by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 January 12, 2014 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(009)Thesis:The labor of the love is whatever arises in terms of intense effort because God has been permitted to set the agenda.
Introduction:We began a study last week of the things that Paul remembered about the Thessalonians. In that study we noted that, because "faith" always "works", there has to be a special sense to "the work" that arises out of "the faith". We argued that "the work" is identified in multiple ways in the larger context that, together, boil down to "serving the living and true God" and "waiting for His Son from heaven". "The faith" is the whole ball of wax; "the work" that it sponsors is "serving God" and "waiting" for Him to fulfill His promise(s). Obviously, "serving" has a myriad of specifics because God is a complex Person and our "energies" must be applied to a complex experience-setting. But that complexity leads automatically to the next thing Paul "remembered": he calls it "the labor of the love".
I. Paul's Meaning For "The Love".
A. The term "agape" is a term that falls specifically into the realm of "priorities".
1. One "loves" what he/she "values", regardless of the reason(s) for such an "evaluation".
2. As such a reality, "love" becomes a statement about what/who gets to be at the top of any "priority list".
3. But, just as is implied with "any priority list", there are "lists" and there is a "List".
B. That there is such a thing as "The Love" simply means that we are talking about "The List".
C. This "List" is what is behind the flaw of the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2.
1. The church obviously had "truth" somewhere close to the top of "The List" because they made serious efforts to remove false apostles from their midst.
2. This church also possessed the "trilogy" of "works", "labors", and "patience".
3. But, the One Who walks in the midst of the churches and holds the "angels" of those churches in His right hand registered this complaint: the church had left its "first love".
4. This means that "truth" is not supposed to be at the top of the heap.
5. And that raises this question: what is supposed to be at the top of the heap?
6. This question can only be answered by pushing the questions until we get to the final answer.
7. The ultimate question is this: what/Who determines what is valuable?
a. This is "ultimate" in the sense that whatever determines what is valuable is the most valuable of all because without a "final determiner" there can be no "final determination".
b. The answer is not hard: God is the only entity that is capable of making final determinations; therefore He has to be the "final determiner".
c. Thus, the "Final Determiner" is "The One Who walks in the midst of the churches and holds their "angels" in His right hand.
d. Thus, the "complaint" about leaving the "First Love" is a complaint about moving something "determined to have value" above the One Who "makes that determination".
1) This is the first step of idolatry.
2) This first step is driven by the desire to turn God's relational universe into a mechanical one so that "relational" is not the top characteristic of the universe (i.e., incipient legalism).
D. Thus, "The Love" is God Himself as a "Person Who Relates to persons" (which boils down to making and keeping commitments).
II. Paul's Meaning for "The Labor".
A. For "faith" Paul used the term for "the exercise/expenditure of energy".
B. For "love" he switches terms.
1. The term "labor" is used in multiple texts in the New Testament and consistently boils down to "exercising/ expending" a great deal of energy.
a. In negative texts, the "labor" is either trying to force someone to conform to one's own values, or being the object of such force.
b. In positive texts, the "labor" is enthusiastic effort to accomplish some objective.
2. This immediately signals a "love" interest: no one spends energy without "value".
3. Thus, Paul means that there is something/someone for which/whom the Thessalonians have shown a willingness to be very energetic.
C. Thus, we can conclude that "the Labor" is pretty much the same thing as "the Work" except that it now has more "determination" behind it.
1. Like "the work", "the labor" is a large umbrella called "serving the living and true God and waiting for His Son from heaven".
2 Also like "the work", "the labor" fragments into a gazillion specifics because God has an agenda with a gazillion parts.
3. At issue, however, is this: God, as "The Love", is set at the top of the priority heap so that everything is subjected to His wishes at all times.
a. It plays out in one specific way: determination to have a conscience void of offense toward God and men (Acts 24:16).
b. Thus, however one's conscience is "instructed", the primary "method" is making it harmonize with reality.