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.”

A COMPLETING GOD (part two)

STUDY TWO

Philippians 1:1-11

BRIEF INTRO:

Our previous study began to look at and meditate on the first 11 verses of this epistle. Towards the end, however, we focused on the “good work” (v.6) that began in each new believer in Jesus Christ. 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 be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). But, we ended that post without hearing all Paul had to say, so, let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

FOCUS ONE

Paul also says (v.6) that God will complete (perform) this good work “until the day of Christ.” I like the Holman Christian Standard translation: “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” In other words, God has started something in a new believer. God has begun something in you and I, Christian, that He will progressively work at until He brings that believer home to be with Him! Paul wrote in Romans 8:29 that, “for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become (conformed to the image of His Son). . . .” You see, the “end game,” if you will, of what He began in a sinner redeemed by His grace is to make every child of God increasingly more like His Son!

The Theological term for this work is called “sanctification.” That means to be set apart or setting apart. This is a process, a result of the Holy Spirit as He is working to make the believer holy (set apart) and more reflective of the character of God.

There are, however, some basics about sanctification that we need to get ahold of before we move forward. There are three aspects to being sanctified:

1. Positional sanctification (Believer forgiven and set apart to God at conversion) 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (Divine side)

“But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren 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 truth.”

2. Experiential sanctification (believer daily, constantly “being” set apart by the means of grace: Preaching of the Word, prayer and the sacraments) Gal. 2:20 (Human side)

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and [a]the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

3. Complete sanctification (at death, or the Rapture, when our spirit is reunited with our resurrection body and behold Christ) Rev. 21

That is something weighing on Paul’s mind as he writes this epistle. He speaks of God’s work being completed on the day of Christ. And that the Philippians would be shown to be sincere and blameless in the day of Christ so that He would have cause to joy (over them) in the day of Christ.

So, dear reader, even though it is true that we are positionally set apart to God as His dear Children at salvation, and even though it is equally valid that we, one day, yet future, will be wholly set apart to Him with no more sin to ensnare us– this one truth remains: there is something for us to do while we await final and complete sanctification. Not for our salvation, but because of our salvation and new position in Christ! We understand the first, struggle with the second, and patiently await the third. 

FOCUS TWO

There must be an effort, on our part, using the means of grace graciously given, to become more like Christ, to be clothed with Christ and conformed more into His image. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 6 that there is a battle, and it is spiritual in nature with principalities and powers.

So, we are given the whole armor of God to fight in the battle. We are told it involves:

Trials and tribulations

Temptations to evil

False teaching

Bad Governments

And myriads of other things

These struggles are things we face in our lives, and God uses them to do “His completing” work in us. James wrote: “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (1:2- 4).”

Paul told the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling (2:12). In other words, they are to actively carry it out (this new life in Christ) to its logical conclusion. This would be manifested in their daily lives. He said, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I will not be disqualified.” He is speaking of Siscipline and godliness, so he would not be disqualified from ministry or disobedient to Christ and His word.

We are told throughout the New Testament how we are to live, especially in Titus 2:12-13: 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. Instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present world.”

Does that sound like an impossible mission Christian? Do you find yourself overwhelmed at times walking this weary way, struggling with temptations, trials, sins of others, your own sins? Does it seem impossible to be more like Christ?

Brothers and sisters, He did not leave us defenseless:

He gave us:

His Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) Sealed at conversion, Produces fruit in us (Eph. 6:11)

His word (Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16)

His promise/His heart (John 14:1-3; 17:20-24 prayer)

This begs the question: So, we know that His Spirit seals us at salvation, and we know that He has given us a Bible to read and hear preached as well as taught to us. We know His heart is for us to “make it through.” BUT how do we correctly utilize the Armor of God? How do we do that?

FOCUS THREE

Each piece of that armor is a characteristic of Jesus Christ. To sum up the armor, it is Christ-likeness. To put on Christ-likeness is to say, “How am I to reflect Christ in this situation? Once we implement the answer to that question, we are armored. It is a reflection of our spiritual relationship with the Savior. As we grow in that relationship and put it into action, we are arming ourselves for battle” (Billy Graham).

Our lives, brothers and sisters, should be lives that seek to glorify our Savior.

Suppose you are paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed to be done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?

Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?

And so, your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind, faithful and good. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him” (desiring God).

Dear Christian, God has graciously redeemed us unto Himself and that work, as great as it is, setting us apart unto Himself, giving us newness of life and a new position before Him, makes us a “work in progress.” God continues to work in our lives to make us more like His son Jesus!

And Just as Paul “is confident of this very thing”———so should we be. God is a completer. He will finish what He has started to the praise of His glory and grace, amen

IN THE CLOUDS

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I often look into the sky
Each and every day,
Wondering what I might see
As clouds pass by my way.

Sometimes the clouds are sparse;
Not many to behold,
But other times, they’re thick and full
Rolled out much like a scroll.

So many things are in those clouds;
Bewildering my mind,
Oftentimes I can spend hours,
Musing at things I find.

Look, there’s a horse
And over here’s a dog;
It’s crazy what I see.
You might think I’m nuts,
But I know it’s not only me

You might say it’s a waste of time;
Looking into the sky,
But If we don’t something important
Might possibly pass us by.

What might be that important,
You question as you sigh.
Oh, dear friend, the Lord Himself,
For our redemption draweth nigh!

By: Larry Stump Jr.

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 

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

DON’T BE SHAKEN

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Study 2

BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, Paul had made it very clear to his readers what the outcome of the Lord’s return would be: the wicked will be judged and suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, the saints will be glorified. Paul did not give the Lord’s return an exact time because he didn’t know when it would happen. Only “the Father knows” when it will be (Matthew 24:36). 

2 “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, regarding the [a]coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your [b]composure or be disturbed either by a spirit, or a [c]message, or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the [d]apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above [e]every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” 

FOCUS ONE: It appears from how Paul begins this next part of his letter that some people were predicting the timing of the Lord’s return, and quite possibly even stating that the coming of the Lord for His saints, including those who have died up to this point, what Paul was explaining back in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, had already taken place. That caused many to be disturbed, confused and conflicted with what Paul had previously taught them with what they were presently experiencing. 

In his first letter to this church, he explained how the day of the Lord would come like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). With these messages and/or letters (v. 2) saying that the day of the Lord had come, and their thinking back to what Paul had previously taught them, confusion and panic arose. These false teachings stated that they were experiencing the judgments of the day of the Lord, otherwise known as the Great Tribulation judgments! “But if this were true, how could Paul’s previous instruction that they would be caught up and escape the wrath of God coming on earth be true (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)? Paul now writes what we are reading to straighten out the matter.” (1) 

Paul’s exhortation for them to remain calm is affectionate (brothers) and respectful (we ask). Paul is concerned they might be easily unsettled regarding the false teaching and wants them to remain calm.

5 “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that he will be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only [f]He who now restrains will do so until [g]He is [h]removed.” 

FOCUS TWO: The Thessalonians seemed to have the same problem that you and I are prone to have, i.e., short-term memory issues! In writing these following verses, he points out that he had told them these things before while he was with them (v.5). So, by way of reminder and for their encouragement, Paul brings to light the deception propagated among them (v.3). 

The day of the Lord, Paul says, will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed (v. 3). What is this apostasy that is coming, and who is this man of lawlessness that will one day be exposed to the world? They are vital for us to understand because these are two significant developments leading up to the coming of the Lord. 

Apostasy (Apostasia in Greek) means rebellion or the falling away. “It can mean either a political revolt or a religious rebellion, or a combination of the two. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word is used for rebellion against God (cf. Joshua 22:22; Jeremiah 2:19), and that is apparently the meaning here.” (2)

Some revolt or “departing” from Christ must take place. It seems clear that this departure from the faith and its subsequent rebellion against Christ will occur in the professing church. “It will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word” (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Connected closely to this falling away is the arrival or uprising of the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction (v. 3-4). Paul says that he will “oppose every so-called God or object of worship and even “display himself as being God (cf. Daniel 8:11-14; 11:36-37). The descriptive name “son of destruction” reveals to Paul’s readers this person’s destiny-destruction!

Paul states that something is restraining him until the proper time for him to be revealed (v. 6). That statement shows two things:

  1. 1. He cannot be revealed until God says so!
  2. 2. Apparently, they knew something about this restraining influence that we do not. Something taught by Paul when he was with them.

Suggestions propagated for the identification of the restraining power.

  1. 1. The state with its law and order- Paul respected the state (Romans 13).
  2. 2. The preaching of the gospel as a restraint to evil. That than could be Paul or other gospel preachers (grace being extended, even now)!
  3. 3. The Holy Spirit

Even though we may not be able to claim one or the other, one thing is true: God controls the future! He is in control of human history and is working all things out according to His sovereign will.

Paul had taught the Thessalonians about these things when he was with them, as I mentioned before, but they didn’t remember that these things would take place before Christ returns. 

8 “Then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will eliminate with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His [i]coming; that is, the one whose [j]coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false [k]signs and wonders, 10 and with [l]all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God [m]will send upon them [n]a deluding influence so that they will believe [o]what is false, 12 in order that they all may be [p]judged who did not believe the truth, but [q]took pleasure in wickedness.”

FOCUS THREE: In these last verses (8-12), Paul mentions two distinct people: the lawless one and the Lord, and one grouping of people, those who perish. Let’s begin with the lawless one. Paul says that his coming is in accord “with the activity of Satan.” Even though evil is restrained, Paul does recognize that to some degree, this lawlessness is “already” at work. Keep in mind that Paul’s already is the time of his writing (v.7)! This “mystery” of lawlessness is a satanic counterpart to the mystery of the gospel. “Implied may also be the notion that unless God opens our eyes we do not see evil for what it really is.” (1) When God’s appointed time arrives, this last restraint will be removed, and the lawless one will be seen for what he truly is. 

His power will be displayed with counterfeit miracles and pseudo signs, and these things will deceive those who are perishing—this grouping of people I mentioned earlier (v. 10). Revelation 13:13 say’s that he will persuade people to worship the beast. The sad fact is that those who lack spiritual discernment will fall full-bore into his deceptive schemes and suffer the terrible fate of eternal destruction.

But, there is another personage to mention here, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 8)! Our Lord, Himself, will destroy this evil one with the “breath of His mouth” (v. 8). This language is similar to that used in Isaiah 11:4 and Revelation 19. The Antichrist will totally and unequivocally be destroyed at the appearance of His coming!

For further thought:

  1. 1. In what other ways can we be deceived? 1 John 4:1; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Can you find more?
  2. 2. In verse five, Paul seeks to remind the Thessalonians of things he previously told them. What do these verses remind us to do? Deuteronomy 6:12; Psalm 143:5. Why do we, at least in part, partake of communion ( 1 Corinthians 11:24)?
  3. 3. What do these verses urge us to do or not do regarding the possibility of apostasy in our own lives? Hebrews 3:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 2 Timothy 3:1-9.
  4. 4. What do these verses teach us about the Second coming of Christ? Revelation 1:7; John 14:3; Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11.

PRAY FOR US

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1 Thessalonians 5:25-28

STUDY 14

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

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

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

“Brethren, pray for us.”

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

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

“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

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