Sermon: Paul’s Defense and Our Calling 1 Thess. 2:1-12

Paul’s Defense and Our Calling

1 Thess. 2:1-12

Truth Taught- Paul makes his case against his opponents and in the process we learn how the Gospel should be freely given.

Introduction

In this beginning section of Chapter two we see Paul’s defense of his apostolic conduct and ministry to the Thessalonians. Why does he defend his actions and ministry? He defends his actions and ministry for at least two reasons. First, the Jews that had come in to fill to void after he left Thessalonica were attacking him. They were maligning his name and conduct. Even saying things like, all Paul wanted was your money. He’s not even an apostle, what gives him the right to tell you what to do? Secondly, we are reminded of the Pauline theology of imitation. He defends his ministry so that we can understand what is proper conduct as we engage in ministry as well.

In the process of his defense we learn a lot of things. We learn what false teachers are like and what they do. We learn what their motives are and what they’re really out for. We also learn what true Gospel ministry looks like. So, in the process of Paul making his defense we learn how not to engage in Gospel ministry and then the positive, how to engage in Gospel ministry.

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 2:1–12 (ESV)

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

  1. Paul’s First Defense…We Spoke Boldly in Much Affliction (2:1-2)

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

He begins by reminding the Thessalonians what they already know. He uses a phrase that will be repeated over again… you yourselves know. They already know how he and the missionary team conducted themselves while in the great city. What Paul is going to do is to contrast his actions and the resulting effects with the charges brought against him by the Jewish opponents who were making up lies trying to discredit Paul.

Have you ever had someone make up lies to try and hurt you or your reputation? It’s so important that we live pure lives being honest and forthright in all our dealings so that when we are slandered we will also have a defense. Children, it is vital that you begin at a young age to live according to God’s commands. Beginning with the command to obey your parents. As you grow up obeying God’s commands you will reap what you have sown. You will gain great benefits as you submit to your parents. This will greatly help you to learn to submit to God’s rule over you. We all must live in a way that would lift us above the slander. You see Paul and the others could rise above it simply by reminding others of what they witnessed first hand concerning them.

False teachers are simply trying to make a name for themselves and get rich. Paul and the others are contrasting their ministry with the lies and greed of the Jews who had come in to make a name for themselves.

2 Peter 2:1–3 (ESV)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

How Paul contrasts this is by reminding others that their message didn’t bring ease and riches to the messengers but had brought suffering and shameful treatment by those who opposed them. Their opponents were treating the gospel messengers poorly. The gospel was good news to the believers but brought hardship to the preachers.

While the apostle was suffering because of the message he was still speaking it boldly because it was not from him but from God. He wasn’t afraid of man because he knew this message was from God.

He and the others were bold because they had complete confidence in their message. He tells us that we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God.

Read More

Sermon: The Assurance and Encouragement of Divine Election 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

The Assurance and Encouragement of Divine Election

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

Truth Taught- God has set His love upon and chosen, from out of the world, a people for His own possession.

Introduction

Last time we looked briefly at the events surrounding Paul and his team of missionaries taking the Gospel to the region of Macedonia and specifically to the City of Thessalonica. We learned about the difficulties the small infant church had after the Jews forced the Apostle out of the city after just three weeks after arriving there. We also learned what the issues were that prompted his writing of the epistle and the needs the Thessalonian Christians had that he was seeking to meet. Finally, last time we saw how he proved to them that they were, in fact, truly Christians with genuine faith. He reminded them of their deeds, labor, and work that were an outflow of their faith. They were doing things that were only done if their faith was genuine. He reminded them of their hope that was fixed on the Lord Jesus and His return.

To continue with this purpose of proving to them that their faith is genuine saving faith he moves to another proof of their salvation, namely their election. He proves to them that they are the real thing by showing them how he knows without a doubt that they are elect, literally, chosen by God.

Today, the Doctrine of Election has caused great difficulties among the multitude that call themselves Christians. It really isn’t a doctrine that’s hard to understand so the issue is not in the realm of confusion, necessarily. The difficulty comes because it’s a doctrine that is not hard to understand but hard to accept due to the fact that fallen humanity wants to think they have control over the things in their lives and especially in their eternal destiny. To be exposed to the doctrine of election is to be forced to come to grips with the notion that God is in control and we are not.

The doctrine of election is found throughout the Bible. What’s really interesting is that once exposed to the truth of election and then you read your Bible, it seems, you find it on about every page. We see it in places like where God chose Abraham in Genesis 12. There wasn’t anything special about Abraham. He was a pagan like his father before him. He lived with a family of pagans in a city of pagans and for reasons only known to God, he was chosen. We see it in the Israelites who became God’s chosen and treasured possession, a holy nation set apart for God’s glory.

Deuteronomy 7:6–8 (ESV)

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The mystery of God’s choosing is for God alone. In other words, we don’t know why exactly He chose us and loves us, other than to say that in God’s sovereignty He loves whom He loves.

John Stott writes, That is, He chose us because He loves us, and He loves us because He loves us. He does not love us because we are lovable, but only because He is love. And with that mystery we must be content. [1]

Prayer

1 Thessalonians 1:2–10 (ESV)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

  1. We Give Thanks to God Because We Know He Has Chosen You

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

Paul declares something that may be on the surface a little bold to declare. He tells the Christians in Thessalonica that they are loved by God and chosen by God. He tells then that they are the real thing because they are elect. So sure of their calling by God that he tells them that he thanks God even for their election. How did Paul know this? He knew they were chosen and loved by God because of what they were given. Here these verses show us what God had given these believers.

We also should keep in mind that Paul and the others were continually thanking God for these Christians and a big part of their thanksgiving was for their election. The fact that Paul thanks God and not the Christians for their election shows that they contributed nothing to accomplish their own salvation but that they were the objects of an unconditional divine act.

They were loved by God and chosen by God for His glory. Paul gives them assurance of their salvation by going to the very beginning of their salvation, their election. They were chosen by God even before time began.

Look with me to Ephesians 1:4-5. I want you to see when election occurred and what it is always connected to…

Ephesians 1:4–5 (ESV)

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

The time is before time or literally before creation. Election is always connected to God’s love. It is God’s love that is the basis of His divine choice.

By taking this method of giving them assurance Paul’s logic goes something like this…I know your faith is genuine because I saw all the works you accomplished that could have only come about through genuine faith. Now he explains to the believers, I know your salvation is real because you are showing evidence that God has chosen you. You were chosen/elect before the foundation of the world and you were predestined for adoption by God through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will and the only thing you were lacking was the Gospel. Once they heard the Gospel their faith was ignited by God and they were converted. The Gospel was the last piece of the puzzle to be set in place. So, when Paul had that vision in the night that was the Holy Spirit saying…I have a people set in place, chosen before the foundation of the world, ready to hear and ready to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. I’ve already chosen them. They are predestined to be adopted. It is My will to save them. Paul, go and share with them who Jesus is and what He has done and then stand back and watch what I do.

Read More

Sermon: The Gospel Comes to Thessalonica and The Church is Formed 1 Thessalonians 1.1.3

The Gospel Comes to Thessalonica and The Church is Formed

1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Truth Taught- Paul encourages the new Christians by showing them that their faith is genuine because the good works they are engaged in can only be accomplished by faith.

 

Introduction

To begin our study in 1 Thessalonians it is important that we get the framework and setting of this great letter written by the Apostle Paul.

It was in AD 49 on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey that he and his missionary team took the Gospel to the ancient city of Thessalonica.

Thessalonica was named after one of Alexander the Great’s general’s wife. It is placed on the key route between Rome and the East. In Paul’s time it was the capitol of Macedonia. So important was the City of Thessalonica that one scholar writes that it narrowly escaped being made the capitol of the world.

The team was made up of Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke. These four missionaries sailed together across the North Aegean Sea into what is now Europe. What adventures they had. Anyone who thinks Christianity is boring does not know and has never experienced true Christianity. Lets travel together with Paul and the others and experience what the Gospel is and what it does when shared with pagan idolaters in this great ancient city.

We remember that it was in Acts 16 where Luke finally caught up with Paul and the others. As we read that section we remember the shift in the narrative from Luke’s third person plural they to first person plural we. It was in Luke’s narrative in Acts 16 that we have what is named, the Macedonian Call.

Acts 16:6–10 (ESV)

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Prayer

  1. The Adventure Begins, The Gospel Enters Thessalonica

In Acts 17 we have Luke’s eyewitness account of Paul’s time in the city. So, to set the stage for this great book let me read Acts 17:1-9…

Acts 17:1–9 (ESV)

17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

Notice that Luke reports,

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

So, he enters the local synagogue where the Jews met every Sabbath and opened up the Old Testament and reasoned with them and proved to them that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Can you imagine preaching and teaching that Jesus is the Messiah and sharing the Gospel in a Jewish Synagogue? To do this you would have to explain that just about everything they currently believed is wrong. It’s easy to see why there were some who were convinced and then there were some who were enraged by what Paul said. He did this in their church!

Some joined them and some tried to kill them. Isn’t it strange what happens when the Gospel is taught and proven? When the Gospel is shared accurately there really is no logical reproof and so the only thing left is violence. This is exactly what took place in Jesus’ life. He proved that He was the Messiah by all He did. He proved that He was God’s Son, which left His opposition with one response…to kill Him. In God’s sovereign plan this is exactly what needed to happen in order for Jesus to be our Savior, He had to die.

For Paul and the missionaries things became so bad that the Christians of Thessalonica demanded that they leave so they would not be killed by the angry Jewish mob that was seeking to take their lives.

So, Paul had to leave just after 3 weeks of teaching them the Gospel. What would become of this little infant Church in the big Macedonian City of Thessalonica? We will discover that this little infant Church would be cared for by God and much like the baby Moses was carried along by God in the basket to safety so God would lead this infant Church to amazing growth in a very short time.

Let’s turn to our text for this Lord’s Day…

Read More

Sermon: Standing Firm in the True Grace of God 1 Peter 5:6-14

Standing Firm in the True Grace of God

1 Peter 5:6-14

Truth Taught-We can stand firm through trials because God is sovereign and has given all who are in Christ true grace.

 

Introduction

As we close Peter’s great epistle today we should be reminded that the Apostle has spent this entire letter with one overarching theme and that is to encourage believers who are suffering on this earth that their suffering does not mean God has abandoned them but that, in fact, God is keeping them and loving them through their suffering and that current affliction in this life promotes within us true godliness.

So, Peter has shown us that two seemingly incompatible truths, namely our suffering in this life and our eternal status as God’s children. Both are true at the same time.

Throughout Peter’s letter, these truths are joined for the purpose of giving confidence to the suffering Christian.

1 Peter 1:1 (ESV)

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

1 Peter 1:3–7 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Through out the letter Peter brings these ideas together. For God’s people, suffering always leads to glory and never means that God doesn’t love you, you’re not elect, you’re not saved etc. That’s God’s pattern that has been true for all of God’s people and it was true for Jesus and also for us.

Prayer

1 Peter 5:6–14 (ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love.

Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

  1. Stand Firm in Humility Because God is Sovereign

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

As Christians, we are called to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. Here humility is focused on God’s power and authority. His mighty right hand is the phrase that means, His all-powerful authority. We are not called to humble ourselves under some made up myth or some pretend deity but literally under the Creator God who orchestrates all events in the universe.

Here’s the catch…when we humble ourselves in this world, we are setting ourselves up to be ran over by others. Humility gives the world an invitation to attack us because rather than fighting for our rights and getting even we choose to let God even the score. We will suffer as a result of being humble in the culture in which we live.

Here’s what the world does not know. This truth is what we must know if we are going to follow Christ consistently…we can humble ourselves under God’s authority because when the time is right He will exalt us. There will come a day when we will be exalted over our enemies we will be given the status that we are tempted to fight for now. It will not happen now but when the time is right. It may not even happen in our lifetime but it will happen at Christ’s return if not sooner.

When we are seeking to follow God’s command here to humble ourselves, it’s vital for our success in this endeavor to know without a doubt that God cares for us.

As Peter wrote this verse his mind was captured by the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 55. We know this because as he quotes from Psalm 55:22 the context is precisely the same. Trust God in times of trouble because He cares for us.

Psalm 55:22–23 (ESV)

22    Cast your burden on the Lord,

and he will sustain you;

       he will never permit

the righteous to be moved.

23    But you, O God, will cast them down

into the pit of destruction;

       men of blood and treachery

shall not live out half their days.

       But I will trust in you.

Peter shows us that the way David dealt with his affliction is the way God desires all His people to approach times of struggle. Trusting God in times of trial is how we cast our cares on Him. We do this when we say things like this in prayer, Father I trust You in all things. I know this struggle is within the realm of Your sovereignty. Rather than worrying about it I trust You because You are in control and You know best, amen.

God is trustworthy so cast your cares on Him. Be humble, trusting God because He is in control of all things.

  1. Stand Firm and Be Sober-Minded Because the Devil Seeks to Destroy You

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

The second way we stand firm in true grace is to be watchful and sober-minded. The term sober-minded means to think accurately about your situation. It also means to be in self-control over your current suffering. Through Peter’s letter he has given Christians the way in which we can endure affliction for God’s glory. To think accurately is to know that trials are for a purpose and that God is in control, He can be trusted because He cares for us.

While we are thinking accurately about the things of life we must also be watchful and alert.

Why would Peter bring this up now? Why would Peter mention that in the context of humble submission to God with sober thinking we must also be watchful and alert because the Devil is seeking to devour us?

It’s in the midst of trials that our thinking can get twisted. We may be deceived by the devil into thinking wrongly about our current trial. If the Devil can lure us into going down another path in our mind then he can deceive us and devour us.

An example might be something like this…

Read More

Sermon: Thanks Be to God for His Indescribable Gifts! Eph. 1:3-7

Thanks Be to God for His Indescribable Gifts!
Eph. 1:3-7

I wrote a 15 page paper on this text and Pastor Brian wanted me to preach it, but he said I couldn’t do all 15 pages. So I’m only doing 14!

How many accounts have we heard about where an individual was extremely wealthy, yet lived like a pauper? We hear how they would clean off and reuse paper plates or trash bags or eat cold food because they didn’t want to spend money on heating it up. One woman’s son lost a leg because she didn’t want to spend the money for them to fix it. Some have lived in broken down, condemned houses but yet had millions of dollars scattered around different places. That, we would say, is insane. It’s bizarre. It ridiculous.

Yet it is that way oftentimes with many Christians who are so incredibly rich because of Jesus Christ yet live so far beneath what He has suffered so much to give us. Paul’s goal in his letter to the Ephesians was to instruct them of their lofty position, immeasurable possessions, and the required practice of every child of God. It was written to continually remind all believers, then and now, of who we are and what we have in Christ.

Paul writes this letter from a prison in Rome. Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia which is modern day Turkey. The church was possibly started by Priscilla and Aquilla and Paul left them there in his second missionary journey. It was further strengthened by Paul on his 3rd missionary journey where he served as their pastor for approximately 3 years. After Paul left, Timothy would go on to pastor there for a year and a half.

While much has been written on the illustrious second chapter of Ephesians, a quick search shows that little seems to have been written on its foundational forerunner, chapter one. In this short amount of time, I pray that we will joyfully discover more of our beloved Trinity as we see how Paul profusely blesses our God.

TT: Our Father has chosen us, predestined us, and bestowed on us the twin blessings of redemption and forgiveness. All this should result in an uninhibited and constant praise to Him for the supreme riches of His grace.

 

  1. He Chose Us-v. 3-4

Verses 3-14 in this 1st chapter comprise one sentence! Paul starts and it’s as if he builds up so much steam in his praise that he just can’t stop. Essentially, he blesses the Father for blessing us with blessings. The Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. This is past tense. It has already been done. These blessings are ones which we ALREADY possess.

Our physical blessings alone are more than we can take in, yet He has given us so much more! Unfortunately, we tend to desire and recognize these tangible gifts more than the spiritual. That’s certainly true of our health and wealth friends. We see it in the Word. In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sent out seventy disciples to spread the gospel. They came back rejoicing because ‘even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’ (v. 17) He responds to them in verse 20, ‘Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.’ The spiritual blessings are far weightier, and we have EVERY ONE THAT WE NEED, but they ONLY come when we belong to Christ. Five times in the five verses of our text, we are reminded that it is ONLY IN CHRIST. We could spend many pages listing all that we are and all that we have because of our identification with Christ. That is one of the thrusts of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. As God’s children, we MUST realize who we are! It is long overdue for His people to realize what we have! Our Savior paid too severe a price for us not to.

The first blessing that Paul blesses the Father for is that He chose us in Him (again) before the foundation of the world. Here we have the doctrine of election. This choosing is once again, past tense. It is an election beforehand.

It is not up to men to choose. Many twist Truth to say that salvation is possible for all men so that all men can decide for themselves whether or not to accept Him. Yet choosing Christ is a good work; the very best work a man could ever do. Man cannot do anything good when he is extremely corrupt; when he is ‘deceitful and desperately wicked’ (Jer. 17:9 KJV)?

Read More