Devotional # 176. 2/13/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3.
Intro. We’ll break up 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 into several parts but the consistent theme throughout the whole chapter is remembering what God has done. Whether that be what God has directly done or what God has done through other Christians.
Just in this chapter Paul uses “you know” four times (v. 1, v. 2, v. 5, v. 11). He also uses phrases like “you remember” (v. 9) and “you are witnesses” (v. 10) to remind them of the things that they’ve seen. Why is he reminding them of these things? Let’s keep reading to find out!
vv. 1-3. Paul shows his care for the Thessalonians by using the term “brethren” (as we’ve often said this is encompassing of both brothers and sisters in the church) and he tells them that they’re already aware that when he and Silas and Timothy came to them it wasn’t a useless trip. Is he trying to remind them of something that they’ve forgotten? Is he trying to fake it because they don’t really remember it that well and he thinks that he can make the trip more “rose colored” in their memories? No, in fact he finishes this little section (vv. 1-3) by telling them there was no error or deceit. And that’s actually the reasoning of why he’s reminding them: because they have come to love the truth, they’ve stopped serving idols (1:9) and have a love for God and their salvation, so they need to be encouraged in what is true. Just like the Thessalonians, we also need to be encouraged. We have grown as Christians deeper than when we first believed. But sometimes we need to be reminded of what it was like when we first believed. This helps us be thankful for both where we were and where we’re going but it also gives us a mindset of sharing Christ with others and knowing that they’ll go through the same battles and we can prepare them for those battles because “we know” and “we remember.”
So Paul’s trip “was not in vain” because it produced these Christians in Thessalonica. And then Paul fills in the story for them, which they apparently already knew, about how he and Silas and Timothy had come from Philippi before going to Thessalonica for the first time. How were they treated in Philippi? They were “spitefully treated” which basically just means that people were mean to them whether verbal abuses or physical abuses. We actually covered the story in Acts 16:19-24, 37 (Devotional # 56). But they continued to be “bold in our God” when they came to Thessalonica. Can you imagine if Paul had just given up after Philippi? Then these Thessalonians wouldn’t have heard about the gospel at that time and they wouldn’t have become friends with Paul and grown as Christians. So much rests on us persevering and continuing on in what God is given us regardless of what outside forces pound against us. But we can’t just do this alone we have to have God’s help. Many times that means that we submit to things that we don’t like. Maybe we don’t see the persecution coming but God is calling us to prepare. He’s calling you to pray on your knees but you’re too busy. He’s calling you to read your Word and tell your family about it but you’d rather complain about work and your coworkers. Paul didn’t give up and I love that he uses the phrase “our God“, it wasn’t just that Paul was special and had a unique relationship with God instead He is “our God” also. There’s enough of God to go around! He truly is “our God“!
And in verse 3 Paul reminds them that when he was encouraging them it didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” These three things we need to keep in mind when we are encouraging others.
-Are we encouraging other Christians in “error“? This would be when we misquote Scriptures (accidentally or on purpose). The ends don’t justify the means; as William S. Paley reminds us, “White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion” (Source 1). No matter how small it seems and how much you think it will help in the long run, we Bible believing Christians pride ourselves that there is no error in the Bible so don’t make it start having errors now.
-What about “uncleanness“? The Hebrew had been taught by God to avoid anything “unclean.” This applied to everything in their lives, divided into threes. For animals there were “holy” ones that could be sacrificed, there were “clean” that couldn’t be sacrificed but could be eaten and then there were “unclean” that couldn’t be sacrificed or eaten. This was also a representation of people (“holy” priests, “clean” Hebrews and “unclean” Gentiles*) and Paul was showing “his ‘manner of life’ was pure, not sexually wicked” (Source 2). It’s really cool that this got mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians because in my daily devotions this morning I was reading in Genesis chapter 7 which is when Moses is bringing all of the animals on to the Ark before the flood. God tells him to bring both “clean animals” and “unclean” (Genesis 7:8). From the beginning God has made a way of salvation for the Hebrew and Gentile.
-And lastly it wasn’t “in deceit.” Paul didn’t deceive anyone into becoming a Christian. I’ve been studying when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden and it struck me that he doesn’t blatantly lie but uses half-truths and preys on her weakness. In the same way the American church has deceived non-Christians over the last 40 years or so. We’ve been trained to be nice to people and to sometimes talk about Jesus and that He loves them and if the people will just accept Him into their heart then everything will be perfect. When we do mass alter calls or even witnessing and never following up then people think of Jesus as Santa and when their life actually gets harder (because they’re dying to their flesh and suddenly Satan is their enemy) they think they tried Jesus or church but that it didn’t work. We must stop “deceiving” people into a false following of the Lord. Lay the cards out in front of them (over time, after you’ve truly showed them the love of Jesus) and explain to them why their life will become more difficult but why it’s the best and most important decision they’ll ever make.
Conclusion. Paul has reminded his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica of their history with the Lord and with Paul and Silas and Timothy and their other believing brothers and sisters. In the same way we need to be reminded…and to be reminding…other believers of what they were like when they first believed in the Lord and how we have loved them and why these things are important. Go out and love the “clean” and the “unclean” today!
Source 1: http://izquotes.com/quote/141078
Source 2: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1844.