Lesson 11 *September 8-14
Promise to the Persecuted
2 Thess. 1:1-12Sabbath Afternoon
Read for This Week’s Study: 2 Thess. 1:1-12, John 1:18, Rom. 2:5, 12:19, Rev. 16:4-7, 20:1-6, John 14:1-3.
Memory Text: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11, ESV).
Key Thought: The second coming of Jesus is the culmination of all Christian hope.
Because written correspondence could be slow, a church that wanted to talk to Paul had to track him down and get a message to him, not always an easy process, to be sure. Once contact was finally made, the apostle would then dictate a response and have it hand-delivered back to the church. The process might take months. In the meantime false beliefs would have time to develop and spread.
This seems to have happened in Thessalonica, where new problems arose in the church. These problems may even have become worse due to the misapplication of what Paul wrote in the first letter. Second Thessalonians was Paul’s attempt to further correct the situation.
Paul’s words in this week’s lesson come down to this: at the Second Coming, believers will be rescued by God’s spectacular intervention in Christ. This passage provides further information about the nature of His return.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 15.Sunday
Fresh Greetings (2 Thess. 1:1, 2)
“Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:1, 2). What hope and promise is found even in such a simple greeting as this? How much theology is in there, how much hope, how much promise? How can we learn to make these hopes and promises our own?
Paul, as he does so often, talks about grace and peace. In one sense, are they not related? Shouldn’t the realization of God’s grace, the promise of forgiveness in Jesus, lead to peace in our lives? How crucial that, no matter our circumstances, we all take time to dwell on the wonderful provision of salvation made for us and the grace it offers us, regardless of our unworthiness. What better way to experience the peace that we are promised? We need to keep the focus off ourselves and on Jesus and what we have been given in Him.
Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:1 with 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2. There’s a small difference in the wording. What significance might be found in that difference?
There is one difference between 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Paul changes from “in God the Father” (1 Thess. 1:1) to “in God our Father” (2 Thess. 1:1). This adds a relational touch. There are people who feel close to Jesus yet are afraid of God the Father. Paul assures the Thessalonians that they can have as much confidence in their relationship with the Father as they do with Jesus. Jesus came to this earth to show us what the Father is like.
Read John 1:18 and 14:7-11. What assurance and hope can we draw from these texts, especially in light of 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2?Monday
Paul’s Thanksgiving (2 Thess. 1:3, 4)
Paul had a tendency toward extra-long sentences. Second Thessalonians 1:3-10 is a single sentence focusing primarily on events surrounding the second coming of Jesus. The central core of the sentence, however, is not focused on the Second Coming (2 Thess 1:3, author’s translation): “We are obligated at all times to give thanks to God concerning you.” Paul’s comments regarding the return of Jesus (2 Thess. 1:6-10) are part of the reason he thanks God concerning them, the Thessalonians themselves.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 4. What important spiritual principle do we find in these verses in regard to the question of faith? What happens to faith if it does not grow?
“We are bound,” or “we ought,” to give thanks to God is the main verb of 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10. Paul feels obligated to thank God for the Thessalonians because their faith is getting stronger and stronger. Meanwhile, their love for one another is also increasing, and both verbs are in the present tense in the original. This means that their growth in faith and love was consistent and ongoing. This kind of growth is basic to any healthy church. Like a plant, if a church does not grow spiritually, it will die.
Paul will go on to offer significant criticism of the church in the second and third chapters of this epistle. But he knows that people need a lot of affirmation before they can handle criticism constructively. He provides that kind of affirmation in the first chapter.
One of the reasons for Paul’s affirmations is that the church in Thessalonica is continuing to suffer persecution. He particularly commends their “patience” in affliction. Instead of faith, hope, and love, Paul talks about their faith, love, and patience. Because “patience” here is a substitute for “hope,” it leads Paul into his exposition of the Second Coming later on in the chapter.
The result of their increase in faith and love is that their fortitude in the face of affliction has become a source of boasting for the apostles among all the churches they visit. The Thessalonians have become a model of Christian commitment under fire.
How can trials and affliction increase our faith? At the same time, who hasn’t struggled to maintain faith precisely because of trials?