September 30, 2012
Monday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps.18:1-20, 1 Kings, 12:1-11, 1 Thess. 5:12
Evening - Ps. 7, Job 3:1-20, Mt. 12:1-13
Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
1 Thessalonians closes with words that are full of practical wisdom and truth, yet are so clear they need little explanation. The relationship between the Church and her ministers is addressed in verses 12 and 13. The ministers are described as "over" the Church in verse 12. This means they have the responsibility for overseeing the work and ministry of the Church, especially the ministry of the word and sacraments. It also means to care for the souls of the members, and has a note of authority in it. They have authority to "admonish," which means to give encouragement and hope, and to correct errors and call people to Godliness, through the public ministry of teaching and preaching, and through the private ministry of personal visitation and counsel. They also have authority to discipline people who have fallen into serious and unrepentant sin. The minister is to labour for the Church. He is to spend himself, and to be spent in the service of the people, in order lead them into the things of God.
The Church is to "know" her ministers, meaning to recognise their service, their sacrifices, and their self-giving love on their behalf. It also means they are to recognise the true ministers, and distinguish them from the false teachers. The Church is to esteem her ministers, which is to hold them in high regard; not just regard, but love.
The end of verse 13 turns to the relationships of the people within the Church, beginning with the encouragement to "be at peace among yourselves." 14 and 15 continue in this theme, and are so clear that no explanation of their intent is necessary.
Verses 16-28 give several short exhortations, most of which are self explanatory. Verse 20, "Despise not prophesyings," puzzles some until it is remembered that God continued to send prophets to His people in the early days of the New Testament Church. The prophets were enabled to expound and apply the Old Testament Scriptures to the Church. Thus, their ministry was primarily one of preaching the Gospel prior to the writing of the New Testament Scriptures. The office of the prophet has now been replaced by preaching, which is the exposition and application of the Bible.
Tuesday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps. 20, 23, 1 Kings 12:12-20, 2 Thessalonians 1
Evening - Ps 11, 12, Job 4:12, Mt. 12:14-30
Commentary, 2 Thessalonians 1
Like 1 Thessalonians, Second Thessalonians was written by the Apostle Paul from
Corinth in or around the year 52 A.D. Timothy had been sent by Paul to Thessalonica
and had probably spent a couple of months there completing the task of organising
the church and instructing the clergy and congregation in the doctrines of the
faith (1 Thess. 3:2). Because Paul was anxious to hear back from him about the
safety and progress of the Thessalonians, Timothy went to Corinth, where Paul was teaching at that
time, and gave the Apostle the good news that the Thessalonians were
persevering well in the faith (3:6). He was sent back to Thessalonica almost
immediately, bearing a letter from Paul, which we know as the book of 1
Thessalonians. One of the purposes of
the letter was to inform the Church that Christians who die before Christ
returns to bring the Day of the Lord to complete fulness, will not miss
out. They will have a prominent role in
the events of Christ's Return, and are now with Him in Heaven (1 Thess.
4:13-17, see also 2. Cor. 5:8). Timothy,
returning to Thessalonica with this letter, probably spent several more weeks
in that city, teaching the Church to know and follow the Saviour, Christ. At
length he returned to Corinth
to work with Paul and report back on the situation in Thessalonica. Continuing questions and issues in Thessalonica
caused Paul to send Timothy back to it, this time carrying another letter from
Paul, which we know as 2 Thessalonians.
Apparently the persecution in Thessalonica continued, even months after Paul left the city, for 2 Thessalonians opens by addressing it. The Christians are commended for their patience and faith in their persecutions and tribulations (1:4), and, especially that their faith and love "groweth exceedingly" in spite of their sufferings, (1:3).
Verses 5-11 refer specifically to the fate of the persecutors, and the result of enduring persecution in the lives of the Thessalonians. For the Christians it is a sign of God's favour, for they have been counted worthy of the
, and worthy to suffer for it. Had they been unworthy, had their faith been
simply an emotional response to the manipulations of the many false teachers of
the era, they would not have withstood persecution. Standing firm shows the
reality and depth of their faith. Theirs
is a worthy faith. Kingdom of God
It is always easy to go over to the other side; to abandon the true faith for the easy believism offered by those who preach a different gospel and a different Christ. Today many call themselves Christians, whose faith is really about emotional experiences, self-esteem, or getting worldly goods and miracles from God. These people leave their faith as soon as the church "services" fail keep them entertained, which is why so many churches feel the need to constantly be on the cutting edge of music and cultural trends. Or, finding that the promised health and wealth miracles do not come, they leave their faith behind. In short, when their faith requires anything from them, they find they have nothing to give because they have received nothing. The Thessalonians had received the Gospel of Christ. They had received life through His atoning sacrifice. They had received the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the means of grace. They did not expect God to make life easy for them. Their church was born in persecution, and they expected following Christ to be costly. Thus they were able to persevere.
Yet they did not expect their persecutors to get away with their evil, and Paul makes it clear that their tormentors will suffer terrible consequences for their actions. Paul remembers that persecuting Christ's Church is persecuting Him (Acts 9:4), as every sin against the Church is a sin against God, and he shows that God will repay the persecutors with tribulation (1:6), just as He will repay the faithful with "rest" (1:7). When He comes with His angels to bring in the fullness of His Day, the tormentors will be cast into the fire and punished with everlasting destruction, banned forever from the presence and glory of God (1:8-10). This fate awaits all "that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:8). Notice again that it is "that day," the Day of the Lord that Paul refers to. This is the Second Coming of our Lord, in glory and power to put all things right (1:10).
Paul ends the first chapter with a prayer. There is no asking for deliverance from suffering in it. There is no asking that the persecution will end. Instead he prays that the Thessalonians will continue to prove themselves worthy of their calling in Christ as they persevere through their suffering (1:11). This prayer is a terrible blow to those who teach or believe that having enough faith guarantees that God will deliver them from circumstances and situations they don't like, or will give them health and wealth and miracles anytime they ask for them. Paul prays for God to fulfill the pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power. He is praying that, as the Thessalonians show themselves worthy through their endurance and faithfulness in all situations in this life, God will continue to work faith and Godliness (the pleasure of His goodness) in them. This faith will continue to show itself in the increasing and continuing "work of faith with power." In other words, faithfulness under trial leads to increased faith, and increased faith leads to more faithfulness.
The result is that the name of our Lord is glorified (1:12). This verse is yet another reminder that the center and meaning of all things is God, not us. We err greatly when we think God created all things, suffered on the cross, and endures the constant sin and frustrations of humanity just for us. It was for His own glory and pleasure that we were created (Rev. 4:11). He has a purpose for His creation, and He is daily at work bringing it towards His goal, which is to establish a Kingdom and people for Himself. The goal of God is to bring all things together in one in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It is Christ, not we, who is the central figure. It is for His glory that we are saved, and live, and die, and live with Him forever.
Wednesday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps. 21, 28, 1 Kings 12:25, 2 Thess. 2:1-12
Evening - Ps. 29, 30, Job 5:8-18, Mt. 12:31
Commentary, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Not surprisingly, the Thessalonians still had questions about the Return of Christ, which Paul answers in this passage. Again, let us remember that the subject here is Christ's Second Coming to inaugurate the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2), or, as Paul calls it here, the day of Christ (2 Thess. 2:2). It is His Coming to establish the
on earth in all its full glory and completeness. The Greek word used here is parousia, which carries the meaning of a
royal visit, or coming in royal glory to rule the kingdom. Thus, in 1 Thessalonians we see Christ
returning as the King of Glory, heralded by the trumpet of the Archangel, and issuing
royal commands to the creation (1 Thess. 4:16).
Theologians have spent much time trying to decide whether verse 2 means
to say that the Thessalonians fear the Day of Christ has arrived in fulness, or
that they merely believe it is near, "at hand." Actually, both are correct, for Paul is
arguing against both concepts. He uses a
Greek word that means to be present with, as well as to be impending or
near. so he is saying that the idea that
the Day of the Lord has already come, and the idea that the Day of the Lord is
so immanently near as to make planning for the future and working for a living
unnecessary, are wrong. Those who say it
has already happened are quite obviously wrong, for the world goes on much as
it did before Christ came to earth and worked His wonderful gift of salvation
by the blood of His cross. Evil has been
dealt a death blow, but it still lives, and people live in open and unrepentant
sin. When Christ Returns, all of this
will end. The Day of the Lord will bring
His Kingdom of Righteousness to fulness forever. Kingdom of God
Likewise, His return is not so near that we can put the rest of life on hold to wait for it. This is the most prevalent problem in Thessalonica, and is one reason why we should agree with the reading in the King James Version, which tells the Christians of Thessalonica not to fall for schemes that say the Day of Christ is "at hand," meaning immanent at any second. Some in Thessalonica, had stopped working and supplying the needs of themselves and their families because they believed Jesus would return within the next few days, if not the next few minutes. Instead of earning their own living, they spent their time spreading their views in such obnoxious ways as to make them nothing more than "busybodies" (3:11), who, because they had not worked to provide for themselves, expected others in the church to feed and clothe them and their families. This is not according to the "tradition" (teaching and example) of Paul, and the short answer to this problem is that "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (3:10).
Paul then tells them that the Lord will not return until a great "falling away" from the truth occurs within the Church, and the man of sin is revealed (2:3). This man, also known as the Anti-Christ, opposes all that Christ stands for, and he does so in such a way that his ways appear good and godly. While there are many anti-Christs, there is but one Anti-Christ, and he will ultimately deceive people into believing in him as God (2:4). This Anti-Christ appears prior to the Return of Christ, and our Lord will destroy him at His coming (2:7-9). All who were deceived by him (10-11) will be destroyed with him at the Lord's return (2:12). So this event will occur prior to the Lord's Return.
Each generation has read this passage and thought it was in the time of the falling away and the man of sin. In a sense they were right, for the spirit of anti-Christ is always strong in the world because the general nature of fallen humanity is inclined towards it. People have noted the moral decline of culture, and have noted many wicked people, whom they thought might be the Anti-Christ. But Paul seems to indicate that there will be no doubt in the Church as to the Anti-Christ's identity. We will know him when he appears. Until then, we are to devote ourselves to Godliness and faith, not idle speculation.
Thursday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps.27, 1 Kings 16:29, 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5
Evening - Ps. 31, Job 10:1-18, Mt. 13:1-23
2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5
Doom and destruction await the man of sin and all who reject the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone (2:10-12). What a contrast this is to the state of those who believe in Christ unto salvation. We may tremble for those who do not believe, but we, like Paul give thanks for those chosen for salvation (2:13-14). We give thanks that we are sanctified by the Spirit and enabled to believe the truth. We know we were called into this grace by the proclamation of the Gospel. Note that Paul calls it "our Gospel" (2:14). He does not mean it belongs to him, or that he made it up. He means it is the Gospel Christ gave to the Church through the Apostles, and which Paul and the other Apostles preach and teach. It is what is often called the "Apostolic Faith."
Paul's desired outcome of enduring hardship and persecution to preach the Apostolic Faith is that those who receive it will continue in it until the Lord receives them into Heaven forever. Thus, he encourages the Thessalonians to "stand fast," a military term meaning to stand your ground in the face of enemy attack (2:15). They are to "hold" or embrace the "tradition which ye have been taught." This is not the tradition of men which the Pharisees produced and followed in preference to the Scriptures. It is the Gospel and the knowledge of Christ given by Christ through the Apostles. At the time of Paul's writing, it is probable that the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, had not been written. So the Church relied on the testimony of the Apostles as guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:12 and 13). During their ministry it is likely that the Apostles began to write some things down, and as they aged, they compiled the Gospel accounts. But only the Gospel of Peter, known to us as "Mark" because Mark wrote it as Peter dictated it, existed, at the time Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and the Thessalonians did not have a copy.
More of the joy of the Christian, as opposed to the doom of the unbeliever, is expressed through a benediction found in verses 16 and 17. It is basically a prayer that all the good things Christ died and rose again to procure for His people, would be given in abundance. to the Thessalonians. These are the things that will comfort their hearts; things like faith, hope, assurance that they are in Christ and that His promise of forgiveness and Heaven will not fail. Having this comfort, Paul prays that they will be established in every good word and work.
In 3:1-2 Paul asks the people to pray for him. He asks that the word of the Lord, the Gospel, would have "free course, and be glorified." "Free course" means to run free, to be unhampered so it may go where it will. Paul is asking that it will not be hampered by him, either by his own human frailties, or by the persecution he faces for it. He is asking that persecution and trials would not stop him from proclaiming the Gospel. That the Gospel would be "glorified" means that people will receive it in faith and become followers of Christ: that they will recognise it as the word of God, as the truth, and will honour it in their lives and in their hearts, regardless of opposition, persecution, or cost.
His confidence is not in people, but in the Lord (3:4). The Lord is faithful and will establish them in the faith, keep them from evil and enable them to do what Paul commands them as their Apostle and pastor in the Lord.
The last phrase of verse 5 is important in the context of the earlier discussion of the Return of Christ. Paul prays for them to be directed "into the patient waiting for Christ." He asks them not to become distracted from the daily Christian life and their regular duties in this world, by a constant preoccupation with the time of the Lord's Return. They are to look for His Return. They are to live in anticipation of it. They are even to pray for it, "Thy kingdom come." And they are to be patient, tending to the business of being God's Church on earth until that Day arrives.
Friday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps.37:1-24, 1 Kings 17:1-16, 2 Thess. 3:6-17
Evening - Ps. 22, Job 11:7, Mt. 13:24-43
Commentary, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-17
There is a God-ordained order, or, pattern for life. It revolves around God and consists of faith, worship, love, and work. We could express it as; love God, love your neighbor (especially those of your own household), go to Church, and find a useful occupation to provide for your needs and honour God.
A small group of people in the
were not living by this pattern.
They were, "walking disorderly" (3:6). They were not carousing or fornicating, but
neither were they living by the pattern of life God intended. Their primary departure from the pattern was
that they had stopped working for a living and were expecting the others in the
church to feed and clothe them and their families. Why? They believed the Return of the Lord to
bring in the fulness of the Day of the Lord, was so immanent that it made all
preparations for future life on earth meaningless. These people believed the Second Coming would
occur within the next few weeks, or even within the next few minutes (2 Thess.
2:1-2). Therefore, they had stopped
working and caring for themselves and their families, expecting others in the
church to clothe and feed them. Thus,
Paul exhorts and commands them, "that with quietness they work and eat
their own bread." Thessalonian Church
Paul and the evangelists exemplified this when they were in Thessalonica, working night and day to both preach the Gospel and provide for their own expenses (3:7-9). Though they had the right, as do all ministers of Christ's Church, to receive a wage for their work, just as any other person in any other honourable occupation, Paul and his companions did not want to burden the new Christians, so they earned their meager living by working another job in addition to their labours in the Gospel. The implication is that, if Paul can provide for himself, so can the Thessalonians. And Paul offers himself and his conduct as an example to the disorderly in Thessalonica (3:9). The word used in the original Greek is the word from which we get our English word, "mimic." So Paul is exhorting these people to mimic him and his companions by returning to work and providing for themselves.
Those who refuse to live by this teaching (tradition) are to be avoided (3:6). This is not formal church discipline, and it is certainly not excommunication, for the people are to be treated as brothers rather than unbelievers (3:15). It does mean those who work are not to enable idleness in others by feeding and caring for them. They are to stop subsidising the sin of idleness and let every one live by the rule "that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (3:10).
Paul closes his exhortations with a prayer that the Lord of peace Himself will give His peace to the Thessalonians (3:16). The disorderliness of some has caused disruption in the peace of the Church and the lives of its members. Their disorder is in stark contrast to the Lord of peace. His ways are the ways of peace. His order for quiet Godliness brings peace. So this is a prayer that the Thessalonians will return to His ways and restore His peace in the church. "By all means" refers to the means by which God works peace in His people. These are usually the ordinary means, rather than miraculous gifts. Peace comes through trusting God with this life and the next, and by accepting what He gives. It comes through living peacefully with others and by conducting ourselves humbly and lovingly toward others, with words and actions that promote peace rather than instigate hostility. It comes from hearts and minds that are being transformed and renewed by constant immersion in the Scriptures, the Church, and all the means of grace. These things work peace in us individually and corporately.
Verse 17 simply tells us that Paul wrote it with his own hand as proof that the letter is from him. The rest of the epistle was probably written by someone else as he dictated it. Verse 18 closes the epistle with a benediction very characteristic of Paul and full of his love and hopes for the Thessalonians. Like all Scripture, it is not just for those first recipients, but for all of God's people in all times and all places; "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Saturday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
Morning - Ps.37:25-41 1 Kings 17:17, James 1:1-11
Evening - Ps. 145, Job 12:1-10, Mt. 13:31-52
Commentary, James 1:1-11
James gave us one of the earliest of the New Testament writings, dating from around the year 48 A.D. Its audience is clearly Jewish and its purpose is to instruct Jewish Christians who fled
Jerusalem during the persecution that
followed the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1 (Jas. 1:1). Today's reading encourages Christians to
remain faithful, even under persecution, and gives a critically important
picture of what God is doing in the lives of His people. God is not trying to give us lives of ease:
He is forming us into new people, new beings who are being renewed in every
aspect of our being. He is sanctifying
us, and preparing us to dwell in Heaven with Him forever. In this process He is weaning us from earth
and leading us to value, love, and trust Him more and more. Rather than delivering us from our trials and
hardships, He uses them to draw us to Himself and to teach us to trust in Him.
God Our Only Hope
Psalm 25, Ephesians 4:1-6, Luke 14:1-11
Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
"In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." These words of Christ in John. 16:33 do not surprise those of us who have had some experience with the ways of the world. We know we live in a fallen world, a world where people often do bad things, a world in which we often suffer as the result of other peoples' sins. We know this, not as theory, but as fact verified by our own hard experience in life. We know this as fact verified by the teachings of Scripture. Ephesians 4 reminds us of the tribulations of St. Paul. Luke 14 records the opposition Jesus faced from the scribes and Pharisees who exalted themselves above God. We remember the words of Christ in Matthew 10:24 and 25:
"The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?"
But we are fallen creatures, too, and we know that much of our tribulation is self-inflicted as we reap what we have sown. Psalm 25 is the prayer of a person experiencing deep tribulation partly because of the actions of others, and partly because he is reaping the natural consequences of what he has sown through his own actions and decisions. But the Psalm is not a complaint about the writer's tribulation, it is a prayer of faith. It is an expression of trust in God. David, in the midst of all his troubles writes, "Unto thee, O Lord, will I lift up my soul; my God, I have put my trust in thee."
David trusts God to teach him the ways of God. "Show me thy ways," he prays. "Teach me thy paths. Lead me forth in thy truth." How can we possibly know God? How can we ever hope to know what He wants from us, or wants to give to us? He must show us. And He has shown us. He is revealed in nature, for "The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handy work" (Ps. 19:1). And there is something inside of us that knows about God, an instinctive knowledge that we ought to live and be better than we are, and that we will give an account of our sins one day. Thus Romans 2:15 tells us the law of God is written in our hearts. So, through nature and through His law written on our hearts we are able to discern the invisible attributes of God, "even his eternal power and Godhead," says Romans 1:20. But this revelation is incomplete. It does not tell us how to worship God, or how the Church is to be ordered, or how to live for God at work and at home, or how to build a Godly family or a Godly nation. But most of all, it does not really tell us of God's mercy. It does not really tell us of God's everlasting love. It does not tell us how to find forgiveness of sin, or how to find peace with God.
This was accomplished by God sending prophets and teachers to give and instruct us in the moral law of the Old Testament. God also gave the ceremonial law through them, which points us to the Great Salvation He would accomplish for us in Christ, of whom the Temple and sacrifices were symbols and shadows. It is Christ who ultimately reveals God, for "he hath declared him" (Jn. 1:18). Christ taught the revelation of God to the disciples, and commissioned them to proclaim it to all people (Mt. 28:19-20). He also commissioned them to teach and ordain others who would, in turn, teach others (2 Tim.2:2). The Apostles recorded the ministry and teachings of Christ for us in the Bible, and it is the standard by which all other teachers and doctrines are measured.
David trusts God to forgive his sins. He trusts God to "Remember not" his "sins and offenses" "Be merciful unto my sin" he cries in verse 10, "for it is great." It is Christ who accomplishes the forgiveness of our sin. The rituals and ceremonies of the Old Testament ceremonial law were symbols and shadows of Christ, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. We "have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14). He died for our sins, and "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn. 3:16).
David trusts in God for many other things. In verse 5 it is for continuing mercy. In verse 14 it is for defense from enemies. I would like us to focus on verses 12, 16, and 21 as we come to the close of the sermon. Verse 12 says of the man who fears God, that means reverent love combined with respectful fear, "His soul shall dwell at ease." God will give that person peace in his soul, and nothing in this world or the next can take that peace away. It is the peace that passes all understanding. It is the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ which the world cannot give or even understand. It is the peace that comes from the knowledge that "all things work together for good to them that love God" and that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:28, 35-39).
This does not mean we will never see troubles. It does mean God is with us, even when we face trials, and His grace is sufficient for us at all times. David, in the beloved Twenty-third Psalm, said he would fear no evil even in the valley of the shadow of death. He said God prepares a table for him "in the presence of [his] enemies." The enemies were still there. The wolves were still lurking and prowling, often in open view of the sheep. Yet God had brought him into green pastures and beside still waters, and God continually "restoreth" David's soul. God had something for him even in the presence of enemies and troubles. Now, today, God is with us. God has peace and grace and blessings for us, today, in this life, in this world of troubles and wolves and wolves in sheep's clothing. He is leading us into us His will and guiding us into His ways, and He will not allow the trials of this world to ultimately defeat us. We can be of "good cheer" because He has "overcome the world."
Finally, David trusts God to "Deliver Israel, O God, out of all his troubles" (vs. 21). This is one of the verses upon which our "Prayer for all Conditions of Men" bases the request to give us a "happy issue out of all [our] afflictions." We have no delusions that the world is going to love us and welcome Christ into its heart today. But we do believe a better world is coming, and in that world all the cares and troubles of this world will be over because God will finally, completely, and forever deliver Israel, that's us, out of all his troubles.
"O most loving Father, who willest us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of thee, and to cast all our care on thee, who carest for us; Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which thou hast manifested in us in thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."