“You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2.10-12).
Within these three verses we see the character, conduct, and catalyst of the Christian. Character precedes conduct, but it is formed by incentive, namely the catalyst that drives every believer.
Christians are devout, just, blameless, and sacrificial. Notice that I’m not saying that we are striving to be these things. I’m saying that we are these things if we belong to Christ. Our character and its day-by-day, moment-by-moment formation is a work of God. It is a result of our dependency upon Him and what He has revealed about Himself. Godly, Spirit-filled lives are the product or fruit of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. They do not come because one keeps all the rules. This character, in turn, flows into conduct that produces holiness for the glory of God.
The Conduct of the Christian
This conduct is specifically directed toward believers in the text. We are devout, just, blameless, and sacrificial among those who believe according to verse 10. The actions which flow out of such character involve exhortation, comfort, and a steadfast insistence that other believers walk even as the mighty cloud of witnesses surrounding us (Hebrews 12.1).
We exhort and comfort one another. Exhort comes from the Greek verb parakaleo. The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete. He is the one who encourages and brings comfort. Since the Holy Spirit indwells our spirit and is called alongside of us for the battle, we are to comfort one another. We are to pour courage into one another.
Paul uses this word in Philippians 2.1. He writes, “Therefore if there is anyconsolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one mind, of one accord” (Philippians 2.1-2). He is speaking of the idea of encouragement and links it to the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
We are of the same mind when we have the mind of Christ. We exhort one another when we conduct ourselves as Christ would if He were physically present with us. This is how people see Christ today. They see Him in us. The Holy Spirit makes this possible.
We seek to comfort and encourage. Both exhortation and comfort work hand-in-hand. When someone loses courage in the battle, it’s up to Spirit-filled believers to bring comfort and encouragement in order for all of us to press on in the fight. But if we walk in the flesh, we will cause discomfort and discouragement. We will come across as callous, uncaring, and self-righteous. The best position for us is firm ground so that we might lift up the fallen.
We also charge one another. We implore or insist that we have conduct that flows out of a relationship with God the Father through God the Son empowered by God the Spirit. But our insistence is fatherly insistence. And that insistence must have a goal. Verse 12 reveals the goal: “That you would walk worthy of God.”
The aim of our conduct is to realize a church in which all walk worthy of the God who calls us. Any other goal is fleshly. So, our character flows into conduct. But God also provides powerful incentive in this verse. More about this in the fourth and final installment on a worthy walk.