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‘Living in the light of His soon return …’ Part 2

A series of thoughts from Paul’s
First letter to the Thessalonians

Preached at Blyth Community Church ~ Summer/Autumn 2006 ~ by Brian Allenby

Read 1 Thessalonians Ch 2

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed - God is witness - nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection 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 very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labour and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost. But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while - in person, not in spirit - were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. For we wanted to come to you - I, Paul, more than once - and yet Satan hindered us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.


Chapter 2

Chapter 1 described the basis for an ideal church. Chapter 2 describes the ideal Pastor, or Christian servant.

Paul has described to us how the gospel came to Thessalonica, now he tells us how he ministered to these young believers. This is an outline of Paul’s follow up programme. And it explains why most of his converts stayed true to the Lord and, why his churches grew. He presents us with 4 pictures of the ideal Christian worker. Just as he presented us with the four attitudes of the ideal church. Remembering of course that the church was the people and not the place where they met. The Elect, Exemplary, Enthusiastic and Expectant Church.

So now what are the four ideal characteristics of a Pastor, Elder or other Christian Worker? Well, in the first 6 verses we see a picture of The Perfect Steward. It is a tremendous privilege to be put in trust with the Gospel. We often speak of stewardship when we refer to the more tangible aspects of life – material things, but we need also to remember as believers, that we are stewards of the Gospel and the Word of God. God gave the message to Paul, Paul in turn committed it to Timothy and he was expected to commit it to the faithful people in the churches, who would then commit it to others. Are we at least faithful stewards?

What is the principle responsibility of a steward? Well 1 Corinthians, chapter 4 vv.1 & 2 define it well, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.” The duty therefore is to be TRUSTWORTHY and FAITHFUL! And it is on the basis of this faithfulness that we will be tested and rewarded when Christ returns. In order to be faithful to our stewardship, we must be willing to suffer. Many of us are not too keen on this. But, Paul and Silas had been treated shamefully at Philippi and they could have made all kinds of excuses to take a short break. But for them, the fact that God had entrusted the Gospel message to them and they knew that they had an urgent task on their hands, one which could not wait. That glorious message had to go into the cities and towns and in to the hearts of the people. They weren’t fearful they were bold. The Gospel and its urgency was the greatest priority in the hearts and minds of Paul and his evangelistic band! As a consequence, the Good News went forth.The faithful steward has, before God only one task and that is that he must live to please God, not men.

Let me tell from first hand experience, that it is very tempting sometimes to compromise the message to please men and win their friendship. But what value would a corrupt gospel message be to anyone and of course if the gospel message had to be compromised to please men, what sort of friends would they be? God cannot and will not bless the steward whose message and ministry are not according to his divine pattern. In verse 3, Paul explains that his message was not of deceit or error, that is, it was the true word of God. His motive was pure and not one of uncleanness and his methods were honest and without the smallest hint of guile. He didn’t deliver the message like a fisherman by putting tasty bait on the hook to catch people. Paul did not resort to flattering people for personal gain. Paul also gave honour to those who worked faithfully and gave praise where it was due, but he did not stoop to flattery in order to win converts or indeed influence his followers. So the first picture is that of the Faithful Steward.

The second picture we are given may seem a little strange, the picture is of The Gentle Mother. I suppose that it must seem odd that the man Paul should compare himself to a gentle nursing mother, but in verses 7 & 8, this is just what he does imply. Back in 1st Corinthians, chapter 4, verses 14 & 15, Paul talks of the Corinthians being his spiritual children. In the AV he says that he had begotten them in Christ and in the NIV his statement is made clearer, he became a father to them. And now in his 1st letter to the Thessalonian church, he compares himself to a gentle mother cherishing (AV) and caring(NIV).

Despite their spiritual growth and mature testimony, they were still babes in Christ, as new believers, they needed nurturing, love, food and tender care, and in fact they needed all the spiritual care that a new born baby needs in a material sense. Newborn babes need the milk of the word, before they can graduate onto the meat, the bread and the honey. How a mother feeds her child is almost as important as what she feeds it. How vital it is for those who are older in faith to feed the younger believers LOVINGLY and PATIENTLY.

We now look at verses 9 to 16 and from the motherly perspective, Paul shows us the picture of The Concerned Father. Note as we look through this chapter, the fatherly ministry of Paul:

  • He laboured for them v.9a
  • He preached to them v.9b
  • He behaved Himself – set an example v.10
  • He encouraged them v.11
  • He suffered for them v.14
A father’s real duty is to watch over his family and if necessary, be prepared to make sacrifices for their welfare.We all know that children are great imitators and often when we see the child, we see the father or these days the lack of the fathers influence. It is absolutely vital that those who are spiritual mothers and fathers live lives that show the way in which we should go. Exemplary does not mean perfect, what it does mean however, is a life that is seeking to set a Christ like example, learning and growing day by day, growing in the love, knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Showing to others the way to grow!

I suppose Paul could have claimed his rights as an apostle and expected the church to keep him. But instead, he set the example; he sacrificially laboured with his own hands (as a tent maker – as Aquila & Priscilla), so as not to be a burden upon the church and so he could minister to the church.In life a father does not or at least should not make his children pay for the care and love they receive as they grow up. And so Paul set the example for us, he was careful to live a life that was holy (to God), he was just to all men and blameless to himself.

One of the duties of a father is to encourage and educate his children and Paul did this in Thessalonica. He provided individual and personal teaching as well as a public ministry to the church. Anybody who has a responsibility for Spiritual leadership has to recognise that the ministry extends beyond the pulpit. Individual spiritual encouragement and counsel are two very vital components. Paul had a threefold ministry as a spiritual father:

  • To exhort (build up) and to plead with them to grow
  • To comfort and encourage
  • To charge and to testify/witness

Paul not only taught them the word, but he encouraged them from his own experiences in the Lord. The apostle rejoiced over the way his spiritual children received the Word of God, he knew, he had confidence and comfort from the fact that the Spirit of God would work in their lives if they received the Word and believed it.

Finally in this section, Paul warns his spiritual family of the enemies who would persecute them. The truth is as relevant today for many believers, as it was for those in Judea. If we become true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His churches, then we can expect to receive persecution from Satan and his followers and this sometimes can come from within the family of the church.

So, final picture: The Loving Brother, verses 17 to 20. Paul loved to call these saints his brethren, his brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. He uses the expression 21 times in both of his letter to the Thessalonians. He saw himself not only as their spiritual father, but also as one of them, part of the family. He says in verse 17 that he was orphaned from them (AV) or torn away (NIV) from them, like a child away from home.

  • He loved them
  • He prayed for them
  • They were in his heart
  • He greatly desired to see them again

After all, the test of our spiritual life is not what we do when we are in church – with the family - but how we behave away from church. Paul was not the kind of church member who forsook the gathering together of the saints; he knew how important this was and longed to be with them. Do we long to be with the Lord’s people? Do we look for excuses not to attend meetings? The Word of God reminds us very clearly that this should be an absolute priority in our lives. Hebrews 10:24 & 25 - "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

Here, I don’t mean the countless anniversaries, special events and rallies held by churches all over the place, but when the church gathers in fellowship nothing should hinder us from being with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul’s desire was to be with them.

As I mentioned last time every chapter of this letter ends with a reference to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 1, Christ’s return is directly related to salvation. In chapter 2, it is related to service. Why was Paul able to minister faithfully and lovingly to these saints? It was because he saw them in the light of Christ’s coming. He was looking forward to the glorious day when he would rejoice over them in the presence of Christ! The writer to the Hebrews says that Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him; this joy must surely be the joy of presenting His church to His Father (Jude 24). Paul endured all kinds of suffering for this same joy. Do we rejoice as we contemplate the fact that we will one day see the Lord Jesus Christ?

So there it is. The ideal church comprises an ELECT people, not select, whose lives show their work of faith, their labour of love and the patience of hope. An EXEMPLARY people, who are ENTHUSIASTIC and living in the light of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, an EXPECTANT People. The ideal church has the ideal example of pastoral leadership in Paul, who was a FAITHFUL STEWARD. He cared and cherished his people like a GENTLE MOTHER, but was at the same time a CONCERNED FATHER and a LOVING BROTHER. In all matters concerning the church, we have to remember that the church is not a business entity, but a family and it should always be treated as such.

But in conclusion, I have to say, that these two chapters tell us why this ideal church was a contagious church. It was the qualification and commitment of the people and the quality and commitment of their leaders. The church was

  • Biblical in character
  • Authentic (true and honest) in nature
  • Gracious in attitude, and
  • Relevant in approach.
(to be continued)

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