THE POWER OF GOD

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Extended reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 1:18 “for the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The idling of car engines stopped, and many people, including myself, left our vehicles to begin the one-mile hike to the cross. In a small town known as Paxinos, Pennsylvania, the Easter service at the cross is a big event. The 24 foot high cross, placed initially and maintained by the Boy Scouts, troop 250, sits high on top of a mountain, and the only access to it is by walking unless you are unable to walk, then a van will transport you to the top. 

Young and old alike come faithfully each year to sit beneath the cross and hear a sermon of power, hope, and love: the message of the cross! As the pastor preaches, we enjoy a fantastic panorama of the surrounding countryside. The view before us reminds us all that the forgiveness purchased by Christ Jesus on the cross is available to anyone who will turn to Him in faith! 

It’s easy to hear these words of Paul and become discouraged. After all, many people are perishing because they think that no one can die and return to life again. But we should be encouraged as we read these verses because God, in His wisdom, was pleased to use what seems foolish to some to save even the most hardened of sinners! 

Listening to the Easter message reminded me of the ongoing work of salvation that God is accomplishing through His Son, who came to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Let us encourage one another with these words.

Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, let our faith be fixed and unaltered, one that never grows weary or disheartened. Help us be pleased with what you are delighted with, always rejoicing in the hope and glory of Christ Jesus! Amen.

HE IS RISEN

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HE HAS RISEN!

“He is not here;

                 HE HAS RISEN,

                                 as He said.”
                                              (Matthew 28:6)

The stalwart guards stood watch that day
around a dead man’s grave.

Not mindful that He was the Lord,
they stood there, bold and brave,
till all at once they fell away
without a chance to fight,
for Jesus had returned to life,
and vanquished sin’s dark night.

The angel band drew near to praise
and glorify their King.
They crowded in to worship Him

and hallelujahs sing:
for they had longed to comfort Him
as on the cross He hung,
but He bore all the suffering,
this Savior, God’s own Son.

My sin was pardoned on the tree
that held this blessed Christ;
He took the punishment for me 
and paid sin’s awful price.
Only the perfect lamb of God
could love a wretch like me
enough to die, enough to live,
enough to set me free!

The empty tomb, a witness stark 
that Jesus lived again, 
and soldiers fearing for their lives
knew Christ was no mere man!

O Jesus Christ, my dearest Friend,
O King of heaven and earth,
Though ages pass, no tongue can tell
the measure of Your worth
!

Guest Poet: Connie Faust

APPRECIATE YOUR LEADERS

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1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

STUDY 9

In the following 11 verses, Paul gives many appeals to the Thessalonians regarding their conduct moving forward. Some of these are concerning their leaders, some direct their behavior as a congregation, and a few are aimed at their own individual Christian life but are relatable to the church body as a whole. Our focus in this study will be only on verses 12-13.

“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.”

FOCUS ONE: We must remember that Paul is writing these instructions to a very young church (Acts 16-17). It seems that Paul would have appointed its Elders shortly after its formation and his sudden, unexpected need to leave them. Persecution began quickly, so Paul and Silas went to Berea. These Elders would be men who lived lives that were above reproach (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Men who would be keeping watch over their souls, giving an account of their service to the Lord one day (Hebrews 13:17). Men who were not to lord it over anyone but who would humbly recognize and acknowledge that it is by the Holy Spirt that they have been made “overseers” to the church of God in Thessalonica.

These men worked hard at caring for the people, and their labor was added to their usual 9-5 workday. So, their efforts were indeed a “labor of love” towards their brothers and sisters in Christ!

In verse 12, Paul requests this church body to “appreciate,” or some other translations may use the words “know” or “recognize,” those men who labor among them as Elders. Paul does not mean that they should be able to point them out at a church service or when walking down a street, although they certainly should be able to do that. Paul is speaking in more of a personal, relational aspect. They should personally know their leaders by interacting with them; through co-laboring among them. He wants them to take notice of their labor among them and to recognize their efforts for the sake of Christ and His body. To acknowledge God’s calling and gifting for this work and the sacrifices they are making daily on their behalf.

FOCUS TWO: He mentions three ways in which these Elders minister to them:

  1. They diligently labor among you.
  2. They have charge over you.
  3. They give you instructions.

To labor means that they give a continuous effort at unending care for the body. Having charge over or “overseeing,” implies that these men lead them in a God-honoring direction. Their instruction would come through preaching, teaching, counseling, and exercising discipline through the proper use of the word of God.

And, it is as essential for us today as it was for them to recognize how Paul qualifies their leadership; “in the Lord.” Their salvation and ministry among them are all a result of the grace of God in their lives. That is why leaders are not to act superior to those they serve (1 Peter 5:3).

FOCUS THREE: And so, because of all the above mentioned, Paul requests that the church body “esteem them very highly in love.” He wants them to respect these men, NOT because of their talents or personality, But because of their faithful ministry to them in obedience to Christ Jesus their Lord!

So, just as Paul clarified the character of their service (in the Lord), He now does the same regarding how the body is to esteem these men (in love.) There may be no personal reason for the respect of a brother or sister. There may be no “perceived” personal benefit from their labor; even so, Paul is saying, respect or appreciate them anyway because of the nature of their calling and its benefits to others!

Lastly, in verse 13, Paul writes, “live in peace with one another.” This may appear to be off-topic, but I assure you Paul had a purpose for writing these words. When spiritual leaders live and serve in these ways and the congregation submits to their leadership, in love, and with respect, peace is the result! 

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. How well do you know the spiritual leaders within your church? In what ways do you show your support for them?
  2. 2. According to 1 peter 5:1-3, what is the primary function of a pastor or Elder in the local church?
  3. 3. How has your understanding regarding the relationship between Elders and the congregation been informed or changed as a result of these scriptures? How? If so, how will it affect your relationship with your Elders moving forward?

PORTRAIT OF A SAVIOR

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Hands once raised in supplication
Pierced with nails of cruelty
Knees that knelt before the Father
Rendered helpless on a tree 

Brow once knit in concentration
Wanting naught but Father’s will
Bleeding from a thorny crown
Bowed to love’s directive still 

Feet that walked on dusty pathways
Leading Him to destiny
Now wounded, torn and crippled
Stained with blood at Calvary 

This, a picture of my Savior
Forsaken and alone was He
Beaten, suffering, crushed and dying,
Jesus hung upon that tree 

Burden of all mankind’s sin
Held Him there in agony
Magnificent, His tender heart
Stilled by love for you and me 

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NIV

WRITTEN BY: CONNIE FAUST

COMFORT ONE ANOTHER

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Study 8       

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:1

Brief Intro:  Moving forward in our study of these two letters by Paul to the Thessalonians, we find topics of a prophetic nature. We noticed how Paul mentions the second coming at the end of every chapter, but now he will speak more directly about it in greater length and with much more depth.

These are topics in which many mature, godly people of faith disagree. They do not differ with Paul’s main point, The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they disagree about the timing of His return. Is He coming:

  • Before the tribulation, in the middle, or after it?
  • Is His coming going to be in two phases or one – Pretribulation or Post tribulation?

These are not issues that should divide us as believers. Instead, in love for one another, let us recognize that no one system of theology has all the answers to these essential questions. So, my focus in this study will be, as best I can, to hold tightly to Paul’s motives for writing these words, i.e., to comfort and encourage these believers regarding the misunderstanding they have about the resurrection of the saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who [a]are asleep, so that you will not grieve as indeed the rest of mankind do, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so also God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep [b]through Jesus. 15 For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [c]and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [d]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore, [e]comfort one another with these words.”

FOCUS ONE: “But we do not want you to uniformed.” Paul begins a new topic with these words. He received information regarding a misunderstanding these young Christians had about those who have died “in Christ” and their outcome. Did the living believers have an advantage over the dead? Would those that have died already waiting for Christ’s return miss the resurrection or not be a part of it? This young church certainly seems to have believed in an imminent (in their lifetime) return of Christ. With that understanding and Christians dying around them amid the persecution they were enduring, even their loved ones, such thoughts were grievous to their souls. So, Paul writes to give them more information on the resurrection, and along with that, provide them with some comfort.

Paul begins instructing them about what will happen to those who died in Christ and those who remain alive until His coming (v.14). (1) “Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.” Since their main concern was regarding those “who are asleep” (dead), he addresses that question first. Paul says that since (for) “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so (or, then it surely follows), that God will bring with Him those who sleep in Christ” (v. 14). Paul uses the term “dead in Christ” in verse 16. Both expressions refer to the same group of people. 

The power, authority, and ability given to Christ to accomplish the saints’ resurrection are anchored to the fact that the Father accepted His sacrifice, raised Him from the grave, and seated Him at His right hand (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2). (2) “God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.” At least in this passage, that link is found in the use of the phrase even so after speaking about Christ’s death and resurrection (v.14)!

Paul makes a direct statement about the “order” of this event (v.15), and then he fleshes it out more in the following two verses:

  • The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout.
  • There will be a voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.
  • The dead “in Christ” rise first,
  • Then those who are alive will be caught up together with them, in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and then shall forever be with the Lord.

Again, it is not the purpose of this study to delve into what all of this means concerning the timing of these events. But we see in this explanation from Paul how they would be comforted by understanding that their friends and loved ones, who died in Jesus Christ, would not miss the coming of their savior! The living saints would not take precedence over dead saints or gain some advantage over them, according to Paul, who the Holy Spirit led to write these words (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Verse 18 reveals Paul’s goal in giving them further teaching on the coming of the Lord. “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Paul’s primary purpose in writing these things is not to teach some mode or structure of eschatological theology but to provide comfort to Christians whose friends and loved ones have died waiting for what they thought would be the return of Christ in their lifetime. Waiting amid harsh opposition and persecution.

5 Now as to the periods and [a]times, brothers and sisters, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord is coming just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction [b]will come upon them like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, so that the day would overtake you [c]like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then, let’s not sleep as [d]others do, but let’s be alert and [e]sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let’s be [f]sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore, [g]encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.

FOCUS TWO: Paul’s focus in these verses is on the “times an epochs” or period in which His coming, at least the general sense of it, will play out. Notice that he does not predict a specific time for this event. Indeed, he is mindful of what Christ Himself had said to His disciples in Matthew 24:36 and Acts 1:7 and therefore seeks to urge these believers to live prepared lives, living daily in light of Christ’s soon return (vv.6-8). Jesus Himself taught these things (Matthew 25:1-13).

Paul is clear that “the day of the Lord” will be a time of destruction with no escape (v. 3). That the people of that day will be deceived into thinking that all is well, they will say “peace and safety” when seemingly out of nowhere judgment befalls them.

But Paul wants to encourage them, so he reminds them of a critical difference between those who trust in Christ and those who do not, and that is this: believers are NOT in darkness; they are aware such days are coming. They are “sons of light and sons of day,” so not apart of the night around them! And as such, they should not be overtaken by that day’s arrival (v. 4).

So, because of these differences, bestowed upon us through Christ, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to be sober or self-controlled. (3) “Standing on the threshold of an event that will mean sudden translation for some and sudden destruction for others, Christians should arm themselves for action with self-control.” Paul uses metaphoric language in exhorting these believers to put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation (v. 8). A Roman soldier’s breastplate covered him from his neck to his waist, protecting his vital organs. This is what faith and love do for the Christian: Faith in God protects inwardly, and love for others protects outwardly.

The “hope of salvation” guards a Christian mind against the evil one’s attacks (cr. Ephesians 6:10-18). The salvation that believers long for and look forward to is our only hope of deliverance from the wrath to come! And how sweet it is that Paul included the words they would have read in verse nine, and by God’s grace, us today. These words would have lifted their spirits and put a fresh kick in their step, so to speak, and they ought to do the same for us. Our God’s intention for those He redeems IS NOT the wrath that will come upon the earth in the day of the Lord, but IT IS complete salvation that will be theirs and ours when the Lord returns for us in the clouds. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17).

These great truths are a source of encouragement and comfort to us as we face opposition and persecution for our faith in Christ (v. 11). These faithful and true words need to be continuously repeated. Contrary to our current culture, Christians do not always have to be looking for the next “new thing,” but we need to remind ourselves constantly about what we already know!

If you are interested in a deeper study about the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I recommend a book written by Robert P. Lightner titled: The Last Days Handbook—a complete guide to understanding the different views of prophecy. Who believes what about prophecy and why. I included the link below.

  1. (1) John MacArthur
  2. (2) The New Century Bible commentary
  3. (3) Thomas Constable Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

PRESUMPTION

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Extended reading: Psalm 19

Devotional verse: Psalm 19:13

“Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression” (NASB).

I have recently read an account about the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War when general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. The story goes that he was inspecting his troops, and at one point, he came to a parapet, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers told him that it was unwise to do so and that, perhaps, he ought to duck while passing the parapet. “Nonsense,” snapped the General. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist. . ..” A moment later, it is said, Sedgwick fell to the ground fatally wounded. 

We are a lot like the General in this regard. How often do we take for granted something as being true without any evidence to the contrary? How often do we make decisions or venture forward without the proper authority or permission? That is what it means to act presumptuously. That is what Job’s friends did as they counseled him after he lost everything (Job 4-37). And this they did at times with evident arrogance, which often is attached to this sin. God called them out over it and told them that “you have not spoken of me what is right. . .” (Job 42:7).

The sin of presumption can manifest itself in many forms; that is why David petitions God to keep him from them. Unwittingly or willfully, we sin unless divine forgiveness and help aid us in walking above reproach. So David prays that his words, thoughts, motivations, and conduct would be acceptable in the sight of God, who is His source of strength. We also need the Holy Spirit to aid us in our battle against the flesh so we, too, can walk with integrity before our God.

Prayer: O Lord, we, like David, need your divine intervention in our lives so that we would not fall prey to presumptuous sins. Help us pray, think, speak, and act in a manner worthy of you, our loving Heavenly Father. Amen.

WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS IN LIFE?

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1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Study 7

A brief recap: The church at Thessalonica was maturing, they were growing in “the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and Paul was aware of it. Spiritual growth is progressive and should never be stifled or assumed to have come to completion in our lives as long as we breathe on this side of heaven. Paul’s desire was for these folks to continue growing in their love for and obedience to Christ.

In our previous study, I talked about Paul’s encouragement and exhortations for these believers to “excel still more” in what they already were practicing, brotherly love. Paul knew something that we need reminded of: there is always room for improvement!

In the following two verses, Paul gives more instructions on how they ought to conduct themselves, but this time concerning those outside the church. Remember, in our last study I pointed out that two themes emerge (Love of the brethren and their behavior among those outside the church), and two groups are now mentioned (insiders and outsiders). Paul here begins addressing our second theme and its relation to those outside the church.

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we instructed you, 12 so that you will [a]behave properly toward outsiders and [b]not be in any need.

FOCUS ONE: What ambitions do you have for your life? What goals are you seeking to accomplish? Do they include any of these Paul mentions in verse 11? 

  • Live a quiet life.
  • Mind (attend) your own business.
  • Work with your hands.

Before we move on in our study, we need to understand what Paul means by these three things. Paul is not saying that believers should take a vow of silence and not verbally communicate with others. He implies that believers should actively pursue living a less frantic life, not a less involved one. Not a silenced life but one undistracted from their walk with God. (1) “A person who is constantly on the move is frequently a bother to other people as well as somewhat distracted from his/her own walk with God.”

By minding your own business, Paul is expressing the obvious. Proverbs 25:17 says: “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbors house lest he become weary of you and hate you.” This instruction is connected to the latter in that a meddlesome spirit often accompanies a hectic life! We are to be active in keeping our affairs in order, not meddling in others.

The third instruction to work with your hands implies that idleness was becoming a problem among the Thessalonians. They lived in a Greek culture that degraded manual labor, while Christianity “viewed it as an honorable pursuit.” Since most of the Thessalonians earned their living with their hands, Paul encourages them to continue to do so and avoid the snare of idleness.

FOCUS TWO: What appears at first to be a change of topic, from loving others to behavior, actually isn’t! Paul seeks to help these believers understand that everyday habits of living manifest love or the lack of it towards others. Such behavior towards those on the inside manifests love for one another in how we esteem each other more highly than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Paul also knows that such behavior does win the respect of non-Christians (outsiders). People appreciate those who do not take advantage of them.

 To sum this up, Paul seems to be advocating for personal responsibility in the Christian life. Personal maturity is powerful evidence of a maturing love for others. Those on the inside as well as those on the outside!

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From the subject of love to what seems quite different and unrelated-how we live in our communities, we find that they are not as diverse as we thought. Perhaps nothing disrupts peace and unity within a church more than its member’s unwillingness to participate in and shoulder their part within the local community. How does it impact a local body of believers when some of its members make no effort at their own support while taking advantage of other member’s generosity? It appears that Paul gave these exhortations because some of these folks may have been misapplying the truth’s taught by Paul when he was with them concerning the Lord’s return. But Paul makes it clear that our Lord’s return is never an excuse to evade our current responsibilities.

Paul wants their love for others to mature, and so he pens these goals for them because he knows that they are worthy objectives that will help them mature in this area of their Christian walk. These goals are worthy objectives for us today as well. 

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. If you were to evaluate your life outside the walls of your local church, would your testimony be helpful or hurtful to non-Christians in your community? 
  2. In light of Paul’s divinely inspired words, how might your current ambitions need to be adjusted for you to grow in gospel love for others?
  3. What other biblical goals might you add to this study that will help you mature in your walk of faith?
  1. Thomas Constable commentary on 1 Thessalonians

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

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Psalm 71

Devotional verse: “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise thee yet more and more” (v.14 NASB).

The topic of aging and all that comes with it is a topic that many people seek to avoid. According to a Pew Research Center survey, there is a “sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves.” Illness, memory loss, loneliness, and depression are things many aging adults deal with and acknowledge that they are just par for the course! But what about the “unexpected” things life throws at you? What about the trials and tribulations yet to face? Shouldn’t they be diminished or even done away with when we are “old and gray” (v.18)?

In Psalm 71, we find a man engaging the Lord in prayer. He has enemies that speak against him at every opportunity and who are seeking to do him harm. His desire is for the Lord to be his security, his safety, and protection. All else may fail, but not the Lord! As he looked to the future, concerns about getting older and possibly being forsaken by the Lord when physically and mentally weaker discouraged him (vv. 9,18). He reflected on the past and remembered that the Lord had been there for him and delivered him through all his trials. He grows confident that He will again (vv. 5, 20)! 

With his confidence strengthened and his refuge found in the Lord, he resolves to move forward with unwavering hope and praise on his lips! He desires to proclaim the goodness of God to the next generation for as long as he is able (vv. 15,16,18). Perhaps as we reflect on how good the Lord has been to us in our own lives, we too can move forward into old age with confidence and resolve to be a witness for Him while trusting Him with whatever trials come our way. And along the way praising Him yet more and more!

Prayer: Father, as we walk through each day you provide us, grant us a mind to remember your past faithfulness, a heart whose refuge is in you alone, a voice to sing you praises, and lips to witness of thy salvation to others. Amen.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

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1 THESSALONIANS 4:9-10

STUDY 6

Brief Recap: The Thessalonian believers lived in a heartless pagan society that was engrossed in sexual immorality. They lived within a culture that made no provision for the poor, the sick, or the aged. A Christian would stand out from others because they “abstained” from all the forms of sexual immorality that were being practiced and encouraged. They had a shared unity among their members where brotherly kindness was openly practiced, so unlike the culture around them.

Now, as Christians, their conduct would be radically different than the culture in which they lived. They were to be light amid darkness; live lives of purity in contrast to impurity; to practice selflessness rather than selfishness. When the gospel first arrived in Thessalonica, people’s hearts had been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. As a result, two characteristics attracted the most attention from their neighbors: personal purity and love for one another!

So, it makes sense that Paul’s first exhortations to them would be along the lines of avoiding sexual immorality by practicing self-control, and to “excel still more” in their expression of love toward one another. The latter is what we will focus on in this study.

9 “Now as to the love of the brothers and sisters, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you practice it toward all the brothers and sisters who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to excel even more . . .”

FOCUS ONE: In this study and including our next one, we see two themes and two groups emerge in Paul’s thinking:

The themes of love for the brethren and their testimony among unbelievers become Paul’s focus. The groups involved are the church (insiders) and unbelievers (outsiders). You can see this in verse 12.

This study will only be concerned with the first group, the “insiders,” those redeemed and a part of the church in Thessalonica. Verse nine is interesting in that Paul, using the word “now,” directs those who will be reading this letter to his next topic, that of love for one another. But directly after that, he says, “you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. . .” That’s interesting, isn’t it? Why mention it then? How did God teach them to love one another?

Jeremiah 31:31-33 is where we need to begin to answer those questions.

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Because this covenant will be new, it stands in contrast to the old covenant, which was the Mosaic covenant under which our Bible records Israel’s failure to keep it. This new covenant will have a (1)”spiritual, divine dynamic by which those who know Him would participate in the blessings of salvation.” This new covenant, which Jesus Christ announced in Luke 22:20, is represented by the “cup which is poured out for you,” signifying the manner of His death; death on a cross where His blood would be shed for the remission of sins!

When writing his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of this very thing (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul, there is stating that their changed lives are proof that Christ had transformed them from within. In contrast to the false teachers that accused Paul of not having the proper documentation to prove himself a legitimate teacher, Paul’s commendation was “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (v.3). Sound familiar? It should! Jeremiah was speaking about an “internal” change within people that would be accomplished in their hearts as contrasted to the law written on tablets of stone that could only ever be “our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24).

Add the above to the very words of Christ as he answered one of the scribes in regards to what commandment is the first or foremost of all in Mark 12:28-31, and you should be able to understand how God taught these believers to love: to love Him supremely and others sacrificially.

10 “for indeed you practice it toward all the brothers and sisters who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to excel even more. . .”

FOCUS TWO: This is the second of three times (4:1; 5:11) where Paul acknowledges that they are practicing the very things that he is referring to. He is not urging them to “begin” a particular behavior but to continue it or “excel still more” in the conduct they are already practicing. Paul has learned how well they are doing in exhibiting love for one another in their local region. Still, he seeks to encourage them to go further, to “think outside the box” and practice Christian love, gospel love, with others outside their small group, outside their community.

They were already encouraging one another, giving preference to one another, serving one another, rejoicing and weeping with one another, practicing forgiveness and tolerating one another for the sake of biblical unity, praying, and showing compassion for one another.

Paul does not want these believers to be narrow-minded in their expression of love for each other or other believers elsewhere. And, as we will notice in our following study, their expression of gospel love has purposes that extend to those outside the community of faith as well (v.12).

Paul wrote elsewhere that “love does no wrong to a neighbor. . .” (Romans 13:10); that a part of the fruit of the Spirit, the first on the list, is love (Galatians 5:22). Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies (Luke 6:35). Jesus tied our obedience to His word as an expression of our love for Him (John 14:23)!

The church of Christ has no boundaries, so neither should its love for others. Since God has shown His love for us, while we were yet still sinners as Romans 5:8 teaches, we are to love one another manifesting this same love to others: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Gospel love, then, is not mere sentiment or particular feelings that we think we should experience but is an act of obedience to the will and word of God-at times without and sentiment or emotion (Matthew 5:44-48; Luke 6:27-36; 1 and 2 John).

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. When people are regenerated (born again) by the Holy Spirit, they become new creations in Christ Jesus, “old things have passed away, behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). How has your life been changed since you have received Jesus Christ and His forgiveness?
  2. Our culture, much like the Thessalonians culture, is overcome with sexual immorality of all types. Paul taught in the previous verses that a Christ follower must practice self control and remain sexually pure. What struggles are you facing in this area of your life? What are you doing to “resist” or “abstain” from sexual sin? Consider Philippians 2:12-13 and James 1:13-16.
  3. What does Jesus tell His disciple to do in Matthew 26:41? How can this help you overcome temptation in your life?
  4. In what ways can you “excel still more” in your obedience to Christ?
  5. In what areas of your life or with what people are you struggling to show “gospel love?” Re-read the verses on love in this study and prayerfully meditate on God’s will for you.

MacArthur study bible note on page 1541

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR ME

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I know not what this day will bring

Or what my troubles may be;

But I know who holds tomorrow

And His grace is sufficient for me.

Burdens will come and test my heart,

more rain than sun I’ll see;

Still I’ll hope in God above

Cause His grace is sufficient for me.

Although I have many weaknesses

The power of Christ rests upon me;

His power is made perfect in weakness

So His grace is sufficient for me.

Why should I fear in times of trouble

There is nothing your eyes don’t see;

Though many be rising against me

Your grace is sufficient for me.

By His grace I have been redeemed,

Cleansed by His blood and set free;

Though Jesus died He lives again

Such grace is sufficient for me.

So, I’ll draw near His throne of grace

finding mercy in my time of need;

Gaining strength for my tomorrow, and

Finding His grace is sufficient for me.

                                                         Larry G. Stump Jr.