“The Unglamorous Christian Life” 1 Thess 4:9-12 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 11]

Note: These are sermon outlines, not full messages.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

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. 10 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, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

We continue on in a section where Paul tells the people how to live; and what’s interesting about this letter is that he don’t need to correct them, and least not very much.

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.

He uses a particular word for love, which is Philadelphia. In this epistle alone, he speaks to the Christians as “brothers and sisters”. In 1:4-5 he said For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. That is, calling them brothers and sisters is not just being friendly, but he means that it’s through the gospel that we are now family.

This was new, the Greeks and the Jews only spoke to blood relatives this way. But members of God’s people are more closely related than biological siblings. The church is called the “family of believers” in Gal 6:10.

9b – we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

Now, when they had evangelized the Thessalonians, they of course taught them to love one another. And they not only obeyed it, but they had also kept growing and improving. How had that happened?

They had been “taught by God” – God had changed them on the inside

Now in the OT this happened: “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Ps 16:7).

Paul is very likely referring to Isa 54:13 (NETS), that “I will make all your sons taught by God”

And Jesus said the same thing: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God’ ” (John 6:45), also quoting from the Isa 54 passage. Jesus’ teaching was that all should listen to him since in this new age God is speaking to them through him. Paul and Silas haven’t been able to return to Thessalonica, but he is very pleased that God is working among them even when the apostles cannot.

God has not just taught them that it’s a good idea to love one another, he has trained them TO love one another. And they love other Christians (brothers and sisters!) throughout their region

10a And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia

How the Thessalonians showed love to “all the brothers and sisters in all of Macedonia” is not specified, but it must have been an observable behavior. Gaventa suggests “intercessory prayer, financial support, and hospitality.

10b Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more

Compare this statement with 1 Cor 13, where an entire weighty chapter exists to correct the Corinthians’ imperfect love. There is a parallel in Phil 1:9, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more.”

This is a good example. Sometimes Christian leaders are always scolding the flock – you aren’t doing this right, you are letting the Lord down. Paul knows how to rebuke his disciples, but he also takes the time to say, You’re doing very well on this, keep it up! When was the last time we said that to someone?

Paul’s words suggest that the Thessalonians themselves can decide to love one another in greater measure. They need to depend entirely on God, since love is a fruit of the Spirit and thus a miracle, but they can choose to tap into God’s power through a strong relationship with the Spirit

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Paul now asks the Thessalonians to live as he had previously commanded (“just as we told you”) with regard to a favorite topic of his, the work ethic. More than with any other theme, the apostles are held up as the pattern.

Take a look at Acts 4:32 –

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

And Paul raised money for people in Jerusalem.

Gal 210 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

1 Cor 16 – Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me.

This project, the Jerusalem Fund, went on for many years, because of the great poverty among Christians in Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem the money goes to people who cannot earn money themselves; OR people who could work, but they were shut out of work because they were Christians

But Paul’s tone gets stronger in 2 Thessalonians:

2 Thess 3 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

In 2 Thessalonians, these are people who could work to support themselves, and should work, but choose not to. We don’t know why. Some suggest that people quit their jobs because they thought the Second Coming was about to happen; some suggest they were just lazy, we don’t know.

So they should work, focus on their own business, not mind other people’s business.

It pleased God when people work. Work is under the curse of Adam, but originally it was meant to be a pleasure, fulfilling.

12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Two good reasons. First, the church is evangelistic, so let’s not give anyone the opportunity to say, just look at those Christians – they are lazy.

Matthew Henry states about this verse, I paraphrase: “We should work hard to learn how to be calm and quiet in our minds, to keep ourselves in patience, and to be quiet towards others; or of a meek and mild, a gentle and peaceable attitude, not given to strife, contention, or division. Satan is very busy to stir us up; and also in our own hearts we get stirred up; therefore let us study to be quiet.”

Whatever the Lord has given us to do, and it doesn’t matter if we work part-time, full-time, are retired, whatever – we should always act in a way so that “outsiders” can say, Say what you want about those Christians, but they know their jobs well, they work hard, they support their families and they contribute to society.”

Doing well what you should do – it doesn’t sound too exciting, but it’s one more way of being the light of the world.

“The Unglamorous Christian Life” 1 Thess 4:9-12 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 11], Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testamento, Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica

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