I Thessalonians 2:1-16
- EMC day of prayer for missions
- I am always busy, but am I busy with the things that matter?
- I Thessalonians 2:1-16,
- how the gospel came to the Thessalonians
- persecuted in Philippi
- physically mistreated
- illegally abused
- persecution did not scare them off.
- a new community
- risk of further persecution
- passage does it say, “go and make disciples of all nations,”
- thought permeates everything
- the meta- message
- “is your/my life involved in mission?”
- Are you/am I doing the work of an evangelist?
- From the passionate and motivated ministry of Paul and Silas, we are encouraged
- not the message of this passage, however.
- what will help us to do the work of evangelism well
I. Not Methods That Lack Integrity
One of the things that I find very hard to take is if someone accuses me falsely. If I am accused of something that I have not done, then I become a little defensive. That is why I understand Paul in I Thessalonians 2 when we find that he is defending the methods of his gospel proclamation. On several occasions in 2:1-6, Paul declares that when they proclaimed the gospel, they did not do so in a way that lacked integrity. Although it does not say that Paul had been attacked, it is possible that there were detractors who had tried to speak negatively about his ministry. It is also possible that some were comparing Paul to many of the other teachers who came around proclaiming various philosophies and teachings. Paul is very careful to distinguish himself from these. He speaks about the appeal they made to the Thessalonians to receive Christ and describes how they did not make that appeal.
The first list of things they did not do is found in verse 3. This appeal did not “spring from error.” Every word that Paul spoke to them was the word of truth. There are still a lot of teachers out there who teach error. We can find them on TV and in various books. Those who proclaim that if we are Christians we will never be sick and we should be wealthy are among those who proclaim error. There are other false teachers who do not accept Jesus as God and others who value other books as equal to the Bible. I am not here to condemn them as much as I am here to challenge all of us that when we proclaim the gospel, we must do so with accuracy and faithfulness to the Word of God.
The appeal of Paul and the others also did not come from “impure motives.” There were many teachers at that time who were involved in sacred prostitution. Their motives were obviously suspect. We have heard of the same thing today, of teachers who claim to be teaching a Christian message, but whose morality is not in line with the word they speak.
Paul also indicates that he did not try to trick the people. The word guile or trickery means catching fish with bait. Deception is so common in advertising that we don’t even listen any more. Sadly, as Christians we have sometimes been deceptive in our methods. Some would say, that it doesn’t matter as long as people are saved but the Word of God would not agree with that. In proclaiming the gospel, we need to be up front and honest. Therefore, our friendships must be genuine and our invitations clear.
A further list of things Paul and Silas did not do is found in verse 5. There we read that they did not use flattery. To genuinely complement someone is a good thing, but to tell them things they want to hear in order to get what we want from them is not right.
They also did not put on a mask to cover up greed. Some of the televangelists get large amounts of money. They say it is for the ministry, but that is truly questionable. Many have tried this and succeeded, but it is not worthy of us who are involved in gospel proclamation.
The last item is that they did not seek praise from men. How dangerous such a practice would be. If we are seeking praise from people, then we will be willing to compromise the message in order to receive that praise. Although some might be attracted to a gospel that makes sin smaller or that suggests that there are other ways to God than through Jesus Christ, we must continue to preach God’s truth, even though some will not accept it.
I really appreciate this discussion of Paul’s methods, because they are methods of integrity. Sometimes, in order to get quick results, we may be tempted to use methods that are not pure and faithful. In the end, such methods undermine God’s work.
One writer says, “It is important not only to be honest, but also to appear to others to be honest.”
II. Approved By God
If we are tempted to use these methods, there is something wrong deeper in our hearts. Paul and those with him were solid to the core, they were approved by God. Rather than any of these methods, Paul and those he had come with were “men approved by God” as we read in verse 4. What made them approved of God?
First of all, they were entrusted with the gospel, which means that they were first of all recipients of the gospel themselves. If for some reason we find ourselves involved in gospel proclamation, but we have not really experienced the power of the gospel ourselves, how will we be able to tell others? If we are not free from the burden of sin, how can we tell others that there is freedom in Christ? If we are not filled with hope in the promise of eternal life, how can we tell others that there is hope? If we are not filled with the Spirit, how can we invite others to experience the life of the Spirit? In other words, if we are not Christians, how can we call others to Christ?
Furthermore, their whole lives were lives of integrity. In verse 10 Paul appeals to them to affirm that when they came among them, they came as people who were holy, righteous and blameless. They could not be accused of wrongdoing, of immorality or of anything else. They did as Jesus says, lived as salt and light, giving evidence of the life changing power of God.
They were, as verse 6 further indicates, men whose whole life was about trying to please God. This is a difficult matter for I know, as a minister, how hard it is to keep this as one’s primary motive. It is sometimes appealing to seek the praise of people. Even as Christians who want to do the right thing, it is tempting to serve God because our parents or friends will be impressed. We want people to notice us, even to notice that we are doing good things. If people are impressed with our ability, our sacrifice, even our faithfulness, we are tempted to play to the crowd. If we do that, will we still be willing to please God and do whatever He wants? Is our genuine desire the desire to please God and bring honor to Him? I keep a saying in my office, “by God’s grace and to God’s glory” to remind me of the importance of doing everything to the glory of God.
Paul and Silas were this way because they were very much aware of one other important truth and that is that God was watching. Three times this idea comes out in the passage. In verses 5, 10, he affirms his actions by saying, “God is our witness.” In verse 4, he declares that “God tests our hearts.” This idea is found many times elsewhere in the Bible. In I Samuel 16:7, while choosing the next king of Israel, who was David, God said to Samuel, “the Lord looks at the heart.” When we are reminded of that, we need to open our hearts and lives before him and test our hearts and seek the approval of God and seek to bring glory to Him in all we do.
III. Through Loving Relationships
One of the most significant ways in which we can make an impact for Christ is wonderfully presented by the work of the apostle Paul as described in I Thessalonians 2:7-11.
A. Like a Mother
I have talked to Jake Kroeker several times about ministry. One of the things that has become very clear to me is that he has a great love for the Spanish speaking people. As he has ministered and continues to minister in places like Portage, I know that it is this God given love for the Spanish people that has moved them to this ministry. That example of love encourages me and is another illustration of what Paul speaks about in I Thessalonians 2:7 when he says, “we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” He cared about the Thessalonians! This is really amazing because he had just gotten to know them, but God gave him such a love and out of such a love he was able to have an effective ministry. The question then is, do we love the people God has put into our path? Do we have a God given love for those we have an opportunity to share the gospel with? If we do, we will have effective ministry.
B. Sacrificial Service
Recently, I heard about someone in our congregation who had an opportunity to give of himself to help someone else. The need required leaving late in the evening for Winnipeg and coming home about 2:30 in the morning. Such an opportunity requires a sacrifice and this person cared enough about the other person to make the sacrifice.
That is an example of the kind of thing Paul also did and describes in I Thessalonians 2:8,9 where he says, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Paul was a tentmaker, a job he had probably learned from his father. In some places, Thessalonica included, he did not only preach the gospel, but also worked at his trade. Working at his trade probably gave him many opportunities to proclaim the good news but then on top of that, each evening he also took time to spread the gospel and disciple the new believers. This was the sacrifice he was willing to make in order to make sure that the gospel went out and the people followed Jesus. He cared that much. What kind of sacrifices are we willing to make in order that the gospel is proclaimed? How much are we willing to sacrifice in order to be about God’s work?
C. Like a Father
The third thought along the same line is found in verse 11 where he says, “we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his children, encouraging, comforting and urging you…”
The aspect of the father’s care is that of encouraging and urging, yet with a loving and compassionate concern. I think I would not be far wrong in suggesting that often a mother’s care is more caring and supporting whereas a father’s care is more directive and instructive. At least that is how it was in our family. Both of these aspects of caring for children are important if we want to grow healthy, independent children and are also important in the ministry of gospel proclamation. Paul and Silas loved these people so as to offer compassionate and nurturing care.
Such nurturing, sacrificial, loving care of others will bring them into the kingdom. That is why there is so much about love in the New Testament.
IV. With The Help Of God.
How can such ministry be carried out. Knowing our own weakness and sin, how can we live blameless lives? Knowing that we get tired and often have to fight selfishness, how can we be loving and sacrificial?
There are two phrases in this passage which help us understand.
A. With God’s Help
When Paul began to explain how they came to Thessalonica with fear and trembling because of the persecution they had experienced in Philippi, he says they still “dared to tell you his gospel.” We noted that they were strongly committed to this task of gospel proclamation and we were challenged to live with the same kind of a commitment. But in the midst of that statement, we have a powerful indication of how they could “dare” to spread the gospel, how they could do so with integrity and with compassion. Paul says, “with the help of our God.”
If we want to be effective in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will only be able to do it if we do it with the help of God. God gives that help by filling us with His Spirit, and opening doors of opportunity for us. I have been encouraged lately to hear a number of stories from this congregation of people who are having doors of opportunity given to them. This is the work of God. Are we taking those opportunities? I have also heard of stories in which people had opportunity to speak the gospel and were able to speak words that were not their own words, but were words given by God.
God is greatly involved in this enterprise and if we will offer ourselves and take this task seriously, God will give us opportunity, empower us and enable us to do His work.
B. The Word Of God
If we will offer ourselves, and with the help of God live with integrity and love others, people will receive the gospel. When they receive the gospel, because it was not our cleverness or ability which has persuaded them, it will be evident that God has done a work in their hearts and that is exactly what we want. We don’t want people who are persuaded to accept Christ because they are attracted to us. Because if we then fail, they will also forget about the gospel. We don’t want people who accept Christ because we have made a powerful and persuasive argument and have been particularly eloquent in our presentation. Then, when a more exciting line of reasoning comes along, they will also follow it. We want people to come to Christ because they have been changed by the power of God. Paul talks about this in verse 13 when he says, “And we also thank God continually because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.”
One of the temptations I often face is to write messages that are clever and which make me look good. Since I am not very good at that and am not very creative nor do I have a good memory nor can I think of a lot of great stories, I decided long ago that the power of my preaching would need to be the power of the Word of God. When that is the case, then if people are changed, it is the Word of God that has changed them. Although I will do my best to make the Word of God interesting and relevant, my hope is not in my ability to do that, rather it is in what God has said and in the Spirit who changes lives. I rejoice in that because then it is real change and real power and not something which is on again, off again or which will fade. One writer says, “to preach interesting little moral essays can never prove an adequate substitute for the word which comes from God.” The Word of God is powerful. It was by the Word of God that all things came into being. God spoke, and it was so. Isaiah 55:10,11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the Sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Therefore, as we present the gospel message, let us not try to hide it or deliver it in cleverness, nor let our presentation obscure the Word of God. Rather, let us speak the Word of God in the power of God so that when people choose God, they will truly choose Him.
Such an approach gives us great freedom. We don’t have to know everything, we don’t have to be brilliant, we just have to be faithful to the Word of God and trust God to change people’s lives.
So as we have our minds focused on prayer for mission, let us also remember our responsibility in it.
Several times, I have introduced the 4x4 strategy. I would like to encourage you, in light of what we have looked at today, to consider your involvement once again. The 4x4 strategy includes the following.
1. Ask God to reveal 4 people whom He wants you to influence.
2. Pray for those people.
3. Make social contact with those people - be a friend.
4. Share the gospel with them as God gives you opportunity.
Just think about it, if every one of us would become involved in God’s great work in this way, with compassion and integrity, what a great influence we would have!
May God help us to be about His work to His honor and glory.