1 Thessalonians 3:12
And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows,
Sermons
The Increase of LoveW.F. Adeney 1 Thessalonians 3:12
Great Desire to See the ThessaloniansR. Finlayson 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
A Comprehensive Apostolic PrayerG. Barlow.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Direction of the Way and Increase in LoveA. Raleigh, D. D.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Divine Guidance GuaranteedG. Kingsley, M. A.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
God Honoured by Seeking His GuidanceJ. Ruskin.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
God's Guidance to be Sought by PrayerA. Toplady, M. A.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Guidance Honestly SoughtJ. Newton.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Paul's Ejaculatory PrayerJ. Hutchison, D. D.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Prayer About a JourneyR. Fergusson.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Prayer to ChristCanon Liddon.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
St. Paul's Prayer for His ConvertsB.C. Caffin 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
The Helplessness of Man's Self-GuidanceT. Manton, D. D.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
The Mysteriousness and Methods of God's GuidanceJ. Parker, D. D.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
The Right and the Wrong Way of Seeking God's GuidanceJ. Spencer.1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Christian Love1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
Missionary LoveJ. Harding, M. A.1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
The Abounding of CharityW. B. Pope, D. D.1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
The Apostle's Prayer for the Progressive Sanctification of the ThessaloniansT. Croskery 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 13
The Effect of Love on Universal HolinessC. Simeon, M. A.1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
The Holiness ToneH. W. Beecher.1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
The Savour of Christian Holiness1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
He has just prayed for himself, but whether he is to come to them or not, he has a prayer for their spiritual benefit.

I. CONSIDER THE PERSON TO WHOM THE PRAYER IS ADDRESSED, "But you may the Lord enlarge." It is the Lord Jesus, who, "as the Purchaser of the Church with his own blood," has received the fullness of the Spirit for the benefit of his people. It was to the Lord the apostles addressed the unanimous prayer, "Increase our faith."

II. THE BLESSING PRAYED FOR. "But you may the Lord enlarge and make to abound in love toward one another, and toward all."

1. The existence of their love is frankly admitted. He had spoken of "their labor of love." He prays now for its increase.

2. Their love was to be an abounding love.

(1) There were defects in their love, as there were defects in their faith, to be supplied from the inexhaustible Source of all love.

(2) The objects of their love were

(a) "one another," those of the household of faith, who were to have the first place in their affections;

(b) but "all men" likewise, as children of a common Father, for as we have opportunity we must do good unto all men (Galatians 6:10), the world itself being the field of our missionary labors. The Apostle Peter adds "love" to "brotherly kindness" in the chain of Christian graces, as if to imply that brotherly kindness might become a narrow, sectarian thing, and therefore the love of man as man is enjoined.

III. THE DESIGN AND TENDENCY OF THIS PROGRESSIVE INCREASE. "To the end that he may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints."

1. This implies that establishment in holiness is necessarily involved in the enlargement of both faith and love.

2. It implies that stability in holiness is the great end of Christian life in a world which shakes believers by fears and temptations and delusions.

3. It implies that without perfect holiness we cannot appear without blame before God.

4. It implies that perfect holiness is reserved for the second coming.

(1) It is not attainable in this life. We are not here "without spot or wrinkle."

(2) It is connected with the redemption of the body.

(3) It is connected with the final glorification of the redeemed; for all the saints are to be associated with the Judge as assessors in the final judgment (Luke 22:30; John 5:28; 1 Corinthians 6:3). Therefore let us pray for the increase of faith and love, and live in the blessed hope of the "day of Christ." - T.C.







And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love
The grace which is most generally spoken of in the Holy Scriptures as establishing the souls of men is faith. But there is a sense in which love also establishes the heart; hence the apostle prays that God would make the Thessalonian Christians to abound in love.

I. THE INFLUENCE OF LOVE ON UNIVERSAL HOLINESS. Love is an extremely powerful principle in the heart of every one that is truly born of God: it is the great wheel which sets the whole machine in motion, and gives a vital energy to every part.

1. It rectifies all the powers of the soul.

2. It enters into every action of the life.

3. It prepares the soul for heavenly communications.

II. THE ATTENTION DUE TO IT UNDER THIS PARTICULAR CONSIDERATION. Love, for its own sake, should be cultivated to the uttermost; but when we consider its vast influence both on our present and eternal welfare, we should strive for it with all our might.

1. Let us seek to abound in it.

2. Let us intreat God to work it in us.

3. Let us be stirred up to this especially from the consideration before us — the Lord Jesus is shortly coming with all His glorified saints to judge the world.Application:

1. How shall we know whether our love increases? By the difficulties it surmounts, the sacrifices it makes, the victories it gains.

2. What shall we do to get an increase in it? Nothing but love will beget love; nor will anything but a sense of God's love to us prevail to create in us any real love toward our fellow creatures.

(C. Simeon, M. A.)

I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.

1. Heartfelt.

2. Holy.

II. THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.

1. God gives it susceptibility.

2. God maintains it in the heart.

III. THE OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.

1. The whole Christian Church.

2. The whole family of man.

IV. THE DEGREE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.

1. Abundant.

2. Increasing.

V. THE EFFECTS OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.

1. They are blessed to each other.

2. They are blessed to the Church.

3. They are blessed at the coming of the Lord.Improvement:

(1)The text leads to inquiry.

(2)The text leads to humiliation.

(3)The text leads to prayer. (W. H. Cooper.)

This is the first of St. Paul's formal prayers. Note:

I. THE OBJECT TO WHOM IT IS PRESENTED.

1. Our Lord is expressly addressed: not as the Mediator only, by whom petitions are made acceptable, but as Himself, the Hearer and Answerer of prayer. Here the Saviour is asked first for a temporal and lower gift, for the prosperous direction of the apostle's course and therefore the highest blessing that man can receive.

2. Our Lord is invoked in the unity of the Father, for "God Himself our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ," two persons, are yet one in the verb "direct." The very grammar expresses their unsearchable Oneness not only in counsel and act, but in nature and dignity.

3. Here at the outset there is more than a latent reference to the mediatorial Trinity. Who is that Lord who shall stablish the saints before God? It is the Holy Ghost, in the unity of the Father and the Son, but also in His own administrative function as having our holiness in charge.

II. THE PRAYER ITSELF.

1. Paul's first invocation is for charity, that gift of God and grace in man which always has the preeminence. It is the ruling emotion of the regenerate which, assured by its very life of the love of God, goes back directly to Him in devotion, and indirectly in deeds of charity to man. In love, as in an element, the apostle prays that they may grow.(1) Here at the very threshold of His theology, Paul establishes the true character of love as it rests especially on the fellow elect and as it embraces all men. This distinction bears close analogy to the particular and catholic love of God. But the distinction, however important, belongs to a lower sphere, and has significance only for a season. The two are one in "the bond of perfectness"; and when the prayer asks for its largest aboundings it leaves all limitation behind: "and toward all men."(2) The specific increase will be seen if we consider the vehement language in which Paul describes it, and the standard he sets up in his own example.(a) "Increase and abound" might be interpreted as a compound expression including all that is possible to the heart's capacity. But more closely examined the former signifies the growth of the soul in the sphere of charity, and the latter its aboundings in outward manifestation. Elsewhere love is regarded as growing in us; here, we grow in love, which, like faith, is not only a grace within but an element around the soul. "Increase in love" means that we may become more and more enlarged in heart as our love is enlarged, growing with its growth. The other term makes the sentiment more intense, and asks that the evidence of our increase may day by day overflow. Not, however, to man only. In the next chapter (ver. 9), when the apostle speaks of love to our fellow Christians as "taught of God," he calls it "philadelphia," a branch of charity never separable from that other love that belongs to God; so here it is regarded as springing from the large effusion of the love of God.(b) Paul presents his own example as at once a standard, guide, and incentive. He felt himself to be expanding in the habit and exercise of that love which "pufieth not up," but "edifieth." This is the first instance of a practice of his with which we soon become familiar — the commendation of his own example. Nowhere is his love more vividly exhibited than here. 'The collective strength of the previous expressions present to us a perfect description of self-forgetting charity. It begins in ver. 5. There is more than human sympathy here. Having had "much forgiven," the apostle "loved much." But while we are pondering the exhibition, we hear his intercession diverting us from himself: "the Lord make you," etc.

2. The connection between this abounding love and unblamable holiness is one of the most important topics in experimental theology.(1) Love, whether regarded in its unity, or divided into devotion and charity, is the energy of all holiness. We are released from sin by love as the instrument of the Spirit in expelling every impure affection. The soul in which the Divine love is shed abroad in its fullness can give no place to evil desires. By it also we are strengthened into complete obedience: for "love is the fulfilling of the law." There is no limit to the increase of this love. St. Paul has chosen two terms that spurn restriction; which teaches us on the one hand that a love perfected in the sense of having reached an impassable limit there cannot be: the love of God can never be spent, nor can man's return of love to God. But it teaches also that there is nothing in the heart that shall resist it. Hence holiness is a state in which man's heart, i.e., man himself, is already established by the power of God.(2) The idea of confirmation in unblamable holiness before God carries the view forward to that day which is the vanishing point of all the lines of the apostle's theology and hope. It is supposed to be brought under the more direct scrutiny of God; it is not created by His coming: neither does death destroy the body of sin, nor the appearing of Christ perfect the love of the saints; but then the eye of Supreme Justice will regard the perfect in love as unblamable in holiness.(3) The construction of the sentence suggests that at and by the coming of Christ we shall be confirmed in our unchangeable condition of holiness before God. This is not the establishment of an uncertain character; the abounding of love has accomplished that. It is not the establishment in brotherly love; that is a grace which may be supposed to end with time. But it is the establishment of the unblamable holiness of perfect love.(a) The holiness of perfect love is the permanent character of the saved. Love abideth; and without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Holiness is the consummation of all that religion has to accomplish, and love is the law of heaven as well as of earth. Faith will cease by finding its object; and hope will never be conscious of an object waited for.(b) This establishment implies the end of probation. Probation vanishes to the individual in death; but to the Church, and man's history generally, only at the coming of Christ. Not till then, but assuredly then, all that belongs to the warfare, suspense and growing victory of religion shall cease. Rest in God shall be the law of heaven; and that rest shall be movement in an orbit around the throne which shall never be purturbed.

(W. B. Pope, D. D.)

There is a reflex influence attending acts of obedience to God which goes immediately to advance the doers still further in the ways of godliness. All holy and charitable works are replete with seeds of blessing for the Christian's own soul. In the text the grace which is exercised in the actings of obedience becomes a means of still further advancement. The reaction of Christian love is progression in holiness, whether to the individual or the Church. The history of missions furnishes no ordinary proofs of this.

I. THE NATURE OF THAT LOVE IN WHICH ST. PAUL DESIRED HIS BRETHREN TO ABOUND.

1. Its spirituality of intention. This is inferred from its declared origin, "The Lord." Carnal minds have their charity, which regards men as body and mind, and, therefore, when it has consulted their physical happiness and intellectual cultivation it has reached its limit. Devout but unenlightened minds have their charity, but it seeks only to win men from vice to forms of godliness. But the charity that is born of God will act in correspondence with the mind of God, who has not failed to provide for physical happiness, mental improvement, and moral amelioration, but only as a consequence of the restoration of the soul to union with Himself. His sacrifice of His Son — "the Just for the unjust" — was to this end, "to bring them to God." In harmony with this will be the intention of His people's love. It was so in Paul's day. Its care for man was a care for man's soul. And so now Christian missions, while they compensate the physical miseries, mental debasement, and moral perversion of men by humanizing influences, lifting the savage into civilization, it looks upon all this as subordinate to the conversion of the heart to God.

2. Its unrestrictedness of attachment. It suffers no limitation. It leads God's people to care not only for their brethren, but all mankind. The earliest disciples went everywhere preaching the Word. The Thessalonians were no less active; and besides doing mission work themselves, they succoured other missionaries. Would that this love had never grown cold! But first came dissention, then unhallowed speculation, and afterward superstition. And when superstition had been removed formality supervened. And so at this late era we are but beginning again the evangelization of the world which began in apostolic times.

3. Its progressiveness of operation. Let it live and be in healthy action, and that action will be one of advancing power. This the apostle intimates not only by his prayer, but by instancing his own example. St. Paul was a bright exemplification of the charity that never faileth. His personal intercourse with the Thessalonians had been brief — but how, notwithstanding his labours and trials, he loved them. So it was with his affection for other Churches, it deepened and widened at the same time. And may we not point to many of his followers struggling with discomforts, afflicted with the spectacle of myriads wholly given to idolatry, frequently standing alone as witnesses for the truth, growing only more devoted to the work and attached to their charge. Yea, and when compelled to return to a more congenial climate they labour in the interests of their distant converts, and long to return. And so, according to their ability, is the love of the Churches who support missions.

II. THE SANCTIFYING RESULT WHICH ST. PAUL ANTICIPATED FROM THAT INCREASE OF LOVE WHICH HE INVOKED UPON HIS BRETHREN. Consider this as illustrated in the history of missions.

1. In relation to our individual piety.(1) It quickens within us the spirit of prayer. One glance at millions lying in their heathen state hastens every child of God to his Father's feet. "The harvest," Christ said, "is plenteous," etc. What, then, shall His followers do? Rush at once into the field? No. "Pray ye." Nor is this all. From every region we hear the cry, "Pray for us that the Word of God may have free course and be glorified." And our souls are stirred within us to respond; and thus it is that an interest in missions keeps us at the throne of grace. And experience soon proves that the spirit of supplication is the very life of the cause.(2) It brings us into conscious cooperation with God. "We are labourers together with God." If the evangelization of the world were a human adventure then our partnership would be with man only; but faith is sensible of God's presence, and association with God who is holy results in holiness.(3) It familiarizes our minds with the operations of the Divine Spirit on the souls of men, and promotes self-examination and conveys instruction and consolation.

2. In relation to the piety of the Church which is the aggregate of the holiness of its individual members. As they severally thrive the whole body is strengthened, and society around receives a corresponding complexion. A habit of caring for souls is established; attention is drawn to the spiritual condition of those who are near; home missions spring up, and the fountain which is pouring forth its streams to fertilize some distant wilderness, overflows with living water to bless its native soil. How strikingly this is illustrated in the religious history of our own country! Call to remembrance the condition of England when the great missionary societies were first established. From that day God has blessed us with a reformed country and a revived religion.(1) The various expedients devised for the support of missions have been the means of this. Missionary meetings, sermons, literature, have given an impetus to the cause of God. In how many of our children the first buddings of Christian emotion have burst under the impression of some missionary tale.(2) Consciences awakened, and hearts moved to care for the heathen abroad have been impressed with a responsibility towards those at home.In conclusion, consider the subject in relation to —

1. Ourselves. Here is the antidote to the evils of secularity, luxury, priestcraft, and scepticism.

2. Our society. Our successes should stimulate this love; our failures make an imperative demand upon it.

3. Our Church. Here strength at home will be in proportion to her prosperity abroad.

4. Our country. Missionary extension is its best defence.

(J. Harding, M. A.)

One day when I was with Mr. Hicks, the painter, I saw on his table some high-coloured stones, and I asked him what they were for. He said they were to keep his eye up to tone. When he was working in pigments, insensibly his sense of colour was weakened, and by having a pure colour near him he brought it up again, just as the musician, by his test fork, brings himself up to the right pitch. Now, every day men need to have a sense of the invisible God. A clear conception of the perfect One produces a moral impression; and it does not make any difference how you get it. If you are poetical you get it through the imagination. If you have large veneration you get it through that quality. If you are most easily affected through your emotions, you get it through these elements. If by the intellect, by the imagination, by the affections, or by the moral sentiments you are exalted into the conscious presence of God, then you have obtained that which renders prayer of transcendent value, and which gives tone to your whole nature. But no nature is of such magnitude that it does not need, every day, to be tuned, chorded, borne up to the ideal of a pure and lofty life.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Now give me a hundred men — not men that are glowing while they sing, and heavenly while they pray, though I would have them so; but men that are, morning, and noon, and night, born of God, and that so carry the savour of Christ that men coming into their presence say, "There is a Christian here," as men passing a vintage say, "There are grapes here" — give me a hundred such men, and I will make the world believe. I do not ask to be shown the grapevine in the woods in June before I will believe it is there. I know that there are grapes near when the air is full of their odour; and the question under such circumstances always is, "Where is the vine?" and never, "What is it that I smell?" You are to be a savour of love, and peace, and gentleness, and gratitude, and thanksgiving, so that whenever you go, the essence of the truth that is in you shall go out to men. The most expressible thing in this world is the exquisite delicacy of a Christian grace. There are some excellent essences, like, for instance, the attar of roses, which you must not leave unstopped unless you would have it all exhaled; but the more a Christian grace exhales, the more there is in the bottle.

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