Letters to the Thessalonians

This devotional is written by James Glass.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

Paul's Ministry in Thessalonica

2 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. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

Reflection

This passage is meaty and my word limit is small so I'll just touch on a couple of things which I feel are worth mulling over.

v2 "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."

We can read about these events in Phillipi in Acts 16, but what's worth calling out is that as a follower of the crucified One, Paul was not going to let mistreatment in one place (Phillipi) keep him from telling people about Jesus in another (Thessalonica). We follow a crucified God so opposition should not come as something that's a surprise to us and we would do well to remember this.

In Acts 17, we read that there's also strong opposition (a rioting mob) in Thessalonica and Paul and Silas have to leave because of this but feel that their time there has been cut short. As a result, they can't bear not knowing how the church is doing so they send Timothy (which we can deduce from 1 Thess. 3). In Tim's post-match report, we can assume that he discloses that there has been something of a smear campaign against Paul; he's just another religious charlatan, who curried their favour and then left hurriedly under suspect circumstances. This prompts Paul to offer a strong defence of his ministry by explaining what he was NOT like amongst the Thessalonians (verses 3-7) and reminding them what he WAS like amongst them (verses 7-12).
This too is opposition. Not just against Paul and Silas, but also the Thessalonian community. It's driving a wedge between them and the apostles who founded that church. Whilst leaders can sometimes be wrong, it's right to honour apostles and their authority, even if they don't assert it (verse 6).
The reason why honouring the apostles is important is because they are messengers of God.
Verse 13 "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe."

By using this word order, Paul emphasises two realities simultaneously: the message they heard and received was from God AND it was something they heard from the apostles, thus the people who brought it to them (Paul and Silas) are messengers of God, not charlatans.

I think there's a lesson for us in this now. It's tempting in our culture to try to deconstruct so much of our faith and the Bible - yes we need to situate it correctly in its context, in this case we are literally reading someone else's mail (the Thessalonians’), but we need to have an appropriate degree of reverence for God's word. It is one of the primary ways in which He speaks to us, guides us, corrects us, nourishes us and uplifts us.

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