PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE THESSALONIANS

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1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

Study 5

Brief Recap:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS TWO:

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

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

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

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

FOCUS THREE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:

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

1 and 2 Thessalonians

                                               

PHOTO FROM FREELY PHOTOS

STUDY ONE

THE GOSPEL ARRIVES

 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

“To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly keeping in mind your work of faith and labor of love and [a]perseverance of hope [b]in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,knowing, brothers and sisters, beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sakes. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word during great affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place the news of your faith toward God has gone out, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us [c]as to the kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from [d]idols to serve [e]a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from [f]heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 NASB).

One of the things that I find most attractive in this letter by Paul and his friends to this small group of believers is his genuine affection for them. His heartfelt sense of gratitude for their salvation and the resulting evidence of it on display for the world to see, elicits constant prayers to the Father in heaven on behalf of them. What a lesson for us already as we begin this study: our need to be diligent in prayer for those we shared the gospel with and  thankfulness for the various evidences of it that we witness in their lives.

Throughout this study we must keep in the forefront of our minds one thing (not that there won’t be other things that will demand our focus along the way), and that is this: this is a relatively young church. Some Jews but mostly Gentiles are what makeup this newly forming congregation and they came out of of a city which became the capital of Macedonia, a Roman province. As such, the moral climate of the city left much to be desired. Immorality of all types was rampant, and up to this point in time, they did not know about God or His salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. The standards and practices of their pagan society had to be “put off,” and God’s standards, moral and otherwise, had to be “put on.” Being new in the faith and with only a small amount of teaching and instruction from Paul (see background here 1 Thessalonians Historical Context), proved to be a problem for them in some regards, in light of what he taught them about the second coming of Christ (Take notice to Paul’s mention of the 2nd coming at the end of every chapter, specifically the end of chapter four and beginning of chapter five). It appears that they believed it could happen in their lifetime.

With that said, let’s dive in to our study!

Focus one: The gospel arrives (1:4-5)

Paul mentions in these verses that “our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

Obviously they spoke words to them, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), but words of men, any men, are inadequate and powerless to save, without the power of the Holy Spirit working through them, opening up the minds and hearts of the hearers to understand and believe those words. “We cannot explain the operation of the Holy Spirit which charges a bare verbal cable with high-voltage spiritual power. But we can ask what are the constituents (components) of a good cable” (R.A. Ward commentary).

These men proved to be good “components” of that spiritual power. We see that evidenced with the words “full conviction.” One of the clear evidences that a person is genuinely saved and called of God to share His truth, is just that, full or deep conviction in who they are and the message they have to share! This isn’t simply because they profess it to be so, but rather, because “the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). This testimony forges a deep sense of personal assurance and persuasion of the truthfulness of the gospel in their own lives. But this is not just proven by what Paul say’s, it is also manifested in the behavior these men exhibited among them while they were with them (2:1-12).   

Focus two: The gospel received (1:6,9)

Paul and Silvanus (Silas) brought the gospel to Thessalonica “through much suffering” and “despite great opposition” (2:2,3; Acts 16 and 17), and that is the same manner in which these folks received it! They had received it “in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6), and in much suffering at the hands of their own countrymen (2:14). Paul says that their salvation was due to “His (God’s) choice of you” (1:4). By that Paul means that God is the one that takes the initiative in our salvation. Salvation is not a work of man nor is it by works of men, but is solely by His grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). (See GOSPEL ).

How amazing is God’s salvation of sinners! “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)! These folks heard the gospel from Paul and Silas and the Holy Spirit supernaturally empowered those words to bring forth a repentant faith in the risen Lord. He “regenerated” their hearts and made them “new creations in Christ Jesus” (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17). In repentance they “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (vs. 9), and as a result their lives were forever changed! 

Focus three: The gospels affect

Let’s take a look at the changes in their lives as a direct result of the Spirit’s work within them. Instantly they became imitators of Paul, Silas, Timothy, as well as the Lord Himself and “the churches of God that are in Judea” (2:14).  In what manner? In that just as they suffered for the sake of the gospel so are these new believers (1:6; 2:14). But despite the suffering they endured from their neighbors, they were said by others to be faithful witnesses (1:8) and godly examples (1:7) to all the believers and unbelievers in Macedonia and Achaia. 

These folks were * “persecuted by the Jewish community that saw in the Christian gospel a threat to the very essence of Judaism,” and yet, they persevered with joy (1:6) and proclaimed the gospel by word and deed, so much so, that Paul’s testimony is that “the word of the Lord sounded or echoed forth. . . In every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (1:8). Instead of their faith being content solely with the fact that they had been saved, these Christians had a strong desire to live in obedience to their Lord and tell as many people as they could about their new faith in Christ and His mercy towards them. And as a result of their obedient faith their testimony went well ahead of them beyond their city into surrounding ones as well, proving to be a powerful catalyst for the gospel in those regions!

Their new found hope in Christ led them to live for Him daily as they waited for His return. Paul encouraged them to be “alert” and watchful for their Lord’s return (5:6), and with that hope before them they humbly, faithfully, and expectantly lived out the gospel for all to see!

For Further Thought:

Why was prayer such an important part of Paul’s life and ministry?

  • What are some positive things that come out of suffering for the gospel?

  • Name 5 ways in which Paul and Silas were positive examples to the Thessalonians. How can we apply these Examples in our own Lives?

  • In what three ways in verse 3 were the Thessalonians examples to Paul and Silas? How can we apply these examples in our own lives?

  • Are you living for Christ each day In hope and expectancy of His soon return?

  • What changes might have to be made in your own life to become a more Christ-like example to others?

  • *Evangelical commentary on the Bible, 1989, Pg 1074

POST ELECTION THOUGHTS

It’s a crazy and uncertain world that we live in and that truth stands out even more clearly to us each election cycle. I have sat back, as all of you have I’m sure, and watched the election process for the next president of the United States take place. I have, along with all of you, been riding the roller coaster of emotions up and down and have gone through many twists and turns, finding myself a bit nauseated as the ride comes to its end.

Whichever side your on; Republican or Democrat, the end result has far reaching consequences. As a Christian blogger I tend to think of things through the lens of a biblical worldview: from God’s perspective more so than my own. I am truly thankful that by His grace I am one of His redeemed, and through His Word and work in me by the Holy Spirit, I am able to see things from His perspective. That helps me cope with a lot of things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.

Can I be honest with you? I am struggling with the very real potential (possibly a reality till I post this), that a worldview far different than my own may be leading our country forward. As a Christian I do not see that as a good thing. (Click here to see the issues at stake in the current election). https://7waysfromsunday.com/2020/10/26/our-current-dilemma/

What am I supposed to do with that? How are we as followers of Jesus Christ expected to handle this potential outcome and the years that follow? Should I, as lady Gaga (who rode a garbage truck in front of Trump tower protesting) do the same at Joe Biden’s home?  Should I pull up my roots and move to another country as some have pledged to do? Maybe I could fall down in the middle of the street in my hometown and have a major breakdown, screaming “Noooo,” as someone with no hope, like one person did at Trumps 2016 inauguration.

Realistically, I can’t respond that way and neither can you. We are a people who have hope and that hope is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ! Come what may, we know that our God is in control and we trust in His providence over all things (Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 103:19). So, where do we go from here if our Father in heaven decrees it so that someone else, some other party, controls the reigns of government this upcoming year? God, in His Word gives us the answers that we are searching for:

Remember, God removes and establishes leaders. Daniel 2:21 teaches us that our sovereign God is the one who not only has the authority to change times and seasons, He also has the wisdom and authority to raise up new leaders and remove the old.  Paul taught the Roman believers that: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1-2). As a child of God I know that He is faithful and wise; I know that His thoughts are far wiser than my own. His ways and means of doing things will not always agree with what I think in any given situation (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that is ok, I trust Him, will you?

Respect and obey governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 instructs us to be in “subjection” to the current authorities. Paul does not qualify that in any way. Whether we are in the same party or not we are to respect and obey its role over us. Remember, God allowed this change and He requires His children to conduct themselves as “faithful ambassadors “ while living under this temporary civil structure. To resist, Paul states, puts us in the place of “opposing the ordinance of God,” and that is never viewed as a good thing (13:2). Our obedience is not blind. When obedience to civil authority requires disobedience to God’s Word, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately, we are not to be a people who fear such authority, God ordained it to be, as Paul says: “a minister of God to you for good” (13:4). So, let us be diligent in promoting and helping our leaders in their role of restraining evil and protecting life and property, while trusting our Heavenly Father with the outcomes.

Reevaluate our prayer lives. We are to be a people that prays. A people that entreats and petitions God on behalf of all men and that includes “kings, and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Whether we like the leader or not. Whether we agree with them or not, we are to be praying for them! This may be hard for some of us at first, but you will find doing it a blessing to your soul. Pray that our leaders would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Pray that their laws would be in accordance to God’s stated purposes that we find in His Word. Pray that God would use these leaders in such a way that we as Christians would be able to lead a “tranquil and quiet life” (vs. 2). In other words, that we would not have all kinds of external disturbances that would hinder us from being the church: Proclaiming the gospel, helping the poor and destitute, and building up the body of Christ.

Remain steadfast. Just as David petitioned the Lord to: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me” (Psalm 51:10), after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband, we too may need to repent of our own sin. Obviously, I am not implying that we murdered anyone but listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22). “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be guilty before the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. . .” Our anger is just as bad in God’s eyes as murder, because anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to murder.

Actually, anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to other sins, like: hate, strife, and loss of self control (Psalm 37:8; James 1:20; Proverbs 22:24). These are things that our bible tell’s us should have no place in our lives (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). In fact, it is an aspect of the flesh, not the Spirit, and we are called to walk in the Spirt so that His fruit may be manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). 

How have you handled your temper with friends, family members, and news anchors during this election cycle? Maybe it’s time to search our hearts and confess that we need God to cleanse and renew a right spirit with in us.

Rekindle a desire for holiness. As we move forward from where we are, I encourage you to pursue holiness. We are called to this very pursuit (1 Peter 1:15-16). Make it your goal to be more and more like your savior (Philippians 2:5-11). Fight the good fight of faith and like a good soldier: put off the old man, the old way of living, and put on the new man, “which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

I know, none of these things I mentioned are new and trendy in our day, but they are the teachings of scripture, and we will be truly blessed if we obey them in our daily lives. What I hope you realized as you perused through my post, is that the manner in which we move forward from here, is the same manner in which we are to regulate our lives no matter what is going on in the world around us! You and I are awaiting our king, king Jesus to return, let’s move forward seeking to bring honor and glory to His name, no matter who is president of the United States!

If you are interested in more on this topic you can listen to a series John MacArthur has on “Christians and politics” here: http://www.gty.org/library/articles/A124

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