Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Victory Under Pressure

1Thessalonians 2:11-20

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Over the millennia, the Jewish nation has faced extinction many times at the hands of her enemies. In recent times, as the nation was once again returning to the Promised Land, enemies from the Arab nations sought to wipe them off the map. One story from 17 Miraculous Israeli Victories goes like this:

“During the Independence War, Ira Rappaport’s Israeli platoon fought the Jordanian military for Mount Zion and found themselves surrounded by hundreds with only twenty five bullets left. With a sad end seemingly near, the men agreed to go out with a bang and readied themselves to make good use of every last bullet. Then, just when the small platoon were about to face the inevitable, something incredible happened. The Jordanian soldiers dropped their weapons and began suddenly running away, screaming “ABRAHAM!”. Several years later, Ira would come across a familiar face with an unlikely answer, as to what had actually occurred on that miraculous day. This was a former Jordanian soldier who had fought against Ira on Mount Zion. According to him, his army all witnessed a vision of Abraham defending the Jews in the sky above the Israeli platoon and had no choice, but to drop their weapons.”

God has indeed watched out for Israel miraculously on many occasions. But it is not because of the intrinsic righteousness of the Israeli people. It is because they are chosen by God to birth the Messiah. This nation right now does not serve Yahweh and as we’ll see in today’s text, is actually opposed to what God is doing through the Messiah. But that won’t always be the case.

Zechariah 12:10 says: “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn.”

I believe, after the church exits the scene, God’s people Israel will realize the mistake they’ve made and embrace Jesus as the Messiah in a dynamic way.

There’s another reason I bring this up. When it comes to the gospel of the Messiah Jesus, the Jews oppose it, for now, but they themselves are mere pawns in a much bigger battle.

Ephesians 6:12 says: “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”

Paul and his companions in Thessalonica, as well as you today—face opposition to living and sharing your life as a believer in Jesus. You are a soldier in the battle whether you know it or not, like it or not. Paul in the balance of Chapter 2 in his letter to the Thessalonians, shares some secrets to understanding the battle and turning what might look like defeat into victory.

11 – 12

Last time Paul talked about his care for the young Thessalonian Christians as a nursing mother. Now he turns to another analogy, that of a caring father. It’s important to the Apostle that the Thessalonians understand his care for them because others had come in and questions Paul’s methods and motives. Not only did Paul give them the milk of the word, the basics of the gospel, he also directed them to “walk worthy of God”. The idea there is making slow but steady progress in the transformation of character through the presence and working of the Holy Spirit. The fact is that they have been “called” into God’s kingdom and glory. Here the idea is that God’s kingdom isn’t just a realm or a place, it is the working of God’s character into our lives - influencing everything we think do and say.

How did Paul do that? Through encouragement, comfort and urging. It wasn’t through shaming, blasting, or forcing—Paul knew the rough road ahead for the Thessalonians, so he encouraged them, and comforted them in the knowledge that rescue would come. The word “implored” is the Greek word for “witness”. The idea is “going on the record”. No matter what we face, our charge is to move forward, towards character transformation.

13

The problem with a lot of the “preachers” of Paul’s day, and ours, is that the message comes from man and is not capable of making life-changing, permanent changes in the hearer. Paul is excited and thankful that the Thessalonians recognized the gospel as coming not from man but from God and that this message actually has an effect. You can have the most incredible sounding message in the world, but if it does nothing to ensure eternal life and does nothing to transform your character from the inside then it’s worthless.

In Romans 1:16, Paul refers to the gospel as the “power of God” and that once someone receives Jesus they are “transformed from glory to glory into his image with ever increasing glory” (1 Corinthians 3:18).

How does Paul know this is happening to the Thessalonians?

14 – 16

Paul knows they have been transformed because of the persecutions they have endured from fellow Macedonians as well as from Jews—just the same as the churches back in Israel had experienced. Yet the persecution didn’t dissuade them from following Jesus. Just because someone says they shouldn’t consider Jesus the Messiah doesn’t mean they are right. Paul, a Jew and a follower of Jesus, is clear in saying that the Jewish opposition to Christianity is wrong and displeases God. The idea in verse 16 of “completing the number of their sins” suggests that God is patient only to a point before He will step in and bring retribution for their wrong – but it is He who does it. The Thessalonians themselves were not to pay back the Jews for their persecution.

17 – 20

Paul has described himself as a nursing mother and a loving father to the Thessalonians. After birthing the church, he was torn away from them by the persecuting Jews. Some apparently argued that Paul abandoned them but it is quite the opposite. Paul was “forced” to leave but always wanted to come back. What hindered him was Satan, which tells us that it wasn’t really the Jews but Satan himself that sought to drive a wedge between Paul and this church.

Maybe the accusation was that Paul didn’t like them anymore, but he dispels that by saying that this church is the source of great joy because they kept in the faith despite opposition. The “crown” he describes in verse 19 is the same wreath used to crown the victor at the games.

Conclusions

In conclusion, I wanted to pull out some thoughts from the text about being victorious in this pitched battle we find ourselves engaged in.

  • Think, speak, and act here with the future in mind (verse 12)

Verse 12 encourages us to remember our calling to God’s kingdom and glory. We are ex-patriots in this age. Our citizenship is in heaven, with a God who is holy and pure. Every decision you make, every word you speak, should keep that in mind. Would I do that if I was in God’s dimension now?

  • What you believe has divine origins. (verse 13)

The Thessalonians recognized that the gospel came from God. In this age, we have so many competing ideas and one of them is that everyone has a bit of the truth. The only thing really true is the gospel. Everything else should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

  • The message is effective. Is it affecting you? (verse 13)

Are you experiencing a transformation of character? If not, maybe it’s time to reexamine and recommit to the Lord your values. Or have you never responded to this divine message? If the president wrote you a letter, don’t you think you’d at least open it? The God of the universe has written something for you. Start with the gospel of John, but seriously consider His offer of salvation.

  • Suffering is a part of living as a Christian. (verses 16)

Imitate others in their faithful suffering and know that in the end, the bad guys don’t get away with anything!

  • Satan do some things, but not everything (verse 18)

Satan hindered Paul from coming back, but he could not hinder the growth the gospel caused in their lives. Don’t let adversity dissuade you from praying or knowing that God works through even the toughest circumstances.

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