Acts 17.1-9 Christ into the City, Part 6 1 Thess 2:1-10
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1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.
It appears that Paul had come under criticism from the Jewish synagogue leaders of Thessalonica. Their accusation may well have been, “This Paul fellow rolled into town, upset the status quo, tried to bilk our good citizens out of their money and loyalty, and when he was exposed—he beat feet out of town in the middle of the night! He’s a phony!” Paul’s response? “Our ministry in Thessalonica was certainly NOT a waste of time! Why in the world would anyone continue to preach a message that brought them so much pain and hardship?! The very fact that we continued to speak boldly, despite threats and hardship, gives testimony of the sincerity of our motives, and of our personal confidence in what we were preaching to you!!”
Paul goes on to list the value and nature of his ministry to the Thessalonians, in both negative and positive descriptions. He fully expected the Thessalonian Christians to affirm his argument; six times he reminds them in these verses, “You yourselves know this!” The point here, as I see it, is that just as the Thessalonians were perfectly capable of discerning a true versus a phony pastor, so we today possess the skills of observation and discernment to do that same!
Our big question today is, How can we recognize a genuine, trustworthy pastor? With Paul’s example from this text we will see that the answer is this: The trustworthy pastor is the pastor who lives to please God, not people, and who deeply loves the people he leads, not himself.
The trustworthy pastor…
1. His teaching is clear and logical 3a
3 For our exhortation does not come from error
2. He doesn’t harbor a desire to seduce and use people 3b
…or impurity = (akarthos = filthy, unclean) = mostly used to describe sexual sin, along with the word porneia. It was routine for the religious leaders of the cults to lure their followers into sexual relations as a part of their religious ritual. A trustworthy pastor steers a wide path away from the mere suggestion of being flirtatious or inappropriate or overly focused on sexual issues. He maintains very high and clear standards in all his relationships, especially with those of the opposite sex!
3. He never schemes to get his way 3c
…or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. = the awareness of his accountability before God keeps the trustworthy pastor from pursuing manipulative, self-serving schemes with those he leads.
4. He never uses flattery to control people 5a
5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, = Flattery = assuring people that they are, in their present state, exceptional, okay, in no need of change. When a leader flatters those he leads, he is taking advantage of people’s desire to feel valuable, exceptional, and acceptable as they are. When a leader uses this need to gain influence over people, he is violating his calling to speak truth at all times, no matter the cost.
5. He doesn’t cherish a secret longing for wealth 5b
…nor with a pretext for greed– God is witness— = Pretext for greed = NIV: “…nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed
Cf: 2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God. = there were many in Paul’s day who made a living out of public speaking, including exegeting the OT (Jewish) Scriptures.
Cf: 1 Tim 6 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. = As Christian leaders are trusted with great responsibilities, and often resources, there are many temptations to use the ministry for one’s personal enrichment, instead of the good of God’s people. The desire for wealth is a deep, dark hole that many good preachers have fallen into—and some never have climbed out of it!
6. He doesn’t seek praise from people 6a
6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, = Paul neither sought nor needed the praise of people to feel satisfaction with his work.
7. He never intimidates people to get his way 6b
even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority = baros = heaviness) = Literally, Paul never threw his weight around to push people into a corner, forcing the to support his ideas and desires. Some pastors (and I think I’m one of them!) benefit from hearing the word “No” spoken to them regularly!
8. He loves his church like a Mother loves her children. 7-8
…gentle = But we proved to be gentle among you, = (nepios = a little child) = gentle and not harmful
…caring = as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
…deeply affectionate = 8 Having so fond an affection for you, = fond or tender feeling toward somebody or something
…open-hearted/vulnerable = we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. = Paul was transparent with the Thessalonian believers, sharing his very life with them. This included his ups and downs, successes and failures, etc. We might say, “Paul let them in to his real soul—warts and all!” It is a challenge for leaders to be transparent, humble, and genuine before their church, week after week, Sunday after Sunday, knowing that some may judge their vulnerability and openness as a weakness or dis-qualifier for ministry. (cf. 1 Cor 2:1-5)
9. He leads his church like a good Father leads his family. 9-12
…sets an example of hard work in service to others 9
9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. = Note, it is not simply working hard at any job…Paul is here commending working hard so that those he cared for would not be burdened by him. There was a purpose to his hard work that went way beyond simply “Bringing home the bacon”!
…sets an example of spiritual integrity 10
10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers;
Devoutly = towards God, holy and godly
Uprightly = dikaios = righteously = towards people, treating people right
Blamelessly = innocent, a clear conscience, with nothing to hide, no secret, cherished sins or unresolved ethical issues.
…consistently points each member of his church to please God with their lives. 11-12
11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. = Note, the goal here isn’t to encourage each member to live a life that pleases the pastor, but to live so as to please God! Also, note that Paul’s example was to encourage “each” of the Thessalonians; a trustworthy pastor invests in the personal, one-on-one encouragement of his members as much as the preparation and delivery of the weekly sermon to the crowd.