Key Take-Aways from 1 Thessalonians: Common Sense Sanctification
- Believers are examples.
- Be bold in sharing the gospel.
- Please God, not men.
- The Christian life is not easy.
- Please God: our sanctification.
1-2 Thessalonians are generally considered the earliest canonical Pauline letters (1.)
2 Thessalonians is only 47 verses long. It’s a very practical book in many ways, and very applicable in our current situation.
“Paul’s first letter evidently left some Thess. believers unconvinced. They still questioned whether the Day of the Lord had already come and gone, they may have been confused by other issues wrongly attributed to Paul’s teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:1–2). 2 Thessalonians is the apostle’s further clarification regarding the return of Christ.(In a way, this gives me solace; even under Paul’s teaching, people were confused about the eschaton!)Beware of deceptionAs to this “confusion”, we read in 2:1–12 the apostle clarification on Christ’s return, warning the Thessalonian believers should not be too easily swayed by any rumor that Christ has already returned. This event, he explains, will be preceded by a rebellion (v. 3), by the exposure of “the man of lawlessness” who is presently restrained but will proclaim himself divine (vv. 3–7), and finally by Christ’s destruction of this person (v. 8).Paul again confronts certain believers who continued their refusal to work because they felt that the imminent return of Christ rendered labor unnecessary. Citing his own ministry among them as an example to be followed (3:7–9), Paul repeats the command he had given in person that anyone refusing to work not be sustained by the others (v. 10). He then urges the idle believers to earn their living (v. 12).
2 Thessalonians may be less affectionate in tone than its predecessor, but its corrective comments on Christ’s return have admirably comforted believers through the centuries.” (2.)
It’s hard to miss that the first 12 verses are Christology. We should stop and say: why is Paul, in 47 verses, spending almost 12 of them talking about Christ? Christ needs to be our center. This is the battle of all time.
When we come to Christ, how do we stay focused on Him?
Theme and Purpose
- Encourage the Thessalonian believers to persevere in continuing persecution(1:3-10).
- He wanted to clearly explain events preceding the day of the Lord, which included dispelling false teaching (2:1-12).
- Finally–on the surface addressing an odd issue re. how to deal with lazy Christians in their midst (3:6-15).
Observations and lessons
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
Do you and I readily, eagerly, intentionally, consistently give thanks to God for the faith, love, and growth we see in others?
Eulogies are too late. An easy application: identify 1-3 people, look them in the eye and tell them: I give thanks to God for you. Encourage them specifically.
Run the risk of over-encouraging your children for their biblical traits.
I do not think you can over-encourage people. It may rock someone’s world to hear how you appreciate them.
Don’t be shaken, disturbed, or deceived
2 Thessalonians 2:2-3
Believers in Thessalonians were fearful that “the Day of the Lord” had already come—did they miss it? Are they saved? They were anticipating Christ would return soon and false teachers preyed on their fear.
Some Christians fixate on end times. In the 70s, prophecy and end times experts filled conferences and sold a lot of books. I’ve heard some Christian’s make claims that COVID-19 is God’s Judgment, or “this is the end times.”
Well-meaning Christians can be misleading and, sometimes, downright false about their teaching about the end times. If anybody’s selling end-times snake oil, don’t buy it.
Don’t be shaken, disturbed, or deceived.
Only the Father knows the time. Take comfort in that.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
Our experiences have no authority, they’re just experiences. And they can be wonderful! But they cannot be what we’ve built our theology on.
Are you and I any more like Christ than we were when we came to faith? Than we were last year?
Are you ever apathetic in your spiritual life?
Stand firm. Don’t let this distraction shake you up, discourage, or deceive you. Remember sanctification is a process and stand firm in it. And he talks about the gospel!
Personality assessments are interesting tools; they’re not scripture. Do not let the enneagram tell you who you are in Christ. The same amount of time, put in the Proverbs, Psalms, and the Gospels, would be far more beneficial than several weeks studying books about personality assessments. What goes in, affects.
If a person is going to be identified based on a test, God bless them. I want to identify myself the way Jesus Christ sees me.
I want to be transformed more and more into the image of…a number? No, I want to be transformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.
Follow the Right Example
2 Thessalonians 3:6-9
This is remarkably accessible theology:
- Follow the right example, stay away from the unruly.
- Paul says many times, “follow my example—” would you or I write a letter with that instruction?
- Don’t live an undisciplined life.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C. S. Lewis
Some of us need to hear that. That’s good news for everybody.
- “we labored night and day—” is a stark contrast to the entitlement culture so prevalent today: you deserve this, you should have this…
If I give you everything, you’re beholden to me. But if you work and eat your own bread, you’re not beholden to anybody. It’s practical!
- “work in a quiet fashion—” doesn’t mean be quiet at work; it means don’t make a lot of noise about it. Work hard in a quiet fashion, not making a big deal about it. A godly life is a disciplined life.
- “Keep away from every brother who lives an ungodly life” why? They’re going to affect you!
2 Thessalonians 3:10-15
You can’t grow if you don’t work diligently and take responsibility. Paul rounds it up saying, “Lazy Christians, get to work!” and that argument makes better sense when you look at it in the context of the full letter.
Don’t throw them aside, admonish them as a brother/sister in Christ.
Give thanks. Don’t be shaken, disturbed, or deceived. Stand firm. Follow the right example.
When you play a sport, you want to play with someone better than you are in order to learn from them. Master the basics, and keep growing.
Do you have an example? A man or woman you go to, not a perfect person, but someone you can go to who is in the Word consistently.
You’ll never waste time in the word. And I want to be around other men and women who are also not wasting time in the Word, so that we all continue growing.
If you find yourself in a season of realizing you are now the example, are you helping people grow?
- Edited and adapted from Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 998.
- Myers, 998–999.