Motives for Ministry
1 Thessalonians 2:3
1 Thessalonians Lesson #026
December 17, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful that we can come before Your Throne of Grace and to recognize that you’re the Author of Scripture and that we are to submit ourselves to Scripture, to what the Scripture teaches, and to what You have revealed. It’s Your Word that transforms us away from the thinking of the world and into the thinking of divine viewpoint.
Father, we pray that as we study Your Word today that we might be challenged. Also that we might gain great comfort and hope from the Scripture knowing that You are the One who is in control. No matter how chaotic, how negative, or how distorted the world around us becomes, nevertheless, You are still in control. We can relax and trust in You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re continuing our study in 1 Thessalonians 2. We’re going to begin to look at what Paul says in this section where he’s talking about his ministry and motives for his ministry.
He’s being challenged by his opponents in Thessalonica that he’s there for all the wrong reasons. They say he’s just trying to get money from people. He’s just trying to gain power and trying to deceive them, all of these various accusations. Paul is just defending his ministry and vindicating his motivation for ministry.
This is something we all should pay attention to because we’ve all been given some kind of ministry. We live in a world that is increasingly skeptical and increasingly hostile to Christianity.
Last time we looked at verses 1 and 2 where Paul says, “For you yourselves know, brethren …” He’s appealing to their own experience with Paul, causing them to reflect back on how he was when he was with them. He says, “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.” It was not just something that was meaningless. It had fruit. It changed their lives. It changed their thinking and it was significant.
It also generated a reaction from the Jews in Thessalonica. As we studied in Acts 17 where Paul came to Thessalonica, he was in the synagogue for three weeks and generated a tremendous hostility toward the preaching of the gospel. Quite a few of the Jews and quite a number of the Gentile proselytes converted and trusted in Christ as Savior but many of them did not.
It came after his trip to Philippi. He says, “But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”
Here we have the map. He’s in Thessalonica. He’s going along the Egnatia Way, the VIA EGNATIA, which was one of the major Roman highways, going east and west through Macedonia. They had first arrived by boat at Neapolis which is the port not very far, maybe ten miles from Philippi.
Then they traveled from there after he was thrown in jail. You remember that incident. They are now in Thessalonica.
What he points out to them in verse 2, which we focused on the last time, was his boldness, his courage in the gospel. I think this is important to sort of review and highlight a little bit how the Bible teaches that there is a distinct courage we have in the Christian life that comes from God’s Word.
It goes above and beyond just physical or battle courage. It goes above and beyond just normal courage that any person can experience. It’s a courage that comes from the convictions of the truth of the Scripture.
So he says, “We were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.” We looked at that last time. We need to be bold.
Bold doesn’t mean obnoxious. I’ve known a lot of believers and have been aware of one situation that occurred not that long ago where an individual was just a little aggressive and obnoxious in presenting the gospel to someone who was negative. We are exhorted again and again in Scripture to present the gospel with gentleness, with kindness, and making it very clear, so that there’s no cause for reaction.
The last thing in the world we want is someone reacting to our attitude rather than the gospel. We saw this word last week PARRESIAZOMAI which means to speak with confidence. We get confidence because we know the material well.
Once again, giving the gospel to someone is not doing a “drive-by”. There are a lot of people who do “drive-by” evangelism. That just means you know one or two gospel verses and you just tell those to someone as if you expect that one promise, such as John 3:16, is going to be enough. They’re just going to instantly recognize that you have the truth and respond in belief of the gospel.
Now, if they’ve heard the gospel nine or ten times that might be all that’s left over, that’s necessary. But a lot of people will go through a process. They’ll hear the gospel sometimes five, six, seven times. Sometimes twenty or twenty-five times.
We never know where we are on that spectrum. We may be the first person that ever explains the gospel to them. They’re so shocked, maybe a little bit put-off. They may react and think, “You think you have the only way to Heaven. How arrogant.”
We shouldn’t react to that. We should do what we can to help them understand what that is saying. Maybe someone else comes by later on and adds to that. They may hear the gospel three or four times.
We have to understand where we are and how to talk to unbelievers. The courage here isn’t talking about being obnoxious or being assertive in a certain way, but in having the courage to speak, to talk, to present the gospel, a confidence that in what we’re saying is true and that comes from how well we know and understand the gospel.
Now the Old Testament uses a lot of different verses we can go to talk about courage that we get from our focus upon the Lord. One verse is Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Here courage and strength are connected to waiting upon the Lord.
Another verse is Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” You’re in the midst of circumstances that are overwhelming and perhaps scary.
I was talking with someone recently who had befriended another woman. She had been witnessing to this other woman who is a Muslim. It turns out this Muslim woman is the daughter of one of the assistant imams in a mosque here in Houston.
She was invited to go to the mosque. This girl’s daddy invited this Christian woman to come in and meet the head imam. She said he spoke at her for a while. He told her, “I used to be like you. I was Roman Catholic and I was a Christian, my sister was a nun. Now my sister and my mother, all are now Muslim.”
This woman was saying just how scared she was being in this very odd and unusual environment which is very hostile to Christianity. God is the One who strengthens us and gives us courage in those situations.
Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” Light and my salvation. That light always emphasizes revelation and understanding the truth. Salvation indicates that He’s the source of our deliverance and ultimate salivation.
“Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” If we are occupied with the Lord then we are not going to be afraid.
Then another verse is Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” So God is the One who gives us confidence, strengthens us, and removes our fears.
There are a couple of verses that really reflect a range of verses. Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:7. There are a lot of other verses that connect these two and use this phrase “Be strong and of good courage.”
This is what Moses says to the Israelites right before he goes to be with the Lord. “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” He’s saying this as they’re preparing to cross the Jordan and go into the Promised Land and fight the Canaanites.
To Joshua, God said, “Only be strong and very courageous [same terminology].”
Now these two words are interesting. The top word is ametz and the bottom word is chazaq.
If you notice they are synonyms. They are very closely related. If you used all the words used to translate ametz, it means to be stout, to be strong, to be alert, to be solid, and to be hard.
The words that are used for chazaq are to be strong, to strengthen, to prevail, to harden, to be courageous, be sore [meaning severe]. Those terms are very closely related so when we read to “be strong and of good courage” it’s emphasizing the fact that they are to be very bold and have their source of strength in the Lord.
As we get into this section in 1 Thessalonians Paul is really dealing a lot with his motive in ministry in a hostile environment. I’m pretty much a positive person although some people may not think so with some of the things I bring out. Some of the things that I bring out about what’s going on in our culture I bring out not because I enjoy it, but because this is reality. We need to be aware of that.
I don’t like to think of where things seem to be going in this country but we seem to be headed downhill very quickly. The speed with which we are headed towards a chaotic collapse seems to be increasing with each year that goes by.
If we continue on the current trajectory in another ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty years we may see the loss of many of our freedoms. We may see a government collapse. We may see a financial collapse.
Although many times in history these things appear on the horizon and then due to the grace of God they don’t happen. I’m also going to put a caveat here. Things can change. I have read negative and dire predictions of how we are going to enter into a worldwide famine. I heard that when I was in high school at a youth group and how the world just can’t keep up with enough food production to feed everyone and the population of the world at that time was about two and a half billion or three billion and now it’s seven to eight billion. It was thought that by 1974, the world would be in a huge famine and that did not happen.
There are changes. There have been predictions due to the size of the economic deficit of economic collapse at least as far back as the mid-seventies. Yet that hasn’t happened. God is in control of history. All kinds of things can happen that can shift the apparent historical trajectory very quickly.
We have to recognize that we are surrounded more than ever before by enemies within this country that are hostile to the Constitution of the United States. They have been slowly eroding it and changing it for the past 100 years. There’s a political philosophy known as progressivism that is built on liberal ideals and it is not unique to one political party.
You have progressives in the Republican Party as well as in the Democrat Party. It impacts their view of values, their view of the Constitution, their view of absolutes, and their view of economics. Progressive economics think we can just operate on a deficit and continue to spend and spend and spend. This has led to an unprecedented debt in this country which is around seventeen or eighteen trillion dollars right now. It’s doubled in the tenure of our current president. During the time he’s been in office since January 2009, we’ve seen the deficit double.
This is horrendous. It’s destroyed the purchasing power of the dollar but not as much as we think because everyone else in the world is operating on the same mentality. No one has a currency that’s based on anything objective or absolute. If one begins to seriously tumble, they can all seriously tumble. This would bring just a collapse of monetary systems and economic catastrophes beyond anything we can possibly imagine.
I think that’s going to happen one day but I think it’s going to happen after the Rapture. That’s going to be part of the chaos through which the Antichrist will come to power. I don’t think that will happen before, although there will continue to be recessions and depressions in the cycle of economics.
We also face numerous forces related to the assault on genuine liberty and freedom. Very few people understand that. We can think of some of the assaults taking place on college campuses that are extremely frightening. There is an increasing opposition in this country to biblical Christianity.
Biblical Christianity is the only worldview, the only, if you will, philosophical system because of the theology that’s at the heart of biblical Christianity that can stand against socialism, Marxism, and sexual libertinism, which is becoming more and more the characteristic of Western Civilization.
Along with that goes the increasing abuse of women. It is ironic as we hear feminists talk about women’s rights and the need to protect women that the feminist philosophy has become increasingly dominant since the late sixties and what has come alongside of that is an increase in the sexual abuse of women. If you go back through my study in Judges, I take the time to show how this goes hand-in-hand with paganism.
In pagan thought, especially in evolutionary thought, human beings are just the product of chance. The sexual distinctions between men and women are just the product of chance. Then there is nothing inherent within that philosophy to give value and significance to each individual.
It’s just like in Islam. You have this solitary, unitarian idea of a god in Allah, there’s no room for distinctions or value given to the different parts of the whole, that impact the authority. All you have in Islam is the tyranny of a god who dictates to everyone. You don’t have value put on the parts or the whole because the ultimate reality is just this solitary monotheism.
Within the worldview that’s dominating today you have the increasing emphasis on progressive social justice which is really behind these current demonstrations or riots taking place at the University of Missouri and Yale, and who knows where by the time this lesson is heard, what other schools are going to join suit.
According to a New York Post article published just this last week on November 14, 2015, all of this activism, all of these demonstrations, and all of this chaos on the campuses is actually the result of an army of more than 10,000 leftist organizers that have been backed by an organization that has been reduced to an acronym of OFA. OFA now stands for Organizing For Action but it originally meant Obama for America. According to this particular article, this is the ultimate legacy of this president who is basically a community organizer.
He has organized these leftist social action Marxists to go out and instigate various rallies and flash mobs against any thing that is opposed to progressivism. They are using all the social media, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else is out there, in order to be able to instantly react to some situation and create a demonstration. Anything that is deemed to be related to biased law enforcement or against climate change deniers or Wall Street predators, and gun extremists [anyone who believes in the 2nd Amendment], as well as opponents of gay marriage or LGBT rights, abortion, and amnesty for illegal aliens is the enemy.
With this organization now they are training as many as two million extremists who will be involved in this kind of activism. This is just going to produce increased chaos in various cities. And it will cause increased chaos at the university level. The only thing that can bring order out of this chaos is truth. Biblical truth.
Jesus said in a much abused phrase, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The truth He is talking about is the truth of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. It’s that Judeo-Christian worldview and the specifics of Scripture that give us the ability to have true, genuine freedom.
Without a biblical foundation we can’t stand against the assaults of secularism. We can stand against the assaults of Islam because our leaders are afraid to even identify that enemy for what it is. They just had the Democrat debate the other night and they spent ten or fifteen minutes trying to justify why they can’t use the word Muslim.
If they use the word Muslim in anything that they say, they may offend them. This is the great sin of modern society that we can’t say anything to offend anyone. That is a denial of any kind of truth whatsoever.
Only biblical Christianity can stand against the secular “atheocracy”. That’s a word I’ve just coined. We have everyone accusing us of wanting a theocracy. What they want to impose is a rule of atheism, an atheocracy. They want to impose that on us and to take all reference to religion out of society.
It’s only biblical Christianity that gives order and is a foundation for genuine freedom. As the world begins to deteriorate and culture tends to fragment and come apart, we as Christians have to understand how to navigate these extremely stormy waters and still have the courage to present the gospel, because that’s the only hope.
It’s going to be offensive. The Apostle Paul did it correctly, but there were always one group that accepted and a larger group that rejected. We have to be willing to clearly, and he talks about in this section how he does it gently, kindly, graciously to people, but they’re going to react because they hate the concept and they hate the truth.
He’s defending himself as he’s having to deal with this in the midst of this great conflict. As Christians we need to expect conflict. Maybe in our lifetime, some of us may be put in jail because we’re taking a stand for Christian truth. Maybe some of us are going to be put in prison, maybe some of us are going to be killed because we take a stand for Christian truth.
We’ve lived in an historical bubble for the last 400 years. All around the world about the only people who have had a measure of true freedom for Christianity have been those who have come out of the English-speaking community and Western Europe to some degree. In many parts of the world, Africa, Asia, India, and other parts it is absolutely impossible to get a hearing for the gospel without a negative reaction.
I ran across this account the other day written by the sixteen-year-old son of one of the Christian Protestant leaders in Scotland during the turmoil of the late 1600s. Now the Reformation is far past by this point. You’ve gone through the period of the Puritan revolution against Charles I where they beheaded Charles I and established the Puritan government, the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell in England.
Then you have the period of the Restoration where they brought back Charles II as the king of England. He re-imposed Roman Catholicism on the country. Those who had Protestant pastors, the Puritan pastors, were often imprisoned. This involved England as well as Scotland. This son tells the story. This is something we may all experience.
He says, “On the 7th of November of 1685 my father with another three did desire to go and end a controversy in one of their Christian societies. Upon which he left me to the kind care of Providence and went on his intended journey. Early on the Sabbath morning, he and the other three were seized by forty of the enemy. The night before I had gone to the Earl of Loudon’s house. In my sleep I dreamed of all the passages of trouble my father was in.
“I awoke with much sorrow of spirit and immediately rose and essayed prayer. But alas, alas, I was dead, lifeless and overwhelmed with such a flood of sorrow, that I could do nothing all that day but sigh to the breaking of my heart. At night two young ladies came and sat down by me, and seeing me in such sorrow, asked me if I had got any food.
“It was told them I would eat none all that day. Upon which they opened up their purses wherein they had some meat, and both very kindly urged me to eat. I would eat none. At which the young ladies burst into tears; and then one of them says, ‘This morning, forty of the enemy came upon your father near to Fenwick Kirk. They have killed the other three and your father has received seven wounds and is taken prisoner.’
“At the hearing of such sad news I was struck to the heart. I arose immediately and went out to the fields. But kind Providence ordered the matter so, that though very dark, I met an eminent Christian, William Woodburn, my father’s friend, who counseled me to acquiesce in, and submit to the sovereign will of God, ‘who is a Father to the fatherless’.
“Upon this blessed advice and seasonable counsel the weight of my burden was taken off. My sorrow alleviated and all fretting at the dispensation prevented. I spent this night looking to the Lord that my father might be strengthened to be faithful unto death.”
The story doesn’t go on to tell what eventually happened to his father.
As long as we live in the devil’s world we are going to face opposition. We’ve lived in this United States with freedom, but this is changing. We need to come to understand how we can have the spiritual courage to face what is coming.
That means we have to train. I’m getting more and more serious about this. Christians need to be in high gear for training. We don’t know how much longer this is going to be. It takes time to grow to spiritual maturity. It takes time to memorize your Bible. It takes time to be prepared to grow. It doesn’t happen overnight.
We need to quit thinking that we can just kind of coast along and that Sunday mornings are enough doctrine. Thinking that if we come to church once or twice a week we’ll be okay. We have to ramp it up so that we are spending time every single day, reading the Bible for ourselves, studying the Word, making it a part of our thinking, listening to good Bible teaching so that we become more and more focused on the Lord as our Source of strength and our Source of happiness.
As we go through life, we’re going to face more and more opposition. One of the passages that has always been a source of comfort to me as a pastor when I have faced difficulty is in 2 Corinthians 11 where Paul is again defending his apostleship to another group. In this case it’s the Corinthians and he is defending himself against false teachers who have come in and also made false accusations against him.
So that’s the group to whom he is speaking. He says, “Are they Hebrews? So am I? Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes [whippings], in flagellations above measure, in prison more frequently, in deaths often.” That means he came close to being killed many times.
He says, “Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.” That would be thirty nine stripes. The reason is that the Mishna prohibits giving more than forty stripes. So to make sure they haven’t miscounted and give too many, they would always just give thirty-nine. Five times he was whipped with a lash and then he goes on to say, “Three times I was beaten with rods.” One of those was in Philippi. “Once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false prophets.” I don’t think he’s left out any environment. He’s been in danger everywhere.
“In weariness, in toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often [not fasting for any kind of spiritual reason, just meant he didn’t have any food and was starving], in cold and nakedness. Besides the other things what comes upon me daily [all of that besides the normal adversities that everyone puts up with in life every day].”
Then he refers to his “deep concern for the church.” So that’s what the Apostle Paul has gone through. He’s not a stranger to hostility, opposition, pain, suffering, torture, imprisonment, and all of the things that went along with it, yet he remained steadfast to the truth of the gospel.
So here in 1 Thessalonians he begins to explain and to talk about his motivation. First what he does is talk about what it isn’t before he talks about what it is, what it consisted of. So this is going to cover the next several verses down through verse 7 where he talks negatively about what his motivation wasn’t and then what it was.
He begins by saying, “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” We want to look at this because he mentions three things here as he begins to talk about what was not involved in his ministry. He denies three motives here and then in the next verse he will deny one motive and then in verse 5 he denies two motives. In verse 6 he denies one motive again. That’s a total of seven different motives that he denies in these four verses.
To list them all, he denies that he’s motivated by error or uncleanness or deceit in verse 3. He says he’s not doing this to be a men pleaser in verse 4. Neither does he use flattering words nor is it a disguise for covetousness in verse 5. Nor is he seeking glory from men in verse 6.
He is writing, though, to vindicate his ministry against these charges that have been brought against him.
Now who were his opponents? We ought to ask that question before we go forward. His opponents were more than likely the Jews who were hostile to the gospel message. We know from Philippi and from Thessalonica that he initially went to the synagogue.
There were some that responded to the gospel, but the vast majority rejected him. This led to quite a confrontation in Thessalonica so that for the sake of civil calm there, he left after his confrontation with the Jews. Many of these Jews had reacted for many different reasons. They would be fearful. If you’ve given your life to a belief system for many years and someone comes in and says you’re completely wrong, then that produces anxiety and fear.
Fear is the heart of every sin and often when we’re afraid we lash out. They would also be concerned at losing members of their community, members of their congregation. They would be concerned about a competitive gospel that still held to the truth of the Hebrew Scriptures but was now adding something to it.
They would also be fearful of losing family members to this new gospel that Jesus was the Messiah. So for all those reasons they reacted in much anger. They accused Paul of being just another self-seeking fraud. This was not uncommon in the Greek world at this time. You had these traveling teachers and traveling philosophers.
Some of them were called sophists. They were experts in the use of rhetoric. Rhetoric at that time was just the use of language. They could talk a good talk. They were great motivational speakers. They had wonderful smiles and wonderful personalities. People would flock to hear them because they made them feel so good, but they were all fluff and no substance. They had nothing that was true. They just made people feel good.
We see a lot of that which goes on today. It happens in churches. It happens outside of churches. People become attracted to people or speakers who claim to have the answers to their life and it doesn’t involve the Word of God. The Word of God demands that you submit to the authority of God. Our sin nature doesn’t want to do that, so people seek some sort of shortcut to happiness in life apart from the Word of God.
When you start exposing these frauds it’s going to create a lot of reaction. It’s like every time I start talking about the fact that human psychology may make life work for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. It doesn’t mean it’s biblical. It doesn’t mean it improves your spiritual life. In fact, it may destroy your spiritual life.
Every time I start saying that I always get letters and reaction from people who say don’t you know this or don’t you know that, as if I fell off the turnip truck a couple of weeks ago and I’m just spouting something that’s totally new. But this has been the truth, the belief, the foundation of Christianity since the Old Testament. It’s the sufficiency of God, the sufficiency of Scripture. We don’t need to look elsewhere for answers for the problems we are facing in life.
That’s one thing. The other thing that happens is that people accuse us of a lot of false things. The sad thing is that they’re not too far off the beam. Sometimes they’re accusing Christians of false motives and they do operate on false motives. There are Christian pastors and churches and evangelists and tele-evangelists that are guilty of deceit.
They’re guilty of fraud. They’re guilty of doing it all for the money. They’re guilty of just being men pleasers. They’re guilty of doing everything out of their approbation lust or their power lust. It’s easy to see that can be true. I can think of a number of pastors I know who just fit that bill.
The other sad thing is on the other extreme you have a lot of legalistic Christians. They come along and they hear about some couple who moved down the street. They are homosexual and they’re married and people react in hostility and condemnation. They talk about the fact that anyone who is involved in a sodomite relationship is just automatically going to go to hell. That isn’t true. It’s not what the Bible says.
They create a very hostile, judgmental environment for people who are sinners. This is just arrogance. It does not reflect the grace of God. The grace of God is not permissive. The grace of God is not hostile. God, during this age, is drawing people to Himself. This is the way Jesus ministered.
He did not minimize or limit or change the morality of the Mosaic Law as He did in the situation with the woman taken in adultery, but He does not cast a blind eye to sin. He told her to go and sin no more. He’s not making a universal statement not to ever sin any more. The sin He has in context is for her to stop committing adultery, to stop her adulterous ways and move forward in her spiritual life.
Paul here is going to defend himself. He starts with these negatives, which is a way of distancing himself from the habits and characteristics, the modus operandi of the sophists who would go throughout the Roman Empire. They had this big entourage that followed them. There was a lot of pomp and circumstance with them, and they would gain a lot of publicity and draw these large crowds.
With them it was all about gaining personal fame and glory and money. Paul addresses this. He says first of all, “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness.” The word here for “exhortation” is the word PARAKLESIS. It is sometimes translated encouragement, as one might encourage someone who is facing fear or anxiety and you remind them of some promises to encourage them. Or is could mean exhortation, the idea of presenting people with a challenge that this is what you need to do with the Word. This is how you need to apply the Word.
Sometimes it may even mean a confrontation. In Acts and in some of Paul’s epistles he uses the word “exhortation” as a general, broad term to describe his teaching ministry. It describes his proclamation of the gospel, evangelism on the one hand, and his teaching of the Word of God on the other hand. So this is just a summary word for how he taught.
He challenged people that they needed to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God that died on the Cross, and that by believing in Him, you have eternal life. He would challenge them. As we saw in our study of Acts 17, he would open up the Scriptures, he would dialogue with the Jews in the synagogue, and he would go through the Old Testament prophecies to show how Jesus fulfilled those Old Testament prophecies.
That’s how he’s describing it with this one word “exhortation”. “Our exhortation did not come from” three things he mentioned in this verse: error, uncleanness, and deceit. So let’s take them one at a time.
The first word is error, PLANE. It can be translated deceit. The problem is the last word in the group which is translated “deceit” is DOLOS which does mean deceit. If you were going to translate PLANE as “deceit”, it would be redundant. He would be saying our exhortation didn’t come from deceit, uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. PLANE in most cases in the New Testament, if not all, has the passive meaning of “error”.
Bob Thomas, who spoke here at Chafer Conference some years ago, wrote a commentary on 1 Thessalonians in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary. He says this is the meaning in every case in the New Testament. It does not mean deceit; it means error. It is the fact they are promoting error.
This is a major problem in the New Testament period. As the apostles went around and taught from congregation to congregation, they would often be followed by these false teachers. Sometimes they were Judaizers. A Judaizer was someone who was a Jew who refused to accept the gospel of the grace of God, that Jesus was the Messiah and that you could go to Heaven just by trusting in Jesus alone for salvation.
They would come along and try to add the Mosaic Law to either the gospel or to the spiritual life. This is what Paul is addressing in the epistle to the Galatians. The first two chapters of Galatians are about those who are trying to add something to the gospel for salvation by justification.
He reaches the climax of his argument by saying “For we are not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in Christ.” Then in Galatians 3–6 he’s talking about the fact that we are to live by the Holy Spirit, not by adding works of the Law. You’re not saved by following the works of the Law. You’re not saved by imposing circumcision on the males. You grow spiritually by walking by the Holy Spirit.
There were all kinds of errors that would come through the early churches as well as numerous philosophers that traveled. There were itinerant speakers throughout the Roman Empire who would also teach error so there are constant warnings in the gospels about these people.
Turn back three or four books to Ephesians 4. This was a long section. The use of this word comes down in the last phrase of verse 14. We’ll look at that in just a minute but we really need to understand the context of verse 14. Go back to verse 7. Paul is talking about spiritual gifts. Wait a minute, let’s just go back to verse 11. It says, “He, Himself [referring to the Lord Jesus Christ] at the time of His ascension [the context in the previous verses] gave some …” That is after the ascension, which is about ten days before the Day of Pentecost. On the Day of Pentecost God the Holy Spirit descends in the appearance of a dove and there are flames of fire hovering over the heads of the eleven apostles. Paul says, “He gave these gifts, some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” So he lists these foundational gifts.
Earlier in Ephesians 2:20 he says that “apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church.” Why? Because they gave new revelation to the church related to the mystery of the Church Age. These are the four communication gifts designed for a purpose.
So He gave these four gifts. The first two are apostles and prophets, which are no longer functional and haven’t been functional since the end of the 1st century. He says evangelists and pastor-teachers were given “for the purpose of equipping the saints [every believer] for the work of ministry.”
Every believer is to be involved in some kind of ministry. It may be and should primarily be in the local church because spiritual gifts were given to minister to those in the body of Christ. I’ve heard some people say, “Well, I have the gift of encouragement. I listen to a tape recorder and I can encourage people at work.” The Bible says you need to be involved with a body of believers because you’re to use your spiritual gift to the benefit of other believers.
Sitting alone by yourself … Now I understand that there are some people who have to. If you live in places like Maine or New Hampshire or maybe in a small town in Washington State where you have to drive 300 miles where you have someone even teaching anything close to biblical accuracy. That wasn’t always the case, but sometimes that is the case, now.
We should be involved, if at all possible, in a local congregation to minister to the body of Christ on the basis of the Word of God. We receive equipping from a pastor and it’s for the “work of ministry and for the edifying [word that means to be built up or strengthened] of the body of Christ until we all come to the unity of the faith.” This is not ecumenicalism. This is a unity of the faith that is the New Testament faith that biblical Christianity is all about and that excludes the ecumenicists.
I wish I’d brought that with me but I ran across a survey earlier today. I’ll see if I can remember this. It says there was a survey of 10,000 clergy to see if they believed that the Bible was the inerrant, infallible Word of God that was true in all areas of history and science and faith and practice.
Ninety-seven percent of Episcopalians said no. I forget what the next division was. I think it was ninety-two percent of Methodists said no. Then it dropped down a little bit and it was about eighty-one percent of Presbyterians said no. Then it dropped down and it was about sixty-two percent of American Baptists. I think that was referring to the old Northern Baptist denomination. Sixty-two percent of American Baptists said no.
That’s what I’ve said for years. It shocks people. You hear pastors in the pulpit say that they believe the Bible is the Word of God. These phrases have been diluted over the years. One hundred, one hundred fifty years ago if you said you believed the Bible was the Word of God, then today to mean the same thing you have to say, “I believe the Bible is the divinely inspired infallible Word of God, breathed out by God without error in the original manuscripts and that inspiration is both verbal [it affects every word and that it’s the words that are inspired] and that it’s plenarily inspired [meaning every word is equally inspired and equally authoritative].
That is what inerrancy means, but there has become another error that has developed in the last thirty or forty years that minimizes inerrancy. They do this now by talking about that the form that much of the Bible is written in is poetry. If it’s poetry, then it’s not interpreted as literal as history.
They’ll say the first three chapters of Genesis are all poetry so this is not to be understood historically, so they don’t believe in a young earth. They don’t believe in a literal six-consecutive-day creation. They don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve. Some people who hold this tradition will believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but they still believe in an old earth, which means that somehow God uses theistic or progressive evolution to bring about His views. You may see this magazine, Grace in Focus. The current issue has an article by Bob Wilkin. So did the May–June edition. Those two have these articles in there which shows how this has impacted New Testament scholars. The title for the article is “Can We Trust New Testament Scholars?”
He should have answered it, “Not any more than we can trust Old Testament scholars.” I used to have a church history professor at Dallas Seminary that said, “The old saying is that Satan was cast out of Heaven, he fell in the choir loft. Then he bounced into the Old Testament department.” Historically, the greatest threat to seminaries holding to inerrancy has come out of the Old Testament departments, like in Princeton and Yale and other places, even Dallas Seminary. There’s not a full-time member at Dallas Seminary any more in the Old Testament department who believes in a literal six-day, twenty-four-hour creation.
They still say they believe in inerrancy. How do they get around it? They say it’s divinely inspired poetry. They change the form, the literary form, the literary genre. This is a breakdown.
What Paul is saying here in Ephesians 4 is that we gain to a unity of the faith, of the truth. That means we have to separate from all these other people who do not believe in a literal, historical interpretation of Scripture and that the Word of God is inspired and inerrant in everything.
Back in the late 70s … I’m getting way off topic, but this is important and it’s current, as these battles heated up in the Southern Baptists who recovered, among Missouri Synod Lutherans, and among some evangelicals, it culminated in a large group of evangelical scholars including people like Norm Geisler, Charles Ryrie, Harold Honer, many of the professors I had at Dallas Seminary in the late 70s, they met in Chicago numerous times and they crafted a lengthy, lengthy doctrinal statement explaining inerrancy. It’s called The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. It’s excellent.
They recognized that even though you believe in inerrancy, someone can give it away by their hermeneutic. They came back later and they produced a massive volume of almost 1,000 pages called Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics. That focused on this issue. They couldn’t come to a consensus on hermeneutics.
That’s what’s happening today. A lot of these people are using their hermeneutics to get around what is taught through biblical inerrancy. In fact, one of these younger guys, who’s probably not that young any more [probably a baby boomer who is the source of a lot of trouble] has written a book on this. He has said several times that people like Norm Geisler, Earl Radmacher, Bob Thomas, and others are hyper-conservative inerrancists. In other words, he’s saying they’re just “off the chart”.
Those are the men who met in Chicago back in the late 70s and defined inerrancy. It’s in most Bible church doctrinal statements today. Today we’re slipping more and more into theological error.
This is the warning that Paul gives in Ephesians 4:14, “That we should no longer be children [you only mature through the teaching of the Word], tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” Now that’s New King James Version. Literally what it says in the Greek is “a craftiness of erroneous methodology.”
That’s exactly what I’ve just illustrated is going on in these seminary faculty meetings and among seminary academics. They have adopted an erroneous method, that is leading Christians astray and it is a form of trickery.
Colossians 2:8 is another warning, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit.” There’s no use of the word PLANAO here but it is a warning of the same kind of thing. “According to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” It’s a warning against false teachers that are coming in.
1 John 2:26, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” That’s the same word, PLANAO.
2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” They are being deceived by their teachers and instructors and then they, in turn, deceive others.
I think that’s really true of Islam. Many of them really believe that they are a religion of peace. No one has really challenged them that Islam is not a religion of peace. If it were, why are they always trying to kill each other all the time? The Sunnis and the Shites are always trying to kill each other, but it’s supposed to be a religion of peace. Why are they trying to blow up everyone and destroy everyone? Many Muslims are deceived and being deceived. Then they, in turn, deceive others because of that.
2 Peter 2:18 talks about these false teachers. “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.” There’s our word error.
This brings us to the next area that Paul mentions in 1 Thessalonians 2:3, which is uncleanness. That has to do with a motive of sexual immorality in terms of the teaching. We’ll get a good illustration of that when we get back for our next class.
“Father, thank You for this time to study Your Word and be challenged. As believers we must have a motivation that is clear, righteous, holy, and in conformity to Your character. Our communication must be gracious and gentle and kind. We don’t seek to win arguments. We seek to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”