Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

1 Thessalonians 1:7-10

In 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 Paul continues his thoughts about making disciples of the Christians at Thessalonica. He had just told them to “become imitators of us” and now goes on to give the why. There is one major responsibility of a disciple – to make more disciples. That is the entire premise of discipleship. A disciple is a learner – someone who follows the teaching of another. In our case as Christ Followers – we are to learn and follow Jesus but that often happens through another believer. Paul makes clear the charge to the church there – “so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

So a disciple maker lives out what they know and become examples to those in their patch. That’s exactly what God wants from each of us. The Christians in Macedonia and Achaia needed examples, and the Thessalonians supplied that need. This was true even though they had only been followers of Jesus a short time. As Christians, we always need others who will show us how to follow Jesus Christ, beyond the need of hearing about how to follow Him. How we live matters, not just for our own walk with Jesus, but for the impact that walk has on those around us whether we recognize it or not.

This was part of the good example that the Thessalonian Christians provided. “Sounded forth” means “a loud ringing sound, as of a trumpet blast.” The good work the Lord did among the Thessalonians became known all over the region, and everyone talked about the changes. “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.” Since Thessalonica was a city where much trade and travel occurred, they couls make their voices heard easily literally across the region.

Guzik explains “Paul pairs two ideas. The word of the Lord sounded forth, and their faith toward God has gone out. Those two aspects are essential if a church will spread the Gospel. First, they need a message to spread, and that message first needs to impact their own lives. Second, they need the faith to go out, so that their faith toward God goes out to all the world.” The world was wondering what the Christ Followers there were up to as their lives were changed and it was noticed.

The impact was real and major changes were observed. “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.” How we live matters, not only to ourselves, but in our efforts to serve God and wait for our Savior!

1 Thessalonians 1:4-7

In 1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 Paul reminds us that God loves us and chose us. The two things go together. When we love someone, we naturally choose them. “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.” Barclay explained “The phrase beloved by God was a phrase which the Jews applied only to supremely great men like Moses and Solomon, and to the nation of Israel itself. Now the greatest privilege of the greatest men of God’s chosen people has been extended to the humblest of the Gentiles.”

Paul makes clear that the gospel is not a matter of mere words. In modern culture there is an overflow of information or entertainment that often only amounts to mere words. Yet the Gospel is more than words, it also has power. The message of Jesus Christ has power. It has power for miracles; power for wonderful signs from God; and best of all, it has the power to change minds, hearts, and lives. Calvin wrote “Some take the word power to mean miracles. I extend the word to apply to the spiritual power of doctrine… It is the living voice of God, inseparable from its effect, as compared with the empty and lifeless eloquence of men.”

The power of the Gospel comes through the Holy Spirit, a living Person, who works within the hearts of those who hear God’s Word and truth to convict, to comfort, and to instruct. When someone merely speaks, it is a matter of word only, but when the Holy Spirit works through the Word, spiritual impact happens and lives are changed. As the Holy Spirit worked among the Thessalonians, they responded and became Christ Followers. Paul challenges the Christians there to become disciples and to follow as imitator of Paul and his ministry partners as they together followed the Lord. He wants them to imitate their life.

What was the result of being chosen? “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.” Paul saw definite signs that said, “These Thessalonians are God’s chosen.” In a sermon on the passage, Charles Spurgeon found four evidences of being chosen which were:

  • The Word of God coming home with power (our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power).
  • The reception of God’s Word with much assurance (and in much assurance).
  • The desire to be like Jesus (you became followers of us and of the Lord).
  • The existence of spiritual joy in spiritual service (in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit).

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 Paul begins by letting the Christians in Thessalonica that his heart was filled with gratitude. Paul started the church there in less than ideal circumstances, being run out of town after only three weekends with them (Acts 17:1-10). Yet the church was strong and full of life. Paul knew that this work was beyond him and his abilities and that it was the work of God. “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.”

Heibert explains further “The regularly recurring nature of the thanksgiving is also implied in the use of the present tense of the verb. It is their practice to give thanks to God ‘continually, never skipping a single day.’” Gratitude is such a powerful thing, and Paul practices it daily. It is a great spiritual discipline we all should do more of it. Praying for people or churches doesn’t have to be a long and formal process. Paul often prayed simple prayers even merely mentioning people or a church in his prayer. We should not get caught up in formality or trying to make every mention a long drawn out prayer. Tell God about the blessing and needs of those in your patch.

So why was Paul so thankful for the Thessalonian Christians? They simply did things that Paul could not forget. Guzik describes Paul’s gratitude this way:

  • “Paul’s gratitude didn’t come because all the Christians in Thessalonica thought so highly of him. Later, Paul used a whole chapter defending himself and his ministry against slander and false accusations.
  • Paul’s gratitude didn’t come because the Thessalonian Christians were morally impeccable. Later in the letter, Paul strongly warned them against the failings in regard to sexual impurity.
  • Paul’s gratitude didn’t come because the Thessalonian Christians were completely accurate in all their doctrine. He had to correct some of their wrong ideas in that area also.”

Paul’s relationship with the people in Thessalonica was not with challenges, but there was obviously work of the Holy Spirit that was happening among them. Paul calls out three very important virtues of a Christ Follower – faith, love and hope. Hiebert says “Here for the first time, chronologically, in Paul’s writings we have this famous triad: faith, love, hope. But Paul’s stress is not on these virtues alone, but rather upon what they produce.” Specifically, Paul relates these three key things this way:

  • Faith produced work
  • Love produced labor
  • Hope produced steadfastness or patience

Paul saw fruit from the Holy Spirit working in and through the Christ Followers in Thessalonica. Our lives should produce faith, love and hope as well!

1 Thessalonians 1:1

In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul begins his letter to the church at Thessalonica. G. Campbell Morgan explains “This letter is full of interest because it is certainly among the first of those which have been preserved for us from the pen of Paul. It was the first he wrote to European Christians, and in it the fundamental things of the Christian life are very clearly set forth.” One thing we know about Paul is that he usually did not do ministry alone, but worked with a team. That is the case as he begins his letter. “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”

Guzik gives us their pedigrees this way: “Silvanus (also known as Silas) was a long and experienced companion of Paul. He traveled with Paul on his second missionary journey and was imprisoned and set free with Paul in the Philippian jail. When Paul first came to Thessalonica, Silas came with him. Timothy was a resident of Lystra, a city in the province of Galatia. He was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. From his youth learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother. Timothy was a trusted companion and associate of Paul, and he accompanied Paul on many of his missionary journeys. Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians on a previous occasion.” There were trusted and close ministry partners to Paul.

Remember that Paul himself founded the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-9). Thessalonica was the prosperous capital of the province of Macedonia (northern Greece), located on the famous Egnatian Way. Paul was only in the city a short time (actually three successful weekend of ministry) because he was forced out by enemies of the Gospel or basically a Thessalonican mob. Yet the church of the Thessalonians continued to be alive and active. Though Paul had to suddenly leave this young church, his deep concern for them prompted this letter.

Guzik further explains “While in Corinth, it is likely that Paul was greatly concerned about the churches he had just founded, and he wondered about their state. While at Corinth, Silas and Timothy came to him from Thessalonica with great news: the church there was strong. Paul became so excited that he dashed off this letter to the Thessalonians, probably his first letter to any church. He wrote it just a few months after he had first established the church in Thessalonica. Paul thought it important, (even essential) to organize these young converts in the Thessalonian church into a community of mutual interest, care, and fellowship.”  That is the purpose of the Body of Christ. When a church does that, it can survive and thrive!

Colossians 4:7-18

In Colossians 4:7-18 Paul introduces the Colossian church to Tychicus who they apparently didn’t know, but would be the one who brought Paul’s letter to them. “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Tychicus was one of the men who came with Paul from the Roman province of Asia to Jerusalem, to carry the offering of those believers to the needy Christians of Jerusalem and Judea. Bruce reminds us “The reference to Tychicus is almost word for word identical with Ephesians 6:21-22. He was evidently the bearer of the letter to the Ephesians as well as this one.” So he was a trusted co-minister with Paul.

Paul sends Tychicus for one reason – to encourage them in their walk with Jesus. He also sent Onesimus who was a slave owned by a believer in Colosse, but had ran away and came into contact with Paul in Rome. There, Onesimus became a Christian and a dedicated helper to Paul. His story is continued in Paul’s letter to Philemon. “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.” The mission was to update and encourage the church while reporting on Paul’s status.

Paul also lets them know there are others in prison with him for the sake of the gospel. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions— if he comes to you, welcome him),and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.” They had accompanied Paul on various trips and ministry efforts and were also in chains along with him. Epaphras was a fellow minister filled with prayer for the Colossian church. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” We need to pray like that for our churches!

Paul shares many more greetings from other co-ministers of the gospel. “For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas.” And he wants the Colossians to share the words he has written with other believers in the area. “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”

Paul charges the church to press Archippus to minister strongly and to encourage and strengthen him. “And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” Dyke explains It was more fitting for the Colossians (or Laodiceans) to say this to Archippus than for Paul himself to say it to him. He needed to hear this from the people around him: “Fulfill your ministry.” When the Colossians spoke up, then Archippus knew his ministry was wanted. “Many an Archippus is sluggish, because the Colossians are silent.” We need to encourage our ministers to do the work of the gospel and support them in that effort. Paul wraps his letter this way: “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

Colossians 4:3-6

In Colossians 4:3-6 Paul asks the Colossians to pray for them. Paul seemed to say, “As long as we are on the subject of prayer, please pray for us!” But Paul didn’t ask for prayer for his personal needs (which were many), but that God would open to us a door for the word. The focus is on his ministry and reaching people for Christ. “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Paul uses the illustration as an open door to describe the opportunity to share the gospel. He uses it in several other letters as well.

The message Paul wants to deliver is Christ, in spite of the fact that he was in prison because of that. Even though Paul was in chains in a Roman prison for his faithfulness to the gospel, he knew that he needed to speak it in a way that would make it clearly evident. Paul wanted prayer that he would continue to make the gospel clear to all who heard, even if it meant more chains. Paul’s desire is to have the Holy Spirit give him the words he needed to share Christ crucified. Robertson wrote “Wonderful as Paul’s preaching was to his hearers and seems to us, he was never satisfied with it. What preacher can be?”

Paul goes on to give some instruction on how we should live. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” The Christian life isn’t only lived in the prayer closet. There also must be practical, lived-out Christianity, which lives wisely toward those in our patch. How we speak has a lot to do with this. Paul also addresses the topic of time, encouraging us to use it wisely. The reality is that time in one of the most precious gifts God gives us, and also one that expires moment by moment. We need to be focused on using our time well, in how we live and relate to those around us. There are no do-overs with time. Once it is gone, it is gone forever!

Paul does give some direction on how we should speak to those around us. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Paul encourages us to speak with grace. Wright explained “The word ‘grace’ has, in Greek as in English, the possible double meaning of God’s grace and human graciousness.” Paul does want us to have a conversation flavored or seasoned with words that will cause the listener to be drawn in for more. We also need to know scripture so we can answer others with God’s truth, not our own interpretation of what is true. God cares both about the prayer closet and the public street, and He wants us to care about both also.

Colossians 4:1-2

In Colossians 4:1-2 Paul begins by continuing his teaching for slaves and masters, which in today’s terms would translate to employees and employers. As he wrapped up the last chapter he focused on the employee. Now he shifts focus to the employer. “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” As Christians become a new person in Jesus Christ, they will be just and fair to those who work for them. It is a terrible thing for a boss to cheat or mistreat his workers, but far worse for a Christian to do it. Paul asked masters to make a recognition that would undermine the very foundations of slavery.  That’s what becoming a Christ Follower does to us – it rocks and changes how we live.

Guzik explains “Without making an overt protest against slavery, Paul seemed to understand that if he could establish the point that slaves were equals in the body of Christ, full human beings with both responsibilities and rights (that they should be treated in a manner both just and fair), then in time the whole structure of slavery in the Roman Empire would crumble – and it did.” Being a Christ Follower is not about maintaining the status quo. When we receive Christ, He becomes not only Savior, but also Lord. It needs to change how we live in every area. And since we spent a third of our life in the workplace as either an employee or employer, the impact of being a Christ Follower should change everything about our work.

So Paul has addressed some sensitive topics – wives, husbands, children, masters and slaves – all with some significant yet simple directions on how God’s design for the family and workplace should be lived out. And then he follows those somewhat tough words with this verse: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Let’s face it, change is always hard. And asking people to follow God’s design for authority will be change for most every person. So Paul starts with telling us to pray, but not just start praying, but to continue steadfastly. If we’re going to succeed in living God’s way we need to do it with prayer. Trying to do it on our own will fail.

It’s not about effort or trying harder. It requires our heart to be rewired and changed. Spurgeon wrote about the importance of prayer in our efforts to follow God. “Heaven’s gate is not to be stormed by one weapon but by many. Spare no arrows, Christian. Watch and see that none of the arms in thy armoury are rusty. Besiege the throne of God with a hundred hands, and look at the promise with a hundred eyes. You have a great work on hand for you have to move the arm that moves the world; watch, then, for every means of moving that arm. See to it that you ply every promise; that you use every argument; that you wrestle with all might.” Prayer is our secret weapon as Christ Followers, and we need to use it wisely and well!

Colossians 3:23-25

In Colossians 3:23-25 Paul transitions to discussing how ‘slaves’ should act. He has dealt with husbands, wives and children in preceding verses. “Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” In today’s terms – slaves in Paul’s eyes are how employees respond to employers or supervisors (earthly masters). This is another sphere of God’s order of authority. Employees have a God-ordained role of obedience and submission to their employers or supervisors. This isn’t a call to literal slavery, but a recognition of authority.

Barclay explained “It will be noted that this section is far longer than the other two; and its length may well be due to long talks which Paul had with the runaway slave, Onesimus, whom later he was to send back to his master Philemon.” Vaughan further wrote “More than half the people seen on the streets of the great cities of the Roman world were slaves. And this was the status of the majority of ‘professional’ people such as teachers and doctors as well as that of menials and craftsmen.” The surroundings were different, but God’s structure and authority continues to today. Employees have a call to serve their employers well.

Paul makes that clear in this statement: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” The temptation is always to work just as hard as we have to, thinking we only have to please our boss. But God wants every worker to see that ultimately, we work for Him. As such, we should do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. God promises to reward those who work with that kind of heart. At the end of the day we work for an audience of ONE – He alone is the one we ultimately need to satisfy.

Some of the biggest violations of this come from believers who think they can leverage a Christ Follower boss for sympathy. “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” When a Christian employee does poorly on the job, he should not expect special leniency from his boss, especially if his boss is a Christian. Being a Christian should make us more responsible, not less responsible. Sometimes partiality means that bad workers are unfairly rewarded and good employees are penalized or left unrewarded. Those scores will be settled someday by God, but our role right here and right now is to serve our employer with all we have as if we were working directly for God!

Colossians 3:20-21

In Colossians 3:20-21 Paul moves on to his instruction to children. He has just talked with wives and husbands, and now for some wisdom for the kids. It’s pretty direct and simple. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Paul is speaking to children who are still in their parents’ household and under their authority. In that situation, they must not only honor their father and mother, but they must also obey them, and obey them in all things. They can’t pick and choose when to obey. They aren’t able to filter what to obey. The direction is simple and straightforward – in everything.

Once a child is grown and no longer in the household, they are no longer under the same obligation of obedience. That does not, however, release them from the obligation to honor their father and mother. So why obey? Simply put it pleases the Lord. That is the most important reason for obedience. As a child obeys mom and dad, they are showing respect for God’s order of authority in the family which will leak into other areas of life. It is so important for kids to learn obedience because if they don’t learn it as a child, the lessons become much harder as they grow and are extremely difficult as adults.

Guzik explains “This idea of an order of authority and submission to an order of authority are so important to God that they are part of His very being. The First Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Father; the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is called the Son. Inherent in those titles is a relationship of authority and submission to authority.” He continues “The Father exercises authority over the Son, and the Son submits to the Father’s authority – and this is in the very nature and being of God! Our failure to exercise Biblical authority, and our failure to submit to Biblical authority, isn’t just wrong and sad – it sins against the very nature of God.”

There is a parallel teaching for fathers related to this. “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Children have a responsibility to obey, but parents (which if Paul’s audience, not just dads) have a responsibility to not provoke their children. Parents can provoke their children by being too harsh, too demanding, too controlling, unforgiving, or just plain angry. This harshness can be expressed through words, through actions, or through non-verbal communication. Remember that we are all called to agape love. Parents usually blame their kids for disobedience or bad behavior. But Paul is reminding us that parental behavior may bring disobedience on. Kids that grow up being provoked will become discouraged and give up. They don’t feel love and support – only consistent condemnation. It leads to frustration. We need to parent with grace!

Colossians 3:19

In Colossians 3:19 Paul continues to teach us about God’s design for the family. He began with some words for wives, and now shifts to some direct teaching for husbands. “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” Paul’s words to husbands safeguards his words to wives. Though wives are to submit to their husbands, it never excuses husbands allowing them to act as tyrants over their wives. Instead, a husband must love his wife, and the ancient Greek word translated love her is agape. Paul squarely puts the obligation on the husband. In his day, there were no powers or privileges on the part of wives, children or slaves.

But Paul tells husbands to love – agape style love. Vaughan explains “Agapao does not denote affection or romantic attachment; it rather denotes caring love, a deliberate attitude of mind that concerns itself with the well-being of the one loved.” It is sacrificial, giving love and has little to do with emotion all to do with self-denial for the sake of another. Guzik shares some qualities of the love God charges husbands to have for their wives:

  • “It is a love that loves without changing.
  • It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment.
  • It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing.
  • It is love that loves even when it is rejected.
  • Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given. It gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.”

He goes on to write “we can read this passage and think that Paul means, “Husband, be kind to your wife.” Or “Husband, be nice to your wife.” There is no doubt that for many marriages, this would be a huge improvement. But that isn’t what Paul writes about. What he really means is, “Husband, continually practice self-denial for the sake of your wife.” If you are still wondering what kind of love Paul is asking husbands to express toward their wives, it is simple. Look at the Cross. Jesus loved us with agape love – a love so deep he was willing to take our punishment and stand in our place to receive the penalty for our sin. That’s how a husband is to love his wife!

There may be an implication here that wives sometimes give husbands a reason to be harsh with them. Paul’s answer – it doesn’t matter what your wife does. Here is the truth of the matter. A husband may feel perfectly justified in his harsh or unloving attitude and actions towards his wife, but he is not justified – no matter how his wife has acted towards the him. Agape love is given even when things are obviously bad and full of deficiencies. Agape love happens even when the person on the receiving end may be unworthy. Agape love happens no matter what. Sometimes wives think they get the short end of the teaching on marriage – having to submit. But in God’s plan, submission is extreme protection because the burden is on the husband to love the way Christ loved and that is worth submitting to!

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