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.

The Gospel

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Go and spread the gospel

Over the hills and thru the vale;

It’s truth for hurting souls

Not a children’s fairytale.

O, be gentle in your speaking

But bold along the way;

For we’re not guaranteed tomorrow

And many souls are lost each day.

Speak it’s truth unto your loved ones,

Don’t burn bridges as you go;

Humbly live out the gospel for them

So it’s affects within you show.

Prepare to be rejected

That’s just par for the course;

They rejected Christ as well

O, dear Christian stay the course.

Enlist a mighty army

Going forward into war;

With the gospel as their banner

And God going on before.

Let us pray for those who listened

That His truth He does impart;

So all by grace forgiven

Will receive a blood washed heart.

Larry G. Stump Jr.

PAUL’S MINISTRY

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1 and 2 Thessalonians 

Study 2

Paul’s Ministry

“For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our [a]reception among you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been treated abusively in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God [b]amid much [c]opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or [d]by way of deceit;but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not intending to please people, but to please God, who [e]examines our hearts. For we never came [f]with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext [g]for greed—God is our witness— nor did we seek honor from people, either from you or from others, though [h]we could have [i]asserted our authority as apostles of Christ. But we [j]proved to be [k]gentle [l]among you. As a nursing mother [m]tenderly cares for her own children, in the same way we had a fond affection for you and were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own [n]lives, because you had become [o]very dear to us.”

“For you recall, brothers and sisters, our labor and hardship: it was by working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, that we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly and rightly and blamelessly we [p]behaved toward you [q]believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Brief recap: In our first study (1 and 2 Thessalonians) we saw the beginning of Paul’s thoughts toward these believers in Thessalonica. Paul is thinking back to the time that he was personally with them ministering to them. He reflected on their own suffering (Silas, Timothy, and himself) in bringing the gospel to them (Acts 16-17). He expressed how the gospel came to them in “power and in the Holy Spirit” (vs. 5), and how they, under “much tribulation,” received the gospel and turned “to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (vs. 9). He reflected on their strong testimony to others; those in their local community, and those in the surrounding regions (vs.8). And being encouraged by Timothy’s report of their well being, mentioned with much joy their watchfulness and perseverance as they waited for Christ Jesus to return. Paul with much love and joy in his heart for these new believers in this newly formed church, commends them for their faith and their application of it in their daily lives.

Brief intro: In this study we will be focused on Chapter 2:1-12. Paul, in remembering his time with them, now reflects back to their coming to them and reminds them of what it cost him and his friends personally to bring the gospel to them. He also reminds them of how they conducted themselves among them when they were with them. 

Focus one: In verses one and two Paul reminds them of the manner in which they came to them in Thessalonica. We should take notice to the language Paul uses in this section (“For you yourselves know,” “You recall,” “You are witnesses,” and “just as you know”) are terms he uses throughout to express the correctness of what he is saying to them. These are things that they could not honestly deny. It appears that there may have been some false accusations floating around about Paul and his friends and their ministry, and so *“this defense gives us insight into the nature of the ministry of the gospel in the early church,” especially the beginning missionary efforts.

Paul and his companions had been “mistreated” in Philippi (Acts 16), and yet with unhealed wounds on their bodies from being beaten, hunger and weakness from imprisonment, and traveling approximately 100 miles to get to Thessalonica, amid “much opposition,” they boldly speak the gospel to them! 

Should their motives be suspect as may have been falsely propagated? Not at all. These men acted with great courage in bringing the gospel to them. The physical, emotional, and mental struggles they had to face in order to be faithful to their calling were tremendous. If it were not for their divine calling they most likely would not have come to Thessalonica and thereby escape more abuse and harsh treatment. 

They spoke with integrity. Their motives were pure. They did not use flattery, deceit, or cunning tricks to get them to believe their message. They did not suffer what they did for human praise, nor did they pretend to be their friends to get them to trust them. No, quite the opposite! They came in obedience to the Lord, to please Him not men (vs. 4). They came because they were called of God (2 Timothy 1:1) and “approved” by God to be entrusted with the gospel (vs. 4; 1 Timothy 2:5-7).

Focus 2: Not only were their motives pure, their methods were as well!  They did not come authoritatively although they could have (vs.6). *“The thought of this passage is obvious: they didn’t even take what they had a right to because they were so motivated to get the gospel out.” Impure motives and methods? Obviously not. Pauls says that they “became gentle among them as a nursing mother cares for her own children” (vs.7). And exhorting, encouraging, and  imploring them as “a father would his own children” (vs.11). These metaphors are of a loving, self-sacrificing relationship between a mother and father and their children, whom they care deeply about, and The apostles care and concern for these young converts. As a mother and father physically nurture and provide for their children in hope that they will mature, exercise wisdom and prosper in their lives, so these men spiritually nurtured and cared for them. They also prayed earnestly for their lives to be blessed of God. 

Focus 3: Paul’s desire for these young believers was that they would “walk in a manner worthy of God” (vs.12). The New Testament widely uses this term “walk” in reference to our manner of conduct (2 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 2:6; 1 John 2:6). In other places in the New Testament we find other phrases that mean the same thing. For example: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10)

Paul is concerned about their fruitfulness or lack thereof at the return of Christ. He says: “so that you may walk worthy of the God who “calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (vs.12). “This is an incentive to a high quality of life.” The “God who calls” us is a God of holiness, righteousness, and goodness. He commands those He redeems back from the curse of sin to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-17). To be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). To have the “mind” of Christ (Philippians 2:5). In other words, to live lives that are reflective of His character and nature.

This is a manner of living that cannot be accomplished by our own efforts no matter how noble and zealous we may be. We can only walk in such a way if the Spirit of God indwells us. For that to happen we must be “born again,” i.e., saved or redeemed (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 2:14). (Gospel)

 As we proceed through these letters we will naturally sense more of Paul’s fatherly (spiritual) concern for these believers as we observe him comforting, strengthening, and discipling them in their walk of faith.

For further thought:

  • What character traits are essential for gospel ministry? 
  • What various methodologies for ministry do we find in churches today? Are some more helpful than others” More harmful? Why?
  • Should integrity matter in ministry? Why or why not?
  • How important is obedience in the Christian life (vss. 10-12)?
  • Paul had a gentle heart for people. He was willing to face opposition to get the gospel to others. Are you willing? Why or why not? What needs to change?

David Ewert Commentary on the Bible, Pg. 1072

Benjamin C. Chapman Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

RUNNING WELL

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Long reading: Galatians 5:1-8.

Devotional verse: 5: 7

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

Martin was a friend of mine who struggled in the faith. Early on in his life he was a false convert, but thanks to the long-suffering of God he was finally redeemed and by God’s grace was growing in the knowledge of God’s will revealed in His holy word.

But as time went on it appeared that Martin was struggling once again. This time it was because of some false teaching he was listening to. This teaching was drawing him away from “grace alone” for salvation, toward a “works plus” grace salvation model. Martin began well, but eventually became seriously hindered in his Christian walk for several years to come, because he listened to someone’s distorted teaching about God’s word rather than trusting in God’s revealed word. 

Paul’s words echo forth with resounding clarity! Those who were now struggling in their faith started well. They were growing in their faith and living in light of the gospel, but then some false teacher with some pseudo gospel came along. They perhaps, hesitantly at first listened with skepticism, but then somewhere along the way they were deceived into believing a lie. Now there assurance of salvation was lost as they became “subject again to a yoke of slavery” (vs.1).

Paul told the Ephesians that “we are saved by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so none one should boast” (2:8-9). As we have so much available to us today within media, whatever and however that is manifested, let us with caution listen to others who propose to speak for our Lord and exercise discernment (1 John 4:1), and let us with confidence apply the word of God in full assurance and faith (Hebrews 10:22).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us in our ignorance to learn your word. We ask for your Spirit to teach us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Grant us an uncanny mindset that is able to discern truth from error and to reject the false and cling to that which is good. Amen.

New Year’s resolutions

Welcome to 2021! What a year it was that we just passed through. As we progressed through last year we faced the normal up’s and down’s that we expected to face, and some we didn’t. Add to the normal, the abnormal; Covid 19, mask wearing, social distancing, virtual schooling, businesses closing, and the election mayhem for starters. Sounds like a great time to make a New Year’s resolution, after all, “what didn’t kill us can only make us stronger,” right?

Each year many people, including Christians, make New Year’s resolutions. We recognize that in certain areas of our life we need to do better. So, we commit to start doing or not doing something in the new year that will make us a better person. The idea is that if we get started off on the right foot at the beginning of the year, we will continue on the right path for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions usually fail. One article I read online in People magazine, stated that in their study they found that most Americans are ditching traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2021. Here is one snippet from the article: “The top planned New Year’s resolutions for 2021 aren’t focused on going to the gym or losing weight, but rather saving money for the future (62 percent) and learning a new skill (50 percent) Seven in 10 Americans are tossing out their materialistic New Year’s resolutions for 2021, according to new research.”       

That makes sense to me. People are planning ahead not knowing what the future may hold in these unsettled times. But, should that stop us from resolving to be better people, to be more Christlike? The fatal flaw of resolutions is that they generally seek to modify a particular behavioral pattern without addressing the heart issue behind the behavior. If we would be honest about ourselves, we would quickly attest to the fact that our heart is “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?

But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ that our bibles contain these words: “Therefore if any man is in Christ (born again), he is a new creation; the old things passed away; new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that as a “new creation” spiritually speaking, the quality of what we now are as forgiven, justified, redeemed sinners has changed; we have been given a new nature. The old nature no longer controls us. Those value systems we once held, those beliefs, desires, and plans have now been changed within us because the Spirit of God now indwells us (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9)!

This change, as John MacArthur notes: “This newness is a continuing condition of fact. The believers new spiritual perception is a constant reality for him, and he now lives for eternity.” This divine, dramatic, and life altering change that has taken place within us changes the way we view the temporary world and its temporal things. It should be true of us that we do not want to focus our time trying only to modify our behavior, rather, we ought to use our time to grow more in Christlikeness. Growing in this way will automatically affect our behavior!

Peter, begins his 2nd epistle, by sharing all the blessings given to believers by God. He writes that all believers have received the same faith as the Apostles, a faith that comes through the righteousness of our God and savior, Jesus Christ. He states that, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” and that “He (God) has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 

This means that true Christians are secure in Christ forever and they will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ because they have received all that is necessary to live reverently and obediently towards their Father in heaven! There is nothing more that we should ask for or expect to receive to help us, we already have everything we need. True believers have, right now, every spiritual resource they need to live godly in Christ Jesus, and that is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His Word, which He uses to conform us more into the image of our savior!

Because of those very truth’s Peter say’s in verse 5, “giving all diligence (or make every effort), add to your faith or supplement your faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. As Christians (new creations) you and I cannot be indifferent to the manner in which we live our lives. We have been saved by faith, and in that same faith we walk forward seeking to, in God’s power, put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24). 

Who would argue that these are not wonderful things to pursue? Who would be bold enough to contradict God Himself in the matter, especially after the clarity of Peter on the topic? Who might try to, still, after reading these words, bring up excuse after excuse in order to continue living in blindness? “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (vs, 9). In other words, a professing Christian, citing MacArthur again, “who is missing the virtues mentioned above is, therefore, unable to discern his true spiritual condition, and thus can have no assurance of his salvation.” This does not mean that he is not saved, but that such a person will live in doubt and fear even though he possess the benefits previously listed. His walk of faith will be weak, his growth in Christ restrained due to his lack of understanding and confidence in his savior.

If you are making any resolutions this year, put personal holiness at the top of your list, you won’t regret it. Below are two books that I think you will find helpful. As an Amazon Associate I receive funds for qualifying purchases, this helps support the ministry, thanks. Happy New Year!