LIGHTS IN THE WORLD (part 2)

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, we studied Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians regarding their obedience to the revealed Word of God and his plea for them to “continue” in such obedience. In verse twelve, we saw words of affirmation, “just as you have always obeyed”. . . “much more in my absence,” and, words of exhortation, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

 In this study, we are going to continue to focus on what Paul is telling these people in regards to their salvation and, I believe, answer some questions that some of you may be struggling with currently as you seek to “rightly divide the word of truth.” 

So, welcome back. Let’s dive in! Are you ready?

13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure 14 Do all things without complaining or arguments; 15 so that you will [a]prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you [b]appear as [c]lights in the world, 16 holding firmly the Word of life, so that on the day of Christ I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

FOCUS ONE: GOD’S PART (13)

What a great thought, “God is at work in you,” Christian!!

Paul said this much back in 1:6 (He began a good work in us and will perfect it).

The writer of Hebrews said: (13:21 that “He is working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” So, Christian, be encouraged! You are not alone; even if you feel that way sometimes, God is working in you!!

Now, in our text, we see that Paul states two ways in which this is true. First,

To Desire or to Will, depending on your translation. God reveals His will unto us and coaxes us into adopting His will as our own.

Second, we read, “to do OR work.” Not only are we energized to know His will, but we are empowered to do His will as well. (The Holy Spirit is the key – John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, (Paraclete, one who comes alongside) that He may be with you forever. (God works in, through His Spirit, so that we can work it out!)

God doesn’t just save us and leave us to sort out His will. He moves in our lives and brings us into His work. Before we were saved, God worked on us, John 16:7-11. Now that we are saved, He works within us, John 16:13. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding as to what the will of God is for our lives, and He creates within us a desire to carry out that will.

 One commentator makes this point: “That is how the Christian life operates! God reveals His will to us, and we follow Him in obedience, John 5:19-20! The Christian life is not one of passive involvement. We don’t just sit around watching God do all the work. No, He places within us a desire to be involved in that work. God shows us what to do, and we go and do it. That, after all, is why He saved us – Ephesians 2:10! God saved us to work, and He has equipped us for that work, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11. Obviously, then, there should be natural reverberations of this in our daily lives.

Such reverberations manifest themselves in private and corporate living – living out our salvation in our daily lives. Reread 14-16.

  1. Becoming—blameless and innocent, cr. 1:10 (crooked, perverse generation).
  2. Being—-lights in this world (gospel witness)

Both of which have a strong emphasis on our personal and corporate testimony for Christ. Christian, our testimony of Christ, should be uppermost in our thinking so -as- to affect all our attitudes and behaviors.

Is that true of you and your testimony?

A. Are you careful how you speak to others?

B. Are you mindful of what you do and do not participate in? 

C. Are you a complainer?

“Complaining seems to be the American way of life. Most conversations are complaints about the government, the economy, the taxes we pay and even about the weather. Among Christians, we hear complaints about the sermon – too long, too dry and too pointed. Or there are complaints about the congregation – too large, too cold, too small, too emotional or too impersonal. Complaining is not just an American pastime. It is a human race pastime because all men do have a sin nature which tends towards the negative rather than the positive. Complaining is a spiritual problem and it has to be dealt with and spiritually defeated.” (Arnold)

The Philippians were commanded not to be complainers (14). They were not to complain about the difficulties they would experience or the persecutions that will come upon them as they worked out their “own salvation in fear and trembling,” in carrying out God’s good pleasure in their own lives.

They were to live their lives in such a way that no one would be able to criticize them. Their lives should be clean and innocent before a watching world!

A specific Old Testament passage is behind Paul’s words. In Deuteronomy 32:5, in the song of Moses, in referring to the grumbling and unbelief of the children of Israel in the wilderness, Moses says, “They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation.” Paul here refers to them and all Christians as “children of God.”

Paul turns that around here and says that we are God’s children, living amid a crooked and perverse generation. So we must be careful not to grumble and dispute, as Israel did in the wilderness, (because) as God’s people we are supposed to shine forth in this dark world as lights, holding forth the Word of life, the gospel of Christ.

Paul says in 2:16: “Holding firmly (fast, forth) to the word of life, then on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.”

Now, in case you missed it, the gospel is central to all of this! It is the gospel and the Jesus of the gospel that saved them. It is the gospel that produces godly behavior in them. The gospel makes any fruitful witness to a lost world (1 John 1-4).

These dear people whom Paul loves so much, whom he brought the “word of life” to, this healthy church is to offer the Word of life to the lost souls around them, and for that to be effective, their lives need to be conformed to the gospel. They are to imitate their savior!

1. Obedience

2. Reverence

3. Self-less-ness

4. Sacrifice

5. Put sinners above Himself

Friends, Jesus Christ, left the splendor of heaven, temporarily laid aside His privileges as the Son of God, to take on the body of a human being. Humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, to publicly be the propitiation for sinners, like us, by shedding His lifeblood for the forgiveness of our sins. You see, we are all dead in our trespasses and sins until God, being rich in mercy and because of His great love for us, took our place and paid our debt. Jesus took upon Himself our sin so that we can, by faith, receive His righteousness!

It is by His grace that anybody is ever saved and forgiven. Do you know of that grace, dear friend?

So, it seems for Paul that if these folks would continue in their obedience

And pursue Christ-like-ness, faithfully living out and sharing the “word of life” Paul’s joy would be complete (vs.2), and he would have cause to rejoice that all his sacrifice and service for these people was fruitful and not in vain or purposeless.

Such a life. Living by faith, walking humbly and obediently before the Lord daily, serving others, shining as lights in a sin fallen world is not easy. There is a price to pay as a faithful follower of Christ.

FOCUS TWO: Cost of our salvation (Read 17-18) (not salvific, but that which is incurred daily living it out).

a. Sacrifice

b. Service

c. A joy

What does Paul mean by being poured out as a drink offering, and what does that have to do with His exhortations up to this point?

The first recorded occurrence of a drink offering was given by Jacob in Genesis 35:14, right after God changed his name to Israel. Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of Exodus 29:40. A drink offering was common in Jewish worship. There was a primary animal offering on the altar and then the secondary drink offering, which was poured out, usually on top of the primary offering.

At the writing of this letter, the Apostle Paul was waiting for the verdict from the Roman court as to whether he would be executed or set free. The possibility of being martyred was very present for him. Paul sees his own life possibly coming to an end, and it is a picture of this drink offering that is poured out on top of a sacrifice. He sees the faith of the Philippians being a sacrifice, and he sees his own life being poured out (sacrificed) on top of it.

He views the shedding of his blood secondary to the Philippian’s primary offering of sacrifice and service, which flows out of their faith in Christ. Their service and sacrifice for Christ were more important than Paul’s martyrdom. Yet, Paul rejoiced in the privilege and honor of dying for Christ if he was called upon to do so.

Paul, In 2 Timothy 4:6, used this metaphor as well. He sensed the end of his ministry, again compared his efforts to wine poured out of a vessel onto an altar. Paul sees his own “pouring out” as a thing of joy, a good thing, something that might be sweet to God. His testimony for Christ was paramount in his thinking and affections. Paul was showing true humility in that the service of the Philippians was more important than his death. He tells the Philippians that such sacrifice should be counted as joy, and they can rejoice in it together!

Dear reader, our testimony of Christ should be uppermost in our thinking to affect all our attitudes and behavior, whether that is unity in the church or a faithful gospel witness to a lost world. It will shine brightly when we are filled with joy, even amid trials.

Are we ready to serve the Lord even to the point of imprisonment and death if the Lord should ask it?

Are we ready to sacrifice everything if the Lord should ask us to reach the world with the truth of Christ?

If your answer is “yes,” then you have the mind of Christ in the area of service.

But if your answer is no, what has to be confessed, put off/on, what has to become a priority in your life for your answer to become a “yes?”

Dear Christian, our obedience to the Word and Will of God, is the difference between:

Unity or disunity within the church 

Selfishness or self-less-ness

Humility or arrogance

Complaining or praising

Holding fast the Word of life or neglecting the Word of life

Being lights put under a basket or lights placed on top of a stand to shine forth Joy rejoicing or grumbling and complaining

How will you walk away from this post today after hearing God’s Word to us?

A VOICE

Photo by zydeaosika on Pexels.com

Tomorrow, he faithfully promised
tomorrow for revival I’ll pray,
tomorrow I’ll plead as I ought to,
I’m too busy today.

Tomorrow I’ll spend in my closet,
Tomorrow I’ll humbly bow,
Yet ever a voice was whispering,
“But the church is languishing now.”

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,
The delay e’er repeated went on,
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow,
Till the years and the Voice were gone.

Till the church its God had forgotten,
Till the land was covered with sin,
till millions had hopelessly perished,
And eternity was ushered in.

Oh members of the body of Christ,
Oh ye church of the living God,
Oh editors, and leaders, and pastors,
Oh saints, where our fathers trod.

The Voice still insistently whispers,
Answer not, “tomorrow I’ll pray,”
The Voice is one of authority,
The church needs reviving today.

Author unknown

SAVED, BUT. . .

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am saved, but is self buried?

Is my one, my only aim,

Just to honor Christ my savior, Just to glorify His name?

I am saved, but is my home life

What the Lord would have it be?

Is it seen in every action,

Jesus has control of me?

I am saved, but am I doing,

Everything that I can do,

That the dying souls around me,

May be brought to Jesus, too?

I am saved, but could I gladly,

Lord, leave and follow thee;

If thou calmest can I answer,

Here and I, send me, send me?

Author unknown

TEACH ME TO PRAY

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I often say my prayers

But do I always pray?

Or do the wishes of my heart

Go with the words I say?

I may as well kneel down

And worship gods of stone,

As offer to the living God

A prayer of words alone.

For words without the heart

The Lord will never hear,

Nor will He to that child attend

Whose prayers are not sincere.

Lord, show me what I need

And teach me how to pray,

And help me when I seek thy grace

To mean the words I say.

Author unknown

GOD COMPLETES WHAT HE BEGINS

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

 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 

TRANQUILITY

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

I am sitting in my new yard enjoying all the beauty around me; the trees, flowers, birds, and the blue sky. What a choice moment in time; to meditate on the Lord’s goodness, faithfulness, and patience. I say “new yard,” because I have just relocated to Indiana from Pennsylvania. The planning, packing, traveling, and unpacking are all behind us, but the lessons learned, the wise reminders, and the constant faithfulness of my Father in heaven are now the things that flood my mind and fill my heart

One would think that after being a Christian for many years, I would not need God’s reminders, that I should be “rock solid” in my confidence in Him, that He will supply all my needs. I wish that were so, but it isn’t. Through this whole process of selling one home and purchasing another, I often found myself anxious about almost everything! House showings, finances, and interstate moving of all I own in one 26′ u-haul! I know that may not seem like a lot, but you pack it up in a truck, it quickly becomes overwhelming.

Why do we worry so much about everything? The insignificant as well as the vital matters of life. Indeed, one answer to the question would be that we’re human, and as such, are finite beings who do not know with certainty what the future holds. I think another answer could be that we are not very good at applying past lessons learned in our new experiences.

I have been thinking about the latter for some time. How often do we find ourselves in a predicament; decisions need to be made; life changes require us to seek God’s face and trust His will. You can add many other scenarios to this as well, and the point I am making becomes apparent; at least it should be evident.

These particular situations are new to us, they are not the same situations we faced last week or even last year, BUT they require the same trust in God and the same commitment to follow His will, wherever that may lead us! I often find that I am constantly re-learning this truth each-and-every time I face some new trial, some new situation that requires me to make choices when I do not have all the answers.

Lessons such as: 

  1. 1. Not to worry about the essentials: what I will eat or drink or wear because our Father in heaven knows our needs and provides for them (Matthew 6:25-34).
  2. 2. To take “one day at a time,” because tomorrow will care for itself (Matthew 6:34).
  3. Rather than give sway to our anxietieswe should PRAY! Prayer is the antidote to fear!
  4. 3. Remember that we are not alone in our daily walk. God has given us (believers) His Holy Spirit as a pledge because he cares for us. Rather than act in fear and pride, we need to humble ourselves under His mighty hand (Philippians 4:6-7)!
  5. 4. Our anxieties have ALWAYS proven to be a heavy weight to bear. (Proverbs 12:25), BUT casting these cares upon Him will give our hearts peace and life to our bodies (Proverbs 14:30)!

I know this. I have been taught these things. I had these struggles between worry and faith, pride and humility, and impatience and patience many times over in my life, and yet, when a new “unknown” befalls me, I become a student of His grace once again.

Some “Christian” authors write articles or books about “the secret of tranquility.” But it is no secret. God wants us to know how to experience true and lasting tranquility in this life, so He explained it to us in His holy Word!

The Psalmist tells us (Psalm 37:3-7) that we can experience true and lasting tranquility by being obedient to the Lord in these ways:

  1. v.3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
  2. v.4 Delight yourself in the Lord.
  3. v.5 Commit your way to the Lord.
  4. v.7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

As much of a challenge that all these life changes have been for me, I have happily found that I am doing better in casting my anxieties upon Him, but still have much room for growth!

.

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.

CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com


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 

PRAY FOR US

Photo by Griffin Wooldridge on Pexels.com

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?