Here observe, I. The apostle makes mention of the success of his ministry among these Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:13), which is expressed,
1. By the manner of their receiving the word of God: When you received the word of God, which you heard of us, you received it, not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God. Where note, (1.) The word of the gospel is preached by men like ourselves, men of like passions and infirmities with others: We have this treasure in earthen vessels. The word of God, which these Thessalonians received, they heard from the apostles. (2.) However, it is in truth the word of God. Such was the word the apostles preached by divine inspiration, and such is that which is left upon record, written in the scriptures by divine inspiration; and such is that word which in our days is preached, being either contained, or evidently founded on, or deduced from, these sacred oracles. (3.) Those are greatly to blame who give out their own fancies or injunctions for the word of God. This is the vilest way of imposing upon a people, and to deal unfaithfully. (4.) Those are also to blame who, in hearing the word, look no further than to the ministry of men, who are only, or chiefly, pleased with the elegance of the style, or the beauty of the composition, or the voice and manner in which the word is preached, and expect to receive their advantage herein. (5.) We should receive the word of God as the word of God, with affections suitable to the holiness, wisdom, verity, and goodness, thereof. The words of men are frail and perishing, like themselves, and sometimes false, foolish, and fickle: but God’s word is holy, wise, just, and faithful; and, like its author, lives and abides for ever. Let us accordingly receive and regard it.
2. By the wonderful operation of this word they received: It effectually worketh in those that believe, 1 Thess. 2:13. Those who by faith receive the word find it profitable. It does good to those that walk uprightly, and by its wonderful effects evidences itself to be the word of God. This converts their souls, and enlightens their minds, and rejoices their hearts (Ps. 19:1-14); and such as have this inward testimony of the truth of the scriptures, the word of God, by the effectual operations thereof on their hearts, have the best evidence of their divine original to themselves, though this is not sufficient to convince others who are strangers thereto.
II. He mentions the good effects which his successful preaching had,
1. Upon himself and fellow-labourers. It was a constant cause of thankfulness: For this cause thank we God without ceasing, 1 Thess. 2:13. The apostle expressed his thankfulness to God so often upon this account that he seemed to think he never could be sufficiently thankful that God had counted him faithful, and put him into the ministry, and made his ministrations successful.
2. Upon them. The word wrought effectually in them, not only to be examples unto others in faith and good works (which he had mentioned before), but also in constancy and patience under sufferings and trials for the sake of the gospel: You became followers of the churches of God, and have suffered like things as they have done (1 Thess. 2:14), and with like courage and constancy, with like patience and hope. Note, The cross is the Christian’s mark: if we are called to suffer we are called only to be followers of the churches of God; so persecuted they the prophets that were before you, Matt. 5:12. It is a good effect of the gospel when we are enabled to suffer for its sake. The apostle mentions the sufferings of the churches of God, which in Judea were in Christ Jesus. Those in Judea first heard the gospel, and they first suffered for it: for the Jews were the most bitter enemies Christianity had, and were especially enraged against their countrymen who embraced Christianity. Note, Bitter zeal and fiery persecution will set countrymen at variance, and break through all the bonds of nature, as well as contradict all the rules of religion. In every city where the apostles went to preach the gospel the Jews stirred up the inhabitants against them. They were the ringleaders of persecution in all places; so in particular it was at Thessalonica: Acts 17:5; The Jews that believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city in an uproar. Upon this occasion, the apostle gives a character of the unbelieving Jews (1 Thess. 2:15), enough to justify their final rejection and the ruin of their place, and church, and nation, which was now approaching. (1.) They killed the Lord Jesus, and impudently and presumptuously wished that his blood might be on them and their children. (2.) They killed their own prophets: so they had done all along; their fathers had done so: they had been a persecuting generation. (3.) They hated the apostles, and did them all the mischief they could. They persecuted them, and drove and chased them from place to place: and no marvel, if they killed the Lord Jesus, that they persecuted his followers. (4.) They pleased not God. They had quite lost all sense of religion, and due care to do their duty to God. It was a most fatal mistake to think that they did God service by killing God’s servants. Murder and persecution are most hateful to God and cannot be justified on any pretence; they are so contrary to natural religion that no zeal for any true or only pretended institution of religion can ever excuse them. (5.) They were contrary to all men. Their persecuting spirit was a perverse spirit; contrary to the light of nature, and contrary to humanity, contrary to the welfare of all men, and contrary to the sentiments of all men not under the power of bigotry. (6.) They had an implacable enmity to the Gentiles, and envied them the offers of the gospel: Forbidding the apostles to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved. The means of salvation had long been confined to the Jews. Salvation is of the Jews, says our Saviour. And they were envious against the Gentiles, and angry that they should be admitted to share in the means of salvation. Nothing provoked them more than our Saviour’s speaking to them at any time concerning this matter; this enraged the Jews at Jerusalem, when, in his defence, Paul told them, he was sent unto the Gentiles, Acts 22:21. They heard him patiently till he uttered these words, but then could endure no longer, but lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live. Thus did the Jews fill up their sins; and nothing tends more to any person or people’s filling up the measure of their sins than opposing the gospel, obstructing the progress of it, and hindering the salvation of precious souls. For the sake of these things wrath has come upon them to the uttermost; that is, wrath was determined against them, and would soon overtake them. It was not many years after this that Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jewish nation cut off by the Romans. Note, When the measure of any man’s iniquity is full, and he has sinned to the uttermost, then comes wrath, and that to the uttermost.
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