Monday, April 20, 2015

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 : “A God - Centered Church is characterised by sanctified brotherly love”

We have already previously  established the general principle from this text:  Living  to please God!  (4:1)
We noted that the basis for Paul’s appeal is the command of Christ:  He urges them in the Lord Jesus! (4:1) – and again in 4:2 “For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus." And in 4:3:  “This is the will of God , your sanctification , that …

The goal of this exhortation is our sanctification. Paul says: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (4:3) Sanctification    is the process by which the believer is brought to greater spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness in the course of their entire life.  This process begins at conversion.  The old sin habits are increasingly done away with and replaced with new ways by which we please  God, and so it is possible to please God ‘more and more’.  The agent of change, who helps us in this regard is the Holy Spirit (4:8) 
Sanctification is a practical thing.  To remain victorious over sin, we must cooperate with the Spirit in His work of purifying our souls. We must purify ourselves (2 Cor. 7:1). It is   a part of a living response  to our claim that we have believed and trusted in Jesus  Christ . It seems that some  people  just want to hear new truth, and they think that  accumulating knowledge is  equivalent to spiritual  growth . Certainly, God wants us to grow in the knowledge of His Word, but we need  to translate what we believe into practice.  Otherwise we are going to be like those in 2 Tim 3:6, 7 who are “burdened with sins and led away by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at knowledge of the truth.

Two areas in which we need to grow in order that we may please God more and more:

Although  there are many aspects in which we need to be sanctified, Paul, for reasons unstated in the text, specifically addresses the matters of :
(i)               Sexuality (4:3-8) 
(ii)             brotherly love (4:9-12),   

...as the special  focus and proof   of God’s transforming work in the lives of  the Thessalonian Christians,  and therefore by way of application  also   in our lives. We receive these two exhortations to grow in our sanctification  as God’s specific instruction for us at  this time. These are two areas in which the Christian church should be setting a clear example  for our contemporary society.
We have already considered the matter  of  ‘sanctified sexuality’  last week , and so we are now ready  to consider …

(ii)  Pleasing God through a sanctified brotherly love 

The transition from sexual purity to brotherly love is a natural one.  Sexual sins almost always involve someone else.  Sexual sins   usually involve the exploitation and abuse of another person for selfish reasons.  So then, in this area we are also called to act with brotherly love and purity to one another. 

The word translated here as “brotherly love” is the Greek word ‘philadelphos’ (phileo & adelphos).  This reminds us  that we are united in the household of God (the church) as  brothers and sisters. We are reminded that in this household there ought to be a warmth and concern for each other because of our family relationship in Christ.

We observe that the Thessalonian Christians were excelling in this area. Paul says “…you have no need …, for you have been taught by God to love one another.”  Is Paul saying here that  they  do  not  need further biblical instruction on loving one another? Obviously not, because the NT has so much to say on this subject and the church is often so poor at loving one another.  But, let’s face it – there are Christians and there are churches that possess more grace in this area. The Thessalonians  were displaying one of the most essential badges of Christian discipleship,  Love for the brothers , and the Lord Jesus Himself said  to His disciples,     “by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. (Jn. 13:35)
They had been showing love toward all the brothers , but even such a ‘perfect’ display of love needs continued encouragement to   do still more. And there are many surprising  and unexpected  ways  in which we may yet have to learn  how  to do this!

Consider now how Paul counsels us to consider loving our brothers more in vv.  11 & 12. These verses  are  linked to the preceding section by the conjunction[1]and”.  So, these two verses are actually an application to what Paul has been saying concerning the need to “do this more and more “.

Three areas in which your love  for  your brothers   and sisters may become more sanctified  in the church: (vv.  11,12)

1. Aspire to live quietly
2. Mind your own affairs
3. Work with your hands.  

Nothing disrupts the peace of a church more than having a bunch of busybodies or members who are unwilling  to be responsible for their own upkeep .  So it is important for us to note that our daily habits of living, and the way we conduct our own business, can manifest a real sense of Christian love. Love touches our lives in many ways which we often fail to recognize.  Undisciplined living on the part of some in the church very often causes pain to others in the church. It disturbs the peace of the body of Christ.  So,  in terms of allowing  the sanctifying power of God to work  in  improving our love life  we are called  to  …

1. Aspire to live quietly:

“ live  quietly”… The word used here [2]  refers  to a tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others. [3]  Christians  who claim to be at  peace with God  should not be ‘noisy’ or ‘frantic’ people . There should be a restfulness, a peace, and a serenity that governs the life of a Christian, simply  because Christ is at the center. He is in control of our activity.    Sometimes one  gets quite dizzy when  one sees the restless  speed at which some Christians live. We can get  ourselves   exhausted  by a restless spirit, and others  can exhaust us by their restless spirit . A person who is constantly on the move is not only distracted from his/her  own walk with God, but he/she can be a distraction to his/her  brother/sister. A poised, serene Christian at peace with himself and God is a  source of peace to his brothers and sisters.  Such quietness, according to Paul  constitutes a practical demonstration of love for others. Have you ever thought about that? 

It is highly likely that there were such restless people within the Thessalonian church. The whole matter of the thought of  the  imminent return of Christ for instance (2 Thess. 2:1-3),  appeared  to have introduced  a speculative  and unsettling  element  into the church. People were getting frantic  and restless about the return of Christ, and instead  of simply resting  in Him whether He would return now or in  2000 years, they  allowed this  great fact to  have an adverse effect.   It appears  as if  this  was  causing people to become idle , saying    something like, ”… since Christ might come very soon, what point is there  in  working hard?“   The problem with idleness  is that  it doesn’t make you idle. It makes you  an irritating busybody. See what  Paul writes concerning  those who are idle in the  second letter to the Thessalonians  (2 Thess. 3:6-12- particularly verse 11 ! ). So it is possible  that some of the believers at Thessalonica had evidently stopped working and were instead going about from house to house  being idle busybodies.  One practical way  then to love one another  is  to have a quiet , peaceful  spirit!

2. Mind your own affairs:

One of the solutions for restlessness is to mind your own business, and to start looking critically at yourself. Jesus says, “Stop finding splinters in the eyes of your brothers, when you have planks in your own eyes”.  People that have nothing else to do  than  making it their business to observe the business of others  and constantly  finding fault with them  are  easily  tempted to  become  engaged in  unsanctified behaviour towards their brothers and sisters . So Paul offers excellent advice  here : “mind your own affairs !”   Make it  your  priority to get busy  with  your own life, and when you are busy with that , you will have enough on your own plate  so that you won’t be tempted to  develop  this critical spirit that tests our sanctification .  
There is thus a sense in which our first priority is to take care of our own lives, not in a self-centered way, but in a truly biblical way. We must however balance this with our responsibility to be involved with, and caring for others. Unfortunately our tendency is to easily go from one extreme to another  -  either being too  nosy or to the other extreme— to cut ourselves off and isolate ourselves from others. The point is that we  must learn to  love our brothers by minding our own business , and  to support them with our Christian love wherever it is necessary .   

3. Work with your own hands:

While we all have a responsibility to help those in real need, we also have a responsibility  not to help them  when  they refuse to work or to look for a job. Part of the help that such people need is to  admonish them , and to  counsel them  and help them to find work. They must understand that God wants them to be self-supporting and productive in society rather than dependent on society.
There is a twofold concern expressed in v. 12 in relation to this loving concern for the brothers and sisters .

a. their   testimony to outsiders: The unbelieving world is watching and we should always be concerned  that our lives  do not bring shame upon the Name of Christ.  The world  outside continually criticizes the church  for her “noisy Christians ”  , and  her  “busybodies”  , and  for accommodating those that are lazy  without ever disciplining them .

b. being dependent on no one:   God intends each one to work to meet their own needs and to be a burden to no one. This can be amply illustrated from Scripture. It obviously excludes those who are genuinely unable to work.  We need to see work as a blessing. It must be promoted by the Christian community. Work is not a curse. It is a way to use the gifts and talents God gives us in productive ways. And we as a church  should encourage  one another to be busy with  work.
Also remember  that  as  the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God is a worker.

CONCLUSION: 

1.     The exhibition of brotherly love is an essential   mark of a biblical church (Jn. 13:35)
2.     We need to  continuously  improve in this area
3.     And especially  we must learn to love  our church  by being  quiet  people  who  are not in the habit of upsetting everyone ; we must avoid being busybodies ; we must  make our own living, and not depend on the church to   continually  help us  when  we  are continuously in and out of jobs ; when we  are unteachable ; when  we  have lavish lifestyles and poor budgeting habits .




[1]  A conjunction  is  a part of speech that connects words, sentences, phrases, or clauses. 
[2]  Gr. hesuchios
[3] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of  biblical words 

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