him. And this Deliverer is Jesus.
1. The holy lives of Christian people help the blessed work of saving souls; holy lives are more persuasive than holy words. Let each Christian strive to do his part.
2. We are not in heathen darkness; God has given us the light of his gospel. Let us be thankful, and show our thankfulness in our lives.
3. Wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus; all our hopes are in him. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.