JUDGMENT -- IS IT FOR THE BELIEVER

1Pe 4:17 For the time has come for the judgment to begin from the house of God. And if it first begins from us, what will be the end of those disobeying the gospel of God?
1Pe 4:18 And if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
1Pe 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing, as to a faithful Creator.

I always looked at the "at" the house of God and thought this was judgment by God being talked about. It is not. It is simply speaking of the persecution and hardship of living the Christian life in this world and what all Christians have endured for all time since the beginning of Christianity at the hands of wicked men in this world, such as Christ Himself did.

McDonald's notes:

"During this age, the church is undergoing judgment by the unbelieving world. Believers are experiencing their sufferings now, just as Jesus did when he was on earth. If that is so, what will be the fate of those who do not obey the gospel of God? If Christians suffer now for doing good, what will the unsaved suffer in eternity for all their ungodly deeds?

"The same argument is contained in this verse, quoted from Proverbs 11:31; 'If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.'

The righteous person is scarcely saved or saved with difficulty. From the divine standpoint his salvatin was purchased at enormous cost. From the human standpoint, men are told, 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate' (Luke 12:24). Believers are taught that 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God' (Acts 14:22). With all the dangers and temptations that beset a Christian, it is only a miracle of divine grace that preserves him for the heavenly kingdom. " --William McDonald, The Believer's Bible Commentary

It struck me that in the Modern King James version the word was from the house of God rather than at the house of God. So I looked up the word in Strong's and found it interesting that it is the word for "departure". Puts a little different light on the verse also.

Strong's G575

ἀπό
apo
apo'

A primary particle; “off”, that is, away (from something near), in various senses (of place, time, or relation; literally or figuratively): - (X here-) after, ago, at, because of, before, by (the space of), for (-th), from, in, (out) of, off, (up-) on (-ce), since, with. In composition (as a prefix) it usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion, reversal, etc.

Thayer Definition: G575

ἀπό
apo

1) of separation
1a) of local separation, after verbs of motion from a place, i.e. of departing, of fleeing, ...
1b) of separation of a part from the whole
1b1) where of a whole some part is taken
1c) of any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed
1d) of a state of separation, that is of distance
1d1) physical, of distance of place
1d2) temporal, of distance of time
2) of origin
2a) of the place whence anything is, comes, befalls, is taken
2b) of origin of a cause

If judgment begins from the house of God, it is a place of origin of God's judgment on the world. There are so many arguments of Christians having to go through the trib to be "purified" etc. and this is one verse used... also the mentality that we have to be "purified" in order to be made "without spot or wrinkle" so we have to go through a "judging" process in the church, etc. I don't find that mentality in the Bible at all. I know suffering does have a purifying affect on our faith in that it causes us to look at things above and not things on earth and we draw closer in dependence on our Lord, etc. and our faith in Him is made stronger as we learn to lean on Him and draw from Him. But that is different than what many talk about in that they believe we are not "fit" for the kingdom until we go through this judging, purifying experience. What then of those who died in Christ without going through this suffering? What then of those who never went through persecution and tribulation? What about the many who never reach that state of purifying perfection? (do any of us?) It is this almost "purgatory" like thinking about the church that needs to be corrected. It is not much different than the Catholic church feeling we need purgatory to complete the work of Christ! Do we need to be perfected somehow in our lives here below before Christ can accept us into Heaven? Or is our salvation through faith in the blood of Jesus alone sufficient to cleanse, purify, and save us for all eternity?

Here are some of my notes on this study...

Eph 5:25 The husbands, be loving your* own wives, just as also Christ loved the Assembly and gave Himself [or, handed Himself over] on her behalf,
Eph 5:26 so that He should sanctify her, having cleansed [or, purged] [her] with the bathing of the water by [the] word, (compare with John 15:3 below)
Eph 5:27 so that He should present her to Himself, the glorious [or, splendid] Assembly, not having spot [or, blemish] nor wrinkle, nor any of such things, _but_ so that she should be holy and unblemished. (Analytical Literal Translation)
(Joh 15:3) Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

We are cleansed only by the blood of Jesus by believing His Word, and it is that alone that makes us presentable, without spot, or blemish, or wrinkle, and that makes us holy. The moment we believe in Jesus, and He gives us His Spirit, we are cleansed, and we are presentable to Him. He sees no more spot or blemish in us.

Christ gave Himself so that... HE should sanctify her, so that HE should cleanse her, so that HE should present her to Himself, NOT HAVING spot or blemish or wrinkle... it is because of what HE has done, not what she has done. It is HE Who makes her holy and unblemished. It is not after she goes through some sort of trial or suffering that she is made this, but it is through what Christ alone has done. He is soon to come for this church that He has made ready through His blood and who have put their hope and faith in Him alone by believing His Word. We are to comfort ourselves as we walk through this dark path below full of sufferings caused by evil, full of unreasonable wicked men who come against His purposes, full of unspeakable darkness, by reminding ourselves He is coming for us. How hard it is to be comforted or look to a "blessed hope" so called if we are told we must suffer in order to be purified, and God is judging His church and purifying it, and we must pass through our time of "purgatory" in this earth so to speak by going through the tribulation. The argument is, "Christians all over the world are suffering and for ages have suffered so why do we think we won't have to go through the tribulation and suffer also?" The answer is because we do not need any other purifying to get to Heaven than the blood of Jesus, we are only perfected in Him, and this world here has already been the Christians "tribulation" since Christ left the earth, not as a "purgatory" for us, but as our sharing in His sufferings which He told us we would. Also that the tribulation period is called the "time of Jacob's trouble", and is a time of testing specifically for Israel, as well as God's judgment on the gentile world that has rejected Christ.

Paul says,

Php 1:29 "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake".

And he also tells us...

Rom 8:17-18 "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Vincent Word Studies on v. 17 explains this...

Joint-heirs
Roman law made all children, including adopted ones, equal heritors. Jewish law gave a double portion to the eldest son. The Roman law was naturally in Paul's mind, and suits the context, where adoption is the basis of inheritance.

If so be that (εἴπερ)
The conditional particle with the indicative mood assumes the fact. If so be, as is really the case.
Suffer with Him
Mere suffering does not fulfill the condition. It is suffering with Christ. Compare with Him - all things, Rom_8:32.

Our inheritance in Christ is not conditional on our suffering but our being “in Him”... the Lord knew that all those who are in Him will suffer with Him, as they walk through this world. There are many tribulations in this life we go through in our walk, and many battles we fight in the spirit. His sufferings are ours now. We are to "keep the Word of His patience" until He comes for us.

Rev 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts; and shuts and no one opens, says these things:
Rev 3:8 I know your works. Behold, I have given before you an open door, and no one can shut it. For you have a little strength and have kept My Word and have not denied My name.
Rev 3:10 Because you have kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which will come upon all the habitable world, to try those who dwell upon the earth.

This is His last days faithful church, who are walking in this world's sufferings, by faith alone in His Word, keeping it and walking by faith in it. Notice this church is not given any other admonishments or rebukes. And this church is promised that they will be delivered "out of" the "hour of temptation which will come upon the habitable world"... the "earth dwellers" which is a term for the ungodly who make this earth their habitation and do not look to Heaven. The church has shared in the Lord's sufferings on this earth. They will be delivered from the world's tribulation and judgment that is about to come upon them. If you are not sure you will be delivered from this judgment, you can know, simply by putting your faith in that incredible sacrifice He gave to "whosoever will believe (adhere to, cling to, rely on, trust in) Him and what He did to pay the penalty for your sin, justify you before His perfect righteousness and Holy throne of judgment, and accept you into His kingdom giving you His Spirit to then indwell you cleansing you, and giving you a new heart, or a new nature that will serve Him. In order to receive this you must know that you are a sinner, and that there is no other justification that is acceptable to Him. That your sin is repulsive to a perfect, holy, righteous God, and that you cannot dwell in His Heaven with that sin. That sin separates you from Him for eternity, unless the penalty is paid, which could only be paid by God Himself... Who became flesh, Who lived among us, Who gave Himself on the cross, though sinless, to take upon Himself our sin, and justify us and bring us "into Christ", in union with Him now so that in Him we are seen before God as righteous. If you see your sin, and if you are convicted of its evil, and want to turn your heart to Him to be cleansed and made new by His Spirit coming to live in you, all you need to do is ask, believe it, and receive by faith all He has done. There is nothing more. He will cleanse you, give you a new heart, guide you in His Word as you give yourself to reading it, teach you to know Him, and show You the new life He has for you to walk in. In order for that new life to grow, find other Bible believing Christians to meet with, read your Bible daily, pray and talk to Him often as your Heavenly Father. He says that all who believe in Him He will "come in to them and sup with them and they with Him". He will reveal Himself to you in a personal way to walk with you through this life of trial and suffering. And He will keep your heart close to Him to give you the grace you need daily to live it. He will reveal His will to you so that you know how to walk pleasing to Him.

The Christian will one day face the "judgment seat of Christ".

Rom 14:10 "But why do you judge your brother? Or also why do you despise your brother? For all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ."

Rom 14:11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
Rom 14:12 So then each one of us will give account concerning himself to God.

Jas 2:12 So speak and do as those who shall be judged by the Law of liberty.

James says we will be judged by the "Law of Liberty", Paul says in Romans...

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.
Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Rom 8:33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Rom 8:34 Who is he condemning? It is Christ who has died, but rather also who is raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

We are not judged or condemned for our sin... it has completely been taken care of in Christ! Yet our works will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ and there will be either reward or great loss according to what we did under that "law of liberty", with the great incredible grace that God has given us.

1Co 3:12 But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13 each man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14 If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward.
1Co 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.

There is chastisment for the Christian, but not judgment in this world. Chastisement has to do with "training" or "correction", as a father for his beloved child, and judgment has to do with reward or paying a penalty. Christ has already paid the penalty of our sin.

Joh 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.

Heb 12:5 and ye have forgotten the exhortation which reasoneth with you as with sons, My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, Nor faint when thou art reproved of him;
Heb 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Heb 12:7 It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not?
Heb 12:8 But if ye are without chastening, whereof all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Heb 12:9 Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
Heb 12:10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.
Heb 12:11 All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.

Gill's Commentary:

my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord; by which is meant, not vindictive punishment; this would not be speaking to them, nor dealing with them as children, and would be contrary to the love of God towards them; besides, chastisement in this sense has been upon Christ for them, and it would be unjust to lay it on them again; but a fatherly correction is designed, and which is given in love by God, as a Father, and for the instruction of his children, as the word used signifies: and it is called not the chastening of men, but of the Lord; every chastening, or afflictive providence, is appointed by God, and is looked upon by believers, when grace is in exercise, as coming from him; and it is directed, and governed, and limited by him, and is overruled by him for his own glory, and their good: and this is not to be despised, as something nauseous and loathsome, or as not useful and unprofitable, or as insignificant and unworthy of notice, but should be esteemed for the good ends, which are sometimes answered, by it:

nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; God has various ways of rebuking, reproving, and convincing, sometimes by his Spirit, sometimes by his word and ministers, and sometimes by afflictive providences; by these he rebukes his people for their sins, convinces them of them, and brings them to acknowledgment and confession; he makes them hereby sensible of their duty, in which they have been remiss, and brings them to a more constant and fervent discharge of it; he reproves them for, and convinces of their folly in trusting in the creature, or loving it too much, and of every wrong way they have been walking in; and these rebukes are not in a way of wrath, but love, and therefore saints should not faint at them: there are two extremes they are apt to run into, under such a dispensation; either to take no notice, and make light of an affliction, or else to be overwhelmed by it, and sink under it; both are guarded against in this exhortation.

So when you look at the things happening in this world, the evil that is seeming to take over, grow at a rapid pace, prosper, and overwhelm you, you can know you have a blessed assurance that "if God be for us (and He is), who can be against us?" He is there with you, and your reward is greater than anything you could compare it to here below. Nothing can take it from you and nothing can separate you from Him! Two chapters of the Bible I read to get my head screwed on straight when I am overwhelmed and discouraged at the progress of evil in this world is Ps. 37 and Romans 8. Read them often! Know that God is not against you to judge you in this world, nor does He delight in your suffering as some seem to have the attitude. He hates suffering; He came to defeat it. He allows it only for a time until sin has reached it's fullness. His allowing it is because of His patience (which we are to also keep and walk in as Revelation 3:10 says), sharing in His suffering for a time, because of His love, because He is full of grace and does not wish any to perish but that all would come to repentance. Not all will, but God's desire is for life. He knows those who are His and will come to Him, and patiently waits for them.

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

1Pe 4:19 Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator.

We have much to encourage our hearts through our time of suffering now, but they cannot be encouraged if we are walking here in fear and a wrong relationship with the Lord. We must see Him rightly, and all He has provided for us now. In walking in what He has given us... "every spiritual blessing in the Heavenlies in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:3), and "all we need to live godly in Christ Jesus" (1 Pet. 1:3), and promises nothing can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39), and that all things in this life that happen to us are for our good, and conforming us to His image (8:28-31), and that we have an inheritance undefiled, kept in Heaven for us, that no one can take away, that we are kept for through it all (1 Pet. 1:3-6). We need not walk in fear, but love. His perfect love for us casts out all fear as we know that we have no fear of judgment since He has taken our judgment upon Himself.

1Jn 4:9 Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.
1Jn 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1Jn 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1Jn 4:12 No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us:
1Jn 4:13 hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
1Jn 4:14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father hath sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
1Jn 4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God.
1Jn 4:16 And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him.
1Jn 4:17 Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, even so are we in this world.
1Jn 4:18 There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1Jn 4:19 We love, because he first loved us.

From The Believer's Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald...

4:17... Love has been perfected among us in this. It is not our love that is made perfect, but God's love is made perfect with us. John is now taking us on to that future time when we will stand before the Lord. Will it be with boldness and confidence or will it be with cringing terror? the answer is that it will be with boldness, or confidence, because perfect love has settled the sin question once and for all. the reason for our confidence in that coming day is given in the words "because as He is, so are we in this world." The Lord Jesus is now in heaven, with judgment completely behind Him. He came into the world once and suffered the punishment which our sins deserved. But He has finished the work of redemption and now will never have to take up the sin question again. As He is, so are we in this world. That is, our sins were judged at the cross of Calvary, and we can confidently sing:

Death and judgment are behind me,
Grace and glory lie before;
All the billows rolled o'er Jesus,
There they spent their utmost power.
--Mrs. J. A. Trench

Just as judgment is passed for Him, so we are beyond the reach of condemnation.

4:18... Because we have come to know God's love, we have no fear of perishing. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. It is perfect love that casts out our fear. I am assured of the Lord's love first of all, because He sent His Son to die for me. Secondly, I know He loves me because He indwells me at the present moment. Thirdly, I can look to the future with confidence and without fear. Truly, fear involves torment, and he who fears is not made perfect in love. God's love has not been allowed to operate in the lives of those who are afraid of Him. They have never come to Him in repentance and received the forgiveness of sins.

4:19... We love Him because He first loved us. The only reason we love at all is because He first loved us. The Ten commandments require that a man should love his God and neighbor, but the law could not produce this love. How then could God obtain this love which His righteousness required? He solved the problem by sending His Son to die for us. Such wonderful love draws out our hearts to Him in return. We say, "You have bled and died for me; from now on I will live for You."

May these things encourage and strengthen your heart as you wait for Him by faith! He has promised He will come! He will do all things just as He said He would. He will fulfill His promises to you as a believer, and His judgment to the world as He said. He will come for His church just as He said,

Joh 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.
Joh 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

He has promised... and so it shall be! Look up! Your redemption draweth nigh!

For further study:

J.N. Darby on 1 Thess. 5

1Th 5:1-28 -

The Lord's coming again into this world assumes therefore a very different character from that of a vague object of hope to a believer as a period of glory. In Chapter 5 the apostle speaks of it, but in order to distinguish between the position of Christians and that of the careless and unbelieving inhabitants of the earth. The Christian, alive and taught of the Lord, ever expects the Master. There are times and seasons; it is not needful to speak to him concerning them. But (and he knows it) the day of the Lord will come and like a thief in the night, but not for him: he is of the day; he has part in the glory which will appear in order to execute judgment on the unbelieving world. Believers are the children of light; and this light which is the judgment of unbelievers, is the expression of the glory of God — a glory which cannot endure evil, and which, when it shall appear, will banish it from the earth. The Christian is of the day that will judge and destroy the wicked and wickedness itself from off the face of the earth. Christ is the Sun of righteousness, and the faithful will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The world will say, "Peace and safety," and in all security will believe in the continuance of its prosperity and the success of its designs, and the day will come suddenly upon them. (Compare 2Pe_3:3.) The Lord Himself has often declared it. (Mat_14:36-44; Mar_13:33-36; Luk_12:40, &c.; Luk_17:26, &c.; Luk_21:35, &c.) It is a very solemn thing to see that the professing church (Rev_3:3) which says that it lives and is in the truth, which has not Thyatira's character of corruption, is yet to be treated as the world — at least, unless it repents.

We may perhaps wonder to find the Lord saying of a time like this, that men's hearts will be failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth. (Luk_21:26) But we see the two principles — both security and fear — already existing. Progress, success, the long continuance of a new development of human nature — this is the language of those who mock at the Lord's coming; and yet beneath it all, what fears for the future are at the same time possessing and weighing down the heart! I use the word "principles," because I do not believe that the moment of which the Lord speaks is yet come. But the shadow of coming events falls upon the heart. Blessed are they that belong to another world!

The apostle applies this difference of position — namely, that we belong to the day, and that it cannot therefore come upon us as a thief — to the character and walk of the Christian. Being a child of the light he is to walk as such. He lives in the clay, though all is night and darkness around him. One does not sleep in the day. They that sleep sleep in the night: they that are drunken are drunken in the night; these are the works of darkness. A Christian, the child of the day, must watch and be sober, clothing himself with all that constitutes the perfection of that mode of being which belongs to his position — namely, with faith and love and hope — principles which impart courage and give him confidence for pressing onwards. He has the breastplate of faith and love; he goes straight forward therefore against the enemy. He has the hope of this glorious salvation, which will bring him entire deliverance, as his helmet; so that he can lift up his head without fear in the midst of danger. We see that the apostle here brings to mind the three great principles of 1 Corinthians 13 to characterise the courage and steadfastness of the Christian, as at the beginning he shewed that they were the mainspring of daily walk.

Faith and love naturally connect us with God, revealed as He is in Jesus as the principle of communion; so that we walk with confidence in Him: His presence gives us strength. By faith He is the glorious object before our eyes. By love He dwells in us, and we realise what He is. Hope fixes our eyes especially on Christ, who is coming to bring us into the enjoyment of glory with Himself.

Consequently the apostle speaks thus: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath " (love is understood by faith, that which God wills — His mind respecting us) "but to obtain salvation." It is this which we hope for; and he speaks of salvation as the final deliverance "by our Lord Jesus Christ :" and he naturally adds, "who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep" (have died before His coming or be then alive), " we should live together with Him." Death does not deprive us of this deliverance and glory; for Jesus died. Death became the means of obtaining them for us; and if we die, we shall equally live with Him. He died for us, in our stead, in order that, happen what may, we should live with Him. Everything that hindered it is put out of our way and has lost its power; and, more than lost its power, has become a guarantee of our unhindered enjoyment of the full life of Christ in glory; so that we may comfort ourselves — and more than that, we may build ourselves up — with these glorious truths, through which God meets all our wants and all our necessities. This (1Th_5:10) is the end of the special revelation with regard to those who sleep before the coming of the Lord Jesus, beginning with 1Th_4:13.

I would here call the reader's attention to the way in which the apostle speaks of the Lord's coming in the different Chapters of this epistle. It will be noticed that the Spirit does not present the church here as a body. Life is the subject — that of each Christian therefore individually: a very important point assuredly.

In Chapter 1 the expectation of the Lord is presented in a general way as characterising the Christian. They are converted to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. Here it is the object itself that is presented, the Person of the Lord. God's own Son shall come, and shall satisfy all the heart's desire. This is neither His kingdom, nor the judgment, nor even rest; it is the Son of God; and this Son of God is Jesus, risen from among the dead, and who has delivered us from the wrath to come; for wrath is coming. Each believer therefore expects for himself the Son of God — expects Him from heaven.

In Chapter 2 it is association with the saints, joy in the saints at the coming of Christ.

In Chapter 3 responsibility is more the subject — responsibility in liberty and in joy; but still a position before God in connection with the Christian's walk and life here below. The Lord's appearing is the measure and test time of holiness. The testimony rendered by God to this life, by giving it its natural place, takes place when Christ is manifested with all His saints. It is not here His coming for us, but His coming with us. This distinction between the two events always exists. For Christians even and for the church, that which refers to responsibility is always found in connection with the appearing of the Lord; our joy, with His coming to take us to Himself. Thus far then, we have the general expectation of the Lord in Person, His Son from heaven; love satisfied at His coming as regards others; holiness in its full value and full development. In Chapter 4 it is not the connection of life with its full development in our being actually with Christ, but victory over death (which is no barrier to this); and, at the same time, the strengthening and establishment of hope in our common departure hence, similarly to that of Jesus, to be for ever with Him.

The exhortations that conclude the epistle are brief; the mighty action of the life of God in these dear disciples made them comparatively little needed. Exhortation is always good. There was nothing among them to blame. Happy condition! They were perhaps not sufficiently instructed for a large development of doctrine (the apostle hoped to see them for that purpose); but there was enough of life, a personal relationship with God sufficiently true and real, to build them up on that ground. To him that hath shall more be given. The apostle could rejoice with them and confirm their hope and add to it some details as a revelation from God. The assembly in all ages is profited by it.

In the Epistle to the Philippians we see life in the Spirit rising above all circumstances, as the fruit of long experience of the goodness and faithfulness of God; and thus shewing its remarkable power when the help of the saints had failed, and the apostle was in distress, his life in danger, after four years' imprisonment, by a merciless tyrant. It is then that he decides his case by the interests of the assembly. It is then that he can proclaim, that we ought always to rejoice in the Lord, and that Christ is all things to him, to live is Christ, death a gain to him. It is then that he can do all things through Him who strengthens him. This he has learnt. In Thessalonians we have the freshness of the fountain near to its source; the energy of the first spring of life in the believer's soul, presenting all the beauty and purity and vigour of its first verdure under the influence of the sun that had risen upon them and made the sap of life rise, the first manifestations of which had not been deteriorated by contact with the world or by an enfeebled view of invisible things.

The apostle desired that the disciples should acknowledge those who laboured among them and guided them in grace and admonished them, and esteem them greatly for their work's sake. The operation of God always attracts a soul that is moved by the Holy Ghost, and commands its attention and its respect: on this foundation the apostle builds his exhortation. It is not office which is in question here (if such existed), but the work which attracted and attached the heart. They ought to be known: spirituality acknowledged this operation of God. Love, devotedness, the answer to the need of souls, patience in dealing with them on the part of God — all this commended itself to the believer's heart: and it blessed God for the care He bestowed upon His children. God acted in the labourer and in the hearts of the faithful. Blessed be God, it is an ever existing principle, and one that never grows weaker!

The same Spirit produced peace among themselves. This grace was of great value. If love appreciated the work of God in the labourer, it would esteem the bother as in the presence of God: self-will would not act.

Now this renunciation of self-will, and this practical sense of the operation and presence of God, gives power to warn the unruly, to comfort the fearful, to help the weak, and to be patient towards all. The apostle exhorts them to it. Communion with God is the power and His word the guide in so doing. In no case were they to render evil for evil, but to follow that which was good among themselves and towards all. All this conduct depends on communion with God, on His presence with us, which makes us superior to evil. He is this in love; and we can be so by walking with Him.

Such were the apostle's exhortations to guide their walk with others. As regards their personal state, joy, prayer, thanksgiving in all things, these should be their characteristics. With respect to the public actings of the Spirit in their midst, the apostle's exhortations to these simple and happy Christians were equally brief. They were not to hinder the action of the Spirit in their midst (for this is the meaning of quenching the Spirit); nor to despise that which He might say to them, even by the mouth of the most simple, if He were pleased to use it. Being spiritual they could judge all things. They were therefore not to receive everything that presented itself, even in the name of the Spirit, but to prove all things. They were to hold fast that which was good; those who by faith have received the truth of the word do not waver. One is not ever learning the truth of that which one has learnt from God. As to evil, they were to abstain from it in all its forms. Such were the apostle's brief exhortations to these Christians who indeed rejoiced his heart. And in truth it is a fine picture of christian walk, which we find here so livingly portrayed in the apostle's communications.

He concludes his epistle by commending them to the God of peace, that they might be preserved blameless until the coming of the Lord Jesus. After an epistle like this his heart turned readily to the God of peace; for we enjoy peace in the presence of God — not only peace of conscience but peace of heart.

In the previous part we found the activity of love in the heart; that is to say, God present and acting in us, who are viewed as partaking, at the same time, of the divine nature, which is the spring of that holiness which will be manifested in all its perfection before God at the coming of Jesus with all His saints. Here it is the God of peace, to whom the apostle looks for the accomplishment of this work. There it was the activity of a divine principle in us — a principle connected with the presence of God and our communion with Him. Here it is the perfect rest of heart in which holiness develops itself. The absence of peace in the heart arises from the activity of the passions and the will, increased by the sense of powerlessness to satisfy or even to gratify them.

But in God all is peace. He can be active in love; He can glorify Himself by creating what He will; He can act in judgment to cast out the evil that is before His eyes. But He rests ever in Himself, and both in good and in evil He knows the end from the beginning and is undisturbed. When He fills the heart, He imparts this rest to us: we cannot rest in ourselves; we cannot find rest of heart in the actings of our passions, either without an object or upon an object, nor in the rending and destructive energy of our own will. We find our rest in God — not the rest that implies weariness, but rest of heart in the possession of all that we desire, and of that which even forms our desires and fully satisfies them, in the possession of an object in which conscience has nothing to reproach us and has but to be silent, in the certainty that it is the Supreme Good which the heart is enjoying, the supreme and only authority to whose will it responds — and that will is love towards us. God bestows rest, peace. He is never called the God of joy. He gives us joy truly, and we ought to rejoice; but joy implies something surprising, unexpected, exceptional, at least in contrast with, and in consequence of, evil. The peace that we possess, that which satisfies us, has no element of this kind, nothing which is in contrast, nothing which disturbs. It is more deep, more perfect, than joy. It is more the satisfaction of a nature in that which perfectly answers to it, and in which it develops itself, without any contrast being necessary to enhance the satisfaction of a heart that has not all which it desires, or of which it is capable.

God, as we have said, rests thus in Himself-is this rest for Himself. He gives us, and is for us, this entire peace. The conscience being perfect through the work of Christ who has made peace and reconciled us to God, the new nature-and consequently the heart — finds its perfect satisfaction in God, and the will is silent; moreover, it has nothing further to desire. It is not only that God meets the desires that we have: He is the source of new desires to the new man by the revelation of Himself in love. [10] He is both the source of the nature and its infinite object; and that, in love. It is His part to be so. It is more than creation; it is reconciliation, which is more than creation, because there is in it more development of love, that is to say, of God: and it is thus that we know God. It is that which He is essentially in Christ.

In the angels He glorifies Himself in creation: they excel us in strength. In Christians He glorifies Himself in reconciliation, to make them the first fruits of His new creation, when He shall have reconciled all things in heaven and on earth by Christ. Therefore it is written "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children sons of God" They have His nature and His character.

It is in these relationships with God — or rather it is God in these relationships with us in peace, in His communion, who develops sanctification, our inward conformity of affection and intelligence (and consequently of outward conduct) with Him and His will. "The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly." May there be nothing in us that does not yield to this benignant influence of peace which we enjoy in communion with God! May no power or force in us own anything but Himself! In all things may He be our all, so that He only may rule in our hearts! He has brought us perfectly into this place of blessedness in Christ and by His work. There is nothing between us and God but the exercise of His love, the enjoyment of our happiness, and the worship of our hearts. We are the proof before Him, the testimony, the fruit, of the accomplishment of all that He holds most precious, of that which has perfectly glorified Him, of that in which He delights, and of the glory of the One who has accomplished it, namely, of Christ, and of His work. We are the fruit of the redemption that Christ has accomplished, and the objects of the satisfaction which God must feel in the exercise of His love.

God in grace is the God of peace for us; for here divine righteousness finds its satisfaction, and love its perfect exercise. The apostle now prays that, in this character, God may work in us to make everything respond to Himself thus revealed. Here only is this development of humanity given — "body, soul, and spirit." The object is assuredly not metaphysical, but to express man in all the parts of his being; the vessel by which he expresses that which he is, the natural affections of his soul, the elevated workings of his mind, through which he is above the animals and in intelligent relationship with God. May God be found in each, as the mover, spring, and guide! In general the words "soul and spirit" are used without making any distinction between them, for the soul of man was formed very differently from that of animals in that God breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life, and it was thus that man became a living soul. Therefore it suffices to say soul as to man, and the other is supposed. Or, in saying spirit, in this sense the elevated character of his soul is expressed. The animal has also its natural affections, has a living soul, attaches itself, knows the persons who do it good, devotes itself to its master, loves him, will even give its life for him; but it has not that which can be in relationship with God (alas ! which can set itself at enmity against Him), which can occupy itself with things outside its own nature as the master of others.

The Spirit then wills that man, reconciled with God, should be consecrated, in every part of his being to the God who has brought him into relationship with Himself by the revelation of His love, and by the work of His grace, and that nothing in the man should admit an object beneath the divine nature of which he is partaker; so that he should thus be preserved blameless unto the coming of Christ. Let us observe here, that it is in no wise beneath the new nature in us to perform our duties faithfully in all the various relationships in which God has placed us; but quite the contrary. That which is required is to bring God into them, His authority, and the intelligence which that imparts. Therefore it is said to husbands to live with their wives according to knowledge," or intelligence; that is to say, not only with human and natural affections (which, as things are, do not by themselves even maintain their place), but as before God and conscious of His will. It may be that God may call us, in connection with the extraordinary work of His grace, to consecrate ourselves entirely to it; but otherwise the will of God is accomplished in the relationships in which He has placed us, and divi ne intelligence and obedience to God are developed in them. Finally God has called us to this life of holiness with Himself; He is faithful, and He will accomplish it. May He enable us to cleave to Him, that we may realise it! Observe again here, how the coming of Christ is introduced, and the expectation of this coming, as an integral part of christian life. "Blameless," it says, "at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The life which had developed itself in obedience and holiness meets the Lord at His coming. Death is not in question. The life which we have found is to be such when He appears. The man, in every part of his being, moved by this life, is found there blameless when Jesus comes. Death was overcome (not yet destroyed): a new life is ours. This life, and the man living of this life, are found, with their Head and Source, in the glory. Then will the weakness disappear which is connected with his present condition. That which is mortal shall be swallowed up of life: that is all. We are Christ's: He is our life. We wait for Him, that we may be with Him, and that He may perfect all things in the glory.

Let us also here examine a little into that which this passage teaches us with regard to sanctification. It is connected indeed with a nature, but it is linked with an object; and it depends for its realisation on the operation of another, namely, of God Himself; and it is founded on a perfect work of reconciliation with God already accomplished. Inasmuch as it is founded on an accomplished reconciliation, into which we enter by the reception of a new nature, the scriptures consider Christians as already perfectly sanctified in Christ. It is practically carried out by the operation of the Holy Ghost, who, in imparting this nature, separates us — as thus born again — entirely from the world. It is important to maintain this truth, and to stand very clearly and distinctly on this ground: otherwise practical sanctification soon becomes detached from a new nature received, and is but the amelioration of the natural man and then it is quite legal, a return — after reconciliation — into doubt and uncertainty, because, though justified, the man is not accounted meet for heaven — this depends on progress so that justification does not give peace with God. Scripture says, "Giving thanks to the Father, who hath made us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." Progress there is, but it is not in scripture connected with meetness. The thief was meet for Paradise and went there. Such views are an enfeebling, not to say destructive, of the work of redemption, that is, of its appreciation in our hearts by faith.

We are then sanctified (it is thus the scripture most frequently speaks) by God the Father, by the blood and the offering of Christ, and by the Spirit — that is to say, we are set apart for God personally and for ever. In this point of view justification is presented in the word as consequent upon sanctification, a thing into which we enter through it. Taken up as sinners in the world, we are set apart by the Holy Ghost to enjoy all the efficacy of the work of Christ according to the counsels of the Father: set apart by the communication of a new life, no doubt, but placed by this setting apart in the enjoyment of all that Christ has gained for us. I say again, It is very important to hold fast this truth both for the glory of God and for our own peace: but the Spirit of God in this epistle does not speak of it in this point of view, but of the practical realisation of the development of this life of separation from the world and from evil. He speaks of this divine development in the inner man, which makes sanctification a real and intelligent condition of soul, a state of practical communion with God, according to that nature and to the revelation of God with which it is connected.

In this respect we find indeed a principle of life which works in us — that which is called a subjective state: but it is impossible to separate this operation in us from an object (man would be God if it were so), nor consequently from a continual work of God in us that holds us in communion with that object, which is God Himself.

Accordingly it is through the truth by the word, whether at first in the communication of life, or in detail all along our path. "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth."

Man, we know, has degraded himself. He has enslaved himself to the lusts of the animal part of his being. But how? By departing from God. God does not sanctify man apart from the knowledge of Himself, leaving man still at a distance from Him; but, while giving him a new nature which is capable of it, by giving to this nature (which cannot even exist without it) an object — Himself, He does not make man independent, as he wished to be: the new man is the dependent man; it is his perfection — Jesus Christ exemplified this in His life. The new man is a man dependent in his affections, who desires to be so, who delights in, and cannot be happy without being so, and whose dependence is on love, while still obedient as a dependent being ought to be.

Thus they who are sanctified possess a nature that is holy in its desires and its tastes. It is the divine nature in them, the life of Christ. But they do not cease to be men. They have God revealed in Christ for their object. Sanctification is developed in communion with God, and in affections which go back to Christ, and which wait for Him. But the new nature cannot reveal an object to itself; and still less, could it have its object by setting God aside at its will. It is dependent on God for the revelation of Himself. His love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost whom He has given us; and the same Spirit takes of the things of Christ and communicates them to us. Thus we grow in the knowledge of God, being strengthened mightily by His Spirit in the inner man, that we may "comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," and be filled unto the fullness of God. Thus, " we all with open face beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." "For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth."

We see by these passages, which might be multiplied, that we are dependent on an object, and that we are dependent on the strength of another. Love acts in order to work in us according to this need. Our setting apart for God, which is complete (for it is by means of a nature that is purely of Himself, and in absolute responsibility to Him, for we are no longer our own, but are bought with a price, and sanctified by the blood of Christ according to the will of God who will have us for His own), places us in a relationship, the development of which (by an increasing knowledge of God, who is the object of our new nature) is practical sanctification, wrought in us by the power of the Holy Ghost, the witness in us of the love of God. He attaches the heart to God, ever revealing Him more and more, and at the same time unfolding the glory of Christ and all the divine qualities that were displayed in Him in human nature, thus forming ours as born of God.

Therefore it is, as we have seen in this epistle, that love, working in us, is the means of sanctification. (1Th_3:12-13) It is the activity of the new nature, of the divine nature in us; and that connected with the presence of God; for he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God. And in this Chapter 5 the saints are commended to God Himself, that He may work it in them; while we are always set in view of the glorious objects of our faith in order to accomplish it.

We may here more particularly call the reader's attention to these objects. They are, God Himself, and the coming of Christ: on the one hand, communion with God; on the other, waiting for Christ. It is most evident that communion with God is the practical position of the highest sanctification. He who knows that we shall see Jesus as He now is, and be like Him, purifies himself even as He is pure. By our communion with the God of peace we are wholly sanctified. If God is practically our all, we are altogether holy. (We are not speaking of any change in the flesh, which can neither be subjected to God nor please Him.) The thought of Christ and His coming preserves us practically, and in detail, and intelligently, blameless. It is God Himself who thus preserves us, and who works in us to occupy our hearts and cause us continually to grow.

But this point deserves yet a few more words. The freshness of christian life in the Thessalonians made it, as it were, more objective; so that these objects are prominent, and very distinctly recognised by the heart. We have already said that they are God the Father, and the Lord Jesus. With reference to the communion of love with the saints as his crown and glory, he speaks only of the Lord Jesus. This has a special character of reward, although a reward in which love reigns. Jesus Himself had the joy that was set before Him as sustainment in His sufferings, a joy which thus was personal to Himself. The apostle also, as regarded his work and labour, waited with Christ for its fruit. Besides this case of the apostle (Chapter 2), we find God Himself and Jesus as the object before us, and the joy of communion with God — and this, in the relationship of Father — and with Christ, whose glory and position we share through grace.

Thus it is only in the two epistles to the Thessalonians that we find the expression "to the church which is in God the Father." [11] The sphere of their communion is thus shewn, founded on the relationship in which they found themselves with God Himself in the character of Father. (1Th_1:3, 1Th_1:9-10; 1Th_3:13; 1Th_4:15-16; and here 1Th_5:23.) It is important to remark, that the more vigorous and living Christianity is, the more objective it is. It is but saying that God and the Lord Jesus have a greater place in our thoughts; and that we rest more really upon them. This Epistle to the Thessalonians is the part of scripture which instructs on this point; and it is a means of judging many a fallacy in the heart, and of giving a great simplicity to our Christianity.

The apostle closes his epistle by asking for the prayers of the brethren, saluting them with the confidence of affection, and conjuring them to have his epistle read to all the holy brethren. His heart forgot none of them. He would be in relationship with all according to this spiritual affection and personal bond. Apostle towards all of them, he would have them recognize those who laboured among them, but he maintained withal his own relationship. His was a heart which embraced all the revealed counsels of God on the one hand, and did not lose sight of the least of His saints on the other. It remains to take notice of one interesting circumstance as to the manner in which the apostle instructs them. He takes, in the first Chapter, the truths which were precious to their heart, but were still somewhat vaguely seized by their intelligence, and as to which they were indeed fallen into mistakes, and employs them (in the clearness in which he possessed them himself) in his practical instructions, and applies them to known and experienced relationships, that their souls might be well established on positive truth, and clear as to its use, before he touched on their error and the mistakes they had made. They waited for His Son from heaven. This they already possessed clearly in their hearts; but they would be in the presence of God when Jesus comes with all His saints. This was clearing up a very important point without directly touching the error. Their heart got straight as to the truth in its practical application to what the heart possessed. They understood what it was to be before God the Father. It was much more intimate and real than a manifestation of terrestrial and finite glory. Further they would be before God when Jesus came with all His saints: a simple truth which demonstrated itself to the heart by the simple fact that Jesus could not have some only of His assembly. The heart seized this truth without an effort; yet in doing so it was established, as was the understanding also, in what made the whole truth clear, and that in way of the relationship of the Thessalonians to Christ and those that were His. The joy even of the apostle in meeting them all (those who had died consequently, as well as the living) at the coming of Jesus, placed the soul on an entirely different ground from that of being found here, and blessed by the arrival of Jesus when they were here below.

Thus enlightened, confirmed, established, in the real bearing of the truth which they possessed already by a development of it which connected itself with their best affections and with their most intimate spiritual knowledge, founded on their communion with God they were ready with certain fixed basis of truth to enter on and set aside without difficulty an error which was not in accord with what they now knew how to appreciate at its just value, as forming park of their moral possessions. Special revelation made all clear as to details. This manner of proceeding is very Instructive.

Note #10 Hence there is the opposite to weariness in the heavenly enjoyment of God; because He who is the infinite object of enjoyment is the infinite source and strength of capacity to enjoy, though we enjoy as recipient creatures.

Note #11 Perhaps too in connection with their recent deliverance from idols to the one true God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

MY HOMEPAGE


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