Red Village Church

Walk in a Manner Worthy of God – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Wes Grim, and I’m a pastoral assistant here at Red Village Church.

And so if you have a Bible, go ahead and open up to 1 Thessalonians 2. We’re going to be working through verses 1 through 12. I’m going to read the passage, and then I’m going to pray and ask for the Lord’s help, and then we’ll begin just to work through this passage, verse by verse.

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:1-12, ESV)

That’s God’s word for us, let’s pray. Father, thank you for this morning that we can all gather within this building and be able to hear your word preached. And I pray, God, that you would help me to be a good communicator of your word. And God, would you open our hearts and ears to hear what you have for us this morning? Bless this time we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Okay, so if you remember last time we opened up the book of 1 Thessalonians, I went through chapter one with you guys that focuses on the work of God that occurred in Thessalonica when Paul and Silas visited the city on their second missionary journey. And so when we went through that, I talked about how the city of Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia.

And the city of Thessalonica likely had a population of about 200,000 people. And in society’s eyes, the city was very successful and prosperous and favored by the royal emperor Caesar because of its devotion and worship to the emperor. But spiritually speaking, the city of Thessalonica was a very dark place and it was devoted to non-living idols and man-made practices and establishments that only lead to sin and death. Paul and Silas were only able to stay with the Thessalonians believers for a few weeks before the Jews in Thessalonica became jealous and formed a mob that forced Paul and Silas to leave to Berea. Where the Jews would continue to pursue and persecute them even in Berea. But a few months later, Paul sent Timothy to check on them and encourage them to which Timothy returned with a good report of the Thessalonians’ faith and love that was flourishing despite the persecution they were enduring in Thessalonica. In chapter one, Paul wrote about how the gospel came to the Thessalonian believers in power and in the Holy Spirit with conviction. Because of how powerfully God had worked, Paul affirmed the Thessalonian believers that they were chosen by God, for they had received the word with great joy and in the midst of much affliction. Paul also affirmed that the believers firmly believed in their work of faith, in their labor of love, and in their steadfastness of hope through Christ.

In news of the Thessalonian believers, faith traveled to all believers in Macedonia and in Akia even places beyond as Paul wrote that their faith in God had become known everywhere. All among the Roman empire, people were hearing about the work of God that was occurring in Thessalonica, where ordinary people heard the gospel and turned away from society’s idols to serve the living and true God, which brings us to where we left off at chapter two of first Thessalonians. So the passage we are setting today focuses on the example of the apostles when they came to Thessalonica and why they came. And Paul uses their example to show the Thessalonians what they can expect in following Christ and to understand what motivates their ministry so that the Thessalonians can do the same. So looking at verse one through two, it says, for you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. So Paul is again reflecting on the work of God as a result of their coming to Thessalonica. And Paul says it’s evident that their coming was not in vain or without result. Rather, when the apostles came with the gospel message, God showed up and people came to Christ, which now makes up the Church of Thessalonica that Paul was writing to.

Paul then references his visit to Philippi just prior to coming to Thessalonica, which is recorded in Acts 16. Paul and Silas proclaimed the gospel to the people of Philippi. And while they were doing so, they met a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit and predicted the future that her owners would use just to profit off of what she was doing. And as they continued to go through Philippi and proclaim the gospel, this slave girl continued to follow them for many days. Until Paul commanded the spirit to leave her and which it did immediately. And after doing so, the owners of the slave girl seized Paul and Silas in anger and stirred up a crowd that stripped off their clothes, beat them with rods and tell what Paul says. They were very, they were severely flogged by this mob. And after that, they were thrown into jail under the watch of a Philippian jailer with their feet and stocks. So Paul describes this event in verse two of our text as having suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi. And Paul and Silas had done absolutely no wrong in Philippi. And yet they were flogged severely before all who came to the marketplace and they were shamefully placed into jail. And Roman law at the time did not permit the public beating of Roman citizens in such circumstances. And to place a Roman citizen in jail was seen as a very dishonorable and shameful sentence, especially before all of the public in Philippi.

And yet, despite the suffering and shame that they endured, Paul says we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. So Paul wanted to make it clear that persecution did not stop them from bringing the gospel to Thessalonica. Paul understood that as a follower of Christ, we have been granted to not only believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his sake. Although the persecution that Paul and Silas endured in each city involved much suffering and shame and was not easy to go through, Paul knew God would use it for the purpose of advancing his gospel and to make his people more like Christ. Which is exactly what happened in Philippi before Paul and Silas left. God brought about a divine earthquake in response to Paul and Silas’ prayers and worship that freed them from their shackles and providentially led the Philippian jailer in all of the household to place their faith in Christ and to become baptized. So when Paul and Silas stepped into Thessalonica, they did so with boldness in their God to declare the gospel despite the opposition that lie waiting ahead for them. And Paul understood that no amount of persecution or opposition can stop the God of salvation from saving to the gospel of Christ. Paul wanted the Thessalonian church to understand this important lesson and to learn from Paul’s example since they too were enduring suffering at this time.

And Paul says that they declared the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. And the word that Paul uses here for conflict is actually an athletic metaphor that speaks of the struggle against opposition in order to achieve victory.

And as a modern church in the United States, we may not be able to relate with the persecution that Paul and the Thessalonians were enduring. But we can relate to declaring the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. The gospel today is still an opposition to society’s idols and ideologies and yet our text tells us and shows us that we are to be bold in our God to declare the gospel to those around us. Opposition is no reason to shy away from hearing the most incredible message in human history.

The thing that I love most about Christmas is the anticipation and wonder that it brings as we ponder the incarnation of Christ. Understanding that God stepped down into our world through the God man, Jesus Christ, as an innocent and lowly baby boy. He willingly stepped into our sin-filled world in order to accomplish all that God had planned. And the Christmas story is wonderfully unfathomable and its beginning is the greatest redemption story ever told.

Therefore, when opposition awaits us out our back door, we must step into it with boldness in our God to declare this wonderful news, not shy away from it or keep it to ourselves.

So, if we keep going and look at verses three and four with me, it says that our appeal does not come from empty words, impurity, or any attempt to deceive. Instead, we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak. Our goal is not to please people, but to please God who tests our hearts. Now, buckle up everyone because I’m about to dive into some really good stuff here. In the first century, during the time of the Roman Empire, there were many traveling preachers and speakers who would travel from city to city, sharing their philosophies and religious beliefs. These speakers had different motives for why they spoke, but often their motives were self-centered and driven by their own self-interest. Because of this, their messages would often be filled with eloquent speech or even deception, telling people what they wanted to hear in order to receive money, food, or a place to stay. Their main goal was to please people and be pleased by them with each message they delivered in every city they visited. However, Paul and Silas were not like these traveling speakers, and Paul explains why. He says that their appeal does not come from empty words, impurity, or any attempt to deceive. I particularly love how the ESV translation puts it, saying that their appeal does not spring from these motives. Jesus himself said that the words we speak come from what is in our hearts.

The hearts of Paul and Silas weren’t springing up what leads to death, nor error, or impurity, or any kind of attempt to deceive, because they had been approved by God and entrusted with the gospel. Their hearts had been made new by the Holy Spirit that now lives inside them and guides them to speak what is true and pure. God has placed his approval on them as messengers of his life-giving gospel that is true, pure, and centered on selfless love. And because Paul and Silas have been saved and changed by God, they’re not like these other speakers and preachers trying to please man. Rather, their desire is to please God and to be pleased by God. For those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus, this is the motivation that the Holy Spirit stirs up within us. No longer do we seek to please man and conform to society’s worldview. Rather, we seek to please God. We please God by loving him and to love God is to obey his commandments and to love his word like hidden treasure, to love his church as brothers and sisters, to love the lost around us with the truth of the gospel. For God has placed his spirit of approval on all who have faith in Christ, and to them, he has entrusted the proclamation of the gospel. Let that sink in. If you have placed your faith in Christ, God has placed his seal of approval upon you. He has entrusted the proclamation of the wonderful gospel to you. For such a time is this. Now, it doesn’t mean that we always do this.

We can still live by the desires of our flesh and we can disregard this task that God has entrusted to us. But if we disregard this task, no, as it says in our text, God is testing the heart. He is weighing out each person’s intentions and he will convict any sin left unchecked.

And Paul goes on to say in verse five and six, “For, we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed. God is our witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

How many of you sitting in here today enjoy talking to a smooth tongue salesman that is just trying to make another sale. Not seeing any hands. This is definitely not something that I enjoy.

When Sierra and I were engaged, we decided to use men’s warehouse to rent suits for everybody in my groomsman party. And I can still remember walking into the store, feeling very out of place with my greasy ball cap and blue jeans, as a sales lady eagerly approach me with a sales pitch or multiple sales pitches.

And she immediately started firing off questions with flattering remarks to reel me in with every sale possible. But as a fisherman, I could recognize her tactics and was not gonna fall for these things. So glad you guys like the one.

So I stayed focused on the discounted deal I had found online despite how perfect the sales lady said I looked in every suit and tie that cost triple what I had planned.

But when it comes to the gospel message, there’s no room for flattery or greed. The gospel is not a sales pitch for personal gain. The gospel is a message of love and grace, and it’s not something to be sold. It has already been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. We share it out of a love for God and for the person that we’re standing in front of, the person that we are proclaiming the gospel to and that we desire to be saved. Paul says that God is their witness in how they delivered the gospel. He sees the hearts and intentions, and he will judge our actions accordingly. Paul goes on to say they didn’t seek glory or applause from people, not from the Thessalonians or from anybody else. Sharing the gospel is not an excuse to put attention onto ourselves. It can feel very gratifying to share God’s word and have people look at us as something special, and our sinful flesh is always trying to bring glory to ourselves. But the gospel again leaves no room for self-edification. Our hearts must be like John the Baptist, who, when told that his followers were leaving him to go see Jesus, said, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. He must increase, but I must decrease.” Christ is the only one to whom belongs all the glory. This is the humility that God’s messenger must have.

And Paul goes on to say, even though they had made demands from the Thessalonians, they could have made demands from the Thessalonians as apostles, they didn’t do this. Paul is not using the authority given to him by God as a power play over these new believers. Rather, Paul goes on to say in verse 7, “but we were gentle among you like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” Paul is now transitioning from what the apostles’ conduct was not to what their conduct surely was. And in doing so, Paul gives a maternal example of how they came to the Thessalonians in gentleness. The apostles did not come with demands or condemnation to those who received the gospel. Rather, they embraced these people like a mother embraces her child. They loved them in order to nurture them and build them up in Christ. The earliest memory that I have is when I was less than a year old and I was being rocked to sleep in my mom’s arms as she hummed a song with the glow of a wood stove that was burning in our living room. I can’t remember what she was humming, and I don’t remember why I didn’t want to sleep that particular night, but I can remember the feeling of knowing that I was loved and cared for. And Paul says this is the disposition that they had when they were meeting with these believers in Thessalonica and helping them grow in Christ.

Paul says in verse 8, “So being affectionately desirous of you, caring for the new Thessalonian believers, wasn’t a burden to Paul or the other apostles. They cared deeply about them. They cared about who they were, their struggles, their joys, their families, and their faith and knowledge of Christ. All of this mattered to Paul and Silas. They loved the Thessalonian believers in the same way that a mother loves her newborn child. In the same way that God has designed an intimate affection between a mother and her child, so God has supernaturally given a similar type of affection to his spiritual leaders that he is entrusted to the care of the church to.”

And Paul continues, saying, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves because you would become very dear to us. I don’t know about you, but I love this verse. I love the example that Paul gives us. Paul and Timothy cared about the task at hand, preaching the gospel to where it had not been preached before, so that all may hear the good news of Jesus Christ. But they weren’t task-oriented. They were people-oriented because God is oriented towards people for his glory. The task exists because people exist and they’re not worshiping God. Therefore, the apostles didn’t come to Thessalonica with the goal of just sharing the gospel and then leaving as soon as possible.”

Rather, they came with the goal of sharing the gospel and loving those who had ears to hear it, and also sharing their own lives with these people. The sharing of their own lives implies a self-sacrificial aspect to how they were loving the Thessalonian church. They were sacrificing their own time, their own routines, their own need for the needs of new believers, just as a mother sacrifices things for her own children. It also implies transparency. The apostles didn’t present themselves as godly giants that couldn’t be approached or related to. They were people just like the Thessalonians, saved by the grace of God and the power of the gospel. They likely opened up with the Thessalonians about where they had come from and all that God had done to bring them to Thessalonica, and they likely shared stories of God’s faithfulness as well as their struggles. They broke bread together, they prayed together, they sang songs of praise together, they laughed together, they cried together. They shared their lives with these Thessalonian believers because they had become very dear to them. And one commentary says, which is actually the commentary that Red Village Church gave me after graduating, so thank you obviously. It says the degree of personal commitment from Paul and his missionary friends to the Thessalonian believers is quite remarkable.

The sharing of their lives reflects an incredible example of discipleship because discipleship isn’t about just studying the word of God together, which it’s certainly founded on, so don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t end there, which, if I’m honest, has taken me a while to figure out since I’ve tried to seek to be diligent to obey the commandment to make disciples.

Discipleship involves sharing our lives with the one that we are discipling or the multiple people that we are discipling. That is why Red Village Church has membership small groups, potlucks, and encourages the church to meet outside of Sunday service, so that we may share our lives with each other as a village of believers. If you’ve been coming to Red Village Church for some time but you’re not a member or have not joined a small group, then I encourage you to do so. It would be a great way to kick off the new year. And if not that, then you could just plan to have someone you’ve met here at Red Village Church to come over to your house for a meal after service. Meals are surprisingly a very easy and practical way for us to get to know each other at church, and it starts with a process of sharing our lives with each other.

So moving on to verse 9, the text says, “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil. We worked night and day that we might not be a burden to any of you while we proclaim to you the gospel of God.”

As Paul already mentioned, the apostles could have made demands to receive support from the Thessalonians, but that’s not what they did. Instead, they worked diligently day and night so that they might not be a burden to any of them while they proclaimed the gospel of God.

This further validated the motives of the apostles. They did not, in any way, want to cause a stumbling block for the new Thessalonian believers in receiving the gospel and growing in their faith. Even if that meant long days and nights working for what was needed for the ministry.

Paul was a tentmaker by trade, so it’s likely that what he meant by this is what he meant by working both day and night along with the ministry work that he was doing in Thessalonica. The term “gospel of God” is used three times in our passage of study, and it refers to the gospel from God’s perspective as the source.

This likely means that Paul was teaching the full implications for each believer when they believe in the gospel, which would include justification through faith, sanctification through our growth by the Holy Spirit, and glorification for when Christ returns.

The apostles desired to further disciple the new Thessalonian believers by teaching them as much as they could about their new relationship with God and the implications it had for their lives as they would follow Christ.

We also see this throughout the entire letter of Thessalonians, which I’ll get to, and further sermons down the road. But sticking with this text, verse 10 goes on to say, “You are my witnesses and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you, believers.”

Paul now sums up the example that Silas and himself left for the Thessalonian believers. Both God and the Thessalonians stand as witnesses to how the apostles conducted themselves over the time that they were there. The words that Paul uses are holy, righteous, and blameless. This is not because the apostles were super Christians. It’s because this is the example that God, through His Holy Spirit working in them, led them to leave. So that the Thessalonians and other believers like ourselves may do the same through the same Spirit that is now living in us. We, in our own strength, cannot muster up holiness, righteousness, or a blameless conduct. But the Holy Spirit living inside of us can, if we abide in Christ and walk according to the Spirit instead of according to the flesh.

Verses 11 and 12 go on to say, “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

Paul was on to say that they didn’t just come to the Thessalonians as a loving mother, but also as a loving father with his children. In doing so, they not only nurtured and loved the Thessalonian believers, but they also exhorted, encouraged, and charged them to action to apply what they had seen and been taught. Fathers in Jewish and Greek culture would normally be the ones responsible for teaching and training the children to be ready to engage the world and contribute to society in whatever method seemed best. Paul applies this concept spiritually here, encouraging and charging each individual believer to put into practice what they had seen. Just as Paul and Silas boldly came with the gospel of God and conducted themselves in a manner worthy of God, the Thessalonians should do the same. For it is God who has called them into his own kingdom and glory. None of this would have happened or would be possible if God wasn’t calling sinful people into his kingdom and glory. But that is who God is and this is the work that he is doing through the power of the gospel. God is still calling forth people into his kingdom to walk in a manner worthy of God today. But in all honesty, as followers of Christ, it is easy for us to fall short in living a life that reflects this kind of conduct that we see in the text. We let our pride puff us up and neglect those God calls us to love and build up.

We can seek to please man instead of seeking to please God. We let selfish ambition guide our decisions and get focused on what can be gained instead of what can be given. We shy away from the difficulty or self-sacrifice that’s needed to love and disciple others in Christ.

But in all these things where we fall short, Christ does not. Christ came in humility, in a manger as a baby boy. Though existing in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped. Christ devoted his life to pleasing God, never seeking to win the approval of man. He came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as ransom for many.

When difficulty came his way, he did not shy away from loving others or from seeking to do what is pleasing to his father in heaven. He came in gentleness, yet he also came in authority to charge his disciples and his followers to do the same. Jesus lived the holy, righteous, and blameless life that we cannot, providing the ultimate example of what it means to walk in a manner worthy of God.

Jesus, being fully God and fully man, then willingly gave his pure and sinless life as an offering before a holy God by dying the death that we all deserve on the cross. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our inequities. Upon him was the punishment that brought us peace, and by his wounds, we are healed. After breathing his last, he died on the cross where he was then placed into a tomb for three days.

When on the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead, and he is now conquered sin and death, and he is alive today. Showing that his perfect sacrifice was accepted by God, and that he had conquered sin and death, and now he offers forgiveness of sin and new life to anyone who would receive this gift of salvation. He calls all who hear this message to respond by repenting of their sin and believing in the only one who has ever risen again from the dead. That is Jesus. And if you have never responded to this gift of new life through believing in Jesus, know that God is calling you to himself even today. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have any questions or you want someone to pray with you, know that I would be more than willing to do this with you. And at the end of the service, I will be up here to pray with you as well. We know that for those who have placed their faith in Jesus, we find grace for when we fall short because of his blood that has paid for our sins. And his spirit tests our hearts and helps us in our weakness to keep walking in a manner worthy of God. We, like the Thessalonians, are also part of God’s kingdom, and our call is to now live for his glory. No longer shall we worship idols or please man. Rather, now we live to worship and please the true and living God who calls us into his kingdom for eternity. Therefore, we too are exhorted and encouraged and charged to walk in this way.

So as we enter 2024, may we continue to walk in a manner worthy of our God, and may we continue to look to Christ whose conduct is perfect and has paved the way for us to walk, so that his church may grow, the gospel may be proclaimed, and God may be glorified. Let’s pray. Lord, thank you for this text. I’ve got to thank you for the example that we have here in Scripture of what it means to live a life that is worthy of you. God, we confess that we often fall short of this. We thank you that we have one who is perfect and who has given us the ultimate example, and that is Christ. We thank you for his perfect, sinless life that was given for the forgiveness of our sins. And God, we pray, help us to find new life and newfound effort and energy in pursuing you, Lord, and to display this kind of love to one another and to our community for your glory. And may God continue to draw each heart that is here towards faith in Christ and knowing you. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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