More and More for Oak Hills, Part 1
August 17, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica has always fascinated me. Part of my fascination is the story of Paul coming to Thessalonica in Acts 17 and being chased away after only three Sabbaths of ministry. Part is the incredible conversion story of the Thessalonians, of which Paul says, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thes. 1:9). Part is Paul’s description of his ministry philosophy, of which he says, “being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2:8). And part is Paul’s instruction for the church on what’s next. For this, he says nothing new is next; just keep doing what you already have been doing.
This instruction on what’s next comes in 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul uses a unique phrase in this section. The ESV translates this phrase as “do so more and more” (v. 1 & 10). These are the only two places in the whole New Testament we find this phrase. Consider how Paul uses this phrase as bookends of his instruction: “Finally then, brothers and sisters, 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 and sisters, to do this more and more.”
Paul taught the church at Thessalonica the foundational truths and ethics of Christianity within three Sabbaths. They had already received from Paul how they ought to walk and please God. They had been taught to love one another. As Paul says in Romans 13:9, “For the commandments… are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The Thessalonians had all they needed to continue the Christian life. Therefore, the only exhortation left for the church is “do this more and more.”
The same is true for Oak Hills. We have heard and know the gospel. We have received, through the Scriptures and teaching from the Scriptures, how we ought to walk and to please God. We have been taught to love one another. There is nothing new to look for and study. There is nothing to graduate to. Therefore, let’s heed Paul’s exhortation to “do this more and more.” Over the next few weeks, I want to highlight what this might look like for Oak Hills.
First and foremost, we must grow in faith more and more. Paul describes the faith of the Thessalonians in chapter 1: “your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (v. 8-9). Notice three things about faith, in all of which we are to grow.
- Faith is public. Paul says the Thessalonians’ faith “has gone forth everywhere.” Their conversion was not hidden. People all over the region were talking about the faith of the Thessalonians. Recently I met a pastor in the PCA who had also once met my mentor from California. This pastor commented that he knew in that first meeting that my mentor was a gospel man. What kind of first impressions do people receive of us? Is our faith in Christ a defining quality of how we live and interact with others?
- Faith turns away from idolatry. Paul says that the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols.” This is repentance, a turning away from sin and the idols of our lives in order to pursue God more and more. The whole of the Christian life is to be repentance. There is always more sin to turn away from (by the way, all sin is idolatry), and we have room to grow in our pursuit of God.
- Faith delights in Christ. The last thing Paul says about the Thessalonians’ faith is that they are waiting for the Son. We wait for the things for which we long, like a child waiting for Christmas or her birthday. One of the defining qualities of true saving faith is a growing longing for Christ. The things of this world diminish in our hearts while Christ increases.
Oak Hills, let’s do this more and more. May our faith grow more and more as it becomes more public, continues to turn away from idolatry, and delights in Christ.