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Today we are looking at a number of Scripture passages that have to do with how we should treat one another as fellow believers; as sisters and brothers in the Lord. They are sometimes called the “one another” verses. (These are most of the positive exhortations that have to do with two Greek words that mean – “one another” or “each other.” [αλληλων; ῾εαυτου. The latter is marked by an asterisk.])

We will go through them in the order that they show up in the New Testament.I won’t say too much about each verse. It’s not difficult to understand what they mean. The work is in putting them into practice.

1. Mark 9:50 – “Be at peace with one another.” The context here is in part that Jesus’ disciples were arguing with each other about who was the greatest. Not only does he tell them that to be great you must be the servant of all, he tells them to be at peace with one another.

2. John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Jesus not only tells us to love each other he makes clear what love means – we are to follow his example. How did Jesus love us? He laid down his life for us. And so we are to lay down our lives for one another.

3. Romans 12:10 – “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Here we have two “one another” admonitions in one verse – 1) we are to love fellow believers as brothers and sisters and 2) we are to honor or lift up one another.

4. Romans 12:16 – “Live in harmony with one another.”

5. Romans 15:7 – “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” The context here is that of Jews and Gentiles getting along in the church at Rome. Although from very different backgrounds they are to accept each other as fellow believers.

6. Galatians 5:13 – “Through love serve one another.”

7. Galatians 6:2 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” The context here is that of gently correcting each other if we fall into transgression. This is a way of showing our love for one another. But certainly bearing burdens can cover working with all kinds of needs. The law of Christ is the commandment, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

8. Ephesians 4:2 – “ . . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love . . .”

9. Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving *one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

10. Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing *one another in all wisdom.”

11. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Encourage one another and build one another up.”

12. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 – “Be at peace *with each other” (own translation).

13. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 – “Always seek to do good to one another.” Paul says just before this that we are certainly not to repay evil for evil, or harm for harm to one another. Rather we are always to do good to each other.

14. Hebrews 3:13 – “But exhort *one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”Again a concern about not letting fellow believers get caught up in a lifestyle of sin.

15. Hebrews 10:24 – “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” The idea is that we can become complacent or lazy and so we are to act to get people focused and on task doing God’s will.

16. James 5:16 – “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” I take this to mean that we confess our sins to the one we have wronged. And then we pray for healing for the person from any discipline the Lord may have allowed them to go through because of their sin.

17. 1 Peter 1:22 – “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”

18. 1 Peter 4:9 – “Show hospitality to one another.”

19. 1 Peter 4:10 – “As each has received a gift, use it to serve *one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

20. 1 Peter 5:5 – “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

21. 1 John 4:7 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

So here are 21 verses that give us a number of exhortations for how to treat one another:

How we shoud treat one another

And there is power in hearing these verses because this is God’s word to us.  And if we open ourselves up to God his word can come into our hearts and change us and empower us to do all these things in our relationships with one another. So let’s all take a moment to look to God and ask – God what would you say to me this morning?

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Series: Paul to the Thessalonians

Today in our series on Paul to the Thessalonians we are up to 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13. As we work our way through this passage, I want us to pay attention to the love that we see demonstrated in Paul for these believers. We can really see his heart for those he ministered to.

But first let’s remember together –

The story after Paul had to leave

  • Because of persecution Paul and team were sent away by the new church – Acts 17:10
  • They went to Berea and ministered there – Acts 17:10-12
  • But some opponents from Thessalonica came to Berea and stirred up trouble – Acts 17:13-14
  • The believers sent Paul off to Athens, but Silas and Timothy stayed behind – Acts 17:14-15
  • Paul ministered in Athens, speaking at the Areopagus– Acts 17:16-34
  • Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Athens – 1 Thessalonians 3:1
  • Paul sent Timothy back to check on the Thessalonians – 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 5 (possibly Silas was sent somewhere in Macedonia as well – Acts 18:5)
  • Paul went on to Corinth and began ministering there – Acts 18:1
  • Silas and Timothy met up with Paul in Corinth – Acts 18:5
  • Paul heard Timothy’s report concerning the Thessalonians – 1 Thessalonians 3:6

This is when Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians in response to this and almost certainly sent it back by means of Timothy.

With this background in mind, let’s look at our verses.

Paul’s desire to see the Thessalonians

1. He tried to visit. “17But since we were torn away from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.”

Paul is saying, ‘Hey, it’s not for lack of trying that we haven’t come back.’ The reason is that Satan hindered us. This may refer to synagogue opposition, or restrictions put on Paul by the authorities in Thessalonica, or maybe that he was too sick to travel that far. But he tried several times.

“19For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20For you are our glory and joy.” Here he assures them that his not being able to come is no reflection on his concern for them. They are his crown of boasting, that is, his victory wreath that will be made know when Jesus returns. He says, “you are our glory and joy.”

2. Paul sent Timothy to check on them.  “1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.”

Paul was really in anguish not knowing how they were doing as new believers under persecution (for Paul’s anxiety for his converts see also 2 Corinthians 11:28-29).

His concern was that they would give up their faith (the phrase “your faith” is used five times in this passage). He is concerned that they would be “moved by these afflictions;” that “the tempter had tempted them” so that they no longer had faith in Jesus.

So he says twice that when he could bear it no longer (3:1, 5) he sent Timothy to check on them, even though it meant he was left alone (3:1). It’s likely that if the obstacle was opposition in Thessalonica Paul would have been immediately recognized, but Timothy was not such a public figure. Timothy’s mission was to check on their faith and “to establish and exhort them.”

Just a note on suffering. Paul says, “we are destined . . . to suffer affliction” – 3:3-4. This is something that he taught them ahead of time. How different is so much teaching in America, where the gospel is all about self-fulfillment and prosperity. Something to think about.

3. Timothy’s report to Paul in Corinth. Just as you can feel the anguish of Paul in the verses before this, so here you can feel the relief he had after hearing Timothy’s good report.

“6But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?”

Timothy reported that they had not abandoned their faith, nor their love for Paul. Paul’s response to this is overflowing thanksgiving to God joy and great comfort.

Our passage ends with 4. A prayer to see them. “11Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

His prayer to see them was eventually answered as we see in Acts 20:1-2.

He also prays for much of what he will be talking about in the next two chapters: love for others, holiness, and Jesus’ return.

Now we turn to our focus –

Paul’s love for the Thessalonians

This is clear in several places in this letter, but especially out text.

1. He has affection for them. 2:17 – he talks about being “torn away from you” but “not in heart.” 2:8 – he says you are “very dear to us.”

2. He wants to be with them. 2:17 – “we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face.” 3:6 – “we long to see you.”

3. He wants to know what is going on with them. 3:5 – “I sent to learn about your faith.” 3:5 -“when I could bear it no longer” that is, not knowing, he sent Timothy.

4. He is concerned for their well-being. 3:3 – “that no one be moved by these afflictions.” 3:5 – he speaks of his “fear that somehow the tempter had tempted” them and their faith was now gone. 3:8 – when he heard good news he said “for now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.”

5. He wants to help them. 3:2 – “to establish and exhort you in your faith.” 3:10 – to “supply what is lacking in your faith.”

6. He takes joy in them. 2:20 – “for you are our glory and joy.” 3:9 – “for what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.”

7. He prays for them as we see in vs. 11-13.

How is your love?

In his prayer Paul prays, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love as we do for you” – v. 12. Notice the last phrase – “as we do for you.” Paul uses his expression of love for them as an example for what God might do in them. And in the same way, this morning I want to use Paul’s expression of love to challenge us to grow more and more in our love for others.

Let’s look at this in several areas:

1. Paul was in a relationship with them as one who ministered to them. So we can ask – How is your love for those you minister to? Think for a moment about who you do minister to. Maybe it is a Sunday school class, or a friend going through a hard time, or sharing your faith with someone. Do you:

–         Have affection for them?

–         Want to be with them?

–         Want to know what is going on with them?

–         Have concern for their well-being?

–         Help them?

–         Take joy in them?

–         Pray for them?

2.  Paul relates to them as a parent because he brought them to faith. In 2:17 he likens himself to a nursing mother who is gentle. In 2:11 he likens himself to a father in his exhorting them. So we can ask, as parents or grandparents – how is your love for your children? Do you:

–         Have affection for them?

–         Want to be with them?

–         Want to know what is going on with them?

–         Have concern for their well-being?

–         Help them?

–         Take joy in them?

–         Pray for them?

3. Paul uses “brother/sister” language to speak of them as fellow Christians. So we can ask how is your love for one another in our congregation?

–         Do you have affection for them? Do you show concern?

–         Do you want to be with them? Do you miss them when they don’t come to church for a while? Do you have time in your busy schedule to spend time with them to build relationship?

–         Do you want to know what is going on with them? Do you check in on them?

–         Do you have concern for their well-being?

–         Do you help them? Do you even know what their needs are?

–         Do you take joy in them? Do you rejoice in their growth in faith?

–         Do you pray for them earnestly?

How does your love measure up? Do you need to increase and about in love more? May God challenge each of us to grow and increase in our love – just as we see in the example of Paul’s love for the Thessalonians.

William Higgins

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Now, my title today isn’t meant to refer to what will happen when we eat our fellowship meal today. I’m talking about growing deeper in our Christian lives and as a church body.

As your pastor I carry a very real concern for our congregation. I think and pray hard about the direction we are moving, our health as a congregation, our ministries and our faithfulness to God. And I will confess that thoughts about such things are never far from my mind and heart. You know, How are we doing? What needs to be focused on? Where are we weak? Where are we strong? What needs to change?

As I reflected this week several things came to mind in terms of areas of emphasis and areas of growth for us. And I thought it would be good to share these with you and to invite you to pick up the challenge to move forward in these areas, so that we can grow as a congregation. So here we go.

1. Let’s grow in our love for one another

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34. Paul said to the Romans, “Love one another with brotherly affection.” Romans 12:10. Peter said, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22.

Paul said to the Thessalonians, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another . . . But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10. I like this last phrase. You have love for one another, but do this “more and more.” In the same way, we do have love for one another here at Cedar Street, but we are to do this “more and more.” We are to grow in our love for one another.

What do I mean? Let’s work at getting to know each other more. Let’s build our relationships with each other. Branch out beyond those you already know. Do things together.

I mean encouraging one another, praying for one another and helping one another. I mean being kind and gentle with each other. And outdoing each other in showing respect and honor to one another.

Here are two specific suggestions: If you don’t already, come to Sunday school. This is a place where you can get to know others. And also, if you don’t already, be a part of a share group. We have four right now, but if needed we can always start another one. This is a place where you can build relationships, and get support.

2. Let’s grow in our maturity in handling our differences

We are held together by our common faith in Jesus and our commitment to follow him, and this is summarized in our church covenant.

Paul says it this way, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6. Notice the seven “ones”: We are all a part of one body of Christ, the church. And we all share in one Holy Spirit who dwells within us. We have one hope, one Lord, one faith in Jesus, one baptism and one God the Father.

Yet, all congregations have differences also. Certainly we do. And this is perfectly normal. We have different gifts and callings that give us different things to focus on. For instance if you are an evangelist, you are gonna focus on evangelism and want everyone to do this. Or, if you have a gift of worship, you are gonna want everyone to make this the focus. And so on.

We have different levels of maturity and understanding among us. We have generational differences. This impacts all kinds of things, for instance how we might prefer to worship.

We have different personalities, which affect how we approach everything we do. We have differences of opinion on all kinds of things, including politics, which if we focus on will lead us all in different directions.

We come from different backgrounds – city, rural, suburbs – we have it all. And we have different church backgrounds, some were raised Mennonite, some have no church background and everything in-between.

So what do we do with all this? It can discourage us, weigh us down or even tear us apart. But it doesn’t have to. We need to learn to discern what God requires – and then be flexible with the rest. We need to be able to tell the difference between Gods’ will and just what we prefer or want, as opposed to others who see things differently. And in the part that God does not require of us, we can learn from each other and try different things.

Here’s an example. Some prefer it when we use flat bread for communion. The Lord’s supper, after all was a Passover meal with unleavened bread. And it is nice to use the same kind of bread that Jesus used. But some prefer to use regular bread, the kind that we call “bread” in our everyday lives. It has a different feel to it and breaks differently. So we can learn from each other here, and be flexible by using both, taking turns.

And then, when we can’t seem to agree on an issue, or come to an easy resolution, we need to be mature Christians about it, as we have been, and are learning about in our conflict resolution class Sunday school class. Right?

  • Don’t pull back and just drift off if you are in disagreement about something, grumbling like the children of Israel in the desert.
  • And also on the other hand, don’t strike out and tear down others.

Rather, we are to love each other, look to God for help and work toward peace. As Jesus has taught us, “Be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:50.

3. Let’s grow in owning and using the gifts that God has given us

Paul said to Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have . . ..” 1 Timothy 4:14. He also said to him, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you . . ..” – 2 Timothy 1:6. We are to discover and use the gifts that God has given us.

Just like in the realm of physical health, it’s not healthy to be a Christian and not be active, doing nothing. Don’t be a pew potato! Don’t just come and sit here once a week and feel like that’s what it’s all about.

Exercise your gifts. Be active and engaged in serving God. We have focused on this before, but I am reminding you here again today.

I think there are two really big obstacles here. The first is time. We live overcommitted lives. We are overbooked, overscheduled and overwhelmed. And often it is serving God that gets cut out as we try to make time for all else that there is to do today. We are trying to do too much, too many good things, and we end up making idols of these things as we devote ourselves more to them than to serving God and working for the kingdom.

The second obstacle is that you might feel you have nothing to share. Maybe you think you are too young. Or maybe you think that you have already served God and are “retired” now. Well, the truth is that everyone has some way to serve God. Paul says, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7. And this is not restricted by age.

So, find out what your gifts are and use them! Next year we plan to have a Sunday school class focused on this. But, you don’t need to wait, try some things and see what you enjoy, see what you do well. And if you need help, talk to me and I will plug you in somewhere.

4. Let’s grow in our emphasis on outreach and hospitality

It’s easy to be comfortable as Christians. Comfortable with just hanging out with other Christians. (Some don’t even know unbelievers very well.) Comfortable with just talking to those we already know when we are at church.

But Jesus calls us to something more. He said, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10. This is why he came. And he calls us to follow his example, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19.

Now, I am certainly grateful for all those working in the areas of outreach and hospitality in our congregation, using their gifts, but these are things that each of us need to grow in.

And I’m not talking about being artificial or forcing things. I mean just being a Christian in your everyday relationships and looking for opportunities to share what God has done. I mean being friendly and welcoming to those who are new to the congregation. That’s all.

In our Sunday school coming up soon, we will have chance to focus on the outreach part of this. And I hope this will spur us in this emphasis.

5. Let’s grow in our desire for more of what God has for us

I want to instill a yearning for more in each of your hearts.

We can see what God wants for us by looking at the picture of the church in the New Testament, especially the book of Acts. They had great love for one another, the Spirit moved in power among them, they willingly suffered for their faith, they shared deep fellowship with each other, they boldly witnessed for Jesus.

As we look at this, we can see that God has so much more for us. We talk about revival and renewal, well this is what we are talking about – getting back to this.

And the problem is not on God’s end. Instead of being satisfied with where we are, we need to be seeking this. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8. James said, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” James 4:2.

We need to ask for this, seek and knock. Life isn’t long! What are you waiting for? This is our chance. We can be a community that embodies Jesus and serves him in powerful ways.

Don’t be satisfied with what we have, as good as it might be. Let us press on for more of what God has for us.

William Higgins

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