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Praying With Paul – #4

Posted on by Bill Mann

A message by Pastor Bill Mann on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 at King’s Grace Fellowship.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-11

Framework #2 – Assurance of God’s Vindication

Tonight, we pick up where we left off last Wednesday. These verses give us a kind of “backdrop” of why Paul prays as he does. What controls his thinking and guides his requests. So tonight, I want to consider the 2nd dominant “feature” of Paul’s prayer framework in order to understand why he prays as he does.

Let’s look at 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 as we begin.

There is no doubt, that in this life, there will be trouble. That trouble will be magnified for those who follow Christ. Our culture is getting more and more “hostile” towards Christians and in some cases they deserve it, but “real” Christians (God will judge), will persevere under this stress.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, . . . But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Gal. 5:19,22-23 (NLT/NKJV)

Paul was thankful for the Thessalonian’s patience and faith as they endured persecutions and trials and he talked about it. The Thessalonians’ perseverance is the evidence of their right to enter the kingdom, the reason they are counted worthy to enter the kingdom. They have stayed the course in spite of heavy persecution. This Paul believes, “real” Christians will ultimately persevere, which is a common assumption in the Bible.

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13 – NLT) “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.” (Hebrews 3:14 – NLT)

Christians may stumble and fall, doubt like Thomas, and disown their Lord like Peter, but they ultimately will utter their “Amen” to Thomas’s confession (John 20:28) and weep with Peter (Matt. 26:75). 

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 26). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

To stay on target tonight, let me point out two themes that Paul has just introduced here which leads him to praying like he does:

  • The Kingdom of God

In this context is the ultimate kingdom, the consummated kingdom, the reign of God without contention, the final triumph of God in the new heaven and the new earth. (the end or beginning depending on how you look at it)

  • The Thessalonians’ perseverance

The perseverance displayed by the Thessalonians is not mere stamina without purpose but steadfast endurance. They have their eye on the prize. They, like all believers should, keep their focus on that final glorious kingdom. Again, Carson has a great quote:

Christians are not masochists; they do not want to suffer out of some forlorn but stupid belief that suffering is intrinsically good. They are prepared to suffer and to endure because they keep their eye on the goal. 

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 27). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

That goal is what Paul talks about in these verses. He doesn’t focuses on “heaven” per se; rather, Paul focuses on what the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth means for believers and for those who oppose them.

  1. For believers, there will be vindication

God is just: He will … give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well … on the day he comes to be glorified in his people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (NIV)

Not long ago the various tribes of the American Church fought over trivial things of eschatology and were more than willing to divide at the slightest deviation from their “End Times; Time Line”. But today, thank God, we have greater unity and we are getting along so well, but we may actually think we’ll usher in the Lord’s Millennial Kingdom. “If Jesus comes, oh, that’ll be good.”

I think we have been losing our anticipation of the Lord’s return, the anticipation that Paul shows is basic to his thought.

Even though we do not disavow central truths, for many of us their power has been eviscerated. The prospect of the Lord’s return in glory, the anticipation of the wrap-up of the universe as we know it, the confidence that there will be a final and irrevocable division between the just and the unjust—these have become merely creedal points for us, instead of ultimate realities that even now are life-transforming. 

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 27). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

To lose this sense of this anticipation will be a great tragedy for the Bride. Behold He Comes! Maranatha! The Wedding of the Bride! Of this the church used to sing.

Lo! He comes, with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain:
Thousand thousand saints attending
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah!
Jesus now shall ever reign.
 
Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at nought and sold Him,
Pierced, and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
 
Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heaven and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! come away!
 
Yea, amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne:
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the Kingdom for Thine own:
O come quickly,
Hallelujah! come, Lord, come! 

Charles Wesley, “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,” 1758 (based on John Cennick, 1752)

Or this one to make it more personal …

Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ, who died for me?
Only faintly now I see him,
With the darkling veil between;
But a better day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen. 

Carrie E. Breck, “Face to Face with Christ My Savior,” 1898

2. For Other’s There Will Be Retribution

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you . . . 7 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people . . .

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (NLT/NLJV)

No one likes to think about judgement today. I would agree that there should not be an over indulgence in the judgement of God, but, it should not be banished from our thinking. Judgement is an attribute of God in the same way that love is an attribute of God. He is equal in both.

Many do not like this aspect of God, but “the gospel is solidly based on some elementary notions of retribution. Where evil occurs, it must be paid back, or God himself is affronted.” About this Carson says:

The cross simultaneously stands as the irrefutable evidence that God demands retribution, and cries out that it is the measure of God’s love (see Rom. 3:21–26). 

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Forgiveness is never detached from the cross. Again we hear Carson say:

forgiveness is never the product of love alone . . . Forgiveness is possible only because there has been a real offense, and a real sacrifice to offset that offense. 

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

I believe the end of those who troubled the Thessalonians and of those who do not know God, will be infinitely worse than anyone could have imagined.

Remarks:

One day, all will be made right. God will welcome the faithful to be with Him forever and banish the haters who never wanted Him. The Framework of  (The Assurance of God’s Vindication) along with Framework #1 (Thankfulness For Signs of Grace) is what guided and fueled Paul’s prayers for those whom God had entrusted to him. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you . . . ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NIV))

the “this” Paul keeps in mind is discerning gratitude for signs of grace among the people for whom he prays and simple confidence in the prospect of God’s perfect vindication of his people when Jesus returns. . . . 

Carson, D. A. (2014). Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation(Second Edition, p. 32). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

In the next session, we’ll take a look at the things that Paul actually prayed for the Thessalonians believers. But, for these past two sessions, I really wanted us to know the heart of Paul as He prays for these believers. Which can become ours.

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