Mr. Thomas Richardson, Grangemouth, Scotland, has prepared this series of articles on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. We are sure that much benefit will be derived by a careful study of each exposition.
Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
In our first article we considered the fruitful message of the Gospel as seen in the first chapter of this interesting Epistle. Let us now consider the faithful messengers who carried that message into Thessalonica.
How long the preachers remained in that city is not definitely known, probably more than the three weeks mentioned in the passage. The effort, even during a limited time, was altogether too successful to please the devil; consequently, he accomplished the expulsion of the servants of the Lord. When their absence was discovered by the populace, certain false reports were circulated. If the evil one cannot stop the preaching, he surely can attack the preachers. These men, the citizens were told, who had suddenly disappeared, were crafty, cowardly, and covetous. Furthermore, they were told, some had been deceived by them and then deserted because “these that had turned the world upside down,” had filled their pockets at the expense of the disillusioned.
This second chapter is actually a statement of self-defence by Paul. It begins, “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain.” Although Thessalonica was only three days journey from Philippi, no hand bills were distributed to announce their coming; no church was ready to welcome them.
There are three salient features which characterized their effort in this needy centre: their message, their methods, and their manners.
Three times in this short passage we read of their message as being “the Gospel of God” (Vv. 2, 8, 9). The Gospel is good news, not about us, but for us. It is a message that is divine in its origin, definite in its offer, and dynamic in its operation. Those men, the enemy said, “had turned the world upside down;” yet, their only message was the Gospel of God. Surely there must have been a power with those men that is not seen today. Please observe how they preached this wonderful message.
They preached courageously: “We were bold in our God,” said Paul. There was no hesitancy in their manner. There was force in their message for it ruffled the conscience, touched the heart, and subdued the will. The three servants of the Lord who entered Thessalonica did not believe in painless conversions.
They preached it constantly, with much contention. The city was filled with ignorant heathen and fanatical Jews; so through these, every satanic influence was exerted against the Word of God.
In like manner, they preached it freely: “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.” There was no collection box or bag passed around the congregation. Wherever possible Paul made himself self-supporting.
Finally, they preached it affectionately: “Ye were dear unto us,” said the Apostle. The Revised Version says, “Very dear unto us.” There was a strong link between the platform and the pew in the meetings at Thessalonica .
These men were not cowards, they risked their lives to carry the Gospel. Their message was not of deceit or uncleanness, nor of guile; it did not lead people astray. Their motives were pure; they did not use a bait. What a message they had! We have the same message today, and when preached in the power of the Spirit of God, it will produce similar results.
It has been said that every preacher has three temptations: first, to please the people; second, to make it pay; third, to increase his reputation. Paul, Timothy, and Silas were all accused of these very things.
In regard to the first charge, that of trying to please the people; the Apostle writes, “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know.” They made no attempt to tickle the ears of their audiences; they sought, rather, to speak “not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” In Galatians 1:10 Paul wrote also, “If I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
It may be a temptation to some to make it pay, but this was not a temptation to Paul and his associates. Defensively the Apostle asserts, “Neither at any time used we… a cloke of covetousness; God is witness.” The Pharisees were covetous indeed (Luke 16:14), but Paul had left all that when he was converted; in fact, he admits that in the Gospel there were occasions when he was hungry, thirsty, naked, and buffeted, and without certain dwelling place” (Cor. 4:11). Thank God, he was also able to write, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong? (2 Cor. 12:10).
To the elders of Ephesus, he said, “These hands have ministered to my necessities” (Acts 20:34). As an apostle he could have claimed support (1 Cor. 9:14), but he would not be burdensome to any.
Concerning the temptation to increase one’s reputation, Paul refutes this charge against himself and the brethren with him in a very forceful manner, “Nor of men sought glory, neither of you, nor yet of others.” What a transformation the grace of God had wrought in this man!
Reviewing his period of ministry with them, Paul said, “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.” The Revised Version adds, “Her own children.” A nurse does not get, she gives! The servant of the Lord must be gentle (2 Tim. 2:24). The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness (Gal. 5:22). The Revised rendering suggests that the nurse here was also the mother. If she were only the nurse there would be skill without maternal love; if only the mother, love without skill. When the relationship and the training are in the one person things are ideal. The child is the chief concern of such a mother; she anticipates its every need; prepares its food; plans its welfare; hushes its cry, and ministers to its comfort constantly. Alas, how many spiritual babes have been handicapped like Mephiboseth by poor nursing! (2 Sam. 9:13; 4:4). We need more spiritual nurses among our assemblies today. God have mercy on the many underfed and weak babes in our midst!
Paul was also more to them than a nursing mother; he was a wise father. “Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children.” He was close to them; gave them help out of his rich experience and encouraged them in order that they walk worthy of God.
Walking in the spiritual life means life, health, growth, and activity. Paul would not carry them; rather, he counselled them to apply their knowledge and to act worthy of the Lord who had called them unto His own kingdom and glory.