By Nicole McLeod
Over the last two weeks we’ve had a wonderful introduction to this remarkable church in Thessalonica, and to the powerful ministry of the Apostle Paul and his associates, Silvanus, and Timothy, whom the Holy Spirit used to bring it to life. Faithful Spirit filled preaching had brought these men and women to Christ, and then faithful Spirit filled pastoring had nurtured them in the faith and helped them grow and stand strongdespitethe opposition that came against them right away.Just weeks after the church was born a “great conflict” forced Paul’s departure from them, but his pastoral heart of love and concern for them, reflecting God’s heart of love for them, comes through these letters we have before us.And as we study chapter 2 today, we willsee how Paul, their pastor, cared for and nurtured the new believers in the churches he founded. His pastoral work wastruly a labor of love to those he considered his spiritual family.
Some upset people outside the church began accusing Paul of having unworthy motives and of improper conduct. So, with these slanders in mindhe writes to vindicate his character and ministry. He reminds these brothers and sisters in Christ, of the facts of his coming, and of their response to his preaching. This chapter provides us with this record, andwith what one commentator calls, “ one of the richest descriptions of the work of a Christian minister to be found in the New Testament.”
There are three-word pictures Paul uses in this chapter to describe the quality of his ministry. First,we see the picture of a faithfulness of a stewardof God (vs. 1-6), secondly, the gentleness of a nursing mother (vs. 7-12), and thirdly, the leadership example of a concerned godly father, (vs. 13-20). A steward, a nursing mother, a godly father.
May the Holy Spirit speak to us, andgive each one of us insights, to help us in our own ministries, and labors of love, within our families, and in our own spiritual family here at CCAG, as we serve one another in love.
(Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy wrote)1 Thess. 2:1-6 “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.2Buteven after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated atPhilippi, as you know, we werebold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”
1 Thessalonians 2:1Paul begins: “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.”
Not only were people saved by his coming to them with the gospel, but a vibrant and reproducing church was born, and was growing. And they were that church.
Back in1 Thess. 1:5Paul wrote,“ For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men, we were among you for your sake.”
His preaching had impressive results and lives were forever changed. Not in vain!
We have this plaque hanging over Robert’s chair in our family room, as a reminder to us, which says, “Your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Its anabbreviation of1 Cor 15:58“ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” If you’ve been weary in well doing, take heart today and remember, your labors in Christ are not in vain… what you are doing for Christ matters.
In verse2-3they remind the churchthat when they had first arrivedin Thessalonica, the wounds on their backs were still fresh from the severe mistreatment they had suffered in Philippi, (please read this story in Acts 16).
Even then, he reminds them, wewerebold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God.Their holy boldness and their messagecame from God, and they preached the good news courageously though much opposition and spiritual conflict. They sowed the good seed of the gospel, and the seed landed on receptive soil.
Jesus taught about this in his parable of the soils.
Matt. 11:23 “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understandsit,who indeed bearsfruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”Their hearts had been receptive to the preaching, and this was a fruitful ministry!
First, they reminded them what their ministry was not:
1 Thess. 2:3-6 “For our exhortationdidnotcomefrom error or uncleanness, norwas itin deceit.4But aswe have been approved by Godto be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak,notas pleasing men, but Godwho tests our hearts. Forneitherat any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor acloak for covetousness—Godiswitness.6Nordid we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, whenwe might havemade demandsas apostles of Christ.”
In the first century world that Paul lived in, there were many competing religions, and many of the so called “ministers” of those religions were what we would call “charlatans”, motivated by greed and gain. By contrast, Paul insists on the purity, integrityand truthfulness of his character, message,motives, and ministry. His preaching and pastoral ministry was characterized by substance and truth, purity and devotion, boldness, and sincerity, focused on pleasing God, not men – as God was their witness.
After all, (verse 4), it wasGod, whohad entrusted Paul with the Divine message of His grace, and Paul was as a faithful steward of the gospelas he evangelized Thessalonica. Having “been approved by Godto be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak,not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.”
1.Picture of a faithful steward:
A steward is someone who receives the valuables and goods of their master, and they are to manage them and be responsible for them for his master’s profit. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: 1 Cor. 4:1-2 “ Let a man so consider us, asservants of Christand stewards of the mysteries of God.2Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”
Faithfulness is the most important quality a steward, and as we see thisas we look at thevirtues of Paul’s pastoral ministry, truth, purity and devotion, sincerity,perseverance, honesty,and humility, we understand what faithfulness looks like. It also must look like love.
“ The way we relate to others authenticates the gospel of love.”
Paul knew his Gospel wouldn’t always please men, but he knew that it was pleasing to God, and that was what mattered.
David Guzik wrote, “Paul tried to make the Gospel as attractive as possible, but he never changed its central character or focus. Paul never compromised issues like man’s need, God’s Savior, the cross, the resurrection, and the new life. ”
Romans 1:16 “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The gospel is the power of God – it’s what changes us.
1 Peter 1:22-25 “Since youhave purified your souls in obeying the truththrough the Spirit insincerelove of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,23having been born again, not ofcorruptible seedbutincorruptible,through the word of God which lives and abidesforever,”
God entrusted Paul with this gospel, who then entrusted it to faithful men and women, who in turn faithfully taughtothers, who faithfully passed this gospel to us, so we now are stewards of the gospel. We are to know the Gospel, uphold the integrity of the Gospel. We are to preach the Gospel and pass it on to the next generation of believers.
Stewards know they must give an account to their masters:
Matt 24:45-46(At the end of his parable, Jesus asked),“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them foodin dueseason?Blessedisthat servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.”
Paul knew God would call him to account, and at the end of this chapter he writes of how much helooked forward toseeing these believers in Christon that day.
Paul’s pastoral ministry focused on caring the flock as a family, not a business.
2. Gentleness of a mother:
1 Thess. 2:7-8“But we were gentle among you, just as anursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”
Paul may have had Moses in mind, who in Numbers 11:12 used the picture of himself as a nursing mother to Israel. These were his “children in the faith”. He patiently fed them and cared for them in Jesus’ name and with Jesus’ gentle love, because he cherished them.
Godly concern for his spiritual family characterized Paul’s ministry. Like a nursing mother imparts her own life to her child, Paul interacted at a deep heart-level with the people he had led to Christ. Can you think of Christians who have shared with you not only the gospel but their very lives? I have benefited from both the teachings and examples of many through the years… people God used like spiritual mothers and fathers especially as a new believer…
All this must be done with care and gentleness, with a deep concern for another’s welfare. The love of Jesus is to be in all we do.
Phil. 4:5 “ Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.”
1 Thess. 2:9-11 “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. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe, as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children,”
3. Paul ‘s metaphor changes here from a gentle mother to a godly Father
Paul saw himself a spiritual father to the churches he began. He calls them again to rememberhowhardworking andself-sacrificing, he had been, supporting himself financially while he servedthem day and night, teaching, discipling,and helping them to live godly lives.He gave fatherly leadership, personal instruction, and exhortation, and gave them a godly example to follow. They were a witnessto this, and God also,(verse 9) of how they had behaved themselves, devoutly, justly, and blamelessly. His character and his ministry were above reproach. His goal for his children in the faith…
1 Thess. 2:12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Here we have the goal of Paul’s“labors of love”, the fruit he labored to see. That these believers, and men and women like ourselves, would know God’s truth and would live their lives in such a way in the sight of God, that God would be glorified. Walking(living)worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
The verb used here forcallin vs. 12, is in the present tense, God is continually calling us – not only into salvation, but into living a life of holiness, fruitfulness, faithfulness, all to the glory of God.
And this is at the heart of our Tuesday morning Bible study here at our church. We meet weekly to worship the Lord, study His word and pray together in fellowship with one another, and the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives helping us grow and bear fruit – We do our part to come together with open hearts, and the Lord is doing His part blessing and working His good work in our live using His Word to teach us and sustain us.
As a new believer I heard the illustration of a charcoal fire, the briquettes keep one another warm and glowing, but when one rolls away how quickly it cools and the light and fire grows cold.
Next, we see how Paul, as a spiritual father, rejoiced over the way his children welcomed the life changing Word of God into their lives, as it is, the Word of God.
1 Thess.2:13. “For this reason, we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not asthe word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
The church is founded on the word of God and the message of the gospel of Jesus Christthe same word that brings us salvation enables us to live for Christ, even in times of suffering. It effectivelyworks in you who believe.”Paul trusted the power ofGod’s Wordand the Holy Spirit to do God’s work of transformation. These believers turned from paganism and idolatry to God. Both the Old and New Testaments declare the wonder working power of the Word of God.
Psalm 19:7-9 “
The law of the Lord is perfect,converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.11Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”
2 Tim 3:16 “All Scriptureisgiven by inspiration of God,andisprofitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, forinstruction in righteousness,17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul appreciated their appetite for the Word of God and thanked God for their eagerness to embrace it, as he saw its power at work in them.
1 Thess.2:14“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, Who both killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.”
He loved to call them “brethren” and he uses this term 21 times in these two letters. (Brethren also includes the sisters in Christ). Paul commends these believers, for being willing not only to receive the gospel, but to suffer for it as others had in Judea, from unbelieving Jews. It was these unbelieving Jews who had killed their own prophets, the Lord Jesus and had driven Paul and his associates away, opposing both God and man as they seek to stifle the spread of the gospel.
So, he reminds them that the Lord Jesus was persecuted, the prophets had been persecuted, and the Christians in Judea , Paul and his fellow ministers were also persecuted.
There is a long tradition of suffering linked with the Christian life. When people suffer for their faith, it may not surprise us, but we hurt with them.Paul as their spiritual father was also burdened by their suffering. We are in a spiritual war.
We must remember that God is on our side in this great spiritual conflict – He is for us both as individuals and as a church. He has provided his people with divine resources available to us in Christ: God’s word within us, Hi Holy Spirit, His love upon us, God’s people around us and God’s glory ahead of us. So,Paul assures them/us that God would ultimately, indeed take care of their persecutors.
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20“But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short timein presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.18Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—butSatan hindered us.
Paul had been physically separated from his spiritual children, but not in heart He longed to be reunited with them (vs. 18) as he loved them, prayed for them, and supported them with these letters. The heart of Paul here reflects the heart of love that Jesus has for all the church, and how we also long for that reunion with Him.
But Satan hindered Paul and his associates. We don’t know how he was hindered, but we do know Satan constantly tries to stop the spread of the gospel.
What Satan meant for evil; God used for good,as it led Paul to write these two letters before us which continue to teach and minister to the church down through the ages, pointing us to Christ’s coming again for us.
1 Thess.2:19 “Forwhatisour hope, or joy, orcrown of rejoicing?Is itnot even you in thepresence of our Lord Jesus Christat His coming?20For you are our glory and joy.”At the close of the chapter, Paul calls them to look upwards and forwards to Jesus’ coming again for His beloved church. He asks them, whatisour hope, or joy, orcrown of rejoicing? And he answers: it is you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. Paul had joy looking forward to presenting this church to Jesus on that day. These believers would bring glory to God, and joy to his heart. This is noteworthy, especially in light of all of this church’s flaws and faults. How do we view our own church? Are we more aware of its faults or of its beauty? Paul’s perspective and heart of love teaches us to look at its beauty.
The crown likely refers to the laurel wreath of victory that was used as a prize at athletic contests. These precious ones were his crown of victory, his glory and joy.Living for this joy will produce hope and perseverance in ministry.
They were his “glory andjoy”as are you all my dear sisters in Christ.
The same gospel has reached our hearts and have embraced it, and we are blessed.When Jesus comes, we will rejoice in His presence, and won’t we also rejoice to see the people we have influenced for Christand ministered to, there with Him in that day? May this thought give us strength to continue to persevere in ministry, to pray for and share with the people God brings into our lives. May they be our glory and our joy when Christ comes for His church.