“Love One Another” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
I Thessalonians 3:12, And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
Paul wanted God to multiply the love of the Thessalonians. Paul's prayer was that God would make them increase in love. This request of the Lord was to make the Thessalonians abound in love to one another and to all people. Imagine that the church would be so committed to Jesus that He would have free reign in the church to do as He pleases. That is a good request for anyone to make for the church. Because God is love, God's church should be a place of love. When a church has love for the Lord, then they will love one another and will love the lost. The church today must heed the call to love or will lose our opportunity to witness.
The great need for which Paul prayed is the supreme need of every believer—the need for love, to grow in love more and more. Paul, as well as other writers of Scripture, spoke often of love. The Apostle John said, Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (I John 4:7-8).
Family behavior in the body of Christ starts with 'Love one another'. Our Lord told the disciples, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). Our love for one another is an outward demonstration of our salvation. The world ought to be able to look at our love for one another and see a demonstration of God's love for them.
The epistles refer to this overarching principle more than ten times (Romans 12:10; 13:8; I Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; II Thessalonians 1:3; I Peter 1:22, I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11). It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in the life of a believer (Galatians 5:22). Paul is not praying for barely noticeable love, but rather love that is increasing (II Thessalonians 1:3) to the point that it abounds (II Thessalonians 4:1, 10). Paul uses these two growth words together in (II Corinthians 4:15; Philippians 4:17-18). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to rise to the same intensity of love as he had for them (I Thessalonians 2:1-12; 3:1-5).
Their love would be expressed broadly (to all) and more narrowly (to one another). God's redemptive overture of love in Christ was to all men (John 3:16; I Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; II Peter 3:9). We never reach a point in our spiritual journey where our love stops growing (I Corinthians 13:8, 13). The words increase and abound have the idea of something overflowing. We are called to have overflowing love for one another. As you grow in your relationship with Christ, you will also be growing in your love for one another. That love can even overflow toward unbelievers. Our love is to abound to all people.
As our Lord’s love for us, our love for one another should be unconditional. Conditional love is self-seeking, in that, it is easier to love those who will return love. Even the most wretched unbeliever can do good to those who can return the favor. But Jesus calls us to love even those who will not return the favor (Matthew 5:46-47). Unconditional love is never easy, but our Lord calls us to love one another unconditionally. An authentic believer will love his enemies and pray for those who will persecute him.
We believers should respond in love to all with peace (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14), goodness (I Thessalonians 5:15; Galatians 6:10), patience (I Thessalonians 5:14; Philippians 4:5), prayer (I Timothy 2:1), consideration (Titus 3:2), and honor (I Peter 2:17). Even more important, the redeemed should respond to each other in love. God answered Paul's prayer rather quickly (II Thessalonians 1:3).
Love is listed as a fruit of the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit is love... (Galatians 5:22). True Biblical love knows no boundaries—it is a sacrificial love. When the Holy Spirit has control of our lives, He reproduces that same love in us. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5). True, biblical love is more than mere lip service. Real love demands sacrifice and commitment. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (I John 3:16). The demands of Biblical love go far beyond cheap words. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? (I John 3:17).
While we will probably never have to lay down our lives for a friend, on a regular basis, we are called upon to lay down our busy schedules and take time to encourage someone. Satan’s best and most effective hindrance is to get us too busy to be encouragers. There is no replacement for an intense loving spirit in the church. As a pastor, it is my privilege to love the members. Of course, it’s easy to love those who are always encouraging you and appreciative of your ministry to them. But the church is wider than those who regularly express appreciation and affirmation. Our privilege—and responsibility—is to “increase and abound in love…toward all men.” Paul was able to encourage the church of Thessalonica to abound in love “even as we do toward you.” His expressed love for others set the tone for Thessalonica to be a loving church.
Points to Ponder:
Questions to Consider:
Prayer, Lord God, I am not what I could be or should be. But I am not what I was, and thank You for that. I have a growing capacity to love. Because You have set Your love on me, I am growing in my love for You and for others. I am in process, and I’m moving forward. Please keep growing in me the capacity to love well those You’ve given me. In the name of Jesus, my Master, Amen.
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Dr. Blackman is passionate about helping others grow in the grace of the Lord. His devotions are centered on how to grow closer to the Lord through a personal relationship.