October 26, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, October 27-November 1


Morning - Ps.89:1-19, I Kings21:11-22, James 4:13-5:11
 Evening - Ps 92, Job 28:12, Mt. 16:13

Commentary, James 4:13-5:11

Continuing in the subject of the difference between "doers of the word" and "hearers only," James 4:13-17 shows that hearers only are primarily concerned about money and the comforts and pleasures it can buy.  They are worldly rather than Godly.  James is not talking here about the openly profane, or about those who use questionable tactics in business.  He is talking about people who profess Christ, but whose faith does not move them toward God and Godliness.  These people claim to be Christians, but go through life with little care or thought for God.  Though such people may be very moral, James says their actions are evil (4:16).  In this uncertain world, goods, and even their lives can be taken away from them at any moment (4:14), therefore they should be more concerned about knowing God and seeking Him in all of life, including their business ventures (4:15).  They know this, yet do not practice it, thus, they sin (4:17).

In 5:1-6, James turns to the perils of wealth and the evil into which it has led many people. The point of verses 1-3 is that wealth is easily lost.  Verses 4-6 show what evil men do to obtain and keep wealth. 7-11 call Christians, and those who have been "hearers only" to turn their attention to the Lord, waiting for the promises of God as the farmer waits for the rains and the harvest (5:7-8).  He gives the Old Testament prophets as examples of patient faith, who endured rejection and persecution from their own people, just as Jewish Christians were experiencing in James' time (5:10).  He calls Job to their minds as an example of one who, though suffering grief and poverty, remained faithful to God, thus, possessing the greater wealth of God's love and mercy (5:11).  The point, of course, is that the Jews who were suffering persecution and loss for the sake of Christ also possess wealth that cannot perish, and even death can't steal, through the tender mercy of the Lord.


Morning - Ps. 90, 1 Kings 22:1-12, James 5:12-20
Evening - Ps. 104, Job 38:1-18, Mt. 17:1-13

Commentary, James 5:12-20

James ends his epistle with several important exhortations.  Swearing, in verse 12 does not refer to "cussing," though cussing is an obviously evil thing.  It refers to attempting to make an oath more valid by swearing in the name of God, Heaven, angels, or holy things which we have no power to bind by our promises. Such "vain and rash swearing is forbidden by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle" (see also the Articles of Religion XXXIX).  Accordingly we Anglicans ask people in baptism and confirmation to promise, rather than swear, and, rather than asking them to attempt to obligate God or anyone else, we simply ask them to respond with "I will, by God's help."  This answer is yea or nay.  "By God's help" is not an oath in the name of God, but a prayerful confession that the help of God is necessary to enable us to keep our obligation.

Verse 13, though short, gives important directions for much of what happens to us in life.  We are often afflicted.  At such times let us seek God in prayer.  When we are merry, let us sing Psalms to God in our joy.  Thus, in joy or sorrow, we come to God.  Often, even Christians, facing sorrow seek relief in things other than God.  Rather than prayer, and seeking to know the Biblical way to deal with our troubles, we think a vacation or a new toy will cheer us up.  But perhaps the Biblical answer may be to persevere and honour God even in our sorrows.  Likewise, in joy, people often forget about God instead of remembering and thanking Him.

Verses14-16 do not guarantee physical healing every time we get sick.  They do remind us that the prayers of our friends, and, especially, our ministers, are as important in the treatment of illness as the medications and advice of physicians.  We are to call for the minister of the church with as much urgency as we call for the physician.  His prayers, which avail much (5:16), are an important part of the means of our cure.  Our own prayers are also important, and chief among them is the prayer of confession.  This means we are not simply praying that God will heal us so we can go back to business as usual.  We are asking that life in the future will be more Godly.  We are asking not only to be delivered from suffering, but also, even, especially, that we may serve God more fully in the future.

Verses 17 and 18 continue to urge the sick, and all of us, to pray by reminding us that God answers prayer.  If God answered Elijah's prayer to withhold the rain for three years, we may believe He will answer the prayers of those who call upon Him today.

Verses 19 and 20 show that our responsibility for Christian compassion and love requires us to learn and grow from one another.  This includes the sermons, liturgies, and Bible studies of the Church, and also our daily discourse with one another.  Our conversation should be edifying to our hearers, building them up in the faith.  We should also be open to the wisdom of others, who may be able to see things we have overlooked.  This does not mean we are to become busy bodies, looking for faults in others and imposing our advice on them.  Remember James' earlier warning to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  It means that our actions and conversation should be helpful to others by pointing them toward Christ, His Word, and His Church.  If God in His grace uses you to help turn someone from error or sin, rejoice, for God has saved a soul from death and forgiven a multitude of sins.


Morning - Ps. 94, 1 Kings 22:13-28, 1 Timothy 1:1-11
Evening - Ps. 113, 114, Job 38:19-30, Mt. 17:14

Commentary, 1 Timothy 1:1-11

This morning's reading begins the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy.  As Paul wrote this letter he was in Macedonia, having been released from house arrest in Rome.  Timothy was in Ephesus overseeing the Church in that city and the surrounding area, especially the ministers, some of whom had begun to teach things contrary to the Gospel (1:3-4, 7).  Their attempts to teach the law, whether by intention or merely ignorance, had led some of the ministers into error.  So Timothy's task is to charge them to teach no other doctrine but the Gospel (1:3 & 4).  The "commandment" of verse 5 is not the Old Testament law.  It is the charge Timothy is to give to the ministers.  The end (goal) of this charge is love from a pure heart and good conscience.  This means it is real Christian charity, not phony or of mixed motives. A good conscience means to be able to say or do something without their consciences convicting them. The Christian minister should be able to say, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, that he loves God and His Church. Not just "The Church" but his own congregation and every member of it.  The same is true of every member of the congregation.  All should be able to say they love each other. A minister who loves his church will preach the truth to them.  He will lead them into the means of grace and the life of Godliness. A congregation that loves its minister will gladly receive his ministry and will ensure that they are present for his sermons and other ministries (1 Thess. 5:12 & 13). If someone is unable to say he is doing this, without his conscience convicting him otherwise, it is his duty to change his attitude and and actions.  
The Ephesian ministers attempting to teach the Old Testament law do not understand what they are saying.  Their teaching does not lead people to Christ; it binds them with burdens.  So Paul gives some instruction about the law.  Obviously Timothy already knows this, and Paul probably put it in the letter so the ministers could see it and know that the things Timothy was saying were from Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment (authority and decree) of God (1:1).  The point of these verses is that the law of God was not given for theologians to debate and discuss how far a person can walk on the Sabbath.  It was given to direct people into the way of God and to show us the things we ought to be doing.  In this sense, it is for the disobedient and ungodly (1:9 & 10).  It is for those who are doing anything that is contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the Gospel, which was committed to Paul by God (1:11).   To such people the law is a warning that they are not living according to the will of God.  Thus the law gives sinners (all have sinned, Rom. 3:23) an opportunity to repent and seek God's forgiveness in Christ.  The point of the law is to lead us to Christ.


Morning - Ps. 100, 110, 1 Kings 22:29-40, 1 Timothy 1:12-20
Evening - Ps. 116, Job 38:31-38, Mt. 18:1-14

Commentary, 1 Timothy 1:12-20

In 1 Timothy 1:5-11 Paul refutes the use of the law as a source of futile speculation.  It is not given so men can spin it into fables and genealogies as some of the Jews did (1:3 & 4).  It is given to show God's standard of righteousness, and how far we have departed from it.  In short, it is given to lead us to Christ.  Paul's own life is an example of this.  He rejoices that he has been called to the service of the Gospel (1:12), but recalls that he was previously a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His Church (1:13).  It was the grace of God in Christ that forgave His sins and called him into Christ's service (1:14), for Christ came into the world to save sinners (1:15).  For Paul to call himself chief of sinners is to recognise that he had departed far from the standard of God in the law.  But because he learned of his sin, he was moved to repent and seek God.  God had a dual purpose for Paul when He saved him. First, through Paul's conversion the world would see the longsuffering (patient love) of God (1:15).  Second, Paul's conversion was to be a pattern, or, example, to all who believe in Christ to everlasting life (1:16).  Future believers, including Timothy, those to whom he ministers, and us, can see in Paul's conversion the pattern by which God calls others to faith in Christ.   Paul's example ends in a doxology (1:17), thanking and praising God who has saved him and the Church through Christ.

Finished with his example, Paul continues to delineate Timothy's task in Ephesus (1:18-19).  We remember that Paul is committing to Timothy the task of charging the ministers in Ephesus to preach the Gospel of Christ instead of their own views and speculations (1:3-4).  Thus, Paul says in verse 18, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy."  "Prophecies" (1:18) are not things foretold about Timothy.  They the revelation of God taught to Timothy through Paul and others, and to which Timothy has devoted his life.  It is the Apostolic teaching, which is really Christ's teaching, by which Timothy is to "war a good warfare."  It is the Gospel of Christ, which will cast down Satan, free the spiritual captives, and deliver them safely into Heaven.  Timothy is to remember and teach the prophecies about Christ.

He is to teach in "good conscience" (1:19).  This means he is to first believe the Gospel, then teach it.  He cannot teach what he does not believe without being a phony and a liar.  Some have turned away from the Gospel, and suffered shipwreck on the rocks and storms of false teachings.  Hymenaeus and Alexander stand out in Paul's mind, and they have been excommunicated, which is to be turned over to Satan as unbelievers until they show signs of repentance and true faith.


Morning - Ps. 119:145-160, 2 Kings 1:1-17, 1 Tim. 2:1-10
Evening - Ps. 119:161-176, Job 39:19, Mt. 18:15

Commentary, 1Timothy 2:1-10

Though chapter 2 begins a new section, it is still part of Paul's instruction to Timothy about the commandment he is to give to the people and clergy of Ephesus.  Instead of false teachings (1:3) and fruitless speculation about the law (1:4), Timothy is to charge them to devote themselves to prayer and Godliness.  The prayers of verses 1 and 2 follow the ancient liturgies, and Paul probably had them in mind as he wrote these verses.  Note the similarity between verse 2 and the Liturgy of St. Mark as quoted in the Pulpit Commentary;
"Preserve our king in peace, in virtue, and righteousness... incline him to peace towards us and towards thy Holy Name, that in the serenity of his reign we too may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and honesty."
Rather than their own speculations, the ministers are to remind the people of the Gospel, of the only Mediator between God and man, "who gave himself a ransom for all" (2:3-6).  It is to proclaim this Gospel that Paul was ordained a preacher and Apostle (2:7).  The implication is that if Paul was ordained to preach the Gospel, then the clergy of Ephesus, ordained by Paul and Timothy, were ordained to preach that same Gospel.
Verse 8 refers to the public prayers in the churches of Ephesus.  "Everywhere," means, in all the congregations. "Lifting up holy hands" was the common position for prayer.  Meeting in the homes of the church members, which often had only a few stools or chairs, the Christians stood for hymns, Scripture reading, and sermons, and knelt for prayer.  Rather than folding their hands in front of them, they held them at their sides, waist or shoulder high and palms up during prayer.  They did not wave their hands or sway their bodies.
Verses 9 and 10 complete today's reading with instructions to the women to dress modestly.  This, of course, includes the need to dress in ways that cover, rather than in ways intended to allure.  But it also means to dress in ways that do not call attention to the cost and beauty of the apparel.  "Modesty" in this sense is used the way we use it when we say, "modest means."  The apparel should be adequate and comfortable, not shabby or poor.  The intent of the woman is not to have people admire her, but to worship God.

Morning - Ps. 120, 122, 123, 2 Kings 2:1-15, 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Evening - Ps. 144, Job 42:1-9, Mt. 19:1-15

Commentary, 1 Timothy 3:1-13

The Church belongs to God.  He established it for His own purposes, and He has given pointed and direct instructions regarding its nature and function.  The Church is His body, His kingdom, and His people.  In this regard it is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises, such as the one in Isaiah 60:3, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."  New Testament books elucidate the fulfillment of this promise in passages like Galatians 6 and Ephesians 2 and 3.  Galatians 6:16 teaches that all who walk according to faith in Christ are "the Israel of God."  Ephesians 2 and 3 teach that Jewish and Gentile Christians are "fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel."

God also gave the Church its doctrines, worship, and organisational structure.  They are found in the New Testament, which records and explains the life and teaching of Christ which He gave to the Apostles, and which He commissioned them to teach to the world (Mt. 28:19-20).  The Apostles taught others, and ordained them to teach others also (1 Tim. 4:6-16, 2 Tim. 2:2, 4:1-2).  This morning's reading in 1 Timothy addresses those called to offices of leadership in the Church.  Specifically it refers to those called to be bishops and deacons.

The bishop is the overseer of the churches in a particular area.  It is his task to ensure that the ministers teach the truth in accordance with what they have been taught by the Apostles. He is also responsible for ordaining properly called and equiped men into the ministry, and for seeing that the local churches receive the pure Gospel of Christ and remain free of the false teachers that constantly attempt to infiltrate the Church.  The abundance of false doctrines and false teachers made it very important for for the early Church to be able to distinguish between the true and false ministers.  One of the "tests" they used was called Apostolic Succession, meaning a bishop should be able to trace his line of ordination and teaching back to the Apostles.  During the life time of the Apostles this was quite easy, for the Apostles visited the churches and appointed and ordained the ministers in them.  As the Apostles began to die out, ministers ensured that they were taught and ordained by men who had been taught and ordained by the Apostles.  Careful records were kept.  Thus we know Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, was taught by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and Polycarp was taught by the Apostle John.  A similar process helped determine which of the many books circulating through the early Church were to be included in the Bible.  Those included had to be of Apostolic authorship, such as the Gospel of John, or written at the direction of an Apostle, such as the Gospel of Mark.  So it was very important that the clergy in Ephesus could say they were taught and ordained by Paul, or by Timothy, or by a bishop taught and ordained by them.  It was not a status symbol; it was a matter of keeping and teaching the Apostolic Faith.

Charged, by the Apostle Paul with the task of of teaching and ordaining clergy in the churches in and around Ephesus, Timothy was well aquainted with the qualities and qualifications required of ministers.  Paul put them in this letter to be read to the churches, so all would know that Timothy was not inventing them, but was doing all in accordance with the directive of the Apostle.

The requirements are clear and unambiguous.  The bishop is to be of good moral character (3:1-3), a Godly leader in his own home (3: 2, and 4), mature in the faith (3:6), and known for these attributes in the community (3:7).  As the primary pastor of the church in his area, he will continually lead the clergy and congregations into the things of God, therefore he must be apt to teach (3:2).

The requirements for deacons are no less stringent.  Deacons assist bishops and priests in the services of the Church and in the care of the poor.  They may also be called upon to preach and evangelise as Phillip was in Acts 8.  Their practice and knowledge of the faith must be in keeping with importance of this ministry.

October 19, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, October 20-25


Morning - Ps.41, 1 Kings 18:1-15, James 1:12-21
Evening - Ps. 33, Job 12:13-22, Mt. 13:53-14:12

Commentary, James 1:12-21

Today's reading supports the statement made in verse 12; "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation."  In verse 2, temptations refer to the various trials of life.  Here, in verse 12, they are the specific temptations to sin that we encounter in "the world, the flesh, and the devil." To endure such testing is a blessing from God, because those who endure temptation will receive the crown of life, which is eternal rest and peace with God in Heaven (1:12).

Verses 13-16 picture the progress of sin from temptation to action.  After affirming that God does not tempt or lead us in to evil, James tells us that our own lusts (the flesh) draw or lead us into temptation.  We are then enticed to fulfill our lusts, even by ungodly means.  So sin is conceived in lust and born of lust, and death is born of sin.

By contrast, God gives good and perfect gifts.  Note the line of thinking here; God does not tempt us.  Instead He gives all good and perfect gifts.  Sin leads to death, but God gives the crown of life.  There is no variation in God.  He is good throughout, and He begat us, or, caused us to be born again, by His word, that we may be the first-fruits of His creatures (1:17-18).

Finally, James draws two practical conclusions from his statement in 1:12.  First, let us be swift to hear, which is to receive instruction in Godliness, and slow to speak and wrath, which is to give in to pride and self-importance, and does not work Godliness in us.  Second, we are to lay aside the lusts and pride that lead us into temptation, and receive with meekness the word which is able to save our souls.


Morning - Ps. 42, 43, 1 Kings 18:16-24, James 1:22-27
Evening - Ps. 39, Job 14:1-14, Mt. 14:13-21

Commentary, James 1:21-27

Verse 21 tells us what we all know, that hearing the Word of God is not enough.  Those who allow the Scriptures to move them to faith and faithfulness are the ones who benefit from the Word.  Not surprisingly, James pictures two scenarios; first, of people who merely hear the word;  second, of people who hear and do the word.
Those who merely hear the Word will have different reactions.  Some will dismiss it entirely to live in unbelief.  They may be belligerently anti-Christianity, or they may be mildly respectful of it.  Either way, the Word has no home in their lives.  But these are not the people James writes to.  He writes to people in the visible Church, and he writes to encourage them to live for Christ as He lived, and died, for them.  Then, as now, many, maybe even most, who heard the Gospel and made some kind of response of faith in Christ, never really understood the Gospel, and never really had Biblical faith.  They may have changed some of their ideas about religion, started attending Church, and maybe even put away some of their more obvious sins; but they never really made any attempt to offer themselves as living sacrifices to God, or to embrace God as their God and His ways as their ways.  Like the Laodiceans of Revelation 3:15, they were neither cold nor hot about Christ.  They did their religious "duties" but remained unchanged in their hearts.  They did not become Christians, they just added a little Christian flavouring to their lives.

James describes them as looking into a mirror, but forgetting what they see as soon as they leave it (1:23-24).  The Word, that is, the Scriptures, tells us about ourselves as much as it tells us about God.  It tells us of our complete alienation from God due our willful sin.  It tells us we are under God's wrath and without excuse, and that our very best works and deeds are but filthy rags compared to Gods' consuming perfection.  It tells us of God's love, so great it compelled Him to become a man and live and die to reconcile us to Himself.  It tells us that He offers reconciliation to all who will accept it by faith and return to Him.  Yet, those who are hearers only, see themselves in the mirror and walk away unmoved and unchanged.

Those who hear and do the Word, described in verse 25 as the "prefect law of liberty," and "continue therein" are the ones who are blessed.  To continue therein is to receive Christ in Biblical faith.  It is to continually confess and repent of sin, and to continually turn to a life of love for and obedience to God.  To be blessed is to receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation, and the fruits of righteousness.  

The chapter closes with an example of hearers and doers in real life (1:26-17).  The hearers only do not bridle their tongues.  Instead of being slow to speak (1:19) they are swift to speak and bold about voicing their views and desires.  Their tongues are not under the control of God, showing that their lives are not either.  We will see more of what this means in chapter 3, the reading for this Friday.

The doers of the word are characterised by kindness, compassion, and charity.  Visiting orphans and widows in their distress, refers to actively working to relieve their sufferings. Rather than causing hurt and strife by their words, doers of the Word bring balm and relief by their actions.  The stinging words of those with unbridled tongues come from a heart ruled by self importance.  The kindness that speaks louder than words comes from a heart ruled by the love of Christ.


Morning - Ps.44, 1 Kings 18:25-46, James 2:1-13
Evening - Ps. 50, Job 18:5-21, Mt. 14:22

Commentary, James 2:1-13

It is not difficult to grasp the meaning of the words, "have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons."  Nor it is difficult to grasp the fact that the Church often, maybe, usually holds the faith with respect of persons.  The Love of Christ is for all.  The call of the Gospel, and its offer of forgiveness is for all.  Nationality, gender, race, and, especially, money, mean nothing to Christ.  In His eyes we are all poor, sick, and dirty until we come to Him for riches, health, and cleansing in our souls. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 5:3).
Quite obviously, not all wealthy people are wicked oppressors, and not all poor people are Godly or victims.  James is not saying they are.  He is saying that our concern, as the Church, is for all people alike.  There is a saying, "The ground is level at the foot of the cross."  It is also level in the Church.  If we create distinctions, it is we who err (2:9-13).


Morning - Ps. 49, 1 Kings 19:1-8, James 2:14-26
Evening - Ps. 73, Job 21:7-33, Mt. 15:1-20

Commentary, James 2:14-26

Many have thought James teaches salvation by works instead of salvation by grace. Verses 21-25 are the primary verses upon which they base their view.  But the point James makes is not that Abraham and Rahab earned Heaven by doing good works. It is that real, Biblical faith results in good works as naturally as being an apple tree results in apples.  James is writing about what Paul calls being transformed (Rom. 12:2), becoming a new kind of creature (2 Cor. 5:17), and sanctification, or becoming more Godly (1 Thess. 4:3).  It is the opposite of the mere assent to facts and doctrines, which even devils know (2:19).  It is being moved out of knowing about God and into actively doing His will.

If our faith does not express itself in good works (2:18), our faith is dead (2:17, and 20).  In other words, if your faith (assent to Christian doctrine) does not move you to faithfulness (seeking to live a Godly life), it is not Christian faith in the Biblical sense at all.  It is a corpse, a body without a soul (2:26).  So James is trying to tell us to move beyond intellectual belief to love and obedience of God.  We do not do good works in order to be saved; we do them because we are saved.  


Morning - Ps. 51, 1 Kings 19:9-21, James 3
Evening - Ps. 85, 86, Job 24:1-20, Mt. 15:21

Commentary, James 3 

James returns to the subject of bridling the tongue.  Why does he spend so much time on this subject?  Because the essence of a person is expressed in his words.  Remember that James is writing about the life of those who have truly embraced Christ as their Master and Saviour.  He is writing about what Paul called being sanctified and transformed into new people.  He is writing about living a faithful life (see Jas. 2:14-26 and accompanying notes for Thursday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity).  The tongue (mouth, words) of a person who is becoming more Godly will express the spirit of Godliness.  His mouth is a fountain of sweet water (3:12).  His conversation shows wisdom (3:13) and meekness.  "Conversation" as used in 3:13 refers to our whole way and pattern of life, not just our words.  The Christian's words express his way and pattern of living for Christ, while the unGodly person's express his way and pattern of living in wickedness.  In short, our words express our character.
There is also a sense in which our words, and thoughts, form and shape our character. "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7).  Therefore, if we make an effort to control our words, we are also making an effort to control, and, therefore, change, our character.  If, instead of cursing, we bless with our words, we also form a blessing character. We can influence the way we live, and we can develop our character.  If we are not making a good faith effort to do so, we are simply allowing the bitterness, envying, and strife of sin to rule us, and if we are allowing sin to rule us, and, at the same time, calling ourselves Christians, we are lying against the truth (3:14).  This is one reason why daily Scripture reading is so important.  By spending time in the Bible we are attempting to let its words shape our thoughts and characters.  We are not simply trying to gain knowledge about the Bible, though such knowledge is very important. We are certainly not merely doing a religious duty, nor are we simply "spending time with God." We are letting the Bible change, and renew our minds.  We are letting it shape our values and goals and life-views.  We are seeking to become more like Christ in our minds, for that will cause us to be more like Him in our actions and our being.  It is to bring our minds into contact with the wisdom that is from above which produces in us peace, gentleness, mercy, and the fruit of righteousness (3:18).


Morning - Ps.71, 1 Kings 21:1-10, James 4:1-12
Evening - Ps. 93, 98, Job 25:2-6 & 26:6-14, Mt. 16:1-12

Commentary, James 4:1-12

James is still writing about Godliness in the life patterns of Christian people.  Elaborating on his statements in 2:17 and 18, his point is that real, Biblical faith changes a person and that change is visible, or, expressed, in his actions.  By contrast, a false faith, one that is merely an intellectual assent to doctrinal propositions, makes no change in a person. It leaves him in the same old sinful inclinations he was in before he came to believe the propositions.  Such unchanged people still lust and war over the things of the world (4:1-2).  Their prayers are not prayers of faith that trust God to supply their needs.  They are prayers that God will grant them the things for which their hearts lust, so they may consume them in gratification of their lusts (4:1).  While Abraham was called the friend of God 2:23, their friendship is with the world, and they are at enmity with God (4:4).  It is no wonder, then, that God resists them (4:6) for they resist God.

Thus James encourages his readers to submit to God and resist the devil (4:7). Rather than heedlessly chasing the world, James asks them to draw nigh unto God (4:8) with the same fervour and devotion with which they formerly sought the world.  He promises that God will draw nigh to those who seek Him.  Verse 9 means to turn completely away from the former things.  Let those things for which they were formerly prepared to fight, now become the cause for mourning and heaviness.  No more are they to laugh (find pleasure) in sin, but to be filled with sorrow over it.  To be humble in the sight of the Lord is to mourn over sin; to confess and turn away from it, and to turn to God as Lord and God.  Those who do so will be lifted up out of their degradation and condemnation.  They will be exalted to Heaven forever (4:10) by the Lawgiver (Christ) who is also the Saviour (4:11-12).

October 12, 2014

Scripture and Commentary October 13 - 18


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 they are to care for the souls of the members, and has a note of authority in it. Ministers 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.


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 Kingdom of God, 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.

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.  Many, finding that the promised health and wealth miracles do not come, 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.  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.  He does not ask for deliverance from suffering in it.  He does not ask 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.


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 Kingdom of God 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 think that 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.  He is saying that the idea that the Day of the Lord has already come is wrong.  He is also saying that the idea that the Day of the Lord is so immanently near that we should not plan for the future or work for a living, is equally 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.

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.


Morning - Ps.27, 1 Kings 16:29, 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5
Evening - Ps. 31, Job 10:1-18, Mt. 13:1-23

Commentary, 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 an 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 Mark, and possibly Matthew, existed, at the time Paul wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and the Thessalonians did not have a copy of either.

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 faith 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.


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 Thessalonian Church 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 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."

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."


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.

In short, His purpose is to develop Godliness in us.  As James wrote, He is working to make us "perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (1:4).  Our trials are often the tools He uses to increase Godliness in us.  Every trial is a temptation to desert God and return to sin.  Every temptation is an opportunity to choose God over self; to choose to follow Him in faith, or to run back to sin.  Thus, in temptation, our faith is exercised.  It is tried, it is tested, it is made stronger as the body is made stronger with physical exercise.  Perseverance, or, endurance, is the kind of patience this trying of faith produces in us. And those who persevere become more faithful and more Godly.  Paul may have been thinking of this passage in James when he wrote Romans 5:1-4.  The pattern in both passages is the same: tribulation works patience, patience produces experience, and experience produces hope.  The end result of faithfulness in trouble is Godliness, and Godliness is the goal of God for His people.  

October 5, 2014

Scripture and Commentary, October 6-11


Morning - Ps. 103, 1 Kings 8:1-11, 1 Thessalonians. 1
Evening - Ps. 104, Mt. 9:18-35

Commentary, 1 Thess.1

The Church in Thessalonica was founded by Paul and Silas during Paul's second mission journey and has the distinction of being the second church founded on European soil, probably in the year 51 or 52 A.D. (Acts 17:1-10).  Silas is called by his Roman name in 1 Thess. 1:1, "Silvanus."  Paul may have written 1 Thessalonians from Corinth, for he mentions in verses 7 and 8 that the Thessalonians were examples to believers in Achaia, where Corinth was located.   The letter was written to encourage the Christians in that city who were under persecution from the very start (Acts 17:5), which is why Paul wrote they had received the word in much affliction (1 Thess.1:6).  The new Christians feared for Paul's safety, and secretly sent him and his companions away at night (Acts17:10).  Yet the Thessalonians' perseverance in the faith was known "abroad" (1:8).  According to Acts 17:2,  Paul spent only 3 weeks in Thessalonica, so these new converts, with very little exposure to the Gospel, remained faithful in the face of persecution.

Truly the Gospel came to them in power and in the Holy Ghost (1:5).  Paul does not mean that he used persuasive arguments or eloquent speech to move the hearts of the Thessalonians.  He refers to the Spirit moving the people to believe the Gospel and trust in Christ. 


Morning - Ps. 118, 1 Kings 8:12-21, 1 Thess. 2:1-16
Evening - Ps11, 113, Mt. 9:36-10:15

Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16

The Roman world was rife with travelling "preachers" selling their various religions and philosophies for a price.  It is not surprising that Paul has often been accused of being just another of them.  This charge comes not only from modern skeptics, including many "inside" the Church, but also seems to have been prevalent in Paul's own life time.  Surely his opponents and detractors would use such a charge to discourage people from listening to or believing the Gospel, and, apparently some in Thessalonica accused him of it, for 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 seems to be a defense of Paul's legitimacy as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The false teachers sold empty promises at high prices to the poor and hopeless masses of the Roman Empire.  Using psychological/emotional manipulation they induced emotional experiences in their followers, which they claimed was the work of their deities.  The experiences relieved the people's mind-numbing despair and left them with a good feeling, for which they gladly paid large amounts of their small incomes.  Some of the false teachers began to preach heretical versions of Christianity, finding their way into the churches. They often found the Christians easy targets for their scams.  The church at Corinth is an obvious example of this.

Cults continue to use these tactics today.  Many of their converts are former church members who do not know the Scriptures or the faith well enough to resist their manipulative methods.  This is one reason why we should spare no effort to learn and understand the Scriptures and worship in a Biblical church.

Paul says the Thessalonians know Paul and his fellow ministers are not like the others (2:1).  They know, "our entrance unto you."  The false teachers sought comfort for themselves, but Paul and Silvanus suffered great physical abuse for the Gospel.  At Philippi they were publicly flogged and imprisoned (1 Thess. 1:2, Acts16:22-24).  In Thessalonica a mob took to the streets with the intention of killing them (Acts 17:1-10).

Paul says his ministry among the Thessalonians was free of the manipulation and tricks of the false teachers (2:3).  He used no "deceit," meaning false teachings or watered-down doctrine to attract crowds.  He used no "uncleanness," which is preaching Christ for personal gain and fame (see also verse 6). Nor did he preach with "guile," meaning he did not use psychological/emotional tricks to manipulate and sway the people.  It is, unfortunately necessary to mention that watered-down doctrine, personal gain, and psychological/emotional manipulation have become standard methods of drawing people into the "church" today.  Preaching has been exchanged for motivational pep talks; and worship has been patterned after rock concerts and sporting events, all in the effort to please the people and make them feel good about being in church.  But Paul says he does not try to please the people.  Instead of using tricks, he trusts God to reach people through the faithful preaching of the Gospel.  It is impossible to imagine Paul going into a city with a band playing the music of the pagan culture, or having the crowd sing emotional songs in a semi-hypnotic fashion to get them ready for an emotional sermon, long on anecdotes and flattery (2:5), but short on doctrine. Such were the ways of the false teachers, not Paul.

Instead of "selling" the Gospel, Paul was not "burdensome" by receiving money from the Thessalonians (2:6).  Though, as a minster of the Gospel he had every right to financial support (1 Cor. 9:1-14) he, and his fellow servants of Christ laboured night and day because they "would not be chargeable unto any" (2:9). While the false teachers grew wealthy on the gifts of the people, Paul and his companions supported themselves through Paul's work as a tent maker.  They probably made tents during the day and taught about Jesus at night and in the Synagogues on the Sabbath.  He reminds the Thessalonians of this, saying, "For ye, remember, brethren, our labour and travail" (2:9).

The difference between the character and behaviour of the false teachers and that of Paul, Silas, and Timothy is shown in verses 7, 8, and 11.  Their concern was for the spiritual good of the Thessalonians, not their own fame and fortune. He compares them to a nurse or "nanny" who cherishes the children trusted to her care.  Again he says they were "affectionately desirous" of them; they cared about the Thessalonians and wanted them to know Christ.  In this desire they gladly gave not only the Gospel, but also their own souls to the Thessalonians.  These words are very similar to those Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:15; "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you."  This expresses well the feelings of all true ministers of the Gospel.  We desire to spend and be spent in the service of God's people because you are dear to us. Verse 11 compares their labours to those of a father comforting and teaching his children.

The Thessalonians know Paul speaks the truth here because they are witnesses (2:10).  The Thessalonians saw the lives and behaviour of Paul with their own eyes.  But God also saw it.  God also knows that they behaved themselves "holily and justly and unblameably" for the cause that the Thessalonians would walk (live) worthily of God who called them into His Kingdom (2:12).

Verse 13 begins to describe the way the Thessalonians received the ministry of Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy.  They not only saw how the ministers lived and noted the sacrifices they made, they also saw that the Gospel they preached was not like the doctrines of the false teachers; it was the word of God.  It is important to note that the holy living and sacrifices made by Paul testify to the truth of his message.  Just as Peter and other Apostles would not have been willing to suffer for a lie, Paul and his companions would not be willing to endure their trials merely for the sake of making money from a false religion.  They obviously believed in what they taught, and this lent credence to their words. Ultimately, however, it was God, not Paul, who enabled the Thessalonians to believe the Gospel.  Through His Spirit He enabled them to see that it was the word of God, and by His Spirit He made it effectual in them.  Paul did not need to use tricks and gimmicks to reach people for Christ.  The Gospel reaches them by the power of God.  "For the word of God is quick, and powerful... and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb 4:12).


Morning - Ps. 119:113-128, 1 Kings 8:22-30, 1 Thess. 2:17-3:13
Evening - Ps.119:129-144, Mt. 10:16-31

Commentary, 1 Thess. 2:14-3:13

To be followers of the churches in Judea (2:14) is first to be in Jesus Christ and the faith delivered to the Church by Him, taught by His Apostles, and recorded in the Scriptures.  Second, it is to suffer persecution from your own people.  The "Jews" of verse 14 are not the average "man in the street" but the religious and political leaders and their henchmen who committed the horrible deeds of verses 15 and 16.  Many Jews were also Christians. Others were sympathetic to the Church and held it in high esteem (Acts 2:47).  Thus, Paul's statement in verse 14 is not against the Jews as a people, but against all who do evil in the name of God.
Paul desired to return to Thessalonica, and had planned to do so many times.  When he says Satan hindered him (2:18) he probably refers to the attention his return would call to the Christians, renewing and intensifying the persecution against them.  While Paul did not fear for himself, he preferred not to further endanger the Thessalonian Church.  Thus, he sent Timothy to Thessalonica from Athens to further establish and comfort them in the faith (3:1, 2, 4).  Timothy was not as well known as Paul, and could easily enter the city without causing another riot.  His task was to continue to teach the faith to the Church, and to help them not lose heart due to the continuing persecution of Paul and his companions (3:3 & 4).

Paul is encouraged by the good news Timothy brings back from Thessalonica (3:6-8).  He feels that his sacrifices and sufferings for the Gospel are worth it when he sees people standing firm in the faith due to his work.  This is true joy for all faithful ministers of Christ (3:9), while it is almost crushing sorrow to see people they have spent and been spent for (2 Cor. 12:15) turn away from the Church and their ministry.  Thus, chapter 3 ends with a benediction (11-13) which summarises Paul's prayers for the Thessalonians.  Everything he asks in this prayer is for the benefit of the Thessalonians, even his prayer that God will direct his way back to them, is a request that he may continue to teach and strengthen them in Christ.  When a true minister of the Gospel asks you to come to church, Bible studies, and Prayers, he is not asking you for his benefit.  He is asking you to come for your benefit, so you may increase in Christian love and be established in holiness before God, and so you will be found in Christ at the coming of our Lord.

Morning - Ps. 126, 128, 1 Kings 8:54-63, 1 Thess. 4:1-12
Evening - Ps. 121, 122, 138, Job 1:1-12, Mt. 10:32-11:1

Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

The Thessalonian Church seems to have been remarkably free of the theological and practical errors that plagued so many churches of that time.  Maybe it was because the church was so new the false teachers hadn't discovered it yet.  Maybe it was because the false teachers stayed away out of fear that they would be persecuted along with the Christians.  Certainly the persecution contributed to the congregation’s faith and unity, for the false teachers stayed away, and the false, lukewarm believers left.  Only the true believers stayed, and they needed each other so much they did not think about fighting and dividing over the foolish things that often divide the contemporary church.  Thus, Paul does not spend time in this letter exhorting the people to repent of sin and heresy.  Instead, he calls upon them to "abound more and more" and "increase more and more" in the things they are already doing (4:1, 10).

His exhortations in verses 2-12 are not given because the Thessalonians do not know or do the things of God.  They know the commandments they were given by Christ through Paul (4:2).  The exhortations are given to remind them and encourage them to continue to increase in the things of Christ.

Paul uses the word, "sanctification" to describe the process of abounding and increasing in one's walk with God.  As it appears in English, sanctification derives from the Latin word for holy.  This meaning is made clear in its many English derivatives, such as sanctity, sanctuary, and sanctify, meaning, holy, holy place, and, to make holy. Thus, sanctification means to be made holy, or to be set aside for God. In Greek it means to make pure, and since God is absolute purity, it means to become more like Him.  Sanctification, then, is the life long process of becoming more and more holy, or, more and more like God in your character and actions, and more and more the person God intends you to be, and less and less the person you were before you trusted Christ and began to walk with Him.

Paul makes this point in verses 4-12.  The "vessel" of verse 4 is the body.  To possess it is to keep it, and we are to keep our own bodies in (here's that word again) "sanctification."  Our bodies belong to Christ as surely as our souls.  So we are to honour Him with our bodies.  The most obvious meaning of this is sexual purity rather than lust or, "concupiscence" (4:5), but there are other applications as well.  Clean living, healthy lifestyles, and sobriety are examples.  Fraud (4:6) refers to impropriety in business, which is just another means of theft.  "Uncleanness" is the life of sin and disregard for God.  It is the opposite of the life of quiet Godliness and sanctification (4:11) to which Christians are called (4:7).  For those interested in such things, the word translated "sanctification" in verse 3, "holiness" in verse 7, and "holy" as in "Holy Spirit" in verse 8 are all forms of the same Greek word, "hagios."  So, though our English version uses two words to translate it, in the Greek they are all the same.

To despise what Paul teaches here is not just to despise Paul, but to despise God.  How does this apply to those who distort the Bible's message?  How does this apply to those who stay away from the Church, or attend churches where the Gospel is distorted?  How does this apply to those who refuse to heed the Biblical teachings of a Godly minister?  Do not such people also despise God?

While verses 5-8 describe things that are in opposition to the life of holiness, verses 9-12 tell of things that are in accord with it and of its essence.  As Paul wrote, "as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you."  You already know and practice it, so "increase more and more" (4:11).  Integrity in all dealings with others is an important part of Godliness.  We should do our own business (4:11) rather than expecting others to take care of us.  "Those without" (4:12) are those outside of Christ.  We are to conduct ourselves with integrity and honesty toward them.  As we do our work and earn our livings in integrity and honesty we will provide the things we need for ourselves and families.  This honours God, and is an important part of the sanctified life.


Morning - Ps. 102, 1 Kings, 9:1-9, 1 Thess. 4:13-18
Evening - Ps. 139, Job 1:13-22, Mt. 11:2-19

Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Timothy brought much good news to Paul regarding the Thessalonians.  He also carried back with him their one big question, what happens to Christians who die before the Lord returns?  Apparently some have died in Thessalonica, causing so much grief and anxiety among them, Paul worried that they grieved as the pagans, having no hope that the dead would have a part in Heaven.  Thus, Paul writes to comfort them with greater understanding of the promises of God (4:13).  As Christ often called death "sleep," so Paul says Christians who have died are asleep in Jesus (4:14).  The first thing we learn here is that they are not dead as the pagans thought of death.  Their being has not ended.  It continues on in another state or dimension, so that it may be said of their bodies that they sleep.  Second, the dimension, or realm of their continued existence is Christ.  There is no separation from Him in death for the Christian.  The Christian merely sleeps in Christ, but this sleep is of the body only.  The soul goes into the immediate presence of God, as shown by such passages as Luke 16:19-29, Luke 23:43, Philippians 1:23, and, especially, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8.  Third, the body will be resurrected.  People question how a body that has been eaten by beasts, or become nourishment for trees and plants over thousands of years can be resurrected.  To that we can only reply that it will be a glorified body, and that the One who created this vast universe is able to re-order its elements and compounds as He decrees.  Though, how, is beyond our understanding, the fact of the resurrection is as much a part of the Gospel as the Return of Christ.

Our hope, or, confidence, for the resurrection is that Jesus died and rose again (4:14).  Christ Himself made it very plain that His death was a conscious offering of Himself on the cross as the propitiation for our sins.  No power on earth could have taken His life otherwise.  He had the power to lay down His life, and the power to take it up again (Jn. 10:18).  If He has that power for Himself, He has that power for His people also.

The dead will have a dual role in the return of Christ.  First, they will come with Him (4:14).  Their souls, which have been with Him in Heaven, will come with Him when He returns, and will witness the entire event.  Second, their bodies will be resurrected before those living at the time are taken up.  "The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up" (4:16-17).
The result of this is, "so shall we ever be with the Lord" (4:17).  This is the Second Coming.  This is the return of the Lord to bring the world as we know it to its end.  This is not the "rapture."  It is open and public, for all to see.  Christ commands the dead to rise with a loud voice; the trumpet blasts like a military signal that is "loud enough to raise the dead."

Finally we come to the point of all this, which is comfort.  "Comfort one another with these words" (4:18).  Paul is saying these truths, these doctrines ought to bring cheer, joy, and hope to believers when we stand beside the grave of a loved one, and when we face our own death.  For even in death we are in Christ, and we will ever be with the Lord. 


Morning - Ps. 143, 149, 1 Kings 11:26-37, 1 Thess. 5:1-11
Evening - Ps. 97, 98, Job 2, Mt. 11:20

Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Having shown that Christians who die before the return of Christ are actually with Him in Heaven and will return with Him to greet those who are alive at His coming, the Apostle turns to the event of the Second Coming in this morning's reading.  Paul calls it "the day of the Lord" (5:1).  It is important to see that today's passage is a continuation of yesterday's.  Yesterday, in 4 13-18 Paul wrote of the condition of those who die prior to that Day; in today's passage he writes about discerning the times and seasons. The times and seasons are not signs that tell us the Day is near; they are the present time and season, and the future time and season of the Day of the Lord (Acts.  1:7). We live in the time and season prior to the fullness of Day of the Lord.  But, the time and season of its fullness is coming, and Paul wants the Thessalonians, who are confused about this (1 Thess. 5:1, 2 Thess. 2:2), to know which time and season they are in, and how to conduct themselves in it. 

The Day of the Lord is a frequent phrase in Scripture, describing the time in which God visits His wrath and grace upon the earth.  It is the era in which He makes all things right and establishes His Kingdom in fullness upon the earth.  It has the sense of both being here now, and the sense of being not yet here in its full and complete sense.  We who are in the Church are people of that Day, but the Day itself is visible only to the eyes of faith.  One day our Lord, who came once in humility, will return in power.  In that Day He will bring the time and season of darkness and sin to an end, and will establish the time and season of His Righteousness openly and fully in the New Heaven and New Earth.  When will this happen?  Paul says the Day will come "as a thief in the night" (5:2).  This means it will come at a time when the world does not expect it.  The people of the world will be going about life as usual, not looking for God, not concerned about Godliness, but, as in the days of Noah, carrying on with life as usual, thinking all is well and that they live in peace and safety (5:3).  Then, as far as they are concerned, without warning, the way labour pains come upon a woman, the Day of the Lord will be upon them, and there will be no escape.

But it will not be that way for the Church.  We are not in darkness (night) like the people of the world (5:7), so the Day will not overtake us like a thief (5:4).  A thief comes secretly, at a time he thinks he will not be detected, his arrival is unexpected.  If we knew when a thief was coming, we would be awake and ready.   The point is that Christians are awake (5:6) and looking for the Lord's return.  It will not be a surprise to us.  We are ready always.  Knowing that the Lord will return, and being people of the Day who look for the Day of the Lord, we are sober, put on the breast plate of faith and love; and the helmet of the hope of salvation (5:8).  In other words, we live in anticipation of the return of the Lord, whether He comes to catch us up to meet him in the air at His return, or whether He comes to take us individually to His House of many Mansions through death (5:10).  We live in His grace, we conduct ourselves in Godliness, and we look for His Return.

Verse 9 brings us to an important point; we will not be overtaken by surprise, because we are appointed to salvation, not wrath.  It is those appointed to wrath who will be surprised.  They do not look for the Day because they do not seek God.  They don't believe the Day is coming, just as those in the days of Noah did not believe the flood was coming.  Since they didn't believe in it, they didn't prepare.  Since they didn't prepare they were lost.  Those who don't believe in the return of Christ will not prepare for it.  They will not put on the breastplate of faith or the helmet of the hope of salvation.  They will continue in the things of darkness (5:7).  Since they will not prepare, they will be lost.  But we who have put on faith and hope in Christ are prepared, and we will be saved.

It is integral to a right understanding of this passage to know that it is this spiritual preparation to which Paul refers.  It is faith and hope in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Heaven (5:8).  Paul does not intend for us to spend our lives trying to make current events correspond with Scripture as "signs" that His return is near.  Nor are we to attempt to "date" the Day of Christ's Return, as so many have done in recent decades.  We are to be preoccupied with faith and Godliness.  Note also that this passage, like 4:13-18, is not about the "rapture." It is about the Return of Christ, the Second Coming, the great and fearful Day of the Lord.

"Wherefore" (5:11), meaning, because of these things, because you know these things, and because you are appointed for salvation, comfort and edify yourselves and one another with them.  To comfort is to encourage faith and hope.  To edify is to build up a person in the faith and hope of Christ.  This is not accomplished by working up feelings.  It is accomplished by putting us in mind of the great truths of this passage.  It is done by reminding ourselves and others that we are in Christ whether we sleep or wake (5:10), and that either way we will see the Day of the Lord on this earth, and will participate in it in all its glory and goodness.  This is our hope and comfort.