Lesson 8: "We Beseech You, Brethren, That Ye Increase More and More" (I Thessalonians 4:10)
I Thessalonians 4:1-12
This is Lesson #8. Welcome again to our study of First Thessalonians! We said, before, there is a break in context at the end of chapter 3. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul got down to some of the negatives Timothy had reported to Paul in Corinth the day Timothy returned from Thessalonica. Paul first commended the brethren in chapter one. Paul reviewed the conduct of Silas, Timothy, and himself before the Thessalonians. Then, in the third chapter Paul had explained his great desire to know of their faith and how he had come to send Timothy to visit them. Up until this point, everything in this letter had been historical and connected to the past. However, in this second part, beginning in what we call chapter tour (remember now, this letter, like the whole bible, was divided into chapters and verses hundreds of years after the time of Paul) in this second part, Paul got down to the here and now. Paul got down to the sins at Thessalonica. And, brethren, this was the hard part. It's easy for a preacher to commend and review and talk about the past; but, it's hard to tell people about their sins. However, a preacher must do nothing less. If your banker knew you were putting your money into a risky venture, you would want him to tell you, wouldn't you? If your doctor knew your health was in jeopardy, you would want him to tell you, wouldn't you? If a preacher knew your soul was in danger of being lost, you'd want him to tell you, wouldn't you? Paul was concerned for the brethren at Thessalonica; so, Paul took the time to teach and warn them about these things. That is where the shift in context comes, ai we begin to read the fourth chapter. Can you imagine the day this letter arrived at Thessalonica? We are not told how this letter was delivered. I am inclined to think that Timothy delivered it. The fact that Timothy's name is in the first sentence of the letter along with Paul and Silas, of course, makes one wonder about that point. HOWEVER the letter was delivered, can you imagine the assembly of the saints at Thessalonica the day this letter was first read? In the first part of this letter, as the reader echoed the memories and sentiments and commendation of Paul, the spirit of love must have been re-kindled in their hearts. Tears of joy must have streamed down from the eyes of some. As the reader drew near to the end of this first part, every member must have determined in their mind to serve the Lord Jesus with full allegiance. Then came a pause, and the reader began to read the second part. Paul had not overlooked their faults. Paul knew that some souls were in danger. So, Paul sounded the alarm.
Let's read it! I'll read. You read. We'll both read! Imagine you're in Thessalonica in that first assembly. Are you ready? Let's read down to v. 12. Beginning in 4.1, here we go! "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God. that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy spirit, but as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing."
Alright, back up to v. 1, and let's take it verse by verse. That pause was broken by "Furthermore." Now, "Furthermore" implies that Paul wants to change the subject and say more than had been said. To "beseech" means to beg or to plead. That's like saying, brethren please do this. To "exhort" means to caution and persuade. So, when the brethren at Thessalonica heard Paul's words. "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God..."; they knew Paul's gavel was coming down. Then, when they heard those words in v. 2, "ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus," they knew that Paul was not pleased, and the Lord was not pleased with something. What was it? Well, some probably expect this. Others may have suspected it. There was no question after Paul trimmed them down. First, v. 3, "ye should abstain from fornication..." Second, v. 6, "no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter..." Third, v. 10, "that ye increase more and more." Fourth, v. 11, "that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands..." And, finally (number five), in v. 12, "That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without..." Now all five of these points are connected, in that, it grew out of the very nature of their former Greek lifestyle. In v. 6, Paul, more or less, said you might expect that kind of conduct from the Gentiles that know not God. But the implication is, you know better, Thus, there is a great lesson for us, in that, when we become Christians, we must forsake our old ways; and, as Paul said, "increase more and more." That simply means grow up and mature in the faith. Now, I want you to get something here; this congregation of predominately Gentile people, i. e. Greek brethren, had been Christians for only a few months. They were exhorted — get it right — forsake the old ways; "walk honestly toward them that are without," v. 12. What would Paul say to some of us that have been Christians for 30 or even 40 years, and haven't really taken the time to learn what the Bible says? Ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth, as Paul described some to Timothy (II Tim. 3:7). Brother Horsley, be kind to us babes in Christ Don't call any denominational names from the pulpit. Don't be so crass with us babes in Christ. Some have been Christians for 35 years and they're still whining, "we're babes in Christ." Brethren, it's about time we grow up! If Paul expected this kind of conduct from the Thessalonian brethren that had been Christians only a few months, I believe he would expect even more from us. I would like to be patient with babes in Christ, but, I think 35 years is a little long to be a baby, don't you? Instead of most members helping preachers to reach out and teach others and promote mission work, so-to-speak, many want a preacher to become a nursemaid to the congregation, hold their hand, run then" errands, visit the hospital, and put out a bulletin. Things that any member could do and should do, even if they were baptized last month! I don't want to be unkind, but, I ask you, was Paul kind to the Thessalonians? Do you know what it means to increase more and more? That doesn't mean coast along, go when you feel like it and use the church pew for a place to sleep and rest. Some brethren fidget on the church pew, never open a bible, never follow the sermon, sit there and yawn; and, about the time the preacher gets to the crux of his point, they pick up the bulletin and start reading. Then they complain about the sermon being too long, and how boring it is, and what a terrible speaker old Brother So-and-So is. They really came to be entertained. Our generation has grown up with a bag of potato chips in front of a TV set. Their attention span is three minutes, i. e. if you sneak in a cute little comedy commercial in between. Talk about teaching them that are without and walking honestly toward them that are without, as Paul said in v. 12 - - they don't even teach themselves! Let's face it! I know, someone is going to say I've quit studying and started preaching. And, someone has said that preachers always over exaggerate every point. If I have exaggerated the point, I apologize. Brethren, I believe there may be more fact than fiction to my point. Those brethren at Thessalonica were really babes in Christ. They didn't even have a New Testament. They had to get it ALL by listening to a preacher. Personally, I don't believe Paul would be any kinder to our generation. Do you? We are expected to "increase more and more," also. Incidentally, the book of I Thessalonians may very well have been the first book of the New Testament that was written. It was written before Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It was written before the book of Acts. There's a little letter in Acts 15: 23 - 29, which is incorporated into the book of Acts, and that letter was written before I Thessalonians; but, that is about all of the New Testament scripture that I can identify that was written before this book.
Now, before we get too far afield, we better get back to chapter 4. Notice in v. 2, Paul told these brethren, "ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus." Now, notice something here. Paul had given them commandments, when he was with them at Thessalonica; and, obviously, one of those commandments Paul gave, according to v. 3, was "that ye should abstain from fornication." Whey did Paul give that commandment? Where did Paul get that commandment? Look at it close, v. 2; Paul said WE GAVE YOU this commandment "by the Lord Jesus." Paul did not say because it was one of the ten commandments that God gave Moses. Jesus gave this commandment, you see. It is because Jesus gave this commandment that we must keep it. Do you remember Matt. 5: 27ff in the sermon on the mount? Now, I started to say before, these Greeks had been lifted out of their culture, in a sense, when they became Christians. Fornication, defrauding their way and enjoying a noisy, boisterous, sexy night life, as well as being a general goof-off, had just been part of their Greek culture. Notice something: Christianity is different. Back in 2:9, Paul had said, "ye remember, brethren, our labor and our travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." Why did Paul say that? You see, Paul didn't say that in a bragging way. Paul was leading up to this point. Those Gentile brethren had been accustomed to being lazy and not working much. They simply took a little where ever they could get it. If it took a little unethical conduct, so what? Undoubtedly, Timothy had reported to Paul that some of the brethren at Thessalonica were lapsing back into their old habits, or at least showed that tendency. These Greek brethren had been taught of Paul and Silas to love one another, notice the last part of v. 9. It was another commandment from Jesus. They had done a marvelous job of showing brotherly love. Paul commended them for that. That undoubtedly included giving and sharing and caring for brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul said that "indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia..." In working, getting, obtaining and providing, they were not quite so willing and ethical. Some would even defraud a brother a little to get it (take a look at v. 6). Verse 12 implies they were not always honest with non-Christians; that is, "them that are without," as Paul said it. So, what's the message? Christians don't do that! Christians deal honestly with their brethren AND Christians deal honestly with those that are NOT their brethren.
Paul had given them instruction to this end, when he was with them. Notice the last phrase in v. 11, "we commanded you." Paul and Silas had commanded what? "That ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you." Paul and Silas had set the example. Paul and Silas had commanded the same thing of their Thessalonican brethren. What does it mean "to study to be quiet." Have all our 20th century brothers and sisters in Christ learned that? "Work with your own hands...that ye may have lack of nothing." Does that mean, play the lottery, play the horses, gamble a little, even if you have to live in poverty to do it? Sit back, idle your engine and dream about winning a million! Idle hands are the devil's workshop. There's nothing wrong with having something, owning something, possessing something. Paul said, "that ye may have lack of nothing." Paul wanted them to have what ever they needed. Paul did not tell them to deprive themselves and live in poverty as the concept of some is. But, it's wrong to get it through fraudulent and dishonest means. Notice in v. 7, Paul referred to improper sexual conduct and defrauding, i. e. in summarizing v. 3 - 6, as "uncleanness." "Uncleanness" is the opposite of "holiness," according to that verse. So, gel the scriptural meaning. Notice the way Paul used the word "sanctification," in v. 3. To be sanctified, is to separate one's self from worldly ways by doing "the will of God" (v. 3). The commentaries are loaded with ideas about what Paul meant by the phrase, "every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor..." (v. 4). it seems very simple to me that Paul was referring to the way one separates himself from worldly sexual conduct, i. e. separates one's self from these things for the purpose of doing the will of God (end of v. 3).
Now, in closing, it very well may have been, as some have suggested, that Paul's teaching concerning the Lord's second coming had been so fascinating that some of the Thessalonians had become so obsessed in looking for the Lord's return that they simply quit working. Feeling possibly that it was a waste of energy and effort to produce that which they would not need, as they expected the Lord to return any day. There's no doubt, Paul had explained to the Thessalonians that the Lord Jesus would return, just as it was explained to the apostles by the angels in Acts 1:11 And, obviously, Paul had taught them that no man knew when the Lord would return. It would be like a thief in the night. Paul made reference to the Lord's return more than once, even in what we have covered in this letter, e. g. 1:10, 2:19, and 3:13. Also, it has been suggested that some one, or possibly more than one of the Thessalonian brethren, had died since Paul and Silas had departed from them; and, some in trying to apply Paul's teachings on the second coming, had thought and taught that those who died before the Lord's return would not receive the benefit of Christ's second coming, even though they had lived the Christian life. As I have tried to indicate, these are assumptions, in that this is NOT SAID specifically. Yet, these assumptions do seem logical when one takes into account Paul's statements that follow, as well as what is said in Second Thessalonians. You'll have to make up your own mind. We'll get back to this in our next lesson. Until then, you have a good day!