WALK WITH WISDOM (2)

BRIEF INTRO:

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. 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.

FOCUS ONE:

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!

FOCUS TWO:

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.

WALK WITH WISDOM

                        Philippians 3:17- 4:1

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BRIEF INTRO: 

Scripture often warns us to avoid harmful influences. Regardless of our age or spiritual maturity. Because over time, those unwise influences will negatively affect our walk with the Lord. Our enemy, Satan, is determined to pull us into sin and wreck our lives, and he often uses bad influences to accomplish his goal. Paul had warned the Corinthian believers of this deception when he wrote them his first letter. In it, He said: “do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15: 33).”

As we have been working through this letter, Paul, we observed earlier, has exhorted these believers to pursue Christ and Christ-like-ness (along with) His righteousness above anything else. Now the Apostle is encouraging these believers to be observant in their daily walk and to follow, imitate people who are pursuing these goals themselves, and not follow the examples of people who are not. One path leads to the goal of vs. 20-21, the other to destruction!

But, how do we know when someone else’s example is to be imitated or not? What “pattern” of behavior are we looking for in other believers that may encourage and strengthen us in our daily lives as we pursue Christ? Does Paul, the “inspired” writer of this letter, desire to lead us away from looking to Christ to now look to men? May it never be! Everything in this chapter previous to these words says otherwise. And so too, his letters to other churches. So, what does the Apostle want his readers to understand, to do? Let’s read vv. 17-4:1 together.

17 Brothers and sisters, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.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. 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.

FOCUS ONE:

Worthy examples (17)

I think we can break down this verse into two parts. The first: following Paul’s example and the second, observing others who walk according to that pattern of living.

So, let’s begin with this man, the author of this letter and an Apostle of Christ, Paul. The first question we need to ask ourselves is: Is he truly a worthy example for us? After all, he persecuted Christians; he is not perfect. Do you remember what he said to the Romans (Romans 7:18-21)? How can he say things like this, what we read here and in (4:9)? “those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard and seen in me do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” 

Maybe you think Paul is a bit arrogant or perhaps misguided.

After all, this is not the first time he made statements like this: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). To those at Thessalonica, he said: “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you. . . . Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).

But, in no way is Paul arrogant or misguided. He considered himself “the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.” That he told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:9), later he called himself “less than the least of all saints,” in his words to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:8), and finally, he told Timothy, his “son in the faith,” that he was even the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). All of these realizations came throughout many years of a faithful walk with Christ!

Paul knew that his converts needed examples to see, as well as precepts to learn and obey. The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, is our most excellent example (1 Peter 2:21; Philippians 2:5-11). But by living a life patterned after Christ, Paul could say: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He could be a material example of what regeneration accomplishes in a sinner and a visible representation of what obedience to Christ looks like in application!

Paul lived a life of selflessness, sacrifice, and love. He suffered at the hands of men in many and varied ways. He was a humble, faithful witness, compassionate leader, bold preacher, and faithful to His Lord come- what- may. The Apostle is saying here that we need to see Christ in the lives of our Christian leaders, in the lives of one another!

AND by the grace of God, we also need to live as Christ did so that when people follow our example, they also will be following Christ. That’s what Jesus meant, at least in part, when He said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

I view Paul here with these words, standing out as a representative of leaders in the church, not just him. I think he is including Timothy and Epaphroditus as well. Men in which he earlier claimed, are living lives that are an imitation of Christ’s. So, if there are any Elders, Deacons, or leaders in the church reading this post, are your lives being lived in such a way that you can say, along with Paul, “brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine?”

      Pastors should be godly examples to follow 1 Peter 5:1-3:

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over [a]those allotted to your charge, but [b]proving to be examples to the flock. 4

But it’s not just the spiritual leaders who are under fire here. Notice part two of this verse in our text, “observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” This part is about the rest of us, the congregation of the saints.

FOCUS TWO:

When we as believers read our bibles and pray, as we sit under the sound teaching of the Word of God, as we live and move and build relationships among others of “like precious faith,” we are to be observant. We are to be looking for godly examples around us and learn from them. 

Godly people exhibit godly fruit. Things like sacrificial love, heavenly joy, peace, patience, unwavering faith, self-control, etc. Godly examples are pursuing a deeper relationship with their Lord, fighting the flesh, are humble servants of Christ, they’re not worldly, and they glory in Christ.

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.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

The writer of Hebrews said: “therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

If you are a runner, you keep your eyes on the people in the race ahead of you. Not only to know where they are at physically in the race but for encouragement. They are in the race like you are, they have sacrificed much to get here, they are dealing with various stresses and trials as they run like you are— AND THEY KEEP RUNNING THE RACE!! They are not giving up, and they are not breaking the rules; they “press on for the prize.” 

Such an example during our race is as encouraging as it is instructive and helps us keep the proper perspective. Paul uses the analogy of a race to describe the Christian life of faith- and good examples in our walk of faith are encouraging, instructive, and help us to keep a proper biblical perspective as we “press on for the prize.” Christ Himself!

We are not to be, “imitators of evil, but what is good (3 John 11).

Dear reader, are you living a life that is an example for others to follow? I am not talking about perfection. I am talking about a life lived in faithful, humble, obedient service to Christ. Is your life a pattern of Christ’s? Are you “fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith?” (Hebrews 12:2)?

But, sadly, verses 18-19 remind us that bad examples, unworthy examples, exist in the church, and they are not the examples we are to follow.

We will spend time on that next week!

FAITHFUL FRIENDS

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 Philippians 2:19-30

BRIEF INTRO:

So far in our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we saw how Paul’s appeal to these believers (the appeal to be likeminded, striving together for the faith of the Gospel, selfless, etc.) had left the realm of exhortation and example; which we saw the most outstanding example of all was Jesus Christ in verses 5-11 and entered into the practical realm. 

In verses 12-16, Paul expressed to those believers how having the same “attitude” as Jesus, how looking unto Him to imitate Him, would be beneficial in helping them to be unified as well as putting others before themselves. It would enable them to be humble and obedient, even in the tuff times, and bring glory to God.

And then we saw in those same scriptures that imitating Christ, thinking like Christ, not only benefits the body of Christ or the local church congregation, but it also has ramifications for our witness to those outside the church and to the world around us. A place in which we are to “appear as lights in the world (v. 15).”

Then we ended with Paul expressing how (vv. 17-18) such a life committed to Christ, even when coupled with suffering; he calls it, “the sacrifice and service of their faith,” is a cause for joy. A cause of rejoicing because such a life expended for others in obedient service to our Lord is a life lived with a proper, Christ-centered focus and will not be absent of rewards from the Lord when we meet Him face to face.

So, with that road already traveled, we move forward to read about two men very dear to Paul: Timothy and Epaphroditus.

19 But I hope, [a]in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven character, that he served with me in the furtherance of the Gospel like a child serving his father.23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me;24 and I trust in the Lord that I myself will also be coming shortly. 25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your [b]messenger and minister to my need, 26 because he was longing [c]for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly, so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you29 Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold people like him in high regard, 30 because he came close to death [d]for the work of Christ, risking his life to compensate [e]for your absence in your service to me.

FOCUS ONE:

As we read the epistles of Paul the Apostle, it is easy to see that he crossed paths with many different individuals. It would seem that some of these people were a great hindrance to his work for the Lord. In Philippians 1:16, “some brethren were preaching Christ from envy.” in 2 Timothy 2:17 – Hymenaeus and Philetus—”whose talk will spread like gangrene,” Paul said. In 1 Timothy 1:19-20, Hymenaeus (probably not the same person referred to in 2 Timothy), along with someone named Alexander, probably the coppersmith of 2 Timothy 4:14, “suffered shipwreck in regards to their faith and were delivered over to Satan so that they would be taught not to blaspheme.”

However, most of the people Paul met were a great blessing to his life and ministry. As one commentator observed: “Paul closes nearly every one of his letters with a personal note to some of these very special people. In the last chapter of the book of Romans, Paul mentions at least 35 people by name!”

Paul was a man who made friends as he traveled through life!

We are about to be introduced to two worthy men of God, fine examples of all that Paul has been teaching the Philippians in this second chapter.

We have been learning about “lowliness,” “self-less-ness” (Php 2:3), and about “being lights” (Philippians 2:15), and now we have in two of Paul’s partner’s magnificent examples of both. Timothy and Epaphroditus are here set before us as witnesses to the possibility of self-renounced and sacrificial living.

Our first witness, a “son in the faith,” He calls a kindred Spirit. That man is Timothy.

Did you take any notice as to how Paul begins and ends this section of his writing about Timothy?

He begins with “But I hope,” in vs. 19 and ends with “Therefore I hope,” in verse 23. I point this out because we need to understand Paul’s mindset at this time and his purpose in sending them his “son in the faith,” as he calls him in 2 Timothy 1:1.

Paul’s hope is not based on his intentions, inclinations, or even his wisdom. It is, however, intentionally grounded in the Lord! Paul says: “but I hope in the Lord.”

For Paul, what the Lord wants is what he wants. If sending Timothy to Philippi is according to the Lord’s will, great, so be it. And if it isn’t, great, so be it. Paul is wholly resigned to the sovereignty of God in the matter, and any matter, for -that matter! Paul understood and believed that God is the sole owner and ruler of all things, the sovereign one of Psalm 103:19 and Romans 11:36.

Dear Christian, do you understand and believe this? Whatever happens or doesn’t happen in your life, in the lives of others, and in this world does or does not happen because God wills it so!

  1. Are you ok with that?
  1. Are you resolved to live for Him anyway, even when you don’t get your way?
  2. Or, do you think you know better than the one true God who created everything?

So, who is Timothy anyway?

Timothy was originally from Lystra in modern-day Turkey. He grew up in a multicultural house with a Greek father and a Jewish-Christian mother and grandmother. His name means “one who honors God.” His exposure to Greek and Jewish traditions served him well as he helped Paul spread the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Paul had led Timothy to the Lord at a young age, and Timothy was instrumental in Paul’s ministry very early on. Timothy was with Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5), was sent into Macedonia (Acts 19:22), was with Paul on the return trip from Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), and assisted Paul in the writing of Romans (Romans 16:21), 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 1:1), Philippians (Phil 1:1), Colossians (Col 1:1), 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.

It has been said that Timothy was Paul’s “sole authorized representative” of the Gospel. For years Paul had relied on Timothy. Paul, at this time, was under house arrest in Rome. He eventually was released for about five years and inevitably is imprisoned again in the Mamertine prison. (2 Timothy) So, Paul “hopes” to send Timothy to Philippi.

 This first usage of the word “hope” tells us what Paul (wants to do). Why does Paul want to send this man to them? First of all, he says so that he can be encouraged (vs. 19). Paul strongly desires to know of their condition, are they unified? Are they growing? Are they serving the Lord? Paul is in prison and facing possible death, yet he is more concerned over the affairs of these folks than he is about his situation. 

Secondly, he wants to send Timothy because, in verse 20, he states, “I have no one else who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” literally in the original: “but absolutely not one,” or “not even one.” This is a strong statement regarding Paul’s sense of total agreement with Timothy, presumably more than anyone else. Even if this is only a general statement, it is still is an unfortunate commentary.

It appears that none of the Roman Christians are willing to serve in this way. It reminds me of Paul’s statements to Timothy shortly before he died:

“You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.”

Standing with Paul in Colossians 4:14 and Philemon, Demas is now said to be “in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.”

“At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.”

Paul says I have no one else of “kindred spirit.” That means in Greek, “one souled.”

One of our favorite movies in my household is called “Anne of Green Gables.” The main character is a small girl who, through tragic circumstances, finds herself living in a foster home. The foster parents turn out to be a massive blessing to Anne (that’s “Anne with an’ e’,” if you please), but she still faced difficulties as she grew up.

She made a statement once about the need to have a like-minded companion; it is a statement that caught my daughter’s attention. It was something like this:

“What I need is a really good friend–a bosom buddy. You know…a KINDRED SPIRIT with whom I can share my inmost soul.”

We all need such a friend, don’t you think? In this epistle today, we find that Paul regarded Timothy precisely in the way Anne longed for.

Note that being “like-souled” does not mean Paul and Timothy always agreed, but it does mean that being alongside each other was easy so that neither had to work hard at the relationship and things flowed smoothly between them.

Dear reader, do you find it easy to work alongside others for the cause of the Gospel, OR do you find relationships hard work?

If you say they are hard work, why is that?

1. Attitude (yours or others)

2. Unmet expectations 

3. Lack of effort

Timothy had proven himself over the years serving the Savior alongside Paul (22). He was a faithful, humble, sacrificial servant, and word of that got around. Paul says to them, “you know of his proven worth, how he served.”

Ultimately, this is what we are, servants of Christ. Paul has shown us in this chapter that we are to be acting unselfishly towards others, even when they are not. We are to be humble, even when others are not, looking out for others, even if we think no one is looking out for us. Ultimately, we are to be imitators of our Lord.

The second usage of the word hope, “Therefore, I hope,” reveals to us his reasoning for Timothy’s going. Notice he begins with the phrase, therefore. Therefore or because of the things just mentioned I hope to send him to you.

Paul stated that Timothy was the genuine article, the real deal (20), That He seeks after the interests of Christ (21), That Timothy would genuinely care for them (20), And that he has proven such over the years (21).

So, Paul wants to send him, if the Lord wills it so, and these are his reasons why. Look back at that statement of Paul in verse 21. Paul says, “all” without exception were seeking after their interests. One commentator notes that he does NOT say they are not saved, but they are not as self-sacrificing as Timothy. Some will help only when gain for Christ is compatible with their own. So, few have a genuine dedication to Christ and unselfish devotion to his church.”

Dear Christian, do you possess a self-sacrificing spirit of service toward your church family? Is your dedication to Christ genuine or superficial?

Timothy modeled self-sacrificing love, selflessness, passion, and conviction, just like Paul, but more significant yet, just like Jesus, as Paul instructed the Philippians in verses 5-11. He was a faithful servant in the furtherance of the Gospel.

The Gospel is “good news,” and that is the truth that saved Paul, and it is the message Paul was given to share with the gentiles, and it is the message that Timothy believed and now for years has been communicating with others!

The Gospel is: We all sin and deserve God’s righteous judgment. No amount of good works can pay the penalty of our sins, which is eternal separation from God in Hell. So, God in love sent His only Son Jesus to take on human flesh and die in place of sinners. A substitute. He offers eternal life and forgiveness of all sins to everyone who, in repentant faith, trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). Salvation is not a reward for human works but is God’s gift to all who genuinely believe in the finished work of Christ.

FOCUS TWO:

Since it would be a little while before Timothy could be sent, Paul wants to send Epaphroditus in the meantime because he came from them to minister to Paul’s needs on their behalf. He was depressed, knowing that they were worried about him. Indeed, he almost died in this work for Christ, But God spared him, and so Paul wants to bring joy to the Philippians by sending him back.

Epaphroditus is our second witness to the possibility of a selfless and sacrificial life towards others.

We do not know much about this man except that he was a native Philippian, He was sent to Paul with gifts (4:18), and he was to remain with Paul and serve him on behalf of the church in Philippi. In this effort, he came close to death seeking to accomplish this “work of Christ,” on their behalf (30).

It appears that as we read about Epaphroditus in this letter, Paul felt strongly that an explanation as to why he was sending him back with this letter was necessary. Paul seems concerned that they may think poorly of this man and not receive him back unto themselves very well. So, Paul, with great wisdom and sensitivity, pens these encouraging words about his brother and fellow worker.

It was William Penn who, centuries ago, described the seven features of deep-hearted friendship in this way: “A true friend unbosoms (discloses thoughts or secrets freely) freely –

Advises Justly,

Assists readily,

Adventures boldly,

Takes all patiently,

Defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”

As we are to see, Epaphroditus answers this drastic test without flinching. To Paul, he was a friend sticking closer than a brother. Like a friend in need, he was a friend indeed.

Let’s look at Paul’s description of this man:

a. Brother (25)- A fellow Christian—like-minded

b. Fellow worker- He labored with and alongside of Paul. In other words, he shouldered his portion of the load. He was not a loafer who let others carry his part. He got in there and went to work for the glory of the Lord. Verse 25 tells us that he was a “messenger” and a “minister.” The church at Philippi sent him with a gift for Paul. He was their messenger. But, perhaps, the greatest gift from Philippi was Epaphroditus himself. Why? Because, when he arrived in Rome, Paul had somebody willing to do his part.

Fellow soldier- When Paul calls this man a “fellow soldier,” he is talking about a man who is “an associate in the spiritual conflicts of the Christian life.” The term “fellow soldier” tells us that Epaphroditus fought alongside Paul and not against him! One writer noted: “They were partners in a common struggle. They were shoulder to shoulder fighting the flesh, the world and the devil. They were as one in the dangers they faced, the enemies they encountered and the goals they shared.”

Your messenger- Their “sent one.” The English word is Apostle. He was not an Apostle, but he was “sent” to minister to Paul on their behalf.

Minister to my need—He served Paul well. He took risks, almost died to fulfill his ministry to Paul on their behalf. From this description, you can see why Epaphroditus was so important to Paul’s ministry. But, because of sickness, Paul thought it was necessary to send him back and he was very eager to do so, before he even sent Timothy (28).

But why so quickly?

Paul writes that he wanted to send him back immediately. Epaphroditus was distressed that the church at Philippi had heard he was ill. Look with me at verses 26-28:

Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi to ease their minds and to calm his nerves. Epaphroditus was in “distress,” which is no small thing. The word means “deep anguish, anxiety, or emotional turmoil.” To put this in perspective–Philippi was eight hundred miles from Rome and at least a three-month journey. Somehow the news had gotten back to Philippi that Epaphroditus was deathly ill, and he was worried that they thought he might have died. This was nearly the case. The word “ill” means “without strength,” and it is said that he probably came down with the Roman plague. The term “almost died” literally means that He was at death’s door. But God had mercy on him and healed him.

For those of us that feel sorrow from time to time, notice that one of Paul’s main reasons for sending Epaphroditus back was so that Paul would have “less sorrow” (27). Paul was not perfect and struggled at times, just as we do. That’s encouraging to read.

Paul, some believe, is very strategic in the closing verses of this section (29-30). “There were those in Philippi that would have accused Epaphroditus of failing to complete the mission. It appears that Paul wanted to leave little room for doubt – Epaphroditus was not a quitter.”

So, Paul, using the imperative here (Therefore receive him in the Lord), exhorts the church to welcome him with “great joy” and “honor.” They were to honor him and celebrate the work he accomplished while he was with Paul in Rome because he was faithful to the mission, and he nearly died, risking (30) his life for the sake of the Gospel.

By the way: The word for risking means to “hazard, to throw aside one’s life, or to gamble.” This word became a noun with the formation of a group of Christians in the third century. They called themselves the “parabolani,” the gamblers, after this verse of Scripture and in honor of Epaphroditus. It is said that whenever and wherever a plague hit, these gamblers would rush in to take care of the sick and bury the dead. They were willing to risk their lives to live out their faith.

The first phrase of verse 30 indicates that Epaphroditus’s sickness was the result of his labors for the Lord Jesus. “Ancient church tradition tells us that Epaphroditus was known for his work among the sick in Rome. It is said that he and others would try to help people that most others would not even dare go near. In other words, he put everything on the line for Jesus, in order to fulfill the Great Commission.” For this man, nothing in this life was more important than doing the will of the Lord. Even if doing what God required cost him everything!

Brothers and sisters, what is the most important thing in your life?

Family, entertainment, money, work, or self?

These past months have genuinely awakened me, reminded me, refreshed, and renewed my thinking on what is truly important in this life. As important as those things I mentioned may be in their proper perspective, none of them are as important as our relationship with Jesus Christ and doing what He requires even if it means that it will cost us everything.

Epaphroditus was a balanced believer. He was balanced in his walk, in his work, and his warfare! He was active in all these areas of the Christian life.

Where do you stand in these areas today?

We are in this thing together, and we should love one another and stand together. There is no place in the Christian family for one brother to attack another. There is no place in the Christian family for division and strife. The Bible makes it clear that we are duty-bound to love one another, Matt. 22:37-39; 1 John 3:11-18; 1 John 4:11-21.

Epaphroditus loved to fellowship, but he didn’t mind rolling up his sleeves and getting involved in the physical work of the Lord either. We need more believers with that same attitude today.

There is a great need in this day for people who are willing to take a stand against evil in the world. We need believers who are not afraid to put on the whole armor of Christ and go with Him into battle. The devil is trying to tear down and take away many of the blessings we have as believers. We need people who will take a stand for the Bible, the church, for holiness. We need some soldiers in this day!

Now, some of you reading this may not be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, cannot take a stand for such things. Let me remind you of the central truth of the Gospel one more time.

God has provided a way of salvation through the gift of His Son to the world. He (Jesus)suffered as a sacrifice for sin, as a substitute for sinners, such as we are, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will believe. The Gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement or by trying to be good enough. (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8–11; II Cor 5:14–19; Tit 2:11–14).

Friend, your sins can be forgiven. You can become a soldier for Christ, His servant, His child!!

Dear Christian, “wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a team of people like Epaphroditus in our church? Men and women who knew no greater goal in life than to be obedient to the will of the Savior! Sadly, for many, service hinges on convenience! Even simple, easy things like going to church are too much for many people! Who among us has a heart like Epaphroditus? Who has a heart that beats in time with the Master’s heart? Who has a heart to see people saved and the work of God done in this world regardless of the personal cost?

Few, very few! But you and I can become that kind of believer if we desire to! God has plenty of work available to those who will give Him all they have and are and trust Him to use them for His glory!”

Christian, you may have, in your mind, thought that such a life is impossible. Good, honorable, but impossible. After all, you may have thought, “I am no Jesus.”

These two men clearly show us that we may not be Jesus, but we can, as mere sin fallen creatures redeemed by grace, imitate Him, and be successful in what He commands us to do.

WAITING FOR THE SON

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Long reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Devotional verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:10

“And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (NASB)

The believers in Thessalonica were relatively new to the faith but the joy and zeal they shared with each other was astounding. Paul had heard of their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . .” (Vs. 3), and he was full of joy and thankfulness at the persistent and perseverant manner in which they lived for their new found savior. These young converts become imitators of Paul, the Lord, and other churches because of the suffering they endured as followers of Jesus. They became examples to other believers around them for being steadfast in the faith and for being a faithful gospel witness to the watching world around them.

What gave them so much joy? What inspired them to persevere through suffering? What gave their hearts the courage to tell others about the “living and true God? Jesus promised that He is coming back for his beloved (John 14:1-3)! The joy and expectation that is expressed in verse 10 is expected and should be anticipated in those who have, as they have, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” Idols do not necessarily need to be fashioned out of gold, wood, or any other material thing for us to be in bondage to them. We are very creative in setting up idols in our own hearts (Ezekiel 14:3)

Reflecting on these scriptures should “re-awaken” our longing for the Lord’s return. They  remind us that we are to live our lives in faithful anticipation of this event. What a joy it is to read: “he delivers us from the wrath to come.”

                                                                                                           Larry G. Stump Jr.

Prayer: Our Father, we rejoice in God our savior. We admit that we have not lived each day in light of the truth that Jesus is coming back for us and will make all things right. Help us, O Father, to live our lives from this day forward in joyful anticipation of being with our savior. Amen.

1 and 2 Thessalonians

                                               

PHOTO FROM FREELY PHOTOS

STUDY ONE

THE GOSPEL ARRIVES

 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

“To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly keeping in mind your work of faith and labor of love and [a]perseverance of hope [b]in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,knowing, brothers and sisters, beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sakes. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word during great affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place the news of your faith toward God has gone out, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us [c]as to the kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from [d]idols to serve [e]a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from [f]heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 NASB).

One of the things that I find most attractive in this letter by Paul and his friends to this small group of believers is his genuine affection for them. His heartfelt sense of gratitude for their salvation and the resulting evidence of it on display for the world to see, elicits constant prayers to the Father in heaven on behalf of them. What a lesson for us already as we begin this study: our need to be diligent in prayer for those we shared the gospel with and  thankfulness for the various evidences of it that we witness in their lives.

Throughout this study we must keep in the forefront of our minds one thing (not that there won’t be other things that will demand our focus along the way), and that is this: this is a relatively young church. Some Jews but mostly Gentiles are what makeup this newly forming congregation and they came out of of a city which became the capital of Macedonia, a Roman province. As such, the moral climate of the city left much to be desired. Immorality of all types was rampant, and up to this point in time, they did not know about God or His salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. The standards and practices of their pagan society had to be “put off,” and God’s standards, moral and otherwise, had to be “put on.” Being new in the faith and with only a small amount of teaching and instruction from Paul (see background here 1 Thessalonians Historical Context), proved to be a problem for them in some regards, in light of what he taught them about the second coming of Christ (Take notice to Paul’s mention of the 2nd coming at the end of every chapter, specifically the end of chapter four and beginning of chapter five). It appears that they believed it could happen in their lifetime.

With that said, let’s dive in to our study!

Focus one: The gospel arrives (1:4-5)

Paul mentions in these verses that “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

Obviously they spoke words to them, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), but words of men, any men, are inadequate and powerless to save, without the power of the Holy Spirit working through them, opening up the minds and hearts of the hearers to understand and believe those words. “We cannot explain the operation of the Holy Spirit which charges a bare verbal cable with high-voltage spiritual power. But we can ask what are the constituents (components) of a good cable” (R.A. Ward commentary).

These men proved to be good “components” of that spiritual power. We see that evidenced with the words “full conviction.” One of the clear evidences that a person is genuinely saved and called of God to share His truth, is just that, full or deep conviction in who they are and the message they have to share! This isn’t simply because they profess it to be so, but rather, because “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). This testimony forges a deep sense of personal assurance and persuasion of the truthfulness of the gospel in their own lives. But this is not just proven by what Paul say’s, it is also manifested in the behavior these men exhibited among them while they were with them (2:1-12).   

Focus two: The gospel received (1:6,9)

Paul and Silvanus (Silas) brought the gospel to Thessalonica “through much suffering” and “despite great opposition” (2:2,3; Acts 16 and 17), and that is the same manner in which these folks received it! They had received it “in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6), and in much suffering at the hands of their own countrymen (2:14). Paul says that their salvation was due to “His (God’s) choice of you” (1:4). By that Paul means that God is the one that takes the initiative in our salvation. Salvation is not a work of man nor is it by works of men, but is solely by His grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). (See GOSPEL ).

How amazing is God’s salvation of sinners! “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)! These folks heard the gospel from Paul and Silas and the Holy Spirit supernaturally empowered those words to bring forth a repentant faith in the risen Lord. He “regenerated” their hearts and made them “new creations in Christ Jesus” (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17). In repentance they “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (vs. 9), and as a result their lives were forever changed! 

Focus three: The gospels affect

Let’s take a look at the changes in their lives as a direct result of the Spirit’s work within them. Instantly they became imitators of Paul, Silas, Timothy, as well as the Lord Himself and “the churches of God that are in Judea” (2:14).  In what manner? In that just as they suffered for the sake of the gospel so are these new believers (1:6; 2:14). But despite the suffering they endured from their neighbors, they were said by others to be faithful witnesses (1:8) and godly examples (1:7) to all the believers and unbelievers in Macedonia and Achaia. 

These folks were * “persecuted by the Jewish community that saw in the Christian gospel a threat to the very essence of Judaism,” and yet, they persevered with joy (1:6) and proclaimed the gospel by word and deed, so much so, that Paul’s testimony is that “the word of the Lord sounded or echoed forth. . . In every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (1:8). Instead of their faith being content solely with the fact that they had been saved, these Christians had a strong desire to live in obedience to their Lord and tell as many people as they could about their new faith in Christ and His mercy towards them. And as a result of their obedient faith their testimony went well ahead of them beyond their city into surrounding ones as well, proving to be a powerful catalyst for the gospel in those regions!

Their new found hope in Christ led them to live for Him daily as they waited for His return. Paul encouraged them to be “alert” and watchful for their Lord’s return (5:6), and with that hope before them they humbly, faithfully, and expectantly lived out the gospel for all to see!

For Further Thought:

Why was prayer such an important part of Paul’s life and ministry?

  • What are some positive things that come out of suffering for the gospel?

  • Name 5 ways in which Paul and Silas were positive examples to the Thessalonians. How can we apply these Examples in our own Lives?

  • In what three ways in verse 3 were the Thessalonians examples to Paul and Silas? How can we apply these examples in our own lives?

  • Are you living for Christ each day In hope and expectancy of His soon return?

  • What changes might have to be made in your own life to become a more Christ-like example to others?

  • *Evangelical commentary on the Bible, 1989, Pg 1074