GROWING DISCIPLES MUST STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE IN PLEASING GOD
There is a complacency that can settle over the Christian life when we have a sense that we are doing OK. We understand God’s demands on our life. We have not rebelled against God’s rule but have invested many years in Christian discipleship and service. We have experienced growth. We have learned much. We have ministered in a variety of contexts and been used by God to impact the lives of others. But it is easy to lose our fervency and our hunger to draw closer to God. We lose our passion to please God; to make the most of our opportunities; to strive for excellence. Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to build on their foundation of faith, love and hope and to press forward in the transformation process that leads to Christian maturity.
II. (:3-12) THREE TARGET AREAS (WHERE WE MUST STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE IN PLEASING GOD)
A. (:3-8) Sexual Purity — a specific aspect of sanctification
Transition: from safeguards against Lust to Encouragement to Love – moving beyond the area of love for your wife which involves sanctified sex to the more general love of the brethren – sacrificing yourself and your resources to meet their needs
Sexual sin is self-centered and selfish at its root – a life of unselfishness will reflect the type of love that God has demonstrated towards us
But remember the four general principles we studied earlier … because they still apply
– Follow the Directions
– Goal = Please God
– Goal = Pursue Excellence
– Ignorance is not an Option
B. (:9-10) Brotherly Love — Aggressive But Responsible Love for the Brethren
“Now as to the love of the brethren”
Introducing a new subject … peri de – same expression starts off chap. 5
Difference between brotherly love (love members of a family have for one another) and agape love (special unmerited gracious love that God has demonstrated towards us)
Hiebert: Christian love does not undervalue or disregard natural family ties; it gives them their due importance and condemns those who are without natural affection (Ro 1:31; 2 Ti 3:3). But Christian love transcends these limited natural ties and finds its wider sphere of affection in the redeemed family of God’s children (Lk 8:21). This love which Christians cherish for each other as brethren is not just a passive disposition of fondness; it manifests itself in overt acts of kindness toward the brethren.
1. (:9-10a) Commendation for present level of obedience in this area;
There is no need for further teaching because:
a. (:9) They are God-taught
“you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”
only NT usage – compound word – taught by God
Wuest: you yourselves are those taught by God with a view to loving one another with a love that impels you to deny yourselves for the benefit of the one whom you love
Romans 5:5 the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (fruit of the Holy Spirit – Gal. 5:5)
Not talking primarily about any commandments given by God in the OT; or even about all of the NT passages about loving one another – emphasis seems to be on the Holy Spirit directly teaching us
Cf. 1 John 2:27 “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.”
Isaiah 54:13… It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
Quoted in John 6:45
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John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 15:12-13 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor
Hebrews 13:1 Let love of the brethren continue (Pres. Impv) – already being practiced; there are things that might hinder it; you need to continue to practice such love
2 Peter 1:7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love
* * * * *
b. (:10a) They are practicing the truth
“for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.”
Not just a local love, but a regional love was practiced; what does this say about the interaction among the local churches and the common bonds of fellowship …
Churches established in Berea and Philippi that we know of; others would have formed in the outlying areas
Zeisler: What characterizes love among the family of Christ is that it does not exclude anybody. Jesus said clearly that anybody can learn to love the people who love him. Anybody can be nice to people who are guaranteed to be nice in turn. There is nothing difficult about that. What sets Christian love apart is that it is love for people who have nothing in common with you; love for people you might otherwise overlook or despise or have nothing to do with; love for people outside your background who do not share the same interests, who do not attend the same parties who have nothing in common with you–“all the brethren who are in all Macedonia.” Paul reminds us that that includes everyone.
2. (:10b) Challenge to strive for excellence
“But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more.”
Had talked about this striving for excellence earlier in the chapter; a repeated theme and emphasis
The Pursuit of Excellence – not talking about programs in the church – and making sure that our organization and administrative skills have developed some lengthy set of rules and procedures to govern every possible situation; that is not the type of excellence that Paul makes reference to here; talking about practical love for the brethren – inconveniencing yourself to go out of your way to meet the needs of others; does not require some complicated vetting process or classroom seminars on the right way to perform a certain ministry (training might be very helpful) – but Paul is encouraging people to step out in faith and do good works – you are taught of God how to love one another – go do it! Paul constantly encourages and empowers Christian ministry rather than regulating or restricting it or making it burdensome.
Keathley: While there is a change in emphasis, what we have in these next two verses is actually a further application of the responsibility to excel in love through walking in a biblical and orderly fashion. Hard work and individual accountability to responsibly care for one’s own life and needs is not unrelated to the subject of Christian love.
Not really introducing a completely new topic here … brotherly love is still in view … but Paul wants to warn against the abuse of that brotherly love – so he puts emphasis on responsible living = the faithful performance of our everyday duties
C. (:11-12) Responsible Living
5:14 “admonish the unruly” – Stott: example of an apprenticeship contract with a weaver which a father signed for his son in AD 66. In it he undertook that if the boy played a truant and missed any workdays, he would make them up. And the verb for “play truant” is atakteo. Translated “idle” by RSV and NIV – deals with an irresponsible attitude to the obligation to work (see 3:6-7, 11). Same group of people referred to here even though the word is not used.
Hiebert: three phases of trouble in the Thessalonian church – mental excitement, meddlesomeness and idleness
1. Three Responsibilities:
a. (:11a) Don’t be a Troublemaker – Don’t Stir the Pot — Keep a Low Profile –
Recognize your limitations – Don’t be an undisciplined fanatic
(Don’t be a big shot) – ambitious restlessness
(lead a quiet life rather than one of frenzied activity or unruliness)
“and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life”
Apparently Christ and the Apostle Paul must be examples in this area of leading “a quiet life” – how can that be given all of the turmoil sourrounding their proclamation of the gospel?
Stott: oxymoron, or contradiction of terms: “make it your ambition to have no ambition!”
Bruce: ambition usually involves more energetic action
Quiet in the sense of restfulness … rather than ceasing from talking
Not all about striving for self promotion; restless eagerness in any pursuit – here in the context of fanatical evangelization in the light of the imminent return of the Lord
Findlay: connotation of some desire to shine or pursuit of eminence
MacArthur: In anticipation of the Lord’s return, believers are to lead peaceful lives, free of conflict and hostility toward others, which is a witness to the transforming power of the gospel.
Gil Rugh: As believers, we need to have the right balance. Paul says our ambition is to lead a quiet life. Well, anyone who knows about the life of Paul knows that his life wasn’t quiet. But remember, everything he stirred up was centered around the gospel. Evidently, some in Thessalonica were just stirring the pot with a purpose of unsettling things and causing problems. We as believers are not to be causing problems, but rather to lead a quiet life. This does not mean that I will sacrifice the truth of the gospel (Christ didn’t do that, and neither did Paul), but by the same token, we are not just to go somewhere to stir up trouble. The areas in Paul’s ministry where he had difficulties resulted from his presentation of Christ. But in other areas he was above reproach. He conducted himself in a manner that was above question. This trait is to characterize all believers.
Drew Worthen: The Christian walk is something that doesn’t bring attention to itself, but to Christ. In most cases the world promotes ungodly ambition, to lead a life which elevates self, and it doesn’t normally mind its own business, and it will gravitate towards dishonesty, if it has the opportunity.
Mayhue: avoid unnecessary contention
Matt. 7:1-5 – Don’t go around judging the motives of others; stirring up trouble; causing unrest
Look at example in 1 Kings 18:17-18; 21:20 – Ahab calling Elijah a troublemaker
Acts 16:20-21 – Paul accused of causing civil unrest; Acts 17:6-8 – Jason and the brethren
Acts 24:5 For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes
Look at the type of peace that characterized the life of Christ and that He gave to us … a peace that the world cannot give
One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. (Eccl 4:6)
Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2Thes 3:12)
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Ti 2:1-2)
Hiebert: there was a spirit of restlessness in the young church. It was due, apparently, not to political influences, but rather to the new religious experiences and hopes that had gripped their minds. Although there is nothing to prove that this restlessness was caused by their excited anticipation of the impending return of Christ, such a connection, nevertheless, seems probable. The inspiring expectation of Christ’s return, whereby earthly interests were reduced in importance in their eyes, had become the center of their excited interest. This connection seems justified from the fact that Paul immediately follows this exhortation with his treatment of the second advent, thereupon to return to further practical exhortations concerning daily living. Paul urges that this “eschatological restlessness” be turned into the proper channel. Instead of allowing their excited expectation to lead them to neglect their daily duties, let them use this enthusiasm faithfully to fulfill those duties. . .
hesuchazo… basically means “to be at rest” and was used of silence after speech, rest after labor, peace after war, and the like; it was also used of tranquility or peace of mind; here it is used to urge the living of a calm, restful life. The present tense …stresses that they must constantly strive to lead such a life. They must eagerly endeavor to be eminent in the effort “to be quiet,” live tranquilly and restfully. Instead of allowing them to succumb to fanatical excitement, Paul desires to recall them to restfulness of mind and a balanced outlook upon life. If they will develop a quiet, restful attitude, the outward manifestations of restlessness will cease.
Green writing on the meaning of hesuchazo adds that… At times the theme of “being quiet” appears in the literature of the era in the description of those respectable people who do not cause problems in the community.
Hesuchazo is used 4 other times in the NT…
Luke 14:4 But they kept silent. And He took hold of him, and healed him, and sent him away.
Luke 23:56 And they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Acts 11:18 And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 21:14 And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”
McGee “That ye study to be quiet.” That is an interesting commandment for Christians. We have all kinds of schools today to teach people to speak. Every seminary has a public speaking class. Perhaps they should also have a class that would teach their students to be quiet. A lot of saints need such a course! A lady went to a “tongues meeting,” and the leader thought she was interested in speaking in tongues. He asked her, “Madam, would you like to speak in tongues?” She answered, “No, I would like to lose about forty feet off the one I have now!” We need to study to be quiet. That is a commandment. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)
Hiebert: the following two duties explain how they are to go about living quiet lives.
b. (:11b) Mind Your Own Business — Concentrate on your own affairs
(Don’t be a busybody)
“and attend to your own business”
Chess: call this person a kibitzer – doesn’t get involved and challenge someone to a game himself; sits on the sidelines and observes your game and makes all types of critical comments
Proverbs 20:3 It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
1 Timothy 5:13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
c. (:11c-12) Work Diligently — Work to provide for your own needs
(Don’t be a burden)
“and work with your hands”
PreceptAustin: One must also keep the cultural context in mind for in Paul’s day (not much different then our modern times) manual labor was regarded as degrading, befitting the status of slaves and free men should never “stoop” to this level. Thus mundane work was generally despised by aristocrats and those of higher social status.
Example of Jesus the carpenter and Paul the tentmaker
2 Thess. 3:7-12
Eph. 4:28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.
Rom. 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence
1 Cor. 4:11-13
Titus 3:14 And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful.
Be contributing members of the community; not parasites
2. Three Reasons for Responsible, Disciplined Living:
a) Trustworthy Apostolic Teaching and Example —
Obedience – Responsible living commanded and exemplified by apostles
“just as we commanded you”
Apostles did not command something they were unwilling to do themselves
b) Testimony to unbelievers
“so that you may behave properly toward outsiders”
What a privilege to be “insiders” – others are watching our conduct
Gk. word means “decently, honestly” –
Rom. 13:13-14 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality; not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
What type of testimony do you have at work?
Disciplined living is your platform for presenting the gospel.
c) Team Contribution — Sufficiency — so as not to be in any need yourself
“and not be in any need”
Whatever you fail to produce in the way of sufficient income impacts the overall Christian community; now they need to relieve your needs and you do not have the resources to contribute to relieve the needs of others.
Gal. 6:2,5 Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of God . . . For each one shall bear his own load.
Some people will take advantage of Christian generousity and will not perform their own obligations
Prov. 18:9 He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.
2 Cor. 8:12-15 Principle is one of trying to maintain equality so that the needs of all will be provided for
Prov. 6:6-11 Learn the value of diligent work from studying the ants – they have no needs
Laziness leads to poverty (not always the cause of poverty(
Prov 12:11 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense. (also vs. 24 and vs. 27)
Hendriksen: With respect to diligence, fanatics – afflicted probably with Parousia hysteria (cf. II Thess. 2:1, 2) – should become “ambitious to be calm”; busybodies (Paul uses the actual term in II Thess. 3:11, but the idea is implied here in I Thess. 4:11) should begin to mind their own affairs; and loafers should start working with their hands. (In all probability the same persons were all three: fanatics, busybodies, and loafers.) No offence should be given to outsiders. Besides, by working diligently a person develops the art of being “dependent on nobody.”
Some quotations regarding excellence:
Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.
There are no speed limits on the road to excellence.
Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time.
“Excellence can be obtained if you:
…care more than others think is wise;
…risk more than others think is safe;
…dream more than others think is practical;
…expect more than others think is possible.”
The Apostle Paul exhorts us to excel still more and more … especially in this area of brotherly love – and make sure that our efforts are not thrown off track by becoming undisciplined or irresponsible. Commit ourselves to responsible living …
– Not being a big shot – make it your ambition to live a quiet life …
– Not being a busybody – mind your own business . . .
– Not being a burden – work diligently