The ministry of a father
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children…
1 Thessalonians 2:11 (NIVUK)
Four pastors were deep in conversation about the best Bible translation to use. The first said he uses the King James Version because the old English is beautiful. The second said he uses the New Revised Standard Version because he feels it comes closer to the original Greek and Hebrew texts. The third pastor said his favourite is The Message paraphrase because his congregation is young, and it relates to them in a practical way. The fourth pastor, after giving it some thought, said, when it comes to translations of the Bible, I like my dad’s translation the best. He put the Bible into practise every day, and it was the most convincing translation I’ve seen.
The influence of a human father cannot be overestimated, and so it’s not surprising that in our header scripture Paul says that he approached the members of the church at Thessalonica as a father would treat his own children. In this, Paul has two things in mind: his example, and his teaching.
As for his example, Paul says he was, ‘…holy, righteous and blameless…among you who believed.’ (v.10). The first term, holy, points to Paul being set apart for God; the second term, righteous, to his conformity to a norm; the third, blameless, means without cause for reproach.1 These words are somewhat synonymous, but holy may refer to being pleasing to God; righteous to dealing rightly with others; and blameless to our reputation in the world.2 The fact that Paul so confidently appeals to the Thessalonians, and God as his witnesses (v.10) shows that his example was evident to others and would stand before God. He provided an exemplary example as any father should do.
Regarding his teaching, Paul encouraged, comforted, and urged the Thessalonian Christians (v.12). Some members needed to be built up and strengthened, so Paul encouraged them. Some were grieving the loss of loved ones, and so Paul spoke words of comfort to them, while others needed to keep going in the face of persecution and so Paul urged them, ‘…to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.’ (v.12). A considerate father knows that his children are different, and Paul used the analogy of a loving father to convey how he used these different approaches. The intention was that the Thessalonians would become all that God wanted them to be through loving and personal comfort, exhortation, and encouragement.
Paul’s example and his teaching were the hallmarks of his fatherly care for these members in Thessalonica and they give us the pattern of how we should relate to and treat one another. Can we put this into practise and be the most convincing of Bible translations? After all, we might be the only Bible people ever read.
Loving Father, help us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have given us. Help us to treat one another with tender, humble, and gentle hearts. Grant us patience for one another, bearing with one another in love. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
1 Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians: an introduction and commentary, 1984, p. 82
2 John Stott, The Message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time, 1994, p.53.
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England, the Midlands, and Wales
Grace Communion West Hampstead
Sidings Community Centre
150 Brassey Road
Sunday 12.30 pm
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