The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ. – John Piper
In 1 Thess. chapter two, we see the heart of the apostle Paul regarding his desire to share the life-changing gospel of Christ. And why wouldn’t he? He understands and trusts the gospel to work as it is shared. May God grow in us the desire to share with others the redemption freely offered to us through the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross.
Not only does Paul demonstrate the heart of a believer willing to share the good news, he also gives us an example of how to live in order to present the gospel effectively.
2 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.
- Paul urges the Thessalonians to recall the effectiveness of the gospel in their own lives (1.4-7).
- If Paul’s ministry was fraudulent, then his visit would not have produced the results it has.
- Our personal understanding and trust in the gospel should:
- promote personal worship
- encourage us to share it with others
- trust in it’s effectiveness
I. PAUL’S MOTIVES (2.2-4)
2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
- The gospel always comes to us with great cost.
- It is often accompanied by opposition.
- “Faithfulness in adverse conditions is one proof of pure motives” – (D. Michael Martin, NAC: 1 Thessalonians. p. 71.)
- “much conflict” – a Grk. word referring to the ongoing conflict between opponents in an athletic event. Often used as a general metaphor for a struggle. It carries overtones of the great effort needed to overcome an adversary.
- “we had boldness in our God to declare” – lit. “were given courage” to declare. It is God giving Paul and his companions courage to share the gospel in the midst of difficulty. We often shy away from sharing the gospel, we may find ourselves sheepishly beating around some spiritual bush. May we find the same confidence in God and the gospel and may God give us the courage to share it. Sharing the gospel should be a natural conversation for any believer.
3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
- In contrast to many of the traveling teachers and philosophers who might frequent this trade city, Paul emphasizes that he is not attempting to scratch out a living based on his own whit. He isn’t trying to trick anyone. He wouldn’t be so bold and persistent if he were selling something he wasn’t absolutely convinced was true.
- “but” – simply translated in English, but more forceful of a rebuttal in Greek. The NIV more appropriately translates this as “On the contrary”. Paul is stating in verse 4 the reason they continue to minister is for quite a different reason.
- “approved by God” – a stamp of approval after careful examination. A past examination resulting in current approval.
- “entrusted with the gospel” – We may often feel as if we don’t have God’s seal of approval or that we are adequate enough in our following of Christ to be entrusted with the gospel, but through Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are.
- But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Cor. 4.7
- If I were to paraphrase Paul in verse 4, “God has given us a job to do, and we just want to make Him happy.”
- “not to please man” – this becomes evident as Paul has encountered frequent hostility towards himself and the message he speaks.
II. PAUL’S METHOD (2.5-12)
5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.
- Paul’s goal in sharing the gospel wasn’t:
- that others would be impressed with Paul (5)
- financial gain (5)
- public praise and adoration (6)
- Paul calls upon two witnesses to validate the truthfulness of verse 5.
- the Thessalonians themselves. (“as you know”). The Thessalonians could vouch for the fact that Paul didn’t present himself as an orator that sought to be a people-pleaser. The term “flattery” communicates one that would bend the truth to fit popular opinion.
- Since God evaluates the motives of a person’s heart, Paul calls on God as a witness regarding his interior motives of greed.
- Compromising the truth for others would go along with one who sought the praise of man. Paul did not act in that manner. Paul says they could have demanded honor through the position he held as an apostle, but he refused to do so. Instead, Paul approached the Thessalonians with a heart of gentleness.
7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
- Paul’s approach in Thessolinica could be described as 1) gentle and 2) genuine. Paul declares that he is “affectionately desirous” of them. An infrequent word for Paul, but we might summarize that Paul treated them with gentleness because of the warm feelings he had for them. Moreover, Paul not only wanted to share the gospel with them, but he wanted to share life with them because they were loved.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
- In contrast to other orators who might ‘sell’ religion in a town like Thessalonica, living idle and living off of other’s generosity, Paul demonstrated self-reliance and hard work while he shared the gospel.
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.
- Paul describes the character of His life before the Thessalonians:
- “holy” – obeyed the laws of God
- “righteous” – obeyed the laws of man. The first two are often used together to describe a person as having spiritual and moral integrity.
- “blameless” – a charge against his character would not stand.
- The church had a first-hand account of Paul’s character among them.
11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
- Paul uses the metaphor of fatherhood to characterize his ministry among the church.
- “we exhorted” –
- “encouraged” – The first two are synonymous. Both carry the idea that Paul was a spiritual cheerleader for the church.
- “charged” – truthful guidance.
- “each one of you” – Paul did not share the gospel and minister in a vacuum. It was an individual, personal endeavor.
- “walk” – a frequent metaphor of Paul, essentially referring to how one would conduct their life. Paul stated that he guided them with the truth of the gospel to live their lives in such a way that they would reflect thanksgiving toward the God who saved them. “To live in a manner consistent with the commands and character of God” (Martin, p. 85).
- Just as in 1.4, Paul uses God’s calling them to salvation as a means of encouragement for them to live lives that please Him.
III. PAUL’S APPRECIAITON
13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
- “And we also thank God constantly” – We’ve seen this same thought expressed in 1.2.
- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Rom. 1.16
- “the word of God, which is at work in you believers” – Paul’s conviction in God’s Word as a life-changing book should motivate and bring hope to us today. It should encourage us to know it and bring hope that God is still working in us today.
14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
- Although Paul does not mention the exact nature of their sufferings, both their persecution and perseverance provide evidence of their genuine faith.
- The crucifixion of Christ, and the persecution of prophets, apostles, etc. is all an attempt to silence the word of God. Paul notes that their persecution of God’s Kingdom actually serves as an opposition to all of mankind because it hinders people’s opportunity to be saved.
- “to fill up the measure of their sins” – they sin at max capacity.
- “But wrath has come upon them at last” – several options for the exact meaning of this phrase. 1) some unnamed specific event (i.e. the famine of AD 46), 2) wrath at Christ’s return. See Rom. 1.18-ff.
17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.
- “torn away” – lit. “orphaned”. Paul uses emotional language to stress his genuine care for the church and his continual desire to see them again.
- “again and again” – referring to repeated attempts to see the church again.
- “but Satan hindered us” – Paul does not specifically mention what prevents him from returning. We are left to speculation. However, his genuine affection for the church is repeatedly mentioned throughout these verses.
19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
- The thought of a plethora of Thessalonians believers in heaven brought Paul delight. It was his desire to minster well, share the gospel effectively and provide more people to glorify God through their salvation.