That You Would Walk Worthy of God
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
1st Thessalonians 2:1-12
1For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:
2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:
6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
In chapter one, Paul said he was thankful, that wherever he went, even in other nearby countries, people told him what they knew about his own ministry in Thessalonica, and the resulting transformation in the lives of the Thessalonian believers. That would be a thrill to any teacher!
When I was teaching welding and other classes in my vocational career, it was very frustrating that our company refused to adequately pay our trainees for the skills they had, after completing our training. Rival companies would routinely offer them a starting pay of $10/hr. more than we paid our trainees, specifically because they knew our training was superb. The result, obviously, was that we frequently lost those employees, and no one could blame them for leaving.
On the other hand, we teachers had the satisfaction of knowing that the people we trained were superior workers, and in demand among all our rivals! Recruiters often stood on the sidewalk outside the plant, offering job opportunities to all our employees as they left at the end of work.
But God’s children are His forever: He has never lost one of them. There is an Enemy, seeking to “derail” the life of any believer who is careless enough to be ensnared by him. But we cannot be “taken away.” Romans 8:38, 39 assures us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God. What Paul was thrilled to hear, in the first chapter, is that his “pupils” were genuinely walking with God. Their testimony preceded him, wherever he went!
Reminder: How the Gospel Came to Thessalonica
We had to read Acts 17:1-10, to see how the Gospel came to Thessalonica. But the Thessalonian believers were there! All Paul needed to do was to remind them of the traumatic situation surrounding his ministry in Thessalonica, and his departure from there. They had experienced it with him.
They also knew what had happened in the previous town, at Philippi. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he and Silas bore the recent wounds, still unhealed, from the beatings received at Philippi,. The Thessalonian believers knew exactly what had happened.
The Example of Paul and Silas
They also knew that, rather than being hesitant, or fearful about preaching in Thessalonica, Paul and Silas had plunged right in, and boldly shared the truth of Jesus with the Jews and proselytes at the synagogue. They were fearless in the face of sharp resistance, and even the eventual riots that drove them out of town. Why?
Because (as Paul explains in verse three) their message was the straight truth, and they had no “hidden agenda.” There was nothing in their message that might shame the Messiah. No deceit, no uncleanness, no guile. They had nothing to hide. Paul lists several things that were missing in their lives that were common among false teachers, who had a definite hidden agenda.
What was Missing?
- No deceit
- No uncleanness
- No guile
- Not trying to please men, but God
- No flattery at any level: they told the straight truth.
- They were not “acting pious, to hide their greed for gain.”
- They were not seeking personal honor, either from the believers or from anyone else.
- They were never a burden to the believers: they did not seek “handouts,” as Apostles.
In Contrast to the False Teachers::
- They were gentle toward the believers, not arrogant or judgmental.
- They freely gave out the Gospel of God…there was no “Cover Charge.”
- They freely “poured themselves out” for the benefit of the new believers.
- They found temporary work, by which to pay their own way. (see verse 9)
- They behaved in such a way that any witness could confirm their personal
- Righteousness ( In Old English, the word “just” means “Righteous.”)
- and Blamelessness.
- They exhorted and comforted the believers as a father would his children, and encouraged them to live in a manner worthy of their new calling: the Calling of God, unto His Kingdom and His Glory.
What Can We Learn for Today?
There are two ways to look at this passage, as believers:
- We can see the contrast between false teachers and faithful teachers of God’s Word, and learn to be watchful and careful about what kind of teachers we allow to influence us.
- We can see what sort of people we ought to be, as we emulate the faithfulness of Paul and other leaders whom God has sent (especially those we can see in God’s Word.) In that case, we learn what to eradicate in our own lives and what to emulate, as we seek to be disciples of Christ.
All of the values listed in this passage, both negative and positive, are taught elsewhere in the New Testament, as specific directives to Church-age believers. The warnings against false teachers and their danger to believers are also expanded upon there.
Warnings against False Teachers
2nd Peter 2:1-22 gives us the most descriptive warnings against false teachers, but it requires careful reading to keep in mind who the passage refers to. The entire chapter is about false teachers and those unbelievers ensnared by them.
Paul warned the Ephesian elders against false teachers, in Acts 20:28-31. He reminded them that such “wolves” would arise even from among the leadership of churches. He said their goal would be to draw away disciples after themselves…that is, away from sound teaching and a core commitment to Jesus. And Jesus said such men were “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Notice that He does not say, “I once knew you, but you wandered off and got lost!” He says, “I never knew you.” In Luke 6, Jesus also said that the “fruit” He addressed was their teaching, not just their lives. A man can look good on the outside, but be hiding something evil inside.
43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
The fruit in question is both their lives and their teaching! Both have to be good.
A Sad Example:
Ann and I once knew a church leader who seemed an absolutely stellar pastor. His behavior was blameless: he was full of good works. If there was physical work to be done, he was “first in and last out.” If someone was hurt or sick, he was the first one there to help them, or to visit them in the hospital. He seemed to be a wonderful and gracious shepherd.
But there was a persistent pattern of bad teaching, both privately and from the pulpit. He frequently cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word. He gave people books written by pagan philosophers, without warning them, that “This is interesting, but it directly conflicts with God’s Word!” Other times, in a Bible classes, or from the pulpit, he clearly stated that some portion of the Bible was “just mythology:” not to be taken literally.
When he was pressed for a firm answer, he finally admitted that he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God. You see, he “did good things,” but he turned people away from God’s Word. He was a false teacher.
The Imitation of Christ
Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.” We are to take Him as our example, for our values, our priorities, and our practices.
The Hebrew Christians were exhorted to see Jesus as their example and leader, and follow Him.
Hebrews 12:1-4 “1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
They knew that the Judgment of all the World was coming. Peter addressed these same believers, in 2nd Peter 3:11, and said, “…therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?”
A Fragrance of Christ
Our lives are to reflect the presence of Christ. In fact, we are said to be a “fragrance” of Christ.
2nd Corinthians 2:14-16 says that we are a “sweet savour” or “fragrance” of Christ, to the saved and unsaved, alike. Believers will recognize the Holy Spirit in our life, and rejoice. Unbelievers will see the difference as well, but resent it as the smell of coming judgment. They will assume that we are judging them, though we are not. We earnestly desire their salvation and blessing because we also see that coming judgment, and we do not want them to be destroyed by it.
To Review, Then:
What kind of behavior should we desire to emulate?
- Being gentle toward other believers, as well as to unbelievers.
- Freely giving out the Gospel of Christ to unbelievers
- Freely “pouring ourselves out” for the benefit of other believers.
- Being productive, working to pay our own way, and to help those truly in need.
- Living so that others can recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives, by personal:
- Holiness, Righteousness, and Blamelessness.
We hope to exhort and comfort other believers. We hope to encourage one another to live in a manner worthy of the Calling of God, for His Kingdom and His Glory. We do not seek to be honored by other people, but rather to bring honor to Jesus.
We try to avoid any behavior or words that would dishonor Him. The epistle to the Ephesians is largely given to teaching believers how to live for God.
Ephesians 4:25-32 says:
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Following our Leader
In those seven verses, we see the same characteristics listed for us as were listed in the lives of the Apostles. In fact, in 1st Corinthians 11:1, Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” That is a pretty bold thing to say, as a human “follower of Jesus.”
But the key words, there, are “…even as I also am of Christ.” Paul was not some “cult-leader,” demanding that everyone just blindly follow him. He said, “As far as you see me following Jesus, you can follow me.” The Corinthian believers were with Paul for much longer than these people in Thessalonica, and they still had very messed-up lives. In their case, Paul effectively said, “OK, look! Do you see what I am doing, in following Jesus? Do that!”
A Hard Task?
Personally, I would hesitate to tell someone, “Follow me, as I follow Jesus,” because I am keenly aware of my failings. But that is how we are told to live: Our lives are to reflect the light of Christ in such a way that others can confidently follow our examples.
That is a tough assignment! But that is the same assignment we had when we raised our children, and we seldom thought, ”But, I don’t know if I can do this!” We just raised our kids as best we could, living day by day. We tried to set a consistently good example, as well as giving clear direction to our children in their growing up years.
That is how we are to approach the Christian Life, as well. It is not “hard:” it is completely impossible, apart from the Holy Spirit presiding over our lives. Remember that Peter had to “get out of the boat” to begin to walk on the water with Jesus. But he had to focus on Jesus every moment to stay on top.
Lord Jesus, we ask that You keep our attention focused on You, so that we are not entangled and weighed down by the distractions of the World around us. Raise us up to be the Men and Women of God you have called us to be.