Truth and Love
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Truth and Love

From Series: Belief And Behavior, Volume 1

1 Thessalonians 2:7-12  (ID: 1779)

The Apostle Paul was committed to both the Word of God and the people of God. Because he wanted the church at Thessalonica to be clear about his personal integrity and the intention of his ministry, he was careful to demonstrate his concern for their hearts, as well as the content of the message he preached. Alistair Begg reminds us that our deepest concerns for one another must be centered in upholding the Gospel by living in a manner that is worthy of its message.


Sermon Transcript:

Again I invite you to turn with me to 1 Thessalonians chapter 2.

A prayer together:

“Make the Book live to me, O Lord. Show me Thyself within Thy Word, show me myself and show me my Saviour, and make the Book live to me,”[1] for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

“But what’s he really like?” That’s a question we often ask of individuals. It’s not that we feel that we don’t know them; we know something of them, but we don’t know what they’re really like. How do you find out what a person’s really like?

Well, there are a number of ways in which we can make an attempt at that. We can, of course, spend an amount of personal time with them, provided they’re prepared to take us, as it were, into the inner circle of their thinking. But if we’re not granted that opportunity, one of the best ways of all is to read the correspondence of the individual. I just this week ordered a book which contains the correspondence over a number of years of the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Now, I have read hundreds and hundreds of pages of his biography, but I am so excited to get this book and read his letters. Because in the reading of his letters there is going to be that pulling back, as it were, of the curtain of the man’s heart and soul and mind in a way that perhaps won’t have come out even in the best skill of the biographer.

And to the degree that that is true, it is also true of the letters of the New Testament. And to one degree or another, 1 Thessalonians is uniquely gifted in the sense that it pulls back from our gaze the veil of the apostle Paul and gives to us a slant on the apostle Paul that really doesn’t come out anywhere else in the whole of the New Testament—at least, not to this degree. What is it that moves him as he thinks? What is it that stirs his soul? What is it that massages his heart? Well, we’ve been discovering already in the second chapter something of that, and as we continue tonight, we discover more of it. For those of us who like, as it were, to get beyond the surface, to get behind the scenes, 1 Thessalonians, as far as the apostle Paul is concerned, is as good a place to start as any at all.

Now, in the opening verses of the chapter, we saw that Paul had been concerned to respond to the charge that had been leveled against he and his colleagues in relationship to the whole matter of honesty or integrity. And if you allow your eye to scan back up the text, you will see that he is affirming there very much, very clearly, this matter of their personal integrity.

Now, when we move from the sixth verse into the second half of it and then into verse 7, we discover that he moves from the issue of integrity to the matter of sensitivity. And we have provided for us here one of the most telling pictures of the heart of the apostle Paul that is in all of Holy Scripture. And it contains a tremendous challenge for all and any who would be engaged in pastoral ministry, and it establishes an exceptionally high standard by which to gauge our responsibilities in that vein.

We are confronted by the fact that Paul displays a twofold commitment in these verses before us—not simply these verses; it proceeds from here, but certainly here. And we discover that he displays his commitment first of all to the Word of God and then to the people of God. And this, of course, is an essential element of pastoral ministry. It is impossible to be meaningfully involved in ministering to the people of God without that twofold commitment—a commitment which is first of all to the Word of God and then to the people of God.

It is imperative that truth and love exist side by side.

John Stott, in summarizing this in his own inimitable fashion, says that here we have for us “the two chief characteristics of pastoral ministry”—namely, “truth and love.” And, says Stott, these things are absolutely essential, and “especially in association with each other.”[2] So, for example, we’re not surprised when we read in Ephesians 4 concerning the gifts that have been given to the church—especially that of pastor and teacher—and in verse 15 we read from Paul, he says, “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” And the balance is absolutely essential—this balance between a commitment to truth and a commitment to love.

Some of us, for example, in championing truth and displaying a great concern for truth, may display very little love; while others of us who are committed to embracing love may, in the same regard, show a scant regard for truth. And it is therefore imperative that truth and love exist side by side, as it were—sleep in the same bed, drive in the same car, coexist in the same heart, or manifest in the same family of faith. This, of course, is one of the great benefits of shared ministry in a pastoral team, insofar as you can often find within the team that helpful balance between both of these elements. And indeed, within that framework of mutual accountability there is the opportunity for those who may be tempted in their love to grow soft to be hardened by the reminder of truth, and those who in their commitment to truth may be tempted to grow hard and be thereby softened by the reminder of love. And it is these two wonderful elements which we see in these verses before us.

Now, I’d like to summarize them by considering with you first of all the concern of their hearts, and then the content of their message, and then the conduct of their lives. It is not my intention this evening that this would become a three-part study, and so, let me set myself to the task along with you.

The Concern of Their Hearts

First of all, then, the concern of their hearts. I’m actually working in reverse order here. The concern is expressed in verse 12: “encouraging, comforting and urging you”—to do what?—“to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” What is your great concern, Paul and your colleagues, for the Thessalonian believers? “My great concern, our shared concern,” says Paul, “is that they might live lives worthy of God.” Phillips paraphrases it, “Our only object was to help you to live lives worthy of … God.”

Now, this may seem at first blush as such a very straightforward and simple statement as to almost be unworthy of any further comment. But remember that we must always deal with Scripture in the context in which it is set. And Paul is here responding to news which has reached him of various allegations concerning his motivation in ministry. And in expressing here the great concern which he shares with his brethren for the Thessalonian believers, he is not only saying something positively concerning his desire for them, but he is also distancing himself from the charlatans who were so much a part of the contemporary scene. Because clearly there were those known to the Thessalonians—perhaps even ministering amongst the Thessalonians—who were in the ministry for whatever they could get out of it, in terms of prestige, and more than likely in terms of profit. And Paul has sought to distance himself from these characters in the opening verses of chapter 2, and when he says “I want you to know where the concern of our hearts is; it is that you would live lives worthy of God,” he wants his readers to understand that his interest was not in the ascendency of he and his colleagues in the popularity polls, but it was rather in the maturity of his spiritual children in the things of God.

Now, this is to be the focus of pastoral ministry. Do you want to be a pastor? You want to be an elder in the church? What then should the focus be? It should be this: that those under our care and amongst whom we’ve been given the privilege of ministering should be aware of the fact that our deepest concern for them is that they would “in all things grow up into [Christ]”; that they would understand the Bible, that they would believe the Bible, that they would obey the Bible, and that it would become to them their companion and their guide, and as a result of all of that, that they would go on to spiritual maturity.

In the fourth chapter of Colossians, he says that the great concern of he and others for the Colossian believers is that they might be “mature” and that they might be “fully assured” of their faith.[3] In fact, in that letter to the Colossians, he mentions this wonderful character Epaphras, and he says this of Epaphras: “[Epaphras] works hard for you even here, for he prays constantly and earnestly for you, that you may become mature Christians, and may fulfill God’s will for you. From my own observation I can tell you that he has a real passion for your welfare.”[4] What a tremendous testimony! Colossians 4:12 and following is the section from which I’m quoting. Oh, to have the spirit of Epaphras in relationship to our interest in the lives of one another! “Epaphras works hard for you,” and then he explains the hard work is in constant prayer, earnest prayer, and his prayer is that they might “become mature Christians, and may fulfill God’s will.” How then should we pray for one another? We should pray along the lines of Epaphras: earnestly and constantly, “that you [might] become mature Christians, and may fulfill God’s will.”

Now, let us just notice the phrase again: the great concern is that you might “live lives worthy of God.” What does this mean other than the fact that the concern in pastoral ministry is to see the lives of men and women attached to Jesus Christ—attached to Jesus Christ? It’s very, very important. Not attached to us as individuals, no matter what elements of affection or interest may be established; not attached to Parkside Church as an institution, ultimately, although we’re grateful for the privilege of ministering in the lives of all whom God calls to this place; but seeing men and women attached to Jesus Christ.

In eleven years—or coming on twelve, now, as we move forward—in ministry here, one of the great sadnesses in ministry in any pastoral context is seeing people go: seeing them move south because they’ve been promoted, or moving west, or moving out onto the Eastern Seaboard. It is always with a great sense of reluctance that I shake a hand and bow in prayer with a family or a couple as they come to tell me that the time has come for their departure—and even more so when it would appear that, in the kind of McChurch mentality of our day, there are those who would move away from us because, for whatever reason, something was not being “poured out” in the right quantity or in the right style. And when the pain of that grips a pastor’s heart, the great solution to it is right here—in reminding ourselves of our ultimate calling: to encourage men and women to “live lives worthy of God.” Therefore, we can rejoice wherever they are attached, and to whomsoever they become attached, provided their attachments lead them to the great attachment—to the Lord Jesus himself, who is Head and Lord of the church.

But, you know, that doesn’t come easily in pastoral ministry. If you talk with pastors and they’re honest, they will tell you that that is the case. One of my good friends, laboring a great distance from here, took the opportunity of ministering in a church, and now, within a matter of two or three years, the previous pastor has come back into town. He hasn’t come back to work in business or in a Christian school, but he has come back in to serve in a church—not one of the existing churches, but to serve in a new church; to serve in a new church which he has determined he will plant very close to the site of his old church. And so my friend stood to minister the Word of God some months ago now on a Sunday morning and noticed that somehow or another he was absent some two or three hundred members of his normal congregation—only to discover that this gentleman had come back into town and reestablished a work and taken three hundred members of the church with him on the first Sunday morning.

The concern in pastoral ministry is to see the lives of men and women attached to Jesus Christ.

Now, you’ve got to be possessed of a great spirit of… something to be able to absorb that. And as I shared with my colleague, and as I listened to him recount these events, and as I entered into something of his struggle, I tried to remind him of what I’ve tried to remind myself and others of: that if the ultimate focus in pastoral ministry, if the ultimate concern, is to see you dear ones walking worthy of the calling of God; if that really is, core-level, the commitment—not to establish an empire, not to be well thought of, not to have big numbers, not to have significance—if that really is the issue, then irrespective of the pain or the disappointment, we will still be able to rejoice in seeing people attached to Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist is for me the best illustration of this, when in John chapter 3 his disciples come to him and give him the news that this Galilean carpenter who is on the other side of the river and up the street is beginning to have a tremendous success in his ministry. And “they came to John,” in John 3:26, “and [they] said to him, ‘Rabbi, [the] man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he[’s] baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’”

“John, business is falling off! Things are not going the way they were going.” And “to this John replied, ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, “I[’m] not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.” The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend [or the best man] who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and … is now complete. He must become greater; [and] I must become less.’”

And God knows how much in pastoral ministry we need to be taught that lesson, and he will continue to teach it to us again and again and again and again, and all the way to heaven, for surely the truth will never finally dawn. The best man is the best man; he’s not the bridegroom. And you’re allowed to get excited, but you’re only allowed to get excited for the bridegroom. You’re not allowed to get excited about the bride, except that she’s going to belong to the bridegroom. And in the same way, our great excitement is to see men and women attached to Jesus Christ. Because, you see, when we get to heaven, we’ll all going to be attached all over again. So it would be a dreadful shame to assume that a preoccupation with ecclesiastical attachment became the issue of our ministry.

“My great concern, our great concern,” he says, “is that you, our spiritual children, would be living progressively and effectively in the realm of God’s rule—that is, his kingdom—and in the light of his glory.” Meaning simply that we should act in keeping with our calling; we have by grace been made kids of the kingdom, and we should therefore live as such.

The Content of Their Message

Well then, let us look secondly at the content of their message, if that was the concern of their hearts. The content of their message is stated twice in verse 8 and then again in verse 9: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well”—“the gospel of God.” Verse 9, at the end: “while we preached the gospel of God to you.”

Notice that it was by their life and by their doctrine that they declared their love for them. They did not burden them by seeking their financial support, and they did bless them by sharing the gospel with them. That is the nature of verse 9: “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and [our] hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone.”

Now, in most of the considerations that I have heard of these verses—and I understand why—the line of thinking goes like this: “You’ll notice that they did not just share the gospel, but they also shared their lives.” Okay? And then the whole drift of the Bible study goes on to the nature of what it means to share our lives. Which is fine! But inevitably what happens is, there is some kind of tacit assumption about the fact that they are actually sharing the gospel. And there are unique circumstances here in relationship to this apostolic ministry which are not part and parcel of normal pastoral ministry on our day, whereby, as a result of the generosity of God’s people, we are sustained in order that we might share the gospel of God. And I am not in any sense diminishing the nature of sharing our lives with one another, but I want you to notice that the way in which Paul expresses that is not about cups of coffee, and it’s not about hanging out at Wendy’s, which is the way that Bible studies usually go: “Oh, if you would share your life with us, then you would do this and this and this and this. But all you want to do is share the gospel with us.”

That’s not the drift. The drift is, “Our preoccupation was in sharing the gospel, and in order to share the gospel, we worked so that you wouldn’t be deprived of finance. But our objective in the sharing of our lives was subservient to the sharing of the gospel.” For it is perfectly possible in pastoral ministry to be well thought of in relationship to the expectations of the people of God and yet to fail to do the very thing which is the absolute essential in pastoral ministry—namely, to share the gospel of God.

Now, I wonder, are you following with me? You see, because in terms of the expectations of people—and I’ll speak as straightforwardly as I can in these moments, and I hope in no sense self-servingly, although you will have to judge that—how do we know that our pastors love us? Okay? Because we know that pastors are supposed to love their people. So how do we know that our pastors love us?

It is perfectly possible in pastoral ministry to be well thought of in relationship to the expectations of the people of God and yet to fail to do the very thing which is the absolute essential—namely, to share the gospel of God.

Now, the answer, you see, is a bit like Gary Chapman’s “love languages” story here. You remember Chapman came into town and did his love languages thing? And the story of the husband and wife who come to the counselor, and the wife says, “I don’t think by husband loves me,” and he says, “You’ve gotta be out of your mind! I’ve brought you flowers every Friday afternoon for fifteen years.” And she says, “Yes, but that doesn’t communicate your love to me.” And he says, “Well, funnily enough, I don’t really think you love me either.” And she says, “You’ve gotta be out of your mind! I’ve made your breakfast for you for the last twenty years.” And he says, “Yeah, but that isn’t really the kind of communication of love for which I’m looking.” And so, says Chapman, we’ve got to find a language of communication whereby they’re both giving and receiving love. It’s an interesting little thought, and I think you probably found it helpful, as I did when I encountered it the first time in Colorado Springs some years ago when I was sharing a conference with him there.

But here’s the issue: it struck me that unless you articulate clearly to your congregation what’s going on in terms of what you’re doing as a pastor, they may be responding to you with a different kind of love language. Okay? It goes like this: “Alistair, I would like you to come to my home for dinner. Indeed, if you don’t come to my home for dinner, I want you to know, I’m not joining the church.” Okay? That doesn’t sound like and invitation; that sounds like an ultimatum to me. Or, “Pastor Stokke, we would like you to do this,” or “Pastor Owen, we would like you to do that,” or “Pastor Brandolini, we’d like you to do that. And to the degree that you’re prepared to do this, and do it with consistency, and do it when we want you to, then we know that you love us.” And everybody’s got their own language of expectation as to how they can find out whether their pastors love them.

I don’t want to overstate this, but I do want to state it: the day that you’ll discover that I don’t love you anymore is the day that I stop studying my Bible to come and preach it to you. That’s the day you can assume I don’t love you anymore. Now, you can assume that I don’t love you because I didn’t meet one of your expectations, and that’s alright and I understand that. But let me tell it to you now, here: “We loved you so much we were delighted to share with you the gospel of God”—not only the gospel, but our lives as well. But it was in the sharing of the gospel that they communicated their love. And the content of the message and the faithfulness of the task was absolutely foundational.

Now, how was this gospel communicated? Down at the end of verse 9, you see: “while we preached the gospel of God to you.” The word denotes here the action of a herald. And a herald proclaims what is given him to say. The herald’s responsibility was not to make stuff up, nor was it to respond to the needs of those around him, nor was it to tell jokes, nor was it to make people feel good. But it was to stand up, speak up, and shut up. And he did not originate the message; he received the message, and he passed it on. And that’s exactly what Paul and the others were doing. He said, “We didn’t want to be a burden to you. That’s why we worked, so as not to reduce your cash flow. And we worked so that we could preach to you the gospel of God.”

The gospel preacher is not at liberty to substitute his view of the need of the moment for the God-given message of the cross. And how we need young men in the ministry in our day to understand this! It’s when a man understands that he is a herald that you will find an urgency in his message. If he doesn’t understand that he is a herald, or if he thinks that he has a responsibility to impress or to woo or to warm or to stir or to tickle or to cozy, then every week he’ll spend all his time saying to himself, “Oh, I wonder how I can meet this need, I wonder how I can deal with this, I wonder how I can put that to rights?” That’s a dreadful tyranny. I wouldn’t like that job. But the responsibility of the herald is to go into the throne room of the king, to receive the message from the king, to come out into the streets, and to say what the king has said. You see, then the people can get a spirit of expectation, and then the preacher can get a spirit of authority.

And yet, sadly, so much that passes for preaching, if I may say so as graciously as I can, is nothing other than well-meaning souls rehearsing information—at best, rehearsing information. Why, just this week I’ve been listening to a tape of a gentleman who shall remain nameless, and he does not pay but scant attention to the Word of God and spends a solid thirty-five minutes recounting dreams that he has had over the last seven months of his life—some of the most bizarre and farfetched material that one’s ears have ever encountered. And my heart grieved for his listening congregation. And if I have the chance ever to speak with him, as I hope I might, I’d say, “Hey buddy, you’re a herald, not a dreamer. Be a herald. Then your congregation will grow in confidence, because they will know what the content of the message is, and they’ll be able to determine whether you’re sticking with the message—whether you’re fulfilling the part of a herald or whether you’re just becoming a charlatan, like others.”

“Oh, well,” you say, “but you’re not an apostle.” No, we’re not apostles. But the teaching of the apostle has been preserved for us and bequeathed to us in the Bible, and it is this Bible now to which we turn. We’re to read it, keep it, study it, expound it, apply it, and obey it. John Stott, again, he says, “Every authentic Christian ministry begins here, with the conviction that we have been called to handle God’s Word as its guardians and heralds. We must not be satisfied with ‘rumors of God’ as a substitute for ‘good news from God.’”[5]

The Conduct of Their Lives

So, we have the concern of their hearts, we have the content of their message—leave it at that, because it is somewhat repetitive in relationship to some previous studies in the morning from Corinthians—and then finally, we come to the concern of their hearts which they display.

How concerned were Paul and his colleagues for these people? The answer is, they were very concerned, and their concern is displayed in the metaphors which he employs. He isn’t simply, here, a herald or a guardian, but he is also, he says, like a mother. Verse 7: “We were gentle among you.” How gentle? Well, gentle “like a mother caring for her little children.”

It’s quite a picture, isn’t it? I’m not sure I’d be so fast to use that picture, especially if you want to be, you know, a tough guy. And Paul was a pretty tough guy, I think. He had to be! He couldn’t have taken all these beatings and hammerings and everything and still be standing up—albeit enabled by the Spirit of God. But he was a tough guy. And yet he says, “You know, as apostles of Christ, we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you.”

The gospel preacher is not at liberty to substitute his view of the need of the moment for the God-given message of the cross.

“Gentle.” You see a mother with her little one; it’s a wonderful thing. From the very first moments of birth, it is an incredible attachment between a mother and a child. I think especially in the early days there is an attachment there to which the father is simply an observer. And all the child psychologists can correct me if I’m wrong, but in my observation—and you don’t have to be a genius to work it out—there are certain prerequisites with which the mother is availed to which the father can only observe. And there is an obvious attachment there. You getting the picture now? I’m trying to say it as kindly and as sort of nicely as I can, but there is an attachment there.

And there is a gentleness there. And that’s why sometimes in the postnatal wards the mother cringes at the way in which the pediatrician picks the child up. I can remember in the early days of our first child going back to the pediatrician over a six-month period, and the way in which this man, Dr. White, picked this kid up was unbelievable. I mean, with every promontory of his body he picked him up and spun him around, and I could see my wife cringing at the way that he grabbed him. And it wasn’t helped by the fact that three times out of four he would bundle the thing up, give it to the nurse who was with him, and say, “She’s doing absolutely fine.” It doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in you.

And certainly, the mother was glad to have him back: “Come here. I’ll look after you. I’ll be gentle with you in a way that no one else would be.” A mother comes down to the level of their child. A mother uses the language of their child, whatever that secret language is. A mother spends many of her days playing infantile games with her children that a father only comes back and has a few minutes of patience for at the end of the day as he stumbles over all these bricks and toys and bicycles and contraptions of all manner of things—and thinks he’s done a great service if he manages to put in fifteen minutes! And he doesn’t realize that the mother has been down here in gentleness for most of the day.

Well, you see, then, it is imperative that, as opportunity presents itself, as we have the privilege of interacting in our lives with one another, that in the processes of birth and death, and living and dying, and pain and discovery, and joy and in sorrow, in marriage, and in all these other things, that we would be able to express that kind of gentleness. I tell people all the time, I’m so glad of the colleagues that God has brought around me here and continues to bring around me—guys who are far better at every other thing. And I tell people with regularity, I do know a little of what I’m supposed to do in teaching, in marrying, in burying, in baptizing, and in dedicating. And after that, and even in the midst of that, it gets thin real fast.

But I can guarantee you, you’ll know I love you if you give me the privilege—I was going to say “of marrying you”—of sharing with you in those elements of pastoral life. But don’t gauge our love for you on the basis of self-expectations, in the midst of literally thousands of people who regard themselves as somehow attached to Parkside Church. It is not humanly possible to meet those expectations.

Gentleness of a mom. The affection of a mom. Moms’ affection for wee ones is quite remarkable. I don’t need to say much concerning that, except perhaps to say, don’t let’s mistake style for substance. The way in which affection is displayed may be as simple as the squeeze of a hand, the glance of an eye, a simple word, a small note, a little encouragement. But it needs to be there, it has to be there. And also that a mother will display that gentle love also in self-sacrifice. And Paul says, “We cared for you, like a mother cares for her little children. We were gentle, we were affectionate, we were sacrificial. We weren’t a burden to you. Instead, we eased burdens for you.”

Every child knows the sacrifice of a mom. Because it’s always at the dumb times that we remember that we needed those certain things, instantaneously:

“Oh! I’m supposed to take a such-and-such.”

“When?”

“Now!”

And then the mother has to go and pull out the ironing board and do one of those great deals. It’s always, like, eleven-fifteen, just as they’re falling asleep: “I need to have my such-and-such in the morning.”

“Okay, we… fine, fine.”

And I have the most profound—as you do—recollections of the sacrificial love of my mother. I can remember her purchasing clothes for me, which I know she purchased at her own expense in terms of her own personal wardrobe. She never told me that, but it was easy to see. That kind of sacrifice doesn’t come with a banner, you know? It is better felt than telt.

The concern of their hearts is displayed in their mothering of them, and secondly and finally, in their fathering of them. Verse 11: “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children.”

“If you, being earthly, know how to give good gifts to your children…”[6] Every earthly father knows what it is to enjoy giving things to his children. Every earthly father knows the responsibility of putting constraints upon his children. Every earthly father understands the need to see his children established in body and mind and in spirit. And every earthly father needs to recognize that he has a responsibility to live both by example as well as by instruction.

And Paul is able to say in verse 10, “You are witnesses, and so is God, of these three things: we were holy, righteous, and blameless among you.” What a tremendous, challenging trilogy! “We were holy, in terms of our relationship with God. We were righteous, in terms of our dealings with other people. And we were blameless, in terms of the observation of the watching world.” It’s quite a platform for fatherhood, wouldn’t you say?

“And then,” he says, “in the process of being a father to you in the faith, in the training that we gave you and in the instruction we provided—some of it would be formal, and some of it would be informal; some of it would be ‘Now, let’s talk about this,’ and others of it would just be observed in the process of life. The way a young man walks is largely the way his father walks. The way he talks is largely the way his father talks.” And so he says in verse 12, “As a father deals with his own children, you would recognize that there was within our experience in dealing with you the great element of encouraging and of comforting and of urging.”

Again, it’s an awful tremendous challenge, isn’t it, both in physical terms in relationship to the responsibilities of earthly parenting, and then beyond that the whole issue of spiritual parenting and pastoral care? Because, again, the great propensity for many of us is rather than encouraging, to be goading; rather than comforting, to be annoying and aggravating; rather than urging in a kind of compassionate urging, to be cajoling and reprimanding and being down on them. And we see ourselves in the antithesis of these things. At least, I certainly do.

Paul, then, expresses his care and the care of his colleagues in a rare combination of the role of a mother and of a father.

Truth is hard if it is not softened by love, and love is soft if it is not hardened by truth.

Let me finish with another illustration from Charles Simeon. This is Charles Simeon Month, so designated by me. I just have quoted him a few times.

Charles Simeon was the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge. He was the vicar there for fifty-four years in the first half of the nineteenth century. And an American bishop twice visited Simeon in his old age, and he wrote these words of Simeon, which I find to be of tremendous challenge. This is what he said of Simeon as an old man: “The sweet, affectionate expressions of his face, and the welcoming tone of his voice, united with the great softness and childlike simplicity of his manners, instantly made me feel as if I [were] in the presence of a [caring] father.”[7] “And Simeon himself, preferring rather to commend truth and goodness than to castigate error and evil, used to [urge and] beg [of] younger clergy” who were under his care—he would say to them frequently—“‘be gentle among your people’ as a mother with her family.”[8]

That is a wonderful standard to set. That is a biblical example to follow. That is a hard thing to do.

Truth is hard if it is not softened by love, and love is soft if it is not hardened by truth. So if truth and love are the hallmarks of genuine pastoral care, then let us pray together that God would fill all of us concerned with the fullness of his Spirit, that we may, as time goes by and as we begin to progress and “grow in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ,”[9] more closely approximate to the pattern and standard of this book than to the current circumstances in many of our lives.


[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me.”

[2] John Stott, The Message of Thessalonians, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity, 1991), 70.

[3] Colossians 4:12 (NIV 1984).

[4] Colossians 4:12 (PHILLIPS).

[5] Stott, Thessalonians, 68.

[6] Matthew 7:11 (paraphrased).

[7] Charles Pettit McIlvaine, Memorials of the Right Reverend Charles Pettit McIlvaine, ed. Rev. William Carus (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1882), 55.

[8] Stott, Thessalonians, 70.

[9] 2 Peter 3:18 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2019, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.