Paul the Apostle as Pastor

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2010 »Volume 47 2010 Number 1 »Paul The Apostle As Pastor

Michael Chung


The Apostle Paul has been studied as an evangelist and theologian but little work has been done in the area of his method of pastoring. There have been many that base discipleship methods on the work of Jesus Christ but there are fewer works that deal with the Apostle Paul. Missions’ necessary follow-up is an effective discipleship process. Paul clearly has a strategy of pastoring so they too can carry out the work of spreading the gospel all over the world.


One of the first works that studied how Paul helped his disciples grow was Ernest Best’s Paul and His Converts (1988).1  According to Best, of the three major areas of Paul’s work—pioneer missionary, theologian, and pastor—it is his role as pastor that has received the least attention.2            He begins by stating that Paul’s aim as a pastor was to see his converts grow (see 1 Thess 3:2, 10; 5:11).3  How?  Paul helps his converts grow through relationships.  The area that Best focuses on is how Paul portrays himself among his disciples, using different models to depict his relationship with his converts—reciprocal, superior/inferior.

Best writes that a “superior/inferior relation might suggest an authoritarian relation but it need not [be] if its governing power is love.”5  One expression of the superior/inferior role is that of parent, father more than mother.6  As a good parent, Paul’s task was to bring his children to grow up into mature adults.7  Paul used commands to help them obey and grow in maturity,8 and instilled in his converts instruction in the Christian life and belief that set them apart from their old life.9  Best writes, “They formed a new community and each had a place within it as a member of the Body of Christ.  In that way Paul provided them both with a base from which they could grow and a framework within which growth would take place.”10  He was the parent and teacher to this community and his converts looked to him as a model.  Best writes, “Paul’s converts should find it natural to imitate him.  They would look on him as their father and teacher, and model for Christian conduct.”11

Best then proceeds briefly through 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Philippians and concludes that Paul does want to be their example but with limitations.12  He never asks them to become full-time vocational missionaries, or to follow him as Jesus asked, or expects them to have the same ‘visionary’ life that he has, or call the married to be celibate as himself.  Paul emphasizes his character, work, gospel message, and dedication to Christ.13

One question that arises:  Was Paul arrogant in asking his converts to imitate him?14  Best writes that Paul believed he imitated Christ and that the call to imitation was not just a call to imitate him but others who imitated Christ, like Silvanus and Timothy and Apollos (see 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 3:7-9; 1 Cor 4:6).15

Best then goes on to discuss Paul’s authority over the churches:16  “Paul saw his authority as deriving from the Old Testament, from what was accepted in society, from the teaching of Jesus, from the tradition of the church; all of which had to be adapted to new situations.”17  Best is different from writers like Castelli, who sees Paul trying to control his disciples, but argues that Paul is exercising his authority as essential for preventing the churches he founded from falling apart, making Paul’s goal one of growth and care rather than control and power.

Best does not feel an authoritarian model is crucial for the modern church.18  Paul’s era was not a democratic one as those in the west today so we should not always consider Paul and today’s situation in terms of equal relationship.  But Paul was not entirely authoritarian, either.

After discussing money19 and Paul’s defense of his converts against opponents,20 Best turns to the second model which guided Paul’s relationships with his converts:  the reciprocal.21  Paul was not just parent and leader, giving and not receiving; he was also part of a mutually beneficial relationship, having interchanges that he gained from Philemon and others refreshing/comforting him.22  He was a partner with Philemon and the Philippians, not just an authority figure.  Paul was in fellowship with others as well as receiving prayer from them.23  So Paul was not just giving to other believers, he also received.

Paul also used the term ‘brothers’ often, indicating that he and the believers were on an equal level,24 and he even tried to portray himself as inferior by referring to himself as a slave and a servant.25  So Best brings a balanced view of how Paul portrayed himself among his converts.  At times, Best acknowledges that Paul had a position of superiority as the converts’ parent and as the leader of the churches he founded but also portrayed himself as equal with them, receiving benefit from them, not just Paul benefiting his converts.

This work will attempt to build on Best the principles of Paul’s method of impartation, how he helped his converts grow, and how it applies today.  We will analyze more his concept of how a mentor helps people grow, and therefore shedding light on Paul’s pastoral theological application of his concept of growth to help his converts mature.  We will now look at Paul’s 1 Thessalonians.


I will label Paul’s method of discipling converts as impartation, based on the Greek verb, metadidomi, to impart.  1 Thessalonians 2:8 reads, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”  This article seeks to explore how Paul shares himself with his converts.  Paul also writes in Romans 1:11:  “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.”  Here, Paul is visiting a church that has already been founded and has already had the gospel preached to them.  Paul is likely thinking of strengthening them so that they will be more effective in their own preaching of the gospel and their Christian faith.

What is the New Testament usage of metadidomi?

Liddell-Scott-Jones-McKenzie lexicon writes that metadidomi means to give part of, give a share.26  Robert Jewett writes, 

The basic meaning of μεταδίδωμι is “give part of, give a share . . . Michel, 82, refers to the collaborative nature of this communication, referring to the parallel in the use ofμεταδίδωμι  in 1 Thess 2:8.  The translation “impart to you” . . . implies a one-way form of authoritative communication that Paul avoids here.27

Hoehner writes that metadidomi means

“to give part of, to give a share,” as Greek cities shared in the use of a temple or shared in the benefits of the constitution.  It can also mean “to communicate,” which is the sharing of information.  This word is used seven times in the LXX (only twice in the canonical books) meaning “to impart” (Job 31:17; Prov 11:26; Wis 7:13; 2 Macc 1:35; Bar 6:27) or “to communicate” (Tob 7:10; 2 Macc 8:12).  In the NT the word appears five times . . . It can be used of sharing spiritual things, as when Paul shared a spiritual gift to strengthen the Romans (Rom 1:11) or of sharing the gospel (1 Thess 2:8).28

In all the uses, metadidomi has an aspect of giving or sharing something with someone else.  On its usage in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Rigaux states that the sharing was to give, preserving a share for oneself.29  Rigaux stops the explanation there so we are left to interpret whether or not this was a deep sharing or something not so vigorous.

Luke 3:11 uses metadidomi for sharing material possessions.  In Romans 12:8, it is used with someone who has the gift of giving.30  Ephesians 4:28 also conveys sharing material possessions.

So we have seen from the New Testament that the most dominant foundational meaning of metadidomi is for one entity to share something with another.  Moreover, it is also used for one entity to impart to another with the goal that the receiving entity be benefited or blessed by the other.  Hence, when Paul uses metadidomi in Romans 1:11 and 1 Thessalonians 2:8, it is for the purpose of developing his converts, helping them grow.  We will now explore more closely his method of impartation.

Multiple Mentors

Paul did not see himself as the only contributor to the development of his disciples; others were also involved:  “We were well-pleased to impart” (1 Thess 2:8).  The letter to the Thessalonians has the names of Timothy and Silvanus along with Paul as those giving greetings to the converts.31  Looking at the pericope of 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, the personal pronoun humeis (you), occurs eleven times.  This would show that Paul was not just an individual in his work of care but he realized that the impartation process was more effective in working along with others.  The apostle Paul often ministered with

others and was seldom alone.  Acts reports numerous occasions when Paul served with others.  In the undisputed letters, only Galatians and Romans do not list another associate in the opening greeting.32  The endings of Paul’s letters also are filled with those with whom he associated.  In Romans 16,33 Paul associates himself with Phoebe who is a deacon and a great help to him while Priscilla and Aquila are referred to as “co-workers” in the ministry of Christ Jesus.  Mary is credited with working hard for the benefit of the Roman believers.  Urbanus is also referred to as a co-worker in Christ.  The language found in Romans 16 goes on to describe many more who work and labor in the Lord.  This illustrates the principle that impartation is more effective when shared with others rather than in isolation. 

It is clear from the passage and other parts of the Pauline corpus that Paul was not an individualist but valued others working with him in the missionary effort.  He also realized that the process of discipleship involved more than just one person forming another, but that others also had a significant place in the formation process.  Discipling where mentors are too possessive of their protégés and view them as off limits to other potential mentors is not what Paul modeled; Paul modeled ministry with others and having others share in the spiritual care of protégés. 


Arguably the most emphasized aspect in the present-day practice of mentoring is the transferring of knowledge from one to another.  For Paul, impartation is more than teaching, but teaching was indispensable in the process.  The essence of Paul’s teaching consisted of understanding the new faith and how to live in a way that pleases God.  The first teaching to the Thessalonians was an impartation of the gospel message.34  In 2:8 Paul writes, “We were well pleased to impart to you . . . the Gospel of God.”  The core to the gospel is the meaning of God’s redeeming work in Christ Jesus.35  After receiving the gospel and accepting it (1:5-7) the Thessalonians entered a new life and needed to learn how to function in it.  Paul proceeds from imparting the Gospel to other aspects of Christian living.  In 2:1-12 Paul describes his ministry experiences and gives them a model to follow; 3:3-4 talks about continual suffering for their faith;36 4:1-12 focuses on living to please God through sexual purity, love of fellow believers and hard work; 4:13-5:11 reinforces eschatological issues and answers their questions; in 5:12-19 Paul continues his discussion on ethics and the Christian life.  Throughout his letters, Paul is teaching his disciples (4:2).37  One could argue that the central motivation of Paul’s letter writing would be to teach content to those to whom he wrote.  However, all of his letters deal with aspects of the Christian faith and Christian behavior that are meant for the formation of his disciples.        

Relational Dimension:  Sharing Life

Paul’s involvement with his disciples was more than just teaching.  Paul lived his life with his disciples so that they understood what Paul experienced in daily life.  1 Thessalonians 2:8 reads:  “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

How one understands the use of life/lives in this context will aid in understanding the intensity of the sharing.  The term can mean life, breath, the soul or one’s inner life.38  Many understand it to mean the inner life of the missionaries.39  The context communicates a sense that alongside preaching, there was an open-handed outpouring of their deepest self, their inner life.  This giving of their souls symbolizes the peak of their giving. 

The familial metaphors of mother and father also add to the sharing of life as an intense giving of one’s self.  The deep affection expressed in the pericope of 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 and the familial metaphors used to describe the relationship with the Thessalonians point to a deep commitment where the missionaries give of themselves in a loving union to their converts much like parents give to their children.  They shared their lives by experiencing the daily routine of life together as well as teaching them how to live.  Indeed, Paul’s attitude here shows his awareness that people learn more profoundly from the example of others than from verbal teaching alone.

1 Thessalonians gives us an idea of the nature of the life that was shared with Paul’s disciples.  In 2:1-6 Paul describes how his converts knew of the trials he and his associates had faced in Philippi and how the converts knew their motive to preach the Gospel to them was to glorify God and not themselves.  In 2:9 Paul reminds them of the missionaries’ hard work while at Thessalonica so that they could preach to them and not burden them with their needs.40  The converts have a model of how to work, and remember their visit with joy (3:6) implying that they are able to spend time getting to know one another in such a way as to produce affection in their hearts.  These instances clearly point to an involvement outside just teaching.  The missionaries created a milieu for the disciples to observe the missionaries’ lives.


Because Paul shared his life with the converts, the converts in turn could witness how Paul lived (2:10) and follow the pattern of his life.  Fowl expresses the essence of this section:

 New converts cannot be expected to have mastered the demands of their new faith and the practices needed to live in accord with these demands in their day-to-day lives.  Such converts will need both instruction in their new faith and concrete examples of how to embody their faith in the various contexts in which    they find themselves.  We can understand this if we think in terms of the ways in which it is essential for an apprentice to imitate a master of a particular craft. . . No amount of abstract verbal instruction can bring about mastery of a craft without the concrete example of a master to imitate.41

Imitation here will be discussed in light of the relational dimension of impartation.  James Samra lists imitation as one of the components of the maturation process.42  I am in agreement with Samra that imitating a more mature individual will aid in the Christian formation process.43

Imitation is a theme found in a number of Paul’s letters.44  Though mimètès and its cognates only appear eleven times in the New Testament, the concept of imitation or example is not uncommon in the New Testament (see 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Eph 5:1; Phil 3:17; 1 Thess 1:6; 2:14; 2 Thess 3:7; Heb 6:12; 13:7; 3 Jn 1:11).  Paul encourages his Corinthian converts in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to pattern their lives after him as he patterns it after Christ.  Though Paul is not as specific in 1 Thessalonians, it is clear that Paul is among his disciples so that they can witness his life (2:10).  They can see his actions and model them.  It is not for them to follow Paul’s every action and become his clone but to observe the noteworthy aspects of his life and to live in that way.45 

This concept is also present in modern psychology.  Albert Bandura writes:  “The people with whom one regularly associates, either through preference or imposition, delimit the behavioral patterns that will be repeatedly observed, and hence learned most thoroughly...”46  Bandura goes on to write:  “People can acquire abstract principles but remain in a quandary about how to implement them if they have not had the benefit of illustrative exemplars.”47  Oman and Thoresen write:

Throughout history, religious traditions have emphasized the importance of keeping company with good or holy persons, arguing that people tend to become more like persons with whom they associate.  Religious devotees are especially urged to be with wise and holy persons, with saints and sages in the hope of absorbing in some small measure the exemplary characteristics of such persons.48

The company one keeps influences one’s life.  Sharing life involves being deeply involved with the disciples’ life, like that of a parent giving his/her life for a child, and having an involvement that allows one to observe one’s life and model it.  This is a crucial aspect in impartation.

There is much language in 1 Thessalonians of Paul being with the Thessalonian converts.  Paul writes that the converts know of his concern for them by the way he lived among them when he was with them (1:5).  As a result of them imitating Paul and Christ, they could be examples to others (1:7-10).  Paul shares not just the word but his own life (2:8), and reminds the converts that he and his associates worked hard among them, night and day (2:9) so that they could witness Paul’s life (2:10).  Paul uses familial imagery to describe his relationship with the converts (2:7-12), and his time among the converts leaves such strong emotions that his separation from the converts makes him feel desirous to see them again (2:17).  Paul reminds them that while he was with them, he warned them (3:4).  So Paul affirms the relational dimension of impartation and gives his converts the opportunity to live life with him and see his life.   

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14, imitation has aspects of a continued faith in the midst of suffering, receiving the word of God with joy of the Holy Spirit, a lifestyle that is worthy of God characterized by displaying the traits of faith, hope and love.

It was these traits, and others not mentioned, that the converts needed to add to their lives.  It was a matter not just of mimicking specific actions, but of reflecting deeper patterns of life and attitude.  Paul was a part of his converts’ lives enough for them to observe his life and was a good model for them to follow.

Affective Dimension:  Love/Caring, a Crucial Aspect of Mentoring

For Paul, this affective dimension was a priority.  Love/care is crucial.  Caring must be accompanied with love or it is not genuine caring; 1 Thessalonians 2:8 (“because you have become very dear to us”) communicates the reason why Paul and his associates want to care for the converts.  Marshall writes:

The language is that of love in which a lover wants to share his life with the beloved in an act of self-giving and union, rather than the language of self-sacrifice. The last clause in the verse confirms this interpretation. Paul and his colleagues felt deeply involved with their converts and spoke in terms of love for them; something of the love which they believed God had for the Thessalonians (1:4) was channeled through them.49

For Paul to have a true impact, he must be effective in the affective dimension of impartation.  Paul clarifies his statement of himself in the language of love:  when he begins to preach, the converts become as treasured (beloved) to him as a child to a nurturing mother.  Making a disciple grow requires love; disciples cannot be made by simply placing them in a specific program or going over certain doctrines.  Love must accompany those who make disciples. 

In one aspect, the missionaries’ message was brave and dynamic; in another aspect, their dealings were distinguished by tenderness and concern, driven by love.  No matter how Paul views his relationships with people, he always considers that his motivation is out of love for his disciples.50  From the letters of Paul, a “failure in love” is not something that is characteristic of his practice of direction.  On the contrary, love is the essence of everything Paul does for his converts.  Paul loves his disciples, which motivates his caring for them. 

Paul’s first act of caring for his disciples is not to burden them with the responsibility of supporting him for his living expenses; looking into 1 Thessalonians 2:6-7 (“though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.  But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children.”), we see Paul could have asked them to support him.  With apostleship apparently come privileges.  Because of this apostleship, Paul and his companions possess a higher status in the church but feel it necessary not to exploit it.  They do not want the Thessalonians to view them as expecting preferential treatment because they are considered apostles.  In the society as a whole, there is no inherent status of being an “apostle” of Christ, but among the new converts to Christianity they are looked upon as respected figures.  This is not to state that Paul is not privileged by his converts, but it means that he and his associates do not insist upon preferential treatment.  As Paul indicates in the next verses, they receive the respect of the Thessalonians by their manner of life while among them.51

It was not an uncommon practice for those traveling around to receive payment and special treatment for their services, but Paul and his fellow missionaries had a different agenda:  they wanted to form the Thessalonians spiritually, and part of that formation process was to model humility as Christ did.52  They had reason to ask for monetary assistance from the converts in exchange for their service; instead, they chose to request nothing.  Their sustenance came first and foremost from working day and night, supplemented by an irregular gift from Philippi.  Marshall writes,

Their refusal to seek honor took place despite the fact that they had a legitimate right to it.  The Greek phrase is literally ‘being able to be a weight (en barei).’  The construction, which is paralleled in 1 Tim. 2:2, refers metaphorically to the way in which missionaries could have made use of a position of ‘weight’ or influence.  In virtue of their position they could have stood on their dignity (cf. how Paul’s opponents in 2 Cor 10:10 accused him of writing weighty letters) and hand-ed out commands in the church.53

They did not take support because of their care for their converts, much like a parent caring for their children.  Paul is trying to communicate the fact that the attitude of the missionaries is that of loving and caring for the Thessalonians. 

Equality-Inequality in Loving Relationships

Not only do they not desire preferential treatment due to their apostleship, the missionaries try to function as equals in status by referring to the converts as adelphoi (brothers).  Paul wanted to establish an aspect of his relationship with the converts that he was an equal with them and not always the superior.  Why would Paul try referring to himself as “brother” and not always use the paternal imagery he uses elsewhere in the letter?  Paul may have desired this aspect of equality in their relationship to aid in developing relationships with his converts, or maybe the fact that many may have been close to him in age.  Is it also possible that Rabbinic thought carried an aspect where the master was superior to his disciple and Paul saw that this was a weakness in Rabbinic mentoring and sought to alleviate it?  The answer is uncertain as to why Paul refers to himself as brother rather than continue the maternal/paternal imagery throughout the letter; they were his converts and hence were his spiritual children.54  All we can know for certain is that he thought of himself as part of this new family and used both parental and fraternal terms to describe his relationship to it.  Nineteen times he uses adelphos in 1 Thessalonians, contrasting it with pater (father), which is used five times in the letter and only once in reference to himself; all the other references are to God.  One could argue that if Paul wanted to emphasize his relationship as the parent then he would have used “children” more to refer to his disciples, but he does not.  From the letter we can ascertain that there is an aspect of equality/inequality in how Paul saw his status among the community.55  He was parent and at the same time brother.  Paul as mentor must not always try to be the superior figure, but create a peer aspect in the relationship as well.  There were aspects of superiority which we will now move on to discuss. 

“Like a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thess 2:7).  Not only did they not consider special treatment, they also had the idea that the Thessalonian believers would be their children and that they would care for them “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”  There has been discussion on whether the image is a nursing mother or a nurse.  The custom existed in Roman society of having a wet nurse to help raise children, with the most important characteristic being that the nurse is gentle.56  But wet nurses were expensive and were reserved for the wealthier.  Plutarch encouraged mothers to raise their children rather than use a wet nurse.57  With this in mind, a nursing mother would be the better choice.  

The use of mother over nurse also makes a clearer comparison with father in verse 11.  Whether we use nurse or nursing mother, both metaphors carry the notion of a caring, gentle entity. 

Paul continues his parental theme to illustrate the love and care they had for their converts in verses 11-12.  This time, contrasting verse 7, Paul switches from the nurturing mother to an exhorting, encouraging father.  The mother metaphor communicates tender care, but a father cares through pushing his converts to live a life “in a manner worthy of God.”  Similar to a good father, Paul did not put a burden on his children to sustain him (2:9) but offered spiritual leadership and safety. 

The ultimate goal of the missionaries was for their converts to “live lives worthy of God,” literally, “walk worthily of God.”58  ‘Walk’ was a widespread metaphor for following an example of conduct; it is used about thirty-two times in the Pauline corpus.  It entails that the Christian life involves direction, development, and objectives.  Here the measure is worthy of God, that is, a life that mirrors his Christ-like pattern of life as revealed in Jesus Christ.   Paul’s fatherly love and care was to aid the converts to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God.  This sets a good example to the believers in that Paul and his companions wanted to be models of humility and not seek privileged treatment.  They would rather care for their converts as a mother and father would for their children. 

Paul’s caring also manifested itself in the words he spoke to his disciples.  In 5:14 his view of speech is summed up with, “warn the lazy, encourage the fearful, care for those who are weak.”  He used gentle and firm speech.  To those who needed encouragement and a more gentle approach, he was gentle and to those who were more obstinate, he was more firm.  Like a parent, Paul sought to know his disciples and deal with them at their level of maturity.  In 2:11-12 Paul says that “for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead  a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”  The word and language are very much like those of a father wanting his children to excel.  Paul’s speech was adapted to the situation.  At times he was paternal and other times critical; sometimes he was gentle and other times more harsh.  But the motivation behind all his speech was his care and desire for them to grow.

Other Expressions of Paul’s Love and Caring

Prayer was another way the affective dimension was manifested.  Paul appealed to the divine agency to help his converts.  Prayer was another practical expression of Paul’s love and care for his disciples and expressed his desire to see them grow.  The thanksgiving section opens with Paul referring to the fact that his converts are in his prayers.  The thanksgiving has a source and in this case, it is the converts that have demonstrated Christian maturity.  The thankfulness is felt and expressed to God, not mentioning the converts’ imperfections, but highlighting their demonstration of faith, hope and love.  The adverbs always and constantly express that Paul’s prayers are not sparse, but ones that are continual and regularly interceding on the converts’ behalf.59

The theme of prayer for his disciples continues in 3:10-13.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 3:10 that “we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking to your faith.”  Though Paul is likely in Corinth now, he still has some of his mind with the Thessalonians.  He does not have to be physically present to care for his disciples.  One way he cares for them while being away is through prayer.

Prayer was not the only method Paul used when he was not in their presence; he also sent Timothy to check up on them.  The disciples were on Paul’s mind, so in 2:17- 3:10 Paul’s concern for the faith of the converts leads him to send Timothy to gauge the status of their faith and care for them.  Paul expresses his desire to see the converts in 2:17-20.  After trying to see them himself but being thwarted, Timothy is dispatched.  Although not in their presence, Paul still has the converts on his mind.  It is not uncommon for Paul to express concern for his churches, as here in 1 Thessalonians (see also 1 Cor 4:18-21; 5:3-4; 16:1-7; 2 Cor 1:15-2:1; 7:5-7; Phil 1:27; 2:12).  Paul has in mind the need for his disciples to be encouraged for fear that they might forsake their faith.60  Paul knows his converts are experiencing affliction and is concerned that they might depart from their new faith in Christ.  Timothy’s positive report is comforting and encouraging for Paul as the report assures Paul that the converts are continuing in their faith.  Malherbe sums up Timothy’s mission well:

 Paul’s recounting of Timothy’s mission and subsequent report reflects Paul’s awareness of the Thessalonians’ condition as well as his pastoral method.  He was conscious of their sense of desolation, which had been aggravated by his absence, was uncertain whether their faith could withstand the emotional stress caused by knowledge of his own experiences, and knew that their faith needed to be supplemented.  He sent Timothy as his emissary to establish them further in their faith and exhort them.61

The act of Timothy being dispatched is another example of how Paul cared for the disciples.

Paul was aware that impartation had an affective dimension.  The affective dimension expressed itself through speaking gently or harshly when the circumstances dictated, establishing an equal relationship status while retaining the status of authority in the community, praying for them continually, and being concerned for them even when he was not physically present.  These and other aspects contributed to how Paul mentored his disciples.



Paul’s pastoral ministry had him sharing his life by building up younger believers into maturity.  Paul saw the mentoring/im-partational process as himself and his associates sharing the responsibility of helping people grow by addressing the ff.:

  1. Teaching them what was necessary to follow God.
  2. Sharing their lives; being with them (the relational dimension).
  3. Having a deep emotion and desire of care and concern for disciples (the affective dimension).

Using and applying the findings of this study to pastoral theology would suggest that:

  1. Those who are involved in missions, church planting, and   church leadership should arrange for the discipling of people. 
  2. People who are active in church or institutions that are ecclesial in nature should implement the principles of Pauline impartation in their current role of helping others.
  3. Those wanting to grow in their personal lives or specific areas should seek out another individual or individuals who are more mature. 
  4. Pastors, in applying Paul’s impartational method, should not only teach content but also spend time with the disciple, and be aware of the affective component for the disciple expressed by love and care.  Content teaches the disciple the information necessary to grow, time together will allow the protégé to watch an example of the content taught, and expressing affection will allow the disciple to feel important as he/she is being cared for.  When thinking of how people mature, one should not over rely on teaching content but seek to infuse a milieu where relationships, time together and more affective aspects of the human person can be expressed.
  5. Those who involve their protégés with other mentors and with a community of people will enhance growth opportunities.  Community offers stability, especially if mentors move on, as Paul did, to different places where the protégés do not reside.



1.   Best discovered that “here was a field that had not been explored recently as a whole.”  E. Best, Paul and His Converts (Edinburgh:  T&T Clark, 1988), vii. 

2.   Ibid., 1.

3.   Ibid., 7-8.

4.   Ibid., 29.  See also pp.139-140 for his discussion on whether or not these roles are compatible.

5.   Ibid.

6.   Ibid., 31-56.

7.   Ibid., 39-54.

8.   Ibid., 49.

9.   Ibid., 54-55.

10.  Ibid., 55.

11.  Ibid., 63.

12.  Ibid., 68.

13.  Ibid.

14.  Ibid., 69-70.

15.  Ibid.

16.  Ibid., 73-95.

17.  Ibid., 85.

18.  Ibid., 93-94.

19.  Ibid., 97-106.

20.  Ibid., 107-123.

21.  Ibid., 125-137.

22.  See 126.

23.  See 129-132.

24.  See 132-135.

25.  See 135-136.

26.  Liddell-Scott-Jones-McKenzie, Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), 1111.

27.  Robert Jewett, Romans (Hermeneia, Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2007), 124 n. 80.

28.  H. W. Hoehner, Ephesians (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 2002), 626-627.  Referring to Hoehner’s comment on 1 Thessalonians 2:8 that Paul only shared the gospel, it is clear that the meaning of metadidomi communicates a similar feeling as Romans 1:11.  So Paul is sharing with the converts both the gospel and himself: “to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves” (emphasis added).

29.  B. Rigaux, Saint Paul: Les Épîtres aux Thessaloniciens (Ebib, Paris:  Lecoffre,1956), 422.

30.  See M. Reasoner, The Strong and the Weak (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 206-207, on whether or not this, and Romans 12:13, is evidence that there existed different class levels within the church.

31.  There is evidence that Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) were more than just colleagues.  Paul refers to Timothy as his beloved and faithful child in 1 Corinthians 4:17.  Acts lists Silas as a common companion with Paul on missionary journeys in the book of Acts (Acts 15:40; 16:19; 17:4, 10; 18:5) which would have given Paul much opportunity to be with Silas and help him grow.

32.  But in greeting the Galatians, Paul attributes part of the greeting to those who were with him at the writing of the letter (Gal 1:2).  Also, Tertius in Romans 16:22 is acknowledged as writing the letter for Paul.  Though Tertius is not necessarily a pastor/missionary, Paul still is working with others.

33.  Paul has never been to Rome so these people would be different from someone like Timothy, who is Paul’s co-worker.  Paul’s coming would be to help build up the Romans before he travels to places that have not heard the gospel.

34.  For a different perspective on teaching and the gospel, see C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1980, reprint), 7-8.

35.  A. B. Luter, “Gospel,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove:  IVP, 1993), 369.   

36.  T. Still carries out a full discussion of the term thlipsis and argues that it is “best conceived as intergroup conflict between Christians and non-Christians in Thessalonica. . . Paul and the Thessalonian Christians had discordant relations with outsiders.”   Still enhances this study with an assessment of the original causes of the difficulty with the help of social-scientific research on deviance and discord.  See Conflict at Thessalonica. A Pauline Church and Its Neighbor (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 17.  Still writes, “Specifically, I have discovered that Paul and his Thessalonian converts were viewed as dangerously different by their respective compatriots and that Jewish and Gentile outsiders pressured Paul and the church to conform to the accepted conventions of the day.”  Still has given a definitive study of suffering in 1 Thessalonians as well as having made a contribution to understanding Pauline suffering in general.  Ibid., 289.

37.  More specifically, Dunn writes: “One of the chief reasons why we still have so many letters is that his teaching was quickly challenged by varying opponents from both within and without the churches established; it was characteristic of Paul that he did not hesitate to respond vigorously to such challenges.  Similarly when his churches proved restive under his tutelage he saw it as part of his continuing apostolic vocation to write to further instruct, encourage and exhort them.”  See J. D. G. Dunn, “Introduction,” in The Cambridge Companion to Paul (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2003), 1.

38.  See also Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 9:608-660.

39.  See I. H. Marshall, “1 & 2 Thessalonians,” in New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1983), 71.

40.  E. Best states that both the content and proclamation of the Gospel exist together in this passage.  See E. Best, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (Peabody:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1986), 73-74. 

41.  S. E. Fowl, “Imitation of Paul/of Christ,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove:  IVP, 1993), 430.  JamesSamra, has given a helpful summary of the concept of imitation, acknowledging that imitation has been discussed more deeply than just imitating a more mature individual and Samra notes some of the major topics:

      1) Imitation as Obedience.

2) Imitation as Sameness: A more sophisticated analysis of Paul’s imitation language has resulted in a criticism of it as engendering ‘sameness.’  In this understanding, Paul is advocating uniformity, suppressing individuality and exerting power.  While there are indeed qualities, behaviors and attitudes that Paul does condemn and others he espouses, it is incorrect to understand ‘imitation’ as requiring rigid uniformity or sameness.  Paul’s willingness to allow his converts to make decisions for themselves (see Rom 14; 1 Cor 7, 8, 10, 15), his focus on diversity (e.g., 1 Cor 14), and his own willingness to reinterpret and contextualize the teachings of Jesus militate against the idea that imitation is somehow designed to bring about external uniformity.  It is more likely that Paul intended a recontextualization of certain principles and attitudes for specific situations in his use of imitation.

3) Imitation and Discipleship: Betz states: “The gospel had described the existence of the Christian as following Jesus, however, no apparent continuity exists in terminology and concept between “follower of Jesus” and “imitator of Christ” (quote translated by Samra).  See H. D. Betz, Nachfolge und Nachahmung Jesus Christi im Neuen Testament (BHT, 37; Tübingen:  Mohr Siebeck, 1967), 186.   Likewise, D. M. Stanley argues in his 1959 article that imitation in Paul has nothing to do with being a disciple of Jesus.

Other scholars, however, have argued that imitation is related to discipleship.  We saw . . . that in the ancient world ‘imitation’ and ‘discipleship’ could be used in the same context with overlapping meaning.  In addition, a comparison with the gospels shows strong correspondence between how Paul uses ‘imitation’ and how ‘discipleship’ is presented by the gospel writers.  However, Paul does not use discipleship language.  This may simply be because Paul’s audience would have been more familiar with imitation language than discipleship language, especially in a religious setting.  More likely, his imitation language expresses a different nuance (one that reflects that Jesus was no longer present on earth) and allows him to use the same terminology to express the means (imitating Paul and others) as well as the end (imitating Christ).  His choice of ‘imitation’ language may also place more emphasis on ethical action.  Therefore, discipleship and imitation are probably related in that they both point to becoming like the master or the one being imitated but with this overlap, there may be different emphases and nuances.  JamesSamra, Being Conformed to Christ in Community(London:  T&T Clark, 2006), 128-130.

42.  Samra Conformed to Christ, 125-131.  Specifically, Samra calls it “imitating a godly example.”

43.  Samra offers some observations on mimètès in the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, classical writers (Plutarch, Isocrates, Epictetus, Xenophon, Quintilian), other NT writers (Heb 6:12; 3 Jn 11; Eph 5:1-2; 1 Pt 3:13), and Early Church Fathers (Clement, Ignatius, Martyrdom of Polycarp): First, the ideas of personal example, ethical model and ‘mimesis’ are often found together.  Second, ‘distant’ (i.e., unavailable) models for imitation are often supplemented by imitation of ‘known’ persons.  Third, imitation could be tied to moral progress, perfection, blamelessness and could be more important than obedience to ‘law.’  Fourth, imitation can be distinguished from mere mimicking and is more closely tied to recontextualization of attitudes.  Similarly, to imitate someone does not demand a one-to-one correlation of ability.  This is usually noted when ‘God’ is involved.  Fifth, one was often exhorted to imitate God and could also be instructed to imitate humans in the same context.  Sixth, imitation could also be tied to the ideas of discipleship and the context of love.  Ibid., 126-128.  

44.  1 Thess 1:6; Phil 3:17; 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Gal 4:12; Phil 4:9.

45.  I again refer to Samra’s discussion of ‘imitation as sameness’ and how it was discussed that Paul was likely not advocating a rigid uniformity but that “that Paul intended a recontextualization of certain principles and attitudes for specific situations in his use of imitation.”

46.  A. Bandura, Social Foundation of Thought and Action (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 1986), 55.

47.  Ibid., 73.

48.  D. Oman and C. E. Thoresen, “Spiritual Modeling: A Key to Spiritual and Religious Growth?”  International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 13 (2003):  150.

49.  Marshall, “1 & 2 Thessalonians,” 71.

50.  D. B. Barrett did research on why the churches in Africa sought hard to be independent from their western missionaries and concluded that the main issue was the western missionaries’ “failure in love” towards the ways they viewed the African people.  Hundreds of religious movements were studied and the conclusion of “love failure” is why the African churches sought to break away from their western counterparts. From the example of modern missions the need for love to be a part of the practice of mentoring is crucial.  See D. B. Barrett, Schism and Renewal in Africa: An Analysis of Six Thousand Contemporary Religious Movements(Nairobi:  Oxford University Press, 1968), 97, 154, 184.  A. Anderson goes deeper in the issue of why the churches of Africa broke away but never disputed the fact that a “failure in love” was part of the problem.  A. Anderson, “A ‘Failure in Love?’ Western Missions and the Emergence of African Initiated Churches in the Twentieth Century,” Missiology 29, no. 3 (2001):  275-286.

51.  See C. A. Wanamaker, The Epistle to the Thessalonians (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1990), 98-99.

52.  Though not spoken of specifically in this pericope, it is clear from Philippians 2:4-11 and other parts of the Pauline corpus that Paul’s desire was to see “Christ . . . formed in you.” (Gal 4:19) and from a section of a disputed letter of Paul, his goal in ministry was to see people “mature in Christ” (Col 1:29).

53.  Marshall, “1 & 2 Thessalonians,” 68.

54.  For a fuller discussion of Paul and ‘equality of status in relationship’, see Best, Paul and His Converts, 139-162. 

55.  Best uses superior/inferior to handle this tension.  Ibid., 29.

56.  C. S. Keener says of the wet nurses: “They often endeared themselves to young children, who when they grew older frequently freed those nurses who had been slaves.”  See C. S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove:  IVP, 1993), 587.

57.  Ibid., 587.

58.  Halakah, a rabbinical term for instruction in living according to Torah, is related to the verb “walk” (halak).

59.  G. P. Wiles writes:  “Constantly he is giving thanks for the continuing victories of his converts, praying that they increase in the graces of faith, hope and love, and urging them to take their full share in the wider life of the whole church.  His intercessory prayers seem to be closely related to a longing for the maturity of his churches, as the scope of his own mission extended.”   See G. P. Wiles, Paul’s Intercessory Prayers(Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1974), 3.

60.  Another motivation to send Timothy was his personal emotion towards the converts.  Paul describes his feelings towards the converts in 2:17 that he desires with “great desire” (English Standard Version used) to see them.  In 2:20 the converts are described as Paul’s “joy and crown,” and in 3:1, Paul states as a motivation that when he and his associates “could bear it no longer,” Timothy was sent.  So there is a personal motivation for Timothy’s dispatch as well as pastoral concern for their spiritual condition.  But this personal motivation was born out of his pastoral concern so the two are related.

61.  A. J. Malherbe, Paul and the Thessalonians (Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1987), 68.

  • Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in Spirituality and Leadership
    Aug 04
    Nov 30