The Loving Thessalonians

by Ng Yew Kong
25 October 2009

Great display of genuine Christian love, (care and concern, too) in the Lord’s church is definitely a huge plus point for both numerical growth and members’ spiritual health. The early church, recorded in Acts 2, were such an outstanding beacon in this regard.

In fact, love occupies the number one spot in the list of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Gal 5:22, 23 – “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

This subject of love for fellow believers was central and of great importance to our Lord and Saviour, while He was on earth, teaching, preaching and reminding His disciples to be strong proponents of this noble virtue.

His famous statement or rather commandment recorded in John 13:34,35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that  you  love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love  for  one  another.”  – showed His desire  and  wish  to  have every followers of His practise this new culture of love amongst themselves. To hammer this important subject across, our Lord reiterated further, just two chapters away, John 15:12-17 – “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”

Therefore, it’s not surprising to have other apostles, besides John, the Apostle of Love, constantly advocating the importance of loving one other. In Rom 12:10 – the apostle Paul encouraged the Roman brethren to be “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another.”  Apostle Peter preached much too.. “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” -1 Pet 1:22.

They must have taught this virtue very well, so much so churches in Ephesus, Colosse and perhaps else where were well known for their love. Eph1:15,16 – “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” Col 1:3-8 – “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;  ….as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.”

My favourite group of believers who were well known and have love as their trade mark pasted all over their church building, if they had one, was the Thessalonians.

The city of Thessalonica was first mentioned in Acts 17:1, where Paul and Silas preached the risen Christ in the synagogue of the Jews on three Sabbath days. Unfortunately, they faced violent objections from some jealous Jews and had to be accompanied off to the city of Berea in the night. Upon arrival at Berea, Paul and Silas headed for the Jewish synagogue. Dr. Luke recorded the following in Acts 17:11, 12 – “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.”

At a quick glance, the Thessalonians seem to have lost out to the more noble Bereans in the area of receiving and searching the scriptures. However, when we read the two letters of Paul to the church in Thessalonica, one cannot but be impressed by their outstanding display of love for all the saints.

1 Thess 1:2,3 – “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.”

1 Thess 3:6 – “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you.”

1 Thess 3:12 – “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you.”

1 Thess 4: 9,10 – “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more.”

2 Thess 1:3 – “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.”

Question: “In what ways did the Thessalonians display their love that endeared them to others?? Or as Paul urged the saints in Corinth…“Therefore show to them, and before the churches the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf.” – 2 Cor 8:24. That’s it. Showing the proof of our love!! In another word, Practical Christianity!! Putting our money where our mouth is.

Classic examples of proving our faith:-

James 1:27 – “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

James 2:14-16 – “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

So how can the Christians prove his/her love in a manner others can see and know?? I believe one potent way recommended by the scriptures to display our inner love in recorded for us in 1 Cor 13:4-7. Paul said, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Just like when the roads and highways are being lighted up, the ideas mentioned in 1 Cor 13:4-7 surely make displaying love so much easier for the Christians.

Therefore, if we say we love one another, are we kind to one another?? If we say we love one another, are we envious when we see certain brethren having more than us?? If we say we love one another, are we boastful with the many blessings the good Lord had bestowed upon us?? If we say we love one another, do we give preference to one another, think of the other fellow?? If we say we love one another, is our behaviour filled with rudeness?? If we say we love one another, are we easily provoked?? The list goes on….

A friend of mine, who is a member of a denomination, once related a funny incident to me (but not funny to the victim). A man attended worship and parked his car in the designated car park area. After worship, perhaps he was rushing for an urgent appointment, he noticed a car parked haphazardly behind his car, thus preventing him from reversing his car out. He waited for a while, no one came rushing to drive that car away. He got so angry that he proceeded to release the air from all four wheels of that car!! Wow…just fresh from worship and listening to a great sermon….hopefully not one on loving thy neighbour as thyself. Easily provoked.