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BIG IDEA: (2:1-12)



Ideally, our spiritual leaders should be the best role models in our life. It makes sense. They are supposedly chosen on the basis of character traits that exhibit Christ-like behavior. The qualifications listed for elders (passages like 1 Tim. 3) are just a more specific refinement of the overall fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5. What should “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” look like in the life of a pastor?

Certainly all of us would love to be personally discipled by Jesus Christ Himself. We would then have the perfect role model with proper balance – the Incarnate God – full of “grace and truth.” Undershepherds should be the visible extension of the heart and discipling methodology of the Great Shepherd Himself. The missionary team that had come into Thessalonica to plant a church made it their ambition to be just such excellent role models for the young believers. Yet as Paul sends this letter back to the church, charlatans – imposters have already infiltrated the assembly to disparage his ministry. Paul needs to make a defense of the character of his ministry.

By way of commendation, Paul pointed them to their own changed lives – evidence of the power of the gospel at work and mirroring the changed lives of the missionaries:

1:5 Paul reminds them “just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” — totally transparent; totally unselfish

The missionary team provided an example worth following … and now the new believers at Thessalonica had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God in such a way that they had become model Christians themselves.

Last week we saw the Apostle Paul defend his pure motives and contrast those motives with those of the opposition.

2:1 our coming to you was not empty of the Holy Spirit and of power and passion but rather we had supernatural boldness that enabled us to carry out the Great Commission – we faithfully proclaimed the genuine gospel of God in spite of great opposition

He pointed out 4 pure motives of bold church planters in particular:

– ministry integrity

– divine commissioning

– divine accountability

– personal unselfishness

this is the key point that he wants to expand upon as he moves from a consideration of a pastor’s motives (which might be somewhat hidden and uncertain) to the trump card of his defense – the very transparent look at his conduct. The way in which he had conducted himself is a matter of historical record. The fact that his approach to ministry was gentle and nurturing rather than authoritative and domineering; the fact that his approach to ministry was completely unselfish rather than all about promoting himself – these things could not be disputed. And these things set him apart from his detractors who obviously did not have the same track record of blameless ministry conduct.

Transition statement (v.6): “even though as apostles we might have asserted our authority” – touched on that only briefly last week

Not characterized by domineering insensitivity; did not continually lobby for the privileges due to them; not trying to force things; not a demanding person with all types of burdensome requirements

We have all seen examples of people abusing power in different realms – in the business world, in politics, as an athletic coach – but it is especially blameworthy as a spiritual leader;

Not saying that there is not a need for firmness and toughness on the part of leaders … It is a matter of context and balance; when it comes to nurturing immature believers and guiding them to grow up into Christ, Gentleness and Tenderness must be liberally applied.

Some pastors miss this point. They are so busy asserting their authority and making sure everyone follows their program that they are blind to the fact that the over-emphasis on their personal giftedness has actually stunted the growth of their vulnerable flock. The sheep end up traumatized and dependent on them instead of trained for ministry and dependent on the Chief Shepherd.

Paul understood the type of leadership that Christ wants to see exercised – and it is exactly opposite what the unsaved world exhibits

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Elevating leaders from a productive position of fruitfulness using their God-appointed gifts to an unproductive, domineering higher level that opens the door to abuse of power

Illustrated from the OT theocracy in the time of the Judges; applied to NT church leadership

OT Principle: The Invisible God wants to rule over His chosen people as a theocracy rather than appointing a visible king who will end up lording it over the people

NT Application: The Invisible Christ wants His chosen church to submit to His Headship as the Chief Shepherd with authority at the local level delegated to a plural group of godly undershepherds rather than elevating someone to the unbiblical position of senior pastor who might lord it over the flock or deflect the dependence and preeminence away from Christ

A. Godly example of Gideon – “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.”

B. Ungodly example of Abimelech exposed by Jotham – Seeking the Preeminence like Diotrephes

– the olive tree — “fatness”

– the fig tree – “sweetness and good fruit”

– the fruitful vine – “new wine which cheers God and men”

– the worthless bramble — “come and take refuge in my shade”

Unproductive mission = “to wave over the other trees”

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Luke 22:24-27 – Humble, Servant leadership – talking about political leadership here – how does it work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? or for other nations?? Even the best of Gentile leaders have that tendency to lord it over and be domineering and over-authoritative as the club to push their agenda

In the church that type of leadership should be anathema: 3 John 9 – look at Diotrephes – he created divisions in the church by pushing people out and not welcoming their legitimate ministry

Leadership will function somewhere along this spectrum … from Servanthood to Domineering

Paul points to his model as being the one to follow and the one that validates his ministry


A. (:7-8) Mother – only have time for this one today – we have some great role models in our midst – we need to study their behavior and learn lessons from them; you children need to appreciate the unselfish love of your Mom – you can never show her enough appreciation for all that she has done and continues to do for you

B. (:9) Worker

C. (:10-12) Father


A. Gentle Demeanor (outward behavior, conduct) vs. Harsh Treatment

“But we proved to be gentle among you”

Look at the contrast to coming in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full confidence (1:5)

Apparently you can do all of that and still be gentle in tone and demeanor rather than overbearing

Surprising to start off with something that just does not sound like strong leadership –

Remember the Goal = to raise spiritual infants to maturity – this is not a cattle drive where you are cracking the whip and herding some dumb animals

Textual problem — nh,pioi – “baby, infant” (Gal. 4:3; Eph. 4:14) – many excellent manuscripts

Humility would be emphasis or childish simplicity

But would be a mixed metaphor with the next phrase

h;pion – “gentle, kind” (NASV) — fits the context better

only NT usage — 2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,

Without going into a lengthy explanation, it should be noted that this text is what is referred to as a “first class textual problem”. The Nestle-Aland is normally favored for accuracy but in this case it has the word nepios which means babe while the Textus Receptus has epios meaning gentle. Most authorities favor the most accurate interpretation as gentle and even the NAS translates it “gentle” even though the corresponding Nestle-Aland text (which is the source of the NAS translation) has the word for babe! If you would like a more technical explanation see (Hiebert, D. Edmond: 1 & 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book. 1996)

Vines: frequently used by Greek writers as characterizing a nurse with trying children or a teacher with refractory scholars, or of parents towards their children

[Different Greek words – concept of gentleness]

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” Matthew 11:29

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

1 Timothy 3:3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. (Titus 3:2)

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

1 Peter 2:18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.

How approachable is a Mother? Children are not intimidated by their mother; they don’t fear harshness or coldness or aloofness; they expect to be treated with gentleness and compassion and tenderness; they are not afraid of asking questions or seeking clarification – Mom is not going to bite their head off

“among you” = “in the midst of you” — note how the shepherds are found among the flock where their lives can be observed; not just some unknown lecturer or professor whom you never get to know personally;

Gentleness requires intimacy – close personal communion

Cf. the Lord – Luke 22:24-27 “I am among you as the one who serves”

This is a good barometer of Christian leadership – do any of the elders build up barriers of professional distance?

I learned a lot of valuable lessons at Grace Theological Seminary .. but I remember one lecture that didn’t sit well with me. We were studying the practical aspects of pastoring a flock – and the Senior Pastor who taught it explained that a pastor should never make close friends with members of the congregation – based on his model of senior pastors being in a special class – try to find that shepherding principle in the Scriptures – Professional Distance – like a counselor would have with a patient

Church designed to look like a family – roles of leadership described here in terms of mothering and fathering – not shipping the children off to storage in some daycare center

It would have been easy for Paul not to have been gentle; Do you know who I am? How can you question my authority or my interpretation? I do not owe you any explanation; I am the great Apostle Paul; personally commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; invested with all authority; your response should be “How high do you want me to jump”

Paul didn’t steamroll over anyone; he didn’t use his intellect or training or background to blow people away and make them feel inferior; he was supremely approachable

He didn’t try to lay unrealistic expectations on people; he was sensitive to their level of maturity and their needs; he was never pushy and overbearing

B. Godly Nurturing — Tender Care vs. Aloof Indifference

“as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children”

[would make a great Mother’s Day lesson]

Amazing emphasis that Paul chooses here – talking about what type of leadership we should see in the church and points first of all to a Nursing Mother – not what would have been expected in Jewish or Greek culture at the time; look at how Paul exalts the role of women; how can people say he is chauvinistic or that he puts down women??

7 Lessons we can learn from Paul’s Godly Nurturing of these converts as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children:

1. This analogy of Motherhood is a Perfect Model because it is a Universal Model – everybody has equal access to this model; we all have a Mother; we all can see the role of a Mom played out every day; nothing too complicated or abstract about this example – some mothers are better examples than others … but we all can agree on the type of behavior that is appropriate for a mother

What type of tender care does a nursing mother provide for her infants?

2. Privilege of having your own children to care for (“Her” is emphatic here) – you especially know this if you had difficulty having children or had to wait a long time; not a burden to care for them; something you are excited about doing; God gives us 9 months to prepare ourselves and get ready for the responsibility of beginning to raise each child

3. Providing Proper Nourishment is Essential

Trophos means a nurse, but here refers to the nursing mother herself

The diet of the Mom will become the diet of the nursing baby (in a little more palatable form); how tragic when we see disease and drugs and alcohol passed on to innocent children who are dependent on Mom for their nourishment; the mother has to very careful regarding what she eats and drinks;

the pure milk of the Word is what is needed

Ephes 5:29 “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church”

4. Prepared to Respond 24/7 – on call all of the time

Model of leadership for some is more like a business executive; very schedule driven; using the best time management principles; every 15 minute segment of time accounted for; no room for interruptions in the schedule; mother’s mindset must be very flexible; she is always available when needed; very much interruption driven; not that she cannot plan out her day – but things don’t always go as planned; Effective mothering is very inconvenient – that is part of the sacrifice

5. Protecting the Helpless is key – cherish, comfort – 1 word in the Greek “tenderly cares for”

Literally: “to warm with body heat” – used of birds covering their young with their feathers to warm and protect them; you don’t expose babies to things they can’t handle

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

Ruth 2:12 Boaz to Ruth: “May the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, bless you for it.”

Paul was always careful to protect the flock – Remember his final charge to the elders at Ephesus – Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” – he left the city under great pressure – not because he was a coward, but to protect them

6. The Mother is Perceptive regarding the needs of the little ones – Sensitive to how they are feeling and what needs to be done to help them

The Mom knows when something is bothering the baby; wants the baby to be comfortable and cared for; wakes up when the baby cries out during the night

7. Preciousness of Each One — Treats each one as unique and special – my song I would sing to Julie each night when I tucked her in – “Precious, that’s what you are to me …”

If pastors would treat each church member as precious – they would drop everything to pursue the one that is in danger or is lost or wandering; they certainly would never write one off and be dismissive – “He was a bad egg anyway … we didn’t need him here” – is that how a mother treats a wayward child?

C. Genuine Affection vs. Hypocritical Flattery

“Having thus a fond affection for you” Pres. Middle Participle

Yearn for, long for; only NT usage; rare word of uncertain derivation; a constant yearning for

Stedman: Literally, it means “a yearning, a longing for you.” I sometimes feel this myself especially when I am talking to a young person. I feel my heart longing to help them, to bless them, to teach them, to lead them, to fulfill them. That is how parents feel about their children. There is a yearning after them, an affectionate desire to see them blossom and go in the right direction. That is characteristic of those who seek to minister to others.

Love for people is key; you want to see them succeed; parents invest everything in trying to guide their children along the path of success

You want to be with them; to spend time with them; it hurts when you are apart; mothers hate to see their children locate in distant places; Apostle Paul was always making plans to go back and revisit these dear believers

Transition: “because you had become very dear to us”

30 NT references – beloved brethren (common combination of words)

Term of address and endearment

D. Giving Mentality – Sacrificial Love vs. Selfish Exploitation

“we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives”

1. Cheerful, willing service – not grudgingly or of necessity – well-pleased

Nobody twisted Paul’s arm to be passionate and zealous to serve Christ

21 NT usages; 13 refer to God’s good pleasure and free choice –

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased”

What was the motivation of the imposters?? Trying to gain some advantage for themselves; because they were full of themselves rather than full of a genuine affection for others

2. It is all about Giving – to impart to you

“Share” is metadidomi, and expresses “the giving of something by which the giver retains a part and the receiver has a part so that they both share in the matter.”

Expecting nothing in return; and for quite awhile, receiving nothing in return;

Interesting to see how gifts from your children progress over the years … that very special unrecognizeable finger painting … Jenny just took me out to the Brazilian steak house

Exhausting … especially when you get so little positive reinforcement

2 Cor 12:14,15 – similar imagery

3. Offering the Gospel without charge or without strings attached — the gospel of God

– the genuine gospel – no adulteration or compromise

– the powerful gospel – not watered down

– had been entrusted with it as a stewardship from God

– watch out for just the “Hired Gun” – like in the Old West – a mercenary

John 10:11-18 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.”

4. Successful ministry starts with giving up our lives for others – everything else follows from that

word = psyches = souls– conveys more than just their physical lives; in the depths of their being they cared (Thomas)

– this is what taking up the cross daily is all about

– this looks back at the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for us

– our lives our not our own – we were bought with a price

– No sacrifice too great for our children

Piper: When you share your soul you let a person in to see what is really there. You do not conceal your true feelings about things. A shared soul is a shared passion or a shared fear or a shared guilt or a shared longing or a shared joy. Where the gospel flourishes people share their own souls — their joy and guilt and fear and longing and passion.


What should mothers expect from their children as they mature?

What should the missionary team expect from their converts as they grow up in the Lord?

– Love and Affection in return

– Loyalty and Respect – but not blind loyalty – Paul always put boundaries on the way in which they were to imitate him – only as I imitate the Lord

– Support when needed – old age – who is responsible to care for Mom and Dad?

– Sharing one’s heart – that intimacy of communication – Moms are great for being able to draw out what the child is thinking; best times are those debriefing times when the child has a lot to report

If you want to follow a spiritual leader who imitates Paul as he imitated Christ … then follow someone who is gentle and tender and nurturing and unselfish; who genuinely loves you and sacrificially imparts to you both the truth of God’s Word and his own life as well