1 Thessalonians 2 Commentary

1 Thessalonians 2 Commentary
1 Thessalonians 2 Commentary

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4

It wasn’t more than a few weeks into our marriage that my wife and I came to truly appreciate the importance of communication.

Because when you’re single, you know pretty well what you’re thinking – at least, most of the time!

But when all of a sudden you experience what the Bible describes as becoming “one flesh” with an individual whose brain you don’t physically share – you need to start talking!

And you need that talking to be effective.

Lori and I had at least one time of very ineffective communication on our honeymoon. We were in Nova Scotia, Canada and it was New Year’s Day. The owner of the cabin that we were staying at told us that the “Polar Bears” were going to be down at the lake that day.

…Well, that sounded pretty exciting to both of us. So we got in the car and started driving to the lake. Lori was expecting to see big white bears. I was expecting to see some crazy guys diving into the ice-cold water. …You can imagine the hilarity that ensued.

On the way to the lake I mused out loud that I thought it wouldn’t be healthy to be a “Polar Bear”. Lori looked at me like I was absolutely crazy and she asked why I would even think of such a silly thing.

Well, you can imagine her surprise when we got there and humans came out of the boat house instead of literal bears.

The communication was mighty ineffective that day. And it highlighted the importance of transmitting thoughts from my mind to the mind of someone else – and doing it effectively.

Effective Gospel Communication & Correct Motives and Methods of Gospel Communication

This effective communication was the desire of the apostle Paul. He wanted to communicate the gospel effectively wherever he preached it.

And so, tonight we’re going to see him reminisce on the effectiveness of his communication of the gospel to those people in the ancient city of Thessalonica.

So, let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 2 to see that.

We’re going to be studying verses 1-4 of 1 Thessalonians 2 – where we’ll see truths concerning 1) effective gospel communication and 2) correct motives and methods behind our communication of gospel truths to others in our lives.

So, let’s read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 and then we’ll get into the details.

1 Thessalonians 2:1–4 AV 1873

1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

2 but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

4 but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

So, we’re going to see in these four verses Paul’s example to these Thessalonian believers – and to all believers throughout Church history.

He’s actually going to be reminding the Thessalonians once more of his “entrance in unto” them. And you might think that we’re heard about this already. And that’s because we have!

Paul back in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 mentions this entrance that he and Silas had with the Thessalonians. But in that verse, Paul was talking about the way that the Thessalonians had received Paul and Silas – and how that reception made those believers an example for other Christians of their time.

But the emphasis here in 1 Thessalonians 2:1 is not on the Thessalonians’ example – but of Paul and Silas’ example – in relation to their coming to the Thessalonians.

So, in chapter 1 we saw the example of how to receive gospel ministry. But now in chapter 2 – in the first two verses – we’ll see how to give gospel ministry.

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter two will show us how to communicate the gospel to others in a way that could be characterized as effective – the opposite of which is vanity or futility or worthlessness.

And then we’ll go on in verses 3 and 4 to see correct motivations and methods regarding proclaiming the gospel to others.

In other words, we’re going to be seeing the apostle Paul in verses 3 and 4 speaking about speaking – communicating the gospel effectively with the right motives and methods – in a biblical, apostolic, Pauline manner.

So, that’s what lies ahead of us.

Verse 1

1 Thessalonians 2:1 AV 1873

1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:

So, first of all, in verse 1, we see that Paul wants to remind the Thessalonians of the time when he and Silas came to the Thessalonians and preached the gospel to them.

The Thessalonians could testify to the fact that Paul and Silas’ ministry among them was not empty or worthless.

For yourselves, brethren, know

Paul begins by saying that the Thessalonians themselves knew all about the effectiveness of the gospel ministry of these two men among them. It was evident to them. He wasn’t saying anything that they weren’t already very acquainted with.

And it’s interesting that Paul tells these believers 11 times in this one book something similar to this. He tells them that they should be aware of something already – they should know this or that. And from this fact I think we can gather the really personal nature of this book. Paul knew these believers well enough to know what they knew.

The Thessalonians knew about what kind of people Paul and Silas proved to be when they came to them. They knew about the attacks against Paul and Silas in Philippi. They knew the manner in which Paul and Silas spoke to them – and more.

our entrance in unto you

And so, what the Thessalonians knew in this situation was regarding Paul and Silas’ entrance in unto those believers. They could remember the time when Paul and Silas came to them and ministered the gospel to them.

And as we’ve said already, the Thessalonians gave Paul and Silas an exemplary reception.

But now, Paul wants to speak more about that time in their lives – but from the perspective of the example that Paul and Silas set in that situation.

We’ve heard about the exemplary reception of gospel communication. Now we’ll hear about the exemplary transmission or communication or proclamation of the gospel.

that it was not in vain

And what the Thessalonians themselves would have been able to call to mind was that this ministry of Paul and Silas was not in vain. It wasn’t empty. It wasn’t purposeless.

It’s not as though the Thessalonians were hoping for some spiritual help and direction – but Paul and Silas couldn’t deliver. No – it was effective.

So, how would you know if your approaching someone with the gospel was in vain? Not that the gospel itself is ever vain or empty or worthless. But the way that your audience responds to it can be. And in this passage we’re told that the way that you present the gospel can be in vain, as well.

How did Paul know that his verbal ministry of the gospel to those believers was – whatever the opposite of vain is – powerful, effective, transformative?

He’s going to answer that question in verse 2.

Verse 2

1 Thessalonians 2:2 AV 1873

2 but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

I’m not sure how you would be able to tell if your giving the gospel to someone was without impact or not. But for Paul, the indication was that he was able to speak with boldness to them. To him, that was the key to effective gospel ministry – bold speech.

And this bold speech was not a result of Paul having an extraordinary amount of self-confidence. No – he was bold in his God.

This boldness was amazing and a testimony to God’s help and grace, considering the way that Paul and Silas had just been treated in Philippi – which the Thessalonians also knew about.

Paul and Silas were bold to speak the gospel of God. And they did it in the midst of a lot of opposition/affliction.

we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

So, first, we have the necessary boldness of the gospel communicator.

Paul’s main idea in this verse is that he and Silas spoke boldly to these Thessalonians. Bold speech is a sign of a gospel ministry that isn’t in vain.

in our God

Their bold speech had its source in the Lord himself. Paul and Silas were bold – they say – “in our God”.

They weren’t self-confident. They were God-confident.

the gospel of God

And of course, the content of their bold speech was the gospel. This is the first of 3 references to the gospel in this chapter alone.

There are numerous topics which you could discuss with your friends and neighbors and co-workers. You could talk about the weather or about politics or about sports or about family. And there’s certainly a time to discuss any and all of those topics.

But unless the conversation comes around to the gospel, your attempted verbal ministry to them is not going to be reaching the ultimate biblical goal. As we engage people for the purpose of verbally ministering to them, we need the Lord to cause the subject of the gospel to come to the fore.

So, a successful productive verbal ministry is evidenced by a boldness, the source of which is God, and the content of which is the gospel.

with much contention

And then the last element Paul mentions of an effective verbal ministry is this matter of it being attended “with much contention”.

I think it’s clear that Paul isn’t saying that he was being contentious with the Thessalonians – though our English translation might lead you to believe that at fist glance.

This word contention is the Greek word αγων from which we get our English word agony. So, what was Paul experiencing that could be described as an agony for him as he was verbally ministering to the Thessalonians?

•           This word is used to describe suffering for Christ in the realm of having enemies who hate you simply for your faith in Jesus (Philippians 1:28-30).

•           This word describes the care that Paul had for believers – especially those whom he wasn’t able to personally visit. He felt this way about them and desired them to be comforted, unified, and full of the knowledge of God (Colossians 2:1-3).

•           This is what Paul called Timothy to do in his life – to contend the good contention or you know the phrase better as “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). And then Paul himself at the end of his life could claim that he himself had done just that (2 Timothy 4:7).

•           This entire Christian life is described with this word when the author to the Hebrews urges us to run the race with endurance as we look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

This word then describes struggle in the Christian life and our overcoming and prevailing through Christ.

So, Paul says that he spoke the gospel boldly to these Thessalonians with God’s help. And he did it with much care and concern and patience and endurance and self-sacrifice – just like Jesus did when he walked this earth.

but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi

And what’s all the more remarkable about this bold speech that marked Paul and Silas’ productive and effective time with the believers in Thessalonica is what had happened to Paul and Silas just prior to them coming to that city.

They suffered and were shamefully treated in Philippi before they came to Thessalonica.

This is referring to the events recorded in Acts 16. After Paul cast a demon out of a slave girl, her owners dragged him and Silas into the marketplace where the magistrates and the crowd ended up tearing the clothes off of Paul and Silas and beating them severely with rods. They were then thrown into prison with their feet put in the stocks.

This was shameful treatment. They suffered for their ministry previously.

And when you reach out to others and make attempts to serve them – and then your service is rebuffed or rejected in some way – your tendency is going to be to withdraw and not be willing to put yourself out again.

But that’s not how Paul and Silas responded to the previous rejection of their ministry. They were bold in their God.

So, what’s going to help you when your service is not appreciated by others? When you open your mouth and try to give the gospel to others – but they don’t want to hear it. And maybe they even turn on you. What will keep you going?

We’ve already seen it, but you need to be “bold in [your] God”. Even when you experience shameful treatment and various levels of suffering.

Paul says that the Thessalonians knew how he and Silas suffered in Philippi before coming to them and ministering to them. Paul and Silas served as an example for those Thessalonians to follow in this regard. And they’re a pattern for us to follow 2,000 years later.

So, to summarize what we’ve just seen – in verses 1 and 2 Paul starts to remind the Thessalonians of what they already knew. They knew all about the way that Paul and Silas came to them and proclaimed the gospel. It wasn’t an empty thing. Instead, Paul and Silas had boldness and spoke the gospel to these folks even after they had just experienced a great deal of suffering. Paul and Silas had a bold effective gospel ministry with these folks.

Verse 3

1 Thessalonians 2:3 AV 1873

3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

And now, in verses 3 and 4 we’re going to see Paul speaking more about his speaking to the Thessalonians.

Paul’s speech included exhortations to them. And those exhortations weren’t conducted with unworthy motives or methods.

In verse 3 Paul says, “For our exhortation was not…” and then he follows that with three motivations that were not present in his heart as he spoke to the Thessalonians.

And then verse 4 positively states how they did speak – when Paul says, “… even so we speak …”

So, verses 3 and 4 contain Paul’s describing how he spoke to the Thessalonians and why he spoke to them that way. It’s Paul’s motivations and methods for communicating the gospel to them the way he did.

For our exhortation

So, Paul first points to a specific aspect of his verbal ministry with the Thessalonians. And that’s the matter of his exhortation.

This word refers to encouragement, urging, begging, comforting, or beseeching – depending on the context. It describes words with a heart and burden behind them and containing motivation to act – with direction and guidance built in to them. That’s what exhortation is.

And Paul wanted to remind the Thessalonians of three ways in which he did not attempt to direct them. His words were intended to be directional. But not out of the following three flawed motives or methods.

was not of deceit

First, Paul didn’t exhort them from deceit. He didn’t attempt to deceive the Thessalonians. And he himself was not acting from a base of being self-deceived or in error.

The short New Testament letter of Jude gives us one motivation for a so-called minister to deceive himself and attempt to deceive others. He calls it the “error of Balaam” (Jude 1:11).

[S] As you might recall, Balaam was a prophet that the king of Moab hired to curse Israel as they were coming into the Promised Land. And at first Balaam seemed orthodox as he kept insisting on saying only what God wanted him to say. That’s a good thing! But later on, Balaam advised the king of Moab to lead the Israelites to sin through enticements to immorality. The Israelites took the bait which led to them committing both immorality and idolatry. And so, God had to punish them – which is exactly the result that the king of Moab wanted originally.

Balaam in public spoke only what God wanted him to say. But privately his counsel was very ungodly. And his motivation was money. Peter tells us that Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:15). That’s why he did what he did.

In other words, if you’re following “the error of Balaam”, you greatly desire money. And you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. You’ll even use religion – you’ll even use God’s word if it’ll just earn you a few bucks.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Balaam_Rembrandt_01.JPG

[S] Recently our small groups at Maranatha have considered the story of Naaman the leprous army commander of Syria in the Old Testament. You know the story of this man who came to Israel so that the prophet Elisha could heal him of his skin condition. And Naaman was so thankful for that healing that he wanted to give the prophet money, which Elisha emphatically refused. He didn’t heal for money.

But Elisha had a servant – Gehazi – and he wanted that money. So, with deception, he went and secretly asked Naaman for the money that his master had intentionally turned down. And you know that the Lord gave that deceitful servant Naaman’s leprosy as a punishment for his deception and greed.

You don’t want to be found to be a Balaam or a Gehazi. When you speak the gospel and try to serve others for Christ’s sake, you must not have as your motivation or method deceit. Wherever that’s the case, confess it to the Lord and get honest with him and with those to whom you would minister.

nor of uncleanness

The second negative that Paul mentions concerning his speech is this matter of uncleanness.

•           Sometimes this can refer to something that’s generally unclean or dirty.

•           It can refer to the state of an area in which a dead body had decayed and all of the unpleasant realities associated with that.

•           But quite often this word refers to sexual immorality. It’s lumped in with words like adultery and fornication and lasciviousness (Galatians 5:19).

And this is probably the sense in which Paul is using this word here – sexual uncleanness.

And this was not a motivating factor for the Apostle Paul’s speaking to these Thessalonians. But the sad truth is that sometimes this can become the motivation behind people’s “ministry”.

Some of you may know the name Ravi Zacharias. I’ve from time to time enjoyed his cerebral and philosophical approach to matters of Christianity and apologetics. He passed away in May of 2020.

But recently, the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries released a thorough investigation of multiple allegations of abuse against the late preacher. And it’s with great sorrow in my own heart to say that Mr. Zacharias apparently did engage in adultery and sexual and spiritual abuse of women in massage parlors toward the end of his life. And what these women are claiming is that he used spiritual words to excuse his immoral behavior with them.

Brother and sisters, if such a man as Ravi Zacharias fell in this area, we also need to take heed. He was married for 48 years. He was in ministry for four decades. And he fell in this vital area.

God has put many of you in positions of leadership – both notable and perhaps obscure – official and unofficial. And you must never give in to this approach that Paul is condemning here. Do not attempt to speak to and exhort and direct people for your selfish pleasure. Don’t do it for uncleanness.

nor in guile

And the last way in which Paul did not speak to these Thessalonians had to do with guile.

This concept is closely related to the “deceit” that we’ve already spoken of. But if there’s a distinction, it seems that guile here would be referring to more of a secret subtle deception.

In our days, you have the likes of a Benny Hinn or a Kenneth Copeland or some other prosperity gospel preacher. And they’re just out in the open deceiving people. And it really seems like they’re hardly trying to conceal the deception. It’s so blatant and obvious.

But you also have subtle philosophies whose deceptions aren’t all that easy to catch at first glance.

[S] You have nice-looking clean-cut guys like this who are a part of a religious cult that speaks highly of Jesus on the surface. But when you get down to their real theology, they reject him as being “the Son of God” – with all of the ramifications of that Bible phrase.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mormon_missionaries.png

[S] I’ve had the sorrow of attending several Catholic funerals in these beautiful and ornate buildings with all sorts of depictions of Scriptural truths. I’d say that the great majority of what’s said in that kind of an occasion is actually true – taken apart from its broader context. But it’s the subtle things that are not said (like justification by faith alone in Christ alone) – or the glaring errors here and there that are mixed in with general truths (like purgatory or works-salvation) – that can be harder to detect.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basilica_of_the_National_Shrine_of_the_Immaculate_Conception_Main_church_with_Altar,_pews,_ceiling.jpg

This must not be our motivation as we speak the gospel into people’s lives. We must not harbor in our hearts a secret desire to deceive.

Paul didn’t. He did not deceive – openly or secretly. And he was not motivated by unclean sexual motivations.

Verse 4

1 Thessalonians 2:4 AV 1873

4 but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

Instead, Paul and Silas’ exhortations to those believers were according to their great calling from God. God had entrusted the gospel to them in order for them to give it to others – like the Thessalonians. Paul and Silas were aware of their great responsibility concerning the gospel.

And because they were aware of their responsibility, they were not seeking to please men primarily with their speaking and exhortations. They were instead seeking to please God. Because ultimately, God knows everyone’s heart and Paul and Silas wanted their hearts – and their motives – to be approved by God just as he had approved of these two men to proclaim the gospel.

but … even so we speak

So, Paul and Silas weren’t communicating the gospel with wrong motives and methods. To the contrary, Paul says, “but… even so we speak”.

There’s first of all a contrast – Paul says, “but”. In contrast to the wrong motivations and methods of communicating spiritual truths to others, Paul is going to describe the right motivation. He’s going to describe his motivation to minister verbally.

And he says that he speaks “even so”. And that’s to say that he’s pointing back to something he’s said. He’s drawing a comparison. How does he speak? “Even so” – In this manner…

as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel

Paul spoke as one who was allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel.

The preaching of the gospel was entrusted to Paul. God gave him the duty and responsibility to proclaim the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to all people – and especially to the Gentiles – to non-Jews.

And while we don’t have that same exact ministry entrusted to us in exactly all the same details, we do have our Great Commission from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Commission

Matthew 28:18–20 AV 1873

18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

This is what God has entrusted to you. Go. Disciple all nations. Baptize them. Teach them. Christ is with us.

Will you go? Maybe not overseas – but maybe to your next work assignment or to your kid’s soccer practice or to your family reunion or maybe across the street to go talk to your neighbor or to the store in town to see if God might cause you to cross paths with someone who needs the gospel. Will you go for Christ’s sake?

Are you engaged in disciple-making? At home? At school? At work? At church here?

We haven’t had any baptisms in a while in this church. Are we going to do that? Are there some whose next step of obedience to Christ involves that public testimony to their total faith in Jesus? Of their dying with him and being raised with him to a new life?

And are you teaching? I am right now! Hopefully you were aware of that fact. But are we being taught ourselves so that we may teach others?

Do you know Christ’s presence with you as you do these things?

You’ve been entrusted with the gospel. It’s a high calling.

And so, how in the world would we ever give in to those base motivations that Paul spoke of in verse 3? Open or secret deceit. Immoral uncleanness. No – that’s not how we speak. We speak as those who have been entrusted with an incredibly precious and powerful message from God himself.

we were allowed of God

So, how did Paul come to be entrusted with this gospel message?

He was “allowed of God” to be entrusted with that message.

But “allowed” in our modern English usage sounds so passive. And that’s not what Paul is really communicating. It’s not that God passively half-heartedly after a lot of coaxing and persuasion finally allowed Paul to preach the gospel.

The idea is that God approved Paul’s doing this. He put his stamp of approval on Paul’s gospel ministry. God examined Paul and tested him and saw fit to entrust this man with this ministry.

On the basis of the Great Commission that we just considered, you are approved by Jesus Christ. He’s the one with all power in heaven and on earth. And he has approved you to proclaim the good news that saves people from their sins.

And so, again, how could you ever resort to wicked and carnal motivations for speaking to others – ministering verbal truth to them? Your motivation is that God in heaven chose you to bear this message to whomever you come in contact with. Or at least that’s what your motivation should be!

So, that’s the positive side of this. How did Paul speak? How did he verbally minister to others – to the Thessalonians, in particular?

We already saw that negatively he did not operate on the basis of those three unworthy motivations or methods in verse 3…

Positively, Paul’s main motivation in the way he spoke was based on what he knew God had ordained for him – that he would be entrusted with proclaiming the gospel to others because God had approved him to do this.

But then Paul needs to swing back around to the negatives again.

not as pleasing men, but God

Because even as you’re speaking for Christ’s sake and with God’s full approval, there can be a temptation to do it wrong.

Our temptation can be to attempt to please men. That can become our focus.

When you’re talking to a neighbor about the gospel, is it hard for you to be honest about what the Bible teaches concerning the eternal torment of those who resolutely reject Jesus Christ in this life?

I’m sure anyone who teaches or preaches God’s word feels this pull to please people in our communication.

On a personal level, when I really sat down and looked at 1 Thessalonians after deciding to teach through it, it struck me that in my first few message I was going to have to say something about election. And the temptation was to fear what people might think about what I say about that doctrine. But I tried to say just what God has said about it – and you haven’t kicked me out yet!

And I know that we’re making our way to chapter 4 in this book where the matter of the Rapture is dealt with. And I know where our church officially stands on that topic, but maybe some folks here are not in agreement. I plan to take the same approach with that matter as I did with election. What has God said? Let’s figure that out together and agree with God on that matter and any others that arise.

…What if you think that someone you know is close to accepting Christ. And he asks you a question about his lifestyle and how that would need to change if he fully trusted Jesus? “If I trust Christ, will I have to give up X?” In that moment, you will be tempted to try to please that person. You’ll be tempted to cut corners and smooth-out rough edges to what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.

So, this was not Paul’s approach. It’s not what he gave in to. His speech was not aimed at pleasing people.

To be sure, Paul wasn’t making it his goal to displease people! That’s not what he means here.

But rather, he made it his goal – when he spoke – to please God foremost and above all else.

There’s a southern saying that goes, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

And, not to be irreverent at all – but that truth carries over to God. If God isn’t pleased, what’s the point? If God isn’t pleased, who cares what people think?

If your speaking is not aimed at pleasing God in heaven – God your Father – God the creator of men – even the men that you and I tend to fear – if your goal is not to please God in what you say, then what are you doing?

The people who are spiritually-minded aren’t going to be happy with your ministry. And the ones who want you to tickle their ears and say what they want to hear – they themselves won’t ultimately be pleased even.

We must make it our goal as we attempt to verbally minister to people to please God first and foremost.

God … trieth our hearts

And we do this because God tries our hearts.

Tries” is the same word that was translated “allowed” back at the beginning of this verse.

Who determines if your motives are pure? Who’s the one who is able to make judgement calls like that?

It’s God who alone can accurately judge our motives. He’s the one who tries our hearts – not the physical organ that pumps blood throughout our body – but that inward person of us that makes us who we truly are. The body is important and it certainly is a part of who we are. But beyond the shade of our skin color or the color of our hair and eyes or where and when and into which culture we were born, we all have this inner person with inner motives that influence what we do.

And as Paul tells the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 10:18, it’s not the person who commends himself who is approved. It’s the one whom the Lord commends who is ultimately approved by God.

God approves us to proclaim the gospel of his Son. And he tests and – we hope – approves our motives and methods in that verbal communication of gospel truth to others.

Conclusion

So, would you characterize your verbal ministry to others – your sharing of the gospel with them – as effective and bold? Or would you honestly have to say that your attempts to communicate the gospel to others have been vain or empty or ineffective?

Have boldness in your God and recognize and truly believe that he is able to give you all the boldness and effectiveness that you need to make known his gospel to others.

And what about the motives behind your communicating spiritual truths to others? Is your sole focus on pleasing God with that kind of service? Or are you motivated by deception and uncleanness? Are you motivated by the smile and approval of people?

Recognize that it’s God himself who has approved you to go and make disciples and teach. He’s with you. He judges your motives.

So, let’s look to him for help and grace as we attempt to verbally communicate the gospel to others all around us for his name’s sake.

1 Thessalonians 2:5-8

As you may know, my sons have been engaged in shoveling driveways in our neighborhood this winter. And in a few cases, it seems that the person whom they’re trying to serve is almost doing them a favor. But a significant number of those whom the boys are trying to serve are very appreciative of the help.

And especially when its evident to me that my sons are serving others with right motives – that is, they’re not just trying to make money – but to really be a blessing to others – when that happens, not only are the people receiving the service pleased. I’m pleased, as well. I see what my boys are doing and I get an idea of the heart from which they’re doing it – and I am pleased.

Others are getting the service. But I am the one who is pleased.

And we see a similar situation going on in the lives of Paul and Silas and the Thessalonian believers to whom they were ministering.

So, please join me in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 to see this.

Because that is the verse that we left off with in our last message. It was there that Paul had stated how he spoke to these believers in Thessalonica. He spoke to them in such a way as to not please men primarily. His speaking was aimed at pleasing God.

And of course, the purpose of his speaking to these folks in Thessalonica was in order to do them a spiritual service. He was seeking to serve them spiritually with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And so, what we’re going to see tonight is Paul continuing and expounding on this thought of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others.

How do you know if your serving others in spiritual ways is pleasing to God? Paul gives us – I believe – 7 indications of God-pleasing spiritual service to others in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-8. So, let’s read that together.

1 Thessalonians 2:5–8 AV 1873

5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

6 nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

8 so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

So, we’ll begin by noting that the first indication that our spiritual service to others is pleasing to God is found in verse 5.

Verse 5

1 Thessalonians 2:5 AV 1873

5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:

And that is that our speech to them is genuine and honest. We’re not using flattering words with people as we seek to serve them.

For

And of course, this little word “for” indicates that Paul is looking back to something that he’s previously stated. And now he’s going to expound on it.

As we’ve already said, verses 5-8 explain the statement Paul made in verse 4 that he and Silas didn’t speak to the Thessalonians as if they were doing so to please men. They spoke in such a way as to please God first and foremost.

used we

And this little phrase is the main idea of verses 5 and 6. Our KJV renders this one Greek word as “used we”. And in the context that makes sense.

But this word actually refers – not to a state of doing – but to a state of being.

•           Paul later in this passage in verse 7 will say that he and Silas were (our word) gentle among the Thessalonian believers (1 Thessalonians 2:7). This was their character.

•           And then Paul states in verse 10 that he and Silas were just and blameless and holy among those believers. Again, this was their character. It was who they were.

So, Paul here in verse 5 is reminding the Thessalonians of what he and Silas were like when they were in their midst. What their character was.

Three Aspects of Apostolic Character

And then Paul reminds the Thessalonians of three aspects of his character – of his and Silas’ being – among them.

And these aspects are denoted in our passage by the words “neither” or “nor”. You see those two words used a total of 5 times in this verse and in verse 6.

neither … flattering words

So, here’s the first aspect of Paul and Silas’ character among the Thessalonians. They were not characterized by the use of “flattering words”.

And I’m going to show you from another passage in the New Testament what it looks like to use flattering words. And then we’ll see a contrast in how Paul himself was in the habit of speaking.

Flattering Words

In Acts 24 we have the account of Paul being held in prison in Herod’s palace in the city of Caesarea. Some unbelieving Jews come down from Jerusalem to accuse Paul before the governor Felix.

And this is how the prosecuting attorney for the unbelieving Jews starts:

Acts 24:2–4 AV 1873

2 And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence,

3 we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.

4 Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words.

And then after fawning over Felix, Tertullus goes on to accuse Paul of being a troublemaker and one who stirs up riots, etc.

Words That Are Not Flattering

Now, let’s compare that elaborate and flattering and flowery oration given by Tertullus to Paul’s simple introduction to his defense:

Acts 24:10 AV 1873

10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:

Paul says that he’s assured that Felix is acquainted with the customs and history of the Jews. And then Paul goes on to make his defense.

But do you see the difference?

The first example with Tertullus is full of effuse praise for Felix in an attempt to win his favor.

Paul’s approach wasn’t unpleasant or combative. But neither was it an attempt to win over Felix with excessive praise for the man himself. And as you read on in that narrative, you get the distinct sense that Paul wasn’t trying to please the governor with the governor’s own greatness – Paul was trying to amaze Felix with God’s greatness and the greatness of the gospel.

And this lack of flattery wasn’t Paul’s approach only with government officials. He took this approach with everyone – including these folks in Thessalonica. And we should, too.

as ye know

And the Thessalonians could attest to this fact. They knew that this wasn’t Paul’s way of operating – by flattering people.

Genuine Honest Speech #1 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

So, when we give the gospel to people, we need to not be so concerned to impress them – especially with their own supposed wonderfulness. Because the gospel is primarily a humbling message – not one that puffs people up about themselves.

To proclaim the gospel to others while at the same time affirming how great and excellent they are is like mixing godly Christ-exalting words with sensual fleshly music. It’s confusing. The verbal message and what accompanies that message are in dissonance with one another.

When we communicate the gospel to people, let’s not attempt to impress them with themselves. Let’s impress them with God – his holiness and justice and love and forgiveness. Let’s not flatter people.

So, that’s the first indication given to us in this passage of what God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others looks like.

And we’ll move on to a second indication of this kind of service. And that’s a total lack of covetousness.

nor a cloke of covetousness

This also happens to be the second aspect of Paul and Silas’ character that they highlight for the Thessalonians. They didn’t speak to the Thessalonians pretending that they were there for spiritual purposes – but really in their hearts they just wanted money.

 The word cloke is translated elsewhere in the KJV as “pretense” or “show”.

•           According to Jesus, this pretense or show is what some hypocritical religious people make when they offer long prayers in front of others. Now, there’s nothing wrong with long prayers – if they’re genuine. But in the mind of some people, the longer the prayer – the better they look. The holier they appear. The more puffed-up they are. The more they despise others. And the less they know their own desperate need of Christ’s forgiveness (Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47).

•           And the main “problem” for these kinds of people who make pretense of their religious exercises … is that Jesus came to this world. And Jesus can see through hypocritical displays of religious devotion. He said that if he had not come and spoken to them, their sin would not have been revealed to them. But since he did come, they now have no cloke – our word here – for their sin (John 15:22). They can’t keep going on pretending like they have no sin.

•           Amazingly, some people actually use the gospel in this pretentious kind of way. They’re not sincere about it. They actually proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ – but they’re not genuine in their motives (Philippians 1:18).

And Paul says that he’s not doing that with the gospel. He wasn’t coming to the Thessalonians trying to hide anything.

But what might someone in his position be tempted to try to hide about his defective character? Paul mentions covetousness.

•           This sin resides in the human heart (Mark 7:22). It deceives us into thinking that the transient stuff of this life is all that there is to our existence (Luke 12:15). So get as much of it as you can! – is the idea.

•           Covetousness is a classic vice of people who don’t know Christ – who haven’t been saved or born-again by placing their faith in Jesus (Romans 1:29; Ephesians 4:19).

•           And because of this, this greedy covetousness needs to be far from those of us who know Christ (Ephesians 5:3). Because you are saints. You’re holy ones. This is not your life anymore.

•           You’re actually told to put this sin of covetousness and others to death in your life as a believer (Colossians 3:5).

•           And true believers need to be warned to avoid so-called Christian teachers who display this characteristic of covetousness in their lives (2 Peter 2:3,14).

And that’s why Paul mentions this here and reminds the Thessalonians that this was not one of his signature characteristics. He was not ministering among those believers in order to make a profit off of them – like some in fact do.

God is witness

And this time, it isn’t just the Thessalonians who are called to testify to the truth of Paul’s assertion – that his character lacked covetousness.

He did call on the Thessalonians to bear witness to the fact that he didn’t seek to impress them with themselves. He didn’t seek to flatter them.

But when it comes to the matter of his not using religion to secretly make money off of these folks, he’s able with a clear conscience to call God to be a witness to this reality.

at any time

And Paul can also say that he didn’t try to flatter and that he didn’t secretly desire money from the Thessalonians at any time. He never did this. Not once.

Total Lack of Covetousness #2 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

So, as you serve others, be careful not to do so out of covetousness.

Don’t do it for money. Don’t do it even for self-advancement in any form.

May the words of the hymn be true of your motivations as you serve others:

“I don’t ask for riches.

I don’t ask for fame.

I don’t ask that honor be heaped upon my name.”

And if this is your approach to serving others, you can be assured that it contributes to an overall service that pleases God.

Tying Verse 5 Back to Verse 4

So, to summarize verse 5 – and to tie it back to verse 4 – Paul’s refusal to flatter people corresponds to what he said about his speech at the end of verse 4. He spoke not as seeking to please people. Flattery would have been an attempt to please people. Paul says “I didn’t do it – ever.” And since people would have known whether he did this or not, he affirms this truth by calling them to testify to the truth of what he’s saying about never flattering them.

And then what we just heard about this “cloke of covetousness” and how Paul refused to harbor secret greed in his heart as he came to these people in Thessalonica – that also corresponds to what Paul said at the end of verse 4 about his speaking to the Thessalonians with the sole aim of pleasing God. God alone would have known the motives of Paul. And that’s why Paul called God – and not the Thessalonians – to be a witness to the reality of his claim.

So, a lack of flattery and covertousness are two aspects of God-pleasing apostolic Christian character. And they’re also two indications that your spiritual service to others pleases God.

Verse 6

1 Thessalonians 2:6 AV 1873

6 nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

Then we come to the third indication of spiritual service to others that pleases God. And that’s the matter of rejecting any sense that you are the star of the show. You ignore any impulse within yourself toward self-aggrandizement. You don’t seek glory for yourself.

nor of men sought we glory

And this is also the third and last aspect of Paul’s character that he mentions in this passage.

It’s the matter of seeking glory.

•           Jesus identifies seeking glory from other humans – rather than from God alone – as an obstacle to true faith (John 5:44).

•           And that’s illustrated in the gospel of John where there were numerous people who believed Jesus – even among the Sanhedrin – the ruling religious and civic body of the Jews. But they didn’t confess Jesus for fear that they would be banished from the synagogue. And here’s John’s summary of what was going on in their hearts – they loved the praise/glory of men more than the praise/glory of God (John 12:42-43).

•           Jesus said that speaking “from yourself” means that you’re seeking your own glory (John 7:18). And he didn’t do that. Instead, he spoke what his Father wanted him to say (John 8:50).

•           Jesus very plainly stated that during his time on earth in the flesh he did not receive honor/glory from men (John 5:41).

And so, Jesus and Paul are our examples in this. We need to seek glory and honor and praise – not from people – but from God alone.

That’s what you’re to be doing.

•           Not seeking popularity with your peers or from the social media internet mob.

•           Not seeking acceptance and respect among people in this community or in your profession at work.

•           And especially not doing these things if it means that you need to somehow sweep God under the rug. As if you need to kind of hide him in the closet of your life so that those from whom you’re seeking glory don’t discover God’s rightful claims on your life and – oh no! – they might stop praising you.

Now, if you’re serving the Lord, others might praise you. They might honor you – especially if they’re valuing your genuine faith in Christ and service to him and for his sake. But the point is that we shouldn’t seek this out. Our aim in life should not be to seek glory and praise and honor from people.

neither of you

Paul didn’t.

And he didn’t seek this glory from any person.

He didn’t seek it from the Thessalonians.

nor yet of others

And he didn’t seek this glory from anyone else with whom he came in contact.

Rejecting Self-Aggrandizement #3 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

It’s undeniable that as you attempt to serve others in a spiritual way, you’ll be tempted to seek to make yourself look good. You’ll covet people’s praise. You’ll want to be highly acclaimed and thought-of. You’ll want people to glorify you.

But why are you serving people in the first place? Isn’t it to glorify Christ in your life and theirs?

It’s got to be one or the other. You can’t serve others while seeking your own glory and at the same time seek to glorify Jesus. You need to make a choice.

And you know the right choice. We need to ignore and actively reject any thoughts of our own importance and we need to point the spotlight on Christ and his worthiness of glory and praise and worship.

when we might have been burdensome

Another indication that your service to others is pleasing to God is that it’s accompanied by a denial of your own supposed rights.

[Some Greek manuscripts and Bible versions put the rest of verse 6 into verse 7…]

So here’s the interesting thing. In some ways, Paul and Silas were due some amount of glory or honor by these Thessalonians and those others that Paul mentioned.

Paul says that he and Silas – to mechanically translate the text – “were able to be in heaviness”.

What does that mean?

This word burdensome in our text is the word from which we get the English terms “barometer” and “bariatric”. It has to do with the weight of something.

•           Your work throughout the day is a burden to you. It can feel like a heavy weight upon you (Matthew 20:12).

•           Trying to keep the Old Testament rules was a heavy burden that weighed people down (Acts 15:28). It was an obligation that everyone should be able to bear – if we were sinless. But since we’re all sinners, it’s impossible to carry.

And Paul could have been this way with the Thessalonians. He would have been in his right place to make certain demands of the Thessalonians that they might have tended to view as a weight or a burden.

Paul and Silas could have legitimately sought this kind of “glory” or honor from the believers in Thessalonica.

Why’s that? What would have made it right for Paul and Silas to receive a certain level of honor from the Thessalonians?

as the apostles of Christ

It’s this reality that Paul and Silas were apostles of Christ.

And there seems to be two ways in which this word “apostle” is used in the New Testament.

The Nature of Apostles: The Twelve

First, there were the 12 apostles.

•           Jesus called them originally and chose 12 of them. And that number included Judas Iscariot (Matthew 10:2; Luke 6:13). He was an apostle.

•           Then after he betrayed Jesus and subsequently killed himself, the 11 thought it was important to maintain that number of 12. And so, they prayed to God for direction in choosing a replacement. And they chose a man named Matthias to be the 12th apostle, replacing Judas (Acts 1:26).

•           These men served as witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 4:33). They were given the ability to perform miracles that would testify to the veracity of that witness (Acts 2:43; 5:12).

•           Interestingly, near the very end of the Bible in Revelation 21:14 we’re told that the New Jerusalem will have foundation stones containing the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb.

So, from the beginning of the New Testament all the way to the end, the reality of that number of 12 apostles seems to be important to God.

The Nature of Apostles: Those Who Are Sent

But then this word “apostle” can also be used to describe simply “one who is sent” – typically by God – to someone or to some place (John 13:16).

•           Barnabas is one such individual who’s pictured as not being one of the 12 (Acts 4:36-37; 9:27) but in another place he’s called an apostle (Acts 14:14).

•           The men who were sent to collect the offering from the Corinthians are described as the apostles of the church (2 Corinthians 8:23). And Paul’s not talking about the 12 who were stationed in Jerusalem. He’s just talking about some men who were sent from various churches to oversee that ministry.

•           A man named Epaphroditus is called the apostle of the church in Philippi (Philippians 2:25).

•           Actually, Jesus himself is called the apostle of our profession or confession of faith (Hebrews 3:1). He was sent to us from God.

•           And of course, Silas is implied here as being an apostle in our text when Paul says that he and Silas could have demanded some honor from the Thessalonians – because they (not just Paul) were apostles of Christ.

•           And then there’s Paul himself.

•           He wasn’t one of the twelve – but he’s described by Luke as an apostle (Acts 14:14).

•           Paul refers to himself as an apostle in 9 of his letters (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1; ).

•           He was an apostle of the Gentiles – one who was specially sent to the non-Jews to give them the gospel (Romans 11:13).

•           In fact, in 1 Corinthians 15:7-9 Paul seems to indicate that he was of the same rank and authority and level of gifting as the 12 … and yet he recognizes that he was not of the 12.

•           He was like one “born out of due time” in terms of his apostleship – which is a term used of premature births. In other words, his apostleship was quite unusual and unexpected. It didn’t quite fit the mold.

•           And yet, Paul was indeed an apostle – which was evident by him being given the ability to perform the signs of an apostle among those to whom he ministered (2 Corinthians 12:12).

So, there were the 12 apostles who mostly seem to have remained in Jerusalem after Christ’s ascension. But there were also other men who were sent by God with the message of the gospel.

In fact, there were actually false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5,13; 12:11). And the Ephesian church was commended for testing them and finding them to be such (Revelation 2:2). And I don’t think the test was as simple as seeing whether they were one of the 12. And that’s because we see in the New Testament that there were the 12 – but there were more as well who could be labeled as apostles. So, the early church needed to test them.

So, that’s the nature of apostles.

The Rights of Apostles

But why did Paul say that as apostles, he and Silas would have been justified in demanding some honor from the Thessalonians? What kind of honor did Paul have in mind?

First of all, we need to remember that being an apostle was a high calling. The importance of this gift in the early church was great.

•           The gift of apostle is the first spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

•           Paul calls the apostles the foundation of the church – with Jesus being the corner stone (Ephesians 2:20).

•           And that’s because the apostles were called to make known the previously-hidden reality of Christ (Ephesians 3:5).

•           The list of gifts that the risen and ascended Christ gave to his church begins with this gift of apostles (Ephesians 4:11).

So, apostles were preeminent in the early church and deserved the honor that came with that position.

And from that position of such a high calling, apostles would have been entitled by God to certain provisions from those to whom they ministered. Paul outlines this in 1 Corinthians 9.

•           Apostles had a right to financial support from those to whom they ministered.

•           And related to that, they also had a right not to work a full-time job in addition to their spiritual ministry.

So, what Paul is saying here in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 is that he and Silas could have even demanded that the Thessalonians do right and pay their way and provide the financial support that they needed. This might even indicate that the Thessalonians had not provided for Paul and Silas in this way.

Voluntary Denial of Your Rights #4 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

The point is that as we seek to serve others in spiritual ways, if our heart is to please God, then sometimes it’s going to mean that you don’t make full use of your rights.

For example, there are men who are called to be pastors. But the church to which they’re called can’t afford to financially support them fully. In some cases, these men work a second job. In certain ways this isn’t ideal. But neither is it a violation of Paul’s very own example here.

What do you feel like you’re entitled to? What are your rights?

Three meals a day? A good night’s sleep? A stress-free life? Being spoken to courteously and respectfully? Being loved by everyone?

But would you voluntarily lay down those rights if you were convinced that by doing so, you would be able to more effectively minister to others on a spiritual level?

Verse 7

1 Thessalonians 2:7 AV 1873

7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

Well, that leads us to our next indication of spiritual service to others that’s also pleasing to God. And it has to do with our gentleness and care toward those to whom we’re ministering.

So – to hearken back to verse 6 – did Paul and Silas demand financial compensation from the believers in Thessalonica?

But

No, they didn’t.

We see this note of contrast here. Paul and Silas could have made demands on those people. But they didn’t.

we were gentle among you

Instead, Paul and Silas were gentle among the Thessalonians. They weren’t demanding their rights. They were – instead – gentle.

This gentleness is the attitude that should characterize every minister of the gospel (2 Timothy 2:24).

Our current social media culture – even among people whose views we would tend to share – loves brash, bold, in-your-face confrontations. We love put-downs and insults – as long as they serve our cause and give our side the upper hand. There’s an abundance of video clips claiming that the arguments contained therein will help you “own” the people on the other side of the argument. Or that in this particular video, the other side of the debate is “completely destroyed”!

And I’m all for thoughtful debate and advancing truth – and there is some of that still happening these days. But the manner in which we engage people on this level is commanded by Paul to be characterized as “gentle”. “The servant of the Lord must not strive – but be gentle unto all men.”

Gentleness might not win debates. It might not win elections. And that really doesn’t matter. Who’s ultimately in charge of who sits on the throne, so-to-speak? It’s God’s business. Plus, Christ’s church has not been called to go into all the world and “win debates/elections.” We’re called to preach the gospel to every creature.

Your gentleness might be mistaken for weakness from the other side. We just need to let them think what they want to think. You follow and obey Christ. And he’ll take care of everything else.

Paul and Silas didn’t demand their rights. They were instead gentle to those believers in Thessalonica.

But what did that look like? Certainly their gentleness was characterized as not demanding money from these new believers. But is there some sort of illustration that would help drive-home the point?

even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 

Here it is. Paul and Silas were like how a nursing mother cares for her infant.

How’s that for gentle? There’s a closeness pictured here. A slowness and intentionality about things. There’s an extreme care exercised toward the baby. The mother is keenly concerned for any little hiccup or discomfort that she can notice in her child. There’s a self-giving pictured in this illustration – self-sacrifice for the good of another.

And to tie this back to our text – what nursing mother is going to demand payment from her infant child? It doesn’t happen that way. And even 40 years after that mother cared for that child in that way, she’s still not demanding payment. It was a labor of selfless love.

And if the picture of the nursing mother doesn’t quite connect with you, then we can note that this word “cherish” here is used in the context of a husband’s relationship to his wife in Ephesians 5:29 to speak of how you care for your own body. No one hates his own flesh but instead he cherishes it. You care for it.

It’s not like anyone can truly have a complete disinterest in what happens to his body. If a fist is flying at your face, your natural tendency is going to be to duck or move or whatever. Because you care about your face and you care about the potential pain that fist is going to cause your body.

And so, this is how Paul and Silas were to the Thessalonian believers. They were careful with them. They were willing to sacrifice for them. They were gentle.

Careful Gentleness #5 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

So, this is one more indication that your service to others pleases God. As you minister to them spiritually, your approach is characterized by gentleness. You’re not pushy. You’re not harsh. You’re not impatient. You don’t give up when things get hard.

Even when the one whom you’re serving does the spiritual equivalent of spitting-up … you continue your gentle approach with that one.

Verse 8

1 Thessalonians 2:8 AV 1873

8 so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

Now, this gentleness was fueled by Paul and Silas’ inward feelings toward these new believers.

so being affectionately desirous of you

Just like a nursing mother would desire to be with her baby, so too Paul and Silas desired to be with the Thessalonians.

Paul and Silas weren’t just “punching the clock” as they ministered to these people. They had a great desire to see them and be with them and serve them for Christ’s sake.

Affection & Longing #6 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

And all I want to point out here is that if you’re saying that you’re ministering to someone else on a spiritual level – and yet, you don’t actually want to be with that person or want to see him – then you might need to examine your heart and figure out why.

The apostolic model is far from just leaving a tract and running away. Leaving tracts is a good practice – but obviously you’re desiring a lot more than that for your spiritual service to others. Ideally, you get to the point where your hearts are even knit together with the person that you’re serving.

… And here’s the last indication of a spiritual service that is pleasing to God.

we were willing to have imparted unto you

This affectionate desire led Paul and Silas to be willing to give anything to these believers.

And it wasn’t a matter of mechanical duty. Rather, Paul and Silas were pleased to do this. That’s the meaning of that word “willing”. It’s the kind of attitude that God the Father had toward God the Son – Jesus Christ. He was well-pleased with him.

And so, Paul and Silas were pleased to give two things to the Thessalonians.

not the gospel of God only

First they were pleased to give the gospel of God to the Thessalonians.

But that wasn’t all they were pleased to give to these believers.

but also our own souls

Paul and Silas were also pleased to give even their own souls to them.

The word soul is translated elsewhere in our KJV as life. Paul and Silas were pleased to give their lives for the Thessalonian believers. Could you say that about anyone in your life?

It’s remarkable. Because the truth – as Paul states it in Romans 5:6-7 is that it’s a rare thing for someone to die for a righteous person. Perhaps someone would dare to die for a good person. But Christ died for the ungodly.

And now that Christ had indeed died for these Thessalonians – his servants Paul and Silas were willing to risk and lay down their lives for these believers.

In 1 John 3:16 we’re told that we know love by the fact that Jesus laid down his life for us. And that calls us to lay down our lives for our fellow-believers.

And this was the heart of Paul and Silas toward these believers.

So, Paul and Silas were happy to give the gospel – and even their own lives – to them.

because ye were dear unto us

And what caused Paul and Silas to have this mindset toward the Thessalonians was that those believers had become dear to them.

This is the adjectival form of the word “love”. So, they’re “loved ones”.

In the New Testament gospels, this word exclusively refers to what Jesus is to God the Father. God the Father loves Jesus. He is dear or beloved to the Father.

In Romans 16 which consists of numerous greetings to believers in Rome, Paul references 4 individuals as dear or beloved.

For all of the problems that existed in the Corinthian church, Paul was able to genuinely refer to them as beloved 4 times in 1 Corinthians and 2 times in 2 Corinthians.

And this is how Paul and Silas felt toward the Thessalonians.

Love-Fueled Sacrificial Sharing #7 Indication of God-Pleasing Spiritual Service to Others

And so, that’s the last indication of a spiritual service to others that pleases God. You’re willing to share – even when it’ll cost you something. And this sharing is fueled by love.

Conclusion

So, do you see any of these indications in your life that you’re serving others spiritually in a way that pleases God?

•           Is your speech genuine and honest as you attempt to serve others?

•           Do you totally lack covetousness of any kind in your heart as a motivation for this service?

•           Are you consciously rejecting any desires toward self-aggrandizement as you serve?

•           Are you in the practice of voluntarily denying the full use of your rights in order to serve better?

•           Is your approach to serving marked by a careful gentleness?

•           Do you possess and exhibit affection and even longing for the ones whom you serve?

•           And are you engaged in a sacrificial sharing that’s fueled by genuine love?

Do you find some or all of these realities at work in you as you reach out to others and try to serve them for God’s sake?

If so, rejoice! That’s God working in you his good pleasure – to help you serve others in a way that ultimately pleases him.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

I’d like to jump right into our text for this evening. We’ll be studying 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12. So, please join me there.

We’re going to read this passage. Then we’ll discover the main message. And then we’ll get into the details.

1 Thessalonians 2:9–12 AV 1873

9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

11 as you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

12 that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

So, let’s get the overarching message of this passage together.

The driving emphasis of the whole text is found at the beginning of verse 12. “That ye would walk worthy of God”. Walking is a metaphor for your life. And describing that walk or that life as “worthy” is a way of saying that it’s pleasing to God.

Christians then are to be motivated to live your life in a way that pleases God.

[S] So, the thrust of the passage is: “Live Your Life for God”. You are to be preoccupied with pleasing God in this life. So, that’s the main message here.

And then the points of this message are found in how that emphasis of living for God impacts your life.

•           We’re going to see in verse 9 that living for God impacts Your Work-Ethic.

•           Verse 10 tells us that living for God impacts Your Character.

•           In verse 11 we’ll discover that it impacts Your Verbal Interactions.

•           And in verse 12 we’ll see that living for God impacts Your Outlook on Life.

So, let’s consider Living Your Life for God and the impacts of that in your life.

Tying 1 Thessalonians 2:9 to What We’ve Seen

First though, we need to consider how what we’re going to be studying tonight relates to what we’ve previously seen in this book.

There are two concepts that Paul has touched-on already – that are now going to be mentioned and kind of all tied together in verse 9.

The Gospel

First is the idea of Paul’s preaching the gospel to the Thessalonians.

•           Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 that this gospel came to the Thessalonians accompanied by power and with the Holy Spirit and with a great deal of assurance.

•           We heard that Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica after being beaten and mistreated in Philippi. And despite that, they were bold in their God to proclaim that same gospel – that earned them a beating in Philippi – to the folks in Thessalonica despite the fact that even in Thessalonica the apostles experienced a lot of opposition. (1 Thessalonians 2:2)

•           Paul and Silas were entrusted by God with this gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4). And so they sought to please God in how they communicated it.

•           And the last word we had on this matter of the gospel was that Paul and Silas loved the Thessalonians so much that they were willing not only to give them this gospel – but to also give them their lives. (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

•           And that all ties in to what we’re going to consider in verse 9 where we’ll see that Paul and Silas preached the gospel to the Thessalonians while the apostles were also engaged in a great deal of work and labor.

So, that’s the first theme that finds some degree of climax in what we’re going to be studying tonight – the gospel.

Being Burdensome

The second theme that connects what we’ve already seen in this letter to what we’re going to see now is the matter of being a burden.

•           We heard in 1 Thessalonians 2:7 that Paul and Silas could have been a burden to the Thessalonians by asserting and demanding their legitimate rights as apostles. But they didn’t do that.

•           And then we’ll see tonight in verse 9 that the reason that Paul and Silas worked so much as they were giving the gospel to the Thessalonians was due to their desire to not be a burden – financial or otherwise – to these relatively new believers.

So, the gospel and Paul’s refusal to be a burden to these believers are the two themes that find kind of their culmination in verse 9. That’s how we enter this section of the letter from where we’ve been.

Verse 9

1 Thessalonians 2:9 AV 1873

9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

So, let’s get into the details of verse 9.

In this verse, Paul is going to speak of a gospel ministry that is free of charge – no financial burden on those who receive it.

And in relation to Paul’s emphasis in this passage on Living Your Life for God, we see in verse 9 how this emphasis affects your Work Ethic.

For ye remember, brethren, ‍‍our labour and travail

First of all, in this verse, Paul reminds the Thessalonians of something they would have certainly remembered. He says:

For ye remember, brethren, ‍‍our labour and travail

9 Μνημονεύετε γάρ, ἀδελφοί, τὸν κόπον ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν μόχθον·

For ye remember

The Thessalonians remembered the work ethic of Paul and Silas – just like Paul and Silas remembered certain admirable actions of the Thessalonians back in 1 Thessalonians 1:3.

And in that passage, Paul and Silas were remembering the Thessalonians’ 1) work of faith, 2) labor of love, and 3) endurance of hope.

So, what are the Thessalonians remembering about Paul and Silas here in 1 Thessalonians 2:9?

Our labor

First of all, they remembered the labor of Paul and Silas.

This is referring to any work – physical or spiritual in nature. And the emphasis of this term seems to be on the aspect of exhaustion associated with such work.

The work that Paul and Silas were engaged in so that they could minister spiritually to these believers was exhausting to them. And he admits that it was like that.

And travail

And that word for exhausting work is coupled here with this other word travail.

This is a word whose associated ideas all have to do with difficulty.

So, Paul is saying here in verse 9 that the Thessalonians could remember that Paul and Silas had been engaged in difficult exhausting work among them.

Why this emphasis?

Now, why do you suppose that Paul is needing to remind the Thessalonians of his and Silas’ work ethic when he was among them?

I think the answer to that question is found not so much in this letter to the church in Thessalonica – but in the second letter.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul has to tell those believers to withdraw from every brother who lives a disorderly life and doesn’t follow Paul’s instructions. And then he makes it clear that one area that he was aware of people violating this rule of walking orderly had to with a refusal on the part of some to work. And in that passage, Paul exhorts them the exact same way as he does here in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 – by giving them his own example.

With new believers – like the Thessalonians were – there are some things you need to address right away. And then there are other things you can maybe just ignore. But then there are other times when you might just put forward your own example to them – hoping they catch the hint – and knowing that eventually that thing might need to be directly addressed if they don’t pick up the clues that you’re sending from your own example.

I think that’s what we see Paul doing here.

So, Paul was aware that the Thessalonians – at least some of them – had a problem with working hard. And Paul’s response to them is in effect – “Look at me and Silas – and imitate us in our exhausting and difficult labor among you.

we preached unto you the gospel of God

Well, how did that exemplary work ethic manifest itself?

we preached unto you the gospel of God

ἐκηρύξαμεν εἰς ὑμᾶς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 

Certainly – despite what some might think – preaching the gospel takes work and effort.

Paul even likens preaching the gospel to “running” in Galatians 2:2.  It takes hard work and endurance to do it right.

for ‍‍labouring ‍‍night and day

But Paul and Silas weren’t just ministering the word to the Thessalonians when they came to them – as difficult as that can be.

On top of word-based gospel ministry, Paul and Silas were also involved in hard physical work – as we’ve already seen – and which Paul sees fit to repeat here again in a different way. He says that they preached the gospel:

for ‍‍labouring ‍‍night and day

νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐργαζόμενοι

And again you get the sense of exhausting work here. Paul and Silas were working day and night.

So, in addition to proclaiming God’s truth to the Thessalonians, Paul and Silas were also working constantly and tirelessly with their hands.

because we would not ‍‍be chargeable unto any of you

But why all the tireless constant manual labor as Paul and Silas preached the gospel to the Thessalonians? Answer:

because we would not ‍‍be chargeable unto any of you

πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἐπιβαρῆσαί τινα ὑμῶν

So, the purpose of Paul and Silas’ constant work while they were with the Thessalonians was so that the apostles would not be excessively burdensome to those believers.

This gets back to what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:6. The word translated back there as “burdensome” in our KJV is related to the word “chargeable” here in verse 9.

Paul and Silas would have been justified in demanding their right to be compensated for their spiritual work among the Thessalonians. They could have been a burden in that sense to that group of believers. But instead Paul and Silas were gentle with them.

And so, what we’re reminded of here is that Paul and Silas were working double-duty when they visited the Thessalonians. They were working in both the spiritual and physical realms. And they were working physically in order that they could minister spiritually.

Your Work Ethic

So, as you Live Your Life for God and urge others to do the same, it will impact your work ethic. The way that you work and the attitude that you bring with you to every endeavor that you undertake is a part of living for God.

And this doesn’t apply only to the work you do for a living. Living for God will show itself in how you work for God’s people – how you minister in this church – how you serve your family and friends.

Your work might be characterized as memorable, tireless, selfless, even gospel-fueled or gospel-focused – like Paul’s was.

And if your work ethic comes anything close to those ideals, that’s great reason to thank God for helping you Life You Life for Him.

So, we’ve seen the commendable work ethic of Paul and Silas.

Verse 10

1 Thessalonians 2:10 AV 1873

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

And not only does Living Your Life for God impact your Work Ethic. It also impacts Your Character. That’s what we see in verse 10.

how ‍‍holily and ‍‍justly and ‍‍unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe

So, Paul now wants to highlight his character when he and Silas came to the Thessalonians. He remarks:

how ‍‍holily and ‍‍justly and ‍‍unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe

ὡς ὁσίως καὶ δικαίως καὶ ἀμέμπτως ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐγενήθημεν

Paul and Silas were model Christians among the new Thessalonian believers.

how ‍‍holily … we behaved

Paul and Silas behaved in a holy manner.

That term is used to describe Jesus as well. And though ultimately only God is completely holy (Revelation 15:4) in his unmatched uniqueness as compared to everything that he’s created – believers who are being changed more and more into the image of his Son can be – and are – described as “holy”.

You are called to be unique for God’s sake in this world. You are called to be holy.

how ‍‍justly … we behaved

Paul and Silas also conducted themselves justly among the Thessalonians.

They were righteous among those believers. They fulfilled all their proper obligations. What would have been expected of them – they fulfilled.

And that can be your testimony as well before others – that you fulfill your reasonable obligations to others.

how ‍‍unblameably … we behaved

And Paul and Silas were blameless among the believers in Thessalonica.

They weren’t sinless. But no one could legitimately find a credible cause to accuse them of doing wrong.

Ye are witnesses, and ‍‍God also

And Paul was confident that both God and the Thessalonians would have been aware of their blameless, just, righteous character. He says:

Ye are witnesses, and ‍‍God also

10 ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες καὶ ὁ θεός,

Why the highlighting of character again?

But this is now just one more time that Paul has highlighted the personal character of himself and Silas in this short letter thus far.

And as I was studying through this, I wondered why Paul’s again saying basically something very similar to what he’s said at least a few times already in this short letter.

Back in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and for a good deal of chapter 2, Paul already highlighted his character while he was with the Thessalonians.

Why? Why does Paul need to keep coming back to his character and putting it on display before the Thessalonians’ minds’ eyes?

I think that Paul – though he was very thankful for the spiritual development of these believers – he was seeing some need in their life in this area of character. Just like he saw needs in their lives regarding hard work, he also sees some characters flaws that are not quite godly.

We’re going to see in chapter 4 of this letter that Paul will need to exhort these genuine believers concerning their sexual purity.

There’s also a hint in chapter 4 – and much more stated in the second letter to the Thessalonians – that some of the believers in that city were prone to laziness – as we mentioned earlier.

So, in light of those character flaws in the Thessalonians, you can see why Paul keeps subtly bringing up the issue of his and Silas’ example of hard work and godly character.

Your Character

So, as you’re Living Your Life for God, this must impact Your Character.

You’ll want your character to be genuinely holy and righteous and blameless. You’re not perfect. You haven’t arrived. But you’re growing in the godliness of your godly. And you’ll be serving as an example to others as you remind them of the importance of living this life for God.

Verse 11

1 Thessalonians 2:11 AV 1873

11 as you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

So, as you Live Your Life for God, you’ll see that approach’s impact on Your Work-Ethic and Your Character. You’ll also see an impact on Your Verbal Interactions according to verse 11.

And let me show you how verse 10 flows into verse 11.

Similar to what the Thessalonians could testify-to concerning Paul and Silas’ character, they also knew very well the fatherly verbal communication of Paul and Silas that urged those believers to walk worthy of God’s glorious eternal call.

as you know

Paul says:

as you know

11 καθάπερ οἴδατε

So, just as the Thessalonians knew and could testify to Paul and Silas’ exemplary character, they also knew the following.

how we exhorted and ‍‍comforted and charged every one of you, ‍‍as a father doth his children

They knew:

how we exhorted and ‍‍comforted and charged every one of you, ‍‍as a father doth his children

ὡς ἕνα ἕκαστον ὑμῶν ὡς πατὴρ τέκνα ἑαυτοῦ  παρακαλοῦντες ὑμᾶς καὶ παραμυθούμενοι καὶ μαρτυρόμενοι,

So, Paul and Silas exercised something of a fatherly ministry among the Thessalonians.

In our last message in this letter we saw Paul comparing himself to a nursing mother.

And now in this passage he completes the parental metaphor and acknowledges that not only did he and Silas act as mothers – they also treated the Thessalonians as a father would address his children. In fact, that phrase “his/her children” appears in both of these passages – verse 7 and verse 11.

So, how does a father – literal or metaphorical – who’s living for God – verbally communicate with his children?

Paul mentions three aspects of his verbal communication with the Thessalonians. Just like his character in verse 10 was described with three words, so too in this verse he describes his verbal communication with three words.

We … Exhorted … Every One of You

First, Paul exhorted the Thessalonians.

This word has a range of meanings including comforting, beseeching, urging, and of course exhorting. It’s found 8 times in this letter alone.

•           Paul and Silas sent Timothy to comfort the Thessalonians concerning their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2).

•           The faith of the Thessalonians comforted Paul and Silas when they heard the believers in that city were standing firm (1 Thessalonians 3:7).

•           But Paul and Silas and Timothy wanted to exhort those believers by this letter to live more and more in a manner that pleases God – especially in the area of sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

•           And also in the area of love for one another (1 Thessalonians 4:10). Not that they weren’t loving one another. They were. But Paul just wanted them to do that more and more.

•           Paul and Silas and Timothy wanted the Thessalonians to comfort one another with their words concerning the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:18) and concerning the wonderful future reality of being with our Lord who loves us (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

•           And Paul and Silas and Timothy exhort the Thessalonians to warn the unruly, to comfort the feebleminded, to support the weak, and to be patient toward all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

So, Paul and Silas and Timothy were doing these things with the Thessalonians. They were exhorting and comforting them as a father would do with his children.

We … Comforted … Every One of You

Then Paul uses another word translated as comfort to describe his verbal communication with the Thessalonians.

This word is used concerning how we as Christians ought to treat a group of people known as “the feebleminded” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). That word actually describes individuals who are “discouraged”. They are literally “little of soul”. Their courage and inner strength are sapped. They want to quit.

What do folks who are discouraged need? According to the Scripture they need – this – comfort, which is what Paul was doing with these believers in Thessalonica.

This word also appears in the context of Mary grieving the death of her brother Lazarus in John 11. There were Jews from the area who came to comfort her concerning the loss of her brother.

And this is what a father does with his children. As they experience loss in whatever form and they’re discouraged and crestfallen, it’s the job of us fathers to comfort our children concerning their loss or pain or difficulty.

This is one more action that the Apostle Paul took with these believers in Thessalonica. As they experienced loss and discouragement he comforted them.

We … Charged … Every One of You

And lastly, Paul charged them.

This is the act of soberly warning and admonishing others concerning some serious truth. This word is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “take to record”, “witness”, and “testify”.

And there are times as fathers where you need to do this with your children. You need to lay before them the reality that if they take a certain course of action, there will be certain consequences. Because God said there would be.

And that’s really where our certainty comes as we charge our children – or those whom we’re discipling – from God’s testimonies. And our job as fathers or mentors is to simply and with great assurance point our children and other to what God has said. Both what he wants of them – and what will happen if they follow him or if they reject him.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:17 that he testified to those believers in Ephesus that they need to stop living like lost people. You need to put off old sinful practices, renew your mind with the Scripture, and put on new righteous ways of living. For example, he says:

•           Instead of lying, speak truth.

•           Instead of sinful endless anger, get things resolved before the end of the day. Otherwise, the devil may get an opportunity in your life.

•           Instead of stealing, work to provide for others.

•           Instead of speaking in such a way that corrupts others, use your words to build others up.

•           Instead of being bitter and angry and at odds with everyone, be kind and compassionate and forgiving. Because God has taken the same approach with you in Christ.

This list from Ephesians 4 is just an example of how Paul surely would have charged the believers in Thessalonica like a father would do to his children.

Your Verbal Interactions

And so, as you Live Your Life for God, it will surely impact your Verbal Interactions.

•           There will be a new sobriety in your speech.

•           The content of that speech will oftentimes be focused on God and his word and his desire in the lives of your hearers.

•           Your verbal communication can take on a fatherly approach – even if you aren’t literally a father. The Apostle Paul wasn’t a literal father. But his speech came to be characterized by how a father speaks to his children – the firmness and directness and love.

•           You will take time to communicate individually to people – because every one of them is important in God’s sight.

And as you see these realities more and more present in your verbal communication with others, you will rejoice that God is doing this in you as you Live Your Life for Him.

Because Living Your Life for God will impact your Verbal Interactions with others.

Verse 12

1 Thessalonians 2:12 AV 1873

12 that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

And you know that you yourself have come to adopt this approach of Living Your Life for God when your work ethic, character, and speech all together lead others to adopt that same approach to living. Others catch Your Outlook on Life. That’s the last area mentioned here that’s impacted by living your life for God –  your outlook on life.

So, what was the purpose of Paul and Silas’ exhorting and comforting and charging those believers in Thessalonica?

that ye would walk worthy of God, ‍‍who hath called you unto ‍‍his kingdom and glory

Here it is:

12 that ye would walk worthy of God, ‍‍who hath called you unto ‍‍his kingdom and glory

εἰς τὸ περιπατεῖν ὑμᾶς ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν. 

walk worthy of God

All the verbal urging and comfort and encouragement was aimed at the Thessalonians’ “walking worthy”.

This is one of three times in the New Testament where Paul urges believers to walk worthy. He’s encouraging believers on to greater levels of living (indicated by the metaphor of “walking”) in such ways as please the Lord (described as “worthy”).

•           In Ephesians 4, Paul exhorts that you walk worthy of your calling. This is to include a great deal of humility in your heart. You’re to be lovingly patient with others. You’re to be peacefully unified. And all of that is to be done especially with other believers.

•           In Colossians 1, Paul reveals that he prayed for those believers in that city to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in order that they would walk worthy of the Lord – that they would live lives that were pleasing to God. Paul prayed that the believers would be strengthened to endure and be patient with joy – and to be constantly thankful to God.

So, the purpose of Paul’s fatherly verbal and personal admonitions to believers was that they would live in such a way as would please the Lord.

Now, why is it important to please the Lord?

who hath called you

You need to remember that he has called you.

At the end of this letter, Paul prays that the Thessalonians would be completely sanctified (or “made holy”) and that they would be kept entirely blameless for the coming of Jesus Christ. And he adds – “He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.” God’s calling of you leads him to lead you to the end.

God is referred to as “him that calleth” in Romans 9:12 in the context of spiritual salvation. He’s referred to that way again in Galatians 5:8 with the extra emphasis of people trying to persuade believers away from that one who saved them spiritually.

So, God has called you to salvation. He’ll see you through to the end.

But Paul puts it in a unique way here in 1 Thessalonians 2.

unto ‍‍his kingdom and glory

Paul describes being saved from your sin as being called by God “unto his kingdom and glory”.

Called to God’s Kingdom

You have been called to God’s kingdom.

You and I are so used to the kingdoms of this world.

We don’t give our country this label, but in a sense you live in the “kingdom” of the United States of America. There’s a king – which in our case isn’t a single monarch, but rather three branches of government supposed to be guided by its founding document the Constitution. And this “king” rules over this kingdom.

But as you know, unfortunately, Satan rules here as well – as he does over every kingdom of the world.

[S] He actually says that he rules over all the kingdoms of the world in Luke 4:5-7:

Luke 4:5–7 AV 1873

5 And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

And Jesus doesn’t contradict or argue with him on this point.

Paul actually calls Satan “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

So, the point is that this world and its kingdoms have been in some ways handed over to Satan – presumably since Adam obeyed the devil in the garden and sinned – and by sinning, he plunged the entire human race into sin. And so, now this whole dominion is temporarily Satan’s by God’s wise allowance.

But the glorious reality is that there’s coming a day in which all of this – the world and all of its kingdoms – will be turned back to their rightful owner.

The triumphant message of the seventh angel in Revelation 11:15 will be fully realized – “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

And that kingdom will last on this earth for 1,000 years. And after that time it will run on into and throughout eternity. God will finally rule – with no competition. Satan will be bound and then cast into the Lake of Fire forever. We will reign with God.

You probably didn’t fully understand this when you first trusted Christ. You maybe didn’t even know that you were being invited to a kingdom – or at least you wouldn’t have been able to describe it that precisely. But this was actually the message that Jesus started his earthly ministry by preaching. He said, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).

And it’s this kingdom to which God has called you.

Called to God’s Glory

Additionally and related to that reality – God has called you to his glory.

The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:10 calls this glory to which we’re called – after a little suffering here on earth – “eternal”. We will be enjoying this glory forever.

It’s this glory that Jesus entered into after his suffering for us on this earth (Luke 24:26). And he has prepared you – as a vessel of mercy – for this coming glory (Romans 9:23).

[S] And Jesus wants you to experience this glory with him! He prayed to his father this way in John 17:24:

John 17:24 AV 1873

24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

So, you are called to eternal conscious bliss and joy and peace with the Savior who loved and loves you. You’re called to enjoy this glory in a kingdom prepared especially for you and all your fellow-believers. And you and I will enjoy this forever.

But until we get there, there’s some suffering to endure. And there’s a life to live here on earth for God.

Your Outlook on Life

And so, as you Live This Life for God, it will – it must – have an impact on your Outlook on Life.

You’re not just living for a pay check or a grade in school or for a spouse or for a job or a car or a home or your kids or friends. You are living for a future hope. You are motivated by something different than what motivates the world.

The light momentary affliction that you’re experiencing now is not worthy to be compared to the glory that’s going to be revealed in you.

You can endure misery and hardship and difficulty here because your very outlook on life has changed. You are looking through – and looking past – all of those hard things … and you’re looking to God’s kingdom and glory that he’s prepared for you! You of all people! Sinful, disappointing, failing you. But God loves you and Christ shed his blood for your sin so that you could share in his kingdom and glory.

When you live for God, it will radically impact and change your Outlook on Life.

Conclusion

So then, are you walking worthy of these realities? Are you living in light of the fact that this is what you’re called to? You’re not just an earth-dweller. You are bound for God’s glorious kingdom.

Since that’s the case, what do you need to lay aside (negatively) or be engaged in (positively) as a citizen of God’s glorious kingdom?

Just to recall what we’ve already studied, how’s your work ethic?

•           Is your labor for others something that anyone would be able to call to mind when they think of you?

•           Is there anyone in your life who has benefited from your hard work and selfless service for them?

And then how is your character?

•           Are you known to others as holy? Are you set apart for God and his service? Can others sense that in you – whether they admire or despise you for it?

•           Are you just – do you behave righteously? Do you fulfill your obligations to others? Do you make promises and keep them?

•           Are you unblameable? Can people find “handles” to grab onto in your life in order to accuse you of wrongdoing?

What about your verbal interactions with others?

•           Are you encouraging others to live their life for God?

•           Do you do this in a way that expresses both love and urgency?

And then – how’s your outlook on life?

•           Are you looking for God’s coming kingdom and glory?

•           Or have you kind of forgotten the end-game here?

If you’re able to answer positively any or all of these questions, praise the Lord – and as the apostle Paul says later in this letter – do what you’re doing still more and more. And even go so far as Paul did and exhort and comfort and charge others in your life toward this worthy walk with the Lord.

And if you don’t find the positive realities in your life, you now have before you a pattern in the apostle Paul that you can follow. You might additionally want to try to seek someone out who will do like the apostle did and urge you on to a worthy walk with the Lord.

Whatever the case, may the Lord help us live our life with a view to him. May we walk worthy.

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

Please join me in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16.

In this passage the outline of the material is fairly simple. The main idea that we’re going to see is a contrast of 2 different responses to God’s truth. Verses 13 and 14 have the first response – which can be summarized in one word as faith. And then verses 15 and 16 will give us the second response – which is rejection.

So, in this passage, it’s belief versus rejection of God’s truth. And the illustration given involves the Thessalonian believers and the churches in Judea who had received God’s truth and their Messiah versus the unbelieving Jews who persisted and still persist in their rejection of God’s truth and their Messiah.

So, let’s read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 together and then explore this passage tonight.

1 Thessalonians 2:13–16 AV 1873

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:

15 who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:

16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

So, we begin in verse 13 where we see faith as a response to God’s truth.

Verse 13

1 Thessalonians 2:13 AV 1873

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

First of all, we see Paul thanking God a second time for these believers in Thessalonica.

For this cause also thank we God ‍‍without ceasing


For this cause also thank we God ‍‍without ceasing

13 Καὶ διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ ἀδιαλείπτως,


And if you’ve been paying close attention, you know that Paul already gave thanks for these believers in this letter. He did that back in 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

This is actually the only letter of Paul’s where – in the introduction – he thanks God for the believers to whom he’s writing twice (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; Philemon 1:4).

So, we can see how exceedingly pleased Paul and Silas and Timothy were with what God was doing in the lives of these Thessalonian believers.

And back in Paul’s first expression of thanksgiving in 1 Thessalonians 1:2 his reasons for giving thanks for them included what he and Silas could remember concerning genuine outward signs that these believers had been chosen by God.

And the nature of the thanksgiving here in chapter 2 is similar. Paul thanks God a second time for these believers …

because, when ye received the word of God ‍‍which ye heard of us…

because, when ye received the word of God ‍‍which ye heard of us

ὅτι παραλαβόντες λόγον ἀκοῆς παρʼ ἡμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ


And we’ll get to what the Thessalonians did when they received the word of God from Paul and Silas in just a little bit.

But we need to note the Thessalonians’ response to God’s truth.

…the word…which ye heard of us…

They heard the word of God from Paul and Silas.

And of course, you remember from Acts 17 that this word of God that Paul and Silas were preaching was focused on Jesus being the promised Messiah – the one whom the Old Testament foretold as needing to suffer and rise from the dead. There was surely a lot more that Paul and Silas said to them, but that was the central idea behind whatever else they communicated to those Thessalonians.

…when ye received…

And the Thessalonians’ response to that truth was to “receive” it.

•           This word describes what an engaged man does with his espoused wife on their wedding day (Matthew 1:24). He receives and joyfully welcomes her as his wife.

•           It’s how Jesus speaks of bringing us believers one day to himself where he is (John 14:3). He will receive us to himself.

•           This is also the word used when John the Evangelist says that Jesus came to his own things when he came in the flesh to this earth – and yet his own people – the Jews – did not receive him (John 1:11).

•           This word is also used of people accepting and welcoming the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1,3 and Galatians 1:9.

So, Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica bearing and proclaiming God’s message of salvation through Jesus Christ to these people. And when the message came, the Thessalonians – to whom Paul is now writing – gave it a patient hearing. They received it. They warmly welcomed it.

And when the Thessalonians did that, something else occurred…

ye received it ‍‍not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God

ye received it ‍‍not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God

ἐδέξασθε οὐ λόγον ἀνθρώπων ἀλλὰ καθὼς ἀληθῶς ἐστὶν λόγον θεοῦ,

ye received it…

And even though this word “received” in English is the same as we saw earlier in this verse, it’s actually a different Greek word. Though the meaning seems to be roughly equivalent. But there’s probably a progression in view. You welcomed it and then you believed it. You received it – and then you really received it!

The Thessalonians started off by receiving God’s truth in that they gave it a hearing. But then they really received that truth by believing and embracing it with their whole heart.

Now, Paul had already mentioned in the first chapter of this letter (in verse 5) how the Thessalonians became imitators of Paul and Silas in that they received the word. And they did it in the midst of a lot of opposition and affliction from their neighbors – but they did it with Holy-Spirit joy.

And the Thessalonians weren’t like the rocky soil in Jesus’s parable of the seeds and the soils. Remember that the rocky soil is represented as immediately taking in and receiving the “seed” of God’s word and it even does so with joy – as the Thessalonians did. But when that soil – that human heart – faces opposition and affliction and trials for Jesus’ sake, it falls away. It apostatizes.

But that’s not how the Thessalonians responded to God’s truth. They received it. They had great joy over it. They were even afflicted because of it. … And they stood fast.

Why?

…not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God

Because, Paul says, they had a certain mindset about this word. They received this word in a certain manner.

The Thessalonians didn’t receive this word as if it were just a mere word from mortal men – like a self-help book. They received the word from Paul and Silas as if it were a message straight from God himself. Because that’s exactly what it was and still is.

And this word proves itself to be God’s word based – at least in part – on it’s impact on the lives of those who hear and receive it as such…

which effectually worketh also in you that believe

which effectually worketh also in you that believe

ὃς καὶ ἐνεργεῖται ἐν ὑμῖν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν

which…


Now, there’s a little ambiguity as to what exactly our word translated here as “which” is referring to. It could be referring to God’s word. Or it could be referring directly to God himself. Does God’s word do the work or does God himself do the work in believers?

Of course, in either case, ultimately it’s God who’s working – and he’s working in the lives of believers through his word to you.

…effectually worketh…

And what a blessing this reality is of God working in you through his word. Because it hasn’t always been that way for you.

There was a time in your life when you were what the Bible describes as being “in the flesh”. And when that was the case, God’s law aroused your sinful desires to bear fruit for death in your life (Romans 7:5). God’s word wasn’t working. Sin was!

There’s even now a spirit in this world that works in the children of disobedience – the ones that you were among at one point in your life. And for this reason you were a child of wrath – one who had wrath rightly coming to him for all the times that you were fulfilling the lusts of your flesh and mind. But we know how that story ends – “But God…”  He was rich in mercy toward you. He loved you. And he made you alive together with Christ and saved you (Ephesians 2:2-5).

And so now, God works in you the willingness and ability to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13). There’s a power from God now in you that works in you (Ephesians 3:20). Any work that you do for the Lord, you can be certain it’s energized by him (Colossians 1:29). The Holy Spirit himself gives you gifts with which he works through you in order to serve your fellow-Christians (1 Corinthians 12:6,11).

And we see in this passage in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 that God uses his word to work in us. This is one way in which God proves to you that the Bible is truly his word.

What other book can you pick up, believe it, and have it change you so radically and in such holy and pure ways? There’s nothing like it. Because there’s no other book breathed-out by God that does spiritual work in those who believe it.

If I pick up a book on US History and I even believe what the author claims, I might be wiser for it. I might be better able to place our nation in the context of world history. Maybe I’ll have some added facts in my mind which will help me evaluate where our nation is in terms of where we’ve been in the past. But it’s not going to change my life. It’s not going to grow and develop me into a more mature believer.

Only God’s word – the Bible – does that.

… in you that believe

But you have to believe it in order for it to do work in your life. Paul says that this work occurs “in you that believe”. It’s crucial that you initially believe God’s word – and keep on believing it. And if you do, it will do a work in you – God will do a work in you.

[S] But the opposite is true and is stated in Hebrews 4:2

Hebrews 4:2 AV 1873

2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

The disobedient ancient Israelites had good news proclaimed to them. So do we. But this church is filled with lives that have been impacted and changed and saved as a result of that word. While those ancient Israelites perished.

What makes the difference? You believe God’s word. They didn’t. They doubted and rebelled and refused God’s word to them.

Because of unbelief they were broken-off like dead branches. But you stand by faith (Romans 11:20).

So, we’ve seen in verse 13 a few positive responses to God’s truth modeled for us: receiving that truth and believing it.

And then in verse 14, we’re going to see more positive responses to God’s truth.

Verse 14

1 Thessalonians 2:14 AV 1873

14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:

And actually, Paul is now in verse 14 going to point to one tell-tale sign that the believers in Thessalonica – to whom he’s writing – are not like those disobedient ancient Israelites that we just considered in Hebrews 4:2. No, these Thessalonians were true believers in whose lives God’s word is truly working.

How could Paul tell that?

For ye, brethren, ‍‍became followers of ‍‍the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus

For ye, brethren, ‍‍became followers of ‍‍the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus

14 ὑμεῖς γὰρ μιμηταὶ ἐγενήθητε, ἀδελφοί, τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ τῶν οὐσῶν ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,

For ye, brethren, ‍‍became followers…


This matter of following or imitating other true believers is perhaps a little strange to our way of thinking as American Christians. It seems that in our current American culture, a great premium is placed on being “different” – which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you define that.

And it’s not that Paul is calling for everyone to look and act identically. But there’s something special about being able to look at dynamics in your spiritual life and to compare them to what’s happening in the lives of other believers – and you see encouraging similarities.

… followers of ‍‍the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus

In the Thessalonians’ case, they shared similar spiritual dynamics with the churches in Judea – which at the time of this writing would have been composed mostly of believing Jews. So, a predominantly Gentile church in Greece/Macedonia was sharing in common deep spiritual experiences with churches that are predominantly Jewish. Jew and Gentile united. That’s amazing.

And this isn’t the main thrust of our passage, but I think it would be unhelpful to pass by this teaching in this passage here and not sort of apply it to our nation’s current racial tensions and the ideas being put out there in terms of what’s going to fix us.

Will reparations help heal racial tensions in our country? Paying people for the past mistreatment of their ancestors? Will other forms of government subsidies be genuinely helpful? What about punishing those who are viewed as being in the majority for their supposed implicit racism? Are these things going to help unite and heal a country which is struggling with racial tensions?

I’m doubtful – primarily due to the fact that the Scripture and God himself says nothing along these lines. What God holds out as the only hope of reconciling man to himself – and man to his fellow man – is a complete and life-transforming trust in the Savior of all men and women and races and cultures – Jesus Christ.

The believing Gentile Thessalonians found unity with the believing Jews and they were both fully trusting Christ alone to be sufficient to save them from their sins and give them new life. Only in Christ is there true reconciliation and harmony – with both God and man – even with those who are different than you in whatever ways.

So, the Thessalonians had come to imitate the believing Jews. And this proved that the Thessalonians were – of course – believing – like Paul said back at the very end of verse 13.

So, what does Paul say now in this passage that demonstrates that the Thessalonians were truly imitating genuine believers – in this case – in the churches of Judea?

for ‍‍ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, ‍‍even as they have of the Jews

for ‍‍ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, ‍‍even as they have of the Jews

ὅτι τὰ αὐτὰ ἐπάθετε καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑπὸ τῶν ἰδίων συμφυλετῶν καθὼς καὶ αὐτοὶ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων 


The suffering of these Thessalonian believers is hinted at in Acts 17:1-9 where we have the account of the founding of this church in Thessalonica.

But their suffering is even more explicitly described in Paul’s second letter to this church in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-7. There, we’re told that these believers were enduring persecutions and tribulations. They were suffering for the kingdom of God. They were being troubled by their fellow-countrymen, as Paul says here.

And that’s just how the believing Jews in Judea were treated by the unbelieving Jews who rejected their Messiah.

And this similarity in how believers tend to be treated by their lost peers is a sign of genuine faith on the part of both the imitators and the ones being imitated.

For some of us, trusting Christ has caused divisions in your broader family and has led to some perhaps-lighter forms of persecution. Maybe old friends you once associated with now want nothing to do with you.

I think we all certainly feel like this society is really turning against those who trust Christ and unashamedly hold to the truth of Scripture. A recent study revealed that 44% of Americans feel that religious liberty threatens their own rights [https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2021/3/4/22308010/religious-freedom-public-relations-crisis-came-at-bad-moment-equality-act-lgbtq-rights-branding]. Take that in. Nearly half of this country – your neighbors and fellow-citizens – is thinking that constitutional protections put in place to prevent the persecution of Christians like you – and those of other religions – threaten their rights. It’s a very short walk from this point to full-blown outright persecution of Christians with this kind of attitude prevalent among the populace.

And you know what? We still ought to pray for our leaders. We still ought to vote. We still ought to be involved in the American system of government as much as you sense God wants you to be.

But ultimately, this is OK. To the extent that God would have you to suffer for Christ’s name, you are to count yourself blessed. Whatever suffering and persecution you face for Christ’s sake will only show that you are a genuine believer. And isn’t that what ultimately matters? Not comfort in the here and now – but assurance of eternal bliss hereafter.

As you suffer for Christ, you will join the ranks of those in the so-called “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 – some of whom – as unbelievable as this sounds – they even rejected release from torture so “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).

You will join the ranks of the majority of your brothers and sisters in Christ who – all over the world right at this very moment – face persecution and violence for their allegiance to Christ.

We ought to keep praying that God would allow us to live peaceful and quiet lives as Paul urges us to do in his letter to Timothy. But at the same time, if and when persecution does come, don’t be shocked. And don’t fall away. This could be one way that God wants to prove to you and to your fellow-believers and to the world that you truly believe and belong to Jesus Christ – who himself suffered and was persecuted – for your sake.

So, verse 14 has revealed a few more positive responses to God’s truth in your life. You’ve received and believed God’s message such that you’re willing to suffer for it if need be – just like all your fellow believers.

So, with that, now we’re on to the negative responses to God’s truth in verses 15 and 16.

Verse 15

1 Thessalonians 2:15 AV 1873

15 who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men:

It’s the matter of the unbelieving Jews killing those messengers whom God sent to them with his truth that Paul now turns his attention to in verse 15.

who both killed the Lord Jesus, and ‍‍their own prophets

who both killed the Lord Jesus, and ‍‍their own prophets

15 τῶν καὶ τὸν κύριον ἀποκτεινάντων Ἰησοῦν καὶ τοὺς προφήτας


Now, I do want to say – at the outset of this two-verse section here – that violent Anti-Semitism does not please God. The Jews as a people have been persecuted throughout the centuries. And we condemn that kind of treatment of anyone – and certainly of God’s chosen people, the Jews.

And so, for anyone to read what we’re about to read concerning some very unflattering realities regarding the Jews who have not received their Messiah – and to use these very plain realities in order to oppress or harm or kill Jews – would be and is completely wrong.

The Apostle Paul himself loved his fellow-countrymen, the Jews – even the ones who were trying to kill him. He wanted them to be saved and he worked tirelessly to bring them the gospel.

But at the same time, that desire for their good didn’t lead him to lie concerning their utterly hard hearts and wicked ways.

who … killed the Lord Jesus …

And so, Paul begins speaking of those wicked ways by stating that the unbelieving Jews killed the Lord Jesus.

Now, they certainly weren’t alone in this. The Romans participated as well. And to the extent that each one of us is a sinner in need of Jesus’ dying for our sins, we too are to blame. And with great grief and gratitude, we own our part in our Savior’s death for us.

Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that the Jews handed Jesus over to the Romans to be killed. It’s undeniable Scripturally that the unbelieving Jews called for and demanded Jesus’ death. The unbelieving Jews – who were persecuting their fellow-Jews who received Jesus Christ – they did in fact kill Jesus.

who … killed … their own prophets

And those Jews were just acting like their unbelieving ancestors – who killed the prophets.

•           Jesus – when he was on earth – addressed the city of Jerusalem as if it were a person and he lamented that it had been engaged in this activity of killing the prophets in days gone by (Matthew 23:37).

•           Jesus accused the ancestors of the Jews of his day of killing the prophets (Luke 11:47).

•           Stephen rhetorically asked the Jews – who were about to kill him – which of the prophets their ancestors did not kill (Acts 7:52). The answer – of course – is that for most of the history of God sending prophets to Israel, it wasn’t Gentiles who were killing the prophets. It was the Jews who killed their own.

•           But even back in the Old Testament, Elijah – himself a prophet – declared to the Lord that his contemporary Jewish compatriots had killed God’s prophets and that they were coming after him next (Romans 11:3)!

So, unbelieving Jews in times past – from the perspective of the writing of 1 Thessalonians – had killed the messengers that God had sent to them – Jesus and the prophets in the Old Testament.

But they of course didn’t stop there. The unbelieving Jews of Paul’s day continued to reject those who were sent to them by God with his truth…

and have ‍‍persecuted us

and have ‍‍persecuted us

καὶ ἡμᾶς ἐκδιωξάντων,


And of course, most immediately in Paul’s mind concerning persecution that he and Silas endured would have been what happened to them in Thessalonica and Philippi. You recall that in the former case Paul and Silas were run out of town by a mob. And in the latter case they were arrested and beaten and imprisoned.

So, what was Paul’s mindset about this persecution? Was he bitter? Angry? Was he calling for revenge and pogroms (POH-grums) and violence against these persecuting Jews?

No.

•           Paul tells us – like Jesus did as well – to bless and not curse our persecutors (Romans 12:14).

•           Paul said that when he was persecuted he just endured it (1 Corinthians 4:12), being careful to remember that he wasn’t forsaken by God (2 Corinthians 4:9).

•           Despite persecution, Paul just kept preaching the cross and not moralism – not a salvation based on your works (Galatians 5:11).

•           And he just came to this settled determination that everyone who attempts to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

So, that was Paul’s attitude toward the persecution he suffered. He didn’t take it personally. He patiently endured it and continued to do right for Christ’s sake to glorify God.

But the unbelieving Jews on the other hand had no such desire to glorify God…

and ‍‍they please not God

and ‍‍they please not God

καὶ θεῷ μὴ ἀρεσκόντων,


And this is because of the truth that Paul states elsewhere – that those who are in the flesh – those who have not been saved – cannot please God (Romans 8:8).

But that wasn’t the case with Paul. He told the Thessalonians earlier in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 that because he was entrusted with the gospel, he sought to speak in a way that would please God.

But there was a time in the apostle Paul’s life where he thought that he was pleasing God – but in fact God wasn’t at all pleased. Jesus warned his disciples that there would be a time coming when those who killed Christians would think that they were serving God by doing so (John 16:2). And this is the reality that Paul related to King Agrippa concerning his life before Christ – that he was convinced that it was necessary to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus the Nazarene (Acts 26:9).

So, Paul had been there. He knew what it was like to feel that in order to please God he had to persecute Christ and Christians. How shocking – then – to discover that that was not at all the case. Paul came to understand that instead of doing God’s will, opposing Jesus Christ was supremely displeasing to the God he thought he was worshipping.

So, the unbelieving Jews – as much as they think they are – they are not pleasing to God. Their relationship to God is not good.

And neither is their relationship to their fellow-man…

and ‍‍are contrary to all men

and ‍‍are contrary to all men

καὶ πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ἐναντίων, 

Picture getting into a sailboat and hoisting the sails to the wind hoping to go one direction – but the wind keeps pushing you back the opposite direction. That’s the way in which this word “contrary” is used in the New Testament.

Mankind – according to Paul and according to God himself speaking through him – is like that sailboat and the unbelieving Jews are like that contrary wind – holding them back from their intended destination.

But what is that destination that these unbelieving Jews were holding people back from?

We see the answer to that in verse 16.

Verse 16

1 Thessalonians 2:16 AV 1873

16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.

Paul says that the unbelieving Jews were holding people back from being saved…

forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved

forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved

16 κωλυόντων ἡμᾶς τοῖς ἔθνεσιν λαλῆσαι ἵνα σωθῶσιν,


Strangely enough – the first individuals in the New Testament who were said to have attempted to forbid others from coming to Christ … were Christ’s own disciples! In that case, they were trying to prevent Jesus from being burdened by having to deal with little kids. But Jesus told those disciples – don’t forbid the children from coming to me (Matthew 19:14).

And thankfully, the disciples listened and obeyed. But the unbelieving Jews don’t do that.

In fact, Jesus himself rebuked the experts in the Jewish religious law because – not only did they not receive Jesus’ word – but they actually hindered and tried to prevent those who were themselves receiving Christ’s word (Luke 11:52).

And we see numerous instances of this dynamic in the life of the Apostle Paul – where the unbelieving Jews are trying to prevent the Gentiles – the non-Jews – from hearing and receiving the message of the gospel. In fact, that very thing happened in Thessalonica as is recorded in Acts 17:1-9. You might recall that in that passage Paul and Silas preach Christ in the synagogue, several Jews were persuaded – but so were numerous Gentiles. And what happened as a result was that the unbelieving Jews were moved with envy and they formed a mob and sought to attack the believers in that city. The Thessalonian believers would have remembered this and had in mind how the unbelieving Jews tried to hinder them from trusting Jesus Christ.

Well, the result of this constant hindering of God’s messengers from giving his saving message to the Gentiles is described this way…

to fill up their sins alway

to fill up their sins alway

εἰς τὸ ἀναπληρῶσαι αὐτῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας πάντοτε.


Hindering people from hearing and believing the gospel results in filling up your sin always.

Paul portrays it as if there’s a quota of sin that needs to be met in order for something to occur.

So, what is it that will happen as people – and in this context, unbelieving Jews – fill up this quota of sin?…

for ‍‍the wrath ‍‍is come upon them ‍‍to the uttermost

for ‍‍the wrath ‍‍is come upon them ‍‍to the uttermost

ἔφθασεν δὲ ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς ἡ ὀργὴ εἰς τέλος.


So, Paul is saying that wrath from God has come upon the unbelieving Jews to the end.

wrath ‍‍is come upon them

Wrath is God’s settled anger as a response to unrepentant sin. The way that God reacts toward the unbelieving Jews – or any religious-but-lost person – is wrath.

In fact, John the Evangelist tells us that if anyone doesn’t believe Christ, wrath abides on him right now (John 3:36).

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against those who suppress the truth – they know it, but they won’t submit to it – and they do so in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).

to the uttermost

And this wrath is “to the uttermost”. Or “to the end”. It will never stop. It’s constant. It’s abiding.

Until the unbelieving religious or irreligious person believes Jesus Christ, wrath has come and will finally come forever upon that individual – if he doesn’t repent and trust Jesus Christ to forgive his sins.

Conclusion

So, all mankind is left with a choice in how we respond to God’s truth.

You’ve been presented with two very different responses to God’s truth and the results of each response.

You’ve seen the correct response. Positively, you’re to receive God’s truth, believe it, and even be willing to suffer for it.

Or, negatively, the response to God’s truth that you want to avoid and repent of if you see it in your heart to any degree includes rejecting that truth yourself and/or hindering others from receiving God’s truth.

May the Lord help us receive his truth and help others who are now rejecting it to follow our example.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20

[S] Today the world is celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day. Even the search giant Google is advertising this holiday on their homepage today.

And of course, for most of America, this day is nothing but an excuse to drink excessively. But there’s an actual historical figure behind this day with an actual story to be told.

[S] Patrick was born in AD 385 in Roman Britannia in the modern-day town of Dumbarton, Scotland. He was enslaved by Irish pirates at the age of 16 who brought him back to Ireland to work for them. It was there that God started to work in Patrick’s heart concerning the truths of Scripture that he had learned from his father, who was a deacon.

Finally, Patrick escaped Ireland to go back to his home. But he felt a calling to go back to Ireland – to the very people who had enslaved him – and to preach the gospel to them.

And that’s just what he did – seeing great success from his endeavors – even seeing the pagan king of Ireland converted.

And even though God was doing such a work through him in Ireland, he expressed in the 43rd paragraph of his Confessions,

“I would like to go to Gaul [modern-day France] to visit the brothers and to see the faces of the saints of my Lord. God knows what I would dearly like to do.”

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/who-was-saint-patrick-and-should-christians-celebrate-st-patricks-day/
https://www.confessio.ie/etexts/confessio_english#

This ancient believer – from what we can tell – wanted to be with his fellow-believers. He could say that God was able to testify to those desires of his. He was happy to be ministering among pagans. But his heart was really with other Christians.

And I think this is the kind of heart that we see from the apostle Paul as we continue our study in the book of 1 Thessalonians. So, please join me in 1 Thessalonians 2:17.

Because in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 we’re going to see this theme: Believers Desire to be with One Another.

The professing believer who has no desire to actually be in the presence of other believers – there’s something not quite right there.

Because believers desire to be with one another. So, let’s explore that in our passage this evening.

1 Thessalonians 2:17–20 AV 1873

17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

20 For ye are our glory and joy.

So, let’s work to find this theme of believers desiring to be with one another throughout this text.

Verse 17

1 Thessalonians 2:17 AV 1873

17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

To begin, Paul starts with a contrast…

But we, brethren

But we, brethren

Ἡμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί

So, there’s a contrast here – or at least, a transition. Paul was talking about the unbelieving Jews and how they hindered Paul and Silas from proclaiming the gospel to Gentiles so that they might be saved. And that’s just what had happened in this city of Thessalonica – the Jews had driven Paul and Silas out and thus were hindering the gospel.

And this letter of 1 Thessalonians is probably the first official communication that the Thessalonian believers received from Paul and Silas after that event.

Now, we are going to see later in chapter 3 that Paul and Silas sent Timothy to the Thessalonians – and when they did, certainly Timothy would have communicated whatever Paul and Silas had sent with him to those believers in that city.

But this is the first actual letter that Paul and Silas were able to write and send to the Thessalonians that we’re aware of.

And so, the matter of Paul and Silas’s ministry with the Thessalonians being cut short is what Paul mentions next…

being taken

being taken

ἀπορφανισθέντες

That phrase “being taken” has in it the Greek – and the English – word “orphan”.

And even though Paul earlier in this letter compared himself to a father – as well to as a mother – in order to illustrate his relationship to and activities among the Thessalonians, now he puts himself in the position of a child. And in this case – he has no father. Paul viewed his forced-departure from the Thessalonians as if he were ripped from his family.

And that’s how it is with believers. We really enjoy being together. It’s a highlight of our week to gather together and worship the Lord together and fellowship with one another. And when we’re separated – especially for a length of time, it’s hard.

In the past year we’ve experienced a few months of forced separation due to COVID-19. How did you feel during that time? Were you just fine with that arrangement? Were you even glad to not have to meet with God’s people? I trust that wasn’t the case with anyone here.

Because for true believers, to meet with our brethren is a unique blessing. And to have to part with one another is painful – akin to being bereaved of your earthly father.

As the old hymn says:

“When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;”

http://hymnbook.igracemusic.com/hymns/blessed-be-the-tie-that-binds

That hymn – as you know – is called “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds”.

https://hymnary.org/text/blest_be_the_tie_that_binds

It was written in the late 1700s by a man named John Fawcett (https://hymnary.org/person/Fawcett_John1740) –  who himself was orphaned at the age of 12. He was saved under George Whitefield’s evangelistic preaching and he went on to be a pastor of a small church in England.

He was later called to pastor a larger church and he accepted the call. But when he preached his farewell message to his small church and as the believers there wept and expressed their gratitude and love for him, he ended up staying there for the rest of his ministry.

Because, as the song goes, “when we asunder part, it causes inward pain”.

Does it for you? Does it cause you pain to be separated from your fellow believers? It did for the apostle Paul.

And for Paul, that pain occured even if the separation was momentary. He says that he was orphaned from the Thessalonians…

‍‍for a short time

‍‍for a short time

πρὸς καιρὸν ὥρας

Literally, this is for “a time of an hour”. It’s a short time.

Think about it. What’s an hour in comparison to your entire life? That’s Paul’s point – he and Silas were separated from this church for just the equivalent of an hour in the course of a human life.

In 2018, the average American life expectancy was 78.54 years. Converting that number to hours yields 688,010.4 hours of life. If you were to try to calculate how much of a percentage 1 hour is out of 688,010.4 hours, it’s an infinitesimally small number. It’s something like 0.000000145. That’s six zeroes before the 145.

And yet, even though the separation of Paul and Silas from the Thessalonians in reality has been so very short, Paul couldn’t help but feeling that sense of abandonment – even though he knew that the separation from those believers was momentary.

And this goes a little beyond the immediate context here, but for believers – even when we’re eventually separated from one another by death, it’s still a momentary thing. Because we’ll some day be reunited with one another and with all of God’s people and with Jesus Christ himself – for eternity – never to part again. What a blessed thought – and one that Paul will encourage the Thessalonians with later on in this letter to them – that believers will be with the Lord and with one another forever.

And so, because even the most final of separations in this life from your fellow-believers is ultimately so short-lived, to part with each other is – and should always be – as the apostle Paul describes it in this verse…

‍‍in presence, not in heart

 from you … ‍‍in presence, not in heart

 ἀφʼ ὑμῶν … προσώπῳ οὐ καρδίᾳ

Literally, “in face, not in heart”.

That’s the nature of any temporal separation that believers might face with one another.

Paul uses a similar phrase to this in 2 Corinthians 5:12 to describe those who are not genuine. They’re fake. It’s all face or appearance or presence to them. There’s no heart behind what they present themselves to be.

And so, here in 1 Thessalonians 2:17, Paul’s saying that his being torn away from his dear brethren in that city is almost unreal. Because in his heart – in his own inner affections – he’s right there with them – even though he doesn’t see their faces.

So, have you experienced this with your fellow-believers? You can be parted from them for a time and not see their faces, but in your heart they’re right there with you – as you remember them and pray for them.

But if you’re like the apostle Paul – eventually you’ll not be content to have your fellow-believers simply in your heart. You will want to see their face (mask or not mask)…

we … endeavoured to see your face

we … endeavoured to see your face

 ἐσπουδάσαμεν τὸ πρόσωπον ὑμῶν ἰδεῖν

So, it’s interesting that for the very reason that Paul and Silas were taken from the believers in Thessalonica – because of that painful and unfortunate and sudden parting – Paul and Silas were endeavoring to see those believers in that city in person somehow.

Our family has a new puppy. He’s a black and white Shih-Tzu – Poodle mix tentatively named Oreo. And he’s pretty persistent.

When he gets his mind on something that he wants to go sniff or attempt to consume, even though I can physically pull him away from whatever the object is, if the forced departure of him from that object was not of his own choosing, he will come back to that thing – guaranteed!

And on a far more serious scale, for Paul and Silas – they were forcibly parted from the believers in Thessalonica. But their desire to be with those folks remained – and even strengthened.

This word “endeavoured” is used to describe eagerness and zeal and striving to do something.

•           So, as Paul and Silas were run out of Thessalonica and went on to Berea, they were doing this. They were endeavoring. They were working through in their minds how to make a return to Thessalonica to see those believers again.

•           As they were then run out of Berea, they had this same mindset and approach to thinking through how to get back to the believers in Thessalonica. They were eager and zealously striving to make a plan to reunite with those dear fellow-Christians.

It wasn’t enough ultimately for Paul and Silas to just have these folks in their hearts. They wanted to see their face.

And I know that in these days we have video conferencing technology. We have phones and email and we can still write letters to people. And all of those things have to suffice sometimes. But there really is nothing like being in the physical presence of other believers.

It’s really something to zealously and eagerly strive for.

And if what we’ve just considered isn’t enough to give you the idea of how important this was to Paul and Silas, we can now consider the two descriptors attached to this “endeavouring” that they were engaged in…

the more abundantly … with great desire

Look at these phrases. How did Paul and Silas endeavor to see the Thessalonian believers?…

the more abundantly … with great desire

περισσοτέρως … ἐν πολλῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ

So, I think you get the point. Meeting those Thessalonian believers once more was not something that Paul and Silas were casual about. They greatly desired to see them. Their attempts to visit them were more abundant because of their forced and premature departure from them.

Now, you probably have never thought to use 1 Thessalonians 2 when encouraging fellow-believers to be faithful in attending church services. I know that through the years if I’ve encountered someone who’s been kind of lax in gathering together with their fellow-believers, I’ve tended to reference Hebrews 10:24 to steer them in the direction of faithful church attendance.

And that works. And that passage is valid. But whereas Hebrews 10:24 is a command, here in 1 Thessalonians 2, you have – not a command – but an example set for you.

This is the apostolic example of how Paul felt about meeting with other believers. If you want to be Pauline or apostolic – or just plain mature in your Christian faith and walk – you will adopt the attitude of Paul toward your meeting with other believers. You’ll be eager about it. You’ll greatly desire it. You won’t even need to be commanded to do it – because you just want to do it!

And all of that desiring to see these believers led Paul to attempt to take appropriate action …

Verse 18

1 Thessalonians 2:18 AV 1873

18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

Wherefore we would have come unto you

Wherefore we would have come unto you

διότι ἠθελήσαμεν ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς

That word behind “would” refers to a will or desire. It was Paul’s desire or will to come to the Thessalonians again after being driven away from them.

even I Paul, once and again

even I Paul, once and again

ἐγὼ μὲν Παῦλος καὶ ἅπαξ καὶ δίς

And again, this wasn’t just a thought at the back of Paul’s mind that didn’t surface very often. It was his set and determined will to come to those believers.

Paul had this desire in his mind “once and again”. It was a repeated theme on his heart.

But there was one problem that prevented the achievement of this desire of Paul to visit the Thessalonian believers…

but ‍‍Satan ‍‍hindered us

but ‍‍Satan ‍‍hindered us.

καὶ ἐνέκοψεν ἡμᾶς ὁ Σατανᾶς. 

So, there’s some hindering or obstruction involved here.

What was the nature of that obstruction?

Well, Paul speaks elsewhere in the book of Romans of being hindered from coming to see those believers in Rome. But there he says that his desire to preach the gospel in regions where people had never heard of Christ – that was what hindered him from coming to them. Because those Romans had already heard the Gospel. And so Paul wanted to go elsewhere before visiting them. That’s what hindered him in that situation – his desire to proclaim Christ where Jesus was unknown (Romans 15:20-22).

But here in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, the nature of the hindrance and obstruction was not so positive. Paul says that Satan played a role in it.

Now, the title Satan indicates that this being opposes and serves as an adversary to God and to his people.

Paul wanted to come to these believers in Thessalonica, but Satan hindered or thwarted or obstructed his plan from coming to pass.

What would that opposition have looked like?

Well, it’s entirely possible that Paul is referring to the “security” or the “bail” that the Thessalonian believer named Jason gave to the politarchs in Thessalonica back in Acts 17:9.

Do you remember that? The mob that the unbelieving Jews formed in Thessalonica came looking for Paul and Silas. But when they couldn’t find them, they went after some of the other believers in that city. And it seemed that Jason was one of the leaders of that group. And the whole city was in an uproar until Jason gave this thing called “security” or “a bond” – which was apparently some sort of guarantee that the disturbance – which they didn’t even cause – would not happen again.

It could be… that time and again, the apostle Paul wanted to come back to Thessalonica to see those believers. But then he remembered that Jason had been forced to promise that Paul and Silas would basically never return to the city. And in that situation Paul saw Satan directly influencing those events and that outcome. After all, the Jewish-led mob that had run Paul and Silas out of town wasn’t fueled by God. Behind it all was Satan obstructing God’s work.

And we’re going to see later in chapter 3 of this letter that because it was impossible for Paula and Silas to return to Thessalonica – again, likely because Jason had promised that they would not return – they sent Timothy there. Because of course, Timothy had not been there when the mob attacked the believers. And so there was no mention to the politarchs who ruled the city of Timothy not returning. So, Paul and Silas found a sort of loophole that would allow someone from the apostolic company to see these believers face-to-face without violating the security that Jason had publicly given.

But now, Paul is writing to these believers assuring them that he himself greatly desired to see them personally. His sending Timothy had nothing to do with him not wanting to see them.

But, why such a great desire on Paul’s behalf to see these believers in Thessalonica?

We’ll see next in verse 19 Paul’s true estimation of these believers in very warm terms…

Verse 19

1 Thessalonians 2:19 AV 1873

19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

For what is our hope, or ‍‍joy, or ‍‍crown of ‍‍‍‍rejoicing?

The apostle Paul rhetorically asks about the identity of three items as they relate to Paul, Silas, and Timothy. He says,…

For what is our hope, or ‍‍joy, or ‍‍crown of ‍‍‍‍rejoicing?

τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἐλπὶς ἢ χαρὰ ἢ στέφανος καυχήσεως

For what is our hope … ?

For what is our hope … ?

τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἐλπὶς

As you know, biblical hope is not wishful thinking. It’s a confident expectation of something.

•           The Thessalonians’ confident expectation back in 1:3 was what fueled their endurance in the midst of their sufferings. They wouldn’t quit because they had this confident expectation of future glory with Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

•           If a person doesn’t have this confident expectation concerning their loved ones who pass away, their sorrow will be of a certain quality – it’ll be bleak, miserable, confused. And that’s contrasted to those who have a confident expectation concerning the state of their departed loved ones. And we’ll see in 4:13 that some of those Thessalonians were tempted to sorrow over their deceased fellow-believers the way a lost person would – and Paul’s going to comfort and correct them on that point (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

•           Part of being sober in this world involves being confident in your expectation of the Lord’s saving you, according to 5:8. There are things that call us away from sobriety and into foolishness and excess. And we need to – as it were – put on our confident expectation that God has saved us and will finally see us home to his eternal glory. That rock-solid conviction will protect you from the temptations to be foolish and excessive the same way that a helmet protected the heads of ancient Roman soldiers (1 Thessalonians 5:8).

So – who is the hope of Paul and Silas and Timothy? What are they confidently expecting? That’s the first part of the question that Paul is setting up to be answered later in this verse.

For what is our … ‍‍joy … ?

And here’s the second part of the question…

For what is our … ‍‍joy … ?

τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν … χαρὰ …

Biblical joy is not simply happiness. It’s deeper than that.

You might derive happiness from your circumstances. And perhaps when those circumstances change, so too does your happiness disappear.

But the source and origin of joy in a believer’s life is unchanging and not subject to the ebbs and flows of your circumstances. And that’s because joy in a believer’s life comes from the Holy Spirit himself, according to 1:6 (1 Thessalonians 1:6). And he never leaves you if you’re truly his. And therefore this joy is always available to you if you’re trusting Jesus Christ.

So – what is the joy of Paul and Silas and Timothy? What makes them joyful? That’s the second part of the question to which he’s building up an answer shortly.

For what is our … ‍‍crown of ‍‍‍‍rejoicing?

But before we get to the answer, the last part of this question is…

For what is our … ‍‍crown of ‍‍‍‍rejoicing?

τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν … στέφανος καυχήσεως

This stephanos crown was one for which ancient athletes would compete according to 1 Corinthians 9:25. Nowadays, we have medals or ribbons to indicate victory or success in sports. But in those days they had crowns. And Paul says in that passage in 1 Corinthians that this crown that his contemporary athletes competed so diligently for – was corruptible. It was made of a branch with leaves on it. And so when the branch dried up, the crown would go bad, eventually. On the other hand, the crown that we’re striving for as believers never goes bad. It’s incorruptible.

And for that reason, this crown is going to be one to rejoice in. Or you can translate it as “boasting” – it’s a crown of boasting. A crown about which a believer can rightfully boast.

Well, what is it? What is this thing that Paul and Silas and Timothy confidently expect and which causes them great joy and which is like a victor’s crown about which they will boast forever?

Are not even ye … ?

Are not even ye … ?

ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς

Those Thessalonian believers were these things to Paul and Silas and Timothy.

And don’t you feel this way about people whom you’ve invested in spiritually and then you’ve seen encouraging spiritual development in them?

You are confidently expecting from them – as you see their spiritual progress – that they are the genuine article. That they are truly trusting in Jesus Christ – and will be sharing with you his glory forever!

And you derive joy from this. There’s joy in the presence of God’s angels when one sinner genuinely repents. How much more when you see such a sinner bearing fruit in keeping with repentance? When you see a life actively being transformed by the gospel – what joy this causes to the heart of the believer who has been spiritually investing in that person.

And will God reward you – give you a crown – for ministering to your fellow-believer and seeing him go on to greater levels of maturity in the faith? Absolutely!

•           Jesus said in Mark 9:41 that if you give a fellow-believer even something so minor as a cup of water to drink in Jesus’ name, you will be rewarded.

•           Paul elsewhere in Philippians 4:1 calls those believers in that city his joy and crown. He was expecting reward from God for his service to them.

•           Those who care for God’s people in the capacity of an elder or pastor are promised a crown when Jesus returns (1 Peter 5:4).

•           And whether God has called you to be a pastor or not, as you make spiritual investments in the lives of your fellow-believers – who you love to be with – you have a reward to look forward to – from the Lord himself.

So, who was Paul and Silas and Timothy’s hope or joy or crown of boasting? It’s those very Thessalonians with whom they so greatly desired to be.

And yet, it’s not just people or even believers that alone are these things to us. It’s believers …

in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ ‍

in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ ‍‍at his coming?

ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῇ αὐτοῦ παρουσίᾳ; 

This is a dense phrase and we need to break it down to understand it.

So, we’re given a reference to place (“in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ”) and a reference to time (“at his coming”).

We’ll start the discussion with the place.

Sometimes in the New Testament, the concept of doing something “in the presence of”God is speaking of prayer.

•           Paul and Silas and Timothy remembered the encouraging spiritual activities in the lives of the Thessalonian believers back in 1:3. And they did so in the presence of God the Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3). They were remembering the Thessalonians as they were praying for them.

•           Paul and his company also gave thanks to God for all of the joy with which they rejoiced over the Thessalonians. And they did this in the presence of God (1 Thessalonians 3:9).

So, to do something in the presence of God can speak of the realm of prayer here and now in this life.

But additionally, there’s a time coming when to do something in God’s presence will be that you’re literally in God’s physical presence. You’re there with him and he’s there with you – physically.

We’re going to see Paul praying for these believers in 3:12-13 that God would work in them in such a way so that they would be holy and blameless in the presence of God (1 Thessalonians 3:12). That is, when they’re actually with him physically –  that’s when they would be ultimately holy and blameless.

So, that’s the place where these Thessalonian believers will be so special to Paul and Silas and Timothy – when they’re all together in God’s literal physical presence.

And when you’re with your fellow-believers in God’s presence, our holiness and blamelessness will be complete. And this will happen at a time known as the “coming” of our Lord Jesus…

at his coming

And what a blessed time this will be!

For anyone who has studied this concept of Jesus’ return in any detail, you might be familiar with the Greek word parousia. That’s the word used here.

This term can be used in a common way to describe the arrival of someone somewhere – or just someone’s physical presence.

But when it’s related to Jesus and God, it takes on a lot of significance. And I think that we have to assume that the Thessalonians knew a good deal of the significance of this word already – since Paul just kind of throws this phrase in here and expects them to understand the import of it.

But I’m not so sure that we could immediately call to mind the significance of this concept of Jesus’ parousiacoming. So, I’d like to lay out briefly what the New Testament Scriptures say about this word.

To begin, it’s possible that Peter uses this term to refer to Jesus’ first coming as a baby – or perhaps more broadly to his earthly ministry (2 Peter 1:16). He made known to the recipients of his second letter the coming of Jesus – and then he goes on to describe Jesus’ transfiguration, which happened during his first coming.

But the parousia spoken of here in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 is not Jesus’ first coming or his earthly ministry. Paul is speaking of his future second coming.

This future second coming of Jesus is a hope that Jesus himself nurtured in his disciples during his earthly ministry.

His disciples asked him – in what’s referred to as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 – when this parousia – this coming of Jesus – will occur. They were asking the man standing right in front of them when he is going to come back. He was already there, of course. But they understood him to be teaching that he was going to leave and then return some day. But they didn’t know when. So they asked him about it.

•           They associated the coming of Jesus with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and with the end of the world – or the end of the age (Matthew 24:3).

•           Jesus responds by identifying certain events and trends that will happen before his coming – many false Messiahs trying to mislead people, wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes – and that’s all just the beginning (Matthew 24:4-7)!

•           Believers will be persecuted and hated by everyone before this coming. Professing believers will betray one another. Numerous false prophets will arise. Lawlessness will increase. But those who endure to the end will be saved. The gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole inhabited earth. Then the end comes (Matthew 24:9-14).

•           There will be some idolatrous thing set up in the Temple – which – as you know – currently doesn’t exist in Jerusalem. But it will exist some day in – order for these things to occur in it. There will be great and unmatched suffering and tribulation for the Jews at that point. Again, false Messiahs and false prophets will be at-large at that time. They’ll perform literal miracles that are described as “great” and they’ll use those miracles to deceive many people. They’ll make exclusive secret claims – but the reality is that this coming of Jesus – his parousia – isn’t secret and exclusive – at least the culmination of it isn’t. It’s like lightning in the open sky. You can see it from one end of the sky to the other. Or how the presence of a dead animal is indicated by the gathering of vultures. It’s apparent. That’s how this coming of Jesus will be (Matthew 24:15-28).

•           Then the sun will be darkened, the moon won’t give off light, and stars will fall from the sky. Then Jesus comes and will gather his people who are alive on earth at that time (Matthew 24:29-31).

•           But we’re warned that Jesus’ coming is something that we need to be ready for. Because no one will be expecting it – just like when Noah went into the ark and the flood came and no one was expecting that to happen. Or like when a thief comes to a house to break into it and no one was ready for it. So, you be ready because Jesus is coming but nobody knows when (Matthew 24:36-44).

So, that’s Jesus’ treatment of his future coming in the Gospel of Matthew. There’s great tribulation, wars, signs in the heavens, imposter Messiahs doing great miracles, persecution – and then Jesus returns and sets up his kingdom on this earth.

Further on in the New Testament we’re told more about this coming of Jesus.

•           It’s a concern of Paul’s which he repeats twice that God would cause the believers in Thessalonica to be blameless before God when Jesus comes (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 5:23).

•           We’re told that at Christ’s coming those who are his will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:23).

•           And – for a little more detail about that – it’s at the Lord’s coming that believers who have died will rise first and then those of us who are alive will be suddenly caught up together with those believers in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and we’ll be with the Lord and our fellow-believers forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

•           Paul seems to equate or at least closely relate the coming of Jesus with the Day of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2. He says there that that day won’t happen until this mysterious Man of Lawlessness – otherwise known as the Anti-Christ – is revealed. But when Jesus comes he will destroy that man (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

•           We’re to be patient for the coming of the Lord because it’s drawing nearer and nearer (James 5:7-8).

•           And yet, as our church has been reminded for the past few Sundays, there are – and yet will be – scoffers in these last days mocking the idea of this coming of the Lord as if it will never happen (2 Peter 3:4).

So, it’s at this coming of Jesus Christ – when he comes to set up his literal kingdom from Jerusalem – and when he doles out rewards to his people – that Paul and Silas and Timothy will so highly esteem these believers in Thessalonica.

It’s when Jesus comes and puts down all of his enemies and raises the bodies of all dead believers and changes the bodies of all living believers and Jesus is finally vindicated despite all the scoffers and their denials of his promised coming – it’s at that point that the believers to whom you’ve ministered in this world and in whose lives you’ve seen spiritual fruit being developed – they will be to you your confident expectation of reward from the Lord. They will be your joy as you review what God has done in their lives – and how he’s used you to do some of it. And those folks will be to you like a crown in which you boast – and the one who boasts will boast in the Lord and in what he’s done through you.

And although Paul has stated this truth using a rhetorical question, he’s now going to end this section as he ends this second chapter rephrasing his question as a statement…

Verse 20

1 Thessalonians 2:20 AV 1873

20 For ye are our glory and joy.

For ye are our glory and joy.

For ye are our glory and joy.

ὑμεῖς γάρ ἐστε ἡ δόξα ἡμῶν καὶ ἡ χαρά.

The Thessalonian believers were part of what made Paul and Silas and Timothy uniquely excellent. They had ministered to those people and seen them saved by Christ. No one else had been given that privilege. These believers were Paul’s unique excellence. They were his glory.

And knowing what God had done through Paul and his company to impact the lives of these Thessalonians for the Gospel brought them a great and special joy.

Conclusion

So, Believers Desire to be with One Another. Can you see why?

I don’t want to exaggerate, but your eternal reward in the presence of Jesus Christ is to a great degree influenced by what you do with the folks in this room – and with people outside of this room who are truly saved.

I mean, something so ordinary to most of us as coming to church has probably never seemed so weighty and important in your life. But it really is. The investments that you make in your fellow-believers are going to pay dividends throughout eternity!

And of course, it’s not that you have to be in an official church building in order to invest in other believers. But what is essential is that you actually meet with other believers. And it just so happens that our church and most other congregations do that in a special building.

But the point is that we need to be edifying and blessing and building up one another. And it all starts with what’s in your heart. Do you desire to be with other believers? I trust that you do and that God is growing that desire in your heart even through our consideration of 1 Thessalonians 2 tonight.

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