Paul’s Example of Godly Vindication
By Terry Cheek Th.D.
1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. (2) But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.” (NKJV)
In Chapter one Paul explains why he and those with him were so thankful. I recommend you take time to read the book of 1st Thessalonians, it is an encouragement. But here, in chapter 2 Paul begins to discuss one of the main purposes of writing this epistle. It can be described as a Godly vindication of Christian character and ministry. It begins with an understanding of the very first word, Gar translated “for” in the English Bible actually creates a literary bridge between the chapters. Chapter 2:1-16 is an expansion of chapter 1:5-10, and chapter 2:1-12 looks into Paul’s arrival in Thessalonica and his conduct there. While 2:13-16 describes the Thessalonian’s response.
But, chapter two doesn’t just repeat chapter one, while chapter one shows the Thessalonians’ knowledge and the response to their election, and chapter two builds upon the same theme to set down Paul’s defense against insinuations about him having ulterior motives in ministry and Christian service.
We don’t have specific names of Paul’s accusers. I’m certain if names were important, the Lord would have provided them. It’s enough that we know Paul faced not only physical but verbal and social persecution. The thesis we find here is a proper defense when we find ourselves wrongly attacked. Whether our attackers come from religious or secular foundations. Paul corrected heretics, Judaizers, spiritualists, Gnostics, and Jews, he confronted government officials, religious leaders, and the worldly, all sought his life because of the gospel he preached.
The strength and encouragement we find in the first two verses of 1st Thessalonians two comes from God and ultimately leads back to His glory. Paul first tells the Thessalonians they (he and his companions) are not there in vain, in other words, there is no immoral or evil intent in their coming. Many were opposing Paul and his companions and they were spread among many cities, each one trying to destroy reputation and character before the Apostle and his preachers arrive. Then Paul reminds them of his previous treatment and suffering at Phillipi. He didn’t want sympathy. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to know, despite the attempted discouragement, physical assault, wrongful accusations, and character assassination he was not hindered in preaching the gospel. Paul uses the word parrēsiázomai, translated bold in the English Bible, to describe his approach in proclaiming the gospel even during conflict.
I titled the article “Paul’s example of godly vindication” because every truly born-again Christian will face persecution, to some degree or another, from inside the church and outside the church. When we do, how we approach it will determine how we are remembered. Paul could have fought fire with fire and had a following of people to help him, but God’s plan for Paul would have been injured. Instead, Paul vindicated himself and his companions with the gospel. He boldly led a godly life and preached the gospel. We cannot lead a godly life and not preach a godly gospel. Neighbors, when you need vindication against wrong let the gospel be your guide and follow it boldly.
Until we meet again, either in print or in person, may God richly bless you is my prayer.
Terry is the Executive Director and broadcaster of The Inspiring Word media ministry. You can contact Terry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.