This is part of a series of posts on the Poison of Pietism. Click here to see the entire series.
1 Thes 2:3-4 – For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.
Paul and his co-workers are “men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”. They were given the task of spreading the gospel of Christ. If every Christian was “entrusted with the gospel”, this statement would be quite superfluous and would add no value to his argument that his teaching is authoritative.
1 Thes 3:2 – We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith…
Again, the use of the phrase “God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ” would be meaningless unless it was meant to differentiate Timothy from others for which the spreading of the gospel was not their calling.
I Thes 4:9-10 – Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
As always, Paul exhorts the believers to grow in love for one another and to mature in unity.
1 Thes 5:14-22 – And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
The closing exhortation of Paul in 1 Thessalonians includes many actions but does not include evangelism. From this passage it appears that not only is evangelism not to be the highest priority of the Christian, it may not be important at all.
2 Thes 1:3 – We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
2 Thes 1:11-12 – With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is thanking God for the Thessalonians and praying for them that “He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” This prayer is very general in nature. I would expect that if evangelism were important, Paul would specifically mention it, especially in light of the fact that nowhere in either of his two letters to them does he mention that they should be active in evangelism.
Titus 1:3 – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness …and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…
Once again Paul acknowledges that his gift of evangelism was entrusted to him by God, not by an inherent ability instilled in every believer.
1 Peter 3:8-12 – Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 4:8-11 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
These two passages begin with “finally” and “above all”, respectively. These words usually precede statements which are meant to be closing, important statements in an argument. In this case, the statements describe behaviors that the readers were to exhibit. Not surprisingly, evangelizing the lost is not among the commanded behaviors.
I will conclude this paper with still more verses that argue that love, maturity, and fellowship within the church are to be what the Church is all about.
2 Cor 13:11 – Finally, brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 2:10 – Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.
1 John 3:16-20 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.
1 John 4:11-12 – Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 5:2-3 –This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his
commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands.
3 John 2-4 – Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
By our love for one another, the world will see Christ and glorify God. We are to be God’s witnesses when opportunities arise, but are never commanded to passionately and actively evangelism our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or anybody else.