2 Thessalonians 3:5


They needed grace to enable them to discharge all these duties.

I. THE LORD JESUS IS THE TRUE DIRECTOR OF THE HEART. "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and the patience of Christ."

1. The heart needs direction. It is the fountain of life and feeling and action. But it is often wayward in its impulses.

2. The heart that is self-led is misled. We cannot direct our own hearts, neither can apostles do it for us; the Lord only can do it. He directs us by his Spirit, not only into all truth, but into all right feeling and all acceptable obedience. He only can change us into his own likeness.

II. THE RIGHT DIRECTION OF THE CHRISTIAN HEART. "Into the love of God, and the patience of Christ."

1. The love of God is the spring of all evangelical obedience, and the motive force of all spiritual power. The Thessalonians had love already, but the apostle prays for fuller measures of it, that they may be prepared for yet more exact and thorough and unquestioning obedience.

2. The patience of Christ, which so characterized him, is to be copied in the lives of his followers exposed to similar persecutions. His sufferings are their sufferings; and they need his patience to enable them to endure thrum, as well as to sustain that "patient continuance in well doing" in the midst of evil which will keep them free from restlessness and disorderly walking. - T.C.









THE LORD DIRECT YOUR HEARTS INTO THE LOVE OF GOD, AND INTO THE PATIENT WAITING FOR CHRIST
There are many kinds of elevation that man aspires to.

1. Mercantile elevation: men struggle to become the leading merchants of the age.

2. Civic: men strive hard for the posts of magistrate, mayor, statesman, premier.

3. Ecclesiastical: men labour to attain the posts of canon, dean, bishop. But all these involve not the true elevation of man. What, then, is true elevation?

I. A CERTAIN STATE OF HEART IN RELATION TO THE DIVINE.

1. "The love of God" — the love of gratitude for the kindest Being, the love of reverence for the greatest Being, the love of adoration for the holiest and best Being. And all this is supreme. Thus centreing the soul on God we dwell in love, and therefore dwell in Him.

2. "Waiting for Christ." Looking forward and anticipating His advent to release us from all the sorrows and sins of this mortal state. This waiting requires patience: the wheels of His chariot seem to tarry.

II. A CERTAIN STATE OF HEART PRODUCED BY THE DIVINE. "The Lord direct your hearts." The hearts of men in their unregenerate state are everywhere but in this direction, they are as sheep that have gone astray, prodigals that have left their Father's house, stars that have wandered from their orbits. Who shall bring them back? None can but the Almighty. Ministers may argue and entreat, but unless the Lord come to work their labour is all in vain.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. This prayer bears that peculiar triune stamp which we often meet, and which cannot be satisfactorily accounted for save on the theory of a Trinity in all Christian supplication. The Holy Ghost is always to be regarded as referred to when a Third Person joins the Father and the Son.

2. The prayer is one of those terse sentences which exhibit all religion in a symmetrical pair of counterparts, the precise relation of which is shown by the context.(1) The promise (ver. 3) pledges the faithfulness of the Lord, i.e., Christ, to their confirmation in grace and the restraint of the evil one, the two kinds of guardianship being alike necessary and mutually supplementary. By confirming our inward stability, the Lord often keeps the tempter from us, and when he comes, the blessing of the Lord on our resistance tends to confirm our steadfastness. But —(2) The apostle does not leave all to the Lord's fidelity. He rejoices in the confidence that the Lord's protected ones will protect themselves (ver. 4) by fortifying their own minds with truth and their lives by obedience. The Divine and human are balanced in our protection. "The Lord is faithful if you may be trusted."(3) But as God must have, in all things, the preeminence, the prayer follows which gives to the Spirit the prerogative of directing the soul into the love of God which confirms the soul, and into the patience of Christ which will endure and survive the enemy's attacks.

I. THE LOVE OF GOD is exhibited under two aspects in the New Testament.

1. Our love to God; but that is not here meant. When the Apostle makes that the object of prayer, he asks it as a benediction of God.

2. It means here God's love to us.(1) That love beams through Christ upon all the world; but those only rejoice in it who are brought into a state of mind from which every impediment is removed.(2) It is not the heart as the sphere of the affections that is here meant, but the whole man. In the strength of the love of God there is no duty past performance, and no difficulty that may not be overcome.(3) No higher prayer can be offered than this, that by the influence of the Spirit we may be drawn from every lower affection and have an entire being open to the unhindered operation of the love of God.

II. THE PATIENCE OF CHRIST.

1. The Apostle prays literally for the steadfastness of patience of which Christ is at once the source, example, and reward. "Patient waiting for" or "patience for the sake of" Christ would have required different words, although both meanings are included and are appropriate. The Divine Spirit does direct the souls of believers into tranquil and earnest expectation of Christ's coming, and into the patient endurance of trials for His sake. But the specific meaning here is, that it may please the Lord to remove every hindrance to our perfect union with Christ in His example of obedience unto death.

2. Our way is directed into this patience when we are led into self-renouncing submission, when all things that minister to earthly mindedness are put away, and when we are brought into fellowship with His mind, who "endured the cross" for the joy that was set before Him.

3. We can offer no more important prayer than that we may have our self-will bound, and be girded and led by Another into the way of our Saviour's self-sacrifice.

III. THE FULL FORCE OF THE PRAYER IS NOT FELT UNLESS WE UNITE ITS TWO BRANCHES. Love and patience are here for the first and last time joined.

1. In our salvation their union has its most impressive exhibition. The mercy of the Father reaches us only through the endurance of the Son: at the Cross the love of God and the patience of Christ are blended in the mystery of their redeeming unity; and only that union saved the world.

2. The mercy of God waits on the free will of man with a patience that owes its long-suffering to the intercession of Christ.

3. The economy of grace provides the full power of the love of God for the progressive salvation of the saints, waiting for their full conformity to holy law with a patience that is the most precious fruit of the Redeemer's passion.

4. Eternal glory will be the last demonstration of the love of God and the crowning victory of the patience of Christ.

IV. WE MUST REGARD THIS COMBINATION AS THE OBJECT OF OUR PRAYER. With St. Paul, all that the Christian needs for the struggle and victory of life is the love of God in the heart as an active principle, and the patience of Christ as a passive grace. But the form of the prayer shows that he did not separate the two as much as we do. All duty and resistance find their strength in the love of God, and must be perfected in the patience of Christ In due time the patience of Christ shall be lost in the "partaking of Christ," and the great surviving grace, the love of God in us, will abide forever.

(W. B. Pope, D. D.)

I. THE LOVE OF GOD is employed in three senses — God's love to us; our love to Him; and Divine love in us, i.e., a love like God's. The latter is probably the meaning here. What then is God's love? And may the Divine Spirit direct us into the enjoyment of it. God's love is —

1. The very Being of God; and when love is the supreme and dominating motive and energy in us, swaying all the powers and manifesting itself to the utmost, we are directed into the love of God.

2. Comprehensive: it knows no limit. So our love, if Divine, will not be fettered by circumstances or the character of the objects. Like God's, it will be discriminating, and discern differences in moral character, but it will seek the good of all.

3. Unstinting. God gave His only-begotten Son — this is the characteristic of true love everywhere. It never calculates the cost, and when the best is done there is the willingness to do more.

4. Constant in its manifestation: it never wearies or ceases: And Divine love in man knows no discouragement, is baffled by no obstacles, succumbs to no injury.

II. THE PATIENCE OF CHRIST — a patience like Christ's. How much this is needed is shown by the fact that Christ our example was and is patient, and taught patience by word and life.

1. To understand this we must travel beyond the millenniums to the foundation of the world when, the Lamb to be slain was foreordained for sacrifice. Then over the long centuries during which sin held sway when the Son was waiting for the fulness of time. And then during that earthly life in which he endured unimaginable suffering waiting for the accomplishment of His baptism. Then waiting for Pentecost; and now waiting with unwearied patience until those in Christian countries who are resisting the Spirit shall yield, and those in heathen lands shall own His sway, and those who profess to be His people shall consecrate themselves wholly to His work.

2. It is a patience something like that we want. And if Christ can afford to work and wait, surely we can. What are you? A Sunday school teacher? A preacher? A church officer? Working, praying, your heart discouraged, and sometimes ready to question whether the glad day will ever dawn? He can be patient; be patient with Him and like Him. The counsel of the Lord, it shall stand.

(G. W. Olver, B. A.)

I. THE NATURAL FEELINGS OF THE HEART TOWARDS GOD. Originally man delighted in God; but the moment he sinned, fear and distrust entered his mind, and he became a "child of wrath." Notice —

1. Man's enmity against God, "the carnal mind," etc. We think it would be a happy thing were there no God to trouble us. It is this feeling that makes prayer burdensome instead of delightful, and duty irksome instead of a means of happiness. And so men converse with God, and do for Him as little as possible.

2. The consequent misery of man. Cut off from the fountain of happiness, he hews broken cisterns, and places his delight in the disappointing creature instead of the unchangeable Creator.

II. THE MIND OF GOD TOWARD MEN IN THIS CONDITION. Consider —

1. The love of God to sinners. This is the true source of His dealings with men, and His love is not like ours, but disinterested, free, costly, pure. How we wrong it when we try to merit it! "God commendeth His love," etc.

2. The effects of this love.

(1)Forgiveness.

(2)The provision of His Spirit.

(3)Divine likeness.

(4)Eternal fife.

III. THE HEART DIRECTED INTO THIS LOVE.

1. The means. Ample provision is made for its enjoyment. No man can direct his own heart, nor his parent or minister. But Christ has given His Spirit who can change the heart by directing it into the love of God. This Spirit is secured by prayer.

2. The consequence. Love begotten in our hearts to God and men.

(E. Bickersteth.)

It is sometimes difficult when we meet the expression, "the love of God," to discriminate whether it means God's love to us, or our love to God. But the truth is, they are one and the same thing. We cannot love God, but as He loves us; it is the consciousness of His love to us which makes our to Him. Just as any object I see is only an image of the object formed on the retina of my eye, so whatever love I feel is only the reflection of the love of God laid upon my heart; and the ray which lays the image is the Spirit of God. The love of the saints in heaven is the brightest and truest because the Original is nearest and dearest.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The first epistle was written to correct certain enthusiastic views concerning that advent; but the second tells us that the effort had failed. For meanwhile a forged epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:2), asserting that the day was near, opened the floodgates of fanaticism. Consequently men forsook their employments, and, being idle, indulged in useless discussions and in prying curiously into the affairs of others. Hence the injunctions (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-8). Moreover two opposite lines of conduct were adopted by persons of different temperament. Some greedily received every wild tale about the advent; others perceiving that there was so much imposture, concluded that it was safest to believe nothing. To the first Paul says, "Prove all things," etc.; to the second, "Quench not the Spirit," etc. These opposite tendencies of scepticism and credulity will be found near together in all ages; some refusing to believe that God speaks in the signs of the times; others running after every book on prophecy, and believing anything providing it be marvellous. To meet this feverish state Paul takes two grounds. He first points out the signs which will precede the advent; self-idolatry, excluding the worship of God — sinful humanity "the man of sin." These signs worked then and now. Next Paul called the Church to a real preparation for that event in the text. The preparation is twofold.

I. THE LOVE OF GOD.

1. The love of God is the love of goodness. God is the Good One — personified goodness. To love God is to love what He is.(1) No other love is real; none else lasts. Love based on personal favours, e.g., will not endure. You may believe that God has made you happy. While that happiness lasts, you will love God. But a time comes when happiness goes as it did with Job. The natural feeling would be "Curse God and die." Job said, "Though He slay me," etc. Plainly he had some other reason for His love than personal favours.(2) The love of goodness only becomes real by doing good — otherwise it is a sickly sentiment, "If any man love Me, he will keep My commandments."

2. The love of God is the love of man expanded and purified. We begin with loving men. Our affections wrap themselves round beings created in God's image — then they widen in their range. "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another...His love is perfected in us." "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen," etc. An awful day is coming. How shall we prepare for it? Not by unnatural forced efforts at loving God, but by persistence in the appointed path of our common attachments. "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these," etc.

3. It is not merely love of goodness, but love of goodness concentrated on the Good One. Nor merely love of man, but love of man expanded into love of Him in whom all that is excellent in men is perfect.

II. PATIENT WAITING.

1. What is waited for? There are many comings of Christ, in the incarnation, at the destruction of Jerusalem, as a spiritual presence when the Holy Ghost was given in every signal manifestation of redeeming power, in any great reformation of morals and religion, in revolutions which sweep the evil away to make way for good, at the end of the world, when the spirit of all these comings will be concentrated. Thus we may see in what way Christ is ever coming and ever near, and how the early Church was not deceived in expecting Christ. He did come, though not in the way they expected.

2. What is meant by waiting? Throughout St. Paul's writings, the Christian attitude is that of expectation — salvation in hope. Not a perfection attained, but one that is to be. The golden age lies onward. We are longing for, not the Church of the past, but that of the future. Ours is not yearning for the imaginary perfection of ages gone by, nor a conservative content with things as they are, but hope. It is this spirit which is the preparation for the advent.

3. It is patient waiting. Every one who has longed for any spiritual blessing knows the temptation to impatience, "Where is the promise of His coming?" The true preparation is not having correct ideas of how and when He shall come, but being like Him (1 John 3:3).

III. THE LORD WILL DIRECT US INTO THIS. Not an infallible human teacher, but God.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Love begets love. It is a process of production. You put a piece of iron in the mere presence of an electrified body, and that piece for a time becomes electrified. It becomes a temporary magnet in the presence of a permanent magnet, and as long as you leave the two side by side, they are both magnets. Remain side by side with Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and you too will become a permanent magnet — a permanent attractive force; and like Him you will draw all men — be they white men or black men — unto you. That is the inevitable effect of love. Any man who fulfils that cause must have that effect produced in him. Gentlemen, give up the idea that religion comes to us by chance, or by mystery, or by caprice. It comes to us by natural law; or by supernatural law, for all law is Divine. Edward Irving went to see a dying boy once, and when he entered the room, he just put his hand on the sufferer's head, and said, "My boy, God loves you," and went away. And the boy started from his bed, and he called out to the people in the house, "God loves me! God loves me!" One word; one word! It changed that boy. The sense that God loved him had overpowered him, melted him down and begun the making of a new heart. And that is how the love of God melts down the unlovely heart in us, and begets in us this new creature, who is patient and humble and unselfish. And there is no other way to get it. There is no trick about it. Oh, truth lies in that! — we love others, we love everybody, we love our enemies, because He first loved us.

(Prof. Drummond.)

Two blessings only are here prayed for, but they are of transcendent moment.

I. THAT THE HEARTS OF THE THESSALONIANS MIGHT BE BROUGHT INTO THE LOVE OF GOD. To be in love with God as the most excellent and suitable Being — the best of all beings, is not only most reasonable and necessary in order to happiness, but is happiness itself. It is the chief part of the beatitude of heaven where this love will be made perfect. But none can ever attain to this unless the Lord, by His grace and Spirit, direct the heart aright; for the love of the best creature is apt to go astray after other things. Great damage is sustained by misplacing the affections upon Wrong objects; but if He who is infinitely above and before all things, control and fix the love of the heart on Himself, the rest of the affections will thereby be rectified.

II. THAT A PATIENT WAITING FOR CHRIST MIGHT BE JOINED WITH THIS LOVE OF GOD. There is no true love of God without faith in Christ. To wait for Christ, supposeth faith in Him — that He came to our world once in flesh, and will come again in glory. This second coming must be expected, and careful preparation must be made for it. There must be a patient waiting, enduring with courage and constancy all that may be met with in the interval. We not only have great need of patience, but of great need of Divine grace to exercise it — "the patience of Christ," as some interpret the words, that is — patience for Christ's sake and after Christ's example.

(R. Fergusson.)

The Apostle meant only to express a benevolent wish on behalf of the Church at Thessalonica: but he expressed it in such terms as a person habituated to the doctrine of the Trinity would naturally use: he prayed that the Lord the Spirit would direct their hearts into the love of God the Father, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

I. THE OBJECTS OF THE APOSTLE'S WISH. A very little observation of the world is sufficient to convince us that the love of God is not the supreme passion of mankind, nor a due preparation for a final advent of Christ. Nevertheless, to possess this state of heart and mind is essential to the Christian character. Of ourselves we never shall, or can, attain to this. In full persuasion of this fact, St. Paul poured out the benevolent aspiration that the Christians to whom he wrote might experience more deeply the truths they possessed.

II. THE REASONS OF THAT WISH. Among the most important of these were doubtless two.

1. The attainment of such a state would prove highly conducive to their present happiness. This the Apostle knew: he knew it from the universal tenor of the Holy Scripture (Psalm 63:5; Matthew 5:3-12); and he knew it from his own experience (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

2. It was also indispensably necessary to their eternal welfare. What is a Christian without the love of God? He cannot call himself a disciple of Christ who has no delight in following the steps of Christ, or in looking forward to His future advent. Application —(1) We express the same benevolent wish respecting you;(2) and we also request that you will adopt the same wish for yourselves.

(C. Simeon, M. A.)

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