Thursday, November 05, 2009

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4

V1-4 – 1You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you His gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

Paul explains his ministry in the first half of this chapter in order to serve as an example for the Thessalonians to continue to emulate. Though it may be that not many were converted, the visit was not a failure (v1). Calvin suggests that the persecution faced by both Paul and the Thessalonians ought to be deemed a positive, emboldening result of his visit. Perhaps those persecuting the Thessalonians suggested that they were foolish to buy into Paul’s teaching by appealing to the majority of Thessalonians that did not repent and believe the gospel. Perhaps they also accused Paul of trying to trick them or flat out being wrong. But as Vincent Cheung says, “Slander is a favorite tactic against the gospel… If we preach and practice the gospel, it is likely that we will be slandered. The proper response is to rejoice, defend, and believe. Then, the awareness that we as individual believers might be slandered alerts us to the possibility that other believers, Christians other than ourselves, might also be falsely maligned at times. This realization is significant because it reminds us that many criticisms and accusations against other Christians are untrue, and just as we would not want people to slander us, we should not slander others, spread slander about others, or to believe slander about others.” The Pharisees slandered Jesus throughout his ministry; Paul was slandered at every major city he stopped in along his second missionary journey. But slander can’t stop the boldness of Holy Spirit working in His people.

In fact, the key feature of Paul’s ministry which ought most be mimicked is the boldness revealed in v2. Though beaten and imprisoned for speaking God’s gospel (v2,8-9) in Philippi, Paul and his companions continued speaking God’s gospel (stressing that the words and power are from God, not from man) after being called into Greece. See Peter and John acting with boldness as well in Acts 4:18-20. That boldness is strong evidence that the message is not a trick (v3); and the lack of hypocrisy, along with Paul’s obvious integrity, helps others to see that motives are pure. Paul’s doctrine was sound; he was not trying to delude the Thessalonians. In v4, Paul notes that his efforts were never intended to be appealing solely to man in the first place. Rather, he was intent on pleasing God, not man, and that is what matters; pleasing God is seen in “faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6; cf. Romans 8:8, 12:1, 14:17-18; Galatians 1:10; Colossians 1:10; 1 Timothy 2:1-3, 5:4). Thus even if not a single person is won to faith in Christ, God is pleased with a bold message, preached from the heart.

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