Newest podcast now available on YouTube. Check it out!!
On to the goal! Press on!
Alone, yet unafraid;
He cut the path who beckons theee’
On then, and undismayed.
On to the goal! Press on!
The eyes that are a flame
Are watching thee, what then are men
What matter praise or blame?
On to the goal! Press on!
Look not behind thee. Now,
When just ahead lies His “well done,”
And crowns await thy brow.
On to the goal! Press on!
Blind, deaf, and sometimes dumb,
Along the uphill, blood marked road,
Hard after Christ, press on!
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.
- Becoming—blameless and innocent, cr. 1:10 (crooked, perverse generation).
- 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!
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).
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?
NOT SO BRIEF A RECAP:
Paul has written this letter to a group of believers in Philippi whom he loves dearly. There is a fond affection from them, for him, as well. These believers participated in gospel work with Paul from day one (1:5). He says they are “partakers of grace’ with him (1:7). He calls them “brethren,” a term of endearment (1:12). “My beloved” another such term (2:12). He mentions there “proud confidence” in him (1:25). One cannot miss what he says about these folks in (4:1). He uses the terms “dearly beloved” twice, “brethren,” “longed for,” “my joy and crown (to Paul they were both a reward and a blessing).
From the first day, he says in 1:5, reflecting on his second missionary tour and first act on European soil, which we read about in (Acts 16: 12-40), they shared his interests, made his suffering their own, twice sent him money at Thessalonica (4:16), once at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9) and now again at Rome (4:18). We read of their love for him (1:9), and that love was reciprocated in full measure (1:7,8).
We also took notice that “There was a pronounced lack of any doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. So, they didn’t need to be corrected. No immorality in the congregation is confronted in the epistle. So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.
But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, and that cloud was dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict, within their fellowship, and Paul is greatly grieved over that.
This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. Let me remind you that Paul frames the letter with that issue in mind. For example, in the first chapter, he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”
So, in chapter 1, we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4, another urging toward one mind and one heart, And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.
The following verses that we will be looking at follow the flow of the theme of unity begun in 1:27. The plea, based on the results of salvation in their own lives (2:1), the various elements involved in it, and the excellent example of Jesus for our atonement (Vv 5-11).
5. Put sinners above Himself
We should take notice that these verses (12-18) begin with “so then,” or “wherefore.” In other words, Paul is saying, because of all that was just said, do this or conduct yourself in a particular manner. After verse 5, which is in the imperative or a command, Paul spoke in the indicative, relating facts or truths. But the facts or truths are to have repercussions in the Christian life. And that is what he is expressing in verses 12-16.
So, let’s jump in!
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure.
Working out our salvation
Paul begins by mentioning their obedience in spiritual things, not just when he was present but even MORE SO in his absence. In 1:5, he says their obedient,
faithful participation in the gospel from the very beginning. In 4:15, he mentions their obedience and faithfulness in supporting his ministry from day one while no other churches did!
This is a very commendable thing, obedience, isn’t it? As parents, we appreciate and praise God for such obedience in our children, don’t we? What a joy it is to our hearts to know that our children do what they are supposed to, EVEN when we are not there to oversee them. It is good they obey when we are there, but so much more pleasing when they follow our wishes when we are not. Amen.
So, with that strong accolade mentioned, Paul now exhorts them to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (vs. 12).”
Let me be clear. Paul does not mean that they have to work for salvation – Eph. 2:8-9. These people were already saved – Phil. 1:1. We see in verses 12 and 13 that there are two parts to this appeal, and we need to hold them in proper balance, or we can easily be deceived in our thinking on what sanctification is and how God uses it in our lives as Christians. In verse 12, we hear about our part, and then in verse 13, we read about God’s part.
So, this word, work in v. 12, means to bring to full completion, and along with the following verse, it also means that God gives us the energy to do His will. (We do not and cannot do it alone!) Paul is evident on that!
Paul says, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” Many Christians are busy trying to “work” out everyone else’s salvation. It’s that ole speck and log issue Jesus told the people about on the Mount back in Matthew 7:1-5. Christian, we cannot work out anybody else’s salvation—–BUT we must, according to the inspired word of God—work out OUR SALVATION!
At first glance, this doesn’t sound quite right. Let’s look at what Paul is saying a little more closely:
“…First, let’s take the phrase “your own salvation.” What a great possession! The only reason salvation is mine is because it was His first! He planned it! He purposed it! He pursued it! He paid it! And He pressed it upon my heart! Salvation became mine, and it became yours when we placed our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This salvation, when received, one writer says: “buries the past, changes the present and insures the future! What a great salvation we have in Jesus!”
Friends, we don’t work “for” our salvation, or “toward” it, or even “at” it, but we are to work “out” our salvation. Remember, Paul is writing to the Christian community, and he uses the plural pronoun for “you,” meaning he is addressing the entire church. This means that we are to live out what we know to be true.
Since we are saved, we must behave as believers, as “citizens of Heaven (3:20).”
The word “work” means to “work fully to the point of finishing the job.” The Romans used it for “working a mine” ultimately, getting out every piece of valuable stone. Likewise, we are to mine the depths of our rich redemption that was granted us by His grace.
God deposited a wealth of blessings into our lives; Paul mentioned some in verse 1(in his appeal), now we must go down deep to experience and enjoy what we’ve been given.
Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: “To will and to do, He gives the whole ability. It is by the grace of God which inclines the will to that which is good: and then enables us to perform it, and to act according to our principles. ‘You have wrought all our works in us,’ Isa. 26:12. Of His good pleasure, as there is no strength in us, so there is no merit in us. As we cannot act without God’s grace, so we cannot claim it, nor pretend to deserve it. God’s good will to us is the cause of His good work IN us…”
You and I cannot do righteous works without the aid of the Righteous one.
We have no strength, no will for holiness without God’s grace.
What you and I accomplish along these lines is solely in accordance with the kind intention of His will working within us.
We are to live out daily in our lives what we know to be true as God has revealed to us in His Holy Word, and He graciously provides the desire, will, and results!
Added to this warning is a qualifier, “with fear and trembling.”
The phrase “fear and trembling” helps us see that we must never take our faith lightly. One commentator says of this: “Fear” describes fright or terror and reverential awe. We must have such a reverence and respect for God that we will be afraid to sin, coupled with a strong desire to please Him.” That’s what Exodus 20:20 states: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
Friend, If you find yourself sinning all the time and not being bothered by it, it could be because you have lost your fear of God. The word “trembling” means “to quake with fear.” Isaiah 66:2 tells us that God wants us to have this kind of attitude when we approach Him: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Psalm 2:11 brings both fear and trembling together: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.”
We can revere God and rejoice in Him, “Believers should have a serious dread of sin and a yearning for what is right before God.”
After all, think about it for a moment. The Philippian believers, just like believers today, do not know, and cannot possibly know, all the sacrifices required of them in doing God’s will.
God’s will for the Philippians involved conflict (1:30), For Jesus, death (2:8), For Paul, imprisonment and possible martyrdom (2:17), for Timothy, costly sacrificial service (v. 20), and Epaphroditus, physical illness, near unto death (v.27).
When we contemplate our lostness, our deep depravity, and our inability to save ourselves, we can’t help but tremble at the thought of getting what we deserve.” We must get serious about our salvation, and as God’s redeemed, we must live responsibly and obediently for Christ.
So, Christian, are you living for and serving the Lord each day in fear and trembling? Or, have you noticed that those elements to your daily walk of faith have diminished or disappeared altogether?
Philippians 2: 5 “Have this attitude [a]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [b]grasped,7 but [c]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [d]on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In my last post, we were studying the first four verses of this chapter, chapter two. And I walked us through the letter and showed you how Paul felt about these people and why, so I won’t revisit that in this post. But as a reminder, we saw that all of Paul’s thoughts about this church were positive; his feelings toward them were warm. In 1:5, he is noting for us that they were genuine believers. Verse 7 speaks of their great courage because even in Paul’s imprisonment and “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him as “partakers of grace.” But with all the positive things Paul said about them, we also noticed that. “There was a very obvious lack of doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was apparently no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. They didn’t need to be corrected. There is no immorality in the congregation which is confronted in the epistle.” So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.
But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, thickened with poisonous gases. And that problematic cloud is dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict within their fellowship, the likes of which have poisoned so many churches.
I remind you of all that because I think we are prone to assume that disunity and conflict wouldn’t be a problem in a strong church. That is not necessarily the case. One commentator made this point. I shared this with you last time:
“There is a sense in which this is the danger of every healthy church. You see, it is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, when they are eager to carry out their own plans and their own schemes that they are most apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide” (William Barclay).
Paul is writing these words in chapter two, continuing the appeal he began in verses 27-30 of the previous chapter. He is building upon the theme of unity. Remember, he used the terms “standing firm in one spirit,” “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
In 2:2, he uses the same language. He says: “be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Paul wants these believers he loves dearly to express (live-out) the power, influence, and fellowship of the Spirit (benefits of the gospel) they received at salvation within their local fellowship. Paul is very aware of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche, and he addresses it later (4:2).
Paul expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church — unity among their fellowship!
And so we saw in verses 2-4, two themes emerge:
Both are vitally important to have if there is ever to be true unity within a body.
Last time I was only able to give an overview of verses 5-11, and I promised we would return to these scriptures, so here we are. May God grant us through His Spirit, humility, wisdom, and obedience to His Word.
Read verses 5-11
Think like Christ
Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly, thinking that unity and love, God-honoring fellowship, self-less-ness are things they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter continuing this appeal, leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example to follow.
So, to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The immediate connection is between the principle in Phil 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.”
Paul begins to present before these believers the Lord Jesus Christ! He wants them to understand the mind and heart of Christ as it pertains to His coming to earth to redeem fallen humanity from their sin.
Would you please notice that Paul again uses the imperative voice in the original language in verse five? He used the imperative or “command” language earlier in verse two when he said, “make my joy complete, or fulfill my joy,” depending on your translation. Then, it was a general exhortation to begin something at that very moment. Begin, right now, living in harmony or unity with one another.
But here, Paul is using the imperative voice differently! Here it is in the “present active” voice, which means, my paraphrase here, “Beloved, take this example of Christ I am laying out before you, understand why he did what He did, and be like Him, think like Him, from this day forward.” Paul does something like this in Chapter 4, verse 8.
Paul wants his readers to understand that the mindset, or attitude he wants them to retain in themselves, it was also in Christ Jesus! These are the very things Christ Himself thought upon. These are the very things that led Him to humble Himself and take upon Himself the role of a servant, become a human being, honor the father, and redeem wretched sinners like all of us.
Dear Christian, what’s your mind thinking these days? Are your thoughts cased in humility or pride? Are you thinking in ways that will help you be obedient to Jesus or disobedient? Are you thinking along the lines of “how can God be glorified in this,” or “how can I be glorified in”. . . whatever it is you’re involved in?
Perhaps you are not a Christian and are reading this post. I am thankful that you are here. Are you beginning to understand the amazing love of Jesus toward you? A love that, as we will see in our following verses, led Him to voluntarily humble Himself and take upon Himself humanity so that He could rescue us, rescue you, from your worst nightmare. Facing Him as a holy, righteous judge, guilty of heinous crimes against Him.
His mindset was one of a humble disposition that led Him to Submit Himself to the father in obedience, even obedience that led to His death. The innocent, spotless lamb of God, put to death for guilty, blemished, vile, sinners – of which we all are.
Live like Christ (6-8)
Here Paul opens before us the mind of Christ. Here Paul explains what led to Jesus laying aside, temporarily, His divine privileges. “Jesus Christ, God the Son, decided not to continue enjoying or to “cling to” His heavenly existence. Jesus enjoyed the same divine lifestyle, if you will, in heaven that God enjoyed (because He is God). Even though the Son could have lawfully maintained this heavenly existence, HE DID NOT! Rather, He assumed or took upon Himself a servant’s role and appeared in the likeness of men.
That’s why Paul takes us to the deity (heavenly side) of Jesus first before he shows us His humility (human side). So that we might see His humility in the grandeur of who He is and realize that no matter how far we stoop in this life to serve, we will never even begin to approach the depth to which He has condescended to serve us!
And that ( Ligon Duncan writes)— “as humbling a thought as it is, is also a very encouraging thought, because it reminds us again of that grand truth that we have encountered so many times in the Bible: that God never asks us to do what He himself is not prepared to do, and in fact what He has not already done in greater degree and dimension in time than He asks us to do.”
Paul is NOT talking about Jesus dismantling, unloading, or disinheriting himself of deity in these verses: He couldn’t do it if he wanted to. So, the Apostle Paul underscores the fact that Christ has always been and He continues to be God by His very nature. But despite that fact, and even because of that fact, for our salvation, He does not insist upon the manifestation of that majesty of His deity.
There’s something else that Paul is saying in these verses as well (7-8). He’s saying that when Christ came into this world, He did not claim His privileges and prerogatives. How Jesus accomplished our salvation was not to stand on those things but to give them away, to forego them, to veil His majesty, and to deny himself the rightful privileges and prerogatives that were His.
Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and us Christian, that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring way within the body of Christ (His church).
Are you following the example of Christ in the way you live out your faith within your local church body? Is Christ’s selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring mindset, example, yours? If not, what is it that keeps you from following in His footsteps?
1 THESSALONIANS 5:14-15
BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we looked at some of Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians regarding those men who were spiritual leaders in the church. In verses 12-13, he instructed them to “recognize those who labor among you,” and to “esteem them highly, in love, for their works sake.” He then made the plea for there to be peace within their local congregation. We will focus on verses 14-15, where the Apostle expresses how these folks are to treat each other within their fellowship.
14 “We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [a]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”
FOCUS ONE: Paul’s list of appeals found in these two verses are:
- Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
- Encourage the fainthearted.
- Help the weak.
- Be patient with all.
- Do not repay evil for evil.
- (But) always seek what is good for one another.
This is a list of continuing responsibilities that each one of us has toward one another. If your church has a church covenant, you will probably notice that these items are expressed, in some form, within it.
So, let’s spend some time on each one, fleshing them out a bit, so we can become better equipped to love and serve one another as is fitting those who claim the name of Christ.
- Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
I think that we can all agree that such people need mature, loving accountability. It appears that some of the people in this newly formed church were neglecting their daily duties. They quit work and were not providing for their families. Most likely because of their misunderstanding or misapplication of things that Paul had taught them regarding the Lord’s return when he was with them (1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 5:1-3). This problem even had to be addressed in the Apostle’s second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).
You may remember that earlier in this letter Paul encouraged them to lead a quiet life, attend to their own business, work with their own hands, and behave appropriately to those outside the church. It appears that some people were not listening to those commands and needed to be admonished.
His next appeal is to encourage the fainthearted. These are people within the local church body that tend to become discouraged and depressed more quickly than most others. Such Christians need someone to come alongside them and share encouraging words; to say and do things to encourage them and cheer them up. The idea seems to be one of attempting to stimulate such people into pressing on in the “good fight of faith,” in other words, encouraging them to persevere!
“help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
FOCUS TWO: Helping the weak is next on his list. Some within the church did not lean on or press into the Lord as much as they should’ve for their spiritual needs. Of course, it should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, we are all weak and need the support and strength that comes from other believers-but some Christians need it more than most. So Paul calls for a “supportive ministry” to help these people.
Paul’s concern is regarding moral and spiritual weakness, not physical weakness. In their case, it might have been issues related to a shrinking back from the persecution they were enduring (3:3-5). Or, it could have related to their giving into various temptations to immorality around them (4:3-8). Another possibility would be their weakness in exercising Christian liberty in doubtful areas; this happened in other churches (Romans 14:1-15). Quite possibly, it was not simply one over another, perhaps all of these things were happening. So, Paul urges those who are strong in the faith, actually, in these words, he expresses that such people within the congregation are responsible for supporting those among them who are weak.
Moving on, we find patience next on his list. “Be patient with all.” This statement actually could be viewed as a summation of the previous three. Dealing with unruly people, the fainthearted and weak among them, would not be easy. Sin is active in all of us and requires our utmost attention in combating it within ourselves. But now he tells them that they have to help others in their combat! And some people say that the Christian life is easy. Really?
It takes a particular disposition to deal with other people who may not like OR apply our help and counsel. You and I can easily fall into a spirit of anger and bitterness. The danger for those receiving patient love and counseling involves their lack of desire to receive and apply such help. Intentionally or unintentionally, a person may be leading those who seek to help into a spirit of resentment or bitterness. But this should not be the case among believers. We all need patient treatment from each other as we “grow up unto all things in Christ.”
15″ See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”
FOCUS THREE: When we are angered or disrespected, our natural inclination is to retaliate or inflict injury, in some way, on the one who hurt us. Paul understood this natural, fleshly tendency within human nature, even among Christians, so he exhorts these people who are immature in the faith, but growing, to “not repay evil for evil” (v. 15). In other words, do not retaliate or seek revenge on someone who wronged you.
The desire will most likely be strong, but we must resist it. In those times when we feel like “getting even,” we must remember that our Lord spoke against it in Matthew 5:38-42, and so did the Apostle, in more detail, in Romans 12:17-21!
“(BUT) always seek after that which is good. . .” After dealing with what is harmful or just so much against our nature, Paul gives them and us an alternative, a better way to expel our energy! The Apostle told the Philippian church to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We must remember that the offender’s welfare, or person in need, should be our prime objective. We should think of Jesus on the cross, not only for our encouragement but also for an example to follow. His selfless, sacrificial love for sinners, you and I included, is a fantastic example of self-denial that we need to be reminded of and strengthened with. This is true if we are going to be able to walk with such integrity and compassion among our brothers and sisters in Christ and those in the world around us.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
- 1. Does your church have a church covenant? If so, read through it and see how well it lines up with these scriptures and others you find during your personal study time.
2. How are you doing regarding caring for others within your local church? Do you receive instruction well? What might have to change in your heart?
3. How do you handle being wronged by someone? Do you harbor resentment or bitterness towards others? What other scriptures can you find that can help you in this area?
Extended reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
1 Corinthians 1:18 “for the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The idling of car engines stopped, and many people, including myself, left our vehicles to begin the one-mile hike to the cross. In a small town known as Paxinos, Pennsylvania, the Easter service at the cross is a big event. The 24 foot high cross, placed initially and maintained by the Boy Scouts, troop 250, sits high on top of a mountain, and the only access to it is by walking unless you are unable to walk, then a van will transport you to the top.
Young and old alike come faithfully each year to sit beneath the cross and hear a sermon of power, hope, and love: the message of the cross! As the pastor preaches, we enjoy a fantastic panorama of the surrounding countryside. The view before us reminds us all that the forgiveness purchased by Christ Jesus on the cross is available to anyone who will turn to Him in faith!
It’s easy to hear these words of Paul and become discouraged. After all, many people are perishing because they think that no one can die and return to life again. But we should be encouraged as we read these verses because God, in His wisdom, was pleased to use what seems foolish to some to save even the most hardened of sinners!
Listening to the Easter message reminded me of the ongoing work of salvation that God is accomplishing through His Son, who came to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Let us encourage one another with these words.
Prayer: Blessed Lord Jesus, let our faith be fixed and unaltered, one that never grows weary or disheartened. Help us be pleased with what you are delighted with, always rejoicing in the hope and glory of Christ Jesus! Amen.
Hands once raised in supplication
Pierced with nails of cruelty
Knees that knelt before the Father
Rendered helpless on a tree
Brow once knit in concentration
Wanting naught but Father’s will
Bleeding from a thorny crown
Bowed to love’s directive still
Feet that walked on dusty pathways
Leading Him to destiny
Now wounded, torn and crippled
Stained with blood at Calvary
This, a picture of my Savior
Forsaken and alone was He
Beaten, suffering, crushed and dying,
Jesus hung upon that tree
Burden of all mankind’s sin
Held Him there in agony
Magnificent, His tender heart
Stilled by love for you and me
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5, NIV
WRITTEN BY: CONNIE FAUST