I THESSALONIANS 4
EXAMINE YOUR MOTIVATIONS
As we read the second chapter, it is obvious that Paul has received from Thessalonica a report of various accusations and criticisms of the work he did there. His answers do not mean that Paul is on the defensive, nor that he is commending himself for his labor there. His purpose in preaching to them was to bring the message of the Savior and the salvation He offered. Such an important message could not be diminished by lowering the people’s impression of Paul, who was the messenger. To correctly understand Paul’s words in this chapter, one must clearly understand his motivations. We will also look at the motives of his critics, for that clearly defines the things they say.
Evidently some had noted that he had been thrown in prison in Philippi (Acts 16) and accused him of being simply an escaped felon. Those who wish to criticize are perfectly willing to twist the facts to suit their purposes. It was not the authorities whom Paul escaped, but, being set free by a miracle, they converted the jailor and were released. When a person is motivated by enmity it is useless to try to reason logically with him.
The second motive we detect is in those who were jealous of the success Paul had in his preaching of the gospel of Christ. Many of the Thessalonians had been converted and became followers of the Lord. Jealousy also twists the mind, and causes it to ignore the facts and invent accusations which are not true. Paul was accused of preaching delusions and untruths, to which he answered that his message was given to him by God and was the gospel truth. The accusation that he spoke with flattering words for his own profit, was answered by Paul by pointing out that he worked at a trade while in their midst, and did not receive anything from them for his preaching. Again, jealousy has no regard for the truth.
Throughout this chapter we are dealing with those who do not want to believe the gospel Paul is preaching. His main adversaries are the Jews who do not believe that the gospel should be preached to the gentiles. When people feel that their group is right and all others are outside the acceptance of God, then no facts or truth can be heard by them. Their motivation is to protect their own group and be loyal to its teachings, no matter what they are. The truth is not heard nor does it have any power over those whose loyalty is to their group, no matter what the will of God may be nor what the Bible says. However, we must be very careful not to judge others for this mistake while we are doing the same thing.
The only true Christian is one who, as Paul said to Timothy, “Studies to show himself approved unto God”. You must be personally converted to the Word of God. You cannot be acceptable if your faith is borrowed from some group, or some other person. Being a Christian is being a follower of Christ, and that makes it a personal commitment to Him. Being a joiner to a group is not the same thing, no matter how correct the group might be.
Finally, we note in this second chapter that Paul expresses a deep love and concern for those he is preaching to. The only way the gospel of Christ should ever be presented is with concern and the love of God for those we are preaching to. Often the preacher comes across as if he were speaking to his adversaries or even his enemies. Preaching should always be in love, for we are bringing the message of God “who so loved the world”, that He sent His Son to die for them.