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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: October 16, 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).
1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (L 08)
Welcome to HBS.
Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s Written Word and your forbearance. I was away on vacation longer than I originally had planned, but I put the time to good use. Now I’m home and fully rested and revitalized and stand ready to help y’all grow in knowledge of our Savior and the faith.
Please open your Bible at 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13.
“But now when Timotheus (Timothy) came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity (agape love), and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish (to fix; to settle in a state for permanence) your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
Read that Bible passage carefully remembering Paul wrote it from Corinth, Greece. He suffered persecution while “laboring” there too and I think it was still occurring when he wrote this letter, according to his statement in verse 3:7: “Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:”
Corinth, Greece in Paul’s Day
Corinth was a large city with two seaports, one on either side of the narrow isthmus on which it was situated. Thus, merchants, sailors, and travelers of all sorts that crossed the isthmus would visit Corinth for business and for pleasure for the city was the sports capital of the then known world with its great Isthmus Games that attracted visitors from all over the Mediterranean. But pleasure comes in many forms and the one thing that definitely overshadowed the Isthmus Games was sexual immorality on a grand scale for this activity occurred around the clock day after day. Paul addressed this illicit trade in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 saying, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them members of an harlot?” (v 15).
The source I used to confirm the existence of prostitution in religious Greek culture in the N.T. era is a statement from the Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian Strabo who lived in Asia Minor during the transitional period of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire (64 BC-AD 21). In regard to ancient Corinth he wrote: "And the temple of Aphrodite (in Corinth) was so rich that it owned more than a thousand temple-slaves, courtesans (prostitutes), whom both women and men had dedicated to the goddess. Therefore it was also on account of these women that the city was crowded with people and grew rich.”
It was because of the constant flow of commuter traffic from east to west, and vice versa, that Paul considered Corinth as a strategic location for the spread of the gospel, so he planned on staying there for an extended time period doing that very thing. In Acts 18:1-3 Paul tells us he secured work “as a tentmaker” to support himself and resided with Aquila and Priscilla in their home. He spent sabbath days (where else but) at the Jewish synagogue, proving to the Jews there that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:4-5). You see, Paul had to begin with this truth and get them to believe it in order for them to accept the more vital message of God’s grace totally apart from keeping the Law. This would not be possible if they still thought Jesus to be nothing more than an blasphemer and an imposter. That being said, the biblical record states: “And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6-7).
Thus began a mighty work of God among the gentiles and bitter opposition from the unbelieving Jews (v 12). Looking back, our apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Believers, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). So intense was the persecution that the Lord appeared to him in a vision to encourage him and strengthen his resolve: “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.” Bolstered by this divine reassurance, “he continued there a year and six months.” (v11)
So then, despite all the ministerial work for the Lord and the anxiety and opposition wrought by it, Paul did not forget the Thessalonian saints who were suffering intense persecution themselves for their faith. His anxiety over their present state was greatly relieved, however, by Timothy’s “good tidings,” and although Paul was surrounded by opposition and persecution, he directly followed up Timothy’s good news with a letter of encouragement to them – the very one we are currently studying.
Timothy’s Favorable Report
Stand Fast In The Lord
“For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.”
Paul has much to say about “standing fast” in his writings, however, in verse 3:8 I see something that warrants a closer look where such “standing” is concerned. “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” – Paul and his companions had endured much suffering and anxiety for many months but the good news Timothy brought back from Thessalonica, where persecution also raged, had gladdened his heart, and lifted his spirit. Therefore, the words “we live” might also read, “Now this is living,” and this from the apostle Paul who had experienced challenging times but now the sense is he foresees a much better life ahead.
Please note Paul wrote: “stand fast in the Lord” but to other Believers he wrote: “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Corinthians 16:13); “Stand fast in (your) liberty” (Galatians 5:1); “Stand fast in one spirit” (Philippians 1:27); “Stand fast and hold the traditions ye have been taught” (2 Thessalonians 2:15), etc. But here, as he did to the persecuted saints in Philippi (Philippians 4:1), he encouraged the Thessalonians to “stand fast in the Lord.” Note he did not say, “Stand fast for the Lord,” but, “in the Lord,” so what do you suppose Paul meant by this? By God’s grace (alone) we Believers have been given an everlasting position in Christ. The Scriptures say we are “accepted” in Christ (Ephesians 1:6); we’ve been declared “complete” in Christ (Colossians 2:10); and are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). So then, all that we are and have is “in Christ.” Knowing this to be true, says our apostle, by the Spirit, take your stand “in Christ.”
The message I believe Paul wants every true Believer to take away from this is, when the world-at-large opposes, when our “old man” leads us astray, when Satan oppresses and tempts us, and when doubt and uncertainty arises, remember, God the Father sees the Believer “in Christ,” and since He’s graciously given us this position, by all means, “stand fast in the Lord.” This is where we all begin our walk with the Lord so we must continue it until we go to be with Him at the Rapture, for to the Philippians saints, who had served the Lord for many years, Paul wrote: “Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved” (Philippians 4:1).
More Learning Needed
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 urges these saints not to be “shaken” by any rumor that the Day of the Lord was at hand, for this could not be, and then adds: “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” (verse 5). By this we know Paul had discussed “these things” when he was with them, but their knowledge of this subject matter was incomplete, i.e., “lacking.” At the time of this writing these Believers were evidently confused and concerned about their saved loved ones who had died. They questioned whether or not they would be present at the Rapture, so this issue needed to be answered and Paul did so in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; and we’ll get to that in just a bit. But there was so much more for them to know and Paul earnestly prayed that soon he might “see their faces” again to explain all “these things” in detail and to strengthen their faith. Paul most likely had that thought in mind when he wrote verse 3:11: “Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.”
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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