Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1
I. Thessalonica was a populous and wealthy city of Macedonia. As an important seaport it was the meeting place of Greek and Roman merchandise, and consequently the centre of widespread and commanding influence. Paul had twice attempted to revisit his Thessalonian friends, but he had failed. He had been prevented from personally seeing them. He therefore sent Timothy to make inquiries and report as to their general condition. Timothy brought back a favourable report of their Christian progress and steadfastness, and of their strong, ardent attachment to Paul. On receipt of these welcome tidings, the Apostle now writes them in words which reveal the thankfulness and the yearning love of his heart. But as there were certain unfavourable features in the report—neglect of daily duty because of erroneous views about the second coming: ignorant anxiety lest friends who had died should have no share in the gladness and glory of that advent, wrong views about spiritual gifts as in the Church at Corinth; danger of falling back into the mire of heathen profligacy; proneness to faint in view of the persecutions at the hand of their countrymen. The Apostle has also to use words of reproof, correction, and encouragement. These, intertwined with many reminiscences of his personal intercourse with them, are the sum and substance of an Epistle fraught with many similar counsels to us, "upon whom the ends of the world are come."
II. Paul's associating others with himself as he does in the text is a striking instance of the humility and tenderness of his heart. It is also a lesson of the fellowship of brethren one with another, of the brotherly kindness of one teacher towards another, and, last of all, of a teacher's familiar relation towards his scholar, his son in the faith.
The Church of the Thessalonians is described as being in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here we have the distinctive characteristic mark of a true church. There were heathen assemblies in the city, numerous and powerful. But the only true church was the Christian community. It had its hidden spiritual life with Christ in God.
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 1.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3I. Here we have the apostolic greeting in its most usual form—grace and peace—a blending of the ordinary Greek and Hebrew modes of salutation, "the union of Asiatic repose and European alacrity," which by apostolic use has become invested with a significance infinitely higher than that which was implied in the ordinary civilities of social life. These formulae of friendly intercourse familiar to the ancient world were like some precious antique vase, prized for their beauty more than for their use. They had become empty of significance, or, at all events, entirely empty of blessing. But now they are lifted up into a higher service, consecrated to the noblest purpose,—henceforth brimful of holiest meaning—filled with the very water of life.
II. But this grace and peace is from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It comes from God the Father as the Primal Source of all good, and it comes from Christ Jesus as the Mediating Source. Peace is the sign and seal of Christ's kingdom. Its subjects call God Father, because they have first called Christ Jesus Lord.
III. The apostolic thanksgiving suggests an example which it must be ours to imitate. Constant giving of thanks to God, that is a priestly function which every believer must discharge; that offering must be laid on the altar of every renewed heart. Not at times only are we to thank God on behalf both of ourselves and others, but evermore. One of the old Puritans has said: "Grace (i.e., gratitude) is like a ring without end, and the diamond of this ring is constancy."
And as far the apostolic graces, faith and love and hope, have their several manifestations in work, toil, and patience, these suggest to us our duty and our dignity, till at length patience has her perfect work.
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 13.
References: 1 Thessalonians 1:3.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 115; Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 46. 1 Thessalonians 1:4.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 199.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6I. The Apostle shows in these verses on what grounds his knowledge rested—his conviction of the Thessalonians' election—the fact and mode of their being chosen for privilege and duty. He was fully persuaded of it, both on subjective and on objective grounds. The power and assurance with which he and his fellow-labourers preached in Thessalonica, on the one hand, and the eagerness and joyfulness with which the inhabitants of the city listened, on the other, these were to him evidences of divine grace working both in speaker and hearers, proofs of God's having marked them out above others for His favour and service. The presence and energy of the Holy Spirit were recognised by him. Such was his sacred enthusiasm, that he felt his own words to be far more than the mere utterance of one earnest human spirit struggling to impress others; to be indeed nothing less than the urgent words of the Spirit Himself, the Spirit of all truth, witnessing through him, in behalf of Christ and His salvation.
II. The other evidence adduced for Paul's knowledge of the election of the Thessalonian Church is their selection for privilege and duty. The first was subjective, the freedom, and fulness, and power in the Holy Ghost with which he felt he had preached to them. The other is objective, the eager, joyful readiness with which they had received his preaching. Their having been chosen of God is shown by their having themselves chosen God's Gospel as offered to them. "Much suffering," indeed, in itself proves nothing in regard to Christian character and attainment. But much suffering with joy in the Holy Ghost does. The believer knows that the via dolorosa which he has to tread is a path of true joy when he recognises his Saviour's steps in it. Melanchthon used to write in his students' note-books "Kreutzesweg Lichtweg—the path of the cross the path of light"; and it was a favourite saying of Luther's, "If Christ wore a crown of thorns, why should His followers experience only a crown of roses?" The stream of Christian life has two currents, distinct yet united, of tribulation and joy, ever wending its course, troubled and calm to the ocean of eternity beyond.
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 25.
References: 1 Thessalonians 1:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 648; E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 344; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. vii., p. 102.
1 Thessalonians 1:7-10I. The Thessalonian converts, having received the Gospel so heartily and held it so firmly, and having shown the influence which it exerted over their hearts and lives by their joy in the Holy Ghost, became ensamples to all that believed in Macedonia and Achaia. Collectively, for the word is in the singular, they became a pattern to others. Thessalonica was, as far as its Christian inhabitants were concerned, "a city set on an hill." A noble dignity, a sacred duty, a constant danger, all this is implied in such a coveted post of honour.
II. From some form or other of manifold idolatry every new man in Christ Jesus turns to God as the one blissful centre of his renewed life. Hence the Apostle proceeds to define the purpose of this conversion, or turning to God. It is twofold. It is (1) to serve the living and true God, and (2) to wait for his Son from heaven. The one clause distinguishes the Thessalonian Church from the heathen; the other from the Jews. But they do more. They represent the universal Christian life in its two most common aspects—service and expectation. It is a life of ceaseless action because it is also a life of patient waiting. It is a life of much affliction in the service of God, because it is also a life of joy in the Holy Ghost, joyful looking forward to the coming of the Son of God from heaven, bringing His reward with Him. It is this hope which, on the one hand, gives strength for service and perseverance in it, and it is the faithful engaging in this service which, on the other hand, justifies and consecrates this hope. Service without its accompanying hope would merge into dry and formal routine. Hope without its service, its ministry, and love, would pass into indolent sentiment, or into restless, hysterical excitement. While the faithful at Thessalonica did not in any way lose sight of the Saviour's incarnation, and death, and resurrection, the "much affliction" of their present lot led them to live much in the future, to long and look for His coming again as the "just and gentle Monarch, to terminate the evil and diadem the right."
J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 38.
References: 1 Thessalonians 1:8.—J. Owen, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 273. 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 1:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1806.
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.