2 Thessalonians 2:13-17: Stand Fast

December 23, 2016

 Paul has just spent a portion of this letter talking about a horrible time that will befall the earth and its inhabitants.  It will be a time of lawlessness as the authority of Jesus Christ was pushed aside by those seeking authority of their own. Man would exalt himself seeking to place himself on God's throne. Many would be tragically deluded by the power and pretentious signs of the “lawless one” the “man of sin,” the Antichrist. All those who refused to obey God’s truth will ultimately pay the price for their rebellion against God when Jesus comes again. So Paul encourages them to “stand fast,” and to stand boldly for the truth he has taught them (verse 15). 

It has never been popular to stand for Truth!

 

    •For Truth's sake Martin Luther said, "Here I stand."

    •For Truth's sake Wesley was pushed from pillar to post.

    •For Truth's sake, Spurgeon fell ill and died. Even his own brother had fallen prey to the "Downgrade              Controversy" (Very similar to the “Church growth” movement).

•For Truth's sake Jonathon Edwards, Missionary to the Indians, died young.

    •For Truth's sake, Polycarp, pastor at Smyrna was burned at the stake.

    •For Truth's sake martyrs through the ages have suffered indescribable torment.

    •For Truth's sake, New Guinea Missionary Stan Dale took over one-hundred arrows into his body.

    •For Truth's sake, Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries suffered death at the hands of the ones they were        trying to help.

    •For Truth's sake James, the Lord's brother was thrown from the temple and stoned, John was exiled,              Peter crucified, Stephen stoned, and Paul beheaded.

In Ephesians 6:13, Paul says “having done all, to stand.” He also writes, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). How do we conquer? Through God’s great strength! “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). How do we accomplish that? “Strength” in Greek is Endunamoo, translated, “to endue with strength.” Every true believer is supernaturally strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”  

Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…”

This supernatural power that the Holy Spirit gives us enables us to stand victoriously against an enemy that, from a purely human perspective, is stronger and smarter.

Ephesians 6:1-12, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Verse 13a: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord…”

The awful destiny of those who have not believed leads Paul to thank God for conferring those blessings on his much-loved Thessalonians. Some may have been a bit discouraged with the spiritual fate of people without Christ, so Paul lets them know that they are loved, not only be him, but by the Lord

Be an encouragement today, call someone, tell them they are loved. You could light a fire on the hills of heaven for some shut-in or bed-ridden old friend or relative with just a call or a visit to say, “:I care about you.” God loves you, and so do I.” It is amazing what a little thanks can do for a discouraged person. Go, right now! Call, write or visit that lonely person!

Verse 13b: “…because God from the beginning chose you for salvation…”

“In this compact passage we get the whole series of ideas essential to the Gospel; the eternal (‘from the beginning’) election of God, the call of God through the preaching of the Gospel, the belief of the truth and the sanctification of the believer by the Holy Spirit, and the consequent obtaining of salvation or fellowship in Christ’s glory. All this results from God’s election of them to it, and therefore Paul gives God thanks for it all, and especially for the election. Antinomianism, which is said to result from believing in election, is precluded by the ‘sanctification of the Spirit,’ which is here introduced as the essential link between election and salvation. It is to be observed that in pursuance of the idea, with which Paul has been occupied, that wicked hatred of the truth is at the root of unbelief, he now speaks of sanctification of the Spirit as if it preceded belief in the truth. A man cannot believe till the Spirit has wrought in him a humble and holy willingness to receive the truth.” –Phillip Schaff

“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).  “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).  This truth is in contrast to those that will worship him (Antichrist), whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Verse 13c: “…through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…”

“Sanctification” is the Greek hagiasmos from hagiazo, meaning, “to consecrate, to set apart.”  It carries the idea of a setting apart from the secular to that which is holy or reserved for God’s special purposes. Paul here refers to the preliminary work of the Spirit to illuminate, convict, and lead a person to faith in Christ.

This work of the Holy Spirit in salvation is known as regeneration.  Before man is able to respond to the Gospel message, he must be given ears to hear.  Because man is born dead in sin, he must be made alive in order to respond positively to the call to repentance (just think about a corpse’s ability to respond to anything). Without this work of the Holy Spirit, man would remain condemned and dead in his sins.

John 6:37, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

Romans 8:2,10,  “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. ... And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26, “I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”

Verse 13d: “…and belief of the truth.”  

Paul has just referred to those people who were damned because they did not receive the truth. Now he is writing to a church who has received the truth. They have embraced the word of God for their salvation and sanctification.

No one is saved without hearing the word of God. “For the word of God is living and powerful…” (Hebrews 4:12). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it (the gospel) is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

You ask, what about those who have never heard. Two passages in Romans further explain general revelation: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20) and “The requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15). Taken together these passages claim that everyone has an inherent knowledge of God, that this can be clearly known from creation and that everyone also has a God-given moral compass.

My personal belief is that when a person who has never heard the gospel begins to look at nature and asks “where did all of this come from?” God looks down on him and sends a message to a person who knows Jesus saying, “go tell him.” Then God calls some Christian to go tell him! That puts the ball in our court.

None of us can understand the heart of God or the wisdom of God, so I don’t even pretend to give a definitive answer to many bible questions, including this one! Listen to the Holy Spirit, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). I also know that God is holy, just, unchanging and all-loving. This means that God will always do what is right.

Verse 14: “…to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“The outward call of God is by the gospel; and this is rendered effectual by the inward working of the Spirit. The belief of the truth brings the sinner to rely on Christ, and so to love and obey him; it is sealed by the Holy Spirit upon his heart. We have no certain proof of any thing having been delivered by the apostles, more than what we find contained in the Holy Scriptures. Let us then stand fast in the doctrines taught by the apostles, and reject all additions, and vain traditions.” –Matthew Henry

God saved them so that the Lord Jesus Christ would be displayed in their lives. The "glory" of Christ is clearly seen in believers as they share His glory.  Jesus said, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them” (John 17:22). “And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:17).

Verse 15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.”

The duty of perseverance is enforced upon the Thessalonians, both as a Church and as individuals—steadfast adherence to all truly Christian doctrine and practice—and that is possible only where there is loving loyalty to Jesus Christ Himself.

“Therefore means that Paul wants us to consider what he has written up to this point. In this letter, he has given compelling reasons why Christians must stand fast and not be moved.

Stand fast because of the current distress (the persecutions and tribulations described in 2 Thessalonians 1:4).

Stand fast because of the coming judgment of this world (in flaming fire taking vengeance, 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Stand fast because of the strength of coming deception (all power, signs, and lying wonders, 2 Thessalonians 2:9).

Stand fast because of our glorious destiny (the glory of our Lord Jesus, 2 Thessalonians 2:14).” –David Guzik

In our vocabulary the word “tradition” has to do with something handed down from one time to another or one generation to another. It is neutral. A tradition can be good or bad. I’m certain that your family has its traditions! Here, traditions are those ordinances, precepts and teachings transmitted through the apostles of Christ, and intended for all future generations. Remember what Jesus said to His men when He sent them out after His resurrection? "... teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you," (Matthew 28:20). A divine tradition is a tradition which was initiated by God and not by man.

In chapter 3 Paul writes:  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

The Greek word for “tradition” is  paradoseis, signifies a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing: tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, anything delivered in the way of teaching; and here most obviously means the doctrines delivered by the apostle and his team to the Thessalonians; whether in their preaching, private conversation, or by these letters.

“Stand fast”  “But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News” (Colossians 1:23).

Many years ago I went through a hurricane in Panama City, Florida where I was stationed in the U.S. Air Force. One of my jobs, along with almost every other airman was to sandbag airplanes to prevent damage as they would be blown around the flight line. Talk about hard! It was almost impossible to stand in hurricane force winds. With a sandbag under each arm, we would place the sandbags on the wings then literally crawl back to get two more.

With a hurricane of false teachings threatening the church, it takes divine strength to stand firm in the things we have been taught from God’s word. The hurricane of the cults that are rapidly increasing all around us. Those strong winds of false doctrine are knocking on our doors trying to propagate their heresies. The hurricane of Mormonism is blowing strong. The hurricane of the Jehovah witnesses is blowing the debris of their heresy up our sidewalks (any relationship between them and Jehovah is non-existent). “Stand fast…(continue, establish, persevere, stand firm) and hold the traditions (precepts, teachings) which you were taught…”

1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 16:13, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

On April 17th, 1521 at about 4:00 pm, Martin Luther appeared before Emperor Charles the Fifth, and all the representatives of Rome. He thought he was coming to a debate, not realizing the verdict was already in. He would not be allowed to speak, except to answer two questions. The Archbishop gestured to a table in the middle of the impressive assembly, which was piled high with books. He told Martin Luther he had been called to the Diet of Worms to answer two questions: 1. Had he written these books? 2. Was there any part of them he would now choose to recant?

Martin Luther spoke in a voice that could scarcely be heard, “The books are all mine–I have written more.” But then, as he considered the second question, “This touches God and His Word. This effects the salvation of souls. I beg you, give me time.” And so he was given one day. Back in his quarters Luther wrote, “So long as Christ is merciful, I will not recant a single jot or tittle.” He was not admitted to the assembly the next day until nightfall. He stood in the candle-lit hall. After realizing again there was no room for debate, he made this statement, “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds and reasoning–my conscience is captive to the Word of God–that I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me, Amen.”

Christian belief is under attack! Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “We have seen a war on faith…animosity to religious liberty and, in fact, antagonism to Christians…” (Speaking of the current attitude in America).

Look at the decline: the legalizing of gay marriage; the IRS targeting Conservative and Non-Profit Groups; the ban on Christian Prayer in Public Schools; the denying the God-given rights of the unborn to live…Our current American Democratic Presidential candidate said, essentially, when the church disagrees with government, the church will have to change its teaching! Her exact quote is: “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Christianity and Christian religious practices are also under attack, but in more subtle ways and under a misinterpretation of the principle of freedom of religion.  In the United States, that legal doctrine is cited to marginalize Christian prayer and traditions, while, at the same time, dramatically accommodating and even expanding Muslim religious practices. 

Oh my friends, the winds of heresy, apostasy and false religion, with  persecution are getting stronger by the day! Now is the time to get your hobnail boots of sound biblical tradition on and stand firm in your faith! “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 KJV). The King James Version says, “quit you like men” that means, in 2016 language, “Man up!” “Take control, take control of a (the) situation, be strong, rise to the moment” (The Urban Dictionary). “Man up” Preacher! “Man up” believer! “Man up” young Christian!

Every minister who dispenses God's Truth must “Man up!” He must be courageous and passionate in standing for the Truth. We who preach God's Truth must be serious about the handling of that Truth. Our goal in life must be, with God being our helper and judge, we will, through every means possible and with all of our effort always try to tell people what God says! We all have preferences as to style, but no one has a choice as to what is to be preached! Our messages may be expository, textual, or topical, but always the Word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, and principle by principle, but we are in good company listen to the Apostle Paul: “Necessity is laid upon me, yes woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). “One who does not need to be ashamed…who correctly explains the Word of Truth” [2 Timothy 2:15 NLT].

“Followers of Jesus Christ, and especially pastors and church leaders, have a responsibility to speak the truth of Scripture, calling sin what it is, and acknowledging that it has always reigned in the hearts of the human race. It is not any worse today than it was ‘in the beginning.’ Christians are called to shun acceptance of sin in all forms, not because we are perfect people but as a testimony to the transformation God brings about in a life surrendered to Him; washed clean by the blood of Christ and clothed in His righteousness. We must be people of endurance in the face of criticism or any form of persecution. If we do not exhibit godly courage to stand strong in the faith, we cannot overcome Satan’s seducing spirit that grips the world. The Bible says: ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared…If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine.’” (1 Timothy 4:1-2, 6) –Billy Graham

God's Word, the Bible, is Truth. It doesn't just contain truth. It is truth. And because it is truth from the mind and heart of an God, it is the kind of truth that sets people free. John 8:32, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’ In our current era, the surrounding culture is exerting pressure as never before upon evangelicalism to change and compromise its message–to adapt its theology to accommodate the ebb and flow of what is popular and to the opinion that has consensus. I've seen tweeted way too many times lately that Christians "are on the wrong side of history" on certain social issues.” –Rick Warren

The true believer is committed to Jesus Christ, but not only to Him, but to engage the evil forces of the world. It seems that many Christians look for the path of least resistance, and too many live in comfort zones which do not demand sacrifice or a commitment to stand up and wrestle with the powers of darkness. The fight is ours and cannot be delegated, or pushed off on others, it is ours alone!

“Man up!” and so as not to leave anyone out “Woman up!”

 

Verses 16,17: “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.”

The Thessalonians could not remain strong in their faith without the help of God. So, Paul and his friends ask for this help on their behalf. They appeal to our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father

William Barclay suggests that this passage is a kind of synopsis of the Christian life:

1. It begins with God's call. We could never even begin to seek God unless He had already found us. The whole initiative is with Him; the ground and the moving cause of the whole matter is His seeking love.

2. It develops in our effort. The Christian is not called to dream, but to fight; not to stand still, but to climb. He is called not only to the greatest privilege but also to the greatest task in the world.

3.  This effort is helped continually by two things. (a) It is helped by the teaching, guidance and example of godly men. God speaks to us through those to whom he has already spoken. ‘A saint, as someone has said, ‘is a person who makes it easier for others to believe in God.’ And there are some who help us, not by anything they say or write, but simply by being what they are, men whom to meet is to meet God. (b) It is helped by God himself We are never left to fight and toil alone. He who gives us the task also gives us the strength to do it; more, He actually does it with us. We are not thrown into the battle to meet it with the puny resources we can bring to it. At the back of us and beside us there is God. When Paul was up against it in Corinth, he had a vision by night in which the Lord said to him, ‘Do not be afraid...for I am with You’ (Acts 18:9-10). They that are for us are always more than they that are against us.

4. This call and this effort are designed to produce two things. (a) They are designed to produce consecration on earth. Literally in Greek a thing which is consecrated is set apart for God. They are meant to set us apart in such a way that God can use us for his service. The result is that a man's life no longer belongs to him to do with it as he likes; it belongs to God for him to use as he likes. (b) They are designed to produce salvation in heaven. The Christian life does not end with time; its goal is eternity. The Christian can regard his present affliction as a light thing in comparison with the glory that shall be.”

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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