The apostle, giving an account of his successful ministry among the Thessalonians, commends their readiness to receive the gospel.
(Vs. 1) What a comfort it is to a minister of the gospel to have his own conscience and the witness of others declare that he has been true to the gospel of God's glory, true to those who have heard him, and that he has not run or labored in vain! What an encouragement to see that God has brought forth fruit from the Word preached (Acts 20:20-21; Acts 20:26-27). If a false prophet is known by the fruits of his ministry, may not a true minister be known by his? (Matt. 7:15-16).
(Vs. 2) Paul was put in prison and shamefully treated at Philippi (Acts 16). He was not discouraged nor turned from his purpose to make Christ known; but as soon as he came to Thessalonica, he preached Christ as boldly as ever, meeting with much contention and opposition. Persecution and opposition ought to encourage rather than discourage us, for we are faithfully warned by our Lord that the natural man and the religionist will not receive the gospel of the grace of God! (John 16:1-4). But "we earnestly contend" also (and this may be the main point here).
(Vs. 3) We are willing to be a BIT CONTENTIOUS and appeal to you with great zeal and fervor; for our preaching of the gospel of Christ does not originate from error, delusion, or an improper motive (nor in fraud or deceit). Our design is not to win you to ourselves, to a party, or to glory in your flesh, but THAT YOU MAY KNOW CHRIST. Paul had no secular aims or goals, but was in reality what he professed to be. In the next verses he gives the reasons and evidences of his sincerity!
(Vs. 4) 1. WE ARE STEWARDS of God, entrusted with the gospel. It is required of a steward that he be faithful. The gospel he preached was not his own, but was the gospel of God (I Cor. 9:16). We shall give an account (Heb. 13:17).
2. OUR DESIGN WAS TO PLEASE GOD, not to please men. The gospel of Christ must not be compromised and accommodated to the thoughts, desires, and fancies of men; but it was designed to mortify the flesh and glorify the grace and mercy of God in Christ.
(Vs. 5) 3. WE AVOIDED FLATTERY and praising the flesh, for we were determined to preach Christ, not to gain an interest in the affection of men. We did not flatter men to gain their support nor their interest in the gospel. Our weapons are not carnal (II Cor. 10:4-5).
4. WE AVOIDED COVETOUSNESS. We did not use the ministry as a cloak or a covering to hide a covetous and greedy motive. Our design was not to enrich ourselves through preaching (II Peter 2:3). God always met our needs and provided our living regardless of what men thought of us.
(Vs. 6) 5. WE AVOIDED AMBITION AND VAIN GLORY. Paul did not covet their praise, nor to be called Rabbi, nor to be adored by them. He was not seeking honor from men, but that honor which comes from God (John 5:44). He was certainly an apostle and worthy of respect and double-honor. He could have used his authority as an apostle and demanded esteem and special care, but he wanted nothing to hinder their coming to faith in Christ.
(Vs. 7) 6. WE WERE GENTLE AMONG YOU. Such kindness, gentleness, and patience is becoming to the gospel of Christ and recommends the grace of God, for He is kind and gentle in dealing with sinners (Eph. 4:32). Though Paul did not flatter the flesh, he was kind and condescending to all men and became all things to all men. He showed the kindness and care of a mother nursing and cherishing her own children. The Word of God is indeed powerful, and it comes often with awesome authority upon the minds of men; but it is not our place as faulty men to use this word harshly nor in a rude, cruel, and overbearing manner (II Tim. 2:24-25).
(Vs. 8) The Apostle had such a strong affection for these people that he was not only willing to preach the gospel to them but was willing to give his life for them: they had become this dear to him.