Flourishing in Brotherhood | 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:9–4:12
Christopher Rich – October 23, 2016
FLOURISH | Hope and Holiness amid Hostility
Wk7: Flourish as Family |1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
Introduction | Flourishing Disciples
Good Morning! We are continuing our series on the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. The series is titled Flourish: Hope and Holiness amid Hostility. Where do you find hope? How do you handle hostility? What does the word "holiness" mean and do we pursue it? How are hope and holiness related? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but can you actually flourish in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one of the churches he was involved in planting. This church is an example of a flourishing Gospel Community with people whose faith is evident and their relationships with one another and leadership is familial. While there is much to affirm and celebrate in the life of the Thessalonian church, much hope seen, and there are issues to address. His pastoral love of God’s people leads him to practical teaching to encourage and exhort Godly living. He ended last chapter with a prayer for the growth of God’s people. Because life with God is good he desires for this church to Flourish as Family.
This church has received clear teaching about the doctrine (What is True about God) and practice (How does the church live according to the Gospel). You cannot simply preach the Good News of what God has accomplished for us in Christ without also calling people to walk out the Good Works that God has prepared from them. We need to preach the Gospel AND live lives that adorn the Gospel. God’s mercy is sufficient to cover all of our disobedience AND God’s grace is effective to empower us to live out the lives we’ve been called to. This letter, like so many others in the NT starts with the truth of the Gospel and transitions to its implications. Often there is something missing other times it’s something that merely needs to be continued and strengthened when endurance is lacking and wilting is possible.
When we read instructions it is incredibly important to remember the order. This text does not stand alone; it builds on what has already been said. These are people who have been chosen by God to be sons and daughters, they have placed their faith and hope in Jesus alone, they have turned from worshiping idols of the culture around them. They are rooted in God’s word (Gospel Truth), growing in love of one another (Gospel Community). They are a flourishing community of disciples who none the less need to grow in (Gospel Living). They are to keep doing what they are doing, as much as it is walking in a manner pleasing to God, and do more! They have knowledge of what is true and right about life in Christ, but they need a refresher, as we are prone to wander. God has a will for us, our sanctification. In this case it speaking of the ongoing process of growing more like Jesus. Disciples who have been called by God are also changed by God. You are chosen by God through the proclamation of the Gospel. God’s call of salvation is also a call to sanctification. God has given the Holy Spirit to empower people to grow in the Gospel and grow together because of the Gospel.
PART I | Flourishing Family | Verse 9-10a
9 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, 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, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
When it says "Now concerning brotherly love" it is actually one word Philia (Brotherly love was a word typically reserved family. Blood relatives. Specifically the type of loyalty family bond have. It could extend to friends and other relationships; but required virtue, equality, and familiarity. It was a big shift to actually shift the intensity and significance of these relationships from actually biological family to this new spirit created, blood bought family of God. You have the family of your birth, but "In Christ" you have a family of "new birth". When you have God as your loving Father, you are a loving brother and sister. The term for Brothers and Sisters is used 19 times in this letter alone. It is a mega theme of this letter.
This group of people is an exemplary Gospel Community. Pledging allegiance to King Jesus, or turning from Judaism and Idolatry meant for most of the Thessalonian Christians would have been rejected by their families and community. This meant the church was incredibly important for individual disciples to flourish by being regularly reminded while estranged from their birth families and previous community they are not sacrificing family and community for isolation but for a new one centered on the Gospel. So this is an important concept. They are commended for actually living out their new identities, many do not.
"We have no need to write" We have been taught by God, we love because He first loved us. That means seeing others in the body as those loved by God. Thisshould lead to a dignity, respect, and affection.
Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.
Gospel of Family. We start as a good family, God’s intention is for us to be a loving, working, multiplying family of people who live for His glory and our joy. Sin enters through our rebellion. Fall we are estranged, divorced, and scattered. God promises redemption will come through the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Through a family) Jesus God’s Son enters history through this family line. Lives in perfect obedience and embodies the "family values of God" and to secure the release from sin and full adoption of estranged sinners He sacrifices Himself on the cross. This is Redemption we are brought back into family. We are in the not yet perfect family. Final destination is full restoration of the glorious family God intended from the beginning where we are all seated around table at a family dinner.
This already not yet perfect family will love one another. How does God teach us to love one another? When we say you have been taught it implies that there are skills, ways of being, heart attitudes that are not natural to who we are apart from God. We don’t love each other naturally. We love ourselves and quarrel. God’s instruction is for us to know Him, love him and also God’s people living peacefully as family.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God teaches us his love for us in Christ. There is wrath that has been absorbed for us! That is a truly loving thing. Jesus was on a mission of wrath absorption that was self-sacrificial in nature. It is in this mission that we see what he was hoping to accomplish in us and for us. So was we consider a gospel community it is one that is formed by the mission of the Cross. So this differs from a worldly view of ‘love’ being simply emotional and sentimental. We know the love of God from the Cross of Christ. We can live out the love of God because of the resurrection where we see sacrifice lead to new life empowered by the Holy Spirit.
John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Loved people, love well. Yet it still needs to be encouraged, taught, and continued. Their knowledge of what Brotherly love is put into practice in their relationship with one another. An emanating love is contagious and will spread well beyond the singular Gospel Community. This church is regionally connected "throughout Macedonia". Not only are they an exemplary church around the region, they are a loving and loved church by other churches in the region. I likely get to experience this more than others because of my connections with Pastors in other churches, but our church is a prayed for church and loved church by other churches in this county, region. Specifically, by 3Strand Churches locally and Acts 29 Regionally and beyond. He is commending them; they’re actually doing some of this really well. But it needs to continue.
PART II | Flourish More and More | Verse 10b
Brotherhood is the defining relationship between those with in the church. We are a family. As a family we will either be dysfunctional and wither or healthy and flourish. While in In Christ you are justified before God and are adopted "once and for all" Family. However, sanctification is a continual "more and more" When it comes to living as brothers we need to clear instruction on what fosters brotherhood.
Brotherhood cannot be taken for granted or assumed. Because of sin our default is estranged; not family. God creates a new family but we don’t assume everyone understand what that means. He doesn’t say you’ve nailed Gospel Community now go move on to something else. No, he says continue to grow more and more.
Brotherhood must be initiated. Our God is an initiating God we are made family by His action of pursing us, as His Children we will pursue brotherhood with others. This is a two-way street in that we often have a sense we’re not fully family because others haven’t initiated with us when we haven’t initiated with them.
Brotherhood must be maintained. This might sound counterintuitive. But it can and does require work and regular rhythms. There can be a restlessness of we just had this big unifying experience that was bonding and so there can be a sense of "What’s next" and always focusing on the mission and forgetting the mission IS growing the family and growing AS family. Maintenance keeps brotherhood from fading.
Brotherhood must be cultivated. There are also ways to foster greater brotherhood. That is where and when we set aside times like retreats, trainings, mission together, to build on what is already present in our lives.
Brotherhood must be sustainable. There are reasons God has worked in rhythms of life to create a pace of family life together and apart that fits with our daily, weekly, monthly routines.
Brotherhood is a marathon not a sprint. This has two implications. One is it is difficult to become what we already are in Christ. We meet other believers and sometimes there is this instant connection other times we need to realize it might take some time to feel in the family. We desire the family level connection but need to be patient because Gospel Community cannot microwaved it needs to be marinated.
Brotherhood is Unity in Christ despite differences. It lifts those up! It is unity despite uniformity not because of it. In families there is always a "resemblance" but yet there are very distinct personalities represented.
Brotherhood isn’t always easy but in should be often enjoyable. Being part of a loving family cannot simply be hard conversations and high intensity but should include purposefully enjoyable times. Celebrate!
Brotherhood is bearing with one another. Family is an endurance sport, that means you will regularly experience frustration as a gathering of adopted children of God who are "not yet perfect" interact.
Brotherhood needs to endure not only external hostility but difficult seasons of in the family unrest. We are so disposable in our world that we have that breed into our relationships and are quick to jettison either others or ourselves when things become difficult. Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. We foster and build, maintain brotherhood during the good times so that it is a resource during the bad times. So while they are a model of Brotherhood and Gospel Community for others around them, even other churches in the region. They is still room to grow. There is growth even painful growth and there is stagnation and death. Paul loves this church and wants to see it continue to be loving place. Russell Wilson – You don’t need to be sick to get better.
Part III |Flourish Everyday | Verse 11
There are specific things that work against brotherhood in how we live our daily lives. Each admonition is for this church because they represent a current cultural deficiency working against brotherhood.
Aspire to live quietly What does this mean?Don’t need to be a fanatic. There is much injustice in the world, you could literally speak about it all the time. There is a difference in being radical and a fanatic. Radically different is what we’re called to be, but part of that is living peaceful. What I mean by that is there is a settled-ness that brings peace to a situation rather than one that pours fuel on the fire. There was intense scrutiny and opposition to Christianity in Thessalonica you didn’t need to look for persecution or pick a fight, it came to you. Don’t be so intense you are off putting to those around you. The answers to the intensity of the world opposition is not to match it, but to reflect how our king Jesus responded before Pilate with quietness.
Many people in the Thessalonian church are idle so they’re always getting into controversy with those in the church and those outside of it. Aspire to live quietly sounds like an oxymoron "make it your ambition to have no ambition." This doesn’t mean don’t strive to flourish in your God given purposes. Loving your Brothers and Sisters in Christ includes knowing when you speak out or speak up you’re speaking as a member of a family. That’s how the "so and so" are. You don’t speak and act simply for yourself, you reflect the values of your family. If someone was to characterize your public persona how would they define it? A specific application might be your social media use. Sometimes I can get a caricature of a person that is entirely based on what they’re against or what they are outraged about rather than one of settled peaceful joy.
Your words have great power. Greater than you might think. You have the power to bring great peace to a situation or greater conflict, even chaos, and confusion in how you speak and act towards others. A great way to love other people is to not cause or fuel conflict unnecessarily. Loose lips sink ships, they can sink churches killing community too. The big idea is; we are not to live lives that are conspicuously off putting. Meaning it’s ok to be odd in how you love others care for others and care for yourself but you shouldn’t be regularly seeking controversy. There is a trust in the trajectory of History that says: While God might be using me in this time you have to ask yourself am I a prophetic voice of truth and life to a dying world or am I an angry hopeless person who is making the family look bad. Aspire to be someone who lives quietly.
Mind your own affairs There are boundaries to our lives sphere of influence we are given and those need to be maintained. We are called to purposeful life, where flourishing means knowing our boundaries and limitations. This one is challenging. Because we are called to care for one another and love one another. So this not just stay out of my business. Paul isn’t saying "leave me alone" He is saying you should have a primary focus on "minding your own affairs" a great way to love your brothers and sisters in Christ is to keep a close eye and ownership over your life. What happens is when your life is minded well it will have an overflow effect on others. Who are you called to engage with? Who are you not?
It does mean you should have a primary focus on your own affairs. Cultivate your life, your business, and your purpose, this is part of being a good brother in knowing how to manage yourself. Paul spends considerable time in his second letter warning them against being busy bodies. When you don’t have much going on in your life you’ll be quick to start getting TOO involved in everyone else’s business. Bored can lead to boorish very quickly. The hand that is on the oar can’t rock the boat.
Work with your own hands We are created to work, we are created to cultivate and God’s provision for us is often for us to be productive. Just as God created sex for a purpose and given it as a gift and we have distorted it. So work was created and mandated before there was sin in the world. Brothers can love one another well by working effectively. In this case what is stated is not for those who are unable to work, but because they are unwilling. There are absolutely times of charity and added support are needed. There is ongoing charity when it’s single mom’s widows orphans etc. But a great way to continue to love and grow the brotherhood is to not require ongoing support. A flourishing church should be a people who work productively and profitably to provide for themselves, and charity for others inside and outside of the church.
It is loving to not be an ongoing burden on others. When we willingly turn away from work we are turning away from our God given purpose AND we are saying that it is more important for a brother to work and essentially serve me by providing charity that me fulfilling what God has place for me to do. Conversely;
When we don’t work we act like spoiled children who know we have a rich and royal father but don’t take that reality and apply it our lives. We become consumers of Gospel Community only and not contributors. There is the reality the only thing we contribute to our salvation is our sin, because God has giving us Jesus 33 years of perfect obedience to us we now live productive lives knowing our identity is secure in Him.
Because we are family a great way we can love our brothers and sister is to work in a way that not only supports ourselves and our immediate families but equips us to be a blessing to the church and others. At Damascus Road we have been a flourishing Gospel Community in that we have been able to flourish in our ministry in part because disciples of Jesus who are living out their new identities in working and giving. We are not a church full of wealthy people, but we have been a generous church, this need to continue and grow more and more. We can be generous so we can we can make strategic plans or continue ministry with our finances because God is generous with us "In Christ." We cannot support and help those in need, when we don’t have our collective resources directed properly to God’s mission expressed in the life of the local church. Because we are a brotherhood and family that is life giving we live lives on purpose to see others become family and grow as family.
Part IV| Flourishing in Mission | Verse 12
The big purpose in this beyond maintaining and flourishing Gospel Community is the mission of the Gospel to expand. This cannot be forgotten as a motivation and it cannot be neglected in the demonstration of brotherly love. So you may walk properly among outsiders There are people in this world that will only know of the Kingdom of God from his citizen ambassadors, they will only know the family of God from the example of how the sons and daughters of the king treat each other and in how the they engage with the rest of the world. Col 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
Jesus hasn’t return yet so we are not yet in our forever families and we are not at the place where we’re perpetually in community together exclusively. The mission of the family of God continues as we see the world as many estranged family members who need to be made family by faith in the work of Jesus in their place. There are people who are hurt weary and longing for the family God has created. Loving each other well is a start and it is the final destination but the journey in between is not only a love one another with a full car with no empty seats. It is not a journey through a rural road or isolated Jesus followers only lane. It is in and among outsiders who we are constantly inviting to ride along with the family, experience the journey together constantly pointing to Jesus, praying the Holy Spirit would change their hearts. In order to live lives walking properly before outsiders it means you’ll need to actually walk before outsiders. A flourishing Gospel Community is not a Christian Clique but a family on mission together. We gather regularly to remember we’re family we scatter remembering we’re on mission for Jesus.
You want to be a good brother, be a good missionary. Being a good missionary begins with living a life that is respectable to outsiders. In living a respectable life is a benefit to those inside and outside the church. You flourishing is a blessing to others. It is absolutely loving to provide for others, but it is also loving to be providing for yourself so as not be a burden on others. We work hard now as new family knowing ultimate rest come when we’re gathered as a forever family when we Trust Jesus.