The meaning of gracious calling
1 Thessalonians 4:7-18; 9/19/2021; BCBC/IOUC; Rev. Paul Wang
God calls us, it is grace. Therefore, the essence of the relationship between God and man is His gracious calling. Through God’s call to Abraham, God let us see His will of salvation. Through the call to Moses, God let us see the act of salvation. Through the call to His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ, we see hope! Today, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul shows us the meaning of gracious calling. Let’s look at the first point:
Hold on to holiness
When Moses and God met on Mount Sinai, God asked him to take off his shoes. Why? God said: Because you are standing in a holy place! First, holiness is the nature of God. When we understand holiness, we may only discuss it from the perspective of humanistic morality and ethics. We may have overlooked that holiness is the nature of God. How can we put it? Holiness is closely related to God’s eternity, goodness, and omnipotence. He is the beginning, he is the end, the omnipotent, all-knowing, all-good, and powerful Lord! He is unchanging, and will never change! Human sin is like a drop in the ocean in God’s eternity, almost negligible! Man’s rebellion against God does not affect God’s salvation of man. Therefore, in this process of salvation, the encounter between God and man reveals the holy nature of God. Why do God’s elect offer sacrifices? Why do believers pray in the name of the Lord Jesus? All because He is holy!
Second, filth is rebellion against the Holy Spirit. When we believe in the Lord and come to God, we will inevitably bring our old self, right? Therefore, Paul exhorts us to say: For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:7) If our old selves do not change, but come into the body of Christ, we will not only defile ourselves, but will contaminate everyone with each other. This is what Jesus said about the leaven of the Pharisees. Can you understand it? It is not the worst for men to have sin or filth, the key is not willing to repent! Paul said, Who is weak and I am not weak? The Holy Spirit keeps reminding us, why do you always reject His reminders? God will remind us through our Bible reading, prayer, listening to sermon, discipleship, and exhortation, do you still continue to rebel?
Finally, loving one another is the result of holiness. When Paul was in Thessalonica, he was persecuted by the local Jews. There are whistleblowers, rumors, slanderers, and solicitors. Even some Christians of Jewish background participated in the incitement of Jewish nationalism, joined sin and walked with the world. The spiritual community began to split, some belonged to Paul, and some belonged to others. Turn a blind eye to Paul’s teaching, and even reject it. Paul said, do you think you are rejecting people? No, it is rejecting God who gave you the Holy Spirit! Could you please turn back and understand the Lord’s exhortation with the great love of Christ? The core of holiness is that people of God love each other in Christ and glorify the name of the Lord! When we have a rift in our hearts, the Lord’s love and the Lord’s way leave us! Let’s look at the second point:
Live a quiet life
It seems unusual for Paul to mention all of Macedonia when talking about the second point of quiet living! Paul said: And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, (1 Thessalonians 4:10) What exactly is Paul talking about? First of all, bid farewell to the bondage of the old self. Macedonians’ attachment to Greek culture is somewhat close to our Chinese’s attachment to Chinese civilization. Philip II even invited Aristotle to be a teacher for his son Alexander, creating the greatest conqueror of the ancient Greek Empire and bringing the borders of the Macedonian Empire to its peak. We may not know that the borders of Macedonia even reached today’s Afghanistan, bordering China. Can you feel the restlessness in the hearts of Macedonians due to historical pride? Paul’s exhortation to them is simple: and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11) The Bible says: Be quiet and know that the Lord is God! How about you? Do you know that Jehovah is God? It’s not easy to say goodbye to the restless old me, and there are many bindings, right?
Second, live out the style of a new creation. Understanding the Macedonians can be seen from the relationship between the Qin and Zhou dynasties during the Spring, Autumn and Warring States period in China. Macedonians’ love and acceptance of Greek culture is the same as Qin’s admiration for the civilization of the Central Plains. The First Emperor of Qin unified the writings, and Philip, the second is to admire the Hellenization of the whole Macedonia, which has the same beauty in the same way. The difference is that Greek literature, art, technology, and mathematics have become the pioneers that will dominate Europe and even the world’s civilization in the future. At the same time, it has become the pride of Macedonia! People’s inner pride, exaggeration, and arrogance can still be seen as some clues to this day. Paul said: so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1Thessalonians 4:12)
Finally, the hope of resurrection from the dead. David said: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Macedonia is the second circum-Mediterranean empire since the Persian Empire, spanning three continents:Europe, Asia, and Africa. People’s dreams of great powers are always alive, and the dreams of blue bridges are broken, and they often come back to life! Paul taught them, what about this? How can all the achievements of the world be compared with Christ’s resurrection from the dead? What about the great territory of the nation? What about having a great dream? Won’t you still die anyway? Alexander the Great, the latecomer, had his hands out of the coffin when he died, telling the world that the great glory of my life is correct. Isn’t it also empty-handed when I die? Even if you earn the whole world and lose your life, what good is it? Let’s look at the third point:
Waiting for rapture
Resurrection is the core of our faith. Paul said that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, what we believe is in vain! If Christ had not been resurrected, His gracious calling would lose its meaning! First, the meaning of death has been rewritten. Lazarus has been dead for three days, and the body has stinked. Jesus said to Mary: Your brother is asleep! Describing death as asleep is the first creation of Jesus Christ. What a grand victory this is! Apart from the Lord Jesus who experienced death and resurrected from the dead, Who else can claim as such? The heaviest death curse of mankind has now become a “joke” because of faith! The sting of death, where are you? People of God, shouldn’t you all cheer for joy?
Secondly, we will meet the Lord in the air. Those who do not believe in the Lord have two deaths and one life, and those who believe in the Lord have two lives and one death. the death of the body and the eternal death of the soul. In two lives, one is born in the mother’s womb, while believing in the Lord is to be born again from God. Jesus said, Life is with me, and the resurrection is with me! He said that those who believe in me will also be resurrected! When the Lord returns, those who have died because of faith in Jesus Christ, whom God calls those who have fallen asleep, will return with the Lord! If the Lord came back today, those of you who have believed in the Lord and have not died will be caught up in the clouds and meet the Lord in the air! From then on, we will be with the Lord forever! This is our hope! Excuse me, is this also your hope?
Finally, use these words to encourage each other. Paul said: Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18) Why? Because we have suffering in the world, right? The suffering is coming, can we stand the test? The persecution is coming, are there any renegade? The temptation is coming, can you stand it? Real money is placed in front of you, can your heart not move? Is your heart valuable? Can it be bought? What does the Lord’s call mean to you? Are you willing to be faithful to death for the Lord’s sake? If the call of the Lord comes to you, what is your response?
Have you received the meaning of the call? The holiness of the Lord is the disposition of God. Are you willing to imitate it? In quietness and trust is a promise of strength, and waiting for rapture is the best hope in our life!
Let us pray……