[Audio for this study is available at Sermons.net, as is a PDF copy of the notes. You may right-click and “save as….” ]
Why is Paul writing the church at Thessalonica another letter? The consensus answer is that the church received a letter claiming to come from Paul has circulated to the church. This letter claimed that the “Day of the Lord” has already occurred. Paul writes to calm their fears and to assure then that the Day of the Lord has not yet arrived since the “Man of Lawlessness” has not been revealed.
But there may be more here than a false letter. It is possible that the persecution which the church has faced has caused some in the church to wonder if they are suffering because they have sinned (and are being punished) or perhaps have believed the wrong things about Jesus. Much of the Greco-Roman world was motivated by honor / shame, the suffering the church is facing appears to be a “shame” rather than an “honor.” “The Thessalonians themselves may have had a rather low conception of themselves, especially in light of the shame they endured as a persecuted people” (Green, Letter to the Thessalonians, 281).
Paul writes this second letter to clarify that Christians might suffer before the return of the Lord. First, suffering cannot be taken as an indication that the Great Tribulation has begun because God has an appointed time when the restraining power of God is removed from the world, permitting the Lawless One to be revealed.
Second, suffering ought not be taken as an indication of divine disfavor nor should the Christian think that they are dishonored because they are being persecuted. This sort of suffering is the lot of the Christian and the endurance the church has already demonstrated is a worthy testimony of the Lord’s work in their church and is a source of boasting for Paul. Paul is pleased that they are steadfast as they endure persecution (1:4).
Third, the source of the suffering which the church is experiencing is not God, but rather Satan. God is not punishing them at all. Since they are a successful, growing church, Satan is attempting to distract them from their commission as a church and limit their effectiveness As Green observes, “the persecutions were those that they suffered at the hands of their contemporaries and that were motivated by Satan (1 Thess. 1.6; 2.14; 3.3–5).”
The major theme of the letter is that patient endurance in the face of persecution is an indication that the church is living a life comparable to the salvation they have already received. Christians are going to suffer naturally just like anyone, But Paul says in this letter that our response to suffering is an indication that we are “worthy of the kingdom of God.”
This teaching is diametrically opposed to the “health and wealth” gospel popular today. Many Christians sincerely believe that if they are right with the Lord they will be not only healthy, but wealthy and successful as well. This “gospel” is popular because it tells people what they want to hear, that God will fulfill all their earthly desires without requiring anything more than giving money to particular ministries. This sort of thinking confuses God with Santa Claus and seriously misinterprets and misapplies scripture.
Paul’s letter reverses this popular thinking. It is not that God wants you to suffer illness and poverty, but rather than when you face trials your faith ought to be refined and renewed.
2 thoughts on “2 Thessalonians – The Situation in Thessalonica”
When reading this blog post it was very eye opening as it explains to the reader why Paul is writing to the church of Thessalonica based on what is happening in the city. The church had received a letter which explained that the “Day of the Lord” has already come and that they basically couldn’t do anything, but Paul wanted to disprove this letter and explain that even though the “Day of the Lord” has not come we will still experience suffering. Paul understood how many Christians can begin to question why they are suffering and wanted to lend a hand in trying to explain what suffering means. He expresses that just because people suffer doesn’t mean they should think that they are not enough because of their persecution. The final source of suffering that Paul wanted to make sure the people of Thessalonica understood was that this wasn’t Gods doing but Satan’s. Because the church is growing and not moving backwards in their faith, Satan is tempting them with hardships in order for them to “lose their faith” in Christ. This is the moral of the story that Paul is trying to project, that because we endure suffering means that we are worthy of the kingdom of God. Nowadays, many people struggle with different things and try to get help for them. In order to get help, you must put your body and mind under pressure in order to come out ahead of where you were before, and this is just like our faith. In our lives there will be tests, choices, that we are to answer, and God puts them there in order to make us a better vessel for Him. He understands that it may get tough, and we may want to quit but He wants you to make your faith your own and have it shine brighter and overcome any trials that may come your way.
The early church faced all kinds of persecution, both from Jews and Gentiles. There were many people that did not like what the church was doing to their society and turning people away from what they considered “proper faith.” This was no different for the early believers in Thessalonica. Paul addresses the issues they face with persecution in his second letter, encouraging them to remain strong through the difficulties. The culture around them led them to believe that they were being punished for some reason, that God would not allow them to go through something like this if they were faithful and diligent followers. Paul attempts to redirect them in their thinking to the reality of their situation, tht all faithful Christians experience persecution. Their suffering does not mean that they are in the end times or that God has turned against them (Long).In reality, it is Satan trying to limit their effectiveness by distracting them and limiting what they can accomplish for the Kingdom. Paul wants to encourage his readers that even though they will go through this suffering, they are doing what God wants from them and they are “worthy of the kingdom” (2 Thess. 1:5). This goes contrary to what we inherently believe as humans, but the reality is that we will go through persecution, even if we aren’t doing anything wrong.