"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" An Exhortation To Walk In Diligence (4:11-12) INTRODUCTION 1. In his "apostolic instructions", we have seen Paul exhort the church at Thessalonica... a. To walk in holiness - 1Th 4:1-8 b. To walk in love - 1Th 4:9-10 2. His next instruction (1Th 4:11-12) is an exhortation to "diligence", to ensure that... a. They walk properly toward those who are outside - cf. 1Pe 2:12 b. They lack nothing - cf. Ro 13:8 3. That this requires diligence is evident from the word "aspire" (study, KJV) in verse 11... a. A word meaning "to be ambitious" b. As translated in the NASB (to make it your ambition) [In three particular areas does Paul want them to be ambitious, the first being...] I. TO LEAD A QUIET LIFE A. AN APPARENT PARADOX... 1. For the phrase "quiet life" suggests a calmness, a serenity 2. Yet for this we are to be "ambitious", apply diligent effort, which seems to be contrary to the idea of quietness, calm -- The "quiet life", like many good things, does not come without concerted effort B. AN ADMIRABLE GOAL... 1. As much as possible, to live peaceably with all men - Ro 12:18; 14:19; He 12:14 a. Though such is not always the case b. As Paul found out even in Thessalonica - cf. Ac 17:1-6 2. For which we are to diligently pray - 1Ti 2:1-2 a. That we might live quiet and peaceful lives b. That we might live such in all godliness and honesty 3. A quiet and peaceful life is more likely if we: a. Seek first the kingdom of God - Mt 6:25-34 1) Which requires setting our priorities 2) Which requires saying no to many distractions b. Learn contentment in Christ - Php 4:11-13; 1Ti 6:6-10 c. Overcome anxiety through prayer - Php 4:6-7 -- The search for "simplicity" is a popular trend today; for the Christian, it is to be more than just a trend, but a way of life conducive to godliness and honesty [As we "aspire" to lead a quiet life, we cannot do so unless we also give diligence...] II. TO MIND OUR OWN BUSINESS A. THERE IS A PLACE FOR LOVING CONCERN... 1. As we watch out for one another's welfare - Php 2:4 2. As we seek to help each other overcome our weaknesses - Ga 6: 1-2 -- Therefore we should not construe the words in our text to mean that we should not seek to reprove, rebuke, or to restore an erring brother - cf. Jm 5:19-20 B. THERE IS NO PLACE FOR NOSY INTERFERENCE... 1. Paul is warning against becoming "busybodies", people who have nothing to do but interfere in the affairs of others 2. A problem that often existed in the early church a. Even at Thessalonica - 2Th 3:11-12 b. Which Peter lumped together with murderers, thieves, etc. - 1Pe 4:15 3. A danger especially when one is not focused on their own business a. Which is why Paul refused to let churches support younger widows - 1Ti 5:11-14 b. Which is why Paul instructed the older women to properly teach the younger women their responsibilities - Tit 2:3-5 -- The peace and quiet we desire in our lives and in our churches cannot exist unless we maintain a proper distinction between brotherly concern and becoming "busybodies" [It certainly helps to maintain that distinction if we "aspire"...] III. TO WORK WITH OUR OWN HANDS A. THE PURPOSE OF THIS COMMAND... 1. To provide for our families - cf. 1Ti 5:8 2. To help the less fortunate - Ep 4:28; Ac 20:34-35 -- Through example and precept, Paul taught the early Christians to support themselves and not be dependent upon others B. THE SERIOUSNESS OF THIS COMMAND... 1. Failing to provide for our families makes us worse than unbelievers - 1Ti 5:8 2. Refusing to work was grounds for church discipline, just like adultery, extortion, etc. - 2Th 3:10-14; 1Co 5:11 -- While we may occasionally need assistance from our brethren (even our government), we are not to make it a practice to "live off welfare" CONCLUSION 1. With diligence, therefore, we are to "aspire"... a. To lead a quiet life b. To mind our own business c. To work with our own hands 2. Again, the purpose behind these instructions is two-fold... a. That we might walk properly toward those who are outside - 1 Th 4:12a b. That we might lack nothing - 1Th 4:12b For the sake of our reputation as Christians, as well as for own well- being while we sojourn here on earth, we must heed this exhortation to walk in diligence!
"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" An Exhortation To Walk In Diligence (4:11-12) by Mark Copeland
Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
On Monday, July 14, 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to allow females to be appointed as bishops in their denomination by an overall count of 351 in favor and 72 opposed (Kaleem, 2014). This vote is a result of a two-decade controversy within the denomination regarding the issue. The proposition was defeated two years earlier in 2012, because it did not gain the necessary two-thirds majority vote it needed to pass. What does such a decision say about the religious climate of western civilization?
This pronouncement manifests the fact that many religious groups no longer care what the Bible has to say on a given subject. It is a simple matter of fact that the Bible very clearly, in no ambiguous terms, states that bishops are to be males, and each one is to be “the husband of one wife” who “rules his own house well” (1 Timothy 3:2,4). In addition to this verse, each instance in the New Testament in which a bishop is mentioned refers to the person as a male (e.g., Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1). In fact, as Albert Mohler, stated, “virtually every major media outlet in Britain acknowledged, at least, that the vote reversed 2,000 years of Christian tradition. They also tended to note that the vote came after 20 years of controversy. Evidently, 2,000 of years of tradition was no match for 20 years of controversy” (2014).
This approach to religion is what Jesus had in mind when He accosted the religious leaders of His day by saying: “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). What kind of religion allows the culture, instead of the God it professes to worship, to dictate the beliefs and regulations that it will uphold? Is it the case that if our culture no longer views homosexuality as a sin, those branches of Christianity should “take another vote” to see if they will accept the lifestyle or not? Some have already done this. And is it not the case that to insist that Jesus Christ is God’s Son is a controversial topic? If enough “Christian” leaders vote to soften that teaching or abandon it altogether, would that represent the mind of God? Did God’s attitude toward the ordination of women bishops change at the precise moment that a two-thirds majority was achieved by the Church of England?
In reality, those who claim to be Christians must ask themselves who they are going to follow. Will they accept God’s Word, as found in the inspired Bible, to be authoritative? Or will they put their fingers in the wind and move whichever way the cultural wind happens to be blowing at the time? Let us all consider Peter’s words to the Jewish leaders of the first century: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).
Kaleem, Jaweed (2014), “Women Bishops Approved by Church of England,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/women-bishops-church-of-england-_n_5584266.html.
Mohler, Albert (2014), “‘Get with the Program’—Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops,” http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/07/15/get-with-the-program-the-church-of-england-votes-to-ordain-women-bishops/.
Chronology and the Bible's Arrangement
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Since the Bible begins at the Creation with Genesis—the book of beginnings—and ends with the book of Revelation (which many scholars believe was the last recorded book of the Bible), students of the Scriptures often assume that the Bible was compiled chronologically. Many students approach their reading of the Bible with the mindset that everything in Scripture is arranged “from A to Z.” Since Genesis records what took place at the beginning of time, and it is the first book of the Bible, then the rest of the Bible follows suit, right? Actually, what the diligent student eventually finds is that the Bible is not a book of strict chronology. All sixty-six books of the Bible are not arranged in the order in which they were written. Furthermore, all of the events contained within each book also are not recorded chronologically.
Consider the following arrangement of books in the Bible:
Although the books of Haggai and Zechariah have been placed near the end of the Old Testament, these men prophesied while the events in the book of Ezra were taking place (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Twenty books separate Haggai and Zechariah from the book of Ezra, yet the events recorded in each book were occurring at the same time. Obviously, these books are not arranged in chronological order.Even though 2 Chronicles appears before the book of Job, the events recorded in Job took place long before those that are recorded in 2 Chronicles. In fact, if the Bible were a book of strict chronology, the events recorded in Job likely would be placed somewhere within the book of Genesis, after Genesis 6 (since Job 22:15-16 is more than likely a reference to the Flood).In the New Testament, one might assume that since 1 Thessalonians comes after the book of Acts, that Luke penned Acts earlier than Paul penned his first letter to the church at Thessalonica. The truth is, however, 1 Thessalonians was written years before the book of Acts was completed.
In addition to the books of the Bible not being arranged chronologically, inspired writers did not always record information in a strictly chronological sequence. Making the assumption that the entire Bible was written chronologically hinders a proper understanding of the text. For example, Genesis 2:5-25 does not pick up where Genesis one left off; rather, it provides more detailed information about some of the events mentioned in the first chapter of the Bible. (Whereas Genesis 1 is arranged chronologically, Genesis 2 is organized topically.) The differences in the arrangement of the temptations of Jesus recorded by Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) are resolved when we realize that at least one of them is not reporting the facts in sequential order. Some also question whether Jesus cursed the tree before or after He cleansed the temple. Since Matthew records this event before the cursing of the fig tree (21:12-19), and since Mark places the cleansing of the temple after Jesus cursed the tree (11:15-19), it is supposed that one of the two writers was mistaken. The truth is, however, Matthew’s account is more of a summary, whereas Mark’s narrative is more detailed and orderly. Mark’s more specific account reveals that Jesus actually made two trips to the temple. Thus, as Albert Barnes noted: “Mark has stated the order more particularly, and has ‘divided’ what Matthew mentions together” (1997). Obviously, the gospel accounts were not arranged to be a strict chronology of Jesus’ life.
When studying with those who know very little about the Bible, it is helpful for them to understand the arrangement of Scriptures. By recognizing that many books of the Bible (as well as the events contained therein) are not in a sequential order, one will have fewer problems digesting Scripture.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Christ at the Door of Your Heart?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
One of the most familiar expressions uttered within Christendom is: “Christ stands at the door of your heart.” Many have been the preachers who have urged their hearers to “invite Jesus into their hearts” in order to be forgiven of sin and made a Christian. Someone said if you repeat a statement enough times, people will come to accept it on the basis of sheer repetition and familiarity. The admonition that “Christ stands at the door of your heart” has been repeated so frequently that, for many, to question it is unthinkable. One would think that since this approach to salvation is so widespread, and the expression is so predominant, that surely the statement can be found in Scripture—even if only in so many words. How disturbing to realize that the statement is not found in Scripture and that the Bible simply does not teach this doctrine!
The phraseology is reminiscent of Revelation 3:20—the passage usually quoted to support the idea of Christ standing at the door of one’s heart. But observe the context. Revelation chapters two and three consist of seven specific mini-letters directed to the seven churches of Christ in Asia Minor near the end of the first century. At the outset, one must recognize that Revelation 3:20 is addressed to Christians—not non-Christians on the verge of conversion.
Second, the verse is found among Christ’s remarks to the church in Laodicea. Jesus made clear that the church had moved into an unfaithful condition. They were lost. They were unacceptable to God since they were “lukewarm” (3:16). They had become unsaved since their spiritual condition was “wretched and miserable and poor” (3:17). Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus had abandoned them by removing His presence from their midst. Now He was on the outside looking in. He still wanted to be among them, but the decision was up to them. They had to recognize His absence, hear Him knocking for admission, and open the door—all of which is figurative language to say that they must repent (3:19). They would have to return to the obedient lifestyle so essential to receiving God’s favor (John 14:21,23).
This means that Revelation 3:20 in no way supports the idea that non-Christians merely have to “open the door of their heart” and “invite Jesus in” with the assurance that the moment they mentally/verbally do so, Jesus will come into their heart and they will be simultaneously saved from all past sin and counted as Christians! The context of Revelation 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church.
“But doesn’t the Bible teach that Christ does come into a person’s heart?” Yes. But not the way the religious world suggests. Ephesians 3:17 states that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Faith can be acquired only by hearing biblical truth (Romans 10:17). When that biblical truth is obeyed, the individual is “saved by faith” (Hebrews 5:9; James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22; et al.). So Christ enters our lives when we “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [i.e., when we repent of our sins] and our bodies washed with pure water [i.e., when we are baptized in water]” (Hebrews 10:22). Here is the New Testament (i.e., non-denominational) way to accept Christ.
“I, Not the Lord, Say...”
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
What did the apostle Paul mean by the statement, “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say...” (1 Corinthians 7:12)? Does this phrase indicate that what Paul subsequently wrote was uninspired?
Considering how many times Paul claimed to write and preach by inspiration of God, it is irresponsible to conclude that he was denying inspiration when addressing marriages between Christians and non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Earlier in this letter, Paul noted that while in Corinth, his preaching was “not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (2:4-5). Paul contrasted human wisdom with the wisdom and power of God, and declared that he had the latter. Later, in this same epistle, Paul wrote: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (14:37, emp. added; cf. 7:40). Paul also claimed inspiration in his other epistles (Galatians 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:8,15). Even Peter alluded to Paul’s writings as being a part of Scripture, and thus inspired (2 Peter 3:15-16).
When Paul wrote that he (rather than the Lord) was addressing a particular marriage relationship, he did not mean that he was speaking without authority from God. He simply meant that he was making application of marital truths that the Lord did not specifically expound upon while on Earth. Jesus most certainly was the Master Teacher (cf. Matthew 7:28-29; John 7:46), but He obviously did not specifically address every subject under the Sun. Thankfully, through His inspired apostles and prophets, more specific truths and applications eventually were revealed. Christians have every reason to believe that such truths originated with “the Spirit of truth,” Who guided Paul and the rest of the Bible writers “into all truth” (John 16:13).
Does God Exist?
As students in search of truth, the first issue that must be resolved is the question of God's existence. The search for the existence of a supreme being transcends all cultures, races, ages, genders, and backgrounds. No matter what our station in life, we eventually form some conclusion to this question that confronts our unified existence. This is the beginning point for all religions and philosophies because our outlook on everything else is built upon the foundation laid by this answer. Therefore, before we can even investiagate objective truth and the Bible, we must first answer this fundamental question.
Going Where Science Dare Not Tread
One point must be understood before we continue any farther: Some basic similarities do exist between the realm of science and the realm of religion and philosophy. Both depend on observant, unbiased reasoning skills. However, the two are diametrically opposed in purpose. Science is not flawed, but it seeks another purpose, to explain phenomenon through formation of hypothesis and experimentation. It deals in the realm of the demonstrable. It has no power, or usefulness in explaining anything that can neither be observed, tested, or demonstrated.
Yet, philosophy and religion are concerned with the questions of origin: "Where did we come from?" The point that must be clear before we continues is this: Any answer to this question cannot be scientifically proven! If we accept either theories about evolution or ideas about God, we must understand that none of these solutions can be observed, tested, or demonstrated!
So, if the rules of science do not apply to this question, then how will we find the answer? We must consider the evidence, weigh it, and based upon it, determine which choice is the most compelling and rational. This cannot be emphasized enough: if any one seeks to prove his or her answer, then will they have vainly set out to complete an unfinishable task. Judgment can only be made upon the most compelling evidence. Within this realm, science is powerless, and the honest open mind reigns as king.
The Bible never addresses the question of God's existence directly. It is indirectly referenced in a few passages, but no formal defense is set forth. However, it does speak harshly against the one who "says in their heart, 'Their is noGod." (Psalm14:1). But, why does God's Word make such a strong condemnation? How does the Bible expect us to make a conclusion to a problem that philosophers have argued for hundreds of years?
The Bible teaches that the truth, the answer is evident to all. So, what is this testimony that speaks so clearly? We have already stated that no experiment exists to test the existence of God. Science cannot help us detect something that is undetectable. The location of the answer is found in this psalm, or song, of praise to God:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4)
The answer surrounds all of us, regardless of our nationality, language, or location. The very existence of such a magnificent and awesome universe demands the existence of a Creator. Something cannot come from nothing. This is the only the argument that the Bible offers in response to those who would debate this question. We all understand that nothing breeds more nothing, order cannot arise from disorder, every effect had a cause. Any variation from this is forced by a cause outside the system. As we push back through time, searching for the cause of each effect, we eventually must come to a "first cause", a cause outside the universe. What then is the rational, compelling choice to the identity of this "first cause"? Did an eternal, intelligent mind bring order and substance out of nothing, or did inanimate substance pull itself out of nothing to produce an intelligent mind?
"What Are the Alternatives?"
Considering the origin of the universe and humanity is probably the most compelling argument for God's existence. But, it becomes even more compelling when we consider the plausibility of the alternatives:
- The universe spontaneously created itself.
- The universe always existed - Matter is eternal.
Let's consider the first alternative. All that we know and understand compels that nothing is spontaneously generated or created. Pasteur debunked this myth many years ago. No person would believe that a house, or a tree, or a person, just spontaneously popped up out of thin air. Why then would it be reasonable to believe that the universe, countless orders of magnitude larger in mass, spontaneously popped up out of absolute nothing with a precharged energy potential to accomplish work, not to mention purposeful and intelligent work? Believing this first alternative requires not just faith, but blind faith! There is no evidence to support this view whatsoever, and all that we know and understand defies the very principles upon which it is founded.
Now, please consider the second alternative. It also defies all that we know and understand. All of science and common sense teaches that life, the world, and the universe is "running down". Thermodynamics teaches that the universe has a fixed amount of energy (considering all mass translated into energy), and the entire system is proceeding from a state of higher order to a more disordered state. Eventually, it will climax into a motionless state of complete disorder. In effect, the universe is one gigantic alarm clock, which is running down. No one would deny this phenomenon. Houses dilapidate, people grow old and die, machines rust, stars burn out, etc. If matter has always existed, and it is always digressing to a more disorderly state, then why has the universe not "run down"? It would have already expired, and we would not be here. Our very existence disprove the plausibility of this alternative. The very fact that it is "running down" demands that it must have had a beginning, a time when it was "wound up" and "the alarm set." So, who set the alarm?
Over the centuries, several arguments have been proposed that illustrated evidence for the existence of God. The most powerful evidence is the very world that surrounds us. The apostle Paul also spoke of this:
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:20
This creation not only tells us of God's existence, but it also demonstrates His great and "eternal power" that is part of His divine nature as member of the "Godhead". Through the visible world we are able to see something of these otherwise "invisible attributes." Even though it cannot be "scientifically proven", this passage teaches the evidence is so compelling that if one fails to acknowledge His Creator, he is left "without excuse."
Yet, the magnitude of creation can only demonstrate the existence and power of this supreme being. It cannot teach us what He asks of us. In fact, without revelation from Him, we cannot know anything more about Him or His will for us. It is this need that the Bible fulfills, and it is to this purpose we now direct our focus, establishing the Bible as God's will for us today.