November 3, 2018
After a 3 week hiatus the blog is up.
Joke of the Week
A minister had all of his remaining teeth pulled out. New dentures were being made. The first Sunday, he only preached 10 minutes. The 2nd Sunday, he preached only 20 minutes. On the third Sunday, he preached 1 hour 25 minutes. When asked about this by some of the congregation, he responded this way: “The first Sunday, my gums were so sore it hurt to talk. The second Sunday, my new dentures were hurting me a lot. The third Sunday, I accidentally grabbed my wife’s dentures….and I couldn’t shut up.”
News of the Week
Next Sunday, November 11, is Veterans’ Day, and a special Veterans’ Day at that. One hundred years ago, November 11, 1918, the Allies (USA, Canada Australia, and New Zealand, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Serbia) and the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey) signed an armistice ending World War I. WWI was called the Great War, and for good reason: it was the largest armed conflict ever in Europe (the Napoleonic Wars and the Thirty Years’ War lasted longer, but involved fewer casualties and destruction.) After WWI people optimistically labelled it “the war to end all wars.” The victors established the League of Nations towards that end.
We all know how that turned out, and we should have known. Historians point to various actions and events that led to WW II in just 20 years: harsh reparations demanded of Germany and Germany’s subsequent economic hardship, a return to isolationism in America, the increasing military strength of the Soviet Union….these and other factors.
Christians should not have been surprised. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
The Lord went on to speak of the persecution of Christians and the proclamation of the gospel over the whole earth before he returns to reign. All these things are still going on: persecution, the spread of the gospel, and, yes, wars and rumors of wars.
So let us celebrate Veterans’ Day appropriately, but let us not forget that wars will continue until the Prince of Peace comes to establish his kingdom, and let us pray with St Paul, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Only then will we experience the true armistice and end to war.
Children Grow Older . . . Is Now the Time?
Saluda Press published its first book three years ago, in December of 2015. That book is The Crescent and the Cross: The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad. It is a work of Christian juvenile fiction. In it Sinbad the Sailor sets out on his eighth voyage as a Muslim and comes back a Christian. High adventure and gospel truth combine to make it a great read for readers 7 to 14 years of age, though younger children and adults have enjoyed it.
Perhaps you were aware of the book—I have tried to push it on this blog—but your children were too young. But children grow older, and the child who was five years old in 2015 and too young for the book is now eight, an age where he or she can read and understand, be entertained while absorbing gospel truth. Your son or daughter may now be ready to read this book; now may be the time to order a copy of The Crescent and the Cross for Christmas.
Consider this: you will have your children home for two weeks of vacation. They may get bored, and that’s no fun for you either. An avid reader will finish the book in two days, but hey, that’s two days you don’t have to hear him or her whining (not that your child would do that . . . .
Buy from Amazon or directly from me by going to Buying My Books at the top of this blog.
- How does Paul exhort the Thessalonians to live? vs. 1-2
They are to live as Paul had previously taught them.
- What is the end or goal of Paul’s exhortation?
The Thessalonians’ sanctification. See study note 1
- What area of sanctification does Paul emphasize here? vs. 3-7
- Is Paul suggesting in v. 4 that everyone should get married? What is his point?
No, he is not implying that everyone should have a spouse. His point is that those who are married should live faithful, chaste lives. Holiness is the aim, not celibacy. See study note 2
- What does Paul contrast with the self-control he urges on the Thessalonians? v. 5
The passion of lust characteristic of the Gentiles, the people among whom they live. See study note 3.
- What would amount to transgressing and wronging his brother in this matter? v. 6
Adultery; also, seducing his Christian brother’s daughter.
- What will result if one commits adultery with a fellow Christian’s wife? v. 6
The Lord will avenge the wronged brother. See study note 4.
- What has God called us to? v. 7
Holiness. The Greek word for holiness is related to the word for sanctification. Refer back to study note 1.
- What is true of the man or woman who disregards Paul’s instructions in this matter? v. 8
That person is not only wronging a fellow Christian; he or she is disregarding God’s revealed will. That will is written down in Scripture and applied to our heart by the Holy Spirit. The Christian who chooses to commit adultery is spurning the voice of God.
- Paul does not exhort the Thessalonians to love one another—why not? What does he exhort them to do? vs. 9-11
He doesn’t have to urge them to love one another, for they already do. He does urge them to love each other even more. We never reach the point where we cannot love any more than we do.
- How far does the Thessalonians’ love extend? v. 10
They love their fellow Christians throughout Macedonia.
- In addition to living sexually pure lives, how else does Paul exhort the Thessalonians to live? vs. 10-11
He urges them to live quietly, to mind their own business, and to work for a living.
- What will result from living as Paul urges in v. 11? v. 12
They will earn the respect of their non-Christian neighbors. Also, they will provide for their own needs and not be dependent on anyone. See study note 5.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (v. 3).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) offers an accurate, succinct definition of sanctification:
Quest. 35. What is sanctification?
Ans. 35. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
The word sanctification literally means becoming holy, godlike. This study guide is not the place to expound on the subject; whole books have been written on the nature and pursuit of holiness. But since sanctification is often misunderstood, let’s take note of a few aspects of it:
- Sanctification follows justification. God declares us righteous and not guilty in Christ on the basis of what he did in his life and, especially, his death on the cross for us. We are justified by faith in Christ, not by our own good deeds or works. Then, after we have been justified, God begins to work in us to make us holy. He does not wait until we are holy enough before he justifies us.
- Sanctification is the work of God’s Spirit within us. We are indeed to strive to put to death the thoughts, desires, and deeds of our old, unregenerate (not born again) nature, but that can only be successful because the Holy Spirit works in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Ephesians 2:10). This, as the WSC says, is a work of God’s free grace.
- Dying to sin and living unto righteousness is an active process. The Holy Spirit does not work in us while we remain passive bystanders. We are to struggle against sin and to strive to do his will.
- A true Christian must show progress in sanctification. We are neither to resign ourselves to failure to grow more holy, nor, even worse, to be content to live worldly lives because we have been justified by grace through faith without the works of the law. We dare not lightly sing the sarcastic couplet
“Freed from the law, O happy condition,
I can sin all I want, and not go to perdition!”
Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20). We will not attain perfect holiness in this life, but we must die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness.
- Sanctification cannot be reduced to a method or system. Paul gives the Thessalonians some does to follow and don’ts to shun, but he prescribes no technique for becoming holy. The first Christian monks tried that (e.g., the Rule of St. Benedict), but by the Middle Ages monks had a reputation for lust, gluttony, sloth, pride, avarice, and possibly wrath, the so-called seven deadly sins. Prayer, knowing and seeking to obey the Word, drawing strength from the life of the church and fellowship with other earnest believers—these are the major components of sanctification, but they cannot be systematized.
- Should all Christians get married?
The short answer to that question is No. In fact, Paul told the Corinthian church that, in his opinion, in view of “the present [or, impending] distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26) the Corinthian believers faced, it would be best not to marry if they could remain chaste.
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1 Corinthians 7:8-9
Paul recognizes that the temptation to sexual immorality is great. If one cannot resist that temptation, he or she should marry.
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2
Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 should be read as essentially the same as his advice to the Corinthians, with the added warning not to stray outside the bounds of marriage once one has a wife.
Paul told the Galatian church that self-control is a “fruit of the Spirit,” that is, a quality the Holy Spirit works into our character. It is opposed to anger, lust, drunkenness, and every other passion that breaks forth from our old nature.
Self-control is a virtue few can muster on their own: ask the drunkard who really wants to quit drinking but just can’t, the man who falls into a one-night stand time and again, or the woman who blows up at her husband and children and bitterly regrets it afterward.
We Christians, burdened by our old, sinful nature, have as much trouble with self-control as the unregenerate, but we have a remedy. We can and should beseech God to bring forth this fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Only the Holy Spirit can do it in us.
Our part is to believe that God has granted us the ability to control our passions and then to step out in faith by putting the flesh to death.
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12-13
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
We are not to sit passively waiting for God to take away our anger or lust or craving for alcohol, but to endeavor to exercise self-control, acknowledging that it is the Holy Spirit working in us who will give us success.
And we are to keep on trying, even though we may stumble many a time. As indicated in study note 1, sanctification is not a one-and-done thing. It is progressive. But we can grow in self-control as in the other fruit of the Spirit. And grow we must.
- God will avenge.
We read the story in the newspaper or see it on television news. A man catches his wife in bed with another man. He gets his gun and kills them both. In our country the man will be tried for murder; in some countries the killing will be considered justified. Paul has been urging self-control. What if a Colossian Christian has given into his or her passion and the offended spouse finds out? Is he or she justified in taking vengeance in some form short of murder? That seems to be the context of 4:6.
“God is an avenger in all these things.” Given the context of v. 6, it appears that Paul is warning Christians who have been wronged by an adulterous fellow Christian not to take revenge on either the spouse or on the adulterous partner. The innocent spouse has been greatly wronged, but he or she is to leave vengeance to God. Leaving it to God to avenge requires great faith on the part of the injured party. And God will see that justice is done. If he does not grant repentance to the adulterous party, he will punish that sin, just as he will punish every sin not covered by the blood of Christ.
- The respect of outsiders.
Scripture tells us in various places that we can earn the respect of outsiders, or at least silence their denunciations:
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy . . . having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:15-16
It is a good thing to have the respect of outsiders, even a necessary thing for those who would be leaders in the church. Regarding a man who aspires to be a bishop or elder, Paul wrote to Timothy:
Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 1 Timothy 3:7
To be sure, we are not to gain the respect of outsiders by conforming to their depraved morals. But even unbelievers recognize and respect such traits as kindness, love, wisdom, temperance, and self-control.