Have you ever wanted to read someone else’s mail? You go to the mailbox and you find a letter, you see who it is from and to whom it is addressed and you become curious as to what it says. Well, you can do that here! We are going to look at Paul’s letters to the church of the Thessalonians.
1 THESSALONIANS 1:1-10 Paul, the apostle of Christ, formerly persecuted the church but after the Lord appeared to him spent his life preaching the gospel and bearing witness to the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead! He was joined in the writing of these letters by Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy. Silas was a leader of the church and a prophet that traveled with Paul. Timothy was a young man, one of Paul’s converts, a preacher in training who also traveled with him.
The church of the Thessalonians was a congregation that Paul and Silas established in Thessalonica, a city of Macedonia, on his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-13). Thessalonica was an important seaport, subject to Roman authority, populated by Romans, Greeks and Jews. As was common in those days they worshiped many gods. When Paul and Silas went there they first taught in the Jewish synagogue. Some of the Jews were convinced that Jesus was the Christ, a great multitude of devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women were persuaded to join them. The Jews would eventually run them out of town. Not long afterwards, Paul would write the letters to the church of Thessalonica when Silas and Timothy joined him in Corinth. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:27, Paul intended for his writing to be read by all Christians!
What would Paul write to this young church? Do his letters have anything to say to us? Would you like to know what Paul wrote?
I. As I begin reading, the first thing that I am struck with is the wonderful family of God (v. 1)! What they all had in common was God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God, through Jesus, has brought us all together. Different ages, nationalities, backgrounds. The church of Christ is a church for all people. It is a wonderful family that is blessed by God with peace and grace.
People still need such a family; a place where you know who you are and why you are here; that gives you a sense of identity and belonging; a safe and secure environment where you can be nurtured into maturity as a child of God; where true relationships may be developed and enjoyed with other Christians; where you can worship and serve God.
II. Second, I am struck with the interest that Christians have for one another in the church (vv. 2-4). Paul, Silvanus and Timothy expressed their interest in the church of the Thessalonians in at least four ways: 1) They were always thankful to God for them. How often do we take the church for granted? How often do we complain about the church? Should we not also always be thankful to God for the church? 2) They mentioned them in their prayers. When was the last time you prayed concerning the church? Are you praying for our leaders, our deacons, our preachers and teachers, our members, the ongoing work of the Lord’s church here and around the world? 3) They never forgot their faithfulness. The faith, love and hope of the Thessalonians was demonstrated by their work, labor and patience. Paul and his helpers recognized it and it did not go unnoticed by God. 4) They loved them like brothers. God had chosen them! That is what “elect” means. It doesn’t mean, as some have falsely taught, that God arbitrarily chooses who will be saved or condemned (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:1-2). Each one has the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel and God has chosen to save those who accept it and condemn those who reject it (Mark 16:15-16). So, if God chooses someone to be in His church how can we reject them? All of us ought to be genuinely interested in one another. It draws us together, inspires, strengthens and encourages us in the Lord.
III. Third, I am struck with the power of the gospel (vv. 5-10). The gospel had a powerful effect upon the Thessalonians for at least two reasons: The confirmation of the message by the Holy Spirit and the conduct of the messengers (v. 5). If we are not preaching the word of God and practicing the word of God why would anyone listen to what we are saying? When we preach the gospel with a sincere faith in the God’s word demonstrated in our own lives, then we will be able to truly convert others to Jesus.
The power of the gospel was seen by their example (vv. 6-8). The gospel was not popular in Thessalonica and brought them much persecution from the Jews, but they found joy in following Jesus anyway. Such faith could not be kept a secret but was made known throughout the world. They became examples not only to the lost but to other Christians as well.
What happened when the gospel came to Thessalonica (vv. 9-10)? They turned from idolatry to serve God and to wait for Jesus. The gospel calls for radical change. We must repent of everything opposed to God and live to please Him in every way. The gospel also gives us a certain hope of salvation. Assured of victory over sin and death by the resurrection of Christ, we are able to sustain our hearts until He returns for us.
It is thrilling to read what Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians because his words are just as relevant today for us as they were then for them. We, too, are struck with the wonderful family of God, the interest of Christians in one another and the power of the gospel!
Are you a part of God’s wonderful family, the church? Do you show a real interest in the church and in your fellow Christians? Have you received the power of the gospel in your life?
1 THESSALONIANS 2:1-20 Have you ever converted anyone to Jesus? It is one of the most thrilling experiences you will have as a Christian! In the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the church of the Thessalonians we get to read what it was like for Paul and his helpers, Silas and Timothy, to go to Thessalonica and be a part of bringing them to the Lord and helping them to be faithful Christians.
You know, of course, that it is our mission today just as it was their mission then to make disciples of all nations (Mat. 28:18-20). We live in a different world at a different time but our mission has not changed. So let us see what we can learn that might help and encourage us in fulfilling this mission among those in our lives today.
I. Paul and his helpers brought the message to the Thessalonians (vv. 1-12). It was not in vain. Evangelism is not always successful. We do not always see results from our efforts. Sometimes that discourages us so that we are reluctant to continue in our efforts. They might not have thought they would do any good but God blessed them because they came to them:
A. As tried and true (vv. 1-6). They were not green horns but men who had given their lives to preaching the gospel to others. In Philippi they had been beaten with rods and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-23). They knew they might face the same kind of persecution in Thessalonica, and in fact the Jews did seek to stop them, but they were not afraid. Read what happened in Acts 17:4-10.
How is it that they could go on preaching in the face of such opposition? The answer is here in verse 2: “We were bold in our God.” They were not trusting in their own strength or wisdom but in God! When we go make disciples we have the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always!” (Mat. 28:19-20). If you know your mission and you know Jesus’ promise, then you will not allow fear to keep you from it (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 13:5-6).
The persecution that they endured showed them to be sincere. It was obvious to all that they did not do what they did for their own gain or glory. And, only when others see that we have no ulterior motives but have a genuine faith will be successful in bringing them to Christ. Paul and his helpers were successful in bringing the gospel to the Thessalonians because they came to them as tried and true.
B. As a mother (vv. 7-8). There is probably no stronger bond than that of a mother towards her infant child. A mother is gentle. She provides nourishment for her child. She cherishes the child. A mother cannot be separated from her baby without affectionately longing for the child. Her child is so dear to her that she would readily give her life for the child.
They felt like a mother to the Thessalonians. After all they were their children in the faith. When we bring others to Christ we cannot abandon them and expect them to survive spiritually. They are desperately in need of our care, just as infants of their mothers.
C. As a father (vv. 9-12). The family is not complete without a father. The father is responsible so that he does not become a burden on his family. He will lead his family by word and example.
This is the way they conducted themselves among the Thessalonians. Every Christian needs such persons in their life.
II. The Thessalonians received the message from Paul and his helpers (vv. 13-16). They had never stopped thanking God that the Thessalonians had received the message:
A. As the word of God (v. 13). Many refuse to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ because they view it as a story invented by men. The facts say otherwise. Paul had demonstrated that the Old Testament Scriptures foretold the sufferings and resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:2-3). The message was further confirmed to them by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit (1:5). It is in truth, or in fact, the word of God.
Its effectiveness depends upon how it is received. Like the Thessalonians we must hear, welcome and believe the gospel in order to experience its desired effect in us.
B. As imitators of the churches of God (vv. 14-16). Thessalonica was a long way from Judea but the word of God produced in Thessalonica the same thing it produced in Judea: The church of God. The church of God in Thessalonica was recognized and attacked by their own people just like it was in Judea. It is still true today that those who receive the word of God are the church of God and may be opposed by their own people.
Here is an important lesson for all to learn. The word of God produces the church of God. In one of Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of God he taught that the word of God is the seed (Luke 8:10-11). Seed always reproduces after its own kind. If you plant an apple seed in the ground it will always produce an apple tree, not an orange tree or a lemon tree. If you plant the gospel of Christ it will produce the church of Christ, not this kind of church or that kind of church. The many different kinds of churches in the world today are not of God. Jesus condemned one of the Jewish sects of His day, the Pharisees, because they taught as doctrine the commandments of men (Mat. 15:9). He warned, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (v. 13). This is a warning to every such church today!
Let us continually thank God for those who will receive the word of God and suffer attacks from their own people for doing so.
III. This affected the relationship of Paul and his helpers with the Thessalonians (vv. 17-20).
A. Then and there (vv. 17-18). How long do you have to be apart from someone you love without really missing them? That’s the way it was with them and the Thessalonians. They tried hard several times to come see them again but Satan kept getting in the way. Satan still tries to keep God’s people apart. He doesn’t want us to meet like we are tonight. He wants to keep as many away as he can. He doesn’t want congregations working together in the Lord. He doesn’t want us to go and encourage missions around the world. But we must continue to do what we can to not let Satan get in our way (Heb. 10:24-25).
B. In eternity (vv. 19-20). Sometimes I will say to a brother or sister, “I will see you later, if not here, up there!” There will be a day when we will all be together with Jesus (1 The. 4:16-17). Our greatest desire is to someday be with Jesus but all those that we have had part in converting to Jesus and helping to heaven will also make that day special. They will be our hope, joy and crown of rejoicing! Paul and his helpers could point to the Thessalonians and say, “Look, Jesus they are evidence of the work we did for you! They have arrived with us here with you!” What satisfaction and elation we will experience in eternity at the salvation of many of which we have had at least a small part in getting to heaven! May none of us miss out on this blessed thrill, now and in eternity!
We are all privileged to join hands with God in the greatest work on earth – making disciples of Jesus Christ. Thanks to God for making a way to heaven for all through the sacrifice of His Son who died, was raised and will come again for us. We must not fail in our mission because we are afraid but like Paul and his helpers be bold to speak the word of God and with the love of a mother and a father help as many as we can to get to heaven. May every soul be as honest as the Thessalonians to welcome the gospel into their hearts and lives. Let us all make every effort here to encourage one another in the Lord now so that we can rejoice together with Him in eternity!
1 THESSALONIANS 3:1-13 Have you ever been so concerned about someone that you just couldn’t stand it any longer? That’s the way Paul and his helpers, Silas and Timothy, felt about the church of the Thessalonians. Let us see what we can learn from them.
I. Paul and his helpers were concerned about the church of the Thessalonians (vv. 1-5). They had a right to be concerned because they had invested in this church and knew of the persecution that they were facing (2:1-20). Too many times we stick our noses into places we have no business sticking them. When that happens our concern is usually resented more than it is appreciated.
A. They were more interested in the church of the Thessalonians than themselves. One of them, Timothy, was sent to Thessalonica leaving the other two alone in Athens (vv. 1-2). Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own situation that we neglect those who need us.
B. Though they had prepared the church of the Thessalonians for tribulation (cf. 1 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12-19) they knew that the Devil (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Cor. 2:11) would try every way to tempt them (vv. 3-5). Just because we tried to warn those we are concerned about does not mean that they will heed the warning. The devil never quits working and neither can we.
Are we as concerned about the spiritual welfare of others as Paul and his helpers?
II. Paul and his helpers were comforted by the church of the Thessalonians (vv. 6-10). Timothy brought Paul and Silas good news about the church of the Thessalonians. What a comfort this must have been. Do you remember the last time you got some good news about those you were concerned for?
A. They were comforted when they heard of their relationship with God and with them (vv. 6-7). There is nothing more important than our relationship with God and one another.
B. They were now able to live (v. 8). Not knowing is draining; it will suck the life right out of you. Hearing about the faith of the Thessalonians gave new life, energy, vigor and strength to Paul and his helpers.
C. They were not able to thank God enough (vv. 9-10). The mature faith of the Thessalonians was a great source of joy for Paul and his helpers and an answer to their many prayers for them.This is a great illustration of how the church is one body of many members so that what happens to one member effects the whole body (1 Cor. 12:12-27). Do we have such a relationship with one another in the church today?
III. Paul and his helpers called upon God for the church of the Thessalonians (vv. 11-13). Their confidence was not placed in man but in God. None of us can get to heaven on our own.
A. They called for God to act personally on their behalf (vv. 11). We need to realize that God is personally involved in our lives. In Luke 11, Jesus taught His disciples to pray to God as a Father who loves His children and is able and eager to bless them (vv. 1-13). B. Their confidence for the growth and salvation of the Thessalonians rested in God, not man (vv. 12-13). The Thessalonians suffered tribulation, had to have faith and love and stand fast in the Lord but Paul and his helpers knew that none of us can get to heaven on our own! Paul explained in his letter to the Philippians that as we work out our own salvation God works in us (Phi. 2:12-13). Do we recognize our need for God and trust Him for our salvation or do we try to make it all on our own?
Like Paul and his helpers, let us be concerned for the souls of others. What a comfort it is to know that some have not wavered in the trials of life nor given into the temptations of Satan but stand in faith! May God perfect and save their souls!
1 THESSALONIANS 4:1-12 With this chapter Paul and his helpers begin to give the church of the Thessalonians a number of exhortations that will extend to the end of the letter (vv. 1-2). Notice these are urgent requests given to encourage the Thessalonians to grow spiritually. These are not new things but reminders of the commandments of the Lord that they had already received about how to walk (live) and please God (which is to be our aim as Christians, 2 Cor. 5:9).
This is a perfect example of making disciples (Mat. 28:19). We need these same exhortations to Christian living if we are to fulfill the great commission of our Lord in developing disciples for Him today.
I. Exhortation concerning sexual purity (vv. 3-8). This was in sharp contrast to the Pagan religion of Thessalonica. It did not demand sexual purity of its devotees, the gods and goddesses being grossly immoral. Priestesses were in the temples for the service of the men who came. The holiness which God demands is abstinence from sex outside of a lawful marriage (v. 3; cf. Heb. 13:4). Sadly, many who claim to be Christians are guilty of fornication. Some knowingly and blatantly sin against God by living together without the privilege of marriage!
There is debate about what the term “vessel” refers to in verse 4. I have thought in the past that this refers to one’s own body and keeping it sexually pure (cf. 1 Cor. 6:15, 18). However, the Greek tends to suggest that it refers to one’s own wife, literally reading “to acquire his own vessel” not “to possess his own vessel”. If this is so, then the words elevate the wife and make it plain that Paul demands sexual purity on the part of men (married as well as unmarried). There is no double standard here. When the husband comes to the marriage bed, he should come as a chaste man to a chaste wife.
Verse 5 then is a plain picture of the wrong way for the husband to come to marriage. The heathen knew gods as licentious as they are themselves, but not God. One of the reasons for the revival of paganism in modern life is professedly this very thing that men wish to get rid of the inhibitions against licentiousness by God. In verse 6 it is furthered argued that sexual impurity may involve a third party, even a brother. This was the case in Corinth (1 Cor. 5:1). Such will not go unpunished. It may seem that many get away with crimes of adultery but the church of the Thessalonians had already been warned and we should be warned that God will act on behalf of those that have been so wronged!
Paul concludes this discussion reminding that God has "called" us all for a decent sex life consonant with his aims and purposes (v. 7; cf. 2 Cor. 7:1). It was necessary for Paul to place this lofty ideal before the Thessalonian Christians living in a pagan world. It is equally important now.
Finally, Paul applies the logic of the case (v. 8). Paul sees this clearly and modern atheists see it also. In order to justify their licentiousness they do not hesitate to set aside God. We may understand how an unbeliever could do such things, but how can we who have the Spirit of God dwelling in us (1 Cor. 6:19-20)?
II. Exhortation concerning brotherly love (vv. 9-12). As Christians we are all part of the family of God and are to love each other like brothers and sisters (phileo) (v.9). Because we are Christians we know the even greater love of God (agape) having been taught it in the gospel (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10; cf. John 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 13:4-8; 1 Pet. 4:8).
The Thessalonians had already demonstrated that they knew such love, but love is never stagnant (v. 10). We must continue to grow in love, as with all Christian virtues, lest we become barren and unfruitful, fall and lose our reward (2 Pet. 1:5-11). Paul asks them to check their aspirations (ambitions) (vv. 11-12). This is not only a matter of Christian love but of our influence for Christ upon the world (2 Cor. 8:21; Col. 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:12; 4:15-16).
Let us be diligent to examine our love for each other, family, friends, enemies and the world and seek to increase our love for all.
It is not enough for us to study the Bible academically we must apply the things we learn to our hearts and lives. I hope none of us will dismiss the teaching of God concerning sexual purity and brotherly love but see the importance of these inspired exhortations and take heed.
1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-18 Here we have an exhortation from Paul and his helpers to the Thessalonians concerning those who have fallen asleep. This phrase is used to describe the death of the faithful (John 11:11-14). When we die the body appears to be sleeping because the spirit has departed to be with Christ (Ecc. 12:13; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phi. 1:23). Those who die in the Lord are given rest from the labors of this world (Rev. 14:13) but they are not unconscious (Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 6:9-11). Paul and his helpers write to the church of the Thessalonians in order to inform, to give hope (1 The. 4:13) and to comfort (v. 18) them regarding their dead. We need this same help in the loss of our fellow Christians today.
I. Jesus is coming! He will come personally. He will not send a chauffeur for us but will come Himself just as was promised (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; Heb. 9:28). He will come with great noise. There will be nothing secret about His coming (Mat. 24:27; 2 The. 1:7-10; 2:8; Rev. 1:7).
II. The dead in Christ will be raised! They are coming back with Jesus. Our faith in the death and resurrection of Christ assures us of this fact (Heb. 11:1).
They will not be left behind. We have God’s word on it (Rom. 10:17).
They will be raised first. As surely as Jesus died and rose so the dead in Christ will be raised (1 Cor. 15; 2 Cor. 4:14).
III. We will all go together to be with Jesus! We will be caught up together in the clouds. What a reunion that will be!
We will meet the Lord in the air. Imagine being able to see Jesus (1 John 3:2).
We will always be with Him. It will be wonderful in every way (Rev. 21:3-4).
Let us heed this exhortation of Paul and his helpers to the church of the Thessalonians that we might have knowledge, hope and comfort concerning those who are fallen asleep. May these words also move us to put our faith in Jesus for eternal life and to never lose that faith. What about you? Have you believed on Him? Are you still believing on Him?
1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-10 With chapter four Paul gives numerous exhortations to the church. He exhorted them to abstain from sexual immorality, to increase in their love for one another and to have assurance regarding those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Now in chapter five they are exhorted to be ready and prepared for the day when Jesus would return. They are given several reminders.
I. Remember what you have been taught about the suddenness and unexpectedness of Christ’s coming (vv. 1-3). Paul did not need to write about this because they had already been informed about it. They had been so well taught that there should have been no questions about it. Their knowledge concerning it was complete. What had they been taught?
Jesus would come as a thief in the night. That means that He would come suddenly and unexpectedly, just as He Himself had taught in Matthew 24:35-25:46. If anyone says he knows when Jesus is coming he is a liar!
Paul also compared the time of Christ’s coming to a surprise attack which no one is able to escape. There are no signs which will point to the coming of Christ!
A third image was used; the labor pains of a pregnant woman. When my wife was in labor at the hospital with Bryan her pains began to increase and she told me to get a nurse. When I returned and asked her if she could wait a minute because the nurse was busy she informed me rather dramatically that, no, she could not wait. Bryan was born shortly thereafter. In the same way our Lord will come suddenly.
Because it has been some 2,000 years some have been lulled into a false sense of security, but we must remember that God does not operate on our calendar (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8-10).
II. Remember that you are the sons of light (vv. 4-8). Paul pictures two groups of people: The sons of light and the sons of darkness. The sons of light are of the day; they watch and are sober. The sons of darkness are of the night; they sleep and are drunk. Paul uses these two pictures to illustrate the difference between the Christian who is ready for the coming of Christ and the lost sinners of this world who are taken by surprise.
Light and day is used as a figure for truth, knowledge, righteousness and life while the darkness of night speaks of falsehood, ignorance, wickedness and death (cf. John 1:4-9; 8:12; 12:35; Ro 13:11-13; Eph 5:3-14; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:9-11). We must never forget that we are sons of light and always be on guard for Christ’s coming (Luke 21:34-36)!
III. Remember God has appointed you for salvation (vv. 9-10). Christians don’t have to fear future judgment because Jesus delivers us from wrath to come (1 The. 1:10). God chose us for salvation (2 The. 2:13-14). Jesus died for us (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:15). We will live forever with Him (Rev. 21:3)!
This confidence is not just for those of us who “wake” (i.e. live) but also for those who “sleep” (i.e. die). This just confirms what Paul already wrote (4:13-17; cf. Rom. 14:8-9). So, while others should dread the coming of Christ, we may look to that day with assurance!
Let us keep each of these things in mind. May they encourage us all to be ready and prepared for our Lord’s return. What about you? Are you ready?
1 THESSALONIANS 5:11-28 In the first half of this letter we learned a great deal about the relationship between the church of the Thessalonians and Paul and his helpers, Timothy and Silas. They planted the church against much opposition but the church had proved faithful and they wanted to encourage them to continue in the Lord. Beginning in chapter four Paul gives numerous exhortations to the church. He exhorted them to abstain from sexual immorality, to increase in their love for one another, to have assurance regarding those who have fallen asleep in Jesus and to be ready for the day of Christ’s return. At the end of chapter five he concludes with a number of other exhortations have to do with relationships.
I. Their Relationship With One Another (vv. 11-15)
A. The guiding principle: Comfort each other and edify (build up) one another.
B. Its application to leaders: They are described as those who labor (toil even if weary) among you, are over you (lit. who stand in front of you, i.e. your leaders) and admonish you (compound word = mind and to put, i.e. putting sense into the heads of people). Theirs is a thankless but necessary task.
These we are to recognize (get acquainted with), esteem (hold in high regard) and love (appreciate for what they do). Consider 1 Tim. 5:17-20; Heb 13:7, 17. We not only need wise leaders but wise followers. The result is peace (harmony) among God’s people (Psa. 133).
C. Its application to others: The unruly or disorderly (a military term meaning out of step) we are to warn or admonish (i.e. to put sense into the unruly mob who break ranks or to keep military order). This is a challenging task.
The fainthearted (compound word = small souled or little souled) we are to comfort (encourage or console as in John 11:31). Local conditions often cause some to lose heart and wish to drop out, be quitters but we must strengthen them (Heb 12:12; Romans 15:1).
The weak (as those who may be tempted to sin) we are to uphold (i.e. support …to cling to, to hold on to).
With all we are to be patient (long-suffering). In the church there is a great diversity of people and our patience will be tried (cf. Col. 3:12-15). So we must be careful not to become vengeful but “keep up the chase” after the good (Lev. 19:18; Pro. 20:22; 24:29; Mat. 5:39, 44; Rom. 12:17-21).
II. Their Relationship With God (vv. 16-18)
A. Rejoice always. In the Lord there is always reason to rejoice (Phi. 4:4).
B. Pray without ceasing. Don’t ever give up on prayer (Luke 18:1). Don’t ever quit praying (Romans 12:12; Eph. 6:18).
C. In everything give thanks (Eph. 5:20). There is a silver lining to every cloud (Rom. 8:28).
This is what God desires for every Christian.
III. Their Relationship With The Word Of God (vv. 19-22)
A. Do not quench (douse, extinguish, put out, smother) the Spirit. Rather, we are to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18; cf. Col. 3:16). The Spirit lives in us as the word of Christ lives in us.
B. Do not despise (depreciate, count as nothing) prophecies (God inspired revelation). How sad that so many, even in the church, seem not to care what the Bible says!
C. Test (prove) all things. Don’t believe everything you hear (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). Furthermore, just because the church is doing it does not mean it is acceptable to God. We must ask if what we teach and practice is authorized by Christ (Col. 3:17).
D. Hold fast what is good (Phi. 4:8).
E. Abstain from every form of evil. Sin shows up with many different faces but no matter how it appears or what it looks like, don’t have anything to do with it (1 Pet. 2:11).
IV. Their Relationship With Paul, Silas And Timothy (vv. 23-28) A. It involved prayers. Paul and his helpers prayed for their eternal salvation (i.e. that God would keep their whole being entirely separate from sin until the Lord returns) knowing that God can be trusted to do it as He is reliable, able and willing. They requested their prayers for them.
B. It involved greetings. Paul and his helpers sent greetings to all the brethren. No one was left out. Their greeting was not a mere formality or act of politeness but a holy gesture (i.e. not of this world but of God).
C. It involved a charge. The command was from the Lord. Every Christian was to hear the words of this letter.
D. It involved a blessing; that they would enjoy God’s favor.
Let us continue to develop these relationships that will help us all to heaven. What about your relationship God, His word and the church?
2 THESSALONIANS 1:1-12 In the first letter we learned of the great faith of the young church of the Thessalonians and of the love and concern Paul and his helpers had for the church of the Thessalonians, especially in view of the difficult trial of persecution they were enduring. Paul and his helpers wrote to let them know how much they cared for them and to encourage them to continue to grow and be strong in the Lord. Shortly thereafter they sent a second letter to clear up some misunderstandings from the first letter about the second coming of Christ. Before dealing directly with their problems they began by encouraging the church.
I. First, they told them how they felt about them (vv. 1-5). They cared about them. They wanted the very best for them. They wished them no harm but God’s blessings of grace and peace.
They were thankful for them. They could not help but to be thankful for them. The faith and love of the church had increased abundantly.
They were proud of them. They were boasting about them to the other churches. They had not faltered but remained faithful in spite of great opposition. Their faithfulness proved God to be right, vindicated Him, in saving them from the world and making them part of His church.
Sadly, many are saved only to return to sin and the world. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1). When a child of God refuses to turn from sin he has “trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:26-31). Such “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6). Peter writes, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire’” (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
Let your fellow Christians know that you want God’s blessings for them, that you are thankful for them and that you are proud of them when they are faithful to God. Let us all be encouraged by the example of the church of the Thessalonians to always be faithful to God no matter what our circumstances so that we do not bring reproach upon Him and His church but rather glory to His name.
II. Second, they reminded them that God is going to do what is right (vv. 6-10). God will avenge His church! The church of the Thessalonians was being persecuted then, as were and always will be other Christians, but God will repay the troublers and give rest to the troubled.
This will happen when Jesus comes again. It will not be a secret coming but He will be revealed with His mighty angels in flaming fire (cf. 1 The. 4:16; Mat. 24:27; Rev. 1:7).
He will render vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel (i.e. those who do not know God as their Savior). He has revealed Himself to all (Rom. 1:20ff; Psa. 14:1). The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Tit. 2:11). The gospel was preached to every creature under heaven (Col. 1:23). This is the only way to be saved (Mark 16:15-16; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Their punishment will be everlasting destruction from the presence and glory of the Lord (Mat. 25:41, 46). In that Day, the Lord will be held in honor and marveled at by the faithful.
How should these affect us? First, it should cause us to leave vengeance to God (Rom. 12:19-21). Second, it should cause us to feel a sense of indebtedness, urgency and boldness in preaching the gospel to all before it is too late for them (Rom. 1:14-16). Third, it should cause us to persevere in every trial knowing that the Lord will come (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
III. Third, they let them know that they were praying for them. They could no longer pray with them but they could pray for them. Letting them know that should encourage them. But what was their prayer? Their prayer was with purpose. It was God’s purpose for us all, that we might glorify Him and be glorified in Him, both now and in eternity.
This was brought to God in prayer because it is only possible because of God’s grace toward us and His power working in us. Without His grace we cannot be worthy before Him (Eph. 2:8-9). Without His power we can never please Him nor accomplish His will for our lives (Phi. 2:12-13; 4:13).
Pray for each other and let them know you are praying for them (Jam. 5:16).
When is the last time you wrote a letter or note of encouragement to some fellow Christian or group of Christians? As we learned today such can go a long way in encouraging others. Let’s learn to let our brothers and sisters know of our care and concern for them, remind them that God is going to do what is right and tell them that we are praying for them. May we all realize that without God we are all hopelessly lost for eternity in hell and turn to Him, trusting in His grace and power to save our souls and give us rest from this world of sin and death forever with Him in heaven.
2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-17 In the first letter we learned of the great faith of the young church of the Thessalonians and of the love and concern Paul and his helpers had for the church of the Thessalonians, especially in view of the difficult trial of persecution they were enduring. Paul and his helpers wrote to let them know how much they cared for them and to encourage them to continue to grow and be strong in the Lord. Shortly thereafter they sent a second letter to clear up some misunderstandings from the first letter about the second coming of Christ. Before dealing directly with their problems they began by encouraging the church in chapter 1. Now, with chapter 2 they begin to deal with the misunderstandings about the coming of Christ.
I. They asked them not to be upset by any claim that the day of Christ’s coming had arrived (vv. 1-2). They had taught Jesus was coming to take us home (1 The. 4:13-18) but that we cannot know when He is coming (1 The. 5:1-4). Therefore, anyone who claims to know is a false teacher (Mat. 24:36).
Some were trying to deceive the church of the Thessalonians about this by claiming a revelation, a conversation or a letter from Paul and his helpers that the day of Christ had come. The word translated “had come” speaks of “things present” as in Romans 8:38 and 1 Corinthians 3:22.
The day of Christ’s coming had not arrived!
II. They explained that the apostasy must first take place (vv. 3-12). It is not just any falling away but the falling away. It is associated with the man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposes God and poses as God in the house of God. Paul seems to become a little impatient reminding them that he had already told them all about these things. The man of sin had not yet been revealed to them but was already at work. They knew what and who was restraining the man of sin in his work of lawlessness and that he would be restrained until the restrainer was removed. Once the restrainer was gone then the man of sin would be revealed. The man of sin will be consumed and destroyed by the mere breath and appearance of Christ when He returns. Satan is the one working through the man of sin empowering him to deceive those who do not love the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness.
In this passage we have a prediction of the Roman papacy. It was an apostasy that had its roots in Paul’s time. The power of the Roman church was hindered by Imperial Rome. When the power of Rome dissolved, the papacy appeared and has continued for many centuries. The pope exalts himself with many divine titles. The temple which he entered was the church and he exerts his influence by fraudulent signs and wonders. This fits Paul’s description in detail.
III. They encouraged them in the Lord (vv. 13-17). As before in chapter one, they could not help but to give thanks for them because God had chosen them for salvation. This involved being set apart from sin and the world by the Holy Spirit and belief in the truth found in the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 1:22-25). The ultimate end was for the obtaining of the glory of the Lord.
They also encouraged them to be faithful to what they had been taught by Paul and his helpers. We must not listen to others but hold to the word of God (Jude 3).
Finally, they encouraged them with the blessings of the Lord which bring comfort and strength (Eph. 1:3).
Today there are still many misunderstandings about the coming of Christ and we live in the midst of the great apostasy. Let us not allow ourselves to be deceived but like the Bereans check everything out by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). May we be encouraged to know that God has chosen us for salvation, gives us all that we need and desires that we find our way to glory!
2 THESSALONIANS 3:1-17
In this final chapter Paul and his helpers leave the church of the Thessalonians with some especially encouraging, helpful and needful words. We, too, can benefit from these words by taking a close look and seeing how they can apply to our lives.
I. First of all, we read about their confidence in the Lord (vv. 1-5). This is implied in their request for the church of the Thessalonians to pray for them (Jam. 5:16). Look at what they asked them to pray about. Are we as concerned about the spread of the gospel? Do we believe that God can deliver us from the unbelieving?
It is also seen in their description of the Lord as faithful (1 Cor. 10:13). Do we have such confidence and trust in the dependability and reliability of God?
Then, it is expressly stated (Phi. 2:12-13). Who do we put our confidence in? When we look at each other we might say we will never make it to heaven, but when we look to the Lord we realize that anyone can!
II. Second, we read about their commandments regarding the disorderly (vv. 6-15). These commands were given by the authority of Jesus Christ (Mat. 28:19; John 14:15). We do not respect the authority of Jesus if we are not keeping His commandments.
They were to withdraw from the disorderly. Verses 14-15 explain what this involved. We also have Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5. The term disorderly is a military term which speaks of being out of step. They did not follow the inspired traditions nor the example of Paul and his helpers (2 The. 2:15). Unlike Paul and his helpers who had the right to be supported by the church but provided for themselves by working, some among the church of the Thessalonians had quit working altogether and become busybodies. Paul explained that they did not have a right to be fed by the church. God demands tough love for those in the church who insist on being unruly.
The disorderly were to get back to work and live a quiet life not bothering others (1 The. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:16). The rest were to keep on doing good (Gal. 6:9-10). May we learn to work hard, do good and live in peace with others.
III. Finally, we read about their comforting blessings (vv. 16-18). They wished for them the Lord’s peace (John 14:27; 16:33; Rom. 5:1; Phi. 4:6-7), presence (Mat. 28:20; Heb. 13:5-6; Psa. 23:4) and grace (Acts 20:32; 2 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 2:8-9; 4:7; 2 Pet. 3:18).
Paul had dictated the letter but then wrote the conclusion with his own hand as a mark and proof of genuineness (v. 17). Already there were forgeries (2 The. 2:2). Thus the church was enabled to know that the letter was indeed from Paul.
May we take these words to heart having confidence in the Lord, keeping His commandments and enjoying His blessings. What about you?