17 “But we, brothers and sisters, having been orphaned from you by absence for a [w]short while—in [x]person, not in [y]spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. 18 [z]For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, [aa]more than once—and Satan hindered us. 19 For who is our hope, or joy or crown of pride, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His [ab]coming? Or is it not indeed you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.”
Brief intro: In our last study we took notice to Paul’s second note of thankfulness for these believers (1:2; 3:13). Paul was thankful for their reception of the Word of God, receiving it as such, and enduring the sufferings that they were going through as a consequence for following Christ. We also took note of Paul’s charges against his own countrymen who sought to undermine the spread of the gospel (2:15).
In this study we will again witness Paul’s love for these believers and the frustration he dealt with in not being able to see them face to face and minister to them.
FOCUS ONE: Paul, moving on from his charges against those who seek to stifle gospel growth, now begins to express his frustration at not being able to see them face to face again. These verses (17-20) reveal Paul’s heart for this young persecuted church. He loves them. He has such a yearning to be with them again physically; to minister to them, encourage them, and strengthen them in their faith. Perhaps there are rumors circulating around that Paul has no intentions of ever coming back, but Paul with these emotional words, lay’s such rumors to rest.
For Paul and his companions, being forced out of Thessalonica and having to leave these people behind, was equivalent to the feeling parents would have at losing their children. It was heart wrenching for him. His only comfort was in the hope that this separation would be short-lived and that he would soon be able to be with them again.
Take notice to Paul’s switch in the plural usage of “we” up to this point, to the singular “I.” Paul desires to set himself apart from his co-laborers here and stress how he personally made every effort to to go back to them but was “thwarted” or prevented from doing so. It is of importance to notice who Paul says prevented them from going back to Thessalonica, “Satan Thwarted us” (vs.18).
It is time for a brief *SOS study. In Acts 16:6-10 Paul’s plans are frustrated as well, but there he credits the Holy Spirit for “forbidding” them to speak the word in Asia. He saw this as God’s leading of them in their missionary efforts. Now, back to our text. Here in 3:18 Paul see’s no other explanation of the opposition facing them but Satan himself. Exactly what it was that hindered them we can only speculate, he doesn’t mention anything here, so it is probably best not to surmise what it could have been.
In verses 19 and 20 Paul seems to break out in untethered joy as he thinks upon their friendship and brotherhood under the banner of Christ! These folks are the cause of his joy and confidence as he thinks upon the Lord’s coming again. To him, these believers (1)“will be a kind of victory prize. They will be his ‘crowning glory’ on that day and the source of unspeakable joy.”
3 “Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it best to be left behind, alone at Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the benefit of your faith, 3 so that no one would be [a]disturbed by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 4 For even when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; [b]and so it happened, [c]as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I also sent to [d]find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be for nothing.”
FOCUS TWO: Paul “cannot endure it any longer,” and so he sends Timothy to them. The constant thought of these beloved people just seems to be a pressing burden to his soul. Remember, Paul and his companions were forced to leave Thessalonica much sooner then they would have preferred, and as a result they were not able to teach them as much as they would have liked and felt necessary (Acts 17). So, after being forced out of Thessalonica they traveled to Berea, founded a church, and then under pressure again, Paul leaves and travels to Athens and from there he sends Timothy to them.
Timothy is a “brother” in Christ, and a “fellow worker’ in the proclamation of the gospel. He is a man that Paul loves and values and so trusts with the mission of traveling back to Thessalonica with the goal of strengthening and encouraging these young believers. He has great confidence that Timothy will complete that mission. This church was going through a time of suffering and facing various trials in their day to day walk of faith. Paul is concerned for their welfare and that they would stand firm and not “be deceived” by the afflictions they face.
Paul knew that they would go through such times (3:4). He wrote Timothy some years later: “yes, all that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It would be very naïve to think the world would accept those who follow Christ (John 15:18). And so, this is why Paul just had to know if their faith was genuine, if it was holding up.
6 “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, 7 for this reason, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; 8 for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we give to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice because of you before our God, 10 as we keep praying most earnestly night and day that we may see your faces, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?”
FOCUS THREE: Timothy returns! What a joy Paul feels as his good friend and faithful co-laborer returns safely from his journey. Not only that, he brings good news with him (vss. 6-10)! Paul’s questions are finally answered, his concerns alleviated. It seems that Paul wrote this letter rather quickly as his heart was elevated with emotions of thankfulness and praise! Their faith remained steadfast. Their love toward and kind affection for Paul remained. And imagine the joy in Paul’s heart to hear that they longed to see him again just as he did them! Paul is elated, “for now we really live, if (since) you stand firm in the faith.”
Paul then expresses for a third time (vs. 9) his thankfulness for them. It sounds as if Paul, believe it or not, was temporarily at a loss for words in how to express his thankfulness to God. (1) “This is a rhetorical question expressing the thought that no act of thanksgiving can equal the joy Paul experiences as he thinks of the Thessalonians.”
But even so, Paul reflects back to his desire to be with them again and minister to their needs. He knows that they are young in the faith and he desires to “complete what is lacking in your faith” (vs, 10). By that Paul means that even though they have started out well (1:3,7; 2:13,14;3:6), there is always room to grow (2 Peter 1:5-15).
2 “For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our [a]reception among you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been treated abusively in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God [b]amid much [c]opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or [d]by way of deceit;4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not intending to please people, but to please God, who [e]examines our hearts. 5 For we never came [f]with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext [g]for greed—God is our witness— 6 nor did we seek honor from people, either from you or from others, though [h]we could have [i]asserted our authority as apostles of Christ. 7 But we [j]proved to be [k]gentle [l]among you. As a nursing mother [m]tenderly cares for her own children, 8 in the same way we had a fond affection for you and were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own [n]lives, because you had become [o]very dear to us.”
9 “For you recall, brothers and sisters, our labor and hardship: it was by working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, that we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly and rightly and blamelessly we [p]behaved toward you [q]believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”
Brief recap: In our first study (1 and 2 Thessalonians) we saw the beginning of Paul’s thoughts toward these believers in Thessalonica. Paul is thinking back to the time that he was personally with them ministering to them. He reflected on their own suffering (Silas, Timothy, and himself) in bringing the gospel to them (Acts 16-17). He expressed how the gospel came to them in “power and in the Holy Spirit” (vs. 5), and how they, under “much tribulation,” received the gospel and turned “to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (vs. 9). He reflected on their strong testimony to others; those in their local community, and those in the surrounding regions (vs.8). And being encouraged by Timothy’s report of their well being, mentioned with much joy their watchfulness and perseverance as they waited for Christ Jesus to return. Paul with much love and joy in his heart for these new believers in this newly formed church, commends them for their faith and their application of it in their daily lives.
Brief intro: In this study we will be focused on Chapter 2:1-12. Paul, in remembering his time with them, now reflects back to their coming to them and reminds them of what it cost him and his friends personally to bring the gospel to them. He also reminds them of how they conducted themselves among them when they were with them.
Focus one: In verses one and two Paul reminds them of the manner in which they came to them in Thessalonica. We should take notice to the language Paul uses in this section (“For you yourselves know,” “You recall,” “You are witnesses,” and “just as you know”) are terms he uses throughout to express the correctness of what he is saying to them. These are things that they could not honestly deny. It appears that there may have been some false accusations floating around about Paul and his friends and their ministry, and so *“this defense gives us insight into the nature of the ministry of the gospel in the early church,” especially the beginning missionary efforts.
Paul and his companions had been “mistreated” in Philippi (Acts 16), and yet with unhealed wounds on their bodies from being beaten, hunger and weakness from imprisonment, and traveling approximately 100 miles to get to Thessalonica, amid “much opposition,” they boldly speak the gospel to them!
Should their motives be suspect as may have been falsely propagated? Not at all. These men acted with great courage in bringing the gospel to them. The physical, emotional, and mental struggles they had to face in order to be faithful to their calling were tremendous. If it were not for their divine calling they most likely would not have come to Thessalonica and thereby escape more abuse and harsh treatment.
They spoke with integrity. Their motives were pure. They did not use flattery, deceit, or cunning tricks to get them to believe their message. They did not suffer what they did for human praise, nor did they pretend to be their friends to get them to trust them. No, quite the opposite! They came in obedience to the Lord, to please Him not men (vs. 4). They came because they were called of God (2 Timothy 1:1) and “approved” by God to be entrusted with the gospel (vs. 4; 1 Timothy 2:5-7).
Focus 2: Not only were their motives pure, their methods were as well! They did not come authoritatively although they could have (vs.6). *“The thought of this passage is obvious: they didn’t even take what they had a right to because they were so motivated to get the gospel out.” Impure motives and methods? Obviously not. Pauls says that they “became gentle among them as a nursing mother cares for her own children” (vs.7). And exhorting, encouraging, and imploring them as “a father would his own children” (vs.11). These metaphors are of a loving, self-sacrificing relationship between a mother and father and their children, whom they care deeply about, and The apostles care and concern for these young converts. As a mother and father physically nurture and provide for their children in hope that they will mature, exercise wisdom and prosper in their lives, so these men spiritually nurtured and cared for them. They also prayed earnestly for their lives to be blessed of God.
Focus 3: Paul’s desire for these young believers was that they would “walk in a manner worthy of God” (vs.12). The New Testament widely uses this term “walk” in reference to our manner of conduct (2 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 2:10;Colossians 2:6;1 John 2:6). In other places in the New Testament we find other phrases that mean the same thing. For example: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10).
Paul is concerned about their fruitfulness or lack thereof at the return of Christ. He says: “so that you may walk worthy of the God who “calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (vs.12). “This is an incentive to a high quality of life.” The “God who calls” us is a God of holiness, righteousness, and goodness. He commands those He redeems back from the curse of sin to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-17). To be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). To have the “mind” of Christ (Philippians 2:5). In other words, to live lives that are reflective of His character and nature.
This is a manner of living that cannot be accomplished by our own efforts no matter how noble and zealous we may be. We can only walk in such a way if the Spirit of God indwells us. For that to happen we must be “born again,” i.e., saved or redeemed (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 2:14). (Gospel)
As we proceed through these letters we will naturally sense more of Paul’s fatherly (spiritual) concern for these believers as we observe him comforting, strengthening, and discipling them in their walk of faith.
For further thought:
What character traits are essential for gospel ministry?
What various methodologies for ministry do we find in churches today? Are some more helpful than others” More harmful? Why?
Should integrity matter in ministry? Why or why not?
How important is obedience in the Christian life (vss. 10-12)?
Paul had a gentle heart for people. He was willing to face opposition to get the gospel to others. Are you willing? Why or why not? What needs to change?
David Ewert Commentary on the Bible, Pg. 1072
Benjamin C. Chapman Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians
“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
Martin was a friend of mine who struggled in the faith. Early on in his life he was a false convert, but thanks to the long-suffering of God he was finally redeemed and by God’s grace was growing in the knowledge of God’s will revealed in His holy word.
But as time went on it appeared that Martin was struggling once again. This time it was because of some false teaching he was listening to. This teaching was drawing him away from “grace alone” for salvation, toward a “works plus” grace salvation model. Martin began well, but eventually became seriously hindered in his Christian walk for several years to come, because he listened to someone’s distorted teaching about God’s word rather than trusting in God’s revealed word.
Paul’s words echo forth with resounding clarity! Those who were now struggling in their faith started well. They were growing in their faith and living in light of the gospel, but then some false teacher with some pseudo gospel came along. They perhaps, hesitantly at first listened with skepticism, but then somewhere along the way they were deceived into believing a lie. Now there assurance of salvation was lost as they became “subject again to a yoke of slavery” (vs.1).
Paul told the Ephesians that “we are saved by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so none one should boast” (2:8-9). As we have so much available to us today within media, whatever and however that is manifested, let us with caution listen to others who propose to speak for our Lord and exercise discernment (1 John 4:1), and let us with confidence apply the word of God in full assurance and faith (Hebrews 10:22).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us in our ignorance to learn your word. We ask for your Spirit to teach us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Grant us an uncanny mindset that is able to discern truth from error and to reject the false and cling to that which is good. Amen.
Before diving into any study in our bibles, no matter how excited we are to jump in, we always need to begin with the historical context in which the particular book, in this case an Epistle, was written. We want to be very careful in our study of God’s Word not to practice eisegesis (reading into the text our own subjective ideas), but instead, prayerfully apply exegesis (taking out of the text what the original author meant to convey).
Understanding the moment in history, the particular circumstances in which the original author wrote his words, is tantamount to whether or not we rightly understand today, why he wrote what he wrote to the people he wrote in the way he wrote.
This is where most of us let out a deep sigh of woe! It sounds like hard, boring, exhaustive work and all we want to do is read a couple of lines, pull out a quick application, and move on with our day. Sadly, this is how we have been trained in the past generation or two. Two minute devotions are growing more and more popular as many Christians seem to be losing a desire for spending quality time with God in His Word.
But if we don’t take the time to understand what was going on at that particular time in history, we will miss out on the needed insights that will inform us of what the writers purpose was, and how it applies to us today. Those details are interwoven within each line of the text we are studying, and if we utilize that information correctly, we will gain much deeper insights into the purpose of the writer, but not only that, we also gain a better understanding how these truth’s come across the “historical bridge” between then and now!
If we allow the historical context to set the scene for us, the words on the page will become much more real and meaningful to us because we will know why it was significant to its original audience. Understanding the historical context will allow us to garner new insights within our text and therefore enable us to grasp a deeper understanding of the Word of God!
So, with that being said, Grab your cup of coffee and let me lay out some of the historical circumstances behind Paul’s writing of this letter to the Thessalonians.
Paul founded this church during his second missionary journey, shortly after the council at Jerusalem debated and resolved the issues which arose from some professing Jews, who followed Paul, that were teaching that no one could be saved apart from the law, especially without circumcision (Acts 15:1-32). Paul taught that a person is saved by grace through faith alone, definitely without circumcision (15:11). With the council in agreement, Paul traveled to Antioch and delivered the letter from the council that stated their decision. The people in Antioch rejoiced and were comforted with the good news (15:30-31). But what does this have to do with the church in Thessalonica? Hold on, you’ll see as we progress.
Paul and Barnabas parted ways after a serious disagreement in regards to a man named Mark and his ministry among them (Acts 15:36-40). Paul and Silas traveled to Derbe and Lystra where he added a young man named Timothy to his party (Acts 16:1-3). You will notice in the greeting to the Thessalonians (vs.1) that Timothy is mentioned! As this group of men traveled they continued to deliver the “decrees” determined by the Apostles to the churches along the way.
Paul then travels to Macedonia, Phrygia, and Galatia. After being forbidden to preach the Word in Asia, he continues to travel until he reached Neapolis. From there he walked to to a city known as Philippi (16:11-12). In Philippi, Paul’s first convert was a woman from Thyatira named Lydia (16:14-15). After this wonderful event: Lydia’s family trusting in Christ, Paul and Silas began being harassed by a demon possessed girl who was used by some local idol makers to make a profit (16:16-18). After Paul commanded the spirit to come out of her, and her owners saw their hope of profit was gone, they took Paul and Silas before the magistrates with some accusations and false charges, which led to their arrest and imprisonment (16:19-24).
During their time in prison the mighty power of God was manifested, by way of an earthquake, to lead the jailer and his family to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for their salvation (16:31-34)! Here is where we are told of the circumstances Paul and Silas faced in prison and how those circumstances led them to Thessalonica, and to the founding of this church (16:36-40).
After the magistrates (city officials) learned that they had shamelessly beaten and wrongfully imprisoned two Roman citizens, they send people to release them. But Paul refused and wanted these leaders to come themselves to release them. In fear they came to Paul and Silas in jail, and released them (Acts 16:35-40). After a short visit at Lydia’s house where they comforted the believers, Paul and Silas, free men, now journey westward along the great military road known as the Via Egnatia. We are not told why they passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, but they did, and arrived in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1).
Here Paul, as was his custom, seeks out the local synagogue and spends three weeks there “reasoning with them from the scriptures” (17:2). Most likely he stayed at a Jasons house for those three weeks and saw many people come to faith in Christ, even many “leading women” (17:4). Because of Paul’s ministry and the resulting salvation of many people, some Jews who did not believe Paul’s gospel, gathered a mob unto themselves and made a great uproar within the city. They attacked the house of Jason, where Paul had stayed, seeking to take him and Silas by force out into the marketplace (17:5-6). When they did not find them, they drug Jason and some others to the rulers of the city shouting out their accusations before them. Jason was forced to give a “security,” a pledge or bond that would be forfeited if Paul and his companions caused more trouble (17:9). The new believers in Thessalonica then immediately send Paul and Silas away by night to a place called Berea, where their ministry continues.
There it is, the background information that will help us gain a better understanding of Pauls letter to the Thessalonians. But take notice to one fact that can be easily overlooked in all the above mentioned history. It is this: Paul was not able to spend a lot of time in Thessalonica. Because of the turmoil and uproar that was caused, Paul and Silas had to leave prematurely and so were not able to spend as much time in teaching and ministering as they would have liked. It is because of this that much of the letter seeks to comfort them amid the persecution they are facing and remind them of previous truth’s taught. Paul also wants to correct misunderstandings of prophetic events while exhorting them to live a godly life as they await the expected return of their Savior.
Next week, Lord willing, we will begin studying this letter. We will be focused on verses 1-5. Please take the time to read through this short letter in preparation for our study. See you next week!
I would like to take the next several weeks and invite you to join me in a study of two amazing and very practical short epistles that we find in our New Testament, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. How can letters written over two thousand years ago be helpful to us? How can they possibly relate to what is going on today in my life, my world? That’s the cool thing about the Bible, it is timeless. Its truth’s are eternal and unchanging because it’s Author is eternal and unchanging and therefore authoritative and instructive in any generation (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17).
Although two thousand years have passed since this church was founded and these epistles were written, Christianity and its teachings have spread across the world, just like our Lord said it would (Acts 1:8)! The world that Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and this young church were apart of has dramatically changed over the centuries (1 Thessalonians 1:1-2), just like it will in the centuries to come, Lord willing. Even so, there is a vast array of similarities between us and them that make this writing helpful, useful, and worthy of our time and attention!
If you take a glance at any solid outline in our study bibles today you will promptly see how little has really changed since then. Maybe we are not facing the things that they were in exactly the same way, but we also need encouragement from others. We need people praying for us (chapter 1). Paul’s integrity stands out in the way in which he served these people. His example serves as a reminder to us that we also need to be people of integrity (2:1-16). The encouragement and instructions to love, keep hope, to live godly lives in our current circumstances, to be at peace with one another, and the exhortation to live a virtuous life, are all found within the pages of these small, yet profound letters, written to a group of people in a newly formed church that needed instruction in the basics of the Christian life.
Another observation that I think should draw our attention to these short letters is their emphasis on the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! At the end of each chapter you will find a statement about this event (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11,23). Paul wrote this letter with the return of Christ on his heart and mind. He wrote to correct some misunderstandings that the Thessalonian believers had in regards to the Lord’s return, and he wrote to comfort and encourage them by reminding them of His promise to return (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11).
No matter what day and age we live in, we all need these practical reminders and loving exhortations to persevere until our Lord returns. My prayer is that you will join me in this study, and together, by God’s grace we will grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)! See you next week.
Welcome to 2021! What a year it was that we just passed through. As we progressed through last year we faced the normal up’s and down’s that we expected to face, and some we didn’t. Add to the normal, the abnormal; Covid 19, mask wearing, social distancing, virtual schooling, businesses closing, and the election mayhem for starters. Sounds like a great time to make a New Year’s resolution, after all, “what didn’t kill us can only make us stronger,” right?
Each year many people, including Christians, make New Year’s resolutions. We recognize that in certain areas of our life we need to do better. So, we commit to start doing or not doing something in the new year that will make us a better person. The idea is that if we get started off on the right foot at the beginning of the year, we will continue on the right path for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions usually fail. One article I read online in People magazine, stated that in their study they found that most Americans are ditching traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2021. Here is one snippet from the article: “The top planned New Year’s resolutions for 2021 aren’t focused on going to the gym or losing weight, but rather saving money for the future (62 percent) and learning a new skill (50 percent) Seven in 10 Americans are tossing out their materialistic New Year’s resolutions for 2021, according to new research.”
That makes sense to me. People are planning ahead not knowing what the future may hold in these unsettled times. But, should that stop us from resolving to be better people, to be more Christlike? The fatal flaw of resolutions is that they generally seek to modify a particular behavioral pattern without addressing the heart issue behind the behavior. If we would be honest about ourselves, we would quickly attest to the fact that our heart is “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?
But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ that our bibles contain these words: “Therefore if any man is in Christ (born again), he is a new creation; the old things passed away; new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that as a “new creation” spiritually speaking, the quality of what we now are as forgiven, justified, redeemed sinners has changed; we have been given a new nature. The old nature no longer controls us. Those value systems we once held, those beliefs, desires, and plans have now been changed within us because the Spirit of God now indwells us (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9)!
This change, as John MacArthur notes: “This newness is a continuing condition of fact. The believers new spiritual perception is a constant reality for him, and he now lives for eternity.” This divine, dramatic, and life altering change that has taken place within us changes the way we view the temporary world and its temporal things. It should be true of us that we do not want to focus our time trying only to modify our behavior, rather, we ought to use our time to grow more in Christlikeness. Growing in this way will automatically affect our behavior!
Peter, begins his 2nd epistle, by sharing all the blessings given to believers by God. He writes that all believers have received the same faith as the Apostles, a faith that comes through the righteousness of our God and savior, Jesus Christ. He states that, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” and that “He (God) has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
This means that true Christians are secure in Christ forever and they will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ because they have received all that is necessary to live reverently and obediently towards their Father in heaven! There is nothing more that we should ask for or expect to receive to help us, we already have everything we need. True believers have, right now, every spiritual resource they need to live godly in Christ Jesus, and that is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His Word, which He uses to conform us more into the image of our savior!
Because of those very truth’s Peter say’s in verse 5, “giving all diligence (or make every effort), add to your faith or supplement your faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. As Christians (new creations) you and I cannot be indifferent to the manner in which we live our lives. We have been saved by faith, and in that same faith we walk forward seeking to, in God’s power, put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Who would argue that these are not wonderful things to pursue? Who would be bold enough to contradict God Himself in the matter, especially after the clarity of Peter on the topic? Who might try to, still, after reading these words, bring up excuse after excuse in order to continue living in blindness? “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (vs, 9). In other words, a professing Christian, citing MacArthur again, “who is missing the virtues mentioned above is, therefore, unable to discern his true spiritual condition, and thus can have no assurance of his salvation.” This does not mean that he is not saved, but that such a person will live in doubt and fear even though he possess the benefits previously listed. His walk of faith will be weak, his growth in Christ restrained due to his lack of understanding and confidence in his savior.
If you are making any resolutions this year, put personal holiness at the top of your list, you won’t regret it. Below are two books that I think you will find helpful. As an Amazon Associate I receive funds for qualifying purchases, this helps support the ministry, thanks. Happy New Year!
What is it about something that is “new” that makes us happy and satisfied? Well, at least for awhile, and then the new becomes old and we look for the next new thing. Is it the smell or the shine; the freshness or the cool update to the technology that consumes us? New cars, new houses, new cell phones, new careers, and even new relationships are often great for a season, but eventually the promised benefits of the new thing tend to fade away and what once drew our attention, eventually subsides.
The manner in which people of any culture think and relate to their language often times transfers itself into the way in which they read and understand the Bible. As a people, we are prone to imply on the scriptures definitions that are not necessarily correct, linguistically or otherwise, and in so doing we miss out on the varied nuances and meanings of the original writers.
For example, when we employ the word new in reference to a car, we are using that word to describe its newness in relation to time. If we compared the 2018, 2019, and 2020 models of a particular vehicle we understand this to be true. The 2020 model is the younger, fresher, or we can say the most recent. We understand that the “nature” of the car has not changed, it is still a car. It has wheels that move, an engine that gives the axles the power they need to rotate the wheels, and it has new seats, modernized technology, and a host of other things that make us desire to own it. But its nature always remains the same.
Now, if we take that understanding of the word new into our bible study and place only that definition into every text that speaks of new things, we quickly run into some serious problems. For example, Revelation 21:1 talks about a new heaven and a new earth. By importing our definition into those texts we would be led to believe that these things are only new in relation to “time,” but not “nature.” That would be a serious mistake. John, In Revelation 21:1 states that the first heaven and the first earth passed away, being utterly destroyed, and were replaced by a “new” heaven and earth (cr. 2 peter 3:10-13). This is actually promised in the Old Testament (Psalm 102:25; Isaiah 66:22)! Peter, in his epistle, is speaking about the same thing as John, and both Apostles use the same Greek word for new (Kainos) which is the word used for something that is new in quality and therefore of a different nature from the old.
The Bible uses several words in relation to new, newness, to make new or even renew. Not understanding which word is being used within a specific context can quickly lead us away from the original point of the author. Our English language is no different. According to Merriam Webster, the word new has various definitions and those meanings our defined by how the word is used within a sentence or particular context. The word new can be used as a noun with various meanings, or as an adverb. It can also be used as an adjective (newness, newish). Throw “Knew” and “anew” into the mix and you begin to see how important it is for us to understand that words are important; they mean what they say and say what they mean. I am using this example of word usage to quickly and simply bring to light the point I am making, i.e., we need to go a bit deeper in our study of God’s Word in order to understand what He is saying to us, based on the word usage within its own particular context. Thankfully there are many bible study aids available to us today!
Two Greek words of importance for our study are the words “Neos,” and “kainos.” Neos is the word used by the New Testament writers when speaking of something that is new in time, fresh, such as the “new lump” of 1 Corinthians 5:7, or the new wine being put into old wineskins in Mark 2:22. It is used less in the New Testament than the word kainos. We see it being used to contrast the new with the old in Colossians 3:9-10 and Hebrews 12:24. And it does not appear to have any eschatological (end times) content in the New Testament, but rather refers to a new reality or present salvation.
Kainos, is however a key theological term in eschatological promises. I mentioned this above in relation to the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:10-13. It is used in reference to the New Jerusalem as well in Revelation 3:12; 21:2. It is also used by Mark in his gospel (14:25) speaking of Jesus not drinking of the fruit of the vine “until the day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” This speaks of a different quality or nature of the event.
Let’s go back to the new car example mentioned at the beginning of this post. If the amazing miracle of regeneration, by the Holy Spirit, in the life of a person that is “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), is understood to mean something that is only new in relation to time, space, and matter without a different, better quality about it, than what makes it something to be desired? Why would a sinner look unto God for forgiveness if He/she is still going to be strapped down with their old nature? What would make them believe that there is “victory in Jesus?”
Thankfully, God led Paul to write 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Both Greek words for “new” are kainos! Paul had the choice between the words Neos and kainos and he chose the latter because it is the word that expressed his point well. Not recognizing this distinction hinders our ability to fully grasp the meaning of the writer and affects our ability to rejoice at the miracle of regeneration.
Because of the supernatural work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, redeemed sinners now have the Holy Spirit indwelling within them. A new divine nature and life are given to them (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). Now, with their new life and new nature, they can resist temptation and flee evil because of the Holy Spirits work within them to conform them to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
This is only one example of many related to word usage in the Bible that we could study. I am purposely not being exhaustive here because my goal in writing this is simply to encourage the reader to seek the understanding of the biblical writers as they intended themselves to be understood, and not to insert our own definitions into the text. Our newer translations are great, but still at times require us to look deeper into the Word to understand how the writer is using a particular word within the portion of scripture that we are reading. My hope is that you have a better grasp of the importance and value of seeking to understand the Bible in relation to how the God inspired writers intended to be understood.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is a must have for any one seeking to understand the Bible better. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This helps support the ministry, thanks.
Thanksgiving day is just around the corner, and the thought of being with family and friends over the holiday elicits many fond memories of amazing food, laughter, game playing, football, and yes, a stomach in turmoil from overeating. I can remember all the meals that I enjoyed at my grandparents: uncles and aunts, cousins and the like, all gathered in one place to share a smorgasbord of tastebud tantalizing family specialities. As I think back on those days my mind flashes with picture after picture of the scenes, the people, and the happiness I felt at being together with loved ones in a warm home, while the chill in the air, and the trees all along the mountains, with their leaves wrestled away from their spot on the branches, forewarned us that winter was on the way.
I also can remember how my understanding of “thanksgiving” was more related to a day, that particular day on our calendar, rather than thankfulness for gifts received or any number of blessings I was enjoying in my life. “Thank you” was an expected statement after receiving something and an ignorant sentiment at the kitchen table before we were able to indulge ourselves, at least for me it was.
Now that I am much older, hopefully far wiser, I have come to understand the importance of a thankful heart and the theology behind it. Biblical thanksgiving or thankfulness is not just a mere response to things that we have been given; God’s kindnesses towards us, but it is also our response to what we have learned about Him by receiving those kindnesses in our day to day living. We should be thankful for the gifts and the acts of kindness God chooses to bless us with, but we should also look beyond the gifts to the gift giver and think on what we can learn about Him, because it is there that we will find true thankfulness in our hearts.
Whether God blesses us directly or through others, we can, if we take the time, learn more about His Heart towards us. We can learn more about Him by seeing His attributes on display, His character and nature presented before us in ways we might have missed, if it were not for His benevolent spirit towards us.
This is what we find in the Bible. In any of the prayers that Paul offers in his epistles, specifically those of thankfulness, we find his joy and thankfulness are due to the grace, wisdom, and power of God working in the lives of people for their salvation and spiritual growth (Philippians 1:1-6; Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-5, for example). Another telling illustration of this is found in Luke 17:11-19, in the story about the ten lepers. One of the lepers, a Samaritan, when he realizes that he had been healed from this dreadful disease: “turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him” (v.16). This man fell down at the Lords feet in gratitude. His thankfulness became an act of worship! Yes, he is very happy at becoming clean again, but his greater joy seems to be in what he learned about Jesus through the healing.
Jumping back into the Old Testament, we see thanksgiving as a part of God centered worship, especially in the Psalms. I will share only two examples for the sake of time. Psalm 9 appears to be the first Psalm of thanksgiving. In it David praises God for His attribute of justice, and through this hymn of praise worships Him. In Psalm 30, David, through cycles of lament and praise, expresses his thankfulness toward God for healing him, protecting him, comforting him, hearing and answering him. Meditate on that a bit and you should quickly recognize some of the attributes of God that led David to worship Him though this Psalm.
God is pleased when we recognize and acknowledge His kindness towards us in the things He provides. But I think He is even more pleased when we worship Him because of what we discovered about Him through His provision. Another writer, Pastor Trevor Bates, writing on the theology of thanksgiving, made this statement: “As we give thanks to God, we not only confess we should have nothing good apart from him (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7), but we also consider who he is.” Jesus should always be the “centerpiece” of our thanksgiving.
I have benefited from this book in my study on the topic of thanksgiving. For a small book, 82 pages, Pastor Bates has done an amazing job of bringing out the theology behind thanksgiving. By focusing on the Psalms he shows that in them are countless times in which thankfulness is mentioned and explained. You can check it out by clicking the picture above. As an Amazon Associate I earn commission from qualifying purchases, this helps to support this ministry, thank you.