2 Thessalonians 1:3 Abounding Grace
We are told that this epistle was written quite soon after the first and probably to correct an impression that the church had received about the Lord’s return, a more suitable subject for our treatment of the next chapter. Here we are impressed with the thankfulness of the Apostle for the good state of the believers in Thessalonica.
Note that the format follows the same three-fold approach of faith, love and hope (1 Thess.1:3). Here, he indicates that he has heard that their faith was growing as we would say, by leaps and bounds, and for that matter, so was their love for each other. His reference to “hope”comes more particularly in the next chapter, but he does speak here of their “patience”(v.4) in persecutions and tribulations that they were going through and we remember that this is the word that he especially uses with reference to hope since the way they handled their trials indicated that they were waiting the Lord’s coming with an attitude of patient endurance.
In fact the remainder of the chapter is given over to the subject of future retribution against “those who obey not the gospel”which, as he said, is God’s righteous judgement upon those who were troubling them.
The chapter ends with a prayer for their continued faithfulness which contains an interesting Christ in you and ye in Him combination.
It is perhaps not unusual that during times of trial love for the brethren abounds, but may we glorify the Lord by abounding in this grace even in our times.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 “Brethren, Stand Fast”
There are three passages in the opening verses of this chapter around which there has been much discussion. I will attempt to point these out for the hopeful purpose of edification.
The first concerns the words “day of Christ” in verse two. Paul had spent at least three Sabbaths in their synagogues (Acts 17:1-3) but Ramsey in St. Paul the Traveler estimates that he probably was in Thessolonica from December in 50 A.D. to May in 51 A.D. At any rate what is impressive is the fact that among other things, he had been able to teach them so much about future events (2:5). Here, the R.V. and ancient texts read “day of the Lord” which, is probably more correct since the apostle goes on to speak of tribulation events. These believers would have had good reason to be “shook up” if they thought they were in the period of Jacob’s Trouble and had missed the rapture!
A second interesting discussion occurs over the Greek word “falling away” which literally is our word for apostasy. There are good Bible teachers such as Wuest who say this could be translated departure and have reference to the rapture of the church. E. Schyler English holds this position as does a brother Houghton who taught at one of the Middletown Bible Conference sessions . I leave it there.
Finally, there is the question as to what is meant by verses 6 & 7. Bullinger in Figures of Speech (p.14) offers convincing proof that the A.V. words “ withholdeth” and “ letteth” as well as the R.V. rendering of both by the word “restrains”are poor renderings of the Greek. He shows that in the 19 passages where this word occurs, the meaning is that of holding fast as in 1 Thess.5:21. He renders the passage as follows: “ and now ye know what holds him (the lawless one) fast, to the end that he may be revealed in his own appointed season. For the secret counsel of lawlessness doth already work; only there is one (Satan) who at present holds fast (to his possessions in the heavenlies), until he be cast out( into the earth (Rev.12:9-12); and ‘stand upon the sand of the sea,’(Rev.13:1 ASV). And then shall be revealed that lawless one whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the Spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming” (Isa. 11:4). He says “ the whole subject of the context is the revelation of two personages (not one), viz, this man of sin (v.3) and the lawless one (v.8). These correspond with the two beasts of Revelation 13.”
Many expositors see these verses as referring to the Holy Spirit so, though this is a bit longer than usual, I thought you might enjoy hearing this alternative interpretation.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Disorderly Conduct in the Church
It seems that in the early church, largely due to emphasis upon the immanent return of
Christ, there were some who were taking advantage of the kindness of the saints and ostensibly were refusing to work in view of our Lord’s soon coming.
Paul, calling attention to his own example (v.8), ordered a withdrawal of fellowship from these disorderly brethren and reminded the church of his earlier instructions regarding them (v.10). He very forthrightly exhorted these religious vagabonds that “with quietness they work and eat their own bread.”
We can learn two important lessons from this chapter and they are spelled out in verses 14 and 15. First, there is ample evidence in Scripture, if this were the only text on the subject, that there are reasons for sometimes having to separate from fellow believers. Though this thought is repugnant to many, it is clear from this Scripture that occasionally it is necessary to break fellowship with brethren who “walk disorderly”. When evangelists compromise their platform by inviting men to appear with them who are obviously not saved, this is a travesty far more serious than this example in Thessalonica. We may not be able to fellowship with a youth group in another church if our youth might be exposed to music or worldly practices that are contrary to our convictions. There are Bible schools that I cannot recommend because of low standards of separation. As hard as it may seem, there is a doctrine of separation in Scripture that extends this far.
On the other hand, may we not forget Paul’s final admonition which he gave in this context “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”