Don’t Let Your Life Refute Christ’s Message! (1 Thessalonians 2:3–7a)

The problem with Christianity is not Christianity—let alone Christ!—but Christians.

Our walk too often undermines our talk. Our faults cast our faith in a negative light. We rightly strive to defend the truth of the evangel, but that effort comes to little when we evangelists are not trustworthy.

This is not a new problem. It seems that some of the Thessalonians entertained doubts about Paul, Silas, and Timothy. They believed in Jesus Christ with “deep conviction,” and their faith became “known everywhere” (1 Thes. 1:5,8). But because the missionaries left Thessalonica just as the believers there started to experience persecution (Acts 17:5–9; 1 Thes. 2:14, 3:3), some of those believers began to think that perhaps the missionaries had ulterior motives in preaching the gospel to them.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy responded by reminding the Thessalonians what their time among them actually looked like. They appealed to the Thessalonians’ memories of their behavior and preaching using the phrase, “you know” (1 Thes. 1:5; 2:1,2,5,11; 3:3; 4:2; 5:2). In 1 Thessalonians 2:1–7a, the missionaries demonstrated what their ministry among the Thessalonians was not like. We’ve already looked at 2:1–2, so let’s take a look at 2:3–7a:

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking from praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[1] among you.

In his commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Gordon D. Fee outlines the syntax of the Greek text of these verses this way[2]:

Vv. 3–4         For our appeal was

not based on error

nor on impure motives

nor with guile

but as those approved by God

thus we speak.

Vv. 5–7b      For we came

not with flattery

nor with a mask of greed

nor by seeking human praise

but we became “infants/little children” in your midst.

Notice all the not and nor statements in verses 3–7a. Turn these into positive statements, and you have a list of suspicions that even people today have about Christians. Christians—so the complaint goes—are in “error,” have “impure motives,” are trying to “trick” the gullible. They use “flattery,” but behind their smiling faces are “masks of greed” and or a desire for fame (“human praise”).

The only refutation for such suspicions about Christians’ motives is the one Paul, Silas, and Timothy gave: “You know.” Do people know you? Are you authentic with others? Does your manner of speech and style of life prove your innocence of ulterior motives? If not, they can’t hear what you say about Christ, for your walk is louder than your talk.

Christians, don’t let your life refute Christ’s message!

[1] The ESV translates verse 7 this way: “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” In Greek, the difference between “young children” and “gentle” is one letter: nēpioi vs. ēpioi, respectively. Gordon D. Fee argues persuasively for the nēpioi reading (which the NIV adopts) in The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 65–71.

[2] Fee, Thessalonians, 66.

One thought on “Don’t Let Your Life Refute Christ’s Message! (1 Thessalonians 2:3–7a)

  1. Sure, that’s right.
    may spirit of God come upon every believer so that our walk can mach with our talk.

    With him every thing is possible
    just we need to be closer to him mostly in private prayers & fasting.

    stay blessed


    Ev. MUHIZI Julius

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