All of Christ for All of Life
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone

16 January 2021 – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

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, 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, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (ESV)

Rick Phillips writes:

When studying Paul’s letters, we are frequently reminded that they were written to actual people with real problems. Therefore, while Paul’s teaching is grounded on universal truths about God and salvation, the letters apply the gospel in particular ways that fit the local needs of Paul’s readers. His exhortations in 1 and 2 Thessalonians are prime examples of this principle. In the final chapter of 2 Thessalonians, Paul highlights a concern about some who were “walking in idleness” (2 Thess 3:6). The Greek word may mean “disorderly,” “irresponsible,” or “lazy.” Either such persons had entered into the church community or else some members of the church had fallen into this vice. It is possible that this happened as a self-serving response to the generosity of Christians who possessed means, so that the very love that Paul commended was being taken advantage of. Whatever the cause of the idleness, the result was that these people had become “busybodies” who were not only using up resources but making themselves a nuisance to others.

Anticipating this problem, Paul amplifies his teaching on Christian love by urging his readers “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs” (1 Thess 4:11). Paul sees Christian love as a quiet love that avoids meddling in and disturbing the lives of others.

Paul’s expression seems to involve an oxymoron, since he first uses a word that means “to strive with ambition.” Normally such striving involves a great outward display of energy. Here, however, Paul tells us to be ambitious in pursuit of quietness. … Christians … should have a great ambition to lead steady, sober, useful lives that call attention not to themselves but to the grace of God in Christ.

Paul’s statement not only challenges Christians but also points out a blessing that we enjoy. Christians can be content with who we are in Christ and do not have to make ourselves out to be something we are not. We do not need to make a fuss to draw attention or seek vain plaudits to prove the value of our lives. To be sure, there is an important place for ambition in the Christian life! We are to have “ambition to preach the gospel” (Romans 15:20) and be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). We should be eager in service (Phil. 2:28) and in spiritual attainments (1 Cor. 14:12). Yet we can do all this withing a quiet life that avoids making difficulties for others.

MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 36
Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.