Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 3 * BOOK 44
Circumcision was Nailed to the Cross!
II Thessalonians 2:14 – 3:18
Ok, it’s good to see everyone in today. We trust that as we study the Scriptures, you’ll be fed from them. For those of you joining us on television, we remind you again that this is an informal Bible study. Many of you write and tell us you feel like you’re right there on the back row. Another thing people comment on is that everybody here has their own Bible and their own notebook. We’re just thrilled with that, because it shows that we’re not here just to be entertained. We’re here to study. We’re here to learn and become skilled in the use of the Word of God. Because after all, that’s why the Lord has left us here. So that we can share these things with others who probably would never be touched by the Word of God if it weren’t for believers out in the work-a-day world.
We’re going to get right into the Book. The other announcements can come at the end of the program. We’re going to start with II Thessalonians today and finish up the book of Thessalonians. Then I’m going to have a little digression for our next half-hour program, so that when we start the next book (the next series of twelve programs), I can start with I Timothy chapter 1 verse 1. I’m trying to sort of time it to that end. But we’re going to finish II Thessalonians first in this half hour. We stopped at chapter 3 and verse 4. So we’re going to go on now to verse 5.
II Thessalonians chapter 3, dropping in at verse 5 where, remember, Paul is writing to these believers up in Thessalonica who had just recently, you might say in a matter of weeks or a month or two, had come out of abject paganism and idolatry. He’s encouraging these believers about, really, the soon return of Christ for the Body of believers. Because you want to remember, it wasn’t until almost the end of Paul’s ministry that he began to realize that the Lord was not going to come in his lifetime. When Paul began his ministry and began to talk about having kept the faith and so forth, he was confident that the Lord was still going to return in his lifetime. These two little letters of Thessalonians really show that. He’s always talking about waiting until the Lord comes.
Because never forget, these people were under intense persecution. Not only from the Roman authorities, but they were under pressure from the Jewish element who felt that this Christianity was just an inroad and was false teaching concerning their ancient religion. So these Thessalonian believers were under a lot of pressure. Consequently, these are the things that Paul writes. So he says in verse 5:
II Thessalonians 3:5a
“And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God,…” Now stop and think about that a moment. If you’re under a lot of physical pressure and pain and maybe losing your source of income—which, of course, still happens in many areas of the world—it’s pretty hard to relegate that with God’s love, isn’t it?
That would almost seem as if that’s God punishing them. But you see, the whole premise of this is that God never stops loving us, even though the pressures may mount, and it may seem as though God is far from us. Yet Paul wants us to know that the love of God is always with us. It never leaves us even under pressure. I’m going to come back to Romans for just a little bit and look first, before we even finish the verse, at this love of God.
I think one chapter where we can see this the clearest is Romans chapter 5. We can almost spend several minutes right here in this chapter. Then we’ll look at a couple others but Romans chapter 5, and you can almost start at verse 1. And remember now, Paul always writes to the believer. He does not write to the unbelieving world, but only to the child of God. He says in verse 1.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2. By whom also we have access by faith (our believing and trusting) into this grace wherein we stand, (that is positionally) and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” And then you come down to verse 5.
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because (What?) the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.” In other words, in spite of all the pressures, in spite of all of the disappointments of life, the Holy Spirit is constantly reminding us that the love of God is still constantly with us. We never have to fear that He’s forgotten us.
You know, whenever I think of the love of God—I can’t help it—I didn’t intend to do this. It’ll probably make me run out of time. But come back with me to John’s Gospel and the account of Lazarus. I hope I can find it. The key to that whole scenario is how the Lord loved Lazarus and his family.
That’d be back in chapter 11. I was looking too far ahead. John’s Gospel chapter 11 and you all know the story of Lazarus. How the Lord had been out of town for those three or four days and gets word that Lazarus is dead. All right, in John’s Gospel chapter 11 dropping down to verse 3 and assuming that my listening audience knows the story of Lazarus.
“Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou (What’s the word? Lovest.) behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Now come down to verse 5.
“Now Jesus (What’s the next word?) loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” He had a love for those three people that was so evident everybody knew it.
Now come all the way down through that chapter. He has now come back to Bethany, and He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Come down to verse 35. Most people know it as the shortest verse in the Bible.
“Jesus wept. (Because of the circumstances. Then verse 36, here it is again.) 36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he (What?) loved him!” Now isn’t that beautiful? Here were three people, probably typical of the ordinary Jewish people at that time, nothing extra about style=’color:red’> them. Yet everybody understood how Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. I never can forget that chapter when I think of the love of Christ.
All right, now come back to Romans chapter 5, Honey, and come down to verse 8. Verse 8 and this is the love of God that Paul is constantly referring to, even back in the Thessalonian letter.
“But God commendeth his love (This whole concept of the love of God just keeps coming up constantly.) God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet (What?)sinners, Christ died for us.” This is something that the world can’t understand—that God could love His worst enemy.
And, of course, that was epitomized at the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. Oh, how Saul hated the name Jesus of Nazareth, religiously. Just detested it and couldn’t work hard enough or fast enough to stamp out any memory of Jesus of Nazareth. And instead of turning His wrath on the man, God showed him His love and saved him by His Grace.
Well, I’m going to bring you on over to Romans chapter 8. Again, even though the word itself may not be shown so clearly, yet it is so evident that it’s the love of God that keeps us, that protects us, and that is a constant comfort in our everyday experience. Okay, let’s drop into Romans 8 and all the way down to verse 35. Verses that I usually write right back to people when they question me on my stand on eternal security.
You know, the first thing I always say for a person that’s a true believer—yes, he’s secure. Look what these verses say. And it’s all based on God’s love for us—not only while we were yet sinners, but now even as believers. So consequently–
“Who shall separate us from (What?) the love of Christ? (It is such a binding love that there is no way that anything can take this from us.) shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Now see, the Thessalonians knew all those. But the love of Christ never left them. And they understood that. That’s why Paul commended them. And then verse 37:
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors though him that (What again?) loved us.” This is the whole concept of our Christian experience. It is that God loved us as sinners. He loves us even more as His blood-bought children. So Paul could go on to say:
“For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (Nothing! Nothing!) 39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from (What again?) the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can separate us from the love of God! Now that’s just a sampling, you see. That’s not exhausting references concerning the love of God. It’s just a sampling, but this is what Paul is referring to. Now, if you’ll come back with me again—back to II Thessalonians chapter 3.
He was just reminding us that even though we may come under pressure, which we in America as yet know nothing of. We know nothing of what it is to come under the pressures of persecution for being believers. The day may come. We hope not. But anything is possible. But these Thessalonians knew what it was, so he says:
II Thessalonians 3:5
“And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, (That saved them out of idolatry and is keeping them even through the pressures of everyday life.) and into the patient waiting for Christ.” Now there comes Paul’s concept that the Lord was coming again at any moment. He thought it’d be in his lifetime.
Now, of course, for 1,900 and some years the church has been in that waiting mode. The church over the centuries has been waiting for what we call the imminent return of Christ. Now of course, we are far closer than what they were 100 years ago. We’re far, far closer than they were 200 years ago. But it’s that same concept. We are to be waiting expectantly for the return of Christ to take us unto Himself.
II Thessalonians 3:5b
“…and (let that love direct you) into the patient waiting for Christ.” All right, back up a few pages to I Thessalonians chapter 1. You remember when we first started the study on the Thessalonian letters, I was constantly emphasizing that the Apostle had only spent three weeks with these new believers fresh out of paganism. He writes the letter probably within a month or two after he had left them. I think he probably wrote within a month or six-weeks after having won these Thessalonians to the Lord. Now look what he writes in Thessalonians 1, dropping down to verse 9.
I Thessalonians 1:9a
“For they themselves (That is, these other believes in the other parts of Greece.) show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you,…”
In other words, they accepted the man and his message. You know, we were looking—in our class last night here in Oklahoma—back in Israel’s history when the prophets would come to the Nation and convict them of their sin and their wickedness. Did they do like the Thessalonian pagans? No. They turned on the prophets, and they killed one after another. And Jeremiah, of course, as I’ve always pointed out—the Babylonians found him in a dank dungeon. Why? Because the Jewish people didn’t like the message. But see, these Thessalonian pagans didn’t respond that way. When the Apostle Paul came to their city, they had a tremendous reception of the man and his message.
I Thessalonians 1:9b
“…what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;” Then as soon as they became believers, what were they expectantly looking for? Christ’s return. So what did he say?
I Thessalonians 1:10
“And (you knew) to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come.” Now there’s another indication that Paul teaches that believers will not go into the Tribulation period, which is, of course, the Wrath of God.
So there is this constant concept throughout Paul’s epistles to not only recognize our salvation and not only our position in Christ. Not that we’re to sit on some mountaintop and look for things to happen, but the subconscious—I think in the subconscious we should be constantly aware that maybe today, or maybe tomorrow, the Lord will come! And it doesn’t have to take us over to the place where we quit working.
You know, I’ve always told people here in Tulsa. There are things that I suppose that we should do and could do and sometimes we put it off because we feel we’re so close to the Lord’s coming. I remember a year or so ago a gentleman called from Pennsylvania. He said, “Les, I was just ready to plant some apple trees, and I thought, why? What’s the use?” Well, I told him to go ahead and plant them. I said, “Even though we trust the Lord will come before they ever bear fruit the first time, yet we don’t know. So go ahead and plant those trees, and maybe the next generation will still be here. We don’t know.”
But, nevertheless, the whole concept of Paul is that as soon as we become a believer, we not only serve Him as he said up in verse 9, but we have that expectancy that He will be coming at any moment. Now, another one I always like to refer to in that same light is back in Titus. The little letter to Titus behind I and II Timothy and we come to Titus chapter 2. And I always like to start in this series in verse 11, but verse 13 will be our key verse.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (Now, not all are believers, but they’ve all heard.) 12. Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts (or desires), we should live (day by day, now) soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”
You know, I’ve used the expression so often. We’re not to be so heavenly-minded we’re no earthly good. That’s not what God wants. But on the other hand, we are to live godly and soberly in this present world wherever we might be. And then verse 13, this is what we’re to be doing along with everything else. Along with our service. Along with our occupation. Along with our profession, whatever it may be. We are to be:
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;” Now, if you’ll look up that Greek word for appearing, it’s the same Greek word that spoke of His first advent when He came to the Nation of Israel. Now how did He come? In some invisible spirit realm? No! He came bodily. And it’s that same Greek word that speaks of His appearing. It’s going to be a physical, visible manifestation of the Christ. And this is what we’re to be looking for. And you know, I’m always going back to Acts chapter 1, where the angels told Peter, James, and John and the rest of them:
“…why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, (That’s been walking with you, that’s been eating with you, and as they saw Him go.) which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
All right, so Paul uses that same concept back here in II Thessalonians chapter 3. That not only are we to delve ourselves into the love of God, realizing all that it does for us, but we are to be constantly expecting His return. We’re to be ready at any moment.
All right, now in the few moments we have left, I’m going to move on to the last part of this chapter; which seems kind of odd, I suppose, to the casual reader. But we’re going to see that this is one of the things that Paul taught even back in the Corinthian letters. All right, verse 6, now he says:
II Thessalonians 3:6a
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly,…” In other words, we’re not supposed to just wink at it and laugh at it and think, oh, boy, somebody is really goofing up. No, that’s not what we’re to do. We’re to seriously withdraw our fellowship from those kinds of believers. And he is talking about believers now.
II Thessalonians 3:6b
“…withdraw yourself from every brother (a believer) that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” Or the things that Paul had taught for believers to do.
II Thessalonians 3:7-8a
“For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: (There’s that other one where Paul says that we’re to be followers of him as he follows Christ. Because, after all, he is human. He has the same hang-ups and the same passions that we do. So he is the one that the Scripture admonishes us to follow.) for (He says we can follow him because–) we (he) behaved not ourselves (himself) disorderly among you; (In other words, I suppose I can put it back into the King James where he says–) 8. Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing;…”
Now, isn’t it amazing? The Apostle Paul was so careful to never let anybody accuse him of taking advantage of a situation or sponging off of anybody. So rather than take a free meal—or rather than take a salary, as we’d say today—he worked for his own wages. He provided for himself. Not that it’s contrary to Scripture, because he teaches it in the pastoral letters—that the servant of God is worthy of his hire.
So, yes, pastors are due their salaries and so forth. But the Apostle wouldn’t do it, because he didn’t want anybody to ever say—since Christianity was just getting off the ground. See, it wouldn’t take much to beat it down. So lest there be any opposition using some of the things that they thought he shouldn’t do, he said, I won’t do it. So he would never take anything for nothing. He wouldn’t even take a free meal. He said, we have never, never been chargeable to any of you. Now verse 9:
II Thessalonians 3:9a
“Not because we have not power,…” It wasn’t because he didn’t have the power, because he did. As God’s servant, as the Apostle, he could have demanded it of them. He could have said, provide my needs. But he never did, so that no one could ever accuse him of using his office for his own personal advantage. Quite a cry from what we see today, isn’t it? All right, now verse 10:
II Thessalonians 3:10
“For even when we were with you, (those two or three weeks) this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Quite a statement, isn’t it? That just flies in the face of socialism and communism, where those so-called political ideas figure that you can take it from one and give it to the other. That is never a biblical concept. Paul says if you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat.
Now naturally, he wasn’t talking about those who were incapable of working. We’re going to see, when we get into our study of the letters to Timothy, that he makes special provision for widows—because in that culture, there was no way for a widow to garner an income. So the local congregations were admonished by the Apostle to take care of widows, or for those who are incapable of providing for themselves.
But what he’s talking about here is able-bodied men who could be out there making their own living and providing for their own. He says, if they don’t want to work, then they shouldn’t eat. And I agree with it 100%. If someone is able to work, I think they should be working. If they can’t work, yeah, then someone has to provide. But now turn the page a little bit, Honey, over to I Timothy, I think it is. I Timothy chapter 5 and this all fits with Paul’s admonition to believers not to be shirkers. Not to be freeloaders. We are to work. And that’s the way God has always intended it.
I Timothy 5:8
“But (he says) if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Quite a statement, isn’t it? So what does that tell believers? You provide for your own family. You work. And you don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.
Now we’ll come back to II Thessalonians and finish up the chapter in the minute we have left. Then we can be ready for the Timothys after our next half hour. Back to II Thessalonians chapter 3. He continues on and says:
II Thessalonians 3:11
“For we hear (even amongst that little small group of believers up in Thessalonica) that there are some who walk among you disorderly, not working at all, but are busybodies.”
In other words, they were not working for any kind of an income. They were simply circulating through that little group of believers trying to see how they could sponge off of someone else. And, oh, how Paul condemns that.