Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
Thesis: The "hope" is best maintained by fellowship with like-minded brethren and by remembering what "grace" really means.
Introduction: We have come in our studies to Paul's parting words. In a sense, this marks the finish of his focus upon the "soul" of believers and its need for "hope". There is another letter that was occasioned by the attempted corruption of that "hope", but this letter, at least, presents both "The Hope" and the way that it is kept in its place of primacy for the soul.
In these final words, there are two major issues: the first is the place of "brethren" in the maintenance of the hope; the second is the place of "grace" is that maintenance.
June 14, 2015
- I. The Place of "Brethren" in "Hope".
- A. First, there is the issue of the brethren in genuine care for one another.
- 1. Paul's "pray for us" continues in the tradition of the way Paul used references to prayer.
- a. In 1:2 he mentioned his prayers for the Thessalonians primarily for the impact those prayers would have upon the Thessalonians, not God.
- 1) For God to hear and respond to prayer, no one else needs to know about it.
- 2) But for people to know that others are praying for them, they need to hear about it.
- a) The knowledge that others are praying for you is a significant "soul" issue wherein your sense of "security through relationship" is enhanced so that you need not seek that security through acquisition of material gain.
- b) The direct implication of Paul's mention of his prayers for them is that people need to know that others genuinely care for them if "hope" is to be established and maintained.
- b. In our current text, his appeal for prayer is rooted in 3:6 where he mentions how important it was to him to hear of their care for him.
- 1) Paul deliberately notes how much their prayers meant to him in respect to his own struggles (3:7).
- 2) He also deliberately tied his own "life" to the lives of those who were tied to his by the underlying commitment that "prayer" indicates (3:8).
- 2. In this appeal for prayer, there are no specifics.
- a. There is, however, the general backdrop of the preaching of the Gospel and all the troubles that brings on (this is a major sub-theme of the letter).
- b. The lack of specificity indicates that he will leave the content of their prayers for him to their interest in him and wherever that takes them in prayer.
- B. Second, there is the exhortation that "brethren" gladly greet one another without superficiality.
- 1. The "holy kiss" concept boils down to a greeting that is not corrupted by simple geniality.
- a. A "kiss" is an indication of true affection (Luke 22:48).
- b. A "kiss" that is an attempt to hide either a lack of real interest or true distaste is not "holy".
- 2. But, again, the point is the harmony and mutual commitment of brethren to each other.
- C. Third, there is the strong imperative to have this epistle read to all the brethren.
- 1. To express how strongly he feels about this, Paul actually lifted a common cultural concept out of its typical setting and put it into this one.
- a. In the culture, this "I charge you by God" was an insistence that the person swear by the "god" that he/she do/say something of importance.
- b. Paul would not have agreed with this "oath in the name of a god", but his use of the terms indicates just how strongly he felt about the need to have this letter read to the brethren.
- 2. What Paul is actually doing is making sure that this part of the inspired word of God was shared with all those who stood in the need of "hope", given the persecution setting extant.
- II. The Place of "Grace" in "Hope".
- A. Clearly, without grace there is no hope.
- B. Just as clearly we need to know what "grace" means in terms of 5:23-24.
- 1. Grace is a force of divine input that makes the accomplishments of grace His own and not others'.
- 2. Though the Bible is insistent upon keeping the issue of "expectation" (Hope) out of the realm of the "you owe me" of legalism, it is not designed to keep people from turning to it.
- a. Many use the issue of grace as a divine prerogative as an excuse to remain at a distance from God.
- b. Grace is God's prerogative, but he does not turn away from those who humble themselves in the face of their need (James 4:6 is the clearest text on how one can get God to act on his/her behalf).
- C. The identification of the grace as "of our Lord Jesus Christ" most likely means not His daily effort on our behalf, but, rather, the Cross as the demonstration of the magnitude of God's grace and willingness to be "welcoming" to those who understand it.