Paul reveals his pastoral heart in this chapter. He knew it was not just about sharing the gospel as an evangelist. It was also about caring for young believers. He was more concerned about this than all of his suffering (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Paul knew that nurturing babes in Christ and helping them toward maturity was a top priority.
Paul revealed his . . .
Pure motives (2:1-6)
Paul suffered persecution in Philippi for preaching the gospel (Acts 16:22-24), but that did not keep him from preaching the gospel in Thessalonica and experiencing more persecution. His motives in preaching to them were to please God alone and not man.
Parental heart (2:7-12)
He showed gentle loving care like a mother. "Paul did not turn his converts over to baby-sitters" (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Thess. 2:7-8, p. 165). He made sacrifices in order to care for them personally. He sacrificed to the point of imparting his very life!
He cared for them like a father who worked tirelessly to proclaim the gospel to them. He was an example to them of a holy life too. He also exhorted ("to call to one's side, strengthen"), encouraged ("to speak to, whether by way of admonition and incentive, or to calm and console"), and implored ("emphatic demand") them to walk in obedience to the God of glory.
Passionate Joy (2:13-16)
He rejoiced that the Thessalonians welcomed the gospel, showed transformed lives, and suffered for their faith like their fellow believers in Judea. In this they were imitating the Lord and Paul.
He specifically targets the Jews who hindered the work they had been called to do themselves (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18). They persecuted the prophets and killed Jesus (not ALL Jews did this, many became believers) because they could not see that He was the Messiah (Matthew 5:10-12). They rejected the truth to protect their traditions (Mark 7:1-8). By doing this, they were "filling up their sins and storing up wrath for the day of judgment" (Matthews 23:32). God is patient, but eventually, when the time comes, His patience will end and judgment will need to fall.
Prevented Return (2:17-20)
Paul's heart broke to have to be torn away from them when they were babes in Christ. He tried to return but Satan thwarted him. He wanted them to be assured that he had them in his heart. They were his hope; "their development was what he lived for as a parent lives to see his children grow up to maturity, to produce and reproduce" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 2, 1 Thess. 2:19-20, p. 697). They were also his glory, joy and crown. The believers, established in the Lord, were Paul's reward for all his labor.
"It's 11 p.m.; do you know where your children are?" That's a healthy reminder to parents that the duty to discipline and supervise their children is a full-time job. Shirking that responsibility can only lead to heartache in the lives of children.
If Paul were writing to you today, he might begin this way: "It's December 2; do you know where your spiritual children are?" Though Paul's converts were spread out in more than 20 different cities, he never abandoned them but, rather, carried them in his heart and corresponded regularly with then.
Check Philippians 1:3-4, Colossians 1:3, and Philemon 4, and you'll find the same kind of statement that begins Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians: "We always thank God for all of you mentioning you in our prayers" (1:2). Do you have any spiritual children? Do you pray daily for them? Do you communicate with them periodically through phone calls, visits, and e-mails? If not, start today. As Paul shows us, spiritual growth is nurtured best in the soil of prayer and encouragement.
(Daily Walk, December 2008, p. 6)Reading this today really convicted me. Tomorrow I will talk about a "persecutor" from my sorority days that showed up at a reunion, but one of the other people that showed up was someone I led to the Lord. I am convicted that I have not been praying for her and staying in touch with her all these years!
On a more wonderful note, I am getting together this morning with two spiritual children who have become spiritual parents themselves. I have not seen for a very long time! I am so looking forward to prayer and encouragement with them.
Lord, would You open doors of communication up with our spiritual children? Amen.