The Thessalonians have already been commended for loving one another, for being an example of loving fellowship, and for having labored in love. They have been encouraged to “excel still more” rather than resting on their laurels. Today we study 1 Thessalonians 5:9-18, in which Paul is specific in his exhortation toward loving one another.
We will live together
Our hope is corporate–when we are saved, we are brought into God’s family, into Christ’s body which is the Church. We share life together here under the Word; and we will live together for all eternity. So as we’ve just finished hearing about our helmet, “the hope of salvation.” Paul reminds them of that hope in verses 9-10.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.
This is the ultimate satisfaction for which we crave! Heaven seems boring to some… they care not to be with Jesus, to live with Him forever. Sinclair Ferguson once taught on this, beginning with a time when someone asked him what he and his wife do for fun, how they spend their date nights. Dr. Ferguson replied that he just enjoyed being with his wife. He was pressed “yes, but what do you do?!” He replied that they were content just to be together, and did not need special plans to make the time feel more special. He just enjoys hearing her voice, and sharing good conversation. He enjoys looking at her, admiring her, and knowing that she enjoys him in the same manner. When you take the beauty of a relationship like that, and think through what Paul is saying here–heaven begins to sound even more wonderful. All the pressure is off! Pure enjoyment without having to live up to anyone’s standards of entertainment, etc.
And because we will all enjoy Jesus’ presence together, let us live here with this mindset–thinking through our desires for our Christian walk as a corporate thing, rather than a “me and Jesus only I don’t need you stay out of my business” sort of thing. Or even, a monk’s attitude of “if it is only me and Jesus, nothing against you, I’d be in pure bliss…” No. Our joy, our hope, our peace, our Shalom is together. We will live together forever with Him!!!!
For me, my greatest fear was always being alone. Can you see how this is the answer to so many of my greatest “what if…” doubts and fears?! Though my earthly family shun me, I am part of God’s family. Though my earthly friends say “I think it is time to find new friends, you know, one with children the same age as yours, so…see ya later” my truest Friend has brought me into the only true community! Though life brings about changes, and time and space and death separate me from people I love–in heaven, there will be no experience of grief, no tearful separations, no mourning over lost relationships..
Verse eleven, we are to, in light of our eternal family and shared hope, encourage one another and build one another up. As discussed last week, we grow weary and are prone to ‘sleep’ when we should be awake and alert. Our community can uphold one another by encouraging each other, rather than letting each other sleep.
Not flattery, not fluffy, not generic. We want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant” from our LORD, but here and now we can be thanking one another and saying “good job” as a means of encouraging.
We can remind of God’s truth, of His character, His goodness, His love. Humans are forgetful, and our minds wander especially in times of stress and anxiety–we need to speak of things in our encouragement to persevere.
Encouragement ought to be personal, we should not shy away from saying things that we fear may create an awkward moment, like: “we need you” or “we love you” or “so glad to see you” or “thanks for speaking truth into my life” or… We encourage especially in light of Hebrews 10, especially as we see the day drawing near.
Remember, this word implies poking and prodding; we encourage and poke and prod to keep one another moving, that we may all press on toward the goal of the upward call we have in Christ Jesus! (see Philippians 3) Sometimes this is best done with questions, rather than imperative statements. How are you clinging to God? How are you using your spiritual gifts? How are you doing with putting off/putting on and listening to the Spirit as He leads you? What are you reading, studying, musing upon lately?
To do this properly, we keep in mind our foundation. There is only one foundation, Jesus Christ. This is His Church. Colossians 1:9-20; Ephesians 2:11-22. We cannot build one another up apart from His Word, and His love. We have this treasure in earthen vessels and we speak with one another knowing it must not be apart from how He wants the Church to be built.
To build, we ask what does she need to grow in grace and knowledge? What truth would help? What way can I sure up her foundation? How can I walk alongside in this season–what labors of love will help her see Christ’s love? What aspect of life is she having trouble seeing as ‘in Christ’ and “unto HIs glory’? Can I help her see that she is living to the praise of His glory?
Just as you also are doing… Why does Paul keep tagging things like this onto his exhortations? Because some of them really are walking well.
Verse 12-13, so timely after hearing Pastor Tre preach through Hebrews 13, often we are reminded in the NT that we are under authority. Our fallenness cries out “You are not the boss of me!” our fallenness shouts “I know better! I don’t need you to tell me!!!” Our fallenness has us believing we are islands, we are wiser than others, we have no need of others…no need even for elders!
But, do we have the mind of Christ? This mind is one that humbly submits to God’s plans. Our Christ-likeness will humbly obey–Philippians 2:1-11; unless the elders are leading contrary to the Word of God.
Live in Peace
With one another, here, now–live in peace. How often the church is reminded of this! Romans 14:19; 2 Cor 13:11; Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 4:2; Colossians 3:12-15… (this list is not exhaustive).
To live together in peace, we sometimes have to do the uncomfortable… Admonish one another. To admonish is to correct in love, to point back to Christ, the Truth and the Way. To admonish means we do not leave our sisters in their sins, we walk alongside, bearing their burdens as we point them to the cross.
And as love is not easily offended (see 1 Cor 13), then when admonished we are not easily offended. We are not the “one and only person” who needs not be corrected.
Encourage…help…be patient with all. This is a call to walk in wisdom, knowing what is needed in the moment, knowing what is truly helpful.
See that no one repays another with evil for evil–because WE ARE OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER! And so we are “seeing that on one” does this. We protect the peace, promote the peace, and are peace makers. Human fallen nature will have the knee-jerk reaction of returning evil; His Spirit will be leading us to put this off. And, His Spirit will be leading the whole church to “see to it” we do not allow this to happen in our local body.
Sometimes we love this, sometimes we listen to the world that says “to be true to who I am, I have to be grumpy…I have to curse God…I have to flip out and show the world my anger, bitterness, entitlement disappointment, and I have to embellish with cuss words because I will be true to my wayward feelings… I’d rather be “truthful” in this way, than be who God calls me to be, and who God says I am.
May it never be, sisters. Instead of glorying in our sinful attitudes, let us put them off, not leaving any room for the flesh. Let us put on Jesus Christ! (Romans 13:11-14; seriously, if this is your struggle, please meditate on this passage asking the Holy Spirit to help you love His words.)
QUESTION: How do you walk in this? How are you learning this? Do you practice this? Related to gratitude, but not the same.
Χαίρετε present active imperative second person plural
Lk 15:5, 32 2 Cor 6:10 1 Pet 4:13 Mk 14:11 (74x!)
We surrender to the mind of Christ, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. We surrender to the Spirit who pours love into our hearts, who renews us in the spirit of our minds, who fills us with hope, who gives us eyes to see all that God has prepared for us. We submit to the truth of Who He is for me, to the promises over the circumstances, to the ultimate rather than the temporal.
Beloved, let us learn to love one another in these ways!
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash