1 Thessalonians 2 paints a picture of Paul as Christ’s minister, model and mentor.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 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. 9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
The Master, His Mandate, His Message. The minister, his motive and methods
v4 – Paul is so captivated and riveted by the Master Who saved and sent him that his sole purpose in life and ministry was to please HIM (see blog on “Jesus cannot be displaced or misplaced”). And God could attest to Paul (v4, 5, 10) as a minister, to the message Paul delivered, and to the ministry he was involved in and methods he employed. He was devout, just and blameless.
Paul was transparent in his motive – only to please his Master Who tests his heart. Paul not only declared his motive verbally, his motivations and methods were also visible (v10 ‘you are witnesses’). Other people are great mirrors, especially those close to us. For those who have leadership roles and responsibilities, then it would be the members and followers. On the other hand, members could be so enamoured by the leaders and become short-sighhted and deluded, especially when the motives, message and methods are rationalized, justified, distorted and explained away (‘flattering words’). When followers or observers comment, the tendency is to shut off those who defer, and to disparage the feedback. Or to use the false authority invested upon leadership to control and intimidate – “made demands as apostles of Christ“ or twisting the scripture – ‘Touch not the Lord’s annointed’. I deem feedback to be positive as it can spur me on to re-think / review my position, and to search deep to surface issues to the light. A parachute will only work when it is open.
It is possible for me to promote a noble motive, more so when I need others out there to support me, to work with or for my vision and objective. (I am reminded of what Walt Henricksen said – to serve is to help the other person fulfil what God has placed in his heart, not to get the other to serve the leader’s vision). Paul knew this too, he said “For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness” (v5). Paul went on – “Nor did we seek glory from men”. Even starting out sincerely to serve Jesus, I could be distracted, duped and deceived by self and satan (birds of the air) in my service. It begins with a man whom the Lord calls, and blesses with a ministry which grew into a movement, but could become a monument.
Paul served His Master, and sacrificially ministered to others (v4, vv7-12)
He was a mother – nourishing them with the milk of the word when they were babes in Christ, nursing them when they were hurt and harmed, and nurturing – protecting and perfecting them to grow to full maturity.
He was a father – modelling the life of Christ in all His attributes, working out the fruit of the Spirit, mentoring them as they grow and glow in the new creation life, and maturing them into the fullness of Christ.
I guess that the mandate Jesus gave Peter was also delivered to Paul. Feed my lambs (like a mother), feed my sheep (like a father). Feed, not fleece (‘covetousness’}. Minister, not manipulate (‘cloak’).