As we conclude our series on the “one anothers” of Scripture, it is only fitting that we end with loving one another. Our text this morning is 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.”
The key to loving one another as God commands is through humility. Peter wrote: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). This morning we shall humble ourselves before God and one another as we consider: 1) who we are not 2) who we are and 3) how we love one another.
Who We Are Not
It must be recognized by every Christian that we are not and shall never be God. It would do us well to remember John the Baptist’s declaration, “He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). If God factors little in your everyday life, it is not because He is little but because you attempt to make yourself big. The more we seek to exalt ourselves before God the more we shall be humbled by God. The more we humble ourselves before God the more we shall be exalted by God (see 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6; Prov 3:34). Consider just two ways in which we fail to be God and why it is futile to attempt to take His place: self-sufficiency and need for change.
We may convince ourselves that we can take care of ourselves, but we are not self-sufficient. Each of us is dependent on something or someone else. As John Donne once wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.” We are dependent on God for our “life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). We must all acknowledge that are not God, but we need God.
There is only One in the universe that does not need to change and it is not you or me. God does not change, does not need to change, and will never change. He is always and will always be perfect. We, however, must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We need to “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). We must “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15).
It is God’s desires that are never contradictory. God never does what He does not wish to do, but we must confess: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). God is all knowing and always correct; we are the ones who can be wrong even when we think we are right.
Who We Are
We recognize that we are not God, but who are we? According to the Bible, we are “dust from the ground” that God has breathed into “the breath of life” and thus “became a living soul” (Gen 2:7 KJV). We are fragile “jars of clay” (2 Cor 4:7). Our life is a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We cannot “add a single hour” to our life (Matt 6:27).
A proper view of ourselves in relation to God humbles us before God and man and makes grace amazing. Look at how the Bible describes the one who is not united in faith to Jesus:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph 2:1-3).
Now look at how the Bible describes the one who is united in faith to Jesus: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” God, through Christ, calls you good (Rom 4:7-8). You are justified (Rom 3:24), and adopted (Eph 1:5) into the family of God by grace.
Loving One Another
We are sinners saved by grace. We are unworthy and undeserving but greatly loved. Understanding this fuels humility in our hearts and it is this humility that helps us to “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” It must be noted that this love for one another is not love we manufacture, but is love overflowing in us from God. Look closer at our text and you see that Paul prays “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love.” We cannot make ourselves love someone more, we must ask the Lord to help us love someone more.
Are you a child of God? How can you know? John wrote, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). We close with these words: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us commit ourselves to fulfilling every one another in the Bible because we love God and love each other.