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- 2 Thessalonians
by Joseph Benson
SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS.
This second epistle to the Thessalonians is thought, by the best critics and chronologers, to have been written from Corinth, soon after the former, chiefly on account of some things therein which had been misunderstood. This appears probable for this reason, among others, that Timothy and Silvanus, who joined him in his first letter, were still with him, and joined him in this second. And, seeing in this epistle he desired the brethren to pray that he might be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, (2 Thessalonians 3:2,) it is probable he wrote it soon after the insurrection of the Jews at Corinth, in which they dragged him before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, and accused him of persuading men “to worship God contrary to the law,” Acts 18:13; we cannot therefore be much mistaken, in supposing that it was dated in or about the year of our Lord 55.
The epistle begins with a devout acknowledgment to God for the eminent attainments which the Thessalonians had made in faith and other Christian graces, and especially for the zeal and fidelity with which they adhered to the gospel in the midst of persecution, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4. II. To support and animate them under their trials, he reminds them of the distinguished honour that would be conferred on all the saints at the coming of Christ, and the vengeance that would at the same time overtake all the enemies of the gospel; assuring them of his constant prayers for their further improvement in true religion, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12. III. Lest, by mistaking the meaning of what he had said or wrote to them at any time upon that subject, or by any other means, they should be deceived into an opinion that the day of final judgment was near at hand, he informs them, that before that awful time there would be a grand apostacy in the church, and an antichristian power, which he calls the man of sin, would arise, and greatly obstruct the progress of the gospel, arrogantly assuming to itself the divine authority, and, by pretending miracles, leading multitudes into the most fatal delusions. Some beginnings of this power, he signifies, were already discoverable; and as soon as those restraints which then lay upon it were removed, it would break out in all its force, and continue to spread, till it should be finally destroyed by the coming of Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. IV. By these views, he is led to express his thankfulness to God that the Thessalonians had escaped this corruption which had begun so early to prevail in the church, and had given such convincing proofs of their entering into the true spirit of Christianity, in which he exhorts them to persevere with steadfastness and constancy, adding his earnest supplications for their increasing comfort and establishment, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17. V. He desires their prayers that his labours might be attended with the same success among others as they had been among them; and that he might be delivered from the opposition of unreasonable men, expressing withal his confidence in their continued regards to the instructions he had given them, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5. VI. He gives directions for their conduct toward some disorderly members of the church, who, neglecting their proper business, meddled in the concerns of others. These he exhorts to attend to their own affairs, and to provide carefully for their own subsistence, that they might not be a burden to others; reminding them of the example he had set, while at Thessalonica, in maintaining himself by the labour of his own hands, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12. VII. If any one, notwithstanding, should refuse to comply with this exhortation, he directs the other members of the church to exclude him from their company and friendship, that he might be made sensible of his fault; concluding with his usual salutation, 2 Thessalonians 3:13-18. It is justly observed by Dr. Doddridge, from whose Introduction to this epistle the above analysis of its contents is extracted, that “though this is the shortest of all St. Paul’s epistles, it is not inferior to any of them in the sublimity of the sentiments which it contains, and the excellent spirit which it breathes. And besides those marks of its genuineness and divine authority which it bears in common with the rest of these epistles, it has one peculiar to itself, from the exact representation it contains of the Papal power, under the characters of the ‘man of sin’ and the ‘mystery of iniquity.’ For, considering how directly opposite the principles here described were to the genius of Christianity, it must have appeared, at the time when this epistle was written, highly improbable to all human apprehension that they should ever have prevailed in the Christian Church; and, consequently, a prediction like this, which answers so exactly, in every particular, to the event, must be allowed to carry its own evidence along with it, and to prove that the author of it wrote under a divine influence.”
the Fifth Week after Easter