Love the Church as Christ Loves the Church
So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:8
In First Thessalonians 2:7, Paul wrote about the need for believers to tenderly care for each other, saying, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.” Notice he chose the word “cherisheth” — the Greek word thalpo — to describe his feeling toward the believers in Thessalonica. He used this same word in Ephesians 5:25-29, so let’s look at those verses to see further how the word thalpo carries the idea of tender care and nourishment.
In Ephesians 5:25-29, Paul wrote, “…Even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”
The word for “cherisheth” in this text is also thalpo, the same Greek word Paul used in First Thessalonians 2:7 to describe his ministry to the Thessalonian church. With this one little word thalpo (“cherisheth”), Paul shared with us the secret behind his success in ministry: The way Jesus Christ treats the Church is the way we should treat it!
Clearly, Jesus loves the Church. He pulls it close to His side and feeds it. He protects it. He nourishes and cuddles it like a tiny infant in His arms. The Church is the most priceless thing in the whole world to Jesus. He shed His blood to bring it forth. He sanctified it with His blood, and He’s coming back for it one day.
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As a result of His tender love for the Church, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit and the fivefold ministry gifts to minister to the Church. Jesus’ heart is full of grace and mercy for His Church, and there are even times when He has pity on it. Jesus is patient with the Church when it makes mistakes, and He nourishes it so that it will grow.
Just as Jesus is full of tenderness for the Church, so the apostle Paul was tender and gentle toward the churches he was charged with ministering to. And we are to be tender and gentle toward those under our care too. That’s why Paul said, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
When Paul used the phrase “ye were dear unto us,” he was conveying how important these church members were to him. In fact, the Greek word for “dear” is agapetos, which actually means beloved.
Very early in Greek history, this word was used to describe the admiration that a man had for an object of beauty. But it wasn’t just any old art object. In fact, the idea behind this word was that the object was so intensely beautiful that it drew affection out of the man’s heart. The onlooker or observer of this beautiful work of art was so taken by the object that he couldn’t simply look at it — he gazed upon it and became affected by it. Deep admiration and appreciation came out of his heart because he was so moved by what his eyes beheld. He didn’t have the words to adequately express all that he felt because of the beauty of this object.
Then in verse 9, Paul described what his love for this church looked like as he expressed it in his words and actions. He said, “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
As Paul wrote about his labors, travail, and the many sacrifices he had made to minister the Gospel to the Thessalonian believers, he was not doing it to make them feel badly or even to make himself look good. Paul was still baring his soul. He was showing them the “why” behind all his laboring and sacrificial giving. He was still revealing his motivation for ministry.
Apparently, no one else had ever made the kinds of phenomenal sacrifices for the Thessalonian saints Paul had made. That church had never before seen such an operation of God’s love. This is why Paul’s ministry there would stand out in their minds as such a great memory. Paul wrote, “…Remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day.”
Let’s look at the phrase “our labour and travail.” The word “labor” is from the Greek word kopos, which refers to intense physical labor or wearisome toil. And the word “travail” is from the Greek word mocthos, which refers to trouble, pain, or struggle to overcome difficulties.
What was it that caused Paul to go through such labor and travail?” The answer is love. It was for love that Paul and his ministry team suffered these things and didn’t quit or give up despite the trouble, pain, and struggle to overcome difficulties they experienced.
Do we love other believers the way Paul and his team loved them? Are we willing to undergo whatever is necessary to complete their faith and bring them to a higher relationship with Jesus? The truth is, one of our very highest priorities in life should be the building up of other brothers and sisters in the Lord. And if that isn’t one of our greatest priorities today, let’s ask the Lord to develop that desire in our hearts!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father God, I thank You for Your love which is already shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit. I desire to deliberately give expression to that love more than ever before. I ask You to expand my own capacity to be filled with Your own undying love and passion for the Christian community that surrounds me. I pray that You would open the eyes of my understanding so I can comprehend how precious they are to You, and as a result, they would become so precious to me. Thank You for the example of Jesus, the apostle Paul, and others, who have gone before me and demonstrated how to love and sacrifice for others. I ask You to forgive me for the times I’ve been selfish and have held back on giving my time and effort to help others. Help me to grow in my personal understanding and acquaintance with Your great love for me, so that I can love others as You have loved me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that God fills me with an undying love and passion for the Christian community. I comprehend how precious they are to God; therefore, they are precious to me. I devote myself to walk in love toward others and to willingly sacrifice for them. I repent for the times I’ve been selfish and have held back from giving my time and effort to help others. I commit from this moment forward to be less selfish and to be more giving, just as God gives Himself to us in the ways we need Him the most.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of anyone who made serious sacrifices for you to be able to advance as you were growing in your Christian faith? Were they extremely patient with you in your younger years? Now isn’t it time for you to do this for someone else?
- To whom much is given, much is required. In what way have you sought to honor that person’s investment into your life and spiritual development?
- What is the greatest sacrifice you’ve ever made for another believer? Who was that believer? What was the result of the sacrifice you made for him or her? How did your sacrifice change him or her? How did your sacrifice change you?