Summary: Looking for the Lord's Return
2 Thessalonians 1 - Commendation in Conflict - 7/10/16
Turn with me to the book of 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1. Two weeks ago, we looked at 1 Thessalonians, and we saw an introduction to the church there. As you remember, Thessalonica is a town in Greece, one of the biggest cities in the whole Greek nation. Paul came to town, preached in the Jewish synagogue, and many Jews and Gentiles believed. A church was started at Thessalonica, but rowdy Jews stirred up a riot, and Paul had to leave quickly. As he travels down to Athens, Paul writes them a letter to encourage them to continue on in their newfound faith.
In his first letter to them, Paul praises these new Christians, because they had a faith that was growing, showing, and echoing.
• In chapter 1, Paul expresses his thankfulness for these new believers: they responded right away by putting their faith into action.
• In chapter 2, Paul talks about his ministry when he came to Thessalonica. Paul declares that he had pure motives when he was with them. We see his depth of care for them personally. We see the emotional highs and lows involved in relationships.
• In chapter 3, Paul reminds them to keep the right perspective - not to be shocked at trials, but to expect them. He reminds them to have a passionate joy about the things God is doing; not to focus on the trials, but to focus on the way God brings us through the trials. And he reminds them, and us, to pray! When God works, and to see Him continue to work, we need to pray.
Normally in Paul’s letters the first few chapters have to do with doctrine, the last half deals with duty. He starts by telling what is true, and then he ends by saying “So what?” - because of what we know to be true, how does that affect our lives? And the book of 1 Thessalonians is no different. In the first half, he begins by talking about them, about his ministry to them, and about the trials both Paul and the Thessalonians faced.
• In chapter 4, and Paul talks about how we live. He begins with a call to holy living. In light of what is true, that the Thessalonians are growing in their faith and enduring trials faithfully, Paul calls them to continue to live lives that are pleasing to God. Then in the end of chapter 4, Paul goes on to talk about the Lord’s return. Paul corrects two wrong ideas for the Thessalonian believers.
What happens to the dead? What happens to Christians when they die? Do they miss out on something spiritually if they aren’t living when Jesus returns? The answer: Don’t worry, we get to be with Jesus forever. We don’t miss out on anything.
• In chapter 5 we find another question about the Lord’s return.
What happens to those who are still living when the Lord returns? Do we have to face God’s wrath?
There is a terrible day of judgment coming, the day of the Lord, the day when God brings His wrath and judgment to the earth. But we don’t need to worry, because as Christians we won’t face the wrath of God. Jesus IS coming soon - and when He comes, we want to be ready. That is a whirlwind overview of 1 Thessalonians.
But shortly after Paul had written them the letter of 1 Thessalonians, he felt a need to write them a second letter, the letter of 2 Thessalonians. Paul wants to straighten out a few misunderstandings that the church had. Here in 2 Thessalonians we have three chapters, and three key ideas.
• In chapter 1, Paul gives Commendation: he writes in Praise for their Perseverance
• In chapter 2, Paul gives Comfort: he writes about the Reality of Christ’s Return
• In chapter 3, Paul gives Correction: he writes about the need to Work while we Wait
Today, we want to look at chapter 1. Read 1 Thessalonians 1 - Pray
You remember that while we normally sign our letters at the end, in the first century they signed their names at the start. So here is Paul, Silas, and Timothy writing to the believers at Thessalonica - baby Christians who turned from worshiping idols and turned to following Christ. And the first focus of their letter is
* Praise - Paul starts out giving them motivation. We all have heard the saying “prayer changes things” - but let’s realize that “praise” also changes things. Praise is a great motivator. And praise reinforces our desire to do what we know is right. Paul is writing to these brothers and sisters undergoing great persecution, and what does he do? He thanks God for them! He focuses on giving praise to God. But that was nothing new for Paul. Remember in Acts 16, when Paul is taken by the crowd in Philippi - he is beaten with many stripes, put in prison, has his feet chained in stocks, and what does Paul do? He sings praises to God!