Preaching in Vain 1 Thes 2:1-6 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
When Paul went to Thessalonica [Acts 17] to preach, he had come from Philippi [Acts 16] where he had been falsely accused, beaten and imprisoned with Silas. Such an experience should have caused him to “soften” his approach with the gospel to save his own neck. Instead, it only served to increase his resolve to preach the gospel with boldness [Eph 6:19-20]. So, when he reached Thessalonica, he was ready to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” [Jude 3]. He knew that he had to give account of his preaching to God [v.4] and so he was not inclined, in the least, to become a man pleaser [Gal 1:10]. As a general rule, worldly men don’t like the gospel when they first hear it [Jas 4:4, Prov 29:27].
Thus, when Paul preached at Thessalonica, he ran into as much trouble as he did in Philippi. In this passage, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that God had entrusted him with the gospel [v.4] and he was not going to destroy that trust by preaching in vain [v.1]. He didn’t do any of the things that preachers do who are more concerned with themselves and their reputations than they are with the Lord and his gospel. He preached “the gospel of God with much contention,” [v.2].
You can spot a man who is preaching in vain. He will do one or more of the things Paul listed in this passage that he did not do among the Thessalonians. A preacher preaching in vain will preach with:
Deceit – v.3 – This is the preacher who preaches a lie instead of the truth but does it in such a way that some people think he’s telling the truth. Even in the apostles’ day, there were many of these [2 Jn 7]. The worst of them is the preacher who actually believes his own lie [2 Tim3:13].
Uncleanness – v.3 – This is the preacher who uses unholy or worldly means to attract followers to his gospel [1 Thes 4:7]. He mixes the gospel with something unclean to make it more palatable to lost men [2 Cor6:14-18].
Guile – v.3 – This is the preacher who tries to sneak up on people with the gospel by using slyness and cunning. Jesus was without guile [1 Pet 2:21-22] and the Bible exhorts Christians to be absolutely without guile [1 Pet 2:1, 3:10]. Though Paul said in 2 Cor 12:16 that he caught the Corinthians “with guile,” he was being completely sarcastic. The context of his statement has nothing to do with an acceptable way to preach the gospel to the lost.
Flattering words – v.5 – This is the preacher who preaches to make you feel good about yourself usually to gain your favor. He praises you insincerely [Rom 16:17-18]. Oddly, he employs the same means the antichrist uses to take over the world [Dan 11:21].
A cloke of covetousness – v.5 – This is the preacher who is after your money [1 Pet 5:2, 1 Tim 3:3]. He’ll say whatever you want him to as long as you pay him well, but he won’t make it apparent that money is his underlying motive for preaching [a “cloke”].
Arrogance – v.6 – This is the preacher who wants people to think that he is somebody special [Gal 6:3]. He is in it for his own glory [Jn 5:44,12:43].
Now Paul used none of these things to get up a crowd in Thessalonica. He was straightforward with his preaching of the gospel. He was only interested in pleasing God and imparting the true gospel of God and his own soul to them [1 Thes 2:8]. And that was all. And that should be all about which any preacher is concerned.