First Thessalonians 031 – The Work of the Word

First Thessalonians 031 – The Work of the Word
1 Thessalonians 5:25-28 • Dr. Andy Woods • July 9, 2023 • First Thessalonians


First Thessalonians 031 – The Work of the Word

1 Thessalonians 5:25-28 • Dr.  Andy Woods • July 9, 2023


Father, we’re grateful for the fact in a changing world, Your Word never changes.  We live in a society where standards change constantly, but Your Word is eternal.  As you’ve spoken through the prophet Isaiah, the grass withers, the flower fades, but Thy Word abides forever. (Isaiah 40:8).

Jesus in Matthew 24:35 said, ““Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”  So we come Lord in it during this time, Sunday morning, Sunday school, and the main service that follows, giving our attention to Your Word.  We acknowledge that we are not here to correct Your Word, but rather it’s the other way around.  We want to come and be corrected by what you have to say.  We do pray Lord for the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus in the upper room promising that the Spirit would come and guide you into all truth, and we desperately need that ministry today.

Many of us are in difficult circumstances, busy circumstances, and we need a perspective from You today, which only You can give through the teaching of Your Word.  So in preparation for that ministry, we’re going to just take a few moments of silence, not to restore our position, but restore our broken fellowship if need be.  Because although we are eternally secure, sometimes we can do things in our sinful selves that don’t change our position, but can change our moment-by-moment enjoyment of You.  And when that happens, we really can’t receive the depth that You have for us today through the teaching of Your Word.  So with those thoughts in mind, we’re just going to take a few moments of personal silence.

We are grateful today, Lord, for the fact that You have made provision for us in every area, even in this area of broken fellowship.  You’ve given us 1 John 1:9[1] which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

With the countless needs in this room and then people listening or watching online or people watching the archives, no human teacher can teach in a way that ministers to these needs.  But Your Spirit can do that, and so we ask for that ministry of illumination that as Your Word is taught today, You might be able to take it and apply it to the deepest needs of Your people.  We’re thanking You in advance for this great work, and we lift these things up in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and God’s people said amen.


All right, well if you could take your Bibles and open them to 1 Thessalonians 5:25.  The last time we were together it was pre-Grand Canyon rafting trip.  So we had a few interruptions.  I was gone on that particular Sunday and then last Sunday we had a Independence Day message.  At least we had most of the message in the first hour until the power went out.  But what we didn’t teach in the first lesson we picked up in the second hour.  So if you put those two teachings together, you’d have all the content.

So this means we’re going to return to the book of 1 Thessalonians today, and every time I say we’re going to finish the book today we don’t do it.  So this time I’m not going to not say we’re going to finish the book today and then maybe we’ll end up finishing it.  How’s that for some strange logic?

But as you’ll remember, Paul in the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians has defended himself and his apostolic credentials.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:1 he says “finally,” meaning he’s switching now.  Now that his ministry, his methods, who he is has been defended from a bunch of scandalous, slanderous attacks, he’s in a position to correct the Thessalonians.  Things that he heard about them, this church that he planted where there were some deficiencies in their growth, and he does that in Chapters 4 and 5.  He’s dealt with immorality (4:1-8), as you can see from the screen there, laziness (4:9-12), major misunderstandings in the area of the end times (4:13–5:11).  He’s dealt with ministry imbalances (5:12-15), and then he sort of concludes this letter with the calling that really is on all of our lives as Christians to grow in our progressive sanctification (5:16-28).

He’s given them three positive commands, verses 16 through 18,

  1. Rejoice always (5:16)
  2. Pray without ceasing (5:17)
  3. Give thanks in all things (5:18)

He’s given them three negative commands,

  1. Do not quench the Spirit (5:19)
  2. Do not despise prophetic utterances (5:20-21)
  3. Abstain from evil (5:22)

And then to those who would say to him, “Well, this is a hard teaching, who can do these things?” He promises divine enablement through the Holy Spirit that’s already resident within the believing Thessalonians.

And then we get to the conclusion of the letter where he just gives three personal requests, 1 Thessalonians 5:25-27, and then he gives a benediction, Verse 28.


1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brethren, pray for us.”

So let’s take a look at these three personal requests.  What does Paul want from the Thessalonians?  The first thing he wants from them is he wants their prayers.  He doesn’t say, “I want your money.”  He says, “I want your prayers.”  And you see that there in 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brethren, pray for us.”  The “us” I think is his missionary team there on missionary journey number two.  Because you remember he was forced out of Thessalonica into Corinth.

And in fact if you look at 2 Thessalonians 1:1 just right next door, you can see the “us.”  It’s Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, his missionary team.  So he says, “Brethren, pray for us.”

Now this word “brethren” I don’t know if we have to go into it any more than what we’ve already done.  He’s not speaking of solidarity with the Jewish people.  Because sometimes Paul uses the word “brethren” that way when he’s writing to fellow Jews.  You’ll see Paul using the word that way in Romans 9:3[2].  Here he’s writing to a Gentile audience.  So he’s not speaking to them as fellow Jews.  He’s speaking to them as fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So he’s using this concept of brethren or family, you know, some have called this the royal family of God.  The same way Jesus uses it in Matthew 12:46-50[3], where Jesus was told your mother, your brothers, sister, etc., are waiting for you.  Actually, they don’t say sister, but he does say your mother and your brothers are waiting for you.  And He says, “Well, who are my brothers?  Who is my mother?  Who is my sister?” He goes, “Are not they the ones that do the will of my heavenly Father?” So Jesus there, at the end of Matthew 12, was speaking of a family that transcends what we would call normal national family borders or barriers.

So you have your natural family, your mom, your dad, your siblings, your children, your grandchildren, your grandparents, etc.  But then when you get saved and trust Christ as your Savior, the Lord gives you a spiritual family.

Paul oftentimes talked about Timothy being his son in the faith.  There was no biological connection between Paul and Timothy, but he looked at Timothy as his son.  I mean, they were both believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They were brought into the royal family of God, and Paul was mentoring Timothy.  So Timothy was not his biological son, but was certainly his spiritual son.

And so that is a wonderful thing that God does in our lives when we get saved.  He gives us people in our lives, oftentimes outside of our immediate families, that are part of our spiritual family.  So that’s how he’s addressing the Thessalonians.

He just gives this request, the first of three, as he concludes this letter, he says, “Brethren, pray for us.”  Which I think is very interesting, because Paul, of all the things that he had going for him, and you have to understand that this man, the Apostle Paul, was one of the greatest missionaries that ever lived.  When you study his missionary journeys and his trip to Rome, as described in the book of Acts, there probably was not a greater missionary than the Apostle Paul.

And when you look at what God did in and through his life in terms of writing the thirteen letters that Paul wrote that we call the Pauline epistles, there probably was not a greater theologian that’s ever lived than Paul.

So you look at the men that God used – to my mind the greatest man that God used in Old Testament times was Moses, who was the deliverer of Israel from Egypt.  He wrote the first five books of the Bible that we call Torah or Pentateuch.  It’s hard for me to think of someone higher or greater than Moses, and that’s who I think Paul was in the New Testament.  Certainly the focus of the New Testament is Jesus, but Jesus chose to work through men, human instruments, and when you look at Paul in his life, there’s not a greater theologian than Paul.  There’s not a greater missionary than Paul.

And he was a man of tremendous gifts and talents.  I mean, he had his natural understanding of things as a Pharisee, but then he got saved, and the Lord opened his eyes to spiritual things.  And it was no doubt at that point that he was given spiritual gifts, that he faithfully ministered.  We’re still benefiting from his gifts today.  And so my point is, Paul, if there was ever a guy that could sort of rely on his abilities, it would be Paul.

But even the great Apostle Paul recognizes his dependence on prayer of God’s people for his ministry.  Because here’s this man with all of this talent and all of this insight, and he just simply says there in Verse 25, “Brethern, pray for us.”  If Paul was that dependent upon the prayers of God’s people for his ministry, and we are in no way, shape, or form anywhere equivalent to the Apostle Paul, how much more do we need the prayers of God’s people in our ministries?

Because a lot of people will write to church and they’ll say, “What can we do for you?  Is there any way we can help you?” And our first response is, “Well can you pray for us?” That’s the greatest thing you can do.  Lift us up before the Father in intercessory prayer.  Paul at this point has not written the book of Ephesians, but he will conclude the book of Ephesians the exact same way.  You go to Ephesians 6:18, after he talks about the armor of God and all of these sorts of things, and then he kind of concludes just like he concludes this letter here.  Ephesians 6:18 he says, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,”  And then there it is in Ephesians 6:19, “and pray on my behalf, [pray for what?] that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,”

So here’s a guy that gave sermon after sermon after sermon, they are their classic sermons, Mars Hill.  I mean, if there was a guy that knew how to put words together, it was the Apostle Paul.  And there he is at the end of the book of Ephesians saying pray for me and pray specifically that God would allow me to put into words what He’s shown me in and through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, it’s sort of humbling to think about this that Paul the Apostle was in such, in his mind anyway, dire need of prayer, intercessory prayer.  And every time I read something like that, it’s sort of convicting because we don’t have nearly the abilities that Paul had, and so how much more do we need the prayers of God’s people?

So, three personal requests.  Number one, brethren, pray for us.

1 Thessalonians 5:26, “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”

Number two, second personal request as he concludes this letter is greet the brethren.  Verse 26, “Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”  Now, there the word brethren is used the exact same way in Verse 26 that he’s used it in Verse 25, the speaking of the family of God, and what does he want the recipients of this letter to do?  He wants them to greet all the saints.

Now, notice the word “all” there.  Greet all the brethren.  Don’t, in other words, just greet the brethren that you like, but greet all the brethren.  So, in Paul’s mind, there was no favoritism whatsoever.  And there’s a lot of people that were behaving badly in his ministry.  He talks at the end of 2 Timothy 4:14[4].  He talks about a man named Alexander the Coppersmith that had done him much wrong.  Of course, you have John Mark who deserted his ministry, Demas who deserted his ministry, although John Mark later returned to his ministry.  You think of Euodia and Syntyche, who sometimes are called “Odious and Syntouche.”  Philippians 4:2-3[5] that were just fighting with each other there in Philippi.

And so, you know, we shouldn’t get the impression that everybody was an equal blessing to Paul, because there were people that were an obstruction to him in the body of Christ.  You know, as the saying goes, “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.”  So that’s just how it is in the body of Christ.

Some people you show preference to, others you don’t.  Because not everybody is an equal blessing to you.  Some in fact are not blessings, they’re sort of detractors.  But you’ll notice that Paul didn’t show any favoritism.  He just says, “Greet everybody.”  And we need to have that mindset in the body of Christ.

All of us are a work in progress.  All of us are blood-bought saints, and so none of us is really more important than the other in the sense that we can show elitism and favoritism to some.  I think it’s in the book of Hebrews that says, “Do good, show hospitality.”  It’s in Hebrews 13:2[6].  And don’t just show hospitality to the people of repute, but show hospitality to ordinary people.

That’s who Paul was.  He was for everybody.  He was not into showing favoritism within the body of Christ.  Because when you show favoritism within the body of Christ, and of course I’m thinking of James 2, where they were showing preference to the rich, when you start to show favoritism in the body of Christ for some human reason, you’re putting into the body of Christ a barrier that God never put into the body.  That’s the problem with it.

And so this is why we are to pursue peace within the body of Christ because we’re acting out our position.  Jesus has said you’re part of the same body, you’re part of the same new man, you’re all equally redeemed, and if we believe that, we should treat people in that way and not show favoritism to some over others.

If you want to see what kind of person Paul was like in this area of greet the saints, just take a fast look over at Romans 16:3-15.  And I’m not going to read all of it for the sake of time, but just notice how frequently the word “greet” comes up in Romans 16:3-15:

  1. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ.” Verse 3.
  2. Verse 5. “Also greet the church that is in their house.”
  3. Greet” – and here’s this guy’s name, I don’t think I can pronounce right – ” ” Verse 6.
  4. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.” Verse 7.
  5. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen, my fellow prisoners who are outstanding among the peoples who were in Christ before me.”
  6. Verse 8. “Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.”
  7. Verse 9. “Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ.”
  8. Verse 10. “Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ.”
  9. Greet those who are the household of Aristobulus.”
  10. Verse 11. “Greet Herodion, my kinsman.”
  11. Greet the house of Narcissus.” Kind of sounds like narcissism there, but I don’t think that’s what it means.  Verse 12.
  12. Greet,” and there’s a name I can’t pronounce [Tryphaena], but his name starts with a T. We’ll just call him Mr. T.  Looks like there’s a husband and wife there.  T and Mrs. T.
  13. Same verse, Verse 12. “Greet
  14. Verse 13. “Greet Rufus.”  I mean, how many Rufuses have you greeted lately?
  15. Greet,” and he lists a whole bunch of names. Verse 14.
  16. Greet Philologus and Julia.” And then in Verse 15, “And all the saints with them.”

So, I don’t know, how many greets did you tabulate there?  I count at least 16.  Does that sound right?  So you’ll notice that that’s what Paul’s ministry was like.  I mean, he was not just like an ivory tower theologian that would disappear, and no one had access to him.

Unfortunately, a lot of pastors are like that.  One pastor once explained that the ministry would be a great place except for the people.  Christianity is great except for the Christians.  So there’s kind of a tendency amongst pastors to sort of retreat and isolate themselves.  Now we have these CEO pastors where in these huge, huge churches they’re literally surrounded by armed guards where you can’t even talk to the pastor anymore.

I’m just not seeing that in Paul’s ministry.  I’m seeing Paul being very personable.  And at the conclusion of the letter he wants to make sure that the saints are properly greeted.

So 1 Thessalonians 5:26, greet, notice the word all again, greet all the brethren.  Well, Paul, how do you exactly greet all of the brethren?  Well, there it is at the end of verse 26 back to 1 Thessalonians 5 with a “holy kiss.”

1 Thessalonians 5:26 – “holy kiss” / cultural custom / follow the culturally acknowledged symbol of greeting

Paul in Romans 16:16, right after that long passage that I just read, said, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the churches of Christ greet you.”  So, in Greco-Roman times, the holy kiss was, you know, an appropriate way in the culture where greetings were extended.  Even in parts of the world, you know, you kiss someone on one cheek and then you kiss them on the other cheek as well.  And so that was part of the culture.

I’ve been at Sugar Land Bible Church since 2010, and my feelings are hurt.  Nobody has ever greeted me with a holy kiss.  Why is that?  Well, you guys obviously are in sin.  That’s why.  No.  And I’ve never really greeted anybody else with a holy kiss.  And you’re probably saying, well, thank you Lord for that.

But I’m understanding this as cultural.  In our culture, the holy kiss does not mean the same thing that it meant in Italy, in Rome, etc.  In American culture, a pat on the back works just fine.  A hug will work.  Handshakes used to work and then COVID hit, and everybody got afraid of handshakes.

But I think what he’s saying here is follow the culturally acknowledged symbol of greeting.  And in Greco-Roman times, the holy kiss was part of the culture.  In Western civilization, in the year 2023, pats on the back, hugs, handshakes, that’s just fine as well.  And if those happen to go out of style, then use whatever cultural symbol comes in vogue next.  That’s my understanding of the holy kiss.

But at any rate, his point is pray for me, not just pray for me, but pray for us, our missionary team.  Because there is no “I” in team, right?  That’s how ministry is.  Anything you do in ministry you accomplish in a team.  Paul had a team.  His team was Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, and countless others.  So he doesn’t just say, “Pray for me,” he says, “Pray for the team.”  And then greet the brethren.  Show the brethren love.  Not just the brethren you like, but all the brethren.

1 Thessalonians 5:26, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”

And then you get to his third personal request, 1 Thessalonians 5:27.  He says, “I adjure you by the Lord.”  So it sounds like he’s serious about this.  In other words, I’m recruiting you to do this.  “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”

Now why could Paul say that?  Why would he say, “Take my letter and read it in the church in Thessalonica, and read it to all the brethren”?  Why could he say that?  Because he was functioning as an apostle.

And there are many times in 1 Thessalonians, as we’ve studied it, where Paul understood, because of his role as an apostle, when he spoke, God was speaking.  God was speaking through him.  So you can take Paul’s writings and you can put them on equal par with anything that Jesus Christ ever said.

Paul, of course, is not the Savior, but Jesus Himself said in the upper room, the Spirit, speaking to the apostles (Paul being an apostle born late, Acts 9), speaking to the apostles that when the Spirit comes, the Spirit will guide you into all truth[7].

It’s kind of interesting that Jesus never wrote a single book.  Did you know that?  Let’s turn to the Jesus book today.  Where’s the book in here that Jesus wrote?  Well, Jesus never wrote a book.  Jesus designed things so that His life, or what we need to know about it, would be recorded by the apostles.  That’s what we call the Gospels.  Then the epistles would essentially explain the theology of Jesus Christ, Paul being one.  The book of Revelation being the consummation written by John when concerning the events of Jesus coming back.

So, none of this book was written by Jesus specifically, although no doubt God was guiding (we’ll talk about this in just a second) the apostles as they wrote.  But the primary authors, or the human authors I should say, the primary author God, the human authors are the apostles.  And yet, the whole Bible points to Jesus Christ.

  • The Old Testament is the anticipation of Jesus.
  • The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are the manifestation of Jesus.
  • The Epistles (13 written by Paul, 8 written by others) are the explanation of Jesus.
  • And then the book of Revelation is the consummation of Jesus, that He’s coming back.

Old Testament, anticipation; Gospels, manifestation; Epistles, explanation; the book of Revelation, the consummation.  And yet, the whole book points directly towards Jesus as the Holy Spirit came upon the writers of Scripture in a supernatural way without overtaking who they were, because their personalities all come out in their writings, but guiding them in such a way that they recorded God’s message without error in the original manuscripts.

Paul, of course, having a key role in all of that, writing 13 epistles.  And so since he was in that position as an apostle to do that ministry, that’s why he could say, take my words, take my letter, which really is not my letter, it is God’s letter, and I want it to be read publicly in the Thessalonian congregation.

And he’s so serious about this that he says, I adjure you by the Lord.  Make sure you do this.  Make sure you read this letter publicly.  You’ll notice there it doesn’t say to some of the brethren.  It says to all the brethren.

1 Thessalonians 5:26 = basis of expository teaching in the body of Christ

So this command becomes the basis of what we would call expository teaching in the body of Christ.  I mean, we’re here to study God’s book.  The teaching gift that God puts into the body of Christ gives an explanation to God’s book.  It clarifies perhaps things in God’s book, but the teacher is not who’s important.  What’s important is the content.  The content is the Scripture itself, which all points to Jesus Christ because the Scripture came into existence as a work of the Holy Spirit as God used men to write down His message.  Old Testament, anticipation; gospels, manifestation; epistles, explanation; the book of Revelation, the consummation.

And so, whenever the church doors open and the church publicly meets, God should be speaking in the sense that we have His book that He wrote ultimately through human instruments, and as we read this book together and teach through this book together, God is speaking to His people.

So that’s why Paul would say here at the end of his letter, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”  That’s why he could say what he says.

Paul later will write 1 Timothy, which is a pastoral letter, which tells pastors how to pastor, shepherds how to shepherd.  There’s three of these such letters in the New Testament:  1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.  And Paul says the exact same thing in those letters as he’s writing to Timothy, a young pastor at the church at Ephesus.

He says in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, [Paul speaking] give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”

Now notice, “give your attention to.”  This is supposed to be primary within the church.  You read it, and then you exhort people from it, and then God put a spiritual gift into the body of Christ called the gift of pastor/teacher, which brings teaching or greater clarity to what God has said in His book.  That is supposed to be the focus of the New Testament church.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, and you know these verses very well.  I mean, these are the verses Paul wrote just before he died.  He says there, “All Scripture is inspired by God …”.  It’s an interesting word there, inspired by God.  It’s a compound word, theos and pnuestos, which means God breathed.  Theos, God.  You might recognize in that the word pneuma, where we get the word spirit.  Spirit breathed.

And it’s a hapax legomena, that word.  Meaning that’s a word that only occurs one time in the New Testament and nowhere else.  A hapax legomena.  Hapax means once.  Legomena means spoken.  Spoken once.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable …”  And we would expect that, wouldn’t we, if God breathed this book into existence?  We would expect it to profit us.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable [for what?] for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”  Not 92 percent of good works.  Every good work.

So the function of a New Testament church is to give place to the reading and proclamation and teaching of the Scripture so that God’s people can receive all of these ministries.  And when you receive all of these ministries, it profits you.  Because you’re taught.  You’re reproved.  You’re corrected.  You’re trained.  You’re equipped.

You know, I asked my professor, and it’s funny, Anne and I were just talking about him on the way in today, driving in.  My Professor J.  Dwight Pentecost, who when I had him as a professor, he was working like for a dollar a day from the school.  He had already pastored.  He had already written.  He wasn’t pursuing tenure or being the chairman of a department.  All the younger guys were pursuing that.  He was just doing this ministry because that’s what he felt God wanted him to do.

And I received more truth from him than any other teacher I can think of.  And I asked him once, I said, “Well, how do you teach the Bible?” expecting some kind of elaborate explanation.  And he just made it so simple.  He quoted Ezra 7 and he said Ezra read the Scriptures.  Ezra explained the Scriptures.  Ezra applied the Scriptures.  Go thou and do likewise.  It’s almost a direct quote.

And so that’s what church life to a large extent is.  I understand there’s other ministries here besides this, but this is the primary ministry.  We read the Scripture.  We explain the Scripture.  We apply the Scripture.

I asked my professor at the time, Dr.  Oscar Lopez, my homiletics professor, my preaching professor, I said, “What advice do you give for preaching?” This is a preaching professor.  And basically what he told me is pray, pray again, and then pray some more.  I love it.

So we do this ministry under the desperate dependence of God, Who is the ultimate illuminator of truth.  But we read the Scripture, we try to explain the Scripture to the best of our abilities, and then we apply the Scripture.  This is what Paul is telling Timothy to do.

That’s why right after explaining this doctrine of Scripture in 2 Timothy 4:2, he says, “preach the word.”  The word “preach” there is kēryssō, and the word for “word” there is logos.  κήρυξον τὸν λόγον [preach the word].

And if you go back to Dallas Seminary’s marquee, Dallas Seminary founded in 1920, roughly, that was what they were all about, at least at that point in their existence.  They were there to prepare men to preach the Word.  Not preach their own ideas.  Not to teach people how to build bigger churches, because after all, it’s the Lord that builds the church, not man anyway.  But to simply be faithful to the ministry of preach the Word.  This is what Paul is saying here at the end of this letter.

And then as you go through other things Paul wrote, you can put the big idea together of what Paul wants done in the local assembly.  Dan Wallace has a wonderful quote here.  He said this back in 1997 commenting on 2 Timothy.  He says, By my count, there are twenty-seven explicit commands given in the body of this letter.  …”  2 Timothy which is just four chapters.  “In 27 words Paul tells pastors what to focus on. You have to be blind to miss the thrust of Paul’s instructions here, because eighteen of those commands–fully two-thirds–have to do with the ministry of the Word.[8]

One of the great tragedies of church life today at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century is churches seem interested in doing almost everything and anything other than this ministry.  And yet, this is the ministry that Paul talked about at the end of his life.  This is the ministry that Paul talked about at the end of his letters.  And if this ministry is not happening, you cannot have profitability.  You can’t have reproof.  You can’t have correction.  You can’t have training.  You can’t have equipping.  It can’t go on.

No revival without the ministry of the Word

Because God in His omniscience and omnipotence has decreed that these things will happen through the ministry of public proclamation in the local church.  This is not my methodology.  I did not come up with this.  This is something that the Lord said a church needs to do.  And if a church won’t do that, you can’t have revival.  Because today in the culture, the big buzzwords are revival.

If I’m understanding my Bible correctly, you can’t have revival without the ministry of the Word.  In fact, if you’re separating revival from the Word, whatever is happening in people is not an authentic revival.  It’s a false revival.  In the Scripture, what you’ll discover is there are at least two major revivals, authentic revivals.  Both of them are connected with the Word of God.

Revival in 2 Kings 22:8-13 – Josiah

The first one I’ll draw your attention to is the revival that took place in the days of Josiah.  You might want to take your Bible and go back just for a moment to 2 Kings 22:8-13.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time here.  I just want to show you the connection between the Word and revival.

Everybody’s talking about a big revival in Asbury, I guess it is.  I’m one of those that doesn’t want to condemn it, but I don’t want to promote it without knowing what’s going on.  And so I’m waiting to see what role the Word is playing in that revival.  Because if it’s just a bunch of college kids emoting, and there’s no proclamation and rightfully dividing of the Word of God, then whatever emotions people are having and experiences, I mean, the devil can give those as well.  It’s not a true revival.

Revival is always connected to the Word.  So notice 2 Kings 22:8, It says, “Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” …”

Now, they had gone into the temple there to do some temple repairs, and they found this strange book in the temple.  “… And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it. Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.” Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.”

Now what is this book?  It’s the Law of God.  So the Nation of Israel had been functioning, I don’t know, probably for centuries without accessing God’s book.  I mean that’s how fast a church can lose site of the truth.

I mean, you can have all kinds of spiritual, so-called spiritual things going on, and you get so busy with those things that we forget that the Bible is the center of everything that we’re doing.  This is how fast nations can lose sight of their history.

That’s why last Sunday morning I tried to give a little bit about true Christian heritage of America, because it’s largely been lost, just like it was lost in the days of Josiah.

“When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.”  (2 Kings 22:11)  That’s revival.  In other words, I’m hearing things that’s causing me to repent, of neglect.

“Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that burns against us, …” (2 Kings 22:12–13)

The king says we’re in a lot of trouble.  Because our nation has been going against God’s book, and how would we know any better?  We don’t even know where the book is.  I mean the only reason they found it is they were doing some temple repair, and this strange book was in the temple.  It’s neglect of the Word of God.

“… because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book …”.  Boy, if grandma and grandpa and our forefathers had listened to what this is saying, the law of God, we wouldn’t be in the trouble that we’re in now.

“… to do according to all, [not some] all that is written concerning us.”  We’re in the trouble that we’re in because we’ve neglected the Word of God, is basically what Josiah is saying.

And so as you go through 2 Kings 22, 23, this leads to a real revival where the nation repented before the Lord.  And the Lord gave the nation an extension of grace because of this real revival rooted in God’s Word.

Let me take you to the second great revival that I know of.  And I hope you know what I mean by revival.  I’m not talking about evangelism.  I’m talking about an awakening amongst God’s people.  Where they go back to first principles, the things of God.  And they start to figure out that all this stuff that we’ve been doing in the life of the church, as crowded as our activities are, is a waste of time unless we start with the Bible.

Revival in Nehemiah 8:1 – Ezra

The second revival that I know of (you might flip over to Nehemiah 8) is a great revival that broke out in the post-exilic world as the nation of Israel, Judah in particular, had returned from the Babylonian captivity.

It says, “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel.” (Nehemiah 8:1)

So there’s a movement back to the Bible amongst God’s people.  “Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it [that’s publicly] before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, …” (Nehemiah 8:2–3a)

Pastor, we think you’ve preached too long.  Well, I’m glad Ezra wasn’t your pastor.

“… from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law.”   (Nehemiah 8:3b) Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium.  Wow, this is great.  We got it right here.  In other words, it’s not elevating Ezra.  It’s elevating his ministry which is the teaching and the proclamation of God’s Word.

“Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for this purpose.  And beside him stood [and there’s a whole bunch of names that I’m not even going to try to pronounce” on his right hand; … and on his left hand.  Ezra opened the book in the sight of all people for he was standing above the people; and when he opened it, and all the people stood up.” (Nehemiah 8: 4-5)

Kind of a neat parallel that we do here at Sugar Land Bible Church, post announcements, we read from the section that we’re going to study, and we have the people stand up out of respect for God’s Word before they can sit down to be taught.

“Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” (Nehemiah 8:5–6)

They’re not worshipping the Word.  They’re worshipping the Lord.  We’re worshipping the Word in the sense that Jesus is the Logos.  But this book is not designed to be worshipped because this book is not the end of the matter.  The point of this book is to take you to God.  And so you hear this book being taught and you want to worship the Lord.  You don’t want to worship the teacher.  You don’t want to worship the church.  You don’t want to worship the denomination.  You don’t want to worship a particular translation that you may like.  You worship the Lord.

“Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place.” (Nehemiah 8:6–7)

In other words, the priests, as Ezra is reading the word, are making the word understandable to the people.  Because actually, when you study this out, there’s a translation issue here.  This is happening in Aramaic.  A language that the people may not have necessarily understood.  So, it’s the idea of putting it into their own language.

“They read from the book, from the law of God, translating [see there] to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping [just like Josiah was weeping] when they heard the words of the law.” (Nehemiah 8:8–9)

This is a revival.  They start to figure out, wow, we’re not really living the way God wants us to live.  How could we know unless we understand the standard.  And how can we understand the standard unless the Word of God is publicly taught and publicly proclaimed and translated in a way that we can understand it?

There’s a lot of preachers, they have what I would call the gift of ambiguity.  I call them Genesis 1:2 sermons.  You know what Genesis 1:2 says.  It says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, ….”

We don’t want sermons like that.  I mean, we don’t want sermons where the only person that can understand them is a preacher.  We want sermons that your average person with limited education or knowledge can understand exactly what this book is saying.  And as that proclamation goes out and the people that hear it, they start to say, you know what?  I think we’re falling short of the standard of God.  I better conform my behavior accordingly.  That’s revival.

That’s an authentic awakening of God.  It has very little to do with visions, emotion, singing the same chorus hymns over and over again, where nobody is given an opportunity to teach, nobody is given an opportunity to proclaim, yet people are weeping and they’re sorrowing and they’re crying.  That’s a lot of emotion, but that’s not biblical revival.

Biblical revival is always preceded by a proclamation of God’s Word. 

And so when you understand all of these truths, you understand why Paul, at the end of 1 Thessalonians 5:27 says, “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”  That’s to be a priority in the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:28 – Benediction

And then he ends with a benediction, Verse 28, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Our standing is through grace.  Grace, the Greek word charis, unmerited favor.  We have what we have because God has given us in justification unmerited favor.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

Why would I go back to legalism in its grace that’s made me free?  I want to keep standing in the grace of God.  And the grace of God that justified me and gave me peace with God.

The word for peace is eirēnēs, where we get the word “irenic.”  What gave me that peace with God is the grace of God.

Romans 16:20 says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet….” I mean are you worried about Satan and the inroads that Satan is making in our world today?  Paul says don’t give that a moment’s thought because Satan’s days are numbered.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet….”  You’re on the winning team.  Yeah, but Lord, it’s the second quarter and we’re down by 30 points.  God says it doesn’t matter.  I’ve seen the fourth quarter.  Yeah, but Lord, what if there’s an overtime?  God says I’ve seen that too.  Well, what if there’s a double overtime?  I’ve seen that one too.

Don’t sweat it.  You’re going to win.  You’re on the winning side of history because of what Jesus did for you 2,000 years ago. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20)

And so we are to continue to grow in the grace that we have received.  It’s grace that justified us, and it’s through the grace of God, the resources of God, that we grow in the Christlikeness.

This is how Peter ends his epistle (just before his death, by the way) “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

If it’s grace that saves and grace that causes us to grow, we should get the glory at the end of the day?  It should be God.

And so, an amazing epistle, the message of it is continued growth in faith, hope, and love in view of the Lord’s eminent return.  And so we’ve tried to trace that message through this five-chapter letter.

And so, next Sunday morning in Sunday School, we’ll be starting 2 Thessalonians.  How long could that take us?  That’s just three chapters.  So I would encourage you to read 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1, for next time.

Let’s pray.  Father, we’re grateful for this Sunday School class, grateful for the chance to do what Paul said, to read the letter aloud, and then also to give it clarity and explanation.  I pray that this would be a ministry that would continue here at Sugar Land Bible Church, and this pattern of ministry would start to be replicated in local assemblies all over the United States and ultimately the world as the church returns to first principles.  We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory as You work this work.  We ask it in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said amen.

[1] “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.

[2] “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:1–5)

[3] “While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”” (Matthew 12:46–50)

[4] “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” (2 Timothy 4:14)

[5] “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:2–3)

[6] “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)

[7] ““But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)

[8] Daniel Wallace, “Crisis of the Word: A Message to Pastors or Would-be Pastors,” Conservative Theological Journal 1, no. 2 (August 1997): 108.