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Thessalonians 5 v 25 Brethren

We are on the home straight this morning as we look at the last 4 verses of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

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.

These are Paul’s final words in what has been a highly instructive letter. It has informed us about the history of one of the early churches. We have found out that the early days of the Christian church were neither easy nor straightforward. So this has been an intensely pastoral letter. We have been given insights into Paul’s Pastor’s heart by some of the things that he said. Paul has taught momentous doctrines in this letter – about evangelism, ministry and worship – and he has passed on to the believers some details of the things to come in the future – connected with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glorious power and might at His second coming. Such things were designed to provide encouragement in trials.

And last time, as we focussed on verse 24 we heard him say how faithful God is in the way that He keeps His children safe – and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will present them blameless one day before His father’s throne.

It would be easy to overlook these last few verses of this letter. We could consign them to the ‘Yours sincerely’ bracket and polite finishing off of a letter.

But they are much more than this as we shall see.

The shape of these last few verses is like this – there are 3 requests and a Benediction.

Paul’s three requests are these.

1. Paul asks for prayers.

25 Brethren, pray for us.

2. Paul asks for affection between believers.

26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

3. Paul asks for their submission to God’s word.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

After this the benediction –

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

1. Paul asks for prayers.

The first of the requests come for the Apostle who Himself has already assured his readers of HIS prayers for them! Notice verse 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.

Earlier in the letter he had said this in 1 Thessalonians 3 v 13

To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Paul was a man of prayer. So often we read of him expressing himself prayerfully for others.

There are three expressions in Romans 15

5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

In the next letter we will read of him saying this in 2 Thessalonians 3 v 16

Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

Paul prayed for the church leaders from Ephesus with these words in Acts 20 v 32

And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

But now Paul asks for prayer – from them – for himself – and for the other workers in the Gospel – Timothy and Silas. As we have prayed for you – so do you also pray for us.

For what was Paul asking prayer? He tells us in his writings. He asks prayer

1. For the ability to preach the Gospel.

Ephesians 6 v 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Colossians 4 v 3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:

Gifted Gospel preacher though he was Paul asks for prayer for his preaching! Preachers need prayers! It is our duty and privilege to pray for Gospel preaching every week in our prayer meetings. These proclaimers of the Word of the Gospel, evangelists and pastors, need to be held up and supported in prayer. Are we taking our responsibility seriously – by being faithful pray-ers for the preaching of God’s word wherever it is preached? We must my brothers and sisters – pray and go on praying for Gospel ministers.

Paul also asks prayer

2. That he may be delivered from unbelievers in Judea.

Romans 15 v 30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;

Valiant and hardy though Paul was, he asked prayer for himself so that he may be delivered from the hostile Jews in his own country. Paul did not consider it beneath his dignity to ask the help of baby Christians. He was a humble man who depended utterly on the grace of God for all that he did in his ministry. The only way that he and the other missionaries could lay hold on that grace was through believing prayer. Someone has said that prayer is not peripheral to Gospel Ministry – a kind of “add-on” to the larger tasks of preaching and teaching, counselling and evangelism. Prayer forms the very heart of the work itself as God’s appointed means of obtaining necessary power.

Paul knew the value of intercessory prayer. He knew that God does not only hear the prayers of individuals offered by ourselves. He also hears the family at prayer for one another. The Lord Jesus Christ encouraged us all in the Disciples’ prayer by using the word US several times – give us this day – forgive us our debts – lead us not into temptation – deliver us from evil. It is not a bad thing to enlist the help of others in asking them to pray for us.

I am very humbled but also thankful for the prayers of the Lord’s people here at Whiddon Valley. Not only do you pray in the pray meetings for me, but you pray at home too. I am so grateful – for I need your prayers!

A 19th Century American pastor, Gardiner Spring wrote these words in a book entitled “A plea to pray for Pastors.”

“Brethren, pray for us, that we may be kept from sin; that we may walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time. (Ephesians 5 v 16); that our hearts may be the more devoted to God, and that our lives may be an impressive example of the Gospel we preach; that we may be more completely equipped for our work and our conflicts, and that we may put on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6). Pray that we may become more faithful and wise to win souls, and that we may discipline our bodies and bring them under subjection.”

This prayer is an indication that Paul knew his own limitations – and therefore he asked for prayer. He needed the believer’s prayers as much as they needed his. He calls them Brethren – and includes the sisters. It was an affectionate address – and is in the continuous tense – in other words he asked that they pray for him continually. May I ask you to continue to pray for me along the lines of these things? When you do you are having a real part in the ministry! Faithful praying people are the secret of every pastor’s ministry.

C. H. Spurgeon who preached to 6,000 souls every Lord’s Day during Queen Victoria’s reign was a man of remarkable gifts. But he was also careful to attribute the blessing that came upon his ministry to the fact that his church, the congregation that met week by week in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, gave itself to prayer.

So I simply echo Paul’s prayer this morning – Brethren – Sisters – pray for me!

2. Paul asks for Affection between believers.

26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

I do not believe as some commentators have suggested in the past, that there was some kind of crisis at Thessalonica that required Paul to encourage the Christians to bury their differences and “kiss and make up!” That is far fetched and is not indicated by either the text or anything that Paul has said in the letter.

Paul wanted ALL the fellowship to be greeted and he wanted no one to be left out.

In fact the original language could be translated like this – “Give everyone there a kiss from me!”

Do you have little people who like to kiss you down the telephone? Children love to send their greetings to you even though you may be a couple of hundred miles away – on the phone. Sometimes I will be told to “Give Grandma a big kiss from me!”

Here Paul is talking about a HOLY KISS. What is this? Not a great deal is known about the practice of kissing in the early church. The Holy Kiss is mentioned several times in the New Testament

Romans 16 v 16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

1 Corinthians 16 v 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.

2 Corinthians 13 v 12 Greet one another with an holy kiss.

Whatever it was it was a custom widely practiced at the time of Paul’s writing. Leon Morris explains that “In the ancient world one kissed the hand, knee or foot of a superior – but one would kiss the cheek of a friend.”

So this kiss was not a Judas kiss used in the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Neither is it the kiss reserved for intimacy between spouses in the privacy of their relationship.

Nor is it the kiss of a loving mother that takes away a little child’s hurts and upsets, and the hug to go with it.

No – the Holy Kiss is a mode of Greeting – which is now translated for us in our culture into ‘shaking hands’.

I found this article which gives some food for thought!

Kissing Promotes a Positive Attitude

If you want to be happy, healthy, successful, and live longer, give your spouse a kiss before you go to work each day. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by a group of German physicians and psychologists, in cooperation with insurance companies. According to Dr. Arthur Sazbo, the study found that those who kiss their spouse each morning miss less work because of illness than those who do not. They also have fewer car accidents on the way to work. They earn 20 to 30 percent more monthly and they live about five years more than those who don’t even give each other a peck on the cheek. The reason for this, says Dr. Sazbo, is that the kissers begin the day with a positive attitude. A kiss signifies a sort of seal of approval, offer Sazbo and his colleagues, and they believe, those who don’t experience it, for whatever reason, go out the door feeling not quite right about themselves. Whether you give this study any credence or not, an au revoir kiss every morning can do you no harm.

Paul was encouraging the Christians at Thessalonica to greet everyone at the church – affectionately and appropriately. Exchanging a Holy Kiss was the norm for people to do at the end of a service of Worship.

We British have a reserve that is rare in other cultures. Before he went into hospital Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinians, could be seen in the main news this week kissing other men as they lined up to meet him. Such kisses are planted on the recipient’s cheek.

This was nearer the practice in the days of the New Testament in the Church. There is some evidence that men kissed other men and women other women at first. Even until recently in some places the women sat on different sides of buildings used for Christian worship when these holy kisses were exchanged. But in later years when men and women exchanged kisses with one another, a degree of unseemly enthusiasm crept in which had to be regulated by the early church Councils.

We shake hands. Eskimos rub noses. Some oriental cultures have the practice of a bow with no physical contact.

But greetings are given. It is right to greet each other – whenever we see each other. So Paul’s words here are not an order to introduce a liturgical practice – but a simple request of Paul the Apostle that the believers show appropriate affection for each other – because through the Lord Jesus Christ they have been made brothers and sisters.

An appropriate greeting Paul says is a token of mutual love for Christian brothers and sisters.

Are we pleased to see each other? Then we can show it in our warm greetings to each other – because that is how Paul felt about the believers to whom he was writing. I send my warmest greetings – make sure everyone knows that! Since we are all equal in God’s sight – since we are brethren and sisters beloved of God and partakers of a common salvation, we need have no reservations about greeting each other warmly – according to Paul.

3. Paul asks for their submission to God’s Word.

27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

It does not sound much like a request – more like an order – I charge you! Some translations have the word ADJURE – to reflect the meaning of the Greek word ENORKIDZOH. The apostle is saying “I bind you by an oath.” I insist that you do what I ask. I appeal to you – I solemnly implore you to comply with this request. This is the strength of our English word adjure. The word is used in 2 others places in the New Testament –

Mark 5 v 6 But when Legion (the man possessed with many devils) saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

What an impertinent threat from these devils! They think that they can bind Jesus by an oath not to torment them!

Of course the Sovereign Lord was completely in control and ignored their appeal – they had no right to be in the man and Jesus released him. But they used this word – adjure – which they had no right to use!

Another occasion is in Acts 19 v 13

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.

On this occasion false exorcists used the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in their oath as they adjured the devils. They appealed to them to leave their victims in the Name of the Lord Jesus. So we can understand the force of the word.

Here in 1 Thessalonians Paul invokes the Name of the Lord God in his request – that this letter should be read in all the churches of holy brethren. Not only should the letter be read – but that it should also be understood – to be recognised as genuine – to be acknowledged as the Word of God through divine revelation. In this way the Epistle would be invested with an authority the same as that of the Old Testament which was read in the Synagogues of the Jews. This dated back to Moses and the divine instructions that came through him –

Deuteronomy 31 v 11 When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

It was reflected in the New Testament in Acts 15 v 21

For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

But the Jews did not have their own personal copies of the Old Testament. They had to wait to hear the word of God as it was read every week in their meetings. There was no printing – so the only alternative was the public reading of God’s word. Paul now comes with his letter and because public reading was the only way of his message being known then it was read to the people in all the churches in a district.

So Paul put the elders at Thessalonica on their honour to ensure that the letter was read. The importance of his message was reflected by the priority of its being read out. Paul was in earnest – and it came through in his writing.

You may wonder why it is our practice here to read portions of scripture week by week. Is it tradition? Is it because “that’s the way we have always done it.”

The Public reading of scripture in the assemblies of God’s people is part of the Biblical Principles regulating our worship.

1 Timothy 4 v 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

The reading of the Word of God is in itself a means of grace. It is read in private – then it is turned into exhortation, consolation and doctrinal teaching.

But part of that process is the actual reading of the scriptures. Some people have been saved – not through the sermon, but through the conviction that came through the word read during a service.

Some people have received inspiration and comfort not through the preaching but through the sensitive reading out of the word of God in worship.

Give attendance – says Paul to Timothy – do not neglect the public reading of scripture.

It is a sad thing that in many churches today there is much singing – but no scripture read out. In others there are drama and sketches, musical interludes – but no scripture read publicly. In yet other churches there is much religious activity – ritual and ceremony – but no scripture and not even any preaching.

We have been charged to read scripture in our services – and receive the blessing that comes through the word of God read.


The Benediction

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

The final thought of this letter reflects one of the first thoughts. In the opening greeting Paul says this – verse 1 of Chapter 1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace is a key word in the Gospel of the New Testament. Indeed it is the heart of the Gospel! It is the GRACE OF THE Lord Jesus Christ – He is the subject of the scriptures and He brings grace to His people. And grace is what you and I need more than anything else this morning!

We need grace to live Christian lives. We need that continuous flow of God’s riches to us to keep us from falling – to keep us believing – to keep us faithful – to keep us holy. We can never tire of being reminded that grace is God’s free and undeserved favour towards us, which is given to us lavishly and unstintingly.

Paul has prayed for us – and now prays in a benediction that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with us. He understood that the Christian life is one saturated with grace. It began with grace – dead souls quickened – it is sustained by grace – living souls nurtured and nourished – and it will be consummated by grace – grace will bring us to heaven!

Grace resides fully only in One person – the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is described in John 1 v 16 as FULL of grace and truth. Paul’s wish is that we should enjoy this grace in abundance – another way of desiring that we will be full of the life and vitality of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. May it be so that we know the grace of the Lord Jesus in our souls in greater measure every day!

But there may be some here who still are ignorant of the grace of God in their lives. How can this be when God has done all that is necessary to deal with the sins of men and women and boys and girls? How is it that you still do not know the effects of God’s grace in your soul today? Have you not heard of Jesus? Have you not seen in Him a glorious and gracious person who is ready to pardon and forgive you your sins? Do you not know what He did in the cross at Calvary – the free gift of salvation was secured for His people there!

Are you not aware that He has the power to judge you and to send you to hell and justly so?

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said these words in Matthew 10 v 28

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Oh my friend this morning – grace abounds for sin and abounds over sin. Why do you delay? What is stopping you?

Go to the One whose grace is free; who loves sinners – who is ready to receive them. May grace move you to seek the Lord with all your heart today!

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