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The Heart Life of the Apostle Paul
1 Thessalonians 2:1-20
The opening verse of this remarkable chapter brings reminiscences of Paul's entrance into Thessalonica. This should be studied in connection with the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of Acts which give in detail the data which is suggested in verses one to two.
1. There is a reference to His being shamefully entreated at Philippi. This story takes up the sixteenth chapter of Acts, and it is familiar to you all.
Leaving Troas Paul came by a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi. We read that Philippi was the chief city of that part of Macedonia. The story of the conversion of a certain woman named Lydia is known to us all.
When, however, a certain damsel who brought her employers much money by her soothsaying was converted, a great storm arose among the people, caused by the men who saw their hope of gain was gone. They caught Paul and Silas and brought them to the magistrate. Thus the scene ended with Paul and Silas being cast into jail, followed by the opening of the prison, miraculously; and the conversion of the jailer and his household.
After their freedom Paul and Silas entered the home of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them and departed. As they left they bore in their bodies the marks of the beating. This sums up in brief the tragic, and yet blessed events at Philippi.
Leaving Philippi they passed through Amphipolis, and Apollonia, and came to Thessalonica.
2. There is the reference to his manner of entering into Thessalonica. We read in verse two, "We were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention." Paul's method of entering into Thessalonica was the same as that which he used everywhere. In Acts 17:2 we read, "And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures." It would be most interesting to observe Paul's method of preaching. Our verse two says that he spoke unto them the Gospel of God. Acts 17:1-34 tells us what he spoke, and therefore it tells us his conception of the Gospel. Here is the statement: "Paul * * reasoned with them out of the Scriptures opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead, and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ." There are three things in this verse, which Paul calls the Gospel.
(1) There is the statement that Christ must needs have suffered. This carries us back to the Cross, where Christ died for our sins, the just for the unjust. That is the first, the primal message of the Gospel.
(2) There is the statement that Christ was risen again from the dead. This, of course, is the second great message of the Gospel, and it carries us to the empty tomb, and also to the living and exalted Christ. Thank God that the Gospel not only tells us of Calvary, and its redemptive work; it also tells us of Christ living, and exalted who is our great high priest, managing our affairs and giving us power for service and for a holy walk.
(3) There is the statement, "That this Jesus whom I preach unto you is Christ." This is the third phase of the Gospel. It is definitely stated that Paul preached three Sabbath days. We wonder if the first Sabbath day, he did not open the Scriptures concerning the death of Christ; while on the second Sabbath day, he preached concerning the resurrection of Christ; and the third Sabbath day he told them that the Lord Jesus who died, and rose, is the Christ of God, the anointed one, who is coming again. We are sure that he did preach the Second Coming, which is the third great message of the Gospel, because when he was arrested and carried to the ruler, they cried out against Paul, saying that he taught that there was another king, one Jesus.
3. There is the reference to the reception which the Thessalonians gave to the Gospel. This is found in the last two verses of chapter one, of Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians.
(1) They turned to God from their idols. Perhaps they did this as Paul told them about the Christ of Calvary.
(2) They served the living and true God. This was doubtless the result of Paul's preaching on the risen Christ,
(3) They began to wait for His Son from Heaven. In these three results, of Paul's threefold preaching, you have both the story of the content of the Gospel, and also of the results of a full Gospel message.
I. PAUL'S INNER LIFE IS REVEALED AS ONE FREE FROM OBJECTIONABLE METHODS (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 )
1. His exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor of guile. The Apostle was not underhanded, in what he did or said. He spoke in the open. There was nothing covered, and hid away. He did not, and would not deceive the people, under any condition. There was nothing unclean in his methods. No vulgarity. Nothing that would appeal to the vile affections of the wicked people to whom he spoke. There was nothing of guile, as though Paul were trying to carry them away with strange doctrine, and cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
2. His exhortation was not an effort to please man, but God. He had been allowed of God, to be put in trust with the Gospel. He felt not only the dignity of his trust, but the solemnity of it. He realized that an account must be given to the One who sent him, and not to the ones who heard him. Thus Paul sought to please God, and not to please men.
We fear that there are some who are, as the Laodiceans of old, men pleasers, desiring a name among the people; men who live on human applause, and human praise. Paul preached, realizing that it was God who tried the hearts, and it was God who would try him. It was for this cause that he never used flattering words, nor did he wear a cloak of covetousness, as he came among the people.
We wonder how many of us will stand approved in that day, when we give our account to God. Is that which we build, gold, silver, and precious stones? Or, is it wood, hay, and stubble? If we are men pleasers, we certainly will have had our reward down here. Remember how it is written, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Listen, therefore, to the words of this matchless preacher of truth. In verse six he says, "Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others." Thank God for such a minister.
II. PAUL'S INNER LIFE WAS GENTLE, AFFECTIVE, AND TENDER (1 Thessalonians 2:7-9 )
1. Paul says, "We were gentle among you." A minister's power does not lie in his harshness and roughness. One of the fruits of the Spirit is gentleness. Some one may argue, "I preach hell fire and the judgments of God, and His wrath against sin; therefore, I am harsh and vigorous in my denunciations." It seems to us that that is the very time when one needs to be gentle, filled with compassion, and with love.
The Apostle entered into Thessalonica shortly after he had been beaten, and jailed at Philippi. However, he did not enter with a censorious spirit. The apostle entered Philippi where sin and Satan ruled, and idolatry held the day. Yet, he did not rasp against their wickedness. He was gentle among them, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.
We think of the Lord Jesus, as He pronounced those terrific anathemas and woes, against the scribes and pharisees. It is all recorded in Matthew 23:1-39 . Can you imagine our Lord yelling out, with flashing, angry eyes those terrific curses? Never! If you would know the heart of Christ as He spoke, read the final words that close the chapter. Here they are: "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."
2. Paul says that he was affectionately desirous of them. Think of it all, and you will understand why he was gentle. He was gentle, because he loved them. He was affectionately impelled, as he spoke. He says, "We were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear to us."
We truly believe no one is fully prepared to preach, until he is consumed with an ardent love toward those to whom he preaches. Think of the dignified apostle, saying, "Ye were dear unto us." You cannot rightly preach unto the heathen, until they are dear unto you; you cannot effectually preach to the bums and the outcasts, in the mission halls, until you love them. You cannot successfully deliver God's message to your own church, unless your heart is filled with desires in their behalf.
3. Paul says, "Ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail." The apostle called his preaching, arduous and painful toil. Listen, he labored night and day, not only with his voice, but also with his hands, that he might not be chargeable unto them, as he preached unto them the Gospel of God.
III. PAUL'S INNER LIFE IS REVEALED BY HIS BEHAVIOUR AMONG THE PEOPLE (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 )
All unknowingly and unintentionally, the apostle is giving us views of his very heart throbs, and of his daily walk among the people, as he preached to them. We see him, not as a rose in bud, but in bloom. The fragrance of his very being, the throbbings of his very heart, are being laid bare.
1. Paul behaved himself in all holiness among those who believed. There are some people who seem to boast of their evil ways. At least they make light of their sins. The apostle on the contrary said, "How holily * * we behaved ourselves among you." Is this not the call of God to you and to me? Is this not the will of God, even our sanctification? Indeed, it is written, "God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."
A preacher said to me the other day, "You don't want to get mixed up with that bunch. They preach holiness," That is what they should preach. That is not only what they should preach, but what they should live. We are not speaking of the eradication of the old nature. We are speaking of holy living.
We like that little word "how." The apostle said how holily we behave. We can say of Daniel how holily he behaved. The enemy could not find anything against Daniel in his dealings with the people. He was just, and honest, and true, both toward the king, and the government, and toward the masses.
How holily must Job have lived. God said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?" Could this be said of you and of me? If not, and our own heart condemns us, we are not ready to bear the vessels of the Lord.
2. Paul behaved himself in all justness among those that believed. He was not only holy, he was just. Honest dealings, giving every man his due is absolutely required of those who preach for God, and of those who serve Him in any capacity. If we are not treating our people in all justness, and honor, we cannot be accepted of God, nor of them. The scribes and the pharisees laid heavy burdens on their people, which they themselves would not bare. It tells us that they bound heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and laid them on men's shoulders; and they themselves would not move them with one of their fingers. Do we ever ask of others, what we would not do? Do we ask them to give where we give not; to go, where we go not; to suffer, where we suffer not?
3. Paul behaved himself unblameably among them that believed. This was his longing for all saints. He prayed for the saints, that their whole spirit, and soul, and body, might be preserved blameless, unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, that every one of us might stand approved.
IV. PAUL'S INNER LIFE WAS MANIFESTED, AS A LIFE OF A FATHER TOWARD HIS CHILDREN (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 )
1 Thessalonians 2:11 says, "Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children."
1. Let us consider the heart of a father toward his children. You remember it is written, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth those that fear him." The Lord taught the disciples to pray saying, "Our Father which art in Heaven." When we speak of the Trinity, we speak of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, we read, "I bow my knees unto the Father." Again we read, "Through Him we both have access by one Spirit, unto the Father." The expression, "the Fatherhood of God," is correct when it is used of the whole redeemed family in heaven and in earth.
Thus we have learned that the word "Father" is used not only to express Paul's inner heart toward those with whom he labored, but also to express that inner heart of God. If we would be successful in the service of God, we, too, must have a father heart, a father love, a father compassion.
2. Let us consider the admonitions of a father toward his children. The father not only exhorts his children, and comforts them; but he charges them as to how they should live, and what they should do. Here is the father heart of Paul, charging the Thessalonians that they should walk worthy of God, who has called them into His kingdom and His glory.
One of my sons told me, one day, "Father, my great desire is to so live that I may bring honor to your name, the name which I also bear." How much more should we seek to walk worthy of the heavenly and holy name which we bear.
3. Let us consider the joy of a father toward his children. Verse thirteen gives this delightful touch: "For this cause, also, thank we God without ceasing." We will take up the reasons for Paul's thankfulness in a moment. Now, we merely mention that he gave thanks. He rejoiced in his children, just as the earthly father rejoices in his. He rejoiced in their victories, their attainments, their service. Have you noticed that the Epistle opens with a note of thanksgiving to God for the Thessalonians? Others of Paul's Epistles open the same way. Paul was not slow to tell those he loved, how he loved them, and of how he was made glad by them.
V. PAUL'S INNER LIFE MARKED BY HIS RECOGNITION OF THE VIRTUES OF OTHERS (1 Thessalonians 2:13-15 )
Let us never be slow to tell those we love, what they mean to us. Why not mention their good deeds, their faithfulness, their kindness, their obedience to God. It is customary to leave the good things we have to say about people, for their funeral. If anyone is evil, we are ready to condemn them. Then, if they are good, why not commend them? It will not spoil your children at home, nor will it spoil your church members, if, in all honesty and sincerity, you thank God and them, for the good there is in them. It will only help them to find the higher heights.
1. Paul thanked God because of the attitude of the Thessalonians toward the Word of God. He said in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 , " * * thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." The Thessalonians believed in an inspired book, God-given, and God-written. They believed in a Bible that had power to accomplish great things. It was something that worked within them. From them the Word of God went forth. They not only believed it, but they proclaimed it, they told it out.
2. Can we thank God because our people have exalted His Word above His name?
When we think of the people, and of their attitude toward God, our minds naturally go to the preacher himself. Why was it that the saints in Thessalonica received the truth as the Word of God, and not the word of man? We believe it was because the apostle Paul so preached it. He did not merely say the Bible was the Word of God, but he proclaimed it as the Word of God; showing, withal, by its wonders of statement, so true and so faithful, historically, prophetically, theologically, that it was the Word of God indeed.
If the people in the pew doubt the inspiration of the Scriptures, it is because the pastor in the pulpit is, himself, doubtful thereof.
There is another reason that the Thessalonians, and all believers, believe that the Bible is the very word of God. It is because it perpetually worketh in them. When they read it, something happens inside of them. It brings comfort, and guidance, and light, and life, and many other things, in its inside effectiveness.
VI. PAUL'S INNER LIFE MANIFESTED BY HIS GREAT DESIRE TO SEE THOSE WHOM HE HAD LED TO CHRIST (1 Thessalonians 2:14-20 )
1. Paul desired to see the Thessalonian Christians, to strengthen them concerning their suffering for Christ. In verse fourteen he tells them that they were followers of the churches of God, which, in Judea, are in Christ Jesus. "For * * Ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us."
2. Paul desired to see them, because there were many who said that the Gentiles could not be saved. They even forbade Paul to speak to the Gentiles, because they were appointed to condemnation. We fear that there is, today, an antipathy against the Jews which almost pronounces them as Anathema Maranatha. The Jews of old refused to the Gentiles the Word of life. Now, in some places, at least, the Gentiles are refusing to the Jews that same blessed Word.
3. Paul desired to see them because he wanted to make up toward them, what was lacking in others. He tells them in 1 Thessalonians 2:17 , "Being taken from you for a short time, in presence, not in heart; endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire." Others may have refused them. He did not. Indeed, God had called him as an apostle to the Gentiles that he should give testimony before them. Thus it was that after he had left Thessalonica, the Lord stood by him at night, and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." As we close this thought, we would like to quote a little verse, which we hope expresses our attitude toward preaching to those who are afar! Here it is: "To preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you."
VII. PAUL'S INNER LIFE IN ITS GREAT ANTICIPATION (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 )
The two verses with which we close our study for today, read like this: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming, for ye are our glory" in Christ.
1. The Christian hope is the coming of the Lord. We read in Titus 2:11-12 about "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ." The Holy Ghost, through John, tells us that he who has this hope set on him, purifies himself. Every believer should live looking for, hastening unto, and occupying, until the Lord comes.
In our day multiplied millions are eagerly watching, waiting, and longing for the coming of the Lord. The midnight cry has gone forth, "Behold the bridegroom cometh." This is heard on every hand.
2. The Christians' hope, and joy, and crown, are the saints; in the presence of the Lord, at His coming. To be sure we want to see Christ, Himself, above any other. He is our greatest joy and crown. Yet, we must remember that when the Lord comes, there is to be, first, the resurrection of the dead; and then, the living in Christ will be caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.
First, in the point of time, we meet the raised saints; then there comes the great getting together of the living, with the resurrection saints. After that we are caught up, with them, and the Lord is the central thought of us all. Just now we are considering, however, the great joy and crown of rejoicing which will belong to those who have won many to Christ.
Oh, it would every toil repay
If up in Heaven some happy day
We'll meet with joy, and hear some say,
You showed to me the Heavenly way.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany