1 Thessalonians 1:8
1 Thessalonians Lesson #010
August 21, 2014
We're continuing our study in 1 Thessalonians 1:8, which we began last time. Last time, if you remember, we focused primarily on faith and what is faith. This is a word that is at the heart of a lot of debate and a lot of theological discussion and also a lot of confusion about the nature of the gospel itself. I pointed out that faith basically means to believe that something is true. To affirm that something is true.
Now it's the "something" that's important. You will recall the content of the gospel. Do we believe that it is true that we are saved by faith in Christ plus baptism? Well, no, that would be the wrong content. That would be Christ plus something. Are we saved because we believe in Christ plus we live a good life? No, that's not right because that's not the right content. Do we believe that we're saved because the Bible says that Christ died for our sins? Well, that's not quite right either. We're just believing that's what the Bible says. It doesn't mean we believe what the Bible says. We need to personalize that and say, "I believe that Christ died for my sins and paid the penalty for my sins on the cross. I can do nothing at all to pay the penalty. Christ did it all. I'm relying totally and exclusively on Him for my salvation." That's what faith is. The Bible says it. It's true. Therefore, I believe it.
Now this time I want to expand a little bit on what I said last time. I want to go back and review a couple of things to help us understand what the confusion is about this topic and then move on into a second aspect of faith. This is not just faith at gospel hearing or believing the gospel to be true but what happens after salvation in terms of what we call the faith-rest drill. It is our ongoing life of faith after salvation.
First in 1 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul praises these Thessalonian believers. Were that it were true that all of us could be praised this way, Here Paul is talking about the content he had given to them already, that which they'd learned in Bible class, the message of God which has been proclaimed to them. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, "And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit." LOGOS is the Greek word there and that can refer to the message so he's saying that you received our message from the Lord.
At this point, as I pointed out last time, only a couple of other New Testament books had been written. Paul had written Galatians. James was written and possibly Matthew was written on or about the same time. We can't be exactly precise about the date of Matthew so it's roughly about this same time so there's no collection of New Testament books. There's no canon of Scripture at this point. It's just beginning. To read into that statement that this is the Bible is not quite what he's saying but today that would be an implication of that, The New Testament would certainly be included in terms of application.
He praises them in 1 Thessalonians 1:8, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia [northern part of modern Greece] and Achaia [the southern part], but also to every place your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything." We sort of camped out on that phrase last time to understand what that means. First, and foremost, it means faith toward the gospel.
He expands on this in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9. He talks about the gospel of God, the good news of God, which relates to Jesus Christ that he had proclaimed this to them. That's the content of their belief for salvation. The word for belief is this word PISTIS. This is a noun. I'm going to get into a little grammar here because there's a background problem in why we have some of the misunderstandings we have in Christian theology today and it goes back to how these words are translated. This is a noun, as opposed to the verb PISTEUO. The root is PISTE. The verb is PISTEUO which means to believe. Therefore the noun, PISTIS, is belief as I pointed out. It's also translated trust, or value, or proof. We could say that in some places it's translated faith. But there's a problem with translating is faith. If we're going to translate PISTEUO as to believe, then we should translate PISTIS as belief so that we keep a continuity there. When we translate PISTIS as faith, which is traditional, we get into a little confusion.
We're looking at this concept of faith. There's saving faith at the point of gospel hearing and secondly there's the life of faith that comes after that. That's what I want to talk about today. It's been a while since I've done an in-depth on the faith-rest drill. This isn't going to be as in-depth as I've done in the past but I want to do at least a brief summary or synopsis of what we mean by the faith-rest drill.
First point, the Christian walk is clearly based on the faith-rest drill. This is everything that comes after salvation. This is seen in passages such as Colossians 2:6, "As you therefore you have received Christ Jesus the Lord…" So this is using the word received as a synonym for faith. This is understood also in passages like John 1:12, "For as many as received Him, to them gave them the power to become the sons of God." John 1:12 is preceded by John 1:11 which talks about the word coming to His people but His people, His own, did not accept Him or receive Him but as many as did receive Him gave He the power to be called the sons of God. So receiving Jesus as Savior is parallel to believing or trusting in Christ.
Paul says, "As you received Christ at salvation [faith alone in Christ alone] so we are to walk in Him." The dynamic for salvation is faith. Our walk in the Christian life is by faith. Now last time we talked about saving faith which is simply belief that the gospel is true which would be called assent. Some people don't believe it's enough just to have assent. Assent is a function of the mind so there's no other kind of assent.
Here's a good quote I ran across since last week from James Hall Brook who was a pastor of a Presbyterian church in St. Louis, Missouri in the latter part of the 19th century. He was one of the great founders of dispensational theology in the United States and his other claim to fame was that he influenced C.I. Scofield, the author of the Scofield Reference Bible. Scofield was a noted teacher and pastor and also a mentor to Lewis Sperry Chafer who founded Dallas Theological Seminary. He was in the St. Louis area as a lawyer so here's another example of a noted and influential pastor who says that saving faith is the simple acknowledgement that what God has said is true.
We believe that it is true. That is what it means. We acknowledge that something is true. That is what is meant by intellectual assent. Last time I pointed out that one of the issues in this discussion is that in reform theology and among those who hold to lordship theology they have broken our understanding of faith down into three categories: NOTICIA, ACENTIA or ASSENSUS, and FIDUCIA. These are three Latin words. NOTICIA means understanding. ACENTIA or ASSENSUS means to assent, to agree that something is true, to acknowledge that something is true. FIDUCIA is belief.
We get into a problem here because of semantics and translation. This is one of those very shifty kinds of arguments where there's certain arguments there where the terms are unknowingly switched on someone so it's sort of like a con man shell game but it's with words. The English word faith is related more to the Latin word FIDES as we'll see in just a minute. It's translated as faith and you lose the significance of the Greek which the New Testament was originally written in. The original Greek verb is PISTEUO or PISTIS for the noun. So we have this shift occurring because in defining faith here as in FIDUCIA you're using a word to define itself. You are never to use a word to define itself. When you're defining a word, a concept, you don't use the same word in the definition. That's the word you're trying to define.
In the way that language developed, scholars, at the time the English Bible was translated, still used Latin in the classroom of academia, universities, and seminaries. Much that was written theologically still depended heavily upon the Latin language. Our English Bible and our English theological tradition are heavily influenced by the English language. The English language doesn't really come into its own until the early 1600s because of the influence to two things: William Shakespeare and the King James Bible.
But if you go back and you look at some of the earlier English translations in just the 1500s you see a huge transition that's taking place in English. English was still an evolving language by the late 1400s but it really comes into its own and becomes stabilized primarily through the influence of the Bible and of course, great literature like William Shakespeare. So the translators who were translating into English are talking about words that are primarily influenced by Anglo-Saxon which is the background for English.
When it came to certain technical words which they would use in the translation, because of their knowledge of Latin and because much theology had been written in Latin, they would go to Latin-based words, especially in these theologically-driven texts. English words such as justification, salvation, faith, cross, glory, and propitiation are all English words that are either derived directly from the Latin or indirectly through French in contrast to words that were used in Greek.
Since the Bible was written in Koine Greek which is different from Latin you have two different English words that are used to translate the Greek concept. You have belief and faith. Faith derives from the Latin. Belief has a different set of origins. So in translating the Greek verb PISTEUO by the Anglo-Saxon word belief and then they would translate the related noun FIDES by the unrelated word faith.
The way that this has transpired in terms of the argument is that one side says that it's not enough to simply believe which means to assent or to agree to the fact, intellectual assent. This is given a bad connotation by a lot of pastors and teachers. They say that we need to have more than just intellectual assent. We have to have "faith". Faith is something that is built out of proportion but they're playing a shell game based on linguistics and semantics when the reality is that you can clarify all of this just by consistently translating PISTEUO and its word group the same way. Always translate PISTEUO as believe or to believe and PISTIS as belief. That gets the point across and clarifies the confusion that's brought on by false understanding of the English language.
Another verse that talks about the Christian life is 2 Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith and not by sight." Now the phrase we walk by faith translates the Greek phrase DIA which is the way to express instrumentality or means rather than causation. We don't walk because of faith. We walk through faith. Same language that's used in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith." Faith is the means by which something is delivered.
For example, the wiring in your house is how electricity is delivered from the power plant to the appliances in your house. It's simply a conduit. That's what faith is. It's a conduit. It's not faith itself that has the power. It is the object of faith that has the power, which is Christ. Here we see there's an apparent contrast that's set up between faith and sight. Sight is part of our senses, what we see, what we taste, what we touch, what we hear, and what we smell. This is the foundation for what we call empiricism.
There are four basic ways by which we know things. Sometimes there are combinations of these but these are the four independent, basic things by which we know anything is true. I identify them as a system, having a starting point by that which is used. This comes out of philosophy and the study of what is known as epistemology which is how we know what we know.
The first system is rationalism. Rationalism is a system of pure thought, starting with a perceived first principles that are understood in the mind intuitively or directly that seem to be true in and of themselves so they're referred to as innate ideas. Ultimately it's a belief that our mind can perceive data apart from any outside input just in and of itself. So it ultimately is built on faith. The method by which we start is the independent use of logic and reason.
The most famous rationalist in modern history was a Jesuit mathematician by the name of Rene Descartes. He used the principle of doubt. He would say, "I'm not really sure that my eyes can tell me the truth or that my hearing can tell me the truth so how do I know that what I see is real? How do I know that you are real? How do I know that this is not just some sort of hallucination that God is giving me and that's there's nothing real at all? How do I know that I am even real?" As he kept asking these questions he finally said, "Well, I must be real because I'm thinking." That was his famous statement, "I think, therefore I am." In Latin it was "COGITO, ERGO SUM." That was his starting point that since I exist, something exists so can I move from that to the existence of other things and I can move from the existence of other things to the existence of God. So it's all the use of rigorous logic but only rationalism through that which is perceived intellectually in the mind.
Well, he couldn't really get to God. There were problems in the system so another system came along called empiricism. These all have their ancient counterparts as well. Rationalism was expressed by Plato in the ancient world. Empiricism was expressed by the philosophy of Aristotle in the ancient world. It's the idea that we're born with an empty slate, a mind that is blank, and that everything that is there as a result of what comes in through our senses. The information we receive from sight, sound, hearing, touch, and taste. That's our starting point but again it's faith that my mind can properly interpret what I have seen and that I know because I've seen, tasted, or touched it and repeated it in the laboratory, therefore it must be true. Again, it's a faith in human ability.
Empiricism is what is expressed by the statement, "We walk by sight." We walk on the basis of our sense data. We live our life on the basis of empiricism. Some people said, "Well, I don't believe that God exists because I can't feel or taste or touch him, I don't believe it." Well, we believe a lot of things that we can't quantify or capture by our sense data. Anything that we learn or know on the basis that someone else gives us we know to be true on the basis of their sense data. We don't directly perceive that so that's always a sense that there's faith.
Faith in this passage isn't juxtaposed to sight. It's really sort of a shorthand that Paul uses here. He's really saying that we walk by faith in God's revelation. Our third human viewpoint system for knowledge is mysticism and the basis for truth is revelation. God reveals something to us and we believe it. Everybody talks about faith in something. Everybody walks by faith in something, such as science, atheism, or faith in some religion such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, hypnosis, transcendental meditation. That is, everybody has faith in something. Faith is what undergirds everything.
Paul isn't contrasting faith with sight. He's contrasting faith in God's Word with sight. He just doesn't say all of that there. Everybody walks by faith so Paul is talking about how we, as Christians, walk and we walk by faith in the Word of God. He's not just talking about generic faith or generic spirituality but that which is true and that which is biblical. So the first point I'm emphasizing here is that the Christian life is a walk of faith or a life of faith, which we describe as the faith-rest drill.
That hyphenated term, faith-rest emphasizes two things. Faith means we are trusting God. Believing is a verb and when we believe something that consequently means a change in thought or a change in action. When we are agreeing that something is true we want to live according to that which is true so that affects what we think and what we do. That is an active concept.
For instance if God says, "Pray without ceasing," we believe that and the consequence is that we are praying. When the Scripture says we are not to commit murder, we don't commit murder. It's a matter of faith. Today we would try to separate that because people argue that religion doesn't impact day-to-day life but the Bible is very different about that. Faith does change things. So the faith-rest drill is believing God and resting in Him.
The best verse to capture this is 1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your care upon Him because He cares for you." We are always depending on Him. It's a walk of dependence because He cares for us. Now the second point we need to understand in terms of the faith-rest drill is that our walk is always by means of something. This is emphasized in the Scripture. We walk by means of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:16. We walk by means of faith in 2 Corinthians 5:7 and we walk by means of the truth in 3 John 4. John says there, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk by means of truth." So these work together. We are walking in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We're walking in dependence upon truth which is the objective the Holy Spirit has laid out for us in the Scripture and we walk by faith in the Scripture and we walk by faith in God's ability to lead us and direct us and to guide us.
There's basically three steps in terms of the practice of the faith-rest drill. First I'll summarize these three steps and then work through them in more detail. First of all we claim a promise. Claiming a promise means we look at a promise that God has made in the Scripture and we, in effect, are holding God to it. There is a promissory element to 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That's an absolute statement that if we do something, God will do something. It sets a promise from God. God is saying that if you confess your sin, He will do something. So when we confess our sin, we are in effect saying, "God, I'm holding you to this. If I confess my sin and name it, admit it, acknowledge it before you and identify that this is something I have done, then You will instantly forgive me and cleanse me of that sin and I am restored to fellowship."
That is exactly that it means to claim a promise. We're in effect saying, "God, You said it. I'm holding You to this. I'm trusting in You to fulfill your Word in this particular instance." This is true especially in promises related to fear, worry, and anxiety. God's in control. We claim the promise and trust in God to take care of the circumstances and situation so that we can relax. We cast our care, our worries, and our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us.
The second step is we think through the doctrinal rationale that's embedded in the promise. We'll talk about this a little more. Take that same promise from 1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your care upon Him because He cares for you." How does that begin? It begins by saying we ought to be doing something, something we do continuously. We cast or we throw or we place upon God our cares, our worries, our concerns, the things that distract us in life, and our anxieties. We put that upon God. Why? Because He cares for us.
If we think about that the reason we can do that is because of God's care and love for us. Because God loves us, He's concerned about the details of our life. As we meditate upon that promise we think through the underlying rationale that God loves us. This is expressed other ways in Scripture. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Again, there are many different ways in which that principle is expressed in different promises.
I want you to know that when Jesus is facing the temptation in the wilderness, He doesn't use His doctrinal rationales. He starts with Scripture, claiming a promise. He starts with what the Word of God actually says. He just doesn't extrapolate the rationale or the principle. Now it's important for us to understand that principle. I'm not saying there's not an application there but we can't divorce that from the promises there. We need to keep those connected. Otherwise you slip off into what is a Christian philosophy rather than a biblical way of facing life. As Christians we want to understand that our life is based on biblical principles and not just on theological rationales. They have to be connected and you don't want to separate your theological rationales from the anchor in the text of God's Word.
The third step is that we appropriate or apply those doctrinal conclusions. In other words, if the conclusion is that God cares for me and He knows all things and He knows every situation in my life, therefore, whatever just happened is something that was known by God from eternity past. He allowed this to come into my life for whatever the reasons are so I need to relax and trust in Him. This may take time.
I've gone through circumstances. You've gone through circumstances where this isn't just an instantaneous process. It may be for a few moments and then five minutes later after you've cast your care upon the Lord you're grabbing it and pulling it back. You get into this tug-of-war that may go on for months as you're working through the process. You may go through some really intense situations in life. You may go through circumstances that may involve unemployment, major health crises, and other tangential adversities, including financial problems. You can have marriage problems, problems related to your children, problems related to just about anything related to life and if they're extremely traumatic, then the result of this can take time for you to settle down. It may take weeks.
You stay awake at night saying, "Okay, everything's fine." You pray and go to sleep. Three hours later you wake up and all of a sudden you're just seized by anxiety. That's when you have to stop and walk through that process again, focusing on Scripture, memorizing Scripture, utilizing that again. It's the Scripture and the Holy Spirit that helps focus us, calm us down, and stabilize us in the midst of that trauma. So this is the process.
I want to start off just by talking about what it means to claim a promise. First of all this means we have to have a part of Scripture stored in our soul. It may be just a little bit of a verse, a phrase, a clause, but we have Scripture that's in our soul so we claim that. God says somewhere, "Fear not, for I am with you." Okay, God is with me. I'm not going to be afraid. We have a statement, "Be anxious for nothing." Okay, I'm not supposed to be anxious over anything. I'm supposed to trust in God. So we start focusing on that. That's called in Scripture meditation. It isn't like the Eastern methodology of meditation where you empty your mind. Christian meditation is where you fill your mind with the Word of God, with a promise. So you focus upon that.
This isn't something that comes automatically to us. It takes time for that to take place. One of the things that helps is for us to have Scripture memorized. I have a little booklet I've put out on promises. Memorize the promises that are in that booklet. They're something you can use. When we need to claim promises in the midst of a crisis, we may not always have a Bible handy. We may not always have a book of promises handy. We have to have this stored in our soul. If we go through crises in life that take us away from the Word of God like soldiers who put us in prisoner of war camps. Or people who have been affected by war, who have become displaced when their homes are destroyed.
One of the areas I love to read about is World War II but recently I have just been so impressed with what happened in France and Germany to hundreds of thousands of people who had their entire villages, everything they knew, everything they owned, obliterated in the bombings that occurred during the war. When the war ended they had nothing. You know your precious little study Bible you've written notes in for 40 years is gone. You're left with nothing but what's in your soul. It's important to us before the crisis hits to get this into our soul and learn doctrine.
Proverbs 3 indicates that sometimes it's too late to get wisdom when the crisis hits. We're not prepared for it. A situation I was talking about with a friend recently about certain problems people have today when they go through certain traumas in life and they don't seem to handle them like our parents did. One of the things we noted was that our parents grew up in a time of great adversity in the Great Depression of the 1930s. This prepared them for things they would encounter in life.
We have a generation now that's self-absorbed. We have a generation that's pampered. It has so many luxuries that by the time they get to adulthood and face some real life problems, it really throws them. They don't have the internal resources of character built in to them during their childhood and formative years to be able to handle the adversities that come with adulthood. We find them spending hundreds of thousands of dollars going to counseling or they try to solve their problems through drugs or alcohol or through all sort of pleasures rather than just being able to face life and overcome the adversity that comes.
As Christians we know that the only way to permanently handle these things is through the Word of God. So we need to memorize Scripture so that when the crisis occurs we have that at hand. Create a list for yourself of the basic promises of Scripture that you want to memorize. Then work your way through, such as one verse a week or two verses a week. Sometimes it's helpful to memorize a passage because then you get a whole flow of thought committed to memory. Work with them with your children. That's a great way for you as a parent to internalize these promises as you're helping your children learn them.
As a pastor from the first time I got in the pulpit I realized the tremendous value I had because as a child both in Sunday school and at Camp Peniel I learned a lot of verses. My mother said that the first sentence I ever uttered was 1 John 1:9. I guess she knew I would need to use that quite a bit. But that was one of the first things I ever learned. And of course, John 3:16. When I first started as a pastor I'd be teaching and all of a sudden a verse would come to mind. All these verses I'd memorized over the years were just popping into my head. That was God the Holy Spirit. So we need to memorize Scripture so that God the Holy Spirit has the tools to work with when we encounter problems.
I just want to run through a few of these. One of the things we can do when we're facing problems is to focus on the character of God. This is a standard procedure that David uses in the Psalms. He starts off in what are called the lament psalms. That means you're basically crying to God about some circumstance in your life and you see a number of these lament psalms in the Old Testament as David is facing some horrible situation such as hostility, enemies, gossip, and slander, whatever the circumstance and he's coming to God crying about these horrible things and asking God where He is and how he's going to survive.
As he thinks through this he begins to focus on the character of God. Always in the center of these psalms there's a focus on the character of God. Then as he comes to the conclusion of the psalm he's praising God because God is the One who will rescue and deliver him and get him through these circumstances because of God's character and faithfulness. Psalm 119:89-90 tells us, "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven, Your faithfulness endures to all generations, You established the earth, and it abides." God's word is permanent and since we live in a world of changing circumstances and chaos we can say God's word is settled in heaven. That helps to stabilize us.
As we think it through in terms of the rationale that's there we realize that since God is able to create the universe and stabilize the universe according to the laws He put into the universe, then my problems and difficulties sort of pale into insignificance in terms of what God can do. If He can do the big things, He can handle the little things in my life. God is different than I am.
Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man that He should lie nor a son of man that He should repent. As He said it, Has He said and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?" So God has made a promise we can count on. He will not go back on His Word. A great promise is always that God will carry out His Word.
Sometimes we face enemies. There are businesses that are just cutthroat. There's tremendous competition for jobs, to keep a job. There are people out there who have no background in Christianity. They have no sense of virtue, no sense of integrity. They're going to lie about you. They're going to spread rumors about you. They're going to be jealous of you. And you're not going to know a lot of what's going on. There are people out there who want to destroy you just for the sake of destroying you. God forbid that you run into people like that but they're all around us. Their numbers are multiplying simply because we live in a world that is more and more divorced from any sort of Christian integrity or Christian influence. We need to recognize it.
There are so many things we face in life where all the circumstances are beyond our control. We have promises like Hebrews 13:6, "We can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?'" So we put our focus on God and not on people. People can threaten us. People can be a danger to us but we're going to focus on the Lord and trust in Him to be our shield, our buckler, and our fortress. He's going to take care of us.
Another problem we have is sometimes we feel down. We have the "blues". Some days we just don't feel so great. Sometimes we get depressed. Depression is the result of a number of different things. Sometimes it comes from disappointment in life. Things haven't turned out the way we thought they should. Sometimes we experience tremendous loss and as a consequence of that we feel depressed. Depression in and of itself is not a sin. It's what we do with that that becomes a sin. If we let it move us in the direction of disobedience, it's wrong. Whenever we feel down and discouraged we should let that drive us to God and to His word.
Passages like Psalm 37:28 can help us, "For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones. They are preserved forever but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off." God is not going to forsake us. God is not going to leave us alone. God is not going to abandon us. He is going to be there. We may think He has forgotten about us. We may think He's not concerned about us. God is faithful to us.
Another passage is Isaiah 40:29, "He gives strength to the weary and to him who lacks might He increases power." God is the one who gives us strength. Psalm 18:2, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress, and my deliverer. My God and my rock in Whom I take refuge." Think about the words used there to describe God's power and strength and His protection for us. He's a rock. A fortress. He's the One in Whom we take refuge. He's the shield, the horn of my salvation. My stronghold. God is the one who takes care of us and provides for us.
Psalm 22:24, "He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. Neither has He hidden His face from him but when he cried to him for help, He heard." So He's the source of comfort for us. 2 Corinthians 1 is an extended discussion of comfort from God. God is the source of safety and security. That doesn't mean you don't use alarm systems or lock your door but ultimately it's God who provides security and stability for us. Proverbs 1:33, "But he who listen to me [wisdom] shall live securely and shall be at ease from the dread of evil."
Another passage stressing God's help is in Psalm 42:11, "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me. Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and My God." God is the One that sustains us and protects and provides for us.
Sometimes we have problems with guilt. Isaiah 43:25, "I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgression." So we may have committed horrible sins. We may have been involved in things we profoundly regret and have remorse over but God wipes out our transgression. Another verse similar to this is Psalm 103:12, "As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Okay, I'm going to stop at this point and next week we'll come back and continue on the faith-rest drill.