A Labor of Love
Copyright © Indian Hills Community Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
The following text is taken from sermons preached by Gil Rugh, Senior Pastor at Indian Hills Community Church in Lincoln, NE. The text has been edited and condensed by IHCC staff and may contain some material from adjacent sermons in the series.
In our last study, we examined 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Paul offered his defense against the claims of false teachers who said he was greedy, immoral and deceitful. He began in verse 1, saying, "For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain." Paul reminded the Thessalonians that his ministry was centered around the Word of God, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. His message was not hollow and empty. Paul was saying, "Remember how God used our ministry in your lives? This is the proof that our teaching was not empty and 'in vain.' "
Paul reminded them of the circumstances of his coming in verse 2. He said, "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." Paul didn't have to proclaim the message of the gospel. He had been severely beaten, publicly humiliated, and imprisoned while in Philippi, yet he still had the confidence and courage to preach the gospel in Thessalonica.
In verse 3 Paul stresses the truth that his message did not originate with error, deceit, or immorality. He said, "For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit." The message Paul proclaimed was the truth. He did not have to resort to trickery in order to gain converts. Furthermore, Paul was not a man characterized by immoral living. Those who tried to discredit Paul's message attacked his morals, but he said his teaching "does not come" from such motives.
Paul continued his defense of himself in verse 4. He said, "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." God chooses His messengers, and he tests them before putting the gospel in their charge. This was Paul's point. He had "been approved" by God. As a result, he was "entrusted with the gospel."
Introduction: 1st Thess 2:5-12
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 thus a fond 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 labor 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, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Paul continues his defense of himself in verses 5 and 6. In verse 5 He says, "For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed-God is witness." Paul is saying that his teaching was not motivated by "flattery." He didn't preach to the Thessalonians in order to get something for himself. This is the meaning of this term in verse 5. Paul had been accused of using his ministry to gain influence over the Thessalonians in order to benefit materially. But Paul says, "we never came" with those motives. His ministry is centered on the Word of God only.
Paul continues to defend himself in verse 5. He says he did not come "...with a pretext for greed." The word "pretext" indicates something that is put forward to cover up the real motive. Paul is stressing that his evangelism was not being used to cover up greed. One will notice that the things that Paul denies would put him in the category of a false teacher. These motives (flattery, greed...etc) characterize false teachers. They twist the Word of God to their own benefit.
How do we know Paul was not characterized by these motives? He says, "God is witness." He was confident that his motives are godly. As proof he, in effect, says - God knows my heart, and He would testify on my behalf."
The third aspect that was not a motivation of Paul in his ministry is illustrated in verse 6. Paul says, "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." Paul knows that, as an apostle, he has the full authority of Jesus Christ Himself but he wasn't motivated by seeking glory from men simply because he was an apostle.
These two verses serve as a reminder to us that any time we are involve in ministry there are going to be those who come to attack our motives. They say things that are not nice, and question our character. But the truth is, this is the way that Satan works. Praise God if He is using you enough that people attack your ministry. This is the reason that we must be carrying out our ministry with integrity, and why our lives must be a reflection of Jesus Christ.
Beginning in verse 7 and continuing through verse 12, Paul uses the analogy of a mother and father to prove his point. He says, "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children." This verse stands in direct contrast to verses 5 and 6. Paul, Silas and Timothy did not function with wrong motives. Rather they were "gentle...as a mother." The word "gentle" is used very few times in Scripture. In 2nd Timothy 2:24 Paul says, "And the Lord's bond servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged..." (Italics added). The word "kind" is the same word as "gentle" in verse 7. Paul is conveying a sense of caring, warmth, and tenderness.
This is the reason Paul uses the example of the nursing mother. A Mother tenderly cares for her own children, providing with love and tenderness. She gives all of her effort to provide for her children as best she can. She nurtures, cares for, and protects her children without regard for the sacrifices that must be made. This is the type of warmth that Paul has for the Thessalonians. It is a picture of self-sacrifice that we must exhibit in our own ministries. When we submit to the Spirit of God, He carries out an effective ministry characterized by warmth and love for those to whom we are ministering.
Paul continues to develop this analogy in verse 8. He says, "Having thus a fond 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." Paul says they had a "fond affection" for the Thessalonians. This is the only time in the New Testament that this phrase is used. It indicates a warm affection, depth of desire, and tender yearning. Again, Paul is emphasizing the fact that he cares for the Thessalonians like a nursing mother cares for her children. He had a deep affection for them even though he had only spent a short time with them.
As we have seen however, Paul's emphasis has been to proclaim the gospel of God (vs. 2). He reiterates this fact in verses 8 and 9 as well. He says, "we were well-pleased" to preach the "gospel of God." It didn't stop there. Paul's ministry wasn't only a message of words, but also they "were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives." Paul was willing to give of himself in any and every way that would enable the gospel to have a more effective impact. Paul's attitude, wherever he went, was that it wasn't enough simply to preach the gospel, he also had to give of himself. This was true for Timothy and Silas as they ministered as well.
Paul didn't have this attitude only with the Thessalonians. In 2 Corinthians 12:15 he says, "And I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you the more, am I to be loved the less?" This verse demonstrates how important the gospel was to Paul. It was absolutely worth giving everything to minister the gospel to people and it is this concept and driving conviction that allows the Spirit of God to use us in ways we could never imagine. Paul was willing, no matter what the cost, to invest himself in other people's lives in order that they might come to grips with the truth of the gospel. This was a personal thing with Paul because he loved the Lord and he personally loved the people
However, even though Paul loved the Thessalonians, his ministry did not depend on their response. Paul's ministry was dependent on his view of the gospel of God. It was not because the people were friendly to him that he was willing to give of himself for them. Rather, it was because of the value and worth of the gospel that he was willing to give of himself in such a selfless way. It is important that we understand this truth because when we are in the same situation and people begin to question our motives, we need to remind ourselves that the reason we are here to begin with, is not for the response of those we are ministering to, it is because of the value of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
See also Philippians 2:17
Why is Paul motivated for the Thessalonians? He says, "because you had become very dear to us." Paul had been privileged to proclaim the gospel to them, to see them come to believe in Jesus Christ, and now Paul wants to make sure they are grounded in the Word of God so that their lives count for Jesus Christ. It was never enough for Paul that someone came to believe in the gospel. He always made sure that they lived the gospel which they had received. He expected, demanded, and gave his life to see that this result was accomplished.
The reason Paul was willing to take his ministry so far was because of his love for the Thessalonians. They had become "very dear" to him. This is an example of "agapao," or "self-sacrificing " love. In effect Paul is saying, "you had become very dear to us, you were the object of the highest worth and value. This is the reason we were willing to do whatever was necessary for your good." This is the key to effective ministry. It is evident from Paul's life that it is going to take more than doctrinal purity and the communication of Gods Word. It is going to take a willingness to give of our ourselves for the good of those to whom we are ministering.
In verse 9, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to "recall" the facts concerning his ministry. He says, "For you recall, brethren, our labor 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." He is asking them to stop and think for a moment, "What was our ministry like among you?" People say we were in it for the money, but we never took any money from you. How can you give an ear to such foolishness? Don't you remember "our labor and hardship?" Paul, Timothy, and Silas worked so hard that they were "weary" and "fatigued."
The use of the words "labor" and "hardship" focus on the difficulties that they had to overcome. Many of us know what this is like. We have demanding jobs in the world, and when we are done, all we want to do is sit down and relax. Paul felt the same way, but instead of resting, he ministered the Word of God to people after he was done working. They worked "night and day" until they were exhausted. He is reminding the Thessalonians that they had jobs when they were in the city, and they worked hard to support themselves.
While we are not told what kind of jobs Paul, Timothy, and Silas had (Acts 18:3 says Paul was a tent maker), we know why they had jobs. Paul says they worked at jobs "so as not to be a burden to any of you." It was for their benefit. Paul knew he had the right to be paid, and on many occasions he accepted money for his personal support. But when it would raise questions about his ministry he did not accept money.
Paul addresses this situation in 1 Corinthians 9:6. He says, "Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working?" He continues in verse 12, "If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ." The right Paul is referring to is the right to be paid for his ministry. The point he is making is that he has this right, but he does not always exercise it. He didn't exercise it at Corinth, and he didn't exercise it at Thessalonica because of the danger involved with people questioning his motives. Instead, Paul toiled and labored with his own hands, and received some money from the church at Philippi to support himself (Philippians 4:15-16).
Paul reminds the Thessalonians again that his integrity is above question. He says, "You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers." How honorable is Paul's integrity? He says that the Thessalonians and "God" "are witnesses" concerning his motives.
Paul says they behaved "uprightly and blamelessly" These words mean that they functioned as God would have had them function. They were above question in their conduct. Paul is asking the Thessalonians why, if they knew this truth, were they listening to those who were accusing him of selfish motives?
It is interesting that Paul calls the Thessalonians "believers." Since faith is the central issue in our relationship to God and His Son, the word "believers" becomes a synonym to identify those who have believed. This is common in our society today as well. The first question we usually ask when we meet someone new at church is "When did you become a believer?" We are asking when they came to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins. Paul uses this term to refer to the church at Thessalonica in verse 10.
In verse 11, Paul compares the analogy of a father's exhortation of his children to his exhortation of the Thessalonians. He says, "Just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children." In God' s plan, a mother and a father have different roles. One of the tragedies in the world today is the unisex roles that have been assigned to men and women. In our society, we are told that men must become more like women, and women must become more like men. The result is a disastrous impact on the family.
God intends the family to be characterized by the warmth, love, and compassion that the mother brings to the home. The Father's role is a little bit different. He is to be characterized by warmth, love, and compassion as well, but he is also to be the disciplinarian of the family. This does not mean that the mother is to be meek, and never carry out discipline. But her discipline is effective when the father stands behind her, supports her, and makes sure that the discipline has an impact on the children.
Again, fathers are not to be cold and callous, but are to be characterized by warmth, love, and discipline. The concept is the same in the spiritual realm. Paul uses this analogy in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to show the warmth in the father's relationship, and encourage the fainthearted; "And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men." In both the physical and spiritual realm, the father must exhibit these types of characteristics. This type of behavior should characterize us, not only with our own families, but with other believers as well. We are not just to walk in, lay down the law, and walk out. We must be understanding and supportive, while at the same time exhibiting the firmness needed to help them grow.
See also John 11:19, 31
As Paul was ministering to the Thessalonians, he practiced both sides of the analogy. He was giving, kind, and warm like a nursing mother, while at the same time he was firm, like a father, in demanding that their conduct conform to the character of Christ. When we understand this truth, we begin to appreciate how much Paul gave of himself. It must have been exhausting, after working all day, to go out and minister all night. He didn't say, "We are going to put this ministry on hold until we get the money from someone else." He loved them too much. Paul was willing to sacrifice himself in order that the ministry was accomplished.
We must remember that our goal in ministry is not just that everybody have a knowledge of the Word of God. Our goal, as Paul states in verse 12, is "so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." The reason we are to minister, after it is all said and done, is so that those we minister to will not only know the Word of God, but live lives that glorify God as well.
The word "worthy" is the root of "weight." It indicates a walk that is "equal to" or of "equal weight." Paul is saying, "I want you to walk in a manner that is equal to God." What a standard. He doesn't just want the Thessalonians to live their lives better than before. He wants them to live their lives in a way that is "worthy of the God who calls you." Paul will not be satisfied with anything less. Is it any wonder that Paul refused to quit, or go home after work and sleep? He was committed to help the Thessalonians live the gospel.
One will notice that Paul quickly turns his attention to what God is doing in their lives. He says that God "calls you into His own kingdom and glory." This phrase is in the present tense, indicating an action that happened in the past, but continues for eternity. This is the reason we are to walk in us to our ultimate destiny - "His kingdom and glory."
The words "kingdom" and "glory" are closely connected, in a grammatical sense. Together, they indicate the glory that is characteristic of the coming Messianic Kingdom. This is the grand conclusion for us, as believers. Seven years after the event known as the rapture of the church, Christ will return to earth in glory, were we will reign with Him. We must walk in a manner that is fitting for God, who calls us for that glorious purpose.
Are you one who will inherit the "kingdom" of God, in all it's "glory?" If you have seen yourself as God sees you, a sinner separated from Him, and have trusted in the person and work of Jesus Christ for salvation, you will reign with Jesus Christ when He returns to earth to set up His physical kingdom. You will be privileged to spend eternity in the presence of God Himself. But remember, you are called to "walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you." You must not only believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, but live it as well.
If you have not come to the point in your life where you recognized you were a sinner separated from God, and have not trusted in the person and work of Christ for salvation, you will not spend eternity in God's presence. Instead, you will spend eternity banished from His presence, cast into a very real and very horrible hell. Which path will you take?
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.
INDIAN HILLS COMMUNITY CHURCH
1000 South 84th St., Lincoln, NE 68510-4499...Phone: 402-483-4541...Fax: 402-483-6716
Web site: http://www.ihcc.org...E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.
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