RIGHT LIVING AND THE GOSPEL (PART 2)

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Philippians 1:27-28

Study 6

BRIEF INTRO: As we continue with our study, take notice that Paul writes to them: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” This ONE thing was so important for Paul to get across to them.

Remember, Paul just finished sharing with them how much he loves them, prays for them, is thankful for their participation in the work of the gospel. He just shared with them what was going on in prison so that they would be encouraged and trust the Lord more fully. He just let them know of the uncertainty he had regarding whether or not he would die in prison and go to be with their Lord or remain on and serve them for their further progress in the faith. And this is what concerns Paul, this is his first instruction to these believers in this letter, and it is the foundation for all other teachings that he will deliver to them.

FOCUS ONE:

So, what are some ways “in a manner worthy of the gospel” would play out in their/our lives?

1. Faithfulness

2. Obedience to the word of God

3. Walking in love, unity 4. Forgiving others

5. Pursuing godliness

6. Evangelizing, etc., etc.

The gospels’ influence in our lives, dear Christian, doesn’t end at salvation. The gospel saves us, but it also is what we are to be living (in) light of and (for) as we sojourn through this place.

So how in Paul’s mind does that play out for these believers? He goes on to write that: “Standing firm (one spirit, one mind).”

Now, this verb “standing firm” that you see there means “to be stationary.” It means “not to be pushed around,” “not to be moved around.” The idea is that you are anchored in a place, and there is no reverse gear in you. You have taken your stand, and you are immovable because of your convictions in the gospel, and you are standing firm.

It is a military term, actually, and it pictures a soldier’s duty in the battle to hold his position. He has been assigned a place on the front lines. And wherever there is a breakdown, the enemy can slip through. The enemy is always looking for the weakest soldier in the army. And if they can defeat the weakest soldier, it becomes the entry point to break the ranks, and to penetrate, and to infiltrate, and to be able to bring about a devastating defeat.

Take notice of those two qualifiers in that sentence? One Spirit, one mind. Paul is writing to “all the saints at Philippi,” not one solitary individual. He is speaking about these believers being “unified,” having unity among themselves. If there is a weak link among them, you can be sure, disunity and strife will enter their local fellowship.

They needed this warning. Already in this church, we have two ladies who are not getting along, and it never stops there, does it? Two ladies bickering among themselves then become two husbands arguing among themselves. That then becomes two families and then adds all the friends of the families taking sides, and on and on the disunity and strife grows.

If we are, as we will learn later in Philippians, seeking to have the “mind of Christ,” the whole body pursuing Christ-like-ness, disunity and strife would not be able to disrupt or destroy our fellowship. It would not be able to weaken or destroy our witness for Christ. It would have no place!

Dear Christian, are you pursuing unity with your church family? Are you seeking to esteem them more important than yourself? Are you actively practicing forgiveness rather than harboring bitterness and unforgiveness?

FOCUS TWO:

Paul also uses the word “striving.” Striving together (for the faith of the gospel)!

Striving together is just one word in the original language. And it is a primary root word with a prefix put at the beginning. The primary root is athleo; from that, we get our English words “athlete,” “athletics.” And the idea is to compete in a contest, and specifically, commentators tell us that it is the contest of wrestling.

And then, the prefix “with” is put at the front, meaning that we are to be

wrestling together. We are to be contending together. We are to be competing together. And the idea is we are on the same team. We are not wrestling against one another. We are wrestling on one team in trying to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ (Dustin Benge). One body, one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism… one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4: 4-6) A team under the banner of Christ!

Christians, we have a robust gospel that saves sinners from God’s wrath and judgment. We have a beautiful gospel that reminds us of the grace and kindness of God toward mankind. The good news that: God made you and me and wants to have a relationship with us. But mankind fell into sin in the garden of Eden, and that sin has been imputed to all of us ever since. We are by our very nature children of wrath. Our sin separates us from God who is holy by His very nature. But God sent forth His only begotten son, Jesus, and He took the punishment our sins deserved on the cross. He died, was buried, and rose again, God the Father accepting His son’s sacrifice in our place. So, if you, with repentant faith, trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by His grace and indwelt with his Spirit and one day will be with Him for all eternity.

This is the message that we are to be “striving” together to promote, live out, model, teach, preach, proclaim.

Fellow Christians, are we contending together for the “faith of the gospel? Are you, dear brother, dear sister, a part of the team, competing together for the sake of the gospel with the rest of the family of God? Now, all these things may seem daunting to you right now, but take courage Christian, God is working in us to do and be what He desires us to do and be, Amen!

FOCUS THREE:

Now take notice of some pretty incredible results of our obedience and unity within the church, the body of Christ.

Not alarmed by your opponents (the affect of such living) (28)

Paul continues in his thoughts about unity and perseverance in the gospel. He says if the Philippian believers would be of one mind and one Spirit, contending together for the faith of this amazing gospel, they would “in no way” be alarmed by their opponents.

In other words, he is saying, using powerful language here, that he does not want them to be frightened. KJV uses the word terrified in any respect by their opponents. Fear would prevent effort. Fear of the enemy would stifle gospel witness and hinder the very unity Paul was calling for.

Rather than fear, the church’s failure to be intimidated by its enemies is a sign of the ultimate failure of the enemies of God! Unity in the gospel, striving together, standing firm in the body, leaves no “weak link,” no way for the enemy to break through the ranks. And so that is a sign to them of at least two things: (28)

1. Sign of destruction for their enemies

2. Sign of salvation for you

What Paul probably means here when he says “a sign of salvation for you,” is the fact “that believers have been granted courage from God to stand firm in their struggles and in doing so are demonstrating their salvation.” These words from Paul would have been very convicting (considering what is going on in their local fellowship) but, I think, encouraging as well, especially when they read the following verses.

Paul says that two things have been “granted” them. (29)

1. To believe in Him (Salvation)

2. To suffer for His sake

It has been “granted” them, or we could say graciously given to them their salvation. That we understand, right? Nobody should have a problem understanding how gracious God is in granting vile sinners forgiveness and newness of life. But they are graciously given suffering from Him as well? That’s a harder nut to chew.

According to one commentator: “suffering for Christ was not to be considered accidental or a divine punishment. Paul referred to a kind of suffering that was really a sign of God’s favor. The Greek word translated “granted” is derived from a word which means grace or favor. Believing on Christ and suffering for Him are both associated with God’s grace.” (Lightner)

James says that we are to count it all joy when encountering various trials, knowing that there is a God-ordained, just, and good reason behind it. We can trust Him in the hard times! Brothers and sisters, I would guess that we don’t count our sufferings as God’s favor upon us. I would also think that we do not count them a joy when we encounter them, and I would also guess that for these Philippians to be experiencing the same conflicts Paul was, it was pretty challenging for them.

But what we have to remember is that just as they shared a similar struggle as Paul, Paul encouraged them, just like they did him. They wanted to know how he was doing in prison, and so he told them all those things to encourage them as they faced hardships. So, as Paul calls for unity and perseverance within the body of Christ amidst opposition, so do I:

Will we behave like the citizens of Heaven that we are?

Will we be found to stand firm in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel?

Will each of us stand firm to not give a foothold to the enemy without, and will we be at peace with one another so as not to let division begin within?

Will we trust God to lead us, aid us, empower us and work in and through us?

Things worthy of our prayerful meditation

HE IS FAITHFUL

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1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Study 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FURTHER THOUGHTS:

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

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

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

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1 THESSALONIANS 4:9-10

STUDY 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

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

MacArthur study bible note on page 1541