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…
Here we have the whole law of Christian conduct in a nutshell. There may be many detailed commandments, but they can all be deduced from this one. We are lifted up above the region of petty prescriptions, and breathe a bracing mountain air. Instead of regulations, very many and very dry, we have a principle which needs thought and sympathy, in order to apply, it, and is to be, carried out by the free action of our own judgments. We are told in our text to "walk worthy of God." Then again, we are enjoined, in other places, to "walk worthy of the Lord," who is Christ. Or again, "of the Gospel of Christ." Or again, "of the calling wherewith we were called." Or again, of the name of "saints." And if you put all these together, you will get many sides of one thought, the rule of Christian life as gathered into a single expression — correspondence with, and conformity to, a certain standard.
I. We have this passage of my text, and the other one to which I have referred, "Walking worthy of the Lord," by whom we are to understand Christ. We may put these together and say that THE WHOLE SUM OF CHRISTIAN DUTY LIES IN CONFORMITY TO THE CHARACTER OF A DIVINE PERSON WITH WHOM WE HAVE LOVING RELATIONS. The Old Testament says, "Be ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." The New Testament says, "Be ye imitators of God, and walk in love." So then, whatever in that Divine nature of flashing brightness and infinite profundity is far beyond our apprehension and grasp, there are in that Divine nature elements — and those the best and divinest in it — which it is perfectly within the power of every man to copy.
II. The next form of this all-embracing precept. The whole law of our Christian life may be gathered up in another correspondence, "Walk worthy of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27), IN A MANNER CONFORMED TO THAT GREAT MESSAGE OF GOD'S LOVE TO US. That covers substantially the same ground as we have already been going over, but it presents the same ideas in a different light. It presents the gospel as a rule of conduct. The Cross is your pattern, as well as the anchor of your hope and the ground of your salvation, if it is anything at all to you. And it is not the ground of your salvation and the anchor of your hope unless it is your pattern. It is the one in exactly the same degree in which it is the other. So all self-pleasing, all harsh insistence on your own claims, all neglect of suffering and sorrow and sin around you, comes under the lash of this condemnation. They are not "worthy of the gospel." And all unforgivingness of spirit and of temper in individuals and in nations, in public and in private matters, that, too, is in flagrant contradiction of the principles that are taught on the Cross to which you say you look for your salvation.
III. Then again, there is another form of this same general prescription which suggests to us a kindred and yet somewhat different standard. We are also bidden to bring our lives into conformity to, and correspondence with, or, as the Bible has it, "TO WALK WORTHY OF THE CALLING WHEREWITH WE ARE CALLED" (Ephesians 4:1). God summons or invites us, and summons us to what? The words which follow our text answer, "Who hath called us unto His kingdom and glory." Men that are called to high functions prepare themselves therefor, If you knew that you were going away to Australia in six months, would you not be beginning to get your outfit ready? You Christian men profess to believe that you have been called to a condition in which you will absolutely obey God's will, and be the loyal subjects of His kingdom, and in which you will partake of God's glory. Well, then, obey His will here, and let some scattered sparklets of that uncreated light that is one day going to flood your soul lie upon your face today. Do not go and cut your lives into two halves, one of them all contradictory to that which you expect in the other, but bring a harmony between the present, in all its weakness and sinfulness, and that great hope and certain destiny that blazes on the horizon of your hope, as the joyful state to which you have been invited. "Walk worthy of the calling to which you are called." And again, that same thought of the destiny should feed our hope, and make us live under its continual inspiration. A walk worthy of such a calling and such a Caller should know no despondency, nor any weary, heartless lingering, as with tired feet on a hard road. Brave good cheer, undimmed energy, a noble contempt of obstacles, a confidence in our final attainment of that purity and glory which is not depressed by consciousness of present failure — these are plainly the characteristics which ought to mark the advance of the men in whose ears such a summons from such lips rings as their marching orders. And a walk worthy of our calling will turn away from earthly things. If you believe that God has summoned you to His kingdom and glory, surely, surely, that should deaden in your heart the love and the care for the trifles that lie by the wayside.
IV. And the last of the phases of this prescription which I have to deal with is this. The whole Christian duty is further crystallized into the one command, TO WALK IN A MANNER CONFORMED TO, AND CORRESPONDING WITH, THE CHARACTER WHICH IS IMPRESSED UPON US. In Romans 16:2, we read about a very small matter, that it is to be done "worthily of the saints." It is only about the receiving of a good woman that was travelling from Corinth to Rome, and extending hospitality to her in such a manner as became professing Christians; but the very minuteness of the details to which the great principle is applied points a lesson. The biggest principle is not too big to be brought down to the narrowest details, and that is the beauty of principles as distinguished from regulations. Like the fabled tent in the old legend that could contract so as to have room for but one man, or extend wide enough to hold an army; so this great principle of Christian conduct can be brought down to giving "Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church at Cenchrea," good food and a comfortable lodging, and any other little kindnesses, when she comes to Rome. And the same principle may be widened out to embrace and direct us in the largest tasks and most difficult circumstances. "Worthily of saints" — the name is an omen, and carries in it rules of conduct. The root ides of "saint" is "one separated to God," and the secondary idea which flows from that is "one who is pure." All Christians are "saints." They are consecrated and set apart for God's service, and in the degree in which they are conscious of and live out that consecration, they are pure. So their name, or rather the great fact which their name implies, should be ever before them, a stimulus and a law. Walk "worthily of saints" is another way of saying, Be true to your own best selves. Work up to the highest ideal of your character. That is far more wholesome than to be always looking at our faults and failures, which depress and tempt us to think that the actual is the measure of the possible, and the past or present of the future. There is no fear of self-conceit or of a mistaken estimate of ourselves. The more clearly we keep our best and deepest self before our consciousness, the more shall we learn a rigid judgment of the miserable contradictions to it in our daily outward life, and even in our thoughts and desires. It is a wholesome exhortation, when it follows these others of which we have been speaking (and not else), which bids Christians remember that they are saints and live up to their name.
(A. Maclaren, 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.