By Mike Willis
And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward mother, and toward all men, even a we do toward you: to the end be may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints (1 Thess. 3:12-13).
Each of us wants to be found “unblameable” at the second coming of Jesus. How is this possible? None of us can stand unblameable (sinless) in the absolute sense. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). In whatever sense we stand unblameable, our stand will not be merited by perfect obedience; instead it will be grounded in the grace of God as manifested to us in Jesus Christ. How does one become unblameable?
Increase And Abound In Love
Writing to those who had obeyed the gospel of Christ, Paul instructed the Thessalonians that they could become unblameable in holiness through love (1 Thess. 3:12-13). How does love lead one to become unblameable in holiness?
Some have the idea that love is an emotion, instead of an act of the will. It is equated with a warm feeling toward one another and is thought is to be affection. Love is an act of the will instead of the emotion. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:43-44). Sinful emotional responses toward enemies are hatred, bitterness, revenge, anger, wrath, etc. Yet, Jesus said we should love our enemies – love those with reference to whom we have only negative emotions, for whom we have no affection, and perhaps toward whom we even harbor ill feelings. The command to love your enemies demonstrates that love is an act of the will which controls the emotions.
When we understand what love does, we can see how increasing and abounding in love will make one unblameable in holiness.
What Love Prohibits
Displaying love as a fruit of the Spirit will prevent men from doing some of the things which destroy holiness. John said, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 Jn. 2:9-11). Love will keep me from displaying sinful dispositions and. actions toward my brother. Here are some things it will stop:
1. Revenge. Paul commanded, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” (Rom. 12:19-21). A man who loves his brother will not seek revenge when he is sinned against.
2. Blasphemy. Blasphemy means to “speak against.” Some men blaspheme their brethren, seeking to destroy another’s honorable reputation through slander, innuendo, whispering, backbiting, and other sins of the tongue. One who loves his enemy will not blaspheme him; how much more should this be true of one’s brother!
3. Bitterness and hatefulness. These two sins of the heart can consume one’s soul like a cancer consumes one’s body. These dispositions of the heart make one see every action which another does with jaundiced eye, resulting in evil surmising, seeing offences where none exist, and suspicion. Love will keep me from doing many sinful things because I am commanded to manifest the right attitude and act the proper way toward my brethren.
Have you noticed that some who preach so much on love act in a manner which demonstrates an absence of love? They preach so much on love that one would think sugar could not melt in their mouth. However, these very men slander, backbite, gossip, and do many other things which demonstrate an absence of love.
The Obligations Of Love
Love is not a merely negative force. It obligates man to act with concern for another’s best interests. Jesus said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the ‘ prophets” (Matt. 7:12). The “Golden Rule,” as this verse has been called, does not say, “Whatsoever ye would that men should not do to you, do not ye even so to them.” Instead, it instructs me to look for what I wish others would do for me and then do that for my brother. If I wanted my brother to invite me over for lunch, I should invite him over; if I wanted my brother to visit me when I am sick, I should visit him when he is sick. Hence, love obligates me to do what is best for my brother.
In thinking of my brother, I should put his needs above my own. John wrote,
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our fives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s goods and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? (1 Jn. 3:16-17)
For a man to lay down his life in behalf of his brother, he must put the needs of his brother above his own needs.
Love obligates me to be concerned for the eternal destiny of my brother. Hence, love obligates me to reprove, rebuke, and exhort my brother. Sometimes brethren act as if one does not love his brother when he rebukes him. While it is true that a person can rebuke his brother with an absence of love (e.g., “I really told him off”), true love issues its rebuke from the concern that the brother’s soul not be lost in hell.
Love demands kindness (1 Cor. 13:4), prohibits unseemly behavior (aschemoneo: behave disgracefully, rude, unmannerly – 1 Cor. 13:5), and commands thoughtfulness and concern for the other person. The graces and virtues which become part of the Christian’s character stem from love.
Love And Holiness Tied Together
As a person looks at the demands which love makes on his actions, he can easily understand how growing in love makes him “unblameable in holiness.” Where revenge, spiteful words and behavior, blasphemy, evil surmising, hatefulness, and bitterness reign, holiness is absent. Where kindness, consideration, rebuke in love, and similar virtues are manifested, holiness exists. Hence, love leads one to be unblameable in holiness.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 5, pp. 130, 150
March 6, 1986