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Thursday, May 05, 2022

2022.05.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12

Questions from the Scripture text: About what had the Thessalonians needed him to write (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)? About what had they not needed (1 Thessalonians 4:9a)? How had they come to love one another well (verse 9b)? Whom else did they love well (1 Thessalonians 4:10a)? Now what were they to do (verse 10b)? What three commands (1 Thessalonians 4:11) does he now add to the instruction about marriage from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 and brotherly love from 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10? What will obedience to these three things result in toward others (1 Thessalonians 4:12a)? Toward themselves (verse 12b)?

The apostle has previously asserted that the will of God was their sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3) and then spent the next five verses emphasizing holiness in the manner by which one obtains a wife. In that discussion, the most important thing was to express properly the knowledge of God (1 Thessalonians 4:5) and avoid provoking the vengeance of God (1 Thessalonians 4:6b). But it was not unimportant that they be careful not to defraud their brother (verse 6a).

Now, the love of the brethren takes center stage (1 Thessalonians 4:9a), even though they have already made much progress in grace in this area (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10a). So when the apostle tells those who have already attained significantly to love one another that they are now to “increase more and more,” all true believers will wish to pay attention. This is the great new commandment of the church: that we love one another as Christ has loved us (cf. John 13:34). And now the apostle is about to give a course in “advanced loving one another.” So, we should all perk up our ears.

Now that we’re paying attention, what does this “increase more and more” in loving one another look like? He gives us three brief commands using almost poetic language to urge us against hysteria, nosiness, and laziness.

Against hysteria: “aspire to lead a quiet life.” Literally, “be ambitious to be quiet.” There’s the type of person who is always up in arms about something. Always aiming at some new thing. Always rallying the troops for something. It’s not loving to continually rile people up. It’s contrary to the steadiness that belongs to walking by faith in Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is patience, gentleness, self-control. The “riler-upper” thinks himself ambitious. Others might think he is too. So the apostle gives him something to aspire to, something to always be going after: quietness. Be ambitious to be quiet.

Against nosiness: “mind your own business.” This needs almost no explanation. The second part of 1 Thessalonians 4:11’s course in advanced brotherly love is to stop sticking your nose into other people’s business. The verb is an activity, engagement verb. It goes well with the “be ambitious” … something like “be active” or “be engaged.” This is another stroke of vocabulary genius, because we tend to excuse our nosiness as just being engaged. So the apostle says, “be engaged in that which is your own.” There’s no word in the original corresponding to “business” in our translation, leaving the word that means “that which is your own” alone for emphasis.

Against laziness: “work with your own hands.” There’s nothing free in this life. If your own hands aren’t providing for you, then someone else’s are. The apostle will return to this subject in 2 Thessalonians 3:6–12. It seems that those who were hysterical and were busybodies were so caught up in it that they didn’t bother to work. Perhaps they figured it was relatively little to ask from others to just share what they had. But love sacrifices itself, rather than expecting others to sacrifice for itself. We must be diligent to provide for ourselves, if we can, especially since this may gain for us the opportunity to provide for others who can’t (cf. Ephesians 4:28).

Avoiding these things will keep us from becoming an unnecessary stumbling block to unbelievers (1 Thessalonians 4:12a). But it’s also the way that we come to “lack nothing” (verse 12b)—both materially and spiritually. Materially, the Lord has so ordered His world that a quiet, diligent person who minds his own business ordinarily is able to provide for all his needs that way. More importantly, however, it is very important that we not lack love for one another. If we want to “lack nothing,” let us heed this lesson in “advanced love of the brethren”!

In which of the areas above do you most need to grow in loving others? In dependence upon the Lord, and using His means, what is your specific plan for growing in it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for loving us and for producing love in us. Forgive us for our emotional instability, and give us the levelheaded quietness that benefits our brethren. Forgive us for our nosiness, and give us the contentment and focus to be engaged in our own lives and roles to which you have called us. Forgive us for our laziness, and give us the diligence to labor with our own hands and generosity to share with those who can’t. For, we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent, Who Will Reside?” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

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