A NARROW GATE AND A DIFFICULT ROAD 

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted (narrow, difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Many Christians in the church had been taught to believe that the “Christian life” would be all blessings and prosperity. That they can “have their best life now” because God is for them and will give them what their hearts desire. Well, there is some truth to all that, but these same Christians move forward in their life only to become confused, discouraged, and depressed that what they were taught, what they expected, hasn’t happened in their experience.

Are there blessings that God graciously bestows on those He saves? Absolutely! Is this life the ultimate best we have to look forward to? Absolutely not! These verses help us to understand this a bit better.

In these verses, we have TWO gates that everyone will enter:

  1. The narrow gate (which speaks of salvation in Christ), OR
  2. The wide gate (which speaks of destruction, eternal damnation)

And we have TWO roads to travel:

  1. The difficult road (which speaks of the Christians path of sanctification), OR
  2. The broad way (which speaks of being wider, more accessible, more pleasing)

Our creator (author of the Bible) encourages each of us to enter, i.e., look for and pursue the narrow gate, not the wide gate. That goes against the grain, doesn’t it? We would much rather take the “path of least resistance,” and if we’re being honest about it, we would admit it, right? After all, we’re pretty good people aren’t we?

The gate or “door” is how a person can get into a home, building, or automobile. So, Jesus is saying, very directly, that there is ONLY ONE entryway into eternal life (which includes forgiveness of sin and peace with God), and that is through this one very exclusive entry point! And, so we wouldn’t be in the dark about what door this is, Jesus, in John 10:7, told those listening, including some Pharisees, that He is the door!

Coming to repentant faith in Jesus grants us entry into what the Bible calls “eternal life.” Positionally regenerated believers live in what Paul called “newness of life,” even now, although not yet to its fullest extent!

Before a person comes to Christ by faith or rejects His kind offer of forgiveness, they have before them two roads. One leads to eternal life, and one leads to eternal destruction (see above verses). But what about after we enter in the narrow gate (Jesus)? Those that will not repent and “look unto Jesus” enter the wide gate and travel the broad way that leads to their eternal condemnation. BUT, those who believe in Christ and His finished work at Calvary enter eternal life through Him and are now walking on the difficult road. The road is also known as experiential sanctification.

This road is the pathway in which God, through His Spirit and His word, conforms us to be more like our savior (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6)! We must be conformed unto Him because we have “been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so that we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). 

This road is not easy. As we walk through this world, we will witness and suffer the consequences of sin, ours, and other people. We will have trials and tribulations in this life (James 1:2; John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12; Romans 8:18). BUT, through them God, through His Spirit and Word and with the intercession of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), in His grace makes even these seemingly bad things work out for good (Romans 8:28), and that includes our “transformation” into the beautiful image of our savior!

THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT (pt.2)

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BRIEF INTRO: In our previous study, Paul was rejoicing in the Philippians revived ministry to him. For various reasons, they could not support him financially or even send anyone physically to “share in the cause of the gospel” with him. But now Epaphroditus had arrived, and Paul is greatly encouraged by their great benevolence towards him for the sake of the gospel.

In this study, we will be focused on some essential lessons that Paul had learned during this time in his apostolic ministry.

11 Not that I speak [a]from need, for I have learned to be [b]content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things [c]through Him who strengthens me.

 FOCUS ONE: The value of learning (4:11-13)

At first glance, it is self-evident in our reading of this part of the letter that Paul “wasn’t all that and a bag of chips,” as an apostle. He was a man, redeemed by grace, like all repentant sinners, and in his Christian walk and ministry experiences, he had to be taught some things. Contentment in life’s circumstances is not innate within us; it is a character trait that has to be learned and honed in the day-to-day experiences we face.

Paul shared with the Corinthians precisely what the life of an apostle looked like daily. He wrote to them of the ever-changing circumstances that he faced in his effort to proclaim Christ crucified and risen (2 Corinthians 11:23-33)! 

23 Are they servants of Christ?—I am speaking as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, [a]beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift at sea.26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and [b]exposure.28 Apart from such [c]external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is [d]led into sin [e]without my intense concern?

30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33 and I was let down in a basket through a window [f]in the wall, and so escaped his hands.

Through such things as these, Paul matured in his faith and learned what it means to be content in “any and all circumstances.” We do not like adversity; we would rather not experience danger and hardships in our lives. To truly be hungry is an experience that we have not had to endure in our western culture. Honestly, how many if any of these terrible things have we had to endure in our lifetimes?

I believe that our western Christianity in general suffers, and our personal growth in Christ is impeded because we are so blessed in America. Currently, we are not being hunted down and stoned or experiencing starvation. We have warm homes and comfortable beds to sleep in, and the vast majority of us are not experiencing sleepless nights because of our constant journeys around the globe.

But even so, we all experience troubling circumstances in our lives that are “God’ ordained,” things that are “granted” (1:29) for Christ’s sake in our lives to grow us and conform us more and more into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ!

It is through these experiences that Paul learned contentment (autarkes). The philosophical sense of the word among the Stoics was that of self-sufficiency. “Man up,” we say these days, but in the NT, we find this word is given a new dimension as part of godliness (1 Timothy 6:6). Paul finds its ultimate defining quality NOT in himself but in “the One who strengthens me” (4:13).

FOCUS TWO: 

Paul progressed in His Christian walk by moving 

A. From wondering to knowing

We begin our walk of faith with a sense of optimism and excitement. We may even believe, at first, that blessing upon blessing is coming our way now that we are in Christ and that no evil thing will hurt us. God is love, right? And a loving Father will certainly not allow hardship and persecution to befall us.

Saul, now Paul, went from persecutor to persecuted (Acts 9). From social and religious privilege to understanding all of that was “rubbish” and not helpful in “gaining Christ” (Phil3:8). He “grew up” in his knowledge and application of faith in Christ, no matter what circumstances he found himself in. 

B. From concern to contentment

God in His kindness, allowed Paul to experience such things. He learned that no matter what trial and tribulations he faced, no matter what hardships he had to endure, no matter what benefits he had to forgo, and no matter who would betray him, he could be content. Paul could still move forward serving His God, strong in his faith, and accomplish things independent of perceived necessities because his satisfaction was not found in men but in God! Paul’s satisfaction and sufficiency were in Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13).

C. Anxiety over circumstances to confidence in Christ

“Paul has such strength as long as Christ keeps pouring the power into him. A living Christ on the inside is more than sufficient to endure the circumstances on the outside. What Christ wants Paul to do, Christ enables Paul to do. Where the finger of God points, the hand of God provides the way.”

This is the” secret” to contentment. It has to be learned in the school of life, not in any self-help books or talk shows.

D. The value of giving goes beyond the gift and extends to profit or fruit, evidenced growing in a believer’s life (v.17).

Based on Paul’s previous statements (4:11-13), his interest in the Philippians was not merely what he could gain from them, rather the profit (fruit) which would grow in their account. 

Paul has been using the language of financing throughout this section, and that language continues. In other words, Paul speaks of their faithful generosity as something that will provide interest growing in their “spiritual” account. Their spiritual growth was Paul’s constant concern, and he knew that God keeps good records! The “heavenly” deposits, if you will, that God “the good bookkeeper” will add to their account.

So, he concludes this epistle with much rejoicing in his heart and encouragement to these believers to continue trusting their Heavenly Father (v. 19,20).

FOCUS THREE: Benediction: (4:20-23)

From verse 10 forward, Paul wrote in the indicative (Explication verbi dei), simply stating facts and explaining what was going on in his life and mind—reminding them of past events. In verse 20, he moves into the exclamation mood because he is expressing an element of emotion. It is like he Pauses in his thinking for a moment and praises God!

But in verse 21, interestingly, he uses the imperative mood when he tells them to “greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” It is a command. It is in the aorist middle, which relates to their action only, not timing. 

The apostle wanted all the saints at Philippi to receive his greeting without partiality. Timothy and Epaphroditus, who were with him and others serving in the cause of the gospel in Rome, would be included in the “brethren who are with me.”

Those in Caesar’s household most likely refers to a significant amount of people, not just Caesars’ immediate family (cooks, food tasters, princes, soldiers, etc.).

Paul concludes this epistle as he begins, desiring the grace of God be upon them!

I hope you enjoyed this study as much as I did. I am thinking about doing a study through the gospel of Mark, and so I am in need of some time for study and preparation. I will post some random studies for a brief time and then go through Mark with you. God bless.

HE IS RISEN

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HE HAS RISEN!

“He is not here;

                 HE HAS RISEN,

                                 as He said.”
                                              (Matthew 28:6)

The stalwart guards stood watch that day
around a dead man’s grave.

Not mindful that He was the Lord,
they stood there, bold and brave,
till all at once they fell away
without a chance to fight,
for Jesus had returned to life,
and vanquished sin’s dark night.

The angel band drew near to praise
and glorify their King.
They crowded in to worship Him

and hallelujahs sing:
for they had longed to comfort Him
as on the cross He hung,
but He bore all the suffering,
this Savior, God’s own Son.

My sin was pardoned on the tree
that held this blessed Christ;
He took the punishment for me 
and paid sin’s awful price.
Only the perfect lamb of God
could love a wretch like me
enough to die, enough to live,
enough to set me free!

The empty tomb, a witness stark 
that Jesus lived again, 
and soldiers fearing for their lives
knew Christ was no mere man!

O Jesus Christ, my dearest Friend,
O King of heaven and earth,
Though ages pass, no tongue can tell
the measure of Your worth
!

Guest Poet: Connie Faust

PAUL’S MINISTRY

PHOTO FROM PEXELS PHOTOS

1 and 2 Thessalonians 

Study 2

Paul’s Ministry

“For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our [a]reception among you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been treated abusively in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God [b]amid much [c]opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or [d]by way of deceit;but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not intending to please people, but to please God, who [e]examines our hearts. For we never came [f]with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext [g]for greed—God is our witness— nor did we seek honor from people, either from you or from others, though [h]we could have [i]asserted our authority as apostles of Christ. But we [j]proved to be [k]gentle [l]among you. As a nursing mother [m]tenderly cares for her own children, in the same way we had a fond affection for you and were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own [n]lives, because you had become [o]very dear to us.”

“For you recall, brothers and sisters, our labor and hardship: it was by working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, that we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly and rightly and blamelessly we [p]behaved toward you [q]believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Brief recap: In our first study (1 and 2 Thessalonians) we saw the beginning of Paul’s thoughts toward these believers in Thessalonica. Paul is thinking back to the time that he was personally with them ministering to them. He reflected on their own suffering (Silas, Timothy, and himself) in bringing the gospel to them (Acts 16-17). He expressed how the gospel came to them in “power and in the Holy Spirit” (vs. 5), and how they, under “much tribulation,” received the gospel and turned “to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (vs. 9). He reflected on their strong testimony to others; those in their local community, and those in the surrounding regions (vs.8). And being encouraged by Timothy’s report of their well being, mentioned with much joy their watchfulness and perseverance as they waited for Christ Jesus to return. Paul with much love and joy in his heart for these new believers in this newly formed church, commends them for their faith and their application of it in their daily lives.

Brief intro: In this study we will be focused on Chapter 2:1-12. Paul, in remembering his time with them, now reflects back to their coming to them and reminds them of what it cost him and his friends personally to bring the gospel to them. He also reminds them of how they conducted themselves among them when they were with them. 

Focus one: In verses one and two Paul reminds them of the manner in which they came to them in Thessalonica. We should take notice to the language Paul uses in this section (“For you yourselves know,” “You recall,” “You are witnesses,” and “just as you know”) are terms he uses throughout to express the correctness of what he is saying to them. These are things that they could not honestly deny. It appears that there may have been some false accusations floating around about Paul and his friends and their ministry, and so *“this defense gives us insight into the nature of the ministry of the gospel in the early church,” especially the beginning missionary efforts.

Paul and his companions had been “mistreated” in Philippi (Acts 16), and yet with unhealed wounds on their bodies from being beaten, hunger and weakness from imprisonment, and traveling approximately 100 miles to get to Thessalonica, amid “much opposition,” they boldly speak the gospel to them! 

Should their motives be suspect as may have been falsely propagated? Not at all. These men acted with great courage in bringing the gospel to them. The physical, emotional, and mental struggles they had to face in order to be faithful to their calling were tremendous. If it were not for their divine calling they most likely would not have come to Thessalonica and thereby escape more abuse and harsh treatment. 

They spoke with integrity. Their motives were pure. They did not use flattery, deceit, or cunning tricks to get them to believe their message. They did not suffer what they did for human praise, nor did they pretend to be their friends to get them to trust them. No, quite the opposite! They came in obedience to the Lord, to please Him not men (vs. 4). They came because they were called of God (2 Timothy 1:1) and “approved” by God to be entrusted with the gospel (vs. 4; 1 Timothy 2:5-7).

Focus 2: Not only were their motives pure, their methods were as well!  They did not come authoritatively although they could have (vs.6). *“The thought of this passage is obvious: they didn’t even take what they had a right to because they were so motivated to get the gospel out.” Impure motives and methods? Obviously not. Pauls says that they “became gentle among them as a nursing mother cares for her own children” (vs.7). And exhorting, encouraging, and  imploring them as “a father would his own children” (vs.11). These metaphors are of a loving, self-sacrificing relationship between a mother and father and their children, whom they care deeply about, and The apostles care and concern for these young converts. As a mother and father physically nurture and provide for their children in hope that they will mature, exercise wisdom and prosper in their lives, so these men spiritually nurtured and cared for them. They also prayed earnestly for their lives to be blessed of God. 

Focus 3: Paul’s desire for these young believers was that they would “walk in a manner worthy of God” (vs.12). The New Testament widely uses this term “walk” in reference to our manner of conduct (2 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 2:6; 1 John 2:6). In other places in the New Testament we find other phrases that mean the same thing. For example: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10)

Paul is concerned about their fruitfulness or lack thereof at the return of Christ. He says: “so that you may walk worthy of the God who “calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (vs.12). “This is an incentive to a high quality of life.” The “God who calls” us is a God of holiness, righteousness, and goodness. He commands those He redeems back from the curse of sin to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-17). To be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). To have the “mind” of Christ (Philippians 2:5). In other words, to live lives that are reflective of His character and nature.

This is a manner of living that cannot be accomplished by our own efforts no matter how noble and zealous we may be. We can only walk in such a way if the Spirit of God indwells us. For that to happen we must be “born again,” i.e., saved or redeemed (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 2:14). (Gospel)

 As we proceed through these letters we will naturally sense more of Paul’s fatherly (spiritual) concern for these believers as we observe him comforting, strengthening, and discipling them in their walk of faith.

For further thought:

  • What character traits are essential for gospel ministry? 
  • What various methodologies for ministry do we find in churches today? Are some more helpful than others” More harmful? Why?
  • Should integrity matter in ministry? Why or why not?
  • How important is obedience in the Christian life (vss. 10-12)?
  • Paul had a gentle heart for people. He was willing to face opposition to get the gospel to others. Are you willing? Why or why not? What needs to change?

David Ewert Commentary on the Bible, Pg. 1072

Benjamin C. Chapman Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

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