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Paul encourages a suffering church by reminding them of the certainty of God’s justice and judgment. One day their suffering will end. But more importantly their faithful response through suffering is evidence that they will inherit a place in the kingdom of God.
Paul wrote 1Thessalonians from Corinth about 9 months after leaving Thessalonica (Acts 18:5; 2Cor 1:19). Most scholars think Paul wrote 2Thessaloniansr a few months after the first epistle while he was still in Corinth with Silas and Timothy (approx. 51/52 AD). After delivering Paul’s first letter, the courier probably reported back to Paul and Paul wrote this letter in response to the courier’s news.
1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3We 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. 4Therefore 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. -2Thessalonians 1:1-4
- Paul encourages a young group of believers facing persecution to stay the course.
- Paul typically opens his letters expressing his gratitude for the recipients. Paul’s reasons for gratitude here are unique to the Thessalonians: their faith is growing abundantly and their love for one another is increasing.
- Growing in faith and love is about how they live their lives, not academic knowledge or feelings.
- Staying faithful through a long trial can be tiring and discouraging. Paul comforts them by pointing to their hope.
5This 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— 6since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and 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 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. -2Thessalonians 1:5-10
- Many in Thessalonica were probably asking God how long the suffering would continue.
- Faithfulness through suffering is evidence that they are part of the kingdom of God.
- God’s agenda for us in this life is to give us a strong mature faith. He does that primarily by putting us in hard circumstances that test our faith.
- Persevering through trials gives us tangible, physical external evidence that our faith is real.
- To encourage a suffering church Paul reminds them of God’s certain judgment.
- Paul does not encourage them to double-down and try harder.
- Paul urges them not to be short-sighted, thinking only of the problems of today. Remember the big picture: Jesus is coming back to bring both judgment and salvation.
- Punishment is an important part of justice. God’s love is incomplete without God’s wrath.
- God will bring justice in one of two ways: Either He will accept Jesus’s death on our behalf; or We will continue to reject God and we be found guilty.
11To 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, 12so 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. -2Thessalonians 1:11-12
- Paul prays that God would continue to make them strong in their faith, and that God would take their resolve to hold fast and make it true. He prays that God would glorify Jesus through their persevering in faith.
- You don’t have to be brilliant, dazzling or perfect. You just have to stay in the game and God has promised to make sure you do.
Please listen to the podcast for more detail and explanation.
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Series: 1&2Thessalonians: Between Times
Study: 1Thessalonians Resources
Scripture references are from the English Standard version.
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