Further Sojourning…Now Through 2 Thessalonians

Further Sojourning…Now Through 2 Thessalonians

Study Guide, April 14, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

By The Way…as we concluded our sojourning through 1 Thessalonians, we highlighted a key practice for both faithful living and victorious living, which was to ‘Rejoice always’. And we saw that the Apostle Paul had a particular secret to being able to do that, which was, as we pointed out from Phil 4:4- “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!” NASU And from this we learned that rejoicing in the Person of Christ and in all things related to Christ was to be our primary focus, as well as it being the liberating way to live life, by practicing this rejoicing and victorious attitude. And what we meant by this is that our freedom that is found in rejoicing in Christ and in all things related to Christ, releases us from being controlled by our circumstances or our relationships or accomplishments or just the everyday happenings of life.

However, this does not preclude or exclude also rejoicing in the things that we discover or experience as blessings in our circumstances or blessings in our relationships or blessings in our accomplishments by God’s grace or just the blessings of everyday happenings of life. Rejoicing in all blessings is simply part of experiencing the goodness of God towards His people, even while we sojourn through this broken and cursed world. Paul pointed that out in 1 Tim. 6:17 when he stated that God supplies us with good things to enjoy! So it is both good and godly to rejoice in both the Lord and in the good things God brings into our life to enjoy.

However-however…that’s a double ‘however’ there…so…However, it is imperative to understand the difference in ‘rejoicing in the Lord’ and ‘rejoicing in the blessings of life’. And what is imperative to understand is that one is ‘essential’ and the other is ‘additional’, as in ‘extra’ or ‘not essential’! And understanding the difference between the ‘essentials’ of life and the ‘additional-but-not-essentials’ of life is the key to victorious Christian living. Paul said it best in Phil 4:11-14- “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” NASU

What, or Who, was Paul’s essential? Christ! His relationship with Christ and his resources in Christ were his essential focus and the reason for his rejoicing in Christ! And what were the additional-but-not-essentials? Everything else in his life. Sure, when he had prosperity, it was good, and he could enjoy his abundance. It was additional goodness in his life, but it was not essential for godliness or for rejoicing…because Paul’s reason for rejoicing was in Christ alone! And then in times when he was hungry, when he suffered in need, he still didn’t need anything else in his life in order to still rejoice, for not only did he find all he needed for life and godliness in his relationship with Christ, but he found all the strength to do all the godly things he needed to do in Christ’s sufficiency in strengthening him to do all of those things.

Point being: Therefore, we are being called to look for our reasons to rejoice NOT in the additional things of life, but we are to look for them only in the essential things in life…particularly in the Person of Jesus Christ and in all that we have now and forever in our relationship with Christ! Again, certainly, we can rejoice in the additional-but-not-essential things in life, but we are to essentially rejoice in the Lord, for rejoicing in Christ is essential in our life! Plus, as we pointed out…it is the key to victorious Christian living. And note this: Nothing and no one can defeat the follower of Christ who rejoices in Christ alone!

Which now leads to our second BTW…because while still in Corinth, approximately twelve months after writing to the Thessalonians, Paul learns that after his revelation to them about the return of the Lord Jesus concerning the Second Coming of Christ – first for His Church, and then to the Earth following the tribulation events during the period called “The Day of the Lord”…Paul learns that, among other false influences, that someone or ones had written to them another letter, but it contained false information about those things which Paul had just written to them!

Real communication is a tricky deal, even when false information is not intended. For example, when you communicate with someone you convey about 6 messages. 1 – what you meant to say, 2 – what you actually said, 3 – what the other person heard, 4 – what the other person thinks he or she heard, 5 – what the other person says about what you said, and 6 – what you think about what the other person said. So, do you see any potential for miscommunication here? It’s like the example of: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I said.” A little tricky for sure! That’s why American business industries spend millions and millions of dollars on improving communication skills in the workplace! It’s important for all of us to try to be as clear as we can about what we mean to say before we say it. And be careful about how we say it so that others will hear what we really meant to say.

But, again, whether it was purposeful misrepresentation or just well-meaning, but false information, some of the believers in the Thessalonica Church were causing a lot of confusion and division among the Brethren because of it. And, on top of this, because so many of the faithful believers were living out the truths of the Gospel and sharing the realities of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they were experiencing more and more push back and persecution from their culture around them. So Paul had to address both the problem of this faulty information and encourage them in the midst of persecution.

So let’s look into all of this as we further our sojourning into Paul’s second letter to these Thessalonian believers…and to us as well. 2 Thess 1:1-5- “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 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; 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. 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.” NASU

That’s not only a ‘mouthful’ of doctrine, that’s like a ‘houseful’ of amazing teaching right there. And it’s only going to get deeper and higher and wider from here. But note that Paul and Silvanus and Timothy were back in Corinth, teaching and ministering to the church in Corinth, to which Paul would later write two letters to the Corinthian church also. It’s interesting to note that the letters in the New Testament are not in the order that they were written, but rather, they were placed in the order we have them starting with the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. in Turkey. Nicaea is now called Isnik, Turkey. But their order was based upon the decision to group them according to similar teachings more than a chronological order. In Paul’s writings Galatians was his first letter, then 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, followed by 1st and 2nd Corinthians and so on. Just some helpful historical insights for us all there…

Paul frequently began his greeting with ‘grace and peace’…and he did so intentionally. And the reason he began with ‘grace and peace’ is because in everything we are to start with ‘grace and peace’…start with God’s grace…God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense and His sufficiency for you, and start with God’s peace, as Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27 NASU Remember, God’s grace provides our sufficiency in everything, and God’s peace provides our stability in everything. God’s grace and God’s peace…don’t leave home without them!

Then, Paul gives them another dose of thanksgiving over them, just like he gave to them in his first letter concerning their faith, hope, and love. And note how Paul exemplified what we are each to excel in: “…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.” And notice that here is an example of the rightful place of pride…the rightful use of pride…and that is, to be proud of God and proud of others…proud of God’s people. Remember, be humble about yourself, but be proud of God and others, especially of God’s people who are seeking to grow in their faith and show their love and who persevere in the face of problems and persecutions. This is a great encouragement to others…it builds up others. And this edification of others is a primary responsibility of ours towards one another. And how like our God to see to it that as we humble ourselves and express pride in others instead of in ourselves, God then exalts us….God expresses His pride in us, and exhorts other Brothers and Sisters in Christ to express their pride in us too, as that is part of their ministry of edification towards us.

The world has this totally backwards. The world promotes self-pride and the exalting of the ‘self’, boasting in themselves, glorying in themselves…not even realizing that self-pride is a form of self-worship. They are full of themselves, instead of emptying out the self and being filled with the Spirit of God. Self-worship or worship of anyone or anything other than God is sin. Worship belongs to God alone! Remember what Paul wrote to the Galatian believers that he would never glory, except in the Cross of Christ…meaning the Person and sacrifice of Christ?! We are to glory in Christ alone, not in ourselves. However, it is both good and beneficial to our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ to express our pride in them, as Paul said to these Thessalonians, because that aspect of ‘pride’ is not the worship of fellow-man, but the expression of their worthiness of the commendation of ‘well-done’!

Which, by the way, is exactly the kind of ‘worthiness’ that Paul talks about to them and to us… “…you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” What kind of ‘worthy’ is the Apostle referring to here? He is referring to the kind of ‘worthiness’ here that is the same as ‘faithfulness’. Being ‘worthy’ of God’s kingdom here is not talking about being worthy to enter Heaven, as in being based upon our works in order to be saved, because that is not possible. Rather, what Paul is referring to here is being worthy of being rewarded in the Kingdom based upon being a faithful son or daughter servant of the King!

Be very clear about this: Although every person has worth in the eyes of God, as each human is made in the image of God, still, because all have sinned against God and fallen short of the righteousness of God, no one is worthy by their own works to enter into the Kingdom of God. Only one human being ever sinlessly obeyed the righteous commandments and laws of God and thus, earned Heaven by His own merits…and was, thus, worthy to enter Heaven through His own works. And that is Jesus Christ alone! That’s why Paul told the Galatian believers: Gal 2:16- “…nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” 21 – “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” NASU

If there was any way that anyone could be worthy of Heaven based upon their own merits or deeds, then Jesus Christ would not have had to die on that Cross. But there was no other way, because all people are dead in trespasses and sin…and the wages, the debt of sin is eternal separation from God. No amount of good works can remove the debt of sin and the sentence of sin upon every sinner. Only a sinless person can then do sinless works that then merit or earn them a place in Heaven. And, again, only one Person who ever lived was sinless and righteous and thus worthy of entering a sinless world called ‘Heaven’. And that One person was and is Jesus Christ alone! That’s why we call Him ‘Savior’…our Substitute who earned our salvation for us and paid the sentence of spiritual death in our place. And when we, who are unworthy of Heaven, give God our heart in repentance and receive Jesus into our life by faith, we are both forgiven that debt of our sin and we are also credited with Jesus’ righteous life of sinless obedience. It’s God’s gift of salvation to us!

So here’s a wrap up review of this concept of ‘worth’, which the world has so confused and distorted. Certainly, all people have worth, they have intrinsic value, or value by their very nature, since all people are made in the image of God. Every life is thus sacred, made by God and for the purposes of God. The world asks, and even sings the question in movies: “What was I made for?” Our Maker has already answered the question. God tells us throughout the Bible: We were made to love our Creator who loves us…we were made to share life with our Lord who sacrificed His life for us…we were made to serve our King who has eternal plans for us in His kingdom…and we were made to live for the glory of our God who gives us life and breath and all good things to enjoy! They need to make another song with God’s answers to their question!

So, because God created us, we have intrinsic value…we have worth. But our sins made us unworthy of entering the sinless Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, Jesus was both sinless and righteous and thus…He IS worthy of entering Heaven. And since Jesus is also God, His worthiness is enough to cover each of us…enough to credit each of us with His worthiness, that is, for each who turns from their sins to follow Him, and trusts in His sacrifice to forgive their sins and to give them His eternal life. And when they do, they can then demonstrate their love in return through their obedience and service for Him. And through their faithfulness, or their demonstration of ‘worthiness’ in being a faithful son or daughter of God, they then become worthy of rewards in God’s Kingdom for their faithful service on Earth.

How great is our God, indeed!