Thursday, November 05, 2009

1 Thessalonians 2:5-12

V5-12 – 5You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness. 6We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9Surely you remember, brothers, 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. 10You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.

Paul began this chapter with “you know.” He says it again in v5, v9 (“surely you remember”), v10 (“you are witnesses”), and v11. It’s a powerful argument to remind of Paul’s integrity. The Thessalonians know that Paul and his companions did not flatter or try to cover up greed; though they had the right, as preachers, to be honored for their labor, they did not seek vainglory. Nor did they arrogantly lord themselves over the Thessalonians in authority (v6), but they mothered them and showed gentle care (v7). Calvin comments, “In this comparison [Paul] takes in two points that he had touched upon – that he had sought neither glory nor gain among the Thessalonians. For a mother in nursing her infant shows nothing of power or dignity. Paul says that he was such, inasmuch as he voluntarily refrained from claiming the honor that was due to him, and with calmness and modesty stooped to every kind of office. Secondly, a mother in nursing her children manifests a certain rare and wonderful affection, inasmuch as she spares no labor and trouble, shuns no anxiety, is wearied out by no assiduity, and even with cheerfulness of spirit gives her own blood to be sucked. In the same way, Paul declares that he was so disposed towards the Thessalonians that he was prepared to lay out his life for their benefit. This, assuredly, was not the conduct of a man that was sordid or avaricious.”

In v8, Paul says, “We loved you so much… you had become so dear to us.” Remember that just 3 months prior to writing this letter, Paul had never met a single Thessalonian. He was a stranger in every sense (race, culture, ethnicity, and religion). Yet he affectionately desired fellowship with these people in the unity of the gospel. That’s what God wants with us through Jesus. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In v9, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he and those with him worked hard to support themselves during their ministry in Thessalonica. They didn’t burden the audience, though they rightly could have, with a requirement of supporting them for preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3-14). Instead he worked hard to earn his own way; when with the Corinthians Paul even proclaimed to “rob” the other churches in order to minister to them (2 Corinthians 11:7-9). Calling God as his witness, Paul reminds the Thessalonians again of his integrity; he and his companions were “holy, righteous and blameless” among them (v10).

Now after comparing his ministry to that of a mother (gentle care), he offers the comparison that his ministry was like that of a father for his children, “encouraging, comforting, and urging” them to “live lives worthy of God” (v11). V11-12 serve as both a summary of Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians and conclusion of his ministry delivered in v1-12. Just as fathers are not to “exasperate” their children (Ephesians 6:4), so Paul trained them and instructed them rightly. And Paul mentions worthiness in several of his letters; here he urges living a life worthy of God Himself. Elsewhere, he writes of being “counted worthy” of God’s kingdom (2 Thessalonians 1:5), being worthy of God’s calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11; Ephesians 4:1), being worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10), and being worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27-28). A worthy life is, as the footnote of my Reformation Study Bible (2 Thessalonians 1:5) declares, one of “patient, joyful discipleship even in the face of life-threatening abuse from those hostile to the faith. Such lives are sure evidence that God’s judgment is right. Even while enjoying the benefits of citizenship in the heavenly kingdom, Christians still must suffer for its sake (Acts 14:22), since the kingdom will inevitably confront diabolical opposition.”

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