For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, 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. – 1 Thessalonians 2:1–8 (ESV)
Rick Phillips writes:
To preserve his gospel labors, Paul defended his message, his motives, and finally his manner among the Thessalonians. Not only was he not motivate for approval, money, or self-glory, but his manner was, first, gentle among the new believers: “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thess 2:7). Gene Green describes gentleness as “the virtue of being tender and considerate, concerned for the well-being of the other, instead of being severe, brusque, or hard.” We should not be surprised that Paul used a feminine analogy for his labors as an apostle, since God’s grace had touched his heart in order to expand rather than contract his range of human emotions and actions. As Paul looked on the virtues of self-sacrifice and tender love exemplified by nursing mothers, he saw an example that should inspire gospel ministers in their attentive care of their congregations.
Just as a mother does not stand on her dignity when meeting the needs of her baby, neither did Paul lord his authority over the Thessalonians as he sought to shepherd them into faith and godliness. The New Testament urges that ministers of the gospel should be treated with respect: Paul wrote: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Pastors should not amplify their titles and honors so as to create distance from the congregation, but should lead, as Peter urged, “not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
Not only was Paul gentle in his manner, but he was also affectionate toward the Thessalonians. He wrote that he was affectionately desirous of you …, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). The apostle admits that while he did not covet the believers’ money, he did desire the believers themselves, because of his love for them and his longing for their salvation. Paul realized that his preaching of truth must be combined with love. Elsewhere he said, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). Lon Morris writes: “Paul had come to see the Thessalonians as the objects of God’s love, and therefore as the objects of the love of God’s servants also.”
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 105
Q. 105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.