In this passage, Paul looks back at his first trip to Thessalonica and he reminds the saints about how he and his co-workers had conducted themselves and carried out their work. There are legions of lessons for us to glean from this text and apply to our efforts to help build up the Kingdom of God. Though Paul frequently uses the plural word “we” in his statements in this section and thus included his co-laborers, our observations will be about him in particular.
Paul went to work in Thessalonica with his recent suffering fresh on his mind. “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict” (2:2). Despite being persecuted for preaching the gospel elsewhere, he still continued to preach. The people of Thessalonica were blessed because of it.
Paul preached the very message that they needed to hear – “the gospel of God” (2:2). That is the same as “the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16), which is God’s power to salvation.
Paul and those with him spoke boldly (2:2). In the book of Acts, we see multiple references to the disciples’ bold preaching (Acts 4:13,31; 14:3; 19:8). A number of them had observed such a practice in Jesus Himself. We must not shrink back from preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
Paul exhorted them: “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” (2:3). As we teach God’s word, exhorting people to submit to its message is part of the process (Acts 2:40; 2 Timothy 4:2). Like Paul, we need to exhort in a sincere, pure manner.
Paul preached to please God, not men: “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (2:4). There are plenty of opportunities for us to try and appease those whom we teach, but we must not forget that if our goal in life is to be men-pleasers, we cannot be the servants of the Christ (Galatians 1:10).
Paul did not try to impress his hearers with fancy speech, nor did he teach with selfish motives. “For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness” (2:5).
It was not Paul’s goal in preaching to receive the accolades of men, as he stated, “Nor did we seek glory from men . . .” (2:6). When the prophets of old, John the Baptizer, and the Christ’s apostles preached, it never was their intent to bring attention or honor to themselves. For them, it always was about bringing glory to God. We need to be like that, too.
Paul was gentle when working among them, like a nursing mother cherishes her own children (2:7). There were many occasions when he had to rebuke false messengers and those who sought to hinder the spread of the gospel, but he also showed gentleness in dealing with people on a personal level, even when trying to help them overcome the wiles of Satan.
Paul was willing, if it would help others in their service to the Lord, not only to teach them the gospel, but also to give up his own life for them (2:8). The man’s spirit of sacrifice had a leavening effect on others and sets a great example for us to emulate.
In order to avoid being a burden to anyone, Paul had labored and toiled night and day in order to preach to them (2:9). At times the apostle received wages from congregations as he preached (2 Corinthians 11:8,9), while at other times he worked as a tentmaker in order to support himself (Acts 18:3). In all circumstances, he was committed to using as much time as possible to teach the lost and build up God’s people. We need that kind of preacher today!
What about Paul’s personal behavior? Some people are great in presenting the truth in oral or written fashion, but they struggle to live that truth in their own lives. All Christians, including gospel preachers, need to walk in harmony with the gospel that they declare. Paul did, as he reminded the church in Thessalonica: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe” (2:10).
Paul took a personal interest in every single one of the brethren. He said he had “exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (2:11). What a powerful lesson for us. Paul’s message reminds us that each person is important. We must not favor some over others, and we must make every effort not to neglect a single one. The combination that Paul employed – exhort, comfort, and charge, builds bonds and strengthens souls.
Beloved, right here in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-11 we find an approach that produces results. Because he had a desire to please God, save souls, and build up the saints, Paul boldly preached the gospel, worked diligently, gently dealt with all, and took time to give personal attention to every single person to help them develop spiritually. Now that sounds like a plan!
— Roger D. Campbell