Summary: An introduction to the letter of 2 Thessalonians. This message gives background to the writing of 2 Thessalonians that provides better understanding the reason for the book concerning the Second Return of Christ.
2 THESSALONIANS 1: 1-3
A FLOURISHING FAITH [INTRODUCTION]
Today we begin the second letter to the Thessalonians. This letter was written just months after the first letter. In that letter Paul wrote about Jesus’ return to encourage them and to answer two questions about it. 1st, What will happen to those that die before Jesus returns? 2nd, When will Jesus return?
It appears that they needed a good bit more instruction concerning the Second Return of Christ, so most of this second letter pertains to the subject of Jesus’ return.
The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as its most distinctive element. From the day Jesus ascended into heaven His followers have lived in expectancy of His return. He promised He would return for His people. Centuries later, we continue to believe it and wait for it. For Christ’s return is our most important belief concerning the future.
Then as now there is much misunderstanding and misuse of the Return of the Lord. Some even tried to justify their idleness on the fact that they were waiting for Christ to return. Others were suffering persecution and needed the assurance and hope that a correct belief in the return of Christ provides.
Let’s introduce the book of 2 Thessalonians by using an outline to take us through the first three verses.
I. THE WRITING OF 2 THESSALONICIANS.
This epistle begins by naming the same three men mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy,” Though Paul mentioned his beloved coworkers Silvanus and Timothy in his greeting, Paul was the sole author (under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit) for he spoke of himself in the singular (2 Thes. 2:5; 3:17). But Silas and Timothy joined him in sending the epistle (Paul frequently used “we”: 1:3-4, 11-12, etc.).
As they had been together when the church was founded (Acts 17:4; 16:1–3), “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy” were still together when this letter was written. They had been in Corinth for some time, since they were there when 1 Thessalonians was written several months earlier (1 Thess. 1:1).] Paul wrote this letter of behalf of all three of them.
[They are not referred to in the Bible as being together thereafter, though it is certainly possible they were. Since 1 Thessalonians was written from Corinth, and since the topics treated in the second epistle seem to grow out of situations alluded to in the first epistle and reflect a very similar situation in the Thessalonian church, Corinth seems the logical site of composition.
The letter gives evidence that Paul had recently heard news about conditions in the church. Probably this information came to him from the messenger who delivered 1 Thessalonians and returned to Corinth. Some of the news was good: the Thessalonians were continuing to grow and to remain faithful to Christ in spite of persecution. But some was bad: false teaching concerning the day of the Lord had entered the church and was causing confusion and leading some of the Christians to quit their jobs in expectation of the Lord’s return.]
In view of these reports Paul felt constrained to write this epistle. He commended his children in the faith for their growth, corrected their doctrinal error about the day of the Lord, and warned of its consequences. [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy: The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983 p. 713.]
[The Date of Writing] Therefore it appears that 2 Thessalonians was written quite soon after 1 Thessalonians, perhaps within 12 months. This would place THE DATE OF WRITING in the early a.d. 50s and would make this epistle the third of Paul’s canonical writings (assuming Galatians was his first).
Why a second letter? Probably because the first letter did not accomplish everything Paul had hoped. No new subjects are introduced in this letter. Some were teaching that the parousia had already happened, and even claiming that such teaching had come from Paul himself. The loafers and busybodies continued their inactivity and destructive behavior, in spite of what Paul had written.
It’s possible that Timothy and/or Silas had delivered the first letter, stayed there a short time, and returned to Paul in Corinth with more good news and bad news. So Paul writes again in response to both. [Demarest, Gary W. The Preacher's Commentary Series, Vol 32 : 1, 2 Thessalonians / 1, 2 Timothy / Titus. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1984, S. 105].
Let me give a little background about Silas and Timothy in relation to the apostle Paul. Silvanus, known in Acts as Silas, was Paul's faithful partner in ministry. Like the apostle, he was a Jew who held Roman citizenship (Acts 16:37). Also like Paul he had both a Jewish (Aramaic) name, Silas, and a Roman name, Silvanus. That he was chosen to take the decision of the Jerusalem council to the believers in Antioch (Acts 15:27) confirms his status as one of the “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22). Acts 15:32 notes that he was a prophet, ergo a preacher of the gospel. He became Paul's missionary partner after the apostle split with Barnabas over John Mark (Acts 15:40), and was with Paul in the Philippian jail, where he witnessed the jailer's dramatic conversion after the earthquake (Acts 16:19–34). He ministered with Paul in many other places, including Berea (Acts 17:10) and Corinth (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor. 1:19). Later, he became Peter's co-worker and likely carried 1 Peter to its readers (1 Peter 5:12).