2 Thessalonians 1
This week we begin looking at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church. The first letter was full of praise and thanks for the faithfulness of the Thessalonians. Paul was telling them they were doing a great job in the name of Jesus Christ.
For some reason Paul decided to write another letter to them, not long after the first. Now, we don’t always know what prompts Paul writes his letters. Sometimes it would be nice to know the backstory. But something has come back to Paul about this church and it caused him to write a second letter.
After all, it takes a bit of work to write letters back in Paul’s time. He can’t just sit down and write an email, or text the church leaders. There isn’t even Canada Post back then. So Paul would need to send someone with the letter, traveling across who knows where in all sorts of weather to deliver his message.
Paul has heard something about the Thessalonians which made him want to write another letter to the church, which after the first letter would have us think they are in pretty good shape. So as we go through Paul’s second letter, we will have to watch what he is saying which offer insight into what happened in Thessalonica.
Paul begins this letter with more praise for the people. He praises their faithfulness as their love for each other and their faith is growing abundantly. And Paul also says they are still fine examples he uses when he talks with other churches across the land.
Paul then addresses some of the hardships they are enduring. It seems the Thessalonian church is still under persecution. Paul gives them some hope that there suffering is not in vain. Paul reminds them they are seen as worthy of the kingdom of heaven.
As for those who oppose the church? They will be afflicted. They will be punished for their deeds, for their opposition to the work of Jesus Christ.
While the faithful believers will be granted relief.
Paul uses some pretty strong language in this part of the letter when he describes what will happen to those who do not believe.
“…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints…” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 ESV)
These are pretty strong words of condemnation. Strong words of the punishment for not believing in God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. A fair warning I suppose for when Jesus returns to the earth it won’t be good news for everyone.
This is, of course, nothing we haven’t heard before. Jesus warned those who opposed him many times about what a lack in faith would lead to. So Paul reminds the Thessalonians about these warnings, not because they don’t believe, but as a warning for those who are opposing them, people who are actively rejecting what the church is trying to do as faithful people following Jesus Christ and his call to proclaim the gospel message.
This is our challenge today for the church. We strive to be faithful people, responding to the teachings of Jesus Christ our Lord and the work of God in our lives. To faithfully seek to share this message among one another and among those we meet.
Paul’s strong words for the opposers does not mean their fate is sealed. We know people can change, we know God will reveal Himself to His children when they are ready to hear of His love. But how will they know if they never hear about it?
Paul uses the Thessalonians as an example of a faithful church when we goes to new communities and starts new churches. Their example of steadfast faith, their example of working alongside people who do not believe, and being examples of Jesus Christ. For sharing their own personal stories of what God has done for them in their lives, and for sharing the stories of Jesus Christ himself.
According to census data, over 15,000 people live on the Northside. I’m not sure exactly how many churches are in North Sydney, but if when you look at Sydney Mines having over 6000 people and 8 churches, we’re looking at close to 1000 people per church. I suspect the numbers aren’t that far off when you take in the whole Northside.
We don’t get 1000 people out to church total when you look at Sydney Mines and Florence put together.
So what about the rest?
What about our neighbours, our families, our friends?
What will come of them?
Paul is pretty strong in his words about what will happen to those who do not know the Lord. But their fate is not sealed. We can all still know the Lord.
We only have a couple more weeks until Easter. I hear of families “getting ready.” What do they mean by that?
I suspect for many of them they are referring to the commercialization of the holiday. Making sure there are gifts and treats.
But what does getting ready mean for you?
After all, this is Lent. This is our time of preparation. This is the time we walk with Jesus towards the cross on Good Friday. The moment when our Saviour took all of our pain, all of our sin, all our faults upon himself. Why? Because we can’t do it alone.
Jesus showed us it’s about faith. It’s about living our lives devoted to him. It’s about knowing what he taught, but also what he did.
He died to save us.
Because no one else can.
Paul said Jesus is “to be marvelled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”
Through Paul’s teaching, people came to be believers. Because of the continued work of the Thessalonians, more people believed.
More people were saved.
Paul ends the first chapter of this letter with more words of encouragement and prayer. He says,
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV)
This is the role of Christians. We are to be worthy of our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. To live so that his power may be glorified within us, and us in him.
So my friends, may we seek to live this way. May we seek to be a blessing to others as Jesus Christ has blessed us. May we be children of our Father in heaven, and bless others by inviting them to know Him as well.
This is our calling.
This is our church.
This is our life.