RIGHT LIVING AND THE GOSPEL

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 Philippians 1:27-28

Study 5

BRIEF INTRO: These passages mark a change in focus from what Paul had written about in the first part of this letter. In the previous passages (12-26), Paul wrote about what had been happening with him (in prison). In verses 3-11, Paul had expressed his relationship (to) and thoughts (about) the Philippian believers, including his prayer for them. He was thankful to God for them because of their faithful participation with him in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was confident of God’s continued work in them and so-could-pray- with all confidence that they would “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that they may approve the things that are excellent in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.” (10)

In verses 12-26, we looked at the last time we were together; Paul explained his situation and response. He was imprisoned, and there were Christians, some who were seeking to cause him additional distress, preaching Christ from envy and selfish ambition. Paul realized that God was using all of this in his ministry to the praetorian guards that were watching him and even beyond it, encouraging others to be bolder in their proclamation of the gospel.

Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed regardless of the motives of the preachers or his circumstances. We saw that while Paul thought that he would survive his imprisonment to continue in ministry to them, he also knew that he could also die, but for Paul, to live was Christ and to die was gain (21), so either outcome would be deliverance for him.

As we come to verses 27-28 in this study, we find that Paul changes the focus (from himself) to the Philippians. The transition in vs. 27 is straightforward, and he now begins to address specific issues with them.

FOCUS ONE: Paul now begins to speak of their conduct, their behavior as “saints in Christ Jesus (as he called them in vs.1). Some people think and live as if their conduct after salvation is not that important; after all, they say, I attend church, read my bible and pray, so what’s the problem?

The problem is two-fold. First, and it should be evident to all of us, there is more to the Christian life than attending church, reading our bibles, and praying. All of those things are reasonable and necessary for a Christian to practice. Without them, we would be weak, immature, and cold in our walk of faith. But God is also concerned with how we conduct ourselves, not only inside the church but also outside. There is a particular way, now that we have been redeemed, in which we are to live our lives! Our New Testament is very instructive on this topic.

The second thing I would say is that our scripture is very clear about how we are to conduct ourselves as forgiven, Justified, and adopted children of the living God. Now, this may not be evident to us in reading our translations this morning. Still, I think as we look at this a little deeper, as we delve into the original language, we will see God’s clear intention (and that begins for us) by zooming in on the words “conduct yourselves.” What does that mean? Why is it so significant to grasping everything else Paul is saying to these believers in the following verses?

We find the answer to those questions by turning to chapter 3:20. Here we see in Greek a different form of the word we are looking at in verse 27 in our text. I want you to take special notice that our “citizenship,” and that is the critical word here, our citizenship is in Heaven. The term used in Greek is (pol-it-yoo-mah). Paul was very wise in using this word here, as he also was, as we will see back in chapter one, where he used another form from the same root word. 

But first, try to imagine this. It is the year 1944, and Germany is at war with England. Now suppose you have dual citizenship in both Germany and England, and you are living in Germany. How will you be treated?

Conversely, suppose you have dual citizenship in Germany and England and live in England during the Blitz; how would you be treated?

In either case, you would be forced to renounce your citizenship in the opposing country and declare your loyalty to the country in which you found yourself in that dreadful time. There would be no middle ground.

They would have never allowed dual citizenship in Germany and England during WWII, and we cannot have dual citizenship in this world. They are diametrically and violently opposed to one another! We cannot belong to the Kingdom of God by living in Christ AND belong to the kingdom of darkness at the same time.

At this time in their history, the people of Philippi were living as (colonists) while their “citizenship” was in Rome. They had rights and privileges afforded to them as such, and with those rights and freedoms came rules, expectations, and obligations for them, as citizens of Rome, to respect and fulfill.

In the same way, Christians, you and I, if you have trusted in Christ for your salvation, live on this earth as citizens of the United States of America, and with that comes rules, obligations, and responsibilities. But we also have our citizenship elsewhere, in HEAVEN! We have “Dual” citizenship, if you will. One is temporary and fleeting, the other eternal and unchangeable! We live as citizens of America and are very proud of that citizenship. With it comes rights and privileges only Americans have, but also, with that being said, the place we now belong to, the place that expects our full allegiance, the place that accepts us as its own is Heaven, and that is all because of what Jesus has completed for us! We have a “homeland,” we have a king, we have rights and privileges afforded to us BECAUSE we are citizens of Heaven.

That is what Paul is saying in chapter three. But back in 1:27 (turn there), Paul uses the same word with a different ending to encourage these believers to live appropriately (here, he uses the word pol-it-yoo-om- ahee). These words “conduct yourselves” translate a political term that would mean a lot to the Philippian believers. These Philippians were proud of their status as Roman Citizens (Acts 16:12, 20, 21). The earlier members of this church in Philippi would remember that Paul used his Roman citizenship to bring about a speedy, dignified release from prison (Acts 16). So, this imagery is rich in its cultural background, and Paul pointedly uses the imagery to challenge these believers and US, as we read it, to live as those who have higher and vastly more effective citizenship, that one we read about in 3:20!

Church, this is important for us to understand because the word used here for “conduct yourselves” means “behave as a citizen.

A citizen of what? HEAVEN!

FOCUS TWO: Because these believers are citizens of Heaven (as seen in 3:20) and the Lord is their king, Paul encourages them to behave as a citizen of the king would behave! And take notice too, that Paul makes it very clear that they are to act this way whether he is around or not, whether he comes to see them or not (27).

But this is not the only place Paul speaks of their obedience. Look over at chapter 2, verse 12. Paul is acknowledging that they are obedient believers! They are not “men pleasers,” playing a game. No, they, he says, are even “much more in his absence”! In other words, Paul said there, and he says here, that citizens of Heaven are to be consistent in their behavior to honor their King, King Jesus, whether they are being watched or not.

Dear Christian, how is your behavior these days? Are you striving to live, God helping you, as a consistent, faithful, persevering citizen of Heaven? Are you conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, as Paul here states?

Well, the “manner” in which Paul instructs these believers to live was undoubtedly a needed reminder. They were struggling with disunity (Euodia and Syntyche 4:2), false teaching (3:1), and opposition from within and without (1:28), so how “pastoral” of Paul to remind and encourage them with these truths.

So, with all that in mind, let’s dig into this a bit deeper.

FOCUS THREE: “(Only) conduct yourselves (imperative) in a manner worthy of the gospel.”

Paul has only one thing that he is concerned about here, “only” this, how these believers should behave.

 I am going to quote someone here that is much more able in the Greek language than I am, and I am stressing the point here because it is so crucial to our understanding of everything else Paul says here: 

“Now, this verb (conduct yourselves), I want to tell you four things very quickly about this verb. It is in the present tense. And the impact of this is that Paul is saying, ‘Every moment of every day you are to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel. This is to be your daily lifestyle’. So, number one, it is in the present tense. This is a permanent obligation. As long as you are on this earth, it is obligatory that you conduct yourself in this manner. Second, it is in the middle voice. And when they parse a verb, that means that the responsibility lies with every one of us. It is not active. It is not passive. It is in the middle, which means we must take the reins and assume this responsibility for ourselves. This is a decision that each one of us must be daily and continually making. No one else can make this choice for us.

This is not merely for (some) believers in Philippi. This is for (every) believer in Philippi, but it is also for every believer, in every church, in every generation, on every continent, in every place. Third, it is in the imperative mood, which means it is a command. It is not an indicative statement (narrative). It is an imperative /command. It is not a mere wish. It is not a desire that Paul has for them. This is a commandment from God, through the apostle Paul, that requires the immediate obedience of every believer who has citizenship in the kingdom of God.”

With that being said, Flip back over to Phi 2:12-13. There is something else that needs to be observed there in our study. “So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to (will) and to (work), for his good pleasure.”

There is a lot packed into those few verses, and we cannot think through it all in this study, but I want you to notice who is working in us (God) and the results of His work (will, work).

We cannot be obedient without God doing this work in us! That should be so encouraging, Christian.

“Friends, are you a citizen of the kingdom of God? Have you entered into this kingdom by the new birth, by trusting in Christ alone for forgiveness of your sins? Then if so, this is directed at every one of us.”

THE GOSPEL PREACHED

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                              Philippians 1:12-26

Study 3 

BRIEF INTRO:

I want to focus on the word “trust,” as we begin because even if you’re not a pilot or a skydiver, trust is something that every one of us has to exercise every day. We exercise it by getting into our cars to drive to work each morning. We exercised it by sitting down in our chairs at the kitchen table this morning, trusting they would hold us up. Trust is at the core of what it means to please God and to follow Jesus. The Bible says we are to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).

Have you ever thought about what it means to trust in God? The words “trust,” “faith,” and “believe in” are all synonyms. When the Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), it’s another way of saying, “Trust in the Lord.”

Trust is an integral part of a living, ongoing relationship. Trust means knowing someone well enough that you can count on that person and then acting in accordance with that trust. Believing, having faith, trusting are the fundamentals of life with God. Trust, however, does not come naturally for most of us.

Today we’re going to look at a time in Paul’s life and ministry where his faith in God was tested beyond its normal limits and how “faith” was worked out and matured through his temporary afflictions.

By way of reminder, Paul is writing this Epistle (letter) to a group of people in Philippi, a group of people he had not seen for about five years. Paul founded this church in Philippi about ten years earlier (50 AD). Their love for him and participation with him in the gospel fostered a profoundly loving relationship between them.

Paul is writing with much joy and love in his heart for these people. And in his salutation, what we meditated on the last time we were together, we found Paul, with this frame of mind and heart, expressing his love and joy for them. He wants them to be encouraged that God is a completer!

And now, Paul begins to explain his prison circumstances to these beloved people, not to cause worry or fear, but to give them greater encouragement to persevere in the faith, or as he says in verse 27, so they may “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my [a]imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the [b]praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brothers and sisters, [c]trusting in the Lord because of my [d]imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

FOCUS ONE:

1.  God is sovereign over our afflictions 

To understand this rightly, we must first understand what it means to be sovereign. 

This is part of what it means to be God. For God to be sovereign means: “There are no limits to His rule. He is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. He is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. And in Christ, God’s awesome, sovereign providence is the place we as Believers should feel most reverent, most secure, most free.”

This is undoubtedly on Paul’s mind as he writes this letter. The thread that entwines this whole letter together is Christ and His Gospel. In chapter one alone, Paul mentions Christ and His gospel or some aspect to either nine times! And in these first verses, we are looking at we see this evident even in Paul’s prison sentence.

Paul is in prison because of the “cause of Christ,” as he puts it. He is not there because of violence, thievery, embezzlement, murder, or any crime that would warrant such a penalty. He is there because he is obedient to Jesus Christ.

“That which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.” 

― Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts

But, take notice of what he tells his readers about his situation, he says it: “turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” He wrote that not only the reality of him serving jail time was well known (quickly passed through the grapevine) throughout the whole governor’s palace but also the reason he was in prison!

Now that is not so unusual in our day. Cell phones, the internet, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like make for gossip and essential news to travel extremely fast, but that is a fascinating point in his day.

And what was the result? Notice verse 14 again, many people came to faith in Christ DUE TO his being in prison! And not only that, they had “Far more courage” to speak the word of God without fear! Not what we anticipate would happen if we were to be thrown in jail.

Do you trust in the sovereignty of God over ALL your circumstances, even the scary, fear-filled ones? Have you considered that He can use your “God appointed” afflictions to work out for the “greater progress of the gospel” in the lives of those around you?

Dear unbelieving friend, I want you to see that no matter where you are, no matter how bad you have been, no matter what your circumstances, God sends His people to those places to reveal Christ to you! He has, and still does, give his children gospel ministry in even the darkest and most hopeless places. So, grab hold of Him as many people around Paul did.

15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even [a]from envy and strife, but some also [b]from goodwill; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition [c]rather than from pure motives, thinking that they are causing me distress in my [d]imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.

FOCUS TWO:

God is sovereign over the gospel

Now, even though the gospel was progressing amidst Paul’s hardship, strife was ever-present. 

Take notice of the two motives Paul mentions for the gospel going forward.

A. Envy and strife

B. Goodwill

“He rejoices that Christ is proclaimed. But some of the proclaimers are sinning as they proclaim, trying to afflict Paul by making him feel jealous that they are free while he is in prison. What is more astonishing is that this sinful behavior is just the opposite of the way the gospel itself would incline a person to act. So, they are hypocrites. They preach the gospel and then contradict in their very motives the gospel they are preaching.”

The one response that of envy and strife is a hypocritical approach to sharing the gospel. Paul says these people were doing it “out of selfish ambition,” not out of love for Christ and appreciation of the salvation He graciously bestowed upon them. 

Their goal was to cause him distress, believe it or not, upon the grief he was already facing being imprisoned and limited in his freedoms. But the others, those of goodwill, shared Christ out of love. Love for Paul, love for their savior!

Brothers and sisters, we should be cautious to keep our motives in check in regards to our serving Christ and sharing His gospel. Are your motivations pure for telling others the gospel message, or are they hypocritical? 

Are you sharing the gospel because you genuinely want to be obedient to Christ? Because you love Him and those other sinners He came to redeem, or are you sharing the gospel, participating in an evangelism ministry, because you are worried about what other Christians might think about you if you didn’t?

The only pure motivation for sharing the gospel is a love for Jesus Christ and what He willingly and joyfully accomplished for you and me at the cross. 

Now don’t miss this fantastic fact that Paul tells his readers in verse 18:

“No matter what, in pretense (for show) or in truth, the gospel went forward, Christ was proclaimed!”

How can that be? How can the gospel be effective in such a place under such circumstances? The short but accurate answer–God is sovereign over His gospel!

19 for I know that this will turn out for my [a]deliverance through your [b]prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 [c]But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know [d]which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy [e]in the faith, 26 so that your pride in Christ Jesus may be abundant because of me by my coming to you again.

FOCUS THREE:

God is sovereign over our lives

God’s providence concerning his being in prison and the gospel being proclaimed there, “for show or in truth.” In verses 19-21, Paul is expressing his faith in the providence of God. Notice he says that it is his “earnest expectation and hope,” That even in those circumstances, Christ, as always, would be exalted in his body whether by life or by death.”

How can a faithful minister of the gospel, in prison, have such confidence? How can he trust (that word we talked about when I started this post) that God would use him and be exalted by using him even if it means his demise? Well, that has to do with rightly understanding the “providence” of God.

What is the providence of God? Here is the answer of the Heidelberg Catechism (Question 27): It is:

“The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were, by his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”

And why is that important for us to grasp? Why was that critical for Paul to believe? What good will it do? Here is the answer to question 28.

“That we may be (patient) in adversity, (thankful)l in prosperity, and for what is future have (good confidence) in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.”

What joy, dear Christian, how God is sovereign over our afflictions, sovereign over His gospel, and here in these verses (22-26) Paul reveals how He is in control of our lives.

a. Hard pressed from both directions/competing desires

b. Be with Christ (death) or remain on here (life, ministry)

c. Remaining will be “fruitful labor,” (22)

d. Remaining is more necessary for the Philippians (24)

e. To be with Christ is “very much better.” (23)

f. Paul’s love for these people is evident in these verses.

Well, Verse 22 is a clear follow-up to verse 21. Paul is picking up on his first clause (to live is Christ), Paul is assessing what its outcome will mean for him in the body (literally “flesh”), namely, fruitful labor. An opportunity to bear more fruit through ministry. But, it would be a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually costly process–and the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. 

But rather than follow that up with a similar sentence (“if it means death”), he jumps ahead to reflect on what he might do (if he, in fact had a real choice in the matter.) “I simply cannot say,” “I don’t know which to choose.” he says; indeed, I am torn between the two, since it means Christ in either case.” (Gordon Fee, amended)

Paul says that he is “hard pressed,” the Greek word used there is “sun-echo” means to be hemmed in on both sides and was used of a traveler in a narrow passage or gorge, with a wall of rock on either side, hemmed in, unable to turn aside and able only to go straight.  

And so, Paul expands upon the options of life or death. One commentator puts it this way: “If he continues his sojourn on earth–“But if I live on in the flesh”–then he sees it as an opportunity to bear more fruit through ministry. Again we see Paul’s strict single-mindedness (the mind of Christ)–he saw himself as an instrument for the unleashing of God’s glory as long as time permitted (cf Acts 9:15). However, this unleashing would be a costly process–and the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. So appealing that he adds, “yet what I shall choose, I cannot tell (lit.–I do not know).”

Paul’s point seems to be that he had not yet decided which to choose because the Lord had not yet made it known to him which to choose. Because he was not sure of the Lord’s will in the matter, he was not sure of his own.

Have you ever felt that way, Christian? Do you think that way right now? Have you come to a place where you have lost your zeal, your faith is waning, the conflicts all around you are seemingly impossible, and you want to -if-you-haven’t-yet, cried out, “Lord, take me home, I am more than ready.”

I want to encourage you with this quote:

“If God has done what you think he should do, trust him. If God doesn’t do what you think he should do, trust him. If you pray and believe God for a miracle and he does it, trust him. If your worst nightmare comes true, believe he is sovereign. Believe he is good.” 

― Craig Groeschel, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist

Don’t give up; trust Him and wait for His will to be revealed to you.

GOD COMPLETES WHAT HE BEGINS

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 Philippians 1:1-11 

Study 1

Welcome to our new study in the book of Philippians. Once again, we will be diving into a pastoral epistle penned by the Apostle Paul to a group of people he and Timothy met up with and ministered to after Paul received his “Macedonian vision” (Acts 16:8-10). In response to this vision, Paul and Timothy crossed the Aegean and traveled to Philippi (Acts 16:11-12). It was *“through the apostle’s ministry in that city, the gateway to Europe became the birthplace of European Christianity!”

I am excited to study this epistle with you because there is so much in it that will encourage and edify us and chasten and convict us. All of which is important for us to meditate on if we are to have the mind of Christ (2:5).

Soooooo, let’s begin!

I want to begin by asking you, the reader, a few questions: Have you ever been s-o-o-o loved by someone that they never seemed to have anything wrong to say about you? Someone who at the very thought of you was thanking God that they know you? Praying for you with unending joy? Greatly longing after you with the love of Christ? Have you ever had anyone, with such affection, encourage you with their incredible confidence and faith that God will work – and is working in your life, in intentional ways and will not fail?

That is just the kind of person we find in Philippians 1 this morning. Paul is writing this epistle (letter) to a group of people in Philippi, a group of people he had not seen for about five years. Paul had founded this church in Philippi about ten years earlier (50 AD), and their love for him and participation with him in the gospel fostered a deep loving relationship between them.

FOCUS ONE

Remember (or if necessary, go back and read), in Acts 16, Lydia was converted, and her whole household and then the jailer and his family received salvation, and from that little group, this church was born! Take notice of what Paul says in 1:5; “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” We see a man who is always praying “with joy” for these believers who never stopped their fellowship with him personally or in-regards-to the gospel from the first day onward. They shared his interests, made his suffering their own, twice they sent money to him in Thessalonica and once at Corinth, and NOW again at Rome (4:18).

At this writing, Paul is under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30- 31), and that is what he is referring to in verses 12-26. Keep in mind that this is not the Mamertine dungeon where he finally was put to death; Paul was eventually freed again for a short time, at least that is what we can conclude by studying the pastoral epistles.

We see in this writing that Paul had hope of being released (and being able to visit with them again (1:23-27; 2:23-24). So, by doing the math, we can conclude that ten years ago, he planted this church, five years later visited it on his 3rd missionary journey, now he is under house arrest in Rome penning this letter of love, filled with joy these believers.

Paul is writing with much joy and love in his heart for these people. And it is in this salutation that we find Paul, with this frame of mind and spirit, not only expressing his love and joy but also revealing what he prays about on their behalf.

FOCUS TWO

He wants them to be encouraged that God is a completer. Look at verse six with me; this will be our main focus in this post. He wants them to love each other, AND others even more; to grow in knowledge and proper discernment of that knowledge, and that they would walk in a “manner worth of the gospel,” as Paul says elsewhere, so they would have nothing to be ashamed about on the “day of Christ.”

Dear reader, Pauls’ writing is full of love, joy, concern, and direction for these believers, but what fuels that love and respect? What fosters such joy and leadership for their lives? What is the “marrow” that breeds life and strength and encouragement in this letter to the Philippians? IT IS CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL!

Paul writes of Christ 37 times in just 35 verses in this epistle. The Gospel 9 times in 8 verses. This whole chapter, a part of which we are focused on today, speaks of the fellowship, furtherance, and the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Christ is at the very heart of all Paul is writing about— all he wants them to think about — and the One he wants them to appear before with nothing to be ashamed of.

Well, what is at the heart of such a victorious life? How can they/we grow in these ways? And how can we walk in such a way that is sincere (pure) and without offense (blameless) till the day of Christ, when he returns?

FOCUS THREE

Please direct your focus with me back to verse 6 (read again)

  1. Take notice that Paul “asserts” his complete and total confidence or trust in one amazing fact—–God is a completer!

a. How can he be so confident? He is stating, no holds

bard, that he is absolutely sure about this. Well, turn back in your bibles to Galatians 3 because it is there in that epistle we find Paul exposing “the error of the Judiazers and their impure motives. Paul does not want these believers to embrace a false gospel, a gospel of Christ plus human works for salvation, leading to legalism (Read Galatians 3:1-3). 

b. These Galatians were deceived into thinking that what God had begun in their lives (spiritual) would be completed in the flesh (human achievement).

They thought and were being taught that the Christian life that the Spirit began would be brought to successful completion by their human achievement and religious accomplishments.

Paul’s rhetorical question denies that possibility! God begins and finishes this work through His Spirit. He told the Romans that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God (8:8). He told them in 8:15-16 that they “had not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…” You see, at their salvation they had become adopted children, heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ.” Romans 8:29-30 tells us that God very clearly begins, continues, and finishes the salvific work He providentially began in a person’s heart and life!

But Paul’s ideas of salvation are only that, opinions if it would not be for this one crucial fact: Turn to Galatians 1:11-12. The Gospel He has taught neither in its nature nor origin is by human reason or wisdom, but by, notice verse 12, by “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” That is why He is “confident” of that very thing. That is why these Philippians and you and I today can trust what Paul is saying to us through this letter.

  1. Paul says (back to Philippians 1) that God has begun something, which he states is a “good work” in them.

 A work that is not only agreeable but is excellent and honorable! Christ “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). Paul told the Corinthians this: “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

You who are reading this post, has this work begun in you? Do you understand yourself to be a sinner in a hopeless situation without Christ? Christ who gave Himself for you? Through His death and resurrection, you can be redeemed (bought back) from the bondage of your sin and be made pure, clean, and acceptable to Him through the “finished” work of Jesus Christ!

Yes, it is true, friends! The sins of lying, stealing, fornication, addiction, greed, murder, blasphemy, pornography, and much, much, more can and will be forgiven you ——-if you but “look unto Him and live.”

This is the “good” work He had begun in myself and many reading with you today when we humbled ourselves before Him and turned to Christ for the forgiveness- we-so-desperately-needed. Would you now acknowledge your sin and guilt and turn to Christ for the forgiveness He promises you in His Word?

Dear Christian, do you rejoice at the “new creation” God has made of you? Do you find unending joy in the amazing work of salvation that God has done in you!

It is said that the central theme of this letter is joy:

  • Joy in suffering
  • Joy in sacrificial giving
  • Joy in knowing Christ and experiencing His resurrection power 

We see this portrayed throughout this letter. Joy in unity and the adequacy of Christ. Are you joyful, brothers and sisters? Or are you perhaps deceived, as the Galatians were, in thinking that the work God begun in you will be completed by your own achievements and successes!

*A. Boyd Luther, Jr. Commentary on the Philippians 

THE SPIRIT OF TRUE WITNESSING

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EXTENDED READING: ACTS 5: 12-32

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: Verse 32

” And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

When you have the opportunity to be a witness for Christ and share the Gospel with someone, who do you think is the “soul winner?” I ask this question because there has only been one soul winner in all of history, contrary to some modern-day teaching, and it isn’t you or I. It is and always has been the Holy Spirit.

Ray Stedman said it well, “we are not salesman for God, with a mandate to talk people into buying something. . . No salesperson is dependent upon a person working within him to do the job properly. Yet that is who we are as witnesses for Christ.”

“Our witness as a believer is vitally related to the Holy Spirit. Jesus had said that the Holy Spirit would be a witness and that the apostles would be witnesses. He had shown them how the Holy Spirit would not testify of Himself but Christ. 

In this verse, the fulfillment of that promise is evident. The apostles were conscious that the Holy Spirit of God indwelled them. They recognized that they were instruments of God to the degree that that Spirit possessed them.

There is a tremendous lesson here for every believer. No one can be a witness for Christ and a herald of the Gospel by individual initiative. It is only as one follows the direction of the True Witness that he can communicate to others the divine testimony.”

Empowerment for witnessing comes from Him.

PRAYER: Father, help us trust that your Spirit within us is the only one who can save sinners. Grant to us encouragement to witness for Christ and boldness to speak the truth in love to those who desperately need to hear it. Amen.

*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible

THE LORD BE WITH YOU

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

STUDY 6

Brief intro: Well, faithful readers, we have finally come to the end of Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians! We have witnessed much love, concern, and pastoral care on the part of the apostle towards this young church. We also experienced something that, perhaps, we weren’t expecting: finding so many grand doctrinal themes present within the small number of words that had been written to this church. Themes related to the church, end times, faith, unity, fellowship, deception, and leadership. Others such as prayer, missions, hope, encouragement, discipline, and the congregation’s role. Take some time and read through these letters again, and I am sure you will locate others!

This has been an exciting journey for me, and I hope for you as well. I learned a lot and was reminded of many things. With that said, let’s take a look at Paul’s concluding remarks to the Thessalonians.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all.”

FOCUS ONE: In these word’s we find another prayer on their behalf. One thing you should have noticed throughout this study is Paul’s passion and persistence for prayer. I pray that such a passion and endurance would be growing in our hearts as well. In verse 16, we find these two petitions:

  1. “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.”
  2. The Lord be with you all.”

I want to zoom in on two things that stand out to me in this verse. One being the topic of peace and the other found in the statement “the Lord be with you.” What does the apostle mean by that statement?

So, let’s put our focus on the word peace for a moment. In this text we see that the Lord is called the Lord of peace. In Romans 15:33, He is called the “God of peace.” Isaiah uses the term “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6), and in Galatians 5:22, the Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity, produces as one of the fruits of Himself, peace! It makes sense, considering that He is part of the Godhead: one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As such, 1 Corinthians 14:33 states that He is “not a God of confusion but of peace!”

Why do I mention all of that? Because Paul knows, as should we, that the godhead, in perfect unity, manifests as one of its attributes, peace, divine peace! And, actively seeks to bestow this peace unto His Children! How amazing is our God, dear Christian? Because the God of peace raised Christ from the dead (Hebrews 13:20-21) and has place His Spirit within each of those He redeems (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16), He constantly seeks to give strength to His people and bless them with His peace (Psalm 29:11).

His peace passes all understanding. It “guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Psalm 23:1-6 is an excellent example of His perfect peace as it relates to earthly experiences. Please take a moment and read that Psalm and write down all the reasons you see in it for you to have peace. This peace has two realms or facets to it. The positional (Romans 5:1-2) and the experiential (Psalm 23; Romans 14:13-19).

One last point to make regarding peace. The peace that our Lord gave to us through the gospel – is a peace that is meant to be shared with others (Ephesians 5:6). Are your feet prepared with the gospel of peace?

The next statement I want to discuss with you is the “be with you all” statement. Does it seem odd to you that Paul, the great apostle to the gentiles, would ask for such a thing in his prayer? After all, the Lord promised to be with us always (John 14:18, 20, 23). It isn’t if the apostle was led to ask for such a thing.

Paul knows, as should we, how important it is for God’s people to know His indwelling presence in their day-to-day lives. He knows that it is essential for us to grow in His grace and knowledge. He understands that such an experience can be hindered by un-confessed sin that we try to hide, thereby grieving the Holy Spirit and hindering His working within us.

As followers of Christ, we find our strength to live daily in Him alone (2 Timothy 4:17). He not only strengthens us, but provides comforts, equips, and leads us down the narrow way as He works out our sanctification. So, for believers to grow in Christ and experience His presence more wholly, they must submit to His word, His authority, and His will.

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.”

FOCUS TWO: It appears that Paul felt it necessary to confirm his authorship of this letter. He states that:

  1. This is his greeting in his own hand. And, this is what he does in every letter.

We see this in his other letters, for example: 

  1. 1 Corinthians 16:21 – “in my own hand.”
  2. Galatians 6:11 – “large letters in my own hand.”
  3. Colossians 4:18 – “I Paul write this with my own hand.”
  4. Philemon 1:19 – I Paul am writing this with my own hand.”

Paul seems to have felt it necessary o leave a distinguishing mark in his letters to verify that his writings were from him and not from someone posing as him. Remember what he mentioned in chapter 2:1-3? Paul wants to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.

Many of his letters were written by others at his dictation, (but) to guarantee their genuineness, he closes each one with a line or two from his own hand. Do some research on your own, and you will find the science of handwriting fairly interesting. “Such analysis is based on the premise that no two individuals can produce exactly the same writing.” So, Paul understands this truth and thereby closes each letter by writing something in his own hand, noting that it would be recognizable from others!

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

FOCUS THREE: “Grace, grace, God’s grace. . .” Grace is unmerited or unearned favor. It is the opposite of what sinners deserve! Paul always begins and ends his writings with his earnest desire that his readers experience God’s grace and peace! Please take a moment and reflect on his many preambles and benedictions. It is in God’s grace that Christians live, move, and have their very being. And, take notice that Paul does not exclude anyone he addresses in his letter from this blessing. Not even those he rebuked earlier (3:11-12)!

What will strengthen his readers as they continue to face opposition? What would be their ever-present ally as they share the gospel of peace? God and His amazing grace!

“What will go before them as light, as a shield, as a defense? In all their suffering, in all their temptations and despondency, God’s grace will go before them.” His grace will be sufficient!

For further thought:

  1. 1. How have you been affected by what you have learned and been reminded of in this study?
  2. 2. In what ways have you been applying Paul’s teaching in your own life?
  3. 3. Any questions regarding this study? Email me, and I will do my best to help find the answer.

OUR ONLY HOPE

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EXTENDED READING: Titus 1:-4

DEVOTIONAL VERSE: Verse 2

In the novel, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., an important book comes to light. It is titled “What can a thoughtful man hope for mankind on earth. . .” The chief character is anxious to read it. But when he does, he finds that it doesn’t take long. The whole book consists of one word: “Nothing.”

If you are a Christian, you are probably shirking your head right about now. After all, we have Jesus, right? Yes, we do, and that’s why we have hope!

The Bible begins with the stories of creation, the fall of man, and the penalty of death being imposed upon humanity. As the story develops, we witness God giving humanity hope. Hope first enunciated to Eve and then later developed in the promise to the fathers and the prophets. The Jews had distorted that hope and made it only an earthly, national hope. 

But to Paul, it was much more than that. The Gospel he was appointed to announce was designed to secure “the hope of eternal life” to those who received Christ. He did not view this as a hope newly proclaimed; instead, the apostle linked it with that promise made “long ages ago” (2 Timothy 1:9-10). 

That promise was related to God’s purpose in creation-to take unto Himself a people who would enjoy eternity with Him. And it was a secure promise because it was made by God, who cannot lie.

Our only hope is in that promise of God.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help us see how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that because of your atoning work we should be called “children of God.” Grant us confidence and boldness for the future, as we know that “when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” Amen.

*Adapted from The Topical Chain Study Bible, Pg. 1504

CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD

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2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

STUDY 4

Brief Intro: Paul has just finished praying for the believers in Thessalonica (2:16-17) and now petitions them to pray for him and his companions. He begins this petition with the word “finally,” signaling to his readers that he is concluding this letter.

Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.”

FOCUS ONE: If you haven’t taken notice yet, prayer is of extreme importance to Paul. Prayer for others and also prayers for him! There are many examples throughout Paul’s epistles of the former, but I would like to reference a few examples of the latter.

  1. Romans 15:30-32: “strive together with me in your prayer to God for me.”
  2. 2 Corinthians 1:10-11: “you also joining in helping us through your prayers.”
  3. Ephesians 6:18-20: “and pray on my behalf.”
  4. Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; and of course 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2

I think we can safely surmise from reading all of these references for prayer that Paul was more telling them to pray than he was asking them to pray! But don’t take that as Paul being arrogant or cold. As one commentator notes: “It is a sign of the apostle’s humility that he would ask his convert’s, young in the faith, to pray for him.” It’s not hard to understand why: Prayer is commanded in scripture, prayer is necessary for every child of God, and prayer changes things! Christ, Himself, expects that His beloved would be a prayerful people (Matthew 6:6).

We are urged to pray for:

  1. The salvation of sinners
  2. For the comfort and encouragement of others
  3. For their joy and peace and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives
  4. For safety
  5. Our government and its leaders, 
  6. The right words to say
  7. For our spiritual leaders 

The list goes on and on. Now, that doesn’t mean that we always have to pray for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g every time we pray, but we are to be diligent in our prayer lives to pray broadly when we do pray so that we cover more than one area of need each time we pray. We witness this very thing in Paul’s petition for their prayers on his behalf (vv. 1,2). These requests of the Apostle are focused and directed at one item: The proclamation of the gospel and protection while proclaiming it everywhere He opens doors. But that isn’t always the immediate focus, as evidenced above.

The gospel is not the words of men but the very words of God! That is why it has such a tremendous effect in the hearts and minds of those who hear and believe. It is not about politics, crime, or entertainment. Instead, it is a message about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done to save us from God, our creator (Psalm 7:11; John 3:36; Revelation 20:15)! Paul wants it to spread rapidly because when God’s people are boldly proclaiming it, it spreads, and souls are saved from eternal damnation (Matthew 7:21-23), and that brings God glory!

However, the Apostle realizes that there will always be opposition to the gospel, fierce opposition. We are used to being mocked, ignored, and perhaps may even lose our job or influence because of it. But, Paul is thinking on a much higher plane here. He is thinking about beatings, stoning, and imprisonment, to name a few things. 

Paul knows that unbelief is prevalent in society and so perverse and evil people will always be against the truth, always turn from the light, and always attack those who share the “gospel of peace.” Perhaps in the apostles’ mind, (1) “praying for his safety and for others who spread the gospel is tantamount to praying for the progress of the gospel.”

“But, the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

FOCUS TWO: Even though perverse and evil people exist and seek to stop the spread of the gospel, Paul is confident in the Lord’s faithfulness, and why shouldn’t he be? “If we are faithless, He remains faithful-for He cannot deny Himself” ( 2 Timothy 2:13)! Paul told the Corinthians that God is faithful and would not let them be tempted beyond their ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). John wrote that God is faithful in His forgiveness of our sins if we confess them (1 John 1:9). GREAT is thy faithfulness is the shout of the lamenter, Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:22-23). Since He is faithful (credible) in all those things, He most certainly will be with these petitions since they are according to His will! But what does Paul mean by these terms?

  1. Establish you
  2. Guard you against the evil one

He is speaking about their need for strengthening to continue the “good fight of faith” amid the opposition and persecution they are facing. And their need for protection as they do so. But take notice of a subtle shift in opponents! In verse two, Paul spoke of evil and perverse men. In this verse, he is directly referencing the evil one.

Behind all the evil in the world and the people who practice it is this evil one. Satan is the arch-enemy of God and, therefore, those who are God’s. He’s referenced in scripture as a serpent and dragon (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12). We are told that he is a murder and the Father of lies who promotes false teaching and loves to keep the lost, lost in their transgressions and sins (John 8:44; 1 Timothy 4:1). To face such a foe would be utter foolishness if it were not for the faithfulness of God in supplying us His Holy Spirt and the “armor of God!”

And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into steadfastness of Christ.”

FOCUS THREE: The confidence that Paul holds regarding these believers to obey the commands given is not based on human wisdom, power, or resolve to do what is right. Instead, it is based on, and tied to, the Lord. His knowledge; His power; His resolve to fulfill His word (Jeremiah 1:12; Isaiah 55:6-11). As such, he is also confident in them, these young converts, because of their love for Christ and desires to be with Him in glory (2:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).

In verse five, the Apostle writes another short prayer or benediction; perhaps, such as we see in verse 16 and his other writings. His desire for them is that the Lord would accomplish two things in their hearts:

  1. To grow in their love for God
  2. And into the patience of Christ 

It is not that these believers were stagnant in their faith or love for God and others, quite the contrary (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10). But, the Apostle wholly desired continual growth in these areas of their lives. We grow physically, we grow mentally, and we must grow spiritually (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 6:1-2). Spiritual growth is vital for us as individual believers, but its benefits do not end with us. Spiritually growing believers, spiritually mature followers of Christ are examples to those around them of how faith works out in daily practice (Philippians 3:17; Matthew 5:16; Hebrews 13:7). 

Growing love for God is not Paul’s only desire; growth into the patience of Christ is as well. It appears that Paul may be reflecting on the patience of Christ when He walked among us and suffered to fulfill the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 53). Such patience would be needed for these believers to endure the persecution they would be facing while following the example Christ gave while he suffered and died in their place (1 peter 2:21-24)! 

  1. David Ewert Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians 

PERFECT JUSTICE

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Week 1                      

 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Intro: Several months have gone by since Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In that letter, he comforted them, encouraged them, and expressed his thankfulness and prayerfulness for them. He gave them some instructions for moving forward in their walk of faith amid much opposition and persecution (1:6,18;3:5). 

Now Paul, most likely within a year or less, is writing them again. The letter gives evidence that He had recently received some news about the current conditions within the church. Some of the information was good: their faith in Christ and love for one another was growing. But some of the news was “not so good.” False teaching and perhaps a misapplication of Paul’s Instructions had entered the church. This false teaching regarding “the day of the Lord” was confusing, and some people were even quitting their jobs in expectation of the Lord’s return. 

So Paul writes them another epistle (letter). In it, we will observe his commendation of their progress-correcting the doctrinal error that is causing them problems-and some more exhortations for their future growth and progress in their walk of faith.

I hope that you have been paying attention to what Paul has written so far. The truth contained in the first letter and this one hold many vital lessons for us today. For example, in what we have witnessed so far: (insights of Bob Deffenbaugh)

  1. There is a lot Paul spoke of that teaches us what loving leadership looks like-he was tough but tender. (We are usually one or the other).
  2. His letter teaches us a good bit about missions. Not just Paul’s theology to learn and propagate elsewhere, but his means and methods in doing so. 
  3. Meditating on these two epistles will teach us and encourage us with the power of the gospel! Its power in saving sinners and its influence amid opposition and persecution.
  4. And one other thing, I think it will help us to grow in our understanding of what it means and what it looks like to “persevere “when we are facing persecution because of our faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel!

So, with that said, let’s begin our look into chapter one together. (Read chapter one).

FOCUS ONE: In verses 1-4, we observe Paul’s greeting and commendation for them in their spiritual growth. Paul begins this second epistle much as he had in the first one (1 Thessalonians 1:1). He reminds his readers that they have graciously received God’s grace and peace. Paul begins and ends both of these letters with those very words revealing to me that he desires for them to experience these two things in greater measure in their daily lives.

Grace is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense,” as some put it. It is God’s unearned favor which He freely bestows on all who look unto Him in repentant faith (Gospel). God gives you and Me the opposite of what we deserve: blessing instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of condemnation. Peace is the “cessation” or ending of hostility against us, which results from Christ’s completed work of atonement at the cross. Christians now have peace with God because of His substitutionary sacrifice for their sins!

Paul knew by experience that Christians could be at peace even amid persecution, which was his desire for them.

Paul then takes some time to mention the good things that he has been hearing about them. Their faith is growing, but not just in inches; it is, Paul says, “greatly enlarged” (v. 3). And so too is their love toward one another! Paul is saying that their faith is continuously growing, each and every day, so much so that from several months ago until the writing of this latest letter, it is still enlarging! This is not abnormal but what everyday faith should look like in the lives of Christ-followers. Faith is not a “static” thing. Since it is “faith” in a person, the Lord Jesus, as our relationship with Him grows, so too does our faith in Him whom we love!

And so it should be true of our love as well. As we learn more about His love for us and experience it on a day-to-day basis, our manifestation of love to others should be manifested to those around us in more profound and more significant ways.

No wonder Paul is proud of them (v. 4). No wonder he is thankful for them (v.3). But take notice that now, several months later, with more fruit of their faith blossoming, he is speaking proudly of them among the other “churches of God.” This is different than what we have read in his first letter to them (1 Thessalonians1: 7-9). There “he had no need to say anything.” Others were telling Paul and his associates about their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). . .

But Paul will say something now. Their growth is taking place amid significant opposition to the gospel and subsequent persecution that stems from it. If they were a positive example months ago, as new believers or babes in Christ, how much more so now after living out their faith consistently, boldly, and with great perseverance through months of persecution?

Paul and his friends, Silas and Timothy, have much to rejoice in. Their labor was “not in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5), and God has been powerfully working in their hearts and lives through His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5)!

5 “[This is] [a]a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed are suffering. [b]For after all it is only right [c]for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us, [d]when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with [e]His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These people will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified among His [f]saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—because our testimony to you was believed.”

FOCUS TWO: As Paul continues, he shares truths with them that should encourage them in their struggles and strengthen them in their hope of a future rest (relief) from persecution. Paul mentions two classes of people: the afflicted and those who afflict them. Two different outcomes for each: relief to the afflicted and retribution on those who are doing the afflicting. He states when the rest and retribution will ultimately happen and the fate of those who “do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (v. 8).

Let’s begin with those who are being afflicted. The Thessalonian’s trials were numerous and the persecution relentless, yet they stood firm and proved to be rock solid in their faith in Christ Jesus! By way of using their current circumstances as an illustration, Paul illustrated the righteous judgment of God in that, Their God, our God, is a JUST God! When God would judge the Thessalonian believers (2 Corinthians 5:9-11), they would be declared worthy of His Kingdom. NOT because they endured these trials, no one merits heaven by suffering (Ephesians 2:8-9), but because their endurance or perseverance in these trials demonstrated their worthiness or fitness for the eternal kingdom. 

“A Christian is made worthy by God’s grace, which he receives as a free gift by faith in Jesus Christ. His trials simply expose what is there already.” (1) That character is God-given; it is the grace of God that makes it possible for a Christian to “withstand the fires of human experience.” (1) So, the purpose of their afflictions was to bring glory to God by manifesting His grace in the way they endured their current trials.

God will ultimately give His promised rest to His children, which includes relief from the tensions and trials that stem from unjust persecution. The Thessalonians, the Apostles, and Christians who have experienced such injustices can look forward to this rest that will come at the revelation of Jesus Christ!

FOCUS THREE: The next group of people mentioned is those that are causing the persecution. It consists of those who do not know God and those who are not obedient to the gospel (v.8). Paul, expanding on his illustration of God being righteous, now transitions into explaining how God will deal with the ungodly at His coming. We need an SOS (2)before we continue. What is Paul saying when he says that God is “just?” He is saying that God is perfectly righteous in all His ways regarding His treatment of His creation, especially those He created. He shows no partiality (Acts 10:34) and perfectly gives out His rewards or His punishments. Justice and righteousness, which always work hand in hand, are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). Simply stated: God will give everyone what they deserve, nothing more, nothing less! And that is based on His righteous, immutable (unchanging) character.

Now, back to our text. In these words, we find great encouragement as-well-as a cause for some distress. You and I, along with the Thessalonians, can be confident that nothing escapes our God’s watchful eyes (Genesis 16:13)! He knows all things (1 John 3:20; Psalm 147:5) and will make everything right. While some people may escape justice in this life, they will not evade it in the next. Paul states that when the Lord returns, when “He is revealed from heaven,” He will at that time “deal out retribution” (v. 8). So, in one sense, this should be encouraging for us as Christians, but in another way, this is grievous to our souls because we read that these people will suffer the fate of “eternal destruction” (v.9). Rest, eternal life with God is perfect justice for those who trust in Christ; eternal destruction is perfect justice for those who reject Jesus Christ.

11 “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will consider you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, in accordance with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Because of what Paul has just written, he mentions how he, Silvanus, and Timothy pray for them. They pray that these believers would continue to live lives that are worthy of their Lord. That they would continue to remain steadfast in their faith as they faced ongoing persecution. But, what was the ultimate goal of his prayers? The glory of God! That God would be glorified in them during their trying circumstances and conclusively at His coming (v.10).

For further thought:

  1. 1. Should Christians expect to be persecuted for their faith? Look up these verses and meditate on what they teach us about persecution: 2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:10; John 15:18.
  2. 2. Perseverance amid persecution is one main reason Paul is thankful for these Christians. What do these other verses teach us about this topic? James 1:12; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:18).
  3. 3. How can you pray for other believers and yourself based on what you have learned in this study?
  4. Paul’s primary goal in this prayer and his own life was that God would be glorified. Is that your primary purpose, or does something have to change?

THE BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS

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If God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone

But on trees and flowers and clouds and stars;

How beautiful and lovely this indeed would be,

If to us it was granted eyes that could see.

If flowers are the music of the ground

Spoken from earth’s lips without any sound;

How lovely would their symphony be

If we were to stop and listen for their sweet melody.

Where flowers bloom, so does hope

Their fragrant aroma does help us cope;

Every flower that blooms must grow through dirt,

To miss this truth is to our own hurt.

Flowers are lovely, but they don’t endure,

Even with sunlight, love, and rain;

But unlike flowers that wither and fade 

God and His word will forever remain the same.

By: Larry G. Stump Jr.

(Some parts adapted from Martin Luther and Edwin Curran)

THE POWER OF GOD

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Extended reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

1 Corinthians 1:18 “for the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 

The idling of car engines stopped, and many people, including myself, left our vehicles to begin the one-mile hike to the cross. In a small town known as Paxinos, Pennsylvania, the Easter service at the cross is a big event. The 24 foot high cross, placed initially and maintained by the Boy Scouts, troop 250, sits high on top of a mountain, and the only access to it is by walking unless you are unable to walk, then a van will transport you to the top. 

Young and old alike come faithfully each year to sit beneath the cross and hear a sermon of power, hope, and love: the message of the cross! As the pastor preaches, we enjoy a fantastic panorama of the surrounding countryside. The view before us reminds us all that the forgiveness purchased by Christ Jesus on the cross is available to anyone who will turn to Him in faith! 

It’s easy to hear these words of Paul and become discouraged. After all, many people are perishing because they think that no one can die and return to life again. But we should be encouraged as we read these verses because God, in His wisdom, was pleased to use what seems foolish to some to save even the most hardened of sinners! 

Listening to the Easter message reminded me of the ongoing work of salvation that God is accomplishing through His Son, who came to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Let us encourage one another with these words.

Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, let our faith be fixed and unaltered, one that never grows weary or disheartened. Help us be pleased with what you are delighted with, always rejoicing in the hope and glory of Christ Jesus! Amen.