2 Thessalonians 1:1-7: Paul’s Greeting to a Faithful Church

December 14, 2016

 

“The New Testament epistles have, as a rule, some specific quality or characteristic by which they are known. Romans is the epistle of gospel truth; Corinthians of the Church; Galatians of grace; Ephesians of the highest Christian life; Philippians of the sweetest Christian life; Colossians of the Christ life, etc. The letters to the Thessalonians are the advent epistles. The one theme that runs throughout the two letters like a sort of golden thread and appears in every chapter in connection with some important and practical doctrine, is the blessed hope of the Lord's coming…The fact that the letters to the Thessalonians were Paul's earliest epistles, and that this subject occupies so prominent a place in them, makes it very plain that the doctrine of the Lord's coming is not an advanced truth that can only be understood by deeply spiritual Christians. It is one of the primary doctrines of the Gospel, and is part of the very essence of the Gospel of the Kingdom.” –A.B. Simpson

 

Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica did not settle all of the problems in the church there. This second letter is written to correct misunderstandings regarding the Second Coming of Christ which were not corrected with the first letter. Since Paul’s first letter, the Thessalonians have fallen prey to deception and false teaching. Some false teachers have brought false doctrine, teaching that the “Day of the Lord” had already come causing them to waver in their faith.

 

There was some opposition to Paul’s authority and even defiance toward him. Therefore, Paul repeats his ‘command’ for 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” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). “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 3:14,15). There were deceivers who falsified letters in Paul’s name to carry their point in the church.

 

Paul removes these destructive seeds of deception and again sows the seeds of truth. So Paul writes this brief letter to correct the error, and to encourage those deceived believers whose faith is being tested by persecution. He also must deal with those who have decided to quit working because they believed the second coming had already occurred.

 

Please  note that Paul does not thank them for their hope, as he did in the first epistle. Hope is omitted by him. Why? Their hope had been dimmed through the false teachers and alarmists, who would have them believe that they were heading for all the tribulations of the “Day of the Lord.” They endured persecutions and tribulations on account of which they were greatly disturbed, because of the insinuation that these were the judgments of the day of the Lord. They looked more to what was happening to them than to the Lord. They were more occupied with these conditions than with the blessed hope. –Edited from Gaebelein’s Annotated Bible

 

“Before Jesus Christ left this earth He said that He would return, but that before His return there would be a time of difficulty and widespread lawlessness. The seams of society would come apart, and disorders, violence and riot would be so widespread that men's hearts would literally fail them for fear of the things that were coming on the face of the earth. And Jesus predicted the character of the age that would follow His ascension into heaven, and said that it would culminate in a time of great tribulation ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be’ (Matthew 24:21).Now when Christians of Thessalonica were going through their time of trouble, many of them thought they were in that time of tribulation. It was to respond to this question that Paul wrote this second letter. In the first letter, he wrote to comfort them in their distress over their loved ones who had died, but this letter is written to correct certain misunderstandings they had about the ‘Day of the Lord,’ and this time of trouble.” –written by Ray Stedman…edited by author,

 

Verse 1,2: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

“These are the same three names found in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. This was an effective and powerful team as we saw in our study of First Thessalonians. Paul, a leader, scholar and writer determined to spread the gospel throughout the Roman world. Silvanus, (Silas) a Hellenistic Jew, held a prominent part of the Council at Jerusalem. The Council asked him to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to strengthen the church there…Timothy was a vest pocket edition of the apostle Paul and Paul’s son in the faith. His father was a Gentile and his mother a Jew. Timothy was a pastor and a troubleshooter for Paul.” – Grant Richison, versebyversecommentary.com

 

Verse 3: “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…”

 

Paul’s greetings included thanksgiving:

 

Rome: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).

 

Corinth: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

 

Philippi: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3).

Colosse: “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).

 

Thessalonica: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Thessalonians 1:2,3).

 

Paul had prayed for them to grow in faith, and to increase in love. He now rejoiced that they were doing both of these things.

 

“We are bound” The Greek word for “bound” is opheilomen meaning, indebted, must, obligated, ought, owe, and responsible. “We owe a constant debt of thanksgiving to God.” –Knox). “The thought is not of giving thanks for duty’s sake, but of the obligation imposed by joyfulness and relief.” –Marshall

 

This is the type of motivation that comes from within and that is lasting.

 

“These opening words remind us, as we need constantly to be reminded, that Thessalonians is, like the other Pauline epistles, neither a theological treatise nor a sermon, but a real letter, written at a specific time to meet a specific situation. For this is precisely the way in which any private letter of the times would begin, with the name of the writer, followed by the name of the addressee, and a polite greeting...So he greets them, not just with good wishes, but with a prayer that grace may be granted them – that unmerited gift of God’s love to men through Christ, forgiving, strengthening, uplifting them; making them at one with Him, and thereby giving them the peace that passes all understanding, the inward tranquility, health, and soundness of life in harmony with God.” –Neil

 

Verse 4: “…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…” “We’re so proud of you; you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you” (The Message).

 

How does God measure success in the local church?

 

John Macarthur cites several “successful” churches: “I found one church that boasted about its 18,000 members and one million square feet of building on forty-two acres. 

 

And there was another church that boasted about its rejection from traditional worship for a service where you can be anonymous, quote, ‘You don't have to say anything, sing anything, sign anything, or give anything…’

 

Another church praised its foresight in selling the pipe organ to get relevant and having the best rock-and-roll band for a generation who have rebelled against classical music.  Another church had built its reputation and built up its 4,000 members by aiming at nominal Christians among the Baby Boomers.  Another church prides itself on addiction-busting classes.  And so it goes.

 

Some churches are proud of their buildings.  Some churches are proud of their stained-glass windows. Some churches are proud of their innovative programs.  Some are proud of their music.  Others are proud of their wealth and their wealthy members. Some are proud of their size, their numbers. Some are proud of their famous pastor. Some are proud of their theology.  Some are proud of their liturgy.  And on and on it goes.

 

And when you look at all of this you sort of ask yourself, What kind of church would God be proud of?  If God were to write an article, what kind of church would show up in the article?”

 

In my many years of being around pastors I’ve not heard many boast about the patience and faith of their congregations. I have heard a lot of complaining about their hard-nosed board members, errant parishioners, unruly children and in general griping about how bad it is for them.

 

I’ve heard them brag about how many were in their Sunday services, Bible studies, youth groups, and Sunday school. I’ve heard them brag about the size of their building, the number of students in their Christian school and the types of expensive cars in their parking lots. I even heard about one pastor trying to outdo another pastor by bragging that the graves in his cemetery were oldest in the state.

 

After observing some of today’s churches, we do not have to wonder, when looking at the church of the “last days” Jesus says to them, “You make Me sick!” Revelation 3:16, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

 

“We should not measure success by how big a church gets, by how good the worship is, by how great the children's programs are, etc. We should measure the success of our local churches by how well God's word is preached, by how much the people are growing in their sanctification before Jesus, if they are making disciples, and how much they are honoring the Lord God through the person of Christ.  In other words, are they doing what they're supposed to be doing according to the Scriptures, such as reaching the lost (Matthew 28:18-20), taking care of widows (1 Timothy 5:3, 16), visiting the people in prison (Hebrews 13:3), taking care of orphans (James 1:27), and of course preaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6; 6:3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1)?  The last one is very important since a lot of churches are teaching false doctrines, such as saying that God always wanted us to be wealthy and healthy or that we are partially divine or that salvation is attained through being good and being faithful, etc.” carm.org

 

Paul mentions three marks of a successful Church.

 

1. A strong faith. Verse 3: “…your faith grows exceedingly…” “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Strong faith comes from reading, studying and memorizing God’s word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). A strong faith is the mark of a Christian that he grows more certain of Jesus Christ every day.

 

2. An ever-increasing love. Verse 3: “…the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other…” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35). “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

 

3. An enduring perseverance. Verse 4: “…your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure…” Paul uses  the Greek word hupomone, which is usually translated steadfastness, constancy, or endurance. I’ve heard it called, “Keeping on keeping on!” “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2,3). “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Colossians 1:10,11).

 

Verse 5: “…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…”

 

The “persecutions and tribulations that you endure…” (verse 3) is evidence of the reality of their faith in Christ. That is every believer’s experience? “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). In verse 3 Paul writes that their “faith grows exceedingly.”
Those trying times in our Christian life are actually the making if us. The storms of life actually make us grow! What seems to be breaking us is actually is making us more like Jesus. The more Pharaoh oppressed Israel, the more they multiplied. Trials are like Noah's ark, as the waters grew deeper and deeper, the ark rose higher and higher and higher in the grace and safety and refuge of God. And the more God's people are afflicted by trouble, the closer they get to the Lord Jesus. The more they suffer, the more they become one in Christ. The more they are hammered, the more they are shaped into the image of the Lord. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12).

 

Today, many in this world suffer for their Christian testimony. There are many countries around the world where being a Christian can warrant the death penalty. This forces believers to worship God and meet with other believers in secret. Terrorism against believers is the “new norm” in our world. The reality of torture and death awaits many believers in some countries. While this is a reality in which we live, have you ever stopped to think, Why does God allow His children to suffer?

 

John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you... because they do not know Him who sent Me."

 

John 16:1-4, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues [today it might be from churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them."

 

John 17:14-18, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one."

 

God is sovereign, and that even when persecution comes, God is in control.

 

Verses 6: “In His justice He will pay back those who persecute you.”

 

“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NLT).

“Many people question the righteousness of God's judgment. They believe that God's love and His judgment contradict each other. But God's judgment is based on the great spiritual principle that it is a righteous thing with God to repay those who do evil. Since God is righteous, He will repay all evil, and it will all be judged and accounted for either at the cross or in hell. The judgment of God means that there is nothing unimportant in my life. Everything is under the eye of the God I must answer to.” –Guzik

 

Verses 7:  “And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven.”

 

The last promise Christ made to us before His ascension is, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). This is especially precious in the midst of a world that hates Christ and His followers. In these dark days, when Christian’s in many countries are living “as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3), and we see growing hostility and threats against Bible-believers even in our own country, we must remember that Christ never—not even for one moment—ever abandons those whom He loves.

 

Listen to what God promises to His people:

 

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1–3 NLT).

 

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4).

 

“Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

 

No matter what God calls us to do or what he permits to happen in our lives, he will be there with us. “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

 

Never Alone by David H. Roper

 

“Robinson Crusoe, the chief character in a novel by Daniel Defoe, was shipwrecked and stranded on an uninhabited island. Life was hard, but he found hope and comfort when he turned to the Word of God.

Crusoe said, ‘One morning, being very sad, I opened the Bible upon these words, 'I will never, never leave thee, nor forsake thee.' Immediately it occurred that these words were to me; why else should they be directed in such a manner, just at the moment when I was mourning over my condition, as one forsaken of God and man? ‘Well then,' said I, 'if God does not forsake me…what matters it, though the world should all forsake me?' From this moment I began to conclude in my mind that it was possible for me to be more happy in this forsaken, solitary condition than it was probable that I should ever have been in any other state in the world; and with this thought I was going to give thanks to God for bringing me to this place.”

 

Have you been forsaken by a friend, a child, a spouse? Have you suffered some ill-will from other believers or persecution form unbelievers? God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). So you too can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6).

 

When all around me is darkness

And earthly joys have flown,

My Savior whispers His promise

Never to leave me alone.

–Anonymous–

 

Fear will leave us when we remember that God is always with us.

 

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English  bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).

 

 

 

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