Monday, 26 June 2017
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 2:2
Paul had just said that his arrival, along with his associates, was not vain. Now, building on that, he says, “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know…”
What this is saying is that such treatment would have caused most people to just give up. The spiteful treatment at Philippi that he is referring to is recorded in Acts 16:6-40. It included a public beating and imprisonment. After this, they next went along their mission route, arriving at Thessalonica. This is recorded in Acts 17:1-10. Despite this truly shameful treatment at Philippi, these men were not deterred in continuing on with their missionary work.
The words “as you know” are written as much for us as they are for those at Thessalonica. If what he said wasn’t true, then any person who knew it could have simply said as much. But history bears out that the account occurred, and those at Thessalonica were fully aware of it. In other words, they knew what had occurred in Philippi, and it only more poignantly demonstrated the high caliber of Paul and his associates. They had no idea what type of reception they would receive as they proceeded, and yet they boldly continued on where no Christian missionary had gone before.
With their fortitude evident, he says that they “were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.” With a full trust in God that they were meant to continue the mission trip through Macedonia, they proceeded onward. Paul knew this to be true because of what it says in Acts 16:9, 10 –
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
The Lord would not prompt them to go on such a mission if He were not going to be with them. The spiteful treatment at Philippi turned out to be exactly what was needed anyway. It bolstered confidence of those there who believed, it continued to confirm the legal proclamation of the gospel, and it brought salvation to the jailer who was given charge over Paul and Silas (Silvanus).
Rather than being negatively affected and weakened by what occurred, Paul and those with him, understood that these things were divinely orchestrated. Thus, they were further emboldened. This was despite “much conflict.”
The Greek word translated as “conflict” is agōni. As you can see, it is where our modern word “agony” is derived. It indicates a contest or a struggle. In secular Greek, which his audience would have been thinking of, it speaks of a gathering to the Greek games such as the Olympiads. It is a great struggle as if they were in a battle or a wrestling match against the spiritual foes of the church, fighting for the precious saints that they were called to minister to. And yet, despite this struggle, they continued on, emboldened by God.
Life application: The book is written, the future is set, and we have an absolute surety that Christ is in complete control of our destiny. No matter what happens in this earthly life, we are safe and secure in His capable hands. As this is so, why would we be timid in our proclamation of Christ Jesus, or why should we care about what could happen because of it? Get up, go out, and speak! Jesus. It is all about Jesus!
Lord God, Christ Jesus died for our sins, and He was raised to eternal life. This is what we believe. And we believe that we too will be raised in the same fashion. And so why on earth should we be timid concerning what people think when we speak about Him? How silly. They can kill the body, but Christ already possesses our soul! Grant us the fortitude to stand up and speak! Jesus… it is all about Jesus. Why should we keep that precious news quiet? Help us in this, O Lord. Amen.