Built to Build

March 29, 2019 Preacher: Quintin Starkey Series: Guest Speakers

Topic: The Church Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11

Those in the medical field may be familiar with the term Sutton's law. The Law states that when diagnosing, one should first consider the obvious. It suggests that one should first conduct those tests which could confirm (or rule out) the most likely diagnosis. It is taught in medical schools to suggest to medical students that they might best order tests in that sequence which is most likely to result in a quick diagnosis, hence treatment, while minimizing unnecessary costs.

The law is named after the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton, who reputedly replied to a reporter's inquiry as to why he robbed banks by saying "because that's where the money is".

New Life Church, when we prayerfully seek God’s will for our lives, we would do well in the application of SUTTONS law. We need to turn our attention to God’s Word, because “that is where the answers are”, as 2 Timothy 3:16 instructs us:

2 Timothy 3:16 English Standard Version (ESV)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

The active work of seeking out God’s will, is knowing Him and His character, intimately, through His all sufficient Word. No matter the trial we face or will face. We have the assurance that God will make a way for us to preserver through the trial, ultimately, to conform us into the image of His Son and for His glory alone. One of the many practical ways we can do this, is to build or encourage one another in the faith. Hebrews 10: 24-25 exhorts us:

Hebrews 10:24-25 English Standard Version (ESV)

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

As a church back home, we have been doing a study on the “one another’s” (of which there are 52 in the NT). The text that I would like to share with you this morning is found in 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 “build/edify (NKJV) /encourage one another up”. This is one of the many ways we can stir one another to love and good works.

1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,[a] you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children[b] of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.


In preparing for this sermon. I was blessed and encouraged by the Thessalonian church. Unlike the church at Corinth, where, if we are honest, it can be somewhat disheartening at times, with Paul’s continual defense of his ministry against the so-called “super apostles” and his rebuke of the church falling back to their old ways and practices. The church at Thessalonica however, is in stark contrast. Not perfect mind you, but Paul’s letter to them was not to rebuke them but rather to encourage them. To keep on keeping on, in their clear evidence of faith, love and hope of salvation they had in Christ Jesus.

Thessalonica was a result of Paul ministry, along with Timothy and Silas. We read this account in Act 17 which tells us that Paul reasoned with them (the Greeks) in the synagogues for three Sabbaths and many committed their lives to following Jesus and the church was established. After a short time, many Christians suffered persecution for their faith at the hands of the Roman Empire and Paul penned this letter to the Thessalonians to remind them, and to encourage them, that in the midst of their persecution, they are to continue in their faith, just as they were doing. Timothy’s good report to Paul of the church can be found in chapter 3:6-8:

-         The good news of their faith and love

-         Their desire to fellowship with Paul again

-         In all afflictions and distress they were comforted concerning them and their faith

-         Paul exhorts them to continue to stand fast in the Lord

Our text this morning shows us that the reason we are able to build one another up (faith and love, fellowship, as we just read), is because of the hope of salvation we have in Christ Jesus. If you take nothing else from this message, at the very lease take this thesis statement. We (the church both local and universal) are able and enabled to build one another up, because of the hope of salvation we have in Christ Jesus. We (the church of God) are able and enabled to build one another up, because of the hope of salvation we have in Christ Jesus. 

In order to grow in our understanding of how we build one another up, we will do so under three headings: Who should build up, Why we should build up, How we should build up

1. Who should build one another up?

The following story is the transcript of an actual radio conversation between a US naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October 1995. The Radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on Oct. 10, 1995.

US Ship: Please divert your course 0.5 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

CND reply: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

US Ship: This is the Captain of a US Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.

CND reply: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course!


CND reply: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

The above story, as I came to understand,  was actually a fabrication but it makes for light humour and great sermon illustrations!! J

Paul makes it very clear that there are two type of people in the world. Look with me at vv 7-8:

For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But (word of contrast) since we belong to the day, let us be sober,

There are those who are in the night or darkness and those who are in the day or light. Paul describes those who are in darkness as those who get drunk and those who are in the light must be sober or in their right mind.

Darkness and light are common themes in the bible. The Christian condition in the New Testament is often referred to as “light”. The following verses in scripture remind us of these truth’s:

The first of these you may remember from your recent study in 1 John

1 John 1:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

John 8:12 English Standard Version (ESV)

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

1 Peter 2:9 English Standard Version (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The conflicting condition to light is darkness:

John 3:19 English Standard Version (ESV)

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Ephesians 5:8 English Standard Version (ESV)

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

How does the world and the pervasive cultural around us view New Life Church? Are we walking in the light or are we walking in darkness? Do we get drunk on the delights of the world (and there are a plenlty in this part of the world) or does the light of the Lord so shine through us to display His glory!!

New Life Church, dare I say, that the only “darkness” that should be near us (not in us) is that of the shadow of the Cross!! The statement is worth repeating: the only “darkness” that should be near us is that of the shadow of the Cross!!

Matthew 16:24-26 English Standard Version (ESV)

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a]will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

So, to answer the question, WHO SHOULD BUILD ONE ANOTHER UP, is those that are walking in the light and, by implication are BELIEVERS. If you call yourself a Christian, and have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, you are set apart and are a part of the body of Christ. Because you have been removed out of darkness and placed into His marvelous light there is now a special responsibility on us to build one another up in the truths of the Gospel. We are placed in the local church, to build up the church and, in doing so, build one another up. If you are not a member of a local church, you need to become one. The Bible commands that followers of Jesus must be active participants of His mission with other believers. Being a church Membership demonstrates your commitment to Christ, His mission, and His people.

2. Why should we build one another?

We have considered who should build one another up. Now we will consider why we should build one another up.

So, if we are characterized like those in v8:

But since we belong to the day (if we are indeed children of the light), let us be sober (be of our right mind), having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

Then v9 is for us:

 For God has not destined us for wrath (for those who walk in darkness), but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Brothers and sisters, this is our destiny. Not to sound too mystical but if we have been pulled from the world of darkness into the marvelous light, by the Light of the world. If you are trusting in Christ Alone for your salvation, then we (now children of light or believers), knowing what we have been saved from and what we are saved to, our precondition (of walking in darkness) becomes our filament of why we were created – and that is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

John Mac Arthur wrote this in his commentary of 1 Thessalonians 5:

“One of two possible destinies await every member of the human race. Those who stubbornly remain in spiritual darkness will ultimately "be cast out into the outer darkness" of hell. But those who through faith in Jesus Christ come to the light of salvation will "share in the inheritance of the saints in Light". They will live forever in God's glorious presence, where "there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of a sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever" (Rev.22:5)”

Church, we can now build one another up and encourage one another in the faith because of the One who laid the sure foundation. We have the assurance that He is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11 gives us the blue print for these foundation:

“10 According to the grace of God which was given to me (Paul), as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another or (one another) builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

The gospel of Christ is the solid Rock on which Paul built his ministry. We would do well to mimic the “wise master builder” and ensure that, as we build one another up, we lay on that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 3. How should we build one another up?

We have seen who should build one another up and why we build one another up. Finally, we consider how we should build one another up.

The New Testament word for build or encourage is such a beautiful picture in itself. The Greek word the Bible uses means to “come alongside of, to stand with.” You encourage someone when you come alongside someone and help carry the load, you help them to keep on keeping on. You guide them in which way to go.

  • We do this with our wives
  • We do this with our children
  • We do this with each other
  • Christ does this for us

Matthew 11:28-30 English Standard Version (ESV)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

ESPN calls the following story one of the 100 greatest moments in sports history. I call it the perfect picture of encouragement in God grace, his unmerited favor.

It was Derek Redmond’s dream to win an Olympic medal in the 400-meter race. In the semifinals of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, the stadium was filled 65,000 fans including Derek’s father, Jim Redmond. During the race, Derek broke out to an early lead and pulled away. 175 meters from the finish line, the race looked to be all his.

Suddenly, Derek hears a pop. It’s his right hamstring. Derek pulls up as if he had been shot. After hopping on one leg a few steps, he collapsed to the ground. At the top of the stadium, Derek’s dad, Jim, feels as though he’s just been sucker punched in the gut. Seeing his son writhing on the ground, Jim scrambles down the stands as fast as he could. Jim had no credentials to be on the field, but pushing by people as fast as he could, he yelled, “That’s my son out there, and I’m going to help him. “Meanwhile, in incredible pain and tears, Derek realized his Olympic dreams were lost, but he was determined to finish the race. In great anguish, he pulled himself to his feet, and slowly hobbled down the track. With tears streaming down his cheeks he refused to surrender as he limped his way around the track. In the final turn with about 120 meters remaining Jim finally reached his son.

In an unforgettable moment, Jim tells Derek, “I’m here, Son,” as he took Derek in his arms. Between sobs he said, “We’ll finish together.” Arm and arm, father and son continued down the track. 65,000 fans were all on their feet cheering and clapping and crying. A couple feet from the finish line, with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Jim let go of his son, so Derek could cross the finish line by himself.

That’s what means to encourage - to come alongside one another. To build up one another. Jesus uses this very same word in the gospel of John to describe the Holy Spirit. When Jesus called the Spirit the Comforter, He is saying that the Holy Spirit is the one who comes alongside us, and stands with us, and helps us to move on. That’s what encouragement does.

So how can we as a church or how can we as Christians better come alongside each other? Stand with each other? In order to do this, we need to be in the light and we need to be in community – the Church. Home Groups. Care team ministry. Music ministry. Adopting a servant heart attitude, mimicking the One who came to serve and not to be served – Jesus Christ

Here is another example of what coming alongside one another practically looks like. I received a newsletter, just this week, from one of the works in South Africa our church supports. Our brother, who labours in the field, writes in his letter:

“In my last communication, I informed you that Jenna and I lost a child due to a miscarriage. Believe me, at the moment, we are standing in wonder at the wisdom of the Lord as Jenna learned that a close friend of hers suffered seven miscarriages. She could comfort this lady with the comfort that we were comforted by! Learning this really showed us that God is an all-wise God and has allowed us to go through this and be comforted by him so we could be able to comfort (encourage) others and point them to God. The loss of our baby has been the greatest and most painful trial that we have faced as a married couple, but this seems to turn out as the greatest time of God’s comfort and care for us. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragements.

New Life church. We are not always sure why God allows trials in our lives. It is a question all Christians wrestle with. But the bible tells us in James 1:2

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when (not if) you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

This is how Paul encouraged the Thessalonian church to do the same. His exhortations to them in chapter 5:12 shows the how they were able to build one another up, just as they were doing, and these are practical ways in which we as a church are able to do the same. I have summarized as follows:

  1. v12 -Recognize those who labor among and over us in the Lord – Do we take the time to say thank you those who Labor amongst us? Those in the crèche. Do we give a word of encouragement to those who faithfully labor in the Word?
  2. v13 - Be at peace amongst yourselves – Do we seek the bond of peace and the spirit of unity among the brethren? Or are we quick to tear down through gossip and being busy bodies then rather build up in truth and love
  3. v14 – comfort the faint hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all – It has been a joy to see this practically worked out in the daily life of NLC. How you as a church have ministered Mauricio and Jenney in their time of need. The meal plans, hospital visits, phone calls and WhatsApp messages. Not only builds them up in the faith, but I am sure encouraging each and every member in their own faith. It certainly has encouraged me in mine!!
  4. v16 - Rejoice always – Are we so involved with one another that we are able to rejoice with those who rejoice – Romans 12:15. When you have been praying for the health of a child. Good reports, are a good time to rejoice with one another.
  5. v17 - Pray without ceasing -  SD Gordon, who was a prolific author and evangelical lay minister in the 19th and 20th century said “You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” – Are we committed to praying without ceasing? Do we take opportunity to make use of this means of grace through this local assembly?
  6. v18 - In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us – Do we have a heart of thankfulness? After all, this is the will of God for us – Sutton’s law 
  7. v22 - Abstain from every form of evil – do not walk in darkness but rather be children of light. Walk with the wise. Be holy as God is holy.

Brothers and Sisters, these are the very building blocks on which the Thessalonian church was able to build one another in their faith, love and hope. Let me encourage us to do the same, even this week. Let us not be hears only of the word but doers also, as we seek to build one another up in our local context, but more importantly, in the church.

Romans 12:10 English Standard Version (ESV)

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.


Let me conclude with this story about the great wall of China. Several centuries ago, ancient China wanted to secure its borders from its northern invaders. They had an ingenious plan. They built a great wall to protect the border. It was so thick that no one could knock it down. It was so long that no one could get around it. They posted soldiers at different places. It was built wide enough on the top for chariots to patrol. If they heard of an attack at distant location, they could easily get to it. They were up high giving them a superior advantage over their enemies. They knew that they had protected their borders sufficiently against all enemies. But, in the first 100 years of the Great Wall of China, the nation was invaded three times. How? An enemy bribed the gatekeeper and entered into the land undetected.

When we diminish the importance of unity in the body of Christ, we risk being invaded by the enemy. And the enemy is waiting. Walking around like aroud like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. God has called us to divine fellowship. That fellowship is one of the most powerful tools of witness to a lost and dying world. If we don't protect it, strive for it, and do everything we can to promote it, we open the gate to the enemy. The enemy will attack your family and your church, causing ineffectiveness and destruction.

My appeal to you is this!! If you are not in Christ and walking in darkness. If you have not been transferred from the kingdom of darkness in the Kingdom of light, by the transforming power of the gospel. The Good News of what a holy God, did for sinful man through the salvation work of  His SON Jesus Christ. His life, death, burial and resurrection. This is not just GOOD NEW but GREAT NEWS. Let me exhort you, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, trust in Christ alone for your salvation. If you don’t know about this Good News and would like to know more, let me encourage you to speak to the elders of this church. I am sure they would count it a joy to share this hope with you today.

Believer, let me encourage you to lay on that which has already been laid. Join the efforts to build as we build up one another. We can do this only because of the hope of salvation we have in Christ Jesus

We are building one another up, so on that fateful day, we will hear those sweet words: “Well done. Good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord”

We have been built to build. Let’s build one another up together, just as we are doing.

Let me leave you with the blessing and admonition Paul gave to the church at Thessalonica:

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 

25 Brothers, pray for us. 

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 

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


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