First Thessalonians 012 – Pastoral Purpose1 Thessalonians 3:6-12 • Dr. Andy Woods • January 22, 2023 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 012
1 Thessalonians 3:6-12
January 22, 2023
Dr. Andy Woods
Father, we’re grateful for today. Particularly grateful for the cooler weather. At least I’m very grateful for it. And we thank you for Your promise that You will build Your church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. With that being said, Lord, I do pray that You would get your way 100% and completely here at Sugar Land Bible Church from open till close on this particular Sunday morning. Especially. We do pray that You would, as You promised to do in the book of Isaiah, bless Your word as it goes forth. We pray that You would take Your truth and Your word and minister it this morning to the deepest needs of Your people, both here in the building online, watching archives after the fact. And we desperately need, Lord, that illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit by which we can understand the things of God. And we do know, Lord, that many times we do things in our personal lives that don’t cause us to lose salvation, but they can be a hindrance in terms of receiving directly from You. So with that being said, we’re going to take a few moments of personal silence to do personal business with You to exercise 1 John 1:9 if need be. So we can be in a position to receive from You today. We again thank You, Lord, for the promise of 1 John 1:9. We thank You for our secure position in You and the provision that You made for us in every area of life.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said amen. All right. Well, good morning, everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to 1 Thessalonians 3:6. As we are continuing our verse-by-verse teaching through the book of 1 Thessalonians in our Sunday school hour. As you know, in the first three chapters of the book, Paul is sort of setting forth a defense. As you know, the background of the Thessalonian letter, as we’ve described it, Paul had a lot of enemies. What is the Book of Proverbs say? Man of many friends comes to ruin. And Jesus said, Woe to you when all men speak well of you. So sometimes when you step out there for the things of God, you’ve got a lot of people that don’t like you. Although you can have zero animosity and nothing but love towards them. So that was what Paul was dealing with as Paul had been forced out of Thessalonica. In the wake of that, his enemies kind of stirred up a bunch of rumors against him so that the Thessalonians would no longer listen to Paul. So Paul is going to be actually correcting the Thessalonian Church, beginning in chapters 4 and 5. But it’s impossible to do that if your audience doesn’t think you’re credible.
So what Paul does in chapters 1 through 3 is he has to defend himself from a bunch of false accusations. And he’s doing that not just to vindicate himself. He’s doing it for a higher purpose of putting himself in the position of their corrector, which is coming in chapters 4 and 5. So the first lie circulated about Paul was he’s just kind of a motivational speaker. And the conversion that you Thessalonians experienced under his ministry, you just got talked into it. There’s nothing real about it. So Paul in chapter one explains to the Thessalonians that their conversion is real. And then in chapter 2:1-16, lie number two was circulated against Paul. That particular lie being Paul is in the ministry for impure motives. So Paul refutes that in chapter 2:1-16. And then line number three is Paul doesn’t care about you. That’s why he left Thessalonica. And Paul begins to deal with that issue in chapter 2:17 through chapter 3:13. So he is explained to them his plans to visit them over and over again. And yet what obstructed his plans was not a lack of concern. It was Satan himself. Opposition beyond his control, and he deals with that in chapter 2:17-18, and then in chapter 2:19-20. Paul says, Of course I’m concerned about you Thessalonians. After all, you are my very crown.
And he saw them as part of a crown that the Lord would bestow upon him at the judgment seat of rewards. He deals with that in the last two verses of Chapter 2 and then in chapter 3:1-5, he says, Of course I care. While I was gone, I sent back to you my very best. A man that he calls his son in the faith. In other scriptures I sent to you, Timothy. And Paul deals with that in chapter 3:1-5. Why did he send Timothy to the Thessalonians? Because he wanted to figure out where they were, not in terms of their personal salvation. But how they were doing in their growth in Christ. Something we call the middle tense of salvation. And so, Paul explains that in chapter 3:1-5. And then we move into our section this morning, Chapter 3:6-10, where Timothy has actually come back from Thessalonica to Paul in Corinth and given a report about the Thessalonian’s progress. And Paul expresses complete and total emotional relief at that report. Something that would hardly come from a man who supposedly was unconcerned about the Thessalonians. So, with that being said, we pick it up there in verse 6, and this is what he says. “But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith–”
So when he says he’s brought us good news about your faith, as we try to explain very carefully in the last couple of lessons, Paul’s not saying, Oh, I’m so glad you Thessalonians are justified before God, I wasn’t sure about that. I’m so glad you’re born again. I really wasn’t sure about that. I’m so glad you’re Christians. I really wasn’t sure about that. What he’s doing is he’s describing faith, not in the first tense of their salvation– justification. But in the middle tense of their salvation– sanctification. Because in the natural world there’s birth and then there’s growth. Those are two different things. One is an event. The other is a lifelong process. And just as in the natural world, it’s possible to be born into this world but have developmental problems may be related to a number of issues a lack of care, poor nutrition, whatever it is, it’s completely possible for someone to be born and not be physically developing correctly. If you can put that image in your mind and if it can happen in the natural world, it could happen in the spiritual realm, too. You could have someone who is born again, born of the Spirit of God, yet at the same time is really not growing the way they should in Christ. And so when Paul says, I’m relieved at Timothy’s report and has brought us good news of your faith. He’s not talking about faith in tense one.
He’s talking about faith in tense two. And what he’s saying here is I’m relieved that you’re continuing to trust Jesus in the trials of life. Because these folks were under trials. The audience that drove Paul out of Thessalonica– the unbelieving Jews had turned against Paul’s flock. And so they are baby Christians going through persecution. And Paul is relieved that the faith that saved them when they trusted in Christ is the same faith that they’re now using as they walk through life’s trials and emergencies. One of the most basic things you could ever understand in terms of understanding scripture is the three tenses of salvation. We have a little booklet on the rack in between the men’s restroom and ladies restroom on the wall plastic shelf there. And one of the things we have up there is a little booklet. I think it goes 25, 30, 40 pages, something like that by Pastor Dennis Rokser, and I believe it’s called Salvation in Three Time Zones. If you can if you can grab that at some point and if we run out, we’ll put more up. And if you could read that, that would do so much for you in terms of helping you understand Scripture correctly and staying on the right understanding of Scripture and not deviating from what the Scripture says, because people wrongly interpret this constantly. They will take a passage here about faith and they’ll make it sound like Paul’s concerned whether they’re Christians.
That’s not what Paul’s dealing with here. He’s not dealing with the first tense of salvation. He’s presupposing the first tense of salvation has been accomplished and executed in the life of the Thessalonians. He’s dealing with the middle tense of salvation and the truth of the matter is I can’t grow as a Christian if I won’t trust God through problems. If I won’t trust God through problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not a Christian. What it means is I’m having a developmental problem. I’ve been born, but I’m not growing properly. So you have many examples in scripture of people that just quit trusting God, although they were clearly saved. One of the greatest examples of it is the Exodus generation that came out of the Egyptian bondage and they had trusted God as they walked through the Red Sea. And then they got beyond the Red Sea and on their path to Mount Sinai, all they did was panic related to one emergency after another. And God kept coming through and kept coming through. And they just kept distrusting God. And as they distrusted God, they began to grumble against and speak against God ordained leadership, in this case, Moses. And then that’s the same crowd that got up to a place called Kadesh Barnea, which would be the southern end of the nation of Israel. And they saw giants in the land. And they hit the panic button and they became, as the Bible says, Numbers 13 and 14.
“Grasshoppers in our own eyes.” In other words, the God that took them through the Red Sea, I guess can’t handle the giants. And then God said, You know what? I’m done with this crowd. You’re not going to enter Canaan. I’m going to work with your kids. And what do you do with that group of people? Do you say every single one of them went to hell? No, because when you study Hebrews 11, you’ll see that generation in the Hall of Faith with all the other saved people. So that generation, what they lost out on was blessings that they could have had flowing from their justification. I mean, they could have had justification and they could have had Canaan. And by the way, Canaan is not heaven, right? Because when I go to heaven, I don’t expect to fight giants once I get up there. There’s a lot of good music. I don’t know if it’s even that good. It sounds good. Theology is bad. Calling Canaan Heaven. Canaan is not heaven. Canaan is the blessings of the sanctified life growing in Christ the way we should. That generation could have had Canaan, but they didn’t get it because the faith that justified them, they weren’t using as they walked through life’s trials. So they become a wonderful– maybe wonderful is not the best choice of words– a key piece of evidence showing that you can have a Christian that’s born, but is not developing correctly.
You have other examples. You take Peter. Peter is the guy that would do a lot of wonderful things. He brought people to Jesus. But at the same time, Peter is the guy who, when Jesus said, walk out on the water, he did pretty well at first, but then he took his eyes off Jesus unto the wind and the waves, and he started to sink. And Jesus had, of course, rescue him. Does that mean that Peter wasn’t saved at that point? Well, that would be an absurd interpretation. Of course, Peter was saved. He was justified. He just wasn’t trusting God in that moment, in the moment of trials. So when Paul says, I was relieved to discover the vibrancy of your faith. He’s not saying, Oh, I’m so glad you guys are Christians. What he’s saying is, when Timothy brought this good report, we were relieved to understand that you were continuing to trust God through the persecution that you were and are experiencing. So what’s the evidence that they were continuing to trust God? Through the trials of life. It’s in the second half of verse 6. And you might be sitting there wondering, well, how do how do I know personally if I’m trusting God as a Christian in the emergencies of life? Well, if you’re really trusting in God and walking by the Holy Spirit through the emergencies of life, then these things will start to show up in your life.
Verse 6. “But now Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, [and] that you always–” not sometimes– “you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you.” I mean, how do how does Paul know that these people were growing in the middle tense of their salvation? Well, you’ll notice the word love there. And you’ll notice the word kindness. When Peter lays out the qualifications or the description, I should say, of a growing Christian. This is what the Apostle Peter says. 2 Peter 1:5-7. “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” That’s how you know that you’re developing properly as a Christian, because these things will start to be replicated in your life via the power of the Holy Spirit. And because these are all things that don’t come natural for us, they’ve got to be infused by God. And those wouldn’t be in your life if you weren’t depending on God moment by moment. Um, here is sort of a pictorial portrait of what Peter is talking about. Start with faith and add to faith, goodness.
Add to those to knowledge. Add to those to self-control. Add to those to perseverance. Add to those– not those two, but all the prior ones, I meant to say. Add to all the prior ones godliness. Add to all of the prior ones brotherly kindness. And then at the very top there, what we’ll start to show up in addition to all of these other things is love; agape. So you’ll notice that Peter starts with faith and ends with love. And you’ll also notice in the mix, as both Paul and Peter are surfacing these attributes. Love and brotherly kindness. In other words, as you’re growing in Christ, it’s your proclivity not to tell someone off the first time you don’t get your way about something. There’s a brotherly kindness. You know, there’s a basic respect that you have amongst the brethren. And as we’re walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, these are things that God wants to reproduce in us. Love and brotherly kindness. In addition to all these other things. I mean, look at these things. Self-control. Perseverance. In other words, at the first sight of trouble, I don’t just throw in the towel. I stay at the task, whatever it is that God has given me to do. And these are things that the Lord will start to supernaturally reproduce in your life. Now, you can’t have these if you just shut down as a Christian and say, Oh no, another problem.
I’m so mad God did this to me. I’m just not going to trust him through this. These things won’t be in your life at all. But if a problem comes into your life and you say to the Lord, Well, praise the Lord, look at this, here’s another opportunity to grow. Here’s an opportunity for my faith muscle to develop. Then what will start to happen is you’ll start to see these other things automatically replicated in your life. Paul elsewhere in the book of Galatians 5:22 calls this the fruit of the spirit. He says, “But the fruit of the spirit is–” the ability to bash people over the heads, over their heads and win every single theological argument you can win. No, it doesn’t say that. “But the fruit of the spirit is is love–” Paul mentions love here. “–joy, peace, patience–” Wow. That’s a that’s a good one. Lord, give me patience and give it to me right now. “–patience–” And then he mentions kindness. Brotherly kindness. “–goodness and faithfulness.” And there was this attitude of love that was growing in the Thessalonians that they were actually longing to see Paul. Just as Paul was longing to see them. And so Paul is just relieved that this is happening in the lives of the Thessalonians based on Timothy’s report. He continues on in verse 7.
“for this reason, brethren–” And that word brethren is more important than most people realize. When he says, “brethren”, he’s obviously speaking to believers. If you go back to chapter 2:17, he says, “But we, brethren–” He’s not speaking of– Sometimes the word brother or brethren can be used of one Jew talking to another. We’re fellow brethren of the Jewish race. Fellow descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The word brethren is used that way, I believe, in Romans 9:3. But that is not how it’s being used here. Because Paul is not talking, as we said at the very beginning of the book, when we introduced it, to a Jewish audience. He’s talking to Gentiles. So when he says, brethren, he’s talking about fellow born again regenerated believers. That’s how Jesus uses the word brethren in Matthew 12:46-50. Where he is told that his family is waiting for him. And he says, “well, who is my family? Who is my brother’s? My sisters? Are not they the ones that do the will of my Father who is in heaven?” And so when Paul uses this expression, brethren, he is presupposing that his audience is already experienced tense one of their salvation– justification. And what he’s dealing with here in this particular book is he’s not dealing with justification issues. He’s dealing with developmental issues or growth issues. Um, you continue on in verse 7 and he says, “for this reason, brethren, in our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith;” So when I heard that your faith was continuing, despite distress and affliction, I was actually relieved by that. Paul says, I was comforted by that. Very strange words from a man who allegedly doesn’t care about the Thessalonians. I mean, why would he express any kind of relief at their growth if he was unconcerned? So he’s using this to diffuse these charges that have been issued against him by his detractors. He goes on in verse 8 and he says, “for now, we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” So when he says, now we really live, basically what he’s saying is I’m just completely fulfilled. I mean, you might as well kill me now and take me to heaven, Lord. This is my highest point. Because I’m just. I’m just. I’m just relieved and I’m just alive, given the fact that the Thessalonian church that saved is trusting you through life’s problems. So you clearly see here the heart of a pastor. You clearly see here a ministry model that’s completely and totally different than a numerical count. A lot of people have this mindset. Let’s go to this group and let’s get these people saved. Okay. How many people are saved? Let’s count them up. All right. Let’s move on to the next group. Paul wanted people saved or justified. But Paul’s ministry, philosophy and theology is far deeper than that.
He wanted his audience to grow in Christ. And he says here, if you stand firm in the Lord, you mean a Christian? It’s possible that a Christian might not stand firm in the Lord. That’s totally possible. I mean, you could be saved, regenerated, born again. And one day you could get up and you could just not have your armor on. Your spiritual armor. You could just ignore or rebel against Ephesians 6, which is written to Christians and says, “Put on the full armor of God.” And you go off into your day and you’re blown about by one problem after the next because your armor is not on. And you’re sort of in a helpless state. It’s like a military person going to battle without the proper weaponry and gear, etc. That’s how many, many Christians, unfortunately, are living their lives because they’re not standing firm in the Lord. Peter says this: “Be of sober spirit–” 1 Peter 5:8– “on the alert, because your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him–” Look at this language here. “–firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” So he’s telling Christians to resist Satan by standing firm in your faith. You can’t tell someone to stand firm in your faith if they don’t have any initial justifying faith.
So you’ll notice that this commandment resist him in your faith is aimed at the believer. And that’s exactly what Paul is saying here in verse 8. “For now, we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But I found out from Timothy that you are. And so I’m just beside myself. You know, I’m really fulfilled. I’m alive knowing that that’s going on. And then you see Paul’s Thanksgiving there in verse 9. “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy which we rejoice before our God on your account,” Paul says I’m filled with joy. I want to rejoice. See, most of the time in our lives, we rejoice on our own account. Hey, something’s gone really well in my life. I’m really happy today. You’ll notice that Paul was rejoicing because something good was going on in someone else’s life. You know, it reminds me of the scriptures that talk about if one part of the body is honored. Then all are honored if something great is happening with someone else. The natural reaction of a Christian would be would be to be just as joyous about that. As if it had happened to you personally. And that’s what’s meant by love earlier in the passage as we were looking at. Agape. Agape is a form of love that really seeks the betterment of someone else.
And really expects nothing in return. Of course, the ultimate role model of that was none other than Jesus Christ himself. I mean, how in the world is Paul is saying here? Can you accuse me of not being concerned? I’m opening my heart here. And showing you my care and concern for the Thessalonians. So what’s he doing? He doesn’t say, Check. Mission accomplished. Let’s move on. He says, I’m going to keep praying for you. And you see that there in verse 10. “As we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face–” Notice it’s praying. Verse 10. “We night and day keep praying.” It’s a continuous activity. Sounds like it’s pretty dominant part of his life because Paul says, I do this night and day. And Paul, what are you praying about night and day? I’m praying that I would be able to come back to you. And see your face because I love you that much. Well, Paul, why didn’t you come? It was because of circumstances beyond my control. That’s what he says back in chapter 2:18. For we wanted to come to you. I, Paul, more than once, yet Satan hindered us. Satan threw up every single roadblock he could throw up. So I couldn’t get back to you. So my lack of appearing before you face to face has nothing to do with lack of concern. It was because of forces and circumstances beyond my control.
Yet I keep praying night and day that I’m going to be united with you. And then in the second part of verse 10, he explains why he wants to be reunited with the Thessalonians. And may complete what is lacking in your faith. I want to complete what is lacking in your faith. In other words, this is a ministry, not of evangelism. This is a ministry of edification. Of building them up. It’s exactly why Paul wanted to get to Rome. All the way through the Book of Acts. Paul keeps saying, I need to get to Rome. I need to get to Rome. I need to get to Rome. God has called me to preach the gospel in Rome, and that’s misinterpreted as, well, Paul really wanted to get to Rome to share the gospel. That’s not why Paul wanted to get to Rome. The Romans already had the gospel. You say, Well, how do you know the Roman church or the Romans already had the gospel? Well, we’re going to talk about it Wednesday night, going through Acts. But in Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, which launched the church age. According to Acts 2, I think it’s around verse 10. There were certain people listening to Peter preach, and it says there were people there from Rome. That’s how the Church of Rome started. These folks believe the gospel, as Peter proclaimed it in Acts 2.
They went back home and they started a church called the Church at Rome. The church at Rome was one of the few churches that was started without the assistance or the help of an apostle. And the reason Paul wanted to get to Rome is not for purposes of evangelism. But it was for purposes of edification. Because Paul in Romans 1:11 explains why he wanted to get to Rome. He says, “For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;” Paul wanted these new, fairly new Christians in Rome to receive full apostolic doctrine and full apostolic teaching so that they would be established and not blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but would be established in their Christian faith, which already existed. That’s exactly what Paul is praying for here, night and day. I want to get to the Thessalonians. I want to get back to Thessalonica because I want to see you established. I want to– verse 10– complete what is lacking in your faith. Now, once you understand this mindset of Paul. You start to understand what pastoral ministry is. A lot of people have very confused ideas of what a pastor is supposed to do. A lot of people look at a pastor as like a CEO. Or they look at a pastor as kind of a motivational speaker. Or they kind of look at a pastor as sort of a cruise director.
Ya know, “we’re going to have shuffleboard on the Lido deck in 30 minutes” and just to plan a bunch of activities to keep everybody moving and running around. And very sadly, I have a lot of pastoral colleagues that run their ministries that way. And if you’re under a pastor like that, you’re under someone that really doesn’t understand what the pastoral role is. The role of a pastor is not so much an obstetrician, if I’m pronouncing that right, which assists the birthing process. But it’s the pediatrician who helps the newborn babe in Christ grow. That is why God has given the gift of pastor teacher to the body of Christ. You see this expressed in a book that Paul would write later, the book of Ephesians 4:11-16. Where it says he gave some as apostles and prophets, some as evangelists. Some as pastors and teachers. So apostles and prophets, those are the foundation stones of the church. Then you have evangelists that share the gospel with the lost so the church can grow. And then you have this unique gift called the gift of pastor-teacher. I believe in the Greek language via the Granville Sharp Rule that it’s talking about a particular gift of someone being a pastor and a teacher simultaneously. Someone with both gifts simultaneously because there’s pastors and then there’s teachers. But then there’s the gift of pastor-teacher.
Why did God give to the body of Christ the gift of pastor-teacher. He says in verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ. Now, that word equipping, you see it there in brackets. katar- if I’m pronouncing this right, katartismos. That word comes from the same root that’s being used right here in verse 10, where it’s translated to complete what is lacking. The word translated to complete or to supply, right here in verse 10, is katartizo in verse ten, and it comes from the same root of the noun used in Ephesians 4:12, katartismos, to describe the pastoral function of equipping the believer for the works of service. The whole name of the game in terms of being a pastor is the ability to teach the Bible in a way that’s understandable. So that the flock of God can grow and become equipped to do whatever God has called each individual member to do in their own family or their own business or their own ministry. That’s why God gave the gift of pastor teacher to the church. Paul says, I want to get back to Thessalonica. Because I want to exercise this gift. And I want you to be established. Now, these are people that didn’t even have the Thessalonian letters yet, and part of their equipping would be receiving the canonical books of 1 Thessalonians and later 2 Thessalonians so that they’ll be able to stand in the midst of tribulation.
So they’ll know how to be a godly wife or a godly husband. So that they’ll know how to be honest in the business world. And so as the gifts of the Spirit become evident in people’s lives and they pursue different areas of service within the body of Christ so that they’ll know how to do that ministry. So it’s the job of the pastor teacher to prepare people for all of that that I just mentioned. And the only thing that can prepare you for that is God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:17 talks about the inspiration of the scripture. The necessity of preaching the Scripture so that the man or woman of God might be thoroughly equipped. Notice equipping. For every good work. And so this is the attitude that we have here at Sugar Land Bible Church. We believe in the sufficiency of the Scripture. We believe that every word is put here by divine design for the benefit and the betterment of God’s people. And it’s the job of the pulpit to equip the saints for what God wants to do in their life. And maybe part of that equipping is preparing you for a trial that you’re going to experience down the road that you don’t even know is coming yet. Maybe part of that equipping is the teaching, the doctrine of suffering, so that when the trial hits, you won’t think some strange thing is happening to you.
But in fact, as Paul said earlier back in verse 3, that we are actually destined for these things. So this is the reason why you have so much ineffectiveness amongst Christians in the world today, is because pastors to a large extent, are really not doing the job that God called them to do. Which is this Ministry of equipping. Why do we need the gift of pastor teacher? It says in Ephesians 4:13, “Until we all attain the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In other words, all those things in verse 13 don’t happen without the gift of pastor-teacher. Verse 14, “As a result–” I mean, what does it mean to become a mature man in Christ? “As a result, we are no longer to be children. See, he’s dealing here not with birth, but with growth. I mean, you should have graduated from childhood to adulthood, Paul says to the Ephesians, a long time ago. As a result, we are no longer to be children. And tell me if this doesn’t describe your life here: “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” I mean, if your life is such that you’re just blown here and blown there by every fad that comes through the body of Christ, or you’re constantly stunned, you know, that God would dare to send suffering into your life.
And you’re bitter at God because God sent suffering into your life, because you don’t understand the doctrine of suffering. I mean, what are you at the end of the day? You’re just a child. And you’re tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. I can’t think of a better description, by the way, of 21st century Christianity in the United States in verse 14. I mean, it’s just amazing to me the things that people will gravitate towards; believe. And it’s all related to the fact that Christians, by and large, aren’t maturing the way they should. And the reason they’re not maturing the way they should is because the pulpits aren’t edifying the way they’re supposed to edify. He goes on and he says, But speaking the truth in love. Wow. There’s a mark of maturity. Speaking the truth. That’s kind of easy when you think about it. But doing it in love, that’s a little harder. But if you can do that. Have a great balance between truth and love. You’re a growing Christian. I mean, some people are so loving that there’s no truth. You know, sloppy agape, as sometimes it’s called. Some people are so truthful that they come across, you know, very abrasive.
And that’s not the right balance either. It’s speaking the truth in love. We are to grow up. That’s a maturity issue. In all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building of up of itself in love.” That is what Paul was after with the Thessalonians. That is what Sugar Land Bible Church is about. And a pastor, in my humble opinion, cannot get that job done with a 20-minute sermon, half of which are jokes and illustrations. Much of it is introduction. I’ve listened to so many pastors today teaching and it’s like buying a house where the front porch is bigger than the house itself. I mean, that’s how long the introduction goes. And then when you get to the actual equipping, it’s this little dinky part here, and then you work everybody up for a big conclusion. I mean, that’s the reason why people are just tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. So when people say, well, you know, we wish your sermons were shorter. I think that crowd left a long time ago, by the way. Why can’t you guys be like the church down the street, etc? It’s it’s because we’re seeking to the best of our ability here to follow a biblical paradigm of ministry, which is a ministry of equipping.
So Paul, now you go down to chapter 3:11-13. He closes out this section by praying for the Thessalonians. And even in the prayer itself, he shows tremendous concern for the Thessalonians. In fact, if you look at this prayer here verses 11, 12 and 13, it’s really all it is, is an amplification of thoughts that he’s already expressed in verse 10. So he sort of puts his theology into his prayer life. And I would encourage you to do that in your prayer life. Now pray your theology. Pray not your theology, but God’s theology. Pray the great verses of the Bible. I mean, if you’re having to have the Lord meet a need in your life, pray Philippians 4:19. “My God shall supply all of my needs in his riches through the riches of Christ Jesus.” I probably didn’t quote that exactly right, but you get the paraphrase. I do that a lot. I spend a lot of my prayer time just praying back to God, things he’s already said. It sort of helps me to keep my prayer life. On the right track. Because if I’m praying for things outside of His will. 1 John 5:14 If we ask according to His will, He hears us. God has no obligation to answer things I’m praying for outside of His will.
So as you as you pray Scripture, basically what you’ll see is, yeah, this is in the will of God. It is God’s will to meet my needs. Philippians 4:19. And there’s absolutely no shame in praying that. Probably not for God’s benefit, but for your own benefit, just to make sure that your prayers are within the revealed will of God. So Paul prays that way in verses 11-13. He prays to return to them, verse 11. He prays for their continued growth, verse 12, and he prays for their blamelessness at the Bema Seat judgment, verse 13. So notice what he says here in verse 11. Now, may our God and father himself and Jesus, our Lord, direct our way towards you. I want to come back to you, and for me to come back to you is going to have to be a God thing. Why does he say it’s going to have to be a God thing? Because he mentions here in this prayer to members of the Trinity. God, the Father and God the Son. God, the Father and God the Son, sharing the full essence of deity. But God, the Father and God, the Son are distinct in terms of their personage. The Father is unique in His Father-ness. The Son is unique in His Son-ness. The Spirit is unique in His spirit-ness. And yet all three, and if we had time, we could take you to numerous texts to prove this.
All three share in the full essence of deity. I could show you many passages where the Father is called God, the Son is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God as well. And it’s going to take an act of the Triune God for me to come back to you because, back to chapter 2:17, Satan– Excuse me. Chapter 2:18. Satan was throwing up problems. Back in chapter 2:18, he says, “for we wanted to come to you. I, Paul–” He inserts his name here, which he rarely does, showing his concern– “I, Paul, more than once and yet Satan hindered us. I, Paul says, am no match for Satan. Satan is an angel. A fallen angel. I’m just a human being. So as long as Satan is orchestrating this attack against me, I can’t come back to you. But God can allow me to come back to you. Because the Triune God is the one that created the angelic realm anyway. Satan is not the creator. He is a created being. Satan is real big for us, but he’s not much of a problem for God. In fact, in the book of Ezekiel 28, which I believe is a description of Satan prior to his fall and how he fell. If you go back into our angelology series, you’ll get the explanation as to why we believe that this verse is talking about Satan.
But it says there at the end of Ezekiel 28:13 on the day you were created. Verse 15, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.” And the moment you see the word created concerning Satan, that’s just a sigh of relief right there, because you know who’s going to win this. God is going to win this. Satan is not going to have the upper hand. Why is that? Because Satan, at the end of the day, is a created being. A created being is no match for the creator. See, this is not dualism that the Bible teaches, where you have God and Satan and they’re equal equals. Kind of like Rocky and Apollo in Rocky I and Rocky II, and now there’s like Rocky 17 or something where their great grandkids are duking it out and all those– I remember my dad took me to see the Rocky movie when it came out in the 70s. Went to that movie theater where they’ve got the boxing gloves hanging from the marquee. And that was that was pretty cool. What does that have to do with the sermon? Nothing. But you sit there and this was Rocky one. So this is like prehistoric times and you’re literally on the edge of your seat because you don’t know who’s going to win. Because they’re generally equally matched.
Obviously, a slight edge for Apollo because he was the reigning heavyweight champion. But you just don’t know who’s going to win. And a lot of people are like that with the Bible. We don’t know who’s going to win. I mean, is God going to win or is Satan going to win? But when you see this word created, it’s like, oh, what a relief. We know who’s going to win. God’s got this whole thing under control. Satan is just around because God allows it for his own purposes. So, yeah, Satan can throw into Paul’s life a lot of problems, a lot of roadblocks that make it look like Satan is going to win. But Paul says, You know what, I’m going to pray to the Triune God. God, the Father, God, the Spirit God, the Son all existing in the Godhead. We don’t believe in three gods. We are monotheistic, but we believe that that God has expressed himself in three separate personages. Um, that God can help me with Satan. Although Satan is more powerful than me. So, yeah, I wanted to come back to you, but there was problem, problem, problem, problem that Satan caused. But you know what? If God wants me to come back to you, I’ll come back to you. No problem. No problem. And by the way, that’s the only way to overcome Satan in your own life. You’ve got to learn to turn your circumstances over to God.
There are circumstances in your life that are too big for you. There are circumstances in my life that are too big for me, and the only thing that will keep you sane at the end of the day is not trying to wargame the whole thing through your own power. But you have to just learn to turn the circumstances, whatever they may be over to God who is all powerful and can fix the issue. So he prays for his return to them. He prays for their progressive sanctification. This is a very good transition into Chapters 4 and 5 where he will be dealing specifically with their progressive sanctification by way of correction based on Timothy’s report. And what does he say there in verse 12? “And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another.” How do you know you’re a growing Christian? Because you’re increasing in love for your fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Galatians 6:10 says, “So then while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who are of the household of faith.” Jesus in John 13:34-35, says, speaking to his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, nd that you also love one another. And by this all men will know you are my disciples–” based on the size of your buildings.
No. “All men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 1 Corinthians 6:7, where the Corinthians were suing each other. So they had totally walked away from this command. And they were actually in such contentious disagreements that they had to go in front of pagan judges to get their differences resolved. Paul speaks to that in 1 Corinthians 6:7. And he says, actually, then it is already a defeat for you. That you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? In other words, you’re defeated in terms of your witness because you’re at war with each other and you’re going in front of an unbelieving judge to get the disagreement resolved. What’s the unbelieving judge supposed to think about Christianity? Especially when Jesus in the upper room says, All men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another. So you just discredited your witness before an unbelieving judge and you’re defeated without even understanding that you’re defeated. So God expects and Paul prays for this kind of love that we would have for one another. And that’s how you know that you are growing Christian. He says love for one another and for all people. So the love that I have towards fellow Christians– I mean, sometimes it’s hard to get along with fellow Christians. Can I get an amen on that? “To dwell above with the saints I love that would be much glory.
But to stay below with the Saints I know that’s a different story.” It’s one of the greatest ways, you know, you’re maturing in Christ is the ability to get along in the body of Christ. I’m not talking about some deep doctrinal issue. I’m talking about personal injustices. Paul says, Let that love extend not just to the fellow believers, but let it extend to all people. Paul in Romans 12:8, says, “If possible, so far it depends upon you, be at peace with all men.” And if you look at the beginning of the verse, it says, “and may the Lord cause–” God doesn’t expect you or me to manufacture this love on our own. Is what the Lord does in the middle tense of our salvation, if we’ll depend on Him. 2 Timothy 2:1 says, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. In other words, Timothy, be strong. But don’t be strong through your own power. Be strong in the grace that’s available to you in Christ Jesus. And then just finishing verse 12 here to wrap it up. It says, “and for all people–” look at this– “just as also we do that for you;” Paul says, I want you to be like me. What Paul was experiencing in terms of progressive sanctification could be experienced by the Thessalonians and all Christians.
Paul never taught a elitist form of Christianity that what I have no one else gets. I’m at a level no one else is at. He says I’m growing in love. And the identical resources I have, you have as well. And so in this prayer he’s expressing to them to continue to grow and love. Verse 13, We won’t cover today. We’ve covered most of the chapter except for the last verse, but he wants them to be blameless at the Bema Seat. I will say this. It’s interesting that he ends every chapter with a reference to the return of Christ. Which will be a wonderful segway into Chapter 4. Second half of the chapter where you’re going to get your greatest treatment anywhere in the Bible on the doctrine of the pre-tribulational rapture of the church. So, for next time, I would encourage you to read the end of chapter 3, re-read verse 13, and then also read chapter 4, and we’ll get into those subjects next Lord’s Day. Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for Your truth, Your word, Your teaching. And the things that it reveals to us and how You expect us through Your power to really be little Christs. Not in the sense that we’re deity, but You’ve given us the resources by which we can manifest the very character of Jesus Christ in our daily lives, help us to grow in this way, in the middle tense of our salvation. 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.