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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lenschow

Motives and Priorities

1 Thessalonians 2:1-4

1. Recognize the Context:

Previous context:

A clear account of Paul’s time with the Thessalonian church and their conversion had spread everywhere. They turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Paul used vocabulary from the Greek Old Testament (known as the Septuagint) to describe the response of the Thessalonians and the God to which they turned.

Beyond their present life of service, the Thessalonians had hope for the future. They waited for the return of the resurrected Jesus, who rescued them from the coming wrath.

God’s wrath should be seen in relationship to his justice. Although God is loving, his wrath is a response to sin and evil, which must be dealt with and eliminated. God’s wrath is a present reality for those who live in sin (Rom. 1:18), but there is also a future component to it when Christ returns. However, Paul's message to the Thessalonians is one of hope. They have been rescued from the present and coming wrath because of the person and work of Christ.

2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.  

3. Reflect on the Scripture: In verse 1, Paul returned to a discussion of his previous visit with them. Their conversion was, in fact, evidence his visit was not a failure. Paul and his co-workers met strong resistance in Philippi and then in Thessalonica (Acts 16-17:9), but they proclaimed the gospel message with God’s help.

In verse 3, Paul seemed to be offering a defense of his actions, probably in response to those outside the church who continued to provide resistance, even after he had left the city. His appeal to serve the living and true God was not made with error, impure motives, nor was it an attempt to trick the Thessalonian church. Paul was not out to deceive the people for his own personal gain. To use modern terminology, Paul was not a “con artist.” However, these words would have been used to describe itinerant orators and traveling philosophers who attempted to deceive people and financially gain from their efforts. (Clearly, there is still a lesson in this for the Church today.)

On the contrary, Paul and his co-workers had been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. Their proclamation was not an attempt to please people or tell them what they wanted to hear. Instead, Paul and his co-labors desired to please God, who tests the heart.

4. Relate to life:

Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.

To pray:

Paul believed giving a verbal and non-verbal witness of the gospel was essential to his life. Today, prayerfully consider the level of a priority this takes in your own life. Ask God for his help by the Holy Spirit.

Today, prayerfully reflect on your own motives for sharing the gospel. Are they pleasing to God?

Today, prayerfully consider your motives and priorities in general. How have they impacted your recent decisions? Consider whether they have been “people-pleasing” or “God-pleasing.”

To do:

Today and in the future, be mindful of what and who you listen to, especially if it is “Christian.” While only God can examine the heart and know pure motives, ask for God’s help to be discerning. Why? Because just as in Paul’s day, there are people within Christianity today who deceive, and are only out for their own personal gain.

For the next week, at the end of the day, reflect on your priorities and motives. Consider where you have been “people-pleasing” or “God-pleasing.” Ask God for his grace and strength to desire to please him.

To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)

If you haven’t already, read and study Paul’s encounter in Philippi and Thessalonica- Acts 16-17:9.

Read and study these passages on “God-pleasing.”- Rom. 8:8, Gal. 1:10, see also Ps. 19:14

Read and study these passages on “God searching the heart.”- Ps. 7:9, 17:3, 139:23-24, Prov. 17:3

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