First Thessalonians 011 – Paul’s Concern1 Thessalonians 3:4-5 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 15, 2023 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 011
1 Thessalonians 3:4-5
January 15, 2023
Dr. Andy Woods
Father, we’re grateful for today, for the new year. And I do ask that You’ll be with us both in Sunday school and the main service that follows. That You might take the, as You promised to do in First Corinthians chapter 2, take the things of God and apply eternal things to our hearts. Only You, Lord, can see the needs of people that are here or are listening online and only You have the ability to minister to those needs. So I do pray for that illuminating ministry of the Spirit as we seek to teach Your word today. And so in preparation for that ministry, Lord, we’re going to just take a few moments of silence to confess any sins we may have committed against You privately, personally, so we can be prepared to receive from Your word today. We’re thankful, Lord, for the fact that our position is eternally secure. Although there are times we can step away from You, not in terms of our position, but fellowship. And we thank You that You’ve made provision for us in First John 1:9. We do pray, Lord, that you would have Your way at Sugar Land Bible Church, everything that goes on here today, right to the children’s classes, the youth group, the the meetings that committees and groups are having following the service. And we do pray that Your name would be glorified and we ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.
All right. Well, good morning, everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could, and open them to First Thessalonians 3:5. I want to thank Brother Jim, Pastor Jim, for filling in Sunday school last week. We are continuing this morning in our verse-by-verse teaching through the book of First Thessalonians. And we’re towards the end of that first major section of the book, chapters 1 through 3 where the apostle Paul is defending, really, his own apostolic reputation. As you know the story from- of Thessalonians as you’ve given background information in the Book of Acts, Paul had planted the church at Thessalonica and he was there with the Thessalonians in Acts 17, probably for six months to a year before being forced out of the area by unbelieving Jews. And the unbelieving Jews were very jealous that Paul had such success amongst the Gentiles. And so Paul had these detractors, these enemies that were trying to wean Paul’s converts away from Paul so they would come back under the authority of the religious leaders in Thessalonica. So one of the things that they did is they simply launched one personal attack after another against Paul. Paul is explaining that the things said about him are lies. In other words, this is just slander. And so what Paul does is he is defending his reputation, really, as an apostle in chapters 1 through 3. And once he defends his reputation and restores it, he’ll then be in a position to correct them and answer some of their questions, which he does in chapters 4 and 5.
So the first thing they said about Paul is he never really brought to you a true conversion. Paul refutes that in chapter 1. The second lie they brought against Paul is his motives are impure. He’s in the ministry for himself. So they refute that in chapter 2:1-16, Paul refutes it. And then his last issue is he’s got to deal with this subject of lack of concern. The lie, I think, was the reason Paul left Thessalonica is because he doesn’t care. And Paul explains that that also is slander. And he does that in chapter 2 verse 17 through chapter 3 verse 13, the end of the chapter. So the first way he defends himself against the idea that he didn’t care is he said, I always wanted to visit you, but Satan stopped us. I was prevented from coming to Thessalonica by forces greater than myself. I mean, you have- you never gave me the benefit of the doubt. You interpreted my absence as, You don’t care. But the reality is, I tried to come over and over again, but Satan stopped me. He does that in chapter 2 verses 17 and 18. And then number two, he says, Of course I care. You are our very crown. He saw the Thessalonians as part of the crown that would be bestowed upon him at the Bema Seat judgment; that’s how personal he took his ministry to them.
He does that in chapter 2 verses 19 through 20. And then the third thing he says is, Yes, I didn’t return when you wanted, but I sent you my very best in my place. Chapter 3 verses 1 through 5, I sent you Timothy. And when you go back to verse 1 and verse 2, I believe it’s there that he mentions Athens. There it is, verse 1. “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens,” so Thessalonica is in that first circle at the top. He was forced out and he moved into Athens. And while he was in Athens, he sent back to the Thessalonians his very heart, his protege, Timothy, who was a man that was very profitable to Paul in ministry. So how in the world could you ever interpret my actions towards you as lacking concern? And so as he’s kind of talking about this issue with Timothy- I think we made it through verse 3 last time- notice, if you will, verse 4. “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.”
So Paul is explaining to the Thessalonians, who are second-guessing their salvation under the misguided belief that a Christian isn’t supposed to suffer. I mean, if after all Jesus is cracked up to be what He is and He’s the Son of God and He’s the ruler of this world, why are we in Thessalonica going through tribulations? Because the crowd that had pushed Paul out had now turned on Paul’s flock in his absence. And it’s in that -scenario that the tempter he’ll reference this in later verses- the tempter had come in and tried to convince the Thessalonians that your Christianity isn’t true. Because if Christianity were true, you wouldn’t be suffering. So that’s why back in verse 3, he explains that you are actually destined for these afflictions. In fact, on his first missionary journey when he was in Southern Galatia, he made the statement- and it’s recorded in the Book of Acts 14:22, where he said there, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations,” through thlipsis, tribulations, “we must enter the kingdom of God.” So this idea that a Christian isn’t supposed to suffer, Paul says that- I mean, who gave you that idea? That’s not true at all. We will enter the Kingdom of God, but before we enter the Kingdom of God, we go through many tribulations. And that’s why he says to the Thessalonians these tribulations that you’re in, you’re actually destined for these. It’s God’s predestined plan for you because He’s using those to conform you and transform you in terms of your daily life into the image of Christ Jesus.
So, I mean, who in the world gave you the idea that Christianity involves no suffering. Christianity, when you take up your cross and follow Jesus as a disciple, many times involves great, great suffering. And when you’re in that suffering, you think somehow you miss God’s will. But the truth of the matter is you’re directly in God’s will when suffering happens in the life of the Christian, because God uses suffering in all of our lives. In fact, it’s probably His greatest tool that God has to get our attention. I’ll be honest with you. God really doesn’t have my attention when things are going great. Because what do I need God for? God, I’ve got this under control. I’ll check in with You when I need You sort of attitude. But you start having problems in life and suddenly your prayer life is different. Your dependency on God is different. And that’s why Paul explains to the Thessalonians that these trials, they don’t disprove your Christianity. In fact- in fact, if anything, they prove it. And he says there, we told you in advance that this was going to happen. “For indeed, When we were with you, we kept telling you,” in other words, this is a continuous teaching that Paul gave them when he was with them.
“that [we] were going to suffer affliction.” And then at the end of the verse he says, “and so it came to pass, as you know.” We teach here the doctrine of the Pre-tribulational rapture. That the church will be taken out of harm’s way before the tribulation period comes. And I don’t know what it is with our teaching on this, but when people hear that, they think we’re teaching the Christian escapes, all suffering. And that simply isn’t true. The Christian escapes the wrath of God. But before the Christian escapes the wrath of God, the Christian is a candidate for at least four things that I have here on the screen, we’re a candidate for trials because Jesus said,In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart I have overcome the world, John 16:33. We are also candidates for man’s wrath because Paul said to Timothy in Second Timothy 3:12, Al who seek to live a godly life in Christ, Jesus will be persecuted. We are candidates for Satan’s wrath. That’s why we have to put on the full armor of God, Ephesians 6:11-12. And then we’re candidates for the world’s wrath because the world system, the system of philosophy that we’re living in, being orchestrated by God’s arch-enemy. The devil is hostile to God’s value system. And so the more you march to the drum of a different drummer, the more you start to stick out like a sore thumb.
You’re viewed as a non-conformist. And that’s why the world will come against you. Jesus said in John 15:18-19, Do not marvel that the world hates you. In other words, don’t sit around, you disciples saying, I can’t believe everybody doesn’t like me. Jesus said, It really isn’t your issue. It’s My issue because long before they hated you, they hated me. And since you are of Me, they’re going to hate you just like they hated Me. So obviously, when you look at this, the doctrine of pre-tribulationalism never gave- should be communicated as you escape suffering. What it communicates is when God’s wrath hits- which, by the way, is far worse than any of these things on the screen. You know, we’re exempted from divine wrath. Appointed to man’s wrath, appointed to Satan’s wrath, appointed to the world’s wrath, but we’re spared from God’s wrath. And if those are my choices, I’m happy there. I’ll put up with the world’s wrath. I don’t want to be in the wrath of God. Amen? And so that’s a full council of God’s word teaching and these Thessalonians somehow got the idea that the Christian life involves no affliction whatsoever. And then he says, We told you this was going to happen to you when we were with you, “and so it came to pass, as you know.” Now there’s another example in the Bible of a short-term prophecy.
Jesus told us to look out for short-term prophecies because when you see the pattern of divine fulfillment related to short-term prophecies, it gives us confidence that the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled in the Bible. Jesus said to the disciples in the upper room [John 13:19], “From now on, I am telling you before it happens-” or “before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.” And then He repeated this one chapter later in chapter 14 verse 29. He says, “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens you might believe.” And what He’s saying there to His disciples is He says, I’m going to give you some short-term predictions. Many of which are going to happen this week. Passion week. Related to His betrayal. Related to His crucifixion. His resurrection. And when you see these prophecies come to pass this week, you’re going to know exactly who it is I am. I am God. That’s why he uses the expression “I am”. “From now on, I am telling you…so that when it does occur, you might believe that I am He.” In the Greek, I am is ego eimi, which is a divine title. It’s a title that God gave to Moses in Exodus 3:14 concerning God because Moses was insecure, like we tend to be as human beings.
And he understood that God had called him to bring Israel out of Egyptian bondage. And Moses wants to know, well, what if- what if they don’t listen to me? Who should I say sent me? And God said, tell them I AM sent you. And in the process- I AM- God gives a title of Himself, the self-existent one. When Jesus uses this expression I AM, He’s claiming to be God. In fact, in John 8, towards the end of the chapter, He used that expression relative to Himself. And the Jews knew exactly what He was- what He was saying, because instantaneously they picked up stones to stone Him to death. In fact, let’s just look at that real quick. John 8:58-59. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” He just took a divine title- Exodus 3:14- and applied it to himself. There’s no ambiguity here because the next verse says, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” They wanted to kill Him on the spot because Leviticus 24:16 says that if a mere man claims to be God, He is to be stoned to death. And they were trying to fulfill Leviticus 24:16 right then and there. But it wasn’t His time yet, and that’s why He escaped through the crowd. He couldn’t have died there because Bible prophecy demands that He’d be pierced.
So Bible prophecy demands that His hands and His feet would be pierced via the crucifixion. And that wouldn’t have happened if they had stoned Him to death right there on the spot. So this death that they were trying to usher Him into had to wait until the crucifixion for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. Isaiah 53:5 wouldn’t have been fulfilled, which talks about his piercing. Zechariah 12:10 wouldn’t have been fulfilled. Neither would have Psalm 22. I think it’s around verse 16 where the David and the Psalms, speaking of the coming Messiah, says, “They pierce my hands and my feet.” So this title I AM is a big deal and that’s what Jesus is saying here in the upper room to His disciples. He’s saying, “I am”. And by the way, you’re going to know that I am, because I’m going to make to you some shor- term predictions that are going to be fulfilled this week. And when they happen in real time, exactly as I said, you’re going to have greater confidence in My identity. So He’s attaching His whole credibility to His ability to predict the future. And I’m here to tell you that there’s no possible way the disciples would have left the upper room and died the horrific deaths that they died. Every single apostle did not die of natural causes other than John.
All of them were martyred. I mean, there’s no possible way that they would have gone through that for someone that they’re not sure is really God, because His predictions really didn’t come to pass. So He is attaching His whole credibility based on His ability to predict the future. And this is why one of the books I recommend to you is this book here, Every Prophecy of the Bible. Because that particular book deals with the short-term prophecies and the prophecies yet to come. It’s written by the late Dr. John Walvoord. And when you read through that book, starting in the Book of Genesis, right down to the first prophecy given in the Bible, where God says to Adam and Eve, the day you eat from this fruit, or when you eat from this fruit, you will surely die. I mean, that’s a prophecy that happened just a chapter later. And Walvoord shows every single prophecy of the Bible that happened in real–ime. And if those prophecies could happen in real time, boy, the rest of the prophecies. It’s not difficult to imagine, is it, that those prophecies will be fulfilled as well. And that actually is Walvoord’s point when you read through his introduction to that book. Because when you read through his introduction, he’s basically upset at the fact that the church for the last 2000 years, either because they’ve fallen under the sway of Augustine or Amillennialism or replacement theology or whatever, Walvoord is upset at the fact that this is the last area that the church for 2000 years has really not taken seriously.
So he’s saying in this book, I’m going to show you why you should take it seriously- end time prophecy- because there is a habit or a pattern of all of God’s prophecies coming to pass normally and literally. And when you read a book like this, it will increase your faith. It will show you that this book is very unique in terms of its ability to predict the future, and it will give you tremendous confidence concerning the prophecies yet to come. Now, Paul the Apostle is saying the same thing here. In the second part of verse 4. “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction…” and then he says at the end of the verse, “and so it came to pass, as you know.” And if it hadn’t come to pass, I guess the Thessalonians would have some kind of ground for saying Paul is not a true apostle. But Paul is a true apostle because his predictions happened. Jesus is the I AM. The ego eimi because His predictions transpired. You drop down to verse 5, and he continues. “For this reason, when I could-” Paul, speaking to the Thessalonians- “when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.”
Notice the concern here. I couldn’t- I couldn’t stand it any longer. So I sent you our very best, Timothy, because I wanted to see your progress. I mean, does this sound like a guy that doesn’t care about the Thessalonians? He looks very pastoral to me. You see that concern back in verse 1, “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it be best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy,” verse 2, “our brother and God’s fellow worker in the fospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith.” Of course we care. I sent to you my very best in my absence. Why did Paul send Timothy? It’s there in verse 5, t”o find out about your faith.” Now here’s where the mistakes start getting made in interpretation. Because people will use this to say Paul really wasn’t sure that they were Christians. So he’s really trying to figure out which of those in the flock were real Christians and which ones were false Christians. False professors, in other words. I’m here to tell you folks that that’s the furthest subject from Paul’s mind. He’s not second-guessing their saved status. How do I know that? It’s just a matter of going back to chapter 2 verse 17. This is why we teach the Bible verse by verse in order.
It says, “But we, brethren,” doesn’t that sound like he’s talking to spiritual brothers? Oh, that’s just Paul talking to his Jewish brothers. No, this is a Gentile audience, as we’ve talked about. “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while- in person, not in spirit- were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.” He calls them brethren. Now Jesus in Matthew 12:46-50, defines what the Brethren means. When he was told, Your family is waiting for you. And that’s when Jesus said, Well, who are my- who is my father? Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Are not they the ones that do the will of My Father who is in heaven? So when Paul uses this expression, brethren, he is communicating solidarity with the saved status of his audience. So he’s not second-guessing whether they’re Christians. So then if that’s true, why does he say, I also sent in this case, Timothy, to find out about your faith. He wants to see how their faith is doing not in the justification sense. They already had it. But in the sanctification sense. We teach here at Sugar Land Bible Church, the three tenses of salvation: justification, sanctification, glorification. Justification, we’re delivered from sins penalty at the point of faith alone in Christ alone. And then we’re moved into our growth- sanctification- where we’re gradually being delivered from the present power of sin which is more of a process.
Justification is instantaneous. And then in glorification at the point of the rapture or death, you’re delivered from sins very presence itself. So at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see how the word save is used. Saved, justification. I am being saved, sanctification. I will be saved, glorification. So people, you know, many times in Christianity will say, hey, are you saved? And the proper answer is I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved. When Paul uses this expression faith, he’s not dealing with phase one. Because he called them brethren. He’s dealing with their growth. It takes faith to go through trials. Amen to that. And if you have great faith in the midst of trials or if you have little faith in the midst of trials, or if you have no faith in the midst of trials, it doesn’t cancel out the fact that you exercise saving faith in justification. So when Paul says, I came to or I sent Timothy to find out about your faith, what he basically is saying is, are you continuing to trust the God that saved you and justified you as you go through life’s problems? He’s using faith in the middle tense sense. Romans 1:17 says, actually starting with verse 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Romans 1:17, “For In it, the righteousness of God is revealed,” watch this now, “from faith to faith.” In other words, it’s not just faith to be justified, but faith to grow, faith to faith. For it is written, quoting the book of Habakkuk, the righteous man, anybody know the rest of that? The righteous man shall live by faith. It doesn’t say here the righteous man shall be justified based on past tense faith. What it’s saying here is the righteous man shall live by faith. In other words, the exact same faith that you exercised in Christ for justification now needs to be developed for your trust in God as you’re going through problems. And some Christians do great with that, others don’t. But at the end of the day, they’re all going to heaven. You have to understand something that Paul thinks completely differently than most missionary organizations think or evangelistic organizations think. Because the bottom line to most evangelistic outreaches is how many people got saved. So let’s check the box and let’s move on to our next group and they want a number. How many people got saved? How many people showed up at the Coliseum? How many people trusted in Christ? You’ll notice that Paul is obviously interested in that. But it doesn’t stop there with Paul. He doesn’t stop and move on. He wants to see how their faith is doing in trials.
How are you doing in the middle of your salvation? Have you just become embittered against God? And you’re not trusting Him at all? In a second Paul is going to say, If that’s what you’re doing, then I almost feel like I’ve wasted my time on you. It doesn’t say, I’m just so happy you’re going to heaven. He says you’re denying yourself rewards at the Bema Seat and you’re denying yourself fruitfulness now, and yeah, you may be saved in the first sense of the word, but if that’s all you’re interested in, I feel like I’ve wasted my time with you. No missionary organization would say that today. But that’s how Paul thinks. Paul is- he places a tremendous emphasis, far more than we place on it in modern Christendom, on the middle tense of our salvation. Can a Christian become unbelieving in the midst of trials? Well, what does he say to Timothy? Timothy is thinking of quitting basically as a pastor in Ephesus. Paul says to Timothy in Second Timothy [2:13], “If we are faithless,” you mean a pastor of a church like the church at Ephesus can stop exercising faith in his assignments from God? That’s what the verse says. “If we are faithless, He that’s God remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Yeah, Timothy, you have all of the justification passages. Praise God for your future glorification. But don’t become faithless in the midst of trials because you’re stumbling not in the first tense of salvation, not in the third tense of salvation.
But you’re struggling in the middle tense of salvation. Paul was completely and totally passionate about the middle tense of salvation. That, by the way, is the whole point of the book of Galatians. Because he says to the Galatians, which is the first letter he wrote. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit.” Doesn’t look like they’re unsaved to me. They began by the Spirit. Unbelievers don’t have the Spirit, Romans 8:9. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” In other words, you’re stumbling not in the first tense of salvation- you have that- you began in the Spirit. You started the right way, but now you’re trying to be perfected- Middle tense, progressive sanctification- through your own power. And Paul writes really a six-chapter letter explaining the foolishness of the Galatians for doing this. You’ve got a whole book of the Bible, the book of Galatians, the whole thrust of it is the middle tense of salvation. I don’t want you to stumble, Paul says, in the middle tense of your salvation. So I’m sending Timothy back to you to check on your faith. Not to see if you’re a Christian and born again, but to see if you’re continuing to trust God as you go through life’s trials.
Because I’m afraid of something, Paul says, verse 5, “for fear that the tempter might have tempted you,” Now, what’s a temptation? A temptation is a solicitation to send. This audience was being tempted to work out their salvation through human power or doubt whether they had salvation at all. In other words, Satan was just whispering lies into their ears, tempting them away from sound doctrine. That, by the way, is a wonderful- maybe that’s not the best word- an accurate description of the devil. He is the tempter. This is how Satan is described when he tempted Christ in the wilderness, Matthew 4:3. “And the Tempter came to Him and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of [God], command [that] these stones become bread.'” In other words, it’s God’s will, the Father’s will for Christ to fast at this time in Christ’s life. And Satan was essentially tempting Jesus to not obey the Father, but to use His powers to command the stones, to become bread and to consume food. In other words, Satan was trying to drive a wedge in the tri-unity of God. He was trying to get Jesus to be insubordinate to the Father, which is what he’s trying to do in your life all the time and he’s trying to do in my life all of the time. That’s why he’s given this designation, tempter.
And when you have new Christians, like the Thessalonians, who are going through suffering, like the Thessalonians were, and Satan starts whispering things in their ears they’re vulnerable to deception. A new Christian is completely and totally vulnerable to all kinds of deceptions because they just don’t know enough about the things of God. Most Christians, because they’re not in environments that teach the Bible consistently or they don’t read the Bible themselves, they’re just, as Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-16 they’re tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. And Paul cared about the Thessalonians to this point where he was concerned about their progressive sanctification because he knew the tempter was whispering things in their ears. Well, if, you know, if you really love Jesus, HH wouldn’t allow you to have all these problems. When Paul is explaining to you, you have all of these problems because you love Jesus. In other words, Jesus set up all these problems for you to go through. And when he gives you a problem, He also gives you the power to endure it, right? But it’s much easier to think, Well, I guess God doesn’t love me. God doesn’t care about me because if God really cared about me, X wouldn’t have happened, Y wouldn’t have happened, Z wouldn’t have happened, etc. And if you don’t understand the doctrine of suffering, if you don’t understand James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when we encounter various trials,” and James goes on and describes how those trials bring us to maturity.
If you don’t understand that- and new Christians don’t, particularly in the United States because Jesus is marketed in the United States, it’s come to Jesus, and all your problems are going to disappear. If you’re given an unclear understanding of who Jesus is on the front end and you’re not in an environment that teaches you the doctrine of suffering when suffering comes- notice I didn’t say if it comes, when it comes, Satan will just fill your mind with all kinds of strange ideas that I guess you missed out on God. I guess God doesn’t love you. This is the condition that the Thessalonians were in. And what it was doing is it was destroying their not first hints of salvation, but it was stumbling them in the middle tense of their salvation. So Paul says, verse 5, If this is happening to you, “then our labor would be in vain.” He doesn’t say, Oh, well, at least you’re saved. Let’s move on to the next crowd. What he’s saying is I feel like I’ve completely wasted my time. Because the middle tense of salvation is that big of a deal. Now, this is where the Calvinists and the Armenians have, together, almost destroyed Bible interpretation. Because when they say that word vain, the Armenian says, Oh, they lost their salvation. Even though John 10:27-29 says you can never lose your salvation.
And then the Calvinists will come along and they will say, well, I guess if your faith is not enduring, then you were never given the gift of faith on the front end. Therefore, you’re not one of the elect. That’s how both camps interpret “our labor would be in vain.” Paul is talking about neither. What he’s talking about is the importance of the middle tense of their salvation. Because if you can’t trust God through trials, how in the world are you going to be productive for Him here on the Earth? And how are you going to stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat judgment fully rewarded? That’s what Paul means when he says my effort for you has been in vain. Because Paul looks at the middle tense of salvation as if it’s a big deal. Here’s how Calvinism handles these situations. This is a quote from a Calvinist, William Hendrickson. And he’s commenting on the people that believed in Jesus at the end of John 2. And he says of those verses “Many trusted in His name; i.e., because of the manner in which his power was displayed, they accepted him as a great prophet and perhaps [even] as the Messiah. This, however, is not the same as saying [that] they surrendered their hearts to him. Not all faith is saving faith…” In Calvinism and in Armenianism, there is the faith that saves and the faith that doesn’t save. Hendrickson obviously believes he’s got the right kind of faith. Right?
But everybody else, it’s sort of up in the air. If you believe this doctrine, that not all faith is saving faith, you know what’s just happened to you? You spent your whole life as a Christian wondering if you- if you’ve got the right one. I mean, the faith that really saves is accompanied, according to Hendrikson, by contrition and surrender. Well, how do you know if you’ve expressed enough contrition or surrendered enough? It says, “Not all faith is saving faith.” Such a doctrine is not taught in the Bible. A human being either has faith or they don’t. It’s like getting on an airplane. You know, sometimes I get on the airplane with great courage. Other times I’m wondering, does the crew really know what they’re doing? And I’m on- the I’m on the plane nervous. But the issue isn’t am I on the plane nervous or am I on the plane without nervousness. The issue is I’m either on the plane or I’m not. You follow? You’ve either trusted in the Messiah for salvation or not. So this idea that not all faith is saving faith, I mean, you’re just not going to find this taught in the Bible. I understand everybody runs to James 2. James 2 has nothing to do with that. The demons believe. Look at our series on James 2 To get a right understanding of James 2.
The plan of salvation is not even open to the demons. So when you run to James 2 to try to defend this doctrine, you’re making an apples and oranges comparison. You either have trusted in the Messiah for salvation or you haven’t. You’ve either been born again because you’ve trusted in Jesus for salvation or you haven’t. And so Paul is not dealing with, oh, their faith might be- the Calvinists uses this term spurious. Spurious faith. You know, not the real faith. You know, if you listen to these guys, Justin Peters, John MacArthur, R.C. Sprawl, Alistair Begg. And if you listen to these guys all the time, they talk about this constantly. The faith that saves and the faith that doesn’t save. I think a lot of those people, you ought to just tune out and you ought to just read the Bible. You’d be much better reading the Bible than listening to someone that teaches these sort of strange ideas, because the Bible does not teach the two faiths doctrine. Either you’re saved or you’re not. Either you’ve trusted in Christ or you’re not. It’s like getting out of a- it’s like being rescued from the water. I mean, let’s say I’m on a boat and I fall off into the ocean and someone comes out and rescues me. And then two days later, I go to a bar and I get drunk. Does that mean because I got drunk that I never got pulled out of the water? Well, Pastor, what does that mean? Well, it means I got pulled out of the water in two days later I got drunk.
That’s what it means. Is this- I hope this is not- I guess it is being recorded but people are going to have a good time with that. If you got saved and then two to three days later, you went back into sin what it means is you have succeeded in the first tense of salvation because you trusted in Christ for salvation. But you’re stumbling in the middle tense. That’s all it means. It doesn’t mean maybe I never got pulled out of the water to begin with. And because the teaching that I’m doing here is not taught to people, there’s this total epidemic in the body of Christ where people really wonder if they’re saved. Am I saved or not? Well, if you’ve trusted in Christ, you are saved on the authority of God’s Word. But God has more for your life than simply paying up your fire insurance. He wants to actually use your life to glorify him and to move into that second phase of salvation means you’ve got to keep trusting Him through the problems of life. Some do; some like the Galatians didn’t. Paul is worried about the Thessalonians because he’s not sure what direction they’re going to go. He’s not second-guessing whether they’re Christians at all.
Because if they’re not going to keep trusting God through the trials of life, what’s going to happen is they will become unfruitful. Not that they’re going to hell. They’re unfruitful. God can’t use them to be a blessing to others the way He wants. You’ll have a Matthew 13:7 situation. “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it.” Was that initial seed that went into the ground, a salvation? Yes, it was because the plant came up. So there was success in the first tense of salvation, but a lack of success in the middle tense of salvation because the alurements of the world were just too strong and it choked that group that he’s speaking of here and it became unproductive. Jesus explains that soil a little bit later in Matthew 13:22. He says, “the one on whom,sted was sown among the thorns. This is the man who hears the word, [and] the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth-” boy, is that not true. You spend your life being conformed to the image of this world and pursuing money as if it’s some kind of idle- “choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” It’s a salvation because the plant came up, it just got choked. It got choked by who? Lies about wealth, Satan himself, and the pattern of this world. Paul says, if you Thessalonians fall into that category- and you could- I feel like I’ve wasted my time with you because God has so much more for you than simply arriving in heaven one day.
He wants you to be fully rewarded at the Bema Seat judgment, and He wants to use your life now to be a blessing to others. Paul is worried about or concerned about loss of fruitfulness, and he’s also worried about loss of reward- rewards given above and beyond salvation at the Bema Seat judgment. Paul was worried, concerned about the whole Corinthian church because of this issue. And this is why he unfolds to the Corinthians, the doctrine of the Bema Seat judgment. He says, “According to the grace of God, which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds.” Be careful how you’re living your life as a Christian in the middle tense of your salvation. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one [which] is laid, [which is] Jesus Christ. Now, if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones, wood, hay and straw.” Hmm. I think verse 13 got cut off there. “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.” And then he goes on in verse 14, “If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.”
Look at verse 15. “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as through fire.” When the Corinthian church is acting up, Paul doesn’t say y’all are acting like a bunch of unbelievers. You must be unbelievers. What he says is you don’t even understand what you’re doing as you play these games with the middle tense of your salvation. You’re tampering with your fruitfulness now and rewards God wants to give you later. And there is going to be plenty, Paul says. This is not my teaching. This is right out of the teaching of the Apostle Paul. There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to show up at the Bema Seat judgment saved, happy they’re in heaven. But there’s some momentary regrets because they wasted their life. They could have been fully rewarded. They could have been used the way God wanted, but they threw it away. Why? Because they let the devil whisper too many lies in their ear, and they didn’t get under sound doctrine or teaching. And Paul says to the Thessalonians, if you’re going to do that, I feel like I’ve just wasted my time. At the Bema Seat judgment, there’s going to be five crowns either given or not given. The incorruptible crown for the believer that gains mastery over the flesh.
The crown of rejoicing for the soul winner. And then there’s the crown of life for the believer that endures trials. Hey, Thessalonians, I want you to at least qualify for number three. But that that won’t happen if you’re not going to trust God through the afflictions that you’re facing. Then there’s the crown of glory for the believer that faithfully shepherds God’s people. And then there’s the crown of righteousness, for the believer that simply longs for His appearing. That’s unlike Demas, who’s mentioned two verses later in Second Timothy 4:10, where Paul says, “Demas, having loveed this world, has deserted me.” Well, obviously, Demas was not a Christian or he wouldn’t have deserted Paul. Are you crazy saying something like that? Do you think Paul would have put Demas in his ministry team if there was any doubt that Demas was unsaved? Of course he was saved. But he just stumbled in the middle tense of his salvation. Paul actually is worried about himself a lot of the time. He says in First Corinthians 9:24-27. “Do you not know that those who run in the race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” Well, this is talking about people getting saved! Justification! Absolutely not. If this is justification, Paul’s contradicting everything he ever taught elsewhere about justification, which is not based on how we run. It’s not about our achievement- what we achieve- but what we receive as a gift.
You cannot take this passage and make it about justification. This is a middle tense salvation passage. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable [wreath]. Therefore, I-” Paul speaking of himself- “run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified [for the prize].” Paul says, What a tragedy that would be if I went around and told everybody about the Bema Seat judgment and they all qualified for rewards and I got nothing because I went back to the sin nature or the flesh. So Paul looks at that scenario and that’s why he says perhaps it could be in vain. I’ve wasted my efforts on you. It’s a totally different mindset about the middle tense of salvation than most ministries and missionary organizations and churches communicate today. And Calvinism and Armenianism because they don’t have a strong doctrine of rewards. Read what John MacArthur says about the end times. He’s pre-trib, pre-millennial.
I agree with an awful lot of stuff he says. But watch how he treats the Bema Seat judgment. He almost doesn’t treat it at all. Why would he not give emphasis to the Bema Seat judgment? Because of Calvinism. If a believer has received the gift of faith, they will automatically endure. So if we’re all going to automatically endure what’s there to be worried about? Well, Paul seems kind of worried. You seems worried for the Thessalonians and he seems worried for himself because the Apostle Paul was not Calvinistic in his thinking. Paul the Apostle is a three tenses of salvation guy. And he’s worried about the Thessalonians in the middle tense of their salvation. The Calvinists and the Armenians almost in their end-time scenario, hardly ever talk about the Bema Seat judgment. Did you know that? It’s hardly ever treated because it’s really not that big a deal. I mean, if you don’t fare well at the Bema Seat judgment, the Armenians say you lost your salvation. You know, farewell to Bema Seat judgment. The Calvinists say you never had salvation, so there’s really nothing to be concerned about. But Paul, to my mind, looks pretty concerned about it because Paul doesn’t subscribe to Calvinism nor Armenianism, which wouldn’t even come into existence for another 1500 years. Hey, Paul, are you a Calvinist? He’d look at you and say, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And I’m here to warn you about something that’s very real. By the way, having just returned from that part of the world that’s known for the Olympic Games which is a tradition that goes back millennia. So he’s using object lessons from their own life that they could understand as he’s explaining these truths to them. So, Paul the Apostle, you really don’t care about the Thessalonians? Yeah, I do. That’s a lie. I plan to visit, but Satan stopped me, verses 17 and 18. I look at the Thessalonians as my own crown, verses 19 and 20 of chapter 2. I sent back to you my very best, Timothy. And then down in verses 6 through 10, he starts to explain that I sat there on the edge of my seat, counting the days. I would say Paul was looking at texts, but they didn’t have those then. I was just anxiously looking at texts. I was anxiously looking at my email. Because I wanted to see what news Timothy would bring back to me about you Thessalonians. And I couldn’t think about anything else while Timothy was gone. And when I got a good report. What a relief. I’m just beside myself that I got a good report. Obviously he would not have been sitting on the edge of his seat wondering what Timothy was going to say if the man was aloof and didn’t care about them. So the interesting thing about the Apostle Paul is he is a missionary, the best there ever was.
He is a theologian, the best there ever was, other than Jesus himself. But he was also a pastor. He cared about the sheep. And he so much was in anguish about potentially receiving a negative report that they had stumbled in the middle tense of their salvation. So we’ll be looking at verses 6 through 10 next time. And then Paul prays a prayer like you wouldn’t believe at the end of the chapter, which is another way of him showing concern. And then once he finishes all of that, he says, okay. Now I’m in a position to correct you because I’ve restored my apostolic credentials. And he does something in chapter 4 verse 1 that I just love as a Bible teacher. He says, “Finally, then, brethren,” and then he goes on for 2 chapters. It’s like the kid that asked his father, they were a churchgoing family. And he said, ‘Dad, what does it- what does it mean when the preacher says, in conclusion?’ And the father turned to the son and says, ‘It means absolutely nothing.’ So let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for the Thessalonians letters. I hope this not to just be an information session, but help these things to be applied as we seek to live for You this week. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said [amen]. Happy intermission.