2 Thessalonians 1 - Worthy to Suffer for Christ

INTRODUCTION: Paul wrote this second letter to the saints at Thessalonica because he was concerned about things he had heard were developing. He did not want them to be drawn off course by ideas that were not consistent with his teaching about the Lord, as they continued to experience persecution for their faith in Christ. He included Silas and Timothy in the greeting as he did in his first letter, as these men had been with Paul during his entire time there, and were likely also very dear to the Thessalonians. Paul had gone from Thessalonica to Berea, and left there without Silas and Timothy, but they joined him later in Corinth, and apparently they were with him at the time he wrote this second letter.

NOTE: Bible verses are taken from the World English bible, based on the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament."


A - PAUL SAID THE THESSALONIANS ARE WORTHY OF SUFFERING FOR THE KINGDOM

2 Thessalonians 2 "1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the assembly of the Thessalonians in God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to always give thanks to God for you, brothers, even as it is appropriate, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of each and every one of you towards one another abounds; 4 so that we ourselves boast about you in the assemblies of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you endure. 5 This is an obvious sign of the righteous judgment of God, to the end that you may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which you also suffer."

COMMENTS: Paul begins this letter with an almost identical sentence to the one he used in his first letter to the Thessalonians. The phrase "God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" appears twice, and he expresses "grace and peace" to them. He then tells them that since their faith grows exceedingly, and the love of each and every one of them towards one another abounds, it is appropriate for him to give thanks to God for them; and even to boast to other assemblies of God for their patience and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions they endure. This then is added to what he had included in his first letter to them that they had patient hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, he could call them brothers loved by God, that they were chosen, and that the Good News came to them not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance.

Paul tells the believers that suffering for the kingdom has an end to being worthy of the kingdom of God, and this is an obvious sign of the righteous judgment of God. We may need to seriously consider the full content of that statement and related spiritual principals, before we will agree that it is obvious as Paul has said. He had made this statement of comparison to the Thessalonians in his first letter to them. 1 Thessalonians 2 "14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the assemblies of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus; for you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews; 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and drove us out, and didn't please God, and are contrary to all men; 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always. But wrath has come on them to the uttermost."

Paul has a firm basis from the direct teaching of the Lord Jesus for his claim that saints may need to endure suffering. John 15 "18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his lord.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do to you for my name's sake, because they don't know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me, hates my Father also. 24 If I hadn't done among them the works which no one else did, they wouldn't have had sin. But now have they seen and also hated both me and my Father. 25 But this happened so that the word may be fulfilled which was written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause.'"

Jesus also said this, Matthew 5 "10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you." After the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, his disciples began to experience suffering for his name. Peter and John had been commanded not to teach in the name of Jesus, and when they continued to do so, they were brought before the council. A Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had the apostles put apart from the council so he could offer advice. Acts 5 "38 Now I tell you, withdraw from these men, and leave them alone. For if this counsel or this work is of men, it will be overthrown. 39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow it, and you would be found even to be fighting against God!" 40 They agreed with him. Summoning the apostles, they beat them and commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 They therefore departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for Jesus' name. 42 Every day, in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and preaching Jesus, the Christ."

After the stoning of Stephen, the apostle Paul was vehemently persecuting the church before he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, and then the Lord sent the reluctant and apprehensive Ananias to Paul after he had reached the city. Acts 9 "15 But the Lord said to him, "Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake." 17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized." Paul did indeed suffer many things physically over the years that he traveled and preached the gospel.

In another letter, Paul wrote a message similar to what he wrote to the Thessalonians. Philippians 1 "27 Only let your way of life be worthy of the Good News of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the Good News; 28 and in nothing frightened by the adversaries, which is for them a proof of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 Because it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his behalf, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear is in me."

The apostle Peter agreed with Paul as he wrote about suffering in persecution of the Christian faith. 1 Peter 2 "19 For it is commendable if someone endures pain, suffering unjustly, because of conscience toward God. 20 For what glory is it if, when you sin, you patiently endure beating? But if, when you do well, you patiently endure suffering, this is commendable with God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps, 22 who did not sin, "neither was deceit found in his mouth." 23 Who, when he was cursed, didn't curse back. When he suffered, didn't threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously; 24 who his own self bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed." So, if we as Christians believe that we are chosen for eternal life by our Savior, then we must also believe that all of his judgments are righteous, regardless of how circumstances may appear to us.


B - GOD WILL PROVIDE RELIEF FOR ALL AFFLICTIONS

2 Thessalonians 1 "6 Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay affliction to those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 giving vengeance to those who don't know God, and to those who don't obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus, 9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired among all those who have believed (because our testimony to you was believed) in that day."

COMMENTS: Paul now says that God will righteously afflict those who have caused affliction on the saints, and provide relief to those who have been afflicted. He does not say that the readers of his letter should expect this to happen while the present world continues as it is, but it will be accomplished fully when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire. At that time his vengeance will be upon those who don't know God, and to those who don't obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might. That will be the day when he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired among all those who have believed.

Moses recorded the words of the Lord as an early indication of the Lord's inescapable vengeance to his enemies. Deuteronomy 32 "39 "See now that I, even I, am he, There is no god with me. I kill, and I make alive. I wound, and I heal. There is no one who can deliver out of my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, And say, As I live forever, 41 if I whet my glittering sword, my hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to my adversaries, and will recompense those who hate me. 42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood. My sword shall devour flesh with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the head of the leaders of the enemy." 43 Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants. He will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will make expiation for his land, for his people." Notice in verse 43 that the nations are to rejoice with his people, opening a way for Gentiles to be part of "all those who believe."

Jesus had said these things about a coming judgment. Matthew 25 "31 But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;'" ... "41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels;'" ... "46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


C - BE COUNTED WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING

2 Thessalonians 1 "11 To this end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfil every desire of goodness and work of faith, with power; 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

COMMENTS: Paul first made sure that his readers would be well prepared to endure persecution for the Lord, but he also wanted them to know that there are good works that can glorify the Lord as they give evidence that their faith is not in themselves, but in the Lord who saved them. Jesus had taught this, Matthew 5 "16 Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Paul wrote this to the believers at Ephesus. Ephesians 2"10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them." Peter wrote this, 1 Peter 4 "14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed; because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. On their part he is blasphemed, but on your part he is glorified."


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord Jesus, since I have not yet experienced the level of persecution described in some of these passages from your Word, I pray that you will bring to mind the sure hope I share with those who went before, in the event that such severe affliction should come upon me. I want to honestly seek the treasures of your kingdom, and realize the fleeting nature of all things in this present world; and that should be true of me even if affliction is not a primary factor in my life. I want to be continually turning my thoughts to the truth that when you come in the glory of your might I will be among your saints who have absolute admiration for you, because I have believed the testimony found in your holy word. Give me works of faith through your power, that your name will be glorified according to your grace. Amen.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 1 - to begin review of Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians.
2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 - The Gathering Together to Christ
2 Thessalonians Chapter 3 - Pray for the Spread of the Word of the Lord

Published 15 May 2012