Author: Karen deBlieck

Read 2 Thessalonians 3

Key Verse: 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “…If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

One commentator entitled verses 6-15 as “Off come the gloves.” Paul very bluntly confronts the members in the Thessalonian church who are living “disorderly and not according to the tradition which [they] received from us” (v.6). The “disorder” is very clear–they’re idle spongers, living off the honest work of others.

Paul refers to the example he, Silas, and Timothy had set, “we [didn’t] eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labour and toil night and day” 9v.8). They had a strict and consistent work ethic and expected the Thessalonians to have the same. In face, Paul (probably quoting a Jewish proverb) says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Off come the gloves.

He goes on to rebuke “busybodies,” those ubiquitous souls who do everybody’s work but their own; negligent of their own responsibilities but utterly opinionated about everyone else’s responsibilities and/or irresponsibilities. You can spot these types very quickly; in fact, Paul says we are to “note that person” (v. 14) and “not keep company with him.”

But he then compassionately give a wise word. He tells the readers not to over-react. Sometimes displeasure is guilty of overkill, and someone who is a “brother” is given the impression he’s an “enemy” (v.15).

Nevertheless, the point is clear. Commit yourself to productive work. Idleness will smother you. Work will liberate you, both from dependence on others and from the sickness of insignificance.

Read 2 Thessalonians 2

Key Verse: 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2 “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”

Paul, Silas, and Timothy heard that the Thessalonian church had been “shaken” by the rumour that the Day of the Lord had already come. They wrote this second letter to allay Thessalonians fears and quash the rumour. They state categorically that the “Day will not come unless the falling way [rebellion–NIV] comes first, and the man of sin [man of lawlessness–NIV] is revealed” (v.3). What they mean has given rise to endless speculation. Over the years, this “lawless” one has been dogmatically identified by would-be interpreters as Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and others. And, of course, all these speculations have been proven dramatically wrong. So a strong caution should be encouraged here–avoid vain speculations.

But what can we gather from these words? First of all, remember that Paul was very well educated in the thought of Judaism, which had been deeply influenced by the apocalyptic writing of Daniel (Dan.9:27; 11:36,37; 12:11). Jesus also knew of Daniel’s warnings (Mt.24:15; Mk.13:14) and had incorporated them into His teaching. Secondly, history had seen the rise of despicable despots with aspirations to deity. In Israel’s past, Antiochus Epiphanes had slaughtered a pig in the Holy of Holies; and just twelve years before 2 Thessalonians was written, Caligula had tried to set up his statue for worship in Jerusalem’s temple. The “lawless” one would be someone with similar characteristics–someone who would declare himself God. Thirdly, this band and the accompanying “rebellion” are seen as future realities. Paul doesn’t identify the man nor give a date, and neither should we. But we should be warned–the man and the “falling away” are coming.

Read 2 Thessalonians 1

Key Verse: 2 Thessalonians 1:5 “…that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God…”

Generally speaking, Paul, Silas, and Timothy were pleased with the Thessalonian church. In their estimation, the qualities of they believers there were “evidence that God’s judgment is right” and they were “counted worthy of the kingdom of God” (v. 5 NIV). What was this “evidence”?

First of all, their faith was “growing” (V.3a). Secondly, their love for one another was “increasing” (v. 3b NIV); and thirdly, their commitment was ongoing (especially in the context of persecution, they were “enduring” — v. 4 NIV). Growing faith, increasing love, on-going commitment — these qualities were the “evidence” that the Thessalonians believers were “worthy of the kingdom of God.”

How does faith grow? Simply by input and output. You digest the word and live the word — you take it in and live it out. In other words, you learn and do.

So how does love increase? You practise what you preach. As you ingest the word and live it, you develop a high view of your neighbour  — you seek his highest good. And the more you choose to do what’s right and best for your neighbour, the more your love increases. The love of God is “shed abroad” from you to others.

And how does commitment relate to all this dynamic motion, this growing and increasing? Commitment is the everyday, day-after-day “track” on which faith and love move. It’s closely related to hope; because you have a hope , you have the perseverance and patience to see that hope realized. You have heaven in view, and you follow through.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5

Key Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:9,10 “For God did not appoint us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

Paul continues his teaching about the return of Christ. He points out the futility of attempting to place a time and date on the Lord’s return. Regardless, there have always been those who have “figured it out” (in terms of attributing numerical values to various Scriptural references arbitrarily, or in terms of some extra-biblical “revelation”), and there have always been those who believe them. History has seen more than a few groups gathered on some mountain top, dressed in white, expecting the return of Christ at a specific time. Every time, they come down off the mountain disappointed and read the Bible. Jesus Himself said we couldn’t  “figure it out,” and Paul says the same thing here. So why do we insist on trying anyway? Jesus will come “as a thief in the night,” says Paul. In other words, it will be a major surprise.

Nevertheless, we are to expect Him at all times. We are to “watch and be sober” (v.6), “alert and self-controlled” (v.6 NIV). Why? Because we are to understand that the Lord’s return won’t be a happy time for all. For those who have not put their trust in Jesus, the Day of the Lord will be a fearful one. If our sin is not covered by the blood of Christ, we will be subject to God’s “wrath.” He is angry at sin, and because He is just and holy, a penalty must be paid — and “the wages of sin is death.”

But for those who are “awake” or “asleep” in Christ, the Day of the Lord will be one of great joy. For we will “live together with Him” — always!