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The Value of Christian Fellowship - 8

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2021 7:00 pm

The Value of Christian Fellowship - 8

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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May 23, 2021 7:00 pm

Christians need the fellowship of other believers and-healthy Christians strongly desire such fellowship. Pastor Greg Barkman continues his expositional series in 1 Thessalonians.

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Will we come today to the last section of first Thessalonians chapter 2 in our exposition through this epistle of Paul and in these last four verses 17 through 20.

Paul explains the reasons for his prolonged absence from Thessalonica and expresses his strong desire to return and to be personally with them again other two background items will help us understand why Paul is doing this. First of all, Paul's was forced into a premature departure from Thessalonica because of persecution, as he was for many cities. He came to Thessalonica, fleeing from persecution in Philippi, he had a very effective ministry. First, in the synagogues and then when unbelieving Jews forced him out of the synagogue. He continued elsewhere in the city and another people were saved. Some Jews a great many Gentiles, but the Jews stirred up strong opposition collected a band of ungodly men to create a riot and Paul found himself in danger for his life in the saints ushered him out of town and he went down the road to Brea and then eventually to Athens and to Corinth and Corinth is where he's writing this epistle back to the Thessalonians. The second background item is that in Thessalonica as again in nearly every city. Paul ministered in their rose up critics to his ministry, who continued to attack him and to bring false accusations about him and to try to turn the hearts of the converts away from him so that they would no longer be influenced by the word, which she had preached and so critics were saying things like this, you Thessalonians believe that Paul loves you, but if he did, he wouldn't have left you so quickly he wouldn't have fled from you, simply because of persecution he would've toughed it out and demonstrated a greater love for you he would've returned to you by now if he really loved you he doesn't love you.

So Paul writes this epistle to deny emphatically those false charges in this section particular to deal with that specific charge that Pacific specific criticism that he departed from them willingly and did not want to return to them and nothing could be farther from the truth so listen to Paul's response to this false accusation in verse 17 we have Paul's righteous desire in verse 18 Satan's evil opposition in the verses 19 and 20 gods undefeatable purpose. Paul's righteous desire.

Verse 17 but we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in the heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Paul describes a wrenching separation, but a spiritual connection and an intense desire a wrenching separation having been taken away from you for a short time.

He said were taken away is a Greek word that is often translated bereft. We work bereft of you and that's a word that is generally used when someone close to you dies mother that is bereft of her children or something of that nature. It's a very wrenching separation. That leaves one and a great deal of agony and sorrow. It is not a voluntary separation and it is a forced separation forced upon Paul by others even as the death of a child is not something that someone plans or welcomes but is something that the circumstances designed by God forced upon them in their lives posit that's the way it was. I was I was bereft of you.

I was wrenched away from you. I was forcibly removed from you, for he says what I expected to be a short time, but time is marching on. It's getting longer and longer longer than I intended, explains the why of that moment. So I was taken away from you, intending to return very shortly but that did not prove to be possible in support of course is summarizing what happened, as recorded in X Chapter 17 and I'm going to read a portion of this after Paul, we read in verse four persuaded him a great many of them were persuaded and a great multitude of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women joined Paul and Silas. He had great success in his preaching and Thessalonica but the Jews who were not persuaded. Became envious and some of the evil men from the art marketplace. They took some of the evil men from the marketplace and gathering the mob set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason and sought to bring them out to the people.

But when they did not find them. That is Paul and Silas and Timothy, the missionary team. They dragged Jason and some of the brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out these who have turned the world upside down have come here to Jason has harbored them. These are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.

They troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things, so when they had taken security from Jason. They made him post a bond, and the rest they let them go. Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.

Does that sound like a voluntary departure. No. Does that sound like Paul was tired of being in the presence of the Thessalonians and wanted to go someplace else. No, everything. The critics were charging was absolutely false. And it is important to Paul that the record be set straight and that these people understand that his departure was forced it was unwelcome. It was unwanted, but it was necessary was unavoidable wrenching separation. Paul says even though we were separated in body in physical presence one to another.

There was not a complete separation because they remained what we might call a spiritual connection between us even in the distance where we were. We were apart.

Notice again. Verse 17, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, in presence, not in the heart. Some versions translate not in spirit, but the actual Greek word is parked car deal. Heart, but it is similar to the idea of being with you in spirit but not in presence. We sometimes use that kind of language. Sometimes when we hear that we wonder is that genuine is that just empty words like couldn't be with you in presence, but I was with you in spirit really couldn't be with them in presence and truly work involved in what was going on in your thoughts and prayers. And of course you were with them in spirit. But if you're just saying that you could've been there and chose not to. Don't be a hypocrite. Don't say that. But anyway we use language like this. I Paul said in the first printing chapter 5 when he was dealing with that that very difficult. The church discipline situation he was in Ephesus at that time in writing to Corinth and telling them how to deal with this immoral church member who wouldn't repent of his adultery. And Paul said I being with you in spirit that case, the word spirit is used. He said I'm not there with you in presence of my spirit is there, and I'm telling you what to do, what does that mean when someone says that they are with you in spirit.

How is it possible to be present in spirit, though absent in body, well what that means is that even though I'm not with you. I'm thinking about you my thoughts are with you even though I can't be with you. My prayers are with you and very much involved in your lives in his I'm thinking about you and about your needs.

I am lifting you up before the throne of grace and prayer. I am connected with you in that way. In other words, I would love to be there. I desire to be there because of that I'm focused upon you in my thoughts and prayers. Even though I cannot be with you in my person.

That's what it means. That's what Paul is indicating here though separated from you in person. Nevertheless, I have been with you in my heart I want you to know that I haven't forgotten you.

I'm thinking about you regularly on praying for you also. And I am very much with you in my heart course we know that the Bible teaches there is a spiritual connection between all of the members of the body of Christ, we are joined together in one body, whether we are physically present with one another or not all true born-again believers are members of one body, of which Christ is the head and were all joined together in that body and some way that we do not fully understand, but we know it's true.

It's difficult to describe what we know it's true, we are joined with other believers. There is a connection there is a spiritual connection we do not relate to other believers the same way that we relate to have this connection that is made by the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of God, the joined us to Christ and joined them to Christ and indwells all of us together and even though we are apart we are joined together in spirit.

That's why it is when you meet Christians for the first time that you've never known before. Sometimes it's almost like you've known them all your life.

There's this immediate connection the same desire the same joy the same Christ word focuses same interest in the word of God and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a great connection pulses I have maintained that connection with you even though I have not been able to be present with you, but he does declare his intense desire to be there in the last part of verse 17 taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Various ways to translate that phrase into not easy collection of words to put into English because you've got several phrases that dangle here, but the main idea is very, very clear.

Paul says I had a strong strong desire to be with you physically. I was earnest about that.

I'm serious about that because as wonderful as the spiritual connection is that is real and he could think about them and could pray for them and could be involved to some limited way in their lives and church.

From a distance that fell far short of full satisfaction and he needed to get there and be with them physically. That's what he wanted that's what he desired. Here we learn that Paul separation from the Thessalonians did not cause his love for them or desire to be with them to fade.

Just the opposite. It actually caused it to grow and become more intense, very intense desire a growing really intense desire endeavored more eagerly or more zealously, more and more energetically to see your face with great and growing desire.

Also, the longer we were away.

The more we wanted to, and he and the missionary team meet up until this time.

He's been using the Perl plural pronoun. We refers to himself and Silas and Timothy, and he and the team who felt the same way that pop Silas and Timothy fell just like Paul did about their relationship to the Thessalonian believers and they had made every effort to return, but as he will explain in the next verse. So far they had not been able to fulfill that desire.

Their efforts had been in vain. This leads us into some very important conclusions that is that separation from one another in the body of Christ test our level of commitment.

The desire for union either in in separation it either grow stronger or it grows weaker either waxes and wanes to use an old English phrase in which one of those two things, it will be reveal something about our level of love and our level of commitment to Christ into the body of Christ. We've all heard the phrase absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In some cases, we know that is exactly true. We've also heard the phrase out of sight out of mind and we know that that is also true in some cases and here's to opposite Proverbs to describe a similar situation, but with entirely different outcome.

So which is it is an absence makes the heart grow fonder. And yes, in some cases is out of sight out of mind. Yes, it's also that in some case.

I remember as a teenager, hearing some of the teens talking about romantic relationships and laughing and saying if you can't be near the one you love than love the one you're near that same idea, absence makes out of sight out of mind that formerly seemingly strong connection grows, we no longer captures your thoughts and captures your pardon captures your mind and you begin to see your attention wandering another direction. So, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Is that true yes if love is strong and commitment to strong out of sight out of mind. Is that true yes it is. If love is weak and commitment. Obviously the case of Paul and Timothy and Silas their love for the Thessalonians was strong there commitment to them into their welfare was strong and therefore the more months that went by without there being able to be in their presence there intense desire their longing to be there just grew stronger and stronger and stronger and stronger. Paul's righteous desire for 17 verse 18 we learn of Satan's evil opposition. This helps explain why Paul had not been able to get back. Therefore, we wanted to come to you. Even I Paul, time and again, but Satan hindered us wanted to come to you, but Satan hindered us. Paul here describes a common desire in a personal desire, but a thwarted desire. First, a common desire. Therefore, we wanted to come to you again the personal pronoun we he's including Paul and Silas, and Timothy who all had the same desire who all have the string same strong love wanted to come to you. We endeavored to come to you.

But then Paul breaks out of the mold of using this personal plural pronoun. We that he's been using for all of them and he resorts to the personal singular pronoun. I therefore we wanted to come to you even I Paul time and again once it again more than once, repeatedly, I Paul wanted to come to you. So, going beyond expressing the desire for the whole team collectively. He feels it important to emphatically state his own personal desire to be with them. Why is that important were not told, but I am guessing is probably because the criticism being leveled by the enemies of the gospel in Thessalonica was leveled primarily at Paul. He was a leader. He was a preacher he was. While they were trying to undermine he was the one who's influencing or trying to destroy.

He was the one they were trying to separate in their affections from the Thessalonian believers, and so they were primarily criticizing Paul.

Paul doesn't love you they were saying.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy don't love you, Paul doesn't love you, Paul doesn't want to be with you. Paul hasn't returned to you because he doesn't really love you and Paul therefore says I Paul, time and again desired to come is a very personal desire as well as a common desire. Therefore, he states the strong personal affirmation of desire what he tells us why he hasn't come. He's is a thwarted desire, but Satan hindered us. That's why Satan. There are several terms that are used for the devil in the Bible, the devil being the other most common one Satan the devil of the two most common, though there are others worth Satan means adversary, and here she is with the definite article the V devil, the adversary, the adversary of your soul.

The adversary hindered us this one who is a real person and a formidable adversary, Satan is not a vague influence only. Satan is not just the the name that we attach to this force of evil in the world. It's hard to quantify, identify, explain or trace the cause to not Satan is a real person by person. I don't mean a human being is obviously doesn't have a body but is a person in the same way that it's true that the Holy Spirit is a person, though those spirit in God is a person those spirit affect all members of the triune Godhead are separate persons and yet they are all spirits except for the son who took upon him flesh and became both body and spirit. So Satan is a very real person and a formidable adversary and is always opposing the people of God is always opposing the gospel of Christ and is always doing what he can to hinder the progress of the gospel and therefore he took special aim at Paul, who was so effective by the power of God in proclaiming the gospel and seeing people come to Christ. Satan hindered us that word hindered is a very interesting term. It literally means cut into Satan cut into us or it's a military term itself often used, to cut up the road destroy the road so that the opposing army Pass this way it stops them at least slows them down by blowing up the bridge so they can go over the bridge that go find another way to get across the river cut up the road so that the soldiers that are marching can probably get through the rubble, but it slows them down, and as far as the supply wagons and all that their stock to their stymied until you can build a new road make a new way.

If you could destroy the road cut it up you can stop progress pretty effectively and that's the language that Paul uses. We desired we tried we made every effort to get there and be with you. But Satan are adversary cut up the road and so far we haven't been able to get past that obstacle to get back there. The question is what did Satan use to keep Paul from getting back to Thessalonica and the answer is we don't know because were not told whatever was it would seem that the applied more to Paul personally than the other so may very well have been illness that applied to Paul in a way that didn't apply to others because this section moves on almost without interruption.

In chapter 3, as we shall see in the days to come in so you can drop down to chapter 3, verse one.

Therefore, he says when we could no longer endure it. We thought a good to be left alone in Athens and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith so Timothy was able to get back but Paul was not again why I don't know.

Apparently something that applied to Paul in a way that didn't apply to Timothy but Satan is the cause that Paul points to hear. Now there are two errors relating to Satan that I need to warn you about number one is to minimize his activity which is often done by minimizing his person is a Satan is not real.

The devil is not a real person, not a real fallen angel, not a real created being insistent influence that religious language, since that tradition that the Smith mythological idea that we incorporate into our Christianity and we call it the devil and there are people who think that way and talk that way and they are wrong. It's a mistake the devil is real and very strong and very powerful.

So don't make that mistake of minimizing the devil but on the other hand, the second heirs to exaggerate his power in such a way that you think he's as powerful as God. He's not in such a way as you focus always on the devil and never go beyond the devil to the God who controls the you know that don't you devil Israelis powerful and in the inscrutable purposes of God. He is allowed to oppose the people of God and create a lot of mischief, but only as it fits into the overarching will of God, and God uses the devil and his evil to accomplish God's righteous purposes, and the devil is on a leash and he can only do God allows them to do. And as we say from time to time, the devil is as it turns out, the unwilling servant of Jehovah.

He serves God does what God allows him to do and he can't do any more than God allows them to do and God. When God says you can touch Job's body, but you can't take his life than the devil is powerless to take his life. He can only do would God permit someone were looking at the causes of difficulty in our lives. It's not wrong to say that's the devil's opposition that Satan is trying to hinder me from serving God from accomplishing God's purposes in my life, but it's good to even rise above that say, but I know my God controls the devil and that God has this plan for my good and I don't know what God is doing.

But I'm not afraid of the devil as powerful as he is because I have one who is greater.

Greater is he that is in you, he that is in the world and my God controls the death which brings me now to God's undefeatable purpose. In verses 19 and 20. What is our hope and joy, or crown of rejoicing is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming for you are our glory and joy. God's undefeatable purposes of Paul talks about trophies of conquering Grayson. Paul talks about the triumph of a conquering Savior and Paul talks about the termination of ineffectual process trophies of God's conquering grace. What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing is it not even you. It's a rhetorical question, affect its two rhetorical questions one that follows another second that helps to answer the first process what or who and it can be translated either way what or who, what or who is the reason for our hope, our earnest expectation answer. You are what or who is the cause of our joy answer. You are someone claims he doesn't love them as our victors crown crown. Here is the Laurel Laurel wreath was placed upon the brow of the winners of athletic contests in the Greek Olympics. Another athletic contest is two different words for crown one is Stefan Oslo Royal Crown. This one is the victors crown at the Laurel wreath, but it conveyed great honor wasn't wasn't worth diddly squat. Intrinsically it was going to fade very quickly with just a wreath made out of leaves, olive leaves sort Laurel leaves or something of that nature, but the honor of being called up to the grandstand and and bowing down and having this moral crown placed upon your brow to recognize that you are the victor in the contest to tell everybody else is to demonstrate everybody else your victory. That's what Paul is referring to any sink know what is our victors crown answer. You are so when we think about casting crowns. The Christ feed on that great day when we are before him and receive our rewards.

Paul is indicating what I'm going to do is just basically say here they are. Lord, here they are. All these people that have come to Christ under the preaching of my ministry. That's my crown I give them to you. I cast them as it were, that your feet was our victors crown. You are the Thessalonian Christians were Paul's trophy they were his reward. The Thessalonian Christians were his pride and joy, and his hope for the future is hope. Thessalonian Christians must meant everything to Paul. Oh how he loved them. How could you doubt that number. When Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus before he raised him from the dead. Some of the Jews observed that said luck. How he loved them.

He's weeping.

This is what Paul is doing is demonstrating though the reality of his heart. The strong longing of his heart. The strong love he has in his heart, and their response. No doubt would be. Look how much he loves us so obvious. How could we overlook it.

How could we deny it.

How can we be persuaded by the critics that it is not so this gathering of trophies of God's conquering grace, which is a triumph, the triumph of a conquering Savior is verse 19 tells us, is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming.

Christ is coming someday and that's going to bring all of the triumphs of his grace into focus. On the day of Christ coming. There will be a bride for Christ it's being gathered now. But on that day it will be completed and it will be given to Christ guaranteed not maybe guaranteed. There will be a bride for Christ guaranteed that Brian will be in his presence at the day of his coming, guaranteed that Brian will be complete without a single member missing when he returns guaranteed. Satan cannot stop that from happening guaranteed what that will be the funeral of Betty Aldrich this week. It was a blessing we sign together. The congregation is coming a day what a day that will be when my Jesus, I chose when I look upon his face. The one who saved me by his grace when he takes me by the hand and leads me to the promised land. What a day. Glorious day that will and when the Lord returns were to see all of this coming the culmination triumph of a conquering Savior. The termination of ineffectual process. There's nothing the can for this process for you are our glory and joy. Now it's not over yet. Paul, you sure they're going to make it. Paul, are you sure they're knocking to follow. I Paul, are you sure that Satan is not going to do something to defeat what you desire for these people know you are our glory glory is the the manifestation of honor still thinking about that last day we call Paul when Christ returns and they are his crown.

You are our glory and joy you is emphatic. Glory is the reason for honor. Joy is the reason for rejoicing so and here's the point.

Whether Paul never makes it back to Thessalonica or not they are, they are still guaranteed to be his joy and glory.

Whether Paul is able to go back and tend to them to minister to them to help them to shore them up to strengthen them or not it's guaranteed that in the day of Christ's return. They will be his glory and joy.

God's full purpose for them will be perfectly fulfilled. It is the undefeatable purpose of God that we see in the great Paul's righteous desire. Satan's evil opposition who's going to win.

Don't you worry about it for half a second. I'll tell you who's gonna win God's undefeatable purpose will be fulfilled. I promise on the basis of God's infallible word. Let's learn a few lessons. First of all, regarding the forced separation of members of the church because of covert lifestream is good, much, much better than no contact. How grateful we are for that really helps.

Doesn't praise the Lord for lifestream is not fully satisfactory why because it is not bodily present. It is not face to face present and you can never replace that we need that face-to-face relationship. We need personal relationships. We need to join our voices together in praise we need to lift our hearts together in prayer.

We need to minister to one another and be ministered to by one another. When you come to church, the only minister you receive is not what you get from the pulpit. I hope you understand that. I hope you value the pulpit ministry as you should. But that's not the only ministry that you receive. You are being ministered to by other believers, whether you even understand how that's happening or not it is happening by the design and purpose of God when you're absent you miss that when you're absent for a long time. You missed that. And sometimes it's unavoidable, but please don't ever forget that nothing can replace face-to-face presence to be present in heart but not in body is not fully satisfactory. And Paul demonstrated that isn't good enough.

If you were good enough, I wouldn't be so strong in my desire my efforts to get back and see you personally. I must do that unless God chose not which causes me to ask this in regard to this forced covert separation which has been a very difficult time are you eager to return to the assembly of the saints are you making every effort to return and if not why not is an indication that your love is growing weaker so that set off alarm bells and ding ding ding ding.

That's not good that's not spiritually healthy. I need to address that I need to reverse that. The second lesson here that pertains to the desires of the heart is a wonderful text in Psalm 37 four delight yourself also in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart and that wonderful promise question did Paul receive the desire of his heart to visit Thessalonica answer as far as we know, so evidently trusting God is not a guarantee to fulfill every personal desire even got one strong once holy ones Christian ones, when what is this about delight yourself also in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart. It means delighting yourself is good in God is how we get our desires recalibrated delighting ourselves in God is how we make God's desires, our desires, it's not that if we delight ourselves in God.

He's going to bend to our desires, even if they're not best he's only going to fulfill the desires of our heart that are in tune with his desires and that really do honor him and really do advance the cause of Christ and really do produce good in my life and only he knows which ones those are so are delighting ourselves in God is how we sort out the what should I put it the illegitimate desires from the legitimate ones because we can't always tell.

Delight yourself in the Lord God sort that out for you so we make God's desires are desires that therefore means that our greatest desires to please him.

Our greatest not desires to honor him our greatest desires to submit to him or greatest desires to serve him. Did Paul get that desire. All weather ever got back to Thessalonica or not he got that desire in great measure because he delight himself in the Lord one final lesson regarding divine sovereignty and human responsibility we learned in this passage, the God's purposes will be fulfilled perfectly guaranteed. Does that eliminate human involvement.

Logically, it seems like it should know because the Bible tells us otherwise, we must fully engage ourselves in the endeavor to cooperate with God's purposes to fulfill God's purpose is to be part of God's purposes and he will show us how to do that and went yard going in a direction that is not helpful. He'll steer us someplace else, but we are to always have this intense desire to be involved in cooperating with the purposes of God and being an instrument in his hands all desired that he wanted to go back to Thessalonica. He wanted to go back and minister to them again, but they're gonna make it whether you do or not. No matter, I want to do that I need to do that. That's a God honoring thing for me to do. I must take my responsibility fulfill the ministry that God is given to me is that a contradiction only for those who looking for contradictions and some people are but for those who are submitted to God and to his word.

It's not a contradiction may be a bit of a mystery. It may be a conundrum. At times, but no it's not a contradiction.

It's just part of the mysterious workings of God that we learn to submit to and understand the extent we can, and then to yield the parts we can understand the God just go on humbly serving him that concludes Christians need the fellowship of other believers and healthy Christians strongly desire such fellowship shall we pray father increase our love for you and our love for one another.

Father increase our desire to be in the fellowship of the saints and to fulfill the purposes for which you designed the church in the assembly of believers as we ask it in Jesus name, amen

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