Summary: Looking back over this defense of Paul, it is no wonder he was used of God the way he was. His courage in severe struggle; his master motive of pleasing God; his attitude of complete sincerity and gentleness, and his blameless behavior all add up to one of the most Christ-like lives ever lived.
These 5 verses conclude Paul’s defense of himself to the
Thessalonians, and in them we see clearly that one of the basic
secrets of success is to love your work. Paul’s work was reaching
people with the Gospel and seeing them mature in the Christian life.
He loved this work more than life itself. Paul was the servant of all,
and that is why he was so great. He was saved to serve, and he
served to save. Oliver St. John Gogarty, the Irish poet, was an ear and throat
specialist in his early days. When someone asked him why he left
that profession to take up poetry he said, “I got tired of looking
down people’s throats and listening to them say ah, and then looking
into their ears.” H. Luccock said in response, “What did he expect?
Did he imagine that in his service he would have an endless
succession of fresh bewildering surprises?” Service can often be
monotonous, and that is why Christian service calls for total
commitment and self-sacrifice, for without it the frustrations force
people to give up. We want to examine these verses and see what
kept Paul on the path of blameless behavior in spite of all the
problems he faced.
Verse 8: Paul’s love for these people was evident in his
behavior, for he says he was willing to give himself to them. Paul
had no cold impersonal presentation of the Gospel. He entered into
it with his life. This is an amazing statement when he says not the
Gospel of God only. What does he mean when he says the Gospel
only? You mean there is more? Yes, there is, and there must be if
the Gospel is to be effective. But what can you give more than the
Gospel? You can give yourself. The Gospel costs you nothing.
Freely you have received, and freely you are to give. But to give of
yourself, and to give up what is yours will cost you something, and
this is the plus factor of success. Being a Christian was no mere
profession for Paul, but it was a passion.
Paul had no contract with God. He had no 40 hour week and
retirement funds and health insurance. He had a message to
proclaim, and he was constrained by the love of Christ to give
himself completely to the task. Service that costs us nothing
personally will likely bear little fruit.
Verse 9: Paul made a special effort not to be a burden to people.
He was a burden bearer and not a burden bringer. He worked nights
so that he could spend the days preaching the Gospel.
Fortunately he knew how to make tents. Every Jewish boy was
taught a trade. Gamaliel said, “He that teacheth not his son a trade,
doth the same as if he taught him to be a thief.” Paul was taught a
trade and he used it rather than seek support from his Gentile
converts. He avoided all possibility of misunderstanding by offering
the Gospel “Without money and without price.”
The fact that Paul was so cautious about money and support in
dealing with his converts indicates that tithing is a commitment of
mature Christian responsibility. It is no part of the saving Gospel,
and Paul did not mention the idea to these people. This is interesting
because failure to follow Paul’s wisdom has lead to much superficial
and materialistic Christianity. In my limited experience I have met
a number of professing Christians who were fed up with the church
because of its demands for money. What has happened is that these
people were burdened with financial commitments to the church
before they were spiritually mature and committed to Christ and the
work of the church.
These people had no joy in giving because there was no sense of
involvement and no sense of delight in sharing a common goal. Paul
was more concerned about getting mature believers than in getting
givers, for he knew that in the long run the mature believers would
become the greatest givers. Failing to follow Paul’s method has lead
many churches to produce flocks of discontented sheep who feel that
the main reason for the existence of the church is to keep them
Verse 10: What a statement! No man would dare to make it
unless it was true. Paul appeals to their memory, and to God also to
bear witness. His behavior was holy, righteous and blameless. Paul
never claimed to be perfect, and he admitted he had not yet attained,
but was always pressing on. He makes it clear, however, that for all
practical purposes the Christian can live a blameless life before the
world and fellow believers. Paul is not making himself a special
case, for he uses the plural to include Timothy and Silas also.