#197 “WHAT DO NON-CHRISTIANS THINK OF YOU?” (1 THESSALONIANS 4:9-12)

  1. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, Paul transitions into a new section by penning “now concerning (about)” to address a few items he (more than likely) received in Timothy’s report regarding the state of the church in Thessalonica and Macedonia. In 4:1-8, Paul discussed the need to live holy and ethically, and now shifts into brotherly love. Brotherly love—The GK. word is philadelphia, “to have love for fellow brethren in Christ.” As Christians seek to control their bodies by not giving themselves over to sexual temptations, they should also show a heart of love to those around them. Taught by God—Paul recognizes that the Thessalonians extraordinary love for others was a testament to them for obeying the divine will of God. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament, “The unique expression “taught by God” (theodidaktoi) is further evidence that Paul is making use of the “new covenant” language of the prophets and applying it to the predominantly Gentile church of Thessalonica. The apostle here alludes to Isaiah’s description of the messianic age as a time when God will live so intimately in and among his people through his Spirit that they will no longer have to be taught by human intermediaries, but will be “taught by God.” Thus, Paul’s language is familiar to that of Isaiah 54:13, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” There will come a day when God’s people will be fully enraptured by His presence in the New Covenant to come in the future: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: 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” (Jer. 31:31-34).
    • The Holy Spirit is the primary teacher in a Christian’s life. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:12-13, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” The apostle John, speaking about the Holy Spirit writes, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him” (1 Jn. 2:27).
  2. To love one another—Paul makes clear that we are capable of loving because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). In Gal. 5:22, it tells us that the “fruit of the Spirit is love.”
  3. 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,Paul encourages the Thessalonians to continue to practice kindness and to show more love for one another. Based on the phrase what you are doing, Paul was simply reinforcing what the Thessalonians were already doing in their churches.Unity doesn’t happen on its own. It requires patience, endurance, and much sacrifice from the people. But striving for unity is worth it and God blesses those who work hard to preserve it. Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
  4. 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,Paul lists three things for the Thessalonians to aspire to achieve if they are to live their lives in love for one another and not be a burden to others. Note the past tense as we instructed you. An indication that idleness was a problem among the Thessalonians, and therefore, something Paul had to discuss with them on multiple occasions. The first is to live quietly. That is, to not seek attention or to live in the limelight. The International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, “In 1 Thess. 4:11 Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to aim at leading an unobtrusive life of tranquillity (hēsychazō). Moreover, they are to avoid the disorderliness of busybodies and to attend to their business with quietness (hēsychia) and earn their own living (2 Thess. 3:12). Any eschatological excitement (cf. 2:1 – 2) that produces corporate turmoil or individual laziness is here repudiated.” The second is mind your own affairs. If you truly love someone then you will not butt into their lives as though you know best. Paul will later mention “busybodies” who were causing problems in the church (2 Thess. 3:11). The third piece of advice Paul presents is for the Thessalonians to work with their own hands. You’re not showing love to others if all you do is mooch off them. Paul was teaching the Christians not to view manual labor as the Greeks did but to see it as an honorable profession. Theology of Work Bible Commentary, “It is striking that Paul’s treatment of the issue in 1 Thessalonians is framed in terms of “brotherly love” (1 Thess. 4:9). The idea is plainly that love and respect are essential in Christian relationships, and that living off the charity of others unnecessarily is unloving and disrespectful to the charitable brother(s) or sister(s) concerned.” Throughout Scripture we see that work is ordained by God (see Ex. 20:9; Deut. 5:13). Psalm 104:23, “Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.” Work is also seen a stewardship from God that we should do in honor of Him. Col. 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”
  5. 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. Christians ought to be careful how they act around people who are not believers. Paul didn’t want the Thessalonians to be unreliable workers that were dependent on nonbelievers.