The Word of God

The Word of God

Thomas Richardson

Scripture Reading 1 Thessalonians 2:13-30

In the first section of this Epistle at which we are looking expositionally, we traced the Pathway of Faith, and in doing so considered the fruitful message of the Gospel. In the second, we followed the activities of the Faithful Messengers who preached that message. The Word of God must now be viewed as it was received or rejected by men.

Its Reception

The writer of this letter and his associates were men who practised what they preached. They exhorted their readers, “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18). This they could do, for they themselves engaged in thanksgiving, and that, especially because of the Thessalonians: “For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when ye received from us the message, ye accepted it, not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13 R.V.). There is a constant danger in these days of treating the Word of God as if it were the word of men, and the word of men as if it were the Word of God. Let us always test what is spoken through man by what is written by God. The Word of God is the Book of God, the Bible; it stands supreme over all others because of its beauty, brevity, and blessing.

The Word of God claims to be living and energetic: “The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It is both life giving and life sustaining. We are told that in apostolic days it greatly increased its influence: “But the Word of God grew and multiplied” (Acts 12:24). This was also true at Ephesus. At Thessalonica Paul says, “The Word of God, … which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13). Surely these are evidences that it is a living Word.

Their reception of the Word of God was costly to them because it brought them into the line of the enemies’ fire. Persecution against them broke out, “having received the Word in much affliction” (1 Thess. 1:6).

Persecution is often the means that the Lord uses to separate the false from the true, to sift the chaff from the wheat. It tests the reality of faith, the stability of love, and the durability of hope.

The saints at Thessalonica had become imitators (R.V.) of the churches in Judea. (This geographic spot was their temporary location) which are in Christ Jesus (“In Christ” being their permanent location). These earlier churches had suffered much at the hands of the Jews.

Its Rejection

The fellow-countrymen of these new Gentile Christians, urged on by the Jews, had opposed both the messengers and their message. This, of course, added greatly to the guilt of the favoured nation, Israel. In describing this the Apostle enumerates their different actions in this opposition to the work of the Lord. “For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway” (1 Thess. 2:14-16).

These opponents not only remained outside the door of salvation themselves, but they sought to hinder any who might wish to enter. Hence the wrath of God is come upon them; they are scattered, and spoiled among the nations.

Paul was a marked man who had hazarded his life for the Gospel, to follow him was, consequently, risky. He writes, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31); the enemy was after his blood. “What persecution I endured!” he exclaimed (2 Tim. 3:11). He was stoned at Lystra, scandalized at Corinth, beaten at Philippi, howled down at Ephesus, chased out at Thessalonica, and beheaded at Rome. Noble Paul! Such was the man who wrote frequently, “Be ye followers of me.”

In spite of much disappointment his heart was still with his beloved converts; absent in body but present in heart. His isolation from them was like a bereavement; he fretted about being “so soon taken from you” (“bereaved of you,” R.V.). Time and again with great desire, he endeavoured to see their face, but he writes, “Satan hindered us.” Satan put a road-block against his return. What a proof of the personality, power, and purpose of Satan! As the devil the work of this evil one is destructive; as Satan his work is obstructive. How he did this we are not told, but this we do know, often he hinders by afflicting the body as the Lord Jesus Himself intimated, “Ought not this woman being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan bath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond?” (Luke 13:17). At other times he hinders by engrossing us in the things of the world; he shews all the kingdoms of the world within our reach (Luke 4:5). At still other times he hinders through the wrong advice of other believers, as Peter gave to the Lord: “Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee” (Matt. 16:22).

Paul had high hopes of seeing them again, if not down here in the mortal body, certainly, at the Judgment Seat of Christ. While on earth, they were his joy; then they would be his “crown of rejoicing.” Yes, he would see them again, and know them, on that longed-for day of resurrection, reunion, rejoicing, and reward.

Four crowns are promised as an incentive to continuance and service for the Lord Jesus. Paul, without doubt, will receive them all: the crown of life for the faithful martyr (Rev. 2:10), the crown of glory for the faithful shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), the crown of righteousness for the lover of Christ’s appearing (2 Tim. 4:8), and the crown of rejoicing for the diligent soul-winner (1 Thess. 2:19).

Let us strive for such honours, for these crowns, that eventually we shall cast at the feet of our glorious Lord. May we not forget that salvation is according to grace; judgment is according to light, and reward is according to work.