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Stand Firm In The Lord

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is great to be together again as we look into the Word of God together and make personal application. The title for the lesson is, “Standing Firm in the Lord” and the text is in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians chapter three verses one through 13. Let’s listen to the Word of God.

     So when we could stand it no longer we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you in your faith so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.  You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way as you well know. For this reason when I could stand it no longer I sent to find out about your faith.  I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers, in our distress and persecution, we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?  Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may seek you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now, may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all of his holy ones.

That is the Word of God. May he add his blessing to the public reading of his Word.

Now some teach today that Christians’ troubles are mainly always and only caused by our sins or lack of faith. This passage reveals that this is not true.  Troubles and trials can and often do and sometimes often are actually part of God’s plan for Christians, troubles and trials. But why?  Well, for example, according to James the epistle of James, chapter one verses two through four, troubles then overcoming them can build Christian character. And, according to Romans chapter five and verses three through five troubles and trials can build perseverance. And according to 2 Corinthians chapter one and verses three through seven, trials and troubles can build sensitivity toward others. Actually our overcoming our trials and troubles can be evidence of effective Christian living, of course, always with God’s help, of our maturing in our faith. This passage in 1 Thessalonians chapter three is also instructional, especially for elders and pastors of a church. Here we see a pastor’s heart for his flock as a shepherd seeking the best for them.

For example, to quote: Strengthen, encourage growth in faith and love, standing firm in the Lord, praying earnestly for them and supplying what is lacking in their faith, end of quote.  Labors of love for the Church from and for and by elders and pastors today also.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse two it says that we sent Timothy. Well, why? Why didn’t Paul go himself? Why didn’t he return? The answer is in 1 Thessalonians chapter two and verse 18.  For we wanted to come to you. Certainly, I, Paul did again and again. But Satan stopped us. Obviously, allowed by God for his sovereign purposes, which we often do not understand. And this is all detailed in the book of Acts and the 17th chapter.

Notice the emphasis of Paul through his representative Timothy in 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse two where it says, in part, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, that is, not for temporal issues of health or wealth or social concerns, but instead the focus was on the eternal caliber and quality of their persevering faith. And so it should be as the utmost concern for elders and pastors and shepherds of the Church today.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse three it says, in part: You know quite well that we were destined for them. Destined for what? That is, here in context, trials, troubles, testings, temptations, persecutions, because the Christian life, whether in the first century AD or in the 21st century AD, the Christian life is also a spiritual war, a daily battle. But with God’s help we can be overcomers even in our faith.  In fact, part of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness as the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us and fills us, guides us and directs us, imparts his fruit like faithfulness and self control and the rest.

Note that in 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse five it says, in part: I sent to find out about your faith.  I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless or in vain. Consider also in 1 Thessalonians chapter one and verses four through seven with the inspired words here as an example of: For we know, brothers, we know, brothers, loved by God that he has chosen you. Paul has already established in this epistle that these are genuine brothers. These are brothers in Christ, born again believers. Their election by God into his kingdom was sure. Yet Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit still wrote concerned, even afraid regarding their persevering faith.  Of course, there are many today that teach and believe that it is impossible for true brethren, for brothers, for sisters in the Lord, for born again believers to be lost, that they will always, without exception persevere in the faith, commonly known as once saved, always saved. It is true that according to Romans chapter eight and verse 38 and following it says, in part: Neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And that is absolutely true as is all inspired Scripture.  Even the tempter, that is the devil, can only tempt us. He cannot force us. He cannot require us to sin or fall away. No one, nothing can make us as believers or require us to fall away from the faith.

However God in his sovereignty is not threatened in any way by choosing, by God choosing to allow us free choice to receive Christ and, consequently, also, allow us free choice later to reject Christ.  Only we, we individually can make that choice allowed by a sovereign God. We choose to remain and to persevere in Christ Jesus as our Lord with the help of the Lord, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse five this choice of perseverance in Christ is but one example of this choice and possibility, in fact, to fall away, to commit apostasy. Or why would the apostle Paul, inspired of the Holy Spirit, have written concerning genuine brethren in the Lord that our efforts… the possibility was that they might have been useless and their efforts might have been useless, of no value, void, vain?

Our brother R. H. Boll wrote concerning 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse five these words and I quote:  Evidently the divine election does not release the elect from personal responsibility, nor is the preacher absolved from concern from God’s elect ones.  Though we can rest and rejoice in it, God’s election, we may not presume upon it, end of quote.

And so to recap: in 1 Thessalonians chapter two and verse one it says there: You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure, because they were, in fact, born again, genuine conversions at Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse five it says, in part:  Our efforts might have been useless. And, therefore, born again converts, possibly could have committed and can commit today apostasy.  Apostasy means falling away. How can you fall away from something you never had to start with?

And also compare 2 Timothy chapter two and verse 10. Note Paul’s inspired words carefully where he wrote, quote:  Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory, end quote. Yet according to once saved always saved doctrine, once elect always elect. It is a done deal.  But here in 2 Timothy 2:10 it reveals regarding the elect that they may obtain salvation, not meaning earning or meriting or working to obtain salvation, but meaning the elect’s responsibility and accountability with God’s help to remain faithful in Christ, to persevere, to be steadfast in the Savior.

And also in 2 Peter chapter one and verse 10 where it says: Therefore, my brother, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure for if you do these things, you will never fall. Obviously it indicates that falling from our election is possible. This is usually explained away by claiming that this is actually about assurance of salvation. But it says to make your calling and election sure, not assurance, but sure that it is, in fact, saving.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verses six and following it reveals Timothy’s encouraging report regarding their choice to persevere in Christ in spite of persecution, summed up in verse eight.  You are standing firm in the Lord.  Our charge and our challenge is the same today. As born again, baptized believers we also need to stand firm in the Lord. That is our charge. That is our responsibility. That is our personal individual intimate accountability before God.  And note that it is standing that is an ongoing perseverance, not just a one time stand at conversion, but standing firm or standing fast.

 

The original Greek language here gives the imagery of an army that refuses to retreat, though being attacked and assaulted repeatedly by the enemy.

And then also in 1 Thessalonians chapter three and verse 10 it says, in part: To supply what is lacking in your faith.  This is not a criticism, but a concern to grow, to mature, to deepen their doctrine of God. These are the themes of Paul’s letter in chapters four and five. His understanding of what they lacked. He knew them. He planted the church at Thessalonica. He was their father in the faith. He was a pastor, a shepherd for them. He made it his business to understand, to probe, to work with them individually and corporately, to know their weaknesses and the things that they lacked, an application for all pastors and shepherds and elders today, to know their flock, to know their congregation individually, intimately and to be able to be involved in their lives and to help them spiritually and even in other ways.

The application here, of course, also is that we never know it all in this life. We all have room to grow in behavior and in belief regardless of our position in the Church whether a preacher, an elder, a shepherd, certainly a novice Christian, a new Christian. All of us have room to grow.

In verse 11 it says, in part: Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us. Here we have a great principle for all of us. So often we try to clear obstacles ourselves. That is, in our own strength and by our own resources and abilities. But often we need to leave it to the Lord, petition him when we realize that we cannot do this. We cannot solve this. We need to leave it to the Lord. We need to petition him. We need to offer him our supplications and asking him for guidance, for wisdom, for help, for all the things that we need in this life in our daily battles.

And then, lastly, in verse 13 it says, in part: When our Lord Jesus comes with all of his holy ones or saints.  The Greek word translated comes or coming is parousia, literally it means in the Greek the presence.  Always and only used of Christ’s literal, personal presence, always referring also to Christ’s second coming, never his first coming. And then it also says in verse 13: Comes with his saints or with his holy ones. Holy ones could be translated saints.

  1. R. H. Boll wrote concerning this verse, quote: Before he can come with his saints, he must come to receive them to himself. For example, John chapter 14 and verse three. And so, therefore, coming in the air first as in 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse 17 his coming with them is necessarily subsequent or afterwards. Consider Colossians chapter three and verse four.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory, end quote.

And, therefore, the second coming of Christ evidently is in two phases: first for the saints and then with the saints.  And we certainly look forward to that day.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8