Devotional # 189. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Devotional # 189. 5/10/16. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.

Intro. Three weeks ago we started digging into God’s righteous judgment and justice in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10 (Devotional # 186). Last week we talked about some specifics of the end times and the many “hopes” believers have in the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Devotional # 188).

At the end of last week’s Devotional I very briefly asked you about “love” vs. “pleasure”. I was fascinated with the use of the phrase “the love of the truth”, especially in contrast with the “pleasure in unrighteousness” (v. 12). The original text for “love of the truth” is agape (love) aletheia (truth). As we’ve said before (Devotional # 121) agape love is God’s unconditional love (Source 1). The term aletheia is “truth” objectively as ‘absolute truth’ or ‘truth about God’ or ‘the truth from the Bible’ (Source 2). The “pleasure in unrighteousness” in Greek is eudokeo (pleasure) en (in) adikia (unrighteousness). Eudokeo means “seems good to someone” or “to choose or decide” (Source 3). And adikia means injustice or violating the law (Source 4). Paul tells us that everyone who didn’t believe in God’s unconditional love, which is an absolute truth, instead welcomed injustice that they thought “felt right.” For a chapter mostly about the righteousness of God’s justice we really should be paying attention to the truth of God’s love.

This week we’ll talk more about “THE truth”, God’s “calling” us to “salvation” but also our role of believing in Him.

vv. 13-14. Paul starts with “but” noting that he’s about to contrast the discouraging information he has just given in verses 1-12. Along the theme of a Christian’s hope we had last week (Devotional # 188) Paul’s “but” here is telling us there is hope. He talks again about their (Paul, Thomas and Silas’) thankfulness for the brothers and sisters in Thessalonica, the same way he started the letter in verse 1. Why are they thankful? Because the Thessalonians were “called” (v. 14) “for salvation” (v. 13) by two things. What are these two things? This is important because it’s also how we were “called” by God to receive “salvation.”

First, “through sanctification by the Spirit.” Just a couple weeks ago we talked about sanctification meaning purification (Devotional # 180). “Sanctified” also means to be “set apart”; so the Holy Spirit has set us apart by making us pure. For more on sanctification go here.

Second, Paul says, “belief in the truth.” We have two key words here: “belief” and “truth.” The “belief” that a believer (ever wondered why we’re called that?!) is exercising is faith in the Lord, what He says and what He does. The other important word is “the truth.” Not just “truth” (that some people think doesn’t exist) but “THE truth.” In the Greek “THE truth” here is aletheia, the same as the “truth” from verse 12 that I mentioned in the “Intro” above. “The truth” is the one and only, unquestionable, verified reality. The truth of God comes from the true Creator who literally is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Do you remember “THE apostasy” from last week (Devotional # 188)? In many ways “THE truth” is the opposite of “THE apostasy.”

It’s interesting that in a section of Scripture that Calvinists use to show that we are “called” by God (which we obviously are) there is also a portion where the ball is in our court by “belief in the truth” (also true). So, as I’ve said before, Scripture doesn’t allow for hyper-Calvinism or hyper-Arminianism. It is best to be middle of the road. This is another one of God’s contrarieties (not contradictions) where two things that we can’t understand as co-existing (i.e. both God pre-ordaining us to be saved and our acceptance and choice in the matter) do in fact somehow harmonize perfectly.

How “thankful” we should be to know we have been sanctified by the Spirit and given the ability to believe in the truth! As Ephesians 2:8 tells us “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”

v. 15. The Thessalonians are reminded by Paul that they needed to “stand fast” and “hold” to the “traditions they were taught.” They were taught these in two ways: 1. “by word” – in those initial 3 short weeks (Acts 17:2) as well as when Timothy and Silas made the second trip out (Devotional # 185) or by “epistle” – which were both letters we now call 1st & 2nd Thessalonians. We need to pay attention to this because although Paul is not going to instruct any of us personally, the Holy Spirit still does speak through women and men on a regular basis. Be open and willing to hear what the Lord says to you through brothers and sisters. For us, the second should come before the first: we need to heed the “epistles” before listening to a fellow Christian.

Why is this important? Because the Holy Spirit has spoken in times past and kept it, without error (Psalm 12:6, Proverbs 30:5-6, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13), for our doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). This is crucial because anything any human being tells us better line up with Scripture otherwise its wrong. If I’m told the Holy Spirit will make me bark like a dog that’s not a new revelation or a special anointing. How can I be sure? Because I don’t see it in Scripture and if God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6) and I don’t see it in the Bible then its wrong (not to mention its disorder and God is not a God of chaos according to 1 Corinthians 14:33). What is best for my life is to know the Bible (“epistles”) and encourage and be encouraged by fellow believers who speak “words” that line up with the Scriptures.

vv. 16-17. Paul ends the chapter with the realities of hope and comfort that both our Lord (Master) Jesus and God (“Father”) give us. First, they “loved us”, second they gave us an “everlasting consolation”, third, they gave “hope by grace.” What an amazing time you will have when you meditate on the love of God! The “everlasting consolation” is a special relief that has already started but will continue for eternity. Lastly, that “hope by grace” is a positive outlook on the future, knowing that God has given us what we don’t deserve. For more on grace (and how it’s different from mercy) see Devotional # 98.

I love that this comfort to our “hearts”* will “establish you in every word and work.” It bears the reminder that both the words and works here are given by God. Regarding the “words”, the Bible says that the we shouldn’t worry about what we’re going to say about Jesus because the Holy Spirit will give us the words we should say (Luke 12:12). Regarding the “works” 1 Timothy 6:18 says, “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works...” In both cases it is “our Lord Jesus Christ”, “our God and Father” and the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to say and do these things. I can’t help but notice that the “word and work” here in verse 17 is similar to the “word” and “epistle” that Paul told us were traditions we should hold on to (v. 15). Certainly the “words” and the “epistle” that Paul produced were not of his own working or authority, instead they comforted his heart and the hearts of many others including us today.

 

*heart – this word is how the Bible describes in what way our soul and spirit are mysteriously tied together.

 

Conclusion. In the same way that Paul produced many great things in “word and work” we are told the Trinity will supply us with the same power. Today we reviewed “THE truth” that gives us hope: an “everlasting consolation” and “hope by grace.” Be encouraged by the “words” and “epistles” as well as the “word and work” that you have today!

 

References.

Source 1: agape, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G26&t=KJV

Source 2: aletheia, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G225&t=KJV

Source 3: eudokeo, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2106&t=KJV

Source 4: adikia, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G93&t=KJV

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Devotional # 175. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

Devotional # 175. 2/4/16. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10.

Intro. In the last Devotional we talked about a lot of great things but what is probably most important for us to remember in order to apply to this weeks is that when Paul gave the gospel to the Thessalonians it wasn’t “in word only“. It was in power, the Holy Spirit and much assurance (v. 5). This week we will see how the people of Thessalonica latched onto the truth, having been worshipers of idols they responded to the living God. Today’s section of Scripture will challenge us but if we hold to it and allow the Holy Spirit to work through us we will move mountains!

v. 6. Paul says that the Thessalonians became “followers of us and of the Lord“. When he says “followers of us” he means they had seen Paul, Silas and Timothy living out their faith, trusting in the word of the Lord, praying for them and fellowshipping. And in so doing the Thessalonians were also “followers…of the Lord.” It’s the beautiful picture of how we first trust in the Lord. We must “hear it” and how can we hear it unless there are people preaching it (Romans 10:14)? The Thessalonian church came about in just three weeks of Paul being there (Acts 17:2). They trusted in him and what he was saying because it was proved as they started trusting “in the Lord“. The great part is that they weren’t holding Paul, Silas and Timothy up on a pedestal as we often do with Christian pastors and speakers. No, if that’s what your entire faith is based upon you will be disappointed. I’ve actually seen people walk away from the faith because a pastor was adulterous or caught in sheisty business deals. Yes, this is disappointing and should break our hearts but they’re just people who can be corrupted. And so we lean upon the one who cannot be corrupted. We lean upon our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. 

How do I know that the Thessalonians trusted and loved Paul but held Jesus as preeminent and worshipped Him only? Because in the second part of this verse it says, “having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” If it had just been Paul’s word that they were receiving it would’ve faltered and there would’ve been no reason for them to cling to it through “much affliction“. WARNING (I have to pause here and say what I’ve said many times): the Christian life is not easy and you will go through many difficulties. In fact we’re going to see a couple chapters from now that we are actually “appointed to [afflictions]” (1 Thess. 3:3). So if someone is telling you that as a Christian your life is going to be all roses they don’t know that God has actually chosen (“appointed“) each of us to go through some really tough stuff for His sake*. Not only did the Thessalonians go through trials but it was very evident that they had the “joy of the Holy Spirit“. This cannot be replicated or faked for any sustainable amount of time. This “joy” in the midst of severe hardships and beatings and persecution (“much affliction“) cannot happen without the Holy Spirit living and working inside of you.

Trials for His Sake: Sometimes Christians make the mistake of thinking that just because they’re going through a difficulty they are enduring persecutions for the Lord. But that’s just not always the case. Sometimes it is because we have sinned and although we have confessed that sin and God has forgiven us for it there are still consequences to it. Sometimes you’ve just made a poor decision, it wasn’t necessarily sinful, but again there are consequences for our stupidity. So the next time that you’re going through something difficult don’t just pat yourself on the back and say, ‘I’m just going through a trial for the Lord’. Instead pray that the Lord would reveal whether it was your stupidity that brought this about or the fact that you’ve truly stood for Him and are being persecuted for your faith in Him. I know when I do this in my life it puts things in perspective: it makes me not want to sin and do stupid things and makes me more cognizant of when I am in line with His will and therefore being persecuted either by sinful people or by Satan who hates that I am loving as Jesus loved and bringing more people to the foot of the cross.

vv. 7-8. We see that when you live with the type of life that the Thessalonians were living you become an example to others. If you become a Christian and continue to be one even when times get tough and not only that but have joy during those times, then people will look at you as a spiritual role model. Paul takes the time to clarify that this is being a role model to other Christians (“all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe“). Does this scare you? Do you not want to be held as an example? Think of it like this: have you ever been encouraged by another Christian? Chances are good that person was scared of being an example but God used them anyway. In his book on leadership called Leading With a Limp, Dan B. Allender talks about how the #1 qualification we should be looking for in a leader is someone who was put in a leading situation, failed at it but has returned hesitantly yet willingly to serve again. Why? Because they have been humbled and they realize power and popularity are really difficult to manage. They also understand they may not be the best choice for a job but they’re simply willing to be of service anyway. You have a choice today: accept what God calls you to do and do it with His help and power or not to do it. If you don’t do it you will have a difficult life because you’re running from the call of God and also you will have to answer to Him in heaven someday about why you told him “no”.

If you say “yes” you will also have a hard life (“many afflictions“) but you will have Him working through you, you will receive his peace, you will be used to bring someone to faith in Jesus which results in them escaping hell and going to heaven, and you will receive crowns (see Devotional #136 for the full list) for being faithful. As for me, I will be faithful to His call.

You see it wasn’t that the people in Thessalonians had become popular it was that “the word of the Lord” had been proclaimed and not just to Macedonia and Achaia “but also in every place.” The gospel had been preached so well by them that Paul didn’t have to hit those areas, not only that but he didn’t have to remind the Thessalonians to do the preaching because they had done such a great job. They actually made his life easier so that he could go on and focus on others. Don’t you see that’s how God uses us? You’re afraid of going out of your comfort zone but really you’re expected to take up some of the slack and by you answering the call of God you make other Christian’s lives easier which in turn makes your life easier to focus.

vv. 9-10. Paul shows how others were talking about how the Thessalonians had such a dramatic change in their life. They had been idol worshipers and they left that and followed after “the living and true God” instead. They waited on Jesus. It’s interesting how Paul puts this; he shows that Jesus is the “living and true God’sSon from heaven.” Not only that but Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father and it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” This is great because not only is Paul acknowledging who Jesus is and what He has done but is also summarizing the very gospel message that the Thessalonians are now famous for preaching!