Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Category Archives: 1 Thessalonians

BIAY – Bible in a year – December 12th 2015

image

This article is part of a series called Bible in a year, for the full year please check out our BIAY home page, or for December check out our December page.

Thank you for checking out “bible in a year” post for December twelfth.

Today’s scripture is as follows:

1st Thessalonians 1-5.

Please share, comment or like below as the LORD leads
TGBTG
TTE

Advertisements

Would you eat before coming home for your dinner?

20140722-112252.jpg

Would you eat before coming home for your dinner?

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Can I say this once to begin with, God wants his people to be pure. He designed a framework for us to work in because as he made us in the image of God, he knows our DNA, he knows what makes us tick, he knows what is inside of our heart. He sees the evil thoughts, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of our life. The crazy thing is – He loves us anyway!

Have you ever had that one friend that you baulked at being around, they drove your spirit down, they rubbed off on you, their humour was crass, you felt dirty after spending time in their presence. I can only imagine that God must be like with us, however, unlike us he has compassion on us and wants us to get better and become more like him.

Purity is important, the reason I write this is that sin starts always in the same way, it starts in the same way a flower does, it blossoms a seed, now the seed is your sinful thoughts, your desires, unless they are fed, watered they will wither and die (much like a flower) however if you feed it, it will grow.

Thoughts are thoughts; it is what you do with them that counts! You have one of two choices; you can dwell on them, crave them and then start sliding on that muddy slope to eventually begin to act upon them. Or you can extinguish the fire while it is still kindling. Coming from a state which is known for its forest wildfires, it is far easier to extinguish a smolder than a 15 acre fire.

What is love?

We have to be careful with the word “love” because in many cases, when we are fed things from the media machine that gives us our information, love actually means lust. Modern day love quits when the going gets tough, when the thrill is gone or when it just gets too tough.

Let me be clear, it can happen but does not happen often, we won’t often find love in our current culture called the “hook up” culture, where it is “free love” on steroids, it is all down to what floats your boat at the time, self-gratifying, self-pleasing, erotica where they may disguise it as seeing each other for dates, but it really is about what they do for each other’s lusts.

But I have never cheated, I am ok right?

Depends on your heart, Jesus states to the “righteous in deed” crowd called the Pharisees that if you “lust after a woman with your eyes, you have committed sin with her in your own heart”. This is not a Bill Clinton moment, there is no opportunity to ask us to “define what we mean by relations” It is cut and dried. It is down to your heart and what is currently churning through there.

We are asked to control our own body, (let me just say that women are not exempt even although it states “his”, women have lusts, desires and all that fun stuff to!) both internal and external, our eyes, our thoughts, our actions, our reproductive organs (yes I mean what you think I mean) which is the reason for my title “Would you eat before coming home for your dinner?”

What I mean by this is that God gave us those desires, they are natural desires. he also gave us a way to fulfill those desires by ordaining the union of marriage between one man and a woman in order that we may fulfil those needs in each other.

Lust like most sins is an appetite, if you are married and you know you have a good home cooked meal ahead of you, would you drive thru and get dollar menu knowing this will make you not eat what your loving wife has prepared for you? Why would you do likewise with your other appetites?

What about us singles? Are we off the hook?

No, not really. As singles you are commanded to be pure! If there is something that helps or empowers you to stumble, then don’t do it. If you can’t be left alone on the internet then do go on it, if there is a TV show that causes you to stumble then don’t watch it. If there is a book that inspires a thought life that will lead you to burn, then don’t do it.

TV shows and movies are dangerous if you fail in this area, you have to analyze why you watch some shows, is it because of a certain actor? If you are in a relationship and you start to compare your partner (spouse or dating) to that person, the real person will never shape up to the airbrushed person on the screen.

I always tend to avert my eyes (and I get teased for it) if there is something questionable on the screen, I want my wife to be the object of my affection and desires. I fail in so many other ways, I don’t need to add another to my pile of faults.

On Sunday, I was reminded that you can burn thirty years of good solid Godly ministry service with one indiscretion that is brought to light. People will not remember all of the things that you did to advance the kingdom of God, they will always see you due to that one act (or more if there was more)

We have not to be consumed with our lusts, so that it possesses us. We cannot be “called to holiness” if we are semi filled with our lusts. Light cannot dwell with darkness; there is no “Ying/Yang” in a hunger for holiness.

We are reminded at the end of this passage that should we continue in our sin, we set ourselves against God and not man! Personally, I find that a scary place to be! I would not wish to set myself against the one who created the earth and universe in 6 days. Makes me feel how small I am compared to God.

God will not be mocked, he knows our hearts, and he knows the ones who are trying to skirt his laws, to get as close to sinning but not actually sin. To push the envelope (usually in the name of exercising their “liberty in Christ”) and will have grace on those who genuinely try to live a life in holiness.

God bless and I hope this a blessing, a challenge and please comment with any views you may have
TGBTG
TTE

Redeemed like Onesimus?

20140319-151422.jpg

Philemon 1:1 (ESV) Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. 7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. 8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Benediction

Philemon 1:1 (ESV) Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We learn from this passage that Paul wrote around the time of Acts 28, whilst he was in jail. I find it great that he lists himself not as a “Prisoner of Rome” or an “Apostle in Christ Jesus” this verbiage tells me a few things about Paul. It tells me firstly that he was happy to be in prison for Christ’s sake. In the passages of Colossians 3:23 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 we see the heart of how we are to serve, regardless of our circumstances.

It is a fantastic insight into Paul’s commitment also, Paul was beaten, imprisoned, threatened, bullied, despised wherever he went and eventually killed for the name of Jesus, how much more committed can you get! On the TTE Facebook page I shared the expression that Chinese believers had and the way they treated their first ever Bible. It was eye opening to me as I have at least 7-8 copies of that book in my house and to my shame I have never treated it in the precious fashion that these believers had. Like Paul, these guys are persecuted for their faith, in the 20th Century! Many of them had only single pages to read, so getting a whole bible was akin to winning the lottery for these people.

Paul has his companion Timothy with him also, Timothy is mentioned as I am sure that he would be familiar to the church in Colossae, Timothy at that time had been travelling for some time, which explains the co-laborer status. We read that this letter is addressed to three people.

 

Philemon – Who hosted a home church and was previously Onesimus master
Apphia – Philemons wife
Archippus – Philemons son

 

Now what I am unsure of is who dealt with the day to day running of folks like Onesimus. It may have been dealt with by any of the three. Unlike Paul’s other letters, whilst they had a recipient, they were meant to be shared, this letter has a familiar tone to it and reads like a letter to a man and his family concerning the contents of the letter. We also read that Philemon had his church in his house. He appears to have been wealthy, having slaves. Matthew 18 tells us that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

This speaks to me, because as Christians we have to have our church like a home, a place of worship for our LORD. Unity in doctrine and the bible being the centerpiece of the home as opposed to being open for special occasions, filling ourselves and then going out on mission to where God has placed us to spread the love of Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. At present my wife and I are going through a reading plan to enable this and our marriage has never been stronger.

Blessings to you my brother

…3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ…

Paul gives a typical Pauline greeting, Paul advises that he prays regularly for the recipient. As Christians this is very important that we pray for one another (whether we are in each others favor or not) In 1 Thessalonians 5, we are told to “Pray without ceasing” it is really that simple. If you feel far away from God, get in prayer and talk to him. Spend quiet time listening as well as talking; if you want to be more Christ like, you have to spend time with him. Paul is thankful that he knows Philemon and it is for the reasons listed in verse 5. Philemon has a good report. Philemon shows the characteristics in Titus 2:8-10 when we are looking at the qualities of a “Bishop” (or overseer) in the church as regards to his tongue and his doctrine. Jesus himself intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25) how much more should be interceding for each other, prayer isn’t barred by distance.

Philemon has love and faith, first for Jesus and them for the people that he had been trusted to lead. When you become a leader in the church of Jesus Christ, you are in a position of trust. Many things you do will be unseen, but any mistakes you make will be magnified. Philemon has a good report, which tells me that he led well. Paul’s prayers were that Philemon would see “every good thing that is in us” and that is something we could all do with, realizing where we came from and the work that has been done in us already by Christ. (As well as things we need to work on) No two people will have the same story and we have to learn which parts of our stories glorify God.

Appeal for Onesimus

…7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. 8 Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) 12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20 Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say…

I started Onesimus appeal here as Paul speaks of the “refreshing of the saints hearts” and I get that where I am in my life at present. I have recently found a new love for “koinonia”, time spent with people of similar doctrines for the purpose of edification and fellowship, some may say sharing also. As any good leader does, Philemon was proactive in meeting the needs of the folks he was leading. Many leaders cause themselves unnecessary issues by being reactive leaders and only spring into action when they need to put out fires or diffuse anger. This is destructive as it invites problems.

Paul states he is bold enough to command, however he gives Philemon the opportunity to make good choices. Paul has a real Pastoral father’s heart here. Paul gets to the “meat and bones” of the letter by stating he is asking a favor, however he is asking in love rather than being an overbearing commander, how awesome is that! Paul appeals to him in his present status, he is in jail and he is an old man. Perhaps he was stirring up sympathy or loyalty from Philemon; however it is clear that he is asking in love as opposed to “pulling rank”.

He appeals for a man who was previously in servitude to Philemon and had offended his master by escaping. Based on when the letter was written it would be logical to assume that Onesimus escaped to Rome, where he met Paul in the later days of his imprisonment and became over time of use to Paul. Paul taught him in his present state, led him to conversion, disciples him in the word of the LORD and as a keen student, Onesimus grew to be useful. Onesimus served Paul as if he was serving his master and was fulfilling the role that Philemon would also have gladly assumed. I have no idea whether Onesimus sought out Paul or whether the LORD engineered their meeting, Onesimus escaping was probably the best thing that could have happened to him.

Paul alludes to this is verse 15, supposing that this might have been the reason he was allowed to come as far to meet Paul (in a straight line the distance is 858 miles, but the actual journey is probably much further) So for this man Onesimus to go to such lengths to get away tells us he was not there voluntarily. Also with the way that he left you can imagine that the very name of Onesimus would invoke a strong reaction in Philemon’s heart, let alone having him in front of him delivering a letter. I doubt he was received well before the letter was presented.

Paul asks him to not just be restored to Philemon’s good graces, but restored as a fellow equal and brother in Christ and not a slave (v16) Paul alludes that there may have been an issue of Onesimus owing Philemon something, whether by debt or theft (v18-19) Whatever his crime, Paul advises that he knows what he did and was requesting forgiveness, Paul lastly asks that he be received as if he was Paul himself. Wow! He is really asking a favor huh? You have to remember, Onesimus left in disgrace as a slave that had went away, and he had no rights of ownership prior to this letter.

Paul returns Onesimus to Philemon (v12) a man in chains returns a former man in chains to the man he was in servitude towards so that he maybe forgiven. What a picture of what Christ has done for us. Regardless of the wrong, regardless of the amount of debt, Jesus paid it all! Paul was very confident that Philemon would do as he said.

Closing remarks

…22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you. 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers. 25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Paul is confident that he will see Philemon again, so has requested that he have a place prepared for him. This also verifies the closeness between the two that having Paul staying would be like having one of the family over. Philemon was very hospitable. He then goes to mention many of the same folks that are mentioned in Colossians 4:10-17, which confirms that the letter was sent to the same place.

Why is Onesimus important?

I honestly don’t know! Some commentators have Onesimus being the same Onesimus as a future Bishop of Ephesus, whilst that may not be true that would be an awesome end to the story and the Bishop of Ephesus was still within a conceivable lifespan of the Onesimus in Philemon.

Personally, I think it’s the account of redemption, the story that a guy who had done wrong by his master could not only be redeemed, but redeemed both in social status as well as redeemed as a brother in Christ. For me that is a true story of hope and a reason I love this Epistle so much.

I pray that this Bible study was a blessing to you and I welcome comments below.
TGBTG
TTE

Ten Commandments through the eyes of the Epistles

20140316-094213.jpg

Your mission field should you choose to accept it

Ten Commandments through the eyes of the Epistles

In a previous article I spoke of Agape love and gave a brief definition of what it was, when beginning this study I decided to take a short look at something Christ said. This question occurred when the Pharisees (The teachers of the Law, the ones who should know better) were questioning him about what the greatest commandment was.

Jesus answers in the gospel of Matthew 22:35-40 when he says:

 

35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

I find this wonderful and what a teacher our LORD was, broke down the 10 Commandments in one sentence! (If you wish to read the 10 Commandments they are in Exodus 20:2-17)

10 Commandments in a paragraph

I am no way as good a teacher as our LORD so I will try to do this in a paragraph. (I also studied this a lot as I wanted to write a book on the subject) The first 4 Commandments refer to your relationship with God. (Verses 3-11) The last 6 refer to your relationship with others. (Verses 12-17)

You can’t love people the way God wants you to until you first love God.

How so you treat your neighbour?

Lets have a reality check here folks, I was in a meeting recently with a local Pastor and we were discussing an issue that was divisive in the church at large and I eventually said to him “we all have to own how we treat each other!” (This was 2014 and it was concerning two Christian brothers at opposite ends of Christendom as far as how they reach people for Christ)

Jesus himself advised this self same point in the Gospel of Luke 10:29-37, so many of us become a “Diotrephes” and become puffed up and start to think we are the main show when we are simply the tolls used by the master craftsman.

The thing that strikes me today about that parable is it is the ones who have been overlooked for the “show ministries” that are making the difference to the guys who are in the ditches, Praise God for those with a Samaritans heart that just get on with it and have the heart to do it for Gods glory and not for the praises of men.

Those folks to me are showing the real Christ, those guys who show Jesus’ love and not judgement to the guy in bondage to drugs, to alcohol or whatever their vice is. That to me is true agape love.

Verses that show the value of keeping the last 6 Commandments

Lastly, we have further reading in the Scriptures that show the principles of the Ten Commandments in other parts of the Bible. They are below:

Respect authority – Ephesians 6:1-3; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Protect Life – Deuteronomy 19:11-12; 1 John 3:15

Protect Marriage – 1 Corinthians 6:13-18; James 4:1-4

Respect Property – Exodus 22:1-15; Malachi 3:8-10

Honour Truth – Zechariah 8:16-17; Ephesians 4:29-32

Reject Greed – Psalm 106:13-15; 1 Timothy 6:9-10

Love is showing them Jesus

In conclusion, I want to share that it is great to love people on this earth and attend to their day to day needs, but if we really wish to love them we also have to show them Jesus.

To do the first would be like performing the role of a triage nurse in an ER room to a gunshot wound victim. Whilst your role is important, if they don’t have surgery they will not survive. We have to book the person we are agape-ing (is that a word?) in For a “Salvation-ectomy)

Step 1 – Bear them in love

We read in the book of Ephesians the following words:

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

That is what we were talking about before, this applies to our relationship with believers and non-believers, if you clean a man up when he is at his lowest, he will listen to you when you try to show him a better way.

Step 2 – preaching is not just words

2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

You notice the word that is in both verses “patience” I love this because when I was in sin, I loved it! I was Mr. I can drink more than you, I can eat more than you, I can party more than you.

The person you are “agape-ing” may still be there, they may have one foot in both camps, they may still be in sin, you have to teach them honestly sound doctrine and show them the reason you are there and why you love.

Step 3 – Have compassion but save by fear

This point is summed up beautifully in the Epistle of Jude:

Jude 1:20 (ESV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Some will believe when they hear of Jesus love, some will believe because they do not wish to spend eternity in the lake of fire! (Revelation 20:11-15)

Hell is real folks! Lets not forget, as Christians our MO is to keep as many folks out of there as possible. We are to be missionaries to where God has planted us, and to do what he has called in our lives.

I pray this was challenging and an exhortation to you! God bless you and TGBTG
TTE