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1. The Fruits of the Gospel ( 1 Thess. 1 ).
In the parable of the Sower ( Mar_5:20 ), the Lord instructed His disciples that where the good seed fell upon good ground fruit would result. In this opening chapter some of the beautiful fruit of the Gospel manifests itself in the changed lives of young converts. To understand the Epistle it is necessary to recall the gospel preached to these Thessalonians, as recorded in Act_17:19 . From this we gather that, during the Apostle's visit to Thessalonica, he preached to both Jews and Gentiles. Four things marked his preaching. (1) He presented to them Jesus, the Saviour; not merely doctrines, but a living Person (the Saviour). (2) He alleged that this Person (Jesus) had died and risen again. (3) He not only preached the facts of death and resurrection, but the necessity of these great facts. Christ "must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead." (4) He fell back on Scripture as his sole and sufficient authority. As a result of this preaching "some" of the Jews, and "a great multitude" of the Gentiles, believed. Moreover they proved the reality of their faith by publicly identifying themselves with the Lord's servants, for we read, they "consorted with Paul and Silas." They did not keep their faith to themselves. They made no attempt to escape reproach by remaining secret disciples! They believed in Jesus, and boldly confessed their faith. The result was they had at once to face persecution. The Jews who believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows and set the whole city in an uproar. Envy led to the first murder, when Cain killed his brother: and envy led to the greatest murder when the Jews crucified their Messiah. Pilate "knew that for envy they had delivered Him." If men moved by envy will commit murder, we need not be surprised that respectable Jews stooped to use lewd base fellows to carry out their ends. Thus we learn the character of the seed sown, the fruits produced, and the opposition called forth. The Apostle writes his Epistle to encourage these young converts in persecution, and delights to dwell upon the beautiful fruit of the gospel so manifested.
The Apostle associates with himself those who had laboured with him. In his salutation he views these believers relative to God the Father, and to Jesus Christ as Lord, rather than as members of the Body of which Christ is the Head. He encourages them by assuring them that he constantly gives thanks to God for them, and remembers them in his prayers. Moreover he recognises the fruits of the Spirit in them. In calling attention to these happy christian qualities, the Apostle is not flattering them, but gladly recognising in them the evidence of a real work of God. He notes their work, labour, and endurance; but not as marks of true conversion. Men of the world are often famed for great philanthropic works, immense toil, and much perseverance in carrying out their works. In the case of the Thessalonians the Apostle can link with these other qualities essentially christian: viz., "work of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope": the three great elements of christian life that bring the soul into relation with Divine Persons, thus giving the marks of a truly converted soul. As evidence of reality, the writer of the Hebrews Epistle, refers to these three qualities. He had been speaking solemnly of those who made a profession of Christianity, but afterwards apostatised. But, of these Christians he can say, "Beloved we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation," viz "labour of love"; "the full assurance of hope" and "faith and patience" ( Heb_6:9-12 ).
Moreover, the reality of their "faith," "love," and "hope," is proved by these beautiful qualities being "in our Lord Jesus Christ." Faith, love, and hope, each require an object. In Christianity that supreme object is a living Person - the Lord Jesus Christ. Every true activity in the christian life is the outcome of faith which draws all its strength, wisdom, and needed grace, from One who is unseen, and therefore only available for faith. True christian toil springs from love for our Lord Jesus Christ and is not carried out as a legal duty. The endurance is not dull resignation to stern necessity, but sustained by hope that waits for our Lord Jesus Christ. Further, the life of faith, love, and hope, is lived "in the sight of God our Father." It is a life of holy fear lived before God, and not simply before man to obtain a religious place, or before the saints to gain a reputation for devotedness. These young believers became "ensamples to all that believe," and their faith to God was spread abroad; but their witness before man was the outcome of a life lived before God. They consciously lived and walked "before our God and Father." "We may indeed zealously contend for a name; but the question before God is as to power and full fruits of grace in the measure of that which has been received; and if the soul does not come up to that, it is a dreadful thing for it to be resting on a religious reputation, while the works are not perfect before God" (J.N.D.).
Further, these evidences of a work of God in their souls assured the Apostle that they were beloved of God and the subjects of His electing grace. Not only has grace met all our responsibilities, but, by the sovereign mercy of God believers were elected, before the foundation of the world, to obtain salvation with eternal glory ( 2Ti_2:10 ). If we are elected to eternal glory, we are set apart by the work of the Spirit from this present world. No position of dignity and honour which this world can offer, will have any attraction on realising that. These beautiful fruits had been produced in lives by the gospel that came to them not "in word only, but also in power" by the preaching in the Holy Ghost. Thus there was much assurance. Alas! there may be much correct gospel preaching, but too often "in word only." The power and work of the Holy Spirit are wanting. What will give power to the preaching and leave the Holy Spirit free to work is the consistent life of the preacher. So the Apostle can say, "Ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake." His life confirmed his preaching and thus became part of the testimony that he bore with his lips.
The result of testimony in power manifests itself in two ways. (1) It led those who received the testimony, not only into the blessing of salvation, but to imitate the Apostle, and therefore the Lord (N. Tn.). Being blessed they became representatives of the One by whom they were saved. (2) This testimony in power aroused the hatred of those by whom it was rejected. This malice expressed itself in persecuting the believers. Nevertheless these believers were sustained in joy by the Holy Spirit. The devil may stir up persecution, but the power of the Spirit is greater than all the power of the enemy. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, is sustained in triumph in the midst of his martyr sufferings. The martyr whose sufferings only call forth praise to the Lord renders an arresting testimony to the power of God before the world! Thus the joy of these young persecuted converts became an ensample to believers and a testimony to the world around, for, in every place, their faith towards God had become a matter of wonder. Their testimony had a threefold character. (a) the word of the Lord was sounded out from them. (b) their changed manner of life proved the reality of their conversion, and was a witness to the truth of their preaching, for they gave up all their old idolatrous practices, and turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Scripture, not only recognises the actual images of the heathen as idols, but also anything that comes in as an object between the soul and God: e.g., "Little children keep yourselves from idols" ( 1Jn_5:21 ). How often the believer's life and service may be hindered by allowing some earthly pursuit, which in itself may be harmless, to become an object between the soul and God. (3) They turned from the world, and its delusions, to wait for the Son of God from heaven. All their expectations were in Him. Being converted they did not vainly attempt to put the world right, and make it better and brighter. To deal with the evil, and bring in the blessing, they quietly waited for God's Son from heaven. They did so in peace and calmness, knowing that Jesus had delivered them from wrath through His death, and that God had declared His satisfaction with the work of Christ and the believer's justification from sins and judgment, by raising Christ from the dead.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29