Sarah and Tyler in China
Pastor Aaron's Minor Surgery
Channing's Minor Surgery
Orissa State in India
Text - 2 Thessalonians 2:11-3:5
So we're coming to the end of Second Thessalonians...I thought the first day of the new school year would be August 26th...but it turns out it's August 9th, so we're going to need to press to get finished with this book. Fortunately it's got two major points left and we have two classes left on it, so we should be fine. I think it's interesting that the end of First Thessalonians, the good church, was filled with lots and lots of minor advice, while the end of Second Thessalonians, the bad church, is concerned with two major things.
The one we're going to look at today is what's called reprobation, when God purposefully keeps someone from salvation. We're also going to look at the gospel...where our hope comes from, because remember, this church was without hope due to them thinking they had missed Heaven. And finally we'll look at what we should do about it.
Thessalonica's hopelessness isn't an isolated thought in scripture, what was Corinth's major failing and why they went so apostate? They denied the Resurrection, therefore they said, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." See First Corinthians 15 for a bigger exposition of that. Likewise check out this verse,
2 Timothy 2:16-18 Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are [destroying - NIV] the faith of some.
Quick recap. Chapter 1 told us what God would do to these people who were afflicting his saints, what was it? Hell for eternity. God is not playing around.
What two things have to happen before Christ returns? A mass falling away from the faith, and the coming of the Antichrist. Why will people believe the Antichrist when he claims to be God? Signs and miracles, and because of verse 11-12.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
This is called reprobation, when God stops saving people and is purposefully blinding their eyes from salvation. He's done it to various extents through history, but near the end he will do it at a huge scale.
The title for it, reprobation, means to throw away, reject, especially because it's found lacking, as garbage.
Romans 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a reprobate mind to do what ought not to be done.
Jeremiah 6:27-30 "I have made you a tester of metals among my people, that you may know and test their ways. They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. Rejected silver they are called, for the LORD has rejected them."
Let me show you that it's not new:
Exodus 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.
When Israel took Canaan, all of the armies of the land came against them and were destroyed...why?
Joshua 11:20 For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.
God decided to kill Ahab, so he convened all of his angels to determine how to get Ahab to go into battle at a certain place.
1 Kings 22:19-22 And Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, 'I will entice him.' And the LORD said to him, 'By what means?' And he said, 'I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And he said, 'You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.'"
Finally, Jesus speaks to us about why he's doing as much.
Matthew 13:10-17 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" And he answered them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: "'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Does this sound fair? Paul anticipated that question.
Romans 3:3-8 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged." But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? ( I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Lamentations was about such a reprobate people, and here is their answer,
Lamentation 3:39-40 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins. Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!
Rather we should rejoice in the patience and lovingkindness of God.
Matthew 17:17 And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?"
God has no obligation to save anyone or enlighten anyone, he could decide to stop saving anyone if he wanted to. After all, Christ's main purpose was to show that God is both just and gracious, but only by satisfying the demands of the law himself.
This is what makes the gospel so much more glorious, that we didn't deserve salvation or communion with God, yet he has made it possible. This is the second time in two chapters that Paul goes into the gospel, I think he does it here because the Thessalonians would be freaked out that Satan is coming to claim to be God, and also wondering if they will be condemned with the reprobate.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
If there is a bigger transitioning "but" in the Bible, I haven't found it.
What's sanctification? Being conformed, that is changed, to mirror Jesus Christ in your actions. It is to love what he loves, and hate what he hates. Who does it? The Holy Spirit.
Which truth is it that Paul says we should be believing in? That would take all day, a few: The truth is that God is God, and we're not. That Jesus Christ is God and Diana/Aphrodite/Zeus isn't. That we are incapable of saving ourselves, that there is only one Saviour, Jesus Christ. That he came once to save, he will be coming again to judge. Paul tells the church to reference the First Letter, and to remember what he had preached to them; these are the traditions of which he was speaking, the Old Testament traditions and Early Church ecclesiology. If you ever go toe to toe with a Catholic, they will certainly take you to this verse and say, "See, Paul says hold to tradition." No, he doesn't, he says, "Hold to the tradition." Big difference, hold to the Bible, and know why we do certain things the way we do them.
Story: A young man and woman get married. The wife makes a roast their first week and the husband says, “Honey, this was delicious, but why did you cut the ends off of the roast?” She answers, “I don’t know, that’s just how my mom always did it.” Curious, she calls her mom, “Mom, why do you cut the ends off of the roast?” Her mom answers, “I don’t know, that’s how my mom does it.” The newly wed calls her grandmother, “Grandma, why do we cut the ends off of the roast?” Her grandmother answers, “I don’t know, that’s the way my mom taught me.” Since the girl’s great-grandmother is still alive, she calls her up, “Great-Grandma, why did you cut the ends off of your roasts?” She answers, “Because my pan was too small.”
So, what is the tradition of this gospel? Paul doesn't explicitly say it in this letter, albeit he hints at it so thoroughly that this whole letter is saturated in the gospel. The main concept of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is alive. We see that all throughout the Epistle. What makes that marvelous is that at one point, for three whole days, he was dead. The reason he was dead was because he was executed in our place as a sin-offering to God, but he defeated death; the tomb is empty. He is living and is able to save us, and to do for us what verse 16-17 says.
Real quick, what one word summarizes the Second Thessalonians church? Hopeless.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Hope! Through Grace! Paul is sticking close to the main theme, that even when everything looks sooooo hopeless, Jesus Christ and his Father have loved us, and given us eternal comfort and good hope through the grace of the gospel.
Paul is questioning...Why don't you have hope? You have God, you have salvation, you have an inheritance in Heaven, you have hope. Now act like it.
The last verse introduces us to chapter 3, and how we are to act. How are we supposed to grow in grace, to become better Christians, to be conformed into an image of Christ, to establish our hearts in hope and comfort?
Here is one of Christianity's greatest failings in the last century, we've ignored this verse and other verses like it. Christianity in the last century, and it's not new to this century, this is just where it has become popular, has said to draw near to God through inward focus. "God loves you and has a wonderful purpose for your life" type stupidity. They say to grow in grace through prayer, fasting, reading your Bible, going to church, going to Sunday School, retreats, claiming promises from the Bible for yourself, opposing Satan through confrontation, and thinking positive. All of these have led to growing rates of depression, divorce, and wrecked faith within the church, because there is no verse that says to be established through inward works, and all this does is foster selfishness.
v. 16-17 May the Lord Jesus Christ himself...establish your heart in every good work and word.
The way we are established and strengthened is through doing good works and using God's Word in ministry. And remember from our lesson on hope, hope in Christ and his work is the steadfast anchor of the soul; that's a pretty established unwobbling faith.
Philemon 1:6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
So share your faith, find a ministry, then multiple places in scripture promise that through this outward focus for Christ, you are sure to be blessed. You will hear me quote often Acts 20:35, It is more blessed to give than to receive. It's true, do it. You don't have to teach a class, you don't have to be a pastor, you don't have to mentor someone, you don't have to preach in the open-air, but you have to be doing something with a view to eternity. The more things the better.
Did Paul take his exhortation seriously?
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.
We need to pray for each other, and help to spread the Word, the only source of Life. We will face opposition, but God is faithful to protect us. Nothing can happen to us that he hasn't planned and can't use for good. He is protecting us from Satan, we don't need to become demon-hunters, we need to be ministers of the Word.
So, I implore you, do and continue doing the things Christ commands, and pray that the Lord will direct our hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance. For many are perishing, some are irretrievably damned, but we can preach Christ and him crucified so that his name becomes famous, so that we partake in his glory, and that he continues to save himself a remnant, for he is faithful, and mighty to save.