Kingdom Warfare

 

Introduction

 

I wondered when we were going to get to study this. Armor of God class? Today we are going to study the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18. So let’s read our scripture first and try to imagine it being read in Tony’s encouraging voice because no doubt at the end of class we will be blessed to hear Tony say these words again. Ephesians 6:10-18 –

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.   Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.   Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

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So let’s start with the scary truth – we are in battle with evil. Our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour. And the truly scary part is that the devil is very successful. He is the Father of Sin and owns this world and this culture and most – not some, not a few – but most people are deluded by the beauty of evil and the pleasures of sin. Narrow is the gate which leads to life, but wide is the path that leads to destruction.   That means most will not find their way to salvation despite the evidence of God’s love being abundant in creation.

Wiersbe’s commentary of Ephesians had this quote –

“Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is – apart from the Lord.”

Slide4.JPGYour task and my task is to be Christ’s ambassador, showing His light of salvation so that all who are called may be saved. But the devil isn’t going down without a fight, and he has had thousands of years of practice and deception, so we must be prepared.

 

The Enemy

 

The first strategy in our battle is to understand the enemy. Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and philosopher who lived 2000 years ago and wrote a famous document called Art of War, and I think this is his most famous line –

是故勝兵先勝而後求戰,敗兵先戰而後求勝。

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

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If we are to win against our common enemy, first we must understand who our enemy is. In the book of Ephesians, Paul describes the enemy like this –

      • The Prince of the power of the air (2:2)
      • The spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (2:2)
      • A schemer (6:11)
      • Not flesh and blood (6:12)
      • Principalities (6:12)
      • Powers (6:12)
      • Rulers of the darkness of this age (6:12)
      • Spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (6:12)
      • Uses fiery darts (6:16)

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Notice though, who is not our enemy: people.   And that is the biggest baddest mistake of well-meaning Christians, to go to battle against people. When we make people our enemy, we are actually helping our enemy win. We can look back at the study of Jonah, who rebelled against the Lord when commanded to go to Nineveh. We all remember the fish in the story, but it’s the last two chapters that give the story of Jonah meaning. Jonah had been sent to a wicked people, and was resentful against God for not destroying them. God’s response is that the wicked people of Nineveh were God’s wayward children and he wanted Jonah to teach them about His love. That’s why John 3:16 is so powerful –

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Not for a few, not for some, not even for many. God loves the people of this world and there is no celebration in heaven greater than when a sinner turns to repentance. The enemy isn’t people, no matter what horrible accusation or insult comes out of their mouth. That’s the devil working through this world. That’s why it’s so important for us to remember to “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

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So when we go into battle against the prince of the power of the air and the rulers of the darkness of this age, what is our battle plan? First, we need to be equipped for the battle, and that begins with Paul’s description of the battle armor worn by a Roman soldier –

 

The Armor – Belt of Truth

 

Ephesians 6:14a,

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth ((Ephesians 6:14a, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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In the first century, a soldier would wear a belt that would hold his sword. The belt would also hold his chest plate in place and allow for him to tuck his robes above his knees so that he could engage in battle. Without a belt, the rest of the attire could not function. The belt held everything together. Paul makes a comparison between the belt of a soldier and truth.

The truth of God holds everything together. Without it, we cannot hope to prevail in battle.   If we are going to fight this spiritual battle against the devil and the forces of evil, we must have truth to win.

The devil is the enemy of truth, but he’s devious about it and twists the truth to make it sound believable. Remember his first deception in the Garden of Eden? Genesis 3:1,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

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That wasn’t God’s command, God told Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree, except one, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The devil twists the truth.

Sometimes he even quotes the truth, daring us to misapply it. When Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and the devil tempted him, the devil quoted scripture to Jesus. But it was a misapplication, a distorted truth. Matthew 4:5-7,

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

   and they will lift you up in their hands,

   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

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In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives us great insight into the character of Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil does not “hold to the truth, for there is no truth in him.   When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

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The devil wants us to believe lies about ourselves and of this world. The devil wants us to believe lies about God. The devil whispers lies into our hearts and minds and attempts to lead us away from God. We Christians must arm themselves with the belt of truth so that we can engage in the battles against the lies of Satan.

Truth is more than feelings. Truth is even more than facts. Truth is reality from God’s point of view.   We need an objective standard of reality for the world we live in as well.   Thankfully, God has provided that objective standard in the truth of His Word. Every day you and I must engage in God’s Word of Truth so that we can differentiate between lies and reality. We must put on the Belt of Truth first to properly equip us for spiritual battle.

 

The Armor – Breastplate of Righteousness

 

Ephesians 6:14b,

having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14b, Chronological Bible p. 1532

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Soldiers would place a breastplate over their bodies to help protect their vital organs during battle. The breastplate would cover them from their collarbone to their lower abdomen, guarding their heart, lungs, and intestines. With their breastplate on, they could enter the battle with confidence knowing they were protected.

After the fall, Adam and Eve were aware of their nakedness and clothed themselves with leaves.   They attempted to protect themselves with clothing of their own making. God, however, replaced their clumsy attempt to cover themselves with clothing of His own making.

When we clothe ourselves in unrighteous, legalistic, or worldly truth, the self-righteous person is doomed to certain defeat by the enemy. But God clothes believers with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The Breastplate of Righteousness represents the external righteousness of Jesus Christ placed on us. Jesus’ righteousness protects us, and it guards us against the blows of the devil for eternity. But the Breastplate of Righteousness also represents the internal righteousness of a godly life.

Our greatest protection and ally in the Christian life against the schemes of the devil is to pursue a righteous life. Satan, who is our Accuser, cannot accuse us of sins we do not commit. He cannot condemn a consecrated life. Integrity and righteousness in the Christian life protect us from the everyday assaults of the devil and helps us to engage the spiritual battle with confidence. When we live righteously, we can know that we are covered and protected. An obedient Christian is an effective Christian.

 

The Armor – Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

 

Ephesians 6:15,

and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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The Roman shoes were tied, ready to go, ready to fight. They had short nails that would help give the soldier traction to make sure they were not slipping in battle. Paul tells the Church at Ephesus if they want to stand firmly in battle, they need to put on the shoes of the gospel. But notice it is the gospel of peace.

I’m reminded of Peter in Matthew 14. The disciples are in a boat, buffeted by winds, when Jesus begins to walk across the water toward them, and the disciples are scared. They think He’s a ghost. Then Peter says in verse 28-31 –

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

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The peace that the gospel offers is not peaceful circumstances throughout all of life.   The peace of the gospel is, that when the storms of life come, you are still walking on His Word. Peace is not the absence of chaos. Peace is assurance in the midst of chaos.

The gospel is good news because it is the gospel of peace. It offers us true peace with God, providing reconciliation for our sins. It offers true peace with our self, transforming us into the image of Jesus.   The gospel gives us true peace with others, providing an example of sacrificial love through Jesus Christ.

The peace of God are the shoes that hold us firmly in place during spiritual battle.

 

The Armor – Shield of Faith

 

Ephesians 6:16 –

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Ephesians 6:16, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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A Roman soldier’s shield was large. It would cover their bodies from shin to shoulder. It was wooden but covered in leather so that it was fireproof. The soldier would hold it out in front of him to protect him from spears, swords, and flaming arrows. He could interlock his shield with the shield of other soldiers and form a wall that was virtually impenetrable.

Have you ever watched old black and white Western movies? There is often a scene where the Indians repeatedly ride around the circled wagons of the cowboys. Then, one Indian would dip his arrow in oil and light it. He would shoot his flaming arrow at the wagons. The flaming arrow would not be meant to kill the cowboys.   It was meant to distract the cowboys because you cannot fight fire and fight Indians at the same time.

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Satan will try to shoot arrows of distraction in our lives with the purpose of distracting us from the real battle. We are to take up the shield of faith and protect ourselves from these fiery arrows.   Satan will shoot arrows of distraction to move our attention away from the fight and toward the fire.

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The Apostle Paul instructs us to carry the shield of faith so that we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the devil. When we focus on the object of our faith instead of the distractions to our faith, we can effectively engage in spiritual warfare.

Throughout scripture, faith is always measured by action. Faith is not measured by good intentions, chills that run down our back in worship service, or feelings. Faith is accounted for by action, moving us in the direction that God has called us to go.

If you look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 you will notice a pattern of faith. It goes like this: the person is named, a declaration of their faith is stated, and a display of their faith through action is explained.

  • Noah → Trusted God → Built an ark.
  • Abraham → Trusted God → Left home to another land.
  • The People of Israel → Trusted God → Went through the Red Sea on dry ground.

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When we utilize the shield of faith we can trust God, extinguish the distractions, and move in action to what God has called us to do. This is a prerequisite to winning our spiritual battles.

 

The Armor – Helmet of Salvation

 

Ephesians 6:17a,

And take the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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Soldiers marching out onto the battlefield would first place a helmet on their heads. It was absurd for anyone to engage in combat without a helmet. The Apostle Paul tells the church at Ephesus to put on the helmet of salvation. It was their salvation that served as a guard for the Ephesian church. Their salvation was their standing before God.

The spiritual battle is won on the battlefield of the mind. If Satan can infiltrate our minds and cause us to think wrongly about God, he can convince us to disobey God. He did it with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He twisted their thoughts about God and tempted them to sin. God commands us to put on the helmet of salvation to guard our minds with the reality that we have been saved by Christ.   Right thinking leads to right living.   If we protect the way we think, by filtering it through our salvation, then we will protect what we love. If we protect what we love, ultimately, we will protect what we worship.

Believers must take errant and suspicious thoughts captive and operate out of a renewed mind.   Consider 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 –

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Or consider Romans 12:2 –

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

But too often we fill our minds with trash – movies and television shoes that promote evil or sexual immorality. Garbage in, garbage out. We should fill our minds instead with the goodness of His love.

 

The Armor – Sword of the Spirit

 

Ephesians 6:17b,

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (Ephesians 6:17b, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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This is the only offensive piece of weapon to use in spiritual warfare. Paul says to take the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. In Greek, there are three different words for “Word.”

1) Graphe – which means the writing compiled, as in a book.

2) Logos – an announcement or written narrative or treatise, the topic that is inside the book.

3) Rhema – specific statements or sentences in a book.

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Paul uses the third word Rhema for the word of God. He is urging the Ephesian church to memorize and apply specific statements from scripture to help them successfully fight their spiritual battles.

When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, He used rhema- specific statements from God’s Word to defeat the devil. Satan would tempt Him and Jesus would reply with scripture. And if Jesus relies on specific statements from scripture in order to defeat the devil’s temptation, how much more do we, being mere mortals, need to memorize and apply specific statements from God’s Word in spiritual warfare?

Paul knew the power that came from the scriptures. He knew that the Sword of the Spirit is Hebrews 4:12 –

…living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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Unlike a physical sword that grows dull after it is used, the more we use the Sword of the Spirit the sharper it becomes and the deeper it pierces. When we interact with specific statements of scripture applying and memorizing them, they bring life and heal us while simultaneously defeating temptation and Satan’s schemes.

 

The Armor – Cloak of Zeal

 

There’s one more piece to the Roman’s soldier’s wardrobe. Paul doesn’t mention it, but centuries earlier, Isaiah mentions in in Isaiah 59:17 –

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

   and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

   and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

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Isaiah is referring to the Lord’s passion to send a savior to save sinners from His wrath, and the Lord wrapped Himself in zeal.

The Roman soldier used his cloak for many things – it was somewhat waterproof against the rain, warmth against the cold, even used for bedding at night. The comfort of his cloak made him a better soldier during the battles.

A cloak of zeal will make us better spiritual warriors. The Lord was passionate enough to save sinners that the Lord sent His only son to die for us. Can we, then, muster enough zeal to be good warriors?

As adopted children of God, we should adopt the same zeal for His Good News that Jesus did when He willingly went to the cross for us. I have always been struck by this passage in Revelation 3:14-16,

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

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Jesus is telling the church that spreading the good news of salvation should fire us up, give us a passion to save others with the same passion Jesus had to save us. He didn’t save us just to be nice. He saved us to saved others. Are we so comfortable in our salvation that we will let others perish? Or will we get zealous for the Lord and spread the news that Jesus died for their sins so they could be saved from a fiery eternal death?

Jesus thinks our lackadaisicalness – that was a hard word to write, much less pronounce – he thinks our lackadaisicalness when He gave His very life is so despicable that He will spit us out of His mouth. Let us have zeal and passion for His word by adding the cloak of zeal to our spiritual armor.

 

Conclusion

 

We engage in spiritual activities every day; therefore, we need to clothe ourselves with the appropriate spiritual attire. Every day we live, we enter into a spiritual battle against the devil and the supernatural forces at work around us. We must put on the full armor of God to stand in the fight.

Remember king David as a boy when he first stood against Goliath? David, too, was well-armed, and as he stood against Goliath, David knew that victory was already his. Why? David’s weapon was the sling, and it was not the first time he had picked up a sling.   David had guarded his father’s sheep for years against lions and bears. He knew how to use the armor given to Him by God because he practiced using it.

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Every piece of armor is important, and the good news is that the battle has already been won.   Colossians 2:13-15,

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Stand and resist the devil, and he will flee. Every morning, put on the whole armor of God and prepare for the spiritual battles of the day, wielding the spiritual armor given to us by Christ Jesus so that we may be victorious in Him and give Him all the glory.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.

Faithful Inside and Out

Icon of Second Coming (also used for All Saint...
Image via Wikipedia

I. Introduction
We’re wrapping up the letters of from Paul to the church of Thessalonica today. Paul’s 1st letter consisted mostly of encouragement as the church faced prosecution and urged Christians to live by high moral standards in an immoral society. Anybody think this might be applicable today? Paul also talked about Christ’s Second Coming, urged the faithful Christians to warn believers who refused to work, and gave guidance on how to live as Christians.
Paul must have received news that in spite of his first letter, the Thessalonian Christians still struggled with three major problems, so he wrote the 2nd letter to Thessalonica. In Chapter 1, Paul encouraged the believers that God is fair even if the world is not. God will punish those who punish the faithful, so we should leave judgment to Him. In Chapter 2, Paul provides additional information about the Second Coming of Christ and encouraging them to persevere despite the hardships and to seek correct doctrine and obey the Word.
Now, in Chapter 3, Paul asks his brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for him, and then addresses the growing problem of believers who not only won’t work, but also interfere with the work of others.

II. Faithful Outside the Church (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)

Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Responsible Christians pray and obey to spread the Gospel. When Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to live morally in the immoral society they lived in, he’s recognizing one of the greatest truths of the bible: we cannot do God’s will in this world under our own power. The powerful Christian life always involves two forces; the power of God and the obedience of the believer. There is no doubt Paul was one of the most effective missionaries in the history of the world. Paul was knowledgeable about scripture, Paul was obedient, and here we also see Paul relying on the power of prayer. In verse 1 he asks for prayer that God’s will may be done through him. Paul constantly asked for prayers when he wrote his letters – Romans 15:30-31, Ephesians 6:18-19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; Philemon 22; the list goes on and on. It pleases God when we pray for His will to be done, and the prayers of a righteous man are powerful. Prayer has many facets to it –

a. Continual Prayer.

In verse 1, Paul says “Pray for us.” The tense indicates a continual prayer, not just a one time event. Paul recognized the need for constant prayer; in 1 Thessalonians 1:2, Paul says he prays for the Thessalonians constantly, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells them to pray without ceasing. The world is as lost today as it was in the time of the Thessalonians and is in need of a savior they don’t even know. Pray they hear the word; pray we tell them the word. Pray and obey.

b. Offensive Prayer

These continuous prayers should be both offense and defense in our earthly battle. The words Paul chose for “spread rapidly” implies an imagery from the Old Testament where God’s Words runs swiftly, as though a runner in a race. Psalm 147:15 says, “He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.” And “honor” – or “glory,” in some translations, indicates a winner. The runner receives glory through winning, and God’s Word receives glory when somebody comes to Christ. Evangelistic prayer encourages us to go on the offense and spread God’s message so He may receive glory.

Offensive prayer has a purpose. Our world, you may have noticed, is sick. Our world is dying. The Word of God is life-saving medicine. Paul prays that the medicine is spread rapidly because lives are at stake. Jesus had the same urgency in John 9:4: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

c. Defensive Prayer

Prayer is also defensive; we must never forget we are soldiers of Christ engaged in spiritual warfare. The breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit are all parts of the armor of God to protect us. We are at battle with spiritual darkness and the plans carried out by evil men. Evil men that have not only corrupted themselves but intent on corrupting others. Evangelists are on the front line on this battle, and need both offensive prayer to spread the gospel effectively, but also defensive, protective prayer against the evil that would stop them.

III. Faithful Inside the Church (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15)

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.
If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Discipline inside a church is necessary. And just like we’d like God’s justice to reign down on somebody else while only God’s mercy reigns on us, we only want church discipline to be imposed on other people. Some people and even some churches use discipline to kick people out of a church. But church discipline as used by Paul is a loving act. Church discipline is demanded by scripture to bring our wayward brothers and sisters back to the church, back to the fold, to heal wounds, to restore them in love.

Listen to what Jesus says in Mathew 18:15-17

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

The relationships we have with one another are those of brother and sister, and they reflect our understanding of the love God has shown for us. If we can’t show love to our brother or sister, do we truly understand love at all?

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus tells us that our relationships with each other are so important that until we are reconciled with our brother, our offerings to the Lord are of little value. Our service to the Lord, our tithes, our worship, worthless. Jesus says to put your offering down and go reconcile with one another. Then come back and give your offering.

How do we do that? The first step is simple communication with each other. Just talk. If that doesn’t work, enlist a friend or two to help. If that doesn’t work, take it to somebody in the church leadership. Do that as many times as necessary, it’s not a one-time thing.

Human nature being what it is, you’re thinking of somebody that you’d like to drag up before the church leadership. But what if somebody drags you to the church leadership? What sort of attitude should you have?

Removing somebody from the church body is serious. Remember the goal is to restore sinners and bring them back into repentence. We should give them every opportunity to respond. The most important thing to remember is that we never have the right to treat them in an non-Christ-like manner just because they are acting in a non-Christ-like manner. Regardless of how the other person acts, we are to love them.

Here in the case of the Thessalonian church, Paul was dealing with a specific issues. In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul explained to the church how to act while under persecution. Chapter 2, Paul warned against false teachings. And now, Paul is addressing idle people. See, most of the Thessalonians were Greek and part of the Greek culture was a disdain for work. Work was beneath them, and so they owned slaves to do all their work. Did you know the Roman calendar at this time observed 156 holidays a year? Festival of feasting, Festival in honor of Mercury, Festival of Mars, Festival of Flowers, Festival of Childbirth, Festival of the Dead, Festival of Success. They even had a festival, Agonalia, honoring Janus, the god of gates and doorways.

The Greek Thessalonians used the return of Christ as an excuse not to do work. These idle Greeks became burdens to the church; rather than contributing to the benefit of all, the Greeks lived off the works of other church members, working hard to make a living and contribute to the church.

Paul begins his discussion on church discipline first by studying scripture, in verse 6 he says we must live according to the teaching we received. What does the Lord say about work?

Turns out God has a lot to say about work. Starting in Genesis 2:15, Adam’s job before the fall was to cultivate and keep the garden. In Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon says, “whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” There are a dozen proverbs (Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4-5; 12:11, 12:14, 12:24, 12:27; 13:4; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 19:24; 20:4; 21:25-26; 22:13, 22:29) that deal with work. Here’s Proverbs 6:6-11 –

You lazy fool, look at an ant.
Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two.

Nobody has to tell it what to do.
All summer it stores up food;
at harvest it stockpiles provisions.

So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
How long before you get out of bed?

A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?

Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
poverty your permanent houseguest!

Ok, so scripture is consistent about work. After making sure your exhortation is consistent with scripture, the next thing Paul commands is that you yourself aren’t guilty of the same thing. Jesus once said that before you judged another for the speck in his eye, you had to make sure you didn’t have a plank in your own eye. Paul had a vocation; he was a tentmaker and earned his living as he traveled. He reminds the Thessalonians of his example in verses 7-10. In order to be an effective witness for Christ, you must examine your own life first to ensure you are a worthy imitator of Christ. Paul didn’t have to work so hard; I’m sure he was fatigued after teaching all day, writing letters to churches, and then making tents at night. As an apostle, Paul was entitled to accept help from the church, but instead Paul went the extra mile to make sure he was an example worth imitating and relieving the church of the burden of supporting him.

First, examine the scriptures, then examine ourselves. The next step is to examine the situation. Why are the Thessalonians not working? Is it because they are unable, or because they are unwilling? Some people are unable to work. Perhaps they are disabled. Perhaps they haven’t found an opportunity or there are no job openings available. Our country is in a recession, and it appears it’s getting worse, not better. We should be diligent in applying ourselves to work as soon as possible.

Don’t take this to mean that the job must be a well-paying job, or that it pays at all. Some of the most demanding work is housework or taking care of children or ministry work. The point is that, as far as you are able, to contribute to work instead taking, to be busy at the things that pleases God instead of using idle time to simply please ourselves or meddle in the lives of others.

Look at verse 12 again. What commonsense advice does Paul give? As Christians, how can we apply this in our approach to society in general? What type of character is created by honest work?

Once the examination of scripture and examination of ourselves is complete, we may find that it’s time to confront another in the church out of love and to heal the body of Christ. Verse 13 is key to our heart at this point; Paul says we are never to tire of doing what is right. Doing what is right may be uncomfortable, but it can also be a time of significant personal growth. Here are some reasons for Christian confrontation –

i. Personal differences. This is probably the most common. We are so quick to judge others, yet are so blind to ourselves. The Thessalonians may have grumbled among themselves, “If they don’t have to work, why should I?” Sin is often unintentional, but sin nonetheless hampers God’s plan for us and for His church. When there is sin in the life of a believer, the health of the church is affected. Paul’s word for these believers were “disorderly” believers, people that marched out of step with others, disobeying Christ’s commands or the instructions of church elders. Instead of being busy, they were busybodies, and 1 Timothy 5:13 says that busybodies are more than just idle gossipers, they may be opposing God’s will by talking nonsense about others and doing Satan’s will. How tragic to find that we think we are good Christians but find instead that our idle talk is encouraging Satan instead of the church.

ii. Doctrinal error. We may find another Christian teaching the wrong doctrine. If they are doing it out of ignorance or lack of knowledge about scripture, we are to teach them the truth. 2 Timothy 2:25 says we are to do this so that God will grant them repentance and lead them to the truth. If they continue, Titus 1:10-14 says we are to rebuke them sharply. If the error continues, Romans 16:17 says avoid them, and 2 Timothy 2 says eventually we are to separate from them because their teaching will spread like gangrene.

iii. Another reason for righteous confrontation is if a believer has been overtaken by sin. This happens to believers, far more often than we think. Even the Apostle Peter denied the Lord, David yielded to lust, Moses to pride, and so on. Galatians 6:1-3 says that for these believers, we the church are to restore them gently. Remember Jesus and the adulterous woman? Jesus wasn’t harsh with her, He was gentle, admonishing to her to go and sin no more. The word “restore” literally means “to set a broken bone”. It takes gentleness and kindness and patience, not sudden judgment and condemnation.

iv. Then we get to the repeating troublemaker. Titus 3:10 tells us to warn them twice and then have nothing to do with them. These people are divisive, they often have good scriptural knowledge but because of their pride, they love to take side and encourage argument. They have a strong opinion because they love to get their way – they may argue about how the Lord’s Supper ought to be served or how the worship songs should be sung or even what kind of service to the Lord is more important. Pride is at the root of division, and Satan uses such heretics to divide a church.

v. And then, there is the church member living in open immorality. 1 Corinthians 5 deals with a case of incest within the church. The church was proud of their tolerance, how despite this open, flagrant sin, the church passed no judgment on him. There are many churches like this today that openly accept members and elders in open sin. Paul tells us that instead of being prideful of our tolerance, we should be in mourning. A believer in open sin should be expelled from the church. Paul warns us not to treat these people as enemies, because they are not. They are our brothers and sisters. Just like Lot fell out of fellowship with Abraham and the Lord because he moved to Sodom, Genesis 14:14 says, “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” Our goal is to rescue our brother, not condemn him.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 says we should have such a purpose in our separation. When it comes to the idle, the busybodies, the heretics, the unrepentant sinners, after trying to restore them, rebuke them, disassociating with them, the purpose of our actions is to bring them back into the Lords will. Examine scripture first; make sure you are correct in your theology. Examine yourself, make sure you do not have a plank in your own eye and that you are a good example. Confront them individually, with another believer, with a church elder in order to restore them. And then, if all else fails, leave them alone and mourn that they are not in fellowship with the Lord.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Paul wraps up 2 Thessalonians 3 with note that as Christians, the Lord of Peace himself will give us peace at all times and in every way. This peace is for all Christians; notice Paul says, “The Lord be with all of you,” and this includes those he just finished rebuking. This peace is for us. Let us examine ourselves and our church family and work for what is right for the benefit of all, to make a strong, healthy body of believers for our Lord and Savior.

In the two letters to the Thessalonians, Paul taught them how to live in fellowship as believers. The lesson Paul taught is just as true today. We don’t know when Jesus will return, but we do know that His return is eminent. Until then, we have tasks to do as His body. Work eagerly and joyfully at the tasks God has given us on this earth, all the while keeping an eye toward heaven. In this Chapter, Paul tells us about two of those tasks; we are to pray, and we are to earn a living. In all circumstances, we can take comfort in the peace given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.

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