Examine the Ministry Message
- Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Paul says two things in his defense that are quite powerful. He says that God is the One who tests our hearts (v. 4) and that God is our witness (v. 5). What is he saying?
In the first place, Paul affirms the integrity of his message, method, and motive by appealing not only to his goal of pleasing God, but to the fact that God is the One who tests our hearts. Paul will answer to Him. While this reality should cause many to tremble before the God of Holiness, it was a source of comfort and defense for Paul. He is saying that God tested his heart and his heart was for God.
In the second place, Paul appeals to God as his witness. It is God who is his witness because only God can look upon the heart. God knows that Paul did not come to Thessalonica with a covetous heart. There is no higher appeal. Would that preachers of religion become gospel preachers and be able to appeal to God as their witness. Too many who attempt to appeal to God would find themselves under condemnation rather than approbation.
The implied message here is two-fold. Initially, we should all examine our hearts. Then, we should understand that true gospel preachers know and relish the fact that God tests their hearts and that God is their witness.
Fifth, when examining ministry (message, method, and motive), ask the question: does it seek to glorify man or glorify God? True gospel preachers seek only God's glory and therefore make no selfish demands.
With regard to his message, method, and motive, Paul has one further thought. "Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ." There is no sense in which Paul was seeking personal gain or notoriety. He did not seek glory, honor, or praise from men. He did not seek such from the Thessalonians or any others. He only sought the glory of God. That, of course, is the Christian's ultimate motive.
Paul then appeals to his position and due in connection with that position. As an apostle, he was due to make his living from the gospel. The Scriptures are clear on this point. In 1 Cor. 9:14, we read a summation of Paul's defense of this concept in the broader context of that chapter, "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel." In more than one place Paul notes, "For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,' and, 'The laborer is worthy of his wages (1 Tim. 5:18).'"
Paul indeed had a right to make demands as an apostle of God. But, he did not. That is his point. He could have made demands. He had the right to do so according to the Scriptures. Yet, he did not. The fact that he made no demands surely proves the sincerity of his message, method, and motive. He did not take what he deserved. How could he be seeking even more? The opponents are thus shown to be what they are: liars and enemies of Christ. Paul and his men in contrast were heralds of the greatest message ever sent: the gospel of Christ. May we be the same.
Dr. Paul J. Dean is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Greer, SC, and hosts a daily, live, call-in radio talk show: "Calling for Truth." He serves as the Director of Applied Ministry at the Greenville, SC extension of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors.
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