Searchlights from the Word by G. Campbell Morgan: 1 Thessalonians

Helpful outline sermon suggestion from every chapter from the Book of 1 Thessalonians

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The Book of 1 Thessalonians - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.

Chapter 1

Ye turned ... to serve ... and to wait.
1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10

This letter is full of interest because it is certainly among the first of those which have been preserved for us from the pen of Paul. It was the first he wrote to European Christians, and in it the fundamental things of the Christian life are very clearly set forth. The words we have taken necessarily need their context for full interpretation, but taken out in this way they help us to see, in sharp outline, what it means to be a Christian. This is especially so if they are read in connection with an earlier description, that in which the Apostle spoke of their "work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope." The first thing in Christian life is that of turning to God: that is the "work of faith." The whole course of that life is that of serving the living God: that is "the labour of love." The persistent attitude of those who, thus turned to God, are serving Him, is that of waiting for His Son; that is "the patience of hope." It follows that here we have standards by which we may test ourselves constantly. To turn back to idols, such for instance as "covetousness which is idolatry," is to turn from God. To do that, is inevitably to slacken in service; therefore slackness in service should ever give us serious concern. To cease to wait for the Son is to lose the most powerful inspiration to loyalty, and the most urgent reason for service. Notice that the true expression of our having turned to God is that of our serving Him; and so also is service the true way in which to wait for the Son from heaven.

Chapter 2

But we were babes in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children.
1 Thessalonians 2:7

I have resolutely adopted the marginal reading of the Revised, substituting the word "babes" for "gentle." Most of the ancient authorities have this word "babes." The word "gentle" has been preferred because it has been thought to suit the context better. Personally I do not think it does. The statement as it stands is very full of beauty. Perhaps no word of Paul anywhere more vividly sets forth his tender solicitude for his spiritual children. Observe the latter part of the figure first. It is not that of a mother. It is that of a nurse and mother. The Revised helps us here by the rendering, "a nurse cherisheth her own children." The conception is that of the merging of trained intelligent skill with natural mother-love. That is perfect care. A nurse may have real skill, and even be scientifically devoted to her charges, but all this leaves something lacking which is found in motherhood. On the other hand, mothers whose love and devotion are undoubted, have often wronged their children through ignorance. Given a nurse with her own children, and the ideal is realized. Paul said that this was his attitude toward his spiritual children, and he gives a beautiful description of it as he writes: "We were babes in the midst of you." Origen interpreted this to mean that Paul had talked to them in baby-language. Immediately the nurse-mother among her bairns is seen and heard, and there is nothing more to be said. Such was Paul's method with his babes in Christ; and such should ever be the way of those who have the oversight of the new-born children of God.

Chapter 3

Hereunto we are appointed.
1 Thessalonians 3:3

The "hereunto", refers to "afflictions." These Thessalonian Christians were in circumstances of actual suffering, resulting from persecution by their own country-men. Through these trials they had stood fast. Paul was full of joy because this was so, but was desiring to hearten and strengthen them in their loyalty. This he did, first, by reminding them that the churches in Judaea had suffered in the same way at the hands of their kinsmen. Then he made this declaration; "Hereunto we are appointed." Surveying the whole Christian movement, he saw suffering everywhere as the result of loyalty to the faith; and he did not conceive of it merely as something to be endured. He saw God ruling over all, and knew that this pathway of pain was a Divinely arranged one. Therefore he realized that the sufferings of all Christian souls were not only within His knowledge; they were in His plan for His people. They were appointed to affliction. The word "appointed" here is the emphatic word. In affliction the saints' are where God has put them, and they are there for purposes within the counsel of His will. It is patent that Paul was thinking in the realm of the Cross. As the sufferings of Christ were all by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and that in order to the accomplishment of His redemptive purpose, so all the affliction of those who followed Christ were of the same fellowship, and those enduring them were workers together with God.

Chapter 4

That ye be ambitious to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands.
1 Thessalonians 4:11

Here again we have adopted the marginal reading, because that is the exact meaning of the Greek word rendered "study." Here then is a revelation of proper ambition, and it is remarkable as contrasting with worldly ambition. Three things the Apostle exhorted these young Christians to be ambitious about. The first was to be quiet, and the word describes that which stands in sharp contrast to the passion for notoriety, the desire to be seen and known. He urges them to be ambitious to be secluded, hidden, quiet. The next was to attend to their own affairs, instead of interfering in the affairs of others. The last was to work with their own hands, rather than live by the exertions of others. As we have thus endeavoured to state the ideas, we have seen the contrary and unworthy ambitions which so constantly master human life. The first is that for distinction, for the conspicuous position. The second is for the power and opportunity to meddle with the business of other people. The last is for freedom from the necessity for personal toil, gained through imposing work on others. How revolutionary Christianity is! How it cuts clean across popular conceptions, and runs counter to the mean desires of the human heart! And yet how great it is in all its constructive purposes! Think of the life which is described here by implication. The life of quiet strength and repose; the life that is arranged and orderly; the life that is honourably independent. Surely it is good to be ambitious for such a life.

Chapter 5

Rejoice alway; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks.
1 Thessalonians 5:16, 17

These three injunctions stand out in clear light upon this last page of the letter. Probably without design on the part of the writer they are closely related to the threefold description of the Christian experience with which the letter opens. In a work of faith they had turned to God; in all that such a revolution meant let them "rejoice always." In a labour of love they were serving the living God; let them maintain that service by remembering to "pray without ceasing." In patience of hope they were waiting for the Son from heaven; let them, therefore, "in everything give thanks." The one secret of true and constant joy is that of our right relation with God. To be reconciled to Him, to have access to Him, to stand in His favour - these are the results of turning to Him; and these are the things that make for perpetual joy. The one reason for prayer which is at once acceptable to God and of prevailing power, is that of a maintained service. To practise our fellowship thus, is to prevail in whatever labour He appoints. The one cause for perpetual thanksgiving is that upon all the shadowed pathway there shines the light of the glory that is to be revealed when the Son shall come again. Concerning all these injunctions the Apostle said: "This is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward." That is our strength - God's will, and the enablement of Christ Jesus!