Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Who is the Restrainer?

2Thessalonians 2:5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

Paul now reminds these believers that he had already taught them specifically concerning these events when he was with them. They should remember this.

2Thessalonians 2:6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

“withholdeth” = to hold down (fast)…. retain, seize on, stay.

These seemed to be the best choices from the Greek looking at the context of the passage. Who is the person about whom they are discussing his being revealed? The man of sin (cf v3). The context indicates that something or someone is keeping his identity secret until it is “his time.” This also indicates that he, the man of sin, has an appointment with destiny, a “set time” (from the Greek). Since we know that the “man of sin” will get his power from Satan (as shown above), this withholding force evidently has the authority to limit the power and authority of Satan. Since Satan is a supernatural entity, the force that limits him must be a supernatural entity of greater power and authority. According to Paul, the Thessalonians knew the identity of this being—the Holy Spirit.

I found a quote from R. A. Coombes at www.aoreport.com that gives further explanation on the grammar used in this verse: “The neuter participle ‘what withholdeth’ in verse 6 becomes the masculine participle ‘he who now letteth’ in verse 7. The first term focuses on the force of the one that restrains, the second on the person that restrains.”

2Thessalonians 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
“the mystery of iniquity” – Satan’s power and authority, to limited degree, is already effectively at work on planet earth. The fact that it is described as a mystery (secret) is because he has not been allowed to manifest himself openly in the fullness of his power and authority. He has had to be content to work behind the scenes. The Greek word translated “letteth” is the same word translated “withholdeth” in verse 6. The context is clear that this being is restraining or limiting the power and authority of Satan by His presence. The fact that “He” must be taken out of the way indicates that He is a presence that must be removed. Logic concludes that the Holy Spirit is the person of Almighty God that is now “present” on planet earth because He indwells every believer.

Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

When the Holy Spirit is taken away, the believers whom He is indwelling will be taken away. In his later letter to the Ephesians Paul makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the down payment (so to speak), the earnest of our inheritance to come.

Ephesians 1:13-14 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

When Jesus taught of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, He was clear that He would abide with us forever.

John 14:16-17 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

“abide” = continue, be present, remain

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What is “The Falling Away?”

2Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

“man” = an enclitic indefinite pronoun; some or any person or object:—a (kind of), any (man, thing, thing at all)

This first phrase is restating the previous verse—Don’t let any person or thing deceive you in any way. Webster adds strength to the statement with his definition of “deceive,”—“ To lead into error; to cause to believe what is false, or disbelieve what is true; to impose upon; to mislead; to cheat; to disappoint; to delude; to insnare.”

Since I am not a Greek scholar, it was helpful to find a note in the NIV Commentary that was helpful in understanding why the phrase “that day shall not come” was added by the translators: “In the second part of this verse, the Greek sentence is not complete; it presupposes something to be added from the previous verse; i.e., “that day will not come” (lit., “that day is not present”).”

“falling away” = This phrase is one word in the Greek, and is one that causes much debate even among those who agree on a pretribulation rapture. I did quite a bit of research on this when I was preparing my topical study, “The Rapture,” from which the following is an excerpt.

“Is this a falling away from faith or a physical departure, i.e., the rapture? The following explanation comes from Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice and makes a lot of sense to me.

“The words “falling away” were translated departure in the first 7 Bible translations. In 11/15 uses the root word for departure in the NT is used to reference departing from another person or place, a physical departure. The one time it is used regarding departing from the faith is 1Timothy 4:1, which uses the qualifying words “from the faith.”

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith….”

“The other uses are:

Luke 8:13 “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”

Acts 5:37-38 “After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men….”

“John Sweigert adds this information: “The history of translations of “apostasia” varied little for the first 15 centuries. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate contains the word “discessio” in 2Thessalonians 2:3, meaning simply “departure.” Other translations up to the KJV of 1611 use variations of “departure.”

“Though I am convinced the “falling away” is a physical departure, I believe the truth of a departure from the faith is also true, as stated in 1Timothy 4:1 above, as I observe how “Christian” leaders are putting their own spin on biblical truth, saying that the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says (i.e., homosexuality, etc.).
[end of excerpt]

As I was listening to J. Vernon McGee one morning, I thought he tied together both understandings of the “apostasy” quite well. He, too, sees it as a departure or rapture of the true church that will result in the complete apostasy of the “church” that is left behind composed of people who profess but do not possess true faith.

Frankly, whichever you choose to believe, this is a proof point for the beginning of the “day of Christ,” not the rapture. The main truth is that after this falling away (be it the rapture or a mass departure from the faith), the man of sin will be revealed. The oldest Greek texts use “anomias” for the word sin in reference to no law, lawlessness, contempt for law and morality.

The day of the Lord will not start until the man of sin is revealed. The rest of verses 3 and 4 go to great lengths to identify “the man of sin.”

• The son of perdition. – This phrase is only used twice in scripture—one in reference to Judas Iscariot and the other in this verse referencing the man of sin, the Antichrist.

John 17:12 “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

We know that Satan entered into Judas…

Luke 22:3 “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.”

…and I believe this phrase indicates that this man of sin is the other person whom Satan has chosen to personally “possess” because of his significance in Satan’s war against the Son of God. Revelation 17 tells us that “the beast,” whom we call Antichrist, the title by which we know this “man of sin,” will go into perdition.

Revelation 17:8&11 “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is….And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.”

The word perdition is a reference to eternal damnation.

• The one who opposes and exalts himself above any being called “God.” – The Hebrew for the word God makes special reference to “the supreme divinity.” It’s interesting that the Spirit inspires Paul to word this truth to include any person’s or group’s identification of God. (To point: Many people are confused into thinking that Islam’s “Allah” and the Jewish/Christian “God” are one and the same.) The “man of sin” will be a puppet of and eventually possessed by Satan, whose purpose is to present himself as “God.”

Revelation 12:9 “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

Revelation 13:2&4 “And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority….And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”

• The one who opposes and exalts himself above any being that is worshipped. – To be doubly clear, this “man of sin” controlled by Satan will seek to position himself as the only being worthy of worship (adoration, devotion).

• One who will sit in the temple of God and claim to be God. – The temple of God being referenced in this phrase is the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. It is the only “temple of God” that would carry any significance to those who are the children of God through faith in His Son. This phrase in verse 4 is a reference to “the abomination of desolation” referenced in Daniel and in the Olivet Discourse by Jesus. Following is an excerpt from the topical study, “The Olivet Discourse.”

“Jesus is referencing a specific prophecy made by Daniel--Daniel 12:11 “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”

“abomination” - 946. bde÷lugma bdelugma, bdel´-oog-mah; from 948; a detestation, i.e. (specially) idolatry:—abomination.

“Even though we know that Antiochus Epiphanes seemed to fulfill this prophecy in history when he offered a pig on the altar in the temple to Zeus, Jesus is making the point that this prophecy was yet to be fulfilled (as was the case with many prophecies—foreshadowing and fulfillment); it was future to the time that Jesus was speaking. This would be a desecration of the temple, which means that there will be a functioning temple prior to the occurrence of the event being referenced. This abomination would be a thing or person standing where it ought not—that would seem to reference something like an idol. “The holy place” and “where it ought not” could reference any part of the temple, the whole of which is considered holy, but more likely refers to the inner sanctum of the temple and possibly even the holy of holies.
[end of excerpt]

This phrase in verse 4 would certainly qualify as fulfilling the prophecy of that coming “abomination of desolation.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gathering Together the Complete Collection

2Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Evidently, the Thessalonians weren’t any more sure of their knowledge of prophetic events than are many in the church today. I like the wording of the NIV best for these verses: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.”

The KJV makes it read more like it could possibly be referencing two different things by adding the little word “by” (which is not in the Greek). He can’t be talking about the visible return of the Lord because that would be obvious. Paul is writing about the coming of Christ to take His Bride home with Him as He promised in John 14. That is an event that, as a professed believer, had you missed it would cause you great concern.

“gathering together” = This phrase is represented by one word in the Greek that means “a complete collection.”

When I looked up the Greek, that definition made me smile. When Christ comes to gather the believers, it will be to get them all—not just some of them.

Paul tells them not to get “agitated or disturbed in their thinking” or to be “frightened” that the “day of Christ” had begun. The Thessalonian believers knew that the “day of Christ” (interchangeable with the “day of the Lord” and the “wrath to come” as referenced in his first letter to them) would be a terrible time of God’s wrath, and they didn’t want to experience it and had been clearly taught that they wouldn’t.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ….”

Since we know that these believers were experiencing persecution and trouble (cf 1:5-7), maybe this time of suffering had increased such that they were more susceptible to the deceit that the “day of Christ” had begun.

Paul is telling them to ignore any spirit (includes other humans as well as the possibility of demons or other supernatural phenomena), word (includes persuasive speakers or general conversation), or letter (written correspondence) that would tell them differently. The wording also implies that the Thessalonians had possibly received a letter from another source that either misrepresented Paul’s teaching or falsely claimed to be from Paul.

I think the best translation of the word soon would be “suddenly.” In other words, when someone confronts you with something that contradicts the truth as you have been taught it, take the time to think about it carefully. Don’t make quick assumptions. Think it through.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

May Jesus be Glorified in Us

2Thessalonians 1:11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

“Wherefore” – Based on the preceding truth….

As referenced in 1Thessalonians 3:5, I believe Paul was so motivated to pray for the Thessalonian believers because he was aware that only God can know the heart. Men can be fooled. People can pretend to be what they are not for many different reasons. Paul is quick to rejoice when he sees fruit that indicates true spiritual transformation in the lives of those who claim Jesus as Lord, but he stays ever alert and concerned for the spiritual well-being of each body of believers.

As noted earlier, the worthiness of the believer is dependent solely upon the work of Jesus in his/her life. The “and” indicates that the worthiness is prerequisite to fulfilling His goodness and the work of faith with power. This is another verse that makes me wish I knew Greek. Several translations associate the fulfilling of goodness to God fulfilling our good intentions and desires. I guess it really doesn’t matter since any good intentions or desires that we have are birthed from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Scripture is clear that there is no good apart from God.

Psalm 53:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

3John 11 “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”

Again, the “work of faith with power” is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Again, the prerequisite to that power is our worthiness that is established by grace through faith.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

2Thessalonians 1:12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul seems to sum up the reason for his prayers in this verse:
1. That the name of Jesus be glorified in the believer.
2. That the believer be glorified in Jesus.

That God be glorified is always to be the priority. That the believer be glorified in the Savior is the most precious blessing of the child of God. The prerequisite to either of these things being possible is through the abundant grace of Father and Son. As I continued to look at this verse, I connected the grace of God the Father to Christ being glorified in the believer because it was His purpose to redeem us through the sacrifice of His Son. Each time a person responds in faith to that provision there is great joy in heaven and the glory of the Son is recognized anew.

Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

I connected the grace of Jesus to our being glorified in Him because it was through His willing obedience to His Father that we are redeemed. It is only through His provision that we have any position worthy of glory.

Isaiah 43:7 “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”

Hebrews 2:10 “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

2Peter 1:3 “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue….”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jesus Will Return in Vengeance

2Thessalonians 1:7-8 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“you who are troubled” = the Thessalonian believers (as well as any other believers suffering persecution and/or tribulation)

“rest with us” = relax, be at ease, enjoy freedom from persecution with us (Paul and his companions as representative of other believers)

Only when we are with Jesus will be truly free from the troubles of this world and able to let down our spiritual guard.

When? When the Lord returns as King of kings with his mighty armies (plural). I think it is important to note that this is a visible appearance of the Lord and His hosts of angels. The Greek for reveal states “disclosure, manifestation” from a root that means to “take off the cover.” Jesus will be revealed in all His glory at this time.

We know that not one being who accompanies the Lord at His return will have to participate in the fight because He will accomplish victory with the “sword of His mouth.” This time is described clearly in Revelation.

Revelation 19:11-16 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. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Who is He coming to “judge and make war?” Those who “know not God” and have not accepted Jesus as Lord. To know the true God is to accept and obey His “only begotten” Son as Savior and Lord.

Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Although Paul singles out the angels of heaven as accompanying the Lord, I think that is because they are a unique unit in the armies of heaven. I would like to include an excerpt from my journal on Revelation 9:14 that I think applies here.

“Jesus is not alone; He is followed by the armies of heaven. They are dressed in fine linen, white and clean. We know that everyone and everything in heaven is dressed appropriately. At this point, you cannot discount any of the servants of God in heaven as part of this army—angels or redeemed ones.”

Zechariah 14:5 “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.”

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.”

“Who are the saints? Verses 7-8 indicate that the church, the bride of Christ, are some of them.”

Colossians 3:4 “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

2Thessalonians 1:9-10 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Who is going to be punished? Those who “know not God,” who have not accepted Jesus as Lord. How will they be punished? By being cast away from the presence of the Lord forever; they will never again experience any of the blessings associated with His power and glory. What is one of the reasons for the Lord’s physical return to planet earth? To receive His proper recognition from ALL people of faith as their Lord and Savior. The wording is clear that it won’t just be those who survive that time of God’s wrath as men and women of faith, but men and women of faith of all time. To finally see the multitude of men and women who have responded to God in faith in spite of the efforts of the enemy will be one part of His glory. To fulfill all the promises of His word before all people of faith will be another part of His glory. The word admired comes from a root that means “to look closely, to perceive.” I think this is saying that we will be amazed at person of our Lord and how He could possibly have desired our fellowship so much that He willingly suffered the cross and the rejection of His Father for even a moment to make a way for that fellowship to be restored.

Paul seemed to be taking special joy in the fact that the Thessalonians would be part of that multitude because of their ministry among them. I can certainly relate to that thought; I will be thrilled for any positive spiritual impact that might be revealed as a result of the Holy Spirit using my ministry in the life of any person of faith.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Intro to 2 Thessalonians

2Thessalonians 1:1-2 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This opening is almost word for word the same as the opening in the first letter. The same comments apply.

2Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

The similarity to the first letter continues in this verse as well.

The Greek for meet indicates that they were able to give thanks for the Thessalonian believers because their testimony was deserving or worthy of such thanks.

In the first epistle they were expressing thanks for the works of this body of believers—especially the fact that these works were an outflow of their faith, love and hope. In this epistle Paul was happy to note that the believers weren’t resting on their laurels or lapsing into an attitude of contentment with their level of spiritual growth; they were growing—not just with baby steps, but with giant leaps.

2Thessalonians 1:4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

Paul and his companions were proud to be able to brag about the testimony of the Thessalonians as they visited other churches. They continued to exhibit cheerful endurance (from the Greek for patience) and a firm, non-wavering commitment to the truth of God’s word in spite of experiencing persecution and tribulation for that commitment. Those two words include a range of possibilities—from verbal harassment to actual bodily harm.

2Thessalonians 1:5-6 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

“recompense” = repay; Webster: to return an equivalent for, to give in turn

It seems that Paul is saying that the testimony of these believers would serve as a witness to the righteous judgment of God when He judges those who have persecuted these believers. Scripture makes it clear that vengeance and judgment belong to the Lord.

Psalm 94:1 O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.

John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

I think this is a very important truth, because only God has the character to make righteous judgment, judgment that is based on the truth alone and has absolutely no selfish motives or partiality. I think the last half of verse six makes it clear that the persecutions and tribulations referenced in verse 4 are connected to their faith in Jesus Christ.

I think we have to take time to consider the phrase “counted worthy.” Nothing we can do can make us worthy of God’s kingdom. The fact that one is willing to suffer for his/her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is evidence of their position as a child of God. As James emphasizes in his epistle, works are a proof of our faith.

James 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Because they have accepted Jesus, His righteousness has been imparted to them and they can then be “counted worthy.”

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.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pray for Each Other and Share God’s Truth

1Thessalonians 5:25 Brethren, pray for us.

Paul often asks for prayer for himself and those that are with him. It should be obvious, but I think it is important to note that he is asking “brethren,” fellow believers to pray for them. The culture today reflects the idea that God listens to the prayers of unbelievers as well. I don’t believe that is true. The only prayer of the unbeliever that He “hears” is that of a repentant heart seeking His forgiveness and turning to Him in faith. Let me state that better, I believe He hears the prayer of the person that is seeking Him and has a heart that is receptive to respond to His revelation with repentance and faith. I believe prayer is the least used yet one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of faith. It is an area in which I most desire to become more effective. It is also one of the areas in which I most have to fight the flesh and the attack of the enemy. I have a quote in my head from somewhere—“Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” There is great truth in that statement for every child of God.

As I continued to muse on this verse, I think there is another important application to make. I think all would agree that Paul was one of the greatest spiritual men to walk planet earth. He still felt the need for prayer support from his spiritual family. Our pastors/spiritual leaders have that same need whether they ask for it or not. It is very important that we support them in prayer asking for God to give them His protection, His wisdom, boldness for the whole Word of God without apology, patience, and to love their flock with the heart of the Great Shepherd.

1Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

“Greet” = to enfold in the arms, i.e. (by implication) to salute, (figuratively) to welcome:—embrace

“all the brethren” = all the believers, men and women

“holy kiss” = a kiss that is pure; one that projects loving concern—not lust

I like this verse because I am a natural “hugger.” The intent of this verse is that we are all family and should care about each other as family. Family members don’t avoid touching one another. Many cultures incorporate kisses into their greetings—mostly on the cheeks. Sadly, it is the degenerate moral culture of our society and/or extreme legalism that makes the Christian family afraid to act like one.

1Thessalonians 5:27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

Paul intended for this letter to be read to the whole body of believers at Thessalonica; it wasn’t just to the leaders or just to the men or just to the grown ups—it was to all believers. Some might argue that he was qualifying those who were to hear it as those who were holy. The important truth is that we are holy before God only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. No believer is holy in and of self.

I think the wording of this verse indicates that Paul knew he was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—just as the prophets of God of old knew their words were directly from God. He was confident enough to invoke God’s name in instructing that all believers be allowed to hear its contents.

1Thessalonians 5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Paul ends this epistle in the same way he started it—with a pronouncement of his desire that the blessing of the grace of the Lord be a part of their lives.

The Miracle of Life

Just thought I'd share with you that I have a new granddaughter as of March 6. She came three weeks early, and life has been a roller coaster since I got the call to change my reservation on Friday morning and arrived in St. Louis going straight to the hospital that night. Today has been the first halfway normal day since her birth. She weighed in at a tiny 5 lbs. 6 oz., but due to some complications ended up back in ER (after being home for 2 days) at 4 lbs. 8 oz., wearing an IV (after many tries to connect), and wearing sunglasses under a bilirubin light. Amazingly, her fluid and bilirubin levels normalized after 13 hours or so, and we got to bring her home weighing 4 lbs 15 oz.

I am so praising the Lord for His amazing goodness in allowing us to have access to the expertise and technology that she needed. I can't look at her without thinking of the words of Psalm 139. She is certainly fearfully and wonderfully made! I just don't understand how anyone can look at a new life and not believe in his/her Creator. I thought I would share an excerpt from my journal on this Psalm.

Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

The Hebrew for the word praise includes worship and thanksgiving. We worship and give thanks to God for many reasons. In this particular psalm, David is focused on how God loves him and has such concern for him from the moment of creation in his mother’s womb to intimate involvement throughout his life. The Hebrew for fearfully indicates to revere as well as to cause fear. This seems to be a statement regarding the value that God places on human life. “Wonderfully made” is a phrase that indicates the uniqueness of man in the creation and the amazing way in which our body functions. To describe God’s creative skills as marvelous is a reference to the miraculous intricate design of our being. Only in this century are we beginning to get a glimpse of just how miraculous and unique our bodies are with the unlocking of the DNA database that is unique to every individual. David may not be able to understand it all, but he certainly knows how to appreciate the results. The word soul is a reference to the true person of David that is housed in this magnificently designed body.

Psalm 139:15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

This verse is confusing at first. The Hebrew for "lowest parts" included a reference to the “womb, figuratively.” I think this is David’s poetic expression coming out. Since we are made of the dust of the ground, the womb would picture the “lowest part” of the woman’s being. “Curiously wrought” is a reference to embroidery and needlework, which I think is a reference to the exacting care and attention given to the design of our being. It would also be a reference to the uniqueness of each individual.

If possible, I am even more overwhelmed than before as I think of the God of the universe keeping intimate tabs on each one of His children to the point of knowing their thoughts before they do and at the same time giving special attention to the formation of every new human. It’s interesting that the word substance was chosen. It’s a reference to the raw material used in the creation, which we know consists of the merging of an egg from the woman and sperm from the man.

Psalm 139:16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

The Hebrew for unperfect is a reference to the “embryo, the unformed mass.” When God looked at that embryo, He already had the blueprint recorded that would eventually result in David; that is true for every baby that is born. As that baby continues to develop, God ensures that he/she develops exactly according to His recorded blueprint. The Spirit through David makes express note that this blueprint exists before even one identifiable part of the baby is formed.

It truly grieves my heart to see how little respect our culture gives to these special creations. It is the ultimate in selfishness to decide that one’s comfort or convenience is more valuable or important than to honor the life that God has initiated in the womb. The question begs as to why God allows this to continue. One thing of which I am sure is that The Righteous Judge to Whom vengeance belongs will administer justice. The sad thing is that once we get to the point of thinking we have the right to determine who should have the right to be born or not, we are well on the way down the path to determining who should be allowed to live or die according to our assessment of their quality of life (and our current culture reflects that truth). That is an authority that only God possesses. Once we position ourselves as “gods” regarding the value of life, we have effectively done away with our need to recognize His authority in any area.

Thank You Father for Your amazing love!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Avoid Even the Appearance of Evil

1Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

To abstain is to choose not to do, to deny one’s self. The significant point is that we are to abstain from all appearance of evil; we should avoid any action that even looks like we might be doing something wrong.

I think it is this verse in particular that can cause one to lean toward legalism. When considered in context with the teaching Paul presented to the Romans in chapter 14, I think Paul is saying that we should always be willing to deny self if we feel our actions may cause a weaker Christian to stumble or will negatively impact a sinner’s response to the wooing of the Spirit regarding salvation. Jesus is the perfect example. He didn’t refuse to eat with publicans and sinners just because the Jewish leaders didn’t approve; He also healed people on the Sabbath in spite of their disapproval. He exampled the intent of the law as He taught it in the Sermon on the Mount and followed the leading of the Spirit in obedience to the heart of the law without ignoring the letter of God’s law. The Jewish leaders through the ages had corrupted God’s law and Jesus taught according to God’s original intent for the law.

1Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul now closes with a prayer for the Thessalonian believers. He is basically praying that the way they live their lives will measure up to the righteousness that has been imputed to them through Jesus. Sanctify is a reference to becoming holy and pure. He realizes that only through the empowerment of God through His Spirit can this be accomplished.

The whole person is composed of spirit, soul and body. The spirit is the rational part of our being that reasons and communicates, that represents spiritual life or death, the center of our being. The soul is the sensual, emotional part of our being. The body is the earthly container of the spirit and soul that gives us form and physical distinction from one another. When we accept Jesus as Savior, He saves the whole person—spirit, body and soul. It is our own body that will be resurrected from the grave and/or miraculously transformed from corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal.

1Corinthians 15:53 “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

“preserved blameless” = guarded faultlessly

I think Paul is expressing the desire for the believers to be diligent in staying ready and watchful in expectation of the Lord’s coming (cf vs. 6 & 8).

1Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

The NLT translation is much clearer: “God, who calls you, is faithful; he will do this.”

Do what? Preserve the believer (body, soul and spirit) until Christ comes to take us home. God is the One Who invited us to join His family and He is faithful/trustworthy to keep His promises. His word never fails. This is just another statement of the security of the true believer as far as I am concerned. Once you accept Jesus as your Savior, You are accepting His work on your behalf. It is His power that keeps us secure—not our works. Again, works are a proof of the work of God in the life of the believer; but they have nothing to do with the process of our salvation.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks, Discern

1Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice evermore.

This is not a reference to being in a constant state of laughter or euphoria. It’s a reminder that our attitude toward life is a choice. The child of God should be “pleasurably satisfied or delighted” (as Webster would put it) in spirit no matter the circumstances surrounding him/her because of the hope that is in us. In the book “Heaven,” by Randy Alcorn he used a good illustration. Our present life is but a dot on a never-ending line in the context of eternity. In other words, the trials and tribulations of this lifetime are but a tiny speck in our lives when compared to the eternity that we will enjoy with the Lord.

That truth combined with the fact that God only allows what is for good in the life of His children should fill us with great satisfaction and delight. Jesus highlighted this principle in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

1Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

The Greek word for pray includes supplication and worship. The Greek for without ceasing states “uninterruptedly, i.e. without omission (on an appropriate occasion).” When we are talking to God in prayer and/or expressing our love for Him in worship, it strengthens our resolve to rejoice. It allows our heart to experience peace and satisfaction because our mind is fixed on Him. That is the precious promise of my life verse.

Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

Paul isn’t saying that we should spend every second of every day in our prayer closet. I view it as an open connection to the Lord through which I can talk to Him all day long as thoughts or needs come to mind. It’s living with the awareness of the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit and realizing that He wants to be involved in every area of your life. As the old song states, “He is only a prayer away.”

1Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

This verse goes hand-in-hand with the previous two. When we choose to rejoice and live in awareness of God’s presence and in regular communication with Him, we will more naturally be able to give Him thanks for all that He allows to touch our lives because we know He has allowed it in His love to accomplish good.

When I read this verse, I can interpret it two ways:
• That it is God’s will for us to be thankful for everything.
• That we are to be thankful because we know that everything He allows in our lives is according to His will.

Paul also notes that the will of the Father and the Son regarding “me” are in agreement. It’s only because of our position in Jesus that we enjoy the protection of the Father’s sovereign hand regarding what touches our lives.

1Thessalonians 5:19-21 Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

The Greek for the word quench stated “extinguish.” When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in power at Pentecost, He came in the form of “cloven tongues like as of fire.”

Acts 2:3-4 “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Taken in context with the following verses, this seems to be addressing our response to the gifts of the Spirit exhibited in the lives of others. It is through the empowerment and gifting of the Spirit that the church can stay healthy and have effective ministry to the unbelieving world.

I personally think that the abuse of spiritual gifts has resulted in overreaction on the part of many in the church—avoidance and rejection. They have been explained away as being only for the early church, but I can’t find scriptural support for that view. I grew up in churches that taught from that point of view, and even now my own response to those who make claims of possessing some spiritual gifts is one of caution. I know that Satan is the master deceiver and takes great joy in posing as an angel of light to try and thwart God’s working in the lives of believers. Thankfully I am growing in this area……..but I have a long way to go yet.

Verse 20 tells us not to summarily dismiss “prophesyings” from other believers. This is a legitimate gift. It is a reference to prediction and speaking through the inspiration of the Spirit. Again, it is the abuse of this gift that has resulted in a wrong response to those who are genuinely gifted. We are warned in scripture not to add to or take away from the Word of God.

Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”

Proverbs 30:5-6 “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”

Verse 21 gives us the safety net—Prove all things. We are not just to accept what someone declares is from God as true; we are to test it, examine it, use discernment to determine what is good, valuable, honest or worthy of acceptance. What does scripture declare as the basis for this determination?

Acts 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Evidently, from the wording of this verse in Acts, the Thessalonians needed to understand this point. Any message from God will match up with the truth declared in scripture. The Berean Christians were obviously familiar with the truth of scripture declared above. The prophet Isaiah also stated this principle.

Isaiah 8:19-20 “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

The “law” and the “testimony” are a reference to the revealed word of God up until that time. Any “prophecy” that contradicts in any way the revealed word of God can be confidently rejected.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Work Together in Peace with Love and Patience

1Thessalonians 5:12-13 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

In these verses Paul is reminding the Thessalonians to give the proper respect and consideration to those who are in spiritual leadership over them. These leaders should be easily recognizable as those who are willing to work to the point of fatigue for the spiritual health of those in the body of believers. They are also known for their willingness to remind the believers of spiritual truth and to warn them or gently reprove (from the Greek for admonish) them as necessary. These leaders should be respected and appreciated for their unselfish labor on behalf of the church and their true concern for the spiritual well being of fellow believers.

It’s always interesting that Paul has to continually remind believers to love one another and be at peace with one another, but it is still much needed advice for the church today. We, believers, are new creations in Christ, but we are still at war with the flesh and the attack of the enemy and his forces.

1Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

As Paul begins to close this letter, he begins a list of his own reminders and admonitions. When I looked at the Greek for exhort, I knew it sounded familiar; it is the same word translated comfort in verse 11. In common vernacular we would say that Paul practices what he preaches.

Reminder, Paul is addressing the Thessalonians as brethren, fellow believers in Jesus Christ.

• Warn them that are unruly. – This is a reference to those who are acting with insubordination to the leaders of the church. They are causing discord rather than building unity in the body.

• Comfort the feebleminded. – This is a reminder to encourage and console those in the church who are “little-spirited or faint-hearted.” This would seem to reference those in the church who are of “little faith” and who are most susceptible to the attack and deceit of the enemy.

• Support the weak. – The Greek for “support” was quite interesting, “to hold oneself opposite to….to care for.” In other words, share your strength with those who are weaker than you. Those who are spiritually weak need the support and care of those who are spiritually strong. Because we are part of one body, this adds strength to the body as a whole.

• Be patient toward all men. – The previous three reminders can’t or won’t be effective unless one possesses patience. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. In my experience, it is often harder to show patience in areas in which I am strong when I feel that person should relate/respond at my own level of understanding/capability. Paul doesn’t specify criteria that merit patience being shown; we are to be patient toward all men at all times. This is another way of stating that we should learn to die to self and practice humility.

James 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

1Thessalonians 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

We might word this verse, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—not as they do unto you.” Paul takes special care to note that this should be our attitude toward all men, not just fellow believers.