Summary: The greatest virtue in the world is love. Without love, man cannot have abundant life. In actuality, without love man is nothing. Paul knew this. This is why he went before God and prayed that the Thessalonian church and its believers might grow in love,
Biblical Text: 1 Thes. 3:9-13 (KJV)
“For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
The greatest virtue in the world is love. Without love, man cannot have abundant life. In actuality, without love man is nothing. Paul knew this. This is why he went before God and prayed that the Thessalonian church and its believers might grow in love, more and more. Paul knew that the model church is a church that has a strong love.
Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is a power-packed prayer. He prays to both God and Christ. You can’t pray effectively if you have no understanding of the Deity to whom you lift your request. Paul prays to God, the Supreme and Majestic Being of the universe, the Supreme Intelligence, the Creator and Maker of all things, the Giver and Sustainer of life and of everything else, the Person who dwells everywhere in perfect and supreme power, knowledge, and being. This is the image most Christians have of God; that He is in the heavens—in outer space someplace—a God who rules and reigns but is somewhat removed and not too interested in man. Paul reveals that God is what some men think: supreme, majestic, ruling and reigning.
But Paul then makes the case that God is more, much more. He prays to God our Father. And in so doing, Paul reminds us that God is a Father to us, intimately involved in our lives. He is not just in outer space ruling and reigning in some place far removed from us. God, our Father is right here with us, actively participating in our lives just as an earthly father participates in the lives of his children. Paul approaches God our Father, as a child, and asks Him for certain things; and when he asks, he knows that his Father will hear and answer. He knows because God is not only able to answer, but God is his Father.
And then Paul prays to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Supreme Majestic Ruler of the universe who has existed eternally in heaven and who loves us enough to become our Lord, and come to earth in the flesh and dwell among us. In the profundity of Paul’s prayer, he reveals that both the Father and the Son have the nature of God; both have co-existed eternally, and continue to reign eternally.
This power-packed prayer establishes the Deity of the Father and the Son before it even purports the purpose of the prayer. And what does Paul request of God? That the Father and the Lord Jesus would direct and guide his way back to the
Thessalonians. Paul was asking for a specific blessing; He wanted both God and the Lord Jesus working together to open the door for him to return to the dear believers at Thessalonica. The church would have been greatly uplifted to know that it was their spiritual father’s desire to return to them. Satan had created some terrible problems and obstacles for this fledgling church, and they needed the comfort of knowing that their spiritual leader understood their dilemma.
But even if Paul could return to them immediately, it was not HIS power that would deliver the saints at Thessalonica and build their spiritual house. So Paul prays for the only solution to their dilemma – He prays for their need to love.
Love is the necessary foundation for every church that seeks to abound in the work of the Lord. The word “increase” (pleonasai) means to multiply over and
over. The word “abound” (perisseusai) means to excel and overflow. If the church of Jesus Christ is to grow, it must allow the love of Christ to multiply and overflow into the world.
It would seem a reasonable expectation to compel church members to love one another, but how can they extend that love even to their enemies? Love’s interpretation is forever competing against a worldly definition of love that will not set the Church of Christ free from the bondage of hatred.
The world teaches us to offer only requited love – to love only those who love us. But the love of Jesus Christ challenges us to love ALL MEN, not just one