Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE AUTHORS OF THE SALUTATION. "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy." Simply Paul, without official adjunct of any sort, for there was no one in the Thessalonian Church to challenge his apostleship or his relationship to Christ. He associates Silvanus and Timothy with himself in the salutation as they were associated with him in the original foundation of the Church; Silvanus being placed next to himself, because he was of older standing and greater weight in the Church than Timothy, a comparatively young evangelist.
II. THE CHURCH TO WHICH THE SALUTATION WAS ADDRESSED. "To the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
1. Its situation. Thessalonica was the capital of all Macedonia, and is still the second city of European Turkey. Important then as now by its commerce; important by its place on the great road which connected Rome with its Asiatic dependencies; but more important in the eye of the apostle as a grand center of missionary operations both by laud and sea, and with a mingled population of Jews and Gentiles.
2. Its true character as a Church. It was "the Church of the Thessalonians" - a regularly organized community of Christians, mostly Gentiles, having the root and ground of its spiritual existence in union with the Father and the Son. They were "in the fellowship of the Father and the Son," because they were "dwelling in God, and God in them," and "they were in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." The one fellowship implies the other; for Jesus said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me;" yet it is also true that it is "God who calls us into the fellowship of the Son" (1 Corinthians 1:9). This double fellowship is secured by the bond of the Holy Spirit. As enjoyed by the Thessalonians it implied:
(1) Their devotion to the truth; for only "as abiding in the doctrine of Christ" they would have "both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9 1 John 2:24). There is no fellowship but in the truth. To be in darkness is to be out of fellowship (1 John 1:6).
(2) Their unity. "Even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).
(3) Their love to one another. "If we love one another God abideth in us" (1 John 4:12).
(4) Their boldness in the day of judgment (1 John 2:28).
(5) Their ultimate perfection. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:21-23). Behold thus the high dignity and blessed privilege of the Church at Thessalonica.
I. THE WRITER.
1. He uses no title. He does not style himself apostle. He asserted his apostolic authority when it was necessary to do so; for the sake of others, as in his Epistles to the Corinthians and Galatians. Now it was not necessary; the Macedonian Churches regarded him with affection and reverence. He simply gives his name, his new name - Paul. He had laid aside his old name with all its associations. It recalled the memory of the famous king, Saul the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. It recalled to the apostle the memories of his own old unconverted life, his self-satisfied Pharisaism, his persecution of the Church, especially that one saddest day of his life, when he consented to the death of the first martyr of the Lord, the holy Stephen. He had laid aside his old name, and with it his old modes of thought, his old life. Paul was, we may say, his Christian name; we do not read of it before the beginning of his first missionary journey; it was consecrated now by constant, untiring, self-sacrificing labor. It was known wherever Christ was preached as the name of the great missionary, the apostle of the Gentiles, the first of the noble band of Christian missionaries, who had left his home and all that once he loved to devote himself, heart and soul, to the mission work with all its hardships, all its dangers. Many holy men have trodden in his steps; but it was Paul who first set the high example, who kindled the sacred enthusiasm which has led so many saints in every age to fulfill the Lord's command, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Paul is a Latin name; it means "little." St. Augustine in one place suggests that St. Paul may have chosen it to mark himself as "the least of the apostles." There are other possible reasons for the change, and it may be thought that St. Paul would have shrunk from what might seem almost like a parade of humility. But at least we may find a lesson here. God exalteth the humble. Paul is a famous name. Others have borne it - some distinguished Romans; but it was reserved for the apostle to make the name honored and beloved throughout the civilized world. The Paulus who conquered Macedonia for Rome is far less famous now than the Paul who won the Macedonian Churches for Christ.
2. He associates others with himself. Paul is the spiritual father of the Thessalonian Christians; he is the writer of the Epistle, not Silvanus or Timotheus (see 2 Thessalonians 3:17). But they had labored with him in Thessalonica; Silvanus certainly, Timotheus in all probability; they had shared his dangers there; they were well known to the Thessalonians. So he joins their names with his own, recognizing their brotherly fellowship, their faithful co-operation, and shrinking, it may be, kern putting himself into unnecessary prominence. He seeks not honor ion himself; he has no literary ambition; his one aim is the salvation of his converts, the glory of God.
(1) Silvanus, or, in the shortened form of the name, Silas. tic, like St. Paul, was a Roman citizen, and bore a Latin name. It was, in the Latin mythology, the name of the sylvan god, who was supposed to protect the sheep, and save them from wolves. When he became a Christian, that name might perhaps serve to remind him of the great duty of tending the flock for which the good Shepherd died. He had leech a leader in the Church at Jerusalem; he was a prophet (Acts 15:32), that is, he had the gift of spiritual, inspired eloquence; he used it to exhort and confirm the brethren. He accompanied St. Paul in his first missionary journey; he worked with him, he suffered with him. In the dungeon at Philippi, his feet made fast in the stocks, he prayed and sang praises unto God. His presence and sympathy had cheered St. Paul in his dangers. Companionship in affliction had bound them very close to one another. When working together at Thessalonica they must have still felt the effects of the many stripes which they had received at Philippi. It was natural that St. Paul should mention Silas in writing to the Thessalonians. We may notice here that he furnishes one of the links which couple together the two apostles whose differences (Galatians 2:11-21) have been so much magnified by heretics of old, by unbelievers now. St. Paul loved Silvanus; St. Peter counted him a faithful brother (l Peter 5:12).
(2) Timotheus, St. Paul's dearest companion, his own son in the faith, bound to him with the closest ties of tender, personal affection. He stands first among the noble company of holy, loving fellow-workers whom St. Paul had drawn around himself. He was known to the Thessalonians; his name, indeed, does not appear in the record of St. Paul's visit to Thessalonica in the Acts of the Apostles. But we know that he was sent there afterwards to establish and to comfort the Thessalonian Christians concerning their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Doubtless he was chosen for that work because of the Christian zeal, the loving, gentle sympathy which marked his beautiful character. He fulfilled his mission, and brought back to the apostle good tidings of the faith and charity of the Thessalonians. He greets them now.
II. THE CHURCH.
1. The foundation of the Thessalonian Church. St. Paul had been shamefully treated at Philippi; he had not lost courage. He came to Thessalonica; he went, as he was wont, to the synagogue. There he preached for three sabbath days; he "reasoned with them out of the Scriptures." He showed (as our Lord himself had shown to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus) that it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer, and should rise again from the dead; he showed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ. All true preaching must be full of Scripture; all true preaching must be full of Christ. St. Paul's words were greatly blessed. Some Jews believed, a great multitude of Greek proselytes, many ladies of rank. Those three sabbaths had been wonderfully fruitful; a Church was formed at Thessalonica.
2. The word "Church." This is the earliest of St. Paul's extant Epistles; it may be (possibly the Epistle of St. James was written earlier) the earliest of all the writings of the New Testament. Then, if we were to read the New Testament in chronological order, we should meet here with the word "Church" for the first time. St. James 2:2 uses the word "synagogue," not "Church." Our Lord, of course, used it earlier. He founded the Church. He had said, "On this rock wilt I build my Church;" and again, "Tell it to the Church." But the date of St. Matthew's Gospel is probably later than that of this Epistle. The Greek word means simply an assembly, a congregation, as the word "synagogue" means a meeting. It is derived from a verb which means to call out or summon, and is regularly used in classical Greek of the assemblies of citizens summoned by the magistrate in the Greek commonwealths for legislative or other political purposes (comp. Acts 19:39); sometimes of other assemblies, as of the crowd of artisans collected by Demetrius (Acts 19:32, 41). It is used of the congregation of Israel in Acts 7:38; Hebrews 2:12; and sometimes in the Septuagint. The New Testament has taken the word and filled it with a new and holy meaning. It is the assembly which Christ hath chosen to himself out of the world - the flock of Christ. The visible Church of Christ is "a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." The great day of Pentecost was the true birthday of the Church; the gift of the Holy Ghost then sent down from heaven knit together the disciples into one body, the mystical body of Christ. St. Luke gives us, in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, a description of the Church at that time. "Then they that gladly received the Word were baptized... and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Thus the notes of the Church, according to Holy Scripture, are baptism, fellowship with the apostles, the doctrine of the apostles, the holy communion, public worship. The Church is also one, for it is one body in Christ, united into one fellowship by the indwelling of the one Spirit. It is holy, because it is being sanctified by the Holy Ghost; all its members are dedicated to God in holy baptism; they are all pledged by that dedication to follow after holiness of heart and life. It is catholic, because it is not confined to one nation, like the synagogue, but universal, world-wide, open to all who receive the Word of God. It is apostolic, because it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief Corner-stone; and because it continues in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles. It is the bride of Christ. "Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it unto himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
3. The Church of the Thessalonians. Now there was a branch of the one Church at Thessalonica.
(1) It was the second Church founded in Europe. The first was at Philippi, a small place, though a Roman colony. Thessalonica was a populous city, the metropolis of Macedonia. God plants his Church everywhere. It embraces all who will accept the gospel - poor and rich, ignorant and learned; it meets the deepest needs of all places alike - the quiet country and the stirring city.
(2) It was already organized. It had its ministers (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13), and its assemblies for public worship (1 Thessalonians 5:27). Short as St. Paul's visit was, he had, it seems, ordained elders there, as he was wont to do in every Church (Acts 14:23), and had provided for the regular meetings of the brethren.
(3) It was in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. This was its essential characteristic. As Chrysostom says, "There were many ἐκκλησίαι, many assemblies both Jewish and Greek. St. Paul writes to that assembly, that congregation, which was in God. It is a high exaltation, above all other possible dignities, to be in God." Thessalonica formerly lay in wickedness, in the evil one (1 John 5:19), in the sphere of his activity. Now, the Church there was in God. The presence of God was the very atmosphere in which the Church lived and moved. It lay in the everlasting arms, encircled with his embrace, guarded by his love. The words imply a close intimate union, an exceeding great depth of love and tenderness, a very great and profound truth, which does not admit of formal definition, and cannot be adequately expressed in language; but it is realized, in a greater or less degree, in the inner life of those true members of the Church who abide in that invisible, but most holy and most blessed, union with the Lord. God had breathed into the Church of the Thessalonians the breath of life - that new life, that eternal life, which consists in the personal knowledge of God. That life is in his Son. Christ is the Life. "He that hath the Son hath life." The Thessalonian Church was in the Lord Jesus Christ, as it was in God. "We are in him that is true," says St. John, "even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." The Church is in Christ, then surely Christ is God. The Church cannot be said to be in any creature; in St. Paul, for instance, or in any other of the holiest saints of God. Such an assertion would be unmeaning, blasphemous. Then in the first verse of the first of St. Paul's Epistles (the least dogmatic, some say, of all his Epistles, possibly the earliest of the New Testament writings), he distinctly teaches the great doctrine of the divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "In Christ," "in the Lord," is a constant formula of St. Paul's; he is never weary of repeating it, never weary of enforcing the great truth that the Christian lives in Christ. Here he asserts the same thing of the Church as a whole. It is in Christ, living in his life, holy in his holiness, strong in his strength, glorious (John 17:22) in his glory; the glory of his presence now, the glory of eternal life with him henceforth in heaven. The Church is "in Christ;" its members must strive to realize the blessedness of that holy fellowship in their own individual souls. Outward membership will not avail for our salvation, unless we abide in living spiritual communion with the Lord.
III. THE SALUTATION.
1. Grace. It is one of those words which the Holy Spirit has taken from common use and filled with a sweet and sacred meaning.
(1) It is the gracious favor of God which rests upon all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That favor is essentially free, spontaneous, flowing out of that eternal love which is intimately one with the very being of God. "God is love." It is given in and through the Lord Jesus; it is "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(2) It is the gratitude, the spirit of joyful thankfulness, which should be the happy temper of those who believe in the grace of God.
(3) It sometimes (as in Colossians 4:6) expresses the sweetness, the winning beauty, the dignified gracefulness of the true Christian character. The grace of God produces thankfulness, and gives grace and beauty to the life.
2. Peace. It was the first greeting of the risen Lord to his apostles, "Peace be unto you." It became the apostolic greeting. The Macedonian Churches had little outward peace; they were early called to suffer. They needed that blessed peace which God alone can give. (See homiletics on Philippians 1:2 and Philippians 4:7.)
1. Imitate St. Paul in his humility. Notice every feature, every manifestation of that great grace; it is hard to learn.
2. The Church, as a whole, is in God; in his guardianship, in his encircling love. We must strive and pray to realize that loving presence individually, to be in God ourselves.
3. Pray that grace and peace may rest on all who bear the Name of Christ. - B.C.C.
the second coming of our Lord. The first three chapters are personal, setting forth the apostle's connection with the Thessalonians, and interest in them as a Church. In the remaining two chapters he addresses them in view of their condition as a Church, and especially in view of anxiety connected with the second coming. Pleased with the progress they were making, he writes to them in a quiet, practical, prevailingly consolatory strain.
I. THE WRITERS. "Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy." Paul comes first, as preeminently the writer. It can be made out that the matter and style are characteristically Pauline. It speaks to his humility that he does not claim it as his own, that he does not put forward his official position, but associates two brethren with him as joint-writers. These, Silvanus (to be identified with Silas) and Timothy (less prominent at the time), assisted at the founding of the Thessalonian Church. Timothy had just returned from a visit of inquiry to Thessalonica. He therefore claims them as adding the weight of their influence with the Thessalonians to his own. And their place as joint-writers is accorded to them throughout. Only in three places, for a special reason in each case, does he make use of the singular number.
II. COMMUNITY ADDRESSED. "Unto the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Thessalonica - so named by Cassander in honor of his wife, who was a sister of Alexander the Great - was well situated for commerce "on the inner bend of the Thermaic gulf - half-way between the Adriatic and the Hellespont - on the sea-margin of a vast plain watered by several rivers," the chief of these being the Axius and Haliacmon. Under the Romans it became a large, wealthy, and populous city; and was chosen as the Macedonian capital. Its importance has been well kept, up to the present day. Saloniki (slightly altered from Thessalonica) ranks next to Constantinople in European Turkey, with a population of seventy thousand. Paul visited Thessalonica in his second missionary tour, after the rough handling he had received in the other Macedonian city of Philippi. The Jews, being more numerous here than at Philippi, had a synagogue; and in this, Paul, for three sabbath days, reasoned with them from the Scriptures, opening and alleging that it behooved the Christ to suffer and to rise again from the dead, and that this Jesus is the Christ. The result was so far favorable. Some Jews were persuaded, and consorted with Paul and Silas; of the Gentile proselytes attached to the Jewish synagogue, a great multitude, and, among these, not a few chief women. But there was also what was unfavorable. The Jews as a body, being moved with jealousy, took unto them certain vile fellows of the rabble, and raised a tumult against the Christian preachers, which ended in their departing by night for Beraea. Paul and his assistants had a very short time in which to found a Church in Thessalonica. For three sabbath days Paul reasoned in the Jewish synagogue. We may allow a little longer time for the ripening of Jewish opposition. Short as the time was, they had settled down to supporting themselves by laboring with their own hands. Short as the time was, the Philippian Christians, in their eagerness, had managed once and again to send unto Paul's necessity. What would render the formation of a Christian Church at Thessalonica easier was the number of Gentile proselytes who embraced Christianity. These had received training in monotheistic ideas, and had already the elements of a godly character. But, beyond this, many Gentile idolaters must have been brought in; for the entering in of Paul and his companions was signalized as a turning of the majority of them from idols unto the living and the true God. Under the conditions of time and manual labor and Jewish fanaticism, the founding of the Thessalonian Church was a most marvelous work. So short time with them, Paul wrote to them when he got to Corinth, after Visiting Beraea and Athens, about the close of the year 52. The Thessalonians are addressed as a Church, i.e. in their corporate capacity, with corporate responsibilities and privileges, not as saints, i.e. in respect of the consecration of the members-individually. They are addressed as a Church in God the Father, i.e. as having all the position of sons. They are also addressed as a Church in the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. as a Christian family where the sons are all saved men placed under the superintendence of him who has the position of Lord, and distributes to their need.
III. GREETING. "Grace to you and peace. This did not necessarily exclude favor and peace from men, from these persecuting Jews. But whether it had that sweep or not, it certainly meant the Divine treatment of them, not according to merit, but according to infinite mercifulness, and the consequent freeing of them from all disturbing influences. It is what we should invoke for all our friends. - R.F.
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.
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.
I. HOW THEY THANKED GOD FOR THE THESSALONIANS. "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers." The three Christian preachers away at Corinth, and in the midst of their engagements th
work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope.
I. CHRISTIAN GRACES ARE ACTIVE POWERS. They are beautiful in themselves, but they are not to exist solely for their own beauty. Flowers are lovely, but the object of the existence of flowers is not that they may dream through the summer hours in their loveliness, and then fade and wither and die. They serve an important end in the economy of plants by preparing fruit and seeds.
1. The active operation of Christian grace glorifies God. While dwelling only in the depths of the soul, quiescent and secret, they do not show forth the glory of God. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8).
2. The active operation of the Christian graces is a means of benefiting our fellow-men. Faith, love, and hope are not given to us for our own enjoyment only. They are aids for our mission in life - the mission of serving God by serving mankind. We must let them have their perfect work, that this mission may be fulfilled.
3. The active operation of the Christian graces is a proof of their vital health. "Faith apart from works is barren" (James 2:20). By the fruits they bear we know how far we have the graces within us.
II. CHRISTIAN GRACES HAVE THEIR SEPARATE SPHERES OF ENERGY.
1. Faith has its work. When we both believe and actively trust in the helps of the Unseen, we are encouraged to use them, and when we yield ourselves in faith to the will and law of the Unseen, we learn to obey the authority above us. Hence the work of faith. This is characterized by decision - it is no wavering, hesitating, intermittent activity - by calmness and by energy.
2. Love has its labor. Labor is harder than work. It implies great effort, toil, and trouble. Love goes beyond faith and undertakes greater tasks. But with love "all toil is sweet." An enthusiasm amounting to passion characterizes this activity and distinguishes it from the sober work of faith. Love to God and love to man are necessary for the hardest work. It was not mere faith, it was love, that inspired the awful toils and sacrifices of Christ.
3. Hope has its patience. This is the passive fruit of Divine grace. It is not therefore the less important, nor does it therefore show the less energy. We need strength for endurance as much as strength for action. Christian hope manifests its energy by unflinching perseverance in spite of present crosses and distresses.
III. CHRISTIAN GRACES MUST CO-OPERATE FOR THE RIPENING OF THE FULL CHRISTIAN LIFE. St. Paul rejoices that all three of the primary graces were in active operation in the Thessalonian Church. Characters are too often one-sided. Faith is hard if love is wanting. Love is weak and wild if it is not supported and guided by faith. Hope is an idle dream without these two graces, and they are sad and gloomy if they are not cheered by hope. As the cord is far stronger than the separate strands, faith, hope, and love united produce energies many times greater than the results of their individual efficacy. The perfect Christian character is the character that is developed into rich fruitfulness on all sides. All the colors in the bow must blend to produce the pure white of saintliness. - W.F.A.
I. THERE IS AN ELECTION ACCORDING: TO GRACE.
1. The election referred to here was not an election to external privilege or ecclesiastical relationship; for that might have had a very uncertain issue, and would not have been the subject of such abounding thankfulness as he expresses in this passage.
2. It was not even the call to obtain glory, which they had received through his gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14); for the election only realized itself in that call, Scripture always distinguishing the order of election and calling. "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called" (Romans 8:30).
3. Much less is the election to be identified with regeneration, conversion, or faith. These were its effects.
4. It was an election to eternal life, involving all the various processes of his grace. (Romans 11:5.)
(1) It is an election in Christ (Ephesians 1:4).
(2) It is irrespective of merit (Romans 9:11).
(3) It is through faith and the sanctification of the Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
(4) It is to eternal glory (Romans 9:23).
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS ELECTION IS A POSSIBLE AND AN ACTUAL EXPERIENCE. The apostle's knowledge was not derived from special revelation, neither was it the mere credulity of a kindly charity, "hoping all things" in the absence of evidence. It had a double ground - one subjective and the other objective; one based upon the apostle's conscious experience in preaching the gospel, the other upon their practical and hearty reception of the truth.
1. The subjective evidence. "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance."
(1) It did come in word, for it was conveyed to the Thessalonians in human speech, albeit not "in the enticing words of man's wisdom," but it passed beyond the word. It did not merely sound in the ear nor touch the understanding.
(2) But it came in power - on the part of the preachers with an overwhelming force and persuasiveness, so that "the faith of the people should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:5). There was a conscious abounding energy which carried them beyond themselves, with an overmastering conviction that they would prevail.
(3) It came also "in the Holy Ghost," or, as the apostle elsewhere phrases it, "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:4). The Word would otherwise have been a dead letter and a killing letter, but the Spirit gave it life. The power of the gospel, therefore, was due to the efficient operation of the Spirit.
(4) It came also "in much assurance," not on the part of the Thessalonians, but on the part of the preachers of the gospel, who were fully convinced of its truth, and had thorough confidence in its power.
(5) This subjective evidence was confirmed by their own recollection of the three preachers of the gospel - "As ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." The Thessalonians would have a very vivid recollection both of the preaching and the preachers. The three brethren were conspicuous by their holiness, their zeal, and their interest in the welfare of the Thessalonians. This was no self-flattery, for it was confirmed by the knowledge of their converts.
2. The objective evidence of their election. "And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the Word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost." Their ready imitation of the apostle and his colleagues - which was, in truth, an imitation of Christ, so far as they were connected with him in his life and truth - was a practical proof of the sincerity of their conversion. The imitation was manifest in the spirit and circumstances of their reception of the truth.
(1) The truth was received "in much affliction." The history of their conversion confirms this statement (Acts 17:5, 9). But the persecution continued after the departure of the apostle. The gospel had its drawbacks, but the Thessalonians were steadfast in their allegiance to the truth.
(2) Yet it was received "with joy of the Holy Ghost;" that is, the joy that springs from his presence in the soul. They were thus imitating that apostle who "took pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake" (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). The joy in question is
(a) a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22);
(b) it is essentially connected with the kingdom of God as part of its blessedness (Romans 14:17);
(c) it is capable of increase through the very presence of affliction (Acts 5:41);
(d) it is the strength of the believer - "The joy of the Lord shall be your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10);
(e) its advent marks a distinct change in the world's history;
(f) it ought to be constant (Philippians 4:4);
(g) it is maintained through abiding in Christ (John 15:10, 11). - T.C.
I. IT IS VAIN TO RECEIVE THE GOSPEL IN WORD ONLY.
1. It may be published. A heathen country may open its ports to missionaries. Bible societies may circulate the Scriptures through every country and hamlet. Preachers may never cease to expound it. And all this will be as nothing for the spiritual welfare of people who will not hear, understand, believe, and submit to the truth.
2. It may be heard. Crowds may flock to the churches. Attentive congregations may hang upon the lips of popular preachers. And still no good may be done while the truth is not understood, believed, and obeyed.
3. It may be understood. The meaning of the language used may be intelligible enough. People may give themselves the trouble of thinking out the subjects presented to them by the preachers. Still all is vain if the gospel is not believed and submitted to.
4. It may be believed. The truth may not be doubted. We may have a certain conviction of it, and yet even this may count for nothing without the faith that accepts the influences and follows the directions of the gospel. There is a world of difference between believing the gospel and believing in Christ; at least, in the only way in which this is of practical importance, viz. as a trustful acceptance of his grace and a loyal devotion to his will. So long as we come short of this we may have the gospel, but it will be "words, words, words" - the letter that killeth, not the spirit that quickeneth.
II. THE GOSPEL MAY BE RECEIVED IN POWER. This very statement seems to strike some people who have long been familiar with the words of the gospel as a new revelation, as itself a fresh gospel. But we have to learn the power as well as the truth of the gospel if it is to be of any real good to us.
1. The operation of the power of the gospel consists in changing the hearts and lives of men. The gospel does not simply promise future salvation. It effects present regeneration. The new birth is the essential beginning of redemption, Nothing but a Power, vast, overwhelming, penetrating, and omnipotent, can make new creatures of old, stubborn profligates and hypocrites, men of the world, and self-righteous Pharisees.
2. The secret of the power of the gospel is in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The new man is "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5). Christ is "the Power of God," because he baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). Christ expressly connected the power of apostolic preaching with the gift of the Holy Spirit: "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you" (Acts 1:8). Preachers need this to give force to their words, and hearers to receive the truth effectually.
3. The sign of the power of the gospel will be much assurance. The faith which grows out of experiencing this power will be much stronger, more vivid, and more joyous than that of first believing the truth of the gospel. - W.F.A.
Acts 17:5-10). St. Paul frequently refers to the sufferings that so quickly tested the faith of this brave Christian community at the very commencement of its new life (1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:2 5). But in spite of persecution a peculiar joy seems to have possessed the Church at Thessalonica. The Epistles to the Thessalonians are to be distinguished for hearty congratulations and a spirit of gladness. Here is an apparent paradox, which, however, when regarded from a higher standpoint, resolves itself into a spiritual harmony.
I. AN EARTHLY PARADOX. St. Paul was much inclined to the use of startling paradoxes. His vigorous mind seemed to delight in facing them. Thus his style is rugged with great contrasting ideas.
1. The gospel does not prevent affliction. To the Thessalonians it was the means of bringing suffering. Christians often suffer more of earthly trouble, rather than less, than others (Hebrews 12:8). Though the gospel is good news, and though it brings gladness to the soul, it may be ushered in with storms and sufferings in the outer life. This might be expected, seeing that it is in conflict with the prince of this world.
2. Affliction does not prevent the experience of the joy of the gospel. In spite of much affliction, the Thessalonians had joy. The world sees only the outside. Hence its common verdict that religion must be melancholy. It can see the flaming fagots; it cannot see the exultant heart of the martyr. It is a great truth to know that, when God does not remove trouble, he may give us such gladness of heart as shall entirely counteract it. Surely it is better to rejoice in tribulation than to be sad in prosperity.
II. THE SPIRITUAL HARMONY.
1. The affliction is external, while the Joy is internal The two belong to different spheres. It would be impossible for one and the same person to be in temporal prosperity and adversity at the same moment, or to be at once m spiritual sunshine and under spiritual clouds. But it may well be that, while the earthly sun is shrouded in gloom, the heavenly sun is shining in full splendor.
2. The affliction comes from earthly causes, the joy from heavenly. Men persecute, the Holy Spirit inspires joy. Here are different sources of experience, and accordingly the experiences differ.
3. The affliction rather helps the spiritual joy than otherwise. It prevents men from looking to external things for comfort. It enables them to see that true joy must be inward and spiritual. In conclusion, observe that affliction is no reason for the rejection of the gospel, since this is not therefore the less true, and it claims to be received on its truth, not on our pleasure, and also because the joy it brings will not be lessened by any external trouble. - W.F.A.
I. THE GOSPEL WAS TITUS CARRIED THROUGH NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN GREECE LIKE THE RINGING SOUND OF A TRUMPET. "For from you hath sounded out the Word of the Lord in Macedonia and Achaia." These two divisions of Greece, included in the Roman empire, received the report of the gospel, which went forth like a joyful sound, proclaiming with no uncertainty liberty to the captives.
1. A work of grace in one place quickly leads to a work of grace in other places. The tale of wonder is repeated with solemn surprise, gratitude, and expectation.
2. Churches already in existence were stirred and stimulated by the visible work of grace at Thessalonica.
II. THE REPORT OF THEIR FAITH RECEIVED A WIDE PUBLICITY EVERYWHERE, EVEN OUTSIDE THE LIMITS OF GREECE. This was not wonderful, for the city was, as Cicero says, in the very bosom of the Roman empire, a center of business and influence which touched its furthest limits. Their faith must have had the solid stamp of reality to produce such a widespread sensation. It must have been practical and self-mantles-tattoo, for they did not hide it in their own breasts, but declared it by words and deeds. There was, therefore, no necessity for the apostle speaking about it - "so that we need not to speak anything." - T.C.
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.
I. THE NEED OF SOUNDING FORTH THE GOSPEL. This is a fine expression, "sounded forth;" not merely whispered in the ear, but proclaimed far and wide, with a fullness, a richness, and a power that command attention. Such is the proclamation that the royal message of the gospel deserves.
1. The gospel comes from God. It is not like the composition of an obscure man. If God. opens his mouth, surely his words must be worthy of publishing in trumpet-notes.
2. The gospel is for all men. It is not a secret doctrine for the cultured few. All the world needs it, all the world has a right to have it. Therefore it should spread over wide territories and penetrate to remote districts. The alarm-bell must be resonant, the bugle-call must be clear and piercing, the shepherd's voice must be high and full that the wandering sheep may hear it and return to the fold.
3. The gospel is conflicted by other voices. Men are preoccupied. The din of the world renders them deaf to the message from heaven. The world will not lie in solemn stillness to hear the angels sing. The sound of the gospel must go forth so that deaf ears shall be unstopped, and walls of prejudice fall flat like those of old Jericho at the trumpet-notes of Israel's priests.
II. THE METHOD OF SOUNDING FORTH THE GOSPEL.
1. It must be sounded by living men. A written gospel is not enough. Soul must stir soul.
2. It must be sounded in the conduct of Christians. It would seem that St. Paul was thinking rather of the influence of the heroic endurance of the Thessalonians and of their spiritual prosperity than of the missionary labors of evangelists sent out by them, for he writes of how they became an ensample to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaia, and how in every place their faith to God-ward was gone forth. The loudest, clearest, most eloquent, most unanswerable proclamation of the gospel is the unconscious testimony of Christian living.
3. It may be sounded forth with redoubled energy from the midst of affliction. The troubles endured by the Thessalonians tested and revealed their faith, and so led to the fuller proclamation of the gospel. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Men never preach Christ so perfectly as when they die for him. The torch that kindled Latimer's fagots at Oxford kindled a glorious fire of reformation throughout England.
4. It can be sounded forth with greatest effect from central positions. Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia. What happened there was not done in a corner. Christian testimony witnessed at this great center would spread far and wide. It is our duty to establish Christian influences in prominent places. While not boasting of our own doings, and not letting our left hand know what our right hand doeth, we should still not hide our candle under a bushel, but so let our light shine before men that we may glorify our Father which is in heaven, and remember that, if a city which is set on a hill cannot be hid, it is most important that the light of the gospel should shine from such a place. - W.F.A.
I. THE WORLD WAS FIRST IMPRESSED BY THE RAPID AND IMMEDIATE SUCCESS OF THE APOSTLES. "For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you." The world seemed to appreciate the boldness, the sincerity, the uprightness of the preachers, as elements of their success; for there was no dexterous flattery, there was no spirit of self-seeking, there was no guileful strategy, in the proclamation of the gospel.
II. THE WORLD WAS STILL MORE DEEPLY IMPRESSED BY THE BLESSED EFFECTS OF THE APOSTLES' PREACHING, "And how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God."
1. It was a conversion from idolatry, Immediately and at once they received converting grace, under the influence of which they turned to the Lord from their dead and fictitious deities.
(1) Idolatry is apostasy from God. These Thessalonians" had changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Romans 1:23). They had been "joined to their idols" for ages (Hosea 4:17). They had been hitherto walking just like other Gentiles, in all moral blindness and carnality of heart (Ephesians 4:17, 18).
(2) Their conversion was a repudiation of idolatry. It was not mere proselytism. It was the bursting asunder of ties which had an immense social as well as religious weight in pagan life.
(3) It was a thorough consecration to the service of the living and true God. As their God was true God and living God, having life in himself and a true and faithful relation to his worshippers, they could give him the living service of faith, obedience, and dependence.
2. Another effect of the apostles preaching was their expectation of our Lord's coming. The doctrine of the advent occupies the foreground in the thoughts of the Thessalonians, as in the two Epistles addressed to them. As faith underlies the service of the true God, so hope underlies the expectation of the Lord's coming. "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath to conic."
(1) This implies the belief that Jesus is in heaven, to reign, to plead, to prepare a place for us.
(2) It implies the belief that he will return from heaven. The Thessalonians may have believed that he would return in that age, but all Christians live in the "blessed hope" of his second coming.
(3) This waiting attitude implied the recognition of a certain connection between Christ's resurrection and our deliverance from the wrath to come. They were not waiting for a dead man lying in a Jewish grave, but for One raised from the dead, and living in the power of an endless life. His resurrection implied the completion of his atoning work, as the work of atonement supplies the ground for our continuous deliverance from the wrath that is coming. There is a wrath coming upon disobedient sinners, but there is a way of deliverance provided in the Word of Jesus Christ ratified by his resurrection from the dead. - T.C.
I. THE PRESENT ASPECT OF THE GREAT CHANGE. "Ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God."
1. It is emancipation from an evil service and enlistment in a good service. In the old condition a man is a servant, of idols, of sin, of passion, of the world, of Satan. He thinks himself free, but he is really a miserable slave. In the changed condition the Christian is freed from this thraldom. But he is not the leas a servant. He no longer serves in hard bondage. Love is his chain, and free devotion his service. Still he serves.
2. It is the giving up of death and falsehood and the acceptance of truth and life.
(1) The idol is lifeless. All worldly, sinful living is a devotion to lifeless gods, to mere material things that perish in the using. The Christian serves a living God, who can give vital grace, accept loving devotion, and commune with his people.
(2) The idol is false. Idolatry is a lie. All earthly things when exalted into gods become unreal and only mock their devotees. God is real, and he only can be rightly served in spirit and in truth. We come to reality, to fact, to truth, when we come to God.
II. THE FUTURE ASPECT OF THE GREAT CHANGE.
1. It consists in a tutoring from wrath. Whether we anticipate it with fear, or delude ourselves in the dream of evading it, or simply ignore it with stolid indifference, the fact remains that for all of us, while in ore' sins, there is a certain looking for of judgment. If we are children of sin we must be children of wrath. It is no small blessing to be able to face the future and to see that reasonably and righteously all the horror of Divine wrath is gone in the free pardon of sin. It is like turning one's face from the lowering thundercloud to the silver light of sunrise.
2. It leads on to an anticipation of the coming glory of Christ. All the early Christians were much occupied with this anticipation, but none more so than the Thessalonians. The hope of the Parousia is an ever-recurrent theme in the two Epistles of St. Paul to this Church. His own mind must also have been very full of it when he wrote these letters. In their immediate expectation-at least, as far as a visible appearance and triumph of Christ was concerned - the first Christians were disappointed. But the great promises still cheer us as we wait for the glory that is reserved in the future. The Christian conversion thus not merely results in a deliverance from wrath; it inspires a grand hope and promises a rich glory in the days to come. - W.F.A.