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GOD'S CARE FOR HIS LAMBS.
(Expository Notes by Hamilton Smith). 1 Thessalonians 2 .
In touching language, "He shall feed His flock like shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom" ( Isa_40:11 ), the prophet Isaiah likens God's people to a flock that God delights to feed. Moreover, the lambs of the flock, that might be especially liable to be scattered by the enemy, He gathers with his arms of power, and cherishes in his heart of love. Thessalonians, Ch. 2, presents this special care for the lambs. We see the gracious and gentle way that God takes with these young converts, in order that they may walk worthy of the One who has called them unto His Kingdom and glory (12). The wolf may seek to scatter the lambs, but the great Shepherd of the sheep will gather them with His protecting arm. The enemy may seek to encompass their fall, but the Shepherd will carry them, and bring them home to glory at last. The first twelve verses set forth this loving care, expressed through the Apostle. The latter part of the chapter brings before us the blessed results of this care as seen in the christian characteristics displayed in these young believers.
(a) The grace of the Apostle to sinners (1-5).
To remind the Thessalonian believers of the grace of God on their behalf, the Apostle first speaks of his entrance among them as sinners (1-5); then of his gentleness with them as young converts, even as a nurse cherisheth her children (6-9); and lastly, of his faithfulness to them, even as a father deals with his children (10-12). (Vv. 1, 2) Whether religious Jews, or idolatrous Gentiles, they were sinners needing a Saviour, and as such the Apostle came to them with all boldness. This was the more striking, seeing that the Apostle and his companions, came from Philippi, where, as the result of proclaiming the gospel, they had suffered persecution and insults. Their sufferings had raised no resentment, or made the servants more reticent in publicly proclaiming the truth, as natural prudence might have done. On the contrary, the Apostle can say, "After that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated . . . . we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God." It was not, however, the boldness of nature which often degenerates into the aggressiveness of the flesh; it was boldness in our God. Thus the servant followed in the steps of his Master, who, when His enemies took up stones to stone Him, quietly passed on dispensing grace. No violence of man could draw forth any resentment from Him or wither His grace. Moreover, the Apostle's preaching was with "much earnest striving" (N.Tn.). It was not with fleshly contention, that only provokes the flesh, but with earnest longing that strives to win the soul. (Vv. 3-5) Furthermore, if the Apostle came to them with outward boldness, it was accompanied with inward purity. If the manner was bold, the motive was pure. There was nothing either in the preacher or the preaching that deceived men. It was not with "deceit" that Paul preached. Nor was his preaching with "uncleanness" that panders to the lusts of men; nor in "guile" that hides the truth. His motive being pure there was nothing in the preaching that sought to please man as man, or that sought the approval of man by "flattering words." Nor did the Apostle use his preaching to gain anything from man, thus making the preaching a pretext for covetousness. On the contrary, the Gospel that Paul preached, instead of deceiving, opened men's eyes to their true condition, rebuked them for their sins, told them the truth, even if that truth was neither pleasing nor flattering to the flesh. Moreover, while the gospel brings infinite blessing to man, it is not a means for extracting gain from man, or for making a living. Further, the Apostle can speak with such integrity of conscience, that he can call God, who trieth the hearts, to witness to the truth of what he said.
(b) The loving care of the Apostle for young converts (6-12).
If vv. 3-5, tell us of the purity of motive with which the Apostle preached to sinners, the verses that follow speak of the affection of heart that moved him in caring for young converts. (Vv. 6-9) It was not selfishness, that sought personal gain, that moved the Apostle, but rather the mind of Christ that, forgetting self, served others in love. He was not energised by self that seeks the applause of others, or one's own glory. He sought no glory from men, and would take nothing from saints, even if he had the right so to do. He was moved by love that sought only the good of others - love that was not requiring from them but imparting to them; that was gentle among them even as a nurse cherisheth her children; that was ready to give even his life for them; that, laboured night and day in order to serve them, without being a charge to them! (Vv. 10, 11) Moreover, if the Apostle was gentle as a nurse, he also faithfully charged them as "a father doth his own children." To charge others, however, calls for a faithful and holy walk, and such indeed was the Apostle's walk that he can call them to witness, and God also, that he lived among these believers, piously, holily and unblameably. (V. 12) Living such a life he could, with spiritual power, exhort, comfort, and charge others that they, too, should walk worthy of God, who has called us unto His kingdom and glory. The world esteems it an honour to be associated with those who are high in the kingdoms of this world and its glory; but how far greater the privilege to be associated with those who are called to God's kingdom and glory. Far greater honour to be found with those who are going to sit on thrones judging in the kingdom of Christ, even if down here they were but ignorant and unlearned fishermen, than to be associated with the greatest potentate of this passing world. Poor the Lord's people may be, but, "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love Him?" ( Jam_2:5 ). God would have us to look beyond this world and all its empty honours, and remember the high dignity that He has conferred upon us in calling us "unto His Kingdom and glory," and, as we pass through this scene to walk and behave in consistency with our position as heirs of the coming glory.
(c) The fruit of the Apostle's care (13-20).
In the latter part of the chapter we see the beautiful fruits of this ministry of grace, in gentleness and faithfulness. It set this company of believers in the path of faith (13-16); brought them into the circle of love (17-18); and gave them the sure and certain hope of the coming glory (19, 20). (V. 13) First, the Apostle can thank God that the faith of these believers was established on the solid foundation of the word of God. Faith is in Christ; but our authority for believing in Christ is, not the word of a teacher, however gifted, but, "the word of God." The evidence of the divine authority of the word is that it works effectually in those that believe. The word of God reaches the conscience as no mere word of man can do; it turns the soul to God from idols and produces the great principles of Christianity, "faith," "love," and "hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Vv. 14-16) Moreover the word of God effectually working in these young believers, led them whole-heartedly to identify themselves with the people of God. They became followers of the assemblies of God, which in Judaea were in Christ Jesus. Not only did they share with them in the privileges in Christ Jesus, but they became their companions in suffering for Christ. The Thessalonian believers suffered from their own countrymen, even as the assemblies in Judaea suffered from the Jews. But even so, the opposition of the heathen Gentiles was fermented by the deadly hatred of the Jews. The Jewish nation had not only rejected the prophets and killed their own Messiah, and thus rejected every proffer of grace to themselves, but they filled up their cup of guilt by seeking to stop the grace of God going out to the Gentile. This effort to stop the grace of God being preached to the Gentile rose to its height in their persecution of Paul, the Apostle of the Gentile. They "please not God," and "are contrary to all men," thus bringing wrath upon themselves to the uttermost. (V. 17) Secondly, if on the one hand in taking the path of faith these young converts had to taste a little suffering from their countrymen, on the other hand they enjoyed the love and communion in the new circle into which Christianity had brought them. They were bound together with the Lord's people "in heart." Truly, for a time, saints may be bereft of one another's company by circumstances, and "separated for a little moment", but, says the Apostle, "not in heart." We are linked together with bonds that are as eternal as the love that binds us. (V. 18) The practical expression of this communion of saints will involve conflict, for the one great end of Satan will be to hinder its expression. So the Apostle can say, "we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us." Could not the Lord have thwarted Satan's efforts? Doubtless He could, and does when in accordance with His ways. Shortly He will tread Satan under foot, though at the present He may use Satan as an instrument wherewith to try His people. Had the Lord hindered Satan the saints might have missed the blessing that resulted from the trial of their faith. (Vv. 19, 20) Finally we learn that the love circle on earth with its trials prepares for "the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming." This leads the Apostle to refer to "our hope." Thus the blessed effect of the Apostle's ministry was to bring these Gentile believers into a new circle marked by faith in the word of God (13); love to one another (17), and "hope" in the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Lord is the true gathering centre of His people, the One that calls out our affections to Himself and thus unites our hearts with one another. In His presence, at His coming, we shall enjoy communion with one another in our common joy in the Lord, where no power of Satan can intrude.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
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