Salvation, Service, and Rest

1 Thessalonians 1
The salvation of these Thessalonians is clearly stated in the first verse of our chapter. They were “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Divine association was established. They were made partakers of the divine nature, and were children of God. They knew the Father, and were in Christ also by the Holy Spirit. Of them, as of all that are in the simple yet full standing of Christians, it could be said, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Salvation this is indeed, rich and complete: grace could do no more for believers here below.
How then had they received that wondrous salvation? The apostle Paul was accompanied by Silas, whom he had chosen as his companion in this second circuit of service from Antioch; and both had been commended by the brethren there to the grace of God (Acts 15:40, 4140And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. (Acts 15:40‑41)). After calling at Derbe, Lystra, and Philippi, &c., they come to Thessalonica; and in the synagogue of the Jews Paul reasoned with them out of the scriptures “three sabbath days,” “opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, Whom I preach unto you, is Christ.” In Acts 17:33Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. (Acts 17:3) we have a short, but very comprehensive, epitome of the apostle's discourses during these three sabbaths in the synagogue. First, that “Christ must needs have suffered,” as Psa. 22 Isa. 53 and many other scriptures would prove most clearly that the Messiah should suffer. Second, that He must rise again from the dead: Psa. 16:9-119Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:9‑11) gives this very certainly, and is so used by both Peter and Paul in the earlier chapters of the Acts. Third, both are true only of “this Jesus, whom I preach unto you.”
The effect of these discourses of the apostle was, that “some of them believed and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout (or worshipping) Greeks, a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (ver. 4).
The decisive moment had come. The believers were manifested, and identified themselves with Paul and Silas, joining themselves to them, or “consorting” with them. Like the two disciples to whom John Baptist says “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:3636And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! (John 1:36)), they followed Jesus, and consorted with Him that day. So it is ever, when Christ is preached. The unbelievers are manifested too, who beset the house of Jason, where the apostle Paul and his companion were staying, “assaulting it.” Therefore the brethren send them away to Berea. Thus through the apostle's preaching Christ unto them, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, were those who believed the gospel in the synagogue brought into God's salvation. He speaks of this in 1 Thess. 1:55For 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. (1 Thessalonians 1:5), “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” And no wonder. It flows from a divine Savior and His perfect work of reconciliation to God (Eph. 2:16, 1716And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. (Ephesians 2:16‑17); Col. 1:2222In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (Colossians 1:22)).
Now comes service. Salvation is first; service second. It is false and fatal to depart from this order; alas! it is far too common.
Their faith was divinely active, and known far and wide by the proofs to be seen of all. “From you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to Godward is gone forth; so that we need not to speak anything” (ver. 8). They had “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (ver. 9). Marvelous change before all who knew them as pagans! Nor was it thus proved before men only, but to the joy of the apostle's heart, so that they became ensamples to all believers round about them. They received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Ghost, and became imitators of the Lord and His servants. Such was the manner of entering in Paul and Silas had unto them. What a distinct and blessed testimony in service! would to God, it was always so with the faithful.
Such was the very clear and unmistakable proof, to all men, of the remarkable change which had been wrought by God's power through the gospel, among souls for the most part heathen till now; and a bright example to all believers in the neighborhood. The apostle's heart rejoices and is filled with thanks to God alway for them. “We give thanks to God for you all, making mention of you in our prayers”
(ver. 2).
But more than all, there was the character of their service, which the apostle points out in the third verse. “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.” Faith is properly energetic and active. It must, so to speak, do something for God, Who had done all in Christ for them. There had been faith in God. They had believed in “Him Who had raised up His Son from the dead,” “even Jesus our deliverer from the wrath to come” (ver. 10). What could they now do for Him? They could serve Him There was labor too; yea, “the labor of love.” And what can sustain in labor like love? Divine love sustains the servant.
“The love of Christ constraineth us.” Here all was fresh, and love is the mainspring and power, with faith simple and hope bright and enduring. Thus the work became a labor of love, for “love never faileth.” There might have been work and labor kept up mechanically when faith decayed, and love cooled down, and hope was no longer enduring. Alas! so it was late in the day at Ephesus (Rev. 2:2-42I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. 4Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:2‑4)). “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; and hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have (somewhat) against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Much yet remained good. Here we have work, labor, and patience; judicial zeal too, in the rejection of what was false and evil. They could not bear evil, they had tried and refused all high pretenders, and judged according to God. This was right in its place.
What of the power and mainspring which should have given character and real power to the whole, and joy to the Lord's own heart Who saw to the bottom of all? “Thou hast left thy first love.” What was the real difference between the spiritual state of these old Ephesian saints, and those young believers in Thessalonica? In the latter “at the fresh springs” it was a work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope. In the former were works, toil, and patience, but “first love was left.” There was joy for the heart of the apostle Paul in the “labor of love,” and thanks to God continually for their loving labor. Where was joy for Christ in all that the Ephesians were doing, when first love was gone? May we take heed, and “repent and do the first works.” Such then was service; but the rest was in prospect, and they were giving diligence to enter into it (Heb. 4:9-119There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4:9‑11)). The Lord was coming, and they were waiting for Him daily, and had been ever since the day of their conversion. They had “turned from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son, from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (verses 9, 10). The rest is with Christ in glory. Clearly the apostle had preached the Lord's second coming, as well as the first, in the synagogue at Thessalonica. It is part of the gospel testimony, not to believer only, but to unbeliever also, who must see His appearing in that day; and thus they knew it on God's authority, and looked for Himself from heaven habitually whilst still working for Him. They needed further instruction as to its manner, with regard to those who had fallen asleep in Him This he gives them in chap. 4. in its details as to those who sleep, and those who are alive and remain. The rapture will be simultaneous, for all will together meet the Lord in the air, and be forever with Him. Blessed hope, and most sanctifying truth, as we see throughout both of these Epistles! Here, at the end of our chapter, language could not be plainer or more explicit for babes in the faith. They were to wait for “His Son from heaven even Jesus,” our deliverer from the wrath to come. It cannot be wrested to mean death, or any other event. It was Christ Himself that they waited for from day to day. In chap. 2. ver. 19, we read “For what is our hope or joy or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” Again, chap. iii. 13, “To the end He may stablish your hearts, unblameable in holiness, before God even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Chap. we have already noticed briefly. Lastly, chap. 23, “Your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Everywhere His advent is pressed. I do not at present go into the second Epistle; but, the Lord willing, I may at another time attempt to distinguish a little between His coming and appearing or day. May we serve God, and wait for Jesus from heaven. G. R.