Sharing Christ with people is more than telling someone a preplanned or memorized speech. Although if you do even that, I commend you for your effort to share the Gospel. We share Christ with people by the way we live our lives, offer ourselves, and love people. It is important that we understand the Gospel, are able to present it and defend it, but it is more important that we are able to live it.
When Paul went to Thessalonica, he did more than enter the city square and give a spiel. He showed up and represented Jesus Christ. This chapter describes how he did that and offers us guidance in sharing Jesus with whomever the Lord puts in our path. Verses 1-2 describe how Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica.
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
The Lord had ordained them to go to the city, they knew that it was not going to be fruitless. They went with a purpose, to share God’s Word. Paul live his life with that purpose. And that is never futile, even when we don’t see the results. Isaiah 55:10-11 says it like this,
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
It was not an easy task either. Paul said they had been shamefully treated at Philippi and went to Thessalonica anyway and didn’t have it any easier there. Paul and Silas had been thrown in jail in Philippi. Even through all the trouble there, people including Lydia and their prison guard had accepted Christ (Acts 16). In Thessalonica, many people were converted but the Jewish people became outraged and threated Paul and Silas’ life to the point where they had to be sent out of the city in the middle of the night to save their lives and the lives of the believers (Acts 17:1-10). But that conflict made the sincerity and zeal for the Gospel of Christ that much more apparent. Nothing would deter Paul from getting the truth to the lost.
Nothing has to deter us from sharing Jesus with anyone. What excuses do we use? It might be uncomfortable? The person may not want to hear it? They or we are busy? Jesus laid down His life in agony so you could be saved. Paul and every other apostle suffered prison and torture so people could be saved. All the apostles except for John were martyred in horrific fashion for the sake of the Gospel. Do you think maybe you and I can handle a person thinking we’re stupid or annoying in order to give them a chance to know the hope of Jesus and the love of their Father?
Verses 3-6 read,
For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.
Paul and Silas didn’t share the Gospel for their own glory. They didn’t do it so they would look good. Paul wasn’t saying to himself, “I want to be known as the greatest Christian of all time.” It is likely that Paul never even knew the great impact he had on Christianity. He certainly wasn’t being rewarded or made rich from his efforts.
I’ve seen so many people who have ministries and I wonder if they are doing that work to glorify the Lord or themselves. Although, God will use them for His purposes and doubtlessly there are people saved and helped through them, it seems to me that because they have become about themselves instead of Jesus. For some people ministry becomes about how great they are not about how great God is. If I can see that, I think that the deceived of the world see it too and they are not interested in hearing from a person who wants to glorify himself.
I picture a scene from Evita in which Eva Perón is building orphanages and giving charity to the needy of Argentina but it is all in her name, for her fame, and the sake of husband Juan Perón. The people receiving that charity were made to feel humiliated in order for Eva Perón to feel exalted. When we put ourselves in Jesus’ place of honor instead of exhibiting His humility we are not presenting the true Christ.
Presenting the Gospel is at its heart presenting Jesus. We should be the image of Christ to those around us. That means we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and expressing Him in His fruit and the picture of love read about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22-23,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
And the portrayal of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a reads,
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
Verses 7-8 describe what this meant to Paul,
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Paul and Silas did more than preach and speak. They lived among the people, they formed a relationship with them. They shared themselves. They earnestly loved them. As they lived, they exemplified Christ. They didn’t behave in the flesh, they lived in the Spirit. Verses 9-12 read,
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
There was no asking people to stop living one way, while they lived another. They lived in a way that no one could charge them with wrong. There was no way someone could accuse them of wanting money, lying, stealing, slothfulness, greedy, or immoral. They lived out the fruit of the Spirit and love and in that way they could exhort and encourage the new believers to walk in Christ.
Paul practiced what he preached. That is how and why the Thessalonians who accepted Christ could accept Him. They could believe the Gospel because they saw it being lived out. They could grow in Christ even when they had to send Paul and Silas to Berea because they could look at the churches around them and follow their example. They could see the difference between a Spirit-filled follower of Christ and the Pharisees of Judaism who hated Jesus. Verses 13-16 read,
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!
Paul didn’t simply make sure they were saved and abandon them. He kept tabs on them, he sent Timothy to check on them and he wrote them letters. He planned to come see them again. He maintained a relationship with them to ensure they were staying on the path of truth and not falling for the lies that would certainly be coming their way. Verses 17-20 read,
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
Love is why we share Christ. Jesus’ glory and the glory of the kingdom of God is why we share the Gospel. The hope of eternity is why we follow Jesus and invite as many who will follow with us.