THE BOOK OF 2 THESSALONIANS
Chapter 1:3-12, Correction Concerning Persecution

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J. Deering, AncientPath.net

 


I.       CORRECTION CONCERNING PERSECUTION, 1:3-12

Persecution seemed to be the peculiar lot of the church at Thessalonica. It was born in persecution (Acts 17:1-9) and grew in spite of continued tribulation (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 3:1-3). Some of the believers now seemed to be asking the question, "Why?"

 

Persecution helps faith to grow, and a growing faith is a bulwark in time of persecution.

 

Paul first thanks them for their love (v. 3b). Love is that which seeks the will of God in the one loved.

 

Some of the believers were beginning to wonder if their difficulties did not deny rather than affirm the righteousness of God.  The attitude of faith and constancy in suffering is the proof of God's righteousness and provision of grace. Some Thessalonians thought that tribulation and persecution were the evidence of the righteous judgment of God. They did not consider that the strengthening of their faith was the purpose of God through tribulation and persecution. Sometimes it is only in the times of trial that such workings of God can be irrefutably demonstrated.

 

God will bring judgment on the wicked and particularly those who were persecuting the Thessalonians. It is an illustration of the principle that whatever a man sows he will reap, for God will pay back with tribulation those who bring tribulation on His people. Verse 7 exhorts the believers to relax in the knowledge that Christ's coming will be the relief from, and righting of, every wrong.

 

The coming of Christ will bring with it two things that believers needed to know to help them in times of persecution. The first is retribution (v 7b-9). The second is the Glorification of Christ.

 

Throughout these verses the power of God is pointedly emphasized to remind the Thessalonians that even though their present adversaries seem powerful there is One who is mightier than all, who will mete out punishment on their tormentors when He appears in great power and glory.

 

The timing of this event, as reported here in Thessalonians, is first the Tribulation and then the second coming of Jesus Christ (both a part of the Day of the Lord [also includes the following 1000 years of Christ's reign on earth]). Vengeance on those who have not obeyed the gospel by receiving the Savior is meted out at this coming, and is in the form of everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (v. 9).

 

If one's heart is right so there is spiritual growth, and if one's head is filled with correct doctrine, then the hand will be put to proper tasks. This is the last thing for which Paul prays in these closing two verses in the chapter. Walking worthy, then, involves resolving to do good. Faith here should not be viewed as merely a passive thing but as an active use of the power of God in fruitful service. The result of such a life is that the name of Christ will be glorified (v. 12).

 

All of this is ascribed to the grace of God. It is not within the power of man to glorify God by his good works; yet in His grace He condescends to use and empower man so that he may perform good works and glorify his Heavenly Father.

 


A.      In Persecution Have Your Heart Right, 1:3-4

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.

Paul's expression of thankfulness is focused upon both the men and women (brethren - affectionately "brothers and sisters,"). This is a good place to remind us all that within the body of Christ we are all equal. The term "brethren" is used through the New Testament and in extra biblical writings of the time. Context studies have shown that this term includes both men and women. It is a term of unity, used when addressing a mixed crowd.

 

There is no "man" who is the head of our household except Christ. There are no subservient women or men within this body. No one holds more or less power or position than any other. Only Christ is "Head." There is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no black or white -- there are only there are only those whom God has called; those who have humbled themselves before the Lord Jesus Christ and submitted to that call.

 

The first way Paul measures the effectiveness of this local church is in terms of the faith of the individual (and the assembly) that is seen from the outside of that body. Paul says their faith "flourishes more and more." I would suppose that this "flourishing" would take at least two forms. First, I would think that they witnessed constantly and that resulted in a growing body of believers -- who witnessed constantly resulting in more growth. I also think that they bonded together in faith in this terrible time of persecution. What a testimony to the unbelieving community (and to each other) of the wondrous glory and power of God to work in their lives during persecution. To work that power that not only binds believers together but enables them to grow and continue to win individuals and families to the Lord.

 

A second way Paul measures the effectiveness of a local church is in terms of the love that the members of the local body of Christ have for each other - and he stresses that this love is a love "of each other." This is neither the love of the pastor for the flock, nor of the flock for its pastor. It is not the love we have for individual "select" members of the group who may make up our individual selected circle of friends. It is not the fellowship of believers around worship and meals. What it is, is the deep down love of God that each individual has for each other within the Body of Christ. This is a specific kind of love that only God can grant, and He does grant it to every believer. Our problem is that we often turn our back upon this special gift when it pleases us to choose not to love. We say to ourselves that we have reasons to not love, but God has granted this gift to all believers and placed a great blessing upon it, "They shall know you by your love for one another." To "not love each other" is a serious sin against God.

 

You may remember that the closing admonitions of 1 Thessalonians told us that it was Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thess. 5:8-11) expressed through the Fruit of the Spirit that brought about the Will of God in us. Paul says that the Thessalonian faith "flourishes" and their love for each other has kept growing in his absence. They are truly a people who have turned from their selfish love to the love of God.

 

Paul is so pleased with their progress that he "boasts" about them wherever he goes because of their "flourishing" during "persecutions and afflictions." More importantly is how pleased God is with the Thessalonians because of their love for one another.


B.      In Persecution Have Your Head Right, 1:5-10

5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed -- for our testimony to you was believed.

It is helpful to take the first verse here (verse 5) and read it almost backwards. You, the Thessalonians, are suffering (persecutions and afflictions - from verse 4). Through these sufferings you are being shown as worthy of the Kingdom of God. This, then, should make it plain that this is the way that God's righteous judgment works.

 

Paul is equating the righteous suffering of the Thessalonians, along with their testimony of faith and love (for each other) with the righteous suffering of Jesus Christ and His keeping in faith and love of the Body of Christ. Being like Jesus in this way counts you worthy of entering into His Kingdom.

 

Now that he has explained the righteous grounds of their entering into His kingdom, he turns to the righteous grounds for the disallowing of the unrighteous an entrance into His kingdom.

 

Verse 6 sets the stage for understanding God's will in the separation of those who believe and those who don't. "For after all it is only just…" Those who participated (and still participate) in the suffering and affliction of Jesus (in the flesh then and in the spirit now) will be the object of suffering and affliction as an end result. Thus Paul says, "after all it is only just," meaning that the suffering and affliction of the Saints, in His name, will certainly result in suffering and affliction of those who persecute them - for they, in fact, persecute Christ.

 

Verse 7 continues this theme by letting the Thessalonians know that they have a reward of "relief" which will be, in part, the retribution of God and His angels to those who did not believe and did persecute with flaming fire.

 

Verse 8 indicates that the root cause of afflictions and persecutions of the Saints is the unbeliever's lack of knowing God through the disobedience of refusing to obey by refusing to believe.

 

Verse 9 gives us insight into the utter awfulness of God's judgment upon those who will not believe - they will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction. These two words seem to be at odds with each other. Those who do not believe are headed to destruction… however that process will take all of eternity. Every day, destroyed a little more… forever.

 

From the standpoint of the believer - those intimate with God and Christ - it should seem unimaginable to be cast from His presence and the glory of His power - for eternity. It is outside our understanding of everything we know about our universe, time and space. Those who refuse God's precious gift will be put into a place where "God is not," neither will there be any evidence of the Glory of His power or being in that place. There they will be being completely undone for all of eternity. There will be conscious affliction and persecution forever.

 

Verse 10 explains when this will begin - "When He comes to be glorified in His Saints 'On That Day.'" "The Day of the Lord," specifically on the Day of His returning at the end of the Tribulation there will be Judgment and eternal suffering and death for those who will not believe.

 

The verse goes on to tells us that We who return from Heaven with Him on "that Day," and all those who believe and come through that awful tribulation, will "Marvel" at the results of "belief," belief like that of the Thessalonians - belief that shows its results in Faith and Love of the Brethren.


C.      In Persecution Have Your Hand Right, 1:11-12

11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are two kinds of perseverance that we need to take note of. First, as John Calvin termed it, "The Perseverance of the Saints." This is the doctrine of "Assurance." You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ.

 

The second kind of perseverance is the outworking of our responsibilities in Christ. While "Once saved, always saved," we ought not forget that it is possible to arrive in Heaven as a believer, but in disgrace and or shame. Paul is speaking to this in this verse. Verse 11 tells us of Paul's desire for the Thessalonians to persevere for the blessings of God, and verse 12 reminds us all that the ultimate reason to "persevere" is for the Glory of Jesus Christ to be shown forth through you and your actions so that all things are "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."


Questions Based upon These Verses:

After studying the above notes and commentary you should be able to answer these questions.

 

I.       CORRECTION CONCERNING PERSECUTION, 1:3-12[1],[2]


A.      In Persecution Have Your Heart Right, 1:3-4

3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.

Verses 3-4:

23.    Who should always give thanks in this verse?

24.    How often should they give thanks?

25.    What does it mean to "give" thanks?

26.    What does the word "thanks" mean?

27.    To whom should they always give thanks?

28.    Why?

29.    What is the lesson here for you, besides knowing this is true for Paul, and his companions?

30.    What does the word "brethren" mean?

31.    What does Paul mean by "it is only fitting"?

32.    What has caused their "faith" to be "enlarged"?

33.    Explain the enlargement of faith.

34.    What has caused their "love of each one…" to grow?

35.    Why would Paul boast in this (What did Paul have to do with it)?

36.    Where does Paul boast about them?

37.    How does Paul describe them when he boasts?

38.    What is the nature of their perseverance in this verse?

39.    What is the nature of their faith in this verse?

40.    What does Paul mean by "in the midst…"?

41.    When did they persevere?

42.    Comment on how you think the Thessalonians were persecuted and afflicted.

43.    What is Paul's final comment (last 3 words of verse 4) and why is it important?

 


B.      In Persecution Have Your Head Right, 1:5-10

5 This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed -- for our testimony to you was believed.

Verse 5:

44.    What is "a plain indication of God's righteousness judgment"?

45.    What does Paul mean by this?

46.    What function does persecution perform on the believer?

47.    What does it mean to persevere?

48.    What is the difference between simple perseverance and the theological doctrine of "The Perseverance of the Saints."?

48.    What is the end result of persecution.

49.    Were the Thessalonian believers suffering during this persecution?

 

Verse 6:

50.    What does Paul mean, "after all it is only just"?

51.    Who will repay affliction with affliction?

52.    Who will be afflicted because the Thessalonian believers were afflicted?

53.    When will this take place?

 

Verse 7:

54.    When will the Thessalonian believers find relief?

55.    Could the Thessalonian believers expect relief soon?

56.    Can the believer expect relief from persecution in their lifetimes?

57.    When can we expect Jesus to be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire?

 

Verse 8:

58.    Who will be the object of the retribution of The Lord Jesus upon His return.

59.    Are "those who don't know God," and "those who do no obey the Gospel," one or two groups?

60.    Why does Paul state that the Gospel is specifically "The gospel of Our Lord Jesus."?

 

Verse 9:

61.    Who will pay the penalty?

62.    What are the three penalties for not knowing God (by believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ)?

63.    What is the connection between the persecution of the Saints and the penalty of the ungodly?

 

Verse 10:

64.    Who is comes?

65.    How is He coming?

66.    When is He coming?

67.    Why is He coming (2 reasons in this verse)?

68.    Who is going to be glorified?

69.    What does it mean to be glorified?

70.    Who is going to be marveled at?

71.    Who is going to be marveling?

72.    Explain the last phrase, "for our testimony to you was believed"?

 


C.      In Persecution Have Your Hand Right, 1:11-12

11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 11-12:

73.    To what end?

74.    What is the desire of Paul, and his companions', hearts (3 things and a final result)?

75.    What does it mean to be worthy of your calling?

76.    Will God count you worthy of your calling?

77.    Will God fulfill every desire for goodness in you?

78.    Will God work faith with power in you?

79.    Will the Name of our Lord Jesus be glorified in you (and you in Him)?

80.    In what manner will all this be done?

 

[1] New American Standard Bible (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

 

[2] Outline: Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, First and Second Thessalonians, Everyman's Bible Commentary, Moody Press, Chicago.


2013-02-20