1 Thessalonians 1-5
2 Thessalonians 1-3
1 Corinthians 1-4
1 Corinthians 5-8
As I read this week I was reminded that man hasn’t changed since the Garden. Can you imagine how it saddened Paul to know that less than 50 years after Christ died there was already division in the churches? Paul had a lot to say this week!
· The second coming of Christ—many were confused about people dying before they saw the return of Christ. Paul gives them, and us, the hope that Christ will return and when He does, the dead will rise first! Jesus can come at any time. When He does come, He will judge unbelievers, but for the believer, it will be glorious.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (ESV)
…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (ESV)
· Should the wealthy support the poor? This is also referred to as “social justice”. While we are called to help those who have less than we do (and those with more are not permitted to take advantage of the less fortunate), Paul was clear about the responsibilities of the poor (and all of us) as well.
But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 (ESV)
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 (ESV)
Scripture is clear: collecting assistance when one is not willing to work is impermissible. We are not to rely on the government, or any other “them”, for our daily sustenance. We need to be willing to work for what we have.
Are you unemployed? You must seek work. If you have extra time on your hands, why not help out the church? There are always things you can do around the property! You could also volunteer to help those even less fortunate than you. When you are working (whether you receive money or not), you are earning your food! It is expected that we all help each other, but expecting the government to step in and help you if you are unwilling to help yourself – or expecting that you receive stuff from the labors of others when you won’t work – that is not only impermissible scripturally, but it’s a path of downfall for a nation.
· Who do you follow (church division)? Only a few years after the formation of the new church, people were aligning themselves with one preacher or teacher to the exclusion of Jesus. Paul was very clear: don’t follow the man; follow Jesus only. We have all heard about church splits over silly things like carpet color, music or preaching style. Paul reminds us that nothing is important except the Gospel. If your minister believes that the Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God and points you to Jesus … stay with him. He will remind you that Jesus is the only important thing!
So that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31 (ESV)
· Unrepentant Sin. Paul was quite harsh with the Corinthians. Apparently they were still following pagan practices, and some men were even having sex with their stepmothers! Incest was punishable by death in the Old Testament and was illegal under Roman law. His point was clear: unrepentant sin leads to destruction. If you are a victim of these sins and think that you get a “free pass” because you have prayed a prayer, understand that you are eternally wrong. While we all sin daily, these unrepented sins (especially sexual sins, because as Paul points out, these sins are against your body which is the temple of God) have eternal consequences. Paul tells us that these sins are like leaven, which infects the entire body, and tells us to not associate with “Christians” who practice these sins as a life pattern.
Ø Sexual immorality.
Ø Adulterer. Married persons who indulge in sex outside the marriage relationship.
Ø Homosexual. Condemned always, in any form, by scripture. This is a “hot button” issue today, with states voting on legalizing homosexual relationships and denominations either allowing practicing homosexuals to minister or considering changing their standards to allow it. But the Bible is clear – without wiggle room – that this practice is wrong (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Timothy 1:10).
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Lev 18:22 (ESV)
Ø Idolator. Following false gods (including the god of money, pornography, workaholism, etc) or false world systems.
Ø Thief/Greedy. Desiring what belongs to another and taking it for yourself.
Ø Drunk. The Bible never tells us to abstain from alcohol but it does tell us to refrain from drunkenness. However, later Paul discusses food offered to idols as acceptable food for Christians. If having a drink with dinner causes a brother to stumble, or causes you to lose your testimony, don’t do it!
Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. 1 Cor 8:8-13 (ESV)
Ø Reviler. People who try to destroy others with words.
Ø Swindler. People who take advantage of others for their own financial gain.
Obviously I have only scratched the surface of this week’s readings, but I was especially drawn to the list of things that will cause us to not inherit God’s kingdom. I wondered how that could be – aren’t we saved at the moment of faith? I believe that Paul was making a point here that those who know what’s wrong and still habitually and willingly practice these sins are not truly saved. While we struggle with our addictions to alcohol, or drugs, or pornography, or greed and while we still sin in those ways – we are striving to better ourselves and live the life God has planned for us. If we simply call ourselves a Christian with no change in our lives, are we really Christ’s? Salvation is faith alone in Christ alone, but a mark of a true believer is their good works. Our deeds don’t save us. Only faith in Christ saves us.
Look at Jesus’ ministry for a moment. He called 12 disciples and 11 of them showed by their deeds that they repented and believed. Even Peter messed up on occasion, but each time we see that he repented. Judas, on the other hand, played the “disciple game” and showed that he was really not a believer by his act of treachery.
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. James 2:26 (ESV)
I have seen churches which allow “elders” to serve where everyone knows that they are living together without marriage. Other churches allow “elders” to pray weekly over the communion table when the people can smell alcohol on the person’s breath before the service begins. What testimony is this?
Beloved, please examine your life as I am examining mine. Make sure that you have repented of your sins. Ask God what needs to change and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. We all sin – but we cannot live in unrepentant sin and expect to enter God’s kingdom.
Paul has given us glorious hope this week as he tells us of the beauty of Christ’s second coming. He has also convicted us and shown us that our lives and our church has not changed much since the first century. Jesus could come this minute, or He could come in a thousand years. Are you ready to hear that trumpet? Are you daily repenting of your sins and turning away from lifestyles called abominations? Do your works testify to your faith?
Much to contemplate this weekend. See you next week. God bless you!