First Thessalonians 026 – In Everything1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 • Dr. Andy Woods • May 14, 2023 • First Thessalonians
First Thessalonians 026 – In Everything
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, Dr. Andy Woods, May 14, 2023
Well, good morning. Happy Mother’s Day. And if you have a mother, could you raise your hand? If you’ve ever had a mother? So, I think Mother’s Day is kind of important. Also, happy birthday to the nation of Israel. Today is, yeah, Israel, the miracle on the Mediterranean. Today, May 14, is Israel’s 75th birthday. She declared her independence May 14, 1948, and everybody thought, well, she’s not going to last long. She’s going to be wiped out. As you know, she was invaded on all sides. Lo and behold, here she is, 75 years later, actually bigger than the territory that she originally went into.
Let’s open with a word of prayer, if we could. Father, we’re grateful for today, even though it’s a little rainy. Grateful for Mother’s Day. Grateful for this special day for the nation of Israel. I do pray You’ll be with us as we depend completely and totally on Your Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. We desperately need that, Lord. We have a tendency to rely on our own crutches and props when really what You’re calling us to do is to rely upon You. And so we rely today upon the direction of the Holy Spirit here at Sugar Land Bible Church, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In preparation for that ministry, we’re going to just take a few moments of silence to do personal business with You, so that if fellowship has in any way been broken between us and You, we’re going to exercise 1 John 1:9 right now so fellowship can be restored.
We are thankful Lord for the promise that if we confess our sins, you’re faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We understand our position in you is secure, but we can do things as lost sinful human beings that frustrate sometimes our moment-by-moment enjoyment of You. Which is what we really need to receive ministry today from Your word via the Holy Spirit. And so that’s why we confess our sins just before Bible study to prepare us for that time period. I just ask Lord that everything that happens at Sugarland Bible Church today from opening until closing all the meetings, all the rooms, all the Bible studies that are going on, that Your name would be lifted up and glorified. We pray that people will leave here today changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. 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.
Well, if you can, take your Bibles and open them to 1 Thessalonians 5:14. We are continuing our verse-by-verse study in Sunday School through the book of 1 Thessalonians. In that second section of the book where Paul is no longer defending himself against accusations, false accusations raised against him, he does that in Chapters 1-3, but in that second section of the book he’s really dealing with, now that he’s rehabilitated his reputation, he’s in the business now of correcting the Thessalonians. So he’s moved away from personal experience to practical exhortation.
He’s dealt with the subject of sexual immorality (4:1-8), the subject of laziness (4:9-12), and then they had some eschatological questions about the future, and they wanted to know, what about their deceased loved ones in Christ, and will they participate in the rapture? Paul says yes, and so he’s explained the rapture of the church at the end of Chapter 4, and then Chapter 5:1-11 he’s gotten into the subject of the Day of the Lord, which is the prophetic event that will happen to planet Earth after the church has been removed.
And it’s there he moves away, he moves from “we“, end of Chapter 4, to “they.” So the “we” is the church-age believer who participates in the rapture. The “they” is those left behind to experience the tribulation period.
And with all of that discussion now in our rear-view mirror, he gets now into the subject of ministry imbalances that he was aware of taking place in Thessalonica. And he’s dealt with, and we studied this last time, a proper attitude towards church leaders. What are church leaders supposed to be doing? He explains that in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13. And then he wants you, as a member of Christ’s universal church, once you find a shepherd willing to do what’s described in those verses, an attitude towards a member of the church, towards a leader, should be one of respect and submission. And he’s dealt with that also in Verses 12 and 13.
Ministry Towards One Another (1 Thess 5:14-15)
And now he moves into Verses 14 and 15 where he is dealing with ministry towards one another. So let’s pick it up here in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. He says, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. ”
So you’ll notice this expression, “We urge you.” This is a strong exhortation on Paul’s part to the flock. He’s clearly dealing with Christians because he calls them “brethren.” And I understand that the word “brethren” can be used amongst fellow Jews. I think it’s used that way in Romans 9:3, right in there. But here Paul is not dealing with fellow Jews, because it was the Jews that kicked him out of the synagogue in Thessalonica.
As you study Acts 17, which is really the background of this epistle, the Apostle Paul has been kicked out of the synagogue. He went into the Jewish synagogue. He reasoned with the Jews for three Sabbaths, from their own Old Testament, trying to show them that the things that he is proclaiming about Jesus are not things he made up. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is predicted in their Bible, Hebrew Bible, that we now call the Old Testament. They wouldn’t receive him, so as is typical of Paul, he leaves the synagogue, and he reaps a great harvest amongst the Gentiles. The Gentiles who don’t even know anything about the Old Testament have a great interest in the Gospel and the things of Jesus. And that’s how the church at Thessalonica started.
So when Paul uses the word “brethren” here, he’s not talking about fellow Jews. He’s using the word “brethren” the way Jesus used the expression in Matthew 12:46-50, where Jesus was asked, or he was told, “Your brothers, mother, are waiting for you.” And he says, “Well, you know, the ones that are really my brothers and sisters and mother, speaking of a spiritual family, are those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven.” So Jesus, at the end of Matthew 12, spoke of a family which transcends typical family lines.
We all have our own families, but once you believe in Jesus, you’re brought into a new spiritual man, a new spiritual family, and if you haven’t been brought into that new spiritual family, then these commands here won’t make any sense to you. Because you don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of you to understand them. You don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of you to obey them, and so that’s why that word “brethren” there is very, very significant. He’s not dealing with fellow Jews here, one Jew to another. He’s dealing with one born-again person to another born-again person.
Admonish The Unruly
So he says there, “We urge you brethren,” and I think here he’s to a large extent speaking to leadership still. He says, “admonish the unruly.” In other words, there are people within the body of Christ that are sort of wayward. Maybe they act unbiblically, or they teach things that are unbiblical. And he’s basically explaining that the role of spiritual leadership is to straighten out these unruly people. That’s one of the jobs of a shepherd.
So think of a shepherd in the natural world who’s guiding his sheep, and suddenly one of the sheep just kind of wanders away and does his own thing. Or very, very sadly, the sheep actually have teeth, and they can fight with each other. I’ve got two cats at home. I love to just go at it with each other. So the function of a shepherd is to separate or resolve fighting sheep. That, unfortunately, is how you spend a lot of your time as a shepherd in the body of Christ. You have Christians that want to say things, or they want to promote things that aren’t found in the Bible, or you have Christians that want to fight with each other over different matters. So we would call those the unruly. In that case, I guess they’d be called the black sheep of the family.
And so the role of a shepherd is to straighten out these unruly sheep, which is the part of ministry that really no one wants to do, including myself. I mean, I do it because I have to, not because I want to. It’s much more enjoyable to give direction to the sheep that are already moving the right direction. It’s a little bit more difficult to deal with sort of malcontents and wayward sheep. But that is part of the pastoral calling. It’s part of the calling of an elder.
If you look for a moment at 1 Timothy 1, just skip over 2 Thessalonians, and you’ll hit 1 Timothy, which is a pastoral letter. Paul the Apostle says to Timothy, who he has installed as a leader in the church at Ephesus, he says, “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.” (1 Timothy 1:3–4)
So Timothy, you’re in charge as a pastoral leader at the church at Ephesus, and your primary job, because it’s mentioned right out of the gate, I mean, Paul has only given Timothy two verses before he gives him this third and fourth verse, is you’re in that position to instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, or to pay attention to endless genealogies, you know, things that the Bible is not clear on one way or the other, which were causing division. So Timothy, you are to admonish the unruly.
If you flip over a few more books to the right, over from 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, then you’ll find the book of Titus, which lays out the qualifications, Titus 1 for elders. What’s an elder supposed to do? Titus 1:9 says, “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he [the elder] will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
Now, it’s much easier to exhort in sound doctrine. Where it gets controversial is where you have to refute those who contradict. So part of, and this is interestingly a part of elder requirements that almost nobody talks about. It’s generally, you know, what’s their temperament like? People like to get into the big talking about husband of one wife. And I almost never hear anybody talking about Titus 1:9, which very clearly says part of the job of an elder is to refute those who contradict. In other words, people come in with odd doctrines, people come in with strange doctrines, and it’s the job of an elder to, quoting 1 Thessalonians, to admonish the unruly.
A lot of strange things can happen in a church, particularly in small group settings. People want to start a small group, and suddenly you learn in that small group someone is promoting X teacher, or Y teacher, or Z teacher, that we don’t think is on course with what we believe the Bible teaches here at Sugar Land Bible Church. So it would be our job as an elder, as elders, to say such a person, you know, go teach whatever you want, but you can’t do it here at Sugar Land Bible Church. You can’t teach it in the name of Sugar Land Bible Church.
So that’s why when we have these small groups, fellowship groups as we call them, Sunday school classes, and someone wants to teach something, I mean we want to know, what do you want to teach? Can you submit a curriculum explaining what you want to teach? And people kind of look at that this day and age and they say, wow, what a bunch of control freaks, you know. Boy, what a bunch of micromanagers. And the truth of the matter is no one wants to be, at least at this church that I know of, wants to be a micromanager. But we have to have some kind of awareness of what it is that’s actually being communicated in women’s Bible study, youth group, Sunday school classes, fellowship groups. And if we just take sort of an attitude of, you know, que sera, sera, what will be will be, we’re basically falling down on our responsibility as elders. Because part of the responsibility of an elder is to refute those who contradict and command certain men not to teach strange doctrines.
And sometimes the doctrine is some really sort of myopic thing where the Bible is not clear on one way or the other and it’s generating strife. So the function of an elder is to say, you know what, we’re not really willing for you to go down that road. And so we would ask you not to teach that. Well, I don’t want to submit to your authority. Okay, well then, start your own Bible study. Just don’t call it Sugar Land Bible Church. And we’re not going to promote it here at Sugar Land Bible Church.
Encourage The Fainthearted, Help The Weak
So going back to 1 Thessalonians 5:14. That’s what he means here when he says admonish the unruly. “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, …” So part of ministry involves coming alongside and assisting people that are basically weak and really can’t help themselves. They can’t help themselves in terms of Bible understanding. They can’t help themselves. Perhaps they have some sort of physical limitation, economic limitation. And so coming alongside the weak, assisting the weak, exhorting the weak, in some cases providing for the weak is part of the job of the church as well.
And when you go back to Matthew 9:36, you see that this is what Jesus did constantly. It says in Matthew 9:36, “Seeing the people, He [that’s Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
By the way, when we’re called sheep as God’s people, that’s really not a compliment. Sheep are some of the stupidest animals on the face of the earth. Sheep will follow each other right off a cliff if given the opportunity. So they’re in constant need of provision. They’re in constant need of protection. They’re in constant need of guidance.
This is why Jesus in John 21:15-17 says to Peter, “Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. Care for my lambs.” And that’s how Jesus saw people. Matthew 9:36. He says He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited. In other words, they were weak. And like, which is simile, He’s using a metaphor, they were just like sheep without a shepherd.
So this is the kind of thing that Paul is getting at back in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. To encourage the fainthearted and to help the weak. And sometimes in the course of ministry, it’s easy to lose patience with people.
Be Patient With Everyone / the Fruit of The Spirit
So Paul adds this little clause at the end. It’s very tempting just to pass over what it says at the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:14. He says, “Be patient with everyone.” The fruit of the Spirit, you know what that is, right? Love, joy, peace. I can’t even get the word out. Patience. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. Did I get them all? Which one did I forget? Goodness, I forgot goodness. My goodness, I forgot goodness, Galatians 5:22-23, you’ll find them.
“But the fruit of the Spirit…” This, by the way, is how you know you’re walking in the Spirit. Not whether you’ve seen the latest revelation or dream from God. A lot of people define Spirit based on whether they did a miracle or whether they saw some kind of vision. The Bible is much more simple than that. This is how you know you’re walking in the Spirit because your life will start to exhibit these qualities towards people.
It says in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit” – in other words, these are not things I can manufacture in my own sin nature. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, [here it comes] “patience”. I would encourage you not to marry someone unless you are with them when you drive in traffic. And I’m serious, if you’re dating someone and you’ve ever driven with them in traffic, you might want to expose yourself to that kind of exercise because that will determine whether you’re going to marry a patient person or not.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Meaning, it’s not the law, the Mosaic law, the Ten Commandments that creates these things in a person. Ten Commandments and the written Word of God can explain to you what these things are and if you’re following them or not following them. But these things can only be created in a person as they’re depending upon the Spirit. These things will not come to us naturally.
What does come to us naturally is Galatians 5:19-21. If you want to know what we’re really like in our sinfulness, Galatians 5:19-21 explains it. “Now the deeds of the flesh [that’s the sin nature] are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, [I’m glad that list is over. Paul says not quite.] and things like these, ….” So this is just like a short list here. He says the rest of it is obvious.
So normally we’re just like Galatians 5:19-21, but under the control of the Spirit, we can be the opposite. We can demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, my goodness, I keep forgetting goodness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So that’s where your patience comes from. It comes from the Spirit’s ability to give you that capacity.
I mean what you’ll discover about the Lord is He’s very patient. He’s a lot more patient than most Christians are.
It was the Lord that postponed judgment in the days of Noah for 120 years, hoping someone would repent; 120 years is a long time considering what was going on in the days of Noah, all the evil. God postponed judgment over the wicked Canaanites. Very wicked people. Read Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 and you’ll see how wicked these people were and the depravity that they were getting into. God postponed judgment for 400 years. That’s like double roughly, give or take, the length of America. That’s a long time to be patient.
This is what 2 Peter 3:20 is speaking of when it says God waited patiently in the days of Noah.
In fact, Jesus, I think it’s in Luke 9, came into a Samaritan village. I think it’s around verse 51 and following. If you know anything about the Jewish Samaritan conflict, it was a racial conflict. The Samaritans, going all the way back to the days of the northern dispersion of the northern tribes in 722 and the folks that were brought in to replace the displaced tribes started to intermarry with some Jews and they started to not worship in Jerusalem. They worshiped in Samaria. And this was why the disciples hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews.
That’s why they were astonished in John 4 that Jesus was not just talking to a woman, but a Samaritan. She was racially despised. There’s a lot of information on the Jewish Samaritan conflict, and yet here they come in in Luke 9:54-56. They would not respond to Christ’s message. And James and John, John the love apostle, says, “Lord, shall we not call down fire from heaven and destroy these people?” Like Elijah.
I mean, no patience for people at all. You get on the wrong side of me and let’s just nuke them and let’s do it quick and let’s do it now, Lord, go for it. Destroy these people. And you’ll see the Lord rebuking James and John, basically saying you don’t even know what manner you’re speaking when you say stuff like that. The Son of Man has not come into the world to destroy people’s lives. He’s come into the world to save people, to liberate people.
And so all of these texts show us that God is very, very patient. So if God the Holy Spirit is inside of us, which the Bible says He is, the moment we trust Christ, and as you walk in dependency upon the Spirit, what you’ll see is you’re going to be more long-suffering towards people. You’re going to have a shorter – like we can get very short fuses with people. What you’re going to see is your fuse, I guess we could put it this way, is getting longer. Because it’s not you, it’s the Lord inside of you, and He by nature is very, very patient.
So this is what Paul is dealing with here in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 when he says, “… be patient with everyone.” Notice it doesn’t say, “Be patient with the people that you like.” Be patient with the people that haven’t hurt your feelings. Be patient with the people that agree with you. Because to be honest with you, it’s easy to be loving and patient with people that you perceive as being on your side, whatever your side means. It’s easy to love your own in other words.
I mean, even the mafia does that, right? The mobsters, they look out for their own. But they don’t have any patience with people that come against them or go outside their box. So being patient with somebody that you already like, generally speaking, that’s not a work of God. That’s easy to do.
But to be patient with people that get crossways with you, that’s going to take a work of the Spirit. You’re not going to be able to manufacture that in your sin nature. But the Holy Spirit will give that ability to you. Because it’s God doing it, and He by nature is very, very patient.
So 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
Going down to 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” So the Spirit-filled life is not a life which says, “Don’t get mad, get even.” I mean, if that’s your temptation to get even with somebody, then that’s not the Holy Spirit working in you. You’re yielding back to the sin nature when we have that sort of ambition. We have to learn to reckon that dead and to have a mindset that we’re not going to repay evil for evil.
There’s a tremendous treatment that the Apostle Paul gives on this in the book of Romans 12:19-21. “Never take your own revenge, …” This is not talking about self-defense where you’re put in imminent danger. It’s not dealing with that issue. It’s dealing with an issue where you’ve been wronged by somebody. Has it ever happened to anybody in here? Has it happened to any single person in here? You’ve never been wronged in your whole life? Well, you guys, you might be committing another sin in the Bible called lying, which we’re not covering today. I mean, I would say this, all of us have been hurt by somebody, right? And so the temptation is, you know, if someone did me wrong, I want to get them back.
But what does the Bible say? Romans 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” When we’re taking our own revenge on things, God says you’re taking matters into your own hands. And if you take matters into your own hands, then it’s your problem. You handle it.
But if someone does me wrong and I say, Lord, you know what? I’m just going to turn this whole situation over to You, and I’m going to let You deal with it the way You want to deal with it, and I’m going to forgive the person and move on with my life, and if feelings of bitterness come up again, I’m just going to keep forgiving and keep forgiving and keep forgiving and entrust the whole injustice to You. Now God says, it’s My problem. They’re on My hook.
And I’ve discovered in my life that God is a lot better at dealing with wayward people than I am. You trust your situation to the Lord. You will be shocked at what the Lord will do on your behalf. I mean, sometimes He’ll change the person’s heart. If that doesn’t work, sometimes He’ll deal with the person through some sort of divine discipline. I’ve seen it happen over and over again, and I’ve noticed that God is not going to do that as long as I’ve got my fists clenched when I’m trying to handle the situation myself.
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, …” Notice “beloved.” You can’t do this as an unsaved person. You can do it as a saved person though because someone is living inside of you greater than yourself.
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, [look at this] feed him, …” Rather than retaliating, be kind to the person. I mean, if you’re leaving room for God’s wrath, you almost start to feel sorry for them. So they deserve kindness, because they don’t know what’s coming.
“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” [I mean, that’s going to stumble them.] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:20-21)
I have a lot of Christians, when they interpret Romans 6, they say, well, a Christian can never be overcome by evil. Well, then why does it say here in Romans 12:19-21, “Do not be overcome by evil.” As a Christian, I can be overcome by evil because I can make decisions through volition to yield to the old nature and not yield to the Holy Spirit inside of me. Of course I can be overcome by evil, or else the Bible wouldn’t say, “Do not be overcome by evil.”
So, you know, we’re not to be people of self-vengeance. We’re to leave room for the wrath of God. I’m back in 1 Thessalonians 5:15 now, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always [look at these “always” and “every” in here ] seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”
I think Paul in Philippians 2:3-4 gives another dimension to this. Notice if you will the book of Philippians 2:3-4. I believe you just have to go back one or two books. And notice what he says in Philippians 2:3-4. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
So the truth of the matter is I’m really good at looking out for my own interests. Really good at it. In fact, it comes really natural to me. I mean, I want to make sure that I have enough resources. I want to make sure I get enough sleep. I want to make sure that I’ve got enough gasoline in my car. I want to make sure I get enough rest. I want to make sure that my vacation time is honored. You know, I mean, we’re just really good at looking out for ourselves. That’s what we’re like naturally.
But if I have the ability to take this innate desire that I have to look out for number one, and then I start transferring it to somebody else, in other words, the same ambition that I have in protecting myself and my interests, I’m now transferring it where I’m looking out for someone else’s interests, now that’s spiritual growth. You start walking like that and you’re really developing and growing spiritually the way the Lord would have us to grow.
Why would I even do that? Because Jesus is living inside of me. And Jesus, the eternally existent second member of the Godhead, did not spend His eternity or His life looking out for number one. That’s what the rest of Philippians 2 is talking about, where He left that position of pre-incarnate glory to enter into human history, to die a cruel death.
I mean, why would you do something like that? Because you had someone else’s interests in mind. Because if Jesus hadn’t done that, we’d all be on our way to hell. And He did that for us. So why did He do it? To promote Himself? No. Because He decided to put our interests above His own immediate comfort.
So if Jesus is really living inside of us, and the Bible says he is, he’s living inside of us forever, I mean what you’re going to start to discover in your Christian life is you’re not going to always spend all of your life and energy looking out for yourself. You start looking out for other people.
And really that’s where all these church conflicts come from, to be honest with you. I mean church is split all the time, I’m sure you’re aware of this, over really silly issues like the color of the carpet and really important things like that right? Here the world’s going to hell in a handbasket, and we’re worried about the color of the carpet.
That’s how we get when we get inwardly focused via the sin nature. And usually these disputes masquerade as some great cause, but really, it’s like, really what it comes down to is Sister A is mad at Sister B because Sister B or Brother A and B intruded on her or his territory somehow. So let’s kind of make up a reason to cause an argument and let’s get a bunch of people mad at each other and let’s recruit people for my side, and the other person recruits people for their side, and really what it comes down to is you have a bunch of people looking out for number one. That’s where these conflicts come from. And it’s interesting how so many of them would just disappear if we were looking out for each other with the same aggressiveness that we look out for ourselves.
A lot of people teach this idea that you really need to start to learn to love yourself. And we’re going to put you in some sort of counseling program where we’re going to dial into your past and your history and we’re going to really teach you how to love yourself. The truth of the matter is folks, we already love ourselves. Loving ourselves comes very, very easy. It comes very, very naturally. I do not need a course on self-love.
You hear people talk, “Gosh, I’m so poor. I hate myself. I’m so untalented. I hate myself.” Well, if you really hated yourself, wouldn’t you be happy that you’re untalented? Think about it. Why would you be upset that you’re untalented if you hate yourself? You should be happy. The reason you’re upset is because you love yourself and you see a deficiency in yourself. So nobody needs to study self-love. Self-love is already something that we have.
Everybody today is focused on self-esteem. Do you know where the highest self-esteem is in the American population today? Prison inmates score the highest on self-esteem. I don’t think we need more self-esteem. We need to see ourselves the way God sees us, if that’s what they mean by self-esteem, fine. But I don’t need any lectures or course material on how to look out for number one.
My whole problem is I don’t take my natural self-love, and I don’t extend it to other people. That’s my problem. My problem is not a lack of self-love. My problem is my inability to take my natural self-love and transfer it to somebody else. So that’s why I need Christianity and that’s why I need Jesus because Jesus’ whole ministry was to come into the world not to be served, Mark 10:45, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, 15, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another …” And then it says, “For all people.” I mean, I’m supposed to do this with every single human being? Apparently, that’s what it says.
Over in the book of Galatians 6:10, Paul explains this. If you’re having some trouble kind of putting together Paul’s writings, after you get beyond Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, then you’re going to hit the big books of Paul, Romans, the two Corinthian letters. Those are easy to find. And then just remember, go eat popcorn. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. Well, I don’t like popcorn. All right. God’s Electric Power Company. Remember that one. And then just remember, after you finish God’s Electric Power Company, then the T’s are located after the company. So that’s where you get your Thessalonian books, Timothy books, Titus books. And so actually, if you just have that little mnemonic device memorized kind of flipping from book to book, it actually becomes sort of easy.
But you’ll notice Galatians 6:10 it says, “So then, while we have the opportunity ….” Hey, we’re not going to be here forever. This opportunity is not always going to be here to do this. Life is short. Galatians 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good [to who?] to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
I mean, charity starts at home. You’re good to those within the body of Christ. But then Paul says, “Don’t stop there. Be good to all people.” Because Jesus is really good to His children, but He’s also good to the whole world. Because He died for the whole world. Even those that don’t know Christ personally, salvation is available for them, just like it is anybody else. And so this is what Paul is getting at with these basic exhortations.
1 Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” Now that he’s dealt with ministry towards one another, he gets into, and this is how he concludes the letter, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28.
What we don’t finish here, we will finish in two weeks, because next week is our congregational meeting during Sunday school, right? Do I have that right? So we’re not going to be having our traditional Sunday school, we’re going to be having a church-wide congregational meeting. But following that, we’ll be getting right back into finishing 1 Thessalonians. What Paul is dealing with here, after he deals with ministry imbalances, is he deals with progressive sanctification.
And it’s difficult to understand this section, or any other section really, of the Bible, unless you understand the three tenses of salvation – justification, sanctification, glorification.
Justification, the past tense of salvation.
Sanctification, the present tense of salvation.
Glorification, the future tense of salvation.
At justification, at the point of faith alone, in Christ alone, we’re delivered from sin’s penalty in an instant, which is an eternity separated from God. But then God says, “Okay, time to grow up. Can’t be an infant forever.” So then He moves us into progressive sanctification where we are gradually, justification is an instant, progressive sanctification is a process, where we are gradually being delivered from sin’s power by walking by faith, appropriating the resources that God has given us moment by moment.
So after I get saved, God says, “Let’s grow and let’s learn how to say no to the yearnings of the old nature by My power. Let’s learn to say no to the things you naturally want to do in your sin nature.” Because sin comes very naturally to us, right?
No one ever had to sit me down and say, “Okay, Andy, here’s some lessons on sin today. Here’s how you do it.” My parents didn’t have to sit me down and say, “Okay, we’re going to give you a lesson today on selfishness. You ready? Here’s how you do it.” And as a child, they never said, “Okay, here’s a lesson on losing your temper. Here’s how you do it. Ready? Mom and Dad will practice few times, and then you’ll pick it up.”
You know, losing your temper, not getting your own way, all of that stuff, impatience. I mean, that’s what we’re like naturally. What we have to be taught is the opposite. We have to be taught to not yield to it. And that’s what parenting is, right? That’s what parenting, that’s what my parents were taking me through, saying no to the sin nature. And that’s what any parent worth their salt with their own children is supposed to be doing continually with their own children.
So we have this society today of shootings and murders and all of these terrible things that we read about in the news. What do you attribute it to? You attribute it to the fact that there really was no parenting that went on in X person’s life. They never really knew how to, under divine discipline, say no to the sin nature, and how to replace the yearnings of the sin nature with the desires of the spirit. And so you have a culture now of people that really are just, they’re adult children to be honest with you. They just never really learned how to say no to the sin nature. They should have picked that up a long time ago from mom and dad. Where was mom and dad? Why weren’t they teaching them how to do this? And that’s why you have a cultural breakdown in society.
It’s got nothing to do with, oh we need some more money for this program or that program. We need to educate everybody. Well guess what you get when you educate a blue-collar thief? You get a white-collar thief if they’ve never learned how to say no to the sin nature.
So in progressive sanctification we’re being delivered from sin’s power.
And then in glorification we’ll be out of these bodies where we won’t even have a sin nature. And that, like justification, occurs in a nanosecond. It’s either death or the rapture. Where there’s not even a temptation to go back to the sin nature because you don’t have one anymore. Wouldn’t that be nice? But right now I still have a sin nature. I have a new nature because I’m justified before God and the Holy Spirit is inside of me. But I have a sin nature still. I’m dual natured. So I have to perpetually tell my sin nature no and yield to the desires of the new nature. And if I won’t do that, then I can’t grow as a Christian. I can’t become a spiritual adult.
And you don’t say no to the sin nature through willpower. You say no to it through the resources that you have in Christ. Which means you have to be in an environment like this one for example, where you’re learning about your resources in Christ. Someone has to teach you this. You have to start to read it for yourself in the Word of God. And then you have to start to believe it’s true. Because how can I yield to the Spirit if I don’t even believe the Spirit’s inside of me and has given me power? So that’s called sanctification, and then that will lead eventually to glorification.
So you’ll notice at the bottom of the screen, that’s the word “save.” The word “save,” “sōzō” the Greek verb and “sōtēria” the Greek noun, it’s used in all three tenses. When it’s used in the past tense, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, it’s talking about justification. When it’s used in the present tense, Philippians 2:12, it’s talking about sanctification. When it’s used in the future tense, Romans 5:10, it’s talking about glorification.
And it is sort of interesting, the whole emphasis in the Christian world today is on tense number one. Have you been saved? People ask that all the time. Have you been saved? When were you saved? Give us your testimony. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but what you see with Paul is the concept of salvation is a lot bigger than the Christian world today gives credence to.
God wants you to get saved and then He wants you to grow. And then one day He’s going to take you out of your body that has a sin nature in it, and you will be saved. Have you been saved, brother? Have you been saved, sister? The right answer is, yes, I have been saved, and I am being saved, and I will be saved. Whoa, wait a minute. What church are you going to again? That’s too much information. But what you are going to see is this is not a Sugar Land Bible Church teaching. This is what Paul, in his writings, is all about.
So as you get into this last paragraph here, Paul is dealing with practical sanctification. So what he does, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, is he says, here are three positive commandments, or commands. Here are three things to do, Verses 16-18. They are, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; …” giving thanks in some things. Oh, sorry, it doesn’t say that. “… in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Then Paul says, here are three negative commands. Here are three things not to do.” Those are, “Don’t quench the spirit” (1 Thess 5:19); “Don’t despise prophetic utterances” (1 Thess 5:20-21); “And abstain from evil” (1 Thess 5:22). Three positive commands. Three negative commands.
And you look at this and you say, “This is just too much. I can’t do this.” And Paul says, “You’re right. You can’t do it.” Some people say, “You know, the Christian life is really difficult.” No, it’s not difficult. It’s impossible. If you are trying to live the Christian life through your own power, you are trying to do something that cannot be done. And you run into believers that say, “I’m just so frustrated in the Christian life. I’m so burnt out in the Christian life.” Well, I’d be burnt out too if I spent my life trying to do something that couldn’t be done. Here’s the goal, and you can never reach it. Wouldn’t that frustrate anybody?
But Paul says you don’t do it through your own resources. You do it through divine enablement, which he explains in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. And if you were to master that paragraph from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, you’d have tremendous insight into why it is that some Christians grow, and some don’t. Three positive commands, Verses 16-18. Three negative commands, here’s three things to not do, Verses 19-22. And oh, by the way, here’s your source of power and enablement allowing you to do those things.
So with that being said, it’s Mother’s Day, and we’re going to let you out two minutes early. And we’ll get back to this in two weeks. Father, we’re grateful for Your truth and Your Word. Thank You for Mother’s Day. Thank You for Israel’s birthday. Help us to not just be hearers of the Word, but doers as we seek to grow in You. 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.
 “When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village.” (Luke 9:54–56)
 See the chart Three Tenses of Salvation at minute mark 51:16.