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Doctrine and Discipleship Despite Hostility and Persecution
Written from Corinth about AD 51, this book deals with doctrine and discipline. We are called to patient, joyful discipleship in the face of suffering, persecution and abuse. There will be those who are hostile to the Faith and we should expect persecution and abuse from all. Those faithful to the Kingdom of God will inevitably face diabolical opposition and persecution.
Encouragement and Endurance during Persecution
“…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:2-10
The Lord Will Return to Judge the Wicked
Growth is seen in healthy plants. Likewise, a growing Christian and a growing church is healthy. Faith and love go together. Our work is to be excellent. Those who oppose and persecute the people of God will suffer eternal Judgement. You can rest when the Lord comes. The Lord’s return should be a great comfort to believers. It will bring condemnation to those who resist and disobey God. Ignorance is not an excuse, it is a sin. Ignorance is condemned. The Lord will judge the wicked with everlasting punishment. They will have to give an account for everything. God will put things right.
God is Worthy of our Very Best
“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. God and the Lord Jesus Christ. God, the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are put together showing the Deity of Christ and confirming the doctrine of the Trinity. Sola Gratia – Grace alone, Sola Fide – Faith alone and Solus Christus – Christ alone, Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone, is emphasised.
Do Not be Deceived
Paul is concerned about the Church’s faulty Eschatology (study of last days) which includes the Lord’s Return, the Judgement and Heaven and Hell. Faulty eschatology leads to faulty conduct, bad behaviour and laziness. “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the Day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as god in the temple of god, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Paul authenticates the letter by signing it. He seemed to have dictated it. Someone else wrote the letter, but he signed the end of his letters. Paul seemed to have some sort of eyesight problem. Do not be gullible. Do not let anyone deceive you. Be discerning. The man of sin is also translated as man of lawlessness. Those who persecute the Church and are against Christ are anti-Christ. Those who create a false christ are anti-Christ. The man of sin and the man of perdition applies to the Jewish high priest sitting in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Those Who Do Not Love the Truth but Take Pleasure in Wickedness
“Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:5-12. The coming of the lawless one was according to all the working of satan, with all power and signs and wonders and with all unrighteous deception amongst those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
The Man of Lawlessness
The Jews were persecuting the Christians in Thessalonians. They were so angry that the Thessalonians were receiving the Gospel and were believing in the Messiah that they rejected. In AD 67 there was a revolt against Rome which was led by the High Priest in Jerusalem. They slaughtered the entire Roman garrison after they surrendered. Once the Roman army had withdrawn from Jerusalem the lawlessness exploded which was described in The Great Tribulation by David Chilton. The wrath of the Roman Empire came upon them. The Lord had warned, when you see the armies surround Jerusalem with banners flying, flee. No Christians were in Jerusalem when it was destroyed. The Romans slaughtered over 2 million people. The wrath of God came upon lawlessness. Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed. The priests and all their records were destroyed. The man of lawlessness here is not the beast, the beast was a political figure sitting on the seven hills of Rome. Caesar Nero was the beast. Then the fulfilment came upon them what was prophesied by Christ in Matthew 24, the blood of all righteous, of all the prophets came upon this generation, the generation which had rejected Christ. The generation that declared: “Crucify Christ!” and “Release Barabbas!” “His Blood be upon us and on our children.” 40 years after crucifying Christ, that generation, including the evil Sanhedrin, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who had not repented and come to Christ, were destroyed. The man of lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians 2 is historically fulfilled in and through the Jewish High Priest.
The Sword of the Spirit
“…the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth…” The Lord will consume him with the sword of the Spirit. The Lord will come with a two-edged sword, which is the Word of God, with the preaching, teaching and proclamation, including printing of the Word of God. The Word of God is the truth that conquers.
Lying Wonders, Deception and Delusion
When one sees miracles, it is not necessarily proof that it is of God. There are false miracles, satan does have power. Tongues and healing could also be from the devil. Healings that come from God give glory to Christ and you can see positive results.
Deception Brings Bondage – The Truth Sets Free
Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” We need to love and accept the truth and continually study the Word of God to discover the truth. Those who do not love and receive the truth, will be deceived and destroyed. Deception brings bondage. We need to know the truth of history and of Scripture. Part of the armour of God is the belt of truth. Truth is so important. We need to stand for the truth and expose falsehood. Those who believe lies… “Did God really say….” take pleasure in unrighteousness acts: blasphemy, adultery, fornication, lusts, idolatry, murder, torture and horror. Those who take pleasure in deception will be condemned. Lies always bring bondage. Jesus is the truth that sets us free.
Chosen for Salvation through Sanctification
“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, to which He called you by our Gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by Word or our Epistle. 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.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
Salvation: Past, Present and Future
The three tenses of Salvation:
Justification – “Just as if I had never sinned.” I have been saved from the guilt of sin. Past tense.
Sanctification – An ongoing process. I am being saved from the power of sin. Present tense.
Glorification – Saved from the very presence of sin. I will be saved. Future tense.
Sola Gratia – We are Saved by the Grace of God
We think we chose God, but He chose us. If God did not regenerate us we would not have had the faith to be able to repent of our sins and trust in Him.
Election, Calling, Faith, Sanctification and Glorification
We need to stand for the truth. The traditions which Paul speaks about are traditions rooted in Scripture: The Apostles Creed, The Nicean Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Synods of Dort, the Heidelberg Confession, the Westminster Confession and the London Confession of Faith. There are so many attempts to erode these foundation of the Faith, of Scripture. We do not want to be fashionable, we want to be faithful to the Word of God.
Faith in Action
The chapter ends with a prayer of comfort. Word and work, faith and action, trust and obey. We need a balanced view of Eschatology and a balance and understanding of Christian behaviour.
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you 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. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Faithful Under Fire
Chapter 3 starts with a prayer and then discipline. We need to prioritise the Word of God. We must expect opposition. If you are being faithful you will be attacked. If you are not being criticised, you are not doing your job. The character of God is shown in how He protects us. We not only believe, but we apply the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life. The Lord will keep you in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Him.
Doctrine Must Determine Discipline
“But we command you, brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labour and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9. After doctrine, we see discipline and warnings against idleness. We need to keep busy with God's work. Those people not busy and productive, in God's work, often become busy bodies, gossips and troublemakers.
Practical Holiness is Seen in Our Work Ethic
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11. Here is practical Christianity and holiness. Our character is revealed in how we work, our work ethic. God worked to create the world. God gave man work in the Garden of Eden. Work is not part of the curse. Work is good. Those who are not able to work, those who are disabled, must be helped by others. Those who refuse to work, however are lazy and wicked. Some people have a ministry of criticism and a gift of discouragement. The Scripture made provision for the poor, but it always involved work first. No unconditional charity handouts to those who will waste it in vice.
Occupy Until He Comes
Some did not work because they thought the Lord was coming soon. However, before the Lord returns, there is a whole lot more things that needs to happen. Let the Lord find us busy when He comes, not idle. We need to be working to fulfill the Great Commission and to fulfill the cultural mandate, to improve God’s earth. We are to walk with the Lord, we are to work for the Lord, we are to worship the Lord and we are to wait upon the Lord’s perfect timing.
Walk, Work, Worship and Wait
“Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our Word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:12-15. We need to work to produce our own food, in order to enjoy the fruit of our own labours. Avoiding keeping company with a person who is lazy, is designed to bring them to repentance. Restore your lazy brother. Practical holiness is seen in our work ethic.
Be Discerning Amongst Deception
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all. The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is a sign in every epistle; so I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18. Do not accept a letter from me unless you see my own hand writing, I will authenticate it by signing my letters.
Be Persistent and Persevere
We are commanded to be patient under persecution and discerning amidst deception. Be productive and be prayerful. Be industrious. Live lives of integrity. Be discerning. Be steadfast. Be diligent. Be disciplined. Be hard working. Be persistent. Persevere. Keep on keeping on. Do not give up. Do not turn back. Be resilient and resourceful.
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa