471. The Hoped-for Gentleness of Christian Ministry. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

One often wonders why some churches continue to grow while others grow less in numbers and influence. It seems that much has to do with the type of ministry being exercised in those parishes. Often one hears of an overbearing minister who wants everyone to be subservient to him and whose way has to be followed, or else! However the ministry we see being exercised by St Paul in his writings shows a humility that points to a reason behind successful ministries.

One of the most memorable sayings in the writings of St Paul is this, “To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22. He was willing to adapt and change his approach when necessary to ensure that his ministry was successful.

St Paul’s motivation in life and ministry was to minister appropriately to those amongst whom he came. That meant behaving towards them in a whole range of ways that were appropriate for the times he spent with them. He treated them as if they belonged to the same family as himself. That meant humbling himself among them and treating them with the gentleness of a child. It meant caring for them with the care a nursing mother would show towards her own child. It also meant encouraging them like a father would, to walk in a manner worthy of God’s calling them to be His children. We read about this in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.

1].        He Became Like A Child Among Them. [2:7]

The NIV translates verse 7 as,  “Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children.”  [1Thess 2:7.]  This translates the phrase [all’ egenetheme νηπιοι nepioi] we became (young children) among you.] The word νηπιοι (nepioi) means infants, babes or young children. Thus “we became as young children.” 

The NASB and other translations are based on another variant text  [all’  egenetheme ἤπιος, ēpios] where epios is missing the letter “n” from nepioi and means mild, kind or gentle. Thus NASB “But we were gentle among you.” In a sense, the two variants mean the same. Paul was among them like a young child being gentle and non-threatening to them and not seeking to impose his authority upon them. This is what the previous verse implies, “Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.” 1 Thess 2:6. 

Paul came amongst them with a gentleness of a young child, not seeking to exercise authority over them but seeing himself as a member of the same family. As he wrote later in the epistle, he recognised that, before God, he and they were all children, indeed children of God, children of light. “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” 1 Thess 5:5. 

2].        He Became Like A Mother Among Them. 2:7-8.

1Thess 2:7-8 “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8  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.”

Paul exercised the gentleness of a nursing mother towards her own child. In the same way that a mother cares for her children and shares her own body with them, so St Paul had given of himself in ministry to them. His care for them resembled that of a mother exercising protection and care for her children. It was because he was “affectionately desirous” of them and because they had “become very dear” to him.

3].        He Became Like A Father Among Them. 2:11-12

“For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 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.” 1 Thess 2:11-12.

Paul now moves from the maternal side of his care for the Thessalonian believers to make mention of the paternal side of his care. It was in 3 areas, exhortation, encouragement and challenge.

i]. Exhortation. [from parakaleō]. This means  to beseech, comfort, exhort, pray, intreat, beseech.

We know that the Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete [the one called alongside to help] from the same root origin and thus He is called the encourager, the exhorter, the counsellor, the comforter, the advocate. Paul was being the Holy Spirit’s instrument in his exhorting ministry to the Thessalonians.

ii]. Encouragement. [From paramytheomai (para = to the side of) and (muthos = speech) meaning to speak to, address one, whether by way of admonition and incentive, or to calm, to encourage, to console. The word is found 4 times in the New Testament, 

  • John 11:19 – Console. “and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.” 
  • John 11:31 – Consoling. “When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.”
  • Here in 1 Thess. 2:12 – Encouraged
  • 1 Thess. 5:14 – Encourage. “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

iii]. Challenge. Paul had charged them. “[I] charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” [“Charge” is from martyromai, to call to witness; to make a solemn affirmation or declaration, to make a solemn appeal.] Paul was exhorting, encouraging and challenging the Thessalonian believers to live lives that showed they respected the fact that God had called them to live for Him. Their lives had to be worthy of God where “worthy” [axios] means as becometh, appropriate, suitable. “Worthy” is seen in other verses, as worthy of the saints [Rom 16:2], of their calling [Eph 4:1], of the gospel of Christ [Col 1:10].

So in these verses we have a pattern for ministry that will be successful under God. There will be times when we need to humble ourselves before God and recognise that we and those to whom we minister are all children before God and that we need to be gentle towards those in our charge. At all times we have to have like a mother’s care towards her child, being willing to give ourselves in our care for them. We also need people to be like fathers exhorting, encouraging and challenging those under our care to live in a way that brings glory to God, while being affectionately desirous of them, and their being very dear to us.

Blog No.471 posted on Sunday 26 March 2023.

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Glorification, Healing, Holy Spirit, Justification, Mental Health, New Covenant, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, Temptations, TOPICS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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