1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10
For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had to you…
The Thessalonians were converted heathens. To them the blessedness of the gospel would be largely measured by its contrast with the darkness of paganism. In Christendom the language descriptive of the acceptance of the spiritual blessings of the gospel would, of course, be different. But little else than the language; anti with the essential, spiritual signification of it, even this would scarcely need altering. St. Paul regards the great change in two aspects, present and future.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;