1 Thessalonians 2:1–12
As pastor and author Ray Stedman said, what we have here is a “marvelous picture of the work of a good shepherd.”
The Apostle Paul goes to lengths to point out how he did not bring the gospel to the Thessalonians. Why would he do this? Why does he want them to know what he did not do?
Paul mentions eight wrong ways and terrible motives for the gospel to be shared:
- From error — We can imagine a false teacher saying, “If you will start doing good works and be baptized, God will then save you.” That is opposed to everything Scripture teaches about grace (Rom. 6:23).
- From impurity — The false teacher says, “You do not have to give up sinning. Repentance is unnecessary.” Luke 13:3 and 5 say otherwise.
- From deceit — “If you will simply believe, God will make you financially prosperous,” thus appealing to all the wrong motives.
- As pleasing men — “Your happiness is the most important thing in all the world.” (See comment at the end of today’s lesson.)
- With flattering speech — “You are so gifted. God will be honored to have you join Him.”
- As a pretext for greed — “And after they get saved, they will contribute more money to us.”
- To seek glory — “I’ve baptized more than all the others” or “This is my territory.”
- Making myself a burden on those I’m trying to win — “God’s word says you are to support me.” While this is true for established churches, no community of the unsaved is charged with supporting ministry.
Based on this passage, Paul provides guidance on how to do ministry right. First, ministry must be done in a way that is pleasing only to God: “Thy will be done.”
Second, the minister must interact well with the people being ministered to. The minister should be strong like a brother, gentle like a mother, faithful like a father.
We might add the work of exhorting, encouraging and imploring (see Ps. 103:13) and dedication.
This message we preach is the gospel of “our own souls,” Paul writes. We are its subjects, agents and representatives. We are both Exhibit A of God’s power and the proclaimers of this amazing message. What a privilege!
More importantly, the message is God’s gospel (vv. 2, 8). God is its source: “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son” (John 3:16). It all begins in the heart of God, and Christ is its substance. It’s all about Jesus. When we preach, we tell others about Jesus (Acts 8:35; Rom. 1:16). The gospel is to be shared with compassion and grace.
Here and in Galatians 1:10 the Apostle Paul emphasizes that the preacher may have to choose to please God or his audience. We should always pray for our ministers and encourage them in faithful teaching of the gospel.
By Joe McKeever
Pastor, writer and cartoonist from Ridgeland, Mississippi.