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Engaging the Pro-Life Battle

January 23, 2022

Teacher: Daniel Baker
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Engaging the Pro-Life Battle

1 Thessalonians 5:1–18 – Sanctity of Life Sunday – Jan 23, 2022

Introduction

Reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:1–18.

Since 1984 one Sunday in January has been designated as the Sanctity of Life Sunday or Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. “Sanctity” means holy or something of ultimate importance.

It’s scheduled around January 22nd, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the US.

This year the anniversary feels different because of another case before the Supreme Court often just called Dobbs. It’s short for Thomas E. Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health, et al., Petitioners v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, et al. The case was argued before SCOTUS on Dec 1st.

The case based on a Mississippi law banning abortions past 15 weeks “except in medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality.”

The oral arguments were encouraging, and it seems like maybe SCOTUS will overturn all or most of the Roe v. Wade 1973 decision. Continue to pray for a positive decision! Until the decision is handed down we won’t know for sure.

This morning we want to think about what it means to ENGAGE THE PRO-LIFE BATTLE.

We’re using a passage of Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 5:1–18, and asking, “WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO TEACH US ABOUT ENGAGING IN THIS BATTLE?”

Some context:

  • After Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 Paul begins 2nd missionary journey.
  • Assumption was Paul and Barnabas again, but couldn’t agree on John Mark so went different directions.
  • Paul and Silas begin the journey.
  • Soon meet Timothy in Lystra and impressed enough to bring him as well.
  • Eventually to Thessalonica.
  • Significant city effectively the capital of Macedonia.
  • Ministry here part of responding to Paul’s Macedonian call (Acts 16:9–10).
  • After evangelism and church planting there, group leaves.
  • Send Timothy back to get a report on how they’re doing (1 Thess 3:6).
  • Based on that, Paul/Silas/Tim write 1 Thess from Corinth (Acts 18:11).
  • 2nd letter from hand of Paul, Galatians being first.

Sermon: How we engage the pro-life battle:

  • We battle as children of light with our eyes wide open
  • We battle as members of Christ’s church
  • We battle as each situation demands
  • We battle by doing good and being joyful, prayerful, and thankful

Prayer

I. We Battle as Children of Light with Our Eyes Wide Open

1 Thessalonians 5:1–11.

First we’re given a reminder of “the times and the seasons” (V1).

  • “Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (V2).
  • While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (V3)
  • SUDDEN AND INESCAPABLE

Paul uses image of “thief in the night” to point to who we are: For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. (V5)

Act like what you are: “So then…let us keep awake and be sober” (V6); “Since we belong to the day, let us be sober” (V8).

Why we are:

  • We have “breastplate of faith and love,” “helmet” of “the hope of salvation” (V8).
  • We are “not destined for wrath” (V9).
  • Same verb in John 15:16 (“appointed”) and 1 Peter 2:8 (“destined”):

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Pet 2:8)

  • Verb speaks to God’s active determination to save and deliver from wrath.
  • Then we see HOW we escape such wrath: “through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…so that…we might live with him” (V10).

Speaking these truths to each other is how we are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (V11).

Application: We battle as children of light with our eyes wide open.

First, we recognize how high the stakes are.

  • “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (V2).
  • For some it’s salvation and living with Christ even more fully (V10).
  • But for others it’s “sudden destruction” (V3).
  • “The day of the Lord will come” for all…
  • For those who work with Planned Parenthood and promote abortion…
  • For all government officials trying to pass laws either for or against abortion.
  • For all the moms and dads and babies at the center of the whole issue…
  • The day of the Lord will come!

Second, we battle as children of light by recognizing the hope of the gospel offered here.

  • The Thessalonians were no more or less sinful than we are.
  • They lived in a culture with distorted views on everything.
  • Because they were apart from Christ.
  • But the gospel, the message that Jesus “died for us so that…we might live with him” (V10) was for them just like it was for us.
  • How are we to respond? Put on that “breastplate of faith” in “our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that…we might live with him.”

Third, we battle as children of light by having our eyes wide open about certain things.

  • NYT on Sanctity of Life Sunday and possible change to Roe v. Wade. Many comments about the “cruelty” of those who are seeking to end or significantly limit abortion in the US. (NYT, Jan 21, 2022)
  • In another article at the NYT on the March for Life, “It boils down to one simple question for me. Do you trust women to make their own health care decisions? Yes or no?” (McMo from Seattle, NYT, Jan 21, 2022)
  • Our culture speaks of “Reproductive Rights,” lumping free access to abortion in with basic forms of contraception.
  • So much of this is fueled by a flawed and deadly logic: A woman has a right to control her own body and therefore has the right to an abortion.
  • A false logic, because of this truth that screams out from so many pages of the Bible: The baby inside the womb of a woman is no simple part of her body, it’s another person.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Ps 139:13)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

The children [Esau, Jacob] struggled together within her, and she [Rebekah] said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” (Gen 25:22–23)

“For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)

Once that baby is conceived, it’s connected to a woman’s body, but the baby isn’t simply her body. It’s the body of another person growing inside of her.

  • That simple fact changes everything.

The first thing, We battle as children of light, with our eyes wide open to God’s truth. And second…

II. We Battle as Members of Christ’s Church

1 Thessalonians 5:12–13.

The church is to keep right on being the church:

  • Speaks about the church’s leaders: “labor among you,” “over you in the Lord,” “admonish you.”
  • Right response to them: “respect,” “esteem very highly in love.”
  • Commitment to God’s truth and holy standards—“admonish you.”
  • Relational commitment: “be at peace among yourselves.”
  • A lot of work and intentionality wrapped up in these two verses.

Every culture in every generation has its evils to protest and its wrongs to right.

  • If we studied 1st century Thessalonica, we’d find many society ills and evils.
  • Likely a similar list to Apex, NC, US today.
  • But then as now…the church is called to be the church.
  • Not a political action committee
  • Not to stop its Lord’s Day gatherings to spend more time on correcting the wrongs of our day.
  • God’s church must speak to these issues
  • Christians individually will be involved in these issues
  • But the elders here are commended for “laboring among you,” literally, “getting tired in their work for you.”
  • Paul doesn’t condemn them for failing to address the wrongs throughout the city of Thessalonica—a significant, bustling, seaport city.

But here’s the other side to this:

  • When a church keeps on being the church as God commands it and defines it, the evils of a culture will begin to change.
  • The gospel will bring true change to people.
  • And those people will bring true change to a society.
  • Those people will be called to make a difference in the society.
  • The church will support them in that effort.

We battle as members of Christ’s church. And third…

III. We Battle as Each Situation Demands

1 Thessalonians 5:14.

A powerful, short little verse. Four commands that cover four kinds of people.

First, “Admonish the idle”—but here the note in the margin is important. “Or disorderly, undisciplined.” “Idle” used by many (ESV, NIV, CSB, “lazy,” NLT, NRSV, RSV, Stott). But better to read this as “unruly” (NASB, KJV, NKJV, Powlison, Beale, Fee) or “undisciplined” (NET). David Powlison calls this person “the rebellious.”[1] The person who regularly transgresses the lines God has drawn. They know wrong and right but continue to choose the wrong.

To this person, Paul calls us to “admonishing.” Strong correction. They don’t need “encouragement” because they’re “discouraged.” They need correction, because they’re willfully sinning.

Second, “Encourage the fainthearted.” Powlison calls this person “the fearful” person. He adds, “They approach life as if they were orphans, and are prone to fears, discouragement, anxiety, attempting to prove themselves, attempting to control the uncontrollable. They get disheartened at their own shortcomings and by the hardships they face. They are prone to give up.”

Third, “Help the weak.” Powlison calls this person “the helpless child.” How do you help them? “What do you do? “Help” or “hold onto” the weak. Take it literally. Don’t ever let go of people whose capacities are limited. They may need ongoing assistance. They need protection because they are easily victimized. They need help because they are weak. They can’t do life by themselves. They may not even be able to ask for help. Take the initiative to keep on helping those who are limited and vulnerable. Love can do no less.”

David Powlison makes the great point that there is a Fourth category: “The thriving, responsive” person. It’s the person this passage is addressed to. Paul is assuming his reader is one able to do what he’s asking Christians to do.

Final imperative: “Be patient with them all”—“long-suffering” to everyone in the church.

Application: We battle as each situation demands.

  • Powerful perspective here.
  • Pushes us to really see people and their individual situations.

What kind of heart does this person have?

  • Is it REBELLIOUS?
  • Or FEARFUL?
  • Or just WEAK?

What kind of approach do I need to have?

  • Confrontational because rebellious?
  • Coming alongside and speaking words to build up their courage?
  • Help in a whole variety of ways?

One approach isn’t listed: SELF-RIGHTEOUS ANGER.

  • Instead, “be patient with them all”—patient is “long-suffering.”

In the area of being PRO-LIFE this is excellent guidance.

  • So many different kinds of people we might encounter.
  • A divided legislature in the halls of government.
  • Protesting at an abortion clinic.
  • Working with a teenager facing an unexpected pregnancy.
  • Dealing with the heartache that comes after an abortion a person regrets.
  • There’s no one response that covers all these situations.
  • God’s Word reminds us to discern what is needed and to act appropriately.

IV. We Battle By Doing Good and Being Joyful, Prayerful, and Thankful

1 Thessalonians 5:15–18.

V15 – “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone”—In battles like the battle against abortion, it’s easy to get bitter, angry, and even to wish harm on those with views different from yours.

Good summary of what the goal is in the pro-life cause, “to do good to one another and to everyone.”

  • To do good to the moms facing a pregnancy they didn’t expect and maybe aren’t ready for.
  • To do good to the babies born who might need help from someone outside their immediate family.

Then three sharp commands:

  • Always rejoice! (V16)
  • Never stop praying! (V17)
  • In everything give thanks! (V18)

These three go together, don’t they?

  • Who are the people able to walk in joy? The ones who are always going back to the Lord in prayer.
  • Who are the ones able to walk in joy? The ones who work hard at giving thanks and having eyes to see God’s blessings in their lives.

Paul isn’t naïve.

  • He knows the people he’s writing to are sinners facing hardships.
  • And yet, God’s grace and blessings are greater and more eternal.
  • When our difficulties and God’s blessings are placed on either side of the scales, there’s no comparison.
  • Paul in Romans 8:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18)

As we face honestly the evils and suffering of the culture, all that is connected to abortion and other wrongs, Paul tells us what “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” is—“rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”

We don’t always know FULLY what God’s will is in our situation—but this is part of it!

We don’t know how long till “the day of the Lord will come.”

  • We don’t know how long we’ll be engaged in this pro-life battle.
  • But for as long as it takes, we want to be those who “do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:15–18).

Conclusion

This week Christianity Today published an article on the changing views on abortion among Evangelicals.

  • The author Ryan Burge, political scientist at Eastern Illinois Univ, compared results from surveys in 2016 and 2020.
  • Broke out the results by age group.
  • In those four years all age groups except one had become MORE PRO-LIFE and LESS PRO-CHOICE.
  • All age groups except one: 18-35-yr olds.

That’s why it was encouraging that 7 of our young adults went up to Washington, DC, Friday to participate in the March for Life. In 25-degree weather they linked arms with an estimated 150,000 people to stand for Life.

That’s encouraging and one of the ways we can live as “children of light, children of the day” (V5).

Another opportunity for you to consider:

One of our members, Adrienne Gross, has been exploring working with Gateway Women’s Care in Raleigh. Right near NCSU.

A faith-based non-profit organization committed to serving women and men in the community by providing medical, educational and support services and resources related to pregnancy and sexual health without condemnation or manipulation. 

They reach, serve and equip abortion-minded women and their partners, helping them build sustainable, thriving lives – for themselves and their families!

The Director, Sarah Marshall, says: “Each day, we open our doors and shine the light of Jesus – in a world where couples are told that abortion is their only choice.”

Adrienne is looking to get involved and is interested in being part of a team of volunteers from our church. The goal is to get 4 volunteers to do the training together.

Roles for women and men. Administrative. Mentor. Discipleship. They also do work with the fathers involved. Opportunities for men as well.

Adrienne says,

Pro-Life ministries have always spoken to me as an area of interest since becoming a Believer in my 20s and then a mother in my 30s, suffering three miscarriages during that time of waiting for God to make us a family. Something about seeing a heartbeat on a screen, that first proof of life inside me, only to be told it was no longer there and that my child's life ended without a chance to thrive gave me a desire to speak for those most innocent lives, the ones whose voices are never heard.

And then about Gateway: I want to be a part of a ministry that is not just pro-life, but life-changing because of the redemptive and and healing power of the Gospel at work.

That’s an opportunity for you to pray about and consider. We’ll send out more of the details this week, so you can explore Gateway’s ministry.

Prayer and Closing Song

[1] David Powlison, “Familial Counseling: The Paradigm for Counselor-Counselee Relationships in 1 Thessalonians 5,” Journal of Biblical Counseling (Winter 2007).

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