"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Monday, October 18, 2021

CROSSING The ‘T’s TTUF STUDY 1st THESSALONIANS Ch. Five & Conclusion

~ by James Fire

1st THESSALONIANS Chapter Five & Conclusion

INTRODUCTION: What is a King without a kingdom? What is a Captain without a ship’s crew? Conversely what would that kingdom or ship be like without their king or Captain? Both are needful and necessary.
The pastorate is not a one man show. The church is only a one man show if by that Man, you are referring to the LORD Jesus Christ. He is the head of the body, the LORD of the church, the blessed Bridegroom of the bride.
Thus with these GOD-ordained ministers, who lead and guide the church in accordance with the will of GOD as expressed through the Scriptures and directed through prayer have an authority as overseers, to lead by example (2 THESS 3:9), and the saints are to follow the pastors as these leaders follow Christ (1 COR 11:1).

In a day and age in which we live, where authority is not just questioned, but challenged and even denied, anarchy can infest the church with this ‘fever’ of society. What is needed, both from pastor as well as congregation, is humility. Humbleness to lead the flock and humbleness from the flock to follow.

Paul gets into all of this and more in this last section in closing out this 1st of 2nd epistles to the church of the Thessalonians!

PART SIX: The Duty Section
Chapter 5 cont’d. & Conclusion
(1) Exhortations concerning the practical duties of Christian life: vs. 12-22.
(2) The closing charge and benediction: vs. 23-28.

1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-22
12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil
.

For almost two years now as an official pastor – and for almost 30 years as a Bible teacher, I’ve seen church life from ‘the other side of the pulpit’. Even in my younger days as a Christian I’ve been a sort of confidant for pastors I’ve sat under.

So I know a little bit about ministry, and the hearts of true shepherds who love the sheep, who are joyful in seeing them blessed; heart broken in seeing them ruined. So often, such ruin is the result of bad choices and discarded counsel from a faithful shepherd, bearing Scriptural truth.

The recognition of pastoral authority is not to subjugate the saints under the proverbial boot of GOD’s minister, but to have someone, wise in the Scripture, and whose life measures up to what they teach (that is, practicing what they preach: and the saint is encouraged to inspect the lives of such pastors and see if they are bearing good fruit!) who can watch over their souls:
HEBREWS 13:17
Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you
.
This is something that pastors and congregants must be very careful about: the pastor is not to overreach his authority beyond the biblical guidelines and the congregant is to neither neglect that GOD-given authority, nor are they to submit to authority that is NOT GOD-given!  

Every pastor that is ordained of GOD only has as much authority as is allotted to them by the Scriptures – which they are to teach faithfully and abide by – otherwise, if they by overreaching and assuming authority that is not granted by the Holy Bible, they lose any such authority. Since pastors are only under-shepherds, and JESUS is Himself the Good Shepherd, He is Himself the only true senior pastor (i.e., “chief shepherd”; see 1 PET 5:4) of the flock to Whom every pastor is accountable to and must give an account for how he has treated His bride.

Needless to say, there are a lot of so-called pastors who have no GOD-given authority because unlike the LORD Himself, they don’t esteem His Word as He does (PSALM 138:2)! Mores the shame, there are even (false) shepherds who give little or no regard at all to the WORD of GOD! These are they who deny the very truth of Scripture that is both spiritual and ontological (check out this TTUF article: Narrow View of Scripture).

But in as much as you may find a faithful, humble man of GOD (emphasis on man; there are no women pastors, period!) who loves the LORD, His people, and esteems the Word, then “esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake”.

Pastoring can be a lonely job – which is just one reason why I thank GOD that I serve in a (tiny) fellowship with two other saintly men of GOD! – and prayer as well as an encouraging word, can go such a long way. Particularly when you tell your pastor how a particular teaching helped you in some way. There are times when we can wonder if we’re “getting through” to the saints, if we’re making a connection, if we are having a godly effect to draw the saints closer to the LORD.

So please, love on your pastor, let them know that you’re praying for him, that you appreciate their labors. It’s not so that the servant of the LORD can exalt himself by the praises of the people (GOD forbid!), but to let them know that their ministry is meaningful and effective.
And like any parent rejoices, seeing their children loving each other, and being kind to one another, so pastors are enormously blessed when they see the saints loving, forgiving, encouraging one another. To see that they are “at peace with one another”.

1 THESSALONIANS 5:14-15
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all
.

If this is vital for the brethren to warn one another, it’s even more so for those in pastoral care to warn those given to their charge. We want to remind the redeemed to be mindful of walking in orderly fashion. “Unruly” means “disorder” as well as “being insubordinate”.

I’ve lived a fairly disciplined life, and so when I see someone walking disorderly and not being a true disciple, it’s a latent tendency in me to be impatient and tell that someone to “buck up and fly straight!” Yet when I consider times in my own life when I’ve really botched it and had a ‘spiritual spanking’ coming from the LORD, and in His mercy, grace and patience, He foregoes the chastening and instead blesses me (which kills me with His kindness – something I think. He intends – that I despise my sinful unruliness, declare war on my sin and seek to draw closer to Him)!

We are so very close to the Holy Spirit when we learn to encourage and comfort as He does, especially the faint hearted (literally “little spirited”). When we turn through the Old Testament pages or New Testament for that matter – and see time after time, saints who have grown weary, well nigh giving up, and ready to faint – that the LORD faithfully, endearingly, gently encourages and strengthens them and restores them. The same goes for the weak: we are to uphold them and be a spiritual anchor for them. It’s been said, “The mercy of GOD picks you up; and it’s the grace of GOD that holds you up!”

I love this passage from the CORINTHIAN epistle from the apostle Paul:
2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the
[same] comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
We can sometimes wonder why we get hit with trials that are at times so severe that they can cause us to swoon under the weight of them. The LORD is faithful to support us, and by His enabling grace – if we resort to it – brings us through the fire. Daniel’s three Hebrew brothers were cast into the fiery furnace and by GOD’s hand, made it through. Daniel himself was cast into the lion’s den and was brought up again by GOD’s hand. The hand of the LORD led Christ to the Cross of Calvary – but just as their was a tomb, there was a resurrection! I recall the oft quoted expression: If GOD brings you to it, GOD will bring you through it!

If we are patient enough to get through the experience, we see the hand of GOD in our lives and how He works things out, marvelously, miraculously. We find ourselves on the other side of the trial, refined, less burdened by the flesh that seeks to interfere with our progress on this road of righteousness, and stronger – having hope and confidence when we face the next trial (ROM 5:3-5).

When we face others who are going through the trials we ourselves have known on this road of righteousness, some of those miles behind us, we can offer a gentle smile and an encouraging word and gems of hard-won counsel, and we are given rapt attention by these suffering saints. We become for them ‘portraits of promise’ and ‘counselors of comfort’, sent to them by the leading of the Spirit!

May our trials never be wasted; rather may we yield humbly, learn our lessons well, and allow the Spirit to work in us so that as a result, we become better, not bitter. See SUFFERING & TRIALS: The Purpose of Pain. May we all, as the saints of GOD, exhibit the same brand of patience that the LORD extends to us.

How many wounded saints would have been spared these sorrows if we “always pursued good” and never “rendered evil” towards their brothers and sisters in the faith?

Something that should always give us pause, and indeed, cause us to tremble, that however we treat our fellow saints, we are doing this to Christ Himself. Remember what Christ said to Saul of Tarsus when he was on the Emmaus road? “Why are you persecuting Me?” (ACTS 9:4). What happens to His church, His bride, it also happens to Him! May we remember this vital truth the next time we are about to unleash on one of our fellow saints!

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
.

It takes a disciple of Christ, indwelt by the Spirit of Christ to exhibit the ability to truly “rejoice always” – even in the midst of abject misery and suffering. It takes the Spirit of GOD to rejoice – and offer the sacrifice of praise when the body is wracked with unendurable pain.
It's effortless to offer praise to the LORD when everything is fine and fulfilling and flourishing. But the truest sacrifices are those offered up when our hearts – or our bodies – or both are broken, with no immediate hope for healing.

I recall one very brave, young soldier of Christ, Jeremiah Thomas who died of a tenaciously painful and aggressive cancer right before his eighteenth birthday, and I heard that one of the last entries he wrote in his journal was:

LORD I am not worthy of the least of Your mercies, but You will always be worthy of my praise!” That is a sacrifice most pure and honorable to the LORD!

It’s when we rejoice in all situations and circumstances that we are in the right frame of mind to “pray without ceasing [and] in everything give thanks”.

That is, let our hearts be a fountain, ever flowing in our offerings of prayer in all of its forms: worship and praise, petitions and intercessions, supplications. We may pray during our daily activities, chores, duties, and labors, as well as in our times of rest and repose. There are times of prayer among the saints as we gather together to seek the LORD and yet there is also that time of solitary prayer, when we shut ourselves in with the LORD, completely free of distraction so that our hearts may be settled upon our precious Redeemer and Friend.

C.S. Lewis was fond of saying that “…prayer changes me.” And that it certainly does – any time of devotion and worship of the LORD will certainly bring about a change in us, right down to our core, and such changes will with absolute certainty percolate upwards and spill out of our lives, affecting ourselves, our ministry, and those around us.

It's in the giving of thanks we are reminded of how the LORD has blessed us and answered prayers from days before – and this encourages us in our prayer life, beholding GOD’s faithful hand of provision for us and our loved ones. Thankfulness is also a sure safeguard against covetousness and envy!

If we know little of what GOD’s will for our lives entails, we know for certain those things that are His will for us: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, [and] in everything give thanks”.
Also:

1 THESSALONIANS 4:3
For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication
:

We must make certain that our lines of communication are open to the LORD, because there are of course those hindrances to prayer that cripple our prayer lives (click on the preceding link to check out an excellent series on prayer).

1 THESSALONIANS 5:19-22
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil
.

“Quench” in this instance means “to extinguish” – often the Spirit of GOD is portrayed as a flame or fire, so this idea is suitable, as one might extinguish a fire. Since the apostle is speaking counsels to the church of Thessalonica, rather than to individual saints, this can only be in reference to quenching the Spirit in regards to His ministry to and through the church body, as He is the One who grants prophecy, which we are not to “despise” either nor should we despise the admonitions to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks”.

Wherever those who are hearing the Word of GOD find themselves despising it, this is an instance wherein they are in gravest danger. We ought to love and highly esteem the Word and the Wisdom of GOD. Yet there are those who actually and really hate the Word and Wisdom of GOD. These are they who “love death” (PROV 8:36).

All too often Christians expect the pastors to do all the Bible study, all the research and discerning where various teachers and teachings are concerned – determining who are good and faithful Bible teachers and who are not. Yet this is an admonition to all saints. Elsewhere the apostle Paul stated:
2 TIMOTHY 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth
He also commended the saints who questioned his teachings and brought them under the light of known canon (predominantly the Old Testament) and searched the Scriptures daily to ascertain the validity of the apostles teachings (ACTS 17:11).

All Christians are to be disciples of the Word (JOHN 8:31) and as such, we have everything we need to discern and determine what is true and what is false. This was the charge Paul gave to the church of Ephesus (ACTS 20:27-31), and one of the things that the LORD admitted (among critical issues!) that this church did well (REV 2:2).

Wisdom and discernment are close cousins – and we acquire both from the Holy Scriptures, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. As we mature in the faith, our discernment grows keener, and thus we are all the more able to spot error and heresies.
Since we have the availability of the entire canon of Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is ever present to lead and guide us, how is it then that the apostasy has grown exponentially to monstrous proportions?

Quite frankly, it’s because the enemy was allowed into our churches, our seminaries and Bible colleges where the Scriptures are minimized, marginalized, maligned; the church is hardly even taught the Bible any more. They are given snippets of Scripture on a screen and not encouraged to bring their own Bibles. Then there are the various perversions of the Bible that are gaining acceptance.

This is to say nothing of the ‘seeker-friendly’ movement that did all that it could to welcome the unredeemed into our midst, and account them as ‘saved’ simply because of their church attendance/membership. It then becomes the pastor’s duty to keep those in the pews who were invited to sit there to begin with, and that’s where compromise comes in: can’t talk about sin, about repentance, holiness, denial of self and carrying the Cross.

Lest we forget, this apostasy is the falling away from “the faith”, and people equate this falling with losing salvation; yet, how many church goers, stemming back decades, had a rudimentary and nominal belief in the Bible (that body of doctrine that is referred to as “the faith”) and yet were never truly born again?

As one looks at the various Protestant denominations, where they once were valiant defenders of the faith and heralders of the Gospel – today, they are rife with New Age doctrine, ‘progressive’ theology, compliance to the belief that “There is more than one way to heaven” etc. How many people and their families attended these various churches out of a sense of familial loyalty? And tradition? Yet never being truly born of GOD’s Spirit?

I believe it’s these same people who are open game to believing in “the doctrine of demons” and “seducing spirits” that have become prominent, and will become more so in the days ahead (1 TIM 4:1).
PROVERBS 8:12, 17, 35-36
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And find out knowledge and discretion. 17 I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD; 36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death
.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:23-28
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 25 Brethren, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen
.

Paul brings to a conclusion this epistle with a benediction – that promises to bring us sanctification, complete and entire: spirit, soul and body. Our spirit on the day we placed our faith in Christ and were indwelt by the Spirit of GOD; our souls in that work of sanctification and the renewing of our minds; our bodies on that day of glorification, when we lose these corrupt “cages of flesh” and find ultimate freedom from the sin nature, with new bodies far, far more powerful than these feeble ‘tents’!

We who are true saints of GOD are preserved by GOD and accounted as “blameless” and will continue to be so for the duration of our time here until “the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ”. And here again, as with every chapter of this epistle, we have a reference to the coming of Christ!

Paul is doubly emphatic when he states: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” All He requires is a genuine heart of repentance and complete trust, solely in His redemptive power and work and then He takes it from there, ensuring that He that began this work will be the One to complete it (PHIL 1:6). This is a testament to His glory!

The apostle wasn’t expressing religious sentiment when he requested prayer. He understood that as powerful a minister as he was, he had to bank on the prayers of the saints. We are engaged with a fierce and tenacious enemy who doesn’t sleep and he along with his entire kingdom of darkness is working relentlessly against the saints, against GOD’s work in our lives, and seeking to discourage and dispirit us every way that he can.

The Christian life is a life of spiritual warfare: from sharing the Gospel, to intercessory prayer, to making disciples, to engaging in apologetics with the lost, to living a sanctified and holy life for Christ as His witness. The enemy is opposed to all of this and so, there is serious need for any ministry – if it’s to be a successful one – for intercessory prayer!

Paul’s last admonition is that this epistle was to be read by all of the holy brethren. If we are to be valiant for GOD’s Kingdom, if we intend on obtaining victory and to see successful results in “seeking first the Kingdom of GOD” then we must be a people of GOD’s Word – in the reading of it, the study of it, the loving and practicing of it. There are no other resources available to us whereby our ministry can know victorious success.

And unless the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ be with us, we may know what the Word instructs us to do, but how to perform that which is right, we will not find, apart from the grace of our LORD Jesus Christ!

So ends the CROSSING The ‘T’s TTUF STUDY 1st THESSALONIANS. We’ve done a study previously on 2 THESSALONIANS by different teachers – and we will revisit this study with some expansion and additions (where they may be of benefit).

Until that time, KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE SKIES, AND DON’T BELIEVE THE LIES – The LORD JESUS CHRIST RETURNS SOON FROM ON HIGH!!

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