Here we have an account of Paul’s manner of preaching, and his comfortable reflection upon his entrance in among the Thessalonians. As he had the testimony of his own conscience witnessing to his integrity, so he could appeal to the Thessalonians how faithful he, and Silas, and Timotheus, his helpers in the work of the Lord, had discharged their office: You yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you. Note, It is a great comfort to a minister to have his own conscience and the consciences of others witnessing for him that he set out well, with good designs and from good principles; and that his preaching was not in vain, or, as some read it, was not fain. The apostle here comforts himself either in the success of his ministry, that it was not fruitless or in vain (according to our translation), or as others think, reflecting upon the sincerity of his preaching, that it was not vain and empty, or deceitful and treacherous. The subject-matter of the apostle’s preaching was not vain and idle speculations about useless niceties and foolish questions, but sound and solid truth, such as was most likely to profit his hearers. A good example this is, to be imitated by all the ministers of the gospel. Much less was the apostle’s preaching vain or deceitful. He could say to these Thessalonians what he told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 4:2): We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully. He had no sinister or worldly design in his preaching, which he puts them in mind to have been,
I. With courage and resolution: We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God, 1 Thess. 2:2. The apostle was inspired with a holy boldness, nor was he discouraged at the afflictions he met with, or the opposition that was made against him. He had met with ill usage at Philippi, as these Thessalonians well knew. There it was that he and Silas were shamefully treated, being put in the stocks; yet no sooner were they set at liberty than they went to Thessalonica, and preached the gospel with as much boldness as ever. Note, Suffering in a good cause should rather sharpen than blunt the edge of holy resolution. The gospel of Christ, at its first setting out in the world, met with much opposition; and those who preached it preached it with contention, with great agony, which denoted either the apostles’ striving in their preaching or their striving against the opposition they met with. This was Paul’s comfort; he was neither daunted in his work, nor driven from it.
II. With great simplicity and godly sincerity: Our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, 1 Thess. 2:3. This, no doubt, was matter of the greatest comfort to the apostle—the consciousness of his own sincerity; and was one reason of his success. It was the sincere and uncorrupted gospel that he preached and exhorted them to believe and obey. His design was not to set up a faction, to draw men over to a party, but to promote pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father. The gospel he preached was without deceit, it was true and faithful; it was not fallacious, nor a cunningly-devised fable. Nor was it of uncleanness. His gospel was pure and holy, worthy of its holy author, tending to discountenance all manner of impurity. The word of God is pure. There should be no corrupt mixtures therewith; and, as the matter of the apostle’s exhortation was thus true and pure, the manner of his speaking was without guile. He did not pretend one thing and intend another. He believed, and therefore he spoke. He had no sinister and secular aims and views, but was in reality what he seemed to be. The apostle not only asserts his sincerity, but subjoins the reasons and evidences thereof. The reasons are contained, 1 Thess. 2:4.
1. They were stewards, put in trust with the gospel: and it is required of a steward that he be faithful. The gospel which Paul preached was not his own, but the gospel of God. Note, Ministers have a great favour shown them, and honour put upon them, and trust committed to them. They must not dare to corrupt the word of God: they must diligently make use of what is entrusted with them, so as God hath allowed and commanded, knowing they shall be called to an account, when they must be no longer stewards.
2. Their design was to please God and not men. God is a God of truth, and requires truth in the inward parts; and, if sincerity be wanting, all that we do cannot please God. The gospel of Christ is not accommodated to the fain fancies and lusts of men, to gratify their appetites and passions; but, on the contrary, it was designed for the mortifying of their corrupt affections, and delivering them from the power of fancy, that they might be brought under the power of faith. If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ, Gal. 1:10.
3. They acted under the consideration of God’s omniscience, as in the sight of him who tries our hearts. This is indeed the great motive to sincerity, to consider that God not only seeth all that we do, but knoweth our thoughts afar off, and searcheth the heart. He is well acquainted with all our aims and designs, as well as our actions. And it is from this God who trieth our hearts that we must receive our reward. The evidences of the apostle’s sincerity follow; and they are these:—(1.) He avoided flattery: Neither at any time used we flattering words, as you know, 1 Thess. 2:5. He and his fellow-labourers preached Christ and him crucified, and did not aim to gain an interest in men’s affections for themselves, by glorying, and fawning and wheedling them. No, he was far from this; nor did he flatter men in their sins; nor tell them, if they would be of his party, they might live as they listed. He did not flatter them with fain hopes, nor indulge them in any evil work or way, promising them life, and so daubing with untempered mortar. (2.) He avoided covetousness. He did not make the ministry a cloak, or a covering, for covetousness, as God was witness, 1 Thess. 2:5. His design was not to enrich himself by preaching the gospel; so far from this, he did not stipulate with them for bread. He was not like the false apostles, who, through covetousness, with feigned words made merchandise of the people, 2 Pet. 2:3. (3.) He avoided ambition and vain-glory: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you nor yet of others, 1 Thess. 2:6. They expected neither people’s purses nor their caps, neither to be enriched by them nor caressed, and adored, and called Rabbi by them. This apostle exhorts the Galatians (Gal. 5:26) not to be desirous of vain glory; his ambition was to obtain that honour which comes from God, John 5:44. He tells them that they might have used greater authority as apostles, and expected greater esteem, and demanded maintenance, which is meant by the phrase of being burdensome, because perhaps some would have thought this too great a burden for them to bear.