Monday, March 29, 2010



16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. 25 Brethren, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. 27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

(I Thessalonians 5:16-28).


We left off last time with verse 23, the apostle’s prayer, which has much to say to us. I thought I was finished with these verses for now, but I believe the Lord showed me some things as sort of an epilogue to the original messages; something I overlooked, perhaps because verses 24-28 were not highlighted in my old childhood Bible under the heading “RX”. But these verses go with it just the same, and a decent exposition can’t be done without them.

Verse 24 is practically a continuation of Paul’s prayer. In the prayer for our sanctification he has already said that it is the “God of peace” that must sanctify us and preserve us blameless until the coming of the Lord. We do not have that power in ourselves. The best of us fail the Lord, and are not always faithful, but He is. The worst of us are much worse, and have to say with Paul “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the chief”(1 Timothy 1:15b). It is obvious we cannot save ourselves -- it takes God’s grace. It is also obvious we cannot, in our own power, sanctify ourselves. Our sanctification is just as much God’s work of grace in us as our justification. But various commands such as “Grow in Grace” show us we are responsible to walk in holiness. Remember Jesus never said “there is nothing you can ever do”. He did say “Without Me, you can do nothing”(John 15:5b).

Yes, verse 24 says “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”. One of the many truths we learn about the God of the Bible, is that He is absolutely faithful. The Greek word here is pistos (πιστός), which also means “trustworthy”. You can trust Him. You must trust Him with your never dying soul. He is the only completely trustworthy Being in the entire universe! You can always depend on Him. He is the only One in the universe who has the faithfulness, and the truthfulness to save us, and sanctify us, as well as the power to do so. Contrast Him with man “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

The word “calleth” here is the Greek word kaleo (καλέω), which means “to call” or “to bid”. This is the effectual call that He gives to all His elect children. It is the drawing of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the word of God. A person cannot really hear the word of God until God gives this effectual call. He may hear someone read or preach Bible verses; or someone tell him or her about Jesus Christ, but this is with the outward ear. This is the outward call which all men can hear. The effectual call is inward. In other words, God must quicken (make alive) the dead sinner before he or she can even hear the Gospel with the inward man, which is so often referred to in the Bible as the “heart”. This is the effectual call. That is what He has done for us who believe, as dead Lazarus being called forth from the grave. That was an effectual call. Lazarus heard the living Word by God’s grace. Has that happened to you, my friend? Have you been raised from the dead? If not, you don’t even know by experience what I am talking about, and you can’t really know the living Christ until you are made alive. All saved people were once “the walking dead” (see Ephesians 2:1,2). As Matthew Poole (1624-1679) says: “Those that are effectually called are brought into God’s covenant, where perfection and perseverance are promised, and God’s faithfulness obligeth Him to make good His covenant”.

Not only will He save us, and sanctify us; but according to Paul’s prayer, God is the one who will preserve us blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus. This sanctification and preserving is first of all positional because we are “hid with Christ in God”. In other words, in our justification He has put away our sins as far as east is from west, never to be remembered against us. That is positional. It is all based on the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul is here talking about the practical side. As I pointed out in the earlier articles, none of us is without sin (see 1John 1:10). Yet God is forgiving us daily, as we ask Him, and causing us to hunger for Him and grow in grace. As He brings us closer into our walk with Him, by His grace, He is fitting us more for heaven. This is the practical side of sanctification. He gave us admonitions in the first part of this chapter. As we endeavor to obey them, we realize we always fall short. So we must continue to call on Him for our sanctification on a daily basis. So, as we follow the light we have, and desire to walk with Christ (which desire He puts in us to begin with), we realize that even in this walk; “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Romans 9:16). From start to finish, God will complete His redemptive work in His elect and preserve them blameless at the coming of Jesus Christ. Remember, all the blame was laid on Him, Christ the Redeemer, who “By Himself purged our sins”(Hebrews 1:3). This same Jesus is the One coming for His saints. Sometimes in our weakness, it appears to even the true believer that He has delayed His coming, but remember this, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”. Also “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).What God wills to do is as good as done. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth”(Luke 11:2b).


Here Paul requests prayer for himself and the others. Yes, even an apostle felt the need of prayer. He did not feel himself high above the average Christian. He desires their prayers. God directs us all to pray. He has chosen to hear and answer prayer. This is also a sovereign choice of God who delights in acting on behalf of His people that He has redeemed. We must pray for one another. All of us have daily needs. We live in a world of turmoil and sin. The devil “as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour”( 1Peter 5:8b). We desire, and much need prayer, that we may be able to resist him. The word brethren, which Paul uses here, and twice more in these five closing verses, in each case is the Greek word adelphos (ἀδελφός). It means “from the same womb”. Maybe you recognize that our word “Philadelphia” is a combination of this word and phileo (φιλέω), one of the Greek words for “love”. I’m sure you know, Philadelphia, PA is called “the city of brotherly love” and its name is adapted from the church at Philadelphia taught about in Revelation chapter three. In these verses Paul is recognizing that the church in its universal aspect is a body of brothers and sisters. He is addressing the local assembly at Thessalonica, yet the application is for all the true local churches in the entire church age. The word he uses for “pray” is proseuchomai (προσεύχομαι), which means “to supplicate”, or to plead with God. He knew that earnest prayer would be needed for the great work of the church, and all involved, both then and now. He later repeats this to those at Thessalonica. “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you”(2 Thessalonians 3:1). So we must pray for the elders and preachers, as well as for all in the body of Christ


On my first iron curtain trip, back in 1978, we were in Moscow and were greeted by a Christian brother from a Baptist church. My traveling companion was Jim Courter, a man gifted to learn and speak many languages. Since then, his ministry has taken he and his family to Austria, Israel and many other places. Perhaps Jim knew what was about to happen, but I did not, even though I had studied about Russian culture, even some about Russian churches. After saying hello in Russian, this bearded brother embraced Jim and kissed him full in the mouth to greet him with a holy kiss. The Christians there take this verse literally! Well, me being a shy American, and perhaps in culture shock a little, I smiled and greeted him, and then I stuck out my hand for him to shake. After that, I think we embraced, but did not kiss!

Now, as we study this passage, do the Russian Christians (and others as well), interpret it correctly? Is this talking about a literal kiss? Well the text says “holy” kiss. The Greek hagios (ἅγιος) means “consecrated, or sacred; morally blameless” (Strongs). Kiss means “a kiss” Greek philema (φίλημα) .We could say like the old song from the Bogart movie “A kiss is just a kiss”, but that is not correct here. It is a holy kiss, not any thing to do with erotic stimulation or pleasure. You see, in the early church, the women and men were separated in the assembly. This had the effect of keeping a holy decency. When later, men and women sat together, this practice caused some problems, which assemblies had to correct. Nothing is said regarding a kiss between the sexes. Then as now this should normally be discouraged. Even an embrace of a man and a woman should not be a routine greeting in the modern church. There may be an extraordinary, rare, moment when it might be permissible, but not a regular thing lest it lead to problems of familiarity. As Matthew Poole observes: “It is called a “holy kiss” to distinguish it from treacherous kiss of Judas, or the lustful kiss of the harlot (Proverbs 7:13)”.

What about the problem of homosexuality in today’s society? Of course, it existed in the first century, but was not the controversial, militant issue it is in our time. So, in my judgment precautions of modesty should be taken in the church, if for no other reason, to properly guard our children. I would contend that an embrace between brethren would qualify as today’s holy kiss. Of course, I do not know everything, and I could be wrong, but it seems the safest way to approach this today. Let me emphasize that to embrace all brothers and sisters is not wrong and is here encouraged. We Christians are to love one another with a spiritual love an agape love, not an illicit love (which is what the world calls love, but really isn’t). We do not love each other with a carnal love, an eros love, but the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts. Don’t be afraid to love other Christians with this kind of love.


Paul said in verse 27 “I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren” He was saying “I adjure by the Lord”. He was firmly commanding that not only the leaders in Thessalonica read his first epistle, but all the church must hear it. It was from the Lord and this letter, and later the second one, had much to say regarding the Lord’s coming, and how to live in the interim. That interim so far has been almost 2000 years, but Christ is still coming as Peter reminds us “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation”(2Peter3:3,4).

These words from Thomas Scott, 1747-1821, say it very nicely:

“The original is “ I adjure you“---The solemn charge implies likewise a most decided claim to divine inspiration: for it evidently places this, and consequently the Apostles other epistles, on the footing of the ancient scriptures “The oracles of God”. (Note: Colossians 4:15, 16). It likewise shews that both oaths and adjurations are in some cases lawful; and that the subject, concerning which the apostle wrote, was considered by him, as peculiarly important. This is worthy of the most serious consideration of all those, even among protestants, who do not make the reading of the scriptures a part of the service, when they meet in the worship of God; and of those who read them in so careless and indistinct a manner, that the congregation cannot hear or understand them. The advantage to illiterate people, to the multitude who cannot read, or who can read but imperfectly, of an audible, distinct, and emphatical reading of the scriptures in public, can scarcely be calculated. It will soon render even the best preaching more fully understood; and it will in some degree supply the deficiency , in other cases”.


Then, as he so often does, Paul prays for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with all of them, and us today. We need it greatly today, and as someone said at the close-- amen! So be it!

Published by Charles Woodruff- email:

Friday, March 19, 2010



16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5:16-23).


Last time we explored “Prove all things”. We prove, or test all things with scripture as the force of the Greek word δοκιμάζω (dokimazo) ̄here brings out. This is primarily speaking of spiritual things. If we took this literally, regarding material things in this world, in general, we would of necessity be scientists, and they can’t even prove all things in a material world. In the spiritual realm, this is speaking of the teaching we read and hear. We are to reject the wrong or the bad, and hold onto that which is good. The way to determine the difference is through the scriptures, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. To hold the good is to seize on it (Greek= κατέχω, katecho).This is part of the perseverance of the saints. We seize the good teachings, hold onto them, and grow in grace, adding to our knowledge of the Lord.

Those who consistently fail to hold onto the good, and instead follow heresy and false doctrine, are in danger of becoming apostates. The entire book of Jude, while only 25 verses, deals with the apostates; those who fell away from their profession, never to return to the Lord. They are different from the backslider which is one whose heart has grown cold, and he wanders away from God for a season, receives chastisement, and returns to the Lord.

I guess it is stating the obvious to say that if you don’t read the Bible for yourself, hear preaching that is biblical and Christ centered, and pray without ceasing, you are going to be susceptible to anything. If you don’t absorb true doctrine, false doctrine will likely snare you. That is why we must learn, after conversion, to feed ourselves from the word of God. Then we need to pray for discernment, and if possible, be involved in a strong Bible believing and teaching church; and remember: be like the noble Bereans -- search the scriptures (see Acts 17:11).

In balance I again quote Matthew Henry We must not believe every spirit, but must try the spirits. But we must not be always trying, always unsettled; no, at length we must be settled, and hold fast that which is good. When we are satisfied that any thing is right, and true, and good, we must hold it fast, and not let it go, whatever opposition or whatever persecution we meet with for the sake thereof.”


First and foremost, as the context indicates, this is speaking of doctrinal error. This must be to us a warning to shun evil doctrine, as found in the cults. There are many cults, so I won’t try to enumerate them here. But scripture says “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). This does not speak of average human mistakes and errors as I have already stated. But once we have proved all things, and are holding fast to the good, we must stay away from the evil in doctrine and practice. There are “non essential” interpretations which would not prohibit fellowship. When I say “non essential”, I do not mean anything in God’s word is unimportant, but there are teachings that would not affect salvation, or other cardinal doctrines, and on these we can have charity instead of dogmatism. However, extreme deviations, and doctrinal variances and other things that would not be of the faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3),must be avoided and abstained from altogether.

This would also cover overt sins, and unchristian behavior on our part. For a Christian is to appear as a Christian in all things. He says here “all appearance”, as if to say “it may not be intrinsic evil, but if it looks like it, acts like it, smells like it -- avoid it!” A Christian must conduct his or herself with dignity. Do nothing that will dishonor the savior. Be careful where you go. That does not mean we cannot go among sinners to evangelize. He did! He was a friend to publicans and sinners. But even when you go among sinners, go praying without ceasing; and abstaining from all appearance of evil!

“Abstain- Whatever is heterodox (unorthodox), unsound, and unsavory; shun it as you would do a serpent in your way, or poison in your mouths.” ( John Trapp- 1647)

Once again from Matthew Henry Abstain from all appearance of evil, v.22. This is a good means to prevent our being deceived with false doctrines, or unsettled in our faith; for our Saviour has told us in John 7:17, If a man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. Corrupt affections indulged in the heart, and evil practices allowed of in the life, will greatly tend to promote fatal errors in the mind; whereas purity of heart, and integrity of life, will dispose men to receive the truth in the love of it. We should therefore abstain from evil, and all appearances of evil, from sin, and that which looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of sin, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to sin, will not long abstain from the actual commission of sin”


And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

(I Thessalonians 5:23).

The very God of peace, as the KJV has it, is an old English way of saying “God Himself” as most modern versions translate it. He is the God of peace, because mankind can have no real peace without Him. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6. Though men often talk of peace, there will be wars and rumors of wars until He returns (See Matthew 24:6).

Sanctify (the Greek is hagiazo, set apart; to consecrate; related to the English words “holy” and “hallowed”) The believer is already set apart at his conversion (and even before that, in the eternal purpose of almighty God).“We have been made "holy" (by a judicial pronouncement of God based upon the work of Christ), we shall be made "holy" (by receiving a sinless body at the resurrection), and it is therefore God's further will that we now become holy here in this life” (Rom.6:19-22; Eph.5:26; 1Thes.4:3; Heb.12:14; 1Pet.1:15-16; 1Jn.3:3; Rev.22:11). (From; A Study on Peter’s Epistles #13, by Dr. Robert Luginbill, emphasis mine cw).

John Wesley and some others taught an erroneous doctrine of attaining “entire sanctification” in this mortal life, and while sanctification is a process that will not be totally completed in this life, it is the apostle’s prayer that this be done as wholly, or completely, as may be done in our earthly lives. As someone once said, Paul prays for God to make us “wholly holy”. He knew it was a process as he told us in Romans seven regarding the struggle with flesh and Spirit. Every good, and every perfect gift, including the ability to be obedient and more holy and Christ-like, is from God’s sovereign grace (see James 1:17) .

Paul is also praying that the entire human being; the whole person, not just the soul or spirit, but the body as well, will be made more holy. You see we are a complete unity, and the only part of us visible in this present world is the body. Some hold that scripture teaches man to be dichotomous, that is, two parts (soul and spirit meaning the same thing, and contained in the outside shell, which is the mortal body).Many prominent theologians teach this such as Charles Hodge, Louis Berkoff, William Hendrickson , etc..

Others such as Matthew Henry, Arthur W. Pink, Emery Bancroft, Edward Hiebert, James Denney, etc.. teach that man is a trichotomy, that is three parts, as our text appears to teach. There are many texts where the soul and spirit appear to be used interchangeably, yet even most of the dichotomists hold that there is a distinction in function of that part of the soul called the spirit. What is the answer? Primarily, Paul is praying, as I said, that the entire being will be sanctified. This flies in the face of teaching that the inner man is not totally responsible for what the outer man (the body), does, because the body is flesh. Such teaching does not hold professing Christians accountable for sin committed, and is an error. “My little children, these things write I unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” ( I John 2:1). He is writing to sinning saints encouraging them not to sin, but reminding them that Jesus Christ took on a body of flesh and lived sinless, and as the only Righteous one represents us as our advocate, or attorney, when we do sin.

Yet, Paul here uses the phrase “your whole spirit, soul and body”. There must be a reason. Paul did not waste words. Also, in Hebrews 4:12, which most believe that Paul wrote, at least jointly with Timothy; we are told For the word of God is quick {alive}, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”.

Note the distinction in Mary’s praise to God that we often call The Magnificat:

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49).

“My soul - (Greek =ψυχή , psuche). My spirit- (Greek= πνεῦμα , pneuma) The soul is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions, having a side in contact with the material element of humanity, as well as with the spiritual element. It is thus the mediating organ between the spirit and the body, receiving impressions from without and from within, and transmitting them by word or sign. Spirit is the highest, deepest, noblest part of our humanity, the point of contact between God and man.” (Vincent’s Word Studies)

When writing on such a subject when good, sound, scholars have different views, it is easy to just find someone who agrees with you. It is one of those subjects we could address from now on, and still not be entirely satisfied. The reason is; all we ever see of man with our eyes is the outward body (Greek= σῶμα, soma), yet we know man is made up of more. Only God can divide the soul, and spirit, and body. Once again I like old rare John Trapp (as Spurgeon called him), on I Thessalonians 5:23: “The temple consisted of three parts, so doth man; the body is as the outer court, the soul as the holy place, the spirit as the most holy. So the world is three stories high; the earth, the visible heaven, and the third heaven.”

There are medical processes that can in some way divide up a living man. About 25 years ago I went to Emory Hospital in Atlanta to donate blood cells for Pastor Bill Barber, a friend who had Leukemia. These cells were the only hope he had to cause his body to produce new marrow and hopefully save his life. They hooked me to a machine, which circulated all the blood in my body into a chamber that would divide and extract the platelets the physicians wanted. I could see my own blood in there circulating and then returning to my body. I think it took about one hour. These doctors were actually dividing me up; not soul and spirit, or joints and marrow, but separating white blood cells from red blood cells, then separating the platelets needed for the treatment from the red cells. Sadly, a few weeks later my friend passed away in spite of treatment. But the point is, if man can divide up parts of a living body, and it can still live on, certainly God can do what He wants with His creation. He certainly made us more than a mere body.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14).

Remember Paul is praying for the entire person to be sanctified; spirit, soul and body. Arthur W. Pink had this to say: “Since the tripart nature of man has been so widely denied we will make some brief observations. That man is a threefold (and not merely twofold) entity is definitely established by the fact that he was created in the image of the triune God (Gen. 1:26). It is intimated in the account of the Fall. "The woman saw that the tree was good for food"—it appealed to her bodily appetites. Second, she saw that it was "pleasant [margin, a desire] to the eyes"—it appealed to her sensitive soul. She thought it was "a tree to be desired to make one wise“—it appealed to her intelligent spirit (Gen. 3:6). It is a serious error to say that when man fell, his spirit ceased to be, and that only at regeneration is his spirit "communicated" to him.

Fallen man is possessed equally of "spirit and soul" (Heb. 4:12). God "formeth the spirit of man within him" (Zech. 12:1), and at death the "spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). We agree with the Reformer Zanchius that "the spirit includes the superior faculties of the mind, such as reason and understanding; the soul, the inferior faculties such as will, affections, and desires." By means of the "soul" we feel; by the "spirit" we know (Dan. 2:3 ff.). "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with [1] all thine heart [spirit], and [2] with all thy soul, and [3] with all thy might" [physical energy] (Deut. 6:5). This corresponds with Paul’s threefold distinction in our text. The constitution of man as man was once for all demonstrated when the Son of God became incarnate and assumed both human "spirit" (Luke 23:46) and "soul" (Matthew 26:38). Yet in saying that unregenerate man possesses a spirit, we do not affirm that he has a spiritual nature, for his spirit has been defiled by the Fall, though it was not annihilated and therefore is capable of being washed and renewed (Titus 3:5).

The whole nature of man is the subject of the Spirit’s work in regeneration and sanctification. This fact is to be manifested by the Christian in a practical way, by every disposition and resource of his spirit, each faculty and affection of his soul, all the members of his body. His body has been made a member of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15) and is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Since the Christian’s body is an integral part of his person, and since its inclinations and appetites seek to usurp the functions of his spirit and soul and dominate his actions, he is required to bring his body under the control of the higher parts of his being, so that it is regulated by a scripturally enlightened reason and not by its carnal passions. "Every one . . . should know how to possess his vessel [his body] in sanctification and honor" (1 Thess. 4:4). As in unregeneracy we yielded our members to sin, now we are to yield them as servants to righteousness unto holiness (Rom. 6:19). Someone has said, "Perfect holiness is to be the aim of saints on earth, as it will be the reward of the saints in heaven.” (Gleanings from Paul; Moody Press, 1967 edition; chapter 26, page 280)


The Apostle Paul didn’t waste words in his prayer. Not only did he have a reason for saying “spirit, soul and body”, he also had a reason for saying “blameless” instead of perfect, or sinless. Blameless (Greek = αμεμπτως , amemptos), is used only here in the NT. It means without fault; unblemished; in spotless integrity. Paul is praying for all of us to be presented to God in that condition. Man cannot attain this sanctification. That is why Paul adds these words Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”

(I Thessalonians 5:24) He is not speaking of absolute sinless perfection, for as I said, no one will attain that in this present world.. The best proof is the Apostle’s own words in Romans chapter seven. Here Paul shows another division, even in a saved person. The war between the flesh and spirit was very real to Paul. Read the entire chapter and see for yourself, but he summed it up this way For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:19-25).

As the old song says “Some golden daybreak Jesus will come”. When He does come back, morning, noon, or night, there is going to be a resurrection of the body, both of the just and unjust. He is going to put back together bodies that were sawn in pieces; that were exploded into smithereens; that were burned at the stake; that were bombed; that were eaten by sharks or other animals. Man could not do this but “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”( Genesis 18:14). Remember, with all that man can do, he cannot even cure the common cold, yet God renews body cells in each of us every single day we live!

When Christ comes there will be a last judgment “I saw the dead, small and great stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life-- (Revelation 20:12a). Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Published by Charles Woodruff- email:

(to be concluded in the next issue)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010



The following is a message I prepared in 2007-2008 and was apparently appreciated as a mailout to my readers. I want to share part one of the three parts today and hope to continue in series. cw

16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 5:16-23).

In my continual rearranging of my office, after my son Mark built new bookshelves for me, I found another old book with memories. It was an old Bible. In November 1951, when I was eight years old, I made a profession of faith and was baptized into the Gordon Street Baptist Church in Atlanta. I was not really saved at that time, though I was sincere in my profession. I learned a lot of things about the Bible in church and Sunday School during the following years that have stayed with me in some measure over the years. When I was baptized, the church gave me this Bible. It was specially published by National Bible Publishers for the Southern Baptist Convention. It had lots of pictures in it, which as a child, I enjoyed. I began looking at some passages I had marked. There are a number of them, for this was my only Bible from age eight until I was really saved in 1963 at age 21. I came across the above passages, which were marked as follows: “RX” (the abbreviation for prescription). That’s all it said; “RX”. I have been attempting to remember the entry and determine “RX” -- for what?

In looking at the context of First Thessalonians, I have decided that the preacher or teacher who called this to my attention was correct. These verses are a prescription for the Christian. The context tells me, since so much in this book of the Bible refers to the coming of the Lord, that this RX concerns how to be ready for His second coming in our daily walk. Chapter five begins with these words “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5).


The apostle Paul goes on to tell us more about Christ’s return, followed by practical instruction on daily living in the church such as “We exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men” (I Thessalonians 5:14,15) and then immediately after this, Paul gives us several short, very practical, precepts about how to live the Christian life until Jesus Christ returns. This is where I want to focus today, since this part was marked in that old Bible so many years ago.

Look at verse 16: Rejoice evermore. (Greek = chairō, to rejoice; to be full of cheer, joy, etc…) This is definitely to be the attitude of a Christian. Our rejoicing is to be not in things of this world, but in the Lord: “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:5). This exact Greek word is used five times in Philippians translated rejoice, plus translated as joy twice. Rejoice is found four more times in Philippians alone, translated from other Greek words that have shades of meaning such as to boast. Our boasting as well as our joy and rejoicing must be in the Lord Christ.

Rejoice is used many more times, not only in the NT, but in the OT in various shades of meaning (actually more that the NT). Throughout the ages, God’s people are to be a rejoicing, jubilant people. As Matthew Henry said in commenting on I Thessalonians 5:16, “ In Him our joy will be full; and it is our fault if we have not a continual feast”. As Paul has told us here, and in all his epistles, we Christians have something to rejoice about even more that the OT saints, for since Christ cried “It is finished”, we have something that the prophets could only see afar off; something that if we fully grasped, we would be shouting every moment of our lives -- we have complete salvation in Jesus Christ! If nothing else, Jesus said to rejoice that our names are written in heaven (see Luke 10:20).


Commenting on verse 17, Matthew Henry says“ Note, the way to rejoice evermore is to pray without ceasing. We should rejoice more if we prayed more.” Jesus gave the parable of the unjust judge to show that men ought always to pray and not faint. We need to live in prayer, and by prayer, because we are commanded by Christ to do so. We are to pray, led by the Holy Spirit; in the Holy Spirit; honoring God the Father in heaven, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Matthew Henry says again: “We should pray always, and not faint: pray without weariness, and continue in prayer, till we come to that world where prayer shall be swallowed up in praise. The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season.”

If our Lord Jesus, who is God manifest in human flesh, prayed often and fervently, we must do the same. Our prayers are not to change God’s mind, but to put us more in harmony with His blessed will. We know that in the model prayer our Lord teaches us to say “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).This is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. The actual “Lord’s Prayer” is John 17, which is Jesus’ prayer for His own. Our prayers should be directed by the Holy Spirit, “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought--”(Romans 8:26). A season of prayer ought to be in every day of our life. Prayer does not change God -- it changes us!


Here in verse 18, Paul says “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” He is speaking not only of prayer, but of rejoicing as well. Part of God’s purpose is that we come as needy children to Him daily. Of course, we have a will, we have volition; we ask things of God sincerely from our own hearts, but ultimately all is controlled by God. We have accountability; what we do matters, or we would not be told to pray (as we are told in scripture numerous times). But, He is the compass, the stabilizer, the guide of our ship, the builder of our ship, the planner and sustainer of our route. He has marked out beforehand (predestinated), our path. It is much easier on us when we know this. “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called, according to His purpose”(Romans 8:28). He will prevail. If you desire, as the devil does, to thwart God’s eternal purpose, you cannot do it! God’s eternal purpose is just that -- eternal! It is not a temporal, changeable, purpose. We live in time and fail to grasp God’s purpose, yet we have no choice, ultimately, but to yield to it. His will shall be done!

I am not going to tell you that it is easy for any mortal to give God thanks for everything, but we are commanded to do so if we are His. It was the hardest thing in the world for my wife and I to be thankful to God when He took our eldest son at age 41. I was not angry with God -- a bit puzzled, but not angry. Yet, it took a while to be able to thank Him. Now we can say “Even so, Father for it seemed good in thy sight”. This comes about only by the grace of God, I assure you!


God’s Spirit, in a sense, can be resisted, grieved, and quenched, and a believer may be denied the sense of His presence for a time. (See Acts:7:21; Ephesians 4:30; Psalm 51:11) This will not affect God’s ultimate purpose one bit, but it will serve to teach us something. One thing we can see from these admonitions; we are responsible to do more with our lives than sit around and pontificate on God‘s sovereignty, or other "pet" doctrines. Understand what I mean! He has mapped out our path beforehand, just as He has chosen His elect beforehand. Just as you cannot tell who the elect are, until God reveals it, you cannot tell the totality of your predestined path until it unfolds. The best way is to submissively do these things He commands in His word, and watch and pray, and see His revealed will unfold in your life. Remember: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8: 9b), also:“ For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (children) of God” Romans 8:14). God has a secret will, that you and I will not know until it pleases Him, if ever. He does show his revealed will by His word, and His Holy Spirit as the Bible teaches us. By way of review from our first study on Divine Mysteries, remember “The secret (Heb. sathar), things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed (Heb.galah) belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Here secret means hidden, or concealed. God is not going to tell us everything in this life, but He will reveal what He wants us to know. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” ( I Corinthians 13:12).

The true believer is baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ at regeneration For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13).

The true believer is to be filled with God’s Spirit “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ--” (Ephesians 5:18-20).

The true believer is to walk in the Spirit that the flesh be not in control. “ This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

We can grieve the Holy Spirit by following the flesh, by stubbornly and willfully refusing to be guided by Him, or stubbornly and willfully going a way inconsistent with the word of God. Remember the Holy Spirit will not lead a child of God to go against the clear teaching of the word of God! That is why we are commanded to read and meditate on God’s word. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path“(Psalm 119:105). This is called human responsibility, and if you are indeed a real Christian, you are going to have to cope with it. “ He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” ( I John 2:4).


Here we are cautioned against despising the preached word. I can’t help but quote Matthew Henry again. He is very good on these verses, I think (actually Mr. Henry did not live to complete his respected commentary on the whole Bible, only completing through part of Romans. However, he had sketched out numerous notes, allowing others to complete the books after his death. In this case we owe Mr. Daniel Mayo).

By prophesyings here we are to understand the preaching of the word, the interpreting and applying of the scriptures; and this we must not despise, but should prize and value, because it is the ordinance of God, appointed of him for our furtherance and increase in knowledge and grace, in holiness and comfort. We must not despise preaching, though it be plain, and not with enticing words of men's wisdom, and though we be told no more than what we knew before. It is useful, and many times needful, to have our minds stirred up, our affections and resolutions excited, to those things that we knew before to be our interest and our duty”.

In Paul’s day this referred as well to miraculous utterance in the Spirit, special gifts primarily given in the establishing of the NT church. Many at Corinth had considered tongues the greater gift and were boasting in this gift. Paul made it clear that prophesying was a greater gift. Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. ( I Corinthians 14:1-3)

Whether you are one who believes that tongues have totally ceased in our day (Paul stated that they would cease at some point, as well as miraculous prophesies), you will have to concede that few valid examples of these gifts exist, or are extremely hard to prove. Does He still work miracles today? Certainly our Sovereign God can use any means He pleases, but His primary way of declaration of the gospel to saint and sinner alike is not with extraordinary gifts, but through the preaching of those who dedicate themselves to study, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” ( I Corinthians 13:8-10)

It is quite obvious that when applied to our 21st century church, the primary application of prophesying is the preaching, or heralding, of the word of God. We are not to despise it. We are not to ignore it, but heed it, applying it to our lives. However it is not without qualification. We are to:


This has a direct reference to the prophesying. There are many voices today saying they are preaching the truth of God; the word of God. How do we know who is telling the truth? We must be like the Bereans “These were more noble than those at Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Remember, the Bereans had only Old Testament scrolls at that time, for the New Testament was in the process of being written. It was understood by the Jews that prophets and teachers must be checked against God’s word, i.e.…the law and the prophets. If they spoke against this, it was because there was no light in them (Isaiah 8:20). When Paul preached to Agrippa, he referred to his knowledge of God’s word to make his case (See Acts 26: 25-29). So the principle of “prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” was already in force. We do not have to accept, or even listen to just any preaching. In fact there is some we should definitely avoid! Listen only to that which is proven scriptural and edifying. That which is in harmony with the word, we hold fast, because it is good. Hold on to the good, and reject the bad. This is absolutely necessary!

Every person who claims to be of God, speaking in God’s name, is not really doing so. Remember, Christ Himself, and all the apostles (especially John), warned against these false prophets, these antichrists that would come on the scene.

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” ( I John 2:18-19).

If the antichrists existed then, far more now, for Christ said:“ For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before” (Matthew 24:24-25).

So Jesus Christ Himself is warning us, as Paul later did, to Prove all things. Just because someone says they are a prophet, a preacher, a man of God, don’t think you can just take it at face value -- prove all things.

As John goes on to say:

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” ( I John 4:1-4).

A word of caution here. None of us have all the truth. None of us are infallible. Even preachers make mistakes. I am not saying to leave a church, reject a brother, or count as a heretic one who errs on some small, non-essential, points. If indeed it is a true gospel church, correct on the essentials of the faith, and the elders are correctly declaring Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, they should be heard, not opposed, without strong, biblical reasons. If you see some small deviation you should pray for them, and pray for God’s guidance for yourself. You may ask, what are essentials? You may see others, but these are the clearest ones that I can see: 1.The Virgin Birth of Christ, 2.Biblical inerrancy, 3.Literal resurrection of Christ, and His saints, 4. Total Depravity of man, 5. Sovereignty of God, 6. Physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ in the future, 7.Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinners, 8. The New Testament Church the only organization ever started by Christ, 9. Believer’s baptism and the Lord’s supper, 10. Believers commanded to live a godly life, separate from worldliness. So then any preacher, or church that denies these ten absolutes should be avoided like the plague. This is what the scriptures teach, as far as I understand them..

(We will continue this study in the next issue, D.V…)

Published by Charles Woodruff- email: