About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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1 Thessalonians 2

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Paul’s Ministry In Thessalonica (ch. 2:1 - 16)


Paul begins chapter 2 with the words "you know".  By this he is saying that you know everything that went on when we were with you.  They knew the life Paul and his fellow workers lived.  They knew their teaching.  Paul says this because of the opposition that the people are experiencing from the Jews who are attempting to persuade them to leave Paul and his teaching, especially Paul's teaching concerning the return of Jesus. 


Paul says that his visit to them was not a failure, or, not in vain.  One might well think that his time spent in Thessalonica was a failure since he only spent three weeks there and had to sneak out at night and escape those who were after him.  Paul just wants these new Christians to know that he does not view his short stay in their city as a failure.


It did not really matter where Paul went; in most places he suffered persecution at the hands of those who opposed him.  In verse 2 he said that he suffered in Philippi , a city just north of Thessalonica, where he had visited as well.  So their city was no different than any other.  After being “insulted” in Philippi , “with the help of our God, we dared to tell you the gospel”, Paul writes.  Many would have given up, but not Paul.  This is why he says that he “dared to tell the gospel” to them.    


The difference between the conflict in Philippi and here in Thessalonica is the in Philippi the conflict came from the Gentile people in town.  Here it's coming from the Jews.                                  

As in Corinth and many other cities, Paul’s opposition accused him of trickery and preaching for wrong motives.  In verse 3 he tells these new Christians that this is far from the truth. He said, “We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”.  Paul felt that God had given him a trust.  That is, God trusted Paul to perform the job He wanted him to do, and Paul took this trust very seriously.  God approved Paul and gave him the job of preaching His message.  This is why he “appeals” to all that will hear.  The word “appeal” as used in the NIV suggests that Paul had many debates, maybe even arguments with some of those he spoke too.  Paul was forceful at times.  The word "appeal" points to this.  He knew the consequences for those who rejected his message.   


In verse 4 Paul says that he “is not trying to please men but God for it is God who tests our hearts”.  This reminds me of Galatians, chapter 1, where he says very clearly that no man taught him this gospel and that he is pleasing no man by preaching it.  He will stand before God his Father someday to give an account and therefore it is God who he wants to please.  We should be clear about one thing here.  Paul is not isolating himself from the Body of Christ.  He is not being independent from his brothers. He is not being a lone-ranger Christian as some would say it today.  He is simply saying that in the beginning stages of his life with Jesus, all that he learned he learned directly from God.


Paul wanted to please God, not man.  I think if you or I met Jesus in the way that Paul met Jesus, we'd have the same mentality as Paul.  Although Paul did not want to please men, he did want to serve men.  There is a huge difference between serving men and pleasing men.  By pleasing God, he then would have all that which is necessary to serve men.


Note the phrase "test our hearts".  This is what Peter was saying in the first chapter of his first letter.  God does test our hearts, our faith, and our devotion to him.  If you are serious about following Jesus, he will certainly test your sincerity.  You can count on that.  Once we past the test, our faith and sincerity will be strengthened and ready for the next test.  The old fashion gospel that said, "Get saved and live happily ever after" is not the Biblical gospel.  The Biblical gospel is, "get saved and expect your new found faith to be tested by the Lord". 


Note also the word "entrusted".  God trusted Paul that he would handle the gospel message as it was to be handled.  Paul would not preach for financial gain.  He would not preach to become famous.  He would not manipulate the gospel for any kind of personal gain.  All of these things some false apostles were actually doing, as some are doing today.                 


In verse 5 Paul continues to defend his ministry.  He says that “he never uses flattery”, and never wears a “mask to cover up greed”.  Paul speaks things as they are.  He does not beat around the bush.  He does not use nice words for his own gain, and he is definitely not a greedy man.  As he says, he “does not look for praise from men”. Paul looks for praise from God. When Jesus returns He will give Paul the recognition due him.  You can tell when a man is looking for praise from man.  He says and does things strictly for that reason.   


The phrase "putting on a mask" means that Paul does not make himself out to be someone he isn't.  If he did, he would be a hypocrite.  What you saw in Paul was the real Paul.


Unless you get the idea that Paul is a heartless, non feeling type of man, since he cares little for praise from man, that is not the case.  He may not want undue praise, but he does want people’s love, affection and trust, and it bothers him greatly when he loses this in his friends and fellow believers.   If you read his second letter to the Corinthians, you'll clearly see this to be true.  


The reason why Paul is even bringing this subject up in his letter is because there were some false apostles who were preaching for financial gain.  They were hypocrites.  Paul was attempting to remind his readers of how he and his companions lived while they were among them.  Paul, and those with him, did not resemble these false prophets in any way.  


In verses 6 and 7 Paul tells his readers “that as an apostle he could have been a burden” to the Thessalonians.  That is, he could have asked for financial support from them.  This is a right of an apostle, yet Paul refused to take any money from these people, as he did with many of the churches.  He felt like “a mother with children”, he says.  He would rather give to these new Christians than to take anything from them.  I'd suggest that all pastors memorize this verse.   


In verse 7 Paul compares himself to a mother, one who treats her children with gentleness. He told the Thessalonians that he treated them with gentleness, as a mother would her children.  This stood out to me because of late I've heard people talking about "spiritual fathers in the Lord."  This is a doctrine that says that Christians should find a "spiritual father" to submit their lives to, something I do not believe the Bible teaches. Paul does state that he was like a father to the Corinthians, just like he says he is like a mother to the Thessalonians, but beyond that, he says nothing about submitting to spiritual fathers, or spiritual mothers.  He is like a father, or, like a mother.  He isn't a father, or a mother.      


In verse 8 Paul says that he “was delighted to share not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well”.  Once again, this was Paul’s lifestyle.  This is the way he lived wherever he went.  This was not true only in Thessalonica.  You can read Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and see these very same words.


Sharing the gospel and sharing one's life are two different things.  It's easy to preach behind the pulpit, but to get down from the platform and live among those you preach to and serve them is another thing altogether.  We have too many pulpit preachers these days and not enough serving pastors.


In verse 9 Paul reminds these people “that they worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone”.  The word "they" refers to Paul and those working with him. This was over and beyond the call of duty for Paul.  Most Christian workers receive an income for their work, and in today’s world some receive a very good income, yet Paul worked himself night and day and preached the gospel as well, all for the sake of those he ministered to. These verses should be mandatory for all student pastors to memorize.  It's my opinion that Christian pastors in the western world have, and still are, drifting away from what the Bible says about how pastors should live, as it does here. 


Verses 10 through 12 continue the theme of Paul’s defense of his ministry and the godly lifestyle that he lived.  He says that he lived righteously among them and he treated these new believers as if he was their father and they were his own children, “encouraging, comforting them, and urging them to live lives as worthy of God who calls you into His Kingdom and glory.”  When we become Christians, we enter into God’s Kingdom here on earth.  This Kingdom differs from the future Kingdom of God in that it is spiritual and in part, yet very much a real Kingdom.   As Christians we need to think in terms of living in two kingdoms, or two worlds, that is, the earthly world around us and the Kingdom of God that is invisible at the moment.  We are in fact representatives of this spiritual and invisible kingdom to the visible kingdoms of men.


In verse 11 Paul compares himself to a father, something I spoke about in verse 7 where he compared himself to a mother.  I believe, just because he compared himself to a father or a mother, does not mean he viewed himself as a father or mother. 


As I write these words in 2014 I know that there are groups who teach that men should become fathers in the Lord to others, and, these others should submit to their fathers as a child would submit to his father.  I don't believe that this is what Paul is saying here.  He is not saying that he is their father in the Lord and that they must submit to him in every last detail.  He's saying that he is like a father, not that he is a father.  Another thing to note is that if you make a doctrine out of the word father then you should make a doctrine out of the word mother.   I'd then suggest that it is hard to see a man being a mother in the Lord.  Paul was not saying that he was these people's mother or father.  He was simply saying that he cared for them as a mother and father would care for their children.     


In verse 13 Paul thanks God that these people received and accepted the Word of God into their hearts.  They did not simply view what Paul said as his words.  They viewed these words to be from God and therefore responded accordingly.  We should take the Bible, the Word of God, more seriously than we do.  We should be like the Thessalonians.  If we really believed the Bible to be the real words of God, I believe we'd sure treat the Bible with more respect than we do.  I also believe we would do as the Bible says more than we do as well.   


Notice that Paul says that the Word of God “works” in the believer.  That is to say, the Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit is one real way that God is involved in changing our lives.  I would go as far to say that without an active participation in the Scriptures, a Christian cannot grow into maturity, and is on dangerous ground, making it easy to slip back into unbelief.  The problem today is that post-modern thinking is infiltrating the church with its de-emphases on the Bible.  This is a tragedy.  


In verse 14 Paul compares the Thessalonian church to the churches in Judea.  They were both “imitators” of God despite the persecution from their own countrymen.  The Jewish church in Judea suffered at the hands of the Jews and the Thessalonians suffered at the hands of the Romans.


Notice the word "imitate" in verse 14.  The Thessalonian church wasn't imitating the Judean church in every respect, only in the respect of how they responded to suffering.  This is important because in some circles, some churches try to copy other churches in other localities.  In the process they lose their local flavour.  In other places, some churches try to make other churches be like them.  Both of these ways of doing church are not Biblical.    


In verses 15 to 16 we see these people who persecute Christians “are hostile to God and to all men” for what they do.  They also “heap up their sins to the limit”.  These Jewish persecutors were trying to prevent Paul not only from preaching to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles whom they had no authority over.  Paul says that the “wrath of God is now on them at last”. There has been some speculation to just what Paul meant by the idea that these Jews had already entered into God’s wrath.  Some suggest that this may be an allusion to the judgement to come at the end of the age.  Others might suggest that this might even be prophetic, speaking of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the disbursement of the Jews which in fact was a demonstration of God's wrath as seen in His judgment. Yet in another sense of the word, if one is in unbelief, he has already entered into God's'’ wrath, even though the wrath is still to come.  On the other hand, if we enter into faith, we enter into God’s peace.  Jesus, in John 3:16 to 18 say that “whosoever does not believe stands condemned already”.  Even though the judgement is in the future, you are presently condemned to God’s wrath, unless you come to faith.  The reverse is also true. 


Note the phrase "heap up their sins to the limit".  This might simply mean that sins are piled on top of other sins and are noted by God.  Yet some believe, as I do, because of certain Bible passages, that the number of sins committed by people or by nations are numbered, and God knows the final count.  When the final count comes, then judgment comes.  Those who believe this see the final count finally came around 70 AD for the Jews.   



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