Facing Unfair Opposition
by Pr. Dave Mann
The work of the Apostle Paul was quite difficult, and yet, he continued. At Philippi, he was treated outrageously. He moved south to Thessalonica, perhaps in late 49 or 50 A.D. where he proclaimed the gospel in the face of strong opposition. The apostolic team managed to plant a church there before moving still further south to Corinth.
No doubt, 1 Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul’s letters (approx. 50 A.D.), written in response to Timothy’s report that the young church was holding fast to the gospel, despite persecution. But Paul was being accused by opponents that he had impure motives to gain converts. Paul wrote this letter to defend his honor and to make sure his motives would be evident to all. Paul and his team wanted to make clear to this young group of believers that they were NOT common hucksters traveling from place to place peddling a spiritual snake oil. And so, in this first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul states what they are NOT:
The appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives.
We are not trying to trick you.
We are not trying to please people.
We never used flattery.
We did not put on a mask to cover up greed.
We are not looking for praise from people.
He also states what they ARE:
We speak as those approved by God, entrusted with the gospel.
We loved you so much.
We shared with you not only the gospel but our lives as well.
We worked day and night in order not to be a burden.
We treated you as a father who deals with his own children.
We were encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God.
Paul’s tireless efforts yielded positive results, because the churches, not only in Thessalonica but also in Philippi, continued to grow and thrive. Paul wrote a second letter to the Thessalonians. Both of these letters bear a tone of excitement in the faithfulness of the believing readers. In addition, the letter written to the church in Philippi, where Paul had at first been treated outrageously, became known as the letter of joy.
Are you being treated poorly? Are your motives called into question? Paul’s response in the face of difficulties serves as a worthy example for us to follow. We should state clearly what we are not, and also what we are.
Lord Jesus, though you never promised that the lives of your followers would be blithe and carefree, we have often somehow come to expect such. Grant us the grace to follow in the example of the Apostle Paul and others who have courageously trusted in you. We walk with Jesus, who suffered, died, and rose again. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.