Summary: How do we respond to the truth?
I’m glad that you are all seated this morning because I’d like to talk about something that we’ve probably all feared and obviously all survived - examinations.
Now if you’re like me, whenever you had to sit for an exam, you were never quite ready. For those who can’t remember what it was like to sit for an exam, I’d like to remind you:
- Rows of people all writing furiously and continuously (except for you). And how did you know? Because you’re the one looking around in amazement!
- People all around you nodding and smiling to themselves as they answered yet another question correctly - and you can’t even remember today’s date.
- The monotonous ticking of the clock as it counts down while you watch your future disappear in another blank page.
- The measured step of the exam supervisor who always seems to stop right behind you.
You get the idea?
Now you’re probably all thinking that it wasn’t all that bad because every now and again one of your teachers would take pity on you and set a multiple choice exam. Now they were OK because at least you had the right answer in front of you - all you had to do was find it.
Despite the apparent advantages of multiple choice exams, sometimes a particularly vindictive teacher (and I hope there are none here today) would set a multiple choice exam where you lose marks for getting an answer wrong. In such an exam, it is conceivable that you could get a negative result.
Of course, other types of exams were true/false exams - at least you had a 50% chance of being wrong. And I’d rather not talk about essay questions.
1. TRUE OR FALSE
(A) THE THESSALONIAN EXPERIENCE
Thinking back to those halcyon days of multiple choice and true/false exams, I would like to ask "what is truth?" It is the question that Pilate asks Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel.
In particular, I would like to examine the idea of truth as it relates to Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians - chapter 2.
Paul had heard from Timothy of the Thessalonians’ great love, faith and perseverance, and Paul wrote to them in his first letter to encourage them. Tom reminded us last week that, in Paul’s view, the Thessalonians were very much "trophies of grace".
But Paul also wrote to correct some errors they had fallen into. They had heard from someone that the "last days" were upon them and that Jesus’ return was imminent and they were trying to figure out how they should be living in these "last days". Some of them had given up work and were just biding their time waiting for Jesus’ return, others were dying - leaving their relatives to wonder what would happen to their recently departed. They were resting on Christ’s laurels waiting for Him to come back. The Thessalonians had confused the imminence of Jesus’ return with the suddenness of how it would happen.
But Paul’s first letter obviously wasn’t enough because he felt he needed to write again in the letter we are looking at this morning. In chapter 2, Paul again emphasises to them that they are in error and he again exhorts them to seek and follow the truth.
But how does Paul word his encouragement and advice in chapter 2?
Paul states the Thessalonians problem ... they were behaving irresponsibly because they had misunderstood some aspect of the Gospel they had heard.
Paul then breaks through their error and ignorance by saying "Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way." And to avoid the deception, Paul then tells them the truth about their situation. I don’t wish to speculate about the nature of his response to them in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 because it’s somewhat confusing. But he assures them that, since the coming of the day of the Lord will be preceded by certain events which had not yet occurred, then the day of the Lord had not yet arrived. Suffice to say, the Thessalonians understood what Paul was saying - even if we can’t be absolutely sure.
Paul then goes on to remind them of God’s action of redeeming and sanctifying them - He encourages them that they can put this mistake behind them because God has chosen them.
Finally, he exhorts them to stand firm and hold on to the truth. This is Paul’s call for them to respond faithfully to the truth they now know.
In summary Paul:
- states the problem (v. 1-2)
- tells them not to be deceived (v. 3)
- tells them the truth (v. 3-12)
- reminds them of God’s love for them (v. 13-14), and
- exhorts them to stand firm and hold on (v. 15).
(B) WHAT IS THE QUESTION?