Posts Tagged 'Thessalonians'

Panic Podcast: The Thessalonian Letters, Part 4

Good morning, y’all!  It’s a chilly day here in southwest Virginia – real sweater weather for sure.  But it is Monday, and it looks like it’s going to be a great week all the way around, and I pray that God pours out His best blessings upon you all.  Today, I want to take a look at 1 Thessalonians 5 and the 22 commandments!  Yes, 22.  Check it out!

Panic Podcast: The Thessalonian Letters, Part 1

Good Monday morning!  Thank you for stopping by my place and spending time with me in Bible study.  It’s a great way to start any day, but especially the first day of a brand new week.  Today, I want to begin a brief look at The Thessalonian Letters, two letters Paul wrote to a church in Thessalonica.  He wrote these very early in his career and it’s interesting to read how he faced the challenges of gossip and false teaching that were creeping into the infant church.

So, open your Bibles up to 1 Thessalonians, and open your hearts to God’s truths as we study together.



2 Thessalonians 3:6—18; Matthew 18:15—17

Paul had a lot of good things to say to and about the church in Thessalonica. But there was one very big problem in that congregation: laziness. This seems to have been long-standing problem in that church, reaching back into Paul’s first letter:

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, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12)

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

What was hinted at in his first letter, Paul was forced to deal with explicitly in his second. This proclivity toward laziness was brought on by doctrinal misunderstanding. Frequently, practical misconduct results from doctrine misunderstanding, and in this case some members of the church misunderstood the doctrine of the Second Coming. They thought, incorrectly, that they needed only to watch and wait for Christ to return; that they need not work.

Paul’s gentle admonitions in his first letter failed to nip the problem in the bud, therefore he had to be much more forceful this second time around.

1. Avoid disorderly and divisive people, 2 Thess. 3:6, 7

What Paul was about to write was so important, he prefaced his admonition with the phrase, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This means that what he is about write carries the same authority as though Jesus Himself wrote it.

a. Choose your associates carefully, vs. 6

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

The KJV translates this verse slightly differently:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

Is it “disorderly” or “idle” brothers that should be avoided? There were, no doubt, brothers in the congregation engaging in “disorderly conduct,” which probably included the following:

  • laziness, or “loafing” around, doing nothing.

  • spreading all kinds of gossip (see 2:2).

  • asking to be supported by the church (see vs. 12).

  • meddlesomeness (see vs. 11)

All of this unruly conduct resulted from their idleness. We all know how the old saw goes: “Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings.” Clearly not every member of the church was like this, but there were more now than when the first letter was written, hence this rather lengthy admonition. These erring members were properly called “disorderly,” from a Greek military term meaning “those out of rank.” In other words, they were behaving in a most unchrist-like manner.

Paul’s authoritative admonition was to “withdraw” or “remain aloof” from these lazy people. This self-imposed “aloofness” was not to be characterized by an air of superiority or condemnation, but rather it was to be an “aloofness” that signified no condoning of the erring brother’s way of life. This advice was consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere, especially of his advice to the Corinthians, which was to excommunicate a brother involved in sexual immorality. Here, excommunication was not called for, but a kind shunning was.

b. Follow good examples, vs. 7

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you…

While avoiding these lazy members, Paul wanted the Thessalonians to copy his (Paul’s) example, and the example of his friends, who were anything but idle. Paul and his companions never sponged off anybody, therefore no member of the Thessalonian church should, either. Paul’s use of the word “ought” suggests this was more than an exhortation, it was an obligation. In other words, it is the obligation of every believer to work as Paul did: diligent and hard.

2. Fulfill your responsibilities, 2 Thess. 3:8—13

a. Financial responsibility, vs. 8—11

Paul’s example of hard work was the polar opposite of how the erring, lazy brothers were living. Paul and his friends not only preached the Gospel in the church, they worked “on the side” to support themselves! The missionaries had every right to be paid for their work in the church by the church, but here was a “teachable moment” too good to pass up! Paul and his friends would lead by example. Since some members of the congregation were too thick to understand his written word, Paul would show them the right way to live.

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. (vs. 9)

Verse 10 is Paul’s stern, clear piece of advice on this matter of laziness:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”

The quotations around the rule suggests this was a common saying of Paul’s day; one which Paul appropriated for use within the church. Simply put: no work, no eat.

Paul was not cold and heartless. His was a perfectly balanced theology. Here was a man who had no trouble telling people “get a job” and “stop sponging off others,” but at the same time risked life and limb to collect offerings for the poor. He had no sympathy for those who could work but refused not to.

Ultimately, all believers need to understand Paul’s doctrine of welfare versus work: it all boils down to imitating Christ. He sacrificed everything to help those who could not help themselves. Those recipients of Christ’s saving grace ought not to be a burden on others, but should be willing to, like Christ, sacrifice what they have for others who don’t have it themselves to help themselves.

b. Calm dispositions, vs. 12

Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.

Instead of being busy, these lazy brothers had become busybodies! The interesting thought behind verse 12 is that when one is able to work but does not, he becomes restless; he literally looks for trouble to get into. But when one works, the opposite happens: he has a kind of inner peace and he keeps out of trouble.

c. Doing good, vs. 13

And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.

This is a great piece of advice for the folks in Thessalonica who where living as they ought. Regardless of how long the Lord’s coming may be delayed, regardless of whatever “disorderliness” surround us, we should always engage good work; we should conduct ourselves according to the highest standards we are capable of reaching in terms of word, discipline, orderliness, and quietness of mind.

3. Discipline lovingly, 2 Thess. 3:14—16; Matt. 18:15—17

a. Fellowship withdrawn, vs. 14—16

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Bringing his letter to a conclusion, Paul again stresses the importance of church discipline, a subject foreign to the average church-goer these days. This advice included two very important points:

  • Take special note” of those who will not obey Paul’s advice in this letter to work hard and live properly. Every member of the church needed to heed Paul’s instruction to become a part of the disciplinary process. Offenders needed to be taken note of so that the whole congregation could co-operate in disciplining them

  • Do not regard” lazy members, but “warn” them as brothers. These were fellow believers, after all, men whom Christ died for. Even though their behavior wasn’t right, it wasn’t motived by maliciousness. The entire church had an obligation to warn them and to help back on track.

The purpose of this kind of church discipline was to restore the disobedient to complete fellowship. Paul was sure these lazy brothers were still in the faith; they had not lost it in any way. Therefore, as much as hard work was an obligation, so was restoration to fellowship.

b. Distinct pattern, Matt. 18:15—17

The idea of corporate discipline of believers didn’t originate with Paul. Jesus, the founder of the Church, gave us the pattern to follow:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Up to this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus had spent considerable time teaching on the dangers of causing someone to stumble; of sinning against another. With verse 15, Jesus flips the coin over so as to deal with the possibility of a brother sinning against you. What do you do if “your brother,” or a fellow church member, does something to offend you? Tell them about it, face to face. Jesus’ teaching comes right out of the Old Testament:

Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. (Leviticus 19:17)

The danger in keeping the offense inside, whatever you think it may be, is that it will fester and grow and cause you to sin; instead of being the offended, you will turn into the offender! So, it’s better to go in private and talk to the person who offended you. Privacy is the key; if the offense is kept only between the two involved, then the rest of the church won’t be prone to take sides and get involved.

If the brother refuses to listen, then other people need to get involved, namely, a couple of witnesses who will take note of the proceedings. If the brother still refuses to listen and apologize, and the problem remains unresolved, then the offending brother needs to be shunned; treated like a tax collector. Most scholars think Jesus has in mind excommunication.

Church discipline is an important, though highly scorned, Biblical doctrine. In the past, it was surely abused by pastors and elders more interested in building their own little kingdoms than in expanding God’s Kingdom. There is no excuse for taking advantage of a Biblical doctrine for one’s own gains.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the Church of Jesus Christ gets lost in the tall grasses of false teaching is that church discipline is ignored for the sake of political correctness or to avoid one or two members of the church. Church leadership, when it strays from the first principles of Biblical doctrine, will always shoot themselves in the foot no matter how noble their intentions may be.

There is a reason why the Bible says the things it does. God, not man, knows what’s best for His Church. Let’s pay attention.


1 Thessalonians 4:13—5:11

Christ has been returning at any moment for the past 2,000 years. Whenever there is a social or economic upheaval anywhere in the world, but particularly here in America, attention is drawn to the Second Coming. Sometimes the occupant of the White House is the determinative factor in when the Church thinks the Second Coming will occur. As always, time passes, the upheaval passes or becomes the “new normal,” and Christians stop thinking about Christ’s return.

We are living in a time when upheavals are taking place all around us. America’s stature in the world has been on the decline for the past few years, largely because of a lack of moral authority in our politicians. Our fellow citizens are losing confidence in institutions that have always seemed to be trustworthy, institutions including the Church. Our culture has become obsessed with any and all deviances. Generally speaking, many of the West have become self-absorbed and narcissistic. Many preachers have taken note of these conditions and concluded that Christ’s return is “just around the corner.”

But is it? The early Church believed Christ would return in their lifetime. This belief in the imminent return of the Lord caused some problems in some churches of that day. Some of these problems and misunderstandings needed to be addressed and it was up to Paul to set errant believers straight.

1. The nature of Christ’s coming, 1 Thessalonians 4:13—14

The dead in Christ, vs. 13—16

Some members of the Thessalonian church had grown restless as they waited for the Lord to return. Some had stopped working, believing they should withdraw from society and wait in patience for the Second Advent. But when He didn’t return, and when it seemed life as usual was going to continue for the foreseeable future, these believers became restless and disillusioned. They were expecting the Lord to return and take them away from their persecutions and poverty. His delay also caused these confused believers to wonder about the destiny of those who died waiting for the Lord to return. To Paul’s credit, it seems he had, in fact, already taught his friends about these matters, but for some reason the truth hadn’t been understood by many in the church.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? (2 Thessalonians 2:5)

So this group of verses represents Paul’s attempt to clarify what he had already taught. To help them grasp what happens to a believer who dies before the Second Coming, Paul uses the metaphor of “those who fall asleep.” Naturally he is referring to those who have died, and Paul understood his readers would make the connection between those who are sleeping and those who have died. The connection is obvious: just as one who is asleep continues to exist, so the dead person continues to exist in spite of the fact that he is temporarily separated from his physical body. Sleep has its awakening, and death will have its resurrection. Because this is something every Christian should understand, any grief or mourning should also be temporary. Unbelievers wail and carry on when a loved one passes as though there was no hope. But believers, though they may mourn and grieve the death of a loved one, ought to understand that hope carries on; that their loved one is still alive, only their body is dead. Paul would teach his Corinthian friends and his friends in Philippi an encouraging theological fact:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far… (Philippians 1:23)

So, death is certainly not the end nor is it to be feared by the Christian. And those who have died waiting for Christ’s return have no disadvantage; those who are alive when Christ returns will not be treated with any kind of priority. Those who have died will rise first to meet Jesus in the air. This represents a kind of resurrection of all those who died during this present age, since the day of Pentecost, as Christians—those “in Christ”—as opposed to believers from other times.

Those alive in Christ, vs. 17, 18

Next in order will be those who are alive in Christ. Those who are alive when “the shout” occurs and the “trumpet” sounds will then rise to meet Christ in the air. So we see an orderly event: the dead in Christ rise first, then the living in Christ will rise. This doctrine of the rapture, disputed by some in the Church, was revealed to Paul by the Lord Himself. We’re not sure when or how Paul received this teaching, but he did and it was something the apostle taught his congregations. Even though there are segments of the Church today that don’t believe in the rapture of the Church, almost all Christians believe in the soon coming Christ—His literal, physical, and visible return to earth. This belief, the true hope of all believers, should bring hope, encouragement, and peace to all segments of the Church. We have a hope beyond anything in the world.

In verse 17, Paul uses the phrase “caught up,” to describe how the living in Christ will be snatched away. That phrase comes from a word meaning “to seize” or to “snatch.” We get the word “rapture” from the Latin translation of this verse. It refers to the miraculous transporting of the living to heaven. Paul used the same word to describe his own experience of being “caught up” to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2—4). The word also carries with it the idea of a sudden, hasty swooping away. One moment believers will be here, the next instant they will be gone.

Though the doctrine of the rapture is not seen in the Old Testament anywhere and nobody but Paul taught it in the New Testament, Jesus seemed to give His disciples a small hint in John 14:

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

The rapture of the Church really is an amazing doctrine that deserves more discussion than is offered here. Consider some of the following: When the rapture occurs, for the first time ever the Church of all times and generations and all places will exist in complete unity and harmony—not on earth, but in the air! At that time, there will truly be ONE church, not many, fragmented churches. This will represent the ultimate triumph of the Church over the “prince of the air.” For the first time, the Church that has existed through the ages will truly be overcomers.

2. The suddenness of Christ’s coming, 1 Thessalonians 5:1—3

But when will all this happen? The Thessalonians obviously wanted to know, but Paul couldn’t give them a definitive answer. The time for the Second Coming remains a mystery even today, with wild speculation popping up every so often. Paul used two analogies to describe the suddenness of the Lord’s return:

  • Unexpected. The Lord will come like a “thief in the night.” A thief sneaks around; he doesn’t knock on the door or let you know he’s coming.

  • Sudden. The Lord will return in a moment, like the coming of labor pains. As every mother knows, once the labor pains start, there is no stopping the birth process! The ones who will be caught off guard when the Lord comes will be those who aren’t looking for Him.

3. Prepare for Christ’s coming, 1 Thessalonians 5:4—11

Now that the Thessalonians, and we, have the facts, how should believers live in light of those facts?

Be watchful, vs. 4—7

This does not mean quitting your job, withdrawing from society and moving to a mountain top retreat to await the Lord’s return. It does mean that we should live disciplined, godly lives, marked by an attitude of hope, love, and faith. Watching for the return of Jesus should motivate us to live the best lives we can, as suggested by these phrases:

  • be alert.” The word means to stay wide awake. Believers can’t afford to be caught watching the paint drying! In other words, we need to know what’s going on in our family, our community, our country. We need to be engaged so we can pray and show concern for the lost.

  • be self-controlled.” This word means “to be calm.” A person who is “calm” is not restless; his mind isn’t running a marathon all day. The “self-controlled” believer is one who is fully aware of who he is, to Whom he belongs, and what his role is in the kingdom of God.

Put on God’s armor, vs. 8—10

This is a favorite passage of Scripture that most of us learned in Sunday School, but its context is right living while waiting for the Lord’s return. The believer is to be alert, wide awake, busy and calm, but also he should be wearing special armor. Repeatedly in his letters, Paul compares Christians to soldiers, so the metaphor of “ armor” is a natural one.

Like in Ephesians 6, Christians need to be clothed in spiritual armor. The “breastplate” is “love and faith” and the “helmet” is the hope of salvation.

As we live in eager expectation of the Lord’s return, we are to love one another and the hope of salvation—our helmet—means that we realize the best part of salvation is yet to come! The assurance of this hope is the fact that God has only good things in store for us.

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

God’s ultimate, everlasting purpose is two-fold:

  1. That we should not be lost. While we are all sinners and we were all lost, because we called on the name of the Lord for salvation and by faith accepted His terms, we will never again be counted as one of “the lost.” God has no more wrath planned for us.

  2. That we should be saved. God has prepared the Kingdom for us from the foundation of the world.

Knowing this to be true, we should be at peace no matter what our circumstances may be. God’s purpose (above) cannot be frustrated. No Christian should ever doubt their salvation. God’s will for you has been revealed to you, so why question it? God has made it crystal clear in His Word that it is His will that all human beings be saved. If anyone perishes in their sins, it is not because of some secret plan of God, it is because that lost one chose to go their own way, not God’s way.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd

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