Into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; 2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!
17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The church today collectively and believers individually need to ask and answer a question. Is God’s Word, the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, all God’s Word? Is as 2 Timothy 3:16 says: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness? Or is it only certain portions, only the words of Jesus Himself, recorded in the gospels which are God’s Word, His truth and relevant today? In many ways the church today tends to mirror society rather than being the light of Christ in the darkness, the church has itself begun to reflect the darkness of our culture and society. In today’s text Paul says: We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command; May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. The love of God calls us to love God in return. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Jesus says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38) If we love Him, then we also will love others. Jesus continues: “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” 1 John 4:19 is followed by verse 20 which says: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
Paul though says: that our hearts should be not only directed to the love of God, but also to the steadfastness of Christ. What does it mean, how does it impact our lives, to be drawn to the steadfastness of Christ? Are we to be steadfast as He Himself is? In John 5:19-20 Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing.” If we are steadfast like Christ, we too then will seek to know and do the Father’s will. In Philippians 2:3-8, Paul describes more of what the steadfastness of Christ looks like: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Will we be steadfast to the will of God, obedient to Him, even to the point of our own death?
The other part of Christ’s steadfastness is that He was: tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) The steadfastness of Christ caused Him to lead a life that was holy and blameless. Jesus was righteous in all that He did. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. If we are steadfast in Christ, we then also should live a life that is holy and blameless, in Him. Jesus Himself says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) We tend to have a difficult time balancing love, obedience and righteousness. In our natural human ability when we are obedient in love, we have a tendency to mirror the world’s definition or interpretation of love, which says that in love we must be tolerant, inclusive, not judging at all, accepting anything and everything that others choose for their lives. On the other hand when we are obedient to holiness and righteousness, we tend to rely or strive toward human righteousness, holding closely to regulations and rules, traditions made by man. We tend to hold others accountable to our expectations and regulations.
In today’s text Paul says: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life That doesn’t seem to line up with the love and forgiveness of Christ, but in Matthew 18:17, Jesus is giving instruction about how to deal with sin in the church. He says: If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Here’s the part we miss. Here’s the difficulty we seem to have in balancing love and righteousness, in our steadfastness to Christ. In the text Paul says: If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Galatians 6:1 says: Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Even when Jesus says to treat those who sin as unbelievers, we need to recognize how it is that we are to treat unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 says: Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God So we are not to partner or fellowship with lawlessness and darkness. Yet Jesus Himself says: “ I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Jesus was criticized for fellowshipping with the outcasts and unlovely of society.
Some say it is cliché for believers to say that we love the sinner yet hate the sin. But that is exactly what steadfastness in Christ will lead us to. To the sinner in the world we are to be the expression of God’s mercy and grace. We are to seek them that Christ might save them. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If we are the demonstration of God’s love to the world, then we must point to His demonstration of love, the cross of Christ. To the sinner in the church, we are not to embrace or tolerate their sin, but we are to continue to love them, with the same unconditional love that we have for the sinner in the world, we are to admonish them for sin, not fellowship with their sin, not in condemnation but rather for restoration, that they too will know the love of God demonstrated in the cross of Christ. It’s not cliché to love the sinner yet hate the sin. To think that Jesus does not hate sin is worse than foolishness, it is heresy. Sin is what cost Jesus His life. Sin is why He suffered, was beaten and crucified. In pain and anguish Jesus paid the price for sin. Jesus is no friend of sin. Yet on the cross, in all the pain and anguish, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Do we believe that all scripture is inspired by God, that all scripture, from Genesis to Revelation is about the love of God, His plan to seek and save, to redeem, reconcile and restore? Can we through our steadfastness to and in Christ balance love, obedience and righteousness?
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. May we know His love and His steadfastness. Amen