Paul The Faithful Steward (1 Thessalonians 2:1-6)

Being a role model to others is not something we necessarily choose, but it’s something we all do whether we recognize it or not. Even if we do not serve in the pastoral role, we all have a responsibility to shepherd those whom God brings into our lives.

Other than Christ Himself, what better example do we have of how to shepherd than the apostle Paul? Of all the things he suffered in his service to Jesus Christ, he said his greatest burden was “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).

The Faithful Steward (2:1—6)

Paul saw his ministry as a matter of stewardship, both of his God-given talents and of the people God gave him to serve. I have to remind myself that my life in Christ is matter of stewardship. Too often I see it as consumership: What can I get for me? What’s in it for me? How can I satisfy me? None of that is Christ-like. Jesus Himself came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). I am at my best when I am remembering that what I do is a ministry of stewardship of all the God has blessed me with.

Paul understood this clearly:

“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” (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

He understood that his talents and abilities were a gift from God; his opportunities were a gift from God; and that the people to whom he ministered were a stewardship responsibility from God.

As stewards of what God has given us, we own nothing – not even ourselves (Psalm 100:3). Yet at the same time we possess everything that belongs to our Master. What we have to remember is that even though we have everything the Master possesses, it is still the Master’s. Joseph is a good example of this kind of steward/master relationship (Genesis 39:1-6). He had authority over everything in Potiphar’s house. That kind of power can be abused, but Joseph was faithful, and at the critical moment when his stewardship was challenged by the advances of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph remembered his accountability to God as a steward, and did the right thing (vv. 7-9, 12).

We need to remember that one day God will hold us to account for our stewardship (Luke 16:1-2). Those of us who are found faithful will be rewarded, and those of us who are not will suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:12-14). Just like it was to Paul, the gospel is now entrusted to us. That means we must live lives that reflect our faith, and that we have responsibility to share our faith with others.

The Manner of His Ministry (vv. 1-2)

Faithfulness is a key characteristic of a steward. A good steward can be trusted with his master’s goods, and he can be trusted with his master’s message.

Paul was a faithful steward. Despite the literal beating he took in Philippi, and the unjust jail time he and Silas suffered, despite the “bad press” he likely received once he got to Thessalonica for having been put in jail, he and Silas still preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Thessalonian people.

Paul says he preached “with much contention.” It’s an athletic phrase that means “a contest, a struggle.” He knew going in that his ministry would be a tough one. He was going against the grain of Jewish tradition, and he was going against the grain of the popular world view. He kept at it anyway, because he wanted to be pleasing to God more than anything.

The Message of His Ministry (v. 3a)

“For our exhortation was not of deceit….” Paul did not serve an ulterior motive. He did not have a hidden agenda. He was not preaching his opinion. He was preaching the clear truth of the Gospel and he was basing it on what Scripture taught. Six times Paul mentions the gospel, and when Luke describes the apostle’s preaching ministry, he describes it as one in which Paul taught on the clear teaching of Scripture (Acts 17:2-3). Paul makes that clear by his own words:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

(3)  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

(4)  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….

The Motive of His Ministry (3b)

“…[N]or of uncleanness…” Paul’s motives for preaching the gospel were pure. He was not out for personal gain, and he preached the truth in love. It is possible to have the right message and the wrong motives. You’ve seen people like that yourself. Often they are holding signs with messages of condemnation and judgement upon others, and their presentation of God’s truth comes across as abrasive. Paul advocated “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a). The does not mean he compromised his message, or God’s character. It means he spoke the truth in hopes of winning his listeners to Christ. Sometimes that meant using stern words, but Paul was never “holier than thou” in his delivery.

Paul also did not use his ministry as some sort of money-making scam: “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a [cloak] of covetousness; God is witness” (v. 5). Even in Paul’s day there those who used religion as a means of playing on people’s fears for profit.

Paul was always careful in how he supported himself (1 Corinthians 9:1—18). He even refused taking donations for his own ministry, choosing instead to support himself by being a tent maker.

The Method of His Ministry (vv. 3c – 6)

The word translated “guile” in this passage means to “bait a hook.” Paul did not use tricks or gimmicks to win people to Christ. When his critics accused him of being a cheap peddler interested only in making money, Paul gladly and boldly pointed to the testimony of his life and actions to refute their claims (1 Thessalonians 2:5)

In his first epistle to the Thessalonians he appealed directly to his personal dealings with them. Throughout that letter you see the phrase “as ye know,” or statements like “for yourselves, brethren, know” (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:1, 5, 11; 3:3-4; 4:2; 5:2). These are not the statements of a man with a hidden agenda. As witnesses of the gospel today, we need to be real like Paul was, and our message needs to clear. If we are trusting gimmicks, tricks, or flattery (another form of lying) to win people to Christ, it means we are not trusting the power of God’s Word to win hearts, and if we are not trusting God to do His work, how can we trust others to trust Him?

(Primary source material: Be Ready by Warren Wiersbe, pp.44-46)

The Perfect Church Part 4: Real Hope

Jesus Christ brings to the world something it desperately needs: Hope. And by hope, I don’t just mean wishful thinking. I mean real hope. In Scripture when the Bible uses the word “hope,” it’s referring to something we can expect with confidence, a sure thing. (Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

For the believer that hope includes a guaranteed home in heaven, and the sure return of the Lord Himself. That kind of hope should be overflowing our lives. It should be contagious. Continue reading

Preaching to a Pioneer Church

Paul was a church planter. He was used of God to start many pioneering works. He had both the advantage and disadvantage of preaching a message that had never been heard before (outside the original 12 apostles): The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And he was preaching this message to a largely pagan world.

So how do you reach an audience with such a strange and foreign message?

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

(3)  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

(4)  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…

1 Timothy 1:15a

(15)  This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners….

Meet People Where They Are

If Paul’s evangelistic outreach teaches us anything, it teaches us that we need to meet people where they are in order to bring them where they need to be in Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

(19)  For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

(20)  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

(21)  To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

(22)  To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

This doesn’t mean Paul compromised his character or his stand. He always maintained a right relationship to God as he related to the people around him:

“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

But Paul always made sure he never preached over anybody’s head. He met with them where they were spiritually and brought them to a greater knowledge of the truth. The Lord did the same thing. Consider how Christ dealt with Nicodemus and compare that with how He dealt with the woman at the well. He gave them both the same message of salvation, but His approach was modified to reach each of them at the level they were capable of understanding.

Paul did the same thing. As I mentioned in the last entry, Paul went to the Jews first (often by way of the local synagogue) and then to the Gentiles, meaning he often went to the “most churched” people first because they usually had a good foundation on which he could build. When he approached Gentiles who were strictly idol-worshippers, he almost always started off with God as Creator and therefore worthy of all worship. Then he would tell them of Christ as the Means of reconciliation to the God of creation.

Be Honest with the Scriptures

Paul never preached his own agenda. Our job as believers is to win people to Christ, not to convince people of our own opinions. Luke, the beloved physician and longtime friend of the apostle Paul, used some very precise words to describe Paul’s preaching ministry to the Thessalonians.

Acts 17:1-3

(1)  Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:

(2)  And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

(3)  Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ.

  • Reasoned means “discourse using questions and answers.” “Dialogue” is a good synonym. It was a technique commonly used by rabbis of the time.
  • Opening is what we might call expository preaching. Paul would read a passage, and then explain it in light of Christ and the gospel. (See Luke 4:17-20.)
  • Alleging means “to lay beside.” In other words, presenting a well-organized argument and showing how the Scriptures of the OT harmonized with all the claims of Jesus Christ. It’s like a lawyer clearly presenting the evidence in a case.
  • Preach means “to proclaim, to announce.” (“Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36))

It is interesting to note the amount of build up to the actual preaching. When Paul did finally proclaim the truth of the gospel it had great power and effect because of all the groundwork he had laid out in the process. Effectively preaching the Gospel requires a great deal of patience and understanding.