For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NKJV)
Paul starts off chapter two with the word “for” to indicate that the following material is based upon what has already been stated. Specifically here, Paul is expounding on 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9. The reason Paul didn’t have to tell people about the salvation of the Thessalonians was that Paul’s ministry among them had not been in vain. This was important because it seems that Paul was having to deal with accusations that Paul and his companions were imposters and their visit to Thessalonica had been in vain. The Thessalonians themselves knew that Paul’s ministry among them had not been in vain.
The word that is translated as “vain” refers to something that is empty, ineffectual or fruitless. They knew that through Paul’s preaching of the Gospel they had turned to God from idols and were now serving the living and true God. The radical change in their lives was proof that Paul and his companions didn’t come among them as impostors. The Thessalonians were faithfully serving Christ despite the persecution they had to endure. Therefore, the charge that Paul and company were impostors who had a fruitless ministry was false.
One of the other accusations against Paul seems to have been that he was a bit of a coward. As in our day, Greek/Roman culture was filled with gifted speakers who were always trying to get people to follow them so they could bilk them of their money. Since they couldn’t make cd’s to sell or mp3’s to put on iTunes, they physically had to go to places and get people to come and listen to them speak. If these people were little more than snake oil salesmen, then their time in any given city was limited. Eventually, the people would realize they were peddling something useless and would want their money back. When this started happening the snake oil salesman had to get out of town while the getting was good and before they were caught. The accusation seems to be that Paul was a snake oil salesman who had gotten out of town when things started getting bad.
Paul reminds them of how things had gone for them in Philippi before he came to Thessalonica. Paul’s time in Philippi had been fruitful but also troubled. The trouble started when he cast a demon out of a slave girl who made her masters money by telling the future (Acts 16:16). With their hope for profit gone, her owners had Paul arrested. In a short period of time, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten and imprisoned. This was done to them despite the fact they were Roman citizens.
Paul reminds them about this so they will recognize he is not a snake oil salesman who runs when things get hard. If he were, then when he came to Thessalonica he would have done things differently than he did in Philippi. However, when he came to Thessalonica he began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He didn’t just preach the Gospel he preached it boldly. The word that is used for “bold” here carries with it the idea of speaking without fear. The point is that he preached the Gospel without worrying about their response. He knew that preaching the Gospel might cause problems. He knew that preaching the Gospel might cause him to endure suffering. He chose to preach the Gospel anyway and he chose to preach it boldly not fearing their possible rejection.
He says that he preached the Gospel of God “in much conflict.” This very literally means that he preached the Gospel in the midst of much opposition. Opposition did arise and Paul continued to preach the Gospel. Of course, finally he was forced to flee the city because they were trying to kill him. However, this really didn’t stop Paul. All he did was move to a new city and start preaching the exact same Gospel all over again. Paul was bold to preach the Gospel regardless of the consequences or suffering it brought into his life.
We might look at that and think that Paul was a naturally bold person and so that is the reason that he could do this. I do tend to think that Paul was a naturally bold person, but ultimately that’s not what made Paul bold. Paul says that he was bold in his God to speak the Gospel. The idea here seems to be that God had given Paul the boldness necessary to preach the Gospel fearlessly despite the suffering he had endured earlier.
God will give the same kind of boldness to us that He gave to Paul. If we are to be faithful in our ministry for Christ then we must have this kind of boldness.
]Heavenly Father, it is so easy for us to be passive instead of active in our service to you. It is so easy for us to let the worlds idea about the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cause us to be timid in sharing the Gospel. Father, we need boldness that comes from Your Holy Spirit. Father, help us to be faithful with the Gospel regardless of the response. Help us Lord to faithfully proclaim the good news about Jesus even if we have to do this in the midst of much conflict.
For further study read 2 Timothy 1:6-12.
What are believers to stir up?
Why are we to do this?
What has God given us? How does this enable us to be bold?
In light of what God has given us, what are we to do?