The Founding of the Philippian Church
When I was a kid, Saturday mornings meant one thing – cartoons. And one of those cartoons, on one the three channels we had, was the strategic genius of Wily E. Coyote and his eternal chase of the Road Runner. With large batches of anvils, giant rocks, rocket-powered roller skates, tornado seeds, explosive tennis balls, TNT, mallets, painted tunnels into a rock face – he was always trying a new way to outsmart the Road Runner. But we see in episode after episode that his tools and outfits from the ACME catalog never actually produce the result he wants. The Road Runner outsmarts him every time.
It’s easy to think of reaching our community for Christ and mission as “big tools” we hope will work out, like dynamite strapped to a rocket with a fuse – what could go wrong? The church has a tendency to look for programs, new tools, or events (we flip through the ACME/Lifeway catalog) – but this is not how the NT shows us that the early church grew. Today we will look at Principles for Acts 16 on how the early Christians shared their faith.
Four Principles That Led to a Growing Church (vv. 1-10)
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra” Paul has already been to these cities two-three years before proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick, and he was stoned there (Acts 14:19). The scars would have still been on his body. So now Paul goes back to strengthen the young churches.
(v. 1) Paul normally does not travel alone, but he and Barnabas had and argument about another young protégé named John-Mark. Their argument was so heated that they decided to part ways. Barnabas took John-Mark and went in one direction, and Paul set out in another direction with Silas. So, Paul is doubling back over previous covered territory that he had already been through with the gospel but he is also intentionally looking for someone to help him in his ministry, to do what John-Mark did in their ministry.
#1. Don’t Do Ministry Alone—Find Someone to Invest In.
It is more than likely Timothy’s father was a non-believer (Christian or Jewish), and it is likely that Timothy and his mother were converted in Paul’s earlier visit to this area. In between then and now Timothy’s mother and grandmother were growing in their walk with the Lord, 2 Timothy 1:5 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well,” and 2 Timothy 3:15 “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.”
(v. 3) Timothy was “well spoken of” meaning he had a reputation among the people of the city. He was known, his father was known, and his mother was known. As Paul and Timothy would have traveled from there to town to town this reputation (even though it was good), everyone would have wondered why he had not been circumcised – it would appear that he was refusing to adhere to the law.
“Timothy was both Jew and Greek and would continually give offense to the Jews . . . so for the sake of expediency, “because of the Jews,” Paul voluntarily removed this stumbling block to the ministry of Timothy. Otherwise, Timothy would not have been allowed to preach in the synagogues.” We need to move past this lesser argument or discussion to get to the things of greater importance – they would constantly face this lesser issue, and it would be a stumbling block to them getting to the gospel.
And Timothy taking this step would have a favorable impression on the people they were trying to reach. “It was no question of enforcing circumcision upon Timothy as if it were necessary for salvation; it was simply a question of what was necessary under special circumstances in which both he and Paul were to seek to gain a hearing for the Gospel on the lines of the Apostolic policy; “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Also, Timothy was willing to endure pain for the sake of reaching other people with the gospel.
#2. Having a Good Reputation and Getting Rid of Unnecessary Obstacles
Opens the Door to Conversations about the Gospel. Prioritize Life.
Earlier in Acts 15:1-2 Paul and other church leaders were discussing doctrine, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.”
So that by chapter 16:4 “they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem” – the Church was just beginning and they were working through foundational doctrinal questions; so Paul and Timothy as they went from town to town, they would instruct these groups of new believers the decisions that had apostolic authority. The result of sound doctrine is that “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”
#3. Solid Doctrine is Essential to a Strong Growing Church.
1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
(v. 6) “having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” – “Passing through it but not preaching the gospel,”
“immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia,” – Once Paul and Timothy had a clear direction from the Lord, they did not delay, but immediately started in that direction. It is also at this point the pronouns, for Luke the author of the book, move from them to we and us, “immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us,” It was at this point of the missionary journey that Luke joins the team.
All the things that came before chapter 16 were Luke going and gathering witnesses and other’s account of what happened, here he can give a firsthand account of what happened. Some scholars believe that Luke was a resident of Philippi or the surrounding area and became a convert as Paul passed through. And look how quickly Luke goes from convert to traveling missionary.
(v. 10) “concluding that God had called us,” – The word used for concluding means to “make to go together,” “to knit together,” “to make this and that agree.” “This is a proper use of the reason in connection with revelation, to decide whether it is a revelation from God, to find out what it means for us, and to see if we obey the revelation when understood.” “Because of Paul’s obedience at this point, the gospel went westward; and ultimately Europe and the Western world were evangelized. Christian response to the call of God is never a trivial thing.”
#4. Life Changing Ministry Must Be Spirit Led.
These Four Principles 1) Doing ministry in teams 2) removing obstacles and prioritizing 3) watching our doctrine 4) and being Spirit Led – now lead to a new church in Philippi. Let’s look at the characteristics of this new church plant and then ask, “Is this true of our church?”
Characteristics of a New Church (vv. 11-34)
People are Saved (vv. 11-15)
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
As far as we can tell, there were some Jewish women who gathered to pray, but there seems to be no church, no synagogue – but God is going to establish a church in this area referred to as Philippi upon women who had gathered to pray. Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)
(v. 13) “and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.” – The custom of Jewish teachers was to teach from a seated position, “Luke’s use of the first person plural implies that each of the four (Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke) preached in turn, with Paul as the chief speaker.
“The Lord opened her (Lydia) heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Salvation has two parts; 1) The Lord opening her heart and 2) the girl paying attention to the gospel. God through the Holy Spirit showed her sin and need for a Savior, she paid attention to Paul’s sharing of the gospel and responded in faith.
Darkness is Broken (vv. 16-24)
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. 19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
(v. 16) As Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were going to the “place of prayer” they were met by “a slave girl who had a spirit of divination” – the type of divination mentioned is where we get the word ventriloquist The demonic spirit would speak through the girl – who is just as much under its control as the demonic (Matthew 8:28). The darkness is her complete control by the demon and that there was a company (multiple business owners) who used this girl to make money through this demonic possession.
Paul “said to the spirit,” not the girl. The girl has no control over what is happening. Notice that the demon says (through the girl), “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” It is speaking the truth, there is a recognition of who they are and what they are doing, similar to the demons recognizing Jesus, His authority, and what He was doing; Luke 8:28 “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”
Why does Paul not permit the demon to continue yelling that they are servants of the Most High, and that Paul and the others are proclaiming the way of salvation? Do you allow the testimony of evil men, because the testimony in itself is true?
“The hour of gravest peril for the Gospel in Philippi was not the hour when they put Paul in prison; it was the hour when the girl with the spirit of divination told the truth.” Evil can tell the truth, but it can just as easily tell a lie. It can take the truth of the gospel and twist it just enough to make it a false gospel. “Every time a demon confirmed that Christ was the Son of God, Jesus rebuked it – every time!”
The girl returns to being a normal girl – free from demonic possession and it enrages the slave owning businessmen. The church should not be surprised when the gospel is shared, the darkness is broken, that those that profit from the darkness become enraged and angry. Nor, should we shy away from the consequences of sharing the truth. For Paul and Silas it cost them being lied about, severe beatings, and imprisonment. Again, there is pain for those who seek to share the gospel.
These two characteristics of 1) the gospel being shared and people coming to know the Lord, and 2) darkness being broken, are two of four characteristics of this new church (we will look at the next two characteristics next week).
So Does Wiley E. Coyote ever catch the Road Runner? Wile E. is chasing the Road Runner through a series of pipelines, which causes both of them to emerge in a greatly shrunken state. Upon discovering their situation, they re-enter the pipeline and be transformed back into full size. The Road Runner emerges at normal size, but Wile E. is still in small size when he comes out. Upon discovering this turn of events, the Road Runner stops and allows his rival to “catch” him.
The Coyote does not notice anything until he steps over his opponent’s feet, and looks up to see he is massively outgunned. The Road Runner utters a low-pitched “beep beep”, much to Wile E.’s horror. He can only hold up two signs to the audience stating, “Okay, wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him.” and “Now what do I do?” So when the world comes to the church and the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts – we must be ready “to give and answer for the hope that we have.”
1 Peter 3:15-17 “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
 Regarding the idea that Paul seems to argue against this later in Galatians, “Those who deplore the absence of consistency from Paul miss the higher consistency which is aimed at bringing all the activities of his life and thought ‘into captivity to the observance of Christ.’ (2 Cor. 10:5) and at subordinating every other interest to the paramount interests of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23).”
 W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967) 339.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 3 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 244.
 Nicoll, 342.
 Robertson, 248.
 Richard N. Longenecker, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, John & Acts, Volume 9 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1981) 458.
 See also Luke 24:45.
 Robertson, 251.
 “They were handed over to the lictors – the magistrate’s police attendants – to be soundly beaten. The lictors carried as symbols of office bundles of rods, with an ax inserted among them. . .” Bruce, 315.
 Nicoll, 349.
 G Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles (Old Tappan, New Jersey; Fleming H. Revell Company, 1924) 385.
 Morgan, 385.
 R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Acts, The Church Afire (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Books, 1996) 215.
Identity Sermon Series
Discovering Who and Why You Are
“I Identify With Christ”
In Galatians 2 Paul is referencing and earlier gathering of Christians at Antioch where Cephas (Peter), Barnabas, Paul, and different groups are present. But the Gentile Christians are being made to feel like second class Christians because they were not keeping ceremonial Jewish food laws. Cephas/Peter’s withdrawal and his sitting apart from the Gentiles “was sending a clear message about what counts: reliance upon the law and its works to secure favor with God, rather than trust in God’s provision in Christ alone.”
Cephas “seems to have started to ‘live like a Gentile’ (Gal. 2:14), probably in the sense that he had ceased to observe Jewish dietary restrictions.” In response to a heavenly vision (Acts 10:9-16; 11:4-10), he had tossed out an important Jewish identity marker, which many Jews went to great trouble to keep, and for which they sometimes endured deprivation, and even death.”
This was a common teaching for the Jews to, “separate yourselves from the Gentiles and do not eat with them, and do not perform deeds like theirs. And do not become associates of theirs. Because their deeds are defiled, and all their ways are contaminated, and despicable, and abominable.”
But when certain people were around, Cephas would change back. “The pressure was strong enough that all the Christian Jews in Antioch except Paul succumbed to it. There is a level of disappointment and personal pain behind Paul’s phrase “even Barnabas.” Paul’s talk of hypocrisy assumes that all of them – even Barnabas – knew it was wrong to buckle to this pressure.”
But what is at stake is the genuineness and purity of the gospel.
Can the gospel mean whatever you want it mean,
or can different groups have their own version of it?
The gospel tears down boundaries, our falsely identifying with the wrong things puts those barriers back in place all over again. These are barriers between believers, and it pollutes the gospel.
Didn’t Paul say, 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” Is Paul being hypocritical to tell Cephas to not change while he is around the “circumcision party,” but Paul is changing around other people in order to share the gospel?
“Paul could have opted out of any participation with the Jewish religious system. He was free from all of it. Instead, he chose to remain involved, without ever compromising the message of Jesus, in hopes of winning some Jewish law followers to faith in Christ. In order to put as few barriers as possible between others and Christ, Paul was willing to sacrifice his own “rights” and freedoms.”
How Do You Identify? (vv. 15-16)
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
(v. 15) It was a normal for Jews to presume upon God’s grace because they possess God’s Law (Romans 2:17-24). The Jews would say, which Paul may be quoting directly, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners.” But this is common for all of humanity. We deceive ourselves into thinking everything’s ok with who they are. “I think what I am doing is okay, therefore God must also be ok with it.”
Matthew 3:7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’” They were not turning from their sin and bearing fruit of a godly and holy life, they didn’t even think they were sinners.
For the Jewish follower, there is no need for transformation or change from their sin, because they are from a lineage of Abraham. There are also people who identify with the Christian religion who also presume upon God’s grace. Maybe they have gone to a certain church for a number of years, or have been baptized – but we can’t speak of how they have impacted the world for Christ, or people they have led to the Lord, or how they have been a disciple maker – but when they were seven they were baptized. The Jews were doing this with circumcision. There was no heart felt seeking after God, desiring to live for him – just empty self-righteous rule following.
The temptation of Peter and all the other believers there (except for Paul), is to answer the question, “what is their identity?” this same way. Are they Jewish and followers of the law (and that’s how they want to be known), or are they Christians which require breaking from the law and to live by faith. But you can’t hold an identity of the two things at the same time.
Paul is showing that the Jewish people should know that no one is capable of keeping the law in its entirety and at some point has to rely upon God’s grace and mercy. Psalm 143:2, The psalmist is asking God, “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” The law’s intended purpose was to show humanity that you cannot live a life that pleases God, no one is perfect. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
(v. 16) This is a question of how is a person made right before God? Paul uses the word, “justified,” (dikaioo) – “to make or declare righteous.” “The group of Judaizers who contended that the Gentiles had to become Jews to be saved.” This included circumcision and following dietary laws. The law plus Paul says, “because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
“. . . but through faith in Jesus Christ” – “Faith is trust. It begins with knowledge, so it is not blind. It builds on facts, so it is not speculation. It stakes its life on the outcome, so it is not impractical. Faith is trusting Christ and proving his promises.”
Identifying With Christ (vv. 17-21)
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
(v. 17) “we too were found to be sinners,” When Paul compares himself to the teachings and life of Jesus, he realizes that as high as he had climbed in the Jewish world, and as passionate as he had been to the law (even killing and imprisoning Christians), he was still the “chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).”
(v. 18) “For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.” – “When he [Peter] lived like a Gentile, he tore down the ceremonial law. When he lived like a Jew, he tore down salvation by grace.”
“From Paul’s own testimony, we know that Paul continued to be not only accused of being in violation of the Law but punished because of it. Thus, when he would visit synagogues, he’d be brought up on charges and then flogged with a whip or a stick.” “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned (2 Corinthians 11:24-25).”
(v. 19) “For through the law I died to the law,” – To try and keep the law is a form of slavery. One is always striving to be good enough to please God, to be perfect, yet to fail time and time again. Then through Christ’s death and taking the curse of sin upon himself, he has freed us from the law. When we reach back down and put the shackle back on our legs, we enslave ourselves all over again.
(v. 20) “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” – It is the union of the vine and the branch (John 15:1-6). Paul is connected (abiding) to Jesus, and no longer to the world. When a person places their faith in Christ there is a part of them that dies, that part that focuses on ourselves. That part is crucified with Christ – then emerging is a new birth, a new life – that is Christ living in me. Our identity is Christ (period). For the Christian, it is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you.
Our walk with Jesus will draw us into more and more the things that are important to Jesus. In our lives, we will begin to look more and more like Jesus, and less and less like our old selves (before Christ.) Christ’s life eventually led to the cross, and so our lives will reflect this selflessness and giving of ourselves for the sake of others.
Many Christians are good with healing with Christ, singing with Christ, praying with Christ, studying the Bible with Christ, but crucified with Christ is a whole other level. Jesus gave up everything for the sake of others, so Paul says, “It is no longer I who live.” Jesus says to those who desire to be his followers, “take up your cross and follow me.”
The way we begin our walk with Christ is how we continue in our walk in Christ. The way we start the race, is the same way we finish the race – radical trust in Jesus.
“Those [identifying here in this passage as Jewish Christians] are going back to a life in which Christ and his loving, self-giving death in not central.” In Romans 6:6 Paul uses this same imagery, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
Faith in Jesus Christ Is not just head knowledge of His existence. It involves the whole person. There are people who say they are Christians, but their definition of faith does not involve a life change. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” A saving faith in Christ results in a transformational change to conform to the image of Christ. “The Christian life is one of conformity with Christ.”
Therefore, the Christian is not lawless, but you have freedom in Christ. It is not an abandonment of the morality of the law (honor your parents, truth telling, putting God first, do not covet other people’s stuff, don’t committing adultery, etc). This is the fear of people who tend toward being self-righteous; if we don’t have rules and keep traditions, then the world will spin into chaos. So, they add to the gospel (Jesus plus the law). They believe that you have to appear different than the world (like the Jewish “circumcision group”) Then how will the world know that you are a Christian?
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” They will know we are Christians by how we show the love of Christ in the world around us. It is much harder to show your heart (an inward change), than it is to follow a rule – because it requires a close relationship with Christ (to abide in Him.) Doing what Christ teaches is much harder than putting a sticker on your car (an outward show).
There should be no descriptors in front of the word Christian in our identity. Whenever we put a word describing ourselves before Christ, we are putting ourselves first. You either identify with the sin, or the person who frees us from sin, but you can’t identify with both – the gospel won’t allow it.
(v. 21) “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” – Paul is saying that if all we had to do was keep the law, then people should keep the law. Jesus would not have had to die, if all humans had to do was be good. When the Jewish Christians kept the law, they “nullify” God’s grace – as if to say that they did not need it. Also, if the law is added to the gospel, then that also means that Christ’s death was not adequate to cover all the sin of mankind – there is something else needed.
Two bank robbers in Sangus, Massachusetts, walked into a small delicatessen, pulled out their guns, and demanded all the money in the cash register. The owner stashed all the money in a brown bag and laid it on the counter, Nervously, they grabbed the bag a fled. Later, in a safe place they opened the bag to divide their haul only to be completely surprised. The bag contained two pastrami sandwiches and a slice of baklava. They couldn’t belive it. In their nervous haste they picked up the wrong bag. In today’s passage we looked at two very similar appearing approaches to life – but when you open them up what is inside to eternally different.
 Todd Wilson, Preaching the Word, Galatians (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2013) 76.
 Frank Thielman, Expository Commentary, Vol. X (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2020) 599.
 Thielman, 599.
 Thielman, 599.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume IV, The Epistles of Paul (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1931) 289.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 10 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1976) 449.
 Robertson, 289.
 Which goes back to the pressure to follow the law (Gal. 2:1-14); did they fear suffering the same treatment as Paul had suffered?
 Wilson, 85.
 Thielman, 599.
 Jervis, 74.
 L. Ann Jervis, New International Biblical Commentary, Galatians (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers, 1999) 70.
 Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Reference, 1999) 26.
1 Thessalonians Sermon Series
Standing Firm: Foundational Doctrine For New Believers
Standing Firm In Service to Christ
1 Thessalonians 2:1-16
Paul, Silas, and Timothy, having left because of persecution, have written a letter to the new church in Thessalonica where they are essentially answering the criticism of “Paul and his associates are deluded individuals who for selfish reasons and with trickery are trying to exploit the people.”
I. How Far Are You Willing to Go to Share the Gospel? (vv. 1-2)
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.
(v. 1) “our coming to you was not in vain” – the word vain can mean something without content, or does not have a result. Paul is expanding what he said in 1:5, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” Another way of interpreting vain is “empty-handed.”
Later in the text he defends his ministry with them and says that he was not trying to take something from them (leaving them empty-handed) instead he was bringing them something. As in the parable of the bad tenants in Mark 12:3 “And they took him [the servant of the owner sent to get the fruit] and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.”
No builder (as Paul was) likes to have his work torn down, or to spend his time in vain. By the way, it is very hard to build; it is very easy to tear down what someone else has built. It was not a waste of time for the missionaries to share the gospel in Thessalonica. It is not a waste of time to share the gospel, especially amongst conflict.
(v. 2) Paul had moved from Philipi (Acts 16:12-40) to Thessalonica, and it was there they faced a very similar situation, “we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi.”
“we had boldness in our God” – Paul, Silas, and Timothy are going (all by themselves) into a major trade city, standing up in the Jewish temple and preaching about Jesus. That is bold. Then as a result of that boldness of preaching and sharing who Jesus is, there erupted “much conflict.” Then, they preached all the more.
Our boldness is not in our ability, or our group size, or how much money is in the bank. Our boldness is not rooted in anything that we can do or have control over – our boldness is in our God.
Matthew 14:28-31 “And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,5 he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
We don’t have to come up with what to say, it’s God’s gospel, not ours – “to declare to you the gospel of God.”
“to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” Conflict has its roots in agoni (agony) and was an athletic term of striving in games. It could refer to both mental and physical agony. Paul was in agony, striving in battle, to declare the gospel. We don’t quit when things get hard, reaching a lost world with the gospel will always be hard.
II. What is Your Motive in Sharing the Gospel? (vv. 3-8)
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. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
(v. 4) “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” – We who have been saved, and especially we who have been given this great gift of freedom, must remember the supreme trust that God has given us – the trust of His Word, the gospel. Paul says, in light of this awesome trust and responsibility, “so we speak.”
Jeremiah 1:10 “See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
We must be on guard that we never lose the wonder and weight of the gospel. We must not allow our hearts to get used to the gospel – when the net is being drawn at the end of the service is not the time to gather your coat.
Paul is defending their ministry of sharing the gospel against several false accusations (he was deluded, they were just in for the money, they were just like other charlatans going around from city-to-city selling their religion). For us, Paul gives us a list of characteristics that we should not follow our attempts to exercise the trust of sharing the gospel with the world:
- from error or impurity
(v. 3) Paul reminds the Thessalonians that his “appeal” to them did not involve delusion (i.e. and error on Paul’s part), “impure motives” or trickery (a word that deals with how he preached) – a trio of words that reflect traditional charges against traveling charlatans of various sorts.”
- or any attempt to deceive – no deceptive practices were used to catch them, like a fish on a hook. They did not seek to trick them into believing in Christ.
- not to please man, but to please God
- words of flattery
- nor with a pretext for greed – “a cloak of covetousness” a disguise to cover up greedy desires.
- seek glory from people
In contrast to these things, Paul says we should imitate him, “gentle among you, like a nursing mother” This is Paul who was once Saul of Tarsus. In his early years was brutal, and held the coat of those stoning Christians. He hunted them down like animals and put them in prison. But Christ changed this brutal man’s heart, and now he sees these new Christians as precious children. Paul is a new creature in Christ, he was experienced the effects of the gospel and wants others to experience it as well. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
The second characteristic that Paul shows to be very important in their evangelism strategy is “we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves” – “With the delivery of his message he delivers his heart, for they are truly dear to him.” We must give ourselves and our words to the message of the gospel. We must be two handed in our giving; with one hand we give the gospel, and with the other we give ourselves. “They held back nothing in their ministry.”
This giving of ourselves is another expense – this hear-and-soul involvement with people is costly. (v. 8) “being affectionately desirous of you, . . . because you had become very dear to us.” Lost people’s lives are messy, and if we are to live out the gospel in front of them, then they become apart of our lives. Many people want to drop a tract in a public restroom, or on the table after you eat out and call that evangelism. That’s not what I see in the New Testament – true evangelism costs you something.
III. Are You Willing to Work Twice-As-Hard So Someone Else Can Hear the Gospel? (vv. 9-12)
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
In order to not be a burden to this new church, the missionaries burdened themselves, “we worked night and day.” They may have started in the early hours, or worked late into the night, probably at tentmaking (Acts 18:3), in order to be financially independent. They would preach and teach during the day, and at other times labor at making tents (early mornings, or late at night).
Paul, Timothy, and Silas bore the weight of taking care of their expenses while doing the work of evangelism because of its’ importance (and so that no one could accuse them of wanting to profit from their message).
In verse 7 Paul describes their leadership as being “gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” and here in verse 11 “like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you” Paul is using it as a reference to how more mature believers are to treat those they are discipling.
But it also is a window into the relationship between parents and children and why two parent homes, led by a father and mother, is so important. Women tend toward nursing and care, fathers tend toward exhortation, encouragement, and charging.
Paul says that he gives not only the gospel, he also gives his life. He is compassionate and loving, while at the same time challenging, encouraging, and exhorts them in how they live their lives – all being done with boldness and in spite of much conflict. This is the example that we are to follow in our sharing of the gospel with the world. They are watching to see if being a Christian is what you say it is.
Now Paul continues to show how they were seeking to make disciples for Christ. Once a person received Christ, Paul, Silas, and Timothy, “like a father with his children” he did three things:
- “we exhorted each one of you” –
- “encouraged you”
- “and charged you”
- To “walk in a manner worthy of God” –
Paul is thankful for the church following their (Paul, Silas, and Timothy) example, but it is important to see what he is pointing them to follow. The worthy walk has nothing to do with what you eat, or what you wear, so . . .
How does Paul, Silas, and Timothy model a walk that is “worthy of God?” (4 ways)
Paul, Silas, and Timothy model a clear set of priorities. Life requires decisions and choices. These decisions are based on our goals and the priorities we have in our lives. If we are to walk in a manner worthy of God, then God, the gospel, and the things He prioritizes are clearly our priority and goals.
They model a concern for the integrity of the gospel. Paul and the missionaries worked hard against any accusations against what they did not want to be accused of being in it for the money or being greedy, or any other false accusations. While it shouldn’t be true, it is very difficult to separate the message from the messenger.
They model a clear sense of love and commitment to those to whom they ministered. “Among the more subtle hazards faced by those engaged in ministry is the temptation (often unconscious) to meet personal needs by ministering to others, or to do things for people in order to win their approval or to get them to like us. We are glad to serve or minister to others as long as we somehow benefit from it, or as long as it doesn’t cost us too much of our precious time, energy, and/or money.”
They modeled a down-to-earth work ethic. The goal of Paul, Silas, and Timothy was not boost their own reputations, by winning praise, and they didn’t lord their authority over people. Rather, their ministry goal was the well-being of others. They believed that when people receive the gospel their lives will be better – here and now, and for all of eternity, so they were willing to do whatever it took for that to happen.
IV. Are You Willing to Learn Something New? (vv. 13-16)
13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
(v. 13) “the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” – Work has its root in the word energy, like a battery – when Paul, Silas, and Timothy leave, the word of God is still working (keeps on working) in the believer’s lives.
(v. 14) “For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews” – The Pharisees “They kept before the nation the glowing story of past greatness, and summoned it to be faithful to the noble traditions of the fathers. They were faithful in church attendance; engaged in severe and frequent fasts; were generous, for they were meticulous tithers; had fiery patriotic fervor; and were the most popular and influential of the Jewish parties.
But they were guilty of one thing which carried with its train a succession of ugly vices – their minds were closed because patterns and preconceptions. They knew everything. They were never wrong, but everyone else was. They were the possessors, guardians, and interpreters of God’s law.”
The Pharisees are not an ancient religious group long-gone, they are still among us. Every congregation has them, and we must be on guard that we do not become one.
 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Publishing, 1987) 59.
 Hendriksen, 60.
 Clifton J. Allen, General Editor, The Broadman Bible Commentary, 2 Corinthians-Philemon (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1971) 270.
 Michael Holmes, The NIV Application Commentary, 1&2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan, 1988. 61.
 Allen, 271.
 Arnold E. Airhart, Beacon Bible Commentary, Volume 9 (Kansas City, Missouri; Beacon Hill Press, 1965) 454.
 Holmes, 73.
 Ibid, 74.
 George Arthur Buttrick, General Editor, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 11 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1955) 278.