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1 Thessalonians 2 v 9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail

The Apostle Paul was usually very reluctant to talk about himself. In 2 Corinthians 12 he says this in verse 11

I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

Paul had been accused of many things following his mission to the city of Thessalonica and it was necessary in this letter, for him to make his defence – particularly for the young Church’s sake. So to his critics he says this – in 1 Thessalonians 2.

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.

With a supernatural courage and God given boldness Paul and his colleagues Silas and Timothy had endured great opposition when they brought the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ the Messiah to a pagan culture. They had confidence in their message and 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:

Paul, Silas and Timothy had been gentle and had manifested a mildness amongst them born out of pure unselfishness. They communicated the tender compassion of their tender compassionate saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

The missionaries were ready to give of themselves – to mother them and nurture them in the early days of their Christian lives. 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.

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.

This morning we look at three more positive points in Paul’s defence in verse 9 – 11.

4. We were honest in our labours among you.

9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

5. We were examples in our behaviour towards you.

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

6. We were fatherly in our attitude towards you.

11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

We have already covered the thoughts of verse 9 in a sermon 2 weeks ago when it was linked with the negative statement of defence that the missionaries had NOT come to be a burden to the Christians at Thessalonica. But there are one or two more things to say, briefly about verse 9.

4. We were honest in our labours among you.

9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

Self-sacrificing hard work characterised the pioneer work in Thessalonica. The three missionaries worked themselves almost to exhaustion, day and night in order to have the privilege of heralding the gospel message to everyone that they could. Paul really tried to make sure that he and the others were beyond criticism. But they were in a kind of cleft stick. Because in spite of Paul’s carefully worked out plan with respect to work and wages, he did not escape criticism. If he takes money, or even if his enemies suspect that he does, they are ready to charge him with selfishness and greed – just like the roaming false teachers and charlatans. But if he does not take any money, then they accuse him of making a show of his humility! Writing to the Corinthians with the same kind of defence Paul says this –

2 Corinthians 11 v 7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

However in all his teaching Paul takes pains to dignify work and labour. It was Paul who famously said in the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians –

V 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

We have to realise that there was a slight difference between their culture 2000 years ago and ours today. There was a certain status difference between those with some jobs and those with others. The working man, the labourer working with his hands, was not always held in honour. This of course still, even today, prevails in other countries – for example the Indian society pays very poor wages to those with manual jobs. But this kind of attitude goes back to a hundred years before Paul. The Roman orator, Cicero who died in 43 BC records in his writings the state of affairs then in the Roman Empire.

“The callings of hired labourers, and of all that are paid for their mere work and not for their skill, are unworthy of a free man and vulgar; for their wages are given for menial service. All mechanics are engaged in vulgar business; for a workshop can have nothing respectable about it. Commerce, if on a small scale, is to be regarded as vulgar; but if large and rich it is not so discreditable.”

The teaching of Paul and his colleagues stands in sharp contrast to this. They worked as menial labourers in order to bring the gospel to the people that they grew to love, with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can admire Paul, Silas and Timothy for their transparent honesty in their approach to missions. How we need to notice their examples and think seriously about how we reach people with the gospel in our day. People see through career evangelists, the mavericks who may have a preaching gift but are unconnected with a local church and therefore under no oversight or prayer cover from the Lord’s People. These men teach us that no effort must be spared to reach Christ’s sheep with the precious Gospel message. Let us all be utterly committed to gospel work wherever the Lord has placed us.

We have noticed that this mission to Thessalonica is a kind of model for all missionary work – AND local church missionary work. So as we come to verse 10 we can notice a subtle shift in Paul’s defence. Up until now Paul has been defending the character of the missionaries’ EVANGELISM. But now he is to defend the nature of their PASTORAL CARE. Their preaching had been genuine and above board – but now he says a word about their ministry of follow up amongst the new disciples.

5. We were examples in our behaviour towards you.

10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:

Whenever a case is brought in a court of law there are usually witnesses. Someone who has seen or heard something to do with the case and who can give evidence that will help those in judgement, either judge or jury, to decide about justice and truth. Paul appeals to witnesses at Thessalonica to give evidence about the way that the missionaries had conducted themselves in mission work. He tells them – “You are the witnesses – you saw how we lived and worked. You heard how we preached and heralded the Gospel. You sensed what sort of men we were. You had the evidence before you and you were there!” There is a sense that Paul is appealing to the Christians saying something of this nature – “you of all people know want went on and what we did.”

Had they kept themselves aloof and separate from the converts? No they had not – they had opened their lives to them – spent time with them – helped and assisted them. They had cared for them (verse 8 had said that) – so those who read this letter had all the evidence that they needed in their own personal experience to enable them to challenge any charge of misbehaviour against the missionaries, no matter from whence it came.

Surely, this is what we, as sincere Christians ought to be prepared for when the Lord God begins to save the people that we are praying for to be saved. Are we ready for that eventuality?

But there was someone else who was able to provide evidence of their good behaviour. Paul appeals to a higher authority than any men! Three words cover this appeal in this 10th verse –

“and God also.”

This approaches a solemn oath in which Paul says that God also knows how they had lived among the believing community. Paul is ready to be exposed to trial with God as a witness! Surely this is a supreme trial when our integrity is tested! And The Lord God is the judge.

Do we have the same willingness to be tested by the highest authority, God Himself? Surely it is only as man or women, boy or girl, who have had their sins cleansed and pardoned who can make any appeal to God at all! Unless we are trusting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ and are His children then there is no hope of eternal life. Unless the Lord has opened our hearts, as he opened Lydia’s heart at Philippi, by the supernatural work of His Holy Spirit, then our souls remain dead – in trespasses and sins – and we will die physically in our state of sin and rebellion. God sees everything and knows the hearts of all of His creatures. There is no hiding from His justice and His judgment.

Are you trusting and sheltering beneath the justifying work of Jesus Christ for your sins, my friend? Is Jesus your saviour? Or is your trust in your self? Or your religion? Your good works? Your upbringing? Belief only in the Lord Jesus Christ is acceptable with Almighty God.

But Paul continues to maintain that his behaviour and that of the other 2 missionaries was exemplary in 3 areas.

1. It was holy behaviour.

The Greek word for Holy is usually HAGIOS. But that is not the word that Paul uses here – rather it is HOSIOS. Holy behaviour is that which is constantly and consistently centred upon God and His ways. To be a holy person is to be devoted to being like him. HOSIOS is used to describe God in Revelation 15 v 4

Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.

Hosios is used in Acts 2 when the body of the Lord Jesus Christ is spoken about

v 27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Holy behaviour is a reflection of the Holiness of God and the Holy behaviour of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such holy living is pleasing to the Lord God. It is a careful discharge of one’s duties towards God. Paul maintains that he and the others behaved themselves in a holy manner.

2. It was Righteous Behaviour.

The word translated Justly here is DIKAIOS. It means righteously, or agreeable to what is right. The word is used with regard to uprightness of a person’s character. The old fashioned English spelling of this was RIGHT-WISE because it meant straight dealing. Luke uses it in his gospel when reporting what the thief on the cross said to the other one, across Jesus –

39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

Titus 2 v 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

This is living righteously with a careful discharge of one’s duties to man.

We can be reminded of the Law of God here in the ten commandments. The first four laws of the Decalogue concern our duty towards God – No other Gods, no idols, not taking God’s name in vain and remember the sabbath day to keep it holy – all duties towards God. Holiness is keeping these commandments.

Then there are the rest of the commandments, which have a direct bearing on our duties to our fellow men – honour parents, do not kill, chastity in marriage, do not steal, tell lies or covet. Righteousness is keeping these commandments.

The third aspect of behaviour is this –

3. It was Unblameable Behaviour.

What a blessing it is to have a clear conscience. What a joy to be free from anything that anyone would have against us. To be faultless and blameless is a very peaceful state to be in. No charge whatsoever could be maintained against the missionaries even though several charges were brought. If they had been taken to court then a not guilty verdict would always have been given.

Were Paul, Silas and Timothy sinless and perfect? Not at all. Unblameable simply means that they were above accusation.

All in all the preachers had been above reproach in the way that they lived. Paul maintains it and the Thessalonian Christians would have been able to verify it.

Since we are thinking about the missionaries’ example to us, and all those who engage in Gospel work and witness, we can do no more than marvel at their faithfulness in both evangelism and in pastoral care. We too are called to be holy, righteous and above reproach in everything that we do. Whatever unbelievers may think of us those who believe our message should know very well that the way that we live day by day will be a confirmation of our testimony. It must never be said that it is a contradiction of our profession.

It was once said of a very worldly and careless minister that his personal and public life shouted so loudly that his people could not hear what he said in his preaching.

That is what happens when one’s behaviour does not match one’s testimony or profession.

What an urgent need there is to imitate these three missionaries in everything we seek to do for God.

Holy lives make people sit up and take notice – for the majority of the population know nothing of holiness.

Righteous lives challenge and convict others by showing them up in their way of life. This is often the reason for the opposition and criticism that we get as believers – the average man in the street knows that he is a sinner and knows that he is not what he should be. But he is happiest and comforted when he senses that everyone else is in the same boat. But as soon as someone, the Christian, shows a righteous life, actually keeping the law of God, then there is conflict. Opponents of the gospel love to expose the weaknesses of Christians, especially Christian leaders. If they cannot expose the sincerity of their motives and the integrity of their methods, they will call into question the consistency of their characters.

Blameless lives therefore silence these slanders.

Do we have holy, righteous and blameless lives, my friends? If we do not what right have we to be named as Christians? What right do we have to speak to others of Christ? How can we expect people to hear us if our lives do not bear testimony to the change that comes about when we trust the Lord Jesus Christ?

May the Lord help each one of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, to be as these three were – living Holy, righteously and blamelessly. May we walk closely with the Lord Jesus Christ avoiding sin, resisting temptation, praying for each other and keeping our eyes focussed on honouring our wonderful Saviour in everything that we say and do. May the Lord help us all in this!

6. We were fatherly in our attitude towards you.

11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

Paul has already likened the ministry of the mission to Thessalonica to that of a nursing mother – gentle, kind and tender. But now Paul presses further with a paternal appeal to the Christians asking them to recall how their missionaries had shown a fatherly concern for their souls - not only in bringing them to an experience of Christ but also in their pastoral follow up and discipleship.

Like as a father deals with his own children – and yes these converts were counted as dear as their own children – in their continuing ministry amongst them they acted like caring fathers. And here Paul states in simple and understandable terms, the complimentary roles of mothers and fathers in raising children. Little ones not only need the tender care and nurture of a mother, but also the example, instruction and correction of a loving and kind father. Fathers also have a deep and tender interest but they also have been so designed and gifted by the Creator to be strong examples and those who can firmly demand responses to their instruction from the children. Do we not find it quite remarkable that here in sacred scripture, in an account of a missionary defending his manner of approach in the Gospel, we find another endorsement for the proper way to bring up children in families? Paul Silas and Timothy provided family care of both a mother and a father – and in doing so created a pattern for all who are in any way involved with the spiritual nurture of other people.

So many men are authoritarian teachers – they behave as university professors issuing directives and commands to raw new recruits to Christianity. Others like to address crowds and receive people’s applause and affirmation.

Paul and the others teach us differently. The Church is to be a family. Those who trust the saviour must feel that they are cared for and nurtured – brought to grow and mature in their Christian lives along the same lines as children grow and mature and emerge as well prepared adults. Much pastoral work is a hidden ministry of love that meets people at their individual points of need. This is shown in this verse, that this paternal care applied to each of the new believers INDIVIDUALLY.

We exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,

This concern went beyond a congregational concern – they took a personal interest in individual believers and ministered to them in their homes and in private conversations. Perhaps this is what inspired Richard Baxter of Kidderminster who faithfully visited all of the families in his parish and sought to systematically exhort, comfort and teach them the Gospel.

In what way did they act as fathers?

1. In encouraging.

The Greek word translated EXHORT has the sense of “calling to one’s side” – in order to encourage someone to pursue a particular course of conduct. An example of Paul doing just that is found a little further on in the letter in chapter 4 v 1

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

Paul encourages the believers to walk in God’s ways and so to please God. In verses 9 and 10 of the same chapter

9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

An encouragement to increase more and more in love for one another. Paul wanted then believers at Thessalonica to progress in their Christian lives – as any father desires that his children progress in every aspect of life – physical growth – so a father feeds them; mental growth – so a father arranges for their education having a major input to their education; and spiritual growth – the father providing that godly family environment where the children may hear the Gospel and learn God’s ways.

2. In Comforting.

A father must also be one who is sympathetic to the individual needs of his children. Children are different in their personalities and characters and each needs a special approach in their nurture. This is comforting activity on the part of the father. He also is to provide security in difficulty. He is to be the protector as well as the teacher and provider. In Thessalonica the converts were often in need of comfort facing as they did such opposition. The missionaries’ comfort and wisdom was vital in the early days.

3. In Being Firm.

Some translations render this word in the original as Testifying. We have the word charge – the Greek actually is MARTUROMAI, which means usually to “bear witness.”

The missionaries’ sympathy did not stop them urging the new disciples to live the costly life of obedience of being a Christian. What was being firmly stated here was the things that the father-like missionaries had proved in their own experience – perhaps summed up by Paul’s words in Romans 12 v 1

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

They firmly desired that the Thessalonian Christians may indeed prove God’s good and perfect and acceptable will – to live Godly – righteously and blamelessly – following the apostles’ examples.

Perhaps it is best summed up in Andrew Young’s words –

Their goal was fervent godliness, not tepid Christianity.

As we close we must ask ourselves – what is our goal as a church? What do we learn from this mission to Thessalonica? The Lord Jesus Christ was the object and centre of that mission and his servants show us how we too should conduct our ongoing mission to Whiddon Valley and beyond. Fervent godliness in the missionaries brought genuine results for the Saviour as His sheep were gathered in to the church fold. Not only is it our duty to reach out to others, but it is also a matter of living close to the Lord, consumed with love for our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ and a genuine desire to learn how to live more in holiness, righteousness and become more like Him – blameless.

This, my friends is the adventure of faith. This is the demands of the Gospel. This is a tall order! May we know of Christ’s abundant grace in all of our lives to grow in that grace, follow the example of these godly missionaries – and then perhaps, in God’s sovereign will, we too will see the Lord’s precious sheep brought to faith in Him – to His praise and glory.

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