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1 Thessalonians Chapter Two, The Heart Behind The Ministry

In our study of 1 Thessalonians chapter two, we continue our look at the letter that Paul wrote to the "church" that he started in Thessalonica (modern Greece). Just as God examines our hearts, we are going to take a look at Paul and his heart for ministry.

1 Thessalonians 2:1

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.

When Paul talks about the visit not being a failure, he is saying that it produced results and not just results in numbers but also in action. The message did not stop at the head as a theory or philosophy but was put into practice. This one verse shows how the teaching of the apostle Paul agrees with the book of James.

1 Thessalonians 2:2

We 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.

Paul is talking about the things that happened to him that are recorded in Acts 16. In Phillipi, Paul and Silas were stripped of their clothes, beaten, and thrown in prison because they ran a demon out of a woman. God opened the doors of the prison releasing them and they left for Thessalonica. He reminds the people there that, even though this happened in Phillipi, they still faithfully proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. The opposition that he refers to comes from the same word that we get "agony" from and tells us of just how intense it was.

1 Thessalonians 2:3

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

This verse lets us examine the heart of Paul and his companions. We see first that their ministry (the appeal) comes with knowledge (not from error) in that they understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and lived it. Paul knew the word of God and how to put it into action. Second, we see that their ministry was not motivated by greed (impure motives). We probably think of greed and associate it with just money but it can also be fame and other things. Paul is reminding them that the reason his team came to them was simply to proclaim the gospel so that people might be saved and they did not expect anything in return. Finally, they weren't simply after numbers of converts but were looking to make true disciples as Jesus has instructed. They did not use a big show (tricks or gimmicks) to bring in the harvest but simply and boldly proclaimed the gospel. It is not about "making friends and influencing people" but about proclaiming the Word and letting God change hearts.

1 Thessalonians 2:4

On 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 goes on to explain that they came and proclaimed the gospel because of God's calling on their lives and not the will of men. He goes on to explain that, because God is the One that chose them to do so, it is God that they are out to please and not men. God is the boss and that is who they answered to. Today, as in the past, there are those that think that they have to pretty up the message to make it acceptable to men (after all that is how they earn a living). Paul stands in sharp contrast to that as, even when it was difficult, they did not change the message but boldly proclaimed the Word. Those that God has chosen and approved can trust that God will provide for them and so their "living" does not depend on men but solely on God.

1 Thessalonians 2:5 & 6a

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed - God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

Paul continues by explaining that they didn't come with tricks or having a hidden agenda and that God knows their hearts in this matter. He goes on to explain that they were not even seeking approval from men but only from God. An example of the impure motives comes from one of my true life experiences. As part of a "church" we would go out on Monday evenings calling on people that had visited the worship service. On one occasion, I went to do this with an elder of the "church" and he explained that he was doing it because we had to get more people in to help pay the bills. I never participated in the visiting ever again because that is an impure motive.

1 Thessalonians 2:6b & 7

As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.

Paul continues to describe the method that God had them to use in bringing people to Christ. That method was simply speaking the truth in love and it is the same method that God would have us to use today. Many want to simply talk of love and even go so far as to compromise the truth while others simply try to beat down the struggling person and not show them love.

1 Thessalonians 2:8

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

Another part of the method behind the spread of the gospel in Thessalonica was that Paul and his team shared their lives with the people there. They lived among the common folks (if even for only a few weeks) and let the people there see their faith in action. Many today want to proclaim the Word but do not want to lower themselves to be where those that need it are located. Many want the people to clean themselves up and then come to their building to receive the Word. That is not what Jesus (or Paul) did as both of them went to those that needed to hear the Word and stayed among them (if even for only a short time).

1 Thessalonians 2:9

Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

We see here that Paul and his team did not count on the people they were trying to reach or anyone else to supply their needs. They worked to support themselves and also shared the gospel. We have gotten so far from this model today as so many people are "paid staff" at local "churches" and it has become more of a job than focused on proclaiming the gospel. Then, many of the people in these "churches" believe that they are no longer responsible for sharing the gospel as they aren't the ones that are on the "paid staff".

1 Thessalonians 2:10

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.

Paul is telling us here that the method that they used was simple in that they practiced what they preached. He says here that the Thessalonians saw that they were different and set apart for God which inspired them to do so as well. One of the main problems today is that many who say they are called to spread the Word around the world do not walk the talk.

1 Thessalonians 2:11 & 12

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he had treated them as children. The first duty of any father is to train the children in the ways of the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 2:13

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.

Paul is thankful here because the Thessalonians accepted the fact that the gospel was not about Paul or his companions. They recognized the fact that Paul was just a messenger and a messenger does not create the message; he only delivers it. Many, even today, want to create a new message to either get followers or to keep the ones they have interested. Paul never created a sermon or a sermon series; he simply preached the Word of God.

1 Thessalonians 2:14

For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews,

Paul speaks now of the persecution that comes from following Jesus Christ. The religious establishment did not accept Jesus and in fact crucified Him. The believers in Judea were then scattered through continued persecution and now it has happened in Thessalonica. Jesus told us that, as servants, we are no better than our Master and so to expect the same things that happened to Him. That goes for us today as well but we can gather strength from each other and through our Lord.

1 Thessalonians 2:15 & 16

who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

Paul goes on to explain that the people had not only rejected and crucified Jesus but now would not let others hear and accept the gospel. This is the ultimate of sins and is happening in many countries today but, as Paul said, "the wrath of God" will come upon them just as it did in his day.

1 Thessalonians 2:17 & 18

But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you - certainly I, Paul, did, again and again - but Satan stopped us.

Paul describes how when they were apart he tried over and over again to get back to see the Thessalonians. He says that it was Satan that prevented it. Some may read this passage and say "how can that be" and "isn't God in control?". Just as in the book of Job, God is in control but He allows Satan to roam the earth for a time and to have some power. It does not diminish God or His power and He uses it for the good of those that love Him.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 & 20

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

The only things that we are taking with us to heaven are the people that we tell about Jesus. That is why Paul traveled and shared the Word and that should be our reason for everything that we do. That is what Jesus was talking about, in Matthew 6:19 - 21, when He spoke of treasures in heaven instead of treasures on the earth.

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