Today’s Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4-5
Faith, hope and love – Paul opens up his letter to the church in Thessalonica praising God and commending the church on their faithful work, their loving deeds and their enduring hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Yesterday we focused in on the faithful work the church continued even though they were experiencing persecution and criticism from those around them. We were challenged to choose grace rather than bitterness when suffering takes us right to the edge of our faith. Today, let’s focus in on the loving deeds Paul referred to in his letter.
Notice Paul is not just referring to their “love” but to their “loving deeds” – not just an emotion but an expression of the emotion of love in their actions. So is Paul changing his view on works? No, Paul sticks with the same theology we consistently read in the scriptures. Consider these verses:
May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Paul is not referring to a love of human efforts or loving deeds produced of our own strength. He is referring to a love that the Lord grows inside of us for other people – not just GROWS but OVERFLOWS if we will open up our hearts and allow Him to produce this kind of love. He, then, makes our hearts strong, blameless and holy. It is not something we can do on our own. We need the righteousness of our Savior and the love He gives us in order to live a holy life and produce the kind of “loving deeds” that Paul is referring to in his letter to the Church in Thessalonica. Keep this in mind as you read the verses that come next.
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you…
God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor – not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more. – 1 Thess. 4:1-10
Paul went on with several more short instructions:
– Honor your leaders; work hard and show respect and wholehearted love them.
– Live peacefully with each other.
– Warn those who are lazy.
– Encourage those who are timid.
– Take tender care of those who are weak.
– Be patient with everyone.
– Try to do good instead of seeking revenge.
– Always be joyful.
– Never stop praying.
– Be thankful in all circumstances.
– Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.
– Test everything that is taught, holding on to what is good.
– Stay away from every kind of evil. – (1 Thess. 5:12-22)
And I close today with the same prayer for you that Paul spoke for the Thessalonians.
Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time – pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely. – 2 Thess. 1:11-12 (The Message)
So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech. – 2 Thess. 2:16-17 (The Message)
May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God’s love and Christ’s endurance. – 2 Thess. 3:5 (The Message)