The Permanence Of Love

Grace For The Journey


11Feb  Today, we come to the final portion of 1 Corinthians 13.  We will concentrate verses 8 through 13.

A while back, I met with some fellow pastors and we were discussing the subject of love and attempting various definitions of the particular form of love called “agape,” according to the teaching of the Word of God.  One of the younger pastors suggested this definition, which we felt was a good one: “Agape, or God’s kind of love, is a deliberate choice to act for the best interests of another person.”  That is indeed true love.  It is to put another’s need and fulfillment ahead of your own, and to act deliberately to help to fulfill that need and that purpose.

Paul makes clear here, however, that love has something more to it than that.  I was a little unsatisfied with the above definition because it seemed so cold.  The apostle adds the element of warmth.  He says that love “is patient, kind, and rejoices in the truth.”

It is very difficult to combine truth and love.  There is a passage in the letter to the Ephesians that has always intrigued me.  In my judgment it constitutes the simplest, briefest, and yet the most profound definition of Christian maturity that I know anything about.  I seek to measure myself against this, and I measure others as to whether they are mature or not in the degree to which they manifest this quality: It is in Ephesians 4:15a, there where the Bible exhorts us to “speak the truth in love.”

It is hard to combine those two.  It is easy to speak the truth sometimes, to be blunt and caustic and even embittered, and you can speak truth, but there is no love in it.  Or you can be loving, as we think of it, and refuse to hurt another and never tell him anything that is unpleasant or distasteful.  But that is a quality that really reveals a lack of courage; it is a form of deception.  It is the man or woman who can learn to speak the truth in love who is growing up in Christ. That is what this chapter is describing for us.

We have already looked at Paul’s great word about the preeminence of love, how it is of more value than everything else; and we have also looked at the practice of love, how it comes out in a practical way, both in the negative and the positive of it.  Now, beginning in Verse 8, we have Paul’s amplifying of the persistence of love and the permanence of it – It is all put in the opening words of Verse 8: “Love never fails.”

The apostle Paul has employed a very unusual Greek word here that literally means, “to fall.”  That sounds strange to our ears, but it is meant in the sense that love never “falls away and disappears; it never quits; it is never used up; love keeps on coming; the more you use it the more there is.”  That is the point Paul is making here.

Many of us have discovered this.  We begin to exercise this kind of love and we find yourself enabled to exercise it even more all the time; the more we give it away the more you seem to have. Love is like bailing out a boat with a hole in it — the more water you throw out, the more there is; it just keeps coming in all the time.  That is the thought behind this, “love never fails;” it never stops coming on.  One of my mom’s favorite hymns that I recall since I was a young Christian was, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.”

That is the idea;

Love that persists

Despite all the rebuffs

That it may experience.

In verse 8, Paul contrasts this quality of love with the things that will not last; the things that do quit; the things that pass away, “Love never fails; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”

Obviously, he is comparing this to the spiritual gifts.  This is not knowledge in general or prophecy in general; this is the “gift of knowledge,” the “gift of prophecy,” the “gift of tongues” that he is talking about.  These were the three favorite gifts at the church in Corinth.  They were making much of them in the church there.  Paul is telling them that . . .

As important and God-given these gifts are,

They were never intended to last

In contrast to love, which never quits.

Prophesying is the gift of unveiling the mysteries of God, making known to man these divine truths about humanity and society that are revealed in the Bible which the secular world can never discover.  It is not the gift of predicting the future so much as revealing the meaning of the present, and, therefore, of the future, because the present is always becoming the future and the future is becoming the present.  This, therefore, is a great gift.

The gift of tongues is the gift of supernatural utterance of a language never learned in praise and thanksgiving to God.  We learn this more completely in chapter 14 – It is called glossolalia, the ability to speak a language, a true language, that was never learned.

The gift of knowledge is the ability to grasp a great range of Biblical truth, to systematize it, and to know it, teach it, and live it before others.  It too is a great gift.  But of the three, Paul says, tongues will absolutely cease.  He uses a different word about tongues than he does for the others, as we also see more clearly in chapter 14.  This is because tongues is a “sign” gift, given as a sign to unbelievers, designed to arrest their attention.  When that is accomplished there is no further need for the gift, so it ceases in the individual.

The other two gifts, prophesying and knowledge, will fade away gradually, Paul suggests.  That is inherent in the word he employs.  They are gradually being replaced by something else, which he calls the “perfect” thing.  We can see how clear this is in Verses 9 and 10: “For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.”

Clearly that is a gradual process.  The question that it raises in our minds, of course, is, “What is this perfect thing which, gradually increasing in our life, replaces our concern about gifts?” It is interesting to see the many guesses the commentaries make about this:

Some of them suggest that the “perfect” thing here is the written Word of God. They tell us that here, in the first century, they did not have the New Testament as we have it today.  They relied upon the teaching of prophets, evangelists, apostles and others who spoke bits and pieces of the mind of God, but as the complete, written account of that mind of God took shape and form in the New Testament, all the need for these gifts would pass away.  It is the claim of those who teach this that as the Word of God, as we think of it, came into being in the written New Testament, these gifts began to fade, so that all the gifts of prophesying and of tongues and of knowledge have all long since ceased and we are now shut up to the Word of God.

Now, there are elements of truth in that, but that is not what this is referring to at all; that is to totally ignore the context in which this word “perfect” appears.

Others have suggested that what Paul is talking about is heaven. Heaven is the perfect place.  Life is imperfect, and one of these days we will all fold our earthly tents, the wheels of this earthly life will cease their turning, and we will go to heaven and then the “perfect” comes.

Now, there are also strong elements of truth in that.  In fact, Paul is going to return to that theme a little bit later in the paragraph.  But, again, that is not what he means by the word “perfect” here at all.

If we take the passage in its full context, in relationship to all that he has said here and in the surrounding passages, it is clear that the word “perfect” refers to love.

Love is that “perfect” thing,

Which, as it grows in our life,

Replaces our need for

And concern with

The gifts of the Spirit.

We find ourselves growing up

Into that to which the gifts

Are designed to lead us,

So, when the end begins

To be accomplished,

The means to that end

Are no longer as fully required.

This is what Paul is saying, and it is confirmed by the illustration he employs in Verse 11, where he says: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”  There is nothing wrong with that.  Children are supposed to act like children; everybody expects them to, and it would be folly and a shame if they did not.  Paul says he did these things when he was a child, but, “when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11b)

Why?  Because he had become a man.  That is the end toward which a child always moves — maturity — and therefore these things were no longer needed.  Now, what Paul is saying, of course, to these Corinthians (and to us), is that the mark of maturity is the ability to love, to love the unlovely, the selfish, the distasteful, the ungrateful, and to not let that change your attitude or your actions toward them but to keep on working fully for their best interests.  As the ability to do that increases in our life, it will replace all our childish concern about the gifts of the Spirit.

To make much ado about gifts,

As though they were the overall

Important thing that God wants

To emphasize, is to be

Childish in our attitudes.

Have you ever watched children playing on Christmas morning after they have opened their gifts?  Their minds are focused on all these new toys; there are so many of them they cannot take them all in; they are so excited about them.  They always seem to want the one that somebody else has.  They play with one for a few moments, cast it aside, and get another one until their brother or sister grabs the one they have just discarded.  Then it seems to assume great importance in their eyes.  They grab it away, and pretty soon there is a squabble going on over the gifts they have received.

That is what happens in churches. To make so much over gifts as though they were the important thing is to miss the whole thrust of this passage on gifts.

Gifts are designed to lead you to love;

That is the whole point of it.  Prophesying is to teach us in the revelation of the mystery of God that we have a power the world knows nothing of: It is called “resurrection power,” the power to love as God loves, and that we can exercise it any time we choose to.

We will not feel it ahead of time; it does not surge up into our being to remind us that it is there waiting.  We make the decision only because we ought to, that is all, in obedience to God.  But when we choose to, and respond in obedience, the power is supplied to us.  That is what prophesying teaches us; this remarkable element of truth is that we have a new secret revealed – the power to love.

The gift of knowledge is to help us systematize truth so that we can instruct and help others in these great facts, and that is the action of love. 

The gift of languages, the gift of tongues, is given to arrest the attention of unbelievers (Paul specifically says that in the next chapter), so that they will give heed to the magnificences of God as they did on the Day of Pentecost when they heard 120 different people speaking in languages. What were they doing with those languages? Preaching the gospel?  No. They were praising God.  That arrested the attention of this secular crowd, and they began to listen, and take heed to the fact that God was at work, and it provided opportunity for them to hear the Gospel.  That is propose for the gift of tongues.  That is the goal of love, and it is designed to lead us to love, praise, and seek to glorify God and to love others.

To focus on gifts and forget

The end to which they lead

Is foolish and hurtful and destructive.

To squabble over them

Is the utmost in folly in a church.

Gifts are good, but they are passing away.  What we ought to be writing books about, and issuing magazines over, and broadcasting over the radio and television today is the ability available through the Gospel and God’s grace to love, to reach out to the hurtful, to minister to them, and tell them of One who died for them, lives today for them, and loves them.

I will be honest with you, I get so grieved and tired with all the demands and requests of what I think of as phony Christian broadcasts today.  They are bleeding the people of God to support spectacular showmanship going on in the Christian world and wasting all their time, money, and effort instead of learning the simplicity and the grass roots process of learning the Word of God which will help them love God and their neighbor as yourself.

The quality of Christianity does not lie in its showmanship (how we need to get away from that), but in its ability to love, to love the hurting, the weak and the foolish.  Love then is the “perfect” thing, and, Paul says, one day it will be perfectly ours.  Verse 12:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”

Clearly here he is anticipating the end of life, the dawning of a new day when the morning will break and every shadow will flee away; all the imperfection of life will come to an end, and love will stand face to face with love.  Paul says it is like looking in a mirror dimly.  He is talking about the way we are able to love.  These ancient mirrors were not like the silvered glass ones we have today that give a clear and beautiful image, as they did not understand that process then.  Their mirrors were simply highly polished metal, so that, when you looked in them, all you got was a rather indistinct, blurred image.  This is a beautiful symbol for life: Paul says that is the way we love today.

We sometimes try to visualize the face of Jesus, but I think it is instructive that the Spirit of God has never given us a physical description of Him.  I do not like pictures of Jesus because, to me, they distract from what the Spirit is trying to impart, which is the true beauty of His being, His life, His character.  Paul says our efforts to visualize and to sense the personality and the glory of Jesus are imperfect now, as we do not see Him very clearly.  But one of these days all those barriers will fade away, the mist will be dissolved, and we will suddenly find ourselves face to face with the Lord Jesus.

The disciples experienced a little of this on the Day of Pentecost. The Bible records that incident in the Upper Room in John 16:7, when the Lord had said to them, “It is to your advantage that I go away.”  I am sure they looked at Him with unbelieving eyes.  They must have been thinking in their hearts. “How could that be?  To lose you, to lose our chief treasure is to leave life empty and meaningless, dull and dreary.  We can hardly stand the thought of it.  Are you telling us that it is to our advantage that you go away? How could that be?”  But on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came to reveal Christ to them, they understood what He meant because suddenly all the questions they had been asking, all the doubts they had felt were resolved.  An inner confidence sprang up within them that He was alive, and with them.  They understood what He had said; words that they had been puzzling over, that had raised endless doubts and misconceptions in their minds, were suddenly clear and striking and startling.  And, that was just a foretaste of what is going to happen on the day when we stand in the presence of Jesus.

Paul suggests that will happen with our knowledge as well.  During many of difficult experiences of life we find ourselves wondering, “Why did God allow it to happen?” As we face that question, we find ourselves able to see only very dimly, only to get blurred and incomplete images of what God was doing; little glimpses, fragments of insight perhaps, but nothing very clear. But, one of these days, Paul says, we shall understand; we shall know Him as fully as He now knows us.  All our questions will be answered; all our problems will be resolved.

In his final summary in verse 13, Paul gathers it all up in the things that abide: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Faith abides because

Faith is a human response

To a divine provision.

Faith is doing something

With what God has given you,

And that is going to go

On through all eternity.

We lack everything;

We human beings

Have nothing in ourselves.

We are constantly taking

Wisdom, power, instruction and

Ability from the hand of God.

Everyone is, whether he knows it or not.

There is no ability to function

As a human being without

The gift of God to you first.

Faith is a simple, deliberate response to the provision of God, therefore it abides, because we will go on doing that throughout eternity.

Hope abides because hope is the expectation of yet more to come.  There is a phrase earlier in this letter where Paul speaks of “the things God has prepared for those who love Him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9b ).  We are beginning to dabble in the shallows of that now; we have found a few of those things already, but the thing Paul is talking are an infinite number, and finiteness can never encompass infinity.  God, therefore, is going to keep on opening our eyes to new vistas, opening our spirits to new opportunities, our lives to new adventures of faith.  It will never grow old; it will never get less; it will go on forever and ever because He is infinite.  Hope, therefore, abides.

But love abides too, and the reason love is the greatest is because God is love.  God is not faith; God is not hope; but God is love.  Therefore, to learn to love is to achieve the absolute, paramount value of the entire universe — to become like God. That is what it is all about, isn’t it?  The lie of the devil in the Garden of Eden was, if you disobey God you will be like God; you will learn how to have a fulfilled life.  That lie and its sad results are visible all around us, in our own lives and in the world today. But the Word of God says to trust Him; to follow Him.  To use what He gives you is one day to discover that the clouds pass away, the mists all melt, the morning breaks, the shadows flee, and you are face to face with Him and you are like Him.  When we see Him “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” (1 John 3:2).  Therefore, love abides — and “the greatest of these is love.”

Paul really concludes this section with the opening words of Chapter 14 verse 1, “Therefore, make love your aim…”

The word “aim” means “pursue it; set your heart on it; make it your chief goal; work at it; think about it; aim toward it; follow it.”

That is the idea;

That is what life

Is all about –

To know God

And  become a loving,

compassionate, patient, kind,

truthful person

Is the reason we exist.

Everything else must either minister to us to that end or be regarded as useless and wasted time.  May God help us to hold this clearly in our minds and understand the reality of these words, “the greatest of these is love.”

We feel so incapable of

Manifesting this quality of life,

And yet God’s Word assures us

That that is what was intended.

We do not have this ability in ourselves, b

But we have it supplied to us

In unending quantity

If we but choose to use it.

May God help us

To make that our goal.

Beginning the rest of today, and all of next week, and for the rest of our lives, let’s choose to “owe no man anything, but to love one another.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




The Practice Of Love

Grace For The Journey


11Feb   Today, we are looking in the second section of 1 Corinthians 13 (verses 4-8) where Paul goes on to show us that love must be practical.  Love is not an “out-of-this-world” thing; nor is it just an ideal you talk about.  It is something that takes place in and operates down in the normal, ordinary pursuits and aspects of life.  That is where love is to be manifest.  There is nothing more helpful, when reading through this chapter, than to ask yourself . . .

  • “Am I growing in love?
  • “Looking back over a year, am I easier to live with now?”
  • “Am I able to handle people more graciously, more courteously?”
  • “Am I more compassionate, more patient?”

These are the measurements of life.

This is why we were given

Physical life, and need to have

The life of God given to us

Through faith in Jesus –

That we might learn

How to act in love.

Nothing else can be substituted for it.  There is no use holding up any other quality we possess if we lack this one.

It is the paramount goal

Of every human life,

And it is well to measure

Yourself from time to time

By this standard.

To help us in doing that,

The apostle gives us

Some very practical

Ways of testing love.

He says in Verses 4-6, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

Notice in these verses there are only three positives; all the rest are negatives.  So, love is really only three simple things, basically – It is patient, it is kind, and it rejoices in the right. (The word really is “truth.” It rejoices in the truth).  The quality of love we are talking about is that which produces patience, kindness and gladness of heart.

The negatives that are given here are associated with love because these are the things we must set aside in order to let the love of God, which is patient, kind, and honest, manifest itself.

We do not have to produce this love in our lives.

 That is the Holy Spirit’s work.

We only have to get the things

That are hindering it out of the way.

Those are the negatives that are suggested here.

All progress in the Christian life comes by first experiencing the cross and then the resurrection.  That is a picture of all we repeatedly go through as Christians.

To give up the pleasure

Which these negative expressions

Give us is to experience

A kind dying to self.

That is the way

Of the cross.

But it always results

In a resurrection,

A release of the power of God

To reach out in patience,

In kindness, and in honesty.

That is the way to love.

Many people admire this chapter on love, but they do not understand how to produce this kind of love.  Paul has been telling us all along through the whole book — that God is ready to love through us if we are ready to renounce the false, the negative expression of our sinful life.  I do not have to argue with you about that.  We all know the temporal pleasure we get out of some of these negative qualities.  We do not want to give them up.  It is so natural to want to rip people apart, give them a piece of your mind, make them suffer for all the injuries they have done to you; or to freeze them out, be silent toward them, and let them stew a little bit.  You know how delightful that is, don’t you?  We want love, but first we want the flesh.  That is why we do not experience the love of God.  Therefore, we are given these negative qualities to help us to understand what we must renounce.

What are the things that keep us from being “patient?”  (That word, by the way, is always used with regard to people, not circumstances).  This word always describes one who is being patient with people so that you do not immediately wipe them out, or turn them off or away; but you are understanding, you wait patiently, and let them work things out.  The word literally means “a great suffering” – enduring some suffering in order to let people have a chance to work out their problem.  That is patience.

“Kindness” means “courteousness, to be gracious, to be pleasant to people.”  That is what love is. What are the things that stop that?

First on Paul’s list is “jealousy.”  We are often not patient or kind because we are jealous.  We are spiteful and short with people because we see them enjoying something that we want.  They have a relationship that we envy; they have a quality about themselves that we do not have and we are angry about it, so we are short and spiteful.  That is one reason why we are not patient and kind.

Next on Paul’s list is “boastfulness.””  Oftentimes we are not patient because we cannot wait to listen to others.  We are so anxious to brag about ourselves so they can begin to admire us.  But that must be surrendered for love to appear.

Then, Paul says, love “is not arrogant.”  Arrogance is disdain, lack of respect for another person, ignoring how he will feel and asserting yourself regardless of what the result may be.  Nor is love “rude,” Paul says.  This is to ignore another’s rights; literally, the term is, “to be puffed up.” It means “to be haughty. or cutting, sarcastic.”  One of the major expressions of rudeness is sarcasm.

And “love does not insist on its own way.”  Literally the word indicates that love is not “stubborn. intractable, inflexible, insisting that everybody else adjust.”  It is willing to find a way, to examine a matter, to look at it from a different angle.  When we get stubborn and inflexible and refuse to even talk about a matter, we are choosing to exercise the self-centeredness of the flesh.  Therefore, we cannot allow the love and patience and kindness of God to appear in that situation.

Then love “is not irritable or resentful.”  Nothing destroys human relationships more than that.  Henry Drummond, in his great little message on this passage, The Greatest Thing in the World, writes about this: “No form of vice – not worldliness, nor greed of gold, nor drunkenness does more damage to people and things than an evil temper.  For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred relationships, for devastating homes, for taking the innocence out of childhood, in short, this sinful evil stands alone.

Finally, love “does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.” Love is not gloating over other people’s miseries or mistakes.  Love does not gloat over another’s misfortune, but rejoices in honesty and truth when it is brought out.  Love is willing to hear even the truth about itself.  It is not so concerned about being protected from hurt or injury as it is in knowing what is really happening.  This is a great quality of true love.

Paul now gathers it all up with this beautiful expression in verse 7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

First, “Bear all things” literally means “covers everything.”  Love covers (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8).  When it does learn something unpleasant about another it does not run and scatter it all over the neighborhood.  It does not take delight in some of the misdeeds of others.  Love covers it over, keeps it silent.  Not that it will not do something about it, but it does not spread it about for others to hear.

Secondly, “Love believes all things.”  That does not mean love is gullible. but some have read it that way.  When Jesus was kissed by Judas in the garden He did not say to him, “Oh, Judas, what a beautiful kiss. I’m so glad you have changed your mind and are showing this.”  No, he understood that this was a traitorous action.  He said to Judas, “Would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).  He was not gullible.  He saw Judas’ action for what it was.

What this phrase does mean is that “love is ready to believe anything that has a ground of reality to it.”  It is always ready to start over.  What this phrase means is that “it is ready to trust somebody anew.”  It does not assume the attitude, “Well you’ve done that three times before and you did not do it right so I’m not going to trust you anymore.” If somebody wants another chance love grants it.

Thirdly, love “hopes all things.”  This word means that no cause, no situation, no person is ever regarded as totally hopeless.  There is always a place to for recovery, for reconciliation, and to begin again.  Love will find it; it never gives up hope.  Then Paul adds the final word in this section, love “endures all things.”  Love never quits; it never gives up on anyone.

It has been pointed out that you could take this paragraph and insert “Jesus” in place of the word “love” and you would find that it fits perfectly: “Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus is not jealous or boastful; He is not arrogant or rude; He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Jesus bears all things; He believes all things; He hopes all things; He endures all things.”

When you read it that way

It is clearly evident that

Love is the character of Christ.

That is what the Holy Spirit

Is seeking to reproduce in us,

So that becoming Christlike

Means becoming a more loving person.

This is the measure of our spiritual growth.

I know Christians who do not seem to have changed in twenty years.  They are just as cantankerous and difficult twenty years after they became Christians as they were at the beginning.  Something is wrong in a life like that.

The whole purpose

And thrust of the work

Of the Holy Spirit

Is to teach us to be

Loving, patient, kind, Forgiving,

Understanding, giving others chance,

Trying over again, open to correction

And instruction ourselves,

Easy to be entreated.

These are all the qualities that can be produced in a Christian life.  That is what makes life worth the living.  This is the measure of true Christian spirituality.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


The Preeminence Of Love

Grace For The Journey


11Feb  Our theme over the next three days will be love.  We will look at the most beautiful chapter in the whole New Testament, First Corinthians 13.  This chapter is famous, not only for its majestic language, but for the lofty idealism of its subject matter and the very practical behavior it describes.

Someone has said that “analyzing these words is almost like taking a beautiful flower and tearing it apart.”  But some analysis is necessary in order that we might fully grasp what the Apostle Paul is saying here in this great apostrophe to love.  There are three aspects of love which we will consider over the next few days:

  1. The preeminence of love.
  2. The practice of love.
  3. The permanence of love.

We should remember that this chapter on love, though it is often read separately from the rest of the content, really fits beautifully with what the apostle has been talking about in the previous section.  Beginning with Chapter 12 he introduced the subject of matters pertaining to the Spirit of God.  The first part of that chapter was the focus of the Spirit on the Lordship of Christ.

Jesus is Lord;

This is always the

Emphasis of the Holy Spirit.

He makes Christ real to us.

If we have any sense

At all of the reality and living

Presence of Christ

It is because of the work

Of the Holy Spirit within.

Then Paul talked about the gifts of the Spirit.  The Bible teaches that every believer is equipped with certain spiritual gifts that put him into the ministry. If you are not learning to use those gifts, you are going to sabotage the program of God as far as you are concerned.  He has given them that you so you might have a ministry within the Body of Christ.

In Chapter 13, we come to the fruit of the Spirit.  The apostle has introduced it with a hint already that the fruit of the Spirit is far more important than the gifts of the Spirit.

That we become loving people

Is far more important

Than whether we are active, busy people.

Both are necessary, but one is greater than the other.  Paul has said so in verse 31 of the previous chapter – There is a more excellent way . . . That is the way of love.

I call this the “fruit of the Spirit” because in the letter to the Galatians, in the famous passage in Chapter 5, the apostle details for us what the fruit of the Spirit is.  It is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  It has been pointed out that all of those qualities really are manifestations of the first one, love — that, after all . . .

  • Joy is love enjoying itself;
  • Peace is love resting;
  • Patience is love waiting;
  • Kindness is love reacting;
  • Goodness is love choosing;
  • Faithfulness is love keeping its word;
  • Gentleness is love empathizing;
  • And self-control is love resisting temptation.

Love is the key; love is the main thing.

This chapter, therefore, is setting forth

That quality of love which is

The work of the Spirit of God within us

Reproducing the character of Christ.

The Bible teaches that once you have love, all the other qualities that are part of the fruit of the Spirit are possible to you.  If we have the love of God in our hearts, then we can be patient; we can be peaceful; we can be good, loving, faithful, gentle, kind, and all these other qualities.  But without love all we can do is imitate these qualities, and that is what produces a phony love.

One of the most deadly enemies of the Christian cause is phony love.  That is why, in Romans 12:9a, the Bible says, “Let love be genuine.”  When you come into the church, especially among the people of God, love must be genuine.  If it is not, it is hypocrisy.  If it is put on just for the moment, if it is an attempt to put on a facade, to act like you are kind, thoughtful. gracious, faithful, and so on, but it all disappears as soon as the situation changes, that spreads death within the whole community.  Genuine love, however, will produce all these qualities.

The word “love,” that is used here is not the Greek word “eros.”  That word is used to describe “erotic love, sensual love, what you feel when you “fall in love,” a passionate attraction to another person.”  That kind of love is not even mentioned in the Word of God, strangely enough, though it is a common form of love today.

The word “love” that is used here is not “philia,” which means “affection, friendship, a feeling of warmth toward someone else.”  This too is a universally distributed love, but this is not what is mentioned here.

Paul is talking about “agape,” which islove that it is divine, self-sacrificing, one-way, and a commitment of the will to cherish, uphold another person, and work for their best interest.”  This love is not romantic, saccharine, or sentimental love because the issue is not emotion but attitude.  Agape love is “divine” because this love comes from God.  This love is self-sacrificing and not selfish.  Self-sacrificing love is willing to place others above self.  It is one-way in that it does not depend on the other person to love us back.  Moreover, it is free to relate to others and does not carry “soul-kinks” such as bitterness, resentment, and hostility toward others.  It is free from those attitudinal sins. This love is unconditional for it loves in the face of faults and failures.  It is a choice to love the unworthy in our perception.

It is a word, therefore, addressed to the will.

It is a decision that you make and

A commitment that you have launched upon

To treat another person with concern,

With care, with thoughtfulness,

And to work for his or her best interests.

That is what love is, and this

Is what Paul is talking about.

This kind of love is possible only to those who first love God.

Any attempt to try to exercise love like this without having first loved God is to present a phony love, a selfish, fleshly kind of love.  The reason I say that is because the Bible tells us there are two great commandments.  The first is, “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”  The second one is, “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself,” (Matthew 22:37-9, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27).

We try to turn that around.  Many of us are trying to love our neighbor, whoever he may be, in our family or anywhere else, without having loved God, and it is impossible to do that.

It is “the love of God

Shed abroad in our hearts

By the Holy Spirit,”

(Romans 5:5),

That fulfills the definition

That is given in this chapter,

And only that love.

Therefore, you cannot love other people until you first love God.

When you really think about it, love for God is not difficult, because all you need to do is be aware of how He has loved you – in creation, in the supply of all you need, in leading and putting you in various places with various persons.  But above all else He has loved you in having given His Son for you, having redeemed you, having forgiven you, having changed your heart and destiny.  Your sin; your guilt is taken away.  God has called you to Himself and has given you a standing before Him as a son or daughter within his family.

To remember all that is to be stirred with love for God.  When you love God, you awaken your capacity to love people.  Therefore, it is very important that we understand, in reading this passage, what Paul has been reminding us of all through this letter, that . . .

Love is a supernatural quality.

God alone can give this kind of love.

God alone can lead you to make a choice

To love somebody who does not appeal to you,

Who does not awaken anything within you.

Yet that is what God’s love is.

That is what is so desperately needed

And so beautifully described in this passage.

It can only come as we love God

And love is awakened within us by the Holy Spirit.

It is important for us to remember that this chapter comes after Paul has said that all believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit, made a part of the Body of Christ.  As Jesus put it, we are “in Him” by that process (John 14:19-20).  All believers have been filled with the Spirit, indwelt by the Spirit, “made to drink of one Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12:13b).  By that process our Lord’s words, “I in you” (John 14:20c), have been fulfilled.

Because of that

We all have the capacity

To act in love.

All that Paul is saying in this passage is, “If you have that capacity then do it.  Love one another.”

To encourage this he shows us some of the qualities of love:

The first is what we are looking at in today’s blog – the preeminent value of love.  Paul contrasts love here with certain things that were highly regarded in Corinth and are still highly regarded in the world today.

The first is the ability to communicate.

These Corinthians valued communication.  They enjoyed eloquence; they admired oratory.  They were especially entranced by the gift of tongues, the ability to speak in languages that had never been learned, which had been given among them, but which by the power of the Spirit enabled person to pray and praise God.  They were making much of this gift, as many are today, so Paul begins on that note. He says in verse 1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

There is no suggestion in this that the gift of glossolalia — which is speaking in tongues — is identical to what Paul refers to as “the tongues of angels.”  I know people today who claim that the gift of tongues enables you to speak with the tongues of angels, but Paul does not say that at all.  In fact, it is a pure, arbitrary assumption on the part of anybody that the gift of tongues constitutes the tongues of angels.  We know that angels do communicate in heaven (Isaiah 6:2) and to man (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 26-28).  This is the only reference in all the Scriptures to the tongues of angels.

All Paul is saying is that to be

A loving person is more important

Than to be able to speak

In all the languages

Of earth or heaven.

Therefore, it is essential to learn to love.  Communication without love is a useless thing.

Second, the ability to know and believe.

Paul compares love to these two qualities that were admired in Corinth and are admired in our age as well.  Verse 2 says, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

Prophecy is a greater gift (14:1-5) than tongues (verse1).  In its primary sense, the gift of prophecy is the ability to know divine truth apart from human knowledge.  Prophecy is the ability to receive knowledge directly from God by divine revelation.  This was a primary gift during the completing of the canon of Scripture in the first century.  Once God completed the canon, He limited the gift to exposition (13:8), so in its secondary sense, prophecy is the ability to expound the Word of God (chapter 14).

“Mysteries” are truths not revealed to the point of understanding.  They are not something spooky or mysterious.  We can find a usage of “mystery” as a truth not previously revealed (Ephesians 2:15-18; 3:3-5).

“Understanding” is insight and “knowledge” is the capacity to gather facts of divine revelation.  The gifts referred to here are a combination of the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. Capacities of understanding and knowledge hold the great danger of arrogance and pride if not held in humility.

A mountain is a worldwide symbol for something immovable.  It was a figure of speech for doing the impossible.  Faith enough to move a mountain is synonymous for great faith.

Paul is thinking of theologians particularly, men and women with great ability to detect and understand the mysteries of the Scriptures and to answer all Biblical questions, riddles and parables.  I am sure you have been asked these questions, or maybe you have even had them yourselves: “Why does the devil exist?” “Where did Cain get his wife if he was the only person in the world?” “Why does God allow injustice, accidents and tragedies in our world?”  These are questions asked of every Bible teacher.  Paul says, “If I could answer all those questions, if I could explain all those mysterious movements of God and still was not a loving person, if I was difficult, cantankerous, hard to get along with, even though I could move mountains by faith, if I lacked a loving spirit, it is all nothing.” 

Finally, he takes up the matter of sacrificial zeal.

He says in verse 3, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  There are many reasons why people give away things.  Sometimes they give because they are deeply concerned about certain cause or a need.  They are willing to sacrifice their own possessions in order to meet that.  But sometimes people give for very selfish reasons, although it appears to be a generous gift.  I have known people who gave great sums of money to a cause they actually had no interest in at all, no more use for than a hog has for hip pockets, and still they gave their money.  Why?  Because they had a selfish interest in it. Now you can do that.  You can give away everything.  You can impress people with tremendous willingness on your part to sacrifice.  Giving our body to be burned as a martyr is a horrific form of martyrdom.  Nothing could be of greater sacrifice, but it does not profit us if we do not do it out of love.

The word “profits” means “to prevail, to be advantageous, beneficial, useful, or expedient.”  Doing things without love is not beneficial to us personally.  Note the progression of “nothing:” I say nothing, verse 1 … I am nothing, verse 2 … I gain nothing, verse 3.

Love is the important thing.

Nothing can underscore

That fact more than these words.

This is what life is all about.

We are born to learn to about God’s love and we are born-again to let others hear and see God’s love through our lives.  To live without learning to love is to have wasted our time, no matter how impressive our achievements in other ways may be.

Tomorrow we will look at verses 4 through 8 of 1 Corinthians 13 and see how love must be practical.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Comfortable or Comforter?

Grace For The Journey


10Feb The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

In reading through the life of the apostle Paul, we see a great many circumstances marked by the crushing conflict he faced, both within the church and out in the world.  Yet through it all, he makes it crystal clear that God is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in every challenging circumstance we face.  Why?

Our Lord does not do it

To make us comfortable,

But to make us comforters

For others who are encountering

Challenging times of their own.

We can and should expect challenging circumstances to arise outside the church.  But as we see in the life of Paul, we should not be surprised when conflict confronts us inside the church also. There was a rebellious minority in the church at Corinth that made life difficult for everyone, but for Paul in particular.  They accused Paul of everything from personal pride to mental instability.  They even denigrated his looks and his manner of speaking, saying “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Corinthians 10:10).  But through it all . . .

Paul looked up instead of out,

And he trusted God

To carry him through

Every wave of challenge

That washed over him.

And Paul understood the primary reason why God sustained him:

So that through the comfort

God provided to him,

He could draw strength

To comfort others.

Can the same be said about you?  Looking back over your life, can you see how often God has comforted you in challenging times?  I am sure that as you think about this, you can recall how the compassion of Christ has brought you through some very uncomfortable circumstances; you may even have emerged from them feeling quite comfortable!

But . . .

Being comfortable is not

God’s ultimate goal

For bringing us through

Difficult circumstances;

Being a comforter to others is.

Who in your life right now needs to experience the compassion of God through the comfort you can provide?  Perhaps a word of encouragement is needed?  Maybe a personal visit to deliver a hug or a holy kiss?  How about an unexpected call from you to share the love of Christ?

Remember . . .

God has faithfully brought you

Heavenly comfort over the years,

Time and time again

– Not to make you comfortable,

But to make you a comforter

For His glory and the good of others.

Why not bring some of the comfort of Christ to someone in need today?  I promise, you will be glad you did . . . and they will be too!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Further Exhortations Regarding Living While We Wait For Christ To Return, Part 2

Grace For The Journey


07Feb  We will conclude our journey through first and second Thessalonians today.  In these final verses Paul wraps his instructions on how to deal with idleness and busybodies.  The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15, “For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life, not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. Now such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat.  But you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing what is right.  But if anyone does not obey our message through this epistle, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, to put him to shame.  Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

The Needed Exhortation To The Church

In verse 11, the apostle first mentions the reports he had received regarding those who were leading an undisciplined (idle) life.  Two things characterized their behavior: (1) doing no work at all and as a further result, (2) meddling in the affairs of others; they became busybodies rather than busy self-supporting workers engaged in a productive occupation.

By working they would become

A blessing to themselves

And benefit to others.

But their idleness had

Led to the opposite.

The Greek word for “meddling” is made up of two words: “peri,” “around,” and “ergazomai,” “to work, labor.”  It literally means “to work around or in a circle.”  It came to mean “to do something useless, to be busy, but accomplishing nothing.”  You have heard people say or perhaps said this yourself, “I feel like I have been going in circles.”  What we mean is obvious.  We mean that, though busy, we feel like we have not been getting anything done.  1 Timothy 5:13 describes the results of such behavior, “And besides that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazy; and they are not only lazy, but also gossips and busybodies.”

Almost every culture has its sayings about idleness.

  • The Romans said, “By doing nothing, men learn to do evil.”
  • Isaac Watts wrote: “For Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do.”
  • The Jewish rabbis taught, “He who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to be a thief.”
  • My mother and grandmother use to say to me, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.”

Based on the reports mentioned in verse 11, the rule of verse 10 is reinforced in verses 12-15 with three more instructions.

First, in verse 12 and with the words, “in or by the authority of the Lord Jesus,” Paul specifically addressed the idle meddlers who are commanded and urged “to work quietly and to provide for their own food to eat.”  This instruction gives us further insight into the behavior of these idlers: (1) their false views about the return of Christ had evidently led them into a kind of feverish excitement which they were seeking to spread from person to person as they went about from household to household; (2) They eventually ran out of money and food and began to expect others to support them.  Thus, Paul commands and urges them to settle down and then to go back to work.

But what if these idlers again refuse to follow these instructions (see 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 5:14)?  With this possibility in view, the apostle gives instructions to the rest of the Thessalonian Christians to show them how they should deal with idlers who might not obey these instructions (3:13-15):

Second, they are urged to “not grow weary in doing what is right.” “Grow weary” means “to become tired; to loose heart; despair.” One is often the result of the other.  In struggling with a matter, some might lose heart in struggling with their idle brothers.

Doing what is right

Would include remaining

Examples themselves by working,

By reprimanding the disorderly

Idlers of verse 10, and

By refusing to support those

Who refused to work.

To continue to support those who refuse to work is wrong for all concerned.

Third, the apostle speaks to the matter of church discipline (verse 14).  This is a subject that is too often avoided today, but not without serious consequences to the body of Christ.  It is applied here to those who refused to obey their instruction, which clearly illustrated a rebellious spirit and a wrong relationship to the Savior Himself.  Thus, specific and tough measures were needed.  First, they were to take special note of such people. “Take note” literally means “to mark.”  It is in the plural and in the middle voice which suggests “note for oneself,” with the implication that all the members of the congregation were to take responsibility for following these instructions.  Church discipline will have little effect if not followed by the whole body.  Second, they were not to associate closely with one who refused to work.  The verb here is a triple compound word meaning “to mix up together,” and then “to associate closely with.”

There is a difference between acquaintanceship, friendship, and fellowship.  For obedient saints to treat disobedient Christians with the same friendship they show to other dedicated saints is to give approval to their sins.

In essence, those who refused to obey were to be ostracized from intimate fellowship with the believers of the assembly as a means of shaming them into repentance and change.  This should not be confused with formal excommunication as in Matthew 18.  Rather, it appears to be more a matter of group disapproval and social ostracism.  In our country today, Christians will often just change churches to avoid such discipline, but this was a serious thing for believers at that time in a heathen society and the same would apply to many countries today where believers are faced with serious persecution for their faith.

They are not to be regarded as enemies, but to be admonished as brothers.  That this was not total excommunication is suggested by the third instruction given in verse 15, “Yet do not regard (“to think of, consider, regard”) him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”  “Not as an enemy” means “not as one who is opposed to Christ.”  “But as a brother” could be taken to mean “as though he were a brother,” but the idea is “because he is a brother (i.e., a fellow member of the body of Christ).”

This draws our attention to a couple of important principles in church discipline: First is the fact that the goal of church discipline is never punishment, but tough actions of love done with a view to reformation and restoration to fellowship with Christ and the body of Christ.  Second is the issue of extremes.  Rather than being balanced as with the Lord Jesus who was full of “grace and truth,” people tend to go to extremes – they are either too lenient or too harsh.  Thus, Paul stresses they were not to be treated as enemies, but admonished as brethren, as fellow believers.

“Admonish” means “to warn, instruct.”  The fundamental idea is to put sense or biblical wisdom into the mind so that it changes behavior.  It includes an admonishment to change through instruction, consequences of sin, and godly aims, etc.  The idler was not to be cut off from all contact, but was allowed to continue in a brotherly status.  So, lines of communication were kept open for continued warnings about his behavior.

  1. The Necessary Enablement Of The Lord

Verses 16-18 say, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.  I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, which is how I write in every letter.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

The Prayer for Peace and the Lord’s Presence.

With these words the apostle not only brings the epistle to a close, but reminds us that . .  .

Spiritual change in the lives of men,

Or ministry to people of any kind

That effectively brings peace

At all times and in all circumstances

Is not something we can do

Or experience alone.

It requires the supernatural

And gracious hand of the Lord Himself.

“Himself” is emphatic and stresses this very point.  Here the Lord – a reference to the Lord Jesus (cf. verse 18) – is called “the Lord of peace.”  They, as all believers, had come to have peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Romans 5:1); their faith in Christ also meant the capacity for peace with one another (Philippians 4:9; Colossians 3:15); and their faith in Christ allowed them, in their own hearts to have a vital relationship with the Savior, the Prince of Peace, the Peacemaker (Ephesians 2:14-17; Philippians 1:7).  The Lord Jesus is called “the Lord of peace” because He is the author and source of peace.  If they or we are to know real peace, we must walk in intimate fellowship with the Savior and be in obedience to His commands (John 14:27). Interestingly, in Paul’s concluding remarks in the first epistle he used the phrase, “the God of Peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and now he concludes with “the Lord of Peace,” which certainly demonstrates his estimation of Christ as being Himself God.

The closing emphasis or focus here on “peace” and “at all times and in every way” reminds us that life is loaded with trouble and circumstances that can unsettle us, as it had occurred in the church at Thessalonica.  But . . .

Whether it is trouble

Brought about from

False doctrine or

From undisciplined believers,

It is the Lord Himself

Who gives us peace

And such will only occur

When we allow Him

To have the place of Lord

And reign in our lives.

In the statement “the Lord be with you all,” Paul was praying that they might experience the power and blessing of the Lord on their lives for spiritual growth and well-being.  The Lord he promised that He is always with us and will never leave nor forsake us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5), but we may ignore His presence and fail to experience it.  So, the apostle prays that this might not be the case.

The Personalized Petition.

With verse 17, the apostle picked up the pen of the one writing the letter as Paul dictated it to him and closed with this personal greeting and sign of authority and authenticity.

Paul had been dictating this letter, but when he gets to these final words beginning in verse 17, he took the pen into his own hand to add a closing greeting.  Though he undoubtedly did this quite frequently he has called attention to it only here and in Romans 16:22; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Colossians 4:18).  The greeting in his own hand, “which is the distinguishing mark” in all his letters (verse 17), includes also the benediction of verse 18.

Apparently, Paul followed this practice consistently, expecting churches where he had served to recall his distinctive handwriting.  It was particularly needed in this Epistle as a deterrent against any future attempt to forge a letter in his name (cf. 2:2).  The practice was customary in ancient times.  When Paul says “in all my letters” (verse 17), he does not mean just the letters previous to this, for he was also to follow this procedure later.  Neither is the expression to be limited only to books found in the New Testament, because he is known to have written other Epistles besides these (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9).  The handwriting furnished a key by which his Thessalonian readers could recognize a spurious Epistle bearing his name.

With the phrase in verse 18, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all,” we are reminded of (1) the necessity of the grace of the Lord Jesus for the Christian life, and (2) with the word “all,” God’s desire that all Christians experience this in life.

He had commended some

And he had censured others,

But his final benediction was upon all.

There is here a final appeal

For unity, obedience, and blessing

Including, of course, the idlers.

Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians have stressed the return of the Savior and shown us how this should and should not impact our daily lives.  The fact that the Savior is coming again and could come today should promote godly living and give great peace, comfort, joy, and encouragement to endure the trials of life.  Such stability is one of the key purposes of prophecy.  By contrast, it should never lead to the kind of idleness or to a kind of idle feverishness as had occurred with some at Thessalonica.  When this occurs, it hurts the cause of Christ by causing ridicule from the world and unrest within the body of Christ.

When believers act like the idlers at Thessalonica, they become disobedient soldiers who are out of rank and a poor testimony for the Savior.  It shows they are indifferent, if not walking in direct rebellion against the specific instructions of the Word and the commands of their Savior.  As disorderly Christians, they are a cause of disorder in the church, but church problems are always individual problems and can only be solved when Christians start listening to and living by the instructions of the Word of God.

The Lord is coming again and He is coming for His church, the bride of Christ.  May we live properly in the light of His any moment return, which means obediently to Scripture.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”




Exhortations Regarding Idleness in the Church, Part 1

Grace For The Journey


07Feb  We will look at 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 in today’s blog.  As we come to the conclusion of our journey through this letter, Paul is led to address a dangerous problem that had developed in the thinking of these believers.

If left untreated, disorder in the church, like physical ailments, will only increase causing greater and greater sickness and pain. Because of a wrong response to the imminent return of the Lord, the problem of idleness touched on briefly in 1 Thessalonians, seems to have only grown worse.  There were those in the church at Thessalonica who had evidently stopped working and were running around in excited idleness from house to house in anticipation of the Lord’s return at any moment.

This wrong response to prophetic truth not only led to idleness and the lack of ability to support oneself and family, but it had resulted in becoming busybodies.  It appears they also expected the church to support them.  It is entirely possible that it was this group that had been spreading some or perhaps all of the false teaching discussed in chapter 2 of this epistle.  Furthermore, they were probably guilty of spreading rumors or gossip about others in the church.  Warren Wiersbe puts it this way, “They had time on their hands and gossip on their lips, but they defended themselves by arguing, ‘The Lord is coming soon!’”

In his previous epistle, Paul had warned these busybodies to stop such idleness and get back to quietly working with their own hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).  He later urged the believers there to admonish the unruly or undisciplined (ataktos, “out of order, disorderly, undisciplined”).  In view of this chapter, it is clear that either they had not heeded Paul’s admonishment or they had not listened to the admonishments from the church body.

This is a sad illustration of wrong interpretation or wrong application of biblical truth.  The New Testament does teach the imminent, any-moment possibility of the return of the Savior for His church; it is imminent, but no one knows when He will return.  It could be today, but it might not be, as has been the case for hundreds of years.  The principle is that . . .

We are to live as though

It will be today . . .

While working and

Continuing on in life

As though it could

Be tomorrow.

We must hold both truths

In proper balance.

As we learned from 1 Thessalonians, the coming of the Lord with all that it means to believers is to be a strong motivation to living in obedience to the teachings of God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit so that God will be glorified.

Misinterpretations and misapplications of the truths of God’s Word can cause endless trouble.  History records the foolishness of people who set dates, sold their possessions, and sat on mountain tops waiting for the Lord to return.  Any teaching that encourages us to disobey any divine teaching is not Bible teaching.

In these verse Paul offers two principles to help these believers get back on course in the lives and ministry.

1) The Exhortations of the Apostolic Team

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 3:6, “But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition you received from us.”

The seriousness of this exhortation is seen in the use of the word “command,” in Paul’s appeal in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the nature of the command “to keep away.” “Command” means, “give orders, instruct with authority.”  It was used for various directions given from persons in authority like human rulers, Jesus, and the apostles.  Paul used this strong word in connection with the idle busybodies in the first epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:2 and 11) and in this epistle in 3:4, 6, 10, & 12.

The word was a military word often used of a command by a superior officer.  The lesson here is simple:

The church is engaged

In spiritual warfare

(Ephesians 6:10ff))

With each believer a soldier

Whom God has enlisted

Into His army.

When we fail to follow

The directives of the Savior,

It leads to disorderly conduct

Which hurts our effectiveness

(1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2;3-4)

Paul uses another military term to describe the problem at Thessalonica.  Some of the saints were “undisciplined,” literally, “out of order” or “out of rank.” (see also 3:7 and 11).  This family of words was used of soldiers who were out of step or moving in disarray.  For another passage that uses military metaphors, we might compare by way of contrast two words the apostle used in Colossians 2:5 when he wrote, “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit, rejoicing to see the order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”  Here the apostle was thankful for the orderly way the Colossians had closed ranks and presented a solid front of soldiers in standing for the cause of Christ.  “Order” means “a fixed succession or order.”  It was a military term used of a rank or orderly array.  “Firmness” means “a solid body; steadfastness, firmness.”  This too was a military word and continues the military metaphor and means, “a solid front;” it was used of Roman soldiers marching shoulder to shoulder with their spears pointing forward.

In this regard, Paul appealed to the Thessalonians in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Commander-in-Chief of the army of God.  In essence, then, these commands came by the authority of Christ.  Paul was passing on authoritative instructions as an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus to plant or establish churches and to lay the biblical foundation for the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:20).  To disobey Paul’s directives was to disobey the Lord.

The command is spelled out specifically, “To keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition you received from us.”  “To keep away” originally meant “to set, place, arrange, fit out as an army for an expedition;” hence “to prepare, equip.”  Then it came to mean “to bring together” or “to gather up” as when one furls the sails of a ship.  Hence it came to mean, “to shrink back, restrain, withdraw oneself, hold aloof, avoid.”

The phrase “from any brother” stresses the principle and need of impartiality.  The tendency in exercising church discipline is to show partiality to some because of their standing in the community or in the church, or because of financial status, or simply because they are very likable people, but such cannot purify and toughen up God’s army for spiritual warfare.  As we are warned in 1 Corinthians 5, a little leaven eventually leavens the whole lump.

Paul goes on to pinpoint the specific problem, “Who live an undisciplined life and not according …”  As we break down these words, we can clearly see why Paul needed to so strongly address this issue.  “Who live” is literally, “walking in a disorderly way.”  “Walking” is a common word used in the Bible for one’s way of life or conduct in general.  “Undisciplined” is a vivid word that describes the nature of their behavior. “… The word means “to play truant.”  It occurred in an apprentice’s contract in Paul’s day in which the father agrees that his son must make good any days on which he “absents himself from duty or plays truant.”

The Thessalonians in their excited idleness were truants from duty and from work.  Such truant behavior was foolish because of the natural consequences and because no one knows when the Lord will return.  But it was more than just foolish, it was rebellion because it was contrary to the truth handed down to the Thessalonians previously (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12; 5:14) and to the teaching of the Word in general.  In essence, this constituted walking in disobedience to the Word of God.  This was rebellion and no excuse could justify such behavior. So strong measures were needed.

What does the Bible teach about manual (or menial) labor?  For one thing, labor was a part of man’s life before sin entered the scene.  God gave Adam the job of tending and guarding the Garden (Genesis 2:15).  Although sin turned labor into toil (Genesis 3:17-19), it must never be thought that the necessity for work is a result of sin.  Man needs work for the fulfillment of his own person.  God created him to work.

Have you noticed that God called people who were busy at work?

  • Moses was caring for sheep (Exodus 3).
  • Joshua was Moses’ assistant before he became Moses’ successor (Exodus 33:11).
  • Gideon was threshing wheat when God called him (Judges 6:11ff),
  • David was caring for his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:11ff).
  • Our Lord called four fishermen to serve as His disciples.
  • Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) and used his trade to support his own ministry.

The Jews honored honest labor and required all their rabbis to have a trade.  But the Greeks despised manual labor and left it to their slaves.  This Greek influence, plus their wrong ideas about the doctrine of the Lord’s return, led these believers into an unchristian and unbiblical way of life.

Later, the apostle will show that . . .

The issue here was ultimately

One of unwillingness.

The circumstances of life

(Sickness, loss of a job,

Economic conditions)

Sometimes keep people from working,

So the question was not one

Of inability but unwillingness

(Note verse 10, “if anyone is not willing to work, …”).

2) The Example of the Apostolic Team

1 Thessalonians 3:7-10 says, “For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate.  For even when we were with you we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.”

The apostle was always deeply concerned about his own example of Christlikeness, for he knew that a student will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40).  His great concern for this is evident in his statement in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 when he said, “… for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved (literally, “came to be”) to be among you for your sake.”

In these verses, then, Paul was able to turn to his own example and that of his team.  “Imitate” is the Greek word “mimeomai” from which we get our word “mimic.”  The idea of this word is that of modeling, becoming like, or following after another.  It stresses the nature of a particular kind of behavior modeled by another that we are to follow.  In the New Testament, it has a spiritual, ethical or moral emphasis and is generally linked with an obligation to a certain kind of conduct or character as a product of faith in the directives of the Bible and the example of the apostles or other leaders who were also following the Lord Jesus as their ultimate example.

It is linked to certain ones

Who are living examples

For the life of faith

And the character of Christ.

This, the apostle states, is a moral and logical obligation.  He said, “you must imitate us.”  The word “must” refers “to the compulsion of duty, of law, of custom, or of an inner necessity that grows out of the situation.”  Here it is the moral necessity that arises out of the fact these men were their spiritual mentors who followed the Lord Jesus and who had provided them with a godly example.

Thus, Paul adds, “because we did not behave without discipline among you, …”  Though they had the right to receive support from the Thessalonians, they set aside that right in order to provide a fitting example of Christ-like behavior (see verse 9).

This not only provided

An example to new Christians,

But was a way of answering

The false accusations of their accusers.

The word “without discipline” means “to be out of order, out of line.” It’s the verb form of the word used and discussed above in verse 6.

Paul himself was not idle.  His readers could verify this claim (“you yourselves know,” verse 7; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:1; 3:3; 4:2; 5:2).  In imitating Paul, they would be imitating the Lord Himself (1 Thessalonians 1:6) because Paul’s life was so carefully patterned after his Lord’s.  He did not loaf at Thessalonica (verse 7b), nor depend on others to supply him with free food (verse 8a).  He supported himself in spite of much fatigue (“laboring to the point of exhaustion,” verse 8) and many obstacles (“toiling,” verse. 8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9) in order to relieve the new Christians in Thessalonica of the burden of supporting him.

Paul did not have to exert himself so tirelessly.  As an apostle, he had “the right to such help” (verse 9; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:4ff; 1Thessalonians 2:7) from his converts.  He decided, however, to forego this privilege and leave an example for them to imitate.

With verse 10, the apostle reinforced their example by reminding them of their previous instruction as it pertained to working and supporting oneself and family.  As I noted previously, the instruction here is aimed at those who are “unwilling to work.”

This instruction was not just a matter

Of some cultural tendency

They may have noted

In the Thessalonians,

But of a fundamental biblical principle.

God is Himself a worker.  After all, He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  As such, He designed a working vocation as a necessary part of life even before the fall and He expects each of us to be involved in some form of vocation that we might support ourselves and our families, find a sense of significance and destiny in our labor, and be a productive member of society.

Thus, denying support to those who are unwilling to work is not cruel, but becomes a basic form of discipline to force idlers into reality and into the responsibility of becoming productive people. This kind of discipline is tough love and provides a protection to both the individual and to the society.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Waiting For Christ . . . Warning Of Hell

Grace For The Journey


5Feb In today’s blog we will look at 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 and look again at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This was a theme precious to the heart of Paul.  He mentions the second coming of Jesus thirteen times as often as he speaks of baptism. An average of one verse in every chapter of his writings mentions the Second Coming.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 he said, “For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”  And as he now come to close this great letter to the church at Thessalonica, he says this is verse 5, “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”

The Thessalonians had heard the gospel preached; they had turned to God, and in so doing they automatically turned from idols – but they did not stop there.  Having turned to the living God, they were created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and they had turned to the living God to serve.  But that is not all: As they served, they were waiting for His Son from heaven.

According to the Gospel revealed to Paul, every born-again believer has the hope of the coming of Jesus and every recipient of the grace of God believes in His second coming.

The grace of God

That brings salvation

Also teaches us to

Look for “that blessed hope”

And if you, dear friend, do not believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, if you do not expect Him to return to this earth, if I were you, I would take a long look at my salvation experience.

The Bible teaches us that redemption is instantaneous, and the moment we are redeemed we are just as thoroughly and completely redeemed as we will ever be; but salvation is continuous from the moment we are redeemed until we are glorified.  We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8:14-17 we have been told that we are the sons of God (verse 14), we are adopted (verse 15), we have assurance (verse 16), we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (verse 17).  The Bible clearly teach that the Christian experience is progressive.  Until we see Jesus and receive a glorified body, there is no place in the Christian life that offers no further ground for growth.  In other words, there will never come a time, in your Christian life, where you can just sit down and do nothing for Jesus!

With that thought in mind, Paul reminded these early Christians that they were to be about the Father’s business.  We are to tell them the wonderful story of Jesus … of His coming into this world, of His dying for our sins, of His resurrection, ascension, and His Second Coming.  But that is not the end of the story, for as surely as there is a hope for the believer, there is a hell for the unbeliever.

The doctrine of hell is one of the most neglected doctrines in all of the Bible.  When hell is mentioned today, it is generally ridiculed, as if the whole idea of hell were so old-fashioned that only the naive and ignorant would really believe that such a place actually exists.  Natural men hate the idea of being held accountable for their lives to a holy God, because they love sin and do not wish to part with it.  The carnal mind throws up objection after objection to the idea of hell because it does not want to face the reality of it. Men live their lives thinking that maybe if they ignore a difficulty long enough, it will go away.  Even religious leaders are now attacking hell.  Let men do what they will; the objections of the foolish will not do away with hell.

Someone asked me once, “Do you really believe there is a literal hell?”   I responded by saying, “Let me answer that question from the Word of God.”  And then I showed them these verses: Matthew 5:21-22 says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Fool! shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, You fool! shall be in danger of hell fire.”  This is the first mention of hell in the New Testament, and it is most interesting that the word fell from the lips of the Son of God.  In this passage Jesus plainly signifies that there is a hell, and that hell is a place of fire.  I pointed out another occasion when our Lord used the word “hell.”  In Matthew 5:29 He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”  Here the Lord Jesus teaches that it is better to lose an eye – or even to be completely blind – than to have two good eyes and use them in the wrong way to commit sin that will bring damnation and the “whole body” be cast into hell.

Some teachers and ministers spiritualize hell, but Jesus definitely spoke of hell as being a literal place, a place with literal fire, and those who go there will have a body.  I think some of the confusion is that most people simply do not understand why there is a Hell in the first place.

The truth of the matter is that God never prepared a place called Hell for humanity, as seen in Matthew 25:41 where Jesus said that Hell is a place of “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Therefore, Hell is a place where God will deal righteously with the devil.

Hell is where God will deal righteously with the condemned.  Jesus made this statement in John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  The unsaved person is referred to as the “condemned” and Jesus made this statement in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and shall come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  Although Hell was created for the devil and his angels, when man fell, he also became subject to eternal judgment; thus, the lost go to hell.

Having said all of that let me remind you that God wants no one to go to Hell.  2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  On the cross God in His marvelous grace and mercy, has made provisions for all men to be saved – anyone who acknowledges to themselves and God that they are a sinner, that they cannot save themselves, turns from their sin and to God,  accepts what Jesus Christ did upon the cross and through the empty tomb, and asks Jesus to be their Savior and Lord will be forgiven of their sin and escape hell.

What does the Bible tell us about the nature of Hell?

First of all, Hell is a place filled with unimaginable darkness and pain.

 Repeatedly Jesus spoke of outer darkness, where there will be wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  There is something about “darkness” that causes fear in our lives.  In addition to the fear there is physical and emotional pain.  Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 13:50, “And cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  And then in Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to the servants, bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The “gnashing of teeth” here refers to an outward manifestation of inward and emotional pain.  This truth is seen in Mark 9:18 when the father brought his demon possessed son to the disciples for deliverance, “And whenever this evil spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground and makes him foam at the mouth and grind his teeth and become rigid.”

Second, Hell is a place filled with unquenchable fire.

A quick study of the Bible will reveal that Jesus associates hell with “fire” as He often uses the term “hell fire.”  In Mark 9:46 and 48 Jesus describes Hell as a place, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  In Matthew 13:42 and 50 Jesus describes hell as a “furnace of fire.”  In Revelation 19:20 hell is described as “a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

Third, Hell is a place filled with intolerable filth.

In Mark 9:46 Jesus described hell as a place where “the worm does not die.”  To understand that statement, one has to know a little of the history of Jesus’ day.  In the time of Jesus the Valley of Hinnom was used as the garbage dump of Jerusalem.  It was a place where people not only threw the garbage of the city, but it was a place where the bodies of dead animals were thrown, but it was also the place where the bodies of the extremely poor and executed criminals were thrown.  To consume all this, fires burned constantly.  Maggots worked in the filth.  When the wind blew from that direction over the city, its awfulness was quite evident.  At night wild dogs howled as they fought over the garbage.

Jesus used this awful scene as a symbol of hell.  In effect He said, “Do you want to know what hell is like? Look at Gahanna.” Some have described hell as God’s “eternal cosmic garbage dump.”   I don’t believe that is an adequate description of what hell is.  I do believe the Bible teaches that all that is unfit for heaven will be thrown into hell.

Because of the symbolic nature of the language, some people question whether hell consists of actual fear, fire and filth.  I promise you . . .

The reality is greater

Than the symbol.

The Bible exhausts human language in describing heaven and hell.

The former is more glorious,

And the latter more terrible,

Than language can express.

Four, Hell is a place of eternal duration.

As far back as Isaiah 33:14 hell is described as “everlasting.”  This verse describes hell in a similar way as we have seen Jesus teach about it, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?  Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”  In Matthew 18:8 and 41 Jesus describes hell as “everlasting fire.”  In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 hell is described as “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”  Revelation 20:10 says those in hell “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  What could communicate the duration of hell better than the expression “forever and ever?”

The most terrifying aspect of all about hell is its length or duration. Hell is eternal.  Hell will last forever.  We cannot you comprehend eternity.  No mathematical equation or formula can explain it. Your mind cannot conceive of eternity, but it is nonetheless real. This aspect of hell alone should cause men to cry out in repentance.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “In hell there is no hope.  The dammed have not even the hope of dying – the hope of being annihilated.  They are forever – forever – forever lost!  On every chain in hell, there is written ‘forever.’  In the fires there, blaze out the words, ‘forever.’  Above their heads, they read, ‘forever.’  Their eyes are galled and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is ‘forever.’”

Christopher Love says, “This is man’s misery in hell, he shall be there with no hope of coming out after he hath been there millions of years, than he was when he was first cast in there; for his torments shall be to eternity, without end, because the God that damns him is eternal.”

Let me give you a little summary of have we have seen so far:

  • Because of sin, humanity is alienated from God.
  • There is no doubt in the Bible that heaven and hell areconsidered real. Jesus Christ came to overcome this alienationand make a way for each of us to be reconciled with God.
  • We each must make that decision and it happens through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • If a person does not make that decision, they remain separated from God.
  • And that might be tolerable in this life and in a world that enjoys God’s mediation. But to die in a state of separation means eternal separation, this time in a place where God has withdrawn His presence … and that place is called hell.

Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to share these truths not only to inform the Thessalonica believers about the glorious truth of Christ’s Second Coming but to warn of the dreadful reality facing everyone who has not prepared for the day.   Hard truth . . . but needed truth.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


Nothing But The Truth

Grace For The Journey


4Feb  In today’s blog, we will look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 and learn what we need to base our hope for today and the future on.  Paul was a balanced Christian who had a balanced ministry; and we see evidence of this as he brings his letter to a close.  He moves from prophecy to practical Christian living.  He has turned from the negative (Satan’s lies) to the positive (God’s truth), and from warning to thanksgiving and prayer.

We desperately need balanced ministries today.  As, from time to time, we deal with the subject of prophecy; we must always remember that we are still living in the present.

We must never permit

The study of prophecy

To be an escape

From our responsibility

For today.

Paul’s emphasis is on the truth of God’s Word, in contrast to Satan’s great lie, which Paul discussed in our earlier studies.

Every believer has at least two responsibilities to God’s Word.

1) We are responsible to believe the Word.

Paul says this in verses 13-14, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have already seen Paul’s repeated words of thanksgiving for these early Christians in the first chapter of this letter.  He gave thanks for the way they responded to God’s work in their lives.  In these two verses, Paul reviewed the five stages in their salvation experience.

First, he reminded them of God’s love for them.

Verse 13 says, “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord.”  Whatever God does for the lost world springs from His eternal love.  We must never think of God’s great plan of salvation as an impersonal machine.  John 3:16 reminds us that God’s plan of salvation is rooted and grounded in His love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Romans 5:8 reminds us that God proved His love for us when Christ died for the sins of the world, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

 In John 3:16

God said it;

On the cross

Christ proved it;

And in Romans 5:8

The Bible reminds us of it.

Second, he reminded them that God chose them.

Look again at verse 13, “…because God did from the beginning chose you for salvation…” Take note of this truth . . .

It is not love alone that saves us,

For God loves the whole world,

And yet the whole world is not saved.

Love reveals itself in grace and mercy.

God in His grace gives us through Christ

What we do not deserve,

And God in His mercy

Does not give us

What we deserve –

But He gave that to Christ.

Jesus said in John 12:32, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Me.”

Third, he reminded them that God had set them apart.

Verse 13 continues “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification…” The word “sanctify” means “to set apart for a divine purpose.”  Sanctification reveals itself in three stages: past, present and future.  When we were saved, we were set aside. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

In our daily walk,

As we allow God

To work in our lives,

We are being conformed

Into the image of Jesus Christ.

Paul reminded us in Romans 8:29, “For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Ultimate sanctification will be ours only in eternity.  Paul said this in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Fourth, Paul also reminded them that all of this began with God’s call.

Verse 14 says, “To which He called you by our gospel…” The same God who ordained salvation also ordained the means to salvation.  Look again at Romans 8:29–30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”  You see, God not only knew who was going to be saved, but when we came to Him by faith, He predestined us for heaven.  That in itself is pretty awesome, but the story does not stop there, because after we responded to God’s call to salvation, He also foreordained that we should be conformed to the image of His Son.  In other words . . .

The glorified Son of God

Is to be

Our pattern,

Our power,


Our goal.

Fifth, he reminded them that God also gave them glory.

Look again at verse 14, “…for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  What began in eternity past reaches its climax in eternity future: we share in the glory of God.  Now don’t miss this truth . . .

What begins with grace

Also leads to glory.

This is quite a contrast to the future assigned to the lost. Hell is unspeakable when it comes to suffering.

2) We are responsible to practice God’s Word.

Verses 16-17 tell us, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”  The Bible tells us in Isaiah 7:9, “… If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.”

It is a biblical fact that believing the Word and practicing the Word will cause the child of God to be established.  Some believers talk more about their weak faith and their failures than they do about what God says in His Word about them.  Then they wonder why they never seem to grow strong spiritually!

I am convinced that a believer who is weak in faith should take the same amount of time he has spent bemoaning his failures and lack of power, and spend that time studying the Bible.  If a believer will do that, he will be well on his way to becoming strong in faith and established in the Word.

For example, the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when you invited Christ to come into your life, forgive you of your sins, and make you a Christian, you became a new creation in Christ Jesus.  So read the epistles carefully and look for verses and passages that reveal who you are in Christ Jesus. Also, go through the New Testament and look up all the verses that include the phrases, “in Him,” “in Christ,” and “in Whom.”  Each of those verses tells you something about who you are or what you possess in the new birth.  As you learn, believe, and live by God’s Word and fix your faith on what God says about who you are in Christ, you will keep your heart strong and established in the midst of life’s trials and temptations.

Closely associated with the study of the new birth is the study of our sonship privileges.  Learning about, believing, and appropriating our inheritance as God’s children is an important part of establishing ourselves in our Christian walk.  The Bible says in 1 John 3:1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”  In the new birth, we became children of God and heirs to certain rights and privileges in the Kingdom of God.  In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:17 tells us that we are “joint (or equal) heirs with Jesus Christ.”

In regard to our sonship privileges, I want to remind you of the story about the prodigal son and his elder brother found in Luke 15:11-32.  Jesus told this story to teach the religious leaders of His day concerning the heart of God.  And you know the story about how the younger brother asked for and got his inheritance, left home, spent it all on lose-living, ended up in a hog-pen, and, out of desperation, swallowed his pride and went back home.

Verses 22-24 tell us that upon the return of the younger son, the father called for a great feast to be prepared to celebrate his son’s return.  When the elder brother heard about it, he was angry and jealous.  Verse 29 reveal the heart and attitude of this older brother, “I have served you faithfully all of these years, but you have never had a big feast in my honor.”  I like the father’s response to the elder brother in verse 31, because it tells us something about our sonship privileges, “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

When you are born again into the family of God, your Heavenly Father tells you, “All that I have is yours.”  All you need to do is ask yourself this question, “What does my Father have?”  If He has it, it’s yours, because you are His child and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.

How are you going to find out what God has provided for you?  By studying the Word of God.  Once you discover in the Word that God promises to meet a particular need in your life, you can claim your need met in the Name of Jesus.  Whatever God’s Word says is yours in Christ – belongs to you.

3) A study of the Holy Spirit will also help to establish you in the Word!  

The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:4 reminds us, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  In other words . . .

The Spirit of God

Is also

The power of God

Living in us.

But if you don’t know what to believe about the Holy Spirit, you can’t put His power and ability to work in your life!  For instance, do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples about the Holy Spirit just before He went to the Cross?  The Bible says in John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby) that He may remain with you forever.”  Anything you could ever need from the Holy Spirit is included in that verse!

But, you have to believe in order to be established, as we have seen in Isaiah 7:9.  It is up to you to establish your heart in what the Word of God says about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  You must believe in His power and act on His leading before the Greater One within you can work in your life the way He wants to.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”



Keeping Your Head in the Last Days

Grace For The Journey


3Feb  We continue to look at 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 again today.  Yesterday we looked at the first sign the Thessalonians were given by Paul of the nearness of Christ’s coming – there will be a great “falling away” from the faith.  Today we will look at the second sign – “… the man of sin is revealed.“

After 14 years of studying the Bible, William Miller became convinced that Christ would return in 1843.  When Miller announced April 3 as the day, some disciples went to mountaintops, hoping for a head start to heaven.  Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend in reunion with their departed loved ones.  Philadelphia society ladies clustered together outside town to avoid entering God’s kingdom amid the common herd.  When April 4 dawned as usual the Millerites were disillusioned, but they took heart.  Their leader had predicted a range of dates for Christ’s return.  They still had until March 21, 1844.  The devout continued to make ready, but again they were disappointed.  A third date – October 22, 1844 was set, but it also passed.  Many people were swayed and confused by these end time teachings, and ultimately many turned not only from faith in those predictions but also from faith in Jesus.

This is a big part of the reason

That we need to have

A good foundation of what

The Bible teaches about the end times

And a firm grasp upon our faith.

In our text Paul writes to a church that had become confused once again about the end times and he writes to set them straight.  The question for us is “How do we avoid confusion in the midst of the last days?”  I want us to look at three simple, yet important, things that will help to guard against our faith becoming corrupted and confused.

The first thing that we need to guard against is, we must not be dismayed.

Paul says this in verses 1-2, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.”

Apparently, the church at Thessalonica, or some members of it, had become distraught because a rumor had circulated that the “Day of the Lord” had come and gone and they had missed it.  Paul seems to suggest that a letter or a report had falsely been sent in Paul’s name.  Paul is writing to correct these things.

The job of the enemy of our souls is to cause disbelief and disorder in the church; over the years one of his favorite methods is causing confusion about the end times.

Granted, because of all the preaching and teaching on this subject, the subject of the Second Coming of Christ can get a little confusing at times.  For example, there are some Bible teachers that believe in the Post-millennial theory of the Second Coming of Christ.  This theory holds that the church will remain on the earth until the Return of Christ at the end of this present age, at which time the church will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord when He Returns.  That is, the Rapture of the church and the Return of Christ will take place at the very same time, and conversely, the church will go through the tribulation and then experience the millennial reign of Christ.

Then there are those Bible preachers and teachers that hold to an A-millennial theory of the Second Coming of Christ.  This theory holds that there will be no millennial reign of Christ at all.  That is, they believe that everyone will be raptured at the same time and will all stand at a “General Judgment” before the Lord.

There are other Bible preachers and teachers that hold to a theory of Pre-millennial theory of the Second Coming Of Christ.  This theory holds that Jesus will rapture the church; there will be a seven-year tribulation period, followed by the millennial reign of Christ on the earth, which will be followed by the Eternal State.

Here is the bottom line – regardless of the correct theological interpretation concerning the Second Coming of Christ, you are not going to “miss” the Lord’s return if you’re trusting in Jesus – you don’t have to wonder about that.  Your salvation is based upon what Christ did and the fact that you are trusting in that.  The Day of the Lord isn’t going to come secretly and all of a sudden you realize that you have missed it.

The first thing that I want to drive home to you is this. . .

With regard to the Lords return

And specifically with regard

To teaching about it –

Don’t be dismayed.

The second thing that we need to guard against is, we need to be careful that we are not deceived.

Paul discusses this in verses 3-12.  In this passage he points out some truths that we do not have to wonder about:

First, we know that the forces of evil are at work in our world today.

Paul says in verses 6-7, “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.  For the mystery of iniquity is already work …”

Now we need to be careful right here, because Paul is not saying that the Antichrist is already here, he is simply saying that the attitude of lawlessness and rebellion that marks the work of Antichrist is already at work in our world today.  And I don’t think there is a person on the face of this earth that can deny that fact.

Christians today are the most persecuted group in the world.  Persecution is on the rise because of Communism, the expansion of Islamic and Hindu extremism, and because of the anti-Christ spirit that is prevalent throughout the world.  Literally hundreds of thousands of people today are being killed, brutalized, sold as slaves, imprisoned, tortured, threatened, discriminated against and arrested solely because they are Christians.

1 Peter 4:12-16 has given us this warning, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. If any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name.”

Jesus said this in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

The truth of is matter is that Christian persecution can be traced all the way back to Christianity’s beginnings.  Jesus Christ Himself was martyred on the cross.  Eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred for their faith.  John was the only apostle who died a natural death.  The Early Church faced widespread persecution with Stephen being the first Christian martyr.

Therefore, it is a fact that the attitude of lawlessness and rebellion is at work in our world today.

Second, we know that the restraining power that is now hindering Satan from having his way in today’s world is a “He.”

Look again at verse 7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”  It is evident that whoever this person is, he must be stronger than the devil, for it is Satan that is being restrained.

With that thought in mind, look at 1 John 4:4 where the Bible tells us, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.”

In this present age, God in His sovereignty is holding back the power of the Satan, and restraining him from doing all that he wants to do.

As bad as the world is,

It is not as bad

As it could be.

As evil as man is,

He is not as evil

As he could be.

But one of these days, God is going to remove that restraining power and allow Satan to have the fullness of power and authority on this earth.

But when is this going to take place?  The Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, and when the Church is translated, or Raptured, the Spirit’s restraining ministry will be completed, and therefore will cease.  Therefore, “the day of the Lord” will not fully come until the church is taken out of this world, and the restraining power of the Holy Spirit is removed!

Now what does the Bible mean when it talks about the man of lawlessness and a rebellion before the day of the Lord?  In answer to this questions, for the purposes of my blog, I am just giving a simple overview of the subject.  When it comes to the identity of “the man of sin, the son of perdition,” there is much controversy among theologians.  Some believe that the antichrist is an evil dictator that will rule the earth during the tribulation, which will occur before the Lord returns for His church.  Others believe the church will go through the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation before it is raptured when the antichrist is revealed and a time of great suffering and pouring out of God’s wrath will take place before the Lord return in the Second Coming.  Still others believe that the Lord is going to rapture His church immediately prior to the tribulation period; the antichrist will become a world leader, will sign a counterfeit Peace Treaty with Israel and operate under-cover for the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation period.  He will then reveal himself for who he really is, break his treaty with Israel and it is during this last 3 ½ years God will unleash His wrath referred in prophecy as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” or “the great tribulation.”  After these seven years, Christ will then return to establish His millennial reign on the earth prior to establishing the Eternal State.  Those who believe the last two view distinguish between the rapture and the Second Coming (Day of the Lord).

 And, thirdly, the last thing that we should guard against is that we must not be distracted.

Paul says this in verses 13-15, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

In other words . . .

Do not become so distracted

By thinking, studying, waiting on,

The return of Christ

That you forget the purpose

For which you were saved.

There is a world of lost people

Just outside the walls of your church

That need to hear

The Good News of Jesus Christ.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”