The Sins Of The Jews
2:13-16 And for this, too, we thank God, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but--as in truth it is--as the word of God, who also works in you who believe. For, brothers, you became imitators of the Churches of God which are in Judaea in Christ Jesus, for you too suffered the same things at the hands of your own fellow-countrymen as they did at the hands of the Jews; for they killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and they persecuted us, and they do not please God, and they are up against all men, and they try to stop us speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved; and all this they keep on doing that they may complete the catalogue of their sins. But wrath to the uttermost has come upon them.
To the Thessalonians the Christian faith had brought not peace but trouble. Their new-found loyalty had involved them in persecution. Paul's method of encouraging them is very interesting. It is in effect to say to them,
"Brothers, we are treading
Where the saints have trod."
Their persecution was a badge of honour which entitled them to rank with the picked regiments of the army of Christ.
But the great interest of this passage is that in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 Paul draws up a kind of catalogue of the errors and the sins of the Jews.
(i) They killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets. When God's messengers came to them they eliminated them. One of the grim things about the gospel narrative is the intensity with which the leaders of the Jews sought to get rid of Jesus before he could do any more damage. But no man ever rendered a message inoperative by slaying the messenger who brought it. Someone tells of a missionary who went to a primitive tribe. He had to use primitive methods to get his message across; so he had a chart painted which showed the progress to heaven of the man who accepted Christ and the descent to hell of the man who rejected him. The message disturbed the tribe. They did not want it to be true. So they burned the chart and, having done so, thought all was well! A man may refuse to listen to the message of Jesus Christ but he cannot eliminate it from the structure of the universe.
(ii) They persecuted the Christians. Even although they themselves refused to accept the message of Christ, they ,night have allowed others to listen to it and, if they wished, to accept it. Let a man always remember that there are more ways to heaven than one; and let him keep himself from intolerance.
(iii) They did not try to please God. The Church's trouble has often been that it has clung to a man-made religion instead of a God-given faith. The question men have too often asked is, "What do I think?" instead of, "What does God say?" It is not our puny logic that matters; it is God's revelation.
(iv) They were up against all men. In the ancient world the Jews were, in fact, accused of "hatred of the human race." Their sin was the sin of arrogance. They regarded themselves as the Chosen People, as indeed they were. But they regarded themselves as chosen for privilege and never dreamed that they were chosen for service. Their aim was that some day the world should serve them, not that at all times they should serve the world. The man who thinks only of his own rights and privileges will always be up against other men--and, what is more serious, he will be up against God.
(v) They wished to keep the offer of God's love exclusively to themselves and did not wish the Gentiles to have any share in his grace. Someone has summed up the exclusive attitude in four bitter lines of verse,
"We are God's chosen few;
All others will be dammed.
There is no room in heaven for you;
We can't have heaven crammed."
There is something fundamentally wrong with a religion which shuts a man off from his fellow-men. If a man really loves God that love must run over into love for his fellow-men. So far from wanting to hug his privileges to himself, he will be filled with a passion to share them.
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