Lesson 5: The Manner of His Preaching: Part 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on 1 Thessalonians)
by John Lowe
Lesson 5: The Manner of His Preaching (1Th 2:1-8)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (NIV)
1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
The first section of Chapter 2 v. 1-8 records Paul’s comments about his visit to Thessalonica. His words suggest that people outside the church were charging him with unworthy motives and improper conduct.
1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our †visit to you was not without results.
In this letter written to the church at Thessalonica, Paul says that they knew that there were good results from his †visit, and therefore no one else needs to bear witness, for they themselves knew what happened. The calling of the Thessalonians to be witnesses was a masterly defense. It is clear that Paul had been accused of insincerity. His enemies said that he was more concerned to make money out of his converts than to present true teachings. The accusation would be made easier because †itinerant preachers, concerned only to feather their own nests, were common in those days. The apostle was being represented as nothing more than another of this class of vagrant preachers.
Paul’s explicit calling of the Thessalonians to witnesses did two things. In the first place it showed his confidence in them. He had no fear that they would succumb to the propaganda being put before them. In the second place it demonstrated that all the facts required for his vindication were common knowledge. Neither Paul nor the Thessalonians had any need to search for material to prove he was authentic and above-board. An allegation of insincerity could not stand in the light of such a public knowledge of the man and his work.
There has been some difference of opinion as to what is meant by the word rendered “without results.” It has also been translated as “a failure, fruitless, barren of results, and ineffective.” The best rendering, I believe, is either “hollow, empty, or wanting in purpose and earnestness.” However, Paul’s ministry among the Thessalonians was anything but “without results”; it was in fact so fruitful that not only were people saved and a vibrant, reproducing church planted, but the church also grew and flourished even after Paul left (1:5-8). Paul was not a failure. He had not come merely to give speeches. Changes in the Thessalonian believers’ lives testified to the value and success of his visit.
We have already seen in 1:4 that Paul addresses the community as “brothers,” but this does not mean he intends the letter only for men; the term adelphoi is best translated “believers.” Paul took for granted the patriarchal culture of his world (4:4; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16: “husband, the head of his wife,” †11:3), but he also knew that “in Christ” such patriarchy has no place (Galatians 3:26-28: “no longer male and female” in Christ), and, to some extent, working with women in leadership, he did overcome patriarchal biases. The evidence that women worked with him in his apostolic labors is unmistakable (Romans 16:1-7, 12-15: and Phoebe, Prisca, Junia; Philippians 4:2-3: Euodia, Syntyche).
†Itinerate preachers―There has probably never been such a variety of religious cults and philosophic systems as in Paul’s day. East and west had united and intermingled to produce a mix of real piety, high moral principles, crude superstition and gross lawlessness. Oriental mysteries, Greek philosophy, and local godlings competed for favor under the tolerant backing of Roman indifference. “Holy Men” of all creeds and countries, and popular philosophers, magicians, astrologers, crack-pots, and cranks; the sincere and the phony, the righteous and the rogue, swindlers and saints, jostled and clamored for the attention of the gullible and the skeptical.
†Visit― Paul was referring here to his first visit to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9).
† (1 Corinthians 11:3) “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his †gospel in the face of †strong opposition.
The apostle stated, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi.” Paul had come from Philippi after being badly treated and imprisoned there. He had undergone physical hardship (“had previously suffered”), and to that had been added verbal abuse (“treated outrageously”). Acts 16 tells us that the physical suffering had included flogging and the placing of his feet in the stocks. On that occasion, when it had been suggested that the jailer should simply free Paul and Silas, the great apostle had refused to leave until the praetors themselves had come to make amends for their treatment of Roman citizens. In his insistence of upholding the dignity of Roman citizenship we see something of the deep hurt Paul had experienced by the indignities heaped on him. So now, as he recalls those days, he uses a word that evokes memories of the insolence of those who had ill-treated him. All this is something of which the Thessalonians have knowledge, as Paul reminds them (“as you know”). And when opposition broke out in Thessalonica the missionaries kept on preaching. Their boldness amid “strong opposition” was the sign of God at work in his servants and was proof of their genuineness.
And then he said: “but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his †Gospel in the face of strong opposition.” The boldness and confidence he shows here are not natural attributes, for Paul speaks of daring “with the help of our God” (more literally, “you in our God”). Because he lived “in” his God he was always at home, no matter what the outward circumstances, and thus he always had that attitude of ready speech of which we have been thinking. It was because he lived and moved in God (†Acts 17:28) that no hardship and no opposition were able to take away his confidence and his courage (†2 Corinthians 4:7). The conclusion to be drawn from this is that IF GOD WANTS US TO DO SOMETHING HE WILL GIVE US THE STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO DO IT IN SPITE OF THE OBSTACLES THAT MAY COME OUR WAY.
† The gospel originated in God, it tells about God, and it invites people to take God’s way of salvation. It is the good news (not “good advice,” “good ideas,” “good principles,” etc.) about God; it tells not only what He is like but what He has done; and not only what he has done; but what He offers. God is both content and source of the Gospel (Mark 1:14; Romans 1:1; 15-16).
† Strong opposition denotes a very genuine resistance and very hostile opponent. It is used of fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7), and that is no half-hearted fight. The use of the word here and in 2 Thessalonians indicates that the opposition that Paul faced had been intense, and his preaching had not been easy. How, in the face of this, could it be said that he preached only for what he could get out of it?
† (Acts 17:28) “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” The phrase “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” seems to have been a more-or-less traditional Greek saying. Through God people live and move and have existence.
† (2 Corinthians 4:7) “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Though His people are weak, God uses them to spread His Good News, and He gives them the power to do His work. Knowing that the power is His should keep believers from pride and motivate them to keep daily contact with God, their power source. Believer’s responsibility is to let people see God through their lives.