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1 Thessalonians 3_1-10

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1 Thessalonians 3:1- 3:5 If you recall from the previous chapter, they sought to go back to the people, but were hindered by Satan. And so, they thought it would be best to stay for a while in Athens. Acts 17 picks up on what occurs here and what we see is that they did not rest or stay alone in Athens. They were compelled by the Spirit to preach. While they are preaching, they send Timothy to check on the people. There is that heart again for the people. They want to be sure that they are remaining secure in the word and that they are not slipping away. They sent Timothy for two reasons: 1) To strengthen them and encourage them 2) To comfort them through persecution 3) To find out about their faith and labors for Christ Let’s examine each of these points. 1) To strengthen them and encourage them concerning their faith One thing you will recall is that this city was sort of the hub, the connection between Rome and Asia. This city lay on the road, Via Ignatia. Not only that, but it had a huge port for trade to occur. So being a big city, they had big city problems. One of the clear things that you all know about large cities is that it brings many diverse people. And with a diversity of people, comes a diversity of languages, customs, foods, art, clothing, and religions. It was very important to Paul that the men and women that he taught were remaining firm and confident in their faith. For him it was not merely a touch, but an investment that he was placing into their lives. I think we too often forget that when we deal with people especially new believers, we need to understand that we are not to just point them to Christ and then leave them alone. We are to disciple them. The Great Commission I think is too often confused as something where we go and preach. It is more than that. You preach and make disciples and baptize them and teach them. It’s this idea of fellowship. You bring them to a church, yes, to join with the body of Christ locally. But after you have brought them to church, you shouldn’t wipe your hands clean and say I’ve done my part. But that is not the only motivating factor. If you remember, Paul and Silas and Timothy were run out of the city by the Jews. They escaped probably death, and went to the region of Berea. And so, I am sure that Paul has so much more to say and so he sends Timothy to them to strengthen them in the faith. Why is that necessary? Because they are surrounded by false religions and they may not be able to stand for their faith. As a side note, do you think you can stand for yours? Do you have a pride that says that you know everything that you need to know in the Scriptures? Iglesia Trinidad offers so many opportunities for you to go deeper into the Word of God. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of this? The only reason that I can think of is laziness or that you need to adjust your priorities. I do not know the cycle that they are in, but if you can still enroll in a class, I expect every single person here to enroll in a class. Not to boast on anything of my own, but I’ve been to seminary twice now and am going for a third time because I know that there is so much more to learn. They are meant to serve to encourage you and strengthen concerning your faith. 2) To comfort them through persecution In a large city comes a diverse way of thinking. In the Greco-Roman world, it was very common to keep piling on gods on top of gods. They were very accommodating in that way. But the issue is that with Christianity, there is no room for another god. They are all false. There is only one God. And just as persecution pushed Paul and Silas and Timothy away to minister to other people, the people who were there were not called to leave. They were called to stay in their persecution and endure through it. Even to the point of death. And so can you imagine the discouragement that would come when you are being persecuted for what you believe. You are a new believer and it is so easy to just go back to the old way when things were easy. When things were comfortable. But knowing the truth, they were facing beatings and imprisonment because of their faith and it was a very difficult thing for them. Immediately we can think nowadays of missionaries who are called to persecuted lands. But we also need to think about the persecution that is occurring to the people. And we, in America, need to wake up to the realization that persecution is coming here as well. Where it no longer is acceptable or tolerated to be a Christian. And things will continue in this trend. And so Timothy is sent to encourage them to persist in the midst of it. That is a timely message. When we experience persecution what is our first reaction? I think what we find biblically is that it is allowed by God for our benefit. He is stressing us and bending us to conform us more into the likeness of His son. We also learn that we do not pray for it to end. But we ought to pray for the strength to endure through it. James 1:2-4 3) To find out about their faith and labors for Christ What an awful thing it is for a person, after hearing the truth and the message of the Gospel, to reject it. How much worse for someone to hear and get excited about it and continue to walk towards salvation, but fall away. These are the people that Jesus spoke about in the 13th chapter of Matthew in the parable concerning the soils. They are the second and third soils. They hear the message and it seems like they will bear fruit, but they have no root. Or they start to grow, but then the worries of this world choke the word in them and it never bears the fruit of salvation in them. How awful and terrible is it for these people to know the way to eternal life, but fall away from it. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian, after reading the book, is running towards the narrow gate and is stopped by Pliable and Obstinate. Pliable goes with him and Obstinate returns to the city of destruction. But when things get difficult, pliable gets choked by the worries and returns as well. Paul is clearly in distress and cannot wait any longer, he needs to know how they are doing. He wants so dearly for them to remain in the faith. To not become tempted by Satan and fall back. ************ One thing to note about vs 1 is that although he writes that they stay in Athens to be alone, they are compelled by the spirit to preach. And so, he bears this burden, but bears another burden for the people in Antioch to hear the message of the Gospel and be saved. Acts 17:16-21 ******** A good word does come back to him and is a relief to his spirit 1 Thess 3:6-10 My brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you all as well. 1) To strengthen them and encourage them 2) To comfort them through persecution 3) To find out about their faith and labors for Christ Church Discipline of Nelson Lizama Proverbs 10:12- Creedal statement of the NT churches. Love covering sins. Training my dog, sometimes you When you give yourself over to sin, the heart hardens and increasingly becomes dark and aggressive. Love deescalates and restores. 1 Peter 4:8; James 5:19-20 The way to woo a brother back is to woo and to love. The Bible lays out a pattern for how to woo someone back. Matthew 18:15-20 • Goal is to win them back (15b), • Happens privately, gently • Slow ◦ It could be that we are missing information, conflict and not discipline issue, maybe our pride is involved. You bring along a witness and seek to gather the evidence and to really understand it. Reason for this is that a church removes affirmation from that person as being a believer. We can no longer affirm it. We do not establish it, God does that, but we can no longer be able to affirm that that person is truly a believer in Christ for the reason that they are ignoring what the Bible says, what God has said, they are choosing to remain in unrepentant sin. The hope is not to shame the person, but to have them see how serious the sin is. The Bible’s instructions concerning church discipline imply the necessity of church membership. The church and its pastor are responsible for the spiritual well-being of a certain group of people (members of the local church), not of everyone in the city. In the context of church discipline, Paul asks, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). The candidate for church discipline has to be “inside” the church and accountable to the church. He professes faith in Christ yet continues in undeniable sin. So, who is eligible for excommunication? The Bible is clear that excommunication is only for church members (not unbelievers) and only in response to obvious and ongoing sin from which a person refuses to repent despite multiple exhortations: “I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11). Five important things to remember about excommunication: 1. The Bible never instructs individual Christians to decide on their own or even in a small group to “excommunicate” another believer. Excommunication is meant to be a formal action taken by the local church as a whole. 2. Excommunication is primarily about relationship. Those in the church are specifically instructed to stop sharing meals with the unrepentant person (1 Corinthians 5:11), to limit their contact with him. 3. This process of excommunication is for believers, for those who declare themselves to have sincerely trusted in Christ for their salvation. Excommunication is the church’s response to one who says, “Yes, I’m a Christian, and, no, I will not turn from this sin.” 4. The process of excommunication is not meant for someone who admits his sin and is repentant but continues to struggle to break free of it. If a believer sins and, when confronted, says, “Yes, that was wrong. I’m sorry. I want to start again,” he is to be forgiven—even if he has sinned in the same way repeatedly (Matthew 18:21–22). Scripture doesn’t suggest that person’s sin should be exposed to the full church as a kind of penalty, unless he chooses to reveal it himself. 5. The goal of excommunication is restoration. According to Jesus, the whole process of removing a member from the church is to be gradual, deliberate, and cautious. If at any point in the process the sinning person repents, then “you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15), and the fellowship is restored. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 8 Reasons to Discipline for Church Abandonment 1. Church abandonment is a serious sin that the Bible says deserves hell (Heb 10:24-27). The Bible teaches that abandoning the local church is a serious sin, which must not be taken lightly. Hebrews 10:24-27 says, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit [i.e., custom or practice] of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” 2. Church abandonment repudiates our church covenant (Ex 20:16; Eccl 5:4-7). The church covenant is a promise that every member makes to the whole church to live faithfully together in Christ. A member who abandons the assembly has broken all of his church covenant vows to dwell together in unity with his local church. Thus, the member who breaks covenant with the church is lying and fearfully inviting God’s anger. Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 says, “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” 3. Church abandonment is a disqualifying condition of joining the church (Acts 2:36-47). A person who submits his name for membership, but who states that he never wishes to attend or to participate in any of the means of grace (to hear the preaching of the Word of God, to pray with God’s people, to partake of the ordinances, to fellowship with the saints), does not qualify for membership. Since such a person does not qualify for entry into membership, then he does not qualify to remain a member and is, therefore, a candidate for church discipline. Acts 2:41-44 says, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together.” 4. Church abandonment manifests lovelessness toward brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Thess 5:11-14). Those who abandon the church withhold the gifts and graces God has given them from the church to which they are covenanted. Abandoning the local church makes it impossible to obey the Bible’s commands to love, care for, and support “one another” in the local assembly (1 Cor 11:33; Gal 6:2; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16, etc.). 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 5. Church abandonment evidences an unregenerate heart (1 Jn 3:4-10). The Bible teaches that those who continue persistently in hardened and unrepentant sin, while fleeing from all accountability, do not manifest the fruit of a heart that has been born of God. Specifically, those who abandon the church do not love their brothers and have therefore lost their credible confession of faith in Christ. 1 John 3:9-10 says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 6. Church abandonment greatly endangers the soul of the one who abandons the church (Hebrews 3:12-14; 4:11; 10:24-25). While justification is by grace alone through faith alone, Scripture teaches us that God uses the means of grace through the church to strengthen and preserve His people to the end. The book of Hebrews teaches us that the local church is the central institution that God uses to preserve His people. Hebrews 3:11-13 says, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another [in the church] every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us [the church] therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us [the church] consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 7. Church abandonment is evidence of forsaking Jesus Christ (Jn 13:34-35). The church is the bride of Christ, His beloved people, for whom He died. The church is Christ’s greatest earthly treasure. Jesus loves the church, and those who love Jesus love what He loves. Those who abandon the church, therefore, give evidence of abandoning Christ Himself because they do not love His body, the church. In John 13:34-35, the Lord Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 8. Church abandonment is inconsistent with a heart that yearns for Christ (Rev 3:14-22). When a member, without reasonable cause, consistently abandons fellowship with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day, he manifests a heart that is dull toward the things of God. Jesus provides a warning to the church at Laodicea regarding this kind of lukewarm disposition. He tells them plainly that members who walk in this manner will be cast out. Revelation 13:15-16 says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Elder 1 peter 5:5 Hebrews 13:17
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