Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - 2:13

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - 2:13

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1Th_2:13. For this cause also 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.

A PARENT of a numerous family must expect trials of various kinds: yet will He have many consolations to counterbalance them. And so it is also with the faithful minister. Both from without his Church and from within, he will experience much that is painful and afflictive: but, if his afflictions abound, so will his consolations also: if his doubts respecting the state of some of his people renew in him pangs, like those of a woman in travail, the progress and advancement of others will afford him much heartfelt satisfaction. Thus St. Paul found it. The anguish that was occasioned in his bosom by some of his converts, was so keen, that he could scarcely speak of them without weeping: but over others he rejoiced with a very lively and exalted joy. The Church at Thessalonica in particular was contemplated by him with pre-eminent delight; insomuch that, whenever the thought of them occurred to his mind, he could not but pour out his soul before God in praises and thanksgivings in their behalf.

It is our intention at present to shew,

I.       What there was in his ministry among them which occasioned such incessant thankfulness to God—

His success among them was great, not only as to the number of his converts, but especially in the spirit which they manifested. In ministering to them the Gospel, there were two things in particular which filled him with joy and gratitude; namely,

1.       The manner of its reception—

[They did not consider his word as a system, like that of different philosophers, invented by man, and standing only on human authority; but they regarded it as the word of God himself, even whilst it was delivered to them by a weak instrument, “a man of like passions with themselves.” They looked, through the messenger, to Him whose ambassador he was; and every word that was uttered by him was received as if it had been spoken from heaven by the Deity himself: they received it as proceeding from his love, as sanctioned by his authority, and as assured to them by his truth and faithfulness. The great wonders of redemption through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus were not looked upon “as a cunningly devised fable,” but as a most stupendous effort of divine wisdom, planned from all eternity in the councils of the Father, and executed in due season by his only-begotten Son, and applied to their hearts by the agency of the ever-blessed Spirit — — — They felt not themselves at liberty to reject these overtures of merey, or to cavil at them as exceeding the comprehension of our feeble reason; they considered that they had no alternative, but to believe, and live: or to disbelieve, and perish — — — But their acceptance of these overtures was not a matter of constraint: they saw that the veracity of God was pledged to fulfil every promise which the Apostle made to them in Jehovah’s name; and that it was as impossible for a penitent believer to perish, as it was for God to lie — — — How could he be otherwise than thankful, when his word among them was thus received?]

2.       The manner of its operation—

[Truly his word among them was “quick and powerful;” and most effectually did it work upon them in their first conversion, in their subsequent support, and in their progressive sanctification. He speaks before of “the entrance he had had among them,” in that “they had turned from idols to serve the living and true God:” and, immediately after our text, he mentions the heavy trials they had had to endure; which yet they had sustained with unshaken fortitude: and the tidings he had heard from Timothy, of their advancement in faith and love and every grace, completed his joy, so that he forgot all his own afflictions through his joy on their account [Note: 1Th_3:6-7.]. What could he desire more than this? St. John, who had been admitted to nearer intercourse with his Saviour than any other of the Apostles, knew no greater joy than this [Note: 3 John, ver. 4.]. Well therefore might St. Paul pour forth his soul to God in praises and thanksgiving for such a mercy as this.]

In St. Paul’s acknowledgments we may see,

II.      What grounds of thankfulness all ministers have, whose labours are so blest—

Wherever the Gospel is so received, and so operates, there is abundant cause for praise and thanksgiving unto God;

1.       For the people’s sake—

[Happy, thrice “happy are the people that are in such a case, yea happy are the people who have the Lord for their God.” “Who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord [Note: Deu_33:29.]!” Can we reflect on the change that has taken place on you, and not rejoice? “Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are dug.” Do ye congratulate Lot on his escape from Sodom? What was that fire in comparison of those burnings from which ye are escaped? He was saved to die at last: you are saved to live for ever. You are not merely delivered from the power of darkness, but are translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, yea, and are made heirs together with him of an everlasting inheritance. Little can we know of the value of an immortal soul, if we are not filled with joy and gratitude at the thought of such blessings being imparted to it.]

2.       For the Church’s sake—

[No language could adequately express the transports of the saints of old, when they contemplated the effects that are here described: “Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel [Note: Isa_44:23. See also Psa_96:11-13; Psa_98:1-9.].” Where such children are multiplied, Zion, the mother of them all, may well rejoice: her honour will be great; her happiness exalted: with what joy will she draw forth her breasts of consolation to her numerous offspring! with what delight will she dandle them on her knees, and bear them in her arms [Note: Isa_66:10-13.]! In the sight of all the world shall she be glorified; and she shall be a blessing to all around her [Note: Isa_60:13-14.].]

3.       For the world’s sake—

[The dishonourable conduct of professors is a stumbling-block to the world; as our Lord has said, “Woe unto the world because of offences.” But wherever the sanctifying operations of the Spirit appear, there “the ignorance of foolish men is put to silence;” and they are constrained to acknowledge the excellency of the principles which they hate. Independently of any spiritual benefit, the world are greatly advantaged by the progress and advancement of true religion: for if they will only inquire, Who are the great promoters of every charitable institution, they will find that the most active agents are uniformly found amongst those who love and profess the Gospel. But besides this, their spiritual welfare is greatly advanced by the blameless and heavenly deportment of professing people: their prejudices are weakened, and they are often led to inquire candidly into those principles, which they see to be productive of such blessed effects.]

4.       For the Lord’s sake—

[It is from the Church alone that God has any glory upon earth. But when his people do indeed adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour, their light constrains many to glorify their heavenly Father. Then too does the Saviour himself rejoice: he “sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied.” Yea, God the Father too is comforted, if we may so speak, in the successful issue of his eternal counsels: “He beholds his obedient people with infinite satisfaction;” “he rejoices over them with joy; he rests in his love; he joys over them with singing [Note: Zep_3:17.].” Can we then behold events in which God the Father and God the Son take so deep an interest, and not be thankful for them? If we ourselves love God in any measure as we ought, we shall rejoice in his joy, and glory in his glory.]

See from hence,

1.       Whence it is that the word preached is so generally ineffectual to any saving purpose—

[As in the wilderness, so now, “the word preached does not profit men, because it is not mixed with faith in them that hear it,” Men do not hear it as the word of God. They see nothing, and hear nothing, but a man like themselves; and therefore they hear without interest and forget without remorse. But be it known to all, that their disregard of God’s messages, by whomsoever delivered, involves them in the deepest guilt [Note: 2Ch_26:12. 1Th_4:8.], and will subject them to the heaviest punishment [Note: Heb_2:1-3; Heb_10:28-29.].]

2.       How it may be made effectual to the good of our souls—

[Whenever you come up to the house of God, come with prepared hearts, as Israel did to Mount Sinai at the giving of the law. Look through the minister to God himself. Sit at his feet, as Mary at the feet of Jesus. Seek not to be pleased, but edified. Do not indulge a critical and captious spirit; but “receive with meekness the engrafted word;” and then you shall find it both able and effectual to save your souls [Note: Jam_1:21.]. If it be a precept or an exhortation, a promise or a threatening, receive it as if it were addressed to you by an audible voice from heaven: so shall it descend on your souls as dew or rain, that fail not to accomplish the ends for which they are sent [Note: Isa_55:10-11.].]