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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

2 Thessalonians

- 2 Thessalonians

by Thomas Constable

Introduction

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

This epistle contains evidence that Paul had recently heard news about current conditions in the Thessalonian church. Probably most of this information came to him from the person who had carried 1 Thessalonians to its recipients and had returned to Paul at Corinth. Perhaps other people who had news of the church had informed Paul, Silas, and Timothy also. Some of the news was good. The majority of the Thessalonians were continuing to grow and to remain faithful to Christ in spite of persecution. Unfortunately some of the news was bad. False teaching concerning the day of the Lord had entered the church and was causing confusion and leading some of the Christians to quit their jobs in expectation of the Lord’s imminent return.

In view of these reports Paul evidently felt constrained to write this epistle. He commended his children in the faith for their growth and faithfulness, corrected the doctrinal error about the day of the Lord, and warned the idle to get back to work.

Almost all conservative scholars believe that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians from Corinth. The basis for this conclusion is that Paul, Silas, and Timothy were present together in Corinth (Act_18:5). The New Testament does not refer to them being together from then on, though they may have been. Paul evidently wrote 1 Thessalonians from Corinth. The topics he treated in the second epistle seem to grow out of situations he alluded to in the first epistle. They reflect a very similar situation in the Thessalonian church. Corinth, therefore, seems the probable site of composition of 2 Thessalonians.

For these reasons it appears that Paul composed 2 Thessalonians quite soon after 1 Thessalonians, perhaps within 12 months. This would place the date of composition in the early A.D. 50s, perhaps A.D. 51, and would make this the third of Paul’s canonical writings, assuming Galatians was his first. A few scholars argued that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians before 1 Thessalonians. [Note: E.g., T. W. Manson, "St. Paul in Greece: The Letters to the Thessalonians," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 35 (1952-53):438-46; and Charles A. Wanamaker, The Epistles to the Thessalonians, pp. 37-45.] But this view has not found wide acceptance. [Note: See Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 543-44.]

"The external evidence for the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians is stronger than for 1 Thessalonians." [Note: Robert L. Thomas, "2 Thessalonians," in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 302.]

PURPOSE

Three purposes are evident from the contents of the epistle. Paul wrote to encourage the Thessalonian believers to continue to persevere in the face of continuing persecution (2Th_1:3-10). He also wanted to clarify events preceding the day of the Lord to dispel false teaching (2Th_2:1-12). Finally, he instructed the church how to deal with lazy Christians in their midst (2Th_3:6-15).

OUTLINE [NOTE: FOR AN OUTLINE BASED ON RHETORICAL ANALYSIS, SEE WANAMAKER, P. 51.]

I.    Salutation 2Th_1:1-2

II.    Commendation for past progress 2Th_1:3-12

A.    Thanksgiving for growth 2Th_1:3-4

B.    Encouragement to persevere 2Th_1:5-10

C.    Prayer for success 2Th_1:11-12

III.    Correction of present error 2Th_2:1-12

A.    The beginning of the day of the Lord 2Th_2:1-5

B.    The mystery of lawlessness 2Th_2:6-12

IV.    Thanksgiving and prayer 2Th_2:13-17

A.    Thanksgiving for calling 2Th_2:13-15

B.    Prayer for strength 2Th_2:16-17

V.    Exhortations for future growth 2Th_3:1-15

A.    Reciprocal prayer 2Th_3:1-5

1.    Prayer for the missionaries 2Th_3:1-2

2.    Prayer for the Thessalonians 2Th_3:3-5

B.    Church discipline 2Th_3:6-15

1.    General principles respecting disorderly conduct 2Th_3:6-10

2.    Specific instructions concerning the idle 2Th_3:11-13

3.    Further discipline for the unrepentant 2Th_3:14-15

VI.    Conclusion 2Th_3:16-18

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