Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 3 * BOOK 42
I Thessalonians 2:15 – 4:18
Now let’s go back to I Thessalonians chapter 4 and pick up again with this mind of the apostle Paul toward these new believers fresh out of paganism. These things are written of course to encourage us as believers even almost 2000 years later. Now verse 2.
I Thessalonians 4:2
“For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.”
Paul didn’t dream these things up. And as he says in Corinthians, “I didn’t bring you a polluted product.” Remember in I Corinthians, I showed you the Greek word was, “That he didn’t bring you a product that was like wine that had been watered down and sold as a legitimate product.” Paul said, “I didn’t do that. I didn’t bring you something that was anything less then the truth.” How else could it be any other way since he received it directly from the Lord Jesus Himself, from His ascended place in glory.” He did not receive it second hand from the twelve, nor any other source, but straight from the ascended Lord.
I Thessalonians 4:3a
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification,…” Now that’s not a big word to scare people. Sanctification merely means a place of being set apart as holiness also means. Were not like the rest of the world around us, we’re to be different. As I’ve said so often, the believer is not to be an odd ball or some kind of kook that the world laughs at, but we are to be different in a way that our lifestyle is pleasing unto God rather than pleasing unto the Satanic world around us. So here in this verse Paul deals with one of the sins that has been paramount almost from day one, and that is sexual morality.
I Thessalonians 4:3b-4
“…that ye should abstain from fornication: (or sexual immorality) 4. That every one (not just the preacher or deacons or the Sunday School teachers, but every believer is to live a separated and a sanctified life.) of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;”
And what is our vessel? This body of flesh. This body, in fact when we get to the closing verses of this letter to the Thessalonians, he’s going to make reference to that. In fact just go ahead and turn to it, and we’ll hit it again when we come to it.
I Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; (set you apart) and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body…”
God is just as concerned with what we do with this body of flesh as what we do in the soul and spirit. Don’t think for a minute that God is only concerned with the Spiritual element. We have been left in this body of flesh, and it’s in the body that we promote the love of Christ to the world around us. Now go back to chapter 4. So we are to control the appetites of the flesh of this body that would be in honour and glory of the Lord Himself. He looks at the other side of the coin.
I Thessalonians 4:5
“Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:”
You have to remember that in the pagan world in which Paul lived, there was no real sense of morality, honesty or Godliness because they knew nothing of that. They survived only enough to hold their community together, but so far as having any integrity or honesty the ancient world knew nothing of that. In fact most of our western culture didn’t really become what it was until the King of England put out the Magna Carta. Then we had the Bill of Rights and so forth, but up until that time there wasn’t anything like that.
All of these things were prompted of course by Paul’s teachings concerning the Christian life and that has made western civilization what it is. Remember it if hadn’t been for Christianity, western civilization wouldn’t have preceded any farther than the rest of the world. But these are the things that have made the western world as progressive as it’s been, and as productive as it’s been. At least up until recent history even the secular world operated on a basis of a certain amount of honesty and integrity. Those of us who are a little older know that you didn’t have to draw up a ten page contract when you made a deal. Things were settled with a handshake. But that’s been watered down and no longer true, because we’re going back to much of the immorality and so forth of the pagan world. Now come back to verse 6.
I Thessalonians 4:6
“That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.”
In other words, the believer has a certain amount of God’s protection from the secular world around us. Now I do not say that, just because we’re a believer, all of a sudden nobody can touch us or harm us, we know better than that. But on the other hand we have a certain element of security that God is watching out for us. And even though He may permit Satan to touch us, even as Satan touched Paul by giving him the thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, but it was not without God’s permission. And it’s the same way with us, nothing can touch us without God’s permissive will, so we can rest in that, we can take comfort of the fact that we are not alone. Now verse 7.
I Thessalonians 4:7
“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, (that’s where the Gentile world was anyway, and that’s where we would be anyway) but unto holiness.
Now that word holiness often scares people. People don’t want to be holy. But the word holy does not mean that all of a sudden we sprout wings and we become sinless beings, and are above the norm of Christianity or the world. But holiness is just simply set apart. In fact the vessels in the temple, the shovels for cleaning out the ashes, the tongs for lifting the sacrificial meat and so forth were all holy. Why? Because they were to be used for nothing else. And that of course is why Belshazzar got into trouble back in the Book of Daniel. He used those vessels that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem and used them at his drunken banquet, and that was pushing it too far. So the handwriting came on the wall MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting,” – but what triggered it? They were using God’s holy vessels, and I think the same thing applies, if the unbelieving world touches a believer he’d better be careful, because on occasion God will intervene in such a way that the world will know that the believer is protected by God’s Sovereign Grace. Now verse 8
I Thessalonians 4:8a
“He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God,…”
Now I think we’ve got an Old Testament example that I’m going to use, and there may be some who would say, “That’s not appropriate” but I think it is. So come back with me to I Samuel chapter 8 for a moment. Here, Israel has been ruled by the judges that God has appointed, and Samuel is the last one, but now the people want a king. Samuel is now old and his sons have been anything but what they should have been. So that was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Israel. Now the Israelites had had just about had enough of these judges. See the analogy is the same – the world hasn’t changed one bit. Human nature hasn’t changed, and God hasn’t changed.
I Samuel 8:1-7
“And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. 2. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, (sounds like politics doesn’t it?) and perverted judgment. 4. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah. 5. And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said “Give us a king to judge us”. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7. And the LORD said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
Now isn’t that typical? You see, they weren’t rejecting Samuel the man, but rather they were rejecting the God under whom Samuel laboured. And it’s the same way today. You see, they do not show their hatred for Christianity because of the individual Christians, but rather it’s the God of Christianity that the world hates. Of course they’re prompted by the demonic forces of the great adversary, Satan himself. Now coming back to I Thessalonians chapter 4. So Paul says, our adversaries do not despise us personally as men, but they despise God,
I Thessalonians 4:8b
“…who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.”
Now another verse just comes to mind. We need to use every verse of Scripture that the Lord puts in our mind. Let’s look at Romans chapter 8, where Paul again makes it so plain, and this helps the believer to understand our position in this world around us. Why does the world around us do the things they do, why do they have the appetites they have? Why do they seemingly have no concerns about what God says? They seemingly never think of eternity, and that’s what I have to think of so often. Don’t they ever think about eternity? Don’t they ever stop to think of the horrors of the Lake of Fire that’s coming for them? No, they don’t because they are anti-God and they’re the enemies of God, so consequently it never enters their mind. Now you say, “Where do you get that?” Romans chapter 8, verse 5.
“For they that are after the flesh (that is the unsaved world around us) do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6. For to be carnally(or fleshly) minded is death; (spiritual death) but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; (we don’t ordinarily look at people being enemies of God do we? But they are. The carnal mind, the unsaved person is an enemy of God. Oh they may be perfectly good people, a good neighbor, a good parent, a good church member, but in his heart, his true thinking, his true motive is still anti-God. Now that’s what the Book says, it’s not my idea.) for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
The unbelieving world is not subject to the law of God, and neither indeed can it be. It’s impossible. It’s amazing that the world holds together as well as it does. It really is, when you realize the abject paganism of the ancient world, and when you realize that during the period of human history ever since then up unto now, the vast percentage of people having no concern about the things of God. It’s always been a small percentage of people who love God. And let’s go back to the Scriptures to prove my statement.
Poor old Elijah thought he was the only one left. Now that was the extreme wasn’t it? Israel at that time had a population of about 7 million people, which was about average. But God said, “No Elijah, you’re not the only one, I’ve still got 1/10 of 1 percent.” Oh He didn’t put it in those figures, but God said about the same thing. “I’ve got 7000 who have not bowed their knee to Baal. But you see 7000 out of 7,000,000 is 1/10 of 1 percent if I figure right, and that’s about where we are today even in the Church Age.
Someone asked me the other day, “What percentage of the audience do you think you reach?” 1/10 of 1 percent. Now that’s what I really think we reach, even in a place like Tulsa. Now I hope I’m wrong, but 1/10 of 1 percent is about par. Now you go back to the flood and there were only 8 out of many, many millions. Remember they had been populating the earth for over 1500 years. But all the way up through human history God has never had more than just that small percentage. That’s why I maintain that I think if the Rapture would take place today the world would go on tomorrow and never miss us. Most people would never know that we’re gone. Oh, maybe our immediate family, and maybe our next door neighbor, but the world? They’re not going to miss us. It’s just going to be a small amount that will go because that’s the way it’s always been.
In fact, another illustration that I like to use is when the Lord had laboured in the land of Israel for 3 years in His earthly ministry – and when you get into Acts chapter 1, how many believers assembled there on the day of Pentecost? 120. 120 and I maintain that’s all there were in the area of Jerusalem, and that was the Lord Himself that was labouring for 3 years.So don’t get discouraged – I don’t get discouraged – because I know that the Lord isn’t hung up on great numbers. Remember what He said, “Narrow is the way” and how many find it? Few! “Broad is the way,” and how many find that? The most! So we always have to take these things into consideration. Now back to our text then in I Thessalonians chapter 4, and we’ll find that Paul goes on into verse 9.
I Thessalonians 4:9
“But as touching brotherly love (the love for fellow believers) ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” Now where does that come back from? Well the Ten Commandments. We’re to love our neighbor, and not to gossip, and covet, etc. So that is a basic concept even for Christianity, that we are to love one another.
I Thessalonians 4:10a
“And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia…” That was in Northern Greece. So it wasn’t just limited to Thessalonica, it’s just natural that believers are in fellowship with other believers, and that’s as it should be.
I Thessalonians 4:10b
“…but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more.” What’s that driving at? We’re to be growing, as Peter puts it, in Grace and knowledge. How do you grow in Grace and knowledge? By feeding on the Word, as this is where it comes from. The more skilled you become in the use of the Word, the more mature you become in your Christian walk, your attitude, and your approach to everything around you.
I Thessalonians 4:11a
“And that ye study…”
Someone asked me in a letter the other day, “What did I mean by constantly referring to study compared to meditating?” Well you know the oriental religions emphasize meditation. But there’s a vast difference between meditation and study. When you meditate, you just sort of empty your brain, and mind and then anything can come in that wants to, so you’ve got to be careful.
I remember a missionary (to one of the oriental nations) had flown into Chicago from overseas, and was walking down one of the corridors of the airport, and saw someone there in an oriental position of worship. This person was supposedly meditating, and he said, “I just stopped, and nudged him, and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m meditating.” The missionary said, “You are opening your mind to all the Satanic forces that are ready to come in.” And that is what meditation really is to the unbelieving world.
Now I know as believers we can meditate, but you still have to be careful, because when you meditate and just open your brain and your mind to anything and everything that comes in, it’s the wrong stuff that’s going to come in as a whole, and not the good stuff. So what’s the difference between meditation and study? When you study you get out the Book, and you may have to get a concordance and some study helps, and you study. You compare Scripture with Scripture, and you can spend 2 or 3 hours, and the time goes like a snap of the finger. But how many believers take the time to do it?
A fellow told me yesterday, “You know I know that most Sunday School teachers, to prepare for their Sunday school lesson on Sunday morning, gets out his quarterly on Saturday night, and looks it over so that he can at least read it without making a lot of mistakes. On Sunday morning he stands before his class, and reads from that quarterly.”
And it’s been my experience that they may get a little discussion now and then, and if someone that I’ve taught tries to get into the discussion his comments are not well received. So I hear it all you know. But listen, I don’t care who you are, don’t just look at that quarterly, you may have to use it for a little crutch, but get into the Book. Study the Word, and be ready as Paul says, “To give a reason for the hope of your calling.” And how can you do that if you don’t know what the Book says, because this is where it’s at. So we are to study by comparing Scripture with Scripture.
I Thessalonians 4:11
“And that ye study to be quiet,…”
Boy that flies in the face of most of what we’re seeing and hearing today doesn’t it? Today you haven’t got a real come-on church service unless you blare the music, and make it sound like a night club. In fact I was reading a book awhile back and that’s exactly what this promoter of huge churches was saying. “Before we started our church growth program, I went out around the community to the various clubs, bars and so forth, and the first thing I noticed there wasn’t any organ music. So the first thing is to throw the organ out of your church, because the present day world doesn’t like organ music. Now bring in the electric guitars and all the other electrical instruments and blare the music, and the people will come.”
Now that’s not what my Bible teaches. My Bible teaches that true Christianity is that which is quiet. It’s contemplation, it’s worshipful. And again I’ve got to go back to Elijah as he stood before the Lord, and a pillar of fire went by, the mountain shook in an earthquake, a storm blew by, but every time one of those things happened, what did the Book say? “God wasn’t in it.” Then Elijah heard a still small voice, and who was in this still small voice? God! And this what we have to realize, we’re living in a day that is contorting the Scriptures, and God is still admonishing us to study be quiet before the Lord.