The Pattern Servant Of God
December 1st, 1957 @ 7:30 PM
1 Thessalonians 2:1-11
THE PATTERN SERVANT OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 2:1-11
12/1/57 7:30 p.m.
We turn now, all of us, to the second chapter of the first Thessalonian letter, Paul’s letter to the church of the Thessalonians, the second chapter, and we read the first eleven verses; 1 Thessalonians, second chapter, and the first eleven verses. Do all of us have it; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-11? All right, now let us all of us read it together: the second chapter of 1 Thessalonians, the first eleven verses. Everybody:
For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain;
But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness;
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe;
As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children.
[1 Thessalonians 2:1-11]
Now the title of the message is The Pattern Servant of God, the pattern preacher of Christ, the pattern servant of the Lord. You have here in the passage you have just read a wonderful example, a picture, an illustration of the true servant and missionary and preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And in the text there are several things that Paul says about himself and about Silas and Timothy who worked with him in that Thessalonian ministry. And the first thing he avows is this; that their aim and their motive and their purpose was single to God, as pleasing God, one hope, one prayer, that the Lord might delight in what they said and what they wrought. He says, “When we came to you, we came after we had been shamefully entreated at Philippi,” beat and placed in stocks and in an innermost dungeon [Acts 16:23-24]. “And when we came with boldness to speak unto you, it was”—and you have it translated “with much contention” [1 Thessalonians 2:2], en pollo agōni, in a great agony. They were in persecution and trials as they preached the gospel.
Then there were those who said, even in the face of their privation and toil and trial, that what they did they were doing for personal gain, for selfish reasons. There were those on every side who locked Paul and his little group in with all of that crop of sophists, and wandering minstrels, and magicians, and astrologers, and charlatans, and quack religionists who covered that Greco-Roman world. And when Paul, Silas, and Timothy came by, they said, “Why, they’re just like all the rest of them. They live off of others, they travel in ease, and what they say is of guile and deceit. And it’s for selfish purposes that they have come. And this man, Paul, has renounced the faith of his fathers and turned aside from the great Hebrew religion, just in order to make mercenary, make cause of personal reward and stipend out of the message that he preaches.”
So, in describing his ministry, he says:
And our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
But as God allowed us, so we speak with the trust of the gospel; not as pleasing men, but God.
For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness—
as though the purpose in our hearts was hidden away, but, if you looked at it, really, it was if we might make traffic and merchandise of these who heard—
. . . God is our witness;
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ—
[1 Thessalonians 2:3-6]
dunamenoi en barei, when we might have been, when we might have had power in heaviness.
As the apostles of Christ, there was authority delegated unto these preachers by the courts of heaven. Paul said, “We didn’t use it. When we were in your presence, we were like the dirt under your feet. We were as those, the servants in the house who wash. We are as those who do not command and do not seek authority [1 Thessalonians 2:7-8]. We were as slaves in your presence. It takes a whole lot for a minister to be able to say all that: just one thing, just serving God, just obedient to the Lord, just pleasing Him [1 Thessalonians 2:4].
I one time heard of a train master in one of those big union depots and the crowds and mobs of people that quarreled at him and grew angry with him, and when he tried to control all of those things of boarding trains and finding trains and locking gates and opening gates, somebody said to him, “How do you do—with all of these people angry with you and these people displeased, and disgusted, and disappointed, and quarreling at you, and flaying you and… how do you bear it?”
And he said, “Why, it is as nothing at all.” He says, “I do not have all these people to please, nor is it of me what they say or what they like or dislike.” He said, “I have to please just one man,” and he pointed up there in the station to an office and to a window, and he said, “My master sits in that office, and it is he alone that I have to please.”
That is the attitude of the true and dedicated minister of Christ. There is just one somebody that he has to please; that’s the Lord. He ought to be delighted if the deacons like him. That’s the way he gets his salary raised—is if the deacons like him. He ought to be delighted if the people like him. That’s the way he gets to stay as pastor of the church, if the people like him. But if he is a true minister of Christ, whether anybody liked him or not, if he’s truly dedicated, wouldn’t matter—just so the Lord was pleased. And that’s what Paul says, “As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who searcheth our hearts” [1 Thessalonians 2:4]. So the pattern minister, first of all, is one who has a single motive, an aim and purpose, and that is that he might please the Lord, faithfully delivering the message God hath committed to his care.
Now the second thing here in this letter, in the pattern minister, this model of a preacher: he was steeped in prayer, and the message that he brought was in the power and unction of the Holy Spirit [1 Thessalonians 1:2, 5, 3:9-10].
Do you ever hear Dr. Fowler and catch a little phrase at oft times that he will pray? “Now, Lord, bless our pastor.” Then he will pray sometimes my mind may be clear, and he will pray sometimes that my heart may be warm, and then oft times, he will pray, “And may the Holy Spirit indict his message.” Do you ever catch that “Indict his message?” You will never hear that word “indict” any other place in this earth, except in Dr. Fowler’s prayer. That’s the only place you will ever find it: “And, may the Holy Spirit indict his message.”
Well, there is no ministry that is possible in the power of God without great intercession on the part of the people and the preacher. In these few pages of Paul’s first letter, written to that church at Thessalonica, how many times will he revert to an appeal of prayer?
- “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” [1 Thessalonians 1:2].
- Turn the page: “For your sakes before our God…night and day praying exceedingly” [1 Thessalonians 3:9-10].
- Turn the page: “Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17].
- Next paragraph: “Brethren, pray for us” [1 Thessalonians 5:25].
- Turn the page: “Finally, brethren, pray for us” [1 Thessalonians 5:25].
There’s no ministry of power possible without it: steeped in prayer, the intercession of the part of the people and of the preacher. And, there is no ministry of power possible without that indictment of the holy, quickening, moving Spirit of God: “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit” [2 Thessalonians 3:1]. That’s the difference, I think, in a true minister and servant of Christ, and the religious philosopher, and the ecclesiastical mechanic, and maneuverer, and the social worker.
You don’t have to be in a pulpit, and you don’t have to be in a church in order to give your life to social amelioration. Well, you can get out here and just organize you a club. You can go join a civic betterment association, and you can try for better legislation, and you can try for slum clearance, and you can try to help juvenile delinquency, and you can work in order to beautify your city and to lift up the body politic. You don’t need God for that. You don’t need Christ for that. You don’t need to be in the church for that. But, my brother, that’s the difference between the social gospeler and the true servant of Jesus Christ! I could not conceive of Paul turning aside from his great worldwide redemptive message of salvation and wasting his time with those trivialities that concern these little things of a better piece of legislation there, and a better housing project there, and a finer slum clearance yonder, or some other thing than a Rotary Club or a country club or a parent-teacher’s association might do just as well as the preacher of Jesus Christ.
Let me show you the difference between the social gospeler and the man who preaches in the power of the Lord. This is the social ameliorative program; they’re in the river channel, digging out rocks and digging out snags in order that the little boat of humanity might pass by. But the minister of God is looking to heaven and praying to the Lord to send the floodtide that will lift up the little boat of mankind above the rocks and above the snags, and following the great channel of the Lord down to its infinite destiny, the illimitable sea.
I one time read of an engineer who was given a problem of raising a boat that had sunk in a harbor. And all of the other people, in making bids about raising that boat, used astronomical sums in saying how they could lift it up. But this wonderful engineer, who knew the power of the mighty hand of God, made a bid for almost nothing, and in amazement and wonder, the people of the city went down to the harbor to see him raise up the boat for almost nothing. You know what he did? He got great chains, and with platforms and logs, he tied those logs and wooden platforms with great chains to the hook of the boat in the mire and on the bottom of the sea. And then he waited for God’s tide to come in. And the Lord moved His ocean, and the ocean filled the bay, and the waters lifted up, with great power and strength, that boat on the bottom of the sea. That’s the power of the Son of God.
You don’t need to worry about the governor. If he’s a great, devoted Christian man, you can turn your back. You can go deer hunting. You can go about your business. And the office of the governor will honor God and be true to the highest aims and purposes of the people. But if he’s a crook and if he’s disloyal and untrue and if he’s not a Christian, all of the bonds that he signs in the world and all the tokens of legislative corralling and circumscription you can put around him won’t keep him straight and true to the people.
The message of Christ is to the heart. It’s to the souls of men. We address ourselves to the man in the great fountain deeps of his life. If we can get him to Jesus, if we can get him to Christ, put him anywhere in the bank, put him in the legislative assembly, put him in the committee room, put him anywhere, he’ll honor God, for the purposes of his life are hid with God in Christ [Colossians 3:3]. He’s a servant of the King: that’s what Paul says about his ministry [Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10]. He had a great gospel, one that included the whole earth and time and the soul and life. It was addressed to the saving of the heart and the changing of the life [1 Timothy 2:4], the pattern minister of Jesus Christ.
A third thing he describes here about himself: “For ye remember, brethren”—and three times he mentions this—“For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail; for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God” [1 Thessalonians 2:9]. There, he disavows mercenary motives in what he did, and in that he said, “Laboring night and day.” That was before they had a five-hour week or a four-hour week, much less, or an eight-hour day. A man’s labor in that time was a full day, from sunup to sundown. And for a man to labor all day long, and at night, too, was an unthought-of, indescribable burden. Yet that’s what Paul did. In order not to be chargeable to those idol-worshiping pagans in Thessalonica, he worked with his own hands all day long to support himself, “and then publicly and from house to house, preached the gospel of Jesus, pleading repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:20-21].
Now Paul did not mean by that that the ministry is not to be supported by the people. In the ninth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, he said, quoting the law of Moses: “For thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn” [1 Corinthians 9:9] . . . Even so, it is ordained of the Lord that they who preach the gospel shall live by the gospel” [1 Corinthians 9:14], in the same words of our Savior: “The laborer is worthy of his hire” [Luke 10:7].
Paul does not mean that we are to dismiss our ministry, these who have forsaken all secular work that they might devote themselves wholly, completely to prayer, to the ministry of the Word, to the preaching of the gospel, to the shepherding of the flock. But what he does say is this, that in nowise and in no place and in no case is ever the gospel ministry to be dependent upon mercenary, physical, material, pecuniary, stipends and emoluments, never, never, never!
Whenever our people—and so many of us, even in our church here—so many of us have the persuasion, “I have now given my life to Christ wholly; therefore, I must quit my job. I must lay down what I am doing, and I must be supported by a church somewhere or by a people somewhere, or otherwise I cannot fulfill God’s call in my life”; now listen to me. Whether you’re paid or not is incidental. If God wills for somebody to support you and you give all of your life and time to the ministry of the Lord, that is wonderful. That’s fine, if it’s in God’s will. But if there is not a call, if there is not a people to support and to help and to pay your salary, then that is no sign that God hath not chosen you for a place of service. You’re not dependent upon salary and upon money for the ministry of the Word of God! Wherever you are, wherever your place, however your place in God’s lot and choice, there you can be a great and noble servant of Christ, and in no sense is our devotion to the Lord and our service to the Christ to be dependent upon our being paid to do it. Do you realize that Daniel was a politician? He was a statesman [Daniel 2:48, 5:29]. All the days of his life he was in the government of his country—all of his life. He died as an honored leader in his nation. He was never what you call a preacher, a paid minister. But he was in the government; secretary of state, prime minister. He was always a layman.
Do you realize Nehemiah was a layman? He was the cup-bearer; a courtier to Artaxerxes, the king of the Persians [Nehemiah 1:11-2:1]. And at no time in his life did he ever depart from those political appointments. Nehemiah was a layman. Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers [Acts 18:2-3], and their home was a fountain of blessing and a light in the dark, dark world [1 Corinthians 16:19], but they were lay people all of their lives.
It was Mr. Moody, all of his life. When Mr. Moody, as a young man, joined that church, when he moved as a shoe salesman to Chicago, they had pew rentals in that day. And he bought every pew that was available and went out on the streets and filled those pews with people that he had brought in to listen to the Word of God. Then he organized a little Sunday school, and he got people to come to Moody’s Sunday school, there to teach them the Word of God. And it was only when his Sunday school got so big, and the people came to be taught the Word that Moody finally gave up selling shoes, in order to give all of his time to the ministry of the Word. But he was a layman all of his life. He was “Mr. Moody!”
God can use you, no matter where you are or how you are employed. The rod of Moses [Acts 4:2, 4, 17, 20], the ox goad of Shamgar [Judges 3:31], the needle and thread of Dorcas [Acts 9:36-39], the loom of the apostle Paul [Acts 18:3], the washtub, the kitchen sink, the receptionist’s desk, the clerk’s office, wherever you are, there you can be as true a minister of Christ as your pastor. There that consecrated girl can be devoted to Jesus as much as if she were a missionary out there in a rescue home.
Ah, we have it turned around. We have it wrong when we think that if I’m not paid for this, and if it’s not my appointed, secularized job, and if I’m not given a stipend, therefore I am not God’s servant and I am not doing God’s work in the earth. No, no, no. Paul says, “Laboring day and night, day and night . . . not to be chargeable unto any of you,” he preached the gospel to them [1 Thessalonians 2:9]. I say, he mentions that so many times: “Neither did we eat any man’s bread, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you” [2 Thessalonians 3:8].
You heard me tell this. I didn’t intend to mention it tonight, but it seems that I sound like a hypocrite, standing up here, preaching to you like this and receiving the salary I do from this church. So I’m just going to pause and tell you something that has been a comfort to my heart all the years that I have been a preacher.
When I first started out to preach the gospel, I preached on the street corners, and on the courthouse square, and in the jailhouse, and in the poorhouse, and then in little schoolhouses. And I had two little churches to start off with, and one of them met in a schoolhouse. The first time that I was taken to a church, to a pulpit to preach, I got on the train there in Waco and went up to a little town by the name of Mount Calm and got off the train there. I was just about seventeen years old. And the deacon in the church there—it didn’t have a pastor, but they’d already called one and he hadn’t come, and so the fellow who was to come up to Mount Calm to supply got sick—and in desperate need, why, he looked around for somebody to attend at the last minute, and I was the only little insect that he could find. So, he said, “Would you go up there?” And so I went up there, about seventeen years old, and I got off the train. I was the only one that got off the train. And that deacon looked to the north and looked to the south, and he looked to the east and he looked to the west. He’d gone down there to meet the preacher who was to preach for them that Sunday. And I was the only poor, lone critter standing there at the depot.
So he walked up to me and with great, great qualm and askance and unbelief, he said, “Are you a preacher?”
I said, “Yes, sir.” Brother, I really was in them thar days; “Yes, sir.”
He says, “Have you come to preach for us?”
I said, “Yes, sir. I have come up here. I have been sent here to preach for you.”
Well, he never said it, but I could see. Under his breath, he said, “Lord, have mercy on us today.”
Well, I went there to that church, and I did my best. And if I didn’t do real good in theology, brother, they all could hear me, every one of them present that day. And then we went back and we had a service that night, and God blessed us. You know, I had my first response there in a church. A fellow came down the aisle and gave me his hand, and he said, “I’ve been called of God to preach the gospel, and I’m going to give my life to be a minister.”
I said, “Well, glory hallelujah! That is wonderful. You will make a wonderful Baptist preacher.”
He said, “Now, wait a minute. I’m not going to be a Baptist preacher. I’m going to be a Presbyterian.”
I’ll never forget that fellow: “Going to be a Presbyterian.”
Well, anyway, after the service was over, why, that deacon who had gone to the train to meet me, he said, “We want you to come back next Sunday.”
I said, “I’ll be right here.”
Then he said, “I am sorry.” This is in the midst of the Depression, when the farmer was selling his cotton for five cents and less a pound, and the people were barely able to live. The senior deacon there in the church said, “I’m sorry this is not more, but this is all we can give you,” and he held in his hand a ten-dollar bill.
I said, “Listen, fellow, I wouldn’t take money for preaching the gospel. I don’t preach for money, and I won’t take that.”
Well, he nearly fainted. He nearly fell through the floor. He said, “Why, you paid your way up here and you’re going back. Why, we’re glad to do it and should do far better than this.”
I said, “Not so. Not so. I don’t preach for money, and I refuse to take it.” And I wouldn’t take it. Well, I was left there at the church alone to get the train to go back to Waco later that evening. And when I did leave the church, the last one to leave, I picked up my hat there in the foyer, and in the band of my hat that deacon had placed that ten-dollar bill. It was sticking out just about that much. Well, there wasn’t anybody there to give it to so I had to put it in my pocket and take it home.
My mother was with me down there in Waco, and I can never forget when I came in late that night, and mother waiting, and I took out that ten-dollar bill, and I said, “Mother I don’t know what to do with it. This is for preaching the gospel, and I don’t know what to do with it. This is for preaching the gospel.” Well, we dedicated it to the Lord.
When my first little church called me, they said, “If you will come and work hard, we think we can pay you twenty dollars a month.” I feel no different now, pastor of this church, than I felt when I was pastor of those forty people in my first little church. I tried hard then. I try now. I gave my whole self to the gospel ministry then. I do it now. And the Spirit of God came upon me at times then and people were saved. And sometimes when the people pray, the Spirit of the Lord falls upon us here. I am glad I can say that.
If they were to give me nothing and I could still live, I would still preach; it would make no difference; no difference. That’s what Paul says, “Laboring night and day because we would not be chargeable unto any of you” [2 Thessalonians 3:8]. He did that in order to win those pagan idol worshipers in Thessalonica.
We tarried too long, I know, but there is one other thing Paul mentions here, and I just briefly lay it before you. He speaks of the sweetness, the dearness, the preciousness of the attitude of the true minister of Christ. Listen to him. “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: so being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because you were dear unto us” [1 Thessalonians 2:7-8].
Then in the eleventh verse he says the same thing in different words, “As you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children” [1 Thessalonians 2:11]. Now he uses both father and mother there in his simile, “even as a nursing mother cherisheth her children” [1 Thessalonians 1: 7]; then in the eleventh verse, “as a father doth his children, so we exhorted and comforted you” [1 Thessalonians 1:11].
Now the pattern minister is always one in whose hearts the people live. Some of my staff members are not here. They don’t belong to us anymore, but I have seen some of our staff members here work with the attitude that the people were to serve them, and how they were, and they were received, and how they were honored, and how they were obeyed was the way that it ought to be arranged herein this church.
I have always felt that we who are on this staff, the design, that is these, and that is our staff members, we are to encourage and minister to our people, not our people to us. And insofar as I pray and get close to God, I do well in that. When I get away from the Lord and drift and am half backslidden, then I get angry and get easily chagrined and disappointed and upset; ought never to be that way. The attitude of the true minister toward his people is always as a mother cherisheth her children [1 Thessalonians 1:7], as a father comforteth and exhorteth his children.
You never win people to the Lord by a divisive, and quarrelsome, and sectarian, and divided church where the spirit is not of peace, and of joy, and of intercession, and of holiness, and of gladness [1 Corinthians 3:3]. No souls are saved in a church like that. Never, never! Where there are cliques, and divisions, and jealousies, and envyings, and fussings, and feudings, and fightings, God can’t win people in a church like that. They have a little town in New Jersey called Cranberry, and in the church at Cranberry, New Jersey; they were having an awful church fuss, and the fellow stood up in the middle of it and said, “Brother moderator, could I say, let’s put a little sugar in this cranberry tart!” The great Spurgeon said, speaking to his young ministers, the great Spurgeon said, “Young men, you are the salt of the earth.” He smiled and then added, “And the sugar too!” We are “and the sugar too.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson one time described a super Calvinistic aunt of his, and he said that every time he saw her she said, “Alfred, every time I see you, you remind me of the Word of the Lord, where He said, ‘Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’” [Matthew 25:41]. Oh, if we do preach the judgment and the wrath and the damnation of God, it ought to be with the heaviest of hearts. Who would rejoice in the perdition of the lost and the damnation of any soul? Our appeal is always to be one of loving care and gentle solicitation, as the nursing mother cherisheth her children [1 Thessalonians 1:7]; I can just see her with the little fellow in her arms, and she dotes on him, and looks at him, and her whole life is wrapped up in that little bundle. Or as the father exhorts and comforts his children [1 Thessalonians 1:11]; they may not always do just right, but he exhorts and he encourages. That’s what the model minister is to do.
Now we close. Somebody tonight, while we sing this appeal, to give his heart in faith to the Lord, would you come and stand by me? Somebody you, to put his life here in the church, while we sing and make appeal, would you come and stand by me? One somebody you, or a family you, as God should say the word and open the door and invite you in, would you come? Would you come? We haven’t had anybody saved today; not at the early service, not at the eleven o’clock hour. Somebody to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], would you tonight? “I take Him as my Savior,” would you come? “I give you my hand, pastor. I give my heart to God,” would you? And along with you, somebody to put his life here in the church, coming by letter, in any way God shall say, would you do it? Would you make it now? Would you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE PATTERN SERVANT OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Thessalonians 2:1-11
12-1-57I. Pleasing God(1 Thessalonians 2:1-6)
A. Spirit of his ministry; aim, motive simple – supreme consecration to God
B. His enemies included him in the world of sophists, quack religionists
C. They had authority from heaven, but did not use it
1. Train master at the gate – just one to please, the head man
A. In prayer(1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3:9-10, 5:17, 25)
B. The enduement of the Holy Spirit(1 Thessalonians 1:5)
1. The difference between a true minister of Christ and “social gospeler”III. Freedom from all mercenary methods and motives
A. “Laboring night and day”(1 Thessalonians 2:9, Acts 20:21)
B. Paul taught the minister should be paid(1 Corinthians 9:8, 14, Luke 10:7)
1. But Paul, to win these lost, renounced his right to receive payment and supported himself(2 Thessalonians 3:8)
2. Our work for God no dependent upon paid salary
a. God can use you no matter where or how you are employedIV. The perennial spirit of love and gentleness(1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11)
A. Attitude of minister ought always to be as mother cherishes and a father comforts and exhorts
B. A church of dissension, divisiveness does not win souls to Christ
C. A harsh theology does not bring people to Christ
1. If we preach judgment and wrath, ought to be with heavy heart
2. Our appeal always to be one of loving care and gentle solicitation