1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
The ministry at Thessalonica was not worthless or a failure (1 Thes 2:1). Paul’s ministry was a great success and could not be viewed as a failure in any way. It could also be true, that “in vain” meant that his words were not hollow or empty. Both should be considered, but I think Paul’s emphasis would be more on success, as later he echoes this emphasis. In 3:5, Paul uses “in vain” to refer to his fear that his ministry would not reach the desired effect. Paul gives 2 reasons why his ministry was successful. In this
(1) Their ministry is characterized by boldness in the gospel in the midst of suffering (1 Thes 2:2). Paul’s suffering was well known to these believers, but he reminds them of the suffering he endured in Philippi before they arrived in Thessalonica. They would have not only known of the mistreatment of Paul in Thessalonica and when he was chased down by the Jews from Thessalonica into Berea, but of the entire past history of what had transpired. He uses strong words, suffered and shamefully treated. They show the intensity of the hatred against Paul preaching the gospel. “We had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” The truth is not popular. This boldness to share the gospel comes from God Himself (“in our God“) and is not something that Paul summoned with his own strength.
(2) Their ministry is characterized by truth entrusted by God (1 Thes 2:3-8). Paul’s preaching was done with the purest of motives. He spends this section proving his motives, F.F. Bruce gives the reasons why, “So many wandering charlatans…made their way about the Greek world, peddling their religious or philosophical ideas, and living at the expense of their devotees…that is was necessary for Paul and his friends to emphasize the purity of their motives and actions by contrast with these.” Paul gives 5 reasons why their ministry was characterized by truth entrusted by God and that they were not the charlatans that were so prevalent. First, they did not seek to please man, but God (1 Thes 2:4). Second, they did not manipulate the Thessalonians (1 Thes 2:5), “For we never came with words of flattery.” The general idea of the expression is exaggerated praise. Ultimately he points out that this is true, because they knew and God knows that their motives were pure. Third, they did not seek the praise of people (1 Thes. 2:6)
“Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others…” Here glory probably means praise. Paul simply did not desire the praise of people. At no time did he have a desire of producing a personal following that especially exalted him as an apostle. This leads towards his next point, That he could have made financial demands on them based on his authority, (“though they could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”) but they did not want to be a burden on them so they portrayed the fourth reason, they were gentle (1 Thes 2:7). He states “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” This image is an appropriate one since Paul and his missionary team had spiritually birthed the believers in Thessalonica. Last, they have an ongoing personal love to those whom they ministered (1 Thes 2:8), it was more than just preaching the gospel, but they poured their lives into these people.
How does your personal ministry in your local church look? Is it portrayed here in the early verses of 1 Thessalonians 2? Are you pouring your life into the body of Christ to encourage and strengthen one another in their faith? Let us all be convicted by the example of Paul and to be found faithful.