– BIG BLESSINGS Acts 17:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Bible study can be a bit like wandering round a museum. Exhibits concern things and people who lived long ago. Interesting, but not really relevant. These letters are more than ancient artefacts. They were written to real people with real problems in a hostile world. We have the same problems, dressed up in 21 century clothes. The background, burdens, and blessings of these two letters are up-to-date and practical. Thessalonica Today Thessaloniki in Greece is second largest city after Athens. In WW2 it was first an Allied base, but was captured by the German army. 60,000 Jews were deported and killed. Economically the city was an important port, built by Romans. Politically – governed by an elected assembly. Religiously – a heathen city with temples everywhere. Morally – heathen and immoral. Background Paul’s earliest epistle. In Acts 16 Luke says Paul crossed over from Turkey to Philippi, with Silas, Timothy, and Luke. After founding a church at Philippi, they moved on 120 miles or so to Thessalonica. Paul’s commission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, but he always started amongst the Jews. The synagogue was where the OT Law was known and revered, and where he could get a sympathetic hearing, at least until things got hot. Acts 17 tells how for three Sabbath days the Lord worked powerfully. But, violence broke out, and Paul had to flee 40 miles to Berea. When the Jews followed him, he left for Athens and thence to Corinth, from where he sent Timothy (3:2) to the Thessalonians to enquire about their progress and to confirm them in their faith. Timothy had returned to Paul (now in Corinth) with a heartening report (3:6), whereupon Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. Paul’s Core Ministry a) His Preaching Paul “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:2,3). Paul’s preaching: (i) Used the Word of God – “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures.” (ii) Declared What Christ had done – “Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead.” (iii) Declared who Christ was – “this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:2,3). b) His Teaching Paul stayed at Thessalonica “three Sabbath days,” and taught many of the major doctrines of the faith. Hence the many references to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. He deals with sin, salvation, the church, and even prophecy. The Structure of the Epistles See the culmination of the nine Church Epistles. a) A Quartet Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians. The theme is the Cross. Here FAITH looks back and is strengthened. b) A Trio Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. The theme is the Church. Here LOVE looks up and is deepened c) A Pair 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The theme is the Coming. Here HOPE looks on and is brightened. Each epistle has a special message. Romans, emphasises God’s Righteousness; 1 Corinthians emphasises God’s wisdom, 2 Corinthians emphasises God’s comfort. The theme of Galatians is Freedom, of Philippians Joy, of Ephesians our Wealth in Christ. The theme of 1 and 2 Thessalonians is the Return of the Lord, and how this should affect our lives. The Theme of 1 Thessalonians Every chapter in 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the coming of Jesus Christ: Chapter 1 – in relation to Salvation Chapter 2 – in relation to Service Chapter 3 – in relation to Sanctification Chapter 4 – in relation to the Surety of the resurrection Chapter 5 – in relation to the Safety of believers prior to His Revelation In this letter we find additional truth about future events and the church. The Theme of 2 Thessalonians This letter was written to correct confusion about the Lord’s return. Some believers had thought that the tribulation had arrived, and wondered when the Lord would appear. If the two letters are compared we find: 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians Christ comes to the air for His church Christ comes to earth with His saints Can occur today Can occur only after certain events The Day of Christ (Rapture) The Day of the Lord (Revelation) ENTHUSIASTIC EXAMPLES 1 Thessalonians 1 The believers at Thessalonica brought Paul much joy. They weren’t perfect, but Paul loved them for what God had done in their lives, and for the way they responded to his ministry. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1:2). 1. THEIR ENTHUSIASM (1:1-3) “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1) a) The Preachers “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy.” There was no need for Paul to assert his apostleship, as in Corinthians and Galatians. Paul the Apostle, Silas the Prophet (Acts 15:32), and Timothy the Evangelist (2 Tim 4:5) had all brought the Gospel to the Thessalonians. Timothy had made a trip back to Thessalonica and his report to Paul (3:1-6) was an epic of their steadfastness and faithfulness. b) The People (1:1) “Unto the church of the Thessalonians.” The church was in Thessalonica, in the world. But they were also “in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Nothing could change that. c) The Peace (1:1) “Grace be unto you, and peace.” (i) “Grace” literally means “that which causes joy.” (ii) “Peace” to us is a negative concept, the absence of war. But the Hebrew shalom is a positive concept that includes prosperity, soundness, well-being, and health. Those without grace and peace are in poverty, no matter how rich they might be. d) The Praise (1:2) “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.” This prayer of thanksgiving was constant (“always”) and comprehensive (“for you all”). In each life the Spirit had worked, and they were now bearing fruit for Christ. e) The Passion (1:3) “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1:3). Paul emphasises their “work of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He defines these in 1:9-10. 1:3 1:9-10 your work of faith turned to God from idols your labour of love to serve the living and true God patience of hope to wait for His Son from heaven (i) “Work of faith.” This is faith that rests on what happened in the past, and works itself out in a believer’s life. It is not a working to receive faith, but faith that works. We are not saved by our works plus faith, but by a faith that works. (ii) “Labour of love.” This is love that labours in the present. Love is more than sentiment; it is agape. There is lots of eros today, love between the sexes. In its right context, in a marriage, this is good and normal. But the Christian idea of love is different. It is love “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom 5:5). (iii) “Patience of hope.” The Christian’s hope looks forward to the future when Christ will return. It is not passive resignation, but positive, confident expectation. We “wait for His Son from heaven” (1:10). It is the major theme of both these letters. Unsaved people do not hope for His return. When He comes they will be totally surprised. 2. THEIR ELECTION (1:4) “Knowing, brethren beloved of God, your election of God.” This doctrine of election is a hot topic and confuses many people. It is one of the deepest doctrines in the Bible, but it is intensely practical. We don’t have to explain it – just accept it. a) It Begins With God “Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God” (1:4). “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thes 2:13). The entire plan of God was born in the heart of God long before man was created. God the Father chose me in Christ before the world began. God the Son saved me when He died on the cross. God the Holy Spirit worked in my heart one Sunday night in August 1956. b) It Involves God’s Love Paul calls them “brethren beloved of God” (1:4). It was His love that made the Cross possible. c) It Depends on Faith By their “work of faith” they had turned from idols to God (1:9). Paul preached and the Holy Spirit used the Word of God to generate faith. It is always this way. 3. THEIR EXAMPLE (1:5-9) “ For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” In those days there were many travelling preachers , seeking for a quick denarius. But the Holy Spirit worked mightily as many believed and were saved. But Paul’s message was not just mere eloquence, “in word only.” (i) The Content. Paul called it “our Gospel.” What is it? It is not the presentation of an idea, but the operation of a power. Here is it Paul’s Gospel – the one who brought it. In 2:2 it is “the Gospel of God” – He originated it. In 3:2 it is “the Gospel of Christ” – He brought and paid for it. It is “my Gospel.” It belongs to me. I believe it, I live it, I enjoy it. (ii) The Conviction. The Gospel came “in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance (better “deep conviction”). It still works this way, powerfully convicting men of sin. It helps to leave Him to do His work. No wonder Paul looked on them with great gratitude. They were examples in several ways: a) Imitators “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1:6). The word “followers” is actually “imitators.” Just as a young child needs a family with role models, so a newborn Christian needs role models and those who will show him the way. As the Thessalonians looked to the apostles for examples in conduct, so leaders of God’s people today need to be guides to those young in the faith. “in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 17 tells how the church was born amidst much persecution, but the joy of the Lord was triumphant. In turning from idols, they angered their friends and relatives. b) Examples (1:7) “So that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.” Christians either encourage or discourage each other. The churches of Macedonia encouraged other churches regarding generous giving. Churches don’t compete with one another, but they do encourage one another, and “provoke unto love and unto good works” (Heb 10:24). c) Preachers “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing” (1:8). The verb “sounded out in every place” means “to sound as a trumpet.” This is aggressive evangelism. Thessalonica was a trading city, so the Gospel spread along the trade lines, rather like HIV spreads along trucking routes. They proclaimed the Gospel. 1 Cor 14:8 tells of those who’s trumpet gave an uncertain sound, mixed messages. Many congregations are happy to pay someone to do it, but in the NT the entire church was involved. 70-80% of church growth is the result of friends witnessing to friends and relatives to relatives. Evangelism and visitation help, but personal contact is best. “The word of the Lord.” Emphasises their conviction that their message was of divine origin. 4. THEIR EXPECTATION (1:9-10) “For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” Their “work of faith” made them an elect people, as they turned to God from idols and trusted Christ. Their “labour of love” made them an exemplary people. Their “patience of hope” made them an expectant people, looking for their Saviour’s return. When they worshipped idols, they had no hope. When they trusted the living God, they had a living hope (1 Pe 1:2-3). Christians serve the living God. Their bodies are “temples of the living God” (2 Cor 6:16), indwelt by the “Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor 3:3), they belong to “the church of the living God” (1 Tim 3:15), and God is preparing for us “the city of the living God” (Heb 12:22). It is the living God who has given us a living hope by raising His Son Jesus Christ from the dead. Two aspects of the Lord’s return must be distinguished. a) The Rapture, when Jesus Christ will come to the air for His church. This will usher in a period of Tribulation on earth, “the wrath to come” (1 Thes 5:1-3). b) The Revelation when the Lord returns in glory to defeat His enemies and set up His kingdom (2 Thes 1:5-10). Meanwhile we “wait.” We are not to be idle during this waiting period, but proving our faith by what we do for him in his absence. He may return any time, and when He does we shall receive new bodies (Phil 3:20-21), and we shall be like Him (1 John 3:1-2). He will take us to the home He has prepared, and will reward us for service we have given in His name (Rom 14:10-12). The Thessalonian believers were elect (born again), exemplary (imitating the right people), enthusiastic (sharing the Gospel with others), and expectant (waiting for His return). their service did not hinder them in waiting, their waiting did not deter them in service. A GUIDE TO GROWTH 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 Chapter 1 introduced us to Paul the evangelist. Here we see Paul the pastor caring for new believers in the churches he had founded. Just as God uses people to plant churches by bringing the Gospel to the lost, He uses people to pastor the babes in Christ, and help them to maturity. This church was born right (chapter 1), and now nurtured right (chapter 2). Paul reminds them of his care for them as they grow in the Lord. It involved much more than preaching. It involved teaching God’s Word, and being a role model to follow. Paul paints three pictures of his ministry. 1. THE FAITHFUL STEWARD (2:1-6) Paul was “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” (2:4). That’s stewardship. It is up to us what we do with it. We can use it for God’s glory, or abuse it for our glory, or just bury it out of sight. But one day we will give an account of our stewardship (1 Cor 4:1-2). A steward is responsible for what his master commits to him. Thus Joseph successfully managed all Potiphar’s affairs and resources. God prepared Paul as His steward through events in Damascus, Arabia, Jerusalem, and Antioch. These involved experience with his brethren, in the world, in his home, and in the assembly. When called of God and commended by his brethren, he was not a novice. a) The Manner of his Ministry (2:1-2) “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you that. . . we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God”(2:1). On arrival from Philippi, his back was still sore from the beating. Nevertheless he boldly preached the Gospel. Two things about his message spurred him on: (i) The Content of the Message. “We were bold in our God to speak unto you the Gospel of God.” Paul’s “Gospel of God” was simple – the death, burial, resurrection of Christ (I Cor 15:1). Christ Jesus died for the sins of all, and was raised from the dead. Now “whosoever will may come.” This must be told. (ii) The Conviction of the Messenger. The contents of his message drove Paul. He preached with great boldness that enabled him to enter the synagogue and preach Christ crucified. It didn’t make him popular, but he once said, “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.” It warns that people are lost, and promises life to those who listen and believe. If a bridge were washed out on a road, what warning would be effective? b) The Motives of His Ministry (2:3b) Paul’s enemies engaged in a character assassination campaign, accusing him directly of deception, flattery, and enrichment. Note the negatives: (i) No Deceit. “Not of deceit.” Paul’s preaching was sourced in the pure Word of God. All heretical cults share this common characteristic – they all move away from relying on the Word of God as their only source. (ii) No Impurity. “Not of uncleanness.” Paul’s motives were clean. Heathen religious rituals could freely mixed worship with filthy practices, but Paul ministry and message were clean. (iii) No Hypocrisy. “Nor in guile.” Religion was a major money making racket. Paul was no religious salesman. Gospel preaching is not about pleasing the people. It is about pleasing God. (iv) No Flattery. “For neither at any time used we flattering words.” A flatterer manipulates through appeal to the ego. A true steward of the Gospel tells openly of sin and judgment, and leaves the unbeliever with nothing to boast of. (v) No Personal Gain, or “cloak of covetousness.” Paul was accused of money-making religious peddling, but the Thessalonians knew he told the truth (2:1). He could appeal God as witness (2:5), and had “a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men” (Acts 24:16). (iv) No Self-Promotion. “Nor of men sought we glory” (2:6). Paul gloried in the Cross – not in himself. The Lord taught His disciples humility by what He did and said, but it is easier to be like Diotrephes and love the pre-eminence (3 John 9). 2. THE LOVING MOTHER (2:7-8) “We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (2:7). The emphasis of the steward is faithfulness; the emphasis of the mother is gentleness. Paul switches from faithful boldness in his presentation of the Gospel to the gentleness of a nursing mother. “The servant of the Lord must . . . be gentle to all men” (2 Tim 2:24). The Lord as the Good Shepherd gently leads the young of the flock (Isa 40:11). It is a fruit of the Spirit. a) The Mother and Her Care (2:7) A new born babe requires great care. If we do not nurse new Christians on the milk of the Word, they will never mature to appreciate the meat of the Word (Heb 5:10-14). (i) Paul’s Patience. It takes time and energy to care for children. Children do not grow up instantly. They experience growing pains and encounter problems. Paul’s love for them made him patient, because love suffers long and is kind. Ask Moses about the problems of patience as a “nursing mother.” He felt the burden of caring for God’s people (ii) Paul Provision. “Even as a nurse cherishes her children” (2:7). The nursing mother eats the food and transforms it into milk for the baby. The mature Christian feeds on the Word of God, and then shares its nourishment with the younger believers so they can grow (1 Pe 2:1-3). (iii) Paul Protection. The baby cannot have everything he wants. Some things must be kept out of sight. A child can become ill through ingesting something the mother has eaten, so the Christian who feeds others must be careful about his own diet. b) The Mother and Her Concern (2:8) Just as the entire focus of a mother is centred on her child, so Paul’s concern was focused on the new Thessalonian babes in Christ. . (i) His Desire For Them. “Being affectionately desirous….” The servant of God who has seen souls won can identify with Paul’s feelings here. Each one is precious. (ii) His Value Of Them. “We were willing to have imparted unto you…also our own souls.” He valued them enough to pay the ultimate price. That is exactly what Christ did. They were that valuable. (iii) His Love For Them. “You were dear unto us.” They were not family, friends, colleagues, but they belonged to Christ. Because Christ had died for them, they also belonged to Paul. 3. THE CONCERNED FATHER (2:9-12) Although a great teacher and leader, Paul knew his most important role was that of father. Paul was a great family man. In this letter he calls them “brethren” eighteen times. First he calls them “brethren beloved” (1:4), and ends by calling them “holy brethren” (5:27). This is a family. He once wrote to the Corinthians, “Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel: (1 Cor 4:15). As a father, Paul not only begat his children; he also cared and provided for them. Paul pointed out four duties of a spiritual father. a) His Work (2:9) “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God” (2:9). (i) His Responsibility. As a spiritual father, Paul worked hard to support his family. The words “labour and travail,” refer to “struggles and hard work.” (ii) His Refusal. It was not easy to make tents and minister the Gospel at the same time, but Paul refused to be a burden. As God’s servant he could have insisted on his right to support, but his ambition was to give the Gospel freely. See the balance here. The preacher goes forth, commended by his assembly, in faith, looking to the Lord alone for his supply. On the other hand, the assembly is responsible for loving and helping him. b) His Walk (2:10) “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.” Fathers must be good role models, and they could see Paul’s life was an example in every way. With a clear conscience he could call on God as a witness that he had lived a dedicated life, while caring for the church family. (i) His Life was Holy. This describes his relationship with God. God’s servants are easy targets. Our lives, private and public, must be above reproach. (ii) His Life was Righteous. This describes his dealings with men – his integrity and behaviour. This is the practical righteousness that God works out in our lives as we yield to Him. This is the fourth time in this passage he uses the phrase “as ye know” (1,2,5,11). His life was open and known to all. (iii) His Life was Unblameable. This means his own conscience was clear. There was no selfish pride or self-seeking. c) His Words (2:11-12) “As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” A Father must not only support the family by working, and teach by example. He must also take time to teach the truths that would help them grow in the Lord. (i) His Interest. (2:11). This was an “every one of you,” one-on-one ministry. The converts were different individuals with different needs. (ii) His Encouragement. “You know how we exhorted.” The word is to encourage, to call to one’s side. New Christians, like children, are easily discouraged and need encouragement to go on with the Lord. (iii) His Comfort. “and comforted…” The word means “relate to.” He not only made them feel better, but wanted them to do better. He taught them how to deal with difficulties and discouragement, and reminded them of their resources in Christ. (iv) His Experience. “We charged every one of you” means he drew on his own experience with the Lord. Kids hate to hear, “When I was a kid…,” but this is an important part of training a family. A spiritual father should help his children through his own experiences. As we deal with difficulties we can share with others what God has done. He “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor 1:4). d) His Wish For Them (2:12) Paul’s prayer was, “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (i) Paul’s Prayer. Paul wanted his children to walk worthy of their Father. Just as a father wants to be proud of his children, so the Lord wants to get glory through the lives of His children. Paul’s highest ambition for them was to “walk worthy of God.” He said the same to the Colossians (Col 1:10) and the Ephesians (Eph 4:1). “Worthy of God.” Our walk should be in conformity with the holiness and character of God. That is the highest standard of behaviour we can conceive. Ephesians tells us that to “walk worthy of God” is to be humble, meek, long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Alexander the Great once disciplined a soldier, also named Alexander, and warned him, “Either change your conduct, or change your name.” (ii) God’s Call. “…who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” This verb is in the present tense – “who is calling you.” God called us to salvation (2 Thes 2:13-14), and He constantly calls us to the higher ground of holiness and obedience. “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Pe 1:15-16). Although this calling “unto his kingdom and glory” looks forward to Christ’s earthly kingdom, we can now enjoy His righteousness, peace, and joy in our hearts. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom 14:17). This passage gives us a lovely example of NT follow-up. We are to be faithful stewards, loving mothers, and concerned fathers. We should not be doting mothers and pampering fathers. Children need discipline as well as love. HINDRANCES AND HOPES 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 Those were tough times for the believers in Thessalonica. They were suffering (2:14), persecuted (2:15), and even hindered by Satan (2:18) for the sake of the Lord Jesus. We may not experience the same kind of political and religious persecution as the early Christians. Yet, if we are living “godly in Christ Jesus” we will suffer for His sake (2 Tim 3:12). In this passage Paul explained the divine resources we have in times of trouble, persecution, and suffering. It was what the Lord promised, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 1. GOD’S WORD WITHIN US (2:13) “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (2:13). Paul was deeply stirred because the Thessalonian believers had received the Gospel as he had preached it – as from God Himself. They had obeyed it by faith, and the Word had gone to work in their lives. The Word of God has power in it to accomplish the will of God. “God’s commandments are God’s enablements.” Jesus commanded the cripple to stretch out his hand, the very thing he could not do, but gave him the power to do it. He trusted the Word, obeyed, and was made whole. When we read and obey God’s Word, His power works in our lives to fulfil His purposes. a) They Accepted It (2:13) “When ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” Paul used two words for “received.” The first means they heard with their ears. The second means they received, welcomed, and accepted the message. They heard, not only with their ears, but also with their hearts, and made what they heard part of their lives. (i) Take Heed That You Hear. The Lord repeatedly warned about the importance of listening to the Word. “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mat 13:9). Take every opportunity to hear the Word of God. (ii) Take Heed What Ye Hear (Mark 4:24). Often we hear the Word of God and then switch to secular programmes that effectively erase it. How good to meditate and reflect on the Word, rather than rushing out of church and joking with friends. (iii) Take Heed How Ye Hear (Lk 8:18). We effectively receive the Word when we understand and meditate on it, so it becomes part of the inner man. Meditation is to the spiritual life what digestion is to the physical life. It takes time to meditate, but there is no other way to grow. b) They Appreciated It (2:13) “When ye received the word of God . . . ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” They did not receive it as the word of men; but as the Word of God. The Bible is not just “another book.” It is different in its character and content. It was inspired by the Spirit of God (2 Tim 3:16) and written by men of God who were used by the Holy Spirit (2 Pe 1:20-21). The way a man treats the Bible shows how he regards Jesus Christ. He is the living Word (John 1:1,14), and the Bible is the written Word; but they are the same. Both are Bread (John 6:48; Mat 4:4), Light (John 8:12; Ps 119:105), and Truth (John 14:6; 17:17). Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God forever, and the Word of God will live for ever. (i) More Than Food? Job said, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). God’s Word is bread (Mat 4:4), milk and meat (Heb 5:11-14), and even honey (Ps 119:103). (ii) More Than Money? Psalm 119 said “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches” (119:14). Shame on us that we can be so busy making money, that we neglect our need to invest in the Word. (iii) More Than Sleep? “My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Thy Word” (Ps 119:148). The Jews had three night watches: sunset to 10, 10 to 2 and 2 to dawn. The Psalmist gave up sleep each night that he might spend time with the Word. ` c) They Applied It (2:13) “Ye received the word of God. . . as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The Word of God within us is a great source of power in times of testing and suffering. If we appropriate/accept the Word (the mind), appreciate it (the heart), and apply it (the will), then the whole person will be controlled by God’s Word. 2. GOD’S PEOPLE BESIDE US (2:14) “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus.” Paul was dealing with young Christians who had more than their fair share of suffering. He reminded them they were not alone. Two things would help them stand when called upon to suffer for His sake and name. Across the world believers pay the price for faithfulness as those who will live godly in Christ Jesus suffer for His sake and name. a) They Belonged To Each Other “The churches of God.” The saints in Judea had suffered at the hands of the Jews, and the saints in Thessalonica had suffered at the hands of the Gentiles, encouraged by the Jewish unbelievers (Acts 17:5,13). Here is one of the great values of the local church: we stand together in times of difficulty and encourage one another. When Elijah separated himself for the other faithful Israelites, he became discouraged, and wanted to quit. A lonely saint is vulnerable. We need each other in the attacks of life. b) They Belonged To The Lord “The churches of God which . . . are in Christ Jesus.” Their earthly address was in Thessalonica, but they were linked to Christ Jesus. In becoming followers/imitators of the churches, they were also walking the way the Lord Jesus walked. This was the fellowship of his suffering. That fellowship also meant they were getting to know Him, and would also experience the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:10). 3. GOD’S ENEMIES AROUND US (2:15-16) In verses 15-16, Paul reminds the Thessalonians how the Jewish believers in Judea suffered at the hands of the Jews. Just as the nation had rejected the Lord and persecuted the prophets, so they were determined to eradicate the infant church. Paul puts this antagonism in perspective, and states some important truths about the nation and its attitude to the Gospel. a) Israel’s Privilege God called Israel to be a blessing to all the world. Through Israel He gave the promises and the covenants, and the Word of God. Through Israel the Saviour came into the world. “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The first Christians were Jews, as was Paul, the greatest Christian missionary. b) Israel’s Persecution “For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews, Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men” (2:14,15). Sadly the nation rejected Christ and persecuted His followers. They repeated the sins of their fathers, who had earlier persecuted the prophets. They could not see that their Law was only a temporary preparation for God’s new covenant of grace. “They please not God.” That is exactly what Paul thought he was doing. During the past 50 years, more people have died for their faith than at any time in history. c) Israel’s Peril “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” (2:16). Israel was “filling up their sins” and storing up wrath for the day of judgment. This is the way God works. He silently watches as men rebel against Him, and waits as their measure of sin and judgment fills up. Judgment had already fallen on Israel; for they were scattered, and their nation was under Roman rule. An even greater judgment was to fall in AD 70 when the Roman armies destroyed the city, and ended the period of God’s patience with His people. “Wrath is come on them to the uttermost.” Sinners have been saved to the uttermost; here is wrath to the uttermost. Compare with John 13:1, “He loved them to the uttermost.” Love to the uttermost . Also Heb 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 4. GOD’S GLORY BEFORE US (2:17-20) “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” (2:18). Paul unashamedly stated his affection for the Thessalonians. He felt “orphaned” from them (2:17). He was their mother and father. He had wanted to remain, but “Satan hindered us.” This is literally “breaking up the road and putting up obstacles.” His chief objective is to hinder our worship, work, and witness. a) The Christian’s Reward “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?” (2:19). The fact that we shall one day stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ should motivate us to be faithful in spite of difficulties. There our works will be judged, and rewards given. In his letters Paul often pictured these rewards as victors’ crowns awarded to the overcomers. There are at least five crowns mentioned in Scripture to be awarded on that day: • The crown of life for the martyr (Rev 2:10; Jas 1:12) • The crown of rejoicing for the soul-winner (1Thes 2:19) • The crown of glory for the faithful shepherd (1 Pe 5:4) • The incorruptible crown for the winner in life’s race (1 Cor 9:24-27) • The crown of righteousness for those that love his appearing (2 Tim 4:8). b) The Christian’s Rejoicing “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?” (2:19). Paul took the long view of things. He knew the best is yet to be. He looked ahead and saw his friends in the presence of Jesus Christ in glory. He knew Christ would return and reward him for his ministry; and on that day, the saints from Thessalonica would bring glory to God and joy to the heart of Paul. c) The Christian’s Recognition “Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy,” (2:19,20). This suggests there will be recognition between us in heaven. There will be prizes and surprises at the Judgement Seat of Christ. On that day, we know we shall be “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The complete body of Christ will be present at the great harvest when the sower and the reaper will rejoice together (John 4:35-38). Paul loved to speak about his converts to others, and his heart thrilled at the prospect of being reunited with them in the presence of the Lord Jesus. This joy of greeting believers in heaven also brings a warning. Those who have nothing to bring will not experience this glory and joy when Jesus Christ returns. It is not enough to “wait for His Son” (1:10). We must also witness for God and work for His Son, so that when we get to heaven we will have trophies to present for His glory. MAKING SURE THEY GROW 1 Thessalonians 3 In chapter 1 the great theme of salvation was unfolded as Paul reminded the Thessalonians they had turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God. In chapter 2 the theme was service, as Paul remembered his own service, as well as that of the Thessalonian Christians. That was a service that will be recognised at the Judgement Seat of Christ. The theme of chapter 3 is sanctification, and this continues into chapter 4:12. It concentrates on faith, love and holiness, and teaches many practical truths about trials, testing, and temptation. Chapters 1 and 2 have already explained how the church was born and nurtured. Now Paul deals with its growth and maturity. The key words “your faith” occur 5 times in the chapter. Paul’s readers were under pressure. Would their faith stand the test? He knew that new converts must be helped to grow in the Lord. Paul had a four-fold strategy to help these new Christians become firmly established in their faith. 1. HE CAME ALONGSIDE THEM (3:1-5) When Paul and his friends left Thessalonica, they went to Berea and ministered the Word there. But their enemies from Thessalonica followed them and stirred up trouble. Paul left for Athens, while Silas and Timothy remained at Berea. Likely Timothy joined Paul in Athens, but Paul was anxious for the believers at Thessalonica, and sent Timothy to strengthen them in their faith, while he stayed on alone at Athens. a) Paul’s Concern (3:1) “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone” (3:1). Paul stayed alone at Athens, so that Timothy could return and establish the Thessalonians. The “wherefore” refers to the last verses of chapter 2, where Paul referred to them as “our glory and joy” (2:20). Paul was not just an evangelist – he was also a true shepherd who knew the importance of seeing his children grow in the faith. Satan also knew how important this was, and successfully hindered Paul by preventing his return. b) Timothy’s Character (3:2) “And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith” (3:2). Timothy’s task was to “establish (strengthen) and to comfort (come along side) you concerning your faith.” It is faith in God that keeps our feet on the ground when the enemy attacks. Without faith we are defeated – “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 Jn 5:4). Notice the degrees after Timothy’s name – “our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the Gospel of Christ” (3:2). What sort of qualifications does a person need in order to help younger believers grow? He was: (i) A Fellow Believer. “Timothy our brother” (3:2). Timothy and Paul were born into the same family, they had the same Father. We cannot share a faith we do not possess. (ii) A Fellow Servant. “. . . and minister/servant of God.” He had faithfully worked with Paul (Phil 2:22), and knew how to serve the churches. Even the Lord was among His disciples as “one that serveth.” How we love to pre-eminence! (iii) A Fellow Worker. “Our fellow labourer in the Gospel of Christ” (3:2). Timothy was not interested in running the show. He worked in with others as they shared together, prayed together, and helped each other. It is the same when husband and wife are fellow labourers, working together in their concern for their children and church. 2. HE ENCOURAGED THEM (23:3-5) A main part of Timothy’s mandate was to strengthen and encourage the believers in the midst of their trials. He put such trials and temptations in their true perspective. a) Accidents or Appointments? “Yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (3:3). Perhaps they thought it strange that they should suffer so. Was God displeased with them? Timothy told them it was normal for Christians to suffer, and reminded them “when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation” (3:4). b) Development or Disaster? Behind many of life’s temptations and trials is Satan whose purpose is to ruin our faith. The Lord warned Peter that Satan desired to have him that he might sift him as wheat. Then He said, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Hence the emphasis on faith in this chapter. Peter says he comes as a roaring lion, whom we must “resist steadfast in the faith” (1 Pe 5:8-9). Satan causes deception and doubts. In Eden he tempted Eve by weakening her faith in God: “Yea, hath God said?” He makes us wonder if there really is a God, or if we are saved, or if Jesus really is the Son of God, or if the Scriptures mean what they say. He may suggest we make our own plans by ourselves, and don’t need to consult God. We may think God will not judge us anyway, so can relax and do what we please. We may feel we are strong enough to get by on our own. c) Faith or Failure? “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith” (3:5). God’s purposefully allows His children to go through trials. Why? (i) They Prove The Reality Of Our Faith. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pe 1:7). (ii) They Equip us to Minister To Others – “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor 1:4). (iii) They Develop Character. They create patience, and endurance (Rom 5:3), and help us remove the dross from our lives – “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). (iv) They Make Us Dependant On God. “The arrow that enters heaven, must come from a bow fully bent.” 3. HE EXHORTED THEM (3:6-8) “But now when Timothy 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” (3:6). Timothy reported to Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:5) that the new believers were standing firm. Paul excitedly responded by writing this letter which is now part of God’s Word. God’s Word is always the best way to establishing new Christians. It “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Note that doctrine tells us what is right, reproof tells us what is not right, correction tells us now to get right, and instruction tells us how to stay right! A knowledge of the Bible is essential for growth. Timothy’s report highlighted their faith and love. a) Their Faith “Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith” (3:7). The work of God was demonstrated in their attitude toward God – their faith. b) Their Love Timothy “brought us good tidings of your faith and charity” (3:6). God’s work was also demonstrated in their attitude toward others – their love. “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord (3:8). Paul derived strength to continue his own ministry from the evidence of the continuing faith and love of his converts. It was as though his whole heart was wrapped up in their spiritual progress. This is the love the Lord had for His sheep. 4. HE PRAYED FOR THEM (3:9-13) The Word of God and prayer should go together. How we need to pray for each other! Jesus prayed for his disciples, just as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, that their faith might not fail. It is not enough to teach the Word, we must pray for them also. “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” (3:10). Here is a window into Paul’s prayer life. It was habitual – “night and day;” intense – “praying exceedingly;” specific – “that we might see your face;” and purposeful – “that we may . . . perfect what is lacking in your faith.” There was nothing vague about Paul’s prayers! Paul asked God to enable him to “see your face,” and minister to them personally, but God did not answer that request. If He did, we may never have had this letter in our hands! For us, prayer is like shopping for a bargain – we need something, and hope we can get it cheaply. But prayer includes praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. He prayed often about the Thessalonians, thanking God for them. Paul’s prayer centred three specific requests: a) Mature Faith (3:10) “. . . might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” (3:10). Paul wanted to bring their faith to maturity. He wanted it to be “perfect.” Of course, our faith never reaches perfection; It always needs adjusted and matured. We go “from faith to faith” (Rom 1:17). This word means “adjust, equip, furnish.” Abraham is a good example. God called him to Canaan, only to test his faith with a famine. It was a test to help him trust in God, but he failed the test, and went down to Egypt for help. All through his life, God brought circumstances to bear on Abraham that forced him to trust God and grow in his faith. There were tests with Lot, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael. The ultimate test came in chapter 22. God tests our faith, not to destroy it, but to develop it. Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. Paul’s prayer here that the Thessalonians might grow in faith, was answered in 2 Thes 1:3, “We thank God always for you… because your faith grows exceedingly.” Paul wanted to be sure that the faith of the Thessalonians would be “perfect.” When Paul spoke of being “perfect,” he used a word that could be used for a home that is fully furnished. It has all a home should have – furniture, rugs, chairs, etc. When Paul prayed for perfection, he was thinking of what was lacking in their lives. Sinlessness is not in view here – just completeness. He prays that the process might be so complete that in the end they might stand unblameable in holiness before God. b) Abounding Love (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” (3:12) . He wanted them to increase and abound in love toward all. Times of suffering can be times of selfishness. The furnace of affliction exposes what is in us. In times of trial some build walls and shut themselves off. Others build bridges and draw closer to God. This was Paul’s prayer for these believers, and the Lord answered it, for in 2 Thes 1:3, he wrote, “The love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.” Our growing faith in God should result in growing love for others. Joseph suffered, for 13 years because of his brothers envy and hatred. Yet he learned to love them in spite of their hatred. True love is shown, not just to believers, but “to all men.” (3:12). Normal Christian growth brings an increase in love to each other and to all men. Love is not generated by human will, but the love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. That is why he prays, “the Lord make you to increase and abound in love…” (3:12). c) Holy Lives (3:13) “To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (3:13). The return of the Lord Jesus has two important effects in the believer’s life: (i) Stability. “The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” (3:13). Is it the rapture, or is it the Revelation? These glorious truths remind the believer that the world is passing, doomed for destruction. His citizenship is in heaven, and he belongs to Christ’s unshakeable kingdom. (ii) Sanctity. We cannot divorce the truth of the Lord’s return from the Judgement Seat of Christ and the Marriage of the Lamb. The results of these events will be manifested to all when Christ returns in glory. You cannot separate conduct from character. Holiness of life is linked to our hope of the Lord’s return – “Every man that hath this hope in him (Christ), purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 Jn 3:3). HOLINESS, HARMONY AND HONESTY 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 Walking has become a popular sport, as individuals or families enjoy a walk in the park, or in the gorge. Walking really is good for you. Do you know… a) Walking prevents type 2 diabetes. Walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight (6 kg) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%. b)Walking strengthens your heart if you are male. In one study, men who walked less than one mile per day had double the heart problems of those who walked two miles per day. c) Walking strengthens your heart if you are female. Women in the Nurse’s Health Study (72,488 female nurses) who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk. d) Walking is good for your brain. Women who walked the equivalent of an easy pace at least 1.5 hours per week had better cognitive function than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week. e) Walking is good for your bones. Research shows that postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances. f) Walking helps alleviate symptoms of depression. Walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression as measured with a standard depression questionnaire by 47%. g) Walking reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer. Women who performed the equivalent of 1¼ – 2½ hours per week of brisk walking had an 18% decreased risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women. Studies show exercise can prevent colon cancer, and even if a person develops cancer, the benefits of exercise appear to continue both by increasing quality of life and reducing mortality. h) Walking improves fitness. Walking just three times a week for 30 minutes can significantly increase cardio-respiratory fitness. i) Walking in short bouts improves fitness, too! A study of sedentary women showed that short bouts of brisk walking (three 10-minute walks per day) resulted in similar improvements in fitness and were at least as effective in decreasing body fatness as long bouts (one 30-minute walk per day). j) Walking improves physical function. Research shows that walking improves fitness and physical function and prevents physical disability in older persons. Walking is also one of Paul’s favourite pictures of the Christian life. He reminds them in 4:1 that he had taught them “how ye ought to walk and to please God” (4:1). He said the same to the Ephesians, exhorting them to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called,” and warned them not to “walk as other gentiles walk” (Eph 4:17). The Christian life begins with a step of faith, but that step leads to a walk of faith. “For we walk not by sight, but by faith” (2 Cor 5:7). Walking involves progress, and if we are not making progress forward, we are making it backward. We must also make sure we “walk in the light” for the enemy has put traps and potholes to catch us (1 John 1:5-7). And at the end of life’s walk, we will step out into the very presence of the Lord. “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Gen 5:24). 1. WALK IN HOLINESS (4:1-8) The moral climate of the Roman empire was not healthy. Immorality was a way of life; and thanks to slavery, people had loads of time to indulge in the latest pleasures. The Christian message of holy living was totally foreign, and it was not easy for young believers to fight the temptations around them. The chapter opens with a plea to walk in holiness and thus to please God. It closes with the taking up of the saints. Perhaps Paul was thinking of Enoch when he instructed the “how ye ought to walk and to please God.” Enoch had walked with God and had been taken up by God. But before he was taken up, he “had this testimony that he pleased God” (Heb 11:5). The best summary of the life of the Lord Jesus, is His own testimony, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Paul identified six reasons why the Thessalonians should live a holy life: a) To Please God (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.” Everybody likes to please somebody. Children like to please their parents; employees like to please their employer. The believer’s major motive is to please his heavenly Father. How does this happen? How do we know what pleases God? How do we know what pleases an earthly father? By listening to him and living with him. So as we read the Word, and as we fellowship in worship and service, we get to know the heart of God, and this opens us up to the will of God. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Note that we are to “abound more and more” in the Christian walk. Our lives are to be progressively pleasing to God, growing more and more unto the likeness of the Lord Jesus. b) To Obey God (4:2-3) “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus” (4:2). When in Thessalonica, Paul had given the believers “commandments” regarding personal purity. This word is a military term, referring to orders from a superior officer. We are soldiers in God’s army, and we must obey orders. Paul had told them how to live, and what it means to walk with the Lord. Nothing builds up a believer like the pure, undiluted “commandments” of the Word of God applied by His Spirit. That means relying on His presence and control, and allowing Him to live in them and activate God’s will for them. (i) Their Sanctity. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (4:3). What is sanctification? It means to set apart for divine use. In one sense, all believers are set apart from the world to the service of God. That is positional sanctification and is perfect and complete (Heb 10:10). But in another sense, sanctification is a process that will continue all the believer’s life as believers sanctify themselves from all forms of sin. This is practical sanctification. Suppose one living in the time of Christ wanted to make a gift to the temple. He would bring his gift of gold coins and lay it on the altar. What happened to those coins? The moment they were given to God they were set apart for holy use. They were sanctified. The sanctification did not change the character of the coins, but it did change the purpose for which they were directed, so, every Christian has been set apart as holy to God, even though he falls short if perfection. (ii) Their Purity. “. . . that ye should abstain from fornication” (4:3). God’s warnings against sexual sin must be heeded. God created sex, and has laid down clear guidelines for its use. Marriage was always meant to be a sacred union between one man and one woman. Its purpose was for the pleasure of the marriage partners and for the continuance of the race. God’s restrictions regarding sex are not that He might rob people of their fun and joy, but that He might protect them that they might not lose their joy. The commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” builds a wall around marriage that makes the relationship not a prison, but a safe beautiful garden. c) To Glorify God (4:4-5) “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.” “Possess his vessel” likely means control his body, the container in which one lives. However it can also mean to “learn to live with his own wife,” for the wife is referred to as “the weaker vessel.” Perhaps the first interpretation is best, as Paul was writing to all believers, not just married ones. But the two go together. As man controls his own body, and stays with his own wife, then fulfils God’s will for his life. The world thinks of chastity is as weakness, and sex as a means of gratifying lust. This explains why God gives such demanding moral requirements for spiritual leadership in the church (1 Tim 3). Spiritual leaders who cannot rule their own homes, are unlikely to lead the church. d) To Avoid God’s Judgment (4:6-8) “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” (4:6). “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter” (4:6). He is thinking of a man who runs off with another man’s wife. He warns that God Himself is “the avenger of all such.” Sexual immorality is a sin against the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). But also against other persons. While the believer is not under condemnation, he will reap a harvest of sorrow when he sows to the flesh. David committed adultery, and tried to cover his sin. God later forgave him, but the consequences remained. Sexual sin bring a harvest of physical and mental problems. e) To Respond to God “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (4:7). A holy walk involves a right relationship with God the Father (who called us), God the Son (who died for us), and God the Holy Spirit (who lives within us). It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us that makes our bodies temples of the living God (1 Cor 6:19-20). Also, it is by walking in the Spirit that we have victory over the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:16). To despise God’s command is to invite the judgment of God, and also to grieve the Holy Spirit. (i) “Uncleanness.” What makes a garden unclean? The garden is unclean when plants that should not be there are growing in it. It can be the same with the believer when he behaves in ways that are not the will of God. Actions are self-serving, and not God-serving. It is as unclean as an unwanted plant in a garden. (ii) “but unto holiness.” Holiness results from directing all one’s energy to God. f) To Rely on God “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit” (4:8). We know our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who enables us to live a clean life, free from sexual impurity. As we rely on Him, He creates spiritual desires (1 Pe 2:1-3), and not the polluted garbage of the flesh. Also, He teaches us the Word and helps us to recall God’s promises in times of temptation. As we walk in the Spirit, He helps us to walk in holiness and not in the lusts of the flesh. 2. WALK IN HARMONY (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.” The connection between holiness and love is easy to see. If I really love my brother, I will not sin against him. There are four basic words for love in the Word. a) Eros – physical love. This may not be sinful. It is not used in the NT. b) Storge – family love, the love of parents for their children. Also not in the NT. c) Philia – the love of deep affection, such as between two friends. d) Agape –the love God shows to us. It is not just based on feeling, but is expressed in our wills. It seeks the best for others, regardless of feelings or circumstances. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The Holy Spirit taught us to love one another when He was poured into our hearts (Rom 5:5). We know animals do instinctively what is necessary to keep them alive and safe. Fish do not learn to swim, and birds fly by nature. Nature determines action. So with the Christian. Because he has God’s nature, he loves, because “God is love.” How does God cause our love to increase and abound? By putting us into circumstances that challenge us to practice Christian love. The difficulties we believers have with each other are opportunities for us to grow in our love. Why is love of the brethren so important? Because where there is love, there is unity, and here the Lord’s blessing rests (Psm 133:1,3). 3. WALK IN HONESTY (4:11-12) Paul now gives some very practical advice about how we should live before an ungodly world. a) Be Quiet “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you” (4:11). “Study to be quiet.” God honours the person who is quiet, especially about his own exploits. We are to mind our own business. When we interfere with others, we cause trouble. We are to mind our own business, to work with our own hands. b) Be Wise “Do your own business.” Idle people unwisely interfere in the affairs of others. They get themselves and others into trouble. Believers who are about their Father’s business do not have the time, or desire, to meddle in the affairs of others. c) Be Busy “and to work with your own hands.” Most Greeks despised manual labour. Most of the work was done by slaves. Paul, of course, was a tentmaker, and he set the example in Thessalonica of hard work. Unfortunately, some believers in Thessalonica misunderstood the doctrine of hard work. They had given up their jobs in order to wait for His coming. This meant they were supported by other Christians, impacting on their families. Those who did so, damaged their testimonies with the unsaved merchants. When Haggai and Zechariah exhorted others to build the temple, they worked with their own hands. When Paul ministered the Gospel, and ran out of funds, he worked with his own hands and made tents. That is honourable. Today many work as little as possible for as much as they can get. The Bible standard is the opposite. d) Be Respected “That ye may walk honestly” (4:12). The thought is our testimony to be respected. Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians earn their wages and not become freeloaders depending on the support of other believers. Paul says, “walk honestly.” Pay your debts. Earn respect, be careful in your business relationships. e) Be Careful We are to be specially careful in our relationships with “those that are without” (4:12). We need to be different without being judgemental and proud. “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without” (Col 4:5). If we lack this spiritual wisdom, we will do more harm than good. We can get so taken up with the thought of the Lord’s return that we forget there is a task to be done here and now. Practical Paul believed in glory to come, but also believed in living a very practical life. The fact that we are looking for the coming of Christ, does not relieve us of responsibilities of life. The world is watching. Men judge our Saviour by what they see in us. RAPTURE AND REUNION 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 This is an outstanding prophetic chapter. The OT presents many predictions about Christ’s first and second comings. Both were seen in one picture, and the OT did not identify the period of time between them. The disciples expected the Lord to fulfill the prophecies that actually pertained to the second coming, such as His earthly kingdom. They expected He would reign, and they would reign with Him. That is why they were so disappointed when Christ began to tell them that He must suffer and die. In John 14, in the very shadow of the cross, Christ told his disciples He was going to leave them and go to heaven where He would prepare a place for them. He would then come back to take them to be with Him in His Father’s house prior to His return to earth. The early disciples thus learned to look for Christ to come and take them home to glory. Paul had taught this truth to the Thessalonians, but they remained confused about what would happen to their deceased loved ones. True, they expected the Lord to take those who were alive at any moment, but what about those who had died? When would they be raised? Would they be excluded from Christ’s coming? Paul answers their questions by describing the order of events. We remember the heathen world in Paul’s day had no hope of life after death. One tomb stone proclaimed, “I was not, I became, I am not, I care not.” Even OT believers had only vague ideas as to what happened after death. They believed that there would be one great resurrection at the end of the world, as Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (Jn 11:24). We now know much more. When a believer dies, he goes to be “with Christ” (Phil 1:21,23). That is what is so different about a Christian funeral. Because he will live again, death is not so terrible. Certainly it is an enemy, and we do not like it, but it is not the final word. Paul taught on five fundamental lessons about the rapture. 1. THOSE WHO SORROW (4:13,15a) “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” (4:13). a) A Reliable Answer “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep.” Here is a clear answer to man’s most perplexing problem: What lies beyond the grave? Philosophers have wrestled with it; spiritists have tried to communicate with those who had passed on; scientists have documented “near death” experiences “For this we say into you by the word of the Lord” (4:15) . Here is God’s answer to man’s problem. God gave Paul a special revelation concerning the believer’s resurrection and the return of Christ (1 Cor15:51-54). It is not based on the “I like to think…” of man’s reasoning, but on the authority of God’s Word. b) A Rock-like Assurance “Concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others, which have no hope” (4:13). Some people after death expect to be gone for good. Death is not the last act. The body of the believer falls “asleep”, and will one day be awakened. Paul did not mean that believers will not grieve. He meant that they should not grieve as did “others who have no hope.” Hope of what? “Hope” in the Bible refers to what we know will happen. For the believer, that means waiting for the return of Christ to take us to be with Himself. 2. THOSE WHO WILL RETURN (4:14-15) “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (4:14). We have seen the emphasis on the return of Christ in these letters. Paul related it to salvation (chapter 1), service (chapter 2), and stability (chapter 3). Now he relates it to sorrow, and shows how the doctrine of Christ’s return can comfort the broken hearted. a) The Foundation of Hope “If we believe that Jesus died and rose gain…” The basis of the believer’s hope is the death and resurrection of Christ. Because He rose, those who have fallen asleep in Christ will be raised and will participate in His coming. Many feel that if there is a heaven, we will all be there; and share together in a life hereafter. But this limits it to those who “believe that Jesus died and rose again.” b) The Fruit of Hope “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (4:14). Note Paul used the word “sleep” for those believers who had died. Even our word “cemetery” comes from a Greek word, “sleeping place.” At death the body closes down and goes to sleep; the soul goes to be with the Lord, “Absent from the body, and . . . present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). To die is to “be with Christ.” When Christ returns those spirits will come with Him. It is this that gives the believer such comfort in times of bereavement. 3. THOSE WHO WILL RISE (4:15-16) “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, 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” (4:15,16). When Paul preached the doctrine of the resurrection at Athens, listeners mocked him (Acts 17:32). The Greeks wanted rid of their bodies. Who would want his old, tired body back again? The doctrine of the resurrection was foolish and impossible. But Paul’s teaching was received directly “by the word of the Lord.” He details the events which will take place when Christ returns: a) The Lord Himself “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven.” He is not now described as Jesus of Nazareth, but as “the Lord Himself.” He is the glorified Christ, the Son of God. b) The Shout of Command “With a shout.” This is a word of command, like an officer saying, “Forward march!” It is like Lazarus in John 11, “Come forth!” Of course, Lazarus died again, but Christians will have immortal bodies of glory. c) The Voice of the Archangel (4:16) The reference to Michael reflects the intensity of the battle against Satan’s forces. When he speaks, it is a shout of victory, not only for men, but also for the angels who rejoice in the victory over the forces of evil occasioned by the resurrection from the dead. d) The Trumpet of God (14:16) Trumpets were frequently used in the OT, e.g. the Feast of Trumpets. They were used to declare war, to announce special times and seasons, to assemble the people, and march forward. The Romans also used them to announce the arrival of a great person. e) The Dead in Christ Shall Rise First The Lord Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have practiced evil to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28,29). This makes it clear there are two resurrections in the future. (i) “The Resurrection of Life.” This is called “the first resurrection” and involves only “the dead in Christ” – those who in life were “in Christ” and have now died. They were buried and their spirits went to heaven. This expression occurs about 40 times in the NT. When a person is saved, he becomes “in Christ.” This resurrection involves only those who are saved through faith in Him. (ii) “The Resurrection of Condemnation.” At the end of time, there will be another resurrection. This is called “the second resurrection” or the “resurrection of condemnation.” Between these two events, the great tribulation will take place on earth to be followed by the return of Christ in power and glory to set up His kingdom. 4. THOSE WHO WILL BE RAPTURED (4:17) “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (4:17). After those who have fallen asleep in Jesus are raised from the dead in their resurrection bodies, the believers then living at that time will be “caught up.” This word literally means “to seize, to carry off,” as in Acts 8:39, where the Spirit “caught away Philip.” It can also mean: – “To claim for one’s own self,” which views the rapture from our Lord’s point of view as He comes to claim His bride. – “To move to a new place,” as will happen when He returns to take us to the home He has prepared for us. – “To rescue from danger,” suggesting the church will be taken home before the time of the great tribulation. Can this happen? It happened to Enoch in the OT who walked with God and “was not because God took him.” Elijah also went to heaven without dying. It has happened before, and can thus happen again. At that time our bodies will be changed, and we will have new resurrection bodies. “fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil 3:21). 5. THOSE WHO WILL BE REUNITED (4:17-18) “. . . and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” We shall meet the Lord in the air in person when He comes for us. We shall “see Him as He is” and be like Him (1 John 3:1-2). a) A Glorious Meeting When here on earth, the Lord prayed that we might one day see His glory and share in it (John 17:22-24). The suffering that we endure today will be transformed into glory when He returns (2 Cor 4:17-18). b) An Everlasting Meeting “Forever with the Lord.” He promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). The goal of redemption is not just to rescue us from judgment, but to relate us to Christ. c) A Happy Meeting “Together with them.” It will also be a happy meeting, as we will not only meet the Lord, but will also be united with departed friends. This brings great encouragement. Death is a great separator, but Jesus Christ is the great Redeemer. On the mount of transfiguration, the three disciples knew and recognized Moses and Elijah. d) A Solemn Meeting It will be associated with the Judgement Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) where our works will be judged and rewards given (1 Cor 3:8-15). It would be good for us now to examine our own hearts to see if we are ready to meet the Lord. One mark of a true Christian is his desire to see the Lord – we not only look for His appearing, we love His appearing! Because we have this hope in us, we should keep our lives pure, so that we may not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Truth and doctrine are great, but it all depends on our personal relationship to Jesus Christ. Are we really trusting Him? Is our heart, our faith, our life really centred in the Jesus Christ. Many believers are not anxious for Him to come today. “Back Soon!” A Christian Doctor died some time ago. His widow was sad, but kept up over his surgery door the little card he use when he was called out for emergencies – “Gone for a little while – Will be back again soon.” THE DAY OF THE LORD 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Paul had been teaching the Thessalonians in chapter 4 about the Rapture that concerns all who belong to the church of Christ. Now in chapter 5, he turns to another prophetic subject that concerns another group of people – those who will be alive after the church has gone. That subject is the Day of the Lord. The OT is very clear in its presentation of a large group of prophetic events. It tells of the awful period of judgment that will fall on the earth, and describes Christ’s return to earth. However, it does not even mention the rapture Like ourselves, the disciples wanted to know just when the Lord would return. The Lord answered their question with a warning, “In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh” (Mat 24:44). He then told two parables. One was about an unfaithful servant who did not expect his master to return that night, and abused his privileges. The other was the story of the foolish virgins who had no oil and were thus unprepared to meet Him. 1. TIMES AND SEASONS (5:1-2) The prospect of the Rapture is a comforting hope for all God’s people; but what about those outside of Christ? Following the Rapture, God will resume His dealings with the nation of Israel, and those dealings cover the period prior to the setting up of the kingdom, as well as the kingdom period itself. Three phrases in this section require attention. a) “Times and Seasons” “But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have not need that I write unto you” (5:1). This phrase is found three times in the Bible, and refers primarily to God’s plans for Israel – see the Lord’s use of it in Acts 1:7. God has definite plans for the world’s nations, but they focus on Israel as the key nation. The events to which Paul refers will affect the nations on earth, particularly Israel, and culminate in the “the Day of the Lord.” Paul did not need to write to the Thessalonians about the times and the seasons. Details of these events are spelt out in the OT, and in any case, they the saints would not be affected by them, as they would be removed first. b) “The Day of the Lord” “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (5:2). What is this “Day of the Lord”? The word “day” in the Bible is used in various ways. It may mean day as opposed to night, or a 24-hour cycle. Or it may mean a period of time, e.g. “the day of our youth.” Here the word “day” used in this sense, a period of time. Like an ordinary day it begins at the darkness of midnight, advances to dawn and then daylight. It closes again with another night of judgment (Rev 20:9-15). Here it is a future period, widely prophesied in the OT, in which God will deal directly in judgment with wicked men. It will begin after the Rapture, and will include: (i) The Tribulation when God judges Israel’s enemies and the apostate part of the nation. (ii) The Return of Christ in glory (iii) The Millennium, and the setting up of Christ’s kingdom. (iv) The final destruction of the heavens and earth by fire (2 Pe 3:7,10). See the Contrasts in Chapter 5 Unbelievers Believers “They” “You” Sleeping Not sleeping Drunk Sober Of the night and darkness Sons of the light and sons of the day Overtaken unexpectedly Not overtaken Sudden and inescapable destruction, as labour comes on a woman Not appointed to wrath but to obtain salvation. c) “A Thief in the Night” Just as a thief comes without warning, so the Day of the Lord will be unexpected. Just as the Rapture ends of the Day of Grace, it also marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord. It closes one day, and begins another. The Lord also used this image, “And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through” (Lk 12:39). We can now see the bigger picture. Paul taught them about the Rapture. He also told them that after the Rapture the Day of the Lord would begin with a period of terrible Tribulation on earth. The “times and seasons” of these events relate to Israel and the nations. His emphasis here was simply that the believers should know what was ahead, and live their lives in the light of these events. Unbelievers, on the other hand, lived in ignorance of God’s plan, nor did they wish to know. 2. PEACE AND SAFETY (5:3-5) “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” (5:3). a) A Period of Peace “For when they shall say, Peace and safety” (5:3). At the time of the beginning of the Day of the Lord there will be evidence of peace. Men will be caught by surprise because they ignore God’s Word and warning. Noah warned the Flood was coming, yet only eight people were saved. Lot warned that the city would be destroyed, but his family would not listen. In fact, Jesus used the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of those who refused to listen. It is the same as what we read about in Revelation 6. This state of peace is quite in contrast to the savage battle of Armageddon just prior to the Lord’s return. The world will then be convulsed in a mighty struggle. But at the beginning, men will say, “Peace and safety.” Like labour coming on a woman, there will be no escape. It will be God’s judgment on those who are “in darkness.” Note the contras between “they” and “you” or “us” in the entire section. “They “ are the unsaved. “They” will say “peace and safety!” but “we” will say, “Jesus is coming, and judgment is coming!” b) A Period of Pain “Then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child “ (5:3). Birth pangs are real and painful, as they accompany the contractions enabling the mother to give birth. The Lord Himself called the Day of the Lord “the beginning of sorrows” (Mat 24:8). The Greek word actually means “birth pangs.” Both the Lord Jesus and Paul were teaching that out of the Day of the Lord will come the birth of the kingdom. When God’s judgements are finished, God’s Son will return “with power and great glory” (Mat 24:30). 3. DARKNESS AND LIGHT “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief, Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (5:4,5). This verse means the church will not be here; we will be in heaven. In other words, we belong to a different dispensation, a different “day” – the Day of Grace. Believers will not go through the period of Tribulation designed as a time of judgment on a Christ-rejecting world which ridicules the idea of Christ’s return. a) Sons of Darkness “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness.” Paul says that day will overtake the world “as a thief.” The ones it will overtake will be those who are “of the night,” i.e. unsaved. Such belong to the realm of moral and spiritual darkness, and will experience the judgment God on the world. b) Sons of Light “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day.” It will not overtake believers because they are “not in darkness.” Beings “sons of light” means they belong to the Lord. 3. WAKING AND SLEEPING (5:6-8) “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (5:6). The first five verses of the chapter taught the doctrine that the Day of the Lord will come suddenly as a destruction on the wicked, but we as Christians will have no part in it because we do not belong to that period of time. Now in 5:6-11 Paul becomes practical and applies the truth as a powerful reason to live for the Lord every day. a) Sleeping “Let us not sleep.” Those of the night (“others”) are characterised by sleeping. Sleeping belongs to the night. Sleep is great, but not when we should be working. When we sleep we are unconcerned and unaware. b) Waking “Let us watch.” Satan will rock us to sleep in an attempt to deter from a watchful spirit, and dull our senses to dangers about us. Paul says the church, being of the day, should realise it is time to wake up, clean up, and dress up. Some of us are “morning people” – bright and bushy tailed. Others are slow to move into the day. But when it comes to the return of the Lord, we must all be “morning people” – awake, alert, ready for the dawning of that new day. Sadly, the world outside is asleep, “they that sleep sleep in the night” (5:7). A sleeping person has no idea of what is happening. The sword of God’s judgment hangs over the world; yet people live godless lives, empty lives, and rarely give thought to eternal matters. 4. DRUNK AND SOBER (5:6-7) “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (5:6). a) Being Drunk “They that be drunken are drunken in the night.” Being drunk means that one’s mind, will, and emotions are under the control of something else. b) Being Sober “Be sober.” This means to be alert, to live with our eyes open. It involves being in control, understanding what is happening. 5. BREASTPLATES AND HELMETS (5:8) But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (5:7,8) a) The Breastplate “Faith and love” form a breastplate that covers the heart: faith toward God and love towards God’s people. b) The Helmet “for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” The helmet protects the mind, and assures us of what we know as believers. What hope we have! We can know today we are saved. Unsaved people are “without hope” (Eph 2:12). What preserves us from “the corruption that is in the world through lust”? Faith or dependence on God, love for the Lord, and the hope of His return. 6. SALVATION AND JUDGEMENT (5:9-11) “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9). Paul closes this section with the practical application of the prophetic Scriptures. The passage indicates two alternative appointments, destinies – “salvation” and “wrath.” Each will keep one of these appointments. We each have an appointment with either the Saviour or the Judge. a) Appointed to Wrath “For God hath not appointed us to wrath” (5:9). For the unbeliever this “wrath” means the ushering in of the time of God’s judgment on earth. Of course, after the Rapture, many will turn to Christ, and many will die for their faith (Rev 7). But most will experience the awfulness of that period, as God’s wrath is poured out on the earth. Doesn’t this “wrath” refer to hell? True, God has appointed unbelievers to that wrath also. But Paul is not talking about hell here. He is speaking about future events on earth. The context deals with the Day of the Lord – the greatest period of “wrath” in the history of man on earth. b) Appointed to Salvation “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9). See what we learn about this appointment to salvation. (i) Its Nature. What is this “salvation”? It is the hope of being saved from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. What hope that gives us. What joy it will be to meet our loved ones again and forever be with the Lord. That truth should to keep us clean (1 John 3:1-3) and faithful. It should strengthen us in life’s difficulties and motivates us to win the lost (2 Cor 5:9-21). (ii) Its Effect. “but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” The believer is to receive something worthwhile – salvation. The word “obtain” implies “by faith.” God has called us to the obtaining of His salvation in its completeness. Salvation form the presence of sin will be “ours” in that day we “love together with Him” (5:10). (iii) Its Cost. “Who died for us” (5:10). That is the cost. Paul then reminds the believers of the basic thrust of the Gospel, speaking of Christ, “Who died for us, that….we should live together with Him.” When we think about the Lord Jesus Christ, we should always start at the Cross, remembering that He died for our sins. (iv) Its Result. “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (5:11). This affects our communion and our confidence. Our communion and fellowship is most meaningful when we talk about the Lord. And our confidence is not based on his insight or intelligence, but on the promises of God to return and bring the hope of salvation. LEADERSHIP, PARTNERSHIP, WORSHIP, AND FELLOWSHIP 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 Shakespeare’s Juliet said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” The NT uses a number of names to refer to those who are saved: saints, Christians, believers, children of God. But Paul’s favourite name for believers was “brothers.” He used it at least sixty times in his letters; and in these two epistles, he uses it twenty seven times. Paul saw the local church as a family where each member was born again by God’s Spirit. possessed the Father’s nature, and was part of His family. It is tragic when believers elect to stay outside the local church family. Without a family to protect, assist, encourage, and provide for him, a child soon suffers. We also need spiritual family if we are to grow, develop, and serve. Paul identifies the essentials for a happy, thriving, church family. 1. FAMILY LEADERSHIP (5:12-13) “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.” We are all familiar with God’s will for families. The father is the head of the home; the mother supports. The children are to obey their parents. A child entering school was told by the counsellor, “If you have any problems, come and talk to me.” The child answered, “No. If I have problems, I’ll talk to my father!” God has also set down a leadership plan for the church. True, we are “All one in Christ,” but Acts 20:28 reminds us that the Holy Spirit has appointed leaders over His spiritual flock. Paul identifies a number of basic responsibilities to our spiritual leaders. The leaders, in turn, have corresponding responsibilities to their flock a) Recognize Them “Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord” (5:12). How are spiritual leaders known? Their gifts and activities have made their qualifications clear as shepherds of God’s people. This means that they must be recognizable. b) Respect Them “ and to esteem them very highly in love.” Paul encourages an attitude of love and helpfulness on the part of others that results in respect and support. This is done “in love.” As brothers, they are “among us”; as leaders, they are “over us in the Lord.” That dual role demands grace and spiritual wisdom. If they are to earn this respect, they must be respectable, and worthy of it. c) Remember Them Both congregation and elders know that elders frequently make mistakes. So did Abraham, David, Moses and Peter. At times they need to be helped and corrected. That is why they need the prayers and encouragement of God’s people. The result of godly leadership is “peace among yourselves.” 2. FAMILY PARTNERSHIP (5:14-15) “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore.” In a large family the older help the young, relieving the parents. It is so good when that happens in an assembly. Paul mentions several classes of problems and people. a) The Unruly (5:14) “Warn them that are unruly.” This refers a soldier who is “out of line,” and cannot keep rank. Parents love to see each child blossom individually, but some things must be done in the same way. It is sad when a child rebels against the family standards, thinking that he is expressing freedom and maturity. b) The Feebleminded/fainthearted (5:14) “Comfort the feebleminded/ fainthearted.” This has nothing to do with mentality. It literally means “fainthearted.” Those who quickly quit when the going gets tough. Such need help to rise above their difficulties and go on steadfastly with the Lord. We need to “comfort” such. The Greek is para muthos, or “near speech.” We must come close and help them see life’s trials make them stronger in the faith. c) The Weak (5:14). “Support the weak.” This is literally, “Hold fast to the weak! Don’t let them fall!” These are those “weak in the faith” who had not grown strong in the Lord. Such are easily led astray. They may be spiritually, morally, or physically weak, but all need support. Because this is not easy, Paul added some wise counsel to encourage: (i) Be Patient. “Be patient toward all men” (5:14). Lots of patience, grace, and long-suffering are needed when others irritate and provoke. (ii) Be Gentle. “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good” (5:15). It is so easy to retaliate in anger and play tit for tat. That way we win an argument and lose a friend. 3. FAMILY WORSHIP (5:16-18) Worship is the most important activity of the church family. Ministry must flow from true worship, or it is just activity without power, a sort of religious entertainment. Often we think of worship as thinking nice thoughts about God. It is much more. The root meaning of worship is “to bow down,” to submit our wills to Him, so His will becomes paramount. What then is “the will of God”? Paul says, “This is the will of God in Christ concerning you” (5:18), and mentions a number of exhortations which are grouped together and form a unit which summarizes the will of God. Together these make up the worship ministry in the church. a) Be Joyful – “Rejoice evermore” (5:16) This is the shortest verse in Greek NT (only two words in Greek, John 11:35 has three). Joy can be the experience of the Christian, even in adverse circumstances, as Christ is the source and subject of his joy, and in control of his circumstances. “These things we write to you that your joy may be full.” What things? The fellowship you have with one another, and with the Father and with His Son (1 John 1:3-4). b) Be Prayerful – “Pray without ceasing” (5:17) What does this mean? On our knees 24/7? The Lord did not do that; nor did Paul. To pray without ceasing does not mean we must always be mumbling prayers. The word means “constantly recurring.” Apart from regular prayer times, the Christian has unbroken fellowship with the Lord, not only in stated times of prayer when we bring our needs to the Lord, but also the unbroken walk of communion. c) Be Thankful – “In every thing give thanks” (5:18) Not for everything, but in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, no matter what the difficulties, we can give thank for all He has done for us. Matthew Henry was once accosted by thieves and robbed. He wrote in his diary: “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourthly, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” d) Be Careful – “Quench not the Spirit”(5:19) When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit comes in and makes it a temple of God. He teaches, guides, directs, and rebukes us, transforming our lives and our character. Yet, we have the capacity to quench the Spirit. e) Be Skilful Many people ran around claiming to preach the Word of God. How were they to know what was and what wasn’t the true Word of God? Paul gives three guidelines: (i) “Despise not prophesyings” (5:20). As the church did not have the complete Bible, the Holy Spirit gave the gift of prophecy to some who spoke His message through them. Such messages were not to be disregarded. We now have the complete Word of God, and do not need new prophetic messages. Such prophets laid the church’s foundation (Eph 2:20), and have now passed from the scene. Today’s “prophetic ministry” is the preaching of the Word of God. So this updates to “Do not despise the Word of God.” (ii) “Prove all things” (5:21). How do we know a message is genuine? Satan may try to counterfeit God’s Word, and lead the church astray. Messages must be “proved” by comparing them with the Word of God. John says we are to “try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-4). (iii) “Hold fast that which is good” (5:21). We are to hold fast those truths we know are God-given and right. How disappointing it is when believers throw some of them away, and downgrade their importance. f) Be Watchful – “Abstain. . . sanctify”(5:22-23) Paul emphasized a balance in Christian living of negative “don’ts,” and positive “do’s.” (i) The Negative Don’ts – “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (5:22). Literally, “every form of evil.” (ii) The Positive Do’s – “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” (5:23). “Sanctify” simply means to “set apart for God’s exclusive use.” There is positional sanctification (Heb 10:10); we have once and for all been set apart for God. There is practical sanctification (2 Cor 7:1), which involves daily dealing with our sins and a growth in holiness. One day we will know perfect sanctification, when we see will Christ and be like Him (1 John 3:2). This is not sinless perfection, but the sanctification that extends to every part of the believer’s person – “spirit, soul, and body.” Note that we are tripartite beings. Our spirit enables us to have communion with God; our soul has to do with emotions, desires, affections (John 12:27); our body is the house in which we dwell (2 Cor 5:1). Note how man reversed this order to speak of “body, soul, and spirit.” Man lives for the body and neglects the spirit. The “spirit” needs preserved from all that damages communion (2 Cor 7:1). The “soul” needs preserved from evil thoughts and appetites (Heb 12:15). The “body” needs preserved from defilement (1 Thes 4:3-8) and evil uses (Rom 6:19). 4. FAMILY FELLOWSHIP (5:24-28) Paul closes his letter on a positive note that assures them that “faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” The God who called and begun His work in them will faithfully complete it (Phil 1:6). Then in 5:25-27 he gives three keys to maintain family fellowship. a) Prayer For Each Other (5:25) “Brethren, pray for us.” How we need to pray for each other! b) Love For Each Other (5:26) “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.” After worship together, the believers minister together as they greet and seek to encourage each other. Fellowship is part of worship. Usually the men kissed the men, and the women kissed the women (See Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 1 Pe 5:14). Perhaps a handshake is safer in our day. c) Support For Each Other (5:27) “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.” Paul invests the letter with the authority of the Word of God, and knows that if it is given its place, the believers will be safe. It must govern our conduct and guide our lives. We are to read it personally, but we also need to hear the Word in the fellowship of the local church, for the one experience balances the other. THE FINAL WORD (5:28) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (5:28). Paul opened the epistle with grace. To Paul Christianity is grace from beginning to end. PRAISE, PROMISE, AND PRAYER 2 Thessalonians 1 This second letter from Paul to the Thessalonians followed the first by a short space of time – a few months. They had received Paul’s first letter, and should have been reassured about the coming again of the Lord. However, as the persecution intensified, some began to think they were actually living in the time of the Tribulation. Then a letter arrived, claiming to be from Paul, stating that the Day of the Lord was already present. Some felt that since the Lord’s coming was so near, they should quit their jobs, and spend their time waiting for Him. This meant that others were under an obligation to care for them. Confusion, misinformation, and frustration were everywhere, and Paul recognised the urgency for clear teaching. It was on account of this that Paul wrote his second letter. In it he assured them the Day of the Lord was still future, and also taught them new truths about future events and the church. Perhaps the best way to grasp the major messages of the two letters is by contrast: 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians Christ comes to the air for His church Christ comes to the earth with His church A sudden secret rapture – any time Part of a predicted program Can occur today Only occurs after certain events happen The Day of Christ The Day of the Lord 1. THE APOSTLE’S GREETINGS TO THE THESSALONIANS (1:1-4) Following his opening greeting, Paul praises them for their growth and faithfulness in spite of intense persecution. a) The Greeting (1:1) “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It was Paul, Timothy, and Silas who first brought the gospel to Thessalonica, and so, together they send their greetings. (i) Their Geographical Address. “The church of the Thessalonians.” This refers to its geographical location. (ii) Their Spiritual Address. “in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” They belonged to a heavenly Father, and had trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. b) The Prayer (1:2) “Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul does not wish them fame, or fortune, but “Grace and peace.” These are God’s answer to man’s deepest needs. “Grace” provides enablement for everything within the will of God. “Peace” gives serenity in every kind of circumstance. There is peace with God, and the peace of God – our relationship with Him. c) The Praise (1:3-4) “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet.” Paul gives thanks for the evidence of spiritual progress in three areas. (i) Their Growing Faith. “Your faith groweth exceedingly” (1:3a). Paul earlier prayed that their faith might be perfected (1 Thes 3:10). Now it was like an exuberant growth, and he thanked God for answered prayer. To grow such faith we must feed it. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. We must also exercise it. If we don’t use it we lose it. We are willing to trust God for eternity, but little day-to-day problems seem too big to commit to Him! God tests our faith to prove whether or not it is genuine. Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. While faith in Christ is enough for salvation, deeper faith leads us to a deeper experience of Christ. (ii) Their Abounding Love. “The love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (1:3b). In 1 Thes 3:12 Paul prayed, “The Lord make you increase and abound in love one to another.” “Love is the bringing about of the highest good in the life of another.” When Christians suffer, their faith reaches upwards to God; their love reaches outwards to others. (iii) Their Increasing Patience. “We ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” (1:4). “Patience” means steadfastness, endurance. We do not become “patient” through reading a book. We learn patience by having it tested. “Tribulation works patience” (Rom 5:3). A mushroom grows overnight, but it takes decades and storms to build an oak. (iv) Their Challenging Testimony. “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God” (1:4). Other churches were challenged by their faith and patience in the midst of trials. Trials help us to grow, but they also help us to help others. Paul gave thanks for their faith and love, but where was hope? It was missing, because they were confused about their hope. 2. THE BELIEVERS’ SUFFERING FOR THEIR FAITH (1:5-10) Paul encourages the Thessalonians to look up and remember the glory and security of God’s promised future. We quickly conclude that suffering shows God does not care, but just the opposite is true. Paul identifies three truths that concerned the Thessalonians. a) Reward (1:5). Their patience and faith in their trials was “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.” (i) The Persecutors. Paul contrasts their situation to that of their persecutors. Although we experience trial and temptation, the future forecasts glory. Christ Himself set the pattern – suffering first, glory to follow. The world is the opposite. It says eat, drink, and be merry now, deal with the suffering later. We’ll sort out the consequences when they come. (ii) The Persecuted. “That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” Of course, salvation is by faith in Christ alone. But it proved them worthy of the Kingdom of God. God allows His people to go through experiences make them “worthy citizens” of His country. b) Recompense (1:6-10) “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” Here is the destiny of those who reject God. (i) It is Just. To “recompense” means to repay. God longs to show mercy, but He turns His back on those who turn their backs on Him. (ii) It is Certain. Wicked men do not always receive their just dues in this life. Many remain prosperous and untouched by problems (Psalm 73). During a drought, an atheist sneered at a believing farmer, “I thought you said it paid to believe in God.” “It does, but God doesn’t always pay in September. c) Rest (1:7a, 10) “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” In contrast to the recompense of judgement for those who reject Him, God promises rest to the saved. What a reversal when the Lord “will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” and comes to judge His enemies. His people, the saints, will be seen by the world to be enjoying His rest. Note that verse 7a is a parenthesis, “to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you (and to you who are troubled, rest with us) when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed.” The saints enter their rest at the Rapture. The lost face punishment and eternal judgement (1:9)”when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed,” referring to His arrival in glory, attended by His armies of angels. 3. GOD’S SENTENCE ON THE WICKED (1:8-10) “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (1:8-9). a) The Punishment What a list! Tribulation, vengeance, flaming fire, punishment, everlasting destruction. Note “vengeance” is not the same as “revenge.” The purpose of vengeance is to satisfy God’s law. The purpose of revenge is to satisfy a personal grudge. God has no grudge against lost sinners. He gave His Son, and pleads with them to repent. But if they choose to walk away, He must judge them. A Christian doctor had a patient who insisted, “God loves me too much to condemn me and send me to the lake of fire.” She developed cancer, and needed an operation. Her doctor told her, “1 don’t think I should operate. I really love you too much to cut into you and give you pain.” “Doctor,” she said, “if you really love me, you will do everything to remove this awful thing from my body.” He then explained what cancer is to the body, sin is to the world. Just as a doctor cannot love health without hating and dealing with disease, so God cannot love righteousness without hating and judging sin. The punishment is described as “everlasting destruction.” The word “everlasting” or “eternal” is used seventy times in the NT. It means endless, or eternal. Hence “the Eternal God” is the “endless God.” “from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” To perish without Him is to be without Him forever. b) The People Two groups of people are judged. (i) “Those who do not know God.” They have rejected the knowledge of the true God as revealed in creation and in conscience (Rom 1,2). The Greek word for “knowing” God has the idea of recognizing, appreciating, and honoring Him. (ii) “Those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These have refused to believe in spite of the evidence. c) The Period This judgement happen at the end of the Tribulation when the Lord returns to the earth with His church and His angels. d) The Proof “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” (1:10). Onlookers will be amazed as they see what the Lord has done with the Thessalonian believers, because they received and believed the testimony of the apostles. They would share His glory and triumph of “that day.” 3. PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE BELIEVERS (1:11-12) The future prospect of glory motivated Paul to pray for the believers. He prays for three areas of concern: a) Their Worthiness (1:11a) “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling.” Paul understood their difficult situation, but God had called them in grace and love, and he wanted to see them living up to that call. Trials do not make a person; they reveal what a person is made of. When our faith is tried, we reveal our worth. God knows our hearts even before we are tried, but we do not. Others also do not know what we are worth. We need to pray that God will build our worth and make us more valuable Christians because of the trials we have endured. b) Their Walk (1:11b) “…and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” Note the NIV, “That by His power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” Character must lead to conduct. Obedience and service do not spring from human talents and efforts, but from God’s power as we trust Him. Paul prays that God’s power will enable them to obey and accomplish every task undertaken in faith. c) Their Witness (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.” Christ will be glorified in His saints when they return with Him (1:10), but He should also be glorified in our lives today “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:12). The result would be twofold. (i) Christ Glorified in His Saints. “The name of our Lord Jesus Christ” would be honoured as they give an accurate representation of Him to the world, and thus bring glory to Him. How do we bring glory to Christ? When Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” it means they declare He is perfect, wise, and powerful. They reveal what and who God is, and thus manifest His glory. But the heavens are not designed to reveal His righteousness or love. It is for believers to do that. (ii) The Saints Glorified in Him. Because we are in Christ, and have this wonderful position which has been given to us as those who have trusted Him, when He is glorified, we are glorified in Him. It is what He will do for us when He presents us in glory according to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. SATAN’S SUPERMAN 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 The purpose of Bible prophecy is not to enable us to make a calendar, but to build character. In 2011, Harold Camping spent millions on bill boards across America and other countries, warning people to be ready for the coming of Christ on 21 May, 2011. The result was confusion in many countries, and a slur on the true message of the Gospel. Date-setters are usually up-setters. Something similar what was happening amongst the Thessalonians. In the midst of persecution, they had received a letter, supposedly from Paul himself, and had been misled into thinking they were already in the Day of the Lord. They were badly shaken by this false teaching, for hadn’t God promised them deliverance from the tribulation – the “wrath to come” (1 Thes 5:9)? Paul saw the urgent need for clear teaching. He emphasised they could not be in the Day of the Lord, as that Day would not arrive till certain other events had taken place. Paul then summarises those prophetic events that must precede Christ’s coming, and make up God’s timetable. That timetable makes this one of the great prophetic chapters of the Bible. Paul identified three reasons why the Day of the Lord and the Tribulation time could not have already begun. These were: first, the predicted apostasy had not come, second, the Man of Sin had not been revealed, and third, the Holy Spirit had not been removed. 1. THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH (2:1) “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”(2:1-2). a) The Problem The Thessalonians were confused. They knew Paul had previously taught that the Rapture was the next event on God’s calendar, to be followed by the Day of the Lord and the Tribulation. But they were told Paul had received new revelations “by Spirit,” saying the Day of the Lord and the Tribulation had begun. Others said the teaching had come “by word.” There was even a “letter” doing the rounds, supposedly from Paul, saying that the Day of the Lord had started. The result of all this misinformation was confusion and fear. b) Paul’s Answer Paul tells them not to be alarmed by some prophecy saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Note that “the Day of Christ” in 2:1 (KJV) is better translated as “the Day of the Lord.” Paul reminded them of his teaching in his first letter about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him” (1:1). That is the Rapture. As it had not yet happened, they could not possibly be in the Day of the Lord. Our present time is a Day of Grace. God is not now judging the world. Often wicked people prosper and flourish in their arrogance. God’s present purpose is to proclaim His Gospel of grace, and offer His gift of salvation. The Day of the Lord is different. It is the time when God deals directly with man’s sin in judgment, and includes the Tribulation, the Millennium, and culminates in the Great White Throne judgment. 2. REASONS FOR HIS CERTAINTY (2:3-5) “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” (2:3). Once the Rapture takes place, the Day of the Lord is introduced. This will be that period of tribulation which follows the Rapture, and is described in Revelation chapters 6-19. The Thessalonians mistakenly thought they were already in that period of time, but Paul says that could not be, as certain events must take place before its introduction. He identifies three things that must occur before the Day of the Lord can begin. a) An Apostasy “That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2:3). What is this “falling away,” or apostasy? It is a wholesale abandonment of Christianity, a widespread departure from true faith in God. In Paul’s day there were some errors in the churches, but they were still basically true to the Lord. Paul warned of a coming time when there would be widespread and progressive departure from the true faith as “evil men will wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13). He said, “the time will come when they will . . . turn away their ears from the truth” (2 Tim 4:3-4). This increasing apostasy must happen before this time of judgment can come. Today many deny the central doctrines of the faith. Christ, they say, was only a man, He did not rise from the dead, salvation is not through His shed blood, He is not coming again, and the Scriptures are not the Word of God. This “falling away” is just the beginning and will progressively ripen until it culminates in the Day of the Lord. b) An Appearance “That day shall not come, except . . . that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2:3). Following the Rapture, a great world figure will arise called here, “that man of sin” or “the lawless one.” His life will be characterized by sin, blasphemy, and rebellion against God. Some of his other names are: “the son of perdition” (2 Thes 2:3), the Antichrist (1 John 2:18), the little horn (Dan 7:8), the prince who is to come (Dan 11:36), the worthless shepherd (Zech 11:17), the beast out of the sea (Rev 13), one who comes in his own name (John 5:43). c) An Absence – of the Holy Spirit “The one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way” (2:7). This refers to the Holy Spirit, who will be removed with the church at the Rapture. Evil, until then restrained and held back, will surge forward like a tsunami to swamp the world its population. 3. THE REVELATION OF THE ANTICHRIST The Bible tells us what this man will be like. He “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” He will violently oppose every form of divine worship and will enthrone himself “in the temple of god” in Jerusalem. The Greek word “anti” has two meanings: against and instead of. Satan is not only against Christ, but he wants to be worshipped and obeyed instead of Christ. Satan has always wanted to be worshipped as God (Isaiah 14:14; Lk 4:5-8). He will one day produce his masterpiece, the Antichrist, who will cause the world to worship Satan and believe Satan’s lies. Nobody on earth will be able to overcome the Antichrist. He is energized by Satan who even enables him perform “power and signs and lying wonders” (2:2:9). He will assume the role of a superman leader who rescues the world from its problems. The world’s verdict is, “Who is like unto the beast” (Rev 13:4). During the apostolic age, miracles were given to verify the message (Heb 2:1-4) and confirm the apostles’ credentials (2 Cor 12:12). But Satan can also perform miracles. He did so in Pharaoh’s time. The purpose of God’s miracles was to help people believe the truth; the purpose of Antichrist’s miracles will be to lead people to believe his lies. Paul calls them “lying wonders” (2:8), not because they were not real, but because they persuade people to believe Satan’s lies. A miracle indicates supernatural power, but not necessarily divine power. a) The Peace-maker Prophecy (Dan 9; Rev 6, 17) tells how this man, the greatest political leader of all time, will unite ten nations of Europe into a strong power block, and dominate the world stage for a period of seven years. This period will begin with the signing of a covenant with Israel that temporarily solves the Middle East crisis, guaranteeing Israel such peace and independence that she can safely rebuild her temple. That signing of the covenant also restarts God’s prophetic clock and signals the start of Daniel’s 70th week. b) The Peace-breaker (Dan 9:27) After 3½ years, Antichrist will break his covenant with the Jews and take over their temple. Up to this point, Antichrist has been a peacemaking leader of ten European nations, obligated to protect Israel. But now he reveals his true character by taking over the Jewish temple c) The Pretender This man demands that the world worship him (Rev 13). Since Antichrist will be energized by Satan, it is no surprise that he will seek worship, for Satan has always wanted the worship of the world. The man of sin will oppose everything that belongs to any other religion, true or false. He will organise a world church that will, by worshipping him, worship Satan. The Lord predicted this apostasy, calling it “the abomination of desolation” (Matt 24:15), a clear reference to Daniel 9:27. The world will wonder at this great leader who, with Satan’s power, will perform signs and wonders and deceive the nations. d) The Persecutor In the middle of this seven-year period, 3½ years after the Antichrist makes his covenant with the Jews, he will usher in a period of intense persecution and trouble. Jesus spoke about this in Mat 24:21, calling it a time of “great tribulation,” during which Satan vents his wrath against Israel. Many will be saved during this time, but it will cost them dearly. The Antichrist will insist that all citizens must bear the “mark of the beast” to be able to buy and sell (Rev 13:16-17), as those who refuse to bow to the image of the beast will unable to get jobs, or make purchases. Many will be martyred. e) The Prisoner (Rev 19:11-21) God has His timetable. When the Lord returns “in power and great glory,” he takes the Antichrist and his associates, also Satan, and casts them as prisoners into the bottomless pit (Rev 20:1-3). This will be the climax of the great battle of Armageddon (Rev 16:16) during which the nations of the world unite to fight against Jesus Christ, just prior to the Return of Christ. 3. THE RESTRAINING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (2:6-7) “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2:6-7). Why cannot Satan reveal this “man of sin” sooner? There is something holding back the revelation of this man of sin, something or someone who has to be removed before the Day of the Lord could begin. God is today restraining the forces of evil in the world. Satan cannot do as he pleases. a) Who Is He? Paul refers to this Restrainer as “he who now hinders.” That means He is a Person. He is identified with the Holy Spirit who is “in the midst” of God’s program today. At the Rapture He will be removed, “taken out of the midst,” and will no longer operate in the world as He does today, indwelling believers, convicting men of sin, and restraining evil.. b) What Does He Do? One function of the Holy Spirit is to restrain sin, just as He did in Noah’s day (Gen 6:32). At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers and be present in the world to restrain lawlessness. He also will return to heaven at the rapture when He will be “be taken out of the way.” When that happens, the restraint of lawlessness will be gone, and net result will be a manifestation of evil far beyond anything known in history. The Holy Spirit will be present on the earth during the Day of the Lord, but will not be restraining the forces of evil as He is today. c) When Does He Go? Two programs are at work in the world: God’s program of salvation, and Satan’s program of sin, “the mystery of iniquity.” God has a timetable for both programs, and nothing Satan does can change it. Just as there was a “fullness of time” for the coming of Christ, so there is a “fullness of time” for the appearance of the Antichrist. So, when the Holy Spirit is removed from earth at the Rapture, the stage will be set for the appearance of this man of sin. 4. THE RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST (2:8-12) “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2:8). In this verse, Paul skips over the career of the Antichrist, and describes his ultimate doom. He conducts a reign of terror as described in 2:9-12, but is brought down at Christ’s return. This is Christ’s return in glory and judgment, described in 2 Thes 1:5-10, when He will judge Antichrist by “the spirit of His mouth. . . and the brightness of His coming” (2:8). 5.THE RESULT OF UNBELIEF “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2:10). The Antichrist will use every form of wickedness to deceive the people – those who heard the Gospel during the Age of Grace, but who had no love for “the truth.” If they had believed, they would have been saved. But now they are deceived by the miracles of the Antichrist. a) Their Delusion “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2:11). Many will be deceived and will not receive Jesus Christ as Saviour. The man of sin will come as a substitute in place of Christ and people who resisted Christ and did not receive Christ will flock in great numbers to follow this evil man. Men will be deceived and perish “because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” “ God shall send them strong delusion.” How can God deceive? The answer is given in the context. First, those who are deceived had opportunity to receive Christ, but did not. There is a principle of divine justice here that when a person turns from the truth, God allows him to be led into error. So often when people depart from the truth, it is because they have resisted the Spirit of God, as He sought to lead them to a knowledge of the Word of God. so those who have turned away from Christ will turn instead to this false lead and thus believe a lie instead of believing the truth. “that they should believe the lie.” What is “the lie”? Satan is by nature a liar and has foisted many deceptions on the human race. But there is one “lie” that from the beginning has led people astray. Satan first spoke it to Eve: “You shall be as God.” The lie is the idea that man is his own God, and therefore can do whatever he pleased and better himself by his own human efforts. This process is described in Rom 1:18ff. Note especially verse 25, “Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” b) Their Disobedience The people Christ will judge not only do not love the truth, but they have “pleasure in unrighteousness” (2:12). The chief priests were glad when Judas promised to betray Christ. This process of believing the lie is described in Romans 1. It says, “Who knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that to them” (1:32). Many today are indifferent to the claims of Christ, and turn away without trusting Him. How desperate is their condition, as they unwittingly determine their eternal destiny and head towards eternal punishment. c) Their Destination True, many will be saved during the Tribulation period, both Jews and Gentiles. But the vast majority of the world’s population will be lost. Many will die in the terrible judgements God will send on earth (Rev 6:7-8; 8:11; 9:18; 11:13). Others will perish later when Christ returns and in judgment separates the sheep from the goats. God has no delight in judging the lost. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Such will be judged and will suffer forever because they would not receive and believe the truth. A person can so resist the truth that he finally becomes deluded and has to believe a lie. There can be no neutral ground; wither we believe the truth of we believe a lie. To reject the truth means to receive the lie. This says that those who hear the Gospel in this Age of Grace, but do not trust Christ, will not have another opportunity. It says that they “all” will be judged because of their unbelief and love of evil. It is like the Lord said, “None of those men who were invited shall taste of my supper.” GUARDING GOD’S TRUTH 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; 3:1-5 In the first part of this chapter, Paul has been writing about major prophetic issues. He has mentioned the end of the world, the Lord’s return, and the appearance of the Antichrist. However, Paul knew that the purpose of prophecy is always practical – to warn and to comfort. He thus balances his ministry and moves from prophecy to practical Christian living. He turns from the negative (Satan’s lies) to the positive (God’s truth), and from warning to thanksgiving and prayer. Believers are urged to cling to the truths and traditions he had taught them. These include the incarnation, the Lord’s holy life, His death, and resurrection. These are the non-negotiable Gospel traditions. So Paul does not close his letter with a further list of Satan’s great lies. Instead he emphasizes God’s great truth, and insists that the wonderful hope of the Christ’s return be worked out in their belief and behaviour. Every believer has four responsibilities to God’s truth. 1. BELIEVE THE TRUTH (2:13-14) Paul was so thankful for the Thessalonian believers, and their response to the work of God in their lives. He reviewed the stages in their salvation experience. a) God Loved Them (2:13a) “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord” (2:13). Paul has just been writing (2:1-12) about the doom and destiny of the Antichrist and his followers. Now by way of contrast, he reminds the Thessalonians that they are “brethren beloved of the Lord.” All God’s actions towards us are rooted and grounded in His love as seen at the cross where Christ died for the sins of the world. b) God Chose Them (2:13b) “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” It is not love alone that saves us, for God loves the whole world, yet the whole world will not be saved. What does it mean when it says “God has chosen us to salvation”? It does not mean God chooses some people to be saved, and others to be damned. It never says He chooses anyone to be damned. His desire is that all should be saved (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). Men are lost through their own deliberate choice. What aspect of “salvation” is in view here? The context is the appearance of the Man of Sin, and the coming Tribulation. Salvation here is from tribulation sufferings; the promise of the Lord’s coming and the translation of the living saints, ensuring that no member of the church will pass through that period. c) God Sanctified Them (2:13c) “. . . through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” God chose these Thessalonians, but He did so with their sanctification in mind. What is that? Sanctification is the work of the Spirit that convicts a person of his sin, leads him to faith in Christ, and sets him apart to God from the world. “If it had not been for Christ, there would have been no feast. Had it not been for the Spirit, there would be no guests.” This is the ministry of the Spirit in John 16:7-11. When a person comes to Christ, there must be work of the Spirit in his heart that enables him to see his need, and understand he is not saved because he has not believed, “of sin, because they believe not in me.” The one obstacle standing between himself and salvation is lack of faith in Christ. This balances any thought of automatic salvation just because we are “chosen.” The work of the Spirit is just as vital leading him to “belief of the truth.” There is thus a interaction between God’s gracious initiative, the work of the Holy Spirit, and man’s response of faith to the gospel. Note the thing which damns is lack of this response – see 2:12, “who all might be damned who believed not the truth.” When sinners believe God’s truth He saves them. When they believe Satan’s lie, they cannot be saved. d) God Called Them (2:13) “He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Gospel is the means God used to bring about the fulfilment of His choice, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and by their belief of the truth. But the bigger picture looks forward to the future when we become sharers of His glory (John 17:14). That glory has already been partly manifested (John 1:14), but its fullness is yet to appear (1:10). + What began in eternity past reaches its climax in eternity future, as we share in God’s glory. What a contrast to the future assigned to the lost (1:8-10). Here Paul peers into the future, and sees the ultimate outcome of salvation – to be with Christ and to be like Him for ever. We will all be trophies of His grace, conformed to Christ’s image. 2. GUARD THE TRUTH (2:15) “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” Paul had just written about the future rebellion against the truth (2:3) headed by the Antichrist. But he also warned about the present danger of failing to guard the truths handed over to us in the Scriptures. When Paul spoke of “traditions,” he used a word that simply means “that which is handed down from one person to another.” The gospel message began as an oral message proclaimed by Christ and the apostles. Later it was written down by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and became the Holy Scripture. It was not invented by man, but was handed down from God to man (Gal 1:11-12; 1 Cor 15:11-6). God exhorted the Thessalonians to preserve God’s truth by doing two things: a) “Stand Fast” This means “do not move away from the truth of the gospel.” Guards at the Tower of London guarding the Crown Jewels stand still, although the crowd moves. Nothing could move them from their appointed places. “What is new is not true; what is true is not new!” b) “Hold” The word means “to hold fast, to hold firmly.” We are to hold God’s truth firmly with power, and never let it slip from us. Each generation of Christians must receive the truth from others, guard it, and ensure it is kept intact for the next generation. 3. PRACTICE THE TRUTH (2:16-17) “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work” (2:16,17). Paul often put the Father and Son in the same breath, but note here it is the Son first. He is emphasising that Christ and God re equal. Note that the four verbs following (loved, gave, comfort, establish) are all singular, indicating the unity of the godhead. This verse record Paul’s desire to encourage and establish them “in every good work.” a) Encouragement When Paul was with them, he encouraged them as a father does his children (1 Thes 2:11), and had sent Timothy to encourage them (3:2). He encouraged them to walk to please God (4:1), and taught about the Rapture so they might encourage each other (4:18). To calm their fears, he explained the Day of the Lord to them (5:11). b) Establishment “Which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace.” Paul knew the importance of establishing them in their faith.. He had sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to establish them in their faith. This looks back to the great exhibition of God’s love – the gift of His Son for us. Because we know our sins have been dealt with, we have eternal comfort now, and the hope of a glorious future – all through His marvellous grace. 4. SHARE THE TRUTH (3:1-5) As Paul closes his letter, he has a number of things to say to them. a) An Appeal for Prayer “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (3:1). Paul frequently asked for prayer (Rom 15, 1 Thes 5, Eph 6, Col 4). He knew he could not win the battle alone. Paul was a powerful speaker and a great leader, but he needed the prayers of God’s people. Prayer is not a gift any more tan breathing is a gift. Paul specified three areas of need: (i) For the Dissemination of the Message. “That the word of the Lord may have free course (run swiftly).” Paul pictures an athlete running over unobstructed course, and pressing toward the mark. God’s servants may be bound, but Word is alive, and cannot be bound. Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray that God’s Word would have freedom to run and accomplish God’s purposes in the world. (ii) For the Triumph of the Message. “That the word of the Lord may . . . be glorified, even as it is with you.” Paul looked to the past and present effect of Word amongst them, and knew it had triumphed. (iii) For the Preservation of the Messengers. “And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith” (3:2). Men are “unreasonable” because it does not make sense to oppose the gospel message of peace. People may talk about politics, commerce, sport, etc, but when it comes to the Gospel they do not want to speak about it, or get annoyed if we do. Such men “have not faith.” These are those who “believed not the truth” (2:12). They are unsaved, and consequently fall on the dark side of the great divide. b) A Promise for Protection “The Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil” (3:3). In contrast to wicked man’s lack of faith, “the Lord is faithful.” Paul teaches us to look away from ourselves and fix our eyes on the Lord. He is faithful to confirm us to the end (1 Cor 1:9), to deliver us from temptation (1 Cor 10:13), faithful to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9). Here He is faithful to establish and guard us from “the evil one.” c) A Confident Command “And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you” (3:4.) The word “command” means “an order from a superior officer.” Christ is the Captain of our salvation; we are His soldiers. He expects us to fight, and every man to do his duty. Paul thus reminds them of their responsibility to do what he “commanded you.” Note the combination of the divine (“God will keep you”) and the human (“do the things…”). It is the same as Phil 2:12,13 “Work out your own salvation… for it is God who works in you.” Your part and His. Paul was concerned about two aspects of their Christian life: their word and their work. Their saying and their doing. Our “walk” and our “talk” must agree. It is easy to emphasize guarding the truth, but down play living it. The best way to guard it is to put it into practice. It is good to be defenders of the faith, but just as good to be a demonstrator. Lazarus did not have to give lectures on the resurrection; people just looked at him and believed. d) Deciding the Direction “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ” (3:5). “Direct” here has the thought of removing obstacles along the way. It opens up a way for whole of “heart,” the inner life, to be concentrated on the God’s love and steadfastness. A solider obeys out of loyalty and fear. But we have much higher motives for obedience: God’s love and Christ’s return. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (i) God’s Love. “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.” The world bids for our affections every day – friends, money, materialism, the world, or comfort. If our affections are right, all else will fall into place. (ii) Christ’s Patience. Paul reminds them of Christ’s steadfast endurance, and prays they will reproduce it. He Paul sets before them the goal of the Christian’s hope. This has been the theme of Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians, and he related this truth to everyday practical living. WHY WORK? 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18 Paul in his first letter taught the Thessalonian believers a number of truths about the Lord’s coming. Most reacted by being enthusiastically busy in the work of the Lord. However, a number decided that, if Christ’s return really was imminent, it was hardly worth working at all. They thus left their jobs, and were content to live off the generosity of the church. They were idle, while others were working, yet they expected the church to support them, defending themselves by saying, “The Lord is coming soon!” Paul would have none of it. In his first letter, he warned the idle busybodies to get to work (1 Thes 4:11). Seemingly they did not listen, because Paul had to address the problem again as it was impacting on the church as a whole. Paul gave five solidly practical motives to encourage careless believers to turn from their idle dreaming, and start earning their own bread. 1. A COMMAND TO OBEY (3:6) “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” “We command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul speaks with authority vested in “the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” At least twenty times in the Thessalonian letters, Paul used this title. “Jesus” means “Saviour,” and refers to His humanity (Mat 1:21). “Christ” means “Messiah – the Anointed One.” It is His divine title, and refers to His divinity. He is also the “Lord,” sealing His authority. In the Gospels and Acts, our Lord is often called Jesus; but this single name is used very infrequently in the rest of the NT. It is the name mainly associated with his ministry on earth. We know Him better by the name of His exaltation – “the Lord Jesus Christ.” We no longer know “Christ after the flesh” (2 Cor 5:16), but as the exalted Son of God. What should the Christian do who is patiently waiting for the Lord? God never intended us to just wait and do nothing but look up to the heavens. He wants us to face the challenge of every day recognizing that it might be the last day before Christ comes. Each day should count. The two things that are required of us are faithfulness (1 Cor 4:2) and fruitfulness. a) What They Are To Do “…withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly.” In 1 Thes 5:13, Paul had said, “warn them that re unruly.” Such were not walking “after the tradition which they received” (2:15), and had chosen to either ignore Paul’s teaching about the Lord’s coming, or to deliberately misinterpret it. Paul instructs the believers to withdraw from such, i.e. those who were refusing to work and sponging off others. Believers should show their disapproval by refusing to mingle with them socially, although the offense is not serious enough to warrant excommunication. b) Why They Are To Do It “…not after the tradition which he received of us.” The “tradition” here is what the Bible teaches about work. Work was always in God’s plan, even before sin entered the scene. He gave Adam work to do in Eden in looking after the garden. Note how God called people who were busy at work. Moses was caring for the sheep. Joshua served Moses, Gideon was threshing wheat, David was caring for his father’s sheep. Paul was a tentmaker, and used his trade to support himself. We ourselves as the Lord’s servants “shall serve Him” (Rev 22:3) throughout eternity. Of course, Paul recognized that some people could not work. So he said, “If any man is not willing to work.” It was not a question of ability but willingness. When a believer cannot work and is in need, it is the privilege and duty of the church to help. 2. AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW (3:7-10) “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us” (3:7). a) Setting An Example In every city there were peddling preachers who made a living preaching. Paul wanted the gospel to be “free of charge,” and would gain no personal profit from it. As an apostle, he had a right to expect financial support, but deliberately gave it up in order to be an example to the young believers. Some leaders use people to build up their position, and are always claiming their rights. A true leader lays aside his rights and privileges to build up the people. That is what the Lord did. It is not enough for a leader to point to the authority of the Word. He need to point also to his own example. “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for naught” (3:8). He did not seek their goods, but their good. His life was an example to those who would follow, and a rebuke to the slothful. In 1 Thes 2:9 he showed his clean hands as to the purity of his motives. Here he is showing labouring hands as to their example. b) Setting Aside His Rights “Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us” (3:9) “power” – i.e. the right. He had “power” to live off them, but would not exercise it. As a preacher, Paul had a right to support, but he preferred to forgo it in order to be an example to others. “to make ourselves” – better “give ourselves.” Instead of taking, Paul was willing to give. c) Establishing A Principle “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (3:10). Some said, “The Lord is coming, why bother getting a job? I will rely on the generosity of others.” Paul did not do that. He lived on no one’s expense account. His principle in 3:10 was “no work – no food!” 3. A WARNING TO HEED (3:11-15) The faithful Christians were discouraged by the conduct of the careless saints who refused to work. They said, “If they don’t have to work, why should we?” Sin in a believer’s life always affects the rest of the church. As members of His body, we belong to and affect each other. Paul named the problems caused by these people: a) They were “disorderly.” Out of order, out of rank. Disobeying orders. This brought confusion and division to the assembly. b) They were “busybodies.” Strangely idleness promoted busyness! 1 Timothy 3:13 says they meddled in matters that do not belong to them. Isaac Watts wrote, “Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do.” How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour And gather honey all the day From every opening flower! In works of labour or of skill, I would be busy too; For Satan finds some mischief still For idle hands to do. Paul told them they should “with quietness . . . work, and eat their own bread.” Their false views about the return of Christ had worked them into a pitch of excitement. Paul says, “Settle down and get to work.” But suppose they did not obey God’s Word and go to work? What then? Paul had warned them in 1 Thes 5:14, and now explains how the church should deal with them. Church discipline is not discussed much today. What is church discipline? It is not the elders acting like evangelical police to trap a sinning saint and expel him from the church. Church discipline is to a church member what family discipline is to a child. A parent disciplining his child is not a judge punishing a criminal. He is a loving father seeking to make his child a better person. There are various levels of church discipline: a) Personal Differences Between Christians (Matt 18:15-18; Phil 4:1-3). If a brother sins against me (knowingly or unknowingly), I should go to that person privately and seek to settle the matter. Only if the person refuses to settle the matter should I bring anyone else in. Broadcasting the problem at this stage is plain wrong! b) Doctrinal Error Find why the person is teaching the wrong doctrine. Is it ignorance of Bible knowledge? If so, patiently teach him the truth (2 Tim 2:23-26). If he persists, rebuke him (Titus 1:10-14). Paul had to do this to Peter (Gal 2:11). If the error continues, avoid him (Rom 16:17-18), and then separate yourself from him (2 Tim 2:18; 2 John 9). c) A Believer Overtaken by Sin (Gal 6:1-3) Even Peter denied the Lord, David committed adultery. Spiritual members of the church must seek to restore such with gentleness and love. The word “restore” means “to set a broken bone” – requiring tenderness and patience. Too often the church passes judgement on a believer, and damage done causes problems for years to come. d) A Repeating Troublemaker (Titus 3:10) The word “heretic” does not refer to doctrinal error, but to the proud attitude of one who gets people to “take sides” in the church. The Greek word means “to make a choice.” This leads to divisions and cliques. There is hardly a church which does not have its parties for or against anything – the elders, the programmes, even the colour of the kitchen. These divisive people should be given two warnings. If they repeat their sin of dividing the church, they should be given a third warning and rejected. “After that, have nothing to do with him” (Titus 3:10-11). e) Open Immorality (1 Cor 5) The church must mourn over the sinner and seek to bring him to repentance. If he refuses, the church should collectively expel him (5:13). If he repents, he must be forgiven and restored to fellowship. In the case of “lazy saints,” Paul told them to exhort them, warn them, and if they did not repent, withdraw intimate fellowship from them. This likely meant that such could not to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and the church members would not invite them to their homes. 2 Thes 3:14 does not apply to every case of discipline. It applies only to the matter of saints not working for a living. “Have no company” literally means “do not get missed up with;” the same word is used in 1 Cor 5:9. For obedient saints to treat disobedient Christians with the same friendship they show to other saints is to give approval to their sins. Paul knew we easily go to extremes, and thus reminded them, “They are still your brothers in Christ.” Lot was out of fellowship, yet Abraham rescued him because Lot was his brother. It requires much patience, love, and grace to help an erring brother. 4. AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO CONTINUE (3:11-15) Verse 13 is the key: “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” How we need people like that! What is well doing.” The Lord went about doing good, and the epistles are full of practical advice as to how to live. Most of it concerns doing good. Positive things, like helping and healing people. Being kind, generous, friendly, 5. A PRAYER FOR PEACE (3:16-18) Paul closes his letter with a magnificent prayer for the Thessalonians. He commenced the chapter by asking them to pray for him; now he prays for them. a) The Lord’s Peace “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all” (3:16). b) The Lord Presence “The Lord be with you all.” (3:16). Here is not only God’s peace, but also His presence. He never leaves or forsakes us, and is with us till the end of the age. Here Paul prays for the saints at Thessalonica, that they would know the peace of the Lord in every way. The Christian’s peace is not dependent on anything in this world. It is based entirely on the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. c) The Lord’s Grace It is a prayer for God’s grace. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (3:18). Finally Paul reminded them of God’s grace. This was Paul’s official signature to his letters.