Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 29 - Conclusion to First Thessalonians

Welcome to Thessaly Baptist Church.

It is nice to see our church here. Mattheo, Anthropos/Adam, Anthrosoikos, Iakobi, Anna, Charapater, Johanne, Iessai, Katharos. You can call me Didaskole.

Just a reminder, our pastor is Jason, one of our great evangelists is Aristarchus. We have turned from idols to serve the One True God, and we have been beaten and afflicted by our countrymen and the Jewish Synagogue down the street for our stance on the truth.

We have this big beautiful collection of scrolls of the Word of God, but since all of our Hebrew brothers have been killed or run out of town, we don't have anybody to read them. But we do not despair, for the Holy Spirit is working in our midst, giving us the words to say and the boldness to say them. Our evangelistic efforts down on the docks are working perfectly, our evangelists on the Egnatian Way have reported mass conversions. Truly the Lord is blessing us in the midst of our hardship.

A few announcements before we start, we will be having baptism for new believers after this meeting, representing the spiritual regeneration of our souls, that we were buried with Christ and raised with him to walk in newness of life. Following that, we will have a memorial service for our brothers and sisters who lost their lives for Christ's sake this week.

Exciting news, we have received a letter from Paul, Silas, and Timothy from Corinth. It answers a question that we have had for a long time about what happens to us if we die before Jesus returns. Paul asks that this letter is read before the church, so before we do that, lets pray.

Father, we can't thank you enough for saving us from our sins, for giving us the knowledge of yourself and of your Son, that he would die for us without provocation so that we can become ministers of his glorious Gospel. Holy Spirit, give us the words to speak, give us boldness to speak these words, and save many into Eternal Life. We thank you for being with us as we preach throughout Thessalonica and we can't understand why you have chosen us to be your ministers in such a rich harvest as this port city, but we love to minister in your name. King Jesus, we worship and adore you, we rejoice that for us you took on and defeated death. Lord we ask you to hasten in your return, for your saints are perishing by the sword, we long to see your face, and to fellowship in your presence. We pray these things in the name of him who was dead, but is now alive, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

A letter from Paul.

παυλος και σιλουανος και τιμοθεος τη εκκλησια θεσσαλονικεων εν θεω πατρι και κυριω ιησου χριστω χαρις υμιν και ειρηνη...

Oh right, we're only pretending to be in Greece...

1 Thessalonians 1-5 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy; To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!

But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Brothers, pray for us.

Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

So, we’re wrapping up First Thessalonians, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I was going to jump straight into Second Thessalonians, but then I think we’d miss the point that it took a little while for them to get the wrong beliefs they got. So over the next month or so, keep thinking about Thessalonica, imagine them getting a letter that said the rapture had already happened, and then we’ll visit them again after an Easter lesson, and a few lessons on the Seven Churches of Revelation.

The way Paul wraps up this letter is beautiful. In just a few words he communicates his love for this church.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

v. 23-24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

We can’t be perfect, but we’re supposed to try, knowing that if we fail we have an advocate with the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ who took all of our sins on the cross. We’re not trying to be sanctified and not to sin in order to get to Heaven, that is already fully purchased, in gratitude and submission we are seeking to obey God, not in repayment.

One thing the Bible talks about that is hard to discern what exactly it is talking about is a soul and spirit. I don’t know what the difference is, but there is certainly a difference. My guess is that the spirit is what we normally consider the soul, the part that will live forever. The soul is our intellect, emotions, and beliefs. The body is easy, it’s this outer shell we’ve got.

God who called us out of the darkness into his marvelous light is faithful, which means he can be trusted, and we know that he will sanctify us completely whenever he calls us home or Christ returns.

v. 25 Brothers pray for us.

Straight forward, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ, those that are close, and those that are far away. One thing though, it’s not efficacious to pray for people who have already died, for it is appointed once for a man to die, and then the judgment. In Heaven they are already made pure as Christ is pure, so there is no need to pray for them. Neither can they pray for you, don’t pray to saints departed to ask them to pray for you or to intercede for you, because that’s not their job. The Catholic Church falls for this, it’s nuts. Don’t do it.

I hope you’re seeing that prayer is a major theme in the Bible, and especially in this Epistle. We need to be constantly praying for each other, for our church, and for the souls of those who don’t believe. When you pray, you don’t have to close your eyes, you don’t have to look down, you don’t have to take off your hat. There are all good reasons for doing these things, but I don’t want you to think that you have to pray a certain way.

Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

When I was driving back from Celebrate Freedom last year we were eating and somebody said, “We should bless this food.” Which is good, and so he started praying and I closed my eyes and bowed my head. Only for like one-one-millionth of a second, but it made me realize that we need to know there are a lot of ways to pray and just bowing our heads and closing our eyes is not the only way, and we’re not bribing God. I like doing it this way because it humbles us and causes us to concentrate, but it’s not the only way.

v. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

This isn’t kissing like we’re used to. It’s kissing either on the cheeks, or on the chin, though I’ve never seen anybody kiss on the chin. One of my friends in England married a Romanian girl, when I met her she kissed me on the cheeks.

What Paul means here is not just to kiss one another, but really to be friends with everyone in the church, to greet them personally and warmly. A handshake works well today, or a hug. Demonstrate your Christian love between each other.

This statement occurs five times in the Bible, both Peter and Paul talked about it, and it’s how Judas betrayed Jesus.

Luke 22:47-48 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"

A warning that I think is pertinent is that the mark of a cult usually is some sort of weird sexual sin. Don’t let anybody use verses like this one to say, “See, the Bible says you’re supposed to kiss me.” Or others like it, kissing on the lips should be limited between you and your future spouse.

v. 27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

We just did that. The Bible isn’t a book just for the leaders and pastors, we are a priesthood of believers and we all need to have a thorough understanding of the Bible.

v. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Last verse, it’s got a lot in it. Grace is unmerited favor, it is both how we are saved by Christ’s unprovoked death on the cross for us, and it is how we live, that he defeated death. All good things come from him.

Paul started this letter off with grace, and he finished it with grace.

What do you guys think? What’d you like?

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