Devotional Reading: Titus 3:1-7
Lesson Scripture: II Thessalonians 2:1-3, 9-17
Aims: To recognize the importance of discipline and diligence; follow Paul’s standard for measuring truth; and depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to direct our actions, thus giving us hope.
Background: Very little has changed since Paul wrote the first letter. Persecution of believers continued as false teachings spread. The church had to respond to that in hope, not fear or doubt. Some were beginning to lose hope, so they quit their jobs and waited. Their idleness led to meddlesome behavior, which also distracted the remaining believers. This epistle, very much like the first, was penned to encourage and correct false information. It seems that someone had forged a letter implying that they missed the Day of the Lord.
The young church became overly concerned with the Parousia (Second Coming of Christ). As we well know, false claims can have a powerful hold on people. False teachings were/are wrapped in a shred of truth and people run with it without any analysis! In addressing the issue, Paul weaved the plight of the church into the larger drama of God’s aims. Hear now what the apostle has to say.
Lesson: His deep concern is evident in the appeal (We beseech you). He probably thought that his response in the first epistle was enough, but now he knows better. Can you understand that? Sometimes we sit under the same teachings yet come away with totally different ideas! So it must have been for the believers in Thessalonica. He doesn’t want them to be confused by prophecy, by word or by letter. Don’t fall away from God (apostasy) because He has given you signs that must occur before the Parousia. The “man of lawlessness” will come. Also referred to as the “man of sin”, he will bring destruction. Scholars haven’t come to a definite conclusion if this man is actually a human, a force or an idea.
In Revelation, the man is called the Antichrist. Verses 4-8 (omitted from the lesson) simply describe his activities. Rebellion will accompany the lawless one before the Parousia. Charles Wanamaker in “the Epistles to the Thessalonians” suggests that this type of evil defies God and seeks to usurp the throne. He goes on to say that evil looks like corruption through unjust social and political institutions. Paul wants them to know that evil will be defeated once and for all in God’s time, not men’s! The solution offered to them is simple: study carefully, pray for discernment and always sift through the rhetoric. In doing so, they must stand firm in their faith. God provides Salvation; they have to choose it and believe based on the teachings they’ve had from Paul. We must remember that there was no New Testament at the time. He closes out by reinforcing that God loves and by His grace are they encouraged to remain hopeful. That inner strength from Him will produce good works in word and deed.
Application: Today we face the same issue: “How will we respond to the pressures of persecution and false teachings?” It seems strange that even in America, religious persecution abounds especially since this is the land of the free and home of the brave! If we stray from “mainstream America” our loyalty to God and country are questioned. How sad. Persecution for believers is to be expected; look at Jesus. False teaching isn’t new either. Should we spend a lot of time trying to determine when He is coming back? Scripture says no.
We are not told in Scripture to quit our jobs and depend on others as we wait for the return. By the same token, we can’t lose our hope no matter what circumstance we are in. We must know the Truth for ourselves! How? You must study the Word of God, pray for wisdom and always sift through what’s presented to you. This involves the need for on-going learning to seek understanding. God gave us everything that we need to stay the course, including the Holy Ghost to empower us to stand for Him. Lucie Campbell said it best:
Something within that holds the reins
Something within that banishes all pain
Something within, I cannot explain
All that I know- there’s something within.
May you always remain hopeful on your journey. He keeps every promise that He’s made!