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)
You are to love one another, by aspiring to live quiet lives and by (as you are able) working hard with our hands …
so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
As N.T. Wright observes:
Outsiders, looking at a new movement that made striking claims about Jesus as Lord of the world, would be interested to see what effect it had on the behavior of the members.
Paul is pressing a rather challenging question upon all of us. How does the way that I live represent Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God to those who have not yet come to genuine saving faith?
As the saying goes: You may be the only Bible that some people read. Now let’s be clear: Nobody is ever going to get saved simply because of your godly example. You and I are not the gospel. But, will the way that we live commend the gospel to others – or will it turn people off so that they don’t want to hear it?
This question is significant enough, that one of the qualifications for being ordained as an Elder is that a man “must be well thought of by outsiders.” Don’t misunderstand, people might think that such a man is being divisive – “because he won’t participate in the pagan sacrifices or go and get drunk with the rest of us.” They may think that he is a bigot, because he won’t celebrate homosexuality; and they may think that he is stunningly narrow-minded because he thinks that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Biblical requirement for an Elder is not that unbelievers would like everything about him – nevertheless, he is to be well thought of in a range of issues related to having a well-ordered life.
Listen to what comes before “being well thought of by outsiders” and consider how this unfolds a man who shows forth brotherly love, by aspiring to a quiet life while working hard with his hands. First Timothy chapter 3:
Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, or if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Here’s the point: While this is a requirement for an Elder, it is God’s pattern for all of us. We might not be there yet. But this is what we are to aspire to become.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 38
Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A. At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.