Page:An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1828) vol 6.djvu/612

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606
I. THESSALONIANS, I.

ans which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


In this introduction we have,

1. The inscription; where we have,

(1) The persons from whom this epistle came, or by whom it was written: Paul was the inspired apostle and writer of this epistle, though he makes no mention of his apostleship, which was not doubted by the Thessalonians, or opposed by any fasle apostles among them. He joins Silvanus [or Silas] and Timotheus with himself; (who were now come to him witli an account of the prosperity of the churches in Macedonia;) which shews this great apostle's humility, and how desirous he was to put honour upon the ministers of Christ who were oi an inferior rank and standing. A good example this is to such ministers as are of greater abilities and reputation in the church than some others.

(2.) The persons to whom this epistle is written, namely, the church of the Thessalonians, the converted Jews and Gentiles in Thessalonica: and it is observable, that this church is said to be in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: they had fellowship with the Father, and his Son Jesus' Christ, 1 John 1. 3. Therefore they were a Christian church, because they believed in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ. They believed the principles both of natural and revealed religion. The Gentiles among them were turned to God from idols, and the Jews among them believed Jesus to be the promised Messias. All of them were devoted and dedicated to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: to God as their chiefest Good and highest End: to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Mediator between God and man. God the Father is the Original and Centre of all natural religion; and Jesus Christ is the Author and Centre of all revealed religion. Ye believe in God, says our Saviour, believe also in me, John 14. 1.

2. The salutation or apostolical benediction; Grace be with you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the same for substance as in the other epistles. Grace and peace are well joined together; for the free Grace and favour of God are the spring and fountain of all the peace and prosperity we do or can enjoy; and where there are gracious dispositions in us, we may hope for peaceful thoughts in our own breast: both grace and peace, and all spiritual blessings, come to us from God the Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ; from God the Original of all good, and from the Lord Jesus the Purchaser of all good for us; from God in Christ, and so our Father in covenant, because he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Note, As all good cometh from God, so no good can be hoped for by sinners but from God in Christ. And the best good may be expected from God as our Father for the sake of Christ.


2. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3. Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4. Knowing, brethren l)eloved, your election of God. 5. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

I. The apostle begins with thanksgiving to God. Being about to mention the things that were matter of joy to him, and highly praise-worthy in them, and greatly for their advantage, he chooses to do this by way of thanksgiving to God, who is the Author of all that good that comes to us, or is done by us, at any time. God is the Object of all religious worship, of prayer and praise. And thanksgiving to God is a great duty, to be performed always or constantly: even when we do not actually give thanks to God by our words, we should have a grateful sense of God's goodness upon our minds. Thanksgiving should be often repeated; and not only should we be thankful for the favours we ourselves receive, but for benefits bestowed on others also; upon our fellow-creatures and fellow-Christians. The apostle gave thanks not only for those who were his most intimate friends, or most eminently favoured of God, but for them all.

II. He joined prayer with his praise or thanksgiving; When we in every thing by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God, we should join thanksgiving therewith, Phil. 4. 6. So when we give thanks for any benefit we receive, we should join prayer. We should pray always, and without ceasing; and should pray not only for ourselves, but for others also; for our friends, and should make mention of them in our prayers. We may sometimes mention their names, and should make mention of their case and condition; at least, we should have their persons and circumstances in our minds; remembering them without ceasing.

Note, As there is much that we ought to be thankful for on the behalf of ourselves and our friends, so there is much occasion of constant prayer for further supplies of good.

III. He mentions the particulars for which he was so thankful to God; namely,

1. The saving benefits bestowed on them. These were the grounds and reasons of his thanksgiving.

(1.) Their faith, and their work of faith. This, he tells them, (v. 8.) was very famous, and spread abroad. This is the radical grace; and their faith was a true and living faith, because a working faith. Note, Wherever there is a true faith, it will work: it will have an influence upon heart and life; it will put us upon working for God and for our own salvation. Then we have comfort in our own faith and the faith of others, when we perceive the work of faith. Shew me thy faith by thy works, Jam. 2. 18.

(2.) Their love and the labour of love. Love is one of the cardinal graces; it is of great use to us in this life, and will remain and be perfected in the life to come. Faith works by love: it shews itself in the exercise of love to God, and love to our neighbour. As love will shew itself by labour, it will put us upon taking pains in religion.

(3.) Their hope, and the patience of hope; We are saved by hope: This grace is compared to the soldier's helmet and sailor's anchor, and is of great use in times of danger. Wherever there is a well-grounded hope of eternal life, that will appear by the exercise of patience; in a patient bearing the calamities of the present time, and a patient waiting for the glory to be revealed. For if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it, Rom. 8. 25.

(4.) The apostle not only mentions these three cardinal graces, faith, hope, and love, but also takes notice,

[1.] Of the Object and efficient Cause of these graces—our Lord Jesus Christ.

[2.] Of the sincerity of them—being in the sight of God even our Father. The great motive to sin-