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1 Thessalonians 2 v 2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated

Philippi was a city that Paul and Silas, missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ to Europe, would never forget! Our reading in Acts 16 a moment ago reminds us of the great trial that Paul and Silas went through at Philippi. How they coped with that experience is a marvel of God’s grace. After they left, they went to Thessalonica, with great boldness. Paul is involved in defending his policy in mission to the Christians at Thessalonica and he tells them in 1 Thessalonians 2

V1 – He and the others did not come IN VAIN when they came to Thessalonica. On the contrary the mission to Thessalonica had a sincere purpose and design. It was effective and a blessing as the Gospel came to many.

V3 – They did not come DECEITFULLY. On the contrary Paul and his two companions were open as they brought a truthful, pure and honest presentation of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His message of salvation for guilty sinners

V4 – They did not come WITH A DESIRE TO PLEASE MEN. Indeed the very opposite – their purpose was to bring glory to God and to please Him as they spoke the truth as it is in Jesus. Judging by their past experiences of brutal physical opposition in Philippi they could have come to Thessalonica with a dumbed down message, less likely to get them into trouble. But they did not – and they boldly sought to please the Lord God in their mission.

V5 – They did NOT come with FLATTERY OR COVETOUSNESS. Paul and the other missionaries were completely different to the roving teachers who sought to gain advantage of their hearers.

V6a – They did NOT come to SEEK PERSONAL GLORY OR ESTEEM. Paul expected nothing financially from the Thessalonians – nor any other church either. Paul, Silas and Timothy had other means of staying alive while in Thessalonica.

V6b & 9 – They did NOT come to be a BURDEN TO THE BELIEVERS. Paul did not seek to burden them with authority although they could have done. They did not come to be a burden on the believers with a need for financial support. It cost Paul and the others dearly to preach the Gospel to the Thessalonians. Toil and hardship – exhaustion and pain. Working at night so that they could preach by day.

All of these defences were expressed in negative terms – what they did NOT do.

Today we will look at three of the 6 Positive statements about the Mission to Thessalonica from these verses in 1 Thessalonians 2.

1. We were BOLD in the face of opposition. Verse 2

But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

2. We treated you gently like a nursing mother. Verse 7

But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

3. We were sincere in our affection towards you. Verse 8

8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

Three features of the approach of the 3 missionaries are before us this morning and the first is

1. We were BOLD in the face of opposition. Verse 2

2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

Paul the missionary must have been a very brave man! His courage seems to know no ends! Perhaps it was because his courage was as the saying goes, “Fear that has said its prayers.” Paul was a man who did not fear the tyranny of man, nor what the devil could invent against him. He was a bold man and he inspired such boldness in the others who were with him – Silas and Timothy. Ralph Waldo Emerson said

“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”

But was this a natural courage? A boldness that lay in the character and personality of Paul? Was he born brave and bold or was it something that was given to him by some other source?

At first we can come to our own conclusion about the Apostles if we merely look at the evidence of the surrounding circumstances of the missionary journey into Thessalonica. We know that he was cruelly treated at Philippi along with Silas. Acts 16, and his own testimony in this 2nd verse, tell us what we need to know. That following dreadful suffering and public humiliation – a flogging in full view of the local population in Philippi, and then incarceration in the town jail – all for preaching the Good News of the Gospel which delivered a young girl from occultism – and brought a wealthy business woman to her knees before the Lord Jesus Christ – Paul left Philippi to repeat the whole process of evangelism all over again in another Pagan city.

How could he do it? Why was he not intimidated? What was it about the man and his companions that caused them to persist in what some would have called a suicide mission? Men had been spiteful to him. He had been insulted and assaulted. The word translated “shamefully entreated” was used by Luke in Acts to describe a bodily threat of violence in Iconium

Acts 14 v 5 And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,

The same word describes the way that the servants of the king who issued invitations to His son’s wedding were treated – Matthew 22. And the Lord Jesus Christ warned his disciples that He faced physical opposition when His time came –

Luke 18 v 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:

Paul’s reaction to all this was not to be intimidated or put off. Nevertheless, in spite of all this, we were bold!

These men dared to preach the gospel, speaking freely and boldly even in the face of strong opposition. What opposition was there?

1. There just may have been a hint of opposition from their own hearts. Paul used a term that resembles our word AGONY at the end of verse 2 that is translated here contention. In other scriptures and other Greek literature it refers to conflict, fight and contention in the context of an athlete involved in a race, with every sinew stretched and every nerve tuned to perform with great vigour. The agony of exertion; the agony of conflict almost in a competitive sense with an adversary are all communicated in this word agony, whereas we usually think of it as intense mental, spiritual or physical pain.

Yet as the saying goes, “There is no gain without pain!”

None of us willingly chooses to be in pain. None of us go out of our way to suffer. Therefore it takes something truly worthwhile to suffer agony if there is an end result.

This is the sense that there could well have been some little opposition in the hearts and minds of the missionaries – “Do we really want to go through this again? Do we really want a beating, to be thrown into jail, to be humiliated, to be threatened and cajoled?”

Natural men and women have natural thoughts like these – and there is nothing wrong with them – we all feel them. I do not know any Open Air Preacher who, from time to time, hasn’t this inner opposition in his spirit to the task at hand. It is then that he needs BOLDNESS. Not self-induced boldness, but divinely given boldness. More on this in a moment.

2. The other sense of opposition at Thessalonica was the ACTUAL opposition that they encountered from the Jews. Yet in spite of this danger and severe struggle, Paul reports that they carried on and kept on preaching. This demonstrated their deep sincerity. It also demonstrated their purpose in ministry and the value that they believed lay in their message of the cross.

Andrew Young remarks that “Christians who serve out of a sense of conviction and call persevere no matter how difficult their circumstances. God strengthens them to stick at their posts. Those acting out of self interest, however, tend to falter when the going gets tough. Stickability, especially in times of difficulty and opposition, is proof of genuineness.”

A survey of the use of this word PARR-HEZIADZOMAI – were bold in the New Testament reveals that every time it is used except one, it either refers to Paul’s personal boldness or the team’s boldness with which he was associated.

Acts 9 v 29 And Paul spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

Acts 13 v 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you:

Acts 14 v 3 Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, (at Iconium)

Acts 19 v 8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, (Ephesus)

Acts 26 v 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: To Agrippa at Caesarea.

All these are about Paul and fellow missionaries.

Apollos is mentioned in one text using this word –

Acts 18 v 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.

Where did this courageous outspokenness come from?

The testimony of Paul himself points us to the only source for his boldness, and the boldness that anyone can have in Gospel work.

First a reminder of some other words of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 2 v 1 – 5.

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Weakness, fear and trembling. This does not sound like boldness, does it?

No – but Paul tells us that in Corinth, and wherever he went in Gospel work, he never used his natural gifts of oratory and public speaking – but was supernaturally empowered – in the demonstration of the spirit and of power.

“We need to be reminded in our age that the Christian faith is NOT the accumulated wisdom of pious souls; nor is it the insight of men of religious genius – but it is the divine plan for dealing with man’s sin!” (Leon Morris)

Paul and the others had confidence in their message and confidence in their God the Lord Jesus Christ. Their message did not come from men but from God. The Gospel is not a human device or an expedient to make better the symptoms of sin. Christianity is not a sticking plaster to cover over the ravages of sinful human nature as they present themselves as human difficulties – rather the Gospel is God’s cure for the fatal condition itself. When we tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ we do not offer them Christ and His cure as a take it or leave it option to them – we have to boldly tell people that there is no other way to be cured of sin – only God the creator can give life! There is no other way to get right with God, except through repentance from all sin and faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ ALONE! There is no other way! The missionaries to Thessalonica believed this with all their heart!

Do you believe it my friend?

If you are not saved this morning – then why won’t you see it – do you hope that there may be another way than the way of the cross? Do you think that God will somehow accept you with your sin and rebellion when you come to face Him? My friend – you are living in a dream world if you think that! Only Jesus Christ can save you when you put your trust in Him and ask Him to take away your sins and give you a new Life by His Holy Spirit. Paul told this to the Thessalonians – and many believed – will you believe this morning?

May I say this, to believers now. If you are going to witness to your family, friends and neighbours – but you feel fear – you feel diffidence – you are not sure what they will think of you – you are afraid of their reaction – then ask yourself this question – Do I have real and genuine confidence in the message of salvation? If I am a convinced Christian, then why am I not convinced enough to tell others about the Lord who has saved me and dealt with my sins?

Boldness to witness only comes from confidence in God’s message of salvation for sinners. We need to have the message burning in our hearts in order to be bold in living for Christ and speaking for Christ.

Where is our boldness my friends? Where is our confidence? May the Lord Jesus rekindle within each one of us who say that we love Him with all of our hearts a boldness to speak for our saviour – whatever it costs us!

The Apostles’ boldness came from God – the conscious presence of God in their hearts produced boldness.

2. We treated you gently like a nursing mother.

7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

We change direction a little now in Paul’s defence of how the Gospel came to Thessalonica to follow up what he had said negatively about being a burden. Rather than imposing a heavy burden on them Paul, Silas and Timothy had been gentle and had manifested a mildness amongst them born out of pure unselfishness.

Gentle here is EPIOS. We all admire gentle people. It was once thought so high an attribute that it was common for people to be described as either a gentle-man or a gentle-woman – if they were affable, kind, well mannered and careful in their speech. It was thought to be a reflection of a Godly character – someone devoted to others, utterly unselfish and ready to serve often at their own personal expense. No harshness or proud autocracy here – but as Paul goes on, just as a nursing mother would treat her children.

How does that happen? A mother has deep and tender compassion for her baby recognising the child’s helplessness and dependence upon her. She is motivated by love and concern. There is an inner yearning to care for that little weak one and a desire to focus attention upon him – cherishing – making much effort for him – with a mother’s warmth and tenderness. TROPHOS, the Greek word for nurse here is the only occurrence of the word in the New Testament and refers to a nursing mother in particular because of its connection in the verse with TEKNA the word for “child” at the end of the verse. TROPHOS is a word related to another which means first to feed and then to bring up – as in Luke 4 speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ

v 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up:

Furthermore Paul uses the word THALPO, to cherish, which in the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament) is used in Deuteronomy 22 v 6 to describe a mother bird sitting on her eggs, warming and protecting them with her feathers.

As we think about the way that a mother cherishes her children it is the very opposite to gaining glory or gain, such as the false teachers were doing.

“A nursing mother does not make any show of authority nor does she stand on any dignity. She undertakes any kind of duty without being ruffled or making any show; and she shows extraordinary love, sparing no effort or trouble for her children and is ready to give her own life blood for them if necessary.” So remarks John Calvin.

In what way then were Paul and his colleagues motherly in their approach to the Thessalonians?

First it is a contrast to any accusation that they were seeking to use the Thessalonians for any personal advantage.

Secondly they came right down to the Thessalonians’ level as children speaking to other children. No lordship or superiority here – but they communicated the tender compassion of their tender compassionate saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. How often do we read of Him, the God man, feeling moved within to reach out and care for those around him. At least 10 times in the Gospels we find Jesus moved with compassion for this one and that one. Surely His missionaries were right to show Christ’s love in this way!

How much do we know of these things in our lives? I mean that as Christians surely we should be like our Saviour in this respect? Are we quick to judge others and condemn them or are we compassionate and tender wishing to win them to right pathways? Are we judgemental of other believers who seem to know less than we do about the Lord – or are we ready to lovingly encourage and cherish other Christians as fellow members of the body of Christ?

Paul, Silas and Timothy are real examples of practical Christianity and compassionate evangelism – and commend our saviour to us as we observe their ministry at Thessalonica.

3. We were sincere in our affection towards you.

8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

In many ways this third and last point this morning relates to the previous one. The sincerity of the missionaries’ love for the Thessalonian Christians is expanded in this 8th verse. Another unique word is used by Paul here –the only occurrence of the word translated “affectionately desirous” is here in 1 Thessalonians. It is a word that is similar to the sentiment in Galatians 4 v 19

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, 20 I desire to be present with you now,

Here is a commentary and a key to verse 8. Paul’s desire was not for the people’s wealth, but their salvation – their spiritual and eternal welfare. He was ready to do anything for them, only so that they could hear the Gospel – and if he could, save them himself. Of course Paul knew that he could not do that – only God can save a human soul – but as God’s messenger charged with bringing the message, Paul WAS involved in their salvation experience.

But look how much further Paul goes. Paul was no hit and run evangelist! He was not like one of these itinerant preachers who preached the Gospel and then went somewhere else. He was ready to give of himself – to mother them and nurture them in the early days of their Christian lives. He himself was in charge of the follow up when people believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul saw the need for continual pastoral care for new converts. Such love is a mainspring of evangelism. Paul, Silas and Timothy made a total commitment of themselves to love those to whom they took the Gospel, and whom they desired to see won for the Lord Jesus Christ.

We British generally tend to be private people not letting people too near us. Often we do not let ourselves affectionately yearn for the salvation of others. We tend to confine ourselves to “professional relationships” rather than those of deep personal intimacy. The very mention of it fills us with a recoiling sense of “not too close.”

Paul and the others teach us otherwise. They were eager to share the gospel with them – but they were also prepared to give themselves – to share their lives – and even be ready to die for these dear Thessalonian people. They wished to offer all that they had, mind and body in their service.

It has been said that a combination of truth and love is the recipe for all effective evangelism and pastoral work.

God speaks and works through His word as it is taught in truth. Yet he also uses the loving hearts of Christians involved in outreach to melt the coldness of listeners’ hearts. My friends we can melt no ones’ hearts if our own hearts are cold! Words without warmth of a loving heart seldom accomplish much.

All of our evangelistic programmes, with preaching the truth, clearly, passionately and Biblically are well and good – but without love – without love for lost sinners – without love for those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ – without love for, yes, even those who despise us and ignore and reject our saviour – we will seldom accomplish much! Is this what is wrong in the church of Jesus Christ in our land today? In some sections there is little truth because there has been a downgrade in doctrine.

In other sections of the church there is pure as crystal truth and clear Biblical preaching – but it is to no avail – because there is little or no love. Unbelievers are disdained, criticised or even despised – therefore the Gospel without love is fruitless.

But when there is a combination of the 2 – genuine love for people flowing from love for Christ – and a determination to sincerely preach the truth of the Gospel – then people will be saved – the kingdom will be increased and Christ will be honoured and exalted.

Are we ready to respond to this example of the Mission to Thessalonica? May truth and love be our watchwords – may there be a balance – may we love the lost with tears – may we live for Christ in earnest – and may we preach His word of the Gospel of truth with all of our hearts.

The Missionaries’ BOLDNESS came from God – the conscious presence of the living God produced it.

The Missionaries’ GENTLENESS also came from God. The Father’s tender kindness prompted it in them.

The Missionaries’ AFFECTION – their LOVE also came from God – Christ’s love for them stimulated it in them.

May we all know the same things happening in us – may we be bold, gentle and loving as we seek Christ’s sheep!

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