"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" An Exhortation To Walk In Love (4:9-10) INTRODUCTION 1. In his prayer for the Thessalonians (1Th 3:11-13), Paul asked the Lord to... a. Make them increase and abound in love b. To one another and to all 2. As Paul continues with his "apostolic instructions", he proceeds to help answer his own prayer by exhorting the brethren regarding brotherly love... a. Though not really necessary in their case - 1Th 4:9-10a 1) For they have been taught by God to love one another 2) And they love the brethren throughout Macedonia b. Yet he urges them to increase more and more in their love - 1 Th 4:10b 1) Note yet again the emphasis on an ever increasing service - cf. 1Th 3:12; 4:1 2) So they were to increase in this grace as well [What is it about "brotherly love" that would prompt Paul to first pray for and then to urge the church at Thessalonica to increase in this virtue? As we consider Paul's "Exhortation To Walk In Love" let's first notice...] I. THE DEFINITION OF BROTHERLY LOVE A. THE GREEK WORD... 1. The Greek word is transliterated "philadelphia" 2. It is a compound involving two words: "phileo" (love) and "adelphos" (brother) 3. It literally means "the love of brothers" B. AS USED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT... 1. "philadelphia" describes the love which Christians cherish for each other as brethren (Thayer) 2. Ro 12:10 reveals that it is through brotherly kindness we can have "kind affection" toward one another [Brotherly kindness is what provides a true sense of family in our association as members of the Lord's body. Now let's consider why this virtue is so necessary... II. THE DEMAND OF BROTHERLY LOVE A. IT IS EVIDENCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE... 1. It is one way we know that we have truly passed from death to life - 1Jn 3:14 2. If we do not have brotherly love, we remain in a state of spiritual death - 1Jn 3:14-15 B. IT IS EVIDENCE OF A TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD... 1. It is one way that we demonstrate we have truly come to know God - 1Jn 4:7-8 2. Without brotherly love, any claim to know God or love Him is a lie - 1Jn 4:20-21 C. IT IS EVIDENCE OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP... 1. It is an identifying mark by which the world can know we are Jesus' disciples - Jn 13:34-35 2. Right doctrine is certainly important (2Jn 9), but the world pays little attention to what they may perceive as minor doctrinal differences a. What people do notice is love in a world filled with hate, especially when such love is observed among individuals who come from various social, economic, and racial backgrounds b. Any attempt to proclaim New Testament Christianity, therefore, will fail to appeal to those in the world unless it is accompanied by a visible demonstration of true brotherly kindness among Christians D. IT IS EVIDENCE OF CONCERN FOR UNITY... 1. Unity among brethren is very important to Jesus - Jn 17:20-23 2. Through His death on the cross, Jesus attained unity - Ep 2: 13-16 3. This unity is maintained through diligent endeavor - Ep 4:3 4. Crucial to this endeavor is "bearing with one another in love" - Ep 4:2 a. There will be times when brethren sin against one another b. Where brotherly love prevails... 1) There will be forbearance and forgiveness 2) There will time for repentance and opportunities for reconciliation c. Unless we develop brotherly love, churches will be prone to split at the earliest sign of conflict [Can we appreciate why Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians increase in brotherly love? Do we see why we ought to excel in this grace as well? Presuming that we do, here are some thoughts related to...] III. THE DEVELOPMENT OF BROTHERLY LOVE A. THE HELP GOD PROVIDES... 1. When we first obey the gospel, our souls are purified so that sincere and fervent love of the brethren is now possible - 1Pe 1:22-23 2. We are then "taught by God" how to love one another - cf. 1 Th 4:9 a. The Father teaches the meaning of love by the manner in which He offered His Son as the propitiation for our sins - 1Jn 4:9-10 b. The Son demonstrated true love by freely offering His life - 1Jn 3:16 B. THE THINGS WE CAN DO... 1. As Peter implied, brotherly love is a virtue that must be developed - cf. 2Pe 1:5-8 2. One thing we can do is reflect often upon the love and sacrifice of Jesus a. The more we do so, we come to understand the true meaning of brotherly kindness b. As Jesus said, "as I have loved you, that you also love one another" - Jn 13:34 3. I find two other things helpful in developing brotherly love a. Spend time with your brethren 1) The more I am around people, the more I come to know them personally, the more I share experiences (both good and bad), the easier I find it to "fall in love" with them 2) It is not much different than with one's own physical family a) I had no choice who my three physical brothers would be b) But as we experience life together our love and appreciation for one another deepens c) I find it to be the same with my brethren in Christ b. Pray fervently for your brethren, especially those whom you dislike 1) It is hard to remain angry or maintain a strong dislike for someone when you spend time praying for them 2) As you pray seeking God's love and forgiveness for yourself, it becomes so much easier to love and forgive others [Finally, a thought or two about our relationships as brethren in Christ, and...] IV. THE DISPLAY OF BROTHERLY LOVE A. WHEN BRETHREN DIFFER... 1. A brother who is strong in faith must be considerate of his brother who may be weak - Ro 15:1 2. A brother with liberty in Christ must be willing to limit that freedom if it is beneficial to the spiritual well-being of his weaker brother - 1Co 8:13; Ga 5:13 3. It is brotherly kindness that makes one cautious about judging a brother, or what they say about them - cf. Jm 4:11-12 B. WHEN BRETHREN ARE WEAK... 1. It is brotherly kindness that leads Christians to truly care for one another - 1Th 5:14 a. To warn the unruly b. To comfort the faint-hearted c. To uphold the weak d. To be patient with all 2. It is brotherly kindness that will prompt us to pursue the things that make for peace and the things by which we may build up one another - Ro 14:19 CONCLUSION 1. The importance of developing the spirit of brotherly love cannot be stressed too highly... a. It is evidence of spiritual life b. It is evidence of a true knowledge of God c. It is evidence of true discipleship d. It is evidence of concern for unity 2. Even if we excel in brotherly love like the Thessalonians... a. We need to pray that the Lord make us increase and abound in love - 1Th 3:11-13 b. We need to urge one another to increase more and more - 1Th 4: 9-10 It is evident the Thessalonians heeded Paul's exhortation to walk in love, for in his second epistle he wrote: "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other" (2Th 1:3) May the same be true of us as well!