The apostle Paul was anxious that believers in Christ abound in love one toward each other. He was not happy with mediocrity, for if there was not growth, then it was unlikely that there would be maintenance of the status quo, and more likely that there would have been deterioration in their love for each other. Speaking to the Thessalonians he said, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more” (1 Thess 4:9,10). Here we have the sentiments of a true father, one concerned about the spiritual well-being of those he has begotten in the Truth (1 Thess 2:11,12). His attitude is a lesson for spiritual fathers in the ecclesias today; there should be a fervent interest in the well-being and development of all in the ecclesia, and this is only possible if the fathers are aware of the standing of those committed to their care. Shepherds must look beyond their own needs and comforts, to ensure that the flock is prospering and not in danger.

It would appear that the words of Paul in his first epistle to the Thessalonians had been heeded, for writing to them in his second he says, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (1:3). We wonder how he was able to make such an assessment from a distance, but what it tells us is that his words did not fall on barren ground: they were acted upon and their abounding love for each other was observable. I wonder how many of us have such concerns for our fellows, and what measures we are prepared to take to bring about such fruitfulness? We need to think about what we can do to strengthen the bonds of love and fellowship in our midst. Love will not grow and prosper on indifference and neglect.

In this issue of The Lampstand the 1958 Reunion of the brotherhood in Australia is reviewed. We can be thankful that the divisions of the past have been healed and there is a greater degree of interecclesial fellowship and cooperation than was the case in the past. But we can ask ourselves the questions, “Could not there have been an even greater level of cooperation and unity?” and, “What, if anything, have we done to strengthen the bonds of fellowship?” We can celebrate the unity achieved with the Father’s blessing, but we must not neglect doing what is within our own power to maintain and develop the ties between ecclesias. Remember that the Lord said that the love and unity between his brethren would be a witness that we are his disciples: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

But returning to the theme of fruitfulness, we should note that there can be no lasting fruit in any labours unsanctioned by Christ: only in Christ are our labours not in vain (1 Cor 15:58). The Lord has told us, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit if itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4). He insists on the utter futility of all the labour of those not abiding in him: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (v6). Then he tells us what “abiding in him” entails: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (v7). How important it is that we are always conscious of his words and commandments. Such an awareness will govern what we think, say and do and make our lives profitable, fruitful in the Father’s sight. And remember that Jesus went on to say, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (v8). So these words present to us a challenge. Firstly we must abide in him and this is impossible if his words do not abide in us. So we need to have a daily acquaintance with his words, and our “daily readings” are a wonderful institution to that end. Then the “implanted word” must findplace and outworking in our lives, in our actions and words among our brothers, sisters and within the ecclesia, and even outside (Gal 6:9–10).

But there is another problem, and that is that fruitfulness only results from diligence and care. The apostle Paul makes a list of the “works of the flesh”, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, … but when he speaks about “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”, he describes them as “fruits of the Spirit”. They are the end products of careful cultivation, and they will not be brought forth without the influence of the Spirit Word upon our lives. So for these words to have any beneficial effect upon our walk in Christ we need to stop and think about the path we are pursuing. We have to turn the searchlight upon ourselves and be subjected to personal examination and introspection. What are our priorities? What do we deem to be important? What are we striving to achieve? Are we conscious of what will give our Master pleasure? These are hard questions to ask and even harder to answer, but it is better that we do so now, so that our lives might be transformed and we might bring forth much fruit. Remember that our Lord said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11); and a final word from the apostle Paul, “… we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9–10 rsv).