Sunday, February 28, 2010

Not Appointed to Wrath

1Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

Now a clear statement of beautiful truth. We, believers, are “not appointed to wrath.” Again, we have to remember to stay in context. What is the wrath being referenced in this passage? The Day of the Lord. The phrase “obtain salvation” is a reference to a deliverance or rescue that has been purchased (from the Greek) by OUR Lord Jesus Christ. What was the price? His life; He willingly laid down His life on the cross and shed His blood to atone for my/our sin.

“sleep” = to lie down to rest, i.e. (by implication) to fall asleep

Interestingly enough, I expected to see a different Greek word for “sleep” in verse 10, one that referenced death (as used in chapter 4)----but it wasn’t. The truth jumped out at me as even more assuring. Whether the child of God is in the right attitude or mindset or not, whether he is being vigilant and watchful or not, his/her position in Christ is sure. We will live together with Him. We are not to experience the wrath of the “day of the Lord” because it is designated specifically as a time of wrath for those who are His enemies, those who have rejected Him. It’s all about what He has done—not what I am doing! Jesus has already suffered God’s wrath to spare us.

1Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

“Wherefore” – Based on the above truth…..

“comfort” = to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation):—beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort(-ation), intreat, pray.

“edify” = build, embolden; Webster – to instruct and improve, to teach or persuade.

In other words—Based on these truths, come together with one another, other believers, to strengthen one another when the times are tough and the enemy is trying to deceive you and/or cause you to doubt. When you get together, pray. There is truth to the old saying that there is strength in numbers. The Lord promises that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is in the midst of them. He also promises that if we ask anything according to His will, it is ours.

Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

1John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

Even as Paul gives these instructions, he acknowledges that they are already practicing what he is preaching.

The main truths presented:

• We, believers, are positioned in Christ as children of light.

• It is not God’s will for His children to experience the wrath that He has purposed for His enemies and those that reject Him.

• Jesus has purchased our “rescue” from God’s wrath.

• Our deliverance from this wrath is based on the work Christ has done on our behalf—not on what we are doing or not doing at any given point in our Christian walk.

• God’s wrath will be poured out on planet earth at a time often referenced in scripture as “the day of the Lord” and is for a specific time and purposes.

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

• Those who are unbelievers, who have rejected Christ as Savior, will not be able to escape experiencing that wrath once the appointed time begins.

I think it is also important to note that chapters four and five flow as part of a narrative as Paul seeks to encourage the faith of these believers. First, he talks about the believers being caught up and transformed to enjoy the presence of the Lord forever. Then he references the “day of the Lord” as a time that will follow that catching away and will be experienced by those who are “in the night,” unbelievers. He closes this section with the reminder that the believer has been rescued from the wrath of God by the work of Jesus on the cross. Nothing we do or don’t do as believers makes any difference as far as our deliverance from this wrath. Then, just as he did in the closing verse of chapter 4, Paul reminds the believers to comfort one another with these truths.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Believer’s Breastplate and Helmet

1Thessalonians 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

“Therefore” – Because we are not positioned in darkness, but are children of the light………

We (believers) should not live our lives like those who are in darkness (unbelievers). Sleeping and wickedness, such as drunkenness, are things associated with the night. In this context I think sleep is a reference to living as if there is no tomorrow and without thought of the consequences to your actions. Sleeping is a time of being unaware and not in control of our senses. I think the last half of verse six puts this thought in context. We know that Paul wasn’t teaching that actual sleep was something to avoid; we are just not to go to bed with the same mindset toward how we live our lives as do unbelievers. We are to “watch and be sober”; in other words, we are to live with an attitude of care and expectation of the Lord’s return, always aware of the spiritual consequences of the things we do and don’t do.

1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

We, believers, are of the day-----not the night. We are to wittingly choose to put on our spiritual armor daily. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the breastplate a bit differently.

Ephesians 6:14 “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness….”

Righteousness speaks of “innocent, holy, equitable character.” This is the character that is imparted to us through our faith in Jesus.

2Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

That righteousness also includes love since scripture declares, “God is love.”

1John 4:8 “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

The reference to the helmet as “the hope” of salvation is not referencing wishful thinking; it is a reference to confident expectation (from the Greek) of our future with Christ. As children of God, our salvation is not in doubt. It’s just that we will not experience the fullness of all that is ours until we are in our resurrected bodies in the presence of God.

The question came to my mind, “Why would Paul single out these two pieces of armor for this scripture?” I needed the scripture from Ephesians in front of me to consider this question.

Ephesians 6:11-17 “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God….”

It seems to me that in reference to the subject, “the day of the Lord,” these are the most important pieces of armor; they identify us as “children of light.” They are the pieces of armor that protect us from the fatal blows of the enemy. The other pieces of armor are for general defensive purposes against the attack of the enemy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

We Are Not in Darkness

1Thessalonians 5:1-2 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.

“times” = a space of time (in general, and thus properly distinguished from 2540, which designates a fixed or special occasion…) or interval; by implication, delay

“seasons” = an occasion, i.e. set or proper time: (the 2540 referenced above)

I thought the Greek was interesting for these words. It would seem that Paul is referencing the duration of the delay between the Lord’s first and second coming as well as the specific time designated for His second coming to establish His earthly kingdom. Paul had evidently taught these believers that these specific times (the delay and the actual return) had not been revealed to man.

Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

Paul’s tone indicates that the Thessalonians had been well taught regarding the subject of Christ’s return. They had been specifically taught that the “day of the Lord” would come as a thief in the night. In other words, without warning. That the “day of the Lord” is a time of judgment, destruction and darkness is clarified in the following verses (cf 1:10).

1Thessalonians 5:3-4 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

It jumped out to me that Paul is making a distinction between believers, his brethren, and unbelievers through the pronouns he used. “They” (unbelievers) will think they are living in a time of peace and safety when the day of the Lord begins. Verse three indicates that this time will begin with “sudden (unexpected, unawares) destruction (ruin, death, punishment).” He then goes on to compare the scenario of events to a woman going into labor. Jesus used this same comparison when teaching His disciples about this very subject prior to His death.

Matthew 24:8 “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (sorrows = pains of childbirth)

In reading this through again, I am reminded that the woman knows the general time of her expected delivery; she just doesn’t know the day or the hour.

The last phrase of verse 3 is quite specific—“they shall not escape.” As this passage continues to make distinctions between “they” and “ye/we,” the implication seems to be that “ye/we” will escape.

Verse 4 declares that the believer will not be overtaken as a thief. Why? Because we are not “in” darkness; the Greek for the word in denotes position.

As I continue to consider previous study in the area of prophecy, it is obvious that verse 3 cannot be referencing the actual return of Jesus as King because that will happen at a time when the whole world seems to be gathering together at Armageddon to make war—not a time of peace and safety. This supports the understanding of “that day” as a “period of time” (and is supported by the Greek) preceding His return. We identify that time as a 7-year period known as the tribulation or the 70th week of Daniel.

Due to more recent studies I think it is important to note that the “day of the Lord” and “the 70th week of Daniel” that we often reference as the 7-year tribulation period are not synonymous, but run almost concurrently with one another. The “day of the Lord” is directed toward the wicked on planet earth, and the tribulation period is directed toward the nation of Israel. The “day of the Lord” is a time of God’s vengeance against His enemies; the “tribulation” a time of refining a remnant and reestablishing a holy relationship between God and Israel.

1Thessalonians 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

We are “children (a “son”) of light.” We are positioned in the family of God in Christ, The Light of the world.

John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

John 12:46 “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”

Galatians 3:26&28 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Great Meeting in the Air

1Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

“ignorant” = not to know (through lack of information or intelligence); not understand

The first part of this verse indicates that Paul is introducing a truth that he wants to be sure the Thessalonian believers know and understand. This information pertains to believers who have already died physically. Their deaths should not cause those to whom Paul was writing to sorrow as though there was no hope—no future expectations. Paul is referencing the type of sorrow that leads one into deep despair with no hope of future fellowship.

1Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

“if we believe” – Each person had to examine his own heart for affirmation of his faith.

IF it is true that Jesus died and rose again (and it is), then they could confidently expect that God would bring those who preceded us in death as believers in Jesus with Him when He comes for His own.

I found this quote by R. A. Coombes (I forgot to note from where) in support of my understanding of this verse: “The word ‘if’ is what grammarians term a ‘first-class condition,’ meaning a condition that is assumed to be true.”

1Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

This verse clarifies that this truth is directly connected to the truth Paul wrote to the Corinthians. It is truth from the mouth of God.

1Corinthians 15:51-53 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Paul is referencing a coming of Jesus at a time when those members of the body of Christ who are still alive will experience an amazing transformation—from a corruptible/mortal to an incorruptible/immortal body. This will only happen once in the life of every believer. This time of transformation will happen simultaneously with those believers who have died physically before that event occurs.

1Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Paul now gives a chronological flow.

1. The Lord will descend from heaven with:

• A shout – The Greek indicates a “command.”

• The voice of the archangel – Michael is the only archangel identified in scripture. He is designated as the “great prince that stands for the nation of Israel.” (Daniel 12:1)

• The trump of God. – This would seem to reference the voice of God the Father. The voice of the Lord is described as a trumpet in Revelation.

Revelation 1:10-11 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:”

The Greek for the word trump references “a reverberation or vibration as well as a trumpet.” In that regard, it makes me think of thunder, and there are other scriptures that equate the voice of God with thunder.

Job 40:9 “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?”

Psalm 29:3 “The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth….”

Then again, this could be a special musical trumpet used by God in announcing His purpose.

2. The dead in Christ shall rise first. – The Greek indicates that the word dead is referencing “a corpse.” In other words, Paul is making it clear that it is our earthly bodies that will be physically resurrected to immortality. This is just as it was with Jesus.

“In Christ” would be inclusive of all men and women of faith. Those from the Old Testament who were men and women of faith are “in Christ” just as surely as are we of the church. God’s provision of salvation for all men of all time is “in Christ.” I believe this truth is supported by the following verse in Hebrews.

Hebrews 11:40 “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

3. We who are alive will be caught up together with them (those who had preceded us in death). – The Greek for “caught up” implies being “seized, taken by force.” This just means that this is according to God’s plan and on His timetable; we have no choice as to the timing or the method.

4. We will meet the Lord in the air. – Notice that the reference is to meeting the Lord “in the air”—not on the earth.

5. So shall we ever be with the Lord. – From that point on we will never be separated from the physical presence of the Lord.

1Thessalonians 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The truth of this teaching should bring every believer great comfort. The Greek for the word comfort states “to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation):—beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort(-ation), intreat, pray.”

• This truth should be a reason for gathering together in fellowship as we look forward to its fulfillment.

• It should encourage us to implore others to accept the gospel so as to be able to be part of this great ingathering.

• We should desire the coming of that day and encourage one another to live so as to be prepared and not ashamed at His coming.

• It should also be a truth that causes us to approach the Lord in prayer and personal communion regarding how to best serve Him as we look forward to this time of reunion.

• This truth should also provide great comfort to us when faced with the death of others we love in the body of Christ.

It is clear to me that there is an obvious parallel between this scripture, the words in 1Corinthians 15, and the words of John.

John 14:1-3 “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

They speak of a time when the Lord will come to “receive” believers into His presence. This is very different from the description of the Lord Jesus returning to earth in all His glory to defeat the armies of Satan and assume His earthly throne. Scripture tells us that at that time “every eye shall see Him.”

Revelation 1:5–7 “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tend to Your Own Business

1Thessalonians 4:8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

Those who choose to set aside/violate/reject (all from the Greek for despiseth) the command of God in this area are doing so in defiance of God—not just any “god,” but the God who has given us the Holy Spirit to teach, strengthen and empower us as His children to be overcomers when facing temptation. Sexual immorality would seem to be an action in which we are “despising” the man because of the direct impact it has on him, but in reality it is an act that “despises” God. It’s the same as saying to Him that you don’t care about glorifying or honoring Him since you are choosing not to obey Him. It’s declaring yourself the “god” of your life.

1Thessalonians 4:9-10 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

It seems that Paul is continuing to exhort these believers from the point of his prayer for them at the end of chapter 3. Even as he says he has no need to write them concerning the subject of loving one another, he can’t seem to restrain himself from giving them more encouragement to grow in the area of brotherly love. I really relate to this from a mom’s perspective. My kids really don’t like it when I give them reminders of things they already know; it’s like they consider it demeaning. I just mean it as an expression of love and concern, a statement of how I treasure my family.

“ye yourselves are taught of God” – This phrase caught my attention in particular. John makes a statement regarding this truth in his first epistle.

1John 2:27 “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”

This is a reference to the indwelling Holy Spirit in each child of God. We are to depend on the teaching of the Holy Spirit over and above any teaching of man. This is a truth about which I continually remind myself when doing these journals. I often reference the works of others to stretch my thinking, but the conclusions I draw are based on what I feel the Holy Spirit is showing me. This is exciting to me, especially when I feel I’ve received insight that they either missed or didn’t address. My guess is that is probably one of the biggest differences between commentary by a scholar and the understanding of the “ordinary” believer. I often see things that are directly impacted by my point of view as a female, or a mom, or a wife or….

One other note—God is defined as love. It stands to reason that if the Holy Spirit emphasizes any truth to the child of God, it will be to love one another.

1John 4:8 “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

Jesus declared that it is our love for one another that will identify us as His disciples before the unbelieving world.

John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

I truly believe this is one of the main reasons that the church isn’t more effective in its witness to the unbelieving world.

1Thessalonians 4:11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

Along with the importance of loving one another and growing in that love, Paul now adds a few other reminders.

• Study to be quiet. – The Greek for the word study was quite interesting; it stated “to be fond of honor, i.e. emulous.” Webster defines emulous as “ambitiously desirous to equal or even to excel another.” The Greek for quiet states to “keep still (intransitively), i.e. refrain from labor, meddlesomeness or speech.” My interpretation: We are to strive to be the best at staying out of other people’s business and in controlling our tongue.

• Do your own business. – It is always tempting to interfere in someone else’s business, especially if you think you know better or can be helpful—even though you have plenty of your own business to tend to. (I still struggle with this tendency in connection with my kids.) Unless you are specifically asked for input, you should refrain.

• Work with your own hands. – Unless we keep our hands busy doing profitable things, we are susceptible to falling into temptation. This reminds me of the old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

I especially liked a statement by David Guzik regarding this verse: “Manual labor was despised by Greek culture. They thought that the better a man was, the less he should work. In contrast, God gives us a carpenter King and fisherman apostles, and tent making missionaries.”

1Thessalonians 4:12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

This verse states the reason for the reminders in the previous verse.
• To win the respect of unbelievers.
• To have no lack.

When unbelievers look on the body of Christ and see a community that embodies love for one another, depicts peace and harmony in relationship to one another, and possesses what they need (and much of what they want) as a direct result of that love, it is a great motivating factor to want what they have. It definitely projects an image in stark contrast to that of “the world.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Called to Holiness

1Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

“Furthermore” – In addition to growing and abounding in love toward one another…..

Paul again emphasizes that the Thessalonian believers are being addressed as “brethren,” members of the same spiritual family; it is only natural to be concerned about other members of your family.

I really think the CJB translation of this verse is much clearer: “Therefore, brothers, just as you learned from us how you had to live in order to please God, and just as you are living this way now, we ask you — indeed, united with the Lord Yeshua, we urge you — to keep doing so more and more.”

The more natural thing to do is to beg and encourage those whose lives don’t reflect their profession to repent and be obedient. Paul understands that those who are trying to live their lives in obedience and submission to the Lord need encouragement as well. As humans, we tend to get satisfied once we think we have achieved a certain level of growth or knowledge or reputation or (fill in the blank). To continue to grow spiritually takes commitment, perseverance, self-discipline, and just plain hard work in the face of the attack of the enemy, current cultural values, the desires of the flesh, and disappointments/tribulations that the Lord may allow to touch our lives.

1Thessalonians 4:2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

Paul knew that they had been taught clearly concerning the commands of the Lord Jesus. He hadn’t tried to be politically correct or concerned about how the truth would be received. His mission was to teach the truth as he had received it from the Lord. Oh that all those in the pulpits of the “church” today would be guided by that same truth!

1Thessalonians 4:3-5 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

I know I often think about our moral culture as being one of the most decadent ever. Historical novels I have read pertaining to the times in which Paul was writing indicate that Roman moral culture was just as bad, if not more so. The pagan gods that were worshipped often included rituals with temple prostitutes. According to Eerdman’s Dictionary, the “mystery cults were thriving at Thessalonica, particularly that of Sarapis and Isis, Dionysos, Asclepius, Demeter, and the Cabiri/Dioscuri.” Sexual immorality was part of the culture.

Paul was reminding the believers in Thessalonica, that their lifestyle was not to be conformed to that of the world. They were to live a sanctified (pure, holy) life in accordance with the commands of God. One of those commands was to “abstain from fornication.” The Greek for the word fornication indicates a general term for sexual activity outside of marriage. Every person should use his/her body for pure and holy activities, actions that God would approve. The Greek for the word honour references “value, esteem, dignity, precious.” In other words, we are to consider our bodies as valuable and precious, something worth treating with dignity. The wording of the CJB was quite succinct for verse 5, “without giving in to lustful desires, like the pagans who don’t know God.”

These are very timely words for the Christian today considering the similarity to Roman culture of Paul’s day. We may not have temples to false gods in the same sense as those that dominated Rome, but we nevertheless have a culture that promotes the practices identified with those temples. They operate under the guise of personal rights and freedom of speech. I believe they operate more blatantly in the public forum and more in direct opposition to Christian belief. They don’t even pretend to be honoring a false god in the process; they are boldly and proudly gratifying self.

1Thessalonians 4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

Paul evidently felt it necessary to make specific warning against taking another man’s wife (as did David when he took Bathsheba). Though he commended these believers for the evidence they gave in their lives of being truly born again, he recognized that the lust of the flesh is one of the hardest to ignore and overcome when you are surrounded by a culture that promotes sexual immorality. The warning—“the Lord is the avenger of all such.” You may think this is a sin that you can hide or can get away with, but God will not allow that. I think about that fact often when I hear the numbers of AIDS sufferers and the high rates of venereal disease, etc. Paul is reminding these believers that they cannot claim ignorance in understanding God’s will in this matter because they had personally taught them otherwise.

1Thessalonians 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

This is another one of those statements that should be totally unnecessary to make to a body of believers, but the Holy Spirit deemed otherwise. Again, as I continue to observe the moral culture, I realize that we in the body of Christ need continual reminders to live holy lives, lives that are set apart from the world. The key point being that God through His word is the source, not the society in which we live, for determining what is holy and what is not, what is clean and what is unclean, what is pure and what is impure, what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Loving One Another Promotes Holiness

1Thessalonians 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

In this little section of prayer for the Thessalonians, Paul is concerned that their love for one another as a family of believers will continue to grow. The word “men” is added by the translators, and I believe is misleading here. The Greek for the word all states “the whole.” This seems to indicate that the word all is referring back to “one another” as representative of the whole body of Christ. Paul is encouraging the Thessalonian believers to have the same kind of love toward all fellow believers that Paul, Silas and Timothy have for them.

This is a very needful prayer. Unity in the body of believers will never be possible until we love one another in Christ in the way that He loves us. The lack of unity in the body is one of the reasons our testimony before the unbelieving world is not as powerful as it should or could be. The Lord Jesus Himself declared this truth. It was one of His requests to the Father as He prayed for one of the last times before enduring the cross for my sin.

John 17:20-23 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

1Thessalonians 3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Paul’s focus in praying for them to increase in love for one another was that they would be strengthened in their faith living a life of holiness before the Father so as to be without fault when the Lord Jesus comes with His saints. It is clear that the early church believers thought it possible that Christ would come back in their lifetimes.

Love is the fruit of the Spirit from which all the other spiritual traits in our life emerge.

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love….”

I can clearly see the subject verb agreement in this verse—fruit is.

Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance:”

Until we can first learn to love others in Christ, we will never be able to experience true joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.

I liked a comment David Guzik made referencing this verse: “It is our hearts that must be made holy first. The devil wants us to develop a holy exterior while neglecting the interior, like whitewashed tombs, full of death (Matthew 23:27).”

“saints” = sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated):—(most) holy (one, thing), saint.

The Greek for the word coming makes direct mention of Christ coming to “punish Jerusalem, or finally the wicked.” Paul teaches elsewhere that some believers will not die, but will be transformed when Christ comes for His own.

1Corinthians 15:51-53 “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

As was noted earlier in this study, Jesus taught that He was going to prepare a place for believers in His Father’s house and would come again to take them to be with Him in that house.

John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Scripture also declares that the Lord Jesus will come to rule on the throne of David for 1000 years.

Revelation 19:11, 16 & 20:6 “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war….And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS….Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”

The word saints is used in the epistles 43 times. In scanning through these verses, almost all of them are a reference to believers. The only way I can rectify the statement is to take the “coming” of Christ as a whole. When Christ comes for His own, which will be at a time when some believers are yet physically alive, He will take them to the Father’s house and return with them in glory to establish His earthly kingdom. Those who return to reign with Him will be irreproachable, faultless, holy before any who enter the kingdom. Simplistic maybe, but that’s what I see at this point. I’m sure I have much to learn yet regarding this subject, and I look forward to the enlightenment.

One truth I do know--If we truly believe that Christ could come during our lifetime, it is a great motivation to be living a holy life of submission and obedience to Him rather than being distracted by or involved in the things this world has to offer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Perseverance through Persecution Strengthens the Body of Believers

1Thessalonians 3:7-8 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

Paul and Silas were experiencing affliction and distress of their own. The good report from Timothy concerning the healthy faith of the Thessalonian believers brought great comfort and encouragement to Paul and Silas. The example of other believers who are strong in their faith always provides incentive for others who observe that testimony to live up to their example. Many of the saints I feel led to encourage provide that type of example for me. I may not understand why God is allowing these believers to experience the trials that cause them such suffering, but I encourage them in the truth of God’s word and the privilege they have to honor God through their response. I also pray for them to be strengthened through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and through expressions of love from other believers.

The Greek word for affliction is the same one used in verse 3. The Greek for the word distress seems to add the idea of being constrained through necessity. The account of Paul’s visit to Corinth didn’t really enlighten me regarding that thought. One of the meanings Webster gives for distress is “a state of danger or necessity.” That would seem to connect to the Greek and would indicate that Paul’s ministry in Corinth, which was greatly needed, was one in which his presentation of the gospel message and continued teaching of the Corinthians jeopardized his safety.

I like the wording of the NLT for verse 8: “It gives us new life, knowing you remain strong in the Lord.”

Paul again emphasizes the power of a positive testimony in the lives of fellow believers. To “stand fast” is to persevere, to be unmovable, to be firm.

1Thessalonians 3:9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

Personal note: I love the King James, but sometimes the other versions are much easier to understand. It’s interesting that sometimes it is one version and sometimes another that I feel is giving the best insight into the truth being stated. I just feel strongly that the KJV is the one that God preserved for us English-speaking peoples for so long. I think the differences in the shades of meaning used by the different translations often corrupt or obscure the actual truth of the scripture.

I like the wording of the CJB for this verse: “Indeed, how can we thank God enough for you or express to our God all the joy we feel because of you?”

It is very true that we are greatly encouraged when we know that the Lord has been able to use us for ministry in the lives of others to His glory.

1Thessalonians 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

Paul, Silas and Timothy prayed for the Thessalonians daily. Their specific emphases were:
• To get to visit them again.
• To give them more complete understanding of the truth associated with the gospel teaching.

The Greek for faith is a reference to what you are persuaded to as truth, your moral conviction of what is true. I’m sure that even Paul didn’t understand everything about God’s truth, but he certainly understood more than most ever have. I have been helped many times through the thoughts of others, but I try to be very careful to discern what is true through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I pray often for the Lord to protect me from deceit and/or error and to hear and understand with spiritual ears and understanding.

1Thessalonians 3:11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.

Since I am not a Greek scholar, I am always interested to get insight from those who are. JFB made an interesting comment here that supported one of my thoughts as I read through the verse ignoring the punctuation. (I often try to read through it different ways that would eliminate where man has inserted his own understanding. This is where I believe any translation from the original language causes us to get an incomplete understanding.)

JFB--“It is a remarkable proof of the unity of the Father and Son, that in the Greek here, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17, the verb is singular, implying that the subject, the Father and Son, are but one in essential Being, not in mere unity of will.”

In chapter two Paul mentioned that they were not allowed to visit them again as yet because of Satan’s hindrance. He knows that if God so chooses to direct their path toward Thessalonica, Satan can do nothing to prevent it. This statement is also recognition of the fact that the will of the Father and the will of the Son are always in unity (which is supported by the explanation of JFB above).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Expect Suffering

1Thessalonians 3:1-3 Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

“Wherefore” – Because of the opposition the Thessalonians were facing and the fact that they were accusing Paul of selfish motives.

It would seem that Paul and his co-laborers were so concerned about the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonian believers that they decided to send Timothy back to them. This would be at great sacrifice to Paul since he so valued Timothy’s assistance. Timothy was to reinforce the teaching of God’s truth and to strengthen and encourage the faith of the believers in the light of the opposition they were facing. Only when we are firmly rooted in the truth of our faith do we have the ability to withstand attacks that come because of that faith. That ability is provided through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Paul also reminds the believers that they had been taught that those who chose to follow Christ would suffer affliction. The Greek for the word affliction includes persecution, pressure, anguish, and trouble. The Lord never promised us that we would not suffer; in fact, He said we would. He did, however, promise that He would always be with us and through Him we would overcome.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Matthew 28:20 “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

1Thessalonians 3:4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

Paul continues to emphasize the fact that the tribulation they were facing was to be expected. The fact that it came to pass as he had predicted should actually have been a proof to the Thessalonian believers that Paul was teaching the truth.

I tend to think that believers in America have never thought such persecution could happen here. The culture has changed so much so quickly over the last few years that I expect religious persecution of Christians in America to become the norm rather than the exception much sooner that we ever thought possible. It is important that we strengthen our faith through prayer and the study of God’s word so that we may be able to stand firm through the attack of the enemy.

1Thessalonians 3:5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.

Still, Paul was greatly concerned about the Thessalonian believers and determined to get information by sending a trusted “fellowlaborer” to ascertain the facts concerning their faith. Was it strong? Was it weak? Was it wavering?

“the tempter” – The same Greek word is used here as was used in reference to Satan when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

Matthew 4:1&3 “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil….And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”

Satan and his followers are always trying to undermine the purposes of God. He puts special emphasis on attacking those who identify with Christ in faith.

1Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour….”

“our labour be in vain” – I’m firmly convinced that this is not a reference to the security of the true believer. It connects more clearly to me with Jesus’ teaching of the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13:18-23 “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Sometimes the seed of truth is planted into ground that is rocky or thorny. Those who sow the seed aren’t necessarily aware of the type of ground those who respond to them are. It takes time for this to become manifest.

1Thessalonians 3:6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you:

Paul was very happy to note that Timothy had returned with a good report of the spiritual well-being of the Thessalonian believers. Not only was their faith strong, but they evidenced their spiritual health by their expression of love toward one another. Evidently, those who had tried to assail Paul’s character were unsuccessful. Timothy also reported that their memories of Paul’s ministry among them were good and that they were looking forward to seeing him and his team again. Paul then assures them that they also wanted to fellowship with them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Satan May Hinder But Christ Gives Victory

1Thessalonians 2:17-18 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

Although Paul and his team had to leave Thessalonica, they carried a love and concern for those believers in their hearts. They tried very hard to get back there; Paul, in particular, tried more than once, but they never made it. Why? Satan hindered them. That is a very interesting phrase to me. We know that Satan couldn’t have hindered them unless God had allowed that to happen. We don’t know how Satan hindered him, but we do know that Satan can use individuals and has limited powers over nature—as evidenced by his persecution of Job. That his hindrance was through the intervention of Satan we can be sure because Paul is writing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

2Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…”

I think the scriptural record of Job also declares the truth that God is in sovereign control of any attack that Satan is allowed against His servants.

Job 1:7-12 “And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.”

Job 2:3-6 “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.”

It’s also interesting to me that Paul wasn’t complaining to God for allowing Satan to interfere. He lived by the truth he taught. He knew that good would result if He would keep His faith focused on serving God and trusting Him as Lord and Father.

We can also be sure that since Satan was allowed to directly impact Paul’s plan, there was an opportunity for God to be glorified in some way as he and his companions responded to Satan’s interference. In the life of His children, God always brings about good from the things that happen to us.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

1Thessalonians 2:19-20 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.

Paul teaches in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Romans 14:10 “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

2Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

In his first letter to the Corinthians he describes a time when the works of believers will be judged to determine rewards.

1Corinthians 3:11-15 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

This judgment will obviously happen after the body of Christ has been taken to dwell with Jesus in the Father’s house. Paul, Silas and Timothy were looking forward to that time as a time of presenting the Thessalonian believers to the Lord in consideration of reward. They were confident that the work accomplished in the lives of these believers would qualify as gold, silver, and precious stones. They also recognized that the work accomplished in the lives of these believers was a work of the Holy Spirit, but they rejoiced in the fact that they were allowed the privilege of being the messengers of the gospel and laying a firm foundation of God’s truth for their continued spiritual growth.