∆’d – 1st Thess 3:12-13 06/26/2022

∆’d – 1st Thessalonians 3:12-13 06/26/2022

You may have noted the title of our topic today. If you’ve studied the sciences much you probably recognized that I used the Greek letter delta “∆” to indicate “change.” In engineering ∆t means change of temperature, ∆P is change of pressure. What does that have to do with Jesus? What we’re talking about today is the ∆ “change” that Jesus brings to each of our lives. I guess you could call it ∆m, “change me.”


Our text today is 1st Thessalonians 3:12-13, which I leave to you to look up. In the Greek, “you” (υμας)[1] [ŭ măs] is moved to the emphatic position at the start of the sentence.[2] It literally reads, “You but the Lord may make…”[3] This serves to convey that, whether Paul was able to return to them or not, the things Paul is praying for will happen.[4] That is, not that the Thessalonians would make themselves to abound in the Christian virtues, but that God Himself will cause this to happen in them.[5] Note the emphasis on who will cause this to happen in 1st Thessalonians 3:12. It is the Lord that brings this about.


The expression (ὁ κύριος) “the Lord” in verse 12 probably echoes “the Lord” in verse 11 and therefore refers to Jesus.[6] He is the one κύριος “Lord,” even as the Father is the one (θεός) “God”.[7] So Paul asks that the Lord Jesus would make the believers in Thessalonica abound in love. But he didn’t stop with loving within the church, he also asked that this love would overflow to everyone around them.[8] Note that this is something God will need to bring about; Romans 5:5.


How is this going to happen? The two verbs used are, “increase” (πλεονάζω)[9] [plĕ ŏn ăʹ dzō] and “overflow” (περισσεύω)[10] [pĕ rĭs sūʹ ō]. These are synonyms.[11] The first of the two, “increase” (πλεονάζω),[12] conveys the idea of growth leading to an abundance.[13] The second expression, “overflow” (περισσεύω),[14] when used with reference to people, implies an overabundance of something.[15] Together they create an emphatic prayer-wish for spiritual growth in the lives of the Thessalonian church.[16] For this to happen would require a fundamental change in the hearts of the believers in Thessalonica.


The claims of Christ on our lives should force us to rethink our opinions, attitudes, and actions. For Paul, this always started with love as the cardinal Christian virtue;[17] Romans 13: 8-10. This had practical implications for the church in Thessalonica, just as it does for ourselves today. For the Thessalonians, this love would include even those persecuting them.[18] Are we ready for this kind of love? The supernatural outworking of this kind of love is going to produce a marked change in our moral character.


Jesus has a way of messing with us, and He made it abundantly clear that we are responsible to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us;[19] Luke 6:27-28. This requires something from us that we’re incapable of providing. This kind of fundamental change can come only from the Lord.[20] When we come to trust Jesus as our Lord, God sees us through Jesus Christ, we’re forgiven and clothed in the righteousness which belongs to Him.[21] But God does not stop there, His intent is that we would be more than justified, that is, declared that we are no longer answerable for our sin. God’s intent is that we would exemplify the righteousness in practice that has been imputed to us by grace. Love, the love of God that we’re granted access to, strengthens the inward person so that the desires of our hearts become blameless in His sight.[22]


Christians are repeatedly urged to live out loud in the midst of their unbelieving, pagan neighbors. We’re to live in such a way that even our detractors will see us as being blameless.[23] Now with all of that, I find myself getting a little uncomfortable. It’s time for us to wrap our minds around something that, honestly, the watching world has rightly condemned us for. How often has the Church been condemned for being rigid and judgmental? There is “right” and “wrong,” and we should not be blurring the lines. But, although it may fall to us to speak the truth in love, nowhere have we been commanded to be the Judge.


Instead, over and over and over, we’re commanded to love. Honestly, a loveless Christianity is an oxymoron, and the proclamation of a Gospel lacking love is a heresy.[24] The “love” we’re talking about is (ἀγάπη) [ă găʹ pā], a word used by New Testament writers to describe a new kind of love.[25] To my knowledge we’re never given a formal definition for this peculiar kind of love in the Scriptures. Rather, it’s demonstrated through actions recorded within the pages of the New Testament.[26]


Each Christian is commanded to love.[27] This love is not a static quantity at our disposal, it is an ever increasing, ever overflowing, love that simply cannot be hidden.[28] Therefore, for the Christian, brotherly love, followed by universal love, are concentric circles.[29] The center of the circle, however, is not us. It is Christ.[30] The narrower circles are not an expression of bigoted exclusiveness, rather they, starting with Jesus at the center, makes possible each outward movement of love.[31]


This is a love that looks beyond ourselves.[32] This requires that it will be a love which comes from the Spirit of God.[33] Where God is granted free reign to truthfully fill the heart, it is only there that true love is also expressed.[34] This is produced in an ever increasing manner in the life of each follower of Jesus by the Spirit whom they have received.[35]


Are you demonstrating this kind of love, or have you missed something?

[1]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Th 3:12. [2] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 388. [3]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Th 3:12. [4] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 388. [5] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 57. [6] F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, vol. 45, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1982), 71. [7] F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, vol. 45, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1982), 71. [8] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [9]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Th 3:12. [10]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Th 3:12. [11] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [12]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Th 3:12. [13] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [14]Thomas Newberry and George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2004), 1 Th 3:12. [15] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [16] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [17] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [18] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 112. [19] Tim Shenton, Opening up 1 Thessalonians, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 70. [20] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 42. [21] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 43. [22] Tim Shenton, Opening up 1 Thessalonians, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 72. [23] F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, vol. 45, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1982), 72. [24] D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, vol. 33, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 113. [25] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 46. [26] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 46. [27] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 46. [28] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 46. [29] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 59. [30] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 59. [31] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 59. [32] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 46. [33] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 46. [34] John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 59. [35] F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, vol. 45, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1982), 75.

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