Understanding 1 Thessalonians – part 4

Understanding 1 Thessalonians – part 4

Watch the Video Message Below: 

Paul’s First Letter to the Church at Thessaloniki / 2:7-12

Study 4

We have noted thus far that Paul’s ministry at Thessaloniki was not in vain as it brought forth the fruit of salvation in the lives of many in the city. He, and his apostolic band were sent out from the Church at Antioch with the blessing of the leaders there and that of the Holy Spirit. His missionary trip was therefore God inspired and therefore in a sense couldn’t fail. The Thessalonians turned from their idols and their sins to serve God by Jesus Christ and to await His second coming. Moreover, their testimony in this regard impacted the whole region. Paul was proud of them and gives them an overview of his commitment; to God, the preaching of the Word of God and to them. He is a genuine servant of Jesus seeking only to glorify Him through his life and ministry and therefore he seeks nothing from them save their growing love for Christ and His people.

Our insight then into Paul’s character and dedication to Christ is therefore a challenge to all those who would follow Christ in ministry and to those who already do. In the verses now before us he continues to express his feelings for them and commitment to them by reminding them of what he did do when he was with them and not of what he didn’t do, as in the previous passage. Here we see the heart of a true shepherd of God’s flock and this should serve as a template for all those who would also follow this calling. Actually every aspiring ministry candidate should be instructed by these passages as they reveal the true nature of our calling and it’s worth noting that this chapter is then a record of Paul’s legacy. This great servant of Jesus is worth following, just as he himself often encouraged us to do.

We should consequently take note of the manner in which he engaged the believers at Thessaloniki:

1. He loved them as a mother would love her own children. 2:7

“But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.”

Paul took a personal interest in everyone and cared about them. I have seen all through the years that Jesus greatly blesses a congregation where the leaders care for God’s flock. Too often leaders only want people to fill seats in the sanctuaries and nothing more. Consequently the people of God are left alienated from their leaders and struggling with many spiritual challenges. Every congregation should have properly ordained and trained shepherds who are always among the sheep and know them by name. By them the flock of God should be taught the “milk of God’s word” by which they can grow strong having well understood the “First Principles” of what it means to be a Christ follower. These are laid out in Hebrews 5:12 and Hebrews 6:1-2.

2. He loved them with a passion that drove him to do anything for them 2:8

“So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”

Love will enable one to go to any lengths to help another. When I fell in love with Cheryl, the girl of my dreams, I would cycle 12 miles to see her for 30 minutes and then cycle the same 12 miles home again! What made me do this? Only love for her put my feet to the pedals! We are to love God’s children like this! Paul imparted his life to the Thessalonians. For him Christianity was not all about preaching and teaching but about giving of one’s time and resources to help God’s people grow in Christ. This is true love.

3. He loved them unconditionally 2:9

“For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to you, we preached to you the gospel of God.”

Paul raised his own financial support as a tent maker (Acts 18:3) and in this way was able to love them without any strings attached. This being true, the Thessalonians knew for certain that he genuinely loved them seeking nothing in return. So then, Paul served Jesus his Lord by giving them the message of eternal life without cost and every servant of God, if possible, should do the same. However, if not, then he should be well cared for financially by ruling elders who set his salary within a context of accountability and transparency. His words in 1 Corinthians 9:13-18 affirm this.

4. He loved them by the impartation of his ministry. 2:10-11

“You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe.”

The gifts that Jesus gave Paul he used to help them by way of constant encouragement and example. He patterned Christ before them (Philippians 3:17) and behaved with constant integrity. God could bear witness to this! In recent years many well known preachers have failed and have been made to stand down from their ministries. The harm that this does to the Body of Christ is immeasurable as it brings the Church into disrepute, causes many to stumble and, most of all, dishonors Christ before the world. The leaders set over God’s flock carry a sacred trust and must seek to follow Paul’s example. They must be trained, approved and then properly set before the people of God by prayer and fasting. They must be designated as Ephesian Four Ministries, Elders and Deacons as scripture demands (Philippians 1:1).

5. He loved them with a goal in mind. 2:12

“…..that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

Paul knew that he must constantly lay before them the “end game.” That is, we live with the knowledge that we are destined, upon our deaths, to enter into the glorious and eternal kingdom of God. When we gave our hearts to Christ this is what He called us to. We should have this before us all the time as many who once embraced the faith have turned back to the world with all its ungodly pursuits and have consequently made “shipwreck” of their faith (1 Timothy 1:18-20). Jesus reminded us that “those who endure to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13) and Peter reminds us that imposters and fake Christians will infiltrate our communities and even become Christian leaders (2 Peter 2:1-3; 12-17). We must press on day by day making good the call of God over our lives (2 Peter 1:10).

Malcolm Hedding