WANTED: SPIRITUAL FATHERS & MOTHERS in the CHURCH
December 5 Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians Chapters 1-3
"But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." (1 Thess. 2:7-8, 10-12)
The above passage describes in great detail how Apostle Paul, Silvanus and Timothy (see 1:1) worked among the new believers in Thessalonica in order to mature them in Christ. Having explained their ministry in negative terms (2:1–6), Paul then described it positively (2:7–12). In contrast to the enemies’ accusations, Paul and his companions had demonstrated their loving care for the Thessalonians in the past.
The Greek word trōgphos (meaning “nursing mother”) is a tender and vivid picture of Paul and his companion’s heart for the church. They had given themselves wholeheartedly to the Thessalonian believers just like a nursing mother selflessly cares for her children. The word “cherishes” further emphasizes the nursing mother’s activity as well as her attitude. Like a nursing mother cherishes her own children, they had been gentle and unselfish in their dealings with the new believers (v. 7). Since these believers needed spiritual nursing and care, they had carried on their ministry with all the solicitude of a devoted mother with tenderness and affection. Paul emphasizes the extent of his love: he would have sacrificed his own life for them if necessary!
Paul then refers to the father figure to sum up and justify their apostolic activities as they founded the church. Like a father who prepares his children for the events that lie ahead of them, they had comforted and encouraged the believers to fulfill God’s call in their lives (v. 11-12). As a father gives wisdom and counsel, Paul exhorted them to live a holy life and encouraged them to go on for the Lord in spite of persecutions, and he testified concerning the blessedness of obedience to the will and word of God.
Thus, through his writing Paul clearly intended to convey a sense of tender affection and loving care for his spiritual children, the Thessalonians. In doing so, he showed a side of spiritual leadership and nurture that Christian leaders will do well to emulate today. Paul’s ministry was motivated by love, not by pride or the desire for material gain. The goal of Paul’s ministry was that the Thessalonians might walk worthy of God who calls them into His own kingdom and glory!
Young believers need spiritual fathers and mothers in the church to lovingly nurture them in the Lord. How important it is for us to be good examples and role models before new believers! Helping new believers at a crucial stage in their faith is a labor of love that will cause great rejoicing at our ultimate “family reunion” in heaven. Let us strive to be spiritual fathers and mothers as we mentor new believers to grow and mature even “up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13)