Verse 1.—“Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus, the church of the Thessalonians, in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Has God any particular lesson to teach us from that expression? Instead of saying, “The Church in Thessalonica.” He says, “Church of the Thessalonians.” It looks almost as if they were about just to be taken from the world altogether. There is only one other place like it, and that has a very different meaning. In Col. 4:16. “The Church of the Laodiceans.” Laodicea means, “Rights of the people.” Thessalonians, “Those who win the victory.” One looks at things so very earthly, the other at things heavenly. Victory over the world.
Verse 2.—“Grace unto you and peace.” God is never tired of pressing these words home upon us.
“Grace, ’tis a charming sound.” It all turns upon grace that we are saved at all. The first action of grace is to give us peace. We have grace and peace; but these words assume, you may go on and on knowing the work of grace and the enjoyment of peace. You have not as much of either as you might have. “It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace.” (Heb. 13:9.) That is the food of the new nature. God deals with us in grace just as He pleases, “Even so Father.” As we get older, we learn more and more of our unworthiness. Don’t you know more of it than you did a year ago? Have you not had discoveries which made you shudder? What a blessed thing that God is dealing with us in grace. We cannot mix anything with grace. There are not two Epistles alike, each is entirely different in its purport, but all have this expression in them, “Grace and peace.” Wherever we are, or whatever we may be called to, we need both.
Verse 3.—“We are bound to thank God.” There was much to be truly thankful for. Faith growing, love abounding, but not a word as to hope. Notice the solemn omission. This second Epistle was only written a year after the first, and yet in so short a time, they had begun to decline. He cannot mention about their Hope. They were not now so intensely longing for the coming of the Lord. The Bridegroom tarries, and many Christians begin to relax about the Hope. When a man begins to decline before God, the coming of the Lord is not so intensely precious as it used to be. The moment we begin to be worldly, we cry with less fervour, “Come, Lord Jesus.” God grant we may never cease to be on the tip toe of expectation for His return. There are things, however, which He does praise, “Your faith groweth exceedingly, and your love to each other aboundeth.” If we are really growing in the divine life, we do come to love one another more. I mean what we see of Christ in one another. “Faith in God.” What a God He must be to want us to have such strong faith in Him. Does our faith grow? We should trust Him implicitly, He will never disappoint us.
Verse 4.—They had to rough it. It was no “bed of roses,” the Christian’s path then; would you like to taste the bitter waters again? We may for aught we know.
Verse 5.—“Which is a manifest token.” Suffering and and the kingdom are always put together. If we suffer, we shall reign. God’s gift is eternal life, to be co-heirs with His Beloved Son, but then there is a kingdom besides, and according as we have acquitted ourselves in His service, there will be a corresponding reward hereafter. Now is the time to suffer for Christ; then to be rewarded. He will enter into the fullest detail, we shall see He took notice of every little heart-throb as it throbbed for Him. How it ought to make us valiant soldiers for Christ to know it.
Verses 6.—It is a righteous thing with God to give us rest some day. As a general rule, His people are a poor, afflicted and persecuted people, and often the enemies of the Lord seem to have it all their own way, but He will show out His power and rule by and by. This is the time of His wonderful patience with the world. It would not be righteous with God to let things go on always as they are. Those who are clinging to Him, He must sometime reward, and those who are not for Him, He must: as a righteous God punish. This ought to encourage us. If we are real Christians, we must know something of suffering for Christ here, but we may be assured that God will interfere some day.
Verse 7.—“Rest with us.” That is “cessation.” The last tear will have trickled from your eye, the last sigh escaped from your heart—“cessation.” Don’t you have grief at the sin around and within you? “Cessation” will come. When the Lord interferes, His people shall have had the last bit of trouble. It means suffering here for Christ. “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you,” (John 15:19.) Some of these days He will say “Stop” to the world’s wickedness. The “Day of the Lord” is a far vaster thing than the “Coming of the Lord.” It will be a time of terror and judgment to the ungodly. This is the subject of 2 Thess. 1. What a wonderful thing, that that Being who hung upon the Cross in agony, the next time the world sees Him will be with His “mighty angels” to take vengeance. See who will suffer: Two classes. Those “who know not God,” infidels, pagans, (verse 8), and Christ rejectors. Oh make sure you are not one of them that “obey not the gospel.”
Verse 10.—“When He shall come to be glorified in His saints.” When all His beauty will be seen in His saints with Him. Where does the moon get her light and beauty from? The sun. Now we are so feeble and breaking down. Oh, what a difference when He comes and we see Him. He turns the charcoal into diamonds. Oh, what a precious Saviour He is! The woman is the glory of man; the church will be the glory of Christ. “Being glorified in His saints,” and “being admired in them that believe.” What is the difference? The former expression refers to the Old Testament saints, and the other to New Testament believers. Did not the Old Testament saints believe? Yes, but their faith partook more of the nature of hope. They believed a Saviour would come and save them; we believe in a Saviour who has come and saved us, and we look for Him to come a second time to save our bodies. Ah, we are still unbelievers sometimes. Does not the faith of Abraham or of Moses put us to shame when they so dared for God, and we so wince when a cross is put in our path?
The parenthesis (“because our testimony was believed”) shows who are meant by believers. “In that day,” refers to the day when He shall come: the day when Christ shall be admired! What a new thing it will be! To be admired by millions of adoring ones, not by a simple few as now. Oh, what a grand and blissful moment that will be! Oh, when Jesus comes and multitudes gather around Him! How it will gladden our hearts when we see the One that died for us and clung to us, admired and glorified as He ought to be! When we think what poor things believers are, how wonderful when He glorifies them and shows what He can make of them. Thus He will be glorified in His saints, and glory will stream out from Him. Oh, what a precious Saviour He will be seen to be. What a wonderful thing that a Saviour like that should have hung on the Cross for you and for me. Of the ancient temple we read, “In His temple doth every one speak of His glory,” (Psalm 29:5), or as it might be rendered, “Every whit in His temple says ‘Glory.’” In the coming day of His glory, the whole of His heavenly temple will be flooded with glory, all of it shouting forth His praise. “Because our testimony was believed.” Think of the day when you believed, when the Lord revealed His love to you. Then look at the other end. “That day.” Think of the Spirit of God uniting the two ends. We believe the “testimony” and receive it in our hearts. Thus we are to be for the glory of the Lord Jesus. The woman is the glory of man. Christ displays God’s glory, and we display His glory. When Christ has His Church up there, He will be glorified in her. The Apostle often speaks of “that day,” as if it were such a day he couldn’t forget it. The practical close to all this is in—
Verse 11.—“Wherefore we pray always for you.” The Apostle yearned to see them living and walking worthy of their calling, so he was on his knees for them. How much need the saints still have of such prayer. “Fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness.” That implies you may trust Him. He may cause you to have sighs and tears, but He is only polishing you. He has an end in view. He won’t hurt you, even if He cause you to suffer pain, it is to do you good in the long run.
Verse 12.—“That the Name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and ye in Him.” What a climax! Christ glorified in His saints; the saints glorified in Him. This will be the grand result of all His work for and in us.
The Thessalonians were in sore persecution and they thought they were in the beginning of the “Day of the Lord.” They were evidently being assailed by the enemy, and made to believe that the day of the Lord was “present” (Greek) not “at hand.” They are corrected as to this in two ways: (1), for their hearts; (2), for their minds.
1. For their hearts. Verse 1. When the Lord comes, the first thing will be the gathering of the saints to Himself. The Day of the Lord cannot come, that is the full blaze of that day, until the apostasy has set in. The apostasy cannot come until the Hinderer goes, and that is the Holy Ghost, see verses 6, 7. When He goes, He will not go alone. He will take the Church with Him. Christ coming for His Church is as the Morning Star, (Rev. 22:18). He will have His saints: His blood has bought them. His coming to the earth will be as the rising sun, (Mal. 4:3), public and manifest. Everybody will see Him, (Rev. 1:7). He will not let wickedness get to a head till the Church has gone. Then the apostasy will set in.
“Gathering together.” This word only occurs twice in all Scripture. Here and in Heb. 10:25. Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves,” etc. It is the same Greek word. The Holy Ghost uses it once about the saints clustering round Him up there and down here.
Verse 2.—“As that the day of Christ has set in,” or is present, same word in Rom. 8:38,—“Things present.” “Things present” (1 Cor. 3:22.) All the same word.
Verse 3.—Don’t listen to men. They will soon deceive and mislead you. The Day of the Lord is not come. You may be going through tribulation, we are appointed to it; but not through “the great tribulation.” That cannot be while the Church is here.
Vetse 4.—“Who opposeth.” What awful times are coming for the world when the Church has gone. As things rapidly ripened when Christ was rejected before, so the world will ripen in guilt when the Holy Ghost is finally rejected, and goes up with the Church. At the end of this age, the world will ripen in iniquity, and Antichrist will sit in the temple as God.
Verse 5.—When Paul was with them he told them of these things. Saints should be taught them still, (1 Tim. 4:1-6.)
Verses 6, 7.—“Now ye know what withholdeth.” In both these verses, the word is “the Hinderer.” Until the Hinderer, the Holy Ghost is “out of the midst.”
Verse 8.—“Then shall that lawless one” be revealed. Thus as there is a mystery of godliness, “God manifest in the flesh,” (1 Tim. 3:16), so is there a “mystery of iniquity,” one very opposed to the other. “Be revealed;” the same word as is used of the Lord. (2 Thess. 1:7.) It shows how the devil will mimic Christ.
Verse 9.—“Even him, whose coming.” The same word again. The language is very strong.
Verse 10.—“With all deceivableness,” etc., “God shall send them strong delusion,” etc. What solemn words, enough to make one tremble if we have any unsaved friends. What a mercy to be saved, to have the Holy Ghost. Seek to get all your kindred with you.
Verse 13.—“But we are bound to give thanks.” Every word is full of encouragement. The middle verses are awful, like thick clouds laden with judgment, and these verses are like a bit of blue sky. “Brethren, beloved of the Lord.” Not merely “beloved,” but “of the Lord.” What a precious statement! “God hath from the beginning chosen you.” When in Christ, we are not afraid of the doctrine of election. It is very precious to know, that God always intended to save us; a purpose He had before “eternal ages,” (2 Tim. 1:9). However far we go back, God intended to do all that these verses declare. “Hath from the beginning.” They are the same words which are used of the Eternal Life in 1 John 1:It is very precious to know that we did not first choose God, but He chose us. “Chosen to salvation.” It was with a gracious object in view. Salvation in God’s account, is completed at the time of “our gathering unto Him.” It will be the carrying out of the eternal purpose which He purposed in His Son. The two ends are brought out in this chapter, the past in verse 13, the future end in verse 1. “From the beginning.”
“’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly forced us in.
If it had not been for Christ, there would have been no feast; if it had not been for the Holy Ghost, there would have been no guests. “Through sanctification of the Spirit,” i.e., quickening us, and making us to live. And “belief of the truth.” The Apostle had said in verse 12, “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth.” The truth of God’s love, of Christ dying for sinners. “God commendeth His love toward us,” etc. (Rom. 5:8.) “The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” There is the truth, and we believe it, and we live. Thus we are sanctified or separated unto Him.
Verse 14.—“Whereunto He called you by our Gospel.” The truth about us, that we deserved hell; about God, that He loved us and sent His Son; about Christ that He died for us. “To the obtaining of the glory.” This was the object of God in choosing, calling and quickening us, to bring us “to glory.” God has not done with us here? When will He? In one sense, never; in another, when we’ve got the glory. Mind what glory. The glory of “Our Lord Jesus.” That glory He received of the Father. “The glory which Thou gavest me I have given them.” (John 17:23.)
Verse 15.—“Therefore stand fast.” Surely this is enough to make us. “And hold the traditions which ye have been taught.” “Traditions” mean things that the writer had delivered. The things I handed down to you. (1 Cor. 11:2.) Traditions, ordinances, whatever the Lord said, do it. Are we to have the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we now saved, quickened by the Holy Ghost? Do we believe in God’s love, grace and mercy to us? Is it true God set that love upon us before the world began? Therefore hold tight to the ordinances. They are so many inducements why we should be zealous and obey God, because He has done so much for us.
Verse 16.—“Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father.” Twice over in these few verses He tells us of His love. “Who hath loved us.” We are not tired of hearing of God’s love to us. Who would not like to be loved of God? “And hath given us everlasting consolation.” Comfort that shall be abiding, it will stand for ever, no one can rob us of it. “And good hope,” that is the coming of the Lord. Some people have “no hope.” Some hope that they will get rich and be great men. These are not our hopes. Ours is “a good hope.” Oh! what a hope that is! When Jesus comes, up we go. That’s our Hope. “The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” That occurs in both Epistles. 1 Thess. 4:16,—“The Lord Himself shall descend.” Here, “The Lord Himself.”
Verse 17.—“Comfort your hearts.” They need comfort, for we are in the wilderness, here we have trials; the words imply it. We have things to distress us, weigh us down, make us sigh. We must have them as long as we are in the wilderness. But though we have trials, He comforts our hearts. It is a great comfort to know that our sins are forgiven, that we have eternal life, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits, that we are God’s children, and that we have a good home to go to. It is “everlasting consolation.” He does not want us to have it to-day, and take it away to-morrow. The idea of comfort in Hebrew is, “to speak to the heart” None but God can do that. “The Lord Himself.” So in chap. 3:16, “The Lord of peace Himself” That is the blessed way of reading Scripture; when you read a chapter, read it under the eye of God. “And stablish you”—same word as in 1 Thess. 3:2, 13. Saints then needed to be stablished and strengthened, saints need to be so still. There is too much to draw us away from Christ and the truth. Unless saints are well established and have the Word firm as a rock beneath their feet, the devil will find them an easy prey. Only the truth can preserve us. “Every good word and work” or “work and word “as it should be read. Doctrine and practice are both need: they are closely related too. May the Lord keep us right in both, and with Himself.
Verse 1.—“Finally brethren, pray for us.” This shows that the Apostle, eminent saint that he was, felt he needed to be prayed for. We should pray for one another; take one another to the Lord.
Verse 2.—“That the Word of the Lord may have free course”—that is “run,” and “that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men,” etc. The Apostle went about preaching and doubtless found unreasonable and wicked men, but what a nice word comes next.
Verse 3.—“The Lord is faithful” if men are not. “Keep you from the Evil One.” We do know his machinations, devices and wiles to cast us down, but “the Lord is faithful.” There are a good many reminders in God’s Word of the faithfulness of the Lord. Our part is to trust Him, His to respond to our trust. How simple! And yet how telling, how encouraging! “The Lord is faithful.”
Verse 5.—“And the Lord direct your hearts.” “The Lord make your hearts straight.” If we play fast and loose with Scripture, no wonder if we don’t get all the profit we might, we must seek to walk obediently. In Rom. 5:4, “the love of God is put into our hearts,” and here “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God.’ The love of God is vast, and our hearts are so narrow. The believer is placed in the very centre of Christ’s love. “That ye may know the breadth and length, and depth and height,” (Eph. 3:18.) To enjoy it, “The Lord direct your hearts into.” This is an experimental matter. May we by experience know what it is to have our hearts surrounded on all sides with the love of God. And “into the patience of Christ,” the endurance of Christ. The love of God is to be your joy, and then a little suffering for Christ, your blessed portion. A little bit of suffering for Christ, will make you rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer for Him. The love of God is something to lift you up, the patience of Christ something to make you feel what a world you are in. Could God do more than He has done? Take it into your hearts and enjoy it. Christ trusted God, He was His strength in the day of battle, and should be ours.
Verse 6.—“Now we command you brethren, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw.” Here is a positive command. If people would not walk after the things that he had delivered unto them, he commanded them to withdraw from them. These are precepts to be obeyed. Do not let us forget them; let us be simple and obedient, walking in the will of God as we enjoy the love of God. Observe too it is “from every brother:” it is no question of a man being a Christian, but one walking disorderly—out of rank. Such a person can do more to dishonour the Name of the Lord than an unbeliever, and should be made to feel it by godly-ones keeping aloof from him in his disobedience to the Lord’s commandments.
Verse 7.—“Imitate us.” We teach by our ways, as well as by our words. Paul could say, “Be ye imitators of me.” “What ye have seen me do.” (Phil. 4:12.) If a man’s doctrine and his practice do not correspond, he becomes a cause of stumbling. Oh how needful that those who preach and teach and go before God’s saints, should be men of holy walk and unimpreachable character!
Verse 8.—“Neither did we eat any men’s bread for nought.” There were some who did not work. Probably they thought Christ was so near, they need not. That shows us that if Christ were to come to-morrow, it is His holy will we should be at our work the same as usual. There is no wickedness in work; there often is when there is no work. Watts say,
“Satan finds some mischief still,
For idle hands to do.”
We are to separate from even a brother who walks disorderly.
Verses 10-12.—“If any will not work,” i.e., does not wish to work. “Let him not eat.” Laziness and idleness are not to be condoned or encouraged. Such persons are always disseminators of evil, busybodies.
Verse 13.—“Be not weary in well doing.” Our hearts are to be directed into the love of God, but do not separate the patience of Christ. His willingness to endure by a life of obedience and suffering. We cannot obey God thoroughly without suffering from our flesh, let alone anything else. See 1 Pet. 4:1—“Forasmuch then as Christ,” etc. Sin never got into Christ. He ever kept it out. The very opposite is yielding to the flesh, and when we obey God and don’t give way, we suffer because our flesh is denied. That is one specimen of endurance. We have to live out the new nature He has begotten in us, by a holy life.
Verses 14, 15.—Here we have definite instruction not to keep company with one living in disobedience to the truth, so that he may be ashamed.
How much evil is often done, by sympathizing with one living in disobedience, and thus hindering his restoration. If God tells us to mark one so living and cease to keep company with him, we may rest assured it for his good. Yet he is not to be counted an enemy, but thought of and dealt with as a brother. How all this needs spiritual discernment, a heart filled with Christ’s love, and a mind exercised in the Word, so as to have keen perception to act with God, dealing as He does with the offending brother, seeking always his deliverance and restoration.
Verse 16.—“Now the Lord Himself give you peace,” etc. How much the Bible speaks about “peace.” It is a beautiful word, a heavenly word. “Give it you,” as if after all, it must be grace, and His own love to provide it and see we have it. There is an earnestness about it, “The Lord Himself.” As if he takes it in His own hand to see to it, that we are established in it. “Always” when at prayer to enjoy it, when reading the Word to enjoy it, when about our business to enjoy it, so that by our very faces others may be able to say, “There’s a man that enjoys peace.” “By all means,” in all ways. How comprehensive! “At all times, in all ways.” How the Lord would have us live, bringing Him into everything, having Himself and His peace at all times engaged.
“The Lord be with you all.” All His saints, no favourites. He evidently wants every one of us to enjoy this peace every day, every hour. God grant we may.