Reflections on 2 Thessalonians
Persecution is rife. A group of Thessalonians abandoned state-sanctioned idol worship and broke social convention by taking on a radical new faith. Yet Jesus Christ, the hope of this new faith, had not returned as soon as anyone hoped or expected. With Paul and his associates prematurely “torn from them,” the Thessalonian believers are facing persecution from their fellow citizens without the support of their spiritual guides (1 Thess 2:17).
Paul has reason to be concerned. His letters of encouragement to the fledgling, yet faithful community demonstrate an important characteristic of a Christian disciple, even (or especially) in difficult circumstances: Faith doesn’t sit still.
Paul praises their faithfulness, but he urges them “as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God … do so more and more” (1 Thess 4:1). Allegiance to Jesus means self-sacrifice as displayed in the lives of Paul, Timothy, and Silvanus, who shared “not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves” (1 Thess 2:8). He tells them to “walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess 2:12). Instead of the spiritual and physical laziness practiced by some awaiting Christ’s return, Paul encourages action, giving and living as “children of the day” who shine the light of God with faith, love, and the hope of salvation (1 Thess 4:9–12; 5:14, 8–11; 2 Thess 3:10–12).
Active faith has one foundation—God. The Thessalonians had been given faith by God through the gospel “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess 1:5), and they will continue in that power. God would make them “worthy of his calling and … fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thess 1:11). Although he is beyond the Thessalonians’ reach, Paul knows this work is occurring and will continue, because it is God who works in his people (2 Thess 2:16–17; 3:3–5).
The Spirit empowers the lives of fledgling believers, not in spite of circumstances, but through them. God will not abandon us; rather, he will help us live the life to which he calls us. For that reason, do not sit still. Go, in his power, and live like children of the day.
REBECCA VAN NOORD
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN BIBLE STUDY MAGAZINE JULY–AUG ‘13
BIBLICAL REFERENCES FROM ESV
Noord, R. V. (2014). Faith Doesn’t Sit Still. In J. D. Barry & R. Van Noord (Eds.), Moment with God: A Devotional on Every Biblical Book. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.