Commentary on "The Apostolic Example (1 Thess. 2:112)"
Day 6: Thursday, August 2, 2012 - To Not Be a Burden (1 Thess. 2:912)
The misplaced emphasis on Paul's character and behavior continues in today's lesson. It is true that Paul and his group worked to support themselves rather than be a burden on the people he was preaching to. But Paul also received outside support for his ministry, Phil 4:15-16
ESV "And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again"
The lesson goes on to state that Paul went out of his way to "to behave in such a way as not to cause offense". It is certainly accurate to point out the Paul acted in a manner that kept the focus on the Gospel rather than on his acts. For instance in I Cor 9 Paul points out some of these acts,
ESV vs 19-23 "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."
This doesn't indicate the blameless character being responsible for the conversions as this author claims throughout this week's lesson, but rather Paul's selflessness in making the Gospel central to his message, rather than any emphasis on how he might live be it under the law or outside the law. Clearly Paul wouldn't exercise his freedom from Jewish laws when witnessing to Jews, but neither would he insist on following these obsolete Jewish laws when it would be a hindrance to his witness among the Gentiles. For instance, he was willing to eat whatever was set before him without question (1 Cor 10:27) when dining with Gentiles.
However, just because Paul didn't want to offend people unnecessarily by insisting on following or ignoring long-held customs that doesn't mean that his message of the Gospel wasn't offensive to many. The message of the cross is, by its very nature, offensive (Gal 5:11).
Perhaps the most offensive statement in this lesson is the idea that Paul "adapted his instruction" from one group to another. There is no evidence in Scripture that Paul ever altered the content of the Gospel in order to win more people. He adapted his behaviors not his message.
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