Paul remembers his visit to Thessaloniki. He preached Jesus Christ, and people got saved. They were his disciples. They are his greatest joy. [UPDATED]
wasn’t in vain. Paul’s visit to them was not without effect.
However, in our day, many people in full-time Christian ministry lament that their ministries produce very little fruit. We’ve heard this expressed by Evangelicals, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists and Catholics.
In our era, many people in full-time ministry toil away with little to show for it. Its probably one of the signs of the times. Generally speaking, it probably isn’t the “fault” of the individual minister.
Nonetheless, Paul’s visit to Thessaloniki was quite effective.
VERSE 2. but having suffered before and been shamefully treated, as you know, at Philippi, we grew bold in our God to tell you the Good News of God in much conflict.
suffered. In Philippi, they had been given very rough treatment. There was much pain.
shamefully treated. They were cruelly attacked. They had been grossly insulted.
we grew bold in our God. That is, God gave them courage. God gave them the courage they needed to do.
In our day, we use the word “courage” to describe a specific emotion that we feel within us. We associate that feeling with our heroes.
However, the Bible uses the term “courage” in a very different sense. It means “to act.” To do the thing. To not walk away.
So when this verse says God gave Paul courage, it means Paul was able to do the deed. He acted boldly for Christ.
in much conflict. They faced great opposition. Somehow, they overcame their natural human fears and were able to do the brave thing.
In our day, we use the word “fear” to describe a specific emotion that we feel within us. However, we believe the Bible uses the term “fear” in a very different sense: to fear means “to not act.” To not do the thing. To chicken out.
When a biblical character is described as being without, it means he or she actually did the thing God called them to do. In this case, Paul did the deed. He acted boldly for Jesus Christ. If Paul had chickened out or ran away, the Bible would say he had fear.
our exhortation. That is, their preaching. Their preaching does not stem from . . .
error. That is, delusion. They were not deluded. Paul’s mentioning this suggests that there were other preachers in his day who were indeed deluded.
uncleanness. That is, immoral. They were not immoral. For Paul to need to mention this suggests that, already by Paul’s day, there were any number of immoral preachers.
deception. Paul was not trying to deceive anyone. But again, Paul’s mentioning this suggests that already by Paul’s day, there were any number of deceptive preachers running about.
These three items: delusion, immorality and deceit. They show us that already by the time of Paul, some preachers were corrupt.
How could such a person be a representative of Jesus Christ? That was an important question for their day. And it is an important question for our day as well.
VERSE 4. But even as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News, so we speak: not as pleasing men, but God, who tests our hearts.
approved by God. It was God who had decided that they were fit to be entrusted with the Good News.
so we speak. Whenever Paul spoke, he spoke of Jesus Christ. And he spoke about Jesus Christ quite often. Freely he had received; freely he gave.
Paul did not conceal the saving message of Jesus Christ under a bushel-basket. No, he set it on a lamp stand for all to see. He shouted the message from the rooftops!
not as pleasing men. Many of us Christians are people-pleasers. We have a need to make people be happy. If a preacher or discipler has that tendency, it can be dangerous, as they will feel compelled to distort the message of Jesus Christ so as to make it inoffensive.
Some ministers distort the message so as to not offend their hearers sitting in front of them in the congregation. This minister is a “man-pleaser.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, many Christian leaders were “man-pleasers” in this way. They distorted the content of the Bible so as to please their immediate hearers.
Others distort the message so as to not offend their overseers in their denomination. They “slant” things so as to please their bosses, so as to get promoted higher in their hierarchy. They are “suits.” They’re “company men.” They too, are “man-pleasers.
In the past decade or so, this type of “man-pleasing” Christian leader has risen to the forefront. They distort the gospel message so as to please their bosses and get promoted.
but God, who tests our hearts. God knows our innermost thoughts. Despite what others might think, God actually knows what shenanigans we’re actually about.
VERSE 5. For neither were we at any time found using words of flattery, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness (God is witness),
neither … words of flattery. Paul was not a flatterer. He did not flatter people. They did not try to curry favor.
nor a cloak of covetousness. They did not have a hidden agenda of personal gain. Some people in ministry do things to gain power or influence, money, or promotion.
But Paul and his companions did not have corrupt motives such as those. Ministry was not a cover for trying to get money.
VERSE 6. nor seeking glory from men (neither from you nor from others), when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ.
nor seeking glory. Some ministers do what they do, not for the glory of God, not to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not to enrich the faith-lives of their people.
Rather, their goal is self-centered: to advance themselves and their own career. This is the way of the minister who is power-hungry.
from men. They were not man-pleasers, distorting the message of the Bible so as to curry favor from their hearers sitting in front of them in the congregation.
neither from you nor from others. They were not man-pleasers, distorting the message of the Bible so as to curry favor with their bosses.
Denominations with a clear power structure will naturally attract power-hungry men to positions of leadership. And power-hungry men are often willing to do anything to gain glory for themselves.
we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ. Paul and his companions did not impose themselves as burdens on the believers in Thessaloniki.
Apparently, other ministry leaders did. Paul mentions that their status as apostles. We wonder if other apostles rattled their sabers and insisted that people wait on them hand-and-foot.
In our day, some Christian leaders do that.
we were gentle among you. They were unassuming. I wonder how many Christian leaders can say this to their congregations?
like a nursing mother cherishes her own children. Paul paints the picture of being totally about the needs of the other, not self.
We have met very few people in ministry leadership who were NOT about themselves and their own wants and needs.
VERSE 8. Even so, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not the Good News of God only, but also our own souls, because you had become very dear to us.
affectionately longing for you. Paul and his missionary companions were genuinely filled with loving affection for these people. They were devoted to them. Protective, even.
That is very different than how many Christian leaders view their congregations:
- As “donors” to be flattered and courted, if their potential “donation” is worthy enough. Those with sufficient wealth feel “loved” by their spiritual leaders. Of course, this is a false affection aimed at manipulating them to donate. Those without sufficient wealth feel left out.
- As “misfits” and “rebels” who need “rebuking.” In these days, there has been a rise of Christian leaders whose ministry consists of rebuking. They rebuke their people for not being zealous enough against this or that political issue.
also our own souls. Paul and companions wanted to give them not only the Good News, but even their whole lives.
This is diametrically opposite of what many people experience in churches. In institutional churches, people are subtly taught to give their lives for their church and leaders. This is completely opposite the biblical norm.
you had become very dear to us. They had become dearly beloved. This was not just a phrase used by a leader to manipulate the people.
Some leaders start their sermons by saying, “My dearly beloved.” But the content of their message shows that they see their people as “misfits” and “rebels” who need “rebuking.”
VERSE 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 Good News of God.
working. Paul and companions were probably working in their secular career fields. Paul was likely working a secular job as a tentmaker, which was his trade.
night and day. Apparently, Paul worked long hours at his secular job.
we might not burden any of you. Their motive in working their secular jobs was so they would not have to ask for donations from the new believers in Thessaloniki.
we preached to you the Good News of God. Perhaps the people of Thessaloniki were accustomed to religious charlatans, religious people who used their spiritual products as trickery to get money from people.
If so, Paul would not want the message of Jesus Christ to seem like yet another type of spiritual charlatanism. So they did not ask for money.
VERSE 10. You are witnesses with God how holy, righteously, and blamelessly we behaved ourselves toward you who believe.
how holy, righteously, and blamelessly. Paul and his companions were the real thing. They were holy and upright and free from evil. They were impeccably fair.
But not all people in Christian leadership are holy or upright or free from evil.
VERSE 11. As you know, we exhorted, comforted, and implored every one of you, as a father does his own children,
comforted. That is, encouraged. A big priority for Paul was to encourage the believers.
VERSE 12. to the end that you should walk worthily of God, who calls you into his own Kingdom and glory.
walk worthily of God. The goal of encouragement and exhortation is to help your people grow in their love-relationship with God and to grow in authentic holiness. It should help people become more pleasing to God.
VERSE 13. For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.
not as the word of men. Paul and his companions spoke a message that was truly from God. It was God’s message and not mere human thinking.
works in you who believe. A true message from God is alive. It is like a sword. It has power:
Wisdom 18:16. Bearing as a sharp sword your unfeigned commandment; And standing it filled all things with death; And while it touched the heaven it trode upon the earth.
Isaiah 34:5. For my sword has drunk its fill in the sky. Behold, it will come down on Edom, and on the people of my curse, for judgment.
Hosea 6:5. Therefore I have cut them to pieces with the prophets; I killed them with the words of my mouth. Your judgments are like a flash of lightning.
1 Thessalonians 2:13. For this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that when you received from us the word of the message of God, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also works in you who believe.
Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
VERSE 14. For you, brothers, became imitators of the assemblies of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus; for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews
the assemblies of God which are in Judea. That is, the Christian Jews in Judea. They were actively persecuted by non-Christians. They persevered in the midst of it all.
you also suffered the same things. The believers in Thessaloniki had suffered persecution. They were actively persecuted by non-believers. Like the Christian Jews, these believers in Thessaloniki persevered.
VERSE 15. who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out, and don’t please God, and are contrary to all men,
who killed … the Lord Jesus. This sort of sentiment often appears in the pages of the New Testament.
In those early days, Christian believers singled out Jewish, blaming them alone for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This despite the fact that, biblically, Jesus Christ himself was a Jewish man and he loved the Jewish people.
Also, there is no getting around the fact that the Jewisg are the people of God’s first choice. God has never repented of choosing them. They remain his Chosen People until the End of Time.
To the extent that we non-Jews are counted among God’s chosen, it is that we are merely grafted onto them. We professing Christians, all 2.5 billion of us, are just a subset, a footnote, of the 16 million Jews.
It i not the other way around. And it never ever will be. We Christians owe them everything.
In the ensuing centuries, many Christians blamed Jewish people much more. They portrayed the Jewish people as the enemies of God.
Churched rounded up Jewish people and sequestered them into ghettos, deprived them their human rights and kept them under total control. Such an atrocity has through a lot of the centuries ever since.
We Christians have earned great shame and condemnation for our mistreatment of the Jewish people.
Who, then, killed Jesus Christ? Anyone who has sinned!
He died for all sinners. Whether we pounded the nails or not, we assisted in his torture and crucifixion and death. Those things cannot be blamed on the Jewish people. We are all responsible.
He suffered and died for all people: all people who have lived but are now deceased, all people who are alive right now, and all people who will ever will exist, until the End of Time.
Nobody is excluded from Christ’s grace. And nobody was not involved.
VERSE 16. forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always. But wrath has come on them to the uttermost.
forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles. This is a reference to a sub-group of Christian Jewish people who are nicknamed “Judaizers.”
They followed Paul around and told his Gentile converts that for them to be truly saved, they had to become Jewish. Paul was exceptionally annoyed with them.
In this verse, Paul refers to the Judaizers, and not to Jewish people in general.
wrath has come on them. In those days, many Christians felt that the triumphal return of Jesus Christ was immanent.
In hindsight, he did not return, at least not yet. But he will, at some point. it might be one minute from now. Or it might be 100,000 years from now. In either case, his return is immanent.
And his return will trigger the End of Time and the Final Judgment.
In those days, the believers felt that the Final Judgment would be the moment when Jesus Christ would pour out his wrath upon the Jewish people for not accepting him as their Messiah.
They eagerly anticipated that Jesus Christ would damn the Jewish people to a godless eternity.
Nonetheless, Jesus Christ was a Jewish man. He lived as a Jewish person. He loved his Jewish people. The LORD God has never repented of chosing the them.
VERSE 17. But we, brothers, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, tried even harder to see your face with great desire,
tried even harder to see your face. Paul and his missionary companions had an especially strong desire and longing to see the believers again. There was real affection here.
Satan hindered us. This is a curious thing. How could Satan prevent Paul from returning to Thessaloniki?
VERSE 19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn’t it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming?
you are our glory and joy. If Paul has anything at all that he will be proud of, in heaven, it won’t be himself. It won’t be his own accomplishments or achievements.
Rather, it will be the people he touched with the message of Jesus Christ: his many converts and disciples.
However, in our day, some Christian leaders are proud of things that are very different from that:
- Their building projects
- Their fundraising
- Their civic programs
- Their ability to sway Christian voters
- Their championing of select moral issues
Paul does not boast of any of those things.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.