For the first twelve days of this month we are using the remainder of the Rev James Philip’s Bible Readings on 1 John These notes have been taken from the newly-digitised archive, which can be found at: http://www.thetron.org and have been used with permission. Then on Sunday 13th April, we return to our Minister’s Bible Readings, when we shall be considering 1 Thessalonians. This letter is useful for understanding what a mission-minded church looks like.
Tuesday 1st April
1 John 5:6-9
We have seen that the apostles preached that Jesus came ‘by water and blood’. Now, what we must realise is that to say this is to put a certain interpretation on the historical facts of our Lord’s life and death. And it is this apostolic interpretation that makes the historical fact of Christ into a gospel. Let us put it this way: To say “Jesus Christ died on the Cross” is to make a historical statement; and taken by itself there is no gospel in that. But to say, as the apostles went on to say, “Christ died on that Cross for our sins” is to place a certain interpretation on that death; and it is this that constitutes the good news of grace. It is this that should forever explode the fallacy that is often widely held, namely, that it is the fact of the Cross, not any theory about it, that is important for the Christian faith and Christian experience. But the fact of the Cross, as such, has precisely no significance at all as gospel. The whole point about the gospel is that it is an interpretation of the facts. The real issue is not whether we should have interpretation (theory) or be content with the simple facts, for interpretation there must be, before there can be any gospel; the issue is whether we adopt the apostolic interpretation of the death of Christ or another which is neither apostolic nor biblical. The tragedy of modernism is that it has scorned the apostolic testimony to the Cross and adopted others which are untrue both to Christ’s Person and to His atoning work. It is little wonder that the Spirit’s witness has been so lacking in the Church’s testimony in the twentieth century.
Wednesday 2nd April
1 John 5:9
The New English Bible rendering of this verse is graphic and helpful: “We accept human testimony, but surely Divine testimony is stronger, and this threefold testimony is indeed that of God Himself, the witness He has borne to His Bon”. This brings out more clearly than the AV the fact that it is the witness of Spirit, water and blood that is from God, nay more, God’s own witness to His Son. We should not miss the tremendous significance of this, for it means that when a man preaches a true biblical message, God Himself speaks in it, and it becomes the word of God to those who hear it. There is a significant testimony to the truth of this in 1 Thess 2:13, where Paul tells us that the Thessalonians received the word of God not as the word of men but “as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe”. What an encouragement this, to those who preach and those who pray for them! With what holy and eager expectation should we come week by week to hear the Word of God! The truth is, however, that we are often so dull and weak in faith that almost the last thing in the world we expect is that God should speak, and none would be more surprised than we. But if this word is true, then the surprising thing would be not that He spoke but that He didn’t. And when He doesn’t, there is always some good reason, for He wills to speak to men, and wants to. He may be grieved away.
Thursday 3rd April
1 John 5:10-12
The result of the Divine witness spoken of in the previous verses is faith in our hearts, and a basic inward assurance that we are Christ’s. This inward, subjective witness corresponds to and answers the objective witness of the Spirit, the water and the blood, fulfilling the Divine purpose in having sent the Son into the world to be the Saviour of men. It is interesting to see in these verses how John equates ‘believing on the Son’ not only with ‘believing God’, but also with ‘believing the record God has given concerning His Son’. This latter phrase underlines something very important, for it reminds us that true faith is always biblical faith, that is, anchored to the Scriptures and related to what the Scriptures say about Christ, never to non-biblical notions about Him. This in turn emphasises the importance of scriptural preaching, for not otherwise will real faith be born in men’s hearts than through having made known to them the record God has given concerning Christ (11). The commentators point out that ‘believeth not’ translates the perfect tense in the Greek, and should read ‘has not believed’ denoting a past ‘crisis of choice’. This should serve to remind us that unbelief is a deliberate refusal and disobedience of God’s word and will, not an unfortunate disability that one is born with, like having no ear for music and being unable to do anything about it. It is this that gives force to John’s blunt and categorical statement in 12 that ‘he that hath not the Son hath not life’. Jesus once said, ‘Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life’ (John 5:40).It was not that they could not; it was that they would not.
Friday 4th April
1 John 5:13
These words are sometimes taken in a general sense, to mean that assurance of salvation comes basically from the written Word. And this is of course true; John’s statement here may be worthily and fairly applied in this way. Resting on what God has said is the beginning of all true assurance and confidence in the spiritual life, although in fact assurance does not, and cannot, end there, for the inner testimony of the Spirit in our hearts necessarily follows to confirm that our trusting in the written Word is not in vain. At the same time, however, it should be clear that John has a more specific meaning here, for he is surely referring to the three ‘tests’ that he has been applying again and again through the epistle -the test of doctrine, believing that Jesus is the Christ; the moral test, keeping the commandments; the social test, loving the brethren. This, in fact, is what he has written, and this the way to know and be sure of eternal life. As Paul puts it in Rom 5:4, ‘experience worketh hope’. We should not miss the implication of John’s statement here, whether we take the general or more specific interpretation of the words. Eternal life is something men can know they possess. This in one of the basic realities in New Testament Christianity. The Christian hope of salvation in not a vague, uncertain prospect, but something utterly sure and certain, and it is not presumption to claim this certainty as our own. We ought to be able to, and what is more, God means us to do so.
Saturday 5th April
1 John 5:14-15
Again John turns to the thought of confidence (the Greek reads ‘boldness’) in prayer (see 3:21, 22). John is far from suggesting here anything like the modern misconception of prayer as a quick-fire, ‘penny-in-the-slot’ mechanism forgetting from God the things that we want. We should look at prayer rather in this way; God in eager to manifest His power in the world, and work in grace and mercy. All He needs are hearts obedient to His will, and willing for it. When we are, He then has a channel through which His power can come to the world He longs to bless, and we then will begin to ask for unheard of things which God will surely answer because it is He Who has put it in our hearts to ask them. You see what has happened? When our hearts are utterly yielded to Him there comes a glad new awareness of what He wants to do in us and through us; prayer takes on a new meaning for us altogether, and instead of bombarding Him with our desires and our will, we find ourselves caught up in His grand sovereign designs and purposes. If this be the real meaning of prayer, then it is clear that we often waste a great deal of time through not waiting on God until we know what He will is. The trouble is that, even as Christians, we think like men, not God. It is when we begin at last to think like Him, that prayer takes wings and faith waxes mighty, and He in at last able to work through us.
Sunday 6th April
1 John 5:16-17
It is interesting and significant that when John turns to a specific example of prayer, he turns to the matter of intercession for others. For him ‘asking’ is not about our own needs, but about others. The words ‘he shall ask’ in 16 are not so much a directive from John to the believer as an expression of the inevitable reaction a true believer will show when he sees a brother falling into sin. What John means is that we owe it to one another as children of the same Father to have a loving concern for each other’s well-being, whether material or spiritual. The pronouns in this verse (16) are somewhat ambiguous, and the commentators are evenly divided about identifying those to whom they refer. Some think that the ‘he’ must surely refer to God, since it is He alone that gives life and pardon. This of course is true, but on the other hand, it seems to do violence to the grammatical construction of the sentence to introduce a different subject for the second verb when the first obviously refers to the intercessor. In fact, it is legitimate to refer the ‘giving of life’ to the intercessor, since under God it is he who not only gains it for the sinner but also may be said to give it to him. We need not fear to adopt this striking interpretation when we recall that James makes the same point even more explicitly in his epistle (5:20),when he speaks of the believer ‘converting’ another and saving a soul from death. In the fundamental sense, of course, we know that it is God alone Who can save a soul and give life. The concern here is not to arrogate to a believer the power that belongs to God alone, but rather to stress the tremendous responsibility that lies upon him in his intercession and the life and death issues that are involved in it. The meaning of ‘the sin unto death’ must be left until the next note.
Monday 7th April
1 John 5:16-17
It is not easy to discern what John means by the ‘sin unto death’. The phrase however most likely belongs to a particular emphasis which we see in several parts of Scripture stressing the extreme seriousness of continued sin and its far-reaching, not to say eternal, consequences. Passages such as Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26, 12:16, 17, 1 Cor 5:5, 11:30, underline how dangerous it is for believers to dabble in sin. In one sense, of course, all sin is unto death, for the wages of sin is death. But John is distinguishing between sins that may be forgiven and the sin that may put a man beyond the point of no return. One thinks naturally of our Lord’s words about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, a sin for which there in no forgiveness, and it may be that John is referring to this. The death mentioned may be taken as physical or as spiritual death. In the reference in the Corinthian epistle mentioned above, certainly physical death is what Paul has in mind, and this warns us that there are some sins in believers which bring them to their death. God is more honoured in taking them out of the way than in healing and restoring them. We may recall the Old Testament teaching on the distinction between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption. All human sin is an admixture of ignorance and wilfulness, and one can visualise the possibility of sinful attitudes becoming more and more wilful and deliberate and presumptuous, and less and less partaking of the ignorance that makes sin ‘forgivable’ (see 1 Tim 1:13) until the possibility of forgiveness is past, and the irrevocable step has been taken which puts a man beyond the reach of the grace of God. This would be the ‘sin unto death’ concerning which John says, “I do not say that he shall pray for it”. This is terribly solemn and frightening, but the references already quoted from various parts of the New Testament forbid us to dismiss the thought as if John did not quite mean what he said.
Tuesday 8th April
1 John 5:16-17
An important corroboration of the interpretation given in the previous note may be found in the Old Testament, in Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14, 14:11, where the prophet is explicitly told not to pray for the people. In the experience of Judah there came a point beyond which God would have no more to do with them. They had by the persistence of their sins passed the point of no return, and nothing then would have availed to turn away the threatened doom. And nothing did; for the people of God were swept away into captivity in the judgment that came upon their ‘sin unto death’. Obviously, such a sin may be committed by a believer or an unbeliever; but the ‘end’ of the judgment will be different in each case. An unbeliever can sin away his day of grace, as, for example, it would seem that King Herod did, for although there was a time when his spirit was stirred and brought under conviction through the preaching of John the Baptist, that conviction was resisted and quenched until finally, when he came face to face with the Son of God, Jesus had no word to speak to him. He had passed the point of no return. But a believer cannot finally lose his salvation; the Scripture makes this abundantly clear. Can he then not sin the ‘sin unto death’? The answer is that he may do so by continued carelessness of spiritual things, and continued rebellion against the holy laws of God until, like the children of Israel of old, he becomes ‘disqualified’ (see 1 Cor 9:27) -not in the sense of losing his salvation, but of losing his reward, and being ashamed before Christ at His coming (1 John 2:28) and suffering loss as the fire tries his work (1 Cor 3:13), and in the meanwhile suffering the censure of the Lord’s judgment in his experience (1 Cor 11:30). These are weighty and soul burdening issues indeed. Well might David pray, “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins….then shall I be innocent from the great transgression” (Ps 19:13).
Wednesday 9th April
1 John 5:17-18
John safeguards himself from any misunderstanding of his words by insisting in 17 that all unrighteousness is sin. It is as if he were saying, “Do not misunderstand me; when I distinguish a sin unto death I am not suggesting that other sins are not serious. All sin is serious, and must be treated so”. It is in connection with this that he goes on in 18 to remind his readers of what he has already emphasised in 3:6,9, that those who are born of God cannot go on sinning (the tense of the verb is present continuous). The next phrase, “he that is begotten of God” is open to different interpretations, for it may refer either to the believer himself or to Christ. The critical word is ‘himself’. Some manuscripts read ‘himself’, others read ‘him’. The RSV and the NEB both take the latter reading as the correct one, and this makes the sentence read, “He that is begotten of God (i.e. Christ) keepeth him (i.e. the believer). This is probably the better and more accurate reading, although it is fair to point out that the Scriptures do speak elsewhere of the believer preserving himself (see 1 Tim 5:22; James 1:27; Jude 21; 1 John 3:3 ;). In the deepest sense, it is always God Who worketh in us this purifying and preserving work. It is perhaps significant that the above reference in Jude is followed closely by the great statement that “He is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless….” (Jude 24). This is surely John’s point here, and this is why he can be so confident that those that are born of God will not continue in sin.
Thursday 10th April
1 John 5:19
John is making a contrast here between the security of the believer and the plight of the world. The whole world, he says, lies in (the power of) the wicked one; but the believer is safe in the hand of God. The apostle’s thought is very like the Psalmist’s in Ps 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty”. This is the believer’s safety, and no evil can touch him. There is almost a suggestion of the evil one trying unremittingly to assail the believer, but to no avail. One recalls Christian at the gate of the Palace Beautiful, where the two lions growled and roared at him, but could not harm him, being chained. There may also be an echo of the statement in Ps105:15, “Touch not the Lord’s anointed, neither do His prophets any harm”. In stark contrast to this blessed state, the unbelieving world is said to ‘lie’ in the wicked one. For unbelievers, there is no struggle against the enemy (the battle, paradoxically, is reserved for those who have been set free) they lie quietly acquiescent in the devil’s power. Here, as so often throughout the epistle, John is categorical in the contrast he presents; there is no middle way, it is either ‘of God’ or ‘in the evil one’, and benevolent neutrality is impossible. In this he simply echoes our Lord’s own teaching, “He that is not with Me is against Me”. It is as decisive as that!
Friday 11th April
1 John 5:20-21
Again John deals with fundamental Christian positions here, in the third ‘we know’ in successive verses (18, 19, 20). This is the bedrock assurance that stands over against all alarms and all possible circumstances -we know that the Son of God is come. It is this that prompts Paul to say in Rom 8:38, 39, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor….shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. This is the sheet-anchor for the believer. When he can really say, “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding”, nothing can disturb his faith. It is this assurance that the opponents of the Christian faith will never understand. So long as Christianity is thought of in terms of the possibility of rational proofs and philosophical probabilities, then arguments continue. But one does not waste time trying to prove what one knows, and the believer can afford to smile at the cleverest and most convincing ‘proofs’ given with the greatest force and persuasiveness by agnostics, humanists and others that the Christian faith is intellectually and logically impossible of acceptance; for he knows that Christ has come (the verb is in the perfect tense, denoting that the effect of His coming has remained), and that the understanding He has given of the unseen world is such as to remove the whole issue from the realm of argument or doubt. We know!
Saturday 12th April
1 John 5:20-21
The last phrase of 20 is very striking. Some scholars think it refers to God, but others, including both Calvin and Luther, maintain that the reference is to Christ, and if this is correct, then it is the most direct and most unequivocal reference in the New Testament to the deity of Christ. Nor should we be unwilling to follow this interpretation, for after all John’s concern throughout the epistle has been to underline this fundamental truth. So far as he, and indeed the other apostles also are concerned, if Jesus is not God, then there can be no real atonement, and no salvation. There seems to be a connection between the last words of 20 and what John concludes with in 21. The force of what he is saying is: “Be true to the One Who is the true God, and have no truck with any doctrine which detracts from His glory”. The idols John refers to must surely be understood in the context of the rest of the epistle, as referring to the false teaching which was endangering the life of the Church. This was such as to require a decisive repulse, and John conveys this in the tense of the verb he uses. To know Christ as the true and living God makes it unthinkable that a man will have any association with what denies Him. He will inevitably want to shun all complicity with such things. And he will do so, decisively, and once for all. This is the force of John’s words.
“What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?”
Sunday 13th April
1 Thessalonians 1
Paul’s first connection with the city of Thessalonica was probably about 50 AD, when he and Silas visited the city in the course of his second missionary journey. You can find the story of that first visit in Acts 17:1-10. The trouble they encountered in Thessalonica meant that Paul was forced to leave this young church before he had taught them all that was necessary for the proper establishment of a Christian community. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says this: ‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.’ It would seem that this young church was also subject to persecution.
Monday 14th April
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
Paul signs the letter at the beginning (as was the custom) and includes the names of those who were with him: Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy. Even in this first verse there is a sentence which is very significant. Paul speaks about the church of the Thessalonians being, ‘…in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ This is the only instance of this expression in the New Testament. It is much more common to find Paul saying ‘in Christ.’ In either case, however, this way of expressing things means that the Thessalonians were ‘grounded in’ God. In other words, these people, both as individuals and as a church, were related to God in an unchangeable way. To be a Christian, then, is to be ‘in God’ or ‘in Christ’ and the bond which holds us in this relationship is Christ himself. Some people think they have this relationship but don’t (Matthew 7:21-23) and others give the outward appearance of having this relationship but they don’t (Matthew 13:21).
Tuesday 15th April
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
Paul speaks in these verses about the faith, love and hope of the Thessalonians. First, he describes their ‘work produced by faith.’ In other words, their faith was real and produced good works (compare James 2:14-19, 26). Second, he describes their ‘labour prompted by love.’ That is to say, their work for the kingdom sprang from love not duty! Later, in John 13:35, he said this to his disciples, ‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples that you love one another.’ Finally, Paul speaks of their ‘endurance inspired by hope’ and not just any hope, but hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Faith, hope and love – these should all be seen in every Christian.
Wednesday 16th April
1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
Many people today struggle over whether or not God loves them and over whether or not God has chosen them. Paul says in these verses that he knew that the Thessalonians were loved by God and chosen by God. What reason does he give for this? He says that the gospel came, ‘not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.’ We might say that the Gospel does not simply come with power, it is power. As Paul says in Romans 1:16: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.’ The Holy Spirit is also mentioned. As on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes down on every person who becomes a Christian. This fosters a ‘deep conviction’ concerning the truth of God.
Thursday 17th April
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
The Thessalonians responded to the Gospel in two ways. First response: ‘You became imitators of us’ (verse 6). ‘You became a model to all the believers’ (verse 7). They learned from those who had gone before then they in turn became models for others. Notice, however, that they became imitators of us ‘and of the Lord.’ This is also what we see in Ephesians 5:1 and in 1 Peter 1:15-16. We were made in the image of God (Genesis 1) but that image was damaged by the Fall. God’s purpose is to restore us to that original condition so that we are fully in God’s image. That is why we are to become like Christ. Second Response: ‘You welcomed the message with the joy that comes by the Holy Spirit’ (verse 6). The joy of the Lord is the natural response when we come to believe in Christ and our sins are forgiven.
Frday 18th April
1 Thessalonians 1:8-10
Having become Christians, the witness of the Thessalonians began to have an impact on the surrounding area. We are told, ‘The Lord’s message rang out from you’ (verse 8). This message was reinforced by three things that people could see in their lives. First, people could see that they had turned from one way of life to another. That word ‘turning’ is the core meaning of the word ‘repentance.’ Second, people could also see that they had committed themselves to serving God. This service was a testimony to the life they had chosen. We are called to serve God wholeheartedly. Third, people could see that they were waiting in expectation for the return of Christ. We too must live in expectation of that Day.
Saturday 19th April
1 Thessalonians 1
Today we read again the whole chapter and ask ourselves some questions to see if we can learn from this young church. 1. Are we rooted and grounded in God? 2. Do we exhibit the faith, love and hope which those early Christians had? 3. Do we see the gospel today coming in our churches with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction? 4. Are we learning from those godly men and women who have gone before us and, in turn, giving a good example to those who are coming after? 5. Do we have a real sense of the joy of the Lord in our worship and in our lives and is this joy apparent to others? 6. Is the gospel ringing out from us and do people see in our lives that turning and serving and waiting which we see in the Thessalonians?
Sunday 20th April
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
The background to this passage is that some were questioning Paul’s right to be called an apostle and accusing him of all kinds of impropriety. Paul responds by reminding the Thessalonians of the way in which he and his fellow elders behaved among them, as an example of Christian leadership. For those of us who serve as elders this is a model of good leadership. It is also important for the whole congregation because when we are looking for leaders, these are the qualities that we should be looking for. Paul was quite willing to endure opposition, suffering & ridicule in the cause of the Gospel, so that he might preach and so that some might be saved. He had on many occasions suffered for the Gospel. Read what he says in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. Our Lord suffered even more, as we have been remembering this Easter week-end. How much would we be prepared to endure for Christ?
Monday 21st April
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Paul describes in these verses several aspects of good Christian leadership (or eldership). First, a good elder is elected and called by God and entrusted with the gospel (verse 4). The leaders of the church are chosen and set apart by God. The task of the church is to recognise those who have been gifted by God for that purpose. Second, a good elder seeks to please God not men (verses 4-6). You can’t please all of the people all of the time! Pleasing God and being obedient to his Word is what is required. Third, a good elder cares for the church like a parent with children (verses 6-7). Also verse 11: ‘For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children.’ Good leaders trust God, please God and act on behalf of God in caring for the flock.
Tuesday 22nd April
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
There are more lessons to be learned here about good Christian leadership. First, a good elder loves people and has a heart for people (verse 8). If people know that you love them and if you show that love, they will listen to you and you will be able to help them spiritually. Second, a good elder works hard among his people. In other words, he is diligent in carrying out his duties (verse 9). There is no substitute for hard work in the gospel. It is hard work to carry out the pastoral duties and the administration of a congregation. Third, a good elder lives a holy and godly live among his people and so provides a good example to others (verse 10). This is very important, as Peter underlines in 1 Peter 5:3. Fourth, a good elder brings encouragement (verses 11-12). It is the task of the leadership to encourage and build people up. We all need encouragement and often this is lacking in churches.
Wednesday 23rd April
1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
In these verses we learn that the apostles preached the Word of God, the Thessalonians received it and they also recognised (or accepted) it as the very Word of God. These are three important points concerning the Word of God: It must be preached; it must be received; and it must be recognised. First, the Word of God is to be preached. That was Paul’s calling and a preacher has no authority to do anything else. It is not only preached from a pulpit, however, it is preached when we each teach it to our families and friends. Second, the Word of God is to be received. When we come to Church we should be receptive and ready to receive the Word. Also, when we read our Bibles at home we should be in a right frame of mind, closing other things out, so that we are receptive. Third, The Word of God is to be recognised as such, it is not just the words of men. It was to their great credit that the Thessalonians did not mistake the message of the gospel for something that Paul and the others had made up. They recognised it for what it was – the Word of God.
Thursday 24th April
1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
There is no doubt but that Paul was deeply concerned about this young church in Thessalonica. In the first two verses of our passage we see something of the love and affection which Paul and his companions had for them and also something of their anxiety for this young church in a hostile world. Their anxiety was because of Satan. We are told that Satan prevented them from doing what they wanted. The existence and power of the devil and all the forces of darkness have never been more celebrated in horror films and there is still considerable interest in the occult, in spirits and so on. Yet in the churches and certainly among theologians there is a reluctance to believe in evil and in the devil. Paul was clear, however, about the power and influence of the Evil One. Are we aware of the danger he poses to the life of the believer?
Friday 25th April
1 Thessalonians 3:1-10
As we know from the Acts of the Apostles and from the early chapters of this letter, Paul and his companions had been forced to leave Thessalonica before these young Christians were very well established in the faith. Paul was concerned that they might not have been able to stand firm in the midst of the suffering and struggles they were enduring, and so he sent Timothy to find out how they were doing. Here in chapter 3 we learn that all was well with them! The sheer relief is evident in Paul’s language (verses 6-10). Here is a man with a pastor’s heart. Notice three things we are told about the Thessalonians which ought to be true of every Christian church: Their faith was strong; they had a real love in their hearts; and they were standing firm in the Lord. This makes Paul want even more to go and see them, to take them further in the faith (verse 10).
Saturday 26th April
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
Having heard the good news from Timothy about the growth and stability of the Thessalonian Church, Paul is driven to prayer, and so the last few verses of this chapter are Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. He asks for three things: (1) that he (Paul) would be able to see the Thessalonians again soon; (2) that their love would increase and overflow for each other; and (3) that God would strengthen their hearts. What is his reason for all this? We find the answer in the last verse of the chapter, ‘so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.’ Paul’s real desire for the Thessalonians, then, is that they should by holy and set apart from the world. To be a Christian is to be holy, to be different from the world, with different values, different aims, and a different master. It is no coincidence that the passage ends with a reference to Christ and ‘all his holy ones.’
Sunday 27th April
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
How are we to live in order to please God? There are many answers to this question in different parts of Scripture but here in these verses, Paul says that the life of faith is to be a holy life. He tells us that it is God’s will that we should be sanctified, especially in respect of sexual morality (verses 3-6). The message is that God calls us to live holy lives (verse 7). If we reject this teaching we are really rejecting God (verse 8), and judgement will follow. It can be demonstrated from Scripture that, from beginning to end, the purpose of God has been to create a holy people for himself with whom he can have fellowship. Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit whereby he takes those who have become Christians and works in and through them to make them holy and Christ-like. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, Peter tells his readers to be holy because God is holy. We are made in the image of God but that image within us is so defaced and corrupted by sin as to require the work of the Holy Spirit to restore it.
Monday 28th April
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
In these verses, Paul turns to speak about another practical subject: brotherly love. Brotherly love is clearly one of the marks of a Christian, as we have seen recently in our studies in John’s Gospel. Jesus said, ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:35). The apostle John also deals with the subject in his first letter and in 1 John 3:16 makes a most dramatic statement: ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.’ Just as powerful is what he says in 1 John 4:7-11: ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’ Take time also to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Tuesday 29th April
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
The theme in these verses is respectable living. Notice what Paul says here: First, lead a quiet life, be solid dependable people, not all show and noise and drawing attention to yourself. Second, mind your own business, with no gossip, or envy, or greed. Third, work with your hands, which means work hard to earn a living and provide for your family. Paul then answers the question ‘Why should we live like this?’ He gives two reasons: first, so that your daily life will win the respect of outsiders; and second, so that you will not be dependent upon anybody. The point underlying Paul’s teaching here is that the gospel must be demonstrated by the quality of our lives. Notice, it is not just the ‘religious’ aspect of our lives which is important but the practical way in which we go about our daily business. Do we live the kind of lives which win the respect of those who do not share our beliefs? This is a lesson in practical Christianity
Wednesday 30th April
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Belief in the Second Coming of Christ has long been an established element in Christian theology and the New Testament contains a great deal of teaching on this subject. This letter to the Thessalonians is particularly rich. In today’s passage there are several points we can make about the Second Coming and about the believer’s hope of glory: We do not have to grieve for fellow believers who die because we have hope (verse 13). This hope is based upon the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (verse 14). When Christ returns there will be a bodily resurrection, not just soul survival (verse 16). This will mark the end of history as we know it. This will be followed by the day of judgement. We will be with the Lord for ever (v.17).