4. A Compelling Example for Ministry (1 Thess. 2:1-12)
In chapter 1, Paul begins with a salutation or greeting (1:1) followed by thanksgiving for the work of God and the response of the Thessalonians to the Gospel (1:2-10). In doing this he described them as a pattern or model for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia because of the way the word of the Lord had sounded forth from this body of believers. This is then followed by a review of Paul’s ministry (really the ministry of his team) to the Thessalonians (2:1-12).
As we approach chapter 2, we need to remember that the occasion for this chapter was the slander Paul had received from the religious Judaizers who claimed he was only out for personal gain. So Paul reviewed their ministry to silence these attacks, not because he was concerned about the Thessalonians’ approval, but to protect the work the Lord had accomplished through him and his partners.
In verses 1-12, the Apostle uses two instructive analogies to describe his ministry: (1) that of a faithful steward (vss. 1-6), and (2) as that of loving parents: first as a loving mother (vss. 7-8), and then as a concerned father (vss. 9-12).
In the process of these two chapters, we are given a glimpse of Paul the evangelist and Paul the edifier or builder of believers. What a compelling and wonderful model for us today for here are two of the main purposes of the church—reaching and teaching. In a day like ours when the authority of God’s Word is being ignored and when the church and its ministers so often turn to human methods and operate out of false motives, this chapter is not only powerfully instructive, but it stands as a strong rebuke to so much of what we see happening in ministry today.
They Served as Faithful Stewards Entrusted With the Gospel
2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, about our coming to you: it has not proven to be purposeless. 2:2 But although we suffered earlier and were mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of much opposition. 2:3 For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit, 2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts. 2:5 For we never appeared with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is our witness— 2:6 nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others,
The text may be divided into three parts: their manner (2:1-2), their motives and methods (2:3b-6), and their message and means (2:2, 3a; see also vss. 9 and 13).
Their Manner—They Were Persistent Against Pressure and Pain (vss. 1-2)
Verse 1 was a clear declaration of the nature of their coming, but notice how he did this through a strong appeal to the Thessalonians’ personal knowledge of the life and ministry of Paul and his associates. A vital principle here is that we must not ignore the fact that our personal lives speak powerfully to the nature of our ministry in the motives, methods, and the means we employ to accomplish the work of God. Our behavior patterns demonstrate the validity and biblical authenticity of what we are doing. And the fact that you and I may be engaged in a lot of works (religious activity) does not in itself prove the quality of our service and its value to the Lord.
So Paul wrote, “For you yourselves know brothers and sisters29 … has not proven to be purposeless.” Paul’s enemies had accused him of being a self-seeking peddler of this new message of the gospel, but the Apostle could appeal to their personal knowledge of the character of his ministry like those in the same family. In fact, six times he appealed to their knowledge of his life (1:5; 2:1, 2, 5, 11; 4:2).
His ministry in its manner of life, motives, and methods were above reproach so much so that he could even appeal to the witness of God (2:5). What a contrast to some of the tele-evangelists and to so much of what we see going on in the church of today. But you know, before we go casting stones, we each need to evaluate our own motives, methods, and the means we use as we seek to live our lives before others in the light of the challenges and insights of this great passage. We may not be guilty of the gross fraud of some of those whose names and stories have made the news, but we can be guilty of some of the same type of self-seeking, though on a much smaller and more subtle scale.
Again, as in 1:9, Paul referred to their visit with the Thessalonians by the term eisodos, “entrance, a means or place of entering.” Why did he call their coming an entrance? Perhaps because, as one who saw all of life through the perspective of grace and God’s work as the One who leads and directs us, he saw their time there like a door that God had opened giving them an opportunity to minister His Word.
But what did the Apostle mean when he said, “that our coming to you has not proven to be purposeless” or as the NASB translates it, “was not in vain”? “Purposeless,” or “vain” is keno which means “empty, without content, without any basis, without truth or power,” or it could be used in the sense of “without result, effect, or profit, fruitless.” It was used of an empty jar, of sending someone away empty handed, and of empty words.
Paul could be using this word with reference to the results in the lives of the Thessalonians as described in chapter 1 or in reference to the content and character of their preaching and ministry. Since he dealt with the results in the lives of the Thessalonians in chapter 1, and in view of the context that follows here in chapter 2, he is using this word with regard to the essential character, earnestness, and sincerity of their entrance and coming to proclaim God’s truth to the Thessalonians. What follows will set forth Paul’s proof that their coming was full of authentic earnestness and substance. It was not empty and without power or prompted by vain methods, motives, and means.
Verse 2. The first proof their coming and ministry was not empty was the fact they had preached boldly in spite of serious persecution.
“Mistreated” is hubrizo, “to abuse, to treat shamefully.” “The word expresses insulting and outrageous treatment and especially treatment which is calculated publicly to insult and openly to humiliate …”30
“We had the courage” or “boldness … to speak” (NASB) is parresiazomai, “to speak freely, openly, fearlessly, express oneself freely.” In the New Testament this verb is always used with reference to proclaiming the gospel (Acts 9:27, 29; 13:46; 14:3). But because of the animosity that often comes with preaching the gospel, it came to mean “to have courage, venture boldly” but always, it seems, in connection with the word. There are many reasons Christians do not witness or share their faith, but no doubt, fear is the underlying issue—fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of hostility, and so on.
Note that the Apostle quickly added the important words, “in our God.” Many are bold for the wrong reasons. This phrase points us to the sphere and reason for their boldness to speak. They were bold and willing to suffer because of their fellowship with the Lord and their confidence of His presence and provision regardless of the opposition.
The nature of their boldness is stressed in the words, “amid much opposition.” “Opposition” is agon from which we get our word agony. This word was used of various types of athletic contests. The corresponding verb meant “to contend in the sports,” either running or wrestling. It is used with the verb form in 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7 in the sense of “fighting.” Agon suggests intense effort and strenuous exertion in the face of hostility and conflict. Undoubtedly, by the use of this word, the Apostle had in mind both inward and outward conflict that believers often face in ministry if they are faithful to God’s calling and purpose.
For a list of the outward struggles compare 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 11:23-27. But there were also inward battles perhaps like the temptation to throw in the towel in the face of discouraging conditions. There were the spiritual battles with spiritual opposition, and there was his deep concern for the churches which the Apostle rated right alongside with his physical sufferings (note in particular 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5; 11:28).
The point of verse 2 is clear: Men who could sings hymns to God in prison after such insolent and vile treatment for preaching the gospel, but who were still not discouraged from preaching the gospel under such conditions were not likely to be phonies.
The term “opposition” (agon) reminds us that ministry to others, the work of leading people to Christ and helping them grow in Christ, is a contest; it is a spiritual struggle. As such, if we are to be victorious in the struggle, there are certain things we need to keep in mind and commit ourselves to. Let me suggest four:
1. Earnest effort—we never win by half trying. The struggle calls for hard work, though never in the energy of our abilities, strategies or methods (1 Cor. 15:10; Col. 1:29–2:1).
2. Putting off that which hinders, stripping down to the essentials (Heb. 12:1; 1 Tim. 4:7b-8, 15-16). In our consumer- and comfort-oriented world, this has become a tremendous hindrance.
3. Singleness of mind, eyes on the goal (Matt. 6:19-24; Heb. 12:1-3; 1 Pet. 1:13).
4. Pain—as the saying goes, no pain, no gain. If we are committed to our comfort and pleasure above the needs of others and God’s call, we simply won’t be able to follow the Lord. Compare Philippians 1:29-30. Remember, the word “conflict” here is agon. The Apostle pictures the Christian life as a contest, a struggle that demands dedication and great energy.
Actually, chapter 2 is a great chapter to help us establish and maintain biblical priorities. It challenges us to be the people God wants us to be individually and corporately. In this chapter the Apostle gives us a number of priorities that are essential. The first priority in seen in the next point of our outline, His Message. This is the priority of being biblical in all that we do in our character, methods, and motives, and the means we employ.
Their Motives and Methods—They Were Pure (vss. 3-6)
In their motives and methods, Paul and his team were pure, seeking only to please God and minister in a biblical manner (2:3-6).
These verses show clearly that Paul and his team never ministered for personal gain or self-centered pursuits. They were real, authentic, and operated out of their relationship with Him as they rested in the truth and power of God’s Word (cf. vs. 13). These men were so secure in the Lord, they had peeled off all the typical masks and were able to stand vulnerably before God and people. Because they were authentic, free from cover ups, they also never resorted to human schemes or strategies for accomplishing the work of God.
Paul’s statement, “although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ,” or “though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority” (NASB), or “as apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you” (NIV), carries the idea of “being able to make heavy demands.”
First, in this context, “apostles” is used in a rather general sense. It means “as Christ’s messengers”31 rather than in the more technical sense of the Twelve and of Paul due to the special revelation given to him.
Second, as those sent out to preach the Word (which is the basic meaning of the word “apostle”), they had the right to be supported by their converts and by others to whom they ministered. This was a right, however, which Paul and his associates chose not to use so that their motives might not be mistaken.
Third, there may also be the issue here that since this team had come with Paul, who was an apostle in the technical sense, they had special authority and powers, but even this, they refused to use. They came as servant leaders, not drivers; as shepherds, not cowboys.
Ronald Enroth, author and professor of sociology at Westmont College, is correct in his analysis of a leader’s use of power.
… Bible scholars point out that the New Testament concept of authority as expressed in the Greek word exousia does not have the connotation of jurisdiction over the lives of others. Rather, it is the authority of truth, the authority of wisdom and experience which can be evidenced in a leader who is held up as a special example, who can commend himself “to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2).32
Concerning their motive and methods, we will see what the missionaries were not, the negative; then the positive, what they were as it is mingled among the negatives by way of contrasts in verses 3-6.
Verse 3a. Not from “impurity,” ek akatharsias. This word could refer to sexual or moral impurity, but here it is more general and means that Paul did not preach from any impure motives like personal ambition, pride, greed, popularity.33
Verse 3b. Not “by way of deceit,” en dolos. The Greek word dolos referred to a bait or trap and then figuratively of any form of trick or strategy. The preceding deals with a wrong motive, but this deals with a wrong method or strategy used to accomplish the wrong motive. It is helpful to compare Paul’s use of the verb form, doloo in 2 Corinthians 4:1-2.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness (panourgia) or adulterating (doloo) the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth (what is real, authentic) commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
Verse 4a. “But just as we have been approved by God … , so we declare (speak) it to you.” Paul does several things here to focus his readers on what was and must be the motivating factor behind all ministry if it is to honor God and be biblical. First, there is the element of contrast (alla, a strong conjunction of contrast). Second, there is the element of comparison coupled with element of cause. “Just as,” kathos, is an intensive comparison which stresses what has occurred as the foundation or cause for what they did. Finally, he shows their ministry, which he defines as a stewardship, was the product of testing.
“Approved” is dokimazo and means “to approve after testing.” Remember that Paul and Barnabas had been separated to this ministry by the Spirit of God only after they had been tested and proven in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). They were not novices who just decided they were called to preach. They had been involved in a local ministry which became the proving ground to prove their character.
Verse 4b. “Not to please people, but God.” The tense of the infinitive, “to please,” which expresses aim, is the present continuous tense. In this we see the constant aim of the Apostle and his associates. Whenever our primary aim is to please men, we lose our capacity to please God. Conversely, only when we seek to please God and speak according to His Word in love, do we truly have the capacity to minister effectively to others. Pleasing people stems from wrong motives such as fear of rejection, desire for approval, power, praise, and so on. Also, pleasing people occurs when we are seeking to meet our needs by our own strategies of protection or defense.
“Who examines our hearts” is one of the keys here. “Examines” is the same verb as “approved” used above. Literally, it is “the one who constantly tests our hearts.” God is the heart tester. He is concerned about our motives and the source of what we do as much as the what itself. God knows our heart, weighs our motives, and searches us. What a challenge. Our ministries must be considered and examined in the light of God’s standards, and not man’s and that includes our own. We are all accountable before the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-5).
Verse 5. “For we never appeared with flattering speech.” “Flattering,” is kolakeia, which contains the idea of deception for selfish ends. People often use flattering words as a cloak to exploit others for selfish purposes. Note a couple of simple illustrations: (a) A supervisor might praise someone on the job to increase their production so his department will look better. (b) A wife might flatter her husband so he won’t be as angry when he finds out about how much she spent on something she purchased.
“Nor with a pretext for greed.” “Pretext” is prophasis, meaning “a cloak, pretense.” It denotes that which one puts on for appearance and with a definite design to cloak or cover up something. “Greed” is pleonexia, “greed, selfishness.” In the New Testament this word always has an evil connotation. It concerns disregarding the rights and needs of others in order to gain one’s own selfish desires.
I wonder how many of the problems and heartaches going on in the church are rooted in this problem, the problem of people using ministry of all sorts to promote themselves and meet their own needs and wants whether financial or emotional. It is the problem of hidden agendas.
“God is witness” (see Rom. 1:9; Phil. 1:8). As one who lived in the light of the resurrection (for believers this includes the Judgment Seat of Christ, a place of rewards or loss), Paul was one who always endeavored to have a blameless conscience for he knew that God not only knew his heart, but would one day “bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (cf. Acts 24:15-16 with 1 Cor. 4:5b). Paul has appealed to the Thessalonian’s knowledge of him and his team, but they could not judge his inner motives for this lay beyond their ability, so he appeals to God.
Application: Here we have a wonderful illustration of how the knowledge of God should transform us if we really believe God’s truth. This again reinforces the truth that Christianity is a relationship with God that is to change us from the inside out. It’s the inner person and the life of faith in the reality of the living God that must change us. Otherwise, we are like white-washed sepulchers full of decaying corpses.
Verse 6. “Nor to seek glory from people, either from you or from others …” “Seek” is a present participle in the Greek text and gets its time element from the main verb of verse 5, “we never came.” We might translate it, “nor were we seeking …” Paul’s choice of the Greek present tense means this was their pattern, their habit of life, something they never did. “Glory” is doxa and refers here to an “opinion in the sense of praise, honor, respect.” They were not in the ministry to get their name up in lights or to be patted on the back. Note also how Paul defines the sources, “from (ek) people, either from (apo) you or from (apo) others.” The first is abstract and general forming the foundation for motives, and the second two are concrete and specific, the specific application of the general aim. The change in the prepositions seems to highlight this distinction. As servants of the Savior, we all need to have the general motive of pleasing God and seeking our praise from Him rather than people, but this must be carried out in the specifics of life which have a subtle way of encroaching on our general objectives.
Application: Verse 5 was primarily aimed at financial motives. Verse 6, on the other hand, is aimed at the desire for the praise of people, the lusts for position, praise, applause, power, and the like. Behind this is always the failure to find personal security and significance in the Lord which always results in using our own strategies to feel good about ourselves.
When I was in the pastorate preaching Sunday after Sunday, I generally kept several verses typed out on a card and taped to the podium where I would place my Bible and notes. These verses, like Zechariah 4:6 and this passage were to remind me, as a general principle, of the source of my strength and to check out my motives. I was not to be there for the approbation of people. I can remember on a number of occasions when someone would show up, a visiting pastor, a former Greek professor, or someone else my sinful nature might want to impress, and I was suddenly faced with a very specific need for the application of this passage.
Their Message and Means—They Proclaimed the Word (vss. 2b, 3a, 4a-b, 13).
This missionary team was certainly not without a strategy or methods employed to reach and teach others. As mentioned in the introduction, they would often pass through less populated towns in their objective to reach the bigger cities knowing that if they were successful there, the churches established in these larger populaces could effectively reach out to the smaller towns (cf. 1:6-9). But this was not what they depended on for success or what defined and characterized their ministry and made it fruitful and vital. At the heart of all they were, believed in, and did, was the authoritative, true, and tried revelation of God, the gospel, the Word of God. It is quite obvious that their confidence, beginning in 1:5, was centered in this life-changing revelation which Paul defines as the gospel (1:5; 2:3-5) and “the word of God” or “God’s message” (2:13).
The reason for this is seen in the words, “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (vs. 4). Paul and his team viewed the gospel as a treasure entrusted to them for safe keeping and for investment in the lives of others. In several other places, the Apostle spoke of the gospel as a stewardship entrusted to him (see 1 Cor. 9:17 and cf. Gal. 2:7; 1 Tim. 1:11; Tit. 1:3). “Entrusted” is pisteuo, which means “to believe, trust” in someone or something. But one may also trust someone with something valuable and so pisteuo came to mean, “entrust” or in the passive as here, “be entrusted” with something and that something is “the gospel.” Several ideas of importance come from this:
1. An essential qualification for service is that we be trustworthy (see 1 Cor. 4:2). But we need to remember that it is the grace of God that enables us to be and remain trustworthy (1 Cor. 7:25; 15:10-11; 1 Tim. 1:16).
2. Paul and his associates had not taken on this ministry of their own choosing. Rather they were chosen of God and were thereby responsible to Him for their ministry because it was a stewardship from God (1 Cor. 9:17).
3. Underlying all of this is the principle of great value. There is something of tremendous value to be entrusted. Paul brings out this element in 1 Timothy 1:11 when he says, “ according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”
The Bible, because it is God’s Word, is the most valuable resource we can possess, but it must be used and used wisely. Truly, it is more valuable than gold (see also Ps. 19:7-11).
So, keeping the context in mind, we must remember that the aim of these verses is to demonstrate their entrance was not in vain, not without spiritual character (vs. 1), and to prove that he not only assures them of the purity of the motives of the missionaries, but also assures them of the nature of the message as from God and thus, as pure and without error. The chief thing to know about Christianity is that its message is from God. It tells us things about God and salvation that man cannot know apart from the Bible, this special revelation from God. Knowing the nature of their message and knowing the emptiness of what the world possessed in its various false belief systems, Paul assured them of the message they brought.
Verses 2-3. So, in these two verses Paul makes reference to “the gospel of God” and to their “appeal” or “exhortation” (NASB). He is concerned not only that the people understand their motives were pure, but so was the message they heralded.
“For the appeal we make does not come from error or impurity or with deceit.” “Appeal” is the Greek paraklesis, “encouragement, exhortation, appeal, request.” Paul chose this term because he was speaking in general terms about the nature of the preaching of God’s message. The missionary team appealed to people to believe in God’s plan of salvation in the person and work of the Savior (see Paul’s use of the verb form, parakaleo, in 2 Cor 5:20). Concerning this message, he assures them of several things.
Paul assured them their message, the gospel of God, “does not come from error.” “Error” is plane, which is literally, “a wandering, roaming.” In the New Testament it is used figuratively of “wandering from the truth, error, deception, delusion, etc.” It particularly looks at the empty ideas and ideologies as the wanderings of men’s hearts who do not have the knowledge of God’s special revelation as found in the Scripture. Paul uses it in Romans 1:27 in relation to the sexual perversion of homosexuality. So here, he assures them, their message was not the product of man’s empty wanderings.
Application: Concerning the world in which the church was born, a world far too much like the one in which we live today, Tenney has an excellent description that I think is helpful here.
The Christian church was born into a world filled with competing religions which may have differed widely among themselves but all of which possessed one common characteristic—the struggle to reach a god or gods who remained essentially inaccessible. Apart from Judaism, which taught that God had voluntarily disclosed Himself to the patriarchs, to Moses, and to the prophets, there was no faith that could speak with certainty of divine revelation nor of any true concept of sin and salvation. The current ethical standards were superficial, despite the ideal and insights possessed by some philosophers, and when they discourse on evil and on virtue, they had neither the remedy for the one nor the dynamic to produce the other.
Even in Judaism revealed truth had been obscured either by the encrustation of traditions or by neglect …
Paganism and all religions apart from knowledge and faith in God’s Word always produces a parody and a perversion of God’s original revelation to man. It retains many basic elements of truth but twists them into practical falsehood. Divine sovereignty becomes fatalism; grace becomes indulgence; righteousness becomes conformity to arbitrary rules; worship becomes empty ritual; prayer becomes selfish begging; the supernatural degenerates into superstition. The light of God is clouded by fanciful legend and by downright falsehood. The consequent confusion of beliefs and of values left men wandering in a maze of uncertainties. To some, expediency became the dominating philosophy of life; for if there can be no ultimate certainty, there can be no permanent principles by which to guide conduct; and if there are no permanent principles, one must live as well as he can by the advantage of the moment. Skepticism prevailed, for the old gods had lost their power and no new gods had appeared. Numerous novel cults invaded the empire from every quarter and became the fads of the dilettante rich or the refuge of the desperate poor. Men had largely lost the sense of joy and of destiny that made human life worthwhile.34
The Christian church is the custodian of the glorious message of the inspired, inerrant Word of God, the truth, that sets men free and sets them apart for God (John 8:32; 17:17), but unfortunately, even the evangelical church has turned away from the Word of God as its central thrust and focus. It has adopted methods that no longer truly maintain a concern for truth or for a theology that is rooted in God’s Word. Two things are going on at once in the church today that are undermining the authority of the Bible: a failure to recognize or act on (1) the sufficiency of the Bible as God’s inspired Word (2 Tim. 2:14-17) and (2) the finality of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). These are being lost in attempts to be politically correct, to be relevant for a society bent on self-centered pursuits, to be popular with the world or avoid criticism, to entertain, and to provide a feel good, emotionally-oriented kind of church. In describing the kind of thing happening to the church, John H. Armstrong discusses the importance of sola Scriptura, Scripture only, in the introduction to an excellent book called, The Coming Evangelical Crisis. In it he writes:
It is the opinion of the contributors to this volume that a number of new authorities threaten modern evangelicalism directly. These authorities are often grounded in what the above confession calls “custom, or numbers, or human wisdom, or judgments … or visions, or miracles,” and they must be challenged when they stand against the authority of the Word and Gospel of Christ.35
Theology is the knowledge of God in both salvation and sanctification, but there can be no true knowledge of God apart from sound Bible teaching/preaching. A recent survey in Christianity Today revealed that the importance of theology by many evangelicals is more a matter of lip service than anything else.
… According to this survey (which, by the way, was attached to the leading story of the issue), theology, in any sense of the word, is really not all that important to the very people to whom it should matter most; those in the pew and in the pulpit. Both groups listed theological knowledge as last in terms of pastoral priorities.
It was interesting, and at the same time very disturbing, to note what each surveyed group considered more important than theology when it came to pastoral priorities. For the people in the pew, spirituality was of first importance, followed by relational skills, character, and then communication skills. It is difficult to decipher what is really meant by spirituality in this survey, since the respondents so distantly removed it from theological knowledge …
How can true spirituality be divorced from the knowledge of God (theology)? “There can be no vital spirituality,” writes Donald Bloesch, “without a sound theology.” (Crumbling Foundations: Death & Rebirth in an Age of Upheaval, Grand Rapids, Academic Books, 1984, p. 111.)36
They Served as Loving Parents
2:7 although we could have imposed our weight as apostles of Christ. But we were little children among you—like a nursing mother caring for her own children. 2:8 With such affection for you, we were happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 2:9 For you recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery: by working night and day so as not to impose a burden on any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. 2:10 You are witnesses, and God too, how holy and righteous and blameless our conduct was toward you who believe. 2:11 As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his own children, 2:12 exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you live in a way worthy of God who calls you to his own kingdom and his glory.
In the preceding section the Apostle compared their ministry with that of a faithful steward. There he categorically denied the false accusations in a seven-fold denial: they were guilty of neither error, nor impurity, nor deceit, nor flattery, nor greed, nor seeking the glory of men. The chief emphasis as stewards was on their faithfulness and authenticity.
Now in the section before us the Apostle uses two new figures to describe their ministry: a loving mother and a concerned father. Here the emphasis is first on gentleness and willingness, and then on fatherly instruction backed up by godly example. The lessons here for ministry, whether in the church or in the home, are powerful and desperately needed today.
Also note how we might look at verses 1-13:
Ministry in selflessness (vss. 5-6a)
Ministry in holiness (vs. 10)
Like Loving Mothers (vss. 7-8)
With the Gentleness of a Nursing Mother (vs. 7)
F. F. Bruce has written of the ministry of Paul and his associates:
By secular standards, they were marked to the end of their days by poverty, weakness, disrepute and all sorts of tribulation; but they assessed their lot by other than secular standards—“as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10).
But more impressive than their disclaimer of unworthy motives and actions is the assertion of their loving care for their converts. The note of maternal affection in v 7 comes from the heart of Paul. Far from seeking any material help from their converts, they were eager to share with them all that they had, and indeed all that they were. No other attitude would befit the preachers of a gospel which proclaimed as Lord and Savior one who “emptied himself” (Phil 2:7) for the enrichment of others.37
“But we were.” The verb here is ginomai, “to come to be, become,” or “be” as with eimi. Either he was simply stating what they were or what they purposefully became for the sake of their ministry. I am inclined to the latter, particularly in view of verse 12.
“Little children among you.” The NASB, KJV, and NIV have “gentle among you.” There is a manuscript variation here between two Greek words, epioi, “gentle,” and nepioi, “infants, children,” which are very similar. The NET Bible has chosen the nepioi reading which, though more difficult contextually, has stronger MSS support. For the reasons, see the footnote to this reading in the NET Bible.
“Gentle” (epios) was used of the kindness of parents toward children (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24). It stands as a fitting contrast to being a burden and asserting their apostolic authority (vs. 6b). “Children” (nepioi) would still stress a non-threatening presence, which still fits with those who refused to be a burden. The sense is really not affected.
“Among you” brings out another important aspect, the principle of parity. They were in their midst as equals. There was no sense of superiority nor any attempt to lord it over their converts (1 Pet. 5:3).
Apostles though they were, they had identified themselves with those who accepted their message, cp. I Pet. 5:1, 2, as helpers of their joy, 2 Cor. 1:24, and had become “their servants for Jesus’ sake,” 4:5, and according to His command, Matt. 23:8-12, cp. Luke 22:27.38
“Like a nursing mother caring for her own children.” “Nursing mother” is trophos, “a nurse, one who feeds, wet nurse,” or, as the following words suggest, “a nursing mother.” “Tenderly cares” is thalpo, “to warm, cherish, nourish.” It was used of birds covering their young or her eggs with their feathers (Deut. 22:6), and of Christ and His care for the church (Eph. 5:29). “For her own children” would stress the personal involvement and concern. A mother who is nursing her children does not and cannot turn the care of her child over to someone else. She feeds, loves, and protects her child.
With the Affection and Sacrifice of a Nursing Mother (vs. 8)
The clause, “with such affection for you,” becomes the basis of the following statement regarding the nature and character of Paul’s commitment to these believers. “Affection” is homeiromai, “to have a kindly feeling, to long for someone.” This is a rare word and refers to a mother’s strong affection for her child. “It is used on a grave inscription describing the parents’ sad yearning for their dead child and seems to indicate deep affection and great attraction.”39
“We were happy” is eudokeo, “to be gladly determined.” It denotes not merely pleasure in some action, but free and deliberate choice. Further, the tense is present and expresses not just a mere impulse, but a determination made and adhered to out of their deep commitment to the Lord and their daily relationship with the Savior.
“To share with you …” “Share” is metadidomi, and expresses "the giving of something by which the giver retains a part and the receiver has a part so that they both share in the matter."40 (cf. Rom. 1:11-12).
“Not only …, but also our own lives,” sets forth a vital principle. Too often we are willing enough to give out the Word or our opinions on the Word, but we aren’t willing to give of ourselves. To give the gospel without the willingness to give of ourselves to others as we are able is a contradiction because the gospel is a message about the giving of God’s Son and His giving of His own life for us (1 John 4).
“Because you had become dear to us” highlights the reason. “Dear” is agapetos, a verbal adjective which means “beloved.” The tense of “become” is a culminative aorist and suggest a result. The idea is that laboring among them was first caused by the constraining love of Christ and His call on their lives (2 Cor. 5:14), but time among the people had built relationships which had produced a deep affection for these converts.
1. New babes in Christ require personal care, protection, and nourishing on the milk of the Word.
2. As a nursing child can become ill through a reaction to something the mother has eaten, so older believers who are feeding others, must be careful what they themselves eat. In other words, our lives have a good or a bad effect on younger believers. If we are feeding on the husks of the world rather than on the Savior’s Word, we are going to make our children sickly (cf. 1 Tim. 4:6-16).
3. A nursing mother imparts her own life to her child. This is the point of vs. 8. Christian pediatrics requires some sacrifices.
4. Giving out the gospel and building people in the Lord requires building bridges and relationships through which people can see the love of Christ and experience it first hand. This is why small groups can be effective if they are also committed to really studying the Word. Evangelism statistics indicate that the majority of people who stick in a church, grow, and become reproducing Christians are those who have developed close relationships.
5. Helping people to grow in the Lord, as with growing children, takes time and requires patience. Sometimes it causes pain and priorities need to be set in our relationships. You don’t raise children overnight,. You can’t raise them without growing pains for both parent and child alike, and we can’t impact them for Christ without spending quality time to see them built up in Christ.
Verse 9 could well go with either the maternal or the paternal analogy. The “for” connects it to the preceding as an explanation of their commitment to these believers. But because of the emphasis on working to support themselves, and because he immediately takes up the figure of the father, I have linked it to the father analogy.
Like Concerned Fathers (vss. 9-12)
These verses portray the ministry of the missionary team from the standpoint or analogy of a father. Let’s view this through the following outline.
The Effort of Their Ministry—Their Work (vs. 9)
The Excellency of Their Character—Their Walk (vs. 10)
The Exhortation of Their Lips—Their Words (vs. 11)
The Effects They Desired—Their Wants (vs. 12)
The Effort of Their Ministry—Their Work (vs. 9)
Paul’s accusers had accused him and his partners in ministry of greed saying they were mere peddlers of some new teaching for the purpose of financial gain. So the Apostle reminds them of the facts which they well knew. Also, remember there is a general biblical principle that a father works to support his family. Though the church at Philippi had sent some financial help, Paul, who was a tentmaker, worked to pay for his own needs. Since there were no paid teachers in Palestine, it was necessary that a rabbi learn a trade to support himself and his family. Paul had done just this.
According the Lord’s teaching and Paul’s, ministers of the gospel had the right to be supported for their work in preaching and teaching, but Paul had forfeited that right when planting new ministries. The following are a few of some possible reasons: (a) As a protection against the wrong impressions and false accusations of being religious peddlers. (b) We can’t expect people to support a work before they had become converts and had learned the grace principles of proportionate giving. (c) To give the new work time to get on its feet. Remember, later they did receive gifts from the Macedonian believers.
The Excellency of Their Character—Their Walk (vs. 10)
First, since true godliness involves both the outward, what men see, and the inward, what God alone can see, Paul appeals to both: to what they had observed and to the witness of God. Sometimes we can fool people, but we can never fool the Lord. The Apostle was ever mindful that he was accountable to the Lord for his life and ministry (cf. Heb. 13:17).
Second, he referred to their behavior as “holy and righteous and blameless.”
“Holy” is hosios, which describes one’s duty toward God or the godward aspect of one’s behavior,41 though this distinction did not always hold. This word was sometimes used of one’s relationship with both God and men. It would stress one’s commitment to the spiritual disciplines of prayer and studying the Word, to worship, to loving the Lord, and acting properly toward others.
“Righteous” is dikaios, which stresses one’s relationship to men in a manner consistent with the directives of the Word—honesty, truthfulness, purity, goodness, charity or acts of love, etc.
“Blameless” is amemptos, which means free from charges or blame. Not faultless in the sense of sinless, but free from blame. Though he and his partners had been accused of wrong doing, the charges were all false.
Third, the clause “our conduct toward you who believe” reminds us of one of the most important principles of effective ministry whether in the home, in the church or on the job; it’s the principle of being an example. We can’t motivate or communicate to others what we don’t have ourselves (cf. John 13:14; Phil. 3:17; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9; 1 Tim. 1:16; 4:12; Tit. 2:7; 1 Pet. 5:3).
The Exhortation of Their Lips—Their Words (vs. 11)
Again notice Paul’s threefold emphasis. Is this just a fondness for threesomes? No! In raising children and in building people in the Lord, our words must of necessity take on a variety of tones—exhorting, encouraging, and imploring them as a father. But before we look at these words, let’s note two things:
First, note the emphasis of “each one.” While he taught and dealt with them as a group, he also dealt with them as individuals. Like a father with his children, he found time for personal counsel and to develop personal relationships. In large churches, even a large staff can’t logistically accomplish this, but this personal element is important and Paul will later encourage this church to be engaged in this very kind of personal ministry (see 5:11).
Second, it is helpful to note the use of the present continuous tense with all three of these words, training, teaching, insisting, requires repetition.
“Exhorting” is parakaleo. This important New Testament word has both a prospective appeal, in the sense of “obey, respond,” and a retrospective appeal in the sense of “comfort, encourage.” Children need both encouraging and challenging. The emphasis here is on the former idea because of the synonym which follows. This word means “to exhort to a particular line of conduct.”42
“Encouraging” is paramutheomai, “encourage, cheer up, console.” Whereas the preceding word stressed following a particular line of behavior, this word means “to encourage to continue on a specific course.”43 It works to promote endurance and staying power. A father might challenge and exhort his son to make good grades in school (parakaleo), but he might also encourage him to stay in school, to stay the course (paramutheomai).
“Imploring” is marturomai from martus, “witness.” It means “summon to witness,” “to bear witness,” and then “to solemnly charge, adjure, beseech.” In view of the aim stated in verse 12, the emphasis here is on a solemn charge though it could also contain an element of personal witness as a motive for following the charge. This word has more of an authoritative emphasis than the two preceding words.
The Effects They Desired—Their Wants (vs. 12)
“That” expresses the aim44 of the missionaries. The nature of their motherly and fatherly ministry to these believers was God centered and other oriented. How often do we witness, exhort, and minister for the wrong reasons—our reputation, our ego, our comfort, our growth as a church—rather than for God’s glory and the spiritual blessing of others. The precise aim is expressed in the words, “That you may walk in a way worthy of God.” This reminds us of our need as a church to have biblical goals and objectives, but also that what we do as a church and individuals should be designed to accomplish these biblical goals. We are not here just to do religious things.
“Walk” is peripateo, which means to walk about and is used metaphorically of one’s course of life in all areas. This brings to mind what I have referred to as the pentathlon, the five key areas of life—God, home, church, vocation, and society with all its various breakdowns—neighbors, government, the poor, etc.
“Walking about in all spheres of life in a way worthy of God” calls to mind a couple of things. (1) It drives home the principal that the Lord must be brought into everything we do since we are servants and ambassadors of His kingdom and rule. Whatever we do should be done to glorify Him. (2) But we can never actually be worthy of His kingdom. “Worthy” is an adverb and points to the manner in which we walk. We have been qualified to be a part of His kingdom by grace through the finished work of the Savior. However, we can walk and conduct ourselves in a way that will honor Him and that is in keeping with His character and purposes.
“Who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” expresses the reason and motive.
“Who calls you” is a present tense. Not Who has called you, but Who calls you. It points to a continuous work of God through the ministry of the church using the Word and walking by the Spirit. God, who had called them to salvation, a finished transaction (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13-14), is still calling believers to His kingdom and glory, i.e., to a continued pursuit of a life of obedience and holiness under the rule of God, one that will result in rewards in the kingdom and glory. Entrance into heaven is assured, but rewards and position there are the result of faithful living (2 Tim. 2:11-13; 2 Pet. 1:9-11).
Finally, note the phrase, “His own kingdom and glory.” This strongly reminds us that there are other kingdoms and other kinds of glory that are competing for our allegiance and that of our spiritual children. So we must not only be alert to these false influences but take precautions to guard against their influences on our spiritual children in Christ. In the latter part of this chapter and the next, we will see the Apostle's deep concern for this very thing.
In chapter 1 we saw a model church and now in verses 1-12 we have seen a model for ministry on all levels whether elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, leaders of small groups, or whatever. These verses provide a wonderful illustration for what we can refer to as ‘pediatrics,’ the follow up needed to see believers grow and become stable productive Christians. In this regard, we each need to be faithful stewards, loving mothers, and concerned and involved fathers. At the heart of this is our faithfulness to God and His precious Word, our training manual. If we are not faithful we will find ourselves pampering mothers or absentee fathers who wonder why our babes in Christ never grew up but instead became prodigal children in pursuit of the world rather than God’s kingdom and glory.
29 Literally, “brethren,” the plural of adelfos, “brother,” but the plural may be used for “fellow Christians” or “brothers and sisters” in Christ. Again Paul is focusing on their common bond as those born into the family of God.