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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 2:1. Beseech … by the coming of our Lord.—The English reader who consults the similar phrase “to beseech by” in Romans 12:1 will be wholly astray. St Paul begs his readers not to be thrown into consternation or kept in a flutter of excitement over that matter of the Parousia, or “coming.”
2 Thessalonians 2:2. Not soon shaken.—Like a house built on sand when the storm breaks in fury, or like the mobile vulgus in Thessalonica who were only too willing to follow the lead of Jewish agitators (Acts 17:13). In mind.—R.V. “from your mind.” “Out of your wits” expresses the apostle’s meaning exactly. They are to behave like men in whom reason is supreme—not like men in a panic. Or be troubled.—The same word was used in reporting our Lord’s counsels on the same subject. “Be not troubled: … the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6). By epistle as from us.—Either by misinterpretation of something St. Paul had written, or by a forged letter purporting to have come from him.
2 Thessalonians 2:3. Let no man deceive.—R.V. “beguile or cheat you.” A falling away.—Lit. “the apostasy,” a desertion from the army of God; a recantation of faith in Christ. Our Master foretold that when “iniquity shall abound the love of the many shall be blown cool” (Matthew 24:12). That man of sin.—Another reading is “lawlessness.” The man in whom sin gathers itself up into a head—the last product of sin. The son of perdition—par excellence, sharing the title with him whom Christ so named (John 17:12). Abaddon (Revelation 9:11) may claim him as his own ultimately.
2 Thessalonians 2:4. Who opposeth and exalteth himself.—The participle rendered “who opposeth” is used twice by St. Luke in the plural as “adversaries.” So in the singular (1 Timothy 5:14). The compound word for “exalteth himself” occurs (2 Corinthians 12:7), and is given as “exalted-above-measure.” Above all that is called God.—The shudder of horror in these words reminds us how a monotheistic Jew must regard the impious act. We can understand that a Roman emperor would regard the God of Jew or Christian as a tutelary deity; but the acme of profanity is reached in this act of Antichrist. Or that is worshipped.—R.V. margin, “Gr. an object of worship.” “The very name Sebastos, the Greek rendering of the imperial title Augustus, to which Divus was added at death (signifying ‘the one to be worshipped’), was an offence to the religious mind.… Later, Cæsar or Christ was the martyr’s alternative” (Findlay). Showing Himself that He is God.—Or, as we should say, “representing Himself to be God.” Compare Herod’s acceptance of the worship (Acts 12:22).
2 Thessalonians 2:6. What withholdeth.—R.V. “that which restraineth.” “A hint was sufficient, verbum sapientibus: more than a hint would have been dangerous” (Ibid.).
2 Thessalonians 2:7. He who now letteth.—R.V. “there is one that restraineth.” This old word for “obstruct” is found in Isaiah 43:13 : “I will work, and who shall let (i.e. hinder) it?” “Where then are we to look … for the check and bridle of lawlessness? Where but to law itself? The fabric of civil law and the authority of the magistrate formed a bulwark and breakwater against the excesses both of autocratic tyranny and of popular violence” (Ibid.).
2 Thessalonians 2:8. And then shall that Wicked be revealed.—R.V. “and then shall be revealed the lawless one.” Outward restraint being withdrawn, there is no inward principle to keep him back: he is “lawless.” And shall destroy.—R.V. “bring to nought.” It is the same word as that which describes the effect of the revelation of the gospel on “death” in 2 Timothy 1:10—to render absolutely powerless. With the brightness of His coming.—R.V. “by the manifestation of His coming.” Lit. “by the epiphany of His presence.”
2 Thessalonians 2:9. Even Him, whose coming, etc.—These words look back to the beginning of 2 Thessalonians 2:8. “The two comings—the parousia of the Lord Jesus and that of the Man of Lawlessness—are set in contrast. The second forms the dark background to the glory of the first” (Ibid.). Power and signs and lying wonders.—Simulating the supernatural evidences of the gospel as the magicians of Egypt those of Moses.
2 Thessalonians 2:10. Deceivableness of unrighteousness.—R.V. “deceit.” The deceit which is characteristic of unrighteousness, or marks its methods. They received not the love of the truth. The sine qua non for an answer to Pilate’s question is this love of the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:11. God shall send them strong delusion.—R.V. “God sendeth them a working of error.” “It is a just, but mournful result, that rejecters of Christ’s miracles become believers in Satan’s, and that atheism should be avenged by superstition. So it has been and will be” (Ibid.). One is reminded of the old saying that “the gods first drive mad those whom they mean to destroy.”
2 Thessalonians 2:12. Believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.—Here again we have the mental rejection of truth consequent on a liking for that which truth condemns. If “the heart makes the theologian,” the want of it makes the infidel.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Various interpretations of this remarkable paragraph have been attempted. Some modern German critics would divest it of any prophetic significance, and treat it as a representation of the writer’s own personal feelings and forebodings. Others would restrict its application to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and to persons, principles, and events that preceded that catastrophe. The commonly received Protestant interpretation is to identify the Man of Sin and his doings with the Papacy; and there are certainly many points of that interpretation that accord very remarkably with the prophecy. But there are serious objections to all these views. We believe the revelation of the Antichrist here depicted is yet future, though the elements of his power are now in preparation. From the whole passage we gather the following suggestions:—
I. That Antichrist will be embodied in some living personality.—He is called “that man of sin, the son of perdition”: “that Wicked”—the lawless one (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). The fathers of the early Church, for at least three centuries after the apostolic age, while differing on some minor details, seemed unanimous in understanding by the Man of Sin, not a system of deceit and wickedness, or a succession of individuals at the head of such a system, but some one man, the living personal Antichrist, the incarnation of Satanic craft and energy, who should put forth his power to weaken and destroy the Church.
1. He will arrogantly assume divine prerogatives.—“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). In these words we note Antichrist’s intrusion into the special dwelling-place of God, his usurping session there, and his blasphemous and ostentatious assumption of divinity. The wildest excesses of pride and audacity cannot exceed this.
2. His advent will be accompanied with remarkable displays of Satanic power.—“Whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Antichrist as the masterpiece of Satan will be endowed with extraordinary qualities. The devil will tax his prodigious abilities to the utmost in making this great adversary of the Church as potent for mischief as possible. We know how readily the man of science can impose upon the ignorant with his experiments. And how easy it is for Satan, with his vast knowledge and resources, to delude thousands with his simulations of the miraculous! The advent of Antichrist is to be a fiendish caricature and audacious mockery of the glorious coming of the Son of God!
II. That Antichrist will work deplorable mischief in human souls.—
1. He seeks by secret methods to promote apostasy from the Church of God.” “A falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Here we detect the germs and preparation of the antichristian curse that is to work such havoc. The primitive Church of apostolic times was not such a model of perfection as we sometimes imagine. The leaven of iniquity, of lawlessness, the essence of all sin, was already working. Observe the sorrowing references of the apostle to the many evils of the different Churches.Titus 1:11; Titus 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Philemon 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:18-20; 2 John 1:7; 3 John 1:9. Passim. The most disastrous apostasies have been the result of long, secret endeavours.
2. He begets a dislike to saving truth.—“With all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The truth was revealed, its saving benefits were offered; they had but to accept the truth and they were safe. But they rejected the truth; they loved it not. Their treatment of the gospel rendered them more easy victims to the deceptions of Antichrist; fascinated by his unrighteous glamour, they recede from the truth and cherish a bitter hostility towards it.
3. His victims are abandoned to self-delusion and condemnation.—“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned”—might be judged according to their individual character and works—“who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). See here the fearful consequences of a hatred to and rejection of the truth! The soul takes delight in sinning—has “pleasure in unrighteousness.” It is, then, not only abandoned to its iniquity, but its delusions are intensified so as to embrace the most palpable falsehoods as truth. It shall then be judged on its own merits, so that God shall be justified in His speaking and clear in His judging. Terrible indeed is the fate of the victims who fall under the spell of Antichrist.
III. That the coming of Antichrist is for a time restrained.—“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.… Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). There is an external power with an individual at its head which holds back the power of Antichrist until the proper season comes. What that power is is not revealed; but God can use any power for this purpose, until the divinely appointed time shall come for the revelation and overthrow of Antichrist.
IV. That Antichrist shall be summarily destroyed.—“Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth”—as insects wither on the mere approach of fire—“and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)—with the appearing of His coming, as it were the first gleaming dawn of His advent. For a time Antichrist shall reign in pomp and splendour and delude many to their ruin; but at the coming of the true Lord of the Church the great impostor shall be dethroned and utterly abolished. “It is enough,” says Chrysostom, “that He be present, and all these things perish. He will stay the deception simply by appearing.”
V. That the followers of Christ need not be afraid of losing any benefits to be conferred by His second coming.—“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)—on hand, has already come. When Paul wrote the first epistle, the Thessalonians “were sorrowing by the graves of their departed friends, and the grief of nature was enhanced by the apprehension that their beloved ones might suffer loss at the coming of the Lord. But now, should they hear that He had come and had not called for them, a yet deeper, more agitating motion must seize them, lest they themselves had forfeited their share in the glory of the kingdom.” These words would allay their fears. Christ has yet to come, and before that coming Antichrist is to arise and reign. Wait patiently, labour diligently, and be not harassed with too great an eagerness to know future events. All the blessings of Christ’s second coming shall be shared by you and by all who are to be gathered together unto Him.
1. There are trying times ahead.
2. The only safety for the soul is to hold fast the truth.
3. At the darkest moment of the Church’s trial the glory of God will appear.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 2:1-6. A Warning against Imposition.
I. The danger.—
1. Their faith was imperilled.
2. Daily duties were interfered with.
II. Signs of the coming end.—
1. By a great apostasy.
2. The appearance of Antichrist as the man of sin and son of perdition.
3. The proud pretensions of Antichrist.
(1) Opposing Christ.
(2) Substituting error for truth.
(3) Overweening self-exaltation.
III. Hindrances to the spread of truth (2 Thessalonians 2:6).—
1. The civil powers of that day.
2. The machinations of Satan at all times.
3. The unfaithfulness of God’s people.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. A False Alarm—
I. May arise from a misconception of an important truth.—“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
II. Is aggravated by unwarrantable deceptions.—“Let no man deceive you by any means” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). “Neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is come” (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
III. Is the cause of much real suffering.—“Shaken in mind—troubled” (2 Thessalonians 2:2)—like a ship escaped from its moorings, tossed in a rolling sea.
IV. Is allayed by the affectionate entreaty of competent teachers.—“We beseech you, brethren” (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
2 Thessalonians 2:5. Memory—
I. Is freighted with treasures of precious truth.—“I told you these things.”
II. Associates the presence and character of the teacher with the truth taught.—“When I was yet with you.”
III. Is often vividly reminded of the value of its possession.—“Remember ye not.”
2 Thessalonians 2:7-10. The Mystery of Iniquity—
I. Is the deepest and most subtle form of error.
II. Is propagated with great cunning and persistency.
III. Is embodied in a powerful and wicked personality (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
IV. Is Satanic in its origin and manifestation (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. The Destructive Subtlety of Sin.
I. It has manifold methods of deception.—“With all deceivableness of unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
II. It incites the soul to a hatred of saving truth.—“That received not the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
III. It abandons its victims to judicial self-deception.—“God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
IV. It leads to inevitable condemnation.—“That they all might be damned” (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
V. It encourages sin for the love of sin.—“Who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12. Strong Delusions.
I. Believing a lie as truth.
II. Sent as a judgment for not believing the truth.
III. Are brought on by those who have pleasure in sin.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 2:13. We are bound to give thanks.—The same form of expression as in 2 Thessalonians 1:3, save that here “we” is expressed separately and emphatically.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
Salvation a Divine Act.
When the air is thick with antichristian theories, sincere inquirers after truth are perplexed, the grasp of the hesitating is loosened, and the fidelity of the strongest severely tested. Only those who fully yield themselves up to the teaching and guidance of the divine Spirit are safe. A clever inventor has recently constructed a fireproof dress, which enables him to walk about unharmed in the midst of the fiercest fire. Experimental godliness is a fireproof dress, and the soul clothed with this is safely guarded from the fiery darts of the wicked, and will pass unscathed through the fiercest fires of temptation. We never know what it is to be really saved till we personally experience the sanctifying power of the truth. These verses teach that salvation is a divine act.
I. Salvation is an act of the divine will.—
1. The divine will is actuated by divine love. “Brethren beloved of the Lord, God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). When we examine the sources of salvation, we find them not in ourselves, but in some power outside of ourselves. We are saved, not because we are good, or better than others, or more favourably circumstanced, but because God has chosen us. And if we ask still further how it is that God should lavish the grace of His salvation on sinful man, we are reduced, in the final analysis, to this answer: Such is the divine will—a will swayed in all its mighty potentialities by infinite love.
“Love, strong as death; nay, stronger—
Love mightier than the grave;
Broad as the earth, and longer
Than ocean’s widest wave.
This is the love that sought us,
This is the love that bought us,
This is the love that brought us,
To gladdest day from saddest night,
From deepest shame to glory bright,
From depths of death to life’s fair height,
From darkness to the joy of light.”
2. The divine will provides the means of salvation.—“Whereunto He called you by our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). The gospel is God’s method of salvation, and it is through this gospel He “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:4). If the gospel were but a human expedient, it would fail; but, as it was originated and devised in the divine mind, so it is backed and made forceful by the operation of the divine will.
II. Salvation as a divine act is in harmony with individual freedom.—
1. Salvation implies personal holiness. “Through sanctification of the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The Spirit sanctifies the individual soul, and the soul, in the exercise of its voluntary power, co-operates with the Spirit. The soul feels the need of being sanctified, is willing to be sanctified, earnestly desires to be sanctified, and gives free, unrestricted scope to the Spirit in His sanctifying work.
2. Salvation implies personal faith.—“And belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). This clause brings out distinctly that the sanctification of the Spirit is not wrought on a passive and unresponsive agent. Faith is the gift of God, but it is the act of man. It is a self-giving; the surrender of his own freedom to secure the larger freedom that salvation confers on the soul that trusts. Without God’s gift there would be no faith, and without man’s exercise of that gift there is no salvation. It is not faith that saves, but the Christ received by faith. Erskine puts it thus: “As it is not the laying on the plaster that heals the sore, but the plaster itself that is laid on, so it is not the faith, or receiving of Christ, but Christ received by faith that saves us. It is not our looking to the brazen serpent mystical, but the mystical brazen serpent looked unto by faith—Christ received by faith—that saves us.”
III. Salvation as a divine act aims at securing for the soul the highest blessedness.—“To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). The saved soul aspires after glory, but it is glory of the loftiest type. It is not the changeful glory of worldly magnificence. It is not the glory of Paul, or of the greatest human genius. It is “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When the soul catches a glimpse of the splendour of this divine blessedness, it can be satisfied with no lower aims. “Paint and canvas,” said Guthrie, “cannot give the hues of a rainbow or of the beams of the sun. No more can words describe the Saviour’s glory. Nay, what is the most glowing and ecstatic view that the highest faith of a soul, hovering on the borders of another world, ever obtained of Christ, compared with the reality? It is like the sun changed by a frosty fog-bank into a dull, red copper ball—shorn of the splendour that no mortal eyes can look upon.” As it is Christ’s glory that we seek, so it is Christ’s glory we shall share.
IV. Salvation as a divine act affords matter for unceasing gratitude.—“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The mercy of God in our salvation is ever providing fruitful themes for gratitude on earth: the glory of Christ as revealed in heaven will be the song of everlasting thankfulness and praise. Every added trophy of saving power augments the gratitude and joy of the faithful.
1. The rejection of the truth is the rejection of salvation.
2. Salvation brings the highest good to man and the greatest glory to God.
3. Salvation will be the exhaustless theme of the heavenly song.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 2:13. The Holy Ghost the Sanctifier.
I. Connect the divine purpose and agency, that the nature and effect of the latter may be more apparent.—To collect a people out of the wreck of human life has been God’s purpose from the first. To sanctify them is to separate them to God in fact and in effect. The Holy Ghost is given by Christ to sever the once dead in sins from the dead around them.
II. The scope of this agency.—God’s work is perfect. It has its stages; but the Holy Ghost conducts it from first to last. Sanctification is progressive. The end of sanctification is salvation.
III. The ordinary means through which the Holy Ghost operates.—Through belief of the truth, the gospel. The Spirit sanctifies through the truth.—H. T. Lumsden.
2 Thessalonians 2:14. The Glory of Sainthood—
I. Is the object of the gospel to promote.—“Whereunto He hath called you by our gospel.”
II. Is a conscious personal possession.—“To the obtaining of the glory.”
III. Is a sharing of the glory of Christ.—“Of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What Saints should be.—In the cathedral of St. Mark, Venice, a marvellous building lustrous with an Oriental splendour beyond description, there are pillars said to have been brought from Solomon’s temple; these are of alabaster, a substance firm and endurable as granite, and yet transparent, so that the light glows through them. Behold an emblem of what all true pillars of the Church should be—firm in their faith and transparent in their character; men of simple mould, ignorant of tortuous and deceptive ways, and yet men of strong will, not readily to be led aside or bent from their uprightness.—Spurgeon.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 2:15. Stand fast.—Ready for any shock which may come unexpectedly through the insidious methods of Antichrist. Hold the traditions.—As if the apostle said, keep a strong hand on them. Tradition is that which is handed over from one to another. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:23. “I received of the Lord … I delivered unto you.… He was betrayed.” Here the words “delivered” and “betrayed” represent a doing, of which the word for “tradition” is the act completed. Paul handed over that which his Lord charged him to transmit; Judas handed over Christ to the Jews.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF 2 Thessalonians 2:15
In all ages the people of God have been assailed with the weapons of a subtle and plausible philosophy which has sought to supplant the simple truth of the gospel with human opinions. The evil heart of man chafes under the righteous restrictions of the truth, and in its angry and delirious opposition has sought to rid itself of God and of all the laws that bind it to a life of obedience and holiness. And when it fancies it has succeeded in demolishing the truths it hated and against which it rebelled, it is aghast at the desolation it has wrought and recoils in alarm from the dark, horrible gulf to the brink of which it had forced itself. Stricken with bewilderment and despair, man strives to construct a religion for himself, and he seeks to substitute his own wild ravings for the truths of divine revelation. It is the attempt of a bold, impious infidelity to put error in the place of truth, philosophy in the place of religion, human opinion in the place of God. The exhortation of this verse is always timely.
I. Christian steadfastness is an important and ever-present duty.—
1. It is necessary to growth and maturity in personal piety. Trees must grow or die. So it is with piety: it must grow or perish. No plant or tree can thrive that is being perpetually plucked up and transplanted; nor can the soul prosper unless it is steadfastly rooted in the soil of truth. Darwin describes a marine plant—the Macrocystis pyrifera—that rises two hundred feet from the depths of the Western Ocean and floats for many fathoms on the surface, uninjured among the waves and breakers, which no masses of rock, however hard, can long withstand. It maintains its strength by clinging tenaciously to the rocks far down below the surface of the sea. So personal piety grows and flourishes by maintaining a firm hold of the Rock of Ages.
2. It is necessary in bearing witness for Christ.—The value of a lighthouse or a landmark to the mariner is, that he can rely on always finding it in the same place. And the value of Christian testimony is that it is not erratic and changeful, but stable and reliable: it hesitates not to witness for Christ in any place. Fifty years ago at a dinner-party in the west end of London, the conversation was dishonouring to Christ. One guest was silent, and presently asked that the bell might be rung. On the appearance of the servant he ordered his carriage, and with polished courtesy apologised to his host for his enforced departure, saying, for I am still a Christian. This gentleman was the late Sir Robert Peel.
3. It is a stimulating example to the weak and faltering.—There are timid, feeble followers of Christ who, until they become well grounded, lean on others; and if their exemplars vacillate and change, so do they. Few have the courage to break away from a pernicious example. When travelling on the Continent, Dr. Duff made the acquaintance of Cardinal Wiseman, and for some time travelled with him; but when at Antwerp he saw the cardinal prostrate himself before the Virgin, he courteously but firmly bade him “good-bye.”
II. Christian steadfastness is shown in an unflinching maintenance of apostolic doctrine.—“Hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” These traditions were the doctrines preached by the apostles. For some years after the ascension of Christ, there was no written gospel or epistle. The truth was taught orally by those who were living witnesses of the facts on which the doctrines—or traditions—were based.
1. Apostolic doctrine must be clearly apprehended.—It must therefore be diligently studied, and the truth sifted from the mass of errors with which false teachers surround it. What is not intelligently comprehended cannot be firmly held.
2. Apostolic doctrine must be earnestly embraced.—Not simply discussed, not simply admired and praised, but prayerfully and cordially accepted—taken in as spiritual food, and systematically fed upon to give strength and stamina to the soul.
3. Apostolic doctrine must be firmly held and stoutly defended against all errors.—“Hold the traditions.” Believe them when tempted to disbelieve; defend them when assailed by the enemy. A brave Athenian, who wrought deeds of valour in the battle of Marathon, seized with his right hand a stranded galley filled with Persians. When his right hand was cut off, he seized the boat with his left, and when that was smitten, he held on with his teeth till he died. The grasp of truth by a Christian believer should not be less tenacious than the dogged heroism of a heathen warrior.
III. Christian steadfastness is emphatically enforced.—“Therefore, brethren, stand fast.” Though misunderstood and misrepresented, though savagely opposed by the enemies of the truth, stand fast. As the wings of the bird are strengthened by the resistance of the atmosphere in which it floats, so your graces will be strengthened by the opposition with which you resolutely contend. In order that your own personal piety may be matured, that your witnessing for Christ may be unmistakable, and that your example may be a stimulating encouragement to others, “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught.”
1. The unstable are the prey of every passing temptation.
2. The word of God is the unfailing source of moral strength.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
2 Thessalonians 2:16. Everlasting consolation and good hope.—Consolation, or comfort, is ministered by the Paraclete (John 14:16; Acts 9:31), who abides for ever with those who are Christ’s.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Prayer an Expression of Ministerial Anxiety.
The apostle had warned the Thessalonians of the errors that were becoming rife among them. Indeed, the existence of these errors, and the grave injury they threatened to the faith of the new converts, prompted him to write these epistles—the first in a series of magnificent apostolic polemics. The apostle knew that if the simplicity of the gospel was vitiated at the beginning of its world-wide mission, unspeakable disaster would ensue, as the checkered history of the Church in the early centuries unhappily proved. Hence his anxiety, not only to clearly state, but with all his resources of logic and persuasion, resolutely to defend the cardinal principles of the gospel. He not only argues, but prays. These verses teach that prayer is the expression of ministerial anxiety.
I. It recognises the need of spiritual consolation.—“Now our Lord … comfort your hearts” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). You have sorrowed over the loss of friends, and harassed yourselves as to their condition in another world. I have pointed out to you that your fears were groundless (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Now, I commend you God as the Source and Giver of all consolation, and pray that He may specially comfort you. “It is God’s presence,” says Burroughs, “that constitutes the saint’s morning. As the stars may impart some light, and yet the brightness of all combined cannot form the light of day, but when the sun appears there is day forthwith, so God may make some comfort arise to a soul from secondary and inferior means; but it is He Himself alone who, by the shining of His face and the smiles of His countenance, causes morning.” A comfort that is made up of our fancies is like a spider’s web that is weaved out of its bowels, and is gone and swept away with the turn of a besom.
II. It recognises the perils that beset the path of obedience.—“And establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thessalonians 2:17)—or, according to the Revised Version, “every good work and word.” Work is better than speech, deeds more eloquent than words, though both are necessary. The best safeguard against temptation is to be employed. “The busy man is tempted by one devil, the idle man by a thousand.” The force of gunpowder is not known till some spark falls on it; so the most placid natures do not reveal the evil that is in them till they are assailed by some fierce and sudden temptation. Excellence in anything can only be reached by hard work; so stability in grace is attained only by being diligently engaged in God’s service. Steadfastness is not dull quiescence: it is self-absorbing activity. If you would be strong, you must work.
III. It recognises the divine source of all spiritual help.—
1. That this help is the outcome of divine love. “Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God even our Father, which hath loved us” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). God helps because He loves. His love evokes the best and noblest in us, as the master-musician brings out melodies from an instrument that inferior players have failed to produce.
“Love is a passion
Which kindles honour into noblest acts.”
“O let Thy love constrain us
To give our hearts to Thee;
Let nothing henceforth pain us
But that which paineth Thee.
“Our joy, our one endeavour,
Through suffering, conflict, shame,
To serve Thee, gracious Saviour,
And magnify Thy name.”
2. That this help meets every possible exigency of the Christian life.—“And hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). The consolation refers to everything in the present, the good hope to everything in the future. The consolation is constant, everlasting, as flowing from inexhaustible sources, and is ever available in all the changes and needs of life; and the hope turns our fears into confidence and our sorrows into joy. When the frail barques of the Portuguese went sailing south, they found the sea so stormy at the southern point of Africa that they named it the Cape of Storms; but after it had been well rounded by bolder navigators, they named it the Cape of Good Hope. So, by the divine help afforded us, many a rough cape of storms has been transformed into a cape of good hope. All spiritual help is given “through grace”—the free, unmerited favour of God—and is therefore a fitting subject of prayer.
1. Every minister should be emphatically a man of prayer.
2. Prayer for others has a reflex benefit on the suppliant.
3. An anxious spirit finds relief and comfort in prayer.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. St. Paul’s Prayer for the Thessalonians.
I. The objects the apostle addressed.—
1. God, even our Father.
2. Our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The gifts the apostle acknowledged.—
1. The manifestation of divine love.
2. The communication of saving grace.
3. The bestowment of Christian hope.
III. The blessings the apostle requested.—
1. Increasing felicity in the Lord.
2. Persevering stability in the truth.—Eta.
2 Thessalonians 2:16. A Good Hope through Grace.
I. The grace of hope.—
1. Refers to the resurrection of the body.
2. To eternal life to be enjoyed by both soul and body.
3. Pre-requisites of this hope.—Conviction of sin. An experimental acquaintance with the gospel.
II. The excellency of this hope.—“A good hope.”
1. In opposition to the hopes of worldly men.
2. It is a lively hope.
3. The object of it is an infinite and eternal good.
4. It has a good foundation.
5. It produces good effects.
III. The source of this hope.—“Through grace.”
1. Man is the subject of infinite demerit.
2. Christ alone possesses infinite merit.
3. The Scripture warns against all self dependence.—Helps for the Pulpit.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany