Study 6 INCREASING AND ABOUNDING IN LOVE
THE LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portions: 1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13; 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13
The greatest need among God’s people is that they should become more loving towards one another. This is a terrible admission to have to make but it is true that, as Christians, we are not nearly as loving as we should be. Sometimes we act ungraciously and unkindly, sometimes we say and do hurtful things or are filled with envy and jealousy; we are spiteful, bitter and unforgiving. Why is this? It is because of a lack of love in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 Paul prayed for the young Christians to whom he was writing, that they might become more loving. What a great prayer this is for us to pray for each other! Now notice the following:-
1. THE PRAYER he offered for them.
Paul did not pray that they might have more faith, more zeal or more spiritual gifts, necessary as that might have been – but he prayed that they would become more and more loving – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else…”
The first great essential is that we should love the Lord Himself . Compare Matthew 22:36-40 with John 21:15-17, and then see what 1 Corinthians 16:22 says! In the passage before us Paul speaks not of our love for God but of our love for one another and for the lost. There is a vertical aspect of love (love for God); but there is also a horizontal aspect (love for others), and it is this which Paul speaks about. In the light of Matthew 22:36-40, do we love one another (John 13:35)? Do we love the lost? Do our lives demonstrate the love of Christ so that lost souls are drawn to Him? Now notice how Paul demonstrated this:-
2. The PATTERN he held before them.
What was the pattern? Who did he hold up before these young Christians? Jesus? Of course, He is the only perfect example, but Paul did not mention Jesus as the example of a love-filled life; he mentioned himself and those who were with him – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow…just as ours does for you” (verse 12). In other words Paul said, ‘If you want to see this thing working you look at me (and at Timothy)…’ Well, let’s look at Paul and see the marks or characteristics of this love. How was it shown in Paul’s life?
- (1) He thanked God for them (1:2).
- (2) He prayed for them (1:2 and 3:10).
- (3) He preached the Gospel to them (1:5 and 2:2).
- (4) He suffered for them (1:6 and 2:2).
- (5) He was sincere before them (2:3 and 5).
- (6) He was gentle, kind and considerate towards them (2:7 and 8).
- (7) He sacrificed himself for them (2:9).
As we become more loving we shall become more like this pattern that Paul gives us. How do we measure up to this pattern?
3. The PURPOSE he explained to them.
Look at Paul’s desire for them: “May (God) strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy…” He prayed that they might become more loving in order that they might be holy before God, because if we are holy we will be filled with love. Turn to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and note the marks of this love:-
(1) It is patient. (2) It is kind. (3) It does not get envious. (4) It is not boastful or proud. (5) It is not rude. (6) It is not self-seeking. (7) It is not easily angered. (8) It keeps no record of wrongs. (9) It is truthful. (10) It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
Here is Paul’s inspired picture of a holy, love-filled man. How searching it all is! How do we measure up to this?
4. The PROSPECT he placed in front of them.
In praying that these Christians might be more loving Paul set a great incentive before them – look at the end of verse 13. What he really says is: “I pray that you may be more loving, ‘so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones’.” We shall not be holy in the absolute sense until the Lord comes, for 1 John 3:2 assures us about this; but in anticipation of the Lord’s return, and as we realise that He may come for us at any moment, we shall seek to live lives that are holy – filled with love – look up 1 John 3:3.
When Jesus returns will He find us perfect? No! When He comes it is possible for Him to find us blameless, but there is all the difference in the world between being perfect and being blameless. You and I cannot live perfect lives down here in that sense of the word, but by the grace of God we can live lives that are blameless (1 John 2:28).
In concluding this study, notice 1 Thessalonians 3:12 again – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow…” Only the Lord can do it, and He will do it if we ask Him – look up Romans 5:5 and Galatians 5:22. Will you pray the prayer, “Lord, make me more loving…”?