Christian Leadership: Integrity

Christian Leadership: Integrity

1 Thessalonians 2:5-6

Never was there a leader like the Lord Jesus Christ. As the carpenter’s son, Jesus learned how to craft beauty and purpose out of raw and rudimentary materials. As He would begin His ministry, that would be a large part of His work. He would take the raw materials of unlearned fishermen, and through His instruction, reproof, and example, He would craft beauty and purpose.

He was the perfect example of love, patience, courage, truthfulness, selflessness, responsibility, conviction, and so on, but he imparted godly characteristics in all the apostles as well. Characteristics which enabled them to plant churches and build up the saints.

That’s what happened in Thessalonica, and we can summarize what we’ve looked at already by noting that in chapter 1 he remembers how the church was born. In chapter 2 he remembers how the church was nurtured. 

The view of this chapter is that it is either a self-description or is giving a self-defense. Paul is either distinguishing himself from others or defending himself against others, with the latter being the most common view.

Last week we saw how Paul presented that he had been absolutely truthful in his communication of the gospel. He took his responsibility seriously, because as he was tested to into the ministry, so he was tested by God throughout the ministry.

v4 – “we were allowed…which trieth our hearts.” i.e. it is the same word, tested. 

e.g. “the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor. 3:13). “And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.” (1 Tim. 3:10). 

Spiritual leadership is a solemn thing. Men must be tested before they are put in office, and then they will find themselves tested throughout their ministry. They must cultivate a sensitivity to the Spirit of God who reserves the right to test their hearts continually.  

I. NO FLATTERY OF WORDS “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know”

The flatterer has one primary goal, to serve himself. Yet, in their aim to court the attention of another so that they might receive some particular benefit for themselves, they are also potentially destroying the one they flatter. “it is therefore wisdom to suspect those who flatter us, that they are secretly laying a snare for us, and to stand on our guard accordingly.” M. Henry.

What the flatterer often fails to recognize is that he is making an assault upon the recipient’s heart and mind by appealing to the natural tendency to covetousness. The recipient’s heart longs for the flattery to be true. Indeed, flattery is a kind of trojan horse whereby the fool that embraces the words will voluntarily bring his enemy within the castle walls of his heart. 

Thus, Solomon would say, “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.” (Prov. 29:5).

The danger with flattery is that it builds a wall around flaws of character and behavior, and the sanctifying work of the Spirit is resisted in His work of changing the life. Should the Spirit convict about a matter, the flattered soul may say, ‘But that person regarded this as a virtue.’

Being intoxicated with adulation, he becomes resistant to spiritual progress and growth in holiness.

A young woman, constantly on the receiving end of flattering remarks, begins to give weight to vain words. As a result, she puts greater value on the passing virtue of physical beauty, while her true character becomes self-absorbed, egotistical, proud, smug. After several failed relationships, she wonders what went wrong for she appears as beautiful as ever. Yet she’s completely blind to the arrogance she has developed. The same may apply to a young man.

“Jesus Christ Himself, who, according to the Scripture, was the firm and immovable Rock, to whom the praises of the universe were due, as the tribute of His supreme grandeur and adorable perfections, yet while on earth would not suffer those truths which made for His honour and glory. He wrought wonders; He cured the blind and the deaf; He raised the dead; yet when the people began to celebrate His name for this, and to cry that He was the prophet of God, He enjoined them silence, and seemed upon the whole extremely impatient of applause.” Unknown 

So Paul did not go there with flattering language, which would be the approach of frauds and philosophers of the day. Instead, he did as he instructed Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Why? “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.” (Prov. 28:23). 

“The thing that has given me greatest pleasure and greatest encouragement of all the things I’ve ever been told that people say about my ministry is this, it was said by a lady who remonstrated and said, “This man preaches as if we were sinners!” Quite so.” Martin Lloyd Jones

Beloved, you will learn, if you haven’t already, what one woman said to my wife after she started attending the church in Calgary after a short time. “We’re under no illusions of what we are.” 

II. NO FASCINATION WITH WEALTH “nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness”

When Paul addressed the accusation of flattery, he appealed to their memory of him, “as ye know.” But, when he addresses the accusation of covetousness, he appeals to God. And for good reason.

Of all the ten commandments, the tenth is the most difficult to discern or prove. Idolatry, blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, rebellion against authority, murder, adultery, theft, and lying, all have clear outward manifestations. And when they are broken in the heart, it is when the sin is married to covetousness. 

“cloke” i.e. putting on a mask like someone in a play. In this case it is to fulfill his covetousness.

Covetousness is the hidden sin of the heart. It is were the law of God addresses the motives and intentions, not merely the behavior. And in this context it specifically relates to the lust for more.

Although Paul could say v9, yet, because of the hidden nature of covetousness, Paul appeals to God as his witness.

“Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke 12:15).

There were many false teachers with corrupt motives. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter. 2:3).

Paul was not in the ministry for personal gain. And while in a number of places he would appeal to the churches to make sure those that teach the Word are practically taken care of, yet, he and Pater would warn spiritually leaders of their relationship to money. 

The elders must not be “greedy of filthy lucre” (1 Tim. 3:3). “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (1 Peter 5:2). 

III. NO FAWNING OVER THE WORLD “Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others” v6 

Here the apostle argues against any suggestion that his labor was to gain the praise of men, whether from those that believed or those that did not.

This is in contrast with the philosophers of the day. When a man does not have the love of God in his heart, he will seek his glory from men rather than God. 

See John 5:44 – Jesus is going to reveal what happens when men do not have the love of God in their hearts.

v44 – is a rhetorical question. Jesus isn’t looking for an answer. He is telling them, you can’t believe because they sought the honor of men. That’s what happens when people do not have nor want the love of God ruling in their hearts, they seek the honor of men.

By nature, men are enslaved to their desires v44. They desire the praise, respect, adoration, approval, and support of men. And the enslavement to men will keep you out of heaven.

Close – Oh to live as if we were already before the throne! To maintain integrity akin to the example of the Lord Jesus.