2:8 Even so, affectionately longing for you, we
were well pleased to impart to you,
not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us.
2:9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail; for working night and day,
that we might not burden any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
2:10 You are witnesses with God, how holy, righteously,
and blamelessly we behaved ourselves toward you who believe.
1Thess 2:1,2 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 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.
In Acts 16 Paul went to Philippi where he was imprisoned after casting out a demon from a possessed slave girl. The girl's master was so angry that he aroused the civil authorities against Paul on the basis of anti-Jewish sentiment. But Paul exerted his rights as a Roman citizen and was released.
In Acts 17 upon arriving in Thessalonica, he went to the Jewish synagogue. And for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures, proving Jesus to be the Christ. Some Jews believed and a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the unbelieving Jews became jealous and slandered him to the civil authorities. This caused a great disturbance, and Paul and Silas left to Berea.
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people." Acts 17:11-13
But these kind of oppositions are to be expected. So dare to preach
the gospel in spite of strong opposition.
1Thess 2:3-6a For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 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. 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.
There are those who "boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage." Jude 1:6 and "by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."Rom 16:18
When you preach the gospel, how do the people you are speaking to know that you are doing so out of pure motives? Common questions skeptics ask:
Who are we trying to please? Will you minster even if people don't appreciate
it? One of the important attitudes to develop in maturing in Christ is
the attitude of not caring what other people think of us, but rather to
care what God alone thinks of us. This will keep a Christian safe. Think
about all those examples of "godly" people sinning in the Bible and how
it may have turned out quite different if they only cared what God thought
about them. This is not to say that we should not care whether people understand
us. Not does it mean that we should not empathize with others. It is other
people's attitude towards us I am referring to. Such a dispassionate attitude
requires humility. For who are we that we should be concerned about what
others think of us. This was the kind of struggle that many of the Christians
faced in the early church at a time when Christianity was unpopular.
1Thess 2:6a-9 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. 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. 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.
There are many things we learn in Paul's letters about how to minister
to people. Much of it has to do with one's attitude. To be responsible
in carrying out God's ministry, one must have an attitude as a parent.
And one can learn a bit about proper parenting from Paul in his dealings
with those he ministered to. For mother, Paul uses the greek word for nurse.
His is focussing on the mother's instinct to take care of the practical
needs of her children. In particular Paul pointed out his not taking money
from the Thessalonians for ministry, for children do not pay their mother
to raise them. As he said elsewhere "Now I am ready
to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because
what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should
not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children."
1Thess 2:10-12 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 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.
By nature children follow their parent's example. Therefore the minister of the gospel should seek to behave properly as an example to follow. Jesus did not simply command us to preach the gospel, but to make disciples (Matt 28:19,20). That is a long, non-trivial process that requires intimate relationships to develop.
Like a father, Paul exhorts, commands and encourages them. He focusses
on their maturing. And in fact one can learn about fathering by studying
Paul's method of ministry. Among other things, fathering involves exhortation.
Although not to the point of exasperation, as he says,
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the
training and instruction of the Lord." Eph 6:4
1Thess 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.
For the Bible to be effective in bringing one to salvation, one must accept it as the Word of God. It is not to be considered merely the opinions of a bunch of dead theologians. Conversely that which is not scripture should not be reckoned the Word of God. The Word of God is the Bible. It is the word of the Lord and his apostles and prophets which has been recorded. Don't gullibly treat opinions, sermons or commentaries by post-Biblical theologians and preachers (such as myself) as infallible truth. Beware of such rhetoric as "now the pastor will give us a word from God", referring to his own words. In fact often such sermons contain little of what the Word of God actually says.
Accepting the Word of God as the apostles preached it as infallible
truth is, of course, indicative of saving faith. John writes, "We
are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from
God does not listen to us." 1John 4:6 Furthermore,
"the word of God is living and active." Heb 4:12a and regenerates
the Christian. "For you have been born again, not
of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring
word of God." 1Pe 1:23 Therefore "let
the word of Christ dwell in you richly" Col 3:16a
1Thess 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
One effect of the acceptance of the Word of God is the developement of people of conviction who stand in spite of strong opposition. These people demonstrate a fearlessness which is characteristic of children of God. Conversely, cowards are first on the list to be thrown into the lake of fire. "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur." Rev 21:8
And such trials are to be expected. "In fact,
everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted"
3:12 Jesus said, "If you belonged to the
world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the
world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates
you." John 15:19
1Thess 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.
How do unbelievers try and prevent the spread of the gospel? By developing hostility against it. Remember the Jews who tried to stop Paul. What did they do? They stirred up the crowds to anger through slander and even went to the civil authorities with slanderous accusations. This should not be surprising as Jesus faced the same.
Also notice the "so that they may be saved" phrase. Without the gospel,
the Gentiles would not be saved. "How then shall
they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe
in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"Rom
10:14 Notice also from verse 16 what is the worse thing a person can
do to heap up their sins to the limit and incur God's wrath? It is to
hinder the communication of the gospel of Christ.
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
1Thess 2:17-20 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. 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.
Paul was emotionally attached to the Thessalonian Christians as parents naturally are to their children. Ministers of the word should have such an attachment to those they disciple. Problem is this has to be mutual. The Thessalonians listened to Paul and respected him. With regards to his teachings they were obedient and application-oriented even in the midst of hostility. So it's easy to understand why Paul was particularly attached to them. The circumstances also intensified their relationship. Christians who suffer together are also drawn closer together regardless of whether they're in the same place. Paul's dedication to them no doubt helped secure their allegiance to him and to the gospel he preached. And their allegiance further secured his devotion to them. Effective ministry is more than communication of ideas. Among other things it also incorporates the communication of ones' feelings.
Satan opposes the development of positive Christian relationships. Either he hinders contact through circumstances as in the case here, or he introduces conflicts internally by provoking the Christian's sinful nature resulting in divisiveness. For example Paul combats one of Satan's scheme with the following, "If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven— if there was anything to forgive— I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." 2Cor 2:10-11 Paul was not unaware of Satan's schemes. Neither should we be unaware. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." 1Peter 5:8,9
What is your crown? What is the thing that you will glory in when you
enter the presence of the Lord? Paul glories in the impact he's had on
other people. He says likewise to the Philippians, "Therefore,
my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how
you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" Php 4:1
Paul viewed his own fruitfulness as contingent upon the fruitfulness of
those he had influenced. Let us rejoice if the next generation of
Christians does better than us.