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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

2 Thessalonians 1

Verses 1-7

2 Thessalonians 1:1-53.1.7

I. This Epistle opens with the mention of the same Apostolic group as does the first. Paul was not alone: Silvanus and Timotheus were still with him in closest fellowship of toil and suffering. The Church, too, is described in the same way. Still further, the Apostle gives expression, as before, so again, to his devout thankfulness to God for the graces of the new life which his converts exhibit. So far from there being any decline in these graces, there was conspicuous progress. In the Christian life it ought always to be so. True steadfastness is a standing fast, but it can never be a standing still. Continuance in all the elements of prosperity of soul, as regards both the individual and the community, is insured only by advancement in them. While the Apostle contemplates the increase of these Divine graces in his friends, he also recognises it as a special token of Divine goodness to himself. The exhibition of these graces on the dark background of suffering was not merely an example it was not only a spectacle which the heathen had never seen before (for their acts of heroic endurance had no root in patience and faith); it was distinctly a setting forth, an exhibition to all who had the eyes of their understanding enlightened, of the rectitude of God's dealings.

II. "Rest with us." By the word "rest" Paul directs the thoughts of his reader forward and upward, "All but opening heaven already by his word." There is, indeed, a power in the word to comfort and sustain those in whose hearts burns "the hot fever of unrest." It is a word of promise to all faithful but weary workers in every noble cause. Erasmus once wrote "No one will believe how anxiously, for a long time, I have wished to retire from these labours into a scene of tranquillity, and for the rest of my life (dwindled, it is true, to the shortest space) to converse only with Him who once cried and who still cries, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' In this turbulent, and I may say, raging world, amid so many cares, which the state of the times heaps upon me in public, or which declining years or infirmities cause me in private, nothing do I find on which my mind can more comfortably repose than on this sweet communion with God." The pathetic longing of these words for a repose that comes not at man's call is yet to attain to satisfaction. When earth and time be passed away, "there remaineth a rest to the people of God."

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 252.

References: 2 Thessalonians 1:3 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 205; vol. xxxi., No. 1857.

Verses 7-12

2 Thessalonians 1:7-53.1.12

The rest awaiting Christ's troubled saints is in the fullest sense to be their possession at the revelation of the Lord Jesus. He who is emphatically the coming One is to be revealed. There is a vividness in the word. He is now hidden. But when He comes again, every eye shall see Him.

I. The term "everlasting" qualifying "destruction," as it here does, shows that this destruction is not extinction of being. It is not loss of being, but loss of wellbeing: for as its opposite, life, is more than mere existence, so destruction is more than mere non-existence. The purpose the Apostle has in view in the description of the coming is the same here as in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-52.4.17 , the giving of comfort and encouragement to his readers in the midst of apprehensions and trials.

II. "And fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness." There are structural objections to the rendering which makes "the good pleasure" to be God's. It is rather His people's moral goodness, and their good pleasure in it every aspiration after goodness which they cherish within their breasts. Hence the Revised Version is to be preferred "every desire of goodness." All genuine holiness, being a cheerful obedience to God's law, is, indeed, the good pleasure of His will; but it is also on the part of His people their "good pleasure and goodness," and it is this which is signified here. The Apostle's prayer is that his friends may have, by God's grace, every desire after holiness brought to perfect realisation, so that they may become full of goodness, finding at last their perfect happiness in perfect sanctification.

J. Hutchison, Lectures on Thessalonians, p. 267.

References: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-53.1.12 . Preachers Monthly, vol. iii., p. 361. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., pp. 327, 339.

Verse 10

2 Thessalonians 1:10

I. All creation is one great illustration of Jesus. God has laid up everything, if we only see it aright, for the exhibition of His dear Son; so that, faithful to that great idea, when He comes He will come, indeed, to judge the world, but He will come yet more "to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." And the Church this poor, divided, feeble, unworthy, sin-stained Church does it set forth the character of its Lord? does it make Him admirable? It is pleasant to be assured that if it does not now, it shall then. Be you only one of those who receive gladly the processes of the sanctifying Spirit into your heart be you only, at this moment, a simple believer "when He comes," He must be magnified in you. For He comes for no other purpose. "When He shall come to be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe."

II. There is a distinction between "glorified in the saints," and "admired in them that believe." We must trace the difference. "Saints" are either those in whom the great work of sanctification is going on in this world, or those in whom it is perfected in the world to come. In this passage it is the perfectly holy. Now, holiness, as regards man, is the final end. All else election, redemption, grace is only a means to the one end that we may be holy. Therefore we are always taught to think of everything else as a first principle, and to go on to holiness. And the reason is this: Holiness is the image of God; to see His own image is the will and purpose of God. That there might be an image of God was the first creation, that there might be an image of God is the second creation. The thick clay will have become the beautiful vessel the rude ore will be the pure, fine gold. Out of the unlikeliest materials the hands of the Almighty will have made His masterpiece the pearl from the shell, the diamond from the charcoal and the whole world will marvel at that transformation; and God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, will be "glorified in His saints."

III. And "admired" the word is taken in its original and truest meaning "wondered at," wondered at in all them that believe i.e., in all them that did believe when they were in the school of this present, probationary world. The whole world will be looking on, and they will see, with astonishment, the triumphs of faith; as all men see again the faithfulness of Jesus to His own Word, and the efficacy of His atoning blood, He will be "wondered at in all them that believe."

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 303.

References: 2 Thessalonians 1:10 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1477; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 279.

Verses 11-12

2 Thessalonians 1:11-53.1.12

Worthy of your Calling.

In the former letter to the Church of Thessalonica, the Apostle had dwelt, in ever-memorable words which sound like a prelude of the trump of God on the coming of Christ at the end to judge the world and to gather His servants into His rest. That great thought seems to have excited some of the hotter heads in Thessalonica, and to have led to a general feverishness and unwholesome expectancy of the near approach or actual dawn of that day. This letter is intended as a supplement to the former epistle, and to damp down the fire which has been kindled. It, therefore, dwells with emphasis on the necessary preliminaries to the dawning of that day of the Lord, and throughout seeks to lead the excited spirits to patience and persistent work, and to calm their feverish expectations. This purpose colours the whole letter.

I. Notice first, here, the Divine test for Christian lives: "We pray for you, that God would count you worthy of your calling." Now, it is to be observed that this counting worthy refers mainly to a future estimate to be made by God of the completed career and permanent character brought out of earth into another state by Christian souls. So, then, we are brought face to face with this thought of an actual, stringent judgment which God will apply in the future to the lives and characters of professing Christians. Now, that is a great deal too much forgotten in our popular Christian teaching, and in our average Christian faith. Let no Christian man fancy that he shall escape the righteous judgment of God. An absolute correspondence, a complete worthiness or perfect desert, is impossible for us all, but a worthiness which His merciful judgment who makes allowance for us all may accept, as not too flagrantly contradictory of what He meant us to be, is possible even for our poor attainments and our stained lives. If it were Paul's supreme aim, should it not be ours, that we may be worthy of Him that hath called us, and walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called?

II. Note, here, the Divine help to meet the test. Paul says, in effect, first, that God will fulfil every desire that longs for goodness. He is scarcely deserving of being called good, who does not desire to be better. Aspiration must always be ahead of performance in a growing life, such as every Christian life ought to be. To long for any righteousness and beauty of goodness, is, in some imperfect and incipient measure, to possess the good for which we long.

III. Note the Divine glory of the Worthy. This fulfilment of every desire of goodness and work of faith is in order that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and ye in Him. Christ's reputation is in our hands. Men judge of Him by us. The name of the Lord Jesus is glorified in you if you live worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; and people will think better of the Master if His disciples are faithful. On the other hand, there is glory accruing to perfected saints in Christ. "And ye in Him." And the union will lead to a participation in His glory which shall exalt their limited, stained, and fragmentary humanity into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

A. Maclaren, Paul's Prayers, p. 1.

Reference: 2 Thessalonians 1:11 , 2 Thessalonians 1:12 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., Nos. 41, 42.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1". "Sermon Bible Commentary".