In writing to one of his ‘favourite’ church communities, Paul and his companions Silas and Timothy (yes, they are all males), described their treatment of “each of you as a father treats his own children”.
1 Thessalonians 2:10–12 (NLT) 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.
Interesting that earlier in the same chapter Paul again used paternal metaphors when he said, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7.
As Chrysostom pointed out [Archbishop of Constantinople, an important Early Church Father – 407ad], when Paul wants to refer to his tenderness and affection for his spiritual progeny he uses the image of the mother, but when he wants to dwell on coaching and advice he uses the figure of a father (N. Petersen, Rediscovering Paul).
In the Greco-Roman world the mother was normally in charge of the nurture of the child and the father in charge of moral instruction (Witherington, 81-82).
That’s just how it was for fathers, but it didn’t have to mean autocrat or oppressor. Paul as an apostle was a person with authority, but he is amongst these new Christians with the gentleness of a mother imparting his own life for his spiritual children.
But it was in Paul’s considering himself a “spiritual father” to the believers at Thessalonica that interests us (cf 1 Cor. 4:15 (ESV) 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.).
So how does a father treat his own children in Paul’s eyes and in those of his readers. There was obviously in some way an accepted understanding of how ‘a father treats his own children’.
Whatever this was, it was
- Modelled through lives of integrity:
1 Thessalonians 2:10 (NLT) 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers.
- Devout (holy, hosiōs only here in NT) – In the Greek, this means to “carefully fulfill the duties God gives to a person.”
How’s your relationship with God? 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT) 4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.
How is your relationship with your wife? Ephesians 5:25 (NLT) 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her…
How is your relationship with your children? Ephesians 6:4 (NLT) 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.
Honest – This refers to integrity, uprightness of character, and behaviour. This is not the “righteousness of the Law” but the practical righteousness that God works out in our lives as we yield to Him (Phil. 3:4–10).
Faultless – able to stand their critics’ scrutiny because it was right. Literally, this word means “not able to find fault in.” Ask my children and they will be able to identify my faults. See beyond faults.
Whatever this was, it was
2. Grounded in relationship
12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. I like Peterson’s The Message 12 holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, …