Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;  for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,  and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,  so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.– 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12. NASB Translation
With so many letters Paul would write to the churches of his day, in many cases the reason he wrote at all was to encourage them, to make a correction which would reflect God’s will for that church whether it be who to place their faith in and obtaining salvation, pursuing spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit, then running away from idol worship, keeping corrosive cultural influences out of the church, yet being available to those surrounding the local church who need Jesus. Maybe they faced forms of social justice, political correctness, ethnic challenges and identity struggles, feminist and slavery viewpoints, voting rights, money challenges and unemployment. Sound familiar? But when you get to 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Paul says something very rare to see. “9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;” You mean Paul isn’t writing something so a church can change their ways about an issue? There isn’t some major problem to handle, and adjust their thinking in prayerfully hoping they will listen to God and not to their own flesh, adhering to a deceptive spirit’s teaching? No, in fact he is praising them for doing the right thing. Why is this? Because what God was teaching them about loving one another, they were actually doing. One could say, when we are taught by God Himself, we have no need to consider any other teaching but His. That’s true. All good and true things come from God, there’s no one higher in power, His authority, wisdom, intellect, or ability. Yet with all that God is and all we can say about Him, in His vast wisdom, does He allow us to choose how we want to live. He gives us free will in life so that when it is in our desire to choose God and God’s ways, this pleases Him in a more logical and greater way, than if He would somehow force us to conform. This is really why Paul is praising the Thessalonian church. Yes, they were taught by God, through His Holy Spirit, but also its important to realize they chose to obey and follow through with what it meant to show love, to their Brethren in the Faith. See what Verse 7 says which they were to be set apart and where their bodies and their life were to be sanctified. Verse 8 Paul says this is not man’s instruction but God’s instruction which is set yourself apart for God away from your former worldly thinking, and practices and affixing your thinking to then show love to one another as God has instructed them, and us. Notice what 1 John 2:27 says. “27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” If you want to know how the God of Heaven and of the creator of the universe can teach you, when our sin and shame, has been blocking God’s presence from coming through, because He is a perfect God without sin or lie, or deception, or any wrong found in Him,
how can Holy God allow us to come to Him to be taught by Him, and even if we could somehow get taught by Him,
would we even understand what to do? Would we know when we’ve heard God’s voice inside of us, that it was Him speaking?
Well yes, all of that is possible. We can know God’s voice inside us and hear the Spirit of God teach us things from the inside out.
We can know what love is so we can take that and go love others with it. The reason we can know is by the Holy Spirit of God,
which comes to live within us and as Paul is reminding the Thessalonians and what John is saying in 1st John, is God Himself,
through the sacrifice of Jesus paid our sin debt and God then gives of Himself teaching us to love others just as He loved us,
and still loves us even now, calling us to love just as Paul said the Thessalonians were loving those in Macedonia.
Paul then confirms their love of others is taking place.
1 Thessalonians 4:10. “10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,”
Paul uses this phrase “Excel still more” in two places first in Verse 1.
“Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”
But you could almost here people ask, “We’re Christians. We have faith, we’ve made a few changes – bucket list is filled!” What more is there?
You mean as a Christian I have to Excel still more? Why? I’m saved, I’m good to go, I’m headed in the right direction they say,
going “up and not down” to those pearly gates, the streets of gold, Peter stands at the gate… well, nope. But what else do I need to do?”
If there is more to do in the life of our faith beyond securing heavenly real estate and eternal fire insurance,
maybe somebody else needs to know what you know. Maybe someone else needs to get where you are. Maybe God just as they commissioned,
someone to tell you about Jesus, wants you to do the same. You might be thinking well not me. I can’t do that. well, all the people,
who spoke to you about God, were they all Bible scholars with Doctor of Divinity degrees? What about all the regular people,
who God used to get your attention? What about when your own kids ministered to you in that very special way and you knew it,
that God was using them to get to you. You see God confines some who are self-made smarty-pants people, who think they have everything
all figured out, but then out of God’s wisdom He uses basic situations in your life and He just blows you away. That’s the Lord letting you know
He is there and is calling you to respond to Him and those of us who are now willing to be used by God to go and “excel still more”,
will watch others come to the Lord just as you did. Don’t pass up being used by God in a such a way. Before Easter gets here,
invite someone to church and for a meal together before or after the service. Your hospitality may be the presence of God,
someone desperately needs right now. What a tragedy it would be if you hardened your heart toward evangelism when the Lord wanted to use you
to help someone else. When Paul tells the church here, they are currently practicing love toward the brethren, there’s an important cross-reference
back in 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8. “6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.”
It says here they became imitators of us and the Lord. And then in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Paul says this.
“11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”
But looking at this statement, “excel still more” doesn’t seem to line up with leading a quiet life, attending to our own business,
working with our own hands. But again what we perceive in our minds about something isn’t always how God sees it.
I think we can rest on that to be true. So let’s see why Paul worded it the way he did here. Have you ever had someone who is a non-Christian,
Ask, “What is different about you?” Why do you have a peace and a joy?
You live your life content with God, you work and labor and love every day and you give of yourself as if someone gave something special to you.
You don’t seem to need anything from anyone and don’t take from people.
What then, do you have that someone has given to you, that I know I don’t have? Why are you happy knowing things around you might be bad?
They could come crashing down around you at any moment. You work quietly and consistently at what you choose to do,
working with what you have, you mind your own business, yet you treat people different from you with respect. How do you do that?
Now do you see what Paul is talking about? We know nobody is perfect and yet that’s kind of the point isn’t it?
When we get to a place even in our imperfection and when God steps in and works a miracle in our life and He brings us peace.
Our life gets noticed by others and that’s what God wants. He wants to use you as a testimony to His work in your life so He can do that for them.
See what it says in Verse 12 one more time. 1 Thessalonians 4:12. “12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”
Your lifestyle as a Christian will minister to others, the love of God.
- Father, will You help us Excel Still More?
- Help our “everyday” witness count for Christ!
- You sent someone to show us Jesus.
- Let us be that “Someone” for others!
- We give You all the praise, in Jesus Name, Amen!