Thursday, October 2, 2014

1 Thessalonians 2: Ministry of Integrity

1 Thess 2:1-12 For you yourselves know, brothers, that ...we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Paul addresses the Thessalonians as their spiritual parent: "like a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (v.7) and "like a father with his children" (v.11). Like good parents, Paul was willing to put up with all kinds of hardship and suffering in order that the Thessalonians church might grow into maturity so as to "walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory" (v.12).

In this one short chapter alone, Paul uses the word "gospel" four times. Paul is not only Christ-centred but also gospel-focused. We can't separate the two--Christ and His gospel. But nowadays, Christ and His Gospel has been separated. Paul's life motto can be summarized in Phil. 1:21--"for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." There is a great emphasis in discipleship training on being "Christ-like" but yet there is a neglect to place Christ-likeness in the context of His gospel.

Paul saw himself as the spiritual parent of Thessalonian church, having giving birth to their existence by proclaiming the gospel to them. Like all parents, Paul is rightly proud of them: "For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy" (1 Thess 2:19-20). There is something about giving birth to spiritual children through the gospel that creates a special bonding between the spiritual parent and the spiritual children birthed through the gospel. If we have not been involved in evangelism on a regular basis, we lose this passion and compassion for new believers.

And because Paul saw himself as spiritual parent, he would never do anything to jeopardize the growth and development of his spiritual children, demonstrating gentleness of a mother and the firmness of a father. As their spiritual parent, he strives to model the kind of conduct he wants his children to become: "You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers" (1 Thess 2:10). He was careful not to take advantage of them, by insisting that they must support his ministry. Like all good parents, we do not want to burden our children, insisting that they "support" us as an obligation. Paul exemplifies what godly parenting should be.

If we make the gospel the focus of our ministry, we will start reproducing spiritual children. And by definition, we become spiritual parents. Spiritual parenting is an important phase of our growth towards Christ-like maturity. The Bible is not given to increase our knowledge, but to make us more gospel-centred and Christ-like.

Father, help us to become spiritual parents, producing spiritual children through the gospel, that we might become more like Christ who gave his life for his church. Amen.

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