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

POST ELECTION THOUGHTS

It’s a crazy and uncertain world that we live in and that truth stands out even more clearly to us each election cycle. I have sat back, as all of you have I’m sure, and watched the election process for the next president of the United States take place. I have, along with all of you, been riding the roller coaster of emotions up and down and have gone through many twists and turns, finding myself a bit nauseated as the ride comes to its end.

Whichever side your on; Republican or Democrat, the end result has far reaching consequences. As a Christian blogger I tend to think of things through the lens of a biblical worldview: from God’s perspective more so than my own. I am truly thankful that by His grace I am one of His redeemed, and through His Word and work in me by the Holy Spirit, I am able to see things from His perspective. That helps me cope with a lot of things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.

Can I be honest with you? I am struggling with the very real potential (possibly a reality till I post this), that a worldview far different than my own may be leading our country forward. As a Christian I do not see that as a good thing. (Click here to see the issues at stake in the current election). https://7waysfromsunday.com/2020/10/26/our-current-dilemma/

What am I supposed to do with that? How are we as followers of Jesus Christ expected to handle this potential outcome and the years that follow? Should I, as lady Gaga (who rode a garbage truck in front of Trump tower protesting) do the same at Joe Biden’s home?  Should I pull up my roots and move to another country as some have pledged to do? Maybe I could fall down in the middle of the street in my hometown and have a major breakdown, screaming “Noooo,” as someone with no hope, like one person did at Trumps 2016 inauguration.

Realistically, I can’t respond that way and neither can you. We are a people who have hope and that hope is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ! Come what may, we know that our God is in control and we trust in His providence over all things (Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 103:19). So, where do we go from here if our Father in heaven decrees it so that someone else, some other party, controls the reigns of government this upcoming year? God, in His Word gives us the answers that we are searching for:

Remember, God removes and establishes leaders. Daniel 2:21 teaches us that our sovereign God is the one who not only has the authority to change times and seasons, He also has the wisdom and authority to raise up new leaders and remove the old.  Paul taught the Roman believers that: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1-2). As a child of God I know that He is faithful and wise; I know that His thoughts are far wiser than my own. His ways and means of doing things will not always agree with what I think in any given situation (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that is ok, I trust Him, will you?

Respect and obey governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 instructs us to be in “subjection” to the current authorities. Paul does not qualify that in any way. Whether we are in the same party or not we are to respect and obey its role over us. Remember, God allowed this change and He requires His children to conduct themselves as “faithful ambassadors “ while living under this temporary civil structure. To resist, Paul states, puts us in the place of “opposing the ordinance of God,” and that is never viewed as a good thing (13:2). Our obedience is not blind. When obedience to civil authority requires disobedience to God’s Word, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately, we are not to be a people who fear such authority, God ordained it to be, as Paul says: “a minister of God to you for good” (13:4). So, let us be diligent in promoting and helping our leaders in their role of restraining evil and protecting life and property, while trusting our Heavenly Father with the outcomes.

Reevaluate our prayer lives. We are to be a people that prays. A people that entreats and petitions God on behalf of all men and that includes “kings, and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Whether we like the leader or not. Whether we agree with them or not, we are to be praying for them! This may be hard for some of us at first, but you will find doing it a blessing to your soul. Pray that our leaders would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Pray that their laws would be in accordance to God’s stated purposes that we find in His Word. Pray that God would use these leaders in such a way that we as Christians would be able to lead a “tranquil and quiet life” (vs. 2). In other words, that we would not have all kinds of external disturbances that would hinder us from being the church: Proclaiming the gospel, helping the poor and destitute, and building up the body of Christ.

Remain steadfast. Just as David petitioned the Lord to: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me” (Psalm 51:10), after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband, we too may need to repent of our own sin. Obviously, I am not implying that we murdered anyone but listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22). “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be guilty before the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. . .” Our anger is just as bad in God’s eyes as murder, because anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to murder.

Actually, anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to other sins, like: hate, strife, and loss of self control (Psalm 37:8; James 1:20; Proverbs 22:24). These are things that our bible tell’s us should have no place in our lives (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). In fact, it is an aspect of the flesh, not the Spirit, and we are called to walk in the Spirt so that His fruit may be manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). 

How have you handled your temper with friends, family members, and news anchors during this election cycle? Maybe it’s time to search our hearts and confess that we need God to cleanse and renew a right spirit with in us.

Rekindle a desire for holiness. As we move forward from where we are, I encourage you to pursue holiness. We are called to this very pursuit (1 Peter 1:15-16). Make it your goal to be more and more like your savior (Philippians 2:5-11). Fight the good fight of faith and like a good soldier: put off the old man, the old way of living, and put on the new man, “which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

I know, none of these things I mentioned are new and trendy in our day, but they are the teachings of scripture, and we will be truly blessed if we obey them in our daily lives. What I hope you realized as you perused through my post, is that the manner in which we move forward from here, is the same manner in which we are to regulate our lives no matter what is going on in the world around us! You and I are awaiting our king, king Jesus to return, let’s move forward seeking to bring honor and glory to His name, no matter who is president of the United States!

If you are interested in more on this topic you can listen to a series John MacArthur has on “Christians and politics” here: http://www.gty.org/library/articles/A124

You can also click on the books below if you are interested in reading more on this topic. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This helps support the ministry. Thank you.

OUR CURRENT DILEMMA

As I begin writing this cozy fall morning, I am inundated with all the information being passed to us through the media in regards to our upcoming election. True or “fake” news, either way, it is a bit overwhelming at times isn’t it? Especially when something so important to our way of life, our rule of law and our children’s futures, such as an election for the next president of the United States of America, the greatest country ever, is at the forefront. It can be a challenge, perhaps an impossible one, to figure out what is true and what isn’t among the cacophony of voices that seek to move us, the voter, in one direction or another. After all, you and I are not omniscient, only the Lord is.

Each and every election cycle, at least the last twenty years in my memory, we have been told that: “this is the most important election in history,” “If, so and so wins it will be the end of our nation as we know it,” and other things I think you can add as well. Confusion and fear along with misinformation, seem to be the hard road we as Americans have to plod in order to make a wise choice in our effort to exercise our constitutional rights and make our voice heard. If, we intend to make our voice heard.

I say that because many people, but I want to address Christians directly here, hold various views on whether they should vote or not. Nothing in the Bible specifically addresses this topic and so we need to think through the different views and issues involved so we can make a wise decision based on fact’s not fear, truth not lies (Romans 12:9; Philippians 1:9-10).

Some Christians feel that they should completely stay away from all aspects of politics. They feel, in general, that they are only sojourner’s, this place is not their home, heaven is, and so the use of their time is better utilized in missionary efforts, evangelistic opportunities and building up the body (church) of Christ. Others believe, and in a way, its just an addition to what is said above, that any effort on the political spectrum is pointless or at least non productive, considering the Bible teaches that things are going to get worse before the Lord returns (2 Timothy 3:1-7; Matthew 24). Then there are others that believe that they are accountable, not only to God, but civil society as well, in being engaged in a system that can promote justice or deny justice to the poor and unprotected. They rightly understand that our creator is a God of justice and morality, in fact, justice is one of His divine attributes (Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 89:14).

And then there are the issues that we as a people are facing. Does life matter? Should babies be killed in the womb, our elderly euthanized? Is marriage to be between one man and one woman or between anybody that loves each other? Can we determine our biological sex or is that predetermined for us by our creator? Is America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” to have a strong immigration system, with national borders to protect our American citizens or open borders and a watered down immigration system that fails to protect its citizens?

Does healthcare matter and should it be a designated right mandated by a vast government or should it be a free market system that understands and protects a persons freedom to determine the level of health insurance they want; treatments and medicines they deem suitable, including all life decisions?

Religious freedom, education, social security, our economy, and many others, are decisions that are going to be made by one party or another, by one president or another.

Sometimes it hard to figure out how we as a church and as Christians should move forward amid such chaotic and confusing times. This book will challenge your thinking, and challenge you to hit the “restart” button on your view of the church and politics.

As Christians we act as a restraining influence in our world. We are the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). The church, corporate and individually stands for and makes known God’s requirements for mankind, reveals truth, pursues justice, proclaims true and lasting change in the person of Jesus Christ. We are to be in willing subjection to the governing authority since God establishes it (Romans 13:1). Rulers that wield such authority are to be “a minister of God to you for good” (Romans 13:4), and our subjection to it, in part, is for our own “conscience” sake (Romans 13:5). These truth’s help me to not only regulate my behavior under such authority, they also remind me of my role as a Christian in a society, even though I am only passing through, on my way to My kings kingdom!

“For conscience sake.” Is that important in our current discussion? I think so. Not only do those verses teach us that we are to live under these laws, led and governed as our society dictates, generally being led by non-believers, but we are to do so as an act of obedience to our great God and Savior. We are to do so even though, as one writer puts it: “The Christian always lives in a tension between the two competing claims of obedience to the state and obedience to God.” Most of us feel that tension, especially at election time.

Since the authority over us has a right, God given, to demand our respect and conformity, we need to exercise those roles out of a good conscience before our ultimate authority, the Lord Jesus Christ. And in so doing, shouldn’t we exercise our conscience at the ballot box, not for any particular man or party, but with our eyes affixed on the platform they seek to uphold. We want to see biblical morality upheld, life protected, equal justice for all and religious liberty prevail.

So, as a Christian, do we have a valid reason biblically to step aside and not seek to be faithful ambassadors of our Lord in this area? As we spend our limited time in this place, we represent the “official position” of our God before a lost and dying world. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we must not only take the gospel to the ends of the earth, we also must, for conscience sake and in obedience to our Lord’s commands, seek to make His position known in all the areas of governing influence around us. To vote or not to vote, a very important question.

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