What did the New Testament Church look like?
1 Thessalonians 4.1 – Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
The delight of this epistle of Paul’s is, that it contains no rebukes. It is a letter of commendation. “You’re doing great, keep it up!” Here is a church that is doing “it” well. What are those things they are doing so well that we can learn from? As men and women already accepted in Christ, Paul reiterates 22 traits he encourages them to “do so more and more.” They form a great sketch of vital, vibrant Church life.
1. 4.3-8 – “Abstain from sexual immorality” – to keep themselves sexually pure. Not a new problem, is it? And if it leads the list in Paul’s day, how much more ours?
2. 4.11 – “Aspire to live quietly” – Living peaceably with one another. Where we fail to do this, we fail to be the Church.
3. 4.11 – “mind your own affairs” – Avoid prying into other’s private business uninvited. Don’t be busybodies.
4. 4.11 – “Work with your hands” – Don’t be idle, unproductive. Produce something useful for others. O.K., so you’re retired, or laid up, or young – what are you doing with it?
5. 4.13-18 – “Encourage one another with these words” – Remind one another of our REAL hope, that which is to be brought to us at the return of Christ Jesus.
6. 5.1-11 – “Let us be sober” – Keep a sober mind about world conditions. The Lord is governing all. His plan is moving toward consummation.
7. 5.11 – “Encourage one another” – Remember that others are struggling too. You need to it for you, and they need to know it for them. We do not suffer in isolation. We share a common lot.
8. 5.11 – “Build one another up” – Cultivate relationships in Christ. The Christian life cannot be lived alone. We were born into a Body.
9. 5.12 – “Respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” – Don’t discount Christian leadership. God has placed men in certain positions for the good of all – don’t be found undermining that order.
10. 5.13 – “Be at peace among yourselves” – Don’t discount the brotherhood of the saints” – Lone Christians is an oxymoron. We are meant to dwell in a society of the saints. Not to, robs you of the gifts God has designated for your good through others, and them of yours.
11. 5.15 – “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil” – Don’t tolerate a spirit of vengeance among you. There is no place for a tit-for-tat mentality among the saints. We are to be bigger than that – more loving than that. The FIRST step in Church discipline is to let love cover the sin. Only if that fails in us ought we to go beyond.
12. 5.15 – “Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” – Look for opportunities to bless one another. Don’t wait to be called, conscripted, invited or roped in.
13. 5.16 – “Rejoice always” – Remember that rejoicing is a command, not an option, or a personality trait.
14. 5.17 – “Pray without ceasing” – Never be out of communication and communion with God. Run to Him with everything, in everything – good and bad.
15. 5.18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances” – Fight bitterness and despair with thankfulness.
16. 5.19 – “Do not quench the Spirit” – Pay attention to the Spirit’s promptings. He is always calling us to purity, holiness, love, compassion, fidelity, thanksgiving, praise and prayer.
17. 5.20 – “Do not despise prophecies” – Don’t discount preaching. We NEED the Word of God declared, broken and opened to us all the time.
18. 5.21 – “Test everything; hold fast what is good” – Don’t be gullible. Cultivate Biblical discernment. Truth is not relative.
19. 5.22 – “Abstain from every form of evil” – Fight every form of inward sin – not just the “big” ones. Not just the troubling ones.
20. 5.25 – “Brothers, pray for us” – Do not neglect prayer for those who are sent out. It is very easy for them to grow alone.
21. 5.26 – “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” – Do not become exclusionists. Greet ALL the brothers. Even those who are not nearly as like you as is comfortable.
22. 5.27 – “I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” – Make sure God’s Word gets published abroad.
Now THAT’S a Church!