Sunday, 19 June 2016

Appreciation and Exhortation (2 Thess. 2:13-16)

Paul here indicates the importance of consistent appreciation of other believers when he states that one of the obligations that he and his friends Silas and Timothy had was to give thanks to God for the faithful believers in Thessalonica. The reason in their case was obvious because, as he goes on to say, the Thessalonians had been converted through the gospel ministry of Paul and his friends when in the city a few months previously. Paul spells out what has happened to the Thessalonians, which is a reminder that our thanksgiving should be intelligent from a spiritual point of view.
The description of believers
The first thing that we can observe about the description is Paul’s desire to focus on the Trinity. He writes that the Thessalonians were loved by the Lord Jesus, chosen by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit. Obviously, he could have said different things in connection to each of the divine Persons, but the point to observe is that he brought each of them into his description. No doubt, he is stressing to the Thessalonians that they should never forget that each of the persons of the Trinity was and is and will be interested in them.
As far as the Lord Jesus is concerned, the detail mentioned is that he loves his people. He showed his love for them by going to the cross in order to pay the penalty for their sins. And he shows his love for them by continuing to represent them in heaven. That may be a reason why he is mentioned first here. In addition, he shows his love by leading them as the Good Shepherd through this life.
The Father is described as the one who chose his people. We know from elsewhere that this choice is an eternal one. He did not choose them because he knew that they would believe the gospel; instead they believe the gospel because he chose them. Of course, it is not possible for us to understand why he chose them, mainly for the reason that he has not told us why he did. All we can say is that his plan is the expression of his infinite and infallible wisdom.
There is a translation issue in this phrase. One rendering is to use the phrase ‘from the beginning’. The problem of this translation is ‘beginning of what’. Does it refer to the beginning of time at creation, or does it refer to before time, or does it refer to the beginning of the gospel? Each of these options would be true, but which one is meant? If it refers to the last option, that of the beginning of the gospel, it would not be that different in meaning from the alternative translation, which is ‘as firstfruits’. If it should be ‘firstfruits’, then Paul has mentioned not only the fact that they were chosen to be saved, but also that the particular time was chosen when they would be saved. Firstfruits is a reference to the religious practice in Israel of presenting to God some of the harvest as a sample of the whole of the harvest, and this idea is used by Paul on several occasions, which is why scholars prefer this translation. Since the firstfruits were a guarantee that eventually there would be a harvest, Paul is saying that he regarded the Thessalonians as evidence that God intended to save others, perhaps in Thessalonica, but also elsewhere.
Of course, whether that rendering is the right one or not, we can still make a valid deduction, which is to realise that the Father’s choice included when he thought it best for us to be saved. We might wish to have been converted in a period when the gospel was more popular. But just as the Thessalonians were chosen to serve in a particular period, so we have been chosen to serve today where we are in God’s providence.
The Holy Spirit is here said to be the sanctifier of his people. Sanctification normally refers to the lifelong process that a believer experiences after conversion. In reality, there are three possible meanings of sanctification. There is definitive (initial) sanctification, there is progressive sanctification, and there is perfect sanctification. The first describes conversion, the second describes ongoing development in holiness, and the third describes what happens when we die (‘made perfect in holiness’, says our catechism).
Here the focus of sanctification is on what happens at conversion, when a sinner believes the truth. The Holy Spirit indwells that sinner and sets him apart to God. That sinner has become a saint, one who is the possession of God, which of course is a very blessed position. This is an unchanging position. Of course, we should realise that the first will result in the other two taking place.
The declaration
Paul refers to his message in two ways: first, he says it is the truth and, second, he says that it is the gospel. We could say that ‘truth’ indicates its reliability and ‘gospel’ points to its positivity. After all, a message can be true but not be good news. In fact, it is possible to mention biblical truths and not declare the gospel. It is true that we are sinners, but if all I do when speaking to someone is mention that he is a sinner then I have not communicated the gospel to him.
Paul elsewhere tells us what the gospel is. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: ‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.’ So we can see that the gospel is about what Jesus has done – his death, burial and resurrection. That has to be the truth we pass on to others if we want to be regarded as speaking God’s message of good news. Obviously, a great deal could be said about each of them, but here is one aspect of each: the cross is where Jesus made atonement for the sins of his people, the burial is about authenticating that Jesus actually died, and the resurrection is about authority that Jesus has over the living and the dead.
The fact that the message is good news reminds us also of the effect it should have upon us when we hear it. This good news is connected to joy, to happiness, to delight, in what God’s grace has achieved and provided. The effect of the gospel is salvation, and if salvation does not make us joyful we need to ask if we have been converted. Repeatedly, the Bible stresses that the consequence of receiving salvation is great joy. Joy is not a silly grin, but it is resident in a heart that is satisfied with Jesus.
The destiny
Paul is not content to focus only on what salvation has brought to the Thessalonians. Instead, he wants them to look ahead and grasp the amazing destiny that they have, which is to ‘obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Paul has referred already to this possibility several times in this letter, which suggests that he realised that his readers were having difficulty taking it on board. From one point of view, that is not surprising because the prospect is so wonderful; from another point of view, it is surprising because the prospect was part of the gospel truth that they declared in Thessalonica.  
While it is not possible to explain in detail what this means, we can say that here we have a reference to the fact that believers are joint-heirs with Jesus. He will share with them what his inheritance is. I would suggest that one way by which we can consider the glory of Jesus is to look at it through the three offices that he has, those of prophet, priest and king.
As prophet, he will be the eternal Teacher of his people, and all the teaching that will be given about God will come in the context of the inheritance given to Jesus. He will teach us about God and his plans. As priest, Jesus will lead the praise of God given by angels and his people for ever. They will watch him and join in with him as he declares the name of the Father to his brethren; they will participate in the experience of glory as they discover the wonders connected to praising God, which is why they were created and redeemed. And as king, he will rule over them in kindness and love, ensuring that their obedience to him will be pleasant and satisfying; and in a way that we cannot yet understand they will be kings as well, ruling with him over the new creation.
The glory that Jesus has he possesses because it his reward for his giving of himself on the cross in obedience to the Father’s will. As far as his people are concerned, it has been purchased for them by that same action on the cross – it cost him everything, but for them it is free. Moreover, this glory for each of them will be personal even as their sanctification is personal – their individuality will remain. We can also say that the possession of this state of glory is permanent – they cannot lose it and no one has the power to take it from them. And in a manner that we cannot describe they will partake of it with Jesus as they are with him and behold him for ever (I suppose we could say that each person in Britain has the glory of the sun for themselves even although everyone else is also receiving its benefits. In a far higher sense, this will be the case in glory.
Of course, there is a sense in which all we can do is illustrate the life of the world to come. We are like someone trying to describe a country he has never seen. So all he can do is depict through illustrations with which he is familiar. The one thing we do know about the heavenly experience is that it will be far greater, far more satisfying, far more wonderful than we can grasp in this life. But we should remind ourselves that we are called to it.
The duty
What is required of those who enjoy the blessings of the gospel and who can look ahead to the glory to come? Paul makes it clear in verse 15 that they are called to be faithful. But what are they to be faithful to? Paul makes it very clear that Christians are to remain faithful to the teachings of the apostles. When he mentions traditions, he does not have in mind human customs. Instead, traditions is way of describing his teaching, and he reminds them that there was only two ways by which they could have received it. One was by direct verbal teaching by Paul and his colleagues and the other was by a personal letter from them. We have that teaching in the New Testament.
How do they remain faithful? Paul uses two physical actions to picture what he has in mind. They are to stand firm, which means that they are not to let another person move them away from what they had been told, and they were to hold tightly to what they had been taught, no matter who it was that was trying to take those teachings away. Faithfulness requires tenacity to adhere to what God wants, which means that failing to do so is unfaithfulness.
Who are liable to make us unfaithful? People, when they advocate wrong beliefs and practices. They may not be unbelievers. Instead they may be believers. In the early church, Peter once led believers in Galatia astray. Most of the New Testament letters refer to believers who got it wrong. Today we can be led astray by what people say in books or on DVDs or on blogs. 
James Denney has said that in these verses there is ‘a system of theology in miniature’, because they state that our salvation ‘originates in a divine choice, is wrought out by divine power, is made effective through a divine message, and will be perfected in divine glory.’ So if we grasp the contents of this set of verses, we will be aware of a framework into which we can look at life.

It is possible for someone to deduce, ‘I have made a profession of faith. It does not matter what I believe because I am safe forever. But it does matter because a determination to adhere to his teachings reveals what we think of the glory of Jesus.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Two Kings are Coming! (2 Thess. 2:1-12)

What do Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Ronald Reagan have in common? Each of them has been identified as the Antichrist, although for a variety of reasons. After all, Reagan was a very different man from the other two. What do the Caesars and the Popes have in common? Several of them have been called the Antichrist. Of course, they may have been an antichrist (with a small ‘a’), but whether any or all of them are the Antichrist is debatable. The apostle John reminded his readers towards the end of the first century that ‘children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come’ (1 John 2:18).
The fact is, one of the permanent distractions that affects some Christian churches is the desire to identify the Antichrist. All the attempts so far have been wrong, which is not surprising since Paul says in this passage that the man of lawlessness will be destroyed at the second coming of Jesus, which means probably that he comes to a place of prominence shortly before Jesus arrives. Having said that, it is also the case that Paul gives us some details about this powerful figure, which means that we should know what they are just in case we happen to live in the period of time in which he will appear.
The first detail that we can note is that the appearance of the man of lawlessness is connected to the coming of the Day of the Lord. Verses 1 and 2 make it clear that the Day of the Lord refers to the day when Jesus returns. The point that Paul makes is that the Day of the Lord will not occur until after the appearance of this individual, the man of lawlessness. In other words, his appearance is one of the signs that will indicate that the second coming of Jesus is near. As far as I can see, there are three events mentioned in the New Testament that must precede his coming. One is the man of lawlessness, a second is the preaching of the gospel throughout the world, and the third is the conversion of the Jews.
In a strange way, the coming of this future evil person enables us to remain orthodox. Paul mentions in verses 2 and 3 that wrong ideas were circulating in the church in Thessalonica about the second coming. He says that the wrong ideas came from three sources: one was through a demon, another was through a human, and the third was through a letter pretending to be from Paul. The thrust of the wrong idea was that the second coming had already taken place. It is not really possible to say what that idea was like. Yet there was this unusual protective, the fact that the man of lawlessness had not yet been revealed. So if someone says to you tomorrow, ‘Jesus could come today,’ ask yourself if you have seen the man of lawlessness walking around.
This leads us to ask, What will this man do when he appears? He will lead a rebellion that will be religious in nature (v. 3). Paul informs us that the man of lawlessness will manage somehow to replace all other false religions. He exalts himself against every possible god. In order to do this, he must have global power. Imagine all the false religions in the world and then imagine someone who can take over all of them. That man is coming, says Paul.
Again we can ask, what will he do when he achieves this position? Paul writes that this individual will have a throne in the temple of God (v. 4). We have to work out what Paul means by the temple of God. Generally, there are two options. One is the temple in Jerusalem, which was still standing when Paul wrote this letter. The other is the visible church of Jesus on earth. We know that Paul was not referring to the temple in Jerusalem because it was destroyed centuries ago and was not followed by the second coming. So it looks as if Paul is saying that, somehow, even the professing church will come under the influence of this man shortly before Jesus comes. We should not be too surprised by this possibility because there have been many antichrists in the church, as John mentions in his first letter.
A further question that we can ask is, Who will he claim to be? An answer is given to that question in verse 4. He will claim to be God. Of course, he will need some evidence to back up this claim and it is detailed in verse 9: ‘The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders.’ He will be able to a variety of impressive things, including the miraculous and the supernatural. We should not be too surprised at this ability because we know, for example, that the magicians of Egypt were able to imitate some of the signs that Moses did, and they received that ability from the devil. So people will look at the achievements of this man and say that he proves he is divine.
Why will they do this? One answer is that everyone wants to worship something. This desire is a basic feature of our humanness. A second answer is that the devil deceives them into thinking the man of lawlessness is true, and it is not hard for him to do this. And the third reason is that God uses it as a judgement on those who refused to respond properly to the gospel of Jesus. Of course, those three details happen all the time with regard to the gospel. People have to worship something, they are blinded by Satan and refuse to love Jesus, and therefore God judges them by sending in his sovereignty this delusion to them.
What is stopping him? In verse 6, Paul writes that the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, which is a way of saying that people are already working towards the goal of having this form of government. Yet something or someone is restraining or hindering the arrival of the man of lawlessness (vv. 6-7). A lot of suggestions have been made as to what or who is preventing this man from appearing. One suggestion was the Roman Empire, but it has long gone and the second coming has not happened. Another suggestion is opposition to worldwide dominion, but that is not a description of an individual. We have to ask who has the power and the ongoing existence to prevent the appearance of this person, and the answer would seem to be God. The problem with this answer is that the restrainer is said to be there ‘until he is out of the way’ (v. 7), unless we see it as describing the activity of God in a particular way, such as when the Holy Spirit ceased to strive with humans before the flood. Is Paul saying that a time is coming that will be so bad because God has ceased to work in a gracious manner?
Who are his followers? Paul uses several words to describe them. They don’t love the truth and don’t believe what it says – the truth may be a way of referring to the gospel. This response is a reminder that they have been deceived or blinded by the devil, but Paul also points out that this deception is a divine judgement. They are judged because they are responsible for their response – they refused the truth. The situation is that they are perishing because God is against them already. This is a solemn description of the followers of the man of lawlessness when he comes. Yet it is also a description of those who refuse the gospel today.
What is he called? In verse 3, he is given two titles – the man of lawlessness and the son of perdition. The first describes his character and the second his destiny. We can see by looking at them that he is the exact opposite of the Saviour. Jesus loved the law of God and his destiny is glory for ever. The man of lawlessness may imagine that he is God but when he meets the One who is God we are told what will happen. When Jesus returns, it will take him one word to overcome the most powerful of rebels and bring him to nothing. Why should we pay an interest in this predicted individual? Because his overthrow will bring into focus the triumph of Jesus over the powers of evil, and that is one reason why we should long for the second coming.

Gathering with Jesus
What will it be like? Paul tells us in verse 1 when he refers to ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him.’ We can think about this beautiful description briefly.
The word translated as coming means ‘presence’ rather than ‘travelling towards’. If I was on a train, those waiting for me at the station could say that I was coming. But that use of coming has not the same meaning as when it would be used to describe my arrival. While the word is used in the New Testament of the arrival of ordinary believers in a locality, it is mainly used in connection with the second coming of Jesus. This usage fits with a common manner of using the word, which was in connection with the arrival of an important person.
Usually when an important person came to a place, certain questions would dominate the minds of the inhabitants: ‘Why has he come? What is he here for?’ It is appropriate to ask such questions as we think about the future coming of Jesus. And we can see that Paul provides one answer for us – Jesus is coming to gather his people to himself. So he is coming as a shepherd to find his flock.
Where are the flock? Before he comes, they are in two places. Some of them have died and others of them have not. So we can deduce that the gathering involves resurrection for those who have died. Some of them will have been dead for centuries and maybe some will have died on the day before, or even on the day itself. So as the Shepherd comes for them, he comes with love and with power. Love and power are seen in his ancient promise that he would be the destroyer of death, and now he comes to fulfil it. What an amazing experience this will be for those who have gone down into the valley! Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4 that the dead in Christ will rise first, which means that both the dead and the living will Jesus together.
Something happens to the living believers at the same time as the dead saints are raised. Those alive will be still sinful right up to the moment when Jesus comes, but at that moment they will be renewed in his likeness and glorified. So as the Shepherd comes for them, he comes with love and power. He has looked forward to this day with all his heart and by his tremendous power he by the Holy Spirit totally sanctifies them and they are perfect. Resurrected, renewed and transformed into the likeness of Jesus, the saints welcome his arrival.
This occasion is the fulfilment of Jesus’ own prayer that his people together would see his glory (John 17:24: ‘Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.’  The sight of his glory will be transforming: ‘we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2).
This gathering will be the start of endless explorations. Once they have been gathered to him, they will remain with him for ever. We cannot imagination now how that will be the case. Paul assures the Thessalonians in his letter to them that when Jesus returns all his people will be with him forever (1 Thess. 4:17). Nor can we begin to anticipate what he and they will be doing. The one thing that we do know about is the competency of Jesus to continue satisfying the longing souls of his people throughout the endless ages.
For the believers, the gathering will be great in number (all believers will be there), will be gracious (all will have been saved from sin), will be grateful (gratitude to God), will be glorious (they will all be like Jesus), will be one of greetings (with those we knew and those we did not), and will be one of gain (rewards from the King)

So two kings are coming. With regard to one, his reign although terrible will be very short. The reign of Jesus in contrast will be eternal and blessed for all his people. Is he the King we want to come with his kingdom?

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Christianity is Serious (2 Thessalonians 1)

We are aware that there are many serious aspects to life. Usually there are serious details in the newspaper. When we read a biography, we will come across times of seriousness in the life of the person. If the person did not have serious moments, we might wonder about the depth of their lives. The Bible contains many examples of such occasions and it is possible to read passages looking for aspects of seriousness. Did we observe any areas of life mentioned in the chapter in which seriousness is expected?
Paul and his colleagues Silas and Timothy begin this letter by expressing their gracious desires for the church of the Thessalonians. They remind their readers that they now have a precious relationship with God the Father and a specific way of responding to the Lord Jesus Christ, which is that of submission. Senders and recipients are both sons of the Father and servants of the Saviour.
The writers also mentioned what their readers could expect to receive – grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This brief statement affirms the equality of the Father and the Son, reveals the shared involvement of the Father and the Son, and specifies some of the sweet blessings connected to the Father and the Son that they delight to give to believers.
So the first serious matter for us to consider is that Christians are those who have contact with God. We are familiar with how biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and the apostle John felt when they found themselves in the presence of the awesome God. We may say that we don’t have such profound experiences. Yet we are in contact with the same God, so we need to be serious.
Paul assures the believers in Thessalonica that he and his colleagues are praying for them. The section in his prayer in which his desires are found is in the thanksgiving section. Maybe this is a challenge to us because often the section in which we would put other churches would be in the intercession section. So the challenge comes to us to pray for other churches and to locate our details about them in our thanksgiving. What reasons can we deduce from Paul’s comments that explain his prayerful interest in the Thessalonians?
First, there is the fact that they were in the family of God, that they had been adopted, which is an illustration that stresses the high privilege that has been given to believers. We would find it odd if a believer did not express gratitude for those in his earthly family and it is equally odd for believers not to be grateful for other Christians. So status should cause us to be grateful.
Second, there was the abundant growth that marked their faith and love. Obviously, their faith was in God; the reference to increasing love could refer to how they loved God or to how they loved one another. What is striking about their growth was that they had not been Christians for long, perhaps about a year. Moreover, we can see that the growth is balanced between the graces of faith and love. In a healthy Christian life, graces grow together. We are told elsewhere that faith works by love, so we can understand why Paul would have had confidence to make this petition. Their sanctification caused him to be grateful.
Third, they were responding well to affliction caused by persecutions for their faith. Instead of diminishing their witness, the ferocious troubles helped to increase their determination to serve God. Prayer for others finds a great stimulation when we see them going on well for God despite their circumstances. Their steadfastness caused Paul to pray for them with thankfulness. In addition, he was able to mention them to others, which is an expression of confidence that they would be good witnesses even in persecution.
Christians often find it difficult to know what to say when they meet another believer who has obvious commendable features. They don’t want to give the impression that the individual developed those features by himself and neither do they wish to discourage the other Christian by ignoring what he is like. The solution in that situation is to pray intelligently for that believer.
So here we have further serious aspects of Christianity that we need to think about. Are we thankful for other Christians? Are we growing in grace? Are we serving the Lord whatever the opposition?
The Day of Judgement
Paul now gives a brief summary of what will happen on the Day of Judgement and he mentions what will happen to believers and to unbelievers. Obviously, this future event is marked by many serious elements. We can consider in turn what the apostle says about people and that great Day, taking first what he says about non-Christians, then about believers, and then about the Lord Jesus and his appearance.
Paul points out that God the Judge will repay the persecutors for their behaviour towards the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica. They would receive the payment their behaviour deserved. While the behaviour of other unbelievers may vary, the principle of the judgement is the same for them. They will receive what they have earned.
What will they receive? Paul writes that they will receive affliction, which indicates an active response from God. In this life, if someone afflicts us, we will feel it according to the strength of the person. What will it be like to receive affliction continually from an omnipotent God?
Moreover, Paul says that their affliction is actually a sentence of eternal punishment.  He uses the word ‘destruction’ to depict the experience they will undergo. Some commentators look at this word and suggest that it means annihilation. Yet the Bible’s message is that it is ongoing, continuous destruction. It is impossible for us to imagine what this experience will be like. What is obvious is that its certainty should make us serious in our Christian living.
Paul does say that the lost will be located in a place that will be ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’. This does not mean that God will be totally absent because he will always be omnipresent. Instead it means that they will never know the comforting presence of the Lord, which is a reference to the presence of Jesus the Saviour with his people. In contrast to what will be the experience of the redeemed, those who are lost will taste nothing of the amazing eternal goodness that will be shown continually to those who will be with Jesus forever.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians and us that this divine response at the Judgement is information that sin will not go unpunished. Perhaps the Thessalonian believers were tempted to think that God was indifferent to the pain that they were going through. Onlookers may have deduced the same. But Paul makes very clear that there is a day of accounting to come when everyone will receive from God exactly what they deserve. He is a God of justice.
The believers in Thessalonica are promised relief from the pressures and persecutions that they were enduring. In order to appreciate the comfort of this promise, we have to recall that such forms of trouble were everyday experiences for those believers. Those problems were additional to those that they went through because they were living in a sinful, cursed environment such as illness, famine, and natural disasters. The reality of such experiences is mitigated a bit for us in our advanced materialistic culture. Yet we know that myriads of believers today are longing for the relief that is promised to them here from persecution.
No doubt, Paul delighted to mention to his fellow believers that on that Day there will be something beautiful about them because Jesus is going to be glorified in each of them, which probably means that they will be Christlike. In other places in the New Testament, it is said that they will be conformed to his image. What does it mean to be glorified? It means perfection of soul and body; it means to have the presence of the Spirit in his fullness; it means to have a place of great honour.
Moreover, we will share one response towards Jesus, which is that we will marvel at who he is. The admiration of Jesus is connected to what he will have done in the lives of each of his followers. All of them once were very sinful, but here they are now totally transformed. And the credit for the change will be attributed to Jesus by us with great joy and delight.
Judged by Jesus
Another aspect, indeed the most important one, that Paul refers to is the awesome impact that the arrival of Jesus will have. He will be revealed, a word that indicates his real identity cannot now be fully appreciated, but it will be then. It is easy for us to address him as Lord, but what will it be like to see him as the Commander of the heavenly armies?
Paul describes the Saviour in rather startling terms, stating that he is the avenger inflicting vengeance on unbelievers, whom the apostle describes in a twofold manner. Sometimes, when we see a person in a different role from what we are used to seeing him or her, we can be stunned by the position he has. Maybe we discover that our neighbour is actually a judge with power to pronounce a sentence! The effect of seeing Jesus as the Judge will have an incredible effect on those gathered before him.
The action of Jesus on that day will be directed against those who have refused to come to know him through the gospel. We should observe that here Paul describes the gospel as a command to be obeyed. It is the case that the gospel is an offer, but it is not an offer than legitimises a negative response. The makes of the various brands in a supermarket cannot punish me if I ignore their products. But if I ignore the gospel claims of Jesus, my response is highly insulting and an expression of great rebellion. It is obviously a very serious scenario for any of us to face Jesus in this way.
The appropriate response
How should we respond to such a serious prospect? Paul gives us the answer to this question when he says that we should engage in specific prayer connected to that future day when Jesus will be glorified in his people. This is a wonderful calling to have, but it is not automatic in the sense that even now we don’t have to be concerned about it.
There are three features of his prayer that we can observe. First, every activity in which we engage for him needs divine power – Paul stresses this necessity when he uses the word ‘every’ twice in the verse. It could be that resolve is the thinking stage of each action and work of faith is the practical outworking of it. But no matter how good the project, we need divine power.
Second, the completion of any activity does not occur until the Day of Judgement. We see an example in what has happened through this letter that Paul wrote to the church. It is still affecting people today. No doubt, Paul prayed for guidance as he wrote and for grace to be given to all his readers. When will the completion or fulfilment be? When Jesus returns. This scenario can be retold in other examples. Perhaps Paul is hinting here at the prospect of receiving rewards for faithful service. What is important is that we realise that there will be a completion.
Third, there is sufficient grace found in God and in Jesus to meet all the circumstances and needs that we will encounter. There is no need to imagine that grace will not be provided, but there is also a serious side to that reality because it means that we have no excuses as we serve him.

So what serious matters does Paul refer to in this chapter? We need to take seriously our contact with the living and true God, we need to take seriously our responsibility to express gratitude to God for other Christians, we need to take seriously the fact that we will appear at the Judgement Seat of Christ, and we need to take seriously the need for relevant prayer about that appearing.