COMMENTARY ON FIRST THESSALONIANS
" 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." NKJV
(1 Thess 2:10-12)
One of the primary benefits of this second chapter is its focus on the NATURE of Kingdom ministry. In a day of professionalized and spectating religion, the impact of the WAY a minister lives and the FOCUS of his ministry is often little known. Much of the Christianity of our time leaves the people unchallenged to live for the honor and glory of God. While it is not in order to merely complain about the situation, it is imperative that those who speak for God determine to glorify God and give eternal advantages to His people. It is not a light thing to labor in the vineyard of the Lord-to feed His flock, and care for His people. The thrust of true ministry must leave the saints of God eagerly advancing toward glory, and preparing themselves for an abundant entrance into "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:11). The number of people to whom we minister has no bearing whatever on this high calling. We have no idea how many people were in the Thessalonian congregation, but Paul and his fellow workers poured themselves out for them. This is the only acceptable manner in which the people of God can be served. Let every soul who feeds the flock in any way take heed to the words of this text. They are most vital to their ministry.
YOU AND GOD ARE WITNESSES
" 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe." There is a certain manner that characterizes true Kingdom laborers. It passes the test of God and godly people. This is involved in the affirmation of Romans 14:17-18. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men." The godly minister has a great regard for what God thinks of his ministry and how godly people regard it.
WITNESSES CALLED. Paul started this Epistle by reminding the Thessalonians they knew how he had conducted himself among them (1:5). Godly ministers can challenge those to whom they minister to witness to their integrity and faithfulness. Mighty Samuel called upon the people to find any fault in his conduct among them (1 Sam 12:3-5). Paul challenged the Ephesians elders to witness to his faithfulness among them (Acts 20:18-19). He told the Corinthians he could commend himself to their conscience, for they knew well how he had ministered among them (2 Cor 4:2). Truly, ministers of God are "known and read by all men" (2 Cor 3:2). Much of this has been greatly obscured by a professionalized ministry that has little regard for bringing advantages to God's people.
Paul also calls God, who weighs the spirit of motives of men (Prov 16:2), to witness to His faithfulness. Because of His fellowship with the Lord, he knows God will confirm what he says. This is the same as ones conscience bearing him witness "in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 9:1). The person who walks in the light is not afraid to have it shine strongly upon him. Faithful ministers can call for God to confirm the truth of what they say.
DEVOUTLY. Other versions read "holily," KJV "holy," NIV "pure," NRSV and "piously." DARBY This is living with God in mind, seeking to do His will and please Him primarily. It is living "in all good conscience" (Acts 23:1), walking "in the light"(1 John 1:7), and with "the help of His countenance" (Psa 42:5). The person who lives "devoutly" has his affection set on things above. He is running with patience the race set before him, while looking to Jesus. He is fighting the good fight of faith, laying hold of eternal life, and pressing toward the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ.
JUSTLY. While "devoutly" has to do with living before God, "justly" has to do with living before men. It is not living to please men, but living to the glory of God before them. This is living "uprightly," NASB "righteously," NIV and "free from all evil." BBE The person who lives "justly" does not have respect of persons, and is "impeccably fair and upright." NJB This is the person who is running the race with patience, while looking to Jesus (Heb 12:1-2). It is one who is obviously pressing toward the mark for the prize (Phil 3:14), fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold on eternal life (1 Tim 6:12). The awareness of his own reconciliation to God by His grace moves him to seek the eternal advantage of men
BLAMELESSLY. What a strong word this is! "Blameless" means without obvious flaw or fault. It does not mean absolutely perfect, for such a condition cannot be attained while we are in the body (Phil 3:12). We can, however, be above reproach. God's people are to be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2:15). God's purpose for them is that their "whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5:23). The objective is to "be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Pet 3:14). In Such a condition it is apparent that one is separate from the world, a stranger and pilgrim in a quest of a better country. In saying they were "blameless," Paul was acknowledging that he and those laboring with him were heavenly citizens. It must be the aim of all who labor for the Lord to call heaven and earth to witness to their holiness, justness, and blameless living.
AMONG YOU WHO BELIEVE. While Paul did preach in market places (Acts 17:17), among philosophers (Acts 17:18-19), and even barbarians (Acts 28:4-10), his primary area of ministry was among them "who believe." There is where his primary fruit was found, and there is where his ministry was most full. Only among them could he speak in this manner, for they alone were capable of judging with righteous judgment (John 7:24). They knew he had avoided falling into sin, treating men unjustly, and being charged with lawlessness and calumny. Such a reputation must be zealously sought.
EXHORTATION, COMFORTING, AND CHARGING
" 10 As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children." I am more and more impressed with how Paul appeals to the Thessalonians to confirm the nature of his ministry. This was not a common appeal by Paul, which confirms the tenderness and sensitivity of the Thessalonian brethren.
WE EXHORTED. To "exhort" is to urge, intreat, admonish, and to summon. It is to awaken people to the business of living for the Lord and doing his will. This is such a pivotal activity in the Kingdom of God that He has given the gift of exhortation to the church (Rom 12:8). Those so endued move people to holy activites, constraining them to be up an d about their Father's business. John the Baptist was noted for his exhortations. He moved people to do something, not leaving them complacent in inactivity (Lk 3:18). Even the prophet is noted for exhorting, or stirring up, the people (1 Cor 14:3). Paul told Timothy to give attention to the matter of exhorting (1 Tim 4:13). On the day of Pentecost, Peter moved those who had believed with powerful exhorting: "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40).
We live in a time and place where academia and gentle speech are dominating the church. People are not being stirred Godward, challenged to rise from their slumber and put their hand to the plow. Such was not the case with Paul and his co-laborers. They moved people to action, and did so in a holy, just, and blameless manner.
WE COMFORTED. Here is another strong word, depicting an indispensable ministry. To be "comforted" is to be encouraged and strengthened for the life of faith. It involves being consoled and cheered with the prospect Divine assistance and good things to come. The early church were edified and multiplied with they enjoyed the "comfort of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31). That comfort was realized an amidst effective ministry of the Word. "Comfort" is to the soul what refreshing water and sleep is to the body. It allows the recuperation of spiritual energies, and the clearing of the eyes of our understanding. How powerfully God spoke through Isaiah when He said, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned" (Isa 40:12).
While "exhortation" stirs the people to activity, "comfort" is like a tender hand that gentle lifts the fallen and discouraged. Faithful ministers both exhort and comfort. They provoke to love and good works, and gently console fatigued and discouraged hearts. This is a godly trait, for God comforts us "in all of our tribulation," so that we can comfort those who are "in any trouble" with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Cor 1:4). Comfort brings relief to those who are fighting the good fight of faith, and encouragement to those who are running the race set before them. Holy men of God do not neglect the saints of God, but see to it that they have due encourage from the Lord.
WE CHARGED. Here is another strong word, and sorely required among them the saints. To "charge" is to implore, plead with, or strongly appeal to. It is the kind of activity Jesus referred to in His parable of the supper of salvation. "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Lk 14:23). This is not moving people with empty words. It is constraining them by the testimony of the Gospel, insisting that they embrace the truth heartily. Paul "charged" that his letters be read (1 Thess 5:27). He also told Timothy to "charge" wayward preachers that they "teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim 1:3). Those who were rich in this world were "charged" not to trust in their riches, but in God, while doing good works (1 Tim 6:17). There are responsibilities in the Kingdom of God. "Charging" is calling upon men to meet those responsibilities.
AS A FATHER. Paul did not minister as a professional, but as a "father" to those who received his message. Unlike the "hireling" (John 10:12), or professional minister, he was obligated by his calling to do everything within his power to bring the saints to spiritual maturity. Today is the time of the professional counselor. He does not deal with men as with his own children, but as a professional, with expertise in psychological matters. There is no place for such heartless activity in the "Father's business." Before, Paul referred to himself as a "nurse" (2:7). Now he likens himself to a "father." Both have an intense interest in the welfare and growth of those in their care. They will provide the spiritual nourishment necessary for these results. The Thessalonians knew this was Paul's manner.
WALK WORTHY OF GOD
" 12 . . . we . . .charged every one of you . . . that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." As you can see, the real nature of the work of the Lord differs significantly from the experience of many believers. How often is this solemn "charge" heard? "WALK WORTHY OF GOD!" Other versions read, "walk in a manner worthy of God," NASB "live lives worthy of God," NIV "live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy." NLT The words sound strange in the context of contemporary religion. There are, no doubt, many people who have never heard these words.
WORTHY OF GOD. There is a sense in which we are "unworthy." As Jacob well said, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast showed unto Thy servant" (Gen 32:10). John the Baptist said of Jesus, "whose shoes I am not worthy to bear" (Matt 3:11). The centurion that besought Jesus to heal his servant confessed, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof" (Matt 8:8). However, there is a sense in which unworthiness is to be avoided at all cost.
Ponder the words of Jesus, "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matt 10:37-38). In one of His matchless parables He spoke of those who "were not worthy" to sit at his table (Matt 22:8), declaring they surely would not sit at it. Paul and Barnabas told some rebellious Jews they had judged themselves "unworthy of everlasting life" (Acts 13:46). Let us, therefore, put behind us the notion that worthiness has no place in the family of God.
What does it mean to be "worthy of God?" It means befitting of Him, or in a way that does not cast a bad light upon Him. Walking worthy of God is living a life that "adorns" the doctrine, or is a complement to the Gospel of Christ (Tit 2:11). It is to "walk worthy of the calling wherewith you were called" (Eph 4:1), so that your life is not in opposition to what the Gospel declares.
Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, in order that they might "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col 1:9-10). Let no person imagine that he may live in a way that displeases the Lord, yet derive all of the benefits of salvation. Such a thing will not occur, even though some have formulated doctrines that lead men to this conclusion. Those who dare to live lives that contradict the Gospel are on dangerous ground. Thus, Paul implored men to live "worthy of God." This means a life that would not require God to become unrighteous in order to bless, lead, and nourish. Be sure, God will not honor such a life.
I have often pondered how much Christian activity I have observed that is a reproach to the God of glory. The existence of such things should move us to join Paul in pleading with men and women to live lives that are worthy, or befitting, of God-lives to which He can respond, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful . . . "
GOD'S KINGDOM AND GLORY. Here the Spirit affords a brief snapshot of the purpose of God's calling. He has summoned us to participate in "His own kingdom and glory." NASB We have a lofty calling-a "heavenly calling" (Heb 3:1). This is the "hope of His calling" (Eph 1:18), the reason for which He has drawn us to Christ.
His Kingdom. Now we participate in its characteristics: righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). In the world to come, we will participate in its government and rule (1 Cor 6:1-3; Matt 5:5:5; Dan 7:18,22,27). This is the kingdom the faithful will "inherit." Those who walk unworthy of God will not inherit it (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:20-21; Eph 5:5). Our calling to this Kingdom involved a deliverance from this present evil world (Gal 1:4). Our lives are to be harmonious with that kind of calling.
His glory. We are also called to participate in God's glory-be His sons in appearance as well as in character. Thus He has predestinated that we be "conformed to the image of His Son," who is "the brightness of His glory" (Rom 8:29; Heb 1:3). Even now, the blessed Holy Spirit is changing us from one stage of glory unto another, moving us along in the great purpose of God (2 Cor 3:18). When His glory is revealed at the appearing of Jesus, the glory to which we have been called will also be revealed. As it is written, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col 3:4). Now, let us live in a manner that is compatible with, and honoring of, that marvelous calling.