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Your Pastor is Your Fellow Laborer in the Gospel

“Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (1 Thessalonians 3:1–3)

As we move into 1 Thessalonians 3, the Holy Spirit gives us a snapshot of pastors and their responsibility to those who faithfully witness for Christ. Remember the context of the first two chapters. Paul longed to return to Thessalonica. He was carrying a heavy burden for the believers there, knowing their suffering and persecution. However, God had other plans for Paul. Thus, Paul willingly submitted to God. Yet, others could go. Young Timothy was such a one. He was a young pastor who, under Paul’s tutelage, was a great asset to all the churches. Thus, the Holy Spirit sends Timothy in place of Paul.

We find several essential qualities and responsibilities in our text related to pastors. Each is equally important as pastors support those who are determined to be faithful witnesses for Christ.

A Pastor’s Qualities

First, they are God’s ministers. In Greek, the word for ministers is “diakonos.” It is the same word from which we get “deacon.” It means “servant.” A servant, as we know, is someone who does servile work. Two Greek words are often translated as “servant” or “slave” in our English translation. One is the word used here. Another is the word “doulos.” The difference between the two is this. “Diakonos” sees the servant and the master relationship concerning the work that must be accomplished.

Conversely, “doulos” is focused on the servant’s connection to the master and his duty to obey the master. Thus, in our text, pastors are God’s ministers meaning they do God’s work. Specifically, as we will see, pastors are to encourage and support fellow believers in their efforts as witnesses. It is their work and their responsibility to do so. Timothy was sent by the Holy Spirit to minister to the believers of Thessalonica.

Second, they are fellow laborers in the gospel. You will note that exact phrase in verse 2.

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:” (1 Thessalonians 3:2)

A fellow laborer is just that. He is a person who participates in the same activity as others. Thus, each pastor encourages fellow believers to witness for Christ and engages himself personally as a witness. God requires pastors to witness just as He does all believers. In fact, if a pastor is worth his salt, he is a pastor because he already has faithfully served God as a witness. We will talk more about a pastor’s call in a moment. For now, it is essential to know that pastors must work together with others believers advancing God’s Kingdom. Any pastor not so engaged is not doing what God requires. Pastors should never have the attitude that says, “Do as I say and not as I do.” Instead, a pastor’s perspective and conduct should communicate, “Do as God says, and let’s do it together.”

A Pastor’s Responsibilities

These first two points indicate pastoral qualities. The following two focus on a pastor’s responsibilities. Look again at verse 2.

And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:” (1 Thessalonians 3:2)

God sent Timothy to Thessalonica for two primary purposes.

The first was noted by the phrase “to establish you.” In other words, God sent Timothy there to strengthen the believers. He was to help them make fast their determination to be faithful gospel witnesses. Every pastor is responsible for confirming and strengthening each believer’s resolve to be a witness for Christ. Anything short of doing this fails to live up to God’s expectation for every pastor.

The second primary purpose is noted by the phrase “to comfort you concerning your faith.” The connotation of “comfort” is to come to another’s side or come to another’s aid. The two facets of comforting others are support and encouragement. Comforting others begins with noting their hurt and supporting them by being there, ready to spring into action for anything they need. At the same time, comforting others requires encouragement. It is a time to gently remind them of God’s promises. Even though the situation seems dire, we can always find comfort and solace in God’s Word.

In terms of a gospel witness, the Thessalonican believers were under great persecution. God sent Timothy to strengthen their faith and comfort them in the faith. In the same way, it is every pastor’s responsibility to be there for his flock. They were entrusted to him by God to lead, guide, encourage, and comfort. Thus, a good pastor ministers to God’s people. He will join them in their efforts to witness. As he does, he is to support and strengthen with the Word of God. And, in times of difficulty, he reminds them of the promises of God’s Word. It is his duty as God’s undershepherd.

Verse 3 provides the expected end result. When God’s man does what God expects, great things come as a result. Note the outcome.

That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3)

The phrase “should be moved” is interesting. It means to cringe or cower in fear. Thus, fellow believers are encouraged when pastors do their responsibilities as they should. The afflictions and persecutions may come. However, when pastors stand alongside God’s people leading the way as witnesses, God’s people stand firm and do not cower when the world stands against them. They are not “moved” by their afflictions. In fact, pastors become a positive influence helping them to stand. Both pastors and believers must be faithful witnesses of Christ to all we meet. All of us must remember “that we are appointed.” In other words, God chose us, as believers, to be His voice to the world.

 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)



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