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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 you. 29 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.
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!
- Are you ok with that?
- Are you resolved to live for Him anyway, even when you don’t get your way?
- 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.
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 –
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.
BRIEF INTRO: As we continue with our study, take notice that Paul writes to them: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” This ONE thing was so important for Paul to get across to them.
Remember, Paul just finished sharing with them how much he loves them, prays for them, is thankful for their participation in the work of the gospel. He just shared with them what was going on in prison so that they would be encouraged and trust the Lord more fully. He just let them know of the uncertainty he had regarding whether or not he would die in prison and go to be with their Lord or remain on and serve them for their further progress in the faith. And this is what concerns Paul, this is his first instruction to these believers in this letter, and it is the foundation for all other teachings that he will deliver to them.
So, what are some ways “in a manner worthy of the gospel” would play out in their/our lives?
2. Obedience to the word of God
3. Walking in love, unity 4. Forgiving others
5. Pursuing godliness
6. Evangelizing, etc., etc.
The gospels’ influence in our lives, dear Christian, doesn’t end at salvation. The gospel saves us, but it also is what we are to be living (in) light of and (for) as we sojourn through this place.
So how in Paul’s mind does that play out for these believers? He goes on to write that: “Standing firm (one spirit, one mind).”
Now, this verb “standing firm” that you see there means “to be stationary.” It means “not to be pushed around,” “not to be moved around.” The idea is that you are anchored in a place, and there is no reverse gear in you. You have taken your stand, and you are immovable because of your convictions in the gospel, and you are standing firm.
It is a military term, actually, and it pictures a soldier’s duty in the battle to hold his position. He has been assigned a place on the front lines. And wherever there is a breakdown, the enemy can slip through. The enemy is always looking for the weakest soldier in the army. And if they can defeat the weakest soldier, it becomes the entry point to break the ranks, and to penetrate, and to infiltrate, and to be able to bring about a devastating defeat.
Take notice of those two qualifiers in that sentence? One Spirit, one mind. Paul is writing to “all the saints at Philippi,” not one solitary individual. He is speaking about these believers being “unified,” having unity among themselves. If there is a weak link among them, you can be sure, disunity and strife will enter their local fellowship.
They needed this warning. Already in this church, we have two ladies who are not getting along, and it never stops there, does it? Two ladies bickering among themselves then become two husbands arguing among themselves. That then becomes two families and then adds all the friends of the families taking sides, and on and on the disunity and strife grows.
If we are, as we will learn later in Philippians, seeking to have the “mind of Christ,” the whole body pursuing Christ-like-ness, disunity and strife would not be able to disrupt or destroy our fellowship. It would not be able to weaken or destroy our witness for Christ. It would have no place!
Dear Christian, are you pursuing unity with your church family? Are you seeking to esteem them more important than yourself? Are you actively practicing forgiveness rather than harboring bitterness and unforgiveness?
Paul also uses the word “striving.” Striving together (for the faith of the gospel)!
Striving together is just one word in the original language. And it is a primary root word with a prefix put at the beginning. The primary root is athleo; from that, we get our English words “athlete,” “athletics.” And the idea is to compete in a contest, and specifically, commentators tell us that it is the contest of wrestling.
And then, the prefix “with” is put at the front, meaning that we are to be
wrestling together. We are to be contending together. We are to be competing together. And the idea is we are on the same team. We are not wrestling against one another. We are wrestling on one team in trying to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ (Dustin Benge). One body, one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism… one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4: 4-6) A team under the banner of Christ!
Christians, we have a robust gospel that saves sinners from God’s wrath and judgment. We have a beautiful gospel that reminds us of the grace and kindness of God toward mankind. The good news that: God made you and me and wants to have a relationship with us. But mankind fell into sin in the garden of Eden, and that sin has been imputed to all of us ever since. We are by our very nature children of wrath. Our sin separates us from God who is holy by His very nature. But God sent forth His only begotten son, Jesus, and He took the punishment our sins deserved on the cross. He died, was buried, and rose again, God the Father accepting His son’s sacrifice in our place. So, if you, with repentant faith, trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by His grace and indwelt with his Spirit and one day will be with Him for all eternity.
This is the message that we are to be “striving” together to promote, live out, model, teach, preach, proclaim.
Fellow Christians, are we contending together for the “faith of the gospel? Are you, dear brother, dear sister, a part of the team, competing together for the sake of the gospel with the rest of the family of God? Now, all these things may seem daunting to you right now, but take courage Christian, God is working in us to do and be what He desires us to do and be, Amen!
Now take notice of some pretty incredible results of our obedience and unity within the church, the body of Christ.
Not alarmed by your opponents (the affect of such living) (28)
Paul continues in his thoughts about unity and perseverance in the gospel. He says if the Philippian believers would be of one mind and one Spirit, contending together for the faith of this amazing gospel, they would “in no way” be alarmed by their opponents.
In other words, he is saying, using powerful language here, that he does not want them to be frightened. KJV uses the word terrified in any respect by their opponents. Fear would prevent effort. Fear of the enemy would stifle gospel witness and hinder the very unity Paul was calling for.
Rather than fear, the church’s failure to be intimidated by its enemies is a sign of the ultimate failure of the enemies of God! Unity in the gospel, striving together, standing firm in the body, leaves no “weak link,” no way for the enemy to break through the ranks. And so that is a sign to them of at least two things: (28)
1. Sign of destruction for their enemies
2. Sign of salvation for you
What Paul probably means here when he says “a sign of salvation for you,” is the fact “that believers have been granted courage from God to stand firm in their struggles and in doing so are demonstrating their salvation.” These words from Paul would have been very convicting (considering what is going on in their local fellowship) but, I think, encouraging as well, especially when they read the following verses.
Paul says that two things have been “granted” them. (29)
1. To believe in Him (Salvation)
2. To suffer for His sake
It has been “granted” them, or we could say graciously given to them their salvation. That we understand, right? Nobody should have a problem understanding how gracious God is in granting vile sinners forgiveness and newness of life. But they are graciously given suffering from Him as well? That’s a harder nut to chew.
According to one commentator: “suffering for Christ was not to be considered accidental or a divine punishment. Paul referred to a kind of suffering that was really a sign of God’s favor. The Greek word translated “granted” is derived from a word which means grace or favor. Believing on Christ and suffering for Him are both associated with God’s grace.” (Lightner)
James says that we are to count it all joy when encountering various trials, knowing that there is a God-ordained, just, and good reason behind it. We can trust Him in the hard times! Brothers and sisters, I would guess that we don’t count our sufferings as God’s favor upon us. I would also think that we do not count them a joy when we encounter them, and I would also guess that for these Philippians to be experiencing the same conflicts Paul was, it was pretty challenging for them.
But what we have to remember is that just as they shared a similar struggle as Paul, Paul encouraged them, just like they did him. They wanted to know how he was doing in prison, and so he told them all those things to encourage them as they faced hardships. So, as Paul calls for unity and perseverance within the body of Christ amidst opposition, so do I:
Will we behave like the citizens of Heaven that we are?
Will we be found to stand firm in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel?
Will each of us stand firm to not give a foothold to the enemy without, and will we be at peace with one another so as not to let division begin within?
Will we trust God to lead us, aid us, empower us and work in and through us?
Things worthy of our prayerful meditation
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
BRIEF RECAP: In the past few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s second half of this letter to this young church. In the first part, the Apostle reflected on his time with them when He was there in person. And on how the gospel came to them, their reception of it, and their spiritual growth. His purpose, at least in part, was to strengthen this young church with the encouragement of the Lord’s return.
In the second half of this letter (Chapters 4-5), Paul has been looking ahead and reminding them of their calling and conduct as they move forward. In these scriptures, he has been giving them directions for their spiritual growth in light of the coming day of the Lord!
Paul’s desire throughout this letter has been to encourage and direct these young believers who are spiritually growing to excel still more (4:2,10). Paul’s concern is for them to be “entirely” or completely sanctified, so it fits, at this point, for him to express a prayer for them regarding their sanctification as he concludes his writing (vv.23,24).
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
FOCUS ONE: These folks experienced the “peace of God” at their conversion amid some severe tribulation (1:6). They enjoyed peace with one another at the time of Paul’s writing (1:3; 1:4-10; 3:6; 4:9-10). So, Paul naturally petitions the “God of peace,” who alone can provide them with peace for their future, to accomplish His work of “entire” sanctification.
Please be aware at this point that Paul understands that experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and ends, or is completed, only when “the Perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:10), when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)!
Now, to accentuate his desire of complete blamelessness before the Lord at His coming, Paul uses three different words: spirit, soul, and body, and that they “would be preserved complete.” The Apostle is emphasizing the totality of man, much like he did in chapter three (v.13), where he used the word “hearts” (the very person, the psychological core). In other words, the part of us that makes us persons!
When Christ returns, this process will be complete, but until then, believers rely on God to protect, empower, and equip them to live lives that are representative of His holy character. To live lives that would find no grounds for legitimate accusations against them from others.
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.”
FOCUS TWO: Dear Christian reading this post today, we too, like them, can live our lives with the confidence that God is achieving this work in our hearts and will present us blameless at His coming (Philippians 1:6; 5:24b)! Why? Because He is faithful! (1 Corinthians 1:8,9). “Who also will confirm you to the end, blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This very truth should give you “peace” in your walk of faith, dear Christian. Grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3). His peace is:
- Supernatural, not worldly (John 14:27)
- Based on our justification
- Is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22)
- Surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)
- And will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we wait for His return!
Read again verse 24b: “He will bring it to pass.”
Dear Christian, let us learn from Paul and his desire for these young believers. As Christians, let us live our lives as people who are awake and not asleep, sober-minded and not carnally minded. Let us live our lives with a constant expectation of His return and therefore live our lives forsaking sin and fleeing temptations to sin.
As Christ-followers, we are to be ready for His return, not people who will be caught unaware or off guard, living in worldly pleasure with false security. Such people, the Bible says, will experience sudden destruction with no escape. BUT Christian, “God has not appointed you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9-10).
- 1. What do these verses teach us about God’s calling? (John 6:44; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 11:29)? Can you find others?
- 2. What do these verses teach us regarding how we conduct ourselves while we wait for the Lord’s return (John 14:15; 1 Peter 1:15; Romans 12:9-21)? Can you find others?
- 3. Are you experiencing peace in your life? What hinders you from living in God’s peace? How do these scriptures comfort and encourage us regarding God’s peace? (2 Thessalonians 3:16; Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6; Psalm 4:8) Can you add a few others?
- 4. Are you living in such a way that others can see you are living your life in expectation of your saviors’ return (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)?
Sorry for no scripture links in Further Thoughts area. For some reason I can’t add any and need to figure it out. Thanks.
Long reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13
Quoted verse: 1 Thessalonians 2:13
“And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (NASB).
The Open Air Campaigners have an evangelistic ministry that has at its core the burden of preaching the gospel to lost people anywhere and mobilizing the body of Christ to do the same. I had the pleasure of learning from these men, many years ago, the skills that were needed to do well in open air evangelism. Using a sketch-board, painting a gospel message, rope tricks and other illustrations; as well as spiritual discipline, faithful study of God’s word, earnest prayer, teamwork, and compassion for the lost. But there is one thing that I learned from them that has affected my gospel witness more than anything else, and that is this: God working through His word performs His will in those who hear and believe!
You and I cannot save anyone. Our flattering speeches, or supposed superiority with words; our perceived wisdom or persuasive rhetoric, never did and never will save anyone. God uses people to proclaim His word, this is true, but He uses weak people led by His Spirit, so that when He opens up minds and hearts to His truth’s, it will always be a demonstration of the working of His Holy Spirit and power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)!
This truth should be encouraging and reassuring to God’s people. Just as the word of the Lord sounded forth from these believers in every place they went (1 Thessalonians 1:8), so too it should from us. You and I can faithfully share the gospel of God with others (vs 9), confident that He will do what He will in those peoples lives that have heard the truth from us. This means that you and I can share the gospel and then go home and sleep in peace. If people are to come to faith in Christ, such faith cannot rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God!
Larry Stump Jr.
Daily prayer: Help us O God, to trust in your Spirit and power in the salvation of the lost. Grant to us thy peace which surpasses all understanding as we pray and seek to win souls for Christ. Amen.
It’s a crazy and uncertain world that we live in and that truth stands out even more clearly to us each election cycle. I have sat back, as all of you have I’m sure, and watched the election process for the next president of the United States take place. I have, along with all of you, been riding the roller coaster of emotions up and down and have gone through many twists and turns, finding myself a bit nauseated as the ride comes to its end.
Whichever side your on; Republican or Democrat, the end result has far reaching consequences. As a Christian blogger I tend to think of things through the lens of a biblical worldview: from God’s perspective more so than my own. I am truly thankful that by His grace I am one of His redeemed, and through His Word and work in me by the Holy Spirit, I am able to see things from His perspective. That helps me cope with a lot of things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.
Can I be honest with you? I am struggling with the very real potential (possibly a reality till I post this), that a worldview far different than my own may be leading our country forward. As a Christian I do not see that as a good thing. (Click here to see the issues at stake in the current election). https://7waysfromsunday.com/2020/10/26/our-current-dilemma/
What am I supposed to do with that? How are we as followers of Jesus Christ expected to handle this potential outcome and the years that follow? Should I, as lady Gaga (who rode a garbage truck in front of Trump tower protesting) do the same at Joe Biden’s home? Should I pull up my roots and move to another country as some have pledged to do? Maybe I could fall down in the middle of the street in my hometown and have a major breakdown, screaming “Noooo,” as someone with no hope, like one person did at Trumps 2016 inauguration.
Realistically, I can’t respond that way and neither can you. We are a people who have hope and that hope is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ! Come what may, we know that our God is in control and we trust in His providence over all things (Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 103:19). So, where do we go from here if our Father in heaven decrees it so that someone else, some other party, controls the reigns of government this upcoming year? God, in His Word gives us the answers that we are searching for:
Remember, God removes and establishes leaders. Daniel 2:21 teaches us that our sovereign God is the one who not only has the authority to change times and seasons, He also has the wisdom and authority to raise up new leaders and remove the old. Paul taught the Roman believers that: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1-2). As a child of God I know that He is faithful and wise; I know that His thoughts are far wiser than my own. His ways and means of doing things will not always agree with what I think in any given situation (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that is ok, I trust Him, will you?
Respect and obey governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 instructs us to be in “subjection” to the current authorities. Paul does not qualify that in any way. Whether we are in the same party or not we are to respect and obey its role over us. Remember, God allowed this change and He requires His children to conduct themselves as “faithful ambassadors “ while living under this temporary civil structure. To resist, Paul states, puts us in the place of “opposing the ordinance of God,” and that is never viewed as a good thing (13:2). Our obedience is not blind. When obedience to civil authority requires disobedience to God’s Word, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately, we are not to be a people who fear such authority, God ordained it to be, as Paul says: “a minister of God to you for good” (13:4). So, let us be diligent in promoting and helping our leaders in their role of restraining evil and protecting life and property, while trusting our Heavenly Father with the outcomes.
Reevaluate our prayer lives. We are to be a people that prays. A people that entreats and petitions God on behalf of all men and that includes “kings, and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Whether we like the leader or not. Whether we agree with them or not, we are to be praying for them! This may be hard for some of us at first, but you will find doing it a blessing to your soul. Pray that our leaders would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Pray that their laws would be in accordance to God’s stated purposes that we find in His Word. Pray that God would use these leaders in such a way that we as Christians would be able to lead a “tranquil and quiet life” (vs. 2). In other words, that we would not have all kinds of external disturbances that would hinder us from being the church: Proclaiming the gospel, helping the poor and destitute, and building up the body of Christ.
Remain steadfast. Just as David petitioned the Lord to: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me” (Psalm 51:10), after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband, we too may need to repent of our own sin. Obviously, I am not implying that we murdered anyone but listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22). “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be guilty before the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. . .” Our anger is just as bad in God’s eyes as murder, because anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to murder.
Actually, anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to other sins, like: hate, strife, and loss of self control (Psalm 37:8; James 1:20; Proverbs 22:24). These are things that our bible tell’s us should have no place in our lives (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). In fact, it is an aspect of the flesh, not the Spirit, and we are called to walk in the Spirt so that His fruit may be manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
How have you handled your temper with friends, family members, and news anchors during this election cycle? Maybe it’s time to search our hearts and confess that we need God to cleanse and renew a right spirit with in us.
Rekindle a desire for holiness. As we move forward from where we are, I encourage you to pursue holiness. We are called to this very pursuit (1 Peter 1:15-16). Make it your goal to be more and more like your savior (Philippians 2:5-11). Fight the good fight of faith and like a good soldier: put off the old man, the old way of living, and put on the new man, “which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
I know, none of these things I mentioned are new and trendy in our day, but they are the teachings of scripture, and we will be truly blessed if we obey them in our daily lives. What I hope you realized as you perused through my post, is that the manner in which we move forward from here, is the same manner in which we are to regulate our lives no matter what is going on in the world around us! You and I are awaiting our king, king Jesus to return, let’s move forward seeking to bring honor and glory to His name, no matter who is president of the United States!
If you are interested in more on this topic you can listen to a series John MacArthur has on “Christians and politics” here: http://www.gty.org/library/articles/A124
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