(047)Thesis:The behavior of "believers" is succinctly established by Paul as deriving from the Spirit and consisting of "authentic", "peace-producing", and "faultless" activities.
Introduction:At the root of all of the theology of the New Testament is one reality: Grace. God is at work to fulfill His commitments to people who have put their trust in them without regard for any oppositional activities by men, whether of His own children, or those of His primary adversary. This is a mine-field of problematic issues that require us to be careful how we derive the "solutions".
In Paul's theology, particularly, God's work to fulfill His commitments consists most fundamentally of the present working of His Spirit in the realms of mankind. Just as He made the Life and Death of His Son a make-or-break issue wherein "justification" would rest entirely upon how successfully Jesus pursued His course, so also He has made the present working of His Spirit a make-it-or-break-it issue in terms of whether, or not, He would fulfill His commitments to Abraham and to Jesus in the spirit of Galatians 3:16. Promises have been made; it is up to the present working of the Spirit to see to it that they are kept.
This evening we are going to look into the way that Paul characterized the present working of the Spirit in the pursuit of God's agenda and commitments.
I. At The Root.
A. There are eleven verses in 1 Thessalonians that contain the verb translated "we behaved".
1. It is so translated because there are three adverbs associated with it that insist that "behavior" is in view.
2. But it is necessary for us to keep one fact in mind: though Paul is primarily focused upon the quality of his activity among the Thessalonians, he insists that his readers remain focused upon the root of that activity.
a. In the New Testament there are two major constructs regarding how men are to "produce" quality behavior.
1) The importance of the "debate" is clearly seen in Galatians.
2) The hands down "winner" of this "debate" is "Grace" as opposed to "Law".
b. Everywhere the behavior of believers is under serious study in the New Testament, the issue is God being "at work" to fulfill His commitments to those who trust Him.
c. The conclusion is one: "Grace" is the production of the "Fruit" of the Spirit in the lives of those who "walk by the Spirit".
d. It is imperative that we keep the characterization of "the fruit of the Spirit" clear: it is His fruit and never ours.
3. The only "sticking point" is the one raised by Paul in 3:5.
a. In this text Paul uses his "made to become" verb for the last time in this letter.
b. At issue is one matter: whether Paul's "Spirit-directed" (made to become) labors would be "made to become" vain.
1) This issue involved three crucial matters.
a) It involves Paul's commitment of his own soul to the Thessalonians (2:8): this means he has something of great significance to "lose" if his labors prove to be made vain.
b) It involves the reality of a "tempter" whose own labors are related to whether, or not, he was going to be the soul-loser.
c) It involves the base-line issue that determines any person's actual success, or failure: whether, or not, "faith" survives.
i. In the definition of "grace" by which I teach, "grace" is God doing for us what He requires of us and then giving us the "credit" for its accomplishment when we "believe" Him.
ii. There can be no diminishing of this issue: men simply must believe in order to become what God intends.
iii. But this does not mean that God has left His own integrity up in the air by reason of the necessity of man's "faith" ("faith" is, after all, not a grace-less entity).
iv. What it does mean is that, in any/every given situation, the individuals involved are only identifiably a part of God's integrity by the proof of "faith".
2) This issue actually settles at the point of the "who" that turns out to be the most "persuasive" to those being "tempted": the Spirit, or the tempter.
a) Thus, Paul is emphatic about the "evidence"; thus the continual "you know" focus.
b) Thus, the letter itself with its emphasis in this extended paragraph wherein the "evidence" is the quality of the lives of the messengers: the fruit of the faith of the messengers.
II. In View of The Fruit.
A. Paul argues that there are two witnesses to how "holily" Paul's "made to become" behavior actually was (the NASB uses the term "devoutly" in the place of the AV's awkward "holily").
1. The word translated "holily" is an adverbial form (only used this one time in the New Testament) of an adjective (often used as an adjectival noun) that is used eight times in the New Testament, four of which are complicated.
a. The first complication is its use in Acts 2:27 and 13:35.
1) The complication consists of the fact that the "Holy" one seems inescapably to be a reference to the physical body: the verses argue for a literal, physical, resurrection.
2) The question is why these texts call the body, "thine holy one".
3) The answer seems to be that the focus upon the physical realm is necessary for the instruction of created, less-than-omniscient, persons whose understanding is tied to the use of the physical realm as a shadow of good things to come (John 3:12).
4) Thus, though the body is the least of the aspects of the being of the Holy One, it is not dismissable because it is the only way "holiness" can be seen by human observers.
b. The second complication is its use in Acts 13:34 where the Authorized Version translators opt for "mercies" in respect to the meaning involved.
1) In what sense can "holy" be taken as "mercy"?
2) The question is the identification of what is to be "given" in the text.
3) The answer seems to be that "what" is promised are the "benefits" that arise out of those "believable commitments" that God made to David, one of which is resurrection.
c. The third complication is Revelation 16:5 where the word is translated as a future tense of the verb "to be".
d. The conclusion seems to be thus: used as a noun, the adjective pushes the idea that God has created a "holy one" in a form that begins with a body (Hebrews 10:5) that will be the visible evidence of the invisible truths of God.
2. Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon says that this word refers to "intrinsic rightness" that produces "extrinsic behavior".
3. The outstanding issue is the actual meaning of "holiness".
a. For me, "holiness" is the same concept as 1 John's "in Him is no darkness at all" which I take to mean "no overlapping, canceling" of the attributes of God (Justice is not "canceled" by Grace even though its outcome is denied in respect to the actual sinners who might have been condemned by it).
b. The outworking is, thus, that God is never in a quandary about which attribute to exercise in every given particular situation.
4. This fits Paul's argument in two ways.
a. The Thessalonians could only see the physical evidence arising out of the "bodies" of the messengers, so they were witnesses of the "holily" pursued behavior as behavior that had its roots internally.
b. God was the witness of the internal reality that was producing the "holily" pursued acts.
c. What they both "witnessed" was a man completely "balanced" in his activities among the Thessalonians.