Paul's Manner of Working in Thessalonica. 1Th_2:1-12
He came with the humble desire to serve God:
v. 1. For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you that it was not in vain;
v. 2. but even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as you know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God with much contention.
v. 3. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile;
v. 4. but as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
v. 5. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness;
v. 6. nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
The apostle here takes up the thought which he had broached in chap. 1:9, of his first coming to Thessalonica: For yourselves know, brethren, our entrance to you, that it was not vain. He had, in the first chapter, spoken of the voluntary testimony which he heard from others as he continued his work in Achaia. Here he appeals to their knowledge of the situation, at the same time forestalling or removing any doubts that may meanwhile have arisen in the minds of the Thessalonians as to the soundness of the teaching which they had accepted and as to the wisdom of their having accepted the new doctrine so quickly. The thought may have been suggested to them that, after all, the name, the faith, the hope of the Christians was a thing of vanity, and that they, therefore, were suffering for it to no purpose. So Paul emphasizes that his visit to them was not a matter of foolishness and vanity, but a mission of vital success.
To drive this thought home, Paul now goes into historical details: But having before suffered and been insulted, as you know, in Philippi, we took bold confidence in our God to speak to you the Gospel of God with intense earnestness. These words of Paul substantiate the account of Luke in Act_16:1-40. Paul and Silas, although Roman citizens, had been grossly ill-treated by the rulers at Philippi, the so-called praetors, being both scourged and thrown into prison in opposition to Roman law. Of this insulting treatment the Thessalonians knew, the wounds of Paul and Silas having probably not yet been healed when they reached their city. In spite of this outrage, however, Paul had pushed forward, according to the command of the Lord, Mat_10:23, bringing the Gospel to other cities and to Thessalonica first of all. In doing so, Paul had made use of all boldness and courage in proclaiming the Gospel, relying, as he did, upon the power of God, not upon his own natural talents and fearlessness. With the most intense earnestness and zeal had he labored among them, even at the peril of his life. This is the spirit which should at all times actuate the ministers of the Gospel, making them willing to do all and bear all for the sake of the Master and His precious news of salvation.
There had not been so much as a tinge of selfishness in Paul's ministry: For our appeal is not from fraud, nor out of uncleanness, nor in guile, but even as we have been tested by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, who proves our hearts. Paul's appeal to men in the work of his ministry, his exhortation, his admonition, was free from impure, sinister motives. He himself was not the victim of fraud and error; he had not been deceived into becoming a servant of Christ; he was not the victim of a superstition, of a delusion. He was, moreover, not engaged in the work of the ministry from foul, impure motives, including covetousness and selfishness. Nor had he, in turn, made use of guile and cunning with the object of deceiving his hearers; all dishonest tricks of cheating and ensnaring were far from him. His mission was very emphatically not the outcome of self-seeking. But the situation was rather this: As God, who tests the hearts, had attested his fitness to be entrusted with the Gospel, so he was speaking the news of salvation, so he was preaching sin and grace, with no thought of pleasing men. It was God, who knows the hearts of men, that had chosen the apostle for his office. Paul did not assume any worthiness of his own, but he exalted the authority of God. See 1Ti_1:12. By reason of this commission he considered himself under obligations not to engage men's minds by flattering proposals nor to adapt his preaching to their tastes, but to consult only the pleasure of God, who, as the Judge of hearts, would soon expose and judge impure motives and selfish objects.
The apostle enlarges upon this thought still more fully: For neither at any time did we indulge in talk of flattery, as you know, nor in pretense of self-seeking, God is witness, nor seeking praise from men, neither from you nor from others, although we might have been burdensome as the apostles of Christ. Flattering talk invariably indicates selfishness and a striving to gain private ends. In this respect he called upon the Thessalonians as witnesses; they knew that he had not used flattery, that he had not attempted to please them by such methods. For the other fact, in turn, that he made use of no pretense for the purpose of self-seeking, that he had no selfish aims in his heart, he calls upon God as witness, appealing to Him who tests hearts and minds. That there was no selfish ambition in his heart appeared finally from the fact that he did not seek praise and honor from men, as he pointedly says, neither from the Thessalonians nor from anybody else. This disinterestedness stands out all the more strongly, since Paul might well have been burdensome to the Thessalonians, he might have used his authority, he might have assumed the dignity which was his as the apostle of Christ, and demanded honoring recognition of his position, and that of Silas, from them. Note: All persons that hold positions of authority in the Church will do well to pattern after St. Paul in this respect, since it is only in exceptional cases that the dignity of their office receives the recognition which it deserves in the estimation of men.