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Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 42
I Thessalonians 1:1 – 2:14 – Part 2
Now in our last lesson I couldn’t find the right verse to give you as we closed, as I was in II Corinthians chapter 11 rather than I Corinthians chapter 11. That just keeps you humble you know. I’m going to finish my thought though in this half hour because we trust that most of our television audience watch us every morning. Now let’s continue on with I Corinthians chapter 11 with this admonition from the apostle Paul to follow him. You know, everybody’s got the idea that we have to walk in the footsteps of Jesus but Paul doesn’t teach that. We follow Paul, who follows Christ. So actually yes, Christ is preeminent in our life – not Paul. Christ is the one who died for us, not Paul. But Paul is the one who has been commissioned to be our apostle. And it’s through his writings that we have the Word of God for Church Age believers. Now let’s jump back in where we should have ended in I Corinthians chapter 11, verse 1.
I Corinthians 11:1
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
Now the next time he says it is in Philippians chapter 3, verse 17. And you know I’m always stressing the apostle Paul did not have an ounce of conceit or egotism. He was probably as humble as could be. But the Holy Spirit led him to say these things so that we can get it straight. Otherwise it would get confusing if we were told that, yes, Paul’s got the message, but we follow in the footsteps of somebody else. So we follow Paul, who followed Christ.
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19. Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind (what kind of things?)earthly things.”
They are materialistic and consequently that flies in the face of Paul’s admonition to be first and foremost, spiritual. And then God will provide our material needs. Now let’s go back to I Thessalonians where we left off. We’re now ready for verse 7. Let’s read verse 6 again to just pick up the flow.
I Thessalonians 1:6-10
“And ye became followers of us, (speaking of himself) and the Lord, (he follows the Lord and we follow him) having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7. So that ye were ensamples to all that believe (in other words, to all new Christians throughout Greece. Remember Greece, in Paul’s day, was divided into two states, Macedonia to the north and Achaia down to the south.) in Macedonia and Achaia. 8. For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith (It was their faith that so astounded their fellow Greek people.) to Godward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, (and this is the verse we covered in our last half hour) and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;(that was the response of love) 10. And to wait (the blessed hope. And Paul thought that the Lord would come in his lifetime. Now, of course, we think the same thing. We think the Lord’s going to come in our lifetime and I think we’re appropriate in that attitude.) for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
Now I have to feel that the wrath to come here is not speaking of Hellfire, not the Lake of Fire, but it’s speaking of the Tribulation wrath. It’s speaking of that wrath and vexation that Psalms 2 prophesied would come upon the world after the world had rejected the Messiah. And as we showed in our timeline this afternoon how that now the period of time has been opened up to include the Church Age and as soon as the Church Age is completed and the last believer has been brought in, then, of course he has to take it out of the way and continue on where he left off with the Nation of Israel.
I may have shared it before on this program, but early on in our television ministry I had a young Jewish listener out in California who was an Orthodox Jewish fellow and he was under the tutelage of the Rabbis and he was in a Yeshiva and he would call periodically and we had a lot of good conversations. I’ll never forget the one that hit me the hardest. He said, “Les I know that you’d like to convert all of us Jews and make us believers. But if that were the case, and the Lord would come as you expect Him to come, there wouldn’t be any Jews left here to fulfill prophecy!” TRUE!!! Isn’t that exactly true? There has to be the Nation of Israel, on the scene, to fulfill the program that initiated with Abraham. And so we can’t expect every Jew to become a believer. They have to be here for when Christ once again deals with them on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant. So never lose sight of that.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have a concern for Jewish people. Of course we do. But on the other hand we have to realize the nation is going to have to be intact. That’s why I’m not too worried about this peace process. I know Israel is going to get squeezed. Israel is going to come under a lot of pressure to give up the Golan and the West Bank. But you rest assured they’re not going to push Israel into the sea. Because the Nation of Israel is merely there as a prop on God’s stage, waiting for the curtain to be lifted and the final days would be brought to fruition. Now let’s go on the chapter 2 of I Thessalonians and verse1.
I Thessalonians 2:1
“For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain:”
Boy, I guess not. Here he comes into this pagan city, no doubt still stiff and sore. Some of you have played football. Some of you have done various kinds of work. Gardening, haying, etc. And the next day, how do you feel? Like somebody has just beaten you with ball bats. Well, they had him! Paul and Silas had just been beaten up there in Philippi with the scourges of the Romans and cast down into the dungeon without benefit of antiseptics or antibiotics, and so I can imagine that by the time these men walked into Thessalonica they were, as we would say, as stiff as a board. They must have been physically miserable. But, in spite of it, what an impact they had on that pagan city, so that they were able to establish a little local congregation of believers in just four weeks time. I have to just keep emphasizing that. Can you imagine doing that in four weeks out of paganism. And then be able to have them so establish that in spite of all the pressure of persecution that you know came upon them from two quarters.
From the Jewish element, who hated everything Paul was doing, as well as from the pagan element who, of course, had nothing to do with Christianity. In fact, come back with me again to where we were in the beginning our Thessalonian study to Acts chapter 17 and jumping in at verse 10. Okay, here they come from Philippi to Thessalonica down to Berea and that’s where we’re going to pick it up here in the Acts account. And then he goes on down to Athens and down to Corinth, where he writes these two little letters, probably in close proximity back to the church up there in Thessalonica. Now they had escaped the persecution in Thessalonica.
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11. And these (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.(that Paul was teaching)12. Therefore many of them believed: (because they were able to search the scriptures and then realize that Paul was not something from out of left field. He was not coming out of the woodwork, but he had the truth of the Word of God.) also of honorable women which were Greeks (Gentiles) and of men, not a few.”
Now look what happens. As soon as the Jews up there in Thessalonica, which was about 30 something miles distance. From what I can gather from history, there was between 30 and 40 miles between all of these cities. Between Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea and on down to Athens.
“But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also ( not willing that he get away with anything) and they stirred up the people. 14. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea; but Silas and Timotheus abode there still.”
Now let’s come back to Acts again and just see how the Jewish people, bless their hearts, just could not give in to the fact that these Gentiles were coming in to a relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Come back to Acts chapter 13 for just a moment. This is at the very onset of Paul’s missionary journey, coming from Antioch, stopping on the island of Cypress and Barnabas, of course, was with him on this trip.
“And when they had gone through the isle (the island of Cypress) unto Paphos (which is clear on the west end) they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus; 7. Which was with the deputy (governor, the ruling individual) of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man (a Roman, a Gentile) who called for Barnabas and Saul and desired to hear the word of God.”
Now isn’t it amazing that without benefit of any New Testament Scripture whatsoever, all they have if anything, is the Old Testament. And yet, even these pagan Gentiles, as soon as they got word of Paul, they knew that he had the Word of God. Even before his letters were written. Isn’t that amazing? And so here is this governor of the Island of Cypress, hears that Paul is in the vicinity and he wants to hear the Word of God. And so he calls for him. Now let’s go on to verse 8.
“But Elymas the sorcerer (the Jewish gentleman up there in verse 6) (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy (governor) from (what?)the faith (from believing)“
So right from the very beginning of Paul’s missionary ministry to the Gentiles, he has opposition from the Jewish people from start to finish. And they never quit. The early churches were constantly bombarded by either the Judaisers, who were, I think, even believers of Christ’s ministry and they had the Gospel of the Kingdom, but that still implored them to be circumcised and to keep the Law of Moses. And so even a lot of those Jews came in and infiltrated these early Gentile congregations, that they had to keep the Law of Moses or they couldn’t be saved. In fact while you’re in Acts, you might as well turn the page to Acts chapter 15. Now this is exactly what the early congregations were being subjected to and to which Paul had to constantly overcome one way or another. Either by writing them a letter or sending back Timothy or Titus or one of his helpers, but it was a constant battle to keep these Jewish believers from Jerusalem at bay.
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, (Paul’s converts) and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”
Now listen, people were just as human then as they are today. My, how many phone calls don’t I get where somebody calls and says, “Les my pastor tells me that if I don’t do such and such, I’m going to go to Hell.” Well nobody likes to hear that, and it scares them to death. My, sometimes they’re in tears because they’re so afraid. Well these people were no different. Here comes these Jews from Jerusalem, seemingly having religious authority, and they bombard these poor earthly Gentile believers with ” Well that’s all well and good as far as Paul went, but he didn’t go far enough. He should have told you that you have to be circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses.” Now look at verse 5, and it’s repeated again.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, (these Gentile believers) and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
Who commanded this? Believing Jews! Do you see how plain that is? And that’s what the early congregations were constantly subjected to. But Paul kept fighting back with his theme, “You’re not under Law, you’re under Grace.” My, I think one lady put it so appropriate the other day when she said, “Les I just feel like the shackles have fallen off.” Well said! Because that’s what legalism does, it just shackles people, puts them under fear and superstition. As I said several programs back, you look at every religion in the world, and you will find that’s how they control their people. See, that’s really- who was it? Lennon or one of the Communists in Russia called religion the opiate of the people, and most religions are because religious leaders will put them under fear and superstition and that’s how they control the masses.
Now you and I aren’t under that, we’re not under any kind of fear and superstition, but rather we’re under Grace, and this becomes our guide, and we follow the apostle Paul of course as he followed Christ, we practice faith, hope, and charity. Now back to I Thessalonians, enough for that. Let’s just drop in at verse 5 now, and again I want you to see the heart of this apostle. He could have gotten puffed up, he could have gotten proud and egotistical seeing what an impact he was having on the Roman Empire. He was accused of turning the Roman Empire upside down single-handedly with the Lord’s help of course. So he could have gotten puffed up but it was just the opposite.
I Thessalonians 2:5-8
“For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness: (the apostle Paul never came into a city with the idea that he was going to see how much of their money he could get before he left. Never! That’s quite a change from today isn’t it?) 6. Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. 7. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 8. So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”
Now verse 9, and this is something I want you to see and you can realize why again the Jews put so much doubt on the man’s ministry.
I Thessalonians 2:9
“For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable (or put in debt) unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.”
Now what was part and parcel of the Jewish mentality with regard to the priesthood? Hey, they didn’t have to work to make their living. Those of the tribe of Levi had all their needs provided by the other 11 tribes. Isn’t that right? Sure, that was the purpose of the tithes and offering under the Law. So the Levi’s had to do nothing but just simply the service at the temple. They didn’t have to work with their hands to make a living, but Paul did. So what would they say? If you’re a true man of God, you should be able to live off of the tithes and offerings of God’s people. Boy that sounds typical doesn’t it? But Paul says, “I won’t do it. Oh I could, and I have every right to, the Old Testament did say, you don’t muzzle the ox who treadeth the corn. I do have a right to expect my livelihood, but I’m not going to do it. I’m going to work with my own hands day and night if need be to provide my own physical needs so that none of you pagan Gentiles can ever accuse me of coming in merely to take your money.” Pretty good idea wasn’t it? And so he rehearses this throughout this Thessalonian letter that he never came into a Gentile city with the idea of living off the people, although he certainly had every right to do it. Now verse 10.
I Thessalonians 2:10
“Ye are witness, and God also, how holily (without anyone pointing a finger at him) and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believed:”
Paul was so careful in his daily behavior that none of these new Christians could suddenly become disenchanted with some kind of hypocrisy.
I Thessalonians 2:11
“As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,”
Do you see what a love he had for these pagan people? Remember they were pagans, they had just recently been offering offerings up to the gods and goddesses of the pagan world. They had their idols in their homes, and Paul loved them with a love where he would have given his life for them as a father would his children. Now verse 12.
I Thessalonians 2:12-13a
“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 13. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, (underline that next portion) ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God,…”
Wouldn’t that be something if people could say that of all of us? Whenever we quote a Scripture, or make a doctrinal statement that people could just sit up and say, “Boy, now that’s God speaking!” When the Word of God permeates us it’s just going to flow through us and they’re going to know whether we’re fake or not. Reading verse 13 again.
I Thessalonians 2:13
“For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, (every thing he spoke to these pagan was understood to be the Word of God) which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
See the unbelieving world can never accept the Word of God whether it’s in this Book or in your mouth or mine. But people of faith can immediately recognize the truth. Now verse 14.
I Thessalonians 2:`14
“For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: (now don’t let that throw you a curve. That simply means that the same God who began the work with Christ’s earthly ministry, and the assemblies there in Jerusalem, had now gone on to the places where Paul was sent to the Gentiles. It’s the same God.) for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:”
Stop and think a minute. How did the rank and file Jews who remained true to the Mosaic system treat the Jews who embraced Jesus of Nazareth? Hey, Saul of Tarsus was the typical example. What did he try to do? Obliterate them, threw them into prison, voted against their being left alive, he voted for their death, and so it wasn’t just the Gentiles who suffered at their hands, their own fellow Jewish people did, also, and this is what we have to remember.