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Posted: July 7, 2008 in 1 Thessalonians

Have you ever been surprised at the things some people said about you? Maybe you had a conversation with somebody & you heard someone else talking about & thought, “Where on earth did they get THAT idea!? That’s not what I said.” You’d want to go back to the 1st person & say, “Hey – you were there…you know better than that!”

That seems to be exactly what Paul is going through with the Thessalonians. He wasn’t able to spend as much time with the church as he perhaps would have liked (anywhere from 3 weeks to only a few months) – but after he had to suddenly leave town upon a riot breaking out (Acts 17), he learned later that rumors were flying around about him. Some groups of people in town had planted doubts in the mind of the church about Paul & thus Paul needed to do something about it.

Is this just a matter of Paul defending his record? Not likely…he had encountered far more persecution than just some rumors (though rumors surely hurt him emotionally). The problem with people doubting Paul’s credibility is that it casts doubt on the gospel as well, since that was his entire message while he was there. Thus he’s going back to them saying “Hey – you were there…you know better than that!”

As “Christians” we bear the name of Christ. Thus our character becomes vitally important in our witness to others. If we don’t model the gospel truth, we’re creating unnecessary stumbling blocks to someone else believing the gospel truth! That’s why it was so important for Paul to straighten this out so clearly…

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NKJV)
1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.

A. Appealing to the personal experience of the Thessalonians. We don’t know for certain who was spreading rumors against Paul, but there were undoubtedly many. From the history in Thessalonica, it seems most likely that the Jews in town consistently spoke against Paul & that they perhaps had started to persuade those in the church that Paul had taken advantage of them as a false teacher.

B. Why wasn’t Paul’s visit in vain? Because now they are “brethren” – they’re believers! Whatever Paul & co. went through, it was worth it because they heard the gospel & were born again…

2 But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.

A. Remember Paul’s history at Philippi (Acts 16)…he & Silas had been preaching there for some time (staying at the house of Lydia) when Paul finally got fed up with a demon-possessed slave girl who kept following him around. He cast out the demon & her owners were pretty upset they had lost a source of income (using the girl as a fortune-teller. They stirred up a mob & got Paul & Silas beaten & thrown in jail. They sang worship songs all night in jail & God sent an earthquake to shake things up & opened the prison doors…eventually converting the jailer. [Interesting what God uses to bring us to Christ!] The next day the authorities realized they were in trouble b/c they had beaten Roman citizens without a fair trial & tried to keep things quiet, but Paul demanded a public apology… Afterwards, finally went to Thessalonica.

B. In spite of the imprisonment & beatings, Paul & Silas still spoke the gospel boldly. In spite of the resistance of the town (the riot), they still spoke the gospel boldly… They were determined to keep preaching the gospel even though they could expect physical resistance.

a. We give up so quickly! We say, “Well brother, I wouldn’t want you to offend anyone. It might cause them to disagree with you & then everyone would feel uncomfortable.” Or… “I know they’re asking you to do something at work that’s unbiblical…but surely you don’t actually need to take a stand there – you need the job.” Paul KNEW he was probably going to get physically beaten in every city & he went in boldly with the gospel…

b. I don’t say this to give anyone a guilt trip…only to help us think through these situations before they occur. [Canada news] If it can happen there; it can happen here. We need to be prepared to know where we’re going to take a stand.

3 For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.

A. Paul’s defending his motives & teaching…

B. No error: Paul didn’t preach religious spiritualism – he didn’t preach philosophy – he didn’t preach “any” truth; he preached THE truth. By boldly proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God crucified for our sins & risen from the dead, Paul was declaring every other religious method/system as false and useless, with repentance/faith through Jesus Christ as the only truth. And he was right!

a. This can sound harsh to our relativistic culture today where people think “As long as you’re sincere in your belief, then you can believe whatever you want to believe & that will be true for you.” But truth is never relative. Disbelief gravity all you want, but don’t go stepping off a bridge expecting to float. Something has to be absolutely true in regards to sin, salvation, and eternity…and Jesus Christ proved it was Him (John 14:6) through His resurrection!

C. No uncleanness: Gk is referring to impurity – usually in a sexual sense. Paul had a lot of accusations thrown his way, but this would have been a pretty unusual one…but in the Thessalonian culture, it makes sense that his adversaries would have tried to make this one stick too. With all the false teachers/spiritual leaders blowing through town (being on the Egnatian Way…trade route between Rome & Asia), they were obviously trying to paint Paul as “just another” one of the rest. Obviously, he wasn’t & he consistently maintained a pure lifestyle.

a. Even if “uncleanness” refers only to impure motives, the thought is the same. Our lifestyle needs to reflect the gospel as much as our lips do. How many times have you been sharing Christ with someone when they told you that they didn’t want to have anything to do with it b/c they’d already seen what Christians were like on TV? Our witness affects everyone else’s witness as well…

D. No deceit: (Nelson’s) “a word used also of a fishing lure to catch fish, suggesting trickery.” Paul didn’t attempt a ‘bait & switch’ on the people…he gave them the gospel, doctrine, love, and little else. Again, because of all the false teachers sweeping through town for the sole purpose of taking advantage of taking advantage of unsuspecting people there, Paul is distinguishing himself from the rest.

a. Beware of turning the gospel into a sales pitch! People are never going to be persuaded into the kingdom of God (God has to draw them – John 6:44) & when we start ‘selling’ the gospel through gimmicks & trickery, people rightfully get suspicious. There’s nothing wrong with creative attention-getters…but we should always be honest with our intents.

4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.

A. The gospel is something to be entrusted with…it’s something that the church has been given stewardship over. [Parable of the talents] God has entrusted us with something of FAR more value than a few talents of gold; He’s entrusted us with the good news of salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And since we have this stewardship, we need to remember what stewards do:

a. Stewards protect what they’ve been entrusted with… Like Paul preached without error, we want to preach the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. We don’t add to it through a gospel of legalism; we don’t water it down through a gospel of humanism; we don’t distract from it through a gospel of emotional sensationalism. We just simply proclaim and demonstrate the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

b. Stewards use what they’ve been entrusted with… (Wiersbe) “Some Christians think that the church’s only responsibility is to protect the Gospel from those who would change it (Gal. 1:6–9). But we also must share the Gospel; otherwise, we are protecting it in vain.” Don’t be like the servant who buried his talent in the ground…use it!

B. Because Paul & Silas were approved stewards of the gospel (they were entrusted with it by God, just like us), they shared it in such a way to please God. Don’t miss this point! Too often we get the idea that we need to think up some way to please the ears of the person hearing the gospel – but that’s got things precisely backwards. The gospel belongs to God, so we share it in a way that pleases His ears – He’s the one we’re going to be giving an account to, so we seek to please Him. Do we want to be winsome? Sure – there’s no reason to be a jerk…our speech is to be graceful, seasoned with salt (Col 4:6). But whatever we share in the name of Christ, we want to ensure we do it in a way that pleases God 1st.

a. We’re not going to be able to fool God on this account! We may be able to put on a show for people in the pews (or where-ever), but God knows! He tests the heart…

– Not only were their motives pure; their methods were as well…

5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.

A. Didn’t use “flattering words”: Love the way Swanson defines this – “flattering talk, blarney that gratifies one’s vanity.” Paul didn’t lay it on thick…he just spoke the simple truth.

B. Didn’t use “a cloak for covetousness” – i.e., not as a way to gain monetarily from the church. Paul never tried to trick the believers into supporting him; everything he did was with pure motives & out in the open.

a. Even goes so far with Timothy to tell him to watch out for teachers like this – 1 Timothy 6:5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. [] Beware teachers & ministries who seek to enrich themselves off of the church – they’re using the gospel as a cloak for covetousness.

C. Didn’t “seek glory from men”: Neither did Paul flatter the people nor did he expect to be flattered in return. He wasn’t looking for applause & adoration. Why? He was simply a steward! Stewards don’t get glory; they give glory to their Master.

a. Want a great test of an evangelistic or TV ministry? Look to see who the glory is being given to. People turn out in droves to a Billy Graham crusade, but the attention and focus is rarely on Billy; it’s always on the Lord Jesus. In comparison with some revivals on TV, the difference is striking! [] God’s glory is God’s; and He will not share it with another!

B. Didn’t make apostolic “demands”: Not only did Paul avoid trickery to gain a financial advantage – he also avoided obligating the church into giving money to him via guilt through his apostolic right.

– What did they do? Instead of burdening the church, they loved the church!

7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

A. They were gentle & cherishing: Though not everyone has the same experience with their mother, it’s hard for language to envision a gentler picture of loving, caring, and nurturing than a mother with her newborn babe. Up at all hours of the night, caring for their every need: dressing, feeding, changing, comforting – mothers simply impart life to their children. That’s the kind of love and caring Paul says that he & Silas had for the church…

B. They were “pleased to impart” the gospel to them: 2 aspects to this…not only did they actually preach the gospel in Thessalonica, but they were fully pleased to do it. Was it work? Yes. Was it exhausting? Surely (see vs 9). Was it worth it? Absolutely! When a newborn is crying for (yet another) feeding at 3am, it’s hard to imagine a time when you’d want a child to be a baby again – but inevitably we look back with fondness because our love for our children makes it worth it. Same with Paul – it was work, but he was pleased to do it because it meant their maturity in Christ.

9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.

A. How could Paul make the claim about imparting their lives to the church? Because they made a concerted effort not to be a burden to the church… [bi-vocational ministry] As long as the church wasn’t ready to support Paul, he wasn’t willing to burden them.

a. Does this mean Paul never ministered the gospel full-time? No – in fact, it would seem that Thessalonica helped him do just that while he was in Corinth…he robbed from Macedonia to minister to Corinth (2 Cor 11:8 ). [] The fact that they did support Paul’s missionary efforts speaks volumes about how quickly the church matured! They went from Paul giving freely to them & by the time he was on the road again after a few weeks, they were already supporting him in the ministry.

B. Bottom line: The ministry of the gospel is never about the minister; it’s to the glory of God & edification of the church. Finances should never get in the way or be a stumbling block to the gospel (and too often, it is!).

10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;

A. Their character reflected their message:

a. They were devout… Some translations say “holy” – which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not the normal word Paul uses for “holy.” He’s not referring to being set apart by God as a saint, but rather to his personal piety. Paul obviously never paraded his prayer life in front of people (per the Pharisee in Luke 18:11), but neither was his personal relationship with God a secret. He consistently modeled (right) spiritual living to those around him.

i. Do you do the same in your home? How would your spouse or children describe your prayer and devotional life? Again – not pretentiously or moving outside your personal “prayer closet”…but if our families don’t know anything about our relationship with Christ, it might say something about the quality of our relationship with Christ.

b. They were just… Speaking of righteous living. AMP = “upright” If “devoutly” refers to their relationship with God, then “justly” refers to their relationship with people. Paul was no hypocrite with what he preached…he lived it out too.

c. They were blameless… Not merely that they were factually innocent in regards to the charges & rumors, but that Paul & Silas lived in such a way that when charges were made the blame couldn’t stick. People knew them better than that.

11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,

A. The content of the message:

a. Exhortation – A call to action…moving doctrine from head to hands.

b. Comfort – An encouragement in trials…there was resistance, and Paul helped them through it.

c. Charge – A record of witness…Paul testified of the truth of the gospel & entrusted the same message he was a steward over to the newborn church. (Who was faithful in the proclamation of it! Ch 1:8 )

B. Interesting that Paul likens himself as both a mother and a father to the church. Like a mother, he nourished the newborn church with the milk of the Word. Like a father, he exhorted them to mature to the next level. (Not that parents can’t do both – but both ARE needed, no matter who the one is that does it.)

12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

A. What was the summary of this exhortation/charge? That they “would walk worthy of God” – we’ve heard this before! (Col 1:10 & Phil 1:27) Ephesians 4:1-3 (1) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, (2) with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, (3) endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. []

B. Does the way we walk really matter? Yes! Why? Because God called us “into His own kingdom and glory”… He’s saved us, forgiven us, given us new life, and given us a promise of eternity! If for no other reason, we should walk worthy of God simply because we’re so grateful! This isn’t a motivation of legalism; it’s one of love…

Conclusion:

It was precisely because Paul had walked worthy of God that he could exhort the Thessalonians to do the same. No matter what rumors were flying around about Paul, his conduct and character consistently matched his confession. And because of this, people not only heard the truth of the gospel, but saw it demonstrated before their very eyes & were saved.

Somehow we’ve bought into this idea in American Christianity that we can go off & live any way we please – fulfill every hedonistic desire – and then still expect people to respond to the gospel. They’re responding alright, but mostly they’re turned off by it! They see TV ministers trying to use the name of Jesus as a magic word for whatever toy they want at the moment. The most consistent image most unsaved Americans have of Christianity is that of hypocrisy. May we continually pray for true revival in the church! May we pray for a move of repentance to sweep our nation that all parts of the Body of Christ would stop seeking after the stuff & glory of the world & start seeking Christ alone.

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