Summary: An example worth following (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reading: 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 verses 1-12.
When architect Sir Christopher Wren;
• Designed the interior of Windsor Town Hall near London in 1689,
• He built a ceiling supported by pillars.
• After city fathers had inspected the finished building,
• They decided the ceiling would not stay up and ordered Wren to put in some more pillars.
• England's greatest architect didn't think the ceiling needed any more support,
• So he pulled a fast one.
• He added four pillars that did not do anything -- they don't even reach the ceiling.
• The optical illusion fooled the municipal authorities,.
• And even today;
• The four sham pillars fool or amuse many a tourist.
The apostle Paul had his critics at Thessalonica:
• Like Christopher Wren’s pillars, some accused him of being a fake.
• That is just one of the themes that runs through this chapter.
• The opponents to Christianity were unable to discredit the message;
• It was a message that had transformed the lives of the Thessalonians
• So plan B for the opponents to Christianity:
• Is to discredit the messenger.
• Finding that they could not defeat Paul’s message,
• His critics try to defeat him!
Question: Who were the critics?
• We are not actually told;
• Although we don’t know the details, we can have an educated guess.
(1). Jews (Acts 17):
• We know in Acts chapter 17 when the Church was planted:
• Paul faced Jewish opposition;
• Some of his converts had left the synagogue and were now part of the Church.
• Mixing with Gentiles and no-longer following the requirements of Judaism.
• This had not gone down well with the deeply religious Jewish locals;
• And so they had Paul evicted from their city.
• Acts chapter 17 verse 13 we are told that they:
• Then followed him to Berea ‘Agitating the crowds and causing trouble.’
• These zealous Jews were determined to get back at Paul or at least get even.
• So they were determined to smear his reputation and try to destroy his ministry.
(b). Satan (1 Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 18):
• Satanic opposition - verse 18 gives a brief mention of this.
• As Christians we are in a spiritual battle as well as a physical battle.
• One of the reasons we suffer is Satan,
• The name means ‘Adversary’.
• Notice that the enemy of the Christian is only mentioned twice in this letter.
• That tells me Paul was aware of him but not preoccupied with him.
• We dare not underestimate him, but let’s not over emphasise him!
(c). Other ‘so called’ believers.
• Some Christians or those who were attending the Church who would oppose him.
• Some sadly had their own agenda, or were seeking prominent positions for themselves.
• Others at Thessalonica came from a pagan background;
• And they would try to mix Christianity with their other beliefs (Syn-chron-ism)
• Paul of course would be against that;
• And so for some in the gathering that created tensions and problems.
• Two taxidermists stopped before a window in which an owl was on display.
• They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted.
• Its eyes were not natural; its wings were not in proportion with its head;
• Its feathers were not neatly arranged; and its feet could be improved.
• When they had finished with their criticism,
• The old owl turned his head ... and winked at them.
There was a small element opposed to Paul:
• But like that owl;
• Paul was one step ahead of his critics and in this chapter he answers them.
Now in answering his critics Paul invokes three witnesses to deny the charges:
FIRST WITNESS: Paul will defend himself
• In this chapter
• Paul rebukes all the things that Timothy ‘may have’ reported were being said about him.
One commentator points out that there are eight accusations dealt with in this passage;
• He was accused of being a bungler, a coward, a fanatic, lecherous towards women,
• A trickster, a flatterer, an opportunist, an idler, a dictator!
SECOND WITNESS: THE THESSALONIANS.
• He appeals direct to the Thessalonians;
• Calling on them to remember his conduct among them.
• These verses in chapter 2,
• Are a bit like Paul presenting a slide show:
• He is showing photos to the Thessalonian Christians of his stay with them.
• Only he is showing ‘word pictures’ to them, and not actual pictures.
Just scan through the passage (Chapter 2):
• Verse 1: "You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure".
• Pointing to one picture in their minds: "You know".