Was Paul never satisfied? Give him an inch and did he want a mile? Hadn’t they done enough already? Apparently not.
Reading the first section of 1 Thessalonians 4 this morning and a twice repeated phrase catches my attention. Chewing on more and more.
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.
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, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, . . .
(1Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10 ESV) ESV)
Having received only three weeks of formal instruction before Paul was run out of town (Acts 17:1-10), the converts at Thessalonica had been quick studies. And obedient ones. The testimony of Paul and others was that they were walking as they “ought to walk.” They had become imitators of Paul and of the Lord Jesus (1:6). In fact, they had become examples of how to do it right “to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1:7).
That they had turned to God from idols (1:9) wasn’t just a slogan on a t-shirt, it was evident by how they went about living their lives and loving one another. The word they heard from Paul they had internalized as a word from God, and it was that word which was “at work in you believers” (2:13). Paul thanked God for their “work of faith”, their “labor of love”, and their “steadfastness of hope” (1:2). They were living for God. They were loving for God. They were longing for God. Yes! Sounding a lot like a 4.0 GPA (God Pursuing Average) to me.
Yet Paul twice exhorts them, “Do so more and more.”
Come on! Really?!?
But isn’t that the nature of sanctification? Shouldn’t it be the nature of sanctification? If being sanctified is being brought in line practically with who we are positionally in Christ — being holy as Christ is holy for God is holy — then shouldn’t there always be more and more? I’m thinkin’ . . .
If God predestined us to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29), then until we fully bear the likeness of His Son, shouldn’t we see ourselves increasingly transformed into the likeness of His Son? If God said the work He begun in us won’t be completed until “the day of Jesus” (Php. 1:6), then I’m thinking that if there isn’t more and more to always be leaning into, then we’re tapping out too early. Or we’re stalling out too quickly. Or we’re patting ourselves on the back and giving ourselves a shout out too arrogantly.
Isn’t it our experience that the more we grow in the likeness of Christ the more aware we are of how far we really are from being like Christ? That the more we grow in holiness the more we know we need to do so more and more?
And who is sufficient for such things? We are. In Christ. Through the indwelling power of the Spirit. By the will of God.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification . . .
(1Thessalonians 4:3a ESV)
His abounding and over-flowing grace sufficient for the more and more.
So that He alone might receive all the glory, more and more.