Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thoughts on 1 Thessalonians - continued...

Paul's ministry in contrast to false teachers

False teachers are everywhere in our day. This should not come as a surprise to us since we are given many warnings about them in Scripture. Peter spends a good deal of time in 2 Peter to warn believers what to look out for, Jude spends a whole book on the subject, and Luke records Paul's prophetic words to us in the following passage in Acts.

Acts 20:29-32 know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

So what should we be watching for to guard against the many false teachers of our day? In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul lays out several examples of how his ministry differs from false teachers.

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive,

Paul's ministry springs from good motives, not by attempting to deceive. Though Paul was kind and gentle most of the time, when it came to doctrine he was very straightforward. He was unwilling to tell people what they wanted to hear with regards to wealth, suffering, and sin, if their thoughts were not in conformity to the Word of God.

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.

Paul was not a man pleaser. In 2 Corinthians 5:9 he states that his ambition is to please God. Pleasing men is probably the predominant characteristic of false teachers today. They like to tickle ears.

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed

Paul came with plainness of speech as he says in depth in 1 Corinthians, and was not about money. He worked as a tent maker when he wasn't preaching and teaching so that he would not be a burden on the churches. This does not mean he was not entitled to support. He clearly states in other passages that as needed, the church should and must support its ministers, though bi-vocationalism is an option. Paul is simply pointing out that the false teachers motives in the ministry are driven by money. It is easy to spot these false teachers. They fill the airwaves and TV stations constantly asking for money. They live in excess while Paul sacrificed and got by with little.

Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others

Paul was interested in bringing God glory, not himself. False teachers like to bring attention to themselves, Paul directs you to God.

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

What a contrast! The Bible often characterizes false teachers as wolves. Paul characterizes gospel ministers as nursing mothers taking care of her own children. I remember vividly when our boys were very young and Stacie would be up all hours of the night caring for them. She could say, like Paul, that she was imparting her life to them because they had become so dear to her. This gentleness and love is what should characterize our pastors.


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