1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Ministry not in Vain

It seems from what Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 that his ministry was under attack in that city in such a way that might jeopardize the advances made there for the gospel. When it came to his actual faults, Paul appealed to God’s grace for his ministry: “not that we are sufficient in ourselves,” he wrote, “but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). Paul could also defend himself by appealing to the personal experience of church members. In the opening section of 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, he points out that his was a true ministry in terms of his message, his motives, and his manner among them. Therefore, he begins, “You yourselves know brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain” (v. 1).

The message of ministry: Paul’s ministry was effective because of the message that he proclaimed among the Thessalonians. In preaching this message. Paul was undaunted by the context of great affliction. He reminds his readers that “though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (v. 2). Paul’s boldness in ministry did not come from his own native courage. It was, he said, “boldness in our God,” as he preached “the gospel of God.”

We get a clear impression of the charges leveled against Paul in the denials that he makes. He insisted that his message did not “spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive” (v. 3). In Paul’s day, there were multitudes of traveling religious charlatans who were notorious for the things alleged against Paul. Unlike the vain philosophers of his day, Paul did not teach error. Certainly, his Jewish opponents would have charged Paul with falsely interpreting the Old Testament. But Paul could show from the Scriptures that his teaching was true to God’s Word. Every preacher today should be able to do the same.

Finally, Paul did not teach with “any attempt to deceive” (v. 3). In Paul’s world, rhetoricians could be hired to argue with great eloquence for any cause, much as some lawyers today will argue any legal case for a large enough fee. But the apostle did not manipulate the Scriptures or speak with skillful cunning so as to entrap his audiences. Instead, as he insisted in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Paul spoke with an integrity that should be observed by all ministers of God’s Word, as Christ’s servants rely on the power of God for salvation rather than manipulate techniques designed to allure or confuse. Paul preached his message with integrity because of his sense of obligation to God. He explained: “Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (v. 4).

The motive of ministry: Not only was Paul’s message criticized in his absence, but even stronger attacks were launched against his motives. His opponents suggested that he sought the approval of men through flattery, that he was greedy for money, and that he advanced his own glory at the people’s expense. Paul answered: “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others” (vv. 5-6).

First, Paul was not motivated by a desire for the approval of men, which is why he refused to flatter in his preaching. The apostle knew that it is not possible to preach the gospel faithfully without giving offense to some listeners. Yes, there are those who enthusiastically believe, but there are others for whom the gospel is “a fragrance from death” (2 Cor. 2:16). Jesus offended the Pharisees of his day by showing their sin and condemning their self-righteous works.

A second false charge leveled against Paul’s motives was that he preached out of a covetous desire for financial gain. Paul would be especially susceptible to this charge because of his zealous efforts to raise money to assist the famine-stricken believers in Judea (1 Cor. 16:1-3). “We never came,” Paul retorted, however, “with a pretext of greed – God is witness” (v. 5). The word for pretext means “cloak”: Paul did not use his ministry to conceal a true desire to lay hands on the people’s money.

A third charge against Paul’s motives was that he was aiming to increase his own glory through his ministry. He answered: “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others” (v. 6). The only glory that Paul sought was the eternal glory that only Christ can give.

The manner of ministry: To preserve his gospel labors, Paul defended his message, his motives, and finally his manner among the Thessalonians. Not only was he not motivated for approval, money, or self-glory, but his manner was, first, gentle among the new believers: “But we were gentle among you, like nursing mother takes care of her own children” (v. 7). We should not be surprised that Paul used a feminine analogy for his labors as an apostle, since God’s grace had touched his heart in order to expand rather than contract his range of human emotions and actions. As Paul looked on the virtues of self-sacrifice and tender love exemplified by nursing mothers, he saw an example that should inspire all of us who share the gospel.

Not only was Paul gentle in his manner, but he was also affectionate toward the Thessalonians. He wrote that he was “affectionately desirous of you…, because you had become very dear to us” (v. 8). The apostle admits that while he did not covet the believers’ money, he did desire the believers themselves, because of his love for them and his longing for their salvation. Paul realized that his preaching of truth must be combined with love.

Finally, because of his affection for the Thessalonians, Paul could point out the obviously sacrificial character of his ministry. Since the apostle and his associates desired the believers for Christ and because they had become so very dear to them, they shared not only the gospel with them “but also our own selves” (v. 8). Here again, Paul’s example of the nursing mother is instructive. Love will cause a true Christian to make a sacrificial offering of his or her life in service to Christ and His people.

Paul defended his ministry in terms of his message, his motives, and his manner. This kind of faithful godliness was not impressive according to the standards of the world. To realize the significance of what Paul did, however, and of what we are called to do today, we may look back to his opening words in this chapter, where Paul stated that “our coming to you was not in vain” (v. 1). A message of integrity according to God’s Word, motives formed by sincerity before God, and a manner that is guided by love will not fail. It will achieve, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Paul’s testimony regarding his ministry speaks a vitally important word to those who hear the gospel today. If the message that is preached comes with integrity from the Word of God, then it is the same “gospel of God” that Paul preached. It is God who appeals to you now with the good news of forgiveness through the blood of His Son, and God who commands you to honor Him by believing.

Our is a generation in which so many rich, high, and exalted people are crumbling under the gravity of spiritual emptiness and in which the swollen pride of man inevitably fails of its boasting. In our age, like Paul’s, how great is the need for the humblest sinner to believe, and then for every Christian to show how full and powerful a life that is offered to Jesus can be for the service of His gospel. With Paul, we may boldly claim: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Study Questions:

In verses 1-2, Paul describes his previous ministry experiences. How did these episodes affect Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians?

What are the unhealthy or ungodly motivations for ministry that Paul mentions in verses 3-7?

What motives does Paul say drive him and his companions to minister to the Thessalonians and to preach the gospel even in the midst of opposition?

Paul contrasts the godly motivations that can drive one to preach the gospel with the self-serving motivations of those who also may be in ministry. It’s easy to point fingers, but we all wrestle with these same unhealthy motivations. How do you see mixed motives at work in you when it comes to Christian service?

Weekly Seed of Faith 10/24/2022

Seed of Faith – Praise God’s Faithfulness  By Pastor Dave  
“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:1-3

Dear Faithful Seed Sowers!

It is my prayer that we are learning to grow in the grace of Christ each day. I have been thinking about the wonderful hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” I encourage you to take a minute and YouTube your favorite version of this song and sing at the top of your lungs.  Pause and ponder the powerful lyrics and the deep meaning behind the words.

This is an inspiring hymn of praise and adoration, reminding us of God’s unlimited power and love. Although written in 1886, the hymn has become familiar to congregations everywhere around the world.
It especially became an international favorite after the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team used it in their crusades during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

The original text was written by a Swedish pastor, Carl Boberg, in 1886. While visiting a beautiful country estate, Boberg was caught in a sudden thunderstorm. The awesome and violent lightning and thunder quickly ended, leaving clear,  brilliant sunshine and the calm, sweet singing of the birds in the trees. Falling on his knees in awe and adoration of Almighty God, the pastor wrote nine stanzas of praise. Swedish congregations began to sing his lines to one of their old folk tunes. The text was later translated into German and Russian and ultimately into English by the Reverend S. K. Hine and his wife, English missionaries to the people of the Ukraine. When war broke out in 1939, it was necessary for the Hines to return to Britain, where Mr. Hine added the fourth stanza to this hymn. These four stanzas by Stuart Hine have since ministered and inspired God’s people worldwide:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy pow’r thruout the universe displayed!

When thru the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in—That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Refrain: Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art![i]

The first three verses of Psalm 145 teach us so much about worship. When we think of God and His greatness, what is it that we can give to God? The only thing that we can give to God is our praise — our worship.

In the first three verses are three nearly parallel lines — “I will praise you — I will praise you everyday — I will praise you forever and ever.”

“I will praise” you. Praise is worship; it is acknowledging God to be who God truly is. God is the Sovereign Lord of creation. God is holy, just, righteous, merciful, awesome, and majestic. God is with us forever and ever. Say it with David, “I WILL PRAISE YOU, GOD!”.

What worship is not: worship is not coming to God in order to get things from God. Worship is not confessing our sins or pleading for grace, though these things flow naturally from worship. Worship is simple but so difficult for so many. Worship is acknowledging God to be God. Indeed, it is doing precisely what David does in the remainder of this Psalm.

 I will praise you “every day.” David is not going to praise God merely on the Sabbath, though the seventh day (or for us the first day of the week, Sunday) is explicitly set aside for that purpose. Rather, David is going to praise God “every day,” Monday through Sunday. Wow! What a profound statement! Especially in our culture today when so many people are disconnecting from church and worship of God, here is the word of God reminding us to praise God every day. Worship is not just one hour a week. Worship is a 24/7/365 deal. Let’s get on it.

I will praise you “for ever and ever.” “For ever and ever” means more than merely “to the end of my days, until I die.” It means “forever,” indicating David’s belief he would be worshiping God in heaven even after his worship on earth was ended. Fantastic! Forever and ever and ever and ever.

Friends, the Good News for us today is that we will be worshiping God forever and ever–along with the other redeemed saints from all the other ages of world history. Can you only imagine that? Praising God with Peter and Paul and Mary. Praising God with Bonhoeffer. Praising God with Calvin. Praising God with Luther. Praising God with Augustine. Praising God with Mother Teresa.

The “so what” question is right here, right now. “Why don’t I practice worshiping God right now?”

If we were to break down this wonderful Psalm, we would say that David praises God for his greatness (vv. 5–7). David does not stop with praising God for His greatness, David praises God for his grace (vv. 8–13a), his faithfulness (vv. 13b–16), and his righteousness (vv. 17–20).

Here’s your “so what” homework:

  • Praise God for His greatness!
  • Praise God for His grace!
  • Praise God for his faithfulness!
  • Praise God for his righteousness!

Yes! Try it right now. Right here as you finish reading this SEED OF FAITH, let that mustard seed of faith grow. Tell God why you think God is great! Tell God about His great grace for you! Tell God about how faithful God has been to you. Thank God for his righteousness. We got this. You can travel to work, school, the grocery store and the mall and thank God for the many beautiful things you see or hear. Thank God for His grace: his glorious riches at Christ’s expense. Wow, you could drive cross country on that one. Look back over your life and thank God for His faithfulness to you. Lastly, praise God for His righteousness. Tell God you want to walk rightly, you want to follow Jesus and you need daily help and strength to do that.

Let’s practice this wonderful advice from David and Psalm 145. And after you are done with this great PRAISE session, play the song and sing along.

HOW GREAT THOU ART. What an opportunity we have to be able to turn our lives into a song of praise.

God loves You and so do I,

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1Thessalonians 1:8-10 A Model Reputation

One of the reasons Paul was writing the Thessalonians was his desire to share his joy and praise their faith. Paul’s praise for the Thessalonians is also heartening to readers of this letter today. Many Christians in America and in the West in general sense that the church has lost touch with the spirit that animated the early believers. The New Testament enables us to access their experience – an example that can still instruct and inspire us. Paul’s praise for the Thessalonians is especially important, since he sees this church as a model for all others. So fully did Paul approve of their reputation that he could respond, “We need not say anything” (v. 8), since their actions said enough. In the last three verses of this opening section of Paul’s letter, he notes three characteristics that made their reputation so commendable: theirs was a gospel-spreading, a God-serving, and a Christ-awaiting reputation. If we will follow this model, we may gain not only the praise of the Lord’s servants but also a strong assurance of Christ’s saving presence in our midst.

Paul had heard, first, about the Thessalonians’ gospel-spreading reputation: “The word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia” (v. 8). Paul heard this news from traveling Christians (such as Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth) who brought reports of the wider world. Since Paul says that the Thessalonians’ “faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (v. 8), many such travelers would have passed on the gospel-spreading reputation of this church.

Note that it was not just any witness that the Thessalonians gave. It was the “word of the Lord” that they received and spread. It was their belief that the gospel is the very Word of God that empowered their witness. We, too, must be completely persuaded about the divine character of the Bible if we are to have a similar impact. This is why attacks on the divine authority and inerrancy of Scripture always weaken the church and its witness.

As word spread through Greece and beyond about the Thessalonian Christians, the news told not only of their God-revealed message but also of their faith in it. When Paul says that the gospel sounded forth from them, he adds, “Your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything” (v. 8). This reputation for faith in God likely began at home with not only husbands and wives but also with their friends and neighbors. So profound was the change among so many people that news of a significant event in Thessalonica began spreading. Especially when the Christians would not give up their faith in the midst of persecution, but responded to trials with a steadfast hope and the “joy of the Holy Spirit”, more and more people took notice of these believers in Jesus. Only with the same testimony of faith that the Thessalonians gave, showing the power of the gospel they preached, can any Christians sound forth the Word of the Lord with real credibility and persuasiveness.

Second, the Thessalonians had gained a reputation as a God-serving church: “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living true God” (v. 9). The conversion of the Thessalonians began with the manner in which they received Paul and his associates. How people receive a sincere ministry of God’s Word largely determines their spiritual state. Today there are churches that claim the name of Jesus but resist clear and faithful Bible teaching. Such Christians are not likely to advance far in godliness or make much real spiritual impact, however much outward success they might enjoy. Instead, humble Christians who rejoice to have God’s Word opened and who respect faithful Christian leaders are most likely to make a lasting gospel impact.

As Paul preached the Scriptures in Thessalonica, many who heard his message were converted to faith in Christ. Verse 9 sets forth in clear language what this conversion entailed: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Notice how the early Christians understood that becoming a Christian requires a definite and radical break with one’s former life. The Thessalonians recognized that embracing Christ required a revolution in their worship and service; the early Christians saw a basic antithesis that required them to turn to God from the idolatrous culture around them and embrace a distinctive and biblical Christian approach to life, worship, and ministry.

Paul’s statement regarding the Thessalonains’ rejection of idols is particularly poignant when we recognize that the peak of Mount Olympus – the supposed home of the Greek pantheon of gods – was visible from their location a bare fifty miles away. It is less easy, perhaps, for us to see the gods that faith in Christ requires us to renounce today.

An idol is anything that we trust and serve in the place of God. There is nothing wrong with desiring to be successful, but when success provides our identity, significance, and security, we have made it an idol. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with fitness and beauty, but when the focus of our lives is given to glorifying our physique and form, then we are worshiping an idol in the place of God. One of the most common forms of idolatry today is the worship of money and all that it can buy. An idol is something we cannot live without. We must have it, and therefore it drives us to break rules we once honored, to harm others and even ourselves in order to get it. Idols are spiritual addictions that lead to terrible evil.

For this reason, Paul saw the rejection of idols not only as a necessity in Christian conversion but also as part of the deliverance that Christ achieves in our salvation. Believing the gospel and embracing Jesus involves a change of the will from trusting, worshiping, and serving false gods to a new faith in which God is trusted, worshiped, and served through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Here, we have a diagnostic question that we can use to assess ourselves. Do we have a reputation for being radically converted to God and His ways, forsaking the idols of our generation? As individuals, do we exhibit to those who know us a clear rejection of worldly values and a deliberate commitment to the liberating service of God? If we have such a reputation, it will be evident in how we spend our time, use our money, and offer our talents and energies in pursuing a decidedly biblical lifestyle as servants of the Lord.

The third component of the Thessalonians’ exemplary reputation was that they were a Christ-awaiting church. Paul concludes this opening section of his letter by writing that they turned to God in order “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (v. 10). The word that Paul uses for wait (anameno) appears only here in the New Testament. It conveys the idea of patient expectation and trust. The Thessalonian Christians were gospel-spreading and God-serving believers who were persuaded that Christ would return soon to bring the fullness of salvation for which they longed.

This waiting has a passive component, in that the early Christians did not expect to achieve salvation through their own witness and ministry. They were counting on Jesus – the same Savior who had died for their sins – to return in glory to deliver them from evil. Although they were right to expect Christ to come soon, they should have realized that God’s timing is not known to man (5:2). With this in mind the Thessalonians were to live with an eye on the horizon, waiting for Jesus to return and give them victory over the world.

At the same time, the waiting that Paul describes has an important active component. While they were anticipating Jesus’ return, the Thessalonian readers should ready themselves to greet Him. Christians are waiting not merely for the coming of heaven on earth but for Christ Himself, who is coming for us. Jesus Spoke this way to the disciples before departing for the cross: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). The heaven for which we wait is bound up in the person of Jesus, and our expectation is fixed on the One who comes to take us not merely to heaven but to Himself in glory (see Matt 24:45-25:13).

Jesus comes to enter us into His glory, which we anticipate now with great longing, gaining courage and strength to face this dark world. Whatever sorrows we have here, in the age to come we will know only the peace and joy of Christ. A final question to diagnose ourselves as a church and as individual believers. Is it evident to others that we are depending on a power that is not of this earth but comes from heaven through our faith in Christ? Are we seeking rewards and storing treasures in heaven, where our riches never fail or fade? Or are we settling for mere earthly glories because we know so little of the heavenly splendor of God? Jesus declared, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Does our lifestyle give us the reputation of people whose treasure is most truly in the world to come, who dwells there now?

Jesus who died and was raised for our salvation, is coming soon, and then the reputation we have gained by His grace in this world will be the beginning of an eternal legacy. The Bible speaks of an eternal glory for faithful servants of Christ. As the angel proclaimed to Daniel: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

1Thessalonians 1:8-10 Study Questions:

How would “turning from idols” have been an incredibly difficult thing for the Thessalonians to do?

What might be parallels for us today of turning away from the “powers” of this world to the One true God and His One true Son?

In verses 9-10, Paul describes the conversion of the Thessalonians. What are the elements of conversion Paul describes here?

In what specific ways can you as a community of believers live in a way that the story of the gospel becomes known around you?