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Understanding 1 Thessalonians – part 3
Watch the Video Message Below:
Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Thessaloniki – Study 3
In this passage we have reflected or modeled the type of interaction and relationship that should exist between Christian Ministers and the congregations that they serve. The wider context is that Paul was a part of an Apostolic Band that was initially called forth by the Holy Spirit and sent out into the world to plant churches by the leaders of the Church at Antioch:
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up Herod the tetrarch m and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”
Apostles are in fact “Sent Ones” and they emerge out the fivefold gift ministries mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:11-12:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Apostles are then teachers, pastors, evangelists and prophets who once given to local church ministry have been set aside by the Holy Spirit for trans-local or itinerant ministry with an emphasis upon church planting. They therefore, as in Paul’s case, have a home base to which they are accountable. This is why Paul returned to Antioch after his missionary journeys. Note Acts 14:26. True preachers are not “loners” doing their own independent thing without reference to a governing oversight! It was in this light that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy came to Thessaloniki. We should then consider the following:
1. Ministry initiated by the Holy Spirit will not be in vain
“For you yourselves know that our coming to you was not in vain.” (2:1)
This is truly a challenge to those who would go into the world to serve Christ. Men and women who appoint themselves to ministry without the authority and confirmation of a sending group risk engaging in un-commanded or “in vain” ministry. That is, ministry that in the end will not have heavenly endorsement and significance. Many have walked this road!
2.Ministry initiated by the Holy Spirit is not free from troubles, trials and difficulties
Paul states, “We were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict” (2:2).
We must take note of the word “much.” To involve oneself in the work of the ministry is no easy task as one will be constantly in conflict with the devil, the world and the carnal nature of people’s characters. Truly this is not a vocation for sissys! The servant of God must have courage, boldness and perseverance.
3. Ministry initiated by the Holy Spirit is rooted in a genuine desire to please Christ and serve His people
“For our exhortation did not come from error, or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” (2:3-4)
Preachers of the gospel should never be in it for themselves and God, Paul tells us, will routinely test their hearts in this regard. He does this by allowing trials and difficulties to assault them. The “wolf” or charlatan will quickly abandon or abuse the sheep when these arrive.
Having made these foundational comments Paul then sets out in greater detail the pitfalls into which preachers can step, and which he avoided and thereby demonstrated his true calling and credentials. They are:
1. He and his apostolic associates refrained from using “flattering words”.
“For neither at any time did we use flattering words…” (2:5a)
That is, they were not going to ” butter up” their hearers in order to gain some type of advantage or prestige from them. They were called to preach the plain truth of the Word of God and they would not move away from this holy work.
2. He and his apostolic associates refrained from using their platform for financial gain.
“…….nor a cloak for covetousness . God is witness.” (2.5b)
That is, they did not manipulate scripture in order to exploit the people of God financially. This is a sin that has engulfed many preachers today and certainly some famous tele-evangelists have fallen because of it. It has brought the gospel into disrepute and destroyed the lives of many sincere children of God who trusted and believed in what the man of God before them said. Paul knew the danger that lurked in this area and so he preached the gospel “free of charge!” Jesus he knew would care for him, and He did.
3. He and his apostolic band refrained from seeking special recognition by virtue of the ministry to which they were called as apostles of Christ.
“Nor did we seek glory among men…….” (2:6)
Paul was not into or given to titles that elevated him and those with him. That is, the term Apostle was for them not a title but a designation of function. Paul was quite simply a church planter and nothing more. Today we have preachers giving themselves all sorts of wonderful titles such as Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, Apostle, Archbishop and even Pastor. The right title according to Paul is Minister meaning, “One who serves!” The authority and power in Paul’s ministry was given to him to edify and build people up and not to laud it over them or give him some kind of special designation. 2 Corinthians 10:7-8
Paul was always aware of the very real dangers that leaders of the flock of God had to grapple with. Many, even in his day, fell into them and so he constantly gave warning about these. His words to the Ephesian Church are significant in this respect:
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said, “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews.”……………”Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
Acts 20:17-19, 28-29
This passage from the Acts of the Apostles very much reflects Paul’s testimony in the second chapter of 1 Thessalonians and therefore reminds us of the sincere and humble servant of Jesus that Paul was. His life still speaks to us and we thank God for him because he was sold out to God and wished to glorify Christ in all that he did. We need men and women of God like this today.