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The triumph of truth


  • The guys who started that little cult blew town immediately afterwards and haven’t been back.  Just sayin’
     


  • I just think the people who started this group took advantage of them through some smooth talking.

  • I’m guessing some money exchanged hands as well. 

 

If they had social media in Paul’s time, the above is the kind of thing I imagine some of the people in Thessalonica would be posting about the church.  To say it got off to a rough start would be like saying Samson hated haircuts. Paul parallels the suffering the church has experienced with what happened to the churches in Judea (see Acts 8:1ff, 9:23ff).  There’s also the fact that he hasn’t been able to return to Thessalonica to help them through their ordeal and that’s caused considerable anxiety (2:17-18).  Finally, if all of this wasn’t enough, the opponents were attacking the disciples by attacking Paul!

This explains the defensive tone of 2:1-7.  Paul has to say a number of things about himself and his ministry when he would rather talk about Christ.  But he’ll do what he needs to in order to counteract the negative influence of his critics and protect his spiritual children (v. 7, 11-12).  He establishes a beachhead when he reminds them it was “with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition” (v. 2). From there, he shoots down charges that they operated out of the lesser motives that characterized false teachers of the times.  They didn’t act out of error, impure motive, or trickery (v.3).  They weren’t being people pleasers, flatterers, hypocrites covering up a motive of greed, or looking for praise from men (v. 4-6).

The problem with denial is that the act of engaging in it is often perceived as lending credibility to the charges (and those who made them).  Paul points to two truths that would demolish such thinking.  The first is that though they could have asserted their authority, they didn’t (v. 6-7).  If they were out to exploit and abuse as their opponents charged, then lording themselves over the Thessalonians would have been the way to accomplish it.   Instead, they were as gentle and caring as a nursing mother with her children (as witnessed by their working to support themselves so as not to be a burden to the believers there – v. 8-9).

This leads to the larger point --- “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed (v. 10). In the end, what were they going to give credence to --- the reckless words of opponents bent on destruction or the life transforming experience they had with Paul, Silas, and Timothy?  Paul appeals to the powerful memories they share. He completes the paternal metaphor by reminding them of his fatherly ways among them (v. 11-12). 

And what came from all of this?  The disciples at Thessalonica weren’t swayed by all of the negative talk about Paul and his companions.  Timothy brings good news of this (3:6ff), and in his second letter Paul will speak of their “perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials(2 Thessalonians 1:4). 

It’s always encouraging to witness the triumph of truth, isn’t it?
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