Devotional # 177. 2/15/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9.
Intro. Last week when we started 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 we saw the theme of Paul reminding what God had done directly and indirectly. We went through verses 1-3, which showed that Paul had lived out what he had taught the Thessalonians to preach the gospel even when there were difficulties. This week we’ll see that we have been tested and been approved to grow in patience and affection for Christians and non-believers.
v. 4. Paul tells us that those who preach the gospel have two very important things: they have “been approved by God” and then “entrusted with the gospel“. The idea of being “approved” in the original Greek is dokimazo meaning “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize” (Source 1). And to be “entrusted” in Greek is pisteuo meaning “to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in” (Source 2). This applies to us now as it did 2000 years ago, so if God has tested you and has been persuaded that you are able to carry the good news of salvation then who are we to question it? The key is that when we speak we’re not trying to make men happy but God. Because it is “God who tests our hearts” (which is a double confirmation with the definition of dokimazo we just read), it is God who we will have to answer to someday. Do we really allow what people think of us to make us bashful and self-conscious? Or do we have the “bold[ness] in our God” (v. 2) that Paul and the others had? If we truly believed that what we were doing mattered and saved souls and that we would answer to God one day we would be less concerned about what a person thinks of us and more concerned with truly preaching the good news.
vv. 5-6. Now Paul says there was no point in time when they used “flattering words” which reminds us of the “exhortation” that didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” (v. 3) that we talked at length about last week. Paul didn’t appeal to people’s pride by “flattering” them and didn’t hide behind “coveting” (“a cloak for covetousness“). Guzik explains, “Paul understood that covetousnessalways has a cloak. It is always concealed by a noble sounding goal. But Paul did not use the flattering wordsthat often are a cloak for covetousness” (Source 3). They also didn’t “seek glory from men” whether that was Christians are non-Christians. He goes on to say that he could’ve had the right to “demand” being taken care of as an apostle, as 1 Corinthians 9:14, Galatians 6:6 (see Devotional # 94) and 1 Timothy 5:17-18 say. But he didn’t do that because he thought the testimony would be more pure to new believers if he didn’t make those demands which he had a right to (1 Corinthians 9: 15, 18).
vv. 7-9. Instead they “were gentle among” the Thessalonians. In what way were Paul and Silas and Timothy “gentle“? We don’t know all the ways but Paul uses the simile of “a nursing mother” who “cherishes her own children.” Most of us, from personal experience, know how a mother loves the child that she is nursing. She is providing sustenance for that child – without her the baby will die. So she is patient and self-sacrificing and caring as the baby is nothing but selfish and also immature. When people first become Christians they are immature – they don’t fully know what the love of God is and so their bad habits and selfish desires often win out. We must be like Paul, like a patient and self-sacrificing and “affectionate” mother regardless of the selfishness and immaturity of other Christians. Next week we’ll see Paul use a “fatherly” analogy, which will give us a fuller picture, coupled with this one.
Once Paul and Silas and Timothy left the Thessalonians they missed them (“longing for you“) yet they were glad that they had received “the gospel of God“. But that wasn’t all that Paul and Timothy and Silas had “imparted” to the Thessalonians they had given their lives…not in terms of death but in terms of life! Paul challenges the brothers and sisters there to remember that they had “labored and toiled…night and day” for the Thessalonians. Paul isn’t prideful but he’s again making the comparison of how they are like a loving mother to the Thessalonians who are “newborns” in the faith. He and Silas and Timothy didn’t want to be “a burden to any of you” when they “preached to you the gospel of God.”
Do we be grudgingly “love” other believers? I’ll be the first to admit that I do. I might not say anything out loud but in my heart sometimes I’m thinking ‘you don’t know the sacrifice I’m making to talk to you about this or to go out of my way and help you.’ It can be very frustrating when someone is telling us their problems and/or asking for advice and we give them solid biblical advice and they shut their mouth only long enough until we stop talking, and they go right along on with their problems as if we haven’t given them the answer. But the more we give things over to God and let God have control the more patience we will have to just keep loving others and encourage them and strengthen them. Believe me this will take so much of your time. This will make you miss out on things that you’ve been looking forward to and cost you dearly. But it’s worth it. We know this because it was lived out by Paul.
Conclusion. Again, we see the theme of remembering what God has done indirectly and directly. In reminding the Thessalonians Paul is also reminding us, be affectionate and patient with those who need it and whom you were called by God to minister to. Paul devoted his life to this, toiling “night and day.” What God is asking you to do will cost you greatly, and no, it’s not popular today (remember what we talked about last week in Devotional # 176, how the modern Christian church has done a tremendous disservice by “deceiving” people towards Jesus?) And really self-denial never has been popular but you need to “put away lesser things” (Source 4) and love other non-Christians by “preaching…the gospel of God” and loving other Christians “gently“, “affectionately” and “not being a burden” to any of them.
Source 3: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Th/1Th_2.cfm?a=1113004
Source 4: My paraphrase to lyrics of the hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God!” by William P. Merrill.