Father, we’re grateful for the fact that in a world of constant chaos, that You’re the same yesterday, today, and forever. You have disclosed Lord in Your Word truths that are eternal. They transcend generations. They transcend personalities. They transcend time itself. We come to You today Lord with an expectant attitude, wanting to receive what You have for us through the teaching of Your Word. So in preparation for that, we’re just going to take a few moments of silence to do personal business with You. Not to change our position as Christians, that can never change, but to make sure that fellowship, if we’ve broken it, is restored so that we can receive holy and completely from You today.
We’re thankful Lord for the promise of 1 John Chapter 1:9. We pray for Lord what really You promised us, the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, Who and Who alone can take the truths of Your Word, particularly the deep truths, and apply them to the lives of your people. No doubt Lord, there are many, many people within the sound of my voice that have needs that a mere human teacher couldn’t even be aware of. And only You can take Your Word and apply it to those needs as we seek to teach Your Word verse by verse. We ask that You’ll do that work today in Sunday school. We ask that You’ll do that work today in the main service that follows as we look further into the book of Genesis. I just pray that You’ll be with all of the classes, with the youth, as they’re meeting with the youth group, the nursery, Sunday school, and I just pray that from beginning to end, Lord, You would have your way here at Sugar Land Bible Church. And we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said amen.
Well, if you could take your Bibles and open them to the book of 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 and beginning at Verse 9. If time allows, we’re going to try to navigate our way through 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12.
Paul, as we’ve been studying the book of 1 Thessalonians, has finished sort of defending himself. I think that’s what he’s doing really in Chapters 1 through 3. He’s sort of dialing back to personal experiences that he had with the Thessalonians. When he planted the church there in Thessalonica right around Acts Chapter 17.
And he was driven out of Thessalonica by the unbelieving Jews as we’ve talked about. He went to Greece, went south into Greece and then ultimately into Corinth. And when he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica, and Timothy came back to Paul in Corinth, Timothy brought with him a lot of information. One of the things that had happened is Paul’s reputation had been demolished by unbelieving Jews who were jealous of Paul and his success amongst the Gentiles in terms of evangelism. So they just kind of trumped up a bunch of false charges against Paul.
And Paul really has to spend the first three chapters of the book inflating those false charges. And he knows that if he can’t do that, then he’s really in no position to correct them, which he starts to do in Chapters 4 and 5. It’s sort of hard to correct someone spiritually when your reputation is in the tank.
So with his reputation restored, as Paul has refuted the charges against him, now beginning in Chapter 4:1, he’s sort of now looking forward. He’s no longer dealing with issues of the past, but he’s looking forward as he’s responding to specific concerns brought to him via Timothy by the Thessalonians. And that’s why he says in Chapter 4:1, “Finally then, brethren.” That’s the transition.
So he has dealt with the subject of immorality, Verses 1-8. Now he’s going to deal with the subject of laziness, Chapter 4:9-12. And you can sort of break down those first 12 Verses as follows.
He makes a general statement about how a Christian ought to live and act, Chapter 4:1-2.
And then he gets into a negative command, which we saw last time. Verses 3-8, abstaining from sexual immorality.
Then from there he moves now into our paragraph that we’re going to look at this morning, Verses 9-12. A positive command, which is to pursue brotherly love. And it is amazing how practical Paul gets because we toss around this word love all of the time. Most of us don’t even know what it means anymore. We’ve watched the love boat on TV, so we’re experts, right?
So, I mean, what is love and how does love manifest itself? He deals with that in terms of a positive command, Chapter 4:9-12. And I do have to admit that this particular paragraph that we’re looking at here, Verses 9-12, is one of those, I think, forgotten areas of the Bible.
As I was trying to study this particular paragraph this week, I was just amazed at the truth that’s there. And I really had to sort of repent because I really haven’t spent a lot of time on that particular paragraph.
I mean, generally, we’re so wrapped up in what Paul says about sexual immorality, Verses 1-8. But then we know that the rapture is coming. Because Verses 13-18 is our great rapture passage, that somehow this little, tiny paragraph, Verses 9-12, in between sexual immorality and the rapture just sort of gets forgotten.
So this is one of those really forgotten sections of the scripture. But it’s amazing what he says because he explains love and then he explains how love is to manifest itself.
So we can divide the paragraph as follows.
So with all that being said, notice first of all the general command to love. And notice what he says here in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;”
So I’ll go ahead and read Verse 10 and we’ll come back and comment on it. Verse 10, “for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,”
So the first thing he says there in Verse 9 is to love the brethren. The priority of love. And of course by this time Paul had not written the letter to the Corinthians, but in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, we have one of the most magnificent descriptions of what love is. Paul would later write to the Corinthians and say in Verses 1-3,
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. …:”
You might be able to win your theological battle on social media, but if it’s done in an unloving way, what has it really profited you in the end?
“… If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries …”
You may have studied Daniel Chapter 2, or you may know all about the ten toes, and the ten kingdoms that are going to arise in the last days. You might have studied it so carefully that you could give information about the toenails themselves. But don’t have love, what is the point of all that?
“… If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
One of the things that Jesus said in the upper room is always very convicting to me. In John 13:35, Jesus says, ““By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””
So the evidence to a watching world that we really are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is our love towards each other. Yeah, but Lord, I just bought Logos 10,000 or whatever it is, 9.0, 10.0, whatever they’re up to now. And boy, I know all these little gimmicks. I’m like a real whiz with all that stuff. You’ll notice it doesn’t say, “By this all men will know you are my disciples if you’re able to beat someone else up in an argument.”
It says, ““By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””
This explains Paul’s – the fact that he was upset, to say the least, with the Corinthians when they were suing each other, litigation, in the presence of an unsaved judge.
If what Jesus said is true, ““By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.””, what in the world is an unsaved judge supposed to think when two Christians that claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ appear before him in an argumentative sense that’s so strenuous that they can’t even work out their disagreement among themselves? What in the world is an unsaved judge who’s now dealing with that issue supposed to think of Christianity?
So Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:7 says, “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you …”. In other words, you’re already defeated. That you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? The book of Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, while we have opportunity, [in other words, you may not always have this opportunity,] let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
And so it’s a very strong admonition here when you factor in all the other things Paul says about love, to love the brethren. It goes on in the second part of 1 Thessalonians 4:9, and he basically says, “You know, this is not front-page news. This is something you already know.”
And if you look at the second part of 1 Thessalonians 4:9, he says, “… you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;”
So this is something that they already knew. This is something that they already had an admonition concerning. They were taught by God Himself on this, which is a very interesting phrase there. What does it mean when it says they’ve already been taught by God?
Well, one option is this idea of “love your neighbor as yourself,” everybody thinks Jesus is the originator of that. I mean, for years and years and years in my Christian life I would read, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” I thought that was some kind of statement that was totally unique to Jesus.
And it is sort of shocking to learn that that’s an old command. That goes all the way back to Mount Sinai as the Lord brought the children out of Israel, out of Egyptian bondage, took them to Mount Sinai, disclosed to them the law. And in Leviticus 19, it’s all about how the Hebrews are to treat each other.
And right there in Leviticus 19:18 “‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”
So when Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” he’s not coming up with anything new. He’s repeating what his audience should have already known, going back from the time of Christ 1,500 years to Mount Sinai. So this might be the meaning when he says you’ve already been taught by God on this subject.
Because after all, at the end of the day, what is God? God is love. And I’m not denying His other attributes. There’s liberalism that says He’s only love, and they don’t focus on holiness. We’re not dealing with that here today, but we’re dealing with His attribute of love. And you’ll find that in 1 John Chapter 4:8, written by a guy, by the way, who knew something about the love of God. Because in John’s gospel, John keeps referring to himself as the disciple whom the Lord loved. And that may have been what melted his heart at the end of the day. Because he wasn’t really all that loving when the Lord met him. He actually was one of the sons of thunder.
When Jesus and his entourage, his disciples, came into a Samaritan village, by the way, you want to talk about racial hatred, you’ve got one of the greatest books in the Bible about racial reconciliation, right here in the Word of God, but there was a group called the Samaritans, a half-breed group, and you have the Hebrews. Jesus came into that Samaritan village, it’s all in Luke’s Gospel, and the Samaritans wouldn’t receive the things of Jesus, and so John, the love apostle, says, “Lord, shall we not call down fire from heaven and consume these people like Elijah did?”
It’s kind of like, you know, you’ve been watching too many Rambo movies. You don’t know what manner you’re speaking of or through when you say stuff like that. So I think the Lord changed John just by showing him unconditional love. He keeps referring to himself as a disciple whom the Lord loved. John being the recipient of the love of God, then right out in the epistle describing God’s love.
And that’s why John in 1 John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
I don’t think he’s saying there the one that doesn’t love isn’t saved. What he’s saying is the one that is not loving really has not progressed very far in their progressive sanctification, the middle tense of their salvation.
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
It’s interesting, he doesn’t say God is loving. He doesn’t say God expresses His love. He says, “God is love.” That’s who God is. And so if we’re walking with God, how could we be anything other than loving? So this is what he means when he says you’ve already been taught by God on this. It’s in his character. It’s in the disclosure at Mount Sinai, amongst other places.
And it might also be a reference to Paul’s apostolic authority. Because at the end of 1 Thessalonians 4:11, he says, “Just as we commanded you.” So Paul is taking his commands and putting them on the equal par with the commands of Jesus Himself. We’ll talk more about what that means when we get down to Verse 11.
But Paul had been ministering to the Thessalonians. He planted the church. He won most, if not all of them, to Christ. And Paul had already talked to them about love. So they’d already been taught on this from a lot of different angles. Maybe one of the angles was Paul himself. So this is what we would call a pre-known command. This is like a review class.
It’s not like when Paul says, “Be loving towards each other or love one another fervently,” they all said, “I’ve never heard that before in my life.” This is old stuff. We’re not given new material here. We’re just kind of reviewing for the final exam.
And the great thing about the Thessalonians is they were already practicing love towards the Macedonians. You look there at Verse 10. It says, “for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. …”
Notice the repetition of the word “all.” Like in Texas, we don’t say “y’all.” We say “all y’all.” In other words, they were loving towards everybody in Macedonia.
That’s sort of convicting because there are some people that, to be honest with you, are a little bit more difficult to love than others. And it’s easy to be kind of selective on who you’re going to extend grace to. Are they a church member? How long have they been coming here? If I had access to the finances of this church, which I don’t, and I think that’s wise, how much money do they give?
Now that’s not what the Bible says. You don’t bestow love selectively. You bestow love on everybody. And the Thessalonians had grown to the point in their relationship to the Lord that they were already extending it to the Macedonians.
Now who are the Macedonians? Well the bottom circle is Corinth, where Paul wrote this letter. The top circle up north is Thessalonica. That’s Paul’s audience. And if your eyes are good, you just keep traveling upward and you run into sort of a larger area. I guess, you know, today we have cities and counties. It looks to me like Macedonia is more of a county, putting it into 21st century terms than a city. But Macedonia is right above Thessalonica.
And the reason, and I say this over and over again, as we go through the Bible, pointing out geography, I want to give people a sense of this is like real history. This really happened what we’re talking about here. This is not, you know, Jack and the Beanstalk, ethical moral teaching time, and let’s leave the history to those that are in the public school system. Because that’s what they think in secularism.
They think that they have the real history. And whatever it is we do, it’s just religion or it’s just spiritual. And the Bible, as you go through it, never sets itself up that way.
So Macedonia was a real place. Thessalonica was a real place. Paul was a real person who wrote from Corinth.
And the interesting thing about the Macedonians is Paul is going to make reference to them in 2 Corinthians, which he hadn’t written yet, in Chapter 8:1-5. He’s going to comment on how loving the Macedonians were in terms of their sacrificial giving.
It says in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty [these people were as poor as you could get from Western standards] overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, …”. It’s like the widow who put the mite into the offering there in the temple. Jesus, when she did that, called the disciples’ attention to it. I think it’s in Mark 12:41-44, if memory serves.
The rich were coming in and putting all of their lavish gifts, but here comes somebody that gives a smaller amount, but it’s everything she has to live on. In other words, she had to really trust God when she gave above and beyond what she was capable of giving. That’s the Macedonians. There wasn’t any money to give, and yet they found a way to give.
“For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, [please, let us give some more] and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (2 Cor 8:3-5)
So the Macedonians were some of the most selfless, sacrificial people that you read about in the New Testament. And I’m always wondering how did they learn to be that way? Because I’m not that way. Most Christians are not that way. I’m of the persuasion that they learned to be that way because of the example of the Thessalonians.
So ministry a lot of times is more caught than it is taught. In other words, you see somebody walking with just off-the-charts generosity, and now you have a role model to follow in your own life. So the generosity in Thessalonica sort of triggered, if I use that expression, a lifestyle of generosity in Macedonia.
And so Paul here is praising the Thessalonians because they’re walking in love, a pre-known commandment, and they’re actually practicing it towards the Macedonians. And so Paul signs off at this point and says, “A plus, let’s call it a day.” Whoops, that’s not what he does. He says more in Verse 10.
The second part of Verse 10, “… But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,”
This thing about progressive sanctification, the middle tense of our salvation, because he’s dealing here not so much with a justification issue, he’s dealing here not so much with a glorification issue, but dealing with the middle tense of our salvation, sanctification. Sanctification is more of a walk, being gradually delivered from sin’s power as we learn to yield moment by moment by way of faith and obedience to the divine resources that we have already inside of us because we are saved children of God.
The interesting thing about the middle tense of our salvation is it’s never really finished. There’s always room to grow. Justification, there’s no more room to grow. You’re either justified or you’re not. You’re either trusted in Christ for salvation or you haven’t. J. Vernon McGee said it the best. He says you’re either a saint or you’re an ain’t.
And glorification, all you’ve got to do is die or be raptured, whichever comes first. You’re either dead or you’re not. So you can arrive sort of at a place of 100% with justification because it’s God who did it. You can arrive at a place of 100% for glorification because it’s God who did it.
But sanctification, as long as you’re alive on this earth, there’s always room for improvement. And I look at these Thessalonians, it doesn’t seem like they really need to improve at anything in this area.
But Paul doesn’t say that. He says, “… But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,”
Nobody ever arrives in the middle tense of our salvation. God is always prompting us, I should say, towards another level of maturity, another level of obedience, another level of trust. Now, you think of a guy that probably could have claimed that he had arrived, it would be Paul.
But Paul himself in Philippians 3:12-13, another book, one of his prison letters that he hadn’t written yet, but he would later say, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,”
Boy, that will keep you from your progressive sanctification, always remembering the past, to the point where it makes you a hostage, which is one of the downsides of social media, because we’re always connecting with all these people from the past. I mean, I’m not saying develop amnesia and cut everybody off, but you reach a point where you’ve got to say the past is called the past for a reason. God doesn’t want me to keep living in the past. He wants me to progress onward into my high calling in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, …” Paul says as long as I am not resurrected yet. In Philippians 3, he is talking about his future resurrection. As long as I’m not in glory yet, as long as I’m living on the earth there’s still room for even a guy like me, an apostle, to continue to grow in the middle tense of my salvation.
And that’s what Paul is saying to the 1 Thessalonians 4:10, second part of the Verse, “But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,”. Now notice this expression, “brethren.” And we’ve talked about this many times. When Paul is using that expression, “brethren,” in 1 Thessalonians, he’s not talking about his solidarity with Jewish people. He does use the word “brethren” that way elsewhere, Romans 9:3. We’re not dealing with a predominantly Hebrew Jewish audience. These are Gentiles that are freshly saved. And that’s why we covered that when we introduced the book of Thessalonians to you some lessons back.
So when Paul uses the word “brethren,” he’s talking about fellow Christians. It’s the same way Jesus used the word “brethren” in Matthew 12:46-50. When he was told, your brothers, sisters, and mother are waiting for you, and He said, well, who are my brothers and sisters and mother? Are they the ones that do the will of my heavenly Father?
So when Paul uses the word “brethren,” he’s not talking about some sort of racial solidarity with his own people. He’s talking about the fact that we are fellow members of the body of Christ, joint heirs of salvation. And so I think it’s interesting that he throws this word “brethren” in frequently because he’s explaining that you can’t live this way without Jesus Christ.
Because you don’t have the resources inside of you to live this way. You have to have something bigger than yourself come inside of you. That’s called regeneration. It takes place at the moment of faith in Christ. And you have to learn to draw upon that reservoir of power. Because if you’re not drawing upon that reservoir of power, the only thing you’re stuck with in the Christian life is a bunch of man-made rules. Keep yourself in line, and our sin nature, our flesh, rebels perpetually against rules.
I mean, when it says, “Don’t touch wet paint,” what’s your first impulse? We’re rebels by nature. I don’t have anything within myself that’s going to be generous, that’s going to be loving, that’s going to be sacrificial. There’s no such power within myself. I have to be a saved, blood-bought Christian who’s walking under the power of the new nature and the Holy Spirit moment by moment. The Thessalonians were that, and they could get better at what they were doing. Even though they were off the charts already from a human perspective.
There is a model of progressive sanctification that is called sinless perfection, where you can arrive at a state of sinless perfection. And I wish people that feel they’ve attained that I want them to come up and sign my Bible at the end of class. Because that’s something I don’t know. Sinless perfection.
I mean what I see happening in my life is I’m not the man I used to be, but I’m certainly not the man I should be. I’m not sinless, but praise God I’m sinning less. And so Paul himself never even reached some ultimate level of sinless perfection in his life. You see that there in Philippians 3:12-13.
So we have the general command to love, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10. Then Verse 11 is, well how do you express love? And it’s kind of interesting how we actually express love to people. It has to do with finances. It has to do with economic self-sufficiency. And to be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t have connected those dots. But Paul does because he moves right from love, Verses 9 and 10, to specifics, which deals with work habit, industry, economics, self-sufficiency, and things of that nature.
So notice what he says here in Verse 11. “and to make it your ambition …” In other words, this is how you love. “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,”
So how do you become loving? Well, you’ll notice Verse 11, it says, “Make it your ambition.” What is an ambition? It’s an aspiration. You ask people, “What’s your aspiration?” “Oh, I want to be a doctor.” “Oh, I want to be a lawyer.” “Oh, I want to be able to retire at age whatever.” “I want to be famous.” That’s basically what an aspiration or ambition is.
Paul says, “Well, let this be your ambition.” What he’s going to describe subsequently in Verse 11. The Greek word for ambition here is used only two other times in the Greek New Testament. Charles Ryrie says of this Verse, “Make it your ambition or aspiration.” The Greek word is used only here in Romans 15:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:9.
The problems mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 3 gave rise to these exhortations. In other words, there’s going to develop in this church a mindset that says, well, Jesus is coming back, which He is, by the way, but they’re going to use that doctrine as an excuse to get out of life’s responsibilities. Jesus is coming back, so why pay down my credit cards? Why pay off my debts? Why do I have to go to college? Why save up for my children’s college tuition? Why save up for retirement? Jesus is coming back, so they’re going to take the doctrine of the return of Christ and abuse it, and Ryrie is pointing out that that problem’s already surfacing here because of the lazy brethren in Verse 11.
Paul’s point is they’re not just lazy, they’re unloving in their laziness. So the word aspiration is used only twice. It’s used in Romans 15:20, outside of this text, where Paul says, “And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation;” My ambition is to preach the gospel to the lost.”
That’s the same Greek word for ambition here in Verse 11. In other words, that same level of ambition that Paul had for mission’s work is the same level of ambition the child of God is to have for what’s described in Verse 11.
The Greek word “ambition” is also used in 2 Corinthians 5:9. It says, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
My ambition is to be with the Lord one day. When I’m not with the Lord, I want to be pleasing to Him here on the earth in terms of my personal lifestyle. That’s the same Greek word “ambition.” I’m reading from the English translations, but that is the same Greek word “ambition” that’s used here.
In other words, what’s described here in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, let this be your focus. Let this be your goal. Let this be your reason you get up in the morning.
So what should be our ambition? Well, he mentions several things. It’s all there in Verse 11.
The first thing that should be our ambition is to lead a quiet life. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life …”
Now, the Greek word for quiet here is the idea of restfulness. It’s not the idea where you have like a piece of duct tape over your mouth, and you can’t say anything. That word restfulness is used in Acts 22:2. It says, “And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; …”
2 Thessalonians 3:12 the same word for restfulness is going to be used and it says, “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”
1 Timothy 2:12, same Greek word for restfulness. “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” It doesn’t mean she can’t talk. Because there’s a different word in Greek for silence. The word “σιγάω (sigaō) .”
Acts 21:40, it says, “When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, …” In other words, the crowd was silent when he started to speak in the Hebrew dialect. That’s not the word that’s used here.
1 Corinthians 14:34 says, “The women are to keep silent…” this is women that want to be prophets. “…are to keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves just as the law says.” “The women are to keep silent [this is women that want to be prophets] in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”
Now, that’s the Greek word “silence.”
That’s not what he’s saying here. He’s not saying you can’t talk. He’s not saying you can’t verbally express yourself. What he’s talking about is a lifestyle that’s sort of a lifestyle of peace, tranquility, dealing with a person that’s not always having to assert themselves constantly.
It’s a similar idea that you find in 1 Peter 3:3-4 concerning saved women to their unsaved husbands. How can a woman in that condition lead her husband to Christ? 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your adornment [speaking to women] must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; …” It’s not saying a woman can’t beautify herself.
It’s talking about a question of emphasis. Between outer beauty and inner beauty, which of the two gets more emphasis? That’s what he’s dealing with. It says, “Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
That’s how you’re going to win your unsaved husband to Christ. Not by constantly nagging and being an intrusion into his life, but allowing him to see Christ-like character replicated through you. That will lead him to interest in spiritual things, Peter says, more than any other single thing.
So that’s the idea of quietness that all of us really are to imitate and emulate within Christianity. This, in fact, is to be our ambition. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.
And you know, there’s so much going on in the culture about protests, you know, the Occupy Wall Street mindset. I’ve got to be heard. You know, myself, I’ve been caught up in a lot of that cultural baggage where we think the person that wins the argument is the loudest in the room. The louder you are, the better off. I mean, I’m just not seeing that in the Bible. I’m seeing more of a lifestyle where you’re reserved, not silent, there’s time to speak, the Bible says. There’s also a time to just pull back and let the Lord reproduce in your life what He wants.
So this is to be our ambition, or to lead this sort of quiet life. And how does this relate to love? Because when we’re doing this, we’re minding our own business. See, when I’m not minding my own business, I’m intruding over and over again into the life of my neighbor. And when I’m obnoxiously intruding over and over again into the life of my non-Christian neighbor, or my Christian neighbor, I should say, then I’m really not being a loving person because I’m causing him or her constant irritation. And I’m not walking in love.
So you see how this connects the dots between love and lifestyle. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business. The name for people that butt in all the time, we used to call them buttinskies. Buttinskies, at the end of the day, are you wouldn’t put them up as loving people. Obnoxious, yes. Assertive, yes. Not necessarily loving.
There’s a real example of this in John 21:18-22 where Jesus makes a prediction about how Peter is going to die. He says this in John 21:18-19, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!””
That’s pretty heavy. What if the Lord said that to you. Hey, when you were young you dressed yourself and you went where you want. When you’re old they’re going to take you to where you don’t want to go. That’s quite a revelation. Peter was about, what, 30 years old roughly when this happened. It’s a prophecy that wouldn’t be fulfilled for another three decades.
Where there’s an arguable fulfillment of it through Peter’s martyr’s death that we only have reference to outside the Bible where he requested permission to be crucified upside down, because he saw himself as unworthy to die just like Jesus. But Peter at this point is in his 30s. This wouldn’t happen for another three decades.
And it says in John 21:20, “Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [who would that be? John] following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?””
So Peter, when he hears this, points to John, or motions towards John, and it says, “So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”” (John 21:21) I mean, if I’m going to die this way, what about him?
In other words, Peter was sort of becoming a buttinsky. He was butting into someone else’s life. And that’s why Jesus said to him, John 21:22 , “Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!””
Don’t worry about what I’m going to do with John. John is on a completely different trajectory than you.” In fact, John is the only disciple that we know of, extra biblically, that died of natural means. Every single one of these guys was martyred. John wasn’t.
By the way, if Eusebius is right, they tried to martyr John. They tried to boil him in oil. John was pretty stubborn. He wouldn’t die. So they took him, and they threw him out onto this little island there off the coast of Asia Minor called Patmos, which fits with everything we know of Domitian, the emperor in place when this happened of Rome, because this is how Domitian dealt with troublemakers. He just exiled them onto island prisons.
And in fact, that was exactly where God wanted John, because as you know, John there would receive a vision that we now call the book of Revelation. So Jesus already knew what he was going to do with Peter. He already knew what he was going to do with John. And Peter wants to know, well, what about John? And Jesus basically is saying it’s none of your business. Mind your own business. You individually follow me.
And some of the worst mindsets, and my wife will testify to this, that I ever get into is when I start to compare myself to other people. Social media here is a killer because everybody puts their highlight film on social media. What they put on social media is the best of themselves. They don’t put up the valleys, the downs, the failures. You start looking at social media, you start looking at yourself, and you start comparing yourself to others, and you start to feel insecure. You become a buttinsky, in other words.
Jesus says what I’m doing with all those people is really none of your business. You follow me. You’re an individual that has a unique plan and program. Your job is to discover that as you walk with me by way of faith. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and to attend to your own business.
What else does he say here? Work with your hands. Work with your hands. Manual labor. It’s amazing to me how blue collar the Bible is. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you,”
Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, there’s no escape from this. Want to survive? Economically, you’ve got to work. I think prior to the fall of man, men and women, Adam and Eve could work out of sheer enjoyment. That’s not the way it is in the post-fall world. You have to work by the sweat of your brow. You have to work to survive. Genesis 3:17-19 says, “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, …”
If anybody understood this, it’s Jesus. Because he was the carpenter’s son. Matthew 13:55. ““Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”
You know, I really can’t find the verse that specifically says Jesus was a carpenter. But it’s sort of a reasonable inference. Having been reared in the home of a carpenter, in other words, He knew what it was like to get up, I would think, and work with these two hands to produce in order to survive.
Paul the Apostle, one of the things I love about Paul, is he practices what he preaches. He was a tent maker. And in Acts 17 and 18, in those chapters dealing with the planning of the church at Thessalonica, it says, “and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they [Paul included] were tent-makers.”
Here’s something I wrote down on that. Paul’s emphasis on manual labor does not follow the Greek model, which saw such labor as menial. Rather, it follows the Jewish model, which elevated the prominence of manual labor. The Greek philosophical model was to gather all of these followers and have them support you financially. Not that there’s anything wrong with subsidizing people in full-time ministry. That’s not wrong either, because Paul comments on that elsewhere in Galatians 6, 1 Corinthians 8 and 9, and other places.
But what the Greek philosophers did is that’s how they made their living. They tried to get all of these followers who were drawn to them because of their oratory. In fact, one of them would put pebbles in his mouth, go down to the river and give his speech before the river, thinking that, man, if I can talk really well with rocks in my mouth, think how good I’m going to sound with the rocks out of my mouth. That’s how the Greeks thought. And the whole name of the game in the Greek culture was you gravitated around people that sounded the best.
That mindset, by the way, came right into the Corinthian Church because some were following Paul, some were following Apollos, some were following Cephas, some were more spiritual, supposedly. Oh, we just follow Jesus. And they were conducting church just like the Greeks conducted philosophy and gathered followings through Greek philosophy. So I guess Paul could have showed up in Thessalonica and he could have orated everything so beautifully that he’d have all of these followers that would follow him around and subsidize his ministry.
But Paul didn’t do that. He went to work. It wasn’t his ambition to be a burden to people. That’s where the love comes in. Because when you’re a burden to other people, you’re not being loving towards them and their finances and their financial struggles. So that’s why he says in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands.”
Ephesians 4:28 says, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” What a concept that is. Instead of using these hands to steal, produce economically with those hands. And then you’ll have something to share rather than steal.
1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, [own family, in other words] and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
1 Thessalonians 2:9, which we’ve already covered in this series, “For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
So he’s hinting at economic problems that are going to get worse in Thessalonica because people really were using the doctrine of the Second Coming to get out of life’s responsibilities.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:8, Paul will say, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;”
2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. [Buttinskies, intruding into the lives of other people, which is not a manifestation of love.] Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”
Let me just throw this in. We’re not quite finished with Verse 11, which we’ll finish next time. What is being taught today to young people is that Socialism and communism are great. Except they don’t use the words Socialism or communism. They use a different word called equity. They’re talking all the time now about equity.
You have to stop and think for a second. What do they mean when they say equity ? They’re not talking about the starting point. If that’s all they meant by it, an equal starting point, hey, that’s great. They’re talking about the ending point.
In other words, it’s not fair that some people have more than others. So the wealth needs to be redistributed. It’s called Marxism. Marxism is a rebellion against a fundamental principle in the Bible, which is “I work, I eat.” Marxism, by contrast, says “You work, I eat.” See the difference? It goes directly against what God said in Genesis 3:17-19, which is your explanation as to why there is no successful Marxist experiment on planet Earth.
You run out of what the late Margaret Thatcher called “OPM,” other people’s money. Equity, the way they’re using the term, sounds wonderful on paper. The problem is there’s no example where it’s really produced anything of prosperity. Why is that? Because it goes against what God says beginning in Chapter 3 of Genesis. That’s why.
Gee, Pastor, I wish you wouldn’t get into these political issues. This is not a political issue. This is a biblical issue. And it becomes your explanation as to why so many people hate the United States. Do you realize that? That people just hate America. I’ve never fully gotten that, how you can try to always tear down something that’s been a benefit to so many people. Why are there people always on cable or news editorials or sometimes in pulpits, trashing the United States? Why do they keep doing that?
The answer is America, as long as it survives, is an example of a prosperous economy that was not built through Marxism or Socialism. Therefore, its very existence is an affront to people who have already bought into the ideology or the religion of Marxism.
If you’re going to keep saying Marxism, use whatever word you want to use. Equity, environmental justice, all of these things. If you’re going to tell people that that’s what’s going to work, that’s what’s going to benefit everybody, you’ve got to tear down what currently does work.
The fall of 1623 marked the end of Plymouth’s debilitating food shortages. Over the last two planting seasons, the Pilgrims had grown crops communally, the approach first used at Jamestown and other English settlements. But as the disastrous harvest of the previous fall had shown, something drastic needed to be done to increase the annual yield. In April, Bradford had decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew. Change in attitude was stunning. Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before. Look at that.
In previous years, the men had tended the fields while the women tended the children at home. The women, and this is a direct quote from Bradford’s diary, “The women now went willingly into the field,” Bradford wrote, continuing with the quote, “and took their little ones with them to set corn.” And this particular author that I’m quoting here from, Nathaniel Philbrick, in a book called Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, includes this, “The pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism. Although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants again never starved.”
Do you realize what God did for our country at its inception? As the early colonies were involved in communism, they held to the idea that whatever you produce goes into a common pot. And it wasn’t working.
Bradford, a man of God by the way, and where would Bradford have gotten ideas like this? Maybe right out of 1st Thessalonians 4:11. Bradford reversed the policy. He said, “Okay, from now on, whatever you make, you keep.” And it changed everything.
People were now functioning according to biblical guidelines. And that switch in public policy saved the United States, or allowed the United States to become what it became. You need to tell this story to your children and your grandchildren that are being told over and over again that social justice is the answer. Equity is the answer. No, it’s not.
God spared the United States. Largely through a man of God who was working through Biblical ideas. And so the United States is one of the few, thank God, countries on the earth that was not founded under Socialism or Marxism.
And yet if you want to promote Socialism or Marxism, what do you do with stories like this, even though it’s coming from an original source, Bradford’s own diary? You’ve got to strip those out of the classroom. You’ve got to say things like, well this is racial or something like that. No it’s not.
It’s a shift into Biblicism. And it’s following something as simple as Genesis 3:17-19, and 1 Timothy 4:11. So we’ll finish 1 Thessalonians 4:11 and maybe we’ll make it into Verse 12 next time.
Let’s pray. Father we’re grateful for your truth, your word. We’re thankful for the fact that it is transcendent. And it’s just a matter of Lord getting back to first things. It’s not that we’re so smart that we know these things. It’s just we’re paying attention to what you have disclosed and applying them to daily life. Help us to walk in love this week. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, in God’s people said amen. Happy intermission.
 “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.””
 σιγάω (sigaō), be silent; stop speaking. (2011. In The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Logos Bible Software.)