William Nicholson, 1862
"For you are our glory and joy." 1 Thessalonians 2:20
The Church at Thessalonica was distinguished by much Christian excellence, though but recently converted from the grossest idolatry. Yet they made greater attainments in the Divine life than many who had much longer possessed the means of grace. Their conversion, their faith and devotedness to Christ — inspired the Apostle with joy, and, looking forward to the great day of retribution, he tells them that it will be a rapturous thing to present them as his hope, and the seal of his Apostleship, in the presence of Christ, at his coming, verse 19, 20.
It is a blessed thing for members of Christian churches when sincere and faithful ministers think well of them. When they can say, like Paul, "That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Romans 1:12. Consider,
I. The Characters Who Are the Joy of Faithful Ministers.
It is not the mere hearers of the word — not the merely empty professors — not formalists — or the lukewarm, or apathetic. There are some who, instead of causing joy, cause much sorrow. Philippians 3:18.
1. Those who have been converted by ministerial labor. It was so with the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5, 9. The word of God had convinced them of sin, etc. It is delightful to witness the word of God taking effect.
2. Those who enjoy salvation by faith in the sacrifice of Christ, and rejoice in pardoning mercy and justifying grace. What a joyful circumstance was the conversion and salvation of the 3000 at the day of Pentecost — of the inhabitants of Samaria — of Lydia — of the Jailor, who rejoiced in God with all his house!
3. Those who cordially believe the Gospel — from the heart, and maintain an inviolable attachment to it in times of opposition.
The Thessalonians firmly believed the Gospel as the word of God, and not of man, and for it encountered persecution; ch. 2:13, 14. Persecution tries the love and sincerity of the Church. Blessed are they who stand fast! The Apostles did — primitive Christians and the martyrs did. But it is distressing to see some fainting in the day of adversity.
4. Those who maintain the Christian character before the world. This is important. Hence Paul said, 1 Thessalonians 4:12. And Christ said, "Let your light shine." What an appeal Paul made, "You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed." 1 Thessalonians 2:10. It matters not how brilliant the profession — how vaunting the pretensions — how great the liberality, if the life is not blameless.
5. Those who make progress in spirituality, and are becoming rich in Christian experience. The minister, perhaps, can refer to the time when they were babes in Christ, but now they are aspiring after the fullness of the stature, etc.
Look at the piety of the Thessalonians. "We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring." 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4. Their piety was exemplary. "For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God!" 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9. They wished to grow in grace, love the house of God — the word, and the ministration of it — prayer, public and private — Christian fellowship, and all the means of grace.
6. Those who abound in charity or love. The charity of the Thessalonians became proverbial. It is not sufficient to be sound in the faith — we must also abound in love. A man may have an orthodox creed — while his heart is cold and dead. There is the work of faith, and also the labor of love to be performed, and where religion is genuine, it will be active. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing!" 1 Corinthians 13:2
Another important feature in the conduct of the Christians at Thessalonica was that of brotherly love, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 10. There must also be liberality, or the cause of Christ cannot advance.
II. Inquire Why Such Characters Inspire Ministers With Joy.
If the minister is a mere hireling, who seeks not you — but what you have — he will not be much concerned about your spiritual state. But if he is the Lord's servant, watching for souls, etc., it will be the life of his soul. Hence Paul said, "For you are our glory and joy." "For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord!" 1 Thessalonians 3:8
1. The existence of such characters affords an evidence of ministerial fidelity — that they have not handled the word of God deceitfully.
Usefulness in the conversion of sinners may not always be an evidence of personal religion in the preacher; God may honor his
own truth while he despises the instrument. But when a minister connects his fidelity with eternity, and says, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy" — it is a proof of his sincerity, and of his acceptance with God.
2. It is an answer to prayer — probably prayers mingled with tears. "They who sow in tears, shall reap in joy."
3. In them the great object of the Christian ministry is answered. They are converted — they are saved from perdition — they are made the children of God. They are his chosen — his redeemed people — heirs of God and immortal life. Glorious achievement!
4. It glorifies Christ. He sees of the travail of his soul. The minister is anxious to honor him in the salvation of man.
5. The conversion and salvation of sinners will give efficiency to the Church in advancing the kingdom of Christ. What good may the conversion of one sinner effect! "I will bless you and make you a blessing." What efficiency was given to the Church, when Saul of Tarsus was converted!
6. Faithful ministers rejoice on the ground of mutual recognition in Heaven. We are not merely companions on earth. We shall associate in glory. We apostles shall meet and know those whom we have been the means of converting here, at the judgment-day.
1. Does the Church, do ministers, regard me now with joy — or with grief?
2. Our conduct here on earth, will influence eternity.
3. How dreadful will be the state of those who are not benefitted by ministerial labor!