25th Sunday after Pentecost
November 6, 2016
- First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 | New Living Translation
2 Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
5 Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you?
2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
13 As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth. 14 He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope,17 comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.
Stand Firm and Keep a Strong Grip
This morning we take another look at the 2nd letter that Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica. It is a short letter, just over two pages in my Bible (and I use a larger print). For the most part, Paul is writing this letter as an encouragement to the church there. Here is another church that is enduring persecution. As a point of interest, this Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I will be preaching a message called “Blessed Are the Persecuted…” The Church has been persecuted from its very beginning. In Acts, the Apostles are put on trial – and their response? They are rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41.) The Church continues to be persecuted – it has been persecuted for the last 2,000 years and, I believe, will be persecuted until Jesus returns – which is one of the themes in today’s scripture.
Paul is sending this letter to the church at Thessalonica to strengthen the believers. Apparently there were some teachings going around saying that the Day of the Lord – or the Second Coming – had already begun. Those who were teaching this were saying they had a new revelation or a spiritual vision. They even went as far as to say that they had a letter from the Apostles. These who were teaching this were sly. Paul reminds the believers, don’t believe them – there are those who are trying to deceive you. Paul tells them that day is not here. “Don’t be fooled by what they say” Paul writes. I wish I could say that it’s different today, but it isn’t. Most of us are well aware of the claims that some have made about the Day of the Lord. We are all too familiar with the false claims. Even as a young teenager I remember one of the leaders inferring that Jesus would be coming back in the next year. Yes, we try to make sense of the persecution – we try to make sense of the Scripture – and yet the most important thing, I believe is, to be ready ourselves. Jesus is coming back – of that I am sure. Will he come back in my lifetime? I’m not sure – it does seem more and more like the world that Paul is describing in this letter, and yet it is not my job to determine that.
What is my job in all of this? Paul lays it out in the second part of the scripture this morning. First, Paul calls the church his brothers and sisters in Christ. He is thankful for the salvation that came to them. I love the way Paul writes, “We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation – a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.” Paul reminds us that salvation is not just a ticket to heaven or a “Get out of Hell Free” card. No, salvation is so much more than that. God gave us salvation so that we can live lives set apart for his work – that we can live lives that are pleasing to him – and lives that are a witness to the Good News that we have experienced. I love the fact that Paul reminds us who have received this Good News that we don’t have to wait till heaven to share in God’s glory, no it is something that we can experience in the here and now – despite the circumstances – despite the way it seems the world is going.
For that reason Paul reminds the church to “Stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teach we passed on to you both in person and by letter.” Originally I looked at this text on the computer, but while I am writing this devotional, I keep my Bible beside me, so that I don’t have to keep switching windows or scrolling back and forth. As I opened my Bible, I saw that these words were underlined.
“Stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you.”
In these days, in these trying days, we need to know what the Word of God says. We need to know what it means to live holy lives – lives that are pleasing to God. We need to stand firm on solid teaching. Be careful of the things that you hear – be discerning. Be wary of those who say they have a new revelation – a new vision – especially when it doesn’t line up with God’s Word. Keep a strong grip on the teachings of God – stand firm in these days.
I love Paul’s benediction of sorts to close out this devotional:
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.