The Love for Fellow Saints
By Al Stoner
“For ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (I Thess. 4:9).
The Preciousness of Faith. The faith of the Lord Jesus Christ is of great value when it is properly considered. It is called in Scripture “like precious faith”. It will be remembered that Peter addressed his second epistle "to them that have obtained like precious faith" (II Pet. 1:1). Faith is precious to God as it brings them nigh, who once were afar off from Him. It is precious to the individuals who have it, as it is by this means that they stand before the living God, and have access to Him through Christ, the Beloved One, and, through Him, are justified “from all things from which” they “could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).
But, in addition to this, your faith and mine is also precious to others who also possess it and, as well, theirs is exceeding valuable to us. This is the like-precious faith that we have obtained through the righteousness of God. Faith is precious in at least two senses; (1) it is rare and (2) it is of great profit to men. And it is faith's exceeding great preciousness and mutual profitability to fellow men that we are giving attention to here.
Proper Consideration of the Godly. “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come” (Isa. 57:1).
Consider for a moment what Isaiah is saying here (57:1-2). The righteous are perishing (dying), and no man is laying it to heart; that is to say, their godly influence is being taken away from the earth and it appears to be of little consequence to those who are yet alive and remaining! How can there be such an insensitive response as the one mentioned here by this Prophet?
These perishing ones are among those personalities who are destined to inherit the earth and who are to have dominion in the new heavens and earth. They, by their godly comportment, were part of the salt of the earth, and their salty influence is now taken away. They are some of the persons who are presently being afore-prepared unto glory! And such ones are among that blessed company that God closely watches in a loving way and to whom He listens intently when they make supplication to Him. His ears are opened unto their prayers. In view of these things, how can the contemplation of the passing of such ones from these lowly scenes of earthly conflict and sorrow not earnestly and lovingly affect those who shall be left behind?
But we can be assured that it is the ungodly and unbelieving who are not taking this matter to heart. For to those who are living by faith there is a great loss that is felt, when fellow pilgrims are taken away from their midst, and oftentimes there is great inward pain. Departed brothers and sisters in Christ are daily thought upon and daily missed by those who were fellow companions in the faith with them. It is not easy to be separated from those who possess like precious faith, even if it be for a season. “Merciful men” are oftentimes looked down upon with despising by the children of this world. But oh, if the men of this world could only see what great benefit they derived from these departed ones (oftentimes unbeknown to those remaining), while they were yet with us!
There are occasions when the consideration of faith’s worth can become a strong reason in our prayers to God why godly people should be granted continuance of life when it appears that their life is being taken away from the earth, due to serious illness or injury. Of course, our foremost concern and desire in every situation is to be that the will of the Lord would be done.
The Death of Stephen. “And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2). Do not think for one moment that these were paid or perfunctory-type mourners like some who were present when Jairus' daughter died (cf. Mk. 5:35-43). And these were not Stephen's kinsmen according to the flesh (who would have had a natural affection for him and felt a natural loss of him). Rather, these were devout men which had a great and loving attachment to Stephen because of their mutual faith, both his and theirs.
The NIV reads: “Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.” Such was the reason for their great lamentation. They were sorrowing, not as those that had no hope, but rather as those who were feeling the pain of separation and the loss of a kindred spirit, and possibly because of the newly-experienced absence of godly influence from the earth, which was occasioned by Stephen’s death. We mention this record of Stephen’s stoning to exemplify the strong affection that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ characteristically have for all others who possess the faith.
Paul’s Final Words with the Ephesian Elders. “And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship” (Acts 20:37-38).
We mention this passage to cite yet another instance of the preciousness of mutual faith. We doubt very seriously whether Paul was that much of an all-around likeable person in the flesh (cf. II Cor. 10:1). But his faith, (that is, his understanding and firm grasp of the things which are not seen), made him very dear to the Ephesian elders and other saints. They themselves acquired a firmer grasp upon the eternal realities, because Paul was there with them and because of the comfort of mutual faith.
These elders were not enamored with Paul as those sitting by on the sidelines cheering and marvelling at the heroic deeds of an Apostle. Rather, their strong endearment of Paul was owing to the fact that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). While Paul was present there at Ephesus, the brethren were enabled to obtain a firmer grasp upon this eternal substance. And we can also affirm that whoever it is that assists the people of God in taking hold of the things which are not seen will be regarded as precious by them, and for that reason alone.
Affectionate Desire. “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us” (I Thess. 2:7-8).
Paul and others who labored with him, were affectionately desirous of the Thessalonian brethren, and likewise Paul and his laborers were dear unto them because of “like precious faith.” Faith, and particularly the expression of one's faith, makes for such mutual endearment and preciousness among the people of God, and as well, in the sight of God. And as we have said, it is faith, or the firm grasp upon the substance of things hoped for, that gives value to God’s people: not such things as personality, appearance, wealth, education, etc.
Love’s Direction and Purpose. “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (I Thess. 3:12-13).
Here we see some of the exceeding great benefits that flow out of increasing and abounding in love. This kind of love moves men in the direction of establishment in Christ. We are speaking here of love that is demonstrated and expressed toward one another, as well as, toward all men. This unblameable establishment in holiness before God is nurtured and accomplished in an environment of increasing and abounding love. And wherever there is strife and envy and carnality among those professing faith, such establishment, of which the Apostle is here speaking, will be greatly hindered or completely frustrated.
Taught by God to Love One Another. “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (I Thess. 4:9). Wherever there is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, there will consistently also be love for any and all others who are in possession of that faith. Faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). Faith is the substance of things which are greatly desired by the renewed spirit, even the eternal things, and the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. If any feel themselves to be deficient in this love, let them draw near to God, and He will effectually teach them. This is a matter that is indeed learned, and effectually so, but not in Bible class or Bible college, for God has reserved this kind of inward instruction for Himself (cf. I Jn. 2:27).
Walking in Love. “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2).
Walking in love [the love that is from God] is the norm for the people of God. Let us, therefore, pray for grace to glorify our heavenly Father by so walking. This love is unselfish, is not carnal, and it is not sectarian. “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:4-8, NASB). It involves loving, in measure at least, as Christ loved, when He offered Himself up for us all. --Editor