We left our study last time with this statement: “Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and to us dear Christian, that that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God honoring way within this congregation.”
Moving forward, we will learn that there is more to all this than just the examples of humility (8). We are also brought to remember the incarnation of Jesus. By that, I mean, When God the Son became a man—The God-man, fully God and yet fully man!
The word: “fashion” or “appearance” or “being,” depending on your translation, is significant. John MacArthur writes: “The word “being” denotes that which a person is in his very essence – that which a person is in his nature. In other words, that which is true of a person that cannot be altered, it cannot be changed. That which someone possesses inalienably and unchangeably that cannot be removed. It refers to the innate, changeless, unalterable character and nature of a person. For example, men may look different, but they’re all men – that’s their nature. They all have the basic same elements of humanness, the functioning of breathing, and the heart, organs, mind, will, thought, emotion. These are the elements of humanness. You can change his clothes. You can do things to the physical form. But you never change the humanness. That is the being of man.”
And that is the meaning of this term. And it says of Christ that He is in the being of God. He is, then, unalterably and unchangeably, God in His essence, in His essential being. That is the basis of our faith. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word” – what? – “was God.” But along with that, He was at the same time fully man. But don’t think of Jesus as less than fully human. Quoting MacArthur again: “He was fully human. Did people come into this world through the natural process of birth, through the womb of a mother? So, did He. Had others been wrapped in swaddling clothes? So was He. Had others grown up? So did He. Did others have brothers and sisters? He did. Did others learn a trade and work? So did He. Were other men at times hungry, and thirsty, and weary, and asleep? So was He. Were others grieved and angry? So was He. Did others weep? So did He. Did others rejoice? So did He. Were others destined to die? So did He. Did others suffer pain? So did He. Were others loved and hated? So was He. He was a man, in the form and the fashion.”
Luke tells us how this happened. Turn to Luke chapter 1:26 (read). In verse 34, Mary Asks, “how can this happen or be?” The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and with His power, with no sinful human male involved, He will grant this conception within her, and her child will be called the Son of God (vs.36).
Matthew tells us that this miracle, this salvation, was prophesied long ago. Matthew repeats what Isaiah wrote in 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (God with us). Paul is speaking from a position “after” the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
1 Peter 2:21,22 – We are told He lived without sin. In Hebrews 4:15,16 – We are told Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, but He did not sin.
Jesus was the only man ever to live without committing even one sin, so He is the only one who truly deserves to be counted righteous before God. Later we will see that this sinless life was necessary for Him to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
He taught with authority, healed many, delivered many from demons, served the multitudes, refuted pseudo-religiosity, pointed many to the Father in Heaven, and because of that:
Matthew 26:1-4,14-16 – Jewish leaders determined to kill Jesus because He had revealed their sins to the multitudes. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, agreed to betray Jesus to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew 26:36-41 – After teaching His disciples how to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of His death, Jesus went to Gethsemane. There He prayed that He might avoid the suffering of the cross, but even so, He was willing to obey the Father’s will.
Matthew 26:47-56 – Judas came bringing soldiers to capture Jesus and showed the soldiers who to arrest by kissing Him. When Jesus refused to allow His disciples to defend Him, they all forsook Him and fled.
Matthew 26:57-67 – In the Jewish trials, Jewish leaders sought grounds to kill Jesus but could not find valid proof even with the help of many false witnesses. They ignored all the evidence that he was the Christ and convicted Him of making a blasphemous claim! Finally, they convicted Him of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Christ.
Luke 23:8-11 – Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate (vv 13-16) then told the people that neither he nor Herod found any fault in Jesus worthy of death.
Matthew 27:15-26 – Pilate repeatedly stated that Jesus was innocent and tried to release Him, but the Jews refused. Pilate’s wife sent him a message saying she knew Jesus was innocent. But the Jews said they and their children would bear responsibility for His death, so Pilate called for Jesus to be crucified.
So what? Everyone dies eventually. To many people, Jesus’ death may not seem extraordinary. But His was the most important death ever to occur. It is essential to our salvation.
Hebrews 2:9 – Jesus tasted death for every man. He did not die for His sins – He didn’t have any sins. Nor was His death simply a miscarriage of justice. Jesus died for our sins.
1 Peter 2:24 – He bore our sins on the cross so that we could live to righteousness. He was a sacrifice. He was the sinless Son of God dying as a penalty for those of us who were guilty, so we could go free.
That is why Jesus needed to live a sinless life. If He had sinned, He would have to be punished for His sins. But because He lived a sinless life and did not deserve to die, He was able to suffer for others, people like us who did deserve to die.
Impressive as all this is, it is even more amazing to realize that He came to earth knowing all along that He would have to die for the sins of others. The Creator took the form of that which He had created to suffer as a sacrifice to save His own creatures. If Jesus had not died, none of us could be forgiven of sins. We would all have to die for our sins (Rom. 6:23). We can be saved (only) because Jesus died for us!
And what was God the Father’s response to this?
3. Glory in Christ (9-11)
a. God the Father exalted Him
Why? Because Jesus has taken upon himself a humble servitude that leads Him to death, even death on a cross, in which He willingly embraces degradation and misery, in which He willingly embraces humiliation of the most profound and most unique sort. And because of this (therefore), God highly exalts Him. And perhaps Paul is drawing our attention to the fact that there is a different kind of exaltation in God’s
One writer comments: “We see human beings, appropriately or inappropriately, exalted all the time around us, and usually it is because they possess certain qualities that set them apart from other people. They may be really smart, and so we praise them because they’re smarter than other people. Or maybe they’re better students, they work hard. It’s not that their brain cells are more blessed than somebody else’s brain cells, but they study really hard. And we set them apart, we give them titles and we give them degrees, and we give them honors for their academic prowess. And so, through their efforts and their native abilities, they are set apart.”
Paul wants these folks to notice how Jesus, who in all of those categories, was more worthy than anyone who ever lived, did not promote himself on that basis. And God did not exalt Him on that basis. He exalted Him because He embraced humility, and He embraced servitude of the most profound sort.
He was given a name above every other!
There is sooo much to this, but we don’t have the time to mine it all this morning. Let me make a few things clear. Dear reader, Jesus has always been the Son of God. Jesus did not become the Son of God for the first time in the resurrection or the ascension. Jesus has always been Lord. He has always been the second person of the Trinity. There was never a time when He wasn’t Lord, and then He became Lord. That’s not what the Apostle Paul is saying here. It’s just that now in the flesh, He has appeared, and in His flesh, He rendered such a service that God publicly owned and acknowledged Him and pronounced Him to be Lord. And Paul is telling the Philippians and us here that God does this precisely because of what Jesus has done in His humble service.
And then we notice: Everybody will confess He is Lord.
Not only does Paul reveal in these words that every being in the universe will submit to Christ, but He also shows that there will someday be a universal confession that HE IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father!!
This fact was prophesied by Isaiah Back in Isaiah 45:23, and Paul is thinking about that prophecy and directing his readers to reflect on it.
To not willingly submit to Him put’s you, dear sinner, in an awful position. We are all equally rebels against him, whether we oppose him as Lord or whether we refuse to submit to his righteousness or his government. What will you answer to him when he calls you to account for usurping his office and making void all that he has done and suffered for you? — He has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow; and, if you don’t do it willingly, you will most certainly do it against your will, to your everlasting sorrow.
But how different an outcome for those who submit to His rightful rule.
You are committed to his care, and he will not lose one of you; “not one shall ever be plucked out of his hands,” is the promise of scripture. Whatever you need, “his grace is sufficient for you.” “if you suffer with him. you shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12. Romans 8:17.]” in his kingdom forevermore!
Dear reader, because of the effectual working of the gospel in our own lives, as undeserved as it is, and all that we enjoy because of it, shouldn’t that lead us to walk in unity, fellowship, and like-mindedness around this gospel within our local church family?
Christian, Christ is our supreme example; his selfless love is an example to us. His humility and obedience are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.
Friends, like all those who have gone before, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You, like the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness.
But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous and forgiven!
Philippians 2: 5 “Have this attitude [a]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [b]grasped,7 but [c]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [d]on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In my last post, we were studying the first four verses of this chapter, chapter two. And I walked us through the letter and showed you how Paul felt about these people and why, so I won’t revisit that in this post. But as a reminder, we saw that all of Paul’s thoughts about this church were positive; his feelings toward them were warm. In 1:5, he is noting for us that they were genuine believers. Verse 7 speaks of their great courage because even in Paul’s imprisonment and “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him as “partakers of grace.” But with all the positive things Paul said about them, we also noticed that. “There was a very obvious lack of doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was apparently no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. They didn’t need to be corrected. There is no immorality in the congregation which is confronted in the epistle.” So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.
But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, thickened with poisonous gases. And that problematic cloud is dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict within their fellowship, the likes of which have poisoned so many churches.
I remind you of all that because I think we are prone to assume that disunity and conflict wouldn’t be a problem in a strong church. That is not necessarily the case. One commentator made this point. I shared this with you last time:
“There is a sense in which this is the danger of every healthy church. You see, it is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, when they are eager to carry out their own plans and their own schemes that they are most apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide” (William Barclay).
Paul is writing these words in chapter two, continuing the appeal he began in verses 27-30 of the previous chapter. He is building upon the theme of unity. Remember, he used the terms “standing firm in one spirit,” “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
In 2:2, he uses the same language. He says: “be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Paul wants these believers he loves dearly to express (live-out) the power, influence, and fellowship of the Spirit (benefits of the gospel) they received at salvation within their local fellowship. Paul is very aware of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche, and he addresses it later (4:2).
Paul expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church — unity among their fellowship!
And so we saw in verses 2-4, two themes emerge:
Both are vitally important to have if there is ever to be true unity within a body.
Last time I was only able to give an overview of verses 5-11, and I promised we would return to these scriptures, so here we are. May God grant us through His Spirit, humility, wisdom, and obedience to His Word.
Read verses 5-11
Think like Christ
Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly, thinking that unity and love, God-honoring fellowship, self-less-ness are things they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter continuing this appeal, leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example to follow.
So, to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The immediate connection is between the principle in Phil 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.”
Paul begins to present before these believers the Lord Jesus Christ! He wants them to understand the mind and heart of Christ as it pertains to His coming to earth to redeem fallen humanity from their sin.
Would you please notice that Paul again uses the imperative voice in the original language in verse five? He used the imperative or “command” language earlier in verse two when he said, “make my joy complete, or fulfill my joy,” depending on your translation. Then, it was a general exhortation to begin something at that very moment. Begin, right now, living in harmony or unity with one another.
But here, Paul is using the imperative voice differently! Here it is in the “present active” voice, which means, my paraphrase here, “Beloved, take this example of Christ I am laying out before you, understand why he did what He did, and be like Him, think like Him, from this day forward.” Paul does something like this in Chapter 4, verse 8.
Paul wants his readers to understand that the mindset, or attitude he wants them to retain in themselves, it was also in Christ Jesus! These are the very things Christ Himself thought upon. These are the very things that led Him to humble Himself and take upon Himself the role of a servant, become a human being, honor the father, and redeem wretched sinners like all of us.
Dear Christian, what’s your mind thinking these days? Are your thoughts cased in humility or pride? Are you thinking in ways that will help you be obedient to Jesus or disobedient? Are you thinking along the lines of “how can God be glorified in this,” or “how can I be glorified in”. . . whatever it is you’re involved in?
Perhaps you are not a Christian and are reading this post. I am thankful that you are here. Are you beginning to understand the amazing love of Jesus toward you? A love that, as we will see in our following verses, led Him to voluntarily humble Himself and take upon Himself humanity so that He could rescue us, rescue you, from your worst nightmare. Facing Him as a holy, righteous judge, guilty of heinous crimes against Him.
His mindset was one of a humble disposition that led Him to Submit Himself to the father in obedience, even obedience that led to His death. The innocent, spotless lamb of God, put to death for guilty, blemished, vile, sinners – of which we all are.
Live like Christ (6-8)
Here Paul opens before us the mind of Christ. Here Paul explains what led to Jesus laying aside, temporarily, His divine privileges. “Jesus Christ, God the Son, decided not to continue enjoying or to “cling to” His heavenly existence. Jesus enjoyed the same divine lifestyle, if you will, in heaven that God enjoyed (because He is God). Even though the Son could have lawfully maintained this heavenly existence, HE DID NOT! Rather, He assumed or took upon Himself a servant’s role and appeared in the likeness of men.
That’s why Paul takes us to the deity (heavenly side) of Jesus first before he shows us His humility (human side). So that we might see His humility in the grandeur of who He is and realize that no matter how far we stoop in this life to serve, we will never even begin to approach the depth to which He has condescended to serve us!
And that ( Ligon Duncan writes)— “as humbling a thought as it is, is also a very encouraging thought, because it reminds us again of that grand truth that we have encountered so many times in the Bible: that God never asks us to do what He himself is not prepared to do, and in fact what He has not already done in greater degree and dimension in time than He asks us to do.”
Paul is NOT talking about Jesus dismantling, unloading, or disinheriting himself of deity in these verses: He couldn’t do it if he wanted to. So, the Apostle Paul underscores the fact that Christ has always been and He continues to be God by His very nature. But despite that fact, and even because of that fact, for our salvation, He does not insist upon the manifestation of that majesty of His deity.
There’s something else that Paul is saying in these verses as well (7-8). He’s saying that when Christ came into this world, He did not claim His privileges and prerogatives. How Jesus accomplished our salvation was not to stand on those things but to give them away, to forego them, to veil His majesty, and to deny himself the rightful privileges and prerogatives that were His.
Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and us Christian, that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring way within the body of Christ (His church).
Are you following the example of Christ in the way you live out your faith within your local church body? Is Christ’s selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring mindset, example, yours? If not, what is it that keeps you from following in His footsteps?
In our last study we noticed Paul’s approach with the Philippians. He’s not only warm and pastoral, but he’s also quick to first mention the blessings of the gospel before giving certain exhortations to help them understand the importance of striving for unity within their church. In this post we will continue our study of these first couple verses and look at his exhortations to these believers.
2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Fellowship unites us (2-4)
That is an interesting statement for Paul to make, “make my joy complete.” He expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? “unity in the bonds of peace.” What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church is unity among their fellowship!
In these verses, 2-4, I see two themes emerge:
In order for there to be biblical fellowship, within a church, there has to be like-mindedness, there has to be expressions of love, there has to be an understanding and grasping hold of “one purpose.” ALL of these things begin with what Paul was talking about in verse one: The saving, changing work of the Holy Spirit! We cannot have true God honoring fellowship with one another, if we do not have fellowship with the Spirit ourselves! Gratitude affects attitude!
It is very clear in these verses that selfishness and empty conceit are polar opposites to self-less-ness and humility.
Perhaps Paul’s mind is on Euodia and Syntyche. Later he writes urging them to be of the same mind. They were not maintaining their love for one another. They did not have the same purpose at heart. Selfishness or empty conceit may have been playing apart in their discord, and it was wreaking havoc within this church. It was so bad that Paul, many, many miles away, in prison, hears about it from Epaphroditus, most likely, when he was sent to serve Paul on their behalf.
So, Paul, and it is an interesting observation, in the Greek, uses the imperative here. “Make my joy complete,” is a strong exhortation to begin doing something they were not presently doing.
It could read: “Right now work at being of the same mind, right now begin maintaining your love for one another, right now start esteeming others better than yourselves. Right now stop being so selfish, stop being so prideful and share the benefits of your fellowship with Christ and His Spirit with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”
vss. 2-3 explains how Paul’s joy would be complete-Fellowship is fostered by people whole-heartedly agreeing with each other, loving one another, and working toward the same goal (Gospel unity, gospel witness). It necessitates self-less-ness, humility and a true regard for others that places their needs above our own.
Selfishness, empty conceit, double-minded-ness, always stifles gospel centered unity, always hurts others, always is disobedience to the Lord.
This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. It seems that he frames the letter, with that issue. For example, in the first chapter he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”
So, in chapter 1 we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4 another urging toward one mind and one heart -And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses of chapter 2 also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.
3. Unity strengthens us (2-4)
Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are working and striving together to make the gospel known to the lost as well as living it out in community with one another?
Can you imagine a church where the Christians are humble, serving one another allowing their Lord to encourage and comfort and show mercy to others through them?
Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are obedient to Christ even when their feelings get hurt, or their ideas for ministry are not acted upon or done to their satisfaction?
Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are “standing firm in one spirit, steadfast in their opposition to the enemy, unrelenting in their humility before God and others?
How strong would such a church be? It is true: “united we stand, divided we fall.”
Christian, have you noticed any potential areas of disunity in your congregation? Have you sought to bring unity in that situation?
Maybe there is someone in the congregation that you personally are in conflict with, how can the Elders help you through that?
Talk with another mature believer about it and work towards maintaining “unity within the bonds of peace.”
Paul, in a way, is giving them, giving us, a blueprint for a strong, healthy, vibrant, fruitful fellowship within the local church, and it has everything to do with UNITY!
BUT, this unity is all wrapped up in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ! We see that in verses 5-11. That will be my focus in my next post!
Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly thinking that unity and love, God honoring fellowship, self-less-ness is something that they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example.
So, in order to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The passage combines Christian doctrine and Christian practice. The immediate connection is between the principle in Philippians 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.”
All that now follows declares how Jesus looked upon our dire needs as sinners. We are the “others” whose “needs” were the great object of His acting in grace. And it is His mind, as thus expressed, that is to be our mind.
His “attitude” was one of: self-denial (6-7) Humility (8) Obedience (8)
And Paul lays before these loved ones the greatest example he could ever give. No one was more undeserving of love, forgiveness and fellowship than they were, then we are as vile sinners. Who were we that God should become man, lower Himself for a time, in order to redeem us and qualify us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? (Colossians 1:12)
And yet, He did. “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Dear Christian, Christ is our supreme example, His selfless love is an example to us. His Humility and obedience even to the point of death are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.
Friend, just like all those who have gone before, just like all of us sitting here today, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You as the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness.
But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous! Forgiven!Reconciled! At peace with God, your creator! Please believe in Him and you “will” be saved!
Tomorrow, he faithfully promised
tomorrow for revival I’ll pray,
tomorrow I’ll plead as I ought to,
I’m too busy today.
Tomorrow I’ll spend in my closet,
Tomorrow I’ll humbly bow,
Yet ever a voice was whispering,
“But the church is languishing now.”
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,
The delay e’er repeated went on,
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,
Till the years and the Voice were gone.
Till the church its God had forgotten,
Till the land was covered with sin,
till millions had hopelessly perished,
And eternity was ushered in.
Oh members of the body of Christ,
Oh ye church of the living God,
Oh editors, and leaders, and pastors,
Oh saints, where our fathers trod.
The Voice still insistently whispers,
Answer not, “tomorrow I’ll pray,”
The Voice is one of authority,
The church needs reviving today.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:14-15
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:
- Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
- Encourage the fainthearted.
- Help the weak.
- Be patient with all.
- Do not repay evil for evil.
- (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.
- 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. 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?
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
At the end of our last study we found Paul excited at the return of his friend and co-worker Timothy from Thessalonica. Timothy had a good report to share with Paul and he was comforted with the news of their faith, love, and desire to see him again. Paul’s earnest desire is to be able to return to them again and “complete what is lacking in your faith” (vs. 10). He has such a burden for the spiritual progress of these people that it just frustrates him that they had to prematurely depart their company (Acts 17:5-10).
11 “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you;”
Focus one: As Paul continues his letter (vs 11), he uses the word “now” to transition into explaining the petitions that he just mentioned in verse 10: “that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith.” In verses 12 and 13 he will elaborate on them, but first, let’s take another look at how he begins what seems to be a prayer, in which he expresses his concerns for these believers.
Take notice to how Paul addresses the prayer to “God our father” and “Jesus our Lord” equally! It is very clear in these words that Paul ascribes full deity to Jesus and therefore sees Him equal with God the father in power and ability to answer his prayer! In other words, “Two persons viewed as one (John 10:30) possess power to open the way to Thessalonica once again (cr. John 14:7,9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).” Another thing to take special notice of in this verse is the personal pronoun “our” that Paul uses. By utilizing it here Paul is expressing the sense of belonging to something or someone or being in someway associated with someone. He is not only Paul’s God, He is their God and our God as well Christian!
Paul petitions God to “direct our way to you” (vs. 11). He is asking God to open the way back to them by removing all the obstacles that have hindered them so far. Some of these obstacles may be the pledge Jason had to make (Acts 17:9), The Jews that followed him and caused him much trouble (Acts 17:13), and Satan working against them (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Paul is asking God to “clear the way” of all these hindrances and allow him a direct path back to this young church.
“and may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;”
In my studies on these verses I had found a question in one article that should cause us to pause for a moment and seriously contemplate our own ideas, conceptions, or misconceptions of the purpose and power of prayer. “What if your church began to seriously, soberly, and consistently pray (enabled by the Spirit of grace) for love to increase and abound for each of the members of your congregation? I mean really prayed with sincerity and expectancy of an answer?” What might the consequences be? Certainly only good ones! Supernatural ones! Would such a church become a powerful instrument in the hands of God in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15)?”
Who wouldn’t want such a congregation? There is no question as to the love that already abounds within this young church (1:2; 3:6; 4:9-10). But Paul desires that this love already growing and flourishing within their church would “increase and overflow” not just within the confines of their congregation, but outside of it as well. The idea is that their love for others would keep growing because they have not yet been glorified, or to say it another way, they have not yet gone home to be with their savior! That means that there is still room for growth in this area!
This type of love is not superficial or self serving, rather it is unconditional, sacrificial love. The word Paul uses here for love is “agape” and it means the “highest kind of love,” a benevolent love that seeks to do what is best for the one loved, not what the one loved deems is best (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). This is not a love based on “attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality,” rather on the willing submission of our hearts to the leading and working of the Holy Spirit within us as He seeks to produce such an abundance of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-25)! And Paul does not hesitate in holding him and his co-laborers up as examples of such a love.
This love should first express itself in their relations with one another but then should overflow and be expressed in other areas and with other people that our not believers, such as their enemies! (1)“For these persecuted Thessalonians this meant also loving their enemies, as Christ commanded (Matthew 5:44). To show love to their persecutors was the true safeguard against the natural tendency to retaliate when mistreated by outsiders. Such a love is not natural to man, it can be known and practiced only as it is received as a gift from the Lord and made to increase and abound by Him.”
These verses reveal Paul’s goal in his prayer: their progress in personal sanctification. Since this process is not completed until believers stand in the presence of their savior, they would need strengthening by the Holy Spirit to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and persevere in godliness knowing that “he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Paul knows that this is a daily battle that the Christian must fight, but he is not alone (Philippians 2:12-13)!
It is important for us to notice that Paul does not pray for them to be “sinless,” he prays for them to be “blameless” before God. To be sinless in this life is impossible but to be “free of any reasonable charge from their fellowman” is not. Let’s take an (2)SOS and determine what Paul is saying by the word he chose to use here. Several Greek words are used in the New Testament to express this idea, and as I wrote in a previous blog on the importance of the usage of words (Word’s matter), I will take sometime to explain the difference and application here.
(3) “Amomos” means faultless, without blemish, free from imperfections. It refers especially to character. “Amemptos” is strictly unblamed, one with whom no fault is found. This of course refers to the verdict of others upon one. “Anenkletos” designates one against whom there is no accusation, implying not acquittal of a charge, but that no charge has been made. And lastly, “Anepilemptos” has the idea of “irreprehensible,” designating one who affords nothing upon which an adversary might seize, in order to make a charge against him. Let’s go back to our verse now.
It is the word anemptos that Paul chose to use in our text because he was speaking in regards to what others might be able to say against them if their was a lack of love and submission to the Lord in their daily lives. But how could they or even us today be blameless in God’s sight at His coming? Keep in mind that Paul is not speaking of “positional” blamelessness because that is solely achieved through the saving grace of God Himself in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:22)! He is however talking about experiential (practical) blamelessness.
In speaking about the Lord’s coming Peter asks the question “since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be” (2 Peter 3:11)? He then answers the question, “in holy conduct and godliness. . . Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless”(2 peter 3:11,14).
So, here the blamelessness that Paul is referring to is not positional but practical. It involves living a life that is above reproach and in line with God’s will revealed to us in His word, so that no reasonable charges from our contemporaries would stick to us and reveal any guilt. It also relates to our consciences, in that they would be clear and free of any known guilt when the Lord returns. It is exciting to know that we can cultivate such a character in our lives that manifests the reality of what has taken place in our hearts. This is a work of the Holy Spirit within us. A work He does with us not despite us!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
- What other verses in the New Testament can you find that express the deity of Jesus Christ?
- What our the character traits of love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8?
- What do these scriptures teach in regards to the Holy Spirits ministry among us (John 14:26; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 4:30; Romans 8:16)?
- In what areas of your life may you need to confess a lack of conformity to the will and word of God and by faith seek His Spirits help in producing fruit that leads to “hearts that our unblamable in holiness” at His coming?
- 1 and 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book, 1996
- Step out Study
- Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Zondervan, 1991
1 THESSALONIANS 2:13-16
13 “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of mere men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which also is at work in you who believe.14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and [r]drove us out. [s]They are not pleasing to God, [t]but hostile to all people, 16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always [u]reach the limit of their sins. But wrath has come upon them [v]fully.”
In our last study we discussed the integrity of Paul and his co-laborers as they ministered among the Thessalonians. We discussed the opposition they faced and the suffering they endured in order to bring the gospel to them. This week we will meditate on the manner in which these people received the gospel, and Paul’s charges against those who seek to stop the spread of the gospel.
FOCUS ONE: It should not go unnoticed that Paul again expresses thankfulness for this young church, as he does in 1:2 and 3:9 as well. I mention it because I believe it helps us to understand the “tone” of the Apostle Paul in this letter to the Thessalonians. This letter is not written to correct some deviant theology or to rebuke ungodly living (1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians). The church in Thessalonica was young in faith and did not have the pleasure of any extended amount of teaching from Paul (Acts 17); and yet they were relatively sound in what they did know, and it appears, growing in and living out their faith with much joy and zeal.
Paul’s tone is one of affection and thankfulness. As he reflects back in history and remembers his work among them as well as Timothy’s service to them, he is elated at their spiritual growth and their perseverance through suffering as a result of their new found faith in Christ. These people have already proven to be faithful servants of Christ and for that Paul is deeply thankful. And so, with that in mind, Paul writes them these words from Corinth.
Paul expresses his thankfulness for several things:
- Their reception of the word of God
- Receiving it as His word, not men’s
- Their enduring sufferings for following Christ
I think it is time for an “SOS” (Step Outside Study). By that I mean that we need to step outside of this letter and travel back to Thessalonica at the time Paul was their sharing the gospel and ministering to them. For that we need to go to the book of Acts where Pauls missionary travels are recorded.
Acts 17 records their reception of the Word. Paul, as was his custom, went to the synagogue first when he came to a new town, that is if they had one in place. Thessalonica had an active synagogue, and so he went to it and for “three sabbaths reasoned with them from the scriptures” (vs. 2). Some were persuaded, including a great number of Greeks and leading women (vs. 4). Instantly they were engrossed in persecution and Paul and Silas were sent away to a place called Berea (17:5-10).
Now, back to our letter. Back in 1:5 Paul mentions that the gospel (the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) came to them in “power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” These people “heard” the spoken word of God, in this case, the gospel. That is the message that burned within Paul, and why he went though all the hardships he did on his various missionary journeys. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ “ (Romans 10:17). The Thessalonians received Paul’s message not as a message of a man or from men, but for what it truly was, “the word of God” to them. God, in His amazing grace, did a mighty work of salvation in their hearts. Counting the cost, forsaking much of what they knew, they sacrificed it all for the gospel Paul preached (1:5-6)!
FOCUS TWO: As Paul continues to reflect back to when he was with them proclaiming the gospel, he makes mention of the suffering they endured, and are still still enduring at the time of his writing, for embracing the gospel he preached. In their suffering, Paul says, they have become “imitators” of the churches in Judea (vs. 14). This is the second time that Paul mentions that they are imitators. In 1:6 we find the first expression of this term; I spoke to that in our first study (The Gospel arrives). In chapter one Paul says that they are imitating the Apostles and the Lord Himself! But here, he says that they are imitating the churches in Judea.
How are they imitating all these people? Is there a common link? There is: in their suffering they were following in the same footsteps of those who have come before them. What happened to Jesus for proclaiming “the kingdom of God is at hand?” For proclaiming “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30)? What happened to the disciples after Christ was crucified, buried, and rose again? Persecution happened (Acts 4; 5:17-42; 7:54-8:3).
(1)“Paul tenderly reminds these brothers and sisters that they were not the first to be afflicted. God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus” were the first and through their patient endurance “had become an example of what Jesus predicted about the suffering entailed in discipleship” (Matthew 10:22; 2 Timothy 3:12). The churches in Judea were persecuted by their own “fellow- countrymen,” and so too were the Thessalonians. Ironically, Paul himself, previously known as Saul, was the one persecuting the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-4). Praise God his persecution of those churches was short lived, as the Lord saved Paul’s soul along the Damascus road (Acts 9).
FOCUS THREE: Paul’s charges against his own countrymen (vs 15):
- They killed the Lord Jesus
- They killed the prophets
- They drove out the Apostles
- They are not pleasing to God
- They are hostile to all men
The Romans, in fact, carried out the gruesome task of beating, scourging, and nailing Christ to the cross, Paul knows that, but he also knows that it was the religious leaders of the day that sought to get rid of Jesus and formed the plot for his demise (John 11:53; Acts 2:36).
Paul’s claim of their killing the prophets is not baseless. Steven, in his defense, boldly makes the same claim (Acts 7:51-52). And Jesus Himself stated this historical truth about the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:29-36).
These same people “drove out” Paul and Silas from Thessalonica because they did not want them to speak to the people and proclaim the gospel of salvation unto them (Acts 17: 5-10).
Paul here also asserts that the Jews are not pleasing to God in their behavior. Rather than living lives that are in subjection to God’s will, they are hostile to him. And as a natural repercussion they are hostile to all men, not only others, but their own people as well. This hostility grieves Paul and causes much pain within his heart (Romans 9:1-5). Paul’s purpose here is not to slander them, He would be willing to take their place in judgement if only they would turn to Christ! Paul is pointing out that by their actions, i.e., opposing God’s servants, and rejecting their message, they are “filling up the measure of their sins,” in other words, one sin is being piled onto another sin until the “measure” or full amount God will allow reaches its fullest.
With that measure of sin filled up, God’s wrath, Paul says, “has come upon them.” What does Paul mean by God’s wrath? Wrath in the Bible has various forms or meanings. Consequential wrath is what we find in “sowing and reaping.” A person living in a lifestyle that is sinful will suffer consequences reflective of their sinful choices. Those consequences are viewed by some to be a resulting wrath or judgement reflective of the consequences of their choices.
Cataclysmic wrath (Hurricanes, earthquakes, severe famine, floods, etc) is evidenced in the Bible in Genesis with the worldwide flood in Noah’s day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
John MacArthur points to Romans 1 as another type of wrath: the wrath of abandonment. A point in time when God turns away from a group, society, or individual (Romans 1:14,28).
And then there is eternal wrath. This is the ultimate form of wrath from God. As horrific as the others may be, this wrath is far worse because it is eternal and unrelenting. This punishment sees unbelieving mankind cast away from God forever and placed in hell because of their rebellion against Him (Matthew 25:41-46).
Or is he referring to eschatological wrath? The judgements of God that will take place on those who are living during the Tribulation period? While some commentators hold various views as to which of these are possible answers, it seems most likely that Paul was referring to either eschatological wrath or eternal wrath. These seem the most likely if we are keeping in mind other things Paul has said in this epistle, in which those contexts are always dealing with Christ’s second coming and believers being delivered from “the wrath to come” (1:10; 5:9-10).
My personal opinion is that this context is speaking in regards to eternal wrath. (2)“God’s promised eternal wrath for unbelievers is so certain that it is spoken of as having come already as does the Apostle John (cf. John 3:18,36).”
Paul may appear to have no hope for his jewish brethren, but that is certainly not the case. Many Jews have already come to faith in Christ and others will in the future. And according to Paul in Romans 11:25-29, Israel is going through a “partial hardening” until the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” God, Paul is saying, is not through dealing graciously with His people the Jews!
Conclusion: Just as Paul sought to encourage and comfort these believers that were going through much suffering as a result of their faith in Christ, so too, we should be encouraged and comforted. Let’s not be overwhelmed with the thought that we may suffer for the cause of Christ, even by our own families, neighbors, or countrymen. The Bible tells us this will be so. Let us, in light of Paul’s words to these believers, move ahead in faithful obedience to our Lord knowing that we will soon rejoice in the fruit of our labors at His coming!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
- How can we express thankfulness for other believers?
- How is a person saved? What is the gospel message and what does it perform in us (vs. 13)?
- Is our suffering always a result of following Christ? Why or why not?
- Can we expect some level of persecution in our life if we follow Jesus Christ? Does the thought of persecution for following Christ cause you shrink back? Why or why not?
- Do you find it hard to share the gospel when you think people will reject you? If so, what scriptures strengthen you and encourage you to be a witness anyway?
- Robert L. Thomas, Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol 11
- John MacArthur Study Bible, pg. 1845