Truth and Love: Paul the Pastor

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I’ve been working through the book of 1 Thessalonians for a Bible Study and was deeply impressed by the way this letter describes Paul’s pastoral ministry.  I was moved to tears as I considered his relationship to this group of believers. Acts 17 describes Paul preaching for only three sabbaths in Thessalonica, followed quickly by such intense opposition that he was forced to leave. Yet out of this brief time Paul writes some of his most tender words of affection and concern for these believers.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes his ministry during the brief time he was among them. This description captures in a wonderful way the balance of pastoral ministry between both proclaiming truth and loving people. Often biblical values that are held in tension lead to error in one direction or the other: Truth vs. Love, Word vs. Spirit, Justice vs. Mercy, Freedom vs. Discipline. How often do we see someone in leadership pursuing one of these values and sacrificing the other? Here Paul perfectly combines the pastoral heart of love with the preacher’s proclamation truth.

1 Thes 2:3 presents Paul as a steward of God’s truth, proclaiming the message just as he received it, unmixed with personal additions.

1 Thes 2:5-8, Paul describes himself as a nursing mother, devoted to loving and meeting the needs of these new disciples.

1 Thes 2:9-11 Paul describes his ministry as a loving father, patiently teaching through both verbal instruction and through the example of how he conducted his life.

1 Thes 2:11-16 Paul role is again a herald, proclaiming the truth of God’s word, which did its transformative work in those who believed.

What a precious precious illustration of the principles of growth Paul outlines in Ephesians:

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Eph 4:15

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