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Explore the Bible Series

February 8, 2009

 

Background Passage: II Thessalonians 1:1-12

Lesson Passage: II Thessalonians 1:1-12

 

Introduction:

 

In my judgment, Paulís second letter to the Thessalonians was penned shortly after the first, from Corinth.For this reason I have provided introductory comments from an earlier lesson. Some Bible scholars reject Pauline authorship and date the second epistle late in the First Century.Having read some of these theologians (such as Michael White), I remain unconvinced of their views.

 

I and II Thessalonians are an invaluable resources for the study of early Christianity. Most scholars agree that the Apostle Paul wrote these letters earlier than any other books of the New Testament.If so, I Thessalonians, penned about 50 A.D., is the first written witness to Christ and to the development of the earliest Christian communities.II Thessalonians apparently followed the first letter, after a few weeks or months.

 

Authorship: Most conservative theologians agree that Paul wrote I and II Thessalonians.Both letters to this church link Timothy and Silas to Paulís work, and it is possible one or both of these men may have assisted in writing these epistles.We know, for instance, that Silas helped Simon Peter with writing I Peter (See I Peter 5:12).

 

Occasion and Date: Acts 17:1-9 records Paulís missionary work in Thessalonica.The apostle and Silas had recently worked in Philippi where the two missionaries met with great hardship.After miraculous release from prison, the men made their way west to Thessalonica.The city had a synagogue, and Paul met, for three Sabbaths, with the local Jews.Many of the God-fearing Gentiles and some prominent women embraced Paulís message, but the majority of the Jews, motivated by jealousy, opposed Paulís work.The angry synagogue leaders provoked a violent riot, and Paul and Silas were forced to leave for Berea.Some time later Paul went to Athens and Corinth, and, as he labored to spread the gospel, the apostle grew anxious about the infant church in Thessalonica.He wrote this first epistle to encourage the new believers.Most commentators believe Paul wrote I Thessalonians, from Athens or Corinth, in 51 A.D.

 

Major Themes:

  1. Paulís defense of his character: Apparently, Paulís enemies continued to slander the apostle, long after he left the city.They hoped, it seems, to discredit the gospel by criticizing Paulís character.In particular, it seems they accused Paul of taking financial advantage of the new believers (See I Thessalonians 2:1-12).
  2. Preparation for suffering: The Thessalonian church had been born in the midst of great opposition to the gospel.Furthermore, these young believers had heard of Paulís continued suffering, and the apostle anticipated that they too might experience persecution.The first verses of Chapter Three (of I Thessalonians) outline some of Paulís thoughts about suffering.
  3. Correction of false teaching about the return of Christ: Some of the believers wondered about those who died before Jesus returned, and Paul wrote to reassure them that the dead in Christ would share in the glory of the Second Coming.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   Greeting (1:1-2): The introduction of II Thessalonians is nearly identical to the first letter. The salutations to I and II Thessalonians follow the familiar Pauline pattern. Itís interesting to me that Paul does not employ a Trinitarian formula in his salutationsótypically only mentions the Father and the Son.As in other places, he included a greeting from his companions, in this case Timothy and Silvanus (Silas), and he addressed the congregation to whom he wrote the epistle.The typical greeting ďgrace and peaceĒ accompanies most of Paulís writings.Two assistants worked with Paul, in Corinth.

A.    Silvanus: This man was held in high esteem by the Jerusalem church (See Acts 15:22). His name indicates a Hellenistic background, and some scholars believe he may have been a Roman citizen.After the disagreement that divided Paul and Barnabas, Silas accompanied Paul on the Second Missionary Journey.He also served as an assistant to the Apostle Peter, at some point, and church tradition identifies Silas as bishop in Corinth.

B.     Timothy: This young man joined Paul and Silas at either Derbe or Lystra, during the Second Missionary journey.He came from a mixed family, a Gentile father and Jewish mother.We know nothing about Timothyís father, but the Bible identifies his mother as Lois and his grandmother as Eunice.The Book of Acts recounts that Timothy embraced Christianity during Paulís first Journey; then, when Paul revisited the area, Timothy joined the missionary band (See Acts 16:1f).Periodically, Timothy accompanied Paul on the Third Missionary Journey, and we have reliable indications that he attended Paul during the apostleís Roman imprisonment.Some historians think Timothy later served as bishop in Ephesus and died as a martyr under Domitian or Nerva.

 

II.                Paulís Prayer of Thanksgiving (vv. 3-4):

A.    Gratitude for growth in grace (v. 3): In a short period of time, Paul had noticed a remarkable growth in the faith of his friends, and he thanked God for their spiritual progress. The apostle focused on one aspect of their progress, their love for the brethren.

B.     Paulís pride in their perseverance in the face of affliction (v. 4): Everywhere Paul traveled, he boasted in the steadfast faith of the Thessalonians, a steadfastness that remained firm despite severe persecution.Apparently the hardships Paul had endured had continued among his followers.

 

III.             Paulís Concern About Eschatology (the doctrine of Last Thingsóvv. 5-12)

A.    The righteous judgment of God (vv. 5-9): These verses recount the fate of the ungodly, especially as it relates to the Second Coming. God will judge those who persecute the church, when the Lord Jesus returns.In that day, the Lordís people will be relieved of their hardships.The text indicates that God will afflict these persecutors through the power of the mighty, flaming angels.The imagery of a flame seems to indicate the holiness of the angels and the severity of the judgment. Ultimately, the ungodly will suffer the punishment of eternal judgment. Recall that previously Paul had encouraged the Thessalonians to refrain from personal vengeance toward those who mistreated the saints.The judgment of these oppressors, according to Paul, must be left to the hand of God.He will, in his time, avenge his people.Above all, this eternal destruction involves exclusion from the majestic presence of the Lord; that is, Mighty God will cut off the oppressor from all that is good and glorious.

B.     The blessing of the saints (vv. 10-12): In contrast to the ungodly, the saints will enjoy the blessings of grace at the return of Jesus.Believers will marvel at Godís gracious blessings.As always, Paul used this reflection on the Parousia as a springboard for prayer.The apostle prayed that the Lord would preserve the saints in faith and good works and that these believers might glorify the Lord.