Sunday, December 20, 2009

First Thessalonians, Chapter Three

1 ¶ Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;
They could not wait any longer. Forbear is also used in 1 Kings 22:6.
Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
Notice that forbear is used in contrast to “go”, “shall I go” or “shall I forbear”. In this example, separated by a comma after “battle” you find, not the synonym or definition, but it’s opposite.
Again in the following verses we have forbear used in contrast with an “or” to show that they are meant to be opposites but the contrast is to hear.
Ezekiel 2:7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
Ezekiel 3:11 And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
In each instance of forbear it is used in contrast to someone who is going or hearing. In this instance the contrast is in the next verse.
2 And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
He sent Timothy to the Thessalonians and Paul remained behind in Athens. Timothy is a brother in Christ, a preacher, and Paul’s fellowlabourer in Christ’s gospel. His goal was to comfort the Thessalonians. We will find out why they needed comfort. There must have been some uncertainty or confusion. Sometimes churches need an evangelist from the outside to calm things down, or to stir things up. We know from the previous verse 14 that the Jews were stirring things up. You can put this in context today with liberal Christians making it rough for those who believe God’s Bible.
3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
Here is an important, but frightening point that Paul makes. The Christian is appointed to trouble. We are going to have Tribulation, persecution, and suffering. Its part of our plot on earth. It’s something we have to face square on. No one should be shocked or upset by the afflictions we suffer, will suffer for being Christians, even at the hands of other Christians.
4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
Paul had plenty of experience in suffering for Christ.
5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.
Paul’s concern was that Satan had somehow made an inroad into that church body. He was concerned about them enduring. A reading of Galatians plus his reference here in this letter to the Jews makes you realize that what he is worried about are the Judaizers, those who want to put the new believers back under the Law. We have this no less today in our fundamentalist churches.
6 ¶ But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.
Timothy’s report of the Thessalonian church’s faith and love for each other, charity, their good memory of him, and the fact that they are standing fast in the Lord and not falling for the Jews’ connivance as he warns about in Galatians, comfort Paul in his troubles.
Here, it says to “stand fast in the faith”;
1Corinthians 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
Here, to stand fast in the liberty where Christ has made us free from the Law;
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Here, to stand fast in one spirit.
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
And here to “stand fast in the Lord”
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
Paul is getting to a point here in his letter. Something is lacking in the Thessalonians faith. He puts it in the form of a question. He wants to complete or perfect what is lacking. What is lacking in our faith?
11 ¶ Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. 12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.
There is a key here that some angry fundamentalist Christians should read over and over. Paul asks the Lord to make the Christians abound in love toward each other and to all men, and then shows that as a condition of holiness.

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