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1 Thessalonians 4:9,10: Concerning Brotherly Love

How’s your love life? Do you have other believers that you have a hard time loving? Does your church show love to everyone, Christians and non-Christians? Let me ask you about your church business meetings, does love show through or are you at each others throats over things that mean very little with eternity in view? I’ve seen people act as if they hate each other over what color to paint the nursery, or what carpet to put in the sanctuary!

Jesus tells us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35).

1 John 4:10,11, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Comedian, Emo Phillips tells this religious joke: “Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, ‘Don't do it!’ He said, ‘Nobody loves me.’ I said, ‘God loves you. Do you believe in God?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Are you a Christian or a Jew?’ He said, ‘A Christian.’ I said, ‘Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?’ He said, ‘Protestant.’ I said, ‘Me, too! What franchise?’ He said, ‘Baptist.’ I said, ‘Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?’ He said, ‘Northern Baptist.’ I said, ‘Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?’ He said, ‘Northern Conservative Baptist.’ I said, ‘Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?’ He said, ‘Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.’ I said, ‘Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?’ He said, ‘Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.’ I said, ‘Die, heretic!’ And I pushed him over.” BTW: this joke was voted the best religious joke of all time!

I was trying to share the Gospel with a waitress once, she told me, “Oh, I’m a Christian, I belong to (name of church), but I don’t go to church anymore.” I asked her, “why?” her answer showed the great lack of love in many churches. “My husband left me for another woman and they asked me to leave the choir.” Their lack of love had driven this poor lady out of church!

In my 50 plus years of pastoring I have seen far too many so-called Christians condemning and in general harassing other believers until they finally give up and find a another church, or like that waitress, leave church all together!

What’s wrong with us? We have certainly not learned to love as Jesus loved! How did Jesus love? “…just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” How much did He love, enough to sacrifice Himself for us!

“So the reason the love we have for each other shows that we are truly Jesus’ disciples, is that it is only possible because we are grafted into the life and love of Christ. We love as he loved, because we love with his love.”–John Piper,

1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 2:9,10, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.”

“In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.” –Our Daily Bread

Verse 9a: “But concerning brotherly love…”

Our text begins with “brotherly love,” to treat others as if they were a part of your family. This kind of love means “to like” another person and to want what is best for them. If you love someone you don’t “but” them. What does that mean? “I love you, “but!” I used to say “God says, I have to love them, ‘butt’ I don’t have to like them!” “I love him ‘but’ he’s an idiot!” “I love her, ‘but,’ let me tell you this about her.” If you love someone you don’t “but” them!

“Brotherly love,” the Greek word is philadelphia, it describes a love which calls for an affection for one another like the one expressed between natural family members. Remember that Christianity began a radical relationship in Christ, “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Philadelphia is used only five times (Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7). A similar word, philadelphos, appears in 1 Peter 3:8 , and means “loving one's brother.”

As Christians we are brothers and sisters in the community of faith, Paul refers to us as brothers (sisters is implied) some nineteen times in 1 Thessalonians alone. Our love is not just a passive disposition of fondness but manifests itself in overt acts of kindness toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Verse 9b: “…you have no need that I should write to you…”

Paul frequently mentions love in the Thessalonian epistles. What he is saying here is, “I have written to you about this already: 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 3:12; 5:8; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; and 3:5, I really don’t need to bring it up again.”

And God has written about love:

John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

John 15:12-13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…”

Ephesians 5:1,2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”

Hebrews 13:1, “Let brotherly love continue.”

1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

1 John 2:10, “The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

Verse 9c: “…for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another…”

“I think that we all chuckle at the Peanuts cartoon strip because so often we see the truth about ourselves there. That is especially so when Linus protests, ‘I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand!’ Love in the abstract is a cinch. It’s loving those irritating people that I rub shoulders with that is not easy.” –Steven Cole,

This is not just a New Testament concept:

Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:34, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

Jesus reiterates this in Matthew 22:38,39, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

John Calvin eloquently explained why explicit instructions were not needed writing that…“Love was engraved on their hearts, so that there was no need of letters written on paper.”

“…taught by God…”

The Holy Spirit teaches believers:

John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

Paul explains that we have the very source of divine love indwelling us from the moment we are justified by faith writing…“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

“…to love one another…”

“Love” in Greek is agapao and it means to love unconditionally and sacrificially as God Himself loves sinful men (John 3:16), the way He loves the Son (John 3:35, 15:9, 17:23, 24). Agapao is a verb which for action. This quality of love is not an emotion but is an action initiated by a volitional choice.

“Agapao…expresses the purest, noblest form of love, which is volitionally driven, not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship.” –John MacArthur

“Agapao speaks of a love which is awakened by a sense of value in an object which causes one to prize it. It springs from an apprehension of the preciousness of an object. It is a love of esteem and approbation. The quality of this love is determined by the character of the one who loves, and that of the object loved.” Kenneth Wuest

“There is not much difference between agape and phileo. Both involve a voluntary (‘I've decided to love you’) and involuntary (‘I can't help but love you’) response. One point: there is no command to love in scripture that ever uses phileo.” –Source Unknown.

Verse 10a: But we urge you, brethren…”

“And indeed you already are (extending and displaying your love) to all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we beseech and earnestly exhort you, brethren, that you excel (in this matter) more and more.” (AMP).

We continually (present tense) urge you. Urge in Greek is, parakaleo, meaning to call one alongside, to call someone to oneself, to call for, to summon. The idea of encouragement is also present in the verb parakaleo. The English word “encourage” means “with heart” or to hearten, in a sense it is to give them new heart. To strongly recommend, to entreat earnestly to do something, to encourage someone to continue. It is to advocate or recommend earnestly and persistently; plead or insist. To press or impel to action, effort, or speed. Synonyms include egg-on, exhort, goad, prod, prompt, propel, and spur.

Our job as a New testament church is to love everyone! Many years ago we had large bus ministry that was making great inroads into a government project area. Hundreds of young people were being reached by dedicated lay people who gave up their Saturdays to visit in this rather dangerous neighborhood. One Sunday I was baptizing several converts from “the Project” when one of our ladies said, “I can smell them from here.” I wanted to sat to her, “yes, and God can smell you from His throne,” however I bit my tongue, and did not answer her. Listen church people, if the church is doing its job, it will be filled with people who are not necessarily desirable, maybe dirty and smelly, but God will clean them up, starting on the inside.

I took groceries to a home in a Project in Miami. It was so dirty that I did not want to sit down in this house. It smelled of urine and feces, the children were filthy. The husband was in prison. We shared Christ with the mother, and one of our staff went to the prison and led the father to Christ. The end of this story, takes place about a year later, when I was a pastor in Augusta, Georgia. One Sunday morning a very nice looking, clean, well-dressed family walked into our church…it was this same family, cleaned and pressed!! “…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

“…and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia…”

Somehow they tried to accomplish or do something that bore eloquent testimony to the authenticity of their Spirit driven love. From one and a half to two years had elapsed between the conversion of the Thessalonians and the writing of this letter, allowing time for them to show God’s to their Macedonian brethren.

Regardless of whether they were Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or freeman, all were recipients of this love, which is another indication of the power of the gospel received to break down socio-economic barriers.

Verse 10c: “…that you increase more and more…”

“This is very similar to 1 Thessalonians 4:1, which see. A strong bond of affection had sprung up among the Macedonian Christians struggling against the pagan culture to maintain the faith and purity to which they were committed. A similar bond automatically exists wherever faithful souls are striving to maintain faith and purity in the midst of divisive and contrary influences.” –James Burton Coffman

“Increase” in Greek is perisseuo, meaning abundant, exceeding some number, measure, rank or need, over and above, more than sufficient, to exceed a fixed number or measure and so to cause to superabound, to be in excess, to overflow, to be in affluence, to excel or to be in abundance. The implication is that there is considerably more than what would be expected. The idea is to overflow like a river out of its banks!

This verb perisseuo is well illustrated in the feeding of the multitudes in Matthew 14 where we read that…“they all ate, and were satisfied. And they picked up what was left over (perisseuo) of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets” (Matthew 14:20). In this passage we see that much was left over after feeding the 5000. There was more than enough! You can be certain that when Jesus supplies the need there is always more than enough so that some is even left over! How quick we are to forget this basic principle! His power is always perfected in our weakness.

1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding (perisseuo) in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound (perisseuo) toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance (perisseuo) for every good work.”

Philippians 1:9, “And this I pray, that your love may abound (perisseuo), present tense, it indicates a continual process. This God-like love is to grow and even abound throughout the life of every believer still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment…

1 Thessalonians 3:12, “And may the Lord make you increase (perisseuo) and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you…”

Ephesians 1:7,8, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound (perisseuo) toward us in all wisdom and prudence…”

“…you're doing fine but you could do better. I mean, they loved but the love wasn't perfect. They had faith but the faith wasn't perfect, as we noted in 3:10. He wanted to strengthen their faith. He wanted to strengthen their love. As wonderful as your love is, you could do better, you could improve, you could...well, super-abound. That's what "excel still more" means. You could abound to a greater degree. There's plenty of room for improvement. You haven't reached perfection, by the way. You could love to a greater degree.” –John MacArthur

“During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp. When the war was over, feelings of bitterness ran deep between the groups and there was much tension. Finally they decided that the situation had to be healed. Leaders from each group met at a quiet retreat. For several days, each person spent time in prayer, examining his own heart in the light of Christ's commands. Then they came together.

Francis Schaeffer, who told of the incident, asked a friend who was there, ‘What did you do then?’ ‘We were just one,’ he replied. As they confessed their hostility and bitterness to God and yielded to His control, the Holy Spirit created a spirit of unity among them. Love filled their hearts and dissolved their hatred.

When love prevails among believers, especially in times of strong disagreement, it presents to the world an indisputable mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ.” –Our Daily Bread

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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