These verses show clearly that Paul and his team never ministered for personal gain or self-centered pursuits. They were real, authentic, and operated out of their relationship with Him as they rested in the truth and power of God’s Word.
“Paul’s goal was to please God, not men—Seeing himself as one who was both ‘approved’ and ‘entrusted’ by God to function as a conduit of ‘the gospel.’ Paul determined to please his Lord and Master at all costs, that is, Paul saw himself as ‘having been tried by God, and then trusted for service’ (Morris). Consequently, his singular, all-consuming ambition was to thoroughly satisfy the One who ‘examines our hearts,’ even if this resulted in hardship, mistreatment, abuse, or rejection. Thus, he ‘could not afford to deceive his hearers, nor could he dare to seek their approval if doing so would contradict his commission from God’ (Wanamaker). It was not to men that Paul would ultimately give account of his life and preaching, but to the very Savior and King who had called him to salvation and service.” –Adapted and edited from Explore the Bible
Paul knew his Gospel wouldn't always please men, but he knew that it was pleasing to God. He tried to make the Gospel as attractive as possible, but he never changed its central message. Paul never compromised issues like the cross, the resurrection, and the new life.
Verse 4a: “But as we have been approved by God…”
“Approved” in Greek is dokimazo meaning, tested, proved or approved, tried as metals by fire and purified. In this verse dokimazo is in the perfect tense which signifies that Paul, Silas and Timothy were tested and found valid by God and that His approval had lasting effect. God had validated and continued to approve Paul’s ministry. God chooses His messengers, and he tests them before putting the gospel in their charge. Paul is saying, “we stand approved.”
“Only if they conducted themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel which they proclaimed could they reasonably expect their converts to live in a manner worthy of the gospel which they received.” F.F. Bruce
“Paul used a word here that was associated with approving someone as being fit for public service. "Just as Athenians were tested for their fitness before they were allowed to assume public office, so the missionaries were tested before they were commissioned as God's messengers." –Hiebert
Verse 4b: “…to be entrusted with the gospel…”
“Entrusted” in Greek is pisteuo in this context it refers to having confidence in a person, or giving credence to them. This is explanatory serving to define more nearly that to which the approval was directed - entrusted with the Gospel.
Paul was not self-appointed and so he was not ministering on his own authority but God's. When Paul met Jesus on the Damascus Road, the Lord entrusted him with the gospel “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16) The result of Paul's approval is that was…”entrusted with the gospel.”
The Gospel has been entrusted to every believer, not just the preacher and teacher and Scripture provides strong motivation for all believers to speak so as to please God and not men!
Verse 4c: “…even so we speak, not as pleasing men…”
Speaking to please God not men was always Paul's aim as the following passages emphasize...”Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too” ( 2 Corinthians 5:11 NLT).
“As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the favor of men (by toning down his message) or of God (by speaking the truth without compromise)? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:9,10 ESV).
“A minister said to me, "If I were to preach in your bold style, I would lose some of my richest people and offend the rest." And if he did, would he not have an easy conscience, and is not that worth more than money? The minister who cares for any man's opinion when he is doing his duty is unworthy of his office.” –Spurgeon
“Whenever our primary aim is to please men, we lose our capacity to please God. Conversely, only when we seek to please God and speak according to His Word in love, do we truly have the capacity to minister effectively to others. Pleasing people stems from wrong motives such as fear of rejection, desire for approval, power, praise, and so on. Also, pleasing people occurs when we are seeking to meet our needs by our own strategies of protection or defense.” –Keathley
Verse 4d: “…but God who tests our hearts.”
God is the one who continually examined and approved them, and they were responsible to Him, not to the audience whom they addressed. And the same principle holds today for every preacher and teacher of God's holy Word, which should be spoken forth with a sense of reverence and awe that God would be willing to trust us with this precious, eternal, life changing truth that the world desperately needs to hear. “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
“The apostle Paul was consumed with pleasing God because he knew that only God truly examines the hearts of those who serve Him. Here hearts refers to the inner self, the real person, where thought, feeling, will, and motive converge. God scrutinizes all those factors and knows with certainty whether His servants are seeking to please Him or people. Paul’s recognition of that omniscience was what motivated his service.” –John MacArthur
In this context, Paul, Silas and Timothy's motives were continually scrutinized by the omniscient God. Would it be true that every pastor and teacher could and would write such a declaration! Paul is saying that God Himself is witness to their integrity since He is the only One who can continually examine the inner workings of their hearts, especially their motives!
Verse 5a: “For neither at any time did we use flattering words…”
“Flattering” in Greek is kolakeia, (occurs only here in the New Testament) it contains the idea of deception for selfish ends. It is flattery not merely for the sake of giving pleasure to others but for the sake of self interest. It is deception by slick eloquence (sounds like many politicians we know doesn’t it?) with the idea of winning over the listener's heart in order to exploit not edify.
Kolakeia is defined both by Theophrastus and Aristotle to involve the idea of selfish motives. It is flattery not merely for the sake of giving pleasure to others but for the sake of self-interest.” –Lightfoot
Flattery is always associated with deception. Paul and his team never tried to deceive. They never dipped their colors or tried to indulge their feelings nor did they at any time soften the demands of the gospel. They never stooped to flattery or insincerity in order to achieve results but remained honest and transparent, and free of hypocrisy.
“Flattery does not simply mean complimentary words intended to tickle the ears of the hearers pleasurably. It is rather the smooth-tongued discourse of the orator aimed at making a favorable impression that would gain influence over others for selfish advantage…Paul denies that he and his fellow workers had used the preaching of the gospel as a foil for securing selfish advantage. That such a charge could easily he given a ring of plausibility is clear from the known conduct of the heathen rhetoricians of the day. Nor was the early church exempt from this evil. Barclay reminds us that the early Christian churches were plagued with ‘people who did attempt to cash in on their Christianity.’” –Hiebert
•Only two groups of people fall for flattery—men and women.
•A man’s body is remarkably sensitive. Pat him on the back and his head swells.
•We do not hate flattery, any one of us – we all like it. —C. H. Spurgeon
•Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver.—Edmund Burke
Psalm 5:9, “For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is destruction; their throat is an open tomb; they flatter with their tongue.”
Psalm 12:2,3, “They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things.”
Proverbs 29:5, “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.”
Verse 5b: “…as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness.”
“The cloak of covetousness is a cloak of many colors. There are men who covet honor and fame and position. We need to search our hearts in order to uncover any covetousness there.” –McGee
“We did not use the gospel as a pretext to mask our real motive, which was covetousness, pretending to seek your spiritual good, whereas in reality we sought our own advantage. Paul could with perfect confidence appeal to his converts, and say, ‘I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33, 34). He was free from all sinister motives.” –The Pulpit Commentary
“I love this passage. Paul could tell the Thessalonians, ‘When I came to you, I want you to know that I had no ulterior motives. I didn’t come for your offering. I didn’t come in order to shear your sheep. I came to give you the gospel and then to build you up in the faith. That was my motive.’ With that kind of motive a person is really sailing on a marvelous sea. There may be storms, but the Lord will bring His servant through.” –McGee
Romans 1:9, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son…”
Philippians 1:8, “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:23, “Moreover I call God as witness against my soul…”
“Witness” in Greek is martus, it refers to one who has information or knowledge and can bring to light or confirm something. Men can judge the external conduct and can hear the flattering words but only God can know the real motive of their actions—He alone can discern a covetous heart seeing through the external cover or pretext.
Verse 6: “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
“Nor did we seek to extract praise and honor and glory from men, either from you or from anyone else, though we might have asserted our authority (stood on our dignity and claimed honor) as apostles (special missionaries) of Christ (the Messiah)” (AMP).
Paul is not saying he never received honor from men or that he had no right to receive it, but he does deny that he required such a reaction from those to whom he preached the gospel. In short, not only were they not motivated by money, neither were they motivated by a desire for praise from men. As noted in the last two verses of this chapter, Paul's focus was not on present glory but future glory of the converts in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming.
Our enemy, Satan and the ego constantly keeps the pressure on, so that there is the possibility for any preacher to use his preaching as a means of getting things for himself, rather than fearlessly and without apology preaching God’s word as it is to people as they are. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). “In season” (when it’s popular), “out of season” (when it’s unpopular).
“Glory” is doxa in Greek, it means to think or have an opinion, especially a favorable one. The condition of being bright or shining can refer to the greatness or splendor of man, as in this verse, which is based on human opinion that can be shifty, uncertain and often based on error. On the other hand, there is a glory of God which is absolutely true and changeless. As in John 5:44 AMP, “How can you believe [in Me], when you [seek and] receive glory and approval from one another, and yet you do not seek the glory and approval which comes from the one and only God?”
“The reason Paul is emphasizing this negative motivation for their ministry is that there were those who had come into Thessalonica and…stood on their dignity and required respectful attention and subservience. Paul could not esteem too highly the glory of the message with which he was entrusted, (cf 2 Corinthians 3:7-11), but he himself and his colleagues were but earthen vessels in which the treasure of the gospel was placed, (2 Corinthians 3:7). Far from demanding service and deference from their converts, they presented themselves as their converts servants for Jesus' sake, (2 Corinthians 4:5)…To gain a reputation as successful evangelists or as leaders of a school which could boast a large number of disciples was not the aim of Paul or his friends. He set no store by the recognition or assessment of men: he was content to abide the Lord's judgment.” –F.F. Bruce
“When Paul ministered among the Thessalonians, he was unconcerned for his personal glory. He didn’t need fancy introductions or lavish praise. His satisfaction came from his relationship with Jesus, not from the praise of people. Paul didn’t seek glory from men because his needs for security and acceptance were met primarily in Jesus. This meant that he didn’t spend his life trying to seek and earn the acceptance of man. He ministered from an understanding of his identity in Jesus.” –Guzik
Psalm 115: NLT, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.”
“Most of us feel that it is our responsibility to establish a reputation. There is a great difference between reputation and character. Reputation is what people think we are and character is what we actually are. Why should we seek to establish our reputation when we all march under the same flag, the flag of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no place for competition among Christian leaders or Christian churches. We are all in the same army and we all have the same general, Jesus. We may not all have the same rank but we all march under the same flag. We are all in the service of General Jesus.” –Richison
Verse 7a: “But we were gentle among you…”
“Gentle” in Greek is epios. It means placid, gentle, mild, easy, compliant. We find epios in a secular Greek writing which describes, a day favorable (epios) for beginning a thing. Epios was used to describe soothing medicine.
I learned this a few years after beginning my ministry. I was somewhat of a tyrant when I first began preaching. One mother told me that her daughter asked when leaving a service, “Mommy why is the pastor so mad?” I have toned down a lot since then! I guess I felt that to get people to listen I had to get a little angry. One Sunday two women were talking during my sermon, I stopped, made them stand up while I scolded them for talking. But the organization of churches with which I was associated then were like that. One of our leaders, when a child was crying during his sermon, stopped preaching and said, “Lady, get that baby out of here!” She was startled and froze, so he said, “Lady, I said ‘get that baby out of here!’” Doesn’t fit our passage does it?
Paul and his team were gentle teachers with their eager students gathered around them. Far from ascending a lofty pinnacle and speaking down to their followers, the missionaries freely mingled with them.
Verse 7b: “…just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.”
Our job as ministers is to nourish, feed, and nurture. This is a vivid picture of Paul's heart for the church at Thessalonica. “Cherishes” means to love; nurture, care for lovingly; treasure, keep warm, to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care.
“‘A nursing mother,’ like a mother bird. This is Paul’s positive expression of his relationship to the Thessalonians: ‘I’ve been a nursing mother, a mother bird to you.’ Oh, the gentleness of Paul! He was as tender as a woman in his dealings with the church at Thessalonica.” –McGee
The pastor's ministerial responsibilities are a significant part of his job description. Discerning what these duties are presents the challenge. David W. Wiersbe provides a helpful and insightful list of duties:
•Nourishing – Providing a balanced and healthy diet is a primary shepherding responsibility. God's people must be fed with the truths of His Word, and our preaching should center on Jesus Christ.
•Protecting – Protecting a flock from false doctrine and wolves in sheep's clothing is not an easy task...we have no choice. This involves proclaiming the truth and warning against what is wrong.
•Seeking - Wandering sheep must be sought and found.
•Sacrificing - A shepherd (like Jesus) must be willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the sheep.
•Knowing - Know the sheep.
•Model Integrity - A pastor should be a person others can imitate.
•Managing - Managerial skills are necessary.
•Healing - Life's wounds are inflicted in many ways. A pastor who knows his people can often tell there is a problem just by looking into someone's face.
•Loving - Good relationships.
•Leading - Set the pace.
•Uniting - A shepherd is responsible for keeping the flock together.”
–Roger D. Willmore, SBC Life, Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention
“The preacher is not a professional man; his ministry is not a profession; it is a divine institution, a divine devotion.” – E.M. Bounds
“We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we leave in our wake… The world sets the agenda for the professional man; God sets the agenda for the spiritual man.” –John Piper
“Max runs a small farm as a hobby. Recently when he checked on the cows he is raising, he was surprised to see a newborn calf! When he bought the cattle, he had no idea one was pregnant. Sadly, the mother cow had complications and died shortly after her calf was born. Immediately, Max purchased some powdered milk so he could feed the calf from a bottle. ‘The calf thinks I’m its mother!’ Max said.
The tender story of Max’s new role with the calf reminded me of how Paul likened himself to a caring mother in dealing with the believers at Thessalonica: ‘We were gentle among you,’ he said, ‘just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children’ (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
Paul adopted a nurturing attitude when teaching people. He knew believers needed the ‘milk of the word’ for spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2). But he also gave special attention to the concerns of those he cared for. ‘We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,’ Paul said, ‘encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God’ (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 NIV).
As we serve each other, may we serve with the tender loving care of our Savior, encouraging each other in our spiritual journey (Hebrews 10:24).
Dear Lord, help me to be sensitive
and caring as I serve others.
Help me to love others tenderly as You
so tenderly love and care for me.
God pours His love into our hearts to flow out to others’ lives.” – Dennis Fisher, Our Daily Bread, July, 2014
**Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB).**