By Nicole McLeod

We’ve completed our study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, and today we begin this second letter, written shortly after the first. The Apostle Paul, along with Silvanus and Timothy wrote to encourage this vibrant young church who was facing violent persecution for their faith and hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul and his friends to speak to and minister to the needs of this church, so today, we look to the same Holy Spirit to minister to us, and help us understand the verses before us today.May the Lord bless these scriptures to each one of our hearts and bring them to light and help us apply them well as we study them together today🙏🏻.

The Christians in Thessalonica were grateful for Paul’s first letter, and it had helped them a lot, but they needed more help as their problems increased. Persecution for their faith was on the rise. And false teaching had crept into the church as well, wrongly saying that Christ had already come, and that they were left behind and living in the time of the “Great Tribulation”. 2 Thess. 2:2 hints that this teaching came from either a spirit, a spoken word, or a false letter claiming to be from Paul. They were troubled! To make things worse, some church members decided that the Lord’s coming was so near, that they could shirk their jobs and responsibilities and mooch off the others, putting an extra burden on those that were working.

Paul was still in Corinth with Silvanus and Timothy when they received the report of these problems, and they wrote this second letter, not only to address the pressing needs, but also to encourage their Christian friends to remain strong - faith-filled and faithful - even in their suffering.

Their letter, as inspired by the Spirit, sent …

1. comfortfor the persecuted believers in chapter 1. (Paul encouraged them to remain strong and steadfast in their faith.)

2. correction for the falsely taught and frightened believers, in chapter 2. (Paul clarified for them the timeline and sequence of events for Christ's return.)

3. confrontation for the idle believers in chapter 3. (Paul reminds those refusing to work of his example, and what is right in God.)

Comfort, correction and confrontation are needed from time to time to keep all of us on course and we follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thess. 1:1-2This letter is from, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In this simple greeting, Paul and his co-laborers address the church, as being not only in Thessalonica… but more importantly as being in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This greeting reminds us that the church is a family in the care of a Good Heavenly Father, and that we are His children, and servants of His Son Jesus Christ – our Savior, Head of the church and our Lord. Paul comforting his friends reminds them that though they dwell in a hostile city called Thessalonica, they are not forgotten, their lives were enfolded into God, and into Jesus Christ. This is a point he doesn’t want them to miss.

CH Spurgeon wrote, “what a blessed dwelling-place for the people of God in all generations: in God our Father .

Paul’s opening greeting sees the Father and Son on equal footing. This was the big issue that the Jewish religious leaders had with Jesus; that He had made Himself equal with God – which He proved was true both in word and deed.

Paul then reminds the church that they are the recipients of grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace, we know is God's unmerited favor to those who come to Christ. And as a result of that grace the believer receives peace with God (and peace from God is ours). In Romans 5 Paul sheds more light on this…and it fits with the trials the Thessalonian church was going through, not uncommon for those days.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

In Christ we can have His peace even in our trials, and this was Paul’s desire for his friends.Here is a practical quote I found: “A Christian who rests on God's grace has a settled soul and can sit down on the inside.” Please know today, in whatever faith testing difficulties you are going through, there is gracefor you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:8And Godisable to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in allthings, may have an abundance for every good work.”

After greeting his friends, Paul thanks God for their spiritual progress.

2 Thess. 1:3-4 “ We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure”

These leaders thanked God and were so proud of them that they encouraged other churches with their example. Some church leaders are proud of their nice buildings. Some are proud of their size, or of their accomplishments. What was it that Paul says he was so proud of, thanking God for about their church?

1. Their growing faith

2. their abounding love

3. their patience and faithamid persecutions and tribulations they endured in the Lord.

I. Even in their afflictions and persecutions, their faith , love and steadfastness had grown immensely, and this was evidence of God’s grace at work in their midst, and the Holy Spirit at work in them. There is not the specific mention of hope – as had been in his first letter (where he spoke of faith, hope and love…) but it was their end times understanding that needed some clarification from this letter. And hope can be seen in their steadfastness under fire.

1. First, Paul was encouragedby their growing faith.

Paul had prayed in his first letter, that their faith would grow (1 Thess. 3:10). Things had gotten worse, and now he thanks God their strengthened faith. They were a growing church with a growing faith. We all want a growing faith, so what are some ways we cultivate a growing faith? (Let the women answer…)

1. Taking in the Word of God: Our spiritual growth and knowledge of God grows from our study of the Bible. Romans 10:17 “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

2.We plant the seed of the word of God in our lives, and if we want an abundant harvest, we put the teachings into practice. (We receive it, believe it and do it). The Apostle James makes it clear that we aren’t to be hearers only, but doers of the Word.

James 1:22-25 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

3.Prayer: If we want a growing faith, we not only read God’s Word, and put it into practice, we also take time for prayer with God. A personal relationship that is cultivated keeps growing. Jude 1:20-21 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” And when we see answers to our prayers our faith is also strengthened and grows.

4.Reading biographies of the great men and women of faith who have gone before us inspires my faith. Listening to the testimonies of other believers we meet in fellowship at church. Their godly examples are a good influence upon us.

5. Trust in God: A growing faith depends on trusting God in the midst of our trials, persecutions and opposing circumstances. Have you heard that saying, “A faith that is not be tested cannot be trusted.” Faith, like a muscle must be exercised to grow stronger. Paul understood this. In his first letter, he had prayed for these believers that their faith would grow (1 Thess. 3:10). Things had gotten worse, he thanked God their strengthened faith - it was an answered prayer.

I have an illustration, this flower bulb resting in water is like the picture we see in Jeremiah 17:7-8 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.

Jeremiah’s word picture links persevering in trials to having deep roots of faith:

And the key to trusting the Lord and sending down roots is to do it daily in the smaller trials that we all encounter. Then we have a pattern to follow for faith when bigger trials hit. And let’s keep our roots in the water – like this little flower bulb here, by daily spending time in God’s word and prayer.

II. These believers were not only growing in their relationship with God, but they were abounding in love - growing in their relationship with people as well. Genuine faith is usually accompanied by love for others.“Faith is the root, and love is the fruit”. This is the second thing Paul says he was proud and thankful for in this church, (and was also an answer to his prayer in 1 Thess. 3:12).

Warren Wierbe wrote: “Suffering can make us selfish, but when it is mixed with grace and faith, it produces love.”

The word Paul used for love is Agape – a word that speaks of the fatherly love of God for us and our love for God our Father. It is an unconditional and sacrificial love, pleasing to the Lord and a great witness to the watching world. John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When I think of Agape, God’s love at work in the Christian, I think of 1 Cor. 13

1 Cor. 13:4-8 “Love suffers longandiskind; lovedoes not envy; love does not parade itself, is notpuffed up;does not behave rudely,does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;does not rejoice in iniquity, butrejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails…”

Note: this lovesuffers long and is kind, it bears all things, endures all things…These believers had been extending themselves for the good of one another and it was this kind of love. It was a love expressed in deeds, not just in words only. What are some ways you see Agape love expressed in your church?

III. Thirdly and lastly, Paul was proud of and thankful for these believers because of their patience and faith (perseverance) under the fires of persecution, in trials and afflictions… They did not run away from their problems. They looked to God for grace to bear up under the circumstances, as they believed that the difficult conditions God had allowed were ultimately for His glory.

Let’s read vs. 4-5Paul writes,we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,which ismanifestevidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer

Right from the start this had church suffered local opposition, and Paul hadn’t been able to stay with them for long. The faith of these believers had to develop against the flow, and this is true for most new believers. It’s important to understand these words Paul uses. Patience describes “the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings”Its peaks of their enduring courage – remaining under… courageously hoping in the Lord.

F aith – a word translated both as faith, and faithfulness. It speaks of loyalty to Christ in face of adversity.

Persecutions (GK 1501) are sufferings incurred because of faith in Christ. Trials (GK 2568) are troubles of any kind. These believers were “enduring” (GK 462) both mistreatment and trials. Paul praised his friends for how they have behaved under the strain.

Let’s look at verse 5, as the wording is a bit challenging… To understand what he is saying, we need to know he’s speaking of their attitude of patience and faith.

Vs. 5 “ which is manifestevidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;

Their persevering attitude is the manifest evidence, that they trust Christ (who makes them worthy of the kingdom of God ) though they suffer persecution for the gospel of Jesus Christ and their willingness to stand for the truth. The idea in verse 5 is not that the suffering somehow qualifies us as worthy of God’s kingdom. We know that God makes us worthy of His kingdom by His grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. But the way the Thessalonians responded to their suffering, was evidence of their faith in Christ, and this proved to them and to others the genuineness of their faith, worthy of the kingdom of God.

David Guzik on vs. 5 We usually think that God isabsentwhen we suffer, and that our suffering calls God’s righteous judgment into question. Paul took the exact opposite position and insisted that the Thessalonians’ suffering wasevidence of the righteous judgment of God . Where suffering is coupled with righteous endurance, God’s work is done. The fires of persecution and tribulation were like the purifying fires of a refiner, burning away the dross from the gold, bringing forth a pure, precious metal.”

God was in them and strengthening them, as He is with us and in us to strengthen us today. He is just and will one day justly deal with the injustices against the Thessalonians in His future judgment. They who are suffering now will enter into eternal rest and blessing. We hold these truths dear.

"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

In this we catch a glimpse of (what we call) an eternal perspective on our trials. Even this terrible time the church suffered, has been used for good – it made Paul write these letters and pass down these truths which churches down the ages have been taught by and strengthened by… it is a Romans 8:28 gift to us.

These trials and testings of our faith are temporal circumstances, and God is in them with us, but what is being worked out is God’s eternal plans which are glorious. This is why we often encourage one another as: to lift our eyes from our circumstances.

As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And with our eyes upon Jesus it’s a perfect place to wrap up this study.

In conclusion:

We can see why Paul was so thankful and proud of this Thessalonian church. God was doing an extraordinary work in and through them. They were set apart from the world, bathed in the grace and peace of the gospel, growing in faith, abounding in love, and persevering in faith under their trials and persecutions. We know that one day Jesus Christ will return, and the tables will turn. Then, the wicked will ultimately suffer God’s judgement, and the righteous will be blessed and rewarded.

As we continue to study this letter, may the Lord bless us, and encourage us and build us up in our most holy faith, and help us be known for our growing faith, and abounding love and a perseverance as we run the race that we have been called to run, for His glory. 🙏🏻 In Jesus name, amen