1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 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. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 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. (ESV)
1 Thessalonians 2:1-4
To Please God, Who Tests Our Hearts (1 Thessalonians 1-3, Part 2)
As in much of Paul’s ministry, his gospel work in Macedonia (Acts 16-17) was met with severe opposition. Though the intent of such persecution was aimed at putting an end to Paul’s preaching, he continued to openly proclaim the truth. In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Paul reveals the roots of such boldness.
Working backwards through the passage helps open the logic. Knowing even the motives of his heart are exposed to God, Paul’s aim is to please the Lord, not tickle men’s ears, so he speaks the truth because he understands that the gospel he proclaims has been given by God as a sacred trust. Unlike so many of the pop-culture messages of his day, his gospel did not have its source in error, impurity, or deception.
This perspective that his message is from God and its proclamation is for the pleasure of God forms the root and ground of Paul’s boldness even in the face of mistreatment.
It may be asked, are not the charlatans and false teachers equally as bold in their endeavors? Indeed they are, and often for a parallel, albeit corrupt reason – they believe the source of their message is worth giving over their lives in service. They believe its promised pleasures are worth the sacrifices it may demand.
But this only serves to highlight the great contrast between v. 3 and v. 4. It is the pleasure of God over against all other pleasures that fuels Paul’s bold – and winsome – Gospel proclamation.
(This was originally posted on the Biblearc blog by Michael Lane on August 6, 2015.)