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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: January 08, 2021
“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).
FYI: This Bible lesson completes our study of 1 Thessalonians.
The Grace of God will teach the true Believer to acknowledge those who are “over us” in the church. Paul goes on to say we’re to be patient and kind to one another and included “all men” (clearly referencing the unbeliever) in his statement. Thus we’re to strive for unity and peace in the body: “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
Please open your Bible at 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”
“Now we exhort you, brethren,” – to “exhort” means to tell someone what they ought to do, minus a critical spirit and an abrasive tongue. Paul isn’t criticizing or scolding these Believers, but it’s also true this message is more than a mere suggestion or sound advice. He’s saying the matter is serious enough to warrant their urgent attention.
“…warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”
Here Paul tells the members of the Body of Christ (not just those who hold a church office) to minister in a variety of ways, depending on the state of the person who needs assistance. So, if someone is “unruly,” the duty of the Believer is to “warn them.” Others in the body are in need of “comfort,” in a variety of ways, while others need to be “supported” by the members of the Church.
As I mentioned last week, the “unruly” are those folks who are “out of order,” using a military term that describes the soldier who breaks ranks or marches out of step with their unit. This is a self-willed individual who simply demands to hold his or her own opinion or preference above all others, including God Himself in some cases. Paul said these people must be “warned.”
The “feebleminded” (this does not mean mentally challenged it means timid) are those who behave as a church mouse, i.e., one who is seldom seen or heard from. Either by their nature or experiences in life they lack boldness and/or courage. Paul’s saying you’re going to find these people everywhere you go not just in the church and they need someone to come alongside them to provide assisting strength, i.e., support. We’re to make it our business to help them with comforting, encouraging words.
Of a similar nature is Paul’s exhortation to “support the weak.” In Romans 15:1 Paul wrote: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” He’s referencing those folks that are “strong” in the faith with respect to the matters he’s been discussing prior to this statement; i.e., those whose minds were free from bewilderments and doubts.
“be patient toward all men” – here Paul means to say we’re to “be patient” with everyone in the church but he also included all those without a relationship with the one true living God, i.e., those who are not saved.
Since this was the model grace church, who were the “unruly,” the “feebleminded,” and the “weak” in this assembly? These three groups are mentioned by Paul in earlier passages of 1 Thessalonians and I’ve rounded them up for y’all below:
The “unruly” - these are the Believers that decided to drop-out of the workforce in anticipation of the Rapture and would not listen to reason:
“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 that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
The “feebleminded” - these are the Believers who were experiencing high anxiety about their departed loved ones, in Christ. They needed “comforting” because they had doubts about them taking part in the Rapture:
“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” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).
The “weak” – here I believe Paul is referencing those Believers who walked that imaginary fine line between godly (God-like) conduct and immorality. I remind the group it wasn’t that long ago that these folks “had turned to God from idols,” and old habits die hard as I’m sure more than a few of you know (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10):
“For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-8).
His exhortation to “be patient toward all men” (5:14) clearly indicates this attitude of humility and grace should extend not only toward one another in the church, but to all.
It’s a given that no two people are the same, so different approaches must be taken with different people. The same rule applies it just needs to be ministered with careful consideration. I offer this example. I’ve met with churched people from various denominations and shared my knowledge of Scripture with them, and for the most part, they tried my patience at every opportunity. They were deeply entrenched in church tradition(s) and not open to anything that contradicted what they had heard in church. In other words, these people were their final authority. But for a few exceptions these people were strong-willed (stubborn) and seldom listened to what I had to say re: “the revelation of the mystery,” Paul’s gospel, and the ministry of God’s grace toward “all men.” Clearly these individuals must be approached differently than those who show an openness to new ideas as did the Bereans of Acts 17; for they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying lined up with what God had revealed:
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few” (Acts 17:10-12). Truly, “love suffereth long, and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).
“See that none render evil for evil unto any man;” – this is the responsibility, not only of the church leadership, but of the whole congregation. Setting the proper example themselves they should see to it that “evil” is not rendered for “evil,” lest it breed an atmosphere of distrust and disunity within the body and hinder the cause of Christ in their community and beyond.
“but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
I don’t think this verse needs interpreting; it says what it means and means what it says.
It would be a great thing indeed in any assembly of Believers if it’s members would choose to flee those things which cause rebellion, malice, and ill-will, and would instead pursue “that which is good,” namely, mutual brotherly love and understanding.
Paul’s Closing Counsel
“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us. Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
Paul closed 1 Thessalonians as per usual with statements of care and genuine concern, along with this sincere prayer. Thus, Paul encouraged these Believers (and us) to strive to live their lives according to the following wise counsel:
Admonish the unruly (5:14)
Encourage the fainthearted (5:14)
Help the weak (5:14)
Be patient with all (5:14)
Repay no one evil for evil (5:15)
Seek good for one another and all (5:15)
Rejoice always (5:16)
Pray without ceasing (5:17)
In everything give thanks (5:18)
Do not quench the Spirit (5:19)
Do not despise prophesying (5:20)
Examine everything carefully (5:21)
Prove all things; hold to that which is good (5:21)
Abstain from all appearance of evil (5:22)
“Rejoice evermore” – I find it remarkable that the very first of these final one-sentence exhortations is, “Rejoice evermore!” From this we are to understand adversity in whatever form should not impede our rejoicing, for we should see ourselves as God the Father sees us. We are, in fact, “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,” we’re
“accepted in the beloved,” and “complete in Christ” (See Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10; and Philippians 4:4), and so much more.
Paul, when burdened and oppressed by cares and harassed by persecution, represented himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). We should strive to do the same, since we’re exhorted to follow his admirable example (1 Corinthians 11:1).
“Pray without ceasing” – just about everyone I know misinterprets these words. “Pray without ceasing” should not be taken to mean we should pray continuously for this is just not possible. We all have to sleep sometime… Paul means to say, “We should never quit praying.” I know quite a few people who have given up praying because they aren’t seeing their prayers answered. That’s largely due to the fact that they’re not following Paul’s outline for prayer meant for this dispensation. Let’s take a look at that while we’re all here and hopefully this will enlighten those who are having difficulty understanding how we’re to pray in the Grace Age:
“Be careful (worry) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
God would have us pray about “everything,” with a thankful heart, whether it is spiritual or physical in nature. In view of the fact that God has redeemed us and blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, Paul wants us to know that our prayers should primarily center on spiritual things, i.e., the things of God, such as, praying for lost souls, a fuller understanding of the Scriptures, a knowledge of God’s will, wisdom, boldness to share the gospel of grace with those we meet, and so on.
We must keep in mind the importance of proper balance in the things of the Lord. God would also have us make known (give voice to) our physical requests. For instance I’m aware of a child that prayed God would heal his pet. We know that our Apostle Paul prayed about his physical infirmity, not once, but three times (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) to which the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Prior to his incarceration in Caesarea, he requested that he might have a prosperous journey to Rome; that is, safe travel, free from hardship (Romans 1:9-10). We are to pray for earthly rulers that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life to further the cause of Christ (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Paul instructs us not to be an ungrateful people, as Israel was in time past; thus, we are to thank God for His bountiful blessings (1 Timothy 4:4-5). We are to pray about the circumstances in which we might find ourselves. As we have noted, Paul coveted the prayers of those at Philippi that he would soon be delivered from prison in Rome. He wrote to Philemon along those lines saying: “But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you” (Philemon. 1:22).
As we follow Paul’s instructions re: our prayer life, the promise of God that follows will certainly be fulfilled: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
So then, Paul isn’t saying pray continuously but that we should never cease to pray; we should never quit communicating with God. We all should know and appreciate God’s invitation to free access into His presence 24/7/365, which has been so graciously extended to every saint in Christ (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:16).
“In everything give thanks” – Here Paul exhorts his readers to give thanks in all circumstances. He adds that it is God's will to do so. Regardless how difficult our situation may be we can find multiple reasons for thanking God. For instance:
We can be thankful “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
We can be thankful that God’s grace “is sufficient for thee: for (His) strength is made perfect in (our) weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We can be thankful that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
We can be thankful that God even supports us spiritually when negative circumstances produce difficulty in lives and impact our prayer life: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
That’s not an exhaustive list to be sure, but I pray it helps you understand Paul’s exhortation “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Quench Not – Despise Not- Prove All ThingsVerse 5:19.
“Quench not the Spirit” – this means to put out a fire (Matthew 12:20; Ephesians 6:16; Hebrews 11:34). God the Spirit is often portrayed as a burning flame (Acts 2:1-4), so Paul means to say don’t do anything that would stifle or suppress the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life. The Believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit the very moment they believe Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 1:13). Thus, they may neglect to give the Spirit of God free reign in their life (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), or they might grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), or may “quench” His working, in Himself or, as He may appear from verses 5:20 on.
“Despise not prophesyings” – here I need to point out that the gift of prophecy was still in effect when Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians. In his first letter to the Corinthians he had this to say about prophesying, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1); and then in verses 39-40 added, “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.”
This was because of the fact that all of the truths of “the mystery” had not been revealed, and the Word of God (the Holy Bible) was not a completed work. Thus, God still often communicated His Word by the mouths of saints, who could say, “Thus saith the Lord,” as the Spirit of God gave them utterance. In contrast, today we can only say, “Thus saith the Lord,” as we point to His written Word, while using “Right Division,” for those Spiritual gifts have been withdrawn from men (1 Corinthians 13:8-13) because that which is perfect (the Holy Bible) has come.
So, one or more of the Thessalonians might have quenched the Spirit by despising a brother who was prophesying. It does not follow that anything this person said was actually the word of the Lord, thus Paul continues with this exhortation, “Prove (test) all things; hold fast that which is good” (5:21; 1 Corinthians 2:15; Philippians 4:8).
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” – first, some of the modern Bible translations have inserted the word “form” rather than “appearance.” But I believe the KJV Bible translators had a better perception of this exhortation from Paul. Think it though. If it had meant every form of evil, a stronger word than “abstain” would have been used re: it, for there are many vicious forms of evil which we should not merely shy away from, but in actuality, we ought to flee from them. The word “appearance” signifies that which catches the eye, thus, said our apostle, “abstain” from anything that even looked like evil, for if you indulge in it your testimony concerning Christ will be tainted. There was an illustration circulating in the church some time ago about the appearance of evil and it went like this. A youth pastor sat drinking a soda at a table in front of an outdoor bar. Sure enough, as “appearances” go, he was seen by a few people in the church and the word quickly spread that he had been seen drinking at a local bar. That’s how careful all of us must be about our conduct and why we’re to “abstain from all appearances of evil.” It is with this in mind that Paul turned to prayer saying:
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it.” (5:23-24).
It was Paul’s deep desire that, being wholly consecrated to God, their whole spirit, soul, and body might be preserved blameless until the Lord’s coming in the clouds for them (1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:13). He added to this the comforting truth that the One who called them is faithful; He will keep His word to them (1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 1:6) for it is only as God sanctifies us wholly to Himself that we can enjoy peace and joy. The writer of Hebrews wrote a similar benediction:
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
“Brethren, pray for us.”
Here Paul asked these saints to pray “for us,” evidently meaning not just himself but his co-workers in the ministry as well because they also coveted their prayers. He had the same passions and dealt with the same temptations as other men. What’s more, he was actively engaged in a God-given ministry which brought about Satan’s harshest enmity toward him and all those that served the cause of Christ faithfully. On top of that he was often exposed to the gravest perils fearing for his very life at times. He was also not the bold person many think him to be. There are a number of Scripture passages that bear witness to this fact, and he freely admitted to it (1 Corinthians 1:13), and asked others to help him in this by praying for him (Ephesians 6:18-20).
“Greet all the brethren with a holy (emphasizes the sincerity of the greeting) kiss.”
Church people are all over the place as to the meaning of this verse. The holy kiss was a Jewish custom of welcome (Luke 7:45, 22:48; 1 Peter 5:14); it was also used by the early Christians of Paul’s day (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13-12).
Since greeting one another with a kiss was the custom of that time and place, as it is today in countries such as France, Italy, Russia, and the middle east, this passage does not bind the Believer to greet each other precisely in this way any more than the washing of the saint’s feet would here and now qualify a believing widow for the “widow’s pension” Paul wrote of in 1 Timothy 5:10. In any case, this passage is written directly to and about the “brethren,” and does not teach, let alone, sanction spontaneous kissing as a welcoming greeting.
Here’s the thing, have you ever attended a church where the atmosphere was cold as a meat locker? By that I mean to say no one said, “Good morning: I’m glad you’re here,” or offered you a friendly handshake along with a sincere smile. After the service, everyone filed out of the building, as though they were late for a medical appointment, barely acknowledging one another, much less you. Did you feel like returning to that church again? Probably not if we’re being honest. Therefore, Paul’s urging the Thessalonians to be friendly toward one another. Today Believers should extend a warm verbal greeting, a firm handshake, and if deemed permissible a friendly hug, for these represent the modern-day equivalents to the "holy kiss" of Paul’s day. These types of greetings matter because first impressions are lasting. Here I am referencing those folks who come to church seeking answers to their questions about God and faith and especially the interested unbeliever. Thus, the welcoming of such people in the church is very important. Nothing freezes the spiritual interest of a church visitor as quickly as a cold, indifferent congregation.
“I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.”
Here we have Paul’s order that this letter be read to “all the holy brethren” in the congregation. The importance of this “charge” will be considered as we study Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, for there existed an emerging problem in this assembly that was threatening to gather momentum, namely, the appearance of fraudulent letters indicating Paul believed the Rapture had already taken place.
Paul’s Closing Benediction
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
Paul began this letter with a salutation of “grace” and now ends it with a benediction of grace. Divine grace is God's unmerited favor. It is grace alone that saves us.
Ephesians 2:8 states plainly, "For by grace you have been saved…" God’s grace enables us to withstand the trials of live (2 Corinthians 9:8). We stand before God in His grace (Romans 5:2). When Paul was undergoing a difficult malady, he prayed three times that God would remove it, but God did not. However, He assured Paul that His grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:8–9). That same all-sufficient grace is available to every member of the Body of Christ. 2 Timothy 2:1 teaches us that God's grace strengthens us. Titus 2:12–13 credits God's grace with "training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Is it any wonder then that Paul wanted his readers to know and enjoy God's grace as he did?
(To be continued)
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