2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 - Homilies By B.c. Caffin
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF IT . Prayer is a mighty power; we must use it. We must not stand by indifferent and uninterested, and leave the progress of the gospel to missionaries abroad, to God's ministers at home. We must all take our part in the work. Success in that work depends in large measure on the prayers of the faithful. All who pray earnestly for the work of missions are really helpers, as really, though not in the same degree, as the most hardworking missionaries. Faithful prayer is as necessary as faithful preaching. The united prayers of the Church, the mighty volume of supplication that ascends in behalf of missions, is the strength of those who labour in loneliness and self-denial among heathen and savages. Each one of us, however humble, may contribute his share to the great result. All who do so are coworkers in the blessed work of saving souls. It is a high privilege; the Lord has committed the progress of Christianity to the prayers of his people. We may well ask ourselves if we have been as energetic as we ought in that great spiritual work.
II. THE DUTY OF PRAYER .
1 . For the spread of the gospel. St. Paul urges it constantly upon his converts. He had been praying for the Thessalonians; now he asks for their prayers in return. It is a commandment. He bids us pray that the Word of the Lord may run, that it may meet with no check in its onward course, but spread ever further and wider, from city to city, from country to country, till "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." This is the only limit. The Church must not be stationary; it must be always in movement. The water of life is living water, ever welling up fresh and clear; it is a running stream. Stagnation means corruption. The gospel must keep moving onward, winning fresh hearts, exerting an ever-growing influence over those who have long felt its power. To stand still is to go back, to win no new victories is to lose its ancient triumphs. It is our bounden duty to help on this progress by our earnest prayers. We are met by an inert mass of apathy; we must strive to kindle it into life by our fervent supplications. "Ask, and ye shall have." The apathy of which, it may be, we complain so bitterly, may be due in large measure to our own spiritual sloth, to the sluggishness of our prayers. Where the Word of the Lord runs, it will be glorified; it is living and powerful; it will manifest its energy in the blessed lives, the holy deaths, of converted men; it will show forth the glory of the Lord in that glory of holiness which, springing from his indwelling presence, will transform the souls in whom that presence abides.
2 . For the missionaries themselves. They are exposed to many dangers; it was so with St. Paul. He was now at Corinth, a city where there was a great work to do, for the Lord had much people there. But be met with much opposition, at first from fanatical Jews, afterwards from "false brethren" and "false apostles" He bids the Thessalonians pray that he might be delivered from these men, not for his own sake—he counted not his life dear unto himself—but that he might finish his course with joy, and be blessed in saving many souls. So we should pray now for faithful missionaries, that they may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.
1 . Pray constantly for the success of the gospel in all the world. Christ bids you; his apostles bid you.
2 . Do not think yourself too weak and sinful to do so; such humility is false humility; it defrauds God's ministers of the assistance which you are bound to give them.
3 . Believe in the power of prayer; it is an important element in a living faith.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:3-5 . — St. Paul's confidence.
I. HE TRUSTS IN THE LORD .
1 . The Lord is faithful. All men have not the faith; the faith is not the possession of all. These unreasonable and wicked men seem to be beyond its saving influences. But the Lord is faithful. He is the Truth; his promises are sure. Amid the tumult of opposition, the rude fanaticism of the Jews, the sneers of the philosophic Greeks, St. Paul still trusted in the Lord. "The Lord is faithful." It is a great word; we may well pray that it may be engraven in our hearts, as the centre of our hopes, the strength of our souls.
2 . He will strengthen the Thessalonians. It is what St. Paul prayed for in the last chapter. He knows that his prayer is heard. God will stablish the Thessalonians. He has built his Church upon a rock; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The rain may descend, the flood may come, the stream of adversity may beat vehemently against the Church of God; it cannot fall, for it is founded upon the rock. God is faithful. He will keep them from the evil—from the evil which surrounds them in the world, from the power of the evil one. The words sound like a reminiscence of the Lord's prayer. Compare also 2 Timothy 4:18 , "The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." St. Paul, it seems, was accustomed to use the same holy words which we say in our daily prayers. How many generations of Christians that prayer has helped in their heavenward journey! They are safe now with Christ. We are marching onwards to that rest which they have reached. We have the same helps which they had. Let us seek that holy confidence which St. Paul had. The Lord is faithful; he will stablish you; he will keep you from the evil.
II. HE HAS CONFIDENCE IN THE THESSALONIANS . Or rather in the Lord touching them. It is in the Lord always that he trusts; but that confidence in the Lord reaches to the Thessalonians; he believes that they are doing now, and will continue to do the things which he commands them, because he is sure that the Lord will stablish them, and keep them from the evil. It is an exhortation delicately expressed in the language of confidence. He trusts them; the consciousness of being trusted is a strong motive for obedience; there is a sense of shame in disobeying a master, a teacher, who reposes implicit confidence in his pupils. Mark the delicate tact of the apostle.
III. HE DOUBTS THEM NOT , YET HE PRAYS FOR THEM .
1 . For growth in love. In 1 Thessalonians 3:11 he had prayed that God would direct his way to the Thessalonians; here he prays that God would direct their hearts into the way of love. The way of love is the way that leads to God, who is love. We need to be directed thither. Our attention is often distracted by the various paths which lead this way and that in the journey of life. God can direct us by his Spirit into the one path which leads to God. That path is love, self-denying, self-forgetting love—the love which comes from God and ends in God. For love is of God, it is his gift; it comes from him who is the only Fountain of pure and holy love. And it ends in him; for God only is the true Object of our highest love; only in him can the deep yearnings of our souls find their proper satisfaction. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart." It is his commandment, the first of all the commandments. He does not mock us with commands which we cannot obey; he giveth his Spirit; and the gift of the Spirit is the gift of power. He can direct; he will, if we seek it in persevering prayer, direct our hearts into the love of God.
2 . For growth in patience. The Church of Thessalonica needed patience; it was much afflicted from the first. The Lord Jesus Christ was the great Example of patience. He endured the cross, despising the shame. If we would run with patience the race that is set before us, we must consider him, always looking unto Jesus. In our sufferings we must meditate on the sufferings of our Lord and Saviour, and pray for grace to follow his example. We need his patience, such patience as he had. We must pray for it. The Lord will direct us to it.
1 . The Lord is faithful; trust in him. He is true; he will establish the hearts of his chosen.
2 . We must be stern with ourselves, but gentle with others; gentle words of confidence win those whom harshness would only repel.
3 . Pray for love; pray for patience.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 .—The importance of the common duties of daily life shown.
I. BY ST . PAUL 'S EARNEST APPEALS .
1 . He commands, and that in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were some among the Thessalonian Christians who walked disorderly, whose lives were not ordered according to the teaching which they had received from St. Paul. The Church generally was sound, as the Epistle shows, but there was a section that needed counsel and firm treatment. Probably the prevalent restlessness about the approach of the day of the Lord so filled their minds that it seemed hard to attend to less exciting matters. In view of an event so awful, the little details of daily occupation seemed trivial and insignificant. The whole course of life, with all its complex interests, might any moment be abruptly checked by the sudden coming of the Lord. It was hard to descend from the contemplation of a topic so absorbing to the little duties of work and everyday life. But the apostle commands, and that with the greatest earnestness. It is just in those little duties that our responsibility chiefly lies. It is in the small matters of daily life that the battle between good and evil is fought out for each individual soul. "The daily round, the common task," is the field in which we are trained for heaven; or, if not for heaven, it must be for hell. Ordinary lives are commonplace; they do not present opportunities for showy action; there are few emergencies, little excitement in them. The lives of most of us are, by God's appointment, ordinary and commonplace; it is the discipline for eternity which he has provided for us. The quiet, faithful performance of those common duties is the best preparation for the coming of the Lord. He cannot find us better employed than in the work, whatever it may be, which his providence has given us to do. And, in truth, those commonplace lives afford ample opportunities for self-denial, if only we will use them; a road for drawing daily nearer to God, if only we will take the path pointed out by his providence, not some self-chosen way of our own. A commonplace life may be in the eyes of the holy angels full of beauty and heroism. To do each little duty, as it comes, faithfully and thoroughly; to keep the thought of God's presence constantly before us, and to try in all things, great and small alike, to please him; to persevere all the day, and every day, in the quiet life of duty;—this involves a sustained effort, a lofty faith, a holy love, which are in the sight of God of great price. The life of duty, however humble and quiet that duty may be, is the life of holiness. Religious fervour, religious excitement, if it ends in excitement and does not issue in obedience, is but a counterfeit in the sight of God; it will not abide the day of his coming. In the First Epistle St. Paul had bidden the Thessalonians to study to be quiet, to do their own business, to work with their own hands. He speaks more strongly now. Probably the excitement had increased; it had led to the disorder which he condemns. He commands them now, and that in virtue of his apostolic authority, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose ambassador he was. Sometimes God's ministers must speak with authority. They must be instant in season, out of season; they must reprove, rebuke, exhort; but such rebukes will avail little, unless they are administered with much long suffering, with humility and godly fear, and enforced by that authority of character which only holiness of life can give. To possess such authority, a man must have that reality the absence of which is so soon detected; he must have that ready sympathy which is such a source of power and success in ministerial work.
2 . They must withdraw themselves from every brother that walketh disorderly. St. Paul is not issuing a sentence cf excommunication, as in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 . and 1 Timothy 1:20 . The conduct of these Thessalonians was not so utterly wicked as that of the incestuous person at Corinth; their errors were not so dangerous as those of Hymenaeus and Alexander. But they were neglecting the duties of their station; they were living in disobedience. It was not right for Christians to recognize such men as brethren; their lives were a scandal; they were bringing discredit upon the Christian name. True Christians must be jealous for their Master's honour; they must sometimes show openly their disapprobation of inconsistency. It is a difficult and painful duty. It is necessary, in performing it, to keep a very careful watch over our own motives; to speak and act in deep humility and real charity; to cast first the beam out of our own eye; to remember the Saviour's rule, "Judge not." But though a difficult duty, it is sometimes a duty. A true Christian must not live on terms of intimacy with men who disgrace their Christian profession. He will not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners. All his delight will be in the saints who are on the earth. Especially he must avoid the companionship of those who make a great show of religion and live ungodly lives. No sin is more dangerous than hypocrisy; none is more strongly condemned by our Lord.
II. BY HIS EXAMPLE .
1 . He did not behave himself disorderly. He illustrated in his life the power of true religion. He was a man of warm affections, of enthusiastic character, full of high hopes; but he never allowed any excitement of feeling to interfere with the quiet performance of daily duties. His life and preaching supplemented one another. His preaching disclosed the motives which prompted his actions and regulated his life; his life was his preaching translated into action—it showed the reality, the living force, of the truths which he preached.
2 . He worked with his own hands. He always asserted the right of the apostles and their companions to maintenance from the Churches. The Lord hath ordained, he said, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But he did not claim this right for himself. It was not pride that prompted his conduct; he accepted the gifts of the Philippians. But he knew the value of an example of self-denying and absolutely disinterested labour. The Gentile world had never seen such a life. It was a power in itself; it constrained the admiration and won the hearts of men; it forced them to admit the reality of a religion which sustained him in such unparalleled self-sacrifices. So he would not eat any man's bread for nought. For nought, he says in his humility; though he knew well that his converts in Thessalonica owed to him, like Philemonon, even their own selves. He wrought with his own hands, and that night and day. It was hard, uninteresting, ill-paid labour. It required the close application of many hours to earn even the simple livelihood which contented him. But he worked on in patience, knowing the power of example.
III. HE INSISTS ON THE DUTY OF HONEST LABOUR .
1 . Are had done so during his stay at Thessalonica. He had given his opinion in the words of a short, stern proverb, "If any will not work, neither let him eat." Labour is the ordinance of God; a punishment at first ( Genesis 3:19 ), but it is turned into a blessing ( Psalms 128:2 ) to those who accept it as the will of God, and use it as a discipline of obedience and self-denial. Work, in some form or other, is a necessity for us; without work, life soon becomes dreary, full of restlessness and dissatisfaction. To have nothing to do is far from enviable; it is full of ennui and weariness. Time is a priceless talent, given us that we might work out our own salvation; to waste it day after day, to "kill time," as the saying is, is a miserable misuse of the good gifts of God. We must all work, if we would be happy here, if we would be ready to meet the Lord when he cometh. Mental labour is the lot of some, manual labour of others. God has ordered our lot and appointed our work. Work of some sort we must have. None have a right to eat their bread without labour, neither the rich nor the poor.
2 . He repeats his exhortation now. There were busybodies at Thessalonica, who neglected their own business, and busied themselves with matters which did not concern them, or with curious questions which were beyond their reach. It is always so with the idle; the restless thoughts must find occupation, and commonly find it in mischief. St. Paul exhorts them again. He does not sternly leave them to themselves; he longs for their spiritual welfare. He exhorts them, and that in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, to work with quietness; not to let excited feelings interfere with the quiet, well ordered life of Christian duty; but to eat their own bread, the bread earned by honest labour; not to live on the alms of others, when they might preserve a manly, Christian independence.
IV. HE ASKS THE BRETHREN TO SUPPORT HIS EXHORTATIONS .
1 . They must not be weary in well doing. There is much to make Christians weary; their own helplessness and sinfulness; the disappointments, misunderstandings, ingratitude, which they meet with in their work. But they must persevere in the quiet walk of duty; they must do good, seeking no reward save that which comes from our Father who seeth in secret. Weariness is hard to bear; it will press heavily upon us at times. We must run with patience the race that is set before us, looking always unto Jesus.
2 . They must carry out his censures. His Epistle was an authoritative document; it came from the Lord's apostle, armed with the Lord's authority. It must be obeyed; it was the duty of the Church to enforce obedience. The brethren must show their concurrence with St. Paul by not keeping company with any professing Christians who may still persist in disorderly conduct. But they must be careful not to sin against the law of love. The offender is a brother still; they must admonish him for his soul's sake; they must show by their conduct their sorrow, their disapproval of his disobedience, that the disapprobation of Christians known and respected may bring him to a sense of shame. and, by God's grace, to amendment of life.
1 . Duty seems sometimes dull and prosaic, but it is our appointed path; do each little duty as in the sight of God.
2 . There is a true dignity in honest labour; never despise it in others; work yourself in the station to which God has called you.
3 . Be careful in your choice of companions; avoid the disorderly; seek the society of the pious and obedient.—B.C.C.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 . — Conclusion.
I. THE CLOSING PRAYER FOR PEACE .
1 . Only the Lord can give it. Again we have the solemn αὐτός , himself. He is the Lord of peace; it is his: "My peace I give unto you." He only can grant that chiefest blessing. The Thessalonians might have their difficulties, their dangers; they might be weary. But it is the weary and the heavy laden whom the Lord calls to himself. "Come unto me," he says, "and I will give you rest." Only we must take up his yoke, the yoke of obedience; only we must bear his burden, the burden of the cross; and we shall find peace, rest for our souls. For his yoke is easy. It seems not so at first; we are tempted often to be disorderly, to forsake the quiet path of duty; it is hard to resist temptation. But if we come to Christ and learn of him, the blessed Master, he will teach us the grace ant blessedness of obedience, and we shall gradually learn something of his own lesson—to do our Father's will as it is done in heaven, gladly and with cheerful submission. His burden is light. It seems not so at first; the cross is sharp. But he bore the cross once for us; he bears it with us now. When he strengthens us we can do all things; the heavy burden becomes light when we rest on his strength. He is the Lord of peace. Peace is his to give; he will give it to the chosen.
2 . He can give it always. At all times and in all ways we need the peace of God. We want it in the Church, in the commonwealth, in the family; we want it all the day and every day. We shall have it if he is with us, for with his presence comes the gift of peace. "The Lord be with you." It is a precious benediction. We listen, we accept it in humble thankfulness. We must strive ourselves to keep ourselves in the love of God, to realize the deep truth of his presence, to draw daily nearer and nearer to him.
II. ST . PAUL 'S OWN SALUTATION .
1 . His autograph. He writes the concluding words with his own hand. His Epistles were sacred writings; they were the work of an inspired apostle; they had the stamp of Divine authority. St. Paul marks their importance by his closing words. He did not, perhaps he could not, write the whole; he writes his signature at the last. In his own handwriting, perhaps, as some have thought, large and clumsy (comp. Galatians 6:11 in the Greek), but known and loved by his converts, he sends his last word of love; he salutes, he greets them with the embrace of Christian charity.
2 . His fast benediction. As always, he ends with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had prayed in his first Epistle that it might rest upon them. Now he adds the significant word "all." He had been obliged to blame some of them, to blame them severely; but he will not end his Epistle with words of censure. He prays that grace may be with them all. He loves them all; he longs for the restoration of those who were living disorderly, for the continual progress and sanctification of the whole Church. And so he prays for grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can convert the erring; that same grace can comfort and confirm the faithful. St. Paul closes all his Epistles with a prayer for grace. The grace of God should be always in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our prayers for ourselves and others.
1 . Only God can give true and lasting peace; seek it of him; he giveth to all men liberally.
2 . We need it always, everywhere; then pray always, everywhere.
3 . By grace ye are saved; refer everything to the grace of God; trust only in that grace, not in works of righteousness which we have done.—B.C.C.
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