“For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and had been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the Gospel of God amid much opposition.”
Jesus said, “I am the True Vine and my Father is the husbandman. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit He cuts away. And He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already because of the Word which I have given to you (My teachings). Abide in me and I will abide in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in the vine; neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit. However, apart from Me you can do nothing. Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:1-5,8)
When the believer is in fellowship and under the control of God the Holy Spirit, he does not have to be ashamed of his suffering. The reason he doesn’t have to be ashamed is that through suffering he can glorify God. God is glorified when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and using the doctrine that we have learned through the Faith-Rest Technique. This, of course, brings inner happiness and peace. When we are able to have happiness and peace in the midst of suffering, we are already blessed.
The question of the need to witness for Christ should be obvious to any Christian. There are people without Christ who we can introduce to the Gospel. It is true that God is not limited by our lack of faithfulness to share the Gospel. However, in order for us to be obedient, we need to witness for Christ. It is always a great joy to see a person trust Christ as Savior as a result of our witness. (Luke 16:23-26; John 3:18; II Corinthians 5:11)
The most important reason to share the Gospel is that God has commanded us to do so. We are ambassadors for Christ. As His representatives, we have been entrusted with the Gospel message. We do not want to fail in our responsibility. (Mark 16:15; II Timothy 4:1-2; I Corinthians 9:16)
Another reason for witnessing is that it is our privilege as believers. God could have chosen angels to carry the message of salvation but He didn’t. God gave us that privilege. If God loved us so much to send Christ as our substitute, it only makes sense that we would want to share this information with others. (I Thessalonians 2:4,19; II Corinthians 5:19; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16; John 15:8)
Because these Thessalonians responded to the message of the Gospel, Paul said that coming to them was not a useless effort (the meaning of vain). It was important that he maintain a good testimony before them. People judge Christians by how they live. Therefore, if we desire to obey God’s command to witness, we must be credible when we speak of Christ. We never want to be a “stumbling block” to an unbeliever because we are exercising our liberty under grace. (Romans 14:13; I Peter 3:15-16)
“For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit: but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.”
If you are an advancing believer applying doctrine consistently, the outer production of your inner faith will impress an unbeliever. Your inner faith may be strong but an unbeliever cannot see your inner faith, he can’t see your edification complex, he can’t see Bible doctrine circulating in your soul, he can’t see the indwelling Holy Spirit, and he can’t see anything that may indicate God’s grace and God’s power except for your overt divine production.
You have to remember that in your periphery there are going to be a lot of unbelievers observing you. For some people you are the best Christian they know. Though you do not have to totally separate yourself from all unbelievers, there are spiritual laws regarding our relationships with them. For example, you are never to marry an unbeliever, you never get involved with an unbeliever or believer to the point that they are influencing you in some negative way that is detrimental to the Bible doctrine in your soul or distracting you from the execution of the Christian Way of Life. But you are to be a spiritual example to them.
God made the plan of salvation easy, so that anyone can be saved by a simple act of faith. There are over 150 verses in the New Testament alone that tell us that eternal life (salvation) is by faith and faith alone. Doctrinally speaking, the reason we receive eternal life is that we are sharing Christ’s life. (John 3:18, John 6:47, 10:28; I John 5:13; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)
It is God’s will for every person to enter into His plan by faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior. The issue is not your sinfulness or your past failures, because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all sin on the Cross. Therefore, the issue is whether or not you will accept the free gift of eternal life by faith. Faith, belief and trust are synonymous terms, which mean that you are relying on Christ for your salvation and not on yourself or your good deeds. According to the Bible faith is the only requirement for eternal life.
Contrary to popular belief, your personal sins do not condemn you. When a baby is born, he is born with Adam’s original sin and a sin nature, which condemn him to spiritual death (separation from God). (Romans 5:12, 6:6, 7:5, 18) A person does not become a sinner because he sins; a person sins because he is a sinner. All categories of sin were dealt with at the Cross, when Jesus was judged by God for the sins of the entire human race (past, present and future). After salvation, the sin nature continues to reside in the body and seeks to control the believer’s thoughts and actions. Everyone has an area of weakness and an area of strength with regard to sin. The area of weakness produces mental attitude sins (jealousy, hatred, etc.), sins of the tongue (gossip, maligning, etc.) and overt sins (murder, stealing, etc.). The area of strength produces human good (good deeds, acts of kindness, etc.). When human good is substituted for divine production it fails to meet God’s standard for the believer. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5)
At salvation God creates a human spirit within you so that you can understand spiritual truth. The result is that a battle within your soul begins. The battle is to determine who will control your thinking and your actions. God, of course wants to be the One Who is in control, but a believer makes the ultimate choice. God in His grace gives each of us the Holy Spirit to indwell us so that we have the power to “say no” to the sin nature and “say yes” to God. And it is God Who examines our hearts and knows what we believe, what we think, and what our attitude is toward Christ and others.
“For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed –God is witness- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.”
Unlike the false teachers who used flattery and promises of prosperity, Paul and his team simply presented the truth of the Gospel. They did not seek the glory of men as the false teachers were doing, as evidenced by the persecution and the suffering they endured.
The apostate false teachers, on the other hand, were those who rejected or distorted the truth of the Word of God for selfish motives. These teachers are called false, which is the Greek word “pseduo.” They represented themselves as true in order to gain entrance into a ministry. They came in covertly, like spies would infiltrate an organization. Some of these teachers were denying the deity of Christ and denying the saving power of the Gospel. These false teachers had deliberate motives, which included monetary greed, sensual pleasures, luxurious lifestyles, power, and fame. They actually trained themselves in the art of greed and lust. The Bible says that they used fabricated words of flattery with promises of prosperity in order to extort money and material possessions. They literally made merchandise, the Greek word “emporeuomai,” of the unsuspecting, unstable, spiritually weak believers. (II Peter 2:3,14,15,18; Jude 11,16,18)
Asserting apostolic authority meant that Paul had every right to ask these believers in Thessalonica to support his team financially, which would have been a burden on them. However, he did not ask any money of them. When Paul first went to Thessalonica the main push was evangelism. After evangelism came the teaching of new believers, training them to go out and witness to others. Therefore, whether Paul was there three weeks or three months he made it a point not to take any money from the local believers there, even after they were saved, though he had a perfect right to do so. Instead, he went back to making tents in order that he would not be burdensome to them. Why? There were only two issues in Thessalonica when Paul first went there - the Gospel and Bible doctrine. And he didn’t want them to confuse the issue. Therefore, during his first visit never once did Paul make any reference to taking up an offering. Apparently, after the local church was in operation offerings were taken up because they sent out missionaries, but Paul himself was not a burden to them because he wanted the only two issues to be the Gospel and Bible doctrine. Consequently he was not a burden to them.
“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.”
Gentle among you, as a nursing mother means that Paul kept on caring for these new “babes in Christ.” Paul evangelized up to a point. After he had a few who believed, he started training them and he taught them to go out and do the evangelizing from that point on. He was a nursing mother and he began to provide milk (basic doctrine) for the new babies. He was tender to them, he was loving to them and he was not burdensome to them in the sense of making an issue out of money. The result was that once the Thessalonian church got organized they gave very generously because it was based upon doctrine in their souls, not upon gimmicks and not upon pressure. The result was that they were sending missionaries out all over the world.
Instead of taking something like money from them, Paul gave to them. First of all, he gave them the Gospel, and then accurate Bible doctrine. When Paul said they were well-pleased to impart our own lives in verse 8, he was referring to the doctrine in his soul. These verse challenges all believers with regard to: a) where the unbeliever is concerned, do I have in my soul a clear enough understanding of the Gospel to make the issue clear to someone else and b) do I have enough doctrine in my soul to be helpful to other believers in their spiritual growth? So this verse is a challenge to express our love through the impartation of information we have in our souls.
Well-pleased implies willingness. Where there is no willingness there is no love, where there is no giving there is no love. This does not mean giving in the sense of materialistic things. But this refers to mental attitude love. Paul says they were willing to have imparted unto you their very lives because these believers were “very dear unto us.” The word “dear” means “you are beloved by us.” The true concept of witnessing for Christ is, “I have something which is so important that I can’t afford to keep quiet about it. Christ died for all members of the human race and I love all members of the human race. Therefore I cannot hold back what Christ has provided for them.” Furthermore, I love believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. God has provided things for them, I have this information and I will pass it on. Love is giving. Love is willingness to impart truth. The word to impart here means to share, and the true expression of love is the willingness to share the Gospel and accurate Bible doctrine with other members of the human race, as you have opportunity. (Ephesians 4:14-16)