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.
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.
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?
Please direct your focus with me back to verse 6 (read again)
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.
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
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. 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. To take “one day at a time,” because tomorrow will care for itself (Matthew 6:34).
Rather than give sway to our anxieties, we should PRAY! Prayer is the antidote to fear!
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)!
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:
v.3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
v.4 Delight yourself in the Lord.
v.5 Commit your way to the Lord.
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!
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:
“May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.”
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:
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 Corinthians 16:21 – “in my own hand.”
Galatians 6:11 – “large letters in my own hand.”
Colossians 4:18 – “I Paul write this with my own hand.”
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. How have you been affected by what you have learned and been reminded of in this study?
2. In what ways have you been applying Paul’s teaching in your own life?
3. Any questions regarding this study? Email me, and I will do my best to help find the answer.
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.
Romans 15:30-32: “strive together with me in your prayer to God for me.”
2 Corinthians 1:10-11: “you also joining in helping us through your prayers.”
Ephesians 6:18-20: “and pray on my behalf.”
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:
The salvation of sinners
For the comfort and encouragement of others
For their joy and peace and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives
Our government and its leaders,
The right words to say
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?
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:
To grow in their love for God
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)!
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:
The relationship between the congregation and its leaders (vv. 12-13).
The relationships within the corporate body (vv. 14-15).
More personal exhortations and applications. (Vv.16-18).
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. How do you view other Christians in your church? Are you faithfully upholding them in prayer?
2. How are you doing at expressing your love towards other believers, your church family?
3. How has the grace of God impacted your life? Is it your greatest delight and joy?
4. Do you have a desire for others to experience God’s amazing grace? How are you getting the message out?
BRIEF RECAP: Inthe past few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s second half of this letter to this young church. In the first part, the Apostle reflected on his time with them when He was there in person. And on how the gospel came to them, their reception of it, and their spiritual growth. His purpose, at least in part, was to strengthen this young church with the encouragement of the Lord’s return.
In the second half of this letter (Chapters 4-5), Paul has been looking ahead and reminding them of their calling and conduct as they move forward. In these scriptures, he has been giving them directions for their spiritual growth in light of the coming day of the Lord!
Paul’s desire throughout this letter has been to encourage and direct these young believers who are spiritually growing to excel still more (4:2,10). Paul’s concern is for them to be “entirely” or completely sanctified, so it fits, at this point, for him to express a prayer for them regarding their sanctification as he concludes his writing (vv.23,24).
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
FOCUS ONE: These folks experienced the “peace of God” at their conversion amid some severe tribulation (1:6). They enjoyed peace with one another at the time of Paul’s writing (1:3; 1:4-10; 3:6; 4:9-10). So, Paul naturally petitions the “God of peace,” who alone can provide them with peace for their future, to accomplish His work of “entire” sanctification.
Please be aware at this point that Paul understands that experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and ends, or is completed, only when “the Perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:10), when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)!
Now, to accentuate his desire of complete blamelessness before the Lord at His coming, Paul uses three different words: spirit, soul, and body, and that they “would be preserved complete.” The Apostle is emphasizing the totality of man, much like he did in chapter three (v.13), where he used the word “hearts” (the very person, the psychological core). In other words, the part of us that makes us persons!
When Christ returns, this process will be complete, but until then, believers rely on God to protect, empower, and equip them to live lives that are representative of His holy character. To live lives that would find no grounds for legitimate accusations against them from others.
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.”
FOCUS TWO: Dear Christian reading this post today, we too, like them, can live our lives with the confidence that God is achieving this work in our hearts and will present us blameless at His coming (Philippians 1:6; 5:24b)! Why? Because He is faithful! (1 Corinthians 1:8,9). “Who also will confirm you to the end, blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This very truth should give you “peace” in your walk of faith, dear Christian. Grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3). His peace is:
And will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we wait for His return!
Read again verse 24b: “He will bring it to pass.”
Dear Christian, let us learn from Paul and his desire for these young believers. As Christians, let us live our lives as people who are awake and not asleep, sober-minded and not carnally minded. Let us live our lives with a constant expectation of His return and therefore live our lives forsaking sin and fleeing temptations to sin.
As Christ-followers, we are to be ready for His return, not people who will be caught unaware or off guard, living in worldly pleasure with false security. Such people, the Bible says, will experience sudden destruction with no escape. BUT Christian, “God has not appointed you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9-10).
1. What do these verses teach us about God’s calling? (John 6:44; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 11:29)? Can you find others?
2. What do these verses teach us regarding how we conduct ourselves while we wait for the Lord’s return (John 14:15; 1 Peter 1:15; Romans 12:9-21)? Can you find others?
3. Are you experiencing peace in your life? What hinders you from living in God’s peace? How do these scriptures comfort and encourage us regarding God’s peace? (2 Thessalonians 3:16; Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6; Psalm 4:8) Can you add a few others?
4. Are you living in such a way that others can see you are living your life in expectation of your saviors’ return (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)?
Sorry for no scripture links in Further Thoughts area. For some reason I can’t add any and need to figure it out. Thanks.
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:
Pray without ceasing
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. 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. 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. 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?
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;”
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.”
“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:
What other verses in the New Testament can you find that express the deity of Jesus Christ?
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