Summary: Increasing faith, growing love, patient endurance, fulfilling God's good pleasure...
A CELEBRATION OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY
1. Pauline Authorship (2 Thessalonians 1:1).
“Grace and peace” (2 Thessalonians 1:2).
I. OBLIGATION (2 Thessalonians 1:3) -
to give thanks to God, and return the glory to Him (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:2). Congratulations and compliments to men are here wrapped up in the praise of God: in contrast to the discouragement of silence, or the flattery of accrediting men with the honour due to God.
II. SPIRITUAL MATURITY evidenced by:
1. Increasing Faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
2. Growing Love (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
As Paul had earlier prayed and exhorted, their love was indeed ‘increasing and abounding towards one another’ (1 Thessalonians 3:12); and their ‘brotherly love’ was ‘increasing more and more’ (1 Thessalonians 4:10). The words speak of their love “overflowing” (like a flood), “each to all and all to each” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
III. BOASTING (2 Thessalonians 1:4) -
of their steadfastness and faith in the face of persecution and affliction. However, setting them up as an example lays a greater responsibility on their shoulders (Luke 12:48).
IV. THE JUST JUDGMENT OF GOD (cf. Genesis 18:25).
The Thessalonians were being persecuted because they were Christians (2 Thessalonians 1:4). Yet God would vindicate them by showing that their faith was true (2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:10) - and by raining judgment on their persecutors (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). This is not Paul being vindictive: it is a statement of fact!
With this we begin to see the purpose of this second letter. There was a rumour abroad that the Thessalonians were suffering because ‘the day of Christ’ was already here (2 Thessalonians 2:2)! Of that they need not worry, as we shall hopefully see when we study 2 Thessalonians 2.
We must pray for those who, even today, are suffering for the cause of righteousness. Believers in many parts of the world are persecuted for their profession of Christ: cast out by their families and communities; under constant threat from neighbours and former friends; and subject to harassment and murder from those (governments) who should protect them. We must spare a thought, too, for those who are persecuted in more subtle ways: put under psychological pressure by those who should nurture and love them (Matthew 10:34-36).
V. A PRAYER (2 Thessalonians 1:11) -
for them to be “counted worthy” of the life and destiny which God already has in store for them (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:5). It is only God’s grace that makes us worthy. It is only God’s power that makes it possible.
VI. GLORIFICATION (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
That glorification of Jesus which is completed at the end (2 Thessalonians 1:10), is already being fulfilled by degrees in His people in the here and now as we grow in Him (2 Thessalonians 1:12). Thereby Jesus is glorified in us, and we in Him (cf. John 17:10). To the glory of God’s grace (2 Thessalonians 1:12).