1 Thessalonians 3:7-10
Therefore, brothers, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:…
I. ITS NATURE.
1. It was a joy for their sakes. It implies a love towards them. We do not joy for the sake of those to whom we are indifferent.
2. It was a joy before God. Not a carnal joy, but a holy joy, which he could carry to the mercy seat in thanksgiving and praise.
3. An undant, not a scanty joy — "all the joy."
II. ITS CHARACTER AND CAUSES. It is to be traced to the fact —
1. That God had owned His preaching among them (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 9; 1 Thessalonians 2:1.13).
(1) This joy was not as over a triumph of his own wisdom and strength. The true minister does not say, "I have converted a soul," attributing that vast result to his own logic or rhetoric, but to sovereign grace.
(2) He estimates this work by striving to follow it out in its eternal consequences. It is much, indeed, to trace the present effects of grace in reformation, comfort, peace, etc.; but fully to estimate it the minister must look onward to the soul enjoying the eternal inheritance (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20).
(3) This joy, therefore, is not derived from the praise which may greet the minister in the vestry from a mere admirer, the drawing room compliments of mere sermon hearers. These, if he be not watchful, are snares, and must puff up by ministering to vanity. But the artless acknowledgments of stricken hearts, the loving thanks of anxious ones who have been eased, of mourners who have been comforted, etc., do not puff up, but send him to his knees in thank fulness and tears.
(4) It is hard to say whether the joy of conversion or the joy of edification is the greater. For the latter has to do with no secondary branch of the ministry. It is not only a ministry of reconciliation, but is also for the perfecting of the saints.
2. That the Thessalonians adorned the gospel by the practical exhibition of its power in their hearts and lives. They had received the word as the Word of God. They had not listened from the mere love of novelty, nor from being caught by the apostle's eloquence. They had not been as the men of Ezekiel's day (Ezekiel 33:30-32). No; in Thessalonica we read of a work of faith, go. They were "ensamples to all that believe," etc., etc. Here was more than a name to live, more than the form of godliness — power, life, growth, fruitfulness. Here, then, is a distinct cause of ministerial joy; not only sinners added, but believers growing. This every faithful pastor covets. He would not have a congregation like any of those mentioned in Revelation. He desires that when the heavenly Bishop inspects the flock He may have nothing — not even "a few things" against them. No tampering with false doctrine, declension from the faith, barrenness in good works, etc.; but a spiritual people, a praying, loving, fruitful, unselfish people. Over such he can "joy."
3. The affection of the Thessalonians towards himself. Not that Paul's great object was to centre the affection of his converts on himself. "We preach not ourselves," etc. A minister preaches himself when he employs enticing words of man's wisdom to attract a congregation and to get a name; when he would attach his congregation as partizans to his own person and preaching; when he uses flattering words as a cloke of covetousness, when, to keep his seats full and his friends round him, he accommodates his preaching to their taste. But Paul preached not to make Paulines but Christians, not to enrich himself, but to enrich them with "the unsearchable riches of Christ." Yet he did not repel the affection of his people when called forth in lawful measure toward himself. Paul loved the pastoral tie. He loved his people, and rejoiced that his people loved him.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: