1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more.
First Thessalonians is one of the first letters that the apostle Paul wrote. By God’s grace, he was able to start a church in Thessalonica, which was the capital of Macedonia with a population of approximately two hundred thousand. Paul was only there a short time and had to leave because of intense opposition to the gospel of Christ. One of the purpose of this letter is to give instruction about the Christian way of life (4:1-5:22). He wants his readers to know how to please God (4:1). He had instructed the Thessalonian believers about this, but he felt that they needed more. Thankfully, he sensed their need and by the Spirit we have this letter.
The apostle’s method to arouse their attention is paradoxical for two reasons. First, their love for one another is evident. It appears unneeded, since there were people who were the recipients of their love. Second, in an earlier prayer for them in this letter (3:12), he had prayed that their love for each other would increase. Why say that they didn’t need this instruction, if he had sensed the need to pray about this concern? Let’s make a couple suggestions.
- Followers of Christ can display the reality of the Spirit’s work, and still be in the need for instruction. Sadly, there are some who think they have “arrived” and do not hesitate to let their pastor or Bible teacher know that they already know what he is teaching them. They look at themselves as the educated elite, above the needs of ordinary Christians. They say something like “This stuff is Christianity 101. We need something deeper.” Certainly, I would never plead for constantly giving out the “ABCs” of the Christian faith and walk. However, there is something wrong in the spirits of those who look down on the basics. We can get rather blind to our own weaknesses at the very time the Spirit directs someone to teach us what we need to hear. A useful practice is for everyone to read a devotional like Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Sharon and I have found many times that what he wrote years before and that we have read more than once is applicable again to our current situation.
- The Holy Spirit can burden teachers to pray about a matter and then to teach on it for the ongoing progress of those who listen. Let us never forget the help that our Friend from heaven gives through his work in the souls of those that speak to us. Part of it might come from the teacher’s own observations and those given to him by others, but often the Spirit leads those that teach into the word to help the hearers in a special way. When the Spirit urges us to pray for others about some need, you can be sure that there is a reason.
- Though we might be doing what the Spirit teachers, we all need to grow in our faith and practice. No one has arrived. Yes, we might be strong in faith or love or hope. But really, how much greater is your faith than a mustard seed? Are you overflowing with hope? How much stronger and deeper ought your love to be? Remember that in all points, the measuring point of the new covenant way of life is “as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35; 15:12).
- God has taught every Christian to love one another. This is an interior, life-changing act by the Spirit of God. It’s what happens when we’re born again from above. He gives us an inward impulse to reach outward in love toward each other. Yet, this inward teaching still needs the instruction from the Holy Scriptures. It is always the Spirit and the word!
So then my friends, this unneeded teaching is much need. Let us respond by loving one another “more and more”.
Grace and peace, David