As we now consider the second chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, under the general heading, “A Portrait of a God centered Church“, I want us to remember that this a letter, and not a systematic theological outline on “how to be a God- centered church.” The Bible is in that sense not a “how-to-book.” The Bible is a ‘ God- inspired -book ‘ – full of grace and truth. It is meant to be meditated upon , to be pondered, to be prayed over, and as we do so we receive wisdom and insight (see Proverbs 2). So, as we read this letter slowly and observantly, we learn how to be a biblical church by understanding that we need to (i) pray for Divine enablement (1:2;3:12-13; 5:17-18) to be the church and to (ii) follow human examples who are themselves divinely enabled to lead us and to teach us (1:6).
And so we note that this letter is written to a people who are collectively called “the church of the Thessalonians” (1:1). These are people who have been touched and affected by God in a remarkable way. They are a role model to us and they provide an example for us in our day as to what God centered Christians should be like. Here is a quick reminder of what we learned from Chapter 1 :
1. They are in the church because they are in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1) and they are in the Holy Spirit (1:5,7)
2. They demonstrate the key ingredients of faith, love and hope in the Lord Jesus (1:3)
3. They were chosen by God (1:4) and this was evidenced by the fact that they had received the gospel in power, and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1:5). They were not just convinced, and this in the midst of much affliction (1:6), but they were truly converted! It was clear to everybody.
4. They became missionary Christians, for they had not only received the gospel but they shared the gospel freely in Macedonia and Achaia. Their faith became known everywhere (1:7,8)
5. They demonstrated true repentance by turning from idols to the Living God (1:9)
6. They were waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus (1:10).
And now as we come to the second chapter the focus shifts from the church to those who under God were instrumental in giving birth to this church, namely Paul , Silvanus and Timothy (1:1). Therefore we will now focus on the kind of ministry that produces God centered Christians.
Once again I want to remind you not to expect a presentation on “An Easy Guide for Leaders on how to produce a God centered church in 10 easy steps”. God centered Christian leaders and God centered churches are not mechanically produced by working through a workshop manual . While the Bible gives us true knowledge , the Bible is not a workshop manual in that sense. Rather, it is a book that inspires confidence in a great God, and which teaches His people to trust Him as He leads them in the midst of a spiritual wilderness and in the midst of a spiritual war . We have recently seen this in our exposition in the Revelation to John.
So then , here are a few observations about what a God centered ministry that produces God centered churches looks like:
1. Expect a God centered ministry to face hostile accusations and opposition . This sounds negative, but this is where Paul begins. It has always been this way. You will remember that the ministry of the prophets of the OT was conducted in the midst of adversity . The ministry of the Lord Jesus happened against the background of constant opposition and criticism from the religious hierarchy. The ministry of the apostles and of the early church was mainly accomplished among hostile accusations and opposition. The Church of God is built in hostile territory . And so, we do not find it surprising that the apostle Paul was dealing with the same thing here.
In the opening verses of the 2nd chapter Paul was appealing to the Thessalonians, because there had been people that were accusing him of error , impurity and deception (2:3). He also reminds them that he had been shamefully treated at Philippi (2:2 cf. Acts 16:11-40). Philippi was were where Lydia had been converted. Here a slave girl who had a spirit of divination was delivered. Here Paul and Silas subsequently were charged, badly beaten and put into prison. It was here that God freed them miraculously and it was here that the Philippian jailer was miraculously converted. It was also from here that Paul and Silas went on to Thessalonica “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.“ (Acts 17:3) In Thessalonica a good number of people were converted, but once again a group of jealous Jews formed a mob and made trouble for Paul and his companions there. All this forms the background to the frequent mentioning of suffering and affliction and conflict in the Bible. Here in 2:2 , Paul says “we had the boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (Gr. agon) . The Christian church is born in conflict, and our own church has experienced this!
Conflict happens not because this is what we choose, but because this is what happens when we lead people to Christ and helping them grow in Christ. It is a spiritual struggle; it is a spiritual war , and in the process Satan, the sworn enemy of Christ and His church uses all the tricks of his trade, persecution , murder and slander and misinformation.
And so we find that Paul and his companions had been accused of deception (2:3) and flattery of the crowds that they had preached to in Thessalonica (2:5) . They were accused of doing this because of greed and personal gain and being in this for their own glory. (2:5,6)
So, Paul needed to correct all this by way of this pastoral letter. Here then is the first thing I call you to observe : A God centered ministry building God centered churches must expect opposition from Satan and his protagonists! If this happened to the prophets , and to John the Baptist, and the Lord Jesus, and the apostle,s and the early church, then we must not be surprised if this happens to us , if indeed we pursue a God centered course in our ministry .
2. Expect a God centered ministry to produce spiritual fruit : Positively speaking now , a God centered ministry produces spiritual fruit. Though they are presently being slandered, the apostle Paul is able to appeal to the Thessalonian Christians on the basis of what they know of Paul and his team. Notice how he says in 2:1 “For you yourselves know…” (see also 1:5; 2:2,5,11; 4:2). Here’s a wonderful truth : Their personal lives spoke much louder than the vicious accusations against them. He even appeals to God as his witness that he had not brought the gospel to the Thessalonians with a pretext for greed (2:5).
So , yes there was evident success in their work at Thessalonica, and so Paul could speak of the fact , “that our coming to you was not in vain”. But what was the nature of their success? Not financial gain, nor self - glory, but men and women who turned from idols to serve the true and living God (1:9). Paul is referring to the success of their ministry among the Thessalonians who now glorified God. The evidence of what we saw in Chapter 1 speaks for itself !
3. Expect a God centered Church to be like a loving home (see vss. 7-12). Make no mistake! Paul and his team came with the apostolic authority conferred upon them by Christ (2:6), “but”, says Paul , “we did not come as authoritarians! We did not bully you with the gospel . Quite on the contrary , we came gently” (Gr. epioi) .
We came like a nursing mother taking care of her own children (2:7). “We came 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…” (2:11,12). What can you expect from a God centered ministry? You can expect mother and father- like behaviour. The details of motherly and fatherly behaviour are filled in for us in the text. Paul and his team were “affectionately desirous “  (2:8) of them . They were ready to share not only the gospel of God , but also their own selves. It does not get better than this. Many are willing to give out the Word of God, but few are willing to give themselves . Notice further …“because you had become dear to us” – this highlights the reason. New converts are loved like little children , And this is shown by the personal care, protection, and the nourishing milk of the Word of God that is given to them. Giving out the gospel and giving ourselves to new converts takes time and requires patience, pain and inconvenience. We don’t raise children overnight!
The fatherly aspect of a God centered ministry is that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy did not put financial burdens on these young converts , but worked for their own means (2:9). This is not a general rule in the church , but it is a wise rule in church planting . The Bible teaches that ministers of the gospel had the right to be supported for their work in preaching and teaching, but Paul had forfeited that right when planting new churches. We do not expect people to support a work before they become converts and before they have learned the grace of giving. Other fatherly aspects of the ministry reveal that of concern and involvement :
· being holy and righteous and blameless (2:10). We cannot communicate to others what we don’t have ourselves.
· Exhorting , encouraging , charging  each one of the new converts to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (2:12) . While they must have taught them as a group, they also dealt with them as individuals.
The nature of their motherly and fatherly ministry to these believers was God centered – they wanted their converts to walk in a manner worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory .” (2:12). A God centered ministry cannot be self centered. In true pastoral ministry there can be no place for our own reputation, or our own egos . The goal of the God centered ministry that produces God centered Christians is the glory of God and the spiritual blessing of others.
Note the phrase, “His own kingdom and glory.” This strongly reminds us that there are other kingdoms and other kinds of glory that are constantly competing with our work. Therefore we need to be aware of these false influences and take precautions to guard against their influences. In the latter part of chapter 2 and the next, we will take note of Paul’s deep concern for this very thing.
 hubrizo, “to abuse, to treat shamefully.”
 1 Thess. 1:6 ; 2:2,14; 3:2,3,4
 keno - “empty, without content “
 Alternative reading : nepioi - “ we were like children” i.e. a a non-threatening presence. The sense is really not affected.
 Gr. thropos - nursing mother
 Gr. thalpo - to warm, cherish, nourish. i.e. tender care
 Gr. ishomeiromai - “to have a kindly feeling, to long for someone.” This is a rare word and refers to a mother’s strong affection for her child.
 Gr. agapetos, a verbal adjective which means “beloved.”
 Gr. parakaleo - has both a prospective appeal, in the sense of “obey, respond,” and a retrospective appeal in the sense of “comfort, encourage.” Children need both encouraging and challenging.
 Gr. paramutheomai, “encourage, cheer up, console.”
 Gr. marturomai from martus, “witness.” It means “summon to witness,” “to bear witness,” and then “to solemnly charge, adjure, beseech.”