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Motives for Ministry

1 Thessalonians 2:4 (ESV) … “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

Out key passage goes to the heart of Paul’s message in this chapter concerning Paul’s motive for ministry. Paul did not use guile or trickery to win converts. The word translated “guile” carries the idea of “baiting a hook.” In other words, Paul did not trap people into being saved, the way a clever salesman traps people into buying his product. Spiritual witnessing and “Christian salesmanship” are different. Salvation does not lie at the end of a clever argument or a subtle presentation. It is the result of God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 1:5).

Often we hear, “I don’t care what your method is, just so long as your message is right.” But some methods are unworthy of the Gospel. They are cheap, whereas the Gospel is a costly message that required the death of God’s only Son. They are worldly and man centered, whereas the Gospel is a divine message centered in God’s glory.

Paul’s enemies in Thessalonica accused him of being a cheap peddler of this new message. They said that his only motive was to make money. In describing himself as a faithful steward, Paul answered these critics; and Paul’s readers knew that he told the truth. (Trace that phrase “as ye know” in 1 Thes. 1:5; 2:1, 5, 11; 3:3–4; 4:2; 5:2.) Paul appealed to the witness of God (1 Thes. 2:5) and to their own witness. He had “a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).

Paul abhorred flattery (1 Thes. 2:5). David also hated this sin. “They speak vanity everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak” (Ps. 12:2).

I once read that a flatterer is a person who manipulates rather than communicates. A flatterer can use either truth or lies to achieve his unholy purpose, which is to control your decisions for his own profit.

Some people even flatter themselves. “For he flatters himself in his own eyes” (Ps. 36:2, RSV). This was the sin of Haman, that evil man in the Book of Esther. He was so interested in flattering himself that he even plotted to slaughter all the Jews to achieve that goal.

Some people try to flatter God. “Nevertheless they [Israel] did flatter Him [God] with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their tongues” (Ps. 78:36). Flattery is another form of lying. It means saying one thing to God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6).

Some Christians try to win friends and influence people by appealing to their egos. A true ministry of the Gospel deals honestly (but lovingly) with sin and judgment and leaves the unbeliever with nothing to boast of in himself. Paul’s method was as pure as his motive: he presented the Word of God in the power of the Spirit, and trusted God to work. [1]

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 164–165). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.


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