1 & 2 Thessalonians Part One Dive
CAN OUR LEADERS BE TRUSTED?
As you study Thessalonians, you’ll realise how hard it must have been for Paul. The guy is trying to plant new churches, he’s been beaten, people are rioting against him and he’s having to move from area to area – not because he wants to, but because he is forced out. And after facing so many attacks from the people, he discovers that there are people following behind him, going into the churches he’s just planted, and causing chaos. We know from the Snapshot video this week that false teachers had come in and were telling the people that Paul didn’t come back to visit them because he didn’t care, and putting doubts about Paul into the new convert’s minds.
Now, having read the New Testament and studied it for years, I am aware of how passionate Paul is about Jesus, the church and his people. I mean, you read the letters that he is writing and all of them express his love and concern for the people. Each of them are passionate and pastoral, showing his heart for the Church. Paul’s in prison and still making sure they are okay! He is not shy in conveying his love for the churches, calling them ‘brothers and sisters’ and ‘my beloved’.
The Fight for Truth
As you read 1 Thessalonians, you can be rightly annoyed that Paul is having to defend himself again. The moment you begin reading, you quickly get the idea that Paul has to convince them of his love and passion for them because they were believing lies. How frustrating this must have been for Paul; you can imagine him planning his church planting for the year, wanting to plant new regions and just being frustrated that he has to go back to fix up issues and quarrels in the previously planted churches. But this is church planting – it is not just about the birth of the church, but it’s ongoing health and the continuation of what God is doing.
Paul starts his letter with a praise report and a reminder to the Thessalonians of how their faith has made him proud – you can read this in Chapter 1:2-10, and how his heart comes across. Notice verse 4, ‘For we know, brothers and sisters, loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction’. Can you hear that he is already defending the gospel message? See also the verses below:
1 Thess. 2:3 ‘For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you’.
1 Thess. 2:5 ‘You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness’.
1 Thess. 2:6 ‘We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority’.
1 Thess. 2:7b-8 ‘Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well’.
As you continue to read Thessalonians, highlight the verses as he continues appealing to the Thessalonians, explaining to them why he was hindered at returning, and how much he longs to see them. Just the amount it would have cost Paul to write so much about how he loves them shows his great love and concern for them.
The Tyndale New Testament Commentary says, ‘The Jewish opponents of the Christian way were maintaining a campaign in which a principal element seems to have been slander of Paul. If they could have succeeded in demonstrating that his conduct was dishonourable they might well have made it very difficult for his converts to hold their ground. They appear to have insinuated that Paul’s aim was to make a profit out of them… They probably suggested that there was nothing divine about Paul’s message, and that it had originated in the apostle’s own fertile mind’.
Be A Believer of Your Leader
My first reaction to 1 Thessalonians is sadness. This man of God had to write this because his people were listening to rumours and lies. Now, I understand that Paul wasn’t their main leader so perhaps they didn’t feel they were with him long enough to trust him, but why doesn’t reputation and consistency shout louder than the lies of the enemy? Why are we so ready to believe the bad about our leaders over the good? Why does our humanity crave the intrigue and mistrust of gossip over honesty and truth? Magazines thrive on it, Instagram flourishes from it, but as Christians, we should stay in the truth of what we know and see, rather than taking someone’s else false opinion – especially regarding our leaders.
Before you read Thessalonians, jump back and read Acts 17 and 18 and get the true story of how Paul acted before you read these letters. Especially notice the actions of these agitators in Acts 17:13, ‘But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up’.
Read the heart of a pastor that was genuinely worried about his people in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13 – highlight where you see Paul’s heart for the people and remind yourself today of the good qualities of the leaders that God has placed over your life. As you read this letter, take it as a warning that if someone is trying to get you to mistrust your leader, make your own decisions about people, leaders and situations – not listening to those who have neither your good in mind or the good of the Church. Perhaps reading this will be a warning to you, if you have had a bad experience with leadership, to let others form their own opinions of that person, rather than impose your opinion on them.
I’m passionate about unity in our churches, ridding our churches of civil wars and small factions that destroy not just your church but the whole body of Christ. I constantly remind myself to not allow Satan to come in and destroy my sweet spirit about my church, the wider Church and the Kingdom of God. Let’s learn from the lessons in the New Testament; Paul’s letters focus more on the false teaching of Christians than on any other topic. Let our leaders be focused on the things that build the Kingdom and not on putting out spot fires and defending their own reputation.
Let your leaders be able to say of you what Paul said of the Thessalonians:
1 Thess. 3:6-7 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecutions we were encouraged about you because of your faith.
Have a great time reading these letters from Paul!
Morris, L. (2009). 1 and 2 Thessalonians (p. 25). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.