1 Thessalonians 2:16
Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always…
To fill up their sins always. This is a terrible and mysterious expression. Some light may be gained by considering it in relation to the history of the Jews, as it is of these people that it is here written. They had accumulated sin upon sin in slaying Christ and the prophets, in expelling the apostles from their communion, and finally in hindering the Gentiles from receiving that gospel which they had rejected for themselves. But there was to come an end to this tale of wickedness. The time was drawing near when the Jews would no longer have power to hurt the cause of Christianity, and when swift punishment for their accumulated iniquities would descend in the destruction of their city and nation. They were hastening to fill up the sins, which must issue in this fearful doom.
I. THE GREATEST SIN IS THAT OF SINNING WITHOUT RESTRAINT. It is a mistake to speak of every sin as of infinite guilt, or of all sins as equally guilty. Such an assertion is not only false, it tends either to despair or to reckless excess in sinning. However far one has gone in sin, it is better to stop than to go on to greater enormities. To be adding sin to sin, and to be sinning "always," are signs of reckless, abandoned depravity.
II. THERE IS A FULLNESS OF SINS WHICH BRINGS ITS OWN PENALTY. When sin reaches this point the penalty can no longer be stayed. The cup once full flows over in wrath and ruin. It is as though forbearance and guilt were in the scales. When guilt is full the balance dips. There is an end to all possible long-suffering. The more men go on in excesses of sin, the faster do they approach the inevitable day of reckoning. The sooner the sin is filled up to the measure which passes endurance, the sooner must the stroke of doom fall.
III. FULLNESS OF SINS MUST LEAD TO FULLNESS OF PUNISHMENT. They who fill up their sins always will have the wrath "come upon them to the uttermost." The worst debtor must be made to pay the last farthing. The swifter the rush downhill, the greater the crash at the bottom. The more tares that are sown in spring, the more bundles to burn in harvest. He who fills the present life with sins will have the next life filled with wrath.
IV. THERE SEEMS TO BE A LIMIT TO SINS. There is a fullness of sins. There is no fullness of virtues; these can be developed indefinitely. The good man is growing up to a perfection. The bad man is being corrupted, not to a perfection, but to a fullness. Evil has limits; goodness has none. Satan is let loose for a time. God restrains the wrath of the wicked. Sin, through rebellion against God, cannot break away from all Divine control. Sins are limited by several means:
1. Capacity. We have a limited power of sinning.
2. Time. God sometimes cuts the sinner off in the midst of his days, and brings the guilty nation to destruction.
3. Providential control. The fullness of sins is not the amount which God predestines to be committed, for God is not the author of sin, nor does he will or permit it. This fullness is the measure beyond which God stays the evil from proceeding. When the tide of iniquity, driven onwards by rebellious powers, reaches this fullness, God says, "Here shall thy proud waves be stayed," and the storm beats itself out in impotent fury. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.