The Gospel-blockers

"14For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last." - 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15.

Paul describes here these unbelieving Jews in verses 15-16 as killers both of the Lord Jesus and the prophets. What Paul means here is that they were the ones responsible for the death of Christ and the prophets of the Old Testament.

Paul also says that they were his persistent persecutors and pursuers. Wherever Paul and his companions go to preach the Word these Jews also follow them, preventing them from speaking to the Gentiles about the message of Christ’s salvation. These Jews may have thought that they please God by opposing all who proclaim and accept the gospel, but in reality what they continually do is counter to God’s will, which is the salvation of the Gentiles (v. 16a).

In that way they displease God and oppose all men for they hinder God’s mandate to advance the gospel to all nations. But it pleases God when people receive His Word even in the midst of trials.

So unlike the Thessalonians who accepted the Word of God with joy in affliction these Jews remain God’s enemies. Their opposition really boils down to their rejection of God’s Messiah, who ALONE has brought peace between God and man by means of His atoning death (Rom 5:1). They hated that message!

This rejection of God’s way of salvation precipitated strong Jewish opposition to Paul’s evangelistic enterprises as well as a general hostility toward all believers. The point here is that the Jews have displayed a consistent attitude of opposition to God’s way and God’s people.

So we have to ask ourselves also whether in our behavior and lifestyle we are hindering others from accepting the gospel of Christ. We should be channels and conduits for people to the kingdom of God rather than walls and fences that prevent them from entering in.

Thus Paul indicts these Jews of their sins. He says that they always “fill up the measure of their sins” (v.16). This expression is actually used first in Genesis 15:16, describing the measure or limit God places upon the sins of the Amorites. Jesus used it also in Matthew 23:32, decrying the sins of the scribes and the Pharisees.

In other words there is a point in our sinful behavior when chastisement or judgment is expected. For the Jews, it may have already come in their persistent rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. God left them in their unbelief and that in itself is a form of judgment. Later, when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. God’s wrath was also poured out on them. How long will the enemies of God resist His will?

There is an implied warning in this passage which we all need to hear. While we know that God is merciful and compassionate, He is also holy and just. Those who test God’s forbearance in their impenitence will discover that there is a limit to God’s long-suffering.

Outright repentance is what God expects from us in our sins, not delayed obedience. Otherwise His anger will come unexpectedly when the day of salvation is already over. So we always need to examine ourselves and see if there is any wicked ways in us that ‘fill up the measure of our sins.’ God desires for your prompt obedience and growth in holiness, regardless of the situation. And He will do what ought to be done to purify you, even using His rod of discipline.

Now there is also an urgent call here for evangelism and discipleship. While we recognize the dangers and difficulties in bringing the gospel to the world, our task as a church of sending that gospel out and discipling the nations still remain. Who among you are willing to go to China, where believers are persecuted, or to Europe, where Christians are marginalized? Who among you are willing to help the churches in those places witness for and make disciples of Jesus Christ?

And who among us is eager to tell a friend or a co-worker about the love of God in Christ? Who among us is bold enough to warn relatives that the wrath of God is coming to those who do not know God and obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? Who among us is gentle enough to tell a brother to stop sinning and to repent from sin before it destroys him?

As a pastor and minister of the gospel, it is always rewarding to see those whom I preach grow and mature in the faith. The same thing, I suppose, for every minister and elder. And so Paul could not contain himself but express his thankfulness to God for the Thessalonians’ warm reception of the Word of God.

Further, Paul is delighted to see these new believers grow in their faith in God and love for the brethren. It would always be a great pleasure for me and the elders in our church to see God’s people embrace the Word of God and live out their faith in Jesus Christ wherever they are and whatever situation they are in.

May God grant us the joy to persevere in our service to Him for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of His kingdom.

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