Studies in 1Thessalonians. Presentation 02. The Importance of Integrity Chapter 2v 1-12. Presentation 02. Introduction.
Chapter 2v 1-12
Today, many dismiss the claims of the gospel because of a perceived lack of integrity among some professing Christians; whether it be a discredited TV evangelist, or disgraced parish minister, men who have preached the gospel thirsting for human praise or, for financial gain. They say, ‘I’m opposed to the gospel because those who promote it are hypocrites; they are interested only in themselves and not in those whose lives they seek to influence’. That is a serious charge and sadly sometimes true. And it is for this reason that Christians, and Christian leaders in particular, need to
be people of integrity. Paul offers some practical help
from his own experience. He tells us he was…
v7 as innocent as an infant,
v7 as loving as a nursing mother,
v11 as nurturing as a father.
Before looking at these descriptions in detail we need to understand why Paul writes as he does. He is clearly making a defence of his own ministry. Why? Because all sorts of unfounded accusations were being made against him. Fingers were being pointed and allegations were being made. In one sense, Paul didn’t care what people said about him. But if it prevented others from taking the gospel seriously or, caused them to wander from the truth of apostolic teaching, then for the sake of the gospel, he was quick to speak out.
Against whom was Paul defending himself? It would appear from v14 that he is thinking of those in Thessalonica who had no time for this ‘new religion’. The charges levelled against Paul challenged his integrity – the genuineness of his motives.
In Paul’s day wandering philosophers went from place to place and charged substantial sums of money for their instruction. Many of these people made money out of the fears,
anxieties and longings of others.
On the news some time ago it was reported that a Muslim Pir or [holy man] was offering to lift curses and help childless couples to conceive children if he was paid a suitable sum of money. And before we raise our hands in horror think of the pressurised appeals of some ‘Christian’ TV evangelists.
However, it is not only Christian leaders but church members
who can bring the gospel into disrepute through a lack of
integrity. A high ranking police officer was known to be a
member of a particular congregation. Ambitious young
officers joined his church hoping to improve their
promotion prospects. And when news of their
behaviour was made known, it damaged the
redibility of the gospel in the town.
Paul begins his defence by saying his visit was not a ‘failure’ a better translation is ‘insincere’. In other words his motives were transparent clear for all to see. The Latin word ‘sincere’ means quite literally ‘without wax’.
Traders in the ancient world bought cracked
pottery very cheaply filled the cracks with wax
and sold them on at a great profit. It didn’t take
long for the customer to discover they had been
swindled. To counter this, honest traders sold
their wares with a guarantee, ‘sin-cere’,
‘without wax’.“This can be trusted, what you
see is what you get, there is nothing hidden”.
Paul say’s, “that’s true of my witness”.
Nor did Paul try to trick his hearers into believing. The word translated ‘trick’ in v3 refers to catching fish by the use of a lure. Such tricksters are not restricted to the market place, sadly they can be found in the church!
In the 16thC Pope Leo X’s lavish building program in Rome was
grinding to a halt. And so he promoted the sale of indulgences,
which allowed worshippers to offset the punishment of their sin
by the payment of money!
Different kinds of lures operate today. Church leaders are found
promising health and wealth to their hearers. Conveniently
forgetting that, “Jesus had nowhere to lay his head.”
It is against this sort of background that Paul provides us with
a valuable modelto follow to preserve integrity.
First, Paul says he was ‘gentle’ v7 among the Thessalonians. A better translation is “we became infants among you”. In contrast to the wandering philosophers described in v4-5 who regularly used flattery to cover up their greed.
On the ‘Dragons Den’ TV programme two men made an
eloquent sales pitch for £250,000 to help develop their
business. They ended with an ingratiating piece of flattery,
telling potential investors what wonderful and wise
entrepreneurs they were. But some incisive questioning
revealed that their sales pitch was both deceptive and
dishonest! ‘Now’, says Paul, ‘we were as innocent as
simple infants among you. We had no hidden agenda,
we did not flatter with pleasing words to get your
attention and commitment’.
Integrity is vital in the mission of the church.
Secondly, Paul uses the metaphor of a mother also found in v7. He doesn’t use the normal Greek word for mother but one that means ‘a nursing mother’. Nowin the Greco-Roman world the use of a wet nurse was common. When the birth mother didn’t want her night’s sleep disturbed or her busy social life upset by having to feed her own child, she made use of a wet nurse.
Against that background, Paul says, ‘I was among you as a nursing mother not
a hired wet nurse. I didn’t simply do a job or fulfil my duty.
My role went beyond competence. I loved you and
cherished you with the same kind of affection
that a mother gives to her own precious
child. You became so dear to us
that we would have laid
down our lives for you’.
A characteristic of love is to give rather than seek to take all the time. It asks, “How can I enrich others?”, rather than, “how can they benefit me?” In this context, Paul reminds his readers not only that he gave of himself - rather than be a financial burden on them he’d worked at his trade - a tentmaker - to help support himself. He did what he could to avoid the accusation being levelled at him that, “He’s in it for the money”.
After WWII many men applied to enter the ministry in Scotland. Some wanted to offer hope to the hopeless and make a difference after the horrors of war. Other saw only a job that offered financial security and a comfortable living. As a result ministers were criticised as being, ‘in it for the money’. One minister, anxious not to bring the gospel into disrepute, vowed he would never accept more than the minimum stipend. He remained in active ministry until his 86th year and during all those years he never once took more than the basic minimum.
Christians who receive financial remuneration for
Christian work should do what they
can to guard against the
“they are just in it for what they
can get out of it”.
The third metaphor Paul uses is that of a ‘father’ cfv11. In Paul’s day fathers were generally responsible for the education and training of their children. And here, Paul emphasises the nurturing and teaching
role he had played.
When we start something new, it’s easy to despair and
to want to throw in the towel. We are tempted to think,
‘this is not for me’. When you start to play a musical
instrument, and then compare your performance with
and accomplished musician, you will be easily
discouraged and want to give up. It is at that point
of deepest despair that you are in greatest need of
encouragement. You need a fatherly arm placed
around you as you are told it takes time to get
to a certain standard.
In the Christian faith young enthusiastic converts can often expect too much of themselves and failure brings crushing discouragement. In responding to such folk Paul knew the importance of putting his arm around them to comfort, encourage and instruct. That work does not have a high public profile but it is vitally important!
Apply this to the development of your ministry
in your home church. Young people who have
come to faith and older folks too, need this
fatherly interest and care. They need patient
instruction, which will nurture and build them
up in their faith.
The vital necessity of this work becomes apparent in the closing verses v14ff. Some in Thessalonica sought to extinguish the fire of enthusiasm and undermine the faith of the young converts by persecuting them. Make no mistake that self-same opposition prevails today, albeit in different forms. There is family pressure, peer group pressure, pressure from the workplace, the home the media.
A young girl, recently converted was forbidden by her mother from reading her Bible daily, just in case she became a religious extremist! The girl’s father was a principle office-bearer in the church! The pressure from the world is very real.
This is why we need to ask God to make us and in particular our leaders men and women of integrity. The church is in need of those whose approach is like that of a harmless infant, a loving mother and an encouraging father.
Determine in your heart not to allow an unbelieving world to find anything in your life that might fuel the accusation,
“They are only in it for what they can
get out of it.”