1 Thessalonians 2:8
Main point summary
When we yearn with an affectionate longing for those who have become beloved to us, we are able to overflow in joyfully steadfast, sacrificial ministry.
1 Thessalonians 2:8
[Because we were] yearning for you in this way,
οὕτως ὁμειρόμενοι ὑμῶν
we were delightfully resolved to share with you not only the gospel of God,
εὐδοκοῦμεν μεταδοῦναι ὑμῖν οὐ μόνον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ
but also our own souls,
ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχάς,
because you became beloved to us.
διότι ἀγαπητοὶ ἡμῖν ἐγενήθητε.
Reflection All throughout my life, and even when I first became a Christian, I thought that pastors were they guys who stood behind the podium on Sunday mornings and told the people in the pews what the Bible was saying and why it matters. As I started to grow in my understanding of Scripture and as I began to sense a personal desire for the office of overseer, I began reading more about eldership, and my understanding of pastoral ministry had developed quite a bit. However, somewhere inside I still was holding on to that simplistic understanding of the pastor as merely a preacher. Now, I knew that pastors also had to counsel people, answer questions, perform weddings and funerals, and all sorts of other things, but in my mind what really mattered was the sermon on Sunday because this was when the people were gathering to hear from God's word. Therefore, I thought, pastors should probably spend most of their time studying and preparing for the real substance of their ministry, the sermon. I had read 1 Thessalonians before, and I knew this passage. Yet I was blinded to the significance of it until God used a series of life circumstances to make it more clear. I had been a part of a campus ministry in college, and as I was leaning into ministry I was desiring more oversight and mentorship. However, apart from the group of brothers and sisters that I grew close with, this did not come. Perhaps you will note the irony of my thinking in this situation in which I wanted an older ministry leader, who was primarily spending his time studying and preaching, to come alongside and mentor me in order to train me as a ministry leader, who would primarily spend his time studying and preaching, but I digress for the moment. In this time, my understanding of the church was developing as well, and in my final year of college I decided to move my primary commitment from the campus to the church I was attending. "Surely," I thought, "I'll be able to find a mentor in the church." Sure enough, my small group leader ended up becoming one of my closest friends, but from the beginning and to this day I see him as a mentor. I look at the list below describing how Paul gave of himself to the Thessalonians, and I am reminded of my friend who faithfully lived life with me, befriended me, and loved me. You would think that I would have gotten it by now, but you'd be wrong. I wanted to be a pastor, not just a small group leader. His mentorship was good, but I still felt like it was lacking at the time. Eventually I was accepted into a year-long internship program at my church, and I thought that it would finally happen. I would have a pastoral mentor who would teach me how to be a pastor (read: how to study and preach). It was here that God began to show me how wrong I had been. I didn't get that mentor, nor did I get that training. I was left wondering how this ministry thing was ever supposed to work. Then, I began to see it. Or, perhaps, I began to see them. All of the relational, personal, intimate, sacrificial aspects of ministry that I had been subconsciously rejecting came flying off the pages of Scripture, and everywhere I turned, there was another example. I couldn't escape it, and n o where was this more clear to me than in 1 Thessalonians. The entirety of the first chapter is Paul praising the Thessalonians and thanking God for the grace that was given to them. Most of the second chapter explains more explicitly how Paul came to love them, and 2:17–3:1-5 describes how Paul missed them so much that he was willing to send Timothy away in order to find out how they were doing. Finally, in the rest of chapter three Paul expresses more thankfulness for them and prays again that he himself would be able to see them face to face. That is 42 verses in all, and there are only 88 verses in 1 Thessalonians. That means that almost half of this letter is providing us context for Paul's relationship with this church. Now, he certainly says much else of substance in these 42 verses, but he does so by the means of describing his brothers and sisters, the love that is shared between them, and the joy he has in them. What a gift to us, and what an exhortation to us to pursue relationships in the same way so that our ministries might be as steadfast and joyful as Paul's. And as I studied this text with fresh eyes, what I discovered was even more surprising. I think Paul leaves gives us a couple of clues in this passage as to how this ideal comes to be a reality. γινομαι: -A verb with numerous nuances relating to being and manner of being. Its contrast to the more static term εἰμί can be seen in Kaibel 595, 5 οὐκ ἤμην καὶ ἐγενόμην =I was not and then I came to be. (BDAG, 196) -Implies that these Thessalonians were not instantaneously the beloved but that they had become so over the course of Paul's stay with them, suggesting that we should look for clues in the near context as to why this was the case. 1. Paul observed the transformation of the Thessalonians (Ch. 1) -v. 3: work of faith, labor of love, steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ -v. 4: loved by God and chosen -v. 5: gospel received in power and in the Holy Spirit and in full conviction -v. 6: became imitators of Paul and his companions and of the Lord by receiving the word in the midst of affliction with joy -v. 7: they became an example to all the other believers in the area -v. 8: their example of faithfulness is being talked about everywhere -v. 9: they turned to God from idols and hospitable received Paul and his companions -v. 10: they now hope in Christ 2. Paul displayed godly character among them day after day (Ch. 2) -v. 2: persevered in preaching the gospel the midst of conflict -v. 3 & 5: not seeking his own advantage -v. 4 & 6a: seeking to please God and be faithful to him -v. 6b-7: intimate, constant, careful presence in rearing them -v. 9: hard work, labor and toil -v. 10: righteous living -v. 11-12: consistent, loving, wise, God-centered oversight and guidance -So it was Paul's labor among them day by day that actually helped him to love them. His faithfulness to live among them and invest himself in them was the very thing that enabled him to say that they had become beloved to him. This seems to me to be implied in the dynamic sense of the verb γινομαι. This does not seem like it was love at first sight, but a love forged by commitment and constancy. 3. Result ( 2:8 ) When we yearn with an a ffectionate longing for those who have become beloved we are able to overflow in joyfully steadfast, sacrificial ministry . ευδοκεω: a. A resolve or determination based on the goodness and worth of something; to take pleasure or find satisfaction in someth., be well pleased, take delight (BDAG, 404). A similar situation is seen in Luke 12:32 , where Jesus says, "Fear not little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom." Forms of ευδοκεω and διδωμι are used in a complementary infinitive construction both verses. Alongside the description of ευδοκεω in BDAG, this verse in Luke suggests to me a stronger connotation in 1 Thess 2:8 than the ESV's translation "ready" would imply. That God takes pleasure in welcoming us into his kingdom assuages fear much more powerfully than mere "readiness" to give us the kingdom. Here also in 1 Thess. 2:8 there seems to be a deeply-rooted resolve that is overflowing from the pleasure Paul takes in ministering those whom he loves. b. The imperfective aspect of this verb must be emphasized regardless of the choice of tense. This was not a one-time resolution made out of obligation but an ongoing daily decision that was the outpouring of the joy he had in serving those whom he loved. [A note on parsing: the epsilon never lengthens in NT usage for imperfect or aorist tense forms, so here it could be either present or imperfect. It seems better to parse as imperfect because in the context Paul is establishing that they know how he acted when he was previously with them] 4. Go and do likewise. -This conclusion was surprising to me. If I had asked myself the question previously, "How can a life of faithful, joyful ministry be sustained?" My first answer would not have been, "Love the people you are serving." It would have been much more God-centered than that...or at least, what I naturally think about when I try to be God-centered. But Paul is far more God-centered than I would ever naturally think to be. His conclusions remind us of the second commandment that Jesus tells us is like the Great Commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself." And Jesus, the most God-centered person to ever walk the earth, embodied this perfectly when he came not be served but to serve, leaving us an example, just as 1 John 3:16 says, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." And lest we be too quick to justify ourselves like the lawyer, asking who our neighbor is, let us look to the example of Paul here in 1 Thess 2:8, where he joyfully resolved day by day to share the gospel and his very life with all those whom he had come to love in hope that they might repent and turn to Christ. This passage is not just about loving other Christians, and it is about that. But it is also about loving those who are hard to love, those whom we love at great cost to ourselves. Sometimes these are one and the same. Christians can be harder to love than non-Christians sometimes. Our friends, our brothers, our wives and children can be harder to love than people who are not that close to us. So how is a life of faithful, joyful ministry sustained? How is a faithful, joyful friendship sustained? How is a faithful, joyful marriage sustained? We see here in Paul's example that in spite of the great cost, in spite of the difficulty, the hard labor, the tears, the pain...we are sustained, we are fueled for ministry by the love we have for others because if this kind of love is in us, says the apostle John, we come to know that we are abiding in the light (1 John 2:10), that we are children of God (1 John 3:10), that we are of the truth (1 John 3:19), and that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13).