To abide in the faith of the gospel is not enough, we must abound in the work of faith. The rule according to which all ought to walk and act, is the commandments given by the Lord Jesus Christ. Sanctification, in the renewal of their souls under the influences of the Holy Spirit, and attention to appointed duties. In aspiring after this renewal of the soul unto holiness, restraint must be put upon the appetites and senses of the body, and on the thoughts and inclinations of the will, which lead to wrong uses of them. The Lord calls none into his family to live unholy lives, but that they may be taught and enabled to walk before him in holiness. Some make light of the precepts of holiness, because they hear them from men, but they are God’s commands, and to break them is to despise God.
Here the apostle reminds the Thessalonian believers that from his first coming among them he had exhorted them to conduct themselves in a holy manner, if they wished to please and continue in the favour of the living and true God, in whom they had believed; and that he had explained to them the nature of that holiness which is acceptable to God. And the same method of exhortation and instruction he undoubtedly followed in all other cities and countries.
This letter was written immediately on the arrival of Silas and Timothy in Corinth, and is all flushed with the gladness of relieved anxiety, and throbs with love. It gains in interest when we remember that, while writing it, the Apostle was in the thick of his conflict with the Corinthian synagogue. The thought of his Thessalonian converts came to him like pure, cool air to a heated brow.
The apparent want of connection in the counsels of the two last chapters is probably accounted for by supposing that he takes up, as they occurred to him, the points reported by the two messengers. But we may note that the plain duties lead to the lofty revelations of the rest of the context without any sense of a gap, just because to Paul the greatest truths had a bearing on the smallest duties, and the vision of future glory was meant to shape the homely details of present work.
The ancient world was honeycombed with schisms masked by political union. In the midst of a world of selfishness this new faith started up, and by some magic knit warring nationalities and hostile classes and wide diversities of culture and position into a strange whole, transcending all limits of race and language. The conception of brotherhood was new, and the realisation of it in Christian love was still more astonishing. The world wondered, you but to the Christians the new affection was, we might almost say, instinctive, so naturally and spontaneously did it fill their hearts.
Paul’s graceful way of enjoining it here is no mere pretty compliment. The Thessalonians did not need to be bidden to love the brethren, for such love was a part of their new life, and breathed into their hearts by God Himself. They were drawn together by common relation to Jesus, and driven together by common alienation from the world. Occasions of divergence had not yet risen. The world had not yet taken on a varnish of Christianity. The new bond was still strong in its newness. So, short as had been the time since Paul landed at Neapolis, the golden chain of love bound all the Macedonian Christians together, and all that Paul had to exhort was the strengthening of its links and their tightening.