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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: November 13, 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 4:9-18 - (L 12)
Welcome back to HBS my friends and thank you for your faithful attendance.
We’ve been away from the Bible text for a couple of weeks while we looked at biblical terminology, namely, what it means for the Believer to “stand fast” and “be ye steadfast;” and the terms positional and practical sanctification because:
“…God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1Thessalonians 4:4);
“to possess our vessels in sanctification and honor:” (1Thessalonians 4:7);
And “…walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Keeping all that in mind, please open your Bible at 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12:
“But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and ye may have lack of nothing.”
“But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;”
As I mentioned earlier, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 begins the Apostle Paul’s practical discourse on “how” to apply the doctrinal teachings in chapters 1-3 to the Believer’s life.
In the Bible passage above, Paul’s words are actually confirmed by the whole letter. The saints at Thessalonica had indeed been “taught of God to love one another,” thus, Paul did “not” need to “write unto” them again about this subject. What’s more, they had shown their “love… “…toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia:” Thus, Paul commends them for their proper attitude and urged them to “increase (in this God pleasing pursuit) more and more” (verse 4:10).
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;”
I say again this letter does not contain one word of harsh criticism or condemnation, yet Paul encouraged these Believers with these words. Timothy had arrived in Athens, Greece, to meet up with Paul, and gave him a favorable report on the status and state of the Thessalonian saints. Paul had already sent Timothy back to Thessalonica after arriving in Athens (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8) but Timothy had since re-joined Paul in Corinth, Greece (1 Thessalonians 3:6; Acts 18:5) where this letter was penned circa 52 AD. Paul had left Thessalonica rather abruptly to avoid the persecution directed his way and before he had an occasion to teach these new gentile converts how to adapt their lifestyle to reflect their new faith (Acts 17:4). This is why we find Paul, now, encouraging them to stand fast in spite of the persecution and instructed them how to live a life that pleases God. That thought takes us to verse 4:12:
“That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and ye may have lack of nothing.”
What is Paul saying here? Perhaps, in his oral report, Timothy told Paul about an emerging tendency on the part of some of the Thessalonian saints to cease working for a living while others had become busybodies (i.e. gossipers - see 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12). As I understand this, some of the Believers in Thessalonica felt justified in their decision to quit working while waiting for the Rapture to occur. In verse 4:11 Paul urged all those who felt this way to “study to be quiet,” or as we’d say today, Mind your own affairs, and enjoy the fruit of your own labor that they might “walk honestly toward them that are without,” and “have lack of nothing.”
In verses 4:11-12 Paul highlights the fact that God expects every Believer in Christ who is able to work to do so. Instead of avoiding work, these folks were directed by Paul to be productive, laboring so as to earn an honest living instead of placing an unnecessary burden on others. Being a manual laborer in a Greco-Roman city in Paul’s day was a hard life, by modern standards, and the thought that it might not be necessary, seeing as the Lord’s return for His own might happen sooner rather than later, evidently had appealed to more than a few people. I take the time to point out here that worldly people, like electricity and water, choose the path of least resistance – it’s in their nature to do so. But, in keeping with God’s standard, abandoning one’s work in favor of living off the labor of others is unacceptable behavior.
Paul’s treatment of this important issue is framed in terms of “brotherly love” (verse 4:9). This term, by the way, is rarely found outside of scripture. In using it Paul’s saying the Believers strong feeling of attachment toward one another is summed up in these words for in Romans 12:10 Paul wrote: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly (phileo) love; in honour preferring one another;” When combined with the term agape love it means to seek one other’s highest good: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Worldly people will do anything to get ahead. Those who walk in the Spirit and live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) do more than just give voice to their concern for those who are dealing with life’s difficulties they offer them aid, comfort, encouragement etc.
“If therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies (and there is), Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, Let nothing through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:1-4). of one accord, of one mind.
So then, the idea being expressed here is “brotherly love” and mutual respect for one another are essential in the Believer’s relationships and that living off the charity of others (unnecessarily) demonstrates these characteristics are lacking in one’s life. Of course these Believers might choose to ignore Paul’s instructions and in so doing they might find themselves lacking the necessities of life and owing money to “them that are without.” In addition, their apathy toward work and their indifference to God’s expressed will demonstrates a lack of integrity that not only dishonors God it tarnishes their testimonies.
Let’s all read the next section at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 together:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive
and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
“But I would not have you to be ignorant” – here I point out “ignorant” does not mean “stupid.” It means: “lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated.” Until one receives knowledge (the truth) about something, then an individual or group is indeed unaware, and lacking that information; they are therefore “ignorant.” Thus, “But I would not have you to be ignorant” is Paul’s way of saying, “I have something I want to tell you that you’re unaware of.” (See Romans 1:13, 11:25; 1 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 1:8)
To that teaching point I’ll add it’s a notable fact that those truths which Paul writes, “I would not have you to be ignorant” are the very truths a great many Christians live in ignorance of. The Bible passage above is a prime example of this fact both back in Paul’s day and now. We have seen from 1 Thessalonians 3:10 that Paul was praying “night and day… exceedingly” that he might see these faithful brethren again to “perfect that which is lacking in (their) faith” or those truths he was unable to teach them because the fierce persecution forced him to leave Thessalonica before his labor of love was “completed.” (See 2 Corinthians 13:5-10; Colossians 4:12)
One of those incomplete subjects concerned the Pre-Tribulation coming of Christ Jesus for His own. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 exhorts these Believers not to be shaken by any rumor that the Day of the Lord was at hand, for this could not yet be, and then he added, “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” (2: 5). So, they had discussed the coming of the Lord when he was with them, but this is a voluminous subject, and they had not yet come to understand all its ramifications, and so they were “ignorant” of some the particulars of this Church event. At the time of this writing, they were evidently confused and concerned about their saved loved ones who had departed this life or “which are asleep” (a gentle turn of phrase meaning all those in Christ Jesus who had passed away). You see, false teachers, (the ravenous wolves of which Paul writes – see Acts 20;25-31; Romans 16:17-27), had entered this assembly of Believers and told them there is no resurrection of the dead, meaning, their loved ones who had died had truly died – over and out! So then, the question on these peoples’ minds was “would their loved ones miss the glory and joy of the Rapture?” To which Paul replied, “By no means.” For when the Lord Jesus Christ comes for the Body of Christ the sleeping members of His body “shall rise first” and then those who “are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:” This revelation “by the word of the Lord” is found in the following Bible passage:
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (4:15-18).
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord – it’s important to understand the truth of the Rapture was a revelation revealed and committed to our apostle Paul only. Here he proclaimed it, “by the word of the Lord,” i.e., to him and he in turn taught it to these Believer’s saying, “Behold I show you a mystery” (1 Corinthians 15:51). This Church event identified as the Rapture will bring this present Dispensation of Grace to a close and the (true) Church will then be with the Lord Jesus Christ for eternity. This “mystery” is but one of several “mysteries of God” of which Paul had been made a steward (1 Corinthians 4:1) and an integral part of that great body of truth which he calls “the mystery,” i.e., God’s message and program for His Church of this present dispensation, otherwise referred to as the Body of Christ (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:3,9; Colossians 1:25-26, 2:2; and 1 Timothy 3:9).
The word translated “mystery” is the Koine Greek word musterion (pronounced moos-tay’-ree-on), Strong’s Greek #3466. It’s an unfortunate thing to report in this day and age, but the majority of Christendom is confused and does not understand what this term means; they are therefore, “ignorant.” The word “mystery” does not mean an enigma, strange, or weird. It means a “secret”– something kept hidden, that is, something previously unrevealed. Paul used the term to describe the body of Church Doctrine the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord revealed to him. God had kept these revelations hidden until He chose to disclose them to our apostle. Paul correctly called these doctrines “secrets” for that was what they were. Paul speaks of several “mysteries” the Lord had revealed to him the suddenness of the Rapture is but one (1 Corinthians 15:52).
We’ll pick up this Bible lesson from here when next we meet.
(To be continued)
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