One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Friday, October 9, 2015

TOMS: 1 Thessalonians 2

For an introduction to this series, click here.

October 7, 2007

I honestly wasn't prepared for this book to be this way. Thessalonians is quite the strange epistle. Practically half the book is a long, extended greeting. Anyway, let's get into it and see what we find.

"For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts." (2:1-4)

One thing you can certainly say about Paul is that he was more concerned with spreading the gospel than he was about anything else. He was not going to be intimidated by anybody, not the Jews, not the Romans, and not false teachers in the church.

"For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." (2:5-12)

Paul did not care for money. It was nowhere near a top priority in his life. He did not care whether people gave or not. He was appreciative when they did give, and many of his letters include thanks for gifts they sent him. But if the Lord led him to a place, he stayed there. And if that meant making tents or doing something else to make ends meet, that's what he did. If you know me very well, you have probably heard me talking about Joseph, one of my mentors in college. He was from Singapore, and had experiences with a lot of missionaries working there. He was strongly convinced that if possible, a missionary who needed funds ought to find a job in his new country. This would not only provide some money but also gain him new contacts in the community. 

I don't know if I agree completely with everything he had to say about that, but I do know that it is easy for those in full-time ministry to become too focused on money. I have been in a few services (thankfully not too many) where the offering was the longest part of the service. The preacher or evangelist would get up and talk in endless spiritual platitudes about the blessings that come with giving, when it was obvious that all they were interested in was embarrassing people into giving a big offering. 

I have had the privilege of seeing my longtime pastor, Elmo Parker, be the exact opposite of this. I have known him all my life, and I know that he still supplements his income from his cattle farm. (8 years later, I'm not sure how much he does or is capable of doing on his farm.) If you have ever been around cattle, you know that it is hard work. He also worked in a factory in town for years while still pastoring, in some cases in churches nearly an hour away. He is not focused on money in the least. There have been times when he has forgotten to take up an offering, and there are more times when he almost apologized for taking one. He is probably more sensitive about it than he needs to be, but I admire him for that.

"And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!" (2:13-16, ESV)

This passage is one clue that this epistle was written fairly early in Paul's ministry. The Romans did not care about Christianity until the early 60s AD. The primary source of persecution and opposition in the first couple of decades of church history was the Jews, and Paul writes about them here.

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