1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 – God is faithful

1Thessalonians 5v23-28

God is faithful.

Introduction.

ILLUS.: In the past if you needed a new fridge or vacuum cleaner you went to the local appliance shop. The shop owner was also the repairman. If there was a problem after the sale he would generally fix it – or you could work out some deal personally.

Now when you buy any appliance it is invariably from a chain store – The salesman’s primary purpose is not customer satisfaction but his commission and he is very insistent that you need an extra 5 year-warranty.

The reason these policies sell is because people want guarantees.

Doctors/ hospitals are sued more and more – industrial tribunals abound …… NOW, of course, workers and the public need protection and these legal procedures are sometimes necessary.

However, part of the thinking underlying this is a feeling that we want guarantees against things going wrong. We want to be sure that our material possessions and our health are protected.

BUT if we just stop and think clearly for a minute we all have to admit that there are few guarantees in life. Machines and appliances inexplicably breakdown – Insurance companies go bankrupt – As the Lloyd’s name discovered a few years ago when Lloyd’s of London went through a rough patch. Our jobs are not guaranteed // our health is not guaranteed // how our children turn out in not guaranteed.

I said there are few guarantees in life, I didn’t say there weren’t any!

  1. 1.     The Future can be assured because…….

One thing that those in the insurance market, esp. the life/endowment sector, are always telling us is that we must take a long-term view. And they are right we do need to take a long-term view. However even the long-term view of the Insurance market is very short-sighted because it can only insure for this life and even then their assurances are only as good as the economy. No insurance company, no matter how large and successful, can give a 100% cast-iron guarantee.

Usually the best guarantee you can get for any product is the manufacturer’s guarantee – Well since God created the world and everything in it, including us, then who better to guarantee the future.

We have seen as we have studied this letter that St. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica that many were worried about the future. They were worried about those who had died and consequently about their own deaths. And also about what would happen at Christ’s return. Paul has endeavoured to reassure them and he does so again in these last few verses.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (NIV)

….God calls

This picks up on a theme that runs through the letter – viz. God calls  –

1:4  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, (NIV)

2:12 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (NIV)

4:7 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (NIV)

NB the present tense – The one who calls – God never merely calls Christians once and then after that leaves them to their own devices. God continually calls // speaks // communicates. God stirs us in our spirits // he speaks to us through the Bible // through the lives and words of other people. It is in God’s nature to reveal himself, communicate with us if we will but listen.

ILLUS.: Just like the radio waves are there but we need to tune in to hear!

….God is faithful.

The one who calls – is also faithful. That means that God will not reject them nor will he go back on his word. This is the point that Paul makes to the Church in Corinth – 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (NIV)

He develops this same thought even more fully when he writes to the Roman Church – Romans 8:30; 38-39 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. ….. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

Romans 11:29 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (NIV)

Paul’s confidence for the future of the Thessalonian Christians / and ours as well / is not based upon some extraordinary inherent power in the Christian. NO – his confidence is built upon the faithfulness of God.

It is not our will power that keeps us – as the hymn writer says we are “prone to wander”! Our ultimate security rests on the fact that God is reliable and he keeps his promises. He undertakes to finish what he starts.

Philippians 1:6 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Do you ever have doubts about your future?

Do you ever have doubts about your faith?

I do!!   Sometimes fleeting / but there have been times of real struggle –   You know what brings me back:-

1) The alternatives don’t make a lot of sense.

2) The historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is

compelling. Based upon the fact that he predicted he would die and

rise from the dead – and he did – gives great confidence that what he

says he will do in the future will happen.

It is important to remember what God has done.

  • When things are going well we need to remember that it is because of God’s grace and goodness, not our own efforts. Deuteronomy 8:10-18 10 …, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, ….., …. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, ….
  • When things are not going well. It gives us hope to remember that the God who has been faithful in the past will be faithful in the future.  We don’t only have the record of the Bible – we can also look down 2000 years of history and see God’s faithfulness. The fact that the church exists today and we are sitting here this morning is testimony to God’s faithfulness. It is important that we share with each other what God has done and is doing for us. We encourage and strengthen each other in this way.
  1. 2.     God is preparing his people for the future.

By personal involvement.

Paul emphasises “God himself” – this is no distant deity. God as it were gets his hands dirty – he is personally involved in his creation and esp. in the lives of his people. God is personally interested in you!

By restoring peace.

He describes himself as a God of peace – on two counts.

  • God is Father, Son and Spirit – he is a perfectly integrated personality who is at peace with himself.
  • He is the source of peace – which is not merely an absence of conflict – but positively and more importantly, it is a state of wholeness and well being which is characterised by reconciled relationships – with God / vertically – with other people / horizontally.

When God created the world and all that is in it, it was in perfect harmony. At peace – Shalom. We have a picture at the end of time and history when the world will again be in perfect harmony – at peace – shalom. In between God is reconciling the world to himself through Christ [2 Cor.5]. He is restoring perfect peace and harmony.  At a personal level we will only ever know real peace of heart and mind – even in trouble and disaster – when we are at peace with God through Jesus Christ.

By making believers holy / blameless / perfect.

When Paul talks about “Spirit Soul and body” we must not get dragged into a debate about the components of the individual. Paul is writing to Greeks who thought that the body was the tomb or prison of the soul that sought to escape.  The Bible sees us as a whole and so for Paul there is no existence apart from the body – Paul explains to the Corinthian Church that when we die we are given new heavenly body – like Jesus had after his resurrection.

God is in the process of making his people – the church – Holy. The Bible uses the imagery of a bride being prepared for her wedding. Jesus is described as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride. The bride will be presented at the wedding pure and spotless.

If you are like me you don’t feel very holy – BUT that is what God says we are in Jesus and will become in reality.

Two words “Justification” and “Sanctification”

Justification – because of Jesus God forgives us and treats us as if we were perfect –  in reality we are not but in terms of our standing with God we are.

Sanctification – whereby God is in the process of improving us – making us holy/blameless – a process in which must co-operate with the Spirit. It is this process that Paul is talking to the Thessalonians about.

1 Thessalonians 3:13 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (NIV)

It is interesting to note that archaeologists have discovered ancient tombstones in Thessalonians marked with the inscription “Blameless”

Sanctification – being made blameless – is not a passive process. It takes effort on our part as we direct our lives God’s way.

  1. 3.     The Christian life is future and also present.

The God who calls – the God who has shown through Jesus how much he loves us – he has also given us the Holy Spirit. It would be surprising if in the light of what he is like that he didn’t require that we live holy lives [4v7] & love others [4v9].

We have two examples in the next verses – 1 Thessalonians 5:25-26

25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. (NIV)

Praying is a vital part Christian living – it benefits those we pray for in a way that we don’t always fully understand. And it benefits us as we express our dependence upon God.

Greet … with a holy kiss

This was to be and outward expression of unity and mutual affection. We do not need a long debate about whether it is appropriate to kiss in greeting. The forms of greeting // and kissing vary from culture to culture.

The key to this is not the form of greeting but the meaning – it was to be a sign of unity and mutual affection within the congregation.

Paul’s main concern is that in response to our God who calls us and is faithful we need to live in way that reflects God’s goodness.

In some circles it has been popular to wear a bracelet with the letters WWJD on it. Meaning “What Would Jesus Do?”

The idea is that when faced with a problem situation the wearer will be prompted to ask, “What would Jesus do?” in these circumstances.

The bracelet becomes a means of reminding the wearers to live their lives in the light of the teaching and actions of Jesus.

This is well and good, but only insofar as the wearer knows what Jesus taught and did. Sadly, it is increasingly true that contemporary society, often Christians included, are lacking in Bible knowledge.

It seems rather pointless to wear a WWJD bracelet – or not wear one but claim to be a believer – if one has little or no idea what Jesus taught and did. We can not discern how to live in the present or look forward in hope if we do not learn and remember what God has done in the past.

Conclusion.

So we come to the end of Paul’s letter. These closing verses echo the opening verses of the letter. The spotlight is clearly focussed on God and Jesus Christ.

Through the letter Paul has talked much about the Thessalonians and himself – but not the last word id not about them but, as it should be, about God.

  • God is the one who called and saved us through Jesus Christ.
  • God is the one who gave us His Spirit in power and holiness.
  • God is the one who will bring us into his kingdom and glory when Jesus returns.

Sometimes these seem such lofty ideals – maybe almost unreal – as we are forced to spend so much of our time thinking about the here and now. The present can be all consuming. Meeting sales targets // caring for children // caring for elderly relatives // holding together a fragile relationship with spouse or children or parents. Maybe most of your life is behind you // maybe you feel you are less and less useful – you are worried about your old age, about being dependent.

This life seems to hold more uncertainties than certainties.

That is why as Christians it is right and good and very helpful to step back and view life from God point of view. If the focus of our hopes and dreams is only in this life we will always be disappointed and disillusioned.

God has called us and is preparing us for life with him – which starts now but will reach it fulfilment when we died or Christ returns.

Sometimes it seems so unreal – we struggle to grasp it – Our short-term future in this life is uncertain/ life in fragile BUT our long-term future is certain. It rests entirely in the power and faithfulness of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. (NIV)

Not only is God able to do what he has promised, but because he is trustworthy and reliable, he will in fact do it.

God is faithful

1Thessalonians 5v23-28

1. The future can be assured

 

  • because God calls
  • because God is faithful

 

2. God is preparing his people for the future

  • By personal involvement.
  • By restoring peace.
  • By making believers holy / blameless / perfect

 

  1. 3.       The Christian life is future & also present

 

  • Pray
  • Christian unity and mutual affection.
  • W W J D

 

 

 

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”

 

Not only is God able to do what he has promised, but because he is trustworthy and reliable, he will in fact do it.

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1Thessalonians 4:9-12 – Mutual love and daily work

1Thessalonians 4:9-12

 

MUTUAL LOVE AND DAILY WORK!

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

When God created the world and place mankind on it there were two instructions that he gave. 1st was to be fruitful and increase in number and he gave heterosexual marriage as the context for this activity. 2nd he gave instructions for work – rule over the rest of the created world. [Genesis 1&2].

 

In this chapter 4 of his letter to the Thessalonians Paul picks up both of these issues. The overall theme of this whole section is about pleasing God. The basis upon which we are to please God is not adherence to a long list of rules and regulations. It is in fact based upon a personal relationship with God and a desire to do what pleases him.

 

ILLUS. Can you remember what it was like when you first fell in love. How you undertook long uncomfortable journeys – tired and hungry – in order to spend time with your beloved. Nothing was too much trouble. The desire to please the one we loved made any hardship or inconvenience worthwhile.

As you got to know each other you knew instinctively what to do to please and what to avoid.

 

This is the kind of relationship that God wants us to develop with him so that we develop a spiritual sensitivity – a desire to please Him that overtakes the desire to please ourselves.

 

Going back to the level of human love-relationships. We do not achieve a deep level of love and instinctively knowing what pleases the other at the outset of a relationship.  It takes time to get to know each other and to develop the relationship – a key is, of course, communication. In other words the relationship has to grow. The same is true with God.

 

Thus Paul is quick to commend the Thessalonians Christians for their strong faith and desire to please God and at the same time to urge them to “do it more and more” – i.e. ‘to grow’!

 

Pleasing God is not just about praying, reading the Bible and singing hymns. Our relationship with God is to be reflected in our relationship to others people – both believers and unbelievers.

In verses 3-8 Paul has talked about sexual morality – thus pleasing God is to be seen in the most intimate relationship there can be between a man and a woman. Showing unselfish care, respect and love for your spouse is pleasing to God.

It is also seen in our relationship with fellow-believers [brotherly love. v.9] and with the community at large [respect of outsiders. v.12].

 

1. MUTUAL LOVE

 

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. (NIV)

 

Paul does something in this verse that is quite diplomatic. By actually saying he doesn’t need to tell them about brotherly love he is in fact doing just that. What he achieves in this way is to commend them for their love for each other and encourage them to develop in areas that need more attention.

 

The word the Paul uses is ‘philadelphia’ – [love for a brother] – it was originally used to refer to the love between siblings. In no way does this word carry any connotations of homosexual love as a recent Hollywood film starring Tom Hanks entitled Philadelphia may suggest.

Given the Christians from the earliest times have referred to each other as ‘Brother’ and ‘Sister’ it is easy to see how this word came to refer to the mutual love that fellow-Christians are to have for each other.

Paul commends the Thessalonians for their evident love for each other AND for the fact that their love has extended beyond the city of Thessalonica. 1 Thessalonians 4:10 …. 10 …, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia.

1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere.

 

What a wonderful testimony for a church to have!

This mutual love that the Thessalonians have for each other is no new phenomenon. This is something that was required of God’s people in the OT – Leviticus 19:18  ” ….. love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD. (NIV)

It was taught by Jesus in the NT – John 13:34 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (NIV)

However it seems that what Paul has in mind is a much more personal instruction that each believer has had from God by the Holy Spirit —–               1 Thessalonians 4:8 8 …. God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (NIV)

 

Every believer has within them the Holy Spirit who, if we are sensitive to his voice, instructs us – and also empowers us to please God.

 

This mutual love is not simply a nice warm feeling – it has its practical outworking in the very mundane things of life like ‘WORK’.

 

2. DAILY WORK.

 

Brotherly love – ‘philadelphia’ – has implications for those inside and those outside the fellowship.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:11  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, (NIV)

 

Who does Paul have in mind and what exactly is he driving at? He is responding to what he has heard from Thessalonica. Some have suggested that he is addressing three different groups of people.

 

Problem People:

  • Fanatics who seem intent on stirring things up
  • Busybodies who keep interfering in the lives of others
  • Loafers who avoid work and sponge off others

Others suggest that he is making three points to everyone but with specific troublesome people in mind.

 

It is possible that there were those in Thessalonica who had become so excited and obsessive about the fact that Jesus might return very soon that they abandoned their jobs. Their thinking was “What is the point of working for material things like homes and food if Jesus will return soon?” They possibly became disruptive within the fellowship and no doubt irritated their pagan neighbour who probably thought they had ‘lost it’ anyway.

They were over excited about Jesus’ return and Paul is telling them to calm down a bit and get back to work.

I don’t believe that Paul is telling them to be like timid Church mice in their Christian witness – after all he was accused of “turning the world upside down”

 

It is also possible that the kind of people Paul has in mind are those who because of their activities in the public arena are bringing unwanted and unnecessary attention on the Church. If this is true then Paul is telling them to be very careful about the kind of activities they as Christian engage in.

 

Bear in mind that Paul is dealing with this in the context of brotherly love. In other words what Paul is saying is that the decisions Christian make in regard to their involvement in the wider community / work-a-day world ought to be significantly influenced by ‘philadelphia

The principle therefore is that for the Christian genuine love and concern for others will influence, if not determine, an individual’s decision about work / public activity.

 

In some countries today – as would have been the case in Thessalonica – Christians are a persecuted minority. For example, Muslim countries or places like China. Public attention on one member of the Church can result in the spotlight been shone on the whole church bringing much hardship and difficulty.

 

In counties like GB there is a long history of Christian tradition and a certain amount of respectability is given to the Church. Thus the circumstances and application might be different but the principle remains. Christians are to avoid circumstances and activities that will bring the Church into disrepute or cause unnecessary difficulties.

 

What Paul clearly doesn’t mean is that Christians should in anyway water down their faith in order to placate hostile unbelievers. It is far more important that we are faithful to God and please him than impress unbelievers.  HOWEVER we need to avoid behaviour that needlessly brings disrespect on the gospel or the church.

 

Paul’s Practical Appeal:

 

So what is Paul’s practical advice to them?

11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, ….

He does want them to be blobs – that is the last thing Paul was – and Jesus was certainly not. He is not asking us to be boring little people who go to work from 9 – 5 and watch TV every evening and have a two week holiday by the seaside once and year – and never do anything else!!

What he is saying is don’t be disruptive and go around looking to stir things up.

 

…. to mind your own business ……

 

Paul picks this up again in his second letter so clearly it was a problem in Thessalonica 2 Thessalonians 3:11  We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. (NIV)

There is a difference between ‘brotherly love’ and meddling in people’s lives. Sometimes we can get the two confused.

….and to work with your hands,…

The Greeks despised manual work and regarded it as degrading for free men – only fit for slaves. The gospel was in direct conflict with this view. Paul was a tentmaker and worked with his hands – Jesus was a carpenter! The Bible is quite plain the laziness is not pleasing to God – work is a gift from God.

 

Paul’s Particular Purposes:

 

1 Thessalonians 4:12 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (NIV)

 

In this verse Paul brings together the two communities in which Christians are to live – the church and the wider world. His desire is two fold, viz. that we command the respect of outsiders and that we are not an unnecessary burden to the church.

1 Peter 2:12 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (NIV)

Colossians 4:5 5 Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (NIV)

 

Contemporary Application:

 

We need to be clear that Paul is not here talking about those who are unemployed and who cannot get work. The problem of unemployment in contemporary society is symptomatic of economic downturns and is usually a devastating personal experience for those out of work.

Paul is not condemning the unemployed – (those who want to work but can’t find it) – he is condemning idleness – (when there is work available but people don’t want to do it).

 

Work of course can take many different forms – The world of 1st C Thessalonica is very different to the modern workplace.

Clearly as Christian we have a responsibility to work in order to support..

  • ourselves
  • our families
  • AND those who are unable to support themselves

In the context of brotherly Love – Love is expressed in supporting those who are in need BUT it is also expressed in supporting ourselves if we are able so as not to be an unnecessary burden on others.

 

The two main themes of this chapter are ‘pleasing God’ (holiness) and ‘brotherly love’

How does this impact upon our work life?

There are many related issues – the occupations we choose – the salaries we earn – the lifestyle we live etc…

 

For Christians there are some jobs that would be unsuitable – e.g. Adult entertainment industry / gambling industry.

 

More and more in our culture a person’s worth is measure not by the quality of their character but by the quantity of their material possessions. Consequently high-paying jobs are more highly valued than low-paying jobs

What is our attitude to work? –

ILLUS.: A recent survey among USA church-goers found that people who make a lot of money by working hard are admired more than those who take lower-paid jobs in order to serve people.

 

I don’t mean to imply that those who are well-paid are automatically less concerned about serving people. Life is never that simple!!

It is also a matter of lifestyle choices – it is a matter of attitude. What am I pursuing? A bigger house in a better areas? A certain make of car with the right badge on the front? The clothes one wears! The places frequented! The clubs one belongs to! Etc…

 

Ultimately it is really about attitude!

  • It is possible to earn a low age and be very materialistic and selfish.
  • It is possible to earn a high salary & be non-materialistic & serve people.

 

It is so easy to be swept along by the cultural tide of consumerism. However God calls us to make decisions about how we work and spend what we earn on the basis of what pleases him and in the context of ‘philadelphia’ (brotherly love) – bearing in mind that ‘philadelphia’ influences our relationship with believers and unbelievers.

 

God help us to be conscientious in –

–         our daily work

–         our concern for the needy

–         our lifestyle (the careers / jobs we choose & how we spend our money)

–         our relationship with outsiders

–         our relationship with our fellow-believers

 

 

 

MUTUAL LOVE AND DAILY WORK!

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

 

1.MUTUAL LOVE

 

  • Ø Commanded by God in the OT

” .. love your neighbour as yourself.  Leviticus 19:18

  • Ø Taught by Jesus in the NT

“A new command I give you: Love one another.” John 13:34

  • Ø Enabled today by the Holy Spirit

“. God, … gives you his Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:8

 

2.DAILY WORK.

 

Problem People:

  • Fanatics who seem intent on stirring things up
  • Busybodies who interfere in the lives of others
  • Loafers who avoid work and sponge off others

 

Paul’s Practical Appeal:

  • lead a quiet life
  • mind your own business
  • work with your hands

 

Paul’s Particular Purposes:

  • win the respect of outsiders 
  • [do] not be dependent on anybody

 

Contemporary Application:

  • Pleasing God and ‘philadelphia’ have practical implications for the jobs/careers and lifestyles we choose.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 – Striving for Excellence – Spiritual and Moral

1Thessalonians 4v1-8

 

Striving for Excellence – Spiritual and Moral

INTRODUCTION.

 

The Bible is often accused of being irrelevant and out of dated, usually by those who haven’t read it. If issues like sex, work, community care, bereavement, suffering, sickness, justice, peace and the future are outdated then we might be able to agree with these critics. However, when I read my newspapers and listen to the Radio and TV these are precisely the kind of issues that are discussed. It is about all these issues and more that the bible has much to say. Chapters 4-5 of Thessalonians deal with some of these issues – viz. sex, community care, work, bereavement and the future.

 

Paul has spent the first three chapters of his letter commending the Thessalonian Christians for their faith and explaining the reason why he had to leave Thessalonica and has been unable to return.

Paul’s companion and fellow-worker, Timothy, has recently visited Thessalonica and now returns to Paul in Corinth with a report. Paul is most likely responding to issues raised by Timothy.

 

1. Christian Faith and Christian Ethics are inextricably linked.

 

The thrust of this coming section is that the sole aim of a Christian’s life is to please God. Verses 1, 2 & 7 emphasise this point of pleasing God / holy living –

  • The question is, “How do we please God?”
    • The first step in pleasing God is coming to him for salvation in repentance and faith. The evidence of that faith must continue in daily living – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 12 … urging you to live lives worthy of God, …   1 Thessalonians 4:1 & 7 1 …. to live in order to please God, …. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (NIV)

 

Holiness is not white robes and shining halos but it is seen in the practical matters of sexual conduct, honest work, caring for people, etc…

 

4x in the first eleven verses Paul reminds them that the things he is telling them are not new –

4:1  …, we instructed you how to live ..

4:2  .. you know what instructions we gave you.

4:6 ….. as we have already told you and warned you.

4:11  …. just as we told you.

As evangelical Christians, esp. in the West, we are very strong on preaching the gospel but we are comparatively weak when it comes to teaching Christian ethics.

Our reasoning is that we are not longer under Law but under grace! By which we mean that we no longer need to follow the 10 commandments in order to please God because we are come to God by the gracious favour of God – based upon the death of Jesus on the cross.

This however is a misunderstanding both of the OT law and the Grace of God –

People in the OT were accepted by God on the same basis that we are – grace – they looked forward to the cross. It was only after God had called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and rescued the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt that he gave them the 10 commandments – the moral law. They were already his covenant people – the law was to instruct them on how to live as God’s covenant people.

 

We too come to faith in God by grace – based on the death of Christ for us – then he instructs us how to live for him.

We however are so individualistic and private that we are quite happy to believe in God BUT no one must tell me how to live my life – The church must not interfere in my private life.

 

Paul and the other NT writers had a lot to say about ethics. When we read Paul’s letters we see a pattern – the first section talks about doctrine [Christian belief] and the second about ethics [Christian behaviour]. Paul gave instructions about a wide range of issues ranging from the boardroom to the bedroom.

 

2. A Christian’s Primary Purpose is to Please God.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2

1 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (NIV)

 

The NIV leaves out a word – The first word is ‘THERFORE’. Paul has reinforced the gospel and commended them for their faith [Christian Belief] “now therefore …” – here comes the ethics part!

 

a) Paul’s instructions have divine authority.

 

The words that Paul uses in these verses are very forceful. – they were used to describe military commands or civil order by Magistrates.

 

Paul boldly claims divine authority – 1 Thessalonians 4:2         For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

 

  • For Paul – the gospel he preached is God’s gospel –

– 1 Thessalonians 2:13  And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (NIV)

  • For Paul his instructions are equivalent to God’s ethics – [4v1-2]

 

b) Pleasing God is the key to holiness.

 

We see this in the life of Jesus – his over-riding motivation was to please his Father – John 8:29 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (NIV)

Paul has a similar passion both for himself and his friends – 2 Corinthians 5:9 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (NIV)

 

The alternative to pleasing God is NOT pleasing God and the results of such a position with God is terrible – to be the subject of God’s displeasure is not something to relish.

 

Pleasing God is the guiding principle to Christian behaviour –

 

RELATIONAL – How can I claim to know and to love God if I don’t seek to please him? This strikes at the very foundation of our discipleship – it tests the reality of our faith in Christ. Jesus asks us what he asked Peter “Do you love me?”

 

FLEXIBLE – pleasing God is not the cold duty of keeping rules and regulations – That would be the equivalent of Christian Pharisaism. The idea is that we have a relationship with our heavenly Father and through prayer and meditation on the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit within us we develop the Spiritual instinct of hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd. The basis of pleasing God is not legalism but love.

 

PROGRESSIVE – If our goal is to perfectly please God – we can never claim to have arrived THEREFORE Paul calls us to do this “more and more”

 

 

 

3. Sanctification includes our Sexuality.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no-one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. (NIV)

 

In this section the first practical matter Paul deals with is the issue of sexual morality which was an issue in Thessalonica. Isn’t it always?!

 

It is not surprising that Paul begins with the matter of sexuality. It is one of the strong human urges. Also he was writing from Corinth to people in Thessalonica. Both cities were famous for their immorality. In Corith the Greek goddess Aphrodite sent her servants out as prostitute to roam the streets by night. In Thessalonica Cabiri was the deity worshipped – gross immorality was promoted under the name of this god.

To the first century Greeks is would have seemed puritanical in the extreme to expect a man to limit himself to his own wife.

What was Paul getting excited about?          Was he against sex?

It is unrealistic, they would have argued, for a man to restrain himself in this way. Opportunities for extra-martial sex were widely available. It was expected that a man marry for companionship and to provide a mother for his legitimate children. BUT there was nothing stopping him having a mistress.

Opportunities for casual sexual liaisons were endless – there were the female slaves and the harlots – not to mention the fact that religion and prostitution went hand in hand.

To add to the picture homosexual relationships were condoned, even encouraged.

 

Britain at the end of the 20th Century seems remarkably similar.

We live in a climate where sexual experimentation before marriage is considered by many a legitimate leisure activity for teenagers – where extramarital affairs are not always considered a betrayal of sacred promises but a understandable outlet for someone trapped in an unfulfilling relationship.

The aggressive and confident Gay and Lesbian lobby has almost succeeded in making homosexual couple seen as having equal status with heterosexual marriages.

 

In the midst of all this Christians are often seen as puritanical and prudish – having a negative attitude to sex. Sometime this is true!!

BUT Christians are also realists – we see sex as good – it is a gift from God given to be enjoyed – it is a legitimate part of our humanness.

HOWEVER Christians also recognise that human nature was distorted by the Fall and given that our sexual urge is so powerful it needs to be rightly channelled and carefully controlled.

 

a)     Self-control must operate in the arena of our sexuality.

 

3….. that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body

We are not free to satisfy our sexual appetites anywhere, anyhow, any time. Sanctification / pleasing God / holiness includes avoiding ‘porneia’ – [ a blanket term for all sexual activity / stimulation.

 

b)    Sex has a God-given context.

 

3….. that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to live with his own wife // acquire a wife

 

This is a legitimate alternative translation – the Greek word is ‘vessel’ which could refer to one’s own body or that of another.

I think this is the preferable translation given the context.

Paul is affirming that a heterosexual marriage in the only God-given context for sexual intercourse.

 

The corollary is that it is forbidden in every other context whether a heterosexual partner before marriage {fornication} or outside of marriage {adultery} or the someone of the same sex {homosexuality}.

This includes not just the actual act of intercourse but also all sexual stimulation – eg. Heavy petting / oral sex / pornography etc …

 

What about pre-marital sex – it is not just about gratifying the desire of the moment. It is about the feelings and memories that stay / scar long after the relationship has ended. Emotional and physical ‘baggage’ that is carried on into subsequent relationship.

 

What about extra-marital affairs – similar things apply but added are the broken promises that feelings of betrayal – the harm to children.

 

What about Homosexuality – READ “Thought for Today” Anne Atkins 10/10/96 on BBC Radio 4

 

What about the ‘not-marrieds’-  You may say to me “Well it is alright for you – you are happily married you don’t know what it is like!” An you are right I don’t!! Although I did until is got married when I was 24!!

But listen to someone who has never married – John Stott – READ BST commentry on 1 Thess. pp. 84-85

 

What about the ‘marrieds’ –

Paul lays down instructions as to how sexual relations within marriage are to be practised. Being married is not a licence for anyone to be sexually immoral. There needs to be sexual restraint within marriage too.

We have all heard about / some have sadly experienced the selfish sexual demands which are sometimes made by one marriage partner on another – aggression, violence cruelty and even rape. Marriage is not to be a form of legalised lust. Generally men who need to hear this.

NOR is withholding sex from a partner as a means of punishing or manipulating them emotionally acceptable either. Generally women who need to hear this!

 

If this is how we behave, says Paul, involved in sexual immorality / outside of marriage or within marriage / then we are just like the heathen who don’t know God

The principle is “Don’t take advantage of another” – “Don’t use someone else to satisfy your own selfish appetites”

 

Even within marriage sexual relations need to be ‘holy and honourable’ – Remember that God sees into the bedroom as well as all the other rooms!! And he hates exploitation in any form!

 

Sex was given by God to be enjoyed BUT “the fact is that there is a world of difference

  • between lust and love,
  • between dishonourable sexual practices which use the partner and true love-making which honours the partner,
  • between selfish desire to possess and the unselfish desire to love, cherish and respect”. [Stott]

 

What about our sexual baggage?  – It would be foolish and naïve to think that in this day and age // or any day and age for that matter // that we come to the Lord as sexual puritans AND having come that we never offend in this area again.

If some may be tempted to be proud that they have never engaged in pre-marital / extra-marital / gay / sexual activity REMEMBER Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:28 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NIV)

 

Let me also remind you that sexual sin is no more sinful than other sin – When the Bible list sins that God abhors it includes many things. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

Hebrews 13:4-5

4 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, ….

 

God does not give us the freedom to pick and choose the sins we think are more acceptable than others – “All have sinned” ALL!!

Let us with sober warning Jesus words to the Jews not to look for specks in the eyes of others IF there are logs in our own eyes.

 

So in this area of sexuality are there are things we need to ask God’s forgiveness for; Remember the woman caught in the act of adultery – Jesus forgave her and also instructed her to “go and sin no more”. With God there is always a new beginning no matter what our past IF we come to him in repentance and faith.

 

4. Make holiness your passion.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, …. God, … gives you his Holy Spirit. (NIV)

 

  • 1st – God’s call is to holiness – For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life —– {be holy for I am holy}
  • 2nd – God’s will is our holiness – 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: {holy}
  • 3rd – God’s Spirit is a Holy Spirit – given as a gift to all believrs
  • 4th – God’s judgement will fall on all unholiness – The Lord will punish men for all such sins.

THEREFORE without holiness it is impossible to please God.

 

Closing Hymn: ‘Take time to be holy’

 

 

Striving for Excellence – Spiritual and Moral

 

1Thessalonians 4v1-8

 

 

1. Faith and Ethics are inextricably linked.

 

2. A Christian’s Primary Purpose is to Please God.

 

a)  Paul’s instructions have divine authority.

b)  Pleasing God is the key to holiness.

– Relational

– Flexible

– Progressive

 

3. Sanctification includes our Sexuality.

 

a)  Self-control must operate in the arena of our sexuality.

b)  Sex has a God-given context – heterosexual marriage.

 

What about …

              … pre-marital sex?

              … extra-marital affairs?

              … homosexuality?

              … the ‘Not-Marrieds’?

              … the ‘Marrieds’?

              … our sexual baggage?

 

 

4. Make holiness your passion.

 

1st – God’s call is to holiness

2nd – God’s will is our holiness

3rd – God’s Spirit is a Holy Spirit – given as a gift to all believrs

4th – God’s judgement will fall on all unholiness

THEREFORE without holiness it is impossible to please God.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 – God’s Spirit, God’s Word, God’s People

1 Thessalonians 5v19-22

 

God’s Spirit, God’s Word, God’s People!

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

ILLUS.: If this morning you were at Guildford cathedral rather than here you would experience a very different kind of service. The leaders would undoubtedly be clergy dressed in robes. The service would be very structured probably following the prayer book.

If you were to attend the King’s Church in Godalming or the Coin in Woking a very free apparently spontaneous service and those up front would possibly not be clergy at all.

If you move to other counties thing would be even more different – ZCC in Africa all in white robes with blue / green / red sashes dancing in circles under a tree…..

Then there is a whole spectrum of different styles of church life in between.

 

Those churches on the more Pentecostal / Charismatic end of the spectrum are generally thought to be “more open to the work of the Holy Spirit” because there is usually more practice of the gifts of utterance – viz. tongues and prophecy.

 

In these very short – almost clipped phrases – Paul urges his readers to be open to the Spirit and to accept prophecy although not uncritically.

 

This issue of being open to the Holy Spirit is not simply a matter of Charismatic vs. non-charismatic. As if being Pentecostal/Charismatic automatically means that one is open to the Spirit and non-Pentecostal/Charismatic automatically means that one is guilty of quenching the Spirit.

 

It is possible to be in a Charismatic Church which may not have a prayer book but nevertheless a set way of doing things – and follows its own traditions by rote. Whereas it is possible to be in a very structured liturgical service and only someone completely spiritually insensitive would fail to be overwhelmed by an overwhelming sense of the presence of the Spirit of God.

 

  1. 1.     ‘Do not quench the Spirit’

 

Every Christian has the Holy Spirit – Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would be with us and in us.

Paul reminds the Romans – Romans 8:9  … And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (NIV)

 

The Holy Spirit was Christ’s gift to the church after he ascended to Heaven – that is why we celebrate Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is NOT an impersonal influence but a person to whom we relate. Therefore it is possible to ‘resist’ him, to ‘grieve’ him, to ‘quench’ him.

 

Some translations, as the NIV have – Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 5:19 (NIV)

– but the word fire is not there. It can refer equally to light and fire. The Holy Spirit is both Light and Fire and far from extinguishing him we must let him both shine and burn within us.

 

How do we quench the Spirit? Many ways – largely by not listening to him as he communicates with us mainly through the Scriptures but also directly with our spirits and minds. Also quench/grieve him when having heard and knowing what he requires and we refuse to put into practice what we know is right. And a host of others ways – look back at verses 12-18 – by not living at peace with each other // by being idle // by being vengeful // by failing to pray and worship and give thanks // these are al ways to quench the Spirit.

 

But also we can quench the Spirit by treating prophecy with contempt AND by not Testing everything and by neglecting what is good and doing what is bad.

 

2. ‘Do not treat prophecies with contempt’

 

In the Church Age – that is, since Pentecost – all God’s people receive the Spirit and may therefore ‘prophesy’. Acts 2:16-17 16 ….. this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:             17 ” ‘In the last days, God says,

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams. (NIV)

 

This fulfilled the hopes of the OT – Moses – Numbers 11:29  But Moses replied, ” I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (NIV)

 

It would seem that this ability is open to all God’s people – 1 Corinthians 14:31 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (NIV)

Yet it is also clear that some were esp. gifted in this way – 1 Corinthians 12:29 29… Are all prophets? …..(NIV)   OR    [All are not prophets, are they?]

 

What is Prophecy?

In the OT it was the means by which God’s direct revelation came.  To Moses -Exodus 4:12 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Jeremiah 1:4-9 4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,…..

7 … the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 ….

9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth. (NIV)

 

They spoke the very words of God.

 

In the NT those who spoke the Divinely authoritative words of God were not the prophets but apostles – the one Jesus esp. called. [These 12 were sometimes called prophets but their authority was as apostles.

 

Those who are called prophets in the NT had less authority than the OT prophets and the NT apostles.

 

THUS Paul subordinates prophets in the NT to his own authority.

1 Corinthians 14:37-38 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. (NIV)

Prophecy is still only partial misty knowledge – 1 Corinthians 13:9 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, (NIV)

Prophecy is not to automatically be accepted as true – 1 Corinthians 14:29

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:21 21 Test everything…….

 

Paul never claims his authority as a prophet but always as an apostle.

 

SO today there are no Prophets as in the days of the OT or apostles as in the days of the NT. If there were then we would have to accept their words as equal to scripture and carrying the same authority. We do not have prophets and apostles as they did in Biblical times – thus in that primary use of the terms we can say there are no more.

Paul refers to them as the foundation upon which the church was built – Ephesians 2:20 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (NIV)

However, in a secondary and subsidiary sense God undoubtedly gives prophetic gifts and ministries. For some have a remarkably God-given degree of insight either into scripture and its meaning, or its application to a contemporary situation, or into God’s particular will for a particular people and a particular time.

It would be legitimate to say that these people have a prophetic gift.

 

Prophetic utterances do not have to be prefaced with the words “Thus saith the Lord….” – In fact I would be extremely cautious in such cases – to claim to be speaking on behalf of God is a very serious thing.

This does not mean that we can not be promoted by the Spirit to speak what we feel God is saying to us.

Further, I do not believe that this as new as the modern Charismatic movement would have us believe.

 

QUOTE: One commentator – [Roy Clements]  – Word and Spirit – page27

 

There is much more to be said on this subject but we don’t have time – the difference between prophecy and teaching – the fact that in the NT if something never happen exactly as predicted the person was not branded a false prophets as in the OT – e.g. Agabus in Acts. – The fact that the prophets were also those who “searched the scriptures”

 

  1. 3.     “Test everything”

 

Because Prophecy in the Church Age is NOT on a par with scripture it needs to be tested/evaluated. HOW?

This does not only apply to prophetic utterances – bearing in mind that sometimes we couch this in different terms – If you are on the charismatic end of the spectrum you may say “I have a word from the Lord……” or “God told me …”  HOWEVER if you are on the more conservative end of the spectrum you may say “I feel God is leading us ….” Or “I strongly believe that God wants us to …”

 

Whatever words are use we need to evaluate.

There are those who are gifted with the gift of discernment – nevertheless we are given tests to apply.

 

Test #1.

Apply the plain truth of scripture as did the Christians in Berea – Acts 17:11 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV)

There is no substitute for the study of God’s Word. If we do not know the Bible we will have no criteria by which to evaluate, not just prophecy but everything!

ILLUS.: If someone comes in and says, “Well God has told me that Jesus isn’t the only way to God”. We need to know the teaching of scripture to test that claim.

 

 

 

 

 

Test #2.

The illustration relates to the second test as well. Jesus is divine-human!

1 John 4:1-3         1 ., do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 ………..: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, ….

Any teaching / word / prophecy that does not agree with the apostle’s teaching is suspect. Since the apostle’s teaching is preserved for us in scripture – that is the test – Does it agree with what the Bible teaches!

 

Test #3.

That the gospel is God’s free and saving grace through Jesus Christ. Anyone who alters this gospel is to be eternally condemned. Galatians 1:6-9

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (NIV)

 

Test #4.

The Character of the speaker. Jesus warned us to watch out for false prophets. Matthew 7:15-16 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognise them.

Just as a tree can be identified by its fruit so a person can be identified their character and conduct. We need to be cautious of those who are unknown and unaccountable.

 

Test #5.

Does what is said edify / build up / benefit the church. Authentic prophetic messages will strengthen, encourage and comfort the hearers, —

1 Corinthians 14:3 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. (NIV)

– edify the church, 1 Corinthians 14:4 ….. he who prophesies edifies the church.

–         bring conviction of sin 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 – to the unbelievers present

–       be conducive to peace and order. 1 Corinthians 14:32-40 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (NIV)

and above all love 1 Corinthians 13:2 2 If I have the gift of prophecy ……, but have not love, I am nothing. (NIV)

 

While in many respects the move in the modern Church towards more openness for the spiritual gifts to operate is healthy there are always dangers – the danger is that we allow these prophecies to take the place of / or diminish the place of scripture.

The Bible is God’s inspired word to us – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)

 

We are on dangerous ground if we allow the completeness and sufficiency of scripture to be called into question by contemporary prophecies.

 

QUOTE: One commentator – [Roy Clements]  – Word and Spirit – page 18.

 

The NT affirms that prophetic gifts exist but Scripture has supreme authority in the Church – Its is God’s Word which the church, for its own health and growth, needs to hear read and explained.

 

It is possible to emphasise the Word to the detriment of the Spirit – it is possible to emphasis the Spirit to the detriment of the Word.  Both positions are unbalanced.

 

The Word without the Spirit is sterile rationalism. BUT the Spirit without the Word produces incoherent mysticism that is difficult to distinguish from the intuitions of paganism. Indeed one would have to question whether such is the Spirit of God as God’s Spirit ALWAYS works together with His Word.

 

We need the objective revelation of God in the Bible AND we also need the subjective personal encounter with God through his Spirit.

THEN……

 

  1. 4.     “Keep the good. Discard the bad”

If we are truly those who seek to know God through his Word and his Spirit we will be able to evaluate what is of God and what is not.

BUT as always it is never intended to be simply a head knowledge – it must direct our lives and cause us to choose the good – and put it into practice!.

 

God’s Spirit, God’s Word, God’s People!

 

1 Thessalonians 5v19-22

 

1. “Do not quench the Spirit”

t Every Christian has the Holy Spirit

t Holy Spirit is Light & Fire to shine and burn in us

 

2. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt”

t OT Prophets / NT Apostles spoke divinely   

     authoritative words of God

t NT Prophets did not have the same authority

t Prophesy open to all believers – Acts 2

t Some have the spiritual gift

 

3. “Test everything”

t Measure against the plain teaching of scripture

t It must affirm Jesus as divine and human

t It must up hold God’s free and saving grace through

    Jesus Christ alone

t The character and conduct of the prophet must be

     seen

t It should   – strengthen / encourage / comfort the

  hearer

edify / build up / benefit the church

bring conviction of sin

be conducive to peace and order

above all be done in love

 

  1. 4.        “Keep the good. Discard the bad”

t We must know what is good and practise it.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 – Congregational responsibilites

1 Thessalonians 5v12-18

 

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Introduction

 

On the last two occasions we have spent much time looking at the wonderful future that awaits all those who are Christians. The anticipation of Christ’s second coming. It is good and right that we should look forward to it and that we should live in this life / this present world with our eyes on eternity.

 

However, it is possible to become so preoccupied with the future that we neglect the present responsibility. If we become stargazers and neglect our present duties we have completely missed the point of what the NT teaches about the return of Christ. It would seems that this was something of a problem with certain people in Thessalonica and Paul gives guidelines for living in Chapter 4 and now at the end of the letter he gives more instructions – this time related to the congregation particularly.

 

At first sight it might seem that these are just a random collection of instruction but they do group together around certain issues relating to congregational life.

 

  1. 1.     The Congregation and Its Leaders – v.12 – 13

 

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

 

Who are these people who the congregation are to respect and hold in high regard?

Paul describes them in three ways those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you – He is not talking about three distinct groups of people but is making general comments about those who have leadership responsibilities within the congregation.

He is not talking here about paid clergy – there was not such thing in the early church.

In other places Paul and the other apostles appointed leaders – that does not seem to be the case here. Rather it appears that these leaders have emerged because they are working within the congregation but were not being given the recognition they were due.

 

In the Greco-Roman culture of the 1st Century there were many civic and social clubs and associations and there was a very strong link in these groups between wealth / status and leadership. Those with the money and title got the leadership roles.

The NT teaching on leadership cuts right across this practice – the key qualification for leadership within the Christian church is not wealth or status but giftedness for ministry. At least that is the theory; in practice it is not always so.

So what Paul is saying to them that they should recognise and respect those who are actually doing the ministry and not simply those who have money or the gift-of-the-gab and enjoy being in the limelight.

 

Why should the leaders in the church be recognised and acknowledged and respected?           Because they are better than everyone else is? NO!

Because they are the most gifted in the congregation? NO!

Because they are more spiritual? NO!

There is a little phrase we must not overlook –“in the Lord” – Everyone who is a Christian is “in the Lord” and each has been gifted by the Lord – If a person is gifted to lead then that is God’s sovereign gift to them. It is their God-given responsibility “in the Lord” to lead and it is the congregation’s God-given responsibility to follow.

 

In other places like 1 Timothy and Titus Paul has clear directives for leaders BUT here he is talking to the congregation, telling them their responsibilities.

 

  1. 2.     The Congregation and The Individual – v. 14 – 15

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. (NIV)

 

ILLUS.: I went to Sunday School from the time I was about 3 years old. For nearly 30 tears I have been involved in leadership of some kind – SS teaching – Youth work – missionary – elder / pastor – some of you have a longer experience. Not much changes really. Programmes change and locations change but basically whichever church you go to you will find the same people – they just have different names and different faces.

 

Same in Paul’s day – those who were lazy / timid / weak / spiteful /encouraging / patient / kind / etc……

 

All these words use are very full of meaning – a sermon in each one – as is often the case the English word is inadequate to convey the full meaning.

 

  • Warn the idle – undisciplined, irresponsible, disorderly

 

  • Encourage the timid – faint-hearted, worried, fearful, inadequate, lacking in confidence, despondent, sad, weak. There are those who because of their personalities or ongoing circumstances in life are always in this fragile state. BUT even the strongest and most spiritually mature will go through times of grief, or doubt or even despair.

 

  • Help the weak – does weakness refer to moral temptation /or spiritual shortcomings /or physical weakness /or economic need? Could be any of these. The help could come in many forms – moral and spiritual support /or financial aid /or practical help….

 

  • Be patient and kind – “with everyone” – This is fruit of the Spirit –

Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV)

It is these qualities that indicate our spiritual maturity and not our abilities or busyness with Church activities.

After all our goal is to become more like Jesus and reflect the character of God – Exodus 34:6 6 …., “The LORD, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,

 

  • Don’t be spiteful / vengeful – clearly Paul is basing his teaching on what Jesus said Matthew 5:38-42 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV)

Remember the Thessalonians Christians were under tremendous pressure from outside persecution – the temptation for retaliation was great, The Christian response is to be “Love your enemies”. If that is how Christians are to behave towards outsiders then how much more so to fellow believers.

Paul is talking about the need of individuals – BUT note that he is addressing the whole church – NOT just the leaders. Everyone has pastoral responsibilities.

 

We talk about worship / about knowing God / feeling God’s presence etc…

What is important to realise is that God often makes his presence felt through his people.

It is as the weak are nurtured, the distressed cared for, the fearful encouraged that the presence of God is experienced – even in the disciplining of those who required it.

 

Ministering to those who have deep needs or hurts, as Paul urges here, can be very difficult because people seldom respond or heal or grow as fast as we think they should. That is why we need great patience.

 

ILLUS.: When you go shopping whether it is for a hamburger or a new car you the customer choose what you want and when you want it. Consumerism teaches us to demand WHAT we want and WHEN we want it.

 

If we are going to be genuinely patient with people we have to renounce the tyranny of our own agendas. The idea that we should NOT have to wait on anything or anyone is another form of self-centred selfishness.

Patience values others enough to give them time and space to fail, learn develop and mature.

 

Vengeance is another form of self-centred selfishness. It usurps God’s prerogative – Romans 12:19 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (NIV)

Our revenge is selfish – it is usually trying to justify our wounded pride.

 

Paul’s call – which echoes Jesus’ call – is to patience and kindness to all. We will not be perfect at it but hopefully when we fail others will be patient and kind towards us. BUT it is MY responsibility to be patient and kind irrespective of whether or not others treat me like that.

 

  1. 3.     The Congregation and God – v.16 – 18

 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18      16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Rejoice // Pray // Give Thanks – all three are God’s will in Christ.

 

Be joyful always – Paul is not talking about an emotional state of never ending happiness – he is talking about an attitude of heart towards God.

Joy is not something that we can turn ‘on’ and ‘off’ like a tap. To walk about with a permanent Cheshire cat grin is not what Paul has in mind. That would contradict what he has said in Romans 12:15 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (NIV)

Rather to rejoice always is to see the hand of God in whatever is happening AND to remain certain of God’s future salvation. It requires that we have a perspective on life that is God’s perspective – convinced that God is at work on behalf of his people- We can be thankful and rejoice that God will fulfil his purposes for us.

 

This kind of attitude arises out of his theology – We can rejoice / pray / give thanks in all circumstances [not necessarily for all circumstances] only if we believe that God is in control and is at work on behalf of his people. Thus even death, as awful a reality as that may be, is NOT the last word because Jesus died and rose again.

 

The test of our faith is not so much seen in the rejoicing and giving thanks when things are going well BUT rather when we can rejoice / pray / and give thanks in the midst of difficult and trying circumstance – like the Thessalonians under persecution.

 

Do we genuinely believe that God’s salvation is of more value than any difficulties /or opposition we may face now?

The let us rejoice in Him and give thanks.

 

Are we really persuaded that God will deliver his people and bring justice on their behalf?

Then let us pray with persistence and patience, waiting and watching expectantly for God to act. Just like the persistent widow in Luke 18 who kept on asking until the judge granted her request.

 

Are we genuinely convinced of the truth of Romans 8:28 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

If we are then we need to demonstrate that by giving thanks in ALL circumstances.

 

We need to believe with our heads that God is King and express that belief with our hearts. One of Charles Wesley’s hymns captures both of these – belief and expression.

v.1     Rejoice the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore!

Rejoice, give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore:

Refrain:       Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!

                   Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

          v.4     Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord and judge shall come

                   And take his servant up to their eternal home:

 

In these verses that rejoicing and giving thanks are based on and are also and expression of our conviction that God really is KING – and that he will come to take us to be with him for eternity.

 

The test of this conviction that God is my King is seen not only when life in pleasant but also when it is difficult.

 

Christopher Idle has a Hymn based on this passage:-

As sons of the day and daughters of light,

no longer we sleep like creatures of night:

for Jesus has died that with him we may live;

by all that he gave us, we learn how to give.

 

One body in Christ, let all play their part:

the lazy be warned, the timid take heart;

let those who are hurt never pay back with wrong,

but serve one another: together be strong!

 

Be constant in prayer, at all times rejoice.

in all things give thanks – let God hear your voice!

alive to his Spirit, alert to his word,

test all things, and hold to what pleases the Lord.

 

May God who first called, gave peace and made whole,

preserve us from fault in body and soul:

our Lord Jesus Christ keep us firm in his grace

until at his coming we meet face to face.

 

 

Part 2 next time………..

4. The Congregation and The Holy Spirit – v. 19 – 22

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22      19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. (NIV)

 

 

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

 

1 Thessalonians 5v12-18

 

The Congregation and Its Leaders – v.12 – 13

Leaders:    – oversight in the Lord.

– work hard.

– discipline when necessary.

      Give them the respect & recognition God expects.

 

The Congregation and The Individual – v. 14 – 15

  • Warn the idle.
  • Encourage the timid.
  • Help the weak.
  • Be patient and kind.
  • Don’t be vengeful.

 

The Congregation and God – v.16 – 18

  • Rejoice always.
  • Pray continually.
  • Give thanks in all circumstances.

 

The Congregation and The Holy Spirit – v. 19 – 22

 

  • Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.
  • Do not treat prophecies with contempt.
  • Test everything.
  • Hold on to the good.
  • Avoid every kind of evil.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 – Don’t live in your pyjamas!

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

 

Don’t live in your pyjamas!

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

There are two questions that most people ask at some point – for some it might be a passing thought while for others they may be all consuming – and the questions are these.

What happens after death?

What will happen at the end of the world?

 

Both of these questions were bothering the Thessalonian Christians. The first one we dealt with last time. They were concerned about the Christians who had died and Paul assures them and us that just as God raised Jesus from the dead so too will he raise back to life those who died in Christ when Jesus returns. How can we know that Jesus will come back? Because he died and rose again. God said that the Messiah would come and die and rise again and he did – THERFORE we can be confident that he will come again AND we can be confident that what he said about the dead rising will also come true!

 

In 4:13-18 Paul dealt with bereavement and the Christian dead – it is right and proper to grieve for the dead but for the Christian it is not a hopeless grief because Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

 

 

He now addresses himself more directly to the subject of those who will be living at Christ’s return and with the issue of Judgement – ‘the day of the Lord’

 

THE DAY OF THE LORD.

What does this mean? There are many things to be said about what exactly this means – BUT the basic general meaning is to the Day of Judgement. Not 24 hours but the time when God will call all people to account.

 

In the OT the prophets frequently referred to the Day of the Lord:-

Amos 5:18-20

18 Woe to you who long

for the day of the LORD!

Why do you long for the day of the LORD?

That day will be darkness, not light.

…….          20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light —

pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (NIV)

Joel 2:31    31 The sun will be turned to darkness

and the moon to blood

before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

 

This is what Paul is referring to when he talks about ‘the Day of the Lord’.

The question is therefore, “How can sinful people be ready to face God on that Day?”

In the light of this the Thessalonians were concerned and rightly so. But is seems from Paul’s reply that they asked the wrong question.

 

  1. 1.     THE WRONG QUESTION.

“When will Jesus return?”

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

 

There have always been those who speculate about the end of the world – in our time [even this year] we have seen those dates come and go. As we approach a new millennium these speculations have increased.

Was the Thessalonian Christians’ interest in this simply idle curiosity? I think not.  They wanted to know so that they could make suitable preparations. It would be much easier to prepare for Christ’s coming, they imagined, if the knew when he would arrive.

 

Paul’s response to their question is to reaffirm what Jesus taught his disciples – they too wanted to know when –

Mark 13:4 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” (NIV)

BUT Jesus’ reply was

Mark 13:32            32 “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (NIV)

Later Jesus told the Apostles just before his ascension that it was not their business to know Acts 1:7 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (NIV)

 

Paul uses two illustrations to emphasise certain aspects of Jesus’ return.

  • Like a thief in the night
  • Like the labour pains of a pregnant woman

 

Both emphasise suddenness –

Suddenly the Day of the Lord will come like a thief.

Suddenly destruction and judgement will come like the labour pains.

ILLUS.: The thing about a thief is that he doesn’t usually send you a postcard with the date and time he intends to burglar your house. There is no advanced warning – he does make an appointment.

ILLUS.: When a baby comes – it is usually NOT at a very convenient time – Andrew and Vicki both arrived at about 2:00 am – When Stephen came I has to abandon a game of squash and rush Janet through rush hour traffic in Johannesburg and Stephen was born 30 minutes after we got there.

 

While both illustrate the suddenness there is also an obvious difference between them. The thief is sudden and unexpected whereas the labours pain, once pregnancy has begun, is expected – indeed it is inevitable!

 

Like the thief in the night Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected and there will be no warning!

Like the labour pains Christ’s coming will be sudden and unavoidable and there will be no escape from the coming judgement!

 

Paul tells the Thessalonians that they cannot know when Christ will come. Asking for dates and times is asking the wrong question!

 

What then is the right question that both they and we should ask?

 

  1. 2.     THE RIGHT QUESTION.

“How can I be ready for his coming?”

 

1 Thessalonians 5:4-8            4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (NIV)

 

There is no need for us to be anxious about Christ’s coming! There is no need for us to be taken by surprise – it may be sudden but it is not unexpected for those who are waiting for it.

 

The reason why burglars surprise us is that they come unexpectedly in the middle of the night when we are asleep. There is nothing we can do about when a burglar comes but there is something we can do about being asleep!

 

Related to Christ’s coming the implications are clear – there is nothing we can do about the Dates and times BUT there is much we can do about being awake and alert. – But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief

 

What does Paul have in mind regarding day and night and light and darkness?

Burglars surprise people because they come in the dark – when people  are asleep – or when they have drunk too much, usually at night.

Darkness, sleep and drunkenness are 3 reasons why people are unprepared for a burglar – if only they were more considerate and come in the day we might be more prepared!

If they came in the day it would be light – we would likely be wide awake – we would be unlikely to be drunk but rather sober and alert

 

How does this apply spiritually?

 

Thinking about the spiritual – Will Jesus come in the day or at night? The answer is both!! It depends who you are.

 

For the unbelievers he will come in the night because they belong to the night and live in spiritual darkness.

 

Not so for the believer – 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness …. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

 

What does this day and night / light and darkness represent?

The Bible divides history into two eras / ages. The present Age and the Age to Come.

In the OT [the present, dark, evil Age] they were awaiting the coming of Messiah who would usher in a new era. When Messiah came a new day would come / a light would shine.

Jesus was that long awaited Messiah – with his coming came the dawn of a new age –

Luke 1:78-79 78 because of the tender mercy of our God,

by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

79 to shine on those living in darkness     and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (NIV)

1 John 2:8 8 ….; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. (NIV)

 

AGE TO COME

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live between the two Comings of Jesus – Those who belong to Christ have already begun to live in the Age to Come. Eternal life in Christ doesn’t begin when a Christian dies or when Jesus returns. It begins at the moment of conversion when a sinner repents and trusts Christ for salvation.

 

Hebrews 6:5 5 who [Christians] have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, (NIV)

Colossians 1:13 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (NIV)

 

Only when Jesus return in all his glory will the present overlap of the two ages end and Christians will enjoy the fullness of the Age to Come.

 

THEREFORE at Christ’s return whether we are ready or not will depend upon whether or not we are in the darkness or the Light – those in the light will not be taken by surprise.

 

The question each one has to ask in relation to this passage is “Am I in the light or the dark – do I belong to Christ or not?

 

ILLUS.: Imagine you have a wonderful family friend, Harry, who has been travelling abroad. On a particular day in the summer he is return for a visit. The family goes to bed early you draw the curtains and you sleep well – too well!

In the morning the sun rises early and it is a glorious day BUT you know nothing because you are still fast asleep and the curtains are drawn.

Your young daughter however is awake early and she throws back the curtains – the sun floods into her room – she is up and washed and dressed – there is a knock at the door – there’s Harry. She is ready to welcome him – she is not taken by surprised – she is awake, alert and in the light!!!

You however are still in a groggy state of confusion, still asleep and still in the dark.

 

Spiritually speaking – do you belong to the day or the night? Are you in the Light or the Darkness.

Has the light of Jesus Christ shone into your heart?

 

Are you still sleep walking your way through life – living in your Pyjamas!!

 

As Christians we are to be alert and living life appropriately equipped – 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (NIV)

 

We are to be Christian soldier appropriately dressed in the breastplate of faith and love and wearing the helmet of the hope of salvation – spiritually awake / self-controlled / disciplined – recognising that we belong to the Kingdom of Light. Dressed for the battle of life, alert that our commander-in-chief may return at any point and we don’t want to be caught still in our pyjamas!!

 

 

  1. 3.     The Sure Foundation of our Hope.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. (NIV)

 

We are able to be in the light / alert / equipped for life NOT by our own efforts but because of who God is and what Christ has done.

 

It is not God’s purpose that his people should suffer his anger and judgement which our sins deserve BUT he gives us salvation as a free gift to rescue us from that judgement by giving us forgiveness.

HOW?

Christ died for us so that, …. we may live together with him

He died so that we might live – not just live any kind of life but life with HIM.

He died our death so that we might live his life!!

 

Our future hope as Christians is not founded upon our efforts – not upon the shaking feeble foundations of our strivings or feelings BUT rather upon the sure foundation of God’s appointing and upon Christ’s death for us so that we might live!

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (NIV)

We live in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity! There has been no war in Western Europe for half a century – the economy is strong.

People are saying “Peace and safety” YET we know that many are fearful and uncertain about the future.

More families are breaking up – more teenage girls are getting pregnant – more drugs are being taken  – more people are dabbling in occultish practices – people are more afraid to go out on the streets at night than before – there is turmoil in people’s lives because of broken relationship / broken hearts …

—- there isn’t “Peace and Safety”  in spite of a strong economy and lack of military conflict in our land!

 

Peace is not in Political stability – Peace is in knowing God through Jesus Christ!

Safety is not in the hands of Police Forces and Armies – it is in Christ!

Our future is secure only in Him.

So whether it is our concern for those who have died / or whether it our concern about the future the answer “Look up! Christ is coming again!”

Are you awake? Are you alert? Are you in the Light? Do you know Jesus?

Don’t live in your Pyjamas!!

 

 

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

 

DON’T LIVE IN YOUR PYJAMAS!

 

1. THE WRONG QUESTION.

“When will Jesus return?”

 

Thief at night

  • Sudden
  • Unexpected

·      No warning

 

Labours pains

  • Sudden
  • Unavoidable

·      No escape

 

 

2. THE RIGHT QUESTION.

“How can I be ready for his coming?”

 

NOT Ready!                               Ready!

  • night
  • darkness
  • drunk
  • asleep

 

  • day
  • light
  • sober
  • alert

 

  1. 3.       THE SURE FOUNDATION OF OUR HOPE.
God has appointed his people:…

         NOT for wrath … BUT for salvation

Jesus died our death so that we could live his life!

1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13 – Balancing Truth and Love

1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13

 

Balancing Truth and Love.

 

Introduction.

 

In this long section from 2v1 – 3v13 Paul is explaining and defending his visit to Thessalonica and why he had to leave and has been unable to return. In very passionate terms he expresses his strong feelings of love, commitment and responsibility for the believers in Thessalonica.

 

We learned last time from 2v1-12 what Paul’s goals and priorities were; viz. a protector and proclaimer of the Word of God.  That his life was characterised by openness and integrity and that he had a deep love and commitment to his fellow-believers, especially those to whom he himself had brought the message of Jesus Christ.

 

One of the challenges that the Church constantly faces is the balancing of Truth and Love.

ILLUS.: In the Church in which I grew up we had two groups of people leave the church at different time. One group who became ultra-reformed – they were more Calvinistic than Calvin – they were the champions of the truth. ||They would sit in the front of the church and shake their heads in unison if they disagreed with the preacher. They caused much hurt and harm to the body of the church.

Another time there was a group who felt the church was too stuffy – it needed to loosen up – be more loving. This was the 1960’s early 70’s – the days of flower power – the Jesus generation. They also cause harm because they were so intent on being uncritical that they accepted everything.

 

Now they were both right and both wrong. They were right in that they both expressed a truth of the gospel. We are to hold to the truth and we are to be loving BUT when we do one to the detriment or exclusion of the otherwe harm the gospel.

 

How do you think ‘RailTrack’ would look if it claimed at an accident inquiry “Well, one of our tracks was straight!!”

 

What we emphasised last time was Paul’s commitment to the truth. The Word of God – which is what he believed and preached – which is what governed his goals and priorities in life. He also lived openly and with integrity in the light of God’s word.

 

In this next section he deals with the reasons why he has been unable to return to visit them. In these verses we get an insight into how deeply he cared for them.

 

1. God’s displeasure and anger at Persecutors. 2:13-16.

 

Paul has talked about the suffering of the church – he talks in verses 14-16 about those who have caused the church to suffer.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. (NIV)

 

It is easy to misinterpret Paul’s outburst against the Jews as being anti-Semitic – many have used these verses to justify anti-Semitism.

As with all scripture we must be careful not to read into it what is not there AND we must be diligent in putting such verses into the context in which they were written.

 

Remember that Paul is writing to Christians – His purpose is to encourage them – He is assuring them that the sufferings they are experiencing are not unique. What the Thessalonian Christians are suffering from their own countrymen, the Gentiles, is similar to what the Judean Christians suffer at the hands of their countrymen, the Jews.

Paul accuses the Jews of five things:

  • They killed the Lord Jesus
  • They killed … the prophets – which Jesus also did
  • They .. also drove us out. He puts himself and the other apostles on a par with the prophets of the OT
  • They displease God –esp. by rejecting the Messiah
  • They are hostile to all men – this has its outworking in the fact that they are hindering the preaching of God’s gospel.

 

It is because of this that they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last – Now we could spend a long time on this – basically Paul is saying that there have always been those in Israel who, because of their disobedience incur the wrath of God. Whether Paul had in mind the severe famine in Judea around the time of writing or whether he was thinking of future wrath, we don’t know!

 

The idea of the wrath of God against those who reject the Messiah is clear in the NT

John 3:18 18 Whoever believes in him {JESUS} is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (NIV)

Rejection of God’s Messiah is in itself judgement as he is the only means of salvation.

 

This is still a warning to all who would hinder the gospel – bearing in mind that Jesus said ..Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (NIV)

We are either with Jesus working to his agenda or we are against him – you can’t sit on the fence – There is no fence – there is a huge chasm so it isn’t possible to have a foot on both sides. Either you are with Jesus or by design or default you are against him.

 

Back to the question of anti-Semitism – There is much to be said and we would need to look carefully at everything Paul says.

  • Paul is not here talking about all Jews everywhere. His primary focus was those of his day who were Not only refusing to accept Jesus as Messiah BUT were also actively opposing those who did.
  • Remember Paul is a Jew and proud of his Jewish heritage – he is an insider.
  • He loved his own people as well as the Gentiles. We need to read this passage in conjunction with passage like Romans 3 and Romans 9-11 where Paul declares that he is willing to forfeit his own salvation, if that were possible, in order that some of his fellows Jews could be saved.
  • After he left Thessalonica he went to other towns and cities and continued his practice of going to the synagogue to preach the good news about Jesus the Messiah.

 

There is no place for anti-Semitism in the church – sadly church-history testifies otherwise. There is no basis in scripture for discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender or social status. Colossians 3:11 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (NIV)

 

2. Paul’s pastor-heart. 2:17 – 3-13.

 

Paul’s purpose in this section is to explain to the Thessalonian Church why he has been unable to visit them. These reason also serve as answers to his critics who have accused him of being a coward and charlatan.

 

This is a long passage and so we can only paint a few broad strokes.

What does Paul say to them and what principles can we draw?

 

a)     His reluctant departure. 2v17a

1 Thessalonians 2:17  But, brothers, when for a short time (in person, not in thought), …..

The phrase we were torn away from you is Greek word – ‘orphanos’ – What does it sound like? “Orphan” – it is the picture of a child being deprived of its parents. In the NT it has a wider use in that it can apply to a parent deprived of a child.

ILLUS.: We have all seen film about the Holocaust where children and parents are forcibly separated – that is the force of what Paul is saying. His departure was an unnatural, forced and painful separation.

In spite of being separated bodily he was very much with them in thought and spirit.

 

b)    His attempted returns. 2v17b-20

1 Thessalonians 2:17-20       17 …. out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you — certainly I, Paul, did, again and again — but. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

 

It is clear that Paul’s affection and love for them is very deep – our hope our joy our crown. There might be an element of overstatement but in keeping with his description of himself as Mother and father to them we see the kind of pride and joy that Parents have for their children. They were Paul’s spiritual children.

In the light of his deep feeling for them he has tried repeatedly to visit them BUT Satan stopped us –

He doesn’t tells us how Satan stopped him – ILLUS.: Remember the famous Zola Budd trip? Zola Budd was a SA middle distance athlete who came to UK and obtained British citizenship and went with the British team to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games. In the final of the 1500 /or 3000 M she cut in on the US favour Mary Decker and tripped her up and put her out of the race.

 

We need to recognise that that we are in a constant spiritual battle and Satan is always trying to trip us up to hinder the work of God!

 

How did Paul know it was Satan? We don’t know – We need to be aware of his activities – never ignoring him while at the same time not giving him more attention that necessary. NOR must we blame him, as some are prone to do, for things that would better be attributed to our own laziness or sinfulness.

 

c)     His spiritual representative. 3v1-5

 

Paul purpose in sending Timothy was threefold:

i)                   … 2 ….., to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, – Timothy was to teach them and build them up in their faith. AND also to cheer them up.

ii)                His purpose was also to assure them that their difficulties were not unexpected or uncommon 3 so that no-one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. Interesting how we see Paul here teaching new converts and one of the first things he teaches them is that they will suffer. Are we not unfaithful to the gospel when we fail in this.

Matthew 5:11  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (NIV)

John 15:20  Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. ….

John 16:33 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

 

 

iii)              Paul’s’ third reason for sending Timothy was because he could no longer take the strain of not know what was happening to them and how they were holding up under the persecution. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 1 So when we could stand it no longer, .2 We sent Timothy, …

 

d)      His joy at a good report. 3v6-10

When Timothy returns from his visit and reports back to Paul – the apostle is ecstatic. He is overjoyed that their faith is strong in the face of persecution and that they hold him in deep affection.1 Thess 3:8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

The fact that the Thessalonians were secure in the Lord made Paul’s life worth living – all the suffering was worth it. Yet he still longs to see them – This is true today. Praying for someone is good, writing to them is even better but there is still no substitute for face-to-face encouragement.

 

e)     His continual praying. 3v11-13

He prays for something practical – that he may visit again

He prays for their mutual love to increase.

He prays that they will grow spiritually so that at Christ’s return they may be accepted into his presence

No matter how hard we work at our Christian life – no matter how much effort we put into ministry – if we fail to pray we fail!!!

 

CONCLUSION. [Summary of chs. 2-3]

We have skimmed through chapters 2-3 but there are two main point to emphasise.

Paul’s love and commitment to God’s people is obvious throughout this section – he has likened himself to a ‘mother’ and a ‘father’.

His commitment to God’s Word is equally apparent.

 

  • A commitment to God’s word.

3x in these chapters Paul refers to ‘the gospel of God’ and 2x to ‘the word of God’.

Paul emphasises that his message comes from God – he never invented it. He is a trustee / steward of it AND responsible to pass it on faithfully.

If we are going to be authentic Christians involved in God’s work then we MUST begin with a commitment to God’s Word – as stewards entrusted with it and as heralds, those with the task of communicating it to others.

We are not apostles like Paul, but we have the apostolic teaching and we are trustees of it.

Our task as God’s people is to keep the Word, study it, explain it, apply it and above all obey it.

 

  • A commitment to God’s people.

The way he expresses his love and affection for the Thessalonian Christians shows Paul’s commitment to God’s people. Paul’s love for the church of Christ was to the point of a complete self-giving.

 

When we consider the state of the church today do we se this double commitment to the word of God and the People of God?

  • Sometimes we are so anxious to display the truth that there is little love.
  • Sometimes we are so anxious to appear loving that there is little concern for the truth of God’s Word.

Truth is rigid and hard if not softened by love and Love is soft and spineless if it is not strengthened by truth.

 

Maybe the church today is weak and ineffective because we are not really committed to either – we have allowed the philosophies and norms of society to water down the truth so that it is compromised. And we have allowed the preoccupation with self, with comfort and with my rights to hinder us fulfilling our God-given responsibilities to love sacrificially and unconditionally.

 

However, we must not hang our heads in despair and think all is lost – it never is with God! In spite of all the pressures the church survives. We may not face the direct persecutions that Paul’s readers faced BUT that doesn’t mean we are not under Satan’s attack. Sometimes he is like a roaring lion seeking to devour – at other times he is masquerading as an angel of Light seeking to deceive!

Remember Jesus has defeated Satan and the Church will be triumphant!

 

In the mean time we must balance truth and love! HOW? There is only on possibly answer – by the power of the Holy Spirit.

He is the source of Truth – John 14:17 17 the Spirit of truth. …. for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 16:13 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

 

He is also the one who enables us to love – Galatians 5:22 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (NIV)

 

What we all need above all else is the fullness of the Spirit as he alone can and is willing to help us balance Truth and Love!

 

 

 

Balancing Truth and Love.

 

1 Thessalonians 2:13-3:13

 

  1. 1.         God’s displeasure at Persecutors. 2:13-16.

 

  • Those who oppose God’s gospel will incur his wrath
  • Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me…”

                                                           Matthew 12:30

 

2. Paul’s pastor-heart. 2:17 – 3-13.

  • His reluctant departure.      2:17a
  • His attempted returns.        2:17b-20
  • His spiritual representative.      3:1-5
  • His joy at a good report.     3:6-10
  • His continual praying.         3:11-13

 

Summary of chapters 2 and 3.

  

A Commitment to God’s Word.

A Commitment to God’s People.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-16 – Practice what you preach

1 Thessalonians 2v1-16.

“PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH!”

INTRODUCTION.

 

One of the greatest challenges to the Christian Church throughout its history has been to put into practice what it preaches. Sadly many terrible things have taken place in the name of Christianity. History is scattered with the debris of Christian malpractice. Not only on a national and organised scale in events like the Crusades but in countless-thousand inter-personal encounters every day.

Happily, there are on the other hand, there are equally thousands of example of Christians giving themselves in self-sacrificing love for the benefit of others.

The challenge that is before us this morning is to look at the example of the apostle Paul and emulate it.

A reminder of Paul’s circumstances, and of those to whom he wrote, will help us to better grasp what the apostle is saying.

BACKGROUND.

Paul and Silas had come to Thessalonica to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. The opposition to their message was intense – it sparked public riot and legal charges were brought and they were forced to make a hasty and humiliating escaped from the city in the middle of the night.

Paul’s opponents, mainly the religious Jews though not exclusively as many pagan Gentiles were also critics, – these tried to take advantage of his flight and discredit him before that new Thessalonian Christians.

In short they started a smear campaign. What did they say? We don’t know exactly but we can hazard a guess by looking at Paul’s defence.

Possible accusations:

  • He ran away so he can’t be sincere
  • His motives are suspect – he is obviously motivated by money, sex, prestige or power like many of the charlatan orators travelling from city to city.
  • He does care about new followers as soon as danger came he took off to save his own skin.

In 2v1-16 Paul defends his conduct while he was in Thessalonica and then in 2v17 – 3v13 that he was forced to leave and has since been prevented from returning in spite of his strong desire to do so.

In this section vv1-16 Paul calls on God and the Thessalonians to be his witnesses that his intentions are honourable, he wasn’t seeking personal gain and he did care for them very deeply.

What are some of the things we can learn from Paul’s model?

We can learn from this passage what Paul’s goals and priorities were – that his life was characterised by openness and integrity and that he had a deep love and commitment to his fellow-believers, especially those to whom he himself had brought the message of Jesus Christ.

We also learn from the end of this section [v14-16] that God is displeased and angry with those who oppose his gospel. [next time]

  1. 1.     Paul’s goals and priorities.

There is much taught these days in books and seminars, both secular and religious, about setting goals and priorities. Whether you are in business or education or the NHS or whatever setting targets and developing strategies, and achievable and measurable goals – these are the buzzwords of the seminar meeting rooms.

However trendy this language may have become it is not new nor is it unimportant. It can be over done especially if there is much talk and little action.

In some ways it is simple – it is knowing the direction to go and making choices that take us in that direction.

ILLUS.: There was a hit song in the 1960’s by a group call “Lovin’ Spoonful” –

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

To pick up on one, and leave the other behind

It’s not often easy, and not often kind,

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

It is about priorities.

One of the hard lessons we have to learn very early on in Life is “If you do this you can’t do that!”

Life is a matter of making choices. What sport will is play? What subjects will I take for my GCSE’s or A-levels? Which universities should I apply to?

Who will I marry? Where should we live? And on and on and on….

We are overwhelmed by choice –

Goals and priorities not only help us to make choices they also provide a yardstick by which to evaluate.

Paul tells that Thessalonians that his purpose was to tell them the gospel [v2].

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2      1 You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure. {empty / vain – of purpose not results} 2 {But} We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition. (NIV)

Paul is saying that his journey was not aimless in that he just happened to pass by Thessalonica. No! His going to Thessalonica was part of the plan to preach the gospel. Paul’s overriding priority was allegiance to God who had called him to preach the gospel.

Serving God faithfully was clearly Paul’s single most important priority. His purpose in preaching was not to make a name for himself or satisfy his hearers BUT to do only that which pleased God – 1 Thessalonians 2:4 4 On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (NIV)

You see in the final analysis what we think or what other people think is of little consequences in comparison to what God thinks. It is not that others are unimportant BUT rather that God is so much more important.

Our priorities and goals should therefore in keeping with God’s agenda if we are to please him – after all he is the one to whom we are ultimately accountable – – he is the one who tests our hearts.

When our goal is to please God and be accountable to him we are able to place both the praise and criticism of men at his feet.

As a Christian my goal / priority is Christ – the name Christian implies one who follows Jesus. I therefore have to evaluate my life’s purpose and direction.

Questions I need to ask myself?

  • What do I really want to do with my life?
  • What AM I doing with my life?
  • What is it that I really value in life?
  • Is serving Jesus and living in accordance with his word really the most important thing for me?
  • OR am I simply accumulating a big enough nest egg so I can retire and pursue my own interests?
  • Am I [maybe unconsciously] trying to serve two masters?
  • What do my activities say about my goals and priorities?

These are the hard questions I must ask myself!!

  1. 2.     Paul’s openness and integrity.

In the ancient world of Paul’s day there were many travelling orators, alleged miracle workers, con artists etc. Many were smooth talkers with the gift of the gab. Some covered their activities with a religious veneer. Often public speaking was characterised by fraud, flattery, impure motives and trickery.

It was precisely because of these fly-by-night charlatans that Paul and the other apostles sought to conduct themselves with openness and integrity. He didn’t want to be stereotyped as a fraudster NOT did he want the truthfulness of the gospel to be undermined.

How did he do this?

  • He sought to proclaim the truth of the gospel truthfully. In his own words from 2 Corinthians 4:2 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (NIV)
  • He was extremely careful in his behaviour, esp. financial matters — 2 Corinthians 2:17 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. …..

Instead he often work very hard [ day and night] to support himself so as not to take any money — 1 Thessalonians 2:9 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

1 Thessalonians 2:3 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. (NIV)

He is saying our message is true, our motives are pure and our methods are open and honest.

This is the way all Christians should live BUT esp. those who have been entrusted with the leadership of the Church as those who set examples.

When the messenger lacks integrity then the message is compromised.

ILLUS.: Fortunately we are not plagued with as many Tele-evangelists as in the USA. Over the years we have seen SOME of the preachers exposed for relationships with prostitutes – racking in funds for person profit – claiming to have messages from about people in the congregation when in actual fact he is receiving message from a radio control room etc… [these activities are not just limited to the USA!! – we have had our fair share of churchmen in scandal]

What is common to all these examples is that they lack integrity – they have preached one thing and practised another.

The negative consequences of such behaviour does untold damage to the gospel of Christ.

This is not, of course, just limited to public figures – there are many in churches up and down the land who don’t live by the principles they claim to believe.

NOW before we climb on our ‘moral high-horses’ let’s remember that none of us in above sin! At best we are all sinners saved by grace. And when a brother or sister in Christ falls, it is not our task to sit is judgement or point fingers. That does not men that we have to approve of behaviour that is contrary to scripture.

One thing I do know – God in infinitely more understanding and merciful that I will ever be.

While we are familiar with the fall-out because of disgraced Christian leader we must also remember the goodwill and high-esteem earned by those who have worked hard at living with integrity for the sake of the gospel.

ILLUS.: Think of people like Billy Graham, Mother Theresa, former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn who have work hard for ‘Habitat for Humanity’ providing homes for the poor …..

What we need to note is that Billy Graham has work hard at integrity – it did not happen by accident. When he started his ministry half a century ago he an his team established firm guideline (like he would never be alone in a room with a woman except his wife).

Stephen Carter in his book Integrity writes this [from NIV Application Commentary on 1Thessalonians – Michael Holmes] “Integrity, .. requires three steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong. [Italics his]

Thus integrity is not something that happens by accident – it involves the hard work of discerning what is right and the living it out consistently. It is not only a matter of ethical insight / or of knowing what the Bible says but it is also a matter of discipline.

Without a disciplined life, integrity will not be achieved – another reason why we often struggle so with integrity is that w struggle with discipline. We lack the discipline to do what we say.

Openness and integrity is not something that is instantly acquired – if we are not prepared for the long haul we are unlikely to achieve the kind of integrity Paul is talking about. This is fundamentally important for all of us who have been entrusted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the messenger isn’t credible the message is unlikely to be believed.

  1. 3.     Paul’s love and commitment.

Paul uses two metaphors to describe to the Thessalonians the depth of his love and commitment.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 7 .. we were gentle among you, like a [nursing] mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, ….

11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God….

Unlike the travelling charlatans of his day who used their audiences illicit gain Paul and his fellow-workers gave themselves to the people – they didn’t simply dump the gospel message on them but gave them their lives.

Their dealing with the Thessalonians were characterised by the kind of love that a nursing mother has for her infant.

A mother’s love is gentle and self-sacrificing.

He also likes himself to their father – far from being a burden to them [v9] he takes on responsibility for them – as a good father should be responsible for his family – he was there to support them, encourage them, train them and urge them to live for the glory of God – no doubt a discipline role as well.

Paul’s life and ministry amongst them was for their good and God’s glory. [v12]

One of the subtlest pitfalls we face in ministering to others is the temptation to meet our own needs, or to do things for people to win their approval, or to get them to like us.

We will gladly serve others as long as somehow we benefit or the strain on our time energy and money is not too great!

We admire people like Mother Theresa but somehow we skilfully manage to avoid following her example – at least I do!!

Is it any wonder the bible describes the human heart and ‘deceitful above all things’ [Jer.17:9]

We all know about ‘fair-weather friends’ and let’s face it we have probably all been one!

We live in an age of self-centredness – while true love is sacrificial – this is the essence of the gospel.

Paul’s example of committed costly love for others runs counter to our ‘self’ culture.

In how to spend his time he didn’t think first of his own needs or rights, but those of the Thessalonians. He could have been enjoying the popular tourist attraction of Thessalonica while staying and the ‘Salonica Ritz’ rather than bedding down on the living-room floor at Jason house.

But for their sakes and because of his love for them and for God he willingly endured ‘toil and hardship’ [v9] and to share with them not only the gospel but his life [v8].

In doing this he was simply following the example of Jesus who came to give NOT get, to serve NOT be served.

The thing is though that in serving others and giving of himself Paul found happiness and satisfaction.

It is evident from v8 that a strong bond of love developed between Paul and the Thessalonian Church 1 Thessalonians 2:8 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. (NIV)

It seems he received back more than he imagined. Paul proved in his life the truth of Jesus words Luke 9:24 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. (NIV)

If we miss this principle of turning away from self – of meeting the needs of others – of putting others first – then we will never be really happy. A selfish person is never happy, at least not for very long.

Even some modern therapist have recognised this principle.

ILLUS.: from NIV Application Commentary on 1Thessalonians – Michael Holmes – Karl Menninger, a psychiatrist, is reported to have said in answering a question about advice for a person suffering from depression, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find a person in need and do something to help that person.”

Conclusion.

  • Do I have a clear idea of where I am going – goals and priorites?
  • Am I prepared to be disciplined in doing what is right even at personal cost? –integrity
  • Am I willing to put the needs of others before my own – in short to show unconditional love?

“PRACTISE WHAT YOU PREACH!”

1 Thessalonians 2v1-12.

  • Paul’s goals and priorities.

Questions I need to ask myself?

  • What do I really want to do with my life?
  • What AM I doing with my life?
  • What is it that I really value in life?
  • Is serving Jesus and living in accordance with his word really the most important thing for me?
    • OR am I simply accumulating a big enough nest egg so I can retire and pursue my own interests?
    • Am I (maybe unconsciously) trying to serve two masters?
    • What do my activities say about my goals and priorities?
  • Paul’s openness and integrity.
    • our message is true
    • our motives are pure
    • our methods are open and honest

 

  • Paul’s love and commitment.
  • like a mother  – gentle, caring and loving
  • like a father – encouraging, comforting and urging you to

live lives worthy of God….

Jesus said: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24

 “[Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve..”  Matthew 20:28

1 Thessalonians 1:5-10 – The Church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ

1Thessalonians 1v5-10.

 

The Church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

Introduction.

 

The circumstances in which we live are in most respects very difference from those of the very young Thessalonian Church. Christianity was a new religion that few people knew anything about. The prevailing culture and political climate was opposed to Christianity and persecuted the Church as a result. Paul and Silas were themselves hounded out of Thessalonica. However the reports that Paul hears about this young Church are encouraging and he writes to commend them and instruct them.

 

We may not be persecuted for our faith – although there are thousands of Christians in many countries who are – nevertheless we do face indifferent resistance. When we say we believe the bible we are labelled as narrow-minded and intolerant. When we acknowledge being believers in Jesus Christ and all he said and did we are thought to believe in fantasies and fairy stories to quote someone who Alan and Marion met on the door.

 

The temptation for the Thessalonians was to either turn away from the gospel they received or downplay it and compromise so as to make it palatable to the hostile community.

 

The temptation we face is similar in that we are under constant pressure to downplay the absolute truth of the gospel. Not only so as not to offend others but also to pander to our own wants and desire which society says are our rights – “We own it to ourselves to be happy” There is an uncritical acceptance that we have an inalienable right to happiness!

God’s primary aim is to make us holy – not happy! We will be happy if we seek God first. BUT often we pursue happiness and end up being neither happy nor holy!

This is true not only of individuals but also congregations.

 

Areas we considered last time….

THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE

  1. Rooted in God.
  2. Loved and chosen by God.
  3. Characterised by faith, love and hope.

 

 

 

This week…..

The Church committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

The church is a community of people committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If it is not, then it is either not a Church in the true sense or it is a disobedient church. This is the foundation upon which the church is based Jesus Christ – He is the Saviour by his death and resurrection – 1 Thessalonians 1:10 10 … his [God’s] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

He is our focus and hope – 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ….. and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the model which the church is to follow – 1 Thessalonians 1:6 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; ……

 

This was the message that Paul preached to the Thessalonians – Acts 17.

 

  1. The gospel message came.

 

Paul reminds his reader in v.5 not only that the gospel came to them but also the manner in which it came.

This is helpful as it gives us principles as to how the message of the gospel is communicated.

The Gospel did not simply fall from the sky over Thessalonica but it was brought by Paul and Silas.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 5 … our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. …..

 

These 4 phrases help understand how the gospel message came.

 

a)     with words.

It is quite true that the message of the gospel does not come ONLY with words but it is communicated by words. There is a move in some churches to minimise the preaching and teaching of the word of God and the verbal witness of individual Christians.

Some have sidelined preaching in place of drama or media images – now images can be very powerful – these things may enhance the verbal but should not replace it. The visual should never replace the verbal.

 

ILLUS.: I have heard Christians over the years say “Well I do not tell people about the gospel I just live a good life!”

How will they ever know why you live a good life – What motivates you to live a good life – unless you tell them.

It is trey that images are very powerful BUT it is also true that images need to be interpreted.

More than anyone, Jesus’ actions were power demonstrations of the gospel but even he had to explain verbally – if he hadn’t we would not have know that he was the Son of God.

 

So whether in public preaching / teaching or in private witness we need to choose our words careful – we need to learn to articulate what we believe.  The more we do it the better we will become at doing it.

 

b)    with power

 

ILLUS. When we lived in Lisbon – Portugal – about 10 years ago driving was quite and experience. Parking in central Lisbon was a haphazard with an almost total disregard for the needs of pedestrians. I asked a Portugese friend once if there were parking regulations. He just laughed “yes, but no one enforces them”

 

The words of the regulations were written down somewhere but there was no power behind them.

 

Mere words can be disregarded or misunderstood and therefore need to backed up. This is especially true in communicating the gospel as blind eye and heard hearts do not naturally accept the message.

 

Without God’s power – specifically the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit – our talking about the gospel remains just powerless words.

The Word of God and the Spirit of God always work together.

Paul in Corinth – the Spirit is the power- 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

The Word is the weapon – Ephesians 6:17 17 ….. the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Stott – “The Spirit without the Word is weaponless; the Word without the Spirit is powerless

 

c)     with deep conviction

From his own conversion experience and from what he had observed in others, Paul was convicted of the truth and power of the gospel message. It was this conviction of its truth which gave him boldness in proclaiming the gospel.

Without this deep conviction our telling about Jesus is bound to be lacklustre.

d)    with the Holy Spirit

The last ‘ingredient’ of communicating the gospel covers the previous three. It is the Holy Spirit who makes the first three possible.

¨     It is the Spirit who gives the speaker an understanding of the truth.

¨     It is the Spirit who gives us the deep conviction that it is true.

¨     It is the Spirit who with power convinces the hearer to respond.

 

Paul then adds these words in 1:5 …… You know how we lived among you for your sake.

Not only did Paul and Silas tell the gospel, they lived it.

 

  1. The Gospel message was received.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

 

Paul now moves the focus from the speakers to the hearers

 

a)     in the face of difficulties

For us in 20th C. Britain to be Christians is no great sacrifice. Sometimes we are guilty of presenting the gospel as an easy-believism. That is not true for many in other parts and it was not true of the Thessalonians. The difficulties they face were real physical persecutions.

However, even in our very comfortable setting the gospel still arouses hostility because it challenges our human pride and self-indulgence.

 

b)    with Spirit-given joy

In spite of the difficulties they faced there was still joy in believing. The same Spirit who empowers the speaker gives joy to those who respond. The Spirit works from both ends – the speaker’s and the hearer’s.

This should give us great courage in our witness – we are never alone when we speak for Jesus as the Spirit is always at work in us and in the hearer.

Even when there is no respond or open hostility there can be joy in the believer’s heart – the history of Christian experience attests to this fact.

 

c)     with the intent of becoming modellers

1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord; ….. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (NIV)

The Thessalonian Christians had learned from Paul and Silas and had copied their Christian lifestyle. Paul does not want a following of his own but rather that imitate him inasmuch as he follows Christ.

When Jesus calls us to follow him it is with the intention that we will become like him –, as we become more and more like him that will show in our attitude and actions.

Not only were they to model themselves on Paul and Silas and therefore ultimately Christ BUT they are to be models to others. Paul commends them for the Christian character with is an example to all.

The word ‘model’ is a singular – probably signifying a collective model community.

Is your and my Christian life such the we could say without embarrassment or qualification “Follow me as I follow Christ”

 

  1. The gospel message was broadcast.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:8 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia — your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, (NIV)

 

What a wonderful tribute to this young Thessalonian Church.

 

They broadcast the message of their new-found faith in two ways.

a)     Directly

What the NIV has as ‘rang out’ is used of loud noises like thunder or a trumpet sound. So it is clear that they actively and directly proclaimed the gospel.

 

b)    Indirectly

Also their faith ‘became known’ – far and wide as they went about they communicated the gospel – in their actions, attitude and conversation.

 

We live in a world of mass-media, much more so than Paul’s day. Printed image, TV, Radio, WWW, etc… and we should use every means to trumpet / thunder the gospel -–i.e. to communicate it loud and clear.

However, there is another way that is in fact still more effective. It is very simple; we don’t need computers or expensive sound equipment. In fact it cost nothing in financial terms. It is simply the excited gossiping of the gospel from person to person in 1000’s of personal encounters from day to day.

 

What did they talk about? “Do you know what has happened to me? Do you know what such and such a person said? Can you see how so-and-so has changed? You know there are some amazing things happening in Thessalonica.”

 

What was the content of their conversations?

 

  1. The gospel message.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 9 …. you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (NIV)

 

In these two verses we have one of the most compact descriptions of Christian conversion in the NT.

 

a)     turning from idols

Thessalonica, like most towns of the time, had its fair share of idols. On a clear day they would have been able to see Mt. Olympus which was supposedly the home of the Greek gods.

Today in many culture there are those who worship material images of some kind. The thought of breaking away from these fills their worshippers with dread as they fear revenge from the spirits.

Of course we know full well that idols can be more subtle than wood / stone images.

In our modern cities was are far more sophisticated with our God substitutes than animistic tribes people of Africa or Asia – yet our idols can be just as powerful.

Many are in almost crazed pursuit of money, power or fame. Our obsession with work, sport, TV can be idolatry. Our infatuation with a person can be equally idolatrous. For many we need look no further than the self to find an idol. By nature humans will try to substitute all kinds of things in place of worship of the one true God.

 

b)    turning to the living and true God

No one can claim to have turned away from idols unless there is a turning to God at the same time.

God is alive but the idols are dead – the psalmist describes them as follows:-

Psalm 115:5-7 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,

eyes, but they cannot see;             6 they have ears, but cannot hear,

noses, but they cannot smell; 7 they have hands, but cannot feel,

feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.

He follows this ridicule with the sad observation that those who follow idolatry are just as dead as the idols they worship.

God is the Living King of the Universe and any idol whether a religion image or something less obvious is a cheap and lifeless substitute for the living God.

Not only is God living, he is also the TRUE God – implying that all others are false.

ILLUS.: I was talking with some one yesterday and they commented that “It is good for child to learn about religion” – presumably meaning that they will learn moral values etc..

 

This is not what Paul is on about. The Thessalonians had religion BUT what they needed was a personal encounter with the true and living God. They were in bondage to the idols and they needed to be freed to service the Living and True God.

 

c)     Waiting for the Son of God.

Turning to God is not a dead end – there is expectant hope of a glorious future in God’s presence. It is waiting longingly for our Saviour who came the first time to die for us to rescue us from our sin to return to take us into heaven to be with him forever. This makes any suffering or difficulties we encounter while we wait pale into insignificance compared to what is coming.

 

Conclusion.

What is a key lesson we can learn from this passage?

Paul says of the Thessalonians that the “Gospel came to you – you welcomed it – it rang out from you”

This is what every church should be like.

ILLUS.: There are 100’s of satellites in space – and telecommunication satellite dishes scattered everywhere. These first receive the messages and then transmit them.

 

So in a similar way every church and every Christian has to receive / welcome the message and then faithfully transmit it without distortion or corruption.

But not only is the church to be a transmitter it is also to embody the message. It is not just a passive pipe through which the message passes.

God did not only speak from heaven – he became the “WORD” – he embodied the message.

 

So too we are to be those who both visualise the gospel by the way we live and verbalise by explaining what we believe, why we believe and in whom we believe.

May is be true of us the gospel rings out from us and that our faith is known everywhere.

 

 

THE CHURCH COMMITTED TO THE GOSPEL

 

1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

 

1.The gospel message came. [v5]

¨  with words.

¨  with power

¨  with deep conviction

¨ with the Holy Spirit

It is the Spirit who…

– gives the speaker an understanding of the truth

– gives us the deep conviction that it is true

– with power convinces the hearer to respond

 

2.The Gospel message was received. [v6-7]

¨  in the face of difficulties

¨  with Spirit-given joy

¨  with the intention of becoming modellers

 

3.The gospel message was broadcast. [v8]

¨  directly

¨ indirectly

 

4.The gospel message is. [v9-10]

¨  turning from idols

¨  turning to the living and true God

¨  waiting for the Son of God.

 

The gospel came to you – you welcomed it – it rang out from you

1 Thessalonians 1:1-4 – The church is a community of people (part 1)

1Thessalonians 1v1-4.

 

THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE…[part 1]

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

Life can be very confusing at times and it is hard to know what to believe or who to believe. At times it can be very hurtful and bruising and we can feel very unloved. At times it can be very uncertain and we can feel hopeless and insecure. What does a letter written nearly 2000 years ago to a small group of people in a town in ancient Greece have to help us on the brink of the third millennium?

I hope by the end of this service you will have a glimpse of what it has to offer.

 

BACKGROUND.

 

Paul, with his companion Silas, first visited Thessalonica in about AD 50. We read the account is Acts 17.

The town was founded about 400 years earlier by one of Alexander the Great’s officers who happened to be married to Alexander’s half-sister, Thessalonica. In time it became one of the major cities of the Roman Empire. Today it is the second largest city in modern Greece – Thessaloniki.

Acts 17 tells us how the gospel of Jesus Christ came to this town of Thessalonica.  The Jewish population of the town was big enough to warrant there being a synagogue. Paul follows his usual practice when he arrives in a town with a Jewish community in that he goes to the synagogue and on three Sabbaths enters into dialogue with those there.

¨     He goes to the OT and shows how the Messiah would suffer and rise.

¨     Then he tells about Jesus of Nazareth – the story of his life, death and resurrection.

¨     He then puts the two together and proclaims Jesus is the Messiah/Christ.

How long Paul and Silas stayed in Thessalonica is not certain – not very long but probably more than three weeks.  It is possibly that having started in the synagogue Paul move more widely as we are told that 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. Acts 17:4 (NIV)

 

It was not long before opposition arose and Paul and Silas had to be smuggled out of the city at night – leaving behind a new group of Christians in a very hostile environment – how were they going to survive?

 

 

GREETING.

1:1   Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

 

Maybe we should learn to write as they did in the first Century – beginning with who it is from. When we receive a letter the first thing we do is look at the end to see who it is from. It makes a lot more sense the other way. We are changing with the advent of E-mail – it comes onto the computer with a title and the sender’s name!

What can Paul say to this very new group of believers? They have come straight out of Judaism or paganism. We could expect Paul to be biting his nails worrying about whether or not they will continue under the pressure or quickly revert to their previous way of life. Bear in mind that they did not have the NT to help them – Nor as far as we know any mature, experienced believers amongst them.

 

  1. 1.     ROOTED IN GOD … [v1]

How does Paul address this group of new Christians?

1:1  Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians …..

To us the word church is a religious word but this was not so in its original usage. The Greek word ‘Ekklêsia’ was used of both religious and secular groups – Jews and Greeks. What is it then that makes this group – this ‘Ekklêsia’ – this church different from all the others in Thessalonica?

 

What is it that should make the church in the 20th Century different from other groups – whether religious or secular? What is the difference between the church and a therapy group?

 

Over the past 25 years there has been a shift in the way many Christians view the Church. More and more literature and teaching on the ‘church’ is using the language of marketing. I am not saying we can’t learn from secular marketing techniques BUT we need to subject these things to the teachings of the Bible.

More and more members are viewed as customers; potential converts as prospects; the gospel, church activities and programmes as products.

 

Michael W Holmes [NIV Application Commentary] p.44 “Worship is confused with entertainment, being good with feeling good, and faithfulness with being successful or ‘blessed’. ‘Meeting the needs of the customers’ is said to be the key to church growth. …. Equally as revealing is the language one hears people using to explain why they changed churches (‘my old church wasn’t meeting my needs’) or to evaluate the Sunday morning service (‘that service really blessed me’ or ‘I didn’t get anything out of it today’).”

 

What is he saying? Really we evaluate that Church as to what we can get out of it. This shift in the way we view church has resulted from the influences of worldly philosophy – we live in a consumer society that is basically very self-centred. Over the last century or so there has been a shift away from a God-centred view on life to a human-centred view.

The ancient philosopher view the “Man in the measure of all things” has become the principle by which 20th century societies live. So we no longer talk about right and wrong or good and evil with reference to God BUT with reference to the popular opinion of human society.

 

If we view the Church from this humanistic perspective it becomes nothing more than another human organisation created by people to meet human needs.

Is it any surprise that many see the church simply in term of “What it can do for me!”

 

Paul gives us the right perspective in verse 1. The Church whether in Thessalonica or anywhere else in the world is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Apart from God and the saving work of Jesus Christ the church does not even exist! Now the Church does and should meet our needs – spiritual, social, emotional etc – BUT it is not just another social organisation.

God does not exist for the sake of the Church! The church exists for the praise and glory of God and to spread the good news about God.

Places this fundamental foundation right at the outset of his letter – The church is and must always remain God-centred otherwise it ceases to be the church.

 

…The Father … The Lord Jesus Christ

What does it mean to be the church “in God and Christ”?

Paul could have written “To the church of God in Thessalonica”  as he does in 2:14  ‘… the churches of God in Judea ..’ – it is true the church is in a geographical place.

 

The way he has expressed it in v.1. – in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: – emphasises the vital relationship with the father and the Son. It carries the same force of what Jesus taught the disciples in John 15 – the vine and the branches – abiding in him. Apart from him there is no life and no fruitfulness.

For the Church to be in God means therefore to ‘be living in God’ – ‘rooted in God’ – ‘drawing its life from God’.

 

Every Church [congregation] has two homes – two environments in which it lives – in God and in this world.

 

Why does Paul write this way to this particular church in Thessalonica? He doesn’t tell us BUT I guess it is because he knows that they are probably felt insecure being such a young and persecuted community. He wants to remind them that in the midst of their weakness and troubles God in their security.

Every church derives its life, its strength and its stability from God and NOT from its own abilities or organisational structures.

 

  1. 2.     LOVED AND CHOSEN BY GOD. [v4]

 

In v.2-3 Paul thanks God for them assures them of his prayers for them – First let’s look at the description of them in v.4.

 

This teaching about God ‘choosing’ or ‘electing’ has caused many people problems and questions. However it is truth that is taught in scripture – from Abraham  [God calls him – Gen.12] to the nation of Israel as a whole. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the LORD loved you ……. (NIV)

 

We can never divorce God’s electing and God’s love – Why does God chose us? Because he loves us! And why does he love us? Because he loves us!

 

Here again in v.4 Paul unites God’s love and electing – 1 Thessalonians 1:4

4 For we know, brothers [and sisters] loved by God, that he has chosen you,

 

The teaching about God choosing is never introduced in scripture to simply stimulate our intellectual discussions – it always has a practical purpose. To assure us of God’s love so we don’t presume upon it – to spur us on to holiness and away from moral apathy – to encourage humility as there is no room for our pride in salvation – to encourage our witness and to save us from selfish laziness.

 

If the reason for election is something that is known only to God how can Paul say For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you? He bases their knowledge on the evidence they see: 1) the fact that the Thessalonians responded to their preaching and accepted Christ and 2) their new found faith has produced in them faith, hope and love which has had practical out working in their lives.

Some think that because of the teaching about election we don’t need to evangelise – exactly the opposite is truth – evangelism becomes indispensable for it is only as the gospel is preached and accepted that God’s secret purposes are revealed and known.

 

The fact that we are loved by God [even while we were still sinners] assures us how much God loves and values us in spite of our weaknesses and failures. There is no reason for us to feel defeatist and have a low self-image.

We have great worth and value BECAUSE God loves us.

 

On the other hand, we are loved and valued by God because he is gracious and not because we are worthy and so there is no room for arrogance and pride and triumphalism BECAUSE it is entirely God’s doing!!

 

So the Church is community loved and chosen by God – rooted in him. How does Paul know the Thessalonians are God’s people? Because they show the characteristics of a true church – Which are what?

 

  1. 3.     CHARACTERISED BY FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE. [v2-3]

 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3      2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

 

Paul must have been a wonderful friend to know – he always and continually prayed for his friends. Included in his prayers was thanks to God for the evidence of God’s grace in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians.

 

Three of the most important characteristics of Christians faith are Faith, Love and Hope – it all three of these that Paul, Silas and Timothy praise God for in the lives of the Thessalonians.

 

John Stott has a particularly helpful summary of these three – which I have put together in chart form.

 

1Thessalonians 1:3

FAITH

LOVE

HOPE

OUTGOING

towards God

towards others

towards the future

PRODUCTIVE

Works –

Paul – Faith which issues in works.

James – works which issue from faith

Labours –

True love is not sentimentality but extended effort for the good of others

Endures –

Patient fortitude in the face of opposition

Every Believer…

… a believer

… a lover

… a hoper

 

Each of these three has an outgoing aspect –

 

Faith towards God – People without such faith in God are not Christians – Any collection of individual without faith in God through Christ and enlivened by the Spirit, no matter how religious is not a Church by biblical definition.

“Without faith it is impossible to believe God”

 

This faith in God works out in attitude and deeds. There are practical results from faith – A true faith in God leads to good works and without works faith id dead.

Paul and James – another NT writer –  are in agreement here no matter what the sceptic may say and they are not contradicting each other. Paul stresses faith that issues in works while James stress works that issue from faith. Faith is not abstract mental assent but also practical and productive. Our salvation means little or nothing if it doesn’t shake us out of our sinful introversion and self-seeking and redirect us towards God, Christ and other human beings.

 

Love towards others – this is love that is within the Christian fellowship and beyond it. It is a love that focuses on doing for someone else good.

We are so devious sometimes that when we do something for someone else it can really be for our own benefit – our own egos – our own pride. A good test to see whether or not this is so is when we are not thanked or appreciated as we would like and we get miffed. “Well if that’s the thanks I get after all the effort I put in I will never do any thing for them again!”

 

God never just looks at the outward activity – he always examines our motives.

True love is doing for other for their good – doing for them what is right in God’s eyes!

Often the only expression of God’s love that people will see, they will see in us. What kind of image of God’s love do others see in us? John 13:35 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Not just loving our fellow believer but also those outside the church – the Thessalonians had made a determined effort to love the unlovely and to do so with strenuous exertion.

 

True love is never sentimental but is always extended for the good of others.

 

Hope towards the future – every Christian is a believer, a lover and a hoper – hope is not a hollow optimism. Optimism has more to do with temperament – some people are naturally positive and optimistic.

Hope, like faith and love, is an essential part of every Christian’s make-up. Our English word doesn’t really convey what Paul is trying to say. We tend to use the word ‘hope’ in a speculative way. “Will it be sunny tomorrow? I hope so!” We use the word when we are not certain about something. We use it more as a wishing word.

 

Paul had something very different in mind.

The Christian’s anticipation of a golden future with God in heaven is not simply a matter of likelihood or probability BUT an absolute certainty.

Jesus will return. How can we be sure? He said he would die and rise again and ascend into heaven and he did – He said he would send the Holy Spirit and he did – There is no doubt that he will keep his word, as in the past, and return to make all things new.

 

ILLUS. Michael Faraday, the Victorian Physicist, made no secret about his Christian faith. When on his deathbed he was chided by friends, “Where are your speculation now, Michael?” “Speculations?”, he retorted, “ I am dealing with certainties!”

 

That same certain hope was the experience of the Thessalonian Christians – Is it yours and mine? We are not talking about a stoic resignation BUT about a confidence and patient fortitude in the face of opposition – a hope that can endure the shocks of life.

 

As you look at your situation – as your life as it is now – maybe you are facing difficult circumstances. A unhappy relationship, boring employment, tough family responsibilities, financial difficulties – maybe life is just tedious and routine and dull and you wonder if this is all there is to life. Is it ever going to improve? I assure you that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ your future is bright – not ‘Orange’ – but gloriously splendoured in the presence of God. Whatever things might be like in the short-term it will turn out well in the end.

 

We have much to praise God for – collectively as a church and as individual believers – loved and chosen by God, rooted in him and as he enables and we obey characterised by faith, hope and love.

 

 

1Thessalonians 1v1-4.

 

 

 

THE CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE

 

 

¨  Rooted in God v1

 

¨  Loved and Chosen by God v4

 

¨  Characterised by Faith, Love & Hope v2-3

 

 

 

FAITH

LOVE

HOPE

OUTGOING

towards God

towards others

towards the future

PRODUCTIVE

Works –

Paul – Faith which issues in works.

James – works which issue from faith

Labours –

True love is not sentimentality but extended effort for the good of others

Endures –

Patient fortitude in the face of opposition

Every Christian …

… a believer

… a lover

… a hoper