24 October 2013


The Spirit gave instructions regarding church members who refuse to obey the word of the Lord.  Apparently this was a problem in Thessalonica (2Thess 3:14-15).  In such a case, we have four obligations.  First we take note of that person.  The verb is related to the noun sign, mark or token.  Obviously it means more than just making a mental note.  As Robertson puts it, we are to put a
tag on that man!  Somehow as Christians and as the church we are to identify him publicly so that others are made aware.  This contributes to the shame he must feel as a result of this procedure.  Second, Paul says we must have nothing to do with him.  Literally it means do not mix up together with him.  We are not to keep company with him or associate with him.  Yet the end of the verse requires us to regard him as a brother.  So shunning must not be intended.  We are not permitted to completely ostracize a Christian brother.  Rather, this must refer to some intermediate sanction between full fledged fellowship and complete banishment.  Certainly it includes suspension from the Lord’s Supper which is the public, visible sign of Christian fellowship.  The offending brother is barred from this sacrament in order to be ashamed.  That also serves as a public tag.  Most likely this also means that our social interactions with him are curtailed.  For example, we would not enjoy a meal with him while he is in this condition in the same way we would if he were striving to obey the Lord.  Any social interaction with him would be for the express purpose of calling him to repentance. Third, the apostle demands that we not regard him as an enemy.  Paul knows our innate tendency toward judgmentalism, bitterness and resentment.  We are likely to overstep our boundary and go beyond the biblical injunction.  Do not view him as an enemy, but as an erring brother.  Fourth, we must warn him as a brotherNot an enemy…  as a brother.  The distinction is clear.  He remains within the fold.  He is entitled to loving discipline.  We do not give up on him.  This seems to cement the notion that Paul is referring primarily to church discipline.  Notice how shame is an instrument of restoration!  We all know what powerful motivation it provides.  The confluence of God’s law and human conscience exerts a mighty influence upon the individual soul, so mighty that most people cannot stand it.  A crushed spirit who can bear? (Prv 18:14)  God will use it as an instrument of discipline in guiding His beloved and erring children.  These four obligations are difficult to fulfill.  If followed they create tension.  People feel awkward.  Feelings may be hurt.  Shame is brought to bear.  But this is the teaching of holy Scripture.  We do well to heed the instruction of infinite wisdom lest we too require the painful influence of shame.

23 October 2013

Word and Spirit

Paul refers to the Apostasy and the Man of Lawlessness who is the Son of Destruction (2Thess 2:3).  The definite articles give a unique specificity to his expectation.  These are not vague, undefined expressions of wickedness.  One might say they are summations of it.  All the strands of earthly evil can be gathered up and bound together in what seems to be an ultimate expression of sin.  Something or someone restrains it for now (2Thess 2:6), but when that restraint is removed, all the forces of hell will break loose (2Thess 2:7-8).  Yet Jesus reigns supreme.  He will simply slay this devil with the breath of His mouth.  Sadly, those who are perishing will be deceived by the accompanying false signs and wonders primarily because they refused to love the truth and had pleasure in unrighteousness (2Thess 2:10, 12).  How different were the believing Thessalonians!  Paul identifies them as the godly antithesis since they were being saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2Thess 2:13).  Those perishing hate the truth while believers love it.  Those perishing delight in unrighteousness while believers turn away from it.  Those glorious means by which the salvation accomplished by Christ was applied to believers were God’s word and Spirit.  Nothing less could rescue weak lambs from the mighty jaws of wickedness and corruption, or the mystery of lawlessness.  Why mysterious?  Partly because of its insidious and deceitful nature.  We are no match for it.  But thanks be to God!  His Word shall accomplish His purpose and succeed in the thing for which He sends it (Isa 55:11) and His Spirit can and will sanctify with invincible power.  While our enemies are formidable, our temptations strong and our flesh weak, we have no reason to fear.  The Lord Jesus cannot be denied His offspring (Isa 53:10) whom He will certainly deliver from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen  (Gal 1:4-5).

22 October 2013

Evidence of Righteous Judgment

The saying is true, things are not always as they seem.  Consider for example Paul’s statement regarding the Thessalonians’ suffering.  Their endurance through persecutions and afflictions is evidence of the righteous judgment of God (2Ths 1:4-5).  Who would ever believe that if the Spirit had not revealed it?  Would any of us consider public reproach, plundering of property, physical abuse and even death the proof that our Father is judging righteously?  To the eye of sense that seems absurd.  But to the eye of faith it is gospel truth.  As the apostle says elsewhere to the Philippians, This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God (Php 1:28).  As the Christian suffers the indignity and pain of persecution at the hands of malicious evildoers, it is a sign of their destruction and his salvation!  It is evidence of righteous judgment!  What strange irony.  In the midst of such hardship it requires a childlike trust in the wisdom and fidelity of our gracious God to think like that.  But then His kingdom is very different from the kingdoms of this world.  Indeed, it is otherworldly.  Its means and ends and principles are vastly different, even diametrically opposed to those of mere earthly realms.  So this should not surprise us.  It is a wonderful paradox characterizing the experience of Christians as we live in a fallen world and make our pilgrimage heavenward.  Things are not as they seem!  In the midst of affliction and persecution, suffering and weakness the church is growing, advancing, and glorifying God through faith in the crucified Christ.  It makes no sense to fleshly reason, but to the sanctified mind it makes perfect sense.  Scripture teaches us how it is in perfect accord with the infallible plan of God.  Our Lord Jesus has overcome Satan and always overrules his schemes.  By His death Christ has removed the evil of afflictions so that all of them without exception only serve the great cause of our salvation.  Are you enduring some form of persecution or hardship at the hands of evildoers?  It is evidence of God’s righteous judgment!  It is a sign of your salvation!  It is proof that God considers you worthy of His kingdom through our great Redeemer King, even Jesus Christ.

21 October 2013

Esteem Them Highly

The Spirit enjoins us to esteem very highly those who labor among us, give admonishment to us and are over us in the Lord (1Ths 5:12-13).  Presumably Paul is referring to those who labor in the word and prayer (Acts 6:4), who exercise spiritual oversight as shepherds (1Pet 5:2) and who handle the keys of the kingdom in administering spiritual discipline (Mt 16:19; 18:17-18).  As Christians we are to esteem or respect them beyond all measure.  Paul’s word of choice comes with that nuance.  How incredibly counter-cultural!  Modern man loathes giving anyone high esteem.  Indeed, love has grown cold.  He prefers to despise and criticize rather than defer and venerate.  His pride suffers and his fury flares up if he encounters superiority of any kind, whether in age, gifts or office.  We are all equals, he thinks.  We are all experts in every field.  Google levels the playing field and no one is worthy of special regard.  No one deserves particular esteem, especially that which is beyond all measure!  But Christians know better and must esteem very highly those whom God appoints to feed, care for and discipline the flock.  If actually practiced, this discipline of esteeming godly leadership is a tremendous gospel witness to a cynical, loveless, egalitarianistic culture!  But there are two caveats.  First, we must render such deference because of their work (1Ths 5:13).  The kind of esteem of which Paul speaks is not conditioned on style or personality.  We do not render it because of beauty, eloquence or popularity.  Nor do we withhold such unique, public regard because of personal quirks or idiosyncrasies.  Second, those held in such high esteem must strive to do this work.  No one is entitled to it on any other basis.  This is difficult work!  Few actually strive to perform it, or at least to perform it well.  Of course no one is adequate for it and God’s gracious power is evident in our weakness.  But if leaders expect to be esteemed, they must endeavor to fulfill the duties.  If they labor in this spiritual work for the glory of Christ and the benefit of the church, they are worthy of esteem.  But no leader should expect such lofty regard from the saints because of business success, athletic prowess, personal charisma or physical appearance.  Ultimately, it is the Spirit of Christ at work in both leadership and membership that brings to fruition such a display of true spiritual oversight and affectionate deference.  He does so that Jesus Christ may be exalted, proclaimed and treasured by God’s people.

20 October 2013

Appointed To Life

Paul says that at some point in the past, the ancient past, even before time began, the everlasting God appointed us to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1Ths 5:9).  He who framed the universe and set the ocean boundaries ordained this great salvation in the far reaches of eternity for His children.  Right up front the apostle rejects the devilish lie that God is harsh and uncaring.  Emphatically Paul declares that God did not destine us for wrath!  Long before we drew our first breath the Ancient of Days had our eternal well-being in view, even long before the mountains were formed.  His plan was to accomplish this salvation through Christ who had been beside Him like a master workman, daily His delight, always rejoicing before Him in the inhabited world and the children of man (Prv 8:30-31).  Wisdom Himself, the eternal Son of God, eagerly awaited the fullness of time when He would fulfill His Father’s purpose in dying on behalf of beloved sinners.  That is why we will live (1Ths 5:10).  We will not perish but live!  Whether Jesus returns before or after we lay down in the dust, we will live with Him in unimaginable, never-ending glory.  This is the future destiny of believers.  Quite apart from ourselves there was Another, the great God who abounds in steadfast love, who decreed our salvation from before the foundation of the world.  What a joyful, heart-warming truth!  The prize is won.  Heaven awaits.  Our King will come.  Let us rejoice.