Sermon: Paul’s Defense and Our Calling 1 Thess. 2:1-12

Paul’s Defense and Our Calling

1 Thess. 2:1-12

Truth Taught- Paul makes his case against his opponents and in the process we learn how the Gospel should be freely given.

Introduction

In this beginning section of Chapter two we see Paul’s defense of his apostolic conduct and ministry to the Thessalonians. Why does he defend his actions and ministry? He defends his actions and ministry for at least two reasons. First, the Jews that had come in to fill to void after he left Thessalonica were attacking him. They were maligning his name and conduct. Even saying things like, all Paul wanted was your money. He’s not even an apostle, what gives him the right to tell you what to do? Secondly, we are reminded of the Pauline theology of imitation. He defends his ministry so that we can understand what is proper conduct as we engage in ministry as well.

In the process of his defense we learn a lot of things. We learn what false teachers are like and what they do. We learn what their motives are and what they’re really out for. We also learn what true Gospel ministry looks like. So, in the process of Paul making his defense we learn how not to engage in Gospel ministry and then the positive, how to engage in Gospel ministry.

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 2:1–12 (ESV)

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But 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. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but 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. 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, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

  1. Paul’s First Defense…We Spoke Boldly in Much Affliction (2:1-2)

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But 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.

He begins by reminding the Thessalonians what they already know. He uses a phrase that will be repeated over again… you yourselves know. They already know how he and the missionary team conducted themselves while in the great city. What Paul is going to do is to contrast his actions and the resulting effects with the charges brought against him by the Jewish opponents who were making up lies trying to discredit Paul.

Have you ever had someone make up lies to try and hurt you or your reputation? It’s so important that we live pure lives being honest and forthright in all our dealings so that when we are slandered we will also have a defense. Children, it is vital that you begin at a young age to live according to God’s commands. Beginning with the command to obey your parents. As you grow up obeying God’s commands you will reap what you have sown. You will gain great benefits as you submit to your parents. This will greatly help you to learn to submit to God’s rule over you. We all must live in a way that would lift us above the slander. You see Paul and the others could rise above it simply by reminding others of what they witnessed first hand concerning them.

False teachers are simply trying to make a name for themselves and get rich. Paul and the others are contrasting their ministry with the lies and greed of the Jews who had come in to make a name for themselves.

2 Peter 2:1–3 (ESV)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

How Paul contrasts this is by reminding others that their message didn’t bring ease and riches to the messengers but had brought suffering and shameful treatment by those who opposed them. Their opponents were treating the gospel messengers poorly. The gospel was good news to the believers but brought hardship to the preachers.

While the apostle was suffering because of the message he was still speaking it boldly because it was not from him but from God. He wasn’t afraid of man because he knew this message was from God.

He and the others were bold because they had complete confidence in their message. He tells us that we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God.

We must speak the Gospel of God with others as well. We will, no doubt, encounter opposition. Rather than retreating or watering down the message, we can have confidence and speak fearlessly because our confidence is in God and not in ourselves and our abilities because the Gospel is His message not ours. Will you speak the Gospel to others? Will you speak the Gospel to others even in the midst of affliction and opposition?

  1. Paul’s Second Defense…Our Goal Was to Please God Not Man (2:3-8)

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but 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. 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, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

  1. Goal to please God

The defense comes when he writes that the appeal they made to the Thessalonians came from pure motives not selfish gain or deceit. Their goal was to please God and not to please men.

Look with me at how Paul argues his case: He has been approved by God for the ministry of the Gospel, he received the Gospel from God, and he speaks to others in order to have God’s approval because, in fact, God knows his motives already. There is not much here in his defense concerning whether or not others believe. His goal was to preach God’s gospel that he has been entrusted with in a way that at the end of the day, God would say well done good and faithful servant. This had nothing to do with whether or not those who heard would believe. Their belief is between them and God our job, like Paul is to speak the good news in a way that God would approve.

It’s important that we teach our children to think about what they do and that they should do it for the glory of God. Kids, you are not too young to think about your actions. You are not too young to understand that everything you do, do it for God’s glory.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

We discover then that simply speaking the Gospel is not entirely approved by God but we must do it with pure motives and in an accurate way. There were others who were telling them a gospel that was not accurate and doing so with impure motives.

  1. How Paul did not preach the Gospel-

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, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

Verses 5 and 6 show the negative side, in other words, this is what Paul did not do but he is hinting at the fact that this is how false teachers preach the Gospel.

He again appeals to what they already know… For we never came with words of flattery, as you know. What is flattery? Flattery is music to a sinner’s ears. It is a drink that goes down smooth. It’s candy to the taste buds. Flattery is very kind and endearing words. It is words that we like to hear because they are good words about us. The goal of the flatterer is to gain an advantage over the flatteree. By securing favor with kind words the flatterer will gain approval with the other person.

There are false teachers and preachers today who use this method. Smile at them and tell them what they want to hear, never speaking about sin, repentance or hell. Turn the reality of the Gospel into a message of improvement and this just a little because after all God loves you just the way you are. Our modern day mega church evangelists often fit this bill. They flood us with flattery, deceit, and greed. Their motives are financial gain and sitting on the top of the Ponzie scheme. The health and wealth false gospel works for those on top. If, after a message of the Gospel you feel good about yourself based on you then you have just been lied to and sold a bill of goods. You’ve bought oceanfront property in Arizona. The true Gospel must break us and bury us as we see the vividness of our sin. It must relay the fact that you shouldn’t feel good about yourself because there is absolutely nothing good there. The good feeling comes after we realize that it is all Christ and there is very many things good in Him. He is our goodness and righteousness.

These are the things the modern day health and wealth preachers just never get around to telling us…their time is up before truth comes out.

Paul did not preach like these people.

We must never use people for selfish gain. We must never speak the Gospel connected with flattery. Be on your guard, when someone begins to tell you how good you are, they’re usually out to get something from you.

Children, it’s always a good practice to tell the simple truth. Do it kindly and clearly. If you’ve done something wrong, for example, and your parents ask you about it don’t lie or try to flatter them. Simply tell the truth.

  1. How Paul preached the Gospel-

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Do you see the difference between Paul and the false teachers? He really cared for them and loved them. The false teachers, on the other hand, just used them for selfish gain.

The missionary team really cared about the listeners. Paul writes they were gentle among them. Gentle like a mother with her nursing infant. He was tender, considerate, kind, and concerned with their well being rather than like the false teachers who cared only for themselves and used these people as stepping stones to wealth and fame.

In verse 8 he goes on to explain that not only did they share the Gospel with them but they also shared themselves. It’s so important to share the truth with others and to do it sincerely showing them love as well. The truth shared by a rigid, stern, unloving person is not as effective as the same message coupled with true love flowing from the evangelist or witness.

Paul then declares the reason they were so willing to not only preach the Gospel but give of themselves. He writes, because you had become very dear to us.

In such a short time the new Christians and Paul’s team had bonded in love so strong that they were willing to give of themselves and it didn’t seem like giving in the extreme but when Christian love is the bond giving becomes natural.

I have seen many of you give to each other in ways that have been an encouragement to me. I’ve seen you give financially to others. I’ve seen selfless service to others. I’ve seen such a strong commitment to one another that, while we are not perfect, I think we have some of what Paul is speaking about. You love each other. When we love each other our words become more powerful; they have a stronger meaning when they are accompanied with care and love.

I really believe that this is why true Christian growth is best seen in the context of the local church. Let me say it like this…

You will grow more here as you listen to truth and love and serve others in this church than you will any other way.

  1. Paul’s Third Defense…Blameless Conduct (2:9-12)

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Here is Paul’s last defense against his opponents. He reminds the Thessalonians how he and his team worked night and day to be self-supporting in order to minister to those in the city. The missionary team earned their money while in the City of Thessalonica. They did not seek money from them.

I have to say that I struggle when missionaries or church planters seeking support contact us. Many times they are people we don’t even know. It usually goes something like this: God has called us to go to fill in the blank and we are at 75% of our support goal. We would really like for your church to pray for us and consider partnering with us financially. They usually put the prayer part first but what they really are after is money. My big problem is this, are they really trusting God and do they really believe God has called them to go?

I can remember back when we started this church, we didn’t have any support. We knew God had called us to do it so we just did it. We worked night and day and God granted us His favor and here we are.

Paul didn’t tell the Christian back in Jerusalem that he was raising money so he and his team could go to Thessalonica, once they knew God had called them to go, they immediately went. I wonder what would happen if a missionary would just go like those missionaries did in the past?    

10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.

Again he calls on those Christians to remember his blameless conduct while with them. I want to remind you just how vital our conduct is. If we are to be an effective witness for Christ, we must also seek to walk blamelessly. Our conduct matters.

Have you ever noticed how when you begin speaking with a lost person about the Gospel that many times they bring up an example of poor conduct of someone they know who claims to be a Christian? Very often this happens. They can use the poor and sinful conduct of “Christians” to diminish the effectiveness of your witness.

The Apostle goes on to make another very important comparison. He said that these new Christian were cared for and loved like a nursing mother loves her child. Now he writes, 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Here’s what we must learn from this: there are times beloved that we must care for and be gentle with other Christians. Then, like a father, we must exhort, encourage, and charge other Christians. There are times when it’s appropriate to be gentle and then there are times when it’s appropriate to be firm.

Exhort means to put pressure on someone to move them in the right direction. Along the way we encourage and then we also at times charge them to walk in a worthy manner.

(Family Worship Handout)

1 Thess 2.1.12DWG

 

*Resources Used:

John Stott, The Gospel and the End of Time

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Robert Cara

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G K Beale

1 and 2 Thessalonians by Leon Morris

1 and 2 Thessalonians by FF Bruce

1 and 2 Thessalonians by G L Green

 

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