When the Gospel is preached there are normally a whole range of responses from even within a smallish group of people. Reading between the lines of this letter we can surmise already by this stage in the letter that in response to the Gospel being preached;
- Some could be applauded for their wholehearted response to the Gospel (1:6-9 & 2:13)
- Some could be applauded for their faith and love & their desire to please God (3:6&4:1)
- Some needed to be urged to not continue in their sexual sin or living like unbelievers (4:3-5)
- Some were applauded for their love for one another and for all the brothers in Macedonia (4:9-10)
- And some were exhorted to keeping working so as not to have to depend on others finances (4:11-12)
All different responses from the same Gospel shared with them. And so pastorally different things were needing to be encouraged in different groups of individuals in this young church.
What would you be applauded for in terms of your Gospel response?
What might you need to be exhorted in?
When the Gospel is preached, a faith community of Christ followers that hadn’t previously existed forms (the church), and Jesus clearly expected that these new faith communities would be primarily characterised by a deep love that looks like family.
“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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Churches are not about programmes or meetings, they are all about people who have been joined to one another because they have been joined to Jesus Christ. Paul could write about the Thessalonians that he didn’t need to teach them about ‘brotherly love’ because clearly God had been teaching them how to love one another (vs9). What an accolade for a church to receive!
God had promised hundreds of years before that one day He would make a new covenant (which He did through Jesus) and in that era God said;
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
And that’s what God did with the Thessalonians, after just a short time of preaching God taught them, God wrote on their hearts His way for loving one another, for loving even ‘all the brothers throughout Macedonia’(vs10)!
God the Holy Spirit will teach us, will lead us how to love like He loves so that we will reflect who God is to one another and to the world at large. There is no greater hallmark of holiness than sacrificial love for others, and especially love for those whom we can’t realistically expect anything from in return.
How is God teaching you to be more loving to those in the church?
How is God leading you to love those in the wider community?