2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:4
Stephen Caswell © 2000
Plato, three hundred years before Christ, predicted that if ever the truly good man were to appear, the man who would tell the truth, he would have his eyes gouged out and in the end be crucified. That risk was once taken, in its fullest measure. The Man appeared. He told the world the truth-about itself-and even made the preposterous claim: "I am the Truth." As Plato foresaw, the Man was crucified. -- Elizabeth Elliot
Last time we looked at 2 Thessalonians we saw the rise and ruin of Antichrist. Paul corrected the Thessalonians erroneous view concerning the Day of the Lord. Then he shared the truth with them. Paul gave many important details regarding God's prophetic calendar. In tonight's passage Paul follows this up with practical Christian teaching. The Antichrist will be the world's greatest con man, an incredible deceiver. He will deceive the world with his lies. So Paul encourages the Thessalonian Church to live by the truth. Paul shares three important things with them about the truth.
I. Saved By The Truth II. Stand On The Truth III. Share The Truth
a. Chosen By God
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,
Paul starts by giving thanks to God for them. He begins this section by reminding them of God's work in their lives. To start with God chose aijrew them. The word chose means, to take, to choose out someone or something for a purpose. This process is called election.
Firstly, God chose to save the Thessalonians from the very beginning. God was not obliged to save anyone, yet He chose to save some. In this process of salvation we see the responsibility of man. Although God has chosen to save people, He requires them to believe in the truth. What is the truth. That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. We could not save ourselves. We need a Savior. Verse 13 reveals the way that God's Spirit and God's Word work together in harmony. When someone responds to the conviction of the Spirit of God concerning the Word of God this results in the birth of a Child of God. This process is called salvation. When people hear the truth and respond in faith they are immediately saved. John 3:16 describes this beautifully. Salvation takes place the moment we believe. From that moment on our sins are forgiven, we are righteous in His sight.
Secondly, God chose to sanctify them. Sanctification a&giosmo" means to set someone or something apart for God's use. To make it holy, reserved for God. The same Holy Spirit that convicts us and gives us new life when we believe, also sanctifies us. He makes us holy.
He imparts to us the holiness of Jesus Christ. Sanctification describes the work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy when we are saved. It also describes the process He uses to conform us to the image of Christ during our lifetime.
When the king and queen have their first boy he is born as a prince. As a prince he is the rightful heir to the throne. This is his privilege and responsibility by birth. But he does not become a king straight away. He has to grow up first. This takes time, training and being given responsibility. The same is true in the Christian life. When we believe in Christ we immediately become God's children. Although we become His children as soon as we believe, we have to learn to behave like His children. This process is called sanctification and it takes a life time. The Holy Spirit transforms us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
There are some truths that God will not make simple. The only thing God makes plain in the Bible is the way of salvation and sanctification. -- Oswald Chambers
b. Called By The Gospel
2 Thessalonians 2:14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 13 reveals how God chose to save people whilst verse 14 reveals the method He uses to do this. The method God uses to save people is the Gospel. God calls men and women unto repentance through the Gospel. The word call kalew means to summon, to invite. 1 Corinthians 1:21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. God calls people unto salvation through the Gospel message. Whether it is preached, personally shared, or read in a tract. The message is the same. All people are sinners who cannot save themselves. Therefore they need to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ who alone can save.
The end result of salvation is glorification. God has chosen to glorify those who believe the message and receive His free gift. Glorification speaks of the change that God will bring upon His children at Christ's return. Christ will transform our mortal bodies, making them immortal. He will remove the sinful nature now present in believers. The tendency to sin will be gone and our redemption complete. This is the hope of every believer. Romans 8:18-19: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 1 John 3:2 speaks about this too.
Paul describes the whole process for us in Romans 8:29-30 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. God will complete our salvation. He will glorify His children at His return and they will live forever with Him.
Why does Paul remind them of all these things that they already knew? To encourage them. In the middle of their suffering they had lost their hope. Because they were struggling Paul reminded them of the rich salvation that they already possessed. He reminded them of the Blessed Hope that they had forgotten. They had been marvelously saved by believing the truth. Have you believed the truth? The truth is the only thing that sets sinners free. Do you have assurance of your salvation? Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? If not, will you receive Jesus Christ, the Truth today?
II. Stand On The Truth
2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
a. Stand Fast
Paul gives believers two commands in verse 15. The first one is to stand fast. The words stand fast sthkw mean to be steadfast, to be constant, to persevere. Paul literally says, don't move away from the truth of the Gospel. They were to remain steadfast in the truth. This is understandable when you remember their situation. They had been shaken and troubled by false teaching concerning the Day of Christ. Their present sufferings added to the problem. False teachers used this opportunity to proclaim their error concerning the Day of Christ.
Therefore Paul commands them to stand fast. Paul often commands believers to stand firm on the truth. In fact the truth is the only thing we can stand firm upon. When believers don't stand on the truth they can easily be lead away from it. This was true of the believers at Thessalonica. Paul commanded the Ephesians to stand in God's armor. Ephesians 6:13-14 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness. Notice how Paul emphasises truth here as well.
Guarding The Crown Jewels
If you ever have the opportunity to visit England you can see the crown jewels that are kept in the tower of London. Crowds of people continually file past the royal jewels. But all the time the guards stand still at their post. They are constantly watching the visitors and nothing can move them from their places. In the same way believers are to guard the precious faith. To do this we must first stand firm upon the truth regardless of people moving away from it.
b. Hold Fast
Paul's second command is to hold fast. The word hold kratew means to hold fast, grasp, seize, take hold of, observe. If we stand fast on the truth then we can also hold the truth. Paul commanded the Thessalonians to seize the truth that they had been taught. Although Paul calls them traditions here we must not confuse these with the traditions of men. Originally the New Testament was handed down orally from the apostles. As time progressed the New Testament recorded these teachings on paper.
Therefore the traditions that Paul had taught them had been handed down from God Himself. The Thessalonians were to hold fast to what they had been taught by either the written word or spoken word. They were to be steadfast in it and defend it all costs. Jude 3 gives a similar commands to this. Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Soldiers Holding A Hill
Often in warfare the commanding officer requests his soldiers to dig in and hold their ground. He informs them how the enemy has rallied and is now advancing toward them. But before the soldiers can hold their ground they must first stand fast. Soldiers on the run will never defend anything. The same is true in the Christian conflict we need to stand fast on the truth before we will be able to hold it. A Christian on the run will never defend anything.
The Truth -- John Huss
Seek the truth, Listen to the truth
Teach the truth, Love the truth
Abide by the truth, And defend the truth
Paul commands believers to stand fast on the truth. The truth is the only thing that gives us a sure foundation for life. Are you standing fast on the truth? Or have you moved away from it? Are you holding it fast too? Are you contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints? We are responsible to pass the truth on to the next generation. Are you being faithful to this task?
III.Share The Truth - Proclaim
Our third point tonight emphasises sharing the truth. It is important to believe the truth and to guard it. But it is just as important to share it. Paul highlights the importance of prayer when sharing the truth. Only prayer can empower our life and witness as we gain God's strength.
a. Prayer To Practice The Truth
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
Firstly, Paul asked the Lord to comfort their hearts. This prayer was appropriate since the Thessalonians were going through persecution and tribulation. The word comfort parakalew means to console, to encourage, to exhort. Paul asked God to comfort them. He also reminded them of God's everlasting consolation and good hope by His grace. He has done this through His everlasting love for us. God consoles us through the hope we have in the victorious return of our Savior. In any temporary distress these things truly comfort us.
Secondly Paul prayed that God would establish them in every good word and work. The word establish sthrizw means to confirm, to settle, to strengthen. The Thessalonians had been faithfully proclaiming the Word of God. Their witness was known through out the entire region. They were also known for their good works. Paul called it a labor of love. Paul wanted them to continue the same way they had started. He didn't want their present distress to keep them from serving God. So Paul prayed that God would strengthen them for the task. If we truly believe the Gospel then we have to share it.
He asked the Lord to settle them down so that they would focus on their Christian witness once more. Remember that they had been shaken by the false teachers and their suffering. So Paul asked God to establish them in good words, their defense of the Gospel, and good works or their Christian service. Both words and works are important to Christian witness. They should work together in harmony. Good works done out of love often open up a doorway to witness for Christ. But our good works should not be seen as a replacement for our witness.
Faith and Works
It has been said that separating faith and works is like separating the heat and light from a candle. You know both are produced by the candle. You know they are not the same thing. You also know you cannot separate them.
b. Prayer To Proclaim The Truth
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you,
In this verse we see how Paul requests the Thessalonians to pray for him. He coveted the prayers of these early Churches. Why? Because Satan is always seeking to prevent the Gospel from bearing fruit. In the parable of the sower, Jesus shared how he likes to snatch the seed away before it can produce life. Satan was constantly hindering Paul's ministry. So Paul withstood him the only way he could, through prayer. This is why he asked other Churches to pray for him. Paul desired that God's word would spread quickly. He didn't want it to be hindered in any way. He desired that the Word would be glorified in the listeners.
Unless God opens people's eyes to the truth they can't be saved. The Thessalonians had glorified the word and Paul desired others to as well. So Paul asks them to pray that the Word might cherished by the listeners. That they might find the truth, Jesus Christ in the message. Colossians 4:2-4 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Yes, Paul recognized the importance of prayer when it came to preaching the Gospel.
Charles Spurgeon's Power Room
Mr Spurgeon was showing someone around his Church before a service. He showed them many rooms set aside for various ministries. Then he showed them the power room. He said it was the most important room in the church. The visitors were surprised when they looked in and found a number of people praying. People prayed while Spurgeon was preaching.
c. Prayer For Protection
2 Thess 3:2-4 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you.
Paul also requested that God would deliver them from wicked men. Not only does Satan resist the truth, he gets wicked men to do it too. When you read Paul's epistles and the Book of Acts you discover that many people opposed Paul. Zealous Jews hounded him and had him driven out town many times. This had in fact happened at Thessalonica. They caused him to be stoned at Lystra. Men in Philippi had him arrested and put in prison because he cost them their livelihood in fortune telling. Demetrius the silversmith lead his fellow craftsmen in a riot at Ephesus because Paul had lead many out of idolatry and it hurt them financially. Alexander the coppersmith greatly withstood his words too. This is why Paul asked the Churches to pray for him. That God might deliver him from wicked and unreasonable men. These men had rejected the truth and were opposing it vehemently.
Then Paul assured them that the Lord was faithful and He would establish them and protect them from Satan. Paul was confident that God was able to establish them in His word. He was also confident that God would protect them. This didn't mean that they wouldn't suffer but that God would preserve them for His kingdom. Paul also knew that the Thessalonians would obey him even as they had in the past. He was certain that God was working mightily in their lives and therefore they would come through these trials with flying colors.
Prayer is vitally important to sharing the truth. Do you pray for those who are suffering for their faith? Do you pray that God will comfort them and establish them? Do you pray for your own witness each day? Do you pray for your service? Do you ask God for opportunities to perform good deeds to someone in need? Do you regularly pray for the preaching of the Gospel? Do you pray that the Word will spread quickly and be glorified in the listeners? Do you pray for the safety of God's workers both here and overseas?
It has been well said, Philosophy seeks the truth, theology finds it, but religion possesses it. Today we have seen how important the truth is to believers. Paul gives us three instructions:
I. Saved By The Truth II. Stand On The Truth III. Share The Truth
I. Saved By The Truth
a. Chosen By God - God has chosen us to salvation through sanctification and belief in the truth. Only the truth sets men free. Have you believed the truth?
b. Called By The Gospel - The method God uses to save man is by calling them through the Gospel. Have you heard God's call through the Gospel? Have you responded to Christ?
II. Stand On The Truth
a. Stand Fast - Only the truth gives people a solid foundation to build on. Are you standing fast on the truth? Or have you been shaken? Are you moving away from God's Word?
b. Hold Fast - Are you holding it fast? Are you contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints? You will never hold fast the truth unless you first stand on it.
III. Share The Truth
It is important to believe the truth and guard it. But is just as important to share the truth. Paul emphasized the importance of prayer in doing this.
a. Prayer To Practice The Truth - Do you pray for opportunities to witness and serve? Do you pray for believers suffering for the truth? Do you ask God to comfort & establish them?
b. Prayer To Proclaim The Truth - Do you pray for pastors and missionaries who preach?
c. Prayer For Protection - Do you pray for their protection from evil men?
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.