A STRATEGIC DAY

Mark 6:14-30

BRIEF INTRO:

So far in our study of chapter six, we have witnessed Jesus being rejected in His hometown mainly because He was too familiar! He then “summoned” the twelve and sent them out in pairs, with authority over the unclean spirits (vv. 7-13). It appears from Luke and Mark’s accounts (Luke 9:6) that their ministry was very productive and successful. So much, so that news of it reached the highest levels of government (v.14).

In the following sixteen verses, we will learn how King Herod and the people reacted to what these men were doing and how all of it affected Herod as this news was brought to his attention.

14 And King Herod heard about it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.” 15 But others were saying, “He is Elijah.” And others were saying, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard about it, he kept saying, “John, whom I beheaded, has risen!”

FOCUS ONE: “And King Herod heard of it” (v. 14).

This is Herod Antipas, who was named to the throne of Herod the Great after his father died around 4 B.C. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. Two of his other brothers, Philip and Archelaus, ruled different areas as Herod the Great divided His dominion into three regions.

What did he hear? It seems clear that Herod “heard” about two things:

  1. The powerful ministry of the twelve
  2. Who the people thought Jesus was

With all that was accomplished through the twelve (casting out demons, healings, and their authoritative preaching and teaching), it is no wonder that word about them spread rapidly among the people. Keep in mind that they did all of this, all of it, in Jesus’ name!

There were various opinions as to who Jesus was:

1. John the Baptist risen from the dead

2. Elijah

3. A prophet like one of the prophets of old (v. 15)

Observe the sad fact that His countrymen could not OR would not believe anything significant concerning Him, BUT others were willing to accept anything rather than the truth (v.15).

But when Herod heard of it, his conscience kicked into gear, and fear began to arise because of what he had done to John the Baptist on account of his wife, Herodias.

Herod had divorced his first wife and then taken his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias was Antipas’ niece, making this union all the more incestuous and messy. This even caused a war with his first wife’s father.

17 For Herod himself had sent men and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias held a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death, and could not do so; 20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he had been protecting him. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; and yet he [a]used to enjoy listening to him.

FOCUS TWO: Herod’s backstory (vv. 17-20)

This back story is not only about Herod; Mark fills in on what happened to John the Baptist after his arrest (v.17). We begin to witness the pangs of a guilty conscience in verse sixteen. The fact that “He kept saying” heightens his guilty sense of beheading John the Baptist.

So, what led up to John’s death? John confronted the king regarding his incestuous and adulterous relationship with Herodias, Herod’s niece, the daughter of his half-brother Aristobulus, who was married to his half-brother Philip. Herod had divorced his wife to marry Herodias, who had divorced Philip. Such a thing was unlawful.

The mosaic law prohibited a man from marrying his brother’s wife (Leviticus 18:16, 20:21). Except when the brother died without leaving any children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Mark 12:19).

Because John was brave enough and bold enough to call Herod out on this, Herodias wanted John put to death (v. 19) but could not do so. This longstanding grudge eventually leads to John’s demise.

She could not have John killed at that time because Herod was “afraid” of John (v. 20)! Herod was afraid of John because he knew that he was “a righteous and holy man,” so he kept him safe from Herodias! He would often listen to John gladly. Herod’s interactions with John often left him with great internal conflict, “a moral struggle between his lust for Herodias and the prodding of his guilty conscience.”

21 An opportune day came when Herod, on his birthday, held a banquet for his nobles and military commanders, and the leading people of Galilee; 22 and when the daughter of Herodias herself came in and danced, she pleased Herod and [a]his dinner guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he swore to her, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 Immediately she came in a hurry to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And although the king was very sorry, because of his oaths and [b]his dinner guests, he was unwilling to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded him to bring back his head. And he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about this, they came and carried away his body, and laid it in a tomb.

FOCUS THREE: Herod’s foolish oath (vv. 21-29)

“A strategic day,” these words lead off this next section of Mark’s account. Strategic for whom? Certainly not for John, who dies on this day. Not for Herod, struggling with such a great fear of this “holy and righteous man.” Only for one person is this a strategic day, Herodias (vv.19, 24).

This particular day is Herod’s birthday. A day in which there would be much celebration, feasting, and entertainment for the king. A banquet was held in honor of Herod with many Lords and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee present.

At some point in the celebration, the daughter of Herodias dances before them. Keep in mind that the attendees all appear to be male. “The Greek verb (ὀρχέομαι) {or-kheh’-om-ahee} to dance, has connotations of arousing, satisfying sexual interest.” The dance “pleased Herod and his dinner guests (v. 22).

I wonder if Herodias had something to do with her daughter dancing before these men rather than a simple coincidence! We are not told the specifics of how and what led to her entry, only that she “came in and danced.” I can see her entrance as a planned event that precipitates her mother’s murderous intentions (v.22).

Because Herod is “pleased” at the dancing, he makes a foolish oath to Herodias’s daughter playing right into her wicked, scheming hands. Sadly, we witness Herod act on impulse rather than logic.

The moment of great anticipation arrives for Herodias (v.24). Without any hesitation, she sends her daughter back out asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter! Her daughter shares with her the oath Herod has made.

Herod had unwittingly placed himself in a precarious situation. Herod was sorry for his foolishness, but he could not get out of his oath or look foolish in front of his dinner guests who witnessed it, So he did not refuse her!

One has to wonder what Herodias did; how she reacted when John’s head was brought to her on a platter. She finally has her greatest desire! Herod sent the executioner to the cell, and John was beheaded in prison (v. 27).

John’s disciples heard about what transpired, so they claimed John’s body and buried him in a tomb (v. 29). They couldn’t fathom the body of their beloved teacher being neglected.

We learn a lot from this backstory. We see topics of adultery, conscience, guilt, murder, oath making and keeping, truth, boldness, and law. Themes of law and order. Righteousness and unrighteousness, the fear of man versus fear of God, etc. BUT we also learn some essential things about Herod and John!

What do we learn about Herod?

  1. Herod was a king who couldn’t control himself (vv.17,22)
  2. Herod was a protector that couldn’t watch over the righteous (v.26)
  3. Herod was a guilt-ridden man who couldn’t identify his savior (v. 16)

What do we learn about John the Baptist?

  1. John was a prophet that stood for righteousness (v. 17)
  2. John was a bold messenger (v. 18)
  3. John was beheaded at the command of Herod (v. 27)

In this historical account, we see the depth and horror of the total depravity of man vividly. The corruption that floods the hearts of sinners is on display, and we witness its utter corruption and ruin.

AND we also learn something more about Jesus:

Matthew 14:1-13

13 “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself;.”

Jesus was a compassionate man! He felt the pain that we feel at injustice and wickedness. He loved others as we do. He cared for others as we do. He needed time alone as we do.

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).


Such amazing grace, such an amazing savior! GOSPEL

WHEN DOUBT ARISES

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Mark 4: 35-41

BRIEF INTRO: After so long a period of teaching, confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees, and the multitude’s relentless desire to be near Him, Jesus, say’s to the disciples, “Let us go over to the other side,” most likely the east side of the Sea of Galilee. At this time, a “fierce gale of wind arose” (v. 37), which brought with it a challenge to the disciples and an opportunity for Jesus! Jesus, presumably exhausted, falls asleep in the stern (very back) of the boat. 

35 On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side.” 36 After dismissing the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. 37 And a fierce gale of wind *developed, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling with water. 38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS ONE: The circumstances

After expressing to the disciples that He desired to cross over the sea, Mark tells us that the disciples began sending away the multitude listening to His teaching, “they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat” (v. 36). In other words, there didn’t have to be any lengthy preparation for the trip. Jesus was already sitting in the boat, and that is how it appears He remained as they set out. 

Mark also tells us that “other boats were with Him” (vs. 36). So, some people had their boats here as well, and rather than leave Jesus as the vast majority of people had to do, they wanted to remain with Him and so followed them in their boats.

A severe storm arises, and the waves overtake the boat; it is “filling up” (v 37). This storm was sudden and dangerous. It shouldn’t be hard for us to understand the disciple’s fear and panic amid such circumstances. Most of us have faced less prevailing circumstances and “freaked out” over them! Like us, these men were human and struggled with fear over the uncertain and ever-changing events of their day. Also, we can add another element to their fear of the waves and subsequent doubt with Jesus’ concern for them. That element would be their (lack of understanding) of exactly who Jesus is.

These men had already witnessed many miracles that the Lord had accomplished. They had listened to and had explained to them many of His teachings (vv.10,34). They should have had a strong faith in Him by now. Worrying shouldn’t be a part of their thinking anymore, considering all they heard and saw. BUT they still feared. Why? 

Simply put: “it’s in our blood.” It’s human nature to fear what we can’t control. But thankfully, for those who are “in Christ,” we don’t have to live any longer as slaves of fear. Even though our un-redeemed flesh is corrupted and seeks to hold us in fear, we have an advocate and Helper, The Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 1:13).

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

38 And yet Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

FOCUS TWO: The challenge

They doubt he cares for them as the waves rise higher and the boat rocks steeper. They were in a perilous situation, and the only One that could help them was sleeping! Jesus must have been exhausted if the rocking and reeling of the boat did not awaken Him. The “cushion” that He would have been laying on is said to be a sailor’s leather rowing cushion which would have been used to give some comfort to the sailor as he rowed across the sea. 

It seems to be a bit ironic that they would express belief in Him as the One who could save them, but at the same time doubt His concern for them (v. 38)! I guess we’re all like that at times. But that does pose an interesting question for us to muse over: If Jesus is powerful enough to save us from our worst of fears (condemnation and separation from Him forever), why would we doubt His constant love and concern for us from that day forward?

Thankfully, like then, like now, Jesus is in control, and He demonstrates His power over nature by “rebuking the the wind,” AND IT OBEYS! “The wind died down,” and the sea became perfectly calm! Nature is under His control and is instantly placed in subjection to His will. 

40 And He said to them, “Why are you [a]afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

FOCUS THREE: The rebuke

Jesus “ordered” or commanded the wind to “hush and be still,” But He rebukes them for little faith, “How is it that you have no faith” (v. 40)? He asks, “why are you so timid?” He first points out their fearfulness during the crisis and then questions their lack of faith in Him. “It still has not dawned on them that God’s authority and power were present in Jesus.”

They are afraid when His sovereignty and deity are exercised over the events of the storm, showing not only his care for them but His power to protect them. “In stilling, the storm Jesus assumed the authority exercised only by God in the Old Testament” (Ps. 89:8-9; 104:5-9; 106; 8-9). The “who is this” statement in verse 41 indicates that they still did not fully understand its significance.”

Application:

We learn various things about Jesus and the disciples by studying these verses. We learn that:

1. Jesus is patient.

2. In His humanness, He suffered from physical exhaustion and needed rest.

3. Even though it appears that Jesus is not concerned for our well-being, He most certainly is!

4. He is God and exercises divine power and authority.

5. He expects His children to trust in Him always!

6. He expects us cast all our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6).

The disciples:

1. The disciples were slow learners

2. Fearful

3. Lacked consistent faith

4. Doubted the care and concern of Jesus for them

Mark leaves us with the pressing question these men were forced to ask: “who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him” (v. 41).

We are more like these men than we care to admit. Let us resolve this day to walk by faith and not by sight, to take God at His word, ALWAYS remembering that He has authority over all things, all circumstances, and is a “friend that sticks closer than a brother!

ON TO THE GOAL

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On to the goal! Press on!

Alone, yet unafraid;

He cut the path who beckons theee’

On then, and undismayed.

On to the goal! Press on!

The eyes that are a flame

Are watching thee, what then are men

What matter praise or blame?

On to the goal! Press on!

Look not behind thee. Now,

When just ahead lies His “well done,”

And crowns await thy brow.

On to the goal! Press on!

Blind, deaf, and sometimes dumb,

Along the uphill, blood marked road,

Hard after Christ, press on!

Author unknown

LIGHTS IN THE WORLD

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Phil. 2:12-18

NOT SO BRIEF A RECAP:

Paul has written this letter to a group of believers in Philippi whom he loves dearly. There is a fond affection from them, for him, as well. These believers participated in gospel work with Paul from day one (1:5). He says they are “partakers of grace’ with him (1:7). He calls them “brethren,” a term of endearment (1:12). “My beloved” another such term (2:12). He mentions there “proud confidence” in him (1:25). One cannot miss what he says about these folks in (4:1). He uses the terms “dearly beloved” twice, “brethren,” “longed for,” “my joy and crown (to Paul they were both a reward and a blessing).

From the first day, he says in 1:5, reflecting on his second missionary tour and first act on European soil, which we read about in (Acts 16: 12-40), they shared his interests, made his suffering their own, twice sent him money at Thessalonica (4:16), once at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9) and now again at Rome (4:18). We read of their love for him (1:9), and that love was reciprocated in full measure (1:7,8).

We also took notice that “There was a pronounced lack of any doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. So, they didn’t need to be corrected. No immorality in the congregation is confronted in the epistle. So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.

But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, and that cloud was dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict, within their fellowship, and Paul is greatly grieved over that.

This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. Let me remind you that Paul frames the letter with that issue in mind. For example, in the first chapter, he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

So, in chapter 1, we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4, another urging toward one mind and one heart, And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.

The following verses that we will be looking at follow the flow of the theme of unity begun in 1:27. The plea, based on the results of salvation in their own lives (2:1), the various elements involved in it, and the excellent example of Jesus for our atonement (Vv 5-11).

1. Obedience

2. Reverence

3. Self-less-ness

4. Sacrifice

5. Put sinners above Himself

6. Exaltation

We should take notice that these verses (12-18) begin with “so then,” or “wherefore.” In other words, Paul is saying, because of all that was just said, do this or conduct yourself in a particular manner. After verse 5, which is in the imperative or a command, Paul spoke in the indicative, relating facts or truths. But the facts or truths are to have repercussions in the Christian life. And that is what he is expressing in verses 12-16.

So, let’s jump in! 

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.

FOCUS ONE:

Working out our salvation 

Paul begins by mentioning their obedience in spiritual things, not just when he was present but even MORE SO in his absence. In 1:5, he says their obedient,

faithful participation in the gospel from the very beginning. In 4:15, he mentions their obedience and faithfulness in supporting his ministry from day one while no other churches did!

This is a very commendable thing, obedience, isn’t it? As parents, we appreciate and praise God for such obedience in our children, don’t we? What a joy it is to our hearts to know that our children do what they are supposed to, EVEN when we are not there to oversee them. It is good they obey when we are there, but so much more pleasing when they follow our wishes when we are not. Amen.

So, with that strong accolade mentioned, Paul now exhorts them to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (vs. 12).”

Let me be clear. Paul does not mean that they have to work for salvation – Eph. 2:8-9. These people were already saved – Phil. 1:1. We see in verses 12 and 13 that there are two parts to this appeal, and we need to hold them in proper balance, or we can easily be deceived in our thinking on what sanctification is and how God uses it in our lives as Christians. In verse 12, we hear about our part, and then in verse 13, we read about God’s part.

So, this word, work in v. 12, means to bring to full completion, and along with the following verse, it also means that God gives us the energy to do His will. (We do not and cannot do it alone!) Paul is evident on that!

Our-part

Paul says, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” Many Christians are busy trying to “work” out everyone else’s salvation. It’s that ole speck and log issue Jesus told the people about on the Mount back in Matthew 7:1-5. Christian, we cannot work out anybody else’s salvation—–BUT we must, according to the inspired word of God—work out OUR SALVATION!

At first glance, this doesn’t sound quite right. Let’s look at what Paul is saying a little more closely:

“…First, let’s take the phrase “your own salvation.” What a great possession! The only reason salvation is mine is because it was His first! He planned it! He purposed it! He pursued it! He paid it! And He pressed it upon my heart! Salvation became mine, and it became yours when we placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This salvation, when received, one writer says: “buries the past, changes the present and insures the future! What a great salvation we have in Jesus!”

Friends, we don’t work “for” our salvation, or “toward” it, or even “at” it, but we are to work “out” our salvation. Remember, Paul is writing to the Christian community, and he uses the plural pronoun for “you,” meaning he is addressing the entire church. This means that we are to live out what we know to be true.

Since we are saved, we must behave as believers, as “citizens of Heaven (3:20).”

The word “work” means to “work fully to the point of finishing the job.” The Romans used it for “working a mine” ultimately, getting out every piece of valuable stone. Likewise, we are to mine the depths of our rich redemption that was granted us by His grace.

God deposited a wealth of blessings into our lives; Paul mentioned some in verse 1(in his appeal), now we must go down deep to experience and enjoy what we’ve been given.

Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: “To will and to do, He gives the whole ability. It is by the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. ‘You have wrought all our works in us,’ Isa. 26:12. Of His good pleasure, as there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of His good work IN us…”

Application?

You and I cannot do righteous works without the aid of the Righteous one.

We have no strength, no will for holiness without God’s grace.

What you and I accomplish along these lines is solely in accordance with the kind intention of His will working within us.

We are to live out daily in our lives what we know to be true as God has revealed to us in His Holy Word, and He graciously provides the desire, will, and results!

FOCUS TWO:

Added to this warning is a qualifier, “with fear and trembling.”

The phrase “fear and trembling” helps us see that we must never take our faith lightly. One commentator says of this: “Fear” describes fright or terror and reverential awe. We must have such a reverence and respect for God that we will be afraid to sin, coupled with a strong desire to please Him.” That’s what Exodus 20:20 states: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

Friend, If you find yourself sinning all the time and not being bothered by it, it could be because you have lost your fear of God. The word “trembling” means “to quake with fear.” Isaiah 66:2 tells us that God wants us to have this kind of attitude when we approach Him: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Psalm 2:11 brings both fear and trembling together: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

We can revere God and rejoice in Him, “Believers should have a serious dread of sin and a yearning for what is right before God.”

After all, think about it for a moment. The Philippian believers, just like believers today, do not know, and cannot possibly know, all the sacrifices required of them in doing God’s will.

God’s will for the Philippians involved conflict (1:30), For Jesus, death (2:8), For Paul, imprisonment and possible martyrdom (2:17), for Timothy, costly sacrificial service (v. 20), and Epaphroditus, physical illness, near unto death (v.27).

When we contemplate our lostness, our deep depravity, and our inability to save ourselves, we can’t help but tremble at the thought of getting what we deserve.” We must get serious about our salvation, and as God’s redeemed, we must live responsibly and obediently for Christ.

So, Christian, are you living for and serving the Lord each day in fear and trembling? Or, have you noticed that those elements to your daily walk of faith have diminished or disappeared altogether?

A PREACHER ON THE FENCE

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From out of the millions of the earth

God often calls a man

To preach His Word, and for the truth

To take a loyal stand.

It’s sad to see him shun the cross,

Nor stand in its defense

Between the fields of right and wrong

A preacher on the fence.

Before him are the souls of men

Destined for heaven or hell;

An open Bible in his hand, and yet he dare not tell

Them all the truth as written there;

He fears the consequence-

The shame of heaven, the joy of hell-

A preacher on the fence.

Most surely God has called that man

To battle for the right,

Tis his to ferret out the wrong

And turn on us the light.

He standeth not for right or wrong,

He feareth an offense,

Great God, deliver us from him

That preacher on the fence.

If he should stand up for the wrong,

The right he’d not befriend;

If he should boldly stand for right,

The wrong he would offend.

His mouth is closed, he dare not speak

For freedom or against.

The most disgusting thing on earth

A preacher on the fence.

His better judgement, common sense,

They pull him to the right;

Behold him grip that topmost rail,

And hold with all his might;

His love of praise, it holds him fast,

Keeps him from going hence,

Poor man! How fearful will be his plight

A preacher on the fence.

Author unknown

STAND FIRM

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2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-17

STUDY 3

RECAP: Have you ever felt shaken in mind, deeply, even fearfully alarmed by a thought or statement that seemed to challenge your understanding of God and His grace, or God and His ultimate plans for you? In our previous study, Paul began to correct the church’s misunderstanding regarding the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming again (2:1). It was being propagated among them that the day of the Lord had come, and they missed it (2:2-3a)! They were being “shaken from their minds” and were “disturbed” within their souls at the prospect of such a thing. Why didn’t they remember what Paul previously taught them when he was with them (2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:9)? How quickly rumors and deception can knock us off our feet!

With such a message discouraging these believers and perhaps weakening their faith, Paul reminds them of what he told them when he first came to them (2:5,6). 

BRIEF INTRO: With all said he felt needed to be said, the Apostle begins to focus on his reader’s spiritual growth. He wants them to be strengthened and comforted in God’s choosing or “electing” them for salvation (2:13). Paul lays out how this salvation has come to them and the results of God’s grace upon them in these following two verses.

13″ But we should always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you [a]from the beginning for salvation [b]through sanctification [c]by the Spirit and faith in the truth14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, [d]that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

FOCUS ONE: Verse thirteen begins much like verse three in Chapter one began. But, there is a slight difference in emphasis in each one. In chapter one, Paul was led to thank God for their faith growing and maturing. In our text, Paul expresses thankfulness for the work begun in them by the Holy Spirit, which He is still doing in them and will until their faith becomes sight (Philippians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 5:7)!

He gives thanks to God for His choosing them for salvation (2:13). In eternity past, God in love chose those Thessalonians for salvation. His purpose in election is always “salvation!”

What Paul is speaking of here is the (1) “act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies (Romans 8:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:10; Ephesians 1:4-11). 

The means God uses to achieve this purpose are:

  1. The sanctifying work of the Spirit
  2. Belief in the truth

The regeneration of sinners and their sanctification is God’s will (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Regeneration happens when the Holy Spirit convicts a sinner of his/her sinfulness and need for forgiveness and then opens up their hearts to respond in repentant faith (Acts 16:14). Personal or experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and continues in this life until Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:23). (1) “Every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”

Positional sanctification is accomplished at salvation and can never be undone! It has to do with the believers standing before God, not his/her walk (Acts 20:32; Hebrews 10:10). And it is accomplished by the finished work of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). What a great source of comfort for believers to know that God’s Holy Spirit is actively working in their lives, transforming them more into the image of their savior!

But it is not by the Spirit’s work alone that a sinner is redeemed; He uses His written Word to convict sinners of their sins and need for Christ’s righteousness (John 16:8-11; Romans 10:17).

Now, take notice of the first word in verse thirteen, “BUT.” That’s important because it signals to his readers that he is changing his focus. The wrath, the judgment, the pain and anguish of soul, just spoken of, is NOT FOR YOU dear Thessalonians, NOR YOU dear Christian! Ultimately one day, we will gain possession of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will enter into His glory at His parousia, presence!

15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter [e]from us.”

FOCUS TWO: So then, or because of the truthful facts just mentioned, Paul gives them a command-stand firm. What an exciting appeal to make in light of the things just mentioned. (2) “If God’s call to salvation and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit underscore the divine initiative, this imperative (command) to stand firm puts the emphasis on human response!” These Christians were already urged to stand firm in the face of persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:8), now they are being told to stand firm regarding sound teaching.

John wrote in his first epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Paul wrote the believers in Rome: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

He also wrote his beloved son in the faith, Timothy: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine. . . “(2 Timothy 4:3-4).

If these believers needed such an exhortation to stand firm regarding sound teaching, we more so. As much as things change, they remain the same. The false teachings we deal with today are not “new inventions,” just the same ole lies dressed up differently! The media and internet, our technology, allow for a broader, more attractive presentation of false teachings. More people can be deceived today faster than in any other age. So, stand firm dear Christian, hold to sound doctrine, and expose what is not.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

FOCUS THREE: These verses appear to be Paul’s prayer for these believers based upon all that he reminded them of and encouraged them with when he was with them. In his prayer, he addresses both the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, who has graciously bestowed His love upon them. The words “who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,” are possibly a reference to the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is there where such “eternal” comfort and good hope would find its supreme manifestation by His grace (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; John 15:13). Our hope is good in that it is not only our hope in this life but a hope that reaches beyond the grave and into eternal life (Romans 8:24; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Psalm 71:5). Biblical hope is a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

In verse seventeen, we read Paul’s petitions for the Thessalonians, and at this time, he has only two requests of the Lord for them. This prayer is the second of four small prayers throughout this letter that the Apostle employs (1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5; 3:16). His petitions?

  1. That God would comfort them
  2. That God would strengthen their hearts

And that the Father would do this for them in “every good work and word.”

“Paul has just assured them that God the Father has given them eternal comfort and good hope,” but it appears that he wants them to experience it more fully while they are suffering under persecution. God has various ways in which He can comfort and strengthen believers. He can work through His Spirit, His Word, and even His redeemed children to answer Paul’s prayer! 

Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would comfort them (John 14:26).

Paul wrote the Ephesians “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).

The Psalmist wrote that God’s steadfast love comforted him because of the promises He gave him in His word (Psalm 119:50;76).

The writer of Hebrews explains how God’s word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12), and Paul told Timothy how it benefits believers in their daily walk in (2 Timothy 3:16).

And Paul explained to the Philippians how they are to comfort, encourage, and strengthen one another by having the same attitude as Christ had when He was on the earth (Philippians 2:1-11).

Believers of any generation need God’s help to do the good works that He has prepared for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). And in case you think it is odd that words and works are coupled together in this prayer, think again. We see this often throughout scripture (Luke 24:19 regarding Jesus; Acts 7:22 regarding Moses). Read through the book of Acts, and you will find that one always accompanied the other in the early days of Paul and others’ missionary efforts!

The Bible clearly shows that our works and our words go hand in hand in our walk of faith in Jesus Christ as we seek to share the gospel with others. Live it out, but also speak about it as well.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. What Bible verses strengthen and comfort you? How can you use them to pray for others to be strengthened and comforted?
  2. 2. Look up the verses given in focus one regarding “election” and write down what they teach us about God’s sovereignty in our salvation.
  3. 3. What have you learned, or are reminded of in our study so far, that has comforted and strengthened you in your walk-in Christ?
  1. (1) John MacArthur
  2. (2) David Ewert Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

OH, ANANIAS

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Ananias made up the story,

His wife went along with it too;

But Peter knew he couldn’t believe it

Cause the Spirit had said it’s not true.

He said they had sold some property

And all the proceeds were at his feet;

But they kept back some of the money

Sapphira, also this lie did repeat.

Peter wisely called out Ananias,

Revealed Satan had filled his heart;

That he lied to the Holy Spirit

So the two could keep a small part.

The plot that was contrived

Was not against the people, but God;

For the money that they had kept

Came from Him whom they had robbed.

Ananias fell dead at Peter’s feet:

Great fear overcame those around;

Young men came and took him out

And then they buried him in the ground.

As it happens three hours later

His wife Sapphira did also arrive;

Not knowing the fate of Ananias

Or the failure of the scheme contrived.

Peter asks her all the same questions,

She answered in much the same way,

Testing the Spirit of the Lord

She exits the very same way.

Fear came upon the whole church,

Upon all who had heard these things;

May we also learn the lesson given

And hold fast to the truth that it brings.

The church is to be holy and pure 

different than the world, you see;

Not full of lies or compromise

But known for its love and purity.

By: Larry G. Stump Jr.

Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter about the money they received from selling some of their property.

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.