Part 8The last words of our chapter — 1 Thess. 1 — now claim our attention. They furnish a very striking and forcible proof of the clearness, fullness, depth and comprehensiveness of the apostle's testimony at Thessalonica, and also of the brightness and reality of the work in the young converts in that place. It was not only that they turned from idols to God, to serve the living and true God. This, through grace, they did; and that, too, with uncommon power, freshness, and fervour.
But there was something more; and we may assert, with all possible confidence, that there would have been a grand defect in the conversion and in the Christianity of those beloved disciples if that had been lacking. They were converted "to wait for the Son of God from the heavens."
Let the reader give to this very weighty fact his most devout attention. The bright and blessed hope of the Lord's coming formed an integral part of the gospel which Paul preached, and of the Christianity of those who were converted by his ministry. That blessed servant preached a full gospel. He not only declared that the Son of God had come into the world to accomplish the great work of redemption, and lay the everlasting foundation of the divine glory and counsels, but that He had gone back to the heavens, and taken His seat as the victorious, exalted and glorified Man, at the right hand of the throne of God; and that He is coming again; first, to receive His people to Himself, and conduct them into the very innermost circle of His Father's house — the place prepared for them: and then to come forth with them, to execute judgement upon His enemies — gather out of His kingdom all that offend, and all that do iniquity, and set up His glorious dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.
All this was included in the precious gospel which Paul preached, and which the Thessalonian converts received. We find an indirect but very interesting intimation of this in a passage in Acts 17, where the inspired writer records what the infidel Jews thought and said about the apostle's preaching. "But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received; and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus."
Such were the ideas which these poor, ignorant, prejudiced unbelievers gathered from the preaching of the Lord's beloved servants; and we can see in them the elements of great and solemn truths — the complete upturning of the present system of things, and the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him" (Ezek. 21: 27).
But not only did the Lord's coming and kingdom occupy a prominent place in the preaching of the apostle, it also shines brilliantly forth in all his teaching. Not only were the Thessalonians converted to this blessed hope, they were built up, established, and led on in it. They were taught to live in the brightness of it every hour of the day. It was not a dry, barren dogma, to be received and held as part of a powerless, worthless creed; it was a living reality, a mighty moral power in the soul — a precious, purifying, sanctifying, elevating hope, detaching the heart completely from present things, and causing it to look out, moment by moment — yes, we repeat it with emphasis, moment by moment — for the return of our beloved Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who loved us, and gave Himself for us.
It is interesting to notice that in the two Epistles to the Thessalonians there is far more allusion to the Lord's coming than in all the other Epistles put together. This is all the more remarkable inasmuch as they were the very earliest of Paul's Epistles, and they were written to an assembly very young in the faith.
If the reader will just glance rapidly through these two most precious writings, he will find the hope of the Lord's return introduced in every one of the eight chapters, and in connection with all sorts of subjects. For example, in 1 Thess. 1 we have it presented as the grand object to be ever kept before the Christian's heart, let his position or his relationship be what it may — the brilliant light shining at the end of his long pilgrimage through this dark and toilsome world. "Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for" — what? The time of their death? No such thing, no allusion to such a thing. Death, for the believer, is abolished, and is never presented as the object of his hope. For what, then, were the Thessalonian disciples taught to wait? "For God's Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead."
And then mark the beauteous addition! "Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." This is the Person for whom we are waiting our precious Saviour; our great Deliverer; the One who undertook our desperate case; who took, on our behalf, the cup of wrath from the hand of infinite Justice and exhausted it forever; who cleared the prospect of every cloud, so that we can gaze upward into Heaven, and onward into eternity, and see nothing but the brightness and blessedness of His own love and glory, as our happy home throughout the everlasting ages.
~C. H. Mackintosh~
(continued with last post in series)