Why was Paul's ministry so dynamic in Thessalonica? Because one, he was confident in God's power. Two, he was committed to God's truth. Three, he was commissioned by God's will. Four, he was compelled by God's knowledge. And five, he was consumed with God's glory. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Someone once said that in the body of Christ, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we can't escape each other. Now, those words certainly magnify the need for strong, biblically-based leadership in the church. But that doesn't mean the call for spiritual leadership is just for pastors or Sunday school teachers, people in official roles. The fact is, every Christian needs to embrace the responsibility for biblical leadership, because at the very least, you need to be able to influence your family and those around you. Today, John MacArthur looks to the Apostle Paul for the definition of spiritual leadership. We're continuing John's study on the New Testament beginning to end.
And now, here's John. I invite you to turn in your Bible to 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, verses 1 through 6. If I were to title these six verses, I would title them fail-proof spiritual leadership, fail-proof spiritual leadership. Everybody knows there is a great premium on leadership, and everybody realizes that there are fewer leaders than are needed, fewer faithful leaders than are expected. We also know that leadership is very difficult. Even in the world, when the team doesn't win, they fire the coach.
And when the employees don't produce, they fire the president. The question that comes to mind then is how can spiritual leaders be effective? How can spiritual leaders be successful spiritually?
How can they have a genuine and lasting impact on their charge? Is there a path to genuine spiritual effectiveness for the leader that God has identified in His church? For in these marvelous six verses, Paul shares with us the principles for an effective ministry. What are the ingredients that made for effective spiritual leadership?
Why was Paul's ministry so dynamic in Thessalonica? Because one, he was confident in God's power. Two, he was committed to God's truth. Three, he was commissioned by God's will. Four, he was compelled by God's knowledge. And five, he was consumed with God's glory. All of us live lives that reflect our view of God.
Now let's look at these five. Number one, he was confident in God's power and that gave him tenacity. Point two, he was committed to God's truth. He was not only confident in God's power, but he was committed to God's truth and that gave him integrity. That gave him integrity. A third essential element of effective ministry is brought out in verse 4, the first part. He was commissioned by God's will and that gave him authority. Not only tenacity and integrity, but he had authority. He was commissioned by God's will, verse 4, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak.
Stop at that point. Boy, I love that statement. Why do you speak, Paul?
Why are you doing this? Because we've been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak. We've been commissioned by God's will. I'm under divine authority and yet I have divine authority, a delegated authority. He didn't teach error?
No. In fact, he taught truth and it was the truth that God entrusted to him. God entrusted him with the good news.
So he moves from commitment to the truth to the commission of God by which he had that commitment. Look at the phrase, just as we have been approved by God. It's the Greek verb, dakimadzo, which means to be tested and found valid, found good, to be approved after testing.
It's a perfect tense verb, which means it indicates a lasting approval. We have been and continue to be approved by God. God tested us. We passed and we are the authorized ministers of the gospel. Paul is saying, I'm not self-appointed.
I'm not doing this on my own. I was called by God. And of course, we all remember his calling, don't we, in Acts chapter 9 on the Damascus road as he proceeded to try to execute Christians. God slammed him in the dirt, made him blind and made him bow the knee to Jesus Christ and then put him in the ministry, brought along Ananias. He was baptized and he was sent on his way preaching Jesus Christ, whom he had once persecuted. He had been entrusted with the gospel. That particular phrase he likes to use.
And he uses it on a number of occasions. 1 Corinthians 7, 25, concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. He says, God trusts me.
I love that. God trusts me. He trusts me with his truth. He trusts me to be his agent. He trusts me to be his emissary. He trusted me to be his minister.
Ephesians 3 verse 8, to me the very least of all saints this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles. God gave me the grace to do it. It isn't that I am worthy apart from grace, but I am worthy in his grace. So he says, I'm not self-appointed. I'm divinely commissioned.
That puts authority in my life. When I speak, I speak in the place of Christ. When I speak, I speak in the place of God. I've been entrusted with the gospel. We can get so far afield from that. The primary calling we have, we who preach the word of God, is to dispense that which we have been entrusted with.
The good news and all of its ramifications and implications. Paul says, God called me. God set me apart. He says even in Galatians that he didn't even consult with men.
He had such a unique training time. God trained him personally and set him apart for this ministry. In 1 Timothy 1-11 he says, the glorious gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted and I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, who before was a blasphemer and so forth. We, if we are in the ministry rightly, have been put there by Christ. Titus 1, 3, at the proper time manifested even His Word in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior.
So here you have a man who is under command, under authority and yet has delegated authority. And I believe that we have authority in our ministry that when we speak, we speak as those who have been chosen, approved and placed by God in this world to preach His truth. So we speak.
I love that. Literally our speaking, present tense. We speak with the authority of God who approved us for ministry. In fact, at the end of verse 6 he says, as I read earlier, we have a right to assert our authority because it is the authority of God. And I don't believe that any of us can be effective without that authority. And what gives authority to your ministry speaking the Word of God powerfully and clearly? Your authority doesn't go beyond the Scripture, but boy when you come, you better come with the message entrusted to you and know that when you preach it with power and conviction, you carry the authority of God. That's what makes an effective ministry.
There's a fourth element in this. He was compelled by God's knowledge. He was compelled by God's knowledge which gave Him accountability. He not only had a ministry marked by tenacity, He had a ministry marked by integrity and He had a ministry marked by authority, He also had a ministry marked by accountability.
And that's the balancing point to authority in many ways. Notice again verse 4, the middle of the verse. Picking up that little statement, 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. Why? God is witness.
What's He saying? I am compelled by God's knowledge. What do you mean by that? I mean God knows everything. What motivates me is His omniscience. He examines my heart. He witnesses everything about me.
That is a great measure of accountability, isn't it? Verse 4, He says, I don't come as pleasing men. I wasn't commissioned by men. I don't preach the gospel of men. I was commissioned by God.
I preach the gospel of God. I do not preach it to please men. Nowhere does He make that more clear than in Galatians 1.10 after He has just blistered the Galatians up one side and down the other. He says, for am I now seeking the favor of men or of God.
Am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Apparently some had accused Paul of being a men pleaser and after he had laced them a few times, he then says, does that sound like a men pleaser? He was no men pleaser. He spoke the truth, not to please men but to please God.
There is one exception to that of great interest to us and I would just draw it to your attention, lest you be confused. 1 Corinthians 10, 33. In 1 Corinthians 10, 33, Paul says, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own prophet but the prophet of the many that they may be saved.
What he is here saying is quite different. When he says I do not please men, he means I do not preach a message for the purpose of pleasing men. What he means when he says I do please men in 1 Corinthians 10, 33, is that I will gladly sacrifice my own prophet and all my own benefits in order that they might be saved.
That's what he means. He doesn't mean I will fit a message that will make them happy. He means I will give my life to get them saved. I will please all men in all things in the sense that I will reach to them and try to touch them and embrace them with the gospel at any cost. But apart from that intent, which is much like what he said also in Corinthians when he said I become all things to all men that by any means I might win some, he is simply saying in this context I want to please them in the sense that I want them to know that I would give my life for them that they might know Christ. But I do not want to please them, back to 1 Thessalonians, to the extent that I sacrifice truth, purity, or true motives. So he says back to our text, not as pleasing men but God.
Why, Paul? Why are you so consumed with pleasing God? Because God examines our hearts. God examines our hearts.
He's referring here by the word heart to the inner self, the real you, where thought and feeling and will and motive all meet. He says God scrutinizes my deepest self. God scrutinizes my motives. God scrutinizes my intentions.
God knows those deep things and He knows so much that I am very aware that He will know whether I am seeking to please men or Him and I am compelled by that knowledge. Turn back to 1 Corinthians chapter 4 for a moment. In verse 1 he says, let a man regard us in this manner as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In other words, let it be known that we are slaves. We are huperates, under rowers, third level galley slaves, the lowest kind of slaves of Christ. We gladly take the most abject role of servanthood under Christ. And we are stewards, they're guardians of the treasure of the mysteries of God, the New Covenant.
And with stewards, one thing is needful, that they be found what? Trustworthy, faithful. You've been entrusted with it, guard it. You're to be trustworthy.
Then he says now let's talk about evaluation. To me it's a very small thing that I should be examined by you or by any human court. It doesn't really matter to me what you think or what any human tribunal thinks. In fact, I don't even examine myself. First of all, it doesn't matter what you think because you don't know my heart and you're not the judge. Secondly, it doesn't even matter what I think because verse 4, I am conscious of nothing against myself yet I am not by this acquitted.
Why? Because I'm not omniscient. Even when I don't know anything against myself, God might know a lot of things against me. So you can't judge me and I can't judge me. You don't know me and you're biased against me.
I know me and I'm biased for me. So neither of us are valid. Furthermore, neither of us are omniscient and neither of us can really know all that needs to be known. By the way, beloved, that will put you in touch with the fact that you don't need to be all the time, all the time, all the time fussing over your motivation because even when you don't know something against yourself, God might know something against you points to the fact that you're not even a totally valid critic of your own life. So you just have to yield up what you don't know to God and ask Him to make you what you ought to be. And that's what He says. The end of verse 4, the one who examines me is the Lord.
He lived under that. He says, look, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive for the things done in the body whether they be good or foul us. Yeah, I'm under that. I'm under the realization that some day I'm going to stand at the bemasy judgment and the Lord is going to reward me for what He knows. Verse 5, therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time. But wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the hidden things in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts.
And then each man's praise will come to Him from God. That's accountability, beloved. My accountability is not to the church.
And I have said this. Sometimes people say, well, you know, John, you need to have more accountability to men because you might fall into sin. Listen, I could have accountability to a hundred men and you can't, none of those men can guard my thoughts.
None of those men can guard the intentions of my heart. No one can police that but my own heart and the knowledge in my heart that God sees everything. That is the highest level of accountability.
That is the point of accountability. First Chronicles 28, 9 says the Lord searches the heart. Revelation 2, 23, Christ says I am He that searches the heart. Then in verse 5 He says, look, we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed. God is witness and He applies it. Hey, God knows. God knows we didn't do that because God knows everything about us. You might be used to people who flatter you and you might be used to people who are greedy and they come with a pretext or a pretension and they want gain, they want physical sexual favors, they want money, they want power, they want prestige. We didn't come that way. God is witness. We live under the scrutiny of God. Your typical verbal hucksters may be hypocrites.
Those liars with demon theology spawned by the pit may be hypocrites. We never came with flattering speech. You know what flattery is? It's a form of exploitation. Flattery is based on the fact that everybody's ego loves to hear good things about themselves.
Right? We love to hear good things about ourselves. Now if you say a good thing about a person and you have no intent other than to say good about them, that's not flattery. If you say a good thing about a person and have in your mind some purpose for that which will come to your benefit, that's flattery. So you say something good to someone as a ploy to win them to yourself for self-interest and personal gain.
You set them up for your own deceptive purposes. Proverbs 29 5 says a man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps. Proverbs 26 28 says a flattering mouth works ruin. And because people are so egotistical, when people say nice things about them, they get sucked in. It's a very vivid illustration of God's attitude toward flattery in Psalm 12 3.
May the Lord cut off flattering lips. The purpose of flattery is to gain power over people. Common ploy among religious charlatans.
Paul says we didn't do that because God's watching. Secondly we didn't come with a pretext for greed. Not only do they want power but they want possessions. This is to gain possessions. The pretext means they hide their real intent. The word pretext is cloak. It's an over cloak covering the real intent. We didn't come putting a coat over our greed.
Let me tell you, false teachers are all the same. They want sexual favors. They want money.
They wear a cloak. They'll flatter you to gain you and then they'll strip you naked. Paul says I have not put a spiritual robe over my greed. I'm not in the ministry for money. I'm not in the ministry to get you. Remember what he said in Acts 20? I have coveted no man's silver and no man's what?
Gold. And I have worked with my hands so that I don't make the gospel chargeable to anybody. God sees my motives. God sees my heart.
I have tremendous accountability. Finally, in the last verse, he was consumed with God's glory and that gave him humility. He was consumed with God's glory and that gave him humility. Verse 6, 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. We didn't look for esteem. We didn't look for honor. We didn't want praise.
We aren't diatrophies. The word zetao here, seek, means to habitually seek. We weren't habitually seeking honor, habitually seeking awards and laurels and stroking and appreciation dinners and attention and accolades and applause and plaudits and prestige. The only glory Paul ever sought was eternal, right? 2 Corinthians 4 and 5, but he never sought what belonged to God. 1 Corinthians 9 and 16, he said, look, 16 to 18, he says, don't commend me. Don't honor me. Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.
I'm not worthy of any reward. I didn't ask to be in the ministry. God placed me in the ministry.
Don't commend me. Even though as apostles we could have asserted our authority, we were too preoccupied with all the glory going to Him. We were specially called messengers and apostle here means in the very technical sense, Paul who was one of the apostles and in a less specific sense, Silas and Timothy who were apostles, not apostles of Christ that is chosen by him, but apostles of the church chosen by the church.
Apostles can stretch beyond the 12 and Paul to embrace others such as Epaphroditus. So he said we had some delegated authority, but we never asserted ourselves and we never sought honor, prestige. We never sought the chief seats.
We never sought to be the big shot. We knew our authority had to stop and be balanced with accountability and humility. It's kind of a three legged stool that you sit on.
If you have a throne, it has three legs. Authority, yes. Delegated from Christ to speak his word boldly and powerfully.
Accountability, yes. You better know that God knows everything you're doing and every thought and intent of your heart and humility, yes. You better be sure you seek not the praise of men, but did you give all the glory to God. Paul never said it better than he said it in the glorious doxology of Romans 11. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever.
Amen. Humility. What makes an effective ministry? Tenacity because you trust totally in the power of God. Integrity because you're fully committed to the truth of God. Authority because you know you have on your life the commission of God. Accountability because of the knowledge of God.
He knows everything. Humility because you are consumed with the glory of God. Let me ask some questions particularly to those of you who serve in spiritual leadership. Ask yourself this, will you? Am I willing to be bold no matter what the opposition, confident in God's power? Am I willing to be a pure vessel with a pure message and a pure motive committed to God's truth? Am I willing to wield the sword of spiritual authority, the word without compromise commissioned by God's will? Am I willing to guard my heart motives and be utterly unselfish, compelled by God's omniscience? Am I willing to seek only his honor and humble myself consumed by his glory?
If yes to these, my ministry will not be in vain. That's John MacArthur, chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, with a look at the qualities of effective spiritual leadership. It's part of a unique series here on Grace to You, a collection of landmark sermons from John's half-century of Bible teaching.
We've titled the series The New Testament, Beginning to End. Now, John, I imagine that plenty of people listening right now don't have an official title or leadership role in the church, but still, you'd say they are spiritual leaders. So why is that? Well, it's pretty simple, really, if you think about it. Our Lord said this, Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. He wasn't talking to pastors or preachers or leaders as such with official titles. He was talking to every believer. If you have the light, you let the light shine. Later, the apostle Paul talked about the fact that we are all lights in the world.
We are all in the world dispelling the darkness. In that sense, every one of us has a spiritual responsibility to lead, to lead people in the direction of the truth, of the Scripture, of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Gospel, and with that, the virtues that honor God and lead people away from sin and death and judgment and hell. We're all called to lead. And along that line, some years ago I wrote a book, which is by that very title, Called to Lead. Every Christian, man, woman, young person is called to lead at some level, at some level. This is a very practical book. It looks at how to organize your life, how to pull the loose ends in on your life so that you can make a consistent testimony, how to use your time wisely, how to find ways to be edified rather than merely entertained, how to pay attention to small things, accept extra responsibility, finish what you start, keep your commitments, maintain self-control.
Those are all things that really all of us need to be working on. So the book, Called to Lead, is focused, concentrated teaching on what God wants you to do in the world as a spiritual leader. It's ideal for a church board to work through, pastoral staff, teachers, coaches, parents, co-workers, but really, all of us need to be spiritual leaders. By the way, the book, Called to Lead, is reasonably priced. Love it if you'd order one today, and use it to be part of your leadership. Yes, and friend, this book is not only a helpful tool for developing your own leadership ability. It will also show you how to recognize godly leadership when you see it. To pick up a copy of John's book titled, Called to Lead, get in touch today. You can visit our website GTY.org, or call our customer service line at 800-55-GRACE. Request the title, Called to Lead.
To order it in English or Spanish, call 800-55-GRACE, or stop by our website GTY.org. And while you're at the website GTY.org, I would encourage you to listen to all of the messages from our recent Truth Matters conference. John and other speakers spoke on the theme of recovering a biblical worldview. You will hear clear teaching on issues that many churches aren't sure how to deal with, like gender and sexuality and critical race theory, social justice, other timely topics.
You'll also appreciate some practical Q&As on those subjects. To listen to those messages or any of John's sermons from his five decades of pulpit ministry, go to our website GTY.org. Now for John MacArthur and the staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for tuning in today. Join us tomorrow when John continues his overview of the New Testament, beginning to end, with a look at our God-breathed Bible. That's the title of the lesson that comes your way with another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time. On the next, Grace to You.
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