PRAY FOR US

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1 Thessalonians 5:25-28

STUDY 14

BRIEF INTRO: As we have previously witnessed, Paul has given these believers many exhortations for their Christian conduct as they move forward in their walk of faith. Commands regarding: 

  1. The relationship between the congregation and its leaders (vv. 12-13).
  2. The relationships within the corporate body (vv. 14-15).
  3. More personal exhortations and applications. (Vv.16-18).
  4. Som that encapsulated both (19-22).

Paul then enters into what looks like a prayer for those folks asking the “God of peace” to fulfill His will in them, enabling them through His Spirit, to pursue holiness in their daily lives as they look forward to the Lord’s return.

“Brethren, pray for us.”

FOCUS ONE: As Paul comes to the close of his letter, He appeals to those He regards as brothers in Christ – family, we can say (They share a common bond, faith, savior, future)! According to the force of the Greek present tense used here, he petitions them to keep praying for them. He knows that they already pray for them (3:6-8). Their answered prayers were, no doubt, a result of Paul’s successful missionary work. So, he asks for that to continue.

The apostle is aware of his insufficiency in contrast to the Father’s all-sufficiency. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). But he doesn’t ask only for himself, but his companions and fellow laborers as well (us). He knows how important it is for the “brethren” to hold up one another in prayer. He acknowledged the inadequacy within himself to accomplish anything worthy of praise, and in humility, attributed any success on their part to a work of Christ within them (1 Corinthians 4:7).

“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”

FOCUS TWO: This was customary in Paul’s day and within that culture and still is in some cultures today. But a question to ask ourselves as we read this appeal is this: why don’t we do this today in our churches, in our western culture?

This “holy kiss” or kiss of greeting was an expression of true Christian love towards one another, NOT romantic (Eros) love. Paul is simply encouraging an outward physical manifestation of true, joy-filled, Christian love towards one another. He qualifies the kiss with the word holy because it is to be “becoming to saints.” Most likely, it was a symbolic greeting that Paul was seeking to adopt that paralleled a kiss that a person would give a close, personal family member.

But, how would such an expression of love towards the brethren look in our culture and day? I would say that it’s expressed in a physical embrace (hug), a handshake, or even a fist or elbow bump (thinking covid now).

“I abjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”

FOCUS THREE: Paul then charges them by an oath (abjure) to have everybody read his letter, not just the leaders or only the men but also everybody. It seems surprisingly strong for Paul, putting them under oath like this! Were there some problems in the church that he felt necessitated further instruction? The regular usage of Greek here implies that the letter is to be read aloud. 

He may have been concerned with the improper use of his name and authority. We know that he was interested in their continual spiritual progress/complacency. Paul also wanted the whole body to be encouraged and comforted regarding the Lord’s return. Plus, he wanted all to know of the instructions he had given them (5:12-22).

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

FOCUS FOUR: With everything written that he sought to express at this time, he concludes his writing with this very familiar benediction (v.28). The grace of God was Paul’s greatest delight AND desire for others. Grace comes through our Lord Jesus Christ, and his passion was for these believers to experience and enjoy it more completely! 

In perhaps, a year or less, Paul again writes this small church, “struggling to survive and to remain faithful to Jesus in the midst of a pagan society.” We will continue our study next week, looking at Paul’s second letter to this church. See you then!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. How do you view other Christians in your church? Are you faithfully upholding them in prayer?
  2. 2. How are you doing at expressing your love towards other believers, your church family?
  3. 3. How has the grace of God impacted your life? Is it your greatest delight and joy?
  4. 4. Do you have a desire for others to experience God’s amazing grace? How are you getting the message out?

HOW MANY?

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Poem by: Connie Faust

How many soldiers did it take to hold our Savior down
as the nails were driven into His trembling flesh?
Did they hold fast His precious head to place the thorny crown,
Viciously assuring it would keep the bleeding fresh?


“How many?” asked the teacher, as she faced her little brood.
Each child tried to answer, as earnestly they stood.
“Four soldiers!” called Meg.
“Ten!” said Jon, mocking her with a shove.
Jimmy rose and cried, “You’re wrong!  He did it out of love!”

From lips of a child the answer, in startling truth, rings still:
Out of love for all mankind, He did His Father’s will.
“You’re wrong!” the answer echoes loud — He willingly obeyed;
If He had fought and struggled, the debt would not be paid.

How many soldiers did it take to hold the Savior still?
He did it all for you on that dark and lonely hill!
He did it out of love for you, to save you from your sin.
He’s offering forgiveness; Will you turn and follow Him?

LIFE IN CHRIST

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Study 11

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18

BRIEF RECAP: We have meditated on various topics the past few weeks: The recognition of and relationship to spiritual leaders and their congregations, as well, as the relationship of believers among themselves. Everything that we have learned in those studies reflects our new life in Christ and how that manifests itself in our varied life circumstances and surroundings. This study is no different! It is so because all of these verses (5:12-22) are part of a larger context, one that is about life within the church. As meaningful as the relationship is between a congregation and its leaders, so is the relationship that we share as the “body of Christ.”

Intro: As Paul continues his letter, he gives a few more imperatives or commands for these Thessalonian believers to follow. Let’s take a (1)SOS here. The New Testament is written in various moods, most noticeably, the Indicative and Imperative moods. When we read our Bible, we will notice that we are being told about things that happened, and we have those things that occurred explained to us. This form of writing is the indicative mood, the expressing or explaining of the word of God. Often, most noticeably in the Epistles, when the explaining or narrating certain things ends, commands follow. This mode of writing is the Imperative mood. 

So, what is going on? Simply this: The writer, based on all that he has just explained, wants his readers to apply the truth’s taught, so he starts writing in the imperative to give application to his readers.

These are not the only moods that we find in the New Testament. The Exclamative and interrogative are used as well. Both the element of emotion and the probing analytical and rhetorical questions we witness, in conjunction with the indicative and imperative, are to instruct us in the will of our God!

Interestingly, we find in our letter that the first three chapters are written in the indicative, and only in Chapter four do we begin to see commands being given. Out of the sixteen imperatives that Paul gives from chapter four onward, most of them arise in these verses that we have been meditating on in previous weeks (5: 11,13-22, 25, 26)!

FOCUS ONE: Back to our study. In the verses before us (16-18), Paul gives his readers three exhortations:

  1. Rejoice always
  2. Pray without ceasing
  3. Give thanks in everything

“You also became imitators of us and the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6). In expressing his thankfulness for these believers (1:2), Paul mentions their joy of the Holy Spirit at the time of their salvation. This joy was upon them in the midst of the “tribulation” they were experiencing due to trusting in Christ. Paul credits the Holy Spirit for the delight they have. That makes good sense, right? 

Joy is a work or fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Even in Isaiah 61:10, the prophet writes of rejoicing in God for this very same thing, salvation! Often we misplace our joy, or worse still, confuse it with our definition of happiness. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, BUT rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). 

Christians are to be joy-filled people. We are to “rejoice always” in what God has accomplished for us in Christ. Situations in our lives will change, effecting our mood. In one day we can experience happiness, sorrow, anger, etc., all depending on the circumstances we are facing. But, regardless of our situations, our joy remains the same! When we understand that our joy does not hinge on our ever-changing conditions in life, but in our redemption in Jesus Christ, which doesn’t change, we will find that our lives, minds, and hearts are affected and changed forever with a “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8)!

FOCUS TWO: What does the Apostle mean when he says “pray without ceasing?” Does he mean that Christians are to be in a constant, formal, and audible prayer mode their whole lives? Would that even be possible? Obviously not.

The idea or thought Paul is conveying is relatively simple. He wants his readers to know that they need to live their lives in constant dependence on their Father in heaven. They are to bring all their cares, burdens, anxieties, hopes, and dreams before Him in prayer. Why? Because He cares for them and is the only one who can provide for them ideally concerning all their needs (Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:17).

There is no sound argument regarding this verse that would substantiate the idea of unending repetition in our prayer lives. Jesus Himself spoke against such a thing in Matthew 6:7; Then giving His disciples an example to follow. In contrast to such a thought, we are to be a people that pray persistently (Luke 11:1-13) and regularly (Ephesians 6:19).

FOCUS THREE: Thank-less-ness is a characteristic of unbelievers (Romans 1:21), not redeemed Christians! Does that mean that we should be thankful for the horrific personal tragedy that happened in our lives or in the life of someone we love? Should we celebrate the terrible misfortunes of others? No, obviously not. Instead, we ought to be people who are diligently and intentionally looking for the good in the midst of the bad in the middle of our ever-changing circumstances. There is always something good or some good reasons to be thankful, even if they are a bit hard to see at first.

Perhaps you have been praying for a loved one for many years to come to Christ. However, year after year, you witnessed their hearts getting colder to the gospel. In despair over their soul, you cried out to God to do whatever it takes to bring that dear one to repentant faith. He answered your prayer.

You now find yourself in the emergency room, waiting, worrying. Days go by, even weeks, the healing and recovering process are brutal. Not much to be thankful for here, you think to yourself. But what you didn’t know was that one of the caregivers was praying for your loved one. A friend was reading the Bible to him/her when they visited. And your loving Father in heaven was working through these difficult, painful circumstances to bring this dear one to repentance. 

Ultimately, through this experience, your loved one repents, and his/her life is changed forever because of Christ. Your prayers were answered! Sometimes it’s hard to see the good when things are so bad. Keep looking. The Lord promises it’s there (Romans 8:28)!

Dear Christian, when we join this appeal with the previous two, rejoicing and praying, they give us a biblical roadmap for victorious Christian living!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. Turn in your Bible to Philippians 1. Read through the chapter and find where Paul ends writing in the indicative (simple statements of fact) and begins writing in the imperative (commands or exhortations). Look at some other Epistles and do the same. This exercise will help you in your application of the truths taught.
  2. 2. What other scriptures can you locate that teach on these three topics: Prayer, Joy, and thankfulness? Write them down and meditate on where your strengths and weaknesses are. Spend time in prayer asking our Father in heaven to help you “excel still more” (4:1)!
  3. 3. Think of an example in your own life when you felt nothing good was going on in your situation. How might understanding these three commands (rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and thankfulness) help you get through the next hard or bleak period in your life?
  4. 4. What do Philippians 1:6 and 2:12b-13 teach us regarding our personal sanctification?
  1. Who begun the work in us?
  2. Who will complete it?
  3. Who is responsible to “work it out” (play it out) their salvation?
  4. By who’s strength and will working within us is this even possible? 
  5. Based on these facts, would you say personal holiness is a passive act on our part or a partnership with God as we live out in our lives what He has implanted within us?
  6. How might this truth help you the next time things seem to go wrong?
  1. (1) Step Outside Study

LIFE IN THE CHURCH

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1 THESSALONIANS 5:14-15

Study 10

BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we looked at some of Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians regarding those men who were spiritual leaders in the church. In verses 12-13, he instructed them to “recognize those who labor among you,” and to “esteem them highly, in love, for their works sake.” He then made the plea for there to be peace within their local congregation. We will focus on verses 14-15, where the Apostle expresses how these folks are to treat each other within their fellowship.

14 “We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [a]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”

FOCUS ONE: Paul’s list of appeals found in these two verses are:

  1. Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
  2. Encourage the fainthearted.
  3. Help the weak.
  4. Be patient with all.
  5. Do not repay evil for evil.
  6. (But) always seek what is good for one another.

This is a list of continuing responsibilities that each one of us has toward one another. If your church has a church covenant, you will probably notice that these items are expressed, in some form, within it. 

So, let’s spend some time on each one, fleshing them out a bit, so we can become better equipped to love and serve one another as is fitting those who claim the name of Christ.

  1. Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).

I think that we can all agree that such people need mature, loving accountability. It appears that some of the people in this newly formed church were neglecting their daily duties. They quit work and were not providing for their families. Most likely because of their misunderstanding or misapplication of things that Paul had taught them regarding the Lord’s return when he was with them (1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 5:1-3). This problem even had to be addressed in the Apostle’s second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).

You may remember that earlier in this letter Paul encouraged them to lead a quiet life, attend to their own business, work with their own hands, and behave appropriately to those outside the church. It appears that some people were not listening to those commands and needed to be admonished.

His next appeal is to encourage the fainthearted. These are people within the local church body that tend to become discouraged and depressed more quickly than most others. Such Christians need someone to come alongside them and share encouraging words; to say and do things to encourage them and cheer them up. The idea seems to be one of attempting to stimulate such people into pressing on in the “good fight of faith,” in other words, encouraging them to persevere!

“help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

FOCUS TWO: Helping the weak is next on his list. Some within the church did not lean on or press into the Lord as much as they should’ve for their spiritual needs. Of course, it should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, we are all weak and need the support and strength that comes from other believers-but some Christians need it more than most. So Paul calls for a “supportive ministry” to help these people.

Paul’s concern is regarding moral and spiritual weakness, not physical weakness. In their case, it might have been issues related to a shrinking back from the persecution they were enduring (3:3-5). Or, it could have related to their giving into various temptations to immorality around them (4:3-8). Another possibility would be their weakness in exercising Christian liberty in doubtful areas; this happened in other churches (Romans 14:1-15). Quite possibly, it was not simply one over another, perhaps all of these things were happening. So, Paul urges those who are strong in the faith, actually, in these words, he expresses that such people within the congregation are responsible for supporting those among them who are weak.

Moving on, we find patience next on his list. “Be patient with all.” This statement actually could be viewed as a summation of the previous three. Dealing with unruly people, the fainthearted and weak among them, would not be easy. Sin is active in all of us and requires our utmost attention in combating it within ourselves. But now he tells them that they have to help others in their combat! And some people say that the Christian life is easy. Really?

It takes a particular disposition to deal with other people who may not like OR apply our help and counsel. You and I can easily fall into a spirit of anger and bitterness. The danger for those receiving patient love and counseling involves their lack of desire to receive and apply such help. Intentionally or unintentionally, a person may be leading those who seek to help into a spirit of resentment or bitterness. But this should not be the case among believers. We all need patient treatment from each other as we “grow up unto all things in Christ.”

15″ See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”

FOCUS THREE: When we are angered or disrespected, our natural inclination is to retaliate or inflict injury, in some way, on the one who hurt us. Paul understood this natural, fleshly tendency within human nature, even among Christians, so he exhorts these people who are immature in the faith, but growing, to “not repay evil for evil” (v. 15). In other words, do not retaliate or seek revenge on someone who wronged you. 

The desire will most likely be strong, but we must resist it. In those times when we feel like “getting even,” we must remember that our Lord spoke against it in Matthew 5:38-42, and so did the Apostle, in more detail, in Romans 12:17-21! 

“(BUT) always seek after that which is good. . .” After dealing with what is harmful or just so much against our nature, Paul gives them and us an alternative, a better way to expel our energy! The Apostle told the Philippian church to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We must remember that the offender’s welfare, or person in need, should be our prime objective. We should think of Jesus on the cross, not only for our encouragement but also for an example to follow. His selfless, sacrificial love for sinners, you and I included, is a fantastic example of self-denial that we need to be reminded of and strengthened with. This is true if we are going to be able to walk with such integrity and compassion among our brothers and sisters in Christ and those in the world around us.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. Does your church have a church covenant? If so, read through it and see how well it lines up with these scriptures and others you find during your personal study time.

2. How are you doing regarding caring for others within your local church? Do you receive instruction well? What might have to change in your heart?

3. How do you handle being wronged by someone? Do you harbor resentment or bitterness towards others? What other scriptures can you find that can help you in this area?

WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS IN LIFE?

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1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

Study 7

A brief recap: The church at Thessalonica was maturing, they were growing in “the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and Paul was aware of it. Spiritual growth is progressive and should never be stifled or assumed to have come to completion in our lives as long as we breathe on this side of heaven. Paul’s desire was for these folks to continue growing in their love for and obedience to Christ.

In our previous study, I talked about Paul’s encouragement and exhortations for these believers to “excel still more” in what they already were practicing, brotherly love. Paul knew something that we need reminded of: there is always room for improvement!

In the following two verses, Paul gives more instructions on how they ought to conduct themselves, but this time concerning those outside the church. Remember, in our last study I pointed out that two themes emerge (Love of the brethren and their behavior among those outside the church), and two groups are now mentioned (insiders and outsiders). Paul here begins addressing our second theme and its relation to those outside the church.

11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we instructed you, 12 so that you will [a]behave properly toward outsiders and [b]not be in any need.

FOCUS ONE: What ambitions do you have for your life? What goals are you seeking to accomplish? Do they include any of these Paul mentions in verse 11? 

  • Live a quiet life.
  • Mind (attend) your own business.
  • Work with your hands.

Before we move on in our study, we need to understand what Paul means by these three things. Paul is not saying that believers should take a vow of silence and not verbally communicate with others. He implies that believers should actively pursue living a less frantic life, not a less involved one. Not a silenced life but one undistracted from their walk with God. (1) “A person who is constantly on the move is frequently a bother to other people as well as somewhat distracted from his/her own walk with God.”

By minding your own business, Paul is expressing the obvious. Proverbs 25:17 says: “Let your foot rarely be in your neighbors house lest he become weary of you and hate you.” This instruction is connected to the latter in that a meddlesome spirit often accompanies a hectic life! We are to be active in keeping our affairs in order, not meddling in others.

The third instruction to work with your hands implies that idleness was becoming a problem among the Thessalonians. They lived in a Greek culture that degraded manual labor, while Christianity “viewed it as an honorable pursuit.” Since most of the Thessalonians earned their living with their hands, Paul encourages them to continue to do so and avoid the snare of idleness.

FOCUS TWO: What appears at first to be a change of topic, from loving others to behavior, actually isn’t! Paul seeks to help these believers understand that everyday habits of living manifest love or the lack of it towards others. Such behavior towards those on the inside manifests love for one another in how we esteem each other more highly than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Paul also knows that such behavior does win the respect of non-Christians (outsiders). People appreciate those who do not take advantage of them.

 To sum this up, Paul seems to be advocating for personal responsibility in the Christian life. Personal maturity is powerful evidence of a maturing love for others. Those on the inside as well as those on the outside!

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From the subject of love to what seems quite different and unrelated-how we live in our communities, we find that they are not as diverse as we thought. Perhaps nothing disrupts peace and unity within a church more than its member’s unwillingness to participate in and shoulder their part within the local community. How does it impact a local body of believers when some of its members make no effort at their own support while taking advantage of other member’s generosity? It appears that Paul gave these exhortations because some of these folks may have been misapplying the truth’s taught by Paul when he was with them concerning the Lord’s return. But Paul makes it clear that our Lord’s return is never an excuse to evade our current responsibilities.

Paul wants their love for others to mature, and so he pens these goals for them because he knows that they are worthy objectives that will help them mature in this area of their Christian walk. These goals are worthy objectives for us today as well. 

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. If you were to evaluate your life outside the walls of your local church, would your testimony be helpful or hurtful to non-Christians in your community? 
  2. In light of Paul’s divinely inspired words, how might your current ambitions need to be adjusted for you to grow in gospel love for others?
  3. What other biblical goals might you add to this study that will help you mature in your walk of faith?
  1. Thomas Constable commentary on 1 Thessalonians

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

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Psalm 71

Devotional verse: “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise thee yet more and more” (v.14 NASB).

The topic of aging and all that comes with it is a topic that many people seek to avoid. According to a Pew Research Center survey, there is a “sizable gap between the expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and the actual experiences reported by older Americans themselves.” Illness, memory loss, loneliness, and depression are things many aging adults deal with and acknowledge that they are just par for the course! But what about the “unexpected” things life throws at you? What about the trials and tribulations yet to face? Shouldn’t they be diminished or even done away with when we are “old and gray” (v.18)?

In Psalm 71, we find a man engaging the Lord in prayer. He has enemies that speak against him at every opportunity and who are seeking to do him harm. His desire is for the Lord to be his security, his safety, and protection. All else may fail, but not the Lord! As he looked to the future, concerns about getting older and possibly being forsaken by the Lord when physically and mentally weaker discouraged him (vv. 9,18). He reflected on the past and remembered that the Lord had been there for him and delivered him through all his trials. He grows confident that He will again (vv. 5, 20)! 

With his confidence strengthened and his refuge found in the Lord, he resolves to move forward with unwavering hope and praise on his lips! He desires to proclaim the goodness of God to the next generation for as long as he is able (vv. 15,16,18). Perhaps as we reflect on how good the Lord has been to us in our own lives, we too can move forward into old age with confidence and resolve to be a witness for Him while trusting Him with whatever trials come our way. And along the way praising Him yet more and more!

Prayer: Father, as we walk through each day you provide us, grant us a mind to remember your past faithfulness, a heart whose refuge is in you alone, a voice to sing you praises, and lips to witness of thy salvation to others. Amen.

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR ME

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I know not what this day will bring

Or what my troubles may be;

But I know who holds tomorrow

And His grace is sufficient for me.

Burdens will come and test my heart,

more rain than sun I’ll see;

Still I’ll hope in God above

Cause His grace is sufficient for me.

Although I have many weaknesses

The power of Christ rests upon me;

His power is made perfect in weakness

So His grace is sufficient for me.

Why should I fear in times of trouble

There is nothing your eyes don’t see;

Though many be rising against me

Your grace is sufficient for me.

By His grace I have been redeemed,

Cleansed by His blood and set free;

Though Jesus died He lives again

Such grace is sufficient for me.

So, I’ll draw near His throne of grace

finding mercy in my time of need;

Gaining strength for my tomorrow, and

Finding His grace is sufficient for me.

                                                         Larry G. Stump Jr.

EXCEL STILL MORE

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1 THESSALONIANS 4:1-8

Study 5

4 “Finally then, brothers and sisters, we request and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us as to how you ought to [a]walk and please God (just as you actually do [b]walk), that you excel even more. For you know what instructions we gave you [c]by the authority of the Lord Jesus.”

Brief intro: Paul has come to a place in his writing where he is no longer “looking back” and expressing his personal reflections on his first missionary endeavor with them. He is now going to begin “looking forward” by giving these believers practical instructions and exhortations as to what is proper behavior in light of the commandments he gave them by the authority of the Lord Jesus (v.2). Paul gives them three aspects of Christian living that are pleasing to God. We are only going to be looking at two of them in this study: Their/our general conduct as believers (1-2) and sexual purity as a part of their/our sanctification (3-8).

FOCUS ONE: This chapter begins with the words “finally then.” Those words lead us to believe that Paul is coming to a close in his writing. That will eventually happen, but not here. Paul still has a few things that he would like to share with these believers that will instruct and equip them as they move forward in their faith. Paul uses that word here to introduce his final section of the letter, one that moves from their present condition to their future progress in developing holy character.

The word “brethren” as Paul is using it here does not mean “biological” siblings as it is used elsewhere (Matthew 1:2), but rather members of the same Christian community (John 21:23; Acts 9:30). He begins by “requesting” and “exhorting” these people to continue pursuing obedience to the word of God. Requesting something of someone is a gentle, more friendly way of asking someone to do something. Exhorting someone is by far a more authoritative manner in making a plea. Paul’s exhorting has such an authoritative tone to it because it includes the words “through the Lord Jesus” (vs. 2).  So, I think we can surmise from this that his urging is a bit more than a request, but less than a command!

It is interesting that Paul is not intending to instruct them to behave differently, but to “excel still more” in doing what they are already doing (1:3,6,7,10; 2:14; 3;6; 4:1,9-10). One reason Paul probably added the words “through the Lord Jesus” to his appeal is because he knows that such an endeavor would never be successful without divine help. 

3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to [a]possess his own [b]vessel in sanctification and honor, not in [c]lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;”

FOCUS TWO: Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for you Christian? Paul very directly tells these believers that it is God’s will for them, and naturally for any believer, to “abstain” from any sexual sin. In our new lives as redeemed, forgiven, and justified children of God we are to refrain from sexual sin in any form whether that be heterosexual or homosexual. We are to “Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

These Thessalonians lived in a pagan environment. Sexual frivolity was rampant. Fornication (porneia – The Greek word used) was practiced openly and people were encouraged to do so. Prostitution was considered a priestly duty and, crazy enough, extra-marital sex was viewed at times as an act of worship. No wonder Paul is concerned about this young church. Even though he rejoices in their spiritual progress so far, he knows that doesn’t mean that they didn’t sometimes fall into sin. These people grew up in a culture where God and His standards didn’t  exist. But one day a man named Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, arrives and tells them about their creator and what He has done for them in the person of His son Jesus. This message went forth in power and the Holy Spirt convicted them of their sins and brought them to a repentant faith in the finished work of Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 9). They are now new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), “old things have passed away, behold new things have come.”

Now, as children of God with regenerated hearts, they are to move forward seeking to work out in their lives what has has been accomplished within their hearts (Philippians 2:12-13). Paul’s exhortation here is a personal one: “you abstain from sexual immorality;” “each of you know how to possess (control) his own vessel” (vv. 3-4). Such a work requires the exercise of self-control enabled by the Holy Spirit within them. So, Paul doesn’t just place this burden on them without giving them some guidance as to how they can affectively be obedient and gain the victory in this aspect of their lives. 

You and I, contrary to modern psychology, are not the victims of our circumstances. We witness in biblical history as well as secular history, time and time again, people who overcame their present circumstances to go on and make their lives better. Unlike those who do not know the Lord as their savior and are caught up in their “lustful passions,” these Thessalonian believers as well as any believers, are not the victims of their present circumstances, sexual desire can be controlled with God’s help!

Paul doesn’t specify exactly how to control oneself and that is probably because there are several ways in which a person can accomplish this goal. One or another way may be useful to one person but not so helpful to another. So, each of us has to apply the necessary means that enable us to behave in a manner that set’s us apart from this world unto the Lord who redeemed us. 

6 “and that no one violate the rights and take advantage of his brother or sister in the matter, because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you previously and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for [a]impurity, but in sanctification. Therefore, the one who rejects this is not rejecting man, but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”

FOCUS THREE:  In these verses Paul transitions from the personal aspect of sexual purity and is now speaking of its relationship to others. A question that comes to mind is this: what does he mean by “transgress and defraud his brother in the matter?” I believe that Paul is saying that when a person does not stay within the confines of their marital relationship, they break God’s law, violate His revealed will, and therefore rob others of the sanctity of the marriage relationship. That sense of security, intimacy, and holiness of the relationship is stolen from others (Ephesians 5:22-33; Hebrews 13:4).

The act of fornication with someone else defrauds or robs that person by taking advantage of them. In “overstepping” God’s moral laws for sexual relationships, in this case with another believer, a person will rob them of the purity and sanctity of such a relationship that is set apart for the marital relationship. One commentator notes that: “this refers to all the destructive societal and spiritual implications of illegitimate sexual activity.”

So, Paul goes on to tell them, actually “solemnly warn” them not to behave in such a way because “the Lord is the avenger in all these things” (v. 6). There are many reasons stated within these scriptures that should lead them/us to obey our Lord in this area as well as any other area of our Christian walk, such as:

  • Overstepping God’s appointed boundaries and taking advantage of another person sexually are violations of His holiness (vv. 3,6,8).
  • The Lord’s future punishment of such sins (v.6; Hebrews 13:4).
  • The nature of His calling (salvation, sanctification, and glorification – v. 3; Ephesians 1:4-14).
  • These standards are God given and able to be obeyed because of His Holy Spirit within the believer (v.8).

To live in such a way is called “impure” or “unclean.” Such terms should never be used of a true follower of Jesus Christ. This kind of behavior is the opposite of holiness and must be abandoned. God has called us for better things (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:5; Colossians 1:12)!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT

  1. Beginning in chapter four Paul begins giving some practical instructions for godly living to these believers in Thessalonica. What other instructions can you find in the New Testament that God wants you to obey? For example, Romans 12:1-2 .
  2. How would it look in your life and how might it impact others if you “excelled still more” in your spiritual growth?
  3. What do these verses teach us about the will of God for our lives (1 peter 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Micah 6:8; Hebrews 13:20-21)?
  4. What other verses teach us about God’s mind in regards to sex?
  5. What might you need to do (aided by the Holy Spirit) to practice self control more consistently in your daily life?
  6. What role does prayer and bible reading have in our daily walk of faith? Can they help us in the practice of self control? How?

I have added this link below to Desiring God ministries for those who are interested in reading more about sexual purity.

https://www.desiringgod.org/topics/sexual-purity#escape-the-prison-of-pornography

PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS

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1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

Study 5

Brief Recap:

At the end of our last study we found Paul excited at the return of his friend and co-worker Timothy from Thessalonica. Timothy had a good report to share with Paul and he was comforted with the news of their faith, love, and desire to see him again. Paul’s earnest desire is to be able to return to them again and “complete what is lacking in your faith” (vs. 10). He has such a burden for the spiritual progress of these people that it just frustrates him that they had to prematurely depart their company (Acts 17:5-10). 

11 “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you;”

Focus one: As Paul continues his letter (vs 11), he uses the word “now” to transition into explaining the petitions that he just mentioned in verse 10: “that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith.” In verses 12 and 13 he will elaborate on them, but first, let’s take another look at how he begins what seems to be a prayer, in which he expresses his concerns for these believers.

Take notice to how Paul addresses the prayer to “God our father” and “Jesus our Lord” equally! It is very clear in these words that Paul ascribes full deity to Jesus and therefore sees Him equal with God the father in power and ability to answer his prayer! In other words, “Two persons viewed as one (John 10:30) possess power to open the way to Thessalonica once again (cr. John 14:7,9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).” Another thing to take special notice of in this verse is the personal pronoun “our” that Paul uses. By utilizing it here Paul is expressing the sense of belonging to something or someone or being in someway associated with someone. He is not only Paul’s God, He is their God and our God as well Christian!

Paul petitions God to “direct our way to you” (vs. 11). He is asking God to open the way back to them by removing all the obstacles that have hindered them so far. Some of these obstacles may be the pledge Jason had to make (Acts 17:9), The Jews that followed him and caused him much trouble (Acts 17:13), and Satan working against them (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Paul is asking God to “clear the way” of all these hindrances and allow him a direct path back to this young church.

 “and may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;”

FOCUS TWO:

In my studies on these verses I had found a question in one article that should cause us to pause for a moment and seriously contemplate our own ideas, conceptions, or misconceptions of the purpose and power of prayer. “What if your church began to seriously, soberly, and consistently pray (enabled by the Spirit of grace) for love to increase and abound for each of the members of your congregation? I mean really prayed with sincerity and expectancy of an answer?” What might the consequences be? Certainly only good ones! Supernatural ones! Would such a church become a powerful instrument in the hands of God in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15)?”

Who wouldn’t want such a congregation? There is no question as to the love that already abounds within this young church (1:2; 3:6; 4:9-10). But Paul desires that this love already growing and flourishing within their church would “increase and overflow” not just within the confines of their congregation, but outside of it as well. The idea is that their love for others would keep growing because they have not yet been glorified, or to say it another way, they have not yet gone home to be with their savior! That means that there is still room for growth in this area!

This type of love is not superficial or self serving, rather it is unconditional, sacrificial love. The word Paul uses here for love is “agape” and it means the “highest kind of love,” a benevolent love that seeks to do what is best for the one loved, not what the one loved deems is best (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). This is not a love based on “attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality,” rather on the willing submission of our hearts to the leading and working of the Holy Spirit within us as He seeks to produce such an abundance of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-25)! And Paul does not hesitate in holding him and his co-laborers up as examples of such a love.

This love should first express itself in their relations with one another but then should overflow and be expressed in other areas and with other people that our not believers, such as their enemies! (1)“For these persecuted Thessalonians this meant also loving their enemies, as Christ commanded (Matthew 5:44). To show love to their persecutors was the true safeguard against the natural tendency to retaliate when mistreated by outsiders. Such a love is not natural to man, it can be known and practiced only as it is received as a gift from the Lord and made to increase and abound by Him.”

FOCUS THREE:

“so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the [a]coming of our Lord Jesus with all His [b]saints.”

These verses reveal Paul’s goal in his prayer: their progress in personal sanctification. Since this process is not completed until believers stand in the presence of their savior, they would need strengthening by the Holy Spirit to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and persevere in godliness knowing that “he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Paul knows that this is a daily battle that the Christian must fight, but he is not alone (Philippians 2:12-13)!

It is important for us to notice that Paul does not pray for them to be “sinless,” he prays for them to be “blameless” before God. To be sinless in this life is impossible but to be “free of any reasonable charge from their fellowman” is not. Let’s take an (2)SOS and determine what Paul is saying by the word he chose to use here. Several Greek words are used in the New Testament to express this idea, and as I wrote in a previous blog on the importance of the usage of words (Word’s matter), I will take sometime to explain the difference and application here.

(3) “Amomos” means faultless, without blemish, free from imperfections. It refers especially to character. “Amemptos” is strictly unblamed, one with whom no fault is found. This of course refers to the verdict of others upon one. “Anenkletos” designates one against whom there is no accusation, implying not acquittal of a charge, but that no charge has been made. And lastly, “Anepilemptos” has the idea of “irreprehensible,” designating one who affords nothing upon which an adversary might seize, in order to make a charge against him. Let’s go back to our verse now.

It is the word anemptos that Paul chose to use in our text because he was speaking in regards to what others might be able to say against them if their was a lack of love and submission to the Lord in their daily lives. But how could they or even us today be blameless in God’s sight at His coming? Keep in mind that Paul is not speaking of “positional” blamelessness because that is solely achieved through the saving grace of God Himself in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:22)! He is however talking about experiential (practical) blamelessness. 

In speaking about the Lord’s coming Peter asks the question “since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be” (2 Peter 3:11)? He then answers the question, “in holy conduct and godliness. . . Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless”(2 peter 3:11,14).

So, here the blamelessness that Paul is referring to is not positional but practical. It involves living a life that is above reproach and in line with God’s will revealed to us in His word, so that no reasonable charges from our contemporaries would stick to us and reveal any guilt. It also relates to our consciences, in that they would be clear and free of any known guilt when the Lord returns. It is exciting to know that we can cultivate such a character in our lives that manifests the reality of what has taken place in our hearts. This is a work of the Holy Spirit within us. A work He does with us not despite us!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. What other verses in the New Testament can you find that express the deity of Jesus Christ?
  2. What our the character traits of love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8?
  3. What do these scriptures teach in regards to the Holy Spirits ministry among us (John 14:26; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 4:30; Romans 8:16)?
  4. In what areas of your life may you need to confess a lack of conformity to the will and word of God and by faith seek His Spirits help in producing fruit that leads to “hearts that our unblamable in holiness” at His coming?
  • 1 and 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book, 1996
  • Step out Study
  • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Zondervan, 1991

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.