Daily Readings from 2 Thessloinians from Sam Nunes
Hello! I thought it might be good to look at 2 Thessalonians together, since we recently finished a series on the first letter. Plus I own a couple of commentaries on 2 Thess.! Hope it’s helpful, Sam :)
Monday 13th April
“Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing (2 Thessalonians 1:1-3).
Paul starts his second letter to the church in Thessalonica with a prescript that contains a couple of points to note. First, he identifies God and Jesus as the source of grace and peace. Second, he calls God “our Father,” making it clear that as Christians, we are one family with one heavenly Father!
Paul is quite insistent that praise is due to these Christians. He gives two reasons for this. He gives thanks for the vigorous growth in their faith, beyond what he expected. He also gives thanks for the wide scattering of love across the Thessalonian congregation, much like a farmer ensuring that the seed he’s scattering reaches each corner of his field. Love is being exercised by the entire community and is also being shown by each individual.
What a challenge: for our love to be increasing for each other within St. Thomas’ and for mutual love to be evident across our entire congregation! We can certainly ask for God to pour his love into our hearts for each other, and that He might guide us on how this love can be active at this time. We can also pray that our faith may grow. We're encouraged by Jesus to exercise the little faith that we have, even if it is as small as a mustard seed (Mark 11). Let us aim to do that today.
Tuesday 14th April
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
In these verses, Paul gives four reasons for his thanksgiving for the Thessalonian Christians in circumstances that were far from easy. Paul uses two words to describe the situation they were going through: “persecutions” and “trials”. “Persecutions” refer to the assaults being made on the Christians on account of their Christian profession. “Trials” refer more generally to any trouble they might meet. The Thessalonians had both! We may be more familiar with “trials” in our own lives, and for some of us at this time, this might be particularly so.
Yet Paul commends this church for their growth in faith and their abundant love during this time as we saw yesterday. He also praises them for their “perseverance” and their “faith”, the latter in the sense of the trust they demonstrated. Amidst their difficulties, they persevered in trusting God.
What does trusting God look like when the going gets tough? Brother Yun, a Chinese Christian that was imprisoned three times for sharing his faith in communist China has written this. “I had a deeper understanding that no matter what situation would come my way, I would be in the hands of the Lord, and he would rescue me. I felt ashamed and guilty for how I'd complained to the Lord, but he...gently helped me, like an eagle tending her baby chicks.” Perhaps we won’t face the same persecutions and trials Brother Yun or in fact the Thessalonian Christians did. But let us commit in a similar manner to trusting God no matter what our circumstances. Perhaps you can acknowledge this in your prayers today.
Wednesday 15th April
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7)
Our reading starts with “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right...” What is “all this” referring to? Paul seems to be referring to the four reasons he has mentioned for thanksgiving for the Thessalonians in the previous verses (vv. 3-4). The significance of the troubles they have been going through could be ambiguous. They could be interpreted as a) attacks on God’s people by forces hostile to God or b) as punishment suffered by God’s people for their sins. Paul interprets the fact that the Thessalonian Christians are not only persevering but growing in the midst of persecution as a sign of God’s blessing, not judgment.
Paul advises the Thessalonians not to take revenge into their own hands, but to leave this to God. The encouragement he gives is that God will “give relief” to them in their troubles. This word has the idea of relief from tension, like the slackening of a taut bow string. Yet there is also the reminder that God’s vengeance and this relief will come when Jesus returns.
This is not to say that when we’re going through troubles, God’s help cannot be found this side of eternity! The Psalms, in particular, encourage us to call on God for help! But we are encouraged elsewhere in the Bible not just to search for relief from trouble but also for God’s grace in it. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” God told Paul as he pleaded for the “thorn in his flesh” to be removed. Let’s pray today that we might know more of God’s grace and power in whatever we might be going through. Eugene Peterson describes this as “enough; it’s all you need” (2 Cor. 12:9, MSG).
Thursday 16th April
[Jesus] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
(2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
When we read the first part of today’s verses, it could seem like God is unfair: mercilessly punishing those that know nothing about him. But this is not what Paul’s saying. “[Those who] do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” makes it clear that the earlier reference to those “who do not know God” is not talking about simple ignorance, but “wilful rejection of the revelation of God’s saving
activity” (Morris). For most or all of us reading this, this is not true of our lives: otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be reading this! But I think it’s good to remind ourselves that our right-standing with God is not earned or deserved. It depends solely on the gift God has given us through the death of Jesus on our behalf. Al reminded us during Holy Week that we cannot make ourselves right with God. God has to do this - it is his action that justifies. God, “who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends” (2 Cor. 5:18a, GNT).
We get clues here of what the response will be of the faithful to Jesus' return. Jesus will be glorified in the presence of his holy people. Paul introduces the interesting thought that this glory will be seen in us, God’s people. That is, we will be, as a mirror, reflecting something of the greatness of our God. We’re also told that we will “marvel” at Jesus, in the sense of admire or worship Him.
Here’s the complete verse from 2 Corinthians that we thought about earlier. God, “who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also.” Let’s meditate on this today.
Friday 17th April
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
We get an insight here into Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians. This prayer grows out of his thanksgiving for the Thessalonians and with eternity in mind. He isn’t contemplating the possibility of his converts falling away from their faith. He prays that during the intervening time before Christ’s return, they may live in such a manner to ensure being counted worthy.
Paul is praying that God would bring about good resolve within the Thessalonians, which leads to goodness of action. The Message says it like this, “[We] pray that [God will] fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.” God is both the source of the “good ideas” and “acts of faith,” and Paul prays that it’d be His power that would accomplish all these things. Some of us might be thinking, ‘I rarely have good ideas or “desires for goodness”’ as the NIV puts it. That’s okay! These desires aren’t something we have to dig out from deep within ourselves. Goodness is one of the fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can always ask God for the Holy Spirit, knowing that God will fill us every time we ask Him (Luke 11:13).
In fact, today’s entire reading is about all that God can accomplish (not ourselves) through our lives and at the end, Paul reminds us again that this is all the work of God’s grace. His undeserved favour that bestows us with gifts to serve others.
At the start, Paul states that he and his friends are “constantly pray[ing]” for the Thessalonians. Let’s use the words of the verses above to pray for people in our church today.
Saturday 18th April
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
It brought me great comfort to read this as I’ve been preparing. “By common consent, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is considered one of the most obscure of Paul’s writing, causing numerous interpretive difficulties!” Paul’s main point of concern in these verses is that at least some of the Thessalonians had been agitated (“alarmed”) and lost their mental composure (“unsettled”) at the claim, attributed to Paul, that Jesus had already returned. Paul’s main aim is to show that this is false. He insists that certain things must happen before the day of Jesus’ return. Two are mentioned: the occurrence of “the rebellion” and the revealing of “the man of lawlessness.”
Regarding the first, Paul takes it for granted that his readers know what he means by “the rebellion” and says nothing further about it. The term could denote political or religious rebellion, or both combined. Paul, like other NT writers, probably has in view a time of increasing wrongdoing and general opposition to God. As far as the “man of lawlessness” is concerned, this person is characterised by wilful opposition to God as well as a sinful condition. He puts himself above every so-called god.
How are we to respond to these verses? I think we’d do well to avoid two extremes. We’re not to ignore them, primarily because they’re God inspired! Also, Jesus has not yet returned so it’s worth taking note of what the Bible says about his return. But we shouldn’t be obsessed with looking for signs, all the while ignoring the primary call on our lives to love God, leading subsequently to loving each other. I feel the following verses are helpful as we continue to examine what Paul says regarding Jesus’ return. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Let’s pray that God will prepare and equip us, even through these words, to serve Him.
Sunday 19th April
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-6)
Paul gives the Thessalonians more detail regarding the “man of lawlessness.” There appears to be a climax when this person will have his own “revealing.” This, according to Michael Holmes, is probably a “devilish imitation” of when Jesus himself will return. This man will use this to claim the very power and position of God, suggesting that this person is a rival messiah or antichrist. This will occur in “God’s temple,” a debated location. The most supported suggestion is that this language is used metaphorically, with “no specific temple in mind but the motif of sitting in the temple...is used to express the opposition of evil to God” (I.H. Marshall).
There appears to be a restraining influence that is “currently keeping the ‘secret power of lawlessness’ in check” (Holmes). When Paul says, “now you know what is holding him back,” my answer is “No!” This is the answer of several others as well! There is a general consensus, though, that the restraining influence is a force for good rather than evil. Suggestions include God (and his power), the proclamation of the gospel, or an angelic figure restraining evil until the gospel has been preached to all nations.
Should we be faithful Christians at the time when this person is “revealed,” I think life will be very difficult for us. I don’t think there’s a magic formula of what we need to do to be prepared. There is a verse I feel is helpful: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT). I believe that as we learn, day-by-day, to trust God and to seek His paths in the little things (the way we spend our time, our finances, our families & their future etc.), we’ll eventually learn to trust God fully (with our lives). Then eventually, our fear of death will be removed. In fact, we’re told in Hebrews 2 that this was what Christ’s death achieved. “...by his death, [Christ] might break the power of him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Let’s meditate on these verses today.