From last week’s discussion, we ended with Paul saying “now we really live, if you stand firm in the faith.” Really living? From the same man that wrote in Phil 1, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” and “I die daily” in 1 Corinthians 15. How does this fit together, that to live is Christ, and now that Paul sees his spiritual children standing firm in the faith he really lives? What a beautiful picture of how fellowship is a vital part of our life in Christ!
What is it for us, who are not church planting apostles, to “really live?” How does fellowship, and our fellow believer’s thriving, play into our really being alive?
We spent the week pondering Philipians 3:12-14 and 1 Timothy 6:11-21; in which Paul encourages us to press forward to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of us, and to ‘take hold of the eternal life’ to which we are called. We are not ‘really living’ if we are not pressing forward, taking hold. What is it to take hold? This is worth time pondering!
This week, we continue in 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.
Verse nine, thanksgiving to “our God” what is significant about “our” rather than “my”? Paul’s humility ever serves to show us the quality of his love. Verse ten–night and day keep praying, does not really denote “twice a day we pray” but daily, all day, makes no difference whether it is night or day. Praying most earnestly, one commentator notes that this word used for prayer is to pray desperately while expressing need.
We NEED to see one another, face to face. Fellowship, especially generational fellowship, is vital, necessary. It is not an added bonus, not merely the icing on the cake. Does this factor in to your own prayer life? Many of us can look back on the experiences of these past two years (i.e. pandemic) and attest to the power and beauty and goodness of being a gathered community.
Paul is concerned with their growth in grace. May this be our heart’s cry for one another! We are really living when we walk in this, constrained by God’s love, desiring His restoration of all things, groaning as the Spirit does. We are really living when, in our fellowship, this is our shared desire for one another, deeper and more prominent than merely liking to be around people with similar hobbies and preferences.
And complete what is lacking…we do not know the particulars of what report Timothy made, but he found something that became this urgent desperate heart cry on their behalf, and Paul was not satisfied “well, at least they say they love Jesus, just leave them be to live their lives…” No, he wanted to continue to build them up face to face, and in the meantime would pray without ceasing!
Take a moment to read, and look for a similar theme in: Colossians 1:24-29; Galatians 4:19; Romans 1:11-13.
1 Corinthians 13:9, 11 “For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete…Finally brethren rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace…” or ESV “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for…Finally brethren, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace…”
Love and holiness! “So that…”
11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the [a]coming of our Lord Jesus with all His [b]saints.
Verse 11 God our Father, and Jesus our Lord… Paul prays knowing that the guidance he seeks comes from God, the whole Godhead. God really is at work in all our affairs, we too can pray that God would direct our steps, guide our going out and coming in…. And God is ultimately the One establishing us in holiness, building His Church and renovating our hearts.
Verse 12 the church known for its labors of love, and whose love has been seen by all their neighbors, there is still the prayer to increase, abound, overflow… and to imitate the disciples’ love. Much like Jesus’ teaching in John 13:31-35, this love is completely different in quality and source from the world’s love.
31 Therefore when he had left, Jesus *said, “Now [n]is the Son of Man glorified, and God [o]is glorified in Him; 32 [p]if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I am still with you a little longer. You will look for Me; and just as I said to the [q]Jews, now I also say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.”
Verse 13 God’s plan is full and complete, and does have in view the time when Christ returns. Our prayers should have this ultimate “so that” in view. At His Coming should not be a foreign concept to us. Consider Paul’s teaching a short while later:
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 1 Cor 7:1
We are cleansed by His blood, and then called to cling to the promises, and “perfect holiness.” What could this mean but a continual walking with the One who will work this out in us? Without Christ, we can do nothing, but in Him–we are empowered to obey; we begin by faith, and continue by faith (Galatians), or begin by the Spirit and continue by the Spirit. Spirit of holines Romans 1:7
1 Peter 1:14-16, 22
As obedient children, do not be informed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart…
Here Peter quotes from Leviticus, reminding those who think the Old Testament is outdated that it still our ‘rule for living.’ Peter begins by exhorting to holiness, then continues to admonish them toward loving more fervently. Holiness and love are both works of the Spirit in us, both are also works He empowers us to walk in. He makes us able to desire this love and this holiness. We are no longer slaves to those former lusts (see Romans 6, John 8, etc) but are now free to fight against them.
To Ponder further…
Concerning holiness, and the Spirit’s role in making us holy, and how to pray for one another’s holiness, think upon this quote! From John Owen, “Communion with God,” page 321:
The saints of God do, in the very entrance of their walking with him, reckon upon it that they have a threefold want: a. Of the Spirit of holiness to dwell in them; b. Of a habit of holiness to be infused into them; c. of actual assistance to work all their works for them.
But, our unity as sisters in Christ is never found in casual get togethers, in events, in shared hobbies… It is found in Spirit-led obedience in loving one another (John 13) and sharing life under the Word. Listening together, discussing, sharing His Word–encouraging, admonishing, delighting… praying through it together.
We share life under the Word, trusting as the Thessalonians did that the word will be at work in us! We extend grace to one another, are devoted to one another, and outdo one another in showing honor… with the aim that we would care enough to see one another conformed to the image of Christ.
As we pray for one another from 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 and other scriptures, our fellowship will deepen; we will love one another the way Christ loved us, desiring what He desires, seeing as ultimate in one another’s lives what is truly ultimate.
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