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 

LIFE IN CHRIST

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Study 11

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18

BRIEF RECAP: We have meditated on various topics the past few weeks: The recognition of and relationship to spiritual leaders and their congregations, as well, as the relationship of believers among themselves. Everything that we have learned in those studies reflects our new life in Christ and how that manifests itself in our varied life circumstances and surroundings. This study is no different! It is so because all of these verses (5:12-22) are part of a larger context, one that is about life within the church. As meaningful as the relationship is between a congregation and its leaders, so is the relationship that we share as the “body of Christ.”

Intro: As Paul continues his letter, he gives a few more imperatives or commands for these Thessalonian believers to follow. Let’s take a (1)SOS here. The New Testament is written in various moods, most noticeably, the Indicative and Imperative moods. When we read our Bible, we will notice that we are being told about things that happened, and we have those things that occurred explained to us. This form of writing is the indicative mood, the expressing or explaining of the word of God. Often, most noticeably in the Epistles, when the explaining or narrating certain things ends, commands follow. This mode of writing is the Imperative mood. 

So, what is going on? Simply this: The writer, based on all that he has just explained, wants his readers to apply the truth’s taught, so he starts writing in the imperative to give application to his readers.

These are not the only moods that we find in the New Testament. The Exclamative and interrogative are used as well. Both the element of emotion and the probing analytical and rhetorical questions we witness, in conjunction with the indicative and imperative, are to instruct us in the will of our God!

Interestingly, we find in our letter that the first three chapters are written in the indicative, and only in Chapter four do we begin to see commands being given. Out of the sixteen imperatives that Paul gives from chapter four onward, most of them arise in these verses that we have been meditating on in previous weeks (5: 11,13-22, 25, 26)!

FOCUS ONE: Back to our study. In the verses before us (16-18), Paul gives his readers three exhortations:

  1. Rejoice always
  2. Pray without ceasing
  3. Give thanks in everything

“You also became imitators of us and the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6). In expressing his thankfulness for these believers (1:2), Paul mentions their joy of the Holy Spirit at the time of their salvation. This joy was upon them in the midst of the “tribulation” they were experiencing due to trusting in Christ. Paul credits the Holy Spirit for the delight they have. That makes good sense, right? 

Joy is a work or fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Even in Isaiah 61:10, the prophet writes of rejoicing in God for this very same thing, salvation! Often we misplace our joy, or worse still, confuse it with our definition of happiness. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, BUT rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). 

Christians are to be joy-filled people. We are to “rejoice always” in what God has accomplished for us in Christ. Situations in our lives will change, effecting our mood. In one day we can experience happiness, sorrow, anger, etc., all depending on the circumstances we are facing. But, regardless of our situations, our joy remains the same! When we understand that our joy does not hinge on our ever-changing conditions in life, but in our redemption in Jesus Christ, which doesn’t change, we will find that our lives, minds, and hearts are affected and changed forever with a “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8)!

FOCUS TWO: What does the Apostle mean when he says “pray without ceasing?” Does he mean that Christians are to be in a constant, formal, and audible prayer mode their whole lives? Would that even be possible? Obviously not.

The idea or thought Paul is conveying is relatively simple. He wants his readers to know that they need to live their lives in constant dependence on their Father in heaven. They are to bring all their cares, burdens, anxieties, hopes, and dreams before Him in prayer. Why? Because He cares for them and is the only one who can provide for them ideally concerning all their needs (Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:17).

There is no sound argument regarding this verse that would substantiate the idea of unending repetition in our prayer lives. Jesus Himself spoke against such a thing in Matthew 6:7; Then giving His disciples an example to follow. In contrast to such a thought, we are to be a people that pray persistently (Luke 11:1-13) and regularly (Ephesians 6:19).

FOCUS THREE: Thank-less-ness is a characteristic of unbelievers (Romans 1:21), not redeemed Christians! Does that mean that we should be thankful for the horrific personal tragedy that happened in our lives or in the life of someone we love? Should we celebrate the terrible misfortunes of others? No, obviously not. Instead, we ought to be people who are diligently and intentionally looking for the good in the midst of the bad in the middle of our ever-changing circumstances. There is always something good or some good reasons to be thankful, even if they are a bit hard to see at first.

Perhaps you have been praying for a loved one for many years to come to Christ. However, year after year, you witnessed their hearts getting colder to the gospel. In despair over their soul, you cried out to God to do whatever it takes to bring that dear one to repentant faith. He answered your prayer.

You now find yourself in the emergency room, waiting, worrying. Days go by, even weeks, the healing and recovering process are brutal. Not much to be thankful for here, you think to yourself. But what you didn’t know was that one of the caregivers was praying for your loved one. A friend was reading the Bible to him/her when they visited. And your loving Father in heaven was working through these difficult, painful circumstances to bring this dear one to repentance. 

Ultimately, through this experience, your loved one repents, and his/her life is changed forever because of Christ. Your prayers were answered! Sometimes it’s hard to see the good when things are so bad. Keep looking. The Lord promises it’s there (Romans 8:28)!

Dear Christian, when we join this appeal with the previous two, rejoicing and praying, they give us a biblical roadmap for victorious Christian living!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. 1. Turn in your Bible to Philippians 1. Read through the chapter and find where Paul ends writing in the indicative (simple statements of fact) and begins writing in the imperative (commands or exhortations). Look at some other Epistles and do the same. This exercise will help you in your application of the truths taught.
  2. 2. What other scriptures can you locate that teach on these three topics: Prayer, Joy, and thankfulness? Write them down and meditate on where your strengths and weaknesses are. Spend time in prayer asking our Father in heaven to help you “excel still more” (4:1)!
  3. 3. Think of an example in your own life when you felt nothing good was going on in your situation. How might understanding these three commands (rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and thankfulness) help you get through the next hard or bleak period in your life?
  4. 4. What do Philippians 1:6 and 2:12b-13 teach us regarding our personal sanctification?
  1. Who begun the work in us?
  2. Who will complete it?
  3. Who is responsible to “work it out” (play it out) their salvation?
  4. By who’s strength and will working within us is this even possible? 
  5. Based on these facts, would you say personal holiness is a passive act on our part or a partnership with God as we live out in our lives what He has implanted within us?
  6. How might this truth help you the next time things seem to go wrong?
  1. (1) Step Outside Study

PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS

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1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

Study 5

Brief Recap:

At the end of our last study we found Paul excited at the return of his friend and co-worker Timothy from Thessalonica. Timothy had a good report to share with Paul and he was comforted with the news of their faith, love, and desire to see him again. Paul’s earnest desire is to be able to return to them again and “complete what is lacking in your faith” (vs. 10). He has such a burden for the spiritual progress of these people that it just frustrates him that they had to prematurely depart their company (Acts 17:5-10). 

11 “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you;”

Focus one: As Paul continues his letter (vs 11), he uses the word “now” to transition into explaining the petitions that he just mentioned in verse 10: “that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith.” In verses 12 and 13 he will elaborate on them, but first, let’s take another look at how he begins what seems to be a prayer, in which he expresses his concerns for these believers.

Take notice to how Paul addresses the prayer to “God our father” and “Jesus our Lord” equally! It is very clear in these words that Paul ascribes full deity to Jesus and therefore sees Him equal with God the father in power and ability to answer his prayer! In other words, “Two persons viewed as one (John 10:30) possess power to open the way to Thessalonica once again (cr. John 14:7,9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).” Another thing to take special notice of in this verse is the personal pronoun “our” that Paul uses. By utilizing it here Paul is expressing the sense of belonging to something or someone or being in someway associated with someone. He is not only Paul’s God, He is their God and our God as well Christian!

Paul petitions God to “direct our way to you” (vs. 11). He is asking God to open the way back to them by removing all the obstacles that have hindered them so far. Some of these obstacles may be the pledge Jason had to make (Acts 17:9), The Jews that followed him and caused him much trouble (Acts 17:13), and Satan working against them (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Paul is asking God to “clear the way” of all these hindrances and allow him a direct path back to this young church.

 “and may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;”

FOCUS TWO:

In my studies on these verses I had found a question in one article that should cause us to pause for a moment and seriously contemplate our own ideas, conceptions, or misconceptions of the purpose and power of prayer. “What if your church began to seriously, soberly, and consistently pray (enabled by the Spirit of grace) for love to increase and abound for each of the members of your congregation? I mean really prayed with sincerity and expectancy of an answer?” What might the consequences be? Certainly only good ones! Supernatural ones! Would such a church become a powerful instrument in the hands of God in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:15)?”

Who wouldn’t want such a congregation? There is no question as to the love that already abounds within this young church (1:2; 3:6; 4:9-10). But Paul desires that this love already growing and flourishing within their church would “increase and overflow” not just within the confines of their congregation, but outside of it as well. The idea is that their love for others would keep growing because they have not yet been glorified, or to say it another way, they have not yet gone home to be with their savior! That means that there is still room for growth in this area!

This type of love is not superficial or self serving, rather it is unconditional, sacrificial love. The word Paul uses here for love is “agape” and it means the “highest kind of love,” a benevolent love that seeks to do what is best for the one loved, not what the one loved deems is best (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). This is not a love based on “attractiveness, emotions, or sentimentality,” rather on the willing submission of our hearts to the leading and working of the Holy Spirit within us as He seeks to produce such an abundance of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-25)! And Paul does not hesitate in holding him and his co-laborers up as examples of such a love.

This love should first express itself in their relations with one another but then should overflow and be expressed in other areas and with other people that our not believers, such as their enemies! (1)“For these persecuted Thessalonians this meant also loving their enemies, as Christ commanded (Matthew 5:44). To show love to their persecutors was the true safeguard against the natural tendency to retaliate when mistreated by outsiders. Such a love is not natural to man, it can be known and practiced only as it is received as a gift from the Lord and made to increase and abound by Him.”

FOCUS THREE:

“so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the [a]coming of our Lord Jesus with all His [b]saints.”

These verses reveal Paul’s goal in his prayer: their progress in personal sanctification. Since this process is not completed until believers stand in the presence of their savior, they would need strengthening by the Holy Spirit to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and persevere in godliness knowing that “he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Paul knows that this is a daily battle that the Christian must fight, but he is not alone (Philippians 2:12-13)!

It is important for us to notice that Paul does not pray for them to be “sinless,” he prays for them to be “blameless” before God. To be sinless in this life is impossible but to be “free of any reasonable charge from their fellowman” is not. Let’s take an (2)SOS and determine what Paul is saying by the word he chose to use here. Several Greek words are used in the New Testament to express this idea, and as I wrote in a previous blog on the importance of the usage of words (Word’s matter), I will take sometime to explain the difference and application here.

(3) “Amomos” means faultless, without blemish, free from imperfections. It refers especially to character. “Amemptos” is strictly unblamed, one with whom no fault is found. This of course refers to the verdict of others upon one. “Anenkletos” designates one against whom there is no accusation, implying not acquittal of a charge, but that no charge has been made. And lastly, “Anepilemptos” has the idea of “irreprehensible,” designating one who affords nothing upon which an adversary might seize, in order to make a charge against him. Let’s go back to our verse now.

It is the word anemptos that Paul chose to use in our text because he was speaking in regards to what others might be able to say against them if their was a lack of love and submission to the Lord in their daily lives. But how could they or even us today be blameless in God’s sight at His coming? Keep in mind that Paul is not speaking of “positional” blamelessness because that is solely achieved through the saving grace of God Himself in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:22)! He is however talking about experiential (practical) blamelessness. 

In speaking about the Lord’s coming Peter asks the question “since all these things will be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be” (2 Peter 3:11)? He then answers the question, “in holy conduct and godliness. . . Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless”(2 peter 3:11,14).

So, here the blamelessness that Paul is referring to is not positional but practical. It involves living a life that is above reproach and in line with God’s will revealed to us in His word, so that no reasonable charges from our contemporaries would stick to us and reveal any guilt. It also relates to our consciences, in that they would be clear and free of any known guilt when the Lord returns. It is exciting to know that we can cultivate such a character in our lives that manifests the reality of what has taken place in our hearts. This is a work of the Holy Spirit within us. A work He does with us not despite us!

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

  1. What other verses in the New Testament can you find that express the deity of Jesus Christ?
  2. What our the character traits of love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8?
  3. What do these scriptures teach in regards to the Holy Spirits ministry among us (John 14:26; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 4:30; Romans 8:16)?
  4. In what areas of your life may you need to confess a lack of conformity to the will and word of God and by faith seek His Spirits help in producing fruit that leads to “hearts that our unblamable in holiness” at His coming?
  • 1 and 2 Thessalonians: BMH Book, 1996
  • Step out Study
  • Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Zondervan, 1991

WAITING FOR THE SON

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Long reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Devotional verse: 1 Thessalonians 1:10

“And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (NASB)

The believers in Thessalonica were relatively new to the faith but the joy and zeal they shared with each other was astounding. Paul had heard of their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. . .” (Vs. 3), and he was full of joy and thankfulness at the persistent and perseverant manner in which they lived for their new found savior. These young converts become imitators of Paul, the Lord, and other churches because of the suffering they endured as followers of Jesus. They became examples to other believers around them for being steadfast in the faith and for being a faithful gospel witness to the watching world around them.

What gave them so much joy? What inspired them to persevere through suffering? What gave their hearts the courage to tell others about the “living and true God? Jesus promised that He is coming back for his beloved (John 14:1-3)! The joy and expectation that is expressed in verse 10 is expected and should be anticipated in those who have, as they have, “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” Idols do not necessarily need to be fashioned out of gold, wood, or any other material thing for us to be in bondage to them. We are very creative in setting up idols in our own hearts (Ezekiel 14:3)

Reflecting on these scriptures should “re-awaken” our longing for the Lord’s return. They  remind us that we are to live our lives in faithful anticipation of this event. What a joy it is to read: “he delivers us from the wrath to come.”

                                                                                                           Larry G. Stump Jr.

Prayer: Our Father, we rejoice in God our savior. We admit that we have not lived each day in light of the truth that Jesus is coming back for us and will make all things right. Help us, O Father, to live our lives from this day forward in joyful anticipation of being with our savior. Amen.