1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
For yourselves, brothers, know our entrance in to you, that it was not in vain:…
I. APPEAL TO THE RECOLLECTION OF THE THESSALONIANS.
1. His first appearance among them had not been in vain. Others had borne witness to its results. That testimony was true; the Thessalonians knew it themselves. The apostle appeals to them in all the confidence of Christian simplicity. Perfectly sincere and single-hearted himself, he knew that as a body they had appreciated the purity of his motives. They could bear testimony (he knew that they would gladly do so) that his preaching from the beginning had not been empty talk, but full of energy and life and fire. It is a blessed thing, this mutual confidence between a pastor and his flock.
2. His previous sufferings had not abated his zeal He had been cruelly treated at Philippi; he bore the marks of the lictors' rods when he entered Thessalonica. It did not damp his ardor. His Lord had endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before him. For the same joy, the great joy of saving souls, St. Paul was content to suffer, and, if need be, to die. Troubles soon came upon him in Thessalonica. He preached amid much conflict, but he was full of courage.
3. His courage was of God. We were bold in our God. It was he who gave them boldness, he who taught them what to speak; they felt that it was not they, but the Spirit of God who spoke in them. They abode in him, in his encompassing, irradiating presence, within the sphere of his gracious influence; hence came their utterance, their boldness of speech.
4. For their gospel (our gospel, he calls it in 1 Thessalonians 1:5) was the gospel of God. They were the messengers, but he had given the message. It was his glad tidings; it came from him, and it brought tidings of him, of his will, of his justice, of his love; it told men of a Creator, a Savior, a Sanctifier. It was a high mission to preach that blessed gospel; the sense of its unspeakable preciousness inspired their burning words.
II. WHAT THEIR PREACHING WAS NOT. The Jews had tried to poison the minds of the Thessalonians against the apostle; they imputed low, earthly motives to him. St. Paul repudiates their insinuations.
1. There was no mixture of selfish motive. Their preaching was not of error or of deceit. They were not deceived themselves, they did not deceive others. They did not belong to the crowd of wandering impostors like Simon Magus, or Elymas the sorcerer. They knew certainly the truth of their mission. St. Paul had seen the Lord; what he delivered to the Thessalonians he had first received of the Lord. He knew this from the sure evidence of experience. His own truthfulness was manifest; the mighty change that had come over his life, the greatness of his sacrifices proved it. There was no uncleanness (as, perhaps, some of his enemies maliciously suggested), no impurity of any kind, attaching to his exhortation or his conduct. None who knew him could charge him with such things. But a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of souls was unexampled. He was the first missionary who had traversed Asia Minor, and now came to Europe for that lofty purpose. The mass of men, whether Jews or heathens, could not understand his noble character; it was high above them. They judged him by themselves. They were incapable of such self-denial for the sake of others; they could not believe in it; they had- no faith in love, in purity, in high religious motive. Such a life, too, if real, if genuine, was a rebuke to them. It angered them. They could not bear to think of its contrast with their own life; it was like light and darkness. And so they believed, or forced themselves to believe, that it was not genuine. A true life like St. Paul's seemed to them above human nature - impossible, inexplicable. And they said that it was not true; they attributed his actions to vulgar motives, to low selfish designs.
2. There was no covetousness. His life was not one of pretences, fair words serving to conceal the covetousness which (so said his enemies) was his real motive. But his treasure was in heaven. He had suffered the loss of all things for Christ. He had in him a hidden treasure, a pearl of great price, for which he was content to count all else as loss. He could not covet earthly gold who had the true riches. But he had to endure this among other slanders. It was said of him at Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:17; 2 Corinthians 7:2). He was obliged to take with him delegates of the Churches to assist him in the administration of alms, that he might avoid blame (2 Corinthians 8:20, 21). What a sad proof of the meanness of human nature that such a motive should be attributed to such a man!
3. There was no desire of glory. They did not seek to please men, but God. They knew that God tried the hearts, and, knowing that, they sought only to approve their inner and outer life to him. We labor, said St. Paul (2 Corinthians 5:9), it is our ambition to be well pleasing unto him. God had proved them; he had entrusted them with the gospel. It was a high privilege. St. Paul counted it so; he magnified his office. He sought for nothing else. The great work of winning souls was, he well knew, of all works the highest and the noblest. God was proving their hearts now. He, the Searcher of hearts, knew their work through and through. He knew the inner Ere of thought and motive, as well as the outer life of word and action. They fully recognized this great truth. They knew that their motives were pure and unselfish. God knew it too. It was all they wanted. They sought not praise of men. They had no pleasure in flattery; they did not flatter others. That the Thessalonians knew. God knew the purity of their motives. "God is witness," they could say. How blessed that life must be which could thus appeal to his all-seeing eye! They were apostles of Christ; St. Paul in the highest sense, Silvanus and Timotheus in the more extended meaning of the word. St. Paul may, indeed, be using the plural number of himself only; more probably in this place he includes his companions. They might have claimed honor for themselves; they might have made men feel the weight of their apostolic dignity. But they sought not glory from men. They had overcome that temptation which is so strong in most men, the "last infirmity of noble minds," the desire of earthly glory.
III. WHAT THEIR PREACHING WAS.
1. They were gentle. There is very strong manuscript evidence for νήπιοι, babes. If that is the true reading, St. Paul means that their character was one of childlike simplicity, free from selfish motives; they were babes in malice, but men in understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20). But "gentle" suits the context better. "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men." St. Paul adduces the most touching type of human tenderness - the nursing mother cherishing her own children, warming them in her bosom. Such had been his gentleness among his children after the faith. He had sought to win them by gentle words. He had told them of the gentleness of Christ. He had set before them the attractive picture of the Savior's tender love. Gentleness wins more hearts than sternness. The apostle knew the terrors of the Lord. He could remind his converts of the awful things beyond the grave. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." But he knew that love is a more powerful motive than fear. "Perfect love casteth out fear." The cross of Jesus Christ draweth all men to the Savior, because it is the manifestation of that love that passeth knowledge - the love of Jesus Christ.
2. They u, ere actuated by the strong love of souls. The Thessalonians had become very dear to them. They had not known them long, but they recognized them as sheep of that little flock which the Lord Jesus bids those who love him to feed for his love's sake. Thus loving them, they were affectionately desirous of their salvation. They were ready to give them not only the blessed gospel, but their own selves, their own lives, in humble imitation of the good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. They had exposed themselves to the greatest dangers for the work's sake; for that work they were ready, if need be, to die. The love of souls is the essential requisite for real success in the sacred work of the ministry. Other qualifications may win the praise of men; but the true work of winning souls can be wrought only by those who have learned from the blessed Savior something of that holy love which burned in the sacred heart of Jesus.
3. They were absolutely disinterested. They would not be burdensome to their new converts. The Philippian Church had twice sent help to the apostle during his residence at Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16). That help he had accepted; it was unasked, freely given. He welcomed it for the sake of the givers, as an evidence of their love. But the gifts, though very precious as a proof of Christian charity, were probably small in themselves; the Philippian Church was very poor. It seems also to have been a season of scarcity; times were bad. The missionaries had to labor for their livelihood. St. Paul's craft, weaving tent-cloth of goats' hair, was hard, wearisome, ill-paid work. He had to labor night and day. Yet he achieved those great results. He had but the sabbath to himself. Three sabbath days he spent in reasoning with the Jews, and preaching Jesus in the synagogue at Thessalonica; other days he had to work, to work hard and long, for his daily bread. The Greeks despised manual labor; they called it vulgar; they left such work to slaves. The apostle teaches by his own example the dignity of honest labor, the dignity of true Christian independence. Probably the Thessalonians could have helped him. "Not a few of the chief' women" had become Christians. They must, one thinks, have been willing. St. Paul must have had reasons for declining their aid, as he afterwards declined the aid of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:9, 10). How these thoughts increase our admiration of the great apostle! Amid all these difficulties, all these cares, all this engrossing labor, he preached with power, with perseverance, with success such as only an ardent love of souls, only the presence of God the Holy Ghost, could give.
4. They set a high example. The Thessalonians saw their outward life; God could read the secrets of their hearts. That life was pure and holy towards God, just and righteous in its relations to men. The Christians of Thessalonica knew that they were blameless. Others might, perhaps, be busy with their insinuations; unbelievers might suggest this or that unworthy motive. The Christians had learned to know St. Paul and his companions. They knew the sincerity, the purity of their lives. Nay, St. Paul could fearlessly appeal to a higher Witness - to the all-seeing God. Example is a mighty aid in preaching the gospel. Deeds are more persuasive than words. A holy life is an evidence of the reality of those spiritual facts which the preacher describes in words.
5. They taught their converts individually. They were not contented with preaching in the synagogues every sabbath day; they taught from house to house. The converts were many, we read in the Acts of the Apostles. Chrysostom wonders at their zeal in omitting no one in so great a multitude. They sought out each, caring for each separate soul, sharing the angels' joy over one sinner that repenteth. They tried all means of winning souls. They exhorted, stirring the souls of men with burning words, suggesting nobler views of human life and destiny; they comforted, encouraging the afflicted, the despondent, the penitent, by the glad tidings of pardon, peace, and hope; they testified, urging their converts by every constraining motive to persevere in the Christian life. And all this they did with such earnestness, with such affectionate interest, with such love as a father shows towards his own children. A bright example of the pastor's work.
6. The purport of their exhortation. God was calling them; they must walk worthily of that high calling. He was calling them into his kingdom now, into the kingdom which Christ had come to found - his Church. They had become children of the kingdom. He was calling them higher yet, to his glory, to the beatific vision, that the Savior's prayer might be fulfilled, "I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me." Their walk in life must show the reality of their hope. Walk implies movement, change of place and scene. As they move hither and thither in the course of their daily lives, in their business, in their amusements, they must ever think of that high calling, and live according to their hopes. Their religion was not to be confined to the sabbath, to the synagogue, to the hours spent on their knees in private prayer; they must carry it everywhere with them; it must guide, stimulate, comfort, encourage in all the varying circumstances of daily life. Their life must be worthy of their calling. They must show its influence; they must adorn the doctrine of God their Savior in all things.
1. Study the lives of St. Paul and other holy men.
2. Let not that study end in admiration; act upon it.
3. In such lives is seen the manifest workings of the grace of God.
4. The sight of such lives confirms the faith of the wavering, kindles the desire of the lukewarm.
5. True Christians are the light of the world; they must let their light shine before men.
6. But not for their own glory; they must seek only the glory of God. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
WEB: For you yourselves know, brothers, our visit to you wasn't in vain,