Paul On His Defense
2:1-12 You yourselves know, brothers, that our coming among you was not to no effect; but after we had--as you know--already undergone suffering and ill-treatment at Philippi, we were bold in our God to tell you the good news of God, and a sore struggle we had. Our appeal to you did not proceed from any delusion, nor from impure motives, nor was it calculated to deceive; but as we have been deemed worthy by God to be entrusted with the good news, so we speak, not as if we were seeking to please men, but rather as if we were seeking to please God, who tests our hearts. At no time, as you know, did we use flattering words; at no time did we use our message as a pretext for greed; God is our witness at no time did we seek reputation from men, either from you or from others, although we might well have claimed a place of weight, as apostles of Christ. But we showed ourselves gentle among you, treating you as a nurse cherishes her children. Yearning for you like this, we wanted to share with you, not only the good news of God, but even our very lives, because you had become very dear to us. For, brothers, you remember our labour and toil. It was while we were working night and day, so as not to be a burden to any of you, that we proclaimed the good news of God to you. You are our witnesses and so is God. How reverently and righteously and blamelessly we behaved to you who believed. As you know, as a father his children we exhorted and encouraged and solemnly charged each one of you to walk worthily of God who calls you to his Kingdom and his glory.
Beneath the surface of this passage run the slanders which Paul's opponents at Thessalonica attached to him.
(i) 1 Thessalonians 2:2 refers to the imprisonment and abuse that he had received at Philippi ( Acts 16:16-40 ). There were, no doubt, those in Thessalonica who said that this man Paul had a police record, that he was nothing less than a criminal on the run from justice and that obviously no one should listen to a man like that. A really malignant mind will twist anything into a slander.
(ii) 1 Thessalonians 2:3 has behind it no fewer than three charges.
(a) It was being said that Paul's preaching came from sheer delusion. A really original man will always run the risk of being called mad. Festus thought that Paul was mad in later days ( Acts 26:24 ). There was a time when Jesus' friends came and tried to take him home because they thought that he was mad ( Mark 3:21 ). The Christian standards can be so different from the standards of the world that he who follows them with a single mind and a burning enthusiasm can appear to other men to be off his head.
(b) It was being said that Paul's preaching sprang from impure motives. The word used for impurity (akatharsia, Greek #167 ) often has to do with sexual impurity. There was one Christian custom which the heathen often and deliberately misinterpreted; that was the kiss of peace ( 1 Thessalonians 5:26 ). When the Christians spoke of the Love Feast and the kiss of peace, it was not difficult for an evil mind to read into these phrases what was never there. The trouble often is that a mind itself nasty will see nastiness everywhere.
(c) It was being said that Paul's preaching was guilefully aimed at deluding others. The propagandists of Hitler Germany discovered that if a lie is repeated often enough and loudly enough it will in the end be accepted as the truth. That was the charge which was levelled at Paul.
(iii) 1 Thessalonians 2:4 indicates that Paul was accused of seeking to please men rather than to please God. No doubt that rose from the fact that he preached the liberty of the gospel and the freedom of grace as against the slavery of legalism. There are always people who do not think that they are being religious unless they are being unhappy; and any man who preaches a gospel of joy will find his slanderers, which is exactly what happened to Jesus.
(iv) 1 Thessalonians 2:5 and 1 Thessalonians 2:9 both indicate that there were those who said that Paul was in this business of preaching the gospel for what he could get out of it. The word used for flattery (kolakeia, Greek #2850 ) always describes the flattery whose motive is gain. The trouble in the early Church was that there were people who did attempt to cash in on their Christianity. The first Christian book of order is called The Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and in it there are some illuminating instructions. "Let every apostle that cometh unto you be received as the Lord. And he shall stay one day and, if need be, the next also, but if he stay three days he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goeth forth, let him take nothing save bread, till he reach his lodging. But if he ask money, he is a false prophet." "No prophet that ordereth a table in the Spirit shall eat of it, else he is a false prophet." "If he that cometh is a passer-by, succour him as far as you can. But he shall not abide with you longer than two or three days unless there be necessity. But if he be minded to settle among you and be a craftsman, let him work and eat. But if he has no trade, according to your understanding, provide that he shall not live idle among you, being a Christian. But if he will not do this, he is a Christmonger: of such men beware." (Didache, chapters 11 and 12). The date of The Didache is about A.D. 100. Even the Early Church knew the perennial problem of those who traded on charity.
(v) 1 Thessalonians 2:6 indicates that Paul was accused of seeking personal prestige. It is the preacher's constant danger that he should seek to display himself and not the message. In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 there is a suggestive thing. Paul does not say, "I came to you." He says, "Our gospel came to you." The man was lost in his message.
(vi) 1 Thessalonians 2:7 indicates that Paul was charged with being something of a dictator. His gentleness was that of a wise father. His was the love which knew how to be firm. To him Christian love was no easy sentimental thing; he knew that men needed discipline, not for their punishment but for the good of their souls.
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