COMMENTARY ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
" 2:1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: 2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. 3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts." KJV (1 Thess 2:1-4)
In Scripture, the success of the Gospel is never considered a small or incidental thing. It is never viewed as the success of men, or the result of a superior procedure or technique. The Apostles could never have held a workshop on "Successful Evangelism." In spite of man's effort to do so, the work of God cannot be systematized. It always relies upon the Lord Himself, and His involvement with His servants. The second chapter of this book recounts how the work of God was initiated among the Thessalonians. At no point was there a reliance upon human wisdom or fleshly analyses. Spiritual fruit cannot come from carnal means. It is particularly important to have a grasp of this during times of stress and trial. Testing causes the flesh to cry out for attention. But Paul will confirm to the Thessalonians that their remarkable beginning in Christ was completely independent of the flesh. He will show that he came in boldness, even though he suffered for it (verses 1-2). He came trusting in the Lord, with all honesty of heart (verse 3). He did not use flattering speech, or seek his own personal advantage (verse 5). He was gentle in his approach, seeking to ensure the protection of the young lambs (verse 7). He was even willing to lay down his life for the Thessalonians, that they might enjoy the benefits of the Gospel (verse 8). He even labored with their own hands so he would not be a burden on the brethren (verse 9). He was wholly righteous in his presence among them, giving no occasion for stumbling (verse 10). The rich fruitage enjoyed by the Thessalonians sprang from good seed, planted in a good manner. They had reason to be confident.
OUR ENTRANCE WAS NOT IN VAIN
" 2:1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: 2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention." Note the personal aspect of this passage. There is a total absence of lifeless professionalism. Paul and those with him (Silas and Timothy) had to wade through opposition and hardship to bring the Gospel to the Thessalonians. What he calls an "entrance" was by no means simplistic or without great difficulty. Getting the Gospel of Christ into Thessalonica was no small achievement.
It was not in vain. That is, their entrance was effective, producing godly results. "Vain," in this case, means more merely being pointless. It means they did not come in a mere external show, or with fleshly flair. Their "entrance" was not an appeal to the flesh, with a mind to snare the people in the spirit, so to speak. That is a ploy that has become all too common in our day. Fleshly vanity is used to attract people with the notion they will then hear the Gospel. But this is a totally false concept. Men cannot make the quantum leap from flesh to Spirit as some suppose. If vain and carnal means are employed, there will be no spiritual results. You cannot gain Thessalonian believers by bringing a Roman circus to town! Paul will establish this truth even more firmly in the verses that follow.
We had suffered before. Paul and Silas had just come from Philippi where they were "shamefully mistreated," NASB or "spitefully treated." NKJV It was there Paul and Silas went out of the city on the Sabbath, and preached the Gospel to Lydia and other women who were praying by a river (Acts 16:13-15). Immediately following that, they encountered a woman with the spirit of divination who followed them, constantly crying out "These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation." We are told she brought substantial financial gain to her masters, who capitalized on her powers of divination. After "many days," Paul was grieved and banished the spirit with his word (Acts 16:16-17). Realizing their source of gain was now gone, the woman's masters siezed Paul and Silas, dragging them into the market place. Boldly they declared, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice." NIV The multitude joined in the attack on Paul and Silas. The city magistrates then "tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely." The jailor promptly "threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks" NASB (Acts 16:19-24). You probably remember the events that occurred that midnight, how the jailor and his household believed and were baptized (Acts 16:25-34. The next morning, the city magistrates sent word to release Paul and Silas. When told, Paul remonstrated, saying, "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out." NIV Hearing Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, the magistrates feared. They came and released them, escorted them out of the city, and begged them to leave the city (Acts 16:38-39).
Paul refers to this lengthy circumstance in these words, "we were shamefully entreated," or "spitefully treated." NKJV It will suffice to say, a person cannot speak in this manner who is not wholly devoted to the Lord. The Philippi experience would have driven many a soul out of "the ministry." In the case of Paul and Silas, however, they became more determined than ever to preach the Gospel.
We were bold in our God to speak. Cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart, Paul and Silas had the courage to preach the Gospel to Thessalonica amidst much "contention." They were not deterred by past or present opposition. They perceived the preaching of the Gospel as an important work, and would not allow difficult circumstances to stop them. They did not preach while dominated with the "fear of man," which brings a snare (Prov 29:25). Their preaching created a tumult in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9). The "contention" was so sharp, Paul and Silas had to leave the city. It is written, "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea" (Acts 17:10). Our text refers to the MANNER in which Paul and Silas conducted themselves under these circumstances. It was a "manner" that resulted in good fruit for God's glory!
OUR EXHORTATION WAS NOT DECEITFUL
" 3For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile." The NIV says the exhortation "does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you." Paul was not the promoter of a sect or denomination. He had not been snared by some wayward manner of religious thought. He had no hidden agenda or ulterior motives, and the faith and stability of the Thessalonians was proof of it.
EXHORTATION. It is interesting that Paul refers to his preaching as an "exhortation." This word is not common in the contemporary church, and does not blend well with much of its manners. The word "exhortation" is rich with meaning. It includes the idea of a persuasive discourse that calls one person to the side of another. It also involves admonition, encouragement, and comfort.Robertson "Exhortation" presumes a fundamentally comforting and beneficial message. True preaching calls upon distressed minds to take hold of the comforting Gospel. It calls out to those who are aware of their own unrighteousness to avail themselves of the righteousness of God. It is the nature of the message, not the manner of the speaker, that makes such preaching "exhortation." Sensitive souls will detect a certain drawing influence when hearing the Gospel. There is a good sound to it. That is why it is called "glad tidings" (Rom 10:15).
DECEIT. "Deceit" means the exhortation delivered by Paul was not the result of he himself being deceived. He was not hawking, or marketing, a message he had been deceived into believing. There is a certain camaraderie in denominationalism that demands the embrace of proclamations that are not found in Scripture. Men are moved to embrace slogans and emphases that promote the institution rather than the Gospel of Christ. Early Jews, seeking to promote themselves, said, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). Similar contemporary messages include, "We believe in the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues." "Once you are saved, you are always saved." "The Sabbath day is the only valid day of rest and worship," etc., etc. In each of these, and more, the person is solicited to embrace a view, not the Christ. But that is not the manner or heart of the Gospel of Christ. By saying his message was not the result of himself being deceived, Paul acknowledged he was preaching the "truth of the Gospel" (Gal 2:5). The Thessalonians themselves were proof of this.
UNCLEANNESS. Not preaching with "uncleanness" is not preaching out of an impure motive. True preaching is compelled by pure motives. An example of an impure desire is doing the work of God "for filthy lucre," or in a quest of riches (1 Pet 5:2). Such an attitude is strictly forbidden in the household of faith (1 Tim 3:3). Another example of impure motives is "flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage" NASB(Jude 16). Another would be to "give flattering titles unto man" (Job 32:21). Under the Law, contact with unlawful things made a person "unclean," or unqualified to be within the camp of God's people (Lev 5:2; 11:24-39). Likewise, those who allow their hearts and minds to be motivated by carnal advantages become "unclean." That uncleanness permeates their message, and will produce undesirable results in those who embrace it.
GUILE. "Guile" is deceit, or trickery. In this case, it is the speaker seeking to delude someone in doing something they would not otherwise do. Elsewhere, this is called "hidden things of dishonesty," "walking in craftiness," and "handling the word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor 4:2). This is using the Word of God to accomplish results God did not intend. It may be to promote a sect, certain dietary practices, or ways of financial gain. "Guile" is totally out of place in the Kingdom of God. It misrepresents in order to gain an advantage for the speaker. The Gospel is unvarnished truth that gives the advantage to the hearer. "Guile" is like bait, used to snare the unsuspecting. It is subtlety that is related to the "old serpent" himself. It has no place in any form in the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Whether it is offering food, or an evening of entertainment, to unsuspecting souls, "guile" has no place in the ministration of the Gospel of Christ.
Although Paul was a tentmaker, he did not come as a tentmaker, but as a minister of the Gospel. Everything about his preaching pointed to God and accented the Gospel of Christ. Enough cannot be said about the necessity of this type of preaching. Men and women need to consider "the manner of entering" of those who preach. That manner must not be deterred by difficulty or tainted with misdirected motives.
ALLOWED TO BE ENTRUSTED WITH THE GOSPEL
" 4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts." How and why did Paul come to Thessalonica? He did NOT come compelled by a message he was deceived into embracing. Nor, indeed, did he come contaminated by impure motives, or with deceptive speech. He came as an "ambassador for Christ" and by God(2 Cor 5:20). A sacred charge had been committed to him! He had been "entrusted with the Gospel."NIV
ALLOWED OF GOD. The word "allowed" means "approved," and is so translated in later versions. The expression means the seal of God had been placed upon Paul's message and ministry. Both his manner and message had been examined by God and found acceptable. In him the saying was fulfilled, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" NKJV (2 Tim 2:15). It is one thing, of course, to be approved by God, and quite another to know it. As God's spokesman walk in the light, and fellowship with Christ, God will make His approval known to them. Effective laborers for Christ must be able to work in confidence, knowing they are accepted by the One they represent.
ENTRUSTED WITH THE GOSPEL. Although it does not appear to be that evident to some, God does not entrust everyone with His Gospel. Those who bring the glad tidings of the Gospel of peace must be "sent," else they cannot go (Rom 10:15). When Jesus dwelt among us, He sent men out (Lk 10:1). He told His disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest "that He will send forth laborers into his harvest" (Matt 9:38). Before returning to heaven, He said to His disciples, "as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). Although I have often heard men scoff at the idea of being "sent" by God, such a thought is not strange to the one acquainted with the Lord and Scripture.
To be "entrusted" with the Gospel is to have it handed over to ones care. The person so entrusted becomes responsible for carrying the Gospel, delivering it forthrightly, and taking care that it is not corrupted. Such a sacred trust is to be taken seriously.
The idea here is this: "If God approved of me, putting the Gospel into my care, then I will not fail to faithfully preach it." He is showing that the WAY in which he preached the Gospel was in perfect agreement with the responsibility God had given to Him.
EVEN SO WE SPEAK. That is, "We speak in strict conformity with our calling and the stewardship of the Gospel. We do not speak as Jews, sectarians, or promoters of some novel idea. We speak as messengers of God, with a strict regard to the message He has given to us." Paul did not take from the message or add to it. He did not mix something with it that gave the advantage to him, but kept it pure, so that God might receive the glory. This is the kind of speaking described in Second Corinthians 12:19: "We speak before God in Christ." NKJV It is driven by "the spirit of faith," which prompts one to say, "I believed, and therefore have I spoken" (2 Cor 4:13). The rareness of this kind of perspective is just cause to fervently seek to possess it. Many a soul has rarely heard such speakers.
NOT AS PLEASING MEN. In religion, the dominance of those who are "menpleasers" is staggering! If pleasing men is forbidden for slaves in regards to doing their master's will, how much more is it forbidden in the matter of preaching the Gospel (Eph 6:6; Col 3:22). Those entrusted with the Gospel are not to cater to men. They are not to shape their message and present it in such a manner as to gratify men. This is such a critical thing that Paul insightfully confessed, "for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal 1:10). The words "yet pleased" mean "still trying to please men." NIV This is not an occasional attitude, but one that compels the deceiver in everything he says.
Pleasing men is preaching to gain their favor, esteem, and honor. It is seeking their applause and approbation. It also involves making every effort to avoid their displeasure, persecution, and disapproval. Those who please men try and make the message more palatable and less offensive to the flesh. This practice is altogether too common in our day!
Rather than seeking to please men, the real man of God seeks to please "God, who tests our hearts." NKJV In these words, the Spirit shows us that those who endeavor to please men do not have pure consciences. They are not in fellowship with the Son, and the Father is not abiding in them. They are oblivious to the fact that God is testing their hearts, and will hold them in strict accountability for what they preach and teach.