“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.”
What are the marks of a healthy church? As the question indicates, there are several marks of a healthy church, including the right preaching of the gospel, the faithful administration of the sacraments, and the proper exercise of church discipline. For our purposes, we will focus on one mark: a healthy church obeys the Word of God. Specifically, today we want to emphasize that a healthy church follows the Word of God by its members’ loving one another.
Paul’s commendations of the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1–2) indicate that it was one of the healthiest churches of the Apostolic era. So, the Thessalonian church is an excellent model for us where Paul speaks of it most highly. And in today’s passage, the Apostle commends the church for its brotherly love (4:9–10). It is not surprising that Paul praises Christians’ love where it was evident, for love is an essential component of the Christian ethic. God commanded the members of the old covenant church to show love to one another (Lev. 19:18), and this carries right through to the new covenant era. Jesus told His disciples that they must love one another as He has loved them—they are to love each other so much that they are willing to die for their brothers and sisters in Christ (John 13:34–35). Love, Paul says in Colossians 3:14, “binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Christians must love one another.
Paul says that the Thessalonians had no need of extra teaching on the necessity of brotherly love, for they had been “taught by God” to show such love (1 Thess. 4:9). The Apostle is not indicating that the Lord had instructed them in a dream or a vision; rather, Paul refers to the teaching he gave them during his ministry in Thessalonica that preceded this letter (Acts 17:1–9). The Apostle would have taught them from the Old Testament supplemented by his own Apostolic instruction, so the phrase “taught by God” reveals that Paul saw his teaching as on the same level as the old covenant Scriptures. The words of the Apostles are the very words of God.
The Thessalonians also had no need for additional teaching on brotherly love, for they were loving one another and also the churches throughout Macedonia (1 Thess. 4:10). The Macedonian churches, including the church at Thessalonica, were known for their financial generosity (2 Cor. 8:1–5), so they were most likely showing brotherly love by helping to meet the financial needs of other believers.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
The Thessalonians did not need more teaching on the need to show brotherly love or on what such love looks like. Paul simply urged them to show love more and more (1 Thess. 4:10). Even when we know the truth and practice it, we need encouragement to continue doing so, for our sanctification is incomplete in this life and we can always serve God more faithfully. Let us love one another more and more and encourage each other in this.