“We like to think that because we believe the right doctrine and belong to the right church we can always count on the Lord’s blessing in our lives. Israel believed their covenant with God and the presence of the ark in battle would assure them of victory over the Philistines. They lost the battle and the ark was captured by the enemy.”
“The Philistines also believed their idol to be superior to God until it fell and broke in pieces when the ark was placed beside it. The inhabitants of every city where the ark was placed were plagued with tumors. When the ark was returned, the Israelites who received it were punished for looking inside contrary to the law.”
We learn a valuable lesson from this historical account. The lesson is this: that even those in a covenant relationship with God cannot expect His blessing when they are (disobedient) to His laws and commandments.
Presumption, or “going beyond the limits of what is permitted or deemed acceptable,” regarding God’s holiness and kindness towards us, will always end up with His chastening hand upon us, not His blessings (Hebrews 12:6). God loves us and desires to bless us, but His holiness is always foremost in all His doings!
“Because God’s holiness is a function of His transcendence, because he is high and exalted, nothing in creation can match the Lord in His glory, power, and purity.”
So, let us each day walk with faith and in obedience to His revealed will for us, not presuming upon Him more than he has promised (Romans 15:18)!
PRAYER: Father, forgive us for those times we tend to presume upon you things that we shouldn’t, or expect more than you promised. Please help us to regard your dignity and majesty above all else, so that our lives would be lived by faith and your name lifted up among the lost. Amen.
*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible , 1983
* Quote from Ligonier Ministries article, “the meaning of holiness.”
Brief Intro: Paul has just finished praying for the believers in Thessalonica (2:16-17) and now petitions them to pray for him and his companions. He begins this petition with the word “finally,” signaling to his readers that he is concluding this letter.
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.”
FOCUS ONE: If you haven’t taken notice yet, prayer is of extreme importance to Paul. Prayer for others and also prayers for him! There are many examples throughout Paul’s epistles of the former, but I would like to reference a few examples of the latter.
Romans 15:30-32: “strive together with me in your prayer to God for me.”
2 Corinthians 1:10-11: “you also joining in helping us through your prayers.”
Ephesians 6:18-20: “and pray on my behalf.”
Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; and of course 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2
I think we can safely surmise from reading all of these references for prayer that Paul was more telling them to pray than he was asking them to pray! But don’t take that as Paul being arrogant or cold. As one commentator notes: “It is a sign of the apostle’s humility that he would ask his convert’s, young in the faith, to pray for him.” It’s not hard to understand why: Prayer is commanded in scripture, prayer is necessary for every child of God, and prayer changes things! Christ, Himself, expects that His beloved would be a prayerful people (Matthew 6:6).
We are urged to pray for:
The salvation of sinners
For the comfort and encouragement of others
For their joy and peace and the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives
Our government and its leaders,
The right words to say
For our spiritual leaders
The list goes on and on. Now, that doesn’t mean that we always have to pray for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g every time we pray, but we are to be diligent in our prayer lives to pray broadly when we do pray so that we cover more than one area of need each time we pray. We witness this very thing in Paul’s petition for their prayers on his behalf (vv. 1,2). These requests of the Apostle are focused and directed at one item: The proclamation of the gospel and protection while proclaiming it everywhere He opens doors. But that isn’t always the immediate focus, as evidenced above.
The gospel is not the words of men but the very words of God! That is why it has such a tremendous effect in the hearts and minds of those who hear and believe. It is not about politics, crime, or entertainment. Instead, it is a message about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done to save us from God, our creator (Psalm 7:11; John 3:36; Revelation 20:15)! Paul wants it to spread rapidly because when God’s people are boldly proclaiming it, it spreads, and souls are saved from eternal damnation (Matthew 7:21-23), and that brings God glory!
However, the Apostle realizes that there will always be opposition to the gospel, fierce opposition. We are used to being mocked, ignored, and perhaps may even lose our job or influence because of it. But, Paul is thinking on a much higher plane here. He is thinking about beatings, stoning, and imprisonment, to name a few things.
Paul knows that unbelief is prevalent in society and so perverse and evil people will always be against the truth, always turn from the light, and always attack those who share the “gospel of peace.” Perhaps in the apostles’ mind, (1) “praying for his safety and for others who spread the gospel is tantamount to praying for the progress of the gospel.”
“But, the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
FOCUS TWO: Even though perverse and evil people exist and seek to stop the spread of the gospel, Paul is confident in the Lord’s faithfulness, and why shouldn’t he be? “If we are faithless, He remains faithful-for He cannot deny Himself” ( 2 Timothy 2:13)! Paul told the Corinthians that God is faithful and would not let them be tempted beyond their ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). John wrote that God is faithful in His forgiveness of our sins if we confess them (1 John 1:9). GREAT is thy faithfulness is the shout of the lamenter, Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:22-23). Since He is faithful (credible) in all those things, He most certainly will be with these petitions since they are according to His will! But what does Paul mean by these terms?
Guard you against the evil one
He is speaking about their need for strengthening to continue the “good fight of faith” amid the opposition and persecution they are facing. And their need for protection as they do so. But take notice of a subtle shift in opponents! In verse two, Paul spoke of evil and perverse men. In this verse, he is directly referencing the evil one.
Behind all the evil in the world and the people who practice it is this evil one. Satan is the arch-enemy of God and, therefore, those who are God’s. He’s referenced in scripture as a serpent and dragon (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12). We are told that he is a murder and the Father of lies who promotes false teaching and loves to keep the lost, lost in their transgressions and sins (John 8:44; 1 Timothy 4:1). To face such a foe would be utter foolishness if it were not for the faithfulness of God in supplying us His Holy Spirt and the “armor of God!”
“And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into steadfastness of Christ.”
FOCUS THREE: The confidence that Paul holds regarding these believers to obey the commands given is not based on human wisdom, power, or resolve to do what is right. Instead, it is based on, and tied to, the Lord. His knowledge; His power; His resolve to fulfill His word (Jeremiah 1:12; Isaiah 55:6-11). As such, he is also confident in them, these young converts, because of their love for Christ and desires to be with Him in glory (2:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
In verse five, the Apostle writes another short prayer or benediction; perhaps, such as we see in verse 16 and his other writings. His desire for them is that the Lord would accomplish two things in their hearts:
To grow in their love for God
And into the patience of Christ
It is not that these believers were stagnant in their faith or love for God and others, quite the contrary (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 9-10). But, the Apostle wholly desired continual growth in these areas of their lives. We grow physically, we grow mentally, and we must grow spiritually (2 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 6:1-2). Spiritual growth is vital for us as individual believers, but its benefits do not end with us. Spiritually growing believers, spiritually mature followers of Christ are examples to those around them of how faith works out in daily practice (Philippians 3:17; Matthew 5:16; Hebrews 13:7).
Growing love for God is not Paul’s only desire; growth into the patience of Christ is as well. It appears that Paul may be reflecting on the patience of Christ when He walked among us and suffered to fulfill the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 53). Such patience would be needed for these believers to endure the persecution they would be facing while following the example Christ gave while he suffered and died in their place (1 peter 2:21-24)!
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
In Genesis 2, we find that God, the creator of all things (Chapter 1), provided a perfect environment for Adam and Eve to flourish (1:31). He placed the man in the Garden that He planted in the east, the garden of Eden, and planted all sorts of beautiful trees that would produce much fruit, delicious fruit! The Lord God instructed Adam by giving him a clear command not to partake of the fruit of ONLY one tree in the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for the day you eat from it you shall surely die” (2:17). The Lord then creates the animals and then, by causing a deep sleep to come upon Adam, makes a woman from one of his ribs to be his wife because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (2:18).
“God forbade Adam and Eve to eat from a single tree. Why did He do this? Why didn’t God create a world where people couldn’t sin? Or why didn’t He make people so they couldn’t disobey His commands? The answer lies in the very nature of God. God is love and desires to have a loving relationship with His creatures. He wants us to respond to him with love in return. But a loving response is only possible when we have the choice to do otherwise. He wants us to obey because we love Him, not because we have no other choice” (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2).
PRAYER: Lord God, you are good beyond all measure and gracious in the manner in which you care for us. Your love is immense and eternal; we love you because you first loved us! Help us in our daily routine to express our love for you by being obedient to your will for us. Strengthen us when we are weak, encourage us when we are discouraged in the battle, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil; we pray. Amen.
BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, Paul had made it very clear to his readers what the outcome of the Lord’s return would be: the wicked will be judged and suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, the saints will be glorified. Paul did not give the Lord’s return an exact time because he didn’t know when it would happen. Only “the Father knows” when it will be (Matthew 24:36).
2 “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, regarding the [a]coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your [b]composure or be disturbed either by a spirit, or a [c]message, or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the [d]apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above [e]every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
FOCUS ONE: It appears from how Paul begins this next part of his letter that some people were predicting the timing of the Lord’s return, and quite possibly even stating that the coming of the Lord for His saints, including those who have died up to this point, what Paul was explaining back in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, had already taken place. That caused many to be disturbed, confused and conflicted with what Paul had previously taught them with what they were presently experiencing.
In his first letter to this church, he explained how the day of the Lord would come like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). With these messages and/or letters (v. 2) saying that the day of the Lord had come, and their thinking back to what Paul had previously taught them, confusion and panic arose. These false teachings stated that they were experiencing the judgments of the day of the Lord, otherwise known as the Great Tribulation judgments! “But if this were true, how could Paul’s previous instruction that they would be caught up and escape the wrath of God coming on earth be true (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)? Paul now writes what we are reading to straighten out the matter.” (1)
Paul’s exhortation for them to remain calm is affectionate (brothers) and respectful (we ask). Paul is concerned they might be easily unsettled regarding the false teaching and wants them to remain calm.
5 “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that he will be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only [f]He who now restrains will do so until [g]He is [h]removed.”
FOCUS TWO: The Thessalonians seemed to have the same problem that you and I are prone to have, i.e., short-term memory issues! In writing these following verses, he points out that he had told them these things before while he was with them (v.5). So, by way of reminder and for their encouragement, Paul brings to light the deception propagated among them (v.3).
The day of the Lord, Paul says, will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed (v. 3). What is this apostasy that is coming, and who is this man of lawlessness that will one day be exposed to the world? They are vital for us to understand because these are two significant developments leading up to the coming of the Lord.
Apostasy (Apostasia in Greek) means rebellion or the falling away. “It can mean either a political revolt or a religious rebellion, or a combination of the two. In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word is used for rebellion against God (cf. Joshua 22:22; Jeremiah 2:19), and that is apparently the meaning here.” (2)
Some revolt or “departing” from Christ must take place. It seems clear that this departure from the faith and its subsequent rebellion against Christ will occur in the professing church. “It will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word” (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Connected closely to this falling away is the arrival or uprising of the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction (v. 3-4). Paul says that he will “oppose every so-called God or object of worship and even “display himself as being God (cf. Daniel 8:11-14; 11:36-37). The descriptive name “son of destruction” reveals to Paul’s readers this person’s destiny-destruction!
Paul states that something is restraining him until the proper time for him to be revealed (v. 6). That statement shows two things:
1. He cannot be revealed until God says so!
2. Apparently, they knew something about this restraining influence that we do not. Something taught by Paul when he was with them.
Suggestions propagated for the identification of the restraining power.
1. The state with its law and order- Paul respected the state (Romans 13).
2. The preaching of the gospel as a restraint to evil. That than could be Paul or other gospel preachers (grace being extended, even now)!
3. The Holy Spirit
Even though we may not be able to claim one or the other, one thing is true: God controls the future! He is in control of human history and is working all things out according to His sovereign will.
Paul had taught the Thessalonians about these things when he was with them, as I mentioned before, but they didn’t remember that these things would take place before Christ returns.
8 “Then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will eliminate with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His [i]coming; 9 that is, the one whose [j]coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and false [k]signs and wonders, 10 and with [l]all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not accept the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God [m]will send upon them [n]a deluding influence so that they will believe [o]what is false, 12 in order that they all may be [p]judged who did not believe the truth, but [q]took pleasure in wickedness.”
FOCUS THREE: In these last verses (8-12), Paul mentions two distinct people: the lawless one and the Lord, and one grouping of people, those who perish. Let’s begin with the lawless one. Paul says that his coming is in accord “with the activity of Satan.” Even though evil is restrained, Paul does recognize that to some degree, this lawlessness is “already” at work. Keep in mind that Paul’s already is the time of his writing (v.7)! This “mystery” of lawlessness is a satanic counterpart to the mystery of the gospel. “Implied may also be the notion that unless God opens our eyes we do not see evil for what it really is.” (1) When God’s appointed time arrives, this last restraint will be removed, and the lawless one will be seen for what he truly is.
His power will be displayed with counterfeit miracles and pseudo signs, and these things will deceive those who are perishing—this grouping of people I mentioned earlier (v. 10). Revelation 13:13 say’s that he will persuade people to worship the beast. The sad fact is that those who lack spiritual discernment will fall full-bore into his deceptive schemes and suffer the terrible fate of eternal destruction.
But, there is another personage to mention here, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 8)! Our Lord, Himself, will destroy this evil one with the “breath of His mouth” (v. 8). This language is similar to that used in Isaiah 11:4 and Revelation 19. The Antichrist will totally and unequivocally be destroyed at the appearance of His coming!
For further thought:
1. In what other ways can we be deceived? 1 John 4:1; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Can you find more?
2. In verse five, Paul seeks to remind the Thessalonians of things he previously told them. What do these verses remind us to do? Deuteronomy 6:12; Psalm 143:5. Why do we, at least in part, partake of communion ( 1 Corinthians 11:24)?
3. What do these verses urge us to do or not do regarding the possibility of apostasy in our own lives? Hebrews 3:12; 2 Peter 3:17; 2 Timothy 3:1-9.
4. What do these verses teach us about the Second coming of Christ? Revelation 1:7; John 14:3; Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11.
“What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?”
David, the writer of this Psalm, is in awe of the Lord’s majesty, glory, and power. That is portrayed in the way he writes this Psalm. In spending time meditating on the creation of God, the night sky, moon, and stars, his thoughts bend to something he at first deems lesser than what he is beholding in the sky: humankind!
“What is man” compared to all this? He cries out. Why would you, a holy God, even take one part of a moment in time to consider us? But, then as he contemplates this thought further, he realizes just how much God loves us and how much he entrusted unto humankind.
“It is awesome to realize that the God who created the universe in all its awesome splendor created us and considers us the crown of all creation. Knowing the greatness of our God should inspire us to seek Him. As we see the truth of how God sees us, how He loves us and has called us to be His people, we should be encouraged. We should long to grow closer to God so that He might transform us into all that He created us to be.”
PRAYER: Father, we shrink back in awe of your greatness just like David. Please help us remember and be encouraged with the truth that you, in your excellent majesty, created us for fellowship and called us to be your people! Grant to us a greater desire to grow closer to you. Amen.
Intro: Several months have gone by since Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In that letter, he comforted them, encouraged them, and expressed his thankfulness and prayerfulness for them. He gave them some instructions for moving forward in their walk of faith amid much opposition and persecution (1:6,18;3:5).
Now Paul, most likely within a year or less, is writing them again. The letter gives evidence that He had recently received some news about the current conditions within the church. Some of the information was good: their faith in Christ and love for one another was growing. But some of the news was “not so good.” False teaching and perhaps a misapplication of Paul’s Instructions had entered the church. This false teaching regarding “the day of the Lord” was confusing, and some people were even quitting their jobs in expectation of the Lord’s return.
So Paul writes them another epistle (letter). In it, we will observe his commendation of their progress-correcting the doctrinal error that is causing them problems-and some more exhortations for their future growth and progress in their walk of faith.
I hope that you have been paying attention to what Paul has written so far. The truth contained in the first letter and this one hold many vital lessons for us today. For example, in what we have witnessed so far: (insights of Bob Deffenbaugh)
There is a lot Paul spoke of that teaches us what loving leadership looks like-he was tough but tender. (We are usually one or the other).
His letter teaches us a good bit about missions. Not just Paul’s theology to learn and propagate elsewhere, but his means and methods in doing so.
Meditating on these two epistles will teach us and encourage us with the power of the gospel! Its power in saving sinners and its influence amid opposition and persecution.
And one other thing, I think it will help us to grow in our understanding of what it means and what it looks like to “persevere “when we are facing persecution because of our faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel!
So, with that said, let’s begin our look into chapter one together. (Read chapter one).
FOCUS ONE: In verses 1-4, we observe Paul’s greeting and commendation for them in their spiritual growth. Paul begins this second epistle much as he had in the first one (1 Thessalonians 1:1). He reminds his readers that they have graciously received God’s grace and peace. Paul begins and ends both of these letters with those very words revealing to me that he desires for them to experience these two things in greater measure in their daily lives.
Grace is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense,” as some put it. It is God’s unearned favor which He freely bestows on all who look unto Him in repentant faith (Gospel). God gives you and Me the opposite of what we deserve: blessing instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of condemnation. Peace is the “cessation” or ending of hostility against us, which results from Christ’s completed work of atonement at the cross. Christians now have peace with God because of His substitutionary sacrifice for their sins!
Paul knew by experience that Christians could be at peace even amid persecution, which was his desire for them.
Paul then takes some time to mention the good things that he has been hearing about them. Their faith is growing, but not just in inches; it is, Paul says, “greatly enlarged” (v. 3). And so too is their love toward one another! Paul is saying that their faith is continuously growing, each and every day, so much so that from several months ago until the writing of this latest letter, it is still enlarging! This is not abnormal but what everyday faith should look like in the lives of Christ-followers. Faith is not a “static” thing. Since it is “faith” in a person, the Lord Jesus, as our relationship with Him grows, so too does our faith in Him whom we love!
And so it should be true of our love as well. As we learn more about His love for us and experience it on a day-to-day basis, our manifestation of love to others should be manifested to those around us in more profound and more significant ways.
No wonder Paul is proud of them (v. 4). No wonder he is thankful for them (v.3). But take notice that now, several months later, with more fruit of their faith blossoming, he is speaking proudly of them among the other “churches of God.” This is different than what we have read in his first letter to them (1 Thessalonians1: 7-9). There “he had no need to say anything.” Others were telling Paul and his associates about their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). . .
But Paul will say something now. Their growth is taking place amid significant opposition to the gospel and subsequent persecution that stems from it. If they were a positive example months ago, as new believers or babes in Christ, how much more so now after living out their faith consistently, boldly, and with great perseverance through months of persecution?
Paul and his friends, Silas and Timothy, have much to rejoice in. Their labor was “not in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5), and God has been powerfully working in their hearts and lives through His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5)!
5 “[This is] [a]a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you indeed are suffering. 6 [b]For after all it is only right [c]for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted, along with us, [d]when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with [e]His mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These people will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified among His [f]saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—because our testimony to you was believed.”
FOCUS TWO: As Paul continues, he shares truths with them that should encourage them in their struggles and strengthen them in their hope of a future rest (relief) from persecution. Paul mentions two classes of people: the afflicted and those who afflict them. Two different outcomes for each: relief to the afflicted and retribution on those who are doing the afflicting. He states when the rest and retribution will ultimately happen and the fate of those who “do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (v. 8).
Let’s begin with those who are being afflicted. The Thessalonian’s trials were numerous and the persecution relentless, yet they stood firm and proved to be rock solid in their faith in Christ Jesus! By way of using their current circumstances as an illustration, Paul illustrated the righteous judgment of God in that, Their God, our God, is a JUST God! When God would judge the Thessalonian believers (2 Corinthians 5:9-11), they would be declared worthy of His Kingdom. NOT because they endured these trials, no one merits heaven by suffering (Ephesians 2:8-9), but because their endurance or perseverance in these trials demonstrated their worthiness or fitness for the eternal kingdom.
“A Christian is made worthy by God’s grace, which he receives as a free gift by faith in Jesus Christ. His trials simply expose what is there already.” (1) That character is God-given; it is the grace of God that makes it possible for a Christian to “withstand the fires of human experience.” (1) So, the purpose of their afflictions was to bring glory to God by manifesting His grace in the way they endured their current trials.
God will ultimately give His promised rest to His children, which includes relief from the tensions and trials that stem from unjust persecution. The Thessalonians, the Apostles, and Christians who have experienced such injustices can look forward to this rest that will come at the revelation of Jesus Christ!
FOCUS THREE: The next group of people mentioned is those that are causing the persecution. It consists of those who do not know God and those who are not obedient to the gospel (v.8). Paul, expanding on his illustration of God being righteous, now transitions into explaining how God will deal with the ungodly at His coming. We need an SOS (2)before we continue. What is Paul saying when he says that God is “just?” He is saying that God is perfectly righteous in all His ways regarding His treatment of His creation, especially those He created. He shows no partiality (Acts 10:34) and perfectly gives out His rewards or His punishments. Justice and righteousness, which always work hand in hand, are the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). Simply stated: God will give everyone what they deserve, nothing more, nothing less! And that is based on His righteous, immutable (unchanging) character.
Now, back to our text. In these words, we find great encouragement as-well-as a cause for some distress. You and I, along with the Thessalonians, can be confident that nothing escapes our God’s watchful eyes (Genesis 16:13)! He knows all things (1 John 3:20; Psalm 147:5) and will make everything right. While some people may escape justice in this life, they will not evade it in the next. Paul states that when the Lord returns, when “He is revealed from heaven,” He will at that time “deal out retribution” (v. 8). So, in one sense, this should be encouraging for us as Christians, but in another way, this is grievous to our souls because we read that these people will suffer the fate of “eternal destruction” (v.9). Rest, eternal life with God is perfect justice for those who trust in Christ; eternal destruction is perfect justice for those who reject Jesus Christ.
11 “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will consider you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, in accordance with the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Because of what Paul has just written, he mentions how he, Silvanus, and Timothy pray for them. They pray that these believers would continue to live lives that are worthy of their Lord. That they would continue to remain steadfast in their faith as they faced ongoing persecution. But, what was the ultimate goal of his prayers? The glory of God! That God would be glorified in them during their trying circumstances and conclusively at His coming (v.10).
For further thought:
1. Should Christians expect to be persecuted for their faith? Look up these verses and meditate on what they teach us about persecution: 2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 5:10; John 15:18.
2. Perseverance amid persecution is one main reason Paul is thankful for these Christians. What do these other verses teach us about this topic? James 1:12; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:18).
3. How can you pray for other believers and yourself based on what you have learned in this study?
Paul’s primary goal in this prayer and his own life was that God would be glorified. Is that your primary purpose, or does something have to change?
BRIEF INTRO: As we have previously witnessed, Paul has given these believers many exhortations for their Christian conduct as they move forward in their walk of faith. Commands regarding:
The relationship between the congregation and its leaders (vv. 12-13).
The relationships within the corporate body (vv. 14-15).
More personal exhortations and applications. (Vv.16-18).
Som that encapsulated both (19-22).
Paul then enters into what looks like a prayer for those folks asking the “God of peace” to fulfill His will in them, enabling them through His Spirit, to pursue holiness in their daily lives as they look forward to the Lord’s return.
“Brethren, pray for us.”
FOCUS ONE: As Paul comes to the close of his letter, He appeals to those He regards as brothers in Christ – family, we can say (They share a common bond, faith, savior, future)! According to the force of the Greek present tense used here, he petitions them to keep praying for them. He knows that they already pray for them (3:6-8). Their answered prayers were, no doubt, a result of Paul’s successful missionary work. So, he asks for that to continue.
The apostle is aware of his insufficiency in contrast to the Father’s all-sufficiency. “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). But he doesn’t ask only for himself, but his companions and fellow laborers as well (us). He knows how important it is for the “brethren” to hold up one another in prayer. He acknowledged the inadequacy within himself to accomplish anything worthy of praise, and in humility, attributed any success on their part to a work of Christ within them (1 Corinthians 4:7).
“Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.”
FOCUS TWO: This was customary in Paul’s day and within that culture and still is in some cultures today. But a question to ask ourselves as we read this appeal is this: why don’t we do this today in our churches, in our western culture?
This “holy kiss” or kiss of greeting was an expression of true Christian love towards one another, NOT romantic (Eros) love. Paul is simply encouraging an outward physical manifestation of true, joy-filled, Christian love towards one another. He qualifies the kiss with the word holy because it is to be “becoming to saints.” Most likely, it was a symbolic greeting that Paul was seeking to adopt that paralleled a kiss that a person would give a close, personal family member.
But, how would such an expression of love towards the brethren look in our culture and day? I would say that it’s expressed in a physical embrace (hug), a handshake, or even a fist or elbow bump (thinking covid now).
“I abjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.”
FOCUS THREE: Paul then charges them by an oath (abjure) to have everybody read his letter, not just the leaders or only the men but also everybody. It seems surprisingly strong for Paul, putting them under oath like this! Were there some problems in the church that he felt necessitated further instruction? The regular usage of Greek here implies that the letter is to be read aloud.
He may have been concerned with the improper use of his name and authority. We know that he was interested in their continual spiritual progress/complacency. Paul also wanted the whole body to be encouraged and comforted regarding the Lord’s return. Plus, he wanted all to know of the instructions he had given them (5:12-22).
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
FOCUS FOUR: With everything written that he sought to express at this time, he concludes his writing with this very familiar benediction (v.28). The grace of God was Paul’s greatest delight AND desire for others. Grace comes through our Lord Jesus Christ, and his passion was for these believers to experience and enjoy it more completely!
In perhaps, a year or less, Paul again writes this small church, “struggling to survive and to remain faithful to Jesus in the midst of a pagan society.” We will continue our study next week, looking at Paul’s second letter to this church. See you then!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
1. How do you view other Christians in your church? Are you faithfully upholding them in prayer?
2. How are you doing at expressing your love towards other believers, your church family?
3. How has the grace of God impacted your life? Is it your greatest delight and joy?
4. Do you have a desire for others to experience God’s amazing grace? How are you getting the message out?
How many soldiers did it take to hold our Savior down as the nails were driven into His trembling flesh? Did they hold fast His precious head to place the thorny crown, Viciously assuring it would keep the bleeding fresh?
“How many?” asked the teacher, as she faced her little brood. Each child tried to answer, as earnestly they stood. “Four soldiers!” called Meg. “Ten!” said Jon, mocking her with a shove. Jimmy rose and cried, “You’re wrong! He did it out of love!”
From lips of a child the answer, in startling truth, rings still: Out of love for all mankind, He did His Father’s will. “You’re wrong!” the answer echoes loud — He willingly obeyed; If He had fought and struggled, the debt would not be paid.
How many soldiers did it take to hold the Savior still? He did it all for you on that dark and lonely hill! He did it out of love for you, to save you from your sin. He’s offering forgiveness; Will you turn and follow Him?
BRIEF RECAP: Inthe past few weeks, we have been meditating on Paul’s second half of this letter to this young church. In the first part, the Apostle reflected on his time with them when He was there in person. And on how the gospel came to them, their reception of it, and their spiritual growth. His purpose, at least in part, was to strengthen this young church with the encouragement of the Lord’s return.
In the second half of this letter (Chapters 4-5), Paul has been looking ahead and reminding them of their calling and conduct as they move forward. In these scriptures, he has been giving them directions for their spiritual growth in light of the coming day of the Lord!
Paul’s desire throughout this letter has been to encourage and direct these young believers who are spiritually growing to excel still more (4:2,10). Paul’s concern is for them to be “entirely” or completely sanctified, so it fits, at this point, for him to express a prayer for them regarding their sanctification as he concludes his writing (vv.23,24).
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
FOCUS ONE: These folks experienced the “peace of God” at their conversion amid some severe tribulation (1:6). They enjoyed peace with one another at the time of Paul’s writing (1:3; 1:4-10; 3:6; 4:9-10). So, Paul naturally petitions the “God of peace,” who alone can provide them with peace for their future, to accomplish His work of “entire” sanctification.
Please be aware at this point that Paul understands that experiential sanctification is a process that begins at salvation and ends, or is completed, only when “the Perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:10), when we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2)!
Now, to accentuate his desire of complete blamelessness before the Lord at His coming, Paul uses three different words: spirit, soul, and body, and that they “would be preserved complete.” The Apostle is emphasizing the totality of man, much like he did in chapter three (v.13), where he used the word “hearts” (the very person, the psychological core). In other words, the part of us that makes us persons!
When Christ returns, this process will be complete, but until then, believers rely on God to protect, empower, and equip them to live lives that are representative of His holy character. To live lives that would find no grounds for legitimate accusations against them from others.
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.”
FOCUS TWO: Dear Christian reading this post today, we too, like them, can live our lives with the confidence that God is achieving this work in our hearts and will present us blameless at His coming (Philippians 1:6; 5:24b)! Why? Because He is faithful! (1 Corinthians 1:8,9). “Who also will confirm you to the end, blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This very truth should give you “peace” in your walk of faith, dear Christian. Grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3). His peace is:
And will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus as we wait for His return!
Read again verse 24b: “He will bring it to pass.”
Dear Christian, let us learn from Paul and his desire for these young believers. As Christians, let us live our lives as people who are awake and not asleep, sober-minded and not carnally minded. Let us live our lives with a constant expectation of His return and therefore live our lives forsaking sin and fleeing temptations to sin.
As Christ-followers, we are to be ready for His return, not people who will be caught unaware or off guard, living in worldly pleasure with false security. Such people, the Bible says, will experience sudden destruction with no escape. BUT Christian, “God has not appointed you for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9-10).
1. What do these verses teach us about God’s calling? (John 6:44; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 11:29)? Can you find others?
2. What do these verses teach us regarding how we conduct ourselves while we wait for the Lord’s return (John 14:15; 1 Peter 1:15; Romans 12:9-21)? Can you find others?
3. Are you experiencing peace in your life? What hinders you from living in God’s peace? How do these scriptures comfort and encourage us regarding God’s peace? (2 Thessalonians 3:16; Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6; Psalm 4:8) Can you add a few others?
4. Are you living in such a way that others can see you are living your life in expectation of your saviors’ return (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)?
Sorry for no scripture links in Further Thoughts area. For some reason I can’t add any and need to figure it out. Thanks.