Jesus Cherishes the ChurchMarch 1, 2017
I want to share with you this month about the deep love Jesus has for His Church — the Body of Christ — and that includes you if you’ve been born again. We’re going to look at Scripture and dig into some word meanings to show you the tender kindness with which Christ views His precious people. I encourage you as you read along to see yourself in these verses.
Let’s get started!
The apostle Paul said in First Thessalonians 2:8, “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.”
In the previous verse, Paul wrote about the need for believers to tenderly care for each other, saying, “…We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (v. 7). Notice the word “cherisheth” — the Greek word thalpo — that he was inspired to write to describe his exact feelings toward the believers in Thessalonica.
Paul used this same word thalpo in Ephesians 5:25-29, so let’s look at those verses to see further how this word carries the idea of gentle care and tenderness. 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, 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! Christ cherishes the Church, and we should cherish the Church, too, committing ourselves to building and strengthening it as the Lord enables us. We all have a part!
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 precious, 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.
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 mercy and grace 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 filled with tenderness for the Church, the apostle Paul was also tender and gentle toward the churches he was charged with ministering to.
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).
Because you were dear to us. 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 further described the love he had in his heart for this church — by writing about what that love looked like expressed in actions and words. 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’d 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 baring his soul. He was showing them the “why” behind all his 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 that Paul 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 “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 give up despite the struggle to overcome the trouble, challenges, and pain 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.
If that isn’t one of your greatest priorities today — to build up Christ’s people, His Church, in the faith — why not ask the Lord to cultivate and develop that desire in your heart? How can Denise and I and our team be praying for you this month? We pray for blessing and favor for our partners every single day, but when you contact us with your specific prayer requests, it helps us know how to set ourselves in agreement with God and His Word and ask Him to meet your need. And we are thrilled to do it!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families