Paul's Work in Thessalonica
1My friends, you know our time with you wasn't wasted. 2 As you remember, we had been mistreated and insulted at Philippi. But God gave us the courage to tell you the good news about him, even though many people caused us trouble. 3We didn't have any hidden motives when we won you over, and we didn't try to fool or trick anyone. 4God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn't speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives.
5You also know we didn't try to flatter anyone. God himself knows what we did wasn't a cover-up for greed. 6We were not trying to get you or anyone else to praise us. 7But as apostles, we could have demanded help from you. After all, Christ is the one who sent us. We chose to be like children or like a mother nursing her baby. 8We cared so much for you, and you became so dear to us, that we were willing to give our lives for you when we gave you God's message.
9My dear friends, you surely haven't forgotten our hard work and hardships. You remember how night and day we struggled to make a living, so we could tell you God's message without being a burden to anyone. 10Both you and God are witnesses that we were pure and honest and innocent in our dealings with you followers of the Lord. 11You also know we did everything for you that parents would do for their own children. 12We begged, encouraged, and urged each of you to live in a way that would honor God. He is the one who chose you to share in his own kingdom and glory.
13We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn't something made up by humans. You accepted it as God's message, and now he is working in you. 14 My friends, you did just like God's churches in Judea and like the other followers of Christ Jesus there. And so, you were mistreated by your own people, in the same way they were mistreated by their people.
15 Those evil people killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and they even chased us away. God doesn't like what they do and neither does anyone else. 16They keep us from speaking his message to the Gentiles and from leading them to be saved. They have always gone too far with their sins. Now God has finally become angry and will punish them.
Here is Paul’s personal c.v. and the justification of his ministry. Here is his rationale and defence of his work. What guarantees the authenticity of Paul, the man and what he teaches? The fact that he’s been on the front lines, where he’s been shamefully treated, yet continues to boldly declare the gospel of God. He’s been there and done that and he’s got the marks on his body to prove it.
He’s got the scars; he’s done the work; he’s got the character; he’s no flim-flam flyboy; he’s not greedy; he’s not after his own glory; he is approved by God and his sole ambition is to please God not flatter folk. In fact he’s ready to share his very self with the Thessalonians.
Think about the character claims for a moment. “Holy and righteous and blameless” (v 10). How did Paul manage that? And how can we ever get close? Simply and only through the work of the grace of God in our lives: in this sense, the holy virtues are implanted in us by the Word of God. That’s how.
Then after this list of all he did, he pleads the responsive authenticity of his readers. They’ve got a super c.v. too. You guys were great! (v 13). You took the teaching on board and turned it into truth and behaviour for yourselves. You acted on what you heard. And yes “you suffered the same things “ (v 14).
Holding these two parts together is Paul’s work as an adopting parent. He gently mothers them (v 7) and encouragingly fathers them (v 11). This is family we’re talking about. The ground of both Paul’s and his readers’ integrity is the grace of God that ties them together. They are two sides of a relational coin. To be spent as single minded and God driven.
Oh Lord God, this whole business of “been there, done that” – being the people of God and doing the work of the gospel, being the godly character and doing the godly conduct—is way beyond us. And always will be. Unless you come upon us in your grace and make us the holy people you have created in your Son Jesus.