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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Thessalonians 2

Verse 1

2 Thessalonians 2:1

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The coming of Christ


I.
The nature of it. Christ came. He comes. He is to come.

1. He came in the flesh. The long line of predictions from Adam to Malachi were accomplished at last, after long delay and anxious expectation.

2. He comes continually.

(1) In the extraordinary manifestation of His presence and power, whether for judgment or mercy.

(2) In the special manifestation of Him self to His people.

3. He is to come.

(1) Personally and visibly.

(2) With power and great glory.

(3) The dead shall rise, the just and the unjust.

(4) The judgment will then be held.

(5) The world destroyed.

(6) The kingdom of God consummated.

The consequences to His people will be--

(a) Their redemption, i.e., their final deliverance from the power of death.

(b) Their complete conformity to the likeness of Christ.

(c) Their perfect enjoyment of that kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.


II.
The time.

1. It is unrevealed.

2. It is to be unexpected.

3. It will not be until the conversion of the Jews and the calling in of the Gentries.

Did the apostles expect Christ in their day?

(1) They regarded His coming as they regarded the coming of death.

(2) It was revealed to them that there should be a falling away first.

We must distinguish between their personal expectations and their teaching. The latter alone is infallible.


III.
Points of analogy between the first and second comings.

1. Both predicted.

2. Anxiously and long expected.

3. The subjects of much speculation as to time and mode.

4. Disappointing in the one and the other.


IV.
The state of mind which the doctrine should induce.

1. A firm belief in the revealed fact that He is to come. This faith should not be shaken by long delay. How long Abraham waited and died without the sight.

2. Earnest desire. The hopes of the ancient people were concentrated on the coming of the Messiah. This led them to bear patiently what they had to suffer. To set their hopes on the future and not on the present. The same effect should be produced on us.

3. Watchfulness and anxiety, lest that day should overtake us as a thief in the night. We should have our lamps trimmed and our lights burning. It would be a dreadful thing for Christ to come and find us immersed in the world.

4. Prayer and waiting.

5. Solicitous efforts to prepare others for His coming, and to prepare the way of the Lord. He will not come to the individual nor to the Church till His way is prepared. This includes--

(1) Taking out of the way obstructions to His coming.

(2) The accomplishment of the ingathering of His people. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

The coming of Christ


I.
The coming of Christ to judgment is a truth--

1. Well known by all the saints (Jude 1:14; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

2. Firmly believed (2 Peter 3:3-5; Titus 2:11-13).

3. Earnestly desired (Song of Solomon 8:14; Revelation 22:20). Why?

(1) In respect of Him who is to come--that we may see Him who is our great Lord and Saviour. All who believed anything of Christ before He came desired to see Him (John 8:56). And now Christians (1 Peter 1:8; 1 Peter 2:3).

(2) In respect of the persons desiring--there is that in them which moves them to it.

(a) The Spirit of Christ (Revelation 22:17). The Holy Ghost creates this desire: it is His great work to bring Christ and us together.

(b) The graces planted in us--faith, which takes Christ at His word (John 14:2); hope, which is faith’s handmaid (1 Peter 1:3); love, which is an affection of union (Philippians 1:23).

(c) Christian privileges; believers then find the fruit of their interest in Christ, and have their reward (Revelation 22:12; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4).


II.
When Christ shall come all the saints shall be gathered with him. There shall be--

1. A congregation (Matthew 25:32; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Adam will then meet all his posterity at once. All distinctions of age, quality, wealth, nation, etc., will disappear.

2. A segregation (Matthew 25:32-33). There may be some confusion now, but there shall be a complete separation then (Matthew 13:49).

3. An aggregation: believers are gathered together for several ends.

(1) To make up the number of Christ’s attendants (Jude 1:14; Zechariah 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

(2) To be presented to God by head and poll. We were given to Christ to be preserved for glory (John 17:6). Christ is to give an account (John 6:40). The form of presentation (Hebrews 2:13).

(3) To be brought in one troop to heaven (John 14:3). Conclusion: There is much comfort in this.

1. Real Christians seem few (Luke 12:32): but when there assembled they shall be a multitude that no man can number (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9).

2. Christian friends are now separated--then they shall meet to part no more (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

3. The Church seems in a degenerate state--then it shall be without spot. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Reunion

1. The exact word occurs only again in Hebrews 10:25, and that gathering is typical of this. When we meet in the House of God, for prayer, praise, instruction and communion, we are practising for that other gathering, which shall be perfect. The verb, however, occurs in two other places: one is where our Lord reminds Jerusalem how He would have gathered her children together. That idea of safe keeping, cherishing under the wing of the mother, is involved in the “gathering” of the Second Advent. The other text is Mark 13:27, the interpretation of the text before us.

2. The text is used not as a terror but as an attraction. “We beseech you by it,” as those who would not part with it for their life. The Advent, as a regathering, is full of consolation. But it implies--


I.
Dispersion. There are senses in which this is tolerable. The severance of nations by dividing seas and deserts, and by the Babel judgment of divided tongues, is no affliction. It is as a type that we must read it to enter into its significance for sorrow.

1. It tells of sons and mothers parted for a lifetime by calls of duty or self-made necessities; of friends closer than brothers bidding each other a long farewell at a noisy station or a sea-washed pier; of vows of lifelong friendship broken in sudden passion; of discords which a breath would have healed; hence severance.

2. There is a dispersion of divided tongues concerning Christ in God’s behalf. Men made offenders for a word; men unable to read in identical phrase some microscopic doctrine; men, kneeling in the name of one Saviour, imputing wilful blindness to one another.

3. Then the uncharitableness of individual men must be made the watchwords and heirlooms of parties and Churches. Creeds and articles must adopt the quarrel, and anathematize the deviation as a crime. So Christ’s house is divided.

4. Behind and beneath all these dispersions there lurks the giant disperser, Death. Those unaffected by the other dispersions are all doomed to suffer from this.

5. But the greatest is sin. Brothers and friends may part and not part; even in this life they may be divided, and yet know that they have one home and Father. But sin divides even in its joining. Where sin is there is selfishness, and selfishness is severance.


II.
The regathering. To Paul, and to all whose hearts are large and deep, there was a peculiar charm in the thought of this. “I beseech you,” as though no motive could be more persuasive.

1. The scene thus opened is august even to oppressiveness. Expanded from one end of heaven to the other, enhanced by multiplication of generations, till it has embraced all the living and dead who have possessed the one Divine faith which makes the communion of saints, it overwhelms and baffles the soul’s gaze.

2. But we must seek to refine and decarnalize our conceptions. “There is a spiritual body,” doubtless like that of the risen Jesus which entered the room whose doors were shut. We must reassure ourselves by thoughts of the possibility of a communion in which mind shall touch mind, and spirit breathe into spirit, and soul kindle soul with no cumbersome machineries or limiting measurements.

3. Even now we feel within ourselves an instinct of the regathering. There are those who profess to have the key of death, and to hold commerce with the departed. We could better believe them if we found in their supposed communications profiting or solemnity. But the instinct of reunion is there; we read it even in its follies.

4. Still more do we long and yearn in ourselves for that kind of union which can come only to the immortal. Here we meet and part with a sense of unrest which leaves us to the end hungry and desolate. To the friend of our souls we cannot say one half of what we meant to say, and that was not fully understood. Our love he read not, and our passing humours he took as a changed affection. But then friend shall meet friend in absolute oneness, knowing as known, because loved as loving.

5. The condition is “unto Him.” There are many human heavens for one Divine. We picture to ourselves a future bright with earth’s joys, and cloudless of earth’s troubles; but have we remembered that “the light thereof” is the Lamb. The promise of the text is vocal only to the Christian. Conclusion: Make now the great decision. If we will here trifle together, live for the world, neglect Christ, mock at sin, we must look abroad for some other hope: there is none for us in the gospel. The Advent regathering is for those only who in life “have loved the appearing.” (Dean Vaughan.)

The Advent as a motive

“By” is not a formula of adjuration. There would be no point in saying, “I beseech you by the day of the Lord, not to suppose that the day of the Lord is at hand.” It must be taken in the sense of “on behalf of,” as though he were pleading in honour of that day, that the expectation of it might not be a source of disorder in the Church. (Prof. Jowett.)

Caution against error


I.
The error which the apostle disproves--that the day of Christ was then at hand.


II.
The effect which this error might produce--trouble and unsettledness of mind. This implies--

1. That errors breed this disquietude.

2. That Christians should be firmly established against them.


III.
A removal of the foundation of this error. The brethren were not to be shaken either by spirit, by word, or by letter. (W. Burkitt, M. A.)

Verse 2

2 Thessalonians 2:2

That ye be not soon shaken in mind

A firm anchorage

There lies a maritime figure in the word “shaken.

” Wordsworth well paraphrases it. “In order that you may not soon be shaken off from the anchorage of your firmly settled mind, and be drifted about by winds of false doctrine, as a ship in your harbor is shaken off from its moorings by the surge of the sea.” They are warned against being driven out of their ordinary state of mental composure--shaken out of their sanctified common sense. “Thrown off their balance,” is what we might say; “or be troubled:” the clause has a slightly climactic force--thrown into a state of unreasoning, and frenzied confusion (Matthew 24:6). (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Errors concerning the Second Advent


I.
From the error disproved, observe that the time of Christ’s coming must be patiently expected. Not rashly defined or determined. But is this such an error (James 5:8; 1Pe 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 13:12)? Why then should the apostle speak so vehemently against the nearness of Christ? I shall show--

1. That the apostle had reason to say that the day of the Lord was at hand.

(1) With respect to faith: for faith gives a kind of presence to things which are afar off (Hebrews 11:1). Therein it agrees with the light of prophecy (Revelation 20:12). The Second Coming is as certain to faith as if He were already come (Philippians 4:5).

(2) With respect to love. Love will not account it long to endure the hardships of this present world until Christ comes to set all things to rights (Genesis 29:20). Faith sees the certainty of it, and love makes us hold out till the time come about.

(3) As comparing time with eternity (Psalms 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). The longest time to eternity is but as a drop in the ocean. All the tediousness of the present life is but like one rainy day to an everlasting sunshine (2 Corinthians 4:17).

(4) Paul speaks to particular men, whose abode in the world is not very long. Eternity and judgment are at hand, though Christ tarry long till the Church be completed (2 Peter 3:9). Now what is long, and afar off to the whole Church, considered in several successions of ages is short to particular persons. Christ is ready to judge at all times, though the world is not ready to be judged. The Coming of Christ is uncertain, that men in all ages might be quickened to watchfulness, and make preparation (Luke 12:40; Matthew 24:42).

2. The seducers had little reason to pervert the apostle’s speech, and the apostle had good reason to confute their supposition that Christ would come in that age.

(1) To inquire after the time is curiosity (Acts 1:7). It is a great evil to pry into our Master’s secrets, when we have so many revealed truths to busy our minds about. It is ill manners to open a secret letter. The practice of known duties would prevent this curiosity which tends not to edification.

(2) Much more was it a sin to fix the time (Matthew 24:36).

(3) The fixing of the time did harm--

(a) It drew away their minds from necessary duties.

(b) It pleased Satan who is the author of error.

(c) It had a tendency to shake faith in other things when their credulity was disproved by the event.

(d) It showed a diseased mind, that they were sick of questions when they had so much wholesome food to feed upon (1 Timothy 6:4).

(e) It engendered strife.


II.
The effect this error was likely to produce. Trouble and unsettledness, in which is a two-fold metaphor, the one taken from a tempest, the other from the sudden alarm of a land fight.

1. Errors breed trouble in the mind: they do not only disturb the Church’s peace (Galatians 5:12), but personal tranquility (Galatians 1:7). How?--

(1) They are on unsound foundation, and can never yield solid peace. We only find soul rest in true religion; others are left to uncertainties (Jeremiah 6:16).

(2) Because false peace ends in trouble. Every erroneous way is comfortless eventually. False doctrine breeds anxiety, and cannot quiet conscience; but truth breeds delight (Proverbs 24:13-14; Matthew 11:28-30).

2. Christians should be so established as not to be easily shaken.

(1) Let us see how this is pressed.

(a) From the encouragement of the great hope (1 Corinthians 15:58; Acts 20:24).

(b) From its absolute necessity (Colossians 1:28).

(2) Let us inquire what is necessary to this establishment.

(a) A clear conviction of the truth, not some fluctuating opinion about it (James 1:8; 1Th 5:21; 2 Peter 3:16-17; Ephesians 4:14).

(b) A resolution to adhere to the truth. The heart must be established by grace as well as the mind soundly convinced (Heb 13:9; 1 Corinthians 7:37; Acts 21:13). This resolution of the heart is by faith and love (Heb 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; Ephesians 1:7).

(3) The opposite to this is inconstancy (Galatians 1:6; Matthew 11:7; Proverbs 14:15), of which the causes are--

(a) Want of solid roofing in the truth (Matthew 13:5; Matthew 13:20).

(b) Want of mortification (2 Timothy 4:10).

(c) A readiness of mind which disposes men to conform to their Company, as the looking glass represents every face that looks into it (Jeremiah 38:5).

(d) Want of a thorough inclination to God, so that they are right only for a while or in some things (1 Kings 2:28; Hosea 7:8).

(e) Want of holiness and living up to the truths we know (1 Timothy 3:9).

(f) Libertinism. Men think they may run from one sect to another as the wind of interest blows. They would die rather than change their religion, but think nothing of the differences among Christians when their turn is to be served. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Calmness in view of the Second Advent

Two anecdotes of two very different men well illustrate that practical combination of energetic discharge of duty with Advent expectation which these Epistles have secured to the Church. When Francis of Sales was once, after intense labour, unbending himself at a game of chess, some morbid precisian who was near, asked him what he would do if he knew that the Lord’s coming was even at hand, “Finish the game,” said the bishop, boldly; “for His glory I began it.” General Lee wrote a striking story to his son, “Last century, in New England, a day of sudden and unaccountable gloom, known yet by tradition as ‘the dark day,’ occurred while the senate of the State was sitting. The universal impression was that doomsday had indeed come. Suddenly a well-known member stood up, ‘President,’ said he, ‘I propose that lights be brought in, and that we pass to the order of the day. If the Judge comes He had best find us at our duty.’” (Bp. Alexander.)

Neither by Spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as that the day of Christ is at hand--

Dangers of deception

These are the three ways in which the Thessalonians were in danger of being deceived and so troubled. A fanatical spirit had insinuated itself, and, as in all such cases, fraud was sure to follow closely on its footsteps.


I.
Spirit. Voices had been heard in their assemblies which professed to come from those who had the gift of prophecy. These had to be tried, for they might be full of error (1 Thessalonians 5:21).


II.
Word. Not simply any rumour that might be gaining currency, or any reckoning as to the time which men might make; nor some unwritten saying of our Lord, or oral message from the apostle; but simply ordinary teaching in the Church. It would thus seem that unscrupulous or fanatical men, getting a footing in the Church, were busy in misleading and so troubling believers.


III.
Letter. “As from us,” is not to be connected with all three terms, for the spirit, as of the absent Paul, could not have been feigned. The manifestation must have been present in his own person. And so, if it cannot be attached to the first, it should not be to the second. Confining it to letter it refers not to some misconstruction of Paul’s former Epistle, but to actual fictitious letters. Such are hinted at in 2 Thessalonians 3:17. False or fanatical brethren had made such letters current in the Thessalonian community. Nor is this so very extraordinary. Literary forgeries, meant as pious frauds, were not uncommon, and the offence, daring as it was, is somewhat softened to our view when we reflect that Paul’s letters, while they had the authority, were not yet invested with all the sanctity with which we now regard them. It is quite conceivable, then, that there were some who thought they were serving a good purpose, one that Paul had himself at heart, in circulating, perhaps anonymously, as a representation of Pauline teaching, letters which, as they thought, cleared up the obscurities of his instruction. (J. Hutchison.)

Dissuasives against error


I.
Ways and means God has appointed to settle choice and opinion in religion.


I.
The light of nature antecedently to external revelation will sufficiently convince us of the being of God and our dependence upon Him (Romans 1:19-20). For I must know there is a God, or else I cannot believe in a revelation from Him. Nature will tell us that there is a First Cause of all things, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, that it is reasonable that He should be served by His creatures; that He will reward or punish men as they disobey or serve Him: but how He is to be served, and how after disobedience return is possible is revealed in the Word of God.

2. The written Word shows us the true way of worshipping and pleasing God, and being accepted with Him: therefore it is a sufficient direction to us. There is enough to satisfy conscience, though not to please wanton curiosity (2 Timothy 3:15; Psalms 119:105). There we have many things evident by the light of nature made more clear, and that revealed which no natural light has shown.

3. The natural truths of the Word of God are evident by their own light. The supernatural truths, though above natural light are not against it, and fairly accord with principles which are naturally known, and are confirmed--

(1) By antecedent testimony (John 5:39; 2 Peter 1:19).

(2) By evidence in their own frame and texture (2 Corinthians 4:2-4).

(3) Subsequent evidence, that of the apostles (Acts 5:32).

4. The Word being thus stated and put into a sure record is intelligible on all necessary matters (Psalms 25:8). To think otherwise were blasphemy or folly.

5. Besides, the illumination of the Spirit accompanies the Word and makes it effectual (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17-18; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

6. There are promises of direction to humble and sincere minds (Psalms 25:9; Proverbs 2:4-5; John 7:17; James 1:5).


II.
The Christian who is thus established is fortified against--

1. Pretended revelations, “Spirit”; because:--

(1) Having his mind thus settled, he may boldly defy all revelations pretended to the contrary (Galatians 1:8). Any doctrine if different from, or besides the written Word, a Christian may reject.

(2) A Christian is on better terms, having the written Word, than if God dealt with him by way of revelations (2 Peter 1:19).

(3) It is not rational to expect new revelation, now the canon of faith is closed up (Hebrews 2:1-2; Matthew 28:20; Joh 17:29).

(4) If any such be pretended, it must be tried by the Word (Isaiah 8:20; 1 John 4:1).

(5) They that despise ordinary means, and pretend to vision or inspiration are usually such as are given over to error as a punishment (Micah 2:11).

2. Unwritten tradition “Word.” This should not shake the mind of a settled Christian, for it has no evidence of its certainty, and would lay us open to the deceits of men, blinded by their own interests and passions; and if such tradition be produced as has unquestionable authority it must be tried by the Scripture.

3. Epistle as from us--

(1) Supposititious writings which the Church in all ages has exploded, having received only those which are theirs whose names they bare.

(2) False expositions. These are confuted by inspection of the context, scope of the writer, comparing of obscure places with plain and clear. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Spirits to be tried

Genuine enthusiasm is the zeal of love for Christ and for human souls, guided by the Word of God. It is a very different thing from that blind zeal which is the fire and fervour of an overheated imagination, which exalts itself above the written Word, and is more properly named fanaticism, which is not a virtue but a vice. Wesley besought his followers to shun this rock in sober faith, saying, “Give no place to a heated imagination. Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil Therefore, ‘Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God.’ Try all things by the written Word, and let all things bow down before it.”

Verse 3

2 Thessalonians 2:3

Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first

Christ and Antichrist

The most marked Features in this passage are--


I.

A caricature of Christ; an exact counterpart and mockery of Christ in the man of sin. The latter has, like the former--

1. An apocalypse (2Th 2:8. cf. verses 6-8).

2. A solemn coming on the stage of human history (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

3. An advent (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

4. Power, signs, wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

5. Designation (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

6. A definitely appointed season of His own (2 Thessalonians 2:6).


II.
A caricature of Christianity. As some of the leading glories of Christ are studiously travestied in the “lawless one,” and described in language which forces us to think of Christ; so several of the leading features of the Christian system are powerfully travestied by imitative anti-Christianity. This latter is--

1. A mystery (2 Thessalonians 2:7), imitative of the mystery of godliness.

2. Has an energy, an inworking (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 2Th 2:11, cf. Ephesians 2:2), imitative of the energy and inworking of the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 4:12), of God (Philippians 2:18; Galatians 2:8), of the indwelling Spirit (Colossians 1:29). He shall work in them by such an energy as that of the Holy Ghost, who witnesseth in us concerning God; not a mere apprehension, but an inworking of error, a regeneration into the faith of the lie (E. Irving)

.

3. Has a faith--a solemn making of an act of faith--imitative of the faith of Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

4. The words eudokein, eudokia are used of God’s good pleasure in His sinless Son, and of His goodwill toward men (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 12:18; Matthew 17:5; Luk 12:32; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 1:15), or the good will of Christians in holiness and acts of love (1 Thessalonians 2:8, etc.). The imitative good pleasure of anti-Christianity is in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:12). (Bp. Alexander.)

Signs of the Second Advent


I.
A caution: “Let no man deceive you.” A man may be deceived on this momentous subject.

1. All admit that Christ will come; but few invest it with sufficient importance. Paul thought so much about it that he made it the main subject of these Epistles, and the New Testament is full of it. Little is said about death but much about the Second Advent.

2. There were false teachers who preached that the event was at hand, and many were abandoning the ordinary duties of life, and were troubled and shaken in mind. False expectations were calculated to produce such results. What awful disturbance there would be in the mind of every unconverted man were it now infallibly announced that Christ would come tomorrow. But Paul was writing to the Church. How, then, could they be troubled who were encouraged to look for and hasten unto that event? It is one thing to live in quiet expectation of Christ, and another to feel that He will come tomorrow. We are forbidden to inquire into the day and hour. That is to keep the Church in a state of calm expectation. Think of the trouble many good people would be in were it known that Christ would come directly. Who would have any relish for work. And then there are many true believers whose evidence is not always clear; how it would trouble them. How agitated we should be about the condition of our friends. To prevent these evils, the hour is unrevealed.


II.
The events which must transpire before Christ comes.

1. “The gospel must be first preached to all nations as a witness,” as our Lord said. His object was the formation of a Church as His witness. This Church, like a pilgrim, has gone from place to place. Churches have been formed, and then after a while the candlestick has been removed, as in the case of those of Asia. The effect of this has been the gathering of a people, generation after generation, to “the general assembly of the first-born.” This, too, is the work of every preacher. He does not convert congregations, but individuals. The net is cast and fish are gathered of every kind forming what we call Christendom. With this body our Lord will deal when He comes, and then the final severance will take place. But before then there will be a great moral separation, viz.

2. “A great falling away.” This will be of mere professors who, by withdrawing, will leave the whole body of believers sharply defined and intact (Revelation 13:8). This apostasy will not be of one or two, here and there; that began in Paul’s time, and has been going on ever since; but one of a great and striking character. The cause of this will be the portentous development of the mystery of iniquity which began the work one thousand eight hundred years ago, ripening into all sorts of sin, Romanism, infidelity, religious indifference and worldliness, preparing the visible Church for the reception of a great pretender who is--

3. “The man of sin.” Some have identified this character with the Pope in his official character but this can hardly be the case inasmuch as the Pope has never exalted himself above God, etc., (2 Thessalonians 2:4), and has not been worshipped by the world (Revelation 13:8). One of the marks of the beast is that all shall worship him but the elect; but surely every non-Papist is not a true believer. Whether a given Pope may yet appear as the man of sin is another matter, but it is quite certain that one has not yet been “revealed” as such. This individual will--

(1) be a “man,”

(2) be qualified for his work by the energy of Satan--

(3) be revealed by tribulation which shall sift and purify the elect, at the same time inviting to himself all the ungodly.


III.
Then will come the end (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). (Capel Molyneux, M. A.)

The falling away

is either that of which he had spoken to them while he was yet with them, or that, which in his own mind was inseparable from the coming of Christ which was to follow. Of what nature was this falling away? What vision of apostasy rose before him as he wrote this? Was it within or without? permanent or passing? persecution of the heathen, or the disorganization of the body of Christ itself? Was it the transition of the Church from its first love to a more secular and earthly state, or the letting loose of a spiritual world of evil, such as the apostle describes in Ephesians 6:12? So ideal a picture cannot properly be limited to any person or institution. That it is an inward, not an outward evil, that is depicted, is implied in the very name apostasy. It is not the evil of the heathen world, sunk in grossness and unconsciousness, but evil rebelling against good, conflicting with good in the spiritual world itself. And the conflict is of the same nature, though in a wider sphere, as the strife of good and evil in the heart of the individual. It is that same strife, not as represented in Romans 7:1-25, but at a later stage when evil is fast becoming good, and the remembrance of the past itself is carrying men away from the truth. (Prof. Jowett.)

An evil and presumptuous one

The apostle speaks in the eighth verse of the revelation of “that wicked,” intimating the discovery, which should be made of his wickedness in order to his ruin: here he speaks of his rise, which should be occasioned by the general apostasy; and to intimate that all sorts of false doctrines and corruptions should centre in him.


I.
The names of this person.

1. He is called “that man of sin,” to denote his egregious wickedness; not only is he addicted to and practises wickedness himself, but he also promotes, countenances, and commands sin and wickedness in others.

2. And he is “the son of perdition,” because he himself is devoted to certain destruction, and is the instrument of destroying many others both in soul and body.


II.
The presumption of this person.

1. His towering ambition. He “opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped.” Thus he has not only opposed God’s authority, and that of the civil magistrates, who are called “gods,” but exalted himself above God and earthly governors, in demanding greater regard to his commands than to the commands of God or the magistrate.

2. His dreadful usurpation. “He as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God!” As God was in the temple of old, and worshipped there, and is in and with His Church now, so Antichrist is the usurper of God’s authority in the Christian Church, and the claimer of Divine honours, for, among the moat blasphemous titles, this one has been given to him, “Another God on earth!” (T. Scott, M. A.)

Apostasy and Antichrist


I.
The general apostasy which must precede Christ’s coming.

1. Apostasy is any defection from that lord to whom we owe fealty. In religious matters it is defection from our right and proper Lord. The devil was an apostate (Jude 1:6; John 8:44); our first parents (Romans 5:19); their posterity (Zephaniah 1:6; Isaiah 59:13).

2. The apostasy of the text was not civil, the falling away of many kingdoms from the Roman empire; but of the visible Church from its Lord. This is proved--

(1) From the fact that the Thessalonians did not intermingle with State affairs.

(2) From the use of the word in Christian doctrine (Luke 13:13).

(3) Because it was expressly foretold (1 Timothy 4:1).

(4) Because those who are most concerned to maintain the notion of civil apostasy are most notorious in this defection.

3. The proper Lord of the Christian Church is Christ (Romans 14:9; Ephesians 5:23).

4. Apostasy from Christ is determined by two things.

(1) By undermining His authority. This is done when others usurp His place without His leave, e.g., superinduce a universal head of the Church which Christ never appointed.

(2) By corrupting and destroying the interests of His kingdom, which is the case wherever there is a degeneration from the purity and simplicity of the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3), such as when the faith of the gospel is turned into dead opinions and curious questions; and its worship corrupted into giving Divine honour to saints and angels and turned into a theatrical pomp of empty ceremonies; and its discipline transformed into temporal domination and carried on by sides and interests.

5. This apostasy is notable and discernible, not of a few or many in divers Churches. There have always been backsliders (1 John 2:18-19; 1 John 4:3; 1 John 4:5); but the great apostasy is in some visible Church where these corruptions are generally received and defended. Who then are they--

(1) Who usurp Christ’s authority by setting up a universal head over all Christians?

(2) Who revive the worship of a middle sort of powers between God and man (1 Timothy 4:1; Colossians 2:18), and invent so many lies to defend it, when Christians should keep themselves from idols (1 John 5:21), not contented with the only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Corinthians 8:5)?

(3) Who plead for indulgences and the supererogatory satisfaction of saints as profitable for the remission of sins?

(4) Who keep believers from reading the Scriptures when expressly enjoined to do so (John 5:39; Psalms 1:2)?

(5) Who deny one part of the Lord’s Supper notwithstanding His institution to the contrary (1 Corinthians 11:25-26)?


II.
The revelation of Antichrist as--

1. “The man of sin.”

(1) The Jews gave this name to Antiochus (1Ma 2:48; 1Ma 2:62), and it is given to Antichrist because he is a man given up to sin eminently, and giveth excitements to sin. Now how much open sin is allowed in the Papacy their own stories tell Histories witness that the most abominable men have occupied the Papal chair; and no man can sin at so cheap a rate when, by dividing sins into mortal and venial, and these expiated by penance, faculties, licences, dispensations, indulgences until sin is distinguished out of conscience.

(2) Because he is called “the man of sin” it does not follow that he is an individual. One is often put for a society and succession of men as kings (Daniel 7:8; Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 14:9); so the “man of God” is put for all faithful ministers (2 Timothy 3:17); “high priest” (Hebrews 9:25); “the king” (1 Peter 2:17). So one person represents that succession of men that head the revolt against Christ.

2. “The son of perdition.” Wherein he is likened to Judas (John 17:12). The term may be explained passively as one condemned to everlasting destruction (2 Samuel 12:5; Ephesians 2:3), or actively as bringing destruction on himself and others (Rev 9:11, cf. Hebrews 5:9). Note the parallel.

(1) Judas was not a stranger, but a pretended friend and apostle (Acts 1:17). Turks and infidels are enemies to Christ, but Antichrist seeks to undermine Him under a pretence of friendship. There is no mystery in open enmity (verse 7).

(2) He sold Christ for a small matter; Antichrist makes a market of religion.

(3) Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, and where is there apparently such friends of Christ as at Rome? They are ready to worship the Cross, and yet they are its enemies, because they mind earthly things.

(4) Judas was a guide to those who came to take Christ, and the main work of Antichrist is to be a ringleader in persecuting for religion.

(5) Judas was covetous, and England to its bitter cost knows the exactions of the Papacy. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The development of Antichrist


I.
It begins in a falling away--

1. From the power and practice of godliness, though the profession be not changed.

(1) Because this disposes to the entertainment of error. When a people that are carried with great zeal for a while, lose their affections to good, and return to a worldly life, then the bias of their hearts easily prevails against the light of their understandings. And so unsanctified men may the sooner be drawn to apostasy; they never felt the quickening virtue of faith, and were never wrought by it to the true love of God or an holy life.

(2) Because if a lively Christianity had been kept up, Antichrist had never risen, and it is the way to keep him out still (Matthew 13:1-58). A sleepy religion and corruption of manners made way for corruption of doctrine, worship, and order (Song of Solomon 5:2).

(3) Because there is such a compliance between the nature of Antichristianism and the temper of a carnal heart; for superstition and profaneness grow both upon the same root. To prevent this falling away from a lively godliness observe two things--

(a) Coldness in duties, when the will and affections grow more remiss, and the worship of God, which keepeth up the remembrance of Him, is either omitted or performed in a careless and stupid manner (Jeremiah 2:32; Job 27:10; Isaiah 43:22). When you seldom think or speak of God and do not keep up a delightful communion with Him, there is a falling away.

(b) Boldness in sinning. When men lose their tenderness and strictness, and the awe of God is lessened in their hearts, and they do not only sin freely in thought, but in act, have not that hatred of sin and watch fulness they had formerly, but more abandon themselves to a carnal life, they are falling off from God apace (2 Peter 2:20).

Consider the cause of it--

(a) Want of faith in God (Hebrews 3:12).

(b) Want of love to God (Revelation 2:4-5).

(c) Want of a due sense of the world to come (Hebrews 10:39).

(d) Love of the present world (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Timothy 3:4).

2. From a true religion to a false, which may be done two ways.

(1) Out of weakness of mind as those do who were never well grounded in the truth (Ephesians 4:14; 2 Peter 3:16). Therefore we need to be established; but the forsaking of a truth we were bred in usually comes from some falseness of heart. Some errors are so contrary to the new nature, that they discern them by the unction (1 John 2:20).

(2) Out of vile affection, when they forsake the truth for the advantages of a fleshly, worldly life, some places to be gotten by it, etc., and as the whore of Babylon hath a golden cup, riches, and preferments, wherewith it inviteth its proselytes. Now these are worse than the former, for they sell the birthright (Hebrews 12:16). O Christians! take heed to yourselves. Apostasy brought Antichrist into the Church. Let it not bring him back again into the land, or into your hearts.


II.
The next step is the man of sin. As the first apostasy of Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, so this great apostasy brought in a deluge of sin into the Church, and defiled the holy society which Christ had gathered out of the world. Idolatry is often called adultery or fornication; spiritual uncleanness disposeth to bodily, and bodily to spiritual. Usually a corrupt state of religion and corrupt manners go together; otherwise the dance and the fiddle would not suit. The world cannot lie quiet in a course of sin, if there be not some libertine, atheistical doctrine, and carnal worship to countenance it (Revelation 11:10).


III.
The man of sin is also the son of perdition.

1. Actively. False religions strangely efferate the mind (Jude 1:11; Hosea 5:2). Men think no cruelty nor dishonesty unlawful which serveth to promote the interests of their sect, and lose all charity to those that are not of their way.

2. Passively, shall be destroyed. Sometimes grievous judgments come in this world for the corruptions of religion; but in the world to come, dreadful is the end of apostates (2 Peter 2:20-21). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The man of sin

Mark--


I.
That moral evil on earth is represented in human nature. Sin is connected with man in contradistinction to--

1. Abstract systems.

2. Super-earthly sinners.


II.
That it is often found usurping the perogatives of God, such as--

1. Proprietorship in human life.

2. The taking away of human life.

3. Dominion over conscience.

4. The absolving from sin.

5. Infallibility of character.


III.
That it is subject to restraint in this world, arising from--

1. Civil law.

2. Social intelligence.

3. The monition of conscience.

4. Physical inability.


IV.
That it is associated, with the mysterious (verse 7). Evil is mysterious on account of--

1. The darkness that enfolds its introduction.

2. The mask under which it works.

3. Its wonderful results.


V.
That it is satanic in its operations (verse 9). These operations are--

1. Sensuous.

2. Marvellous.

3. Deceptive.

4. Unrighteous.

5. Destructive.


VI.
that it is destined to be destroyed by the agency or christ.

1. By His Word.

2. By His manifestation. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Judas a type of the Papacy

The term “son of perdition” occurs but once elsewhere, and that on our Lord’s lips in reference to Judas. The parallel between His character and conduct and the Papacy--not any individual Pope, but the whole system--is most close. We conceive the Papacy to be here intended, because the features of type and prophecy here delineated fit no other subject.


I.
Judas and the bishops of Rome alike were ministers--official men in the Church. The antiquity of the Church of Rome, and the dignity, authority, and vast influence of its bishops is undisputed.


II.
Both betrayed the trust reposed in them. How fearfully Judas did this we all know; and has not the Papacy? The trust committed to it was the “mystery of godliness,” the maintenance of the gospel in its purity and simplicity, the care of Christ’s flock, example not lordship. How was this trust fulfilled by successive bishops of Rome? They gradually began to seek for ascendancy, to accommodate the Scriptures to their own purpose, to vitiate the purity and simplicity of the gospel by tradition, ecclesiastical decisions, fables, and legends as of Divine authority, to set themselves more aloft, and to set the Saviour aside, usurping His preeminence by assuming the title of His vicars, as though He were not with His Church always.


III.
Both betrayed him into the hands of his enemies to death. Judas literally, the Papacy in the persons of His persecuted representatives. Judas betrayed Christ into the hands of the civil power, and has not the wretched policy of Rome ever been to screen its own cowardice and heartlessness behind the pretended power of civil authority, to whom her victims after sham trials have been handed over for death?


IV.
Both betrayed the Lord with a kiss. The Papacy makes a vain pretence of showing special homage to Christ. Witness its caricature of Christ’s example when the Pope washes the feet of a few selected beggars, and the spurious honour given to Christ’s dignity by the mediatorship of Mary and the Saints.


V.
Both betrayed the Lord for money. The covetousness of Judas gives point to the apostolic injunction to ministers not to be lovers of filthy lucre; but history is witness that the Papacy from the first has been given to filthy lucre. The requirements and ordinances which Rome has substituted for the ordinances of the gospel have been so many channels for wealth to flow into her treasury. Almost as soon as the Papacy rose on the ruins of the Pagan Empire she imposed the impious tax known as Peter’s pence. But this is not all. Merchandize is made of Christ. Rome professes that her priests, in the mass, transubstantiate the wafer into Christ, and the mass is offered for the sins of men, for money; so that the priests must be paid as Judas for offering up the Lord Incarnate. And then she sells indulgences, deliverances from penance, prayers, etc., making salvation a matter of money.


VI.
Both betray Christ at the instigation of Satan. We could not account for the structure of the Papacy except on this hypothesis.

1. If you trace back the policy of Satan to the beginning you find it to be threefold.

(1) It was to blot out the idea of God. Hence we find no idolatry on the part of the ungodly before the flood.

(2) Failing, then, to set aside religion altogether he corrupted it. No sooner was there knowledge of the true God than he introduced gods many; side by side with prophets, miracles, the Word of God, he set up soothsayers, magic, lying oracles and legends.

(3) When Christianity was set up, and his pagan throne in Rome overthrown, he set up his Papal throne, and repeopled the deserted pantheon with idols for Christians to worship. So exactly has this come to pass that there is scarcely a pagan ceremony that has not its shadow in Popery, and its mission abroad is to paganize Christianity rather than to Christianize paganism.

2. Note the satanic characteristics of the Papacy.

(1) There is no doubt that Satan has much to do with the lying wonders of heathenism, and the strange appearances of power with which Rome caricatures the miracles of Christ. Did not the Pope know that the winking picture which he sent crowns to adorn, and which he endorsed as a miracle, was a most barefaced imposture?

(2) Satan fell by pride, and we need scarcely to be reminded of the awful arrogance of the Papacy. Look at the servile homage the Pope receives when men kiss his feet; and when on the day of his installation he is borne on the shoulders of bishops, and thrice adored; and when on the pontifical throne he is placed on the high altar where the Divine wafer rests, thus “sitting in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God and is worshipped.”


VII.
Both fulfil Scripture and accomplish what God in His determinate counsel and foreknowledge declared should be done. How these and other instances in which the wrath of man praises God is a mystery; but the existence of such a system of despotism, delusion, superstition, and cruelty, would be an intolerable burden on any ether hypothesis. But when we see it all foretold in revelation, and that it shall at last serve to magnify Christ, and tend to the glorification of His Church, we bow submissive and tarry the Lord’s time. VIII. Both are branded “the son of perdition,” because of their fearful doom (verse 8). (Canon Stowell.)

Verse 4

2 Thessalonians 2:4

Who opposeth and exalteth Himself above all that is called God?

Antichrist


I.
As opposite to Christ. Christ is the true Head and Lord of the Church (Acts 10:36). That which is most remarkable in Christ, and should be in all His followers, is humility (Matthew 20:28); 2 Corinthians 8:9). This is the grace recommended to His disciples (Matthew 11:29); not especially to His ministers (Matthew 20:25-26; Luke 22:26). Dominion is allowed in the civil state, for there it is necessary; but preeminence is the bane of the Church (1 John 9). The apostles everywhere disclaim lordship (2 Corinthians 1:24; 1Pe 5:31); and if they would not assume lordship, who may? Now in the Pope pride is conspicuous. See his progress: from the chief presbyter, a bishop over many presbyters in the same city; then a metropolitan over many bishops in one province; then a patriarch over many provinces; then universal bishop; then the only shepherd and bishop, and others but his substitutes. But yet exalting himself farther, he challengeth all power in heaven and earth. And the like is practised by his followers. From private priests they grow up into some prelature, as archdeacons, deans; then a bishopric; then a better and richer; then archbishops, cardinals; then pope.


II.
The instances of his pride.

1. His exalting himself above all human powers.

(1) “That which is called God,” i.e., magistrates, etc. (Psalms 77:1; Psalms 77:6; cf. John 10:34-35). God hath clothed such with His honour, so far as He has put His name upon them, as being His vice-gerents. Even this Antichrist exalts himself.

(2) “Or is worshipped.” The Greek is whatever is held in the highest degree of reverence, whatever is august or illustrious, as the Emperors of Rome were called Sebastoi (Acts 25:21). Antichrist exalts himself not only over magistrates but kings and emperors; no less than twenty have been trampled upon by the Pope.

2. His usurpation of Divine honours.

(1) The usurpation itself, “He sitteth as God,” etc. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The temple of God is the Church (2 Corinthians 6:16). But is the Church of Rome the Church of Christ? It was before it was perverted and retains some relic of a Church, mangled as it is. In this temple of God the Pope sits, it is his sedes, cathedral, seat, whereas other princes are said to reign. And, again, he sits as God incarnate, for Christ is the true Lord of the Church; his name is not Antitheos, but Antichristos; not one who invades the properties of the Supreme, but those of the Mediator--

(a) By usurping the titles of Christ, as Husband of the Church; Head of the Church; Chief Pastor (Peter 5:4); pontifex maximus, greatest High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14); so His vicar-general upon earth, whereas the ancient Church gave this to the Holy Ghost.

(b) By usurping the thing implied in the titles--authority over the Church, which is due alone to God incarnate. Supreme authority may be considered as to, First, the claim and right pretended. By virtue of his office in the temple of God he claims the same power as Christ has, which is fourfold.

(i.) An unlimited power over things in heaven and earth. This was given to Christ (Matthew 28:18), and the Pope as his vicar challenges it; but to set up himself as a vice-god without warrant is rebellion against Christ.

(ii.) Universal headship and supremacy over all the Churches of Christ. This is Christ’s right, and whoever challenges it sits as God in His temple. To exercise this power is impossible, and to claim it is sacrilegious, for none is fit for it but such as is God as well as man.

(iii.) Absolute authority so as to be above control. Such a sovereignty belongs to none but God (Job 9:12), yet the Pope is said to be above all law.

(iv.) Infallibility and freedom from error, which is the sole property of God; what blasphemy to attribute it to man! Second, as to the exercise, there are two acts of supreme authority: Legislation, which is the peculiar and incommunicable property of Christ (Isaiah 33:22; James 4:12), they, therefore, who make laws to bind the conscience invade Christ’s sovereignty. Judgment. The Pope exercises an authority no less than Divine when he absolves man from his duty to God, or the penalty which sin has made due, which he does by dispensation and by indulgence. Bellarmine says that Christ has given Peter and his successors a power to make sin to be no sin, and that “if the Pope should err in forbidding virtues and commanding vices, the Church were bound to believe vices to be good and virtues evil.” And as to indulgences, to pardon sin before it is committed is to give licence to sin.

(2) The degree of this usurpation, “showing himself that he is God”: that is meant not of what he professes in word, but what he doth in deed. He shows himself that he is God.

(a) By accepting Antichrist’s disciples, who call him our Lord God the Pope, and who say that he has the same tribunal with Christ, that from him no appeals are to be made even to God, that his words ex cathedra are equal to Scripture, and much more. Now to accept these flatteries is to show himself that he is God.

(b) By weilding Divine prerogatives, arrogating the right to be lord of conscience, to determine what is to be believed, and pardoning sins.


III.
Uses:

1. To give a clear discovery where to find Antichrist: every tittle of this is fulfilled in the bishop of Rome.

2. To show us how things should be carried in the true and reformed Christianity.

(1) With such meekness that our religion may be known to be that of the Crucified. Pride and ambition have been the cause of all the disorders of the Church.

(2) With obedience to magistrates, which is the opposite of Antichristianity (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:18; 2 Peter 2:10).

(3) What a wickedness it is to usurp Divine honours (Acts 3:12). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Verses 6-7

2 Thessalonians 2:6-7

And now ye know what withholdeth

The restraining power and its withdrawal


I.

What is this restraining power?

1. The explanation, now so difficult, was no difficulty to the Thessalonians. They knew what it was; and the Church of the first three centuries said without hesitation that it was the Roman Empire.

2. History has taught us the literal incorrectness of this, for the Roman Empire has passed away, and it is to play with language to regard it as living on in the German or Austrian Empires. This fact modified the interpretation of the later fathers, who regarded it as the restraining discipline of Divine order; and Christian thinkers are now coming to regard it as the regulated social order, that spirit of obedience to law which is the direct antagonist to the spirit of lawlessness which was embodied in ancient Rome; but this spirit is sustained by the working of the Spirit of God.

3. As a matter of fact the spirit of religion has been in all ages the restraining influence. Man is naturally attracted to lawlessness. Within Christian nations there have been the elements of destruction, but they have been held in check in three ways.

(1) Christianity has created and sustained a public opinion which has supported law and is antagonistic to lawlessness.

(2) It has called the conscience in to the support of constituted order because it has taught men that that order has supernatural sanction.

(3) It has created and administered a healthy discipline and taught men that obedience to the law of righteousness is the true regulation of life. For fifteen hundred years politicians have been ready to recognize this restraining influence.

4. By God’s will there are two great coordinate authorities, the civil and the ecclesiastical; He would have these work in their own sphere, the Church not invading the province of the State, and vice versa. And the Church has thus gone on in union with the State exercising its restraints.


II.
What is meant by this power being taken out of the way? I believe it to be that crisis in our race which in the Apocalypse is called the Fall of Babylon--the collapse of the ecclesiastical influence in politics.

1. Babylon is represented as a harlot, a term distinctly applied in the Old Testament, not to heathenism, but to a faithless Church. And so in the New Testament it is only the professed Church that can fall into that depth of iniquity.

2. Turn to Revelation 17:1-18 and Babylon is riding, controlling, guiding a scarlet-coloured beast. Afterwards there is the bitterest antagonism, and the beast and ten kings rise up against the apostate Babylon and treat her shamefully.

3. Now go back to mediaeval Europe, and the one arresting political feature is the Church. The Pope is virtually king of kings and lord of lords. In those days priests were judges, ecclesiastics, politicians, and the mystic woman is seen riding on the beast--the Church at least lending her authority to the maintenance of civil order. But her position was full of danger. It was the Master’s temptation to world empire over again. Christendom failed where the Master won, and sought to realize a true conception by false means. She lost her spirituality and fell under the power of a mere secular ecclesiastieism. Contrast the Church of the Middle Ages with that of the first.

4. You cannot be surprised at people identifying Babylon with the Papacy, for the description of the apostle almost necessarily leads us to think of Rome. The spirit that rules the Roman see is of the earth earthy. Its policy is ruled not so much by principle as by the intricacies of human politics, and it is ever swayed by the three sad spirits that are predicted of mystic Babylon--ambition, covetousness, and luxury. The ideal of Ultramontanism, that the Church on earth is a perfect entity is true, but its sin is that it is the material realization of a conception that is emphatically spiritual.

5. What is the effect? This, that as the claims of the ecclesiastical spirit have become more and more intense, the nations of the world have revolted against the power with which for centuries they have been in closest alliance, Is not this the case in France, Germany, Belgium, and even Spain? Where can we find a country whose Church gives obedience to the Papacy that is not in conflict with the Papacy?

6. But this is not only with the Churches that own obedience to Rome. What about the great Eastern churches who have delivered up so much of their power to the Czar? What about our own? Is truth never compromised for expediency? Nay, the spirit of corruption has permeated Christendom, and our position is one of humiliation before God. And now mark the movements that are going on. Society and civilization for fifteen hundred years have had a Christian basis, but both are being constructed on a secular basis (See Lecky’s chapter on “the Advance of Secularizing Polities”).

Conclusion: What then is our position?

1. We must recognize the withdrawal of this restraining influence of civilization, and in it a warning of the approaching Advent. Christ may see fit to delay--but “Be ye ready.”

2. We should do all that in us lies to perpetuate the ministry and the restraining power that we may lengthen the days of opportunity for the race. (Canon Body.)

Restraints removed

Since a body falls to the ground in consequence of the earth’s attraction on each of its molecules, it follows that, everything else being the same, all bodies, great and small, light and heavy, ought to fall with equal rapidity, and a lump of sand without cohesion should, during its fall, retain its original form as perfectly as if it were compact stone. The fact that a stone falls more rapidly than a feather is due solely to the unequal resistances opposed by the air to the descent of these bodies. The resistance opposed by the air to falling bodies is especially remarkable in the case of falling liquids. The Staubbach in Switzerland is a good illustration. An immense mass of water is seen falling over a high precipice, but before reaching the bottom it is shattered by the air into the finest mist. In a vacuum, however, liquids fall, like solids, without separation of their molecules. The resistance opposed by the customs and ethics of society is the reason why many men are deterred in a rapid fall into ruin. Take away all the resistance which etiquette, conventional morality, philanthropy and religion, offer to the downfall of men, and, like things in a vacuum, how sadly fast the descent would become. Many men in respectable elevation owe their adventitious position to the happy accident of strong resistance offered to their fall by the circumstances and influences surrounding. (Prof. Ganot.)

Verse 7

2 Thessalonians 2:7

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work

Lawlessness and the lawless one

St.

Paul has been telling the Thessalonians that there is much to be done in the world before things will be ripe for the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the caution needed by the Church in those times; for, in the light of a new revelation--one of the foundation truths of which was the Second Advent of the Redeemer to judge both the dead and the living, and with the charge ever ringing in their ears to watch and pray, lest, coming suddenly, He should find them sleeping, it was natural that they should ask themselves, “Why should we take the trouble of living with any interest or earnestness the old life of time, when, at any moment, all may be interrupted and scattered to the winds by the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, to close, on the instant, the things that are seen and temporal, and to introduce, amid all kinds of fearful surprises, new heavens and a new earth?” Our danger is from quite a different quarter. Our difficulty lies not in not making enough of the life of time, but in preventing it from filling the whole field of our vision. On this very account there is something doubly striking in the scene here presented--of a Church restless and feverish in anticipation of the Advent. It shows us how far we have fallen from original Christianity if we are suffering in ourselves, under the influences of the infidel talk of the day, any doubt of the fact itself as we rehearse it day by day--“From thence He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.”


I.
Lawlessness will precede it. On this subject St. Paul leaves no room for doubt. He speaks of a certain particular growth and spirit of evil which must have full scope and play before the Advent. Nor does he leave us in any uncertainty as to the direction in which we must look for the rise of that state of things which will bring down upon itself God’s latest, surest, and direst judgment. He selects for it a particular name, not one of the common names for sin in the Scripture, but a name which he only uses twice or thrice in all his writings, and which has always a very definite and precise meaning. Our English version renders this word in one verse as “iniquity,” and in the next verse “the wicked one;” but in the original the word is substantially the same in both verses--in the one “the mystery of lawlessness doth already work;” and, in the other, “then shall the lawless one be revealed.” St. Paul’s statement is that already, when he was writing this letter eighteen hundred years ago, there was at work in the world, if not in some degree even in the Church, a spirit of lawlessness, which was, however, kept in check by some definite impediment, which he had evidently explained by word of mouth to the privileged Thessalonians. He, perhaps, does not refer to the strength of civil and national government, as it was then exhibited in the great Roman Empire, as exercising a salutary, though rough, control over the tendencies of fallen nature toward insubordination and anarchy; but, he distinctly says, there will come a time when the controlling power will be weakened or withdrawn, and then lawlessness will come to the surface and front of the world; and will set up its own law, which shall be that of menace, intimidation, and violence; or else these same things under more numerous and more subtle nomenclatures, and in full blown insolence, shall bring matters to that pass, that nothing less than the intervention and interposition of the Divine Lord and Judge can restore tranquility and harmony to the dislocated and disorganized earth.


II.
The lawless will then be revealed. St. Paul seems to prepare us, in passing from lawlessness to the lawless one, for a sort of incarnation of lawlessness--principle, power, or person, sitting, as it were, in the very temple of God, “showing himself that he is God,” and yet, in reality, deriving from Satan all “the powers and signs of lying wonders” by which he deludes the unhappy victims who are not fortified and preoccupied by the devout love of the truth. Why should it be a thing incredible with you that the Empire of Unrule shall at last have a personal head in whom the final discomfiture by the Advent of the great Lord shall manifest itself so that “he who runs may read”? But the thought profitable to us all is this--“lawlessness” is the predicted characteristic of the last age. May I not ask, Is it not now abroad on the Continent of Europe? Is it not abroad in one integral portion of what we still fondly term “the United Kingdom”? Is it not abroad in the family and the Church--in the workshop and the study--in the literature of a “science falsely so called”--and in the lurking places of political fanatics, who “count not their lives dear to them” if they can only but embitter an existence or topple down a throne? It is working everywhere with ingenious industry among the time honoured institutions of society itself. Frightful outbreaks of lawlessness have startled us again and again, until they have almost ceased to startle. Soon the newspaper will be fiat and dull which records not one of them--assassinations and attempted assassinations of rulers crowned and uncrowned, despotic, constitutional, or democratic--it matters not. “The foundations of the earth are indeed out of course.” The reign of lawlessness is begun, though a few years, or a few tens of years, may yet intervene before the actual unveiling of the lawless one. (Dean Vaughan.)

The mystery of iniquity


I.
The “mystery of iniquity” is the power unseen, unknown except by its effects, which is ever working in the world for evil--working against the law and will of God, corrupting what has been well done and well begun by man, causing misery in the natural world in all that man has to do with, through the mischief which it works in the moral and spiritual world, in the heart and soul of men.

1. Try to trace evil back to its origin, and you soon see that your search is vain. God did not create this to be the bane of His handiwork. Are we then to conclude that evil is an independent being, self-subsisting, with a will and deadly energy of its own?

2. Here, then, is part of the “mystery of iniquity”; and another part is the mystery of its working. See how we are born to evil, as surely as the sparks fly upward. Alongside the primeval blessing, “Increase and multiply,” there has sprung up a countervailing curse on all our race in the increase and multiplication of sin. The seeds of evil are propagated from parent to child, each little one bringing into the world as his spiritual inheritance a propensity to evil, which mingles with all his propensities to good--a fresh contribution to the already abundant growth of evil; a mere germ at first, but unfolding speedily, growing with the growth of the child as the worm in the bud, and strengthening beyond his strength.

3. So active, so subtle, so successful, is the “mystery of iniquity” in its working; and what is it in its consequences? (Genesis 3:17; Romans 5:12). How mysterious are the chastisements which fall upon us! We may be sure our sin will find us out; though it be long, yet it will not tarry. Still more mysterious is the working out of the consequences of the parent’s sin upon the children, perhaps even unto the third and fourth generations. The children suffer in body--they are a prey to the same virulent hereditary disease, they drag a blighted existence; or their minds are left untrained, unguarded, a seed plot for every sinful thought that may alight upon them; they are left to drudge in indigence.


II.
Great, therefore, without doubt, is the “mystery of iniquity”; but, thanks be to God, still greater, infinitely greater, is the “mystery of godliness”--the secret, unseen, unmeasured power which lies in the inspiration, guidance, comfort of His good Spirit, which is within us all, and is freely, abundantly poured out on all who truly seek it. Already it has bruised the serpent’s head, it has shown us the way by which we may avoid the fascination of its basilisk eyes, and by which, even when it has fastened its fangs upon us, we may recover from its deadly sting. (W. G. Humphrey, B. D.)

The mystery of iniquity

In the former Epistle St. Paul wrote in such vigorous language about the approach of the Second Advent that the Christians had imbibed a stronger impression than he had intended. This he now corrects by the prophecy of the text.


I.
The mystery of iniquity.

1. Its characteristics.

(1) It is a mystery, something whose approaches are not open as those of a fair antagonist, but subtle and secret. The term is with two exceptions used in a good sense of some part of the hidden purposes of God’s love, long concealed, but at length revealed. Thus we read of “the wisdom of God is a mystery”--the “mysteries of the kingdom”--“the mystery of godliness,” etc. When, therefore, we find a word so consecrated to the deep things of God here applied to a principle of evil we are prepared for something extraordinarily dark and perplexing. This at once proves that the prophecy cannot apply to Mohammedanism, heathenism, or infidelity, or any avowed enemy of God’s truth.

(2) It is an iniquitous principle, and is expressly referred to Satan. It is not the contrivance of man (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

(3) It springs out of the bosom of the Church, and its workings are found within the precincts of that Church (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

2. Trace the working of this fearful system.

(1) In primitive times the Church was persecuted--who would have believed that in a brief lapse of time the Church herself should become a bloody persecutor? What could have effected such a frightful change but the working of Satan?

(2) For what did the primitive Church endure affliction? It was because they abhorred idolatry. Who, then, would have believed it possible that the children of the martyrs would worship the Virgin Mary instead of Diana, and St. Catherine, St. Agnes, etc., instead of the Muses and the Graces? What but the “mystery of iniquity” could have accomplished this?

(3) Take the stupendous miracles wrought by her first founders; miracles so unquestionable that none ventured to impugn them. How shall their credibility be assailed? By questioning or denying them? No; by base imitation and the multiplication of spurious miracles and lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9). As surely as pure Christianity is founded on true miracles, so surely is the whole superstructure of the mystery of iniquity raised upon false ones.

3. The deepest scheme of Satan’s malignity is that he has worked the machinery of the Church against herself, and availed himself of Divine ordinances and spiritual institutions, as so many channels of destruction to souls. It is true that there are some parts of the Christian machinery that Satan never attempts to use if he can avoid it.

(1) Take, e.g., the Holy Scriptures. Wherever the mystery is fully developed the Word of God is withheld from the people. In Protestant countries, where the popular voice calls for the Bible, the priests are ashamed to withhold it, and there Satan draws weapons against the truth even from Scripture itself.

(2) So with preaching; that is suppressed wherever the mystery fully works. But if men will preach, then even this shall be made a proclamation of error, and monks and friars shall publish the merits of saints, etc., instead of the merits of Christ, and their ministry shall arouse a dormant Church to deeds of blood.

(3) But take the Christian ministry--how simple its origin and obvious its Scriptural duties. And what has Satan made of it? He has transformed the preaching, teaching, praying servant of the Church into an arrogant, sacrificing order with mysterious powers inventing the mystery of the confessional. Of all the transformation of the mystery that of priestcraft is the worst.

(4) Nor have the sacraments escaped. To the simple element of water in Baptism superstition has added oil, and even spittle, and divers ceremonies and exorcisms, and has attached to the mere performance of the office necessary grace making it the instrument of regeneration, substituting the outward form for the inward power. But of how much further corruption has the other sacrament been the subject? What so simple and touching as its primitive institution? Could it have been believed possible to convert it into the Roman mass, with its denial of the cup and consequent destruction of communion, its consecrated wafer, said to contain the body, blood, etc., of Christ, its pompous ceremonial and idolatrous worship? What but Satanic working could have produced so deplorable a defection from truth?


II.
The period of its development.

1. The Evangelical prophet affirms that this mystery did already work; its ambitious purposes restrained by the dominance of the Imperial power. Yet it worked--it diffused itself through the Christian Churches as a baneful principle, corrupting the faith of some and the practice of others, at once introducing Judaizing teachers and heathen vices preparing the way for the successful corruption of the great apostasy “when he that now letteth shall be taken out of the way.” The seeds of every corrupt principle and false doctrine, which has since disturbed and divided the Church, were sown by the great enemy under the very eyes of the apostles.

2. We must content ourselves with a birdseye view of the rise and progress of this baneful power, observing its marvellous tenacity of life under the most adverse circumstances.

(1) The conversion of Constantine closed the Pagan dynasty of Rome, and while this event seemed to favour the progress of the gospel it opened the door for the aggrandization of the priesthood, which ultimately led to the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome.

(2) Scarcely had the man of sin been well seated on the eminence which marked him out as Antichrist than the Northern barbarians swept all before them in Europe, but amidst the general wreck the Popedom survives and converts the invaders to its creed.

(3) Then arose Mohammedanism, which paralyzed the Eastern Church and leaves Rome without a rival worthy of the name.

(4) The dark ages succeed, and the mystery reigns undisturbed during a period of spiritual and intellectual stagnation.

(5) But soon a formidable enemy appears in Luther, and men fondly hoped that the reign of Antichrist was at an end. Sad delusion! Loyola appeared in the conflict, and luxurious Rome became ascetic and missionary, and won abroad what it had lost at home.

(6) Time rolls on. Protestantism becomes lukewarm and worldly minded; it makes no conquests, and the ancient mystery undermines its influence. Suddenly a new enemy appears in revolutionary and atheistic France, and Romanism seems to have received its death blow. Not so; within half a century of her destruction the Archbishop of Paris announces the exhibition of a drop of the Saviour’s blood and a drop of the Virgin’s milk.

(7) Never since the Reformation has this mystery pursued its war against light and liberty more rigorously than it has recently.


III.
How and when shall it be subdued and destroyed? Not until the Saviour’s Advent (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Some vainly hope that its overthrow will be accomplished by the cultivation of the human intellect and the diffusion of secular knowledge. Why then did not the talent and philosophy of atheistical France accomplish this? Have we forgotten that that dark Jesuit fraternity has embraced some of the most learned and intelligent of men. What then is to be done?

1. Let every man look to his own soul and pray to be preserved from the working of this mystery.

2. Let all true Protestants combine in spirit and effort to uphold the only one system which can effectually grapple with the system of iniquity. (Dean Close.)

The mystery of iniquity


I.
The actual nature of sin: “Iniquity.” The new revision will prove somewhat clearer than the old version upon this passage.

1. A crime which must be reckoned according to fixed law. The word is “lawlessness.” So “iniquity” means inequality, or that which is not up to the standard.

2. A crime which is inherent in personal free will. “That wicked” is the lawless one: a person, nor a community.

3. A crime which is the vitiating force of our humanity: “already.” It poisons and corrupts the age.


II.
The inexplicable peculiarities of sin. “Mystery of iniquity.” This verse need not be wasted on the Pope; all sin is Antichrist (1 John 4:8).

1. Its origin. We found it in the universe we entered: where did it come from?

2. Its power. It crushes barriers of the mightiest resistance.

3. Its omnipresence. It urges its way in at our purest moments.

4. Its gloom. It shadows every life and every age it touches.


III.
The tremendous activity of sin: “Doth work.” The verb is the one which gives us our word “energy.”

1. Perpetuating itself. No effort needed to keep it alive.

2. Propagating itself. Myriads of new shoots and species every year.

3. Intensifying itself. Malignity of spirit in old poisonous plants; greater responsibility comes from greater light in this age of ours.

A proper consideration of this text will throw illumination upon several others in the Bible:

1. “This abominable thing that I hate” (Jeremiah 44:4). Sin is the one element of disturbance.

2. “The plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs 21:4). The warmth of even honest industry quickens poison in the blood.

3. “The ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). All sin in the system is absolutely fatal; it works.

4. “The latter end is worse” (2 Peter 2:20). Relapses find men weaker to contend with corruption.

5. “There is no hope: no” (Jeremiah 2:26). Sinners are, positively helpless.

6. “A falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Things in the world are going to grow worse before they are better.

7. “Come, Lord Jesus.” The whole cure is on the way (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 22:20). (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

The mystery of godliness and the mystery of iniquity


I.
The mystery of godliness is a mystery of--

1. Light.

(1) Its author is “the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” In the character, life, death, resurrection of Christ you will find no shade of what is false or insincere.

(2) So with His revelation. If it be dark it is with excess of splendour; but throughout there is an utter absence of unreality.

(3) No man can understand it but he who has been made sincere and true by the Spirit of God. “The light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.” But there is light within when the veil is removed from the heart, and the light that is “in the face of Jesus Christ” beams upon the soul.

2. Love.

(1) It springs from a love that cannot be guaged, and exhibits a love that cannot be spanned. “Herein is love.” The mystery of mysteries is that God “spared not His own Son,” etc.

(2) The love of Jesus is past finding out. “Greater love hath no man than this,” etc. Therefore St. Paul prayed that the Ephesians might “know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.”

(3) Christ’s whole religion is a religion of love. “The love of Christ constraineth us.” “Love one another.”

3. Wisdom.

(1) Christ is “the wisdom of God,” and “in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

(2) His religion is the most exquisite contrivance, and exhibits the most perfect adaptation to accomplish the purpose of its Author. How wondrous the wisdom that has brought the sinful creature back into fellowship and favour with the Holy Creator.

4. Holiness. Its grand end and aim is to accomplish holiness in the redeemed; hence it is emphatically the mystery of godliness. “Be ye holy for I am holy.”


II.
The mystery of iniquity is a mystery of--

1. Darkness. Romanism is a perversion of the truth. It has a show and mask of retaining the truth, but only to make it subservient to its dark purposes; so that there is not a single Divine truth in the whole compass of Christianity which has not its parallel caricature. Thus if the wondrous transparency and purity of the “mystery of godliness” is an evidence of its Divine derivation, the wondrous “deceivableness of unrighteousness” in the “mystery of iniquity” is an evidence of its derivation from the prince of darkness. Truth must be from above, and error and falsehood from beneath.

2. Despotism and oppression. The object of the whole economy of Popery is the exaltation of the priesthood. The mysterious leaven which was working in the apostle’s day, and ultimately produced this was--

(1) On the part of the laity, that carnal mind which loves to indulge its pleasures and passions while it wants the conscience quiet.

(2) On the part of the clergy the leaven was a love of power and aggrandisement, that mighty principle that cast down angels from heaven, and our first parents from paradise. So Rome has distorted the mystery of godliness so as largely to obscure its loving aspect. Jesus, instead of being the Mediator, requires to be propitiated. Man is enslaved by means of a sacerdotal system that makes him continually seeking a salvation but never finding it; continually working out a salvation he can never accomplish, hanging in the scales of doubt and vibrating between fear and hope. Thus man is kept submissive under his taskmasters; and inasmuch as Rome teaches that sins are never fully forgiven in this life, its devotees are kept in bondage to their latest breath. According to the principles of Rome a man should give himself up to his ghostly director as completely as a staff is wielded by a man’s hand, or as wax is moulded by him who uses it. God only knows what are the fearful scenes of oppression and cruelty that are concealed beneath the mantle of Popery.

3. Subtlety. Of all the systems that ingenuity ever elaborated there is none that can compare with Romanism. Only the prince of darkness is equal to the task. There is more than human subtlety and art in it. Though the structure has been built in different ages, and the elements brought from many quarters, yet it so marvellously coheres, and is so wondrously propped by a thousand subsidiary principles that the only greater mystery in the universe is that “of godliness.” It was Satan’s last resource; he could not destroy Christianity, so he perverted it and made it subserve his own purposes.

4. Immorality. There are good Roman Catholics, and many have gone to heaven out of Rome; but that is because of the remnant of truth which defies perversion. The whole tenour of the system, however, is contrary to godliness. “The commandments of God are made of none effect through their traditions.” Then they poison the springs of holiness by their system of casuistry which seems only intended to enable men to sin without being disturbed. The same effect is produced by their absolution, which stupifies the conscience without giving peace to the soul.

Conclusion:

1. Let us adore and cherish the “mystery of godliness,” share its power, and delight in its faith, and walk worthy of it.

2. Let us sympathize with, pray for, and endeavour to rescue the victims of the “mystery of iniquity.” (Canon Stowell.)

Wickedness a mystery

in regard to--


I.
Its origin.


II.
Its connections and the means it employs.


III.
Its progress.


IV.
Its tendency. (Heubner.)

The development of Antichrist

This mystery, saith St. Paul, doth already work. It shall increase, and go forward, and grow to a perfection. A thorn, when it is young, is soft and gentle; ye may thrust at it with your finger, it will not hurt you: but after it waxeth and groweth hard and stubborn, it will pierce the flesh, and draw blood. A bear, when he is young, is harmless and innocent; ye may dandle it, and dally with it, as with a whelp; it hath no chambers to gripe, no teeth to bite, nor paws to tear: but after, it will grow, and become fierce and cruel like the sire. A serpent, when it is young, is little and pretty; it hath no sting, nor poison; you may take it in your hand, and lay it in your lap, it will not hurt you: after, it will increase in venom, and grow in mischief, and be like itself; then it will shake the sting, and cast poison, and prove dangerous. Such a thorn, such a bear, such a serpent is Antichrist. At the first he shall seem soft, and gentle, and innocent. After, he shall grow fierce, and arm himself with sting and poison. But a thorn, though it be soft, is a thorn: a bear, though he be little, is a bear: a serpent, though he be pretty, is a serpent. Even so Antichrist, though he seem gentle, mild, and simple, yet is he Antichrist. He groweth by degrees, he will be like his sire; his paws will be dreadful, his mouth will be deadly. (Bp. Jewell.)

Verse 8

2 Thessalonians 2:8

And then shall that wicked be revealed

Antichrist


I.

His title. “That lawless one.” It is the property of Antichrist to boast himself to be above all laws, in which he resembles Antiochus (Daniel 11:36). It cannot, therefore, be hard to find him out, for--

1. Who is that infallible judge that takes upon him to decide all controversies, who judges all things, is judged of none; who destroys with fire and sword those who question his authority, and who releases from their allegiance the subjects of those who dispute his supreme sovereignty?

2. Who is he that takes upon him, with faculties, licences, and pardons to dispense with the law of God, and to allow open and notorious sins?

3. Who is he that by his own writers is said to be freed from all human law, that has a paramount authority to all laws, that he cannot be bound by them? One expressly says that he is above law, against law, and without law; a plain description of the lawless one in the text; and another, not without a spice of blasphemy, “God and the Pope have their will for a law.”

4. Who is he that has brought into the Church the worship of God by images, and the worship of saints and angels, which is the great lawlessness which is branded by the Christian law as such? If there be no such power extant, then we are yet to seek for Antichrist; but if there be, none so wilfully blind as they that cannot see wood for trees, and know not where to fix this character.


II.
His revelation.

1. His appearance in the world. He shall be in the world as soon as a certain hindrance is removed.

(1) The most learned argue that this impediment was the Roman empire: that gone, Antichrist was to be revealed or the prediction proved false.

(2) Things of great moment cannot be removed nor established in a minute. The removing of the Roman empire was not all at once, nor the rising of the pontificate, but by degrees. When Constantine began to remove the imperial throne to Byzantium, though the majesty of the empire continued at Rome, yet this was a step in removing the impediment; it lessened the Emperor’s authority there and increased that of the Pope’s.

(3) The progress of Antichristian tyranny is, in short, this: About A.D. 600 their ecclesiastical power began to be raised when the majesty of the empire was weak in Italy. When John of Constantinople had usurped the title of universal bishop, Gregory the Great said, “The king of pride is near, and an army of priests is prepared to serve him as their general;” and in about six years Phoeos conferred on Pope Boniface the same title. About 688 the Pope obtained the Pantheon, or temple of all devils, and consecrated it to Mary and all saints. The temporal monarchy was long in hatching, but began in that century. Pope Constantine would have his foot kissed like another Diocletian, and openly resisted the Emperor Philippius, and encouraged the treason of Justine and Anastasius. In the eighth century, Gregorys II and III continued the rebellion, and caused all Italy to withdraw their obedience from the Emperor Leo; and later Zachary assisted Pepin to depose Childeric. Afterward Adrian took upon him to translate the empire of the Greeks to the Latins, and ever since the Popes have made broils in kingdoms and assumed the right of deposing kings.

2. God’s discovery of him to the world was also by degrees, in raising up witnesses against the tyranny and usurpation of Rome in every age. Five hundred years before Luther, Peter Bruis began, and Henry, his scholar, succeeded him, and to both succeeded the Waldenses and Albigenses; then Wicliffe, the Bohemians, Savonarola, and lastly Luther and the German and English reformers.


III.
His ruin.

1. The manner of his fall.

(1) “Consumed.” Antichrist is not presently to be destroyed, but to waste away by a lingering consumption; as his rising was by degrees so he will lose his authority.

(a) The reason for this is that God has a use for him as he has for the devil himself, and therefore permits him some limited power to scourge his people for their sins, to try his people’s obedience, to cure their divisions, and to keep up a remembrance of His mercies.

(b) Observe how this consumption is accomplished. The pomp and height was about 1,500 years after Christ, but what a decay has happened since by the revival of religion and learning.

(c) Caution. Antichrist is being consumed, but he is not yet dead. What strength he may recover before his last destruction God knows; but it has re-entered many countries from which it was cast out, and made havoc among the evangelical Churches. What, then, shall we do? Watch and pray (Matthew 13:25); reform and repent (Revelation 2:5); be fortified and established by knowledge (2 Peter 3:17), by grace (Hebrews 13:9; 1 John 2:20).

(d) The author and means of this consumption, “The Lord … with the breath of his mouth,” which means either His providential Word (Isaiah 11:4; Psalms 33:6; Hebrews 1:3; John 18:6), or the efficacy of His Gospel (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 2:16). Antichrist’s destruction is to be by the victorious evidence of truth. It must needs be so, for the tyranny is upheld by darkness which is dispelled by the light of truth; and therefore the Papists cannot endure the Scriptures. Again, his kingdom is carried on by falsehood, and his impostures are discovered by the simplicity of the gospel.

(2) “Destroyed.” The coming which is to accomplish this final annihilation is most likely the Second Advent (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Others conceive some notable manifestation of his presence and power in his Church, but it is certain that at the judgment the beast and false prophet shall be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

2. The use to be made of this. Be not discouraged at the survival of Antichrist: his doom is sealed. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The means of the destruction of Antichrist

The gospel--“the breath of His mouth.” And how admirably adapted is the means to accomplish the end!

1. The man of sin has usurped the place of God in the throne of the Church. What is required to depose the tyrant? The proclamation and reception of the gospel. This shows that St. Peter had no dominion over the consciences of his brethren or the faith of the Church to which he ministered, and consequently that he never transferred such power to others. The gospel shows that God is the only Lord of conscience: and as this is known and appreciated will man fall from the position he has usurped, and God be raised and worshipped.

2. The man of sin has dictated the creed of the Church and declared it to be the merit of human actions and sufferings. And what is necessary to consume this fatal error, but the knowledge of the gospel which declares that the just shall live by faith: that salvation is of grace, through faith, and the gift of God.

3. The man of sin has vended and sold pardons and future rewards, what is necessary to consume this power of the Pope, except the knowledge and belief that God only can forgive sins; that He forgives freely through the merits of Christ, and for His sake confers the kingdom of heaven on those that believe.

4. The man of sin assumes a dominion over the invisible world, and professes to have power to deliver souls from the flames of purgatory, what is necessary to consume this error, but to circulate the Scriptures, which most clearly show that God only has power to reach the inhabitants of the invisible world.

5. The man of sin labours to keep men in ignorance. What is necessary to dispel the darkness of the human mind, and thus to consume this his stronghold, but to send men the light of life. (C. Lee.)

The Christian revelation of life

1. In “Modern Painters” Ruskin reminds us of the delight we feel in view of a bright distance over a dark horizon. At sunrise, beyond some line of purple hills, we have seen the sky become a great space of light, and though the shadows of night were lingering in the valley we have looked into the dawn.

2. In the Bible we are always looking over a foreground in shadow into a bright distance.

(1) In Old Testament prophecy the waste and tumult of history were seen against the far Messianic glory.

(2) In the New Testament the apostles have learned to see all the wickedness of the world horizoned by the manifestation of the Coming of Christ.

3. In Christian vision, then, two aspects of Christian life and world history should be viewed together.

(1) If we have been compelled to observe the evil of the world we need to look on until we see its darkness beneath the brightness of the Lord’s presence.

(2) On the other hand, we must not shrink from any knowledge of the evil of the world. The Good Shepherd will seek the lost sheep, and not wait for the coming dawn.

4. Observe how Jesus always seemed to see both aspects. Sin was an ever present fact to Him, but He saw it all set in the holy love of God; and because of this He could at once condemn sin and rejoice over it.

5. A similar juxtaposition characterizes this chapter. We do not know exactly of what Paul was thinking, but it is clear that he saw the darker foreground, and the bright distance, the mystery of iniquity still working, and the manifestation of the coming of Christ.


I.
The text discovers the law by which the manifestation of the presence of Christ follows the revelation of the man of sin. The revelation of sin is necessary for its judgment. As soon as the man of sin becomes revealed, then follows his destruction. Things have to grow worse in order that they may become better. We can discover this principle when we survey great historic masses of sin. When Babylon’s abominations were full, God’s judgment brought all her pomp down to hell. So with pagan and mediaeval Rome. The Goth and Vandals were let loose by Providence when the vices of a decayed civilization had filled the cup of wrath; and the Papal corruption was ripe for destruction when Luther sounded his appeal. What availed the voice of some New England divine to check the growing system of slavery in America? Both North and South were making money by letting it alone. But all the while it was growing up under the law of God’s judgment. Providence lets wheat and tares grow till the harvest. And when at last that man of sin was fully revealed, the compromises which had restrained the full growth and revelation of slavery being taken away, then came the hour of its destruction.


II.
There is always, therefore, reason for hope when we see some evil thing coming out of its concealment, and making its power felt with a more shameless impudence. Whether it be intemperance, the power of the saloon, or greed, or lust, or monopoly, or anarchy. This law is a reason for hope and courage in all Christian work. Something may have given you a moment’s revelation of the mystery of iniquity in your neighbourhood, and discouraged, you are tempted to say What is the use of our feeble endeavour against such powers of evil? Or you may have run against some dead wall of indifference, or custom, or wrong method entrenched in some good institution, and because rebuffed where you expected sympathy you either drop the work or continue with heartlessness. But you have furled to look up until you saw some bit of God’s sky at the end of your way. If we are sure we have seen the wrong and harm, we may be sure that it will be manifest in time, and that in time what hinders its revelation will be removed, and then it shall be consumed in the brightness of the Lord’s Coming. This is the reason why the men who really have seen evil things, and fought mightily against them, as a rule have been not only the bravest men, the self sacrificing, the martyrs, but also the cheeriest and most hopeful men. It is the indifferent man, he who does not lift a finger to take any burden from men’s shoulders, who fears that his country is going to destruction, as it might do for aught he does.


III.
The same principle obtains with reference to our individual salvation. Sins one after another come to revelation in our lives, and, as they are revealed will be consumed in some manifestation of Christ. A man goes on in a life that was not satisfactory to his conscience or heart. Something happens to bring that dissatisfaction to revelation. He sees a larger, diviner self rising before his present self, condemning it, and ready to consume it as by the presence of Christ. That is a crisis for any man. And if we disown the man of sin in us, and own the Christ self, we are converted. And every time any sin comes to revelation is God’s opportunity of grace. When it Teaches its full measure it may not prove to be a vehement passion, or devouring beast, but only some little meanness, selfishness, etc. But at last we see it as an evil thing, contrary to God. Then let it be consumed in the presence of Christ. “Behold now is the accepted time.” And the progress upward is one of ever increasing quickness of perception of evil and power over sin.


IV.
Such is the benign law of growth and grace; but its alternative cannot be escaped. If the man of sin in us is revealed, and we will not let him go, what then? The sin must be punished. God cannot hold heaven safe in one hand, and let the sin of the world escape from the other. The man of sin must be destroyed, and if we cling to it how can God separate us from its fate? We must go where sin goes, if our hearts cleave to the sin. That is so in this world, why should it be different in any ether? All dishonesties go straight and sure towards ruin, and eventually carry the defaulters with them. Hence the urgency of the gospel to us now. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Verse 9

2 Thessalonians 2:9

Even he whose coming is after the working of Satan

The agency of Satan


I.

The scripture account of satan.

1. He is represented as a spirit or immaterial being (1 Kings 22:1-53; Luke 10:17-20).

2. As an angel, preferable to man in understanding and might.

3. As a fallen angel (Jude 1:6).

4. As the prince or chief of infernal spirits (Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Matthew 25:41; Luke 12:41).

As lying under punishment, in reserve to be brought forth at the great day of retribution as a monument of God’s hatred of sin.


II.
The instances of his agency.

1. His introducing sin into the world (2 Corinthians 11:3-13).

2. The temptation of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11).

3. Possession of bodies when Christ was in the world (1 John 3:8; Acts 10:38).

4. The objects against which his force is directed are the dishonour of God and the rum of men.

5. The subjects are good and bad men.

6. The ways in which he acts are two--force and fraud, fiery darts and subtle wiles (Ephesians 6:11-16).

7. He acts on persons and means with diligence, and constancy, and malice, as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).

8. Be his activity ever so great, it is restrained and overruled by God, who has all evil spirits under His control.

The practical improvement of the subject:

1. We should admire the wisdom and goodness of God in making a discovery of Satan.

2. We should watch against his manifold artifices.

3. We should pray for grace and power to resist him. (J. Towle.)

Emissaries of Satan

Some years ago, when the cholera was raging in New Orleans, a steamer, near nightfall, put out from the city, laden with passengers escaping from the pestilence. The steamer had been but a little while out when the engineer fell at his post with cholera. The captain, in despair, went up and down among the passengers, asking if there were any one there who could act as engineer. A man stepped out, and said that he was an engineer, and could take the position. In the night the captain was awakened by a violent motion of the steamer, and he knew there was great peril ahead. He went up, and found that the engineer was a maniac; that he had fastened down the safety valves; and he told the captain that he was the emissary of Satan, commissioned to drive that steamer to hell. By some strategy, the man was got down in time to save the steamer. There are, men engineered by maniac passions, sworn to drive them to temporal and everlasting destruction. Every part of their nature trembles under the high pressure. Nothing but the grace of Almighty God can bring down those passions, and chain them. A little while longer in this course, and all is lost. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Verses 11-12

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion that they should believe a lie

Judicial infatuation

follows upon wilful perversity and obstinate unbelief.

God sends, not shall send (Authorised Version), still less “permits to be sent.” It has the full force of the vivid prophetic present, “a working of error,” i.e., a working in them which issues in the increasing destructive power of error; the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is the parallel which suggests itself. It lies in the nature of God’s moral government and in the moral constitution of man, that sin, indulged, weakens the strength of resistance, and so invites and prepares the way for the more frequent and violent assaults of temptation. Thus yielding to sin receives at last its punishment in the slavery of sin. The working of error has its aim in this that they should believe the lie, as opposed to the truth just indicated. Man must believe something--if not the truth, with all the blessings which its reception brings, then the lie of the devil with the doom pronounced upon it. Unlike the Thessalonian believers who had “every desire of goodness,” who had their pleasure in goodness, and their desires ever reaching forth towards its increase (2 Thessalonians 1:11), these unbelievers have their pleasure in evil. They have said to it, “evil be thou my good.” Hence with “the son of perdition,” whose adherents they are, their end is destruction. (J. Hutchison, D. D.)

Ill-disposed affections naturally and penally the cause of darkness and error

Of all the fatal effects of sin none is so dreadful as that every sin disposes for another and a worse. By gradations sin arrives at maturity; it is the only perpetual motion, and needs nothing but a beginning to keep it going.


I.
How the mind of man can believe a lie. There is such a suitableness between truth and the understanding that the latter of itself can no more believe a lie than a correct taste can pronounce bitter to sweet. If a lie is believed it can be only as it carries the appearance of truth. Before there can be an appearance there must be an object and a faculty, and from one of these must spring all falsehood. But the object cannot cause a false appearance of itself, and therefore the difference must rest in the perception. Objects are merely passive. Truth shows itself to be truth, and falsehood falsehood, whether men apprehend them so or no. What, then, are the causes on the believers part which make any object to appear what it is not.

1. An undue distance between the faculty and its object. Approximation is necessary to perception. Distance in space hinders corporeal perception; moral distance hinders spiritual perception of God and His worship.

2. The indisposition of the intellectual faculty which follows from sin. Where the soul has deviated from the eternal rules of right, reason, and morality, it is in darkness, and while in darkness it must necessarily pass false judgments upon most things that come before it. The understanding, like some bodily eyes, is disabled from exact discernment, both by natural weakness and supervening soreness.


II.
What is it to receive the love of the truth.

1. To esteem and value it. Truth must first be enthroned in the judgment before it can reign in the desires.

2. To choose it as a thing transcendently good. To esteem is an act of the understanding; to choose of the will. This is the proper and finishing act of love. The great effect of love is to unite us to the thing we love, and the will is the uniting faculty, and choice the uniting act. Till we have made religion our fixed choice it only floats in the imagination; but it is the heart which must appropriate the great truths of Christianity. Then what was before only an opinion passes into reality and experience.

3. This will help us to understand what is rejecting the truth. Not because men think it false, but because it crosses their inclination. The thief hates the day; not but that he loves the light as well as other men, but he dreads that which he knows is the likeliest means of his discovery. The great condemnation that rests upon the world is that men see the light but love darkness, because their deeds are evil.


III.
How the not receiving the truth into the will and affections disposes the understanding to delusion.

1. By drawing off the understanding from fixing its contemplation upon an offensive truth. For though it is not in the power of the will when the understanding apprehends a truth to countermand its assent, yet it is able to hinder it from taking that truth into full consideration. If a man has affections averse to the purity of the truth they will not suffer his thoughts to dwell upon it, but will divert them to some object that he is more enamoured with; and so the mind lies open to the treacherous inroads of imposture.

2. By prejudicing the understanding against the truth--the understanding in that case being like the eye which views a white thing through a red glass. This was how the Jews rejected the Saviour. They saw His miracles and heard His words through the medium of, “Is not this the carpenter?” “Can any good come out of Nazareth?”

3. By darkening the mind, which is the peculiar malignity of every vice. When wise men become vicious their wisdom leaves them. The ferment of a vicious inclination lodged in the affections is like an intoxicating liquor received into the stomach, from whence it will be continually sending thick clouds and noisome steams up to the brain.


IV.
How God can be properly said to send men delusions. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all”; and what is not in Him cannot proceed from Him. But God may be said to send delusions.

1. By withdrawing His enlightening influence from the understanding. The soul is not otherwise able to exert its intellectual acts than by a light flowing in upon it from the fountain of light. How reasonable, then, that God, provoked by gross sins, should deliver the soul to infatuation by a suspension of this light.

2. By commissioning the spirit of falsehood to seduce the sinner (1 Kings 22:22; 2 Corinthians 4:4). How dreadfully did God consign over the heathen world to a perpetual slavery to His deceits! And the truth is where men under the gospel will grow heathens in practice, it is but just with God to suffer them to grow heathens in their delusions.

3. By a providential disposing of men into such circumstances as have an efficacy to delude. He may place them under an heterodox ministry or in atheistical company, throw pestilent books in their way, all which, falling in with an ill-inclined judgment, and worse ordered morals, will recommend the worst of errors. And, therefore, as we find it expressed of him who kills a man unwittingly, that God delivers that man into his hands (Exodus 21:13), so when a man, by such ways as these, is drawn into false belief, it may be affirmed that God sends that man a delusion (2 Samuel 17:11-12; 2 Samuel 17:14; Ezekiel 14:9).

4. By His permission of lying wonders. Thus when Pharoah hardened his heart against the will of God, God permitted him to be confirmed in his delusion by the enchantments of the magicians. And so with the lying wonders of the Church of Rome, which confirm the legends imposed for truth upon her deluded members.


V.
Wherein the greatness of this judgment consists.

1. In itself.

(1) That it is spiritual, and so directly affects the soul. The judgments affecting the body are insignificant in comparison.

(2) It blasts the peculiar perfection of man’s nature, his understanding; for ignorance and delusion are the disease of the mind, and the utmost dishonour of reason; there being no sort of reproach which a man resents with so just an indignation as the charge of folly. If slavery be that which all noble spirits abhor, and to lose the choicest of nature’s freeholds, the reason, be the worst of slaveries, surely the most inglorious condition that can befall a rational creature is to be governed by a delusion (John 8:32). And, besides this, it has a peculiar malignity to bind the shackles faster on it by a strange unaccountable love, for no man entertains an error but he is enamoured of it.

2. In its effects.

(1) It renders the conscience useless. A blind watchman is a nuisance and an impertinence, and a deluded conscience is a counsellor who cannot advise, and a guide who cannot direct (Matthew 6:23).

(2) It ends in total destruction. Every error is in its tendency destructive. Hell is a deep place, and there are many steps of descent to it; but as surely as the first gloom of evening tends to and ends in the thickest darkness, so every delusion persisted in will lodge the sinner in the blackest regions of damnation.


VI.
What deductions may be made from the whole.

1. That since the belief of a lie is a sin it is not inconsistent with Divine holiness to punish one sin with another (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26), and no punishment is comparable to this.

2. That the best way to confirm our faith in the truths of religion is to love and acknowledge them.

3. That hereby we may be able to find out the true cause of--

(1) Atheism.

(2) Fanaticism. (R. South, D. D.)

God and error

Sceptics never tire in quoting this text, to prove, if they can, that God sends delusions to deceive mankind, and that men are doomed to everlasting perdition for what they could not avoid, simply because the Almighty so willed it. But the infidel’s interpretation of the passage has been read into it by himself. Its real teaching is eternally true. There are four points in it to be considered by us.


I.
The class of men referred to.

1. They “believed not the truth.” There is a rejection of the truth which arises from ignorance, and some excuse is to be made for it. But there is also a wilful rejection of the truth. Men close there eyes to the light, and grope in the darkness by their own free choice. Reason is made blind to give eyes to prejudice and passion, and excuses are invented, not so much to justify their conduct to others, as to salve their own consciences. In this way they smother the truth, until they come thoroughly to reject it.

2. They “had pleasure in unrighteousness;” or, better rendered, “were well pleased in the unrighteousness.” They not only practised unrighteous acts, but they took pleasure in doing them. Regardless of the law of God, which is the standard of righteousness and the basis of morality, they revelled in sinful delights.


II.
The delusion to which they were subject. The Greek term translated “delusion” is literally “the inworking of error.” The expression is a very important one, and shows the source and mode of operation of the error. The whole thing is internal, and is opposed to the inworking of the Holy Spirit. Men pursue an evil course until they come to believe it to be right. Look at that fine boy who is just leaving his home for the workshop or the college. He has been brought up in a pure family, surrounded by all that is good and pious. But the first day in his new surroundings words fall on his ears which horrify him; these, or similar, he will hear again and again, until they cease to affect him. Then, and at a later stage, he will himself indulge in coarseness and profanity with the rest, and perhaps become the very blackest of all that black company. The inworking of sin and error will destroy conscience, and that most fearful of all states be reached in which no remorse be experienced, but rather pride in sin. Man very largely moulds his own character, and with it his beliefs; and very often, alas if he comes to “believe a lie,” and his doing so is entirely his own fault.


III.
This delusion, or inworking of error, is sent by God. Does error, then, come from God? No; but He abandons men to it when they have wilfully and persistently broken the law of righteousness, just as they fall into disease of body when a natural law has been violated.


IV.
The purpose of the inworking of error. “That they might be damned.” This seems a most terrible doctrine, and hundreds have cavilled at it to the danger of their own souls. “Condemned” is certainly a milder word, but with very much the same meaning. - He that believeth not is condemned already.” But the original word is better rendered in the Revised Version--“judged.” The Judge of all the earth will do right; but that very right may involve most fearful consequences. If the inworking of error goes on till the judgment comes, it will be an awful calamity to that man in whom it occurs. When the Divine judgment is passed there can be no dissentient voice, no sympathizers with the condemned, and even the heart of the criminal himself will bear testimony to the righteousness of the sentence. (G. Sexton, LL. D.)

God’s logic of sin

1. Every one who takes pleasure in unrighteousness is under a strong delusion.

2. Every one who is under a strong delusion believes a lie.

3. Every one who believes a lie has rejected the truth.

4. Every one who rejects the truth will be judged by God.

5. Every one who shall be judged by God shall be damned.

6. Therefore every one who receives the truth as it is in Jesus shall be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:13). (J. T. Wightman.)

The infatuation of the followers of Antichrist


I.
The author. God is not and cannot be the cause of evil. The avenger of sin cannot be the author of it. With sin as sin God has nothing to do, but with sin as a punishment of sin God has to do.

1. To understand this concurrence we must not say--

(1) Too much, lest we leave a stain on the Divine glory. He infuses no sin, and conveys no deceit; these belong not to God but to man or Satan.

(2) Nor too little as that God’s judgments of blindness of mind (John 12:39-40), and hardness of heart (Exodus 4:21), are simply said to be so because foreseen, or inevitable, or barely permitted. Besides all this there is a judicial sentence which is seconded by an active providence.

2. God’s concurrence may be thus stated.

(1) His withdrawal of the light and direction of His Spirit (Deuteronomy 29:4). A greyhound held in by a slip runneth violently after the hare when it is in sight; as soon as the slip is taken away the restraint is gone, and his unbred disposition carries him. So men that are greedy of worldly things are powerfully drawn into errors countenanced by the world, when God takes off the restraint of His grace. In this God is not to be blamed. Voluntary blindness brings penal blindness; and because men will not see they shall not.

(2) His delivering them up to the power of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4) as the executioner of His curse (1Ch 21:1, cf. 2 Samuel 24:1). Temptations come from the devil, but they are governed by God for holy ends (1 Kings 22:22).

(3) His raising up such instruments and objects as meeting with a naughty heart do blind it.

(a) Instruments (Job 12:16; Ezekiel 14:9). For man’s ingratitude God raises up false prophets to seduce them that delight in lies rather than in the truths of God.

(b) Objects (Jeremiah 6:21). If we will find the sin, God will find the occasion. If Judas will sell his Master, he shall not want chapmen to bargain with him.


II.
The degree or kind of punishment. “Strong delusion,” the prevalency of which is seen in--

1. The absurdity of the errors.

(1) Adoration of images (Psalms 115:8; Isaiah 44:9-20).

(2) The invocation of saints, a thing against reason, because they are out of the reach of our commerce, and against Scripture which always directs us to God by one Mediator, Christ.

(3) Works of supererogation (Luke 17:10).

2. The obstinacy wherewith they cleave to them. In spite of Scripture, reason, and evidence of truth, they still cry the opinion of the Church and their forefathers; like the Jews, who denied the clearest matter of fact (John 8:33; Jeremiah 44:16-19).

3. The efficacy of the causes.

(1) The withholding of Scripture.

(2) Gain and ambition (Acts 16:19-21; Acts 16:25).

(3) Pride and prejudice which will not disavow a welcome error or acknowledge an unwelcome truth.


III.
The effect. The belief of a lie.

1. The object: a lie, that is either--

(1) False doctrines (1 Timothy 4:2).

(2) False miracles in their legends.

(3) False calumnies against Protestants.

2. The act: given up to believe a lie. Some are doubtful, some almost persuaded, some espouse the common prevailing opinions, some adhere to them with much false zeal and superstition.


IV.
The uses.

1. Information.

(1) To show us the reason why so many learned men are captivated by Antichrist--the delusions of Satan. Four causes may be given.

(a) Self-confidence. God will show the folly of those who depend on the strength of their own wit (Proverbs 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:19).

(b) Prejudice. The priests and scribes could readily tell that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4-6), yet who more obstinate against Him who was born there?

(c) Pride. Many Jews believed on Christ, but would not profess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42-43).

(d) The judgment of God. (Luke 19:41-42).

(2) To show us that the prevalency of this wicked one is no blemish to providence; for permission of Him is one of God’s dreadful dispensations. Hereby God would show us--

(a) That there are deceits and errors as well as truth in the world, much of choice, not chance.

(b) That although it is a great evil to be deceivers, it will not excuse us if we are deceived (Matthew 15:14).

(c) What need there is to pray not to be led into temptation.

(d) To fear to slight the grace offered (Deuteronomy 28:28).

2. Of caution to take heed of spiritual infatuation that this judgment fall not on us. Take heed--

(1) Of sinning against the light (James 4:17).

(2) Of hypocrisy in the profession of the truth (Proverbs 26:26).

(3) Of pride and carnal self-sufficiency (2 Chronicles 32:31).

(4) Of following the rabble (John 4:20; Proverbs 24:13-14). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Choice influences belief

This believing a lie does not necessarily denote intellectual, or what are called speculative errors, but perhaps refers more particularly to moral questions. And yet intellectual belief is not to be excluded. “The inworking of error” is potent here also. Much nonsense is talked in these days about irresponsibility for opinions. “A man always believes according to evidence,” it is said. So he may, and yet it may be his own fault that more evidence was not obtained. In one of the numerous debates that I have held with leading sceptics, my opponent said that God could not be just if He punished him for his opinions, because he had used every means in his power to arrive at the truth. Then said I, “You are the first man in this world who ever did.” I am sure no man can say before God that he has let no opportunity go by for learning the truth; that he has left no available evidence unexamined; that he has allowed no chance to escape him which might have been used to profit. Belief is largely influenced by the will. Don’t let us forget that. Man very largely moulds his own character, and with it his beliefs. Every man has a free will, and by his voluntary choice he makes habits which become permanent. These constitute his character. In the end he comes to “believe a lie,” and his doing so is entirely his own fault. (G. Sexton.)

Natural law in the spiritual world

“God shall send,” or more correctly rendered, “God sendeth”--that is, He is ever sending. Spiritual laws are as certain in their operation as those which regulate material things. Indeed, material things and the laws of matter are but symbols of the deeper and more abiding spiritual realities. Does error come from God? No, but He abandons men to it when they have wilfully and persistently broken the law of righteousness, just as they fall into disease of body when a natural law has been violated. There is no help for this. It is in accordance with the eternal truth and righteousness of God. Why do our bodies suffer, if we commit acts of excess? Not because God wills that we should so suffer, but because the suffering is a necessary consequence of the violation of His laws. It is His means of directing us aright, and, if we fail to obey Him, the consequences must fall upon our own heads. The laws of nature are inexorable, and cannot be broken with impunity. Let a man ruin his constitution by dissipation, and, although God may forgive him for the sin, he will carry his diseased and enfeebled body to a premature grave. The pardon does not undo the consequences of the wrongdoing. “The inworking of error” necessarily carries with it its own penalty--a penalty stamped on it by God. Thus God does not directly send the delusion, but “the inworking of error” is as much one of His laws as gravitation. A man may close his eyes to the natural light, or live for years in darkness, and the result in the end will be blindness. Does God send the blindness? Directly, no. Indirectly, yes; for it is the violation of His law that caused it. So if we close our eyes to the spiritual light, we shall become spiritually blind, and live in darkness, mistaking the spiritual things that surround us; in other words, we shall be deluded. God sends this delusion, that is, it follows the evil course of doing what He has prohibited, and not doing what He has commanded. (G. Sexton.)

Punishment according to law

I have a clock, as very many have, which was made to meet certain exigencies of the future. It has a calendar which points out the day of the month, the hand moving one figure each day. If the month has 31 days, it moves from that to the 1 for the next month; but if the month has but 30 days, the hand jumps over the 31, and on February it moves from 28 over the 29, 30, and 31 to the 1 of March. But once in four years it stops at February 29, and then moves over two figures to the 1. Now, we do not have to run to the maker when these changes are needed, and ask him to come and move the hands. He knew the exigences would arise, and arranged for doing the work at the time he made the machinery. So the Lord has arranged His laws of the earth in such a way that they punish certain sins. The punishment is from the Lord, but He need work no miracle to bring it. Men defy the laws of health and cleanliness, and a pestilence breaks out, or contagious diseases rage. Men oppress their workmen, or kings rule with hard and selfish power, and rebellions and insurrections break out, and the oppressors lose far more than they seemed to gain. (H. W. Beecher.)

Verse 12

2 Thessalonians 2:12

That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness

Progress in unrighteousness

This is a terrible judgment--filling up the measure of their obduration, that they may at length fall into condemnation.

But it is equitable. They believed not the truth, received not the gospel in the simplicity of it, as revealed by Christ and His apostles, and recorded in the Scriptures, but wilfully and for their own interests’ sake, gave themselves up to these corruptions. And more, they “had pleasure,” etc. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10 it was, “they received not the love of the truth;” now they delight in its opposite.


I.
What is unrighteousness? Righteousness is giving every one his due--man and God (Matthew 22:21); man (Titus 2:12); God, in the way of worship and reverence (Psalms 29:2; Psalms 96:8). This unrighteousness is principally meant in the latter sense. False worship is the greatest unrighteousness; for by this the glory of God is given to another (Romans 1:18; Romans 1:23; Romans 1:25).


II.
They had pleasure in it; in those things they please themselves, not lapse into it out of simple ignorance and error of mind. And so the apostle parallels the two great apostasies from the light of nature and the light of the gospel (Romans 1:32; Psalms 97:7).


III.
Their condemnation. Observe--

1. Errors of judgment as well as sins of practice may bring damnation on the souls of men. All sins do in their own nature tend to damnation (Romans 6:23), and errors of judgment are sins because contrary to the law of God (1 John 3:4). There is nothing so wicked that a man blinded with error will not attempt against those that differ from him (John 16:2). A blind horse is full of mettle, but stumbles; therefore, if a man be not guided by sound judgment, his zealous affections will precipitate him into mischief (Romans 10:2). How true this is of the papacy.

2. Though all errors may bring damnation, yet some are especially damning (2 Peter 2:1). This may be either from--

(1) The matter held, if destructive of the way of salvation by Christ; or

(2) The manner--

(a) When men profess what they believe not and voluntarily choose error for worldly ends.

(b) When they are vented by some Christian professor to the seducing of others (Acts 20:30; Galatians 5:20).

(c) When, though they should not err fundamentally, they so far debauch Christianity, as that God gives them up to believe a lie, and to defend and maintain corruptions of doctrine and worship.

(d) When there is gross negligence, it is equivalent to standing out against the light (John 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5). (T. Manton, D. D.)

God not the author of damnation

“God is too good to damn anybody,” so we hear some say nowadays. They are quite right. God does not damn anybody; but many damn themselves. Damnation is sin and suffering producing and perpetuating each other. We see suffering producing sin in this world, and sin producing suffering. Look at the low dens, with their diseased, poisoned, putrescent inmates, their depravity, their profligacy, their brutality, their bodily torture, their mental anguish. Is not that damnation?--sin and suffering acting and reacting. God does not damn men; He tries to prevent it. He moves heaven and earth to prevent it. Was not the crucifixion moving heaven and earth? The crucifixion was God’s supreme effort to keep men from hell. How unreasonable to charge God with your death! Suppose I went, sick and suffering, through the stormy night, to hold a light for you at some dizzy chasm; suppose you struck down the light which I had brought with so much pains; suppose you lost your foothold and fell into the abyss below, could I be charged with your death? Well, then, did not God bring you light? Did He not with scarred hand hold that light over your pathway? If you reject it and fall, can you charge Him with your death? No! oh, no! (John 3:19). (R. S. Barrett.)

Verses 13-17

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

We are bound to give thanks

Gratitude for salvation

The apostle is here contrasting the state of the Thessalonians with that of many who should, at a future period, arise in the Church, whose presumption should know no bounds, and who for their impiety would be given over by God to final impenitence.

While those transgressors were doomed to everlasting misery, the Thessalonian converts were ordained to eternal life, having been from the beginning chosen by God to salvation, and having been in time called to the enjoyment of it through the ministry of the gospel which the apostle preached. For them, therefore, he gives thanks, as it was most meet for him to do, since it was the mercy that called for the devoutest praises from all.


I.
Their election of God.

1. The end to which they were elected. It was “salvation,” even “the salvation that was in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” It was not to the means of salvation merely; for many enjoyed the means of salvation on whose behalf he could not give thanks, yea, on whose account “he had continual heaviness and sorrow of heart;” but it was to salvation itself, with all its inconceivable and lasting blessings.

2. The means by which that end was attained. God has ordained the means as well as the end; and He has ordained the end no otherwise than by and through the appointed means. He had chosen the Thessalonians to salvation “through the sanctification of the Spirit.” Further: He had chosen them to salvation through “belief of the truth.” By faith we lay hold on the promises of God; by faith we become united to Christ; by faith we bring down from heaven all those supplies of grace which are necessary for us in this state of warfare. Thus faith and holiness are inseparably connected with salvation; and to them men are elected as much as to salvation itself.


II.
Their calling by his ministry.

1. The instrument is His Word. As far as His Providence concurs in the salvation of men, it is only in subserviency to His Word. This is the rod of His might by which all the wonders of His grace are wrought. Miracles gave credibility to the testimony which Christ and His apostles bore; but it was the testimony itself, as applied by “the Holy Spirit to the soul, that wrought effectually upon the hearts of men. And in all ages it is the same Word, either read or preached, that is effectual to conversion. So the apostle reminds his converts at Thessalonica that, though they were from eternity chosen of God to salvation, they were called to the possession of it through the ministry of the gospel.

2. The same instrument, if received rightly, will operate effectually to the same end. It had turned the Thessalonians “from idols to serve the living God;” and thus it will assuredly work on all who cordially embrace it. It “is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword”: it “is mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of Satan”: it “prospers in the thing whereunto God has sent it.” When the time has come for the return home of His wandering sheep, He apprehends them by His Word, and brings them with His gracious energy to His fold, making them “willing in the day of His power.” This is His invariable process--“Whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” etc. Conclusion:

1. Those who have never yet obeyed the Gospel call must not say, “I am not of God’s elect, and therefore I cannot help myself.” They have been “called to a belief of the truth,” such as should lead them to rely entirely upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, and to the sanctification of the Spirit, even such a sanctification as should progressively transform them into the Divine image of righteousness and true holiness. They should therefore receive freely at His hands all the blessings offered thus to them. If, however, they will obey the Divine call, their blood will be on their own head.

2. Those who have obeyed the call should ever remember that God has chosen and ordained them to bring forth fruit to His honour and glory. He loved them, not from any good He saw or foresaw in them, but simply because He would love them. Hence they have every reason to give Him thanks; nay, their every breath should be an effusion of praise. (C. Simeon, M. A.)

The nature, duty, and privilege of a Christian


I.
What is it to be a Christian? There are three characteristics in the text.

1. Belief of the truth.

(1) There are various kinds of truth. All truth is not “the truth.” There is natural and religious truth. Christian truth is distinguished from all other by being “the truth as it is in Jesus”--truth touching God, the soul, eternity.

(2) So there are various kinds of belief. We believe things we see, results of reasoning, conclusions of argument, laws, things above reason, God and our own souls. The faith of our text, however, is

(a) a faith of the heart--the verification of those truths which can be understood by the heart of man alone. This distinguishes it from mere intellectual effort.

(b) A supernatural faith. Observe the company in which it is put--side by side with the power of the Spirit of God. And everywhere in Scripture it is so. It is by the supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost, and is supernatural in its origin, operations, and results.

2. Sanctification of the Spirit. There is a question whether this refers immediately to the objective work of the Holy Ghost, or the subjective work in man’s own spirit. But it is immaterial; it amounts to the same in either case. Sanctification in its broadest, its Biblical as distinguished from its theological sense, is a triple work.

(1) It is the purgation of the soul of him who believeth by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.

(2) It is the recreation of the moral nature by the Holy Spirit.

(3) It is the dedication of the cleansed and renovated person to God.

3. Hope of everlasting life. Three things are connected with and result from sin: Disaster--“The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Privation--of blessedness. Suffering--an accusing conscience and a dark outlook. Over against these in glorious and everlasting antithesis are

(1) Eternal life.

(2) Positive blessing.

(3) Present and eternal joy and glory.

This is our hope. It is a good hope, a hope assured to us by warrant beyond dispute.


II.
What is the duty of a Christian?

1. Goodness (2 Thessalonians 2:17). To be good.

(1) Negatively, to put away that which is evil. This is a part of our duty of which we cannot afford to think lightly. Christ suffered for us that He might deliver us from the present evil world. Those who are born of God do not commit sin.

(2) But there is no such thing as a merely negative goodness. It is always also positive and practical, and finds expression in speech and action. It is a recognition of God in the family and daily life in reverence and worship, in the government of self and in charity towards man.

(3) This goodness must be as universal as it is practical. “Every good word and work.” There is a goodness which is eclectic; and it is right that we should devote attention especially to forms of goodness for which we are most fitted, but not to the neglect of those which are common to all: e.g., Religious worship and carelessness about personal purity are often found together; so are personal devoutness and neglect of missionary effort and vice versa. Good words of every kind.

(4) This goodness is to be robust and energetic, not infantile and feeble. We love the heathen, but how much do we give them. We love our brother, but how often does a fault reduce that love to microscopic proportions.

2. Steadfastness. This goodness is to be practised consistently, not by fits and starts; through life, and not for an hour; not only when easy, but in the face of hardship and persecution.


III.
What are the privileges of a Christian? The characteristics and duties just mentioned. The three points are the same under different aspects. But specifically.

1. Consolation. This is needed at all times for the Church of God is now in its suffering state.

(1) Christian life begins in self-sacrifice. The Christian passes from death into life through a strait gate, which excludes many a habit, etc., long cherished.

(2) Christian life continues by sacrifice; the bearing of the daily cross, the conflict with sin, the evangelistic effort which is the very life of the Church, all involve loss and pain which need consolation. This consolation is abundant and abiding, consisting as it does of the love and presence of “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. (2 Thessalonians 2:16).

2. Sanctity.

3. Good hope through grace.

4. Glory. Conclusion: How great the prospects, responsibility, dignity of a Christian. (J. D. Geden, D. D.)

God’s Salvation


I.
Consists in “obtaining the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This phrase is evidently an expansion and more exact specification of the term salvation in 2 Thessalonians 2:13. The believer is to share the glory which Christ possesses (John 17:1-26.). Jesus has already given His glory of self-sacrificing love and union with the Father to His disciples in a measure, but hereafter it is to be given in fulness. What a great salvation!


II.
Is obtained--

1. As a result of God’s choice and call. Not that this lessens human responsibility, or should relax human watchfulness and diligence (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

2. As a result of the Spirit’s sanctification.

3. Through personal apprehension of the truth.


III.
Is a matter of thankfulness. (Clerical World.)

The favoured people


I.
True Christians are objects of a special choice.

1. The Author: God. The Scriptures unanimously declare that true Christians are chosen of God. Who dare question the right of the Most High to choose them. While He injures none, for this is impossible, surely He may, if He please, confer special benefits on some (Romans 9:20-21).

2. The date--“from the beginning” (1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 1:2; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4).

3. The end--“to salvation.” This determines its true nature and supreme excellency. The Israelites were chosen, but many fell, and we are admonished to take heed lest we “fall after the same example of unbelief.” The twelve were chosen to apostleship, but Judas apostatised. This salvation is not only deliverance from sin in this life, but eternal glory in the world to come.


II.
True Christians are persons of a peculiar character. God’s chosen people are--

1. Believers of the truth.

(1) God’s Word is emphatically “the truth.”

(2) Believing is giving hearty credit to the Bible as the record of God in such a way as to feel affected and influenced by it according to the nature of the things which it regards. Without this belief of the truth we have no evidence of our election, and only “deceive our own selves.”

2. Partakers of the Spirit. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” The Spirit in the heart is essential to the being of a Christian, for without Him there is no regeneration. Then His influence is necessary for every Christian enterprise. What reason there is for the admonitions “Quench not the Spirit,” “Grieve not the Spirit.” We must judge whether we are partakers of the Spirit by His fruit (Galatians 5:22-24).

3. The subjects of sanctification. The Spirit given to God’s people produces and gradually promotes it. There is no way of attaining holiness but by the Spirit of Holiness. Faith bears a close connection with this state. Faith guards the Christian from sin and preserves him in the path of duty. Sanctification, therefore, is the best evidence of faith, and the best mark of election. We have proof that we are “of God” only as we are like God.


III.
True Christians furnish cause of lively thanksgiving. Why? True Christians are--

1. A proof of the power of the gospel.

2. A credit to Christianity (Philippians 1:27).

3. Useful to others. (T. Kidd.)

Connection between faith and the sanctification of the Spirit

Religion has two factors, the Divine and the human. All the doctrines whose object and result are the salvation of lost souls, have an inseparable connection. They necessitate and include each other. In the text, sanctification of the Spirit is conjoined with belief of the truth.


I.
Election is presupposed.

1. Its author is God.

2. It is from the beginning.

3. It is personal.

4. It is comforting. Those that are chosen are beloved of the Lord.


II.
Its design.

1. To produce holiness of thought, word and deed.

2. To secure salvation. Holiness is salvation.

3. To obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.


III.
Its agency.

1. It proceeds from the love and grace of God.

2. It is rendered possible by the death of Christ.

3. It is carried into effect through the agency and influence of the Holy Spirit.


IV.
Its instrument. This is the truth.

1. Men are called by the truth.

2. Men are sanctified through the truth (John 17:17).


V.
Its evidence.

1. Illumination by the Spirit in order to understand things that are spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:14).

2. Sanctification of the Spirit.

3. Belief of the truth. Apart from these, no person has, or can have, any proof that he is chosen of God to eternal life.


VI.
Conclusion.

1. Men are lost because they have pleasure in unrighteousness, and believe not the truth.

2. No sanctification takes place in any soul apart from the belief of the truth.

3. The end of faith is the salvation of the soul.

4. Sanctification and faith have their roots in election.

5. Does any one seek for evidence of his election, let him believe the gospel and live a holy life. (L. O. Thompson.)

Election


I.
How it is here set forth.

1. By the rise of it, which is the mere love of God, for Paul calls these “brethren, beloved of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). There is no antecedent worthiness in those whom God chooses (2 Timothy 1:9).

2. By the act itself “hath chosen you” making a distinction between them and others. Those whom God chooses He separates from the world (1 John 5:19). Their names are kept in the records of heaven (Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3), whereas others are not (Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15).

3. By the antiquity of it “from the beginning” (Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 25:34. Love in God is of old standing, even from eternity, and what is from everlasting is to everlasting (Psalms 103:17).

4. By the means of its accomplishment two are mentioned, one on God’s part and one on ours--Sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Where, note--

(1) That God’s decree is both of ends and means, for all His purposes are accomplished by fit means. He who has chosen us to salvation has chosen us to be holy, and to believe the truth. And without the means the end cannot be attained; for without faith and holiness no man shall see God or escape condemnation (John 3:36; Hebrews 12:14). What God has joined together let no man separate. If we separate these things God does not change his counsel, but we subvert His order to our own destruction.

(2) That these are not causes but fruits of election (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; Acts 2:47; Acts 13:48).

(3) That being the necessary fruits they are also evidences of our election. All that are sanctified by the Spirit and believe the truth belong to the election of God.

(a) Sanctification is not only an external dedication to God, but an inward and real change (1 Corinthians 6:11).

(b) Faith is not a cold assent to an opinion as to the Christian religion, but such a lively trust as brings us under its power (verses 10, 12). The Thessalonians received the truth so as to obey it and suffer for it.

(4) The connection between the two--

(a) There is a necessary connection between them as of cause and effect, for none are powerfully drawn to believe but such as are sanctified. To incline and bring us to God is a work wholly reserved to the Spirit.

(b) There is the connection of concomitancy between the gospel and the Spirit. The Spirit only goes along with the gospel; and so both external and internal grace are of God (John 17:17).

(c) There is a subordination of faith to this work of the Spirit by the truth; for the greatest things work not till they are considered and believed (1 Thessalonians 2:13).


II.
This is the great matter of our thanksgiving to God. Consider--

1. That thanksgiving to God is a great and necessary duty, expressly enjoined by Him, and expected from us (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

2. That we are to give thanks chiefly for spiritual and eternal mercies (Ephesians 1:3).

3. That the great expression of God’s mercy is in election.

(1) There we see all our blessings in their rise, which is the love and grace of God. Waters are sweetest and freshest in their fountain (John 3:16).

(2) It shows us God’s distinguishing grace, and who it was that made us differ from others (Joh 14:22; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Matthew 11:25-26).

(3) Then we may see that grace takes off self-boasting (Ephesians 2:8-9; Ephesians 1:6). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Gratitude to God for salvation


I.
The persons described and the duty enjoined.

1. Thanksgiving for the salvation of others (Romans 6:17).

2. Thanksgiving is the constant duty of all Christians (Ephesians 5:20).

3. The cause is the revelation of God’s love (Jeremiah 31:3).


II.
The reasons assigned for this gratitude.

1. Election.

(1) God’s people are a chosen people (Romans 8:29).

(2) Chosen from the beginning, or eternity (Titus 1:2).

(3) Without any regard to previous good works (Titus 3:5).

(4) Chosen in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:4).

(5) To salvation here, and glory hereafter (Ephesians 2:10).

2. Sanctification.

(1) The Spirit quickens the soul (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5).

(2) The Spirit enlightens the mind (Ephesians 1:18).

(3) The Spirit leads the soul to glory (John 14:16-17).

3. Faith.

(1) Negative faith, or ceasing to trust in self (2 Corinthians 1:9).

(2) Faith in God’s blessed Word (Psalms 119:41-42).

(3) Faith in Christ and His work (Acts 16:31).


III.
The method whereby God develops His purpose of love to His Church, and the success attending the same.

1. They were called to believe these doctrines (Ephesians 4:4-6).

2. He always calls into Christian fellowship (1 Corinthians 1:9).

3. He calls His people into liberty (Galatians 5:13).

4. The instrumentality employed. Our gospel (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

5. The blessing obtained is eternal glory, called in the text, “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ;” which denotes that the chosen, sanctified, and believing, and called people of God, shall never be separated from Him, or perish (Colossians 2:4). (T. B. Baker.)

Effectual calling

A godly English minister of two hundred years ago, the Rev. Thomas Doolittle, used to “catechise” his congregation, more especially the young people, every Lord’s Day. An incident that melted his hearers on one occasion is thus related. The question was on “effectual calling,” and to bring it more closely home to them he suggested that they should recite the answer, changing the word us to me, and our to my. No one had the courage to begin, till a young man well known as one who had led a bad life arose, and with every sign of contrition repeated, amid the tears of the congregation: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing me of my sin and misery, enlightening my mind in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing my will, He did persuade and enable me to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to me in the gospel.” This young man had been convicted by being catechised--think of such a thing happening in these days of looser religious discipline! band from being a wicked and ignorant youth he had become an intelligent Christian.

Justification and sanctification

Manton says, “A malefactor that hath a leprosy on him needs not only a pardon, but a medicine; and in a broken leg, not only ease of the pain is desirable, but that the bone be set right. So we need both justification and sanctification.” Justification saves the malefactor, and sanctification cures him of his spiritual disease: are they not equally desirable? Who would wish to miss the one or the other if in need of them? Pardon removes the pain of our broken bones, but spiritual renewal reduces the fracture. Let us not be content with half a gospel, but obtain a whole Christ for our broken hearts. Renewal of life is every way as desirable as forgiveness of sin. As well be full of guilt as full of guile if a child has eaten unhealthy food it is well to cure the disease which is occasioned by it, but it is equally desirable to break him of the habit Which led him to such foul feeding. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Holiness

When Dr. Livingstone asked one of the Bechuanas, What is holiness? the reply was, “When copious showers have descended during the night, and all the earth and leaves and cattle are washed clean, and the sun rising shows a drop of dew on every blade of grass, and the air breathes fresh, that is holiness.”

Verse 14

2 Thessalonians 2:14

Whereunto He called you by our gospel

Effectual calling


I.

Its author. “He,” viz., God.

1. None else has authority to call--

(1) To duties. Being our Creator, He is our owner; and being our owner, He is our sovereign and lawgiver, and may enact what laws He pleases (James 4:12).

(2) To privileges. His blessings are so great that none else can give us a right to them; and the soul can have no security that it does not intrude upon the possession of things till we have His warrant. None came to the wedding feast till bidden (Matthew 22:1-46), or went into the vineyard till hired (Matthew 20:1-34).

2. None else can have the power; for to calling there is not only the invitations of the word, but the effectual operations of the Spirit. None else can change the heart (2 Peter 1:8; Rom 4:17; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 2:10).


II.
The outward means.

1. The means itself: the Gospel. This God uses--

(1) Because, if God will invite the creature by his duty to His happiness, it is necessary that the call should be evident by some visible sign. The natural duty of man is much seen by the Creation (Romans 1:19; Psalms 19:1-2). But this call made to fallen man as a remedy for his lapsed estate can only be known by revelation.

(2) To convince and stop their mouths who refuse this calling, for the gospel brings grace home to us and leaves it to our choice (Acts 13:26; Acts 3:26). Great is the misery of those who refuse (Luke 14:24; Proverbs 1:24-26).

(3) Because He will preserve the liberty of His own workmanship, and therefore will not compel us, but will, at the same time teach and draw us (John 6:44-45; Acts 11:21; Acts 16:14; Romans 1:16).

2. The interest the apostle challenges in it--“our gospel.” Elsewhere it is called God’s gospel (1 Timothy 1:11). He is the Author. It is also called Christ’s gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8), as the principal sub-revealer. And then the apostles’ gospel, because they were the instruments chosen by Christ to declare it (1 Timothy 1:11). This expression is--

(1) A word of fidelity (1 Corinthians 9:17).

(2) A word of esteem and love; what we love we call ours (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 1:13).

(3) A word importing diligence (Acts 20:24). Paul was willing to suffer or do anything for the sake of it.

(4) A word of mutual consent (2 Corinthians 4:8).


III.
The ends.

1. Subordinate. “Whereunto”--

(1) God calls us to the faith of the gospel (Romans 10:14).

(a) There must be a belief in it in general.

(b) A particular affiance in Christ according to the terms of the New Covenant, i.e., the assent must be fiducial or accompanied with a trust in Christ (Ephesians 1:15; 2 Timothy 1:12), and obediential, not a devout sloth or carelessness (Psalms 119:10; Jude 1:20-21; Psalms 32:2; Romans 8:1.).

(2) God calls us to holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7) on several grounds.

(a) That there may be a likeness between the Person calling and the persons called (1 Peter 1:15).

(b) Because the nature of the calling enforces sanctification (Heb 3:1; 2 Timothy 1:9; Romans 1:7).

(c) Because the grace shown in our calling obliges us to be holy in point of gratitude (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

(d) Because the calling enables us to be holy, giving us all things necessary to holiness of heart and life (2 Peter 1:3).

2. The ultimate end. “To obtain the glory,” etc. (1 Peter 5:10).

(1) It is glory for body and soul (1 Peter 1:9; 1 Corinthians 15:42-43).

(2) It is the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(a) It is purchased by Him (Ephesians 1:7).

(b) Promised by Him (John 10:28; 1 John 2:25).

(c) Prayed for by Him (John 17:14).

(d) Bestowed by Him; at death (Acts 7:59; Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8); at judgment (John 14:3).

(e) With Him (Romans 8:17; Revelation 3:21). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Effectual calling and Divine glory


I.
The gospel call. What is that? It is the invitation of Divine mercy to accept the blessings of salvation.

1. The call is one of sovereign mercy. Mercy for mercy’s sake. God was under no obligation to show mercy. The act is of His rich grace, and of that only.

2. It is most free and open. Not clogged by difficulties. “Ho everyone,” etc. “Come unto Me,” etc. “If any man thirst, let him come,” etc. The message is to the world--to every creature.

3. It is most earnest and pressing. The ministers who bring it are to invite, persuade, beseech, compel men to be reconciled to God. There is not the shadow of a doubt respecting God’s sincerity.


II.
The way in which the call is to be made sure.

1. It must be heard. “How can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” “O earth! earth I hear the Word of the Lord.” “If any man hath ears, let him hear.” “Hear, and your soul shall live.”

2. It must be understood. The truth as it is in Jesus must be comprehended.

3. It must be believed. Truth only realizes the call. Matthew believed; Saul believed; the Samaritans believed. Thus the pardon of sin, the acceptance of the person, and every blessing for time is obtained.

4. It must be retained. The profession of faith must be held fast. “Abide in Me,” says Christ. So we must continue Christ’s disciples to the end.


III.
The provision made to render the call sure.

1. The Holy Spirit attends Divine truth. “My speech and my preaching,” said St. Paul to the Corinthians, “was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

2. The Holy Spirit is specially given when the call is accepted. So it came to pass on the Day of Pentecost. When the three thousand, pricked in their heart by the simple truth declared unto them by the burning earnestness of Peter, cried to him and the rest of the apostles, “What shall we do?” he said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” They did as they were told, and received the Divine gift of the Divine Spirit. And so it comes to pass now in the experience of all penitent believers.

3. All the blessings and privileges of the gospel follow its acceptance. Such, for example, as justification (Romans 5:1); sonship (John 1:12); sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23); everlasting life (John 3:16); heaven, or “the obtaining of the glory, of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (John 17:22; John 17:24). Application:

(1) To us the gracious call has come;

(2) it may be accepted now;

(3) All who receive it will be made happy and safe forever;

(4) and all who reject it by their unbelief and disobedience will be condemned by it forever. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Verse 15

2 Thessalonians 2:15

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions

Inspired traditions viewed in relation to the ministry and the Church

(Text and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14):--


I.

The doctrines which constitute these traditions.

1. That human redemption had its rise in sovereign favour (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

2. That we are indebted solely to the Scriptures for our knowledge of salvation.

3. That Christ is the central truth of the Bible.

4. That sanctification by the Spirit through belief of the truth is obligatory on all Christians.


II.
The duties of the Church in regard to these traditions.

1. Stability. “Stand fast.”

2. Fidelity. “Hold.” (J. Woodward.)

The Scripture sufficient without unwritten traditions


I.
Our duty is to stand fast in the faith of Christ and profession of godliness whatever temptations we have to the contrary. “Stand fast,” being a military word, alludes to a soldier’s keeping his ground, and is opposed to two things--

1. A cowardly flight, i.e., our being overcome in the evil day. Wherefore we are exhorted to put on the armour of God (Ephesians 6:13), which helps us to withstand and to stand. The first is the act of a soldier, the second the posture of a conqueror. Here we make our way to heaven by conflict and conquest; hereafter we triumph.

2. A treacherous revolt, or yielding to the enemy, by complying with those things which are against the interest of Christ for advantage sake (2 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 12:15-16).


II.
The means of standing fast is to hold the traditions taught by the apostles.

1. The doctrine of Christianity is a tradition.

(1) Matters not evident by the light of nature or revelation must be either an invention or a tradition.

(a) An invention is something in religion not evident by natural light, nor agreeable to sound reason, but is some cunningly devised fable, obtruded by various artifices upon the belief of the world (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Romans 1:21-22).

(b) The gospel is none of this sort, but a tradition, or delivery of truth upon the testimony of One come from God to instruct the world, and reduce it to Him (Hebrews 2:3-4). Christ delivered it to the apostles, and the apostles to others (2 Timothy 2:2), until it came to us. This testimony is as binding as if we had heard Christ or the apostles, for we have their word in writing. And that these are their writings appears by the constant tradition of the Church, the acknowledgment of enemies, the blessing of God upon them to the conversion of souls, their power to protect the Church and promote its conquests, and their survival in spite of persecution and debate.

(2) The Christian religion must needs be a tradition.

(a) Because it is built on matter of fact, viz., that the Son of God came from God to bring us to God, confirming the truth of His mission by such miracles as showed Him to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Now a testimony or tradition is needful in matters of fact which must be confined to some time or place. Christ could not be always working, dying, rising, etc., everywhere. Those things were once to be done in one place before competent witnesses. But because the knowledge of them concerned all the world they were by them attested to others (Acts 1:8-22; Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15; Acts 10:39-41.)

(b) Because it is matter of faith, or doctrine, built upon matter of fact. We cannot properly believe a thing but upon testimony. If one asks, “Do you believe the sun shines?” you answer, “No, I see it.” “Do you believe that twice two make four?” “No, I know it.” But if he should ask “Do you believe that the sun is bigger than the earth?” you reply, “Yes,” not because it appears so, but because competent judges tell you such is the case. Apply it now to the mysteries of the gospel. They cannot be seen by the eye, for they are invisible; nor comprehended by the reason, for they are above it; but we believe them because revealed to prophets and apostles. And this is more certain than sense. The eye may be deceived, and reason may err, but it is impossible for God to deceive or be deceived (1 John 5:9).

2. The holding this tradition is the great means of standing fast in the faith of Christ and the confession of His name. For in it there is sure direction to walk by, and sure promises to build upon (2 Peter 1:16-17; 1 John 1:2-4). By this we have all that belongs--

(1) To faith. There can be no faith till we have a sure testimony of God’s revelation; for faith is a believing such things as God hath revealed, because He hath revealed them.

(2) Nor obedience, for that is doing what God commands, because He commands (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Peter 2:15).

(3) Nor certain expectation of happiness. We are never safe till we know by what rule Christ will judge us (Romans 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:8).


III.
Since the apostles have gone to God, and we cannot receive their doctrine by word of mouth, we must stick to the written word.

1. Because we are taught to do so by Christ and the apostles (Matthew 15:2; Luke 16:31; Acts 26:22; 2 Peter 1:19).

2. Because these things were written for our sakes (1 John 1:4). They knew the slipperiness of men’s memory, and the danger of corrupting Christian doctrine, if there were not a sure authentic record left; therefore they wrote fully.

3. Because the Scriptures are perfect, and give us a knowledge of those things which concern--

(1) Our faith. If there be enough written for that, we need not unwritten traditions to complete our rule (John 20:30-31). What would men have more?

(2) Our duty; that is sufficiently provided for (Titus 2:12); therefore we need no other rule.

(3) Our happiness: the doctrine that is able to make us wise unto salvation, is enough for us (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 3:17). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Scripture and tradition

“There was a flute in the Temple,” says the Talmud, “preserved from the days of Moses; it was smooth, thin, and formed of a reed. At the command of the king it was overlaid with gold, which ruined its sweetness of tone until the gold was taken away. There were also a cymbal and a mortar, which had become injured in the course of time, and were mended by workmen from Alexandria, summoned by the wise men, but their usefulness was so completely destroyed by this process that it was necessary to restore them to their former condition.” Are not these things an allegory? Do they not imply that by overlaying the written Law with what they called gold, but what was in reality the dross and tinsel of tradition, the rabbis had destroyed or injured its beauty and usefulness. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Stand fast

Let us stand fast as men who are appointed to keep their places until their guard is relieved by the coming of their Lord. If you have won the day, oh, do keep it! You must not suppose that the whole of religion is wrapped up in the day or two, or week or two which surround conversion. Godliness is a life long business.

1. Stand fast doctrinally. In this age all the ships are pulling up their anchors. Now, put your anchors down. Learn no teaching but what Christ teaches you. If you see a truth in God’s Word, grip it; and if it be unpopular, grip it the more. The one watchword now for the whole army of God is, “Stand fast.”

2. Stand fast practically. All the barriers are broken down. People try to make the Church and world meet. Therefore, it becomes Christians to gather up their skirts, and be more precise than ever they were.

3. Mind that you stand fast experimentally. Pray that your inner experience may be a close adhesion to your Master. Stand fast without wandering into sin. Only so will you be preserved from the vortex of iniquity. Stand fast without wearying. Stand fast without dallying with any kind of error. The weather is very bad just now spiritually. Stand fast because of your citizenship. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 16

2 Thessalonians 2:16

Everlasting consolation

The comforts propounded to us in the gospel


I.

Are of an everlasting tendency and benefit--pardon and life, to free us from everlasting death, and bring us to everlasting happiness (1 John 2:25; Hebrews 5:9; Psalms 119:111; Psalms 73:26). When all other things fail, have spent their allowance, can afford us no more relief, then we begin to enjoy our proper portion.


II.
Depend on everlasting foundations.

1. The everlasting love of God (Psalms 103:17).

2. The everlasting merit of Christ (Hebrews 9:12).

3. The everlasting covenant (Hebrews 13:20).


III.
Are sufficient to do their work.

1. To reduce us from temporal and flesh-pleasing vanities (Hebrews 11:25-26; Psalms 16:11; 1 John 2:17).

2. To make us steadfast in the truth, and cheerful under sufferings (Hebrews 10:34; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

3. To increase us in holiness and stablish us in every good work (1 Corinthians 15:58; John 6:27). (T. Manton, D. D.)

False and true consolation

Trouble of some kind is universally diffused among men, and in the generality pretty equally distributed. Few of God’s own children get through the world and into the heavenly home without trouble by the way. There is a sense in which Christians drink more deeply of the bitter cup than others, for in proportion as they are really Christians, they have refined and developed sensibilities. Trouble is to us what we ourselves are, and so is joy, and so is everything. Sympathy is a precious thing, but beyond a certain point every one has to bear his own burden; and since there is promised grace, let each one bear it like a man. But Christianity is not stoicism, and the Christian heart must have consolation.


I.
There are false consolations.

1. The desperate consolation of complete thoughtlessness.

2. The presumptuous consolation of concluding that God is bound to make all turn out well in the end, and that therefore we need not trouble ourselves.

3. The superficial consolation which soothes the mind without going down to the roots of things. “If things are dark today--well, then, they will be brighter tomorrow.” True enough; but what of the morrow beyond tomorrow? The darkness may be back again. We want the “everlasting consolation”; anything short of it is deplorably less than we need.


II.
There is the true consolation. It is everlasting because it comes from an everlasting source--the unchangeable God. Never can we be consoled for the sorrow of the world, or our own share of it, until we meet with Him--the Father of our spirits, the God of our salvation, and receive what we need from Him. All consolation is in Him. He is everlasting; and He says that He has loved us from everlasting. Believe the gospel, accept its grace, hold its truth, do its duty, breathe its spirit, and you have the everlasting consolation of God. Observe, this is how it is to end for us here practically--in the comfort of our hearts, and stablishment in every good word and work; the everlasting comfort realized everywhere, amid the manifold cares of the household, in the honest trade of the city, in the pure speech and godly habits. God knows all, and that is enough; so I can go on with a quiet, yea, singing heart, seeking that steadfastness in every thing and place which the Father has promised. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The eternal comforters

The religion of Jesus Christ is one of consolation. It comes with sunshine, with help, with hopefulness. It is declared on many a page of Scripture, as in the letter of St. Paul, to be full of eternal consolations--consolations taken from that aspect of life which is afforded by looking at it from the immortal and spiritual side. Look then, at some of the elements of this eternal consolation which God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ minister to us in our sorrow.


I.
Our sorrow is greatly enhanced by the mystery of life. If we could only understand the reason of it, it would be easier to bear; but the tears seem to be so unnecessary, the wounding so needless, the pain and anguish so inexplicable! Life is a tangled skein, and we can get no clue. Whence we came, why we are here, what there is yet to come, we cannot comprehend. In this mystery and perplexity there comes One who says, “Trust Me. He does not, indeed, throw scientific light on the mystery of life; He does not tell us what life means; but He says, “Trust Me.” And we look up into chat face, and that which looks down into ours inspires us with confidence; and we lay hold of that hand, and the grasp of that hand makes the thrill and throb of faith run through the very nerves of our being; and though we do not understand, and are still perplexed, yet we drink in confidence through the bright eyes that look into ours, and through the strong hand that grasps ours. It is not a philosopher who speaks to us, who has seen a little deeper into life than we have; nor is it a poet who speaks to us, who has gotten a little deeper insight into it than we have: it is the Witness-Bearer, who out of the eternal life has come, and into the eternal life is going. His is the witness; and in this is the root and ground of all that Christianity has offered us--faith, not in a philosopher, a poet, a theologian even, but in a Witness-Bearer.


II.
But this mystery of life does not so greatly enhance the pain of life as the fragmentariness of it. It is not without semblance of reason, at least, Chat the broken column is put up in our graveyard--life seems to be such a series of separated fragments, so broken, so discordant I We look up the mountainside, and we see not only the top enfolded in the cloud, but all above is thunder and lightning. And here Christ comes to us, and brings us this further message: “Life is not fragmentary: there is no break. You see the river flowing till it reaches the cleft in the mountain, but it goes on: you see your companion entering the dark cavern of the mountainside; it is but a tunnel; presently he will emerge into a fairer, brighter land beyond.” Life is like a song; and the singer goes from us, and the song grows dimmer and more indistinct, and then fades away; but the singer has not stopped his singing, though our eyes cannot follow him into the unknown whither he has gone. We get heartbroken, until we turn and find here this word brought to us--“That loved one has gone to the mountains, where there is neither pain, nor sorrow, nor temptation, but the everlasting sunlight and the undying song: follow thou on.” Instead of the long, long wail of despair, this message of the ever-living Christ has put the throb of exhilaration and the song of triumph!


III.
But the mystery and fragmentariness of life are not so hard to bear as the injustice of it. The best men suffer most, and the worst men suffer least. From the days of David down, men have looked thus at life, and felt the cruelty and seeming wickedness of it. So they have thought life ruled by a demoniac spirit--the god of this world; or life made up merely of the conflicting forces of human life, ruled by chance, with might makes right, and the strongest is the best, and a survival only of the fittest; or that it is ruled by cruel wrath and hate and jealousy--furies that pursue men, and are let loose upon them, because the gods are envious of their prosperity and their happiness; at all events, that life is a chaos over which there broods no Spirit of God bringing forth light, but only a spirit of darkness bringing forth darkness. But He who has shed on the mystery of life the light of trust, and He who has shed on the fragmentariness of life the light of hope, sheds on this awful unfaith in God--this awful sense of injustice and wrong against which we protest in vain endeavour, the light of love; for this is Christ’s declaration everywhere and ever--the devil is not the master of this world, nor furies, nor a god of cruelty, but Infinite and Eternal Love is working out the web of human destiny. There is a higher and better life. The very thought of it is heaven. Blessed be God, even our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (L. Abbott, D. D.)

Everpresent comfort

More than a thousand years ago a company of refugees, escaping Attila’s dreadful devastation of Northern Italy, settled on one of the muddy islands at the head of the Adriatic, and there founded the city of Torcello, and at a later time built up the magnificent commercial empire of Venice. The ruins of the old cathedral still stand in the ruined city, built by those stout-hearted men in a time of struggle and discouragement, as a symbol and stronghold of their religious faith; and in the cathedral the noticeable thing is the openness of the windows and the abundance of sunlight. None of the Gothic windows of the Northern churches or of the gloomy shadows clouding the high-arched ceiling; but all is luminous, bright, and fair, with not even dark colours in the frescoes. It was built by men of sorrows, but they were men who believed in God; and, therefore, while there was fear and depression enough around them, they made their house of worship joyous with all the beauty and cheer of Italian sunshine, and in this spirit they wrung from disaster the beginning of a grand success. The spirit that pervades a man’s dally life is the measure of his real religion. He may be careless of sect and ceremony, but if he can carry heavy burdens with a light heart and meet calamities with serene courage, it must be that in the depth of his soul he has real faith, which, like a fountain in an oasis, keeps everything sweet and blooming. He may never put his faith into words, like a great theologian, or build it up into beautiful architecture, like the brave people of Torcello; but, nevertheless, it is known and read of all men in the beauty and courage of his life, which may be more eloquent than, any body of divinity and more impressive than cathedral or stately music. For courage and cheerfulness are, after all, the sincerest possible confession of man’s real belief that all things are working together for good, and that Divine Providence is ever changing the darkness into light. Good hope through grace--


I.
Hope. No man since the Fall can be satisfied with the present. Here is always either some evil pressing on us, some capacity of enjoyment unfilled, or some desire for the perpetuity of what we possess, which passes beyond the present into the future. This expectation and desire of future good is hope. Its object is the unseen. This hope is--

1. The spring of all activity.

2. With regard to sinners under the sentence of the law, and in prospect of eternity, it is indispensable to any rational peace.


II.
Good hope, i.e., well founded, and directed towards what is truly good.

1. Some men are insensible and indifferent with regard to their destiny. This state of mind is--

(1) Irrational.

(2) Unsatisfying.

(3) Precarious.

(4) Destructive.

2. Others have a hope, but it is not good. It is founded on--

(1) The general mercy of God.

(2) Their relation to the Church.

(3) The assumption that all are to be saved.

(4) Spurious religious experience.

(5) The assumption of goodness.

The general basis of a false hope is error either as to the purpose of God in reference to the punishment of sin, or as to the conditions on which exemption from sin is promised, or as to our having fulfilled or experienced those conditions.

3. A good hope is therefore--

(1) A hope founded on the truth, on the promise of God and the work of Christ.

(2) One which we have a right to entertain, i.e., which is the genuine fruit of the Spirit; not an unauthorized anticipation on our part, but one which is inseparable from faith.

(3) One which has for its object the infinite blessings of redemption, sometimes Christ’s coming, sometimes the resurrection, sometimes the glory of God. Towards this the whole creation looks forward with earnest expectation.


III.
Through grace, i.e., a hope which God graciously gives, and gives in the exercise of His grace. God gives us this hope:--

1. In that He promises to us the blessings which are the object of the hope.

2. Because He produces in our minds the exercise of our hope.


IV.
Evidence that a hope is good.

1. That it has a Scriptural foundation; i.e., that it rests on the promise of God clearly revealed in His Word.

2. That it has Scriptural blessings for its objects; not earthly good or millennial prosperity, but conformity to Christ, and the enjoyment of Him forever.

3. That it sanctifies the soul, makes us pure even as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

4. That it is the fruit of faith.


V.
This hope.

1. Is a helmet.

2. Is an anchor.

3. Is to the soul what wings are to the eagle.

It elevates it above the world, raises it to heaven, fells us with its spirit. (C. Hodge, D. D.)

Good hope through grace

Faith, hope, and love--the three master principles of the true believer--are principles acted on in worldly things, by every man, every day. You need, then, no definition of the chief term in our text--“a good hope through grace.” My theme is the best of hopes, a heavenly hope, a hope which cannot fail nor disappoint you--hope from God and in God, “good hope through grace.” Such a hope was enjoyed by the Thessalonian saints. And this, in connection with their other gospel blessings, is here set forth in awful contrast with an opposite class of characters and destiny--the character and destiny of those who “received not the love of truth” to their soul’s salvation, “but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The gospel hope, then, is a “good hope.” Why “good”? It is good, I observe--


I.
In its objects. These are set forth to us in Scripture with much variety of phraseology. In 2 Thessalonians 2:14, just cited, they are designated in one comprehensive phrase, “the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, as in Ephesians 6:17, “The hope of salvation”; Romans 5:2, “And rejoice in hope of the glory of God”; Colossians 1:5, “The hope laid up for you in heaven”; Titus 1:2, “Hope of eternal life”; Hebrews 6:19, a hope “which entereth into that within the vail”; 1 Peter 1:3-4, the hope of “an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you”; and verse 13, “Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In this last-cited passage, as in Titus 2:13 and 1 John 3:2, the realization of this hope is connected with the glorious advent of the returning Saviour: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”: “We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” Other passages might be adduced to set forth the nature of the believer’s hope, and to prove it “good,” from the goodness of its objects. It were much indeed, it were a “good hope” for man--a sorrower in a sorrowing world--to have before him a heaven, where sorrow and sighing shall have fled away. It were much, it were a good hope, for man, a sinner, with corruption within and conflict without, to have before him an inheritance undefiled; the victor’s palm and the victor’s song. And these, all these, the believer’s hope embraces. Yet, not these only. His eternity is to be spent not alone within reach of God, or near God; but in God’s very presence, with God. His glory is to come not only from God; in a yet loftier and more wondrous sense, it is “the glory of God.”


II.
But the hope which is engaging us is “good” by reason not only of its object, but, of its security. It shall assuredly be realized: it shall not confound nor make ashamed. Consider its foundation: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2); which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:17, etc.). If “hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” hope confounded maketh it desolate. In the “good hope” of the Christian, uncertainty is no element. It is a deferred hope, a waiting hope, a tried hope; but not an uncertain hope, not a speculative hope. It rests not upon probability. Its security is the word, the character, the nature of the unchanging and unchangeable Jehovah.


III.
The hope of which we speak is a “good hope” in its effects. Man’s need is two-fold. He is a sinner, and, as a sinner, a sufferer. This hope meets alike his sin and his sorrow.

1. For, observe, it is a sanctifying hope. “Every man,” writes St. John, “that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Thus, like the faith on which it rests, hope is a principle of no secondary influence in furthering the great work of holiness in the believer’s soul, and in his growth in grace. The heir of glory must grow in grace.

2. But this hope is, further, a sustaining hope. It sustains under trial. It sustains, too, in the spiritual conflict. And this good hope sustains in death.


IV.
But it is further characterized as “a good hope through grace.” It is “through grace” in a two-fold sense, as resting on grace, conveyed, that is, through a covenant of grace, even “the gospel of the grace of God”; and as imparted by grace to the individual believer. It is based on this: that for man, for me an undone sinner, powerless for my own recovery, with no ransom to atone, no escape from hell, God, in the richness of His unbought, unasked, undesired mercy, has provided a free and full salvation; that a propitiation has been made by Jesus the Lamb of God, which is of infinite efficacy for my pardon and reconciliation and peace. They are short and simple words--“good hope through grace.” They bespeak the truth received, the gospel tasted in its power and sweetness, Christ known and won, Christ dwelling in the sinner, the sinner dwelling in Christ. The words of the same apostle to the Ephesians present the gloomy contrast, “having no hope.” Such was the state of the Ephesians and Thessalonians in their heathen darkness. Why? They were “without Christ.” (J. C. Miller, M. A.)

A superlative gift


I.
The subject--“a good hope.”

1. Because it has a good Author-God.

2. Because it has a good object--the salvation of the soul by our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Because it has a good foundation.

4. Because it has a good influence, for it tranquillizes the mind, purifies it, and establishes it.


II.
The source--“through grace.”

1. Grace is the spring from which it flows.

2. It is applied by the influence of grace, without human merit.

3. The objects on which it fixes are undeserving. (R. Cope, LL. D.)

A good hope


I.
It is good in its nature.

1. As to its object.

2. As to its foundation.

3. As to its effects.


II.
It is good in its origin.

1. Derives existence from God.

2. Man by nature is destitute of hope.

3. God communicates the principle.

4. God maintains it.


III.
It is good in its importance.

1. In regard to man’s comfort.

2. In regard to his duty.

3. In regard to his safety. (E. Martin.)

Good hope through grace


I.
What it includes.

1. A serious, believing, habitual regard to a future state as represented in the Bible. No atheist denying God or deist rejecting the Scriptures can have it.

2. Preparatory to this hope there must be a humbling conviction of sin, and our danger and helplessness, for the good hope implies deliverance therefrom. Those can know nothing of hope who have known nothing of fear.

3. It implies an acquaintance with the gospel (Colossians 1:23) for it is derived from gospel promises, and is connected with gospel faith.

4. The term “good” distinguishes it from every other kind of hope (Job 8:13-14; Job 27:8; Proverbs 8:32).


II.
Why it is called a good hope.

1. Its object is good--not worldly honour, filthy lucre, sensual delight, but the pure, spiritual, exalted felicities of the heavenly world.

2. Its foundation is good--not the stumbling stone of human merit, but the adamant rock of Divine love.

3. Its effect is good. The man who has it is the better as well as the happier for it (1 John 3:3; Psalms 119:166). (G. Burder.)

Good hope through grace


I.
The gift.

1. What is this good hope?

(1) Hope is sometimes put for the thing hoped for (Proverbs 13:12; Colossians 1:5) such as

(a) The coming of Christ to our comfort (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:13).

(b) The resurrection (Acts 2:26; Acts 24:15; Acts 26:6-8).

(c) The vision of God (1 John 3:2).

(d) Our heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:4; Titus 1:2; Romans 5:2).

(2) Sometimes hope is put for the reasons and causes of hoping; and so he who gives me solid reasons for hoping gives me good hope (Hebrews 7:19; Romans 15:4).

(3) The act or grace of hope is good in respect of itself (Lamentations 3:26) or the measure of it. That is good hope which is most able to do its office (1 Peter 1:3; Hebrews 6:11). Briefly the grace of hope is two-fold.

(a) There is a hope which is the immediate fruit of regeneration, and is a constitutive part of the new creature (1 Peter 1:3).

(b) There is a hope which is the fruit of experience, and belongs to the seasoned Christian, who has approved his fidelity to God, and made trial of God’s fidelity to him (Romans 5:4)..

2. The effects of this hope.

(1) Support in troubles. When we are persuaded of a happy issue, we are the better kept from fainting (Philippians 1:19-20).

(2) Encouragement in working. It is hope that sets the whole world a-work (1 Corinthians 9:10) and the Christian (Acts 26:7).

3. This hope is the free gift of God.

(1) It is His gift. He not only gives us objective grace--the mercy of the gospel, or its warrant in the promises, but subjective grace by His Holy Spirit whose work is necessary.

(a) By way of illumination that we may see what is the hope of His calling (Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 1:9). A short-sighted man cannot see things at a distance; not from any defect in the object, but through the fault in his eyes.

(b) By way of inclination that one may seek after these things as our portion and happiness (Acts 16:14; Galatians 5:5).

(c) By way of excitation (Romans 15:13).

(2) It is free gift.

(a) The matter of hope is God’s free, undeserved mercy (Psalms 130:7). Without this there were no hope, and therefore the saints make this their anchor hold (Psalms 13:5; Jude 1:21).

(b) The grace of hope is the fruit of the Lord’s mercy; such are our ill deservings that nothing else could incline Him to give it us (1 Peter 1:3).


II.
What encouragement it is to prayer that God has given us a good hope through grace.

1. God would not invite and raise a hope to disappoint it (Psalms 119:49).

2. He who gives us the hope will give us all things necessary to the thing hoped for (1 Peter 5:10).

3. Those who have received good hope through grace have these to rest upon.

(1) God’s nature as He is merciful and gracious (Judges 13:23).

(2) His promise, so that we may trust His faithfulness (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 32:40). (T. Manton, D. D.)

The inspiration of hope

Hope is an active grace. It is like the spring in the watch: it sets all the wheels of the soul in motion. Hope of a crop makes the husbandman sow his seed; hope of victory makes the soldier fight; and a true hope of glory makes a Christian vigorously pursue glory. (T. Watson.)

The inspiration of hope

The hope of Christ is a staff in the hands of the weary before the arm of Christ is stretched out on which he maybe privileged to lean. Hope is a marvellous inspiration which every heart confesses in some season of extremest peril. It can put nerve into the languid, and fleetness into the feet of exhaustion. Let the slim and feathery palm grove be dimly descried, though ever so remotely, and the caravan will on, spite of the fatigue of the traveller and the simoom’s blinding, to where, by the fringy rootlets, the desert waters flow. Let there glimmer one star through the murky waste of night, and though the spars be shattered, and the sails be riven, and the hurricane howls for its prey, the brave sailor will be lashed to the helm, and see already, through the tempests breaking, calm waters and a spotless sky. Oh! who is there, however hapless his lot or forlorn his surroundings, who is beyond the influence of this choicest of earth’s comforters--this faithful friend which survives the flight of riches, and the wreck of reputation, and the break of health, and even the loss of dear and cherished friends. (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

Hope without grace

A “hope” is to some like a passport, which one keeps quietly in his pocket till the time for the journey, and then produces it. Or like life preservers, which hang useless around the vessel until the hour of danger comes, when the captain calls on every passenger to save himself; and then they are taken down and blown up, and each man, with his hope under his arm, strikes out for the land: and so such men would keep their religious hope hanging until death comes; and then take it down and inflate it, that it may buoy them up, and float them over the dark river to the heavenly shore. Or as the inhabitants of Block Island keep their boats hauled high upon the beach, and only use them now and then, when they would cross to the mainland; so such men keep their hopes high and dry upon the shore of life, only to be used when they have to cross the flood that divides this island of time from the mainland of eternity. (H. W. Beecher.)

Hope and steadfastness

A good Methodist in a prayer meeting said that when, many years since, he crossed the ocean he was much in the habit of looking over the ship’s side, particularly near the prow, and watching the vessel as she steadily ploughed her way through the waves. Just under the bowsprit was the image of a human face. The face to him came to be invested with wondrous interest. Whatever the hour or the weather that face seemed ever steadfastly looking to port. Sometimes in great tempests the waves would completely submerge the face of his friend. But as soon as the vessel recovered from its lurch, on looking again over the ship’s side, the placid face was still seen faithfully looking out for the port. “And so,” he exclaimed, “I humbly trust it is in my own case. Yea, whatever the trials of the past, the toils and disappointments of the present, by the grace of God I am still looking out for port, and not long hence I anticipate a triumphant and abundant entrance.” (W. Baxendale.)

Verses 16-17

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father

Divine love and its gifts

It is an ill wind which blows no one any good.

We owe this prayer to the needless alarms of the Thessalonians.


I.
The blessed fact of the Divine love. This is a fact not to be learned from a dictionary or uttered in speech, but to be felt.

1. God hath loved us.

(1) The text does not say that God pitied us, although that would be true. You may pity a person whom you dislike.

(2) Nor does it say that God has had mercy on us. A man is merciful to his east, to his enemies, but it does not follow that he loves them.

(3) Nor is the word benevolence. A mother is not benevolent to her child, a bridegroom to his bride.

(4) Theologians talk of God’s love of complacency, but that is too cold.

(5) We must keep to the simple term, love. You know, mother, how you love the dear child in your arms. It seems part of yourself. Now, as God has united us to Himself by cords of love He thinks of us as He thinks of Himself.

2. He hath loved us, so insignificant, frail, foolish, sinful, and therefore so uncomely, ungrateful, provoking, deserving to be abhorred. We can understand His love to apostles, martyrs, etc., but that He should love us is wonderful.

3. This love is the great fountain of our Spiritual blessings. What is called the source of the Thames is a tiny rivulet; its real source is the whole watershed. But suppose the Thames a full-grown river from one fountain head, what a sight it would be. Now, the mercy of God to us in Christ leaps in all its fulness from the infinite depths of God’s love.

4. The apostle joins the name of the Lord Jesus with that of God the Father, denoting not only equality of being, but holy concert in all that concerns our well-being. Christ is the gift of the Father’s love, but Jesus loves His own.

5. Christ is here put first because He is first to us in our experience. We began our dealings with heaven not by going first to the Father, but to the Son.

6. Christ is “ours.” Paul might have written, “the Lord,” etc., but when he was testifying of this great love he must use a word of possession. Faith takes hold of Jesus and says, “He is all my salvation, and all my desire.”

7. This love enables us, too, to say. “Our Father” (1 John 3:1).

8. We are not told when that love began, only, “hath loved us.” He loved us when we first came to Him repenting, when we were at the swine trough, ere we had a being, ere the world was formed, from everlasting.


II.
The manifestation of this love.

1. Everlasting consolation. He found us wretched, when the arrows of conviction were sticking in our hearts; then He came to us with His consolations. Since then consolation has always followed on the heels of tribulation. What are our consolations?

(1) That God has forgiven us.

(2) That His promises are Yea and Amen in Christ.

(3) That all things work together for our good.

(4) That because Christ lives we shall live also, and live with Him.

2. Good hope. It is good because based on a good foundation. The fanatic’s hopes will pass away with the vapours which produced them, but the believer’s hope is founded in grace. Why is it, then, that some believers’ hopes flicker? Because they get away from a hope in grace and look towards themselves.


III.
The prayer flowing out of this.

1. That God would comfort your hearts. This is of the utmost importance. Cheerfulness ought to be the atmosphere you breathe, and if you believe that God loves you, you cannot but be happy.

2. That he would stablish us in every good word and work. This establishment is derived from the consciousness of God’s love. Don’t be disheartened at the discouraging signs of the times. God loves you; work and bear witness for Him. Dark nights are but the prelude to bright days. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Free grace a motive for free giving


I.
It is of the utmost importance that believers should enjoy consolation. Every commander knows that if he has not his soldiers in good heart, there may be a great many of them, and they may be well trained, but the battle is not likely to be won. This importance is seen--

1. In the very existence of the text. It is the prayer of an inspired man.

2. In the fact that Christ is called upon “Himself,” without any intermediate agency, and “God, even our Father” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).

3. In that it affects the Christian’s heart. It is well to have a strong hand, how else shall we labour? to have a firm tread, how else shall we stand? Yet these are secondary matters compared with a healthy heart (John 14:1).

4. Because it is needful to prevent impatience and other evils. Perhaps it was the lack of comfort which led certain of the Thessalonians to preach the immediate coming of the Lord; their impatience excited the wish, and the wish the assertion. When men lose the present comfort of plain gospel doctrines, they are apt to begin speculating (2 Thessalonians 3:5). Laziness and despondency lead many to say, “Why are His chariots so long in coming?”

5. Because it promotes fruitfulness (2 Thessalonians 2:17). When we are not happy in the Lord we do not give ourselves heartily to His service (2 Thessalonians 3:13).


II.
Gospel consolation is freely bestowed.

1. It is described as a gift; and nothing can be freer than a gift. We have purchased nothing; what have we to purchase it with?

2. This freeness is seen in every part of it.

(1) It covers the past, “Which hath loved us.” Why? The sole reply is, “Even so father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Shall not the bridegroom elect his own bride.

(2) As for the present, “He hath given us everlasting consolation.” The pardon and perfect righteousness of Christ, lie in, union to, marriage with Him is ours, assuredly as a gift; how could it be otherwise?

(3) As for the future, we have “good hope through grace,” in which there is not a trace of legal claim. It comes not by way of reward, but of Divine favour.

3. This freeness is shown by the persons from whom the consolation comes. The comfort of the gospel must be free since it is brought to us by Christ, and God our Father. A father does not pay wages to his children, his gifts are freely bestowed out of the love of his fatherly heart. What father expects to be paid for what he does for his sons and daughters?

4. This freeness is shown by the source of consolation--the Divine love. What can there be in me for God to love? Love is unpurchaseable. Consolation is “through grace.”


III.
Since the consolations of God’s love have been so freely bestowed, they should lead us to a life of holy benevolence, We ought to be free in our giving to others, since God has been so free in His giving to us.

1. In every benevolent enterprise Christian men should take a hearty interest (2 Thessalonians 2:17).

2. This interest should be shown in actions as well as words. In the best MSS. “work” comes before “word.” Some people think that word should be everything and work nothing. These professors speak a great deal about what they will do, talk much about what others ought to do, and more about what others fail to do.

3. This should be done without pressure. No one could lay constraint upon God to bless His people; no pressure was put upon Christ to redeem them. Even so should men give to God out of an overflowing heart. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Everlasting consolation

1. The prayer passes by a sudden transition from the human duty to the Divine grace.

2. The Lord Jesus is the Being addressed, but with a peculiar relation to the Father. In only one other instance are Father and Son united by a verb in the singular, and in no other instance is His name placed first. This should be noticed by those who hold that Paul’s estimate of his Saviour only reached by degrees an exaggerated loyalty.

3. It is a rule that God should be addressed under an aspect appropriate to the specific supplication. The God of all grace turns a countenance infinitely varied towards His petitioners. Here the apostle is about to ask that the Thessalonians may be consoled, strengthened, and established, and accordingly, with exquisite precision, he calls upon Christ, and God as the everlasting Consoler and Strengthener through grace.


I.
The invocation. God in Christ is invoked as having loved us.

1. And more generally.

(1) This is St. Paul’s first allusion to the supreme and ultimate source of redemption. It is the first clear declaration that in the economy of human salvation love has the preeminence. The only saying that could surpass this was reserved for St. John in his first Epistle, the last document of revelation.

(2) The link between the love that gave and the gift itself is grace. The love of God must by its very nature impart. There is something of grace in every Divine gift; but grace is the medium of the gifts of the love of God as they reach us through redemption.

2. More particularly in the gift of love.

(1) The gift is two-fold and comprises the whole sum of our benefit in Christ. The blessing is an “everlasting consolation” as it comes from God, and a “good hope” as we receive it.

(2) “Everlasting consolation” is a phrase nowhere else used. It implies the healing of the great wound of sin, and the removal of its consequences; an eternal assuagement of a sorrow that would otherwise know no end.

(a) Nothing is more certain than that of itself the misery of sin must last forever; it has in its nature no resources of cure, no elements of change.

(b) The consolation is eternal, unlike the beggarly and fleeting solaces of time, in which it is the joy that endureth for a night, while sorrow comes in the morning. It is an eternal consolation springing from an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).

(c) But it is treasured up only for those who flee to it for refuge. Hence adjective of boundless meaning is elsewhere applied to the exact opposite “everlasting destruction.”

(3) The “good hope” describes that part of the gift which has reference to the future, and is another unparalleled expression, although it has near approximations. As the Epistle to the Hebrews supplies “eternal redemption,” so it supplies “bringing in of a better hope.” This hope embraces the whole Christian benediction, for such blessings as are received are only earnests of something better. It is a hope good in itself; “better” in relation to the promises given to the fathers; it is really the best inheritance that God can give, Christ merit, or we receive.


II.
The prayer.

1. Generally we understand the purport of a prayer by its immediate occasion. Confidence within and stability without were the graces that the apostle aimed to strengthen (verse 2). In the former Epistle the coming of death was the disturbing thought; in this it is the coming of the Lord of death foreshadowed by the “man of sin.” Hence the abundance of hortatory language in both. But a higher comforter than Paul was necessary. Hence the sudden turn, “May the Lord Himself comfort your hearts.”

2. The comfort prayed for is not what we call by the name. It is always in Scripture at once exhortation to the soul and invigoration as the result. The heart here is not the seat of the feelings, but the centre of the man; and the inner man is comforted when words are spoken to him by the Spirit which strengthens his own energies (John 6:63).

3. The idea of establishment in Christian life is as familiar in this Epistle as that of consolation. By keeping the heart strong in His consolation, the Lord stablishes the life in His obedience. But all is dependent on firm faith in Christian doctrine (verse 15). Whatever scruple may arise on this subject is obviated by the reflection that “word” and “work” are here linked into one idea. The Christian life is one of entire goodness, based upon and growing out of perfect truth. Conclusion: A touching comment on our prayer is given in chap. 3:8. It is as if the Divine Spirit had without delay, “while he was yet speaking,” ratified the request. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Verse 17

2 Thessalonians 2:17

Comfort your hearts and stablish you in every good word and work

Divine comfort


I.

Comfort.

1. What it is.

(1) Our natural refreshment. We cannot enjoy our temporal mercies with any delight without God’s blessing (Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:13; Acts 14:17).

(2) Our support in troubles (Psa 119:50; 2 Corinthians 1:4; Acts 9:31).

(a) God can give His people comfort in the greatest tribulation (Isaiah 12:1-6). As long as we have God to stand by us and the promise of eternal life trouble will be counterbalanced (Rom 5:2-3; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Isaiah 40:1-2; Matthew 9:2).

(b) There is special allowance of comfort for God’s people in affliction (1 Peter 4:14). As the mother keeps most with the sick child, so God looks to the afflicted. This is the difference between God and the world; the world ever runs after those that are prosperous, as rivers into the sea, where there are waters enough.

(c) Our comforts carry proportion with our sorrows (2 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 10:13).

2. What it is to have our hearts comforted. The heart is the proper seat of spiritual comfort (Psalms 4:7). God’s comfort is like a soaking shower that goes to the root, whereas the dew only wets the surface. Other comforts refresh the outward man. The joy of the world makes a great noise but leaves the heart sorrowful. God in dealing with the heart uses means, but His Spirit works immediately by--

(1) Opening the understanding to see the grounds of comfort (Romans 15:13).

(2) By raising the heart to the lively act of joy (Acts 13:52).

3. In what sense it is of God.

(1) When it is allowed by Him (Ecclesiastes 5:18).

(2) When the matter is provided by Him (John 14:1).

(3) When by these means He worketh comfort (Romans 14:17).


II.
Why this is of God.

1. Because God challenges as His own the right to comfort the heart (Job 34:29).

2. Though the grounds of comfort be never so clear, yet if God concur not, we find not the effect.

3. Because of the advantages springing from this source. Our comforts--

(1) Come with more authority, and silence all our doubts and fears (Psalms 94:19). If comfort be made of our own fancy it will be like a spider’s web that is weaved out of its own bowels, but is easily swept away.

(2) Are full and strong. For God works like Himself, and therefore can and will support His people in the greatest difficulties.

(a) They are full (Act 13:52; 2 Corinthians 7:4; John 15:11).

(b) Strong (Hebrews 6:18).


III.
The uses.

1. To reprove Christians for over-much dejection and fainting in troubles. Why are we so much cast down? Is there no balm in Gilead or comfort in God?

2. If all comfort be of God, let us go to Him for it.

(1) See that you are qualified for it. Comfort follows holiness, as heat fire. The Spirit is first a Sanctifier and then a Comforter (Ephesians 1:13-14).

(2) Expect not a singular way of comfort besides the Word, prayer, Lord’s supper, etc.

3. Consider the ends for which God gives comfort--to fortify us against the enemies of our salvation. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Divine comfort

When a man walketh in the sun, if his face be towards it, he hath nothing before him but bright shining light and comfortable heat; but let him once tram his back to the sun what hath he before him but a shadow? And what is a shadow but the privation of light and heat of the sun? Yea: it is but to behold his own shadow, defrauding himself of the other. Thus there is no true wisdom, happiness, comfort, but in beholding the countenance of God; look from that and we lose these blessings. And what shall we gain? A shadow, an empty image of ourselves instead of the reconciled face of God. (J. Spencer.)

Establishment


I.
What it is. Confirmation in the grace we have received. It must be distinguished--

1. With respect to the power wherewith we are assisted. There is--

(1) Habitual confirmation, when habits of grace are more settled and increased.

(a) Faith: for we stand by faith (Rom 11:20; 1 Peter 1:5 : Luke 22:32).

(b) Love (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

(c) Hope (Hebrews 6:19).

(2) Actual establishment, when these habits are fortified and quickened by the actual influence, of God; otherwise neither stability of resolutions (Psalms 73:2), nor of gracious habits (Revelation 3:2) will support us.

2. With respect to the matter about which it is conversant--stability.

(1) In the doctrine of faith (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Jeremiah 6:16). We ought to be well settled lest our fluctuating opinions breed unbelief in others and shame to ourselves. Yet while we cry up constancy we must not cherish prejudice which shuts the door on the light.

(2) In every good work, or holiness of life. Here the greatest establishment is needed. It is ill when the mind is tainted, but worse when the heart is alienated (1 Thessalonians 3:13). This is difficult.

(a) Because of the contrariety of the principles that are within us (Galatians 5:17). The garrison is not free from danger that has an enemy lodged within.

(b) Because it is more hard to continue in conversion than to be converted. The latter is more passive, the former active.

3. With respect to the subject in which it is seated: the soul with its faculties.

(1) The mind is established when we have a clear, certain, and full apprehension of the truth of the gospel (Colossians 2:2).

(2) The will is established when it is firmly and thoroughly resolved for God against sin (Acts 11:23; Psalms 27:4; 1 Peter 4:1).

(3) The affections are established when they stir us up to do what the mind is convinced of, and the will resolved upon as to the necessary duties in order to eternal happiness (Psalms 119:32).

(a) Love fills us with delight (Psa 40:8; 1 John 5:3; Psalms 112:1).

(b) Hope bears us up (Hebrews 3:6).

4. With respect to the uses which it serves.

(1) Doing the will of God with delight, cheerfulness, and constancy (Ephesians 3:16).

(2) Bearing afflictions with honour to God and safety to ourselves (Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:11).

(3) Withstanding temptations (Ephesians 6:10).

5. With respect to the degree, it is such a strengthening of the soul as prevents not only our fall but our shaking (1 Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 1:23).


II.
How needful it is.

1. Man at best is but a creature. As providence is a continual creation, so stablishing grace is the continuance of the new creation (2 Corinthians 1:21).

2. The indisposition of our natures.

(1) To every good word. The truths of the gospel are supernatural and must be settled and preserved by Divine power (Ephesians 2:8).

(2) To every good work (Jeremiah 14:10; Psalms 95:10).

3. In regard of those oppositions that are made against us after conversion. Satan pursues us ever (Col 1:13, cf. 1 John 4:4); therefore there must be the same power to stablish us in grace that first brought us into a state of grace.

4. The saints miscarry when God withdraws His supporting grace, as Peter, David, etc. (Psalms 51:1-19; 2 Chronicles 32:31).


III.
Why it is to be sought of God.

1. He only is able (Romans 16:25; Jude 1:24; 2 Timothy 1:12).

2. He is willing (2 Corinthians 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:17-18).

3. He has promised (Psalms 73:23).

4. This is the experience of saints (Psalms 94:18).

Conclusion: Look up to God for establishment.

1. When you begin to decline and grow indifferent in the practice of godliness. If grace be weak, you must get it strengthened (Psalms 17:5; Psalms 119:133).

2. In unsettled times when we are full of fears, and think we shall never hold out (Psalms 16:8). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Sustained by Christ

There are men and women here who would have been dead twenty years ago but for Jesus. They have gone through trial enough to exhaust ten times their physical strength. Their property went, their health went, their families were scattered. God only knows what they suffered. They are an amazement to themselves that they have been able to stand it. They look at their once happy home, surrounded by all comfort. Gone! They think of the time when they used to rise strong in the morning and walk vigorously down the street, and had experienced a health they thought inexhaustible. Gone! Everything but Jesus. He has pitied them. His eye has watched them. His omnipotence has defended them. Yes, He has been with them. They have gone through disaster, and He was a pillar of fire by night. They have gone across stormy Galilee, but Christ had His foot on the neck of the storm. (T. De Witt Talmage.)



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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Thessalonians 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/2-thessalonians-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.