Summary: Just as God’s love is a holy love, so our love for God and for one another ought to motivate us to holy living.
Lesson 11: As They Are Taught by God to Love One Another (1Thessalonians 4:9)
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:9 (NIV)
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
The transition from holiness to love is not a difficult one. Paul made this transition in his prayer recorded in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13?“Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” Just as God’s love is a holy love, so our love for God and for one another ought to motivate us to holy living. The more we live like God the more we will love one another. If a Christian really loves his brother, he will not sin against him: “and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.” (1 Thessalonians 4:6).
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:9 (NIV)
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
“Love” is the subject, and the statement Paul makes is rather amazing. A believer must have “love” for the brethren. It is a supernatural love that is “taught by God”: “All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace” (Isaiah 54:13). Such love can only be produced in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit. Paul recognizes that they have already been taught by God how to “love each other,” this being through God’s example in sending Christ (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:1-2), through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Romans 5:5), and through Jesus’ teaching (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17), which the apostles echoed in their instruction (Romans 12:10; Galatians 6:2; 1 Peter 1:22). Indeed, the Thessalonians have already learned lessons of love, as demonstrated by their love for all the churches in Macedonia (such as at Philippi and Berea; 4:10). This love is something they have demonstrated (1 Thessalonians 1:35), possibly through hospitality (Romans 16:1-26) or acting as benefactors by helping those in need (2 Corinthians 8:1-57, 8-11, 24). As in 4:18, he urges them to excel in what they are already doing.
Notice that after Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit, brotherly love4 is the first thing that he mentions. Christianity sprang up in a land and culture where clan ties were strong and society was more corporate than individualistic. But that was not the case in the Greco-Roman culture; hence, Paul’s constant emphasis on love.
But here, on this occasion, since he is speaking to those not yet made perfect, he urges them to “abound more and more” (v. 10). He makes their well-known love for one another the basis of an appeal that they would go on to ever new heights of love. When he later wrote 2 Corinthians he praised the practical expression of their love in making a substantial gift for the poor saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1). It is this kind of thing that he has in mind here also. The passage in 2 Corinthians may indicate how well his remarks were heeded.
Brotherly love (philadelphia) is a word which is used elsewhere in the literal sense of love for blood brothers and sisters. But in the New Testament it is used for the special love Christians bear towards one another as fellow-members of the family of faith, as those who are conscious of having the same Father in heaven. Such brotherly love is of special importance:
1) for it is a testing fruit of regeneration (1 John 3:14; 4:8).
2) for its visible existence is a condition of the world’s conversion (John 17:21).
3) for it is a token also of true discipleship (John 13:35).
I believe that love is the identifying mark of a child of God; that is to say, one of the evidences that a person is a child of God is that he loves his brother. So let’s review the four kinds of love in Koine3 Greek vocabulary used in New Testament times.
• “Eros” refers to physical love; it gives us our English word erotic. In modern society, this is the sexual or intimate passion you feel for a lover, the alluring pull of a well-dressed woman, or the irresistible air of a fashionable gent. It is a selfish kind of sexual love. Erotic love demands, “Give me.” It responds to physical excitement, the thrill of hormones calling to hormones. It is the desire for sexual satisfaction. Eros love does not have to be sinful, but in Paul’s day its main emphasis was sensual.