Paul preached the good news of God’s love despite intense persecution from diverse opponents.
Rudy Ross and I discuss the nature of religious persecution in the first-century Greco-Roman world in today’s YouTube video. Rudy provides an interesting perspective from a Jewish perspective.
Not in Vain
Paul’s ministry was quite fruitful, even if there was severe opposition to his work. He reminded the church in Thessalonica of their experience.
1 Thessalonians 2.1 – You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain.
Much of Paul’s letter served to remind the church of what had taken place. Eleven times in the short letter he wrote, “you yourselves know” or some similar language.
What did they know?
They knew that the good news had come to them with “power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1.5).
The message was so powerful, that they determined to mold their lives after the examples of Jesus and Paul.
We live in a world that desperately needs what the Thessalonians experienced. Let’s pray and work to that end.
The experience of first-century Christians was one of joy and persecution. They were joyful because God had delivered them from the domination of idolatry and included them in his eternal plan.
Unfortunately, many didn’t believe the good news and some chose to persecute the followers of Jesus. Paul reminded them of the reality of persecution.
1 Thessalonians 2.2 – But though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God despite great opposition.
The Book of Acts details how God used Paul to establish the church amid opposition.
— Acts 17.1-5 – They came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures,
Explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.”
Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.
While experiencing serious opposition, Paul and his partners knew that they were serving God and proclaiming the gospel of God. The origin of their message and ministry was the true and living God.
The way Paul, Silas, and Timothy approached the ministry is a good lesson for us.
Sharing the gospel was not optional for these men. They were servants of God and determined to work for his purposes.
May God give us the grace to imitate these servants of the Lord. May we recognize our role in the proclamation of the good news of the Lord.
Insults and Detractions
Politicians know that when you can’t win an argument against your opponent, insult and demean their character. Unfortunately, this trick is currently in use in American politics.
Paul wasn’t a politician, but he received the same treatment.
1 Thessalonians 2.3-4 – For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery,
But, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals but to please God, who tests our hearts.
The good news of God’s love came to Thessalonica in the power of the Holy Spirit with full conviction. That event involved healing, deliverance, and the proclamation of the gospel.
Critics charged that the apostles used trickery or magic to turn people to a false religion.
Paul knew that he had been “approved by God” and his message was completely true and without any sort of manipulation.
He lived to please God, not humans. He could have found an easier way to make a living other than by preaching the gospel. His motives were definitely not “impure.”
Paul’s defense was his behavior.
1 Thessalonians 2.5-7 – As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed,
Nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others,
Though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.
The critics may criticize, but the people who came into contact with Paul and his partners knew better.
They knew that Paul was not like his portrayal by opponents of the gospel. They knew he loved them with the same love as a nursing mother.
Today’s Bible passage has several applications for followers of Jesus in 2022.
(1) If we are persecuted for being a Christian, we are in good company. We are not better than Jesus and Paul. We don’t deserve any advantages or have rights that we should not experience difficulties.
(2) We should imitate Paul and his partners in the ministry. We should find ways to share the good news of God’s love in every arena of our lives.
(3) Unfortunately, there are some modern “ministers” who fit the description of Paul’s accusers. They are deceitful, use trickery, and are intent on power and money.
Their behavior does not change the truth of the gospel, but it does make sharing the gospel more difficult for sincere followers of Jesus.
(4) The world continues to need followers of Jesus to be as loving as a nursing mother and willing to share the good news by word and deed.
My wife and I are in California and my Internet connection is spotty at best. Videos and blog articles will appear at random times, depending on access that I have to the Internet.
Rudy Ross and I have a YouTube video on this topic that can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.