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Serving In Love

Updated: Oct 21, 2023









I don't know if there is a more significant example of sincere love than a mother who is devoted to the life of her children. Through a selfless giving act, a mother brings life into the world. And this selfless giving act does not stop at birth. Through many long days, a mother will sacrifice, strain, and give without limits for her children. There to encourage, comfort, and heal, a mother will always give her last strength and effort for the wellbeing of her children. 


We are considering the words of the apostle Paul in his letter of 1 Thessalonians. As we consider (1 Thess. 2:1-12), Paul describes his ministry to those in Thessalonica as a mother who cares for her children (1 Thess. 2:7).


Because of his great love for them, he shared both the gospel with them and his life. Paul shares marks of his ministry as he calls Christians to walk worthy.


God's glory is to be reflected in every part of Christian life. As we consider Paul's words, we are challenged to walk worthy (1 Thess. 2:12). 


Motivation


In some ways, the first century was no different than today, as New Testament scholar N.T. Wright comments: 


"The ancient world had its fair share of wandering salesmen, travelling teachers, people who tried to make a living by offering their hearers fresh wisdom or insight, some kind of magic, a new philosophy, or whatever. When Paul and his companions arrived in a city and began to tell their strange story, many people must have thought that's the sort of people they were. The knowing ones in the crowd would be waiting for the moment when the speakers produced a money-bag and requested contributions, or invited people to pay to hear more in private."(1) 


It seems Paul had fallen under criticism and was accused of preaching the gospel with false motives. However, Paul reminds Christians in Thessalonica of his pattern of life and the message he proclaimed as they witnessed themselves. 


Paul came to Thessalonica, having previously suffered mistreatment, beating with rods, and imprisonment in Phillippi (Acts 16:22-24) for the sake of the gospel. It was this very message of Christ he proclaimed in Thessalonica. Paul did not forsake the good news of Christ or shrink back from proclaiming the gospel for the sake of comfort. As they recalled in Thessalonica, this message stirred up mobs against Paul and his companions. The message of Christ, as proclaimed by Paul, was truth; he did not teach error (1 Thess. 2:3). His motives were pure and not spoken with false words but straightforward (1 Thess. 2:3). Accusations, it seems that sprang up from critics after Paul's departure. Paul did not proclaim Christ looking for money or the praise of people (1 Thess. 2:5-6). Instead, he came to Thessalonica humbly and did not want to burden them. 


Example


When Paul visited Thessalonica, he lived as an example before them. Because of his love for them, he shared the gospel and his life with them. 


1 Thessalonians 2:9–12 

"Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory."


Paul, as we learn from (Acts 18:3) was a tent maker by trade. In Thessalonica, he practiced his trade so as not to be a burden to anyone. This trade would have involved hard physical work. He cut, stitched, and pulled leather by hand as he fashioned material for his tents. In the "spare hours," perhaps while others relaxed for dinner and rested for the next day, Paul would work to make and sell tents as he supported himself and others who shared in the gospel. 

Some today consider Paul's example in Thessalonica and conclude that ministers should work and not receive financial support for preaching and sharing the message of Christ. Paul, in other places such as (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17–18) teaches that ministers and those who labor in the Lord are worthy of honor and financial support. Paul, while ministering to Thessalonica, is being careful. He does not want to be misunderstood as proclaiming Christ with false motives. It seems some critics of Paul have indeed done so in Thessalonica. However, Paul can point back to his example. He ministered to them as a mother who cares for her child (1 Thess. 2:7). Out of sincere love and shared lives, Paul not only shared the message of Christ, he demonstrated it.


Call


Pointing back to his example, Paul calls those in Thessalonica and us to his central message. 


1 Thessalonians 2:11–12

"For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory."


Paul encourages, comforts, and urges Christians to live lives worthy of God. Some translations, such as the (NASB) may say, "walk in a manner worthy of the God." Paul is expressing that our behavior, our lives are to be lived in a manner worthy of God as we are called into his glory. 


Those in Thessalonica had turned from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9). This transformation, through Christ's message, is to penetrate every aspect and fiber of our lives. Our behavior is to purposefully put one foot in front of another and be mindful of our direction. 


Later in his letter (see. 1 Thess. 4:3-6), Paul will discuss specific behaviors applied in Thessalonica. However, a life consistent with walking worthy of God is a life that controls our appetites and desires. It's not a matter of seeking our pleasure but His glory. 


Crossing the Context


As Paul ministered in Thessalonica, he shared Jesus's good news in his words and actions. Paul's service was motivated by love as he shared his life. N.T. Wright shares a poem that seems to sum up Paul's words:


“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one, any day; I’d rather one would walk with me than merely show the way.


The eye’s a better pupil, more willing than the ear; Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.”(2)




Is our service to the Lord motivated through love? 


Is the example we are setting with our steps consistent with our direction of being called into His kingdom and glory?



 

1. Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2004. Apple Books. p. 155

2. Wright, N.T. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2004. Apple Books. p. 164

notes:

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).


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