STAND FIRM

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2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-17

STUDY 3

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:

  1. The sanctifying work of the Spirit
  2. 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?

  1. That God would comfort them
  2. 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. 1. What Bible verses strengthen and comfort you? How can you use them to pray for others to be strengthened and comforted?
  2. 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. 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. (1) John MacArthur
  2. (2) David Ewert Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

COMFORT ONE ANOTHER

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Study 8       

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:1

Brief Intro:  Moving forward in our study of these two letters by Paul to the Thessalonians, we find topics of a prophetic nature. We noticed how Paul mentions the second coming at the end of every chapter, but now he will speak more directly about it in greater length and with much more depth.

These are topics in which many mature, godly people of faith disagree. They do not differ with Paul’s main point, The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they disagree about the timing of His return. Is He coming:

  • Before the tribulation, in the middle, or after it?
  • Is His coming going to be in two phases or one – Pretribulation or Post tribulation?

These are not issues that should divide us as believers. Instead, in love for one another, let us recognize that no one system of theology has all the answers to these essential questions. So, my focus in this study will be, as best I can, to hold tightly to Paul’s motives for writing these words, i.e., to comfort and encourage these believers regarding the misunderstanding they have about the resurrection of the saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who [a]are asleep, so that you will not grieve as indeed the rest of mankind do, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so also God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep [b]through Jesus. 15 For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive [c]and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [d]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore, [e]comfort one another with these words.”

FOCUS ONE: “But we do not want you to uniformed.” Paul begins a new topic with these words. He received information regarding a misunderstanding these young Christians had about those who have died “in Christ” and their outcome. Did the living believers have an advantage over the dead? Would those that have died already waiting for Christ’s return miss the resurrection or not be a part of it? This young church certainly seems to have believed in an imminent (in their lifetime) return of Christ. With that understanding and Christians dying around them amid the persecution they were enduring, even their loved ones, such thoughts were grievous to their souls. So, Paul writes to give them more information on the resurrection, and along with that, provide them with some comfort.

Paul begins instructing them about what will happen to those who died in Christ and those who remain alive until His coming (v.14). (1) “Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.” Since their main concern was regarding those “who are asleep” (dead), he addresses that question first. Paul says that since (for) “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so (or, then it surely follows), that God will bring with Him those who sleep in Christ” (v. 14). Paul uses the term “dead in Christ” in verse 16. Both expressions refer to the same group of people. 

The power, authority, and ability given to Christ to accomplish the saints’ resurrection are anchored to the fact that the Father accepted His sacrifice, raised Him from the grave, and seated Him at His right hand (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 12:2). (2) “God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them.” At least in this passage, that link is found in the use of the phrase even so after speaking about Christ’s death and resurrection (v.14)!

Paul makes a direct statement about the “order” of this event (v.15), and then he fleshes it out more in the following two verses:

  • The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout.
  • There will be a voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God.
  • The dead “in Christ” rise first,
  • Then those who are alive will be caught up together with them, in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and then shall forever be with the Lord.

Again, it is not the purpose of this study to delve into what all of this means concerning the timing of these events. But we see in this explanation from Paul how they would be comforted by understanding that their friends and loved ones, who died in Jesus Christ, would not miss the coming of their savior! The living saints would not take precedence over dead saints or gain some advantage over them, according to Paul, who the Holy Spirit led to write these words (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Verse 18 reveals Paul’s goal in giving them further teaching on the coming of the Lord. “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Paul’s primary purpose in writing these things is not to teach some mode or structure of eschatological theology but to provide comfort to Christians whose friends and loved ones have died waiting for what they thought would be the return of Christ in their lifetime. Waiting amid harsh opposition and persecution.

5 Now as to the periods and [a]times, brothers and sisters, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord is coming just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction [b]will come upon them like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, so that the day would overtake you [c]like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then, let’s not sleep as [d]others do, but let’s be alert and [e]sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let’s be [f]sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore, [g]encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.

FOCUS TWO: Paul’s focus in these verses is on the “times an epochs” or period in which His coming, at least the general sense of it, will play out. Notice that he does not predict a specific time for this event. Indeed, he is mindful of what Christ Himself had said to His disciples in Matthew 24:36 and Acts 1:7 and therefore seeks to urge these believers to live prepared lives, living daily in light of Christ’s soon return (vv.6-8). Jesus Himself taught these things (Matthew 25:1-13).

Paul is clear that “the day of the Lord” will be a time of destruction with no escape (v. 3). That the people of that day will be deceived into thinking that all is well, they will say “peace and safety” when seemingly out of nowhere judgment befalls them.

But Paul wants to encourage them, so he reminds them of a critical difference between those who trust in Christ and those who do not, and that is this: believers are NOT in darkness; they are aware such days are coming. They are “sons of light and sons of day,” so not apart of the night around them! And as such, they should not be overtaken by that day’s arrival (v. 4).

So, because of these differences, bestowed upon us through Christ, Paul encourages the Thessalonians to be sober or self-controlled. (3) “Standing on the threshold of an event that will mean sudden translation for some and sudden destruction for others, Christians should arm themselves for action with self-control.” Paul uses metaphoric language in exhorting these believers to put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation (v. 8). A Roman soldier’s breastplate covered him from his neck to his waist, protecting his vital organs. This is what faith and love do for the Christian: Faith in God protects inwardly, and love for others protects outwardly.

The “hope of salvation” guards a Christian mind against the evil one’s attacks (cr. Ephesians 6:10-18). The salvation that believers long for and look forward to is our only hope of deliverance from the wrath to come! And how sweet it is that Paul included the words they would have read in verse nine, and by God’s grace, us today. These words would have lifted their spirits and put a fresh kick in their step, so to speak, and they ought to do the same for us. Our God’s intention for those He redeems IS NOT the wrath that will come upon the earth in the day of the Lord, but IT IS complete salvation that will be theirs and ours when the Lord returns for us in the clouds. “And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17).

These great truths are a source of encouragement and comfort to us as we face opposition and persecution for our faith in Christ (v. 11). These faithful and true words need to be continuously repeated. Contrary to our current culture, Christians do not always have to be looking for the next “new thing,” but we need to remind ourselves constantly about what we already know!

If you are interested in a deeper study about the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I recommend a book written by Robert P. Lightner titled: The Last Days Handbook—a complete guide to understanding the different views of prophecy. Who believes what about prophecy and why. I included the link below.

  1. (1) John MacArthur
  2. (2) The New Century Bible commentary
  3. (3) Thomas Constable Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians

1 and 2 Thessalonians

I would like to take the next several weeks and invite you to join me in a study of two amazing and very practical short epistles that we find in our New Testament, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. How can letters written over two thousand years ago be helpful to us? How can they possibly relate to what is going on today in my life, my world? That’s the cool thing about the Bible, it is timeless. Its truth’s are eternal and unchanging because it’s Author is eternal and unchanging and therefore authoritative and instructive in any generation (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17).

Although two thousand years have passed since this church was founded and these epistles were written, Christianity and its teachings have spread across the world, just like our Lord said it would (Acts 1:8)! The world that Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and this young church were apart of has dramatically changed over the centuries (1 Thessalonians 1:1-2), just like it will in the centuries to come, Lord willing. Even so, there is a vast array of similarities between us and them that make this writing helpful, useful, and worthy of our time and attention!

If you take a glance at any solid outline in our study bibles today you will promptly see how little has really changed since then. Maybe we are not facing the things that they were in exactly the same way, but we also need encouragement from others. We need people praying for us (chapter 1). Paul’s integrity stands out in the way in which he served these people. His example serves as a reminder to us that we also need to be people of integrity (2:1-16). The encouragement and instructions to love, keep hope, to live godly lives in our current circumstances, to be at peace with one another, and the exhortation to live a virtuous life, are all found within the pages of these small, yet profound letters, written to a group of people in a newly formed church that needed instruction in the basics of the Christian life.

Another observation that I think should draw our attention to these short letters is their emphasis on the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! At the end of each chapter you will find a statement about this event (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11,23). Paul wrote this letter with the return of Christ on his heart and mind. He wrote to correct some misunderstandings that the Thessalonian believers had in regards to the Lord’s return, and he wrote to comfort and encourage them by reminding them of His promise to return (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11).

No matter what day and age we live in, we all need these practical reminders and loving exhortations to persevere until our Lord returns. My prayer is that you will join me in this study, and together, by God’s grace we will grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)! See you next week.