In the first chapter Paul encourages the Thessalonians. They had received the word of God and the word had impacted their lives. They were shining examples of the Christian life. They worked, labored, and persevered. They excelled in faith, hope, and love.
Beginning in chapter 2 the discussion is centered upon how Paul worked amongst them. The purpose of this text is to provide the community of believers an example of Godly service. It also serves as an encouraging reminder of the work of Paul.
Paul begins by speaking of how he presented the gospel to the church. He spoke the message plainly.* What Paul means is that he did not hide the message from them. The message being the gospel of God** (Notice the repetition of the word Gospel in this section). He was not deceitful in the message nor was he someone who flattered them for the sake of money (2:5). In fact he labored in the city at his own expense (2:9)!
Paul not only reminds them of the message he preached, but also reminds them of his actions (2:8). He genuinely loved these people, like a parent would a child (2:7; 2:11). This love led him to suffer persecution for their sake (2:1). In fact his example was one above reproach (2:10).
Verse 12 I believe provides the climax of why Paul is reminding them of his time in the city. He wants them to remember that his message to them was “walk worthy of God” (2:12). Paul does not want them to forget that the gospel he preached and the life that he lived among them, has that goal in mind.
How do we apply this today? I will suggest two areas and look forward to you suggesting more (don’t be shy there are numerous applications).
First, as a preacher I apply this to myself. I have to remember that I need to speak plainly the message. I need to remember that I need to not hide the message from my hearers. I need to remember that preaching is not an occupation, in which I earn money, but instead a service to God. I also need to remember that there is more to preaching than the message. I must learn to genuinely love those within my church, community, and sphere of influence.
Second, Paul provides his example so that the church will walk worthy of God. The efforts of men like Paul to make sure the gospel was faithfully preached should encourage us to continue to grow in our faith. Paul was making an emotional argument. They knew what Paul had done for them. Paul wants them to not let his efforts turn out to be in vain. In our lives we need to serve God and live our faith in a way that the efforts of men like Paul to preserve the gospel are not in vain.
*I believe “plainly” is a better translation of “bold” in verse 2.
** Paul defines the message of the gospel as the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
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