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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Encourage and edify each other!
Text:1 Thessalonians 5:11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-12-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 98

Psalm 143:4-6 (after the law)

Psalm 119:19

Hymn 70

Hymn 67:1,2,6,7

Scripture reading:  Matthew 25:1-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Text:  1 Thessalonians 5:11

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Imagine for a moment someone who’s a fairly new believer.  Let’s say they’ve been a Christian for a year or so.  One Sunday this new believer comes to worship and hears the pastor teach about the second coming of Christ.  He says it could happen at any moment.  The new believer comes away from the sermon and thinks, “Well, if that’s true, I may as well quit working.  Jesus is coming back any moment, so no need to work.  I’ll just quit and wait for Jesus to come back.”

Maybe that sounds strange, but it actually happened.  It happened in the young church of Thessalonica.  Young believers in that congregation heard preaching or teaching about the second coming of Christ.  Then they reached bad conclusions based on that teaching.  In Second Thessalonians the apostle Paul corrected those bad conclusions.  He says that believers should stay busy and fruitful as they look forward to Christ’s return.  And “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”      

What it shows you is that a correct understanding of the last things matters for how you live your life right now.  What we’re talking about is a correct understanding of eschatology.  Eschatology is the area of theology about the last things, the end of the world you could say.  You might be tempted to think that eschatology is irrelevant.  It’s all about the future, the return of Christ, the end of the world.  How could that be relevant for us as Christians today?  But how you think about those things does have an impact on how you live as a Christian right now.  One of the places God makes that clear to us is in First Thessalonians. 

There was confusion among the Thessalonian Christians about the future.  You can see it at the end of chapter 4.  Look at verse 13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  In the church at Thessalonica, somehow people thought that Christians who had died before Christ’s return were not going to be raised from the dead.  That misunderstanding or ignorance caused them grief.  Paul writes to correct that, so that when they lose a loved one, they might grieve as Christians, as people who have hope.  Good theology matters for life.  Good eschatology matters for life. 

First Thessalonians 5 continues to teach good eschatology.  It also demonstrates how it matters for life.  Specifically, God’s Word here shows how good eschatology matters for how we ought to live together as brothers and sisters in the church.   This morning we’re hearing God’s Word from 1 Thessalonians 5:11.  This is the fourth sermon in our series on building community.  Our passage can be summarized like this:

Encourage and edify each other!

There are three questions arising from that summary:

  1. With which realities are we to encourage and edify each other?
  2. Why should we encourage and edify one another with these realities?
  3. How should we encourage and edify one another with these realities?

It might be tempting to look at our text in verse 11 and deal with it all by itself.  Look, it says, “Encourage one another and build one another up.”  We could just take that all by itself and make a sermon out of that.  Then the message would be:  just be encouraging and upbuilding to each other here in the church.  But there would be a real problem with that kind of general approach.  There’s a word at the beginning of verse 11 that we can’t ignore.  Look at verse 11.  Do you know what word I’m referring to?  Do you see it?

It’s that important word:  “therefore.”  The Holy Spirit put that word in verse 11 and we would dishonour him and his intentions if we were to ignore that word.  Whenever the Holy Spirit uses “therefore,” it’s for a good reason and we have to dig into it and find out why. 

In this case, it’s not difficult to find out what the “therefore” is there for.  It’s all laid out for us in verses 1-10.  There we find more eschatology, more teaching about the future.  The apostle Paul writes about the timing of the return of Christ.  Look at verse 1.  Do you see the mention of “times and seasons”?  That’s clearly referring to the “day of the Lord” mentioned in verse 2.  The day of the Lord is the day Christ returns.  We can be sure of that because Paul equates those things in 2 Thessalonians 2.  He first writes about the “coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and then he speaks about those who regard that as having already happened, “that the day of the Lord has come.”  So also here in 1 Thessalonians 5, the day of the Lord is the day of Christ’s return.  Someday Jesus will come back and raise the dead. Someday he will return to judge the living and the dead.

The question is:  when?  The answer given by the Holy Spirit through Paul is:  no one knows.  For unbelievers he will come like a thief in the night.  That’s to say he’s going to come unexpectedly.  No one knows when a thief is going to creep up on a house and break in.  It takes you by surprise and it’s not a nice surprise.  For unbelievers, it’s the same with the second coming of Christ.  For everyone, it’s not predictable.  He could return at any time.  This is the reality taught to us in Scripture, not just here in First Thessalonians, but elsewhere too.  For example, it’s taught in our reading from Matthew 25.  Jesus himself said in Matthew 24 that “concerning that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” 

Because that’s the reality, there’s something else that follows from that in 1 Thessalonians 5.  The reality is that believers aren’t going to experience Christ’s return like unbelievers are.  Unbelievers will experience his second coming as a “thief in the night.”  That’s not a nice thing.  For believers, it’ll still be surprising, but it’ll be a welcome surprise.  We’ll be glad to see him.

That’s because believers aren’t in darkness.  God has called them out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  The gospel assures us of that glorious reality.  Look at verse 5.  The gospel promises believers that they are “all children of light, children of the day.  We are not of the night or of the darkness.”  Beautiful.  If we were of the night or of the darkness, we’d still be under the curse of our sin.  Think of how Christ suffered in the three hours of darkness.  Those three hours of darkness represented the curse on our sins.  Christ took that for us, so we’re now in the light.  That’s the reality the gospel announces to us. 

That reality has to result in a wakeful way of life.  We shouldn’t be spiritually sleepy, but alert.  Both alert and sober.  All kinds of things happen in the dark, at night.  People are sleeping, but people are also partying and getting drunk.  In both scenarios, the senses are dulled.  If you’re asleep, you’re not aware of what’s going on around you.  If you’re drunk, your senses are dulled and you’re not as sharp as you’d be when you’re sober.  But this isn’t entirely about drinking and drunkenness.  The point is to stay alert and be fully ready for the return of our Saviour.  Staying in the light means being continually aware of the reality that Christ could reappear at any time.  We continue in the virtues or good things mentioned in verse 8:  faith, love, and hope.  We continue looking to Christ and eagerly awaiting his return.

Because after all, as verses 9 and 10 remind us, our destiny is complete salvation of body and soul through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We’re not heading for God’s wrath, we’re not heading for hell, but for the blessedness of eternal life in the new heavens and new earth.  How awesome is that!  As verse 10 says, Christ died on the cross for us so that whether we’re awake or asleep, dead or alive, we’re living with him.  You know, what a joyful reality!  Christ died for us.  He died in our place.  Jesus then rose from the dead and he’s still alive today.  And no matter what happens to us, we’re living with him.  We’ve been raised with him.  Again, that’s gospel reality right there.  Already here we begin seeing why our passage is speaking about encouragement.  It would have been beautiful and comforting for the Thessalonian church, and it is for us too. 

If you’re a Christian, you’re a child of the light, a child of the day.  God’s grace has made you that.  God’s grace means that you’re not headed for hell, either when you die or when Christ returns.  If you have Christ as your Saviour, you’re alive with him and will be eternally.  No fear in death.  You have joy in life, hope for eternity.  These are the gospel realities all behind that word “therefore” at the beginning of verse 11.  Loved ones, you can’t take these realities for granted.  See them laid out, consciously embrace them, believe them, and rejoice in these realities.

Next, I want to briefly look at why we should encourage and edify each other with these realities. 

The ultimate reason for doing what our text says is the glory of God.  Here again, brothers and sisters, you can’t take things for granted.  Ultimately, this is about God’s glory.  First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  “Whatever you do,” it says.  That includes encouraging and edifying.  “Do all to the glory of God,” it says.  That includes encouraging and edifying.  The ultimate goal of encouraging and edifying each other with the realities described in 1 Thessalonians 5 is so that God would be recognized as awesome by us.  That he would be treasured by us.  The ultimate goal is that God would be valued and considered precious by us.  That’s what the Bible means when it speaks about God’s glory and us doing things to God’s glory. 

Now we can sharpen that a little more.  Our text also speaks of how believers interact with one another in the church.  They’re to encourage one another and build one another up.  Behind those words “one another” stands another important biblical truth or reality.  The reality is that God has bound us together.  He has bound believers together in the body of Christ.  There’s “one another” because there’s more than just me in the church.  There’s another, and another, and another.  God in his wisdom has put us all together.  And it’s his intention that we dwell together in love.  It’s God’s plan that we value one another.  It’s God’s plan that we look out for another and seek one another’s well-being.  According to 1 Corinthians 12, there’s to be no division in the body of Christ.  Instead, we’re supposed to treasure and value the other members of the body of Christ.  In other words, we’re called to love one another and treat one another as indispensable.  We can’t do without each other.  So that’s another reason to encourage and edify each other.  It’s not the primary reason.  That’s the glory of God.  But love for one another in the body of Christ is a secondary reason.

These two reasons, the primary and secondary, they’re connected.  The glory of God and love for one another in the body of Christ, they’re linked.  I’ll explain how it works.  We glorify God when we love one another in the body of Christ.  We magnify the worth of God when we show our love for one another by following the teaching of verse 11.  We show that God is great and valuable, precious to us, when we encourage one another and build one another up with the gospel realities mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5.  Look, not only is God’s Word treated then as authoritative for our lives – which glorifies him.  We glorify him by listening to his Word and taking it seriously.  But also, when these gospel realities are the content of our encouraging and building up, God is going to be worshipped.  When we love another enough to encourage and build up one another, God is going to see his people lifting up their hearts to him in praise.  Our love for one another in the body of Christ will result in glory for God.  He will be increasingly treasured and enjoyed by his people.  That’s our ultimate reason for existence, isn’t it?

Now let’s get to the question of how.  How do we encourage and build one another up with these realities?  What does this look like in practice? 

The Thessalonian Christians were doing it.  They’d put it into practice and Paul acknowledges that at the end of verse 11.  Notice what it says there.  The last clause, “just as you are doing.”  That’s a positive acknowledgement that the Thessalonian believers loved each other and therefore encouraged one another, and thereby making much of God.  But Paul still gives the commands “encourage one another and build one another up.”  Why?  To urge them to do it more and more.  To exhort them to keep doing it and to grow in doing it.  So also for us, loved ones.  Let’s aim to be encouraging and edifying more and more.  Let’s aim to do it more consistently.  Let’s aim to have more believers doing it more often.  Let’s grow in this encouraging and edifying.

To do that, we need to spend a few moments looking closer at what encouraging and edifying are and how to put them into practice.        

To encourage is to urge, to comfort, to cheer up.  The idea is that believers speak positively to one another.  Lift one another up.  That kind of talking together draws us closer to God, strengthens our faith, and our life before him. 

Then, there’s “building one another up” or edifying one another.  That language puts the image of a building in your head.  It’s building language.  In this context, the building is a temple.  The church is described in 1 Peter 2 and elsewhere as the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Here “edifying” means speaking constructively with one another.  But it’s not so much saying positive things about one another.  Instead, it’s about Christ to one another.  In 1 Peter 2:4, living stones are built up.  How?  By coming to Christ.  Coming to Christ is the way the temple gets built up.  The temple is edified, built up when the parts of the temple are looking to the master builder Jesus Christ.  He’s building the temple.  So we get built up by looking to him.

Let’s make this encouraging and edifying more concrete.  How do we encourage and edify one another with the realities described in 1 Thessalonians 5?  We could start with reminding one another of these things in conversations.  When you speak with one another, bring these spiritual realities up – the reality of Christ’s return, the reality that we’re children of the light, the reality that we’re not destined for wrath, but salvation.  Talk about these glorious truths.  Point each other to Christ and to gospel.  Don’t be shy to talk about spiritual things with fellow Christians.  It’s an opportunity to encourage and be encouraged.  It’s an opportunity to edify and be edified. 

There’s a context where that often happens.  It often happens in Bible study and that’s great.  It should happen there.  But what about beyond that?  When you’re visiting together or when you’re at a birthday celebration, an opportunity might come up to naturally speak about these gospel realities.  Take those opportunities outside of Bible study to talk with one another about the awesome truths found in our passage and elsewhere in Scripture. 

There are two other ways in which we can encourage and edify one another.  One is prayer.  Further in 1 Thessalonians 5, in verse 17, Paul says, “pray without ceasing.”  And then look at 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brothers, pray for us.”  Have you experienced how encouraging and edifying it is for someone to pray with you and for you?  It’s a beautiful thing that God has given to his people so that they can comfort and help one another.  Lift one another up.  We ought to pray with and for one another about the gospel realities in 1 Thessalonians 5.  For example, pray together for the second coming of Christ.  Paul’s famous prayer, “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus” should be on our lips often.

The third way we can encourage and edify one another is by setting an example to one another.  First Thessalonians 5:5 says, “you are all children of light, children of the day.”  We encourage and edify one another when we live like that.  Imagine being in a church where you’re serious about your faith, but it seems like no one else is.  Can you imagine how discouraging that would be?  You see others claiming to be children of the light, but not living like it.  That would be awful, don’t you think?  We avoid that by starting with ourselves.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, you seek to encourage and build others up by being serious about your faith and living out your faith.  Then you’re displaying to others with your life the power of Christ to transform us – that will help to build up the temple further.  It’ll do more to build up the church as we all see what Christ is doing and rejoice in that.

So:  conversation, prayer, and our example.  Those are three ways we can encourage and edify one another with the realities described in 1 Thessalonians 5.

Now let’s just finish by thinking about some circumstances where this kind of encouraging and edifying can really be of benefit to the church.  So, now putting it into practice in particular situations.

Suffering is something we’re all going to experience at some time or another.  There’s going to be sickness, there’s going to be death, there’s going to be brokenness in families – all kinds of suffering and heartache in this world.  The Bible is honest about that and we are too.  But the Bible also gives us the reality that Christ is returning.  He is returning and he will put an end to all the suffering of his people.  Christ’s return is a reality that comforts and builds us up.  When we’re faced with suffering, it’s good to think about the return of Christ.  When you see a brother or sister suffering, it’s good to encourage them to remember the coming of our Saviour.  We have hope.  Some glorious day every tear will be wiped away.  All the hurt will be gone.  No more sickness, sorrow, heartache.  When Christ returns, the days will always be sunny and bright for believers.  It’s good to talk about that, to remind each other.  It’s good to pray together for that too.  Have you ever prayed with a suffering brother or sister for the coming of Christ?  That’s a way to encourage one another and build one another up.                          

A particular kind of suffering is injustice.  There is so much injustice in this broken world.  People literally get away with murder.  We can think of the abortion holocaust.  Worldwide 1 in 700 babies are born with Down Syndrome.  But here in Australia that rate is 1 in 1100.  Why are there so few children with Down Syndrome these days?  It’s because so many are never allowed to be born.  It’s so wrong.  We can think of the push for euthanasia or assisted suicide.  Where this is allowed, all kinds of inevitable abuses take place.  And there seems like no justice on the earth for this wickedness.  You could get pretty down thinking about it.  But here’s where there’s encouragement from the realities in 1 Thessalonians 5.  Christ is returning.  Look at verse 3 – sudden destruction will come upon those who have been doing all this injustice.  Christ will be the judge.  He will make it all right.  When we talk about these things, let’s be sure to remind one another of this great reality.  The just Judge will have the final word.  Let’s pray for that to happen too.  Let’s encourage one another and build one another up by praying for Christ’s coming judgment on all the wicked injustice in this world.

Finally, there’s the pursuit of a Christ-like life, the pursuit of holiness.  This is something all believers need to take seriously.  Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness no one will see the Lord, therefore it’s something we need to strive for.  Think of Matthew 25 and the parable of the ten virgins.  That parable is all about being prepared for Christ’s return.  In the parable, the foolish virgins call, “Lord, lord, open to us.”  But he says, “I don’t know you.”  Saying, “Lord, Lord,” isn’t enough.  The parable teaches us the same lesson as 1 Thessalonians 5 – be prepared for Christ’s return by being who you are.  You are children of light, so live like it.  We need to encourage one another in that way too.  Remind each other of who we are and how we then live out our identity in Christ.  When he returns, we want that to be a day of joy for all of us, not a day of fear and terror for anyone.  So let’s encourage and build one another up with these realities.       

Brothers and sisters, the doctrine of the future things is enormously relevant for Christians.  It’s relevant for informing our minds, but also for shaping our lives.  It’s relevant for shaping our lives as individuals, but also for us as a community of believers.  If we want to be a church of Jesus Christ which honours him, which glorifies God, then we have to take God’s description of these future realities seriously.  Then take them and together work with these realities.  It’ll serve his praise, but it’ll also be for our good, both now and eternally.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

We’re led to worship you because of the realities we’ve been thinking about this morning.  We worship you for having destined us for salvation instead of wrath.  We glorify you for the reality that you’ve called us children of light, children of the day.  We exult in the reality that our Lord Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead.  Father, we look forward to the day of the Lord.  We do pray for it to come quickly.  Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.  Save your people.  End the suffering.  Fix every injustice.  Fully glorify us so that we sin no longer.  LORD God, please equip us with your Spirit so that we encourage and build one another up with these realities.  Give us opportunities to speak to one another, whether it’s in the midst of suffering, or injustice, and or any other circumstance.  And please help us to live our lives in such a way that it’s apparent to others in the church and in the world that we’re looking forward to seeing Jesus.  Please strengthen our faith in him and our walk with him.          

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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