1 Thess. 2:1-6
Paul was called by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. By obeying the Lord’s command, he suffered many hardships to the extent that he suffered martyrdom in Rome. His faithfulness to the Lord is exemplary. So today, we will be looking at his example which we can imitate as we serve our Lord and Saviour.
I. He preached boldly despite of opposition (1 Thess. 2:1-2)
A. Paul and Silas had been beaten and humiliated at Philippi; yet they came to Thessalonica and preached. In the midst of opposition and persecution, Paul was courageous – he did not stop. Like the other Apostles before him, Paul boldly proclaimed the Gospel (Acts 4:13,29,31).
B. For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain. God honored His word and His workers with the conversion of souls and the establishing of a local New Testament Church. This is the promised triumph of God’s word.
C. The word vain means “empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance.” Paul is saying “We didn’t bring you some empty and worthless message, we brought you the life changing gospel of God.”
D. His preaching was “with much contention.” This is an athletic term that means “a contest, conflict, a struggle.” The word in Greek not only signify, with intense labor and earnestness, but may here mean, exposed to the greatest danger; at the peril of their lives. Indeed, they faced much opposition, dangers, hungers, thirst, etc., yet they pressed on, they continued, and obeyed the Lord’s command to go and preach the gospel to every creature.
Illustration 1: The Apology
Hugh Lattimer once preached before King Henry VIII. Henry was greatly displeased by the boldness in the sermon and ordered Lattimer to preach again on the following Sunday and apologize for the offence he had given. The next Sunday, after reading his text, he thus began his sermon:
“Hugh Lattimer, dost thou know before whom thou are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life, if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest—upon Whose message thou are sent? Even by the great and mighty God, Who is all-present and Who beholdeth all thy ways and Who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.”
He then preached the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday—and with considerably more energy.
Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 126
II. His Exhortation (1 Thess. 2:3)
A. In this verse, Paul denies three allegations against his team about their message, morals and manner of communication.
B. The word exhortation here means words of encouragement. That is, the exhortation to embrace the gospel. I would say that it is their preaching in general.
1. “For our exhortation was not of deceit. Here he assured the Thessalonians that his message was true. Several times in this letter he mentioned the Gospel. This message of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1- is a true message and is the only true Gospel (Gal. 1:6-12). Paul received this Gospel from God, not from man. It is the only Good News that saves the lost sinner.
2. Not of uncleanness. Paul was making comparison between the Gentile philosophers and religion whose gods were known for their adulteries, fornications, uncleanness, thefts, barbarities, which are horrible. Our Gospel however, was pure; it came from the pure and holy God; was accompanied with the influences of the Holy Spirit, and produced purity both in the hearts and lives of all that received it.
It is also possible to preach the right message with the wrong motives (Phil. 1:14-19). Unfortunately, some people in Paul’s day used religion as a means for making money. Paul did not use the Gospel as “a cloak to cover his covetousness” (1 Thess. 2:5). He was open and honest in all his dealings, and he even worked as a tent maker (Acts 18:1-3), to earn his own support (2 Thess. 3:8-10).
3. Nor did Paul use guile to get the message out. The word guile speaks of craftiness, trickery and dishonesty. Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1-2) These things have no place in the gospel ministry. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. (2 Cor. 10:3-4).
III. His Motive (1 Thess. 2:4)
A. Paul spoke out of the best motives, realizing that God had put his heart to the test. He and his companions spoke not…to please men, but God. Having been “allowed” by God, He entrusted them with the gospel. Paul used the word “gospel” five times in 1 Thessalonians (1:5; 2:2,4,8; 3:2). Paul and his fellow missionaries were veterans; they had been tried and tested for years.
B. God would not have blessed their work if their motivation had not been right. Paul saw himself as a steward entrusted by God to carry His message of salvation to lost men and women (1 Cor. 9:17). Paul did not choose his work; God selected him for the high calling of proclaiming the gospel. This responsibility was most significant to Paul, who viewed himself as under God’s constant scrutiny. So, he would not dare serve with the wrong motives.
IV. His Honesty (1 Thess. 2:5-6)
A. Flattery is insincere praise. It is pretense. It is an attempt to manipulate people. It is the opposite of truth and candor. Flattery “has the idea of using the kind of
acceptable speech that lulls another person into a false sense of security in order that the speaker may gain his own ends” ((Everyman’s Bible Commentary). Paul was gracious, yet he spoke the unvarnished truth to men to bring them to conviction,
repentance, and saving faith. Note that Paul did not use flattering words “at any time.” He had nothing to do with this practice.
B. A cloak of covetousness” refers to using the ministry as a means of personal profit and satisfying one’s desire for filthy lucre. “Paul means that he had not used his apostolic office to disguise or conceal avaricious designs” (Vincent). “Paul did not put on a cloak or mask to try to cover up his real motive of greed. He did not seek from his converts anything unfairly” (Everyman’s Bible Commentary). “His design was not to enrich himself by preaching the gospel. He was not like the false apostles, who, through covetousness, with feigned words made merchandise of the people, 2 Pet. 2:3” (Matthew Henry). Apostate Christianity has always worn a cloak of covetousness. The Roman Catholic Church became fabulously wealthy in the Middle Ages. Christianity today is filled with preachers who wear a cloak of covetousness and enrich themselves by the ministry. Some have become millionaires.
C. Paul did not seek glory from man (“nor of men sought we glory,” 1 Thess. 2:6). He wanted all glory to go to God in Jesus Christ. He was not trying to make a name for himself. Paul had the same spirit as John the Baptist who said of Christ, “He must
increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Paul said, “I be nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11). He called himself “less than the least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8). Yet Paul has a great name, because he has been exalted by Christ. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:5).
Illustration 2: The Briefcase
Last winter, a lowly-paid waiter in a major city found a briefcase containing cash and negotiables in a parking lot—and no owner in sight. No one saw the waiter find it and put it in his car in the wee hours of the morning. But for the waiter, there was never any question of what to do. He took the briefcase home, opened it, and searched for the owner’s identity. The next day he made a few phone calls, located the distressed owner, and returned the briefcase—along with the $25,000 cash it contained!
The surprising thing about this episode was the ridicule the waiter experienced at the hands of his friends and peers. For the next week or so he was called a variety of names and laughed at, all because he possessed a quality the Bible holds in high regard: integrity.
Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 18
Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was full of opposition, hardships, persecutions as well as life threatening situation. However, he still preached the Word of God boldly, honestly, truthfully without any deceit or craftiness. He wants to please God only not men. Will you do the same for Christ?