For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6
As we continue our study of 1 Thessalonians I think it is noteworthy that 1 Thessalonians is regarded as one of the oldest if not the oldest books in the New Testament. Even the liberal critics date 1 Thessalonians at around 50 AD. This dating would make the writing of 1 Thessalonians only about 15 to 17 years after the crucifixion well within the lifetime of eyewitnesses. It would also mean that Paul visited Thessalonica sometime before he wrote this letter, so the actual visit could easily have been about a year earlier.
In today’s verses Paul want to emphasize that when they visited Thessalonica they did so not for any personal gain but only to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a recurring theme in Paul’s letters as there were some who sought to enrich themselves by spreading the gospel message as well as making changes to the message that was not what Paul and the rest of the apostles had taught.
It is not that Paul was against a person being paid as a church leader, in fact he tells us in 1 Timothy 5:18 that a laborer deserves his wages. Paul was concerned that there is a temptation to water down or change the Gospel in order to keep the money flowing. Paul rarely took more than food and lodging preferring to work as a tent maker and pay his own way in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
Too many churches today want to make the congregation feel good or tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. Paul did not give the early churches twelve step programs for self-improvement. Paul gave the early churches a one step program, Jesus crucified and raised for our sins. As a church we need to get back to the basic message of the Gospel and leave the twelve step programs to the self-help gurus. If this means sometime telling people things that make them uncomfortable that is what we need to do. As I have written before, if I don’t leave church feeling uncomfortable at least a few times during the year then the pastor is not doing his job.
Have a blessed day,