Chapter 4 began with the word finally, but Paul is not done. He began with an instruction to abstain from sexual immorality and this is the will of God for all of our lives. The main theme of the rest of this letter is that we excel still more. Today the question is, “What’s Love Got to do With It?” Can love be taught? Can it be learned? Can it excel? Can it endure?
Grab your Bible and read 1 Thes. 4:9-12.
I want to look at love in action. If we look back through this letter, we’ll see there’s been a whole lotta love goin’ on. In 1:3, Paul spoke of their labor of love. In 1:4, Paul says they are “beloved of God” which gives us the source of their love. Chapter 3 gives us the picture of Paul’s longing for them and his desire to know how they are doing. This comes from his deep love for them. Paul and his companions displayed the love of God to the Thessalonians by imparting their lives and love to the church. The church then demonstrated their love throughout Macedonia and Achaia.
When you look at love in the Scriptures, there are some interesting things that you’ll find out. I’d like you to take the time and read 1 John 3:10 – 5:3. There is so much there, but there isn’t enough space to go into detail so here’s a synopsis.
- Children of the devil are the ones that don’t love their brothers.
- The person that doesn’t love abides in death and doesn’t know God.
- Those who hate are called murderers and murderers don’t have eternal life.
- The command to love one another is repeated in John’s letter. Since it’s a command, we have the choice to obey.
- We are to love one another to the point that we would lay down our life for a brother.
- We aren’t to love with just words, we are to love in action, to love in deed.
- Love is demonstrated when we share what we have with those in need.
- God is love and love is from Him.
- Christians, followers of Christ can love because God first loved us.
- Christians should love because God loves us.
- God’s love is perfected in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- There is no fear in perfect love.
- Love is demonstrated to God by keeping His commandments.
- No one is able to fully understand the love of God without a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Those are some pretty specific aspects of love. Is that the kind of love you have? Is that the kind of love that you demonstrate?
Love is a process. A person doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to love. God first loved. Even though people hate Him, He still loves. Even though people do Him wrong, He still loves. Even though people may not love Him, He still loves.God didn’t just talk about how much He loved the world; He demonstrated His love by sending His Son to die for sinners. Not only did He send His Son, but He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who would place their trust in the finished work of Christ. God’s love is demonstrated in and through believers to others. This love is shown to God by obeying His commands, by sharing what we have with others, and by laying down our life for a brother.
If you go to the Bible’s love chapter (1 Cor. 13:4-8a), you’ll see some other aspects of love and you might ask yourself, “Am I demonstrating this kind of love?” Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, doesn’t brag, isn’t arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, doesn’t seek its own, is not provoked and doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered, love doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness. Love does rejoice with truth. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. This is the way we are to love. If you claim you can’t love this way then you make God a liar because He says you can do these things with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives within you.
Here’s another Scripture passage. Check out Romans 13:8-10. When you really get a hold of this passage, you see that you cannot do wrong to anybody, because the love of Christ oozes out of your body. Adultery, murder, stealing, covetousness – none of that would ever be thought of because the overwhelming principle is summed up for us: love your neighbor as yourself. Neighbor comes from the word that means a neighbor, friend, or anyone else. Love in action – Paul speaks of love throughout his letters and we need to get a firm grasp on what love is and then demonstrate it. The Thessalonians were a loving people, but Paul encouraged them to excel still more. Excel comes from the word that means exceed a fixed number of measure.
The next things Paul covers is the necessity of work. Look at 4:11-12. Work became a burden back in the garden. Genesis 3 tells us, “Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground.” We’ve been sweating ever since.
Everyone has a responsibility to work and our attitude about work reveals a lot about where we are spiritually. When you look into the context of this letter, you’ll get some interesting perspectives from Paul. In chapter 2, Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus worked and labored; they worked night and day so they wouldn’t be a burden to any of them. They behaved uprightly and blamelessly toward them. In chapter 4, Paul told them to provide for themselves so that people outside the church (outsiders, non-Christians, lost people) would be shown proper behavior and so that believers would not be in need. There are three themes Paul addresses in this area of work.
First, Paul encourages each of them to, “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Literally it means make it your ambition to have no ambition. It gives us the idea to pursue life calmly, to be peaceful, not bothering anybody.
Second, “attend to your own business.” This means exactly what it says – mind your own business. The Thessalonians had become busybodies according to 2 Thes. 3:11. Make sure your business is squared away. Too often we’re so involved in what others are doing that our own lives are in complete chaos. We worry about what everyone else’s kids are doing and ours are playing in the streets.
Third, “work with your hands.” Work was ordained by God before the fall, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” (Gen 2:15) The Greeks despised manual labor. They considered it beneath them. In fact Acts 17:21 says, “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” Their life’s goal was to hang out. This is not what Paul is going for. When Paul says so no one will be in need in v. 12, he’s talking about working so that when people are in need, we’ll be able to help. He’s not talking about people who can work, but don’t want to. We are to be a working people. Our job is our primary ministry.
In these verses, Paul has called us to growth. We are to please God more and more and we are to love God more and more. Complacency is the worst condition to be in. In life we never finally arrive. We continue to press on towards the goal. Our justification is once and for all, but our sanctification is more and more.