Paul the Master Builder – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:5

Who is your favourite evangelist? Billy Graham? Louis Palau? David Watson? Michael Green? J.John? Steve Chalke? Nicky Gumbel? Or what about the greats from history? John Wesley? D.L.Moody? William Booth?
And who is your favourite missionary? Hudson Taylor? William Carey? David Livingstone? Gladys Ayleward? Jackie Pullinger? George Verwer?
If we want to learn about evangelism we can look at the lives of these evangelists used so powerfully by God. If we want to learn about mission we can follow the patterns of these missionary giants. If we want to learn about evangelism and mission and church planting there is no finer example in the whole of Christian history than the apostle Paul. He called himself “the least of the apostles” but he was in many ways the greatest. Writing to the Corinthians Paul described himself as “a skilled master-builder”. In 1 Thessalonians we find Paul defending his ministry against his critics and opponents. And so here we find six marks of Paul the Master-Builder. Six elements of effective evangelism and mission. Six characteristics which will transform our personal witness to Jesus Christ and guide us as a church as we seek to reach out to our friends and neighbours with the gospel. Six Marks of a Master-Builder.
1 Thessalonians 2:1 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. 2 We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.
J.B.Phillips translation: “our message is true, our motives are pure, our conduct is absolutely above board.”
NO error – because we proclaim Jesus the way, the truth and the life.
NO impure motives – having the right motivation in outreach and evangelism is absolutely vital. There are plenty of honourable motives for proclaiming the gospel. We are grateful for what God has done for us. We have a concern for God’s honour. We have a sense of responsibility before God to share the gospel. We care about those who are lost and perishing without Christ. And we are obeying Christ’s commission to go and make disciples and preach the gospel to the whole of creation. Our motives are pure, not selfish.
NO tricks – some may water down the claims of Christ, some may preach an “easy-come” gospel, but we do not.
NO flattery – always honesty
NO greed – no selfishness
NOT trying to please men, not looking for popularity or success or reputation, not looking for anything for ourselves,
NOT trying to please men but content to be pleasing God and approved by God. God has entrusted us with the gospel and we are responsible and accountable to God for our outreach and evangelism. So we must start with sincerity.
Then the second mark of effective mission and outreach and evangelism is
2 Thessalonians 2:6b As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
We do not only love God. We must also genuinely love those we are trying to lead to Christ. Not being a burden. That means turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. The most important people in the church are the new people, the guests, the visitors. We must not demand of inquirers or seekers or new Christians more than they are ready to give. We must not be a burden to them. We must not put any obstacles between them and their Saviour. True love means
Sharing not only the gospel, but our lives as well.
Our responsibility to God and to others is not limited to sharing our testimony, or giving a friend a book to read, or taking them to church. Sharing the gospel is not about winning intellectual arguments about the existence of God or the historical truth of the resurrection. Mission is about sharing love in action!
Sharing our lives as well! Love hurts! Love costs! For Christ, love meant going to the cross. For some of us it will mean opening our homes to strangers. For others it will mean going into tough areas or tough jobs to live and share Christ. For some it means sacrificing a “normal life” for the demands of missionary service or pastoral ministry. Somebody has said, “There are many translations of the gospel but the best is the gospel translated into daily living.” Loving other people is not something we FEEL but something we DO, sharing out lives with them. That is why the third mark of the master-builder is
9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
Mission is hard work. Outreach is hard work. Evangelism is hard work. Serving the community is hard work! Other people, probably false teachers leading the church astray or Jews who were persecuting them, were accusing Paul of taking advantage of the Thessalonians and exploiting them. But Paul insists he was never a burden to them. On the contrary, he gave himself to them in toil and hardship, working night and day. Paul makes the same point in his second letter to the Thessalonians.
2 Thessalonians 3 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
Not idle – but working day and night, labouring and toiling. I am sure you know what than is like. I remember being a leader on Crusader Camps and Boys Brigade Camps. And the years of running youth groups, week after week. The hard work of delivering leaflets and hosting coffee parties. When God gives us true love for other people we won’t run away from the hard work, sacrificing time and energy and money to share the gospel. We will love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
The fourth mark of effective mission and evangelism and outreach is
2 Thessalonians 2 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
We should never forget that our lives are an example to seekers and new Christians. Folk who are new to the church and Christian things will imitate the example of older Christians and established members. If we are grumpy – they will be grumpy! If we are indifferent or uncaring or self-important they will think that is what Christians are meant to be like. If we worship enthusiastically and joyfully so will they. If we sit in church looking bored or critical, they will think that is what they are meant to do! If we are truly welcoming they in turn will welcome others too. They will become like us.
Paul could honestly say he was holy, devout and pious. He was righteous, upright. He was blameless among them – what an amazing claim to make!
Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy, and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”
Holiness is our witness to the world. The difference Jesus makes to our lives. Actions speak louder than words. There is a tremendous pressure from the world around to fit in. To be still “one of the gang.” But God calls us to be holy!
And the fifth mark of the master builder is
2 Thessalonians 2 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Caring for the new Christians at Thessalonica as a father cares for his children. And we have also seen Paul earlier compare himself to a mother nursing her babies.
7 we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.
Mission does not end when a person is converted. We older Christians need to care for young Christians and new Christians like parents care for their little children, feeding them with Bible reading and Bible study and worship, having realistic expectations, loving them as they are, setting a good example for them.
Encouraging them, being supportive and positive. We need to work hard at encouraging each other, especially new Christians.
Comforting and consoling them – we all need help and support, especially in the hard times.
Urging and imploring them to live lives worthy of God. Too often younger Christians experience criticism and discouragement from older and more mature Christians who should know better. They need patience and support. Encouragement. Comfort. Occasional gentle urging. The kind of care which loving parents show for their children. And Paul expands this theme in the sixth mark of effective mission and outreach and evangelism
When somebody becomes a Christian we don’t just carve another notch in our Bibles and move on to pastures new. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Our obligation to new Christians carries on until they reach spiritual maturity, and does not end even then.
The Thessalonians had received the gospel, repented and believed.
13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
As we saw last week, the Thessalonians had responded in joy, faith, love and hope. But Paul’s concern for these new Christians continued.
17 But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.
Paul really cared about the Thessalonians. He really wanted to see them again especially because he knew that they were suffering persecution. So Paul gives them practical help.
3 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
Paul sent Timothy to help and strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians in their times of trial. The church has the dreadful reputation of being the only army which shoots its own wounded. On the other hand some Christians can be too proud to accept help, let alone ask for us. We should all be willing to let others help us. Because Paul is well aware that all of our lives are a spiritual battleground.
2 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us.
3 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
All Christians live in the middle of a spiritual battle between good and evil, between God and Satan. Christ has already won the decisive victory on the Cross, but we must play our part in the mopping up operations. In particular that means supporting young Christians and new Christians in the temptations they face against the world and the flesh and the devil.
So here we see the six marks of the Master-Builder. Six essential elements in mission and outreach and evangelism. But what was it motivated Paul in all of this?
2 Thessalonians 2 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.
Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians arose from his expectation of the return of Jesus Christ. Paul wanted them to be ready to meet the Son, so that they would welcome Christ as Saviour rather than face Him as Judge.
Six marks of the Master-Builder. Sincerity. Love. Hard work. Holiness. Parental Care. Nurture. May they be at the centre of all our mission and outreach and evangelism.

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