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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: August 21, 2020
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
“Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”
(1 Thessalonians 1:1)
“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Many people from around the world have joined our Bible study in the past few weeks so I want to acknowledge them and send greetings their way. In addition, I ask that y’all pray for the safety and welfare of those who attend this Bible study from countries that have literally banned God and the Bible and are punishing those who continue to practice their faith. Their courage and tenacity in the face of intense opposition is inspiring to say the least, especially since many of us suffer so little for the cause of Christ yet we complain so much.
For the benefit of those who are relatively new to this study, and others, I offer this brief re-introduction to 1 Thessalonians.
1 & 2 Thessalonians were written by our apostle Paul circa 52 AD. They hold the distinction of being the first two letters he authored to a small group of converts in Thessalonica who had believed Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and were saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). In Acts 17 we learn Paul visited the synagogue in Thessalonica on three successive Sabbaths using the O.T. Scriptures to prove Jesus was the Christ (Messiah). Although his ministry was successful to the extent that he won both pagan gentiles and Jewish converts to Christ, he encountered fierce opposition from the Jews, for the most part, who resented the fact that he offered salvation to the gentiles without first requiring they become Jews.
Because of the intense opposition and persecution Paul reluctantly left the city. He regretted leaving them before his labor was finished, but he hoped that he might visit them again in the near future but Satan hindered him (2:18). He sent his companion and fellow laborer Timothy to encourage and strengthen the group and then report back to him on their present condition (3:1-2). When Timothy returned to Paul with the good news that the members of the church were standing firm in the faith in spite of the persecution, Paul’s anxiety lessened and he penned this letter from Corinth, Greece.
I believe wholeheartedly in the use of timelines in your Bible study, so with this in mind, let’s trace the movements of Paul and his companions that relate to the Thessalonian correspondence:
Paul, Timothy, and Silas founded the house church in Thessalonica on the apostle’s 2 missionary journey after establishing the first house church on Greek soil in Philippi (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
Paul and Silas fled from Thessalonica to Berea. Since Timothy is not mentioned (see Acts 17:10), it’s possible he stayed in Thessalonica, but he might have returned to Philippi and then rejoined Paul and Silas in Berea (Acts 17:14).
Paul fled to Athens, Greece from the persecution of the Jews in Berea, leaving Silas and Timothy there (Acts 17:14).
Paul sent word back instructing Silas and Timothy to come to him in Athens (Acts 17:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
Timothy rejoined Paul at Athens and was sent back to Thessalonica (3:1-5). Since Silas is not mentioned, it has been speculated that he returned to Philippi when Timothy went to Thessalonica. (3:1-2).
Paul arrived in Corinth, Greece “in weakness and in fear, and in much trembling” (Acts 18:1; 1 Corinthians 2:3).
Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:6).
Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and sent it to those Believers. About six months later he sent 2 Thessalonians in response to further information about the status of those saints and to address certain issues within the church.
The Persecuted Church
“But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.”
As our timeline indicated, Paul wrote this letter while in Corinth, Greece. He left the opposition and persecution in Thessalonica only to encounter more opposition at Corinth from the gentile factions in that church and the Jews in the city. So, Paul’s anxiety and concern for the Believers in Thessalonica. The past few months had been a period of intense persecution for himself and for those Believers he had left behind wherever he preached the revelation of the mystery. At Philippi he and Silas had been cruelly treated and forced to leave the city leaving behind them a newly founded house church which they were not permitted to encourage and strengthen. At Thessalonica, their next stop, many people were converted to Christ Jesus, but the opposition against Paul was bitter and unrelenting to the degree that he and Silas barely escaped with their lives, leaving behind them another persecuted church. The missionaries next stop was Berea and again more than a few people were won to Christ, but the unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica had pursued Paul to Berea and stirred up much opposition against them. However, this time Silas and Timothy stayed behind to encourage the brethren in this the third persecuted grace assembly.
The words “taken from” in verse 2:17 emphasize the fact Paul did not want to leave them. The brethren had sent him away under the cloak of darkness with haste (Acts 17:10), realizing if he were slain the cause of Christ would lose its leader. But Paul’s “heart” was still with the Thessalonians, for he “endeavored the more abundantly” to see their faces again. He tried to return to the city, but every time he tried Paul said, “Satan hindered” him (2:18). With that declaration Paul identified the source of the opposition he faced. I’ll take advantage of the opportunity here to teach, again, the greatest deception the devil has achieved since the dawn of time is getting people to believe he does not exist. But Paul makes it clear not only does he exist his goal is destroy anything that is of God. In other words if you’re for God, Satan has you and your testimony in the crosshairs, so to speak.
But before you begin thinking thoughts of doom and gloom please know God has a plan for each Believer’s life; a plan that is for our good and His glory. We should not forget, however, that Satan has a plan for the Believer’s life as well. His designs naturally run contrary to God’s for he is intent on destroying our lives and testimony for Christ through sin, false beliefs, and poor decision making. Paul’s mention of “the wiles of the devil” in Ephesians 6:11 teaches us that Satan has strategies, methods, and schemes to make us stumble in our walk. But Satan can’t undo your salvation (Colossians 3:3). Like a thief, he can also rob you of your joy in Christ and your assurance of salvation. So, as the gospel of the grace of God was hindered by Satanic opposition in Paul’s day, so too is “the prince of the power of the air” hindering God’s Church and the preaching of the mystery today (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2).
After establishing the church at Thessalonica, Paul had tried “once and again” (2:18) to reconnect with them, but it didn’t happen. The reason, Paul wrote, was that “Satan hindered us.” The Greek word for “hindered” can mean making a road impassable. In the context of athletics, it meant cutting someone off or tripping them during a race. In a military context, it meant cutting a trench in front of an advancing army to prevent their progress. Satan does the same thing in the Believer’s life; he blocks their path, cuts them off in mid-stride to trip them up, and impedes their spiritual progress (growth).
We do not know what Satan did to keep Paul from returning to the saints at Thessalonica, but we do know that Paul attributed the obstruction to Satan himself. However, on this side of the issue, we see how even Satan’s hindrance was part of God’s divine plan for Paul’s life and the lives of every Believer that came after him. God allowed and used Satan’s opposition and brought good out of this roadblock which Paul perceived as something dreadful. As He did with the Cross of Christ, God accomplished His own purposes, using the devil to do so. How so? The consequence of Paul’s inability to go to Thessalonica was the very thing that brought Paul to write this letter; a letter that eventually became part of the N.T. This letter, in turn, has resulted in glory to God and, for the past 2000 years, untold multitudes have benefited from Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians and have been blessed by its divine truths re: “our blessed hope” of the Rapture (4:13-18), to name just one. It was because Paul faced a satanic roadblock in his life that we have 1 & 2 Thessalonians. We do well to remember this anytime we face a blocked road or barrier in life that we perceive as bad, because God is able to bring something good out of it for His glory and our blessing (Romans 8:28-29).
Moving on, it was at Athens, Greece that Paul and his message were ridiculed from the beginning, but in that account I find no real opposition from those people. Again, some believed his message but others ridiculed him and walked away not wanting to hear it (Acts 17:16-34).
Before I end this section please understand the fact that Satan hindered Paul from returning to the converts in Thessalonica by no means indicates he is more powerful than God for God permitted Satan’s interference for the strengthening of those saints in Christ and that’s exactly what happened. The persecution they endured strengthen their faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). Just remember, at no time, does God relinquish His throne of glory. He’s in charge 24/7/365!
Paul’s Crown of Rejoicing
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.”
This is the only passage in Scripture that I can find which indicates so clearly that at the coming of Christ at the Rapture we Believers will rejoice over other Believers whom, by God’s grace, we had a hand in leading to Christ Jesus, or have in some way helped them spiritually. This stands to reason, for in Luke 15:10 we learn the angels in heaven rejoice when one sinner repents. Therefore, we Believers also rejoice and give thanks to God when we learn the seeds of faith we sowed in an individual’s life were nurtured by God (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) and that person believed God and was saved. Faith in what God has said always precedes salvation (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3, 22; Galatians 3:6).
Here I need to address a concern a lot of people walk around with and that is they think a loved one’s salvation is dependent on them and if their child, husband, relative, etc. does not respond to their leading then they are to blame. My ex held this view much to my dismay. She told me often that she led her children to church just about every time they turned the lights on there. She read the Bible to them regularly, spoke about spiritual things, and tried her best to make them understand, only to discover their lack of interest in the things of God. In other words, they didn’t want to hear it. She was disappointed and discouraged and carried the burden of defeat every day of her life. She told me more than once she was done with that, but secretly, I believe she wanted the credit. My response never changed. I told her God is Sovereign and the author and perfecter of our faith. It is not enough to know the truths of scripture intellectually; we need to believe them in our heart. We need to fully trust in the sovereignty of God for He alone is in the business of saving people and He alone causes the increase. Our role in salvation is simply to convey his message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
One day future our Lord and Savior having brought “many sons unto glory,” will rejoice and say, “Behold I, and the children which God hath given Me” (Hebrews 2:10-13). He, of course, was “the captain of their salvation.” He poured our His life’s blood to redeem them from the penalty of sin. Thus, it is fitting in recognition He should be “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 2:9). Like Christ and our apostle Paul those to whom, by God’s Grace, we have brought spiritual light and blessing, will surely be our “crown of rejoicing” in that day. Paul declared one day our Lord shall “come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe,” and then adds parenthetically, “(because our testimony among you was believed)” – 2 Thessalonians 2:10. May our testimonies contribute to the Lord Jesus Christ’s “everlasting glory:”
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Paul's spontaneous outburst of worship and praise, in this passage, came after he had pronounced a truth that should rejoice the hearts of all God's children: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
“The Church” is the Body of Christ and in this verse it is the power of God, working through “the Church” that is being praised because of Christ Jesus our Lord, and how this rejoices the heart of the apostle Paul. The work that God has done in each of our lives is going to be used by the Father as an everlasting testimony of His goodness and grace.
In the previous chapter, Paul reminded us that because of God's great love for us, He is “rich in mercy” for despite being dead in our transgressions, He made us alive, together with Christ and seated us together with Him in the heavenlies. May we never forget that it is not because of anything we have done that we are saved, but by God's amazing grace alone (Ephesians 2:4-5). It is by faith in His sacrificial death, burial, and glorious resurrection that we are redeemed from the slave-market of sin and blessed with eternal life in the heavenlies. For God “…hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:6-9).
God the Father is going to use those who are saved by grace through faith (alone) as an everlasting demonstration, to the angelic hosts and generations of mankind, of His great love, mercy, goodness, and grace. So then, I ask you, should this not rejoice the heart of every member of the Body of Christ? Should we not join Paul in bringing glory to God forever and ever, amen? That’s another rhetorical question. I believe you know the answer. May we never forget that our salvation has nothing to do with us; it is not our works, our kind acts, or generous giving that has saved us and forgives us of all our sin past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13), it is the unmerited free gift of God.
So let’s be clear our salvation did not come because of the good works we have done. The fact of our salvation is that we are God’s workmanship. We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, i.e., good deeds, “which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
May the truth of our salvation and the good works that we perform through the power of Christ bring everlasting glory to our Lord and Savior, in the same way, that the Lord Jesus gave honor and glory to the Father during His time on the earth.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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