I R S T T H E S S A L O N I A N S
the introduction (ver. 1) the apostle begins with a thanksgiving to God for
the saving benefits bestowed on them, ver. 2-5. And then mentions the sure
evidences of the good success of the gospel among them, which was notorious
and famous in several other places, ver. 6-10.
and Apostolical Salutation.
A. D. 51.
1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the
church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in
the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our
Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this introduction we have,
I. The inscription, where we have, 1. The persons from whom this epistle came,
or by whom it was written. Paul was the inspired apostle and writer of this
epistle, though he makes no mention of his apostleship, which was not doubted
of by the Thessalonians, nor opposed by any false apostle among them. He joins
Silvanus (or Silas) and Timotheus with himself (who had now come to him with
an account of the prosperity of the churches in
), which shows this great apostle's humility, and how desirous he was to put
honour upon the ministers of Christ who were of an inferior rank and standing.
A good example this is to such ministers as are of greater abilities and
reputation in the church than some others. 2. The persons to whom this epistle
is written, namely, the church of the Thessalonians, the converted Jews and
Gentiles in Thessalonica; and it is observable that this church is said to be
in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ; they had fellowship with
the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, 1 John i. 3. They were a Christian
church, because they believed in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.
They believed the principles both of natural and revealed religion. The
Gentiles among them were turned to God from idols, and the Jews among them
believed Jesus to be the promised Messias. All of them were devoted and
dedicated to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: to God as their chief
good and highest end, to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Mediator between God
and man. God the Father is the original centre of all natural religion; and
Jesus Christ is the author and centre of all revealed religion. You believe
in God, says our Saviour, believe also in me. John xiv. 1.
II. The salutation or apostolical benediction: Grace be with you, and peace
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the same for
substance as in the other epistles. Grace and peace are well joined together;
for the free grace or favour of God is the spring or fountain of all the peace
and prosperity we do or can enjoy; and where there are gracious dispositions
in us we may hope for peaceful thoughts in our own breasts; both grace and
peace, and all spiritual blessings, come to us from God the Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ; from God the original of all good, and from the Lord Jesus
the purchaser of all good for us; from God in Christ, and so our Father in
covenant, because he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note, As
all good comes from God, so no good can be hoped for by sinners but from God
in Christ. And the best good may be expected from God as our Father for the
sake of Christ.
A. D. 51.
2 We give thanks to God always for you all,
making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without
ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our
Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing,
brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not
unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much
assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
I. The apostle begins with thanksgiving to God. Being about to mention the
things that were matter of joy to him, and highly praiseworthy in them, and
greatly for their advantage, he chooses to do this by way of thanksgiving to
God, who is the author of all that good that comes to us, or is done by us, at
any time. God is the object of all religious worship, of prayer and praise.
And thanksgiving to God is a great duty, to be performed always or constantly;
even when we do not actually give thanks to God by our words, we should have a
grateful sense of God's goodness upon our minds. Thanksgiving should be often
repeated; and not only should we be thankful for the favours we ourselves
receive, but for the benefits bestowed on others also, upon our
fellow-creatures and fellow-christians. The apostle gave thanks not only for
those who were his most intimate friends, or most eminently favoured of God,
but for them all.
II. He joined prayer with his praise or thanksgiving. When we in every thing
by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God, we should join
thanksgiving therewith, Phil. iv. 6. So when we give thanks for any benefit we
receive we should join prayer. We should pray always and without ceasing, and
should pray not only for ourselves, but for others also, for our friends, and
should make mention of them in our prayers. We may sometimes mention their
names, and should make mention of their case and condition; at least, we
should have their persons and circumstances in our minds, remembering them
without ceasing. Note, As there is much that we ought to be thankful for on
the behalf of ourselves and our friends, so there is much occasion of constant
prayer for further supplies of good.
III. He mentions the particulars for which he was so thankful to God; namely,
1. The saving benefits bestowed on them. These were the grounds and reasons of
his thanksgiving. (1.) Their faith and their work of faith. Their faith he
tells them (v. 8) was very famous, and spread abroad. This is the
radical grace; and their faith was a true and living faith, because a working
faith. Note, Wherever there is a true faith, it will work: it will have an
influence upon heart and life; it will put us upon working for God and for our
own salvation. We have comfort in our own faith and the faith of others when
we perceive the work of faith. Show me thy faith by thy works, Jam. ii.
18. (2.) Their love and labour of love. Love is one of the cardinal graces; it
is of great use to us in this life and will remain and be perfected in the
life to come. Faith works by love; it shows itself in the exercise of
love to God and love to our neighbour; as love will show itself by labour, it
will put us upon taking pains in religion. (3.) Their hope and the patience of
hope. We are saved by hope. This grace is compared to the soldier's
helmet and sailor's anchor, and is of great use in times of danger. Wherever
there is a well-grounded hope of eternal life, it will appear by the exercise
of patience; in a patient bearing of the calamities of the present time and a
patient waiting for the glory to be revealed. For, if we hope for that we
see not, then do we with patience wait for it, Rom. viii. 25.
2. The apostle not only mentions these three cardinal graces, faith, hope and
love, but also takes notice, (1.) Of the object and efficient cause of these
graces, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ. (2.) Of the sincerity of them: being in
the sight of God even our Father. The great motive to sincerity is the
apprehension of God's eye as always upon us; and it is a sign of sincerity
when in all we do we endeavour to approve ourselves to God, and that is right
which is so in the sight of God. Then is the work of faith, or labour of love,
or patience of hope, sincere, when it is done under the eye of God. (3.) He
mentions the fountain whence these graces flow, namely, God's electing love: Knowing,
brethren beloved, your election of God, v. 4. Thus he runs up these
streams to the fountain, and that was God's eternal election. Some by their
election of God would understand only the temporary separation of the
Thessalonians from the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles in their conversion; but
this was according to the eternal purpose of him who worketh all things
according to the counsel of his own will, Eph. i. 11. Speaking of their
election, he calls them, brethren beloved; for the original of the
brotherhood that is between Christians and the relation wherein they stand one
to another is election. And it is a good reason why we should love one
another, because we are all beloved of God, and were beloved of him in his
counsels when there was not any thing in us to merit his love. The election of
these Thessalonians was known to the apostles, and therefore might be known to
themselves, and that by the fruits and effects thereof--their sincere faith,
and hope, and love, by the successful preaching of the gospel among them.
Observe, [1.] All those who in the fulness of time are effectually called and
sanctified were from eternity elected and chosen to salvation. [2.] The
election of God is of his own good pleasure and mere grace, not for the sake
of any merit in those who are chosen. [3.] The election of God may be known by
the fruits thereof. [4.] Whenever we are giving thanks to God for his grace
either to ourselves or others, we should run up the streams to the fountain,
and give thanks to God for his electing love, by which we are made to differ.
3. Another ground or reason of the apostle's thanksgiving is the success of
his ministry among them. He was thankful on his own account as well as theirs,
that he had not laboured in vain. He had the seal and evidence of his
apostleship hereby, and great encouragement in his labours and sufferings.
Their ready acceptance and entertainment of the gospel he preached to them
were an evidence of their being elected and beloved of God. It was in this way
that he knew their election. It is true he had been in the third heavens; but
he had not searched the records of eternity, and found their election there,
but knew this by the success of the gospel among them (v. 5), and he
takes notice with thankfulness, (1.) That the gospel came to them also not in
word only, but in power; they not only heard the sound of it, but submitted to
the power of it. It did not merely tickle the ear and please the fancy, not
merely fill their heads with notions and amuse their minds for awhile, but it
affected their hearts: a divine power went along with it for convincing their
consciences and amending their lives. Note, By this we may know our election,
if we not only speak of the things of God by rote as parrots, but feel the
influence of these things in our hearts, mortifying our lusts, weaning us from
the world, and raising us up to heavenly things. (2.) It came in the Holy
Ghost, that is, with the powerful energy of the divine Spirit. Note, Wherever
the gospel comes in power, it is to be attributed to the operation of the Holy
Ghost; and unless the Spirit of God accompany the word of God, to render it
effectual by his power, it will be to us but as a dead letter; and the letter
killeth, it is the Spirit that giveth life. (3.) The gospel came to them in
much assurance. Thus did they entertain it by the power of the Holy Ghost.
They were fully convinced of the truth of it, so as not to be easily shaken in
mind by objections and doubts; they were willing to leave all for Christ, and
to venture their souls and everlasting condition upon the verity of the gospel
revelation. The word was not to them, like the sentiments of some philosophers
about matters of opinion and doubtful speculation, but the object of their
faith and assurance. Their faith was the evidence of things not seen;
and the Thessalonians thus knew what manner of men the apostle and his
fellow-labourers were among them, and what they did for their sake, and with
what good success.
of the Apostle's Success.
A. D. 51.
6 And ye became followers of us, and of the
Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy
Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in
Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the
Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to
God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you,
and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even
Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
In these words we have the evidence of the apostle's success among the
Thessalonians, which was notorious and famous in several places. For,
I. They were careful in their holy conversation to imitate the good examples
of the apostles and ministers of Christ, v. 6. As the apostle took care
to demean himself well, not only for his own credit's sake, but for the
benefit of others, by a conversation suitable to his doctrine, that he might
not pull down with one hand what he built up with the other, so the
Thessalonians, who observed what manner of men they were among them, how their
preaching and living were all of a piece, showed a conscientious care to be
followers of them, or to imitate their good example. Herein they became also
followers of the Lord, who is the perfect example we must strive to imitate;
and we should be followers of others no further than they are followers of
Christ, 1 Co. xi. 1. The Thessalonians acted thus, notwithstanding their
affliction, that much affliction which the apostles and themselves also were
exposed to. They were willing to share in the sufferings that attended the
embracing and professing of Christianity. They entertained the gospel,
notwithstanding the troubles and hardships which attended the preachers and
professors of it too. Perhaps this made the word more precious, being
dear--bought; and the examples of the apostles shone very bright under their
afflictions; so that the Thessalonians embraced the word cheerfully, and
followed the example of the suffering apostles joyfully, with joy in the
Holy Ghost--such solid and spiritual and lasting joy as the Holy Ghost is
the author of, who, when our afflictions abound, makes our consolations much
more to abound.
II. Their zeal prevailed to such a degree that they were themselves examples
to all about them, v. 7, 8. Observe here,
1. Their example was very effectual to make good impressions upon many others.
They were tupoi--stamps,
or instruments to make impression with. They had themselves received good
impressions from the preaching and conversation of the apostles, and they made
good impressions, and their conversation had an influence upon others. Note,
Christians should be so good as by their example to influence others.
2. It was very extensive, and reached beyond the confines of Thessalonica,
even to the believers of all Macedonia, and further, in Achaia; the
Philippians, and others who received the gospel before the Thessalonians, were
edified by their example. Note, Some who were last hired into the vineyard may
sometimes outstrip those who come in before them, and become examples to them.
3. It was very famous. The word of the Lord, or its wonderful effects upon the
Thessalonians, sounded, or was famous and well known, in the regions round
about that city, and in every place; not strictly every where, but here
and there, up and down in the world: so that, from the good success of the
gospel among them, many others were encouraged to entertain it, and to be
willing, when called, to suffer for it. Their faith was spread abroad. (1.)
The readiness of their faith was famed abroad. These Thessalonians embraced
the gospel as soon as it was preached to them; so that every body took notice
what manner of entering in among them the apostles had, that there were no
such delays as at Philippi, where it was a great while before much good was
done. (2.) The effects of their faith were famous. [1.] They quitted their
idolatry; they turned from their idols, and abandoned all the false worship
they had been educated in. [2.] They gave themselves up to God, to the living
and true God, and devoted themselves to his service. [3.] They set themselves
to wait for the Son of God from heaven, v. 10. And this is one of the
peculiarities of our holy religion, to wait for Christ's second coming, as
those who believe he will come and hope he will come to our joy. The believers
under the Old Testament waited for the coming of the Messiah, and believers
now wait for his second coming; he is yet to come. And there is good reason to
believe he will come, because God has raised him from the dead, which is full
assurance unto all men that he will come to judgment, Acts xvii. 31. And there
is good reason to hope and wait for his coming, because he has delivered us
from the wrath to come. He came to purchase salvation, and will, when he comes
again, bring salvation with him, full and final deliverance from sin, and
death, and hell, from that wrath which is yet to come upon unbelievers, and
which, when it has once come, will be yet to come, because it is everlasting
fire prepared for the devil and his angels, Mt. xxv. 41.