Summary: In these verses Paul insists on the moral consistency of the individual’s life and conduct.
Lesson 6: THE MANNER OF HIS LIFE (1Th 2:9-12)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (NIV)
9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
The apostle in dwelling on the manner and spirit of preaching has shown the necessity of boldness, sincerity, and gentleness as powerful tools in achieving success. In these verses he insists on the moral consistency of the individual’s life and conduct. So the personal example of the preacher must always answer to the words he utters. Paul and his co-helpers could fearlessly appeal to their hearers and in all humility to God, to attest to the moral consistency of their private and public actions.
9 SURELY YOU REMEMBER, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, OUR TOIL AND HARDSHIP; WE WORKED NIGHT AND DAY IN ORDER NOT TO BE A BURDEN TO ANYONE WHILE WE PREACHED THE GOSPEL OF GOD TO YOU.
This reminder that Paul and his companions had not been a burden on the Thessalonians is a further appeal to their own experience. They well knew what a sacrifice these preachers had made in order to bring them the Gospel without charge, toiling to the point of weariness and struggling constantly against hardship. The expression “night and day” (i.e. “A part of the night, a part of the day, and not all night and all day long”) indicates the long hours it cost them to maintain their independence while still discharging their god-given commission. We have all heard the expression: “Man’s work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” A mother is not a paid nurse. Paul is saying that he wasn’t a paid nurse who worked by the hour. He wasn’t a hired baby-setter. He did not belong to a union. The point He is trying to get across is this: he loved these people. He labored over them night and day because he loved them.
Although Paul would accept help from established churches (Philippians 4:15, 16 (see note 9.1); 2 Corinthians 11:8), his policy when planting new churches was to pay his own way by working at his trade as a tent maker (Acts 18:3; see note 9.2). This arduous choice at once freed him from the suspicion of making money out of the gospel and proved the purity of his motives in preaching it.
This is the third time that Paul uses the phrase “the Gospel of God” (v. 2, 8). In verse 2 it suggests “the greatness of the charge entrusted to Paul; here, the greatness of the boon gratuitously bestowed on the Thessalonians”. “We preached” means that they proclaimed as heralds God’s Gospel, without amendment or alteration of any kind. “The Gospel preacher is not at liberty to substitute his view of the need of the moment for the God-given message of the cross.”
(note 9.1) “And as you Philippians know, in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church but you partnered with me in the matter of giving and receiving. For even in Thessalonica you provided for my needs once and again.” (Philippians 4:15, 16).
Not only after he left Macedonia, but even before that time, when he had just passed from Philippi to Thessalonica. At Thessalonica, as at Corinth?both very rich and luxurious communities?he refused maintenance, and lived mainly by the labour of his own hands (1Thessalonians 2:9; 2Thessalonians 3:8). But it appears from this passage that even then he received "once and again" (that is, occasionally, "once or twice") some aid from Philippi "to supply his need"?that is (as in all right exercise of liberality), to supplement, and not to supersede, his own resources.
(note 9.2) “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3).
Paul mentioned working to support himself in his letters (1 Corinthians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 11:7). In Acts 20:34 he reminded the Ephesian elders that while in Ephesus he had supported himself and his coworkers with the labor of his own hands.
Only in Acts 18:3 are we told the trade by which he supported himself—that of “tent maker.” Exactly what this involved is often debated. A number of the early church fathers rendered the term used here by a more general word, “leather worker.” This is quite possible. Tents were often made of leather, and tentmakers probably used their skills on other types of leather products as well. Some interpreters have suggested, however, that Paul may not have worked in leather at all but rather in ciliciun, a cloth of woven goat’s hair that was often used as a material for tents. Since ciliciun originated in and was named for Paul’s native province of Cilicia, he may well have learned the trade there. The later rabbinic writings required students of the law to adopt a trade in order to keep the mind from becoming idol and so that they would never need to depend on profit from the teaching of the Torah. Paul may well have been influenced by this idea. First Corinthians 9:12 particularly reveals such an attitude, where Paul spoke of forgoing any support from the Corinthians in order to avoid any obstacle to the Gospel; but seeing that he worked at the same trade as Aquila and Priscilla, he takes up his lodging with them at Corinth, and works at their trade. Perhaps Paul used his work as an opportunity for witnessing.