1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?…
Paul wrote this letter from Corinth. He had, probably, just witnessed the Grecian games and the crowning of the victors. Then, says he, "What is our crown? Are not even ye?" They were also his glory. God desires and expects honour. We have a right to desire it. His prayer was that his pupils might be perfect in Christ at His coming. The "coming" is associated with the resurrection. Then the apostle's hope was to see his pupils complete in Christ at the resurrection.
I. PAUL WAS NOT CONCERNED ABOUT HIS OWN SALVATION. That was as far behind him as that spot on the way to Damascus. His hope, his joy, was in the salvation of others.
II. HE EXPECTED TO KNOW THEM IN THE RESURRECTION. For this would be the source of his joy. They, for whom he laboured, would then be his crown. The indefinite thought that somewhere in the universe were a crowd of persons who had been saved through his labour would not have satisfied. There follows the inference that identity will not be destroyed. To destroy identity is to destroy the person. Nor is there continuity of existence save in memory. We go into the other world with the totality of our natures. There can be no reward save there is a consciousness of work done, and this consciousness will depend on the memory being intact. Otherwise, God may give joy, but that will not be reward; He may torture, but that will not be punishment.
III. THEN IT WILL BE KNOWN TO THESE SAVED ONES WHAT PAUL HAD WROUGHT FOR THEM. Else, how could their salvation be his joy and his crown? He would need more than the unselfish thought of what he had done. God will have glory. Christ was never more unselfish than when on the cross, despising the shame, yet He thought of the "joy that was set before Him." An element in Paul's joy will be the honour and praise given him by those who will be conscious of the good he did them.
IV. PAUL WAS NOT A MERE INSTRUMENT, BUT A CO-WORKER WITH GOD. He was a factor in the power that saved his pupils. He speaks of God and the Holy Spirit, and also of himself, and claims for himself a crown of rejoicing in the work wrought Then God, Paul, and you are to work out the salvation of men.
V. PAUL WILL TAKE HIS CROWN IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD. Christ will recognize him as a factor. Christ will not be jealous. The elder brother goes out to find file prodigal. Observe —
1. Selfish motives are admissible in our Christian work. The Lord, perhaps, never had a more self-sacrificing servant than Paul. He cultivated such familiarity with the spiritual world as to make it present. He thought Christ might come any minute. His was a personal hope, a personal joy, a personal crown. Heaven to us is a pretty place, talked about in Revelation, or by Milton. It is not to us sufficiently real to dry our tears.
2. The selfish interests we aim at in this world are but trifles, compared with the crown, the joy, the hope, we may have. We take from this life nothing but our characters, and there await us cycles of eternities upon eternities, and yet what time we devote to our wardrobes, to trifles. Think of our translation to that other world; think of meeting men, women, and children leaping for joy, harp in hand, singing praises to God, and, at the same time, acknowledging us, with grateful hearts, as factors in the power that secured their salvation.
3. What dignity this gives the work of the Church. We are living in a time when the dignity of Christianity seems endangered.
(T. T. Duryea, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?