Steadfast in living and proclaiming the Gospel
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Paul and Silas fled from Thessalonica under persecution, to Berea where the same happened, then to Athens and Corinth where Paul wrote this letter. Against this backdrop, he is urging the church to imitate their example of being steadfast in proclaiming and living the Gospel and flawless and transparent in character.
9 You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
10 You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers.
- This recalls the original apostolic band and their character. There was no question of them exploiting the Thessalonians or profiting from the gospel. A common attack on the message is to mount a character attack on the messenger or the messenger’s character, and we know from other letters that this happened. The genuineness of the message is affirmed by the genuine character of those bringing it.
11 As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
- “His own kingdom” is where God’s rule and order prevails. If you had been living in a country where there is civil war and terrorism, or an oppressive regime such as Nazi Germany in the 1930s, you would say that the rule that prevailed was unjust, unsafe and unwelcome. Arriving back in the UK, you would say that the rule was very much better and fairer, even if you didn’t get to meet the Queen or her Prime Minister. The kingdom of God is like that and more – where God’s unmitigated justice, love and good purposes for His people are His rule.
- Of course that experience of God’s peace and good provision is under attack all the time – we were reminded of this in Psalm 43:1, Psalm 107:6. It is up to us to exercise faith in the victory of Jesus and in the Person of Jesus. Praise directed to God (also in Psalms 43 and 106) is a way we assert the kingdom of God over the kingdom of darkness.
13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.
- There is an assumption made that this letter is being heard and circulated among empowered believers. 1 Thess. 1:5
“… our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.”. This is the difference between accepting, or being influenced by, a human word – logical, persuasive, understandable (like a good political speech or motivational talk or lecture) and God’s word at work in us as the Holy Spirit gives His understanding and encouragement. God’s word at work is not principally about information we understand, but revelation where we ‘get it’ and find ourselves doing it.
Imitate the saints – who were transparently honest as well as courageous (1 Thess. 2:9-13)
Paul and Silas and their travelling companions did not look polished or successful to the class-conscious Greeks. Having suffered imprisonment, beatings, and stone-throwing mobs forcing them to leave one place after another, they probably had scars and mended clothes. Who were they to bring righteous direction to the church? And they almost admitted it.
The human temptation is always to make ourselves look good. In craving significance, we want to ‘big ourselves up’. However, putting ourselves forward, obscures what is truly good, which is God’s nature in us. Once we get hold of who we are in Christ, our standing with God as His children and being counted righteous because Jesus declares us so– then what is the need to prove anything? This was the unassuming way of the saints who walked with God before us. Their way is what we imitate, so that people may begin to glimpse Jesus in us, and that supports the message about Jesus which we bring.