2 Thessalonians 1:1,2 open_in_new
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2
Phases of Apostolic Greeting.
Under this heading we have already treated homiletically the apostle’s formula of salutation, which is the same here as at the beginning of the first epistle.
2 Thessalonians 1:3,4 open_in_new
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 1:3. We are bound to thank God.—We owe a debt of gratitude to God. It is not so much what is seemly that comes into prominence here, as what is due. Even as it is meet.—The word for “meet” directs attention to the value of the increase of the faith of the Thessalonians. As though the apostle said, “It is something worth giving thanks for.” Your faith groweth exceedingly.—The word for “groweth exceedingly” does not occur again in the New Testament. It means “to increase beyond measure.” The faith of the Thessalonians was like “a fruitful bough by a fountain whose branches run over the wall,” though “the archers have sorely grieved it, and shot at it and persecuted it” (Genesis 49:22-23). The charity of every one of you toward each other aboundeth.—This is high praise indeed—a plethora of love. Like a brimming fountain kept always full, so the love of these early Christians overflowed. Cf. on 1 Thessalonians 4:9.
2 Thessalonians 1:4. We ourselves glory in you.—St. Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians for the factious spirit which set off the excellencies of one teacher against those of another. Here he plays off one Church against another, as a schoolmaster might seek to stir op his pupils by mentioning the names of those who have taken scholarships. But St. Paul well knew that this needed care (see Colossians 3:21; R.V. or Greek).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
Congratulatory Features of a Prosperous Church.
We have here a suggestive example of the apostolic method of dealing with a Church in which the incipient elements of error were beginning to operate. He applauds first what is really good, and then faithfully, almost fiercely, warns of the threatening evil. He who would effectually rebuke must first learn how to tenderly sympathise. These verses indicate what are the congratulatory features of a prosperous Church.
I. There is a vital and progressive faith.—“Your faith groweth exceedingly” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Faith feeds on truth; and all truth leads to and unites with God, its source. A living faith can only be sustained by a living truth; and where there is life there will be growth. We are ruled by our beliefs; if they are wrong, our track is wrong, our life a mistake, our energies wasted. The faith of the Thessalonians was so real, so vivid, so vitalising, so deeply rooted in the quickening soil of gospel truth, that it flourished with tropical luxuriance. The doom of a Church is sealed when its faith is dead and its creed inert. It is like a fossil in the grasp of a fossil—a museum of dry, bony, musty remains.
II. There is a reciprocal and expansive charity.—“And the charity of every one of you all towards each other aboundeth” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Love is the fruit of the Christian spirit, and the proof of its genuineness. It should be manifested to every believer in Christ. The love of a common Saviour and the sharing in a common suffering tend to intensify mutual esteem and affection. The prayer of the apostle on behalf of the Thessalonians was fulfilled (1 Thessalonians 3:12)—an encouragement to pray on behalf of others. Where charity abounds there is mutual forbearance with one another’s faults and frailties, the absence of suspicion and jealousy, no tendency to pass harsh and rapid judgments on the conduct of others, a disposition to think the best of each other, to share each other’s trials, and bear each other’s burdens.
III. There is a patient fidelity under suffering.—“Your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). These trials began with the first planting of the gospel in Thessalonica, and seemed to have continued without cessation. The Jews were the principal agents and instigators stirring up the populace against the Christians, and rousing the suspicions of the magistrates who were specially jealous of religious innovations (Acts 17:5-8). Their faith made them patient and uncomplaining under the pressure of affliction; they believed the gospel was still the power of God unto salvation, though their profession of it brought on them sorrow and suffering. The former warnings and teachings of the apostle were not in vain; their faith triumphed over persecution. Suffering is the opportunity for patience and the test of faith. Troubles come not alone, but are like chain-shot, or like the billows of the sea, linked one to another, each succeeding blow being more destructive than the other. Patience without faith is simply dull, stupid, stoical endurance. It is faith that renders the soul invincible and triumphant.
IV. There is ample ground for apostolic gratitude and commendation.—“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet; … so that we ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). Even the enemies of the Church are sometimes constrained to admire and applaud the spirit of harmony, the affection and enterprise which characterise its members. It is also encouraging to have the approbation and good word of the ministers of God, especially of those who have been instrumental in converting men to the truth; but no Church could command the respect of the good if it did not first secure the smile and blessing of God. The apostle thanks God as the great Giver of all the grace which he rejoices to see has done so much for the Thessalonians. God had wrought this work of faith and love and patience in their hearts, and He would make it prosper and increase. He had put this fire in them, and would make it burn; He had laid this leaven in the dough or meal of their hearts, and He would make it heave and work till the whole was leavened. The apostle felt it at once his duty and joy to thank God on their behalf and to boast of their attainments to others. “We are bound to thank God always for you, as it is meet; … we ourselves glory in you in the Churches of God.” It is a noble, Christ-like spirit to sympathise with the sufferings and rejoice in the prosperities of the Church. A cheery word, a simple, hearty prayer, an act of sympathy and kindness, will do much to animate and encourage the struggling people of God: One lively Church is the means of rousing the zeal and emulation of others.
1. Vigorous Church-life is the result of an intelligent and active faith in the truth.
2. Suffering is no sign of the divine displeasure, but often a means of spiritual prosperity.
3. Those who rejoice in the success of the Church are most likely to share in the blessings of that success.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 1:3. Growth in Grace.
I. Evidences of growth.—
1. Taking increasing pleasure in God’s word.
2. A growing attachment to the doctrines of Christ.
3. Increasing acquaintance with the mind of God.
4. In love one to another for the truth’s sake.
II. Importance of growth.—
1. Brings glory to God.
2. Influences the ministry of the word.
3. Not to grow, our religion declines and becomes doubtful.—Sketches.
2 Thessalonians 1:4. Christian Fidelity—
Is severely tested by tribulations.
Is a stimulating example to others.
Is a theme of grateful boasting.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-7 open_in_new
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 1:5. Which is a manifest token—“An indication.” The steadfast and resolute continuance in the profession and adornment of the Christian faith, in face of opposition, might suggest to persecutors, as to Gamaliel, the possibility of the divine origin of the faith, to oppose which was to fight against God.
2 Thessalonians 1:6. Seeing it is a righteous thing.—“There is no unrighteousness in Him.” However stern the retribution, none who suffers will ever be able to impugn the justice. To recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.—The R.V. comes nearer to the original, “affliction to them that afflict you.” This lex talionis is a sword that is dangerous to any hand but His who said, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.”
2 Thessalonians 1:7. And to you who are troubled rest with us.—The idea suggested by the words is that of poor, hunted fugitives with nerves tensely strung and a wild look of fear in the eyes. As the guardians of the infant Jesus were assured of safety by the death of him who sought the child’s life, so the strain of fear shall be relaxed in the case of the persecuted Thessalonians.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7
The Recompense of Suffering for the Truth.
It is not an uncommon spectacle to see vice prosperous and triumphant, while virtue is ignored and oppressed. To a superficial observer it would seem that all the great prizes of the world—wealth, power, social status, gaiety, display, pleasure—were thrown indiscriminately and with lavish abundance into the lap of the wicked, and that the God-fearing few are left in obscurity to struggle with hardships, penury, and affliction. Nor is it always an easy matter to reconcile the sufferings of the good with the goodness and justice of God. But all things come round to the patient man. We must look to the future for the faithful redress of present grievances. In this chapter the apostle ministers consolation to the suffering Thessalonians by assuring them of a coming day in which they would be abundantly recompensed for all they had to endure, and in which the righteousness of God would be publicly vindicated. Observe:—
I. That the maintenance of the truth often entails considerable suffering.—“The kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (2 Thessalonians 1:5). They who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. The world is violently opposed to the Church, and that opposition is full of malignant hatred and cruelty. Socrates once said something like this—that if goodness were to become incarnate in one man, so that that man would be perfectly good, the world would put him to death. What Socrates said was realised in Christ. “If they have persecuted Me,” said Christ to His followers, “they will also persecute you.” It is not the least among the trials of the good that they are obliged to come in contact with evil in so many forms, and that they are so savagely assailed and oppressed with it. Athanasius regarded the suffering of persecution to be a special note of a Christian man, observing: “It is the part of Christians to be persecuted; but to persecute the Christians is the very office of Pilate and Caiaphas.”
II. That suffering for the truth has a morally educating influence.—“That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:5). The believer has no worthiness in himself, nor can he acquire any by the merit of his own works. This worthiness is but another word for meetness—that meetness of state and character, as sinners justified and sanctified, without which no man shall enter the kingdom. Only to such has the kingdom been promised. And the sufferings they endure on behalf of the kingdom, so far from impairing their title, serve rather to confirm and illustrate it. Every Christian grace is tested, developed, and trained by suffering. “The least reproach augments our glory. Every tear is not only noted and kept in the bottle, but made as varnish to add to our brightness and glorious splendour. No drop of our blood but wins us a river of glory; effusion of it the whole ocean of beatitude.” When Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was cast to the lions, he exclaimed: “I am God’s wheat, and must be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found His pure bread.”
III. That suffering for the truth will be divinely recompensed.—“Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:5)—i.e. their sufferings and the constancy with which they endured them proved God’s justice. A strange assertion! The people of God have often been staggered by the fact that the wicked persecute and prosper, and the poor saints are plagued and oppressed (Psalms 73:1-14; Jeremiah 12:1-4). But from this very fact the apostle derives consolation. It is a proof to him of a future state in which all this apparent inconsistency will be set right, in which the saint and the persecutor will each receive his own proper recompense.
1. Suffering will be divinely recompensed in the deliverance of the sufferer.—“And to you who are troubled rest with us” (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The word “rest” really means the slackening of strings that had been pulled tight. To the persecuted and afflicted Thessalonians the happiness of heaven is held out under the image of rest and relief after suffering. It is, as it were, the relaxing of tension after having been stretched on the rack. The keenest suffering for the truth is limited in its duration; and the righteousness of God is pledged to sustain and deliver His afflicted ones. The sweet rest of heaven will be all the more enjoyable because shared with those who have passed through a similar conflict.
2. Suffering will be divinely recompensed in the punishment of the persecutor.—“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The punishment of the persecutor is as just as the relief of the oppressed; and God has both the intention and the power of accomplishing what He thinks just. The law of retaliation will be rigidly enforced. The very measure the persecutors have dealt they are to receive back again; and the retaliation will be all the more terrible because of its unanswerable justice. Truth must triumph over all its enemies. Its watchword is “no surrender.” The apostate Julian spent his strength in trying to destroy the true Church; but when he fell on the battle-field, as the blood was gushing from his breast and his eyes were closing in death, he hissed between his setting teeth, “Galilean, Thou hast conquered!” And the Galilean must and will conquer, and all His enemies shall receive their just measure of punishment.
1. The sufferings of the good afford an opportunity for the display of divine justice.
2. Suffering is no evidence of the divine displeasure.
3. The glory of the future will infinitely outweigh the sufferings of the present life.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 1:6-7. Rest in Heaven for the Troubled.
I. Our Lord’s coming is called a revealing of Him.—Here He is revealed in the outer world and in the gospel. There He will be revealed in glory, without disguise or veil.
II. Look at the troublers and their portion.—“It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” Sorrow of the acutest kind without comfort or alleviation.
III. Look at the portion of the troubled.—“Rest.” A heaven of quietness and repose, and yet of ceaseless and tireless activity in praising God.
VI. The righteousness of the divine conduct.—“It is a righteous thing with God.” The Lord’s second coming is not on an errand of mercy; His main business is to dispense justice.—C. Bradley.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 open_in_new
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 1:8. In flaming fire.—Lit. “in a fire of flame.” “Fire is a symbol of divine anger and majesty in Scripture; and flame is fire in motion, leaping and blazing out” (Findlay). Taking vengeance on them that know not God.—St. Paul does not consider ignorance as a valid excuse where knowledge might be had, any more than a man would be looked on as innocent who should plead that, being a foreigner, he did not know that the law of any country which he visits forbids murder. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
2 Thessalonians 1:9. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction.—R.V. “who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction.” It has been repeatedly shown that only arbitrariness can limit the meaning of this terrible phrase. Our comfort must be that He with whom “it is a righteous thing to recompense affliction” will always be self-consistent. From the presence of the Lord. The fulness of joy is there, and they who, like Cain, go out from it carry the ache of an irreparable loss with them. The Hebraism in the phrase is brought out by the R.V. “from the face of the Lord.”
2 Thessalonians 1:10. To be glorified in His saints.—Two meanings at least suit this phrase:
(1) It may be the apostle thought of the great ascription of praise rising from the vast assembly of saints, or
(2) it may be he is thinking of the saints as the trophies of the Redeemer’s love and power—the work that speaks the Master’s praise. And to be admired.—R.V. “marvelled at.” The same work describes the fawning sycophancy of men of the Balaam spirit, or it might describe the open-eyed and speechless wonder of an African chief in a State function.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
The Day of Judgment.
The apostle sought to comfort the persecuted and suffering Church at Thessalonica by assuring them of a coming day of recompense, in which the divine righteousness would be satisfactorily cleared, His enemies punished, and His people rewarded. He now proceeds to depict the startling scenes of that promised day—“that day for which all other days were made”—and to indicate the twofold aspect of severity and mercy which will characterise the awards of the great Judge. In dealing with a subject of such overwhelming import, and which affords such scope for the play of the most powerful imagination, special care should be taken to keep within the limits of the revealed word. These verses suggest:—
I. That the day of judgment will be ushered in with awful splendour.—
1. The person of the Judge will be clothed with dazzling brightness. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). The career of Christ on earth was one of obscurity, humiliation, and suffering, relieved now and then with outbursts of divine glory; but when He comes the second time, He will appear in all the unveiled charms of His peerless majesty, clad with heavenly splendour and brilliant as a fiery flame. The revelation of Jehovah is often referred to in the Old Testament under the emblem of fire (Exodus 13:21; Numbers 9:15; Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 10:16-17, etc.). The glimpse caught by the seer of Patmos of the ineffable beauty and glory of the God-man bowed him with astonishment and awe (Revelation 1:13-17). And who shall stand before the flashing splendours of the great and holy Judge! Heaven is too narrow for the full display of the divine majesty; it glances on every globe; it irradiates the universe.
2. The Judge will be attended by an angelic retinue.—“With His mighty angels” (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The pomp and state of the earthly judge, the gaily decked chariot, the sounding trumpets, the accompanying officers of justice, are but a feeble representation of the pomp and state of the heavenly Judge, “who maketh the clouds His chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind,” and whose gorgeous train is composed of hosts of mighty angels, who attend to execute His will, to punish the wicked, and to assist at the final consummation (Matthew 13:41-42). These angels of might are ministers of His power, and by their agency He will make His power felt. We have an illustration of the colossal mightiness of these angelic messengers in the apparent ease with which one angel in a few hours laid thousands of the Assyrians low (2 Kings 19:35).
II. That the day of judgment will be a time of punishment to the disobedient.—
1. The objects of punishment. “Them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Not that ample opportunity has not been given to all to acquire a knowledge of God. To punish for not knowing what we cannot know would be an injustice and a cruelty. God has given to all the double light of His works and word. He has also given the eyes of sense and reason, and the help of His Holy Spirit to guide all to the knowledge of Himself and of “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” It is not the involuntary ignorance of the uninstructed that is meant, but the wilful ignorance of the determined adversary, who not only rejected the gospel himself, but barbarously persecuted those who received and obeyed it. Knowledge of God is of little value if it does not lead to obedience. Confused, indistinct, inoperative knowledge is no knowledge. To know and not to obey the gospel involves a heavier condemnation.
2. The character of the punishment.—“Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Awful words! Who can fully explain what they really involve? If destruction means annihilation, how can it be everlasting? Besides, the notion of the absolute extinction of anything God has made—the reduction to nothingness of either a reasonable soul or a material atom—has as little support from the teachings of revelation as of science. Again, it is urged that “everlasting” does not always in Scripture mean what lasts for ever, but sometimes what lasts only for a long period. But the utmost this argument could prove would be that the present possibly may be, not that it is, one of these peculiar cases. Were it the only fact in the case, there would still be the terrible uncertainty. “But then remember,” says Dr. Lillie, “that if it had really been intended to teach the eternity of future punishment, no stronger words, phrases, and images could have been found for the purpose than those actually employed.” Whatever the punishment may be in itself, is it not punishment enough to be for ever excluded “from the presence of the Lord,” driven, a moral wreck, “from the glory of His power”? Let the words of this ninth verse be seriously weighed in private meditation, and some sense of their awful signification cannot fail to be realised.
III. That the day of judgment will be a revelation of the glory and blessedness of the faithful.—
1. The glory of Christ is bound up and reflected in His Church. “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all them that believe in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). The Church is the creation of Christ; for her He lived, suffered, died, and triumphed, and into her He poured the glory of His matchless character. “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them.” His Church, like a mirror, shall reflect to the gaze of an admiring universe the unutterable glory of the great Redeemer. “The beauty of the Lord our God shall be upon her, and His glory shall be seen upon her.” How great a change is this from the sins, the struggles, the failures, the disappointments, and sufferings of earth!
2. A life of faith leads to a life of glory.—“Because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Faith rests on testimony, and is vitally affected by the character of the testimony. Saving faith relies on the infallible testimony of the word of God concerning Christ. The faith exercised in the midst of discouragements and persecution is often tenacious and vigorous. The gospel is backed by evidence sufficient to convince every sane and reasonable mind. All may believe it who will; none will be excluded from glory but those who will not believe. In ancient Athens were two temples—a temple of Virtue and a temple of Honour—and none could enter the temple of Honour but by passing through the temple of Virtue. So none can enter the temple of Glory who does not first pass through the temple of Faith.
1. The day of judgment, though future, is inevitable.
2. The proceedings of that day will be in harmony with the holiest principles of divine justice.
3. That day should be solemnly contemplated in its approach, in its attendant circumstances, and in its final decisions.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8. The Divine Judge—
Has appointed a day of retribution.
Will be revealed on that day in terrible majesty.
Will take vengeance on the disobedient.
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10. Divine Retribution—
I. Will be in strict harmony with the principles of universal righteousness.
II. Means terrible punishment to the wicked.
III. Will bring unspeakable felicity to the good.
IV. Will be recognised as faultlessly just.
V. Will enhance the divine glory.
2 Thessalonians 1:11,12 open_in_new
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 1:11. And fulfil all the good pleasure.—R.V. “every desire of goodness.” “As much as to say, May God mightily accomplish in you all that goodness would desire and that faith can effect” (Findlay).
2 Thessalonians 1:12. That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.—A little mirror may not increase the sum-total of sunlight, but it may cause some otherwise unobservant eye to note its brightness. So Christ’s infinite and eternal glory cannot be augmented but only shared by Christians (John 17:22).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.— 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
A Prayer for Completeness of Moral Character.
To meet Christ at His coming, and to dwell with Him in the bliss of the future, demands a moral preparedness. To promote this should be the constant, unwearied solicitude of both pastor and people. The possession of any measure of divine grace supplies the strongest motives for seeking the highest possible degree of moral excellence. In this passage observe:—
I. That completeness of moral character is really the attainment of the divine ideal.—“That our God would count you worthy of this calling” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). The tyro in religion pictures to himself a more or less definite outline of what he may become and what he may do. The charm of novelty, the enthusiasm of first love, the indefiniteness of the untried and the unknown, throw a romantic glamour over the Christian career, and the mind is elated with the prospect of entering upon grand enterprises and winning signal victories. But mature thought and experience and a more familiar acquaintance with the divine mind lead us to modify many of our earlier views, and to readjust the main features of our own ideal of the Christian character, so as to be more in harmony with the divine ideal. God calls us to purity of heart and life, and makes us worthy, and gives us power to attain it. We have no worthiness in ourselves or in our works. The fitness for heavenly glory is acquired by following out the God-given inspiration to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world.”
II. That completeness of moral character consists in the delighting in goodness.—“And fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Some are influenced to be good because they are afraid of the penalties attached to a life of sin. Others because of the substantial rewards and benefits found in a life of probity and uprightness. But the highest type is to love goodness for its own sake, and to delight in it as goodness; to be wholly possessed with a life-absorbing passion to find and to diffuse goodness everywhere. This approaches nearest to the divine ideal. “He hath pleasure in uprightness, and hath no pleasure in wickedness” (1 Chronicles 29:17; Psalms 5:4). There is no pleasure like that we find in true goodness. Severus, emperor of Rome, confessed on his deathbed, “I have been everything, and now find that everything is nothing.” Then, directing that the urn should be brought to him, he said, “Little urn, thou shalt contain one for whom the world was too little.”
III. That completeness of moral character is attained by the exercise of a divinely inspired faith.—“And the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). We have no innate righteousness. It is God-given. It is received, maintained, and extended in the soul by faith in the merits of the all-righteous Saviour. “While faith itself is the gift of God, it is no less an exercise of the mind and heart of man. And because, like everything else about man, it partakes of his great weakness, it needs ever, as it walks in the light of the divine word, to stay itself on the divine hand.” Faith is the mighty instrument by which the divine life is propagated in the soul, and by which its loftiest blessings are secured.
IV. That completeness of moral character promotes the divine glory.—“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him” (2 Thessalonians 1:12). It will be seen at the last that Christ has been more abundantly glorified by a humble, holy life than by wealthy benefactions or by gigantic enterprises. The name now so much despised, and for which those who now bear it suffer so much, shall be magnified and exalted “above every name.” The followers of Christ shall share in the glory of their Lord. Their excellencies redound to His glory; and His glory is reflected on them in such a way that there is a mutual glorification. “What a glory it will be to them before all creatures that He who sits upon the throne once shared their sorrows and died for them! What a glory that He still wears their nature, and is not ashamed to call them brethren! What a glory to be for ever clothed with His righteousness! What a glory to reign with Him and be glorified together!” (Lillie).
V. That completeness of moral character is rendered possible by the provisions of divine grace.—“According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12). The source of all human goodness, in all its varying degrees, is in the divine favour. It is worthy of note that Christ is here recognised as on an equality with the Father, and as being with Him the fontal source of grace. The glory which it is possible for sanctified humanity to reach is “according to grace.” The grace is “exceeding abundant”; so is the glory. There is a fathomless mine of moral wealth provided for every earnest seeker after God.
VI. That completeness of moral character should be the subject of constant prayer.—“Wherefore also we pray always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). The Thessalonians were favoured in having the prayers of the apostles. It is a beautiful example of the unselfishness of the Christian spirit when we are so concerned for others as to pray for them. We value that about which we pray the most. We have need of prayer to help us to attend faithfully to the little things which make up the daily duties of the Christian life. Attention to trifles is the way to completeness of moral character. The great Italian sculptor, Michael Angelo, was once visited by an acquaintance, who remarked, on entering his studio, “Why, you have done nothing to that figure since I was here last?” “Yes,” was the reply, “I have softened this expression, touched off that projection, and made other improvements.” “Oh!” said the visitor, “these are mere trifles.” “True,” answered the sculptor; “but remember that trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”
1. It is important to have a lofty ideal of Christian perfection constantly in view.
2. While humbled by failures we are not to be disheartened.
3. Earnest, persevering prayer wins great moral victories.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. Genuine Religion illustrated.
I. Religion in its nature.—It is a worthiness into which we are called and with which we are invested.
II. Religion in its source.—The goodness of God.
1. All present religious views and feelings are the effect of divine grace.
2. Man has no rightful claim to divine grace.
3. Religion has its true source in the good pleasure of God.
III. Religion in its principle.—Faith. “The work of faith with power.” The producing and sustaining principle of religion.
IV. Religion in its end.—
1. The glory of the Redeemer. “That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.”
2. The glory of the redeemed. “And ye in Him.”
V. Religion in its measure or rule of dispensation.—“According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”—Zeta.
2 Thessalonians 1:12. Christ glorified in His People.—The bust of Luther was shut out from the Walhalla, or German Westminster Abbey. The people were indignant, but said, “Why need we a bust when he lives in our hearts?” And thus the Christian ever feels when he beholds many around him multiplying pictures and statues of Christ, and he can say, “I need them not, for He is ever with me; he lives perpetually in my heart.”