PRAY FOR US

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1 Thessalonians 5:25-28

STUDY 14

BRIEF INTRO: As we have previously witnessed, Paul has given these believers many exhortations for their Christian conduct as they move forward in their walk of faith. Commands regarding: 

  1. The relationship between the congregation and its leaders (vv. 12-13).
  2. The relationships within the corporate body (vv. 14-15).
  3. More personal exhortations and applications. (Vv.16-18).
  4. Som that encapsulated both (19-22).

Paul then enters into what looks like a prayer for those folks asking the “God of peace” to fulfill His will in them, enabling them through His Spirit, to pursue holiness in their daily lives as they look forward to the Lord’s return.

“Brethren, pray for us.”

FOCUS ONE: As Paul comes to the close of his letter, He appeals to those He regards as brothers in Christ – family, we can say (They share a common bond, faith, savior, future)! According to the force of the Greek present tense used here, he petitions them to keep praying for them. He knows that they already pray for them (3:6-8). Their answered prayers were, no doubt, a result of Paul’s successful missionary work. So, he asks for that to continue.

The apostle is aware of his insufficiency in contrast to the Father’s all-sufficiency. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). But he doesn’t ask only for himself, but his companions and fellow laborers as well (us). He knows how important it is for the “brethren” to hold up one another in prayer. He acknowledged the inadequacy within himself to accomplish anything worthy of praise, and in humility, attributed any success on their part to a work of Christ within them (1 Corinthians 4:7).

“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”

FOCUS TWO: This was customary in Paul’s day and within that culture and still is in some cultures today. But a question to ask ourselves as we read this appeal is this: why don’t we do this today in our churches, in our western culture?

This “holy kiss” or kiss of greeting was an expression of true Christian love towards one another, NOT romantic (Eros) love. Paul is simply encouraging an outward physical manifestation of true, joy-filled, Christian love towards one another. He qualifies the kiss with the word holy because it is to be “becoming to saints.” Most likely, it was a symbolic greeting that Paul was seeking to adopt that paralleled a kiss that a person would give a close, personal family member.

But, how would such an expression of love towards the brethren look in our culture and day? I would say that it’s expressed in a physical embrace (hug), a handshake, or even a fist or elbow bump (thinking covid now).

“I abjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”

FOCUS THREE: Paul then charges them by an oath (abjure) to have everybody read his letter, not just the leaders or only the men but also everybody. It seems surprisingly strong for Paul, putting them under oath like this! Were there some problems in the church that he felt necessitated further instruction? The regular usage of Greek here implies that the letter is to be read aloud. 

He may have been concerned with the improper use of his name and authority. We know that he was interested in their continual spiritual progress/complacency. Paul also wanted the whole body to be encouraged and comforted regarding the Lord’s return. Plus, he wanted all to know of the instructions he had given them (5:12-22).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

FOCUS FOUR: With everything written that he sought to express at this time, he concludes his writing with this very familiar benediction (v.28). The grace of God was Paul’s greatest delight AND desire for others. Grace comes through our Lord Jesus Christ, and his passion was for these believers to experience and enjoy it more completely! 

In perhaps, a year or less, Paul again writes this small church, “struggling to survive and to remain faithful to Jesus in the midst of a pagan society.” We will continue our study next week, looking at Paul’s second letter to this church. See you then!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. How do you view other Christians in your church? Are you faithfully upholding them in prayer?
  2. 2. How are you doing at expressing your love towards other believers, your church family?
  3. 3. How has the grace of God impacted your life? Is it your greatest delight and joy?
  4. 4. Do you have a desire for others to experience God’s amazing grace? How are you getting the message out?

HOW MANY?

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Poem by: Connie Faust

How many soldiers did it take to hold our Savior down
as the nails were driven into His trembling flesh?
Did they hold fast His precious head to place the thorny crown,
Viciously assuring it would keep the bleeding fresh?


“How many?” asked the teacher, as she faced her little brood.
Each child tried to answer, as earnestly they stood.
“Four soldiers!” called Meg.
“Ten!” said Jon, mocking her with a shove.
Jimmy rose and cried, “You’re wrong!  He did it out of love!”

From lips of a child the answer, in startling truth, rings still:
Out of love for all mankind, He did His Father’s will.
“You’re wrong!” the answer echoes loud — He willingly obeyed;
If He had fought and struggled, the debt would not be paid.

How many soldiers did it take to hold the Savior still?
He did it all for you on that dark and lonely hill!
He did it out of love for you, to save you from your sin.
He’s offering forgiveness; Will you turn and follow Him?

HE IS FAITHFUL

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1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Study 13

BRIEF RECAP: In the past few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s second half of this letter to this young church. In the first part, the Apostle reflected on his time with them when He was there in person. And on how the gospel came to them, their reception of it, and their spiritual growth. His purpose, at least in part, was to strengthen this young church with the encouragement of the Lord’s return.

In the second half of this letter (Chapters 4-5), Paul has been looking ahead and reminding them of their calling and conduct as they move forward. In these scriptures, he has been giving them directions for their spiritual growth in light of the coming day of the Lord!

Paul’s desire throughout this letter has been to encourage and direct these young believers who are spiritually growing to excel still more (4:2,10). Paul’s concern is for them to be “entirely” or completely sanctified, so it fits, at this point, for him to express a prayer for them regarding their sanctification as he concludes his writing (vv.23,24).

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

FOCUS ONE: These folks experienced the “peace of God” at their conversion amid some severe tribulation (1:6). They enjoyed peace with one another at the time of Paul’s writing (1:3; 1:4-10; 3:6; 4:9-10). So, Paul naturally petitions the “God of peace,” who alone can provide them with peace for their future, to accomplish His work of “entire” sanctification.

Please be aware at this point that Paul understands that experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and ends, or is completed, only when “the Perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:10), when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)!

Now, to accentuate his desire of complete blamelessness before the Lord at His coming, Paul uses three different words: spirit, soul, and body, and that they “would be preserved complete.” The Apostle is emphasizing the totality of man, much like he did in chapter three (v.13), where he used the word “hearts” (the very person, the psychological core). In other words, the part of us that makes us persons!

When Christ returns, this process will be complete, but until then, believers rely on God to protect, empower, and equip them to live lives that are representative of His holy character. To live lives that would find no grounds for legitimate accusations against them from others.

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.”

FOCUS TWO: Dear Christian reading this post today, we too, like them, can live our lives with the confidence that God is achieving this work in our hearts and will present us blameless at His coming (Philippians 1:6; 5:24b)! Why? Because He is faithful! (1 Corinthians 1:8,9). “Who also will confirm you to the end, blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This very truth should give you “peace” in your walk of faith, dear Christian. Grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3). His peace is:

  1. Supernatural, not worldly (John 14:27)
  2. Based on our justification 
  3. Is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
  4. Surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)
  5. And will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we wait for His return!

Read again verse 24b: “He will bring it to pass.”

Dear Christian, let us learn from Paul and his desire for these young believers. As Christians, let us live our lives as people who are awake and not asleep, sober-minded and not carnally minded. Let us live our lives with a constant expectation of His return and therefore live our lives forsaking sin and fleeing temptations to sin.

As Christ-followers, we are to be ready for His return, not people who will be caught unaware or off guard, living in worldly pleasure with false security. Such people, the Bible says, will experience sudden destruction with no escape. BUT Christian, “God has not appointed you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9-10).

FURTHER THOUGHTS:

  1. 1. What do these verses teach us about God’s calling? (John 6:44; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 11:29)? Can you find others?
  2. 2. What do these verses teach us regarding how we conduct ourselves while we wait for the Lord’s return (John 14:15; 1 Peter 1:15; Romans 12:9-21)? Can you find others?
  3. 3. Are you experiencing peace in your life? What hinders you from living in God’s peace? How do these scriptures comfort and encourage us regarding God’s peace? (2 Thessalonians 3:16; Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6; Psalm 4:8) Can you add a few others?
  4. 4. Are you living in such a way that others can see you are living your life in expectation of your saviors’ return (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)?

Sorry for no scripture links in Further Thoughts area. For some reason I can’t add any and need to figure it out. Thanks.

LET THE BLOOD OF JESUS

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By: Connie Faust

Blood dripped down from His wounded hands,

outstretched for all to see.

It stained the wood  on which He hung

as it trickled down that tree.

Let the blood from Jesus’ wounds fall on me.

Let His blood wash away each guilty stain,

flowing down into my heart,

giving me a brand new start

as forgiveness covers me like falling rain.

Blood ran down from His wounded feet,

cruelly nailed to the cross.

His blood told of the dying King

Who came to save the lost.

Too precious was the blood that flowed

to soak into the ground,

but I was standing there that day

in sin and sorrow bound,

and as the blood began to fall

in droplets all around,

He drew me to His loving heart,

where sweet salvation I found.

Let the blood from Jesus’ wounds fall on me.

Let His blood wash away each guilty stain,

flowing down into my heart,

giving me a brand new start

as forgiveness covers me like falling rain

HOLD FAST

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1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Study 12

Last week we meditated on three of Paul’s exhortations to the folks in a young, growing church in Thessalonica (5:16-18). This week we will have our attention on five more imperatives that the Apostle gives this young church. Reflecting on verse 12, where this section of his letter started (vv. 12-22), we find a complete block of instruction for the church that includes these verses in our current study. 

These exhortations, encouragements, and commands all have to do with the “internal life of the church,” how we relate to God and one another. Some aspects are more personal (respect leaders, joy, prayer, thankfulness), others are more corporate (not quenching the Spirit, prophetic utterances, and abstaining from evil). It is with these more corporate or congregational appeals that we are looking into now.

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

FOCUS ONE: One of the ways the Holy Spirit is described throughout scripture is as a “flame” or “fire” (Matthew 3:11; Acts 2:3-4; Isaiah 4:4). Those descriptives, generally speaking, refer to how He works in people, i.e., enlightening minds, empowering them for a particular work, convicting of sin, etc. According to the Apostle, this fire, this working of the Holy Spirit, can be quenched! According to biblical Greek usage, that means that it can be extinguished or put out. Much like a fireman uses water hoses to extinguish the flames of a fire, we can diminish or even put out His desired working within us if we resist Him.

In other words, the Holy Spirits working within us can be opposed. Paul admonished the Ephesians not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). For the sake of clarity, I AM NOT talking about a potential loss of salvation, as is made clear in the previously mentioned scripture. But, this grieving happens through our disobedience to Him and His will for us. Our disobedience leads to a hardness of heart as we do not cooperate with the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to produce within us the “fruit” He desires. Paul, very clearly, and adamantly, is warning this church NOT to do such a thing! Christians are not to grieve or quench the Holy Spirits work within; instead, they are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and to walk by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

Do not despise prophetic utterances” (gifts).

FOCUS TWO: There may have been an issue in the church that undervalued spiritual gifts, and in this case, the gift of prophecy. So, Paul, building upon his last warning, urges these Christians to be careful regarding such gifts. This particular gift would have included future prophetic events (Acts 11:28) and current events (Acts 13:2)

This is not the first time that the Apostle dealt with this issue. The Corinthians held an improper view of tongues and were therefore overboard on their beliefs and applications of that gift (1 Corinthians 12-14). The Thessalonians can be contrasted with the Corinthians in that they were indifferent or over-protective while the Corinthians went overboard on their views.

In the Thessalonian church, this seems to have become an issue, most likely because some people misused the gift. Perhaps some were not receiving revelations as others were, so they made up some of their own, and some were likely about the second coming, which, as we already discussed, was a concern to these people (4:13; 5:1-6). So, the danger they were facing was in disregarding any or all revelation coming to the church.  

In disregarding such messages, the church would miss out on the blessings of God’s will as it is revealed and suffer a HUGE loss regarding the strengthening, encouragement, and comfort that would come from such revelation.

By way of reminder, Paul told the Corinthians that prophecy would cease, that tongues would be stilled and that knowledge would pass away (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). These were temporary gifts that would not be necessary when the completed canon of scripture is accessible. The New Testament writers would write down God’s revealed will in a completed way-nothing new would need to be added to it!

Like tongues to the Corinthians, the Thessalonian church needed to act in love towards one another since these things will eventually pass away. BUT, Paul IS NOT saying just to let it flow!

“Examine everything, hold fast to what is good.”

FOCUS THREE: He now urges them to be diligent and discerning in their acceptance of what is delivered to them as the word of God. Why? Because a genuine and present danger exists for the church regarding what is true and what is false; what is the divine origin or human. So how are Christians to know the difference? By following this admonition above. 

Just because someone says this or that is from God is not sufficient evidence for the Christian to blindly follow. Any claim that something is from God needs to be proven to be such by a Christian’s daily study of His word (Acts 17:11). 

Paul does not give and particular criteria for this, but we can safely assume two things: 

  1. For them, the prophetic utterances that sounded true and were in line with the Apostle’s teaching were to be received and applied in their daily lives. We need to keep in mind that the Bible had not been written yet, but as the apostles grew older, the need for their doctrine to be written down became more evident, and so the Holy Spirit inspired these men to write what you and I are blessed to read each day: The written word of God!
  2. For us, we can examine everything in light of the revealed will of God. We are to compare all things to its teachings. 

The Apostle’s exhortation leaves the responsibility of practicing discernment on the individual believer. This is something we are unable to do apart from the Holy Spirit. You and I are not capable of such wisdom, but aided by the Holy Spirit, we can know the will of God (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)!

“Abstain from every form of evil.”

This statement may appear, at first glance, to stand on its own. But, I believe it goes hand and hand with the last appeal. Paul is saying to reject false teachings or prophecies and reject and “abstain from” every form of evil. The Apostle broadens his scope with these words. Aided by the Holy Spirit, the Christian is to act in obedience to God’s revealed will, and in so doing, have nothing to do with evil in any form.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT

  1. 1. Take some time to examine your heart. In what areas of your life are you “grieving” the Holy Spirit? What is it that hinders you from “walking in the Spirit?”

2. How does 2 Timothy 3:16-17 inform us on the Bible’s ability to equip us for our daily walk of faith?

3. How has this study informed and equipped you to “hold fast” to sound teaching?

GENTLE RESTORATION

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Extended reading: Galatians 6:1-5

Devotional verse: Galatians 6:1

“Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.”

People make mistakes all the time. “I’m only human” is the explanation we hear so often after someone has failed relationally, morally, or otherwise. It seems like we do not take sin as seriously as we should. We tend to think that we won’t fall prey to another temptation since we suffered dire consequences last time. How is that working for you?

The most recent events surrounding some leaders in the Hillsong church movement and those that have surfaced about a famous apologist, well known in Evangelical circles, prove painfully otherwise. In these verses, Paul instructs his readers to gently pursue restoring a fellow Christian who fell into sin back into a right relationship with God and those they have sinned against.

Paul gives two reasons for such tenderness. The first is not as obvious but is implied in the word “gentleness.” When we fall into temptation and succumb to its pressure, we feel ashamed, foolish, and heartbroken that we gave way to the flesh once more. If we were caught in it, the embarrassment and consequences following the particular sin could be a heavy burden to bear. So, Paul is expressing the need for us to humbly admit our sins to one another so we can mutually encourage and hold each other accountable in our Christian walk. 

If we would be more willing to share our struggles and help others who are struggling with sin, we would be able to move forward in our walk of faith more confident, encouraged that we are not in this fight alone. 

Prayer: Father, As much as we hate sin, we confess that we often fall into it. We often compound the issue by not being honest with others about our struggles. Holy Spirit, work within us a greater sense of honesty and humility so that we can mutually encourage one another along the way. Amen.

LIFE IN CHRIST

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Study 11

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18

BRIEF RECAP: We have meditated on various topics the past few weeks: The recognition of and relationship to spiritual leaders and their congregations, as well, as the relationship of believers among themselves. Everything that we have learned in those studies reflects our new life in Christ and how that manifests itself in our varied life circumstances and surroundings. This study is no different! It is so because all of these verses (5:12-22) are part of a larger context, one that is about life within the church. As meaningful as the relationship is between a congregation and its leaders, so is the relationship that we share as the “body of Christ.”

Intro: As Paul continues his letter, he gives a few more imperatives or commands for these Thessalonian believers to follow. Let’s take a (1)SOS here. The New Testament is written in various moods, most noticeably, the Indicative and Imperative moods. When we read our Bible, we will notice that we are being told about things that happened, and we have those things that occurred explained to us. This form of writing is the indicative mood, the expressing or explaining of the word of God. Often, most noticeably in the Epistles, when the explaining or narrating certain things ends, commands follow. This mode of writing is the Imperative mood. 

So, what is going on? Simply this: The writer, based on all that he has just explained, wants his readers to apply the truth’s taught, so he starts writing in the imperative to give application to his readers.

These are not the only moods that we find in the New Testament. The Exclamative and interrogative are used as well. Both the element of emotion and the probing analytical and rhetorical questions we witness, in conjunction with the indicative and imperative, are to instruct us in the will of our God!

Interestingly, we find in our letter that the first three chapters are written in the indicative, and only in Chapter four do we begin to see commands being given. Out of the sixteen imperatives that Paul gives from chapter four onward, most of them arise in these verses that we have been meditating on in previous weeks (5: 11,13-22, 25, 26)!

FOCUS ONE: Back to our study. In the verses before us (16-18), Paul gives his readers three exhortations:

  1. Rejoice always
  2. Pray without ceasing
  3. Give thanks in everything

“You also became imitators of us and the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6). In expressing his thankfulness for these believers (1:2), Paul mentions their joy of the Holy Spirit at the time of their salvation. This joy was upon them in the midst of the “tribulation” they were experiencing due to trusting in Christ. Paul credits the Holy Spirit for the delight they have. That makes good sense, right? 

Joy is a work or fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Even in Isaiah 61:10, the prophet writes of rejoicing in God for this very same thing, salvation! Often we misplace our joy, or worse still, confuse it with our definition of happiness. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, BUT rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). 

Christians are to be joy-filled people. We are to “rejoice always” in what God has accomplished for us in Christ. Situations in our lives will change, effecting our mood. In one day we can experience happiness, sorrow, anger, etc., all depending on the circumstances we are facing. But, regardless of our situations, our joy remains the same! When we understand that our joy does not hinge on our ever-changing conditions in life, but in our redemption in Jesus Christ, which doesn’t change, we will find that our lives, minds, and hearts are affected and changed forever with a “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8)!

FOCUS TWO: What does the Apostle mean when he says “pray without ceasing?” Does he mean that Christians are to be in a constant, formal, and audible prayer mode their whole lives? Would that even be possible? Obviously not.

The idea or thought Paul is conveying is relatively simple. He wants his readers to know that they need to live their lives in constant dependence on their Father in heaven. They are to bring all their cares, burdens, anxieties, hopes, and dreams before Him in prayer. Why? Because He cares for them and is the only one who can provide for them ideally concerning all their needs (Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:17).

There is no sound argument regarding this verse that would substantiate the idea of unending repetition in our prayer lives. Jesus Himself spoke against such a thing in Matthew 6:7; Then giving His disciples an example to follow. In contrast to such a thought, we are to be a people that pray persistently (Luke 11:1-13) and regularly (Ephesians 6:19).

FOCUS THREE: Thank-less-ness is a characteristic of unbelievers (Romans 1:21), not redeemed Christians! Does that mean that we should be thankful for the horrific personal tragedy that happened in our lives or in the life of someone we love? Should we celebrate the terrible misfortunes of others? No, obviously not. Instead, we ought to be people who are diligently and intentionally looking for the good in the midst of the bad in the middle of our ever-changing circumstances. There is always something good or some good reasons to be thankful, even if they are a bit hard to see at first.

Perhaps you have been praying for a loved one for many years to come to Christ. However, year after year, you witnessed their hearts getting colder to the gospel. In despair over their soul, you cried out to God to do whatever it takes to bring that dear one to repentant faith. He answered your prayer.

You now find yourself in the emergency room, waiting, worrying. Days go by, even weeks, the healing and recovering process are brutal. Not much to be thankful for here, you think to yourself. But what you didn’t know was that one of the caregivers was praying for your loved one. A friend was reading the Bible to him/her when they visited. And your loving Father in heaven was working through these difficult, painful circumstances to bring this dear one to repentance. 

Ultimately, through this experience, your loved one repents, and his/her life is changed forever because of Christ. Your prayers were answered! Sometimes it’s hard to see the good when things are so bad. Keep looking. The Lord promises it’s there (Romans 8:28)!

Dear Christian, when we join this appeal with the previous two, rejoicing and praying, they give us a biblical roadmap for victorious Christian living!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. Turn in your Bible to Philippians 1. Read through the chapter and find where Paul ends writing in the indicative (simple statements of fact) and begins writing in the imperative (commands or exhortations). Look at some other Epistles and do the same. This exercise will help you in your application of the truths taught.
  2. 2. What other scriptures can you locate that teach on these three topics: Prayer, Joy, and thankfulness? Write them down and meditate on where your strengths and weaknesses are. Spend time in prayer asking our Father in heaven to help you “excel still more” (4:1)!
  3. 3. Think of an example in your own life when you felt nothing good was going on in your situation. How might understanding these three commands (rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and thankfulness) help you get through the next hard or bleak period in your life?
  4. 4. What do Philippians 1:6 and 2:12b-13 teach us regarding our personal sanctification?
  1. Who begun the work in us?
  2. Who will complete it?
  3. Who is responsible to “work it out” (play it out) their salvation?
  4. By who’s strength and will working within us is this even possible? 
  5. Based on these facts, would you say personal holiness is a passive act on our part or a partnership with God as we live out in our lives what He has implanted within us?
  6. How might this truth help you the next time things seem to go wrong?
  1. (1) Step Outside Study

OH, ANANIAS

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Ananias made up the story,

His wife went along with it too;

But Peter knew he couldn’t believe it

Cause the Spirit had said it’s not true.

He said they had sold some property

And all the proceeds were at his feet;

But they kept back some of the money

Sapphira, also this lie did repeat.

Peter wisely called out Ananias,

Revealed Satan had filled his heart;

That he lied to the Holy Spirit

So the two could keep a small part.

The plot that was contrived

Was not against the people, but God;

For the money that they had kept

Came from Him whom they had robbed.

Ananias fell dead at Peter’s feet:

Great fear overcame those around;

Young men came and took him out

And then they buried him in the ground.

As it happens three hours later

His wife Sapphira did also arrive;

Not knowing the fate of Ananias

Or the failure of the scheme contrived.

Peter asks her all the same questions,

She answered in much the same way,

Testing the Spirit of the Lord

She exits the very same way.

Fear came upon the whole church,

Upon all who had heard these things;

May we also learn the lesson given

And hold fast to the truth that it brings.

The church is to be holy and pure 

different than the world, you see;

Not full of lies or compromise

But known for its love and purity.

By: Larry G. Stump Jr.

Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter about the money they received from selling some of their property.

LIFE IN THE CHURCH

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1 THESSALONIANS 5:14-15

Study 10

BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we looked at some of Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians regarding those men who were spiritual leaders in the church. In verses 12-13, he instructed them to “recognize those who labor among you,” and to “esteem them highly, in love, for their works sake.” He then made the plea for there to be peace within their local congregation. We will focus on verses 14-15, where the Apostle expresses how these folks are to treat each other within their fellowship.

14 “We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [a]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”

FOCUS ONE: Paul’s list of appeals found in these two verses are:

  1. Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
  2. Encourage the fainthearted.
  3. Help the weak.
  4. Be patient with all.
  5. Do not repay evil for evil.
  6. (But) always seek what is good for one another.

This is a list of continuing responsibilities that each one of us has toward one another. If your church has a church covenant, you will probably notice that these items are expressed, in some form, within it. 

So, let’s spend some time on each one, fleshing them out a bit, so we can become better equipped to love and serve one another as is fitting those who claim the name of Christ.

  1. Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).

I think that we can all agree that such people need mature, loving accountability. It appears that some of the people in this newly formed church were neglecting their daily duties. They quit work and were not providing for their families. Most likely because of their misunderstanding or misapplication of things that Paul had taught them regarding the Lord’s return when he was with them (1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 5:1-3). This problem even had to be addressed in the Apostle’s second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).

You may remember that earlier in this letter Paul encouraged them to lead a quiet life, attend to their own business, work with their own hands, and behave appropriately to those outside the church. It appears that some people were not listening to those commands and needed to be admonished.

His next appeal is to encourage the fainthearted. These are people within the local church body that tend to become discouraged and depressed more quickly than most others. Such Christians need someone to come alongside them and share encouraging words; to say and do things to encourage them and cheer them up. The idea seems to be one of attempting to stimulate such people into pressing on in the “good fight of faith,” in other words, encouraging them to persevere!

“help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

FOCUS TWO: Helping the weak is next on his list. Some within the church did not lean on or press into the Lord as much as they should’ve for their spiritual needs. Of course, it should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, we are all weak and need the support and strength that comes from other believers-but some Christians need it more than most. So Paul calls for a “supportive ministry” to help these people.

Paul’s concern is regarding moral and spiritual weakness, not physical weakness. In their case, it might have been issues related to a shrinking back from the persecution they were enduring (3:3-5). Or, it could have related to their giving into various temptations to immorality around them (4:3-8). Another possibility would be their weakness in exercising Christian liberty in doubtful areas; this happened in other churches (Romans 14:1-15). Quite possibly, it was not simply one over another, perhaps all of these things were happening. So, Paul urges those who are strong in the faith, actually, in these words, he expresses that such people within the congregation are responsible for supporting those among them who are weak.

Moving on, we find patience next on his list. “Be patient with all.” This statement actually could be viewed as a summation of the previous three. Dealing with unruly people, the fainthearted and weak among them, would not be easy. Sin is active in all of us and requires our utmost attention in combating it within ourselves. But now he tells them that they have to help others in their combat! And some people say that the Christian life is easy. Really?

It takes a particular disposition to deal with other people who may not like OR apply our help and counsel. You and I can easily fall into a spirit of anger and bitterness. The danger for those receiving patient love and counseling involves their lack of desire to receive and apply such help. Intentionally or unintentionally, a person may be leading those who seek to help into a spirit of resentment or bitterness. But this should not be the case among believers. We all need patient treatment from each other as we “grow up unto all things in Christ.”

15″ See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”

FOCUS THREE: When we are angered or disrespected, our natural inclination is to retaliate or inflict injury, in some way, on the one who hurt us. Paul understood this natural, fleshly tendency within human nature, even among Christians, so he exhorts these people who are immature in the faith, but growing, to “not repay evil for evil” (v. 15). In other words, do not retaliate or seek revenge on someone who wronged you. 

The desire will most likely be strong, but we must resist it. In those times when we feel like “getting even,” we must remember that our Lord spoke against it in Matthew 5:38-42, and so did the Apostle, in more detail, in Romans 12:17-21! 

“(BUT) always seek after that which is good. . .” After dealing with what is harmful or just so much against our nature, Paul gives them and us an alternative, a better way to expel our energy! The Apostle told the Philippian church to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We must remember that the offender’s welfare, or person in need, should be our prime objective. We should think of Jesus on the cross, not only for our encouragement but also for an example to follow. His selfless, sacrificial love for sinners, you and I included, is a fantastic example of self-denial that we need to be reminded of and strengthened with. This is true if we are going to be able to walk with such integrity and compassion among our brothers and sisters in Christ and those in the world around us.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. Does your church have a church covenant? If so, read through it and see how well it lines up with these scriptures and others you find during your personal study time.

2. How are you doing regarding caring for others within your local church? Do you receive instruction well? What might have to change in your heart?

3. How do you handle being wronged by someone? Do you harbor resentment or bitterness towards others? What other scriptures can you find that can help you in this area?

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.