After instructing the brethren in Thessalonica to "...possess his vessel in sanctification and honour...." (1 Th. 4:4), Paul writes these words: "He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit" (v. 8). The word despiseth is translated from the Greek word αθετεω (ath-et-eh'-o) and has the idea "to set aside, i.e. (by implication) to disesteem, neutralize or violate" (Strong's). It is rendered as rejecteth in the American Standard Version and as rejects in the New King James Version.
When God's Word is published and those to whom it is proclaimed reject it, in actuality they are rejecting God. Paul is telling these Christians in Thessalonica that when one rejects these things of which he has penned, they are rejecting not man, but God. In chapter 2 verse 13 he had penned thankfulness because these brethren received the word of God "...not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God...." Again, a rejection of God's word is a rejection of God himself.
To further illustrate this point, consider John the baptist. John's work was foretold centuries before John came on the scene (Isa. 40:3,4; Mal. 4:5,6). See also Mt. 3:1-3,17:10-13 and Luke 3:3-5. Matthew 3:1 and following record John preaching and baptizing. Yet, many of the religious leaders, i.e. the Pharisees, lawyers, would not be baptized with John's baptism. Notice what is said concerning them: "But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected (αθετεω) the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him" (Lk. 7:30). Therefore, in rejecting John's baptism, they were rejecting the counsel or will of God.
In the Old Testament, the people foolishly desired to have a king reign over them that they might be like other nations (1 Sa. 5:8,20). God told Samuel, "Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Sam. 8:7).
The Apostles were commissioned to "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:15). There would be those who would obey and those who would not obey. Should they have become discouraged? Should they have had the attitude "It's not use, people will not listen to us!" Absolutely not! Jesus had told a group of 70 that he had sent out on a previous occasion: "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth (αθετεω) you despiseth me; and he that despiseth (αθετεω) me despisth (αθετεω) him that sent me" (Lk. 10:16). Jesus said: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (Jn. 12:48).
The point: Workers in God's kingdom must not take a rejection of the truth personal. When folks oppose the truth you set forth, they are rejecting God. Galatians 6:9 says: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." May God strengthen our hands to the good work before us!
- Donnie Oliver