2 THESSALONIANS 3: IDLENESS

How would you define idleness? My first thoughts go to when my Skype account status becomes “idle”, after not having touched my computer in a while. As a self-professed lazy person, I might even label my life as idle. I fall in to the same pattern of going to uni, coming home and studying, watching the same TV shows, cooking/eating the same food, meeting the same friends…the list goes on.

What exactly is idleness, in the context of being a Christian?

  • Not working at all, doing nothing
  • Being slack in your work (Proverbs 18:9)
  • Pretending that the liberty Christ gave us freed us from our callings and employment in the world.
  • Relying solely on the charity of the church
  • Being a “busybody” (v 11) – possibly meaning “spending your time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). In other words, being a gossip chasing after news.

In this chapter, Paul reminds us to “keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive, and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In fact, this command has been repeated many times in the New Testament. According to Titus 3:10, “warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” It is hoped that by disassociating a person that is idle, they will snap back in to reality and stop their idleness.

Paul tells us to wisely withdraw from being idle, and from those who are too lazy to work. Those who can work should work, so that they are self-supporting and not burdensome to the church. This is because idleness leads to mischief and it breeds trouble. Those who evade work often spend their time on unworthy and unwholesome pursuits.

The main takeaway points from this chapter are:

  • Ensure that you are not slack in your work. This applies to actual employment as well as spreading the gospel and serving God.
  • Withdraw from those who are idle, so that they may become aware of their ways.
  • Finally, in verse 13, Paul emphasises that “we should never tire of doing good.”

 

2 THESSALONIANS 2

In this chapter, Paul offers an intense and strict reminder of the predicted events of the Rapture. He warns his followers that no vehicle of instruction – no letter or prophecy – should be taken seriously if it claims that the Day of the Lord has come. The heading “the Man of Lawlessness” is indicative of Satan, who will use his deception to draw away those who follow God. This antichrist will see to it that he becomes the object of human worship. He will proclaim himself to be God (verse 4), but we should not be led astray by his appearance or influence.

The secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)

Satan’s power is already at work, manifested in many different facets in our daily life, at work, university, school, and sometimes even home. We should not let down our guard, but remain vigilant to keep his deception at bay.

Standing firm

The doctrine of salvation establishes that:

(1) God the Father will elect and call us to be Christians.

(2) God the Son will share his glory with his People.

(3) God the Holy Spirit will impart wisdom and sanctifying grace to believers.

This is perfectly summed up by verse 16:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Of course, this is only made possible through partnering with God, as was emphasized in the previous chapter. Pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene when temptation strikes. Constantly remind yourself of his righteousness, faithfulness, and love to keep sin at bay. And ask for his forgiveness when you know you have sinned.

2 Thessalonians 1: Partnering with God

In this chapter, Paul describes the nature of the partnership that we should each have with God and how it can be established. The nature of this partnership really embodies the many different aspects of man’s relationship with God: how he is, at the same, a father, a friend, a lover, a king, a judge and a trusted partner. This passage also touches on the ideas of glory, righteousness, justice and faith.

 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.

He is our protector. When we ally with Him, we can count on Him like a father figure. From verses 6 and 7, we can see that God will fight FOR us. He cares about what we are troubled by and bring upon justice. Not only does He punish them, but he also brings us comfort. This moment of judgement is presented in an image of glory and majesty.

12 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.

God wants to share his glory with us. Verse 12 clearly demonstrates the reciprocity within the partnership. Man was made to give praise and to give glory to God and, as emphasised throughout the Bible, we are to glorify Him with our lives and our actions. But God doesn’t want to keep the glory to himself – in fact, when we give glory to Him, we receive glory and are honoured in Him.

So how do we partner with Him?

11 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.

 

If we want to partner with the Lord, we have to earn it. Yes, God calls us out of the darkness and yes we are loved unconditionally by Him – we don’t need to earn His love. But partnering with God is something we need to become worthy for. If we want to enjoy God’s glory and honour, we have to be worthy to behold it. That being said, everyone has the chance to earn this calling because we have been saved. 

It all starts within our hearts and minds. We must firmly live in faithfulness so that our minds can be fixated on biblical goodness and righteousness. However, this is made possible only by God’s power; we are unable to persevere and attain this righteousness without help from the Spirit or Christ. His perfect righteousness, therefore, is also given to us when we partner with Him. This is what Paul prays over the people of the church. 

1 Thessalonians 5: Final Instructions

Remember what I mentioned in the previous post, about accountability buddies? Well, this passage emphasizes just that.

  1. Do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Paul reminds us to acknowledge those who work hard among us, those who care for us in the Lord and those who admonish us (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Instead of retaliating when we have been wronged, we are to respond by doing what is good and what is right. What does this mean? It means that when we have been shunned and hurt, we should continue to love and care for that person. This passage is also reminiscent of what is said in Matthew 18:22, where Jesus instructs Peter that we are to forgive “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Therefore, we should give people the benefit of the doubt, and be ready and willing to ask the Spirit for help in extending a hand for forgiveness.

2. Rejoice always.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

It can be difficult to praise God when things don’t go the way we want it to. But we are to trust that God has formulated a unique plan for each of us. Remember that he has sought us out as a holy people to do his will, and that he cares for and loves us.

3. Pray continually.

Pray continually, so that our spirit may be renewed and not quenched. We should pray for God’s guidance in keeping our “spirit, body and soul blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This was reinforced in the first part of this chapter, when the metaphor of drunkenness was used. The fact that Paul emphasizes this again in the last verses of this chapter signifies its great importance.

1 Thessalonians 5: Live in the light, live in vigilance.

Whether in a biblical context or in secular culture, the idea of light vs dark is commonly used to depict good and evil. In this passage, Paul extends this metaphor to help us understand the vigilance and holiness we must have in the end times. This is one of the passages which I feel are directed at us, modern day readers awaiting the Second Coming.

 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

In verse 2, the Second Coming is compared to a ‘thief in the night’ which, at first glance, is a bit of an ‘unconventional’ comparison.

Paul then pleads for us to be ready for the day so that we will not be surprised. He instructs us to (1) live in the light and (2) to emanate light.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate,and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

By living in the light, we can stand blameless when Jesus returns. In these verses, Paul also elaborates on what it means to live in the light:

(1) To remain vigilant and not live in slumber. We should keep our eyes open and be aware of our surroundings – we must set ourselves apart from worldly things and not be seduced by the things of this world. Part of the vigilance is also to have good judgement in deciphering which things around us are worldly and which are of God. 

(2) To keep our thoughts pure and holy. Although Paul uses the term “drunk”, the meaning extends beyond just alcoholism and refers to the state of mind in general. We can interpret this as indulgence in things that cause us to lose focus of God. 

This can be further supported by the parable of the ’10 Virgins’ – we need to be ready and spiritually well equipped for the return of Jesus so that we do not falter in the end times. We must maintain a strong foundation and relationship with Christ so that we will not be affected worldly opinions (verse 3) and that we do not immerse ourselves in the culture.

 

 

 

 

 

1 THESSALONIANS 4: LIVING TO PLEASE GOD

It seems that in the 21st century, ever-growing distractions and temptations manifest themselves, stopping us from living to please God. Conventional television and movies tell us: if you want it, take it. Dating apps like Tinder allow us to be defined by one action: swipe right or swipe left. In this environment, sex has been dehumanised, reduced to something that is not ‘holy or honourable’ (1 Thessalonians 4:4) in any way.

In this chapter, we are reminded that:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body… for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).

Being holy and set apart for God, we should not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds. Romans 12:2 tells us that through testing, we can discern what the will of God is, what is “good, acceptable and perfect.” Let’s remember this the next time we are tested, and call on the Holy Spirit to help us live a holy life. The gospel calls us from uncleanliness to holiness.

The second half of this chapter covers the second coming of Christ. When that day comes, we will be with the Lord forever. Even though we might feel sorrow for believes whom have already died, we can have full assurance that we will be reunited one day. What more convincing do we need? This is the ultimate goal – to remain as pure and holy as possible, endeavouring to support each other in times of sorrow and temptation, eagerly awaiting Christ’s return.

How might we practically act in response to this chapter?

  • Have an accountability buddy. Find a more mature Christian (a friend, youth leader/pastor) who can hold you accountable for your sins and actions. It helps to have someone to turn to, and an extra person that you don’t want to disappoint.
  • Remove temptations from your life. Delete that dating app, or distance yourself from people who have unrighteous intentions.

1 Thessalonians 3: Faith inspires faith

In this chapter, Paul appraises the Thessalonians for their faith upon receiving a report from Timothy. Paul is particularly encouraged and impressed by their faithfulness to Christ despite their harsh conditions of distress and persecution which in turn, is an inspiration for their own perseverance through the hardships they themselves are encountering.

He summarises their work and their relationship by discussing these elements:
1. The importance of prayer and mutual support in the maintenance of their perseverance
2. What this ‘faithfulness’ entails
MUTUAL SUPPORT

 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Paul emphasises the importance of continuous peer support and prayer when it comes to maintaining faith. In verse 10, their commitment and sincerity is obvious as they pray ‘night and day’ to strengthen the Thessalonians’ faith – such that they would not be ‘tempted’ (verse 5). This is a relationship of reciprocity: Paul expresses gratitude towards them for their encouraging simply by being faithful. He explains that, from this encouragement, they are able to live in joy “in the presence of our God” (verse 9): good faith and good support allows us to live in His presence.

SUPPLYING WHAT IS LACKING IN FAITH

12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Paul also explains to us what he means in verse 10 by supplying what is lacking in faith and how we should respond in times of distress. The answer is of course: LOVE. But what’s more important is that he says that love is to be bestowed upon us by God himself – it is not something we can do by our own efforts. He also touches the importance of upholding purity and having a godly righteousness! Again, this is not something that can be achieved simply by our own will or by our ‘manly nature’ – it is something we should earnestly pray to God for!