Lesson 6: "We Preached Unto You the Gospel of God" (I Thessalonians 2:9)
I Thessalonians 2:1-20
This is Lesson #6. We said before that chapter 2 is, in one sense, a review of Paul's ministry in Thessalonica. It's more than a mere review. Why would Paul review those things in a letter? You see, he was calling attention to what Paul and Silas had taught when they were at Thessaloonica. He was saying, in essence, you must remember what we taught you. That was the basis and the basics of then-conversion. It was the Christian fundamentals they were to build upon as they matured in the faith. Thus, Paul was saying, you must remember those things. Therefore, Paul reviewed some of the high points they were taught when the apostle was with them. So, let's read together chapter two. Are you ready? We'll read the whole chapter before we comment. If you're focused in, let's read! Beginning in chapter 2, verse 1, "For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: 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. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 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. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 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. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: as ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 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. 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: 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: forbidding us to speak to the gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. 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 ye are our glory and joy."
Alright, back up to the beginning of chapter 2 and we'll try to comb through again, by commenting from verse by verse. After Paul had reminded them they were a church in Christ Jesus at the beginning of chapter one, and, after Paul had told them he prayed for them always (v. 2), Paul had called them "beloved" in v. 4, he called them "followers" in v. 6, and said they were "ensamples" in v. 7; he emphasized their turning to God and waiting for the Lord Jesus, God's Son, from heaven in v. 9 - 10. So, after he had commended them for their conversion, their patience, their love, and their faith, Paul began to provoke them to think in review of their own past association. From this review, Paul expected, in conclusion, to draw a lesson for their own benefit. In v. 1 - 2 of chapter 2, Paul appealed to their recollection of the first time they met. It had not been in vain, i.e. it had been a very fruitful adventure and association. Can you imagine the first day at Thessalonica when Paul and Silas showed up at the synagogue? Acts 17:1 mentions a couple of places that Paul and Silas passed through on their way to Thessalonica; but, we don't really know the time lapse from Philippi to Thessalonica. The total distance we've already said was about 100 miles. However, I would estimate that the time in transit from Philippi to Thessalonica was so short as to allow that Paul and Silas still had scars on their body from the beating and cruel jail experience at Philippi. It's even possible they, one or both, could have limped or had first aid bandages still showing. In any event, those converts at Thessalonica were very aware that Paul and Silas had needlessly and innocently suffered and been shamefully entreated as v. 2 describes it. When Paul had said just enough to bring these events vividly back to their memory, then, Paul said, (near the end of v. 2), "we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention." Now, what's the lesson? Paul and Silas did not let physical things get in the way of spiritual things. It was a matter of priority, you see. A great lesson that should filter through even to us. They were Paul's witness to this fact. Paul said he and Silas were bold. They didn't let the threats and scare tactics of the world shock them into conformity. They kept their eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). What did Paul boldly do? Paul and Silas boldly preached unto them the gospel of God. How did they do that? "With much contention." Do you see that? What does that mean? As they had taught, many, even at Thessalonica, had tried to put them down and demean them to ridicule. Did that stop Paul and Silas? Of course not! Paul was an apostle, sent by the Holy Spirit. Paul said their gospel came with power (1:5). It had convinced the honest and good hearts and they had turned to God. In further describing the bold manner in which Paul and Silas preached, Paul pointed out their exhortation was not in deceit, guile, or uncleanness. They had unloaded the gospel in its pure form. The brethren that Paul was writing to could themselves vouch for the fact that these messengers of the Holy Spirit had not been tricky or stealthy in their dealings. Their teaching had not been for fame or personal gain as those same people must have experienced from the heathen teachers many times in their past. Paul reminded them his teaching had not been with "uncleanness," i. e. with no attempt toward some lustful or immoral advantage. It might be noted with respect to that thought, that the cults of that day, particularly at Thessalonica and Corinth (I'm talking about the pagan religions of the people that historically had inhabited that area), were very gross with respect to this point. In many cases their entire worship, so called, was built around lust and covetous appetites and desires. Mount Olympus was some place west of Thessalonica; and the Greeks thought and taught that Mount Olympus was the center of the world and the home of their pagan gods (Zeus being one of the main ones). Olympus was a snow capped mountain going up to near 10,000 feet. The top was usually shrouded in fog and clouds. The Greek poets had commonly played upon these superstitions. Have you heard of Homer's Iliad and The Odyssey? And, there are a lot of others, of course. Corinth had been another center for the cults of lust and passion worshippers.
Paul further pointed out in v. 4, it was evident that Paul and Silas had not tried to please men. it was God they sought to please. Verses 5 and 6 are somewhat repetitive of what has already been said. They did not use "flattering words," i. e. they did not overstate anything to gain an advantage. You know, that is a tactic that is used today to take advantage of little old ladies and the underprivileged. The "cloak of covetousness" idea means, very simply, to have some improper desire hidden under your coat, i. e. some slight of hand tactic to gain an advantage. In v. 6., the apostle makes the point that such tactics were not used with any one — friend or foe. In the last of v. 6, he says "when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ." The thought is simply this; it would not have been improper for Paul and Silas to be supported by their brethren at Thessalonica. In another place, I Cor. 9:14, Paul said "the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." In the verse before that, Paul pointed out that it was the same way the priests had been supported during the Mosaic age. Thus, Paul and Silas cold have insisted the Thessalonians support them while they were there; but, they did not do so for the very simple reason that SOME might have interpreted it as covetousness. So, even though it was lawful (I Cor. 6:12), Paul did not deem it expedient to receive support from the Thessalonian brethren at that time; AND, there's another great lesson for us in that thought. Now, the bottom line is this, Paul and Silas conducted themselves properly at Thessalonica. The brethren there could use them as an example. Now, vs. 7 - 8 - 9 simply amplified this thought and expanded the idea. Paul points out that it was not easy. Yet, because "ye were dear unto us" (v. 8), Paul shows that he and Silas endured much hardship in preaching to them the gospel of God (end of v. 9). Verses 10- 11 - 12 is one big, long sentence. A quick analysis will reveal this thought: the brethren at Thessalonica were aware, i. e. they were witnesses and God was witness, that Paul and Silas had conducted themselves properly and had, in turn, exhorted and encourage the Thessalonians to do likewise. To "walk worthy" in v. 12 is a common New Testament figure meaning to live in obedience from day to day. The apostle John uses the word "walk" most often. Notice, also, that Paul exhorted them in v. 11; "that ye would walk worthy," v. 12. Please notice in v. 12 the word "kingdom" simply means the church in the universal sense. Thus, the people at Thessalonica were in the church or kingdom at that time. I trust you are aware that many today claim the kingdom hasn't come yet and they are still looking. I emphasized this point many times in prior courses, I trust you remember; however, I just want to call your attention to the fact that this verse is consistent with the rest of the New Testament on that point. Then in v. 13, Paul said in essence, those brethren had done as they had been exhorted. Paul was pleased and thanked God regularly for their faith, obedience, and godly life.
In the big, long sentence that makes up vs. 14 - 15 - 16, Paul notes a similarity between the Thessalonian brethren and the churches in Judea. Notice now, that both churches, Thessalonica and the churches of Judea, are in Christ Jesus. Paul sees a similarity in that all the churches in Judea (made up primarily of Jews) and the church at Thessalonica ( made up primarily of Gentiles, you will remember, Acts 17:4) have this one thing in common; both had been persecuted by their own countrymen. Undoubtedly, Paul SAID THAT, to make them aware that this fact neither indicated God's approval nor God's disapproval. It neither made them better nor worse than the churches in Judea. They were all brothers and sisters in Christ. They were to be aware that to live a godly life does not assure that we will not be persecuted. In v. 15-16, Paul showed that, even though the Jews as a race were once God's chosen people, when they rejected God's Son, they did not please God. Paul's remarks indicates that, in some ways, the Jews may have deserved their punishment of persecution more than the Gentiles. Paul wanted them to see they had no advantage or disadvantage over their Jewish brethren.
Finally, the last four verses, v. 17 - 20, in chapter 2, begin to tie this review of Paul's ministry at Thessalonica into the next chapter, i. e. chapter 3, and, to tie it to what had happened to Paul and Silas in the interim. Paul had reached the point in his review where he and Silas had been taken from the Thessalonian church. You will remember, Paul and Silas had been smuggled by some of the brethren during the night to Berea to prevent them from being physically harmed or killed, I infer. This immediately brought to the mind of the brethren — the city on an uproar -as Luke called it in Acts 17:5. Immediately, you think of Jason; but, they probably thought of others and much, much more that was associated with that uproar. It's very probable, some of them had suffered severely as a result of that uproar. In v. 17, Paul assured them that he and Silas were simply removed from their presence for a short time, i. e. their physical presence; but, in spirit and in heart they were still as close as ever. However, Paul wanted them to know he had tried to come back to see them; but, had been prevented through Satan's influence. Nevertheless, Paul wanted them to know that their separation had only heightened his desire to come and see them again. Implying, of course, that Paul would visit them again when time would permit. They must endure for the time, realizing they were prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus, v. 19. Then in v. 20o, with compassion, Paul said, "ye are our glory and joy."
Now, in chapter 3, it has already been said, Paul touched on the interim and the occasion for his writing. Thus, whetting their desire to see the apostle again and to listen close for any instruction he might have for them. We'll get down to that in chapter 3. That will be Lesson #7. For the moment or two we have left here, let me ask you, what does chapters 1 and 2 have to do with you and me? What's the message for us? I'm sure, I don't have to prompt you to see that we can learn much here with respect to our manner of life. These were babes in Christ at Thessalonica; but, they had a faith, a love, a hope, and a desire to work for the Master that has all too often been lost by some of us. They followed (1:6), they were ensamples (1:7), they sounded out the word (1:8), they turned to serving the living and true God (1:9), they were ready and waiting for God's Son, the Lord Jesus, to return from heaven (1:10). Can that be said of us? They were taught the pure simple gospel. They did not slant that gospel to please men (2:4). They were willing to endure hardships to teach, cultivate, and encourage others (2: 8 - 9). They were exhorted to walk worthy of God (2:12). They received the word of God, and that word worked in them; they believed (2:13). They were willing to suffer at the hands of their own countrymen for the cause of Christ (2:14). Again, I ask the question: Do we have these qualities to the extent we should? What can we do to improve our manner of life and to glorify Jesus as we walk from day to day? When you have answered that question, you have the answer to what these chapters teach us. It's nothing new. But, it's still just as important as ever.
Have a good day! And, I'll be with you in Lesson #7, Lord willing.