Give Me That Mountain!
INTERSECT: Messengers Who Match Their Message
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Over the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, people from every walk of life identified inconsistency as one of the most frustrating things they experienced. Leaders at every level—local, state, national, even international—touted strict health policies they failed to follow personally. Their public message was one thing while private behavior communicated the opposite. The overwhelmingly negative response makes it clear: no one likes inconsistency between a message and the messenger.
This holds true in all walks of life. Financial advisors should have their financial houses in order. Want to coach diet and fitness? Get in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. And, of course, when it comes to the faith, messengers of the gospel should match their life-changing message.
Six times in 12 short verses, Paul reminded the Thessalonian Christians of how he and his companions lived out their faith before them. The Thessalonians accepted the gospel message, but they also had a chance to get to know the messengers. They heard and received the message of the gospel and the messengers who delivered the message with boldness, clarity, love, and holiness.
Share the Word of God Boldly (verse 2).
When Paul penned this letter, times were tough for the Christians at Thessalonica. Not only had they been beaten and imprisoned, they also had been publicly shamed. Some versions translate Paul’s words “treated outrageously.” If this happened to us, we might become more hesitant to share the gospel. Yet, according to Paul, in the face of this abuse, the Thessalonians declared the gospel with boldness and courage.
It is important to note Paul identified the source of their boldness as God. It was not simply human courage or temerity. Many people in the world exhibit courage about all types of things, but the Thessalonians’ boldness came from the Holy Spirit. This type of boldness and courage doesn’t seem as crucial when everyone is fine with your message, but when the gospel confronts deeply held beliefs or sinful lifestyles widely accepted by culture, opposition will come. In these moments, boldness and courage are needed.
One note of caution: boldly and courageously doesn’t mean louder, “shouting down” opposing voices or pushing back hard. It means we have the moral fiber to stand and share what the Word of God says without apology, while loving those who reject or abuse us.
Share the Word of God Responsibly (verses 3-6).
Which audience do you hope to please? That’s the real question. Either we please people, or we make it our ambition to please God. In verse 4, Paul said the Thessalonians had been approved by God to be trusted with the gospel. Though he didn’t use the word, Paul clearly was stressing stewardship. The gospel comes to us from God, and we must use it—share it—responsibly.
As responsible stewards of the gospel, our motives are pure, and we make no attempt to deceive people into decisions. We don’t use flattery. We don’t speak from greed or use a “bait and switch” tactic. Perhaps you have attended a church service where the preacher’s invitation was nothing short of manipulation, with statements such as, “If you are under conviction, you have 15 seconds to come to the altar” followed by a melodramatic countdown.
When a preacher (or any Christian, for that matter) uses psychological or emotional tricks to coerce or manipulate people into decisions about Christ, many of those decisions will not last, or will leave the “convert” disillusioned about the faith. Paul says, instead, our aim is to speak in a way pleasing to God, not men.
We have been trusted with the gospel. We dare not alter it. It doesn’t originate with us, and our task is to cling to it tenaciously, share it openly, and live it faithfully. Our lives should be marked by an awareness we are stewards of all of life—managers of the time, talents, and treasure
God has given us—and responsible for the gospel entrusted to us.
Share the Word of God Lovingly (Verses 7-12).
Paul used family relationships to describe his previous time with the Thessalonians. First, Paul and his companions acted as nursing mothers to the Thessalonians who were babies or infants in the faith (verses 7-8). As brothers in the faith (verses 9-10), Paul and company lived blameless lives consistent with the gospel they shared. Finally, like fathers (verses 11-12), they “exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”
They understood a careful balance: when sharing the gospel, we must speak the truth in love. If we do not speak God’s truth, we are not really loving others, even when it would be easier to avoid difficult topics. Truth is often hard to hear, but God’s truth is what we all need.
The challenge is to make sure we speak the truth in a spirit of love—like family members who genuinely care enough to intervene, correct, and discipline through all stages of life. Our listeners may hotly disagree with us, they may ridicule us and remain unchanged, but they will know we cared enough to tell them the truth.
Share the Word of God Cleanly (verse 10).
Both the Thessalonians and God, Paul wrote, were “on the witness stand” regarding the way he lived before these Christians. He and his companions demonstrated holiness before them and before God, living in a way no one could claim their lives were inconsistent with their message. Their conduct was blameless. In a word, they lived with integrity.
Scripture tells us Paul often funded missionary journeys through his vocation of tent-making. We don’t know for certain that’s what he did in Thessalonica, but he does say they worked night and day to avoid being a financial burden to the young church. Assuming he was making tents, imagine his business dealings were not above board, that people witnessed him mistreat customers. Such behavior would change how the message of the gospel was received. But, by the grace of God, Paul was able to say they saw “how holy and justly and unblameably we behaved among you.”
Share the Word of God boldly.
Share the Word of God responsibly.
Share the Word of God lovingly.
Share the Word of God cleanly.
Perhaps you feel insufficient or incapable of doing this. Maybe you think, “I am not that bold” or “My life isn’t as clean as it should be.” Remember, Paul openly confessed his boldness came from “our God.” The only way any believer can share the gospel effectively is through the power and strength of God.
Do you need to share the gospel with someone today? Is a particular individual on your mind? That person needs you—not someone else—to share God’s saving message. Faithfully deliver the Word of eternal life and let your life reflect the power of your words. Be a messenger who matches the message.
About the Columnist: Dr. Barry Raper pastors Bethel FWB Church near Ashland City, Tennessee. He also serves as program coordinator for ministry studies at Welch College. Barry and his wife Amanda have five children.