Affection, Calling, and Glory

This week we discuss 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12; as in other locations and times, Paul (and the others) had to defend their ministry, and we see here the character of true discipleship: imparting the gospel through words and their own lives.  

Our coming to you was not in vain!”  Not unfruitful.  Both the character and the result of the preaching–they were not preaching vain, empty, worthless words…and their coming proved fruitful, the preaching led to all the good he had already praised–their faith, their witness, their labors of love and steadfastness of hope, their example to all of Macadonia and Achia…  

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy coming to them led to all this–yet it is to God be the glory, as Paul will go on to say.  God sometimes calls to seemingly fruitless work (Isaiah was called to “Speak but they will not listen…”)  

Yet, God is not calling us to actually fruitless or vain work.  He always has a purpose and is always accomplishing His purpose.  Their ministry was timely; remember they came as a direct result of following the Spirit (Acts, see here).

But after we suffered in Philippi, we had the boldness to speak.  Thessalonians knew of their suffering, and that suffering was not hidden in order to proclaim the gospel.  We do not have to find the “right” time to proclaim, in the sense of “well, when life is going smoothly, I’ll share…or when I am living what seems to be a blessed life, then I’ll speak.”

Opposition, Tribulation

Amid much opposition, remember the trouble stirred up leading to riots and Paul having to leave described in Acts?

Verse 3, our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or deceit.  Their motives were pure.  Pure.  Not mixed, but really and truly in line with God’s desires. 

They were not deceitful in their presentation of the Gospel.  How often some feel the need to dress it up, or apologize for God’s wrath, or feel ashamed of the call to ‘take up your cross’ to follow Jesus…  Yet their exhortation came in all purity and truth.  

Approved by God 

Verse 4  but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted…so we speakNot as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.  Cf Galatians 1:10-12; Col 3:23-24.

God alone has the ability to examine our hearts; and this is a great comfort!  We run to His throne of grace with no shame, no fear, knowing He knows our hearts and holds us close, we are kept by His power!  

Verse 5: never with flattering speech, nor a pretext for greed.  Not masked, no hidden agenda or motives.  Their desires were clearly displayed–they wanted to spread the Gospel, that was their motive!  These men had godly desires, they wanted to see others reconciled to God.  They listened as the Spirit led them.  The Spirit led them, they were eager to preach but did not simply go wherever they felt inclined to, or where it simply made sense to go, or to places that hired them and sold tickets and had great marketing campaigns and printed out study materials and contracted with local artisans to provide stellar meals and cool swag.  

Seeking Glory?

Nor as seeking glory from men. Meditating on John 5, Romans 2, and John 7:10-18 will give fresh understanding that God has always condemned those who seek glory from their fellow man, yet rewards those who seek true glory from Him with eternal life.  Oh the weight of that glory! (2 Corinthians 4).

Although, these men had authority, they did not flaunt it.  Paul could likewise say he was speaking what he received, not as seeking his own glory, but speaking the TRUTH.  

The following verses became very precious to me in college as a YL leader.  Our Area Director, Allen Miller, taught us this beautiful truth, lived it out in our lives, and reminded us often. He made it clear to us that this is how we take the gospel, this is how all discipleship is to be done.  “No one will care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  (a very old saying, much quoted, yet I do not know the original source). We impart our lives as we carry out the gospel, as we proclaim.  We do not merely pontificate. 

My third year of doing YL, at a football game, one girl approached me to greet me, and actually asked “why are you at all our practices and all our games?”  I didn’t say “because I’m imparting my life!”  But it was a chance to explain that I actually care about you.  That was a season–I’m definitely more focused on my two little ones at home…but if I ever have a season after this of interacting with co-workers, or fellow volunteers, or club members or whatever I may join–how can I impart my life?  As I am a neighbor, how can I impart my life in this fashion?

We speak, while… 

While we proved (there is that word again), to be gentle (cf Titus 2). Verse 7 shows us that manhood and leadership requires gentleness–though some think of drill sergeants or aloof CEOs, God wants leaders in the founding of the church patterned differently.

Gentle as a nursing mother tenderly cares for… A nursing mother.  These men sharing Christ are to walk in the pattern of motherhood, specifically mothers of little babies.  A mother cannot nurse without laying aside her own agenda.  She engages all her senses, and the baby likewise. 

The act of nursing leads to growth, an increasing affectionate bonding, building of trust, self awareness and a sense of belonging.  The closeness, the touch, the tenderness, the stillness, feelings awakened, a shared experience of love. This should impact the way we ‘define’ discipleship, the way we share the gospel and live together under the Word.  

Affection as the norm

Verse 8  having so fond an affection (cf Acts, reaction of Ephesian elders…)  Paul is a man, not to be considered an outlier, but the example of godly manhood!  These leaders exhibited fond affection that was truly felt by the Thessalonians. 

It was not, as some suggest, “love in action” without words, as many mistakenly derive from 1 John 3:18.  They surmise that this verse says to love without words, yet you have to rip that verse out of the Bible, and read it alone, and ignore the rest of Scripture and the Spirit’s witness, to come to such conclusions.  Speak in love, beloved.  

Imparting the gospel as well as his own life.  Life on life, pick up your cross, serve one another.  This was no “preach and run” tent meeting as we shall see; these men imparted their lives.  This is real discipleship and evangelism.  This also means our current trend of feeling real good about ‘church in my living room via the internet’ is unbiblical.  We cannot impart our lives on FB, IG, YouTube, Zoom, or any other platform that keeps us separate.       

There may be lengthy seasons in which one is truly unable to gather (in the hospital, recovering from surgery or major illness, having just given birth, or receiving hospice and end of life care-unable to move out of bed…). And there are weeks in which we stay home for an illness, or travel. Otherwise, God designed us to share life face to face, to worship together, to share His truth while imparting our lives. 

Very dear to us.  See the ‘us’?  Silvanus and Timothy shared this same affection.  Very dear, these men were not aloof, or stoic, or distanced.  Never ‘us and them’…  Through affectionate, face to face sharing, God calls us into His family.

Example of Holiness

Verse 9  labor, hardship, working while preaching.  NOT THE NORM!   They never took advantage or used or saw them as less than people created in the image of God in need of Jesus too!  This can be said by one who sets his mind on the things of the Spirit, obedience of this nature being the Spirit’s fruit, making us able to please God!  

1 Cor 9:14, and likewise 1 Timothy 5:17-18, teach us that pastors, preachers, those in ministry, can and should be paid wages–we ought to free them from the burden of seeking to keep two full time employments going simultaneously.   

Verse 10  God is witness, they too were witnesses, how holy and righteous and blameless… or, devout, upright, blameless… Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy could all say, without feeling awkward or as though others would judge them pretentious, that they behaved in this manner “toward you believers.” 

They lived with no fear of being seen.  They acted righteously, lived blamelessly, imitating Christ.  This is the power of the Spirit in believers!!!  How can we live this way without the natural tendency toward legalism/self-effort kicking in?  We will discuss our call to sanctification later in the study.  

We need not fear falling into legalism, or becoming whitewashed tombs, when we are “praying without ceasing,” living in continual connection (abiding!), ‘striving according to His power at work mightily within me’ and asking for His power according to Ephesians 3 and Colossians 1.  His call to ‘be holy as I am holy’ is a real calling in our lives, and He will bear that fruit in us, “from Me comes your fruit” (Hosea 14).

Fatherly Words

Verse 11 exhorting encouraging and imploring…There ought to be a time for each in our conversation; whether with those we are first sharing the gospel with, with growing believers, or among those with whom we share intimate fellowship.  

As a father, not as a business leader, not as a drill sergeant, not as the top dog in some MLM scheme, not as a game show host, not as the next Ted Talk that wants lots of five star reviews…  We are tempted to use flattering speech, to use hip and trendy phrases, to cuss for emphasis, to be snarky–but not so with the Spirit-led people of God. We do not come with this language, but with words of delight, words that build up, words that bring life and echo His Words (see

At the very founding of the church, the gospel is spread in love.  The beginning is seeped in love.  The groundbreaking of this new people, this new group, would be done by affectionate, caring, devout, blameless, righteous men who formed it and led it like a FAMILY. 

A timeless institution begun by God is the best example and pattern. 

Do not look for a more up to date pattern, and do not redefine ‘family’ to make this suit your tastes.  Just enjoy what the Spirit will teach you here!  “Church” would not have begun well if compared to historic institutions all founded on slavery and military conquest (such as the empires of Rome, Greece, Persia…other barbaric tribes…).  

Can we see all the best of motherhood and fatherhood in our elders?  In ourselves as we do the work of the ministry?  We speak, while imparting our lives, while tenderly caring for, while encouraging and exhorting.


“So that” lets us know we are getting to a point of exhortation, the ‘how then shall we live’ portion of the chapter. So that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you…(‘be holy’ 1 Peter 1:14-21; and revisit the Colossians 1 prayer). 

God cares how we walk; do we walk in the Spirit or flesh? Are we willing to admit we do not have a third option? As we walk in the Spirit, He enables us to obey this call. He pours out the riches of His grace for this as we abide in Him.  “Apart from Me you can do nothing” and in abiding we will “bear much fruit and so prove to be [His] disciples.”  (John 15:5, 8).  From Him comes our fruit, and both the desire and ability to walk in His ways (see Hosea 14).

He calls us “into His own kingdom and glory!”  Why seek our own glory, how could it compare to what He calls us into?  This is what Jesus first proclaimed, and what the apostles preached, and what the Spirit continues to do in us as we hear the word.  He calls us into something far beyond all comparison with earthly kingdoms and glories.  

Through affectionate, face to face sharing of words and life, God calls us into His family, His Kingdom, and His glory. Sometime this week, perhaps as you prepare your heart for the Sabbath, meditate on these gospel passages:  Mark 1:14-18;   Matthew 4:17-20.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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