1 Thessalonians 2:9-12
For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you…
The apostle had previously made an appeal to his readers, and an appeal also to God; he now blends the two into one.
I. APOSTOLIC BEHAVIOR (ver. 10).
1. "Holily," a word which looks specially towards God. A common Biblical phrase is "holy to the Lord." The Divine command is "Be ye holy towards your God," and the announcement is made, "'The Lord will show who are His, and who is holy." The word is applied to —
(1) God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, as infinitely holy above His creatures — "the Holy One," the source and end of all purity.
(2) To angels.
(3) To saints, as being sanctified, consecrated to a holy life, by the renewing of the Spirit of holiness. All believers in this sense live holily. With varying degrees of conformity to the will of God, they are all true men. Their devotion is sincere; their hearts turn towards God as the flower opens itself and turns toward the light of heaven.
2. "Justly" represents the side of the apostle's behaviour towards men. It means righteously, and defines the believer's conduct as upright in all its connections and dealings with others. He is just in God's sight, through the imputation of Christ's righteousness; and, standing in a new relation to God, he strives to live in obedience to God's law of love. We often use the word in a narrower sense, as when we say of a man that he is just but not generous. But that is an unwarrantable limitation. According to God's law, no man is just who is not generous, kind, forbearing, helpful. Love is a debt we owe to our neighbour, and we are not just if we neglect to pay it. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another."
3. "Unblameably" is a negative word, but on that account all the more comprehensive. As servants of Jesus Christ, they gave "no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed." In applying these three words to himself and his companions, Paul could speak not merely of a good heart and a good life, but also of a good name — "better than precious ointment." He who keeps his life free from sin does good to himself; he who keeps it clear of suspicion is merciful to others. The apostle is here a pattern to pastors and people; but we must ever rise from human examples to Divine. Christ is set before us as "the Holy One," "the Just One"; and as to blamelessness, He could say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin"; and the Roman governor could testify, "I find no fault in Him." It is when we stedfastly and lovingly look towards Him that we come at length to be "holy and without blame before Him in love." Note that this was the light that Paul and his associates appeared in the estimation of those that "believed." More than this could not be said, for by Jews and Gentiles their character and conduct were furiously assailed (Acts 17). Paul represents himself, therefore, as turning aside from the reproaches and enmity of the world to the judgment of his fellow believers. In their hands his reputation was safe.
II. APOSTOLIC METHODS (ver. 11). Already he had used the figure of a nursing mother in the tenderness of her self-sacrificing devotion to her children. He now shifts the figure, and is a father. Two points are to be noticed in the latter comparison —
1. As a wise father suits his training and teaching to the case of each child, so he acted towards his converts — "every one of you." It was the apostle's invariable procedure to deal with individuals. He "ceased not to warn every one of" the Ephesian elders. To the Colossian she says, "Warning every man," etc. Christianity has brought out into clearest light, and assigned the greatest prominence to, the worth of the individual soul. The rulers and teachers of heathen society thought of men as a body, and used or influenced them in the mass, but seldom thought of the individual. But the religion of Christ takes account of each. Its foundation rests on individual conviction. Individualism, not multitudinism, is the law of its growth, until it comes to leaven the whose mass of humanity.
2. As a father is intensely earnest in giving his children right guidance and instruction, so was Paul in his yearning care of his converts. As he had described his behaviour in threefold way, so he describes his ministry.
(1) Exhortation is the more general term, and describes apostolic teaching as influencing the mind and will; in other words, instruction.
(2) Comforting is friendly persuasion, touching the feelings, and so leading the heart to Christ and His truth — consoling and inspiriting those who, in the midst of tribulation, were doubting and desponding.
(3) Charging or testifying is adjuring them with all solemnity, as in the sight of God.
III. APOSTOLIC AIM (ver. 12). The method was necessarily diverse: some needing exhortation, others comfort, others charging; but the end was one, because they all needed to walk worthy.
1. By "walking" we are to understand the whole character and conduct.
(1) The figure implies energetic movement in the way of progress.
(2) It is worthy walking only when the command has been heard and obeyed. "Walk before Me, and be thou perfect." "As ye have received the Lord Jesus, so walk in Him."(3) Such walking is "worthy of God," being "with God."
2. Calling means not merely God's invitation, but that invitation as accepted; hence effectual calling. His Church is called out of bondage and corruption into the light and liberty of the gospel. We must, then, walk worthy of the dignity of God's freed men. This calling is unto —
(1) His kingdom. We are, then, to walk worthy of the duties of this kingdom, to exhibit —
(a) Faithful allegiance to its King.
(b) Joyful obedience to its laws.
(c) Affectionate interest in all its subjects.
(d) Valiant fighting in its service.
(e) Cooperation in all good work.
(2) His glory — not simply to His glorious kingdom; but while God calls His people to dignities and duties, He is also calling them to future rewards. Their destiny is glory. This glory is "the prize of our high calling"; but even here we know something of it. It consists of —
(a) Likeness to Christ (1 John 3:2). Our glory will be "the beauty of holiness."
(b) Sharing Christ's sovereignty. "To him that overcometh," etc.Believers walk worthy of this destiny when they share it as fully as may be here, and when they lovingly look forward to its perfection hereafter.
(J. Hutchison, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.