First Thessalonians 024 – Rapture and Comfort1 Thessalonians 5:11 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 30, 2023 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 024 – Rapture and Comfort
1 Thessalonians 5:11 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 30, 2023
All right y’all, let’s open a word of prayer and we’ll get started. Okay let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for today, grateful for this morning. Hard to believe this is the last Sunday in April. Seems like we just turned the corner into the new year and now a third of it is behind us. So we do pray Lord as Psalm 90 teaches us, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom, help us to press into things that really matter and are going to stand the test of time. One of which is Your Word and we’re thankful for Your Word Father, we’re thankful that in a changing world Your Word stays the same. And we come today at Sugar Land Bible Church to seek ministry from Your Word. We specifically ask for the illuminating ministry of the Spirit whereby He can take the things of God, even the deeper things of God, and apply them to our lives. And so as we look at some passages this morning both in the main service and in the Sunday School class that some would see as sort of kind of obscure and out of the way, I do pray that Your Spirit would take these teachings and would apply them to anyone listening. Only Your Holy Spirit can do that. And so in preparation for that ministry of illumination that we seek today, we’re going to take a few moments of silence to do personal business with You, not to restore our position but to restore our fellowship because we frequently do things as Christians that cannot cause us to lose our salvation, but they can cause us to enjoy intimacy with you. We acknowledge that’s why you’ve given 1 John 1:9 as part of our provision so we’re going to take a few moments Lord and exercise that provision personally and privately. We’re thankful Lord for the completed work of Jesus and all that that provision gives us, 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 can this morning and turn them to the book of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Paul the apostle has given us, obviously, this entire book, five chapters. The first three chapters he sort of had to vindicate and rehabilitate his position as an apostle which had been dragged through the mud by his detractors there in Thessalonica. So the first three chapters he’s sort of looking backwards to his experiences with the Thessalonians, you know sort of teaching them or causing them to remember what he was really like when he was with them. And in the process, he’s vindicated or answered at least three charges that have been brought against him.
So with that issue dealt with when you get to 1 Thessalonians 4:1 and he says “Finally then” that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop writing right away. He would be a good preacher, right? Finally and goes on for another couple chapters. That’s why I like Paul, one of the reasons I like him.
But when he says, “Finally then” now he’s transitioning into the last two chapters of the book where he’s answering theological questions that he knew they had and he’s correcting them in certain areas. You can’t correct someone unless you have the credentials to do it. So with his credentials restored 1 Thessalonians 1-3, now he’s moving into correction 1 Thessalonians 4-5.
So he’s dealt with sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:1-8), laziness amongst the brethren (1 Thess 4:9-12), people that are using the return of Christ as an excuse to get out of daily responsibilities which is going to be a major theme when we move into the second epistle. You’ll see that theme resurfacing on steroids so to speak. So the issue really didn’t get fixed in 1 Thessalonians. It gets worse and he has to keep correcting it in 2 Thessalonians, but more on that later.
And then he gets into the subject of eschatology, the study of the end. And that goes from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, which means we’re going to try to finish that section today. I mean all we have is one verse. I mean how long can that take, right?
So at the end of Chapter 4 he’s talked about the rapture. Kind of applying the rapture doctrine that they had already learned from him to their deceased loved ones in Christ. And then you move into 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and now he’s dealing with after the rapture. What is the world going to experience?
Well what the world is going to experience is the Day of the Lord (1 Thess 5:1-3). That’s where he switches the pronouns from “we or us” to “they.” So he’s not dealing anymore with the saints in the church. He’s dealing with people that are outside the church. People that are left behind at the point of the rapture.
The Day of the Lord is a time of evening and then morning. The evening is the seven-year tribulation period. You see it amplified in the book of Daniel 9:27. You see it amplified in the book of Revelation 6-19. But the evening will be followed by the morning where there’s going to be a glorious breaking in of God’s kingdom after the seven-year tribulation period is over.
And then he, Paul, beginning in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 applies that doctrine to us, and he starts talking here about how unlike the world we know about this time period that’s coming. This time period is going to catch the world totally off guard although they’ve been warned about it. Because the world basically what they are is children of darkness, and the Christian is very different they are a child of light and so we know what’s coming. And because we know what’s coming, we are in a position to warn people without the light.
And then you get to 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, and I think what Paul’s doing there is he’s giving three reasons why we, the church, will not be in this terrible time period called the Day of the Lord.
1. We are not appointed unto wrath (1 Thess 5:9)
The first reason and people need to understand this because there’s a lot of competing views on the timing of the rapture. We hold to what’s called pre-tribulationalism there at the top that we are going to be raptured before the tribulation starts. And we believe that because we are not appointed unto wrath, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, and the tribulation period represents a time of wrath, so we can’t be in it.
2. We are exempted from wrath whether morally asleep or awake (1 Thess 5:10)
Number two, we are exempted from this time of wrath whether we are morally asleep or awake. So whether you’re an on fire Christian or perhaps a Christian that’s backslidden, you’re not going to be in this time period as long as you’re a Christian. Because this promise is given to you by grace, unmerited favor.
And of course that takes away when you start to understand this a doctrine that a lot of people preach called partial rapturism, that when the rapture happens it’s only for the Christian looking for Jesus. If it’s a Christian that’s backslidden, then they’re going to be left behind. But that would contradict what he says there 1 Thessalonians 5:10, “… whether we are asleep or awake …”. It would contradict what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,”
When Paul says all, he says it twice, he’s giving an umbrella category for the whole body of Christ on the earth at the time. Those that are on fire for Jesus, those that are living a sanctified life but perhaps there’s others that aren’t, like the group that Paul is writing to here, the Corinthians, sometimes called first Californians because the spirit of the age had sort of come into the church. And it’s to that group, Paul says, you guys, when the rapture happens, you’re going whether you like it or not or whether you believe in it or not.
You know, I’m convinced that some people are going to be caught up kicking and screaming. But they won’t be able to kick and scream for long because they’ll be put in a resurrected body without a sin nature. And then they’ll say, “Yeah, Sugar Land Bible Church had it right the whole time, you know, teaching pretribulationalism. And we went through about ten reasons why this doctrine of partial rapturism is not a true doctrine.
3. Promises of comfort (1 Thess 5:11)
We now move into what we’re going to study today, Verse 11, where Paul gives a third reason why the church cannot be in this Day of the Lord time period, and it relates to the promise of comfort. So notice what he says there in Verse 11, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
So first of all, notice this word “therefore.” Anytime we see the word “therefore” in Paul’s writings particularly, we ask, “What is the word ‘therefore’ there for? What’s it doing there?” And typically what you discover in Paul is it’s to transition people, and I hope I can still use that word “transition” today without being censored, but it’s to transition people away from doctrine into practice, away from knowledge into wisdom, away from truth into to application, personal application.
That, by the way, is how the whole book of Ephesians is set up. Ephesians 1-3, Paul gives no commands whatsoever. I mean, there’s not one point of application. It’s all knowledge, knowledge, knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. Who we are individually in Christ, who we are corporately in Christ. But then you get to Ephesians 4:1 and you have that word “therefore.” The word “therefore” is in Ephesians 4:1 to transition us out of Chapters 1-3 into Chapters 4-6 where now there’s 35 commands. So we just moved with the word “therefore” from relationship to responsibility; from doctrine to deed; from orthodoxy, correct belief, to orthopraxy, correct practice. We just moved from knowledge to wisdom, belief to behavior, position to practice, privileges to responsibility.
And I’m sure glad Paul didn’t start the book with Ephesians 4:1 because it would be a devastating book because it would just give you all these commands without making you aware of the resources that you have as a Christian to live out those commands. So Paul has a very distinct and purposeful teaching style. He does not tell people what to do until he first helps them understand who they are in Christ Jesus.
You see the same pattern in Galatians 5: 1. There’s the word “therefore.” It does the exact same thing. It transitions us out of doctrine, Chapters 1-4, into application. Chapters 5 and 6.
You see the exact same thing happening in the book of Romans. Romans 1-11, it’s doctrine, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. It talks about our guilt before we come to Christ. Chapters 1-3 really ends around Verse 20, and then he begins to talk about justification, Romans 3:21 through the end of chapter 5. And then from there, he begins to talk about sanctification, Chapters 6-8. And then he begins to explain why God’s promises to us are valid, because he hasn’t broken his word to Israel, Chapters 9 through 11. And then after 11 chapters of teaching, you see the word “therefore,” Romans 12:1, and now he says, here’s what to do with the information. He says, therefore, in light of these mercies. What mercies are those? The ones that got piled up in the first 11 chapters? So here’s how you live it.
So when Paul used the word “therefore,” you have to pay attention to it. And there it is in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. You see the word “therefore,” where he’s transitioning us out of doctrine into application. So to Bible prophecy, the rapture of the church, there actually is an application.
Over in 1 Corinthians 15:58, which is Paul’s resurrection chapter, he says at the very end of the chapter, “therefore.” So here we go into application. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
So it is very interesting to me that in that chapter, that most Christians know as the resurrection chapter, there are 57 verses of doctrine, and then there is one little point of application at the end. I would say that today when you listen to most preachers, it is the exact opposite. It is practice, relevance, application. Everybody wants to know, “How does the Bible apply to my life?” You will notice that Paul doesn’t do that until the very last verse of that chapter.
So this is one of the problems, in my humble opinion, of the modern pulpit is people are not taking time in the pulpit to establish meaning or truth. How do you apply something that you don’t already understand? How do you apply something that you don’t already know? So you’ll notice that the Apostle Paul takes time to establish meaning. He takes time to establish truth.
And to be honest with you, your average churchgoer today doesn’t have the patience for that. They want it kind of like McDonald’s. I want to place my order. I want to get out something for me. Because really the Bible is all about me, right? We don’t do exegesis. We do narcigesis. We’re not deriving meaning. We’re trying to figure out what does it say to me? What does it say to me? Because I’m the center of the world.
And so the truth of the matter is you can’t have a valid application unless it’s built on the right foundation. And because your average person really isn’t interested in sitting through something that’s developing meaning, they really are receiving at the end of the day an application that’s very shallow.
Paul the apostle would not accommodate his teaching style to the wisdom of the age which was me-centered. He develops meaning thoroughly before he ever gets to application. And you see that in 1 Corinthians 15:58. There is application coming, but you just have to be patient and wait for it. Because an application doesn’t have any validity unless it comes from the right use of the Bible to begin with.
So there is application for prophecy. You just have to understand prophecy first. My professor, J. Dwight Pentecost says, “A short time ago, I took occasion to go through the New Testament to mark each reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming. I was struck a new with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living.”
So when you’re studying prophecy, once you understand prophecy and what the Scripture is saying about prophecy, then you want to say, “What’s the application?” And it will always be there, but you just have to be patient with the Bible and allow it to develop meaning first.
So here’s an example of how prophecy quickly turns into application. It’s in the book of 2 Peter 3:10-11. It says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”
So you’ll notice that’s an eschatological statement. It’s dealing with the destruction of this earth one day by fire, and that’s a knowledge statement. That’s something important to understand as a Christian. But you’ll notice that the verse or the concept doesn’t stop there. It moves from knowledge into wisdom, Verse 11. And it says in Verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, [and here comes the application] what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,”
In other words, if you’re just stopping as a Christian with the knowledge of 1 Peter 3:10, and you have a knowledge that this world is going to be destroyed by fire, but you don’t move into Verse 11 and allow that truth to impact your life, then you’re missing the point of why God gave the truth.
Now a lot of people would want to move so fast into verse 11 that they really don’t understand Verse 10. Verse 11 wisdom, Verse 10 knowledge. But once you have the knowledge, Verse 10, then Verse 11 follows Verse 10 which gives you an application. Boy, if this world is really going to be destroyed by fire, maybe I should live differently. I mean if everything in this world is going to burn, and the Bible says it is, maybe I ought to invest my life into things that are what we would call eternal investments, things that will not burn, and stand the test of time, those things being number one, God’s Word, because, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
Eternal Investments = God’s Word and People
So when you invest time and energy, people today all want safe investments, right? I only know of two. Here’s the first one. When you invest time into this Word, you’re making an investment into something that will not be destroyed by the fire and will stand the test of time. The only other eternal investment that I know of is people, because the book of Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has put eternity into the hearts of men. So when you make an investment into a person, discipleship, children, basic kindness, service, mercy, whatever it is, you’re investing into something that’s going to last.
When you make an investment which requires time and energy, I mean there’s a million things you guys could be doing right now. But you guys decided to invest in this time of Bible study. You’re investing in the Word, trying to understand the Word, trying to apply the Word, then you’re investing into something that will last forever.
So that is the application (1 Thess 5:11) that comes out of a study of prophecy (1 Thess 5:10). That’s how the Bible sets up not just prophetic truth, but all truth.
James 5:7-10 – Knowledge Leading to Application
You might want to hold your place here in 1 Thessalonians and just journey over to the book of James for a moment. A few books to the right there, and watch how James handles this same issue of knowledge leading to application. James 5:7-10, it says, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.”
So notice the doctrine that’s being unfolded here. The coming of the Lord. You see it there in Verse 8. The coming of the Lord is near. And then you see in Verse 9, the judge is standing right at the door. Now you read that, and you say, “Well, that’s wonderful. You know, that’s great information. I’m glad that Jesus can come back at any moment. However, James goes much further than that and applies it to daily life.
Knowing the Lord is Coming Affects Daily Life by Producing Patience
If we really believe that the judge is standing at the door, how would that affect our daily lives? Number one, we would be patient, Verse 7. In fact, the word patience is two times, no, three times there. Twice Verse 7, once Verse 8.
I mean, how do I really know that the Lord is coming? It should impact my life in the area of patience. I should be more patient with things, I should be more patient with people. And James is saying, if I’m really not a patient person, then I really don’t understand the imminent return of Jesus.
Knowing the Lord is Coming Affects Daily Life by Not Complaining
What else does it say here in addition to patience? It says, “Do not complain.” I’m glad that never happens at this church. That’s the church down the street, of course. “Do not complain, brethren, against one another.” Aha? So if I really think that the judge is standing at the door, I’m not going to be a complaining person.
Knowing the Lord is Coming Affects Daily Life by Being Patient in Suffering
And then verse 10 says, “As an example of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Aha? If I really understood that the coming of the Lord is right at the door, then I’m more patient as I go through suffering. So there’s a lot more to this than getting the A on the doctrinal quiz and having your prophecy chart filled out perfectly.
It has to do with, if you really understand these things, then there should be a change in daily behavior and attitude, and this is a process that we call progressive sanctification.
1 John 3:2-3 Because Jesus is Pure (Knowledge) I Should Purify My Own Life (Application)
Let me show it to you in another verse. Look over at 1 John 3:2-3. It says there, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” So that’s a statement that Jesus is coming back. And He’s going to glorify us. And morally, we’re going to be just like Him one day. Well, praise the Lord, Pastor. Great sermon. No, not so fast.
Because Verse 3 of 1 John 3: 2-3, Verse 3 follows Verse 2. You guys with me on that? Verse 2 comes before Verse 3. Verse 3 says, ” And everyone who has this hope …” now what hope would that be? What he just got finished explaining in verse 2. “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
So in other words, if one day I’m going to see Jesus face-to-face and I’m going to be positionally holy, just as holy as Him in glorification, I mean if I really believe that’s true, then that should have, seeing Jesus at any minute, should have a natural repercussion of causing me to purify my own life, practically speaking, daily speaking, under God’s resources that He’s given me.
In other words, if I really understand this doctrine, I’ll start to live differently. Now what if I don’t change as a Christian? It doesn’t mean you’re not saved. What it means is you really don’t understand this truth. Or maybe cognitively you understand it, but you just don’t really believe it’s going to happen. Because if you really understood this and you really believe that it’s going to happen, there’s a natural, pragmatic, practical, purifying effect that this has on the Christian’s life.
“Therefore” transitions us out of doctrine into practice
So this becomes the significance of this word “therefore.” See that? That’s why this is such a big deal. Because it’s transitioning us out of doctrine into practice. So with that “therefore” being said, and look at that, it took a half an hour to cover one verse. So let’s see if we can get this verse done here.
The Rapture and Imminent Return of Christ Leads to Encouragement and Comfort
1 Thessalonians 5:11″Therefore [in light of the rapture and the imminent return of the Lord] encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.”
So you’ll notice that the rapture doctrine, properly understood, always leads to comfort. It leads to encouragement. In other words, if we understand the rapture doctrine, then that should cause us to encourage one another. The Greek verb here is parakaleō, meaning you come alongside people who are going through difficulties, and you sort of comfort them, you encourage them. Hey this is not going to last forever; the Lord’s coming is near.
And so this is what you always see as you move through rapture passages. It’s always either prefaced or followed by comfort.
Jesus outlined the doctrine of the rapture for the very first time in John 14:1-3 and we’ve gone over this passage. But sometimes we forget Verse 1 which prefaces the doctrine, and it says, ““Do not let your heart be troubled;” So you’ll notice how rapture doctrine is attached to comfort.
You see the same thing in the rapture teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In fact, that’s our fullest treatment of the rapture doctrine found anywhere in the scripture and at the very end of that teaching, Paul says in Verse 18, “Therefore [what] comfort one another with these words.”
Titus 2:13 speaking of the rapture of the church says, “looking for the blessed hope …”. So the rapture is really not something to terrify you. It’s there to provide us comfort in the midst of adversity, comfort in the midst of difficulties.
When you understand comfort associated with the rapture, that becomes a powerful argument for pre-tribulationalism
And I believe when you understand comfort associated with the rapture, that becomes a powerful argument for pre-tribulationalism. The idea that Jesus is coming back before the seven-year tribulation period starts. Because we have in competition against pre-tribulationalism, mid-tribulationalism, we’re not going to be raptured out until the middle of the tribulation, post-tribulationalism, we’re not going to be raptured out until the end of the tribulation. Pre-wrath rapturism, the medium well-done crowd as I like to call them, we’re not going to be raptured out until three quarters of the tribulation period and up at the top are all those other views against what we think is the right view. Pre-tribulationalism that we will not see any of that time period.
Now let me just ask you a basic question, of these four views which one comforts you? I mean does mid-tribulationalism even work? You’re going to be here for 42 months of God’s wrath, comfort one another with these words.
Post-tribulationalism you’re going to be here for the whole seven-years and if your head is not cut off by the anti-Christ then maybe you can be raptured out at the end if you’re alive. Comfort one another with these words.
Three-quarters rapturism you’re going to be here for three-quarters of it and if you’re not a martyr then you’re going to be raptured out at the end. Comfort one another with these words. Blessed hope. Do not let your heart be troubled.
So what you’re going to see is all these other views do not handle well – they do not handle well the prophecies of comfort. And that becomes another reason why I think the church will escape the tribulation period.
Number one, we are exempted from God’s wrath (1 Thess 5:9). Number two, we are exempted from God’s wrath whether we are morally asleep or awake (1 Thess 5:10). And number three, every time you hear rapture you should think comfort, and there is no comfort in going into that time period.
So this idea that we’re going to be raptured out before the tribulation starts, what you start to see is it’s really the only view that makes sense of the whole Bible, and that’s how you handle a theological controversy. You want to figure out does my view make sense, the best sense of the rest of scripture. And I’m just giving you an example where the pre-tribulational view makes sense in light of these promises of encouragement and comfort where the other views don’t make sense. They don’t handle these passages well at all.
We are looking for Jesus
So we are not looking for the Antichrist, right? We are looking for Jesus. I mean, show me the passage that says, “All right, keep your eye on the Antichrist, he’s coming.” Keep your eye on Bill Gates, he could be the Antichrist. And Bill Gates is mentioned in the Bible, by the way. It says the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church. Keep your eye on the World Economic Forum because the Antichrist is coming.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be aware of the Antichrist. We have teaching on the Antichrist. You study the Antichrist because the Bible has passages talking about the Antichrist.
But nowhere in the New Testament is the Antichrist the focus of the Christian. The focus of the Christian is always on the imminent, any moment return of Jesus Christ.
Looking for Titus 2:13, the Antichrist. It doesn’t say that. “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,”
We’re not looking for the undertaker, as it’s been said. We’re looking for the upper-taker. Amen. “Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” John 14:1, preceding rapture teaching, “Do not let your heart be troubled.”
Now, all these other views underneath the top one there, mid, post, pre-wrath, they all say, all of them, the Antichrist comes first. Our view says, “No, the Antichrist does not come first.” Jesus comes first, and only after the restrainer via the rapture is removed can the Antichrist even come forward.
So what’s next on the horizon, the Antichrist or Jesus Christ? The answer is Jesus Christ. These other views don’t believe that. Here is a book by a non-pre-tribulationalist, Bob Gundry. Look at the title of it. “First the Antichrist“. And I might add, comfort one another with these words.
I mean, it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t jive. It doesn’t go together. James 5:7-8, passage we looked at a few moments ago. The judge, that’s Jesus, is standing right at the door. So this becomes the problem of rejecting pre-tribulationalism, is it changes the focus of the Christian away from Jesus to, oh no, I’m now focused on the Antichrist because the Antichrist comes before Jesus.
I can’t tell you how many Christians are not having joy in their Christian life because they’ve been exposed to flawed eschatology, which has changed their focus away from Jesus onto the Antichrist. If you’re not pre-tribulational, you basically believe we’re going to go into the seal judgments. You’re going to see the Antichrist. You’re going to see World War. You’re going to see famine, death of the quarter of the world’s population, massive martyrdoms, and cosmic disturbances. Comfort one another with these words. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
If you’re mid-tribulationalism, depending on where you put the trumpet judgments, you’re going to see the seal judgments and the trumpet judgments. If you fall for another scheme, post-tribulationalism, you’re going to see the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the golden bowl of wrath judgments. Comfort one another with these words. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
So this then becomes, I think, a potent argument as to why pre-tribulationalism has to be true. And when I talk this way, I’m not saying that life, this side of the rapture, is always easy. We experience Satan’s wrath. We experience the wrath of the world system. We experience man’s wrath. But there is a form of wrath that we are exempted from and that’s divine wrath, and we will not experience any of that. And to put a Christian in one millisecond of divine wrath is to steal comfort that the Bible promises us.
Build Up One Another (1 Thess 5:11)
So “Therefore [transitioning us from knowledge to practice] encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess 5:11)
Then comes a second kind of concept by way of application of prophecy. It says, and build one another up. The verb there for “build up” is ” oikodomeō“, build one another up.
You might be interested to know that that is the same verb that’s used of Jesus in terms of his building of the church. Remember what Jesus said up in Caesarea Philippi, as he’s interacting with his disciples, he says in Matthew 16:18, ““I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build …” Now, that’s the same verb, oikodomeō, if I’m pronouncing that right, but it’s just used there in the future tense.
““I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock …”. The rock is not Peter, because Peter in Greek Petros and this rock in Greek is petra. He never built the church on Peter. I mean, I hope he didn’t build the church on Peter, because the next time Peter opens his mouth, Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” That’s a pretty lousy way to start the church. He’s rather building the church on a different rock, Petros, little stone, petra, big stone.
And by the way, when you go to Israel, and I recommend you go, because you will get there one way or the other. You’re going to be ruling there for 1,000 years, so you better go over now and kind of stake out your real estate. You can go to Caesarea Philippi, where this statement was made, where there’s a giant cliff. And beneath your feet are these little tiny rocks. And as you’re sitting there looking at this, you’re saying, well, this is what Jesus was talking about. He was comparing Peter, little stone, Petros, to Cliff, petra, different gender, big stone.
He’s saying, hey, little stone, upon this big stone, I’m building my church. What’s the big stone? The big stone is Peter’s confession. The accuracy of his confession. ” … Who do men say that I am?” (Mark 8:27) Peter gave the right answer. “… You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:16)
Hey, Petros, little stone, upon this big stone. I mean, I kind of envisioned it as Jesus pointing to a rock, little tiny rock there. Hey, little stone, upon this stone, now pointing to the cliff there, at Caesarea Philippi, representing your accurate confession of who I am, I’m gonna build my church.
But you’ll notice that Jesus is in the business of building his church. He’s building it. And we actually get to play a part in that in a loose way. I mean, he’s the ultimate builder, but that’s why he (Paul) tells us to build one another up , Paul says, with the exact same verb, oikodomeō.
And I bring this up because a lot of people, very, very sadly, and just go onto social media and YouTube, and you can see them there, they’re in the business of tearing down the church. And they do it a lot of times in the name of being a discernment ministry. Now, as you know me, I’m all in favor of discernment and exposing false doctrines and all of these things, but some of these websites, some of these channels, the people that are involved in it, are so over the top and so vitriolic and so ad hominem, you start to ask yourself, well, what in the world at the end of the day are they building? They’re not building anything. They’re constantly tearing down.
A lot of people functioning today under discernment ministries, I think, really have a problem in anger management, is what I think. And when you start to vent on the church and you start to vent on people constantly because you’re angry and you’re doing it under the disguise of discernment, well, you’re no longer building up the church. You’re tearing it down.
Before I went to Dallas Seminary, I took a few seminary classes. This is before I discovered Chafer Seminary. It’s this little Assemblies of God Seminary located near where I was. And so I went over there and took a few classes there. Their theology obviously is a little different than mine today, but the fellow taught a class, just maybe three or four in the class, did say something one day that I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten. He says, “Look, here in seminary, you’re gonna learn things that your average person doesn’t know.” He gave the example of the book of Hebrews. Some think it was written by Paul, some people not, and he basically was explaining that you need to be very careful about how you bring in that information that you know that everyone else doesn’t have. Because if you do it in a way that’s sort of angry, sort of abrupt, sort of an in-your-face approach, you’re not really building up the church at the end of the day. You’re tearing it down.
And our calling as Christians is to build the church up. We want to build people up. Because that’s what Jesus is doing, right? Jesus said it at Caesarea Philippi, “I will build my church.” Make no mistake, God is building the church. 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”
You know, at the end of the day, Lord, I don’t want my mouth to be used to tear down. I want my mouth to be used to build up. Because that’s what you’re doing. I understand that there’s a need at times to expose false teaching and false doctrine, but our overall tenor, and even when we have to go negative at times, it should be done with the motive of building up, not tearing down. Because if we’re in the business of tearing down, because we’re masquerading discernment for anger problems, then we’re outside of God’s will.
Edification so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 is just a great verse on building up with the tongue. It says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Now, I used to read that and say, “Well, what that means is don’t use profanity. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” I used to think, okay, as long as I’m not cussing, as long as I’m not using profanity, I’m okay. But really, that’s not what that verse is talking about. I mean, obviously, not using profanity, that’s a basic for a Christian. We shouldn’t be people of profane, earthy speech. But this verse is not just talking about profanity. It’s talking about things that come out of our mouths as fallen people that really don’t build anybody up at all. They’re not there to edify, they’re there to tear down.
And since Jesus is in the business of building His church, the speech that comes out of our mouth should be of an edificatory value. That’s what Paul means as he’s applying prophecy, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, …” because Jesus is doing that very same thing, building up the church as is demonstrated by the same Greek word used in Matthew 16:18.
Because at the end of the day I want to be cooperating with Jesus, not pursuing some kind of purpose that’s anti-Jesus. And when my speech is not of an edificatory value and it doesn’t build anybody up, then I’m working cross purposes to what Jesus is wanting to do in the church.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, ….” Wow, the tongue, read James 3. If you want an exposition of this, we’ve done studies on James here at Sugar Land Bible Church. You read James 3:1-12 and you learn that the tongue, although it’s a very small part of the body, has tremendous power. This two-by-two slab of mucus membrane between the gums called the tongue is capable of great edification and it’s also capable of great destruction. The exact same biological part of my body. It just depends on which way I use it. Am I gonna use it for the things of God or am I gonna yield to the sin nature?
It’s like the rudder of a ship which is a very small part of the boat and yet it turns the whole ship. It’s like a forest fire that starts with a spark, something very small, but it can create something very, very big. That’s the power of the tongue. That’s why the book of Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” So that’s why we should use our tongue as Christians to build each other up in the things of God.
By the way, spiritual gifts, we’ve done teachings here at Sugar Land Bible Church on spiritual gifts, spirit-empowered abilities to serve God in a special way, that’s what a spiritual gift is. And by the way, every Christian has at least one. Most, I think, have more than one, but 1 Corinthians 12:7 says “each”. Each use his gift or her gift. So all of us have spiritual gifts of some kind.
You say, “Well, I’d love to study the spiritual gifts. Where would I look in the Bible on spiritual gifts?” It’s very easy. Just remember the mnemonic device 12-12-4-4. 12-12-4-4. Those are chapter numbers. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4. If you were to go home today and you were to read four chapters of the Bible, you would have everything you need to know in terms of the enumeration of the various spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4. Boy, you put it like that, it’s not that hard to learn, is it? Spirit empowered abilities to serve God in a special way.
Now, ask yourself this question, why did God give the spiritual gifts? He gave the spiritual gifts to edify. He gave the spiritual gifts to build up. That’s their purpose. Every gift that is exercised in the body of Christ has its object in someone else that needs edification.
So why would the Lord give spiritual gifts to the church to build one another up? Because, oikodomeō, that’s what He is doing in His great work with the church. He’s building the church up. So on the day of Pentecost, when the church age began, he took His seat at the Father’s right hand. He began to function in His high priestly ministry after the order of Melchizedek, and the first thing He did is He gave to the church spiritual gifts.
And what do the spiritual gifts all have in common? Building up. Edification. Not destruction or tearing down. “Well, Pastor, I need some biblical proof for that.” Well, I’m glad you asked that. Here’s a few verses. Jot these down.
1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
1 Corinthians 14:3, “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification [that means building] and exhortation and consolation.”
You know, it’s kind of interesting when you just even look at a plant and you have a little bit of sunlight in the room. So you’ve got a plant on your desk, and you’ve got the blinds pulled down, but you’ve got over on one corner a little bit of sunlight that comes through. And it’s kind of interesting to watch the plant gravitate, change its direction, so to speak, towards the sunlight.
Now, if that’s true for a plant, think about that for a person. I mean, people are just not going to gravitate to constant negativity, because people inherently need to be built up. And it is interesting that you can see someone coming, and you know that person, and you know, “I’m not going to get too close to that person, because negativity is going to come out of their mouth, because that’s their pattern.”
And it’s like we have a sort of a tendency to avoid people like that, but people that are positive, people that are edificatory, isn’t it interesting how we will crowd around people like that, just like a plant.
This is the kind of thing Paul is getting at, build one another up. Don’t be in the process of destruction or tearing down, because that’s contrary to the gifts of the Spirit. So 1 Corinthians 12:7, 1 Corinthians 14:3.
1 Corinthians 14:12, “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.” That’s why God gave these gifts.
1 Corinthians 14:26, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for [what’s the next word?] edification.”
1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
So when Paul says, “Build one another up,” we should be thinking, “Yeah, I want to do that,” because number one, that’s why the gifts of the Holy Spirit exist. Number one. And number two, this is what Jesus is doing in the current church age. He’s building. He’s not destroying. He’s not tearing down. He’s building up.
That, by the way, is why the gift of pastor-teacher was given to the church. Ephesians 4:11-16, it says, “And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets.” That’s the foundations of the church. “Some as evangelists.” And then it says, “And some as pastors and teachers.” I believe Granville Sharp is applicable here, where pastors and teachers is a single office, meaning it’s speaking of an office of pastor-teacher, a unique gift that God has placed in the body of Christ, so that the pastor can gain profit and retire early and become popular. Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t say that. Pastors and teachers, what does it say? For the equipping of the saints. Well, why would we want to equip the saints? For the works of service. Oh, so the ministry belongs to the people, not the pastor. So the pastor’s job is to build up the people of God so that they can become effective and efficient in whatever ministries they have in the church, outside of the church, in their vocation, in their family. And that’s why God put the gift of pastor/teacher in the church. For the equipping of the saints, for the works of service, to the [what is the next word?] building up of the body of Christ.
That’s what Paul said back in verse 11. That’s what Jesus said in Matthew 16:19. How do we know if the body of Christ is really being built up though? Well the rest of this paragraph explains it – “until we all attain unity, [so we’re not fighting each other all the time] of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. We’re becoming more knowledgeable about the things of Jesus Christ. To a mature man, we’re developing in terms of maturity. The measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children. Well how do I know if I’m a child? Because Verse 14, I’m 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’m a child in Christ if I just fall for everything that comes down the pike. It’s like a child crawling on the ground, everything they see they put in their mouth. They have no capacity for discernment. When a child hits the age of 16 and he or she is still doing that, we have a maturity issue. But speaking the truth in love, wow, there’s a great way to know if I’m growing in Christ. Am I speaking the truth in love? Because let me tell you something folks, I’m pretty good at speaking the truth. But am I doing it lovingly? We are to grow up in all aspects to Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body being fitted together and held together, what every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
And then Paul ends 1 Thessalonians 5:11 this verse by saying, “Just as you also are doing.” So the Thessalonians apparently were doing this already, and Paul says keep it up.
The book of Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not lose heart [become discouraged] in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
More paraphrastic Bible interpretations or translations like the NIV render it as follows. Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” Lord, I want a harvest. Oh, have you given up? If you’ve given up, no harvest. You get the harvest if you persevere in doing good, building up the body of Christ.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess 5:11)
So, lots to think about here, isn’t there? Therefore, transition from knowledge to wisdom. Encourage one another. There’s your prophecy of comfort. Build up one another. We want to be doing what Jesus is doing, building up, not tearing down. Just as you also are doing, in other words, what you’re doing good but keep it up, because you’re not going to gain the harvest if you just quit on the job now.
So, believe it or not, folks, we actually finished the eschatology section. And so we’re going to be dealing with the ministry imbalances next week.
Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for Your truth, Your Word, its practical value. Help us to be the type of people that will grow up in all things. 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.
 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. 1995. La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, unless otherwise noted.
 See chart at minute mark 0:09:05.
 J. Dwight Pentecost, Prophecy For Today, Page 20
 See chart at minute mark 0:38:43.