I thought it might be helpful to give you some reading ideas for the new year that may help expand your bible knowledge and foster a greater application of the truths taught. So, here are some of my recommendations:
Relating to the Doctrine of God:
J.I. Packer; knowing God (A classic)
Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God (one of my favorites, very helpful).
Relating to the Inspiration of the Scriptures:
Edward J. Young; Thy Word is truth (very readable)
Theodore Engelder; Scripture cannot be broken
Relating to Divine Providence:
Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal predestination of God and the secret providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole
Relating to the incarnation:
Calvin’s Institutes are a great go-to for an overview of theology. In this case Book 2 chapters 12-14.
Relating to Justification:
Charles Hodge; Justification by faith alone
R.C. Sproul; Faith Alone: The evangelical doctrine of justification.
Relating to the Gospels:
Tom Weaver; The Gospel Dilemma (helps to explain the transitional nature of the NT).
Hopefully, you find these suggestions helpful. Happy reading!
In our previous study, we looked at positive, godly influences that a believer needs to have in their life. People like this live in “a manner worthy of our Lord,” indifferent to the circumstances of the day. Such people stand out in our congregations, and it is such people Paul urges us to look for and follow their example.
In this study, we will be looking at the opposite of godly influences, enemies of the cross!
18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their [a]appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things. 20 For our [b]citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with [c]His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 4 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, [d]whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
Unworthy examples (18-19)
Some people live their lives as “enemies of the cross.” The Apostle is weeping as he writes those words. Brothers and sisters, does such rebellion in the lives of those around you cause you to cry? Does it cause you a-n-y distress of soul? Paul is not speaking of believers who stumbled into sin or who may be facing tough challenges in life and are dealing with doubts, depression, or things like that which they will inevitably work through.No, he is speaking about non-Christians.
These non-believers can be found inside a church, just as well as outside it. These were people who were adding works to their faith for salvation (2,3). Christ isn’t enough, they say, so they are constantly pursuing some form of fleshly merit to gain righteousness. Another group Paul may have been speaking about would be the “antinomians.” These were people who were a law unto themselves. They confessed Christ with their lips but denied Him with their lives. They practiced loose living; they were religious but denied the cross, loved the world, and lived for their flesh.
These are examples we are to turn away from, even call them out!
Such lives patterned after the flesh, living for this world and then adding religion to it, are lives that are destined to destruction (v.19).
But, it is not likely that all these people Paul is speaking about are out-and-out pagans.
One commentator says: “In all probability they were “professing” Christians, but whose lives were so profligate (recklessly extravagant, wasteful and amoral), that it was clear to Paul that they had never been regenerated, probably not even members of the Philippians church. Think about it. This entire letter would have been much different if “many” such people were in that church. These were people in the Christian community as a whole and therefore posed a danger to every church.”
But dear Christian, we have been changed, have we not? We have been transformed by the renewing of our minds and therefore ought to have nothing to do with the ways of this world. To do so is nothing short of compromise!
Our God has graciously saved us from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40). We now have the mind of Christ, so we can think, act and behave like Him (1 John 2:6). God has given us a new spiritual and moral capability, which continues and matures throughout our lives- as we obey His will, His word, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We are eagerly awaiting our savior to return for us. This expectancy should spur us on to a higher and holier manner of conduct as we await His return.
This is the goal, the prize that we are to be running the race for, as we will see in our next point!
The goal and prize (20-21)
Dear Christian, our citizenship is in Heaven.
As citizens of heaven, longing to see our king, King Jesus, we are eagerly waiting for Him to return for us, because as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “he shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7-8). This is what Paul meant when he wrote back at the beginning of this letter that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). This is our goal; Christ is our prize! “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).
“In these early days of the church the doctrine of the last things had three great points of focus,” Boice comments: “The return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body and the final judgement. Of the three the most significant was Jesus Christ’s return, This was the blessed hope of the Christians; it was for this they prayed. With this thought they comforted one another in the face of sorrow, persecutions death and martyrdom. We can imagine that as they lay in prison, suffering and tormented, often near death, they looked for His coming and thought that perhaps- – – in an instant – – – -and without warning – – – -Jesus would appear and call them home.”
“As they entered the arena to face lions or looked up to the face of their Executioner, many would have thought with joy in their hearts, “perhaps this is the moment in which Jesus will return; even now, before the beasts can spring or the ax can fall, I shall be caught up to meet him.”
But this is not the only place in our Bible that teaches us of this blessed doctrine of our Lord’s return. The return of Jesus is mentioned in every NT book except Galatians and the much shorter books of 2nd and 3rd John and Philemon.
Peter called it “our living hope” (1 Peter 1:3). Paul called it our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). John wrote, “look, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
Such truth ought to impact our lives in profound ways and be manifest in the ways we relate to the world around us and the things and people in this world. Christian, are you honestly expecting the Lord’s return? Is that evident in the way you are living?
“If you are motivated by prejudice against others, black, white, rich, poor or whatever, than the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you. If you are contemplating some sin, perhaps a dishonest act in business, sex outside of your marriage, cheating on a test or tax return, or whatever, then the return of the Lord has not made a proper impression on you.”
John wrote, “dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, Just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
Perhaps you are reading these words, and you are not “eagerly” awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. You think that you are a pretty good person. After all, you haven’t killed anybody, YET! You give money to charity, attend church sometimes, and are better than many people around you. So, you may be thinking, why do I need a savior? Why do I need this, Jesus?
Let me share this illustration with you from Ray Comfort because it is very telling:
“What if I were to offer you a handful of $1 000 bills or a glass of water, which would you choose? The $1,000 bills, of course—anyone in his right mind would. But, what if you were crawling through a desert, dying of thirst, and you were offered a glass of water or a handful of $1,000 bills, which would you take? The water, of course—anyone in his right mind would. We call that “circumstantial priorities.” Your priorities change according to your circumstances.
Friend, If there were a way to find forgiveness of sin and life everlasting, would you want to know about it? The answer is “yes,” of course it is—anyone in his right mind would. The Bible speaks of riches beyond our wildest dreams—the riches of “everlasting life”—and they are offered in the form of cool, clear water: “Let Him that is thirsty come, and whoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).”
Right now, you may not be interested in the offer, but if you reject it, on judgment day, your circumstances will radically change, then it will be too late.”
So, please, turn to Christ Jesus; he is the wellspring of living water!
Can you see the importance of this doctrine? One commentator has said that: “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a bit like a clothesline that supports the clean wash. If the line falls, the doctrines of the faith fall. Where the resurrection stands, everything else stands with it” (Boice Com. Pg. 221).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves all the essential teachings of Christianity.
1. It proves the deity of our Lord (Romans 1:4)
2. It proves our justification before God (Romans 4:25)
3. It proves that the believer in Christ can have a supernatural victory over sin in this life (Hebrews 7:25; Jude 24).
And dear Christian, it is also the un-shakeable evidence for our resurrection!! Because He lives, we too shall live! That is the testimony of Jesus Himself (John 14:19)!
This is why Paul says what he does in this scripture in our text. The truth is, there is an encouragement to press on despite the many obstacles in our way:
1. Jesus is living
2. Because He lives, we shall live
3. And take note: because He was transformed, we shall be transformed! (21)
Jesus is going to transform this body, your body, “in its humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” (21)
This should encourage those folks to press on and comfort them and anyone who has lost loved ones that were believers. Death is a scary thing. Attached to the thoughts of it are thoughts of wasting away in sickness, the terror of a sudden accident, its connection to our sinfulness.
But friends, in none of those horrific thoughts, in none of those circumstances, does death have the final word, Amen? That is not the end of the story for those who are in Christ!
Here and in many other places in our bibles, we are taught that we will meet again in the presence of our savior, Jesus Christ. We will meet in transformed bodies— and sin, sickness, sorrow, and the like will all fade away— and be no more in light of the renewing, holy work of Christ on our behalf.
Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6)
What an encouragement for these believers in Philippi. What a powerful exhortation to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” (Phil. 3:14)
So, because of these things, Paul says: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, whom I long to see, my joy and my crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” (4:1)
We have a glorious savior, the aid of the Holy Spirit to grant us spiritual victory in this life and ultimately the one to come. And, we have a fantastic future with Christ!
So let us walk with wisdom. Wisdom from the word of God, as we pursue the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
“We like to think that because we believe the right doctrine and belong to the right church we can always count on the Lord’s blessing in our lives. Israel believed their covenant with God and the presence of the ark in battle would assure them of victory over the Philistines. They lost the battle and the ark was captured by the enemy.”
“The Philistines also believed their idol to be superior to God until it fell and broke in pieces when the ark was placed beside it. The inhabitants of every city where the ark was placed were plagued with tumors. When the ark was returned, the Israelites who received it were punished for looking inside contrary to the law.”
We learn a valuable lesson from this historical account. The lesson is this: that even those in a covenant relationship with God cannot expect His blessing when they are (disobedient) to His laws and commandments.
Presumption, or “going beyond the limits of what is permitted or deemed acceptable,” regarding God’s holiness and kindness towards us, will always end up with His chastening hand upon us, not His blessings (Hebrews 12:6). God loves us and desires to bless us, but His holiness is always foremost in all His doings!
“Because God’s holiness is a function of His transcendence, because he is high and exalted, nothing in creation can match the Lord in His glory, power, and purity.”
So, let us each day walk with faith and in obedience to His revealed will for us, not presuming upon Him more than he has promised (Romans 15:18)!
PRAYER: Father, forgive us for those times we tend to presume upon you things that we shouldn’t, or expect more than you promised. Please help us to regard your dignity and majesty above all else, so that our lives would be lived by faith and your name lifted up among the lost. Amen.
*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible , 1983
* Quote from Ligonier Ministries article, “the meaning of holiness.”
RECAP: Have you ever felt shaken in mind, deeply, even fearfully alarmed by a thought or statement that seemed to challenge your understanding of God and His grace, or God and His ultimate plans for you? In our previous study, Paul began to correct the church’s misunderstanding regarding the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming again (2:1). It was being propagated among them that the day of the Lord had come, and they missed it (2:2-3a)! They were being “shaken from their minds” and were “disturbed” within their souls at the prospect of such a thing. Why didn’t they remember what Paul previously taught them when he was with them (2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:9)? How quickly rumors and deception can knock us off our feet!
With such a message discouraging these believers and perhaps weakening their faith, Paul reminds them of what he told them when he first came to them (2:5,6).
BRIEF INTRO: With all said he felt needed to be said, the Apostle begins to focus on his reader’s spiritual growth. He wants them to be strengthened and comforted in God’s choosing or “electing” them for salvation (2:13). Paul lays out how this salvation has come to them and the results of God’s grace upon them in these following two verses.
13″ But we should always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you [a]from the beginning for salvation [b]through sanctification [c]by the Spirit and faith in the truth14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, [d]that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
FOCUS ONE: Verse thirteen begins much like verse three in Chapter one began. But, there is a slight difference in emphasis in each one. In chapter one, Paul was led to thank God for their faith growing and maturing. In our text, Paul expresses thankfulness for the work begun in them by the Holy Spirit, which He is still doing in them and will until their faith becomes sight (Philippians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 5:7)!
He gives thanks to God for His choosing them for salvation (2:13). In eternity past, God in love chose those Thessalonians for salvation. His purpose in election is always “salvation!”
What Paul is speaking of here is the (1) “act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies (Romans 8:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:10; Ephesians 1:4-11).
The means God uses to achieve this purpose are:
The sanctifying work of the Spirit
Belief in the truth
The regeneration of sinners and their sanctification is God’s will (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Regeneration happens when the Holy Spirit convicts a sinner of his/her sinfulness and need for forgiveness and then opens up their hearts to respond in repentant faith (Acts 16:14). Personal or experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and continues in this life until Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:23). (1) “Every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”
Positional sanctification is accomplished at salvation and can never be undone! It has to do with the believers standing before God, not his/her walk (Acts 20:32; Hebrews 10:10). And it is accomplished by the finished work of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). What a great source of comfort for believers to know that God’s Holy Spirit is actively working in their lives, transforming them more into the image of their savior!
But it is not by the Spirit’s work alone that a sinner is redeemed; He uses His written Word to convict sinners of their sins and need for Christ’s righteousness (John 16:8-11; Romans 10:17).
Now, take notice of the first word in verse thirteen, “BUT.” That’s important because it signals to his readers that he is changing his focus. The wrath, the judgment, the pain and anguish of soul, just spoken of, is NOT FOR YOU dear Thessalonians, NOR YOU dear Christian! Ultimately one day, we will gain possession of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will enter into His glory at His parousia, presence!
15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter [e]from us.”
FOCUS TWO: So then, or because of the truthful facts just mentioned, Paul gives them a command-stand firm. What an exciting appeal to make in light of the things just mentioned. (2) “If God’s call to salvation and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit underscore the divine initiative, this imperative (command) to stand firm puts the emphasis on human response!” These Christians were already urged to stand firm in the face of persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:8), now they are being told to stand firm regarding sound teaching.
John wrote in his first epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Paul wrote the believers in Rome: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
He also wrote his beloved son in the faith, Timothy: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine. . . “(2 Timothy 4:3-4).
If these believers needed such an exhortation to stand firm regarding sound teaching, we more so. As much as things change, they remain the same. The false teachings we deal with today are not “new inventions,” just the same ole lies dressed up differently! The media and internet, our technology, allow for a broader, more attractive presentation of false teachings. More people can be deceived today faster than in any other age. So, stand firm dear Christian, hold to sound doctrine, and expose what is not.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
FOCUS THREE: These verses appear to be Paul’s prayer for these believers based upon all that he reminded them of and encouraged them with when he was with them. In his prayer, he addresses both the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, who has graciously bestowed His love upon them. The words “who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,” are possibly a reference to the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is there where such “eternal” comfort and good hope would find its supreme manifestation by His grace (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; John 15:13). Our hope is good in that it is not only our hope in this life but a hope that reaches beyond the grave and into eternal life (Romans 8:24; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Psalm 71:5). Biblical hope is a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).
In verse seventeen, we read Paul’s petitions for the Thessalonians, and at this time, he has only two requests of the Lord for them. This prayer is the second of four small prayers throughout this letter that the Apostle employs (1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5; 3:16). His petitions?
That God would comfort them
That God would strengthen their hearts
And that the Father would do this for them in “every good work and word.”
“Paul has just assured them that God the Father has given them eternal comfort and good hope,” but it appears that he wants them to experience it more fully while they are suffering under persecution. God has various ways in which He can comfort and strengthen believers. He can work through His Spirit, His Word, and even His redeemed children to answer Paul’s prayer!
Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would comfort them (John 14:26).
Paul wrote the Ephesians “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
The Psalmist wrote that God’s steadfast love comforted him because of the promises He gave him in His word (Psalm 119:50;76).
The writer of Hebrews explains how God’s word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12), and Paul told Timothy how it benefits believers in their daily walk in (2 Timothy 3:16).
And Paul explained to the Philippians how they are to comfort, encourage, and strengthen one another by having the same attitude as Christ had when He was on the earth (Philippians 2:1-11).
Believers of any generation need God’s help to do the good works that He has prepared for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). And in case you think it is odd that words and works are coupled together in this prayer, think again. We see this often throughout scripture (Luke 24:19 regarding Jesus; Acts 7:22 regarding Moses). Read through the book of Acts, and you will find that one always accompanied the other in the early days of Paul and others’ missionary efforts!
The Bible clearly shows that our works and our words go hand in hand in our walk of faith in Jesus Christ as we seek to share the gospel with others. Live it out, but also speak about it as well.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
1. What Bible verses strengthen and comfort you? How can you use them to pray for others to be strengthened and comforted?
2. Look up the verses given in focus one regarding “election” and write down what they teach us about God’s sovereignty in our salvation.
3. What have you learned, or are reminded of in our study so far, that has comforted and strengthened you in your walk-in Christ?
(1) John MacArthur
(2) David Ewert Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians