For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! – 1 Thessalonians 2:9–16 (ESV)
The Thessalonians had never encountered anyone like Paul before; because they had never known of a god who was anything like the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, they had encountered their share of traveling teachers – some philosophers, some peddling religious insights, but all of them seemed to be in it for themselves. Such itinerant experts wanted the Thessalonians to see how remarkable they were and to compensate them handsomely for their visit. Paul reminds these young Christians that this was not at all the way that he, Silas, and Timothy were when they came to Thessalonica. Rather, they labored tirelessly to serve rather than to get. As the Apostle would later tell the Corinthians: “What I want is not what is yours – but you!” By the grace of God, Paul had become a remarkable example of such selfless service. But if we stop at Paul’s good example, we will miss the point entirely. Paul isn’t merely saying “Imitate me!” He is saying, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ!” This is also what the LORD is saying to each and every one of you! The path to greatness includes seeking to imitate the LORD … the LORD who is radically different from the way that fallen human beings naturally think.
Jesus put it like this:
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve – and to give His life a ransom for many.
This has ramifications for every area of our lives, including how we bring the gospel to unbelievers. Paul went out of his way, as he traveled throughout the Mediterranean world, to make clear that he was coming to give something – the treasure of the gospel – rather than that he was coming to get something from the unbelievers. Sometimes this involved Paul working as a tentmaker and sometimes it involved Paul receiving financial support from established churches. It struck me this week, that we still do this very thing. Collectively we work and give part of our income to pay for the expenses and salaries of our missionaries, so that our missionaries – on behalf of all of us – can present the gospel as a free gift to those who have never heard before. In this small way, we are reflecting the character of God by focusing on giving rather than on getting.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 6
Q. 6. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.