In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 Paul says he spoke to the congregation as someone who was approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel. This is an important claim and is related to Paul’s apostleship.
First, Paul says he was “approved by God.” This verb (δοκιμάζω) has the sense of being tested for the purpose of determining the genuineness (BDAG). For example, an ore which appears to contain gold can be tested to determine if it is in fact gold as well as the quality of the gold. Only after the test is finished can the ore be described as real gold (as opposed to iron pyrite, fool’s gold). Paul is claiming he has been tested by God and has been given approval for his mission to the Gentles. Ironically, it is his suffering persecution for that is the “proof” he has been tested and approved!
Second, Paul was “entrusted with the Gospel.” He was given a revelation that God’s grace was being extended to the whole world without distinction. Gentiles are now able to be right with God without keeping the Law or converting to a form of Judaism. He says something similar in Galatians 2:7. There Paul describes his commissioning as the “apostle to the Gentiles.” His commission is a trust given him from God and he takes this commission very seriously.
To be “entrusted” with something is perhaps a financial metaphor. When someone invests money they expected the financial manager to wisely invest the money and provide some kind of return on the investment. If the manager loses the money, they have not taken their commission seriously and have failed. The fact is that God tested Paul and approved of him to be entrusted the ministry of the evangelization of the Gentiles, and Paul took that commissioning so seriously that he would not do anything that might possibly hinder that trust from yielding fruit.
There are a number of obvious applications to the modern church that can be drawn at this point. Each church is given by God a commission, a purpose, a ministry. You are called to do something in this community. A church that wants to succeed tries to understand what their purpose is, and evaluate their ministry to get that purpose done.
If you know why you exist and you have a pretty good idea what it is you can do to fulfill that purpose, then you must not doing anything that might detract from that purpose. Paul is saying that his ministry is a success, and it is a success because he is honest and genuine while doing his ministry, that he is not out for money or power, or anything else that might motivate other people.
Are churches (or individuals) “entrusted with the Gospel” in a similar way today? Can (or should) we apply similar tests to churches today in order to decide if they are in fact genuine? I think this might even be applied to individual programs within a church – what do we do as part of church which fulfills our “trust” of the Gospel?
11 thoughts on “Approved by God and Entrusted with the Gospel”
In reference to δοκιμαζω, I had not yet seen it in that light. I tended to read through the phrase “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” and think of it only on a surface level. I had not read the verse in Koine to understand the definition, but I was happy to do so, and found the word used in Romans (which according to Longenecker, TTP p. 82, most scholars believe Paul wrote, which might give a connection to 1 Thess). In Romans 12:2, δικιμαζειν is in the infinitive and is used in the phrase “to test and approve”. Also, the most outright connection I found was directly after Paul’s revelation/call. When Ananias was told by God to make Paul regain his sight, Ananias was stunned and debated with God. He was then told, by God himself, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Minerals can’t feel pain, but humans can when they are ‘refined’ by God. Interesting to think that Paul probably never knew God said that to Ananias after his revelation/call, yet spoke of it later. To speak to the financial analogy you used, I thought 2 Cor. 2:17 worked well with it when Paul said “we don’t peddle the gospel for profit’. Peddle, as in sell cheap wares on the market, for small profit. Paul’s profit was not monetary, but eternal. To connect with the 21st century church, “go and make disciples of all nations” or ‘wherever you go, make disciples of all nations’ is a charge from Jesus to take the gospel with us. Like Paul said, we should not peddle it. To refine individual members of the church, the person must want to live out Philippians 1:27a (though written directly to the church at Philipi), which states: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”.
Forgive my misspelling in the first post. In Romans 12:2 the Koine is δοκιμαζειν.
There is a clear call to ministry. God calls a person and it is to shepherd His sheep. We are entrusted to something and I would say it is to further the Gospel. There is a warning if a shepherd doesn’t do that very well. Ezekiel 34:1-10 has a clear warning for someone in a shepherding role that is in it for selfish reasons. Because there are warnings for not shepherding right I think it makes perfect sense to evaluate ministries. We should be making sure they are furthering the gospel and not just meeting for meetings sake. What kind of tests can we put in place to evaluate a pastors heart or a ministries effectiveness?
Paul indeed did say that his ministry was successful because he trusted God and was honest with his ministry which is why he was so successful. The question that was asked was if churches are doing ministry like Paul, being honest and trusting God. I believe that the main purpose of the church is to spread God’s message among not only the believers but also non-believers. However, some churches don’t share that common goal. Some churches are just simply out to prosper in their wealthy, with no need to serve people with the message. I used to watch this show called Preachers of LA. This show was about the life of preachers who lived a luxurious life. Throughout this show these so called man of God showed off their cars, mansion size homes and very expensive clothing. One thing they failed to show was the ministry of their church. They were more interested in showing off what the church had done for them, rather then what they are doing for the church and the people in need of the message. Paul tells us that “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel”. This means that as Christians we need to get the gospel out. Not about how someone else is getting the gospel out, but how are we getting the gospel out. In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to go and preach the gospel to all creation. We are all called to do that.
It is very important for all of us to know our purpose, inside the church and outside of the church. Just as Paul did, he understood what the Lord wanted him to do and carried it out. God trusted Paul to carry out a mission, and that is something that Paul took very seriously. We should approach our calling the same way, because what we are given may not be the same as what Paul was given but it could be just as important. Just in a smaller way. There are defiantly churches and pastors that may be in it for the wrong reasons, like Asu talked about in the show that he watched. Those pastors sound like they are more consumed with what they will get than with what they can give to help the congregation. The church should be trusted, and maybe in some cases should be tested on if it mission is genuine.
Paul clearly wanted to differentiate his ministry through his motive. He speaks of those who do things out of greed. They explain that they could have made demands but they did not but instead treated them with love. They treated them similar to the way a mother cares for her child (1 Thes 2:4-7). As far as testing the churches today I think that it clearly has to do with money. If the goal is to get something out of the congregation than obviously this church is not taking their responsibility seriously. Longenecker explains that Paul is arguing that his ministry is sincere and done in the face of suffering (67). Their ministry was done out of love for the congregation. I think that this is something every church should look at in the area of ministry. Are we doing this ministry out of love or are their alternative motives? Specific actions and steps in ministry programs may need to be corrected but if the motive is pure, that group will be willing to alter their steps in order to be responsible with sharing the gospel.
Paul talks a bit about what he had gone through in Philippi and how much he suffered in order to get where he was when preaching to the Thessalonians. However, going through all that he went through, this would not stop him from preaching the gospel. “…with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of opposition” (1 Thess. 2:2). Paul talks more in chapter 2 about how what they are doing was not out of flattery, and that they were not looking for praise from people, but from God (1 Thess. 2;5-6). Paul had many things hurled at him in opposition to what he was saying, but he would not be a people pleasing preacher. “Instead of being slick-talking, people-pleasing, glory-seeking charlatans driven by greed and gain, theirs was a sincere, sacrificial ministry in Thessalonica (TTP 67). I think every church goes through its struggles and have been entrusted with the gospel in the same way that Paul was. Churches today, I think, would benefit greatly from going through similar instances. Churches tend to do things for the praise of other people, such as a musician. Musicians struggle greatly with performing, instead of ‘leading people in worship’. Should we test churches like this? I think yes. It may cause many to shut down because people would not know how to stand firm in such opposition. But many would greatly benefit from it. This would show who was greatly dedicated to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and would do anything to stand up for the gospel.
I think that as Jesus’ followers, we are “entrusted with the Gospel” through the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19–”Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations” (NIV), but also through different parts of the Bible such as in Jude, when it is stated that we are to “contend for the faith that was entrusted to God’s holy people” (NIV).
I most certainly think we should apply tests to churches today in order to decide if they are in fact genuine, the question is how. Although I am not sure this type of thing could be done on a mass-scale level, it definitely can be done by the individual as they are searching for a church. When we are looking for a new church to attend, we are “testing” them to see if they meet a standard of what we see as acceptable and pleasing to the Lord. On a basic level, every church should be preaching the Gospel from the Bible, as this is the basis of our Christian faith. This faith is what should spread the Gospel we have been entrusted with, as the Thessalonians’ did–”Their “faith in God” flooded Christian news networks…”everywhere” (1:8a)” (TTP 66). Aside from that, churches should be fulfilling our “trust” of the Gospel through various ministries. Ministries should involve encouraging the body itself (1 Thes. 5:11, 14; 2 Cor. 13:11; 2 Tim. 4:2), and assisting them both physically and spiritually, along with outreach to unbelievers. These are broad areas, but depending on the church and the location, different types of ministry will be necessary.
First of, I tend to not call a “church” those places where the Gospel is not the central message. We are the church, but the presence of the Lord manifests anywhere that one or more are gathered in His name. So, for me it doesn’t matter how big the temple is or what denomination or what is name of the so called church. I don’t recognize places where money, self-glorification and concert perfomance are as a church. Yes, churches are entrusted with the Gospel and has always been, in my opinion. Like I said, I believe there’s no need to test a church because it will show what kind of place it is by nature. Just like we show our character with time, a church with time will be show its fruits and if they are good or bad. To be fruitful are not necessary good; there are good and bad fruits, and they are easy to recognize.
Just like Paul instructed the church of Thessalonica on both letters, to maintain the Gospel fresh, sort of speaking, it is necessary to have a change of posture and culture. Literally go against what the world or society demands and go with what God demands and what He thinks that matters.
Not to men, but to God. See the faithful church of Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13).
I like what Leo said about not calling places where the Gospel is not the central belief and message, a “church”. I also really like that he says there is no real need to test a church because it will produce the kinds of fruits that is sewing. I do think that it is important for us as individuals, families and believers to test out a church for ourselves. It is pretty easy to see what a church is all about by just being there for a service or two. I go to South Harbor church and just by going there a few times, I could tell how community based that the church is. They do a lot of outreach into the surrounding areas and look to plant churches in locations that will reach the most amount of people to “bring them back to Christ” as their mission statement says.
I do think that churches are entrusted in similar ways today in that they are not to do anything that would go against the message that they are preaching and I think that is important for each church to investigate and look for the real motives behind what they are doing. When “we do not sell the Gospel for profit” as 2 Corinthians 2:17 says, that is when the Word of God is truly being spread in a genuine way.