Faithlife Sermons

Ignorance, Truth and Blessing

1 Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We’ve spent a lot of time over the course of many weeks, reviewing what we’ve been studying in Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians. As we heard this morning in the Sunday School hour, it’s good for us to remember that God has shown us! As we work through this epistle, it’s also good for us to remind ourselves of the context of the book, and of the lessons that Paul has included in it. We live busy lives, full of challenges and blessings, victories and trials. It’s easy for us to be absorbed in the here and now, but if we’re going to glean what we need from Scripture, we need to have an understanding of what the original audience was experiencing. God divinely revealed His truth to them at a certain place in their lives, and we are helped the more we understand those things. We call this the historical context of Scripture.
There is much more historical information that we could learn about this book, but let me remind us of what we have already seen.
It is believed that Paul wrote this epistle somewhere around 49-52 A.D. My Bible contains a note that it was written from Athens; some believe it was written from Corinth.
As we saw in Acts 17, while Paul, Silas and Timothy were preaching and teaching Thessalonica, the orthodox, unbelieving Jews stirred up “lower class” people to create a mob and threaten the safety of these men. This public uprising forced Paul and his companions to leave suddenly. But through their preaching and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in men’s hearts, they left behind a group of new saints who were determined to follow and serve their Lord Jesus Christ.
As we have seen, Paul spends a lot of time in this epistle encouraging this young church and praising God for His work in their lives. He commends them for their faithfulness in spite of persecution, and their energetic work to preach the Gospel and help the saints all over the region of Macedonia.
You and I probably don’t face resistance anything like these Thessalonians did, but we also may be faithful in spite of difficulty and spiritual resistance. We may also be energetic and consistent to preach the Gospel to those that we meet. Are we busy to live as these Thessalonians were?
It’s very possible that this new life of serving Christ and suffering persecution was still somewhat of a shock to these saints. It was no doubt a heavy burden, and they prayed earnestly for relief from the constant threat to their lives and wellbeing. They probably believed that Christ would return any day, and they were anticipating this deliverance from their trials!
Last week, we saw how Paul exhorted them to focus on the proper temporal priorities—to be busy, not busybodies. They were to be quiet, to be busy doing their own business/duty, and they were to be occupied in being productive in all other times. This would have a three-fold effect: 1) It would keep their focus where it ought to be, 2) It would be a good example to the lost around them, and 3) It would be used by God to meet their needs.
These effects have spiritual ramifications, but they impact daily, temporal life. These things are important for spiritual reasons, but they have application in temporal things. Paul was giving advice for changing temporal, earthly life.
But then Paul pivots in 1 Thess. 4:13 and begins encouraging and exhorting the saints regarding something that also impacts earthly life, but is decidedly spiritual. (“But” — showing a change in direction of thought.) In his instruction, he addresses a problem in their lives: ignorance.

I. Ignorance

1 Thess. 4:13-18
I think most people think of ignorance as an insulting thing. To say that someone is ignorant is to belittle and insult them. And certainly the word can be used in that way. But ignorance is simply the condition of not knowing something. We freely admit our ignorance many times each day by asking questions! We acknowledge our ignorance when we read the news, or check the fridge. There is a lot we don’t know; it is part of being human.
Of course, we won’t learn something unless we admit that we don’t already know. The Philippian jailer asked a critical question, and thus admitted his ignorance: “What must I do to be saved?” When people believe that God has accepted them because of their good works, and they refuse to admit that their sin has offended God, they are unable to learn the truth about condemnation and salvation. Their ignorance will end up damning their soul.
Paul was concerned about the ignorance of the Thessalonians as well. He tells them this.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV 1900
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
I’m thankful that God uses us in spite of our ignorance! We will always be ignorant; there will always be things that we don’t know. God isn’t defeated by our ignorance, but that doesn’t mean He wants us to stay there. God had used the Thessalonian believers to do great things for Christ, but He didn’t want them to stay ignorant in this area.

A. The need

Paul also desired to meet this need that existed; he wanted to remove the ignorance that might exist. A true servant of Christ will not mock or ignore a need in others. He will seek to meet it!
Matthew 5:44–45 KJV 1900
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
These Thessalonians were ignorant of some things. There was a void of truth in their lives. And a void of truth is not a small thing: it causes other problems.

B. The effect

“That ye sorrow not...”
The Thessalonians were ignorant about truth regarding the dead. (“Them which are asleep.”) This void of truth directly brought a negative effect in their life: They sorrowed.
Sorrow: The uneasiness or pain of mind which is produced by the loss of any good. or of frustrated hopes of good, or expected loss of happiness; to grieve; to be sad.
We find this Greek word translated differently in other passages, which helps us understand this “sorrow” a little better.
2 Corinthians 7:9 KJV 1900
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
Ephesians 4:30 KJV 1900
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
This is no small sorrow! It is the kind of sorrow that is brought on by sin, and is powerful enough to bring repentance. Paul desired that the Thessalonians not experience this sorrow because of ignorance of truth!

C. The result

“Even as others which have no hope.”
Hope: expectation.
We’re aware that “hope” doesn’t mean a wish; it is confidence in something to happen, not a wish that it may happen.
Hebrews 10:23 KJV 1900
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
How can we be confident? Because God promised it would!
Romans 15:13 KJV 1900
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Those who have no hope are those who do not know God and truth. The lost may be intellectually aware of truth (“know” it), but they do not know truth in a personal and intimate way, because that knowledge makes one free.
John 8:32 KJV 1900
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Ignorance of truth can bring sorrow. It can also cause us to live like the lost. What a powerful force is truth in our lives! May we be committed to ingesting the Word of God in order to avoid this kind of ignorance!
The ignorance of the lost causes them to live by sight, not by faith. They are not free from the bonds of their circumstantial surroundings. They are ignorant, and without hope. Sadly, the saved may also live this way. That is what ignorance can do. But Paul was concerned that these saints not be ignorant, but possess the truth. This would give them hope, and keep them from sorrowing. What truth was Paul talking about?

II. Truth

1 Thessalonians 4:14–17 KJV 1900
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Paul appeals to logic here. “We believe that our Saviour rose again from the dead, right? Then why would we think that God would overlook or neglect the saints who have died? Why wouldn’t He raise them from the dead as well?” It’s good for us to think through our conclusions to their logical end; this can help reveal whether they are true conclusions or not.
It’s possible that these saints believed that only the living would partake in being reunited with Christ when He returned. Perhaps they had been influenced by Gentile beliefs about the afterlife. Regardless, Paul was writing to remind them of the goodness of God, and His love for His saints. Not one of us will be forgotten by Him!
Christ will descend with power — vs. 15: “Shall not prevent them...”
(Prevent = overtake) God has made preparations for the living saints and the dead. Nothing we can do will disrupt what His goodness has determined! You and I aren’t that powerful. We don’t need to sorrow.
Christ’s descent is a priority — vs. 16: “For the Lord himself...”
Christ isn’t going to delegate this task. It is so important to Him, He is coming to do it Himself!
Christ will descend with authority — vs. 16: “With a shout”
Shout: shout of command
Christ’s descent will be with organization and purpose — vs. 16.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 KJV 1900
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Christ’s gathering will be thorough — vs. 17: “Then we which are alive and remain...”
Christ’s gathering will be joyful — vs. 17: “So shall we EVER be with the Lord...”
Paul could only know these things through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! God revealed this knowledge to him, for the purpose of resolving the problem of ignorance in the lives of the Thessalonian saints. Isn’t it a blessing that God knows what we need to hear? We don’t have any more divine revelation now that the Bible is complete, but God still knows what we need to hear. He ministers to our needs by speaking to us through His Word. May we be diligent to read, study and memorize the Word of God! May we be humble to receive the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. This will resolve our problem of ignorance and its effects in our lives.

III. Blessing

1 Thessalonians 4:18 KJV 1900
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Paul addressed the sorrow that the Thessalonians’ ignorance was causing in their lives. He knew the heavy burden that it was, and the threat it posed to their faithfulness. He saw how it made them “without hope.”
Paul took care to describe in thrilling detail how Christ will descend from Heaven, and catch up His saints in the air. God gave His people this expectation for us to “hope for.” We may confidently and boldly EXPECT this to happen…because God promised. Sinners break their promises intentionally and unintentionally. God’s promises are ALWAYS kept perfectly. And we are exhorted to expect that to continue. God is totally reliable.
And this is one of the blessings of truth: it brings comfort. How does it do this?
1. When we believe it.
John 8:32 KJV 1900
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Romans 10:9 KJV 1900
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
2. When we think on it.
Philippians 4:8 KJV 1900
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
May we as God’s people immerse ourselves in the truth of Scripture. That is the solution for our ignorance! And when God’s Holy Spirit reveals to us His truth, may we believe it, and meditate on it. That is when we will have blessing.
Psalm 119:97–101 KJV 1900
MEM. O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: For thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, Because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, That I might keep thy word.
Let us comfort one another with God’s words!
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