An Audience of One
There are times throughout the year when Pastor Sam and I have decided that we would take a week to preach whatever we like as we transition from one sermon series to the next. This is one of those weeks. If you recall I started this “open-ended” series back in December as I talked about 1 Thessalonians chapter 1 and what it means to be an imitator of Jesus Christ. Seven months later we are picking up where I left off as we will look at chapter 2 and what it means to boldly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will continue to come back to this series at various times throughout the year.
Purpose of the Letter
The Epistle of 1 Thessalonians was a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Thessalonica. The church is believed to have been a mixed local congregation made up of a few converted Jews and many former pagans who have converted to Christianity. It is believed that the church was a predominantly Gentile congregation; so, it is assumed that the believers were young in faith and unfamiliar with Jewish traditions and more specifically Christianity. Almost immediately after its establishment this young congregation faced persecution from both unbelieving Jews and pagan Gentiles which was not uncommon at this time.
Paul’s reason for writing this epistle was to encourage this young congregation. Unfortunately, when the church was developed the apostle was unable to properly disciple this group of believers because he had to leave the city due to a riot (Acts 17) that ensued. It is likely he was concerned for the young church as he feared that they would not stick with the faith during their intense persecution. Initially, Paul had wanted to visit the believers of Thessalonica, but he was hindered. Because of his hindrance he sent his travel companion, the young pastor Timothy to Thessalonica, and upon his return to Paul, he gave him the great news that all was well at the Church of Thessalonica. Timothy not only reported about their faithfulness during persecution but also that the church was thriving amidst persecution.
1 Thessalonians 2:1 - 10
An Audience of One
Vs 1 – 3: We have seen through scripture that Paul was one who never shied away from preaching the Gospel nor did he ever try to hide it or act like it didn’t impact his life. He boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter where he was or who he was with. His zeal and passion for the Gospel was so stirring that he has inspired so many to have this same zeal for proclaiming the Gospel.
But there have been times in my life when I lacked the zeal that was so inspiring. I would neglect my calling to boldly proclaim he gospel simply because it was inconvenient or I would tell myself that I don’t want to come across as pushy, I don’t want to be made fun of for my faith or I rarely I would think for some ridiculous reason that I may come across as “overly righteous”. Yet, we know that it is important to learn from Paul, in proclaiming the gospel that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Paul himself writes in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and full of hope, joy, peace, love, and salvation.
The gospel is foundational to everything we hold on to and believe as followers of Jesus Christ. The word gospel is derived from a Greek word that means good tidings or good news. The gospel speaks of the good news of the kingdom of God which has come and is still to come through Jesus the Messiah. It is the good news about the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is the good news of the death of Jesus Christ and through his death He has reconciled (or made peace) with God and all those who believe will be saved. It is the good news of the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ for our justification. It is the good news of his return in all majesty and His coming Kingdom. This good news needs to be proclaimed boldly both through words and in the lives we live.
Vs 4 - 7: Speaking the truth in love. Thus boldly proclaiming the gospel or speaking the truth in love can be difficult sometimes. For me speaking the truth of God’s Word from the pulpit is one of the joys and curses of being a pastor. I love that every week I have the honor and joy of teaching God’s Word from the pulpit. I love that I have the calling to preach the Gospel on a regular basis and share God’s grace, love, and mercy. However, there have been times when I come across a subject or passage from the Bible that I know might offend someone or it is sensitive subject matter and I have to determine in my heart... do I speak truth of what God wants me to speak or do I skirt the subject and go on to something else? When I face these situations, I am reminded of the words written by Paul to the Thessalonians, " For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our heart." (vs. 4)
I/we need to be reminded often that proclaiming the Gospel (in the pulpit or in everyday life) is not intended to please people or make people feel good about themselves. It is intended to bring people the throne of God and reveal their sinful nature and ultimate need for a savior in Jesus Christ. My prayer is that the words I do speak from the pulpit bring hope not because I spoke it with eloquence or creativity but because I proclaimed the truth in love.
The gospel message is offensive to many and if pastors and believers continually proclaim it, we will eventually offend someone. Since this is the case, we cannot let this affect the message we proclaim. We have the great privilege to proclaim God's Word because we are "approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News."
This does not, however, give us permission to be abusive, manipulative, or judgmental with our words. We are called to be "gentle" in our delivery and allow the Word of God to speak for itself and to penetrate the hearts of those to whom we proclaim it. Our job is to deliver the message of hope to and if/when it offends, we must understand that it's not because of us, they are offended by the Word of God and there is nothing we can or should do about that.
Vs 8: This is why it is important that we share the gospel with one another and in our community. There is a myth in Christianity that people believe the Christian faith is a private and individual matter. There is an attitude that some hold that faith is about Jesus and me. People think (and sometimes say), “I don’t need anyone as long as I just have a personal relationship with Jesus.” To which I respond, “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.” The church is called to community and fellowship.
The gospel of Jesus is the core of our faith. As Christians we are to share the “good news” of Jesus with others. The Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians that they were ready to share it with others. Then he says (and I am paraphrasing), “We not only want to share the gospel with you, but we want to share ourselves with you because you are like family to us.” You see as disciples of Jesus we are called to community and not seclusion. We are called to share ourselves with one another. What does this really mean? I believe Paul is telling his dearly beloved readers in Thessalonica that as Christians, they need one another. They need to share one another’s burdens, joys, trials, concerns and so on. They need to share themselves with one another so they may edify and build up the body of Christ. They need to share themselves so they can pray for one another, encourage those who were downtrodden and give hope to those who may feel hopeless.
The same goes for us today. We have trials, concerns, troubles, health issues etc. in our lives. We are human and difficulty and trials comes with the territory. We can weather the storms of life when we have loving brothers and sisters behind us and supporting us. In the same sense, when something fantastic happens and you see the hand of God in action in your life, don’t you want to share it with everyone?
As a Pastor I DEPEND on the prayers and support of this congregation, my friends and family all over the world. When I feel downtrodden and beaten up, I lean on the support of this congregation and on my fellow friends and colleagues who are there to support me. We need one another. The Christian faith is a journey that we walk, and we cannot, nor should we walk it alone.
Vs 10: I am in awe of the confidence and boldness Paul has in his conduct and faith. As a Pastor AND Christian, I have the great joy and burden of not only proclaiming the gospel but also in living a holy and godly life. It’s not the “job” of Pastors only to preach the gospel and live a holy and upright life; a holy and upright life is the call for every follower of Jesus. Jesus says, in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Our character and our conduct speak volumes about who we serve. For example, a selfish, unloving, and greedy person shows that he serves self. A selfless, loving and giving person points to the Jesus he/she serves. (*Note, I am not stating that all selfless, loving and giving people are Christians, just if you are a follower of Christ this should be the image you bear because Jesus is all of those).
Paul lived a life that was honorable among the people he ministered to and the God he served. I pray one day I will be able to stand before all the people I served over the years and say, “As you and God are my witnesses, I have tried by the power of the Holy Spirit to live a holy, righteous and blameless life by the grace of God.” Notice I did not, nor does Paul say “sinless”. To live a holy life means to live your life set apart for God. You aim to please the Father through your life, and you live with him as your God and King. To be righteous means you live a just life or aim to be in right standing with God. To live a blameless life means you have lived a life (or strived to live a life) where nobody can make accusations of you living contrary to what you believe. In other words, as Christians, we must live our lives to please God. However, we cannot live to please God in our own power. Each one of us (if you are a believer) must depend on the Holy Spirit to help us live holy, righteous, and blameless lives. Therefore, I make it a point to pray often “Lord help me to live the life that will bring honor and glory to your name. I can’t do it in my own power, so I depend on your Spirit to live it through me.”
So, what is our take home for today? I want to challenge you strive to be imitators of Jesus. In doing so there are three action steps from today’s passage that we can take with us.
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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