Summary: Paul’s manner and method of ministry at Thessalonica
Apparently most lawyers/barristers will recommend that you do not begin legal proceedings in a libel case. Libel cases are apparently very difficult to win and in the end the only winners are the legal professions. George Carmen, who died recently, was one of the greatest libel lawyers of the 20th century. He could demand fees that amounted to over £1 million a year and that did not include expenses. Libel and slander are difficult to prove, even though the burden of proof in a civil case is less onerous than that in a criminal case. In chapter 2 of I Thessalonians Paul sets out to refute slander and libel against Silas, Timothy and himself. In chapter one Paul has commended the gospel ministry and it’s working in Thessalonica. Now in chapter two he mounts a defence of his own gospel ministry. He wants to prove to the Thessalonians that he is an authentic minister and not a fly-by-night charlatan. As we will see in a moment there has been slanderous accusations laid against Paul by those opposed to the gospel in Thessalonica. They were saying something like the following:
You realise why these men left so quickly? They were insincere men, typical self-centred religious charlatans. They got what they could out of you by trickery and flattery and then legged it before you could find them out.
Paul knows that he must defend his character because in so doing he will be defending the gospel of God which has won the hearts and minds of these people. His opponents knew that if they undermined the character of Paul, if they could cast doubt and suspicion upon Paul then the message would also suffer as a consequence. Very much like today where people often attack a person and not what they are saying. What they are actually doing is to undermine the message by undermining the messenger. So Paul sets out to defend his character and the in so doing the gospel message which he had faithfully preached at Thessalonica.
I want to share with you how he conducts his defence. It falls into two areas:
Paul’s Motives for Ministry
Paul’s Manner or Methods of Ministry
Paul’s Motives for Ministry
I want you to imagine that Jack and I are in for the same promotion. I really want the job. One day we are walking down the prospect road and I see a large 10 tonne lorry coming down the road. Now Jack is on the outside of the pavement and just as the lorry is coming near us I push him out into the middle of the road. But just at that precise moment the lorry driver has a heart attack and the lorry serves on to the pavement and hits me. Now to any eyewitness they have just witnessed a heroic act by myself – saving Jack without any thought to the consequences for my personal safety. They were unable to see the motive of my heart for pushing jack out in to the middle of the road. Motives are the deepest test of our hearts. Motives test what we say, what we do and how we live. Let us look at the motives for Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica.
Effective – verse 1 – Paul, Silas and Timothy did not come in vain amongst them. When he speaks about their ministry not being a failure he means that it had a purpose and goal amongst them. That purpose was achieved as is evidenced by what he has written in chapter 1. Effective does not mean successful, nor does it mean empire building. He does not make this statement to gain recognition or applause from them.
Courageous – verse 2. Nothing tests the motivations of our hearts quite like opposition. Paul outlines for them the opposition in Philippi and also in Thessalonica. In Acts 1622-24 we read that Paul and Silas were beaten, flogged, dragged through a public humiliation, locked in stocks and put in prison for preaching the gospel. When the authorities find out that he is a Roman citizen they want to release him quietly out through the back gates of the city. But Paul will not allow it. He knows that if he has been publicly shamed so has the gospel and only a public vindication and declaration of innocence will clear the slander from the gospel also. These are the circumstances from which Paul came to Thessalonica – still bearing on his body the marks of the flogging and beating he had received. Many would have said nothing to him if he had simply come to rest and recuperate at Thessalonica after such and experience. But not Paul, even in the face of stern opposition in Thessalonica, he fearlessly preaches the gospel. Such courage shows his integrity and his sincerity. His motives were simply to preach the gospel entrusted by God to him.