1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Stephen Caswell © 1996
Do you want to have an approved ministry?
Today the Church has lost much of its credibility in the eyes of the world because of religious hucksters. People who merchandise the Word of God and twist its message for their own ends. Many televangelists and well known Church leaders have fallen into gross sin. What does it take to have an Approved Ministry? Today we will look at the apostle Paul and his ministry at Thessalonica. Why was his ministry approved by God?
No Pain , No Gain! A Mother Gives Birth.
About eight and a half ago my wife gave birth to our first child Lauren. I remember being there that day and observing the pain that she went through. Although in the hospital today they don't like using the word pain they prefer to say discomfort because it sounds better. But she went through quite a few problems during the birth. For one the epijural tube had come out so when they went to top it up, the fluid went to the wrong place. The doctor applied the knife to begin the caesar, only to find that my wife felt it. At the time you think how on earth would she want to go through all that again. But once Lauren was born Sandy soon forgot all about the discomfort, the pain, because she now had a precious little girl. And about two years later David was born. But if Sandy had focussed on the pain and suffering involved we would never have had our second child. And now she is having number three. The old saying applies here no pain! no gain!
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 Paul recalls the response that the Thessalonians had to his ministry amongst them. They had received the gospel and turned from serving idols to the living God. Now in chapter 2 Paul reminds them of the sort of ministry that he and his coleagues exercised amongst them. There were false teachers in town claiming that Paul had selfish motives when he was there. So Paul reviews the history of his ministry there. They were well aware of the kind of ministry he had amongst them and this is why he often says, As you know.
The first 2 verses tell us that Paul had a 1. Resilient Ministry.
Paul at Philippi.
Paul recalls his ministry starting at Philippi where he had been flogged and put in jail for preaching the gospel. But as a result of this and God's intervention the jailer came to faith in Christ. Then he went to Thessalonica and started preaching there. Why? Wouldn't you think he would quit, or at least lay low for a while. But no Paul bounced right back and preached just as boldly as ever. Even though there was persecution once more, he was not deterred. And in 2 Thessalonians 2:2 he says: 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. Paul had been entrusted to preach the gospel by the Lord and he was faithful to that task. He was told that he would suffer many things for the sake of Christ when he was commissioned in Damascus . (Acts 9:15-16)
But Paul was never one to try and avoid suffering when it was within God's will. Paul had a Resilient Ministry. He knew that to advance the kingdom of God would involve a measure of pain on his part. But each time he suffered he bounced back. He was not perturbed by suffering, but continued to be faithful and encouraged the saints to do the same.
In Acts 14:21-22 we read: And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." And as a result his ministry at Thessalonica was not in vain. 1 Thess 2:1 It bore much fruit because he persisted. He didn't quit when the going got tough. He was prepared to pay the price so that souls could be saved. Philippians 1:29 says: For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
But what about you and me? Are we willing to suffer for our faith? Do you think that suffering for Christ is an optional extra that only super Christians are expected to endure? In Australia we don't have to suffer physically for our faith. But are you prepared to endure unfair criticism directed toward your ministry? When you get sick and one thing after another goes wrong do you want to quit or lay low for a while? Or do you stick it out like Paul did?
Not only did Paul have a Resilient Ministry he also had a 2. Recommended Ministry.
My First Job.
I remember going for an interview at the place where I got my first job. I was only 15 and just out of high school. There were lots of other young people looking for work and the man who interviewed me had to choose between all of us. Well my grades were average, and my chance of getting the job were about the same as everyone else. But in my resume I had some references. One of these was from the Queensland Director of James Hardy Trading who was a deacon at our church. The boss knew this man and his father and that gave me the edge I needed to secure the job. You see it was the recommendation of someone else, someone in a place of authority that secured the job for me, and I worked for that firm for some 19 years.
Paul was able to say with absolute truth that God had approved his ministry. He had God's recommendation and you cannot have a better one than that. Paul could say in verse 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. Paul could say that God had approved him to be entrusted with the gospel. That God had tested his heart and found him faithful and truthful. But not only does Paul say that he has God's recommendation. He also answers the false teachers accusations regarding his ministry. He uses the phrase you know 4 times, and says you are witnesses and you remember. Paul is certain that they know he has lived uprightly before them.
Paul gives three qualities of his ministry.
a. The Message of His Ministry. 3a. " For our exhortation did not come from error "
Paul preached the truth and in these 12 verses he refers to it 3 times as the " Gospel of God."
He was sure of his message: Galatians 1:11-12 " Received from revelation of Jesus Christ."
He proclaimed it accurately: 2 Timothy 2:15 " Handling accurately the word of truth. "
He proclaimed it fully: Acts 20:27 " He proclaimed the whole counsel of God."
b. The Motive of His Ministry. 3b. " Or uncleaness "
His motives were pure, not like some at Philippi who preached Christ out of envy and strife. Philippians 1:15-17. Paul preached out of obedience to God and his motive was love.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;
c. The Method of His Ministry. 3c " Nor was it in deceit."
Paul didn't use trickery to win converts. He didn't have some hidden agenda. What you saw was what you got. The word translated deceit dolw/ has the idea of putting a bait on a hook. If you want to catch a fish you cover the hook with a nice juicy worm. Then you wait for the fish to swallow the bait before you sink the hook. The idea is one of beguiling and involves trickery. Paul said we didn't do that. Then he mentions some other things they did not do in their ministry. (1 Thess 2:5-6) Things that the Thessalonians were aware of. " as you know " v 5
Ÿ For we did not use flattering words. They did not butter people up to make them feel good.
Ÿ Nor did we covet your possessions. Paul was not envious of their goods and property.
Ÿ Nor did we seek the glory of men. They weren't seeking men's praises, but to please God. v 4
Ÿ Nor did we use our Apostolic right. They could have expected wages from the church.
The list of negative qualities that Paul avoided shows why his ministry was approved by God.
But there is a challenge to us in all of this. What is your motive for service? Is it love or recognition? Are you seeking to please men or God? Are you seeking the praises of men? Are you honest when you present the gospel message? Or do you avoid the parts of the gospel you don't like? Such as the fact that all unsaved people will spend eternity in hell. Is there some sin in your life that you know is ruining your witness and you are happy to leave it that way? Could God recommend your ministry? It's not a matter of ability, but availability. And it is not a matter of being super saints as being sincere saints. What motivates your service for God? Is it love and obedience to Christ or something else?
Paul had a Recommended Minsitry because his Motive, Method & Message were pure.
The next 6 verses reveal that he also had a 3. Righteous Ministry.
Caring For a Baby.
When we first brought Lauren home we were so excited and I think we could have walked on clouds that week. We used look to at her quietly sleeping in her cradle. Hold her when she was awake and feed her at all hours of the night, well Sandy did anyway. Nothing was too much trouble for us and Sandy loved having her with her at last. She didn't mind changing the nappies and losing some sleep in those early weeks. Because she loved Lauren and thought she was the most beautiful baby in the world. Sandy had given life to Lauren and now she was investing her life into her. But that's one of the responsibilities that goes with the joy of new life. It's the parents responsibility to make sure the baby grows. We have to nurse them and provide for them. This is God's ordained way for human beings to grow.
The Caring Mother. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 " A Nursing Mother "
Paul could say of himself that he cared for the Thessalonians like a nursing mother. A New mother loves her child so much and cherishes it. She makes sure it is fed on time with suitable meals. She ensures it gets enough sleep and gives of her own life so that the child will grow up to be healthy and happy. Paul loved the Thessalonians and that is why he says he was pleased to impart not only the gospel, (their new life) but also his own life so that they would grow. Paul through the gospel had given life to the Thessalonians. Now he was imparting his own time so that these babies might grow. Paul was patient like a good mum is. Just like a new baby can't have solid food but needs milk to grow, so too Paul broke down the word so that they could feed on the milk until they were ready for solid food.
What was Paul's motive for doing all this? The Thessalonians had become dear to him. v 8
A Concerned Father 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 " A Father "
The story is told of a father that had cancer who wrote a letter to his son. The son had just left the security of teaching and gone into fulltime freelance writing. The son's life was very uncertain. The father said, " I know you, I know what's behind you, and I am pretty sure that I understand your goals and the kind of writing you hope to do and the message you wish to convey. Stay in there, and may the Lord bless you. If you ever get in a tight place and need some ready cash, let me know. I think I know where I can lay my hands on some of it. " This letter shows you the kind of concern that a father has for his children.
a. His Work v 9 " For laboring night and day "
One of the responsibilities of being a father is to provide for the family. He must work to provide for his wife and the children. We don't send the kids off to work and have a holiday ourselves. We are required by God as fathers to provide for our household. Well Paul did just that. He worked night and day as a tent-maker to support himself.
He did have the right as an apostle and minister of the gospel to receive remuneration for his ministry. But he didn't do that. He didn't want to be a burden to them. And he did not want to give the enemies of Christ something to accuse him of. Paul would have been very busy serving as an evangelist and also working to support himself. The idea that comes out here is one of toil and hardship. It would not have been the easy life. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 says: 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.
b. His Walk. v 10 " How devoutly, justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves. "
Next Paul spoke of his example that they had all witnessed and God also. Firstly he said that they lived devout lives. They conducted themselves in a holy way as befitting Christians. He also said that they had behaved themselves justly. Paul had lived a righteous life through faith in God. He had left them a good example to follow. His life was outstanding, it was upright. He then went on to say that he had lived a blameless life before them all. That no one could accuse him of something. The word blameless literally means " not able to find fault in. " What a good heritage to pass on to your children. Paul had left his spiritual children an example of how to grow and live. We know that more of our lives are passed on to our children by our works than our words. Verse 10 is a summary of much of what Paul has already said:You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe;
c. His Words. v 11 " As you know how we exhorted, comforted & charged every one of you "
But along with the fathers responsibility to provide for his family and to lead by example he must also instruct them so that they will grow in the Lord. Paul did not just speak to them only as a group of believers, but also as individuals. He took the time to share with them personally. The teaching he gave matched the life he was living. He had a public preaching ministry and also a personal mentoring ministry. The instruction he gave took 3 forms.
Ÿ Encouragement. This was very important because new believers are easily discouraged.
Ÿ Comfort. This is similar to the last word but emphasises activity, so that they would not only feel better but live better.
Ÿ Charge. This has the idea of relating past personal experience to them, so that they might be helped through similar trials.
The encouragement of parents is so important to their children. Paul was careful not to overlook this important ministry. The content of the instruction related to how they should walk in a manner worthy of God who has called you. Paul expected his instructions to be followed. He expected his spiritual children to follow his example. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says: as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Paul cared for his spiritual children like a loving parent. He fed them, cared for them, and gave them an example to follow. Paul had a Righteous Ministry. Parents are you doing this with your spiritual children? Do you look after those who are young in the faith and show an interest in them to see if they are growing? Do you pray for them, encourage them, give them an example to follow? This is important! They are tomorrows leaders and examples.
Ÿ Are you a Resilient Minister for the Lord? Or do you shy away from persecution? The Lord calls us to be faithful and that includes suffering. Do you bounce back after Satan's attacks? Do you press on when people malign you? Or do you want to quit? We need to choose in advance to stick it out through God's grace. Let us focus on the Lord's provision to finish the task and stick it out like Paul. Maybe it's time to measure how committed you are to the Lord and His work.
Ÿ Are you a Recommended Minister? Are you sincere? Are your motives pure? Are you seeking the praises of men? Are you seeking to please men or God? Do you only want to help when people are watching you and praising you? Do you share the things that aren't nice to talk about in your ministry? Would God approve of your ministry? Perhaps it's time to evaluate your goals to see if they are pleasing to God. Perhaps you need to seek the Lord's forgiveness for desiring the praises of men!
Ÿ Are you a Righteous Minister? Can others walk in your steps? Are you caring for the younger Christians God has placed in your lives? Do you care for those you are ministering to like a loving mother or concerned father? Is love your motive for God's service? It should be! Is the example you leave a good one? Does the witness of your lips match that of your life. It might be time for you to seek God afresh for the grace and strength to live a more righteous life!
I trust all of us will follow Paul's example. I trust that we will labour faithfully for the Lord. I trust we will endure pain and suffering. I trust we will live pure lives. I trust we will show paternal care for those God has given to us. For then we will be approved of God, so as to be entrusted with the gospel. .... Amen!
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.