Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Exhortation to comfort - 1st Thessalonians 2:3-6

"For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness —  nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority." (1st Thessalonians 2:3-6)
It is interesting how Paul stylizes his ministry and word to the Thessalonians. Here is it translated as "exhortation" but more often in the New Testament it is translated as "comfort" as in Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church when he said, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) This exhortation is an exhortation to rest and comfort. It is a calling out, or calling forth, of one that they may be comforted and might find rest. It is as the exhortation of Jesus when He said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) There are many modes of preaching and each has its own place and time, but a preaching that is always harsh, judgmental, and confrontational can weary the hearer and belie the very heart of God who calls His people to comfort. It is very easy to stand up and point out what is wrong, but sometimes people just need comfort and to know there is a place they can run to to find rest. Sometimes we must take up the words of our Lord when He cried out saying, "'Comfort, O comfort My people,' says your God. 'Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.'" (Isaiah 40:1-2) Most people know what they are doing wrong, and they know what others are doing wrong, but they need to know there is a place they can go to to find forgiveness and peace.

Paul's message was one to call the people away from their old life. It was an exhortation to leave their useless idols and religions, to leave their futile way of living, and to come to a new place where they might receive forgiveness and refreshing from the Lord. It was a call to leave death for life, slavery for sonship, and weariness for rest. However, Paul makes it know that he did not do so out of any impure motive or deceptive scheme. Paul was not trying to draw them into some new kind of error or to draw them away into immorality. Paul was not out to trick them for his own benefit and glory. Paul was on a mission from God. Paul was not sent by men or by the agency of men, but it was God Himself who had approved Paul and found him trustworthy and had committed to him the Gospel he was preaching. Paul's credentials did not come from a seminary nor an ecclesiastical order, God had approved him and God had sent him. When we know that we are approved and commissioned by God, then we have no need for the flattery of men. It matters little what others think of us or if they accept or reject us. When we have the praise of God, the praise of men seems pail in comparison. When God is our author, then we are truly free; free to do and be all He wants us to be; free from the fear of men and their expectations. Paul's message came with no strings attached because he did not need them. He had all he needed in his heavenly Father.

David Robison

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