Studies in I Thessalonians
I Thess. 4:9-12
Do you consider yourself a loving person? Could someone look at your daily life and conclude, “wow, that lady really loves other Christians.”
All of us fall short of perfect love. All of us need help and can do better. God’s inspired, sufficient word is here to help! Beginning in 4:9 Paul introduces a new subject likely part of Timothy’s debrief concerns – the subject of love. In these four verses, Paul presents four insights into a believer’s robust love for other believers.
#1 Robust Love is Learned from God (v.9).
The indwelling Holy Spirit teaches us to love one another in the body of Christ. We are literally “God taught”! How great is that? Once we are born again, our love for Christians is intuitive, instinctive and growing. Once born into the family of God, our brotherly and sisterly love is a natural, normal and increasing fruit of the Spirit among family members. We’ve been taught by the best – God Himself – to “love one another.” Yield to these internal promptings.
This fruit of the Spirit is key to knowing you have the Spirit. Nothing proves discipleship like love.
#2 Robust love does not discriminate (v.10a).
These believers Paul addresses had love for all Christians in “all Macedonia.” This would have included Philippi and Berea and other pockets of believers, from all ethnic backgrounds, including converted Jews and Gentiles now united in one body.
Macedonia was a huge area. Like the size of Texas huge. So Paul is obviously using hyperbole to make a point. They didn’t pick or choose who to love.
As a believer, I’m to love all other believers equally and unconditionally. Regardless of theological persuasion, denominational or political affiliation, spiritual strength, whether mature or babies, gracious or grumpy.
Believers are to love other believers, regardless of their education convictions, dating vs courtship convictions, food and drink convictions, or any other area of personal preference.
We let too many things divide us and forget the true basis of our unity is Christ, not secondary preferences. We are to love one another whether part of our church or another church or no church! Some Christians are unchurched and need to be loved back into the family.
Pride discriminates and divides over secondary issues. Love unites. Of course biblical love must include discernment and wisdom, but let us not confuse these with just being critical and judgmental.
#3 Even Robust Love Can Do Better (v.10b).
“But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”
Despite the high praise of v.9, Paul says they can still do more in v.10. The nature of love means we can always do better. Dr. Robert Thomas in his commentary writes: “because our ultimate example is Christ Himself this love can only be approached, not fully reached.”
#4 Robust Love Does not Burden Others (vv.11,12).
Here is the unique contribution of this passage to Christian love. If we love others well, we will strive to take care of ourselves and not be a burden to others. We will be ambitious to lead a “quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands … so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”
As we live with an inner peace and stillness of life, we are actually loving others. A distracted and divided, flustered and frustrated lifestyle inevitably spills over on others and stresses them out.
When we attend to our own business and keep from meddling in other’s business, we are showing love to them. Robust love keeps our own house in order and doesn’t stick our nose where it doesn’t belong.
Finally, biblical love aspires to work with your own hands to maintain proper Christian testimony among outsiders and not be a burden to family, church or society.
Greeks hated physical labor and delegated all of it to slaves. So Paul modeled before these new Christians a strong work ethic and then called them to manual labor for the sake of the gospel and meeting their own needs.
As we are able, we should be appropriately self-sufficient and personally responsible, all in the name of love. Because nobody respects laziness and nobody wants to go hungry.
Christians should set the pace in the workplace as the most diligent and responsible workers of all. Because love is never lazy nor a burden on others.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight