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In this chapter the Apostle dwells chiefly upon his Labors among them as a Minister of Christ. He strongly expresseth his Affection for the People.
(1) ¶ For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: (2) But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. (3) For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: (4) But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. (5) For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: (6) Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. (7) ¶ But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: (8) So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. (9) For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. (10) Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: (11) As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged everyone of you, as a father doth his children, (12) That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
I have always considered this Chapter, since I knew anything of the Lord, with peculiar pleasure, as opening the very heart of a faithful minister of Christ. And if the Reader be taught of God the Spirit, how rightly to appreciate divine things, I venture to believe that he will think with me, that the whole Chapter from beginning to end, furnished Jesus Christ, one of the most finished portraits of a truly ordained minister of the Lord Jesus. Oh! that it pleased the Almighty Lord of the harvest, to send such laborers into his harvest! Oh! that we could look round, and behold many such coming forth in this awful day, that we might be led to hope the Lord would not then remove our Candlestick out of its place! Revelation 2:5 .
I cannot propose, in a Poor Man's Commentary, to follow the Apostle through all the parts of the ministerial labors which he hath enumerated in this Chapter. But I shall select a few of the most striking, and such as were not confined to the days of the Apostles, but more or less, correspond to the general state of the Church in all ages.
And I shall begin with the one which Paul himself hath began with, namely, the decided testimony that the Lord the Holy Ghost sent him and his few faithful companions to labor in the word and doctrine, from the evident blessings which attended their ministry. You yourselves know, brethren, that our entrance in unto you was not in vain. Reader! it were to be most earnestly sought for from the Lord, that the Churches of the living God, both the people and the minister have the Lord's testimony that his presence is among them, by his blessings which go before and follow the word. There is somewhat tremendously awful, when men run unsent into the ministry, to whom it might be said, who hath required this at your hand when ye tread my courts? Isaiah 1:12 . And to behold multitudes expressing seeming anxiety for the conversion of others, which never were converted themselves, is among the awful signs of the present times!
The next beautiful feature of character in Paul's ministry is , what he hath marked of opposition. Never was there a faithful servant of Christ as yet unopposed. And very certain it is, that there never will be, for then would the offence of the cross be ceased. The Apostle appears to have marked it down, as a never failing token, upon every occasion, that wherever the Lord opened a great and effectual door to preach his Gospel, there would be sure to be found many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:9 . Hence the shameful treatment, Paid met at Philippi; is blessedly explained by the success Paul found there in the Lord's blessing upon it. Lydia and the Jailor are upon everlasting record, wherefore the devil roared, and stirred up his agents to oppose and scourge the Apostles; and how many more the Lord might have called there, we are left to form hopes. See Acts 16:0 . And such is the case in all ages. Wherever the Lord sends his faithful servants to gather his redeemed from among the world, the Gospel of God must be delivered with much contention. To preach Christ, and Christ only, to insist upon the everlasting love of God the Father, as Paul did, in choosing the Church in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestinating that Church to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to preach wholly and solely, as Paul did, redemption through the blood of Christ, and to insist, moreover, that without the regeneration of the heart by God the Spirit, as Christ himself did, there can be no entrance into his kingdom to preach these glorious truths, as the whole of salvation will be, indeed, with much contention. All modern Pharisees of the world will take offence at such preaching, and such preachers, as the ancient ones did at Christ himself, and will not barely oppose, but raise an hue and cry against both. And it is a blessed testimony to the truth when such men oppose it. For, as they know not the plague of their own heart, and never entered by the door of regeneration into the sheepfold, how shall they know the glorious, distinguishing truths of the Gospel? Ephesians 1:4-10 ; John 3:3 . and John 10:1 .
The Apostle hath given another most striking character of his faithfulness in the ministry, when he said, For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile. But, as we were allowed to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God which trieth our hearts. What a lovely account is here of a faithful minister of Jesus Christ! But it is a solemn question to ask, whether such are not of deceit, and uncleanness, and guile, who call themselves ministers of Christ, and yet are men pleasers. To bolster up Pharisees in compliments of their goodness, to suppress the grand and distinguishing doctrines of election, Christ's atonement, and the final perseverance of the saints in submission to such men's false opinions, to suffer the Lord's people to go lean, in keeping back the precious consolations of the Gospel, that the proud may be gratified in having smooth things preached before them; these are awful signs of unfaithfulness in the ministry, wherever they are found! And what a striking appeal the Apostle makes, in confirmation of his faithfulness, when he doth it both before God and man. For neither (saith he) at any time used we flattering words, ye know. Nor a coke of covetousness, God is witness. How very blessed it must be thus to act in the ministry! The real Church of Christ knows no distinction of persons. All are equally dear in Jesus. And equally dear they must be to his faithful ministers. That servant of the Lord, that is himself conscious of the plague of his own heart, will exercise the greater jealousy over his people. And, as more danger is to be dreaded from the leaven of the Pharisee, than from all the other causes of evil whatever; he that knows his own heart will spare not others. He will never fawn nor flatter, but rather, as Paul commanded Timothy, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. And, if ever there was a day in which this faithfulness was more imperiously necessary than another, the present is so. Paul said the time would come when they would not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts would heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; turning away their ears from the truth, and being turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 . And had the Apostle pointed to this very age, as the day he alluded to, it could not have been more correct in description. Instead of making Christ the all in all, as Paul did, human perfection is cried up, and men are complimented with their zeal and liberality, and almsdeeds, in promoting, as it is called, the spread of the Gospel. Where is the model of Christ's preaching discoverable in such Essays? Who that reads Christ's first Sermon in the Jewish Synagogue, can find any traces of it in the discourses of modern times? His was to preach the Gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind. Luke 4:18 . Happy the people who sit under preaching formed on this plan?
One word more. We never can too much admire the affection with which Paul describes his labors, and those of his companions in the ministry, as he hath here represented it. We were gentle among you, (saith he,) even as a nurse cherisheth her children. The image is most tender, and is designed to represent how very watchful the faithful servants of the Lord are of his fold, and how affectionately they bear with all the weaknesses and wants and even waywardness of the babes and the young of Christ's family. But, while I admire Paul's figure of the nurse, I cannot but remark his modesty also, in taking that of the nurse, and not of the mother. The nurse, yea, the tenderest nurse is not the real, but only the foster mother. Jesus hath taken this image of the mother to himself, and to himself alone it belongs; and, therefore, Paul doth not presume to use it. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13 . But I pray the Reader to observe what a fullness of love the Apostle hath summed up in his expressions, when he saith, that being so affectionately desirous of the Lord's people, they were willing to have imparted to them, not the Gospel of God only, but also their own souls, because they were dear to them. It is hardly possible, in the cold and selfish times in which we live, to enter into an apprehension of the warmth of Paul's heart. All he had, and all he knew; his gifts, and graces, and enjoyments were all for the people, among whom he labored in word and doctrine yea, his very soul was theirs, because Christ and his members are all one. Oh! what a lovely view of the affectionate minister of Christ! If the Reader would wish to see the several features more largely drawn, I refer him to Acts 20:17 , etc.
We must not overlook the disinterested conduct of Paul and his companions in their ministerial services, that it was all free, and without cost or charges. He labored night and day at his trade of tent-making, that the Gospel might bring no expence to his hearers. See Acts 18:3 . Not, as he elsewhere said, because that he had no right of eating of their bread, while he fed them with the bread of life; see 1 Corinthians 9:14 . and, Commentary; but because it was delightful to his generous mind to be not burdensome to the people. He knew the blessedness and truth, in his own experience of his Lord's words, and acted upon them. Acts 20:33-35 . Reader! do not overlook this part also of Paul's character!
Allow me to add one word more on this beautiful passage, in which the outlines of a faithful minister of Christ is so correctly drawn. I beg the Reader to observe how the Apostle tells the Church that they were witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly, and unblameably, they had behaved themselves among them, and also had exhorted and charged them as a father doth his children, that they would also walk worthy of God, who had called them unto his kingdom and glory.
I entreat the Reader to be the more attentive to this feature of the ministerial character, as drawn by God the Holy Ghost with the pen of Paul, because many, either from ignorance or perversity, are perpetually mistaking the subject, as though they who preach the great truths of the Gospel in God's electing love, Christ's redeeming blood and righteousness, and God the Spirits regenerating grace, do not inculcate obedience, neither exhort to godliness and an holy life. Whereas the fact is the very reverse. Preachers sent by God the Holy Ghost, (and none unsent by him are sent at all,) being themselves regenerated, (and an unregenerate man was never ordained by the Holy Ghost,) begin the subject where Christ begins it. Make the tree good, (saith Jesus,) and his fruit good. Matthew 12:33 . Until the sinner is born again, he is dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1 . Hence, when a soul is himself renewed and ordained by the Holy Ghost, and sent forth to preach Christ he simply preacheth Christ, and nothing beside. He doth, as Moses did in the wilderness, lift up the Son of man, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:14-15 . And when God the Spirit, who send's the word, gives power to the word, and by his regenerating grace quickens the sinner to a new and spiritual life, then all the blessed effects are the consequence, which the Apostle here describes. Holiness of life and conversation will always follow the renewed life. But to do as some modern teachers would prescribe, namely, to address the ungodly, and call them to faith and repentance, is like bidding the Ethiopian to change his skin, and the leopard his spots. Reader! do pause over the beautiful portrait which the Holy Ghost himself hath drawn by Paul, of a faithful minister of Christ, and admire the loveliness of his character!
(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. (14) For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: (15) Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: (16) Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (17) ¶ But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. (18) Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. (19) 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? (20) For ye are our glory and joy.
How very lovely it is to observe the Apostle following up the account he gave the Church, of his going in and out before them with thanksgivings to the Lord for the success of his ministry! And I beg the Reader to observe no less, how blessedly he traceth all the success of his labors to this one source, in the Lord's disposing them to receive the word of God, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God. It is always blessed to behold Christ's Servants referring all the glory where alone it is due. We have a beautiful instance, Acts 3:12 .
We can easily conceive what the Apostle alludes to, when he saith, that he was taken away from them, meaning, as his history informs us, when he was hurried away at the time the uproar was made against Paul and his companions; Acts 17:5 . And the hindrance of Satan, meaning his agents, was what Paul more than once noticed. See Romans 1:13 .
I admire the expression of the Apostle, when he calls the Church their hope and joy. Not that he meant that he was their hope, or they his, for both rested wholly upon Christ, and Christ is all the joy of the Church, both in heaven and earth. But Paul beheld the Church of the Thessalonians as a beautiful building, founded with himself wholly in Christ; and in the labor of the work, the wise Master-builder had condescended to employ Paul and his companions. As such, their furtherance in the knowledge and love of Christ, became a subject of great joy to the Apostle. And he was looking forward to the day of Christ's coming, with holy rapture and delight, as the blessed period, when he should see them and the whole Church arrived to that perfection in Christ, and of, and from Christ, as he hath described to the Church of the Ephesians. (Ephesians 4:13 ).
Reader! pause, and contemplate the holy view, for it is both holy and blessed. This perfection in Christ, is Christ himself made perfect in his Church, We are said to come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man; namely, Christ in his fullness, having all his mystical body, his saints, then fully and perfectly prepared in body, soul, and spirit, for the everlasting enjoyment of their Lord to all eternity. Every member brought home. Every faculty most completely blessed. All deriving their beauty from Christ, and all made holy in Christ. This will be the wonder of heaven, when Christ's glory and beauty will communicate and reflect both glory and beauty to all his members, and all the vast ends of the Son of God, in marrying human nature, will be consummated, and seen by worlds of admiring spectators, and Christ will be beheld everlastingly blessed and glorious in Himself and in them, and they in Him, and shine as the stars around his Person forevermore. Reader! well might Paul express himself as he did, in the contemplation of this glory, which shall be revealed! And well may you and I look forward to this great day of God, if ye now know him here in grace, for we shall then assuredly know him in glory. He shall come (saith the Apostle) to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 .
LET as many ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ as read this precious chapter, beg for grace, to be enabled to follow the Apostle's example in their ministry, and humbly pray for the same success. Oh! what an arduous undertaking, what a solemn trust, what distinguished honor, and what vast responsibility. Who that considered it as he ought, but would rather shrink from the high calling, than run unsent! But let every faithful servant of Jesus not despond. Jesus is the all-sufficiency both of his ministers and people. And be that looks wholly to Jesus, and draws all his resources from Jesus, whether minister or people, will never fail of finding an all-sufficiency for his own soul, and for his labor among others. Where God the Spirit ordains, he will give the suited supply. And those words of the Lord are sufficient to carry the servant through the whole of his labor. Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!
And no less, ye people of God! do you hold up the hands of the Lord's servant, who goeth in and out before you by the Lord's appointment, by prayer and supplication, for a blessing on his labors. It is a sweet encouragement to the faithful laborer in the Lord's vineyard, when he knows that his people go before with their prayers to the Lord for his blessing, and follow him for supplications for pardon to all his imperfections. And where the Lord hath blessed a Church with a faithful servant, who taketh the oversight of the Church of Christ, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: what may not be hoped for from the divine blessing on such a congregation, both of minister and people! Lord, the Spirit! send Pastors after Mine own heart, which shall feed thy people with knowledge and understanding!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26