“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (ESV)
The week after Easter, we came to a passage that seemed handpicked for a Mother’s Day message. Now, after spending ten verses walking through what it looks like to live an impactful Christian life, Paul brings us to what seems very fitting for a Father’s Day message. Unfortunately, that’s still 10 weeks away. (Which means I could actually come back to these verses for that column because surely no one will remember we’ve already talked about them, right?)
Honestly though, let’s put this in its full context, so we can better appreciate what is being said here. In verse ten, Paul describes their conduct as holy, righteous, and blameless. This wasn’t because they had somehow achieved perfection. He was talking about their character. They were people who genuinely strove to love God and love people. Last week, we pointed out that this wasn’t a mask of pretension they wore; it was real. And it is in reference to this conduct of Godly love that Paul says they were also acting as… spiritual dads.
I’m a dad, and I have a pretty awesome one. Still yet, Paul isn’t telling us to all be fathers. He’s saying, “Great dads do this for their children, and committed followers of Jesus should want to do this… for everyone.” Do what exactly? Exhort, encourage, and charge.
Exhorting carries the idea of continuously calling to or pointing toward what should be done. What’s awesome here is that there’s an implicit commitment to the truth in this action. We can’t really point to what we don’t know ourselves; so we dive into God’s word, we feast on His guidance, and then we point others to His hope!
Encouraging is a term we’re probably more familiar with. It means lifting someone up or speaking comfort. Why is this on the list? Because we’re not just telling people what to do. We’re acknowledging that the call being exhorted won’t be easy. There’s something beautifully implicit here too — compassion. We should want to come alongside and help. Don’t we see both of these perfectly depicted in the life of Jesus?
The last word in his list kind of combines both sentiments. It’s interesting when you look at how it is translated in English versions of the Bible. You’ll see words like charged, urged, implored, and testified because it carries all these ideas. It’s a serious calling, but the root of the word is the same root as the word “martyr”. It means to testify or cite as a witness. Paul is talking about urging by example. We exhort, and encourage, and urge as we live life together!
This whole picture points to something more than sage on the stage evangelism. John Piper said it’s a picture of a father coming alongside a son and saying: ‘This is the way. Let me show you as I walk with you. It won’t be easy, but I’ve been there… and it’s worth it!’ (Well, that’s at least a loose paraphrase of what he said.) Again, this is a call for us to actually live for Jesus ourselves and then encourage others with our words and our actions to do the same.
So, what are we exhorting, encouraging, and urging toward? A lifestyle. That needs more unpacking, but for now, let’s at least make this observation: what our characters should reflect and what we’re calling people to is a life that honors the God who has saved our souls. It’s not a set of rules or a hidden agenda—it’s who we become because of what He’s done!
Pretty awesome picture.
Until next week, live every day like it’s Christmas! God bless.
Bobby Upchurch is the pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Bonne Terre where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. He is also an English teacher at Farmington High School. Bobby writes a weekly column for the Farmington Press opinion page. – Editor