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Bible Commentaries

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT

2 Thessalonians

- 2 Thessalonians

by Manly Luscombe

Authenticity

There is greater evidence of the second letter being genuine than the first one. 2 Thessalonians is quoted by almost all the early church fathers and writers. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Iraneaus and Polycarp are among these early writers who quote from this work of Paul.

Arguments for Paul's Authorship

1. Paul identifies himself as the author twice in the book (1:1; 3:17).

2. The thoughts are Paul's beyond doubt.

3. The vocabulary, style and teachings are typical Paul.

Arguments against Paul's authorship

1. Eschatology. It is claimed that this book teaches a different view of the end of the world and the second coming that does the first letter. Much is made of the two Greek words (parousia and ephenia) used to describe the second coming of Christ.

2. Change of Audience. Some attempt is made to say that the first letter is addressed to Gentiles and this one to those with a Jewish background. There is nothing in this letter that a gentile could not understand. Paul had spoken about these things (2:5).

3. Change of tone and style. It is noted that the first letter is filled with exhortation and encouragement. (1:2; 2:3) The second letter is filled with commands. (3:6, 12)

4. The Similarities. Some critics ask why the two letters are written in the same time period and on the same subject. This objection fails to consider the situation in Thessalonica at the time of the writing.

Occasion for 2 Thessalonians

This letter has 2 purposes:

1. Paul wanted to encourage them to grow in their faith (1:3) and to endure persecution (1:4).

2. Tensions were connected with the anticipation of the second coming (2:2) and some who were busybodies, lazy, not working and living disorderly (3:10-12).

Place and Date of Writing

Paul, Silas and Timothy were still together when this letter was written. After the work in Corinth ( Act_18:1-28 ) there is not other reference to Silas in the book of Acts. There is no evidence that all three were together after Corinth.

It is not possible for a long time to have passed since the first letter. The first letter is dated in the spring of 51 AD and this letter is written a few months later in the same year.

The teaching in 2 Thessalonians

1. God. There is a similar emphasis on God in both letters. Give thanks to God (1:3; 2:13); He is the source of peace, grace and love (1:2, 12; 3:5); He is the source of comfort and hope (2:16,17); He is the author of salvation (2:13); He counts them as worthy (1:11); and He is their judge (1:5).

2. Christ. Christ is described with the term "Lord" 12 times in this short letter. He is included in the prayer for strength and comfort (2:16, 17) and He will render vengeance upon those who do not obey him (1:7, 8).

3. Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned one time (2:13).

4. Ethical and Moral Teaching. Brotherly love should continue (1:3); they should grow in faith (1:3); they are to be obedient to the teachings of Paul (2:15; 3:4) and they should be careful to avoid being deceived (2:2, 3). Paul also deals with the busybody and unruly who need correction and discipline (3:6, 14, 15).

5. The Second Coming. This is the primary topic and reason for writing this letter so soon following the first one. Some were saying the Lord had already come. Others were expecting the return of Christ at any moment. Paul had to tell them that there are certain things that much take place first. (2:1-12)

6. Paul. Paul reminds them of his oral teachings [traditions] (2:5) and urges them to be obedient to all teachings. He urges them to look to the future when they will be together in God's presence.

Outline

1. Salutation 1:1-2

2. Encouragement in Persecution 1:3-12

a. Thanksgiving 1:3-4

b. Judgment at Christ's coming 1:5-12

i. Encouragement in troubles 1:5-10

ii. Prayer for God's blessings 1:11-12

3. Explanation of the Day of the Lord 2:1-17

a. The Day is not already present 2:1-2

b. Events preceding the Day of the Lord 2:3-12

i. First, the rebellion 2:3

ii. The man of lawlessness 2:4-5

iii. The restrainer taken away 2:6-7

iv. The man of lawlessness 2:8-12

c. Thanksgiving and Admonition 2:13-15

d. Prayer for the readers 2:16-17

4. Exhortation to the church 3:1-18

a. Request for prayers 3:1-2

b. Expression of confidence in the Lord 3:3-5

c. Working with the disorderly 3:6-16

i. No tolerance for disorderly 3:6

ii. Example of the authors 3:7-9

iii. No work, no food 3:10

iv. Appeal to the disorderly 3:11-13

v. Stern treatment for disorderly 3:14-15

d. Conclusion 3:16-18

i. Prayer of readers 3:16

ii. Sign of authenticity 3:17-18