by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 July 26, 2015 Dayton, Texas
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
1901 ASV Translation:
3 We are bound to give thanks to God always to you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth;
4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for yourpatience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure;
I. What God Hath Wrought.
A. The giving of thanks assumes that grace has been extended by God [see study 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (1) (005) for more detail].
B. The matters Paul identifies as "gracious accomplishments by God" are two: faith and love [see study 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (1) (005) for more detail].
C. The issue of "faith" growing exceedingly [see study 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (1) (005) for more detail].
D. The issue of "love" abounding.
1. "Faith" is a God-ward concept; "Love" is identified by Paul's words as "every one toward each other"; in other words, the Thessalonians were growing in two directions simultaneously.
2. "Love" is a very complex concept, being the only characterization of God that puts the noun form of a description into this form: God is Love. We never read, God is omnipotence, or God is omnipresence ... we use adjectives for those characteristics. This puts "Love" at the top of the heap in terms of how we are to think about God and, since He is infinite in all of His attributes, the complexity is likewise infinite.
3. But, there is an uncomplicated bottom line: "Love" always seeks the best interests of those who are its object and puts no limits upon how much will be sacrificed in order to bring those interests into play for the "beloved".
a. At this point is a major complication: "Love" never exists in a one-on-one situation; there are always multiple objects of love.
1) The clearest example of this reality resides in Jesus' command to His disciples that they "love" their enemies while also addressing the reality of "loving" a friend (Luke6:27-32).
2) The complication arises when "love" for one object of love compels "hate" for another object of love (Romans 9:13).
3) The resolution of this complication rests upon the "lover" and his/her willingness to sacrifice himself/herself for everyone in the picture, but to not sacrifice the one who is loved more for the sake of the one loved less. One can "love one's neighbor" as far as personal sacrifice is involved, but not allow that neighbor to harm one's child by taking whatever action is necessary to prevent that harm. In other words, "love" looks at two things simultaneously -- the "beloved's" requirement upon the one doing the "loving" and the "beloved's" requirement upon others who are also "beloved". I may well be willing to lay down my life for my enemy but not be willing to lay down my wife's life for that enemy. When two or more are in the focus of "love" something often has to give so that one comes out being "loved" and the other comes out being "hated".
b. Another complication exists at the level of the "order" of objects of love.
1) Since love never exists in one-on-one situations, the multiple objects of love have to be prioritized so that when push comes to shove, the more beloved gets preferential treatment often to the detriment of the less beloved.
2) The Scriptures are clear that God must be at the top of the priority list so that any who "love" other persons or things more than Him are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37).
3) Those same Scriptures are also clear that one's neighbor comes in above the one who "loves" so that the neighbor will get what he/she needs at a loss to the one doing the loving.
4) And beyond these two "commandments" there is a plethora of persons and objects that are deemed valuable to a person and all must be put somewhere in the list of prioritized objects of love. The value one puts upon his/her job and income will typically be prioritized above the value one puts upon one's own freedom to use his/her time as he/she pleases. If that doesn't happen, the employer will be looking for a new employee.
4. Paul's pleasure with the love that is abounding in Thessalonica is specifically identified as each putting the other higher upon the priority list than oneself. This "abounds" as it is actually practiced in more and more specific situations. In other words, each situation requires that a person must put his/her own self-interest below the actual need(s) of others, but this often does not happen. So, to the degree that it is happening more and more often, to that degree it is "abounding".
a. At issue here is a key word: "needs".
1) "Loving" someone does not mean letting them do anything they wish and then trying to keep them from living with the consequences. Nor does "loving" mean letting someone do anything he/she wishes without opposition. God "loves" the "proud", but sets Himself against them in most, though not all, situations in which their pride is running amuck.
2) The issue is the true "need" of the moment in the given circumstance. A bully does not "need" to be permitted to continue his/her bullying behavior; he/she "needs" to be brought up short. An enemy does not "need" to be allowed to do whatever without opposition or consequences; he/she "needs" to be confronted by true love in action (note Paul's treatment of Peter in Galatians 2).
b. The bottom line is that "love" seeks the other's true and eternal interests at whatever personal cost that may be involved.
c. The idea that love is "abounding" is an answer to an earlier prayer on Paul's part (1 Thessalonians3:12). Additionally, the idea of "abounding" is the idea of going beyond the bare necessity (note the use of the word in 2 Corinthians 8:15). The requirement of "abounding love" is a greater and growing sensitivity to the particular circumstance and the interplay of competing agendas brought into play by the others involved in that circumstance. The agenda that needs to be pursued is the one revealed to be God's agenda. In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, he claimed that they were being "taught of God to love one another" (4:9), but went on to say that they needed to increase this love more and more.