2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-17
RECAP: Have you ever felt shaken in mind, deeply, even fearfully alarmed by a thought or statement that seemed to challenge your understanding of God and His grace, or God and His ultimate plans for you? In our previous study, Paul began to correct the church’s misunderstanding regarding the Lord Jesus Christ’s coming again (2:1). It was being propagated among them that the day of the Lord had come, and they missed it (2:2-3a)! They were being “shaken from their minds” and were “disturbed” within their souls at the prospect of such a thing. Why didn’t they remember what Paul previously taught them when he was with them (2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:9)? How quickly rumors and deception can knock us off our feet!
With such a message discouraging these believers and perhaps weakening their faith, Paul reminds them of what he told them when he first came to them (2:5,6).
BRIEF INTRO: With all said he felt needed to be said, the Apostle begins to focus on his reader’s spiritual growth. He wants them to be strengthened and comforted in God’s choosing or “electing” them for salvation (2:13). Paul lays out how this salvation has come to them and the results of God’s grace upon them in these following two verses.
13″ But we should always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you [a]from the beginning for salvation [b]through sanctification [c]by the Spirit and faith in the truth14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, [d]that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
FOCUS ONE: Verse thirteen begins much like verse three in Chapter one began. But, there is a slight difference in emphasis in each one. In chapter one, Paul was led to thank God for their faith growing and maturing. In our text, Paul expresses thankfulness for the work begun in them by the Holy Spirit, which He is still doing in them and will until their faith becomes sight (Philippians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 5:7)!
He gives thanks to God for His choosing them for salvation (2:13). In eternity past, God in love chose those Thessalonians for salvation. His purpose in election is always “salvation!”
What Paul is speaking of here is the (1) “act of God by which, before the foundation of the world, He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies (Romans 8:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:10; Ephesians 1:4-11).
The means God uses to achieve this purpose are:
- The sanctifying work of the Spirit
- Belief in the truth
The regeneration of sinners and their sanctification is God’s will (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Regeneration happens when the Holy Spirit convicts a sinner of his/her sinfulness and need for forgiveness and then opens up their hearts to respond in repentant faith (Acts 16:14). Personal or experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and continues in this life until Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:23). (1) “Every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”
Positional sanctification is accomplished at salvation and can never be undone! It has to do with the believers standing before God, not his/her walk (Acts 20:32; Hebrews 10:10). And it is accomplished by the finished work of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). What a great source of comfort for believers to know that God’s Holy Spirit is actively working in their lives, transforming them more into the image of their savior!
But it is not by the Spirit’s work alone that a sinner is redeemed; He uses His written Word to convict sinners of their sins and need for Christ’s righteousness (John 16:8-11; Romans 10:17).
Now, take notice of the first word in verse thirteen, “BUT.” That’s important because it signals to his readers that he is changing his focus. The wrath, the judgment, the pain and anguish of soul, just spoken of, is NOT FOR YOU dear Thessalonians, NOR YOU dear Christian! Ultimately one day, we will gain possession of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will enter into His glory at His parousia, presence!
15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter [e]from us.”
FOCUS TWO: So then, or because of the truthful facts just mentioned, Paul gives them a command-stand firm. What an exciting appeal to make in light of the things just mentioned. (2) “If God’s call to salvation and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit underscore the divine initiative, this imperative (command) to stand firm puts the emphasis on human response!” These Christians were already urged to stand firm in the face of persecution (1 Thessalonians 3:8), now they are being told to stand firm regarding sound teaching.
John wrote in his first epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Paul wrote the believers in Rome: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
He also wrote his beloved son in the faith, Timothy: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine. . . “(2 Timothy 4:3-4).
If these believers needed such an exhortation to stand firm regarding sound teaching, we more so. As much as things change, they remain the same. The false teachings we deal with today are not “new inventions,” just the same ole lies dressed up differently! The media and internet, our technology, allow for a broader, more attractive presentation of false teachings. More people can be deceived today faster than in any other age. So, stand firm dear Christian, hold to sound doctrine, and expose what is not.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
FOCUS THREE: These verses appear to be Paul’s prayer for these believers based upon all that he reminded them of and encouraged them with when he was with them. In his prayer, he addresses both the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, who has graciously bestowed His love upon them. The words “who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,” are possibly a reference to the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is there where such “eternal” comfort and good hope would find its supreme manifestation by His grace (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; John 15:13). Our hope is good in that it is not only our hope in this life but a hope that reaches beyond the grave and into eternal life (Romans 8:24; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Psalm 71:5). Biblical hope is a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).
In verse seventeen, we read Paul’s petitions for the Thessalonians, and at this time, he has only two requests of the Lord for them. This prayer is the second of four small prayers throughout this letter that the Apostle employs (1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5; 3:16). His petitions?
- That God would comfort them
- That God would strengthen their hearts
And that the Father would do this for them in “every good work and word.”
“Paul has just assured them that God the Father has given them eternal comfort and good hope,” but it appears that he wants them to experience it more fully while they are suffering under persecution. God has various ways in which He can comfort and strengthen believers. He can work through His Spirit, His Word, and even His redeemed children to answer Paul’s prayer!
Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would comfort them (John 14:26).
Paul wrote the Ephesians “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
The Psalmist wrote that God’s steadfast love comforted him because of the promises He gave him in His word (Psalm 119:50;76).
The writer of Hebrews explains how God’s word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12), and Paul told Timothy how it benefits believers in their daily walk in (2 Timothy 3:16).
And Paul explained to the Philippians how they are to comfort, encourage, and strengthen one another by having the same attitude as Christ had when He was on the earth (Philippians 2:1-11).
Believers of any generation need God’s help to do the good works that He has prepared for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). And in case you think it is odd that words and works are coupled together in this prayer, think again. We see this often throughout scripture (Luke 24:19 regarding Jesus; Acts 7:22 regarding Moses). Read through the book of Acts, and you will find that one always accompanied the other in the early days of Paul and others’ missionary efforts!
The Bible clearly shows that our works and our words go hand in hand in our walk of faith in Jesus Christ as we seek to share the gospel with others. Live it out, but also speak about it as well.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
- 1. What Bible verses strengthen and comfort you? How can you use them to pray for others to be strengthened and comforted?
- 2. Look up the verses given in focus one regarding “election” and write down what they teach us about God’s sovereignty in our salvation.
- 3. What have you learned, or are reminded of in our study so far, that has comforted and strengthened you in your walk-in Christ?
- (1) John MacArthur
- (2) David Ewert Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians