25th of the 12th month 2015/2016
Tas’loniqim Aleph/1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 “We give thanks to Elohim always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of the belief, and the labour of love, and the endurance of the expectation in our Master יהושע Messiah in the presence of our Elohim and Father, 4 knowing, brothers beloved by Elohim, that you were chosen.”
In the introduction of his letter to the believers in Thessalonica Sha’ul expressed a very powerful encouragement that would cause the hearers to be reminded of the clear qualities of a true chosen and set-apart one, which they indeed had been displaying. He reminded them that they, that is Sha’ul, Silas and Timotiyos, had not stopped giving thanks to Elohim for their work of the belief, their labour of love and their endurance of their expectation in our Master יהושע Messiah.
This was certainly a very encouraging introduction indeed and I would like to briefly look at a couple of these words in order for us to understand and recognise some of the very important qualities or character traits that ought to be evident in the lives of the chosen and set-apart people of Elohim!
What we see from these words is the clear fact that Sha’ul highlights the following:
1) Work of the belief
2) Labour of love
3) Endurance of the expectation (hope).
Work, labour and endurance without proper belief, love and expectation is fruitless, however with the proper work of the belief, labour of love and endurance of the expectation we have in our Master, we ought to bear fruit that lasts. Our Master warns us against false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are savage wolves, and He tells us that we shall know them by their fruits. This tells us a great deal in recognising that all of us shall be known by our fruits and therefore we must ask ourselves if the proper fruit of belief, labour and expectation is being seen in our work, labour and endurance or not.
Work of the belief!
The Greek word that is used here for ‘work’ is ἔργον ergon – Strong’s G2041 which means, ‘works, labour, business, employment, behaviour, deeds’. In Mattithyahu/Matthew 5 our Master יהושע Messiah tells us that we are the light of the world and that we must not hide the light, but that we should shine the light of His Truth in everything we do, and that our light should shine before all men, so that they see our good works and praise our Father who is in the heavens! Guess what the very next words of the Master are, after telling us to let our ‘good works’ be seen by all….:
Mattithyahu/Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete.”
The clarity of His words is made plain in telling us that we shall be unable to let our good works be seen by all if we destroy the Torah and the Prophets! In other words, works done without the perfection of the Torah are not deemed ‘good works’ by our Elohim, no matter how good they may seem in the eyes of the flesh!
The Greek word for ‘belief’ is πίστις pistis – Strong’s G4102 which means, ‘faith, faithfulness, pledge, conviction of the Truth’ which comes from the primary root verb πείθω peithō – Strong’s G3982 which means, ‘to persuade, to put confidence in, to follow, have confidence and rely upon’.
Ya’aqoḇ tells us that belief without works is dead, and what he is clearly teaching us is that any works done outside of the proper confidence and reliance that we are to have on the Torah of Elohim that teaches, leads and directs us are lawless and dead works.
Labour of love!
The Greek word that is translated as ‘labour’ is κόπος kópos – Strong’s G2873 which means, ‘labour, toil, trouble, wearisome effort’, and this word is used to denote not so much the actual exertion which a man makes, but the weariness which he experiences from that exertion. What this teaches us is that a proper labour of love takes great effort and a lot of hard work, which most are unwilling to do, especially as we understand this in terms of the proper labour of love!
This Greek word for love is ἀγάπη agape – Strong’s G26 which means, ‘brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence, love feasts’, and comes from the verb ἀγαπάω agapaō – Strong’s G25 which means, ‘to love, welcome and entertain, be fond of, to be contented at or with a thing’. While many may think that they know what love means, Scripture makes it very clear to us what ‘the love for Elohim’ is:
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of Elohim, when we love Elohim and guard His commands. 3 For this is the love for Elohim, that we guard His commands, and His commands are not heavy”
To pursue love for Elohim is to run in the way of His commands, and flee all lawlessness and sin!
This Greek word for love is ἀγάπη agape – Strong’s G26 and is used 9 times in the 13 verses of Chapter 13 in Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians!!! This both expresses the love that Elohim has for us, as well as what we ought to have for Him, as we faithfully obey His commands. This is the kind of love that we are to express in our daily lives toward each other, as a body that is being knit together in Messiah!
Endurance of the expectation!
The Greek word that is translated as ‘endurance’ is ὑπομονή hupomonē – Strong’s G5281 which means, ‘a patient enduring, steadfastness, perseverance, a remaining behind’, and this word comes from the Greek word ὑπομένω hupomenō – Strong’s G5278 which means, ‘to stay behind, to await, endure’, which comes from the two words: 1) ὑπό hupo – Strong’s G5259 which means ‘under, in subjection to’, and 2) μένω menō – Strong’s G3306 and means, ‘to stay, abide, remain, stand’ – this word is the word used in Yoḥanan/John 15 where we are told to ‘stay in, remain in’ Messiah!
As faithful talmidim (disciples) of Messiah, we recognise that while He ascended to the Most Set-Apart Place, where He continually intercedes for us as our High Priest, we need to endure and be steadfast in staying in Him, as we walk in subjection to His clear Torah, bearing the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Ḥazon/Revelation also repeatedly reminds us, in relation to what is to come in the days ahead, the clear call for the faithful endurance of the part of the set-apart ones.
Endurance is the ability to stay true to the Truth – keeping your eyes fixed on the Prince and Perfector of our faith and running with great perseverance the race set before you.
The Greek word translated here as ‘expectation’ is – ἐλπίς elpis – Strong’s G1680 which means, ‘expectation or hope’, and also carries the understanding of having a ‘joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation’, and is also used to describe and define who the author of hope is, and in terms of the sure expectation of eternal salvation it can also be understood as meaning, ‘he who is its foundation’. An expectation can either be good or bad and therefore it can represent either hope or fear. Hope, as an expectation of good, is closely linked with trust, and expectation can also be understood as an urgent longing, in which the element of patient waiting or fleeing for refuge is emphasised. We recognise this truth as we put our complete trust and hope in our Master and Elohim, יהושע Messiah – our Saviour!
In our patient waiting we are called to a faithful endurance in which our expectation in our Great Saviour and King shall not fail, as long as we stay in Him and flee all whoring, idolatry and lusts of the youth and remain steadfast in pursuing righteousness.
Tas’loniqim Aleph/1 Thessalonians 5:8 “But we who are of the day should be sober, putting on the breastplate of belief and love, and as a helmet the expectation of deliverance.”
We are to put of the breastplate of belief and love, and as a helmet – the expectation of deliverance!!!
In this first letter to the believers in Thessalonica we take note that Sha’ul confirms that they had displayed the proper work, labour and expectation, as we see how he tells them of the report that they had received about this assembly from the believers in Makedonia and Achaia:
Tas’loniqim Aleph/1 Thessalonians 1:8 “For they themselves report what kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to Elohim from idols, to serve the living and true Elohim, 10 and to wait for His Son from the heavens, whom He raised from the dead, יהושע, who is delivering us from the wrath to come.”
These two verses give us clear evidence of the good fruit that was being seen, as we take note of the following:
1) The work of belief – this was seen in how they had turned to Elohim from idols! The true work of the belief is seen in the putting away of all idolatry and false worship that we were brought up in!
2) The labour of love – this was seen in how they served the living and true Elohim. True service and love for Elohim can only be rendered when the proper working of belief is taking place through the diligent guarding of the Torah and commands!
3) The endurance of expectation – they continued to expectantly wait for the return of our Master and Elohim, יהושע Messiah, through a faithful endurance of loving obedience!
This is the collective quality of true chosen and set-apart ones!
The Greek word that is translated here as ‘chosen’ is ἐκλογή eklogḗ – Strong’s G1589 which means, ‘to choose, select, election, chosen’, and is generally used to describe a chosen vessel as an instrument of usefulness!
Kěpha tells us in:
Kěpha Bět/2 Peter 1:10 “For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to make firm your calling and choosing, for if you are doing these matters you shall never stumble at all”
We are to do our utmost to make firm our calling and choosing! The matters that we are to be doing in order to never stumble are: “… to add to your belief uprightness, to uprightness knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control endurance, to endurance reverence, to reverence brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection love.”
He tells us that if these are in us and increase, they will cause us to be neither inactive nor without fruit in the knowledge of our Master יהושע Messiah.
The Body of Messiah is an assembly of chosen and set-apart people, and these are the qualities or character traits that must always be evident in our daily lives as we stay in our Master and bear fruit that lasts!
Work, labour and endurance is exactly all that!!! It is work and laborious and requires intense endurance without fading, drifting of giving up! In his letter to the Assembly at Corinth, Sha’ul goes into a deeper detail of what love is, which we have expanded upon in the past; and in Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 13:13 he states that these three core characteristics that we have been talking about will remain:
Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now belief, expectation, and love remain – these three. But the greatest of these is love.”
Why is love the greatest! Well, Sha’ul clearly explained what love is and for more on this please see the notes from the message I gave called, “WHAT IS LOVE?” which you can find on our site (Http://atfotc.com) under the ‘sermons 2013-2014’ menu or simply by clicking on the following link:
Without a proper labour of love and by that I mean without a proper life of committed obedience to Elohim one’s works and endurance will fail! The sad reality is that many start out great and are extremely fervent in doing what is commanded, however they fall away when endurance that is called for seems too hard and the labour of obedience becomes too hard to remain steadfast in, under the persecution of others and the pressures of world. Unbelievers display the exact opposite to what Sha’ul is identifying the chosen with as we take note that while the chosen and true believers in Messiah display proper belief, love and expectation, those who neglect to walk in His Torah and cast His Word behind them walk in unbelief, hatred and despair.
It is with this in mind that I would like us to consider these excellent qualities of the true chosen that Sha’ul said that the believers in Thessalonica displayed, as a backdrop for us to take a closer look at the words of our Master that were given to the assembly in Ephesos! Turn with me to Ḥazon/Revelation 2:1-7 (Read)
This is the 1st of the 7 assemblies that are addressed in Ḥazon/Revelation, and we have, in the past, already discussed in detail the other 6. Tonight I want us to look at the very powerful call to remembrance that is being given here to this assembly.
This assembly in Ephesos could have basically been described as the careless assembly or the backsliding assembly. This was an assembly that had fallen from its election as a chosen people by losing their grip on the required love, belief and expectation in the Master that must be clung to continually, no matter the circumstances!
Sha’ul brought the Besorah to Ephesos and stayed there for 3 years, and later sent Timotiyos to oversee the assembly here. Yoḥanan, in his later years, moved to Ephesos – and this once very vibrant assembly had lost its first love! Sha’ul’s letter to the Ephesians was written at least 35 years after Sha’ul had established this assembly, which teaches us how quickly true fervent and zealous love can grow cold. In this message to Ephesos in Ḥazon/Revelation a clear rebuke was given to this assembly for the fact that they had grown cold and was commanded to remember from where they had fallen, repent and repeat their first works as they had lost their first love!
What/who is our first love?
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”
How did He first love us?
Yoḥanan/John 3:16 “For Elohim so loved the world that He gave His only brought-forth Son, so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but possess everlasting life.”
In Yoḥanan/John 15 Messiah clearly tells us that we did not choose Him, but He chose us and appointed us to bear fruit! The only way we can bear the true fruit of righteousness is to be grafted into the true root of righteousness, by the Blood of the Lamb; by the Blood of our Righteous Redeemer and King, יהושע Messiah. One thing Ephesos had going for them at this stage, was that they hated the works of the Nikolaites. The word Νικολαΐτης Nikolaitēs – Strong’s G3531 means, ‘destruction of the people’, who were a sect of people that were charged with adhering to the teaching of Bilʽam and causing the people of Elohim to stumble! It is one thing to hate falsehood, yet love for the Truth must not grow cold or lost
The name of the city of Ἔφεσος Ephesos – Strong’s G2181 is of an uncertain origin yet is believed to have the meaning, ‘permitted, permissible’, which I find very interesting as we consider how much was permitted to go on in the assembly!
Ephesos was considered to be the most important commercial city of Asia Minor, and was the capital of Ionia on the western coast of Asia Minor between Smyrna and Miletus. The city was surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the west by the Icarian Sea. Ephesos was a very wealthy city. It boasted the
In the message given to the believers in Ephesos they were commended for their works, labour and endurance and that they had not become weary. These words are remarkable when one considers how challenging it must have been for the early believers to live and minister in Ephesos. The ruins of this city enable us to better understand the faith of the early believers who lived there, and help us discover what gave them the strength to testify of Messiah so diligently in such an unlikely place.
In the ancient world this was the centre of travel and commerce and was considered as the crown jewel of Asia Minor.
It had a population of nearly 250,000 people and was home to more than twenty pagan temples. Artistic beauty, cultural learning, erotic pagan worship, world trade, criminal activity, and sorcery flourished amidst great wealth.
As residents of one of the most sophisticated cities of the Roman Empire, the Ephesians enjoyed such luxuries as running water, indoor toilets, fountains, gardens surrounded by magnificent columns, colonnaded streets paved with marble, gymnasiums and baths, a library, and a theatre that could seat an estimated twenty-five thousand people.
At the heart of the city’s life and economy was the worship of Artemis, the ancient fertility goddess. The temple dedicated to Artemis was 450 feet long, 220 feet wide, had more than 120 columns sixty feet high and was one of the seven wonders of the entire world. Because it was believed that Artemis was considered to be so powerful and protective of her temple, people from all over the world deposited money there, which in turn was loaned out at a high rate of interest. Thus the Ephesians became extremely wealthy and naturally were very protective of the goddess who they believed had made them successful, powerful, and rich.
It took passionate commitment and courage for the early believers to stand up for their beliefs and face some serious persecution amidst this pagan centred culture. The believers of Ephesos publicly spoke out for יהושע Messiah and lived for Him in a loving way. They endured great hardships for the Name of יהושע and never became weary of living for Him.
The implications of Sha’ul’s teachings at Ephesos were huge, as the Ephesians realised that if what Sha’ul and other true believers in Messiah shared was indeed the truth, then Artemis and the other pagan deities of Ephesus that were worshipped were worthless and the city’s entire belief system, economy, and lifestyle could collapse. As a result, Sha’ul and other believers in Ephesos began to face intense opposition. So much so that unless they bore the ‘mark’ of pagan beliefs by living out those beliefs in daily life, true set-apart believers were viewed as second-class citizens. They were hated and severely persecuted. You can read Ma’asei/Acts 19 in regards to the uprising that was stirred against Sha’ul by the idol makers in Ephesos.
By the time Yoḥanan went to Ephesos the Roman Emperor Domitian had the upper hand in attracting the religious loyalties of the Ephesians. Demanding that people worship him as a god, Domitian insisted on being called ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ by everyone, including his wife. The Ephesians built huge structures dedicated to Domitian, including a prominent temple designed to be the world centre of Domitian worship. One of its features was a twenty-seven-foot-tall statue of Domitian. Anyone approaching the city by sea or by land could see the temple and its statue and know that the Ephesians, as a whole, believed Domitian to be king of the gods. Along the city streets, altars reminded the people of Domitian’s lordship and their allegiance to him. Once a year, the people had to say publicly in front of the altar, ‘Caesar is Lord’. Anyone who didn’t recognize Domitian’s lordship was sentenced to be put to death.
Why I am mentioning some of this history is to highlight how extremely tough it was for true believers to stay lovingly committed to living set-apart lives and not falling prey to the false pagan worship customs that were being enforced as law. It took courageous faith and passionate commitment for the early believers to stand up for their beliefs in the face of this ‘mark of the beast’ that they faced each and every day. Despite serious persecution, which included the denial to conduct business in the markets and obtain water from public fountains, the chosen set-apart ones of Messiah publicly spoke out for יהושע and lived for Him in a loving way. They endured great hardships for יהושע and never became weary of living for him.
Many may ask then, if they had this much commitment in their work, labour and endurance, why did the Master then say that the one thing He had held against them was that they had lost their first love? He was challenging them to look at the way that they had been living and that they were to get back to the fervent love that they had in the beginning. Many, under prolonged periods of persecution, may hold firm to their works of belief and do their utmost at not compromising the Way of set-apartness, yet their love sometimes grows cold and under the onslaught of persecution they are so busy being consumed with their own lives that they neglect the proper love and commitment that should be shown toward one another.
Yoḥanan/John 13:35 “By this shall all know that you are My taught ones, if you have love for one another.”
In order to live consistently and publicly for יהושע, as faithful ambassadors of His reign, they needed to believe in Him and care about each other. Messiah quotes Deḇarim/Deuteronomy 6:5 in Mattithyahu/Matthew 22:37 when He was making it clear that we are to love יהוה our Elohim with all our heart, all our mind and all our strength, and while we know this to be true we take note that in many passages of Scripture we recognise the love we have and show for one another is a certain sign that we love Elohim!
The love we have for Elohim is what makes the body or community of Messiah distinguishably different from those who do not love Elohim, or so it should! Sadly this is not the case in the world today as we see more loyalty being expressed to each other in worldly groups and associations while the fellowship of believers is often riddled with backbiting, slander and gossip, and this should not be so! We can understand why we see in Sha’ul’s letter to Ephesians the clear encouragement to love one another and the encouragement to build and guard the unity of the assembly.
The love that the initial believers in Ephesos had for one another may be one of the primary reasons that the whole of Asia Minor heard of the Good News that Sha’ul had taught there, as they lived as they should, working, labouring and enduring in the belief, love and expectation of Messiah.
Losing their first love highlights the clear fact that divisions had occurred and that the believers were no longer displaying the proper love for one another. They had certainly held fast to their belief and had not been swayed by false teachings yet the display of their first love was lacking. They had left the first love that they had!
The Greek word used for ‘left’ is ἀφίημι aphiēmi – Strong’s G863 which means, ‘to send away, leave alone, abandon, divorce, forsake, to disregard’, and can also carry the meaning, ‘give up a debt, forgive, give up or keep no longer’.
What is clear is that they were abandoning one another and not defending one another against persecutions that were being faced, either from the wicked culture of the day or from the Nikolaites who taught falsehood and brought in divisions among the true set-apart chosen ones!
This was an assembly that certainly showed great endurance and works of belief yet their love for one another was clearly lacking and the Master rebukes them for this and commands them to REMEMBER from where they had fallen.
The Greek word that is translated as ‘remember’ is μνημονεύω mnēmoneuō – Strong’s G3421 which means, ‘remember, bring to mind, recall, think about, remember and mention’. They were to bring to mind the position from where they had fallen from in order for them to realise the need to get back to that first position they had in the Master!
The Greek word for ‘fallen’ is πίπτω piptō – Strong’s G4098 which means, ‘to fall, break down, fail, fallen, be destroyed’, and what is interesting to take note of here is that this word is translated in Sha’ul’s letter to the Corinthians as ‘fails’ when he explained what love is and said in Qorintiyim Aleph/1 Corinthians 13:8 that “Love never fails”!!!
True love never fails or falls, yet the rebuke being given here to this assembly is that it had and they needed to repent of this and return to doing the first works of love!
The Greek word for ‘repent’ is μετανοέω metanoeō – Strong’s G3340 which means, ‘to change one’s mind or purpose, to repent, relent’ and involves a complete change in one’s attitude and thought. They had to change their loveless attitude toward one another and make a serious turn around to get back to what they should be doing, and that was to love one another, as they guard the Truth and walk in the Truth without compromise!
Do the first works!
The Greek word translated as ‘do’ here is ποιέω poieō – Strong’s G4160 which means, ‘to make, do, accomplish, keep, work, acts’. A derivative of this word is ποιητής poiētēs – Strong’s G4163 which means, ‘a doer, a maker’, and is seen in:
Ya’aqoḇ/James 1:22-25 “And become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror, 24 for he looks at himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what he was like. 25 But he that looked into the perfect Torah, that of freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer that forgets, but a doer of work, this one shall be blessed in his doing of the Torah.”
The word translated as ‘doing’ (of the Torah) is also a derivative of ποιέω poieō and is the word ποίησις poiēsis – Strong’s G4162 which means, ‘deed, making, doing, performing, in his doing (in the obedience he renders the law)’.
These verses are very clear in telling us that the true hearer of the word guards it and performs it, as his obedience renders the law under which he submits!
Doing the Word involves a proper loving of one another as the body covers and protects each other from the falsehood and trickery of those who claim to know Elohim yet deny Him in their confession and works!
This assembly had tried those who said that they were emissaries but were not, so they were diligent in testing the confession and beliefs of many who claimed to be servants of Elohim and they had hated the work of the Nikolaites that oppressed people with falsehood, yet what was needed here was a love within the body to be properly restored!
What is clear here is that this assembly was certainly very diligent in testing and proving whether those who claimed to be emissaries were true sent ones or not and would therefore not put up with false hypocrites who claimed to be ambassadors of the Master, yet what this assembly had fallen from and now lacked was the ability to love one another, which includes defending and protecting one another and building each other up in the Most Set-apart faith!
This message is as alive for us today as it was to the hearers back then, as we see the urgent rebuke and call of our Master to His True Bride who confess who He is to get back to loving as they should and this involves everything that love is, as Sha’ul taught to the believers in Corinth! I am sure that what we find in the world today is what went on back then for there is nothing new under the sun, as Shelomoh so discovered in seeking out wisdom in all matters!
Today we find that the love and unity that ought to be displayed within fellowship groups that the Master is building is lacking at times and more loyalty and love is shown to those who are outside while those inside and neglecting one another and as a result the body is suffering harm, which needs to be repaired and restored with a proper restoration of true fervent love for one another!
יהושע warns this assembly that if they did not remember, repent and do the first works, that He would come quickly and remove their lampstand! This was a serious warning that needed to be heeded and one that is to be heeded today!
Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 1:6-7 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and are not doing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of יהושע Messiah His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Perhaps the reason that this once fervent assembly had lost their first love was due to them permitting things that should never have been permissible; and therefore we must take some vital lessons from this message and do our utmost at making our calling and choosing firm and remember the love we ought to have for one another as we do not permit that which is not of Elohim and do not permit that which denies Him but grow steadfast in our work of belief, labour of love and endurance of the expectation we have in the only One True Master and Elohim, יהושע Messiah!
As we consider this message that contains both encouragement and rebuke, how do you measure up as you look intently into the mirror of the Words of our Master? Sha’ul warns against those who do not take warning from the examples that have been written for us in the Word and the one who thinks he stands should take heed lest he fall!
This message given to the assembly in Ephesos is one of love for one another, and so I will close by reading from a chapter that clearly teaches us about the love we are to have for one another and highlights how we are to know the Spirit of Elohim and therefore recognise who is of Elohim and who is not: Turn with me to Yoḥanan Aleph/1 John 4 (Read).
The call to Ephesos, the assembly that “permitted” much and in the process allowed love to fall from a steadfast position of never failing, is this:
REMEMBER – REPENT – AND DO THE FIRST WORKS!
He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies!
יהוה bless you and guard you; יהוה make His face shine upon you and show favour to you; יהוה lift up His face to and give you shalom!