Flouish in Response | 2 Thessalonians
Topic: New Testament
Christopher Rich – December 4, 2016
FLOURISH | Hope and Holiness amid Hostility
Wk12: Flourish in Response |2 Thessalonians
Introduction | Responsive Disciples
Good Morning! We are finishing our series on the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. The series is titled Flourish: Hope and Holiness amid Hostility. Where do you find hope? How do you handle hostility? What does the word “holiness” mean and do we pursue it? How are hope and holiness related? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but can you actually flourish in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one of the churches he was involved in planting. This church is an example of a flourishing Gospel Community. While there is much to affirm and celebrate in the life of the Thessalonian church, much hope seen, and there are issues to address. Paul has spent significant time calling the church in Thessalonica to remain committed to individual holiness (abstaining from sexual immorality, caring for one another, and working diligently). He has reminded them of their great hope in the risen Jesus who will one day return. In all of this, he has sought the church both remain, and continue, to intentionally grow in health, holiness and hope, even in the midst of hostility. The church in Thessalonica was given clear and robust teaching, prayers, encouragement, admonishment, and instructions from Paul, an early church leader who knew and cared for them, in his first letter to them. The hearing of good teaching is only beneficial if it leads to doing. Teaching is great; but if it doesn’t lead to greater action, peace, and change it’s pretty meaningless. After this first letter Paul is given reports of how the congregation heard, received, and responded to what they had read. A summary reading of 2 Thessalonians gives us some clues as to how the church excelled in faith and good works and where there was still “room for improvement.” How did they respond? How are we going to respond? What does it mean for a church to ‘Flourish in Response’?
PART I | What is Flourishing?
2 Thess 1:3-4 | 3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
Growing Faith and Love. After continuing to point them to Grace and Peace, we get the first picture. Paul remains thankful for the church. Their faith is abounding and growing. In chapter one we see there was great reasons to rejoice in and over this church as an example to others. When Paul gets the report back on “the church culture” of 1st Thessalonian Church it has several positive notes. Their trust in Jesus is increasing, and increasing so much it can be described as “abundant”. It is evident this church loves Jesus and it’s evident they love each other, even more than before. The affection within the Gospel Community is such we see “everyone of you” has love for one another that is increasing. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a family of brothers and sisters who all not only “get along” but is grown in their love of each other. What is causing this? Surely It must because the church is exciting has cool programs, is growing numerically and is loved by the city. Not quite.
The report continues, ‘Can you believe how the church in Thessalonica is doing? Even amid adversity and hostility their faith is not wilting it is thriving. They aren’t turning on each other, selling each other out, or grumbling. Even in increasingly growing hostility they are suffering well while still desiring relief from the sovereign God of Heaven. Prayers continue that God would not cease to change and shape these people.
Sexual Purity There are some great things to be encourage by what is not present in this second letter. While there are some reminders and some repeated themes, some things didn’t have to be address at all. They didn’t have to reiterate anything about sexuality; they heard the teaching, received it, and applied it. That is note worthy! The first letter when talking about the will of God and sanctification started with sexuality as priority #1. This was incredibly important for the church to flourish. By not addressing it even with a phrase in His second letter (while addressing other parallel topics) I believe we can assume they have been highly responsive. (Compared to 2 Corinthians 12:21 ‘they have not repented of sexual immorality) They have, as the first letter instructed in 1 Thess 4:3-8, abstained from all forms of sexual immorality, (they haven’t been visiting the temple or pursing concubines.) Instead they have pursued flourishing sexuality through honorable and holy marriage. They are counter cultural sexual rebels who do not practice what the world preaches, but what God has designed for flourishing and joy.
Leadership He also doesn’t address how they engage with leadership of the church or how the leaders are engaging with the people. They are continuing to flourish in their respect of leaders who are respectable. Leaders are still working hard, engaged among the sheep and leading the whole flock through the storm.
2 Thess 1:5-8 | 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Seeking Justice Yet they have this question. Why are we still suffering at the hands of the culture around us? What is going to happen? God we want to be gracious and have hope in the midst of Hostility but it can be difficult to see some times. Why are we suffering? Answer: You’re suffering because of the Kingdom of God. When walking in faith with Jesus, the opposition you’re facing is not to you but to God and His Kingdom. Take heart. Justice is coming the time of affliction will end. There is a two part justice.
1. Repaying the afflicting. God considers it just to repay those who afflict His people with affliction.
2. Relief for the afflicted. This affliction will not continue for every, you will be spared and restored.
1:11-12 | 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so 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.
Continual Growth. God is still working on them. Growth is continual. “wait I grew last week, I am good now!” No you keep going and you keep growing. We don’t arrive. Because of our indwelling sin and we are not yet perfect there will always be territories of our lives to maintained and new wild frontiers of sin in our lives discovered to be assaulted and subdued by the power of God working in us so we can “fulfill every resolve for good work. This is communal (v10 Glorified in his saint and to marveled at among all who have believed.) And this is individual “The name of our Lord Jesus glorified, in you and you in him.” God is working His power within His people for their growth and good works AND YOU ARE ONE OF THEM!
PART II | What is Confusing?
2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
While their faith is evidently growing, so is Paul’s concern for their doctrinal purity. Extensive time spent in chapter two settling down an unsettled congregation which seems to have been moved to great alarm (rather than great hope) at the promise of Jesus return and final judgement of the world. “Paul remember when you taught them about what happens to their Christian brothers and sister when they die? They were a bit confused by that and have applied what you said a bit wonky.” Additionally, some other teachers have come to town and confused things further. In chapter 4 you told them when Jesus came back “he will descend from heaven” and “we who are left will be raptured “suddenly caught up” with Him in the clouds. The reason for the teaching on Jesus return was to give hope to those who have lost love ones. Context matters, and they ripped these phrases out of their context and make doctrine out of them. They now have this Frankenstein doctrine of Jesus return. If good doctrine leads to comfort and peace; then inaccurate doctrine leads to confusion and concern. Apparently they believed, wrongly, that because they were suffering trial and challenges in the world the “day of the Lord” had already arrived. Don’t worry Jesus hasn’t come back yet. You haven’t miss your opportunity to get on the bus and be united with Him. There is still time, so there is still hope. We are quickly shaken by our circumstance and misleading teaching. Last month I saw the “fake news” article after the election “Little know loop hole would allow Bernie Sanders to be sworn in as president” and then you click and it’s basically “sucker” there is no such thing but you believed it easily enough, stop posting and reacting to things that aren’t even remotely true. Know what is true.
2 Thess 2:8 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.
Paul elaborates with more details, hoping to clarify. There is a real end coming, it will include a rebellion against God (pretty broad), a man of lawlessness (man of sin), again broad, who is the lawless one? What will mark his arrival? Lawless means sin. He will be one who will exalt himself, proclaiming to be God. Exalting himself? That doesn’t narrow it down much. THE BIG IDEA IS not “What is the identity of the man of lawless?” but “What will happen to him when Jesus returns?” JESUS WILL KILL WITH A BREATH, not even a word, just a wooo and gone. Who wins? Jesus wins!! It is a total victory (brought to nothing) and an instant one. It’s not a prolonged dramatic battle it is over at the appearance of his coming. Before you can say “Hey Jesus is here!!” it’s over like it never happened. Never forget; the Trajectory of History is the ever closer return of our Lord Savior King Jesus, his final victory over all evil, and that is to be a cause of great hope not great fear. Now that you don’t need to worry about the end, how do we live during the in between?
PART III | What do they need to be charged with?
2 Thess 2:13-17 | 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Be rooted in who we are. Father Son and Spirit. We are loved by God, “beloved” because he chose us to be saved through faith in Jesus. We have been called by God, we’re save and sanctified by Him. He reminds them of who they are so he can encourage them to stand firm when they’re prone to be quickl'y shaken. Preaching, teaching, meditating on God’s word. We’ve been given eternal comfort and good hope through grace so we can have our heart firmly planted, in God’s good word. What happens when you have a firmly planted heart? Good works and good words flow out of you. Your produce and bless others.
2 Thess 3:6-12 | 6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,8 nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Get to work! “Get busy living or Get busy dying” – Andy and “Red” in Shawshank Redemption. Bad theology leads to bad practice. Doctrinal impurity had real world consequences, people stopped working. This starts with the strongest language we find in this whole letter (urge, we ask, we ought, may the Lord.) Now we command you… stay away from (disassociate) from those who “walk in idleness”. Paul’s first letter included teaching on what faithful work looked like, yet is clear that rampant idleness infects the heath of the church. While likely several chose to ignore Paul’s teaching on work it in favor of focusing on more sensationalistic issues of end times (hey Jesus is coming back at any time so I don’t need to get a job.) They acted like they were renters in the world and not owners/stewards. it is equally likely many were simply lazy. Regardless of motive, firm words are given to remind and exhort a lethargic portion of the congregation to stand firm and begin to labor earnestly in the time and place they have been called to. are created to work, we are created to cultivate and God’s provision for us is often for us to be productive. Just as God created sex for a purpose and had given it as a gift and we have distorted it; so work was created and mandated before there was sin in the world. Brothers can love one another well by working effectively. Verse 10 is pretty clear for Christians “no work = no eat.” These people are busy, just not productive. They are “busy bodies” whose biggest concern is stirring up controversy and unrest. Even so we are not to regard them as an enemy but “warn” them as a brother. The family is better when you’re better. In this case what is stated is not for those who are unable to work, but because they’re unwilling. There are absolutely times of charity and added support are needed. But a great way to continue to love and grow the brotherhood is to not require ongoing support. A flourishing church should be a people who work productively and profitably to provide for themselves, and charity for others inside and outside of the church.
13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. Keep going! In a world that is fallen doing good will take energy and intentionality. Regardless of the hostility out in the world, regardless of idleness and confusion inside the church, do not be discouraged, and don’t give up, keep working, keep loving each other, keep being intentional about your marriage, keep reading your bibles, keep gathering, giving, and serving. We are quick to grow weary, but we cannot be quick to stop doing good. We are empowered by God who Paul prays the following for the Thessalonian church I pray for our church:
2 Thess 3:16-18 |16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. 17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Trust Jesus.