Friday, July 13, 2018

Reading Through Second Thessalonians

This is the second post in my devotional study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. Basically, 2 Thessalonians continues the message of the first letter and deals with the same problems. Paul focuses on the 2nd coming of Jesus as motivation for how believers are to live in the present. All the trials, opposition and difficulties will be worth it because God will use them to produce Christ-likeness in us and will set things right when Jesus returns to set up his eternal kingdom.  I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 1 Paul assures the Thessalonians that God's character and kingdom plan assures their growth and eternal well-being despite their present trials and persecution. God’s plan is just and right and He will bring relief to His suffering people and judgment to those who cause the suffering. At the 2nd Coming, Jesus will be glorified in His people and believers will marvel in His presence. In the meantime, Paul prays that Jesus will be glorified in the present as he makes empowers believers to fulfill His calling in their daily actions.

Our standing before God is a gift (INDICATIVE), but also a mandate (IMPERATIVE). One way to express this truth may be with an athletic metaphor. Believers have won the race by their faith relationship with Christ. Now they must run the race for Him in faithfulness. Gratitude, not required performance, drives the Christian to godliness. II Thessalonians 1.1-5, 126

Fallen mankind will flee the glorious presence of the Holy One of Israel. The tragedy of creation is that mankind’s greatness need is fellowship with God, but because of sin and rebellion, we fear Him and flee Him who created us like Himself for glorious fellowship. II Thessalonians 1.6-13, 127

In chapter 2 Paul corrects a misunderstanding that the Thessalonians were already in the "Day of the LORD" end-time events. The Day of the LORD will not come until after the deception and revelation of the man of sin, and any communication claiming otherwise is not from Paul. He remined them to remember that he had taught them that the "man of sin" was presently restrained by God though evil is still active in the present age, he would be let loose and revealed with evil supernatural events that would deceive many, and then Christ would come to judge and set up His kingdom. He closes the chapter with application to the present: Believers were chosen by God, based on His love, from the beginning, to salvation, holiness and glory, so they need to hang on to the truth now and trust that God will empower them to glorify Jesus Christ in their attitudes, words and actions.
Others of us see these eschatological events as referring to both past first-century events and future events. The OT prophets often took the events of their day and projected them into a future “Day of the Lord” setting. In this way the NT has a message to its own day and every succeeding period of history. We must take seriously the historical setting of the original author, but also the surprising 2000 year delay of the Second Coming. II Thessalonians 2.1-5, 132

This spiritual rebellion has been occurring since the Fall. The rebellion will one day be personified. Currently God is restraining this influence. The Scriptures project an end-time confrontation between personal evil and God’s Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). II Thessalonians 2.6-12, 134

The believers’ comfort and hope are based on the grace of God seen and enacted through Christ. Notice the pastoral context of encouragement just like 1 Thess. 4:18. Paul’s insights about the Second Coming were not given to fill out our charts and theories, but to energize our daily Christlikeness. II Thessalonians 2.13-17, 138.

He closes the letter with further application of future truth to the present. First, believers should pray that the gospel with spread throughout the world and that its messengers would be protected. Secondly, they must hold each other accountable to work hard to serve others without demanding one's own rights. When this happens God will provide His peace to His people and the world will notice and be drawn to God.

Evil is always present, but so too, the faithful Lord! He will rescue and preserve His followers from evil men and He will strengthen and protect them from the evil one. II Thessalonians 3.1-5, 143

Believers are not to draw undue attention to themselves by strange, unusual behavior, but by living appropriate quiet, gentle, patient, moral, loving, caring, working lives (the opposite of 3:11). So often in our day believers make the “headlines” because of their strange beliefs or actions! As Paul was an example to working and witnessing, so too, should modern believers. If the message causes conflict, so be it, but not the messengers! II Thessalonians 3.6-18, 145

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