1 Thessalonians 3:2-3
And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you…
1. These Epistles may preeminently be called letters of comfort. There are many streams of consolation which are shallow and apt to run dry. They are good as far as they go and as long as they last. God has filled life for us with consolations — the ministries of nature; many little things that happen every day. The lesser consolations, however, do not supersede the necessity for the greater. After drinking of the former we "thirst again," "but the latter" spring up into everlasting life."
2. Does the apostle refer to faith as objective truth, or the affection which embraces the truth? Both. The faith that comforts must not only be true, but must be accepted and become a heart possession. We are comforted concerning the faith —
I. BY THE PERSUASION THAT THE FAITH IS TRUE; that it is a real revelation of grace and salvation spoken by God to man.
1. Any doubt on this fundamental point will affect essentially all forms of comfort. Say that the gospel is false or fallacious, or, although historically true, that it is yet largely mythical, and it is bereft of all its consolation. The old words would remain, such as "God hath given us everlasting consolation," "Comfort one another," etc.; but a dead tree, although still rooted, casts no shadow, yields no fruit; a well may be deep, and have no water in it. With a sorrow deeper than that of Mary might the Church, and even the world, exclaim in that ease, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."
2. Are any of you in this sore trouble — intellectually at sea about the gospel? I shall make no attempt to meet your doubts intellectually. Doubts are solved by faith, prayer, Providence, time, love. But it may do no harm, but good, to speak out our own faith (Hebrews 1:1; John 1:1; John 3:16; 1 John 2:1, 2, etc.). You may question, but we know whom we have believed; and He will take your souls in trust also, and keep them against that day.
II. By the fact that TO THE HUMBLE AND SINCERE, DOUBT RUNS ITS COURSE, AND THEN SUBSIDES AND PASSES AWAY. The experiences of this changeful, troubled life explain the gospel wonderfully to some. The experiences of the heart explain it, reveal the need of it, make it welcome; and then doubting Thomas is found among the rest, exclaiming, as He falls at His Master's feet, "My Lord and my God."
III. Inasmuch as IT WILL BEAR THE STRAIN AND PRESSURE OF LIFE, howsoever heavy. The faith will bear it, although it is borne by persons. What we believe and know enables us to bear and pass through what would otherwise overwhelm us. Human nature, in itself, as the work of God, will do and bear a great deal. Heroic deeds are done and sufferings endured even without Divine help. If it were a matter of stern silent endurance, the old Stoics, Roman soldiers, and the Red Indians could set us an example. But such a state of mind is attained by almost uprooting the finer sensibilities of our nature, by shutting out the future, by putting all our strength into mere obstinate resolution. But that is not moral greatness; for this we must have our nature unabridged, nay, developed and enlarged, made responsive, sensitive, to spiritual things. It is not a question of getting through this life, but of getting through it worthily. Christ comes to elevate and transform all. The Man of Sorrows reproduces Himself in His followers; but though "the sufferings of Christ abound in us," our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
IV. Because our faith WILL BEAR ALL THE BURDEN AND STRAIN WHICH COME BY THE ENLARGEMENT AND INTENSE ACTION OF THE POWERS OF OUR BEING. The pain of life which is increased by Christian sensibility will be assuaged by the Christian consolation and borne by the Christian courage. We have tried the plan of "no faith," and that has failed. The new faith brings new pain, because it draws to us the pain of others; but it brings the promise that "all things shall work together for good," etc. We have put that to the proof, and, resting upon it, have found it firm. Pain has been shown to have a Divine mission to bless and sanctify us. By the sorrow of the Saviour's soul all the Church is redeemed; and by the sorrows of individual souls, when they are touched with grace, are those souls purified as they could be in no other way. Only "if we suffer with Him" in some way can we "be glorified together." Believing this, we are to go on the simple way of duty, whatever may be the difficulty of it, trusting all the while to the sustaining power of faith in Christ. "My grace is sufficient for thee," etc.
V. In that our faith teaches us THAT A TIME AND STATE ARE COMING WHEN THERE SHALL BE NO MORE PAIN. "In His presence is fulness of joy." Conclusion: We must remember that however strong and firm the objective truth may be, and whatever its power to carry us through the straits of life and its adaptation to lift us towards a life to come, it will be and do none of these things if we have not the subjective principle by which we embrace what is true, trust what is strong, and rise to what is high and pure. The gospel, as a practical power and abiding consolation, is in our hearts, or it is nowhere for us.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: