Paul gives more insight behind the evangelistic spirit by recalling his own manner of walk with the Thessalonian church. After reading this chapter and keeping in mind Galatians 6:12, there is stark contrast between true evangelism and false. In Galatians, the proselytes were only trying to make “a fair show in the flesh,” a zeal that is void of any godly influence but rather seeks to pander to and gain the applause of their constituents so that they may enjoy their vain, earthly approval. Instead of going forth to spread the gospel out of a love for God and His truth, and a concern for man’s eternal well being, it is done, whether conscious or unconscious, so that they may be approved in the sight of men.
It is also done in this manner so that they would avoid any “persecution for the cross of Christ.” It was to maintain their own ease. By bringing forth a message that would be more appeasing to the masses, it would cause them to shy away from the controversy of the cross, which would guarantee affliction and disapproval from the more worldly-minded men whom they feared. This is a man-centered, cowardly way of “evangelism.” It is not seeking the good of those to whom you speak, for what greater benefit can a person gain than the salvation procured by the cross through faith alone in Christ? Rather it is seeking your own glory by doing things through eye-service, stooping to flattery as men pleasers, rather than fearers of God.
In this text, though, there is no fear of men in Paul’s words. Rather, Paul has no motive of personal gain and has the simple desire place before them the whole truth- for God’s sake, because it is His truth- for the truth’s sake, because he seeks to spread no falsehood- for the Thessalonian’s sake, because they are able to be saved. There is honesty and sincerity in trying to win the Thessalonians over to the truth of God without compromising that truth, hence the no flattery or guile. It is as John Calvin said in summarizing Paul’s motives: “I have not abused the gospel so as to make it an occasion of catching at gain.” The eternal truth of God is more important than any fleeting opinion of man or society, no matter how controversial men perceive its propositions to be.
Calvin goes on: “Thus, if we would distinguish the genuine servants of Christ from those that are pretended and spurious, they must be tried according to this rule, and every one that would serve Christ aright must also conform his aims and his actions to the same rule. For where avarice and ambition reign, innumerable corruptions follow, and the whole man passes away into vanity, for these are the two sources from which the corruption of the whole ministry takes its rise.”
How often do we see this bending and caving to the fear of men in our society? How many organizations, churches, and individuals have crumbled under the pressures of “being on the right side of history?” How many truths of scripture have been compromised by these people so that society would deem them to be acceptable?
Don’t think you are above succumbing to the pressures of society.
Deeply examine yourself. What are your reasons for evangelizing? Is it only the social pressures from your organization or community motivating you to evangelize? Are you doing it so that they can see you do it? Do you have selfish motives so that you can mark a tally for a fair show in the flesh? Are the modern, social norms hindering you from bringing the controversial aspects of the gospel? If these are your motives, then stop what you are doing in being a disservice to the gospel. Pray for your fear of God to increase and for the fear of man to decrease. Pray for your love to God to increase out of a growing sense of your fear of Him, and may that move you to love your fellow image-bearers aright. Only once your fear of God exceeds that of your fear of men, and your love for His truth exceeds that of your love for man’s approval, will you begin to be evangelizing from proper motives.