Dear Student of the Word,
It's time to move on from our study of Acts, so I have chosen Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians as our new focus. They are short letters and won't take us nearly as long as it did to finish Acts, but that doesn't mean Paul didn't have many good things to say and teach us in these two short letters. As we start this new study, take a look at what I wrote in part three of this seven-part opening installment:
Study One, Part Three
2:1 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite 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 men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
2:1 – This is an interesting comment. Paul reminded them that his mission to them wasn’t a failure. That would seem to be obvious, but perhaps there were some who deemed it a failure because Paul was able to stay for such a short time—probably only about eigh months:
When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said.
Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea (Acts 17:1-10).
This would not appear to have been a successful trip, but obviously enough heard the gospel and repented for there to be a church to which Paul was writing. There are times when you may feel like a failure and you just have to trust God for the results — that you did what you could do. Don’t judge things from the perspective of your enemies or your own sense of failure. Give it time and let God show you the fruit of your labor.
2:2 – Paul was referring to his treatment in Philippi, where he was beaten without a trial (see Acts 16:35-40). This was unlawful treatment of a Roman citizen and Paul considered it an “insult.” Paul had been beaten, came to Thessalonica and still had the courage, while his wounds were probably still healing, to preach the gospel again! What faith! How did he know that he would not be beaten again? Could his body have endured another beating like he got in Philippi?
Yet this man Paul was courageous and willing to give everything, even his life, for the sake of the gospel. This is why that, in spite of his imperfections, God has honored him with a significant position in the history of the church. Paul was a great man and we are called to be like him. What price are you willing to pay for the sake of the gospel being spread?
2:3 – There were some who were preaching the gospel from error, impure motives, or a desire to trick people, usually for financial gain. Paul was probably accused of all this as well. Very often the real is subjected to doubt and scrutiny because of the counterfeit. In fact, Paul had a group of people who were dedicated to his demise, taking every opportunity they could to undermine his work. This group was called the Judaizers and they followed Paul’s itinerary.
They went to where he had preached and declared that the believers had to follow the Mosaic Law. How would you like to have group so dedicated to undermining your work? So Paul didn’t only suffer when he was ministering; he suffered when he left, not knowing what would happen to his work. The only thing he could do was trust the results to the Lord. We know that God was faithful to preserve what Paul had done for Him. He will do the same for you.
2:4 – God tests hearts and He had tested Paul’s. Paul wasn’t doing what he did for money or glory; he was doing it for the Lord. Therefore God had approved Paul and had entrusted him with the message of the gospel to the Gentiles. God just doesn’t entrust His treasures to anyone, but only to the faithful. Has God entrusted anything to you? A message? A ministry opportunity? Other people? Are you doing all that you can with it?
Paul could not do what he did trying to please men. It was too difficult. Rather Paul was working to please God. May it be said that we have done the same. But some do not work to please today, just as they didn’t in Paul’s day, and that is why we must trust God to overcome our opposition to make our results meaningful and lasting.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the unpublished volume of The Faith Files.